May 17, 2012

Spy Satellite Launched From Russia on Soyuz Booster (Source:
Russia launched a Soyuz rocket Thursday with a clandestine photo surveillance satellite designed to collect intelligence on strategic sites around the world for defense purposes. The Soyuz-U launcher lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia at 1405 GMT (10:05 a.m. EDT), 6:05 p.m. Moscow time. The Plesetsk launch site is a military-run facility in Arkhangelsk oblast. (5/17)

After This Weekend's Launch, Here's What's Next For SpaceX (Source: Forbes)
After a few minor delays, the SpaceX Dragon is waiting for its chance on Saturday to be the first private spacecraft to berth with the International Space Station. If all goes well, this will be a huge step forward for both SpaceX and for private space exploration generally. But that huge step will only be a first step. And while Elon Musk mentioned to me last month that he hopes one day to send a craft to Mars, there’s a lot of work between now and then. Here’s a few things that the company has on its plate. Click here. (5/17)

Amendment to Defense Bill Allows President To Ease Satellite Export Restrictions (Source: Space News)
A measure giving the U.S. president the authority to ease export restrictions for commercial satellites and related components has made it into the defense authorization bill now under consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives. The amendment, introduced by Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, was adopted as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY-2013 (H.R. 4310).

It is similar to legislation originally drafted by Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and introduced late last year. Berman applauded the amendment and credited Reps. Smith and Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), the Armed Services Committee chairman, for getting the amendment attached to the bill. The bill, which U.S. President Barack Obama has threatened to veto over a variety of provisions unrelated to the satellite-export issue, could be voted on as soon as May 18. (5/17)

Russia Folds Soyuz-U Launch Program (Source: RIA Novosti)
The launch of a Soyuz-U carrier rocket from the Plesetsk Space Center in northern Russia on Thursday was the last in its 40-year history, spokesman for Russia’s Space Forces Col. Alexei Zolotukhin said. The Soyuz-U orbited on Thursday a Cosmos-series reconnaissance satellite to expand Russia’s Oko (Eye) orbital missile early warning network, which consists of about 70 satellites. (5/17)

Monster Sunspot's Solar Flare Strong Enough to Confuse Satellites (Source:
An enormous sunspot unleashed a powerful solar flare late Wednesday (May 16), triggering a radiation storm intense enough to interfere with some satellites orbiting Earth, space weather experts said. The flare erupted from monster sunspot complex AR 1476, which stretches about 60,000 miles (100,000 kilometers) from end to end, at 9:47 p.m. EDT Wednesday (0147 GMT Thursday). The flare spawned a class S2 solar radiation storm around our planet, according to the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC), a branch of NOAA. (5/17)

New Research Could Power Rocket Trip to Mars in Weeks, Not Months (Source: Huntsville Times)
Huntsville scientists will be firing atoms into atoms on Redstone Arsenal this summer as they try to develop a small, lightweight pulsed nuclear fusion power system. "If this works," says Dr. Jason Cassibry, an associate professor of engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, "we could reach Mars in six to eight weeks instead of six to eight months."

Cassibry is talking about the project's ultimate goal. Building a fusion engine will take much longer than a summer. But cutting the travel time to the Red Planet would solve many of the journey's problems. It would reduce the strain of weightlessness on astronaut's bodies - they're only allowed to spend about six months on the International Space Station now - and it would reduce the food and water they need to take on the trip, just to name a few. (5/17)

NASA's Economic Impact in Alabama Last Year Was $2.8 Billion (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA's economic impact in Alabama last year was $2.8 billion. Marshall Space Flight Center Acting Director Gene Goldman told an annual community briefing that the center awarded $817 million in contracts to state companies, and 26 percent of the companies were small businesses. He spoke to several hundred industry and government leaders at the annual Marshall Center Director's Breakfast. (5/17)

Astronaut Creates First Mailing Address in Space (Source: PopSci)
The International Space Station is in constant motion, whipping around the Earth at some 17,000 miles per hour. But according to current ISS inhabitant and NASA astronaut Don Pettit, there’s no reason why a bullet-fast orbital space station with no fixed location shouldn’t have a fixed mailing address--after all, Navy ships have mailing addresses, as do remote outposts like McMurdo Station in Antarctica--and he’s devised just such a postal nomenclature to satisfy this need via his NASA blog.

"It occurred to me that my address should be: Node 2, Deck 5, ISS, LEO 51.603." In this system, the “zip code” is 51.603, the first three digits representing the orbital inclination (which should help future space couriers locate the address on orbit) and the last two digits being a designator for the ISS itself. The station is the third such space station at this orbital location, after the Salyut series of stations and Mir. Pettit reasons that this nomenclature should work until the orbit becomes clogged with up to 99 space stations. (5/17)

Commercial Spaceflight Federation President on Historic SpaceX Launch (Source: WIRED)
Q: Will this launch be a game-changer for how spaceflight is done? A: In practical terms, it’s another step that SpaceX is ready to take. Obviously there have been other companies taking similar steps in commercial spaceflight. So this is one in a series of steps toward a common goal. Emotionally, it’s a big deal. If it’s a spectacular success, there will be a lot of high fiving and pats on the back, and they will be very well deserved. If it’s a failure, we can take comfort in the fact that it’s just a step. This is a challenging test program and that’s how you learn. (5/17)

Larry Williams (Former SpaceX Executive) on Historic SpaceX Launch (Source: WIRED)
Q: Will this launch be a big game changer for how spaceflight is done? A: Essentially what SpaceX is doing is modeling what Russia has done with its Progress system. So what makes this a game changer? The United States will have its own capability, which we have not had. The space shuttle was a very different type of vehicle. Not having to rely on another country is important from a national security perspective.

There’s some criticism that this capability already exists, that it’s redundant. Well, it has not existed at this price point. A cargo flight to the space station on a Dragon capsule/Falcon 9 combination is around $100 million. They’re looking at doing a crewed mission for $120 million. The $20 million difference is to make principally the same vehicle but with $20 million worth of upgrades to accommodate passengers. Obviously, the non-recurring engineering cost to get there isn’t that small. That will take about $1 billion in additional investments. (5/17)

NASA Announces 2012 Space Technology Research Fellowship Grants (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected the 2012 class of Space Technology Research Fellows. Forty-eight students will receive graduate student fellowships from NASA's Space Technology Program to pursue master’s or doctoral degrees in relevant space technology disciplines at their respective institutions. Through the Space Technology Research Fellowships Program, NASA is providing the nation with a pipeline of highly skilled engineers and technologists to improve U.S. competitiveness while developing the intellectual and technological foundation needed for future science and exploration missions. (5/17)

NASA Report: 4,700 Asteroids Pose Tmpact Hazard to Earth (Source: Russia Today)
About 4,700 asteroids of 100 meters diameter and larger represent significant threat to Earth in case of orbit intersection, a recent NASA report suggests. And only 30 percent of them have been located so far, while the rest remain under the radar. Potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs) are those massive enough to pass through Earth’s atmosphere without burning to dust and smash to the ground, causing widespread damage. Intersection of a PHA’s orbit with Earth’s could potentially lead to a destructive collision, the scale of which depends solely on the size of space rock and its composition. (5/17)

Japan Launches H-2A Rocket Carrying South Korean Satellite (Source: Xinhua)
Japan successfully launched into space early on Friday an H-2A rocket carrying four satellites including a South Korean one, local media reported. The H-2A rocket lifted off from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)'s Tanegashima Space Center on Tanegashima Island in southwestern Kagoshima Prefecture at 1:39 a.m. local time Friday. About 16 minutes after liftoff, the Arirang 3 satellite developed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute separated from the rocket at an altitude of about 680 kilomters. (5/17)

Three Rockets Launch Six Satellites (Source: Flight Global)
Three rockets launched on the same day from three separate facilities have successfully put six satellites into orbit. The first, a Soyuz U launched from Russia's Plesetsk military spaceport, lofted a reconnaissance satellite into low earth orbit (LEO) for the Russian military. Shortly after, a Japanese H-IIA launched from Tanegashima Space Center, carrying four satellites to orbit.

Finally, a Proton launched from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, carrying Nimiq 6 to geosynchronous transfer orbit. Nimiq will provide Ku-band direct broadcasting television for Canadian users. The Breeze-M upper stage must make a series of burns, altogether taking roughly nine hours to reach the separation point. (5/17)

NASA: Competition is Key to Private Space Race (Source: AFP)
Competition is vital to the race among private companies to replace the space shuttle, NASA said Thursday, after Congress called for the US space agency to fund a single company. "We believe that competition is key to accelerating this program," said NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver in a conference call with reporters.
"We are ushering in a new era that embraces the innovation of the private sector along with the importance of what we do here in the government."

The renewed debate over how to quickly restore US access to the International Space Station following the shuttle's retirement comes as California-based SpaceX is preparing for its first cargo test flight to the orbiting lab on Saturday. But with plans for a crew-capable spacecraft not expected before the 2015-2017 timeframe, and NASA pouring hundreds of millions of dollars in seed money into four private companies, some lawmakers have urged a narrower process. (5/17)

Profile of SpaceX's Gwynne Shotwell (Source: McCormick)
Growing up, Gwynne Shotwell was always good at math and science, and she was always 
curious about how things worked. But when she began thinking about a career in high school, Shotwell couldn’t see herself using her strengths in engineering. She was terrified of becoming, 
well, nerdy. So how did she go on to receive both an undergraduate and master’s degree from McCormick?

“That was my mom’s fault,” she says. Shotwell’s mother took her to a Society of Women Engineers panel for teenage girls, and there she met a female mechanical engineer who owned her own business. “I loved what she had to say, loved her perspective—and she wasn’t all that nerdy,” Shotwell says. “I thought, ‘It’s okay to be a woman and an engineer.’”

The choice has served her well: Shotwell is now president of SpaceX, one of the most innovative companies in the country. A space transport company started by PayPal founder Elon Musk, SpaceX has developed two space launch vehicles—Falcon 1 and Falcon 9—and the Dragon spacecraft, which will deliver cargo to the International Space Station for NASA. In December 2010 SpaceX became the first private company to successfully launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft. Click here. (5/17)

U.S. House Unanimously Approves Posey Commercial Space Legislation (Source: Rep. Bill Posey)
Today the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill introduced by Congressman Bill Posey (R-FL) as an Amendment to H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act, that enables the Department of Defense (DoD) to work with Space Florida and commercial companies to improve space launch infrastructure to better meet national security and commercial space launch needs.

“This Amendment will give commercial space companies an incentive to spend their money here and do business here in Florida and around the U.S. instead of places like Russia and China, which have been siphoning off our commercial space business,” said Posey. “Last year, according to the Space Foundation, the U.S. conducted zero commercial space launches while Russia completed 10 commercial launches and China had 2. Rolling back the red tape and enabling Defense Department, Space Florida, and the commercial sector to collaborate and work together is just a common sense way to make America more competitive.”

“This new relationship will assure a more robust partnership between the State and the Pentagon, said Frank DiBello, President of Space Florida. “Through this legislation the taxpayer and the war-fighter will benefit as the commercial and military activity in Brevard move into a stronger and more diversified future.” (5/17)

The Most Profitable Asteroid Is... (Source: PhysOrg)
While Planetary Resources officials said they hope to identify a few promising targets within a decade, the initial answers to those questions are available now on a new website that estimates the costs and rewards of mining rocks in space. Called Asterank, the website uses available data from multiple scientific sources on asteroid mass and composition to try and compute which asteroids would be the best targets for mining operations. So, which asteroids are most profitable, valuable, easily accessible and cost effective? Click here to see the winners, according to Asterank. (5/17)

House Lawmakers at Odds Over Missile Defense (Source: Defense News)
The House Armed Services Committee is seeking expanded funding for U.S. missile defense plans, but the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense is pushing for a much smaller spending increase. And while the House Armed Services Committee has voted for funding increases for the ballistic missile submarine program, House appropriators have not. (5/15)

U.S. Lawmakers Seek To Accelerate SBIRS Capability (Source: Spcec News)
House appropriators recommended boosting the U.S. Air Force’s proposed missile warning satellite budget next year in order to make one of the system’s most advanced capabilities available sooner than currently planned. In its markup of the 2013 Pentagon spending bill, the House Appropriations defense subcommittee allocated $516 million to the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS), $68 million more than the Air Force requested. The bulk of the increase would go toward ground systems needed to process data collected by the satellites’ so-called staring sensors. (5/17)

Weird Science Launching on Private Space Capsule (Source:
The first private spacecraft ever to launch toward the International Space Station will be carrying a host of student science experiments when it blasts off Saturday (May 19), including projects looking at spiders in space and how microgravity affects wine. SpaceX's robotic Dragon capsule is slated to lift off early Saturday from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The flight is a demonstration mission, to see if Dragon and SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket are ready to begin a series of 12 contracted supply runs to the orbiting lab for NASA. (5/17)

A New Count of Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (Source: NASA)
Observations from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) have led to the best assessment yet of our solar system's population of potentially hazardous asteroids. Also known as "PHAs," these asteroids have orbits that come within five million miles (about eight million kilometers) of Earth, and they are big enough to survive passing through Earth's atmosphere and cause damage on a regional, or greater, scale.

The asteroid-hunting portion of the WISE mission, called NEOWISE, sampled 107 PHAs to make predictions about the population as a whole. Findings indicate there are roughly 4,700 PHAs, plus or minus 1,500, with diameters larger than 330 feet (about 100 meters). So far, an estimated 20 to 30 percent of these objects have been found. (5/17)

NASA’s Dawn Uncovers New Secrets About Vesta (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has confirmed that one of the largest objects in the Main Asteroid Belt is actually a tiny planet-like body that formed around a molten interior like the Earth, Mars, Venus and Mercury. Launched in 2007, Dawn has been orbiting Vesta since last July. From its vantage point over the object — believed to be one of the oldest in the Solar System — the spacecraft has returned a batch of data that reveal Vesta as perhaps the sole survivor of the period when everything solid in the proto-Solar System was crashing together as it swirled around the young Sun.

“It formed within 2 million years after the first solids formed in the Solar System, before Ceres formed, before the terrestrial planets formed, and when the concentration of radioactive material with short decay times generated enough heat within Vesta to cause melting,” says Carol Raymond of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “We now know that Vesta is the only layered planetary building block from the very earliest days of the Solar System.” Believed to be more than 4.5 billion years old, Vesta didn’t survive the period of “heavy bombardment” a little less than 4 billion years ago unscathed. Its original crust appears to have been pulverized, and its component minerals mixed together.

Two huge craters that overlay each other at the body’s south pole bear witness to the force of later collisions — one 2 billion years after the heavy bombardment and another a billion years after that. The one-off collision that created the younger crater — named Rheasilvia — excavated an estimated 250 cubic miles of material from Vesta, some of which has reached Earth in the form of meteorites rich in pyroxene. Before Dawn arrived at Vesta, scientists hypothesized that it was the largest single source of meteorites found on Earth — generating some 6% of the total — and mineral mapping by the spacecraft has confirmed that theory. (5/17)

DirecTV To Offer Internet Service Through ViaSat, Hughes (Source: Space News)
U.S. satellite television provider DirecTV on May 16 said it will provide bundled television and broadband Internet packages using ViaSat’s Exede satellite broadband service, powered by the ViaSat-1 Ka-band satellite, and the competing HughesNet Gen4 service to debut later this year. ViaSat-1, the world’s highest-throughput broadband satellite, has been in service since January. Hughes’ EchoStar 17, formerly named Jupiter, is a ViaSat-1 lookalike scheduled for launch in late June. (5/17)

Globalstar Loses Arbitration Case Against Satellite Builder (Source: Space News)
An arbitration panel has rejected mobile satellite services operator Globalstar’s claims against its satellite contractor, Thales Alenia Space, in a ruling that the two companies announced May 16 and 17, respectively. The decision of the American Arbitration Association, which apparently came earlier in the week, deals a serious blow to Globalstar’s already delicate financial position.

In addition to finding that Globalstar is not entitled to demand that Thales Alenia Space build more satellites under the favorable terms of a previous contract, the arbitrators ordered Globalstar to pay its prime contractor 53 million euros ($69 million) in contract termination charges by June 9. (5/17)

Russian Soyuz-U Launches Kobalt-M Satellite (Source:
In the first of three launches within the space of several hours, a Russian Soyuz-U kicked of a busy Thursday with the launch of the Kobalt-M spy satellite. Launch of the veteran rocket was conducted at launch pad 16/2 at the Plesetsk cosmodrome, with the lift off time given as 3:05pm GMT. This was the last Soyuz-U to launch from the Plesetsk launch site. (5/17)

How Space-Age Nostalgia Hobbles Our Future (Source: Slate)
Contrary to popular belief, public support for space exploration in the 1960s was far from universal. Legend has it that after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, Americans rallied behind the idea of a better, more technologically advanced future for all. This nationwide enthusiasm buoyed NASA’s Apollo program and propelled us to the moon. During his 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama invoked the popular idea of the “Sputnik moment” as he implored Congress to invest more in scientific research and education.

So what percentage of Americans in the 1960s do you suppose believed that the Apollo program was worth the time and resources devoted to it? Seventy percent? Eighty percent? In reality, it was less than 50 percent. “The Apollo program only had a majority public support—over 51 percent—for the few months around the 1969 moon landing. That’s it. Otherwise, it was less than 50 percent.” In a 1969 opinion poll taken after the lunar landing, just 53 percent of American adults believed that the moon excursion was worth the expense. In fact, during the nine years of the Apollo program, American support pretty much fluctuated between 35 percent and 45 percent.

The day after the moon landing, a number of Associated Press articles reflected the mixed public opinion about the historic event. One of the articles focused on the feelings of New Englanders and was generally positive, quoting people who called the achievement “amazing” and “unbelievable” but the piece also quoted people like Barbara C. Sauer from Portland, Maine, who said, “It’s really a good accomplishment, but the money should be spent here on earth.” The article also quotes Frederick W. Varney, a 50-year-old service station operator from Bangor, Maine, who said that he hope it does some good but, “I think it’s a waste of money.” (5/17)

Holding Company Exec to Grassley: Not Google's Planes at Ames (Source: The Hill)
An executive of the holding company owned by Google executives that leases a hangar at a government airfield responded on Wednesday to questions from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), saying Google has nothing to do with the aircraft in question. Ken Ambrose, vice president of H211, the holding company owned by Google executives Larry Page and Sergei Brin that owns several aircraft stored at California's Moffett Airfield, a former naval air station now operated by NASA, told Grassley in a letter that "these are not Google corporate aircraft. They are privately owned and operated by principal executives of the company."

Grassley had written to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, inquiring about "troubling allegations" regarding the fleet of aircraft owned by Google executives at the airfield. Ambrose also tells Grassley that H211 pays "above market rent" for the hangar at Moffett, and that the company has operated more than 150 scientific flights for NASA. A Google spokesman told The Hill that the aircraft are fitted with NASA equipment for these flights.

"At lease inception, we were advised of a plan to locate a full service Fixed Base Operator on the field which could sell services and fuel for our aircraft. NASA did not proceed with this plan, so we had to purchase our own fuel truck to support our 24/7 flight operations," he said. Ambrose also told Grassley that House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) has visited the field and has been briefed on the relationship. (5/17)

Space Historian's Perspective on SpaceX Launch (Source: WIREED)
Q: Will this launch be a big game changer for how spaceflight is done? A: Personally, I don’t see this test launch signifying a huge change. This is a test launch, so calling it a game changer is being premature. It’s more a small part of an evolutionary process where private companies become more involved in space travel.

Everyone should remember that any new spaceflight system needs to prove itself first. You need to get these things out into space and get them working safely before making big plans. NASA made big plans for the space shuttle, and they didn’t pan out the way anyone hoped. They wanted dozens of flights a year. If that was true we’d have people on Mars right now. So we need more realistic expectations. It’s way too soon to be making big claims for this launch or spaceflight system. (5/17)

SpaceX Launch a Big Deal (Source: SpaceKSC)
How big a deal is the SpaceX Dragon launch scheduled for Saturday May 19? On the scale of American spaceflight, comparisons can be drawn to various historical firsts, but let's begin with some context. Since the retirement of the Shuttle — announced in January 2004 and planned for after completion of the International Space Station — the U.S. has lacked a domestic option for delivering cargo and crew to the ISS.

Cargo delivery was not an immediate concern. The STS-135 Atlantis flight was added by the Obama administration to build up supplies until the commercial cargo vehicles were ready. Other ISS partners have a cargo capability — Russia (Progress), Japan (HTV-2) and the European Space Agency (ATV). None of those vehicles, however, has the capability of returning a payload to Earth from the ISS. They all burn up on re-entry.

The Dragon capsule was initially designed with the eventual intent of being a crewed ship, so a safe soft landing was always planned. This, then, is why the Dragon mission is "a big deal." Click here. (5/17)

Japan's H-2A Rocket Moves to Launch Pad (Source:
A Japanese H-2A rocket rolled on rail tracks from its assembly hangar to the launch pad for liftoff Thursday with a satellite to investigate Earth's water cycle and a South Korean payload to snap high-resolution pictures of the ground. Liftoff from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan is set for 1639 GMT (12:39 p.m. EDT) at the opening of a three-minute window. Click here for photos. (5/17)

Charlie Duke: I See the Moon as a Science Station in the Future (Source: The Independent)
“I think a Moon base is not necessary to get to Mars, but I think it will be helpful. It would give you a chance to develop and mature some systems; long duration, deep space stuff; and you’re close enough to get some help, via radio from Earth. Plus it’s a great place for science; astronomical observations in all wavelengths. I see the Moon as a science station in the future. You wouldn’t want to land on the Moon and launch to Mars. That would be very inefficient. [You would want to] build something in Earth orbit, launch it and be on your way.” (5/17)

Space Solar Power Offers Hope for Green Energy From Space (Source: Daily Mail)
On Earth, solar power has had a slow start, thanks to high prices and inefficient panels - but the first tests on 'solar satellites' offer hope of 'green energy' that actually works. Researchers at Stratchclyde University have already tested equipment in space, a first step for solar panels to collect energy and transfer it back to earth through microwaves or lasers. The researchers aim to produce a 'swarm' of satellites that could one day power whole cities.

Initially the tiny satellites wouldn't replace ordinary power grids - instead, they could swiftly resupply power to disaster areas or outlying districts that are difficult to reach. A 'receiver' on Earth would turn the precisely targeted microwave or laser beams into usable electricity. The idea of solar panels in space has been much discussed - but the new research proves that at least a small-scale version IS possible.

Dr Massimiliano Vasile, of the University of Strathclyde’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, who is leading the space based solar power research, said: ‘Space provides a fantastic source for collecting solar power and we have the advantage of being able to gather it regardless of the time of the day or indeed the weather conditions. (5/17)

Energy Part of U.S. Space & Rocket Center's Mission (Source:
To those who see the Space and Rocket Center’s mission as housing the artifacts and keeping alive the vision of America’s space program, the center’s new Net Zero energy conservation and sustainment program might seem somewhat out of place. But CEO Dr. Deborah Barnhart says the initiative is right at home with the center’s rocket displays and Space Camp activities.

She shows a visitor chapter and verse from the Alabama Space Science Exhibit Commission charter, empowering the commission “to establish an energy information and exhibit center in order to provide information to the public on research and development in the field of energy as developed by the National Aeronautic and Space Administration,” and a host of other agencies. (5/17)

NASA Glenn to Help Develop Equipment to Prevent Drunk Driving (Source: Crain's Cleveland Business)
Technology from NASA Glenn Research Center could one day be used to prevent drunk driving. The research center has struck an agreement to help Lifeloc Technologies of Colorado develop an improved sensor for the company's breath-testing equipment, which is used to determine whether a driver has had too much to drink.

The deal, valued at $31,000, is the first the federal agency has struck through a five-year Space Act Agreement between NASA and the Colorado Association for Manufacturing and Technology, according to a news release and information provided by a NASA Glenn spokeswoman. The agency, NASA Glenn included, lately has been making a bigger push to find commercial uses for space technology. (5/17)

California Museum Gets Big Gift to Build Shuttle Exhibit (Source: AP)
The California Science Museum said it has raised nearly half of the $200 million needed to build a permanent exhibit for the space shuttle Endeavour. The museum recently received a donation from the Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Oschin Family Foundation that will allow it to start the design phase of the project. The museum didn't disclose the amount of the gift, citing an agreement it made with the foundation.

"This is a huge boost. It gives a vote of confidence for the project" museum president Jeffrey Rudolph said Wednesday. Rudolph spent the past year fundraising and still has halfway to go to fulfill the museum's goal. The museum has received gifts from private foundations, corporations and individuals, but Rudolph said the latest donation was "very significant and truly transformative." The museum planned to introduce the foundation at an event Thursday that will be attended by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. (5/17)

Stellar Superflares' Trigger Challenged (Source: Science News)
Superflares are enormous stellar eruptions that dwarf the most energetic sneeze the sun is likely to produce. For more than a decade, astronomers thought these outbursts resulted from magnetic interactions between a star and a tightly orbiting, and therefore hot, Jupiter-size planet. But data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft suggest that while a magnetic trigger does ignite mega-eruptions on sunlike stars, snuggled-up Jupiters don’t appear to be necessary, a team of scientists from Japan reports. (5/17)

Mojave Spaceport Applies for FAA Grant to Buy Firefighting Equipment (Source: Parabolic Arc)
To deal with the challenges of new composite spacecraft being built and tested at the Mojave Air & Space Port, the East Kern Airport District has applied for a matching grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to purchase fire-fighting equipment that allow firefighters to rapidly bore a hole through the side of a vehicle and put out a fire inside of it.

The PyroLance Dual Firefighting and Piercing equipment would cost $47,500, which would be split equally ($23,750) between the FAA and the spaceport. Ten percent of the spaceport’s contribution is coming out of the rent of composite spacecraft builders at the facility as required under the grant program, spaceport CEO Stu Witt said on Tuesday. (5/17)

New Satellites Will Improve Tornado Warnings (Source: Pittsburgh Post Gazette)
There were 1,688 confirmed tornadoes in the U.S. last year. More than a quarter of those twisters struck in the South, where the hilly, forested terrain makes an approaching twister harder to spot than in the flat Midwest. Weather records also show that many of those rain-wrapped tornadoes often strike at night when they are especially harder to track and see. NASA and NOAA are now partnering to reduce the surprise of these killer storms by developing the next generation of weather satellites.

The next generation of Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites is scheduled to begin launching late in 2015. The "GOES-R series" weather satellites will have state-of-the-art instruments for improved scouting and tracking of these killer storms, even at night. With lightning detection from orbit and clearer pictures of cloud height, moisture and movement, the GOES-R satellites will improve meteorologists' ability to assess conditions that spawn tornadoes, and they are expected to give upward of 20 minutes lead time in tornado warnings. (5/17)

Weldon Could Join U.S. Senate Race to Unseat Bill Nelson (Source: Sunshine State News)
Connie Mack and George LeMieux may have to face another candidate in the Republican primary -- former U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon who represented parts of the Space Coast for almost a decade and a half in Congress. Reports emerged last week that Weldon was considering entering the primary and his team is working on a new website for a potential campaign. Sources said they expect the former congressman to announce a Senate bid after the website is set up. If he runs, Weldon is expected to attempt to run to the right of both LeMieux and Mack. (5/17)

From Astronaut-Hero To Space-Trucker (Source: Forbes)
The cast of “Alien,” in Ridley Scott’s 1979 sci-fi blockbuster, may actually be more akin to future space-farers than our citizen heroes from NASA’s Apollo era. After all, the film presents a view of space travel that is based as much on economics as wanderlust and this is arguably as it should be. How can anyone forget the hangdog eyes of Harry Dean Stanton, who so clearly is out that far in space solely for the cash? The crew of the Nostromo, the film’s ore-carrying cargo vessel under threat from a ravenous extraterrestrial, inherently understands that sometimes great profit only comes with great risk.

We all hope that there are more glory moments in our future, with a manned trip to Mars and scientific colonies on the moon. But the recent announcement by Planetary Resources, Inc. that it plans to mine Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) could also be a step in the right direction. As the startup company, backed in part by Google billionaires Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, notes, a solitary 500-meter asteroid could potentially reap the equivalent of all the Platinum Group Metals ever mined here on earth.

“After this [Planetary Resources] announcement, space travel is no longer rocket science,” said Chuck Black, the Toronto-based treasurer of the Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA). “It’s simply an adjunct of the mining industry with high upfront costs, long lead times before return on investment, and the strong possibility that any single venture will fail.” But Black notes, such ventures are also rife with great potential for profit. (5/17)

South Korea Set to Launch Multipurpose Satellite on Japanese Rocket (Source: Xinhua)
South Korea is set to launch a multipurpose satellite to carry out earth observation from a space center in Japan early Friday. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said in a statement that the Arirang-3 satellite is scheduled to take off at around 1:39 a.m. Friday from Tanegashima Space Center on Tanegashima Island in western Japan. The satellite will be carried into orbit by Japan's H-IIA rocket. (5/17)

Lockheed Martin Orbits 100th and 101st Commercial GEO Satellites (Source: Lockheed Martin)
The 100th and 101st Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] commercial geostationary communication satellites have been successfully placed in orbit Tuesday after a dual launch aboard an Ariane 5-ECA launch vehicle. Both satellites are based on Lockheed Martin’s A2100 geosynchronous satellite series. JCSAT-13 was manufactured for SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation of Japan and VINASAT-2 was manufactured for Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group (VNPT) of Vietnam. (5/17)

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