September 12, 2012

Official Results of Russian Launch Failure Investigation (Source: RussianSpaceWeb)
On September 12, International Launch Services (ILS) announced that a day earlier, a Failure Review Oversight Board (FROB) had concluded the review of the Russian State Commission report concerning the root cause of the mission failure. The FROB agreed with the Russian State Commission that the accident had been caused by a component of the pressurization system that was not manufactured to specifications. This caused a shutdown of the Briz-M's main engine by the flight control system onboard the upper stage, just seven seconds into the planned 18-minute and 5-second third burn, ILS said.

According to the company, the corrective action plan for all Briz M upper stages that was established by the Russian State Commission and GKNPTs Khrunichev was also approved by the FROB. This included stringent quality oversight of all rework procedures, testing, support equipment, and personnel, both at the Khrunichev production facilities and in Baikonur. In addition, ILS and Khrunichev were to develop specific initiatives to enhance the unified Quality Management System (QMS) that is installed and operating at all Khrunichev's production facilities. (9/12)

NASA Langley Open House Set for Sep. 22 (Source: Virginian-Pilot)
Meet an astronaut, visit laboratories, watch splash tests of a space capsule and see where astronauts once practiced landing on the moon during an open house at NASA Langley Research Center on Saturday, Sep. 22. The free open house will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors will be able to talk with researchers and take part in hands-on activities. The event celebrates the 95th anniversary of Langley, which was the nation’s first civilian aeronautics lab and birthplace of the U.S. space program. (9/12)

Texas Teacher May Be Among First Lone Star Astronauts (Source: Hobby Space)
Astronauts have lived and trained in Texas for 50 years, but no astronaut has ever flown into space from Texas. That will change in the next few years when XCOR Aerospace begins flights from a new spaceport in Midland, Texas. Maureen Adams, a teacher and principal at West Ward Elementary School in Killeen, Texas hopes to be among the first Lone Star astronauts.

Adams is an astronaut candidate who is part of Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy which has purchased 10 flights on the Lynx suborbital spacecraft (currently being developed in Mojave, California by XCOR Aerospace). Citizens in Space has already chosen its first four astronaut candidates, three of whom are from Texas: Maureen Adams and two others to be named later this year. (9/12)

Space Mining Entrepreneurs Pitch Ideas to 'Invisible Obama' … and Romney (Source:
No U.S. president has waxed as poetically about mining the moon the way John F. Kennedy did about landing on it. But that didn't stop four entrepreneurs from making their best pitches yesterday (Sep. 11) to two empty chairs, standing in for President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Neither the Obama nor Romney campaigns had accepted invitations to discuss space policy at the Space 2012 AIAA conference. Their no-shows inspired Robert Wegeng, chief engineer at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington, to pay tongue-in-cheek homage to Clint Eastwood's "invisible Obama" act at the recent Republican National Convention. Wegeng set up two chairs yesterday and asked his space mining panelists to address both the invisible Obama and invisible Romney with ideas for mining water and minerals from the moon, Mars and asteroids. Click here. (9/12)

Key Congressmembers on Science Committees Refuse To Answer Science Questions (Source: Huffington Post)
President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney have answered 14 of the nation's top science questions, but of the many committee leaders in Congress who deal with the nation's science policy, just two--Reps Henry Waxman and Chris Van Hollen--have responded to the ScienceDebate questions for Congress. And two of more--Senator Jeff Sessions and House Speaker John Boehner--have declined to answer the questions.

This raises an important question: if the candidates for president will discuss the nation's top science issues, why won't the key members of Congress who lead the committees that deal with science policy? The nation's responses to dozens of critical questions--from climate change to water quality to protecting the Internet--originate not with the president, but in Congress.

Most of the members of Congress who received the ScienceDebate questionnaire are currently ignoring it or actively declining to answer questions about their policy views on science-related issues. Three others--Sen. Harkin, Rep. Johnson and Rep Bishop--have told the groups they intend to reply but have not yet, and a few more--Rep. Mica, Sen. Wyden, Sen. Alexander, Rep. Gibbs, Rep. Markey, and Sen. Murkowski--say they are "considering" it. Click here. (9/12)

Masten Rocket Mishap Could Delay Florida Tests (Source: Florida Today)
A suborbital rocket that was to perform test flights at Cape Canaveral as soon as this fall crashed today during a test flight in Mojave, California. Masten Space Systems said its reusable Xaero vehicle, which launches and lands vertically, was lost during a flight to about 3,300 feet. Masten in May 2011 signed a $400,000 agreement with Space Florida to perform a series of demonstration flights from the state-owned Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The tests were described as pathfinders to help Space Florida develop operational requirements for vertically launched and landed suborbital rockets, and for Masten to evaluate the Cape as a potential base for flight operations. Space Florida recently said the Cape tests were expected no earlier than Oct. 1. Masten says another vehicle of the same class as the lost Xaero is already in production. The company is evaluating the impact of today’s mishap and communicating with Space Florida about its schedule. (9/12)

NASA Exploration Destinations Discussed in Congressional Report (Source: Space Politics)
For those complaining that NASA doesn't have destinations and timelines for exploration beyond low Earth orbit, Deputy Administrator Lori Garver says NASA has delivered a report to Congress that outlines destinations that will be visited with support from the agency's new heavy-lift Space Launch System. “We’re going back to the Moon, we’re attempting the first missions to send humans to an asteroid, and are actively developing a plan to take Americans to Mars,” she said.

This report is the 180-day study on exploration destinations called for in NASA’s fiscal year 2012 appropriations bill. The report itself was delivered to Congress in the last week or two, but isn’t publicly available at the moment. Meanwhile, another report of a few months ago discusses the destinations (though probably in less detail than the new 180-day study): "Over the next several decades, NASA will endeavor to send humans to a range of destinations beyond low Earth orbit (LEO), including cis-lunar space, near-Earth asteroids (NEAs), the Moon, and Mars and its moons."

"Initially, exploring the vast expanse of space surrounding the Earth and Moon, including the Lagrange points, will establish a human presence outside of LEO as we prepare for more complex missions beyond the Earth’s gravitational influence... Prior human and robotic missions to the Moon produced a wealth of scientific information about Earth’s satellite, illuminating the vast potential of the Moon. An extended human mission would lead to new discoveries about the Moon, the Earth, our solar system, and the universe. Our ultimate destination is Mars." Click here. (9/12)

45th Space Wing Offers Sneak Peek at Off-Limits Building at Cape (Source: Florida Today)
The Air Force has big plans for celebrating the 30th anniversary of Space Command, including allowing the public into one of its most secure buildings. For one day only, space fans can get an intimate look at rocket launch pads, space history and the center that monitors an area four times the size of the continental United States when the 45th Space Wing offers an expanded version of its weekly Cape Canaveral Air Force Station tour on Sep. 21.

The anniversary tour will include a stop at the Morrell Operations Center, a building normally off-limits, where 30 to 50 people, including Brig. Gen. Anthony Cotton, work during rocket launches from Cape Canaveral. Visitors on the tour would get an unprecedented look at crew positions, the flight control center and the big screen where technicians monitor launches. Few people who don’t work in launch control get to enter the building. (9/12)

Editorial: SpaceX Should Find Better Texas Launch Site (Source: Beaumont Enterprise)
The Texas Gulf coast has miles and miles of acreage with few people - or plants and animals. Unfortunately, however, a private space company has decided it wants to launch rockets from a site surrounded by a wildlife refuge and almost adjacent to a beach where endangered sea turtles nest. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what's wrong with that. If SpaceX won't reconsider its proposed site on Boca Chica Beach, between Padre Island and the mouth of the Rio Grande, the FAA should do it for them.

Innovative companies like SpaceX should be encouraged by state officials in every realistic way. But the welcome mat doesn't have to cover basic environmental protections. A wildlife refuge simply should not be subjected to the noise, fumes and potential accidents or fuel spills from rocket launches. There are more acceptable sites on our coast, and SpaceX needs to start looking for them and fair resolution of this dispute. (9/12)

Terrier-Lynx Suborbital Rocket Launched From Wallops Spaceport in Virginia (Source: SpaceRef)
A launch of Terrier-Lynx suborbital rocket was completed on Tuesday for the Department of Defense from NASA's launch range at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. A second Terrier-Lynx is scheduled for launch between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m., Sep. 15. (9/12)

Astrium Hopes Near-global X-Band Coverage Will Draw U.S. Government Business (Source: Space News)
Astrium Services, which owns Britain’s Skynet 5 X-band military telecommunications satellites, hopes to leverage the coming launch of an X-band payload on a commercial satellite to offer the U.S. government near-global coverage in X-band. Astrium Services has ordered a fourth Skynet 5 satellite, Skynet 5D, which is scheduled for launch in December. Also scheduled for launch late this year is the Anik G1 satellite owned by satellite fleet operator Telesat of Canada. (9/10)

Proton Set To Return to Flight Oct. 14 Carrying Intelsat’s IS-23 (Source: Space News)
Russia’s Proton Breeze-M rocket will return to flight Oct. 14 with Intelsat’s IS-23 satellite following a Russian inquiry board’s conclusion that an out-of-specification component in a Breeze-M fuel line caused the August launch failure. A Russian federal government mission carrying a Russian Lutch data-relay satellite and Gazprom Space Systems’ Yamal 300K telecommunications satellite will follow on Nov. 2. The ILS and Russian federal government manifest on Proton rockets following November remains unclear and will not be decided until the end of September. (9/12)

Stopgap Spending Bill Gives NOAA Flexibility on Key Satellite Programs (Source: Space News)
The stopgap spending measure the U.S. Congress has vowed to pass to keep the federal government running through late March gives NOAA budgetary leeway to keep two crucial civilian weather satellites on track for launch. But even with the additional flexibility, NOAA’s overall satellite acquisition budget stands to fall tens of millions of dollars short of what the agency requested for 2013.

The budgetary "continuing resolution" was introduced Sep. 10 in the House of Representatives as lawmakers returned from their annual August recess. Just before the five-week break, House and Senate leaders announced they had reached a deal to keep the government running past September by passing a six-month continuing resolution that cleaves to the $1.047 trillion figure agreed to under the Budget Control Act of 2011. The continuing resolution would take effect Oct. 1, the beginning of the U.S. government’s 2013 budget year. (9/11)

Elusive Dark Energy Is Real, Study Says (Source:
Dark energy, the mysterious substance thought to be accelerating the expansion of the universe, almost certainly exists despite some astronomers' doubts, a new study says. After a two-year study, an international team of researchers concludes that the probability of dark energy being real stands at 99.996 percent. But the scientists still don't know what the stuff is. (9/12)

Help Uwingu Make a Difference in Space (Source: Sky & Telescope)
Are you tired of seeing space research and education always being the victim of governmental budget battles? Would you like to see a change in space funding and increased funds for space exploration, science, and space education? UwinguTM, LLC was formed to effect just these kinds of changes. We're planning a series of software products that will be hosted on the Uwingu web site to earn revenue. From that revenue we hope to create a new, private-sector funding stream of millions or even tens of millions of dollars annually for space projects of all kinds, which we call The Uwingu Fund. (9/12)

Masten Completes Their Test Objectives; Xaero Not Recovered (Source: CSF)
Masten Space Systems conducted a flight test of its unmanned Xaero from the Mojave Air & Space Port to a target altitude of one kilometer to test flight control at high ascent and descent rates. While the vehicle demonstrated better than expected performance through the test, unexpected instability developed during landing and the flight was terminated while the vehicle was well above ground level. The vehicle was destroyed on impact; no one was injured. The cause of the failure is under review, but a throttle valve malfunction is suspected. (9/12)

Europe Space Agency Eyes Manned Flights with China (Source: AP)
European astronauts could hitch a ride into orbit aboard Chinese spacecraft before the end of the decade, a senior official at the European Space Agency said. The head of ESA's human spaceflight division said his agency is exploring the possibility of joint space missions with China as part of a wider cooperation with the country. In 2003, China became only the third nation to launch a human into orbit after Russia and the United States.

"I would welcome a European astronaut flying aboard a Chinese spaceship," Thomas Reiter said. The German former astronaut said ESA is planning to slowly deepen cooperation with its Chinese counterpart and could aim for joint missions in "the second half of this decade." "In fact, some of our astronauts have started Chinese language training," he said. Since the end of the U.S. shuttle program ESA has had to rely on Russia to get into space. (9/12)

NASA Funds More Research For Space Radiation (Source: Aviation Week)
Researchers in eight states and the District of Columbia will study the effects of space radiation on tissues and cells, at a specialized facility at the Brookhaven National Laboratory under new grants funded by NASA. With crews spending more time on the International Space Station, and space radiation long identified as the limiting factor on human space exploration beyond low Earth orbit, NASA has used Brookhaven's Space Radiation Laboratory to simulate the ionizing radiation that floods space as galactic cosmic rays and solar particles.

Under the latest round of grants for studies at Brookhaven, researchers will bombard tissue samples and mice with high-energy particles from the laboratory’s accelerators. Among the effects to be studied are links between reproductive hormones and chronic inflammation as factors in estimating the cancer risk from space radiation, and analysis of how stem cells modulate radiation-induced carcinogenesis. Also on the new list are the study of neurochemical and behavior responses to space radiation, and the effects of high-energy particles on cognition.

With current propulsion, shielding and other spacecraft technology, astronauts on a two-year mission to Mars would receive radiation of more than the lifetime dose permitted by health standards. Editor's Note: The Advanced Magnet Lab on Florida's Space Coast is working with NASA to develop radiation shielding technologies. Click here. (9/12)

Will America Produce Future Neil Armstrongs? (Source:
In the days after his Aug. 25 passing, praises for Neil Armstrong flooded newspapers, blogs, social media sites, TV screens, and radio stations. Both President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney extolled the life of the first man to step on the moon. But would either Obama or Romney enable future Americans to follow in Neil Armstrong's footsteps?

That question is particularly relevant today, the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's "moon speech" at Houston's Rice University. There, he famously proclaimed, "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard ." Perhaps the most remarkable thing is that we did land astronauts on the moon by the end of the decade in which JFK spoke.

Our government may be unable to agree on tax policy, Medicare, Social Security reform, social issues, foreign policy, or much of anything, but at a modest portion of the budget (less than half of 1 percent) Congress and the president could, in a bipartisan gesture, commit to something inspirational. If whoever is inaugurated in January 2013 were to work with GOP and Democratic legislators, a sustainable plan for getting humans to Mars by 2030 could be launched. (9/12)

Jupiter Explosion Spotted by Amateur Astronomers (Source: National Geographic)
Early Monday morning U.S. amateur astronomers spotted a bright light squiggling across the upper cloud deck of Jupiter. Both assumed they'd witnessed a large meteor or comet impact, and so far, professional astronomers seem to agree. NASA's Amy Simon Miller, though, cautioned that, "at this point, we can only confirm based on the fact that there were two independent reports." Official observations will have to wait. Such a strike would be the fourth impact seen on Jupiter in just the last three years. And the fact that the explosion was visible via backyard telescopes more than 454 million miles away—indicates it was probably a significant event. (9/12)

An Investment to be Over the Moon About (Source:
Ever wondered what’s a space suit worth? Especially if it’s one in which the first men on the moon took a giant leap for mankind? The two suits, worn by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, are both in museums with an estimated price tag of $25 million each. However, there’s another weighty piece of Apollo memorabilia to consider: a NASA flight suit worn by Michael Collins after his recovery from the Apollo 11 mission, where he orbited the moon for 48 minutes aboard Columbia. The suit’s been put up for sale for £75,000 ($118,170) by Stanley Gibbons, a U.K.-based memorabilia dealer. (9/12)

JFK's 'Moon Speech' Still Resonates 50 Years Later (Source:
Fifty years ago today (Sept. 12), President John F. Kennedy whipped up support for NASA's fledgling Apollo program in a speech that contains perhaps the most famous words he ever uttered about space exploration. Kennedy's stirring, soaring "moon speech," delivered at Rice University in Houston, laid out why the president believed sending astronauts to Earth's nearest neighbor by the end of the 1960s was so important. Kennedy had first aired that ambitious goal in May 1961, just six weeks after the Soviet Union's Yuri Gagarin became the first human to reach space. (9/12)

Arianespace and Globalstar Remain at Odds over Launch Pricing (Source: Space News)
Launch-services provider Arianespace of Europe continues to negotiate a pricing dispute with customer Globalstar and expects to resolve the issues but will not launch Globalstar’s last group of six satellites until early 2013. Globalstar, which is rebuilding its constellation of mobile communications satellites, in early August told the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that Arianespace had threatened to stop work on the upcoming launch unless Globalstar made the demanded payments.

Arianespace, through its French-Russian Starsem affiliate, has already conducted three launches to place a total of 24 second-generation Globalstar satellites into low Earth orbit aboard Russian Soyuz rockets operated from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The fourth launch, which is key to Globalstar’s plan to restore full two-way voice service to its customers, had been scheduled for this fall. (9/12)

Loral and Sea Launch Form Independent Board to Investigate Satellite Damage (Source: Loral)
Loral and Sea Launch have formed a three person Independent Oversight Board to oversee the ongoing investigation into the root cause of an anomaly on a recently launched satellite. The Independent Oversight Board will be made up of impartial industry experts, nominated by the two companies. The Independent Oversight Board will guide the joint investigation team, which has been working together for several weeks to collect and analyze data with the objective of determining the root cause of damage to one solar array on an SS/L 1300 satellite that was launched on May 31, 2012 on a Sea Launch Zenit-3SL vehicle. (9/12)

Extreme Life Forms Might be Able to Survive on Eccentric Exoplanets (Source: NASA JPL)
Astronomers have discovered a veritable rogues' gallery of odd exoplanets -- from scorching hot worlds with molten surfaces to frigid ice balls. And while the hunt continues for the elusive "blue dot" -- a planet with roughly the same characteristics as Earth -- new research reveals that life might actually be able to survive on some of the many exoplanetary oddballs that exist.

"When we're talking about a habitable planet, we're talking about a world where liquid water can exist," said Stephen Kane, a scientist with the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "A planet needs to be the right distance from its star -- not too hot and not too cold." Determined by the size and heat of the star, this temperature range is commonly referred to as the "habitable zone" around a star.

But not all exoplanets have Earth-like orbits that remain at a fairly constant distance from their stars. One of the unexpected revelations of planet hunting has been that many planets travel in very oblong, eccentric orbits that vary greatly in distance from their stars. "Planets like these may spend some, but not all of their time in the habitable zone," Kane said. "You might have a world that heats up for brief periods in between long, cold winters, or you might have brief spikes of very hot conditions." (9/11)

A False Case That Delayed India's Cryogenic Project (Source: Space Daily)
In the early 1990s, S. Nambi Narayanan was working to develop cryogenic technology when things went for a toss and he was arrested on false espionage charges, which according to him was an "international conspiracy" to delay the project. "The aim was to demoralise ISRO and to delay the process (of making cryogenic engine) we were in at that time for at least two years, as this was worth billions of dollars in the commercial market," Narayanan said here.

He was heading the cryogenic division in 1991, and in 1994 his life changed for the worse after he was arrested on espionage charges along with another top official of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), two Maldivian women and a businessman. Narayanan, was busy working as project director for the development of cryogenic technology, for putting the country into an elite group of nations in the world, but thanks to an insensitive journalism, and misgivings of the Kerala Police, everything went into disarray. (9/12)

Antimatter and Fusion Drives Could Power Future Spaceships (Source:
Nuclear fusion reactions sparked by beams of antimatter could be propelling ultra-fast spaceships on long journeys before the end of the century, researchers say. A fusion-powered spacecraft could reach Jupiter within four months, potentially opening up parts of the outer solar system to manned exploration, according to a 2010 NASA report.

A number of hurdles would have to be overcome ― particularly in the production and storage of antimatter ― to make the technology feasible, but some experts imagine it could be ready to go in a half-century or so. It's "probably not a 40-year technology, but 50, 60? Quite possible, and something that would have a significant impact on exploration by changing the mass-power-finance calculus when planning," Jason Hay, a senior aerospace technology analyst for consulting firm The Tauri Group, said. (9/12)

Supercomputer Recreates Universe From Big Bang to Today (Source:
Scientists would love to be able to rewind the universe and watch what happened from the start. Since that's not possible, researchers must create their own mini-universes inside computers and unleash the laws of physics on them, to study their evolution. Now researchers are planning the most detailed, largest-scale simulation of this kind to date. One of the main mysteries they hope to solve with it is the origin of the dark energy that's causing the universe to accelerate in its expansion.

The new simulation is a project led by physicists Salman Habib and Katrin Heitmann of Illinois' Argonne National Laboratory, and will run on the lab's Mira supercomputer, the third-fastest computer in the world, starting in the next month or two. The program will use hundreds of millions of "particles" — elements in the simulation that stand in for small bits of matter. The computer will let time run, and watch as the particles move through space in response to the forces acting on them. (9/12)

Mae Jemison Looks to the Future of Space Travel (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Twenty years ago today, Mae Jemison, physician and NASA astronaut, became the first black woman to travel in space aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Jemison has launched 100 Year Starship, an ambitious project to encourage interstellar travel through the exchange of creative ideas. The organization will hold a public symposium in Houston this week. Click here. (9/12)

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