January 31, 2012

Soyuz Damaged Beyond Repair in Test (Source: Space Policy Online)
The Soyuz spacecraft assigned for the next crew launch, expected on March 30, failed a test. Anatoly Zak at RussianSpaceWeb.com reports that during testing the spacecraft was pressurized "up to 3 atmospheres, instead of the nominal 1.3 - 1.5 atmospheres... The bad quality of materials in the spacecraft...had also been suspected. Another report surfaced on January 29, 2012 ... that a welding line on the descent module had broken as a result of the internal pressure" and the "descent module was damaged beyond repair." Zak estimates that the next launch might be delayed until the end of April at the earliest if a decision is made to use a replacement descent module. (1/31)

Earth's Mass Increases and Decreases (Source: BBC)
There are factors that are causing Earth to both gain and lose mass over time, according to Dr Chris Smith. By far the biggest contributor to the world's mass is the 40,000 tons of dust that is falling from space to Earth, says Dr Smith. "[The dust] is basically the vestiges of the solar system that spawned us, either asteroids that broke up or things that never formed into a planet, and it's drifting around. "The Earth is acting like a giant vacuum cleaner powered by gravity in space, pulling in particles of dust," says Dr Smith.

Another much less significant reason the planet is gaining mass is because of global warming. "NASA has calculated that the Earth is gaining about 160 tons a year because the temperature of the Earth is going up. If we are adding energy to the system, the mass must go up," says Dr Smith. This means that in total between 40,000 and 41,000 tons is being added to the mass of the planet each year. But overall, Dr Smith has calculated that the Earth is losing mass.

For instance, the Earth's core is like a giant nuclear reactor that is gradually losing energy over time, and that loss in energy translates into a loss of mass. But this is a tiny amount - he estimates no more than 16 tons a year. But there is something else that is making the planet lose mass. Gases such as hydrogen are so light, they are escaping from the atmosphere. "Physicists have shown that the Earth is losing about three kilograms of hydrogen gas every second. It's about 95,000 tons of hydrogen that the planet is losing every year. (1/31)

CASIS Seeks Integration and Operations Support (Source: SpaceRef.com)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS)--the nonprofit entity selected by NASA to maximize utilization of the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory--released a Request for Information (RFI) from potential implementation partners, service providers and organizations that can provide project integration and operations support for payloads. CASIS will facilitate the matching of laboratory users with commercial providers for the purpose of developing research payloads. The RFI, which closes on March 31, will allow CASIS to establish a database of providers that can support a wide variety of payload needs. Click here. (1/31)

NASA Supports 2012 Space Frontier Business Plan Competition (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA’s Ames Research Center, in conjunction with NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist’s Emerging Space Office, is continuing its support for the Space Frontier Foundation’s annual Business Plan Competition by funding this year’s awards totaling $110,000. The competition is designed for new, independent companies in the seed, start-up, or early growth stages. The competition simulates the real-world process of entrepreneurs soliciting for start-up funds from early stage investors and venture capital firms.

The Space Frontier Foundation Business Plan Competition will be held during a three-day event at NASA Ames in July 2012. The NASA supported Emerging Space Grand Prize will include an award of $100,000 for the best business plan with the potential to contribute to space development. NASA also is supporting a second prize of $10,000. (1/31)

Space Radiation Blamed for Phobos-Grunt Failure (Source: RIA Novosti)
Space radiation triggered a glitch in the on-board computer system causing the recent crash of Russia’s Mars probe, Federal Space Agency head Vladimir Popovkin said on Tuesday. “Two components of the onboard computer system were spontaneously rebooted and it switched into a standby mode,” he said. “The most likely reason [for the glitch] is the impact of heavy charged space particles,” he said.

Another possible cause could have been defective microchips imported from abroad, he said. “The use of imported microchips is not only our problem,” he said, adding that NASA and the U.S. Defense Department were also concerned by illegal imports of those products. A government commission has ruled out any “external or foreign influence” on the spacecraft, including alleged electromagnetic emission from a U.S. radar in the Pacific Ocean. (1/31)

Programmers Blamed for Failure of Phobos Mission (Source: Itar-Tass)
The interdepartmental commission established that it is the programmers who are to blame for the failure of the Phobos-Grunt mission. The commission headed by Yuri Koptev, president of the scientific and technical council of the state-owned Rostechnologia Corporation, submitted on Monday the results of the analysis of the reasons for the crash of the automatic interplanetary station to Vladimir Popovkin, head of the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos). The commission came to the conclusion that the most probable reason could be a mistake made during the programming of the on-board computer complex of the Phobos. (1/31)

Embry-Riddle Official Added to Women in Aerospace Board (Source: WIA)
Women in Aerospace (WIA) elected its 2012 board of directors and officers in November. Among the new directors is Christina Frederick-Recascino, Ph.D., Senior Executive Vice President for Academics and Research at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. WIA is dedicated to expanding women's opportunities for leadership and increasing their visibility in the aerospace community. Its membership - women and men - shares an interest in a broad spectrum of aerospace issues including aviation, human space flight, remote sensing, robotic space exploration, satellite communications and the policy issues surrounding these fields. (1/31)

Harris Profits Fall (Source: Florida Today)
While profits fell by $18 million, Harris Corp. reported second quarter revenue of $1.45 billion in fiscal 2012, compared with $1.44 billion in the prior-year quarter. Net income was $133 million, compared with $151 million in the prior year quarter. Orders were lower at $1.2 billion, as the company faces reduced military spending by the U.S. Government. Orders in the first quarter were $1.62 billion, a $420 million decrease. (1/31)

Editorial: Space Treaty is Obstacle To Space Debris Removal (Source: Space News)
The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 makes removing space debris "extraordinarily difficult" because it "grants perpetual ownership of space objects to the launching state, even after the objects are deactivated and become uncontrolled junk." Thus, permission would have to be obtained before any action was taken. James Vedda describes how this could be modified to remove this barrier by creating an "available for salvage" registry. Vedda notes that another issue is overcoming fears that any action could damage operating satellites, but "if space development is to advance beyond the very basic operations that have been developed over the past half-century, it will be essential for active spacefarers to" take active measures to remove debris. (1/31)

Mississippi: StenniSphere to Close; Infinity is Coming Soon (Source: Sun Herald)
The lights will go out permanently at StenniSphere in two weeks, to get ready for the April 11 ribbon cutting for Infinity Science Center. Those who haven’t visited StenniSphere museum and visitors center at NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center have only until Feb. 15 to tour the interactive museum. Then shuttles that have transported tens of thousands of visitors a year from the Mississippi Welcome Center to Stennis for the free tours will stop running and the museum will close.

Infinity Science Center officially opens with a ribbon cutting April 11, in time for students to tour it before the end of the school year. Officials hope the center’s modern design and technology will inspire generations of students to consider careers in science and engineering. Some of the exhibits will move down the road to Infinity, which is adjacent to the Welcome Center. Infinity is five times the size of StenniSphere and has a restaurant and gift shop also ready to open. With construction virtually complete, the focus is now on pulling together the first exhibits. (1/31)

German Satellite Almost Crashed into Beijing (Source: Spiegel)
It was a proud day for German science when, on June 1, 1990, Rosat was launched into orbit from Cape Canaveral. The research satellite was chock full of the most modern technology available, allowing scientists the ability to search the skies for the source of X-ray radiation for the first time. Rosat didn't disappoint. Originally, it was to remain in operation for 18 months, but ultimately in collected data for almost nine years. The satellite registered tens of thousands of radiation sources, which included distant galaxies and black holes.

In the end, though, Rosat nearly caused what would have been among the worst catastrophes in the history of space exploration. In the night from Oct. 22 to 23 last year, the defunct satellite fell to Earth -- just barely missing the Chinese capital Beijing, population 20 million. According to calculations by the European Space Agency, satellite fragments, travelling at speeds of some 450 kilometers per hour, came perilously close to crashing into the city. (1/31)

Soyuz Investigation Could Shake Up ISS Plans (Source: Florida Today)
An investigation into a Soyuz spacecraft test failure could prompt delays in the launches of new crews to the International Space Station, but officials expect to maintain full staffing on the outpost nonetheless. The six astronauts and cosmonauts now aboard the station all launched about two months later than initially planned. So their stays can be extended, officials said. The Soyuz spacecraft they flew to the station are certified to remain at the outpost through May and early July, respectively.

A Soyuz spacecraft being readied for the planned March 29 launch of U.S. astronaut Joe Acaba and two Russian cosmonauts — Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin — malfunctioned during a recent pressurization test in an altitude chamber at Energia Space Rocket Corp. in Moscow. A committee was formed to determine the severity of the problem. (1/31)

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