October 29, 2012

Could Commercial Space Help Define and Delimitate the Boundaries of Space? (Source: Space Review)
The question of where in the upper atmosphere outer space begins is an issue with significant legal implications for space activities. Michael Listner examines how emerging commercial spaceflight activities could shape a new definition. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2180/1 to view the article. (10/29)

An Opening Door for Hosted Payloads (Source: Space Review)
Hosted payloads provide an opportunity for government agencies to place payloads on commercial satellites at a fraction of the cost of a dedicated mission, but their use remains limited. Jeff Foust reports that there is evidence that such payloads are overcoming a range of obstacles to wider use. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2179/1 to view the article. (10/29)

The Need for Private ISRU Development (Source: Space Review)
The ability to make use of resources on the Moon, Mars, and asteroids -- living off the land -- is critical to the future of space exploration and development, but there's been limited research into the subject. Eric Shear makes the case for greater investment by the private sector into ISRU technologies. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2178/1 to view the article. (10/29)

Moon's Mysterious 'Ocean of Storms' Explained (Source: Space.com)
The largest dark spot on the moon, known as the Ocean of Storms, may be a scar from a giant cosmic impact that created a magma sea more than a thousand miles wide and several hundred miles deep, researchers say. These findings could help explain why the moon's near and far sides are so very different from one another, investigators added. (10/29)

SpaceX Wraps Up First Contracted Station Resupply Mission (Source: Space News)
A commercially operated space capsule laden with 760 kilograms of return cargo from the international space station has been recovered in the Pacific Ocean and is now on its way to the U.S. mainland. SpaceX recovered the capsule, which departed the space station the morning of Oct. 28, shortly after its same-day splashdown about 400 kilometers off the coast of Baja California, Mexico. (10/29)

SpaceShipTwo Powered Flights Set for 2013 (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Scaled Composites Executive Vice President Kevin Mickey said powered flights of SpaceShipTwo will begin next year. Virgin Galactic officials have said they hoped to begin powered flights by the end of this year. The powered flights will be preceded by un-powered glide tests of SpaceShipTwo that will begin later this year. These will be the first flights of the eight-person space plane after it has been fully fitted with its hybrid propulsion system. Next year should be a busy one at the Mojave Air and Space Port where SpaceShipTwo is being tested. (10/29)

ULA Engine Issue Pushes NASA Satellite Launch to January (Source: Florida Today)
The Space Coast has just one more rocket launch left in 2012. A NASA satellite launch that was planned in December has moved to January due to a delay in an Air Force mission launching on the same kind of rocket. The Air Force’s launch of a military space plane on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket is now tentatively targeted for Nov. 13, having slipped about two weeks.

ULA postponed that launch while it investigates the cause of an upper stage engine’s loss of thrust during an Oct. 4 Delta IV launch from Cape Canaveral that successfully deployed a GPS satellite. The Delta IV and Atlas V use similar RL-10 upper stage engines.

January could turn into a busy month on the Eastern Range. In addition to the possible launch of TDRS-K, the Air Force plans to launch a military communications satellite on a Delta IV and SpaceX may look to launch its second commercial resupply mission to the Space Station on a Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX is also reviewing an engine problem during its most recent Falcon 9 launch, which successfully deployed a Dragon cargo carrier. (10/29)

China Dismisses Reports About Anti-Satellite Missile Test (Source: Space Daily)
Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun has dismissed media reports about a planned test launch of an anti-satellite missile in November. "Such reports did not conform to the fact," Yang said at a regular news briefing on Thursday. Reports said that China will conduct the test targeting satellites with a high orbit altitude, such as reconnaissance satellites and navigation satellites. Reports said the test would be conducted after the U.S. presidential election next month. (10/29)

Galactic Thief: One Galaxy Steals Stars From Another (Source: Harvard-Smithsonian)
One of the closest galaxies to the Milky Way almost got away with theft. However, new simulations convicted the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) of stealing stars from its neighbor, the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC). And the crucial evidence came from surveys looking for something entirely different - dark objects on the outskirts of the Milky Way. (10/29)

NEOs: Too Close For Comfort? (Source: America Space)
Be afraid – but not too afraid. It’s true that at some point, if we don’t take steps to prevent it, a big dumb object is going to smash into the Earth so hard that civilization as we know it will be seriously inconvenienced, or even wiped out (see? No reason for too much fear). But the odds are that such a cataclysm lies way, way in the future. Still, you never know…

The chunks of cosmic debris we need to keep a keen eye on are so-called near-Earth objects (NEOs) – asteroids and (a few) comets whose orbits can sometimes bring them close to the Earth. Around 9,000 NEOs have been discovered to date, the vast majority of them asteroids. Of these, about 1,350 are considered potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs). A PHA is defined as an asteroid that can approach the Earth closer than 0.05 astronomical unit (7.5 million kilometers) and has a diameter of at least 100 to 150 meters. Click here. (10/29)

X-34s Resurface at Mojave Event (Source: Parabolic Arc)
During the Mojave Air and Space Port’s recent Plane Crazy Saturday, visitors got a close look at the two X-34 vehicles that have been stored next to Orbital Sciences Corporation’s L-1011 Stargazer aircraft. The L-1011 carried one of them on three captive carry flights, but neither vehicle ever flew in free flight. The rocket engine technology demonstrators were put into storage in 2001 after the X-34 program was canceled for technical and budgetary reasons.

They were pulled out of storage at nearby Edwards Air Force Base in November 2010 for evaluation “as potential flight platforms for reusable space launch vehicle technology demonstrations,” according to NASA. Ed Dunlap, manager of L-1011 operations for Orbital, said during a Plane Crazy Saturday presentation that the two X-34s would be taken away from the spaceport in about three weeks.  No use has been found for the vehicles. Click here. (10/29)

NASA Honors Aerojet for Contractor Skills (Source: Sacramento Bee)
Aerojet is being honored for its effort to help small businesses participate in a five-year contract to create liquid methane propulsion engines for a NASA research center. Aerojet has received the "large prime contractor of the year" award from NASA's Glenn Research Center. The company was recognized for finding and partnering experienced small businesses with other suppliers to meet the contract's technical requirements and cost goals.

In addition, the company hired interns through a program that helps place students from historically black colleges and universities. Aerojet also received a special achievement award following year-long testing of the engine thruster, which is intended for use in deep space. (10/29)

The Strange Case of Soyuz in Vostochny (Source: Russian Space Web)
In 2011, the Russian space agency, Roskosmos, made a decision to build the launch pad for the Soyuz family of rockets at the future Vostochny space port in the nation's Far East. A single launch pad would become the fourth location worldwide intended for the Soyuz-2 rocket and its derivatives. The idea to build a launch complex for Soyuz rockets in Vostochny was probably spurred by politics, rather than by any technical necessity.

In 2011, a newly appointed head of the Russian space agency Vladimir Popovkin made a decision to cancel the development of the Rus-M launch vehicle, which was expected to be the first rocket to fly from Vostochny. As a result, the yet-to-be-built space center ended up without a rocket to launch, despite a huge political importance given to the project by the Russian government. Regardless of Vostochny's real role in the Russian space program, the Kremlin saw the future center as an "anchor" for continuous Russian presence in the remote region and as a replacement to Baikonur spaceport.

Apparently, in an effort to save agency's limited funds and meet the political requirement of the first launch in 2015, the new head of Roskosmos favored bringing the veteran Soyuz rockets to Vostochny, instead of the new-generation Angara rocket, which had similar capabilities to the cancelled Rus-M. However the current capabilities of Soyuz rockets are considerably below the mass required to carry the next-generation manned spacecraft, which was expected to ride Rus-M from Vostochny. Thus, this move undermined a highly advertised purpose of Vostochny as the spaceport for the manned space program. Click here. (10/29)

Ukraine Approves $1.4 Billion Space Action Plan (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine adopted the decree, “On approval of the action plan for the development of space activities and the production of space technology in 2013" on Oct. 17. Its purpose: the solution of urgent problems of space activities in 2013, the continuation of the projects started in previous years and the implementation of the initial phases of the work under the draft national targeted science and technology space program for 2013-2017. Funding for the implementation of the action plan is 114 million hryvnia ($13.9 million). (10/28)

Russians, Italians Work on LOX-LNG Engine (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Russia’s KBKhA Design Bureau reports the successful tests last month of a new 7.5 ton thrust rocket engine powered by liquid oxygen and liquefied natural gas. “The tests were a significant step in the cooperation of two companies within the research work carried out by the order the Italian Space Agency (ASI),” KBKhA said. KBKhA and Avio have been working together on the project since 2007.

KBKhA has designed rocket engines for the Soyuz, Proton and Energia launch vehicles. Avio produces Ariane 5′s two large lateral solid-propellant engines as well as the P80, Zefiro 23 and Zefiro 9 solid motors for Europe’s new Vega launcher. (10/27)

Florida Today Endorses Romney, Nelson, and Posey (Source: Space Politics)
Florida Today issued endorsements for key races, including Mitt Romney for president. Space policy positions didn’t play that much of a role: the four members of the newspaper’s editorial board split their votes two to two on the position of “space”. The newspaper did appear encouraged that Romney would continue one of the key elements of the Obama Administration’s policy, that of greater reliance on commercial providers. The paper appeared disappointed that Obama had not carried out some of the promises he made in the 2008 campaign, including one to “continue NASA’s moon-exploration program.”

In the Florida Senate race, where Sen. Bill Nelson (D) is running for reelection against Rep. Connie Mack IV (R), Florida Today endorsed Nelson, citing in part his record on space in the last few years, including lobbying for passage of the 2010 NASA Authorization Act. Nelson got all four votes of the paper’s editorial board on the topic of space.

And in the House race for the district that now covers most of the Space Coast, Florida Today endorsed incumbent Rep. Bill Posey (R) over Shannon Roberts (D) and Richard Gillmor (I). The paper noted Posey’s work on legislation “that could benefit NASA and Brevard’s space industry”. However, the paper actually preferred Roberts’s position on space, “which she considers an investment in science and technical innovation — not pursuit of the “military high ground,” as Posey sees it,” the paper noted. (10/29)

Orbiting Gas Stations for Satellites (Source: LaunchSpace)
One of the things that makes space applications so expensive is the fact that we cannot service satellites once they get to orbit. The moment a satellite leaves the ground it is destined to survive, or not survive, based solely on what it is carrying and how well it operates. If all of the subsystems work properly, then its expect performance is realized for as long as its propellant lasts.

Once the propellant is depleted, the mission is over. At least this has been the way space operations have worked since 1957. We all have thought about the advantages of being able to repair and refuel these satellites. If only we had a service station in orbit for fixing and refueling spacecraft, the overall cost of using space could drop dramatically.

Now, NASA is developing the technology to build Earth-orbiting ‘service stations’ that may one day use robotic technology to repair and service satellites. After 55 years of space flight experience, it is about time someone took on this serious and important challenge. Engineers at the Kennedy Space Center are working with the Goddard Space Flight Center to develop concepts that will lead to high-technology “gas” pumps, robotic mechanics and “tow” trucks for satellites in space. This capability is particularly attractive for servicing large geostationary satellites. Click here. (10/29)

Republicans Revved Up for Ryan's Space Coast Visit (Source: Florida Today)
Kathy Parsons spent Sunday calling Space Coast residents to promote the Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan ticket, and she hopes Ryan’s speech today helps sway undecided voters — particularly young women. “I think that Paul Ryan is an energizer. His knowledge of the budget is just incredible,” said Parsons, who owns Suncoast Realty in the South Beaches.

The Republican vice presidential candidate will lead a campaign rally at 5 p.m. at the Clemente Center at Florida Tech in Melbourne. Ryan, a Wisconsin seven-term U.S. representative, will travel to Florida Tech after leading a 1:30 p.m. rally at a park in Fernandina Beach. Afterward, at 7:30 p.m., he will appear at Sun n’ Fun Air Museum in Lakeland. (10/29)

Glenn Research Center Seeks Stability with Uncertainties Ahead for NASA (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
Sometimes when his flight is landing in Cleveland, Ray Lugo, the director of NASA's Glenn Research Center, tries a little incognito market research about his institution. He'll nudge a fellow passenger, point at the big hangar next to the airport's runway – the one with "NASA" in giant letters on its roof – and ask, "What's that?" "Probably 30 or 40 percent of the time, people say, 'I don't know what that's about,' " Lugo recounts. They'll say, " 'Used to be a NASA thing here at one time, but I think they went away.' "

Far from idled, the Glenn center's 350-acre campus employs more than 3,300 people and annually pumps more than $1 billion into Ohio's economy. Its fortunes lately have stabilized somewhat, after sharp budget and workforce declines in the past two decades. But rumors of the center's impending demise still occasionally make the rounds. And employees and community leaders continue to fret about Glenn's vulnerability to further downsizing, and its ability to compete with other NASA field centers – some with more political clout.

During an eight-week stretch this summer, for instance, a prominent NASA blogger reported that Lugo was about to be replaced (he wasn't), and a former NASA administrator advising Mitt Romney's presidential campaign warned that the space agency was planning to scrap all human space flight work and eliminate its 244 jobs at Glenn. (Both NASA and the White House issued unusually blunt denials.) Some of that anxiety is to be expected in an election season. A new president or an incumbent seeking change could upend the nation's space priorities, and with them, the Glenn center's mission. Click here. (10/29)

What's Happening to the Russian Space Industry? (Source: Commercial Space Watch)
On the morning of August 6, the Russian space industry woke up to yet another failure in a long list of failures over the last 2 years. 2 months later, on October 16th that failure became a catastrophe with the explosion of the Briz-M upperstage. Are we witness to the end of the dominance of the Russian space industry? From a lofty 96%, the Russian launch success rate has plummeted to below 90%. That drop doesn't seem like much, but when each failed mission costs $300-400 million, it's highly significant.

The new Briz-M debris cloud in orbit puts a significant number of LEO satellites at risk, and especially the manned International Space Station. The differing rates at which the two orbits precess around the Earth's polar axis mean that the ISS orbital path will periodically move in and out of the debris cloud, and will sometimes spend several days at a time with a large part of its orbit within the cloud. Depending on the actual number of fragments, this event may eventually be considered to be the most dangerous fragmentation event ever to have occurred in space. Click here. (10/29)

Why We Can't Solve Big Problems (Source: Technology Review)
Apollo 11's moon landing was the culmination of a convulsive collective effort. Eight years before, President Kennedy had asked Congress to "commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth." His challenge disturbed NASA's original plan for a stepped, multi-generational strategy: Wernher von Braun, NASA's chief of rocketry, had thought the agency would first send men into Earth's orbit, then build a space station, then fly to the moon, then build a lunar colony.

A century hence, perhaps, humans would travel to Mars. Kennedy's goal was also absurdly ambitious. A few weeks before his speech, NASA had strapped an astronaut into a tiny capsule atop a converted military rocket and shot him into space on a ballistic trajectory, as if he were a circus clown; but no American had orbited the planet. The agency didn't really know if what the president asked could be done in the time he allowed, but it accepted the call.

I remember sitting in my family's living room in Berkeley, California, watching the liftoff of Apollo 17. I was five; my mother admonished me not to stare at the fiery exhaust of the Saturn 5 rocket. I vaguely knew that this was the last of the moon missions—but I was absolutely certain that there would be Mars colonies in my lifetime. What happened? Click here. (10/24)

Antitrust Clearance for Sale of SSL Received by Loral and MDA (Source: Space Daily)
Loral Space and Communications has announced that Loral and MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) have received notice from the Department of Justice that it has completed its review of the transaction to sell Space Systems/Loral, Inc. (SS/L) to MDA and that early termination of the waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, as amended, has been granted with respect to the transaction. (10/29)

New NASA Online Science Resource Available for Educators and Students (Source: Space Daily)
NASA has a new online science resource for teachers and students to help bring Earth, the solar system, and the universe into their schools and homes. Called NASA Wavelength, the site features hundreds of resources organized by topic and audience level from elementary to college, and out-of-school programs that span the extent of NASA science. Educators at all levels can locate educational resources through information on educational standards, subjects and keywords and other relevant details, such as learning time required to carry out a lesson or an activity, cost of materials and more. Click here. (10/29)

Seoul Sets Nov. 9-24 as New Window for Rocket Launch (Source: Yonhap)
South Korea on Monday set new candidate dates for the launch of its first space rocket after a previously scheduled launch was called off due to a defective part. The Launch Preparation Committee set Nov. 9-24 as new candidate dates for the launch of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1), with Nov. 9 singled out as the most likely date.

Singling out a specific date is for convenience reasons only, and the actual launch could take place on any of the candidate dates, the committee said. "Based on the interim outcome of an investigation on the defective part and considering the amount of time needed for a more thorough investigation and to take necessary steps, the committee decided the launch of the KSLV-1 will be possible starting from Nov. 9," it said in a press release. (10/29)

Why Germs in Space Are a Nightmare (Source: Huffington Post)
Ask any Star Trek aficionado about space and they will quickly tell you that it is the final frontier for humanity. For thousands of years, we have been stuck on this planet looking up at the stars wondering what might be...out there. In the futuristic series, a team of intergalactic travelers span the universe seeking out new life and new civilizations in an effort to boldly go where no one has gone before. I imagine they brought a microscope.

Of all the possible extraterrestrial entities, microbes are considered to be the most numerous and prevalent, just as they are here on Earth. While humans only discovered microbes a few hundred years ago by Antoine van Leeuwenhoek, they have been around since the dawn of the universe. In 1998, the fascinating science of astrobiology was developed in the hopes of understanding the past, present, and future of life, the origins of life, and the search of extraterrestrials, including germs. Click here. (10/29)

Malaysian Aerospace Program Needs More Funds (Source: Bernama)
The Malaysian aerospace science program needs more funds to soar on par with developed countries. Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry eputy Secretary-General Datin Khatijah Mohd Yusoff said tremendous efforts were needed to ensure Malaysia's level of achievement in aerospacec was compatible with other countries. She felt ther was still room for improvement and more funds were needed to support the aerospace program. (10/29)

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