September 28 News Items

Soyuz TMA-16 Readied for Launch Sept. 30 (Source: Spaceports Blog)
The next Soyuz TMA-16 mission to the space station is on the "Gagarin's Start" launch pad for a Wednesday blast-off from the Kazakh steppe, more from AP and Russia Today. NASA plans TV and webcast coverage of the launch Wednesday beginning at 1:45 AM. Soyuz Spaceflight participant Guy Laliberte plans a multi-million dollar October 9 global space show. (9/28)

Astronaut Musgrave Featured at Amateur Radio Event on Oct. 17 (Source: FSEC)
Astronaut Story Musgrave will be the featured speaker at an Oct. 17 event to support the Brevard Emergency Amateur Radio Service. He will speak on the environment and technology. The Amateur Radio Service group invites donations of $25 for the event, to support their efforts during emergency and disaster events. The event will take place at 6:30 p.m. at the Florida Solar Energy Center on the Cocoa Campus of Brevard Community College. Call 321-727-2311 for information. (9/28)

Gainesville Museum Hosts Space Event (Source: Gainesville Sun)
The opportunities to meet an astronaut, to view celestial bodies, make a telescope and much more attracted more than 1,000 people to the Florida Museum of Natural History last week. As part of a yearlong celebration of the International Year of Astronomy 2009, the museum hosted its annual Starry Night - and the turnout was considerable. In fact, people formed a line that roped around the museum in hopes of being one of 80 participants who would get the chance to build their own telescope. Capt. Winston Scott, a former astronaut, shared his experiences and adventures in a classroom filled with guests. Attendees were captivated as he spoke about his six hours of training performed underwater in a 350-pound suit. (9/28)

Astronomers Make Key Sighting with Florida Telescope (Source: UF)
This summer, University of Florida astronomers inaugurated the world’s largest optical telescope on a nearly 8,000-foot mountaintop 3,480 miles away. But it was a far more modest observatory, located just above sea level in rural Levy County and just down the road from the UF campus, that proved key to a new discovery about what one astronomer termed “one of the weirdest” planets outside our solar system. Three UF astronomers are among the authors of a paper pinning down the extravagantly unusual orbit of HD 80606b, a Jupiter-sized planet nearly 200 light years away. The astronomers made observations of the planet eclipsing its star from a 41-year-old telescope at the department’s Rosemary Hill Observatory 30 miles west of Gainesville in Bronson. (9/28)

China Completes World's Highest-Resolution 3D Map of Moon (Source: Xinhua)
Chinese experts Monday announced that the country's space scientists had completed the world's highest-resolution three-dimensional map of the moon. The map, covering the whole surface of the moon, was made based on image data obtained by a charge-coupled device (CCD) stereo camera carried by the Chang'e-1, China's first lunar probe. The map's spatial resolution -- measured by the distance of two features within an image that can be clearly defined -- is 500 meters. (9/28)

Commercial Supply Rocket Ready for Lift Off (Source: MIT Technology Review)
Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), a private company based in Hawthorne, CA, announced last week that its rocket, Falcon 9, is ready for its first test flight. Aboard the rocket will be the company's Dragon capsule, a spacecraft designed to carry both cargo and crew and is being developed under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. SpaceX has not set a specific launch date, but the rocket will be sent to the launch pad in Florida in November. It could be anywhere from one to three months before it lifts off. (9/28)

Astrotech Reports Financial 4th Quarter Results, Explores Strategic Alternatives (Source: Astrotech)
Astrotech Corp. posted a fourth quarter fiscal year 2009 net income of $2.6 million and revenue of $10.4 million, compared with a fourth quarter fiscal year 2008 net loss of $1.5 million and revenue of $6.1 million. Astrotech’s net income for the fiscal year ended Jun. 30 was $4.7 million with revenue of $32.0 million compared to a net loss of $36.0 million with revenue of $25.5 million for the prior fiscal year. These results represent a 25.2% increase in revenue over fiscal year 2008. Additionally, this marks the first time since 2005 that the Company has reported net income for the fiscal year.

Astrotech also has engaged investment banking firm Lazard Ltd. to explore strategic financial and business alternatives to enhance shareholder value. These could include strategic acquisitions, a sale of some or all of the company’s assets or a variety of other possible transactions. (9/28)

A Glance at Space Tourists Past and Present (Source: AP)
As Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte prepares for his trip to the International Space Station, here's a look at the colorful men and one woman who have purchased seats on Russian space flights. Click here to view the space tourist profiles. (9/28)

ATK Shoots for the Moon with Rocket, Dismisses Studies Critical of Safety (Source: Ogden Standard-Examiner)
As NASA shoots for the moon, the Top of Utah company helping take the space agency's rocket to the sky claims it has the safest launch vehicle ever developed. But not everybody thinks so, including some departments of the Air Force and, at one time, even NASA. Charley Precourt, ATK's space launch systems general manager, believes some safety study reports and follow-up news stories were "overblown" as NASA reignited the lunar program. "The safety piece is really important," said Precourt, a former shuttle astronaut. "It's one of the major benefits of our motor." (9/28)

Dark Matter Hunters Construct a New Weapon (Source: WIRED)
That dark matter has never been found is no deterrent to the physicists who are looking for it. According to physicists, only around five percent of what makes up the universe can presently be detected. The existence of dark matter is inferred from the behavior of faraway galaxies, which move in ways that can only be explained by a gravitational pull caused by more mass than can be seen. They estimate dark matter represents around 20 percent of the universe, with the other 75 percent made up of dark energy, a repulsive force that is causing the universe to expand at an ever-quickening pace.

A new detector, which is called a scintillating bolometer and resembles a prop from The Golden Compass, is a crystal so pure it can conduct the energy ostensibly generated when a particle of dark matter strikes the nucleus of one of its atoms. To prevent interference by cosmic rays, the bolometer is sheathed in lead and kept underground, under half a mile of rock. It’s also frozen to near-absolute zero, the temperature at which all motion stops. At the edge of absolute zero, it’s possible to measure expected changes of a few millionths of a degree Fahrenheit. (9/28)

Stem Cells Point to Space Ills (Source: ABC Science)
Stem cells exposed to microgravity express different proteins than those grown in normal gravity, say Australian researchers. The finding may explain why long-term exposure to microgravity causes astronaut health issues such as loss of bone density and muscle wasting. The researchers used a NASA rotating-wall vessel to simulate microgravity, which is experienced by astronauts in low Earth orbit, to analyse its effect on human embryonic stem cells. Their results showed 75% of the proteins from the cells exposed to microgravity were not found in those grown under normal gravity. (9/28)

U.S. to Host Global Conference on Space Debris (Source: AIA)
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is seeking proposals for cleaning up space debris in advance of the first international conference "solely dedicated to addressing the issues and challenges involved with removing manmade orbital debris from Earth orbit." DARPA and NASA will co-host the conference Dec. 8-10. (9/25)

A Tipping Point for Commercial Crew? (Source: Space Review)
In recent weeks several companies have expressed new or renewed interest in developing commercial systems for carrying people to low Earth orbit. Jeff Foust reports on these recent developments and the potential political opposition to any greater emphasis on commercial crew transportation. Visit to view the article. (9/28)

In the Space Industry, Who is a Contractor and Who is Commercial? (Source: Space Review)
The Augustine committee report has provided new impetus to efforts to further commercialize space access. Taylor Dinerman describes the challenges of separating true commercial companies from those that are primarily government contractors. Visit to view the article. (9/28)

An Electrifying Conference? (Source: Space Review)
Earlier this month a Canadian organization Hosted a three-day conference on space-based solar power. Jonathan Coopersmith summarizes the conference and the key issues facing this concept. Visit to view the article. (9/28)

The Space Security Implications of Missile Defense (Source: Space Review)
The Obama Administration recently decided to replace planned ground-based interceptors in Europe with SM-3 missiles. Brian Weeden describes how this decision has implications for space security, since it was a modified SM-3 that intercepted a decaying US satellite last year. Visit to view the article. (9/28)

India's Moon Mission Quite Economical (Source: Space Daily)
India's moon mission cost only about one sixth to one tenth of the cost of similar missions undertaken by European Space Agency (SMART) or NASA's LRO or SELENE of Japan or ChangE of China. Chandrayaan-I was also unique in carrying 11 scientific instruments and 60 detectors, Annadurai said at a seminar organised by National Council of Science Museums on Saturday. The total cost of Chandrayaan-I project including the ground facilities and launch vehicle was only $75 million ($30 million for the payload ) while cost of only payloads for missions like Japan's SELENE was $480 million, China's ChangE at $187 million or NASA's LRO at $491 million. (9/28)

Campaign Aims to Send 500K Pro-NASA Letters to Obama by Oct. 31 (Source: Florida Today)
When the shuttle program retires, experts warn that up to 7,000 Kennedy Space Center workers could lose their jobs -- scrubbing the Space Coast's hopes for an economic turnaround. That's why Brevard County Commissioner Robin Fisher is spearheading a new marketing crusade, "Save Space," to try to convince President Obama to extend the shuttle program and boost NASA funding.

How? By mailing half a million letters to the White House by the end of October. "If this shuttle doesn't get extended, it's going to be very, very devastating to the community. I started thinking to myself, why isn't the community screaming about it?" said Fisher, who represents District 1, including northern Brevard and the Cape.

Tuesday, Brevard Public Schools Superintendent Brian Binggeli announced the district would use "Save Space" as a learning tool for students. And Space Florida will organize a statewide initiative in tandem with Brevard's. Visit for information and letter templates. (9/28)

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