December 1, 2011

Russian President Threatens Punishment for Recent Space Blunders (Source:
Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has threatened to dole out strict punishments to officials responsible for a string of recent failures in the country's space program. Medvedev threatened disciplinary action, heavy fines or even criminal penalties for the country's recent space woes, which have included a series of rocket crashes and lost spacecraft over the past 11 months. "The latest failures [in the space industry] seriously harm Russia's competitiveness," Medvedev said. "This means that we need to conduct a serious analysis and punish those responsible." (12/1)

Apollo 13 Emergency Calculations Auctioned for More Than $388K (Source: ABC News)
The penciled-in calculations that saved astronaut James Lovell and two crewmates after an oxygen tank exploded during the famous Apollo 13 mission fetched $388,375 at an auction in Dallas. Lovell wrote the notes on portions of a 70-page checklist, which was obtained directly from him and initially offered for $12,500.

Howard Weinberger, a senior space consultant at Heritage Auctions who has been collecting space artifacts for nearly two decades, said he wasn’t surprised at the final “hammer price”: $325,000, not including the 19.5 percent auction fee. (12/1)

Hacked Satellites?: USCC Makes Claims It Can’t Support (Source: All Things Nuclear)
The US-China Security and Economic Commission (USCC) presented its annual report to Congress this month. The draft report was reported on by Bloomberg, in particular, the claim that the Chinese military may have hacked two US satellites, the Landsat-7 and Terra spacecraft, a total of four times in 2007-2008.

My first thought was: hacking Landsat? Really? Why would China try to hack a low-resolution earth-monitoring satellite, much of whose data are distributed free and freely, and for which system China even has operated a ground station to assist in collecting data? What’s the evidence for that? The short answer is: very little.

The long answer is that it’s a pretty sensational claim, and worth taking a closer look at the details. It is not clear that the incidents were actually hacking. The computer systems involved were not US government computers but those of a commercial satellite operating service. (12/1)

MSL Course Excellent, Adjustment Postponed (Source: JPL)
Excellent launch precision for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission has forestalled the need for an early trajectory correction maneuver, now not required for a month or more. That first of six planned course adjustments during the 254-day journey from Earth to Mars had originally been scheduled for 15 days after the mission's Nov. 26 launch on an Atlas V rocket. Now, the correction maneuver will not be performed until later in December or possibly January. (12/1)

China Launches 10th Satellite for Independent Navigation System (Source: Xinhua)
China successfully launched a satellite into space at 5:07 a.m. Beijing Time Friday, the 10th one of its indigenous global navigation and positioning network known as Beidou, or Compass system, the launch center said. The satellite, launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the southwestern Sichuan Province, was boosted by a Long March-3A carrier rocket into a geosynchronous orbit. It was also the 153rd launch of the Long March carrier rockets. (12/1)

Orbital Debris Expert Urges Retrieval (Source: Aviation Week)
The world’s space-faring nations must forge a cooperative strategy for the costly and technically challenging elimination of orbital debris that poses a growing threat to strategically important robotic as well as manned spacecraft, according to Nicholas L. Johnson, NASA’s chief scientist for orbital debris and the top U.S. representative to the United Nation on the issue.

Efforts over the past two decades to mitigate the growth through changes in the design and operation of launch systems and satellites have given way to a new concern – the increasing risk of collision between existing debris in Earth orbit, adding to the fragment population faster than the junk can make a destructive descent into the atmosphere naturally. (12/1)

Corcoran Exhibition 'Are We There Yet?' Explores Space Travel With Beer Cans, Legos (Source: Huffington Post)
The Corcoran Gallery of Art's newest exhibition is out of this world, literally. "Are We There Yet?," the first U.S. exhibition by Australian artists Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro, features Lego murals depicting the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster, an astronaut's space suit donated by NASA and futuristic decor inspired by Stanley Kubrick's science fiction epic, "2001: A Space Odyssey." Click here. (12/1)

Brazil Reaffirms Interest in Building Pair of Government Comm Sats (Source: Space News)
The Brazilian government intends to pursue development of two telecommunications satellites carrying X- and Ka-band payloads for military and civil government use but likely will miss the program’s announced schedule, a senior Brazilian Defense Ministry official said Nov. 30. (12/1)

Norway and Spain Expected to Order Military Communications Satellite (Source: Space News)
Norwegian and Spanish military authorities expect to select a builder of a large X- and Ka-band telecommunications satellite before the end of the month as part of a bilateral effort in which Norway is investing around $200 million. While industry officials had thought that the Spanish economic crisis and the recent change of government would stop the HisNorSat project in its tracks, Norwegian and Spanish officials were in Madrid the week of Dec. 1 negotiating the contract’s final details. (12/1)

NASA Wants Space Washing Machine for ISS, Mars Bases (Source: The Register)
NASA have moved at last to tackle the problem of dirty astronauts by commissioning a microwave with air-jets to clean underwear in space. There are no washing machines on the International Space Station so grime-encrusted nauts will wear underwear for 3-4 days and other items of clothing for months, before disposing of the dirty laundry by hurling it into the atmosphere to burn up in old Progress cargo capsules, attempting to wash it in a plastic bag or even - yuck - using it to grow plants in. (12/1)

How NASA Could Get Its Spaceflight Groove Back (Source:
NASA's better days can appear long past to the public. The U.S. space agency that once landed a man on the moon now wrestles with questions of existential crisis after retiring its space shuttle fleet this year. But it may still have enough leftover mojo to boldly set new goals to go where no man has gone before — if it can shake off its instinct to always look for guidance from the president and Congress.

A chance exists for NASA to declare a new vision for space exploration, said Jeff Leitner, founder and dean of Insight Labs. His nonprofit group wants to help the space agency control its destiny based on the authority of its "smartest, badass scientists" and spaceflight achievements, rather than acting as a political football for lawmakers while waiting for someone to decide its next mission.

Part of the uncertainty problem surrounding space exploration is that "the public narrative around NASA seems broken," Leitner explained. The other part of the problem may come from NASA's blindness to its own "cool" factor. That realization came to Leitner during a 3-hour Friday-morning talk among NASA representatives and big thinkers from all walks of life at NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia on Nov. 18. (12/1)

Reworking of 2013 Budget Can't be Done in Time, Pentagon Says (Source: Aviation Week)
Pentagon officials say they do not have enough time to rework the 2013 budget to reflect the additional $600 billion in cuts over 10 years that could be triggered. "I don't know if it would be possible for us to do a budget that suddenly cut another $50 billion out in 2013," Comptroller Michael J. McCord said. The 2013 budget is due to Congress in February 2012. (12/1)

First Beer in Space? Nyet. (Source: Discovery)
Regarding the Natural Light can's balloon flight, 17 miles is nowhere near "space." The internationally recognized boundary where the Earth's atmosphere ends and space begins is around 62 miles in altitude -- a boundary known as the Kármán line. Sadly, weather balloons don't go that high. Space beer has become something of a fascination for me (particularly its implications for human space settlement), and I'm glad to report that the "first" space beer isn't going to be a light beer!

The first bona fide space beer -- as in, a beer that is brewed for the purpose of being enjoyed in space -- will most likely be a strong, reduced-carbon dioxide stout. Nice! Earlier this year, the Australian 4 Pines Brewing Company, working with Astronauts4Hire, actually put some research into the space beer conundrum and, after a series of zero-G flights, developed "Vostok." Vostok is a full-flavored, low-carbon dioxide beer that not only addresses the loss of taste during long-duration spaceflight, it also reduces the risk of the "wet burp." (11/30)

Reduced Funding for Space Taxis Ups Ante for SpaceX Test Flight (Source: Space News)
SpaceX is counting on a successful trial run to the international space station early next year to clinch a tightening competition to develop a commercial space taxi for NASA. With a hoped-for commercial crew budget of $850 million for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, NASA said it planned to continue development work on two or more space taxi designs, in hopes of breaking Russia's post-shuttle monopoly on station crew transportation before the end of 2016.

But the agency received $406 million for commercial crew, less than half its request, raising the prospect that either the number of companies funded in the next round of the program would be cut, or the amounts awarded would be insufficient to keep the current schedule. Currently, NASA is investing in four companies: SpaceX, Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corp. and Blue Origin.

NASA planned to release a solicitation for the program’s Integrated Design Contract (IDC) this month. The contract or contracts are slated to begin in July 2012 and conclude in April 2014, a draft request for proposals issued in September shows. Before selection is made, SpaceX, which debuted its Dragon cargo capsule during a test flight last December, plans to fly a demonstration mission to the station. It also may have flown the first of 12 supply runs already purchased by NASA under a related program. (12/1)

NASA Supports Patent Innovation Challenge (Source: NASA)
The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), together with the NASA Tournament Lab, is inviting you to develop specialized algorithms to help bring the seven million patents presently in the patent archive into the digital age. Up to $50,000 total prizes will be distributed to contest winners. Click here. (12/1)

NASA Open to Russian Participation in Mars Program (Source:
In a bid to save the next Mars rover from budgetary oblivion, representatives from NASA, Europe and Russia will meet in Paris next week to hash out what each space agency can contribute to a pair of life-hunting Mars missions due to begin launching in four years. Officials say it is becoming increasingly apparent NASA, Europe and Russia must each make major contributions to the Mars project if the missions are to be left intact.

Exploration managers from all three space agencies will meet in Paris next week, according to Jorge Vago, the European Space Agency's chief Mars mission scientist. "We are kind of in a rush to nail this down," said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars program. Click here. (12/1)

More Funding Proposed for Satellite Navigation (Source: New Europe)
The European Commission has proposed a €7 billion earmark to complement the two large European satellite programs: Galileo and EGNOS. If successful, the funding will help complete the EU satellite infrastructure, and exploit the systems to their fullest benefit by 2020. As this is an EU prerogative, the funds will be diverted into two agencies: the European GNSS Agency, responsible for the full utilization of the navigation systems, and the European Space Agency, which will manage the programs over the next decade. (12/1)

USAF Awards ULA Satcom Launch (Source: Flight Global)
The US Air Force has awarded $150 million to United Launch Alliance for the launch of the fifth Boeing Wideband Global Satellite Communications system (WGS-5). WGS-5, the second Block II model, will be launched from atop a Boeing Delta IV from Vandenberg AFB, California, to provide global X- and Ka-band communications for the Department of Defense (DoD). The launch is scheduled for late 2012. (12/1)

A Space Code of Conduct (Source: Council on Foreign Relations)
Today, I published a Policy Innovation Memo that calls on the Obama administration to endorse the European Union (EU) Code of Conduct for Outer Space as a critical step toward establishing an international code of conduct. In addition to the existing EU code provisions, the international code must require the timely notification of space launches, planned satellite orbital placements, scheduled space maneuvers, and a ban on the weaponization of space.

As the leading spacefaring power, the United States is uniquely positioned to actively lead the development of an international code of conduct by working with other countries to safeguard space from the increasing threat of space debris. Click here. (12/1)

India Seeks Help for Manned Space Program (Source: WBRI)
As part of pre-project Studies for a “Manned Space Program” approved by the Government in 2007, the Indian Space research Organization (ISRO) has initiated preliminary studies to understand the technological challenges involved in undertaking Manned Space Program. In December 2008, an agreement was signed between ISRO and Roscosmos on undertaking joint activities in human spaceflight. Two feasibility studies were conducted by Russia under this agreement during 2009-2010. The U.S. has also expressed interest to collaborate with India on Human Space Flight as stated in the joint statement of the Indian Prime Minister and US President during November 2010. (12/1)

Osteoporosis Drugs Keep ISS Astronauts' Bones Healthy (Source: Mainichi Daily News)
A drug used to treat osteoporosis -- a slow loss of bone mass -- can help prevent a similar condition that strikes astronauts on long missions, experiments on serving astronauts have confirmed. The experiments show the drug can be used to improve the health of men and women on long space missions, according to the joint Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and NASA research group that administered the testing. (12/1)

“Sayonara” to Japan's Akari Space Telescope (Source: Sky & Telescope)
This week engineers at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) ended the mission of Akari, an orbiting observatory that scanned the entire sky at far-infrared wavelengths. The shutdown command was sent on November 24th, according to a brief JAXA statement. But operations effectively ended last May, when an electrical malfunction prevented detectors and circuits from getting enough power each time the spacecraft passed through Earth’s shadow. (12/1)

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