June 24, 2012

NanoRacks Centrifuge Set for Delivery to International Space Station (Source: Parabolic Arc)
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. This is useful for biological research, and could lead to advances in medications and vaccines, agricultural controls, and discoveries in genetics — all beneficial to those of us on Earth. (6/24)

Where China Leads, India Follows? (Source: The Diplomat)
China this past week affirmed its status as one of the world’s three leading space powers by sending three astronauts, including its first woman astronaut, into space. On June 16, the powerful CZ-2F rocket lifted the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft, carrying the astronauts; on June 18, the Shenzhou docked with the Tiangong lab module, where the astronauts will stay for several days. This was another milestone for China’s ambitious space program, creating fresh pride in the country.

Should India emulate China to become the world’s fourth country with such capabilities? This depends on whether India can actually develop such capabilities, at what cost, and for what benefit. India thus has one of the world’s few space programs capable of launching satellites along with countries including the U. S., Russia, China and Japan. Its annual space expenditures of around $1.5 billion are far lower than the $3 billion to $5 billion each for Russia, China, Japan, and Europe, and several billions for the United States.

In purely technological terms, India could acquire capabilities similar to China’s, but it will take 15 to 20 years. First, India will have to build a launcher to lift a spacecraft to LEO. Its reliable Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), which has had more than a dozen successful flights, cannot lift a large payload. But the more powerful though unreliable Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), which has failed in four of its seven flights, can lift a 5-ton spacecraft to LEO. (6/23)

Shenzhou Docks Manually with Tiangong (Source: SpaceToday.net)
In a new demonstration of Chinese space capabilities, a crewed Shenzhou spacecraft safely undocked with an orbiting lab module Sunday and then redocked under manual control. Shenzhou-9 initially docked with the module on Monday in automated mode, but this maneuver, where the spacecraft pulled away to a distance of 400 meters before returning, was done manually. Official Chinese media said the manual docking demonstrated that China had "completely grasped" rendezvous and docking technologies and was on track to develop a full-fledged space station. Shenzhou-9 will undock for good later this week and return to Earth. (6/23)

GeoEye Faces Funding Cuts from US Government (Source: Reuters)
Satellite imagery provider GeoEye Inc said the U.S. National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) will not renew the EnhancedView contract with it for the full year due to budget constraints. The intelligence agency proposed an option under which GeoEye will get service revenue of $39.75 million for the three month ending November 2012, and a nine-month option providing for $119.3 million, contingent on funding. The government agency also decided not to provide additional funding for GeoEye's satellite beyond $181 million provided for in the contract, the company said in a regulatory filing. (6/24)

Innovators Fuel Hopes for Space (Source: Florida Today)
The future health of the space industry is in innovation. As a nation, we've developed amazing space-based capabilities. We can get turn-by-turn driving directions from a GPS-enabled smartphone. We can get television and radio signals to far-flung places where ground-based infrastructure doesn't make sense. Our military can send words, pictures and video around the world via satellites. And so on.

The growth of space as a business relies heavily on our ability as a nation to harness what we've developed, primarily for military and intelligence uses first, into tools that can be applied commercially to solve problems, provide services and, yes, generate profits. As innovators come up with ideas for transforming technology once used for, say, spy satellites or military communications spacecraft, the industry will grow. The more potential applications, the more potential business to be done. And, more jobs.

It is a long-term development cycle, and we've seen the benefits from the first half century or so of space development spin off. The next decade promises to bring as much, perhaps, as we've seen in the previous five. Case in point: the space development teams at Harris Corp. This week, they cut a very lucrative deal with private and public partners that takes a technology first developed for the government and transforms it into a tool with potential to change an industry. Click here. (6/24)

Nova Would Have Been the Biggest Rocket (Source: Discovery)
There are some big rockets in the U.S. pipeline, but none can match the Nova. Nova was NASA's first heavy launch vehicle that never made it to the launch pad -- let alone off it. The brainchild of Wernher von Braun, Nova was designed to get men to the moon quickly and directly. Reason suggested, as did science fiction, that taking a big rocket straight to the moon, landing vertically with retrorockets, and taking off again to return to Earth was the best way to go. The "direct ascent" method had fewer moving parts so left fewer opportunities for the mission to fail catastrophically.

Direct ascent was only possible with a mammoth rocket; getting straight to the moon from the launch pad would take a lot of power, not to mention the fuel to land and take off from the moon was heavy. The negative aspects of direct ascent led many to consider lunar missions that used rendezvous. A small, modular spacecraft would be lighter and much more fuel efficient.

Though it began as the frontrunner in 1958, Nova began to fall out of favor in the beginning of 1962 as the pressure was mounting to reach the moon by the end of the decade. Further study revealed that direct ascent was on par with rendezvous methods using the smaller Saturn V in terms of necessary power. Where the Saturn V won was cost; it was smaller and cheaper to build. Editor's Note: Much of Nova could have been built in Miami-Dade County near Homestead, at an Aerojet facility established there for developing huge solid rocket motors. (6/24)

India Can Have Galactic Glory If It Pulls Off Mars Mission On Time (Source: Economic Times)
ISRO scientists have begun deliberating on the scientific payloads for an orbiter that would go around Mars in an elliptical orbit, collecting data on the planet's atmosphere. However, they are cagey about divulging too many details, saying Cabinet approval hasn't come through yet. The move to Mars could become the next step in its technology-building capability. Also, if it manages to get mission-ready by November 2013- when the planet's orbital dynamics makes it a good time to launch - it might just have a heads-up on China.

"India is lagging behind China in the manned space program department and although human spaceflight is still a line item on ISRO's budget, India seems to be distinguishing itself from its superpower neighbor by pursuing more scientifically oriented robotic missions," says Jeffrey Marlow. While going to Mars might be a super confidence-booster , many are not sure whether India's attempt would add much to the scientific knowledge already acquired by previous missions, especially that of NASA and the Russian Space Agency which have been sending probes to the red planet since the 1960s. (6/24)

ISRO Looks to Produce Satellites Via Industry Players (Source: The Hindu)
As it prepares for Moon and Mars missions, ISRO is planning to hive off production of communication satellites and polar satellite launch vehicles (PSLV) to the industry. The space agency is keen to focus on unique science projects, develop remote sensing satellites and do more R&D instead of engaging in the repetitive exercise of building communication satellites and launch vehicles.

“We want to explore the possibility of ‘producing’ PSLV and communication satellites through the industry,” Dr K. Radhakrishnan said. The ISRO and its commercial arm Antrix Corp. have called for a meeting with the industry in September for a dialogue on the proposal and identify different work models. The industry participation in development of communication satellites is up to 80 percent. If satellites and launch vehicles can be produced by industry players, ISRO scientists will be able to concentrate on research-oriented activities, and have greater involvement of academic institutions. (6/24)

Staying Stimulated in Space (Source: People's Daily Online)
How are the astronauts’ lives on their first day in the Tiangong-1? Will they feel bored? They have completed a lot of scheduled work and began to implement the same work and rest schedule as on the earth. They are currently in a good condition. The first day staying in the Tiangong-1 was the busiest day for them. At present, the temperature in Tiangong-1 is between 22 Celsius degrees and 23 Celsius degrees and the humidity is 40 percent. Therefore, the overall indoor environment is very comfortable. (6/24)

No comments: