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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Obama Boosts NASA Budget by $2-BILLION+

NASA will continue on its path for a human return to the Moon; retiring the space shuttle fleet in 2010; and, placing greater emphasis on Earth science missions under the federal budget outline proposed Thursday by President Barack Obama. Boosting NASA's budget (PDF) by nearly an additional $1-billion atop of the $1-billion approved recently in the stimulus measure, Obama appears to be keeping space-related promises.

President Obama had pledged during the 2008 campaign to boost NASA's budget by $2-billion, extend the space shuttle by one (1) additional space shuttle flight, and to continue the development of the program to return to the Moon.

Meanwhile, the NASA Administrator post remains vacant to be filled by the President. The details of the NASA budget will emerge in the spring of 2009 as the Congress acts.

Monday, February 23, 2009

NewSpace 2009 Set for July on West Coast

The Space Frontier Foundation announced that its annual NewSpace conference will be at NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountainview, California July 18-20.

"For twenty-one years, the Space Frontier Foundation has been the vanguard of the NewSpace movement, working to change the economics of space. Our annual NewSpace conference will again bring together a unique mix of revolutionary space entrepreneurs, investors, scientists, engineers and space policy leaders to explore the opportunities and challenges of opening the Space Frontier to human settlement. This year we will also commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. But we won't just be looking backwards at Apollo, we'll be looking forwards at how NewSpace can make the Moon our first stepping stone into space, drawing on the lessons of the Internet revolution," said SFF Chairman Berin Szoka.

The conference will kick off with a film screening of "Orphans of Apollo" the evening of Friday, July 17, open to the general public. A single track of programming will explore the exciting potential of NewSpace on Saturday and the business realities of NewSpace on Sunday - including a business plan competition in which entrepreneurs will compete in front of investors and analysts for cash prizes and private meetings. On Monday, we will join in a combined commemoration of the Apollo landing with NASA Ames' Lunar Sciences Institute.

SFF Co-Founder Rick Tumlinson said, "This isn't just a conference, it's a gathering of the Frontier movement and the NewSpace community. NewSpace 2009 is a unique opportunity for networking. Our social activities are where most of the real business of space gets done! So come join us for great programming, receptions, our well known 'hospitality suite', and a grand gala Monday evening to celebrate the Apollo anniversary."

Saturday, February 21, 2009

North Korea Threatening Missile Launch

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il isalongside soldiers; 3rd son named successor.

While United States Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton travels the East stressing 6-way talks on North Korea's nuclear programs, military planners in the small Communist state have decided to sabre-rattle threatening intermediate and long-range missile tests.

Jane's Defense Weekly has reported that North Korea plans a missile launch from the Musudan-ni spaceport site on the communist country's northeastern coast based, in-part, on satellite imagery. A prototype Taepodong 2 intermediate-range ballistic missile or a Paektusan 2 orbital space launch vehicle is expected to be launched if North Korea proceeds as indicated.

The military and diplomatic bluster from North Korea could simply be a test of the metal of President Barack Obama. North Koreans tested the resolve of former President George W. Bush time and again. President Obama may exercise the option to placing US missile defense systems on alert.

Iran recently conducted a space launch and use similar technology to the North Koreans.

Dr. Jill Tarter Wins 2009 TED PRIZE

CONTACT! The Technology Engineering and Design [TED] Conference awarded its 2009 TED PRIZE to Jill Tarter, the Director of the Center for the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Research. It is a much deserved $100,000 recognition of her dedication and work.

Lunar Workshop Set for Washington Feb. 25

NASA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Space Enterprise Council will hold a workshop on lunar surface system concepts to support human and robotic exploration on the moon by 2020. The workshop will take place Feb. 25 - 27 at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 1615 H Street, NW, in Washington. See the Workshop Agenda.

The workshop will highlight recently completed lunar surface study contracts administered by the Constellation Program. Topics will include habitat designs and packaging options, innovative energy and thermal storage concepts, lunar regolith moving methods, and avionics and software solutions. More information here.

It was recently pointed out to this Blogger that the best lunar regolith analog is dry coal fly ash. One of the nation's leading experts on fly ash utilization as a lunar analog is Edward D. McCullough.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Orphans of Apollo to Premier in DC Friday

The award winning film "Orphans of Apollo" will premier Friday, February 27, 2009 at the Jack Morton Auditorium, George Washington University, 805 21st St. N.W. in Washington, D.C. 5:00pm Doors Open; 5:30pm Introductions & Film Followed by Director's Q&A; and 6:30pm Closing Reception. The unique "Orphans of Apollo" event is being sponsored by The International Space University, The Arthur C. Clarke Foundation & George Washington University's Space Policy Institute. $25 General Admission; $15 Student; R.S.V.P Michael Potter at

STRANGE .... but five star!

Strange and whimsical visit to the John F. Kennedy Space Center.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

British Skylon Spaceplane Gets Euro Funding

The proposed British Skylon spaceplane has gained one million Euros ($1.25 million USD)from the European Space Agency (ESA) to advance the proposed orbital vehicle's core technologies, including its Sabre air-breathing rocket engine [video]. Reaction Engines, the company behind the project, believes its reusable launcher could fly within 10 years, reports the BBC today. [Skylon Mission Animation Video*****] Tickets to ride are expected to be a minimum $500,000 USD but that is a ride to LEO (Low Earth Orbit).

Poker Flat Aurora Borealis Research Continues with Rocket Launches

Aurora Borealis research is advacing this year with ongoing space flight data collection studies from Alaska's Poker Flat Research Range with a series of two rockets launched last month known as the Auroral Current and Electrodynamics Structure mission. Other missions to research the Northern Lights are underway for 2009 and 2010.

The Auroral Current and Electrodynamics Structure mission seeks to gain a clearer picture of aurora structure by simultaneously collecting data from both the top and bottom edges of an auroral arc according to the Principal Investigator Scott R. Bounds of the University of Iowa.

Dr. Bounds indicated information from the ACES mission will help refine current models of aurora structure as well as provide insight on the structural subtleties of the aurora, details that researchers may have missed when previous measurements were done using only a single space probe vehicle.

The Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks operates the range under contract to NASA Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Poker Flat Research Range is the largest land-based sounding rocket range in the world. It's located 30 miles north of Fairbanks on the Steese Highway. The site enables significant academic research and data collection on the Northern Lights. More on recent rocket launches from the Poker Flat Research Range as reported by The Fairbanks Daily News Miner, EurekAlert, and SpaceTravel.

Aurora Flight Sciences Awarded Balloon Study Contract for Red Planet Missions

Virginia-based Aurora Flight Sciences has been awarded an initial contract to develop an innovative autonomous balloon launcher to operate from the surface of Mars providing future missions atmospheric sampling and video data capture.

Aurora envisions a compact lightweight balloon system that could be included on future Mars landers, thereby augmenting the mission with a small aerial vehicle building upon the firms experience in the development of a Mars airplane with NASA Langley Research Center (but not selected for a NASA Mars mission).

The autonomous balloon launcher proposal is similar to the planned Mars Archimedes probe. Archimedes is designed as a helium balloon ten metres in diameter with an onboard suite of scientific instruments to study the atmospheric conditions on Mars. The probe was proposed by the German Mars Society [video].

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Comet Lulin Closest Monday at 10:43 PM

Credit: Jack Newton, Arizona Sky Village Portal Feb. 18, 2009
Rapidly approaching, Comet Lulin is on a flyby approach (38 million miles) to Earth coming closest on Monday at 10:43 p.m. EST , February 23; at that time the comet could be two or three times brighter than it is now. Many indicators are that Comet Lulin will be viewable to the naked eye but telescopes are suggested for enhanced viewing. View the Comet Lulin Video Guide.

NASA Plans Jovian Europa Trek in 2020

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration today announced plans for a multibillion dollar interplanetary space probe to the gas giant planet Jupiter and a Jovian moon Europa to be launched in 2020 with a planned arrival in 2026 and known as The Europa Juipter System Mission [video] or in Europe [ESA] as 'Laplace.' [Videos 1, 2, 3, 4 and ummm -- uh-oh! wrong vid and year.]

Planetary scientists strongly suspect that Europa, one of the four large moons of Jupiter, has a deep ocean beneath its icy surface. There is speculation that the ocean could contain more liquid water than in all of the oceans on Earth, and that has made Europa a focus in the search for life beyond Earth, reports The Washington Post.

NASA also disclosed that a Titan Saturn System Mission [video] remains high among exploration priorities despite being trumped by the Jupiter System Mission. The planned flagship flight would include a NASA-built orbiter to study Saturn and its moons, as well as European lander and research balloon to continue the exploration of the planet's cloud-covered moon Titan. Saturn's moon Enceladus, which harbors ice-spewing geysers, is also major target for that mission, reports MSNBC.

MORE from The Los Angeles Times, Scientific American, New Scientist, BBC, and Nature.

JAXA: Earth's 1st "Diamond Ring-like" Movie

JAXA announced today that the HDTV camera, Kaguya on board, successfully captured Earth's "Diamond Ring-like" images on February 10, 2009 during the penumbrallunar eclipse. It is the world's first capture of the diamond ring phenomena of the Earth from the Moon [YouTubeVid or JAXA MOVIE].

Trillions of Earth-like Planets in Universe?

The universe is teaming with trillions of Earth-like planets bearing alien life forms with many harboring possible civilizations thousands of years more advanced than ours says astrophysicist and author Alan P. Boss of the Carnegie Institute in Washington [video].

"I suspect virtually every star when you look up at the night sky has an Earth-like world around it." These "exoplanets" are mainly gas giants like Jupiter but they should include some super-Earths a few times larger than ours," Dr. Boss recently said recently of the more than 340 known planets orbiting neighboring stars with many more expected to be found by the Kepler spacecraft to be launched this year.

Dr. Boss latest book, The Crowded Universe, traces the efforts past, present and coming, in the detection of exoplanets and the race to find life in space. More from Alan Boyle and Jeff Foust on the Boss book. More from The Times of London and the BBC on the theory of Dr. Boss.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Russians May be Liable to United States for On-Orbit Satellite Loss

The Russians may be liable to the United States and the owners of the Iridium 33 destroyed satellite resulting from the recent collision with Cosmos 2251 in orbit over Siberian Russia, according to space law attorney Stephen E. Doyle in response to a question posed by this Blogger on The Space Show.

Under the United Nations 1972 Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects, the United States will have one year from the date of loss of the Iridium 33 to make a damage claim against the Cosmos 2251 satellite launch state. The crash produced more than 600 pieces of orbital debris which may endanger other satellites posing future liability too.

Doyle noted that the Cosmos 2251 satellite was not registered and commercially tracked after launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in 1993. Under the United Nations 1976 Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space, the Cosmos 2251 was required to be in compliance with the convention. [See]

The unintentional crash of the fully intact American and Russian satellites has prompted the European Union to push for new rules on space exploration. The EU wants satellite-sending nations to enter into a voluntary agreement to help stop environmental disasters caused by civil and military explorations in space of major superpowers. The United Nations is expected to take-up the policy issues soon. The crash has also promoted satellite insurance companies to evaluate commercial satellite debris tracking capabilities when setting satellite insurance rates.

Moon Engineer Konrad Dannenberg Passes

Konrad Dannenberg, one of the original German rocket scientists from Operation Paperclip, brought to the United States by Wernher von Braun, passed away Monday morning in Huntsville, Alabama at the age of 96 [AP].

During the 1960's, Dannenberg served as deputy manager of the Saturn V moon rocket program earning him the NASA Exceptional Service Medal for successfully starting the development of the largest rocket ever built which took human beings to the moon between 1968 and 1972. He retired from NASA in 1973 whereupon, in retirment, worked extensively with young people to foster their interest in space.

Dannenberg was in the Mojave Desert when Burt Rutan's team won the X-Prize and later presented the National Space Society's Von Braun award to Burt Rutan at the 2005 ISDC in Washington, D.C. (where this Blogger met Konrad at The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center).

Friday, February 13, 2009

Virginia Spaceport Auto Tag Bill Advances

The Virginia State Senate has advanced the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport special auto license plate authorization measure, Senate Bill No. 817, Section 4 as the scramble is on to get the minimum required 350 advance tag registrations. The measure will be referred to the House of Delegates Transportation Committee for further consideration. Contact Jack Kennedy at 276.275.4700 or Melanie Salyer at 276.328.6111 to have the registration mailed directly to you. Time is of the essence.

Organizers of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport sepcial tag see it as an opportunity to promote awarness of the Eastern Shore spaceport by Virginia citizens while, at the same time, marketing the spaceport to business interests visiting the Washington, D.C. metro area or even the mountains of Central Appalachia. Contact Jack Kennedy at 276.275.4700 or Melanie Salyer at 276.328.6111 to have the registration mailed directly to you. Time is of the essence.

Aloha! Hawaii Talks Space Point-to-Point

Hawaii's KHON reports that the Hawaii's State Office Aerospace Development is looking to establish a commercial spaceport on at least one of the islands by 2011; and, subsequently enable point-to-point flights between the islands and California in a little over an hour or from the islands to Japan is just under an hour in the years to come. MORE here with video report recommended.

Enabling maturing commercial space launch firms to transport space tourists from point-to-point would certainly be a major step forward for the now fledgling industry. Hawaii does provide an interesting jump point between North America and Asia. MORE HERE.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

India Planning 2015 Human Space Flight

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) aspires to make India the fourth nation on the planet with capability of launching astronauts into Earth orbit. Initial plans calling for a two-member space launch crew in 2015 with engineering and training assistance being provided by the Russians, according to SpaceNews. India and Russia are cooperating on lunar programs as well.

Musk Seeks Help to Advance COTS-D in DC

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is calling upon the space community to urge the Senate and House Congressional leaders to make available $300 million to fund the human spaceflight option of NASA’s commercial space flight program known as COTS D. [See video]

SpaceX hopes to launch the Falcon-9 booster from Cape Canaveral in late 2009 and thereafter commence regular resupply services to the International Space Station. Musk believes that SpaceX could loft astroanuts by 2011 with a NASA green light.

Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corporation has reportedly been reviewing the NASA COTS-D option as it too plans to commence regular resupply services to the International Space Station in 2011.

The Space Frontier Foundation has advocated human space launch with the COTS-D capability.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

New Mexico Aims to Limit Liability from Space Flights Similar to Virginia and Florida

The New Mexico Legislature may seek to limit lawsuits stemming from southern New Mexico's Spaceport America similar to action taken by Virginia in 2007 and Florida in 2008.

Senate Bill 37, the "Space Flight Liability and Immunity Act" sponsored by Sen. Clinton Harden, R-Clovis, New Mexico wants space flight participants to acknowledge that "commercial human space flight activities involve inherent risks that cannot be eliminated or controlled through the exercise of reasonable care, and that justify the exculpation of ordinary negligence, and that these inherent risks provide the challenge and excitement that entice space flight participants."

The New Mexico Fiscal Impact Report on Senate Bill 37 provides details noting that it was modeled from the Virginia measure.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Virginia is Upbeat About Spaceport

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport [MARS] continues with launch pad infrastructure improvement plans for the Orbital Sciences Corporation launch of the Taurus-II booster rocket to service the International Space Station in 2011.

In the past week, Maryland provided $150,000 to the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority for operational funding. Meanwhile, the Virginia General Assembly continues to advance an additional $10-million in bond authorization for the spaceport atop of the $16-million approved in 2008.

Virginia remains upbeat about the future; and those associated with the campaign for the next orbital launch expected in the summer [TacSat-3] payload are pumped as well.

No one really expects PlanetSpace to derail the Virginia longer-term Virginia launch pad plans to service the ISS. Moreover, Virginia expects more commercial space firms to come to view the business advantages of Virginia's Eastern Shore launch pads and runways.

Ares Booster Has Support Over Space Shuttle

A recent poll of readers of the Spaceports Blog revealed a significant 2-to-1 support for the development of the Constellation Ares-1 booster as opposed to a continuation of the Space Transporation System [STS] space shuttle program.

Forty-two percent (42%) of the nearly 500 respondents opted for the rapid development of the Ares-1 rocket booster. Only 20% of the poll participants selected continuation of space shuttle flights.

Eighteen percent (18%) opted to support the development of a new spacecraft to replace the space shuttle other than Ares/Orion. Fourteen percent (14%) suggested that U.S. policymakers opt to contract civil space rocket boosters from private contractors while a mere five percent (5%) said that U.S. rocket boosters should be purchased from foreign launch providers.

The real policy decision is expected from the White House as a new NASA Administrator is named and the future of the space agency workforce direction is determined. Thousands of engineers, scientists, and program managers await.