Monthly Archive for August, 2008

Phoenix Digs Deeper As Third Month Nears End


25 August 2008

The next sample of Martian soil being grabbed for analysis is coming from a trench about three times deeper than any other trench NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander has dug.

On Tuesday, Aug. 26, the spacecraft will finish the 90 Martian days (or “sols”) originally planned as its primary mission and will continue into a mission extension through September, as announced by NASA in July. Phoenix landed on May 25.

“As we near what we originally expected to be the full length of the mission, we are all thrilled with how well the mission is going,” said Phoenix Project Manger Barry Goldstein of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

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Bigelow Habitats Progressing Toward Launch; Crew Transport Issue Remains Vexing


Bigelow Aerospace Advances Work on Full-scale Space Habitat
Space News

“Bigelow said he and his team plan to have two Sundancer modules flight-ready by the end of 2011, as well as a docking node and propulsion bus system. By the end of 2012, the firm plans to have its first full BA-300 standard vessel ready for flight as well. ‘That’s regardless of whatever happens transportation-wise,’ he added, referring to the company’s ongoing search for a suitable launcher to get its hardware into orbit…

“‘The crew transportation issue is certainly challenging, and it keeps me up at night more often than my infant son … and that’s saying something,’ said Mike Gold, director of Bigelow Aerospace’s Washington office. However, there is hope, he added.”

America & ISS: What to Do? What to Do?


With U.S.-Russian relations continuing to deteriorate over the conflict in Georgia and other issues, American officials seem to have finally woken up to the potential nightmare that the Russian government could cut off U.S. access to the International Space Station.

The Russian Soyuz vehicle would be the only way to access the station if NASA goes ahead with its plan to end shuttle flights in 2010. The shuttle’s successor, Orion, might not be available for 5 years. Complicating matters even further, NASA needs a waiver from Congress in order to purchase additional Soyuz flights. A 2000 law bars U.S. agencies from signing contracts with countries like Russia that are providing support to Iran.

Florida Senator Bill Nelson says that any waiver is dead for now. “In an election year, it was going to be very difficult to get that waiver to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to an increasingly aggressive Russia,” Nelson told AFP. “Now, I’d say it’s almost impossible.”

Vincent Sabathier, a human space exploration expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, noted that Russia suddenly reduced the flow of oil to the Czech Republic after that country signed an agreement to host an American missile defense tracking radar facility on its soil.

Continue reading ‘America & ISS: What to Do? What to Do?’

New Mexico Update: Otera Residents to Vote on Tax Levy in November


Spaceport tax question will appear on Otero County ballot
Alamogordo Daily News

“The Otero County Commission heard a presentation and some citizen discussion prior to adopting a resolution to place a County Spaceport Regional Gross Receipts tax on the November ballot Thursday night.

“If approved, tax collections in Otero County would be combined with those already approved for collection in Doña Ana and Sierra counties to help fund construction of a launch site for commercial space vehicles in southern Sierra County. Construction for the $198 million project is to be completed in late 2010.

NASA Hypersonic Test Rocket Destroyed After Launch


NASA Destroys Rocket Shortly After Launch at Wallops Island
Hampton Roads Virginia Pilot

“An experimental rocket carrying $17 million worth of NASA experiments was destroyed early Friday morning after it veered off course soon after launch from the Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore.

“Explosive charges on the nose of the rocket were detonated by NASA about 27 seconds after the 5:10 a.m. launch.”

NASA and ATK Investigate Failed Launch Of Hypersonic Experiment
NASA Press Release

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. — An Alliant Techsystems suborbital rocket carrying two NASA hypersonic experiments was destroyed by range safety officials shortly after liftoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia Friday. No injuries or property damage were reported.

Most debris from the rocket is thought to have fallen in the Atlantic Ocean. However, there are conflicting reports of debris being sighted on land. This debris could be hazardous. People who think they may have encountered rocket debris are advised not to touch it and to report it to the Wallops Emergency Operations Center at 757-824-1300.

NASA is very disappointed in this failure but has directed its focus on protecting public safety and conducting a routine confirmation of the effectiveness of its range safety operations. NASA has a response team in the field. Alliant Techsystems, also known as ATK, of Salt Lake City, is conducting the investigation of the rocket malfunction. NASA will consult with ATK and support the investigation.

FAA’s Nield: Space Tourism to Bloom in Next Five Years


MSNBC’s Alan Boyle has a Q&A with George Nield, the Federal Aviation Administration’s associate administrator for commercial space transportation.

“I think within the next three to five years we are going to see multiple companies carrying ticket-buying passengers up to the edge of space, so they can experience the blackness of the sky and see the curvature of the earth and experience the thrill of weightlessness. That’s going to mean hundreds of launches and thousands of people every year who are now going to be able to have that experience of going to space. That’s really going to change how we think about space….

“What that’s going to mean is, after the shuttle retires in 2010, and until we start seeing the human flights of Ares 1 and Orion in 2015 or so, the U.S. government is not going to have any vehicles that they own or operate that carry people into space. But it’s likely to be a very busy time for commercial human spaceflight, both suborbital and orbital. And that means it’s going to be a busy time for the FAA, because those flights are going to be licensed by our office. So we’re going to be right in the thick of that.”

SpaceDev Signs Rocket Motor Development Contract With Scaled Composites


via Marketwire
18 August 2008

POWAY, CA– SpaceDev, Inc. announced today that it has signed a multi-year contract with Scaled Composites to assist Scaled in the development of a production rocket motor for the first commercial space vehicle designed for space tourism called SpaceShipTwo.

The vehicle is being designed by Scaled for Virgin Galactic and is part of a complete space system that also includes the recently unveiled WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft. The WhiteKnightTwo aircraft will ferry SpaceShipTwo and thousands of private astronauts, science packages and payloads as the first stage of Virgin Galactic’s sub-orbital space experience.

“We are thrilled to once again be part of the Scaled Composites/Virgin Galactic team and to be able to assist the team on this historic aviation and space endeavor,” said Mark N. Sirangelo, Chairman and CEO of SpaceDev. “Burt Rutan, Doug Shane and the Scaled team have yet again created an outstanding design that will be the first commercial venture to open space to large numbers of the public.”

Continue reading ‘SpaceDev Signs Rocket Motor Development Contract With Scaled Composites’

Hypersonic Test Set to Blast off From Wallops on Friday


The next big thing in rocket power
The Virginian-Pilot

“A 5-in-1 experiment on hypersonic flight and rocket design is scheduled to launch early Friday from Wallops Island, carrying NASA and Navy payloads.

“The 10-minute flight, expected to reach 200 nautical miles in height, will end in the Atlantic Ocean. Information recorded during flight will last much longer, contributing to the development of jet-powered vehicles that can fly up to seven or eight times the speed of sound, or about 5,280 mph.”

Another Software Guy Goes into the Space Hardware Biz


Intel software-engineer-turned-rocket-designer Morris Jarvis is hoping to give tourists a ride into space beginning next year for only $30,000 apiece – much less than the $200,000 that Virgin Galactic will be charging its millionauts.

The 22-foot-long carbon fiber Hermes vehicle – set for launch from a high-altitude helium balloon – lacks only a few things to make it a reality. Such as a wind tunnel to test it in. And about $1.5 million to build a full prototype. However, six-time shuttle astronaut Story Musgrave said he was impressed with the design when he saw a mock-up on display during a recent Intel developer forum in San Francisco.

Jarvis has issued a press release with more information. There’s also a website.

Iran Still Grounded? Pentagon Says Rocket’s Second Stage Failed


Iran rocket launch failed, U.S. says
The San Diego Union-Tribune

“A day after Iran declared it had test fired a new rocket capable of launching a satellite, the country said yesterday that it was prepared to help other Muslim countries send up satellites. But by then, Pentagon and military officials in Washington were concluding that the Iranian launching had been a failure.”