September 5, 2012

Space Elevator Enthusiasts Push On Despite Lengthy Time Frames, Long Odds (Source: Scientific American)
“I think building an elevator to space is maybe the best thing I could do in the world,” Michael Laine says. His company, Liftport, has just raised over $62,000 on Kickstarter to build robot climbers on a skyward cable—an early step toward his eventual goal of putting a space elevator on the moon. A space elevator is just what it sounds like—a capsule that travels to and from space along a track or tether to provide reliable access to orbit.

Behind Laine is the cavernous Great Gallery at Seattle's Museum of Flight, where dozens of aircraft are on display, chronicling the human adventure of flight. Meeting in a nearby conference room are about 40 space enthusiasts, in town for the annual Space Elevator Conference hosted by ISEC, the International Space Elevator Consortium. Some of them have sacrificed their careers, credit ratings or savings accounts—all in pursuit of a simple concept that has thus far proved impossible in practice. (9/5)

First Operational SpaceX Launch Set for Oct. 9 or 10, But Could Be Earlier (Source: Space Policy Online)
Speaking at a press conference after today's successful International Space Station (ISS) spacewalk, NASA officials said that the first operational SpaceX cargo launch to ISS is scheduled for Oct. 9 or 10, but could be as early as Oct. 5. The reason for the launch date uncertainty is when the Eastern Range will be available for the launch. Right now the range is not free until Oct. 9 or 10, but SpaceX will be ready to go as early as Oct. 5.

NASA said it would prefer the 5th because it is trying to squeeze in the mission before the arrival of a Soyuz spacecraft with three new ISS crewmembers. That Soyuz is scheduled for launch on Oct. 15 and would dock on Oct. 17 if it follows the usual profile. SpaceX is under contract to provide 12 cargo launches for NASA between now and 2015. (9/5)

UF Researcher on Team Selected by NASA to Put Seismometer on Mars (Source: UF)
NASA’s investigations on Mars will soon extend below the planet’s surface when an international team including a University of Florida geologist sends a seismometer there for the first time to study its deep interior. UF geological sciences assistant professor Mark Panning is part of InSight. He said once the seismometer lands on Mars in September 2016, it will be used to investigate whether the core of Mars is solid or liquid and why it lacks the moving tectonic plates found on Earth. (9/5)

Russian Segment of ISS Unaffected by Power Shortage (Source: Itar-Tass)
The electric power saving mode, introduced on the International Space Station (ISS) on July 30 after US and Japanese astronauts’ not very successful spacewalk, has had no effect on the functioning of the Russian segment of the station, a source in the Mission Control Center (MCC) said. According to him, the work of all systems and equipment on the Russian segment of the ISS is almost entirely supported by its own electric power generated by solar panels, which are installed on the Zvezda and Zarya modules, as well as by the spaceships docked to the station: the Progress cargo spacecraft and manned Soyuz ship.

“Under the agreement with the American side we receive extra power from the US segment: 1-1.5 kW in a standby mode, and during the energy-intensive operations (such as the correction of the ISS orbit, docking, EVA) - 6 kW,” said the expert. “In this case we have easily saved 1 kW by switching off the Elektron oxygen regeneration system,” the source said. However, the astronauts are not threatened with anoxia, he stressed. The Russians get the oxygen supply needed for the crew’s life support from the European cargo spacecraft ATV-3. (9/4)

Altius Space Machines Signs Agreement with Langley Research Center (Source: SpaceRef)
Altius Space Machines of Louisville, CO is pleased to announce that we have signed a non-reimbursable Space Act Agreement (SAA) with NASA Langley Research Center to develop concepts for a new series of compactly-stowable, long-reach spacecraft robotic manipulators. This SAA reflects a very high degree of cooperation and synergy between commercial and government space organizations and should be mutually beneficial to both Altius and NASA.

Altius will combine NASA's expertise in manipulator systems with its mission concepts and payload capture technology to jointly create a new and novel Compactly Stowable Manipulator (CSM). As the name suggests, the CSM will have a very small packaging volume, yet be capable of highly-dexterous, long-reach operations. When combined with a non-cooperative payload capture technology, the CSM would also enable satellite servicing, small-package delivery/return, and rendezvous/capture of nanosat-scale free flyers or sample return canisters. (9/4)

NASA Postpones High Altitude Suborbital Rocket Test at Wallops to Sep. 6 (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA has postponed the test flight of a Talos-Terrier-Oriole suborbital sounding rocket to September 6 between 7 and 10 a.m., from the agency's launch range at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Originally scheduled for September 5, the launch has been postponed to allow for additional testing of the payload.

This will be the first flight of this launch vehicle which is being developed, using motors that currently exist in the sounding rocket fleet, to support high altitude space science research. This will be the first flight of the Oriole motor as a third stage for the NASA Sounding Rocket Program and the first flight of the Terrier as a second stage. (9/4)

Nowhere to Hide: Secret Spy Sat Agency Plans Unblinking Array (Source: WIRED)
The U.S. has a vast constellation of spy satellites in orbit. But these surveillance spacecraft have traditionally only been able to gaze down on a few small areas of the planet at a time, like flashlights probing the dark. And this, only with careful advance planning by human operators on the ground. America’s satellites helped monitor and map bin Laden’s Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound, but had to be told where to look by intel agents who gleaned key information from detained terror suspects and al-Qaida couriers they were tracking.

The National Reconnaissance Office wants to expand the current flashlight-like satellite deployment to a horizon-spanning, overhead spotlight that can illuminate vast swaths of the planet all at once. The agency also wants new spacecraft that can crunch the resulting data using sophisticated computer algorithms, freeing the satellites somewhat from their current reliance on human analysts. If it works as planned, missions like the years-long hunt for bin Laden could become a lot easier for the U.S. But that’s assuming the technology can be developed on time and on cost. (9/4)

Small Steps and Giant Leaps (Source: Space News)
I had never heard of a cavitating venturi valve until Neil Armstrong told me about it. A few years ago, when I was preparing to teach a space history course for NASA engineers, I asked Armstrong to name the engineering contributions to Apollo he most admired. The little valve with the obscure name was at the top of his list. After a bit of digging and a long conversation with a rocket propulsion expert, I came to understand why. Two of those valves, devised by engineers at TRW, were deep within the machinery of the lunar module’s descent engine.

They allowed the proportions of fuel and oxidizer entering the combustion chamber to be regulated so precisely that the lunar module could vary its thrust, even hover, without busting its stringent fuel budget. The fact that Armstrong remembered those valves decades later was typical. He had always been driven by a desire to understand the machines he flew; at his core was the essence of the engineering test pilot. And after all, those little valves had allowed him to guide his lunar module Eagle to the first landing on the alien ground of another world. (8/31)

The Mystery of Dark Matter May Be Near to Being Deciphered (Source: Space Daily)
The universe is comprised of a large amount of invisible matter, dark matter. It fills the space between the galaxies and between the stars in the galaxies. Since the prediction of the existence of dark matter more than 70 years ago, all sorts of researchers - astronomers, cosmologists and particle physicists have been looking for answers to what it could be. With the latest observations from the Planck satellite, researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute, among others, may be closer than ever to a solution to the origin of the mysterious dark matter.

The Planck satellite, which was launched in 2009, has extremely sensitive instruments that can map microwave radiation in the entire sky with great precision. The latest data from the Planck mission reveals unusual radiation from our own galaxy, which open a new direction in understanding the most fundamental properties of the space, time and matter in the Universe. (9/5)

Public Memorial Service Set for Neil Armstrong (Source: AP)
The nation will have a chance to say goodbye to Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, in a memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral on Sept. 13. The 10 a.m. service will be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed on the websites of the cathedral and space agency. It will be open to the public on a first come, first served basis. But reservations still must be made through NASA. (9/4)

Africa Eyes Joint Space Agency (Source: AFP)
African nations would work together in peaceful research under a proposal for a space agency being considered Wednesday at a meeting in Sudan of the continent's communications and IT ministers. The agency, to be called AfriSpace, would enable "cooperation among African states in space research and technology and their space applications," says a working document issued for the conference. When they last met in Nigeria two years ago, the ministers asked the African Union Commission to conduct a feasibility study for AfriSpace. The study, which aims to provide a "roadmap for the creation of the African Space Agency", would be considered at the two-day ministerial meeting starting Wednesday in the Sudanese capital, the working document said. (8/4)

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