June 20, 2012

Commercial Crew Partners Milestone Progress Report (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA’s commercial crew partners continue to achieve exciting milestones as the Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) Space Act Agreements enter their home stretch. Since the agreements were awarded in April 2011, the partners have achieved 48 of the 62 planned test, demonstration, and technical review milestone events. With the maturation of spacecraft and launch vehicle designs being accomplished under CCDev2, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is well positioned to move into the integrated capability design and testing phase. Awards for new Space Act Agreements are expected in July/August 2012. (6/20)

Embry-Riddle Among Winners in FAA/NASA Design Competition (Source: VSGC)
The FAA recently selected winners for its sixth annual Design Competition for Universities. Top honors went to student teams from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the Stevens Institute of Technology, The Ohio State University, and Binghamton University – State University of New York. The competition sought to engage students in addressing issues facing airports while providing quality educational experiences and exposure to aviation and airport-related careers.

Students were invited to propose in four technical challenge areas: airport operations and maintenance; runway safety; airport environmental interactions; and airport management and planning. The competition requires that students work with a faculty adviser and that they reach out to airport operators and to industry experts to obtain advice and to assess the efficacy of their proposed designs/solutions. The Embry-Riddle team won first place in the category of Runway Safety, Runway Incursions, Runway Excursions. Embry-Riddle teams also won third place and honorable mentions in the category of Airport Operations & Maintenance. The competition was managed by the NASA-sponsored Virginia Space Grant Consortium. (6/15)

Space Safety Focus on Space Traffic Management (Source: Space Safety)
The latest issue of the online Space Safety Magazine includes a special report on Space Traffic Management, including this neat graphic showing the hazards of launching from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and any other spaceport. Meanwhile, latest issue of Strata has a similar focus on Embry-Riddle's ongoing research on topics related to space traffic management. (6/20)

Lockheed CEO: Employees, Suppliers Fear for Their Jobs (Source: The Hill)
Lockheed Martin CEO Bob Stevens says possible sequestration cuts are causing a "fog of uncertainty" for his industry and called on the Obama administration to detail how the cuts would take place. "We're compelled to start talking to our employees — 123,000 of them and 40,000 suppliers — which, you might guess, all of whom want to know: 'Am I going to have a job in January, and am I going to have a contract in January?' " he said. "And the answer from us today is, we're not clear about that." (6/20)

Researchers Find Evidence of Ice Content at the Moon's South Pole (Source: SpaceRef)
If humans are ever to inhabit the Moon, the lunar poles may well be the location of choice: Because of the small tilt of the lunar spin axis, the poles contain regions of near-permanent sunlight, needed for power, and regions of near-permanent darkness containing ice -- both of which would be essential resources for any lunar colony. The area around the Moon's Shackleton crater could be a prime site.

Scientists have long thought that the crater -- whose interior is a permanently sunless abyss -- may contain reservoirs of frozen water. But inconsistent observations over the decades have cast doubt on whether ice might indeed exist in the shadowy depths of the crater, which sits at the Moon's south pole. Now scientists from MIT, Brown University, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and other institutions have mapped Shackleton crater with unprecedented detail, finding possible evidence for small amounts of ice on the crater's floor. (6/20)

XCOR to Provide Suborbital Training for Excalibur Almaz (Source: XCOR)
Excalibur Almaz signed an agreement with XCOR Aerospace for suborbital flight services. XCOR will provide suborbital flight familiarization and training using its Lynx vehicle for Excalibur Almaz crews traveling on Earth orbit, circumlunar, and deep space missions. (6/20)

ESA Panel Gives Final Approval for Euclid Space Telescope (Source: Space News)
European scientists on June 20 gave final approval to the construction of a billion-dollar space telescope to study the expansion of the universe, a project that has brought together some 1,000 scientists in Europe plus several dozen more expected from the U.S. Europe’s Science Program Committee (SPC) approved the construction of the Euclid satellite after spending eight months verifying its cost and feasibility. The 2,160-kilogram satellite will launch in 2020 aboard a Soyuz-Fregat rocket at Kourou. (6/20)

Atlas 5 Launches NRO Satellite From Florida Spaceport (Source: Space News)
A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas 5 rocket successfully launched a classified payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) June 20 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The NROL-38 mission was the second of four planned NRO launches during the next five months, two from Cape Canaveral and two from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California., the NRO said. In the next mission, dubbed NROL-15 and scheduled for late June, a ULA Delta 4 Heavy rocket will loft a classified payload from Cape Canaveral. (6/20)

Dark Universe Mission Blueprint Complete (Source: ESA)
ESA’s Euclid mission to explore the hidden side of the Universe – dark energy and dark matter – reached an important milestone today that will see it head towards full construction. Selected in October 2011 alongside Solar Orbiter as one of the first two medium-class missions of the Cosmic Vision 2015–25 plan, Euclid received final approval from ESA’s Science Program Committee to move into the full construction phase, leading to its launch in 2020. (6/20)

Why Modern Space Capsules Seem Retro (Source: Stuff.com)
So if the Dragon is the next step forward in space travel, why does it look like such a big step back? It's a far cry from the futuristic black and white space plane that preceded it. The Dragon is a blunt-ended metal capsule with a couple of solar panels attached, that bears a striking resemblance to the venerable Soyuz spacecraft that the Russians first designed in the 1960s and which still operate today as ferries to and from the space station.

The reason the Dragon looks like it does, and why the Russians are still flying updated Soyuz capsules today (instead of their own little-known space shuttle, the Buran, which they developed and tested in the 1980s) is that capsule systems just work. They are simple and reliable - as simple and reliable as space technology can be, that is - and the shuttle wasn't.

The landing of Space Shuttles needed such precision that it was entirely under computer control. All the crew did was press a button to lower the landing gear. The capsule approach, by comparison, permits a landing anywhere in a large area - and provides alternatives if it doesn't. Putting people into space in a capsule is hardly a cakewalk but it allows more flexibility and fault tolerance that in turn leads to better safety and lower costs. (6/20)

Can the Dutch do Reality TV in Space? (Source: BBC)
A Dutch entrepreneur is on a mission to send a bold gang of explorers - aka reality show contestants - to Mars. It's either one of the biggest hoaxes in history conjured up by a group of richly deluded young fantasists or a brave attempt to challenge the boundaries of space travel and beat Nasa and co at their own game. The Mars One online statement explains that by using the $6bn (4.7bn euros; £3.8bn) generated through the biggest-ever television spectacle, the team will have enough knowledge and resources to set up a permanent colony on Mars.

Basically this means turning the whole recruitment process into a reality TV show, following the contestants on their seven-month journey into space and finally capturing their Red Planet experiences on camera and beaming them back to audiences on Earth. Mars One has already generated more than 8,000 "likes" on Facebook and the introductory YouTube video has been viewed more than 800,000 times.

Bas Lansdorp, 35, made his fortune selling shares in his wind-harnessing energy company. So far all the Mars One endeavours - including a quick trip over to get some advice from NASA - have been self-funded. "If you look at the team involved in Mars One, none of us would do this as a hoax," says Mr Lansdorp. Critics say the Mars One team does not have a full understanding of the problems involved. (6/20)

New York Startup Pitches Commercial Spacesuit on Kickstarter (Source: WIRED)
A New York costume designer and a Russian spacesuit engineer have turned to Kickstarter to help fund a budget astronaut outfit for the burgeoning commercial space industry. The suits are designed for Intra Vehicular Activity -- essentially a safety backup in case of an emergency loss of cabin pressure. The pair says that commercial space firms like SpaceX and Boeing will need these suits to ensure the basic safety of manned flights.

"Current NASA suits cost well into the millions, while our 3G is intended to retail for a small fraction of this," the team writes, on their Kickstarter pitch. The FFD Third Generation (3G) Suit will be built to conform to the standards of Nasa's flight certification ("to the best of our ability", the team says), and feature a carbon fiber waist ring, a retractable helmet and improved gloves and glove disconnects. Click here. (6/20)

Solar Panel Shakes Loose on Intelsat Satellite (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
A stuck solar array on the Intelsat 19 broadcasting satellite dislodged itself last week, but engineers will not know how much of the craft's mission can be accomplished until its communications payload is activated. The satellite's south solar array stayed folded against the spacecraft following its deployment from a Sea Launch Zenit 3SL rocket June 1.

Intelsat announced last week the solar panel unfurled June 12, soon after Intelsat 19 reached geostationary orbit about 22,300 miles over the equator. "Currently, we are conducting tests to establish the performance, power level, structural integrity and operability of the south array panel," the company said in a June 14 statement. Dianne VanBeber, Intelsat's vice president of communications, said Tuesday telemetry received from the satellite soon after it arrived in geostationary orbit indicated the solar array had deployed. (6/19)

Bolden: Commercial Crew Awards Expected in Mid-July (Source: Parabolic Arc)
During a press conference this morning about a NASA-FAA agreement on commercial crew oversight, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden was asked about the agency’s plans for awarding the next phase of the program. Bolden said the agency fully expects to announce the winners of the Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap) round in mid-July. The awards, which will cover all aspects of commercial vehicle development, will last for 21 months.

Two companies will receive full awards to develop their systems while a third will receive half of an award. At the end of the 21-month period, NASA will put out a request for proposals open to all bidders to provide commercial crew services under Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), Bolden said. FAR includes much more rigorous government oversight than the Space Act Agreements that NASA is now using for the commercial crew program.

Editor's Note: High profile competitors include SpaceX (Dragon atop Falcon-9), Sierra Nevada (DreamChaser atop ULA Atlas-5), Boeing (CST-100 capsule atop ULA Atlas-5), ATK (Liberty capsule and rocket), and Blue Origin (New Shepard initially atop ULA Atlas-5). (6/20)

NASA Administrator To Speak With NEEMO 16 Crew During Underwater 'Spacewalk' (Source: NASA)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will speak with astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, commander of the 16th NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) mission, and her fellow crewmate Timothy Peake of the European Space Agency at 4:10 p.m. EDT Wednesday, June 20 as they perform their final "spacewalk" of the mission, 63 feet below the ocean's surface off the coast of Florida. (6/20)

NASA Drops OpenStack For Amazon Cloud (Source: Information Week)
NASA's prestige and participation has been a selling point for advocates of the OpenStack open source cloud project, which NASA co-founded with San Antonio infrastructure-as-a-service provider RackSpace. Unfortunately, they'll have to get along without NASA from here on. NASA has withdrawn as an active contributor to OpenStack, saying it doesn't want to be in the business of producing cloud software anymore.

Ray O'Brien, acting CIO at NASA Ames, when asked May 30 by InformationWeek about NASA's participation, used diplomatic language to say that NASA still endorsed the project, was proud of its founding role, and might be a user of OpenStack components in the future. "It is very possible that NASA could leverage OpenStack as a customer in the future," he wrote. Then, in a June 8 blog, NASA CIO Linda Cureton dispensed with the diplomacy: "NASA [has] shifted to a new Web services model that uses Amazon Web Services for cloud-based enterprise infrastructure... providing almost a million dollars in cost savings each year," she wrote. (6/19)

Eutelsat Expands Presence in Pacific with Purchase of In-orbit Satellite (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Eutelsat on June 19 announced it is purchasing the in-orbit GE-23 telecommunications satellite from GE Capital for $228 million in cash. The satellite, launched in 2005, generates some $50 million a year in revenue. Eutelsat Deputy Chief Executive Michel Azibert said GE-23’s 20 Ku- and 18 C-band transponders were about 80 percent occupied, and that the satellite had 8.5 years of remaining service life. (6/20)

House Offers Full Funding for FAA Space Office (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The flight of the Dragon seems to have had some impact in Congress. House appropriators have decided to provide the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation its full budget request of $16.7 million for FY 2013. The appropriations bill contains a short explanation for the decision: "The Committee recommends $16,700,000 for the office of commercial space transportation, which is equal to the budget request and $429,000 above the fiscal year 2012 enacted level."

"The Office of Commercial Space Transportation protects public safety through regulatory oversight of the rapidly growing U.S. commercial space transportation industry. The FAA also has a statutory mandate to encourage, facilitate, and promote commercial space transportation. The commercial space transportation industry is nearly certain to increase its activities providing orbital and suborbital services to serve commercial, scientific, and government purposes. Of particular importance are orbital flights to support the operation of the International Space Station."

"This increase in commercial space activity will require the FAA to provide a significantly greater number of permits and licenses. The Committee wishes to ensure that the FAA has the ability to provide these permits and licenses effectively and efficiently so that the U.S. can emerge as the world leader in space transport. The Committee will encourage a reprogramming of funds to the Office of Commercial Space Transportation above the levels provided, if necessary to keep pace with this growing industry." (6/19)

Updated Gemini Capsule Proposed for Commercial Crew Transport (Source: Space Operations Inc.)
Space Operations, Inc. (SpaceOps) has formed a team of highly motivated aerospace companies to establish a near-term capability for crew transport to the International Space Station. The three companies involved with the effort are WestWind Technologies, Inc., Advanced Solutions, Inc., and Southern Aerospace Company. SpaceOps, will use the technology developed on the Gemini Program to be the basis for the 21st century, two-seat, ECLIPSE spacecraft.

"Since this is an existing and proven design we could begin construction six to eight weeks after funding and complete a flying prototype ten to thirteen months later," said WestWind President Bill Jolly. U.S. built rocket boosters are currently available and could launch the ECLIPSE plus a significant amount of cargo into orbit.

Other U.S. companies, involved with crew orbital spacecraft development, have announced that they will not attempt launching a crew before 2017. "The military and political consequences may be serious if we don't launch much earlier," said SpaceOps CEO Craig Russell. "We agree with Administrator Bolden and other space experts that our country needs to have this capability as soon as possible. (6/19)

Fly Me to the Moon – for £100m (Source: Financial Times)
Britain could become the first country to fly a tourist around the moon, after an Isle of Man-based company announced that it would be ready to take passengers on private lunar expeditions by 2015. Excalibur Almaz will charge wannabe astronauts an average of £100m for a six-eight month journey exploring deep space. Three wealthy individuals, or astronauts from emerging powers will be crammed into a reusable capsule the size of a waste skip and launched by rocket to a space station. After the two vehicles link up, they will travel on to the Moon.

“It is like how private British companies led expeditions to the South Pacific in the 17th century,” said Art Dula, founder of Excalibur Almaz. “We’ve just gone from seafaring to spacefaring.” The company, run by Americans, chose to be based in the Isle of Man because of the island government’s commitment to the space industry, which ministers forecast will soon make up more a third of its gross domestic product. The lack of corporation tax and proximity to the City are also advantages.

Unlike SpaceX, its US rival, Excalibur Almaz has not received any American government subsidies. Its biggest advantage is its second-hand Soviet spacecraft which have helped Excalibur Almaz avoid the laborious process of developing and testing new equipment. Mr Dula, a long-time space enthusiast, bought the kit from Russia after working as a patent lawyer in the industry. He and his business partner are the only investors in the company, which started in 2005. (6/19)

Asteroid Experts Plan Privately Funded Sentinel Space Telescope (Source: MSNBC)
The nonprofit B612 Foundation says it's planning the first privately funded deep-space mission, with the goal of launching an instrument known as the Sentinel Space Telescope to look for potentially hazardous asteroids from a vantage point inside Earth's orbit around the sun. The foundation, headed by former NASA astronaut Ed Lu, tipped its hand today in an advisory alerting journalists about a press conference to be conducted on June 28.

"We will create the first comprehensive dynamic map of our inner solar system showing the current and future locations and trajectories of Earth-crossing asteroids, paving the way to protect the Earth from future impacts and opening up the solar system to future exploration," the advisory read. Scheduled speakers include Lu as well as the foundation's chairman emeritus, Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart; project architect Scott Hubbard, a Stanford professor who once served as NASA's Mars czar; and mission director Harold Reitsema, former director of space science missions at Ball Aerospace. (6/19)

Space For Women (Source: Huffington Post)
Mae Jemison, the first African-American female astronaut, had this to say about China's first female in space: "China has tremendous talent and resources, but if you don't bring all your best players in, you're not going to have the best opportunities to understand how things can be better, and how to make stuff happen more effectively. I'm very excited that women will be included on this flight." (6/19)

NSBRI Assigns Scientists as Team Leaders for Space Biomedical Research (Source: SpaceRef)
The National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) has enlisted seven of the nation's top scientists to serve as team leaders in its efforts to protect astronaut health during long-duration spaceflight. Each of the scientists will lead one of NSBRI's seven discipline area research teams focused on specific challenges faced by humans in space. (6/19)

New Gravitational Biology Lab Allows for Testing in Artificial Gravity (Source: Space Daily)
NASA is expanding its existing capabilities for doing plant and animal tissue investigations on the International Space Station with the delivery of a new centrifuge scheduled for this summer. The centrifuge is a NASA and commercial industry collaboration, and will be housed in the NanoRacks facility.

The small Gravitational Biology Lab will allow biological experimentation in artificial gravity - from zero gravity to twice Earth's normal gravity - for prolonged periods of time. The new facility will provide environmental control, lighting, data transfer, commanding, and observation of experiments in Mars and moon gravity conditions, as well as mimicking Earth's gravity. (6/19)

Why Won't the Supernova Explode? (Source: Space Daily)
Somewhere in the Milky Way, a massive old star is about to die a spectacular death. As its nuclear fuel runs out, the star begins to collapse under its own tremendous weight. Crushing pressure triggers new nuclear reactions, setting the stage for a terrifying blast. And then... nothing happens. At least that's what supercomputers have been telling astrophysicists for decades. Many of the best computer models of supernovas fail to produce an explosion.

At the end of the simulation, gravity wins the day and the star simply collapses. "We don't fully understand how supernovas of massive stars work yet," says Fiona Harrison. To figure out what's going on, Harrison and colleagues would like to examine the inside of a real supernova while it's exploding. That's not possible, so they're doing the next best thing. Using a telescope named "NuSTAR" --short for Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array - they'll be scanning the debris from supernovas as soon as possible after the blast. (6/19)

No comments: