August 15, 2012

Georgia Tech Supports Tech Development for DreamChaser Reentry (Source: GA Tech)
Last spring private industry successfully sent a spacecraft carrying cargo to the International Space Station. Now the race is on to see which company will be the first to make commercial human spaceflight a reality. Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) is one of three companies that will receive hundreds of millions of dollars to further develop its commercial human spacecraft system. SNC has turned to Georgia Tech for expertise on how to ensure the smoothest possible re-entry for its spacecraft, the Dream Chaser, which is reminiscent of NASA’s space shuttle. (8/15)

Hypersonic X-51 Makes Trial-Run Flight [and Fails?] (Source: NBC)
A U.S. Air Force bomber carried an experimental aircraft over the Pacific on Tuesday with the aim of putting it through a five-minute flight at six times the speed of sound, or about 3,600 mph (5,800 kilometers per hour). There was no immediate official word of the test's success or failure. The unmanned X-51 WaveRider was expected to reach Mach 6 after being dropped by a B-52 bomber and taking flight off the Southern California coast near Point Mugu. Engineers hoped the X-51 would sustain its top speed for five minutes, twice as long as it's gone before.

Editor's Note: The Air Force has not yet released a post-flight announcement, but WIRED is reporting that the flight has failed due to a fin problem that caused a loss of control before the engine could kick in. (8/15)

Mars' True Colors Show Thanks to UCF Invention (Source: UCF)
The exciting and colorful images being beamed back from the planet Mars this past week should be true to life, thanks to the ingenuity of researchers at University of Central Florida. Physics Professor Daniel Britt built two calibration targets that sit on the Curiosity rover now exploring the red planet. The rover captured America’s imagination when it used a complex landing scenario that might be more at home in a Hollywood movie than NASA engineering plans.

After the landing, which scientists nicknamed the 7-minutes of terror, the rover turned on its cameras and began beaming images to earth. The colors that scientists and the world saw were the direct result of Britt’s innovation.
That’s because the materials used to portray the actual colors – through calibration targets – were made in UCF labs.

“All the Mars landers carry color calibration targets for the same reason photographers worry about color balance,” Britt said. “Different lighting conditions can change the apparent color of objects. On Mars, we are 50 percent farther from the Sun looking through an atmosphere of carbon dioxide and yellow dust at an alien landscape. Having known red, green and blue color targets makes it possible to return to true color.” (8/15)

Red Bull Stratos Big Jump Delayed Till the Fall (Source: NewSpace Watch)
Although Felix Baumgartner recent test jump from 97,00 ft / 29.6 km was a success, the capsule from which he jumped was damaged on landing. So the Red Bull Stratos project has announced that Baumgartner's next jump, which will be from a record setting 120,000 ft / 36.6 km and will allow him to reach supersonic speeds, will be delayed till the fall. (8/15)

NASA's 'Mighty Eagle' Robotic Prototype Lander Flies Again at Marshall (Source: Space Daily)
The "Mighty Eagle," a NASA robotic prototype lander, is soaring high again for a series of tests being conducted at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. Since its last round of tests in 2011, the Mighty Eagle team has made significant updates to the guidance controls on the lander's camera, furthering its autonomous capabilities. The three-legged "green" lander is fueled by 90 percent pure hydrogen peroxide and receives its commands from an onboard computer that activates its onboard thrusters to carry it to a controlled landing using a pre-programmed flight profile. It is 4 feet tall and 8 feet in diameter and, when fueled, weighs 700 pounds. (8/15)

Russia Announces Solicitation for Moon Rocket Design (Source: Space Daily)
The Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) announced a ten-million ruble ($300,000) tender on Thursday to develop a blueprint of a heavy rocket-carrier that would be capable of carrying manned spacecraft to the moon. According to the tender, the proposals, to be submitted before August 28, must lay out the details of the rocket-carrier itself as well as the ground systems. The project must be completed by May 31, 2013.

On July 18 Roscosmos's head Vladimir Popovkin said that the country's planned manned spacecraft capable of flights to the moon will not fly until 2018. When produced, the new piloted spacecraft will replace the aging Soyuz craft on trips to the International Space Station, as well as fly to the moon. The heavy moon rocket, which is expected to be launched from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Amur Region, will also be capable of landing with precision in an area just one-tenth the size of the current Soyuz, which uses a parachute system to land.

Russia's RKK Energia Space Corporation won a tender in 2009 for the development of the future piloted spacecraft, to be built in several models and capable of flying to Earth and near-moon orbits, as well as picking up discarded satellites and large fragments of space junk. (8/15)

Is "Anonymous" Planning to Hijack NASA's Curiosity Rover? (Source: Daily Mail)
The Curiosity mars rover could be the next target for the Anonymous group of hackers, it has been claimed.
The group shot to fame when it brought down numerous websites including Visa and several US Government sites as a protest against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange's arrest. Now it appears they may have set their sights even higher.

A New York security firm claims to have spotted a message on an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) asking for hep to hack into the signals Nasa uses to communicate with the Curiosity rover. Flashpoint Partners spotted the following message by user "MarsCuriosity" on the AnonOps IRC channel on Thursday. 'MarsCuriosity: Anyone in Madrid, Spain or Canbarra who can help isolate the huge control signal used for the Mars Odyssey / Curiosity system please? 'The cypher and hopping is a standard mode, just need base frequency and recordings/feed of the huge signal going out. (yes we can spoof it both directions!)' (8/15)

Mango: NASA Commercial Crew Flights to be Ready in 4-5 Years (Source: Florida Today)
Three models next to Ed Mango, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager, showed the combinations of rockets and spacecraft competing to be the next U.S. vehicles to fly astronauts to orbit after the shuttle. “One of these if not more than one – and I hope more than one – will be able to have the capability here in the next four to five years,” Mango told an audience of more than 300 at the National Space Club Florida Committee’s monthly lunch meeting at the Radisson Resort at the Port.

“Out of our three partners, all three of them plan to launch out of Florida,” Mango said. “All three of them plan to do significant work in Florida in order to get ready for that launch. Great for Florida, great for the Space Coast.” It’s hoped that by mid-2014 at least Boeing and SpaceX, which are eligible to receive the most money at $460 million and $440 million, will reach a completed design milestone known as the Critical Design Review, the last step before systems are built and qualified for flight. (8/15)

NASA Safety Panel Now Satisfied with SpaceX Anomaly Resolution (Source:
NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) have gone on record to say they are satisfied with SpaceX’s explanations, relating to their “fast” scrub turnaround for Falcon 9′s May launch. After claiming they were initially concerned with the pace of the turnaround, the ASAP members were reassured via overviews provided to them by NASA and SpaceX’s Mission Assurance manager.

This latest meeting of the ASAP was once again chaired by Vice Admiral Joseph W. Dyer, USN (Ret.), and held at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) near to the end of last month. Their findings and recommendations were passed on to NASA administrator Charlie Bolden – for his consideration – on August 8.

The panel members have softened their stance towards NASA’s commercial partners recently, opting to praise SpaceX on their recent – and highly successful – C2+ mission, albeit with the inclusion of a few side notes of caution, with the previous meeting at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) citing “a few successes” should not detract from pushing commercial companies through NASA’s strict certification requirements for upcoming crewed missions. (8/15)

Companies Vie to Haul Space Cargo, Passengers (Source: Asbury Park Press)
The commercial space race is on. Perhaps nothing signified its arrival like this spring's successful cargo flight of the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station that was launched by private firm SpaceX. SpaceX isn't the only firm vying to haul cargo and people into orbit since NASA relinquished its near-monopoly on U.S. space transportation by retiring the Space Shuttle program last year.

At least a dozen companies are developing spaceships to replace the shuttle's duties or to carve their own commercial pathways in space. The U.S. government's new approach of letting private companies take over the work NASA used to do in low orbit around the Earth — and pay for part of it — has opened the final frontier to free enterprise. And many advocates of commercial space ventures foresee a new and even grandiose era of U.S. space exploration, development and travel resulting from it. (8/15)

Nelson Gets His Challenger; Adams Loses Primary (Source: Space Politics)
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), one of the strongest NASA advocates in Congress, now officially knows he’ll have to beat Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL) to retain his Senate seat. Mack, son of a former senator, easily beat out a familar name in space policy circles: former congressman Dave Weldon, who represented Florida’s Space Coast in the House from 1994 through 2008 (a seat now held by fellow Republican Bill Posey.) Mack’s campaign web site is silent on space, but does describe his “Mack Penny Plan” that would cut federal spending across the board by one percent per year for six years.

Another member of Congress who has been vocal on space issues won’t be returning next year. In a member-versus-member primary created by redistricting, Rep. John Mica (R-FL) beat Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL) by 20 percentage points. Adams’s current district includes part of the Space Coast, including KSC (the rest, including Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, is in Posey’s district), but the new district runs along the north edge of KSC. Mica will now run against Democrat Jason Kendall.

Editor's Note: Regarding Mack: While serving in the House, he was the only Florida member who voted against the 2010 NASA Authorization Bill to provide increased funding for NASA. The bill extended ISS utilization through 2020; promoted commercial crew and cargo; added an additional 2011 Shuttle launch; and authorized 21st Century Spaceport Infrastructure funding for KSC. Regarding Mica: House rules say he'll lose his chairmanship of the House transportation committee, but he could gain an appropriations committee seat. He could be a key supporter of the FAA's role in commercial space transportation. (8/15)

Romney and China (Source: Space Politics)
Mitt Romney worked in a mention of the Curiosity rover landing during a campaign stop in St. Augustine, Florida. “You also just saw we just landed on Mars and took a good look at what’s going on there,” he said, using the landing, as well as the US’s performance at the Olympics, as evidence that the America was still the greatest nation in the world. “And I know the Chinese are planning on going to the Moon, and I hope they have a good experience doing that. And I hope they stop in and take a look at our flag that was put there 43 years ago.”

The comment about China’s lunar plans recalls a statement Romney made nearly six months ago, one of the last times he mentioned space on the campaign trail. Speaking in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Romney was dismissive of claims that China was planning a human mission to the Moon. “It’s like, guys, we were there a long time ago, all right?” he said at the time. “And when you get there would you bring back some of the stuff we left?” Romney’s comments indicate he does not appear to be any more concerned about those plans now. (8/15)

Aliens in the Oceans -- Searching for Life on the Moons of Jupiter (Source: CNN)
As the Curiosity rover begins its exciting trek across the surface of Mars and up the dramatic peak of Mt. Sharp it is important to realize that the plans for this great success were incubated and acted upon more than 10 years ago. Exploration like this is not for the faint of heart -- it takes time and persistence.

So what's next? What is in the funded pipeline now that will be revolutionizing our understanding of life in the solar system 10 or even 20 years from now? The short answer is -- nothing. Curiosity is it. After Curiosity there is, at present, no other mission in production that will explore potentially habitable worlds beyond Earth.

But where do we want to go? Where do we hope we'll be? Along with continuing our exploration of Mars there are several moons of Jupiter and Saturn that we think might be good places for life. These moons -- worlds with names like Europa, Enceladus, and Titan -- are covered with solid water ice, beneath which we have very good reason to believe that vast liquid water oceans exist. (8/15)

USAF Support For ULA Is Scrutinized (Source: Aviation Week)
As Lockheed Martin and Orbital Sciences Corp. separately propose alternatives for the Pentagon to the United Launch Alliance's (ULA) rocket monopoly, some lawmakers fear the U.S. Air Force will throw too much support to the incumbent contractor, freezing out new entrants to the market. The chairman and the top Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence called the Air Force's launch capability contract with ULA an “infrastructure subsidy.”

Reps. Mike Rogers (R-MI) and C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (D-MD), chairman and ranking Democrat, respectively, call on the Air Force to eliminate this contract. That move would cut funding for the personnel supporting launch activities for ULA. Legislators have long complained that having two contracts—the launch capabilities contract for infrastructure and the launch services contract covering fixed-price buys of the rockets—obscures the real cost of the launch enterprise. Some this year are calling for the Air Force to combine these two into one comprehensive contract to provide a clearer picture of the true cost of launches. (8/15)

Atlas 5 Launch Delayed Again, Until After Sep. 6 (Source: Lompoc Record)
The launch of a top-secret spy satellite aboard an Atlas 5 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base won’t occur before Sep. 6, meaning the mission’s delay will stretch to more than a month, according to the latest announcement. The countdown for the United Launch Alliance rocket was scrubbed Aug. 2 when a problem popped up with Western Range equipment deemed necessary for the mission.

A proposed launch date of Aug. 14 had to be set aside as crews worked to resolve the problem, and officials later said it wouldn’t occur any earlier than Aug. 30. However, they announced another delay this week. The Western Range is made up of a series of sensors at the base and elsewhere in California that tracks just-launched rockets and missiles from Vandenberg to ensure they remain safely on course. (8/15)

Editorial: Space Tourism for the 1% Will Warm the Globe for the Rest of Us (Source: Truthout)
If two words can capture the extraordinary redistribution of wealth from workers to the wealthy over the past forty years, the flagrant shamelessness of contemporary conspicuous consumption, the privatization of what used to be public privileges and the wanton destruction of our atmosphere that is rapidly leading toward the extinction of nearly all non-human life on earth, all covered in a hypocritical pretense of pious environmental virtue ... those two words are Virgin Galactic.

Virgin Galactic, billionaire Richard Branson's space tourism venture, is charging $200,000 a seat for a few minutes of weightlessness and a view from outer space. The firm has so far taken in $70 million in deposits from 536 passengers. Call me old-fashioned, but I personally find it morally offensive that some people can afford to spend $200,000 on a three-minute experience when others can't afford food. Food first, luxury yachts second and $200,000 suborbital flights last. That's my motto.

The explosion in private wealth, however, means that more than a few people can afford those $200,000 flights. A study paid for by the FAA concluded that more than 1,000 people a year would likely purchase suborbital space tours. Across the world there are now 11 million high-net-worth individuals each with over $1 million in liquid assets. There are also about 2.8 billion people living on less than $2 a day, according to the most recent United Nations Millennium Development Goals report. (8/15)

Virgin Galactic Aims to Mine Asteroids for Precious Metals (Source: Santa Fe Reporter)
It sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but Virgin Galactic’s new partnership to mine asteroids in space might be less far-fetched than it seems. On July 11, the Las Cruces-based company announced that its spacecraft will launch equipment for analyzing and eventually mining near-Earth asteroids—those that, like Earth, are within about 100 million miles of the Sun.

“We know the Earth is made from the same types of materials that asteroids are made of...both were originally created in the Sun and are debris of the original formation of the solar system,” says David Yoel, CEO of American Aerospace Advisors, Inc. Based on that link and asteroids’ orbital movements, scientists have some idea of their composition. Planetary Resources Inc., the Bellevue, Wash.-based company partnering with Virgin Galactic, has stated that a single asteroid could contain more platinum than the total amount ever mined on Earth. (8/15)

Russia's Space Problems Call for Systemic Solutions (Source: Voice of Russia)
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has given Russia’s Roscosmos space agency and the government a month to submit proposals on how to improve the agency’s work following a string of latest launch failures.
At a government meeting on Tuesday, he aired plans to pump more than 650 billion rubles (over $20 billion) into the space industry. Though Russia retains its high space exploration potential, progress is being hampered by current problems, some of them of systemic nature, the premier remarked.

Commenting on last week’s failed launch of two communications satellites, Medvedev said that Russia could no longer afford such blows either to its budget or its reputation. He added that other decisions would be made in addition to organizational ones and that a complex approach was needed to right the wrongs in the space sector. (8/15)

Khunichev Tests KSLV-1 First Stage Prior to Shipment to South Korea (Source: Parabolic Arc)
At the State Research and Production Space Center Khrunichev, bench tests are being conducted on the first stage of South Korea's light-class KSLV-1 rocket. After completing the tests the company’s specialists will prepare the product for shipment to South Korea’s space center Naro where the rocket KSLV-1 will undergo pre-launch preparations. The shipment of the rocket to South Korea is scheduled for August 2012. The third launch of KSLV-1 is scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year. 98/15)

India Eyes New Pad As Space Launch Plans Grow (Source: Aviation Week)
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is building a third launch pad as it eyes plans to significantly boost its launch tempo to 58 space missions during the next five years, according to a senior government official. Preliminary studies for establishing the third launch pad, to be located at the spaceport at Sriharikota are under way. A government panel on space and technology earlier this year recommended a financial allocation of nearly $10 billion for various space missions for the next five years. (8/15)

India Announces Plans for 2013 Mars Mission (Source: Miami Herald)
India plans to send a spacecraft to Mars next year in a giant leap forward for science and technology in the country, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said. Singh said the unmanned spacecraft will enter orbit around the planet and collect scientific information. He announced the 4.5 billion rupee ($82 million) mission during a speech marking the 65th anniversary of India's independence from British rule. The spacecraft is to be launched in November 2013 on a frequently used rocket developed by the Indian Space Research Organization. (8/15)

Reaching for the Stars Feels Good (Source: Providence Journal)
NASA's Mars landing cost a cool $2.5 billion. No doubt, the folks at NASA wanted this voyage to drum up interest in the space program at a time when budgets everywhere are under attack. They've done a good, convincing job of it. In olden days, the loudest calls for slashing the space program came from the left. With so many human needs being unattended to here on Earth, the argument went, we should not be spending billions on space. Fortunately, those protests went unheeded.

We are now harvesting the fruit of decades in which Americans were willing to pay for space exploration, even though their tax rates were a lot higher than they are currently. Nowadays, the demands for radical budget chopping emerge chiefly from the right, except when it comes to military spending. At the moment, America seems to be excelling more on Mars than on Earth. Given the current budget battles, it may be futile to promote a government program that even many liberals aren't wild about — a program whose missions sometimes end in failure. But here we are, the only country actually up there on that dusty red planet, answering life-on-Mars questions humans have asked for over a century. America is literally reaching for the stars, and really, it feels good. (8/15)

NRO Official Accused of Threatening Whistleblowers (Sources: Space News, Miami Herald)
The inspector general of the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) says the spy agency's deputy director, Air Force Maj. Gen. Susan Mashiko, made an illegal threat of retaliation against whistleblowers in an ongoing criminal contracting investigation. Inspector General Lanie D'Alessandro opened the contracting inquiry after meeting with four top NRO officers who told her about "a series of allegations of malfeasant actions" by a colleague.

When Mashiko heard about the secret meeting, she allegedly told a senior officer: "Four directors went to the IG. I would like to find them and fire them." "It is this threat of reprisal, by one of the most senior leaders in the NRO, that constitutes the violation of law," D'Alessandro wrote in a memo. Mashiko previously ran the U.S. National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System program, the troubled military-civil weather satellite effort cancelled by the White House in 2010. (8/15)

Abu Dhabi Femail NASA Intern Returns to Middle East (Source: Abu Dhabi City Guide)
An Abu Dhabi female NASA research fellow has returned home from a four month internship at the U.S. Space agency. Ghena Al Hanae has completed her mission work which called for providing research support for NASA’s Mars rover educational and outreach programs with the goal of inspiring the next generation to pursue science and technology careers involving Mars research and exploration. (8/15)

What’s Next for NASA? 10 Wild Newly Funded Projects (Source: TIME)
What’s next for NASA now that Curiosity has touched down on Mars? For a sneak peek into what the space agency has in store, take a look at the 28 proposals for the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program, which gives out awards of $100,000 and $500,000 for ideas that have the potential to “transform future aerospace missions.” Here are 10 of the most fantastic projects that NASA hopes will be inspiring people long after Curiosity has finished exploring Mars. Click here. (8/14)

NASA Announces Early Career Faculty Space Tech Research Grants (Source: NASA)
NASA has announced the selection of 10 research efforts from the agency's inaugural Space Technology Research Opportunities for Early Career Faculty solicitation. NASA will provide grants of as much as $200,000 per year for as long as three years in support of these faculty and their research in specific, high-priority technology areas. The selected faculty will conduct research in areas closely aligned with NASA's Space Technology Roadmaps and priorities identified by the National Research Council.

These priorities include extending and sustaining human activities beyond low Earth orbit, exploring the evolution of the solar system and potential for life elsewhere, and expanding our understanding of Earth and the universe. Editor's Note: Among the 10 winners is Michele Manuel of the University of Florida in Gainesville. Manuel's research at UF focuses on advanced materials, including clothing for long-duration space missions, and metal-matrix composites. (8/14)

All of Kepler's Exoplanets Orbiting One Star (Source: Discovery)
NASA's Kepler exoplanet-hunting mission has revolutionized how we view the stars in our galaxy. There are billions of exoplanets out there and it appears there's a preponderance of small, rocky worlds. The discovery of an exoplanet that exhibits similar characteristics as Earth (i.e., a world of similar size, density and orbit around a sun-like star) is probably only months away.

Although this is one of the ultimate goals of Kepler, the space telescope is ratcheting up an impressive database of exoplanetary candidates. To Alex Parker, a postdoctoral researcher in planetary science at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, this data haul provides an excellent opportunity to create some awesome visualizations. Click here. (8/14)

NASA Offering Rides to New Crop of Cubesats (Source: Space News)
NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative is seeking a fresh crop of nanosatellites to hitch a ride on previously planned launches between 2013 and 2016, the agency said Aug. 13. While no funding is being provided for development of the spacecraft themselves, NASA will fly the selected cubesats as auxiliary payloads on upcoming U.S. government launches.

Six of the 64 cubesats NASA has selected under the program since mid-2010 reached orbit last October as secondary payloads on the United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket that launched the Suomi NPP climate and weather satellite. Three other CubeSat Launch Initiative spacecraft were lost in the March 2011 Taurus XL launch failure that destroyed NASA’s Glory climate-monitoring satellite. (8/14)

Medvedev Orders Space Industry Shake-Up (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ordered the government on Tuesday to work out a plan to improve Russia’s space industry organizations, after a string of mishaps that he said have compromised Russia’s image as a leading space power. During a meeting with cabinet and space industry officials on Tuesday, Medvedev gave them one month to present proposals on “practical steps” to be taken to improve the federal space agency Roscosmos and tighten controls on spacecraft production. (8/14)

Europe’s ATV-3 Spacecraft to Readjust ISS Orbit (Source: RIA Novosti)
Engines of European Space Agency’s ATV-3 space freighter will be switched on Wednesday to readjust the orbit of the International Space Station (ISS), the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said. The engines of the Edoardo Amaldi spacecraft, which is docked at Russia’s Zvezda module on the ISS, will fire at 8.00 p.m. (16:00 GMT) and remain turned on for 1,876 seconds. “As a result, the average height of the ISS orbit will be raised by 7.7 kilometers, to 414.42 km,” Roscosmos said in a statement. (8/14)

NASA Exercises Option for JSC Mission Operations Contract (Source: NASA)
NASA is exercising an $80.5 million flex option on the Facilities Development and Operations Contract with Lockheed Martin Corp. Under the contract, Lockheed Martin provides support for the hardware, software, data and displays systems used in preparation for and performance of all human spaceflight missions supported by the Mission Operations Directorate at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Subcontractors supporting this contract include Cimarron Software Services Inc. and United Space Alliance. (8/14)

Dawn Mission to Die Another Day (Source: Science News)
A mechanical glitch on NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will delay the next leg of its voyage through the asteroid belt. But the defect shouldn’t keep the probe from completing its mission with a visit to the dwarf planet Ceres. On August 13, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced that Dawn had lost the second of its four initial reaction wheels.

Electrically controlled by onboard systems, these wheels precisely aim the spacecraft so it can acquire images and data. Dawn is tasked with taking detailed measurements of two targets: the enormous asteroid Vesta, where it’s been for the last year, and the dwarf planet Ceres, its next destination. (8/14)

No comments: