January 9, 2012

Colorado: Buzz Aldrin's Son on How a Spaceport Would Change State's Economy (Source: Westword)
​Colorado currently hosts the number two space economy in the country, but the possibility of adding a spaceport on the Front Range could raise our rank while raising the industry's stakes. Whether you plan to see the moon in your lifetime or not, the issue is a hot topic for business and aerospace officials alike. We spoke to Dr. Andrew Aldrin, director of business development at United Launch Alliance, about Colorado's future in the industry.

Aldrin will present his thoughts at the DaVinci Institute's monthly Night with a Futurist, where he is scheduled to speak along with four other experts on the industry. "The night will discuss what the possibilities are, what the feasibility is for Colorado specifically and what our future opportunities are to step into space," says Andrew Frey." With NASA's uncertain future, the roles individual states are playing in policies and creation are becoming more interesting and more important. (1/9)

How Brain Scans Can Help Astronomers Understand Stars (Source: Scientific American)
They may come from completely different fields of study, but brain scans and supernovae have more in common than you would think. An astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics had eight years worth of data from the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A. She wanted to use the data to understand the remnant’s structure so she could work out how the star exploded. But she had no good way to look at the data.

Luckily, Michelle Borkin did, and suggested that the astronomer try using 3D slicer software, originally developed in a hospital in Boston for looking at brain scans. It worked beautifully. It is not just data analysis in these two fields that uses the same tools. The way data is collected from brain scans and radio telescopes is similar too. Even images in the fields of medicine and astronomy are alike: a confocal microscopy image of a human cornea looks much like a radio telescope image of star forming region NGC1333, despite the difference in scale.

This collaboration between astronomy and medicine is not the only example of an interdisciplinary connection in science – a lot of interesting science is now happening at the interface between two or more fields of study. Scientists working in all areas are looking outside their own lab in search of new ideas and methods, and more could benefit from joining them. (1/9)

Popovkin Questions Permanently Occupied Stations, Phobos-Grunt Failure (Source: Space Policy Online)
Russian space agency (Roscosmos) director Vladimir Popovkin suggested in a wide-ranging interview with a Russian newspaper today that small, single-purpose space stations with visiting crews may be preferable to the multi-purpose, permanently occupied International Space Station (ISS). He also said that the Phobos-Grunt failure remains unexplained and hinted that foreign sabotage might have been responsible.

He said Roscosmos still does not know why an upper stage failed to fire for the Phobos-Grunt mission. He noted that “frequent failures” of spacecraft occur when they are out of range of Russian tracking stations and stated that “I do not want to accuse anyone, but today there is a very powerful impact on the spacecraft, possible applications that cannot be ruled out.” Russian space expert Anatoly Zak of RussianSpaceWeb.com interpreted that statement as Popovkin suggesting that a foreign power sabotaged the mission.

In November, a retired Russian lieutenant general, Nikolai Rodionov, asserted that an American radar in Alaska might have disabled the spacecraft, an accusation that U.S. space expert James Oberg labeled “moronic” since the ground track of Phobos-Grunt did not pass over the radar site. (1/9)

Creating Electricity in Space (Source: Forbes)
The idea of beaming solar power down to Earth from space was popularized in a 1941 Isaac Asimov short story in which the machinery was controlled by a robot called Cutie. Today, solar space stations still sound far-fetched, but scientists in the U.S. and Japan are pursuing modern versions of the system, which are becoming more feasible as space flight and solar panels promise to become more affordable.

How would it work? The panels would orbit in space -- immune from rain, clouds, and nighttime --gathering solar energy 24/7. The panels would be 43 times more efficient than land-based ones, says Col. M.V. "Coyote" Smith, who has studied the concept for NASA. The satellites would then beam the energy to Earth in the form of microwave radiation. Implausible? John Mankins, the former head of advanced concept studies at NASA, has conducted successful tests in Hawaii, sending wireless electricity between two islands.

The hang-up is cost. Building a big space solar operation would cost billions, Mankins says. While a couple of universities are working on it, skeptics abound. "If a potential investor sat down and penciled out the costs, they would stop returning your phone calls," says Seth Masia, editor of Solar Today magazine. Still, new projects like Microsoft (MSFT) co-founder Paul Allen's aircraft, which one day could affordably launch satellites, and the fact that solar panels are getting cheaper, are making this technology suddenly seem more science than fiction. (1/5)

Florida Space Industry to Visit Capitol on Jan. 11 for Space Day (Source: Space Florida)
Representatives from Florida’s aerospace industry will visit Tallahassee on January 11, 2012, to participate in Florida Space Day and share with legislators the challenges facing this important business sector as the nation’s space program evolves. During Space Day, industry leaders and other aerospace supporters will meet with House and Senate members, as well Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll, to discuss the status of the industry, which is worth about $8 billion and impacts every county in the state. (1/9)

German Hackers Propose DIY Program to Put Uncensored Internet Into Space (Source: Popular Science)
There’s more than one way to stick it to The Man. There’s civil disobedience, subversive propaganda, political art, outright violent revolt--each possessing its own degree of difficulty and consequence. In a decidedly 21st-century twist, team of German hackers bent on fighting the powers that be has chosen a rather ambitious means of taking the power back: building a hacker-owned and -operated space program, complete with a constellation of communications satellites beaming uncensored Internet to users on the ground.

The Hackerspace Global Grid was borne out of a call to action at the Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin, where hackers of all stripes gather to mull the issues of the day as they relate to their craft. Hacker activist Nick Farr--motivated by legislation like the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S.--called on the community to contribute to a project that would remove the power of censorship from governments and corporations by creating an uncensored Internet in the free frontier of space. (1/5)

To Preserve History on the Moon, Visitors Are Asked to Tread Lightly (Source: New York Times)
California’s catalog of historic artifacts includes two pairs of boots, an American flag, empty food bags, a pair of tongs and more than a hundred other items left behind at a place called Tranquillity Base. That might be surprising, since Tranquillity Base is not in New Mexico or California but a quarter of a million miles away, in the spot where Neil A. Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the moon in 1969. Click here. (1/9)

Big Funding Cuts Loom for Astronomy Projects (Source: Space.com)
Astronomers might do well to prepare themselves for disappointment, as the tightening federal budget looks to deal a weighty blow to funding for astronomy research this year. The National Science Foundation expects to significantly decrease the number of astronomy and astrophysics grants it awards in 2012 compared to 2011, an agency official said at the 219th meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

The National Science Foundation is the U.S. government agency that funds basic research into non-medical science fields. In 2011, the agency awarded money to about 20 percent of all proposals submitted to its astronomy and astrophysics grant program. In 2012, only about 16 to 18 percent of proposals will likely be funded, said James Ulvestad, the director of the National Science Foundation's Division of Astronomical Sciences. (1/9)

SETI Targets Known Alien Planets (Source: Space.com)
Until recently, astronomers searching for signals from intelligent aliens have had to scan the heavens blindly. But now that's starting to change, as scientists are targeting newly discovered exoplanets beyond the solar system for their search. Now scientists involved in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) have analyzed their first data from radio telescope observations of Kepler planets. The researchers are searching for radio signals that aren't likely to be caused by natural phenomena, and thus could represent an extraterrestrial message.

Such signals are likely to be narrow in frequency, as known astrophysical phenomena such as black holes and exploding stars tend to release radio waves across a wider range of frequencies. These signals will also probably show a gradual drift in frequency over time, which would be expected because of the Doppler effect caused by the relative motion between the planet broadcasting a signal and us here on Earth. (1/9)

Vast Web of Dark Matter Mapped (Source: Discovery)
Astronomers have created a vast cosmic map revealing an intricate web of dark matter and galaxies spanning a distance of one billion light-years. This unprecedented task was achieved not by observing dark matter directly, but by observing its gravitational effects on ancient light traveling from galaxies that existed when the Universe was half the age it is now. This is the largest dark matter map ever built and took five years to complete. Click here. (1/9)

ORBCOMM Announces Successful Launch of VesselSat2 (Source: MarketWatch)
ORBCOMM announced the successful launch of VesselSat2, an Automatic Identification Service (AIS) enabled satellite built by LuxSpace Sarl (LuxSpace), an affiliate of OHB System AG. VesselSat2 was launched by the China Great Wall Industry Corporation from the Tiayuan Satellite Launch Center (TSLC) on Jan. 8. The satellite was successfully deployed from the Long March launch vehicle into its proper polar orbit. AIS data is used for ship tracking and other maritime navigational and safety efforts. (1/9)

Space Florida Realigns (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida has hired Jim Kuzma as Senior Vice President and Chief Operations Officer (COO). Kuzma was formerly the commander of the Naval Ordnance Test Unit at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Kuzma’s hiring is one of several organizational changes, including Howard Haug's realignment as Treasurer and Executive Vice President with a greater focus on investment and financing. Haug will also focus on new leads and business development initiatives. Denise Swanson has been named Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Vice President of Administration, a promotion from her previous post as Controller. (1/9)

Lt. Col. Paul Damphousse USMC (Ret) Named NSS Executive Director (Source: NSS)
The National Space Society (NSS) is proud to announce that LtCol Paul E. Damphousse USMC (Ret) has been named Executive Director effective January 1, 2012. The appointment of LtCol Damphousse coincides with the 25th anniversary of the 1987 merger of the National Space Institute (NSI) and the L5 Society to form the National Space Society. Damphousse was previously with the National Security Space Office, and served as a fellow for space policy in the office of Florida Senator Bill Nelson. (1/9)

NASA Will Work Cooperatively to Resolve Artifact Ownership Issues (Source: SpaceRef)
The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden regarding the ownership of early space exploration mementos and artifacts: "Earlier today, I had a good meeting with former Apollo astronauts Jim Lovell, Gene Cernan, Charlie Duke, Rusty Schweickart and other representatives of former astronauts and agency personnel, where we discussed how to resolve the misunderstandings and ownership questions regarding flight mementos and other artifacts. "We have committed to work together to find the right policy and legal paths forward to address outstanding ownership questions." (1/9)

NASA To Add $375M to Orion Contract for Delta 4 Test Launch (Source: Space News)
NASA intends to add $375 million to Lockheed Martin Space Systems’ $6.4 billion Orion space capsule contract so that the company can procure a Delta 4 rocket to power a 2014 test flight of the next-generation crew vehicle. In a procurement notice posted online Jan. 6, NASA said it intends to make a sole source award to Lockheed Martin for Exploration Flight Test (EFT)-1 by modifying the existing contract to build Orion.

Boeing and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) also expressed interest in Exploration Test Flight-1, according to NASA’s notice, but both companies were turned down. Boeing and SpaceX, NASA wrote, “proposed capabilities which focused primarily on meeting one aspect of the requirement of NASA’s EFT-1 effort … a launch vehicle. However, neither company addressed the complete requirements for the end-to-end EFT-1 effort.” (1/9)

NASA Issues Call for Visionary Advanced Technology Concepts (Source: NASA)
NASA's Space Technology Program is looking for far-out ideas. The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts, or NIAC, program is seeking proposals for revolutionary concepts with the potential to transform future aerospace missions. Proposed concepts should enable new capabilities or significantly alter current approaches to launching, building and operating space systems.

NIAC projects are chosen for their innovative and visionary characteristics, technical substance, and early development stage -- ten years or more from use on a mission. NIAC's current portfolio of diverse and innovative ideas represents multiple technology areas, including power, propulsion, structures and avionics. NIAC will accept short proposals, limited to two pages in length, until Feb. 9. After review, NASA will invite those whose concepts are of interest to the agency to submit a full proposal of no more than ten pages. Full proposals will be due April 16. (1/9)

Curiosity Rover Adjusts Flight Toward Mars (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
The Curiosity rover will begin its trajectory toward Mars on Wednesday. "After this trajectory-correction maneuver, we expect to be very close to where we ultimately need to be for our entry point at the top of the Martian atmosphere," said Arthur Amador, cruise mission manager. The rover is scheduled to land on the Gale Crater in August. (1/7)

Central Florida Braces for DOD Spending Cuts (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Already nicked by the military-budget cuts of recent years, Central Florida's defense industry is bracing for what could be the mother of all cutbacks in 2012. Industry experts have long said that the region's diversified and high-tech defense work — led by the country's biggest cluster of training-simulation companies and agencies — is well-positioned to weather reductions in military spending. Still, historic developments during the past year threaten massive cuts in Pentagon spending that could affect all sectors of the industry to some extent.

The end of the U.S. war in Iraq and the scaling back of the war in Afghanistan have greatly diminished the demand for arms, bombs, tanks, aircraft and other military gear — a demand that resulted in a doubling of the nation's military budget over an eight-year period. Combine that with growing pressure on Congress to shrink the federal budget deficit, and you have the makings of a very sharp drop in defense spending. (1/8)

Exoplanet Explorers (Source: Space Review)
While scientists ultimately hope to launch large, dedicated space telescopes to directly image Earth-like extrasolar planets, such missions are expensive and likely far in the future. Jeff Foust reports on some efforts to fly less expensive space missions in the coming years to expand the horizons of exoplanet science and lay the groundwork for more ambitious missions. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2003/1 to view the article. (1/9)

A New Paradigm for Arbitrating Disputes in Outer Space (Source: Space Review)
There are few mechanisms today for arbitrating disputes on space-related issues, particularly those where non-governmental organizations are involved. Michael Listner describes a newly-adopted approach that could make it easier to resolve issues without the need for diplomatic maneuvering. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2002/1 to view the article. (1/9)

Reporting Kepler 20e and 20f (Source: Space Review)
Last month NASA scientists announced the discovery of the first planets similar in size to the Earth orbiting a Sun-like star, a finding that got considerable media attention. John Hickman examines what the media got right and wrong in their reporting of the discovery. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2001/1 to view the article. (1/9)

America’s Space Vision: Settlement of Moon and Mars Versus Asteroid Visits (Source: Heartland Institute)
America’s eroding geopolitical stature, highlighted by the July 21, 2011, end to flights of the United States Space Shuttle, has reached crisis proportions. Obama Administration officials now spin the nebulous thought of Astronauts flying many months to an undetermined asteroid in 2025 as an actual “National Space Policy”. On the other hand, Republican candidates for President have not yet recognized the importance of international civil space competition in the federal government’s constitutional function to provide for the nation’s “common defence”.

Candidates appear to be uninterested in having the U.S. lead deep space exploration, including the establishment of American settlements on the Moon; or may actually consider Obama’s unfocused proposals as being credible rather than realizing that those proposals would transfer geopolitical dominance to China and control of American space transport to Russia.

Although the Bush Administration and Congress did not follow through with adequate funding, at least the 2004 Vision for Space Exploration put forth by President Bush and approved by Congress was a legitimate formulation of a National Space Policy. It implicitly recognized that America’s best security interests would not be served by being dependent on Russia for access to space or by ceding to China both deep space exploration and access to space resources. Click here. Editor's Note: When President Bush ended the Shuttle program, it explicitly included a multi-year reliance on Russia for access to space. (1/7)

Environmental Impact Study Not Needed for Road to Spaceport America (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
An in-depth environmental review of a proposed southern road to Spaceport America won't be required after all - a decision that has spaceport backers breathing sighs of relief. Had the environmental impact study been required by the federal government, it would have boosted the expense of the road construction and left the project with an indefinite timeline, something that especially worried Las Cruces spaceport backers - who stand to benefit the most from a shorter, faster drive to the remote spaceport.

Spaceport and county officials were notified about the decision not to require the in-depth review just before the Christmas holiday, they said. What will be required is an "environmental assessment," a less-intensive study, said New Mexico Spaceport Authority Chairman Rick Holdridge. "The EA is not trivial; it's just not a multi-year process like the EIS," he said. "That was a good-news story for us." (1/9)

India: First Full-Fledged Test of Space Launchers Soon (Source: Deccan Herald)
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has achieved a major breakthrough to calibrate and test its launchers, those meant to help escape the earth’s atmosphere and those which help re-enter it. This would mean India does not have to depend on Russia for the launchers like it did all these years, thereby reducing loss of time considerably.

ISRO sources said the first (cold) test, with the wind at room temperature, was conducted about three months ago and the system’s performance was alright. The hot test, with temperatures going all the way up to 1,000 degree Celsius, they said, was pending. “It should be conducted in the next four-six months,” a source said.

The system will be used to test models of the re-usable launch vehicle, which is key to India’s proposed manned mission to space. ISRO has already begun work on a 9x9 meter winged rocket prototype - Re-usable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD). The prototype, considered a critical breakthrough, once completed, will allow the space agency to assess how close it is to developing a fully re-usable Two Stage To Orbit vehicle. (1/8)

Indian Scientists Propose 10 Experiments For 2013 Mission To Mars (Source: Asian Scientist)
An Indian mission to Mars is taking shape with space scientists proposing 10 experiments, mostly related to the study of the Red Planet’s atmosphere. Proof that this challenging mission is no longer a dream is amply evident in a report of the Planetary Sciences and Exploration conference, organized by the Ahmedabad-based Planex group of the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), an affiliate of ISRO, between December 12 and 14, 2011. (1/8)

Hell on Earth: NASA’s Toxic Venus Test Chamber (Source: WIRED)
In a bare concrete room at NASA Glenn Research Center, pieces of a 12-ton toxic oven patiently wait to be assembled. When engineers finish bolting the compact car-sized device together in May, it will scorch anything put in it at 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, crush it under pressures nearly 100 times that of Earth’s and choke it with carbon dioxide, sulfuric acid and a cocktail of other noxious fumes.

The hellish conditions should emulate the surface of Venus, a planet baked of its water and suffocated by greenhouse gases. “Venus used to be like Earth. There’s a lot of lessons for us to learn from it,” said NASA Glenn engineer Rodger Dyson, leader of the Extreme Environment Test Chamber. The problem with Venusian spacecraft is that they melt in an hour — two if they’re lucky. (1/9)

Underfunding Doomed Russian Mars Probe, Lawyer Says (Source: USA Today)
Mars has claimed many a spacecraft as victim, and the latest one, a Russian space probe, looks likely to tumble to Earth very soon. Russia's Phobos-Grunt ("grunt" is Russian for ground or soil) mission aimed for a first landing of a probe on the Martian moon Phobos. Launched Nov. 8, the spacecraft reached Earth orbit but failed to fire the rocket that would send it on an eight-month interplanetary trip to Mars.

"Way too ambitious and way too underfunded to reach its goal," space law attorney Michael Listner says. The $163 million spacecraft carried a piggybacked Chinese Mars orbiter added late to the mission. Mars has claimed overly thrifty probes before. NASA's Mars Polar Lander, a $120 million spacecraft, was judged about 30% underfunded by an accident panel after its calamitous crash in 1999. Testing shortfalls probably played a role in the craft's landing rockets malfunctioning. (1/9)

Mundane Dark Matter May Lurk in Starry Clusters (Source: New Scientist)
Dark matter - the mysterious substance thought to make up about 80 per cent of the universe's matter - could be more mundane than thought. Inside balls of stars known as globular clusters, at least. Unless we have misunderstood gravity, dark matter must be there - holding rotating galaxies together. But we don't know what it is. Initially, it was thought to be planets and stars too dim to be seen directly. Such objects would reveal themselves when they pass in front of bright stars, distorting the image with their gravity, but the objects turned up by such "microlensing" searches in our galaxy have not revealed nearly enough matter.

So it is assumed that dark matter is something more exotic, such as novel theoretical particles. Now, researchers have spotted a tiny star in the globular cluster M22 acting as a lens for a background star. At just 0.18 times the sun's mass, it is the smallest star ever seen in a globular cluster. Because its effects on the larger star were seen after just 10 weeks of observations, the team says there are probably many more like it in the cluster, perhaps even enough to account for all the dark matter needed to hold the cluster together. (1/9)

Last of Shuttle Layoffs Loom for USA Workers (Source: Florida Today)
When the next big group of shuttle contractors is laid off in April, it will be the last time some depart with a special bonus rewarding skills that were deemed essential to flying the final missions safely. NASA and lead contractor United Space Alliance implemented the $100 million “critical skills” bonus in 2008, concerned about retaining the right personnel as the 30-year shuttle program wound down.

Both say the added incentive to stay on the job, which offered eligible USA employees between 15 and 26 weeks of pay on top of their standard severance package, was a success. But with the bonus program set to expire in April, some employees now face a difficult decision: Should they volunteer to be let go to bank the bonus, or try to hang on with a company whose future is highly uncertain? (1/9)

Is There Profit in Outer Space? (Source: Yale Qn)
For years, the bulk of Orbital Sciences Corporation's work has been designing, building, and launching commercial, scientific, and defense satellites—probably the closest thing there is to a reliable, profitable niche in the space business. Now the company is trying something new. In 2012, this silver and gold puck bristling with guidance sensors and wing-like solar arrays—Orbital's cargo-carrying Cygnus Advanced Maneuvering Spacecraft—is scheduled to navigate itself to a rendezvous with the International Space Station.

Any company in the business of space must be prepared for extreme complexity, as technical, logistical, regulatory, political, operational, and management challenges collide. The up-front costs are tremendous; the returns are uncertain. Tolerance for error is close to zero, yet the materials and engineering must push the bounds of what is currently possible. And though they seem innumerable, every contingency must be planned for. This isn't just rocket science; it's the business of rocket science. Click here. (1/9)

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