June 12, 2012

Space Tech Helps Coloradoans Locate Beer, Get Deals (Source: Space Foundation)
Prepare now for summer fun and let space help you locate the beer! The 6th Edition Beer Drinker's Guide to Colorado, published by Motion Pixel Lab, Inc., and recognized by the Colorado Springs-based Space Foundation's Space Certification™ program as a Certified Imagination Product, is available now.

The 27" X 39" full-color map "pintpoints" the locations of 168 brewing operation across Colorado and includes information on state and national parks, ski areas, historic bars, notable beer bars and coupons for free beer. The map was developed using two kinds of space technology: digital terrain data gathered by Space Shuttle-borne radar was used to create the topo-physical relief map and global positioning system (GPS) data. (6/12)

Researchers Pursue Multiple Routes to Reusable Rockets (Source: Flight Global)
For half a century, the most economical way of launching into orbit was to use an expendable multi-stage launch vehicle. Single-stage rockets simply did not have the performance or low enough structural weight to carry a significant payload to orbital velocity. However, designers knew that expendable rocket engines and stages do not come cheap, even with a production line, and that a having a reusable rocket would be ideal.

As expendable rocket systems reach maturity, rocket designers are examining what should come next. Despite past failures, the dream of having airline style operations with launch vehicles achieving high utilisation continues to intrigue engineers. Advances in materials and engine technologies led some designers to consider that single-stage-to-orbit reusable operations could be possible. After flirting with a jet-scramjet-rocket design called the National Aerospace Plane (NASP) and its scramjet-powered X-30 prototype, NASA came up with the X-33 VentureStar precursor and supported the further development of a Delta Clipper (DC-X).

However, technology failures, combined with payload limitations, meant derivative single-stage-to-orbit reusable systems were unlikely to become a reality, and both programs were cancelled. Nevertheless, the dream of economic reusable launch vehicles persists. Click here. (6/12)

Future of EELVs Hangs in the Balance (Source: Flight Global)
For better or worse, the future of US military and strategic spaceflight is tied closely to two rockets: Lockheed Martin's Atlas V and Boeing's Delta IV - both evolved expendable launch vehicles (EELVs) marketed and flown by United Launch Alliance (ULA). ULA has a virtual monopoly over large US government launches, which represent the largest market in the world. Cost has been an issue. In a breach of the Nunn-McCurdy Act, per-unit costs have come in 58% above those initially advertised, triggering reviews.

Would-be competitors, notably SpaceX, have used the high costs as an argument for their own, less expensive services. But ULA looks immune to competition for the foreseeable future. Its reliability record has been excellent - Atlas V has a 100% success rate since introduction in 2002 and there has been just one Delta IV failure, in 2004 - and government criteria for new entrants call for a daunting number of successful launches for some categories of payload. Click here. (6/12)

New Players Thrusting Forward in Space Game (Source: Flight Global)
From the International Space Station to orbital science and deep-space exploration, European, Russian and US space programs represent the bulk of regular launch and operations activity. But new and rising space players are starting to shape their own agendas, with ambitious plans for scientific and commercial missions, supported by indigenous launcher and spacecraft development. We survey the main nations to watch in the coming decade, China, India, South Korea, Japan, Iran, Indonesia, and Brazil. Click here. (6/12)

Virgin Galactic Looks to the Stars (Source: Flight Global)
Virgin Galactic's decade-long project to open the age of suborbital spaceflight for fare-paying passengers got a shot in the arm last month with a US Federal Aviation Administration green light for rocket-powered test flights of SpaceShipTwo. With an FAA experimental launch permit in hand, Virgin hopes that by year-end it will see the first powered flights of SpaceShipTwo, which is carried to 50,000ft (15,250m) by its twin-fuselage carrier aircraft WhiteKnightTwo before release.

Drop tests conducted to date have verified SS2's capability to glide to a runway landing. But for flights into suborbital space, SS2 will engage its own rocket power after release to reach Mach 3.5 and climb beyond the atmosphere's official 100km (54nm) frontier to a maximum altitude of about 110km. The six passengers and two pilots will experience about 6min of weightlessness - and stunning views - before re-entry and glide back to the 10,000ft runway at Spaceport America.

A maiden voyage into space should closely follow the advent of powered flight testing, with the first paying passengers getting their taste of space some time in 2013, after earning a commercial permit for a suborbital reusable vehicle from the FAA. The plan is to run more drop tests this summer, to evaluate some new equipment and continue with the subsonic aerodynamics testing that began with SS2's first glide flight in October 2010. (6/12)

Lockheed Martin Developing AXL Satcom (Source: Aviation Week)
The future of communication satellites appears headed toward larger, more powerful models, but satellite manufacturers will still have to keep within the weight parameters of available satellite launchers. Lockheed Martin is developing the AXL, the next generation of its A2100 satellite and one that will be even larger than earlier models in its commercial satellite family. The AXL is already in Lockheed Martin's line-up of government and military satellites, but the company is now working to bring AXL into the commercial market. (6/12)

Space Florida's DiBello 'Optimistic' About Florida's Aerospace Industry (Source: Florida Today)
Space Florida's president sees the area's post-shuttle employment stabilizing and starting to rebound soon. "I am optimistic now that we’re at a point right now where we are replacing jobs faster than we’re going to be losing them," Frank DiBello said today. "The potential for growth in Florida’s aerospace sector really has never been better," DiBello said.

DiBello discussed efforts to diversify the state's space industry after the space shuttle era, including the transition to new NASA programs, a focus on microgravity research, attracting suborbital and small launch vehicles and development of applications flown in space and on unmanned aircraft systems. (6/12)

Sale of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne ‘Imminent’ (Source: Los Angeles Daily News)
A private investor group is in talks with United Technologies Corp. to buy rocket maker Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, and a deal may be announced soon. Kenn Phillips, vice president of the Valley Economic Alliance, who has been tracking developments with Rocketdyne, said, “What we have heard from the aerospace community is that the sale is imminent. They all said it was great.” Phillips said the investment group is “interested in retaining the company on its current site” in Canoga Park, Calif., and “is not interested in spinning off parts of the company.” (6/12)

Bradbury Revered In Space Exploration Community (Source: NPR)
When Ray Bradbury died this week, he was hailed as one of science fiction's great writers. Best known for works like "The Martian Chronicles," Bradbury himself didn't think science fiction was a good label for his work. He said science fiction was about what could happen, and believed most of his work was actually fantasy. And yet, in the real world of space exploration, Bradbury was revered. Science writer Andrew Chaikin, for one, considers Bradbury the poet laureate of space exploration. Click here. (6/12)

Why the Wall Street Journal is Dead Wrong about Asteroid Mining (Source: Money Morning)
Asteroid mining hasn't even gotten off the ground yet. But it's already drawing some bad - and very misguided - press. A new startup wants to mine asteroids for resources that could be worth trillions. Just one of these rocks the size of an art museum could be worth $100 billion. Not only does the new firm have the backing of several billionaires, it also has the support of the U.S. government.

And let's not forget our friends across the pond... This month, the European Space Agency will begin training a team to land on one of these giant space rocks and return with samples for researchers to study. They want to tap asteroids for metals and minerals, too. Clearly, some very bright leaders all over the world believe "mining the sky" will be a key part of our future.

But in a story last Tuesday, none other than The Wall Street Journal tried to cast doubt on the whole concept. The headline says it all: "Exhausting Earth's Resources? Not So Fast." The central part of the report is that Earth has more resources than we can dig up in decades. As a long-time Journal reader, I have to say I was surprised the writer was so naive. As I see it, the Journal was bending over backwards to support the current, terrestrial mining industry. Click here. (6/12)

NASA Hosts Virginia Governor's Aerospace Council (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA Langley Research Center will host for the first time the Virginia Governor's Aerospace Advisory Council meeting on Tuesday, June 12. Following a morning business meeting and lunch, council members will tour NASA Langley facilities beginning at 12:30 p.m. The Aerospace Advisory Council advises the governor on policy and funding to promote aerospace and the space exploration industry in Virginia. There are 19 council members; NASA Langley Center Director Lesa Roe is an active, non-voting member. Click here. (6/12)

UKSA Funds Technology Pathfinder Projects (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Tests on ‘green’ propellants for space propulsion, the demonstration of pultruded manufacturing of spacecraft components and a feasibility study into the use of Europe’s new radioisotope power systems for space are among the ten winners in the UK Space Agency’s latest competition within the National Space Technology Program (NSTP). The UK Space Agency is granting £0.5M [$775,450] to industry and academia following a call to the UK space community for innovative ideas in space technology research and development. (6/12)

Orbital Sciences Ready for ISS (Source: WIRED)
With a few decades of space launch experience already under its belt, the Orbital Sciences Corporation is next up to demonstrate cargo delivery capabilities to the International Space Station. With so much attention focused on SpaceX’s successful demonstration flight last month, it might be easy to forget Elon Musk’s company is just one of two receiving investments from NASA as part of its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. And unlike upstart SpaceX, the other company in the COTS program is a veteran of the commercial space industry.

Orbital Sciences Corporation is a 30-year-old firm with more than 60 launches to space using its own rockets, and more than 125 satellites delivered to orbit. The company was founded in 1982 by a trio of Harvard Business School friends who thought a commercial company could provide space products and launch services in a much more affordable way than what was available at the time. “COTS is exactly what the company was founded to do,” says Orbital spokesman Barry Beneski. (6/12)

Ariane 5 Mission with EchoStar XVII and MSG-3 Rescheduled for July 5 (Source: Arianespace)
Arianespace’s third Ariane 5 launch of 2012 has been rescheduled for the evening of July 5, allowing for complementary checks to be performed on one of the heavy-lift mission’s two satellite passengers. With this new planning, liftoff is scheduled at the start of a 29-minute launch window that opens at 6:36 p.m. local time in French Guiana. (6/12)

NASA Mars Rover Team Aims for Landing Closer to Prime Science Site (Source: Space Daily)
NASA has narrowed the target for its most advanced Mars rover, Curiosity, which will land on the Red Planet in August. The car-sized rover will arrive closer to its ultimate destination for science operations, but also closer to the foot of a mountain slope that poses a landing hazard. It was possible to adjust landing plans because of increased confidence in precision landing technology aboard the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft, which is carrying the Curiosity rover. (6/12)

NASA Rover Will Contaminate Its Samples of Mars (Source: Science)
The Curiosity rover will definitely find evidence of an advanced civilization if it lands safely on Mars. That's because any rock samples the rover drills will be contaminated with bits of Teflon from the rover's machinery, NASA announced. That problematic bit of information was buried among news that the rover is otherwise in great shape for its arrival at Mars on 6 August.

Curiosity's $2.5-billion mission includes searching for the carbon-containing molecular remains of any life that inhabited ancient Mars. The rover's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrumentation, for instance, will study samples drilled or scooped from the martian surface. The drill assembly repeatedly bangs a drill bit into the rock to extract a sample, a procedure thoroughly tested mechanically before the drill was accepted for flight on the rover.
But, it later turned out, that action also rubs bits of Teflon-—the familiar polymer of nonstick fry pans made of carbon and fluorine atoms-—off of two seals in the drill assembly. The bits of Teflon can then mix with the sample, which will be vaporized for analysis. The problem for the scientists is that Teflon is two-thirds carbon—-the same element they are looking for on Mars. (6/12)

Space Food Cooked Up for Indian Astronauts (Source: Open Magazine)
Dr K Radhakrishna, director of the Defense Food Research Laboratory (DFRL) in Mysore, was put in charge of another mission: preparing an Indian menu suitable for space. The first items of the space menu are now ready—tiny idlis, the size of Rs 2 coins, accompanied by flaming orange sambhar powder and creamy coconut chutney dust. The idlis are cooked and dried using infrared radiation at a temperature of 700ยบ C, and then further dried by microwaving. The moisture is zapped out of them, but not the taste, smell or nutrients. “They do, however, lose some of their colour,” says Radhakrishna. (6/12)

Chinese Female Taikonauts: They're Both Out of This World (Source: The Standard)
Two air force rivals are keeping their fingers crossed as the countdown ticks for China's first female astronaut to blast off into space. Either Wang Yaping or Liu Yang - selected among the first batch of women astronauts - will be in the three-person crew to launch aboard the Shenzhou-9 as early as Saturday, Xinhua News Agency said. Each waits anxiously to see who will be the chosen one.

Wang, married to an air force pilot, was born in 1980 in the coastal city of Yantai, Shandong. Liu, who is single, was born in 1978 in Zhengzhou, Henan province. Both have served in the PLAAF 13th Air Division - Liu as a transport pilot and Wang as a cargo pilot. If all goes well with the launch, the Shenzhou-9 will dock with China's orbiting space laboratory, making the nation the third after the United States and Russia to complete a manned space docking. Click here. (6/12)
CU-Boulder Researchers Catalog More Than 635,000 Martian Craters (Source: CU-Boulder)
It’s no secret that Mars is a beaten and battered planet -- astronomers have been peering for centuries at the violent impact craters created by cosmic buckshot pounding its surface over billions of years. But just how beat up is it? Really beat up, according to a University of Colorado Boulder research team that recently finished counting, outlining and cataloging a staggering 635,000 impact craters on Mars that are roughly a kilometer or more in diameter.

As the largest single database ever compiled of impacts on a planet or moon in our solar system, the new information will be of help in dating the ages of particular regions of Mars, said CU-Boulder postdoctoral researcher Stuart Robbins, who led the effort. The new crater atlas also should help researchers better understand the history of water volcanism on Mars through time, as well as the planet’s potential for past habitability by primitive life, he said. (6/12)

Hawaii Telescope Sees What Could be Oldest Galaxy (Source: AP)
A team of Japanese astronomers using telescopes on Hawaii say they've seen the oldest galaxy, a discovery that's competing with other "earliest galaxy" claims. The Japanese team calculates its galaxy was formed 12.91 billion light-years ago, and their research will be published in the Astrophysical Journal. The scientists with the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan used the Subaru and Keck telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea. (6/12)

Green Light for World's Biggest Optical Telescope (Source: Reuters)
A 1.1 billion-euro project to build the world's largest optical telescope will go ahead after the European organization overseeing it said it won backing from most of its members. The European Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) will directly image planets outside the solar system and those orbiting other suns in so-called "habitable zones" to perhaps answer the question of whether there is life elsewhere in the universe. It will use a mirror 39 meters in diameter that will give a more detailed and deeper view of the universe than ever before. Most large ground-based telescopes currently have mirrors eight to 10 meters across. (6/12)

The Pressure is On for Aquanauts (Source: ESA)
A splashdown in the ocean used to mark the end of an astronaut’s mission. For ESA astronaut Timothy Peake and his crewmates, their mission will have just started. Today, some time during 11:00–13:00 GMT, Tim will dive to an underwater base off the coast of Florida. Neemo missions train astronauts for life in space. Living and working in an underwater base is similar to space stations. During the 10-day mission, Tim and his five crewmates will live in cramped conditions, perform ‘waterwalks’ and will have to solve problems as a team. (6/11)

Ad Astra Eyes SpaceX Commercial Model For Deep Space (Source: Aviation Week)
The success of the SpaceX/Dragon resupply mission to the International Space Station has not been lost on Ad Astra Rocket Co., a seven-year-old venture focused on the development of advanced electric plasma propulsion systems for commercial in-space transportation. Ad Astra envisions a similar NASA-supported initiative to foster the next step beyond orbital cargo missions — the private sector delivery of supplies to the Moon’s L-1 and L-2 Lagrange points, asteroids and to Mars orbit powered by the company’s Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) in support of future human deep-space exploration. (6/6)

No comments: