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Sunday, February 28, 2010

My Dream of Stars: From Daughter of Iran to Space Pioneer - Ansari Book Release Set

My Dream of Stars: From Daughter of Iran to Space Pioneer is the name of the book coming out March 2, 2010. The book, written by Anousheh Ansari and Homer Hickam, is now available for order from Amazon. The book describes her efforts to reach space orbit and the International Space Station as a commercial spaceflight participant.

In her memoir, Anousheh recalls her long path to success and to achieving her dream. She tells the readers of the prejudices and obstacles she had to overcome as well as her determination and hope, and the love and support that made it possible. It's Anousheh' s hope that her personal story would encourage and inspire people around the globe, especially the younger generation, to strive to overcome any barriers holding them back from their dreams. The 256-page hardcover book now $16.50 from Amazon.

WIll a SpaceShipThree be Advanced By New Commercial Space Policy in Washington?

While flights are being set to commence at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California for the first tests of SpaceShipTwo (SS2) to make way for the first human-rated commercial spaceflights from New Mexico in 2011, commercial space policy advocates will seek to advance a commercial ferry for Point-to-Point (P2P) exo-atmospheric spacecraft conceptualized as SpaceShipThree (SS3) inspired by the 1960's design of the Dyna-Soar.

Many commercial space launch firms are beginning to consider commercial human spaceflights to the International Space Station and/or probable Bigelow Aerospace commercial space stations over this decade. The success of SS2 in New Mexico in 2011/2012 may serve to inspire commercial options beyond the SpaceX Falcon 9 or the Orbital Sciences Corp. Taurus 2 for future rapid crew exchange in low Earth orbit (LEO).

New Mexico Enacts Informed Consent Law for Commercial Spaceport America Flights

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has signed into law the Space Flight Informed Consent Act requiring commercial space travelers to be fully informed of the risks of flying from Spaceport America and thereupon waive the liability. Senate Bill 9 was signed into law Saturday following passage by the state legislature.

Richardson asked the New Mexico legislature earlier this year to pass the legislation saying, "To make sure New Mexico remains competitive against Virginia, Florida and Texas, I’m asking this body to pass legislation allowing participants to assume the risks of spaceflight."

Virginia was the first state in the nation to pass a similar law in 2007 with a July 1, 2013 sunset that the Virginia legislature is now completing the process of removing to make the liability immunity permanent. Florida became the second state in the nation to enact a informed consent liability waiver law in 2008; Texas worked on a similar measure in 2009, and now, New Mexico in 2010.

New Mexico is expected to become a leader in commercial suborbital space flight in the next 24-months while Virginia seeks to become more viable for commercial orbital space missions.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Project M: Robonaut to the Moon

The Johnson Manned Space Flight Center in Houston, Texas has an innovative solution to returning to the Moon but this time with a Robonaut or R2. A Robonaut-based, tele-operated mission to the Moon could be accomplished within 1,000 days of the go-ahead, NASA claims. With the NewSpaceEra coming with the American civil space program, the R2 may be a path into exploring the Moon to find economic viability for humans.

STS-131 Discovery Set for April 5, 2010

Seated are Commander Alan Poindexter (right) and Pilot James P. Dutton Jr. From the left (standing) are Mission Specialists Rick Mastracchio, Stephanie Wilson, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Naoko Yamazaki and Clayton Anderson. Image credit: NASA

STS-131 Discovery is set for launch on Monday, April 5, 2010 at 6:21 EDT from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida as one of the final four flights of the space shuttle system set for retirement later this year. It will be will be the 38th and second-to-last mission for shuttle Discovery. Discovery will make the final space shuttle flight with STS-124 in the fall.

X-51 Waverider Hypersonic Flight Readied

The U.S. Air Force is gearing up for the first of four planned test flights of the the X-51 Waverider hypersonic aircraft designed to operate for much longer durations, cover far greater distances than previous platforms of its type and operating at speeds in excess of Mach 6, reports SpaceNews.

The approach on X-51 has been to demonstrate the technologies that could one day enable things like single-stage-to-orbit vehicles. While the technology is not ready to ferry passengers from New York to Los Angeles in under an hour, such a scenario is not all that far-fetched, Joe Vogel, Boeing’s director of hypersonics told SpaceNews.

A number of hypersonic projects have been in development in recent years ranging from the European IXV, the NASA HyBolt at Wallops Island, VA, the USAF/DARPA X37-B, the DARPA Falcon, and commercial proposals by PlanetSpace and commercial studies by FastForward. The investment in hypersonics has been continued but not what many say is needed for the substantial technology breakthrough.

Blog Readers Believe Earth-Like Planet to be Found During the Course of the Year 2010

The year 2010 is underway and it promises to be exciting for the space science community with space telescopes, science spacecraft, and ground observations underway all in-the-hunt for Earth-sized planets, the first moon of an exoplanet, new near-earth asteroids (NEO's), and a new planet within this solar system.

Most Spaceport Blog readers however believe that an Earth-sized planet will be the most favored discovery of the year ahead with a strong 28% saying it is the strongest possibility with the finding of hundreds of new NEO asteroids making a second with 17%. But 10% of poll participants said a new planet in the solar system would be found while a mere 7% said a new moon of an exoplanet would be found.

Remarkably, 26% of readers surveyed said an Earth-sized planet, hundreds of NEO's, a new planet in the solar system, and a new moon of an exoplanet would be found. This finding represents positive thinking even in a remote possibility that all would be found in 2010. A mere 9% said none of these space objects would be found in 2010.

This Week in Space: Bolden, Orbital Sciences on Human-Rating and Race with SpaceX

On this edition of "This Week in Space" - the NASA Administrator hits some Congressional turbulence over NASA's new budget, shuttles Endeavour and Discovery are on the move, new pics of ice geysers on one of Saturn's moons, Orbital Sciences says its safety first for its new commercial spaceship, astro-immigrants are spotted in the Milky Way, and Miles O'Brien testifies to the Senate on NASA's future.

Special note at 13:40 to 20:58 into the above-linked YouTubeVid with the interview of former NASA astronaut-tuned Senior VP at Orbital Sciences Corp Frank Culberston. He talks about the potential race with SpaceX to be the first commercial carrier to the ISS. Folks will be watching the Wallops Island and Cape Canaveral commercial launch pads!

Propulsion Technology Spotlights VSIMR

The Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VSIMR) may be one of the keys to future human space flight providing a much higher ISP engine thrust and speeds of hundreds of thousands of miles per hour more traditional chemical rockets. The VSIMR has been designed by former NASA astronaut and MIT scientist Franklin Chang-Diaz.

With the new NASA budget proposing advanced space propulsion systems, the VSIMR is taking center stage. The yet-to-be-space-tested engine uses electricity to transform fuels like hydrogen, helium, or deuterium into plasma gas, which is then heated to 51.8 million degrees Fahrenheit and sent into tailpipes via magnetic field.

The VSIMAR propulsion system designers are now in talks with Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corporation and California-based SpaceX about boosting the system aboard either the Taurus-2 or Falcon 9 for LEO space deployment and testing at the International Space Station in 2013.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Virginia Proposal Supports NASA FY11 Budget

The Virginia House of Delegates is expected to take-up House Resolution No. 21 next week commending the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) for fostering greater development of commercial space launch services and particularly supporting fiscal policies that serve to enable the Virginia spaceport to maximize its commercial space launch potential. The resolution is being offered by State Delegate Terry G. Kilgore (R-Scott County).

The measure offered in the state legislature comes immediately after the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority passed an almost identical resolution February 23, 2010 at a meeting in Richmond and after Dulles, VA.-based Orbital Sciences Corporation issued a statement supportive of the new federal civil space policy.

Kilgore, the original patron of the Virginia Space Flight Liability and Immunity Act, is also on the verge of removing the July 1, 2013 sunset clause passed by the Virginia legislature and on Governor Robert F. McDonnell's desk next week. An identical bill is offered by State Senator Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk). No human-rated space flights have yet to be mounted from Virginia.

Northam is also expected to offer a Virginia Senate commending resolution of NASA FY 2011 federal budget next week.

Virginia Tax Measure for Space Not in Budget

Virginia state legislators are having the toughest legislative session in decades with the state budget cuts amounting to over $4-billion over the next two years. The cuts created an atmosphere that lead to the defeat of measures in the Senate and House of budget amendments to divert sales taxes and/or state income tax earnings from human spaceflight to the operational budget of the state's commercial spaceport. The proposal did not raise taxes, instead it earmarked potential revenue.

Since the measures lacked "revenue specific" numbers, the money committees of the legislature took the safe approach and did not include the measures in the state budget for the next two years, according to a spokesperson for State Senator William C. Wampler, Jr., a member of the Senate Finance Committee.

It is safe to expect an effort to get Wampler budget language into a bill to be codified (enacted into law) in 2011 as opposed to inclusion into the state budget. The measure is only expected to generate revenue for Virginia's commercial spaceport operations if commercial human spaceflight income or sales taxes has a nexus to state jurisdiction.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

SpaceX Bid Protest Denied by GAO; Virginia Cleared for Moon Probe Launch in 2012

Posted Feb. 14, 2010 --- The General Accountability Office on February 1, 2010 denied a bid protest brought by Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) against the US Air Force. The decision enables Orbital Sciences Corporation to utilize the Minotaur-V to launch a lunar probe from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Va. set now for late October 2012. The full decision has not yet been posted at GAO. SpaceX has the option to appeal to the United States Court of Claims.

Orbital Sciences Corporation is set to commence launching the new Taurus-2 booster from the Wallops Island site early next year and thereupon commence specific performance on the $1.9 billion NASA contract to provide re-supply and cargo to the international space station. PlanetSpace attacked the award of the ISS cargo contract to Orbital but it too was denied by the GAO.

Capitol Hill Hearings Begin Today

Two Congressional hearings are set to begin at the nation's capitol on the future direction of the federal civil space budget and how the commercial space launch industry will be engaged as suggested by the President's proposed NASA FY 11 budget. NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden will testify at both hearings [Webcast]

The first hearing is today (Wednesday) beginning at 2:30 PM EST. The Subcommittee on Science and Space is chaired by former guest astronaut Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) of the U. S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

The second hearing is Thursday, February 25, 2010 beginning at 10:00 AM EST before the Science and Technology of the U. S. House of Representatives.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Virginia Spaceport Budget Increased

The proposed $1.3 million dollar annual influx of Virginia funds for the operation of the state's Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport was reduced by the Senate Finance Committee to about $300,000 in the FY 10/11 proposed budget. The House Appropriations Committee reduced the $1.3 million gubernatorial request to slightly over $1,000,000 for FY 2010/11 leaving the two budget figures to be reconciled in a joint House-Senate Conference Committee on the state budget.

One thing is now certain, Virginia will dedicate general fund revenue to assist in the commercial spaceport operations. It has now become a question of whether it be almost $300,000 or $1,000,000 beginning July 1, 2010. Spaceport advocates will push for the larger figure, in the 3-act political play.

Virginia faces up to a $4 billion state budget shortfall in anticipated revenue over the next two-years in one of the toughest budget sessions in decades. The spaceport operating fund of $1.3 million enjoyed the support of both former governor Tim Kaine and the new governor Robert F. McDonnell.

With the Senate and House now at a mid-point in the 2010 session it appears the July 1, 2013 sunset clause removal on the Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Liability and Immunity Act will be passed and placed on Governor McDonnell's desk for signature with a bill patroned by Del. Terry G. Kilgore. It was the first such human spaceflight liability limitation passed and enacted into law by a state legislature in the United States in 2007.

The state also appears on the cusp of extending the Virginia Aerospace Advisory Council depsite the lack of adequate state staffing resources to build a stratgeic plan for industry and workforce.

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport orbital launch manifest (valued at more than $2-billion and bringing hundreds of jobs to the state) as of this date:

Oct 2010 USAF ORS 1 0-B
Mar 2011 NASA COTS Demo 1 0-A
Oct 2011 NASA CRS 1 0-A
Jun 2012 NASA CRS 2 0-A
Oct 2012 NASA LADEE (Lunar) 1 0-B
Mar 2013 NASA CRS 3 0-A
Sep 2013 NASA CRS 4 0-A
Mar 2014 NASA CRS 5 0-A
Sep 2014 NASA CRS 6 0-A
Mar 2015 NASA CRS 7 0-A
Sep 2015 NASA CRS 8 0-A

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Crist To Gear-Up Florida for NewSpaceEra

Florida Governor Charlie Crist is mobilizing the state's space launch business community to achieve new state policies to mitigate the almost certain loss of thousands of NASA and contractor jobs that will be lost with the fall retirement of the space shuttle fleet and the impending cancellation of the chronically underfunded Constellation program.

The governor proposes investing $33 million to attract commercial space launch businesses and another $25 million to help new or expanding aerospace-related businesses. The Space Transition and Revitalization Act would earmark the state's sales taxes collected from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and the governor's discretionary business-development fund.

The Tampa Tribune saluted the state's governor-turned-Senate candidate on its Opinion Page with the comment saying, "Crist is smart to begin positioning the state to win a big share." The governor "has gone to work exploring ways to keep Florida a leader in the aerospace industry. He proposes $20 million to help space businesses locate here and expand."

The newspaper opinion went on to say, "tapping deeper into the profit motive, as Obama proposes, could inspire imaginations, like those of Orville and Wilbur Wright. When the brothers risked their lives in the early 1900s figuring out how to steer an airplane, they did it so they could sell their invention to the Army."

Noting that President Obama is not wrong "to try to unleash the inventiveness of U.S. profit-motivated entrepreneurs to build faster and cheaper ships. Jobs will be created, but they will be different jobs, possibly in different places," the newspaper editorial opinion stated.

Both Obama and Crist are coming to the conclusion that the commercial space launch market is going to have fierce global competition in the near-term as the European Ariane 5 gains more economy; the Russian Soyuz launches from South America; the US commercial boosters Falcon-9 and the Taurus-2 head to the respective launch pads in Florida and Virginia; and, as the probability of a US export rules change grow to enable more satellites with US-made components to be launched aboard even cheaper Chinese booster rockets.

China to Advance Fusion Power

Professor Jiangang Li, one of China's most senior fusion scientists, explains the Chinese approach to fusion, including their plans to drastically cut timescales for getting fusion power to the grid.

European Scientist Pushes Fusion Research

Sir David King advances fusion electric power research in Europe.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

World Institute for Science and Engineering: Innovation Comes Where Least Expected

The Lonesome Pine Technology and Business Center in Wise, Virginia is about to become home to a new organization called the World Institute for Science and Engineering (WISE) [link not live yet].

In discussions with the founders, it is clear that WISE is poised to develop new cutting edge aerospace technologies in a strategy that has been developed over the last four years. Among the technologies that are expected to be developed there are next generation propulsion applications utilizing lasers, thorium, fusion electro-magnetic drives as well as cutting edge docking and life support technologies.

The focus is commercially driven manned and robotic exploration of our solar system. While the founders are not yet ready to disclose too many details, one institute organizer did say, “Our mission includes an extremely important outreach component for young people. If there is one thing that a young person in a metropolitan city or a rural region have in common, it’s that they have had their frontier taken away from them. WISE intends to give it back to them.”

With the national policy drive for renewed American commercial innovation, it appears that 2010 is shaping up to be a landmark year of inspiration and excitement in the field of aerospace technology. Stay tuned - innovation comes from where you may least expect it!

Obama Talks Space with ISS Astronauts

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

Spaceport Field Guide Version 1.0 Released

SpaceWorks Commercial, a division of SpaceWorks Engineering, Inc. (SEI), has released the Spaceport Field Guide (version 1.0). The Spaceport Field Guide (SpFG) is a Google™ Earth-compatible file developed by SpaceWorks Commercial that provides a database of worldwide launch sites and associated facilities. Together with the free Google™ Earth application available from Google™, aspiring space vehicle operators, students, and the public at large can browse the World’s spaceports on a virtual globe. This software is provided free of charge as an educational service to the community.

As part of the SpFG, SpaceWorks Commercial also introduces a new parameter for quickly and simply indicating spaceport operational capability called a Spaceport Readiness Level (SpRL). The SpRL is a quantitative parameter similar to a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) scale. It relates, on a scale from 0 to 4, how ready the spaceport is to host suborbital and orbital flights. The Spaceport Readiness Level (SpRL) serves as a quick reference to the operational status of global government and commercial spaceports. The scale ranges from a value of zero (inactive spaceport) to four (fully operational spaceport). Two SpRLs are assigned to each spaceport, one indicating the spaceport’s suborbital launch capability and one indicating its orbital launch capability.

Space Station Observation Deck Installed

The long-awaited observation deck or 'the cupola' has been installed on the orbiting international space station where it is expected to provide astronauts and cosmonauts multi-directional views utilizing six side windows and yet another on top. Built in Italy by Thales Alenia Space, the $27 million domed lookout is expected to provide unprecedented 360-degree views of Earth, outer space and the space station itself, will be unlocked during the mission's third and final spacewalk Tuesday night by STS-130 Endeavour astronauts and cranked open Wednesday or Thursday for the first time providing the current 5-member station crew of cosmonauts and astronauts and the visiting 7-shuttle astronauts with an astounding outlook.

With the space station construction now 98% complete, only four more space shuttles are scheduled in the flight manifest. The $1-billion+ Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer instrument is expected to attached to the space station during the upcoming summer flight of Endeavour on STS-134.

Italian Thales Alenia Space is also under contract with Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp. to build nine pressurized cargo vehicles for the U.S. company’s Cygnus program, the first to be launched aboard a Taurus 2 booster from Wallops Island, Va. in 2011 as part of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) effort NASA already has underway.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ukrainian Rocket Engineers to Assist Taurus 2

Several Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine-based rocket scientists-engineers will be taking-up residence in-and-around the Eastern Shore of Virginia this year to assist Orbital Sciences Corporation launch the first Taurus 2 booster to low earth orbit and subsequently several missions to the International Space Station providing cargo and re-supply.

The first-stage core tank design and design verification services will be provided by the Ukraine-based KB Yuzhnoye (Zenit-derived heritage) and Yuzhmash will be providing core tank production under contract with Orbital Sciences Corporation. The Ukraine space launch firms have a strong aerospace development backgrounds.

The plan for medium class commercial space launch booster Taurus 2 is to use two of the Aerojet AJ26-62 rocket engines, originally designed by Samara, Russia-based Kuznetsov, and derived from the NK-33 engine developed by the former Soviet Union for the ill-fated N-1 moon rocket of the 1960s and 1970s. The engines will be tested soon at NASA Stennis Space Center.

Roving 'Opportunity' on Mars

Friday, February 12, 2010

Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer Readied for ISS

The hunt for antimatter galaxies will be on this summer from the International Space Station when STS-134 Endeavour delievers the $1.5 billion cosmic ray detector called the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer--or AMS-02 (audio) to orbit now slated for July 29, 2010.

In the meantime, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer needs to go through more testing and verification before its mission begins to search for unusual matter in the universe, such as cosmic rays, dark matter, and matter and antimatter. The testing will continue in Europe over the next several weeks prior to shipment to the Kennedy Space Center, Florida for the planned July launch.

The AMS will also analyze, during its space mission, how the universe began and evolved over its approximate 13.7 billion years of existence.

In addition to sensing distant galaxies made entirely of antimatter, the AMS will also test leading theories of dark matter, an invisible and mysterious substance that comprises 83 percent of the matter in the universe. And it will search for strangelets, a theoretical form of matter that's ultra-massive because it contains so-called strange quarks. Better understanding of strangelets will help scientists to study microquasars and tiny, primordial black holes as they evaporate, thus proving whether these small black holes even exist (French and German TV reports).

Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Should Become the 4th Human Orbital Spaceport

The United States space policy is shifting to change from government designed large and costly rockets to a multitude of cheaper and smaller commercial design rockets to achieve human transport to space in this decade. But where will all these newly designed FAA-approved orbital rockets be lofted to orbital space?

Today there are only three locations in the world that humans have been launched into space: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Kennedy Space Center/Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, USA, and Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, China. It is expected that India will add another in this decade. Perhaps the European Space Agency will add human launch capability at the Guiana Space Centre, Kourou, French Guiana too.

If the United States proceeds to privatize the nation's space program launching several commercial spacecraft vehicle types with humans aboard to low earth orbit, then it may be time for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, VA. to advance as a redundant human orbital spaceport. Wallops Island could provide a realistic expectation for the commercial launch industry to avoid many technical delays, inclement weather, and conflicting range priorities associated with Florida.

There are 26 spaceports in the world that have boosted satellites into orbit. Yet within the United States there is only Florida and Virginia with the inclination and capability to serve the International Space Station through 2020 and beyond. Virginia should fully engage the fledgling commercial and NASA crews to orbit opportunity.

The Pale Blue Dot Celebrated

This week marks the 20th anniversary of a photograph. It's a very dramatic photo, even though, at first glance, it's mostly dark and seems to show nothing at all. But if you look closely, you can see a tiny speck of light. That speck is the Earth, seen from very, very, very far away and taken by spacecraft Voyager 1 back in 1990. NPR story and audio help us celebrate. Thank you Carl Sagan.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Soyuz Monoply May Raise Seat Prices

Jeff Manber argues that the Russians can raise Soyuz seat prices for American NASA astronauts to orbit but the only way to curb such increases, says Manber, is to bring in the Chinese launch capability into partnership and for the United States build commercial rockets faster. NASA now pays the Russian space agency $51-million per Soyuz seat. More from AFP and The Washington Post.

Russian Nuclear Rocket Plan Underway

MORE from RT.

Saturn Aurorae Explored by Hubble

Derrick Pitts on Space Future

LIFTOFF for Solar Dynamics Observatory

Post with mission overview.

Falcon 9 Demo Launch Expected in Months

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has announced that all flight hardware for the debut launch of the Falcon 9 vehicle has arrived at the Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), in Cape Canaveral, Florida with the commercial space launch firm having now initiated full vehicle integration of the 154 feet tall, 12 feet diameter rocket, which will include a Dragon spacecraft qualification unit.

"We expect to launch in one to three months after completing full vehicle integration," said Brian Mosdell, Director of Florida Launch Operations for SpaceX. "Our primary objective is a successful first launch and we are taking whatever time necessary to work through the data to our satisfaction before moving forward."

Though designed from the beginning to transport crew, SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft will initially be used to transport cargo. Falcon 9 and Dragon were selected by NASA to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) once Shuttle retires. The $1.6B contract represents 12 flights for a minimum of 20 tons to and from the ISS with the first demonstration flights beginning in 2010.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

America's NASA Astronauts Savor the Moment

America's NASA astronauts aboard space shuttle Endeavour awoke the earth orbiting below and docked to the large International Space Station shimmering against the star-studded black canvass of space. Abruptly, Texas mission controllers filled the air with the music of Richard Strauss and in realization that the day is being spent for the first of three spacewalks. The shuttle and space station expedition crew will work over the next week adding to the course of ISS construction completion.

Only four missions remain to the orbiting national laboratory by the soon-to-be retired United States space transportation system [STS]. These are precious fleeting human times as the nation marks significant change to a NewSpaceEra - initially relaint upon Russian Soyuz taxi-flights and, in the near-term, a number of commercial boosters with human transport payloads.

Creative Budgeteer Boosts Va Spaceflight

Virginia State Senator William C. Wampler, Jr. (R-Bristol) has offered a state budget amendment to dedicate prospective sales and or corporate income tax revenues that may result from the sale of human spaceflights or commercial spaceflight training in the state to the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA) for operations and educational space flight simulation activities --- exact language of the 2010 amendment.

Space Adventures, Ltd., a Virginia-based entity, contracts spaceflight participate rides on Russian Soyuz boosters from time-to-time and a significant menu of other spaceflight training activities. Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corporation has been selected by NASA as one of several commercial launch operators that could in the future provide thrust capacity to loft a human-rated capsule from Wallops Island, Va.

If enacted, any revenue stream from the provision would be used to stimulate STEM education with ZeroG Corporation flights and to supplement the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport commercial launch operations in the future. Four public school teachers from Wampler's senatorial district flew on a ZeroG flight last year at Dulles, Va.

Wampler, a senior member of the Virginia Senate Finance Committee and a member of the Joint Senate-House Conference Committee, was the patron of the successful Virginia ZeroGravity-ZeroTax Act in 2008. The FAA-AST cited the ZeroGravity-ZeroTax law as one element of the favorable decision to locate the upcoming Taurus-II to ISS cargo launches in Virginia beginning in 2011 under provisions of a $1.9 billion federal NASA commercial launch contract.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Solar Dynamics Observatory Set for Launch

The Solar Dynamics Observatory is now on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Complex 41 atop of an Atlas-V booster set for liftoff (weather permitting). Launch coverage will be on NASA-TV; Mission Control blog from SpaceFlightNow. Watch for up-dates here when the mission mangers decide to launch again. Here comes the SUN!

Only Four More Shuttle Launches

Only four more launches from the Kennedy Space Center remain on the launch manifest as STS-130 closes for on-orbit docking with the International Space Station. STS-131 is up on the launch pad next set for Thursday, March 18, 2010. IF any reader is planning to see any of the final four, now is the time to start planning. The last mission, STS-133, should draw the largest crowd slated for September, 2010. The image above is from a contest for the space shuttle program commemorative patch.

Bolden Speaks at Johnson Space Center

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden speaks to the media at the Johnson Space Center about changes coming to NASA with the cancellation of the Constellation and Ares V programs.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Super Space Commercial

In reviewing the Super Bowl football TV commercials and the link referenced at Hobby Space about CSI space commercial as noted by Clark Lindsey, the above ad remains a popular favorite from 2009.

Top 50 Online Videos for Space Geeks

Suzanne Smith, the creator of the “Top 50 Online Videos for Space Geeks,” notes in a recent post, "Few things pique and nurture human imagination quite like outer space. The compelling desire to make known the unknown inspires propels extraordinary men and women to push the boundaries of science, physics, engineering, and technology to unlock the secrets of the universe and gain a broader understanding of the role mankind plays within it."

"Though '“top”' is, of course, a subjective term, these videos have plenty to offer those who look to the skies for philosophical and scientific inspiration. They pull from a very broad spectrum of subjects relating to the exploration and discovering the nuances of outer space as a means of showcasing the true diversity of ideas and theories and personalities involved," Smith says.

Shuttle Endeavour STS-130 Makes Orbit

BANANA RIVER VIP LAUNCH VIDEO: The 4:14 AM Monday countdown went smoothly at the Kennedy Space Center in Flordia for a pre-dawn launch of the space shuttle Endeavor STS-130 now on the way to orbit and to dock with the International Space Station later this week. SpaceFlightNow has live mission status updates throughout the mission. Linked is another unique launch video.

In the wake of the Washington space policy changes and on the second consecutive launch attempt, the launch team did an outstanding job as they passed primary to Mission Control of the Johnson Human Spaceflight Center in Texas as Endeavour climbed flawlessly through the night sky to orbit. The STS-130 is also carrying an Apollo 11 Moon rock to place at the ISS.

India's Chandrayaan-II Mission in Planning for 2013 Launch to Moon as Others Offer Help

NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) want to be part of Chandrayaan-II, the next Indian mission to Moon, by sending their instruments, ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan said today in India. The spacecraft will also carry a Russian-made lunar lander and sample return.

India will launch the Chandrayaan-II lunar orbiter in 2013 with a Russian-made lunar lander and robot rover. NASA and ESA are among "several candidates" who have evinced interest in Chandrayaan-2, Radhakrishnan said. Chandrayaan-I was launched to the Moon in 2008 and suffered a heat stroke in late 2009.

"There is discussion going on that...And there is a team which is discussing with various scientists...Scientific Advisory Board. You look at all the requirements and what experiments we need to do and what mass is available and what they would require and from Chandrayaan-I, what are all the things that you have to follow up.

Richard Garriott: Man on a Mission

Richard Garriott, a videogame developer, who once boarded Russia's Soyuz rocket for a space flight said that the Russian-made ship was 100x much more reliable than its foreign analogues as now being reported by Pravda the past week. Garriott holds an equity position in the Virginia-based Space Adventures and serves on the firm's board of directors.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

MarsDreamers to Premier in Swiss Theaters

"The Marsdreamers"- is a documentary by Swiss Filmmaker Richard Dindo about all those scientists, authors, architects, students, engineers, men and women who are convinced that the colonization of Mars would ensure humanity's survival and could contribute to better understand the origins of life on Earth. The unique film opens in Swiss theaters this month in Zurich and Genève for BLOG readers in Europe. [Hat tip to Cédric Sapey]

Saturday, February 06, 2010

NASA Administrator Bolden Meets with Press

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden met with the working space press this morning at the Kennedy Space Center where he promised a heavy-lift booster and the engagement of global commercial space launch market. General Bolden discussed the need to segment the Kennedy Vehicle Assembly Building to process multiple commercial space launch vehicles as a part of the post-shuttle retrofit.

Bolden took the blame for the political heat taken from Congress and the lack of preparing the NASA workforce for the presidential policy change to commercial space launch systems and the Ares-I and Ares-V Constellation program cancellation. Bolden said that he would discuss with Washington policymakers the need to build capability and advancing technology.

International involvement will be a new moniker for America's space program as is now being sought by President Obama, Bolden said. In a true international partnership when another country goes to the Moon, all partners win within the partnership, the space agency leader said. International partners will be placed on a "critical path" of efforts.

While no time tables for the road ahead, Bolden indicated that he would seek to achieve a heavy-lift launch capability between 2020 and 2030 after deciding what the destinations are going to be. Bolden said "Mars." The administrator said that NASA needs a 'game changing' propulsion system so humans can make the flight to Mars.

Bolden said he desired to speed the development and capability of companies like Orbital Sciences Corporation, SpaceX, and other companies. The administrator noted that he desires to see future human space flight originate from Florida. After shuttle the administrator noted that the Russian Soyuz will be his only immediate way to get Americans into space barring some breakthrough agreement with the Chinese.

"The operational concept for vehicles that NASA does not build and control must be worked out." especially as to how commercial space vehicles will be engaged by NASA," Bolden said. The insightful interview for viewing is highly recommended.

CBS News, The Houston Chronicle, CNN, EE Times, SpaceNews, Universe Today, Associated Content, and The Orlando Sentinel provide additional coverage of the press engagement with the NASA Administrator.

David Frost: The Future of Space Exploration

David Frost interviews Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, Soyuz-ISS Space Flight Participant Mark Shuttleworth and author Jerry De Groot about the future of international human spaceflight. The video was released by AlJazeera.

After the Space Shuttle: Commercial Space

The Travel Channel featured a program providing an overview of a segment of the fledgling commercial space sector that is growing. The President is now staking the future of the American space program on new commercial space thinking while veering away from government designs and managed hardware contracts. The special feature is now linked here in parts one, two, three, and four which features many of the key players in the NewSpace sector. The program is a little dated however.

Friday, February 05, 2010

'Super Shuttle' Ready to Launch Sunday AM

STS-130 countdown clock ticks away at the Kennedy Space Center. Be sure to set your launch clock for a 4:30 AM EST wake-up along with the coffee maker. Weather permitting, dress warm, go outside, and watch the climb to orbit! GO Cupola! There are only five remaining space shuttle launches in American space history.

Last Night Launch View on East Coast

People in the eastern United States will get a great opportunity, weather permitting, to see the space shuttle Endeavour launched into orbit on missions STS-130 early on Sunday morning (4:39 AM EST), Feb. 7. And it will also likely be the very last opportunity ever to see a space shuttle blast off at night, reports

Europa Moon Expert Slated for Space Show

Dr. Richard Greenberg is a man with a mission - a mission that goes into the ocean of a remote world in orbit around planet Jupiter at the moon Europa. With a "LIVE" interview with Dr. Greenberg set for Monday, Feburary 15, 2010 on The Space Show with Dr. David Livingston, listeners will be more than enlightened.

"What lies beneath Europa's icy crust?" Richard Greenberg has been pondering this question for 30-odd years. His recent book, Unmasking Europa, describes his view that Europa's hidden ocean and the life forms it may support are not that far below the surface. A professor in the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona, Greenberg was one of the first to formulate how tidal forces could shape the geology on Jovian moons.

Greenberg, a professor of planetary sciences at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, walks readers through the Europa photo gallery like a curator in an art museum. He interprets the meaning of these wonderful images and recounts how he and his colleagues came to see Europa's strange features as evidence that the outer crust is a thin layer of ice riding over a deep ocean. This is not the mainstream opinion, however. Space Show listeners will be enabled to call, chat, or e-Mail questions to one of the foremost Europa experts.

NASA and ESA decided to “prioritize” a mission to Jupiter now set to be launched in 2020 (for a 2026 arrival in the Jovian system). NASA will work on a spacecraft called the Jupiter-Europa mission and ESA will work on the Jupiter-Ganymede mission. Both probes will be launched at the same time to carry out this unprecedented planetary mission. Dr. Greenberg will update Space Show listeners on the latest developments.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Possibility for human spaceflight by 2014?

Sparks, Nev.-based Sierra Nevada Corp. was the big winner in NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) competition, receiving $20 million of the $50 million in economic stimulus money meant to seed development of commercial crew transportation services, reports SpaceNews.

A Sierra Nevada executive, however, told Space News late last year that the Sparks, Nevada-based company’s plan involves a runway-landing, lifting-body vehicle called Dream Chaser that the company has been working on for several years. The six-passenger vehicle is based on NASA’s HL-20 concept from the early 1990s.

A Paragon Space Development Corp. executive said last November that the company proposed a yearlong effort to build and demonstrate an air revitalization system that could be incorporated into any contemplated commercial space capsule, including a crewed variant of the Cygnus vehicle proposed by Dulles, Va.-based Orbital Sciences Corp.

So, the question becomes: Will the HL-20-like design come home to Virginia to launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island and land on a runway in Accomack County or splashdown in the nearby Atlantic in the next few years?

Hubble Space Telescope Images Far Pluto

Pluto, the would-be planet turned dwarf by astronomical politics, has been imaged by the NASA-ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The images raise new planetary science question raised in an article by Alan Boyle on Cosmic Log. Boyle has a recent book entitled: The Case for Pluto. The New Horizons spacecraft should arrive at Pluto in 2015 for further science investigation.

Avatar's James Cameron Endorses NewSpace

Noted writer and director of the super hit movie Avatar, James Cameron has endorsed the NASA's FY 2011 budget and the direction in a commentary entitled: "The right way forward on space exploration" in the Friday on-line edition of The Washington Post. On to the moon Pandora!

Back to the Future Past: STS-1

PART TWO OF VIDEO: As the countdown winds down on the one hundred and thirth launch of the space shuttle program and amid the immediate wake of the presidential decision to use commercial space launch for cargo and astronauts in 2015 or so, the forgoing video give us a look back at the first launch of the space shuttle with John Young and Robert Crippin in April 1981 and the many subsequent accomplishments of the system.

Asteroid P/2010 A2 Captured in Hubble Lens

What is this strange object? First discovered on ground based LINEAR images on January 6, 2010 the object appeared unusual enough to investigate further with the Hubble Space Telescope last week to see that P/2010 A2 is unlike any object ever seen before.

At first glance, the object appears to have the tail of a comet. Close inspection, however, shows a 140-meter nucleus offset from the tail center, very unusual structure near the nucleus, and no discernable gas in the tail. Knowing that the object orbits in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, a preliminary hypothesis that appears to explain all of the known clues is that P/2010 A2 is the debris left over from a recent collision between two small asteroids.

If true, the collision likely occurred at over 15,000 kilometers per hour -- five times the speed of a rifle bullet -- and liberated energy in excess of a nuclear bomb. Pressure from sunlight would then spread out the debris into a trailing tail. Future study of P/2010 A2 may better indicate the nature of the progenitor collision and may help humanity better understand the early years of our Solar System, when many similar collisions occurred.