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space (spās) n. 1. space beyond the atmosphere of the earth.

prag·ma·tism (prgm-tzm) n. A way of approaching situations or solving problems that emphasizes practical applications and consequences.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Astro-nuts Get NASA JSC Awards

The 2007 NASA Honor Awards Ceremony at JSC is giving Lisa Nowak (yes her) and Marsha S. Ivins NASA medals. NASA Watch has some less than flattering stories of Ms Ivins.

Man Wins Trip to Space

Ian Anderson beat out 2500 other contestants to win a contest about the greatest invention in history by Audi and New Scientist magazine. His prize is a free trip about the XCOR Aerospace suborbital vehicle Xerus when it is ready to go in 2009.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Paul Spudis on NASA and the VSE

Paul Spudis gave his views, positive and negative, on NASA's implementation of President Bush's Vision for Space Exploration at the ISDC 2007. Here is a simplification:


  • RL-10 engine can use in-situ lunar propellant
  • Building an Outpost on the lunar south pole


  • Lack of Robot Probes
  • Lunar orbit rendezvous instead of an Earth-Moon L1
  • Ares

But the biggest complaint was that NASA's lack of a single complete mission.

Glenn Reynolds on the ISDC Conference

Glenn Reynolds has a post on the ISDC 2007 and the blogging panel (which I was invited to, but couldn't make sadly.) He was encouraged by all the investors that showed up. So am I.

Moon and Climate Change

The Moon can be used to monitor chimate change on the Earth.

China's Military Space Program

China has been very vocal about its growing space launch capabilities and manned space milestones. However, they have been silent about their military counterspace capabilities. Some members of the pentagon say China has a "robust, multidimensional counterspace program." After January's ASAT test, one has to assume China is developing more technology to at least limit other countries access to space.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Too Much Cool Not Enough Can Do

According to venture capitalists new space company's are working too much on cool and not enough on can do. Tom Olsen, a partner in Exodus Consulting, says "There's too much reliance on the 'coolness factor"

More on Dream Chaser's New Design

Jim Benson has released more on the Dream Chaser's new design.

NASA Budget Problems

Congressman Nick Lampson of Texas' 22nd Congressional District that represents NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas thinks NASA is not getting the monetary support they need to implement the VSE.

Apparently Congress is working to give them more money ($20 & $48 million).

236 Extrasolar Planets and Counting

For those of you keeping score, there are 28 new extrasolar planets bringing the total to 236.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

NASA is Looking for Private Partners

NASA is looking for private company's to develop technology necessary for living on the Moon. Neil Woodward, acting director of NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, speaking at the ISDC in Dallas.

He did make this earth-shattering statement:

If we could be in a commercial relationship with somebody who has the capability that's fine because in many cases they can do it for less money than we can," he told Reuters on the sidelines of a space development conference in Dallas.

Gosh, you think?

Benson to do Redesign of Dream Chaser

As a result of a five month-long study by SpaceDev, Benson Space Company (BSC) has chosen to pursue a fresh approach in the design of its Dream Chaser spaceship, it was announced today by BSC Chairman and President Jim Benson.

Rather than using the orbital NASA HL-20 vehicle as a model, BSC will base its suborbital spaceship on an amalgam of the NASA and Air Force X-2, X-15 and T-38 vehicles. While the new design is safer and more aerodynamic, explains Benson, it will also be easier and faster to construct, allowing BSC to remain on-schedule to make its initial commercial spaceflights in 2009 -- aiming to provide the first, safest and best astronaut-making spaceflights for the emerging space tourism market.

"The mandate of our initial five-month Phase I study, which began in November, was a design review to ensure that we had the very best spaceship possible. During the past two months a small, highly experienced team has taken a fresh look and concluded that we can do better," says Benson. "To that end, the new spaceship will incorporate the best elements selected from other successful vehicles. This will result in a spaceship that provides a better ride and even more spectacular views, and at this early stage we will lose little time in bringing it to the commercial market."

The new Dream Chaser spaceship design is lighter and sleeker, resulting in less drag and requiring less propulsion than the earlier design. The vehicle, powered by safe hybrid rocket motors, will launch vertically and glide to a landing at the launch site. A safer carefree reentry, after achieving an altitude of at least 65 miles, will subject passengers to minimal G-forces, compared to other designs. It will also have many large, well-placed windows for ideal passenger views of the Earth and space.

About Benson Space Company

Established in September 2006, Benson Space Company (BSC) seeks to provide the first, safest and lowest cost astronaut-making spaceflights for the emerging personal spaceflight market. BSC is led by Jim Benson, founder of Compusearch and founder and former chairman and CEO of SpaceDev, which developed the world's only hybrid rocket motors used for human spaceflight. Under Benson's guidance for nearly a decade, SpaceDev designed and produced an innovative satellite for NASA and the hybrid rocket motor technology for Paul Allen's SpaceShipOne, the vehicle that won the $10 million Ansari X Prize in 2004. BSC is currently developing Dream Chaser spaceships, based on proven designs, which will allow BSC to offer the world's first, commercial, suborbital spaceflights. For more information visit

US Military creates Operationally Responsive Space Office in New Mexico

The United States military has opened a new office for Operationally Responsive Space at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. Col Kevin McLaughlin is the director.

The mission of the new office is to develop, test and more rapidly deploy satellites if existing, bigger satellites were attacked or damaged in natural disasters. “There’s a realisation that some of these (satellite) assets are vulnerable,” said Col Kevin McLaughlin. The ORS Office here will be focused on smaller satellites, smaller boosters and getting those capabilities into the hands of the warfighter.

Here is the release from Kirtland Air Force Base.

Interview with Charles Simonyi

The 5th Space Tourist Charles Simonyi, is interviewed in Fortune magazine.

Space Theme Parks

Alan Boyle has a thoughts on space themed amusement parks.

Alex Tai Says Space Tourism can Survive an Accident

Virgin Galactic President Alex Tai says that the new emerging space tourism industry can survive an accident. He was speaking at the ISDC in Dallas this weekend. As long as passengers are warned of the risks that a privately operated rocket ship could crash, Tai says the industry will get past it.

Friday, May 25, 2007

SpaceDev Expanding in North Carolina

SpaceDev's Electro-Mechanical Components facility is moving to a 13,500 sq ft building in research triangle park. They are currently in Durham, NC. This new building gives SpaceDev a total of 150,000 sq ft of building space across the country.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Carnival of Space IV

The Carnival of Space IV is up.

Airborne to Create Parachute for SpaceX

SANTA ANA, Calif., May 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Airborne Systems, which hascombined the world's leading parachute brands specializing in aerialdelivery, rescue and survival equipment, and engineering services announcedthat its Space and Recovery Systems Engineering team (formerly IrvinAerospace) has been selected to provide Recovery Systems for SpaceExploration Technologies Corp.'s (SpaceX) Falcon 9/Dragon system.

These systems will support government and commercial launch operations and theNASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. The Airborne Systems team will design and manufacture parachutes andrelated equipment to recover both the First and Second Stages of the Falcon9 Rocket and the Dragon Capsule. The capsule will become a transportationvehicle to deliver cargo to and return equipment from NASA's InternationalSpace Station (ISS). In addition to carrying cargo, it is also beingdesigned to transport crew members to the ISS in the future.

"Our solution features a main parachute design from our family of largeRingsail products," said Tony Taylor, Technical Director, Space Market."The Ringsail was designed to handle the rigors of spacecraft recovery.Over the years, its unique design has proven its worth and is currentlyused on a number of spacecraft recovery programs including the parachutedevelopment on NASA's Orion Spacecraft. We are very proud to be selected towork with SpaceX as our entire team has been focused on developingparachute recovery systems for large spacecraft and manned spaceflight forover a decade," said Taylor.

"We worked with Airborne Systems on the Falcon 1 project and we arepleased to have them join the Falcon 9 and Dragon team as well," said ElonMusk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX.

About Airborne Systems

Airborne Systems has combined the core technologies of four of theworld's leading parachute brands; Irvin Aerospace, GQ Parachutes,Para-Flite and AML (Aircraft Materials, Ltd). The company is a world leaderin the design, development, and manufacture of best-of-class parachutes formilitary, personnel, and cargo systems, space and air vehicle recoverysystems, and deceleration systems for high-performance aircraft. Thecompany also provides ordnance flare chutes, airbags, and weapons deliverysystems. Airborne Systems' North American headquarters is located inPennsauken, NJ and Airborne Systems Europe is headquartered in Llangeinor,Wales in the U.K. Information about the various Airborne Systems productsand services can be found on the World Wide Web at

China is Creating an Asian Space Club

China is using it new found space chops to create a sort of "space club" in Asia and Africa. I just finished launching a Nigerian satellite (which it built and financed). Now it is partnered with Bangladesh, Indonesia, Iran, Mongolia, Pakistan, Peru and Thailand to develop an earth observation satellite system. An Asian space association is now in the works.

One has to wonder if China is trying to use it space power as an influence to create a kind of NATO in Southeast Asia and Africa. By bringing countries, rich in natural resources, into the information age with satellites, China is becoming leaders in that area of the world much like the US and parts of Europe are leaders in the west.

Only time will tell what this means for the rest of the world.

Space Tourism Roundup

Alan Boyle has a roundup of the current space tourism players.

Tech News World has a roundup up current private space projects.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

62 Mile Club

No, it isn't what you think (well it might be...)

To all Adventure Travelers, Space Enthusiasts, and Entrepreneurs,

We are pleased to announce the debut of the 62 Mile Club website. 62 Mile Club provides its members with insider access that will take them behind the velvet rope to the hottest and most exclusive new ticket of the millennium - the leading edge of space exploration and opportunities both on the ground and beyond the atmosphere.

Go to and take a look. Our Events Calendar feature is the place to find out what's going on in and around the commercial space industry and where you should be to get the insider access.

Or do you want to know who is connected to the industry and who could influence the industry? Check out Faces of Space.

Whether you are an adventure traveler looking to find out more information on space travel, an entrepreneur looking to invest in this exciting industry, or are hosting an innovative, forward thinking event 62 Mile Club will connect you.

62 Mile Club is developing and highlighting exclusive events to take you behind the velvet rope of this burgeoning industry. 62 Mile Club also points you to other innovative industries and events which inevitably will be connected to the commercial space business.

Join us as a member, participant and enthusiast and tell your friends about the 62 Mile Club.

Space...It's Closer Than You Think TM

62 Mile Club

Virtual Space Tourist

Clark at RLV and Space Transport News has a good ideal for virtual tourists on a suborbital flight.

Mars Dirt Points to Water

While exploring the great red planet, Spirit, that spunky little rover, knocked over some dirt that relaved a lot of (90%) silica. This is strong evidence added to that already found that Mars was once a wet planet.

Spirit and Oportunity are 3 years over their orginal 3 month mission. One or poor Spirit's wheels has stopped rolling. That is what caused this discovery, the dragging of one wheel across the ground.

Wire Space Issue

Wired magazine has a number of space articles out:

They also have a conversation with Shana Dale, deputy administrator of NASA

Good stuff.

Everybody Going to the Moon

It seems anybody who wants to be a superpower has a Lunar plan.

But where the hell does Australia get their space commentators? The following are the comments of Jim Nally, Austrialian space commentator:

"If you made a list of things that are most worthwhile, space would be nowhere near the top of the list," Nally said.

"But if that sounds like space missions are wasteful or non-urgent, there are a hell of a lot more wasteful and non-urgent things that we already do on Earth that we could can first."

'All hell 'it aint important or 'nothin but there is stupier stuff we could be doin.'

(Notice the mocking tone, that was on purpose. -djs)

SpaceDev Wins Phase III of MDA Contract

SpaceDev won Phase III of the Missile Defense Agency's micro-satellite program worth $4.4 million. Mark Sirangelo, SpaceDev`s chairman and CEO said "Our program anticipates having major components for the first of the series of micro-satellites fabricated and integrated by the end of September 2007."

ESA Creates a Stronger Space Policy

The European Space Agency has released a new space policy which seems to have a stronger interest in space utilization. The policy expands Europe's interest in space to areas of security and defence space programmes, the EU’s relationship with other countries, and growth in industry.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Gator Found in VAB Building

No it isn't a joke. An 8-ft alligator went in to the VAB high-bay and found its way to the bathroom.

Image from

Friday, May 18, 2007

Bigelow Releases New Videos

Bigelow Aerospace has released some new videos of the Genesis 1 module.

There is one over Florida and one over Northern Russia. There are also older videos if you haven't seem them of the Genesis 1 module and the Earth rotating

China to Launch Lunar Probe this Year

China says its first lunar probe, Chang’e-1, will be ready for launch the second half of 2007. Chinese scientists plan to make a 3-D map of the moon and research the distribution of lunar elements, lunar soil thickness and the moon's surface environment.

Enceladus May have a Liquid Ocean

A NASA Study of the plumes jetting out of Enceladus suggest it may have a liquid ocean under the ice. Enceladus is one of Saturn's moons.

Dark Matter?

NASA, led by Myung-kook James Jee, has found evidence of a ring of dark matter.

dark matter refers to hypothetical matter of unknown composition that does not emit or reflect enough electromagnetic radiation to be observed directly, but whose presence can be inferred from gravitational effects on visible matter. According to present observations of structures larger than galaxy-sized as well as Big Bang cosmology, dark matter accounts for the vast majority of mass in the observable universe.

Ring of Dark Matter

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Genesis II Launch Moved to Late June

This just from Bigelow Aerospace:

Las Vegas, NV 05/17/07 – Bigelow Aerospace has been informed by its launch provider ISC Kosmotras (“Kosmotras”) that additional testing of the Dnepr rocket and its ground equipment is being required by Russian authorities.

Due to last year’s Dnepr failure, these new and additional tests have been requested to identify any remaining issues with the system and enhance the overall chances of achieving our primary objective of mission success. Unfortunately, these procedures will create an additional four week delay. We now expect the launch of Genesis II to occur in late June.

Again, no one likes launch delays and we wish the situation were otherwise. However, we experienced similar delays on the Genesis I campaign and, of course, were quite pleased with the end result. Moreover, since Genesis II contains a variety of important mementos, photos, and other personal items as part of our pilot “Fly Your Stuff” program, both Kosmotras and Bigelow Aerospace are proceeding with great caution in order to safely and successfully deliver the spacecraft to orbit.

The path to space has never been and will never be simple or easy. However, whether it’s Genesis II or the ongoing work with our future spacecraft Galaxy and Sundancer, we at Bigelow Aerospace are dedicating ourselves to building the foundation for a brighter future, and we hope that all of you will continue to share in the adventure.

3rd Carnival of Space

Universe Today has continues the new tradition.

Space Solar Power

Al Globus has an article on solar power stations in space in the new Ad Astra.

China Releases their Five Year Plan for Space

The China plan sounds a lot like the US plan.

[A] plan that aims to give priority to manned spaceflight, lunar exploration, a new launch vehicle and high-resolution Earth observation.
Other aspects of the five-year plan are focused on the promotion of industrialization of space technologies, and the encouragement of non-governmental investment in the space sector.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Mayo Clinc to Test Space Tourist's Health

The World renowned Mayo Clinic, Arizona branch, has teamed with Wyle Life Sciences and the University of Texas to provide comprehensive testing and training for passengers, pilots and other commercial space travelers. More than two-thirds of nearly 500 people who have traveled to space have been trained by Wyle staff.

Interoperability in Space

I was down to my last 30 minutes of air. Why did I come out on this damn solo hike? I was 25 km from Goddard Colony but because of the damn crater ridge, my radio signal can’t get through. Admittedly, this entire hike wasn’t planned well. I have been sitting on this damn spot for almost an hour trying to get somebody on comms.

To bad we only have two satellites in orbit. Of course neither one is in range for another two hours. We don’t have the launch capability yet, and Earth doesn’t think a small localized colony needs satellites for intra-moon communications, they bastards.

Oh crap, my leg just went numb. That can’t be good. Maybe if I twist around this, wait! Is that a rover? I think it is one of the Chinese rovers. Thank God! Come on guys, pick up the phone. Wait, they turning around. Damn, they can’t hear me, there’s no air. Why don’t they pick up?

The Lord is my Shepard, I shall not want…
“In today’s top story, A young man was found dead 25 km from Goddard Colony at the foot of the largest crater. Apparently he had broken his leg and the crater broke “line-of-site” communications with the colony. According to officials he ran out of air this morning about 11:00 am GMT.

According to rescue workers, a Chinese mining crew passed near his position but due to non-standard comms formats, were unable to hear the distress call.

This latest tragedy has cause heated debate on both lunar communications satellites and standard radio formats across all lunar areas.

This is Debra Jones reporting.”

Interoperability on Earth is a problem. I know, it is why I have a job. The military needs divisions to be able to communicate at all times. Problem is, they don’t tend to think of it until after it’s needed (like during a war). Then it costs a fortune to retrofit and design comms equipment to translate for each group.

I believe the problem will be worse on the Moon if we don’t plan ahead. At least on the Earth we have air so we can shout at each other over short distances. The Moon has no such luxury. If you can’t talk over radio (or laser or whatever) you can’t talk.

The history of deep space communications is a tail of mission specific message formats:

  • Voyager 1 –X-band and S-band radio with a mission specific message format

  • Hubble uses the TDR Satellites to beam data down at Ka, Ku, or S-Band satellites, again with an mission specific format.

Most NASA spacecraft use X, Ka, Ku, or S-band radio and Reed-Solomon convolution encoding. The problem is, as I have seen in the past, they are developing the communications for the mission.

That may sound stupid, but think about it. If each mission has its own message format (even if it does use the same frequency and encoding) nobody can talk to each other.

You have to design an expandable message format the most everyone (tactically important comms aside) can use. We need to design a space TCP/IP that we can all develop spacecraft to fit. Not for a mission with a specific infrastructure, but with an expandable non-defined infrastructure.

There have been positive steps. The CCSDS has worked to create international communications standards. In fact, over 300 space missions have launched with CCSDS comm standards.

If new space is going to take off, we really need a way for a stranded SS3 to call a Bigelow station for help. Safety, reliability, trade, and development cost all beg for it.

Tvashtar Volcano on Io

Here is a five clip sequence of the Tvashtar volcano on Io.

Atlantis is Back on the Pad

Space Shuttle Atlantis is back on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center. It is still scheduled for a June 8 launch.

Clark Lindsey on Space Science

Clark Lindsey has some interesting thoughts on space science goals and funding.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

No Winner in the Regolith Challange

No one won the NASA's Regolith Excavation Challenge. None of the teams got the 250 lbs of regolith out of simulated Moon dirt in 30 minutes. One group, however, got 143 lbs. Maybe next year when the pot goes to $750,000.

China Launhes Nigerian Satellite

China has sold and launched a satellite for Nigeria. NIGCOMSAT-1 went up aboard a Long March 3B rocket yesterday, May 14, 2007. It is a communications satellite and China's first commercial sale and launch of a satellite.

Space Industry Asks for Money

The space industry is asking congress to give NASA more money for 2008.

SpaceDev First Quarter 2007 Earnings

SpaceDev reported its financial results for the three months ended March 31, 2007. It had revenue of over $9.0 million, net income of over $100,000 and EBITDA of over $640,000.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Astronaut Glove Challenge

NASA is holding the Astronaut Glove Challenge with six teams on May 2 and 3. Good luck everyone.

Book on ISS Flight

Charles Simonyi is planning to write a book about his flight aboard the ISS.

Are We a Rare Earth

Bethany Ehlmann, a graduate student in Planetary Science at Brown University, discusses what the discovery of Gliese 581 C could mean to the discussion of whether we are a rarity in the universe or not.