March 5, 2012

Sun's Radiation Blast Could Threaten Space Probes (Source: MSNBC)
A radiation wave kicked up by the eruption of a powerful solar flare late Sunday will probably miss Earth but could catch several NASA satellites in its crosshairs, scientists say. The radiation concern stems from an X1.1-class flare that blasted from the surface of the sun at 11:13 p.m. ET Sunday. The flare unleashed a cloud of charged particles, called a coronal mass ejection, or CME. This wave of solar plasma will mostly miss hitting Earth, but some spacecraft, including NASA's sun-watching Stereo B satellite, the Messenger spacecraft at Mercury and the agency's infrared Spitzer Space Telescope, are in path of the resulting radiation storm, according to scientists at Goddard Space Flight Center. (3/5)

Can Solar Storms Unleash Communications Chaos? (Source: ABC Science)
Today, we humans are a very long way from our pre-electronic ancestors. We are attached to the electronic toys that we enjoy and use: the GPS unit that finds a street in an unfamiliar city, the smart phone that is a camera as well as a dictionary as well as giving access to the internet, and even the accurate watch you wear on your wrist. But what if they were all to suddenly die? Welcome to the superstorm, when the Sun decides to have a hissy fit! Welcome to the Carrington Event!

About one-and-a-half centuries ago, an independently wealthy English astronomer, Richard C. Carrington, was following his normal daily habit of observing the Sun. He had already discovered that the Sun rotated faster at the equator than at the poles. On August 26, 1859, the Sun had thrown a few billion tonnes of super-hot gas directly at the Earth. The impact with the Earth's magnetic field and the upper atmosphere was so huge, that over the next few days people saw auroras, not just near the poles, but as close as 25° to the equator. (3/5)

Scientists Analyze Tiny Comet Grain to Date Jupiter's Formation (Source: University of Hawaii)
A recent study by researchers from UH Mānoa’s Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) found that particles from comet 81P/Wild 2 brought to Earth in 2006 by NASA's Stardust spacecraft indicate that Jupiter formed more than three million years after the formation of the first solids in the Solar System. The new finding helps test Solar System formation theories, which do not agree on the timing of Jupiter though it is certain the formation of this giant planet affected how materials moved, collided, and coalesced during the complex planet-forming process. (3/5)

Congressman Schiff Fights for NASA Missions to Mars (Source: KPCC)
Scientists are seeing red over budget cuts at NASA that would scrap future missions to Mars. Those cuts could also eliminate hundreds of jobs at Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). But Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of Burbank says the Martian battle is far from over. Two years ago, President Barack Obama said he wanted astronauts on Mars by the mid-2030s. But his budget for NASA next year eliminates two unmanned missions to the red planet scheduled for later this decade.

Schiff says the Mars rovers and orbital spacecraft have kept the space program alive in recent years. "If you look at the budget, you would think that the Mars missions had been an utter failure, that JPL wasn’t capable of doing anything right, and that NASA finally made the decision to pull the plug," Schiff says. "The truth, of course, is the exact opposite." (3/5)

Study Supports Theory of Extraterrestrial Impact (Source: UC Santa Barbara)
A team of researchers has identified a nearly 13,000-year-old layer of thin, dark sediment buried in the floor of Lake Cuitzeo in central Mexico. The sediment layer contains an exotic assemblage of materials, including nanodiamonds, impact spherules, and more, which, according to the researchers, are the result of a cosmic body impacting Earth. These new data are the latest to strongly support of a controversial hypothesis proposing that a major cosmic impact with Earth occurred 12,900 years ago at the onset of an unusual cold climatic period called the Younger Dryas. The researchers' findings appear today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (3/5)

NASA Talk Focuses on the Future of Aerospace Research (Source: NASA)
Is it a mature science or a future of endless possibilities? Have we reached our limits in research and design, or is it still possible to build a better airplane? On Tuesday, March 6, at NASA's Langley Research Center, Mark Lewis, former Chief Scientist of the Air Force will present, "Expanding the Envelope: Challenges and Opportunities in Aerospace Research," at 2 p.m. in the Reid Conference Center. Lewis will discuss the research challenges ahead for the current generation of aerospace engineers. (3/5)

Virgin Spaceship Maker Qualifies Three Aerostructure Suppliers (Source: TSC)
The Spaceship Company (TSC), the aerospace production joint venture of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites, continues to make strides in making commercial space travel a reality with the qualification of three primary aerostructure suppliers. Each approved company is now officially qualified to fabricate structural composite components for the WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo space tourism vehicles. They include Applied Aerospace Scructures Corp. and GFMI Aerospace & Defense, both of California, and Triumph Aerospace Systems of Kansas.

This designation has been awarded to these three companies in recognition of their demonstrated ability to meet or exceed the requirements of TSC Qualification Process TSCP-740. This process determines a supplier's commitment to fabrication excellence and quality through a facilities survey, examination of each company's quality management system and a thorough evaluation of representative structure fabricated by their teams. (3/5)

NASA's East Coast Launch Madness (Source: Space Policy Online)
NASA will launch five sounding rockets in five minutes from its Wallops Flight Facility on the coast of Virginia to study the high altitude jet stream. It should make quite a show for people along the mid-Atlantic coast and inland. NASA will provide a briefing on its "launch madness" campaign on Wednesday, March 7, 2012 at 1:00 pm ET. The launches will take place sometime within the window of March 14 to April 4. (3/5)

National Space Society Sponsors 2012 Legislative Blitz (Source: NSS)
The National Space Society (NSS) is pleased to announce that this year's Legislative Blitz was very successful, as we called on Congress to work with the Administration and NASA to reach consensus on a unified and comprehensive human and robotic spaceflight program. The annual Blitz, conducted in conjunction with 12 other non-profit space advocacy organizations that collectively form the Space Exploration Alliance (SEA), is a grassroots event that unites individuals from all walks of life and with diverse political beliefs to meet with members of Congress and/or their staff to stress the importance of space exploration and development.

"We had 100 congressional meetings over two days, and found broad bi-partisan support for our space program, but varying opinions as to the best path forward in light of the current budget situation, and those differences of opinion are not necessarily based on party lines," said NSS Executive Vice President Rick Zucker, the primary coordinator and scheduler for the Blitz on behalf of SEA. (3/2)

Air Force is Delaying Communication-Satellite Upgrades (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force plans to allocate about $180 million less to its Advanced Extremely High Frequency communication satellites than it originally planned next year and instead use the money for other programs. The Air Force also is deferring upgrades to its main space traffic management center. (3/5)

Has Suborbital's Time Finally Arrived? (Source: Space Review)
For the last several years reusable suborbital vehicle developers have promised that they'll be ready to begin flights in the next year or two, only to push those schedules back. Jeff Foust reports on progress that those companies are making, which could finally mean those flights really are right around the corner. Visit to view the article. (3/5)

Red Lines in Outer Space (Source: Space Review)
An important element of space security is deterrence, but what should the "red lines" be that a potential adversary would cross to trigger a response? Matthew Kleiman and Sonia McNeil discuss the importance of setting such red lines as part of a space code of conduct. Visit to view the article. (3/5)

Out of Sight But Not Out of Mind (Source: Space Review)
Detecting and studying underground facilities has been in the news given concerns about Iran's nuclear programs. Dwayne Day examines the roles satellites play in such studies based on Cold War and more recent experience, and their limitations. Visit to view the article. (3/5)

Jim Royston Named Interim Director of CASIS (Source: CASIS)
Jim Royston was named interim director for the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) – the non-profit entity selected in 2011 by NASA to maximize utilization of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. The appointment comes following the resignation of Dr. Jeanne Becker, who was hired as director of the organization in fall 2011.

The Board received Dr. Becker’s resignation last week and accepted it as a result of ongoing disputes in relation to the pace and direction of the implementation of CASIS’ mission. The Board has now established an Executive Office of the Chairman within CASIS to drive the organization toward rapid development during this period. Royston has stepped down from his current role as CASIS Director of Strategy and Planning to assume the interim role. He holds considerable executive leadership experience and will provide day-to-day direction to the staff of CASIS.

Howard Haug, a member of the CASIS Board of Directors, who also has considerable executive leadership and operational experience will assist Royston as Executive Officer, to ensure the continued, aggressive roll out of CASIS in the marketplace. The CASIS Board of Directors will immediately initiate a national search for a qualified executive to lead the organization. (3/5)

Whatever Happened to the National Aero-Space Plane? (Source: Lanius Blog)
From almost the first flight of the Space Shuttle in 1981, NASA realized that it would need to replace its fleet in the first part of the twenty-first century. Understanding that it took almost a decade to build a new space vehicle, NASA pursued several efforts to replace the shuttle in the 1980s and 1990s.

In the 1980s NASA worked with the DoD on a single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) vehicle for human space access. If there is a “holy grail” of spaceflight it is the desire for reusable SSTO technology, essentially a vehicle that can take off, fly into orbit, perform its mission, and return to Earth landing like an airplane. This is an exceptionally difficult flight regime with a myriad of challenges relating to propulsion, materials, aerodynamics, and guidance and control.

Fueled by the realization the Space Shuttle could not deliver on its early expectations, DoD leaders pressed for the development of a hypersonic spaceplane. With the administration of Ronald Reagan and its associated military buildup, Tony DuPont, head of DuPont Aerospace, offered an unsolicited proposal to DARPA to design a hypersonic vehicle powered by a hybrid integrated engine of scramjets and rockets. DARPA liked the idea, and funded it as a “black” program code-named “Copper Canyon” between 1983 and 1985. Click here. (3/5)

FCC Casts Uncertainty on Dish’s Wireless Plan (Source: Space News)
U.S. regulators on March 2 denied a request by Dish Network Corp. to bypass rules on the creation of a satellite-terrestrial wireless broadband network in the United States, deferring the issue to a future regulatory ruling even as they approved Dish’s purchase of two bankrupt satellite companies.

It was unclear whether the move by the FCC represented a serious blow to Dish’s plans to operate a 2-gigahertz, or S-band, wireless broadband network using satellites purchased in bankruptcy proceedings of DBSD North America and TerreStar Networks. Neither of the S-band mobile communications companies had been able to survive despite having a combined 40 megahertz of spectrum. (3/5)

Ukraine Ranks in Top 5 for Space Launches (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Ukrainian State Space Agency informed that in 2011 Ukraine joined China, the EU, Russia, and the USA becoming one of the top five space rocket launching countries in the world. Since 1991 Ukraine grew into a significant player in the field of space industry, having launched 125 rockets and delivered into orbit 238 satellites that belonged to 19 countries.

As of today Ukraine has launched its rockets from four space launch facilities across the globe. By 2013, the country will start using the fifth launching platform for rocket launches as a joint Ukrainian-Brazilian project Alcantara Cyclone Space will be complete. The binational project will provide a launching facility in one of the most advantageous locations on the planet. (3/5)

Orion Undergoes More Testing in the Desert (Source: Bay Area Citizen)
NASA has successfully conducted another drop test of the Orion crew vehicle's entry, descent and landing parachutes high above the Arizona desert in preparation for the vehicle's orbital flight test in 2014. An Air Force C-17 dropped a test version of Orion from an altitude of 25,000 feet above the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona. Orion's drogue chutes were deployed between 15,000 and 20,000 feet, followed by the pilot parachutes, which deployed the main landing parachutes.

Orion landed on the desert floor at a speed of almost 17 mph, well below the maximum designed touchdown speed of the spacecraft. The test examined how Orion's wake, the disturbance of the air flow behind the vehicle, would affect the performance of the parachute system. Parachutes perform optimally in smooth air that allows proper lift. A wake of choppy air can reduce parachute inflation. The test was the first to create a wake mimicking the full-size Orion vehicle and complete system. (3/5)

Rocketry Team Aims for a Mile-High Launch at Alabama Competition (Source: Daily Nebraskan)
One mile. No more, no less. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln rocketry team's recently finished 10-foot-tall rocket will launch at a collegiate competition on April 20 in Huntsville. "The objective of the competition is to design, build and launch a rocket to one mile in altitude," said Matt Mahlin, the rocketry team leader and senior mechanical engineering student who plans to attend graduate school in the fall.

Mahlin said judges at the competition take points off for every foot above or below one mile the rocket goes.
"So basically, the goal is to reach exactly 5,280 feet," he said. The team members will be competing against 42 other universities, including several Big Ten schools, including the University of Minnesota and Michigan State University. (3/5)

North Carolina Students Compete in NASA Challenge (Source: AP)
Two New Bridge Middle School students were not only bold enough to embrace a Real World Challenge set by NASA, but they did so well they are now among 10 groups of high school and middle school students nationwide selected to move on to compete at the next level. In October, James McBroom and Alexandra Kirk, both eight graders, with the help of seventh grade science teacher Margie Anderson and another team of five students began participating in the NASA Engineering Real World Design Challenge to design a zero-gravity foot for the Robonaut 2 used on the International Space Station. (3/5)

China to Launch Moon-Landing Orbiter in 2013 (Source: Xinhua)
China's third lunar probe, Chang'e-3, is expected to be launched next year and conduct a moon landing and lunar explorations, its designer said. Different from the previous two orbiters, Chang'e-3 has "legs" to support the spacecraft in landing, said Ye Peijian, chief commander of Chang'e-3 at China Academy of Space Technology. The orbiter will carry a lunar rover and other instruments for territory surveys, living conditions assessment, and space observations. (3/5)

On LightSquared, Defense Department Official Urged Working With GPS Lobby (Source: Politico)
A Department of Defense official urged his colleagues in 2010 to "synch up" with the GPS industry in order to defeat LightSquared's plans to build the nation's first wholesale broadband network, according to an email obtained by POLITICO. The email came as the Global Positioning System Industry Council was preparing to brief NTIA — the White House technical advisers — on LightSquared's proposal.

"We need to synch up with them prior to them briefing NTIA to make sure we are in lock step," the DoD official wrote to colleagues in the Dec. 29, 2010, email. He added: "Especially since they are our allies." A spectrum expert close to the situation leaked the emails to POLITICO. LightSquared has argued that it was treated unfairly in the testing process, and the email is sure to provide the company new ammunition. (3/5)

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