November 3, 2013

Spending Debate Puts NASA’s Mission Up in Air (Source: El Paso Inc.)
The nation’s best credentialed advocate for manned space exploration – Sen. Bill Nelson, a former astronaut – wistfully recalls making a personal appeal to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, and Rep. Lamar Smith, R-TX, to support Congress’ nonpartisan budgeting for NASA. But for Nelson, a Democrat from Florida, the subsequent party line votes by the two Texans and other GOP lawmakers reflect deepening partisan disagreements over the destination, timetable and budget for future manned space missions as well as the leadership structure and congressional support for NASA.

“What is sad to me is that NASA has always been above politics,” says Nelson, who flew aboard Shuttle Columbia for six days as a payload specialist in 1986. “Now it’s gotten to be a partisan issue and that is a sad day for the country.” From Smith’s perspective, it is the duty of resolute Republicans in the GOP-controlled House to reduce red-ink spending by cutting money for federal agencies, including NASA. Democrats are ignoring fiscal realities with unrealistic funding levels when NASA must “follow a responsible ‘go-as-you-can-afford’ exploration strategy,” Smith says.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., puts it more bluntly: “The tooth fairy isn’t putting money under our pillow. I would urge my colleagues to vote against tooth fairy funding.” The nation’s storied, five-decade manned space program stands at a crossroads, with uncertainty affecting Houston’s Johnson Space Center, the heart of the iconic, cutting-edge American space enterprise that accounts for the jobs of 3,200 NASA civil servants and 11,000 NASA contractor employees and that pumps nearly $4.5 billion a year into the area economy in payrolls and contracts. (10/27)

NASA to Broadcast ISS Launch at Times Square (Source: The Verge)
New Yorkers and NASA fans looking for a bit of excitement during next Wednesday's spacecraft launch will be able to head into Times Square, where NASA's coverage of the launch will be broadcast over the twin screens beneath its famous New Year's Eve ball. Three crewmembers — including one NASA astronaut — are scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 11:14PM ET on November 6th. They'll be heading to the International Space Station, which will be holding nine people once they arrive. (11/1)

Fourth ATV Mission Ends in Fireball Over Pacific Ocean (Source:
Five days after ending its mission at the International Space Station, a European logistics carrier plummeted back to Earth over the remote South Pacific Ocean on Saturday, disposing of nearly 2.4 tons of trash and liquid waste in a stream of glowing plasma visible from the orbiting complex. (11/2)

ESA Looks to Mid-2014 for Final ATV Mission to the Space Station (Source: Aviation Week)
Six times, the ATV-4 was commanded to fire its thrusters to raise the orbit of the space station. The freighter was filled with trash before its departure early Monday. The freighter was positioned just over 60 miles below the ISS for Saturday's plunge into the atmosphere, allowing the station astronauts to observe the event so that it could be used to model re-entry events.

The final spacecraft in the ATV series, the ATV-5, has been christened the Georges Lemaitre, for the 20th century Belgian physicist and priest associated with the big bang theory. It is scheduled for launching from the European spaceport in French Guiana in late June 2014. (11/2)

 Musk: ‘It Would Be Great in 20 Years to Have a Base on Mars’ (Source: Silicon Republic)
Elon Musk, billionaire investor and co-founder of PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla, told the Dublin Web Summit last night that in 20 years’ time he would love to see a base established on Mars. Responding to a question about his vision for humanity 20 years from now, Musk said: “What would be really great would be to have a base on Mars. That is the most powerful thing we can do to secure the long-term future of civilization. (11/1)

Richard Branson on Space Travel (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Richard Branson is just months away from launching what he considers "the biggest Virgin company we've ever built." At 63, he's already founded multiple businesses worth billions, including a record label and a mobile company. But it's his foray into outer space with Virgin Galactic that has Mr. Branson excited. And though on this mid-October day he's sipping a latte in his suite in the Mandarin Oriental in Washington, D.C., his mind is far away in the Mojave Desert.

Given that he and his two grown children will be Virgin Galactic's first passengers, he should. With white wavy hair, loose jeans and a white button-down shirt, Mr. Branson projects a very different image from the early astronauts, who went through almost military-style training to go up into orbit. His aim is to attract amateurs. After launching from New Mexico, each spaceship will take six passengers on a two- to three-hour journey just over 62 miles from Earth. Clickc here. (11/1)

Space Quilt Project Started (Source: Galveston Daily News)
Astronaut and occasional space seamstress Karen Nyberg has sewn a star-themed quilt block aboard the International Space Station and is asking quilters here on Earth to help complete the work. Crafters can contribute their own quilt blocks to be stitched into one enormous “space quilt,” which will go on display at next year’s International Quilt Festival in Houston. (11/2)

ULA Finding its Stride In Rocket Production (Source: Space News)
As United Launch Alliance (ULA) prepares for a busy launch calendar in 2015 and 2016, the company’s main rocket assembly facility here is operating at the highest capacity in its 15-year history, ULA officials said.  A total of 26 rockets are in various stages of assembly at the plant, which began life in 1997 as a production facility for the Boeing-designed Delta 4 launcher.

The Lockheed Martin-designed Atlas 5 was added after 2006, when the two aerospace giants merged their government launch businesses to create ULA. With 140,000 square meters of floor space, the plant was sized to crank out up to 40 Delta 4 rocket cores per year, a requirement that was based in large part on projections of robust commercial demand for satellite launches.

But the commercial market collapsed, a development that ultimately forced Boeing and Lockheed Martin, once bitter rivals in the launch business, into each other’s arms. With the addition of the Atlas 5, the factory’s output averages about a dozen vehicles per year. (11/1)

Brevard Residents Get Sweet Nov. Deal on KSC Admission (Source: Florida Today)
Brevard County residents are getting a deeply discounted rate to the Kennedy Space Visitor Complex this month. The $15 admission price for adults, and $10 cost for children 11 and younger, is a 70 percent discount off normal prices. All that’s required for entry at the discounted rate is canned food or a nonperishable food item. (11/2)

DigitalGlobe Revenue Up Sharply Despite U.S. Spending Slowdown (Source: Space News)
Satellite Earth imagery provider DigitalGlobe on Oct. 31 said its U.S. government business is showing almost no effects of the budget issues that have frozen or reduced spending in most federal agencies, and that its commercial business was growing as well. DigitalGlobe acquired competitor GeoEye in January and is now a near-monopoly provider of imagery to U.S. government agencies

The company has reiterated its call for a relaxation of regulations that limit the sharpness of images it can provide on the open market. The current limit on ground sampling distance is 50 centimeters, a measure that corresponds to the size of the objects a satellite can detect from orbit. Sharper imagery, which DigitalGlobe satellites currently are able to provide, is limited to the U.S. government or customers specifically approved by U.S. authorities. (11/1)

NASA Needs You to Bring the Internet to Deep Space (Source: Venture Beat)
In our fiction about the future, sending messages through vast distances of space is a huge theme. But at some point, we need to bring our reality up to speed, too. That’s why NASA is teaming up with Harvard and developer community TopCoder to figure out how the Internet (or something like it) will function as humans and our spacecraft venture further into other planets’ orbits, interstellar space, and even other star systems.

The first thing we have to understand is that there are big obstacles to connectivity in space. Like planets, for example. NASA and the European Space Agency have obviously been working on this for a while, but the basic premise is that a new Internet protocol is required. Unlike TCP (Transmission Control Protocol), RTP (Real-time Transport Protocol), or UDP (User Diagram Protocol), the new protocol needs to be able to handle all kinds of disruption without losing data or security. So now, NASA and others are working on DTN: Disruption Tolerant Networking. (11/2)

Worlds of Iron and Styrofoam (Source: NewsWorks)
Before they began finding exoplanets in droves, theorists mostly assumed size and composition went hand in hand—that a planet in the size range of Jupiter, for example, must be like Jupiter in all respects. Turns out they were wrong. Among the very first worlds discovered by Kepler, for example, one, Kepler 7b, is 50% bigger than Jupiter, but with the density of Styrofoam.

Another, Kepler 10b is about the size of Earth but is nearly as dense as pure iron. Yet another, GJ 1214b (this one wasn't found by Kepler), is less than three times the size of Earth, and has a density that suggests it's probably half-rock and half-water. "There have been a lot of surprises," Howard admits. (11/2)

NASA Considers Deep-Space Exploration with CubeSats (Source: Avionics Intelligence)
U.S. spacecraft researchers are reaching out to industry to fond companies able to design and build solar sails deployable from a tiny spacecraft measuring just 64 cubic inches that will be built for deep-space exploration. Solar-sail spacecraft propulsion uses radiation pressure from stars to push large ultra-thin mirrors to high speeds. Essentially it uses starlight instead of wind to propel spacecraft.

Researchers from the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center have issued a solicitation for the CubeSat Solar Sail Systems program, which seeks companies able to build solar sails as large as 33 by 33 feet that are deployable from CubeSats as small as 4 by 4 by 4 inches. NASA Marshall experts are interested in solar sail systems for interplanetary robotic exploration that may be deployed from a CubeSat that may be delivered for flight as soon as 2016. (11/3)

LightSquared Sues GPS Manufacturers Over Alleged Broken Promises (Source: Bloomberg)
LightSquared sued GPS manufacturers over claims their misrepresentations about the flawed designs of their products forced LightSquared into bankruptcy. The lawsuit was filed against Deere & Co., Garmin International, Trimble Navigation, the U.S. GPS Industry Council and the Coalition to Save Our GPS. The defendants promised that after LightSquared resolved its “out-of-band-emissions” problems, its network wouldn’t interfere with global positioning system receivers, according to the complaint.

The broken promises “prevented the timely launch of a nationwide wireless broadband network, caused LightSquared to lose investments and contracts worth billions of dollars, and deprived the public of much needed broadband spectrum,” LightSquared said in the complaint.

LightSquared, based in Reston, Virginia, filed for bankruptcy in May 2012, listing assets of $4.48 billion and debt of $2.29 billion. U.S. regulators blocked the service after makers and users of GPS devices, including the U.S. military and commercial airlines, said LightSquared’s signals would confound navigation equipment. (11/2)

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