Thursday, December 20, 2007

SpaceDev Flies Prototype Hybrid Rocket Lunar Lander

Project is first to demonstrate applied throttling capability

POWAY, CA – SpaceDev, Inc. announced today that it has concluded the first phase of development on its hybrid rocket powered lunar lander prototype, with a successful flight test. The effort was supported by the International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) led by Steve Durst, who envision using the technology to bring their ILO spacecraft to a soft landing on the South Pole of the Moon, where it will perform various astrophysics and communication functions.

During the flight test, the lander prototype vehicle’s four hybrid rocket motors were ignited and throttled via radio control, their thrust adjusted in real time to achieve lift-off, ascended to approximately 35 feet, hovered, descended, and landed softly. A video of the flight may be seen here - Lander Test Video.

This test marked the first ever of a hybrid rocket powered lander vehicle and demonstrated applied throttling, a key capability of SpaceDev’s reliable, safe, and non-toxic hybrid propulsion technology. “This is an exciting project that has shown not only the versatility of our hybrid motors, but also SpaceDev’s high levels of responsiveness and efficiency,” said Mark N. Sirangelo, SpaceDev’s Chairman and CEO. “We see many important applications for our throttleable rockets, and we look forward to continuing our relationship with ILOA as well as our research and development of lander vehicles.”

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Space Florida Signs Teaming Agreement with PlanetSpace

Kennedy Space Center, FL – Space Florida, the principal organization charged by the Florida Legislature with promoting and developing Florida’s aerospace industry, announced today it recently entered into a Teaming Agreement with PlanetSpace, offering support as they prepare and submit their proposal in response to the NASA COTS request for proposal. As Florida's aerospace economic development organization, Space Florida is uniquely positioned to utilize the expertise within the organization, and the powers available as defined within the Space Act. Space Florida's role is to guide and facilitate all organizations that seek assistance and actively engage in developing next generation space industry business in Florida.

"Space Florida has worked with PlanetSpace to facilitate their needs during the RFP proposal phase," stated Steve Kohler, President, Space Florida. "Through the Teaming Agreement we have established the parameters of support and development we can assist with for a planned future commercial launch site near Kennedy Space Center, if they win the bid."

Space Florida drives aerospace economic development in Florida and serves as a catalyst for space-related business development, education, spaceport operations, research and development, workforce development, and financing.

PlanetSpace, teaming with Lockheed Martin, ATK, and their financial advisor BMO, has submitted their proposal in response to NASA's COTS Phase 1 RFP to flight demonstrate cargo and crew delivery capability to the International Space Station (ISS).

"Kennedy Space Center is a natural choice for PlanetSpace as our team expands its capabilities to provide not only crew and cargo delivery to the (ISS), but a low cost reliable commercial space transportation system to Low Earth Orbit and beyond," said Dr Chirinjeev Kathuria, PlanetSpace Chairman.

PlanetSpace is moving ahead with plans to establish an orbital launch facility at Cape Canaveral, Florida, as well as the associated manufacturing, training, R&D, and integration facilities. PlanetSpace's proposed Florida economic activity could generate approximately 346 jobs annually with a cumulative economic impact to the State of Florida estimated to be $313 million. The launch, training, R&D and manufacturing facilities are to fulfill delivery of PlanetSpace's commercial launch business plan and will include any potential contractual effort under a Space Act Agreement with NASA for Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS).

BMO Capital Markets ("BMO") is engaged as PlanetSpace's financial advisor for any acquisitions of the company, as well as the placement of any debt and equity securities. PlanetSpace's consortium has also signed teaming agreements with United Launch Alliance, Wyle Laboratories, Paragon Space Systems, and MEHTA Engineering.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Chang'e-1 images moon's dark side

This undated photo shows a ray crater on the moon issued by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) on Dec. 11, 2007. The charge-coupled device (CCD) camera on Chang'e-1, China's first lunar orbiter, has started imaging probes on the dark side of the moon and captured photos of parts of this region, CNSA announced Tuesday.

(Xinhua Photo)
Photo Gallery>>>

BEIJING - The charge-coupled device (CCD) camera on Chang'e-1, China's first lunar orbiter, has started imaging probes on the dark side of the moon and captured photos of parts of this region, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced Tuesday.

The CNSA said that the orbiter is operating normally in terms of flying, probing, land control and communication, as well as data transmitting and processing.

The CNSA released the first picture of the moon captured by Chang'e-1 on Nov. 26, marking the full success of the lunar probe project.

Chang'e-1, named after a mythical Chinese goddess who, according to legend, flew to the moon, blasted off on a Long March 3A carrier rocket at 6:05 p.m. on Oct. 24 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the southwestern Sichuan Province.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

New Spaceport America Executive Director Named

Las Cruces, NM – The New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) Board has announced the hiring of Steven Landeene as the new Executive Director for Spaceport America, the nation’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport. Landeene will fill the position left vacant by Rick Homans. The announcement came from Kelly O’Donnell, Chair of the NMSA, who said that Landeene will assume his responsibilities on January 7, 2008, as the Spaceport continues to meet key development benchmarks.

“Steven Landeene’s credentials speak for themselves,” said Governor Bill Richardson. “His years of experience in engineering and business will be beneficial to marketing the aerospace industry and more importantly, to this critical stage for Spaceport America.”

Landeene has extensive experience in aerospace-related fields, including 20 years with Honeywell Aerospace and three years with Landmark Aviation. As the Director of Aftermarket Services Marketing, Sales and Support at Honeywell International, Inc., Landeene served as the global marketing and sales support leader for the company’s aftermarket services.

Most recently, Landeene served as the Director of Strategy and Planning for Sales & Marketing of Landmark Aviation out of Phoenix, Arizona. Landeene holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering from the University of Illinois and a Masters in Business Administration from Arizona State University.

Landeene’s selection comes following an intensive, months-long national search for a new Executive Director.

“I’m excited to be spearheading such a groundbreaking endeavor that will create increased commercial access to space,” said Landeene on news of his appointment.

As the Executive Director for Spaceport America, Landeene’s duties will include the oversight of all spaceport operations, staffing, planning and development. His role encompasses working as a liaison between government entities and managing the Spaceport’s public relations. In addition to serving as Executive Director of Spaceport America, Landeene will work closely with New Mexico State University, nurturing a unique educational partnership between Spaceport America and the New Mexico education system. Landeene’s first task as Executive Director will be to transition Spaceport America from planning to actualization.

Spaceport America, a landmark project, is poised to become one of the world's leading commercial spaceport centers to be completed in Sierra County, 45 miles northeast of Las Cruces. According to economic forecasts by NMSU and Futron, Spaceport America may spur up to 5,000 new jobs and up to $1 billion in new revenue in the state. Spaceport America is scheduled to open for business in mid 2010.

For images of Spaceport America go to:

(For additional information, contact David Wilson @ Wilson Binkley Advertising & Marketing - 575-524-8118)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Moon makes us extra special, scientists say

By Lucy Sherriff

Having a moon like ours makes us very special, cosmically speaking. This is according to proper scientists at the Universities of Arizona and Florida (as opposed to Mystic Meg), who've been searching the universe with the Spitzer space telescope for other planetary systems like ours.

The team has concluded that satellites created by an enormous collision (as the moon was) probably only turn up in between five to ten per cent of planetary systems.

"When a moon forms from a violent collision, dust should be blasted everywhere," said Nadya Gorlova of the University of Florida, lead author of a study published in the November 20 edition of the Astrophysical Journal. "If there were lots of moons forming, we would have seen dust around lots of stars - but we didn't."

The team went hunting among stars that are of a similar age to our own sun when the moon formed. After scanning 400 of these, they found only one system was immersed in dust. They then factored in the probable span of any "moon forming" period, and calculated that the best chance of a given solar system forming a moon like ours was between five and ten per cent.

Making planets produces large quantities of dust, since worlds are built up from huge collisions, like the one that formed our moon. For only one system in 400 to have any observable dust suggests that by the age of 30 million years, most systems have finished making their planets.
Younger star systems swirling in dust are likely in the process of forming their planets, Gorlova said. But the rarity of a system being dusty at 30 million years old actually reinforces the idea that something unusual has occurred. If all the other systems have made their planets and settled down, something else might be going on in the anomalous system.

The team also concedes that the dust they have observed doesn't indicate that a moon is actually forming. "We don't know that the collision we witnessed around the one star is definitely going to produce a moon, so moon-forming events could be much less frequent than our calculation suggests," said George Rieke of the University of Arizona, a co-author of the study.

Our moon is given credit for a lot: some suggest that the tides is caused have helped us (well, not us, but life more generally) emerge from the sea. Others have argued that the coincidence of its relative size matching that of the sun is vital to the development of science. they suggest that solar eclipses helped direct humanities attention to the skies, and kick-started our process of understanding the physical world we inhabit.

The essential Lucy Sherriff of The Register

Monday, October 1, 2007

Dr. Armstrong Shows How to Land on the Moon

Who Better than the Iceman?

Frederick A. Johnsen
NASA Public Affairs

The problem: land an aerospace vehicle before you take off in it, and do it the first time ever on an unimproved field no human has ever visited. That's what Neil Armstrong faced when he guided Eagle to the moon's surface in July 1969.

Image right: The first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, described the unorthodox training vehicle that taught him how to land on the lunar surface. Armstrong spoke to a packed hall during the Society of Experimental Test Pilots symposium in California September 29.

Armstrong brought an audience of 700 to the edge of their seats as he recounted his own precarious perch during testing of the lunar landing research vehicle (LLRV) intended to make that lunar landing possible. The Apollo 11 astronaut described the ungainly LLRV at the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP) symposium in Anaheim, Calif., September 29.

With no atmosphere and only one-sixth the Earth's gravity, the moon presented unique operational challenges to the design of the piloted American space vehicle intended to go there safely. Forward-thinking engineers from what is now NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in California proposed a training vehicle for astronauts that would simulate operating in a lunar environment. After rejecting existing helicopters and vertical takeoff jet aircraft, the best minds believed they could effectively subtract five-sixths of a lunar lander's weight on earth by using a gimbal-mounted jet engine thrusting straight down even as the lander pivoted and changed its own attitude for maneuvering.

This matched the audacious planning underway at NASA's Langley Research Center to send a multi-part vehicle into lunar orbit, from which a lander would separate, touch down on the moon, and later return to lunar orbit for a do-or-die link-up with its command module for the return to Earth. That thinking was considered ludicrous in some circles, Armstrong said, because prophetic Langley planners came up with the complex idea at a time when "the U.S. had not even put a man in orbit."

Several elements within NASA joined Bell Aerosystems in creating the lunar landing research vehicle that would give astronauts the touch for landing in the lunar environment. Unglamorously called a flying bedstead, the LLRV was dependent upon its single downward-thrusting jet engine to maintain the illusion of lunar flight while smaller motors allowed for maneuvering. On a hot day in the Mojave Desert, the gravity-canceling jet engine could be taxed beyond its capabilities. Flights with less fuel weight, or missions scheduled in cool morning hours, could restore the jet’s abilities, Armstrong explained. Several NASA research pilots demonstrated the LLRV worked, and opened the door for similar lunar landing training vehicles - LLTVs - used by NASA in Texas to train Apollo astronauts.

Nobody ever accused the LLRV or LLTV of being fun to fly, and Armstrong said a lunar deceleration to landing was akin to "trying to stop a downhill putt on a fast green." The LLTVs were able to take advantage of maturing Apollo design tenets, and had controls more closely replicating those of the actual lunar modules to follow, he said.

Neil Armstrong said before he made his historic descent to the surface of the moon, he flew every iteration of lunar landing device from early test helicopters to the final LLTV, "including the Weber ejection seat… not by choice." When he experienced a loss of control in LLRV No. 1 in Texas, quick action saved his life as he ejected about 200 feet above the ground.

Armstrong's presentation conjured images of the best traits of NASA - unfettered engineers creating unorthodox solutions to daunting problems, while masterful pilots and astronauts learned how to survive both the rigors of lunar training and actual lunar missions nearly four decades ago. He finished his remarks with the hope that NASA's next generation of lunar explorers can benefit from a simulator program at least as good as the LLRV and LLTV that taught him to land on the moon.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Space Race 2.0

By Fred White

Last week, Google and X PRIZE Foundation offered a multimillion-dollar prize to the first team to land a rover on the moon. Let’s not be shy. If you have the experience, and connections for launching expertise, systems guidance robotics, telecommunications and a source for funding, this is your big chance.

“The Google Lunar X PRIZE calls on entrepreneurs, engineers and visionaries from around the world to return us to the lunar surface and explore this environment for the benefit of all humanity,” Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation, said in a statement.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Google’s moonshot

Jeff Foust
Space Review

Even since SpaceShipOne captured the $10-million Ansari X Prize almost three years ago, many in the space community wondered what the X Prize Foundation would do as an encore. The success of the competition—not only in technical development of a vehicle that could meet the prize requirements but also the creation of a new industry that has garnered investment many times the value of the prize—generated a lot of interest in prizes as a means of incentivizing innovation. NASA created the Centennial Challenges prize program in response to the X Prize and has organized a number of competitions, from lunar lander analogues to astronaut gloves. Those prizes, though, have been smaller and lower profile than the original X Prize, and the overall program has had problems getting even a sliver of the overall NASA budget. At the other extreme, Robert Bigelow created the $50-million America’s Space Prize for a vehicle capable of carrying crews to his planned inflatable orbital habitats. However, the tight schedule—the prize expires January 10, 2010—and a strict prohibition on the use of government funding led Bigelow himself to conclude last year that it’s highly unlikely anyone will be able to claim that prize. (See “Bigelow Aerospace’s big day at the rodeo”, The Space Review, July 24, 2006.)

Read more perspective from The Space Review

Sunday, April 1, 2007

GoogleLunaPlex, The Ultimate Server Farm


From GoogleNews/LunarJobs, this morning, we learn of this latest job opportunity for top engineers now stumbling through adolesense in post-modern America.

As Captain Mark Time, David Ossman of the Firesign Theater, once said, "for families who like to sleep in tubes and push buttons! - Adventurers like you!"

In the R U 4 REAL? Category, we offer the following:

Google is interviewing candidates for engineering positions at our lunar hosting and research center, opening late in the spring of 2007. This unique opportunity is available only to highly-qualified individuals who are willing to relocate for an extended period of time, are in top physical condition and are capable of surviving with limited access to such modern conveniences as soy low-fat lattes, The Sopranos and a steady supply of oxygen.

The Google Copernicus Hosting Environment and Experiment in Search Engineering (G.C.H.E.E.S.E.) is a fully integrated research, development and technology facility at which Google will be conducting experiments in entropized information filtering, high-density high-delivery hosting (HiDeHiDeHo) and de-oxygenated cubicle dwelling. This center will provide a unique platform from which Google will leapfrog current terrestrial-based technologies and bring information access to new heights of utility.

Take off your shoes, for Industry!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Volcanic deposits may aid lunar outposts

Washington (UPI) Jan 23, 2007 A U.S. study of radar images of the moon suggests deposits from early lunar volcanoes might be useful to astronauts at lunar stations.

Bruce Campbell and associates at the National Air and Space Museum said ancient volcanic eruptions on the Moon produced deposits of fine-grained, often glass-rich, pyroclastic material. In some places, such as at the Aristarchus Plateau, the deposits can be up to nearly 100 feet thick.

Campbell said the pyroclastics are of interest as possible sources of materials for lunar outposts.

The scientists used longer wavelength radar images from Earth-based radio telescopes that penetrate the mantling layers to "see" underlying terrain and details of the geologic events, including the extent of lava flows that shaped the plateau.

When struck by relatively small meteorites, the lava flows are broken into rocks and mixed into the fine-grained layers above, the researchers said, noting such abundant rocks might complicate the use of the pyroclastics as a resource for future lunar explorers.

The new radar data can be used to identify thick, rock-poor areas of the pyroclastic deposits best suited for resource recovery.

The study is reported in the journal Geology.