January 13, 2013

NASCAR Tests at Shuttle Landing Facility (Source: FOX News)
NASCAR teams are always searching for new places to test, and apparently Daytona International Speedway isn’t the only facility on Florida’s coast where competitors can shake down their latest and greatest efforts. Research and development teams from Richard Childress Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing have discovered the NASA Shuttle Landing Facility just south of Daytona on Merritt Island in Brevard County — part of the Kennedy Space Center.

The 15,000-foot concrete runway, built for in 1984 for Space Shuttle landings, is ideal for straight-line testing — where teams gather aerodynamic data. It’s also more economically feasible than transporting cars from North Carolina to the proving grounds in Arizona. (1/13)

DiBello: Military Oversight Hinders Commercial Launch Competitiveness (Source: Space News)
A few decades ago the U.S. launched 100 percent of all commercial satellites. Now it has fallen to near 0 percent. This occurred for many reasons, but primarily the inevitable and inescapable Department of Defense domination of Cape Canaveral’s infrastructure choked off any chance for commercial industry to thrive. The result is we’ve driven commercial launch overseas.

Tremendous progress has been made by the Air Force to improve the responsiveness of the existing launch range to support commercial activity, and there is every expectation of continuing progress. Military leaders have driven dramatic improvement through personal commitment and vision. However, the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) is a military installation charged primarily to assure the national security launch capability. The core obligations imposed upon any base commander become fundamentally incompatible with the demands of a globally competitive commercial marketplace.

Would anyone ask a commander to disregard who is on his base and when, or what activity is occurring there? And even if those issues were overcome and a robust commercial launch site was thriving on a military installation, another major terrorist event in the country would shut down that activity indefinitely. Even on NASA installations or ranges these challenges exist. The commercial space launch community knows this. And more importantly, so do its customers. (1/10)

DiBello: New Spaceport Approach Would Promote Competitiveness (Source: Space News)
The effort to recapture our lost commercial market by establishing a separate commercial spaceport has been tried before. But a new effort will succeed through collaboration, innovation and timing. In a visionary realignment, the state of Florida has requested that the federal government transfer title of two properties at KSC back to the state to establish a comprehensive commercial spaceport capability in close proximity to, yet jurisdictionally independent of, the government launch infrastructure at KSC and CCAFS.

Oversight would move from the Air Force to the FAA. The safety requirements wouldn’t change, only the federal agency responsible. This title transfer can be executed within existing statutory authority (Title 51 of the U.S. Code). More importantly, this represents the unorthodox thinking necessary to liberate NASA of the facilities and costs for which there is no budget allocation for the foreseeable future.

It would significantly enhance the development of a new and robust commercial aerospace capability for which NASA and the Pentagon will be a great beneficiary. This is the right approach at the right time. States are now moving to provide unique and enhanced capability just as the federal government is confronting years of ever-constrained budget authority. This new paradigm will assure continued American leadership in the face of growing international competition. (1/10)

DiBello: Florida Seeks Access to Vertical, Horizontal Launch Assets (Source: Space News)
The Florida concept has two distinct but integrated components. One is the proposed vertical launch site many miles north of any existing launch complex. The other is the Shuttle Landing Facility and the property immediately adjacent to the runway. For the Shuttle Landing Facility location, NASA is being asked to give up title to a beloved facility. No organization desires that prospect. But where’s the operations and maintenance money to come from? 

As currently operated, it is not generating revenue and is not inexpensive to maintain. KSC is being forced to take steps to shut down infrastructure at the Cape and will soon shut off power to one of the shuttle launch pads. The capabilities of Space Florida will provide much more at that facility than NASA will for years to come. Should NASA need the capabilities of the Shuttle Landing Facility in the future, they can be provided at substantially less costs.

A fully responsive commercial spaceport will spring up somewhere; it’s just a question of where. And that “where” matters to all Americans. As Floridians we want that thriving commercial launch hub located here. But there is a less parochial reason for assuring it happens here that appeals to all taxpayers. The majority of all government launches will continue from Florida. The cross-pollination cannot help but constantly reinvigorate the government efforts, to the benefit of all. To have them separate and apart would favor only the Chinese, Russians and other competitors. (1/10)

Moscow still Awaits Kazakh's Response on Baikonur Spaceport Prospects (Source: Voice of Russia)
Russia’s still has not received an official response from Kazakhstan to its note issued on Dec. 13 regarding the prospects of using the Baikonur spaceport. The Russian government sent its note in response to a statement made by the head of the Kazakh Space agency Talgat Musabayev. “The Russian note...aroused numerous publications in the Kazakh media but so far there has been no information that Russia’s Foreign Ministry received an official response from Kazakhstan” a source said.

Kazakhstan has vowed to bring its space cooperation with Russia to a new high. In a commentary published Thursday, Kazakh Foreign office’s spokesman Ilyas Omara said his country was eager to increase its role in the exploitation of the Baikonurlaunch facility in order to boost the potential of its space industry. (1/12)

Proton Failure Investigation Wraps Up (Source: Russian Space Web)
On January 11, the International Launch Services, ILS, announced that Roskosmos management had reviewed and approved the report provided by the Russian working group investigating the anomaly during the Yamal 402 mission and have provided the report to GKNPTs Khrunichev. ILS promised to release the findings on the identified most probable root cause of the anomaly and the required corrective actions after the document clears Russian security during the week of January 21. (1/13)

UFO Sightings at ISS on the Rise (Source: Huffington Post)
As 2012 ended and 2013 began, numerous UFOs were reported around the country -- nothing earthshattering there -- but what about alleged unidentified objects seen in space near the International Space Station (or ISS), a couple of hundred miles above Earth? Videos have cropped up on YouTube showing images taken by NASA cameras of objects of different shapes, some moving very slowly, others rapidly hurtling through space. Click here. (1/13)

Private Space Exploration Could Make it Easier to Reach for the Stars (Source: Pasadena Star-News)
Small and cheap could become the new normal for space exploration with the advent of U.S. orbital and suborbital missions managed by private companies, according to panelists at a Caltech lecture on Thursday. As the government hands off mission duties to contractors, such SpaceX, the transition could drive new technology that would benefit scientific work even as astronauts broaden their job description to include giving tours, NASA's John Grunsfeld said.

"Technology for technology's sake rarely ends up being all that useful," Grunsfeld told a crowd of Caltech students, science professionals and others. "But if you have a need, which would be smaller payloads which match technology, then you get true innovation." Steve Isakowitz, a former NASA administrator, said that regular space tourism could open the doors for foundations and nonprofits such as Caltech to launch their own low-cost missions for academic purposes.

"Why is this one of the few industries that doesn't have a Moore's Law?" Isakowitz asked, referring to the idea that computer chips fit twice as many transistors every two years. "We're sort of stuck in this conundrum of prices are either the same or going up. I think for the first time we have a change ... there's nothing inherently that says a payload has to be a billion dollars." (1/11)

Moon Man Aldrin Eyes India for Space Mission (Source: Times of India)
Buzz Aldrin, the legendary astronaut who along with Neil Armstrong boarded the historic Apollo 11 in 1969 to become the first to set foot on the moon, is now on a new kind of mission. The American hero wants to bring Englishspeaking countries together to improve efforts on space exploration. To begin with, the rocket scientist, who turns 83 on January 20, is keen on meeting India's former president APJ Abdul Kalam. Aldrin believes US and India can cooperate on solar dynamics and experiment on energy conservation differently.

"I was looking to talk to Abdul Kalam about solar power for energy conservation. I would like to arrange a meeting of someone that I know and also improve the cooperation between US and India, and to bring the English speaking countries together. This is not for anything specific like global warming or the environment or peace, well that's ok, but this is for space leadership by the active cooperation among English speaking nations," Aldrin said.

Dressed in attire fit for a rocket scientist, Aldrin, whose space vision is to generate the next wave of human exploration, believes the pioneers who begin to establish human permanence in the solar system would be recognized for their efforts for a long time. He said the solar system offers a great opportunity for expanding human permanence and the world leader who makes a commitment for making this happen should know that he would be recognized "for thousands of years". (1/12)

French Embassy Gathers Elite Group of Space Policy Chiefs (Source: France in the U.S.)
When Charles de Gaulle was France's President (1959-1969), his conviction that France should possess autonomous access to space, Mr. Duquesne said, is what provided the initial political will, funding, and research to make the goal a reality. In large part because of France’s early leadership role in space activity, Europe now enjoys its own means of launching spacecraft and monitoring weather.

Thierry Duquesne underscored the importance of matching business interests to state-funded research. The next generation of French rockets and satellites "depends on the commercial market," he said. Sectors related to the space industry include a broad palette of scientific and business areas, from climate research and weather surveillance to telecommunications and military intelligence. The CNES operated a total budget of $2.6 billion in 2012.

Also among the expert speakers was Sean O’Keefe, CEO and Chairman of the Board of EADS North America, a multinational aerospace and defense conglomerate. He served as NASA Administrator, the U.S. space agency’s top position, from 2001 to 2005. Other expert presenters included senior representatives from Arianespace, Astrium Americas, CLS America, Safran, and ThalesAlenia-Space. (1/11)

South Korea's Naro Rocket Likely to be Launched This Month (Source: Arirang)
Korea's first space launch vehicle,.. the Naro will likely return to its launch pad as early as this month, after the country's third attempt to send the rocket into orbit last November was called off due to a technical failure. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology says the Launch Preparation Committee will hold a meeting next week to set the blast-off date and back-up dates. Officials say technical faults in the Naro rocket have been completely repaired and checked, and the first and second stage of the rocket will be re-assembled next week. (1/9)

Virgin Threatens to Pull Out of Projected Spaceport (Source: Guardian)
The future of Sir Richard Branson's project to blast wealthy tourists and celebrities into space is set to become clear this week when it makes it first rent payment on the futuristic "Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space" terminal. Virgin Galactic has threatened to pull its support from the publicly financed $209 million "spaceport" in southern New Mexico unless lawmakers extend the company's waiver of liability to manufacturers and parts suppliers in the event of an accident.

In the rush to capitalize on the private space industry, several US states, including Virginia, Wyoming and California, and destinations such as Abu Dhabi, are competing to win Virgin's business. But none is as heavily invested as New Mexico, an impoverished state that issued bonds and raised taxes to build the Norman Foster-designed Spaceport America. Nor have any potential rivals built a spaceport from scratch.

Anger has been rising after Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides indicated last year that failure to pass new legislation would force his company to rethink its plans. "We allowed our politicians to build something that was geared toward one player in the purely speculative field of space travel in the private sector that may never materialize," said Paul Gessing, of the conservative-leaning Rio Grande Foundation. (1/12)

Warship to Retrieve Orion Capsule off San Diego in 2014 (Source: UT San Diego)
NASA’s new Orion manned spacecraft, which is designed to return to Earth by parachuting into the sea, will undergo a key development test early next year in the waters off San Diego. The space agency says that NASA and the Navy will attempt to smoothly guide an Orion capsule into the well deck of the amphibious transport dock ship San Diego, whose stern opens into the ocean to handle transport craft.

The test will be held in January 2014, provided that things go well during a similar but less ambitious test this summer at Naval Station Norfolk. “During the simulations (in) August, we’ll be conducting a two-day stationary recovery test to evaluate hardware and recovery processes in a controlled, benign environment,” NASA recovery manager Jim Hamblin said online. “That’s what we’re calling the ‘crawl phase.’ In this test we’ll utilize the Navy’s USS Mesa Verde, a landing platform-dock, or LPD, ship.” (1/13)

Russian Space Industry to Double Output by 2020 (Source: RIA Novosti)
An ongoing reform of Russia’s ailing space industry should double its output by 2020, according to a new state program. The increase should give Russia a 16-percent share in the space technology market by 2020, up from the current 10.7 percent, said the program. Goals outlined in the program also include creation of the new Angara launch vehicle, development of the Vostochny space port in the Russian Far East and improvements to the Glonass satellite navigation system.

Space industry development is named the top priority in the document, followed by scientific research. Manned spaceflight has only the third-highest priority, though the program says that it would change after 2020, when the International Space Station is expected to end its mission. The program reiterates a plan voiced late last year to unite dozens of Russian space industry enterprises into five to seven major holdings and to attract private investors. (1/12)

Fire Damages Australian Observatory (Source: The Australian)
Firefighters are battling two emergency level bushfires in northern NSW, one of which has destroyed at least two properties and damaged a world-leading observatory, as 30 uncontrolled blazes burn across the state. The emergency at Wambelong Camping Area has seen Mt Woorut residents and staff from the Siding Spring Observatory in Warrumbungle National Park evacuated to nearby Coonabarabran. (1/13)

Fed Sets New Competitive Model for United Launch Alliance (Source: Denver Post)
The U.S. Department of Defense's recent decision allowing the Air Force to purchase service for 14 mission launches from companies other than United Launch Alliance does more than just end the Centennial-based company's monopoly — it marks a permanent shift toward competition for launch procurement, analysts say. "The Air Force is saying, 'We are going to change the paradigm,' " said Marco Caceres, senior space analyst for the Teal Group. "ULA gets five years of transition, and SpaceX [and others] get to compete."

The authorization memo, issued in late November, states that between 2015 and 2017, the Air Force can select any launch company, assuming it can achieve certification, for launches scheduled to lift off between 2017 and 2019. Until now, ULA — a joint venture of Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin — had been awarded "sole source" contracts for all U.S. government launch services, something it can no longer rely on.

With the federal government facing a budgetary crisis, the Defense Department devised a plan utilizing commercial practices to drive down the cost of each launch, including the launch services that are about $250 million per launch. "The problem with this joint venture is it killed competition. And the problem when you kill competition, the prices go up — and that's precisely what they did," Caceres said. (1/13)

Rockefeller to Retire (Source: Space Policy Online)
Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, announced today that he will not run for reelection in 2014. The committee has jurisdiction over policy and funding authorizations for NASA and NOAA. While he has not been an opponent of the space program, he also has not been an enthusiastic supporter. 

Rockefeller has not been in the forefront of NASA issues, leaving them to be worked by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who chairs the science and space subcommittee, and the now-retired Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), who served as ranking member of the full committee. The Senate Republican Conference has not officially named a replacement for Hutchison as ranking member. (1/11)

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