October 21, 2013

The Trouble with Being Virtual (Source: Space Review)
The concept of "virtual" participation, be it of meetings or in space exploration, is often seen as less than full physical participation. Dan Lester argues that telepresence and other virtual exploration concepts are just as real as being there in person. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2388/1 to view the article. (10/21)

Commercial Spaceflight Weathers the Shutdown (Source: Space Review)
While most of NASA went on hiatus during the government shutdown earlier this month, commercial space companies managed, for the most part, to continue their launch vehicle and spacecraft development efforts. Jeff Foust reports on orbital and suborbital vehicle updates from last week's ISPCS conference. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2387/1 to view the article. (10/21)

Russian on Space: an Interview with Anatoly Zak (Source: Space Review)
In "Russia in Space", journalist Anatoly Zak describe the post-Soviet space program. Dwayne Day interviews Zak about writing the book and related issues regarding Russia's space program. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2386/1 to view the article. (10/21)

The Public's Views on Human Spaceflight (Source: Space Review)
As part of its study of the US human spaceflight program, a committee of the National Academies issued a call for white papers this summer on various key issues. Jeff Foust examines the broad range of papers submitted and the themes they offered for what the US should do in space and how. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2385/1 to view the article. (10/21)

India To Delay Mars Orbiter Mission By One Week (Source: Asian Scientist)
India’s Mars Orbiter Mission, scheduled for launch on October 28, has been delayed, says Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) chairman K. Radhakrishnan. “Of the two ships Nalanda and Yamuna, only Yamanua has reached Fiji. Nalanda has not reached there. It is expected to reach Fiji only around Oct. 21.

So the Mars mission will not happen Oct. 28. As the launch window is between Oct. 28 and Nov. 19, we will decide on the revised date after the ship reaches Fiji,” Radhakrishnan said. The ship has terminals to track the rocket, which has a coasting period of around 20 minutes beyond the visibility of existing ground stations. Radhakrishnan said the rocket has been assembled and the satellite integration is on now. (10/21)

Orbital Drafting Antares Commercial Launch Bid (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Orbital Sciences Corp. officials say the success of the company's first two Antares rocket launches has positioned the medium-class launcher to battle for contracts for commercial and national security missions. "We have one specific pursuit that we're engaged in with a commercial customer," David Thompson said. "A proposal will be submitted this quarter and we're anticipating a decision in the first quarter of next year, hopefully a positive one."

Launches from the Antares rocket's existing launch site at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island can put payloads into low Earth orbit. Orbital Sciences has an option to add a third stage to the basic two-stage Antares rocket to serve payloads requiring a launch into high-altitude orbits, such as geostationary communications satellites, and interplanetary probes heading away from Earth.

"The five-month interval between its first launch in April and its second launch in September gives us confidence both that the overall vehicle design is solid and that we are in a good position to carry out three more Antares launches during the next 12 months," David Thompson said. (10/21)

Cosmonaut May Become High-Ranking Roscosmos Official for First Time (Source: Interfax)
Russian cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov may become state secretary - deputy head of the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), a source in the rocket and space industry said. "The possibility of appointing him to the post of Roscosmos state secretary is being considered," the source said. (10/21)

Ethiopia Reaches for the Stars (Source: IOL)
Ethiopia unveiled the first phase of a space exploration program, which includes East Africa's largest observatory designed to promote astronomy research in the region. “The optical astronomical telescope is mainly intended for astronomy and astrophysics observation research,” said observatory director Solomon Belay.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, has also called for a continent-wide space program. Solomon said while the next several years will be about boosting research and data collection, along with promoting a strong local and regional interest in astronomy, he is not ruling out sending an Ethiopian into space one day. (10/21)

Dwarf Planet Ceres May Harbor Life; NASA Spacecraft En Route (Source: Forbes)
In the frenzy to find life elsewhere in the solar system, Mars or the outer gas giant planets’ active moons are usually the odds-on favorites. But the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest and most massive body in the Main Asteroid Belt, may have evolved some form of thermophilic subsurface bacteria, researchers now say. At almost 1000 kms in diameter, icy Ceres is thought to be still warm enough inside to provide clement conditions for at least some sort of bacterial life. Click here. (10/20)

Cygnus Brought Student Experiments to ISS (Source: CASIS)
Dreaming big may not literally make the world go round, but it can power student curiosities to circle the globe as orbiting science investigations aboard the International Space Station. On Wednesday, Sept. 18, the private commercial space company, Orbital Sciences launched its test flight Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the space station on a demonstration mission, taking the students’ cargo with it.

The goal of the flight may be to show the vehicle’s capabilities to send research and supplies to the world’s only orbiting laboratory, but when the flight docked on Sunday, Sep. 29, the young scientists had research on their minds. Seven of those educational payloads were courtesy of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP), which is supported by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS). (10/21)

Top Female Astronauts Inspire Girls to “Reach for the Stars” (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
When I was asked to write about the top female astronauts, I was faced with a daunting task. So many outstanding women have made important contributions to human spaceflight we’ve gained remarkable learning from their efforts. Could I get it down to just  a handful? Researching these wonderful women, I was humbled and awed. I whittled my shortlist down to the following six astronauts. Click here. (10/20)

Satwest to Launch First Texts To Space (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Satwest, one of the world’s first commercial suborbital research and development companies, is partnering with Bosque School, working with the school’s Physics II lab, in order to send the world’s first texts into space. In partnership with UP Aerospace, Satwest will launch a rocket carrying a communication payload on Nov. 11 at Spaceport America. The students will be following the mission via the hashtag #TextsToSpace.

Once a specific altitude is achieved, a series of thirty texts will be issued by the students, and tweeted live throughout the event. Once the craft has returned to earth, a recovery team will return the rocket to Spaceport America. Satwest will retrieve the payload, and confirm receipt of the Bosque texts. (10/21)

XCOR's Move Toward Florida (Source: SPACErePORT)
XCOR in August 2013 announced its intent to establish a Florida operational base and manufacturing/assembly site "as market demand dictates" with estimated job creation of over 150 through late 2018. This would follow their creation of a vehicle R&D facility in Midland Texas, which is ongoing.

During last week's ISPCS conference in New Mexico, an XCOR official said the company will establish Florida operations "as soon as all things are in place for commercial operations there, pending FAA approvals and after NASA comes to an agreement regarding KSC facilities (like the Shuttle Landing Facility) with various entities." (10/21)

Will China Overtake Russia in the Space Race? (Source: RBTH)
Over the past few years, Beijing’s investment in the aerospace sector has rapidly grown. According to public data for 2011, China exported $3 billion worth of high-tech goods, including aerospace. The corresponding Russian figure is $1.1 billion. Does this indicate that China is becoming a leader in the aerospace industry, rapidly catching up with Russia?

In 2012, according to official world statistics, twenty-four Earth survey satellites, owned by 13 different countries and organizations, were launched into orbit around the Earth. For the fourth time since 2007, China was the country with the most remote sensing satellites, launching eight of them. China beat Russia by a large margin: Russia launched just three satellites. Also, China traveled the path from the first manned launch to astronauts working in orbit one year faster than the Soviet Union.

It is recognized that the design of the Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft is based on the Soviet Soyuz. However, the Chinese spacecraft is so radically redesigned and fundamentally improved, that it seems justified to say that the Chinese have their own manned spacecraft. Click here. (10/20) 

Canadian Aerospace Summit Draws Record Attendance (Source: AMD)
The 2013 Canadian Aerospace Summit last week drew record attendance in a 2-day event that hosted senior industry executives, government officials, and stakeholders and highlighted the industry’s achievements, economic contributions, and potential for future growth.
Over 800 industry executives, government officials, and stakeholders from across Canada and around the world participated in the Summit’s various events, which included a conference program, B2B and trade show, the annual aerospace dinner, and the aerospace leadership luncheon. The B2B and trade show drew exhibitors from all sectors of the Canadian aerospace industry as well as foreign delegations from Brazil, the United States, and the Ukraine, among others. (10/21)

Buzz Aldrin to Lead Hollywood Christmas Parade (Source: KABC)
He walked on the moon and now he's headed down the streets of Hollywood. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin will serve as the Grand Marshall of the upcoming Hollywood Christmas Parade. The parade benefits the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation and will be broadcast to U.S. Service men and women overseas. Aldrin was the second man to walk on the moon in 1969. (10/19)

Government Shutdown Triggers Minotaur Delay at Virginia Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Forced to halt launch preparations due to the partial shutdown of the U.S. government, officials are targeting a mid-November launch of a Minotaur 1 rocket from Virginia's Eastern Shore on a technology demonstration mission with a record-setting payload of 29 satellites.

The solid-fueled launcher was supposed to blast off Nov. 4 on a mission under the banner of the U.S. military's Operationally Responsive Space office, an initiative aimed at reducing the cost and complexity of the Pentagon's space programs.

Technicians planned to begin assembling components of the four-stage rocket on launch pad 0B at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia in October. But just as preparations began to ramp up for the launch, managers had to order a work stoppage Oct. 1 because the government shutdown interrupted access to facilities on NASA property. (10/20)

NASA Second Only to CDC As Favorite Federal Agency (Source: Space Policy Online)
The public may not trust the government as a whole, but it likes many federal agencies, especially NASA.  Those are the findings in a new poll by Pew Research conducted in the midst of the shutdown. Among the questions asked in the October 9-13 poll was whether selected federal agencies are viewed favorably. NASA came in second at 73 percent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was the only agency with a higher score -- 75 percent.  DOD was third at 72 percent. The IRS was at the bottom of the list, with just a 44 percent favorable rating. (10/21)

Defense Industry Prepares for Battle on Federal Spending (Source: New York Times)
Trade associations from many industries are gearing up for a battle on U.S. spending as the government resumes operations. The defense industry faces an additional $20 billion in budget cuts because of sequestration next year. "It's fair to say the volume in Washington is going to be deafening," said Marion Blakey, the president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association. (10/19)

Officials Pessimistic About Sequester Deal (Source: The Hill)
Both Pentagon and defense industry officials anticipate that the congressional budget impasse may well result in a further round of sequester-related spending cuts in January amounting to $20 billion. In the current negotiations, Democrats want to remove the sequester completely and mix spending cuts with tax increases, while Republicans want to use the sequester to leverage entitlement reform and no tax hikes. "What that means for the defense industry is fairly ominous," said Loren Thompson. "[T]he cumulative impact is going to become bigger and bigger," he continued. (10/20)

Pentagon Officials Struggling with Continued Sequestration Cuts (Source: Stars & Stripes)
The bill that reopened the government has left the Pentagon with little flexibility to handle sequester spending cuts, officials say. "We can't move between those accounts at all, and generally, we aren't allowed to reprogram when we're under continuing resolution, so for a while we kind of have to hold our breath and try to look to the future and be as conservative as we can," said Defense Department Comptroller Robert F. Hale. (10/20)

Sequester Will Hit Defense Industry Hard in 2014 (Source: CNN)
According to a report from the Bipartisan Policy Center, the effects of sequester will worsen in 2014 for the defense industry. "The full brunt of the cuts hasn't hit, and if we go down the sequester path for too long, we won't be able to reverse the devastating impacts," the report said. (10/18)

Orion: NASA’s $5 Billion Spacecraft in Need of a Mission (Source: BBC)
Every organization needs an ideas person. A maverick thinker. Someone who not only thinks outside the box, but who considers replacing it altogether. For Lockheed Martin’s Human Space Flight Program, that person is Josh Hopkins, the company’s Space Exploration Architect.

“My role is to think big picture thoughts about what kinds of exploration missions America and its international partners should be doing,” Hopkins explains. “I am focused on human exploration, but also how that overlaps with robotic spacecraft.” Hopkins may have the world’s coolest job title but he has also got a problem. Or, as he would probably prefer to put it, an exciting challenge: Orion, America’s replacement for the Space Shuttle.

It’s not the delays and overruns besetting the $5 billion project that are exercising Hopkins. Nor is it the multiple redesigns to the spacecraft since President Bush gave the plan the go-ahead in 2004. The problem is that no-one quite knows what Orion is for. When the Orion program was first conceived a decade ago, it was destined to take astronauts back to the Moon. Today, NASA’s goals are so shifting and ill-defined that it could end up heading for the Moon or a (yet-to-be-identified) asteroid. (10/21)

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