July 12, 2012

Space Institute Relocates to Research Park (Source: Central Florida Future)
The Florida Space Institute, a consortium of universities across the state dedicated to space research and development, relocated its headquarters this past week, taking up residence at the Partnership I Building in UCF’s Research Park. Researchers and faculty hope that the move will strengthen collaboration between students and faculty at UCF with NASA researchers by allowing more opportunities for student involvement and more funding for research projects.

The move comes barely a month after the institute announced that nearly $400,000 from the state of Florida was granted to the institute to fund nine research projects in fields such as physics, chemistry and electrical engineering. The money comes to the institute from the Space Research Initiative, a collaborative program between UCF and the University of Florida to support related research between the two universities. In addition to all of Florida’s state universities, schools such as Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the Florida Institute of Technology are members within the group. (7/12)

New Pluto Moon Hints at Perilous Journey for Spacecraft (Source: Space.com)
The discovery of another moon around Pluto is exciting news for planetary science, but it's also likely causing some anxiety for the team in charge of New Horizons, a spacecraft set to be the first probe ever to visit the dwarf planet. Researchers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope announced the detection of P5, a tiny moon measuring just 6 to 15 miles (10 to 24 kilometers) across. P5 brings Pluto's known satellite tally to five, and it comes just a year after Hubble spotted moon number four, the similarly diminutive P4.

These two recent discoveries show that the Pluto system is more crowded than scientists had thought. So NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, which is due to fly by the dwarf planet in 2015, may have to watch its step. "We're finding more and more, so our concern about hazards is going up," New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern. The concern is not necessarily that New Horizons will slam into a Pluto moon. The probe is traveling so fast that a particle the size of a BB could destroy it, so researchers are worried about the broad debris field that Pluto's moons may have spawned. (7/11)

Traffic Jam in Space Threatens Satellites (Source: News Insurances)
In April 2012, the European Space Agency lost contact with its Earth observation satellite Envisat. Envisat will orbit Earth for approximately another 150 years before burning up upon re-entry into the atmosphere. If the enormous 8-ton ghost satellite were to collide with another object and break apart, the resulting debris cloud would escalate the already serious threat to operating satellites.

A new report by Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS), titled Space Risks: A new generation of challenges, explores the considerable risks millions of orbiting fragments pose for satellites and space missions and stresses the need to actively remove debris is now urgent. The report also highlights the insurance industry’s pivotal role in enabling the space industry.“The space around our planet is becoming increasingly congested,” says Thierry Colliot, Managing Director of Space Insurance at AGCS.

Since space exploration began in 1957, objects have been left there by humans, ranging from used rocket boosters and defunct satellites to space exploration equipment that has gone lost or exploded. “Today, the space debris situation has become irreversible,” says Colliot. “The number of objects is now so high that it won’t decay on its own through atmospheric drag. Instead, it’s actually increasing as objects collide and produce fragments, which in turn collide in a runaway chain reaction.” (7/12)

ViaSat Wins $286 Million Australian Satellite Broadband Contract (Source: Space News)
ViaSat Inc. has bested Hughes Network Systems and other competitors to win a $286 million contract with Australia’s NBN Co. for that nation’s satellite broadband ground infrastructure. This is the second of three work packages NBN is preparing for the network, which will provide high-speed, two-way Internet access to up to 200,000 Australian homes not connected to the terrestrial grid. (7/12)

Florida Hopes For Virgin Satellite Launches (Source: Florida Today)
Florida could be a starting point for flights of a new aircraft-and-rocket combination that hopes to launch small satellites to orbit by 2016. Virgin's WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft will deploy a rocket dubbed Launcher-One. From 50,000 feet, the two-stage, liquid-fueled rocket would propel payloads weighing up to 500 pounds to low-Earth orbit.

Virgin Galactic said missions would originate from the United States for the foreseeable future, with launch sites depending on the orbits the payloads need to reach. “One of the greatest strengths of LauncherOne is that it can operate from many different locations,” said Jeff Carr, a company spokesman. “Certainly the Florida Space Coast offers a very compatible environment for LauncherOne operations. However, site selection will be primarily driven by customer requirements for orbital placement.”

Last December, Stratolaunch Systems announced plans to build the largest aircraft ever to carry rockets that could send heavier satellites and eventually people to orbit, starting in 2016. Stratolaunch has identified Kennedy Space Center as a potential base of operations. Virgin Galactic on Wednesday said four companies had placed deposits and expressed interest in potentially dozens of LauncherOne missions: GeoOptics, Planetary Resources, Skybox Imaging and Spaceflight Inc. (7/12)

Spy Sat Agency Let Child Molesters in Its Ranks Go Free (Source: WIRED)
The National Reconnaissance Office — the secretive Pentagon agency in charge of spy satellites — is supposed to safeguarding Americans and American interests from foreign threats. But the agency has done an incomplete job, at best, at protecting American children from its own employees and job applicants.

According to documents obtained by the McClatchy news service, a former California substitute teacher who sought a security clearance from the National Reconnaissance Office confessed during a lie detector exam to molesting an elementary school student. The agency never informed police nor the school district where the incident allegedly occurred. An Air Force lieutenant who confessed to assaulting a child in Virginia was never reported to either the Air Force or police. (7/12)

ESA Could Add Third Satellite to Data-relay System (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency (ESA) wants to team with an industrial partner to launch a third data-relay satellite in geostationary orbit over Asia or the Americas to form a global network to deliver video and imagery from unmanned aerial platforms directly to users. The data-relay proposal, tentatively budgeted at 200 million euros ($250 million) plus the industrial contribution, is part of a 1.6-billion-euro telecommunications package that could be submitted in November to ESA government ministers. (7/12)

Can Astronomers Detect Exoplanet Oceans? (Source: Astrobiology)
Given the plethora of confirmed exoplanets, many researchers have turned their attention to studying these strange new worlds in greater detail. With several exoplanets thought to orbit in the “habitable zone” of their host star where liquid water might be stable, different methods of detecting surface water are under development. One such proposed method of detecting water oceans on an exoplanet is via specular reflection, also known as “glint”.

If you've seen a bright reflection of sunlight on a lake or ocean here on Earth, you've seen an example of the glint effect. Scientists posit that surface oceans of exoplanets would affect the planet’s apparent reflectivity, also known as albedo. This increase of albedo should be detectable during the crescent phase of a planet. (7/12)

Pentagon Budget Will Top Spending Limits, Report Says (Source: The Hill)
The Pentagon's budget over the next decade will top Budget Control Act spending caps by $508 billion if sequestration does not occur and by $978 billion if it does, according to a report by the Congressional Budget Office. Next year's defense budget exceeds the caps by an estimated $14 billion, the CBO says. (7/11)

Capitol Hill Insiders Doubt Possibility of Sequestration (Source: Politico)
Most legislators and Pentagon officials involved in sequestration negotiations believe there will be a compromise to avoid the $500 billion in cuts. In a recent op-ed, Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Jeff Zients writes, "As President Barack Obama has said many times, the sequester wasn't meant to be implemented. It was designed to cause cuts so deep that just threatening them would force members of Congress to agree on a big, balanced package of deficit reduction." (7/11)

NASA is Concerned Over Heat Shield Detaching From Mars Rover (Source: AP)
For the Curiosity rover to land successfully on Mars next month, its heat shield needs to detach properly. Doug McCuistion, head of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, worries that the heat shield won't detach. "I think we are in a medium-to-low risk environment," McCuistion said. The rover's landing on Mars is slated for Aug. 6. (7/10)

One Way Ticket: A Space Journey of No Return (Source: Space Safety)
Artist Joseph Popper whose exhibit One Way Ticket is featured at this year’s Design Interactions Show in the United Kingdom, was intrigued by the idea of explorers running out of places to explore. He asked himself what would it be like to have a last frontier extreme adventure: a single astronaut to take a one way trip into deep space with no prospect of return.

Popper approached the project with an eye on technical accuracy. In his vision, a single person could pack enough supplies to survive for two years, becoming the first person to reach lower Mars orbit before travelling on as far as possible via a series of Hohmann transfers - likely about 90 million miles from Earth. “We can find many examples in space mission analogues that simulate certain aspects of a one-way voyage," said Popper. "However what struck me most is that, as we are talking about something completely unprecedented, we can only ever really speculate on what such a voyage would be like until someone actually goes.” Click here. (7/12)

SES-5 Launch Successful Following Lost Screw and Other Mishaps (Source: Space Safety)
On July 9, the SES-5 communications satellite launched aboard a Proton-M rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome. The launch had been repeatedly delayed due to a series of technical issues. The SES-5 satellite was first scheduled for launch in December 2011. A problem with its upper stage, the same Breeze-M whose failure placed the Express-AM4 telecommunication satellite in a useless orbit in August 2011, led to a launch delay until June 2012.

International Launch Services (ILS), the launch provider, reported an out of specification telemetry reading from the launch pad on June 19. Although initial attempts were made to correct the problem on the spot, the rocket had to be rolled off the launch pad and one of its hydraulic drives completely replaced. On June 29, repairs were complete and the rocket seemed ready to launch. Before it made it back out however, it was discovered that during the repairs, a technician had dropped a screw into the rocket’s oxidizer tank. Locating and removing the screw postponed the launch until July 9, when it finally took place. (7/10)

Commercial Space Isn't New: Celebrating 50 Years After Telstar-1 (Source: Space Safety)
July 10, 2012 marked the 50th anniversary of the launch of Telestar-1 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The launch of Telestar-1 allowed the first live television transmissions two weeks later on July 23, 1962, which were live television pictures of the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty. The National Air and Space Museum’s Space History and Education divisions, in association with the French Embassy, will host a symposium to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Telstar satellite on July 12, 2012.

Although Telstar-1 was not the first communications satellite, it is the most familiar and is considered by most experts to have ushered in the era of satellite communications as a result of the public impact of the first transmission of live television across the Atlantic Ocean. What most do not realize is that Telstar-1 also ushered in the era of commercial space.

Telstar-1 was a collaborative effort between AT&T, Bell Telephone Laboratories, and NASA. It was built by the authorization of the new space policy delineated by the Eisenhower Administration in December 1960, which granted private industry the opportunity to advance satellite communications under the direction of NASA. Telstar-1 was financed by AT&T and built by Bell Telephone Laboratories. (7/10)

A Primer on the Legal Issues Surrounding Space Debris Remediation (Source: Space Safety)
Space debris is considered to be the prominent issue facing the arena of outer space security and safety. More than 57 years of space activities by the space faring nations have left a debris environment that is self-perpetuating and threatens to render useless the outer space environment particularly in low-earth orbit. Addressing the issue requires mitigation, which through practices like the space debris mitigation guidelines promulgated by the UN is intended to decrease the growth of space debris.

These guidelines are not binding upon member States of the UN and only a few of the space-faring nations have implemented them into their space programs. Space debris remediation is another matter. Implementing remediation methods is still in its infancy, and doing so faces substantial technical, financial, and political hurdles. Additionally, space debris remediation also faces legal issues. Click here. (7/6)

Celestis Invites Customers for Next Memorial Mission (Source: Celestis)
Celestis' unique spaceflight memorialization services provide truly meaningful ways to pay tribute to anyone for whom space, astronomy and/or sci-fi was an important part of their lives. Consider including your loved one on our upcoming mission from Spaceport America, New Mexico. This will be an Earth Rise flight where a symbolic portion of the cremated remains is launched into space and returned to Earth. Our launch services provider has already selected October 10 as the launch date for this Earth Rise mission. Click here. (7/11)

Boeing, ULA Suing Air Force for $385 Million (Source: Space News)
Boeing and United Launch Alliance (ULA), a Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture, are suing the U.S. Air Force, claiming the service owes the companies more than $385 million in costs incurred on the Delta 4 rocket program. The lawsuit, filed June 14 with the United States Court of Federal Claims, says the Air Force reneged on its contractual commitment to reimburse Boeing “hundreds of millions of dollars” incurred under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. (7/11)

KSC Seeks Industry Partner to Utilize Unique Spaceflight Facility (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA's Kennedy Space Center seeks to preserve a unique inventory of Nondestructive Test and Evaluation (NDE) equipment and the capability for current and future mission spaceflight support through a Request for Information, or RFI. Kennedy wants to identify potential industry interest in the operation and maintenance of the Hangar N facility and its NDE equipment. Because of NASA's transition from the Space Shuttle Program to future commercial and government mission activities, the equipment is underutilized.

Hanger N and its associated labs are located near Kennedy on the grounds of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Hangar N provides the inspection techniques necessary for spaceflight hardware, avionics and ground support equipment processing, troubleshooting, and failure analysis. Some of the equipment is attached to the Hangar N facility and cannot easily be relocated. As a result, Kennedy seeks to implement a real property agreement for Hangar N with a potential partner. (7/11)

Apollo Astronauts Give Thanks to SpaceX (Source: NewSpace Journal)
There is a perception of a rift between the “old guard” aerospace companies, as well as the Apollo astronauts, with the emerging entrepreneurial NewSpace companies, exemplified by SpaceX. That division was evident in a 60 Minutes segment about SpaceX that included a clip of testimony by Apollo 17 commander Gene Cernan critical of the administration’s emphasis on commercial space, and Musk’s reaction. “I was very sad to see that because those guys are– yeah. You know, those guys are heroes of mine, so it’s really tough,” he said.

Steve Jurvetson, a venture capitalist who has invested in SpaceX, saw the 60 Minutes segment and decided to do something about it. He wanted to get Gene Cernan to tour SpaceX’s factory, as Musk offered in the 60 Minutes segment, but had no success. Cernan, Jurvetson recalls, asked a lot of questions about the company and its funding. “As I told him these stories of heroic entrepreneurship, I could see his mind turning,” Jurvetson wrote. “He found a reconciliation: ‘I never read any of this in the news. Why doesn’t the press report on this?’” In fact, many of the ups and downs about SpaceX that Jurvetson recounted to Cernan have been reported in the media—including during a certain 60 Minutes segment. (7/11)

What Would An Interstellar "Worldship" Look Like? (Source: Discovery)
A "worldship" would be home for as many as 10,000 interstellar colonists. While some of the vessel would resemble the space labs of today, the majority of living space should closely emulate small towns found here on Earth. Our interstellar explorers would be a community and their living space should be designed with that in mind. Steve Summerford is a landscape architect, urban planner and a concept illustrator working with Icarus Interstellar on Project Hyperion, a study of manned interstellar flight and colonization of other worlds. Click here. (7/11)

Space Station Science Chief Talks Up Orbiting Lab in Huntsville (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA's chief space station scientist came to Huntsville today to talk up the orbiting laboratory now facing a possible use-it-or-lose-it future. It's the same future facing all of NASA's human space exploration, associate administrator William Gerstenmaier said recently. "We are in a position in space research and space exploration where we have to push the ball and advance forward or we're about ready to retreat from space," Gerstenmaier told researchers at a station development conference in Denver last month.

Julie Robinson, the station's chief scientist, came to Marshall Space Flight Center to teach a class in what NASA is calling the station Ambassadors Program. Marshall is the NASA center that handles science experiments on the station and communicates with astronauts 24/7 from a control room here. The classes, already taught at NASA centers in Houston and Cape Canaveral, give science managers new talking points for when they speak to groups, appear at conferences or interact with the public, Robinson said. (7/11)

NASA Goes on a PR Tour For the Space Station (Source: WAAY)
NASA has been on a tour touting the benefits of the International Space Station. Dr. Julie Robinson, the ISS program scientist, answered questions about the program Wednesday morning at the Marshall Space Flight Center. She wants the public to understand how important ISS research has been and will continue to be "...20, 30 years from now, we're going to look back and we're going to see that the space station really changed the quality of life for everyone here in our country."

There has been a crew on board training and conducting experiments every hour of the day for over ten years. Research on the station is broad, spanning the fields of medicine, biotechnology, engineering, robotics, and physical sciences to name some. The ISS is currently scheduled to remain in operation until 2020. Dr. Robinson says that NASA's mission is to ensure that the technical end of the space station holds up to that time, and hopefully beyond. (7/11)

Should Pluto's 5th Moon Make It a Planet? (Source: Space.com)
While many people think of moons as accessories for planets, like the Earth's moon or Jupiter's many moons, Pluto doesn't quite make the cut in the International Astronomical Union's (IAU) definition of "planet." Despite of some determined lobbying by die-hard supporters to change its dwarf planet status, more moons around Pluto won't change its classification, experts say.

The IAU ruled that to be called a planet, an object has to meet three conditions. It must orbit the sun without being another object's satellite, it must have enough gravity to make it sphere-shaped and it must clear the area around it of other objects. But even with Pluto's five moons, it doesn't "clear the neighborhood." Six years after the IAU's ruling, some controversy still surrounds the decision, but the official ruling is unlikely to change in response to finding more Plutonian moons. (7/11)

Virginia Spaceport Poised To Turn Pad Over to Orbital This Month (Source: Space News)
The outgoing head of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority said the group is on track to hand off a launch pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) in Wallops Island, Va., to Orbital Sciences Corp. this month. Handing the pad over to Orbital would finally enable the Dulles, Va.-based rocket and satellite builder to begin flight demonstrations of its Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo module, the vehicles Orbital will use to fulfill a $1.9 billion NASA contract to fly cargo to the international space station. (7/11)

U.S. Air Force Eyes Purchase of Commercial Satellite Platforms (Source: Space News)
Several U.S. satellite builders are expected to submit bids in the coming weeks for a novel U.S. Air Force program that would purchase three generic commercial satellite platforms to which the service would add its own payloads, according to U.S. industry officials. The program, called Lynx, appears to be an evolution of what the Air Force had called Muscle, or Multi-Use Satellite Commercialization Experiment. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles sent out a request for information on the Muscle program in early 2011. (7/11)

Are We Ready Yet for Potentially Disastrous Impacts of Space Weather? (Source: Washington Post)
What if the sun unleashed a violent wave of plasma towards Earth triggering a disruptive geomagnetic storm of historic proportions? Would we be prepared? The answer is an unequivocal, if not surprising, no! That’s the screaming message I came away with from attending the most recent Space Weather Enterprise Forum in Washington on June 5 in regard to an extreme “end of life as we know it” geomagnetic storm. Click here. (7/11)

Asteroid Mining Startup Planetary Resources Teams With Virgin Galactic (Source: Forbes)
Asteroid mining startup Planetary Resources has announced that it has partnered with Virgin Galactic for its first step on its road to asteroid mining. According to a joint press release, the two companies have signed an agreement in which Virgin Galactic will launch Planetary Resources spacecraft into low Earth orbit, starting with the Arkyd-100 series of space telescopes. The telescopes will be launched on Virgin Galactic’s newly-announced satellite launcher, the LauncherOne. (7/11)

SSTL Signs Contract with OHB for Second Batch of Galileo Payloads (Source: SpaceRef)
Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) signed a contract with OHB System AG at the Farnborough International Airshow for the construction of a further eight navigation payloads for the European Galileo program. Under the contract, worth approximately O80m, SSTL will construct the navigation payloads for the second batch of Full Operational Capability satellites (Work Order No. 2), continuing a successful cooperation between the two companies to build the first 14 satellites (Work Order No. 1) under the supervision of the European Space Agency (ESA). (7/11)

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