May 25, 2013

Delta-4 Rocket Launches From Florida Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
A multimillion-dollar military communications satellite is speeding around Earth today after a spectacular Friday night launch. A full moon was rising over Cape Canaveral Air Force Station when a 217-foot Delta IV rocket rumbled off its launch pad and arced over the Atlantic Ocean as it roared toward orbit. Its four large solid-rocket motors could be seen peeling away from the vehicle when they were jettisoned in pairs about 1 minute, 40 seconds into flight. (5/25)
Pentagon Sees Doubled Cost for Rocket Launch Program (Source: Reuters)
The Pentagon on Thursday told Congress that a recent restructuring of its EELV launch program to add 60 more launches and extend the schedule for a decade would more than double the program's projected cost to $70.7 billion. The Defense Department's annual report to Congress on major arms programs forecast an increase of $35.7 billion or 102 percent for the program. A Pentagon spokeswoman said the increase reflected plans for a total of 151 launches, up from 91, and a 10-year extension of the current schedule from fiscal year 2018 through fiscal 2028. (5/23)

Russian Businessman to Fly Into Space with Leonardo DiCaprio (Source: Pravda)
Russian businessman Vasily Klyukin paid $1.5 million for a chance to fly into space with famous Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio. A charity auction was held on May 24 at the Cannes Film Festival to win a ticket for a space flight in a company with the world-known Hollywood actor. The 37-year-old Russian offered the largest amount for the ticket.

DiCaprio and Klyukin will thus fly into space on board a suborbital spaceship built by Virgin Galactic, which plans to become the world's first-ever space travel agent. Before the flight, the actor will have to quit smoking. The date of the flight will be announced later. (5/24)

Bra Makers' Moon-Suit History to be Told in Warner Bros. Movie (Source: Collect Space)
From the studio that put Sandra Bullock into a spacesuit may now come a movie about the real-life seamstresses who traded sewing brassieres for stitching Neil Armstrong's lunar wardrobe. Warner Bros. Pictures, which this fall will release Alfonso CuarĂ³n's Bullock-and-George-Clooney-as-astronauts sci-fi film "Gravity," has hired screenwriter Richard Cordiner to adapt the non-fiction book, "Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo" for the big screen, the Hollywood news website Deadline reports. (5/24)

Spaceport America Helps Launch Sci-Fi Film 'After Earth' (Source:
The chopper descends towards a giant runway surrounded by scrubby, red earth of the New Mexico desert. At the center sits a hangar as big as a city block that looks like the launching pad for an alien fleet. I've flown to Spaceport America, planet Earth's first commercial space tourism outpost, for a press junket for the new science fiction film "After Earth." The spaceport, located nearly a mile above sea level in the desolate New Mexico desert, may not be open for suborbital spaceflight yet, but is hosting private events.

For the junket, the massive hangar has been arranged with tables and a rock climbing wall images and props from the movie. Still, there is lots of open space where five shuttles will sit once the building is operational. For the junket, they've emblazoned the runway and the curved walkway to the building with the "After Earth" spelled out in giant letters. (5/23)

Girl Expelled From School for Exploding Experiment Going to Space Camp (Source: UPI)
A Florida girl expelled from school after her science experiment exploded will be going to space camp with the help of a former NASA manager, officials said. Kiera Wilmot, 16, was accused in April of igniting a chemical explosion at her high school, leading to her arrest and suspension from school, but authorities dropped criminal charges last week.

News of the incident reached 18-year NASA veteran Homer Hickam, a former lead astronaut training manager for Spacelab and later for the International Space Station, reminding him of an incident in his own youth, ABC News reported Thursday. In the late 1950s, Hickam was taken into custody at his high school for allegedly starting a forest fire with a homemade rocket, but his high school physics professor and school principal came to his defense, clearing him of wrongdoing.

Hickam wrote of the incident in a memoir of his youth, "Rocket Boys," later made into the 1999 movie "October Sky" with Jake Gyllenhaal. Hickam said he decided Kiera needed the same kind of break he had gotten. Learning Kiera had a twin sister, Kayla, Hickham raised enough money to send them both the college-accredited program offered through the University of Alabama-Huntsville. (5/23)

The Only Company That Still Thinks a Manned Spacecraft Should Fly Back to Earth (Source: Quartz)
In a hangar next to an enormous dry lake in the Mojave desert, a new spacecraft that could launch the next generation of space travel is about to begin the testing. What it sets it apart is it’s the only manned spacecraft currently being built that can actually fly back home. What’s more, the Dream Chaser, as its corny name suggests, is that rare piece of technology that is both a leap forward and a throwback. Click here. (5/24)

Arianespace Announces to Launch Soyuz in June (Source: Xinhua)
The Soyuz launcher for Arianespace's milestone medium-lift mission is rapidly taking shape in French Guiana, said the aerospace group in a statement on Friday. "This vehicle undergoes its build-up for a June flight with the first four satellites in O3b Networks' connectivity constellation," Arianespace declared. Arianespace added that the vehicle has completed the core second stage with the mating of its upper and lower sections and will be followed by mating of the launcher's centerline at the third stage. (5/24)

Bill Would Sharpen Weather Focus, Satellite Commercialization at NOAA (Source: Space News)
A draft bill in the House of Representatives would put a greater emphasis on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) operational weather forecasting activities at the expense of climate research, and create inroads for increased government use of commercial satellites and weather data.

The bill, known as the Weather Forecasting Improvement Act of 2013, would soften a prohibition on commercializing Commerce Department weather satellites — NOAA is part of the Commerce Department — by allowing the government to purchase weather data from commercial providers and permitting government weather instruments to fly as hosted payloads aboard private satellites, or vice versa. (5/23)

NASA Efforts To Revamp KSC Get $20 Million Boost from Florida (Source: Space News)
In its quest to downsize KSC, NASA has found a friend in Florida, which intends to spend $20 million over the next year to help shift shuttle-era facilities into private sector hands. The money for spaceport infrastructure projects is tucked into the $74.5 billion budget that Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law May 20. Florida’s new fiscal year begins July 1.

In addition, the state agreed to give Space Florida, its Brevard County-based aerospace economic development agency, $10 million for operations and business development, $7 million for financing projects, $1.5 million for space tourism marketing and $1 million to nurture fledgling space research and business ties with Israel.

Space Florida has not yet determined how it will allocate the $20 million earmarked for projects at the newly emerging Cape Canaveral Spaceport, a commercial zone that is gradually taking over real estate and facilities at the Kennedy Space Center, the adjacent Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and other regions falling under Space Florida’s expanding footprint. Its most recent acquisition is the Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville. (5/24)

Is NASA Building A Rocket They Can't Afford to Fly? (Source: NASA Watch)
"Another concern Squyres stressed is the low flight rate for the Space Launch System (SLS). He is 'deeply worried' because no other human spaceflight system has had such a low anticipated launch rate. The first SLS launch is expected in 2017, the second in 2021, and then once every two years thereafter. SLS and the Orion spacecraft need to be adequately funded 'to be proven out on a pace that really supports ... a safe pathway' to cis-lunar space. he said.

Cooke agreed. The flight rate is driven "totally" by funding, he said, and "they definitely need more funding ... starting with inflation." NASA's budget is currently projected to be flat, with no adjustment for inflation, which erodes buying power as the years pass." (5/24)

Private Spaceships for Space Tourists to Launch Big Test Flights (Source:
Private suborbital space planes built by two space tourism companies will likely launch some major test flights before this year is out, their builders say. Virgin Galactic plans to launch its SpaceShipTwo spacecraft into space for the first time by the end of 2013. The company performed its first rocket-powered test flight in April. Meanwhile, the firm XCOR Aerospace is aiming for the inaugural non-spacebound flight of its Lynx vehicle during that same time period, officials from both companies said on Tuesday. (5/23)

Destination Moon: Private Spaceflight Companies Eye Lunar Bases (Source:
Human exploration of deep space is looking more and more like a tag-team affair, with NASA jetting off to asteroids and Mars while the private sector sets up shop on the moon. While NASA has no plans to return humans to the lunar surface anytime soon, private industry is eyeing  Earth's nearest neighbor intently, said Bigelow Aerospace founder and president Robert Bigelow.

"The brass ring for us is having a lunar base — as a company and in conjunction with other companies, and even other, possibly, foreign entities as well," Bigelow said during a teleconference with reporters today (May 23). "That is an appetite and a desire that we've had for a long, long time. Two months ago, NASA tapped Bigelow Aerospace to sound out the private sector's interest and intent in going beyond low-Earth orbit, in an attempt to help map out possible public-private partnerships in deep space. (5/23)

Lost Apollo 11 Moon Dust Found in Storage (Source:
Vials of moon dust brought back to Earth by the first men on the moon have been found inside a lab warehouse in California after sitting in storage unnoticed for more than 40 years. The samples — collected by Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin — were rediscovered last month by an archivist who was going over artifacts tucked away at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. (5/21)

After Months in Space, Gravity's a Drag for Astronauts (Source:
Three astronauts who recently spent months together aboard the International Space Station reunited on Earth today (May 23) during a Google+ Hangout to talk about their experiences aboard the orbiting lab and the challenge of readapting to life with gravity.

"It's great to all be back together," said NASA astronaut Kevin Ford from the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Ford, who returned to Earth on March 15 after a five-month mission, joined up with two of his Expedition 34 crewmates, Canada's Chris Hadfield and NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn, for the live video conference. (5/23)

Bigelow Aerospace to Study Moon Base in Deal With NASA (Source: Bloomberg)
Bigelow Aerospace will study the possible return of men to the moon as part of an agreement with NASA that may lead to more public-private partnerships for exploration. The company said it will identify options for government and private investments to advance human space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, or more than 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometers) from Earth’s surface.

Bigelow won’t be paid for work that is scheduled to be completed this year. A lunar base will be part of the study announced today by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, though the space agency isn’t planning to fund a moon mission. NASA instead intends to focus on landing humans on an asteroid by 2021. The deal “signals that NASA is open to working with the private sector on lunar activities even if the agency itself does not want to lead such an effort,” Scott Pace, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University.

Pace, a critic of the Obama administration’s focus on the asteroid program, said NASA should participate in an international mission to the moon to prepare for a possible manned exploration flight to Mars. NASA plans to capture an asteroid with an unmanned spacecraft and re-direct it to a location near the moon. A crew would land on the space rock as early as 2021. (5/23)

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