January 28, 2013

A Russian Moon? (Source: Space Review)
After years of uncertainty and delays, Russia's lunar exploration plans are starting to become clear. Dwayne Day reviews those plans for orbiter and lander missions and explains why Russia might be the most active nation exploring the Moon in the next decade. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2228/1 to view the article. (1/28)

Asteroid Mining Boom or Bubble? (Source: Space Review)
Last week, for the second time in less than a year, a new company announced plans to prospect and, eventually, extract resources from near Earth objects. Jeff Foust examines the similarities and differences Deep Space Industries has compared to Planetary Resources, and what this may mean for the viability of the industry as a whole. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2227/1 to view the article. (1/28)

The Asteroid Mining Bank (Source: Space Review)
As a second company enters the asteroid mining market, one key question is how to finance the large-scale extraction of resources from asteroids. Vidvuds Beldavs proposes a system that could handle extraterrestrial claims and help support efforts to mine asteroids and utilize their resources. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2226/1 to view the article. (1/28)

A Space Telescope Stays the Course (Source: Space Review)
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope suffered cost and schedule problems that put the program's future in jeopardy just two years ago. Now, Jeff Foust reports, NASA and industry officials say the program is back on track even as NASA's overall budget remains uncertain. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2225/1 to view the article. (1/28)

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock... and Global Warming Policy Choice (Source: Space Review)
Potential solutions to climate change face varying obstacles to their implementation. John Hickman argues that one space-based approach might be unique enough to get around those obstacles. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2224/1 to view the article. (1/28)

How Much Would a Death Star Really Cost? (Source: io9)
To the disappointment of thousands who signed the petition, the Obama administration recently informed us that it has, and will have, no plans to build a Star-Wars-style death star. Now, there may indeed be good reasons to forego this addition to the nation's defense, but the first one listed — that it would cost 850 quadrillion dollars — was based on an extremely flawed estimate. Which isn't surprising, because among the people doing the estimating, only one has any experience in aerospace engineering (and probably none in costing of such projects).

They go off the rails in their estimate right from the beginning, when they assume that a death star would be simply a scaled-up battleship, and built primarily from steel. A battleship is not actually a good analogue for a death star. But rockets and satellites (a death star would be the latter) have never been built from steel, because its strength-to-weight ratio is far too low — a steel rocket, if it could get into orbit at all, would have very poor payload performance, and a steel satellite would be far too heavy to be able to lift affordably.

Traditionally, aluminum was the structural material of choice, though over the past decades, carbon composites have become more popular, because they outperform aluminum. Thus, while it might be that a death star would have steel plating on its hull (that assumes weapons similar to naval ones, when it's more likely that it will have to defend against high-energy power beams), the vast amount of its structural mass would be a different, much lighter material. (1/28)

Near-Earth Asteroid to Make Extremely Close Approach in February (Source: The Watchers)
Small asteroid 2012 DA14 will make an extremely close approach  on February 15, 2013. It will pass by Earth at distance of about 27,000 km (17,000 miles/no closer than 0.000181 AU) from the center of the Earth; within about 3.5 Earth radii of the Earth’s surface. This near-Earth asteroid was discovered on February 22, 2012 by LaSagra Observatory in the mountains of Andalusia in southern Spain. Asteroid 2012 DA14 is thought to be about 45 meters in diameter and his estimated mass about 130,000 metric tons. (1/22)

Aerospace Technology is Open for All (Source: Hobby Space)
For the 41st anniversary of the first moon landing, the private space industry is making one huge leap by opening the Open Source Aerospace Project. This new project is an attempt to make the aerospace industry less expensive and open for all. The OSA project is an open wiki and online forum full of technology, science, and ideas in the private space industry so they may be built upon and further developed by industry professionals.

This project helps small companies by making research less expensive since technology can be criticized and get input from all industry professionals, and will also push the entire industry forward by making new technologies and ideas open to all. The Open Source Aerospace Project hopes to partner with other organizations such as eSpace and MIT to help move along the idea and the industry in general, and has already contacted or added input from both.

The project hopes to get more than just engineering advice from MIT, since it also hopes to include all aspects of aerospace. The goal of this project is not just to develop and open technology, but air movement, astronomy, theories and anything that can change the industry. Click here. (1/28)

Millennium Named NASA Small Business Prime Contractor of the Year (Source: MEI)
Millennium Engineering and Integration Company has been named NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Small Business Prime Contractor of the Year for 2012.  As the prime contractor for Kennedy’s Safety and Mission Assurance Support Services Contract from April 2008 to September 2012, this award was preceded by annual award fee scores ranging from 97% to as high as 100%, the highest possible. 

In addition to these superior scores, Millennium personnel were the recipients of over 200 personal and group awards, including an Agency Quasar Award, a NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal, an Outstanding Public Leadership Medal, and three NASA Outstanding Public Service medals. This award means that Millennium is also under consideration as NASA’s Agency-wide Small Business Contractor of the Year. The award will be officially given at a ceremony on Feb. 14, 2013 at Kennedy Space Center. (1/28)

Editorial: Commercial Space Exploration Needs an Obama Relaunch (Source: Wall Street Journal)
NASA, in fact, has not successfully developed a new rocket in over three decades. U.S. private industry successfully developed three brand-new rockets in just the past decade--Boeing BA -0.91% with the Delta IV, Lockheed with the Atlas V, and SpaceX with the Falcon 9. Industry succeeded because of a partnership with the government, much like the building of the transcontinental railroad in the 19th century. Industry was responsible for development and was taking large risks, but with government incentives...

A renewed and refocused NASA is critical to America's future. So as the country struggles with trillions in debt and deficits, it makes no sense for NASA to build rockets that are already available or can be developed at much lower cost by U.S. private industry. Why spend approximately $20 billion to build an unneeded SLS super-heavy-lift rocket, for instance, when existing commercial rockets can carry payloads more often, efficiently and cheaply? (1/28)

ATK: Pursuing Private Space Taxi (Source: Space.com)
Alliant Techsystems is working on a private space taxi. The spaceship will ride aboard ATK's Liberty rocket, which is designed to head to the International Space Station and other destinations in Earth orbit. The future of the program is unclear, however, because it has so far not received any funding from NASA. ATK was passed over in the second and third rounds of funding for the agency's Commercial Crew Development program; at least one of those times, it was due to technical concerns from NASA.

In 2012, ATK was pursuing development of the spacecraft under an unfunded Space Act Agreement with NASA. That deal concluded in July. The company has said it requires more external funding to complete development. "[There is] no way on internal funding we can finish the Liberty module, interfaces, design. We probably need on the order of $300 million to get the launcher to [critical design review]. And we're not investing that kind of money," ATK's Kent Rominger was reported as saying.

While NASA would be a reference customer for the company, ATK plans to pursue other clients to broaden its business. Some of the possible customers include the U.S. government satellite market, space tourists and Bigelow Aerospace, a company that is building inflatable space modules. ATK's timeline for reaching space with crews is unclear, but it is possible the program could be pushed back until the company secures the money required for development. The company's last update, in July 2012, stated that ATK still was aiming for test flights in 2014 and 2015 and the first crewed flight in late 2015. (1/28)

NASA Solicits Ideas for International Space Station Research (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA wants to know how you can improve the International Space Station as a technology test bed. NASA's International Space Station National Laboratory and Technology Demonstration offices are asking for proposals on how the space station may be used to develop advanced or improved exploration technologies. NASA also is seeking proposals about how new approaches, technologies and capabilities could improve the unique laboratory environment of the orbiting outpost.

The NASA Research Announcement, "Soliciting Proposals for Exploration Technology Demonstration and National Lab Utilization Enhancements," may be viewed here. The annoucement will provide successful proposers access to the space station's microgravity environment, crew support and robotic servicing. It closes Sept. 30. (1/28)

Ok Planetary Resources, You’ve Won Me Over (Source: The Refined Geek)
When I first wrote about Planetary Resources early last year I was erring on the side of cautious optimism because back then there wasn’t a whole lot of information available regarding how they were actually going to achieve their goal. Indeed even their first goal of building and launching multiple space telescopes sounded like it was beyond the capabilities of even veteran players in this industry. Still the investors backing them weren’t the type to be taken for a ride so I figured they were worth keeping an eye on to see how they progressed towards their goal. Click here. (1/28)

Petition to Honor Star Trek Cast (Source: White House)
Each year the White House grants Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime contribution to American culture. STAR TREK'S surviving original cast members, William Shatner (Captain Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock), George Takei (Mr. Sulu), Walter Koneig (Mr. Chekov), and Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura), are very deserving of this honor. Click here. (1/24)

Commercial Space Exploration Needs an Obama Relaunch (Source: Lunar Networks)
In an essay in Monday’s issue of the Wall Street Journal, Robert Walker and Charles Miller make a pitch to President Obama: complete the job he started in his first term in handing over space transportation entirely in the private sector. “Just as the government does not design or build automobiles, ships, trains or airplanes, NASA should not be designing, building or launching rockets to go to low Earth orbit,” they argue.

Specifically, they want the President to kill the Space Launch System, the heavy-lift rocket that emerged from the 2010 compromise about the administration’s policy, saying that those launches should be turned over to the private sector. (1/28)

Las Vegas UFO Aficionado Bets $500 Million on Space Hotel (Source: Bloomberg)
Robert Bigelow got rich off budget hotel suites that start at $189 a week. Now they are funding his dream of building inflatable space habitats with rates topping $400,000 a day. For the Las Vegas businessman, his desire to build low orbital dwellings is the ultimate gamble. He has bet $500 million of his own money on his closely held venture, Bigelow Aerospace LLC -- five times what billionaire Elon Musk invested in his own space company.

“If you don’t have bucks, there’s no Buck Rogers,” said Bigelow, 68, echoing a phrase from the film, “The Right Stuff,” about the early days of the U.S. spaceflight program. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration this month announced a $17.8 million contract to Bigelow Aerospace for an inflatable room that will be attached to a port on the International Space Station sometime in 2015. Astronauts will use the prototype for two years, allowing NASA to test the technology for “pennies on the dollar,” said Lori Garver.

Bigelow has spent about half of his stake. He may never recoup the investment, according to Jeff Foust, an analyst at Futron Corp., a Bethesda, Maryland-based technology consulting firm. “Are there enough customers out there to make this a worthwhile venture?” Foust said. “It’s yet to be seen.” Click here. (1/28)

‘Israel Could Have Another Astronaut’ (Source: Times of Israel)
Israel could have another astronaut reach space, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said on Sunday, as Israel kicked off a week of events and conferences around the country’s fledgling space exploration industry. Israel’s first astronaut to launch into space, Ilan Ramon, was killed in the Columbia shuttle disaster on February 1, 2003. His son Assaf Ramon was killed six years later in a fighter jet training accident in Israel.

Bolden expressed sorrow for the deaths but also said accidents were a part of space exploration. “The question isn’t whether there will be a disaster, but when it will happen,” NASA’s administrator told Israeli Radio. Companies planning private tours to space need to be prepared for the loss of their spaceships, he stated.

Sending an Israeli to the international space station was less likely because Israel wasn’t one of the countries working on the project, said Bolden, himself a former astronaut. But when manned missions to deep space become more frequent in a few years, there were good chances of a second Israeli joining one of the flights, he said. (1/28)

'Star Trek' Prototype Tractor Beam Developed By Scientists (Source: Huffington Post)
It may still be a few years away from practical use, but scientists have created a real tractor beam, like the ones featured in the "Star Trek" TV series and movies. Simply put, this technology utilizes a beam of light to attract objects, according to the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. In "Star Trek," tractor beams were often used to pull spaceships and other objects closer to the focal point of the light source attached to another ship.

Researchers at St. Andrews and the Institute of Scientific Instruments, or ISI, in the Czech Republic have figured out a way of generating an optical field that can reverse the radiation pressure of light. German astronomer Johannes Kepler noticed in 1619 that comet tails point away from the sun, a radiation force that the St. Andrews and ISI team hoped to reverse.

According to the BBC, Pavel Zemanek of ISI said, "The whole team have spent a number of years investigating various configurations of particles delivery by light. I am proud our results were recognized in this very competitive environment and I am looking forward to new experiments and applications. It is a very exciting time." (1/26)

Astronauts4Hire Releases Video (Source: A4H)
The long-awaited video highlighting Astronauts4Hire's purpose, services, and the training its members undergo to become professional commercial astronauts is now available on the A4H YouTube channel. Watch now to learn about the only organization developing the next generation commercial astronaut workforce.

"Astronauts4Hire is a fast-growing 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization comprised of Ph.D. level experts in a wide array of scientific fields spread all over the world. We're developing this commercial astronaut workforce to bridge the gap between researchers and the new commercial space industry. We can help your organization be highly productive on parabolic flights, suborbital or even orbital missions." Click here. (1/28)

Effects of Worst Satellite Breakups in History Still Felt Today (Source: Space.com)
The anniversaries of two major space junk events — China's anti-satellite test on Jan. 11, 2007, and the destructive fender-bender between a defunct Soviet Union-era satellite with an operating U.S. spacecraft on Feb. 10, 2009 — are receiving special attention in orbital debris circles.

The Chinese anti-satellite test merited a nod by the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) Public Affairs Office from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, labeling it an "Anniversary Milestone: Satellite Shootdown." The Jan. 11 AFSPC release noted that the Chinese military used a ground-based missile to hit and destroy its aging Fengyun-1C weather satellite, which was orbiting more than 500 miles (805 kilometers) in space back in 2007. (1/28)

DOD Freezes Hiring, Cuts Temporary Workforce (Source: Reuters)
Thousands of temporary employees are being given layoff notices at the Pentagon, one of a series of measures the Defense Department is taking in advance of expected spending cuts. The department's other moves include putting ship repairs on hold and implementing hiring freezes. Experts say even deeper cuts would need to be put in place to cope with sequestration if it occurs March 1. (1/25)

Rep. Ryan Rules Out U.S. Government Shutdown in March (Source: The Hill)
Automatic cuts in the U.S. government's spending will be allowed to take effect in March, but there won't be a shutdown, says Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., chairman of the House Budget Committee. "No one is talking about shutting the government down," Ryan said on the NBC program "Meet the Press." (1/27)

Honeywell Surprises with Higher-Than-Expected Q4 Revenue (Source: Bloomberg)
Honeywell International's fourth-quarter revenue reached $9.58 billion, topping analysts' expectation of $9.51 billion. Honeywell acquired a natural gas processor and increased revenue as a result. (1/25)

Ball Completes $75 Million Satellite Manufacturing Facility in Colorado (Source: Denver Post)
Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.'s expanded facility in Boulder is more than just an enlarged manufacturing workspace — it signals the company's plan to climb the ladder among aerospace prime contractors. "We've been able to win a large number of (government) contracts because of our cost-effective model," said Dave Taylor, president and chief executive of Ball Aerospace. "We are going to grow that market while looking for other sources."

Flashing lights and the "2001: A Space Odyssey" theme song set a suspenseful scene Friday as a massive door rolled up from the floor, revealing the 90,000-square-foot expansion. Company employees and politicians gathered in the warehouse-like space that will house four cleanrooms and a large thermal vacuum chamber. The $75 million investment from its parent company, Broomfield-based Ball Corp., is a mark of confidence in the future of its aerospace branch. (1/25)

Iran Says Monkey Sent to Space (Source: AlJazeera)
Iranian state TV says the country has successfully sent a monkey into space in what was described as another step towards the country's goal of a manned space flight. Monday's report said the monkey was sent up in a Pishtam, or Explorer, rocket to a height of 120km. It gave no other details on the timing or location of the launch, but said the monkey returned safely.

Iran has said it seeks to send an astronaut into space as part of its ambitious aerospace program. In 2010, Iran said it launched a rocket into space carrying a mouse, turtle and worms. The US and its allies worry that technology from the space program could also be used to develop long-range missiles that could potentially be armed with nuclear warheads. (1/28)

Kazakhstan, Russia De-Escalate Space Spat (Source: Eurasianet)
Kazakhstan and Russia have moved to defuse a spat over Moscow’s use of the world’s largest spaceport, which is vital for Russia to maintain its standing as a space power. Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrisov and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov smoothed over accounts of a rift between the two close allies during talks in Moscow on January 25, with Idrisov describing reports that Kazakhstan was planning to tear up Russia’s lease of the strategic Baikonur cosmodrome as “absurd.”

The row erupted on December 10, when Kazakhstan’s National Space Agency director, Talgat Musabayev, said Astana was looking to renegotiate the deal. Moscow leases the site from Kazakhstan for $115 million per year. The current agreement runs until 2050. Musabayev said President Nazarbayev had ordered work on “drawing up a new, all-encompassing agreement on the Baikonur site, which could envisage a withdrawal from leasing relations.” “We are not saying that we will immediately halt the lease,” he added, but abandoning it “in stages” was possible.

His remarks provoked an outcry in Russia, which is dependent on Baikonur to launch all its manned space missions and most commercial satellites. Moscow is building its own spaceport in its Far East, but the first launch there is not due until 2015. (1/27)

Chinese Factory To Build Outsize Spacecraft (Source: Aviation Week)
It is probably no coincidence that modules for China's planned space station will be similar in size to powerful reconnaissance satellites. Rockets designed for one can launch the other. For the same reason, a new factory at Tianjin to build 6-8 outsize spacecraft a year has a clear military role.

The plant's best-known products will be modules for the space station that China plans to build around 2020, but another product line will be “large remote-sensing satellites.” The big spacecraft from Tianjin will join smaller payloads in a launch program that envisages sending up 30 rockets annually over the next seven years, more than doubling the rate of recent years.

Apart from assembly, the factory will be able to test its products, says the government of Tianjin, which is pushing hard to build itself up as one of China's top aerospace centers. Another facility in the city will build launcher rockets China is developing to replace and supplement its old hydrazine-fueled Long March series. (1/28)

Atlas 5 Comes Together at Record Pace for NASA Launch (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Assembled for flight quicker than ever before, a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket is ready for blastoff this week to deploy NASA's newest geosynchronous communications satellite to relay data from low-Earth-orbit spacecraft. If all goes as planned, the 19-story rocket will thunder away from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Complex 41 pad on Wednesday at 8:48 p.m. EST (0148 GMT) after a record-setting launch campaign. Maturing of the system, operations team and processes have steadily sped up the campaigns, leading to this one lasting just 27 days. It eclipses the previous mark of 44 days. (1/27)

How to Fix the Sad State of Our Science (Source: Delaware Online)
There was something ineffably sad about the recent report that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has awarded an $18 million contract to develop an inhabitable balloon to attach to the International Space Station. You remember NASA, right? The guys who went to the moon? Now they’re sending a balloon into orbit.

I’m not saying that figuring out how to live inside a balloon in the vacuum of space won’t present fascinating technological challenges. But it’s unlikely to capture the public imagination. And given the excitement that science ought to be generating, there’s something a little infra dig about the project -- as if a fancy but aging hotel decided to expand by adding a hallway of prefabricated rooms in the alley.

Science just isn’t fun anymore -- at least not for nonscientists. As the economist Tyler Cowen puts it, “Few women or men dream of dating or marrying a scientist.” Although we’re all delighted to use the latest technological innovations to reach the market, science for its own sake -- the thirst to indulge the human need to know -- seems to be fading. Click here. (1/27)

North Star – A Flexible, Green, Safe Rocket for Suborbital and Small Satellite Missions (Source: NewSpace Watch)
Nammo and Andøya Rocket Range (ARR) are working to develop a new series of scientific rockets. The North Star family will consist of 3 configurations, North Star 1, North Star 2 and the North Star Launch Vehicle, all using hybrid propulsion technology. Hybrid rocket motors have several advantages compared to solid fuel motors. A hybrid motor does not contain explosives, which means it is easier to transport. Hybrids are environmentally friendly and the liquid oxidizer is not toxic.

The hybrid motors will initially be used to power the proposed North Star 1 and 2 sounding rockets, both carrying the ARR developed Hotel Payload. After gaining experience with them on the sounding rockets, they will be used on the proposed three stage North Star Launch Vehicle (NSLV). The NSLV will be a fully hybrid powered vehicle for Nano-satellites up to 10kg, launched into Polar Low Earth Orbits from Andøya Rocket Range about 2020.

Rather than what is happening to most of the Nano-satellites these days, when they are intermittently piggy-backed into too high orbits, the NSLV is intended to serve a growing market of Nano-satellites in need for a launch at a specific time, and into a specific orbit and altitude. Click here. (1/27)

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