August 22, 2012

Iran’s New Spaceport Operational by March 2013 (Source: Tehran Times)
Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi has announced that Iran’s new space center, named the Imam Khomeini spaceport, is expected to become operational by the end of the current Iranian calendar year, which concludes on March 20. “The construction of the Imam Khomeini spaceport is on the agenda of the (Defense) Ministry, and the execution (of the plan has started), and we hope that it will be completed by the end of the year,” Vahidi said.
Vahidi had previously said that the new space center would be used for sending satellites manufactured by Iran and other Muslim countries into space. (8/22)

Happy Space Day, California (Source: Space Politics)
In his first stint as governor of California in the 1970s, Jerry Brown earned the sobriquet “Governor Moonbeam” in part for his interest in space topics, including a proposal that California have its own satellite to support emergency communications in the state. That proposal never became reality, and that moniker faded away. However, that interest in space shines through a bit as Brown, back in Sacramento as governor, signed a proclamation declaring Wednesday to be “Space Day” in the state.

The proclamation cites both the general benefits of spaceflight, including uniting “all of humanity in a shared sense of curiosity, hope and wonderment” as well as the successful landing on Mars of the Curiosity rover, led by the team at JPL in Pasadena. Brown visited JPL to meet the Mars Science Laboratory team and tour the lab. If this landing has rekindled any latent interest the governor has in space, local space advocates might want to take advantage of this to discuss what the state government can do to support the state’s space industry and workforce. (8/22)

KSC's "Malfunction Junction" Pinpoints Failure Causes (Source: NASA)
Working side-by-side with designers developing technologies of the future are engineers deciphering what went wrong with some of the technologies of the present. They analyze readouts from precision tools, devise ways to test large pieces of rocket hardware without damaging the rocket itself, and burn, blow up or vaporize leftover fragments in an effort to find out why something failed. NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida is home to a failure analysis lab system whose ancestral roots extend back to the 1960’s when failures were not uncommon during early days of rocket development.

These days, the stakes are far greater for engineers and designers and a significant failure on a launch can ground a rocket fleet for more than a year, let alone an afternoon. One of the first teams called into action is the failure analysts. "Everyone's looking to you to come up with the answer," said Chad Carl, who leads the Materials and Processes Engineering Section of the Failure Analysis and Materials Evaluation Lab at KSC.

Their analyses cover such a wide range of failures in everything from tiny valves in processing equipment to nosecones that the lab is nicknamed "Malfunction Junction." Making the work much harder was the fact that when rockets fail, there isn't often much left to study. "When something fails, it's usually a long way away and it's not coming back, so we won't get to look at it," said Todd Campbell. The failure analysts and the engineering teams consider themselves a critical element in minimizing the disruption by tracking down what went wrong, finding out if more rockets have the same problem and going with a way to fix it. (8/22)

LightSquared Names New CEO, Promises to Fight to Launch LTE Network (Source: Mobile Burn)
Troubled wireless provider LightSquared has no clear path to delivering LTE service in the U.S., but the company has appointed Doug Smith as CEO and Chairman of the Board to lead those efforts. LightSquared selected Smith to serve as operating CEO when Philip Falcone, founder of the hedge fund that launched LightSquared, stepped down ahead of the company filing for bankruptcy protection.

Smith will now lead efforts to overcome LightSquared's financial and operational challenges. Smith also served as LightSquared's chief network officer before assuming the position of CEO. He led the company's network design and deployment operations before concerns about GPS interference prompted the FCC to block the launch of LightSquared's wholesale LTE network.

LightSquared has yet to declare how it will rebound from the troubles that led to the company filing for bankruptcy protection in May. Sprint has terminated its contract with LightSquared, and the FCC revoked the company's license because of concerns that the 1.6 GHz L-band spectrum would interfere with GPS networks. The company has said that technical solutions are possible, and Smith says he plans to work with "partners, government agencies, and other related industry organizations" in order to achieve LightSquared's network goals. (8/22)

Mars Rover Landing Site Named for Sci-Fi Icon Ray Bradbury (Source:
NASA began a new chapter of its Martian chronicle today (Aug. 22) when the agency named its Mars rover Curiosity's landing site after the late science fiction author Ray Bradbury. Curiosity's landing site inside Mars' vast Gale Crater was rechristened "Bradbury Landing" to honor the iconic writer's legacy and dedication to Mars exploration, NASA officials said. (8/22)

Rumor: NASA Chief Bolden Considering Center Director Changes (Source: Houston Chronicle)
The news and rumor site NASA Watch has posted a provocative statement that NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden is planning to reassign Ames Center Director Pete Worden, GRC Director Ray Lugo, and JSC Director Mike Coats. In my experience Coats, a decorated former astronaut, has done a pretty good job in trying to move JSC forward after the double body blow of the space shuttle program’s end and the cancellation of the Constellation Program.

As a consequence of these cuts, 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 also has not been overly shy about speaking his mind, offering from time to time an opinion that might contradict the views of his superiors in Washington. For example, he recently told me that he fully endorsed the idea of removing much of the President’s Office of Management and Budget’s control over the space agency. (8/22)

Drake Equation Calculator: How many Alien Civilizations Exist? (Source: BBC)
Today, we live in an age of exploration, where robots on Mars and planet-hunting telescopes are beginning to allow us to edge closer to an answer. While we wait to establish contact, one technique we can use back on Earth is an equation that American astronomer Frank Drake formulated in the 1960s to calculate the number of detectable extraterrestrial civilizations may exist in the Milky Way galaxy. Click here to use the calculator. (8/22)

Big Bang Was Actually a Phase Change, New Theory Says (Source:
How did the universe begin? The Big Bang is traditionally envisioned as the moment when an infinitely dense bundle of energy suddenly burst outward, expanding in three spatial directions and gradually cooling down as it did so. Now, a team of physicists says the Big Bang should be modeled as a phase change: the moment when an amorphous, formless universe analogous to liquid water cooled and suddenly crystallized to form four-dimensional space-time, analogous to ice. (8/22)

Is NASA’s InSight Too Little Too Late? (Source: Washington Post)
The Mars Science Laboratory has generated a renewed thirst, worldwide, for more knowledge about our galaxy and beyond. Now, the InSight Mars lander is scheduled to launch in 2016. The InSight mission is yet another feather in NASA’s cap, but it’s too little and too late. We have an entire universe to explore. It is as if this is a replay of the 1970s. Back then, the Apollo missions to the Moon raised everyone’s hopes of far-reaching space travel. We dreamed of manned missions to Mars and Jupiter. But nothing much more happened.

It has been a long 40 years. The good news is that, now, NASA may not have to realize my generation’s long-held dreams all on its own. Here’s why: The cost of technology has dropped exponentially. What was once the exclusive realm of the government is now open to entrepreneurs. Click here. (8/22)

Fifty-Man Space Base Crew (1970) (Source: WIRED)
When Thomas O. Paine became Acting Administrator of NASA following the October 1968 resignation of James Webb, he had seven months of Federal job experience. After Richard Nixon was sworn in as President in January 1969, Paine became a Democrat in a Republican Administration. He submitted his resignation pro forma, but the Nixon White House asked him to stay on.

Paine’s political position was pitifully weak and, even if they did not vocalize it, savvy observers must have seen his retention as a commentary on the Nixon Administration’s enthusiasm for space. Some have since portrayed him as a patsy Nixon sought to keep in place in the event that the Kennedy/Johnson Apollo moon program failed. Paine, however, behaved as though he had the new president’s unstinting support.

Hoping to build on the anticipated success of the first Apollo moon landing, he pushed for an ambitious new post-Apollo space program. Though told by Nixon’s Office of Management and Budget that NASA’s budget would be capped at $3.5 billion in FY1971, he stubbornly requested $4.5 billion. He stated publicly that he would seek a $5.5-billion NASA budget in FY 1974. In a briefing to top NASA and Nixon Administration officials in August 1969, he called for a $9-billion annual NASA budget by the end of 1970s. Click here. (8/22)

Campaigns Focus on Defense Budget Cuts (Source: The Hill)
Both presidential campaigns are focusing hard on the effect of possible defense cuts, with each party blaming the other for failing to reach a solution. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. and GOP vice presidential candidate, laid the blame on President Barack Obama, while the Obama campaign said sequestration was approved by lawmakers in both parties, including Ryan. (8/21)

NASA on Different Planet with FOIA Response? (Source: Washington Examiner)
NASA put a man on the moon, but officials at the space agency can't seem to figure out what they told the White House or Congress about their spending on conferences. Federal agency heads were ordered in May by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to review all planned conference spending and to certify that they have policies in place to ensure they are being frugal with taxpayer dollars.

They also were instructed to begin posting information about conference costs on their official web sites by Jan. 31, 2013. That directive, and a similar one issued in September 2011, came in response to separate scandals involving lavish spending at conferences exposed by internal investigators at the Justice Department and the General Services Administration.

Rep. Darrell Issa, the California Republican who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, also demanded detailed records of conference spending by agencies in April. So knowing of those requests to NASA, The Washington Examiner submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request earlier this month seeking all documents the agency prepared in response to the OMB memos and the Issa letter. Click here. (8/22)

U.S. Astronomer Receives Top Prize in Beijing (Source: Xinhua)
A U.S. astronomer received a top honor on Tuesday for his team's measurements of cosmic microwaves, which may prove invaluable in researching the Big Bang. Charles L. Bennett of Johns Hopkins University, received the 2012 Gruber Cosmology Prize in Beijing at the 28th Conference of the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Bennett's measurements, first published several years ago, have proved to be the most accurate in the field of cosmic microwave background observation and have been broadly recognized worldwide. (8/22)

Intense Bursts of Star Formation Drive Fierce Galactic Winds (Source: UC San Diego)
Fierce galactic winds powered by an intense burst of star formation may blow gas right out of massive galaxies, shutting down their ability to make new stars. Sifting through images and data from three telescopes, a team of astronomers found 29 objects with outflowing winds measuring up to 2,500 kilometers per second, an order of magnitude faster than most observed galactic winds.

“They’re nearly blowing themselves apart,” said Aleksandar Diamond-Stanic, a fellow at the University of California’s Southern California Center for Galaxy Evolution, who led the study. “Most galactic winds are more like fountains; the outflowing gas will fall back onto the galaxies. With the high-velocity winds we’ve observed the outflowing gas will escape the galaxy and never return.” (8/22)

Cernan Steps on Obama, Could Speak at GOP Convention (Source: Politico)
Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, said he doesn’t think President Barack Obama “fully understands what traditional America is all about, because he didn’t literally grow up here,” and that he’s not sure Obama “wants America to be first... I don’t think he fully understands what traditional America is all about, because he didn’t literally grow up here,” the Apollo 17 commander told Fox News.

“I don’t think that I could convince him why this is important. I don’t know that he wants America to be first. I don’t know that he doesn’t want us to play on a more level playing field. I don’t know that he doesn’t care if Russia or China gets to the Moon and we’re dragging tailbone.”

Cernan also said he has “been offered an opportunity to be part of” the GOP convention in Tampa. “I may yet be,” he said, adding that “if I’ve got any credibility, I’m willing to lay it on the line.” “I’m not running for anything,” he said. “If I can have some influence on the future of this country and where we’re headed and how we’re going to get there, notwithstanding our financial problems today, then I’m going to speak my case.” (8/22)

Atlas Should Launch Before Hurricane Threatens (Source: SPACErePORT)
United Launch Alliance currently plans to launch its next Atlas-5 from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport on Friday, well before the potential unwelcomed arrival of Isaac, a tropical storm that is expected to reach hurricane strength on Thursday night. Isaac's current track could put it the vicinity of Central Florida on Monday afternoon. If Friday's launch is scrubbed, ULA might have to contend with Isaac. (8/22)

Myanmar to Launch Small Satellite With Help of Japan (Source: Xinhua)
Myanmar will launch a small globe-observing satellite with the assistance of Japan. The satellite will be launched with the help of Marubeni Aerospace of Japan for the use by Myanmar's Meteorology and Hydrology Department of the Ministry of Transport. A coordination meeting for the project was held in Nay Pyi Taw Tuesday. After the launching, the department will use the satellite for broadcasting weather forecast news through one of the satellite channels. (8/22)

2000 Bugs Zapped From Curiosity's 2 Million Lines of Code (Source: The Register)
With a $2.5 billion price tag, a 350-million mile journey and 2 million lines of C and some C++ code, the only bugs NASA wants its Curiosity rover to find are those possibly beneath the Martian surface. And it may not be a particularly glamorous job, but software analysis outfit Coverity was the company tasked with "ensuring that every software defect is found and fixed before launch".

Roughly 2,000 bugs were zapped in the rover's code, estimates Andy Chou, the chief technical officer of Coverity, although NASA is schtum on the exact figures. "For typical software (which this clearly isn't), it's not unusual to find approximately 1 defect for every thousand lines of code," Chou said. "For a project with 2 million lines of code, it would therefore not be unusual for Coverity to be able to find about 2,000 defects."

The company's static analysis tool was used to examine the source code written by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists - specifically the systems that guided Curiosity's flight to the Red Planet and are now running all of the laser-armed robot's onboard functions. At this stage, every bug correction is vital – after all, there's no service desk on Mars. (8/22)

Astronomy Project Hunts for Chinese Helpers (Source: Xinhua)
An online astronomy project -- Galaxy Zoo ( -- is searching for Chinese people to help categorize galaxies in the universe. The Zoo, which has no animals but more than one million galaxies, was set up in 2007 by a group of astronomers who found it impossible to classify the numerous galaxies. So they turned to the public and are now seeking help from the Chinese.

"I hope Chinese people will love to see the beautiful pictures of the galaxies as much as we do. I know they have a pretty long history of astronomy," said Karen Masters, leader of the science team of the Galaxy Zoo project and research fellow at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at the University of Portsmouth, in Britain. (8/22)

NASA Wallops Set to Launch its Biggest Rocket (Source: Daily Press)
Virginia's "Space Coast" ambitions are getting a big boost as NASA's Wallops Flight Facility prepares to launch the biggest rocket in its 67-year history. Called the Antares, the rocket is expected to become a workhorse in the commercial space industry over the next several years, ferrying cargo to the International Space Station. Since 1945, roughly 16,000 smaller rockets have launched out of Wallops.

More than two years ago the commonwealth began to build a $145 million launch pad at its Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at Wallops to accommodate medium-size rockets. Construction is expected to wrap up in the next few days. The Antares isn't the sort of giant rocket used to send astronauts and heavy payloads into space; those traditionally launch from Florida or California facilities which have the infrastructure to handle them. But it does bump Wallops — and Virginia — closer to the big leagues and closer to Gov. Bob McDonnell's heady ambition of turning Wallops into "the best" spaceport in the country.

Wallops is one of four spaceports in the U.S. licensed to send rockets into orbit. The others are in California, Florida and Alaska. State, federal and private funds have been invested in the upgrade. Funding for the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, which owns and operates MARS, jumped from just under $1.8 million in 2007 to more than $28 million in 2010, according to a state Department of Transportation review late last year. (8/22)

Sarah Brightman 'in Talks Over Space Trip' (Source: RIA Novosti)
British singer Sarah Brightman is in talks with the space tourism firm Space Adventures to become the world's eighth space tourist, a senior Russian space official said. "I think that if we do come to a consensus, then theoretically it can happen," Alexei Krasnov, head of manned space missions at the Russian space agency Roscosmos, said. (8/22)

Russia to Build New Space Plant (Source: RIA Novosti)
A space satellite manufacturing plant will be built in the town of Shchyolkovo, just outside the Russian capital, Moscow Region Governor Sergei Shoigu said. “It will be a new production facility,” he said, adding that a research hub will also be created there. The plant will build about six communication and observation satellites a year, Shoigu said. It will provide about 1,000 jobs and will be “environmentally clean,” the governor added. He offered no timeline for the construction but said a land plot for the site was to be provided before December 15. (8/22)

China Unveils Ambitious Space Projects (Source: Xinhua)
China will launch several space projects, including a hard X-ray telescope for black hole studies, between 2014 and 2016, according to a senior Chinese astronomer. Su Dingqiang, an academic at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and former president of the Chinese Astronomical Society, revealed some details regarding the hard x-ray modulation telescope (HXMT), China's first space telescope, on Tuesday.

The hard X-ray band is a key waveband for high-energy astrophysics studies. Hard X-rays originate mostly from regions close to black holes and have high penetrative power, making them important tools for studying physical processes in extreme conditions, such as high matter density and high energy density.

Su said China will develop another satellite, the dark matter particle explorer (DAMPE), to help detect high-energy electrons and gamma rays, as well as a telescope to study the solar magnetic field and a Sino-French joint mission to study gamma ray bursts. Su said Chinese scientists are also planning to establish an Antarctic astronomical observatory. (8/22)

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