Monthly Archive for November, 2010Page 3 of 17

X-34 Vehicles Might Be Made Available to Private Space Firms

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Absent their vertical tails, the two X-34 aircraft were convoyed from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center to the north gate of Edwards Air Force Base via Rosamond Boulevard Tuesday morning, and then overnight on Highway 58 to the Mojave Air and Spaceport Wednesday. (Credit: NASA Dryden/Tony Landis)

Wired looked a bit more into the X-34 story:

A Wednesday call to Orbital Sciences, the original manufacturers of the X-34, resulted in a brief conversation with a bemused company official. Barry Berneski, Orbital’s communications director, said he had read the X-34 news, but had heard nothing on the subject from inside the firm. “They might be just trying get it out of Edwards’ valuable real estate,” Berneski said of the 59-foot-long space planes, only one of which ever flew — and just once — before the program was canceled on cost grounds in 2001…

The idea to ship the X-34s to Mojave and inspect them originated with a Dryden-based NASA engineer, Brown said. “When he found out this thing still  existed … he decided people should take a look to see if it could be refurbished and made flightworthy.” That’s when the contractors came to retrieve the two neglected spacecraft, pictured above en route to the Mojave.

But that doesn’t mean NASA has formal plans to operate the X-34s under its own auspices, now or ever, Brown stressed. Provided they’re in flyable shape, it’s far more likely the space agency will make the X-34s available to private industry. “There are a number of firms interested in these things, developing communications and other technologies,” Brown said. “It would be helpful if they had a vehicle.”

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HLVs, EELVs and the Future of NASA

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Three items have appeared over the past week concerning NASA’s future plans for human space exploration and what type of heavy-lift vehicle it needs to go beyond low Earth orbit. Rand Simberg examines at the arguments in favor of an Apollo approach in the above animation and finds them wanting. (Thanks to Clark Lindsey over at Hobby Space for finding the video.)

The Wall Street Journal’s Andy Pasztor looks at a proposal by Lockheed Martin to launch an Orion vehicle into a highly elliptical orbit aboard a Delta IV Heavy, an approach that ascendant Republicans will find wanting:

Lockheed Martin Corp.’s development of a new astronaut capsule for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, seemingly sidetracked by White House opposition barely a few months ago, now appears to be gaining traction with a proposed unmanned test flight as early as 2013.

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CSA Awards Lunar Rover Prototype Contracts to MDA, Neptec Design Group

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CSA PRESS RELEASE
Nov. 25, 2010

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is awarding two contracts valued at $11.5 million each to MDA and Neptec Design Group of Ottawa. Each company will develop two fully functional terrestrial prototypes of a lunar rover that could one day be part of a future space exploration mission. The investment flows from the Government of Canada’s 2009 Economic Action Plan, and aims to accelerate the development of terrestrial prototypes and their associated technologies to prepare Canada to play a credible role in future international exploration opportunities.
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Soyuz Lands Safely to Wrap Up First Decade of Space Station Operations

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The Soyuz TMA-19 spacecraft with Expedition 25 Commander Doug Wheelock and Flight Engineers Shannon Walker and Fyodor Yurchikhin touches down near the town of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan on Friday, Nov. 26, 2010. Russian Cosmonaut Yurchikhin and NASA Astronauts Wheelock and Walker, are returning from six months onboard the International Space Station where they served as members of the Expedition 24 and 25 crews. Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

NASA MISSION UPDATE

Expedition 25 Commander Doug Wheelock and Flight Engineers Shannon Walker and Fyodor Yurchikhin safely landed their Soyuz spacecraft on the Kazakhstan steppe Thursday, wrapping up a five-month stay aboard the International Space Station.

Russian cosmonaut Yurchikhin, the Soyuz commander, was at the controls of the spacecraft as it undocked at 8:23 p.m. EST from the station’s Rassvet module. The trio landed at 11:46 p.m. (10:46 a.m. on Nov. 26 local time) at a site northeast of the town of Arkalyk.

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IAA Summit Declaration Focuses on HSF, Robotic Exploration, Climate Change and Disaster Management

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The heads of 30 space agencies met in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 17 to discuss joint policies and programs. (Credit: International Academy of Astronautics)

IAA Summit Declaration

IAA Introductory Remarks

On November 17, 2010, leaders of 30 space agencies from around the world gathered in Washington, D.C. for the International Academy of Astronautics’ (IAA) Heads of Space Agencies Summit. In preparation for the Summit, the IAA received inputs from Academicians, other experts and space agency representatives on the subject of enhancing global collaboration in the following four areas: human spaceflight, planetary robotic exploration, climate change and disaster management. Based upon these inputs the IAA sets forth below its findings and recommendations that were welcomed by the heads of space agencies.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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Wild turkey in the Marin Headlands of California. (Photo: Douglas Messier)

Wild turkeys in the Marin Headlands of California. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

The great turkey-deer staredown. Marin Headlands, California. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

New European Astronauts Receive Diplomas

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ESA's new astronauts received their awards after completing their Basic Training and were named officially as 'astronauts' in a ceremony held at the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne, Germany, on Monday 22 November 2010. On the photo (from left to right): Jean-Jacques Dordain (ESA's Director General), Thomas Pesquet, Luca Parmitano, Alexander Gerst, Samantha Cristoforetti, Simonetta Di Pippo (Director of Human Spaceflight), Andreas Mogensen, Timothy Peake and Michel Togini (Director of the European Astronaut Centre). Credits: ESA - S. Corvaja, 2010

ESA PRESS RELEASE
22 November 2010

ESA’s six latest astronaut candidates proudly received their diplomas today at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany. From now on, they are officially ‘astronauts’.

The new astronauts, smiling in their blue overalls, were in the spotlight at ESA’s training centre today. They were presented with their certificates signed by Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General, Simonetta Di Pippo, Director of Human Spaceflight, and Michel Togini, Head of the Astronaut Group.

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NASA Delays Discovery Launch Until at Least Dec. 17

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NASA MISSION UPDATE

NASA managers have targeted space shuttle Discovery’s launch for no earlier than Dec. 17. Shuttle managers determined more tests and analysis are needed before proceeding with the STS-133 mission. The launch status meeting planned for Monday, Nov. 29, has been postponed and will be rescheduled.

The Program Requirements Control Board reviewed on Wednesday repairs and engineering evaluations associated with cracks on two 21-foot-long, U-shaped aluminum brackets, called stringers, on the shuttle’s external tank. Managers decided the analysis and tests required to launch Discovery safely are not complete. The work will continue through next week.

The next status review by the PRCB will be Thursday, Dec. 2. If managers clear Discovery for launch on Dec. 17, the preferred time is about 8:51 p.m. EST.

Ad Astra Rocket Company Reaches Full Power Milestone for VASIMR VX-200 Engine

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photograph of Ad Astra scientists using a laser alignment rig with the VX-200. Credit: Ad Astra Rocket Company

VASIMR® VX-200 Meets Full Power Efficiency Milestone

Ad Astra Press Release

Houston, TX –- Nov. 23, 2010 — Ad Astra Rocket Company’s VASIMR® VX-200 rocket prototype demonstrated its highest power efficiency and performance so far in tests, which ended Friday November 19 at the company’s Houston laboratory. Last week’s results met the efficiency milestone set by the company as it specifies the requirements for the VF-200 flight engine for the International Space Station. The VX-200 is the full power laboratory prototype that provides the technical basis for the design of the flight hardware.

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Bigelow Pitches Space Station in Canada

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Bigelow's space station would have space to accommodate up to 12 people. (Photo: Douglas Messier)

Bigelow Aerospace was in Canada last week pitching its private space station to potential users:

A company representative was in Ottawa last weekend, delivering a keynote speech and lobbying officials at the annual summit of the Canadian Space Society. Mike Gold, a Bigelow director, called it his first attempt to reach out to the Canadian government and the space industry. He argued that the facility will offer countries a cheaper way into space within five years. In an email Tuesday, the CSA’s director of space exploration, Gilles Leclerc, said that the agency is not involved, “in any way,” in the Bigelow project. But Gold expresses optimism. “I don’t know how much I can say, but let me say if there wasn’t the interest in Canada, I wouldn’t be here,” he said.

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