August 24, 2010

Brownback Vows to Defend Kansas Aviation Industry (Source: Huffington Post)
Republican gubernatorial nominee Sam Brownback envisions a future of commercial space flight where existing aircraft makers in Kansas use their expertise and infrastructure to work with private space companies to design and build spaceships. The U.S. senator from Kansas dreams of enticing aerospace companies to locate facilities in his home state.

But as Brownback unveiled his so-called road map for Kansas aviation on Tuesday he also grappled with present-day realities: an industry battered by a global economic downturn, foreign competition from subsidized companies and efforts by other states to lure those Kansas companies and their high-paid jobs elsewhere.

He wants to form an aviation advisory committee of industry leaders to develop a strategy for current challenges and future opportunities. He wants to build Wichita State University's aerospace engineering program into the nation's best. He wants to work with the National Center for Aviation Training and the National Institute for Aviation Research in Wichita to keep the city hold on to its self-styled "Air Capital of the World" status. (8/24)

NASA Speaker at Wichita Aero Club Touts Commercial Space Industry (Source: Wichita Business Journal)
Dr. Alan Weston, director of programs at the NASA Ames Research Center, says space travel will become a commercial industry and Wichita could help lead the way. Weston was the keynote speaker Tuesday at the Wichita Aero Club’s August luncheon. He says government-run space exploration is so costly that it holds back progress. And, he says, private industries — such as Wichita’s aviation cluster — can bring those costs down. (8/24)

Kansas Museum to Get Shuttle Artifacts (Source: Topeka Capital-Journal)
The Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center isn't among the 21 museums that have expressed interest in getting one of the two space shuttles when the fleet eventually is retired. But that doesn't mean the Cosmosphere won't have a shuttle presence. The Cosmosphere has bid on - and received word from NASA that it will get - some shuttle artifacts, including the bright orange jump suits astronauts wear during takeoff and landing, shuttle sleeping bags, samples of space food, cameras, escape equipment used on the launch pad, hold-down bolts, components of the shuttle's maneuvering engines, parts of the wings, tires and other items. (8/24)

New Dragon Spaceship Arrives At Cape (Source: WESH)
A new spaceship has arrived in Central Florida that could someday carry Central Floridians into space. But before that happens, the company that built the ship is hoping it will carry cargo to the International Space Station. Spacex, the company that launched its privately built rocket from Central Florida over the summer, has expanded its footprint at Cape Canaveral. The rocket now has a spacecraft to lift into orbit. (8/24)

Astronomers Discover New Solar System (Source: Astronomy Now)
Using ESO's sensitive HARP instrument, astronomers have discovered a solar system containing at least five planets, with indications that two more, including a hot, rocky world, might also be present. The planets orbit a Sun-like star called HD 10180, and their orbital distances follow a regular pattern similar to that in our own Solar System, with each planet roughly twice as far away from the Sun as the previous object. The planets also appear to track around their star on nearly circular orbits.

“We have found what is most likely the system with the most planets yet discovered,” says Christophe Lovis, lead author of the paper reporting the result. “This remarkable discovery also highlights the fact that we are now entering a new era in exoplanet research: the study of complex planetary systems and not just of individual planets. Studies of planetary motions in the new system reveal complex gravitational interactions between the planets and give us insights into the long-term evolution of the system.” (8/24)

NASA Gears Up for Big Asteroid Encounter (Source:
NASA has begun the countdown for its Dawn spacecraft's encounter with the giant asteroid Vesta, slated for less than a year from now. Beginning next July, Dawn will orbit Vesta for a year, conducting a detailed study and becoming the first spacecraft ever to orbit a body in the asteroid belt. Previous missions have shown us a handful of asteroids, but Vesta will be special, scientists say. "Vesta is going to amaze us," said Marc Rayman, Dawn's chief engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (8/24)

System Uses Electrical Trickery on Brain to Induce Realistic Spaceflight Effects (Source: NSBRI)
What does it feel like to return to Earth after a long stay in space? Until now, it has been difficult during astronaut training to realistically simulate the dizzying effects the human body can experience. Dr. Steven Moore leads a research group that has developed a Galvanic vestibular stimulation (GVS) system that safely induces the sensory and mobility disturbances commonly experienced by astronauts after returning to Earth's gravity, making it an excellent operational training tool.

When returning to gravity, these disturbances could affect an astronaut's vision and neurological function, impacting the ability to land a spacecraft. Once on the ground, astronauts often have trouble keeping their balance and walking. The system uses electrodes placed behind the ear to deliver small amounts of electricity to the vestibular nerve, which then sends the signals to the brain, resulting in sensorimotor disturbances. (8/24)

Oil-Rich Jatropha Could be Cash Crop for Brevard (Source: Florida Today)
In a Homestead laboratory, mutant plants created in space are being carefully watched because they could become a source of jet fuel. The fuel would come from the seeds of jatropha, a tropical plant with broad leaves and seeds that are up to 40 percent oil. "We are in the process of creating the new plant," Tony Silva, director of biodiesel marketing and development for Vecenergy, a company owned by a South Florida family.

Over three years the company has spent $500,000 on research. Testing has shown the plant produces excellent jet fuel. "Jatropha jet biodiesel is the best," Sliva said. "That's the plus side." The main problems with the tropical shrub, however, are that it grows at varying heights, making it difficult to harvest mechanically, and isn't tolerant of temperatures below 50 degrees, which often occur in Florida during the winter.

To solve that problem, the company and the University of Florida sent jatropha specimens, prepared at Kennedy Space Center, to the International Space Station on the STS-130 in February and on STS-132 in May to be exposed to microgravity, which activates dormant genes. (8/24)

Intelsat Orders Second UHF Payload from Boeing (Source: Space News)
Satellite operator Intelsat will pay an undisclosed sum to add an ultra-high frequency (UHF) military communications payload to a second of four satellites ordered from Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems. Intelsat last year agreed to purchase the four Boeing 702MP communications satellites, with one of those spacecraft, Intelsat 22, to include a UHF payload for lease by the Australian Defence Force. Intelsat will now pay Boeing to include an identical UHF payload on one of the other satellites to serve U.S. government customers. The new 20-channel UHF payload will be carried aboard the Intelsat 27 satellite slated for launch in 2012. (8/24)

FSU to Play Key Role in National Center on Commercial Spaceflight (Source: FSU)
The Florida State University will play a key role in a world-class consortium assembled by the FAA that joins academia, industry and government to address the present and future challenges of commercial space transportation. FSU will support the Center through its leadership of the Florida Center for Advanced Aero-Propulsion (FCAAP), which has been selected as one of the FAA center's core members.

"The fact that Florida institutions are major players in this area is affirmed by FCAAP being named as one of the leaders of this FAA Center of Excellence," said FSU Vice President Kirby Kemper. Established in 2008 with its headquarters at FSU, FCAAP seeks to bridge the gap between academia and industry and give university-produced innovations for aviation and aerospace a push toward commercial viability.

The collaboration brings together scientists, engineers and students from Florida State, particularly those from the Florida A&M University-Florida State University College of Engineering, with those from the other FCAAP partner institutions. In addition to Florida State, the FCAAP partners on the FAA's Air Transportation Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation are the University of Central Florida and the University of Florida. (8/24)

Melbourne in Chase for 200 Aerospace Jobs (Source: Florida Today)
Local leaders hope to convince an aerospace company to bring as many as 200 "highly desirable" jobs to Melbourne International Airport. City representatives and the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast are considering at least one incentive for the company, identified as "Project Trident." That incentive -- state job-creation tax credits -- goes before the Melbourne Economic Enhancement District advisory committee. The application EDC submitted to Melbourne on behalf of Project Trident says the company is an internationally recognized aerospace company that provides fixed-wing and rotary-flight services to transport people and cargo. It also provides engineering and design modifications to aircraft. (8/24)

Scientist: World's Helium Being Squandered (Source: UPI)
The world is running out of helium, a resource that cannot be renewed, and supplies could run out in 25 to 30 years, a U.S. researcher says. Nobel-prize winning physicist Robert Richardson warns that the inert gas is being sold off far to cheaply -- so cheaply there is no incentive to recycle it -- and world supplies of the gas, a vital component of medical MRI scanners, spacecraft and rockets, could be gone in just decades. Around 80 percent of the world's reserves are in the U.S. Southwest at the the U.S. National Helium Reserve, located in Amarillo, Texas, but a recently passed law has ruled the reserve must be sold off by 2015 regardless of market price. (8/24)

African Space Agency Needed (Source: AfricaNews)
A South Africa-based policy analyst Jonathan Mahlangu, has said that the plan by the African Union to commence a process that would lead to the establishment of a regional space agency in cooperation with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) aimed at focusing on the development of common space policy for the African continent was long overdue. "Think of the contributions of NASA and ESA to the development of America and Europe," he said. "A well coordinated space agency for Africa will assist in solving most of the challenges before her." (8/24)

Alien Life – But Not As We Know It (Source: Guardian)
Nine out of 10 Hollywood aliens look like us. Oh, sure, they might be short, big-eyed and hairless – decked out in skin smoother than gourmet prosciutto. But really, these creatures from afar are usually so anthropomorphic (aside from their grey complexions), they could pass for hominid relatives, freshly flushed from some cryptic, jungle habitat.

Subconsciously, the researchers who look for sentience beyond Earth in the effort known as SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), make a similar mental picture of their quarry. They shouldn't be fooled by Hollywood aliens: any extra-terrestrial intelligence we encounter is likely to be artificial, not biological, says one researcher. (8/24)

Warped Imaginations: Star Wars Fans Want a NASA Hyperdrive (Source: Discovery)
The hyperdrive, a firm sci-fi favorite mode of transportation for zipping around the galaxy, is a propulsion technology that NASA should be researching, according to hardcore sci-fi fans who attended the Star Wars Celebration V convention in Florida last week. To put it bluntly, current space travel technologies can appear boring. When we're used to seeing spaceships on TV carrying our space exploring heroes from one star system to another (or even one galaxy to another), the fact that 21st Century humans can't even leave low-Earth orbit seems terribly pedestrian.

In fact, it is this reasoning that caused astronaut legend Buzz Aldin to come forward in 2008, accusing science fiction dreams of killing enthusiasm for spaceflight science reality. Actually, having lofty expectations for NASA is no bad thing. "I don't think it's too much of Star Wars fans to ask NASA to research exotic propulsion," advanced propulsion expert Richard Obousy told Discovery News. "However, I do think it's far too high an expectation that NASA will deliver any kind of faster-than-light 'hyperdrive' in the foreseeable future." (8/24)

Adler Wants The Shuttle To 'Land' In Chicago (Source: AP)
Chicago's Adler Planetarium is hoping to land an honest-to-goodness space traveler. The planetarium is among several institutions around the country hoping to be allowed to pay nearly $29 million for one of three space shuttles NASA is about to retire. The way Adler's president, Paul Knappenberger Jr. sees it, Adler deserves a shuttle because Chicago is a worldwide tourist destination in the middle of the United States. (8/24)

China Launches New Mapping Satellite (Source: Xinhua)
China successfully launched a mapping satellite, "Mapping Satellite - I," from the northwestern Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Tuesday. The satellite, which was launched on a Long March 2-D carrier rocket, had entered into the preset orbit, according to the center. The satellite, developed by a company under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), would be mainly used to conduct scientific experiments, carry out surveys on land resources, and mapping, said a statement on the Ministry of National Defense website. (8/24)

New GPS Satellites Pass Critical Design Review (Source:
The U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin have completed the critical design review for an upgraded Global Positioning System constellation, clearing the way for the production of a new generation of navigation satellites. The design review for the GPS 3 program cemented the design for a series of navigation satellites that will begin launching in 2014. Lockheed Martin's $3 billion contract with the Air Force covers the construction of up to 12 GPS 3A spacecraft. (8/4)

Researchers Explore Physiological Effects of Spaceflight With NASA Grant (Source: Kansas state)
The final frontier may be no further than Manhattan, Kan., as a team of Kansas State University researchers launches a project funded by a $1.2 million grant from NASA. The team will research what physical characteristics are necessary for an astronaut to perform lunar tasks. The team also will study ways to assess whether a person has enough physical capacity to perform the tasks. (8/24)

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