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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

NASA's New Spacecraft Orion Slips to 2015 Test Launch Date

The United States civilian human spaceflight program may be grounded for nearly five years between the 2010 retirement of the space shuttle fleet and the initial launch of its planned Orion/Ares-1 spacecraft in 2015 NASA Administrator Mike Griffin told a Senate Committee today.

The Ares launch vehicle would be delayed four to six months as a result of the flat funding continuing resolution adopted by the Congress this year, pushing the first operational flight of the new system into 2015.
The recent Congressional action cost the space agency about one-half billion it needed for NASA’s exploration program including the contracts to build and launch the new NASA space vehicle.

The reduction does not halt any planned work we were going to do on [Orion and Ares] but it does stretch it out,” Griffin told the Senate Commerce space and aeronautics subcommittee.
"When you don't fly for four or more years, people become stale ... facilities degrade. It's not a good thing," he said. "Our human spaceflight expertise will be depleted to a certain extent."

Griffin also pointed out that other countries would continue to fly humans and cargo into space while Americans were grounded. "For the United States not to be among them is tragic," he said. "The U.S. will be in a position of purchasing crew and cargo services from other countries."

India Expands Human Space Launch Plans with One-Third Increase in Space Budget

The Indian space program gained $200 million dollars in a financial boost from its government this week now pushing to launch a human space program by 2014.

The nearly Rs 900-crore ($200-million USD) hike lifts India's space budget from Rs 2,997 crore last year to Rs 3,860 crore (slightly less than $1-billion USD) in Union Budget for 2007-08. The one-third increase in the nation's space budget is significant.

Experts says "Indian manned mission space program has been envisaged as a national effort with Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) playing lead role to develop an autonomous orbital vehicle to carry a two-member crew to the low earth orbit and safely return them to earth."

Russia Planning Human-Rated Domestic Spaceport

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, and Anatoly Perminov, right, visit Plesetsk Cosmodrome.
A new pad for human-rated launches may soon appear in a yet to be disclosed location within Russia, said Anatoly Perminov, chief of the Russian Space Agency – Roskosmos.

Russia now launches all manned spaceships from the Baikonur spaceport, which it leases from Kazakhstan. The Plesetsk Cosmodrome isn’t used for the manned space launches.

The matter at stake is a new site for manned launches on the soil of the Russian Federation,” RIA Novosti quoted Perminov as saying. “I will be able to give the location of the manned launching pad in a few weeks. Everything should be carefully weighed before choosing a new place,” the space agency leader added.

Frustrated Texans Halt Brazoria County Spaceport Plans

The Brazoria County commissioners voted 4 to 1 Tuesday to dissolve the Gulf Coast Regional Spaceport Development Corp., a nonprofit corporation formed to develop a futuristic commercial spaceport on a coastal prairie of Texas.

County commissioners were frustrated by the lack of meaningful progress on the spaceport after spending nearly $1-million in state planning monies.

Meanwhile, a proposed Pecos County site, ("Las Escaleras a las Estrellas" --the Stairs to the Stars) in West Texas, leads the way for spaceport competition in Texas. The Pecos County/West Texas Spaceport Development Corporation was formed in 2001 to oversee the effort to build the commercial spaceport.

Russian Soyuz Launch Pad Readied for 2008 in Guyana

EuroNews reports that the Russian Soyuz boosters about to enter a new era with the inauguration of a building site in French Guyana. where by the end of 2008 it is hoped the Russian rocket will blast off.

The new base is at Sinnamary, just a few miles from the French launchpad at Kourou. The French are the lead contractors on the Soyuz launch pad project, and the money is coming from Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, and ESA, its European equivalent.

Robust and reliable since 1957 Soyuz has successfully launched 1718 times, putting 1661 satellites in orbit, along with 91 Russian cosmonauts, and 40 foreigners. But from Baikonour in Kazakhstan the Soyuz could only lift a two-ton payload. From South America's French Guyana, the Soyuz can use the Equator's slingshot effect to lift three tons, or an extra satellite per launch.

Battered Space Shuttle Launch Delayed to Late April or May

A freak hailstorm battered the space shuttle Atlantis leaving thousnads of small dings on the spacecraft's external fuel tank requiring the Kennedy Spaceport launch team to remove the shuttle from the launch pad and rolled back to the to the Vehicle Assembly for repairs.

The Monday golf ball-size hail fell making a ring of thousands of dings on the upper reaches of the 153-foot-tall external tank. It crushed some foam along wedge-shaped brackets, an area where foam has been known to shed in the past. The hail also caused cosmetic damage to more than two dozen tiles along the shuttle's left wing.

Atlantis will now have to launch after a Russian Soyuz vehicle completes a mission to the international space station in the first part of April, putting the next opportunity likely between late April and late May, according to various reports. April 22nd was mentioned as a new target.

During their 11 days in space, Atlantis' astronauts are scheduled to deliver a 35,000-pound addition to the international space station, the heaviest ever, along with a new pair of solar arrays. Crew members are tasked with unfurling the solar arrays, folding up an old pair, and conducting at least three spacewalks.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Doña Ana County Apporves 106 Precincts/ 75 Polling Stations for April 3 Spaceport America Vote

The Dona Ana County commissioners in Southern New Mexico approved 106 precincts stations today for the April 3 vote on the proposed .025% gross receipts tax referendum to aid funding the construction of Spaceport America.

Opting to more than more than double the number of polling stations today from the initial 33 to 75 polling stations and 106 precincts will raise the cost to an estimated $110,000 to conduct the spaceport referendum voting process. Some of the precincts will be consolidated to achieve the smaller number of polling stations.

One Southern New Mexico economic development official said today that "the vote looks like it will be very close." The pro-vote campaign has been organizing for weeks. The adoption of the referendum is backed by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.

SpaceShipThree and SpaceShipFour Envisioned

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo should making test flights in less than 18-months on text flights from the Mojave Spaceport but plans are being laid for SpaceShipThree (SS3) and SpaceShipFour (SS4) according to an article in Flight International.

The report noted, "Virgin Galactic has begun studying a SpaceShipFour (SS4) that could serve as a satellite launcher. By 2014 a version of WK2, with its 13,300kg (30,000lb) payload capability, could air launch the two-stage SS4 vehicle. SpaceShipThree would be an orbital version of SS2."

The report also noted that Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn told British government officials that NASA has earmarked $9-million for NASA astronaut training flights on SS2 in the first six months of commercial operation as early as 2009. The Space Law Probe has more on the Virgin Galactic-NASA MOU.

Mikulski Vows to Fight for Increased NASA Budget in FY 08

U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski told over 500 members and guests of the Maryland Space Business Roundtable Monday that she will seek to provide an additional $1-billion for NASA in the FY 2008 budget and seek to include NASA in the so-called federal Competitiveness Agenda.

The Maryland Senator is chair of the United States Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencieswith the Democratic Majority in the U.S. Senate beginning in 2007.

"I fought to have NASA included in the American Competitiveness Initiative, but the White House refused. NASA's work should be the hallmark of any national program to promote America's competitiveness," said Senator Mikulski. "I will keep fighting for a balanced space program - science, exploration and aeronautics - all leading the way for innovation and discovery."

Senator Mikulski joined last year with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), then Chairman of the Science and Space Subcommittee on the Senate Commerce Committee, for a $1 billion increase as part of the 2007 CJS spending bill. Unfortunately, the amendment, which was accepted to the spending bill with bipartisan support, was one of the many spending packages the Republican leadership in the 109th Congress failed to pass.

"I am committed to restoring this agency's budget to ensure the continued safety of our astronauts, and to supporting the critical programs that are the hallmarks of their success," Senator Mikulski told the Maryland Space Business Roundtable luncheon meeting at the University of Maryland in College Park.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Iran Launches Suborbital Rocket; NOT Orbital Satellite Payload

State-run television in Tehran, Iran reports that the Middle East nation has conducted a suborbital sounding rocket test using a missile from its soil.

Ali Akbar Golrou, the executive deputy of Iran's aerospace research centre, told Fars News Agency the rocket would not stay in orbit but could rise to about 150 km (94 miles) into atmosphere before falling to earth by parachute.

The launch of the satellite Kavesh (Search) had been suspected to be the nation's first orbital satellite launch aboard a converted Shahab-3 missile. But, the BBC reports that the launch was suborbital only and subsequently confirmed by Iranian news agencies.

Iran hopes, according to reports, to launch four satellites by 2010 to increase the number of land and mobile telephone lines to 80 million from 22 million. It also hopes to expand its satellite capabilities to let Internet users to rise to 35 million from 5.5 million in the next five years.

"SRB Sep" Video Gives Insight to "The Stick" of Orion/Ares-1

The solid rocket booster (SRB) is a key element to the initial boost phase of the space shuttle. It will continue to be the primary booster for the Ares-1 (animation video) first stage of the two-stage rocket designed to launch a crew capsule into Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

The most notable difference is the addition of a fifth segment to the SRB rocket. This fifth segment will enable the Ares I to produce more thrust, burn longer, and attain a higher orbit than a standard four-segment SRB seen in video of STS-114, STS-115, and STS-121. Use the CLICK BACK button at the top left of screen to return. Best viewed FULL SCREEN.

The SRB video of STS-114 is taken from the WB-57 chase plane during the solid rocket booster ascent phase. The STS-115 provides erry bizzare sights and sounds. Each video is unique with the STS-114 and STS-115 very worthy of time. Posted also is the video replay of the last night launch of the STS-116 with SRB cam vid for good measure.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Gulf Coast Regional Spaceport Effort May Be Dissolved Tuesday

The Gulf Coast Regional Spaceport may be dissolved next Tuesday by the Brazoria County, Texas Commissioners due to a lack of continuing interest and despite the efforts of advocates [video].

Seven years ago the county commissioners created Gulf Coast Regional Spaceport Development Corporation to develop a site that could stage sub-orbital and orbital rocket launches by private enterprises. A site was chosen off FM 2004 near Demi-John island to host the launches.

Over $800,000 in Texas state treasury monies were used for a series of studies to validate the site for an FAA-AST commercial spaceport license, acoording to The Facts. Neighboring landowners objected to the site because of the requirement to evacuate in the event of an orbital launch.

Two other spaceport sites remain under active consideration in Texas along with the FAA-AST licensed operational private spaceport owned by Blue Origin.

Robert Bigelow: General Contractor on the Final Frontier

Robert Bigelow is a man on a mission with the wherewithal and determination to get it done even a private space mission to the moon complete with long-term habitat, according to a recent interview with Alan Boyle published Thursday evening.

Boyle notes in an exclusive interview with the Las Vegas billionaire real estate developer and space business leader that his latest project is "to assemble full-blown space villages at a work site between Earth and the moon, then drop them to the lunar surface, ready for immediate move-in."

Bigelow is working quitely with NASA on the goal of providing the space agency with lunar surface facilites as a general contractor on the final frontier, as indicated in the Cosmic Log.

Russian Booster Rocket Explodes in Orbit Adding to Space Debris

Gordon Garradd captured pictures of the exploding rocket to create this video.

A Russian-made Briz-M booster rocket exploded in orbit this week adding to the growing hundreds of thousands of dangerous pieces of debris in low Earth orbit following a malfunction, according to spaceweather.com.

The rocket booster, along with a its attached payload communications satellite, ended up in the wrong orbit after a technical glitch during its launch in 2006 leaving the spacecraft hurtling off-course, partially filled with fuel, according to ABC Science Online.

The United States Air Force (USAF) have so far detected 1111 fragments from the explosion, with that number growing. The fast moving swarm of space debris fragments results in danger to other satellites, the space shuttle, and the International Space Station.

"There is no immediate threat to the space station," says Mark Matney of NASA's Orbital Debris Office at the Johnson Space Center, "but we're analyzing the orbits to assess any long-term hazard."

Thursday, February 22, 2007

PlanetSpace May Close Nova Scotia Launch Pad Deal by June

Private space launch firm PlanetSpace expects to close a deal with with a Canadian Nova Scotia provincial government to provide real estate on which to build an orbital spaceport in Cape Breton for its new hypersonic glider named the Silver Dart along with its booster rocket, according to a report in the Cape Breton Post.

"We’re looking at three parcels of land," Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria, chairman of PlanetSpace Inc., said Wednesday from Toronto. "There is no reason to believe it’s not going to happen," he told the Chronicle Hearld.

"PlanetSpace anticipates investing significant private capital towards its activities and completing our first demonstration flight by December 2009."

PlanetSpace has been in negotiations with the State of Ohio and another unnamed state for the firms suborbital launch and manufacturing operations.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Virginia Advances the Bar on Spaceflight Liability & Immunity

The Virginia General Assembly is wrapping-up the Spaceflight Liability and Immunity proposal championed by State Del. Terry G. Kilgore this week after unanimous votes of both the House and Senate on the first such legislation in the nation, according to The Space Law Probe.

The measure drew a netroots-like lobby by people of all adult ages from throughout the state over the past month with e-mail, telephone calls, and personal visits to members of the legislature. The grassroots effort was joined by the Southwestern Virginia and Hampton Roads Technology Councils, the Space Frontier Foundation, the Personal Spaceflight Federation, and the National Space Society.

NASA and Virgin Galactic Ink Agreement to Cooperate

NASA and Virgin Galactic Wednesday signed a 2-year Space Act MOU to explore the possibility of working together to develop new spacesuits, hybrid rocket motors and other space technology with no money consideration exchanging hands.

NASA, according to the Telegraph, will also enable Virgin Galactic to fly civil space astronauts in the early stages of their training. NASA astronauts will be among the first to fly to an altitude of 62 miles on Virgin's SpaceShipTwo craft. NASA, meanwhile, says agreement does NOT include any deal for Virgin to train NASA astronauts.

Earlier this month, NASA entered in a deal with PlanetSpace of Chicago to share technical information as the firm attempts to develop a spacecraft to ferry tourists on suborbital flights. Last summer, the space agency awarded $450 million in seed money toSpaceX and Rocketplane-Kistler to develop and test launch new spacecraft with the idea they would one day deliver cargo to the international space station.

Albuquerque, New Mexico Lands Telsa Motors with X-Factor

Albuquerque, New Mexico will be one of the manufacturing facilities for rocketeer Elon Musk's new electric car “WhiteStar” - a four door, five passenger sports sedan which is 100 percent electric- expected to roll of the assembly line in the Land of Enchantment in 2009.

Tesla will produce at least 10,000 cars each year. The vehicle will cost $50,000 for the standard model or $65,000 for a preminum model with greater performance and range, according to Leonard David's BLOG.

New Mexico came into the Telsa Motors location deal late but because of Musk's membership on the board of directors of the X-Prize Foundation, the state was able to make a contact through Secretary of Economic Development Rick Homans to Musk to close the assembly plant location deal, according to the Carried Away Blog and local TV KRQE report.

Interplanetary Internet by 2008?

One of the most celebrated tech architects and chief Internet evangelist, Vinton G. Cerf, is spearheading a project to move the Internet into outer space next year with a new a technology protocol called InterPlaNet (IPN)-short for Inter-planetary Internet.

The IPN protocol is being developed to connect links between spacecraft on the surface or in the orbit of Mars to Earth. It is the result of Cerf's interest in extending the capabilities of the Internet into the Solar System.

"We are working on standardising the protocols so that spacecrafts can communicate and share information across the solar system," Cerf said in Bangalore, India on Tuesday. "It will be quite valuable for mobile communication which is disruptive due to location and weather. It can be used for terrestrial operations."

"The Internet has grown from 22.5 million servers in 1997 to 395 million servers now. In the same time, the user-base grew from 50 million to over a billion as of January 2007," Cerf added in his remarks in India.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Bigelow Aerospace Looking for Astronauts-for-Hire Now

Bigelow Aerospace, a Las Vegas, Nevada space firm, is looking to hire astronauts for potential commercial space duty in an ad posted on the company web site in an unusual job posting.

Bigelow Areospace is planning larger private space stations in the years ahead that will require experienced astronauts to lead the way.

With the space shuttle fleet set for retirement in 2010, a growing number of NASA-trained astronauts are moving into the commercial space launch firms for flight opportunities on new suborbital and orbital vehicles now being planned or set to soon be tested.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Virginia Senate Committee Recommends Spaceflight Liability and Immunity Bill

The Virginia Senate will vote on final passage of the Spaceflight Liability and Immunity Act later this week following its unanimous recommendation Monday morning by the Senate Courts of Justice Committee meeting in Richmond, Va.

Delegate Terry G. Kilgore's bill would grant to spaceflight entities immunity from negligence or wrongful death claims brought by suborbital flight participants (passengers and crew). The immunity does not cover gross negligence, willful or wanton disregard for safety, or intentional torts.

The bill previously passed the 100-member House on a 99 to 0 vote on February 6, 2007. Virginians hope that the measure would boost the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport's prospects as a site for commercial suborbital space launches over the next several months.

The Vriginia Trial Lawyers Association withdrew initial objections to the measure while the Personal Spaceflight Federation, the National Space Society and the Virginia Technology Alliance have backed the bill in Virginia.

India Plans Human Space Missions

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is preparing to send a man into space to orbit around the earth ahead of its more ambitious plans of moon and mars missions in future.

"Currently, there is no plan to send a man to moon by ISRO. But we are preparing our self to send a man to the space to orbit around earth and bring him back after few days," said Mylswamy Annadurai, ISRO's Project Director for the unmanned lunar probe Chandrayaan-1, told The Hindu.

"The efforts to send man is to acquire the required technologies for a human space mission. Initial phase has started to energise the required efforts for the same," Annadurai said. "Once we succeed in our effort, the next incremental step will be to look for the planetary targets like Moon, Mars."

Experts have suggested that India may be preparing to place humans in Earth orbit by 2014.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Astronaut Farmer Opens February 23 in Theaters

The Astronaut Farmer movie tells a decidedly different story: one about the true tenets of American entrepreneurism --- starring actor Billy Bob Thornton [Video Trailer]. The movie opens across the United States Friday.

The storyline is about Thornton’s taxing road to his dream – building and launching the first civilian rocket into space – engrained with the uncanny ups and downs reminiscent to entrepreneurs and Internet start-ups. Before reveling in all the rewards of his final pursuit, Farmer must first risk all that is sacred.

Entrepreneurs are very familiar with the sometimes genius yet sometimes “hypomanic” compulsion required to trek to space– nearly literally in Farmer’s case – and they stop at nothing to get there. They may even be willing to risk their life or family.

While many executives create start-ups out of their garages, Farmer follows suit out of his barn.

"If we dont have our dreams, we have nothing."

Total Lunar Eclipse at Sunset on Saturday March 3 @ 6:24 PM EST

Astronomical events periodically capture public attention but none as frequently as Earth’s moon only 250,000 miles away. Considered an ominous event in ancient times, the next lunar eclipse phenomenon is right around the corner: Saturday, March 3, 2007 immediately at sunset in the eastern United States.

A lunar eclipse can occur only when the Moon is full, and when the Sun, Earth and Moon are exactly on a line, or very closely so.

Weather permitting; the lunar eclipse will have started as it rises in the eastern sky while the sun sets in the west simultaneously. The moon will appear quite faint and ghostly in the darkening sky but turn red as the sun recedes into the night 30-minutes later.

A mild red tint to the moon is more frequently caused by clouds or atmospheric pollution but the March 3 moon will be an eerie deep, extraordinary coppery-red glow only seen during a lunar eclipse. It is anticipated that during the upcoming total eclipse the Moon will glow brightest across its upper portion, while its lower part will appear a darker shade of brown or chocolate color.

The moon will be within the earth's shadow at moonrise, 6:24 p.m. The moon will begin emerging from the earth's shadow at 6:58 p.m. and will continue until the full moon is visible at 9:24 p.m. ending the celestial event.

Totality, the time when the moon is in the earth's shadow, will last for one hour and fourteen minutes which is a little longer than normal. During this time the moon will only be 1/10,000 to 1/100,000 its normal brightness.

Observing tip: Find a place with a clear view of the eastern horizon and station yourself there at sunset. As the sun goes down behind you, a red moon will rise before your eyes. You may wish to use binoculars to observe the event.

A lunar eclipse occurs when a full moon passes through the Earth’s shadow. A total lunar eclipse usually occurs every 12 to 18 months, but isn’t always visible to our segement of planet Earth. The last lunar eclipse visible in the eastern United States area was October 2004.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Delta 2 Launchs Themis on Study of the Northern Lights from Cape

The 12-story Delta-II was successfully launched Saturday at 6:01 PM EST from pad Complex 17B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, [Video of Launch]. The booster provided orbital velocity to the 5-satellites of the Themis payload to investigate what causes auroras in the Earth's atmosphere to dramatically change from slowly shimmering waves of light to wildly shifting streaks of color. The NASA press packet is linked in PDF. The Washington Post provides launch coverage.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Proposed Virginia Spaceflight Liability and Immunity Act Gains Momentum for Key Senate Vote

The proposed Virginia Spaceflight Liability and Immunity Act, is gaining support in the Virginia Legislature for a critical Senate committee vote next week. The legislation is designed to boost the hopes of human suborbital spaceflight from the FAA-AST commercial licensed Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility. Proponents hope to attract launch provider investment and jobs to the Eastern Shore and the state.

HB 3184 is setting the stage for what may well be the first such state law in the nation to provide commercial space launch operators immunity from liability and validating assumption of risk waivers executed for potential suborbital space flight participant flights from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.

Wednesday the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association (VTLA) dropped its vocal opposition to the bill with the agreed addition of a December 31, 2012 sunset provision. A sunset provision would have the law expire in five and one-half years if not extended or expanded or otherwise modified by future sessions of the legislature. The bill sponsor, State Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-Scott County, Va.) has agreed to the VTLA suggested sunset provision amendment.

The Personal Spaceflight Federation is expected to join the growing list of supporters of the measure at the Richmond state capitol this week. Several Virginia commercial space advocates have been communicating via e-Mail, telephone, and in-person visits with legislators, key gubernatorial staff, and interest groups ranging from the VTLA, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, and the Virginia Technology Alliance for weeks to advance the bill through the House on a 99/0 vote.

If the measure is recommended by the Senate committee and gains a majority vote on the Senate floor next week as now expected, the bill will then be reviewed by Virginia Governor Tim Kaine.

Stay tuned; or, better yet, call a Virginia Senator to vote "YES" on HB 3184!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

New Mexico Space Icon Passes

Lonnie Sumpter, the Executive Director, New Mexico Spaceport Authority, passed away Tuesday afternoon in Las Cruces, New Mexico following an illness over the past few weeks.

Sumpter's carrer and community impact was significant in Southern New Mexico with over three decades of engineering project experiences. He was directly involved in over 200 rocket and missile launchesd during his career at the White Sands Missile Range.

Sumpter held a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Oklahoma State University. He was also a part of the Army Material Command Intern Program, and held a Master of Science equivalent from the Armed Forces Staff College.

This is a brand-new inland space facility spun up from an empty desert in just a matter of months,” Spaceport America’s director, Lonnie Sumpter, said last fall after the first initial launch from the Upham site.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Hawaii Seeks Spaceport License

Rocketplane-Kistler (RpK) is advancing the idea of tourist space launches from the islands of Hawaii to send space flight participants up 330,000 feet to the edge of outer space.

Oahu's many tourists make the island an attractive location for the flights, said Charles Lauer, vice president for business development for Rocketplane Kistler. "the flying weather is great, and the views of the entire island chain and the ocean from space will be spectacular," he told Associated Press recently.

RpK is in talks with the state about developing a space-themed education and training facility at Kalaeloa, which would support space flights between Honolulu and Kona International Airport. It also wants to collaborate with the University of Hawaii on space related research.

The RpK XP spacecraft is expected to start test launching the vehicle from Oklahoma in 2009. Hawaii would have to first gain an FAA-AST spaceport license. Obtaining that license is among a number of aerospace measures making their ways through this year's Hawaii Legislature.

Bigelow Aerospace to Announce Business Plan @ Space Symposium

Bigelow Aerospace will be presenting its business plan for private space stations at the National Space Symposium on April 10 at the Ball Aerospace Exhibit Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado saying, it "should help support the private space movement," according to a spokesperson.

The firm launched the first private space station "Genesis-1" seven months ago to orbit from Russia and continues to operate the spacecraft from Las Vegas, Nevada. The Genesis-2 space station is ready and will be launched aborad a Russian Dnepr later this year. The flight had been planned for last month.

Bigelow Areospace continues to pursue launch opportunities with the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas-V and the SpaceX Falcon-9 boosters so as to loft larger stations and commercial astronauts in the not so many years ahead.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Anousheh Ansari Collaborates w/Hickam on NewSpace Book

Anousheh Ansari and Homer Hickam are collaborating on a new book about her space flight over the next several months. The book will relate her orbital flight experience to the international space station last year, Ansari said at the FAA-AST 10th Annual Commercial Space Conference held in Arlington, Va. last week.

Ansari indicated in her Blog while orbiting in the space station last fall that she was interested in writing a book about her Iranian childhood dream of going to space to the realization of her dream weightless aboard in the orbiting international space station.

The Ansari-Hickam book could prove to be a powerful combination. Hickam's skills as an accomplished best selling author may combine well with the intriguing tale of a young teenager who migrates from Tehran, Iran to America at 16; entering Virginia public schools and later graduating from George Mason University in Fairfax before graduating with a M.Sci. from George Washington University; and, thereafter starting what would be a multi-million dollar telecommunications business that provides the funding fuel to launch her dreams to space.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Suborbital Payload Challenge Delayed but Not Forgotten

NASA constractor Ken Davidian told The Space Show listeners Sunday afternoon that The Suborbital Payload Challenge, first announced in October 2005 in partnership with the X-Prize Foundation at the 2005 X-Prize Cup Expo, has not been "forgotten" but it "has been delayed."

The Suborbital Payload Challenge was to reward over $250,000 from the NASA Centennial Challenge purse to the first team that demonstrated a reusable suborbital rocket to altitudes or speeds of interest to science researchers. NASA had hoped to witness the development of vehicles to go higher than 100 kilometers.

Davidian gave no indication as to when The Suborbital Payload Challenge might be reinstated to the prize list by NASA but it appeared to depend on continued Congressional funding for the NASA Centennial Challenge Prize program.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Mojave Airport & Spaceport: Home of Innovation & the Edge

The Mojave Airport and Spaceport intends to be the home of innovation, creation, and the cutting-edge spaceflight technologies utlimately feeding new spacecraft into other commercial spaceports now developing around the world, Stewart Witt, Mojave Spaceport operator told the 10th Annual FAA-AST conference in Arlington the past week.

Witt told described to his audience how the spaceport developed in 2004 noting that the FAA is very concerned with the safety of the "non-involved public. " But with the record-breaking initial flights of SpaceShipOne in 2004, Witt had to be concerned with the "involved public" and the media so as to contain and provide for thousands of spectators on the spaceport field.

Today a visitor passenger bus travels the field to enable tourists to see where commercial spaceflight commenced with SpaceShipOne and where the $10-million Ansari X-Prize was won on October 4, 2004.

The Mojave Spaceport will confront similar circumstances in the near future especially when the new SpaceShipTwo and its carrier aircraft the WhiteKinghtTwo glide down the runway to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of onlookers in late 2008 each seeking to catch site of the next-generation of suborbital commercial spacecraft designed to take thosuands to space in the years ahead.

Sputnik Celebrations Being Planned for October 4, 2007

October 4, 2007 with mark the 50th anniversary of the dawn of the Space Age and the 1957 launch of the Soviet-era Sputnik-1 spacecraft. Space enthusiasts and scientists are planning many different celebrations, events, films, lectures, stamps, and other activities to mark the event. You may even watch the October 4, 1957 news reel about Sputnik and hear its signals.

Europe will launch 50 ultra-small satellites this year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Sputnik. each nanosatellite will weigh only about 1 kilogram and represent a single nation. Arianespace will launch all 50 of the nanosats in a single payload. The nanosats will stay in orbit for about 2 years and will perform experiments chosen and designed by each individual country. For the first time in history, 50 different countries will have the opportunity to do space research, and probably at little cost.

If you become aware of Sputnik commeration events, please share them.

Spaceport Popular Vote Set in Dona Ana County New Mexico

Dona Ana County, New Mexico voters are now set to cast the first popular vote on commercial space infrastructure that may determine the future fate of Spaceport America on April 3rd. The voter referendum was set by the county commissioners following a 4 to 1 vote of its members last Monday.

If approved by county voters, a gross reciepts sales tax of 25-cents would be imposed on every $100 in purchases in the county to support the development of the spaceport at Upham. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson actively supports the imposition of the local option sales tax.

A decision on whether to use polling stations or a direct-mail ballot has yet to be made. It is believed that a mail-ballot would enable greater participation from among the Dona Ana County voters in the spaceport finance referendum. Sierra and Otero counties are expected to vote later this year.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Virginia Spaceflight Liability and Immunity Act Passes House 99 / 0

The Virginia House of Delegates passed the Spaceflight Liability and Immunity Act in a 99 to 0 vote Tuesday afternoon setting stage for the Commonwealth of Virginia to be the first state to create a framework to address a specific suborbital tourist spaceflight liability law says Washington DC attorney Jim Dunstan.

The passage of the Virginia House measure sets the stage for the deliberation by the Senate Courts of Justice Committee within the next two weeks. If the Senate Committee approves the bill, it will go to the floor of the Senate prior to February 24 on then on to Virginia Governor Tim Kaine for signature, amendement, or veto in the spring.

The proposed Virginia statute provides that private suborbital launch operators shall have each participant sign the warning statement, to wit: "WARNING: Under Virginia law, there is no liability for an injury to or death of a participant of spaceflight activities provided by a spaceflight entity if such injury or death results from the inherent risks of the spaceflight activity. Inherent risks of spaceflight activities include, among others, risks of injury inherent to land, equipment, and animals, as well as the potential for you to act in a negligent manner that may contribute to your injury or death. You are assuming the risk of participating in this spaceflight activity."

NASA Wallops has launched hundreds of sounding rockets from Wallops Island since the late 1940's. The FAA-AST commercial licensed spaceport Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport launched its first orbital vehicle 16 December 2006. The Virginia Spaceflight Liability and Immunity Act, patroned by State Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-Scott County) may give the state an advantage to launch from Wallops in the future.

Washington Attorney James E. Dunstan discusses spaceflight regulation in a recent edition of The Space Show with Dr. David Livingston.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Wallops Island, Va. Spaceport May Ignite with Right Inclination

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at Wallops Island, Va. may be a prime site for Bigelow Aerospace/SpaceX launches in the future if the orbital inclinations for the Bigelow human-rated space station remain as suggested and the ground track data analysis of Jonathan Goff are good to go. NASA Wallops and the FAA-AST commercially licensed Virginia spaceport, MARS, could benefit igniting human orbital operations from the Old Dominion.

Spaceports Within America

Spaceports abound throughout the United States as New Mexico's Spaceport America aspires to be the next FAA-AST licesned commercial spaceport in 2007. The capability and capacities of each launch facility differ but the ultimate goal is the same: space access. [Map by FAA-AST, see Ppt.]

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Virginia House of Delegates Poised to Pass Spaceflight Liability and Immunity Act

The Virginia House of Delegates is poised to pass HB3184, the Spaceflight Liability and Immunity Act, perhaps as early as Monday in the rapid-paced legislative business rush after the House Courts of Justice Committee provided a unanimous and bipartisan 21 to 0 vote.

In the similar spirit of the men who embarked on a seagoing voyage for opportunities in a New World 400-years ago, southwestern Virginia Delegate Terry G. Kilgore, (R-Scott County) sponsored the bill with bipartisan support offered by Delegate Brian J. Moran (D-Alexandria). With Kilgore and Moran, the bill has enjoyed the support of the House Republican and Democratic Caucus chairmen.

The proposed act grants immunity to spaceflight entities providing spaceflight activities to any participant in a suborbital flight. Spaceflight entities are required to distribute warning statements to all participants notifying them of their immunity from civil suit. The Act does not provide immunity from gross negligence, situations where the spaceflight entity has actual knowledge of a dangerous condition, or intentional injuries to the participant.

If the measure clears the 100-member House of Delegates in the next 72-hours, the bill will be communicated to the Senate and referred to the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.

The original bill had included a tax exemption to ensure no Virginia taxes were imposed on fledgling space tourist business launches from Virginia's commercial spaceport. The tax provisions were dropped in the House Courts of Justice Committee.

The tax issue is set to be a part of a legislative study resolution merged together from the resolutions sponsored by Delegate Kilgore, Delegate Ken Plum, and Delegate Lynwood Lewis, Jr. The study passed by the House on a 91 to 0 vote to "develop a long-term strategic plan to make the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport the premiere commercial hub for space travel in the United States." It is expected to clear the Senate where Senator Nick Rerras has a companion resolution.

Meanwhile, Delegate Lewis gained passage of HJResolution 819 commending the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport for its first orbital launch last 16 December.

Space Sling Micro-documentary

The Futures Channel's newest movie, "The Space Sling," takes viewers behind-the-scenes of an innovative idea that could change the future of space exploration. The micro-documentary features Robert Hoyt of Tethers Unlimited who has developed a tether system to propel spacecrafts into outer space, in turn, creating a reusable, fuel-saving, cost-reducing future for space exploration. As a part of the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts.

Friday, February 02, 2007

t/Space Signs NASA Space Act Agreement for Orbital Craft

Transformational Space Corp. (t/Space) signed a Space Act agreement with NASA to facilitate the company's development of affordable transportation of passengers and cargo to and from Earth orbit [Video], it was announced yesterday.

Under the agreement, NASA will provide information to the Reston, Va.-based t/Space about the agency's projected commercial demand for crew and cargo services to the International Space Station (ISS), as well as technical know-how regarding how commercial vehicles can rendezvous and dock with the space station.

t/Space plans an innovative approach in which its spacecraft and the accompanying booster will be released from a carrier aircraft [test video] over ocean to enhance safety, increase responsiveness and reduce costs. Development is expected to culminate with a crewed flight to orbit in late 2010 [video of test splashdown].

AirLaunch LLC of Kirkland, WA, will provide the air-launched booster [video]to t/Space, leveraging the development of its QuickReach" Small Launch Vehicle currently under way. To further minimize technical and programmatic risk and to reduce cost, t/Space's spacecraft incorporates the reentry capsule shape used by return capsules from U.S. Corona reconnaissance satellites in the 1960s and uses a pilot instead of automated systems to rendezvous and dock with ISS and planned commercial habitats.

PlanetSpace also obtained a Space Act agreement with NASA to develop the Silver Dart and booster, according to Alan Boyle at MSNBC.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Sea Launch Explosion on Video

The unsuccessful launch of the NSS-8 spacecraft on January 30 by a Sea Launch Zenit-3SL is now on YouTube to view. In the video of the launch, the launch platform appears to be enveloped in smoke – just as the picture goes blank.

A preliminary assessment of the Odyssey Launch Platform indicates that, while it has sustained limited damage, the integrity and functionality of essential marine, communications and crew support systems remains intact. The vessel is operating on its own power and is currently manned by the full marine crew, according to Sea Launch.

U.S. House Budget May Delay or Kill American Moon Treks

The Coalition for Space Exploration is urging the U.S. Senate to take "an agressive stand opposing" the U.S. House of Representatives budget saying the House "budget proposal deals a heavy blow to America's space exploration program."

The coalition noted that the House budget will extend the gap in human space flight beyond 2014 by delaying the development of the Orion spacecraft and Ares launch vehicles. It will also extend our nation's reliance on Russia for human space flight capability.

The Planetary Society said the House budget would impact NASA to the extent that "plans to get humans back to the Moon and on to Mars will at the very least be delayed -- if not outright lost."

If YOU want to help save the NASA human space program, contact your U.S. Senator now!

Atlas V Still Seeking Bigelow Space Passenger Business

Nearly five months ago Bigelow Aerospace and United Launch Alliance agreed to study utilization of the Atlas V as a human-rated commercial booster to loft passengers to a future human-rated private space station.

Recently, United Lanuch Alliance (ULA) recommended to Bigelow a launch track for its private space station in a 264nmi circular repeating ground track orbit at 41 degrees inclination that would provide daily launch opportunities bringing the station over the same locations on the Earth every day.

The proposed ground tracks would provide landing opportunities four times per day at the Utah Test Range or Edwards AFB. ULA also indicated that the Atlas V 401 can launch Bigelow manned payloads of up to 20,300 lbs without any "black zones." An Atlas V 402 with two Centaur engines would enable larger payloads, according to reports.

Starchaser Seeks Survey Input

Starchaser Industries, Ltd., the United Kingdom affiliate of New Mexico based Starchaser Industries Inc., is sponsoring an online space tourism survey featuring a variety of questions regarding the industry. This survey is a component of the overall assessment requested as part of Starchaser™'s recently awarded contract with the European Space Agency, specifically with regard to the commercial sustainability of space tourism. The survey covers 32 questions and takes about 10-15 minutes or less to complete. Take the survey now by clicking gere and looking at top right.