October 28 News Items

Most Distant Object Found; Light Pierced "Dark Age" Fog (Source: National Geographic)
The most distant object yet spied in the universe is the remnant of a star about 13 billion light-years from Earth that sheds new light on the earliest days of the universe. Two different teams of astronomers studied a brief but powerful flash of light, called a gamma-ray burst, from the star explosion. Because of the time it takes for light to travel such distances, scientists think the exploded star must have been born about 600 million years after the big bang, when the universe was just 4 percent of its current age. (10/28)

Guests Try Out Challenger Center's Moon Mission (Source: Tallahassee Democrat)
If you have ever wanted to go to the moon, now is your chance. The Challenger Learning Center has had more than 300,000 students over the past six years use its Space Mission Simulator program. Starting Nov. 14, the program will be open to the public.

During simulated missions, each person is assigned a different task either to work in the Mission Control Room or the Space Station. Both are designed to look and operate like mission control at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, and the laboratory on the orbiting International Space Station. Participants can be scientists or engineers, serving as navigator, probe engineer, medic or communications specialist. (10/28)

Mars Orbiter Reported Facing a Potentially Fatal Scenario (Source: Arizona Daily Star)
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter carrying UA's HiRISE camera is entering its ninth week in a precautionary safe-mode, facing its greatest challenge since it launched in 2005. Engineers are busily working to safeguard the orbiter against an unlikely but potentially fatal scenario that was discovered when the orbiter unexpectedly put itself into safe-mode for the fourth time this year. All of the orbiter's functions have been put on hold as a result of the orbiter's initializing safe-mode. (10/28)

Special Relativity Passes Key Test (Source: Physics World)
Scientists studying radiation from a distant gamma-ray burst have found that the speed of light does not vary with wavelength down to distance scales below that of the Planck length. They say that this disfavours certain theories of quantum gravity that postulate the violation of Lorentz invariance.

Lorentz invariance stipulates that the laws of physics are the same for all observers, regardless of where they are in the universe. Einstein used this principle as a postulate of special relativity, assuming that the speed of light in a vacuum does not depend on who is measuring it, so long as that person is in an inertial frame of reference. (10/28)

Lunar Lander Rocket Aborts Contest Attempt (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)
An unmanned private rocket attempting to win a $1 million Prize in a simulated moon landing competition has failed to lift off in the Mojave Desert. Masten Space Systems' Xoie (ZOH-ee) rocket had two launch aborts Wednesday at Mojave Air and Space Port.

The team plans to try again Thursday. The aborts may have been triggered by a communication problem between the onboard and ground computers. The NASA-backed Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge requires a rocket to stay aloft for a specified time, fly to a simulated moon surface and land on a target. It must then be refueled and make a return trip. Another contender, Armadillo Aerospace, has already qualified with its rocket. (10/28)

DARPA Looks To Send The Internet Into Orbit (Source: Space Daily)
There've been satellites orbiting Earth for half a century. But getting information to and from them is still a pain. Which is why Pentagon research arm DARPA is looking to finally hook the orbiting spacecraft up with reliable broadband connections. It's part of a larger movement to extend terrestrial networks into space, and eventually build an "Interplanetary Internet." (10/28)

Aerospace Industry Leaders To Debate America's Next Steps In Space (Source: Space Daily)
Aerospace industry leaders will meet on Nov. 2 to debate the future of America's space programs in light of the recent findings by the Augustine Commission.
The half-day event, "Does the Final Frontier Have a Future? Debating America's Next Steps in Human Space Flight," will feature panelists from leading space exploration companies as well as from NASA and academia. Organized by AIAA, the discussion is free and open to the public, and takes place at 1:00 p.m. in Room 106, Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. (10/28)

Colorado Incubator Calls For Next Round Of Space Entrepreneurs (Source: Space Daily)
eSpace: The Center for Space Entrepreneurship, a non-profit business incubator and workforce development organization for aerospace companies, has announced that it is seeking a second round of aerospace entrepreneurs to participate in the eSpace incubator. By opening its first center in Colorado, eSpace has placed itself in the middle of the nation's second largest aerospace economy. The organization is once again actively seeking space entrepreneur candidates regardless of company size, maturity and technology sector; however, candidates for this second round must be Colorado-based companies. (10/28)

Colorado Space Coalition Provides New Space Business Stats (Source: Space Daily)
According to the Colorado Space Coalition, 176,930 Coloradans are employed in space-related jobs; private sector aerospace employment in the state grew by 25.7 from 2003-2008 (compared to 11.5 percent nationally); over 130 aerospace companies operated in Colorado during 2008 (half of these companies employ fewer than 10 people); there was a 9.2 percent increase in the number of aerospace companies in Colorado from 2003-2008 (compared to approximately one percent nationally); and seven major aerospace contractors that have significant presence in Colorado (Ball, Boeing, ITT Corp., Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, United Launch Alliance). (10/28)

Horse Races with Rocket Engines (Source: Huffington Post)
Everything is better with a little competition: sports, free markets, and now, rocketry. No, we're not talking about a new space race between China and the USA. Instead, we're talking about a new era wherein entrepreneurs try their hands at building rockets large and small, pitting their best ideas against each other in an effort to win contracts from NASA as well potentially lucrative tourist and scientific customers. We're clearly coming into an era where commercial competition will have a major impact on the aerospace community -- and on the financial community as well.

The Augustine Panel mentioned the word "commercial" more than 200 times in the 120 page final report it released last week, a dramatic change from previous such reports. A lot of that attention stems from the recent Commercial Resupply Services contract, in which NASA awarded $3.5 billion to Orbital Sciences and SpaceX to carry cargo to the Space Station. The Falcon 9 rocket, the largest rocket yet produced by Space-X, will be shipped to Cape Canaveral within the next few weeks. Coming just on the heels of the launch of a much-criticized new NASA test rocket, the Ares 1-X, the Falcon 9 launch will be a major milestone for proponents of the emerging entrepreneurial space sector. Click here to view the article. (10/28)

Florida A&M Wins NASA Grant (Source: NASA)
NASA has awarded education grants to five minority serving institutions to develop innovative projects in support of higher education teaching and learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, disciplines. Florida A&M University in Tallahassee is among the recipients. The projects will receive funding ranging from $90,800 to $345,850. They are eligible for renewal for two years, based on project performance and funding availability. NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida manages the project for the agency. (10/28)

Florida A&M Project Aims to Expand Minority Involvement in Prize Competitions (Sources: FAMU, NASA)
Under a new NASA grant, the Florida A&M University (FAMU) will establish a Minority Innovation Challenges Institute (MICI) to mentor students at Minority Serving Institutions around the country, to spur their interest in STEM content offered by technical prize competitions sponsored by NASA. MICI will feature a year-round virtual conference to provide video, Q&A sessions, networking opportunities, and other resources, with a focus on a different contest each month. (10/28)

China Hawks Target US Tech Transfer Shuffle (Source: Asia Times)
The White House in late September released a "presidential determination" that delegated responsibility to the Secretary of Commerce to certify, under Section 1512 of Public Law 105-261, that U.S. launch industry interests are protected during the export of technologies to China. Section 1512 seeks to ensure that China's missile or space launch capabilities would not be somehow directly or indirectly improved by such exports.

The Washington Times ran a story suggesting that China could now celebrate because by shifting authority to Commerce, Obama had rewritten the rulebook on exports of missile and space-related technology to China. The Commerce Department, which was blamed for mishandling a series of rocket tech transfers in the late 1990s, dismissed claims U.S. national security would be harmed. It turns out Commerce was right.

"There has been no substantive change of export control policy in regard to missile and space technology for China or any other nation," said Michael Gold of Bigelow Aerospace. As another export policy scholar pointed out, "Items on the US Munitions List are licensed by DDTC and are subject to the embargo in section 126.1 of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations [ITAR], meaning, of course, that none of these items will be approved for export to [China]. Nothing in the bemoaned action by the Obama administration changed any of that or shifted any licensing authority over Missile Technology Control Regime items from State to Commerce," he wrote. "Suggestions that this change is effective to handing over US nuclear missile technology to Beijing are, simply put, crazy talk," Burns wrote. (10/28)

Ares-1X Flies From Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SPACErePORT)
NASA's Ares-1X test rocket lifted off successfully on Wednesday morning from a converted Space Shuttle launch pad (LC-39B) at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The launch appeared to be flawless, though video and telemetry from the mission will be analyzed in the hours and days ahead to determine if all systems functioned as planned. (10/28)

Satellites: The Pentagon's Big Blind Spot (Source: Business Week)
In January 2007, the Chinese military launched a missile 500 miles into space, shattering an orbiting satellite. The assault was only a test that took out one of China's own weather satellites. But it sparked an international outcry over the country's willingness to use weapons in space. A spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council called the test "inconsistent" with efforts for international cooperation.

Military experts have since become concerned that space could become the next battleground for global conflicts. Of particular concern is the lack of visibility with some missile strikes, such as China's in 2007. Some experts say that if an enemy were to launch a similar attack against an American satellite over the Southern Hemisphere, the U.S. military might not know about it. The southern half of the world is something of a blind spot for military space tracking systems, say both senior defense officials involved in space policy and private satellite operators.

"If a collision happens down there, you don't see it," says Paul Graziani, president of Analytical Graphics, which makes systems used by the military to operate and guide satellites. "It takes 45 minutes for the satellite to come back into the Northern Hemisphere. We would be expecting to see a satellite coming around whole but instead just see a bunch of pieces." (10/28)

NASA Ames Celebrates 70th Anniversary with Exhibits in Mountain View (Source: NASA)
Celebrating 70 years of innovative research and development, NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., will showcase its history in downtown Mountain View, Calif. News media are invited to a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open the 70th anniversary exhibits in businesses along Castro Street from 5 – 6 p.m. PDT on Monday, Nov. 2, 2009. The ceremony will feature remarks from S. Pete Worden, Ames Director, Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga, the City of Mountain View, Jack Boyd, Ames historian, Julie Smiley, executive director of the Central Business Association and other dignitaries including City Council members from Mountain View and Sunnyvale, Calif. (10/28)

General Dynamics Reports Lower Profit Despite Growing Defense Sales (Source: AIA)
Weak demand for business jets helped drag down third-quarter profit at General Dynamics by almost 10%, even as gains in defense-related sales led the company to increase its full-year profit forecast. A plunge in deliveries of Gulfstream jets led to a 55.5% drop in operating profit for the Gulfstream Aerospace division, while combat systems, military vehicles and information systems all experienced sales growth. (10/28)

L-3 Reports 5% Sales Gain for 3rd Quarter (Source: AIA)
Third-quarter earnings at L-3 Communications Holdings jumped nearly 20% on growing sales and tax benefits, the company announced Tuesday. Government services lagged, but overall sales were up 5% because of strength in aircraft modernization and maintenance as well as in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. (10/28)

Space Junk May Drive Up Cost of Future Missions (Source: New Scientist)
Scientists fear a "blizzard" of space debris will make future rocket launches dramatically more expensive. With the U.S. now tracking 19,000 objects in orbit around Earth, Hugh Lewis of the University of Southampton in the U.K. predicts a 50% rise in near-misses over the next decade -- and a 400% jump by 2059. By that year, his statistics show, satellite operators will have to take five times as many collision-avoidance measures as they will in 2019 (10/28)

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