March 6, 2012

Gingrich Goes to Space Camp (Source: Politico)
Newt Gingrich put his love of space exploration into action on Super Tuesday by going to Space Camp. “Of all the places we’ve held rallies, this may be the most amazing, just to stand here,” Gingrich said, surveying the space rocket above him. “I invite Saturday Night Live to come here to Huntsville and film their skits... America has a destiny in space,” Gingrich declared, drawing applause from the 600-person crowd.

Gingrich has been the subject of heaps of criticism from the other candidates, pundits and even late-night comedians for championing the cause of America’s return to the moon. The joke was on him when he announced his plans for a lunar colony by the end of his second term, sparking a Saturday Night Live Skit and Jon Stewart segments.

In choosing the venue for the event, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, where NASA holds its youth space camp, in Huntsville, Ala., Gingrich appeared to be embracing the possibility of being mocked again. It was an odd choice for a venue to spend part of Super Tuesday, where 10 states will vote on perhaps the most crucial day on the presidential primary calendar so far. Alabama is not one of them. (3/6)

KSC Shuttle Tile Shop Now Making Orion Heat Shield (Source: NASA)
Workers at KSC recently began cutting and coating the first thermal protection system tiles – part of the heat shield that will protect an Orion spacecraft during an upcoming flight test which will simulate the re-entry speed and heating of returning from deep space. The tiles are made of the same material and coating as those used on the space shuttle's belly. On Orion, however, the tiles will be placed along the sides and top of the conical spacecraft.

A separate heat shield akin to the ablative design used during Apollo is being developed to protect the bottom of the spacecraft, which will encounter the highest temperatures. The manufacturing work at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center marks an important time in the progression of the spacecraft following the shuttle's retirement in 2011, said Thermal Protection System, or TPS, engineers Joy Huff and Sarah Cox. (3/6)

Falling Satellite Insurance Premiums Put Market at Risk of Major Upheaval (Source: Space News)
The price of insuring a commercial satellite’s launch and first year in orbit has dropped by around 50 percent in the past six years and has left the market vulnerable to a violent shock that could occur with just one launch failure, insurance underwriters said. For insurers, the nightmare scenario is the failure of Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket, which unlike competing vehicles typically carries two satellites at a time into orbit. On at least three occasions in the past three years, Ariane 5 launches have carried satellites whose combined insurance coverage is $750 million, according to figures compiled by XL Insurance of New York. (3/6)

Inmarsat Expecting Two Years of Near-Zero Growth (Source: Space News)
Mobile satellite services operator Inmarsat on March 6 told investors to expect almost no growth in its core business in the next two years as its subscriber base transitions to new-generation services and troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan reduce military use. But starting in 2014 with the entry into service of Inmarsat’s $1.2 billion Global Xpress Ka-band broadband satellite service, the company expects its revenue to grow by between 8 and 12 percent a year for at least three years. (3/6)

Galileo to Spearhead Extension of Worldwide Search and Rescue Service (Source: ESA)
The global reach of Europe’s Galileo navigation system is being harnessed to pinpoint distress calls for rapid search and rescue. A major expansion of the humanitarian system will be tested over the next two years to make it even more effective. (3/6)

Watching Out for Asteroids Headed Our Way (Source: UA News)
NASA is awarding $4.1 million to the Catalina Sky Survey to upgrade its search capabilities for near-Earth objects - asteroids that might cross the Earth's path someday. The Catalina Sky Survey, or CSS, a UA-based program that searches for hazardous asteroids that might pose a collision threat to the Earth, will receive a new NASA grant totaling more than $4.1 million to upgrade and operate its telescopes through 2015. (3/6)

Texas Astronomers First To Successfully Signal ISS from the Ground (Source: America Space)
The San Antonio Astronomical Association, in a combined effort with the Austin Astronomical Society, have become the first people to ever successfully signal the International Space Station from the ground – and astronaut Don Pettit, currently onboard the ISS, captured some fantastic photos on their pass over Texas to prove it.

At 7:30 PM on March 3, 2012, amateur astronomers participating in the ‘Flash The Station’ event set up at the Lozano Observatory about 40 miles north of San Antonio. Using a one-watt laser and a 1.6 billion lumen spot light, they successfully signaled the International Space Station as it passed roughly 200 miles over Texas, orbiting the Earth at 17,500 mph. (3/6)

What Sank the Titanic? Scientists Point to the Moon (Source: Reuters)
A century after the Titanic disaster, scientists have found an unexpected culprit for the sinking: the moon. Anyone who knows history or has seen the blockbuster movies knows that the cause of the transatlantic liner's accident 100 years ago next month was that it hit an iceberg. "But the lunar connection may explain how an unusually large number of icebergs got into the path of the Titanic," said Donald Olson, a Texas State University physicist whose team of forensic astronomers examined the moon's role.

Greenland icebergs of the type that the Titanic struck generally become stuck in the shallow waters off Labrador and Newfoundland, and cannot resume moving southward until they have melted enough to re-float or a high tide frees them, Olson said. So how was it that such a large number of icebergs had floated so far south that they were in the shipping lanes well south of Newfoundland that night?

The team investigated speculation by the late oceanographer Fergus Wood that an unusually close approach by the moon in January 1912 may have produced such high tides that far more icebergs than usual managed to separate from Greenland, and floated, still fully grown, into shipping lanes that had been moved south that spring because of reports of icebergs. (3/6)

Autonomous Space Capture Challenge Opens Algorithmic Crowdsourcing to General Public (Source: TopCoder)
TopCoder, Inc., the world's largest competitive Community of digital creators and MIT, have opened registration for the Autonomous Space Capture Challenge, an algorithm competition from Zero Robotics which seeks computationally efficient code solutions for a hypothetical mission scenario which models autonomous docking or satellite servicing procedures. The online challenge is open to all eligible participants but especially teams from high schools and colleges. Four winning submissions will be tested aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in the recently established SPHERES national laboratory by astronauts. Register at (3/6)

Neil deGrasse Tyson Is Wrong About NASA (Source: The Atlantic)
Yesterday, The Atlantic ran an interview with physicist/celeb Neil deGrasse Tyson. Here's what he had to say about "how space exploration can make America great again": When everyone agrees to a single solution and a single plan, there's nothing more efficient in the world than an efficient democracy.

Wrong. The space program has been a laughable mess for years now, sending elderly (and occasionally combustible) space busses back and forth to an increasingly pointless space station carrying "ant farms, recycled-urine-based finger paints, and other science fair experiments." And now NASA can't even do that.

This isn't because the democratic consensus behind the space program has fractured, or because there's not enough money. It's because no one knows what we're doing up there, so they fall back on exaggerating the job creating/social justice promoting/kid inspiring that the space program is supposed to be doing down here. Click here. (3/6)

Design a Patch, Win a Free Zero-G Flight (Source: Parabolic Arc)
ZERO-G is celebrating its 300th flight on April 14 by returning to the airport where it took its inaugural flight – Fort Lauderdale International Airport (FLL). To celebrate this exciting flight we are asking fans to design a unique patch commemorating this milestone. The winner’s design will be transformed into a patch which will be worn by the 300th flight participants. To top it off, the winner will also get to fly for free on the 300th flight! Entries must be submitted by March 26. A winner will be announced April 2. (3/6)

Muncy: SLS Will Never ‘Back Up’ Commercial Crew (Source: Space News)
The release of President Obama’s NASA budget plan for fiscal 2013 has triggered the usual chattering about what (and who) got too little or too much funding. Some offer hyperbole about the “catastrophic” impact of a cut or even an insufficiently large increase. The 2013 submission clearly implements the 2010 Authorization Act compromise within an overall budget cap, and honors the deals struck last fall between then-Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew and key senators on exploration funding and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

So the only quasi-justified uproar is over Mars exploration having to pay for saving JWST. But without the overt provocations of recent years, some in Congress are digging up obsolete assumptions to justify further criticisms of the Obama administration’s spaceflight budget priorities. One such argument is the claim from both houses of Congress that the funding for the Space Launch System (SLS) — which increases from the 2012 level — is too small to enable the SLS to launch the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) as a backup for commercial crew services.

Some even suggest that NASA is putting too much money into the legislatively stipulated primary means of carrying astronauts to and from the international space station (commercial crew) and therefore shortchanging the backup (SLS). Of course, NASA is spending nearly four times as much on Orion and SLS as it is on commercial crew, so the argument appears lopsided. Click here. (3/6)

Life Inside Black Holes (Source: Cornell)
We consider test planet and photon orbits of the third kind inside a black hole, which are stable, periodic and neither come out of the black hole nor terminate at the singularity. Interiors of supermassive black holes may be inhabited by advanced civilizations living on planets with the third-kind orbits. In principle, one can get information from the interiors of black holes by observing their white hole counterparts. Click here. (3/6)

FAA Reauthorization Requires ADS-B in by 2020, But That Mandate Could Change (Source: AIN)
With Congressional differences resolved, the FAA Reauthorization Bill has been signed by the President and is now a formal government act. A done deal, right? Well, perhaps not totally done. Those who read the October report of the FAA-sponsored Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) on implementation strategies for ADS-B in were certainly surprised to see that the bill called for in to be mandated in 2020, at the same time as ADS-B out.

In contrast, the ARC report, developed over almost two years and reflecting the views of both U.S. and foreign experts, concluded that a mandate would be premature until a number of technical issues have been solved and an acceptable business case developed for the user community. The ARC report suggested those might be achievable around 2030. Editor's Note: ADS-B is viewed by the FAA as a potential tool for integrating spaceflight vehicles into the National Airspace System. (3/6)

Restored Apollo Drop-Test Capsule to Land at Learning Center (Source: Collect Space)
A dummy capsule that NASA used in the lead up to the Apollo moon landings has been restored to its former glory to inspire a new generation of space explorers at a California learning center. The red-and-white painted capsule, known as "Boilerplate 19A" (BP-19A), was built in the early 1960s by the same aerospace company and to the same basic design specs as the space-worthy command modules that flew crews to the moon and back.

But instead of lifting off, BP-19A was dropped out of a cargo plane to test the recovery systems that would safely land astronauts back on Earth. More than four decades after its final test flight and years after being displayed outdoors in a county park, BP-19A was entrusted to SpaceWorks, the exhibition design and artifact preservation division of the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, KS, for its restoration. (3/6)

Launch of European Cargo Ship Rescheduled for March 23 (Source: Florida Today)
The delayed launch of a robotic European space freighter to the International Space Station is being rescheduled for a March 23 liftoff, European Space Agency officials say. The third European Automated Transfer Vehicle will blast off atop a powerful Ariane 5 rocket at Guiana Space Center near Kourou, French Guiana, South America. Liftoff is set for 12:34 a.m. and will be broadcast live on NASA TV. (3/6)

Space Station Safe From Hackers (Source: Discovery)
There’s a good reason why whoever stole the NASA laptop containing codes for the International Space Station hasn’t taken over control of the orbital outpost -- they can’t. The keys to the main computers aboard the $100 billion research laboratory reside in control centers on Earth, primarily in Houston at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and outside of Moscow, from where Russia commands its part of the station. NASA also has a backup control at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., in case Houston has to shut down for a hurricane or other reason. (3/6)

Software To Help Space Situational Awareness (Source: Aviation Week)
In the 1990s the Pentagon was spending a lot of missile defense money on technology that could link its missile-launch warning sensors to “cue” the missile-intercept weapons it was developing. At the same time, astronomers worldwide were using the Internet and an instrument on NASA’s Compton Gamma Ray Observatory to cue their ground-based telescopes to gamma ray bursts virtually anywhere in the universe. The Compton’s Burst and Transient Source Experiment (Batse) instrument would send position data on a short-lived burst out on the net, and telescopes’ software would point them to image the source of the burst.

The software was essentially free—written by the users themselves—and the data it generated still is being mined for scientific discoveries. The Compton was deorbited in June 2000, after Batse spotted 2,704 gamma rays bursts (below). The ingenuity that allowed it to cue telescopes-—not rare at all in the scientific community-—still exists, and might help with another problem that will only grow more acute as time goes on. The spaceways are crowded with junk that threatens valuable orbital assets, including the International Space Station (ISS) and unmanned civilian and military spacecraft. Click here. (3/6)

Surprising Explosions on Venus Sparked by Space Weather (Source:
Strange, gigantic explosions fueled by solar energy detonate just above the surface of Venus, a new study finds. The huge eruptions, known as hot flow anomalies (HFAs), have been seen before near Earth, Saturn and possibly Mars. But the new observation is the first unambiguous confirmation of the phenomenon on Venus, researchers said. It also shows that HFAs there are far different than what happens near our planet, which has a strong magnetic field, they added. (3/6)

Rocketdyne Radiation is Still Abundant at Santa Susana (Source: LA Daily News)
Some levels of radioactive chemicals found on a portion of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory site were as much as 1,000 times higher than standards, according to federal data released on Monday. Acting as an independent monitor, officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted radiological surveys on a portion of the land known as Area IV, where a partial meltdown of a nuclear reactor occurred in 1959. That portion is currently overseen by the Department of Energy. The results of the radiological survey show that of the 437 samples collected, 75 exceeded standards agreed upon by the DOE and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control in a cleanup agreement signed in December 2010. (3/6)

China Plans to Increase Military Spending by 11% in 2012 (Source: Washington Post)
China plans to increase military spending by 11% in 2012. The move would surpass the $100 billion mark for the first time in the country's history. Other countries in the region, such as India, Indonesia and Vietnam, have also increased military spending to keep pace. (3/6)

Posey Discusses Space as a National Security Issue (Source: Rep. Bill Posey)
Congressman Bill Posey (R-FL) serves a district that currently includes the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, but he's expected to run for reelection in a revised district that also includes Kennedy Space Center. Posey has long considered space to represent a "high-ground" for national security purposes. Click here to see an interview where he reaffirms his view. (3/6)

NASA will Offer to Scientists its Technologies for Mission to Mars (Source: Aviation Week)
Although NASA has canceled plans to participate in the exploration of Mars with the European Space Agency, NASA will still offer advanced technologies for the mission. "There are three or four technologies that stick out -- sample handling with planetary protection, the Mars ascent vehicle, the Earth-based receiving facility and the autonomous on-orbit rendezvous," said Scott Hubbard of Stanford University. (3/6)

U.S. Air Force Space Plane Marks One Year in Orbit (Source:
The U.S. Air Force's second X-37B space plane marked one year in orbit Monday, continuing its clandestine mission more than 200 miles above Earth. The robotic spacecraft's purpose is secret, but Air Force officials acknowledge the vehicle is performing well one year after it blasted off on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket on March 5, 2011. (3/6)

Major KSC Refurbishment Work Continuing (Source:
A significant amount of refurbishment work is taking place at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), as the spaceport prepares to welcome the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS) to the world-famous launch site. Work is taking place throughout the center, with the focus on the refurbishment being conducted on SLS’ launch pad, Pad 39B.

With the Space Shuttle orbiters now in their final phase of preparation for being moved to their retirement homes, the Kennedy Space Center is transitioning towards the new era, with SLS and Orion the centerpieces of the 21st Century spaceport effort. One of the largest projects involves the revitalization of the KSC Water and Wastewater Systems, which have been in place since the spaceport’s initial construction, back during the drive towards the Apollo moon missions. (3/6)

The Future of Space Food (Source: CultureLab)
Space tourism is just around the corner. Some people are worried about the costs, others the safety. But for foodies on board, there might be an altogether more pressing question: what’s for dinner? Eating in space is a notoriously difficult problem - not only is it hard to get the food into astronauts’ mouths in the first place, but the sense of taste is severely limited at zero gravity. Traditionally then, astronauts have had to make do with foil-packed and dehydrated goods that do little to tickle the taste buds.

Of course, astronauts are in space to work, so they can’t complain too much. Space tourists, on the other hand, are likely to be fussier customers. So what might they expect? On Friday, I got a sneak preview of some of the possibilities that lie in store for the space menus of the future. In anticipation of this year's National Science and Engineering Week in the UK, artistic food designers The Robin Collective joined forces with space nutrition specialist Brian Ratcliffe from Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland, and astronaut Helen Sharman, who was the first Briton in space. Click here. (3/6)

Doing More With Less is Much Scarier Than Budget Cuts (Source: AOL Defense)
The scariest part of the projected budget for national security space is not the cuts. It is the ensuing proposals that promise ways to do more with less. Adopting them without close and careful analysis can easily bring on far more damage to national security space capabilities than the cuts ever will.

We've seen this movie before. Budgets for national security space headed south soon after the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union dissolved. By 1994 it was obvious that the Defense Department was not going to be able to recapitalize the constellation then in orbit, let alone pay for modernizing and expanding it. Brig. Gen. Roger DeKok convened a large study group to determine what needed to be done to "Re-Invent Military Space." For several weeks our group admired the problem, and then, with but a few days left, turned to possible solutions.

We proudly identified three that would allow the government to do more with less: a) go commercial-use commercial processes in place of government ones wherever possible, and partner with and buy more from commercial space industry; b) become a smarter buyer--make satellite acquisition quicker and more efficient by specifying performance goals instead of designs and depending on commercial practices wherever possible; and c) use allies--lean more on the space programs of allies and partners. How did that work out? A few examples tell the tale, and they don't have happy endings. Click here. (3/6)

Big Asteroid's Chances of Hitting Earth in 2040 Overblown, NASA Says (Source:
An asteroid discovered last year has been gaining notoriety because of a chance that it could hit Earth in 28 years, but NASA scientists say the odds are extremely remote that it will pose any danger to us. The huge space rock, called asteroid 2011 AG5, is about 460 feet (140 meters) wide and circles the sun on a path between the orbits of Mars and Venus. Astronomers spotted it on Jan. 8, 2011 using the 60-inch Cassegrain reflector telescope on Mount Lemmon north of Tucson, Ariz., with some projections suggesting the odds of an Earth impact are 1 in 625. (3/6)

Ukraine Sees Uptick in Space Sales as Sea Launch Returns to Flight (Source: Parabolic Arc)
President of Ukraine HCA YSА Alexeyev held a press conference on the results of the space industry in 2011. Alexeyev said that last year the enterprises of the industry produced and sold products worth almost 3.4 billion UAH., Which is about 1.6 times more than in 2010. In general, the industry completed in 2011 with a net profit amounting to UAH 76.7 million. (3/6)

LightSquared Will Make for a Better Connection (Source: The Hill)
For years, GPS device makers have poached into spectrum held by LightSquared; when the day of reckoning came, the GPS industry turned to its friends in Washington. With a lot of campaign money to its credit, the GPS industry helped conservative members of Congress denounce this private infrastructure investment and decry the regulations. And when I say decry the regulations, I mean decry the fact that an eleven-year process somehow wasn’t enough.

Now the Federal Communications Commission is caving to the pressure, refusing to even continue testing on a system that could bring next-generation wireless and high-speed Internet to a large number of Americans who are accustomed to asking, “Can you hear me now?” I was (gulp) delighted then when Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and as fiscally conservative as it gets, showed up to the debate. In a recent column, he states, in part, that “... the Obama administration has failed to put more spectrum for mobile broadband onto the market, which will help prevent dropped calls and improve service. (3/6)

Will China Trigger Another Space Race? (Source: Real Clear Science)
Neil deGrasse Tyson is "certain" that the next space race will be initiated by China. "If China sets up a permanent base on the moon, and tries to explore Mars on a time scale shorter than ours, that will be another space race," Tyson told Popular Science earlier this week. If Tyson is right, then a new space race is inevitable. In the past decade, China has made no effort to hide its intentions in outer space. The country wants to lead the world in space exploration, and it has shown that it has the potential to do so. Many Chinese see their space program as a matter of national prestige -- a confirmation of their new found superpower status.

This view has been a fierce motivator. After first announcing its manned spaceflight program in 1999, China sent astronaut Yang Liwei into space only four years later. And just last year, millions of Chinese looked on with pride as the Tiangong 1 space station, their "Heavenly Palace," blasted off into the night sky to enter orbit around our planet. But these accomplishments are mere stepping stones to a loftier goal, which, after being ignored ten years ago, is now coming into renewed focus. (3/6)

Competing for a Spot in Space Travel (Source: GW Hatchet)
Sara Cook is competing to have an out-of-this-world experience – literally. The alumna is a finalist in the Seattle Space Needle Space Race 2012 contest to win a free trip into space. “Most little girls want to be a princess or rock star when they grow up, and I wanted to be an astronaut,” Cook said. The sweepstakes competition started in August with 50,000 entrants, before the list was whittled down to 20 contestants in December who are now competing for the first prize. If Cook gets enough votes on the contest’s Facebook page, she will fly to Seattle with five other finalists for the elimination round. (3/6)

Space Lab Director Resigns, Says Goals Unrealistic (Source: Florida Today)
The KSC-based nonprofit NASA selected to manage the International Space Station’s National Lab is off to a rocky start following the resignation of its director less than six months into the organization’s work. Jeanne Becker cited unrealistic expectations, political pressure and concerns about a partnership with a consultant that could threaten nonprofit status for the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS. The center’s board, consisting of three Space Florida officials, accepted Becker’s resignation “as a result of ongoing disputes in relation to the pace and direction of the implementation of CASIS’ mission,” according to a statement. (3/6)

Cyber Attacks on NASA Concern Nelson (Source: Florida Today)
Sen. Bill Nelson said he wants more answers from NASA following revelations the agency's computers and websites have been compromised thousands of times since 2010. In one incident, thieves stole a laptop containing the codes used to command and control the International Space Station. The Orlando Democrat, considered among the space program's biggest champions in Congress, told Charles Bolden he was "troubled" about the concerns first aired by Inspector General Paul Martin at a House hearing last week. "Given that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said the next Pearl Harbor could very well be a cyberattack, these incidents involving NASA require our enhanced attention to cybersecurity policies to protect our space program." (3/6)

NASA to Auction Software Patents (Source: Computing)
NASA is to auction some of its technology patents in three lots related to software code generation and autonomic computing and safety systems. The technologies have numerous potential applications in complex commercial systems.
Successful buyers will receive exclusive rights to the technologies with potential applications in complex software development, robotics, telecommunications, utilities, smart grids, wireless sensor networks, quantitative finance, enterprise software and cyber security. Click here. (3/6)

Russia Unveils Android for Space Missions (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia has built a space android to work in orbit, its first space robot in more than two decades, Izvestia daily said on Tuesday. The robot, S-400, can perform simple tasks such as screwing bolts and searching the spacecraft for damage. It will be sent to the International Space Station (ISS) within two years' time, and will also be joining future missions to the Moon and Mars, the paper said. (3/6)

Air Force Sets Up Competition for Rocket Launches (Source: Washington Post)
The Air Force has reserved two rocket launches for potential challengers to a Lockheed Martin-Boeing joint venture that dominates the field. The partnership, United Launch Alliance (ULA), won’t be allowed to participate in the two missions, Air Force officials said. The military wants to lower costs by encouraging competition from companies such as Orbital Sciences, SpaceX and Virgin Galactic. ULA currently is the government’s sole provider of medium- and heavy-lift launchers.

The military’s push for competition follows soaring cost estimates for the $10 billion program. “It’s obvious that the current prices we’re paying are just too high,” said Richard McKinney. The Air Force last year budgeted $9.88 billion for its share of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program between 2012 and 2016. That was a 55 percent increase from the $6.39 billion estimate made the previous year for the same period.

Funding for the two competitor launches is included in the Air Force’s budget for FY-2012, which ends Sep. 30. Specific amounts are not listed, but because the satellites and rockets in the competition are smaller, they will cost less than the average EELV launch, budgeted at more than $420 million in fiscal 2013. The Air Force says it’s willing to take more risk with the lower-cost missions, giving newcomers the opportunity “to gain experience operating with government payloads,” said a Pentagon spokeswoman. Click here. (3/4)

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