December 7, 2012

Florida Groups Sponsor Space Foundation PIONEERING Report (Source: SPACErePORT)
The new Space Foundation report that recommends ways to strengthen NASA's focus, oversight, and funding was underwritten by several industry, academic and other non-federal stakeholders. Among the underwriters for this report (but not involved in creating any of its recommendations) were Space Florida and the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast. Click here. (12/7)

Boeing Orders Saft Batteries for Initial All-electric Satellites (Source: Space News)
Battery manufacturer Saft of Paris will provide lithium-ion battery packs to power the first batch of Boeing 702SP all-electric satellites under a multimillion-dollar contract, Saft announced Dec. 5. Under the contract, whose precise value was not disclosed, Saft’s Maryland plant will deliver battery packs for the four 702SP satellites Boeing is building for commercial fleet operators Asia Broadcast Satellite of Hong Kong and Mexico’s Satmex. (12/7)

USA Lays Off 119 Florida Workers (Source: Florida Today)
United Space Alliance today bids goodbye to 119 Kennedy Space Center employees in its latest round of layoffs. NASA's lead shuttle contractor, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, is continuing a multi-year downsizing as closeout of the shuttle program nears completion. Twelve other non-Florida USA workers were let go. Today's cuts will drop the Houston-based USA's Florida headcount to slightly more than 900 employees. Another 129 are slated to leave Jan. 4. (12/7)

Too Early to Announce Sarah Brightman's Space Trip (Source: Interfax)
The Russian Federal Space Agency has not yet decided whether a space tourist, British soprano singer Sarah Brightman, or a professional crewmember will fly to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2015, Roscosmos manned programs chief Alexei Krasnov said. Roscosmos does not hold any official obligations today regarding Brightman's visit to the ISS, Krasnov said.

A spokesman for the Space Adventures company's Moscow office told Interfax-AVN on Wednesday that this firm had finalized all of the agreements needed for Brightman's flight to the ISS as a space tourist. All legal issues have been sorted out and the contract with Sarah Brightman has been signed, the spokesman said. (12/7)

Plants In Space! (Source: Science)
The lack of gravity in space doesn't seem to affect certain aspects of root growth in the botanical equivalent of lab rats, a new study suggests. In 2010, researchers sent petri dishes loaded with seeds of two particular strains of Arabidopsis to the International Space Station, where astronauts tended growth experiments on the plants—the first to monitor root development in great detail. Specifically, the researchers measured how roots "waved" (how the root tip wandered through a small circle over the course of a 24-hour period) and "skewed" (began growing at an angle when it touched a surface) every 6 hours during their first 15 days of growth.

Previous studies, all of them earthbound, have suggested that these traits are genetically determined but that gravity also plays a major role in waving and skewing, but the new findings reveal otherwise, the researchers report online today in BMC Plant Biology. In general, the seedlings grown in orbit were smaller but exhibited the same degree of waving seen in those strains grown on Earth. However, the root tips of space-grown plants (top) showed a tendency to skew a bit more than their earthbound counterparts (bottom) when they encountered an object, mostly due to their larger number of cells (edges of cells denoted by blue tick marks), the researchers say. (12/7)

Commercial Launch to Deploy Russian Satellite Saturday (Source:
A Russian telecommunications satellite loaded aboard a Proton rocket, flying under the commercial marketing auspicies of International Launch Services, is scheduled for blastoff from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Saturday. Launch of the Yamal 402 spacecraft is targeted for the precise moment of 8:13:43 a.m. EST atop the Proton M/Breeze M vehicle combination en route to geosynchronous transfer orbit. (12/7)

Can Slamming a Spaceship into an Asteroid Save Earth? (Source:
It sounds like the plot of a bad Bruce Willis movie, but some experts are saying it should be a reality. In order to prepare for massive asteroids that could aim for Earth in the future, researchers should ram a spaceship into a real asteroid to see if the space rock would shift course, scientists say.

The proposal, which was presented Wednesday (Dec. 5) at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, would send two spaceships to deflect a small asteroid in a binary (double asteroid) system coming toward Earth in 2022. One spaceship would crash into the asteroid, hopefully deflecting it, while another would observe the collision. (12/7)

More on SpaceX's "First Military Contract" (Source: SPACErePORT)
I've seen multiple inaccurate headlines about SpaceX winning its "first military contract" for the DSCOVR and OSP-3 satellites. SpaceX won previous DOD contracts to launch DARPA and ORS satellites aboard Falcon-1 rockets in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Meanwhile, there's some question about why DSCOVR is now considered a DOD mission. DISCOVR is formerly known as "Triana" and "GoreSat" and was originally developed for NASA as an Earth Science satellite. After sitting in nitrogen storage for over a decade it has been renamed DSCOVR and will be used by DOD to provide advance warning for solar storms from the Earth/Sun "L-1" Lagrangian point.

After launching DSCOVR in 2014 atop a Falcon-9, SpaceX will launch multiple "STP-2" payloads (including ballast) atop a new Falcon-Heavy rocket in 2015. This will be SpaceX's first East Coast Falcon-Heavy mission, after activating their new West Coast pad in California. Falcon-Heavy would become the Air Force's largest rocket, carrying double the weight of the Delta-4. These technically are not EELV missions, but their success would lead to future EELV contract opportunities for SpaceX.

Interestingly, the STP-2 Falcon-Heavy mission parameters seem to require a launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, which adds some urgency to SpaceX's decision on future launch pad options. SpaceX can't currently launch the Falcon-Heavy from LC-40. Converting LC-40 could disrupt SpaceX's current launch manifest, so a decision on using NASA's LC-39A, the proposed Shiloh launch complex, or an out-of-state spaceport could be now accelerated. (12/7)

U.S. Military to Monitor for Rocket (Source: New York Times)
The commander of American military forces in the Pacific region said Thursday that warships equipped with advanced radar and other ballistic-missile defense systems were being relocated to monitor a potential rocket launching by North Korea. Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, said the American military was watching for the expected North Korean operation “very closely,” and he reiterated that the launching of any long-range missile would violate United Nations Security Council resolutions. (12/7)

JAXA to Develop Firefighter Clothing From Space Underwear (Source: JIJI Press)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will develop clothing with cooling functions for firefighters from special underwear made for astronauts. JAXA hopes that the clothing will be used also by people working under the environment that tends to cause heatstroke and other harsh conditions, such as security guards and nuclear plant workers. The government-linked agency will carry out the project jointly with three private-sector entities--the Nippon Uniform Center, JAXA's partner in space suit development, firefighting and radiation protection clothing maker Teikoku Sen-i Co. and space equipment maker Advanced Engineering Services Co. (12/7)

US Needs New Deep-Space Agency, Apollo Astronaut Says (Source:
The United States should create a new agency dedicated to manned exploration of the moon, Mars and other destinations in deep space, a former Apollo astronaut says. Human exploration of such far-flung locales is a challenging proposition, so it would benefit from the type of laser-like attention that NASA gave its Apollo moon program back in the 1960s and early '70s, said Harrison Schmitt, who walked on the lunar surface on the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

"You need to have an agency that is focused on that, and almost nothing else," Schmitt said here today (Dec. 6) at the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union. He recommends that the government "create a new agency that can indeed learn the lessons of Apollo and apply them."

Having a singular purpose is just one of those lessons. Most of the engineers and scientists who made Apollo such a success were young people in their 20s, whose ideas and optimism were allowed to bubble up to the highest levels of NASA, Schmitt said. Schmitt, who later served as a one-term U.S. senator, suggests the new agency be called the National Space Exploration Administration. (12/6)

Golden Spike: Big Opportunity for Florida (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Golden Spike venture--assuming it proves to be commercially viable--will almost certainly include launches from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. But with the plethora of vehicle/habitat/lander systems and support infrastructure that will be required, the Space Coast seems well positioned to play a much larger role. For decades, Florida space advocates have reasoned that purely commercial programs would not be bound by the political forces that have caused government space programs to be spread among multiple locations.

With financial considerations paramount, it seems companies like Golden Spike and their contractors will want to consolidate their activities around the launch site, to minimize logistical challenges and take advantage of the state's low business costs, aerospace financial incentives, and space-focused workforce. (12/6)

Tea Party Group Likes Golden Spike (Source: TPIS)
Tea Party in Space (TPiS), a non-partisan organization wishes to congratulate The Golden Spike Company (GSC) on their announcement detailing their plans to return humanity to the Moon. Today’s announcement is a victory for not only the people of the United States, but people around the globe. GSC has an all-star lineup of proven space professionals who not only understand the engineering and science, but also realize the fiscal reality we live in.

“We are starting to see the private sector step up to the plate and start putting forth ideas filled with American Exceptionalism and innovation,” said Andrew Gasser, President of TPiS. “We now have multiple companies in various stages of design, development, testing, and evaluation with the sole mission to open up the next chapter of space exploration. Just as important, the Golden Spike Company is writing the prologue to permanent settlement of the Moon.” (12/6)

Dawn Probe Spies Possible Water-Cut Gullies on Vesta (Source: BBC)
Scientists say they have seen features on Asteroid Vesta that look as though they could have been cut by some sort of fluid flow - possibly liquid water. If correct, it is an extraordinary observation because any free water on the surface of the airless body would ordinarily boil rapidly and vaporize. But pictures of Vesta taken by NASA's Dawn probe show complex gullies running down the walls of some craters. (12/6)

Salute to Apollo Program is Dec. 15 in Pensacola (Source: Gulf Breeze News)
Astronaut celebrities will be making their way to the Pensacola area on Dec. 15, including Buzz Aldrin, the second person ever to walk on the moon and John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth and oldest man to fly in space. The Naval Aviation Museum Foundation is hosting the event entitled Salute to the Pioneers of Space to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Apollo 17.

Guests will include astronauts Aldrin, Alan Bean, Charlie Duke, Scott Carpenter, Gene Cernan, Michael Collins, Walter Cunningham, Joe Engle, Gordon Fullerton, Glenn, Richard Gordon, Fred Haise, James Lovell, David Scott and Thomas Stafford. There will also be representatives from NASA at the event including former NASA flight directors and former NASA flight controllers.

This event is being held at the National Naval Aviation Museum and will include panel discussions with astronauts and NASA officials from the well-known Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions. Glenn and Cernan will host a luncheon, and an evening reception will follow unveiling the newest addition to the museum—a full-scale replica of an Apollo Lunar Excursion Model. Tickets for the event are $150, and $25 for the luncheon. (12/6)

Vanguard: America's Epic Failnik (Source: Discovery)
December is synonymous with the holidays, family, and eating far too much rich food. But for some, the month is also synonymous with America's first major public failure in space. On Dec. 6, 1957, the nation watched as its collective dreams to catch up to the Soviets in space went up in flames. A lot of things happened in America in the wake of Sputnik's Oct. 4, 1957 launch, among them President Eisenhower's decision to fast track the nation's satellite program.

He had a few systems to choose from, namely the Army's Jupiter and the Navy's Vanguard rockets. Jupiter, built by imported German engineers led by Wernher von Braun, was a reliable and orbit-ready rocket modified from the Redstone family of intercontinental ballistic missiles. The American-built Vanguard, on the other hand, had no military affiliations (aside being built by the U.S. Navy). This turned out the be the deciding factor for Eisenhower. He chose Vanguard as America's first satellite launch vehicle. Click here. (12/6)

Space Crews Head to Baikonur Launch Site for Final Training (Source: RIA Novosti)
The main and reserve crews for a new space expedition headed to Baikonur launch site on Thursday for final training before lift off later this month. The main crew now includes Roman Romanenko, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, and US astronaut Thomas Marshburn. Their backups are Fyodor Yurchikhin, European astronaut Luca Parmitano and NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg. (12/6)

Saturn Moon Enceladus Eyed for Sample-Return Mission (Source:
Scientists are developing a mission concept that would snag icy particles from Saturn's moon Enceladus and return them to Earth, where they could be analyzed for signs of life. The spacecraft would fly through the icy plume blasted into space by geysers near Enceladus' south pole, then send the collected particles back to our planet in a return capsule. Enceladus may be capable of supporting life, and the flyby sample-return mission would bring pieces from its depths to Earth at a reasonable price, researchers said. (12/6)

Nearby Solar System Looks More Like Home (Source: Science)
Gliese 581 is a red dwarf star just 21 light-years from Earth that boasts a number of planets. As astronomers report this month in Astronomy & Astrophysics, the Herschel Space Observatory has now discovered another feature that earthlings would find familiar: a ring of dust far from the star which resembles the Edgeworth-Kuiper belt, a zone of objects, each much smaller than Earth, that lies beyond Neptune's orbit and includes Pluto.

The dim red star's light heats dust in the belt, which emits the far-infrared wavelengths that Herschel detects. The newfound debris disk is about as large as the Edgeworth-Kuiper belt, even though Gliese 581 is small and all of its known planets lie closer to their sun than Earth does to ours. The scientists speculate that the little red star harbors a more remote planet whose gravity stirs up the belt's small objects, causing them to collide and spew the dust that Herschel has discerned. (12/6)

Air Force Space Command’s Roots Traced Back to the 1940s (Source: AFSPC)
The reasons for Air Force Space Command's activation lay in events and decisions that date back nearly four decades, but the command's missions can be traced back even farther, to the post-World War II period. The end of the war brought with it a new age of technology. Since then the Air Force has been involved in the development of space-related systems.

"General Hap Arnold, who headed the Army Air Forces during the war, foresaw that the future of the Air Force lay in technology," said George Bradley III, historian for the command. "One of those technology threads was the very highest ground, which was space."

Following the war, under Operation Paperclip, the U.S. recruited German scientists and used equipment the Nazi regime developed, such as the V-1 and V-2 rockets, in experiments to develop a nascent U.S. space program The scramble for Nazi technology and scientists created a series of events that presaged the coming Cold War, causing the U.S. to not only be concerned with possible threats from the skies but also from space. (12/6)

Some Exoplanets May be Even More Habitable Than Earth (Source: America Space)
In the search for life elsewhere, the Earth is typically used as a standard against which other planets, or moons, are compared. Since our planet is teeming with seemingly countless life forms, it must represent the near-perfect, most ideal conditions for life to flourish, right? It would seem so, but new research is suggesting that may not be the case, that there may be other exoplanets in other solar systems which are even better suited for life than Earth is.

The new study is examining stars that are similar to our sun in size, age, and composition. The preliminary results so far suggest that any terrestrial-type, rocky planets orbiting them may often be up to about 25% warmer in their interiors than Earth. Seven out of eight of these stars studied to date contain much more of the radioactive element thorium than our sun, and so any rocky planets orbiting them probably do as well, making them warmer on the inside.

Warmer interiors could allow plate tectonics to last longer on those planets, which helps liquid water to remain on the surface. Thorium, as well as other radioactive elements such as uranium and potassium, are found within Earth’s mantle as well. This could mean that at least some of these planets are more geologically active than Earth and more likely to be able to sustain liquid water. (12/6)

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