January 26, 2010

NASA Day of Remembrance at Kennedy Space Center on Jan. 29 (Source: NASA)
NASA's Kennedy Space Center will pay tribute to the crews of Apollo 1 and space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, as well as other NASA colleagues, during the agency's Day of Remembrance observance on Friday, Jan. 29. Media and the general public are invited to a wreath-laying at 11 a.m. EST at the Space Mirror Memorial at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Kennedy Center Director and former astronaut Bob Cabana will take part in the ceremony. (1/26)

India Beginning Process Soon for Human Spaceflight (Source: The Hindu)
ISRO’s Satish Dhawan Space Center (SDSC) in Sriharikota will soon initiate the process of creating a Third Launch Pad for human transportation into space. The work may start in six months with an estimated cost of Rs. 12,000 crore. The Third Launch Pad is required for the 2015 Human Space Flight Mission and beyond, a senior Official of ISRO said adding the launch pad would be designed to accommodate the Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV), ISRO’s dream space shuttle. (1/26)

South Korean Space Program Faces Crucial Test This Year (Source: Korea Times)
A space race has been underway in Asia. So far all the talk has been about China, Japan and India, but this will be the year that South Korea manifests itself as the definite fourth Asian player, according to the chief of the country's space agency. South Korea managed to put its space aspirations on the map last year with the completion of its first launch site, the Naro Space Center, at the southwestern tip of the peninsula, and witnessed its first rocket launch there in August.

The country is preparing three major satellite launches for this year, one involving the second trial of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle (KSLV-1) at the Naro spaceport, and is expecting a number of achievements in aerospace technology, including full-scale flight tests for KARI's "smart" unmanned aerial vehicles. This will also be the year when the development of Korea's next-generation space rocket, the KSLV-II, is put on track. (1/26)

Tweeting From Space: 100 Radiation-Resistant Laptops, Wi-Fi, Help from Earth (Source: Smart Planet)
Last Friday, astronaut Timothy Creamer was the first human to use the Twitter service live from space. Seems easy enough, but it actually takes a lot of hard work, hardware and logistics to get Internet service in Low Earth Orbit — much less while traveling at 17,300 miles per hour. According to the space station’s IT staff, the ISS is equipped with 100 laptops — 68 IBM ThinkPad A31 laptops and 32 ThinkPad T61p notebooks — all connected using Wi-Fi. Those models were deemed among the best to withstand radiation and off-gassing, to prevent chemical fumes in the station. Inside, there’s also a dedicated IP phone for calls, as well as videoconferencing capability, to allow astronauts chat face-to-face with family back on Earth. The station’s astronauts enjoy connection speeds comparable to home DSL, with 3Mbps up and 10Mbps down. (1/26)

Augustine Likes Space Debris Treaty (Source: DOD Buzz)
Norm Augustine is about as close as you get these days to the giants of the aerospace business like Curtiss, Hughes, Tripp and the guys who used their initials to start a cool company called TRW. When he says a treaty on space debris is a good idea and that we have a “window” in which he thinks one can be cobbled together, it’s worth listening. He remarked on the possibility of a space debris treaty today during a panel organized by the Center for a New American Security. Currently,the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee tries to encourage its members to limit the amount of debris they create. Also, the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space keeps an eye on the issue. Neither one has much clout beyond moral suasion. (1/26)

NASA Abandons Escape Attempts for Stuck Mars Rover (Source: Space.com)
The roving days are over for NASA's Mars rover Spirit after more than six years rolling across the Martian surface, the space agency announced. NASA engineers have decided to abandon efforts to rescue the Spirit rover from the deep Martian sand that snared it in May 2009. Instead, they are trying to prepare the rover to survive the harsh winter ahead in Mars' southern hemisphere. If the rover survives, it will serve as a fixed science outpost, mission managers said. (1/26)

NASA to Review Human Spaceflight (Source: New York Times)
NASA is preparing for a major evaluation of its human spaceflight program, even as many who will conduct the survey have yet to be informed of the agency’s revised mission. The expansive, multimonth technical study, still in the preliminary stages, might be similar to the Exploration Systems Architecture Study that in 2005 settled on the design of the agency’s program to return astronauts to the Moon by 2020. Given a possible shift in goals and budgets, the study is to survey the variety of available rockets and spacecraft, consider different strategies for reaching future destinations and recommend a framework of how to proceed.

“They’re going to be putting meat on the bones” of options proposed last fall by a blue-ribbon panel that reviewed NASA’s human spaceflight program, said a person involved with the preparations, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the study. But the people who will be working on the study had not, at least as of Friday, been told what the destination, budget and timeline would be. Click here to view the article. (1/26)

Alternate Space Capsule Concept Passes Tests (Source: Space Daily)
A NASA team looking into design concepts for future space capsules has successfully demonstrated that an all-composite structure is a feasible alternative to traditional metal capsules for carrying astronauts into space and returning them safely to Earth. The composite materials that make up the structure are basically the same as the tough, lightweight laminates used today for race cars, business jets and high-end sports equipment. In combination with new space-age fabrication techniques, these advanced composite materials promise potential benefits over traditional metal structures. Among them is that they can easily be formed into complex shapes that may be more structurally efficient - a desirable trait for future generations of spacecraft. (1/26)

NASA Cues Up University CubeSats for Glory Launch (Source: NASA)
NASA will launch small "CubeSat" research satellites for several universities as part of the agency's Educational Launch of Nanosatellite, or ELaNA, mission. The satellites are manifested as an auxiliary payload on the Taurus XL launch vehicle for NASA's Glory mission, planned for liftoff in late November. The satellites come from Montana State University, the University of Colorado and Kentucky Space, a consortium of state universities. The University of Florida was selected as an alternate in case one of the three primary spacecraft cannot fly. (1/26)

Russia Plans New Manned Spacecraft Debut in 2017 (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia intends to keep up with the U.S. in the space race and launch a new manned spacecraft by 2017, a senior Russian space official said. "We plan to enter the market in 2015 with an unmanned spacecraft and are likely to launch it from the new Vostochny space center. In 2017, a piloted spacecraft should also be developed," Vitaly Lopota, the head of Russia's Energia space corporation, said. Russia will start building its new space center, Vostochny, in the country's Far East in 2011 and should complete it in 2018. (1/26)

Parker Griffith Can’t Lose? (Source: Space Politics)
Congressman Parker Griffith’s switch to the Republican Party switch was blamed on a lack of “enthusiasm” from the Obama Administration on human spaceflight. “Missile defense has been on the back burner; there is no enthusiasm in the White House for manned spaceflight,” Griffith told the Times. “Over time, I was (convinced) [to switch parties] because it was Republicans who came to my aid on these issues.”

However, during the switch Griffith lost his seat on the House Science and Technology Committee and has not gotten it back yet. Griffith told the paper on Friday that he finally expected to get committee assignments in five to ten days, although those assignments had been expected earlier in the month. (1/26)

Budget Freeze May Not Chill NASA (Source: Space Politics)
As expected, the FY2011 budget proposal for NASA will be released next Monday, with a press conference planned for Monday morning, according to Space News. That may be followed by a separate press conference the next day at the National Press Club; what the difference in topics between the two press conferences isn’t clear. OSTP is planning its own press conference Monday at AAAS headquarters about the administration’s R&D priorities, including NASA.

While it appears that NASA may not get the billion-dollar increase previously anticipated, any increase may put it in better condition than many other government agencies, because the White House is planning a three-year freeze on discretionary “non-security” spending. However, the report adds that there is some flexibility in at least the FY11 request: “One-time costs, like the 2010 Census, will also be coming down, and this could help pay for more money for NASA, for example.” (1/26)

Planet Definition Doesn't Apply Beyond Solar System (Source: Discovery)
Imagine living on a South Pacific island and naming all aquatic life in your lagoon “fish.” But your definition was so specific it didn’t apply to whatever creatures lived in the rest of the ocean. This is what the International Astronomical Union (IAU) did in 2006 when they passed a new definition for “planet” that demoted Pluto to a “ dwarf planet” (later dubbed “plutoid”) in a highly publicized public relations SNAFU.

According to a strict interpretation of the IAU definition of a planet we’re stuck with eight major planets in the entire galaxy. No, wait, the entire freaking universe! Why? Because the IAU definition ignores the over 400 planets to date that have been found orbiting other stars. The Pluto-antagonists needed the vote of the exoplanet research community to pass their Pluto-is-not-a-planet resolution. Therefore they steered clear of making any judgments whatsoever about anything dealing with the practical infinity of worlds around the 100 million other stars in our galaxy. (1/26)

Space Station to Fly Till 2020 (Source: Russia Today)
Partner space agencies in the International Space Station project have agreed to keep the orbital outpost running till at least 2020, according to a Russian spacecraft producer. “Assembly of the ISS will continue until 2015. The partners have already agreed to continue its maintenance till 2020. The agreement will be signed in a matter of months,” Vitaly Lopota, president and chief designer of Energia, producer of the Russian space workhorse Soyuz, said. He added that NASA has suggested an even greater extension of the station’s lifetime till 2028. (1/26)

Russian Company Eyes Offensive Military Satellite (Source: Russia Today)
Leading Russian spacecraft producer Energia has presented a concept of a universal military satellite with offensive capabilities. The 20-ton orbiter with a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years would be powered by a 150 to 500 kilowatt nuclear reactor and will be able to “monitor territories and airspace, provide informational superiority – including in armed conflicts – and perform target designation and traffic control. It will also be offensive-capable,” said Energia head Vitaly Lopota, as cited by ITAR-TASS news agency.

He did not specify what offensive capabilities the satellite would have; whether it will be able to target other spacecraft, ground targets, or both. The concept goes against Russia’s voiced intention to keep space an arms-free zone. However, with several nations believed to be actively pursuing space-based or anti-satellite weapons, Energia’s design may find support among the country’s leadership. (1/26)

India, South Korea Sign Accords on Space and IT Cooperation (Source: Thaindian News)
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak witnessed the signing of four pacts to enhance co-operation in various programs related to science and technology along with Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. Both leaders recognised the importance of strengthening co-operation in science and in the peaceful use of outer space. The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to further peaceful uses of space. (1/26)

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