May 12, 2013

PaR Systems Signs Agreement with NASA KSC for Use of Hanger N (Source: PaR Systems)
PaR Systems, Inc., a world leader in material handling, automation, and robotic solutions since 1961, has signed a partnership agreement with NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for use of the Hangar N facility and its unique Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) equipment. The NASA facility is located on the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, adjacent to KSC on the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

Under a 15-year lease agreement, PaR Systems will access the facility immediately to begin work performing non-destructive testing, and other related aerospace, marine, and industrial product services. Initially, eight PaR Systems employees with over 200 combined years of non-destructive test engineering and inspection experience will be based at KSC to perform the work. All are NDT professionals with national level III American Society of Nondestructive Testing (ASNT) certifications, and can use multiple inspection methods.

With PaR Systems’ 52 years of experience in automation systems and its global resources, the team will be able to advise clients on the best inspection methods to use as well as how to automate those activities. Additional support will be provided by PaR’s LaserUT Center of Excellence in Fort Worth, Tex. and its Robotics Headquarters in Shoreview, Minn. (5/9)

Air Force Forecasts 80% Chance of "Go" Weather for Wednesday's Atlas Launch (Source: USAF)
On-shore east winds will result in a small coastal shower threat. No thunderstorms are expected. The primary concern for launch day is Cumulus Clouds. In the event of a 24 hour delay, high pressure and fair weather over Central Florida are expected with increasing upper level clouds associated with an upper level disturbance. There is a small threat of isolated coastal showers with the on-shore east-southeast winds. (5/12)

Brevard Still the Place for Space, Even as Diversification Grows (Source: Florida Today)
Cape Canaveral’s hold on American space launches continues to loosen as more and more of the country’s “new space” companies choose to conduct testing and even flights elsewhere. This week alone, SpaceX made news about tests and launches in two states. Neither is Florida. In Texas, SpaceX and the FAA worked through the latest stage of a regulatory review for a potential coastal complex for launching commercial missions. SpaceX may yet decide to develop its commercial pad in Florida, but the firm’s not waiting around to take the steps necessary for development of the Texas site.

In New Mexico, SpaceX signed a deal to continue test flights of what could be a revolutionary launch vehicle called Grasshopper at Spaceport America. The reusable booster’s next missions appear to be outgrowing the company’s current test facility in Texas.

Florida continues competing for these kinds of projects. KSC and Cape Canaveral remain a top contender in most commercial space launch endeavors in development across the U.S. The spaceport here has on its side history and tradition, existing underused facilities, and available space-ready employees. (5/11)

A Smoother Ride for Spaceport America (Source: Santa Fe New Mexican)
Building Spaceport America in Southern New Mexico always was a risk. After all, no one knew whether businesses would flock to the spaceport after it opened — and that was after spending $209 million in taxpayer dollars to get it built. An empty spaceport, of course, would be one with little value and no investment return for taxpayers.

We are encouraged, though, by events of recent months. First, the New Mexico Legislature passed a law to offer liability exemption to spaceport suppliers and manufacturers, something viewed as essential to getting the operation up and running. Next, Virgin Galactic, the Spaceport’s anchor tenant, successfully broke the speed of sound in a test flight of SpaceShipTwo over the Mojave Desert, a necessary step before the first commercial spaceflights can be launched. Those tests are necessary before Virgin Galactic can take tourists into space and back.

Last week came the announcement that the Space Exploration Technologies Corp. — SpaceX for short — has signed on as a tenant. The company already has flown two cargo spaceships to the International Space Station under contract with NASA. In New Mexico, SpaceX will be flight testing the Grasshopper, a reusable, vertically launched rocket that can carry human passengers — taking off, touching space and heading back down with passengers. The company’s prestige is important to establishing Spaceport America as a going concern. (5/11)

ISRO Scientist Gets 2 Years in Jail (Source: Indian Express)
A special court has convicted a senior Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) scientist based in Ahmedabad in an 18-year-old case in which he and his accomplice were found guilty of criminal conspiracy to repurchase a lens worth Rs 97,500 that had been stolen from ISRO premises. Both have been sentenced for two years in jail, besides being fined Rs 5,000 each. In 1995, the CBI had booked the scientist, Anang Kumar Trivedi, and a Mumbai-based trader Jitendra Joshi in this case. (5/12)

SpaceX Bill Headed to Gov. Perry (Source: My San Antonio)
A proposal to temporarily shut down Boca Chica Beach during SpaceX rocket launches is headed to Gov. Rick Perry’s desk. The full Senate has approved House Bill 2623 by Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville. The beach closure bill is a must-pass piece of legislation to try to lure SpaceX to build a launch site near Brownsville. The bill will hit Perry’s desk sometime next week. He’ll then have 10 days to sign or veto the legislation. Perry, who has spent time personally recruiting SpaceX, is all but guaranteed to sign the bill into law. (5/10)

Battle Looms as Space Interests Seek Piece of Wildlife Refuge (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The coastal ghost town of Shiloh, where the nation's rock-star rocketeer wants to build a space town, is for now a place of orphan oranges, turkey tracks and lonesome tombstones. "If you've been in downtown Titusville lately and have seen the closed restaurants and closed banks, it's pretty sad," said refuge manager Layne Hamilton, who supports commercial ventures that bring back space-related jobs — just as long as they're not at Shiloh. "It's not an appropriate site," she said.

A hike there reveals a healthy, though not pristine, natural terrain. Live oaks, cabbage palms and saw palmettos reign once again, and sand dunes and swales remain intact. But here and there are stubborn, old citrus trees that still bear a rotting orange or two. And there are family gravesites from the late 1800s, even earlier artifacts from indigo plantations, and some prehistoric archaeological remains, Hamilton said.

Clay Henderson, an Audubon activist and founder of the Friends of Canaveral, said local opinion about Shiloh may be swayed by recent job losses. But nationwide opinion about a national treasure is what matters most, he said. He is pushing for the U.S. Interior Department, overseer of federal refuges and parks, to take a formal role in the Shiloh assessment and not leave that task to the FAA only. "We have no confidence FAA will address any environmental concerns," Henderson said. "They never met a bird they didn't want to kill." (5/10)

Astronauts Replace Pump to Tackle ISS Ammonia Leak (Source: RIA Novosti)
Expedition 35 crew members Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn have removed and replaced a pump on a cooling system of the International Space Station (ISS) that may be leaking ammonia, NASA said on Saturday. The astronauts have removed “a 260-pound pump controller box that may be the source of an ammonia leak on the International Space Station and replaced it with a spare,” the statement said. (5/10)

Hawthorne Mayor Wants SpaceX to Take Over Long-Vacant Mall Property (Source: Daily Breeze)
Hawthorne Mayor Danny Juarez announced Friday that he is encouraging SpaceX to occupy the long-vacant Hawthorne Plaza mall site. During a State of the City luncheon, Juarez told a few hundred people that he has been talking to the property owner and officials at SpaceX about transforming the complex into corporate offices and homes for company workers, who are already using the mall's parking lot. The company is headquartered at nearby Hawthorne Municipal Airport.

The mall has been largely closed since 1999 as the city's political factions have been unable to agree with the property owner on a plan to rehabilitate it. "Workers can live here and walk to work," Juarez said. "We're looking at not only developing one side of Hawthorne Boulevard, but also the other side." (5/10)

"Gravity" Movie Trailer Is Virgin Galactic's Worst Nightmare (Source: Motherboard)
Alfonso CuarĂ³n made the finest science fiction movie of the last decade, 2006's Children of Men, and hasn't directed a film since. Now, we get the first shots of Gravity, a movie presumeably about George Clooney and Sandra Bullock free-floating in space after an astronautical catastrophe. Whether with SpaceX or Virgin Galactic, private space tourism is going to refocus public attention on human habitation of space.

This film looks certain to play off our attendant fears of entering this new privatized space, whether the astronauts are pros or not. Whether anyone's going to leave the spacecraft or not. It's kind of like Open Water for space travel. It's any astronaut's worst nightmare. And, as recreational space travel draws closer to reality, those corporations are likely going to have to deal with assuaging those fears all over again. 'What if something goes wrong in space?' is a question we're going to be thinking about more often. Click here. (5/10)

Spacewalkers Replace Pump, But Not Sure If Leak is Fixed (Source: Space Policy Online)
Two International Space Station (ISS) crew members successfully replaced a coolant pump in the ISS electrical system today, but there was no sign of the leak that led to this unprecedented ISS spacewalk. Tom Marshburn and Chris Cassidy completed their tasks about an hour ahead of schedule today, finishing the spacewalk in 5.5 hours.

One objective of the spacewalk, successfully executed, was replacing an ammonia pump used to cool a solar array channel that provides electricity for the ISS. There are eight channels, one for each solar array. ISS crew members noticed "snowflakes" emanating from one of them on Thursday, signalling an ammonia leak. That channel had shown signs of leaks in the past, origin unknown, but this time the amount was much greater.

NASA decided to conduct an emergency spacewalk not because the leak posed a threat to the space station or the astronauts, but because they hoped to spot the source of the leak while ammonia was still being released.  That part of the assignment was unrealized. When Marshburn and Cassidy arrived at the site, there was no sign of an ammonia leak. (5/11)

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