July 26, 2012

San Quentin Inmates Building Satellite Hardware for NASA (Source: Space News)
The NASA Ames Research Center is known for establishing innovative partnerships and Pete Worden, the former Air Force general who serves as the Center’s director, is known as a maverick. Still, the latest joint venture to come to light has caught even some longtime NASA observers by surprise. Under supervision from NASA Ames, inmates working in the machine shop at California’s San Quentin State Prison are building Poly Picosatellite Orbital Deployers (PPODs), the standard mechanism used to mount cubesats on a variety of launch vehicles and then, at the appropriate time, fling them into orbit. (7/26)

Boeing Gains Ground in Telesat Dispute (Source: Space News)
Boeing’s once-formidable battle with satellite operator Telesat of Canada over Telesat’s allegations of gross negligence and breach of contract has shrunk to a fifth of its former size with Telesat’s progressive reduction of its claims. In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Chicago-based Boeing said the damages Ottawa-based Telesat is seeking in compensation for the problems aboard the Anik F1 satellite now total just $71 million, compared to $395 million when the arbitration filing was first made in 2006. (7/26)

New Satellites Could Make GPS Harder to Jam (Source: WIRED)
Without GPS, drones can’t fly, communications networks can’t function, and you don’t have a chance of figuring out how to get to your Aunt Sadie’s place in New Jersey. And right now, GPS is highly vulnerable because its weak signals are coming from an aging constellation of satellites. Lockheed Martin thinks the next generation of GPS satellites might be able to fix all that. GPS III, as it’s known, is designed to improve the accuracy of the GPS signal and have better resistance to jamming. Also, it is meant to be compatible with its international alternatives like the European Galileo system or the Russian GLONASS system. (7/26)

Planetary Science: The Time Machine (Source: Nature)
The bits of rock on Scott Anderson's shelf are not much to look at, but they have stories to tell. In a plastic case is a greenish-grey rock, a 4.5-billion-year-old piece of the asteroid Vesta. Next to it rests a dark sliver of 2.8-billion-year-old lava from the Moon. Anderson, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute, picks up his favourite, a 1-gram slice of rock that cost him $800. The flake came from Zagami, an 18-kilogram meteorite named after the Nigerian village where it was found in 1962. It is one of the rarest and most sought-after types of meteorite — a piece of Mars that was blasted into space by an asteroid impact.

What Anderson wants from these far-flung fragments of the Solar System is elementary: their ages. Coaxing out that information is far more difficult. Zigzagging across his laboratory is a web of laser beams that feed into a mass spectrometer — all part of a geochronometer that Anderson is building. Like other rock-dating systems, this one computes an age from the radioactive decay of certain isotopes in a sample. What sets Anderson's system apart is his goal to shrink the whole operation down to something that would fit on a desktop. (7/27)

Homemade South Korean Satellite to Go Boldly Into Space (Source: Reuters)
Years of rummaging through back-alley electronics stores will pay off later this year for a South Korean artist when he fulfills his dream of launching a homemade, basement-built satellite into space. "Making a satellite is no more difficult than making a cellphone," said Song Hojun, 34, who said he built the $500 OpenSat to show people they could achieve their dreams.

"I believe that not just a satellite, but anything can be made with the help of the Internet and social platforms. I chose a satellite to show that symbolically." There's a long history of do-it-yourself satellites being launched by universities and scientific groups around the world, as well as amateur radio clubs, but Song said his is the first truly personal satellite designed and financed by an individual. (7/27)

How Will Scientists Protect Earth From Extraterrestrial Diseases? (Source: TakePart)
With the Curiosity rover due to touch down on Mars within weeks, eyes will be focused on the red planet—including those of NASA scientist Catharine Conley. Conley is NASA’s Planetary Protection Officer, and her job is to ensure that astronauts and robots that leave our planet don’t bring back nasty extra-terrestrial bugs that could potentially wipe out life on Earth. Since man started blasting rockets into space, the problem of viruses and potentially hazardous forms of life hasn’t been relegated to Earth.

“We’re not going to be sending humans tomorrow,” she says, “but technology development takes a long time and we have to think about doing this now. I’m always monitoring technologies that are coming up and asking: can we adapt this technology to be used in spaceflight?” Hers is a hefty task. NASA has been looking out for Earth’s safety since 1967, when the United Nations instituted the Outer Space Treaty, which outlines rules for disinfection and quarantine of objects that enter space and subsequently return to Earth. (7/27)

ESA Studies Future of Europe’s Launch Services (Source: ESA)
Today, Europe enjoys autonomous access to space, while holding a leading position in the world launch services market. ESA has begun work on a new strategy to ensure that both can be maintained sustainably in future. ESA has begun investigating the feasibility of a new approach for European access to space, aimed at making Europe’s launch services fully self-sufficient over the long haul.

The idea behind this New European Launch Service – NELS – is to deliver competitive launch services to both governmental and private European customers while keeping pace with the rapidly changing worldwide launch market. Today, Europe is guaranteed access to space and offers services to customers worldwide through a versatile family of launchers: Ariane 5, Vega and Soyuz from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.

While this approach has been successful so far, the risk is that it becomes less sustainable economically down the line. The projected likelihood is that – despite continuing work to reduce the cost of launch services – the trend towards larger satellites coupled with increasingly fierce international competition will mean public money will be required to fund the costs of maintaining assets in order to preserve autonomous European space access with the current family of launchers. So, the preferred option is to ensure the continuation of industrial activities in production and to start developments that will prepare for the next generation of launch vehicles. Click here. (7/27)

What a Win or Loss on Mars Will Mean (Source: NBC)
Anyone who's looked at the "Seven Minutes of Terror" trailer for next month's Mars landing might have wondered whether the planners behind NASA's $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory mission really knew what they were doing — and although the planners insist they're confident, they also say they're nervous.
"There's not a whole lot we can do about it at this point, except just be nervous," said Dave Beaty of NASA JPL.

This multibillion-dollar mission depends on everything working right — and there's even more at stake than just the mission. If next month's landing fails, that could spark even more questions about the future of NASA's troubled Mars exploration effort. The failures of Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander in 1999 led to years of rethinking and retrenchment, and the soul-searching would probably go far deeper in this current age of tightened budgets and downscaled ambitions. (7/27)

Senators Hear NASA Defense of ISS Science (Source: Florida Today)
The most exciting part of conducting research at the International Space Station is not knowing what’s going to be exciting, astronaut Donald Pettit testified at a Senate hearing Wednesday. “One of the most exciting parts of going into a frontier are the pages of the book that don’t have any writing on them yet, because you don’t even know enough to know ‘Should this be the exciting part, should this be the significant part?’ ” Pettit said.

Committee members called the hearing to discuss the space station’s future through 2020 and beyond, now that its assembly is complete and more of its crew time is focused on research. The station will get funding until 2020, but Congress hasn’t decided whether it will survive beyond that. The sprawling spacecraft is in good physical shape and could continue operating until at least 2028, said William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator of human exploration and operations.

One issue clouding the station’s future is the troubled start to the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS). NASA established the Florida-based nonprofit center last year to manage and promote the part of the space station known as the U.S. National Laboratory, which functions as a research facility for U.S. companies. A CASIS board of directors “that includes some of America’s brightest minds from business and science” will be announced soon, CASIS interim executive director James Royston said. Click here. (7/27)

Armadillo Aerospace Granted FAA Launch License (Source: Space News)
Armadillo Aerospace plans to conduct the first flight of its new reusable suborbital rocket in late August under an FAA license awarded July 26. During the first flight of the Suborbital Transport with Inertial Guidance (STIG) B rocket, Armadillo plans to carry two research payloads above 100 kilometers to provide the experiments with 2.5 to three minutes in microgravity. The launch is expected to occur Aug. 25 or Aug. 26.

The payloads are being provided by the United Kingdom’s Vega Space Ltd and Indiana’s Purdue University. Texas-based Armadillo intends to use the August flight from New Mexico’s Spaceport America to demonstrate the capability of the STIG B rocket to potential customers and to qualify for NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program. The STIG B flight will be the first licensed flight from Spaceport America. (7/26)

The Great Moon or Mars Debate is Premature (Source: Citizens in Space)
Development of the Moon is certainly a necessary and logical goal for the new space age, but proclaiming it to be the first goal is like trying to score a home run without touching first, second, or third. To put it another way, debating whether the Moon or Mars should be the first goal is like early aviation pioneers debating whether the goal for air travel should be transatlantic or transpacific flights, while ignoring all of the hard work needed to develop aircraft for inter-city and transcontinental flights.

There is still an enormous amount of work to be done in near Earth space. The commercial Dragon and Cygnus capsules which Wingo mentions have not even demonstrated their ability to carry humans into space yet – nor do they represent the be-all and end-all of commercial space transportation.

Yes, In Situ Resources Utilization (ISRU) on the Moon can greatly reduce the need for resupply from Earth and partly offset the high cost of space transportation – but only partly. ISRU will not replace all items that must be supplied from Earth, and it will take time to set up. Long-term cost reductions are useless if the initial startup costs are prohibitive. The idea that ISRU and Cheap Access To Space are antagonistic, rather than complementary, is one of the fundamental misconceptions of the lunar-development community. (7/26)

The Power of Curiosity (Source: Space News)
During ordinary times, the Curiosity Mars landing would represent an extraordinary milestone in space exploration and the understanding of Mars. However, we are not living in ordinary times, and the stakes have never been higher for a Mars landing. The budgetary, political and programmatic pressure focused on NASA (and every other federal agency) is unprecedented. Every success and failure — no matter how minor — is being scrutinized to an extreme degree.

Add to this environment the fact that MSL is scheduled to land in the heart of the U.S. presidential campaign season, which tends to magnify the impact — positive or negative — of any event. This landing will take place less than a month before the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Aug. 27-30, and the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 3-6.

With this backdrop, it is certain that MSL will make a political impact. The key question is what will be the nature of that impact and how far-reaching will it be? A successful landing could help generate the momentum necessary to revitalize our science budget and provide more focus for human exploration. On the other hand, failure in this environment would have a far more detrimental impact than in ordinary times. If the $2.5 billion MSL were to fail, it could cause major troubles for NASA and space supporters as they argue for support of programs and budgets. (7/26)

New Site Encourages You to “Get Curious” About Mars Landing (Source: WIRED)
In less than two weeks, the men and women of NASA will sit back with the rest of the world, hold their breath, and see if the Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity, can complete a successful landing. In the meantime, a campaign encourages you to ‘Get Curious’ by visiting GetCurious.com, where you can learn more about the landing of the Mars rover Curiosity, the benefits of space exploration and the unique financial and educational opportunities that exploring Mars will bring to the United States and the rest of the world.

The GetCurious.com site, which is sponsored by Explore Mars, United Launch Alliance, and Aerojet, provides daily information concerning the Mars Science Laboratory and learn more about the program. What’s more, there are plenty of activities for kids, students, and educators, as well as ways for the curious to connect with each other. Click here. (7/26)

If Spirit Had Gone to Disney World (Source: Air&Space)
In 2004, twin robots the size of golf carts began to traverse the Martian landscape. The so-called Mars Exploration Rovers landed near the Martian equator, halfway around the planet from each other. One of them, Spirit, spent the better part of a decade rolling through hills and poking around craters, far surpassing its original 90-day mission, until its luck ran out when it got stuck in a patch of soft soil and ran out of power. It sits there today.

During its long life on Mars, Spirit traveled just 4.8 miles. Brent Garry, a research scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, put Spirit’s short trip in perspective by superimposing the rover’s trail onto familiar places on Earth, like Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The rover “landed” near the park’s main entrance, then rolled up through the Magic Kingdom before hunkering down in, let’s face it, the only appropriate place for a planetary explorer: Space Mountain. Click here. (7/26)

Musk's Next Venture: High-Speed Rail? (Source: Inhabitat)
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently revealed his plans for a new green vehicle, dubbed the “Hyperloop” that could transport people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes flat. Musk recently discussed the new transit system, which would be twice as fast as a plane, three to four times faster than a bullet train, and entirely powered by solar energy. “I think we could actually make it self-powering if you put solar panels on it, you generate more power than you would consume in the system. There’s a way to store the power so it would run 24/7 without using batteries.” Click here. (7/26)

Wannabe Astronaut Looks to Asteroids (Source: Guardian)
Eric Anderson launched tourists into space on Russian rockets at 23. Now he wants to go out of this world for minerals. For as long as he can remember Eric Anderson wanted to become an astronaut. But knew his short-sightedness would prevent him from joining NASA. Instead, he has made it his mission to take others into space. He kick-started the space tourism industry at the age of 23 – so far his company, Space Adventures, has sent seven people (all multimillionaires) into space on Russian rockets.

His next venture is Planetary Resources, aimed at mining asteroids for precious metals. A "$100bn global mining company", which Anderson refuses to name, has signed a deal to secure rights to the first minerals the company recovers. "You say it's impractical, but people thought it was impractical to put private citizens on rockets – and we did that," Anderson says during a visit to the UK to tap up interest among London's growing community of billionaires. (7/26)

AMS Experiment Marks One Year in Space (Source: CERN)
CERN today marked the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer's first year in space with a visit from the crew of the shuttle mission, STS-134, that successfully delivered AMS to the International Space Station (ISS) just over a year ago. Launched on 16 May last year, the detector was already sending data back to Earth by 19 May, and since then, some 17 billion cosmic-ray events have been collected. Data are received by NASA in Houston, and then relayed to the AMS Payload Operations Control Center (POCC) at CERN for analysis. A second POCC has recently been inaugurated in Taipei. (7/26)

ATK To Provide Key Components for DARPA Satellite Repurposing Program (Source: ATK)
ATK has been selected as a key participant to support DARPA's Tactical Technologies Office (TTO) Phoenix Technologies Program. The Phoenix Program is developing technologies to cooperatively harvest and re-use valuable components from retired, nonworking satellites in geosynchronous orbit. The planned repurposing of these satellite components such as antennas represents the potential to create new space resources at significantly less cost.

DARPA and the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) intend to negotiate with ATK to modify an existing US-built, US government owned geostationary satellite bus for the Phoenix mission. The bus, originally developed by ATK, is designed to be capable of supporting, for a minimum of one year, robotic rendezvous and proximity operations, and a grapple-and-repair robotic technology demonstration mission. The bus is scheduled to be delivered by October 2014 to the NRL for Space Vehicle integration and test. (7/25)

United Technologies Will Sell Hamilton Sundstrand for $3.46 Billion (Source: Bloomberg)
As part of United Technologies' efforts to finance its purchase of Goodrich, it has agreed to sell a business unit to Carlyle Group and BC Partners. United Technologies will sell Hamilton Sundstrand for $3.46 billion in a deal that is expected to close in the fourth quarter. Editor's Note: Here's a fact sheet on Hamilton Sundstrand's space group. (7/26)

ADS-B Signals Could be Spoofed by Hackers, Researchers Warn (Source: Forbes)
Researchers warn that ADS-B lacks the necessary encryption for air-traffic controllers to differentiate between real aircraft and aircraft with spoofed signals from hackers. "Anyone can technically transmit these messages," said Andrei Costin, a doctoral candidate at the French security institute Eurecom. "It's practically possible for a medium-technical savvy person to mount an attack and impersonate a plane that's not there." (7/26)

Curiosity Will Test Martian Weather for Human Compatibility (Source: Space.com)
The Mars rover Curiosity will serve as a Red Planet weatherman when it lands, and study the Martian weather to determine if humans could one day live on the planet. Among the key measurements Curiosity will take is Mars' level of radiation. The rover is scheduled to land on Mars in early August. (7/26)

China Launches Global Data Relay Satellite (Source: Xinhua)
China successfully launched the Tianlian I-03 satellite on Wednesday from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province, completing the country's first data relay satellite network system. The satellite was launched on a Long March-3C carrier rocket at 11:43 p.m. Beijing Time, according to sources with the center. The satellite will join its two predecessors to realize global network operation after in-orbit validation and system coordination procedures are carried out. The first data relay satellite, the Tianlian I-01, was launched in April 2008, and the second was launched in July 2011. (7/26)

Argentina, China Ink Space Cooperation Deal (Source: AFP)
China plans to build an antenna for deep space observation in Argentina's southern Patagonia region, Argentina's foreign ministry announced Wednesday. The agreement -- between Argentina's space agency and China's agency for the control and tracking of satellites -- also defines more general "parameters for establishing earth-based installations," and creates a basis for future cooperation, the ministry said.

It emphasized the antenna is "a project of tremendous importance," which will permit Argentina "to develop interplanetary exploration activities, to study deep space and celestial bodies, to monitor and control satellites, and to acquire scientific data." It is to be built in Neuquen province, the ministry added. Argentina's space program is one of the most advanced in Latin America. The European Space Agency (ESA) is finishing construction of an antenna in Argentina's central-west Mendoza province, to support deep space exploration. (7/26)

Bermuda Scrambling to Preserve Orbital Slot (Source: Space News)
The government of Bermuda is rushing to find an in-orbit satellite to fill an orbital slot before Bermuda’s rights to it expire in mid-2013, Bermuda’s minister of space affairs said. The slot, at 96.2 degrees west, in principle became more valuable in 2011 when the Isle of Man, which like Bermuda is positioning itself to attract satellite companies, lost its right to an orbit slot next door when the deadline passed with no spacecraft present. (7/26)

New NASA Telescope Has Key Canadian Parts (Source: CBC)
The Canadian Space Agency has unveiled its contributions to the space telescope that will replace the Hubble — a highly precise camera and a sensor. NASA's James Webb space telescope will be seven times bigger than the Hubble, allowing it to peer deeper into the universe. The Webb telescope will have an array of mirrors seven-meters across, and the Canadian-made camera will be the key to directing those mirrors. (7/26)

Private Space Tech Startups Vie for $100,000 Prize (Source: Space.com)
Ten space-industry startups will compete for a $100,000 prize at a conference Friday in Silicon Valley. The 10 companies are finalists in the NewSpace 2012 Business Plan Competition, which is part of the NewSpace 2012 conference. The conference runs from Thursday to Saturday (July 26 to 28) in Santa Clara, Calif. On Friday, each startup will give a six-minute oral presentation to a panel of judges. The winning team will be announced Saturday night at the NewSpace 2012 Awards Gala, and will receive $100,000 courtesy of NASA. (7/26)

Heavy-Lift Rocket Design Passes NASA Review (Source: CFnews13)
The next generation of space exploration passed a major milestone Wednesday. NASA announced the new Space Launch System, SLS, passed a review for technical, performance, cost and schedule requirements. The rocket will be used to launch NASA’s Orion spacecraft and, according to NASA, launch humans farther into space than ever before. Now, the project will move from concept development to preliminary design. The first test flight is scheduled for 2017. (7/25)

A Day In The Life Of Elon Musk, The Most Inspiring Entrepreneur In The World (Source: Business Insider)
Elon Musk is the most inspiring entrepreneur in the world right now. He is running two world changing companies: Electric car maker Tesla, and private space exploration company SpaceX. He's also chairman of SolarCity, a company that does solar panels for homes. We asked Musk if he'd give us an inside look at his daily operations. He obliged, and his assistant sent along these photos from Thursday July 12. He was at SpaceX, which is based in the LA-area. Click here. (7/25)

Record Occasional-use Business Boosts Telenor’s Revenue (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Telenor Satellite Broadcasting of Norway reported a 2 percent increase in revenue and higher gross profit for the three months ending June 30, saying it booked a record amount of occasional-use business. Oslo-based Telenor said its satellite capacity at 1 degree west is also seeing a shift in data business from land-based to maritime markets. Telenor hopes to capture a larger share of the growing maritime communications market with the Thor 7 satellite, which features Ka-band capacity and is scheduled for launch in late 2013. (7/26)

Curiosity's Siblings: A Short History of Landings On Alien Planets (Source: Popular Science)
The Mars rover Curiosity, now just days from landing on the Martian surface, is something of a technological marvel, unlike anything that has come before it. But first NASA engineers have to slow it from 13,000 miles per hour to zero in just seven minutes and place carefully into an extremely hostile environment. It's a delicate act, an art form really, but it's been done before. Curiosity doesn't stand alone, but on the shoulders of giants. Click here. (7/25)

GenCorp Faces Possible Debt Downgrade After PWR Deal (Source: Sacramento Bee)
GenCorp Inc.'s credit rating could suffer because of its just-announced $550 million purchase of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. Moody's Investors Service and Standard & Poor's said this week they are considering downgrading the debt of GenCorp, the parent of Aerojet. The two firms said they like the deal's long-term ramifications but are worried about its short-term impact on the balance sheet of the California rocket-engine maker. GenCorp plans to pay for Rocketdyne with a mix of borrowed money and cash on hand. S&P currently assigns a "B" rating to GenCorp, which is considered "vulnerable." Moody's labels it B1, which means "speculative." (7/25)

International Dialog on Satellite Servicing and Debris Removal (Source: NewsWise)
On-orbit servicing (OOS) and active debris removal (ADR) are part of an emerging category of future on-orbit activities that are critical for taking the next leap in our use of Earth orbit. The ability to repair or refuel satellites, construct new satellites in orbit, and even remove orbital debris can help drive innovative uses of space and create new possibilities. These activities also raises a host of diplomatic, legal, safety, operational, and policy challenges that need to be tackled for this future to be possible.

The Secure World Foundation (SWF) will be holding two international conferences to bring in the perspectives and viewpoints from all stakeholders on issues of on-orbit servicing and active debris removal, extending the conversation to an international audience. In partnership with the Institut francais des relations internationales (Ifri), SWF will hold a conference in Brussels on Oct. 30 to bring these discussions to the European community, followed by a Feb. 20 event with the Singapore Space and Technology Association (SSTA) to extend the dialog to the Asia-Pacific region. (7/25)

Ad Astra Rocket Company, Costa Rica Signs $1.4M Agreements for Hydrogen R&D (Source: SpaceRef)
Ad Astra Rocket Company and Costa Rica's government-owned oil refinery Refinadora Costarricense de Petroleo (RECOPE), EARTH University and Costa Rica's Ministry of Environment, Energy and Telecommunications (MINAET), signedtwo agreements related to R&D of technologies based on the use hydrogen as an alternative fuel.

The first agreement, signed by all parties, establishes a single framework for cooperation by the parties on research focused on renewable sources of energy in Costa Rica. The agreement facilitates future ones of a more specific nature between two or more of the parties on related projects and initiatives.

The second agreement, signed between Ad Astra, Costa Rica and RECOPE, for $1.4 million, involves the implementation of a system for the storage of hydrogen and is based on a previous study completed by Ad Astra. The new project includes the design, fabrication and deployment of a high pressure hydrogen storage system, which could also be relevant to future applications in transportation. (7/26)

On the Same Plane (Source: Science)
Scientists have discovered a distant solar system very much like our own, in which the orbits of all known planets lie in nearly the same plane and are aligned with the star's rotation. Using data gathered by NASA's Kepler spacecraft (which is designed to monitor thousands of stars for hints of transiting planets), scientists discovered three planets circling a star dubbed Kepler-30, which is about the size and mass of our sun. One planet, with a diameter about four times that of Earth, orbits the star every 29 days; the other two, each with a diameter at least 10 times that of Earth, orbit the star every 60 days and 143 days, respectively.

Further analysis revealed a huge, dark starspot on Kepler-30, similar to the sunspots that blemish the face of our sun. By tracking the spot, researchers determined that the star rotates once every 16 days or so. Detailed analyses of the variations in light reaching Kepler's sensors over a 30-month period reveal that the three known planets not only pass in front of the star as seen from Earth, but they repeatedly pass in front of the dark spot on Kepler-30's surface. (7/26)

Lack of Crew Time is Biggest Roadblock to Research on ISS, Astronaut Says (Source: Space News)
An astronaut told U.S. lawmakers July 25 that the greatest impediment to research and science aboard the international space station (ISS) is the limited amount of time crew members can devote to these pursuits. “We have more scientific apparatus on space station, more equipment waiting to be used, more science experiments in the queue than we have crew time in the [U.S. segment] with three crew members that we can spend working on this,” said Don Pettit.

Pettit, who returned July 1 from a six-month expedition to ISS, said that crew members typically work 13- or 14-hour days on orbit. They can spare about six-and-a-half of those hours for “mission programs,” which might include either government or nongovernment research. The rest of the time, the crew is doing maintenance work “just to keep the machinery going and keep it possible for human beings to be there,” Pettit said.

ISS can support a six-person crew. With the retirement of the U.S. space shuttle fleet, crew members arrive three at a time aboard Russian Soyuz capsules and typically stay for six months. If there are logistical constraints, as there were last year when a Russian cargo freighter bound for ISS crashed due to a launch vehicle failure, the station operates with a three-person skeleton crew. The ISS could expand to seven-person crews if NASA’s plan to spur development of privately operated space taxis is successful. (7/26)

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