June 7, 2011

NASA Begins Transfer of Documents to Congress (Source: Space News)
NASA has started turning over piles of documents about its human spaceflight program to a U.S. Senate panel, as demanded by several lawmakers last month in a letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. A congressional source said June 6 that NASA has delivered some — but not all — of the documents sought by the leaders of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Among the documents were: records of agency discussions about modifying existing contracts to build the new heavy-lift rocket and crew capsule; internal briefings about rocket configurations that could fulfill Congress’ mandate for a new heavy launch vehicle; and a copy of a NASA-commissioned Aerospace Corp. study, that concluded crew launches by a U.S.-based commercial provider would cost two to three times more than continuing to buy seats on Russia’s Soyuz vehicle. (6/7)

ISS National Lab Announcement Delayed (Source: NASA Watch)
According to the ISS National Lab Management Entity CAN the "anticipated selection announcement" was 31 May 2011. That day came and went last week. Nothing was announced. Given that it took decades for NASA to get this far - and that they only did so after Congressional direction - one can expect that they will drag their feet on this process as long as they can. (6/7)

Unique ISS Photos Released (Sources: NASA, NASA Watch)
Astronauts returning to Earth in May aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule snapped some unique high-res photos of the ISS docked with the Space Shuttle. NASA sources reported that the astronaut photographer left the camera's memory card in the Soyuz when he climbed out, causing a delay in posting the photos online. Here they are, worth the wait. (6/7)

Public Fears About Comet Elenin Unjustified (Source: Astronomical Society)
As part of a rash of conspiracy theories about the end of the world which seem to be popular these days, some web commentators are now suggesting that Comet Elenin -- which will pass closest to the Earth on Oct. 16th, 2011 -- was connected somehow to the recent earthquake in Japan and will cause major destruction to our planet in months to come. Astronomer David Morrison, writing for the "Astronomy Beat" column of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, has examined these claims and finds them all without foundation. (6/7)

The Sun Lets Loose a HUGE Explosion (Source: Bad Astronomy)
Early this morning, the Sun erupted with an explosion I can only describe as ginormous. We’re in no danger from it, but the size and scope of this thing are simply spectacular. Here’s a video of the event. (6/7)

NASA Digs Embry-Riddle’s Moon-Mining Robotics (Source: ERAU)
Moon-mining robots engineered by two teams of Embry-Riddle students scooped up awards, judges’ praise, and tons of experience for their creators at NASA’s second annual Lunabotics Competition, held May 23-28 at KSC. A student team from Embry-Riddle’s Prescott, Ariz., campus won the first-ever Judges Innovation Design Award for their lunar robot, LAR-E (Luna All-terrain Regolith Excavator).

LAR-E also ranked fourth in the Mining Competition. “LAR-E was so maneuverable and agile that it had the ability to climb over the walls,” said a member of Prescott Campus team. One of his teammates added: “a NASA judge at the award ceremony said it is believable that this robot could work on the moon.”

A second team, from the university’s Daytona Beach, Fla., campus won the Slide Presentation Award for their excavator, called Moon Pi. Caroline Liron, a faculty adviser of the Daytona Beach team, said, “Our performance was even better than last year. The robot is a complete improvement.” (6/7)

Embry-Riddle Students Honored for Research on Unique Pulsed Detonation Engine (Source: ERAU)
Two student engineers from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University were honored recently by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) for a paper reporting their research on a unique pulsed detonation turbine engine. Francisco Romo and Jeffrey Vizcaino received second place in the Masters Student Division at AIAA’s Southeastern Regional Student Conference in Huntsville, Ala. (4/22)

Atlantis Rolled Out to Florida Launch Pad (Source: SpaceToday.net)
The space shuttle Atlantis arrived at the launch pad last week as preparations for the final mission of the space shuttle era continue. Atlantis is scheduled for launch on STS-135, the final shuttle mission, on July 8. A four person crew will pay a final visit by a space shuttle to the ISS, delivering additional supplies for the station. (6/5)

Pakistani Woman Ready for Space Trip (Source: Express Tribune)
Namira Salim’s star is about to launch as she is set to become Pakistan’s first astronaut, flying aboard Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo on a suborbital trip. Her maiden voyage will be in 2012. Salim said this was a dream come true for her. All her hard work and training will soon pay off. Although the date for the launch is not yet fixed, she says her team is ready. (6/7)

Editorial: Celebrate Apollo 11 With National Holiday (Source: St. Pete Times)
The Apollo 11 moon landing, along with everything surrounding the Apollo program, was more than a scientific accomplishment. It reminded most of the world that humankind could rise above its differences and accept shared values of the mind and spirit. It was a symbol for peace and progress. It initiated what was to become a generation of space exploration and discovery.

Supporters of continued space exploration, of which I am one, believe the time has come for the U.S. to officially acknowledge the significance of Apollo 11's moon landing by making July 20 a nonpaid holiday on the order of Flag Day. The holiday would be called Space Exploration Day.

Former Sen. Jake Garn of Utah and Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, both of who flew on the space shuttle, support the effort. Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch also supports it and is working to get it established. NASA officials also support it. The holiday would remind Americans of the life-sustaining benefits that have come from space exploration. (6/7)

Sitting Duck (Source: Cosmos)
With tens of thousands of objects traveling at speeds of up to 10,000 m per second, it's only a matter of time before one collides with an expensive satellite. Which makes tracking space junk serious business. A large communications satellite represents a very significant financial investment typically costing in excess of AU$500 million to build and launch into orbit.

Over 50 years of space flight have left the Earth's near orbital zones absolutely littered with space junk ranging from dead satellites and boosters to nuts, bolts and even an astronaut's glove. The problem is that this junk is traveling at up to 10,000 m per second and in multiple directions. Such huge velocities mean even a small bolt will release the same energy as a stick of dynamite if it strikes another object. And a piece the size of a brick will be more like a sidewinder missile. (6/7)

Delta 2 Set for Aquarius Mission at Vandenberg (Source: Lompoc Record)
A NASA instrument will hitchhike aboard an Argentine satellite when it rides an American rocket to space from Vandenberg Air Force Base early Thursday morning. The United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket and the Aquarius/SAC-D satellite are set to lift off from Space Launch Complex-2 between 7:20 and 7:25 a.m. Thursday. (6/7)

Life in the Really Slow Lane (Source: Lompoc Record)
Tom Lattoz has to set aside any race-car-driver tendencies while doing his tasks on the Delta 2 rocket program at Vandenberg Air Force Base. As the man driving the tug that pulls the trailer carrying the huge “can” holding a satellite being taken to the launch pad, Lattoz must go slow. Super slow.

So incredibly slow that an approximately 13-mile trip from south Vandenberg Air Force Base to transport the Aquarius/SAC-D observatory to the launch pad recently took several hours, not minutes. The 42-year-old Lompoc resident works as an upper stage lead technician for United Launch Alliance, the Delta rocket manufacturer. (6/7)

MEASAT Global Buys New Satellite (Source: Bernama)
MEASAT Global has entered into a contract with Astrium for the procurement of the MEASAT-3b satellite that will cater to existing customers and for expansion into new markets. MEASAT-3b will have a contractual life of 15 years and the whole program is expected to cost about RM1 billion. It is expected to be launched in 2013. (6/7)

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