September 28, 2012

Florida Students Excel in National Rocket Competition (Source: Hobby Space)
The six winners in the year long Reach for the Stars ~ National Rocket Competition have been determined. Winners’ celebrations will be held in October in Florida and Alabama. Contestants had to build and launch their own rocket. The competitions were held in their area by schools, scouts, youth groups and Challenger Learning Centers. The rockets are launched using a solid-fuel propellant and safely land via parachute. The closest average landing to a target after two launches wins the local event. Local winners’ results were submitted to the national competition headquarters to identify six national winners - two at each of the three levels.

Among the six national winners were three from Florida. Steven Brooks (age 12) from Crystal River Primary School was supported by teacher Christina Hackey. Ms Hackey has been involved in the RFTS competition since 2010 and is working to raise the funds to enter 100 of her students in next year’s event. Eric Madrigal (age 16) from University High School in Orlando was supported by teacher Danielle Miller. Addie Cramer (age 13) from Palm Beach Day Academy was supported by teacher Tom Sarko.

Addie had the best overall result with an amazing average landing distance of only 5 feet 7 inches! This is the second time Mr. Sarko has guided one of his students to a national win! Also, Zachary Johnson (age 14) from Arizona won during a STEM Summer Camp under the direction of Associate Professor in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, Dr. Brenda Haven of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. Click here. (9/27)

France To Boost ESA Contribution (Source: Space News)
France expects to increase its contribution to the 20-nation European Space Agency (ESA) by 3.7 percent in 2013, a figure that should allow France to maintain its position in agreed-to ESA programs while continuing to pay down French debt to the agency. In budget documents sent Sep. 28 to the French parliament as part of the government’s overall spending plan for 2013, the Research Ministry said France would be directing 799 million euros ($1.04 billion) to ESA in 2013, an increase of 3.7 percent compared to 2012. (9/28)

Viewing Opportunity at KSCVC for Delta-4 Launch (Source: KSCVC)
Experience the thrill of a space launch as a Delta IV rocket lifts off from the Space Coast on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012. Visitors can witness the sights and sounds of the launch from a special viewing area, including live launch commentary from mission control at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. The launch window is scheduled between 8:10 and 8:29 a.m. EDT from Launch Complex 37 B at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 877-313-2610 or visit Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will open early at 7 a.m. Launch viewing is included with admission which is $50 + tax for adults and $40 + tax for children ages 3-11. (9/28)

Viewing Opportunity at KSC Visitor Complex for Falcon-9 Launch (Source: KSCVC)
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the third Dragon spacecraft to the ISS at 8:34 p.m. ET on Oct. 7. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is offering viewing opportunities from the Visitor Complex and NASA Causeway. Launch Transportation Tickets can be purchased for $20 (plus tax), in addition to admission. Those who have launch transportation tickets will begin boarding the bus at 5:30 p.m. to be transported to the causeway. Limited operations will be open after park hours for guests to experience before the launch. Exhibits, IMAX and the Shuttle Launch Experience will be available. Click here. (9/27)

Learning to Live on Mars (Source: Brigham & Women's Hospital)
Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital have developed and tested a fatigue management program which is successful at controlling space-age jetlag. While Curiosity has been roaming all over Mars learning as much as it can about the Martian terrain. The mission control team back on Earth has also learned what it may be like on Mars by trying to live and work on a Martian day, which is about 40 minutes longer than an Earth day.

This 'day' length causes havoc with the internal 24-hour body clock but researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) have developed and tested a fatigue management program which is successful at controlling this space-age jetlag. The results of the study will be published electronically on September 28, 2012 and will be published in the October print issue of SLEEP.

The research team studied 19 scientific and technical personnel supporting the Phoenix Lander mission for more than 11 weeks. The participants were assessed using a sleep/work diary, continuous wrist actigraphy, and regular performance tests. A subset of the study participants were also given portable blue-light light boxes to place at their workstations to help reset their internal body clocks and improve their performance. The researchers found that most of the participants were able to synchronize to a Martian day schedule. (9/28)

Russian Space Industry Needs ‘Extreme Measures’ (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia’s space sector needs to carry out sweeping reform in order to remain competitive, the head of Russian space agency Roscosmos said on Thursday evening. “Unless we undertake extreme measures, the sector will be uncompetitive within three-four years,” Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin said during a lecture to science and technology students. A recent spate of failed launches is “only the litmus test,” he said. “The root causes are much deeper and more important.” (9/28)

Fate Unknown for Last Remaining Shuttle External Tank (Source:
The last External Tank, known as ET-94, has been moved into Building 103 – known as the “thru aisle” – at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF), with its ultimate fate hanging in the balance. The tank –- which was previous in storage inside MAF’s Vehicle Assembly Building –- played a key role in the Return To Flight efforts following the Columbia disaster.

A lot of the tank’s cable trays have been removed, and it is not clear if ET-94′s LO2 and LH2 tanks were kept pressurized during recent years, when storage requirements during the Shuttle program required both tanks to be pressurized to 6.0 PSIG, with nitrogen to keep the tanks dry internally. This may impact its ability to become a test article. The tank now belongs to Jacobs Technology, which holds the Manufacturing Support and Facility Operations Contract at MAF. (9/28)

Japan to Deploy Imaging Satellite in Islands Disputes (Source: Asahi Shimbun)
Japan's space agency is offering to use a high-resolution imaging satellite to monitor shipping near disputed islands, in the agency's first-ever maritime surveillance mission. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is scheduled to launch ALOS-2, an advanced land observation satellite, in fiscal 2013. One of the satellite's first tasks may be to track vessels.

The agency hopes its work will help Japan manage better disputes over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which are also claimed by China and Taiwan, and the Takeshima islets in the Sea of Japan, which are administered by South Korea but claimed by Japan. JAXA's midterm program is to be revised next fiscal year, and the new draft is expected to spell out a maritime assignment. (9/28)

Satellite Fleet Operators Hope Ultra-HD Will Succeed Where 3D Has Failed (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operators, looking for their next growth vector after what they generally agree has been the disappointment of 3D TV, say ultra-high-definition (HD) television looks set to put a fresh wind in their sails starting as early as 2015 or 2016. Not everyone is convinced that ultra-HD will result in a new spurt of growth, especially since many broadcasters will introduce ultra-HD in tandem with their phase-out of satellite broadcasts in standard-definition format. (9/28)

SpaceX’s Grasshopper’s Small Hop is a Big Step (Source: America Space)
Last week, SpaceX took the first step in its quest to build a reusable launch vehicle. The goal is to create a rocket that can autonomously return to the launch site and land vertically on dry ground. Refurbishing and reusing a rocket stage is much more cost efficient than rebuilding a new stage for each launch. The prototype vehicle that demonstrated the technology behind this idea is called Grasshopper, and it’s made its maiden voyage.

The 106 foot tall Grasshopper, so called because of its spindly insect-like legs, is a vertical takeoff and landing test vehicle (VTVL). It’s made of a modified Falcon 9 first stage with a Merlin 1D engine. The Merlin 1D, which burns kerosene and liquid oxygen and can generate up to 147,000 pounds of thrust, is an upgraded version of the Merlin 1C that generate 78,000 pounds of thrust at sea level.

Last Friday’s test (September 21) was a successful demonstration flight SpaceX’s test facility in McGregor, Texas. But it wasn’t exactly a simulated landing from stage cutoff after launch. It was a small hop. The vehicle rose just six feet off the ground before landing gently on its legs. Still, it’s a step in the right direction and a critical milestone in the quest to develop a fully reusable booster system. (9/28)

United Space Alliance Cuts More Jobs (Source: Florida Today)
Prime shuttle contractor United Space Alliance today shaves another 6 percent from its work force, cutting 157 jobs, including 121 at Kennedy Space Center. The cuts will reduce USA’s total headcount to 2,263, including 1,073 in Florida. That’s down from about 5,500 at KSC at the start of 2010. In addition to the layoffs here, USA is cutting 35 positions in Texas and one in Alabama. (9/28)

Space Florida to Host General Contractor/A&E Industry Day (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida will host an industry day for architectural engineering and general contracting companies on Tuesday, October 16, 2012 at the South Campus location of the organization, located just outside the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station gate on 100 Spaceport Way. The Industry Day will give participating companies an opportunity to meet Space Florida leaders and discuss services they provide that may be of use to future Space Florida projects.

Companies will be seen on a first-come first-serve basis beginning at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. Each company will receive a 40-minute timeslot, to include a 10-minute overview of Space Florida, 20 minutes for the company to formally introduce their company and services to the Space Florida team, and 10 minutes for Q&A. Presentation slots must be reserved in advance by contacting Marie Duong at 321-730-5301 x223 or via email at (9/27)

Hawaii Gets $250K FAA Grant for Space Study (Source: Bloomberg)
Hawaii is getting a share of nearly $500,000 in space transportation infrastructure grants. The Federal Aviation Administration said this week Hawaii's Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism will get a $250,000 matching grant. The grant will be used to analyze the feasibility for a potential commercial FAA launch site. (9/27)

U.S. Science: The Obama Experiment (Source: Nature)
When the president rolled out his budget request in February, it held a bitter surprise for congressional supporters of the space agency. On the list of projects to be eliminated was Constellation, a program to develop massive rockets to return humans to the Moon.

“This was a major policy pronouncement but it was revealed in a budget release,” says Scott Pace, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University in Washington DC. Normally, an administration prepares Congress for such a change — but Obama’s sudden move led to what Pace calls a “bruising, year-long fight” with lawmakers in both parties. Eventually, several parts of the Constellation program were reinstated. But by then, NASA had become an agency adrift, left to the mercy of parochial interests in Congress.

Human space flight and many other elements of NASA’s mission were never priorities of the Obama administration. In the 2013 budget request, the agency’s astrophysics and planetary-science programs lost 8% of their funding compared with 2008. Obama was more interested in fixing problems with his home planet, and boosted funding for NASA’s Earth-sciences programs by 44% over the same period. (9/26)

Space Florida Chief Talks Plans for Shiloh Launch Site (Source: WMFE)
Space Florida's Frank DiBello was interviewed by WMFE radio last week, with the discussion focused on his agency's effort to have 150 acres transferred from NASA to the State of Florida to accommodate a new launch complex. Click here to listen to the interview. (9/27)

Did Obama 'Blindside' Congress With Constellation Cancellation? (Source: Space Politics)
The characterization [by Scott Pace in 'Science'] of the Obama Administration as blindsiding the Hill by cancelling Constellation ignores the facts. The Augustine Committee had well articulated their recommendation in the Fall of ’09 that the program was not executable. Many Members of Congress agreed with this characterization, but once the parochial contractors with their lobbyists and PACs got to them – the games began. Now, thanks to these parochial interests, we have a “compromised” program that will likely lead to very little success.

Scott Pace [while at NASA] and others were responsible for this unexecutable program, so they are now trying to re-write history. Their argument that the reason that Constellation was unexecutable was because they didn’t get their budget requests is also not true. NASA received more funding than it had initially estimated Constellation would cost, but those costs just kept growing – under the watchful eye of Mike Griffin, Scott Pace, Chris Shank and others. (9/27)

ORBITEC Tests New Vision Rocket Engine (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Orbital Technologies Corporation recently conducted several key rocket engine technology demonstrations at its large engine test facility in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Under observation by representatives from both NASA and the US Air Force, ORBITEC successfully completed a series of tests on its Vision flight rocket engine that enhances the maturation of ORBITEC’s advanced technology acoustic igniter , vortex/cold wall combustion chamber, and carbon-carbon lightweight nozzle extension technologies. (9/27)

NASA Offers Opportunity to Use Communications Testbed on Space Station (Source: NASA)
Want to be a part of International Space Station research? Here's your chance. NASA is offering opportunities for academia, industry and government agencies to develop and carry out research and technology demonstrations on the space station using the newly installed Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) Testbed.

These opportunities will allow researchers to develop new software according to the Space Telecommunications Radio Standard, or STRS, architecture for radios and reconfigure how radios communicate in space. The SCaN Testbed is a communications, navigation and networking demonstration platform based on the STRS. The experimental platform began its initial checkout activities on the space station Aug. 13, and will operate for at least three years. (9/27)

SXC Signs up California Reseller for Lynx Tickets (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Juliet Vercelli-CTC, LS in Benicia, CA recently signed an agreement as a Certified Reseller for Space Expedition Corporation. Space Expedition Corporation (SXC), a Netherlands company general sales agent for XCOR Aerospace, Inc. This is an exciting adventure as SXC will begin commercial flights in 2014.

The operations will take place in a special spaceport both on the Dutch island of Curacao and the Mojave Desert, CA. The SXC programs covers the special aspects of space travel including intensive training and medical screening. The comprehensive, thorough program also includes luxury accommodations and value –added mementos such as filming of the experience and a diploma once training is completed. (9/27)

Is Antimatter a Viable Starship Fuel? (Source: Discovery)
Hope springs eternal for die-hard Star Trek fans that scientists will one day build an actual, working antimatter propulsion engine similar to the one that powers the fictional starship Enterprise. A paper published earlier this year by a pair of enterprising (get it?) physicists should fan the flames of that fantasy even further.

Ronan Keane (Western Reserve Academy) and Wei-Ming Zhang (Kent State University) report that the latest results from their computer simulations indicate that at least one key component of realizing a working antimatter propulsion engine -- highly efficient magnetic nozzles -- should be far more efficient than previously thought. And such nozzles are feasible using today's technologies. (9/27)

Europe Still Seeking Launcher For Re-entry Demonstrator (Source: Aviation Week)
The European Space Agency remains on the hunt for an alternate method of launching the Experimental Re-Entry Testbed (EXPERT) following the withdrawal of Russia, which was due to launch the vehicle from a submarine earlier this year. EXPERT is a ballistic flight re-entry demonstrator that, along with a follow-on Intermediate Experimental Vehicle (IXV), is designed to pave the way for a European reusable space plane.

The 450-kg (1,000-lb.) Expert was originally due to be launched in late 2010 on a modified Volna ICBM from a Russian submarine in the eastern Pacific. The missile would have reached an apogee of 100 km (60 mi.) to 120 km, giving the vehicle a re-entry velocity of 5 km/sec., which was sufficient to help ESA acquire aerothermodynamics data for the validation of models and codes. The payload was due to be recovered by a parachute landing in the Kamchatka peninsula of eastern Russia. (9/27)

Battery Issue Prompts Orbital To Postpone Antares Rollout (Source: Space News)
Orbital Sciences Corp. on Thursday (Sept. 27) scrubbed a planned rollout of the first stage of its Antares rocket, which was headed to the launch pad for a long-awaited hold-down test, because of problems with the horizontal transporter used to move the rocket to its launch site.

The rollout, which was scheduled to begin around 8:00 a.m. Thursday, was rescheduled for Saturday morning (Sept. 29) because of a “battery issue” with the transporter vehicle used to haul Antares from its hangar to Pad 0-A at NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility, Orbital spokesman Barron Beneski said. Orbital was preparing to bring the Antares first stage to Pad 0-A for a hold-down test that will take place several weeks after the rocket stage is set up at the pad. (9/27)

Space Freighter’s Undocking Delayed Again (Source: RIA Novosti)
The undocking of the European Space Agency’s ATV-3 cargo spacecraft from the International Space Station (ISS) has been delayed by at least another day, mission control said on Thursday. The second attempt to undock had been slated for the night of Sep. 27-28. The ATV Edoardo Amaldi remains docked to the Zvezda service module on the Russian segment of the orbital station, after an initial attempt to undock on Tuesday was called off due to a command error in the communications link between the ISS and the space freighter. (9/27)

European Officials Scale Back GMES Funding Expectations (Source: Space News)
A high-ranking European Commission official told users and builders of satellite Earth observation systems that they should abandon hope that the commission will fund a multiyear environment-monitoring program at previously proposed levels. He said Europe’s Earth observation community should become less satellite-centric and adapt to a world in which unmanned aerial vehicles, crowd sourcing and other in-situ observation techniques make satellites less indispensible than they once were. (9/27)

Curiosity Nails It: Mars Used to Have Flowing Water (Source: Smithsonian)
NASA scientists working with the imagery being passed back to Earth by the Curiosity rover report what is being called “definitive proof” that Mars once saw flowing surface water. To be clear, NASA did not find flowing water but rather the signs that liquid water once flowed on the red planet, likely billions of years ago. The evidence for this remarkable claim comes from two tangential lines of evidence.

First, the images collected by the rover show rocky outcrops, with small pebbles and rocks trapped within a matrix known as a conglomerate. The shapes of the embedded rocks, NASA says, are reminiscent of those found along a riverbed after they’ve been transported across long distances. Further, the pebbles are too large to have been lifted up and carried by the wind, suggesting that it was water, not air, that carried them to their resting place. (9/27)

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