April 2008

(Source: Peoria Journal-Star)
Caterpillar Inc. doesn’t plan to stop at being the No. 1 construction equipment maker in the world. It’s aiming for the universe, with NASA as its partner. Caterpillar and NASA are getting closer to having the right earthmoving – er, moonmoving – equipment available to put on the moon in less than a decade to build habitats, roads and other infrastructure that could sustain life on the lunar surface. NASA and Cat have been working on the “Chariot” project since 2006. Chariot is a “lunar truck” that uses Caterpillar’s robotics technology and NASA’s knowledge of the lunar surface. (4/27)

(Source: Emirates Business 24/7)
A 10-minute suborbital flight into space seems so last season. Now, for a cool $100 million you can go to the moon. Space Adventures is offering a two-week vacation to stay at the International Space Station (ISS) and in the future, even a six-day extension for a trip around the moon should you fancy. The Lunar Mission, which will be ready for take-off by 2012, comes at a steep price, but it will certainly guarantee your name in the history books.

Eric Anderson, President and CEO of Space Adventures, who was in Dubai for this week’s Global Travel and Tourism Summit, told Emirates Business: “There have been several unmanned missions to circumnavigate the moon since the 1970s but our Lunar Mission will be the first of its kind to take a private citizen on a tour around Earth’s natural satellite. While you will not actually walk on the surface…you will come within 100 miles (160.9km) of the lunar surface.”

The company has already commissioned a $265m spaceport in Ras Al Khaimah to fulfil the growing demand for suborbital flights in the region. But if it is the moon that fires up your adventurous soul, you will need to head to a launch site in Kazakhstan. (4/24)

(Source: NASA)
NASA has awarded SpaceX a Launch Services contract for the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 launch vehicles. NASA has awarded such Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts to multiple launch providers, allowing the companies to submit proposals if their vehicles meet the minimum contract requirements. The SpaceX contract allows NASA to order launch services through June 30, 2010, for launches to occur through December 2012. The potential total contract value is between $20,000 and $1 billion, depending on the number of missions awarded.

The contract seeks a launch capability for payloads weighing 551 pounds or heavier into a circular orbit of 124 miles at an orbital inclination of 28.5 degrees. Payloads would be launched to support three NASA mission directorates: Science, Space Operations and Exploration Systems. NASA’s Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center is responsible for program management. (4/22)

 (Source: Florida Today)
Congressman Tom Feeney participated on a recent roundtable talk about how to create policy on international space cooperation. He said the discussion drove home how crucial it will be for the United States to ease restrictions laid out in the International Traffic in Arms Regulations – or ITAR. Feeney said ITAR rules are among the biggest hurdles to cooperating with other countries on space science programs. (4/25)

 (Source: Spaceports Blog)
The Virginia General Assembly adopted a multi-million dollar public bond package known as the 21st Century Capital Improvement Program which includes new funding for the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority to make significant infrastructure upgrades to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. The spaceport bond package enjoyed strong bi-partisan support from Governor Tim Kaine and the Legislature. The funding measure comes on the heels of the Virginia ZeroGravity-ZeroTax in 2008 and the Space Flight Liability and Immunity Act in 2007. (4/25)

 (Source: SpaceToday.net)
A county in southern New Mexico overwhelmingly approved a sales tax increase Tuesday that will help fund the development of a commercial spaceport in the state. Voters in Sierra County, New Mexico approved a quarter-cent increase in the county’s sales tax by a two-to-one margin in a special election. The majority of the money from that tax will be used to help build Spaceport America, a commercial spaceport planned for southern New Mexico that will be used by space tourism firm Virgin Galactic and other companies. The approval of the tax allows the state to create a “tax district” along with a neighboring county that approved a similar tax last year, allowing tax revenues to be collected and channeled to the spaceport. (4/23)

 (Source: Sky & Telescope)
Google Inc. released a new version of Google Earth this week (Version 4.3 Beta) that, of course, has some new features. It will now display sunlight, so that you can see the dark and illuminated portions of the Earth, as well as make cool vistas when you turn on the 3-D buildings. But the most time-wasting aspect is that it now incorporates the Street View capability from Google Maps — and the images are more detailed. I can almost see in the windows of my house. On the Google Sky front, telescope-maker Celestron announced yesterday that they will be providing audio clips from their SkyScout Audio Tours. Currently, the audio clips are very brief identifications of constellations. (4/18)

 (Source: Space Review)
Can suborbital point-to-point rocket-powered vehicles be commercially viable? Not any time soon, according to several reports. It seems that FedEx did a study a few years ago that came out strongly against the idea. Virgin Galactic may look at this in the future, but they are concentrating their attention on getting SpaceShipTwo operational. Other suborbital RLV firms have talked about this as being one potential market for their vehicles, but nothing concrete has emerged so far. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1103/1 to view the article. (4/14)

(Source: Wyoming Tribune Eagle)
A former Atlas missile silo just south of Chugwater is now home to the company Frontier Aeronautics. The silo was the site of a rocket test Saturday that could help lead the way for personal rocket vehicles and transportation to and from the moon. The “Laramie Rose” looks a bit like a giant oxygen tank on a tripod. But, of course, there’s a lot more to it than that. In fact, it’s about 800 pounds of compressed nitrogen, fuel and machinery. Saturday’s tethered test flight of the Laramie Rose was meant to test the equipment that keeps the rocket flying upright.

“It’s like trying to balance a broomstick on your hand,” she said. “The rocket uses a large, ice-cream cone-shaped piece of equipment to balance it.” The cone, tip down, can sense when the rocket starts to lean one way or another. It then fires one of several nozzles that are situated around the top, which push the cone upright. The plan was to test the equipment, hardware and software that make the maneuver possible. It had all been successfully tested before, said Bob Steinke, president of SpeedUp, the company that hired Frontier Aeronautics for the project.

This time, Steinke said, they had an electric motor running that they didn’t have running the last time they tested it. That motor could have generated some noise in the hardware, which activated the abort system, Steinke said. The bottom line is that the Laramie Rose didn’t fly on Saturday. But that doesn’t mean it never will. The engineers will simply have to debug it, Steinke said. Frontier Aeronautics and SpeedUp are working toward the X Prize Foundation’s Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. (4/20)

(Source: Daily Mail)
Virgin Galactic boss Sir Richard Branson is planning to set yet another record – by becoming the first man to marry a couple in space. The 58-year-old billionaire intends to conduct a ceremony 70 miles above the Earth on the first Galactic sub-orbital flight next year. He has already officiated at one wedding in mid-air. A spokesman for Virgin Galactic said: “We have had two bookings involving marriage, one to get married in space and the other for the couple to have their honeymoon in space. (4/20)

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