March 14, 2012

'See Me' Satellites May Help Ground Forces (Source: Space Daily)
The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency says it will research a system to let soldiers overseas access near-live satellite images of their location. Current satellites cannot provide such information as they are in the wrong orbits and are difficult for troops on the ground to access, experts said. DARPA's SeeMe program (Space Enabled Effects for Military Engagements) would create a swarm of inexpensive disposable satellites to allow soldiers on the ground to hit a "see me" button on a hand-held device such as a smartphone or tablet and receive a satellite image back in less than 90 minutes. (3/14)

Safety Requirements Shape Commercial Crew Designs (Source: Space Daily)
NASA's plans for a new generation of commercially owned and operated spacecraft and launches involve meeting a number of goals, none higher than keeping to the agency's high standards for crew safety. The agency's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) outlined hundreds of human safety and performance requirements for the companies it is working with to carry astronauts to low Earth orbit. NASA's engineers won't directly tell the companies how to meet the requirements, though. Instead, they'll rely on their partners' innovations to meet their safety objectives. The standards cover every aspect of safety, from ground processing and providing a crew with optimal breathing air and life support systems to ensuring the reliability of a spacecraft's windows and computer circuit boards. (3/14)

China Lacks Moon Capability (Source: Space KSC)
Despite much rhetoric claiming that China will soon sent taikonauts to the Moon, Aviation Week reports that China doesn't even have an engine close to capable of launching a vehicle on a lunar mission. With no engine producing more thrust than the 120-metric-ton (260,000-lb.) YF-100, China is still far behind other countries in space propulsion, AAPT engineers Li Ping, Li Bin and Zou Yu told the Asian Joint Conference on Propulsion and Power. “The thrust requirement of future Chinese heavy or super-heavy launch vehicles is on the order of 4,000-7,000 kn [900,000-1,570,000 lb., about 400-700 tons]” per engine, the officials write. Such an engine would represent a technical and economic challenge... CALT has said that a Moon rocket would need 3,000 tons (6.6 million lb.) of thrust at liftoff. (3/12)

Editorial: NASA Needs More Money to Get Americans to Space (Source: AIA)
Sequestration cuts will further hamper NASA's ability to get people into space without Russian transport help, writes Frank Slazer, vice president of Space Systems Aerospace Industries Association in a letter to the editor in the Houston Chronicle. "Without action by the current president and Congress to resolve their deadlock over entitlements and revenues, NASA's ability to independently launch Americans into space will be further delayed by a federal budget sequester starting on Jan. 1, 2013," he writes. (3/14)

The Science of Rail Guns (Source: io9)
Ubiquitous in science fiction, rail guns are a hot area of military research in real life. But will we ever really get to use them the way people in science fiction do? And could rail guns be of used for a non-violent reason — inexpensively launching payload into space? Not surprisingly, research into the creation of modern electromagnetic rail guns owes its existence to military applications. A four kilogram chunk of metal projected at extremely high speeds could inflict damage on par with that of a conventional explosive weapon, but with lower cost ammunition.

While launching a small piece of metal at 9 kilometers per second is a wonderful achievement in itself, in order to be of any use for military (and possibly space) applications, the size of the ammunition and rail gun itself must be increased drastically. Increasing the size of a rail gun poses a number of problems. Dr. Ian McNab, director of the Institute for Advanced Technology at The University of Texas at Austin, proposes a modified rail system that would allow for payload deposits to orbiting craft, or, with adequate propulsion after launch, bases on the moon.

The launch system uses a set of rotating rails along a 1.6 kilometer barrel outfitted with modified rail gun technology. The track would be used to launch 300 kg payloads inside of a 1250 kg cone shaped projectile. The 1250 kg projectile will also carry propulsion equipment that guides the cone to its destination. McNab's proposal estimates the cost of the project at roughly 1.3 billion. With a lifetime of 10,000 uses, the infrastructure put in place by the project costs coming out to a little over $500 per kilogram of payload material launched into space. (3/14)

Arianespace to Launch Jabiru-1 Satellite (Source: Arianespace)
Jean-Yves Le Gall, Chairman and CEO of Arianespace, and Adrian Ballintine, founder and Chief Executive Officer of NewSat Limited (NewSat), signed the launch services contract for the Jabiru-1 satellite. Jabiru-1 will be boosted into geostationary transfer orbit by an Ariane 5 launch vehicle from the Guiana Space Center, Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana, during the fourth quarter of 2014.

Jabiru-1 is currently being built by Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems using an A2100 platform. Weighing 5,900 kg at launch, it will be fitted with 50 Ka-band transponders configured in a variety of multi-spot, steerable and regional beams. Jabiru-1’s high-powered capacity will provide flexible communication solutions to enterprise and government customers across Asia, the Middle East and eastern Africa. It offers a design life of 15 years. (3/14)

Boeing Completes Preliminary Design Review for CST-100 (Source: Boeing)
Boeing successfully completed a Preliminary Design Review of the company’s integrated Commercial Crew Space Transportation system, which includes the Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft. The integrated system will provide the United States with the capability to transport people and cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), the Bigelow Space Complex and other destinations in low Earth orbit. The system PDR, which included the CST-100 spacecraft, launch vehicle and ground system, evaluated technical adequacy, progress and risk resolution of the design and test approach. (3/14)

Nomad Planets: Stepping Stones to Interstellar Space? (Source: Al Jazeera)
Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is composed of billions of stars and planets, dust and gas. According to school textbooks, everything works like clockwork; stars are born from clouds of gas (known as nebulae) and the disk of gas and dust surrounding newborn stars agglomerate to build the planets. Last month, the well-established idea that a planet needs a star to exist was turned upside-down. What's more, by removing the necessity for a star, we may have stumbled on an interesting solution to interstellar travel. Click here. (3/14)

China's Second Moon Orbiter Outperforms Design (Source: Xinhua)
China's second moon orbiter, the Chang'e-2, has performed outstandingly, a Chinese lawmaker close to the lunar exploration project said. Chang'e-2 has more than achieved the goals set for it, said Hu Hao, deputy commander-in-chief of the lunar exploration center under the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry of National Defense and a deputy to the National People's Congress, the country's top legislature. Chang'e-2, named after a Chinese mythological moon goddess, was launched on Oct. 1, 2010. Chang'e-2 will continue tests on the space environment and engineering technology experiments at the second Lagrange Point. (3/14)

China Starts Manufacturing Third Lunar Probe (Source: Xinhua)
China has begun designing and manufacturing the flight model entity of its third lunar probe, Chang'e-3, according to the administration of China's lunar probe project. As a key part of the second step of China's three-phase lunar probe projects, the Chang'e-3 mission has entered the flight mode phase from prototype phase. The third probe will carry a lunar rover and other instruments for land surveys, living conditions assessment, and space observations. (3/14)

The Rise of the Prize (Source: Freakonomics)
Could the incentive prize be the most powerful and yet most underutilized tool we have to tame the wicked problems of the twenty-first century? Prizes in themselves are nothing new, of course. The Longitude Prize — a purse of up to £20,000 — was offered by the British Parliament in 1714 for the discovery of a practical means for ships to determine their longitude. This was an enormous problem on the high seas, as the inability to work out longitude on the sailboats of the age often led to costly and deadly errors in navigation. The greatest minds of the British scientific academy wrestled with this problem, but could not crack it. Sir Isaac Newton, for example, was convinced the answer lay in astronomy.

Happily, the Board of Longitude set up to administer the prize did not favor those with fancy credentials or, for that matter, those with British passports. This was a true global exercise in open innovation. And in the end, it was a self-educated English watchmaker, John Harrison, who found a down-to-earth solution. His invention, a marine chronometer, ultimately transformed ocean transport.

The Orteig prize and the resultant Atlantic crossing kick-started the aviation industry, argues Peter Diamandis, founder of the X Prize Foundation (an innovative charity aiming to revive incentive prizes) and led directly to the development of today’s $250 billion aviation business. Click here. (3/14)

Understanding Microgravity with Angry Birds (Source: Janet's Planet)
Video games are a fun way to pass the time, but did you know there’s one game in particular that is helping astronauts explain the mystery of science? NASA astronaut Don Pettit is the guy and would you believe the game is called Angry Birds Space? NASA has been working with Rovio Entertainment, the company that brought us the Angry Birds franchise, to create Angry Birds Space. The idea behind this new game is to share the wonders of space to educate gamers.

The game illustrates different aspects of space exploration, including gravity and trajectories. Here at Janet’s Planet, we know that the nature of gravity was first described by Sir Isaac Newton more than 300 years ago. Gravity is the attraction between any two masses. If we drop an apple here on the surface of Earth, it falls to the ground. If you were an astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS) and you dropped an apple, it would still fall, but it just doesn’t look like the same type of falling.

This is because when you drop an apple on the ISS, everything is falling together. The apple, the astronaut and the ISS are all falling around Earth, at the same rate. The objects all appear to float in this state called ‘zero gravity’ or microgravity. Angry Birds Space helps to show how microgravity works. Click here. (3/13)

UN: Turkey Accedes to International Moon Treaty (Source: NSS)
The UN announced that Turkey has acceded to the Agreement Governing the Activities on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, a.k.a. the Moon Treaty. The action was effected on 29 February 2012. The Agreement will enter into force for Turkey on 30 March 2012 in accordance with its article 19 (4) which reads as follows: "For each State depositing its instrument of ratification or accession after the entry into force of this Agreement, it shall enter into force on the thirtieth day following the date of deposit of any such instrument." (3/13)

NASA's Astrobiology Research Sparks 'GreenTech' Revolution (Source: NASA)
NASA's astrobiologists study microbial life to understand how it transformed a rocky Earth into the thriving, diverse, life-sustaining planet we inhabit today. These studies of photosynthetic 'green' algae are creating sparks for new 'green technologies' on Earth and future human space exploration missions. "Once we understand these microbial recycling pathways, we can apply these processes in imaginative and innovative ways to solve problems on Earth, and in various space microgravity environments," said Leslie Bebout, a research scientist in the Exobiology Branch at NASA's Ames Research Center. (3/14)

Space Command Head Supports GPS Spectrum Needs at House Hearing (Source: Inside GNSS)
U.S. Air Force Gen. William Shelton , commander of the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC), told a recent House Armed Services subcommittee hearing that the LightSquared controversy at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) underlined the need to protect GPS spectrum “Whether it is by policy within the FCC or whether that is by legislation...“ Shelton’s comments came during March 8 testimony on the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Budget Request for National Security Space Activities before the Strategic Forces Subcommittee. (3/13)

ISU Gears Up for Summer Space Studies Program on Space Coast (Source: ISU)
The Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) located in Melbourne, Florida and NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC) located just 45 miles north of the University has been selected to host the 25th Annual Space Studies Program from June 4 to August 3, 2012. Each summer, ISU offers this intense nine-week program in a different location, making it a unique educational concept and building on the fundamental ISU tenant of an international experience.

ISU is an institution which recognizes the importance of interdisciplinary studies for the successful exploration and development of space. The selection of the United States Space Coast seems a natural fit to convene the 25th session of the Space Studies Program as the US gateway to exploring, discovering and understanding our universe. Click here for details. (3/14)

SpaceX Planning for April 30 Dragon Launch (Source: NewSpace Journal)
SpaceX has reserved a launch date at the end of April for a key Dragon test flight to the ISS. “I’m happy to say we have a launch date scheduled on the range and a berthing date with the ISS,” SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell announced during a panel at the Satellite 2012 conference in Washington, DC. “The launch date is April 30th, and we hope to berth on May 3rd.” She added that the launch window on the 30th is “almost an instantaneous window” and that “we only have the opportunity every three days”, scheduling apparently dictated by the orbital mechanics of rendezvousing with the ISS. (3/14)

FAA Issues Draft Environmental Assessment for SpaceShipTwo Flights in Mojave (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Powered flights of SpaceShipTwo took a step forward as the FAA issued a draft environmental assessment that recommends granting experimental permits and launch licenses to Scaled Composites to begin suborbital test missions from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. “An experimental permit is valid for one year and authorizes an unlimited number of launches and reentries of a reusable suborbital rocket from a U.S. launch site,” the EA reads.

“A launch license for a reusable launch vehicle is valid for two years and authorizes a licensee to launch and reenter, or otherwise land, any of a designated family of reusable launch vehicles within authorized parameters, including launch sites and trajectories, transporting specified classes of payloads to any reentry site or other location designated in the license,” the assessment reads. (3/14)

Private Spaceship Flights to Space Station Delayed to Spring & Fall (Source:
The launches of two private spaceships to the International Space Station are being pushed deeper into the year to allow more time to test the vehicles and prepare the launch sites, company officials said recently. California-based SpaceX and Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp. are expected to launch their unmanned, privately-built capsules to the International Space Station this year on demonstration flights to test the vehicles' ability to carry cargo to the orbiting complex.

As part of the [Apr. 30] SpaceX test flight, a Dragon capsule will approach the complex as astronauts onboard the orbiting outpost latch onto it and secure it to the station using a robotic arm. Orbital Sciences recently announced that the launch of their unmanned Cygnus cargo freighter has been delayed by several months, and will occur no earlier than August or September. (3/14)

Vetting New Suborbital Spaceships May Take Thousands of Flights (Source:
The first generation of commercial suborbital spaceships is about to come online, but it'll take a while to determine if these vehicles have the right stuff, a prominent voice within the industry cautions. Several different firms, including Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace, may begin launching paying customers to suborbital space within the next year or two. But even if the first several dozen — or several hundred — flights go perfectly, company officials can't exactly declare victory, XCOR president Jeff Greason said. (3/14)

Showtime for Commercial Spaceflight at Hand (Source: Reuters)
The first privately owned passenger spaceship is on track for a test flight beyond the atmosphere this year, and nearly 500 people have signed up for rides. Another company just closed on $5 million equity financing, enough to finish building a two-seater rocketplane called Lynx. Both firms -- and a half-dozen more -- are looking at flying not just people, but experiments and payloads owned by research laboratories, businesses and educational institutes.

Supporters of the nascent commercial spaceflight industry say that is about to change. Besides attracting thrill seekers with deep pockets, they figure the long-term ramifications of routine, reliable, low-cost access to space will spawn a host of new economic opportunities, just as development of the silicon chip did in the 1980s. Potential customers for spaceflight go far beyond joy-riders, researchers and educational projects. For example, early efforts to commercialize Russia's Mir space station caught the eye of reality television show producer Mark Burnett, who wanted to send the winner of a game show blasting off into space. Click here. (3/13)

SpaceX Wins Deal to Launch Satellites for Asia, Mexico (Source: SpaceFlightNow)
Two SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets will launch four communications satellites with innovative electric propulsion systems for Asia Broadcast Satellite and Satmex in 2014 and 2015, securing another commercial launch deal for the private U.S. booster. The first two satellites, named ABS-3A and Satmex 7, will launch together in late 2014 or early 2014 from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Each satellite weighs less than 4,000 pounds at launch. The payloads for a second Falcon 9 launch, set for the fourth quarter of 2015, have not been identified. (3/13)

Famed Astrophysicist Filippenko to Speak at Embry-Riddle (Source: ERAU)
Dr. Alex Filippenko, a world-renowned and award-winning astronomy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, will visit Embry-Riddle on Saturday, April 7, to speak on “Exploding Stars, Black Holes and the Accelerating Universe.” The event, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Gale Lemerand auditorium of the Willie Miller Instructional Center. The university is located at 600 S. Clyde Morris Blvd. in Daytona Beach. (3/13)

How will Gingrich 2012 Affect Sales of Extraterrestrial Real Estate? (Source: The Hill)
After flirting with Florida primary voters by pledging a moon colony by 2020 and announcing plans to create the first heavens-based U.S. state, Newt Gingrich was savagely mocked by his arch-nemesis — “the media elite.” The former House Speaker put an exclamation point on his astral ambitions, aggressively wooing Alabama primary voters at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. He vowed to reinvigorate NASA and promised “we are not going to go timidly into the night and let the Chinese dominate the future in space.”

Could Gingrich’s abiding passion for space exploration give an unintended boost to the economy? For starters, might his candidacy be the greatest gift to the novelty extraterrestrial real estate market? Since 1980, Lunar Embassy CEO Dennis Hope has been selling an acre on the moon for $19.99 plus $1.51 in “Lunar Tax.” To date, he claims he has sold the property rights to more than 600 million of them. His business sells an average of 300 acres a day worldwide, with the top five markets being Japan, Germany, Sweden, the UK and the U.S.

Hope has plans to build on the moon — an elaborate glass-and-titanium pyramid city — by 2018, two years before the Gingrich proposal, which he calls “illegal.” “I don’t put a lot of faith in anything Newt Gingrich says. He’s a big hypocrite, and I just don’t trust the guy,” says Hope. “If he becomes president of this country, I’m moving — and I don’t care where.” Presumably, his choices would include Mercury, Venus, Mars, Pluto and Io, the volcanic moon orbiting Jupiter — all options in the Lunar Embassy’s online shopping cart. (3/14)

LightSquared 'Lawyer's Up' to Fight FCC (Source: Politico)
LightSquared has retained two of the most prominent conservative litigators in the country — Theodore Olson and Eugene Scalia — in a sign it could be preparing to launch a court battle against the FCC. The FCC has proposed scrapping LightSquared’s authority to conduct land-based signals over its airwaves and revoking a waiver that enabled the company’s business model. Without this regulatory authority, LightSquared’s entry into the wireless market as a competitor to Verizon, AT&T and other traditional carriers is doomed. (3/14)

JPL Lawyer: Employee Wasn't Fired Over Religious Beliefs (Source: La Canada Valley Sun)
In opening arguments on Tuesday, the attorney for a former Jet Propulsion Laboratory employee said his client was unfairly fired for his religious beliefs amid bogus claims from co-workers that he was harassing them about “intelligent design,” the theory that God had a hand in creating the universe. David Coppedge, a former systems administration lead on NASA's Cassini mission to Saturn, claims he was demoted and eventually fired after he was accused of trying to push his views onto co-workers at the agency in La CaƱada Flintridge. But attorneys for JPL said in court Tuesday that Coppedge had a history of complaints against him.

He was one of roughly 200 JPL workers who were laid off amid steep funding cuts and as NASA started winding down the Cassini project. Representing JPL, James Zapp said in court that Coppedge was his own worst enemy, and saw himself as the victim of a “war against intelligent design,” starting in 2009 when one of Coppedge's co-workers filed a harassment complaint against him for requesting she change the “holiday” potluck to the “Christmas” potluck.

More than 15 people had complained to Coppedge's supervisors over the years about his customer service, saying he was stubborn and hard to deal with, Zapp added. Administrators repeatedly told Coppedge the issue was how he was interacting with people, not what he was saying, Zapp said. “[They] said, ‘We have no problem with people discussing religion or politics in the office, as long as it's not unwelcome or disruptive,'” Zapp said. (3/14)

NASA and GM Unveil Robo-Glove (Source: MSNBC)
The folks who brought you Robonaut have teamed up to create a robotic glove that can help factory workers and astronauts get a grip more easily for a longer time. NASA and GM unveiled the Human Grasp Assist device, also known as the K-Glove or Robo-Glove. The contraption is a spin-off of their Robonaut 2 project, which put a two-armed android torso with a camera-equipped head on the International Space Station last year. (3/14)

India's Spy Satellite to be Launched in April (Source: DNA)
A wholly Indian-built spy/surveillance satellite - Radar Imaging Satellite (Risat-1) - that can see through clouds and fog and has very high- resolution imaging is slated for launch in April, a senior official of the Indian space agency has said. An official of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said thorough tests were being done on the Risat-1. "It is a complex microwave satellite being built for the first time in India," the senior official told IANS, not wishing to be named because of the organizational rules. (3/14)

Russia Drafts New Space Exploration Strategy (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia’s Federal Space Agency has prepared a draft of a space exploration strategy through 2030. The ambitious program prioritizes a step-by-step modernization of the space industry, development of new spacecraft including space shuttles, and active exploration of solar planets. “The goal of the strategy is to ensure that the Russian space industry maintains its world-level standards and solidifies its position among the top three space powers,” according to the draft document.

According to the draft, Russia must increase its share of the global space market to 10 percent by 2030, compared to only 0.5 percent in 2011. The Russian space industry must be able to build satellites and spacecraft using only domestically-manufactured components, especially electronics, by 2020. By 2030, the Russian orbital satellite clusters must meet up to 95 percent of the domestic demand for services in civilian and defense sectors.

Russia is planning to carry out several space exploration missions, including a piloted flight to the Moon with landing on its surface and sending probes to Venus and Jupiter. Russia will also intensify its efforts to remove “space junk” orbiting Earth and to protect our planet from asteroids and comets. The ambitious program will be financed from the federal budget and private investments. A special independent agency may be created under the Russian president to coordinate the country’s space policy. (3/14)

A Potpourri of Lunar Results (Source: Sky & Telescope)
Since Apollo, several orbiting spacecraft have mapped the lunar surface from top to bottom, repeatedly. So a casual observer might conclude that we've learned everything there is to know about the Moon. Ha! If anything, questions about how Earth's satellite formed and evolved are more numerous than ever. As evidence, I submit the following summaries of research that's been published in the past few weeks. Let's start by asking, as a trio of researchers have recently posed, "Why do we see the 'Man in the Moon'?" Click here. (3/14)

Apollo 11 Landing Site Seen in Unprecedented Detail (Source:
The clearest view yet of the famous Apollo 11 landing site on the moon was captured by a NASA spacecraft in orbit around our planet's natural satellite. The agency's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) zeroed in on Mare Tranquillitatis, or the Sea of Tranquility — the place where humans first touched down on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969. The new image from LRO captures amazing details of the historic site, even revealing the remnants of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's first steps on the moon. Click here. (3/14)

Peace in Space: Why Obama Is Right (and the Far Right Is Wrong) (Source: TIME)
What is it about space that makes the hard right go goofy? Now it’s John Bolton and John Yoo taking to the pages of the New York Times to argue against the Obama Administration’s plans to limit the militarization of space. Bolton, you’ll remember, is America’s oddly Lorax-like former ambassador to the U.N. Yoo is the waterboarding apologist who helped author the Bush Administration’s so-called “torture memos” in 2003. What’s got them unsheathing their light sabers this week is President Obama’s decision to follow the European Union’s code of conduct for space.

This is an accord that calls for “prevent[ing] outer space from becoming an area of conflict.” It would achieve this through such probably not-crazy measures as preventing interference with another nation’s space assets, enhancing the “safety, security and predictability of outer-space activities,” and encouraging “transparency and confidence-building measures.” It would also try to limit the increase in space debris — which is the cosmic equivalent of laws against littering. So you wouldn’t think there’s much to object to here. But you’re not Yoo — or Bolton.

The arguments the Sith lords make in the Times don’t differ much from the ones a lot of people made in 1957, when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, and half the U.S. went all tinfoil hat about the country suddenly having to go to sleep under a Russian moon. Bolton and Yoo see two main security threats in the new Obama initiative: the possibility that the U.S. will lose its edge in antimissile space technology and the risk that we’ll cede our lead in antisatellite warfare to, yes, China. So let’s take antimissile technology first. Click here. (3/12)

Military Cutbacks Will Force ATK Profits Down 20% (Source: American City Business Journals)
Defense contractor Alliant Techsystems said profits at the company will drop 20% for fiscal 2013, largely because of cutbacks in military spending. The company expects per-share profits of $6 to $6.30, down from $7.65 to $7.75 for fiscal 2012, which ends March 31. (3/14)

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