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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Greenhouse Gaes May Impact Low Earth Orbit Satellites

Greenhouse gases are cooling the upper atmosphere and may result in change of the low Earth orbital (LEO) satellites, according to a recent study by Jan Lastovicka, of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics in Prague.

The peer-reviewed published commentary also noted the GHGs may degrade GPS signals via changes in the ionosphere, where satellites orbit, can affect how radio waves travel, and thereby make Global Positioning Satellite systems less effective.

"At altitudes between 200 and 800 kilometers, atmospheric drag causes measurable decay of the orbits of satellites and space debris. The upper atmosphere is generally cooling and contracting," the scientist wrote.

The "dominant driver" of the trend is buildup of greenhouse gases, Lastovicka said; thus, human-generated gases "influence the atmosphere at nearly all altitudes between ground and space, affecting not only life on the surface but also the space-based technological systems on which we increasingly rely."

"If the atmosphere contracts, there will be less atmosphere up there to get rid of all the junk," said study co-author John Emmert of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory's E. O. Hulburt Center for Space Research in Washington, D.C.

Discovery Go for Night Launch

Space Shuttle Discovery was cleared for a 9:36 p.m. EST, Thursday, December 7 spectacular night launch. It will be the third space station construction mission of 2006. The seven-member shuttle crew will arrive at the Kennedy spaceport Sunday.

NASA needs to fly fourteen space shuttle flights before the end of 2010 to complete assembly of the half-built $100 billion space station.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

NASA Says Wallops Ready for Commercial Suborbital Flights

As the launch campaign proceeds for the first Minotaur I rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at the Wallops Flight Facility December 11th, the National Aeronatics and Space Administration has indicated that "the current commercial spaceflight regulatory environment is not impeding the use of the [Wallops Flight Facility] as a commercial spaceport for suborbital flights."

NASA's Brian Chase, Assistant Administrator for Legislative Affairs, wrote to U.S. Virginia Senator George F. Allen, "Business considerations, and not regulatory restrictions, may be keeping businesses from using the [Wallops Flight Facility].

In further response to Allen's inquiry, Chase noted that "WFF believes that they are competitive with other commercial spaceports available in the states of Texas, Oklahoma, California, and New Mexico."

The 2007 Virginia legislature convenes in January with recommendations being made to state legislators to pursue a study of the "business considerations" that "may" be impeding the nascent commercial suborbital launch providers from use of the Wallops Flight Facility/Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Astrophysics Enabled by the Return to the Moon: LIVE Webcast Nov. 28-30

The Space Telescope Science Institute will host a Workshop entitled: Astrophysics Enabled By the Return to the Moon, November 28-30, 2006. The workshop proceedings may be viewed on the web using Real Player Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday by clicking HERE between 9 AM and 6 PM, according to University of North Dakota Space Studes Department Chairman Michael Gaffey. The conference program agenda includes serveral notables of lunar science.

Chinese Men and Women Ready to be Space Tourists on VG-SS2

A Chinese businessman is set to become the nation's first suborbital space tourist when Virgin Galactic commences commercial space flights in 2009 from New Mexico. The Zhejiang Province entrepreneur will pay US$200,000 to take the 3.5-hour ride, including 30 minutes in space, according to a report circulating in China.

The name of the first Chinese commercial space tourist is being withheld but he is said to be under 40 and wealthy. There are more than 20 Chinese, most of whom are entrepreneurs running private companies, who are planning to take the Virgin Galactic space trek. The group included three businesswomen, one from Sichuan Province, one from Beijing and another from Hong Kong.

Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice of York, the 18 year old granddaughter of the Queen of England, is also reportedly preparing for a space flight aboard the Virgin Galactic space fleet. Virgin Galactic plans to send 520 people into space in about 100 launches during its first year.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Al Gore Nominated for Oscar

The DVD version of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth has been released the past week. In addition to the movie, the DVD features a new 30-minute interview with the former vice president updating his argument on climate change and the "Greenhouse Effect." The movie, the third-highest-grossing documentary of all time, has been nominated for an Academy Award Oscar. The movie is highly worth owning and watching more than twice.

"The man who used to be the next president of the United States," Al Gore has been dashing around the world involved in the global politics of climate change. The past week Gore was nuddging the Australian government to enter into the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

Gore, recently named Policy Leader of the Year 2006 by Scientific American magazine, called Australia and the United States, the “Bonnie and Clyde” of global warming because of their failure to ratify the Kyoto Protocols. Kyoto is now ratified by 166 nations. (Gore lecture via Real Player.)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Wallops Has the 'Right Stuff?'

Does the Wallops Mid-Altlantic Regional Spaceport have 'the right suff' to support orbital resupply missions to the space station or a human suborbital flight?

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport is about two weeks away from an important launch that could begin to set the Wallops spaceport on a trajectory to send spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station.

A successful launch of the four-stage Minotaur I rocket at 7 AM on December 11th could be the beginning of a more intensive effort to encourage private commercial lauch firms like SpaceX or Rocketplane-Kistler (RpH) or yet another future NASA COTS contractor to look to the Virginia Eastern Shore instead of the Woomera or the Vandenberg or even Cape Canaveral spaceports.

NASA has been looking for private companies to resupply the International Space Station using unmanned cargo rockets once the space shuttle fleet is retired in 2010. So this fall the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport began a $500,000, federally funded study to determine if it is a suitable location for orbital taxi missions to the space station sometime in the next decade. MARS is also ready to consider human suborbital flights too.

When the Democratic-controlled Senate convenes Maryland US Senator Barbara Mikulski will become chairwoman of the appropriations subcommittee that oversees NASA's budget thanks to Senator-elect Jim Webb of Virgnia. Perhaps Wallops will have the political support it has need to gain the 'right stuff.'

Friday, November 24, 2006

"Nyet" to Cosmonaut Training

Recruitment of young Russians for cosmonaut training is in decline with only two civilians and five military candidates being accepted into the training regime for future space flights, reports the TimesOnline.

The Energia corporation searched 18-months visiting several technical universities in Moscow to encourage qualified applicants.

"Now it is seen as just another job. The present generation is less romantic and more pragmatic about their career choices. Cosmonauts are paid very little in comparison with bankers or businessmen and, of course, people want to earn good money," said Sergei Shamsutdinov, the editor of Cosmonaut News.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

NASA Studies Translunar Orion Flights

The American space agency has recently made public that NASA Ames and JPL are planning a human-rated mission to an asteroid. Such a mission has merit on scientific grounds alone to explore an asteroid, determine its composition, begin to study in-situ utilization of extraterrestrial resources, and gather samples for return to Earth. But NASA rational is multipurpose beyond asteroid exploration and exploitation.

The space agency has a short-term need to demonstrate capability to operate a human-rated mission outside of cislunar operations to a Lagrangian point, specifically, L2 to prove the flight hardware, software, and other technologies to enable humans to service the proposed location of the James Webb Space Telescope, and perhaps, the European Space Agency's Herschel Observatory and Gaia probe. The expensive space telescopes will need service capability similar to that of the low earth orbit Hubble Space Telescope. L2 is the near-perfect location to provide lunar Far Side communication satellite to Earth.

Translunar flight demonstration would demonstrate the flight worthiness of the Constellation systems specifically Orion. Flights to a translunar Lagrangian point and asteroids in Near Earth Orbit will give the space agency both experience in deeper space operations and enable development of technologies that may be used in both lunar and Martian ground operations.

"The Station" is the Ultimate European Adventure Gameshow

The first European space adventure game show called "The Station" is now being planned to have 25 contestants from 25 countries in competition over 9 months for only one to ride a Russian Soyuz rocket to the International Space Station for 9 days.

The Station will be a space-themed science adventure will send an amateur European 'space participant' to orbit. Europeans from 25 participating countries may register to be candidates. Ten persons per country will then be selected to start training in their respective countries, according to Annelie Schoenmaker, a Teaching Associate in Space Management at the ISU in France.

After this basic training, 1 candidate per country will be selected and sent to Kazakhstan for the final training. At the end of this training, two final candidates will be chosen by a jury of professionals of the space sector. The winner one will go on a 9-day mission to the ISS, filming a documentary about his/her flight and conducting scientific experiments. The runner-up will be awarded a suborbital spaceflight!

The television series is backed by the European Space Agency, European Broadcasting Union and, French broadcasting company, Label-Anim. It is believed that Claudie Haignere (formerly Andre-Deshays) is involved with the shows creation. The innovative program is to enable students throughout Europe to design experiments for the winner to take to space while following the training competition on TV and through webcasting.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

European Automated Transfer Vehicle to Go Orbital in 2007

With the planned 2010 retirement of the American space shuttle fleet, the European Space Agency is filling the large payload carrying void with a new Automated Transfer Vehicle (video) known as "Jules Verne" for frequent deliveries of experimental equipment and spare parts as well as food, air and water for its permanent crew.

Once a year the spacecraft will lift-off aboard a European Ariane 5 booster from Kourou spaceport site in French Guiana with 7.5 tones of materials going to the 400 km altitude to the orbiting international space station and offering it a boost to higher orbit. The spacecraft is much larger than the Russian Progress or Soyuz. Launch is expected in late 2007.

The ATV will remain with the ISS as a pressurized and integral part of the Station for up to six months until its final mission: a fiery one-way trip into the Earth's atmosphere to dispose of up to 6.5 tonnes of Station waste. Jules Verne and the NASA COTS SpaceX and Rocketplane-Kistler (RpK) will be essential to service of the ISS in 2011 and beyond.

Golf Shot Around-the-World!

Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin will hit a long drive golf shot Wednesday 6:28 PM ET 22 November that may literally go around the world. The Russian will swing knocking a lightweight golf ball off a tee placed on the top of the Russian docking port on the International Space Station.

Club maker Element 21 Golf Co. of Toronto is paying the Russians an undisclosed amount for Tyurin's time, which included plenty of practice swings aboard the space station. Tyurin's drive is expected to be one for the record books, though not everyone agrees on how long the ball will fly. NASA figures it will fall into Earth's atmosphere and be incinerated within three days. Element 21 Golf is betting on three years 2.1 billion miles, and several orbits of Earth.

The last golf shot in space was on the Moon by the late Apollo 14 Commander Alan B. Shapard, Jr. in 1971 going "miles and miles and miles" above the lunar surface (video).

Friday, November 17, 2006

X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle to Fly

The United States Air Force will launch its X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle in 2008 aboard a Lockheed Martin Atlas 5 booster rocket to demonstrate autonomous flight, reentry, and landing for the purpose of addressing critical aspects of reusable flight, including landing gear, navigation, thermal protection systems, and avionics.

The launch to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) will take place from Cape Canaveral, Florida with a landing at either Vandenberg Air Force Base or Edwards Air Force Base in California with the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office leading the effort.

The test vehicle is said to be about one-fourth the size of the space shuttle. A prototype of last flown from the Mojave, California spaceport last April 7th as the X-37 technology demonstrator with DARPA sponsorship.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Soyuz Rides to Space Sell Out!

Anatoly Perminov, the director of the Russian Federal Space Agency, has announced that all Souyz rocket rides to the International Space Station by orbital 'tourists' have been sold out until 2009. A waiting list is available for subsequent space flights in 24-to-30 months.

With demand running high for Souyz orbital flights, the price was raised from $20-million to $21-million recently to meet materials cost. The tourist may also pay an additional $15-million for a space walk.

To try and meet the growing appetite for space travel, Miassishchev, a Russian aerospace firm, is developing a suborbital spacecraft for perhaps as low as $100,000. Anousheh Ansari is involved with the development of the suborbital spacecraft.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

WALLOPS: 7 Come 11 Mid-Atlantic Spaceport Launch

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on the NASA Wallops Island Flight Facility is gearing-up for a 7 AM launch on the 11th of December of the Minotaur rocket. "Seven come eleven."

Tuesday the lower two stages of the Orbital Sciences built vehicle were placed on the launch pad. The top two stages are set for placement in two weeks. The Minotaur rocket will be on a rapid-response mission for the Air Force, carrying a tactical satellite known as TacSat 2.

While not the first orbital launch from Wallops Island, it is the first orbital launch from the commercial FAA-licensed spaceport MARS. Dr. Billie Reed, Executive Director of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, announced ready for human suborbital launches in the future as per The Washington Post Tuesday.

Langley to Test Ares-1 Booster Amid Underpower Report

Amid reports that the new Ares-1 booster rocket is underpowered to lift the planned 25-ton human spacecraft Orion (Crew Exploration Vehicle) to the International Space Station, NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. is being readied to commence staging tests of the booster. The Ares-1 first stage booster will be placed in a Langley wind tunnel at Mach 6 to test staging capabilities early in 2007.

The so-called "Stick" is said to be at least one metric ton underpowered as currently designed for missions to the space station and higher for the planned lunar mission. The booster will undergo test-firing in Utah Thursday to gain more data.

One option is to add side-mounted boosters to "The Stick" while other NASA insiders are urging a totally new design. NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has yet to publicly speak on the matter. The vehicle is slated for its first human orbital flight in 2014.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Texas Spaceport Goes Active

The West Texas spaceport owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos has test-fired its first rocket at 7:30 AM EST Monday in a one-to-two minute event, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA spokesman told AP, "there will probably be more launches in the future."
Blue Origin, the Bezos-owned firm developing the private commercial space venture, did not disclose the nature of the test or type of vehicle launch. It is known that the firm has been working on a vertical take-off and verticle landing vehicle called "New Shepard."

The West Texas spaceport is located in one of the more remote and sparsely areas of the state on part of 165,000 acres of desert, salt lake beds and cattle grazing land. Bezos purchased the real estate from cattle farmers over a period of years.

The New Shepard Resuable Launch Vehicle would be conical-shaped, about 50 feet tall and 22 feet in diameter at the base. It consists of two modules stacked on each other. One module would provide propulsion, the other would be a crew capsule "capable of carrying three or more space flight participants to space," according to the FAA application.

Steam-Powered Spaceship Via NEO Asteroids?

Water, water everywhere but any to fuel my steam-powered spaceship?

Planetary scientist John S. Lewis indicates that there may be several C-type asteroids in the Near Earth Objects (NEOs) population that may harbor water. Many of these asteroids may be easier for human visitation and exploration than the Moon using current space transport technologies. Water as an extraterrestrial resource would have potential for construction of a steam-powered spaceship.

An alternative to a chemical rocket is to heat a volatile material and expel the resulting superheated gas from the rocket chamber. The natural choice for this expendable material is water. Possible sources of heat are nuclear or solar power.

IF humans are to operate commercial ventures in cislunar and translunar space the costs of transport must be avoided. Ideas to cut space transport costs have included using solar-thermal propulsion or nuclear-thermal propulsion using water from NEOs as the primary propellant in the years ahead.

If humans are to explore the Moon and Mars in the 21st Century, the asteroids appear to be potential fueling stations for a new generation of spacecraft yet to be flight-tested. As Dr. Lewis has stated, a shortage of space resources is "an illusion born of ignorance."

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Royal Princess Bea Planning Suborbital Space Trek

British Princess Beatrice has accepted a suitor's offer to become the first member of the Royal family to fly into space aboard Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo in 2009.

To Bea or not to Bea?
The 18-year-old daughter of the Duke and Duchess of York (Prince Andrew and his ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson) and fifth in line to the United Kingdom throne, has reportedly accepted the invitation of David Clark, 24, son of wealthy New Yorker Michael Clark and a favorite young protege of Virgin billionaire entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson.

Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice of York may be the first British Royal in space and help bring about greater social acceptance of space.

Human Asteroid Mission in the Planning for Late Next Decade?

A fleet of unmanned spacecraft are readied by the United States, the Europeans, Russians, Chinese, and Indians to go to the Moon in the next several months but, quietly, some scientists and engineers are looking at the possibility of astronauts making the first trek to a New World beyond --- asteroids.

The Near Earth Asteroids (NEOs) make interesting destinations for human astronauts outside of the immediate earth's orbit late in the next decade as the resource with a market value far beyond many Earth dwellers wildest dreams.

Asteroids are "literally gold mines in the sky" wealth of resources, from water ice and other volatiles to platinum-group metals, says Dan Durda, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

Many scientists and engineers are beginning to realize new possibilities with human exploration of asteroids and interplanetary travel. "By sending humans to an asteroid, not only can researchers do some geological prospecting on the scene but its a great way to prepare yourself and hardware for leaving on an interplanetary voyage, " says former astronaut Thomas Jones.

New robot probes to asteroids will launch in 2007 and others in the planning. A human mission could come about in the next two decades.

Udall to Assume Space Leadership in the Congress

Colorado Democratic Congressman Mark Udall will become the chairman of the Science Committee's space and aeronautics subcommittee in January.

Udall has demonstrated a strong interest in Earth remote sensing over his years of service in the Congress. His subcommittee will deal with national space policy, suborbital access, commercialization of space, NASA and its contractors, government-operated laboratories, exploration of outer space, international space cooperation, and space law.

West Virginia Congressman Alan Mollohan is set to chair the Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on science, state, justice and commerce which will provide initial approval to the NASA budget next year.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Space Leadership: Bill Nelson

With the Senate election of Virgnia's Jim Webb as the 51st member in the Democratic Caucus, major committee chairmanships in the Senate will change hands in January 2007.

US Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida), now the only member of Congress to have traveled in space, will assume chairmanship of the U.S. Senate's Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee Science and Space Subcommittee charged largely with the responsibility to oversee the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. He displaces US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas) at the subcommitee helm.

As a congressman in 1986, Nelson underwent grueling training to hitch a ride on the space shuttle Columbia. He made his six-day flight in space a significant part of his political identity and touted the experience. He is regarded as the foremost expert on NASA in the US Congress today and his leadership and avid support will determine the fate of the Vision for Space Exploration.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Blue Origin to Begin Flight Tests

The New Shepard spacecraft of Blue Origin is expected to start rocket testing at its newly licesned Corn Ranch, Texas location. The tests are expected to reach a 2,000 feet altitude for less than a minute over the weekend. The FAA placed air space limitations on the West Texas location Friday through Monday enabling flight tests.

Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos has been developing the New Shepard space vehicle for the past few years in hopes of entering the commercial space tourism market to compete in the anticipated $1-billion suborbital space tourist business. The Wall Street Journal provided some background today.

China and Russia to Cooperate on Moon-Mars Missions

The Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China have agreed to cooperate in exploration of the moon and Mars in the years ahead.

The Russians will assist China with its lunar exploration program while the Chinese will participate with Russia in an unmanned soil sample return probe to the Mars moon Phobos beginning in 2009.

China will send the vehicle on its first orbit of the moon in 2007. Russia will join for an unmanned lunar mission to involve landing, taking photos and lunar sampling soil in 2010 . The two nations are also expected to cooperate in the placement of an ultraviolet observatory staellite into space by 20o8 with other cooperating nations.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

STS-116 Discovery Moved to Pad for December 7th Launch Prep

Space Shuttle Discovery was moved to the spaceport launch pad at Kennedy Space Center. The launch to the International Space Station is slated as early as 7 December with the window closing 18 December.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

India Planning Human Space Missions to Orbit and the Moon

Key Indian scientists have met in Bangalore, India Tuesday at the Indian Space Research Organisation and voted unanimously to pursue a manned space mission with the first manned space mission tentatively slated for 2014 and the first lunar mission in 2020.

Scientists noted that developments were required in life support systems, improved reliability and safety and crew escape system for Indian booster rockets. India is interested in getting to the moon prior to China while becoming the 4th nation to place humans in space.

"There is now a feeling that 20 years down the line, other countries would have explored the Moon for minerals and India must not be left behind," one ISRO space official noted.

ISRO is expected to submit a report on the deliberations to the Government by the year-end coming after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's suggestion that a national scientists look into India's role in human spaceflight.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Zero Gravity, Zero Tax Advocated to Congress

The Zero Gravity, Zero Tax Act has been languishing in the Congress for the past five years as a means to promote investment in companies involved in space-related activities but space advocates are organizing a drive to push the measure again after the dust settles from the 2006 Congressional elections.

Previous efforts to advance the measure have not been enacted despite favorable outlook in the House of Representatives. The bill, introduced by California Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, purports to amend the Internal Revenue Code by exempting from taxation space-related income from articles produced in space.

Orbital telecommunications, weather and earth satellite remote sensing, and other space-related businesses operational at the time of the enactment of the measure have been exempted in past versions of the bill. The focus is to create new capital investment to take risk with space commercial ventures. The measure has in the past been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Space Policy Change Unlikely with Democratic Majority

The 2006 federal election cycle will usher in a new majority into the Congress and a change dynamic not seen since 1994 and an end to Republican rule of both the executive and legislative branches since 2000. The change leaves space observers to speculate as to the longer-term policy implications.

Republican and Democratic congressional aides say that they do not expect NASA’s support in the U.S Congress to change dramatically regardless of the 2006 election result.

Former Vice-President Al Gore has noted, however, that there will probably be a "complete reexamination and re-imagining of what space policy should be" after the 2008 election.

Meanwhile, Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin was campaigning in Texas for Democratic Congressional candidate Nick Lampson noting that he would "will be valuable in promoting NASA and the jobs surrounding the Johnson Space Center."

Space policy advocacy is becoming more important as critical federal decisions approach on space commercialization and return to the Moon. A new organization has formed called SpaceAdvocate.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Spaceport Pads to be Equipped with Roller Coaster Escape

The launch pads at the Kennedy Spaceport in Florida will undergo a remodeling with $8-million dollar crew escape roller coasters for the post-shuttle era beginning in 2010 when the Ares-1 lofts the Orion to orbit.

In the event of a launch abort at the pad, astronauts would ride the roll coaster rail car system from the vehicle to the ground in 18-seconds. While it was the more expensive option, it was the fastest means for astronauts to exit the vehicle to the ground in a launch abort mode.

It is known as the Emergency Egress Systems (EES) in NASA lingo.

NASA is asking vendors to submit design proposals for the coaster escape system. It’s expected to start this year with plans to start making the parts for the system in two years for installation sometime after 2008.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Carbon Dioxide Tragedy of the Commons Cost Increase in 2005

The atmospheric consentration of carbon dioxide rose in the calender year 2005 by one-half of one percent globally with no sight of ongoing increases being abaited according to a United Nations climate change experts.

The continuos increase in carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere is an international collective action problem requiring more drastic measures than those adopted by the majority of nations in the Kyoto Protocols. The increased buring of coal, oil, and gas is creating a 'tragedy of the commons' if left unchecked through such measures as carbon sequestration. New higher automobile gas mileage standards are needed globally with the advancement to the hydrogen car.

Already the scientific community has said that mitigation will not stop climate change; and, nations need adaptation policies to prepare for the billions of dollars of costs associated with climate change impact on human life and human activity.

The British Government just last week issued "The Stern Report" providing serious warnings as to the costs of the continued lack of policy to mitigate the "Greenhouse Effect."

Planetary Society Planning Cosmos-2 Solar Sail in 2008

The Planetary Society is reviewing the possibility of another solar sail launch campaign to demonstrate the viability of the technology for an exotic space propulsion system. This time the group plans to place Cosmos-2 at Lagrange point L1 – an area in space where the gravity of the Sun and Earth are balanced.

The latest effort comes after a June 2005 launch of Cosmos-1, a solar sail, on a Russian booster via a submarine. The solar sail failed to detach and fell to the ocean in failure. The new effort would use Cosmos 1's spare parts and be boosted on a Russian Soyuz Fregat for possible readiness in 12-to-24 months IF $5 million is raised.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Virgin Will Launch from Woomera Outback Too

The Australian Woomera launch site may become the second human suborbital spaceport site for Virgin Galactic in addition to Spaceport America in Upham, New Mexico.

Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn, on the company website, says: "(Australia) will be our second location. With plenty of open space and proximity to the Asian market."

The Outback town is also the planned home for Rocketplane-Kistler which is undertaking a $100-million upgrade to the Woomera launch facilities.

Rocketplane Kistler has secured a $272 million NASA contract to launch rockets from Woomera, carrying cargo to the International Space Station. It has scheduled the first launch of its K-1 cargo rocket from Woomera in late 2008 with commercial suborbital flights beginning there as well should plans proceed.

Anousheh Ansari Joins Teachers in Space Advisory Board

Anousheh Ansari has joined The Teachers in Space Advisory Board where she will provide valued prospective and insight on the positive impact of spaceflight experience and boost opportunities for teachers to be lofted to suborbital space.

"By reaching this dream I have had since childhood, I hope to tangibly to young people all over the world that there is no limit to what they can accomplish," she said recently.

"Anousheh will provide valued perspective and insight on how best to utilize the space flight experience for the benefit of those on earth, both in the classroom and the community. As well, we welcome her perspective as a successful businesswoman'" according to Teachers in Space Team Leader Bill Boland of Scottsdale, Ariz.

Other members of the Teachers in Space Advisory Board are Buzz Aldrin, Patrick Collins, Peter Diamandis, Dick Methia and Burt Rutan.

Anousheh has indicated that she may do a book about her space flight experience as a motivational tool. The internationally renowed Napoleon Hill Foundation has made an offer to publish the Anousheh Ansari story around the globe, according to its Executive Director Don Green.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Thanksgiving Special on CNN

CNN Future Summit host Richard Quest will be joined by legendary astronaut Dr Buzz Aldrin and the world's first female space tourist Anousheh Ansari, two members of an illustrious panel, for a landmark hour-long program, CNN FUTURE SUMMIT: WORLD IN MOTION, from Singapore that takes viewers deep into the future and outer space. Check local listing time. A "must see" Thursday with repeats throughout the holiday weekend.

MoonROx Challenge Leaders: Will they make the deadline?

The NASA Centennial Challenge Moon Regolith Oxygen (MoonROx) was announced about 17-months ago to encourage teams to generate breathable oxygen from simulated lunar regolith or mock moon dirt prior to June 1, 2008. At mid-way between the NASA announcement and the deadline, it is time to take stock of where the competition for a $250,000 prize stands.

MoonROx requires contestants to successfully pull at least 11 pounds (five kilograms) of breathable oxygen from a volcanic ash-derived lunar soil substitute called JSC-1 within 8-hours. The hardware used is limited to 25kg. The power used is limited to 3kW and/or solar flux.

NASA Goddard technologist Eric Cardiff in Greenbelt, Maryland has put his money on a technology called vacuum pyrolysis. The process incinerates the lunar rock at 4700F degrees to release oxygen bound up within and pump it to a holding tank. He hopes to have a lunar demonstration project on the moon by 2012.

Mark Berggren of Pioneer Astronautics in Lakewood, Colorado is developing an alternative that harvest oxygen by exposing the lunar regolith to carbon monoxide. Berggren has achieved oxygen recovery at a rate of 15 kg of oxygen from 100 kg of lunar simulant.

D.L. Grimmett of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne in Canoga Park, California is working on magma electrolysis. He melts MLS-1 at about 1,400 deg. C, so it is like magma from a volcano, and uses an electric current to free the oxygen.

NASA is sponsoring the competition with the Florida Space Research Institute, Inc. (FSRI), a nonprofit space research and development agency created by the State of Florida.