December 8, 2012

Embry-Riddle Wins Air Force Nanosat Grant (Source: SPACErePORT)
An Embry-Riddle 6U Cubesat project is among the winners in an Air Force University Nanosat Program competition. Dr. Bodgan Udrea and his colleagues will develop the Arapaima mission for three-dimensional, visible, and infrared imaging and proximity operations at resident space objects in low Earth orbit. The project will receive $110,000 over the next two years from the Air Force and it will result in an engineering qualification model. At the end of the two years the team led by Dr. Udrea will compete again for Phase 2 funding of a flight model of Arapaima, its launch, and operations. (12/8)

Commercial Launch Deploys Russian Satellite Saturday (Source:
A Russian telecommunications satellite loaded aboard a Proton rocket, flying under the commercial marketing auspicies of International Launch Services, blasted off on schedule Saturday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Launch of the Yamal 402 spacecraft occurred at 8:13 a.m. EST atop the Proton M/Breeze M vehicle combination en route to geosynchronous transfer orbit.

The launch came just after sunset in temperatures just above the freezing mark, but the rocket rapidly disappeared into a low cloud deck within a few seconds of flight. It will take 9 hours and 15 minutes to reach the ascent's completion, releasing the 9,839-pound satellite into an highly elliptical orbit ranging from 4,642 miles at perigee to 22,181 miles at apogee and inclined 9 degrees to the equator. (12/8)

Russian Rocket Fails to Deliver Satellite Into Proper Orbit (Source:
An ILS Proton-M rocket has deployed the Yamal-402 Russian commercial telecomm satellite into the wrong orbit. An undisclosed source has revealed that the Briz-M upper stage did not work properly during the fourth burn of the flight, shutting down four minutes ahead of its scheduled time. (12/8)

Some Thoughts on Golden Spike (Source: NewSpace Watch)
As SpaceX and others bring down the cost of spaceflight, we will see more and more projects that were previously impossible cross the line to the merely incredibly difficult. GS looks fine in Management and Technology but the Market is unproven and it will need to be proven (with early sales) to raise the large amount of Capital that they need.

There were lots of rumors flying around before the news conference about various famous billionaires backing the project. I think GS should have put out a statement damping down that speculation. However, I don't think groups of highly competent individuals should be prohibited from trying incredibly difficult endeavors just because no billionaire backers are involved. The GS group has a plan and will take their best shot at making it happen.

Bigelow Aerospace is also targeting sovereign clients, i.e. mid-sized developed countries, as their primary market. Countries that have till now made no significant investment in human spaceflight, or even in unmanned space projects, will obviously need some convincing to make a leap to the Moon. On the other hand, if just one such country can be persuaded to take the leap, I expect many others will do so as well. (12/8)

Paragon Building Spacesuits, Life Support System, for Golden Spike (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Paragon Space Development Corp. is working with Golden Spike to design and provide the space suit systems for lunar surface operations as well as the environmental control and life support systems for the transit spacecraft and lunar lander. The space suit, thermal control and life support technologies will be a mix of systems developed by NASA and industry, providing a safe, robust and low cost, commercial solution for Golden Spike Company. (12/8)

NASA Human Spaceflight Industrial Base - Post-Space Shuttle/Constellation (Source: NASA Watch)
The Shuttle retirement and CxP transition will impact future NASA HSF programs through a loss of unique skills, capabilities, products, and services by select suppliers. The assessment highlights and prioritizes immediate areas of concern for NASA, with focus on the 150 survey respondents that identified themselves as dependent on NASA.

Within the group of 150 NASA-dependent companies, the 46 NASA-dependent companies that reported negative net profit margins for at least one year from 2007-2010 should be given particular attention. Without continued business opportunities, these companies have the highest potential of shutting down. Ongoing efforts to develop a deep-space exploration capsule and heavy-lift rocket capability are important first steps to maintaining capabilities, and should be viewed as the building blocks to spur a sustainable HSF supply chain. (12/7)

Soyuz Launches French Pleiades Imaging Satellite (Source: Space News)
The French Pleiades 1B high-resolution optical Earth observation satellite is scheduled to enter operations in March following its successful Dec. 1 launch aboard the European version of Russia’s Soyuz medium-lift rocket. The French space agency, CNES, on Dec. 7 released Pleiades 1B’s first image, showing the city and bay of Lorient, in France’s Brittany region. (12/7)

DeMint Departure Opens Ranking Spot on Senate Commerce Committee (Source: Space Policy Online)
Senator Jim DeMint's (R-SC) surprise announcement that he is leaving the Senate to run a conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, could impact NASA and NOAA by opening up the top Republican spot on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchsion (R-TX), who is currently the top Republican (or "ranking member") on that committee, is retiring at the end of the year. 

Based on seniority, DeMint was in line to replace her. That committee sets policy and recommends funding for NASA and Hutchison has big shoes to fill in the NASA policy arena. She and Senator Blll Nelson (D-FL), who chairs the subcommittee on science and space, have worked closely together for the past several years. 

With his departure, Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) becomes the heir apparent. That does not mean he will take the job -- he may prefer other committee assignments -- but if he does, he would at least have some constituent interest in the space program. Mississippi is home to Stennis Space Center and a fellow Republican Mississippian, Rep. Steve Palazzo, chairs the space and aeronautics subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. (12/8)

As Competing Facilities Accelerate, Can Spaceport America Rise Above the Rest? (Source: NM Business Weekly)
Without Virgin Galactic flying people in its SpaceShipTwo, Spaceport America would just be another fancy building. “The key thing is us,” said George Whitesides, president and CEO of Virgin Galactic. “When we start operating is when it becomes successful.” Spaceport America isn’t quite ready for prime time, despite $209 million in state funds and seven years of construction. Key elements remain missing — like a good road to the spaceport — and competing spaceports are accelerating around the nation. (12/8)

USAF Hopes Bulk Rocket Purchase Will Save Billions (Source: Space Daily)
Purchasing core elements used to launch 28 rockets into space for National Security Space missions is the focus of negotiations between the Air Force and United Launch Alliance to establish a requirements contract. The plan is to procure 36 Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle cores over a five-year period, beginning in FY2013.

"Our fundamental priorities are to be good stewards of the American taxpayer and control cost growth through further competition," said Michael Donley. "We will continue to work with potential new entrants as they progress toward certification, all the while maintaining mission assurance." (12/8)

Leak Cited in Delta 4 Anomaly; X-37B Is Cleared To Launch (Source: Space News)
United Launch Alliance (ULA) said a fuel leak was behind a performance issue with a Delta 4 rocket's upper-stage during an Oct. 4 launch but that the hiccup should not affect similar hardware aboard the Atlas 5 rocket now being prepped to launch a U.S. Air Force space plane Dec. 11. The launch of the X-37B space plane from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport had been scheduled for Oct. 25 but was delayed to allow ULA and the Air Force to investigate the earlier anomaly.

The fuel leak, in the interior of the thrust chamber of the Delta 4's Pratt & Whitney-built RL-10 engine, occurred during the successful launch of a GPS satellite from Florida. It started during the first engine start sequence of the launch, ULA said. The Atlas 5 slated to launch the X-37B space plane, or Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), uses a different variant of the RL-10 engine. (12/7)

Senate Passes Defense Authorization, Without Key Space Provisions (Source: Space Policy Online)
The Senate passed the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by a vote of 98-0 on Tuesday. Amendments that could have affected NASA, FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation, and export controls of commercial satellites were never considered. The bill does, however, retain provisions affecting national security space programs approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) when it reported the bill in June. (12/7)

Senate Defense Bill Includes Language Favored by Space Coast Rep. (Source: Space Policy Online)
Although several badly needed space issues were not included in the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the final Senate version of the bill retained provisions included by the Senate Armed Services Committee related to space activities. 

Sec. 912 gives DOD flexibility in making cooperative arrangements with commercial space launch companies and public-private partnerships pertaining to space transportation infrastructure. The objectives include maximizing private sector use of DOD space transportation infrastructure, reducing the costs of services provided by DOD at launch support and space recovery support facilities, and enabling entities like spaceport authorities to invest in DOD's space transportation infrastructure.

Editor's Note: This language originated with Space Coast Congressman Bill Posey, in his RACE for Space Act, and is designed to facilitate commercial launch operations and investments on installations like the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. (12/7)

Florida Space Day Planned for March 6 in Tallahassee (Source: FL Space Day)
Florida Space Day is a milestone event that presents an opportunity to educate and bring awareness to Florida legislators on the significance of the aerospace industry and its impact on Florida's economy. The aerospace industry represents billions of dollars in annual economic impact and employs thousands of residents in the state's 67 counties.

With the Space Shuttle retirement, it is imperative that government and industry work to create a cohesive and successful vision for Florida's role in space exploration. On March 6, 2013, Florida’s space industry representatives will visit Tallahassee to participate in Florida Space Day. Private companies, local, state and federal agencies, and academic institutions will participate in this unique, annual event, meant to educate our state leaders on the challenges and opportunities Florida has during this dynamic time in the space program. (12/7)

Brown Dwarf Stars Could Host Earth-Size Planets (Source:
Observations of a brown dwarf suggest Earth-size planets can form around these "failed" stars, according to new research. Astronomers found evidence of tiny solid grains in a disk surrounding ISO-Oph 102, a brown dwarf embedded in a star nursery some 400 light-years from Earth. Current planet-forming theory dictates that rocky worlds form over time as grains orbiting a protostar collide with each other and stick. Scientists previously thought that brown dwarfs have too few dusty particles, moving too quickly, for this process to happen. (12/7)

Europe Looks To Broaden Base for Encrypted Galileo Service (Source: Space News)
The encrypted, jam-resistant signal on Europe’s Galileo positioning, navigation and timing satellite constellation will be available to selected non-European allies that sign security agreements with the European Union (EU). The decision to offer Galileo’s Public Regulated Service (PRS) signal outside Europe coincides with Galileo managers’ decision to broaden PRS beyond its original military focus, said Carlo des Dorides, executive director of the European GNSS Agency. (12/7)

For Europe’s Embattled GMES, Good and Bad News (Source: Space News)
Europe’s broad environment-monitoring system is facing a 35 percent cut to its seven-year budget as its putative owner, the European Union (EU), struggles with its members about financing. For the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) program, the good news is that the 27-nation union’s executive commission has reinserted the satellite-based system into its multiannual financial framework, which covers spending between 2014 and 2020. (12/7)

ESA Gives Spain Mid-January Deadline to Confirm Funding (Source: Aviation Week)
With Spain mired in economic crisis, the European Space Agency (ESA) is seeking reassurance that Madrid can put its money where its mouth is. In a Nov. 30 document detailing planned financial contributions to ESA from its 20 member states, the agency gives Spain until Jan. 15 to confirm voluntary commitments to key space programs agreed to in November, when ESA's ruling council met to decide a new multiyear spending plan. (12/6)

JPL/JSC Mars Sample Return Study I (1984) (Source: WIRED)
The NASA Advisory Council created the Solar System Exploration Committee (SSEC) in 1980 at the behest of Robert Frosch, NASA’s fifth Administrator. The SSEC was charged with developing an affordable, scientifically valid program of robotic Solar System exploration missions for the 1980s and 1990s based on technologies already in hand. Its efforts were intended to help NASA rectify the slowdown in U.S. planetary mission launches that had begun in the late 1970s and which promised to become acute in the 1980s.

The SSEC’s first report, published in 1983, called for a “core program” with four “initial” missions. These included the Mars Geoscience/Climatology Orbiter (approved in 1984, it was renamed Mars Observer and left Earth in 1992). Arden Albee, Chief Scientist at JPL urged that the SSEC consider a Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission for its “augmented program,” a follow-on set of Solar System missions that would require new technologies. Click here. (12/6)

Voyager 1 Exits Solar System, Plan To Extend Mission Undecided (Source: TPM)
NASA’s unmanned Voyager 1 spacecraft is due to make history soon, when it becomes the first spacecraft to leave our Solar System and enter interstellar space, ahead of its sibling Voyager 2, which is still about two billion miles behind. Scientists aren’t sure when that day will come, but it should be soon — within months or possibly a few years, a relatively short time given the spacecraft’s 35-year life so far.

But NASA isn’t sure yet exactly in what order it will shut off Voyager 1’s five still-functioning instruments, according to Voyager project scientist Edward Stone, in a phone interview with TPM. “We don’t have a plan,” Stone told TPM. “What we decide will depend on the state of the instruments when we begin to shut them off, what we’ve learned from them and what we think we can continue to learn.” (12/7)

Ask an Astronaut: NASA Spaceflyers Open Up (Source: NPR)
Don Pettit is a NASA astronaut who spent more than 350 days in orbit. Just this past July, he returned to Earth after spending six and a half months aboard the International Space Station. I have questions already going through my mind. He's joining us by phone from the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Click here to read the Q&A transcript. (12/7)

The Politics of Life on Mars (Source: Huffington Post)
Finding life on Mars would have a substantial impact, but the nature of that impact could move in many different directions. A popular belief is that if we found life on Mars this would accelerate our goals of sending humans to Mars as well as our robotic efforts, and also might transform our religious and societal beliefs. This isn't necessarily the case. In fact, we have already had a test run for this hypothesis.

Back in 1996, scientists announced findings that indicated that they had found fossil evidence of microbial life forms on a Martian meteorite. The story became a media sensation and President Clinton conducted a press conference to discuss the discovery. The announcement certainly did impact our robotic missions planning, but it did little to advance human space flight (we didn't change directions in human space flight until after the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated in the skies over Texas.)

The public enthusiasm to the announcement was also very short lived and there is little evidence that it transformed anyone's religious or societal viewpoint. Would the confirmation of current microbial life be different? Probably not. The public would be engaged for a while (and probably enthusiastically), but the enthusiasm would be relatively short lived. It would likely take the discovery of a higher life form to ignite the type of passionate debate and emotion that was seen in the movie Contact. (12/7)

To the Moon and Back for Less Than $2 Billion (Source: Space Daily)
Two former top NASA officials unveiled plans Thursday to sell manned flights to the moon by the end of the decade, in an announcement 40 years after the last human set foot there. Spaceflight, long the province of national governments, has moved toward increased commercialization in recent years, with private companies for the first time successfully launching rockets into orbit.

The Golden Spike Company, its name a reference to the spike that completed the first railway to traverse the United States, aims to take part in the new wave of private spaceflight, as well as open up new frontiers by getting humans back into outer space. The company estimates it will cost $1.5 billion for a round-trip expedition to the moon, a price tag it says is roughly equivalent to the amount government-funded space programs spend to send robots there now.

Golden Spike said it can reduce costs by "capitalizing on available rockets and emerging commercial-crew spacecraft." The company aims to sell flights "to nations, individuals and corporations with lunar exploration objectives and ambitions," it said, adding that the estimated prices "are a fraction of any lunar program ever conceived." (12/6)

Apollo Astronaut Talks Religion, Politics and Possibilities (Source: Seattle Times)
When you are one of the first three of your species to leave your planet and travel to another, certain things tend to stick with you, even a half-century later. For William Anders, the brightest highlights of his historic flight on Apollo 8, from the Earth to the moon, 44 years ago this month, are more vivid than the most recent mooring of his boat, Apogee, at Deer Harbor.

It's what happens when you cast the first human eyes on the pockmarked back side of the moon. Or see the Earth from farther away in space than anyone before and capture its fragility in a photograph that alters forever the way Earthlings view their own planet.

Anders, whose post-space résumé — diplomat, corporate CEO, and so on — would make him captain of just about any Cold Warrior's dream team. You couldn't blame him for yearning for a little credit for something other than that little trip through space in his 35th year. Click here. (12/8)

Speeding Space Junk Poses Risks for Spacecraft (Source: Space Daily)
The amount of space junk floating around the Earth grows every year, and increasingly can pose risks to spacecraft orbiting the planet. In the United States, NASA's Orbital Debris Program (ODP) at the Johnson Space Center in Texas, keeps an eye on the ever-expanding junkyard of space.

In the weightless and friction-free environment of orbit, it's not so much the size of all this junk floating in the Earth's orbit, but also the speeds at which it travels. An example occurred during STS 7, when a window for the space shuttle had to be replaced for the first ever time after being damaged by a .2 millimeter paint fleck. If that level of damage can be caused by a particle that small, one can imagine the threat posed by larger orbiting refuse. (12/8)

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