December 22, 2010

Can We Afford to Return to the Moon? (Source: Air & Space)
I take issue with several points in the Augustine report. But now that the dust has settled and we have a “new direction” for our space program, its two principal deficiencies are evident. First, by discarding the clear strategic direction provided by the VSE, we have entered an era of uncertainty and aimlessness of purpose in our space program.

This institutional drift is reflected in nearly daily stories about NASA – new missions studies, new launch vehicles, the endless personal backbiting amongst the space internet cognoscenti. Second, the assertion of the report that return to the Moon is “unaffordable” is simply wrong. How you go to the Moon and what your mission is there determines cost and all the committee looked at were cost models for the existing program and minor variants on it. Click here to read the article. (12/21)

Discovery of New Molecule Can Lead to More Efficient Solid Rocket Fuel (Source: SRC)
Trinitramid – that's the name of the new molecule that may be a component in future rocket fuel. This fuel could be 20-30 percent more efficient in comparison with the best rocket fuels we have today. The discovery was made at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Sweden.

"A rule of thumb is that for every ten-percent increase in efficiency for rocket fuel, the payload of the rocket can double. What's more, the molecule consists only of nitrogen and oxygen, which would make the rocket fuel environmentally friendly. This is more than can be said of today's solid rocket fuels, which entail the emission of the equivalent of 550 tons of concentrated hydrochloric acid for each launch of the space shuttle," says Tore Brinck, professor of physical chemistry at KTH. (12/22)

Engage the Plasma Drive, Mars Here We Come (Source: Online Opinion)
President Obama’s call earlier this year to send spacecraft to Mars by 2015 is good news for space enthusiasts but more so for Australian physicist Dr Christine Charles who has invented a new type of plasma rocket drive. This is the supercharger of all space engines and Dr Charles and a team of physicists at the Australian National University developed the first prototype.

Lets have a look at Dr Charles’ Helicon Double Layer Thruster (HDLT) engine. Currently it would take an astronaut about 14 months to reach Mars and return to Earth. With the HDLT it would take three to four months - cutting 10 months off a round trip. Her ion propulsion drive rocket is safer and cheaper than any other similar design and works with a variety of propellants, including carbon dioxide (the main constituent of Mars’ atmosphere). When traveling in deep space, surrounded by radiation and in zero gravity, velocity is everything.

This electric double layer is the electrostatic equivalent of a sheer drop. The plasma ions passing through the double layer experience a sudden and very forceful acceleration in the same way water does as it flows over a cliff. The same double layer physics are behind the awesome light show of the aurora. In this case, the charged particles of the solar wind enter the Earth’s atmosphere at the poles. Click here to read the article. (12/22)

ISRO to Launch Singapore Satellite Soon (Source: The Hindu)
The Indian Space Research Organization is set to place Singapore's first satellite in orbit within a month or so. The experimental satellite was made by a university in the City-State itself. “One of the very good things in the India-Singapore bilateral relationship is that research institutions and universities have direct links with each other.” And, the governments of the two countries also inked, a Memorandum of Understanding a few years ago. (12/22)

India to Get Access to GLONASS (Source: The Hindu)
India and Russia on Tuesday signed an agreement to share high-precision signals from the Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) for defense as well as civilian use. As per the agreement, Russia will provide access to the GLONASS high-precision navigation signals to India. Russia currently has a total of 26 GLONASS satellites in orbit, of which 23 are operational. (12/22)

Students Take Part in Nationwide Rocketry Challenge (Source: AIA)
About 7,000 students from around the country are competing in the Team America Rocketry Challenge, where teams design, build and fly model rockets that must reach a certain altitude and fly for a certain period of time. This year's goals are an altitude of 750 feet and 45 seconds in flight -- plus successful recovery of an egg in the rocket's capsule. (12/22)

Support Builds for Asteroid-Hunting Spacecraft (Source: AIA)
Support is increasing for NASA's development of a spacecraft that could hunt asteroids and help protect Earth from possible asteroid threats. One possibility involves placing an infrared imaging telescope in orbit around the sun, which could offer a larger field view of the sky than is available from observatories on Earth. "If we seriously want to find all the asteroids which could be an impact hazard to the Earth, as well as find the asteroids which would be good destinations for human spaceflight, then a space-based survey telescope in solar orbit interior to Earth's would be the most rapid way to do that," said NASA's Lindley Johnson. (12/21)

Probing the Sun: How Close Can We Get? (Source: PBS)
At what point would a spacecraft approaching the sun vaporize? We all know the tale of Icarus. He attempts to escape imprisonment in Crete with wings made of feather, wood and wax. Ignoring his father's warnings, he flies too close to the sun. The wax melts. Icarus plummets to his death. For a spacecraft, the ability to fly safely near the sun depends entirely on its material, its design, and its fly-by trajectory.

The deep-space probe Helios 2 has flown closer to the sun than any other spacecraft; it made it 32 million miles from the sun's center. But a team of NASA scientists have designed a spacecraft that can survive at a distance eight times closer than that. After 21 circles, it will fall into a stable orbit at the 4-million-mile distance from the sun's center. That's well within the corona, the fiery atmosphere beyond the sun's ball.

The probe, which is lightweight, but rugged, is made of carbon-carbon material, layered around foam. Once within the corona, it will be exposed to temperatures of 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit. Its instruments are designed to measure the corona's magnetic field, particle distribution and radiowaves. A sunshield will protect it by dissipating some of the heat. (12/22)

Solar Sail Flotilla Could Divert Possibly Dangerous Asteroid (Source:
A flotilla of solar sail spacecraft could change the course of the asteroid Apophis — which is headed a little too close to Earth for comfort — by shading the space rock from solar radiation, according to a French researcher. Such a plan could help shift Apophis into a slightly safer orbit by the time it is expected to swing by Earth on April 13, 2036. But experts have warned previously that any efforts to divert the space rock could actually make matters worse. (12/22)

Superhero Move May Save Black Holes From Nakedness (Source: New Scientist)
Black holes may dodge the speeding "bullets" that would otherwise strip them naked – and pose problems for Einstein's theory of general relativity. The finding is good news for physicist Stephen Hawking, who has wagered that such naked singularities are a physical impossibility.

The event horizon surrounding a black hole means nothing, not even light, escapes. But in 2009, physicists Ted Jacobson and Thomas Sotiriou at the University of Maryland at College Park calculated that, under some circumstances, an incoming particle might cause a spinning black hole to rotate so fast that this horizon is destroyed, allowing light to escape.

The trouble is, the theory of general relativity and other laws of classical physics break down around the resulting "naked singularity". Now Enrico Barausse, also at the University of Maryland in College Park, and his colleagues reckon that such incoming particles needn't strip spinning black holes. (12/22)

China's Orbiter Successfully Flies Through Lunar Eclipse (Source: Xinhua)
China's solar-powered lunar probe satellite Chang'e 2 has successfully stood the test of a lunar eclipse and hours of flying in complete darkness. The orbiter, launched on Oct. 1, flew out of the shadow at 17:57 Beijing Time (09:57 GMT) Tuesday, said Zhou Jianliang, deputy chief engineer of the BACC. It entered the shadow at 14:50 Tuesday. During the three-hours when the orbiter was obscured from the sun's rays by the earth, it relied solely on battery power and experienced temperatures of around 200 degrees Celsius below zero. (12/22)

NASA Plans Planet-Finding TweetUp in California (Source: NASA)
NASA will give 100 of its Twitter followers an insider look at its planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft and the agency's Ames Research Center on Feb. 11 in Moffett Field in California. For the first time, NASA's Twitter followers are being invited to Ames to learn about planetary discoveries from Kepler and the science flights of NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) aircraft.

Tweetup registration opens at 1 p.m. EST on Jan. 5 and closes at 1 p.m. on Jan. 10. NASA will accommodate 100 active Tweeps randomly selected from those who sign up online. Additional registrants will be placed on a waiting list. Those who cannot attend the Tweetup can follow along via Web coverage, including tweets and live streaming. For more information about the Tweetup and to sign up, visit (12/22)

Inmarsat Secures Ex-Im Financing for Global Xpress Satellites (Source: Space News)
Mobile satellite services provider Inmarsat of London has secured $666 million in loans from the U.S. Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank to finance the construction and insurance of three large Ka-band satellites to provide bandwidth to commercial and military customers. One of the Global Xpress satellites, being built by Boeing, will carry a hosted payload that Inmarsat is having built with the expectation that it will be leased by a U.S. military customer, industry officials said. (12/22)

Florida Gains Two U.S. House Seats in Census (Source: St. Pete Times)
Florida will gain two U.S. House seats as Census Bureau data released Tuesday realigned Congress and continues a steady shift of population and political power to the South and West. A 17.6 percent population boom in the past decade will give Florida 27 House members beginning in 2012, boosting the state's clout and ability to draw more federal funding. Florida now has as many seats as New York, a significant marker that shows how far the state has come since the advent of air conditioning. (12/22)

Battle Over Florida Redistricting Begins (Source: Florida Capital News)
Florida legislators got the official go-ahead Tuesday to start a two-year argument over redrawing the state's congressional and legislative districts. Details on how Florida's population has shifted internally remain months away. Because of national population shifts, the state gains two seats in the U.S. House.

But it also means that state lawmakers will have to draw the district boundaries for themselves — 40 in the Senate and 120 in the House — as well as the now-27 congressional tracts. While Florida gets more seats in Congress, the state Legislature does not grow. Editor's Note: Last time the state re-districted, the Cape Canaveral Spaceport was split to include two districts, one including KSC and the other including CCAFS. (12/22)

Gov.-Elect Scott May Merge Agencies for Economic Development (Source: The Ledger)
Three high-profile state agencies could be combined under a proposal released by Gov.-elect Rick Scott's transition team. The state departments of Transportation, Environmental Protection and Community Affairs would be merged. The policy briefing recommends that Scott, who is preparing to take office next month, "refocus discrete components (of the agencies) as part of a newly created, more muscular state economic development agency."

It also recommends the state get out of the business of overseeing local comprehensive planning following high profile fights in the Legislature in recent years over growth management restrictions lawmakers say are overly burdensome. It would take legislation to combine the agencies and the transition team warned Scott that merging DCA with the other two large agencies wouldn't necessarily make those problems go away, even as it recommended he push for the consolidation. (12/22)

Threat from Wayward Intelsat Satellite Diminishes (Source: Space News)
Intelsat’s runaway Galaxy 15 telecommunications satellite, which stopped responding to commands in April and since has been in an uncontrolled drift around the Earth along the principal orbital highway, has lost enough power that 95 percent of its electrical payload has shut down. The shutdown, which Intelsat originally had hoped would occur in August, finally arrived Dec. 17, all but ending an eight-month drama in which Intelsat had to warn owners of satellites in Galaxy 15’s path to perform occasionally elaborate maneuvers to prevent frequency interference for their customers. (12/22)

Proton Return-to-Flight Planned for December 26 (Source:
After the failure of the last Proton launch and following an investigation, it has been decided to go ahead with the launch of Eutelsat's KA-SAT satellite on Dec. 26. The original launch date was Dec. 20. (12/22)

Turner to Chair Strategic Forces Subcommittee (Source: Space News)
Incoming U.S. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) named Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) to head the panel’s strategic forces subcommittee in the 112th Congress that convenes in January. The strategic forces subcommittee has oversight of the nation’s military space and missile defense programs, as well as its nuclear arsenal. (12/22)

No comments: