June 13, 2012

SpaceX Chief: Texas Lead Contender for Spaceport (Sources: AP, Houston Chronicle)
South Texas is the leading candidate for a launch site for the company that sent the world's first commercial supply ship to the International Space Station. SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk said he wants to build a spaceport near Brownsville. He said Wednesday he plans to talk to Texas Gov. Rick Perry about incentives and other issues. SpaceX also is considering sites in Florida and Puerto Rico. Here's a photo of Musk meeting with Gov. Perry.

“So, right now, Texas, the south coast of Texas is the lead candidate for that third launch site," said Musk. "And I’m actually flying to meet with the Governor later today and a number of people on the Texas legislature side to talk about that as well as any potential questions in the future about flying astronauts if we’re successful in winning future NASA business in that regard.” (6/13)

Yacht Manufacturer Moving to Space Coast, Will Employ Aerospace Workers (Source: EDC of ECF)
Legendary Yacht Bertram Yacht will relocate from Miami to a new facility in Merritt Island. Bertram Yacht will draw on the Space Coast's highly skilled labor force, particularly those with experience in the marine and aerospace sectors, and create 221 new jobs in Brevard County. At full employment, the company's projected total economic impact will be over $26.3 million per year. (6/13)

AIA and AAR Corp. Plan Aerospace Event on Space Coast (Source: EDC of ECF)
AAR Corp. and the Aerospace Industries Association are hosting an employee rally event on June 25 at the AAR Airlift facility in Melbourne. The Lt. Governor and/or a Congressional Representative are hosting a series of these events around the state to promote the importance of preserving American leadership in aerospace and defense. AIA began this campaign to educate business leaders, elected officials and the general public about the threat sequestration poses to our national security, economy and industrial base capabilities. (6/13)

Central Florida: An Innovative Solution for New U.S. Patent Office (Source: EDC of ECF)
Central Florida has a powerful opportunity to become the new home of one of two satellite locations of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast recognized this unique opportunity and has aggressively positioned our technologically-rich community to capture one of these important offices. By becoming a hub for intellectual property development, R&D investments and patent processing, we can further increase the technological advancements of our citizens.

It is clear the USPTO understands the importance of assertively advancing the mission of the U.S. to remain competitive globally with the likes of China and India. Working to eliminate the many challenges that exist in getting new technology circulating in the marketplace sends a strong message to world competition that the U.S. is intent on getting innovative ideas to market even faster, and we applaud the USPTO for its vision. (5/24)

ISS Cupola Hit by Minor MMOD Strike, Shutter Closed for Evaluations (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Window 2 on the Cupola module has been hit by a minor MicroMeteoroid and Orbital Debris (MMOD) strike. With the window’s protective shutter closed, per flight rules, ISS managers are evaluating photos of the damage – downlinked from the International Space Station (ISS) – before they are expected to give the crew clearance to reopen the shutter. (6/13)

Helium Balloon to Offer Near-Space Tourism (Source: Tech Stew)
With the growing interest in space tourism we now have another option that could be ready within a few years. Another form of space tourism is coming that uses a giant helium balloon and would offer stunning views of the horizon and dark of space. This is the promise of a Spanish company called Zero 2 Infinity. The designer tested the launch techniques on May 29th using a smaller version of their helium balloon along with its passenger pod. The test had to be stopped when wind gusts damaged the balloon's envelope. They are scheduled to repeat this test "soon" according to the video description.

Zero 2 Infinity is calling the balloon "bloon" and it would carry two pilots and four passengers in its pressurized pod as high as 22 miles (36 kilometers). It is still considered well below the 62-mile (100-kilometer) altitude that is considered the true edge of space but still provides quite a view of the Earth's curved horizon, the black of space and the thin atmosphere. Zero 2 Infinity claims that their final craft will offer travelers up to 25 seconds of zero-gravity along with lunar gravity and Martian gravity. No word on how this is achieved as of yet, but most likely through a form of free-fall. (6/13)

Giant Lake Detected Near Equator of Saturn's Moon Titan (Source: Florida Today)
In a surprise find, scientists say they have spotted hints of a methane-rich lake and several ponds near the equator of Saturn’s biggest moon. Lakes were previously spied near Titan’s polar regions. It was long thought that bodies of liquid could not exist near the tropics because they would evaporate. By measuring reflected sunlight from Titan’s surface and atmosphere, the international Cassini spacecraft detected a dark region near the landing site of Huygens, a companion probe that parachuted to Titan’s equator in 2005. (6/13)

When GPS Goes Down, Pentagon Still Wants a Way to Fight (Source: WIRED)
The navigational system used by the military for just about everything from guiding drones to dropping bombs is increasingly under threat of attack. Now, the Pentagon’s desperate to replace it. Or, at least, reinforce it enough to stave off a looming storm of strikes. That’s the thrust of a new venture from DARPA, the military’s premier research arm and the brains behind GPS’ initial development in the 1950s. DARPA's “All Source Positioning and Navigation (ASPN),” program is trying to “enable low-cost, robust and seamless navigation solutions … with or without GPS.”

The program is one part of a larger military effort that’s trying to steer the Pentagon away from its GPS dependency. Of course, there are already plenty of GPS alternatives available. Radio beacons, which transmit signals from static locations to receiving devices, allow the calculation of location based on proximity to various beacons. Ground feature navigation extracts the positions of tracked objects and then uses them as points of reference to gauge a vessel’s locale. And stellar navigation systems use the coordinates of celestial bodies to assist in a vehicle’s navigation. DARPA’s dream navigational system would go beyond those kinds of discreet systems — by incorporating pretty much all of them. (6/13)

NASA Langley Marks Five-Year Partnership with Sierra Nevada Corp. (Source: NASA)
NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., and Sierra Nevada Corp. Space Systems of Louisville, Colo., are marking five years of collaboration as partners in the design and development of the company's Dream Chaser spacecraft. The two teams joined forces to update the agency's HL-20 lifting body vehicle design into Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser orbital crew vehicle. The partnership is part of NASA's Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) agreement with the agency's Commercial Crew Program (CCP). Langley engineers devised a development plan for the HL-20 in the 1980s and '90s, creating pilot landing scenarios in simulators, testing designs in wind tunnels and even building a full-scale model with the help of universities to study crew challenges. (6/13)

NuSTAR X-Ray Telescope Launched by Pegasus on Mission to Search for Black Holes (Source: CBS)
A small X-ray telescope was boosted into orbit by an air-launched Pegasus XL rocket Wednesday, the first step in an ambitious low-cost mission to study supermassive black holes believed to be lurking at the cores of galaxies like Earth's Milky Way and to probe the creation of heavy elements in the cataclysmic death throes of massive stars. (6/13)

Virginia is Emerging as Space Transportation Hub (Source: Virginia Chamber)
In the afterglow of success of billionaire business entrepreneur Elon Musk’s launch of California-based SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket booster carrying the Dragon spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station; Virginia’s spaceport will soon be the site of the alternative Antares booster set for the first static (hold down) test-firing of the booster’s twin engines along the coast of Virginia.

The testing firing of the first liquid rocket engines will send thunderous sound waves across the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport and areas around Accomack County’s Eastern Shore. It will be the pounding of the future of commercial space opportunity knocking on the doorstep of Virginia, the former 19th century home of Gov. Henry Wise, advising everyone 21st century spaceflight has arrived.

The Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corporation will be the second operational provider of a commercial cargo transport capability to the International Space Station from the Wallops Island, launching in early 2013, then commencing regular flights to orbit in six-month intervals aboard the multimillion dollar Antares booster-Cygnus spacecraft under a $1.9 billion NASA contract. Only then, will Virginia “be seen” as having broken the barrier of a regular transportation carrier hub to the International Space Station. (6/13)

Gilat’s Wavestream Lands Harris CapRock Order (Source: Space News)
Wavestream Corp. will deliver 100- and 200-watt Ku-band solid-state power amplifiers to Florida-based Harris CapRock Communications for integration into Harris' maritime satellite communications antennas, Wavestream owner Gilat Satellite Networks announced June 12. Harris CapRock in May announced a five-year contract with maritime cruise-ship operator Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. to outfit 34 ships with satellite communications gear. Gilat and Wavestream said at least part of their contract is for the cruise market. (6/13)

Thales Alenia Commits To Resolving Globalstar Contract Impasse (Source: Space News)
The manufacturer of the second-generation Globalstar mobile communications satellites on June 13 said it had every intention of working with Globalstar to find a way out of their contract impasse and avoid a Globalstar loan default. Emmanuel Grave said his company’s interests are fully aligned with Globalstar’s, especially given the importance of the French export-credit agency, Coface, to Thales Alenia Space’s ability to compete in the global telecommunications market. (6/13)

Nanoparticles Found in Moon Glass Bubbles Explain Weird Regolith Behavior (Source: QUT)
A stunning discovery by QUT soil scientist Marek Zbik of nano particles inside bubbles of glass in lunar soil could solve the mystery of why the moon's surface topsoil has many unusual properties. Dr Zbik used synchrotron-based nano tomography to look at the particles. "Instead of gas or vapor inside the bubbles, which we would expect to find in such bubbles on Earth, the lunar glass bubbles were filled with a highly porous network of alien-looking glassy particles that span the bubbles' interior.

"It appears that the nano particles are formed inside bubbles of molten rocks when meteorites hit the lunar surface. Then they are released when the glass bubbles are pulverised by the consequent bombardment of meteorites on the moon's surface. "This continuous pulverising of rocks on the lunar surface and constant mixing develop a type of soil which is unknown on Earth." He said nano particles behaved according to the laws of quantum physics which were completely different from so called 'normal' physics' laws. Because of this, materials containing nano particles behave strangely according to our current understanding. (6/13)

Alien Earths Could Form Earlier than Expected (Source: Harvard-Smithsonian)
Building a terrestrial planet requires raw materials that weren't available in the early history of the universe. The Big Bang filled space with hydrogen and helium. Chemical elements like silicon and oxygen - key components of rocks - had to be cooked up over time by stars. But how long did that take? How many of such heavy elements do you need to form planets?

Previous studies have shown that Jupiter-sized gas giants tend to form around stars containing more heavy elements than the Sun. However, new research by a team of astronomers found that planets smaller than Neptune are located around a wide variety of stars, including those with fewer heavy elements than the Sun. As a result, rocky worlds like Earth could have formed earlier than expected in the universe's history. (6/13)

NASA Releases More Spy Telescope Details (Source: USA Today)
NASA has released more information about the two space telescopes, held in storage, that it announced last week it had received from the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The news raised lots of questions among space-minded folks. In an effort to get a few more answers, USA TODAY has acquired the question-and-answer sheet provided to NASA Public Affairs folks last week to answer queries about the gift scopes. Click here for the Q&A. (6/12)

Launch Date of MSG-3 Reset to 5 July 2012 (Source: ESA)
Arianespace has announced that the launch date of the MSG-3 satellite from the European Spaceport in Kourou, originally foreseen for 19 June, has been reset to the evening of the 5 July 2012. The delay is due to additional checks that were made on the EchoStar 17 telecommunication satellite, which is to be launched together with MSG-3 on the Ariane 5 ECA launcher. (6/13)

Scientists Use Stars to Make Reggae Music (Source: Space.com)
Scientists have created a melody that's truly out of this world, turning numerical data from two stars in our galaxy into music for a reggae-rock band. The star observations were made by NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope. Researchers at Georgia Tech’s Sonification Lab converted the data into sound, at the request of the band Echo Movement, which wanted to infuse one of its songs with a heavenly melody.

"The Sonification Lab receives a lot of requests to convert scientific data into sound, but this one was truly unique," Bruce Walker, a professor in Georgia Tech's school of psychology, said in a statement. "It’s not often that we have a chance to help an actual star compose music." It's possible to modify pitches, tempos and rhythms found in such observations, but Echo Movement wanted the finished melody to stay true to the data, researchers said. With these instructions in hand, the Georgia Tech team started going through some Kepler measurements. (6/12)

Orbital Sciences Receives Final Launch Approval for NASA Telescope (Source: Flight Global)
Orbital Sciences' Pegasus launch vehicle has received final approval to launch NASA's nuclear spectroscopic telescope array (NuSTAR), scheduled for 13 June. The launch entails dropping the rocket from Orbital Sciences' Lockheed L-1011 carrier aircraft, which will lift off from Kwajalein Atoll in the remote Pacific Ocean, carry the Pegasus to its designated launch area, and drop it from cruise altitude and speed. The launch window lasts approximately four hours, and no adverse weather is forecast.

The flight marks the first Pegasus launch since 2008, heralding the rocket's return to competitiveness. The solid-fuel rocket, which can loft up to 443kg (977lb) into low Earth orbit (LEO). Smallsats, which Pegasus is designed to launch, increasingly prefer to buy rideshares on larger rockets. NuSTAR, a compact X-ray telescope that will expand a sizable antenna once in orbit, is designed to study black holes and other X-ray sources. (6/12)

Dragon Capsule to Return to McGregor (Source: KCEN)
After a historic launch to the International Space Station, SpaceX's Dragon Capsule will be back in McGregor and on display on June 13. Dragon made history on May 25, becoming the first commercial spacecraft to dock at the International Space Station. It carried some 1,000 pounds of cargo to the space station and brought home nearly 1,400 pounds of old gear, which will be unloaded in McGregor tomorrow morning. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk will speak at the event and he will be joined by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. (6/12)

Space Program Seeks a Mother's Touch (Source: China Daily)
China's astronauts are often affectionately called "superhuman beings", because they have to meet standards that seem, to lesser mortals, out of this world. Because of the cramped living conditions in space, they cannot have body odor or bad breath. Those who suffer from chronic sore throats or runny noses will remain Earthbound. Neither can astronauts have ringworm, cavities or scars. The first two female reserve astronauts, one of whom is likely to go into space on board Shenzhou IX and become China's first female astronaut, have to meet the same criteria as the men.

But female astronauts have to meet extra conditions that are not applicable in other countries — they must be married and preferably mothers. This is because there are concerns that spaceflight, and the potential exposure to radiation, could harm their fertility. Both female reserves were selected according to standards set for astronauts actually piloting a spacecraft. These standards are stricter than those for a mission specialist, a job that demands less strength and is often allocated to women, Xu said.

Too much calcium can also be a problem as the zero gravity in space means that astronauts could lose excessive amounts and suffer clogging in their blood vessels. The thick spacesuits will aggravate any skin diseases. On top of this, their families must have a clean bill of health regarding contagious diseases, such as hepatitis. But now that China has sent six astronauts into space, the criteria for selecting the second batch of two female and five male reserve astronauts in 2010, has been relaxed. (6/12)

NASA Strengthens its RESOLVE (Source: America Space)
Those that say NASA has forgotten the Moon – haven’t heard about RESOLVE or more to-the-point Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen and Lunar Volatile Extraction. RESOLVE is a mission that will see NASA team up with not just the European Space Agency (ESA) but the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) as well. This multi-national lunar prospecting mission consists of several components including a rover, drill and a NASA payload that is designed to seek out water ice as well as other resources located under the lunar soil. The RESOLVE mission will also work to prove out the concept that, one day, astronauts returning to the Moon will be able to utilize what are known as “in situ” (on site) resources. (6/12)

Rocket Week Launching at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility (Source: NASA)
Students and educators from across the country will experience what it is like to be a rocket scientist during "Rocket Week," June 16–22, at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia. More than 100 participants will receive hands-on training in building payloads for spaceflight, learn the basics of rocketry and develop activities for the classroom through the fifth annual RockOn! workshop for university-level participants and the concurrent second annual Wallops Rocket Academy for Teachers and Students (WRATS) for high school teachers. (6/12)

Ohio Workshop Seeks Ideas For Manufacturing Innovation Network (Source: NASA)
NASA and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) are sponsoring the second in a series of regional public workshops to gather ideas and suggestions on the design of the proposed National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). The workshop will be held July 9 at the Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland.

"Designing for Impact II: Workshop on Building the NNMI" is a partnership between the interagency Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office in Gaithersburg, Md., and local Cleveland organizations that include NASA's Glenn Research Center, Cuyahoga Community College and Case Western Reserve University. Confirmed workshop speakers are NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, NIST Director Patrick Gallagher and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown. Invited speakers include congressional, state and local leaders. (6/12)

Sorry ‘Prometheus’ Fans: No Interstellar Travel for Five More Centuries (Source: Washington Post)
In Ridley Scott’s new movie “Prometheus,” a group of humans travel to another star on a trillion-dollar spaceship. The year is 2093. And that got me wondering: Could humans really travel to another solar system that soon? When do we get one? (AP) Possibly not. A fascinating recent research paper by Marc G. Millis, a former NASA expert on breakthrough propulsion, suggests that we probably won’t be ready to travel to other stars for at least another two to five centuries. How does he figure? Because, he argues, even if we do invent faster, niftier spaceships, there may not be enough energy available to reach other stars anytime soon. (6/12)

Russia to Study Solar-Terrestrial Relations in Project Resonance (Source: Itar-Tass)
The Federal Space Agency and the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Space Research Institute are working on Project Resonance, which will study solar-terrestrial relations. The Meteor satellite incorporating a helio-geophysical system has been working in orbit since 2009. Meteor-2 will be put to orbit before the end of this year, and it will have upgraded instruments. “Two similar satellites will be launched before 2015. That will broaden the range of our research,” Mikhail Khailov said. (6/13)

Fermi Detects Super Solar Flare (Source: SEN)
NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has witnessed the highest amount of energy emitted during a solar flare since it began observing the sky. The solar flare occurred on 7 March, and was classified as X5.4, with x-class flares being the most powerful that erupt on the Sun. The flare was the largest ever observed with the Large Area Telescope (LAT) aboard Fermi, briefly making the Sun the brightest object in the gamma-ray sky. Not only was the flare bright, it also lasted for around twenty hours, which surpasses previous events by at least twelve hours. (6/13)

No comments: