February 10, 2012

NASA Glenn Sends Major Project to ISS (Source: WKYC)
It's a project years in the making. A special piece of technology developed at NASA's Glenn Research Center is headed to the International Space Station. The "SCaN Testbed" is a device years in the making. The device is a test aimed at streamlining communications in outer space. In a nutshell, the device will allow "radios" or communications devices that have already been launched to do things they weren't intended for.

For example, once a radio was launched into space, it had a few specific functions. This device will allow for those devices to expand their capabilities without anyone traveling to the radio or having to launch another. Things can be fixed via this "remote control." It will also allow for a spacecraft to lighten its load by not having to carry several radios on one launch. (2/10)

“For All Womankind”: America’s First Female Astronauts (Source: America Space)
Three decades ago, in April 1982, a 30-year-old female scientist was given the most electrifying news of her career. Sally Kristen Ride, a civilian physics PhD from Stanford University, had been chosen, six years earlier, as one of NASA’s first six women astronauts and throughout that time, each of them had privately wondered which of them would be first to fly into space.

Many of them suspected that Ride and another astronaut, engineer Judy Resnik, had the edge, on account of the technical duties they had been assigned, and, indeed, this pair went on to become America’s first two women space voyagers. But for the others – physicians Anna Fisher and Rhea Seddon, geologist Kathy Sullivan and biochemist Shannon Lucid – there would also be exciting missions to come. Click here. (2/10)

First African-American Astronaut Refused to Let 'Misstep' Keep Him From Dream (Source: USAF)
When a person is trying to reach for the stars, any misstep could keep them just out of reach. Retired Air Force Col. Guion Bluford, however, didn't let a less-than-stellar start in college stop him from becoming one of the most prominent figures in aerospace engineering as well as the first African American in space.

Born in Nov. 22, 1942, Bluford grew up in middle-class neighborhood in Philadelphia. His father was a mechanical engineer and his mother was a teacher. Being that both his parents and grandparents were college graduates, he didn't see not going to college as an option. Luckily, he had already decided what he wanted to do with his life by the time he was in middle school: aerospace engineering. Click here. (2/10)

Could Venus Be Shifting Gear? (Source: ESA)
ESA’s Venus Express spacecraft has discovered that our cloud-covered neighbour spins a little slower than previously measured. Peering through the dense atmosphere in the infrared, the orbiter found surface features were not quite where they should be. Using the VIRTIS instrument at infrared wavelengths to penetrate the thick cloud cover, scientists studied surface features and discovered that some were displaced by up to 20 km from where they should be given the accepted rotation rate as measured by NASA’s Magellan orbiter in the early 1990s. (2/10)

Skydiver Ready for Fall From Space (Source: Red Bull)
Austrian extreme athlete Felix Baumgartner and the Red Bull Stratos team are making the final preparations for their attempt to break Colonel Joe Kittinger’s 52-year-old record by freefalling 36,576 metres (120,000 feet) from a balloon in the stratosphere. The 41-year-old wants to become the first person to break the speed of sound without the protection of an aircraft while simultaneously collecting data never obtained before for the advancement of medical science. After testing in an elaborate altitude (vacuum) chamber in Texas, the mission has moved on to a decisive phase at Roswell, New Mexico.

A team of leading technicians and scientists has spent the past five years developing the equipment and safety protocols necessary to assure the safe completion of the mission. Red Bull Stratos will attempt to break four records at the same time that have remained unbroken for more than 50 years: the highest manned balloon flight 36,576 metres / 120,000 feet), the highest skydive, the first person to break the speed of sound during freefall, and the longest freefall (about 5 minutes 30 seconds). Click here. (2/7)

Officials Push for Wallops Expansion (Source: DelMarVaNow.com)
Elected officials from Maryland and Virginia are working together to convince the Federal Aviation Administration that Wallops Flight Facility should host an unmanned aircraft system test range. While the facility already runs unmanned flights within its restricted air space, the proposal would include Wallops as part of six locations throughout the country where unmanned aircraft and piloted aircraft could begin to co-exist.

The proposal to establish six sites throughout the country was included in the National Defense Authorization Act and FAA Reauthorization Bill, which were both passed by Congress in the past few weeks. Elected officials in Maryland and Virginia have since begun vying for one of the slots, in part, because the law requires the FAA to identify the test ranges within 180 days. (2/10)

Zero-G Coffee Cup Design From Astronaut Don Pettit's 'Saturday Morning Science' (Source: Huffington Post)
NASA astronaut Don Pettit will do anything for his morning coffee—-even physics. Using a sheet of plastic from an overhead projector and a solid understanding of fluid dynamics, Pettit created a special cup that you can sip from in zero gravity without using a straw.

Liquids can cause a lot of damage aboard the International Space Station, so most astronauts had to get used to drinking through a straw from a little pouch. Pettit wouldn't stand for it. His innovation came from the design of rocket fuel tanks—if you need to be able to reignite fuel without gravity to help it along, one particular shape can make the liquid follow a narrow edge. Apply this shape—sort of like a cross-section of an airplane wing—on a smaller scale, and you have yourself a handy coffee cup. Click here. (2/10)

NASA Cut Limited to $89 Million for FY-2013 (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA will take only an $89 million cut in its topline spending request for fiscal 2013 compared to this year’s operating plan, sources said Friday, but the $17.711 billion NASA budget proposal due out Feb. 13 will axe the joint effort with Europe to return samples from Mars to pay for development overruns on the James Webb Space Telescope.

Human spaceflight continues pretty much as expected, with an $830 million request for commercial crew development (CCDev) work and only a slight drop in the $2.8 billion NASA is spending this year on its heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion multipurpose crew vehicle. Space technology would get $699 million in the new request, while aeronautics drops to $500 million.

The SLS would get another $1.8 billion under the new request, which must clear an election-year Congress focused on deficit reduction. The exploration-vehicle figures track with last year’s budget runout for fiscal 2013, with the Orion budget tweaked downward to keep it in pace with launch vehicle work. The ISS would get another $3 billion under the fiscal 2013 request, roughly as planned to sustain the six-person crew there. (2/10)

Italian Satellite to Help Measure Space-Time Warp (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Scheduled for launch from French Guiana on Monday, Europe's first lightweight Vega rocket is packed with nine small research satellites, including a unique Italian craft designed to help make an elusive accurate measurement of a central tenet of Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity. The 98-foot-tall booster is due for liftoff in a two-hour launch window opening at 1000 GMT (5 a.m. EST) Monday. The four-stage launcher, developed with Italian leadership, will make its first flight from the Guiana Space Center, a European-run spaceport in French Guiana. (2/10)

Private Mars Initiative Seeks Investors (Source: Hobby Space)
We want to see our childhood dreams fulfilled and not forgotten. We want to see humanity conquer the final frontier. We want to see human settlements on Mars. And we will achieve our dreams by organizing like no one has ever organized, and by collaborating like no one has ever collaborated. The Mars Initiative (TMI) is a fully registered non-profit tax-exempt 501(c)(3) charitable organization recognized by the laws and regulations of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the United States of America. We are also registered as a Texas non-profit organization. Donations and gifts to The Mars Initiative are tax deductible. Click here. (2/10)

A Few Words About NASA’s Mars Mess (Source: Houston Chronicle)
We’ve talked a lot recently about the troubles with NASA’s human spaceflight program, but the space agency’s science program is in similar disarray. Under President Obama’s budget, which will be unveiled next week, the budget for NASA’s robotic probes program will be cut from $1.5 billion to $1.2 billion. The division will pay for these cuts largely by ending NASA’s EXO partnership with the European Space Agency to send probes to Mars in 2016 and 2018. Scientists are upset, as no doubt are the Europeans for whom these were flagship science missions to look for life on the red planet and take preparatory steps toward bringing a sample back from Mars. (2/10)

Prime Minister Approves Pakistan Space Policy (Source: Business Recorder)
Prime Minister of Pakistan Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has approved Pakistan Space Policy and it is likely to be presented in National Assembly for its consideration and approval soon, Chairman, Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO), Major General Ahmed Bilal said. He admitted that in first 40 years since its inception very little work has been done of in space research.

He said that in many countries of the world space related businesses are generating billions of dollars whereas Pakistan is lagging behind in this area. He said that emphasis in the policy has been placed on educating students about its benefit for the nation. It is proposed that space education should be made compulsory in schools and colleges. The chairman said that a pilot project of agriculture crop monitoring through satellite was launched in 2005, which was a big success and now its ambit has been extended. (2/10)

Mars Spacecraft Computer Issue Resolved (Source: NASA JPL)
Engineers have found the root cause of a computer reset that occurred two months ago on NASA's Mars Science Laboratory and have determined how to correct it. The fix involves changing how certain unused data-holding locations, called registers, are configured in the memory management of the type of computer chip used on the spacecraft. Billions of runs on a test computer with the modified register configuration yielded no repeat of the reset behavior. The mission team made this software change on the spacecraft's computer last week and confirmed this week that the update is successful. (2/10)

Largest Virtual Telescope Operational in Chile (Source: AFP)
Astronomers in Chile said this week they had created the world's largest virtual optical telescope by using a special technique to combine images from the four most powerful devices as if they were a single device. "This weekend we managed to finish the process (of merging the images) after almost a year," said Jean-Philippe Berger, a scientist at the European Southern Observatory which operates the Very Large Telescope array (VLT) in Chile's high northern desert. The VLT complex includes four large optical telescopes, each of which are about 30 meters high and have mirrors eight meters in diameter. (2/10)

Independent Human Spaceflight Sought by Japan (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
The Japanese space agency is pushing for a domestic human spaceflight capability, proposing modifications to the country's International Space Station cargo delivery system to carry astronauts into orbit by 2025. If approved by the Japanese government, the craft's development would follow a crawl-walk-run approach. Japan has already demonstrated its H-2 Transfer Vehicle can haul cargo and experiments to the space station, and next up could be developing a return capsule to bring equipment from the outpost back to Earth. (2/10)

Putin Wants Russian GLONASS to be as Efficient as US GPS (Source: Itar-Tass)
Prime Minster Vladimir Putin said on Thursday the Russian global positioning GLONASS system should not be inferior to US GPS. “By all parameters GLONASS shall be not worse but even better than GPS,” he told the government. Despite launch problems faced by the Russian space industry last year “we succeeded to deploy the orbital group of GLONASS,” Putin said. Currently there are 31 GLONASS satellites in orbit and 24 are operating. In the past five years its positioning accuracy grew from 35 to 2.8 meters while GPS accuracy is 1.8 meters. (2/10)

NASA Offers Reward For Green Propellant (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA’s Technology Demonstration Missions Program is looking for “green” alternatives to toxic hydrazine as a storable propellant for spacecraft, offering contracts worth as much as $50 million each to researchers with promising ideas. The agency is seeking proposals for demonstrations of systems that use storable monopropellants or bipropellants that are safer than hydrazine to generate spacecraft propulsion and power. The broad area announcement, which is available at http://go.usa.gov/Qbx, calls for complete integrated systems that include engines, tanks, valves, injectors, igniters, thrust chambers and propellant-control systems. (2/10)

Cheap Non-Space Parts Doomed Phobos Mission (Source: America Space)
A catastrophic computer crash caused by space radiation penetrating non space qualified components caused the failure of the Russian Phobos Sample Return mission as it tried to initiate a firing sequence to propel itself to Mars, according to the Russian investigation team headed. The failure commission studied more than 700 documents related to Phobos spacecraft construction, as well as data from its short-lived flight. (2/10)

Landmark Launch in Rocketry: Centaur Set for Flight 200 (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
The venerable U.S. upper stage rocket motor -- the Centaur -- that created the pathway to the Moon and every planet across the solar system will be making its 200th flight next Thursday in a milestone mission to boost the U.S. Navy's sophisticated new mobile communications satellite to orbit. Originally developed by General Dynamics under the direction of NASA at the dawn of the space age, Centaur was conceived to power payloads with a high-energy cryogenic engine fed with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. (2/10)

2012 U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame Induction Weekend (Source: ASF)
On May 4, 2012 America will be watching as an unprecedented group of 40+ Hall of Fame astronauts, 500 high-profile guests and top space industry officials will gather at Kennedy Space Center for the Space Coast’s event of the year - the 2012 U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame Induction Gala to benefit the non-profit Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF). The black-tie affair will recognize inductees Franklin Chang-Diaz, Kevin Chilton and Charlie Precourt along with their peers such as astronauts Buzz Aldrin, John Glenn and James Lovell. Click here. (2/9)

Tom Hanks Speaks Out on Behalf of Space Exploration (Source: Roger Launius Blog)
Beginning in the early 1990s the NASA budget began to decline, a trend that continues to the present, and numerous individuals committed to the continuation of an aggressive space exploration program began to speak out. One of the most vocal was actor Tom Hanks, winner of two Academy Awards and star of Apollo 13. A longtime space advocate, Hanks appeared before Congress on July 25, 1995, to testify on behalf of NASA’s continued activities. With the President set to unveil his budget proposal for fiscal year 2013 next week, and the widespread anticipation that NASA’s programs will suffer severe cuts in it, it seems appropriate to highlight this eloquent statement of Tom Hanks on behalf of NASA and its mission of pushing back the frontiers of understanding about space. (2/10)

NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft 911's Final Flight (Source: NASA)
One of NASA's two modified Boeing 747s that were modified for use as space shuttle carrier aircraft, NASA 911, made its final flight Feb. 8. The big four-engine converted jumbo jet's final mission was a short flight lasting only about 20 minutes from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base to The Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility adjacent to Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale.

The converted jetliner will be retired and used as a source of parts to keep NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) Boeing 747SP aircraft and the remaining Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, NASA 905, flying. NASA 905 will be used to ferry the remaining space shuttles to the cities of their final display venues, including the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington, D.C. (Discovery), the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City (Enterpirse), the California Science Center in Los Angeles (Endeavour) and the visitor center at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Atlantis). (2/10)

Musk Anticipates Third IPO in Three Years With SpaceX (Source: Bloomberg)
Elon Musk, chief executive officer of SpaceX, wants the private rocket-launch business to have an initial public offering in 2013, the entrepreneur’s third such sale in about three years. “There’s a good chance that SpaceX goes public next year,” Musk, 40, said without elaborating. Tesla Motors sold shares for the first time in 2010. SolarCity Corp., a developer of rooftop solar-power systems of which Musk is chairman, is also preparing to file for an IPO this year. (2/10)

Report: Administration to Cut Planetary Science Funding (Source: Space Today)
The Obama Administration's fiscal year 2013 budget proposal will include a 20-percent cut in NASA's planetary science program, likely killing planned cooperation with Europe on Mars exploration. The Washington Post reported Thursday that the 2013 budget proposal, scheduled for release on Monday, will cut NASA's planetary science program budget from $1.5 billion in 2012 to $1.2 billion in 2013, with additional cuts projected out to 2017.

Those cuts are expected to spell the end of plans to work with ESA on a joint Mars exploration program that included a 2016 orbiter and 2018 lander and rover. The cuts are thought to be due at least in part to help cover the increased costs of the James Webb Space Telescope. At least two members of the House appropriations committee have said they would move to block those cuts when they take up the agency's budget later this year. (2/10)

Governor Urges Lawmakers to Reconsider Spaceport Vote (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Gov. Susana Martinez is trying a political Hail Mary. Martinez wants legislators on two committees to reverse themselves in deference to Spaceport America, the $209 million project in southern New Mexico. The Senate Judiciary Committee this week declined to advance a bill granting spaceport suppliers and manufacturers immunity from most lawsuits by space travelers. Members of the House Business and Industry Committee made a similar decision. Spaceport executives said the $209 million government enterprise in Sierra County could lose businesses because of the legislators' stand. Martinez agrees.

But Sen. Lisa Curtis, D-Albuquerque, said that by looking out for consumers New Mexico would be better off. Curtis, an attorney who serves on the Judiciary Committee, said the unthinkable would be possible if the Spaceport got its way. All six passengers on a space flight could die because of negligence by a manufacturer of the craft. But the law sought by the spaceport staff would make it impossible for their families to sue the responsible companies, a system contrary to the best interests of the public, Curtis said. The legislative session ends at noon Feb. 16. (2/10)

Good News/Bad News On Human Spaceflight Regulation (Source: Open Market)
In a bill passed last week authorizing the FAA for another year, the moratorium on regulation of the safety of spaceflight participants, in place since 2004, was extended for another three years, but not as long as proponents in industry had hoped. The idea was that the technology was insufficiently well understood by anyone, including the FAA, to put in place regulations that wouldn’t stifle industry development and innovation, given all the different approaches (vertical takeoff and landing, horizontal takeoff and landing, air launch, hybrid rockets, liquid rockets, etc.). Click here. (2/9)

Schiff Opposes NASA Cuts (Source: Pasadena Star-News)
With NASA facing massive cuts to its budget in 2013, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-CA, met with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on Thursday, and relayed his own opposition to the shrinking of the space agency's funding. "America's unique expertise in designing and flying deep-space missions is a priceless national asset and the Mars program, one of our nation's scientific crown jewels, has been a spectacular success that has pushed the boundaries of human understanding and technological innovation, while also boosting American prestige worldwide and driving our children to pursue science and engineering degrees in college," he said. (2/9)

Commercial Centrifuge Heading to Space Station (Source: NanoRacks)
Astrium North America is proud to announce that Astrium Space Transportation and NanoRacks LLC have teamed up to offer a cost‐effective, commercial centrifuge facility for the International Space Station. Astrium Space Transportation is handing over on the 14th of February to NanoRacks LLC a gravitational research centrifuge marking a new era of commercial utilization of the U.S. National Lab. The handover will take place at Astrium North America’s Houston facility.

The centrifuge will allow researchers to perform research under various gravity levels, including Mars and Moon conditions or as 1‐G control to contrast results with microgravity projects conducted on the space station. Astrium North America is pleased to be involved in this truly commercial and collaborative project with NanoRacks, working together with NASA toward the enhancement of science facility capabilities on ISS. (2/9)

SpaceX Launch Could Move to April 20 (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
NASA and SpaceX officials previously selected March 20 as a "placeholder" date on the Eastern Range, but SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said last week he expected the flight would slip until April. Sources said SpaceX has reserved April 20 for the launch on the Air Force Eastern Range. A launch in late April is contingent upon not only the completion of software testing, inspections and reviews of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule, but also on finding a place for the mission in the space station's traffic pattern. (2/9)

No comments: