July 26, 2013

Palazzo Pushing House NASA Reauthorization Bill (Source: Picayune Item)
The House Space Subcommittee recently approved a draft of a bill that would authorize the $16.8 billion to continue U.S. space exploration. Mississippi U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo, chair of the Space Subcommittee and a lead sponsor of the bill, said, “My goal is to ensure that Congress — and this subcommittee — does everything in its power to support the next generation of explorers and maintain America’s leadership in space. In order to protect the American space legacy, we must make hard choices, prioritize budgets and give NASA direction for future endeavors.”

Palazzo said one of his top priorities in space project funding is Orion, a multi-purpose crew exploration vehicle used for traveling beyond low Earth orbit, and continuing rocket testing at Stennis Space Center. The bill addresses two proposals that Palazzo finds problematic. The first is the bill halts a proposal to consolidate NASA education programs into other agencies. It also prohibits NASA from beginning work on the Asteroid Retrieval Mission until the current administration can provide more detailed information on the program, Palazzo said. (7/26)

Future Rocket Scientists Ready for Launch Near Pueblo (Source: KUSA)
Young rocket scientists will be showing off their space chops as part of a Student Rocket Launch this Saturday at a ranch near Pueblo, Colorado. The Student Rocket Launch program is a unique partnership between aerospace leaders United Launch Alliance and Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp and engages students from grade school through graduate school in a hands-on opportunity to design, create and build high-power sport rockets and payloads. (7/26)

NASA Preaches Commercial Partnerships (Source: Space News)
NASA is seeking to encourage private companies to assist in identifying threatening asteroids, proving the utility of on-orbit refueling spacecraft and establishing new cooperative projects, space agency officials said at the Space Frontier Foundation’s annual NewSpace conference. “We are looking for new areas where there could be an intersection of NASA’s long-term interest and the innovation of the private sector,” said Dennis Stone, program integration manager for NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

As an example, Stone cited a synopsis issued July 17 seeking information from U.S. companies interested in gaining access to NASA’s expertise through partnerships without any exchange of funds. The synopsis, called Collaborations for Commercial Space Capabilities, is designed to identify space-related initiatives that would benefits NASA’s human exploration and operations program. If companies are working on projects related to “space weather, low-Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars, asteroids, transportation, communications, data, whatever it is, we would like to hear about it,” Stone said. (7/26)

European Navigation Satellites Running Late, Face Traffic Jam (Source: Space News)
Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation system has fallen further behind schedule, with a September-October launch of the first two full-operational-capability satellites now scrapped in hopes the satellites can be ready for a December slot that may also be out of reach, according to industry officials. The delay of the launch is having a domino effect on the program by delaying the order of the four to eight satellites necessary to complete the 30-satellite constellation.

The 28-nation European Union, which owns Galileo, is hesitant to commit to more satellites before seeing how the initial spacecraft in what is called Galileo’s Full Operational Capability (FOC) perform in orbit, officials said. The two satellites are to be launched aboard a single Europeanized Soyuz rocket following exhaustive testing by the European Space Agency (ESA). (7/26)

Congressmen Want NASA Launch Pad Open to Many (Source: Florida Today)
NASA should not move too quickly to lease to one company the Kennedy Space Center launch pad once used by Apollo, say two congressmen, who want the site to be potentially open to multiple companies. U.S. Reps. Frank Wolf, R-VA, and Robert Aderholt, R-AL, wrote a letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden urging NASA to make said Launch Complex 39A available to multiple launch firms. SpaceX wants the site for its exclusive use while another firm, Blue Origin, wants to use it for multiple companies.

Editor's Note: Here's a copy of their letter. Although Space Florida did not respond to NASA's solicitation for LC-39A, the spaceport authority could still become involved in the process by striking a deal with the interested launch companies and NASA (as long as Florida taxpayers aren't burdened with a huge annual infrastructure maintenance bill). NASA could transfer the facility to Space Florida and let the spaceport authority come to terms with potential users. (7/26)

ATK Liberty: Still in the Game at KSC (Source: SPACErePORT)
Although ATK was not among the companies expressing interest in using LC-39A, the company remains in the hunt for a launch site for its proposed Liberty rocket. Apparently, ATK's preferred option is LC-39B, the former Space Shuttle launch pad that NASA is converting for the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket and other rockets. Since SLS in its initial configuration will use ATK's solid rocket boosters--which also serve as the first stage for Liberty--both rockets might fit more readily on the pad. (7/26)

Canceling Sequester Would Add Jobs, CBO Says (Source: The Hill)
Canceling the sequestration cuts would add around 1 million new jobs to the economy, according to a new report from the Congressional Budget Office. Keeping the cuts would eliminate 1.6 million jobs, the nonpartisan CBO said. "This boils down the sequester in very plain terms that everybody can understand," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-MD, who requested the report. "You would hope that everyone should agree we should not be harming the economy." (7/25)

NASA Team Takes SLS/Orion to Oshkosh (Source: ATK)
NASA’s industry team that includes Lockheed Martin, Boeing, ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne will discuss NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft at the 2013 Oshkosh AirVenture in Wisconsin from July 29 to Aug. 4. The team will be located at Innovation Pavillion #4 in the Innovation Center. (7/26)

Search for Habitable Terrestrial Planet Transiting Red Dwarf GJ 1214 (Source: Astrobiology Web)
High-precision eclipse spectrophotometry of transiting terrestrial exoplanets represents a promising path for the first atmospheric characterizations of habitable worlds and the search for life outside our solar system. The detection of terrestrial planets transiting nearby late-type M-dwarfs could make this approach applicable within the next decade, with near-to-come general facilities.

In this context, we previously identified GJ 1214 as a high-priority target for a transit search, as the transit probability of a habitable planet orbiting this nearby M4.5 dwarf would be significantly enhanced by the transiting nature of GJ 1214 b, the super-Earth already known to orbit the star. Basing on this observation, we have set-up an ambitious high-precision photometric monitoring of GJ 1214 with the Spitzer Space Telescope to probe its entire habitable zone in search of a transiting planet as small as Mars. (7/25)

Flawless Ariane-5 Launch of Alphasat, Europe's Largest Telecom Satellite (Source: Space Daily)
Alphasat, Europe's largest and most sophisticated telecommunications satellite, was launched into its planned orbit from Kourou, French Guiana. The Ariane 5 ECA rocket, operated by Arianespace, took off at 19:54 GM, 21:54 CEST and delivered Alphasat into the target geostationary transfer orbit about 28 minutes later. (7/26)

Three Soyuz at Kourou Spaceport for Arianespace's Medium-Lift Missions (Source: Space Daily)
Two more Soyuz launchers have now arrived in French Guiana, joining a previously-delivered vehicle that is being readied for Arianespace's next Spaceport mission with the medium-lift workhorse. The latest pair was brought by the MN Colibri - which is one of two roll-on/roll-off (RO/RO) ships used to transport the Soyuz, Ariane 5 and Vega members of Arianespace's launcher family from Europe to the company's South America operating base.

After docking at Pariacabo Port adjacent to the city of Kourou on Friday, July 19, the unloading began process for these two Russian-built vehicles, initiating a multi-day transfer process by road to the nearby Spaceport - which will be completed this week. (7/26)

NASA's Wise Finds Mysterious Centaurs May Be Comets (Source: Space Daily)
The true identity of centaurs, the small celestial bodies orbiting the sun between Jupiter and Neptune, is one of the enduring mysteries of astrophysics. Are they asteroids or comets? A new study of observations from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) finds most centaurs are comets. Until now, astronomers were not certain whether centaurs are asteroids flung out from the inner solar system or comets traveling in toward the sun from afar. Because of their dual nature, they take their name from the creature in Greek mythology whose head and torso are human and legs are those of a horse.

"Just like the mythical creatures, the centaur objects seem to have a double life," said James Bauer of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Bauer is lead author of a paper published online July 22 in the Astrophysical Journal. "Our data point to a cometary origin for most of the objects, suggesting they are coming from deeper out in the solar system."

"Cometary origin" means an object likely is made from the same material as a comet, may have been an active comet in the past, and may be active again in the future. The findings come from the largest infrared survey to date of centaurs and their more distant cousins, called scattered disk objects. NEOWISE, the asteroid-hunting portion of the WISE mission, gathered infrared images of 52 centaurs and scattered disk objects. (7/26)

New Uses For Launch Pad 39A: Threatening The Status Quo (Source: SpaceRef)
Predictably, It is the possible commercial use of pad 39A that has caused a lot of concern for the powers that be in the Cape Canaveral are specifically United Launch Alliance (ULA). ULA launches Boeing's Delta II/IV family and Lockheed Martin's Atlas V under a de facto monopoly on EELV-class missions sanctioned by the U.S. government. Companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin pose a threat to this status quo - especially when they bring their decidedly new ways of doing things and lower costs to the half century old rocket launching world of the Space Coast.

ULA and the Florida congressional delegation have been rather busy on Capitol Hill working their supporters up into a frenzy with lots of fear mongering. They are framing the potential expansion of SpaceX and other companies into use of 39A as a threat to the jobs that ULA offers. Given that SpaceX (and presumably Blue Origin) are efficient such that they require fewer employees - and offer launches at lower costs, this is going to threaten ULA - and the entire Space Coast - if you think like ULA, that is.

So why are Rep. Wolf from Virginia and Rep. Aderholt from Alabama all hot and bothered about this? Rep. Aderholt represents Alabama's 4th district which surrounds Decatur and Huntsville. ULA has a big facility in Decatur and the SLS is being designed in Huntsville. So that one is not hard to figure out. Rep. Wolf is involved simply because he does not like NASA and is especially dubious of NASA's commercial activities. So, when he is not inventing chinese spy threats at NASA, Wolf focuses on gutting NASA's commercial activities in favor of the status quo. Click here. (7/25)

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