CASIS Issues RFI for Integration and Operations Support Services

Astronaut Shannon Walker activates an experiment aboard the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA

CASIS PR — KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL. (January 31, 2012) – The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS)—the nonprofit entity selected in 2011 by NASA to maximize utilization of the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory—released a Request for Information (RFI) today seeking information about potential implementation partners, service providers and organizations that can provide project integration and operations support for payloads.

As part of its mission, CASIS will facilitate the matching of laboratory users with commercial providers for the purpose of developing research payloads. The RFI, which closes on March 31, 2012, will allow CASIS to establish a database of providers that can support a wide variety of payload needs.


MARS Executive Director to Step Down

Billie Reed

A major leadership transition is occurring as Virginia begins to ramp up spending on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport:

The man leading Virginia’s charge into space is eyeing retirement, a management change that comes as the state prepares to invest millions of dollars to create the nation’s premiere spaceport.

Billie M. Reed has overseen nearly all aspects of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport since Virginia lawmakers decided to build the facility 17 years ago. Last month, he notified the Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Authority board of directors that he plans to step down as its executive director.

“It’s hard to say when. But let’s face it, I’m well past retirement,” said Reed, who is in his late 60s…

J. Jack Kennedy, a former state lawmaker who serves on the board, said in an email that he anticipates Reed will retire in late 2012. He expects the board will retain Reed as a consultant….

Kennedy, who credits Reed for the spaceport’s development, called him the “father of modern commercial space in Virginia.” His pending departure comes as the authority readies for significant growth.

Read the full story.

Alabama Students to Name Rocket City Space Pioneers’ Lunar Lander

Dynetics PR — Huntsville, Ala. (Jan. 31, 2012) – Today, on the 54th anniversary of the launching of the Explorer 1 satellite, the Rocket City Space Pioneers (RCSP) invited Alabama public school fourth graders to participate in their mission to the Moon.  RCSP, the Alabama Tourism Department and the Alabama Department of Education unveiled the details of a contest that will allow fourth graders to name RCSP’s Moon-bound lander.  The winning class will get a free trip to Space Camp®, and the teacher will receive a $500 gift card for classroom supplies.

The announcement was made at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center®’s Davidson Center, and the event featured a rocket engine firing and a display of hardware from Rocket City Space Pioneers team members.


Russia Blames Radiation for Loss of Phobos-Grunt Spacecraft

Phobos-Grunt in preparation. (Credit: Roscosmos)

Roscosmos says that radiation in low Earth orbit fried Phobos-Grunt’s computer, an explanation that not everyone is buying:

“The most likely reason, in the opinion of the commission, was the local impact of heavily charged space particles that led to a failure in the memory of the main onboard computer in the second stage of flight,” [Roscosmos Head Vladimir] Popovkin told Russian news agencies in Voronezh, a town 450 km (280 miles) south of Moscow.

A burst of space radiation caused the onboard computers to reboot and go into standby mode, he said.


NASA Announces Awards for 2012 Space Frontier Business Plan Competition

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. — NASA’s Ames Research Center, in conjunction with NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist’s Emerging Space Office, is continuing its support for the Space Frontier Foundation’s annual Business Plan Competition by funding this year’s awards totaling $110,000.

The Space Frontier Foundation Business Plan Competition will be held during a three-day event at NASA Ames in July 2012. The NASA supported Emerging Space Grand Prize will include an award of $100,000 for the best business plan with the potential to contribute to space development. NASA also is supporting a second prize of $10,000.

Scaled Composites Installing Engine in SpaceShipTwo

Michael Belfiore was in Mojave a couple of weeks ago for Popular Mechanics. His latest piece has updates on various projects that are not nicknamed Birdzilla:

The new ship has begun atmospheric test flights, launched into free fall from its WhiteKnightTwo mother ship at 50,000 feet. Both vehicles—SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo—were in various states of disassembly on my visit—the mother ship for its annual inspection and overhaul, the spaceship with its mid-section open to the ceiling, awaiting installation of its nitrous-oxide tank and solid-fuel rocket motor. Scaled is notoriously cagey about its test-flight schedule, but word is the spaceship could begin powered flights by the end of the year.

There are some updates on Masten and XCOR as well, nothing really new. But, check it out.

Alan Boyle, Dennis Wingo Drop by The Space Show

This week on The Space Show with David Livingston….

Monday, Jan. 30, 2011 2-3:30 PM PST, 5-6:30 PM EST, 4-5:30 PM CST: We welcome ALAN BOYLE back to the program. Alan is the author of Cosmic Log for

Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012, 7-8:30 PM PST, 10-11:30 PM EST, 9-10:30 PM CST: We welcome William Melberg to the program. Bill Mellberg is a former press representative and commercial market analyst for Fokker Aircraft. He is also a prolific aviation and space writer and the author of Famous Airliners and Moon Missions. We will be comparing commercial aviation and commercial space.

Friday, Feb. 3 , 2012, 9:30-11 AM PST, 12:30-2 PM EST, 11:30AM-1PM CST: We welcome back DENNIS WINGO for his space policy perspectives.

SPECIAL WEBINAR TIME: Sunday Webinar, Feb. 5, 20112, 1–3 PM PST, 3-5 CST PM, 4-6 PM EST. You can listen to this program as a regular audio only Space Show or watch it on our UStream Space Channel, Note that the audio will archive at the same time we are able to upload to the video to our Vimeo Space Show channel. Our guests are DR. BOB KRONE, DR. SHERRY BELL, AND DR. ROBERT FRANTZ regarding Kepler Space Institute ( and their upcoming and important event to be held at Hilton Head Island, SC.

Tea Party in Space Endorses Gingrich for President

Newt_Gingrich (Credit: Gage Skidmore)

TPIS PR — (Titusville FL) — Tea Party in Space (TPIS) is excited to endorse Newt Gingrich for President of the United States.  Mr. Gingrich is the only candidate who consistently articulates a bright vision for future American space exploration and settlement.  Mr. Gingrich’s unique approach of utilizing the government and private sector is exactly what NASA needs.

“Newt Gingrich is the only credible candidate in this primary race in Florida who has any credibility when it comes to America’s future in space,” said Andrew Gasser, President and National Coordinator for TPIS.  “Newt will not have to take a poll or rely on ‘advisors’ who have a history of poor history of delays and significant budget overruns.  Instead, he wants to return NASA to the beaming example of American exceptionalism that it once was.”


NSRC Deadline Approaches to Win Free Lynx Flight

XCOR PR — January 30, 2012 Mojave, CA: XCOR Aerospace and the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) announce the final week to register and become eligible to win a suborbital research flight on XCOR’s Lynx I vehicle at the Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference (NSRC-2012) in Palo Alto, CA on February 27-29. The deadline for early conference registration and for entering the drawing is the 10th of February at


Armadillo Aerospace Flies Third “STIG-A” Rocket from Spaceport America

STIG rocket. (Credit: Ben Brockert)

NMSA PR – Upham, NM –New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) officials announced today a launch of a “STIG-A” rocket designed and built by Armadillo Aerospace. The launch took place from Spaceport America’s vertical launch complex on Saturday, January 28, 2012. The research and development test flight was a non-public, unpublished event at the request of Armadillo Aerospace, as the company is testing proprietary advanced launch technologies.

Saturday’s Armadillo launch successfully lifted off at approximately 11:15 a.m. (MDT), which was within the dedicated, five-hour launch window, and preliminary data indicates the rocket reached its projected altitude of over 137,000 feet.

The STIG-A’s recovery system did not function properly after reaching its desired altitude however, the rocket was successfully retrieved after a hard landing within the predicted Spaceport America mission recover zone.


Russian Rockets Face Competition From Vega

Vega's upper composite, comprising LARES, ALMASat-1, seven CubeSats and the fairing, was transferred to the pad on 24 January and added to the vehicle at Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana. Credits: ESA - M. Pedoussaut, 2012

Space News reports that nine years of European effort coupled with a bout of inflation have produced a Vega rocket that can compete with Russian boosters for launching small payloads:

Europe’s Vega small-satellite launcher, whose inaugural flight is scheduled for mid-February, will be sold commercially for about 32 million euros ($42 million) per launch — a price that can compete with converted Russian ballistic missiles, Vega officials said Jan. 23.


Next Crew Launch to ISS Delayed By Soyuz Flaw

International Space Station

More quality control problems with Russia’s human spaceflight program.

A planned March 30 launch of a new three-man crew to the International Space Station could be delayed about a month due to an air leak discovered during vacuum testing of the crew’s Soyuz capsule, RIA Novosti reports.

The new crew of Gennady Padalka, Sergei Revin and Joseph Acaba was set to dock at the station on April 1. They would replace Anton Shkaplerov, Anatoly Ivanishin, and Dan Burbank, who were schedule to leave the station before the new crew’s arrival. The Padalka crew would join a three-member team launched in December and  return the station contingent to six members.

An official told RIA Novosti that Burbank’s crew would probably extend its mission. That team was launched in mid-November, meaning it has until mid-May before its Soyuz return vehicle reaches its six-month limit in space.

ESA’s Vega Launcher Ready to Go

Vega on the launch pad. (Credits: ESA - S. Corvaja, 2012)

ESA PR — ESA’s new Vega rocket is now fully assembled on its launch pad. Final preparations are in full swing for the rocket’s inaugural flight from Europe’s Spaceport. The launch window opens on 9 February.

The upper composite, comprising LARES, ALMASat-1, seven CubeSats, the payload adapter and the fairing, was moved to the pad late Monday night. A night transfer is the standard practice in Kourou to avoid overheating the payloads.


Video: Romney Talks Space and Says Nothing — Again

Mitt Romney talks at a rally in Brevard County in Florida. And for the third time this week, he says nothing substantive about space policy.

Apparently, Mitt Romneybot (a.k.a., #Mittbot) has been running for President for at least five years and has no idea what he wants to do in space yet. Nor can he describe in any detail what is wrong with the current administration’s policies.

But, he’s brought in a bunch of experts to figure it all out. And he’ll get back to us with the details. At some point. That should warm the hearts of laid off workers on the Space Coast looking for some clues as to what might happen next year.