August 4, 2011

Congress Reaches Deal on FAA Shutdown (Source: Washington Post)
Congressional leaders reached agreement Thursday on stopgap funding for the Federal Aviation Administration, ending a stalemate that cost 4,000 furloughed federal workers almost two weeks of pay and drained more than $300 million from the Treasury. “This agreement does not resolve the important differences that still remain," said Sen. Harry Reid. "But I believe we should keep Americans working while Congress settles its differences, and this agreement will do exactly that.” He gave no immediate explanation of how the compromise was reached. (8/4)

ULA Plans Fix For Delta IV Heavy Launch Flame (Source: Aviation Week)
United Launch Alliance and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR) are developing short- and longer-term solutions to prevent the cloud of burning hydrogen that envelopes the base of the Delta IV Heavy during liftoff. Seconds before launch, thousands of pounds of hydrogen are dumped through the three PWR RS-68 Common Core Booster first-stage engines to optimize their hydrogen/oxygen mix for ignition.

Due to the large volume of hydrogen and possibly the configuration of the vehicle and its relatively slow initial ascent profile, some gas burns in pockets of flame that remain close to the booster as it clears the launch tower. Although described as a harmless side effect of the standard launch procedure, the burn-off phenomenon will be mitigated by igniting one of the three engines slightly earlier than the others prior to liftoff.

“This will entrain the hydrogen for the other two in the start sequence,” said a PWR official. In the longer term, further design changes are planned, including alterations to the timing of the valves in the hydrogen system and alternate chill-down methods using cooled helium. (8/4)

"Go For Launch" Boardgame Designed and Produced on Space Coast (Source: Hobby Space)
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to play Go for Launch!, but if your not careful you could become one! The Go For Launch! board game shows you how to prepare a Space Shuttle for launch as you journey through: Deep Space, Early Rocketry, Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Apollo-Soyuz, Sky-Lab, Astronomy, Planetary Exploration, Space Shuttle, Mir Space Station, Space Spin-Offs and more!

The new game, recommended for ages 8 and up, was designed by a Space Shuttle technician and produced in Cape Canaveral on Florida's Space Coast. Click here. (8/4)

Antiproton Ring Found Around Earth (Source: New Scientist)
Antiprotons appear to ring the Earth, confined by the planet's magnetic field lines. The antimatter, which may persist for minutes or hours before annihilating with normal matter, could in theory be used to fuel ultra-efficient rockets of the future.

Charged particles called cosmic rays constantly rain in from space, creating a spray of new particles - including antiparticles - when they collide with particles in the atmosphere. Many of these become trapped inside the Van Allen radiation belts, two doughnut-shaped zones around the planet where charged particles spiral around the Earth's magnetic field lines. (8/4)

Hundreds of Girl Scouts Reach for the Stars in Rocket Competition (Source: Hobby Space)
Michelle Jorgensen from Colorado, was the first Girl Scout to win nationally in the Reach for the Stars ~ Rocket Competition. She competed in 2009 with Troop #337 at the Challenger Learning Center of Colorado. She was followed in 2010 by Azriel Clary who competed during a camp-in with the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida.

Actually – there have been three Girl Scout national winners. Taylor Goodwin competed with her class at Penrose Elementary School in Colorado. But, she got word that she was a national winner on her way to Girl Scout summer camp. Spurred on by these national wins, Girls Scouts across the country have turned out to compete in the fifth annual Reach for the Stars ~ National Rocket Competition.

Funding from the National Girls Collaborative Project, the Gammons Charitable Foundation and the Florida Space Grant Consortium helped bring the Reach for the Stars ~ National Rocket Competition to Girl Scouts in across the nation. (8/4)

Dark Streaks on Mars Bolster Case for Liquid Water (Source: New Scientist)
Mars's dust bowl image may need a makeover. Dark streaks seen forming in summer and fading in winter might be signs of water flowing just beneath the surface. The sudden appearance of streaks on sloping ground have been attributed to present-day liquid water before, although their origin is still debated. Light streaks have been seen appearing on steep slopes in images taken years apart by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. And seasonal dark streaks have emerged in the north polar region.

Liquid water flowing downhill might explain both types of events, but dust or sand avalanches could also be to blame. Now, new images have revealed a previously unknown population of seasonal dark streaks in Mars's southern hemisphere, with characteristics that seem to tie them to liquid water. (8/4)

Space Florida and TRDA Ignite Innovation for Entrepreneurs (Source: TRDA)
Only one month to go before the Space Florida-TRDA Igniting Innovation Showcase on Sep. 7. Your assistance would be greatly appreciated in spreading the word among your members, clients, colleagues and friends. More than 30 of Florida's most promising tech companies are participating. Click here for information. (8/4)

Storm Damages NASA Engineering Building at Marshall Space Flight Center (Source: Huntsville Times)
A sudden overnight thunderstorm blew roofing material off an engineering building at Marshall Space Flight Center on Redstone Arsenal. No one was injured and the building was not exposed to the air. About 300 people normally work in Building 4487. They were either moved to alternate work space or sent home on administrative leave. (8/4)

Lower NASA, Military Sales Hit Alliant (Source: Star Tribune)
Alliant Techsystems Inc. felt the impact of lower military ammunition sales and the end of the space shuttle program in its first quarter, posting an 8 percent drop in sales. The Eden Prairie-based defense, aerospace and commercial ammunition company reported sales for the quarter ended July 3 of $1.1 billion, about $100 million short of Wall Street's forecast.

Earnings were slightly higher than analysts' estimates, rising 4 percent to $72 million, or $2.13 a share. The bottom line benefited from a one-time tax gain from the sale of some land in Utah and by the company's focus on efficiency improvements and cost containment measures. (8/4)

Space Exploration Leadership Won't Need Humans in Space (Source: Reuters)
Now that the shuttle fleet is permanently grounded, the U.S. space spotlight could shift toward the path-breaking astronomical science that NASA does without human beings on board. Human spaceflight has historically grabbed most of the public's attention and NASA's budget, but robotic probes and observatories have brought the biggest leaps toward understanding the cosmos, from roaming around Mars to looking billions of years back in time to see how galaxies are born.

There was a symbolic torch-passing moment this week, when shuttle astronauts visited the White House to collect kudos from President Barack Obama for the 30-year shuttle program that ended on July 21. At the same time, NASA announced a probe of the asteroid Vesta, a look into the dark heart of a galaxy and the upcoming launch of a spacecraft headed for Jupiter.

Americans on Mars? Maybe by 2035. But robotic rovers have been rolling across the Martian surface since 2004. Because human spaceflight requires simulating Earth-like conditions it has always been more expensive than unmanned exploration or ground-based observatories. However, NASA is a frequent target of budget-cutters, with robotic space science more vulnerable than human spaceflight. (8/4)

August 10 Launch Planned for Minotaur IV Rocket From California (Source: Launch Alert)
A Minotaur IV rocket will be launched from SLC-8 at Vandenberg Air Force Base on August 10. The Department of Defense will probably release the launch window/launch time and other mission details a few days in advance. (8/4)

Boeing Selects Atlas V for Initial Commercial Crew Launches (Source: Boeing)
Boeing has selected the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket to launch the Boeing Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft from Florida’s Space Coast. If NASA selects Boeing for a development contract with sufficient funding, ULA will provide launch services for an autonomous orbital flight, a transonic autonomous abort test launch, and a crewed launch, all in 2015.

The addition of ULA to the Boeing team enables the start of detailed design work on an integrated system for launch and spacecraft operations. The team also will refine launch abort operations that will meet NASA's stringent human rating requirements to safely transport crew and cargo to the International Space Station.

Editor's Note: Modifications to the Atlas launch pad infrastructure will allow other human-carrying spacecraft to be launched atop the vehicle. The Atlas V is also the preferred vehicle for carrying the Sierra Nevada DreamChaser and Blue Origin's capsule. (8/4)

NASA Infrastructure and Facility Management Needs Improvement (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA owns approximately 5,000 buildings and structures such as wind tunnels, laboratories, launch pads, and test stands valued at more than $26.4 billion. However, 80 percent of NASA's facilities are 40 or more years old and many are in degraded condition. Given the extent and age of NASA's facilities, it is imperative that NASA managers have reliable data with which to manage these assets.

Our review found that data in NASA's Real Property Management System (RPMS) relating to utilization, mission dependency, and condition were unreliable, largely because NASA Centers used inadequate processes to gather and update the information. During the audit, we inspected 34 NASA facilities and found that RPMS utilization data for 15 of these facilities did not reflect actual conditions. Click here. (8/4)

Wu Resignation Opens Slot on Space Subcommittee (Source: Space Politics)
Late Wednesday evening Rep. David Wu (D-OR) formally resigned from the House. Wu had previously indicated that he would resign in the wake of news of a personal scandal once the debt ceiling debate was resolved. Wu was a senior Democrat on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, serving on the space subcommittee and as the ranking member of the technology and innovation subcommittee.

Wu had been skeptical about at least some elements of the administration’s space policy, including its emphasis on commercial space transportation; at a May hearing on the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation’s 2012 budget proposal, he said he was “absolutely stunned” commercial spaceflight was not held to the same rigorous standards of commercial aviation, and warned that an accident involving a commercial vehicle “could potentially flatten the space program for a period of years.” (8/4)

Pentagon Might Have to Cut $28 Billion from 2012 Budget (Source: Bloomberg)
The recently signed deficit-reducing measure requires $350 billion to be slashed from defense spending over the next decade. The majority of that comes from the Pentagon, which might have to slash up to $28 billion from the 2012 budget, insiders say. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the $350 billion is "in line" with the Pentagon's expectations for defense cuts. (8/4)

"Supercommittee" Faces Tough Battle Over Cuts (Source: AIA)
Congressional leaders are poised to appoint a dozen members to a special panel that will be established to reduce the U.S. deficit, and the wrangling over the panel's members and potential cuts has already began. The Aerospace Industries Association wants a defense expert named to the panel. "It is essential that the supercommittee includes bipartisan representation from the Senate and House Armed Services committees as well as the Senate and House Appropriations subcommittees on Defense," the AIA said. Spending cuts to the defense budget "would weaken the defense industrial base that is responsible for thousands of high-paying jobs and billions of dollars in exports." (8/4)

Launch Forecast 70 Percent 'Go' On Friday (Source: Florida Today)
Final preparations for the roll out of an Atlas V rocket are under way today at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as NASA and United Launch Alliance gear up for launch Friday of a $1.1 billion mission to Jupiter. The powerful Atlas V rocket and its payload -- NASA's Juno spacecraft -- are slated to blast off at 11:34 a.m. Friday at Launch Complex 41. The window on Friday will extend to 12:43 p.m. (8/3)

Emily May Delay Mission To Jupiter (Source: WESH)
With the threat of tropical storm Emily, NASA must decide whether to launch Juno by Thursday morning. Juno is a satellite set to launch on a long-planned mission to Jupiter. One choice is to wait until Sunday or Monday, when the threat of Emily has passed. However, NASA officials are getting anxious to launch. (8/4)

Pentagon Could Face $825 Billion in Cuts Over Decade (Source: AIA)
Insiders familiar with the challenges facing the Defense Department say that reducing defense spending by $825 billion over the next 10 years is unsupportable. The plan "dangles a sword of Damocles over our national security later this year when further cuts would be triggered unless another compromise is reached," said Marion C. Blakey, the president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association. "The cuts to defense proposed in the 'trigger' deal are so draconian that it's hard to believe they are even on the table." (8/4)

FAA Funding Remains Unresolved as Congress Takes Recess (Source: AIA)
The federal government has already lost $200 million in ticket taxes and may lose $1 billion more before the disagreement over funding for the Federal Aviation Administration is resolved. It is unclear when lawmakers will decide the funding issue, as Congress recessed this week until September. "Allowing the authorization to lapse has resulted in unconscionable and completely avoidable negative impacts to aviation and our economy," said Marion Blakey of the Aerospace Industries Association. (8/4)

National Space Club (FL Committee) Invites Award Nominations (Source: NSCFL)
The National Space NSCFL Florida Committee each year recognizes area representatives of the news media and communications professions for excellence in their ability to communicate the space story along Florida's Space Coast and throughout the world. The award is named in honor of Harry Kolcum, the former managing editor of Aviation Week & Space Technology. Kolcum was a founding member of the National Space NSCFL Florida Committee.

We are selecting two people for the award. The first is a person, either a government or contractor PAO/Communications rep/marketing person/community relations specialist, government relations specialist, etc., who resides in Florida, who did the most to promote space during fiscal year 2011. The second is a member of the news media whose coverage during the year has done the most to promote space. Click here for information. (8/3)

The Odds for Life on a Moonless Earth (Source: Astrobiology)
Scientists have long believed that, without our moon, the tilt of the Earth would shift greatly over time, from zero degrees, where the Sun remains over the equator, to 85 degrees, where the Sun shines almost directly above one of the poles. A planet’s stability has an effect on the development of life. A planet see-sawing back and forth on its axis as it orbits the Sun would experience wide fluctuations in climate, which then could potentially affect the evolution of complex life. (8/4)

Cocoa Beach Man on a Mission to Safeguard Cape's Spacecraft (Source: Florida Today)
Stationed in San Antonio, Texas, early in his Air Force career, Fred Wyman helped guard space shuttles when their ferry flights home to Florida stopped there to refuel. "It was always a huge deal when the space shuttle came through," the United Launch Alliance security specialist remembered. "People would line the fences." Now, Wyman guards access to ULA's Atlas V rockets launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, including one set to blast off at 11:34 a.m. Friday with a $1.1 billion NASA science mission to Jupiter. (8/4)

Legislation Proposed to Boost Small Businesses in Brevard (Source: Florida Today)
Small businesses in Brevard County would get preferential treatment in federal contracting under a legislative proposal announced Wednesday. The proposal from U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams, the Orlando Republican whose district includes portions of the Space Coast, aims to combat job losses linked to the retirement of NASA's space shuttle program.

Republican Rep. Bill Posey of Rockledge supports the proposal. The bill would designate the county a Historically Underutilized Business Zone, or HUBZone, under the federal Small Business Administration. If approved by Congress, the designation will provide a 10 percent preference in bidding on federal contracts and keep businesses on a list for agencies seeking contractors. (8/4)

Satellites in the Developing World (Source: MIT News)
Within 24 hours of the catastrophic 2010 earthquake near Port-au-Prince, Haiti, space agencies and companies around the world tasked satellites with providing free images of the earthquake’s aftermath. Experts quickly analyzed and interpreted images taken from space, mapping out essential information for rescue workers on the ground: areas with many damaged buildings, roads likely closed by debris. Click here. (8/4)

Commercial Manned Spaceflight Coming to Virginia (Source: Examiner)
NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility held a public meeting on Wednesday to seek input from local residents on several new projects under development at the Virginia spaceport, including the introduction of manned space flight from Wallops Island.

“NASA is seeking public input in the preparation of an environmental study that will assess land use changes at its Wallops Flight Facility required to support current and potential future programs and missions supporting space programs with national importance and priority,” the agency said in a statement on Friday. (8/4)

Owners Pull Telesat from the Sales Block (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Telesat and its owners have terminated talks with prospective buyers of the Canadian company after rejecting acquisition offers as unacceptable, Telesat and its majority shareholder, Loral, announced. Ottawa-based Telesat, which is the world’s fourth-largest commercial satellite fleet operator by revenue, will focus on “additional alternatives for Telesat, including recapitalization transactions,” the companies said in separate statements. (8/4)

ATK Reports First-Quarter Operating Results (Source: ATK)
ATK reported first quarter sales of $1.1 billion, down from the $1.2 billion recorded in the prior-year, reflecting lower sales on NASA's human space flight programs, as well as lower sales of non-standard ammunition and lower sales at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant. Net income for the quarter was $72 million compared to $75 million in the prior-year quarter. (8/4)

Idaho Space Days 2011 (Source: Boise Weekly)
Rather than parking your kid in front of the television for an episode of The Magic School Bus, head down to the Discovery Center of Idaho for some hands-on outerspace learning. Friday, Aug. 5, marks the kick-off of this year's Idaho Space Days, a six-day festival featuring model rocket demos, star gazing and lectures by retired NASA astronauts. (8/3)

A Budget Trip to Mars (Source: Discovery)
NASA is working with SpaceX to go well beyond simply supplying ferry flights to the International Space Station. The firm is talking with NASA about going to Mars, on the cheap. "We figured out that for a pretty low cost, a Dragon capsule on a Falcon Heavy (rocket) could go to Mars for hundreds of millions of dollars, not billions," Pete Worden, director of NASA's Ames Research Center, said.

The mission, informally known as Red Dragon, would follow NASA's upcoming $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory, which is due to launch in November and arrive on Mars next August. Its goal is to determine if the red planet is, or ever was, suitable for microbial life. (8/3)

Obama's Space Program to Bring Surprising Results (Source: LA Daily News)
President Obama's bold space policy will generate surprising results as private commercial space firms leap into the gap. Under the president's plan, NASA will partner with aerospace startups such as SpaceX to ferry supplies and astronauts to the Space Station and move the job of lifting small research payloads to firms like XCOR and Masten Aerospace. ...We must now get behind the privatization policy, and support these brave new firms who are boldly going where none has gone before. (8/3)

Make Outer Space Safe for All (Source: China Daily)
Gregory L. Schulte, US deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, recently told reporters that the United States has proposed to establish regular dialogue with China in an effort to create rules and reduce the risk of accidents and miscalculations in outer space.

Security in outer space has long been an issue of concern in the global arms control process. Since the late 1990s, China, Russia and some other countries have urged the international community to hold multilateral dialogue to prevent weaponization of outer space, and put forward specific proposals for concluding an international treaty to prevent an arms race in outer space.

But the US has been using every reason to refuse negotiating such a treaty for fear that it may restrict it from maintaining and developing its outer space anti-missile system and compromise its space military technology. Some US conservatives are convinced that the US can use its system and resources to maintain its dominance in space and it is unnecessary for it to hold talks with other countries, because they are quite inferior in terms of using space for military purposes. Hence, the US has been emphasizing freedom in the use of outer space. In essence, it wants to establish its hegemony over outer space. (8/3)

Three Astronauts Depart NASA Management (Source: NASA)
Astronauts Steven Nagel, John Phillips and Carlos Noriega are leaving the agency. Following many years of leadership in NASA’s aircraft operations, Nagel is taking a position in academia. Phillips is retiring after returning from assignment to the Naval Postgraduate School. Noriega has most recently served in management roles for future human spaceflight exploration and is moving to industry. (8/3)

Japan Elevates its Space Security Agenda (Source: Japan in Space)
For Japan, a country which has an exclusively defense-oriented policy, the use of space, which does not belong to the national territory of any country and is not constrained by conditions such as surface topography, is extremely important for strengthening information gathering functions for detecting signs of various contingencies in advance, for strengthening warning and surveillance functions for use in sea and air zones in the neighborhood of Japan, and for ensuring means of communication in the international peace cooperation activities of the SDF.

In the future, the Ministry of Defense intends to vigorously conduct examinations on specific measures, in coordination with related ministries, including the Cabinet Secretariat, based on the Basic Guidelines and the Basic Plan for Space Policy in order to promote new development and use of space in the security field. In FY2011, it will address projects such as 1) research for enhancement of C4ISR utilizing space, 2) enhance space-based communication capability, and 3) expanded use of imagery from commercial satellites. (8/3)

Disney Swan & Dolphin Offer Space Deals (Source: CFNews13)
An Orlando hotel is offering out of this world deals in honor of the nation's space legacy. Any guest can book the Salute to Space package at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel and receive a 20 percent savings on accommodations, with room rates starting at $129 per night.

The package also offers guests a special savings from National Car Rental so they can explore Florida's Space Coast, where all 135 shuttle missions launched. For an additional close encounter, guests visiting the hotel on Aug. 12, 19 and 26 will have the opportunity to personally meet an astronaut in the Dolphin lobby. From 5 - 7 pm on those dates, guests can greet either astronaut Jon McBride (Aug. 12 & 26) or astronaut Bob Springer (Aug. 19), and enter a raffle to win a signed NASA collector's item. (8/3)

64 Satellites Launched by India So Far (Source: Daiji World)
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has so far launched 64 satellites and of these seven failed. 38 were national satellites and 26 international. (8/3)

96 Hidden Star Clusters Discovered by Dust-Piercing Telescope (Source:
A horde of previously unseen star clusters has been discovered by astronomers using a telescope that pierced through the thick curtains of dust in our Milky Way galaxy to reveal the faint stellar groups. In all, 96 open star clusters were discovered by peering through the galactic dust – the first time so many faint and small clusters were found at once. These tiny and faint objects were invisible to previous cosmic surveys, but the VISTA telescope at ESO's Paranal Observatory in the Chilean desert has sensitive infrared detectors that can peer through the dust in the Milky Way. (8/3)

Trojan Collision May Have Shaped the Moon (Source: Physics World)
Differences between the near and far sides of the Moon could be the result of a collision between the Moon and a "Trojan" companion that occurred billions of years ago. That is the conclusion of geophysicists in the US and Switzerland who have done computer simulations on how the Moon would be affected by such a massive impact.

Ever since the Luna 3 space mission ventured behind the Moon in 1959, we have known that the nearside and farside of the Moon are different. The nearside (which always faces the Earth) is dominated by relatively smooth basalt plains called "maria", while the farside is mountainous and deeply pitted with craters. The two sides are also believed to be different beneath the surface, with the nearside crust appearing much thinner than the crust on the farside. (8/3)

Russian Cosmonauts Launch Defective Satellite from ISS (Source: Xinhua)
Two Russian cosmonauts manually launched a mini satellite from the International Space Station (ISS) during a six-hour spacewalk Wednesday. They found the 30-kg satellite had lost one of its two antennas during its delivery to the ISS in January. After consulting with the Mission Control, they decided to launch the device anyway. (8/3)

Spacewalk Skips Main Task (Source: Florida Today)
Russian cosmonauts wrapped up a spacewalk outside the International Space Station without moving a cargo boom that was intended to be their primary task. They ran too short on time to move a cargo boom from the Pirs airlock to the Poisk airlock, a job that was to have taken up about half the six-hour spacewalk. (8/3)

3 Small, Icy Worlds Discovered in Pluto's Territory (Source:
Astronomers have discovered three small, icy worlds orbiting the sun near Pluto, on the outer reaches of the solar system. The three newfound bodies are likely big enough to be rounded by their own gravity, which means they may be "dwarf planets" like Pluto, researchers said. Scientists discovered them and eleven other new objects while performing a survey of the Kuiper Belt, the ring of icy bodies beyond Neptune. (8/3)

Retired General: Military Space Investment Needed (Source: Aviation Week)
Former U.S. Air Force Space and Missiles Systems Center (SMC) Commander Gen. Tom Sheridan warns that new investment is needed now to guarantee U.S. military access to space later this decade and beyond. “We need to be able to get to space, and we never want to give that capability up,” says Sheridan. He says key priorities should be the development of successors to the RD-180 first-stage and RL10 upper-stage engines.

Sheridan also believes that the Air Force and NASA, both of which require a new-generation, first-stage hydrocarbon engine, should work more closely to combine research and development efforts. “We should put NASA in charge of some pieces and put the Air Force in charge of some pieces, not unlike what we did with the Titan program 40 to 50 years ago,” he suggests. (8/3)

Europe Could Downsize Mars 2016 Mission (Source: Aviation Week)
The European Space Agency (ESA) is considering a plan to scale back or eliminate the entry, descent and landing element of a robotic science mission to Mars in 2016, a cost-saving measure that could bolster a more ambitious joint U.S.-European rover mission to the red planet two years later.

Europe could save about €120 million ($174 million) if the 19-member space agency immediately abandons development of its ExoMars Entry, Descent and Landing Module (EDL), a testbed designed to demonstrate Europe’s mastery of lander technology. Slated to launch in 2016, EDL is designed to be carried aboard a telecommunications satellite equipped with a methane-sniffing trace-gas sensor and a data relay capability indispensible to a subsequent ExoMars mission planned for 2018. (8/3)

As Sun Storms Ramp Up, Electric Grid Braces for Impact (Source: National Geographic)
Storms are brewing about 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) away, and if one of them reaches Earth, it could knock out communications, scramble GPS, and leave thousands without power for weeks to months. The tempest is what's known as a solar storm, a flurry of charged particles that erupts from the sun. Under the right conditions, solar storms can create extra electrical currents in Earth's magnetosphere—the region around the planet controlled by our magnetic field. Click here. (8/3)

ATK Lays Off 100 in Sixth Cut in Utah Over Two Years (Source: Salt Lake Tribune)
ATK Aerospace Systems told employees in June it would conduct another round of layoffs in its aerospace systems group. On Wednesday it followed through, cutting 100 in the wake of NASA’s shutdown of the U.S. space shuttle program. ATK spokeswoman Trina Patterson said that among the number, 28 were volunteers and five were transferred to other divisions. "The reductions were primarily in Utah but also affected our Alabama and Florida locations," she said. (8/3)

No Astronauts, But We're Orbiting an Asteroid (Source: National Journal)
NASA's human space-flight program may be in a lull, but NASA spacecraft are still exploring, and will be exploring, the solar system. One of these spacecraft, Dawn, has reached its first destination, entering into orbit around one of the largest known asteroids, Vesta. In July 2012, it'll leave Vesta's orbit and head to Ceres, a dwarf planet. Dawn's mission is to help researchers learn more about the beginnings of the solar system by examining in detail the two largest protoplanets that have survived since the beginning of the system. (8/3)

Heavenly Discovery: Water in Space (Source: CNN)
Astronomers just discovered the largest reservoir of water ever, roughly 140 trillion times the volume of the Earth's oceans. With severe drought afflicting Africa, Asia and the southern United States, you might ask whether this offers a solution to earthly afflictions. Alas, it is in the very distant universe, roughly 12 billion light years from Earth. So even moving at light speed, it would take humans several trillion lifetimes to reach this water blob, never mind bringing it home -- definitely too far for a quick trip to the well. (8/3)

Marshall Forms National Institute for Rocket Propulsion Systems (Source: Huntsville Times)
Deciding to help create its own new missions after the end of the space shuttle program, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center is forming the National Institute for Rocket Propulsion Systems. Center Director Robert Lightfoot announced the institute at the annual center director's breakfast in Huntsville. The institute is "just in a planning phase now," Lightfoot told several hundred city and state leaders and contractors at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. "But we really are setting this up," Lightfoot said, adding he hopes to have it up and running by 2014. (8/3)

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