August 1, 2014

Celestis Offers Rides for Pet Cremains (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Celestis announces the opportunity to honor your special animal companion with a final journey among the stars on board the world’s first pet memorial spaceflight service. Celestis Pets places a symbolic portion of cremated remains into Earth orbit, deep space, and onto the lunar surface. Missions that return the cremated remains to Earth are available as part of our Earth Rise service. Your best friend will venture into space as part of a real mission, riding alongside selected commercial and scientific satellites. Click here. (8/1)

Consensus on What? (Source: SPACErePORT)
The debate is raging again on our nation's space exploration goals. Should we return to the moon? Should we trek to Mars? Should we visit asteroids and other intermediate locations? Is the ISS a necessary element? Should we go alone or with international partners? Can we afford any of these things? In my view, there are some underlying questions that are not asked enough: Do we want another first-to-achieve race for national prestige, or do we want to a sustainable, long-term human presence beyond low Earth orbit?

The distinction is key. The Apollo program was intended to be the start of a sustainable human exploration program, but politics and budgets turned it primarily into a plant-the-flag contest to beat the USSR. Many politicians seem happy to continue this approach, with either a replay of Apollo's lunar program (this time to beat China), or a race to put bootprints on Mars. NASA, it seems, is more interesed in a sustainable effort to push our boundaries outward, one relatively affordable step at a time.

The agency's present asteroid program might be misguided or insufficiently ambitious, but it has a long-range focus on Mars and recognizes foreseeable budget limitations. What is missing from the raging debate is an attempt to reach consensus on our real goals, to determine what it really means to be the world leader in space exploration. Do we want to be first among competing nations, planting flags for national pride, or do we want to commit to a sustained presence on the moon, Mars, or somewhere inbetween? (8/1)

Vomiting, Anxiety, Blackouts. Are YouSure You Want to Go Into Space? (Source: WIRED)
"Rocket stability is still a pretty big deal," says Brian Binnie, five minutes after landing SpaceShip One in 2004. "How the vibration of that motor translates into the crew cabin, the effect on the ability to read the instruments, control the vehicle and the ergonomic effect on the passengers."

That last part is an acknowledgment of the bone-rattling, nerve-battering, adrenaline-pumping sensations that a violently shaking metal tube, breaking the sound barrier at Mach 1.4, will inflict on untrained civilians riding it into space. "If you are not used to the g-forces it can really mess with you," says Binnie, who has since left Virgin Galactic for XCOR. "There's this overwhelming power that sweeps through the cabin. Your senses get pegged out. You're looking for comfort or safety but you won't find any. All you can do is keep breathing." Click here. (7/29)

US Aerospace Firm Outlines New Zealand-Based Space Program (Source: Space Daily)
A U.S. aerospace company is aiming to make New Zealand one of the exclusive group of countries with a space program by promising a revolutionary new satellite-carrying rocket for a fraction of the current satellite launch costs. Rocket Lab has developed a lightweight carbon-composite rocket named Electron at its Auckland plant and hopes to offer small satellite launches for less than $5 million, compared with a current average price of $133 million.

The company, which has received research and development funding from the government, was being backed by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Khosla Ventures, Rocket Lab founder and New Zealander Peter Beck said in a statement. The lead-time for businesses to launch a satellite would be cut from years to just weeks and the company already had commercial commitments for 30 launches, said Beck.

Editor's Note: If Rocket Lab is a U.S. firm hoping to launch from New Zealand, are there any ITAR or Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) issues that might prevent launch operations outside the U.S.? (7/31)

NASA Announces Mars 2020 Rover Payloads (Source: NASA)
The next rover NASA will send to Mars in 2020 will carry seven carefully-selected instruments to conduct unprecedented science and exploration technology investigations on the Red Planet. NASA announced the selected Mars 2020 rover instruments, picked out of 58 proposals received in January from researchers and engineers worldwide.

Proposals received were twice the usual number submitted for instrument competitions in the recent past. This is an indicator of the extraordinary interest by the science community in the exploration of the Mars. The selected proposals have a total value of approximately $130 million for development of the instruments. Click here. (7/31)

Navy Days Event Features Orion Recovery Tests (Source: NASA)
A test version of NASA's new Orion spacecraft will be at the Port of Los Angeles on Wednesday, Aug. 6, following testing with the U.S. Navy. A combined NASA and Navy team is practicing recovering Orion from the ocean, as they will do in December following the spacecraft's first trip to space during Exploration Flight Test-1. After traveling 3,600 miles above Earth -- farther than any spacecraft built for humans has been in more than 40 years -- Orion will return at speeds near 20,000 mph for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean where a Navy ship will pick it up and return it to shore.

Following the recovery tests, which take place Aug. 1-4 off the coast of San Diego, the test version of Orion will be transported to Navy Days–Los Angeles. Editor's Note: I heard that the Navy recovery approach was being re-thought, after earlier tests showed it to be more difficult and dangerous than anticipated to bring Orion into the vessel, especially if the ocean is not completely calm during the recovery. (7/31)

Mock Mars Mission Tests Crew Cohesion (Source: U. of Hawaii)
They emerged from their habitat one after the other—and stood as a crew one last time. The five crew members felt the sun and breeze on their faces for the first time in four months. And they indulged in all the fresh food they could eat. The crew members spent 120 days in this dome-shaped habitat on Mauna Loa on the Big Island—8,200 feet above sea level—simulating a base on Mars.

“We were essentially strangers getting here. So when we were placed into the habitat in such a confined space you kind of learned everybody’s personality and their likes and dislikes,” said Anne Caraccio, crew member and chief engineer. “Luckily, this crew was outstanding in the fact that they were very hard workers. They all wanted to perform well on the mission and help each other out as a team.”

“We couldn’t escape from it, so you have to learn to adapt. You adjust your schedules to other people, you adjust the way you react to things” said HI-SEAS Commander Casey Stedman. “You learn about other people and you learn about compromise.” NASA has committed $1.2 million for three HI-SEAS missions. The focus of these missions is crew cohesion, where crew members examined their moods, relationships, cognitive skills and behavioral changes. (7/29)

Potential Deals with SpaceX Advance (Source: Valley Morning Star)
Cameron County Commissioners Court on Thursday voted to proceed on the terms and conditions discussed behind closed doors regarding incentives and an economic development agreement with SpaceX toward development of a spaceport at Boca Chica Beach. The court unanimously voted to proceed, following an executive session during Thursday’s regular meeting. Details of the proposed incentives and agreement could not be revealed at this time.

Commissioners Court Chief Legal Counsel Bruce Hodge told the Star during a short break that the agreements have not been finalized yet. This is among developments regarding Elon Musk’s proposal to develop the world’s first private and commercial vertical launch complex in Cameron County near Brownsville.

Already, SpaceX, through companies called Dogleg Park LLC and The Flats at Mars Crossing LLC, has purchased approximately 100 acres of land at Boca Chica. The Brownsville Economic Development Council (BEDC), which also has been assisting SpaceX in the endeavor, has been purchasing properties adjacent to SpaceX properties, too, the Star found. (7/31)

House Report Calls for Slowdown in NRO Satellite Orders (Source: Space News)
The U.S. National Reconnaissance Office is buying intelligence satellites at a faster rate than necessary and could save billions of dollars in the next decade by scaling back orders, according to a study released by the agency’s congressional overseers.

Following a broad, 18-month examination of intelligence community acquisition, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released a report recommending that the NRO consider purchasing some spy satellites on an as-needed basis. The House panel delivered the mostly classified report to the NRO July 31, and released a statement along with a brief unclassified summary of the report to media.

Primarily, the report said, the NRO is buying satellites at an accelerated pace because it believes it needs to provide stability to the industrial base, particularly component suppliers. But it is not clear whether that belief is grounded in reality, the report said. (7/31)

Strange Supernova Casts Doubt On Star Explosion Theories (Source: Huffington Post)
Light from a radioactive metal forged inside a supernova blast could prompt a rethink of how some star explosions occur. The supernova SN 2014J is located 11.4 million light-years from Earth in the galaxy M82. Astronomers used ESA's International Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory (INTEGRAL) spacecraft to view the star explosion's light spectrum in the gamma-ray bands and saw elements that shouldn't have been there — suggesting that widely accepted models of how such events happen might be incomplete. (8/1)

Eric Stallmer Named President of Spaceflight Federation (Source: CSF)
The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to announce that Eric Stallmer has been named as its next President. Stallmer will join CSF staff in September and will assume the position of President following the departure of Michael Lopez-Alegria. Stallmer comes to CSF from serving as Vice President of Government Relations at Analytical Graphics Inc. (AGI) in Washington, DC. (7/31)

NASA’s Asteroid Mission Takes a Beating (Source: Houston Chronicle)
NASA can’t afford to send humans to Mars. With its current plans to build a large rocket, the Space Launch System, NASA can’t even afford to go back to the moon. What NASA can afford to do, in about a decade, is bring a small asteroid to a location near the moon, and then send astronauts to fly in formation with the rock. This is known as the Asteroid Redirect Mission, or ARM.

There is little love for the ARM in Congress. “I don’t think there’s a clear consensus on a lot of things in Congress, but we all agree that pushing a rock around in space is a waste of taxpayer dollars that we don’t have to spare,” John Culberson, a Houston Republican, told me. On Wednesday, at two separate space policy meetings, the mission was also savaged. At one, a meeting to prioritize asteroid and other non-planetary targets in the solar system for NASA to explore, MIT planetary scientist Richard Binzel characterized the asteroid mission as a farce. (7/31)

Debris of Russian Progress M-23M Drowned in Pacific Ocean (Source: RIA Novosti)
The unburned in dense atmosphere debris of cargo spacecraft Progress M-23M, which was undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) on July 22, fell into the Pacific Ocean, a representative of the Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said. (8/1)

July 31, 2014

Europe's Last Cargo Freighter Blasts Off From Kourou (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
The last of Europe's automated cargo freighters blasted off from a South American spaceport Tuesday, soaring into orbit in pursuit of the International Space Station with 7.3 tons of fuel, food and supplies. Part refueling tanker and part cargo hauler, Europe's fifth Automated Transfer Vehicle launched aboard an Ariane 5 rocket on Tuesday from the Guiana Space Center. (7/29)

Russia Close to Sending Sustainable Mission to Mars (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia has come closer than other countries to launching sustainable long-term manned space missions, an expert said on Wednesday. “We expect positive results from experiments. Then we will be able to say whether or not we know how to provide for the vital life sustenance of cosmonauts during a long mission,” said Vladimir Uiba, head of the Federal Medical and Biological Agency.

He said man would fly to Mars and beyond in the future, but “without experiments like those we are doing on Foton [satellite] no one can say how to provide sufficient supply of oxygen, food and so on for such a long flight”. Uiba said no one in the world had such information, “neither the United States no China”. “We have come closer to the answer as our Fotons allow us to model life-support systems for people,” he said. (7/31)

Apollo Engineer Restores Moon Rover Trainer (Source: NBC)
That's one giant moon buggy for a retired Apollo veteran: Rutledge Alexander "Putty" Mills worked as chief of vehicles for Manned Lunar Expedition Studies in the Apollo program during the 1960s and 70s, and now he's restoring a lunar rover test vehicle at his home in Santa Ynez, California.

NASA paid $41 million for four moon rovers, three of which made it to the moon. Designed for lunar gravity, they'd be crushed if driven on Earth. Still, astronauts had to practice, so Mills made two training versions of the rovers for less than $2,000 each, using off-the-shelf parts. Using copies of the rover’s drawings, Mills hand-built his models to precisely the same dimensions, though they weighed twice as much as the flight-ready versions. (7/31)

Mercury's Magnetic Field Tells Scientists How its Interior is Different From Earth's (Source: UCLA)
Earth and Mercury are both rocky planets with iron cores, but Mercury's interior differs from Earth's in a way that explains why the planet has such a bizarre magnetic field, UCLA planetary physicists and colleagues report. Measurements from NASA's Messenger spacecraft have revealed that Mercury's magnetic field is approximately three times stronger at its northern hemisphere than its southern one. (7/30)

Jupiter’s Huge, Crazy Magnetic Field (Source: WIRED)
Jupiter’s magnetic field, whose intricate complexities make it extremely difficult to accurately mode, may look like the gas giant is vomiting up some enormous space worms. The visualization is actually capturing details of the gas giant’s magnetism with greater precision than ever before. Click here. (7/30)

When NASA Space Crews Play Make Believe (Source: New Scientist)
Even astronauts sometimes pretend they are in space. Over the past week, two simulated trips came to a close. One took place on a Hawaiian volcano, while another dove deep to an underwater habitat off Florida's coast. In both cases, the crew was tasked with a vital mission: to learn more about themselves. But there's more to it than that. Mock flights allow us to explore what an extended trip to Mars or beyond might look like. The duration of the flight and the crushing isolation will challenge astronauts in many ways.

Studies of missions on the International Space Station suggest that depression and anxiety are most likely to hit during the "third quarter" of a six-month mission, but it is unclear what this phenomenon might mean for longer trips. A trip to Mars would take about 18 months. In addition, living in such a small space with other crew members could cause and aggravate conflicts. (7/31)

Our Galaxy is Way Smaller Than Previous Estimates (Source: Space Daily)
The Milky Way is smaller than astronomers previously thought, according to new research. For the first time, scientists have been able to precisely measure the mass of the galaxy that contains our solar system.

Researchers have found that the Milky Way is approximately half the weight of a neighbouring galaxy - known as Andromeda - which has a similar structure to our own. The Milky Way and Andromeda are the two largest in a region of galaxies which astronomers call the Local Group. (7/31)

“America's First Space Taxi" (Source: Citizens in Space)
Boeing released this video to promote its CST-100 capsule, which the company is offering to support NASA's commercial crew program. Boeing plans to assemble and process the capsule (pre- and post-mission) at one of the former Space Shuttle processing facilities at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Click here. (7/31)

Exelis Wins Range Contract Extension (Source: DOD)
Exelis has been awarded a $21,536,294 cost-plus-award-fee contract modification to provide the Launch and Test Range System support functions to the Eastern Range and Western Range: range sustainment; external user support, projects and engineering services (Missile Defense Agency, Navy, NASA, etc.; systems engineering; and interim supply support spares for the sustainment period). The total cumulative face value of the contract is $1,772,689,908.

This modification extends the basic contract by a maximum period of performance of three months. Work will be performed at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and the work for this effort will be completed by Oct. 31, 2014. Fiscal 2014 operations and maintenance, other procurement, and research and development funds in the amount of $18,203,081 are being obligated at time of award. (7/31)

IndieGalactic Likely to Become an Annual Event (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The first IndieGalactic Space Jam, held at the Orlando Science Center over the weekend, drew more than 100 game developers and engineers from NASA, SpaceX and Titusville-based Rocket Crafters. Designed to connect the space industry with Orlando’s video game tech community, IndieGalactic accomplished that goal with flying colors. Kunal Patel, founder of the new event, said he’s already talking to space industry executives about coming again next year. (7/31)

NASA Selects 7 Instruments for Mars 2020 Rover (Source: Space News)
NASA has budgeted about $130 million for a seven-instrument science payload announced July 31 for the sample-caching Mars rover the agency plans to launch in 2020. The price tag does not include the cost of three of the selected instruments that will be provided, in full or in part, by France, Norway and Spain.

The Mars 2020 rover — which NASA Associate Administrator for Science John Grunsfeld said will cost about $1.9 billion to build and launch — will have three fewer science instruments than the Curiosity rover on which it is based. The science payload on Curiosity, which has been exploring Mars since its Aug. 6, 2012, landing, cost NASA just over $180 million. (7/31)

Test Flight is Giant Leap for Jacksonville Spaceport (Source: Jacksonville Times-Union)
The spaceport’s first tenant, Atlanta-based Generation Orbit Launch Services Inc., ran a test flight Wednesday in preparation for its first commercial launch near the end of 2016. For the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, the test was the result of many years of small steps that helped land the spaceport at its west Jacksonville airfield, a former Navy base with one of the longest runways on the East Coast.

JAA officials, hoping to tap into largely untested space tourism and cargo industries, worked for years to designate Cecil as a spaceport, which is now one of eight around the nation. Generation Orbit specializes in launching “micro” and “nano” satellites — small enough to hold in your hand — from a rocket attached to an airplane that takes off and lands on runways like passenger jets, a method called “horizontal launching.”

Nothing was sent into space Wednesday. A Learjet outfitted with a rocket held equipment that will help Generation Orbit collect data to prepare for its first commercial flights. NASA has bought the company’s first flight to launch three research satellites, a contract worth $2.1 million. (7/30)

First Space-Tweeting Astronaut Leaves NASA (Source: Federal Times)
stronaut Mike Massimino has left NASA for a position at Columbia University. Massimino, or @Astro_Mike to his more than 1.2 million Twitter followers, was the first astronaut to tweet from space. On May 19, 2009, while on a space-shuttle mission, he tweeted, “From orbit: We see 16 sunrises and sunsets in 24 hrs, each one spectacular as the sun lights up the atmosphere in a spectrum of colors.” (7/31)

Air Force Courts 14 Companies to Provide Military Satellite Space (Source: National Defense)
Fourteen private companies will compete for U.S. Air Force contracts to allow military payloads to be installed on commercial satellites. The move will allow the military to more quickly deploy its modules without having to build satellites. "The commercial partner only charges for the integration of the payload with the spacecraft and the marginal use of power, launch services and other resources," the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. (7/30)

Air Force Unveils 30-year Strategic Plan (Source: Defense News)
The Air Force has unveiled its 30-year plan in a 22-page document entitled "America's Air Force: A Call to the Future." Included in the strategy is a move to establish closer ties with industry and Congress, as well as more flexibility for airmen and acquisitions. "This call to the future is a road map to help guide our long-term planning efforts, and help us make smart money and policy choices," said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James. (7/30)

Future of NASA Human Spaceflight Dominates NAC Meeting (Source: Space Policy Online)
The NASA Advisory Council (NAC) met this afternoon (July 30) for the first part of a two-day meeting.  The members have not yet finalized any findings or recommendations, but it is clear there is a broad range of issues on their minds.  A clear consensus on what, if any, actionable recommendations to make to NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden had not emerged by the end of the day.  That’s tomorrow’s task.

The following is a quick roundup of what happened today.  We’ll have more on this meeting and on a separate meeting today of NASA’s Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG) in coming days.  A common topic in the two groups was NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), which generated controversy in both venues.

This list highlights only the issues at NAC, which is meeting at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA.  Several of the NAC committees met earlier in the week and the discussion tomorrow will include findings and recommendations from those interactions as well as the debate today among the full NAC, which consists of the committee chairs, six at-large members, and chairman Steve Squyres.  NASA Administrator Bolden was at the meeting for most of the afternoon. (7/30)

NASA Validates 'Impossible' Space Drive (Source: WIRED)
NASA is a major player in space science, so when a team from the agency this week presents evidence that "impossible" microwave thrusters seem to work, something strange is definitely going on. Either the results are completely wrong, or NASA has confirmed a major breakthrough in space propulsion. British scientist Roger Shawyer has been trying to interest people in his EmDrive for some years through his company SPR, claiming it converts electric power into thrust, without the need for any propellant by bouncing microwaves around in a closed container.

According to good scientific practice, an independent third party needed to replicate Shawyer's results. This happened last year when a Chinese team built its own EmDrive and confirmed that it produced 720 mN (about 72 grams) of thrust, enough for a practical satellite thruster. Such a thruster could be powered by solar electricity. The Chinese work attracted little attention; it seems that nobody in the West believed in it.

However, a US scientist, Guido Fetta, has built his own propellant-less microwave thruster, and managed to persuade NASA to test it out. The test results were presented on July 30 at the 50th Joint Propulsion Conference in Cleveland, Ohio. Astonishingly enough, they are positive. The NASA team gave its paper the title "Anomalous Thrust Production from an RF [radio frequency] Test Device Measured on a Low-Thrust Torsion Pendulum". Click here. (7/31)

ULA Prepares Second Launch Within One Week ... For Third Time in 2014 (Source: AmericaSpace)
With eight successful launches under its belt so far in 2014, ULA is set to attempt a ninth on Friday, 1 August, with the flight of an Atlas V booster from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Liftoff of the vehicle, which is flying in its “401” configuration—numerically designated to describe a 13-foot-diameter (4-meter) payload fairing, no strap-on rockets, and a single-engine Centaur upper stage—is scheduled to occur at 11:23 p.m. EDT, at the opening of an 18-minute “window.”

The Atlas will transport the seventh Global Positioning System (GPS) Block IIF satellite into a medium orbit, some 11,047 nautical miles (20,460 km) above Earth. Coming just four days after Monday’s successful launch of the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)-4 mission, a successful flight on Friday will mark the third occasion that ULA has accomplished two missions within the span of a single week in 2014. (7/31)

ATK Reports First Quarter FY15 Operating Results (Source: ATK)
ATK reported operating results for the first quarter of its Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15), which ended on June 29, 2014. ATK reported first quarter sales of $1.3 billion, up 18 percent from the prior-year quarter, due to higher sales in the Sporting Group (including acquisitions) and the Aerospace Group, partially offset by a decrease in the Defense Group. (7/31)

See Alien Worlds, Spaceship in New 'Interstellar' Movie Trailer (Source:
A new trailer for the movie "Interstellar" hit the Internet today, revealing more about the film's largely unknown plot. Earth appears to be in bad shape in the new movie from "Inception" director Christopher Nolan. "We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt," Cooper (played by Matthew McConaughey) says in voiceover at the beginning of the new "Interstellar" trailer. Click here. (7/31)

NASA Urged to Accelerate 3D Printing on Space Station (Source:
NASA must move quickly to research 3D printing aboard the International Space Station, which likely has just six to 10 years of operational life left, a new report urges.

While praising NASA's efforts and focus on in-space manufacturing — a 3D printeris scheduled to launch to the station next month, for example — the U.S. National Research Council (NRC) report stressed that the agency should organize its various centers to identify priority projects for use on the station. (7/30)

How the Moon Got Its Shape (Source: Science)
From here on Earth, the moon looks like a perfect orb. But new data gathered by spacecraft zipping around our celestial companion reveal that it’s actually squished and slightly elongated, with the thickest portions of its crust on the areas nearest and farthest from Earth. The reason for this less-than-perfect shape? For 200 million years after the moon formed, its crust was weak and the underlying rocks were molten, which made it easy for tides caused by the gravitational pull of Earth to distort it. (7/31)

NASA Selects Instruments to Track Climate Impact on Vegetation (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected proposals for two new instruments that will observe changes in global vegetation from the International Space Station. The sensors will give scientists new ways to see how forests and ecosystems are affected by changes in climate or land use change.

A laser-based system from the University of Maryland, College Park, will observe the structure of forest canopy. This instrument will be completed in 2019 and will not cost more than $94 million. A high-resolution multiple wavelength imaging spectrometer from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, will study the effectiveness of water use by vegetation. This instrument will be completed in 2018 and not cost more than $30 million. (7/30)

Weirdly Wonky Binary Star System Discovered (Source: Discovery)
There’s some weird things floating around in our galaxy, but this has to be one of the weirdest. A double star system with misaligned protoplanetary disks around 450 light-years from Earth has been discovered, potentially explaining why some exoplanet orbits can be wildly eccentric. Using data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, astronomers have gotten a detailed look into the binary star system HK Tauri.

The majority of stars form with a stellar buddy in tow, creating binary star systems, so that’s not the weird thing. On viewing the protoplanetary disks surrounding each star of the HK Tauri system, astronomers found, counter-intuitively, that their disks are out of alignment by 60 degrees. That’s the weird thing. Normally, when you have two stars evolved from the same proto-stellar nebula, any planet forming material that settles gravitationally into a protoplanetary disk around each star should fall into alignment. HK Tauri completely bucks this expectation. (7/31)

Inventions at NASA Glenn Named Among R&D 100 Awards (Source: SpaceRef)
Teams of researchers and scientists at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland were recently named as contributing to two of the top 100 technologically significant new products in 2013. The R&D 100 Awards have long been a benchmark of excellence for industry sectors as diverse as telecommunications, high-energy physics, manufacturing and biotechnology. The awards can be vital for gauging government agency's efforts at commercializing emerging technologies. (7/31)

Air Force Courts 14 Companies to Provide Military Satellite Space (Source: National Defense)
Fourteen private companies will compete for U.S. Air Force contracts to allow military payloads to be installed on commercial satellites. The move will allow the military to more quickly deploy its modules without having to build satellites. "The commercial partner only charges for the integration of the payload with the spacecraft and the marginal use of power, launch services and other resources," the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. (7/30)

Spaceflight Inc. To Offer Satellite Operations Service (Source: Space News)
Spaceflight Inc., which arranges and supports launches of microsatellites aboard various rockets, is getting into the small-satellite operations business, the company announced July 30. The Seattle-based firm, founded in 2010 by entrepreneur Jason Andrews, is setting up a new division called Spaceflight Networks, a provider of communications and data services for operators of small satellites.

Spaceflight appears to be targeting any number of startups seeking to leverage increasingly capable small-satellite constellations for a variety of commercial applications. Spaceflight Networks aims to create a global network of ground stations to provide fast and frequent satellite uplink and downlink services at what the company said are below market rates. “We have sighted each of our stations to minimize communications latency thereby maximizing constellation throughput,” Blake said. (7/30)

Launch Site Rises Up From the New Mexico Desert (Source: Air & Space)
In 2009, the state of New Mexico held the official ground-breaking ceremony for the world's first commercial space launch site, Spaceport America. Located about 20 miles from the city of Truth or Consequences, the spaceport is largely complete. Virgin Galactic will set up its headquarters there, eventually launching customers into suborbital flights aboard SpaceShipTwo. Other commercial space companies may follow. Click here. (7/30)

No Mars For Muslims? Mars One Asks Imams To Rescind Fatwa (Source: Popular Science)
Martian colonization is a risky proposition. So risky, in fact, that a group of Islamic leaders in the United Arab Emirates issued a religious ruling saying Muslims should not go to the Red Planet. The General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment (GAIAE) ruling compares a Mars mission to suicide, and says that those who attempt it can expect the same consequences in the afterlife.

In fact, GAIAE went so far as to claim that those seeking to escape God's judgment on Mars would be unable to do so, saying: "This is an absolutely baseless and unacceptable belief because not even an atom falls outside the purview of Allah, the Creator of everything." Private Mars colonization organization Mars One still thinks the journey is worth it. Today, they issued a response to GAIAE, citing the Quran and the specific example of Ibn Battuta, a 14th century explorer.

"And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colors: verily in that are Signs for those who know" (Quran 30: 22). The Muslim world has a rich tradition of exploration. The verse from the Quran above encourages Muslims to go out and see the signs of God’s creation in the ‘heavens and the earth’. The most influential example of this was the Moroccan Muslim traveler, Ibn Battuta, who from 1325 to 1355 traveled 73,000 miles, visiting the equivalent of 44 modern countries. (7/30)

Uwingu Welcomes IAU in Exoplanet Naming By Public (Source: Uwingu)
Uwingu, a company helping people personally connect with space exploration and astronomy in new ways, applauds the International Astronomical Union (IAU)’s recent move to open the naming of exoplanets (i.e., planets around other stars) as Uwingu did last year. “It’s been 18 months since Uwingu has been letting people nominate names for exoplanets. We’re glad the IAU is finally coming aboard too,” said Uwingu astronomer Dr. Henry Throop.

But Uwingu believes the IAU’s exoplanet naming process doesn’t goes far enough. “Thiir year-long process will name about 1% of the confirmed exoplanets,” continued Throop, “but there are thousands more exoplanets that remain nameless.” (7/30)

July 30, 2014

SpaceX Seeks Permits for Solar Farm, Tracking Center at Texas Spaceport (Source: Brownsville Herald)
SpaceX’s proposal to develop a launch site at BocaChicaBeach in CameronCounty took giant leaps forward with the submission to CameronCounty of applications for commercial building permits. On Monday, SpaceX’s Dogleg Park LLC submitted an application for a permit to install small solar panels off-grid in the vicinity of the proposed launch control center at the potential launch site. The contractor is SolarCity, a company chaired by Elon Musk.

And on Tuesday, Brownsville Economic Development Council Executive Vice-President Gilbert Salinas also submitted an application for a commercial permit in connection with the BEDC-SpaceX-University of Texas at Brownsville’s STARGATE project for construction of a 12,000 square feet tracking center. The contractor of the project is not noted in the permit application. The developments are the third critical and telling ones this month regarding the progress of SpaceX’s plans to develop the world’s first private, commercial vertical launch site in South Texas. (7/30)

Virgin Signals Spaceflight Planned This Year (Source: Albuquerque Business Journal)
For the first time, Virgin Galactic said it will take to the skies this year. Since Virgin Galactic started developing its SpaceShipTwo, the company has consistently said it will fly when it’s ready, and that it was not on any timeline. But, in a tweet on Tuesday, the company announced, “on the road to spaceflight later this year.” On Tuesday, the SpaceShipTwo took off from the Mojave Desert on its 51st test flight. (7/29)

FAA Proposes Changes to Risk Assessment for Launches, Reentries (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The FAA proposes to amend the collective risk limits for commercial launches and reentries. Under this proposal, the FAA would separate its expected-number-of-casualties (E c) limits for launches and reentries. For commercial launches, the FAA proposes to aggregate the E c posed by the following hazards: Impacting inert and explosive debris, toxic release, and far field blast overpressure.

The FAA proposes to limit the aggregate E c for these three hazards to 1 × 10 − 4. For commercial reentries, the FAA proposes to aggregate the E c posed by debris and toxic release, and set that E c under an aggregate limit of 1 × 10 − 4. Under the FAA’s proposal, the aggregate E c limit for both launch and reentry would be expressed using only one significant digit.

The FAA also proposes to clarify the regulatory requirements concerning hazard areas for ships and aircraft. The proposed rule would require a launch operator to establish a hazard area where the probability of impact does not exceed: 0.000001 (1 × 10 − 6) for an aircraft; and 0.00001 (1 × 10 − 5) for a water-borne-vessel. (7/29)

Satellite Study Reveals Parched U.S. West Using Up Underground Water (Source: SpaceRef)
A new study by NASA and University of California, Irvine, scientists finds more than 75 percent of the water loss in the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin since late 2004 came from underground resources. The extent of groundwater loss may pose a greater threat to the water supply of the western United States than previously thought.

This study is the first to quantify the amount that groundwater contributes to the water needs of western states. According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the federal water management agency, the basin has been suffering from prolonged, severe drought since 2000 and has experienced the driest 14-year period in the last hundred years. (7/29)

Glow in Space is Evidence of A Hot Bubble in Our Galaxy (Source: Space Daily)
When we look up to the heavens on a clear night, we see an immense dark sky with uncountable stars. With a small telescope we can also see galaxies, nebulae, and the disks of planets. If you look at the sky with an X-ray detector, you would see many of these same familiar objects; in addition, you would see the whole sky glowing brightly with X-rays. This glow is called the "diffuse X-ray background."

While, at higher energies, the diffuse emission is due to point sources too far away and faint to be seen individually, the origins of the soft X-ray glow have been controversial, even 50 years after it was first discovered. The long-standing debate centers around whether the soft X-ray emission comes from outside our solar system, from a hot bubble of gas called the local hot bubble, or whether the emission comes from within the solar system, due to the solar wind colliding with diffuse gas. (7/30)

What Happens to the Unprotected Human Body in Space? (Source: C/Net)
It's a recurring horror in sci-fi: the hull is pierced, a human is trapped without equipment in an airlock about to open, a door needs to be opened in order to expel something undesirable. With no air and almost zero pressure, the human body isn't going to last long without some form of protection. But what does happen, exactly? Do your eyes explode outward while your blood evaporates? Well, no. The truth is both less dramatic and far more fascinating. Click here. (7/27)

MEI Technologies Lands Air Force Hosted Payload Contract (Source: MEIT)
MEI Technologies has been awarded a contract under the Hosted Payload Solutions (HoPS) program, making the company eligible to compete under a $494.9 million indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract from the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) Contracting Directorate. (7/29)

World View Selects 3 Research Payloads (Source: Parabolic Arc)
World View Enterprises, the commercial spaceflight balloon company, has announced plans to fly research and education payloads during its balloon test flight phase as part of its newly launched Pathfinder program. World View has selected three initial Pathfinder payloads to fly on its delivery platforms beginning in late 2014. Editor's Note: Among the three is a student ozone monitor experiment sponsored by the Florida Space Grant Consortium. (7/28)

China Releases Geoinformation Industry Plan (Source: Space Daily)
China issued its first development plan for the geographic information industry, according to an announcement from China's National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation. China sees the geoinformation industry as a new source for economic growth and plans to establish a comprehensive industry system with independent intellectual property rights by 2020. (7/29)

Russia’s ISS Boss: Ukraine Crisis Slowing Renewal of ISS Partnership (Source: Space News)
The head of the international space station program at the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, on July 28 said the wall protecting the international space station and space exploration from the Ukrainian crisis might be starting to crack. Alexey B. Krasnov said the Ukraine crisis is why Roscosmos has received no government approval to continue the station partnership beyond 2020. (7/29)

Satellite Makers To Study Hosting NASA Atmospheric Sensor (Source: Space News)
Three U.S. commercial satellite manufacturers will design accommodations aboard their spacecraft for a NASA atmospheric sensor under the first batch of contracts awarded using the U.S. Air Force’s new hosted-payload contracting vehicle. Boeing, Orbital Sciences Corp., and Space Systems/Loral will examine ways to fly NASA’s Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution, or TEMPO, instrument. (7/29)

Man-Made 'Breathing' Leaf is an Oxygen Factory for Space Travel (Source: C/Net)
One of the persistent challenges of manned space exploration is that pesky lack of oxygen throughout much of the universe. Here on Earth, trees and other plant life do us a real solid by taking in our bad breath and changing it back to clean, sweet O2.

So what if we could take those biological oxygen factories into space with us, but without all the land, sun, water, soil, and gravity that forests tend to require? This is the point where NASA and Elon Musk should probably start paying attention.

Royal College of Art graduate Julian Melchiorri has created the first man-made, biologically functional leaf that takes in carbon dioxide, water, and light and releases oxygen. The leaf consists of chloroplasts -- the part of a plant cell where photosynthesis happens -- suspended in body made of silk protein. Click here. (7/29)

7 Lunar Myths Apollo 11 Debunked (Source:
People have invented a number of myths about the moon over the years. But Apollo 11's historic trip to the lunar surface in 1969 helped to debunk many of them, as it deepened humanity's understanding of Earth's natural satellite. Take a look at how Apollo 11 helped to dispel several familiar and interesting myths about the moon. Click here. (7/25)

SpaceShipTwo Takes to the Air for First Time in Months (Source: NBC)
Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket plane glided through the air for the first time in six months on Tuesday, signaling a new chapter in a test program that could soon lead to outer space. The rocket plane went for a ride from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, hooked beneath its WhiteKnightTwo carrier airplane. About 45 minutes later, SpaceShipTwo was released for a glide back to the airport.

In January, SpaceShipTwo blasted off for a powered test and sailed through a follow-up glide flight, but then it went into the shop for rocket refitting. It's expected to go through a series of glide flights and powered flights that eventually rise beyond the boundary of outer space (50 miles or 100 kilometers in altitude, depending on who's counting). Virgin's billionaire founder, Richard Branson, could fly into space later this year depending on how flight tests go. (7/29)

Europe to Launch Robotic Space Plane Prototype in November (Source:
The launch of a robotic space plane prototype in November could pave the way toward the creation of a reusable cargo vehicle that would survive the blistering re-entry into Earth's atmosphere, according to ESA. ESA officials plan to launch the unmanned space plane, called the Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV), on a Vega rocket in early November. The flight plan calls for Vega to make an eastward flight — different than its usual polar orbit track — to release IXV into a suborbital path that would end in the Pacific Ocean. (7/29)

Orion: America’s Next Spaceship (Source: Air & Space)
This is all the space for you and your three closest friends,” says Brad Holcomb, a project manager at Lockheed Martin’s Exploration Development Laboratory in Houston, as I settle into the commander’s seat on the low-fidelity mockup of the Orion capsule. Having clambered my six-foot-three-inch frame down through the hatch opening, grabbed a handy yellow strap as I reclined, and swung my legs into a flexed, upright position, I couldn’t imagine working, or driving anything.

However normal this position may seem in space, here it felt unsettling.Holcomb is in the same position in a seat a few feet away. Speaking with him—the first interview I have ever conducted on my back—I cannot shake the feeling you get when you climb into a new car with a salesman: resting your hands on the wheel, puzzling out the unfamiliar dashboard, shifting your lumbar region against leather. Click here. (7/29)

Will Mars Be the Next Vacation Destination? (Source: Bloomberg)
Inspiration Mars CTO and World View Enterprises CTO Taber MacCallum discusses the prospect of landing people on mars. Click here. (7/29)

The Biggest Threat to the Economy Is From Outer Space (Source: Bloomberg)
Threats to the electric grid are coming from everywhere: saboteurs, weather and, as silly as it sounds, from outer space. The danger is significant and growing, and business risk managers are taking it seriously. The latest warning comes from Paul Singer’s Elliott Management Corp., a $24.8 billion hedge-fund firm. Singer warned investors of what he sees as the gravest threat: an electromagnetic pulse from the Sun that knocks out the grid for months or longer.

While Elliott’s letters to investors “are typically chock full of scary or depressing scenarios,” writes Singer, “there is one risk that is head-and-shoulders above all the rest in terms of the scope of potential damage adjusted for the likelihood of occurrence.” (7/29)

NASA Testing Vehicles in High Arctic to Use on Mars (Source: CBC)
A team of NASA scientists is returning to Nunavut to test new equipment it hopes one day will be used to explore Mars. California-based scientist Pascal Lee heads up NASA's Mars Institute. This summer he and a team will be testing a robotic drill in Haughton Crater. Just 25 degrees below the North Pole, it's the site of a huge meteorite impact on Devon Island. (7/29)

Rocket Lab Wants to Make Model T of Space Satellite Launchers (Source: Network World)
When it comes to blasting satellites into Low Earth Orbit, cost can be a major detriment. An Australian company called Rocket Labs is looking to fix that problem – at least for smaller satellite launches—with a carbon composite, 11-ton , 18 meter (about 60ft) tall rocket known as Electron that it says can blast payloads of about 100kg (about 220lbs) into LEO for about $5 million. The company says comparable flights would cost around $100 million. Click here. (7/29)

Satellite Photos Show Activity at North Korea Launch Site (Source: NBC)
North Korea is upgrading its main rocket launch site and has conducted a series of engine tests as it develops a mobile, intercontinental missile that could increase the threat it poses to the United States, a U.S. research institute said Tuesday. The findings are based on satellite photos of the west coast site of Sohae, analyzed by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

North Korea blasted a rocket into space from site a year and a half ago, and the photos indicate it has made significant, recent progress upgrading facilities at Sohae to handle bigger rockets. A launch tower has been expanded to handle rockets 65 feet higher than the 98-foot-long Unha 3 rocket that blasted off in December 2012. The flurry of activity comes as North Korea has been test-firing short-range missiles from elsewhere, drawing U.N. Security Council condemnation on July 15. The North fired another short-range missile into waters off its east coast on Saturday. (7/29)

Corning Donates $1.8 Million in Parts for ASTRO-1 Telescope (Source: NBC)
Corning Inc. has donated $1.8 million in high-tech components for a telescope that a private group wants to launch into space. The not-for-profit BoldlyGo Institute wants to put its ASTRO-1 telescope in orbit by the mid-2020s. Obtaining the components for a roughly 6-foot telescope primary mirror will significantly contribute to the ambitious goal.

The institute was formed last fall to increase the number and variety of space science mission through private funding. The ASTRO-1 space telescope would be used to study planets orbiting nearby stars, as well as the Milky Way and other galaxies. Morse said the telescope would have 10 times the field of view of the Hubble Space Telescope and could be used for exploration years from now when Hubble stops working well. (7/29)

If it Weren't for That Meteor, Would There Still Be Dinosaurs? (Source: CS Monitor)
New research suggests that non-avian dinosaurs were driven to extinction not just by the six-mile wide asteroid that slammed into our planet some 66 million years ago, but by a number of other environmental threats. Between intense volcanism, dramatic sea level changes, and fluctuations in temperature, the dinosaurs' world at the end of the Cretaceous period was far from idyllic. But could the planet's instability have done in the dinosaurs all on its own? Probably not, researchers say.

About 400,000 years before the asteroid came crashing into our planet, massive volcanic eruptions began in India, prompting rapid global climate change. This, combined with dramatic ecosystem changes, may have weakened the non-avian dinosaurs. But, say researchers in a study published this week in Biological Reviews, it was the massive space rock that delivered the fatal blow.

"Dinosaurs had been around for 150 million years. Their diversity was always changing. There were plenty of dips in their diversity over time, and they always recovered," says study author Steve Brusatte, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh. This time would have been no different, "I'm sure they would've recovered if they'd had more time." (7/29)

SpaceX Says “Headcount Reduction” Due To Annual Reviews, Not Layoffs (Source: Space News)
The loss of up to 200 jobs at SpaceX this month is due to firing of “low performer” employees as part of its annual review process, and not layoffs, the company’s president said July 26. “We did our annual performance review, there were some low performers, and we terminated them,” SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said. She didn’t know how many employees were fired, but noted that in past performance reviews, the figure was around three percent of the company’s workforce. (7/29)

Space Innovators Seek Orlando Gamer Connection (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The first IndieGalactic Space Jam, held at the Orlando Science Center over the weekend, drew more than 100 game developers and engineers from NASA, SpaceX and Titusville-based Rocket Crafters. The event sought to connect the struggling space industry to young, innovative tech minds in Orlando, which could boost interest in space and bring fresh ideas to Kennedy Space Center.

"We've had tech events at the Space Center, but it's great to engage in communities outside the immediate area," said Josh Manning, an organizer of Kennedy Space Center's Spaceport Innovators effort. Manning and Jason Hopkins, another NASA engineer, were at the first IndieGalactic Space Jam at the Orlando Science Center. It was so successful, organizer Kunal Patel said he's now talking with more companies about making it an annual event.

More than 100 video game developers, mostly in their 20s and early 30s, broke into teams to develop space travel video games. Patel, who founded his own company called Phyken Media, actively sought out space industry players by attending space events in Titusville and making connections. "Most of the games were pure fun, but the experience helps people develop their skills and gets people working together with others in the tech and creative community," Patel said. (7/29)

Spire Announces $25 Million Financing (Source: Sys-Con)
Spire, a satellite-powered data company, has raised $25 million in Series A funding. Spire is changing its name from Nanosatisfi, with rebranding rolling out through the end of the year. “We listen to the three-quarters of the Earth that is remote or covered by water. Our customers make global business decisions and require detailed data in regions that have been critically underserved. Spire’s offering of high frequency, high accuracy data resonated with them, particularly in the areas of global trade, weather, shipping and supply chain, illegal fishing, and maritime domain awareness."

Modern remote sensing traditionally focuses on the small fraction of Earth that is covered in land and is densely populated with people,” says Peter Platzer, Spire CEO. “What happens, particularly over the oceans, is critical in understanding global systems, and our proprietary technology delivers truly global perspectives that enable our customers to make smarter decisions.” (7/29)

NASA Limits Foreign Contributions to U.S. Planetary Missions (Source: Science)
How much international collaboration is too much? When it comes to foreign instruments provided to NASA planetary science missions, the answer is anything more than 33%. Earlier this month, NASA unveiled a draft set of rules for its next Discovery competition, which funds planetary science missions costing no more than $450 million.

Today, NASA officials explained some of the new rules for the next mission, to be selected in 2016. Among them was a stipulation that the principal investigator would not be allowed to recruit foreign instrument contributions in excess of one-third the value of the U.S. instruments on the payload, even though those contributions don’t count against the $450 million cap. (7/29)

July 29, 2014

State Department: China Tested Anti-Satellite Weapon (Source: Space News)
The United States claims China conducted a “non-destructive” test of an anti-satellite missile July 23 and called for China to end the development of such capabilities. “We call on China to refrain from destabilizing actions — such as the continued development and testing of destructive anti-satellite systems — that threaten the long term security and sustainability of the outer space environment, on which all nations depend,” the State Department said in a July 25 email.

A State Department spokesman said the United States has “a high confidence” in its assessment that the test took place. China state-run news agency, Xinhua, reported July 24 that the military had announced a successful missile intercept test. The test “achieved the preset goal,” China’s Ministry of National Defense said on its website, according to Xinhua. (7/28)

Cuts to Space Program Leave U.S. Adrift (Source: Tampa Tribune)
The heroism and bravery of Neil Armstrong and his crew mates Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin — along with the astronauts who flew before and after that historic feat — should serve as an enduring act of pride for our nation. But the fact that we have not been back since Gene Cernan knelt on the lunar surface in December 1972 and traced his daughter’s initials into its dust should serve as a marker of shame for the politicians who turned their backs on the promise of what could have been.

Is President Obama entirely to blame for the dangerous predicament we find ourselves in? Not at all. He is simply the worst offender in a list of presidents going back to Lyndon Johnson who cared little or not at all about the critical need for the United States to establish and maintain preeminence in space.

Because nature hates a vacuum, The People’s Republic of China is eagerly stepping into the void. As China now openly sets its sights upon everything from Earth orbit to the moon’s surface, it’s important to remember its entire manned space program is controlled by its military and every objective is geared toward creating a military edge over the U.S. Editor's Note: Why is it assumed that China has no legitimate interest in space exploration (regardless of how they've structured their space program) and only seeks military dominance? (7/28)

Kiwi Launches World-First Cheap Rocket (Source: SBS)
A Kiwi entrepreneur has rocketed into the records with the world's smallest, fastest cut-price spacecraft designed to send satellites into space. Aerospace company Rocket Lab has unveiled its carbon-composite launch vehicle, named Electron, at its facility in south Auckland. Measuring just 18 metres in length but reaching speeds of 27,500km/h, Electron will be the smallest, fastest rocket to ever hit space.

But Rocket Lab founder Peter Beck is most excited about another figure, the $NZ5 million ($A4.65 million) price tag which confirms Electron as the cheapest satellite carrier in the world. It is designed to deliver payloads up to 100kg into low earth orbits, taking advantage of a new trend of putting smaller satellites into space. The commercial world is clearly enthused. Electron's first 30 launches have been pre-booked by paying customers.

Mr Beck, who founded the US firm in 2007, said that rockets have remained prohibitively large and expensive, despite the trend for satellites to become smaller, more capable and affordable. Geographically, New Zealand is ideally positioned for launches into different types of orbits, with the company investigating several locations to build a space port on home soil. (7/29)

NASA Moves to Protect Whistleblowers (Source: The Hill)
NASA is looking to protect whistleblowers at NASA contractors and subcontractors who shine a light on corporate corruption. Government contractors will not be allowed to fire, demote or otherwise discipline employees who blow the whistle on their own companies for abusing their authority by mismanaging a NASA contract, wasting NASA funds, or endangering public health or safety, the agency said Monday. (7/28)

Next-Generation Thirty Meter Telescope Begins Construction in Hawaii  (Source: TMT)
Following the approval of a sublease on July 25 by the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources, the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) announces the beginning of the construction phase on Hawaii Island and around the world throughout the TMT international partnership. Contingent on that decision, the TMT International Observatory (TIO) Board of Directors, the project's new governing body, recently approved the initial phase of construction, with activities near the summit of Mauna Kea scheduled to start later this year. (7/28)

Dinosaurs Fell Victim to Perfect Storm (Source: U. of Edinburgh)
Dinosaurs might have survived if the asteroid that killed them had struck slightly earlier or later, scientists say. A fresh study led by Edinburgh uses up-to-date fossil records and improved analytical tools to help palaeontologists build a new narrative of the prehistoric creatures’ demise, some 66 million years ago. They found that in the few million years before a 10km-wide asteroid struck what is now Mexico, Earth was experiencing environmental upheaval. (7/29)

Once Thought Impossible, Scientists Create Cold Fires In Space (Source: Motherboard)
Lighting fires within a contained environment shared with considerable amounts of highly flammable materials that also happens to be traveling 200 miles above Earth may not seem like the wisest pastime. Nonetheless, a group of researchers based at UC San Diego has been hard at work igniting large droplets of heptane and methane fuel in a wide variety of environments aboard the International Space Station, ranging from ones typical of Earth to those saturated with helium, carbon-dioxide, or nitrogen.

The result: “We observed something that we didn’t think could exist,” Forman Williams, the research team's leader and co-author of  a new open-access paper describing the findings, said in a statement from UCSD. As the researchers watched the flames seemingly extinguish themselves—within the safe confines of the station's  Multiuser Droplet Combustion Apparatus—as they would on Earth, what they discovered is that their fires continued to burn, albeit invisibly, for a would-be impossible period of time. (7/28)

Editorial: SpaceX in the Cross Hairs (Source: Space News)
As it gains momentum, SpaceX’s bid to shake up the U.S. government launch business has stirred up a fair amount of noise lately among Washington stakeholders in the status quo. The latest case in point is the push by some lawmakers for details on anomalies that have occurred in past launches of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. Not surprisingly, these lawmakers hail from states that host facilities operated by ULA, from which SpaceX is trying to wrest a share of the mostly Defense Department business.

In a July 15 letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden that was released to media, Reps. Mo Brooks (R-AL), Mike Coffman (R-CO) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) demanded information on what they characterized as an “epidemic of anomalies” with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo capsule. The lawmakers cited the fact that the vehicles are funded by U.S. taxpayers in calling for public release of details in unredacted form. (7/28)

The Resilience of U.S. Military Space Power (Source: Space News)
In May 2013, the Pentagon, referring to a Chinese rocket launch, said: “It was a ground-based missile that we believe would be [China’s] first test of an interceptor that would be designed to go after a satellite that’s actually on orbit.” Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Monica Matoush added: “The launch appeared to be on a ballistic trajectory nearly to geosynchronous Earth orbit.” Earlier, on Jan. 11, 2007, China had successfully launched an anti-satellite missile against one if its own weather satellites in low Earth orbit.

So what do these launches imply? Has China established dominance in space? Does this mean the U.S. would now be unable to use its satellites in a military engagement with China, say, in the Taiwan Straits? Not necessarily. In the case of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) satellites that operate predominantly in low Earth orbit, the availability of alternate systems limits the possible gains from anti-satellite attacks.

The U.S. possesses an extensive array of airborne platforms that can duplicate and likely outperform certain battlefield missions conducted by ISR satellites, including the U-2, E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS), RC-135 Rivet Joint, EP-3 (Aries 2), E-3 Sentry and E-2C Hawkeye. Click here. (7/28)

New Fort Knox: A Means to a Solar-System-wide Economy (Source: Space News)
Creating an economic zone of influence that encompasses our solar system will be the single most difficult endeavor the human race has ever attempted. The biggest hurdle isn’t even the engineering; it’s not that we don’t dream big enough, and it has little to do with national governments — it’s that we simply cannot comprehend the economics. Let’s put it another way: We will not achieve this until we convince the investment community that there is substantial return-on-investment (ROI).

Any economic zone of influence needs trade, finance, banking, manufacturing, consumption and all basic needs that those processes encompass and rely upon: food, shelter, ability to raise families and, most importantly, the pursuit of happiness, which makes it all possible. To hear the dreamers speak of mining asteroids or building power stations in space is to realize that we do indeed, as a species, dream big.

The problem is connecting the dots, from an economic viewpoint, so that finance-ability allows the business case to close and sustain-ability allows the endeavor to continue, unabated. In other words our community doesn’t talk investment banker speak. So, how do we get the investment community to commit the staggering sums required to mine an asteroid, so as to therefore transform a company with a dream and some fancy engineering? Click here. (7/28)

France Uncertain About Adopting Galileo’s Encrypted Service (Source: Space News)
The French government is not yet convinced that the encrypted, government-only signal to be carried on Europe’s Galileo positioning, navigation and timing satellites will be secure enough to permit its wide adoption by French defense forces, the head of the French arms procurement agency, DGA, said.

The French position, outlined even as the U.S. military prepares to make wide use of Galileo alongside the U.S. GPS constellation, suggests that what remains one of Galileo’s most promising domestic markets — European militaries — has not yet been fully won over. (7/28)

GPS 3 Storage Costs Could Eat Into Block-buy Savings (Source: Space News)
The Air Force’s current generation of GPS satellites is lasting longer on orbit than expected, and that the service already has eight of the next-generation GPS 3 satellites on order from Lockheed Martin. As the service considers buying additional satellites, it faces a buildup of inventory on the ground that could prove costly since spacecraft must be stored in specially controlled environments.

“Substantial savings can be achieved by providing a stable, long-term commitment and a stable production environment for the prime contractor and its supply chain,” the report said. But a “healthy constellation reduces the need for larger annual buys of GPS 3 satellites in the near term,” the report said. “In addition, early-to-need procurement would require unnecessary funding for satellite storage. In a budget-constrained environment, the Air Force would not procure more GPS 3 satellites than are needed to maintain the constellation.” (7/28)

Europa Clipper Would Wash Out Other Nuclear-powered Missions (Source: Space News)
If NASA sends a nuclear-powered probe to Jupiter’s moon Europa, it would launch no sooner than 2024, and effectively rule out other nuclear missions to the outer solar system before then by tying up the specialized infrastructure required to produce plutonium-powered spacecraft batteries, a senior NASA official said.

“If the Europa mission goes nuclear, it needs four or five [Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators],” Curt Niebur, a program scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington, said. “That’s quite a few. If Europa needs that many, that sucks up all the output for the production line between now and 2024. There’s no more left.” (7/28)

World View to Loft Experiments on Balloon Test Flights This Year (Source:
A near-space balloon company is about to take its fledgling test campaign to the next level. Arizona-based World View, which aims to loft passengers to the stratosphere by late 2016, will start launching research and education payloads on its unmanned test flights later this year, company officials said. "This is meant to show how serious we are," World View chief scientist and co-founder Alan Stern told "We're not just talking about flying payloads. We're starting it ourselves." (7/28)

Want to Colonize an Alien Planet? Send 40,000 People (Source:
If humanity ever wants to colonize a planet beyond the solar system, it's going to need a really big spaceship. The founding population of an interstellar colony should consist of 20,000 to 40,000 people, said Cameron Smith, an anthropologist at Portland State University in Oregon. Such a large group would possess a great deal of genetic and demographic diversity, giving the settlement the best chance of survival during the long space voyage and beyond, he explained. (7/28)

U.S.: Satellite Images Show Russian Attack on Ukraine (Source: AP)
The U.S. Director of National Intelligence says satellite images show that Russia has fired rockets into Ukraine after the July 17 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Moscow has denied any involvement in eastern Ukraine, but U.S. officials say craters on the images show artillery activity from within both Russia and Ukraine. (7/27)

Rocket Enthusiasts Gather in Colorado for National Meet (Source: The Gazette)
About 300 amateur rocket designers and builders are gathering in Colorado this week for the 56th annual National Association of Rocketry Annual Meet. "Any educational field, including mathematics, modeling, science and engineering, can be incorporated into rocketry," said David Virga, president of the Colorado Springs Rocket Society. "It's a powerful way to get children interested in fields and careers that help push our country forward." (7/28)

Filmmakers Wait for FAA to Clear Drones for Takeoff (Source: Tampa Tribune)
The camera swoops through downtown like a bird, over the Tampa Museum of Art, into Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, up past the buildings that make up the city’s distinctive skyline. “Mesmerizing,” “cool,” “beautiful,” say some of the people who have helped push the online views of the video recording past 60,000.

Illegal, too, in the view of the Federal Aviation Administration, if producer Ben Bradley and his Right Hand Films try to make money from the video. But Right Hand Films, like production companies big and small that are using cameras mounted on drones, has little to fear from the FAA. At least not yet. (7/27)

Opportunity Rover Breaks Off-World Driving Record (Source:
NASA's Opportunity rover on Mars has now boldly gone farther than any vehicle has before on the surface of another world, space agency officials announced today (July 28). As of Sunday (July 27), the Opportunity rover has driven 25.01 miles (40.2 kilometers) on the Red Planet, NASA officials said. The distance record had been held by the Soviet Union's remote-controlled Lunokhod 2 rover, which covered 24.2 miles (39 km) on the moon back in 1973. (7/28)

ULA & Air Force Launch 3 'Space Neighborhood Watch' Satellites (Source:
The United States Air Force has launched three satellites designed to help the country keep better tabs on its valuable space assets, as well as those of other nations. The three spacecraft — two of which are fully operational and one of which is an experimental satellite — blasted off today (July 28) from Florida's Cape Canaveral Spaceport at 7:28 p.m. EDT, riding toward a near-geosynchronous orbit atop a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket. (7/28)

Landing Sites An Upcoming Focus for SpaceX (Source:
“At this point, we are highly confident of being able to land successfully on a floating launch pad or back at the launch site and refly the rocket with no required refurbishment,” added SpaceX. The next Falcon 9 to sport landing legs and aim for a controlled return to Earth will be F9S1-013, tasked with launching the CRS-4/SpX-4 Dragon. The following two flights will up the stakes, aiming for a propulsive landing on a “solid surface." It has since been confirmed the return will be aiming at the deck of an unnamed barge.

“We will attempt our next water landing on flight 13 of Falcon 9, but with a low probability of success,” SpaceX continued. “Flights 14 and 15 will attempt to land on a solid surface with an improved probability of success.” However, there are rumors SpaceX may go for the barge landing as early as the CRS-4 mission. Eventually, the huge milestone of a core stage launching and returning to land for reuse will be conducted – an achievement that was previously dismissed by critics as almost impossible.

SpaceX is also evaluating first stage landing sites at its  West coast launch location at Vandenberg. SpaceX may be looking at an island downrange of the West Coast launch site for returning Falcon Heavy cores, in the event a high payload penalty negates a return to SLC-4W. (7/28)

SpaceX Roadmap Building Rocket Business Revolution (Source:
Following the recent success of the Falcon 9 launch with six ORBCOMM spacecraft, SpaceX is in the midst of speedy turnaround of its Cape Canaveral launch site, ahead of the ASIASAT-8 mission. While SpaceX remains on track for a record year, CEO Elon Musk believes the time is coming where there will be thousands of launches each year – as humanity becomes multi-planetary.

“Long term, we really want to get to the point where there can be thousands of space flights a year, and ultimately where we can have a base on the Moon and a base on Mars and become a multi-planet species and a true space-faring civilization. That’s where things need to go in the long term.”

Although the Falcon Heavy vehicle has been delayed from its initially planned 2013 debut, Elon Musk sees it as an enabler to reach the 20 launches per year mark. “Ten Falcon 9 rockets and ten FH rockets in any given year – 20 launches a year is not a crazy number,” he noted. Falcon Heavy is set to debut from the newly acquired Pad 39A, which is already undergoing redevelopment to host the large rocket.

SpaceX Plans Super-Heavy Lift Rocket with Raptor Engines (Source:
With the eventual goal of creating the Mars Colonial Transporter (MCT) launch system, SpaceX is expected to build a family of Super Heavy Launch Vehicles (SHLVs) driven by nine Raptor “full flow methane-liquid oxygen” rocket engines. The potential of utilizing Complex 39 past Falcon Heavy has several caveats, with many intimations that – at the very least – the largest versions of the Raptor rocket would require an entirely new launch complex due to their huge thrust levels.

SpaceX is currently preparing to begin initial testing on Raptor hardware at Stennis Space Center, while a plan of action, per the creation of the MCT architecture, is already in the early phase of evaluation – such as the potential to refuel the monster rocket’s second stage in orbit.By the time the Raptor driven “BFR” is roaring into the heavens, SpaceX believes its launch rate will already be far and above the current near term goal of 20 launches per year. (7/28)

Exploration and the Private Sector (Source: Space Review)
For decades, it’s been widely accepted that human space exploration—missions beyond Earth orbit to the Moon, Mars, and elsewhere—lay in the exclusive domain of government agencies like NASA. The cost of performing such missions, estimated by multiple reports to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars over decades, was far beyond what private entities could be expected to afford.

That calculus may be changing, however. Buoyed by the success of its program to develop commercial cargo capabilities to support the International Space Station, NASA is increasingly open to working with the private sector in its human space exploration plans. Click here. (7/28)

Vision 2069 (Source: Space Review)
The fitting way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing would be to return to the Moon not to reenact Apollo 11, but in a fashion that demonstrates 50 years of progress and points to the potential of what can be achieved in the next 50. Click here. (7/28)

Mad Men… in Space (Source: Space Review)
And so now we have “Ascension,” a new show debuting on the SyFy Channel in November. The show’s premise is that President Kennedy was so rattled by the near extinction of humanity during the Cuban Missile Crisis that he created a project to send 600 people into space aboard a large spacecraft named Ascension, headed toward the planet Proxima. Click here. (7/28)

July 28, 2014

The Most Precise Measurement of an Alien World's Size (Source: Space Daily)
Thanks to NASA's Kepler and Spitzer Space Telescopes, scientists have made the most precise measurement ever of the radius of a planet outside our solar system. The size of the exoplanet, dubbed Kepler-93b, is now known to an uncertainty of just 74 miles (119 kilometers) on either side of the planetary body. The findings confirm Kepler-93b as a "super-Earth" that is about one-and-a-half times the size of our planet. (7/28)

NSBRI Establishes Space Radiation Center (Source: Space Daily)
The National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) will establish, fund, and operate the Center for Space Radiation Research (CSRR) under the leadership of Marjan Boerma, Ph.D. Dr. Boerma is an Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences within the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Pharmacy Division of Radiation Health. (7/28)

NASA Explores Additional Undersea Missions With NEEMO (Source: Space Daily)
NASA's Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) is gearing up for two underwater projects, 18 and 19, off the coast of Florida during the months of July and September. Aquanauts participating in the NEEMO project will conduct activities on the ocean floor that will inform International Space Station and future exploration activities. The NEEMO project sends groups of astronauts, engineers and scientists to live in an underwater habitat for up to three weeks at a time.

The crew members, called aquanauts, live in the world's only undersea laboratory: Florida International University's Aquarius Reef Base undersea research habitat. These studies provide information that correlates directly to life aboard the space station, where crew members must frequently perform critical tasks that present constraining factors similar to those experienced in an undersea environment. Editor's Note: Embry-Riddle will support multiple projects during these NEEMO missions. (7/28)

Expert Says Launch Business Overblown (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Florida and other states appear eager to catch the next wave of the rocket-launch business. But before they throw big public money at private commercial space interests, state officials should do a serious reality check, a top expert says. While the space industry's commercial future may promise riches, there are still many unanswered questions about the costs vs. benefits, said Dr. Henry R. Hertzfeld at George Washington University.

"There is a sort of war between the states for the next big thing in the space business," he said. "They are all jockeying for position. But nobody really knows how big this thing is going to be in terms of jobs and all the rest of the economic impact — which might actually turn out to be not that significant." He insists that expectations for jobs and revenue growth may be overblown. Demand for launch services has been flat, he said. Potentially blockbuster new businesses — such as space tourism – could take decades to develop. Meanwhile, starting and maintaining a new spaceport would be very expensive.

Editor's Note: Hertzfeld is right. Florida's space push has historically been aimed at protecting the (largely federal) jobs and investment at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, in response to several other states attempting to take portions of this business away. These other states are learning that the prize is not as shiny as they had hoped. Sure there's opportunity for launch industry growth in Florida and elsewhere, but the real goal here has been to leverage the launch industry to attract other higher value space industry jobs, like satellite and launch vehicle manufacturing, other value-added R&D and design engineering activity. (7/28)

Innovation Earth: Bringing NASA Technology Back to Earth (Source: Huffington Post)
Harnessing asteroids. Sending humans to Mars. NASA has laid out some pretty sci-fi sounding plans for the next 20 years of space travel, but a more critical mission -- at least for the sustainability of human life here on earth -- may be the one it launched in Mountain View, California, just over two years ago: The Sustainability Base at the NASA Ames Research Center. Click here. (7/25)

UAE’s Space Program Could Inspire Innovation (Source: The National)
The UAE’s space program could inspire innovation and spur further diversification of the country’s economy. A mission to Mars would promote a focus on making breakthroughs in the development of new technologies, which could be patented and sold to foreign space agencies. It could also inspire thousands of Emiratis to pursue careers in the space industry, opening the door to new research bodies and university courses in aerospace engineering. (7/27)

South Africans Hitching a One-Way Ticket to Mars (Source: Tech Central)
The Mars One program is offering civilians, including South Africans, the opportunity to create a human colony on Mars. Is this a revival of the golden age of discovery, when explorers left their homes to begin new civilizations? Or is it a “suicide mission” in which people die in space while we watch from Earth, more than 200 million kilometers away?

Adriana Marais, a PhD student in quantum biology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, is one of the candidates shortlisted for a one-way ticket to the planet. “What the first colonizers will do on Mars is really the pinnacle of four billion years of evolution,” she told me. In her Mars One video, she explains: “I would volunteer to leave my life on Earth behind to see what’s out there. I’m prepared to sacrifice my personal joys, sorrows and day-to-day life for this idea, this adventure, this achievement that would not be mine but that of all humanity.” (7/28)

Canucks Shooting to Colonize Mars (Source: Sudbury Star)
Mars One — a not-for-profit foundation — plans to establish a colony of humans on the Red Planet. The foundation recently created a shortlist of applicants — reducing the number of volunteers from 200,000 to just 705. During the next phase of elimination, candidates will meet face-to-face with members of the Mars One selection committee. The interviews will happen over the summer.

The journey to Mars will take seven months. Earthlings hoping to leave the planet will be handed a one-way ticket as there’s no way to bring them back. Mars One plans to send four people every two years — starting in 2024 — with astronaut training expected to begin within a year. There are 54 Canadians still left in the running. Click here. (7/28)

Does Canada Need its Own Rockets to Launch Satellites? (Source: Leader-Post)
For decades, Canadian space specialists have debated whether the country needs its own fleet of rockets so it can launch satellites without being beholden to other nations. As relations with Russia, one of the world's top providers of such launchers, further deteriorates over the Ukraine crisis, some are reviving that call.

The Canadian government decided in late April to scuttle the launch of one of its satellites on a Russian rocket to protest that country's actions in Ukraine. It is still looking for another nation or company to put the spacecraft into orbit. And with more Canadian sanctions brought in against Russia, the likelihood of future launches on Russian rockets seems remote. "The sanctions on Russia are increasing and they are going to come back and bite us when it comes to our space efforts," said Chuck Black.

"Building our own (launcher) is something that Canada could do and something that would be a worthwhile investment for the country." Such a capability would be designed for small and micro-satellites, not full-sized spacecraft, Black and others have suggested. Small satellites are around the size of breadbox, while micro-satellites are about milk-carton size. (7/28)

Random Bits, True and Unbiased, From Atmospheric Turbulence (Source: Nature)
Random numbers represent a fundamental ingredient for secure communications and numerical simulation as well as to games and in general to Information Science. Physical processes with intrinsic unpredictability may be exploited to generate genuine random numbers. The optical propagation in strong atmospheric turbulence is here taken to this purpose, by observing a laser beam after a 143 km free-space path. In addition, we developed an algorithm to extract the randomness of the beam images at the receiver without post-processing. The numbers passed very selective randomness tests for qualification as genuine random numbers. (6/30)

Modifications Underway in Vehicle Assembly Building for Space Launch System (Source: NASA)
History was made in the 525-foot-tall Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at Kennedy Space Center. It was inside the VAB that NASA's Apollo/Saturn V rockets and space shuttles were prepared for their rollout to Launch Pads 39A and B to begin their missions. Today, the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program and support contractors at KSC are busy upgrading the massive building for the next chapter in human exploration.

The Space Launch System (SLS), NASA's new heavy-lift rocket, will be the largest launch vehicle ever built and more powerful than the Saturn V rocket. The SLS will send astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft to explore deep space destinations including an asteroid and eventually Mars. "We have a lot of work to complete, and now is the time to refurbish and upgrade the VAB before we begin processing launch vehicles," said Steve Starr, a senior project manager with Vencore on the Engineering Services Contract. (7/24)

Camden County Manager to be Part of Georgia Space Summit (Source: Jacksonville Times-Union)
Camden County manager Steve Howard will travel to Atlanta on Tuesday to attend a meeting of aerospace industry professionals, state politicians and academic leaders. Howard has been invited to sit on a panel at the Georgia Space Leadership Summit where he will provide a local government’s perspective as to how to attract businesses from the aerospace industry to the state.

“This is an exciting opportunity to promote Camden County and its assets,” Howard said of his decision to attend. The summit, presented by the Georgia Tech Center for Space Technology and Research, will consist of three panels, scheduled to speak for about an hour each. The panels will address issues the aerospace industry faces in the state from the academic, investor and government or legal perspectives. (7/27)

End Dawns for Europe's Space Cargo Delivery Role (Source: Space Daily)
Europe will close an important chapter in its space flight history Tuesday, launching the fifth and final robot ship it had pledged for lifeline deliveries to the International Space Station. The 20-tonne Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) dubbed Georges Lemaitre, the size of a double-decker bus, is set to blast off from South America with fuel, water, oxygen, food, clean clothes and 50 kilogrammes (110 pounds) of coffee for six Earth-orbiting astronauts.

Named for the father of the Big Bang theory of how the Universe was formed, the heaviest ATV yet follows on the hi-tech trail of four others sent into space by the European Space Agency (ESA) since 2008. "Georges Lemaitre may be the last ATV, but the programme is just the first important step in ESA's human space adventure," said the agency's director of human spaceflight and operations, Thomas Reiter. (7/27)

Will SpaceX Land Falcon-9 on a Barge? (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Blogger Rand Simberg spoke with SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell and was told they will conduct their next landing attempt on a barge. Unconfirmed reports have it that the next few flights of the uprated Falcon 9 v1.1 would fly without the landing gear that the rocket has used during the April 18 and July 14 2014 flights. The rationale for the lack of this new system on these flights has been suggested to be due to the request of the payload’s customer.

Simberg added in another tweet that there would be “No more water landings.” SpaceX has stated that it plans to have the Falcon 9′s first stage conduct a return to the launch site. If the company can get this system to work – it would mean that the cost to launch to orbit would plummet and that the booster cores produced by SpaceX could be reused. Given the prices charged to launch payloads, this could serve to be a game-changer in terms of how missions are conducted.

Editor's Note: So what does this mean for Spaceport America, where SpaceX has been planning follow-on (post-Grasshopper) tests of its Falcon-9 (and Dragon?) landing system? Spaceport America was to offer higher altitude testing with greater flexibility than was available at SpaceX's Texas test site. Among Simberg's tweets -- presumably based on discussions with Shotwell --  was one suggesting that "Spaceport America has cost more and taken longer than expected." (7/27)

Flashback: Blue Origin Holds Patent for Barge Landings (Source: SPACErePORT)
In March 2014, Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin's patent for "Sea landing of space launch vehicles and associated systems and methods" was published, after the original filing in June 2010. Could this impact SpaceX's plans for barge landings off the Florida (and ultimately Texas) coast? Maybe not, since Blue Origin's concept features some active positioning technology that might apply to SpaceX's plans. Click here. (7/28)

SAMI Is Like Google Earth for the Universe (Source: Daily Beast)
In just 64 nights, SAMI, an instrument attached to the Anglo-Australian telescope in Sydney, Australia, has recorded demographic information for 1,000 galaxies. Its goal is 3,400 galaxies over the next two years. The observable Universe contains 100 billion galaxies, give or take (not that we’ve mapped all of them, not least since many of them are too far for reliable imaging). Many astronomical projects are dedicated to the task of placing as many galaxies as possible in the atlas, to complete our understanding of the history and evolution of the cosmos.

But there’s a complementary task as well: understanding the variety of galaxies in themselves. If galaxy mapping is like doing a population map, the complementary study is like a demographic survey. Galaxies are products of their location in the cosmos, but also of their individual histories and local environments. Any galaxy we observe is the product of its dark matter, the gas and dust inside it, the age and types of its stars, and the history of any smaller galaxies that merged to create it. Click here.(7/27)

Massive Impacts Show Asteroid has Deep Crust (Source: Ars Technica)
A new study shows that the asteroid 4 Vesta may have a different internal structure than previously thought. Vesta, the second largest body in the asteroid belt after the dwarf planet Ceres, is notable for two gigantic craters, so big that they partly overlap despite being on opposite poles of the asteroid. The first, chronologically speaking, is called Venenia (Named for a priestess of the goddess Vesta in Roman mythology), the result of an impact some 2 billion years ago.

The crater is 395 kilometers in diameter, but only penetrated about 25 kilometers deep into the surface of Vesta. And then there’s Rheasilvia. Also named for a priestess of Vesta, Rheasilvia is a whopping 505 km in diameter (Vesta is only 525km in diameter), and the rim of the crater is also one of the tallest mountains in the solar system. Rheasilvia was probably created about one billion years ago, and it obliterated part of Venenia where the two overlap. (7/27)