PlanetSpace Adds Boeing to COTS Team

Press Release

PlanetSpace announced today it has added the Space Exploration division of The Boeing Company (NYSE: BA) to its existing teammates, Alliant Techsystems (NYSE: ATK) and Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE: LMT), on the proposed solution to NASA for the Commercial Resupply Services to the International Space Station.

The PlanetSpace ISS Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) team includes the following major members:

  • PlanetSpace is the overall prime contractor and manages the CRS contract.
  • ATK provides the Athena III launch vehicle and ground processing.
  • Lockheed Martin and Boeing will develop, produce and operate modular Orbital Transfer Vehicles (OTV) that serve as the cargo carriers to the International Space Station.


Spaceport America Institute Formed

23 October 2008

LAS CRUCES, NM – In recognition of the critical role that expanded personal and commercial access to space will play in the growth of the global economy and society, the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA), has announced its intent to create a non-profit organization, called the Spaceport America Institute (SAI).

The Spaceport America Institute will be the catalyst for developing a reservoir of educationally valuable content from narratives, videography, digital images, operational data, and online exchanges.  SAI will be a collaboration between Spaceport America and the educational community.  The combined resources, talent and technology will augment education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). 


Mystery Investor Funds Massive Russian Space Tourism Vehicle

Russia-InfoCentre has a brief update on Myasishchev Experimental Machine Building Plant’s planned 16-passenger suborbital tourism vehicle.

“Researchers plan to demonstrate ready and tested vehicle in 2011-2012. Russian experimental machine-building plant signed the contract with the Russian investor, who prefers to be anonymous. The contract provides funding for development of M-91 aviation and space system – six months of preliminary engineering and couple of years for all necessary tests.”


Officials Believe Problem with Soyuz Re-entries Solved

Why this space ride won’t be so rough
Russians resolve electrical problem with Soyuz craft, NASA official says

James Oberg

“Russian space officials say they solved the problem going forward by making modifications in the spacecraft, starting with the one that was launched this month and will remain attached to the space station until next spring. As for the Soyuz due to come back this week, the Russians say the problem was fixed when an explosive bolt was removed during an emergency spacewalk in July.

“Of course, all this assumes that the problem has been correctly identified. And there’s the rub.

“The supposedly faulty bolt assembly has not yet even been returned to Earth for disassembly and inspection. It will be coming home on the current return mission, and could provide the first real evidence that the theory behind the previous failures (and the justification for the workarounds and repairs) is correct.”

NASA’s Phoenix Lander Finishes Scooping Up Soil

This image, taken by the Surface Stereo Imager (SSI) of NASA’s Phoenix Lander, shows Martian soil piled on top of the spacecraft’s deck and some of its instruments.

21 October 2008

NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander has finished scooping soil samples to deliver to its onboard laboratories, and is now preparing to analyze samples already obtained. Scientists are anxious to analyze the samples as the power Phoenix generates continues to drop. The amount of sunlight is waning on Mars’ northern plains as late-summer turns to fall.

The spacecraft’s robotic arm is digging into the lower portion of the “Upper Cupboard” and “Stone Soup” areas of the Phoenix worksite. Its Surface Stereoscopic Imager is taking photos of this trenching so scientists can better map out the geology of the Red Planet’s ice table.


SpaceDev Acquired by Sierra Nevada (the Prime Systems Integrator, Not the Beer Co.)

SpaceDev agrees to be acquired
North County Times

Private space flight pioneer SpaceDev Inc. said Monday that it has agreed to be bought for $38 million, or 68 to 72 cents per share, by Sierra Nevada Corp., a privately held company based in Sparks, Nev.

The price represents a 42 percent to 50 percent premium to the average closing price of SpaceDev stock in the previous 30 trading days.

In over-the-counter trading Monday, SpaceDev shares closed at 42 cents, up 2 cents for the day. Announcement of the sale was made after markets closed.


Dust Devil Whirls Through Phoenix Lander Site


This series of images show Phoenix’s telltale instrument waving in the Martian wind. Documenting the telltale’s movement helps mission scientists and engineers determine what the wind is like on Mars.

On the day these images were taken, one of the images seemed to be “out-of-phase” with other images, possibly indicating a dust devil occurrence. Preliminary analysis of the images taken right before and after the passing of this possible dust devil indicates winds from the west at 7 meters per second. The image taken during the possible dust devil shows 11 meters per second wind from the south.


Musk Takes Over as Tesla CEO; Company Announces Layoffs

With the global economy in meltdown, SpaceX founder and CTO Elon Musk took over as CEO of his other major venture, Tesla Motors, and announced layoffs of at least 30 of the electric car company’s 250 employees. The San Jose Mercury News reports:

“Tesla Motors is putting its Model S sedan on hold, closing the Michigan facility that was working on some of the sedan’s engineering and laying off an unspecified number of people, the company confirmed Wednesday.

“Tesla told San Jose officials that it will focus on selling its Roadster and power trains, and that it still intends to build a plant and its headquarters in San Jose, although the schedule may slip a bit.


New Mexico Forms Spaceport America Tax District; Questions Raised on Otero County Benefits

Spaceport Board Authorizes District
Alamogordo Daily News

“A handful of people filled a room at the New Mexico Museum of Space History Thursday morning as the state’s spaceport authority officially formed a district able to collect taxes in Sierra and Doña Ana counties beginning Jan. 1.

“The New Mexico Spaceport Authority hopes to add Otero County to the regional spaceport district — and its tax rolls — when county voters cast ballots for the Nov. 4 election. A question on the ballot asks voters if the county should add a gross receipts tax of one-eighth of 1 percent for spaceport district operations for the next 10 years, with one fourth of collections earmarked for local education.”

What kind of ‘seat’ at the table will we get for our spaceport tax money?
Alamogordo Daily News
Nola Jones

“I wish I could support the exciting new venture of Spaceport America and secure a ‘seat at the table’ for Otero County and the attendant benefits to our schools and children. Unfortunately I have grave doubts about the ability of those advocating for the tax to deliver anything for Otero County.


India, China, Rocket Racing and Mortgage Defaults

The Space Review has a gaggle of interesting pieces about commercial space:

Taylor Dinerman warns the commercial space industry not to follow Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over a cliff.

John Jurist believes RLVs have a role as commercial suborbital sounding rockets.

Jeff Foust looks at the accomplishments of the Rocket Racing League, which has yet to actually race anything.

Dwayne Day examines the Indian and Chinese human spaceflight efforts to posit what the future might hold.

Claude Lafleur argues that the search for life, and worlds that can sustain it, is a worthy alternative to expensive human spaceflight programs that are difficult to sustain.

Cassini Discovers Massive Cyclones on Saturn


New images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft reveal a giant cyclone at Saturn’s north pole, and show that a similarly monstrous cyclone churning at Saturn’s south pole is powered by Earth-like storm patterns.

The new-found cyclone at Saturn’s north pole is only visible in the near-infrared wavelengths because the north pole is in winter, thus in darkness to visible-light cameras. At these wavelengths, about seven times greater than light seen by the human eye, the clouds deep inside Saturn’s atmosphere are seen in silhouette against the background glow of Saturn’s internal heat.


Binnie Promotes Dubai as Center for Space Tourism

Dubai Seen Ripe for Space Tourism

“Speaking at the [Orion] Congress, Brian Binnie, test pilot of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipOne (SS1), the prototype of what is poised to become the first commercial carrier for tourists in the orbit, said: ‘Dubai is perfectly positioned to be at the leading edge of this [space] industry.’”

Dubai Could be Take-off Point for Space Tourism

Khaleej Times

“The cradle of civilisation could form the backdrop to the future of tourism, space tourism, according to astronaut Brian Binnie, as he paints a picture of a potential flight route and the experience, based on his own as test pilot of SpaceShipOne, the prototype to commercial space travel, launched by Virgin Galactic.”

Is This What Life on Mars Looks Like?

Life on Earth’s Final Frontier
Alan Boyle
Cosmic Log

“A strange breed of bacteria that has been found living alone, nearly two miles underground, is just the kind of creature suited to survive far beneath the surface of Mars, scientists say.

“The rod-shaped microbe, dubbed Desulforudis audaxviator, can survive in complete darkness, without oxygen, in temperatures around 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius) – as long as it has a trickle of water flowing through radioactive rocks. It was found living under such conditions in a 1.75-mile-deep (2.8-kilometer-deep) gold mine in South Africa.”

Bold Traveler’s Journey Toward the Center of the Earth
Berkeley Lab Press Release

The first ecosystem ever found having only a single biological species has been discovered 2.8 kilometers (1.74 miles) beneath the surface of the earth in the Mponeng gold mine near Johannesburg, South Africa. There the rod-shaped bacterium Desulforudis audaxviator exists in complete isolation, total darkness, a lack of oxygen, and 60-degree-Celsius heat (140 degrees Fahrenheit).


Garriott Becomes World’s Sixth Space Tourist; World Asks: There Have Been Like Five Other Ones? When?

Former Astronaut’s Son Blasts Off Toward Space Station

“American space tourist Richard Garriott, the son of a former NASA astronaut, rocketed into orbit early Sunday aboard a Russian spacecraft alongside two professional spaceflyers to become the first second-generation American astronaut to launch toward the International Space Station.

“Garriott, a 47-year-old computer video game pioneer, blasted off from the Central Asian spaceport of Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:01 a.m. EDT (0701 GMT) aboard a Soyuz TMA-13 spacecraft ferrying new station crewmembers Michael Fincke and Yury Lonchakov to their orbital home. It was early afternoon at the launch site.”

Two New Teams Join Google X Prize; Analytical Graphics Named Preferred Partner


The X PRIZE Foundation today announced two new teams and a new Preferred Partner in the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a robotic race to the Moon to win a remarkable $30 million in prizes.

These two teams join the international group of teams that will compete to land a privately funded robotic craft on the Moon that is capable of roaming the lunar surface for at least 500 meters and sending video, images and data back to the Earth.