November 26, 2014

Orbital Sciences Entitled To Partial NASA Payment for Antares Failure (Source: Space News)
Orbital Sciences Corp. will get most of its planned revenue from NASA for the Oct. 28 launch of Orbital’s Antares rocket despite the rocket’s failure because the milestone that triggered payment was the rocket’s ignition and liftoff, not launch success, Orbital and its prospective merger partner, Alliant Techsystems (ATK), said Nov. 24.

Under Orbital’s $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) with NASA, Orbital’s obligations are not counted in launches, but in kilograms delivered to the space station. The Oct. 28 launch was the third of a then-planned eight cargo runs for NASA to meet the 20,000-kilogram requirement, with subsequent missions using a larger version of the Cygnus payload module, built by Thales Alenia Space in Italy. (11/26)

4 Things NASA Can Teach You About a Good Night's Sleep (Source: The Week)
Who knows about sleep? Astronauts. They have to. Their bodies are cut off from many of the normal external cues that remind us what time it is. But actually, it's even worse than that. In orbit they can experience a dozen sunrises and sunsets a day which makes their circadian rhythm go completely haywire. When you're in a tin can floating through the cold darkness of outer space, being off your game due to lousy sleep can have very bad results. Click here. (11/21)

Israel in Space (Source: Jerusalem Post)
The Israeli space program is held back by geography – but it doesn’t have to be. Israel launches from Palmachim Airbase, on the coast near Rishon Lezion. Palmachim is 31 degrees north, which gives it a speed penalty of about 240 kph. Still, 1,300 kph is a good boost – only slightly less than you’d get at Cape Kennedy. Unfortunately, however, you only get a speed boost if you launch east, the direction in which the Earth rotates. Every country in the world launches its rockets east – except Israel.

Israel has a close, friendly relationship with Kenya. Kenya lies on the equator, and on the Indian Ocean. Kenya has convenient sea access to Israel via Eilat. It’s easier to get things from Israel to Kenya than, say, from Moscow to Russia’s Kazakh launch center at Baikonur. Or from Western Europe to the French Guiana Space Center. Or from about 45 of the United States to Florida.

Israel has built things – constructed things – in Kenya before. Israel ought to build a new, extraterritorial launch complex on Kenya’s sparsely populated north-east coast, less than two degrees from the equator. I imagine a Kenyan land purchase could be negotiated. Editor's Note: There have been discussions in the past about launching the Shavit from Florida. Perhaps Space Florida's Israel/Florida aerospace grant program can advance this concept further. (11/25)

Virginia County Officials Seek NASA Input on Rezoning (Source: DelMarVa Now)
Accomack County officials said they will not take action on a developer’s rezoning request for property near NASA Wallops Flight Facility until they hear from NASA. The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to postpone action on a request from Atlantic Town Center Development Corporation for conditional rezoning of about 77 acres near Wattsville from agricultural to residential.

The developers propose to build 432 housing units, including multi-family housing, and commercial buildings on the property. Supervisor Robert Crockett in his motion included a stipulation that the board invite Caroline Massey, NASA Wallops Flight Facility Assistant Director for Management Operations, to come to a meeting in January to discuss further the development’s potential impact on Wallops operations. (11/25)

Africa’s First Mission to the Moon (Source: Universe Today)
Africa is home to 7 out of 10 of the world’s fastest-growing economies. It’s population is also the “youngest” in the world, with 50% of the population being 19 years old or younger. And amongst these young people are scores of innovators and entrepreneurs who are looking to bring homegrown innovation to their continent and share it with the outside world.

Nowhere is this more apparent than with the #Africa2Moon Mission, a crowdfunded campaign that aims to send a lander or orbiter to the Moon in the coming years. Spearheaded by the Foundation for Space Development, the goal of this project is to fund the development of a robotic craft that will either land on or establish orbit around the Moon. Once there, it will transmit video images back to Earth, and then distribute them via the internet into classrooms all across Africa. (11/26)

Fearing Another Disaster, Russia Delays Proton Launch (Source: Moscow Times)
The upcoming launch of a Russian Proton-M rocket with a European telecommunications satellite on Friday has been postponed after technicians at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan discovered a fault in the vehicle's control system on Wednesday. The Proton rocket was set to conduct its 400th flight on Friday. But with the vehicle's reputation still recovering from a series of embarrassing launch failures in recent years, officials are taking no chances.

The Proton rocket has been taken off its launch pad and returned to the assembly building, where engineers will replace the faulty command system and any other faults that may arise, the statement said. A new launch date for the rocket will be announced after the new components are installed, Roscosmos said without specifying a timeframe. Launch schedules at Baikonur, the world's busiest spaceport, are typically congested so the delay may be lengthy. (11/26)

It's T-Minus 1,000 Days for America's Total Solar Eclipse (Source: NBC)
Darkness is coming -- and you should book a hotel room now. That's what eclipse-chasers from around the world are doing, as they prepare for the first total solar eclipse to cut a swath from the Pacific to the Atlantic since 1918. The event is still 1,000 days away, counting from Tuesday, and will occur on Aug. 21, 2017. But that hasn't slowed enthusiasts who want a viewing spot along the path of totality, the strip of land along which the sun will be completely blotted out.

Hopkinsville, Kentucky, is the closest town to the point of greatest eclipse in 2017, which is why it's such a hot spot. But it won't be long before reservations get scarce at other points of interest in the total eclipse zone — ranging from Lincoln City on the Oregon coast, to Jackson Hole and Nashville, to Charleston on the South Carolina coast. (11/25)

Sesame Street Muppets Count Down to NASA Orion Launch (Source: CollectSpace)
Can you tell me how to get, how to get to... Mars? Elmo, Cookie Monster and the other popular muppets from "Sesame Street" have joined forces with NASA to count down to the launch of the first Orion spacecraft, scheduled for Dec. 4.

Beginning Tuesday (Nov. 25) and over the next ten days, NASA and "Sesame Street" will share online comic strips, videos and graphics of the Muppet characters interacting with the Orion space capsule in an effort to educate a new generation of space explorers about the Orion Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) and NASA's future journey to Mars. (11/25)

Louisiana Shipyard Builds "Space Port Drone Ship" (Source: Marine Log)
A shipyard in Louisiana has built what SpaceX entrepreneur Elon Musk describes in a tweet as an "autonomous space port drone ship." SpaceX plans to land the latest version of its reusable Falcon 9R rocket on the platform vertically. If it succeeds, it will add one more to the whole string of firsts racked up by the company. We asked SpaceX which Louisiana shipyard built the vessel, but were told, "beyond Elon's tweets, we aren't providing any additional information at this time." (11/24)

UF Converts Human Waste to Rocket Fuel (Source: Sun-Sentinel)
The University of Florida has developed a new source of fuel that's cheap and will never run out – human waste. Researchers developed a process to convert waste into rocket fuel at the request of NASA. But it may also turn up on earth, Pratap Pullammanappallil, a UF associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering. "It could be used on campus or around town, or anywhere, to convert waste into fuel," Pullammanappallil said.

NASA started by supplying the UF scientists with a packaged form of chemically produced human waste that also included simulated food waste, towels, wash cloths, clothing and packaging materials, Pullammanappallil said. He and a doctoral student ran laboratory tests to find out how much methane could be produced from the waste and how quickly. They found the process could produce 290 liters of methane per crew per day, all produced in a week, Pullammanappallil said. (11/25)

Zero-G Coming Back [to Florida] in 2015 (Source: Parabolic Arc)
After being grounded for much of 2014 due to having its jet’s engines repossessed, Zero Gravity Corp. is once again advertising parabolic flights opportunities for next year... "Back by popular demand, the ZERO-G Experience is returning to Tampa, Florida and Washington, D.C. ZERO-G will also be returning to Las Vegas, San Francisco, Cape Canaveral, and many more cities! The Research Flight Program will take place in Cape Canaveral, Florida from April 8-10, 2015."

One caveat: the aircraft has to undergo certification (FAA Part 121) once again before carrying passengers as a result of being grounded and getting a trio of new engines. Click here. (11/25)

ISS 3D Printer Creates First Product (Source: Parabolic Arc)
History was made on Nov. 24 at 9:28pm GMT, when the first 3D printer built to operate in space successfully manufactured its first part on the International Space Station (ISS). This is the first time that hardware has been additively manufactured in space, as opposed to launching it from Earth. “When the first human fashioned a tool from a rock, it couldn’t have been conceived that one day we’d be replicating the same fundamental idea in space,” said Aaron Kemmer, CEO of Made In Space, Inc.

The first part made in space is a functional part of the printer itself – a faceplate for its own extruder printhead. “This ‘First Print’ serves to demonstrate the potential of the technology to produce replacement parts on demand if a critical component fails in space,” said Jason Dunn, Chief Technical Officer for Made In Space. (11/25)

40 Student Launch Teams Join in NASA Competition (Source: NASA)
Florida student teams from FIU, UCF, UF, and Plantation High School have been selected by NASA to compete along with 36 other teams as part of the NASA Student Launch initiative. The competition will be held April 7-11, 2015, in Huntsville, Alabama.

The NASA Student Launch is a research-based, competitive and experiential exploration project that provides research and development to support the Space Launch System. The project involves reaching a broad audience of academic institutions across the nation in an eight-month commitment to design, build, and fly payloads or vehicle components that support SLS. (11/25)

UCF's Space Florida-Backed Experiment Makes Progress on ISS (Source: NanoRacks)
The University of Central Florida’s experiment, NanoRocks, currently on board the International Space Station (ISS) is producing promising results. The experiment, studying solar system formation, was brought to the ISS through a NanoRacks’ partnership with Space Florida’s International Space Station Research Competition. NanoRocks is one of seven competition winners to be flown through the NanoRacks-Space Florida program.

The scientific motivation behind the NanoRocks experiment is to understand collisions that occur in the early stages of planet formation, both in our solar system and systems around other stars. Specifically, UCF is studying how these developing planets get from just centimeters across to much larger objects, known as planetesimals, which are able to gravitationally attract to each other and form full size planets. Click here. (11/25)

Engineering Grad to Watch: Astronaut for Hire Aaron Persad (Source: U of T Engineering)
For Aaron Persad, ‘reach for the stars’ is far more than a clich├ęd phrase on a graduation card. “It may sound a bit wild, but I’m training as a commercial astronaut,” said Persad, who graduated on Nov. 18 with a PhD in mechanical engineering—one of 386 engineering students who walked across the stage at Convocation Hall this month.

But when you account for all the diverse and disruptive things Persad has built, taught, experimented with and discovered since his days as an undergraduate in engineering science at the University of Toronto, wrapping up his PhD to become a commercial astronaut seems like a natural step. Persad’s undergraduate thesis explored shuttle launch vibrations on stem cells, and he interned with the Canadian Space Agency’s flight research laboratory. (11/20)

Ontario Firm Crowdfunding its all-Canadian Mission to Mars (Source: Yahoo! News)
An Ontario company is hoping an ambitious crowdfunding campaign will take Canadian technology to the surface of Mars. The Pembroke-based Thoth Technology has launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $1.1 million to build all the hardware for its Northern Lights mission to our neighbouring planet, with the goal of blasting off in 2018. Click here. (11/19)

What’s Next for the Rosetta Mission and Comet Exploration? (Source: WIRED)
Somewhere dark and icy on a comet 320 million miles away, the history-making, comet-bouncing Philae spacecraft is sleeping. Its batteries are depleted and there isn’t enough sunlight to recharge. But while the lander finished its primary job, collecting invaluable data on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the Rosetta mission is far from over. For many scientists, the excitement is just beginning.

Mission engineers are now scouring the comet for signs of the lander. They’re using the OSIRIS camera onboard the Rosetta spacecraft that’s orbiting the comet to look for any glint of brightness reflected by Philae, says planetary scientist Sebastien Besse, a member of the OSIRIS team. They’re also using data from the CONSERT instruments on Rosetta and Philae, which send radio signals between the two spacecraft, to triangulate the lander’s location.

Over the next few months, the changing seasons will bring more direct sunlight onto Philae. The comet is also moving toward the sun, and the hope is that in the next few months, both the coming summer and increasing proximity to the sun will give Philae the warmth and power it needs to wake up. Click here. (11/25)

NASA Puts $1 Billion Space Medicine Contract Out for Bids, Again (Source: Space News)
NASA is again seeking bids on more than $1 billion of space medicine work covered under a contract that will be awarded at least two years later than planned because of prolonged sparring between incumbent Wyle Laboratories and SAIC. The Human Health and Performance contract, released for bids Nov. 20, is a follow-on to a bioastronautics contract awarded to El Segundo, California-based Wyle in 2003 and now worth about $1.5 billion.

SAIC spokeswoman Lauren Presti said that SAIC’s original proposal spelled out how the company would manage the Human Health and Performance contract following an SAIC corporate split. Regardless, GAO ordered NASA to either award the Human Health and Performance contract to Wyle, or seek bids for a third time. NASA chose to seek new bids. Bids on the new contract, which will have a five-year base period with a three-year option and a two-year option, are due Jan. 29. (11/25)

Close to the End for Venus Express (Source: Planetary Society)
Venus Express is nearly out of fuel. Any day could be the last of its long mission to Venus. Formal science operations ended in May, but since then it has performed aerobraking experiments, deep dives into Venus' atmosphere to test whether the atmosphere's effects on the spacecraft match the predictions of its human engineers, who built Venus Express to withstand the forces and temperatures of atmospheric dips. The campaign lasted from May 17 to July 12, when they raised the periapsis (closest approach) of the orbit well above the atmosphere. (11/24)

November 25, 2014

Clinton-Era Deep Space Climate Observatory Ships to Florida Launch Site, Finally (Source: Space News)
After spending more than a decade in storage, the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) — a Clinton-era satellite formerly known as Triana — arrived in Florida Nov. 20 for integration with the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket set to launch it Jan. 23, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a press release.

DSCOVR uses hardware initially assembled for an Earth observation satellite conceived in the 1990s by then-U.S. Vice President Al Gore, earning the spacecraft the nickname Goresat. Resurrected by the Obama administration after the administration of President George W. Bush shelved the project in 2001, DSCOVR has been recast as a space weather mission and will head to Earth-sun Lagrange point 1 to keep an eye on charged particles blasting out of the sun.

The DSCOVR launch marks not only the end of a long wait on the ground for the erstwhile Goresat, but also the first Falcon 9 launch the U.S. Air Force has bought. The launch is costing the service $97 million. DSCOVR will launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Editor's Note: $97 million seems high for a vanilla Falcon-9 mission. And why is the Air Force buying a ride for NOAA? NASA usually does this for NOAA. (11/25)

Elon Musk and John Carmack Tweet Chat About How Best to Land a Rocket (Source: Geek.com)
If you follow either Carmack or Musk, you get a peek into the work being done by two absolutely brilliant individuals. Elon Musk took to Twitter for a SpaceX brain dump on Saturday, updating everyone on the decisions being made around the Falcon 9 and the Seafaring Spaceport they have been working on.

The Falcon 9 is currently being tested with hypersonic grid fins that will help with control and stability, which is a big deal when you consider Falcon’s long term destiny of being a fully recoverable rocket. During the brain dump, none other than John Carmack jumped in for a quick chat about whether or not Musk was making the right decision. Click here. (11/25)

Canada’s MDA Devising New Methods To Track Ships (Source: Space News)
MDA Corp. will over the next six months find new methods to combine the use of radar and optical satellites to track so-called dark ships — vessels that are not broadcasting Automatic Identification System (AIS) signals. The goal of the new research program is to better coordinate the two types of satellites, which in some cases need days of notice in advance for an imaging mission.

All ships above a certain weight class are now required to carry AIS packages that transmit information such as their position and heading. Satellites are used to relay that data to coastal authorities. Dark ships are vessels that are required to broadcast AIS signals but do not. The problem of dark ships, also known as dark targets, is significant in some areas.

One analysis of maritime traffic in the Mediterranean Sea indicated that upward of 50 percent of vessels in that body of water fell in the dark target category. Similar problems with such vessels exist in Southeast Asia. The MDA plan would be to use radar satellites to do broad area imaging to get general patterns of marine traffic. Optical imagery satellites would provide coverage of a much more specific and smaller area, such as choke points. (11/24)

Launch Pad Videos Released From Antares Explosion (Source: NBC)
It's been almost four weeks since Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket blew up just seconds after liftoff, but a new series of videos, recovered from cameras that were placed near the launch pad, shows just how much of an inferno it was. One compilation, posted to YouTube on Monday, combines video from AmericaSpace.com and Zero-G News. AmericaSpace's Mike Killian said the video from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia had been impounded for the accident investigation and was only recently released to photographers. Click here. (11/24)

Russian Rocket Supply for Satellites Launches Continues (Source: Space Daily)
The supply of Russian-made rocket engines used to send US military satellites into space has not experienced any disruptions despite tense relations between the two countries, a US Air Force spokesperson has told Sputnik. "United Launch Alliance (ULA) received all planned deliveries for the calendar year. All engines in inventory are able to be utilized for government, civil and commercial launch missions," Capt. Chris Hoyler said.

With a current stockpile of 16 RD-180s, the United States has enough rockets to continue launches until 2016, after which, if the supplies are stopped, there would be significant delays in the ability to launch national security satellites into space, according to an RD-180 Availability Risk Mitigation Study. Hoyler said the US Air Force has not requested or received formal proposals to replace the RD-180. (11/25)

Asteroid Mining Could Make For Boom Times (Source: Space Daily)
NASA has concluded contracts with two private-sector enterprises, intending to develop practical approaches to asteroid mining, encouraged by the successful comet landing earlier this month, as such model of space exploration may prove commercially viable, possibly attracting investment capital and other market instruments into the traditionally government dominated aerospace industry. Click here. (11/25)

Russia Preparing Joint Moon Exploration Agreement With EU (Source: Space Daily)
Scientists from Russia and the European Union are preparing an agreement on joint exploration of the Moon, Lev Zelyony, director of the Space Research Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said. "There is a governmental agreement on the ExoMars program and now we are preparing an agreement on the participation of the European Space Agency in the exploration of the Moon," Zelyony said.

According to the scientist, the leaders of the European Space Agency and Russian Space Agency Roscosmos have affirmed their readiness to fulfill existing agreements and to sign new ones. "A big, huge number of contacts with European scholars over the years, dating back to the Soviet era, have never stopped. Generations pass, but the friendship remains. Many Russian scientists conduct experiments on western devices, all of this comes under the agreements," Zelyony added. (11/25)

Complex Life May be Possible in Only 10% of All Galaxies (Source: Science)
The universe may be a lonelier place than previously thought. Of the estimated 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, only one in 10 can support complex life like that on Earth, a pair of astrophysicists argues. Everywhere else, stellar explosions known as gamma ray bursts would regularly wipe out any life forms more elaborate than microbes. The detonations also kept the universe lifeless for billions of years after the big bang, the researchers say. (11/24)

NASA presents a year in the life of the Earth’s CO2 (Source: World Cement)
NASA has developed a simulation of how CO2 moves through the Earth’s atmosphere. The simulation visualises the dispersion of greenhouse gases (GHG), variations in CO2 levels in the northern and southern hemispheres, and how CO2 concentrations are affected by the growth cycle of vegetation throughout the seasons. Click here. (11/24)

The Need for Space Tourism, Explained by an Astronaut in 90 Seconds (Source: Newsworks)
In the wake of two recent commercial space mishaps, it's fair to ask: Does space tourism help or hinder space exploration? "To me," says former NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao, "the answer is clear — commercial space ventures definitely advance the cause." Chiao says that the view from 300 miles can remind you about what's truly important. "I believe that, the more people who have this enlightenment, the better it is for all of us," he says. Click here. (11/21)

Google Lunar Contest: Pittsburgh Team Unveils Rover (Source: Trib Live)
A team of Pittsburgh scientists Monday showed off a lunar rover they hope will win them $20 million in Google's international space race. Andy, a four-wheel, 55-pound, moon-trotting robot, is the Astrobotic and Carnegie Mellon University team entry in Google's Lunar XPrize , a contest intended to promote privately funded moon exploration. (11/24)

Here's Your Chance to Launch a Satellite to the Moon (Source: Washington Business Journal)
Have a hankering for space exploration, but don't have billions to invest like Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos? You're in luck. There is another option. NASA is calling upon inventors and small businesses to compete in the Cube Quest Challenge by designing, building and launching a cubesat to a lunar distance and/or beyond. Information was published in the Federal Register Monday. (11/25)

App Lets You Say Hello to an Astronaut in Real Time (Source: WIRED)
By the time you read this story, Samantha Cristoforetti will have just docked at the International Space Station. The Italian astronaut (the first female Italian astronaut to make it to the ISS) will be 250 miles above Earth’s surface, far beyond our ability to see her with our god-given eyes, but not quite far enough that we can’t say hello to her.

To say hello, all you have to do is press the green button. Using Friends In Space, a new web app from Italian design studio Accurat, terrestrial humans can directly communicate with Cristoforetti with the click of a mouse—she just needs to be orbiting your section of Earth. You can do more than that though: The website lets you track her past, current, and future orbits; it visualizes the astronauts’ daily log of activities; it loops in live audio and video from the ISS.

Oh, and it’s technically a social network, allowing you to connect with other digital stargazers by saying “hello” to them, when Cristoforetti is out of your orbit. Friends in Space was born after Accurat co-founder and design director Giorgia Lupi began corresponding with Cristoforetti on Twitter. The astronaut had seen some of the studio’s work and wondered if there was a way to collaborate on her inaugural launch. (11/24)

Italy Fails in Bid for More Space Funds, Clouding Outlook for ESA (Source: Space News)
The failure of an amendment adding funds to the Italian Space Agency’s budget has thrown into question Italy’s ability to commit to a next-generation Ariane rocket, continued use of the international space station and Italy’s next-generation civil/military radar satellite system, the head of Italy’s principal space-hardware prime contractor said Nov. 24.

Doubts about Italy’s ability to take part in Europe’s launch vehicle development and continued use of the space station have been overshadowed in recent months by the Franco-German dispute on launch vehicle strategy. But with France and Germany seemingly on the way to an agreement, Italy’s financial issues have now moved to center stage as European governments prepare to decide the launcher and space station issues. (11/24)

NASA Contract Puts Orbital’s Pegasus XL Back on the Board (Source: Space News)
Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Virginia, will launch a small NASA heliophysics mission aboard the venerable Pegasus XL air-launched rocket in 2017 under a $56.3 million contract award announced Nov. 20. Orbital’s price has risen for Pegasus XL, which was once a staple of the company’s launch business but now is seldom flown.

The air-launched rocket, dropped from a modified Lockheed L-1011 TriStar jetliner, last launched in June 2013, when it lofted NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph spacecraft. NASA paid about $40 million for that launch, the 42nd for Pegasus. Orbital has blamed a sharp downturn in the number of small-satellite launches for the drought of Pegasus business. (11/23)

Strange Thrust: Unproven Science That Could Propel Our Children in Space (Source: BoingBoing)
For many decades, a fantasy among space enthusiasts has been to invent a device that produces a net thrust in one direction, without any need for reaction mass. Of course, a reactionless space drive of this type is impossible. Or is it? Personally, I'm not so willing to use the word "impossible" anymore. In October of this year, at the laboratory of Dr. James Woodward in California State University at Fullerton, I watched a very small-scale experiment that was surprisingly persuasive.

Unlike all the "free energy" scams that you see online, Woodward's device does not violate basic physical laws (it does not produce more energy than it consumes, and does not violate Newton's third law). Nor is Woodward withholding any information about his methods. He has written a book, published by Springer, that explains in relentless detail exactly how his equipment works--assuming that it does, indeed, work. (11/24)

Editorial: The Future of Astronaut Activity (Source: Space News)
Fifty years ago, at the dawn of the Space Age, technologies were minted just to make spaceflight possible. But now, mature commercial technologies employed on Earth, from the prosaic to the profound, are finding their way into the astronaut’s tool chest.

These range from prospecting and mining to 3-D printing, ground- and altitude-based remote sensing and hyperspectral imaging, combined with adaptive optics and a range of laser-based applications, which include precision analyses of chemicals, separating minerals from ores, purification and welding — and we are fast approaching the development of high-energy death rays for planetary protection and missile defense alike.

Nanotechnology materials, precisely crafted by 3-D printers and laser technology to form metamaterials and shapes, may soon provide more efficient thermal and radiation protection for astronauts and may even be used to create nutritious, complex foods from simple chemicals. (11/24)

Time To Change a Poorly Crafted Law (Source: Space News)
On Dec. 23, 2004, U.S. President George W. Bush signed into law the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 (CSLAA). Meant to promote the development of the emerging commercial spaceflight industry, the CSLAA made the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration responsible for regulating commercial human spaceflight.

It gave the FAA authority to regulate commercial human spaceflight safety only for the aspects of uninvolved public safety, but forbade FAA to levy any safety regulation for the safety of crew and flight participants onboard for a period of eight years, unless an accident happened before.

....To paraphrase the finding of the U.S. Presidential Committee that investigated the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster of 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico: The commercial human spaceflight industry must move toward developing a notion of safety as a collective responsibility. Industry should establish a “Safety Institute. … an industry-created, self-policing entity aimed at developing, adopting and enforcing standards of excellence to ensure continuous improvement in spaceflight safety. (11/24)

Industry Worries Government ‘Backsliding’ on Orbital Debris (Source: Space News)
Despite growing concern about the threat posed by orbital debris, and language in U.S. national space policy directing government agencies to study debris cleanup technologies, many in the space community worry that the government is not doing enough to implement that policy. Click here. (11/24)

Earth and Life Sciences, Aircraft Ops Under Microscope in NASA Consolidation Effort (Source: Space News)
Lesa Roe, former director of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, is co-leading NASA’s Technical Capabilities Assessment Team (TCAT) along with her boss, NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot. TCAT began in 2012 but will not be in full force until after February, when NASA plans to appoint so-called capabilities leaders to monitor its 10 field centers and point out areas where two or more centers are spending money on the same things.

Each leader will be in charge of one broad area of expertise NASA is calling a technical capability. There will eventually be 19 such agency-wide capabilities, Roe told the NAC here, but NASA has so far identified only four: aircraft operations, Earth science research, life sciences research, and human factors — a discipline focused on making crewed systems such as spacecraft more user-friendly.

These four capabilities alone account for about $2.8 billion of the roughly $18 billion NASA spends a year and employ about 10,000 people, including contractors and civil servants, Roe told the NAC. There could be as much as $550 million in annual savings to be had in these four areas, Roe told the NAC, although she acknowledged the number is “a target” NASA might not be able to hit. Another target for savings under TCAT, Roe said, is mission operations. Click here. (11/24)

NASA Opens Cube Quest Challenge for Largest-Ever Prize of $5 Million (Source: NASA)
Registration now is open for NASA's Cube Quest Challenge, the agency’s first in-space competition that offers the agency’s largest-ever prize purse. Competitors have a shot at a share of $5 million in prize money and an opportunity to participate in space exploration and technology development, to include a chance at flying their very own CubeSat to the moon and beyond as secondary payload on the first integrated flight of NASA's Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Click here. (11/24)

Antares Failure Pushes Tiny Satellite Company To Hitch Ride with SpaceX (Source: Universe Today)
The various companies that had stuff sitting on the failed Orbital Sciences Antares rocket launch last month are busy looking for alternatives. One example is Planet Labs, which is best known for deploying dozens of tiny satellites from the International Space Station this year. The company lost 26 satellites in the explosion. But within nine days of the Oct. 28 event, Planet Labs had a partial backup plan — send two replacements last-minute on an upcoming SpaceX Falcon 9 launch. (11/24)

November 24, 2014

Boldly Inspiring No More (Source: Space Review)
Fifty years ago this week, filming started on the original pilot for the television series "Star Trek", which became an inspiration for countless people who pursued careers in science and spaceflight. Dwayne Day wonders if there will be another series with the same cultural impact. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2648/1 to view the article. (11/24)

Redux: It's Time to Rethink International Space Law (Source: Space Review)
The international space law landscape had been gradually changing over the last decade. Michael Listner reconsiders his first essay for this publication and argues that the era of the top-down approach to developing international space has passed. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2647/1 to view the article. (11/24)

Crowdfunding a Billion-Dollar Moon Mission (Source: Space Review)
Last week, a British company announced plans for a commercial lunar mission, which it plans to raise funding for primarily from the public. Jeff Foust reports on both the science of Lunar Mission One and its unusual crowdfunding approach. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2646/1 to view the article. (11/24)

Space Historiography at the Handover (Source: Space Review)
In the second part of his three-part essay, David Clow uses one famous Apollo mission as a example of the challenges facing both historians and the general public between what is true and what is believed to be true in space history. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2645/1 to view the article. (11/24)

Orbital’s Cygnus – on a SpaceX Falcon 9? (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
SpaceFlight Insider has received word that the potential prime "contender" to ferry Orbital Sciences Corporation's Cygnus spacecraft to orbit, and thus allow Orbital to complete its requirements under the $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services (CRS ) contract - is none other than fellow CRS participant - SpaceX. If this turns out to be true, it would mean that both current CRS firms - would be flying on the same rocket. (11/24)

Uwingu to Beam Almost 90,000 Messages to Mars on Friday (Source: Uwingu)
Uwingu will launch a radio transmission to Mars on Nov. 28, sending almost 90,000 names, messages, and pictures from people on Earth. This is the first time messages from people on Earth have been transmitted to Mars by radio. The transmission, part of Uwingu’s “Beam Me to Mars” project, celebrates the 50th anniversary of 1964 launch of NASA’s Mariner 4 mission. (11/24)

Sierra Nevada Shuts Down Poway, Lays Off More Than 100 (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Sources report that Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has shut down its rocket engine test facility in Poway, Calif., where the company has tested propulsion systems for the Dream Chaser space shuttle and Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle. The company laid off more than 100 employees last week, including around 70 in Poway with the rest in Colorado, sources report. (11/24)

Twin Astronauts as Human Guinea Pigs... for Science! (Source: BoingBoing)
NASA is studying twin astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly to understand the affects of long space missions on the body and brain. Scott will spend a year on the International Space Station while Mark stays on Earth as the control in the experiment. Click here. (11/24)

Asteroid Mining to Make Aerospace Profitable as NASA Outsources Contracts (Source: Sputnik)
NASA has concluded contracts with two private-sector enterprises, intending to develop practical approaches to asteroid mining, encouraged by the successful comet landing earlier this month, as such model of space exploration may prove commercially viable, possibly attracting investment capital and other market instruments into the traditionally government dominated aerospace industry. Click here. (11/24)

Russia Considers Early Exit from Space Station (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Reports from Russia last week indicate that at least some factions of the country’s space sector are considering ending the partnership with the International Space Station (ISS) in favor of a new Russian station. This comes less than a month after all of the heads of ISS space agencies reaffirmed their commitments to the station through 2020. This latest announcement reinforces statements made by the country’s Deputy Prime Minister and suggest a growing divide among the 16 nations that participate on the ISS.

On Monday Nov. 17, the Russian paper Kommersant reported that a senior official of the Central Research Institute of Machine Building (a research center for the Russian Federal Space Agency) asserted that the country could begin constructing a new station as early as 2017. The basis for this new station, according to Kommersant, would be the three modules Roscosmos is currently planning on attaching to the ISS between 2017 and 2018. (11/24)

Russia Delivers Crew to Space Station (Source: NBC)
A Russian spaceship delivered three astronauts from Russia, the United States and Italy to the International Space Station on Sunday after an orbital ride lasting less than six hours. The Soyuz capsule roared into the darkness just after 4 p.m. ET Sunday from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Inside the capsule were Russia's Anton Shkaplerov, NASA's Terry Virts and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.

Four orbits later, the craft docked with the space station at 9:48 p.m. ET. The freshly arrived trio is joining three other spacefliers who have been living aboard the station for weeks: NASA astronaut Butch Wilmore and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova. (11/24)

Where the Shadows Lie (Source: The Economist)
As mixed successes go, it was a spectacular one. On Nov. 12 the European Space Agency (ESA) announced, with a mixture of relief and triumph, that Philae, a robotic probe, had landed on its target, a 4km-wide comet called 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. But, as the minutes and hours passed, it became clear that things had not gone entirely to plan. Philae was indeed down, but it was down in the wrong place, and suffering from a serious shortage of sunshine to boot.

Landing on a comet is tricky, even by the standards of rocket science. Because comet 67P is so small, its gravity is feeble. Anything lifting off from its surface at a speed greater than about one metre a second will zoom away into space. It was vital, then, that Philae make a gentle landing, and have some means of staying put once it was down. That did not happen, thanks to what could only be called hard luck. (11/24)

Beating Branson with Balloons (Source: Arabian Business)
The recent fatal crash of Abu Dhabi-backed Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo that many hoped would soon take tourists into space has reinvigorated questions about the viability of the mission and whether it will take off any time soon. About 800 people — many celebrities and all wealthy — have paid a reported $250,000 to be among the first to travel to space with Virgin Galactic, founded by serial entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson.

But for all of Branson’s hoo-ha and grandiose promises of imminent launch dates since 2008, he may indeed be blasted out of the record books by any one of a number of competitors who have been working towards the same goal but with far less marketing. Several of those competitors won’t be taking visitors to what is called near space — generally defined as between 20-100km above the Earth’s surface — in a rocket, but will be doing so in a helium balloon.

One such entrepreneur is Jose Mariano Lopez Urdiales, the founder of zero2infinity, which is planning to make its first test flight with humans next year. Urdiales is confident — actually, he is certain — that a balloon, whether his or another, will take tourists to space before even Branson makes it there on Virgin Galactic’s inaugural flight. (11/24)

Viet Nam Aims to Advance Space Technology (Source: VietNamNet)
Will the Viet Nam Satellite Centre (VNSC) function like USA's NASA or Japan's JAXA when its construction is completed? The Viet Nam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) thought of establishing the VNSC in 2007 after the Prime Minister approved a national research and development for space technology.

Work on the center is underway at the Lang Hoa Lac Hi-Tech Park, some 40km from Ha Noi. Funds for the center's construction comes from two main sources: Japanese ODA (over $600 million) and government's counterpart contribution. We expect the center to open in 2020 as scheduled.

Viet Nam's strategy for space technology development has two main objectives: the first is that by 2020, Viet Nam will be able to design, integrate and test small satellites orbiting the earth; the second is to collect and process data sent back from the satellites in order to provide timely information about natural disasters like floods and storms, and assist with climate change adaptation. (11/24)

How Can We Search for Life on Icy Moons? (Source: Astrobiology)
Our solar system is host to a wealth of icy worlds that may have water beneath the surface. The Cassini spacecraft recently uncovered evidence of a possible ocean under the surface of Saturn' moon, Mimas. How likely is habitability on such icy worlds, and how would we search for it? Click here. (11/24)

November 23, 2014

Crew Blasts Off for International Space Station (Source: ABC News)
A Russian capsule carrying three astronauts from Russia, the U.S. and Italy has blasted off for the International Space Station at just after 3 a.m. Monday (2100 GMT Sunday) from Kazakhstan. Aboard the capsule are Russian Anton Shkaplerov, NASA's Terry Virts and European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti of Italy. The craft will dock with the space station about six hours after launch, where they will join three others already aboard. (11/23)

SpaceX Unveils Landing Barge, Rocket Steering Fins (Source: Gizmodo)
SpaceX unveiled its "X-wing config" fins for the Falcon 9 rocket. The grid fins are the small waffle-shaped paddles that can be used to control the vehicle during its reentry into the atmosphere, steer it into the right position to relight its main engine, and land on target. They're also retractable, so don't add significant drag to the rocket while it's serving its primary function of getting stuff into space.

Also unveiled was a "drone ship" landing barge. The 300ft by 100ft vessel has a deck that can be expanded to a width of 170ft. Combined with technology to keep the platform stable, that should provide a good landing platform for the rockets, whilst also being a long, long way away from other people in case things don't go quite to plan. Click here. (11/22)

Navy Ready to Support EFT-1 Orion’s Splashdown (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
While public attention is focused on the upcoming launch of the Exploration Flight Test -1 (EFT-1) Orion, the US Navy is preparing for the spacecraft’s splashdown at the conclusion of the test mission. The USS Anchorage and the USNS Salvor will be involved in the first of the three contracted Orion returns that will be spread over the next 10 years. (11/21)

Boeing Chief Engineer: SpaceX ‘Drives Us To Be Better’ (Source: Geekwire)
Boeing doesn’t mind its competition — in fact, the company welcomes it. That was the message from Ted Goetz, a chief engineer with Boeing’s Commercial Crew who spoke today at Spacefest, a three-day event organized by the Museum of Flight in Seattle. After describing the development of Boeing’s CST-100, Goetz was asked about SpaceX, the Elon Musk-led company that is sharing a $7 billion NASA contract with Boeing to help send astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

“With SpaceX in the picture, it’s actually pretty cool,” Goetz said. “They drive us to be better. It helps us sharpen our skills, and re-examine some of the things with how we’re doing business. It’s made a difference, for sure.” (11/21)

The Art and Politics of an Icy Water World (Source: Slate)
Europa is 3120 km (1930 miles) in diameter, a hair smaller than our own Moon. Unlike our Moon, which is rock through and through, Europa has a rocky core covered with water. And by water, I mean liquid water, an undersurface ocean covered with a kilometers-thick shell of ice. The water may be in a layer 100 km thick, and salty, making it a true ocean. In fact, it may have more liquid water than Earth does! Click here. (11/21)

‘Invest Into Space, not war’ – Russian Cosmonaut Urges Russia-US Cooperation (Source: Russia Today)
Fruitful cooperation between the Russian and US crews at the International Space Station should become a template for relations between Moscow and Washington, cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev told RT as a new mission prepares to head to the ISS on Sunday. Artemyev believes that lack of consent between politicians is what prevents humanity from moving forward and starting deep space exploration. (11/22)

European Space Plane Set for February Launch (Source: Phys Org)
Europe's first-ever "space plane" will be launched on February 11 next year, rocket firm Arianespace said Friday after a three-month delay to fine-tune the mission flight plan. The unmanned, car-sized vessel will be sent into low orbit by Europe's Vega light rocket, on a 100-minute fact-finding flight to inform plans to build a shuttle-like, reusable space vehicle.

Dubbed IXV, for Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle, the plane will be boosted from Europe's space pad in Kourou, French Guiana, and separate from its launcher at an altitude of 320 kilometers (200 miles). "It will attain an altitude of around 450 km, allowing it to reach a speed of 7.5 km/s (4.7 miles/s) when reentering the atmosphere at an altitude of 120 km—fully representative of any return mission from low orbit." (11/21)

JPL Employees with Dual Citizenship Questioned on Loyalty (Source: Pasadena Weekly)
Over the past eight months, Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer Cate Heneghan said she has been dealing with what she considers to be an abuse of authority by NASA, which has been trying to force her to sign what amounts to a loyalty oath — asking intrusive questions about her allegiance to the U.S. Heneghan, who was born and raised in Maryland and has dual citizenship with Ireland, argues that the questions do not conform to NASA guidelines.

HSPD-12, or Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12, was issued by President Bush in 2004 and implemented a common identification standard for federal employees and contractors. When it was implemented at JPL and applied to all employees, including contractors and those working on non-classified projects, a number of scientists and engineers objected to the invasive background checks required under the directive and filed a federal lawsuit.

The suit, brought by longtime JPL scientist Robert Nelson, was ultimately decided in NASA’s favor by the US Supreme Court in 2012. Heneghan says that other federal employees who are also dual citizens, including those working for NASA, are not subject to the same questions. Heneghan said NASA guidelines indicate the questions are only required for classified work. Officials threatened noncompliance, revocation of access to JPL and “unfavorable determination” if Heneghan did not answer the questions within a week. (11/20)

Space Tourism: Onslaught of Visitors Expected for Launch of Hayabusa 2 Probe (Source: Asahi Shimbun)
Accommodations, transportation and other tourism-related services have rapidly sold out in and around Tanegashima island ahead of the Nov. 30 launch of the Hayabusa 2 asteroid probe there. The Tanegashima Tourism Association said it expects a record-tying 4,000 people to visit the island in Kagoshima Prefecture when the JAXA launches the probe aboard the H-2A Launch Vehicle No. 26 from the Tanegashima spaceport. (11/23)

Spaceport America Sets Sights on New Customers (Source: ABC)
There is a renewed focus is on drawing more tenants to the nearly quarter-billion-dollar spaceport and maintaining support among state lawmakers. Christine Anderson, the authority's executive director, learned this week she might have to do that one legislator at a time. Anderson was called out by Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, for handing members of an interim legislative finance committee a presentation filled mostly with photographs.

Lundstrom and other lawmakers wanted hard numbers and more details about what plan the authority has to get past the Virgin Galactic mishap and get the taxpayer-financed spaceport off the ground. "It just made all of us look like idiots, like we don't do our homework," Anderson said. "That's not the case whatsoever."

Anderson pointed to a meeting just a month earlier with the same committee in which she testified for six hours about what the spaceport authority has done, how much money it has spent and on what projects, how much revenue it's likely to bring and what needs to be done going forward. The testimony covered everything from the salaries and benefits of spaceport employees to how much is spent to keep the lights on at the futuristic building in southern New Mexico. (11/23)

Private CubeSat Start-Ups Join the Space Race (Source: Saturday Paper)
Space start-ups around the world are harnessing an unabashed Silicon Valley mentality. They pride themselves on small staff cohorts, cheap technology and quick deployment, factors that would traditionally make NASA gag at the mere mention. But for now, start-ups are leaving human space travel to the multibillionaires. Instead, they hope to solve smaller, more immediate problems faced by those on earth. Click here. (11/22)

Inside Russia's Sacred Baikonur Cosmodrome (Source: Popular Mechanics)
I knew I could only be in Kazakhstan when I saw the priests. Two of them—half-bears, half-men—walked up to the Soyuz on its pad at the fabled Baikonur Cosmodrome, their robes blowing in the desert wind. Then they sang at the rocket and bowed at the rocket and finally threw holy water at the rocket, and then they came over to us, the assembled reporters, and they threw holy water at us, too, because we probably looked like we could use it.

I'm not a religious man, but I accepted my soaking under a boundless blue sky and thought what I suspect most of the people on the pad were thinking: Can't hurt. The entire Russian space program seems built on the guiding principle of can't hurt. Click here. (11/23)

Beijing Edges Ahead in the Space Race (Source: DW)
As united as Asian countries may be in their attempts to keep pace with the West, they are worlds apart when it comes to catching up with its space exploration program. So far, it was clear who was winning the space race –with the US running out of steam, only Russia was left. But it is rapidly losing its advantage as its Asian neighbors are busy looking to boldly go where no one has gone before.

Beijing is especially close on Moscow's heels. Other than the Americans and the Russians, the Chinese are the only ones to have made it to the moon as yet. Click here. (11/22)

Burt Rutan Has High Hopes for Space Travel (Source: The Tribune)
Burt Rutan — a Cal Poly grad and renowned aerospace pioneer who has long championed space tourism — said he hopes the tragic crash of a Virgin Galactic test flight last month won’t slow down progress on such endeavors. Now retired and living in Idaho, where he’s building a seaplane called the Skigull that rises from the water on skis, Rutan retains a keen interest in the progress of commercial space travel — and flight innovation in general. Click here. (11/21)

Asteroid Mining: Not as Crazy as it Sounds (Source: Geology for Investors)
At first glance it sounds ridiculous. Why would anyone consider mining in space when even the largest Earth-based mining operations seem to have trouble managing costs? After all, mid-grade and marginal deposits seem to have trouble finding any money and the process of moving a project from prospect to mine can take decades and cost hundreds of million of dollars.

I’ll be the first to admit that the whole idea of asteroid mining was initially right up there with Star Trek-style transporters and desktop cold fusion, but a few recent events have piqued my curiosity on the subject. Allow me to elaborate.

First, one of the many items that was lost back in October, 2014 when the Antares rocket was destroyed was the Arkyd 3 satellite. Arkyd 3 is a testing platform designed by Planetary Resources, otherwise known as “the asteroid mining company”. Apparently these guys aren’t just doing interviews: There is actual work going on here. A re-built Arkyd 3 is scheduled for launch in about 9 months. Click here. (11/21)

Norway to Grow Food Crops in Space (Source: The Local)
A new EU-funded research project is set to 'take-off' researching how food plants grow in space and how the horticulture could supply space travellers with oxygen and food. The 10-year project called TIME SCALE will be led by Ann-Iren Kittang Jost, research chief at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Space (CIRiS) at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim.

The research team has not yet decided what plants they will try and grow, but are looking at tomatoes, lettuce and soybeans. The Trondheim research unit has been trying to grow plants in space since 2006. Under the Norwegian research team's guidance, plant growing experiments were carried out at the International Space Station (ISS). The research focused on the flowering weed, Arabidopsis thaliana. (11/21)

Hawaii Observatories to Study an Exotic Object (Source: U. of Hawaii)
An international team of researchers analyzing decades of observations from many facilities, including the W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea and the Pan-STARRS1 telescope on Haleakala, as well as NASA’s Swift satellite, has discovered an unusual source of light in a galaxy some 90 million light-years away. The team was led by Michael Koss, who was a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Astronomy (IfA) at the University of Hawaii at Manoa during most of the time the study was ongoing.

The object's curious properties make it a good match for a supermassive black hole ejected from its home galaxy after merging with another giant black hole. But astronomers can't yet rule out an alternative possibility. The source, called SDSS1133, may be the remnant of a massive star that underwent a record period of eruptions before destroying itself in a supernova explosion. (11/22)

November 22, 2014

U.S. Partners To Have Indirect Access to Space Fence Data (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Defense Department’s expanding network of international partners in space surveillance will have indirect access to data from the Pentagon’s next-generation Space Fence tracking system, a top U.S. military official said. To date, Strategic Command has announced data-sharing agreements with at least seven countries and 44 companies, but few details about those agreements have been made public. (11/21)

Pegasus Selected to launch ICON Satellite (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
NASA has selected an Orbital Sciences Corp. air-launched Pegasus XL rocket to place a small research satellite in orbit in 2017 to study the connection between Earth’s weather and space weather. The Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, mission will orbit 360 miles above Earth to investigate the boundary region between space and the atmosphere.

A Pegasus XL rocket dropped from the belly of an L-1011 carrier airplane will launch the ICON spacecraft in June 2017. The aircraft will take off from the U.S. Army’s Reagan Test Site in the Marshall Islands, then fly over the Pacific Ocean to deploy the three-stage Pegasus rocket. The refrigerator-sized satellite will weigh nearly 600 pounds fueled for launch.

NASA said the launch contract is worth approximately $56.3 million, including spacecraft processing, payload integration, tracking, data and telemetry and other launch support requirements. Editor's Note: $56.3 million seems expensive for such a small payload. Pegasus was supposed to be inexpensive because it avoided the cost of launching from a typical vertical pad and spaceport. (11/21)

Astronauts to Have Coffee Machine Delivered to Space Station (Source: Guardian)
Ristretto or lungo? Not a question astronauts on the International Space Station normally have to contemplate, but that is about to change thanks to a new zero-gravity coffee machine being delivered this weekend. The ISSpresso machine is set to boldly go to the orbital station this weekend, carried there by Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. (11/20)

NASA May Send Quadcopter and Mothership to Titan (Source: Quadcopter Universe)
Titan, one of Saturn's 62 moons, is one of the most interesting spots in our solar system. With a thick atmosphere that could potentially harbor alien life, it's definitely on NASA's exploration list. But finding a good way to explore lots of territory and also obtain samples has been a major barrier. Now they might actually have a solution: a large 22 pound quadcopter that can fly quickly, retrieve samples from the surface, and dock with a mothership to recharge and pass the samples.

According to Larry Matthies, a Senior Research Scientist and Supervisor within the Mobility and Robotic Systems Section of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a quadcopter may be the only solution for achieving the mission objectives on Titan. At least after cost and safety are taken into consideration. (11/21)

Virginia May Seek Federal Funds for Wallops Spaceport Repairs (Source: Space News)
After the failure of an Orbital Sciences rocket caused as much as $20 million in damage to a state-owned launch pad, Virginia’s two U.S. senators said they may seek federal funds to cover repair costs. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, both Democrats, said they would work with members of both parties in the House and Senate to identify funding to pay for the damage to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Virginia.

“Sens. Warner and Kaine are working with their colleagues from both parties, both chambers, and both states to see if there may be federal resources available to help rebound from this setback,” the statement said. MARS is a joint venture of the states of Maryland and Virginia. Dale Nash, executive director of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, said the spaceport was still finalizing damage assessments, but believed it had a good handle on what repairs were needed and their costs.

“The estimate is probably no more than $20 million,” he said. Much of the planned repairs, he said, involve concrete and other structural damage to the pad, as well as plumbing and related systems. “A lot of electrical systems and sensors are fried,” he said. Among the most visible damage to the site involves the four lightning towers, resembling tall flagpoles, surrounding the pad. Two of the four poles fell in the explosion, Nash said, and all four will likely be replaced. (11/21)

A Mission to Europa Just Got a Whole Lot More Likely (Source: Planetary Society)
A future NASA mission to Europa became more likely today with the news that Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) will assume leadership of the House's Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) appropriations subcommittee. This committee writes the House's version of the yearly funding bills that include NASA and the NSF, and is extremely influential, particularly for smaller federal agencies like NASA.

Culberson is one of the most vocal proponents of a NASA mission to explore Jupiter's moon Europa, previously helping to provide tens of millions of dollars for crucial pre-project design studies. NASA, under pressure from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), has hesitated in requesting official status for a major Europa mission after slashing hundreds of millions of dollars from the Planetary Science Division. (11/21)

Humanity Has Made the Moon Into a Garbage Pile, Wants to Keep Doing It (Source: Washington Post)
The moon, an endless point of fascination for human curiosity, is a symbol of our ingenuity, our desire for exploration, and the natural human instinct to turn everything into a pile of hot garbage. Since America conquered the moon and rendered it our property via eminent domain in 1969, we have turned the moon into a galactic landfill, replete with bags of vomit (yuck), a Lunar Roving Vehicle (the Cadillac of space cars), 100 2-dollar bills (unsure on lunar conversion rates), a Bible (every aliens need faith) and so much more.

No big deal, right? Totally! According to the BBC, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty that governs the moon ("governs" the moon) doesn't have a "Please pick up after yourself" clause. So littering all over the moon is not only American, but A-okay in the eyes of the law. So why are we even talking about this? (11/21)

November 21, 2014

Florida Delegation Members Move Up the Congressional Ladder (Source: Sunshine State News)
Members of the Florida congressional delegation are starting to move up the leadership ladder as the new Congress reconvenes in January. On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-FL, will take over as chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations.

Having just won his first full term in the House, U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-FL, is headed to the Appropriations Committee. On the other side of the aisle, while she did not end up as the chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), admittedly a large role for a congresswoman who just won a second term, U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-FL, will be part of her party’s leadership, sitting on the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee which makes committee assignments and shapes policy. (11/21)

Texas' Culberson To Chair NASA House Appropriations Subcommittee (Source: Space News)
U.S. Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), a strong advocate of NASA’s exploration and planetary science programs, will chair the subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee that funds the agency in the next Congress, the committee announced Nov. 20. (11/21)

U.S. Warns EU Against Making Galileo Mandatory (Source: Space News)
The U.S. government has alerted the European Union that any preferential treatment the EU gives to its Galileo positioning, navigation and timing network will likely violate World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements signed by the United States and the 28-nation EU.

In particular, U.S. government officials voiced concerns that the EU is weighing equipment mandates for aviation, car-accident reporting and emergency-call regulations that could unfairly tip the scales in favor of Galileo to the detriment of U.S. GPS-enabled hardware.

Jason Y. Kim, senior adviser at the U.S. National Coordination Office for Positioning, Navigation and Timing, said regulatory measures put into place should be technology-neutral, putting GPS-equipped hardware on an equal footing as Galileo equipment if both meet the regulations’ performance requirements. (11/21)

Final SLS Engines Are Still An Unknown (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA's go-as-you-can-pay approach to exploration-system development means the heavy-lift Space Launch System‭ (‬SLS‭) ‬in development to‭ ‬carry Orion beyond low Earth orbit and eventually on to Mars is very much a work in progress‭, ‬starting with the engines‭.‬ NASA hopes new rocket engines built with additive manufacturing and other advanced techniques will help hold down powerplant costs‭.

For now‭, ‬however‭, ‬SLS engineers do not have a definite view of just how they will power the big new launcher once the 16‭ ‬surviving RS-25‭ ‬Space Shuttle Main Engines‭ (‬SSME‭) ‬are used and thrown away‭, ‬four at a time‭.‬ "If we are going to use something like an RS-25‭ ‬we need to find ways to make it in less expensive ways‭,‬”‭ ‬says Todd May‭, ‬NASA’s SLS program manager‭.‬ (11/21)

Seeing Through Our Galaxy (Source: Medium)
For a long time, the plane of our galaxy prevented us from seeing very much of anything that lay beyond it. Termed the Zone of Avoidance, searches for distant galaxies and nebulae turned up very few results in this 20% of the sky, while our discoveries elsewhere simply grew and grew. While we were discovering a plethora of objects beyond the galaxy in all other directions, surveying the portion of the night sky that was blocked by our own galaxy was prohibitive.

And this would still be true coming all the way up to today if we confined ourselves to the light that our own eyes can see. Thankfully, however, we now know better. Click here. (11/21)

Spaceport America Seeks Emergency Taxpayer Funds From New Mexico (Source: KOB-TV)
New Mexico's Spaceport America project is struggling for money and survival in the aftermath of the Virgin Galactic rocket crash in California's Mojave Desert last month. Spaceport executives went to the State Capitol today, asking lawmakers at a committee hearing to give them an emergency injection of taxpayer dollars.

Call it $1.7 million - that's about what Virgin Galactic would be paying to launch from Spaceport America next year. The trouble is Virgin Galactic won't be there until late 2016 - at the earliest! That threatens to leave Spaceport America high and dry in the southern New Mexico desert, without enough money for operating expenses.

Some lawmakers told us privately they would just as soon pull the plug, but they listened to the Spaceport pitch Thursday and promised to think it over carefully. Spaceport America does have considerable legislative support, however, and that includes Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith. (11/21)

New Mexico Lawmakers Press Spaceport Boss (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Lawmakers demanded more details Thursday about how the New Mexico Spaceport Authority plans to succeed now that the nearly quarter-billion-dollar Spaceport America stands empty and commercial fights by anchor tenant Virgin Galactic have been delayed indefinitely. Members of a legislative finance oversight committee grilled spaceport Executive Director Christine Anderson after she handed them a presentation filled mostly with photographs.

Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, of Gallup, the committee’s vice-chairwoman, questioned the business plan and said the point of the meeting was to go over hard numbers and cover how the state should move forward. “I’m disappointed. We need to have more than six pictures,” Lundstrom said as she thumbed through Anderson’s presentation.

“We want to see something. What’s different? What makes us more competitive? This business plan we’ve seen the last six years in a row does not,” she said. There have been concerns about the spaceport’s future after Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft broke up over the California desert during an Oct. 31 test flight. One pilot was killed and another was seriously injured. (11/21)

Do We Have What It Takes to Explore Space? (Source: Huffington Post)
The recent accidents at Virgin Galactic and Orbital Sciences have stimulated an important discussion not only for space exploration, but also for our national economic future: What level of risk are we willing to accept in order to advance technology and exploration? Click here. (11/21)

A Sustainable 'Highway' for Unprecedented Deep Space Exploration (Source: Huffington Post)
The SLS is an absolute game-changer for ambitious robotic missions to the outer planets and large unprecedented astronomical observatories. Those missions will build on the discoveries of Curiosity on Mars, the Hubble Space Telescope and its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, and multiple robotic missions in the years ahead.

Through the development of the SLS and Orion, NASA has learned many lessons on how to streamline the design to make it more affordable than past systems. For the early missions, SLS will use heritage space shuttle hardware for the liquid engines and solid rocket boosters. Also, instead of initially building the "full-up" SLS, NASA has designed it to evolve by planning upgraded upper stages and boosters that future missions will require in the 2020's and 2030's. These innovations have allowed SLS to stay on a relatively flat budget throughout its design phase. (11/21)

XCOR Reaches Milestone in ULA Engine Program (Source: XCOR)
XCOR Aerospace has completed the latest test series for the liquid hydrogen engine it is developing for ULA. This is an important milestone in the long-running LH2 (liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen) program. It is also a step toward running the engine in a fully closed cycle mode. In its most recent milestone, XCOR successfully performed hot fire testing of the XR-5H25 engine’s regeneratively cooled thrust chamber, with both liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen supplied in pump-fed mode, using XCOR's proprietary piston pump technology.

"ULA has an ongoing effort to develop rocket engines for our next generation upper stage, and we are thrilled to see that progress continuing with XCOR," added ULA Vice President George Sowers. Upcoming test series will fully integrate the nozzle with the engine and piston pumps. Fully closed cycle testing will follow soon afterwards and will complete the sub-scale demonstration engine program. (11/20)

Europe’s Satellite Operators Urge Swift Development of Ariane 6 (Source: Space News)
The president of the European Satellite Operators Association (ESOA) applauded the apparent agreement between France and Germany on a next-generation Ariane 6 rocket and said the vehicle needs to be in service as quickly as possible. If it is not, said Eutelsat Chief Executive Michel de Rosen, ESOA’s president, SpaceX will establish itself as a leader in the commercial market — a position from which it will not be dislodged easily.

Asked whether Eutelsat, the world’s third-largest commercial satellite fleet operator by revenue, considered the Proton and Zenit rockets out of the commercial market, de Rosen said Eutelsat has been told that the Russian government will do what it takes to keep both vehicles viable in the market. Eutelsat, de Rosen said, pointedly asked SpaceX in September what its medium-term Falcon 9 pricing policy would be.

The company wondered whether SpaceX would raise prices once it had secured a sizable share of the commercial market. SpaceX’s response, he said, was that Falcon pricing would remain stable for a time and then head down, not up, as new technology, scale economies and partial reuse of the vehicle produced their intended effects. (11/20)

Indonesia’s PSN Switches to SSL after Boeing Unable To Pair Up All-electric Satellite (Source: Space News)
Indonesian satellite operator PT Pasifik Satelit Nusantara (PSN), after waiting a year for satellite builder Boeing to find a companion customer for a two-satellite contract for all-electric satellites to launch on a single SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, on Nov. 19 said it had contracted with Space Systems/Loral (SSL) for the satellite.

In a joint statement, PSN and SSL said the PSN 6 satellite will be launched in early 2017 aboard a rocket that SSL provided as part of the contract to operate at 146 degrees east in geostationary orbit. One industry official said SSL is providing a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch. It was not immediately clear whether the launch would carry a second payload.

The SSL contract is one of several ordered by Indonesian government and corporate operators in the past year. Orbital Sciences is building a satellite for PT Indosat that is intended for the same orbital slot, 150.5 degrees east, as a satellite under construction by SSL for Indonesia’s BRI bank. (11/20)

What Happened to the Water on Mars? (Source: Iowa Now)
With its empty channels and ghostly gullies, Mars resembles a planet once teeming with streams and flowing rivers. That begs the question: Where did all the water go? While some water is locked in the planet’s polar ice caps, scientists have hypothesized the rest could have gone either below the surface or out into space.

That’s where a new NASA satellite orbiting Mars comes in. The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission, or MAVEN, launched last month and expected to orbit the Red Planet for at least a year, aims to determine whether the brisk solar wind swept away water that had evaporated from Mars’s surface into its once denser atmosphere. (11/20)

Spy Satellite Launched to Serve Chinese Government (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A Long March 2D rocket blasted off from a remote space base in northwest China on Thursday and climbed into orbit with a clandestine satellite to collect intelligence for the Chinese government. China’s government-run Xinhua news agency described the Yaogan 24 satellite launched Thursday as a “remote sensing” platform. The spacecraft “will mainly be used for scientific experiments, natural resource surveys, crop yield estimates and disaster relief,” Xinhua reported. (11/20)

Japan Records Huge Sunspot Sluster 66 Times Size of Earth (Source: Xinhua)
Japanese space probe and observatory have recorded huge sunspot activity with a sunspot cluster 66 times the size of Earth, the Asahi Shimbun reported Thursday. Images of the sunspot cluster were released by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on Wednesday.

The solar observation probe Hinode and NAOJ took pictures of the sunspots on Oct. 16-30, before the sun's rotation obstructed the view. The sunspot cluster could be seen again on Nov. 15, but it had shrunk to one-third of its peak size on Oct. 26. (11/21)

Glitch Sends Latest NASA Mars Orbiter into Safe Mode (Source: Space News)
Less than a week after full science operations began, a processing glitch aboard a new NASA Mars orbiter forced the craft to temporarily shut down all of its science instruments. Operators on the ground were attempting to send commands to the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft Nov. 19, when “a timing conflict between commands” triggered an automatic shutdown of the orbiter’s three science instruments. MAVEN has been orbiting Mars since Sep. 22. (11/20)

String Theory Predicts a Time Before the Big Bang (Source: Scientific American)
Was the big bang really the beginning of time? or did the universe exist before then? Such a question seemed almost blasphemous only a decade ago. Most cosmologists insisted that it simply made no sense—that to contemplate a time before the big bang was like asking for directions to a place north of the North Pole. But developments in theoretical physics, especially the rise of string theory, have changed their perspective. The pre-bang universe has become the latest frontier of cosmology. Click here. (11/20)

NASA Selects Student Teams for High-Powered Rocket Challenge (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected eight teams from middle and high schools across the country to participate in the 2014-2015 NASA Student Launch Challenge, April 7-12, organized by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The Student Launch Challenge engages students in a research-based, experiential exploration activity.

Teams participating in the challenge must design, build and launch a reusable rocket, with a scientific or engineering payload, capable of reaching an altitude of one mile. Editor's Note: Among the eight teams is one from Plantation High School in Florida. Plantation has been a regular and successful competitor in NASA and other rocketry challenges. (11/20)

Roscosmos Denies Gas Leaks on Board ISS (Source: Itar-Tass)
There have been no gas leaks on board the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS), said a spokesperson for Roscosmos. Earlier, NASA in its official blog said there had been a minor leak of the gas khladon (Freon-218) from the system of air conditioning. “We do not confirm the NASA blog publication,” Irina Zubareva said. “There were no gas leaks on the Russian segment.”

According to the NASA blog, cosmonauts “Samokutyaev and Serova performed steps to release pressure in the Russian segment’s air conditioner system by venting khladon gas (Freon 218) overboard. However, several of the quick disconnects that were actuated during the procedure exhibited leaks. As a result, the khladon was vented into the cabin instead." (11/20)

ATK Body Language Hints at Russian engine for Antares (Source: Aviation Week)
Even before the Antares launch failure Orbital said it had selected a new engine, though the company has yet to publicly disclose the supplier. Among propulsion options considered were the restart of NK-33 production in Russia, a solid-motor solution proposed by ATK, and a variant of the Russian RD-180 that powers the Atlas 5.

But during a Nov. 19 investor update, ATK CFO Neal Cohen said something odd about Orbital's recovery strategy, including the new engine choice, citing “political risks” as one of the criteria used in ATK's recent assessment of Orbital's plan. Later in the call, when asked about ATK's plans for new propulsion systems, President and CEO Mark DeYoung said the company is always looking for opportunities to demonstrate the merits of solid propulsion, citing a proposal to the Air Force and the company's role with Orbital in Stratolaunch.

DeYoung also said when it comes to liquid-engine technology, however, the U.S. launch sector has no alternatives to Russian propulsion systems in the near future, and that it will take time to come up with other options. ATK's comments become even more interesting when you consider that, among the AJ26 options Orbital was weighing, only the Russian solutions bring any "political risks." (11/20)

Galaxies May Be Aligned Across 1 Billion Light-Years (Source: Science News)
The cores of several distant galaxies, spread out across roughly 1 billion light-years, appear to mysteriously align with one another. If confirmed, the new observations could be a hint of some unknown mechanism that shapes the largest structures in the universe.

Damien Hutsem├ękers and colleagues used the Very Large Telescope in northern Chile to measure the orientations of 19 quasars, blazing disks of gas that swirl around supermassive black holes in the centers of some galaxies. Each of the quasars lives in one of four groups that are about 13 billion light-years away and centered on the constellation Leo. Within the groups, powerful jets of charged particles that spew from the quasars seem to point in nearly the same direction, the researchers report.

The conclusions are on shaky ground, says Mike DiPompeo, an astrophysicist at the University of Wyoming. With only 19 quasars, the alignments could be just a coincidence. But even with a small sample, he finds the results intriguing and worthy of further investigation. It would be surprising, he says, if quasars knew how their neighbors were aligned. (11/20)

How NASA Plans to Land Humans on Mars (Source: Planetary Society)
There are three big reasons NASA can't lay out a comprehensive Mars plan: flat budgets, a perilous political landscape, and the sheer scale of a 20-plus-years program. Thus far, NASA's most audacious human exploration program kicked off in 1961, when John F. Kennedy declared Americans would walk on the moon by the end of the decade. The nine-year program was a success, but it was bolstered by a strong political mandate and more than double the funding NASA receives today.

The agency's budget peaked in 1966 at $43.5 billion (in 2014 dollars). Today, NASA gets about $18 billion. There's not much political will to go to Mars, and no indication that NASA's budget will change significantly. In fact, NASA doesn't even have a fiscal year 2015 budget yet, as it operates under a stopgap continuing resolution. Click here. (11/20)

A New Approach to the Delivery of Satellites to Orbit (Source: Space Daily)
Spain's Celestia Aerospace is developing the Sagitarius launch system, an airborne platform capable of reaching orbits of 600 Km of altitude, and composed of two components: The Archer, a demilitarized MiG-29UB supersonic jet; and The Space Arrow, a launcher based on a modified missile, with two load configurations: simple matrix, with a load capacity of 4 nanosatellites; and complex matrix, with a load capacity of 16. Click here. (11/20)

November 20, 2014

LinkedIn Group Provides Focus on Spaceports, States, Space Transportation (Source: SPACErePORT)
The weekly FLORIDA SPACErePORT e-newsletter can be overwhelming. A hard-copy printout can be 20 pages long! If you want news on space transportation issues, spaceports, and what Florida and other states are doing in space, you might want to join the SPACErePORT's LinkedIn Group. Click here. (11/20)

Russian Scientists Expect Return of Soviet Reputation in Space Exploration (Source: Sputnik)
Russia will regain its Soviet-era reputation of space exploration leader if the Federal Space Program for 2016-2025, which includes a flight to Mercury, plays out as planned, Lev Zeleny, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Space Research Institute says.

"Russia is currently in a good position… We, our Academy of Sciences, take active part in experiments on the other countries" space crafts — European, American and even Japanese. Our equipment works on the Moon, Mars and Venus" orbits and we are preparing a flight to Mercury," Zeleny said. "If all our plans realize, we will return ourselves the position the Soviet Union had in space research," he added. (11/20)

Comet Orbiter to Deliver Data into 2016 (Source: Bloomberg)
The Rosetta orbiter that delivered the Philae lander to the surface of the Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet could remain in orbit around the comet until 2016. While the lander has received massive attention, scientists working on the project say the orbiter's technology could, in the long-run prove more valuable. (11/20)

Engineers Cope With SpaceShipTwo Loss (Source: NBC)
ngineers are sometimes stereotyped as emotion-free brainiacs, but that stereotype gets shattered after spending just a few minutes with the engineers who are grieving over the loss of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket plane and one of its pilots.

The death of Scaled Composites test pilot Mike Alsbury during SpaceShipTwo's breakup on Oct. 31, and the impact of that death on the family he left behind, are foremost in the minds of the team at California's Mojave Air and Space Port. But SpaceShipTwo Serial No. 1 is also being mourned.

"It feels like you physically lost a baby," structural engineer Samira Virani told NBC News at Virgin Galactic's Final Assembly, Integration and Test Hangar, or FAITH. "You think about it like that. It used to be physically behind me in the hangar, and now it's no more." (11/20)

Virginia and Florida Members Added to House Appropriations Committee (Source: U.S. House)
Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA), whose district includes the spaceport at Wallops Island, and Rep. David Jolly (R-FL), a defense industry advocate from Tampa, have been added to the House of Representatives' Appropriations Committee for the 114th Congress. (11/20)

Profile on Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) (Source: Space News)
It might seem a bit unusual for a lawmaker from Houston, home to NASA’s Johnson Space Center, to be an outspoken advocate of the agency’s planetary science program, which resides half a continent — and in the figurative sense, a full world — away in Pasadena, California.

But Rep. John Culberson is perfectly comfortable in that role, even as he identifies the big-ticket human spaceflight programs that are Johnson’s bread and butter as his top priorities.

Culberson has taken a particular interest in a mission to Europa, the jovian moon whose icy exterior covers what scientists believe is an ocean that might offer the best — if still remote — hope of finding alien life in the solar system. In this, the conservative Texan has what otherwise would be an unlikely ally in Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), whose Pasadena district includes NASA JPL, which specializes in planetary missions. (10/29)

Ten Years Later East Texas Remembers Columbia (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Ten years later, the moment I remember most about the Columbia shuttle tragedy took place in a Sunday school class at First Baptist Church in tiny Alto, Texas. The half-dozen congregants silently passed around photos of pieces of the space shuttle that fell there the day before, when Columbia broke up as it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere.

A piece of metal the size of a shoe box in a woman's front yard. A scrap of what looked like scorched heat shield, in the middle of a country road. There was a deep reverence as volunteer firefighter Jeff Duplichain shared the photos he had taken of the debris he helped catalog.

This one-stoplight town was already in mourning that Saturday when they heard the roar that shook their homes. The Columbia disaster on Feb. 1, 2003, happened the same day as the funeral for a popular high-school senior — one in a class of just 47 — who had died in a car accident earlier that week. (11/20)

Retired General, Former Astronaut to Advise Canada on Space Policy (Source: Ottawa Citizen)
Former Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield and retired general Walter Natynczyk were named Wednesday to the government’s space advisory board. Industry Minister James Moore made the announcement at the annual meeting of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada in Ottawa. There has been growing concern among space industry representatives that Canada’s space policy has been severely lacking. (11/20)

No Peace Treaty Hampers Russia-Japan Space Cooperation (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russian-Japanese cooperation in space research is underdeveloped because the two countries did not sign a peace treaty yet, director of Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Space Research Lev Zeleny told reporters on Wednesday. “Our cooperation with Japan is underdeveloped. We are working much to share the data with Japanese partners, but no peace treaty hampers us to have treaties on outer space exploration as those we have with Europe, the United States and other countries,” the scientist said.

The Soviet Union and Russia as its legal successor did not ink a peace deal after the end of the Second World War yet. The problem of the Kuril Islands remains main unsettled issue in bilateral ties. (11/19)

The Tricky Ethics of Intergalactic Colonization (Source: WIRED)
Zheng He! Between 1405 and 1433, Zheng He set out from China on massive naval expeditions that reached as far as Mecca and Mombasa, journeys with more than 300 vessels and 28,000 crew, excursions far bigger and longer than those of Columbus more than a half century later. Staggering in price, formidable in technical sophistication, unprecedented in level of national commitment—Zheng’s voyages remain the closest functional equivalent to the cost, effort, and risk required to travel into deep space.

Is there a better icon for interstellar voyaging? Trying to picture what settling other planets might entail? After the last Yuan emperor fled in 1368, Zheng became part of an elite group of eunuch adventurers and troubleshooters at the Ming court in Beijing. The Ming government backed Zheng for decades. Seven times the emperor arrogantly overruled his accountants and summoned the vast amounts of material necessary to provision thousands of people on years-long voyages. Click here. (11/20)

Satellite Internet is a Space Business Widow-Maker—So Why Does Elon Musk Want In? (Source: Quartz)
Mobile networks Iridium and GlobalStar, the firms with the largest commercial satellite constellations, both spent time in bankruptcy proceedings before re-emerging as going concerns. Teledesic, a satellite-internet company backed by Microsoft, halted work in 2002, while SkyBridge, an Alcatel satellite internet project, went bankrupt in 2000.

So why is Elon Musk so eager to see his SpaceX commercial space transport company take a crack at a business that has been so troublesome? When it comes to profits in space, the biggest business is happening on the ground: You make money by building satellites and rockets, or by using satellites to beam information back and forth to earth. Orbit is just a place in your supply chain.

Existing satellite internet is expensive and dodgy, though—only 0.2% of internet users in OECD countries in 2012 used satellite broadband. Tests by US telecom regulators show it has 19 times the latency of terrestrial internet, thanks to the long distances it travels, and costs can be high. The technical challenges of managing data and avoiding interference with other satellites also are substantial. Click here. (11/19)

Return to the Moon (Source: Boston Globe)
With NASA and the Europeans focused on robot exploration of distant targets, a moon landing might not seem like a big deal: We’ve been there, and other countries are just catching up. But in recent years, interest in the moon has begun to percolate again, both in the United States and abroad—and it’s catalyzing a surprisingly diverse set of plans for how our nearby satellite will contribute to our space future. Click here. (11/14)

Proposed Port Canaveral Rail Line Cuts Through Spaceport (Source: SPACErePORT)
NASA KSC officials are supporting a series of public meetings that could pave the way for 11 miles of new railroad that would connect Port Canaveral to the Florida East Coast Railway. The rail expansion is included within KSC's new master plan and would cut through Kennedy Space Center, using existing unused rail infrastructure that was built decades ago to transport launch vehicle segments and equipment to the spaceport.

Residents at the public meetings were mostly opposed to the idea, with complaints about noise and other environmental impacts. Port Canaveral officials say the new rail line would support up to four trains per week, each with up to 220 rail cars carrying cargo to and from ships at the seaport. The new rail line might also support the delivery of space-related goods for the spaceport. (11/20)

Arianespace Chief to Austrailia: Focus on Astronauts, Not Space Tourists (Source: Financial Review)
China has triggered a space race and Australia should take part by training astronauts instead of helping space tourist operations like Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, according to the commercial space company that landed the robot Philae on a comet this month, Arianespace.

Chief executive Stephane Israel, who visited Australia as part of the delegation of French President Francois Hollande, said recent accidents in the space industry, including the dramatic explosion of an Antares rocket and the deadly crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, were tragedies but would not hurt his company or the industry. He said government subsidies and funding should be kept for space programs that focused on helping as many people as possible rather than wealthy space tourists. (11/20)

Aussie Spaceport Advocate Meets with Queensland Officials (Source: Spaceport Australia)
John Moody from Spaceport Australia met on Thursday with Queensland State Government officials from Innovation and Planning, Steve Kanoswki and Greg Fahey. Fahey is a Special Advisor to the the state's Director-General. Mr. Moody spoke about operations and roles which Spaceport Australia would play in Australia, along with lease-back options for the spaceport site. The group will meet again in a month to follow up and keep moving forward to the creation of a spaceport in Australia. (11/20)

Impact Inspection Methods Considered for ISS (Source: Air & Space)
The piece of orbital junk closed in on the International Space Station at 29,000 mph. Six crew members evacuated to two Soyuz space capsules that would be their lifeboats if the debris made contact. The astronauts had no tools designed to find and repair significant damage and had only one option: Undock, and abandon the $100 billion Earth-orbiting laboratory. At 8:08 a.m. on June 28, 2011, the object and the station flew past each other—a harrowing 1,100 feet apart at closest approach.

Engineers and safety officers at NASA have given a lot of thought to the tools that a station crew could use to respond to a significant collision. The first solution is simply being able to inspect the exterior of the station for damage. Astronauts’ inability to adequately survey their spacecraft has been a problem ever since one of Apollo 13’s oxygen tanks exploded on the way to the moon and, more recently, when the space shuttle Columbia burned up on reentry

The goal now is to get real-time observation in as many places in and around the space station as possible. The range of technology that NASA and its partners are working on is broad—from high-definition external cameras to autonomous robots that can fly around or crawl on the outside of the station to investigate and repair damage. Click here. (11/20)

Countdown Clock Retired, Poised for Move to KSC Visitor Complex (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The iconic Countdown Clock located at the Kennedy Space Center press site in Florida – ended its decades-long service today. The timepiece, which has provided the exact time before a mission takes flight, as well as the amount of time that missions have spent in orbit – was officially shut down at 3:45 p.m. EDT.

“The new clock will be different, it’s going to be a flat screen, outdoor kind of device and it’s going to be bigger…we’re looking at something that is durable, weather-proof and we’re looking into putting something there that is not just a clock, but something that would allow us to put the NASA TV program out there too. It would be something that you could have some flexibility with,” Lisa Malone said.

The old clock will now join many other historic space artifacts that are located at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. NASA meanwhile will work to have the new clock in place for the planned Dec. 4 launch of a test article of the agency’s new Orion spacecraft. (11/20)

Boeing to Issue Layoff Notices for Huntsville Employees (Source: Huntsville Times)
Boeing confirmed Wednesday evening it will begin issuing layoff notices to a small percentage of its 1,000 Huntsville employees on Friday. The layoffs are related to NASA's Space Launch System, a deep space rocket. (11/19)

Fiji Willing to Assist India in Orbit Missions (Source: FBC)
Fiji stands ready to assist India in future orbit missions. Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama gave his assurance to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday. Fiji helped India monitor its historic Mars Orbiter Mission. The Mission was launched on 5th November last year and India was the first nation to launch an inter-planetary mission. (11/20)

Excalibur Almaz to Fight Civil Suit in US (Source: IOM Today)
Directors of Manx-registered space exploration company Excalibur Almaz says they will vigorously defend ‘baseless’ claims made against them in a US civil lawsuit. In a civil suit filed in Harris County district court, Texas, Japanese businessman Takafumi Horie alleges Excalibur Almaz founders Art Dula and J Buckner Hightower misled him into investing $49m in a commercial space transportation venture.

In a statement, Excalibur Almaz said: ‘These allegations are baseless and will be vigorously defended. 'To set the record straight, Excalibur Almaz is not out of business and is vigorously pursuing a profitable commercial space program utilizing proven Russian flight hardware capable of re-use, contrary to recent allegations.’

This isn’t the first lawsuit filed against Excalibur Almaz. In 2012, Donna Beck sued the company and a number of its directors for allegedly defrauding her and her late husband into investing $300,000 in an asteroid mining scheme. Lawyers for Excalibur said they would mount a ‘rigorous’ defence against the ‘completely unfounded’ claims. (11/20)

Supporting Canadian Aerospace Excellence (Source: Govt. of Canada)
The Canadian aerospace industry is a global success story that is setting new standards for innovation, productivity and competitiveness, Industry Minister James Moore told a lunchtime audience today at the 2014 Canadian Aerospace Summit. The Minister underlined the government's support for aerospace and reiterated its commitment to supporting the manufacturing industry and establishing the right economic conditions for success. These included lowering taxes, cutting the corporate rate from over 22 percent in 2007 to 15 percent today and removing the federal capital tax. Click here. (11/19)

Fragments of Russia’s De-Orbited Progress M-24M Spacecraft Fall Into Pacific (Source: Itar-Tass)
Fragments of Russia’s Progress M-24M cargo resupply spacecraft that were not burnt in the dense part of the atmosphere have fallen into non-navigable waters of the Pacific. The spaceship was de-orbited at 02:00 a.m. Moscow time on Thursday.

After undocking from the International Space Station (ISS) on October 27, Progress M-24M took part in a scientific experiment to study the possibility of transmitting optical signals to carry out the researches on the changes of the Earth’s atmosphere. (11/20)

Sarah Brightman May Soon Start Medical Tests for Tourist Space Flight (Source: Itar-Tass)
British singer Sarah Brightman may arrive in Moscow in late December to undergo pre-flight medical tests, the head of the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems said. "Medical tests are scheduled for the end of December but Ms. Brightman has not confirmed her arrival yet," Igor Ushakov said. Brightman, 54, will not be allowed to start her pre-flight training in mid-January without permission of medics. Brightman's flight is scheduled for September 1-11, 2015. (11/19)

Comet Landing as a Prelude to Asteroid Mining (Source: Boston Globe)
The success of the Rosetta mission was a banner day for space exploration. It also made one small, quixotic industry suddenly seem a lot less like science fiction: asteroid mining. David Gump is the vice chairman of Deep Space Industries, one company currently planning to send probes on one-year prospecting trips to near-earth asteroids. He said such trips would be “much easier” than Rosetta’s mission, which required a decade of travel past Mars.

Rosetta’s landing, he hopes, will make his company’s plans look more realistic to investors and customers. Asteroid mining is an idea that’s developed over the last decade, as scientists have identified increasing numbers of near-earth asteroids, bodies relatively accessible because their paths around the sun are similar to our own. Click here. (11/14)

As New Space Powers Emerge, NASA More Unreliable as Partner (Source: WPR)
When the European Space Agency (ESA) successfully landed the spacecraft Philae on a comet last week, it accomplished something once thought to be the sole purview of the superpowers. In truth, the ESA—a consortium of 20 formal members—highlights a well-established and accelerating trend: Whereas space was once beyond the reach of all but the U.S. and the Soviet Union, recent decades have witnessed the spread and maturing capabilities of new space powers around the world.

While the United States has reasons to be concerned with that shift related to national security, it also has cause to celebrate, as promoting the peaceful exploration of space by others has been a longstanding U.S. goal. Nevertheless, a series of recent budget-driven cuts and cancellations have jeopardized NASA’s credibility as a reliable partner on international space projects. (11/19)

Launched Russian Satellites to Reach 150 by 2025 (Source: Space Daily)
Russia will increase the number of its orbital satellites to 150 by 2025, head of Russia's United Rocket Space Corporation (URSC) said Monday. "According to the federal space program's new project, the number of orbital satellites with social-economic purpose will be doubled to 75, while the number of the satellites for government needs is expected to reach 150 by 2025," Igor Komarov said. (11/19)

Lunar Mission One Aims to Send Crowdfunded Probe to Drill on Moon (Source: Guardian)
Move over, Mars: A British-led venture called Lunar Mission One has begun a crowdfunding effort to send a robotic lander to the moon with a monster drill. The first step of the plan is to raise $950,000 (£600,000) through a Kickstarter campaign. That money would finance Lunar Mission One's planning and management activities during the initial phase of what backers expect will be 10 years of preparation. The plan calls for additional sales, marketing, planning and development efforts to build up toward launch in 2024.

The centerpiece of the fundraising effort is an array of time capsules that Lunar Mission One expects to have its probe bury on the moon. The capsules would contain "digital memory boxes" that serve as extraterrestrial archives for the project's backers. The Kickstarter campaign promises to "reserve your place in space" for a pledge of £60 ($94) or more — but other perks are going for as little as £3, or less than five U.S. dollars. (11/19)

Brownsville Students Learn from SpaceX (Source: KHOU)
SpaceX is set to begin construction of a new spaceport in south Texas in the next few months that will transform the Rio Grande Valley into a commercial space hub and research center. "To say this is a game changer in the area is really an understatement," said Fredrick Jenet, Director of the Center for Advanced Radio Astronomy at the University of Texas, Brownsville.

Professor Jenet leads a team of student researchers at the Center that is designed to resemble the bridge of the Starship Enterprise from Star Trek. SpaceX's new launch site will give astrophysics students and faculty at UT Brownsville unprecedented opportunities for space research. Click here. (11/19)

Orbital’s Three Poker Games (Source: Space News)
Orbital Sciences Chief Executive David W. Thompson is not a guy I would ever want to play poker with. Discussing the company’s “go-forward” Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) cargo contract for the international space station and its Antares plans with Wall Street analysts Nov. 5 — less than a week after the smoke had cleared over Wallops Island, Virginia, from the rocket’s Oct. 28 launch failure — Thompson was confident the company would be able cover its commitment to NASA with minimal cost out of its own pocket.

Clearly, Orbital continues to hold cards close to its vest as it juggles not one, not two, but three different hands. And I’m not quite sure where it may be bluffing. The first hand is Orbital announcing it would buy one or two third-party launches for the Cygnus cargo vehicle, with a first flight as early as the second quarter of 2015. Discussions are taking place with two U.S. companies and one European company that Thompson wouldn’t name.

I presume those names are SpaceX, ULA and Arianespace, but I am smelling a bluff already. The least likely candidate in my mind is Arianespace. Ignore integrating Cygnus on a Soyuz or International Traffic in Arms Regulations and clearing customs when moving the cargo spacecraft out of the country. Simply consider logistics plus contracts in flying Cygnus, its support equipment and technicians from Wallops Island to Europe’s Kourou, French Guiana, spaceport. Click here. (11/17)

Lockheed Martin Begins Final Assembly Of Next Mars Lander (Source: Space Daily)
Lockheed Martin has started the assembly, test and launch operations (ATLO) phase for NASA's InSight Mars lander spacecraft. The InSight mission will record the first-ever measurements of the interior of the red planet, giving scientists unprecedented detail into the evolution of Mars and other terrestrial planets. InSight is scheduled to launch in March 2016. (11/19)

NASA Skunkworks Team Set to Deliver Newfangled 6U CubeSat (Source: NASA)
A NASA "skunkworks" team gave itself just one year to develop, test and integrate a newfangled CubeSat that could reliably and easily accommodate agency-class science investigations and technology demonstrations at a lower cost. The team, comprised of engineers and scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, is on track to meet its self-imposed deadline.

The team is expected to begin environmental testing of a six-unit, or 6U, CubeSat in late December. Once the team completes thermal vacuum testing, it will deliver the new CubeSat to NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida, where it then will be readied for launch to the International Space Station for deployment perhaps as early as January 2016. "Rapid advances in the performance and efficiency of miniaturized systems are enabling a future only limited by vision and imagination," Johnson said. "CubeSats are a part of that future."

The CubeSat — known as Dellingr, a name derived from the god of the dawn in Norse mythology — will carry three heliophysics-related payloads. It doubles the payload capability of the ubiquitous and proven three-unit, or 3U, CubeSat pioneered by the California Polytechnic Institute in 1999 primarily for the university community. (11/18)

VCs Eye Ukrainian Space Startups (Source: Ukraine Digital News)
Is the Ukrainian space industry attractive to venture investors? Business magazine Capital has identified examples of successful startups and asked local and international VCs to comment on the matter. There already are space startups at universities in the country. Nanosputnik PolyITAN, developed by students at Kyiv Polytechnic Institute as part of the international program QB50, is an example.

PolyITAN-1 was launched into orbit on a Dnepr rocket on June 19 and last month the project received investments of 500,000 hryvnias (just over $32,000) from the Academic V.S. Mikhalevich Fund. Also this year, Ukrainian Pavel Tanasyuk launched a sputnik into orbit as part of the Space BIT project, which makes it possible to issue electronic money and complete operations with it outside the jurisdiction of any country.

The Ukrainian eFarmer project, which gives farmers access to maps of fields, is a resident at the startup incubator of the European Space Agency. These startups, designed to use space to solve earthly problems, are easier to develop because of the low level of risk associated with them. Mark Watt, a partner in the American-Ukrainian asset management firm Noosphere – which has just invested in commerce platform Prosto.ua – said the search for such projects is mainly conducted in universities. (11/14)

Anderson: Spaceport Tuning Up for Fiscal Success (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Spaceport America is just getting started. When I assumed the job of executive director of Spaceport America in 2011, New Mexico had already provided over $200 million worth of bonds to build a commercial spaceport, and Virgin Galactic was the anchor tenant pledging to pay over $50 million in rent over a 20-year period and generate over $200 million in revenue from passenger flights.

In 2006, the state of New Mexico decided to build the world’s first purpose-built spaceport. Building this first-of-a-kind commercial spaceport on the site that was selected, in a remote part of New Mexico that did not have accessible paved roads, water, power or communications, was not a trivial task. It took enormous energy and focus from the spaceport staff of seven to build a 12,000-foot runway, several iconic buildings and all of the infrastructure of a small city.

We did all of that and in addition conducted 21 vertical launches by other customers and attracted SpaceX, the top commercial space launch company in the world, as another tenant who will be conducting Falcon 9 reusable rocket flight tests for the next several years at the spaceport. Click here. (11/19)

Top 5 Companies To Watch (Source: Space News)
This year’s Top 5 Companies to Watch group has a heavy focus on firms facing challenges that could come to a head in the next year or two. They include Virgin Galactic, Globalstar, Orbital Sciences, Sea Launch, and Iridium. Click here to see why. (11/17)

Next SpaceX Launch of ISS Cargo Shifts to Dec. 16 (Source: Florida Today)
NASA today confirmed SpaceX's next launch of International Space Station cargo from Cape Canaveral is scheduled for 2:31 p.m. Dec. 16. The launch previously had been listed as no earlier than Dec. 9. The mission is SpaceX's fifth of 12 under a $1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA, and the third launched during 2014. (11/19)

Part Failure Cuts Short Morpheus Test at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
A prototype NASA lander fired its engine today while hanging from a crane at Kennedy Space Center, but the engine quickly cut off. NASA said a non-engine component failure was responsible for aborting the tethered test flight of the Morpheus lander just after 3 p.m. north of KSC's shuttle runway. The four-legged lander measuring about 10 feet tall and 10 feet on each side briefly dangled from side to side before stabilizing. (11/19)

Air Force 'Pretty Optimistic' About SpaceX Certification (Source: Reuters)
A top U.S. Air Force official on Wednesday said she is "pretty optimistic" that privately held Space Exploration Technologies will eventually be certified to launch U.S. military satellites into orbit but declined comment on the timing of such an action. The Air Force is working closely with the company, also known as SpaceX, to satisfy a series of requirements that would allow it to compete to launch costly and sensitive U.S. military and intelligence satellites.

Lieutenant General Ellen Pawlikowski told reporters she could not provide a detailed comment on the SpaceX certification process since a competition for one of those launches is already under way. A contract award for the launch is due in December. (11/19)

Astronaut Reveals What Life in Space is Really Like (Source: WIRED)
There's no way to anticipate the emotional impact of leaving your home planet. You look down at Earth and realize: You’re not on it. It’s breathtaking. It’s surreal. It’s a “we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto” kind of feeling. But I’ve spent a total of 55 days in space, over the course of five missions for NASA, and I’ve learned that being out there isn’t just a series of breathtaking moments. It’s a mix of the transcendently magical and the deeply prosaic. It can be crowded, noisy, and occasionally uncomfortable. Space travel—at least the way we do it today—isn’t glamorous. But you can’t beat the view! Click here. (11/19)