July 20, 2012

Japan Successfully Launches H-2B Rocket With HTV Cargo Carrier (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
An H-2 Transfer Vehicle has been deployed from the H-2B rocket's upper stage, setting the stage for the ship's rendezvous with the International Space Station next Friday around 8:00 a.m. EDT. The rocket was launched from Japan's Tanegashima spaceport on Saturday morning. The cargo vessel will fly within about 40 feet while Expedition 32 flight engineers Joe Acaba of NASA and Aki Hoshide of JAXA use Canadarm2, the station's Canadian Space Agency-provided robotic arm, to grapple the vehicle and berth it to a docking port on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony node. (7/20)

Virgin Galactic Parallel Engine Program Revealed (Sources: Parabolic Arc, Aviation Week)
LauncherOne will be powered by a two-stage, liquid-fueled rocket, now in initial development by Virgin Galactic. The same rocket also is intended to ultimately replace the non-reusable RM2 hybrid motor that will power the SS2 to suborbit, Virgin says. So, it seems that SpaceShipTwo flights with liquid propulsion are about four years away. In the meantime, the RM2 engine will suffice:

The RM2 is in the final stages of development by Sierra Nevada Space Systems and “all major components have now been qualified for powered flight,” according to Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides. The RM2 is the major pacing item to the start of rocket-powered flight tests of SS2. And what happens if tests don’t go well and the hybrid motor isn’t a good interim solution? Well, then Virgin Galactic’s 500 plus millionauts are going to have quite a wait on their hands. And some of them are already pretty restless. (7/20)

Aquarius Undersea Lab, Used by NASA, Cut From Federal Budget (Sources: Huffington Post, WHQR)
What could be the final mission to Aquarius Reef Base, the world's last remaining undersea research station, 60 feet underwater off the Florida coast, is coming to a close. Aquarius has been cut from next year’s federal budget and may be closed as soon as December. Dr. Daniel Baden, director of Marine Science at UNC Wilmington, says the program was cut in the President’s budget and that cut was upheld by Congress. "Without that two to three million dollars a year to operate Aquarius Reef base and do the research, UNCW is not in the position to be able to operate it.”

Marc Reagan, director of last month's NASA training mission at Aquarius, said the watery environment is akin to a low earth orbit. He's optimistic other funding will come through to keep Aquarius running and that NASA will continue to train astronauts there. "It would be a shame to see it go away," he said. U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-FL, said budget cutbacks were unavoidable despite congressional efforts to find the funding. Government officials have left the door open for private funding to continue research there. "Unfortunately, our budget environment is very, very challenging and we are unable to do all that we would like." (7/19)

ITAR: Obama Promise "In The Works" with Ball in Senate's Court (Source: Politifact)
During the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama promised to review the regulations that govern the export of aerospace technology. For years, American technology companies have chafed under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), administered by the State Department to prevent critical defense-related technologies from falling into the wrong hands. ITAR makes it hard for U.S. aerospace companies to sell technologies such as satellites to foreign customers. This significantly reduces the size of their potential markets.

In a May 17, 2012, voice vote, the House of Representatives approved a bipartisan amendment to shift control from the State Department to the Commerce Department, implementing recommendations backed by the Obama administration. The ball is now in the Senate"s court. In May, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-CO, introduced a bill to implement the recommendations. Observers predict that the bill could be included as an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill. This "must-pass” measure is now second in line for consideration in the Senate after a cybersecurity bill, said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV.

The Commerce Department oversees--under somewhat looser controls--export of "dual-use" technologies that have both military and civilian applications. The Obama administration and many space industry leaders, believe Commerce Department control over certain space items will make U.S. manufacturers more competitive against foreign companies who have used ITAR as an opportunity to expand their market share and gain expertise in technologies that once were dominated by the U.S. Politifact has been tracking progress on this campaign promise since 2009 and they consider this promise to be "in the works". Click here. (7/20)

Space Contractors Anxiously Awaiting NASA's Call (Source: Florida Today)
NASA is set to make its biggest commitment yet to the development of private space taxis, one of which will likely be the first U.S. vehicle after the Space Shuttle to carry astronauts to orbit. By the end of this month or early next, the agency is expected to award up to three companies funding that could exceed $1 billion over nearly two years. The decision will impact hiring and activity here on the Space Coast, as companies work to finish designs of privately owned and operated spacecraft by 2014 and prepare for test flights from Florida after that. (7/20)

SpaceTEC Expands Horizons (Source: Florida Today)
A training facility for space workers has moved off the Cape Canaveral Spacecport and will expand the scope of technology courses it offers as part of an effort to better prepare workers for some of the new industries gaining a foothold on the Space Coast. With aircraft and boat manufacturing operations nearby, SpaceTEC will begin to offer training in composites

"This is a good example of how you take what we learned in aerospace and move that into areas beyond aerospace," said Al Koller. "Even though the industries are different, the technologies are very similar tha the technician skills are identical." SpaceTEC is not abandoning its space focus, though.

Headquartered in Florida, SpaceTEC administers a nationwide training certification process in collaboration with a collection of academic institutions situated near NASA and Air Force facilities and other aerospace industry centers. SpaceTEC is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and operates in Florida with support from Brevard Community College on the Space Coast. (7/18)

Romney Rep Blasts Obama for Outsourcing Astronaut Launches (Source: Space Politics)
With all the debate in the presidential campaign to date about outsourcing jobs to other nations, it was only a matter of time before space policy got pulled in. Appearing on CNN on Monday, John H. Sununu, the former New Hampshire governor and national co-chairman of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, brought up the issue and argued that President Obama had indulged in it himself while in the White House:

"There is a huge difference. In fact, we had an event yesterday that wasn’t well-reported. We launched a U.S. astronaut up to the space station. But you know how they were — he was launched? She was launched? She was launched on a Russian spacecraft because President Obama has outsourced a major portion of the U.S. space program to the Russians. That’s national policy. Taxpayer money."

Sununu was referring to Saturday night’s launch of a Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS, whose crew included NASA astronaut Sunita Williams. And, in fact, Soyuz is the only means for NASA astronauts to access the ISS with the retirement last year of the Space Shuttle. However, as FactCheck.org describes in great detail, that policy predates the Obama Administration, outlining the decisions made by the George W. Bush Administration and NASA leadership of the time to retire the shuttle and create a several-year gap in human spaceflight. (7/18)

Ohio Aerospace Companies Uneasy About Looming Federal Cuts (Source: Crains Cleveland Business)
Looming federal budget cuts have Ohio aerospace companies uneasy. The $109 billion in cuts, which would go into effect in January, involve an across-the-board $54.5 billion reduction of Pentagon spending in 2013 and could have almost immediate effects on Ohio companies, aerospace officials say. The cuts are part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which outlines plans to reduce the federal deficit by $917 billion in the next 10 years.

Aerospace officials say the country — and Ohio — can't afford the cuts. During a roundtable discussion Thursday held by the Ohio Aerospace Institute, industry leaders called the cuts “draconian” and “devastating.” Defense cuts would result in Ohio losing 21,280 jobs, $1.8 billion in gross state product and $908 million in labor income during fiscal years 2012 and 2013. Editor's Note: Florida's losses would include an AIA-estimated 79,000 DOD and non-DOD jobs. (7/20)

Chemical Bond Discovered That Only Exists in Space (Source: New Scientist)
There's a new bond in town, and this secret agent works best in extreme situations. The bond, of the chemical variety, occurs in the presence of very strong magnetic fields, such as those found around ultra-dense white dwarf stars. Its discovery not only demonstrates the existence of an unfamiliar and exotic type of chemistry, it may also give insight into the behaviors of these mysterious stellar bodies.

White dwarfs are the remnant cores of low-mass stars that have exhausted all their fuel. They are thought to be the final state for most of the stars in our galaxy. Though they have masses comparable to that of our sun, white dwarfs only occupy the same amount of space as a small planet like Earth, making them incredibly dense. They also exhibit super-strong magnetic fields on the order of 100,000 tesla – 10 billion times greater than Earth's magnetic field, and 10 million times greater than that of an average refrigerator magnet. This intense field can affect the behavior of the electrons that make up chemical bonds.

On Earth, atoms usually bond either covalently, by sharing electrons with neighboring atoms, or ionically, via electrostatic attractions created by the transferal of electrons. The electrons that give rise to these bonds are governed by the Pauli exclusion principle: two cannot occupy the same quantum state simultaneously. To avoid this scenario, electrons in bonds normally pair up in couples of opposing spin. But under the intense magnetic field of a white dwarf, "this spin interacts with the external field, acting like a little magnet," says lead author Kai Lange. (7/19)

A Wrinkle in Space-Time (Source: UC Davis)
Mathematicians at UC Davis have come up with a new way to crinkle up the fabric of space-time -- at least in theory. "We show that space-time cannot be locally flat at a point where two shock waves collide," said Blake Temple, professor of mathematics at UC Davis. "This is a new kind of singularity in general relativity." Einstein's theory of general relativity explains gravity as a curvature in space-time. But the theory starts from the assumption that any local patch of space-time looks flat, Temple said.

A singularity is a patch of space-time that cannot be made to look flat in any coordinate system, Temple said. One example of a singularity is inside a black hole, where the curvature of space becomes extreme. Temple and his collaborators study the mathematics of how shockwaves in a perfect fluid can affect the curvature of space-time in general relativity. (7/19)

Spaceport Maintains its Mission Cadence for Ariane 5 Flights (Source: Space Daily)
Built by Orbital Sciences Corporation, HYLAS 2 has almost three times the bandwidth capacity of HYLAS 1 - launched by Arianespace in November 2010 - to substantially increase Avanti Communications' international coverage. The two satellite passengers for Arianespace's next heavy-lift Ariane 5 mission are now undergoing final preparations at the Spaceport, while launcher components for the following flight have arrived in French Guiana - keeping up the pace to meet requirements of the company's international customer base.

Arianespace's upcoming mission is scheduled for August 2 with a dual payload consisting of the Intelsat 20 and HYLAS 2 telecommunications relay spacecraft. This flight is designated Flight VA208 in Arianespace's numbering system, representing the 208th mission of an Ariane family launcher since the maiden liftoff of an Ariane 1 version in 1979. (7/20)

New Space Station Camera Will Look Down at Earth, Not Up at the Stars (Source: Huntsville Times)
A new Earth-observing camera built at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station Friday. The remote-controlled camera will help scientists analyze environmental disasters and environmental changes. The new camera is called ISERV Pathfinder, and it will be installed in the Window Observational Research Facility (WORF) in the station's Destiny laboratory. Scientists hope it will be a research tool for building better systems in the future. Ideally, they would like to be able to monitor disasters as they are happening. (7/20)

When Landing on the Moon, Practice Makes Perfect (Source: Discovery)
On July 20, 1969 -- 43 years ago today -- Neil Armstrong made a nice, soft landing on the moon. It was way better than the time he almost died practicing for the event in the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle. When President Kennedy promised America a moon landing by the end of the decade, NASA more or less knew how to get to the moon, but only in theory. The practical side was another matter, and one of the biggest unknowns was how to actually land on the surface.

What would a lunar lander look like and how would it fly? At the Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California, Assistant director Hubert M. “Jake” Drake established a group of four engineers to look into the challenges of piloting a lunar landing. Armstrong, a civilian pilot at the time, was the only pilot-engineer in the group.

Nicknamed the Drake Group, the team quickly identified a vertical approach as better suited to a moon landing, something closer to a helicopter than an airplane. But the other piece of the puzzle was designing a vehicle that could mimic the flying characteristics of a vehicle landing on the moon. That was a challenge. The moon’s one-sixth and no atmosphere is impossible to replicate for an Earth-bound flight test program. Click here. (7/20)

With Orion Space Capsule, NASA Plots Return to Space Exploration (Source: Fox News)
It has been more than 40 years since the famed Apollo missions, when humans stepped into deep space. And at last, NASA intends to get back to its exploration roots. "This is the first time we've had a vehicle that will truly send us where we've always dreamed of going," NASA's Josh Byerly told Fox News. The Orion capsule is a part of what NASA had planned as the sprawling and ambitious Constellation project that would offer a replacement for the space shuttle -- and a means to ferry humans into outer space and back to the moon.

In under 10 years, it will ride a rocket and take astronauts to places like Mars, NASA hopes. But it must first endure rigorous testing over the Arizona desert. "We kind of put it through a different type of environment or even failure mode that we want to protect for," said NASA Project Manager Chris Johnson. Parachutes are the current focus. At 26,000 feet, the capsule is dropped out of a C-17 cargo jet to see how the chutes will help glide the spacecraft safely back to Earth. Click here. (7/20)

Ahoy! Your Ship is Being Tracked From Orbit (Source: BBC)
The latest satellite ship-tracker goes into orbit this weekend for Canada's ExactEarth company. The monitoring of vessels at sea is a fast-developing space service. It's a market being driven presently by ExactEarth and its US competitor, Orbcomm. Their satellites listen in to the AIS (Automatic Identification System) signals broadcast from vessels.

All ships over 300 gross tons (and many passenger ships) are mandated to carry transponders that push out data that includes not just position, course, and speed, but also information about a ship's type, draught, cargo - even its captain. AIS was established in the first instance as a safety system - something maritime agencies and ship operators themselves could use near shore to keep tabs on who was doing what in local waters.

Its limitation is that communication with coastal receiving stations is line of sight, meaning it's not possible to track vessels once they've gone out into the open ocean. Hence the enterprise of also putting receiving stations in orbit. The company claims its exactView-1 satellite will be the most performant platform yet launched. The spacecraft is British-built, assembled by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited in Guildford. It AIS receiving equipment is also UK built. (7/20)

GE Researchers to Study Link Between Microgravity and Vision Impairment in Astronauts (Source: GE)
Scientists at GE Global Research will soon begin a three-year project to build and test a new ultrasound probe and measurement techniques that could eventually be used in space to monitor how the spaceflight environment affects the vision of astronauts. The new probe, to be developed as part of this study, is smaller than what is currently on the market. It is being designed to deliver real-time, three-dimensional pictures, showing the entire globe of the eye and any potential changes in the structure and function of the eye. (7/20)

Bizarre Mars Mountain an Inviting Target for Curiosity Rover (Source: Space.com)
The towering mountain that NASA's next Mars rover will explore after landing on the Red Planet next month remains mysterious to scientists, who say there's nothing quite like it here on Earth. Mount Sharp rises 3 miles (5 kilometers) from the center of Mars' huge Gale Crater, where the car-size Curiosity rover will touch down on the night of Aug. 5. Curiosity scientists are eager to study the mountain, whose many layers preserve a record of the Red Planet's changing environmental conditions going back perhaps a billion years or more. (7/20)

A Year After Shuttle's End, JSC Moving Forward (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Saturday marks one year since the wheels of space shuttle Atlantis stopped for the final time, ending the iconic program after three decades. Although there have been some challenges during the last 12 months the Johnson Space Center, for which the space shuttle was the signature program, is moving on from the iconic vehicle, said the center's director, Mike Coats. "Contrary to rumors, we're not going out of business," Coats said during a meeting with the Chronicle's editorial board Wednesday.

The center's budget has shrunk from about $6 billion a year to $4.5 billion, and its workforce of civil servants and contractors has fallen from 17,000 to about 13,000, Coats said. Yet the JSC still operates the International Space Station, and is also managing development of the Orion spacecraft. This vehicle will make its first test flight - unmanned - in 2014. Click here. (7/20)

NASA Partner United Launch Alliance Completes Two Atlas V Reviews (Source: NASA)
NASA partner United Launch Alliance (ULA) has completed a review of its Atlas V rocket to assess its compliance with NASA human spaceflight safety and performance requirements. ULA has partnered to launch Boeing's CST-100, Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser and Blue Origin's Space Vehicle on missions to low Earth orbit and the International Space Station. NASA provided technical consultation during the ULA review.

Among adjustments required to evolve the Atlas V for human spaceflight, designers would have to modify the launch pad so crew members can board the spacecraft. The upper stage of a crewed Atlas V would require the use of two Centaur engines, stronger than the current Atlas V upper stage that uses a single engine. The onboard flight computers would be programmed to guide the rocket on a more managed path through the sky into orbit. Sensors also would be added to the rocket to detect emergency situations for the crew. (7/19)

Russia’s Soyuz Replacement Delayed to 2018 (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin says that Russia’s new six-person Soyuz replacement will not fly until 2018, a delay from the previous 2015-16 time frame. “We are thinking of higher [compared to the International Space Station] orbits, and flights to the moon, and developing the technology to fly to Mars,” he said. “So we are developing a future system, first of all of course the pressurized, launchable module,” he said.

If a heavy rocket launch from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Amur Region, due to be complete by 2015, is not ready in time, initial flight trials could be completed with a pilotless version on a Zenit rocket from the existing Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan, he said. (7/19)

NASA Plans Agreement For Pharmaceutical Project on Space Station (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA has identified a potential pharmaceutical industry partner named Epiomed Therapeutics, Inc., which is interested in assuming responsibilities for the further development and commercialization of a pharmaceutical dosage form for intranasal administration of scopolamine (INSCOP). NASA has been actively engaged in the clinical development of this agent and is now seeking a Space Act Agreement (SAA) Partner whose role will include production of the formulation under FDA stipulated GMP GUIDELINES for clinical trials. (7/19)

Russia Converts Unmanned Rocket to Carry New Crewed Spaceship (Source: Space News)
Russia's next new manned spacecraft will launch atop a different rocket than planned, one originally designed for only robotic spacecraft. The country's new six-cosmonaut spacecraft is due to lift off on its first test flight in 2018, using a launcher named Angara A5 developed for unmanned missions. The new six-cosmonaut spacecraft, which is called the Advanced Crew Vehicle (ACV), was to have been launched by another new rocket, Rus-M.

The Rus-M was to be an evolution of the Samara Space Center's Soyuz FG rocket that launches the Soyuz manned spacecraft. But Rus-M was canceled last year, while ACV was continued despite no launcher being identified for it. As well as carrying six cosmonauts, the ACV will carry 1,100 pounds (500 kg) of cargo and could travel to the moon. Like the Soyuz capsule, which Russia currently uses to launch humans to orbit, the ACV will use rockets to land. (7/19)

NASA Hypersonic Inflatable Tech Test Now Set For Launch July 22 (Source: NASA)
NASA managers are rescheduling the launch of an inflatable heat shield technology demonstration flight from the agency's Wallops Flight Facility until no earlier than July 22. The Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3) launch was postponed for one day to allow for additional testing of launch vehicle systems. NASA has three consecutive days of launch opportunities for IRVE-3, with a liftoff window from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. EDT each day. (7/19)

Editorial: Decades Later, Neil Armstrong Still Chooses To Go To the Moon (Source: NBC)
Today, Neil Armstrong is concerned about America’s space program. He simply thinks that NASA is going nowhere fast. He's worried that the space agency is outsourcing thousands of high-tech jobs to Russia, leaving no direct way for astronauts to go from the United States to the International Space Station. He fears that the space station could experience a catastrophic failure with little support from the country that assembled it in orbit. Neil thinks we should not only fly our own rockets and spacecraft, but use those vehicles to return to the moon in affordable, incremental, cumulative steps. (7/19)

Made-in-Space Parts Could Become Space Travel's New Norm (Source: Space.com)
Maybe it's time to shelve the old saying, "you can't leave home without it," when it comes to packing for trips to space. Say you're hunkered down inside Mars Base-1 and a vital piece of life-support gear breaks down. A hurried search in supply bins proves futile. The next cycler spaceship with equipment is months away. Time is running out.

This disaster scenario could be short-circuited by what's tagged as "additive manufacturing" — a process to fabricate or 3D print a critical widget layer by layer. Using additive manufacturing equipment, items can be cranked out on the spot, whether they're made of hard plastics or certain metals. (7/19)

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