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Friday, February 29, 2008

India Boosts Funding for Human Space

India's ambitious plan to launch manned space missions received a boost on Friday with the government providing a significant increase in funding for the initiative moving from the drawing boards to the launch pad at Sriharikota. Tentatively, the lift off is slated for 2014.

A GSLV MK3 three-stage rocket, now under development, would be used for the mission. The first developmental flight of this rocket is expected to take place in early 2009.

According to space experts, with China launching manned space flights and Japan, too, planning a similar program, India couldn't lag behind since it aspires to be a major space power.

'Planet X' Soon to be Found?

"Planet X," one-third to two-thirds the size of Earth may be awaiting discovery on the fringes of our solar system according to mounting evidence produced by Japanese scientists at researchers at Kobe University.

Kobe University professor Tadashi Mukai, the principal investigator of the research, said that it was only a matter of time before the mysterious Planet X was found and that "its surface would be covered with ice, icy ammonia and methane."

"The possibility is high that a yet unknown, planet-class celestial body, measuring 30 percent to 70 percent of the Earth's mass, exists in the outer edges of the solar system," said a summary of the research released by Kobe University. "If research is conducted on a wide scale, the planet is likely to be discovered in less than 10 years," it said.

Obama Critical of NASA Manned Space Program; Return to the Moon in Doubt

Democratic presidential candidate Barack H. Obama indicated in an Ohio television station interview that NASA's unmanned program may be more seriously favored than its human program raising the spector that a human return to the moon could be in very serious trouble should he reside in the White House.


"The launch to Jupiter!?"

Obama wants a detailed review of NASA spending, he stated in the TV interview on WKYC-TV in Ohio. Last November Obama indicated that he would delay an American Return to the Moon for several more years leaving the moon to the Chinese astronauts to explore.

Obama faces Democratic presidential contender Hillary R. Clinton in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont primaries Tuesday [video]. Clearly, she [Clinton] has a more favorable civil space policy that would sustain the Vision for Space Exploration.

Come Tuesday, Barack has as much to LOSE as Hillary has to GAIN. VOTE! Then we can explore John McCain's space policy positions going into November.

Florida Seeks Virginia-like Spaceflight Liability and Immunity Law in 2008

The Space Politics blog notes that the Florida state legislature is endeavoring to pursue passage of legislation to provide immunity from liability from a space flight mishap similar to what was enacted in Virginia one year ago. If passed, Florida would be the second state in the nation to provide a pro-commercial space launch law [limiting lability]. behind Virginia. Space advocates are discussing prospects for spaceflight liability immunity legislation in the California legislature as well.

Starchaser Looking for New Launch Pad

The Hyde, England-based rocket firm Starchaser Industries, PLC appears to be on the move and out of New Mexico looking for other launch sites within the United States or Europe, according to the Las Cruces Sun-News.

Steve Bennett, chief executive of Starchaser Industries, won a $200,000 European Space Agency [ESA] contract about one year ago to submit an analysis of the proposed Thunderstar Starchaser 5 [animation video] rocket and to develop a business plan on the sustainability of space tourism. The proposed capsule would aloft one pilot and two passengers on suborbital spaceflights. The capsule would return by parachute [animation video].

"It became clear that New Mexico may not be the optimum location from which to conduct Starchaser operations," Bennett noted in an e-Mail to a reporter. "Launch location offers from Florida, as well as Europe, are therefore under consideration as possible alternatives."

Only 18-months ago, Starchaser had indicated that it would construct a "Rocket City" and spaceflight training facility in Southern New Mexico.

In November 2001, Starchaser successfully launched the 12-m tall Nova, which included a one-person crew cabin [Video 1 and 2].

Thursday, February 28, 2008

System F6 Spacecraft Contact Goes to Virginia's Orbital Sciences Corporation

Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corporation has been awarded a multi-million dollar Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency [DARPA] contract to develop a Phase 1 concept for System F6 (Future Fast, Flexible, Fractionated, Free-Flying Spacecraft united by Information eXchange).

"F6 has the potential to be a game-changing event in the history of military space systems in the same way that the internet revolutionized data communications," stated Mr. Gregg Burgess, Orbital's Vice President for National Security Systems in the Advanced Programs Group.

"DARPA and Orbital have had a long and productive partnership leading to major innovations such as the Pegasus launch vehicle and numerous advanced small satellites. System F6 could transform today's military space architecture to create a truly networked system of systems in space."

The Orbital Sciences Corporation System F6 contract is expected to be completed in February 2009.

March 8 Jules Verne Launch Campaign

The European Space Agency's first automated transfer vehicle, the Jules Verne, has been placed on top of an Ariane 5 rocket for launch from French Guiana on Saturday, March 8, 2008 and docking with the international space station in April.

The Jules Verne -- encapsulated in a huge container on top of the launcher with a total mass of about 21,000 tons -- will become the largest payload ever launched by Ariane 5. The historic mission with the first European space supplier for the International Space Station is scheduled for a night-time launch March 8 from the ESA spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Photo credit ESA.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Future Lunar Landing Sites Mapped

NASA today released this animation video showing the cycle of an entire day at the Moon's south pole, based on radar images which gives the height and depth of the landscape there.

Keep your eyes on the craters at the bottom: see how some are always dark, all day long? Scientists speculate there may be water frozen there, deep in the shadow, where sunlight never reaches. No one really knows, but we'll find out soon enough when we go back to the Moon! [animation of landing].

Space.com, New Scientist, Reuters, Science News, The Houston Chronicle, and The New York Times provide more indepth coverage of a NASA press conference today about the new lunar map data.

The next critical American mission to the moon is the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter [video] planned for luanch October 28, 2008. The LRO is now in final assembly at NASA Goddard [video].

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Foresight Wins Planetary Society's $25,000 Apophis Design Competition

SpaceWorks Engineering, Inc. of Atlanta, Georgia in conjunction with SpaceDev, Inc., Poway, California has won the $25,000 prize money from the Planetary Society for the best design of a mission to rendezvous with and "tag" a potentially dangerous near-Earth asteroid. The mission design was called Foresight.

Tagging would allow scientists to track an asteroid accurately enough to determine whether it will impact Earth, thus helping governments decide whether to mount a deflection mission to alter its orbit.

The Apophis Mission Design Competition winners will have their plans now reviewed by NASA and ESA space agencies which co-sponsored The Planetary Society’s competition. The near-Earth asteroid, Apophis, was used as the target for the mission design because it will come closer to Earth in 2029 than the orbit of our geostationary satellites. (That’s close enough to be visible to the naked eye.) If it passes through a small “keyhole” as it travels by Earth, its trajectory could be diverted so that it will impact Earth in 2036.

More from the BBC and Nature.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Symbolizing its commitment to the ideals of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, the Republic of Korea's first astronaut will carry a United Nations flag during his historic flight in the spring of 2008, according to the United Nations Information Service.

The Korean astronaut, Ko San, [video] will spend nearly eight days aboard the International Space Station conducting scientific experiments. Following his return, he will travel to United Nations Headquarters in New York to return the flag to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The flag will finally come back to Vienna later this year, where it will be included in the permanent exhibition of the Office of Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) at the Vienna International Centre.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Lunar Radio Telescope Being Revived

The dreams of astronomers to place a radio telespcope on the far side of the moon are being revived by NASA and acknowledged with the recent award of two planning grants to the the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and to the Naval Research Laboratory for study of the possibilities, notes The Washington Post Monday edition and a NPR Science Friday podcast. Also linked is a video entitled: Colonizing the Moon.

"Houston!" Florida Points to the Presidential Space Policy Problem

Today a Florida Today article points to the political problems associated with the future of America's civil and commercial space program and the nexus with the current presidential election. While many primary election participants vote on varied issues, the importance of space policy is frequently neglected as has been clearly evidenced with the near lack of meaningful discussion of long-term space policy and the many domestic and international ramifications.

Perhaps, just perhaps, some voter in Rhode Island, Texas and Ohio will be able to bring the issue to the presidential campaign forefront prior to March 4.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Japan Launches Kizuna (WINDS) - The Super High-Speed Internet Satellite

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched the super high-speed Internet satellite "KIZUNA" (WINDS) by the H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 14 (H-IIA F14) at 5:55 p.m. on February 23, 2008 (Japan Standard Time, JST) from the Tanegashima Space Center. Video of launch provide audio-visual details. Full-screen recommended.

NASA to release New Lunar South Pole Images Wednesday, February 27th

NASA scientists have obtained the highest resolution terrain mapping to date of the moon's rugged south polar region and will discuss the imagery Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008 at the 3rd Space Exploration Conference in Denver. New lunar south pole maps will be posted HERE at 2pm Wednesday.

Ex-Astronaut John Glenn Helps Clinton

American space hero John Glenn [video] says he'll "be proud to have Hillary Clinton as [his] president." The former U.S. Senator and Mercury astronaut remains a very popular public figure in Ohio which holds its Democratic primary Tuesday, March 4.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Space Tourists Going Orbital in 2009?

The Neptune TSAAHTO rocket is being readied for orbital flights in late 2009 by Mojave, California-based rocket manufacturer and launch provider Interorbital Systems (IOS) with one one astronaut-pilot and four astronaut-tourists into a fifty-one degree, 250-mile low-earth-orbit (LEO), for a period of up to seven days at a cost of $2.5-million per ticket. Today the firm announced a new promotional package and partership for ten orbital space tourists. Only eight of the ten tickets remain.

Buy a spaceline ticket now at the special promotional fare of $250,000 (regularly priced at $2.5 million), and get a full rebate two years after your orbital mission. That's the equivalent of a $2.5 million Ticket To Orbit For Free!

Jules Verne Readied for March Launch

Animation illustrating the mission scenario for Europe's Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) or "Jules Verne" is to be launched for the first time next month to the International Space Station (ISS). The ATV launches from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The 20.7 tonne ATV is well protected at the top of Ariane 5 during a three-minute high-pressure aerodynamic ascent. 100 minutes after lift-off, the ATV becomes a fully automatic spaceship navigating towards the ISS. The ATV uses its eye-like rendezvous sensors to dock precisely and safely with the ISS. ATV becomes an extension of the Station. The 45 m³ pressurised module delivers up to 7.2 tonnes of equipment, fuel, food, water and air for the crew. ATV uses up to 4.7 tonnes of propellant to raise the ISS altitude which naturally decreases with the residual atmospheric drag. After 6 months, ATV, loaded with 6.5 tonnes of waste, separates from ISS and fully burns out during a guided and controlled re-entry high over the Pacific Ocean. Credits: ESA

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Florida Adds to Lunar Google X-Prize

Space Florida, the organization charged by the Florida Legislature with promoting and developing Florida’s aerospace industry, today announced that it will be a new preferred partner and Florida will become the first preferred launch site for the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE competition. Each preferred partner offers additional prizes or strategic services at a discounted rate to all competition teams.

As the first preferred launch site, Space Florida will award an additional prize of $2 million to the Grand Prize of the Google Lunar X PRIZE competition, provided the winner launched the winning flight from the State of Florida and upon confirmation that the winner has complied with all competition rules.

"BULLS EYE!"

MSNBC reports on the downing of the NROL-21 satellite via video. And, as one blog reader put it: "bulls eye!" BCC has two video reports ... one and two.

Navy Missile Splashes Spy Satellite

The NROL-21 /USA-193 satellite was destroyed shortly after 10:26 p.m. EST Wednesday night at a point in space 130-miles above the Pacific Ocean with an explosion sighted from a possible ruptured hydrazine fuel tank, according to The Washington Post and a BBC video.

Debris from the NRO satellite will begin to re-enter the earth's atmosphere immediately. Nearly all of it will burn up on reentry within 24-48 hours and the remaining debris should re-enter within 40 days, according to the Pentagon. MORE from MSNBC, CNN, the BBC, USA Today, China Daily, and The Washington Post.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

ZeroG, ZeroTax Passes in Virginia

The Taurus II depicted on the Virginia Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport launch pad provided by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Virginia's ZeroG, ZeroTax measure has passed the 2008 General Assembly and is now on its way to the desk of Governor Tim Kaine just as the Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corporation won a COTS-1 launch contract hailing Virginia's entry into the future of the multi-million dollar commercial space launch business. Talk about timing!

Patroned by State Senator William C. Wampler, Jr. (R-Bristol), the ZeroG, ZeroTax measure had been pushed by several state legislators at the unanimous behest of the Virginia Aerospace Advisory Council and the Virginia Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS). It gained the unanimous backing of the State Senate and the House of Delegates.

Florida political and business leaders, however, say the NASA COTS decision and the launch site "could undermine Florida's ambitions to be the nation's spaceport," according to the Orlando Sentinel.

"Wallops is in Virginia, and we're a Virginia company, so there's a logical connection there. They are not too far from our offices -- a few hours -- and we know Wallops real well, so there's a good fit there," Orbital spokesman Barron Beneski said.

"Would we ever consider launching from Florida? The answer is yes," he added. "I think it's safe to say that our team is going to look at all options."

"Space Florida has been working closely with Orbital Sciences and will continue our discussions for possible future operational launches in Florida once they have completed their test demos," said Deborah Spicer, a spokeswoman with Space Florida, an agency created by the Legislature to promote and develop the state's aerospace industry.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Orbital Sciences Wins NASA COTS-1 Rebid; Launching from Virginia MARS

A new $171-million Space Act Agreement will be made with Orbital Sciences Corporation (OSC) using the Taurus II booster as the winner of the NASA COTS-1 re-competition. Launch flights of the design will be from the Wallops Flight Facility and the Virginia-owned Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), the federal space agency announced this afternoon in Washington.

Orbital, a Reston, Va.-based commercial launch firm, will have the Taurus-II boost variants that can deliver pressurized cargo using a MPLM derivative developed by Alenia or unpressurized cargo using a derivative of the Express Logistics Carrier being designed and developed by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center for use on the International Space Station.

Orbital Sciences' proposal mentions possible crewed missions but did not formally propose that option. OSC [excellent link] will be using DART and Orbital Express hardware and experience in the design of their proximity and operations concepts.

Survey on Satellite Destruction Here

The Space Generation Advisory Council is conducting a survey to gauge reactions to the US's proposal to destroy a failed satellite prior to its re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere sometime this week. SURVEY HERE.

Satellite Shoot Down Wednesday

The U.S. military is going to try to shoot down a dying satellite on Wednesday, around 10:30 PM eastern time during the height of the lunar eclipse, according to a reports from Space.com and Wired.

Monday, February 18, 2008

TARGET NROL-21/USA-193 Wednesday!

US Navy Aegis cruiser ships equipped with the modified Standard Missile 3 Block 1A will almost certainly bring down in a ball of fire the disabled top secret intelligence satellite dubbed NROL-21 or USA-193 just days before it starts re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere with the first shot set for 10:30 PM EDT Wednesday.

The 150-mile high circular orbit of the malfuctioning satellite continues to decay but the military, by launching it first attempt to shoot down the satellite, will have a back-up contingency should it fail in the $40 to $60 million attempted missile-to-satellite intercept Wednesday.

If the initial shot fails, a decision will be made whether to take a second one. But it has to be taken before the satellite hits the atmosphere or the chances of a strike would be "next to impossible" due to atmospheric disturbances.

French Astronaut Joins Station Crew

A French astronaut, Leopold Eyharts, joined the crew of the International Space Station as the shuttle Atlantis is mobilized for a return deorbit to Earth this week leaving behind the European-built Columbus module as an expanding attachment to the orbital outpost.

Eyharts, a medical researcher and engineer from France's National Center of Space Studies and a veteran 20-day flyer in the now defunct Russian Mir space station, will spend under a month working to get the European Columbus module fully operational.

The Columbus module is 23 feet long and 15 feet in diameter and houses orbiting experiments in life sciences, materials science, fluid physics and other disciplines expanding the station's international profile.

American Daniel Tani reflected on his departure from the space station crew by saying, "I have spent time with men from France, from Italy, and from Germany, and from Russia," during his stay on the international space station.

Now on the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center is the space shuttle Endeavor for the March 11, 2008, 2:31 AM EDT launch of the STS-123 mission to bring the first of two segments of the Japanese Kibo lab to attach to the oriting space station.

Clinton Backs Space Exploration Policy

The Texas Democratic primary election is finally drawing the presidential candidates more to the front on the policy issue of human space exploration. An issue close to the heart of thousands of civil space industry workers, space policy was raised in seperate interviews by The Houston Chronicle with Hillary R. Clinton and Brack H. Obama.

The newspaper editorial board found that Hillary Clinton was much more "enthusiastic" than Obama about human space travel noting her remarks: "I intend to pursue an ambitious agenda in both space exploration and earth sciences," the first viable Democratic female presidential candidate said. "I want to support the next generation of spacecraft for a robust human spaceflight program."

Obama, on the otherhand, noted the next president needs to have "a practical sense of what investments deliver the most scientific and technological spinoffs — and not just assume that human space exploration, actually sending bodies into space, is always the best investment."

Meanwhile, the advisors to Clinton and Obama debate their candidates science positions to the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Boston Sunday. Many in the nation seek to have the Science Debate of 2008.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Iran Spacecraft Kavoshgar I Success

Iranian space agency officials have confirmed that the Kavoshgar I [video] rocket has successfully reached suborbital space of 200-250 kilometers (125-155 miles) above the earth, according to Iran-based media reports.

"Iran will launch its first satellite ['Omid'] into a 650-kilometer (400-mile) orbit in June," says deputy head of Iran's Aerospace Association, Mehran Mirshams following the successful launch [video] and orbit of the Kavoshgar I (Explorer).

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [video] lauded the launch as a national success and said Iran would launch two more rockets before the satellite is sent into space.

Iran, which aims to launch five satellites into orbit by 2010, joined the international space-faring community in February 2008 after successfully testing its first sounding rocket, Kavoshgar I.

Total Lunar Eclipse February 20

A total eclipse of the Moon occurs during the night of Wednesday, February 20/21, 2008. The entire event is visible from South America and most of North America (on Feb. 20) as well as Western Europe, Africa, and western Asia (on Feb. 21). This is the last lunar eclipse visible in the Eastern U.S. for three years. The eclipse will occur between 8:43 PM and nine minutes after midnight, with the full eclipse at 10:26 PM and may be seen where weather cooperates.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Global Ballistic Missile Defense Test?

The United States military Kinetic Energy Interceptor [KEI] [video] capability is being put to the test next week [video] when the White House [video] ordered shootdown of a malfunctioning top secret military satellite known as NROL-21 or USA-193 last January and made public a few weeks ago.

Military planners [video] have created a scenario called "Global Ballistic Missile Defense Planning 2017" [video] to adeptly provide a wide range of new and very technologically precise missile defense technologies to meet threats. Stay tuned for the US Navy to set its sights on the very next step in global missile defense.

Russia
is not amused [video]. Some international observers believe the planned shootdown of NRO-21 is America's answer to China [video] for its January 2007 downing of an orbiting weather satellite [video].

Public Interest Grows in Planned USA-193 Satellite Shoot Down Next Week

Leonard David writes that the "upcoming shoot-out of an errant classified spy satellite by an Earth-based missile has all the makings of a high drama sci-fi movie - a touch of Armageddon and a dash of Ice Station Zebra."

Public awarness of the US Navy and Missile Defense Agency's planned shoot down of the defunct intelligence satellite USA 193 [NROL-21 ] is growing and drawing intensive interest ranging from sky watches to see the last orbits of the soon-to-be-destroyed spacecraft to the facts about the technology being brought to bear to 'take it out,' to taxpayer cost of the military maneuver to domestic and international political implications at home and abroad to space shuttle schedules to avoid debris to orbiting space station observations to the secret technology on the USA-193 satellite. Here is a video animation of the satellite "takedown" event.

In short, the unique anti-satellite weapon being brought to operational status by the White House and Pentagon has caputured mass media and global public and military attention -- as the newest element of 'Star Wars' is deployed. CNN video reports [1] and [2].

The USS Lake Erie, USS Decatur and USS Russell will be equipped with modified Standard-3 Block 1-A Missiles to commence the shootdown event, according to Wired. A November 2007 military video demonstrates the power of the new weapon system.

Friday, February 15, 2008

John Glenn Endorses Hillary Clinton

Former Ohio United States Senator and America's first orbiting astronaut John Glenn has endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary R. Clinton [video] in the March 4 Ohio primary election. Texas also holds a primary March 4.

When she was a young girl, Hillary Rhodam [Clinton], wrote a letter [video] to what was then a new agency called NASA and asked, "How do you become an astronaut?" [video] But NASA, as she recalled, replied: "We're not accepting women into the astronaut program."

"Isn't it great that we've seen women astronauts?" Hillary Clinton this week told a crowd of about 2,500 gathered at the French Field House at Ohio State University [video]. "We have seen so much change in a relatively short period of time."

But former NASA astronaut John Glenn is accepting her application to become America's first woman president, saying "with all of the challenges facing Ohio and America, we need a leader who can deliver real solutions on her first day in office."

Senator Glenn was the third American to fly in space [video] aboard the Friendship 7 in 1962, and received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978. After retiring from NASA, Sen. Glenn served the people of Ohio in the United States Senate from 1974 to 1999, the longest tenure of any Ohio Senator in history. He returned to space in 1998 on Space Shuttle Discovery [video].

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Navy Sets Sites on Crippled Satellite

Three United States Navy Aegis cruiser ships will seek to take down a crippled military spy satellite now out-of-control and in a decaying orbit prior to atmospheric re-entry from low earth orbit (LEO) in late February or early March, according to reports today. Here is a Y2k2 VIDEO example of missile-to-satellite intercept using the Standard Missile 3.

In a briefing at the Pentagon, Defense Department officials said they believe about 2,800 pounds of the two-and-a-half-ton satellite could survive and crash, in pieces, on Earth. The satellite, launched in December 2006, broke down soon after reaching orbit. Officials say it was a "test bird," launched by the National Reconnaissance Office, but did not want to give more details, says ABC News.

President Bush ordered the military to try to pick off the satellite [Y2k6 video] because “there was a possibility of death or injury to human beings beyond that associated with the fall of satellites and other space object normally, if we can use that word,” a deputy national security adviser, James Jeffrey, told The New York Times. The most recent Y2k7 test video is HERE [best view full screen w/sound].

Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Henry L. Stimson Center, told The Washington Post today that the "stated rationale for this shoot-down is simply not credible. There has to be another reason behind this," he said. "In the history of the space age, there has not been a single human being who has been harmed by man-made objects falling from space."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Endeavour Ready for March 11 Launch

The Space Shuttle Endeavour will be launched March 11 on the STS-123 mission carrying the Japanese Kibo module to the International Space Station. The shuttle begins to roll to the launch pad next week. Meanwhile, Space Shuttle Atlantis on the STS-122 mission is placing the European Columbus laboratory module with the International Space Station structure in space now. Learn more about the Kibo and Columbus modules on the ISS by clicking the names.

Titan More Oil Than Earth

Saturn’s orange moon Titan has hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth, according to new Cassini data. The hydrocarbons rain from the sky, collecting in vast deposits that form lakes and dunes, according to a recent report from the European Space Agency.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

NASA COTS-2 Announcement Feb. 19

NASA will host a press conference Tuesday, February 19, 2008 at 4 PM to announce the name of one or more commercial space launch firms selected to develop and demonstrate commercial orbital transportation services, according to SpaceRef.com.

The company or companies selected will enter into funded Space Act agreements with NASA under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Project, known as COTS. The key objectives of the program are to facilitate U.S. private industry development of reliable, cost effective access to low Earth orbit and to create a market environment in which commercial space transportation services are available to government and private sector customers.

Chandrayaan-1 Delayed Until June

Chandrayaan-1, India's first mission to Moon, scheduled to be launched in April, is likely to be postponed to June, an Indian Space Research Organization official said on Tuesday. The much-awaited mission was originally scheduled to be held on April nine or April 23 from India's spaceport of Sriharikota.

"Now, it looks doubtful in April. We are working on a (different) PSLV mission for March-April which is important. Chandrayaan-1 is likely to be postponed to June," an ISRO official told media in Bangalore.

Get Mooned in Alamogordo!

Don’t miss this incredible opportunity to see a total lunar eclipse through the telescopes of Alamogordo’s favorite astronomers, the NMMSH Astronomy Group and the Alamogordo Amateur Astronomers Club. Wednesday, February 20, both groups will come together on the grounds of the New Mexico Museum of Space History, armed with their telescopes and astronomical knowledge, to share with the public the last total lunar eclipse viewing in this hemisphere until December 31, 2010. Special guests for the evening will include the Alamosaurus REX and the astrochimp, HAM.

The event is free to the public and several activities are planned throughout the evening. Everyone is encouraged to bring their lawn chairs and binoculars. Eclipse viewing will be in the upper parking lot, just below the main museum building, beginning at 7:00 pm. Public parking will be in the lower parking lot, just above the IMAX theater. Remember, if you are bringing a flash light, be sure to use a red filter to minimize light exposure to the telescopes. “Nothing comes near the viewing opportunity presented by this total lunar eclipse! Mars and Saturn should both be very visible, as well. If you’ve never seen the rings of Saturn, this could be your chance,” said Mike Smith, astronomy group member and museum volunteer.

At 6:00 pm, a free planetarium show and star talk will be presented at the Clyde W. Tombaugh IMAX Dome theater and planetarium. “Nine Planets and Counting”, the planetarium show, is a fascinating look into what makes a planet a planet. Take a spectacular tour of the planets around our solar system and other worlds that orbit our Sun, then decide for yourself if Pluto should still be a planet. The star talk will focus on the constellations currently viewable in the night sky. The star talk will focus on the constellations currently viewable in the night sky. Limited seating is available, a second show will be presented at 7:00 pm, if necessary. Register to win a free family membership to the museum while at the IMAX theater. (Includes unlimited visits to the museum, IMAX passes, special exhibit passes and more! Need not be present to win. Must be 18 or over.) The concession stand at the theater will be open all evening selling coffee, hot cocoa, popcorn and snacks.

The New Mexico Museum of Space History is a division of the NM Department of Cultural Affairs. Admission to the museum is $3.00 for adults, $2.75 for seniors and military personnel, $2.50 for children four to twelve years old, and under four free. For more information, call 505-437-2840 or toll free 1-877-333-6589 or visit the website at http://www.nmspacemuseum.org/.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Pro-Space Bills Advance in Virginia

Virginia state legislators are advancing measures to boost Virginia's odds of being a player in the commercial space launch effort with passage of the 'ZeroG, ZeroTax' bills states The Roanoke Times today. The comments of State Senator William C. Wampler, Jr., Delegate John Cosgrove, and Delegate Lynwood Lewis, Jr. indicate the growing statewide interest in the fledgling Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport [MARS].

Meanwhile, commercial space interests await a decision from NASA on the COTS-II offer, according to The Washington Post. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk plans to ship its Falcon 9 to Cape Canaveral, Florida, by the end of the year and start test flights at an unspecified date.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Pose a Space Question to Clinton

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary R. Clinton will appear on Politico Monday at 7 PM EST -one day before the Chesapeake primaries in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. It is time to ask your space-related question of the Democratic presidential candidate. The discussion will air live at 7 p.m. Monday on ABC 7 News and will be streamed on Politico.com.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Hypersonic Prize Discussed at Workshop

The V-Prize was discussed by about 60-participants at a 4-hour workshop co-sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the V-Prize Foundation the past Monday in Crystal City, Virginia. The workshop was conducted just prior to the start of the 11th Annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference.

Space lawyer Jim Dunstan introduced the V-Prize concept to the workshop participants. He thereupon engaged the audience in a thought provoking dialogue over three hours.
Will Pomerantz of the X-Prize Foundation blogged about the 'open source' rules development V-Prize vent. Also, the Gravity Loss blog has a recent piece entitled: "Hypersonic Cruise for the V Prize."

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Atlantis is Launched to Space Station

NASA launched STS-122 Thursday as the space agency strives for six shuttle launches in 2008. More from BBC.

Va. Spaceflight Liability & Immunity Act Becoming More 'Bullet Proof?'

Space lawyer Pamela Meredith recently told the 11th Annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference meeting in Crystal City, Virginia that the "well intentioned" Virginia Spaceflight Laibility and Immunity Act may not provide the private launch industry the 'bullet-proof' protection it needs; nonetheless, Virginia's legislature keeps advancing new legislation that may fortify the liability immunity regime.

Because plaintiffs will look to such things as the launch site, the incorporation state of the launch firm, the location of the spaceflight training, the site of the spaceflight contract execution, etc., Meredith noted, immunity from liability may be incomplete unless each of the fifty states adopt a similar state law.

Space lawyer James Dunstan, on the other hand, noted Virginia is in the process of adopting the so-called ZeroG, ZeroTax measure that provides state income tax incentitives to locate and headquarter spaceflight launch and training business operations in Virginia. Identical state income tax exemption measures have now passed the House and Senate with unanimous votes of each body now meeting in Richmond.

Space launch and training firms locating their business headquaters in Virginia will be afforded greater protection options under the state's Spaceflight Liability and Immunity Act if a space launch/training firm signs the spaceflight contract in Virginia; trains the would-be space tourist in Virginia; and, of course, launches the spacecraft from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. In other words, the greater nexus with Virginia the more protection afforded under the law plus a state income tax benefit.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Shuttle Poised for Thursday Launch

The Space Shuttle Atlantis [STS-122] is poised on the launch pad for the launch to the International Space Station with the European Columbus module Thursday, February 7, 2008 at 2:45 PM EST for the last of 13 missions of the historic space shuttle program. The launch should be Webcast on NASA-TV from the Kennedy Spaceport.

NASA has prepared a video overview of the STS-122 mission to the International Space Station.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Beatles Music 'Across the Universe!'

"Across the Universe" will be beamed into space by NASA towards the North Star, 431 light years from Earth at midnight GMT on Monday, February 4, 2008.

"Amazing! Well done, Nasa!" said former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney said in a message to the space agency. "Send my love to the aliens. All the best, Paul," the London-based Telegraph noted.

Space Shuttle Replacement Slowed

The Washington Post has an interesting story this morning as to how the Vision for Space Exploration offered by President George W. Bush in 2004 is slow to gain traction with the general public and among some in the space community who would prefer a mission to an asteriod as opposed to a lunar base development.