August 17 News Items

Rampaging Herds Of Fat Space Cows Built The Planets (Source: Discovery)
Our understanding about how the planets in the Solar System evolved has just taken a huge leap forward with a new paper published in the journal, Icarus. According to current theories, the dusty proto-planetary disk surrounding the sun during Solar System evolution spawned the accretion of small rocky bodies that gradually clumped together to form larger and larger asteroids. These asteroids then gradually swept up debris from the disk, eventually forming planetary bodies. But there's a problem, the accreting asteroids would have dropped out of solar orbit due to drag caused by the dust and gas in the sun's accretion disk. So how did the material that makes up the asteroids and planets in our Solar System avoid being eaten by the sun?

Although the bedrock theory of planetary formation is largely accurate, there has been some confusion as to how the accreting rocks remained in solar orbit. During their growth, asteroids would have been orbiting through clouds of dust and gas surrounding our young star, thereby experiencing drag as they traveled through the interplanetary medium. These bodies would have lost energy and then spiraled into the sun. If this was the case, there should be a lot less asteroids in the Solar System than currently observed, and there would be a huge question mark hanging over how planets formed at all.

Researchers developed models that suggest a sudden "leap-forward" in asteroid formation, bypassing the dust drag problem. Basically, they have shown that turbulence in the proto-planetary nebula may have corralled small pieces of rock, measuring less than a meter across, in swarms (or "flocks" as termed by the New Scientist article). Eventually, these swarms became so massive, they collapsed under their mutual gravity into the center of mass. This spontaneous collapse would have been very fast in planetary evolution time scales. (8/17)

India and Russia Complete Design of New Lunar Probe (Source: RIA Novosti)
India and Russia have finished the design of a second unmanned lunar orbiter to be sent to the Moon in 2011-2012. Madhavan Nair, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), said: "Right now, the design has been completed. We had a joint review with Russian scientists here. Next...we will go towards prototype building, which will be taken up next year." Chandrayaan-2 is the second Indian mission to the moon that "would have an orbital flight vehicle constituting an Orbital Craft (OC) and a Lunar Craft (LC) that would carry a soft landing system up to Lunar Transfer Trajectory (LTT)."

Russia is responsible for the design and construction of a lander and a rover, which could collect samples of the lunar soil, analyze them and send the data back to Earth. The ISRO and the Russian Federal Space Agency signed in November 2007 an agreement to work together on the Chandrayaan-2 project. The work started following the launch of India's first unmanned mission to the moon, the Chandrayaan-1, in October last year. (8/17)

Orion Pad Abort Test Slips Into 2010 (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA will ship the first Orion crew module for launch abort tests at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, on Aug. 19, but confirms that the Pad Abort 1 (PA-1) flight test has slipped into early 2010. NASA originally hoped to deliver the vehicle to New Mexico in Feb. 2009 and scheduled the PA-1 for late April, having already postponed it several times from its first target date of September 2008. Most of the early delays were caused by development problems with the avionics, although the latest hold-ups are thought to be related to issues with the control electronics in part of launch abort system (LAS). The LAS will be integrated with the crew module at White Sands and the basic functionality of the 48.5-foot tall combined module and LAS will be tested in PA-1. (8/17)

Lockheed Martin Space Systems to Cut 800 Jobs (Sources: Space News, Reuters)
Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. will trim its work force by about 800 employees, or 4.5 percent, by year's end in a move intended to improve its overall competitiveness, the company announced. Lockheed said the space systems job cuts would affect all levels and disciplines, including technical, managerial and administrative posts, mainly at facilities in Denver and Sunnyvale, California. (8/17)

Stardust Mission Found Glycine in a Comet (Source: NASA Watch)
NASA scientists have discovered glycine, a fundamental building block of life, in samples of comet Wild 2 returned by NASA's Stardust spacecraft. "Glycine is an amino acid used by living organisms to make proteins, and this is the first time an amino acid has been found in a comet," said Dr. Jamie Elsila of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Our discovery supports the theory that some of life's ingredients formed in space and were delivered to Earth long ago by meteorite and comet impacts." "The discovery of glycine in a comet supports the idea that the fundamental building blocks of life are prevalent in space, and strengthens the argument that life in the universe may be common rather than rare," said Dr. Carl Pilcher, Director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute which co-funded the research. (8/17)

Why is Human Mars Exploration So Surprisingly Hard? (Source: Space Review)
In the heady aftermath of Apollo 11, it appeared likely humans would journey to Mars by the end of the century; 40 years later, though, such missions seem as far in the future as ever. James Oberg discusses why such missions have proven far more difficult than originally envisioned and how we'll know that we're finally ready to go. Visit to view the article. (8/17)

Doubts About Depots (Source: Space Review)
On-orbit propellant depots are getting increased attention as a possible part of alternative space exploration architectures being studies by the Augustine committee. However, Josh Hopkins argues that proponents of the concept need to address a number of technical and business issues regarding them. Visit to view the article. (8/17)

Ares 1 Launch Abort: Technical Analysis and Policy Implications (Source: Space Review)
An Air Force analysis leaked last month concludes that there are phases of flight of the Ares 1 from which the Orion capsule could not safely escape. Kirk Woellert examines both the rationale for leaking the report and its technical merits. Visit to view the article. (8/17)

Remembering the Lessons of SEI (Source: Space Review)
As the Augustine committee completes its work, the next big question will be how the White House and Congress act on its conclusions. Taylor Dinerman looks back on the late, lamented Space Exploration Initiative for insights on how not to act. Visit to view the article. (8/17)

NASA's Suborbital Launch from Virginia Demonstrates Inflatable Heat Shield (Source: NASA)
A successful NASA suborbital flight test Monday demonstrated how a spacecraft returning to Earth can use an inflatable heat shield to slow and protect itself as it enters the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds. The Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment, or IRVE, was vacuum-packed into a 15-inch diameter payload "shroud" and launched on a small sounding rocket from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island. The 10-foot diameter heat shield, made of several layers of silicone-coated industrial fabric, inflated with nitrogen to a mushroom shape in space several minutes after liftoff. (8/17)

Delta II Completes 20 Year Era With Successful GPS Launch (Source: ULA)
The 48th successful and final Air Force Delta II Global Positioning System satellite launch occurred today, ending one of the most successful space launch programs in American history. A United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket launched GPS IIR-21(M) into orbit from Launch Complex-17A at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The first Air Force Delta II GPS launch occurred Feb. 14, 1989 and today's launch marked the 48th successful GPS mission giving the program a 98 percent success rate. The first launch in 1989 was NAVSTAR II-1. NAVSTAR is now commonly known as GPS. (8/17)

Danger of Britain Being Left Behind in Space Race (Source: Telegraph)
Britain's space industry is in danger of losing out unless the Government sets a clear strategy for investment. Despite years of under-investment and the lack of a national space program, the country has captured about 7 percent of the space industry market. But Andy Green, the chief executive of Logica, has warned this could be undermined as countries such as the US, India and China position their industries to benefit from the expected surge in international spending on new satellite communications technologies and software applications over the next 10 years. (8/17)

Check Written in Boom Times Bought Ticket for Space Flight (Source: Las Vegas Sun)
Back in the boom days of real estate, Ken Baxter was the king of selling condo conversions, a real hot shot. But the past 2 1/2 years have been horrible for his business, so why is he smiling? Because sometime next year, thanks to a $200,000 check he wrote in 2005, he plans to blast into space onboard Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo. For about five minutes, maybe eight if he’s lucky, Baxter will be an astronaut, floating weightless.

Baxter is 60, meaning he’s old enough to remember the Mercury missions of the early ’60s that launched the first Americans into earth orbit. It got to him. “Ever since I was a kid, kinda secretly, you know, I thought about how cool it would be to go to outer space,” Baxter says. In the fall of 2004. Baxter was watching “60 Minutes,” which was airing a story on the X Prize, a $10 million prize to be awarded for the first private venture to launch the same manned craft into space twice in two weeks. “I didn’t hesitate. I saw that and said I was going to be the first one to go up,” Baxter recalls. (8/17)

Lockheed: Not Safe To Rush Commercial Human Space Transport (Source: Aviation Week)
Lockheed Martin warns that fast-track plans to develop alternate commercial human-rated transport systems to the International Space Station could be costly in terms of time, money and even safety. The warning comes as the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee completes its final options for presidential consideration. At the same time, Lockheed Martin reveals it is examining a wide range of future tasks for the Orion crew exploration vehicle far beyond the lunar and International Space Station (ISS) support missions for which it was originally conceived. The company plans to complete the preliminary design review for the spacecraft by month-end.

John Stevens, business development human spaceflight director for Lockheed Martin Space Systems, says "we're having a hard time affording the Orion program, which is designed to take humans to the station and the Moon, and now they're talking about starting a commercial program to take humans. We're saying 'hang on' - we've already got one. If we can't afford one program, how can we afford two?" (8/17)

Black Hole Parasites Explain Cosmic Flashes (Source: New Scientist)
Some of the brightest flashes in the universe may be the result of black holes burrowing into stars and devouring them from inside. The flashes are known as gamma-ray bursts because most of their energy is in the form of high-energy radiation, including gamma rays and X-rays. The longer flashes, lasting at least a few seconds, have long been thought to signal the deaths of massive stars that have run out of fuel, causing them to collapse to form black holes, unleashing powerful jets of radiation in the process. Now an alternative explanation has been given new lease of life: a black hole may instead be an external attacker that dives into the belly of a massive star and consumes it. (8/17)

Is Ares I Work All for Nothing? (Source: Florida Today)
For the first time since 1980, workers at Kennedy Space Center have finished assembling a new rocket inside the Vehicle Assembly Building. A crane operator deftly lowered the last piece of the 327-foot-tall rocket into place Thursday, at the same location where the shuttles and legendary Saturn V moon rockets were put together. It was easily the biggest moment yet in NASA's struggle to develop the new Ares I rocket envisioned to carry astronauts to orbit and someday on the first leg of trips to the moon. It was the kind of moment NASA typically marks with a show-and-tell for the news media and, by extension, you the taxpayers who foot the bill for the space program. Instead, the moment passed quietly with a few words and a dozen or so photos posted online. The modesty was uncharacteristic of NASA's vaunted press machine. (8/17)

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