Orbital Receives Commercial Launch License for Taurus II

(OSC PR – Dulles, VA – 31 August 2011) — Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), one of the world’s leading space technology companies, today announced that it received a Commercial Space Transportation Launch License from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program demonstration mission in early 2012. An expanded license covering the test flight of the company’s Taurus® II rocket in late 2011 is expected to be granted in the near future.

To secure the license, Orbital was required to submit extensive technical and program management data to the FAA about its Taurus II rocket and Cygnus™ spacecraft to ensure that all necessary operational requirements and safety precautions are met. Among the many items reviewed by the FAA were the rocket’s planned trajectory, ground tracking procedures, onboard safety and flight termination systems, and the experience and training of the launch operations team.


Video: Griffin Says Obama Administration Wants to Kill Human Spaceflight

Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin blasts the Obama Administration’s space policy during a recent panel discussion in Huntsville.

This video, and Griffin’s op-ed today in Space News, erase all doubts as to his intentions: he wants his old job back. And this is the start of his unofficial campaign to reclaim the top spot at NASA. We can look forward to this right up through election day 2012. Fun times ahead!

Top Lobbyist Spends 19 Years at Orbital, Lasts 2 Months at SpaceX

Former Orbital Sciences Corporation lobbyist Mark Bitterman has resigned from his job at SpaceX after less than three months on the job, Space News reports.

And he quit because of….wait for it…“personal reasons — family obligations that require more time and attention than the demands of this job would allow,” SpaceX spokeswoman Kirstin Brost Grantham told the publication.


Russian Inquiry Board Clears Proton and Breeze-M for Flights

Roscosmos has cleared the Proton-M rocket and the Breeze-M upper stage for flight after an inquiry found that the recent loss of a communications satellite was caused by a programming error in the third stage’s guidance system.

“Following analysis of information, the commission has concluded that over formation of the mission profile for the Briz-M upper stage, the time interval of sub turning of the gyro-stabilised platform was cut unreasonably. This caused the incorrect orientation of the upper stage and, consequently, failed to bring the satellite to the designed orbit,” Roscosmos said in a press release.

The failure stranded the Express-AM4 satellite in a useless orbit. Controllers have been unable to contact the satellite, which was designed for digital television broadcasts.  Russia has suffered four launch failures in less than nine months.

“The rest of the booster worked without any problems,” Roscosmos said. “The result of the commission lifted the ban on the preparation of ‘Proton-M’ with RB ‘Breeze-M’ and prepare the necessary recommendations to be implemented before the next launches.”

SwRI to Provide Payload Flight Integration Services to Suborbital Companies

Boulder, Colo. — SwRI PR — Aug. 30, 2011 — Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has been selected to provide payload flight integration services as part of three suborbital flight provider contracts recently announced by NASA to Virgin Galactic, XCOR and Masten Space Systems. These contracts are an important step forward for the NASA Flight Opportunities Program, funded by NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist and managed by NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., and affirm the need for commercial space access for a range of research and educational applications.

“We’re excited for ourselves, for our flight provider partners and for NASA. These wins add to SwRI’s growing base of payload and payload specialist work and experience in the next generation of suborbital research being undertaken with reusable vehicles such as XCOR’s Lynx I, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip 2 and the bevy of vehicles Masten will be flying,” says Dr. Alan Stern, associate vice president of SwRI’s Space Science and Engineering Division, and the architect of SwRI’s next-generation suborbital programs using these and similar vehicles.


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Video: Mars500 Crew Makes Other Worldly Pizza

Our brave marsonauts may face the most monotonous phase of their mission, but they’re not bored because they are not boring! Have a look at their inventive cookery to celebrate their one full year in the isolation!

In early June the Mars500 crew celebrated their one full year inside the modules simulating an interplanetary spaceship. They are now flying virtually back to Earth and due to a delay in communications, introduced to make the simulation more real, some material reaches the outside world slowly. As they get nearer to Earth the communications delayed is reduced.

By September the ship will only be be only two months away from the Earth.

GLXP Competitor Blasts Master Team Agreement as “Unconscionable”

Long simmering controversies concerning the Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP) heated up today as one of the 28 teams competing for $30 million branded the competition’s rules as “oppressive” and “unconscionable” and accused the X Prize Foundation of tolerating a serious conflict of interest involving prominent trustee Naveen Jain, who leads one of the competitors.

“The facts of the matter are that the MTA [Master Team Agreement] is nothing more than a one-sided ‘legal framework’ to benefit the X PRIZE Foundation and Google while placing an unreasonable burden on the teams. The agreement is egregiously one-sided, overly burdensome, oppressive and unconscionable,” Team Mystical Moon wrote in a blog post.


The Space Show Schedule

This week on The Space Show With David Livingston….

SPECIAL TIME WEBINAR 7-9 PM PDT:  1.  Monday, August 29, 2011, 7-9 PM PDT:  This is a Space Show webinar panel continuing our human factors theme.  We will be looking at what it takes for life support for a deep space/Mars Mission.  Our panel consists of Dr. Vadim Rygalov of Space Studies at the University of North Dakota, Brian Enke of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, CO, and Dr. John Jurist, lifetime member of the Aerospace Medical Association. Adjunct Professors in Space Studies at UND.

This program will stream as usual on our audio streaming sites.  If you want to watch the webinar video stream, use www.ustream.tv/channel/the-space-show.  During the day on Monday, one or more of the panel members will upload presentation material to The Space Show blog.  As instructed by the respected panel member, you will want to refer to this material during the webinar.  Please do not post comments on the Presentation Material blog entry.  Save your comments for the actual archiving of the program on the blog.  Again, no comments please on the presentation material blog entry.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011, 7-8:30  PM PDT:  We welcome Matt Billie to the program.  Mr. Billie of Booz Allen Hamilton will discuss his paper from Small Sat, “Distant Horizons: Smallsat Evolution in the Mid-to Far-Term,” looking at the likely future for microsatellite technologies and applications.”  Matt is also  an invited panelist at the DARPA 100-Year Starship Symposium at the end of September.

Friday, September 2, 2011, 9:30-11 AM PDT:   We will not have a show today as Space Show equipment needs to be taken offline, repaired, and adjusted.  We have scheduled this repair day for this Friday.

Sunday, August 4, 2011,12-2 PM PDT:   We welcome back Space Show guest and friend, Dr. Jeff Bell from Hawaii.  Dr. Bell will share his shuttle retirement perspectives with us, though on space policy developments and budget issues, and much more.  Dr. Bell is always an interesting and often a controversial guest.  Don’t miss his program.

To Win Google Lunar X Prize, Astrobotic Technology Goes Big

While many of the competitors for the Google Lunar X Prize are building rather small vehicles to keep costs down, Astrobotic Technology has gone in the other direction in order to maximize revenues.

In addition to delivering a rover, Astrobotic’s lander can carry up to 110 kg of third-party payload to the lunar surface. At a cost of between $1.8 million to $2 million per kilogram, a fully sold out mission would earn Astrobotic around $200 million in revenues – more than enough to pay for the mission.


China Plans Early September Launch for Tiangong-1 Space Station

The Tiangong-1 space station with a Shenzhou spacecraft. Credit: CNSA

The People’s Daily reports:

According to an unnamed source in a position of authority in Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, the remarkable Chinese unmanned space module Tiangong 1 will be launched soon.

However, because the experimental orbiter SJ-11-04, which was launched last week, failed to enter Earth’s orbit, the launch of Tiangong 1 has been postponed until early September.


Frustrated Brazilian Space Research Director Stepping Down

The director of Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), Gilberto Câmara, has announced that he will step down from his post later this year, about two years before the end of his term.

“I left the space agency is due to the exhaustion caused by the daily struggle with legislation and institutional structures totally inadequate to institutions of S & T. Adding to the frustration at the lack of renewal of the staff by INPE,” Câmara said in a statement.

The newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo attributes Câmara’s decision to “differences with the leadership of the Brazilian space program and a break with the president of the AEB (Brazilian Space Agency), Marco Antonio Raupp” over the future of a joint rocket project with Ukraine and a proposed merger of AEB and INPE.


NASA: ISS Might Need to Be Temporarily Abandoned in November

Russia has until late November to determine a fix for the problem that caused a Soyuz rocket and Progress freighter to crash last week or the crew will have to temporarily abandon the International Space Station, a NASA official has told Spaceflight Now. The problem, ironically, involves not station operations but rather harsh winter weather at the Soyuz landing site in Kazakhstan.