August 24, 2012

Embry-Riddle Developing Degree Program in Commercial Space Operations (Source: Moon And Back)
Rebecca Zgorski, a student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, talks with about a new undergraduate prgram she’s helping to create, the Commercial Space Operations Degree Program. Click here to see/hear the interview. Click here. Editor's Note: In addition to this undergraduate degree effort, Embry-Riddle has established a new PhD program in Engineering Physics that focuses on space. We also are planning a PhD program in Human Factors, which could involve many human spaceflight topics. (8/24)

New Space Weather Video Shows Sun Waking Up (Source:
A new video from a sun-watching spacecraft shows just how much our star has woken up in the last three years. The video gives a side-by-side comparison of footage shot exactly three years apart by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), a joint NASA-European Space Agency probe. On the left is the quescient sun of Aug. 4-10, 2009. On the right: the raging star of a few weeks ago, which blasts out big flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) — huge eruptions of solar plasma — with startling frequency. Click here. (8/24)

Curiosity's Chemcam Laser First Analyzes Yield Beautiful Results (Source: Space Daily)
Members of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover ChemCam team, including Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists, squeezed in a little extra target practice after zapping the first fist-sized rock that was placed in the laser's crosshairs last weekend. Much to the delight of the scientific team, the laser instrument has fired nearly 500 shots so far that have produced strong, clear data about the composition of the Martian surface.

"The spectrum we have received back from Curiosity is as good as anything we looked at on Earth," said Los Alamos National Laboratory planetary scientist Roger Wiens, Principal Investigator of the ChemCam Team. "The entire MSL team was very excited about this and we popped a little champagne." When ChemCam fires its extremely powerful laser pulse, it briefly focuses the energy of a million light bulbs onto an area the size of a pinhead. The laser blast vaporizes a small amount of its target up to seven meters away.

The resultant flash of glowing plasma is viewed by the system's 4.3-inch aperture telescope, which sends the light down an optical fiber to a spectrometer located in the body of the rover. There, the colors of light from the flash are recorded and then sent to Earth, enabling scientists to determine the elemental composition of the vaporized material. (8/24)

Atlas-5 Launch Postponed to Saturday Morning (Source:
Today's attempt to launch NASA's Radiation Belt Storm Probes aboard an Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral has been postponed 24 hours because of a technical problem with the tracking beacon. The trouble could not be resolved in time for liftoff during the morning's launch window. Liftoff is targeted for 4:07 a.m. EDT (0807 GMT) at the opening of a 20-minute launch window. Weather forecasters predict a 60 percent chance of acceptable conditions on Saturday. (8/24)

GSA Awards Satellite Services Contracts Worth up to $2.6 Billion (Source: Space News)
Eight companies will provide satellite telecom solutions to the Pentagon and other federal agencies under contracts potentially worth $2.6 billion combined over a period of up to five years, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) announced. The companies will provide end-to-end managed network services under the Future Comsatcom Services Acquisition (FCSA) program, which is administered jointly by the GSA and the Defense Information Systems Agency.

The companies now eligible to compete for FCSA CS2 work, to be awarded in the form of task orders, are: SES Government Solutions of McLean, Va.; Artel LLC of Reston, Va.; DRS Technical Services of Reston; Hughes Network Systems LLC of Germantown, Md.; Intelsat General Corp. of Bethesda, Md.; Segovia Inc. of Herndon, Va.; TeleCommunication Systems Inc. of Annapolis Md.; and Vizada Inc. of Rockville, Md. (8/24)

United Technologies' Aerospace Restructuring Cuts 150 Jobs in Connecticut, New York (Source: Boston Globe)
United Technologies' UTC Aerospace Systems is laying off 150 salaried employees at operations in Connecticut and New York, part of an overall restructuring of the business. The company is also cutting hourly positions. (8/24)

Overseas Aerospace Firms Build Facilities in U.S. (Source: Aviation Week)
Aerospace and defense industries from overseas are increasingly investing in U.S. facilities. Companies such as Airbus and Embraer are locating in the Southeast U.S., due to the scarcity of labor unions and availability of state incentives in the region, this feature says. (8/20)

FAA Plans Licensing Exclusion for Tethered Launches (Source: SpaceLawyer)
The FAA proposes to exclude tethered launches as defined in this proposal from the existing licensing requirements. This proposed rule would maintain public safety for these launches by providing launch vehicle operators with clear and simple criteria for a safe tethered launch. The FAA would not require a license, permit or waiver for tethered launches that satisfy the design and operational criteria.

The FAA is amending the scope of its regulations to allow launch operators that conduct certain amateur rocket launches an opportunity to voluntarily apply for a commercial space transportation license or experimental permit. (8/23)

Is a 1-Year Space Station Mission in the Works? (Source:
A Russian report this week claimed that an American and a Russian will launch on a one-year trip to the International Space Station in 2015. But NASA says the endurance space mission is just an idea, for now. The short news story by Russia's Interfax news agency cited an unnamed source within Russia's Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) to state that the marathon space station flight, which would be twice as long as typical six-month trips, will launch in three years and feature a two-person crew. (8/24)

Which Iranian Agency is Blocking Satellite Signals? (Source: Space News)
Iran has acknowledged that satellite signals there are being jammed, but it remains unclear which government agency is responsible as officials continue to deny involvement, reports Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Persian Letters blog. Iran’s minister of communications and information technology, said his department was not involved in the jamming and in fact was “seriously” pursuing the case.

But a day later, Hossein Ali Shahriari, head of the Iranian parliament’s health committee, said the communications ministry was “very well” aware of the source of the jamming but “doesn’t want to announce it.” The Iranian Communication Regulatory Authority also has denied knowing anything about the source of the jamming. (8/24)

Tethered Flight Test for White Label Space Team (Source: Hobby Space)
White Label Space is a brandless space technology start-up founded by a team of international space professionals competing in the Google Lunar X PRIZE. The team conducted a short duration hovering test hop to test the ground, flight command and data logging systems; demonstrate that the vehicle has sufficient thrust to actually liftoff; and to record orientation data to see how the IMU coped with the flight. All objectives were successfully achieved. Click here. (8/24)

Good Diet, Proper Exercise Help Protect Astronauts’ Bones (Source: NASA)
Eating right and exercising hard in space helps protect International Space Station astronauts' bones, a finding that may help solve one of the key problems facing future explorers heading beyond low Earth orbit. A new study, published in the September 2012 issue of the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, looked at the mineral density of specific bones as well as the entire skeleton of astronauts who used a new, stronger resistance-training machine. The new Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED), installed in 2008, doubles the maximum simulated weight to as much as 600 pounds.

Researchers compared measurements from 2006 until 2008, when astronauts used a less capable workout machine. They found that astronauts using the advanced system came home with more lean muscle and less fat, and kept more of their whole body and regional bone mineral density. Those same astronauts also consumed sufficient calories and vitamin D, among other nutrients. These factors are known to support bone health and likely played a contributing role.

In the new study, astronauts who used the ARED device still had increased bone breakdown, but their bone renewal tended to increase, likely resulting in a better balance in whole bone mineral density. "The increase in both bone breakdown and formation suggests that the bone is being remodeled, but a key question remains as to whether this remodeled bone is as strong as the bone before flight," said Dr. Jean Sibonga, NASA bone discipline lead at Johnson and coauthor of the study. (8/24)

Mars Photos by Curiosity Rover Teeming with 'UFOs' (Source:
According to the fringe sector of the Internet, Mars is practically teeming with aliens. Since NASA's Curiosity rover touched down on the Red Planet two weeks ago and powered up its cameras, it has already managed to photograph several alleged UFOs and other "anomalies" in the surrounding landscape. From classic flying saucers to an absurdly out-of-place fossilized human finger, here's a rundown of what UFO believers claim to have found in Curiosity photos so far. Click here. (8/24)

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