November 2009 Archives
According to NASAWatch 9 December could see a big announcement from NASA administrator Charles Bolden so this blog is wildly guessing that that day will see the CCDev awards awarded - largely because Bolden has been so enthusiastic about commercial for so long
Following the revelation on Blue Origin's infrequently updated website that three science payloads have been selected to fly on the New Shepard rocket Hyperbola contacted two of the three principal investigators
Could they shed light on the plans of what must be the world's most secretive commercial launch programme? Nope
The University of Central Florida's Josh Colwell told Hyperbola: "I'm not at liberty to disclose the schedule milestones for the experiment."
He could tell Hyperbola that he'd be delivering the experiment to the Blue Origin launch site in Texas and interestingly mentioned that it would be an "early flight" for New Shepard - so when is its first?
While Purdue University professor Steven Collicott felt able to go a little further on timing saying, "I'll be delivering the experiment within a year"
Both said that their experiments would be recoverable and that they used on-board video so telemetry was not an issue
Collicott was particularly enthusiastic about the future of microgravity research using relatively cheap and frequent suborbital vehicle flights even if the 3min window New Shepard or Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo would deliver was less than half the 7min NASA's sounding rockets could provide
NASA told Hyperbola: "[T]he procurement you identified is related to the $1 million of Recovery Act funds allocated for human rating requirements development. The procurement is for only part of the $1 million, not all of it."
How much of the $1 million is being spent is not being disclosed but the synopsis showing that Wyle Integrated Science and Engineering is getting the human rating contract does says "The human system integration requirements developed under this task order shall be based on a review of existing Human Rating requirements".
Go through to the extended portion of this blog post to see the full procurement synopsis text
credit: Rick Newlands / caption: like SpaceShipOne and Two Black cab would have a feathering function
Carrying expendable second and third stages Black Cab would reach an apogee of about 250km (155miles) after coasting following main engine cut off, having released its payload once its indicated air speed had dropped to 40kt (74km/h). Black Cab would have been air launched at about 50,000ft (15,250m) but could make a parachute landing into the sea after a hypersonic glide re-entry at about Mach 6. Depending on its proximity to an air field the vehicle could also make an autonomous return
Newlands' British nanosat launcher presentation that includes data on Black Cab can be downloaded here. Designed for a presentation given at the 2009 UK Space Conference Newlands has since been contracted to undertake an analysis of expendable and reusable options for LauncherOne
The Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC) has produced this video about near Earth objects, asteroids or comets in other words, and planetary defence
According to SGAC: "First conceived at the 2008 Space Generation Congress, the intention of the documentary is to convey non-exaggerated facts about the dangers we face from space impacts. It also provides a way for students and young professionals to get involved with planetary defence by promoting the 'Future of Planetary Defence' conference which is planned to be held in Romania in 2011. This conference will precede the 2011 Planetary Defence Conference and will be designed to allow a platform for the younger attendees to openly discuss their opinions."
Hyperbola stresses the word former as it is clear that ESA's leadership does not share these views. The organisation has a policy on space tourism that could see ESA provide training, the agency has managed European Union studies about sub-orbital transport and the agency has even gone as far as helping prospective companies with their business plans and declaring that sub-orbit travel has a low (relatively speaking) carbon footprint. Former European astronauts like space tourism too
credit: NASA / caption: can it compete with Ares V lite?
The 8th Floor News says "Briefing included hardware and machining tools at [Michoud Assembly Facility] that are ready for excess. [External tank manufacturing] Hardware will not be removed until the Agency heavy lift vehicle direction is better understood."
Hyperbola understands that the hardware is now to stay until a notional date of March 2010 but that has no bearing on the actual decision timeframe that the Obama administration will follow
So much for Floridian Senator Bill Nelson's ideas about a late November Obama spaceflight vision announcement
credit: Geert Smet / caption: earlier US work has informed the European studies
Belgian company Verhaert Space is ESA's prime for the European work on this IBDM and at the CEAS 2009 European air and space conference in Manchester, Geert Smet University of Leuven graduate student spoke of his work that contributed to the ESA studies
His presentation revealed that the IBDM's origins is in the cancelled X-38 programme and that now the specification for the mechanism means it can dock or berth together vehicles as "small" as 5,000kg or as large as 80,000kg but the nominal spacecraft mass will be 21,500kg - enough for ESA's Automated Transfer Vehicle or the Orion crew exploration vehicle
The planned Chinese space station is to be 60,000kg in mass. Or is it that 80,000kg would nicely suit the modules for a nuclear powered Mars ship?
credit: Roscosmos / caption: MRM 2 was launched before MRM 1
Go here for NASA's picture of the Mini-Research Module (MRM) 2 "Poisk" module that docked with the Russian International Space Station segment Zvezda's zenith docking port on 12 November. In the photo you can only really see the propulsion module
According to the US space agency Poisk is a Russian word that can mean search, seek or explore while you can read about Poisk's arrival and the fact that it it delivered 750kg (1,650lb) of cargo here at the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) website
Go here for a picture of MRM 2 under construction. Roscosmos says of the Poisk, "Its original name was Docking Module 2 (Stykovochniy Otsek 2 (SO-2)), as it is almost identical to Pirs already on the station. It will be added to the zenith port of the Zvezda module, and will serve as an additional docking port for Soyuz and Progress spacecraft and as an airlock for spacewalks. Poisk will also provide extra space for scientific experiments, and provide power-supply outlets and data-transmission interfaces for two external scientific payloads to be developed by the Russian Academy of Sciences."
Poisk will be joined by MRM 1 in May 2010 when Space Shuttle Atlantis delivers it, a mission that was previously scheduled for April 2010 and using the Discovery orbiter. The arrival of MRM2 marks a new phase in Russia's contribution to the ISS
credit Flight / caption: Are we looking at the future shape of China's unmanned cargo resupply spacecraft?
This 1:10 scale model of China's manned space engineering programme's Tiangong spacelab docked to a Shenzhou spacecraft was exhibited at the 60th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Daejeon, Korea in October
While talking to Chinese space programme officials in Daejeon Hyperbola was told about the cargo spacecraft that will be developed from the Tiangong spacelab, of which three could fly over the next ten years. China will use them to test technologies for rendezvous and docking, life support and experiment equipment destined for the space station
See the cargo spacecraft design and in-orbit space station assembly pictures and video in the extended portion of this blog post
credit: Virgin Galactic / caption: why the straigth wing and v-tail?
This design for Virgin Galactic's mini satellite launching rocket LauncherOne was shown by the company's small satellite launch general manager Adam Baker at the 60th International Astronautical Congress in Daejeon, Korea in October. For a more colourful LauncherOne design click through to the extended portion of this blog post
This video shows Norman Augustine's remarks at the 22 October 2009 US human spaceflight review final report publication press conference
These few weeks since the US review of human space flight report (overseen by Norman Augustine above) was published have seen commercial's future at NASA just get brighter and brighter, what with a new advisory committee and some shiny comments made by the agency's administrator Charles Bolden - backed up by remarks from his officials on deep background apparently
One wonders how these advisory committees could inform the process for developing the new spaceflight vision that Bolden is charged with giving Obama, at a meeting before year's end or by February 2010 according to this report and this report?
Will these committees engage with the flexible path option that has been getting some good press of late? And what can really be done along that path? To date there has been near Earth objects and Lagrange orbit talk and then Moon and Mars gets a mention - but where is the money coming from for any of these destinations?
Its something to consider if flexible path really is the new way forward because its appearences in the media are not from off the cuff remarks. This report shows that internally NASA has been thinking a lot about what it wants to do, and it started long before it got the final Augustine report
On a scale of one to ten of "things that will never happen" this project has got to be an eleven. The value of this video above, posted on Tuesday on Youtube, is its apparent new spaceship sequence - this blog hasn't found any earlier videos
So enjoy the Galactic Suites fantasy space tourism and go here for more videos of the same
Here is Flightglobal's recent Chinese Moon programme story with pictures of the country's latest concept for its space station planned for 2020. Find other Flightglobal stories about China's space programme here and go here for past Hyperbola blog postings about the new super power's orbital endeavours