October 31, 2010

California Launch Rescheduled (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
The Delta 2 rocket was fueled up and counting down to blastoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Oct. 31. Activities were going smoothly and no problems had been announced. However, engineers were monitoring a potential concern and the management team ultimately determined it was prudent to delay the launch for further analysis. Another launch attempt of the Delta 2 rocket could be made Monday night for liftoff at 7:20 p.m. PDT. (10/31)

Mars' Volcanic Deposit Tells of Life (Source: The Hindu)
American scientists claim to have found evidence that suggests Mars had a warm and wet climate which could have supported life some 3.5 billion years ago. Mounds of a mineral deposited on a volcanic cone less than 3.5 billion years ago speak of a warm and wet past, and may preserve evidence of one of the most recent habitable microenvironments on the red planet. Observations by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter enabled the researchers to identify the mineral as hydrated silica which can be dissolved, transported and concentrated by hot water or steam - a dead ringer that water was present at some time. (10/31)

Chinese Long March 3C Launches with BeiDou-2 NavSat (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
China has launched the sixth satellite in their growing navigation system on Sunday, via the launch of their Long March 3C (Chang Zheng-3C) launch vehicle, carrying the BeiDou-2 Compass-G4 satellite. The launch of took place from the Xi Chang Satellite Launch Center, in Sichuan Province on October 31. (10/31)

Shuttle Launch Forecast: 70 Percent Chance Weather Will Be "Go" (Source: Florida Today)
NASA is gearing up today for the start of a three-day countdown to the planned launch Wednesday of shuttle Discovery's final flight, and the weather appears as if it will cooperate. Meteorologists say there is a 70 percent chance conditions will be acceptable for an on-time liftoff at 3:52 p.m. Wednesday. The only concerns are a chance of low-level clouds or rain within 20 nautical miles of the Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center. (10/31)

Space Policy Experts Point to Continuing Uncertainty for Civil Space (Source: Space Policy Online)
Just four days before an election that may directly impact the recently agreed upon plans for NASA and the human spaceflight program, space policy analysts say implementation of the 2010 National Space Policy (NSP) is threatened by a sense of lingering uncertainty. Scott Pace, Director of the GWU Space Policy Institute, described the NSP's section on space exploration as problematic. Issues of implementation, said Pace, would come up at the interfaces between policy, programs, and budget: "problems happen at the seams," he added.

Where the policy is clear, as in the direction it lays out for the Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), implementation has already begun. Mary Kicza, Assistant Administrator for Satellite and Information Services at NOAA, lauded the policy for providing more clarity and direction to the agency. Already, NOAA has been engaging countries, like Japan, China, India, Canada, and others, in data sharing and other initiatives.

Participants also mentioned elements like the push for increased international cooperation as a positive and implementable aspect of the policy. Not only an opportunity for government agencies, international engagement may also provide a boost to U.S. industry, suggested AIA CEO Marion Blakey. Where the policy is less clear, on the other hand, implementation issues abound. Victoria Samson, of the Secure World Foundation, for example, praised the policy for its initiatives towards securing the sustainability of space, but pointed to several lingering questions. Click here to read the article. (10/30)

China Plans Manned Space Station by 2020 (Source: Financial Times)
China has hailed its latest success in space as Chang’e 2, the country’s second lunar probe, successfully sent back high-resolution pictures that are going to be used to plan the country’s first unmanned moon landing in 2013. But the officials in charge of Beijing’s space programme have set their sights much further than that. They announced last week that by 2020, China should have its own manned space station. If it succeeds, it will prove itself to be only the third country, following the US and Russia, capable of building a space station. (10/31)

NSS, India to Launch Space-Based Solar Power Initiative (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The National Space Society will hold a press conference on Nov. 4 to reveal one of the first initiatives ever undertaken by a non-profit American organization and a former head of state. That initiative pairs India’s eleventh President, Dr. A.P.J. Kalam with America’s National Space Society. Its name? The Kalam-NSS Energy Initiative. The Kalam-NSS Energy Initiative’s goals? To solve the global energy crisis. To solve the global carbon crisis. And to solve America’s next generation jobs crisis. How? By harvesting solar power in space.

World electricity demand by the year 2035 is projected to increase by 87%. Renewable power generation systems (water, wind, solar, geothermal, etc.) will only meet 23% of that demand. According to Dr. A.P.J. Kalam, “By 2050, even if we use every available energy resource we have: clean and dirty, conventional and alternative, solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, coal, oil, and gas, the world will fall short of the energy we need.” He adds that, “There is an answer... an energy source that produces no carbon emissions, an energy source that can reach to most distant villages of the world, and an energy source that can turn both countries into net energy and technology exporters.” (10/31)

Discovery Launch Moved to Wednesday (Source: Florida Today)
NASA is now targeting a 3:52 p.m. Wednesday launch of Discovery to the International Space Station. Repairs to fittings on a helium line attached to a rocket engine pod have taken longer than anticipated. Managers this morning decided the repairs and repressurization of the system wouldn't be complete in time to start the countdown at 2 p.m. on Saturday. (10/31)

China to Launch 6th Satellite for Indigenous Global Navigation (Source: Xinhua)
China will launch its sixth orbiter into space in "coming days" as part of its indigenous satellite-navigation and -positioning network. A spokesman for the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan Province said the "Beidou," or Compass, navigation satellite will be launched on a Long March-3C carrier rocket. It will join five other satellites already in orbit to form a network, which will eventually consist of 35 satellites. (10/30)

The 123,000 MPH Plasma Engine That Could Finally Take Astronauts To Mars (Source: Popular Science)
You might expect to find our brightest hope for sending astronauts to other planets in Houston, at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, inside a high-security multibillion-dollar facility. But it’s actually a few miles down the street, in a large warehouse behind a strip mall. This bland and uninviting building is the private aerospace start-up Ad Astra Rocket Company, and inside, founder Franklin Chang Díaz is building a rocket engine that’s faster and more powerful than anything NASA has ever flown before. Speed, Chang Díaz believes, is the key to getting to Mars alive. In fact, he tells me as we peer into a three-story test chamber, his engine will one day travel not just to the Red Planet, but to Jupiter and beyond. Click here for more. (10/13)

Spaceflight Federation Comments on Rocket Emissions Issue (Source: CSF)
The Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) and its member organizations, including five providers of commercial reusable suborbital spaceflight services, supports the kind of scientific inquiry that led to the recent paper titled, “Potential Climate Impact of Black Carbon Emitted by Rockets.” The commercial spaceflight sector aspires to good environmental stewardship.

In a new fact sheet, the CSF has clarified several assumptions used by the researchers in their model-based analysis, suggesting they may have dramatically overestimated the actual environmental impact of reusable suborbital vehicles. The CSF, working with its scientific advisory panel, the Suborbital Applications Researchers Group (SARG), and its suborbital spaceflight provider members, is exploring ways the industry can provide research opportunities to document the actual levels of emissions made by suborbital launches through ground test and in-flight experiments. The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is also assembling a panel of independent experts to provide recommendations to the industry and researchers. Click here to see the fact sheet. (10/30)

Voyage to Mars? We're Already There! (Source: Express)
As a one-way trip to the Red Planet is mooted, we reveal how, deep in the most inhospitable places on Earth, astronauts are already living as if they were actually colonising Mars. THE idea of making a new life on Mars is strangely hypnotic. It may be famously inhospitable – there’s hardly any oxygen and if you step out unsuited your lungs will explode due to the thin atmosphere – but these drawbacks don’t seem to stop the allure of the Red Planet in the popular imagination.

And now comes news from no less an authority than NASA that man may be living there by 2030. There’s only one problem. If you are among the first to make the journey you’d never be able to return to Earth. Meanwhile, in a lab at a scientific institute outside Moscow, six men are experimenting with the reality. In June these would-be “astronauts” were locked into a cylindrical spaceship simulator on a 520-day mission to, as one wag put it, boldly go absolutely nowhere at all. Their experiment will simulate the conditions of a flight to Mars (minus the zero gravity and the radiation). (10/30)

Hughes Borrows $115M To Launch Jupiter Broadband Satellite (Source: Space News)
Broadband satellite services and hardware provider Hughes Communications has secured a $115 million loan from two French banks to finance the launch of Hughes’ Jupiter all-Ka-band broadband satellite aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket in early 2012, Hughes announced Oct. 29. The financial package with BNP Paribas and Societe Generale is guaranteed by the French export-credit agency, Coface. Hughes said closing conditions for the loan will be completed shortly. (10/30)

Spooky Stuff From NASA (Source: MSNBC)
Did you know that NASA has a spokesman who talks to dead people? That's not the only thing that's spooky about the space effort. Halloween is the perfect time to touch upon the freaky side of the final frontier. This week The Washington Post profiled Rob Gutro, the deputy news chief at Goddard Space Flight Center, who happens to be a meteorologist as well as a medium. In his other life, he tromps through haunted buildings, communes with spirits and snaps pictures of ghostly orbs.

It's not as if Gutro's spiritualist side is a big secret: He's written a book about his experiences, titled "Ghosts and Spirits: Insights From a Medium." And it's not unusual for folks who work at NASA to delve into mysterious phenomena. One of the prime examples is Apollo astronaut Ed Mitchell, who had such a deep spiritual awakening during his 1971 mission to the moon that he went on to establish the Institute of Noetic Sciences and look into UFOs and psychic phenomena. (10/30)

Western Australia to Host U.S. Defense Space Base (Source: Xinhua)
Western Australia will host a new multimillion-dollar U.S. defense base to spy on foreign satellites and keep watch on dangerous space junk. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is poised to announce the space base when he visits Australia next week with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

As a major expansion of the U.S. military footprint in Australia, the paper said the base is likely to be built at the top secret Harold E Holt Naval communications station at Exmouth of Western Australia. The facility will allow Australia to become a key partner in the international battle for space supremacy. It will have major technology and intelligence spin-offs, putting Australia at the forefront of an emerging battle between nations staking claim for territory in space occupied by $588 billion of civil and military hardware, (10/30)

Editorial: Hang Up, Denver; Don't Phone Home (Source: Denver Post)
Denver finally might become the type of sanctuary city we can support: a sanctuary city for aliens. The real kind. Denver voters are deciding this fall whether to require the city to set up an Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission to "ensure the health, safety and cultural awareness of Denver residents" if and when we come into contact "with extraterrestrial intelligent beings or their vehicles."

Remember, city voters once approved impounding the vehicles of illegal immigrants; we might as well prepare to impound the UFOs of these illegal aliens, too. Proponent Jeff Peckman pitched Initiative 300 as a jobs measure, saying he "envisions sci-fi film directors flocking here, space-travel researchers, and engineers hoping to pry the secrets of intergalactic technology from space visitors." Kelly Brough, president of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, took it all in stride, telling the Journal: "We are open for business to all other planets." Still, should E.T. phone here, we say: Hang up. (10/31)

Iridium Concludes Financing for Iridium NEXT (Source: Nasdaq)
Iridium Communications has successfully closed the financing facility for its next generation satellite constellation, Iridium NEXT. The facility is provided by a syndicate of nine banks led by Deutsche Bank AG, Banco Santander SA, Societe Generale, Natixis and Mediobanca International S.A., and includes BNP Paribas, Credit Industriel et Commercial, Intesa Sanpaolo S.p.A. and Unicredit Bank Austria AG. They will provide up to $1.8 billion of financing to Iridium for the design and manufacture of Iridium NEXT satellites. (10/30)

China Goes To Mars (Source: Space Daily)
China has made no secret of its plans to explore Mars, but we are getting a firmer indication of what to expect. Vague statements in the Chinese media have suggested that China could launch a mission to Mars in 2013. This is an interesting suggestion for a program that's still largely unknown to us. China's first planned step to Mars is very well known. In 2011, the Yinghuo 1 orbiter will be launched to Mars in tandem with Russia's Phobos-Grunt mission. We know a lot about Yinghuo 1 already, thanks to some fairly open publicity about the mission. Yinghuo 1 is a small orbiter, which will enter a highly elliptical orbit around Mars.

Its main role is to study the tenuous Martian atmosphere, and help to answer one of the greatest mysteries surrounding the planet. Long ago, the atmosphere of Mars was much thicker, helping to produce almost Earthlike conditions on the surface. Why did Mars change into the barren world of today, and why did most of the atmosphere disappear? Roughly two years after Yinghuo 1 is launched, a new "launch window" will open between Earth and Mars, as the position of the planets becomes favorable again. NASA plans to send an orbiter during this window, and it will also study the Martian atmosphere. Could China be ready to fly again so soon? (10/31)

Want to Mine the Solar System? Start With the Moon (Source: Space.com)
The first extraterrestrial mining operation in human history will likely start up on the moon, thanks to its ample and relatively accessible stores of water ice, experts say. That was the majority view of a panel of scientists and engineers asked to consider where, beyond Earth, humanity should go first to extract resources. The moon won out over asteroids and Mars, chiefly because it's so close to Earth and has so much water, as well as other resources like methane and ammonia. (10/31)

NASA Space Station Marks 10th Year (Source: Florida Today)
The views from this five-bedroom, two-bathroom home are, well, out of this world. And for the past decade, not a day has passed when someone hasn't been able to gaze out at Earth streaming by 220 miles below. Tuesday marks 10 years of humans permanently living and working aboard the International Space Station. That will break the record of uninterrupted human presence in Earth orbit, eight days short of 10 years, by Mir, a Russian complex in orbit from 1986 to 2001. (10/31)

Asteroids: When the Time Comes to Duck (Source: BBC)
Throughout geological history, our planet has been hit by a succession of major asteroids and the probabilities suggest further impacts will occur in the future. No-one can say today when these might happen; we haven’t yet identified an asteroid of sufficient size and on a path that gives us immediate cause for concern. But the evidence hints strongly that something could find us sooner or later, and we need to be ready.

On average, an object about the size of car will enter the Earth's atmosphere once a year, producing a spectacular fireball in the sky. About every 2,000 years or so, an object the size of a football field will impact the Earth, causing significant local damage. And then, every few million years, a rock turns up that has a girth measured in kilometers. An impact from one of these will produce global effects. (10/29)

In Space, the Tourists Aren’t Indian (Source: DNA)
The stage is set for people to enjoy flights in space. But India — which has carved a niche for itself in low-cost satellite launches — might as well miss the bus in capitalizing on a cracker of an industry which could yield oodles of excitement, and of course the moolah. As yet there are no takers for this concept within India. Probably, it will be long in coming. And there is a good reason for that. Capt GR Gopinath, who pioneered the low-cost aviation in India by launching Air Deccan in early 2000, believes one needs to have a “rare kind of entrepreneurial spirit” to embark on a business venture like space tourism. (10/31)

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