October 19, 2012

Russia May Build Rocket to Destroy Earth-Threatening Asteroids (Source: Xinhua)
Russia could start building a space rocket capable of destroying asteroids threatening the Earth, chief of rocket and space corporation Energia said Friday. "There are three large asteroids, including Apophis, whose orbits cross the Earth's orbit and which could hit the Earth in the next several decades," Vitaly Lopota told the state newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

To change the orbit of a small planet of Apophis' size, a 70-ton rocket was needed to "tow" an asteroid away from Earth or to destroy it with a thermonuclear blast, Lopota said. Apophis was discovered in 2004. It will approach the Earth dangerously close, at about 30,000 km, which is less than one-tenth of the Moon's distance from Earth, in 2029. Experts calculate impact of a collision between Apophis and the Earth will be equal to a 1,700-Megaton explosion. (10/19)

Preventing Infection on Long Space Missions (Source: Brown University)
On a long spaceflight unique conditions including microgravity could give microbes the upper hand, but not if astronauts and their spacecrafts are properly prepared. In a new paper, infectious disease expert Dr. Leonard Mermel brings together a broad base of research to come up with specific recommendations for keeping astronauts safe in deep space. Click here. (10/18)

Space Program will Continue to Benefit Economy, Culture (Source: Daily Campus)
NASA was once seen as the pride of the United States, expanding knowledge and promoting extraterrestrial exploration. Throughout the 1960s, NASA was not only a symbol of patriotism and national pride, culminating in the first manned lunar landing in 1969. It was also a driving force for economic growth throughout its time as a government program. NASA received, in 1966, just over 4 percent of the U.S. budget. But funding soon began to trickle away after the lunar landing.

Today, its federal funding is less than 1 percent of the nation’s total budget. There are many reasons why focusing more funding into NASA would help our country. Economic studies have shown that the increase in technology and Research and Development (R&D) companies is one of the most important ways of sustaining and improving the economy. As an R&D company, NASA has been paramount in the discovery and pioneering of new technologies. In an era when unemployment and job scarcity are alarming facts of life, job-creating companies should be more heavily funded, yet this has not been the case with NASA.

NASA has a proven track record of creating jobs. In 1975 alone, NASA created 20,000 new manufacturing jobs. The inception of the space shuttle program was eventually found to have an employment multiplier of 2.8, meaning that direct employment of 95,300 more years yielded an increase of 266,000 more years in the total employment. Further research was conducted that found that for every one dollar spent R&D programs, there would be a return of $7. NASA was initially funded with $25 million in 1958, and by 1987 had returned a total profit of $181 million. (10/19)

Air Force’s Space Plane Launch On Hold During Investigation (Source: Denver Business Journal)
Investigation into a rocket-engine anomaly during the launch of a GPS satellite may delay Centennial-based United Launch Alliance’s launch of an experimental U.S. Air Force space plane. The ULA’s Delta IV rocket put the Air Force’s GPS satellite into its correct orbit Oct. 4 and the mission was declared a success. But the RL-10B-2 engine powering the rocket’s second stage lost thrust during the later portions of the flight, and the rocket’s onboard flight-control systems had to adjust to deliver the satellite to the proper orbit. (10/19)

RSCC To Use DirecTV Satellite as a Backup (Source: Space News)
The Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC) will be taking control of the DirecTV-1R direct-broadcast television satellite in January and operating it in a Russian orbital slot following an agreement with the satellite’s owner, DirecTV. DirecTV-1R, which was launched in 1999, will be gradually moved from its current slot at 101 degrees west longitude to the RSCC slot at 56.16 degrees east, where it is expected to arrive Dec. 21. Beginning in January, DirecTV-1R will be operated in an inclined orbit — meaning it is not fully stabilized on its north-south axis — to provide television broadcasts to Russian customers. (10/19)

Prototype Reusable Rocket Effort Felled by U.S. Budget Woes (Source: Space News)
Due to “unexpected funding reductions,” the U.S. Air Force is discontinuing work on a prototype reusable rocket design effort that the U.S. National Research Council recently cited as a key steppingstone to an operational system. The Air Force had budgeted $250 million through 2019 for the reusable booster system (RBS) Pathfinder program, intended to demonstrate a kerosene-fueled first stage that would fly back to its launch site after completing its mission.

The Air Force Research Laboratory in December awarded RBS Pathfinder study contracts worth about $2 million apiece to Andrews Space of Seattle, Boeing Phantom Works of Huntington Beach, Calif., and Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver. In a report released to media Oct. 15 that challenged the economic arguments for an operational RBS system as notionally planned by the Air Force, the National Research Council said the service should develop enabling technologies and concepts independently of whether it proceeds with a full-scale program. (10/19)

Orbcomm Positive on OG2 Sat Performance After Failed Orbital Try (Source: TV Technology)
The failure of one of the engines on the SpaceX Falcon 9 resulted in Orbcomm’s prototype OG2 satellite being placed into a much lower orbit than planned. Late last week Orbcomm released a statement saying OG2 Prototype Hardware Functionality Verified Prior to Deorbit. The company said the OG2 prototype was deployed into a lower orbit as the result of a pre-imposed safety check required by NASA to protect the International Space Station and its crew.

The OG2 satellite bus systems including power, attitude control, thermal and data handling were also tested to verify proper operation. The unique communications payload, which incorporates a highly reprogrammable software radio with common hardware for both gateway and subscriber messaging, also functioned as expected.” Orbcomm said these verification successes validate the innovative OG2 satellite technology operates as designed. Orbcomm is now focusing on completing and launching the full constellation of OG2 satellites. (10/18)

Virgin Galactic Confident About Satellites (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Virgin Galactic’s primary focus starting near the end of 2013 will be on rocketing tourists to the edge of space, but a company executive Thursday sounded optimistic the commercial space transportation pioneer will make inroads in launching low-Earth orbit satellites in space as well. “At the end of the day, we are going into new markets that, frankly, aren’t that well defined, and, frankly, that’s where Virgin does its best,” said Steve Isakowitz, Virgin Galactic’s executive vice president.

In July Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson announced that Virgin had developed LauncherOne, a new vehicle designed to carry satellites into space efficiently and relatively inexpensively. Like Virgin’s spaceships that will carry passengers to the edge of space for $200,000 a ticket, LauncherOne will be carried to an altitude of about 50,000 under the double-hulled WhiteKnightTwo aircraft. At that altitude, LauncherOne will be released by the mothership and its rocket engines fired for the final leg of the journey to space. (10/19)

Ryan Criticizes Obama Space Plan in Florida Visit (Source: The Hill)
During a Visit to Florida, Paul Ryan was pressed about what his administration would do about funding to NASA, a potent issue in the state. The Wisconsin lawmaker used the opportunity to swipe at the president for saying "just about everything that is wrong today was the last president's fault," parlaying that into an attack on the Obama administration's changes to NASA funding.

"The Obama administration came in and they inherited a plan for NASA from the Bush administration. They had a plan for space. They jettisoned that plan," Ryan said. "They put it on, basically got rid of that plan. Now we have effectively no plan. We are not putting people in space anymore." Ryan noted that NASA now sends astronauts to space aboard Russian spacecraft, and transitioned into an attack on the looming sequestration deal that could cut defense spending. (10/19)

United, Not Divided by Space Exploration (Source: The Pendulum)
America today is not the same country it was in the 1960s. We’re not trying to outpace a rival superpower, and we’re nowhere near as financially stable as we were four decades ago. Space travel, while once the collective vision of a nation, is now the casually ignored vision of the overly idealistic. NASA’s Curiosity Rover, a spectacular step forward in the understanding of Mars’s history, has recently been criticized as a misuse of funds, especially in the middle of a financial crisis.

We should want to see more than the few hundred million miles we can see already, in a universe that stretches billions of light years further than we can even begin to imagine. How can we be content with never looking beyond one planet out of billions? Why haven’t we seen this strange, exciting new frontier not as an economic drain, but as a vast human step leap towards something greater? Can we not, as a species, dream bigger than what we already started with? (10/18)

Spaceport Colorado Receives Positive Nod (Source: Colorado News)
The promise of a spaceport at Front Range Airport within the next several years may be a little brighter after Florida-based suborbital flight vehicle manufacturer Rocket Crafters signed a letter of intent expressing future interest on the budding site. “They (spaceports) will compliment America’s highly developed air transportation system by being located on or near major commerce and transportation hubs like Denver,” said Rocket Crafters Chief Technology Officer Ronald Jones.

“We applaud the leaders from Front Range Airport, Adams County and the state of Colorado in taking this bold step and leading the nation in what some call `the second Golden Age of Flight.’” The letter, which was signed on Oct. 10, outlines a mutual intent between Front Range Airport and the Titusville, Florida-based company to promote and develop Spaceport Colorado as the company’s preferred commercial spaceport location in the region.

The company also highlighted plans to conduct test flights of its planned Sidereus and Cosmos Mariner suborbital flight vehicles between Spaceport Colorado and the proposed Neil Armstrong International Air and Space Center in Florida. Tentative plans also call for the company to establish offices and specialized support facilities at Spaceport Colorado that may support up to 80 full-time, high-paying jobs. Editor's Note: Rocket Crafters hopes to establish a global network of spaceports to support their vision for international suborbital point-to-point spaceflight. (10/19)

Orbital Sciences Corp. Reports 9 Percent Increase in Revenues (Source: Virginia Business)
Orbital Sciences Corp. reported a 9 percent increase in revenues during the third quarter, mostly from an increase in revenues in its launch vehicles segment. That segment, along with its advanced space program segment, benefited from increased production work on its Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA. Orbital has a $1.9 billion contract with NASA to resupply the international space station. Revenues were $372.9 million for the third quarter, up from $342.2 million during the third quarter of 2011. Net income was $19.5 million, up from $16.5 million during third quarter 2011. (10/19)

At Home 250 Miles Above Earth (Source: Wall Street Journal)
On the market: shared living space with six-month lease. No rent, but must work for room and board; no pets; weekends off (kind of); transportation provided; astronomical view. What a deal! Where do I sign? Oh, did I mention there is an almost-four-year training program? Still, it would be my chance to live aboard the international space station. In 2000, I was a NASA astronaut preparing for my third space-shuttle mission when the chief called me into his office: "How would you like to spend half a year aboard the international space station?"

Hmmm. I would have to learn Russian and spend half of my life training in Star City (outside of Moscow) a month at a time over the next several years. But eventually I would have the run of the station and a perch to observe the Earth like no other. After two days of contemplation, I accepted. I left Earth on Oct. 9, 2004, for my new home in space.

There are several rooms (modules), two airlocks (one American, one Russian), one toilet, a separate washroom, plus a powder room in the Soyuz spacecraft. There is not so much a kitchen, but more of a dining room with what could be considered a kitchenette. The place comes equipped with a gym, complete with a treadmill—and harnesses and rubber bungees to hold one down on the track. Don't like running? There is also a stationary bicycle, and a resistance-exercise device to keep up muscle tone and bone density in zero gravity. (10/19)

Sex and Space Travel: Predictions from the 1950s (Source: Smithsonian)
In September of 1992 astronauts Jan Davis and Mark Lee became the first married couple to leave the planet together. But NASA didn’t originally plan on it happening that way. NASA had an unwritten rule that married astronauts couldn’t be sent into space together. Davis and Lee had been assigned to the mission in 1989 but were later married in January 1991.

After the agency learned of their marriage, NASA took two months to review the situation and believed that both were too important to the mission (the second flight of Space Shuttle Endeavour) for either of them to be removed. The couple had no children and NASA explained that if they had, they most certainly wouldn’t have flown together.

Their flight was a minor public relations scandal because of an obvious question that reporters of the time were not shy about asking: would they be having sex in space? The answer from the astronauts and NASA was an unequivocal “no”. Click here. (10/18)

Space Not the Final Frontier, NASA Speaker Says (Source: Curcuits Assembly)
Brooks Kimmel wants you to know that NASA is not out of business. In fact, the space agency is hard at work, building not only the next generation vehicles for galactic travel, but also new infrastructure, launch pads, and everything else related to moving man closer to interplanetary travel. Kimmel, deputy director of Safety, Health and Mission Assurance for NASA's information management branch, offered up a detailed, personal view of why the US government's foremost research and development group remains integral to the greater technology sector.

NASA's work is not just critical to reaching and understanding the science over the vast expanse of the universe, however. As Kimmel detailed, the technologies NASA develops have consistently led to productive applications right here on Earth. We're not just going to space to get a few moon rocks. It's to make life better for mankind."

He ticked off several inventions derived from NASA innovations, ranging from drive trains on Harley-Davidson motorcycles, which were adapted from transport shuttles NASA built, to portable heart monitors, cellular bioreactors, energy drinks and IR thermal imaging equipment. (10/18)

Bigger Is Better for O3b Business Model (Source: Space News)
Startup satellite fleet operator O3b Networks, which has already persuaded its investors to increase the O3b constellation to 12 satellites from the original eight, says the logic for at least 20 satellites is unarguable. In a presentation here to analysts, O3b Chief Executive Steve Collar said “everything gets better” for O3b and its customers if the constellation is enlarged.

Based in Britain‘s Channel Islands, O3b is spending $1.5 billion to build, launch and insure — at an 8.6 percent premium rate for the launch plus one year’s operations — 12 satellites to be operated in an unusual orbit 8,069 kilometers in altitude over the equator. The satellites will be launched four at a time aboard the Europeanized version of Russia‘s Soyuz rocket from Europe’s Guiana Space Center spaceport in South America. (10/19)

Private Space Taxi Builders On Track to Launch Astronauts Soon (Source: Space.com)
Representatives from the three different companies chosen by NASA to develop private space taxis to carry astronauts to orbit say their vehicles are making substantial progress toward launching people into orbit within the next few years.

The companies — SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada Corp. — are competing to fill the gap left by NASA's retired space shuttles for the launching of cargo and crews to the International Space Station. Each private space taxi firm has received funding from NASA under the Commercial Crew integrated Capability program (CCiCap) to complete a series of development milestones with the goal of taking over transportation to low-Earth orbit from the Russians. Click here. (10/19)

Search for Alien Life About to Step Up a Gear (Source: Reuters)
It remains in the realm of science fiction for now but the discovery of a new planet just four light years away will reignite a race to find a twin of planet Earth that may host extraterrestrial life. The step change comes as the most powerful telescopes ever built are about to enter into service and as ideas about where life could exist are being turned on their head. At the same time, scientific discussion about the possible existence of alien life is becoming more mainstream.

"I think scientists are very happy having a rational conversation about the likelihood of life out there," said Bob Nichol, an astronomer at Portsmouth University in Britain. Nichol said this was partly driven by the discovery of new planets such as one identified this week in the Alpha Centauri star system, the closest yet outside our solar system. Over 800 of these so-called exoplanets have been discovered since the early 1990s. (10/18)

Clearing The Obstacles To Space Solar Power (Source: Aviation Week)
Advocates of space solar power (SSP) continue to refine their ideas for harnessing the Sun’s energy, beaming it to Earth and plugging it into the power grid. Papers presented at the 63rd International Astronautical Congress in Naples, Italy, this month indicate some very good minds are at work on clearing the hurdles to SSP, with some interesting results.

“The major problem associated with [SSP] is to apply the technologies to the huge system at [gigawatt] level in power, [kilometer] level in size, and several ten [of] thousands of tons in weight,” writes Susumu Sasaki of Japan’s Institute of Science and Astronautical Science, in a technical paper presented in Naples. “Also it is [necessary] to make its power price be competitive with that of existing power generation systems on the ground.

Reviewing the technical readiness level of SSP components, Sasaki reports that to begin deploying commercial SSP spacecraft in the 2030s, “large advances” in power transmission will be needed in the next 10 years, followed by significant advances in large space structures in the 10 years after that, and a final five-year push in space transportation to kick off service. Click here. (10/19)

Orbital Making Progress in Antares Launch Preparations (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Orbital Sciences Corp. is in a "final push" to launch its first Antares rocket by the end of this year, assuming a successful completion of a series of fueling and engine tests due to begin next week, the company's chief executive said Thursday. Engineers moved an Antares first stage to the launch pad at Wallops Island, Va., on Oct. 1 to begin several weeks of testing ahead of a 30-second hotfire of the rocket's two AJ26 engines, which is now expected in early November. (10/19)

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