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Friday, October 31, 2008

Five Years on Mars Coming Sunday

The National Geographic Channel is featuring Five Years on Mars on Sunday, November 2nd at 8 PM EST. See the Spirit Promo-Video too.

Hubble's Back; And it is great!

The image above, obtained by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope on 27-28 October 2008, shows a pair of gravitationally interacting galaxies called Arp 147. This is the first image obtained by Hubble after science operations were resumed on 25 October 2008, four weeks after a problem with the science data for matter took the spacecraft into safe mode. More from the European Space Agency (ESA).

Thursday, October 30, 2008

NASA Responds to Ares-1 Critics

NASA today defended the Ares-1 that is now planned for a March 15, 2015 debut on taking astronauts to orbit. WESH-TV provides a video report.

Meanwhile, the first Ares 1X hardware delivered from elsewhere in the nation is at Kennedy Space Center, where NASA is pressing ahead with plans for the first uncrewed test flight of a next-generation moon rocket in 2009. [Ares 1 Test Flight Animation Videos One, Two, Three and Four.]

SS Endeavour is "GO!" for Launch

Space Shuttle Endeavour is "GO!" for launch on Friday November 14 at 7:55 PM EST for a just-after-dark boost to orbit following this evening's Flight Readiness Review by NASA managers.

Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's space operations chief, said the only difference of opinion in the daylong review involved pump inspections in the shuttle main engines. This new inspection will be conducted in the future before the engines are installed, but there's no urgency for doing it before Endeavour's upcoming flight, he said.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Taurus II Boosts Atlantic Space Hopes

When Dulles, Va.-based Orbital Sciences Corp. opens its assembly, test and launch facility for the Taurus II rocket program at the NASA Wallops Island Flight Facility using the FAA commercial licensed Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, the Delmarva peninsula economies of both Virginia and Maryland will benefit. The $45-million project will create about 125 new jobs. Although the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at Wallops Island is in Accomack County, Virginia, about 35 percent of Wallops employees are Eastern Shore Maryland residents.

Orbital's announcement ensures that Maryland will continue to be a global leader in the development of the next generation of cutting-edge technologies," said Gov. Martin O'Malley, adding "This new facility will help generate jobs in the Eastern Shore, building on the brainpower and skills of our people to create greater opportunities and advance the cause of science."

"We are very glad to hear that Orbital has chosen to use NASA's Wallops Flight Facility for testing its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services system," said Ron Wolf, chairman of the Accomack Board of Supervisors in Virginia. "We support our businesses here in Accomack and will do everything in our power to welcome Orbital to our community. [We] will work hard to help it grow and succeed."

The Taurus II will be the launch vehicle for a NASA [COTS] and Orbital cargo delivery demonstration mission to the International Space Station. If NASA selects Orbital for the cargo missions, those missions would also originate from MARS starting in 2011.

Sally Ride Endorses 2008 Candidate

Dr. Sally K. Ride, America's first woman in space in 1983, inked an Guest Editorial today for the Orlando Sentinel in which she endorses a 2008 presidential candidate in what could be the national election tipping point state of Florida.

The former NASA astronaut is president and CEO of a science-education company, Sally Ride Science, and she is professor of physics emerita at the University of California.

Endeavour Readies for Nov. 14 Flight

The STS-126 Space Shuttle Endeavour is tentatively set for launch from the Florida Kennedy Space Center Pad 39-A for a 15-day mission at 7:55 p.m. on Nov. 14 with a crew compliment of seven astronaunts.

An official Flight Readiness Review is underway at the Kennedy Space Center with a briefing scheduled no earlier than 6 p.m. EDT on Thursday, Oct. 30 to be braodcast on NASA-TV. The review is to finalize the launch plan of STS-126 to the International Space Station in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

The Endeavour crew will unload from The Leonardo cargo module roughly 19,000 pounds of cargo, including two new bedrooms, a second toilet and the station's first food refrigerator expand from three to six astronauts next year. They'll also unveil a water filtration system designed to recycle urine and wastewater into drinkable water, an important addition for supporting larger crews and a test system for future voyages beyond Earth orbit.

In addition to cargo delivery, three spacewalkers will also work to repair a giant joint that allows a power-generating solar array to rotate and track the sun.

The STS-126 crew comprises U.S. Navy Capt. Chris Ferguson, the mission commander, U.S. Air Force Col. Eric Boe, the mission pilot, and mission specialist astronauts Navy Capt. Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, Donald Pettit, Navy Capt. Steve Bowen, and Sandra Magnus, who will remain on the ISS until February 2009. STS-126 will return with astronaut Greg Chamitoff, who has been on board the ISS since May.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Space Frontier Foundation Urges Competition to Launch Humans

The Space Frontier Foundation today called upon Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain to invest the $2 billion in new funds they have promised to NASA for reducing the "Gap" in U.S. human spaceflight (after the Space Shuttle is retired in 2010) to spur innovation and competition in America.

Foundation Chairman Berin Szoka said "It's time that our national leaders give American entrepreneurs a shot at closing this gap. Let's take the two billion dollars in the candidates' plans and fund up to five winners of COTS-D."

The NASA Authorization Act of 2008, recently signed into law by the President, directs NASA to "issue a notice of intent [by mid-April 2009] ... to enter into a funded, competitively awarded Space Act Agreement with two or more commercial entities' for transporting humans to the ISS"-the "Capability D" of NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program (or COTS-D for short). But that directive is not yet funded.

Szoka continued, "Let's have an American competition in space - to create good jobs, fuel innovation, and close the gap more quickly. With private funds matching government's investment, we can dramatically leverage the $2 billion to produce breakthroughs in a new American industry - commercial orbital human spaceflight."

By investing in several different approaches, the government will win no matter who wins this new race, and also benefit from the resulting price competition.

Many American companies, including Boeing, PlanetSpace, SpaceDev, SpaceX, and t/Space have each previously submitted credible COTS-D proposals to NASA. [Orbital Sciences Corporation has the project under study for the Taurus-2.] Each of these firms has reached the semi-finals of one of the previous NASA COTS competitions. Increasing funding for COTS by $2 billion would allow NASA to fund all five of these promising companies' proposals with COTS agreements, and in so doing, build redundancy into the human spaceflight capability available to NASA and other customers.

"It's popular in Washington to use 'The Gap' to cynically justify continued funding of an expensive jobs program," concluded the Foundation's co-founder, Bob Werb. "We're using 'The Gap' to advocate a policy that will bridge a gap that matters much more: the chasm between a dying government Human spaceflight monopoly and an emerging, free and competitive marketplace that can open the space frontier to everyone."

Orbiting Astronauts Urge Presidential Vote Tuesday November 4

Planet Vulcan in Epsilon Eridani?

NASA astronomers have indicated an Earth-like planet may orbit the star Epsilon Eridani along with two confirmed asteroid belts. The closest known solar system, Epsilon Eridani is 62-TRILLION miles or 10.5 Light Years away from Earth; and, it has been the subject of science fiction writers over recent decades as notes USA Today. Observational data obtained by the Spitzer Space Telescope is leading astronomers to look for an Earth-like inner solar system planet.

Is the planet Vulcan now a possibility? There are now 313 confirmed exoplanets in the Milky Way notes NASA JPL. More from Science News, Kansas City Star, Space.com, and The HARVARD-SMITHSONIAN Center for Astrophysics.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Armadillo Aerospace To Provide Unique Space Launch Experience

Texas-based Armadillo Aerospace plans to launch $100,000 space adventure flights from the Upham, New Mexico Spaceport America (Southwest Regional Spaceport) along side the $200,000 Virgin Galactic spaceliner flights in late 2010.

The so-called "fishbowl" concept has been under study for a better than a year or so by Armadillo engineers. Passengers will enjoy a 360-degree view of space and the Earth below. A prototype is now being planned for 2009 from the Oklahoma Spaceport (reports Alan Boyle) with commercial applications in 2010 from New Mexico. More from The Houston Chronicle.

Over the weekend Armadillo Aerospace won the Level 1 $350,000 Lunar Lander Prize but lost the $1-million Level 2 after an immediate failure at initial launch. Leonard Davis explains on the Live Science Blog.

Orbital Sciences Seeks California Engineers for Virginia Launch

Industry assumptions are that the Delta II will fly out its remaining inventory and perhaps not be reactivated. We’re seeking to fill a void with the Taurus II,” says Barron Beneski, a spokesman for Orbital adding, “We tend to run leaner and have a lower cost structure than other companies.” Click Photo for complete view.

Orbital Sciences decided to expand to Orange County “because Southern California is well known for having quality aerospace engineers,” Beneski says. The booster will launch from the Virginia Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island in late 2010 for NASA COTS. More from The Orange County Register.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Armadillo Aerospace Wins $350k Prize

Later today in the high desert of New Mexico, Armadillo Aerospace of Texas will fly the stage two Lunar Lander Prize contest for the $1-million NASA Centennial Challenges program prize having yesterday won the $350,000 initial competition that vexed the team in 2006 and 2007. More from The Las Cruces Sun. A special hat-tip goes to John Carmack and the Armadillo Team! Video links 1, 2, and 3. The sceond team to make the 2008 competition, Ture ZerO , crashed after initial take-off [video].

Friday, October 24, 2008

Garriott - Russians Return to Earth

Spaceflight Participant Richard Garriott and Russian Cosmonauts Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko landed safely in Kazakhstan at 11:37 p.m., EDT after departing the International Space Station and a de-orbit burn aboard a Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft.

Garriott, the 47-year-old son of a former NASA Skylab astronaut and a video game designer, paid $30 million for a round-trip flight to the ISS that began with an Oct. 12 launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan aboard another Russian Soyuz TMA-13 spacecraft. [Video on ISS]

In a historical milestone, Thursday's Soyuz descent united the world's first second generation space travelers. Volkov is the son of Alexander Volkov, a cosmonaut who served aboard Soviet and Russian space stations. Garriott's father, Owen Garriott, served aboard the American Skylab space station in 1973 as well as a 10-day space shuttle mission a decade later, reports The Houston Chronicle. More from the BBC, SpaceRef, and KXAN in Austin.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

No Lunar Ice at Shackleton Crater?

The Moon's South Pole Shackleton Crater was deemed a leading candidate for lunar water-ice pools but new image data from Japan's Kaguya [SELENE] probe suggests it all may be a dry dust bowl instead of the hoped for hydrogen lake. Details from The Economist and The Wall Street Journal LiveMint report on a new study. Three space probes from Japan, China and India are orbiting or enroute to the Moon.

WhiteKnightTwo to Fly in 3 Wks

Astronaut-in-training Michael Blum used his stage at ISPCS 2008 yesterday to announce that Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo-SpaceShipTwo will "take to the skies" for its first test flight in the next two to three weeks.

Blum, Founder & Managing Director of Repulse Bay Capital Ltd., & Co-President & CCO of Research Edge, is excited about leveraging space for personal and commercial purposes.

Blum discussed divulging the timetable with Virgin leader Richard Branson last week at a gathering with other future passengers on the craft.

"ISPCS was the perfect place to talk about this because ISPCS is a very valuable conference that helps to identify the opportunities in the new space age," Blum said.

For more information, and photos from the conference, go to http://www.ispcs.com/.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

India Lunar Launch Webcast Now

The WEBCAST for the launch of Chandrayaan-1, India's first trek to the Moon, is now underway from the pad site at Sriharikota, India. The launch is expected to occur at 8:50 EDT today.

Putin Pushes Billions in New Space Investment for Russia

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced earlier today that his nation will invest $7.7 billion dollars from the federal budget for development of the space industry in 2009-2011 and consolidate its leading role in the space industry, reports Kommersant.

"Evidently ... between 2011 and 2016 the United States will not possess a new spaceship to replace the Space Shuttle," news agencies quoted Anatoly Perminov, the head of Russia's space agency Roskosmos, as telling Putin.

"So Russian spacecraft will bear the brunt of transportation and maintenance works, as well as replacing (ISS) crews and launching European and Japanese cargo ships from time to time."

Monday, October 20, 2008

IBEX Mission Successfully Launched

Orbital Sciences Corporation used its Pegasus® rocket to successfully launch the company-built Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) satellite for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration into its intended highly elliptical orbit. Early results indicate that the IBEX satellite [video] is operating as expected at this stage of its mission. Orbital designed, manufactured and tested the IBEX satellite [video] at its Dulles, VA satellite manufacturing facilities. Orbital is teamed with the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) of San Antonio, TX, which is managing the IBEX scientific program, with mission funding provided by NASA.

Orbital Outfitters On China TV

China's CCTV recently did a video story about Orbital Outfitters, Inc.'s private spacesuits. The Los Angeles based company is now meeting that demand by producing the first commercially available spacesuits for civilians as space tourism and commercial space launch providers come on-line for the first commercial suborbital spaceflights in 2010 or 2011. Orbital Outfitters or 'OO' is also working on a Space Diving Project.

India's Lunar Countdown On

The countdown clock is winding down at the launch pad for India's first lunar orbiting and impact mission - Chandrayaan-I. India will step into a growing Asian space race competition that now includes China and Japan. The Wall Street Journal and Space Daily have more on India's lunar dreams and the planned Wednesday 22 October launch.

New Delhi Television (NDTV) has unrolled a very special campaign titled `India's Moon Yatra' (meaning India's journey to theMoon) to follow all developments related to India's maiden mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-1. It is the largest cross platform coverage onTV, Internet and mobile in both English and Hindi which highlights the synergy between science and culture.

Nations looking to send probes to the moon include the United States, Europe, Russia, China, Japan, India and perhaps others in the next decade. The launch from India will be Webcast Live.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Kepler to Search for Exo-Earth

Discover magazine highlights the "Hunting for a Second Earth" in the November 2008 issue giving a focus to the planned spring 2009 launch [mov.] of the four-year mission known as Kepler. The article also provides a comparison with the on-going European COROT mission. The hopes of Kepler and COROT missions are to find earth-like planets in the "Habital Zone" [video] of remote stars in the near by Milky Way.

South Korea to Enter Space Race

South Korea is planning to launch the nation's first indiginous satellite in the spring of 2009 making it the ninth nation to boost a satellite to orbit from its soil, according to The Korea Times. Russian scientists and engineers are assisting with technology transfer.

Korea will build and test a 300-ton Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-I) booster by 2017, acquire standard bus module technology needed to make a lunar probe by 2020, and launch the probe using a domestically made rocket the same year. If the lunar probe mission is successful, another probe will be sent to the moon's surface in 2025, according to a January 2008 report on Korea.Net.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Bush Signs NASA Authorization

For the second time in three years, the United States legislative and executive branches of government have agreed to authorize a multi-billion dollar NASA program that returns humans to the moon but there remains a wait for the money.

President Bush signed into law an act authorizing an additional space shuttle flight and accelerated development of the new Ares-Orion spacecraft. The meassure enables an additional $1 billion to accelerate work on the Orion/Ares moonship, which is not scheduled for an inaugural manned flight until 2015.

In addition the new law sets the stage for funding for nine shuttle missions to the space station and it extends the agency's involvement in the space station until 2020 while urging NASA to do an additional shuttle mission to launch the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a $1.6 billion-observatory that would be attached to the outside of the orbiting space station.

As the 2008 election campaign comes to a close, it will be up to either Barack Obama or John McCain to determine national space policy through presidential leadership in the next four years.

McCain Vows Space Agency Support

A funny thing happened on the way to the 2008 presidential election, both McCain and Obama vow support for America's civil space agency but in slightly different ways. Both candidates seem to have modified their original stances and evolved their space policy in the race to the White House in election micro-strategy.

GOP presidential nominee John McCain [vid] was on the Space Coast of Flordia yesterday vowing support for the future of America's space agency among the critical Central Flordia voters who will decide the state's 27 electoral votes. Here are the reports from the Orlando Sentinal and Florida Today.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Obamanauts Target Florida's 27 EVs

Democratic president candidate Barack Obama is reaching out to Florida aerospace workers in an attempt to caputure the state's 27 electoral votes. To join the effort interested persons may click HERE. To become involved in Space Democrats click HERE. Florida Senator Bill Nelson launched a radio ad endorsing Obama's space policy today. Listen-in.

If there are McCainauts and/or Space Republicans, please advise so Republican presidential candidate John McCain is posted too please.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Chandrayaan Lunar Launch Oct. 22nd

Final preparations are on for the launch campaign of India's maiden moon mission Chandrayaan-1 at the Satish Dhawan Space Center for blastoff on Wednesday, October 22nd. The schedule now calls for India's first inter-planateory exploration to be mated to launch vehicle today with rollout to launch pad on Saturday October 18.

The Chandrayaan-1 mission will focus on the exploration of the South Pole of the moon and a 3-D mapping of the entire moonscape. The moon impact probe will hit the rim of the Shackleton crater of the moon at the South Pole by mid-November if everything goes well. The rim of the Shackleton crater is a location identified by the U.S. space agency NASA to establish a possible lunar outpost by 2020. More from The Hindu in India and related videos 1, 2, and 3.

Soyuz TMA-13 Docks With ISS

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Garriott to Launch to ISS Oct. 12

The Russian Soyuz TMA-13 is due to be launched from Kazakhstan spaceport on October 12 with American multi-millionaire businessman Richard Garriott, the son of former Skylab astronaut Owen Garriott.

Garriott
will fly on Soyuz with American NASA astronaut Michael Fincke, Russian cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov. The launch will be LIVE on NASA-TV.

Garriott paid more than 30 million dollars to be launched into space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, according to Space Adventures, the Virginia-based company that plans space tourist trips.