January 31, 2013

Dream Chaser to Breathe New Life Into Michoud (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Following this week’s announcement of a deal between Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and Lockheed Martin, the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) will gain a much-needed boost. The facility, that once built the giant External Tanks (ETs), will soon host composite airframe fabrication for new Dream Chasers. MAF was once a vibrant New Orleans engineering hub, ranging back to the Saturn program and throughout the career of the Space Shuttle.

Giant structures such as the External Tanks used to take shape inside its open floor buildings and High Bays, prior to taking a barge journey to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Now MAF can look forward to hosting composite aiframe fabrication for Dream Chasers, thanks to the deal between SNC and Lockheed Martin.

This effort leverages the extensive Lockheed Martin experience in building composite structures for spacecraft and high performance aircraft and will see parts of the commercial crew spacecraft take shape under the same roof as NASA’s Orion, a spacecraft that is under the contract of Lockheed Martin. (1/31)

Armenia to Join International Space Treaties (Source: Xinhua)
Armenia will join five international treaties on peaceful use of outer space. Becoming a member of the U.N. Committee on the Peaceful Use of Outer Space (COPUOS), Armenia will join the five international agreements -- Outer Space Treaty, Rescue Agreement, Convention on Liability, Convention on Registration and Moon Agreement -- that regulate the activities of members in space.

Armenia in December was elected as a member of COPUOS in the General Assembly of the United Nations. The membership gives Armenia a chance to take part in new space projects. In the frameworks of such projects, Armenian scientists will have the opportunity to visit scientific centers of space agencies of the United States, Europe and Russia. (1/31)

Mark Kelly: Arizona Democrats’ Dream Candidate (Source: Washington Post)
When Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was critically wounded during an assassination attempt in January 2011, the future of the Arizona Democratic Party’s statewide ambitions was put on hold. Despite Democrats’ argument that the state is shifting toward them politically, they still haven’t been able to break through in offices other than the U.S. House. Today, Arizona Democrats hold not one statewide office. But if anyone can change that, many believe it’s Giffords’s husband Mark Kelly. The question is whether he wants it.

But while Kelly and Giffords have made clear that they will be players in politics — through both a political action committee (Gabby PAC) and a super PAC described by some as the anti-NRA (Americans for Responsible Solutions) — it’s not clear that Kelly is interested in realizing his wife’s political goals. Namely, running for statewide office. Kelly has the kind of profile that political recruiters drool over. He’s a retired astronaut, a strong public speaker, and he has banked a significant amount of goodwill over the last two years. What’s more, the fundraising involved in the couple’s new ventures is great experience for a political campaign. (1/31)

Iran Plans 3-Satellite Launch on Saturday (Source: PressTV)
Director of Iran Space Agency (ISA) Hamid Fazeli says the Islamic Republic plans to send three indigenous satellites into space on Saturday, February 2, 2013. Fazeli said that Nahid, Qaem and Fajr satellites will be launched into orbit on Saturday on National Space Technology Day. He also said that Iran plans to launch Sharifsat by the end of the current Iranian calendar year (ending March 20, 2013). The Iranian official said that Toloo’ satellite will also be launched into orbit in the near future. (1/31)

Building a Lunar Base with 3D Printing (Source: SpaceRef)
Setting up a lunar base could be made much simpler by using a 3D printer to build it from local materials. Industrial partners including renowned architects Foster + Partners have joined with ESA to test the feasibility of 3D printing using lunar soil. "Terrestrial 3D printing technology has produced entire structures," said Laurent Pambaguian, heading the project for ESA.

"Our industrial team investigated if it could similarly be employed to build a lunar habitat." Foster + Partners devised a weight-bearing 'catenary' dome design with a cellular structured wall to shield against micrometeoroids and space radiation, incorporating a pressurised inflatable to shelter astronauts. A hollow closed-cell structure - reminiscent of bird bones - provides a good combination of strength and weight. Click here. (1/31)

Poll: Americans Favor Spending Less on Military (Source: Defense News)
Asked where the federal government should cut back spending, more Americans pointed to the defense budget than to any other area, according to a new poll by Reason-Rupe poll, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. War spending and the Pentagon budget topped the list of spending that respondents want to see cut, followed by the category of federal worker salaries. (1/30)

Northrop Q4 Profit Tops Estimates, Slower Year Ahead (Source: Reuters)
Northrop Grumman reported fourth-quarter earnings from continuing operations of $533 million, or $2.14 per share, easily beating analysts' expectations of $1.74 per share, but the company warned a tougher year is ahead. Northrop projects a 5% drop in sales in 2013 and up to a 12% decline in earnings, as federal defense spending falls. (1/30)

Fuzzy U.S. Space Policy Seen Languishing (Source: Aviation Week)
There seems to be little hope of better defining U.S. space policy, given the current underfunded NASA vision of human expeditions to Mars and its ambitions to turn responsibility for low Earth orbit transportation over to commercial providers, according to members of an expert panel hosted by Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

Policymakers, some with ties to previous Republican as well as Democratic administrations, suggested that the nation’s space objectives must be more closely aligned with larger strategic interests, including formative relations with China. Click here. (1/30)

Texas Space Alliance Applauds Gov. Perry’s Space Remarks (Source: TSA)
In his State of the State address on January 29, 2013, Gov. Rick Perry offered remarks that reinforced how Texas is cementing itself as a Space State, one that is actively seeking all forms of space enterprise and entrepreneurial endeavors, including commercial, govt., military, and private. Rick Perry spoke on the remarkable progress that has been achieved in such a short time:

“...And just last June, Texas took another giant leap into commercial space, as XCOR Aerospace, a leader in the privatized space race, brought its research and development center to Midland. They’re part of a growing Texas presence in this important market, which includes businesses like SpaceX and Blue Origin... Please join me, as they stand, to thank them for their contributions.”

Gov. Perry met with TXA and commercial space company executives in the summer of 2012, where he expressed his desire to help this fledgling industry grow to its full potential, and to do so in the Great State of Texas. TXA Policy and Govt. Affairs Director Wayne Rast offered, “To have the Governor include commercial space businesses in his State of the State annual address shows just how highly he values this industry, and what they will mean to the future of our state.” (1/31)

Texas Governor Highlights Space Enterprise in State of the State Address (Source: SPACErePORT)
Representatives from XCOR and other space companies were on-hand on Jan. 29 for Texas Governor Rick Perry's State of the State address to the 83rd Texas Legislature. Gov. Perry spoke of the growing presence of space-related enterprise in the Lone Star State, including with XCOR's recent decision to locate an R&D facility in Midland and other operations by SpaceX and Blue Origin. The remarks start at 7:10 in this 36 minute video. Click here. (1/30) 

California Dreamin' on a Martian Day (Source: SpaceRef)
There are already plenty of stars around Malibu, California, but could the place be actually like the planet Mars? The NASA rover Curiosity is about to find out. Two California locations, including an area near the Santa Monica Mountains stretching north from Malibu, were searched in late January for rocks strikingly similar to the Martian rocks that Curiosity is about to drill into on Mars. The samples found are completing final tests for use in assessing the success of the first rock drilling and sampling on another planet.

The drilling and analysis of samples from the inside of a Martian rock should be underway next week with the first shallow drilling tests as early as Feb. 2-4, according to Robert C. Anderson, a member of the Surface Sampling System (SSS) Team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

The overall process is to result in samples collected from a rock depth of nearly 2 in. (5 cm.) where the rock should reveal secrets of what it is made of, how it formed, and whether any organic carbon, a building block for life, is present. That data will provide some evidence whether or not life ever had a chance to form in that location. Click here. (1/31)

Anderson is Having a Blast Building Spaceport America (Source: Forbes)
Christine Anderson worked for 30 years in the United States Air Force as a civilian, retiring in 2008, having reached the civilian equivalent of General Officer, the highest rank in the Senior Executive Service. But the sky was literally the limit for this charismatic career woman and savvy executive. At the moment, Christine’s busy leading the development and operation of the world’s first purpose-built, commercial spaceport — Spaceport America. And, she’s having lots of fun along the way.

Christine Anderson heads the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, the state agency charged with the responsibility to design, develop, construct, operate, and oversee the successful development of Spaceport America. I caught her for a few minutes  away from her busy schedule at Spaceport America, and caught up on the state of the Spaceport, the relationship with Virgin Galactic and how the Spaceport supports STEM education programs in New Mexico schools. Click here. (1/31)

AIA Sounds the Alarm on Economic Downturn Report (Source: SpaceRef)
The contraction of the U.S. economy in the fourth quarter underscores AIA's warning for the past 18 months that severe across the board budget cuts--both to defense and non-defense discretionary spending--threaten to throw the economy into a tailspin. It is clear from the Commerce Department report that reduced government spending, primarily in the defense sector, is a major cause for the GDP decline.

In July 2011, Congress enacted a cut of $487 billion to the defense budget, resulting in ongoing, significant job losses in the defense sector. In less than 30 days, unless Congress and the White House act, sequestration will kick in, leading to higher unemployment, reduced tax revenue and lower consumer spending. This will be the second wave that overwhelms our floundering economic boat, likely sinking us back into a recession. (1/31)

NASA Eyes Future with 'Swamp Works' (Source: Florida Today)
Lockheed Martin runs its secretive Skunk Works, speeding advanced aircraft development projects. Boeing operates its covert Phantom Works, a rapid prototyping outfit that works on highly classified defense and national security projects. Now NASA boasts its own "Swamp Works" at Kennedy Space Center, but there is no mystery about its mission.

In a small, non-descript federal building in the KSC Industrial Area, about 40 engineers and scientists aim to open up the solar system to human exploration and exploitation. And much of their work involves tapping planets, moons and asteroids for water, minerals, metals and other resources so explorers from Earth don’t have to haul them along. Click here. (1/31)

NASA 'Assessing Options' for Shiloh Launch Site Request (Source: Florida Today)
One of NASA's initial reasons for refusing the transfer of the Shiloh property to Florida is its current use as a safety buffer zone. But Space Florida President Frank DiBello hopes to persuade NASA that the commercial complex would fulfill a more pressing need and be mutually beneficial. “I can tell you that (Shiloh) is farther away from NASA’s area of operations than is the city of Titusville, and so this buffer zone argument really doesn’t hold a lot of water,” he said in Tallahassee.

He said he is in engaged in “very cooperative, very supportive” talks with NASA and hopes to “bring them around” to support the proposal known as Shiloh, for the citrus community once located at the site. “It’s in our mutual best interests to make this succeed, and to see that future work done here in Florida rather than in Texas or Puerto Rico or Georgia,” DiBello said. Those are places where SpaceX is exploring setting up a launch site that would operate independently from NASA or the Air Force, giving it more flexibility and control over its launches of non-government payloads.

NASA, for its part, says it has not rejected the Shiloh proposal. The agency is “assessing available options” to help the state achieve its goals, according to a new statement. “There are many authorities that will allow us to support commercial launch activities – transferring land is only one of those mechanisms,” the statement continued. “KSC is fully supportive of the State’s initiative to support commercial space endeavors and NASA is committed to ensuring that all partnership opportunities are fully considered.” (1/30)

Space Florida Still Hopes to Get NASA Land Near Volusia (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
State officials are so committed to trying to talk NASA into letting them have 150 acres near the Volusia/Brevard county line to build a commercial spaceport that NASA's rebuff of their initial advances earned barely a mention in the Space Florida board meeting Wednesday. "We are engaged in a very cooperative, very supportive dialogue" with NASA, Space Florida President Frank DiBello told his board.

Buoyed by indications from NASA that it would continue to discuss how its lands could be available for a commercial launch complex "independent of the federal range," DiBello said Space Florida is "hopeful we can bring them around." Space Florida has dozens of projects in the works, officials said Wednesday, including working with NASA to get the former shuttle landing facility turned over for commercial horizontal space launches.

That facility, Lange said, "if re-purposed for commercial use – would absolutely put Florida in the lead nationally in developing a network of commercially-friendly spaceports to enable rapid launch capability." Space Florida officials said Wednesday that NASA's decision on the landing facility could come within six to eight weeks. (1/30)

How Korean Is Korea's Space Program? (Source: Chosun Ilbo)
Korea on Wednesday finally succeeded in launching the Naro space rocket on the third attempt. When all launch delays are included, it was the 11th attempt that made the difference. The next challenge is to place a 1.5-ton commercial satellite into orbit. But some experts say the future is a return to the drawing board since Korea relied on Russian technology for the essential liquid-fueled, first-stage booster of the Naro.

Korea built the second stage and its solid-fueled engine. The first-stage booster is the same one used in Russia's next-generation Angara rocket, prompting some pundits to say the launch of the Naro was practically a test launch of the Angara. Seoul started to pursue the rocket development program on its own in the early 1990s but turned to Russia for help in 1998 when Pyongyang launched a missile that flew over Japan and landed in the Pacific. The government wanted to achieve its goal as early as possible but failed to meet the 2005 deadline.

Editor's Note: To my untrained eye, video and still images of the Naro launch seem to show a first stage that had to correct itself multiple times during ascent with engine gimbaling. Look at the photo accompanying this article. Click here. (1/31)

Extreme Space Weather Triggered Medieval Famines, Say Astrophysicists (Source: MIT Tech Review)
The Earth’s local interplanetary environment is a maelstrom of solar winds, giant clouds of hot plasma ejected from the Sun and violent magnetic fields. To a large extent, we are protected from this so-called space weather by our atmosphere and the Earth’s magnetic field. But every once in a while, these interplanetary storms are so ferocious that even our planetary defences fail.

Researchers say the effects of space weather could be much more significant than originally thought. They make the case that under certain special conditions, space weather can influence terrestrial weather so severely that it can have a dramatic effects on agriculture, causing crop failures, death and starvation. The evidence linking space weather and terrestrial weather is growing. The idea here is that cosmic rays can ionize dust particles, which then attract water vapour triggering the formation of clouds.

Their theory is that a region’s agriculture is vulnerable to variations in space weather if it meets three conditions: the local weather must be sensitive to space weather; the local agriculture must be critically vulnerable to sudden changes in weather; and finally, the region must be isolated. One place they pick out is medieval England, which is vulnerable because it is in the north Atlantic, dependent on wheat which is vulnerable to weather changes and also isolated from mainland Europe. (1/31)

NASA Launches Satellite Aboard Atlas V at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Financial Times)
NASA launched a new communication satellite Wednesday to stay in touch with its space station astronauts and relay more Hubble telescope images. An unmanned Atlas V rocket blasted into the starry night sky carrying the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite. This is the 11th TDRS satellite to be launched by NASA. The space agency uses the orbiting network to communicate with astronauts living on the International Space Station. Editor's Note: Here's an infographic on how TRDS works. (1/31)

Benefits Weighed of "Disaggregation" for Military Space Systems (Source: Space Policy Online)
At an event focused on parsing out the pros and cons of 'disaggregation,' the latest buzzword to hit the military space community, experts called for an evolved and mixed approach to military constellations. 'Disaggregation' was described as dispersing payload sets currently flown aboard large satellite platforms to large numbers of smaller craft. This concept is not new, but it has caught the attention of stakeholders as a way to address critical challenges, particularly fiscal constraints.

Declining budgets was one of the reasons that prompted stakeholders to look at this approach in the first place. Others are an emerging threat environment that urges increased resiliency and deterrence, a fragile industrial base and concerns for technology obsolescence. Outlining the assumed benefits of disaggregation to each of these, Peter Marquez said that this approach could likely help reduce lifecycle costs and provide support to the industrial base.

He explained that the continuous production cycles that would be required to develop and launch these smaller systems could imbue realism into the requirements community, traditionally used to planning for large systems developed every 15 years, and lead to a “higher technology refresh rate” that would combat technology obsolescence. Marquez suggested that this process could lead to reduced lifecycle costs, much like the way that increased production by Henry Ford made car prices more affordable. (1/31)

When Will We Reach the Moon Again? (Source: BBC)
At the beginning of December, the private company Golden Spike had announced it's intentions to send commercial manned flights to the surface of the Moon, by 2020. It is without a doubt a very ambitious plan, which caused a lot of skepticism among lots of experts. Hence, BBC Science World Romania tried to find out how does the company plan to reach the Moon, after more than four decades since the last human mission.

Max Vozoff is a business development expert and former program manager of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft development. And now he is member of the board at Golden Spike. He answered a few or our questions about Golden Spike's plans. The board is composed of big names in the space industry. How did you all come to agree that a private lunar expedition would be a fesable idea? Click here. (1/30)

NASA to Launch World's Largest Solar Sail in 2014 (Source: Space.com)
The largest solar sail ever constructed is headed for the launch pad in 2014 on a mission to demonstrate the value of "propellantless propulsion"— the act of using photons from the sun to push a craft through space. Dubbed Sunjammer, the giant solar sail measures about 124 feet (38 meters) on a side and boasts a total surface area of nearly 13,000 square feet (1,208 square m, or one-third of an acre). The project is under the wing of NASA's Space Technology Program, within the agency's Office of the Chief Technologist. (1/31)

Dream Chaser, Private Space Plane, Poised For Big Test Flight (Source: Huffington Post)
A private space plane is slated to fly on its own for the first time in the next six to eight weeks, a key drop-test milestone in the vehicle's quest to fly astronauts on roundtrip space missions. The Dream Chaser spacecraft, built by aerospace firm Sierra Nevada Corp., will be released by a carrier helicopter at an altitude of 12,000 feet (3,657 meters) or so, then fly back and land autonomously on a runway at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in California.

The unmanned 30-second drop test will kick off a series of trials that culminate in trips to low-Earth orbit and back, potentially paving the way for contracted, crew-carrying flights to the International Space Station for NASA, company officials said. (1/30)

No comments: