July 27, 2013

There Is Another Way (Source: Space Frontier Foundation)
Outlined in this video is a possible path forward for space exploration and settlement. Settlement because it is a worthy goal and settlement because it is the only way to explore on a reasonable NASA budget. The entire point of this exercise is that NASA is capable of doing something great, while what it is doing now is a waste.

Without a goal and a strategy the talented work force of NASA and the taxpayer dollars are being squandered on ‘running in place’ projects like the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion. These systems are not sustainable, do not lead to space settlement, break faith with the flexibility and talent of the NASA workforce and waste money competing with the commercial sector who should be their partners.

Instead of this go-nowhere-stay-nowhere ‘strategy’, NASA should be given the freedom and vision to pursue the already fruitful partnerships with the commercial space industry and return to blazing the trail and igniting the imagination of the nation and the world. There is another way. (7/27)

NASA Flooded with Asteroid Exploration Ideas (Source: Space.com)
NASA has received more than 400 proposals from private companies, non-profit groups and international organizations in response to a call for asteroid-retrieval mission suggestions released last month, agency officials announced Friday (July 26). The space agency will review the submissions over the next month and plan to discuss the most promising ideas in a public workshop in September. (7/26)

Why the Secrecy With Virgin Galactic's Rocket Burn Duration (Source: Parabolic Arc)
After nearly nine years of development, the full duration burn time on RocketMotorTwo, which powers SpaceShipTwo, is a proprietary secret that can only be divulged by Virgin Galactic. So says Mark Sirangelo, whose company, Sierra Nevada Space Systems, built RocketMotorTwo. Why that is proprietary is a mystery. (7/26)

The NASA Approach to Keeping Employees Engaged (Source: Washington Post)
The end of the space shuttle program has created much uncertainty among workers at NASA as the organization charts new directions. Jeri Buchholz, NASA’s chief human capital officer and assistant administrator for human capital management, has played a key role in communicating with the employees, developing the agency’s workforce strategy and assessing its needs. Click here. (7/27)

A Business View on Space Exploration (Source: CPBJ)
I agree that we need to be fiscally responsible about allocating tax dollars, which means focus. But I find it disheartening when an elected body that can’t set its own house in order believes it’s qualified to decide the projects scientists should pursue. In this case, some House members want to stop a project to explore the asteroid belt – a project in its earliest planning stages – and tell NASA it’s time to go back to the moon.

My view? Been there, done that. The asteroid project promises huge business potential in addition to telling us more about how the solar system formed – and how we might protect ourselves the next time one of those floating rocks threatens to slam into our planet. Asteroids are rich in minerals, many rare on earth, and – if I’m not getting too crazy – could be captured, mined, colonized and used as platforms for further space exploration. Once NASA did its work, private industry could step in. Companies already are forming. (7/26)

Why Space Architecture Matters If You Want to Go to Mars (Source: Huffington Post)
Mars is a destination that seems inevitable for human exploration. We have seen a number of intriguing signs from our series of robotic probes that Mars was once a very different world than it is today. Still, even cold and dry though it now is, it remains a place where humans can go and exist with only some help from life support systems. However, the sheer distances involved, coupled with the combination of moderately strong gravity and a very thin atmosphere make Mars a challenging place to get to. That is why the mission architecture selected does matter. Click here. (7/26)

Spaceport Sweden: Lapland Center to Rival Virgin Galactic's Space Program (Source: The Independent)
Virgin Galactic's voyages will take off from New Mexico in 2014, but future space tourists will also have the option of jetting off from a little-known place in Lapland. Visiting Kiruna, there is definitely something of the final frontier about this Swedish city, situated as it is at 67 degrees latitude, north of the Arctic Circle.

Kiruna is positioning itself as the city for space travel. When future waves of British astronauts lift off from Earth, they might do so not from the United States desert but from the land of the reindeer. "Our vision is to become Europe's foremost gateway to space," says Karin Nilsdotter, CEO of Spaceport Sweden.

The limited air traffic in Lapland, combined with the sparse population, makes it an ideal launchpad – the Swedish Space Corporation's Esrange Space Center was established in Kiruna in 1964 and has launched more than 400 rockets. Spaceport Sweden already partners to offer flights above the clouds to give close-up views of the Northern Lights in the company of scientific experts. It has built a relationship with Virgin Galactic and the cheaper but less advanced XCOR Lynx project. Nilsdotter believes Kiruna will be hosting commercial space travel within three to five years. (7/27)

NASA Offering Predoctoral Fellowship (Source: NASA)
NASA's Office of Education is accepting applications for graduate fellows for fall 2013 as a part of the NASA Harriett G. Jenkins Graduate Fellowship Program. Since 2001, this activity has supported 211 students as they obtained Masters and Doctoral degrees. The graduate fellowship seeks to support the development of the future STEM workforce through the increased number of graduate degrees awarded to underrepresented and underserved persons in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

The goal is to address the agency's mission-specific workforce needs and target areas of national need in minority STEM representation. The fellowship award includes tuition offset, student stipend and NASA center research opportunities up to $45,000. Applicants must be U.S. citizens. Abstract submissions are due August 9, 2013 and invited full proposals are due September 3, 2013. Click here. (7/26)

New NASA CIO Embraces Job's Challenges (Source: FCW)
Taking the helm as NASA's CIO is not rocket science – it might be harder. On June 30, 26-year NASA veteran Larry Sweet officially replaced former NASA CIO Linda Cureton, inheriting one of the most challenging CIO gigs in the federal government. Sweet's appointment came after an exhaustive search that took longer than expected. Cureton left in April, but NASA had good reasons for not wanting to settle quickly on a CIO.

During its search process, with Associate Deputy Administrator Richard Keegan installed as acting CIO, NASA's Office of Inspector General began an audit of the agency's IT governance. The results, published in June, criticized NASA's decentralized approach and made eight major recommendations for whomever the agency selected as CIO. With that knowledge in hand, the agency cast a wide net, seeking candidates who had demonstrated strong governance throughout their careers. (7/26)

NASA’s Garver Floats Idea of Capturing Larger Asteroid (Source: Space News)
One way to expand public and congressional support for NASA’s proposed Asteroid Redirect Mission would be to target a larger asteroid than previously proposed, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said. Garver said growing public, congressional and private sector interest in identifying asteroids that pose a threat to human populations could provide the impetus for NASA to send astronauts to land on and carve off a piece of a large asteroid near Earth. Garver declined to comment on the size of the proposed asteroid destination.

“If we are saying this mission is going to help us protect the planet, maybe we should consider going to a larger asteroid so we can drive specifically the observations for larger asteroids that are actually threats to us,” Garver said. “By taking a piece of that asteroid and moving it, we might be able to get answers to some of the questions of folks who believe this [mission as currently envisioned] is not as meaningful as we believe it is.” (7/26)

U.S. Air Force Squeezing Extra Life from GPS Satellites (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force’s intensifying scramble to do more with less in difficult fiscal circumstances has produced a brewing success story on the GPS program, where engineers are implementing a plan to extend the life of up to 60 percent of the satellites in the positioning, navigation and timing constellation.

The plan involves a new charging method that reduces the rate of satellite battery degradation, thereby extending the satellites’ lives. The scheme is being successfully tested on orbit, and Air Force officials say that if all continues to go well, the project could add a combined 20 years to the life of the GPS 2R- and 2R(M)-series satellites, which together comprise the backbone of the constellation. (7/26)

Discovery Mission Finalists Could Be Given Second Shot (Source: Space News)
U.S. Senate appropriators are attempting to breath new life into one of two deep-space mission proposals that were passed over in the most recent competition under NASA’s Discovery-series of cost-capped planetary probes. In a proposed spending bill for 2014, the Senate Appropriations Committee directed NASA to resume design work on one of the Discovery finalists: a lander that would hop on and off a comet racing toward the sun; and a probe that would splash down in one of the large methane-ethane seas on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. (7/26)

Boeing’s Space Earnings Boosted by Commercial Satellite, NASA Revenue (Source: Space News)
Boeing Network and Space Systems on July 24 reported higher revenue and operating profit in the first six months of 2013, saying increased commercial satellite and NASA Space Launch System revenue more than compensated for a dip in sales of Delta rockets through United Launch Alliance. In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), parent company Boeing of Chicago also said it remains confident that it will recover at least part of the $112 million it is owed by bankrupt satellite wireless broadband operator LightSquared of the United States. (7/26)

New Mexico, Florida Space Sites Top "Best Nerd Road Trips" List (Source: KXPZ)
Popular Science based their top 25 list on how “curious, mysterious, or otherwise beguiling the destination was to satisfy a person’s inner science-history geek.” The two writers, Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley, toured a total of 150 sites in the U.S. then narrowed their favorite to 25; all of which are open to the public and perfect for a late-summer road trip.

New Mexico's Spaceport America got the #1 spot, while South Florida's Aerojet-Dade Rocket Facility, near Homestead, got the #3 spot on the list. The Aerojet-Dade site was home to a pre-Apollo program aimed at developing huge solid rocket motors for government space exploration programs. (7/25)

China Signs On to World-Leading Astronomical Project (Source: Xinhua)
The National Astronomical Observatories of China (NAOC) signed the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) Master Agreement on Friday, a global project that will explore mysteries of the Universe by using next-generation telescopes. At a signing ceremony in Hawaii, where the telescope will be constructed in April 2014, China jointly signed the agreement with other international parties, including the United States, Canada, Japan and India, marking a major step forward in the creation of a revolutionary astronomical facility. (7/26)

ULA a Bright Spot in Lockheed’s First-half Results (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin Space Systems on July 24 reported lower revenue and operating profit for the six months ending June 30 but said the profit picture was helped by higher earnings from its 50 percent share in United Launch Alliance (ULA) of Denver, which builds and operates the U.S. Atlas and Delta rockets. Space Systems revenue for the six months ending June 30 was $4.05 billion, down nearly 6 percent from last year.

For the six months ending June 30, Lockheed reported that ULA-generated operating profit was $65 million higher than the same period last year, totaling $140 million, which is equivalent to 28 percent of the total operating profit of the Space Systems division. ULA equity earnings accounted for 14 percent of Space Systems profit for the same period a year ago. (7/25)

NASA Paying to Turn Way-Out-There Ideas Into Reality (Source: Houston Chronicle)
The notion of suspended animation for humans traveling to distant planets may sound like science fiction. But it's one of 12 proposals that NASA has selected for study under its Innovative Advanced Concepts Program, which aims to turn science fiction into fact. The program invites innovators of all stripes to propose "bold, visionary ideas," said Michael Gazarik, NASA's Washington, D.C.-based associate administrator for space technology. This year's winners were announced July 19. Click here. (7/25)

Station Astronaut Takes California Rover on Test Drive (Source: Florida Today)
An Italian astronaut on the International Space Station drove a planetary rover across a California field Friday, simulating a remote-control deployment of a radio telescope on the far side of moon. Flying 250 miles above Earth, European Space Agency flight engineer Luca Parmitano took NASA’s K10 rover out for a test drive on a “Roverscape” at Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. (7/26)

Should National Rivalries Still Drive U.S. Space Policy? (Source: Planetary Society)
It is difficult to imagine science without rivalry – especially planetary science, given the history of space exploration. The early days and efforts of our space program were marked by urgent, tense overtones as we quite literally raced to beat the Soviets. It was imperative that we were the first to space, but not because we were simply dying to learn some new science – our motives were about politics, power, preeminence. Click here. (7/26)

Sequester Cuts Imperil America’s Fledgling Private Space Industry (Source: Quartz)
The budget impasse in Washington caused flight delays (until Congress fixed that) and cut million in funding for everything science research to pre-k teachers. Next up? The companies building spacecraft for NASA. Boeing, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada are competing to build the replacement the Space Shuttle to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station; at least until 2017, those duties will be handled by Russia’s space program.

The US space agency wants $821 million to fund the development of these space craft next year; the best case scenario would give them $775 million, but it’s likely the agency will have to make do with $500 million. NASA says the sequester cuts ”jeopardize the success of the commercial crew program and ensure that we continue to outsource jobs to Russia.” (7/26)

Astrium Signs Contract with Korean Aerospace Research Institute (Source: Astrium)
Astrium, Europe’s leading space technology company, has recently signed a contract with the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), the South Korean space agency. Under the terms of this contract, Astrium and KARI will jointly design and manufacture the Geostationary Ocean Color Imager II (GOCI-II) for the future Korean mission GEO Kompsat 2B, scheduled for launch in 2019.

The GOCI-II instrument, designed to provide detailed observations of the colour of the seawater, will contribute to a number of services associated with fishing, ecology and meteorology. It will, for example, be able to determine the amount of chlorophyll in the water, differentiate plankton species, identify algae proliferations and determine available fishing resources. (7/26)

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