August 11, 2010

NASA Removes Failed Pump from Station (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
After a frustrating and record-breaking spacewalk on Saturday, two NASA astronauts rebounded Wednesday and removed a broken cooling pump from outside the International Space Station during a smooth mission that lasted more than seven hours. The successful spacewalk sets the stage for NASA to install a new pump during a third and final spacewalk planned for Sunday. (8/11)

UCF Making Sense Of Space Dust (Source: Space Daily)
The chemical breakdown of minerals that may be lurking in space dust soon will be available to scientists around the world. Because space dust contains the basic ingredients that form planets, the University of Central Florida physicists' analysis could provide important clues about how the solar system formed and how life emerged. For decades, astrophysicists have been studying these clouds of dust, which contain ices, silicate minerals and iron compounds. But until the UCF team started looking at earth's minerals with far IR spectroscopy, identifying the minerals in space dust was . . . ambiguous at best. (8/11)

Musk Clarifies SpaceX Position On Exploration (Source: Aviation Week)
SpaceX founder Elon Musk says plans laid out recently by a company official for growth beyond International Space Station resupply and missions beyond low Earth orbit are not official SpaceX policy. Musk says provisional concepts for a deep space architecture were outlined as “brainstorming ideas” by Tom Markusic. “The only thing SpaceX is intending to do for sure in the long term is to try to move toward super heavy lift,” Musk says. The key element of this, as outlined in Markusic’s presentation, is development of the Merlin 2 engine. “Part of it depends on NASA and its willingness to fund a portion of that. We’d certainly hope it would be a private-public partnership with NASA, because that’s what it would take in the long term. (8/11)

Solar Sails Could Allow New Orbits for Satellites (Source:
Solar sails could be used on satellites to levitate them above the crowd of objects circling Earth and into orbital paths that have never been used, new research suggests. First predicted by the American space scientist Robert L. Forward in 1984, these orbits are only now being shown to be viable, the researchers said. By using the pressure of sunlight to produce thrust, solar sails would keep the satellites from falling back into the geostationary ring above Earth's equator, which is already chock-full of satellites and space debris, according to the study. (8/11)

Asteroid Probe, Rocket Get Nod from Japanese Panel (Source:
The board governing Japan's space program last week formally approved a successor to the Hayabusa asteroid explorer and the Epsilon small satellite launch vehicle to continue development. The Space Activities Commission decision gives the Japanese government authority to request funding for the programs in its budget for the next fiscal year, which begins in April. The government space panel, which has oversight of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, only gave the go-ahead for preliminary design work on Hayabusa 2, a mission projected to cost nearly $200 million. (8/11)

Japan Plans Epsilon Rocket (Source:
A new Japanese launch vehicle will be ready for service beginning in 2013. It will replace the M-5 rocket, a similar vehicle that flew seven times between 1997 and 2006. Now finished with preliminary development, engineers are focusing on a critical design review planned about 18 months from now. The Epsilon rocket will launch about once per year with small technology demonstration and scientific missions. The three-stage launcher is designed to lift more than 2,600 pounds to low Earth orbit. The M-5 rocket could haul about 4,000 pounds to a similar trajectory. (8/11)

NASA’s FASTSAT Satellite Arrives at Kodiak, Alaska, Launch Complex (Source: NASA)
NASA's first microsatellite designed to create a capability that increases opportunities for secondary, scientific and technology payloads, or rideshares, to be flown at lower cost than before has arrived at Kodiak Island, Alaska, to begin final launch preparations.

The Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satellite, or FASTSAT, arrived at the Kodiak Launch Complex on Aug. 10 from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Following final checkout, the just under 400-pounds satellite will be integrated on a Minotaur IV launch vehicle as one of three secondary payloads. (8/11)

Saving Earth Orbit, One Piece of Junk at a Time (Source: Space News)
A decade ago, the notion of actively removing debris from Earth orbit (as opposed to natural atmospheric decay) was squarely in the science fiction category. Conventional wisdom labeled it as too expensive and too difficult to bother with, mainly because space was big and it would never get “too crowded.” It’s funny how events conspire to change our perception of things. In late June of this year, the Obama administration released the new U.S. National Space Policy which states:

"The now ubiquitous and interconnected nature of space capabilities and the world’s growing dependence on them mean that irresponsible acts in space can have damaging consequences for all of us. For example, decades of space activity have littered Earth’s orbit with debris; and as the world’s space-faring nations continue to increase activities in space, the chance for a collision increases correspondingly."

In the late 1970’s, two NASA scientists, John Gabbard and Donald Kessler, laid the scientific groundwork for what became to be known as the “Kessler syndrome.” They predicted that at some point in the future the population of human-generated space debris would hit a critical point where it would pose a greater risk to spacecraft than the natural debris population of meteoroids. According to their models, large pieces of space debris would get hit by smaller pieces of debris, creating hundreds or thousands of new pieces of small debris which would then collide with other large pieces. This “collisional cascading” process would increase the population of space debris at an exponential rate. (8/11)

FAA and AIAA Sign STEM Education MOU (Source: AIAA)
The AIAA and the FAA officially signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), establishing a partnership in support of the FAA’s mission “to support a safe, secure, and efficient aerospace system that contributes to national security and economic growth in the 21st century,” and AIAA’s mission to advance the state of aerospace science, engineering, and technological leadership. The central goal of the MOU is to facilitate a collaborative partnership between the FAA and AIAA that encourages and fosters the development of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills by today’s youth. (8/11)

NASA Mulls Sending Part of Space Station to an Asteroid (Source: New Scientist)
The International Space Station may get a chance to explore new horizons when it retires in 2020. NASA is considering using part of it to build a spaceship that would be sent to an asteroid, while also mulling more exotic artificial-gravity designs reminiscent of Arthur C Clarke. Brian Wilcox of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory presented some of the ideas generated by the agency's engineers during brainstorming sessions in January and June. One idea is to take apart the International Space Station, which is currently set to be retired in 2020, and use one of its crew compartments to build an asteroid-bound spacecraft in orbit instead of launching a similar capsule from Earth. (8/10)

Loral Space Posts 2Q Loss on Exchange Rates (Source: Bloomberg)
Satellite manufacturer Loral Space & Communications Inc. posted a net loss during the second quarter, citing changes in foreign exchange rates at its Canadian business. During the three months ended June 30, the company lost $19.7 million. That compares with a profit of $74.3 million in the same quarter last year. A foreign exchange loss totaling $93 million was tied to U.S.-denominated debt at Telesat Canada, a telecommunications operator in which Loral owns a 64 percent stake. Revenue rose 3 percent to $280 million. (8/11)

NASA and Israel Sign Space Cooperation Pact (Source: NASA)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Israel Space Agency Director General Zvi Kaplan signed a joint statement of intent to expand the agencies' cooperation in civil space activities. The agencies agreed to identify new joint activities related to Earth and space science, life sciences, space exploration and other areas of mutual interest. The goal is to expand scientific exchanges and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers. (8/11)

GAO, DOT IG Concerned about FAA's NextGen (Source: AIN Online)
Each key FAA NextGen project has an individual "metric" to measure how its development is progressing. But as the Government Accountability Office (GAO) warned recently, the FAA doesn't use "lateral" metrics that would allow senior management to track the relative progress of separate projects that must eventually work together to make NextGen happen. Without informed management monitoring of the many intertwining NextGen projects, their operational outcomes could be impossible to predict or coordinate, the GAO stated. Similarly, "government acceptance" sounds plain enough, but it isn't, particularly for the FAA's en route automation modernization (Eram), NextGen's future computer backbone. (8/10)

Space Solar Power Group Proposes Florida Project (Source: Highlands Today)
Richard Kerns and Tony Lewand believe space-based solar power is a viable source of renewable energy and that Highlands County would be a good location for a project. Kerns and Lewand of Space Energy Inc. made a presentation to the board of directors of the Highlands County Economic Development Commission. Lewand said Florida is known as the "Sunshine State," but is the least used for solar energy.

According to information presented during Wednesday's meeting in Sebring, space-based solar power is not a new concept. What's new is its commercial viability as a result of current market conditions and technology. Space-based solar power places large arrays of solar panels in space, where sunlight is then converted to electricity 24 hours a day. This energy is safely transmitted back to Earth by radio waves similar to a mobile phone call signal.

For solar to take off in Florida, the Legislature will need to establish what are called Renewable Portfolio Standards. They are state policies requiring a state to generate a percent of its electricity from renewable sources. Each state can choose how to fulfill this mandate using a combination of renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, or other renewable sources. (8/8)

India, Russia Squeeze Google Moon Racers (Source: Asia Times)
Government space agencies are taking a closer look at the Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP) competition, an international competition to safely land a rover on the moon. Several GLXP teams include space researchers and engineers in Asia on their rosters. NASA is rolling out a program that might provide US GLXP teams with a total of over $30 million. Other countries may not sit still for long in light of this development.

That is the good news. The not so good news is that as the result of a proposed GLXP rule change, the $20 million GLXP grand prize could be reduced by $5 million if a government-backed lunar mission successfully lands and deploys a rover in advance of any of the 21 GLXP teams accomplishing the same feat. All GLXP teams must be 90% privately funded.

It is no secret that several countries as well as the European Space Agency (ESA) are planning to conduct lunar landings over the coming decade. The joint Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)-Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission involving the deployment of a lunar rover on the Moon in 2012 appears to be the first in line. (8/11)

Ex-NASA Chief O'Keefe in Critical Condition after Plane Crash (Source: Washington Post)
Former NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe, who was critically injured in the Alaska plane crash Monday that left five people dead, including former US Senator Ted Stevens, took over late last year as chief executive of the North American unit of European Aeronautic Defence and Space, which is vying to build a fleet of new aerial refueling tankers for the U.S. Air Force. EADS had teamed with Northrop Grumman to win the $35 billion program in 2008, but the award drew fire from lawmakers on Capitol Hill and was overturned after rival bidder Boeing successfully challenged the Pentagon's decision-making process. The Defense Department has since relaunched the tanker competition.

O'Keefe's injuries include a broken pelvis. In a statement Tuesday afternoon, EADS Chairman Ralph D. Crosby Jr. said: "It was with a great sense of relief and gratitude that we learned that Sean and his son, Kevin, survived the aircraft crash in Alaska." Crosby said the company looks forward to O'Keefe's recovery and return. (8/11)

SpaceX Readies First Dragon Spacecraft (Source: Aviation Week)
Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) this week is set to begin prelaunch checks of the first fully operational Dragon spacecraft destined to be launched under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. The demonstration will be the first of up to three COTS flights set up under plans made in 2006 designed to encourage private companies to develop commercial space transport capabilities. (8/11)

NASA Could Land Probe on Asteroid Hurtling Towards Earth (Source: Telegraph UK)
NASA is considering plans to land a probe on an asteroid that is on a potential collision course for Earth. Asteroid 1999 RQ36, which has a one-in-1,000 chance of hitting the Earth before the year 2200, would cause an explosion equivalent to hundreds of nuclear bombs detonating at once.

An analysis of its orbit has predicted that it is most likely to hit us on September 24, 2182 but scientists want to collect a sample of the rock to help forecast its trajectory more accurately. If NASA gives the plan the green light, the spacecraft would blast off in 2106 to map out and collect rock samples from the asteroid, which is 1,800 feet-wide. The planned mission, called OSIRIS-Rex, is one of three finalists in competition for funding as part of the cash-strapped US space agency’s New Frontiers program. (8/11)

JPL's Mars Mission Gets New Project Manager (Source: Pasadena Star-News)
Phil Varghese is the new JPL Project Manager for NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been examining Mars with six advanced instruments since 2006. It has returned more data than the total from all other NASA missions that have flown farther than the moon. Click here for more. (8/11)

NASA's Chief Technologist Seeks to Develop Transformative Programs (Source: Mercury News)
When Bobby Braun was a Ph.D. student in aeronautics and astronautics at Stanford, he couldn't imagine holding the "dream job" he's doing now -- NASA's chief technologist, the first person in that role since Braun was at Stanford in the 1990s. Braun, 44, became one of the youngest senior leaders at the space agency in February when he was named NASA Administrator Charles Bolden's principal adviser for agencywide technology issues. He returned to Silicon Valley on Tuesday to visit NASA's Ames Research Center as part of a national tour to bring attention to his efforts -- including a $5 billion Space Technology Program slated to start next fiscal year that would develop transformative new space technologies. (8/11)

India Launches Satellite-Based Navigation System (Source: Mangalorean)
India Tuesday launched a satellite-based navigation system to aid air traffic in the region and joined a select club of nations which have similar capabilities. Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel launched the Global Position System Aided Geo Augmented Navigation (GAGAN) based on a constellation of 24 satellites positioned in six earth-centered orbital planes. GAGAN will provide seamless coverage of air traffic from south Asia to Africa and connect to the systems of Europe and Japan. It is also expected to enhance marine and transport navigation, search and rescue operations, survey and mapping. (8/11)

Warning for Solar Flares (Source: Science News)
Fluctuating bursts of microwave energy from the sun could provide imminent warning of the huge solar flares known as coronal mass ejections, new research hints. During periods of intense solar activity, immense clouds of radiation and charged particles erupt from the sun’s surface. When these coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, strike and envelope Earth, they can disrupt radio communications, overload power grids and zap Earth-orbiting satellites, say researchers. They recently studied the solar emissions associated with 10 CMEs that occurred during an intense period of solar activity in October and November 2003, they noticed that the sun emitted bursts of microwave energy during or before each one. (8/10)

Colorado Space Grant Consortium, Lockheed Martin to Develop CubeSat (Source: Lockheed Martin)
Students from the Colorado Space Grant Consortium (COSGC) have teamed with Lockheed Martin to develop a miniature satellite, known as ALL-STAR, which stands for Agile Low-cost Laboratory for Space Technology Acceleration and Research. The ALL-STAR program, designed to inspire and develop America's future technological workforce, will provide students hands on experience in applying science, technology, engineering and math skills to building operational space systems. (8/10)

Weather For Saturday's Atlas Launch Expected To Be "Go" (Source: Florida Today)
An Atlas rocket is being readied for a launch this weekend from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and a preliminary forecast calls for good weather that will degrade if the flight slips a day. The United Launch Alliance Atlas and its payload -- an advanced military communications satellite -- are scheduled to blast off from Launch Complex 41 at 7:07 a.m. Saturday. The launch window that day will extend through 9:06 a.m. (8/10)

No comments: