October 7, 2012

SpaceX Launches First Official Cargo Resupply Mission to Space Station (Source: SpaceX)
SpaceX successfully launched its Dragon spacecraft aboard a Falcon 9 rocket on the first official cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. The launch went off on schedule at 8:35 p.m. ET from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The SpaceX CRS-1 mission marks the first of at least 12 SpaceX missions to the space station under the company’s cargo resupply contract with NASA. On board the Dragon spacecraft are materials to support investigations planned for the station’s Expedition 33 crew, as well as crew supplies and space station hardware.

The Falcon 9 rocket, powered by nine Merlin engines, performed nominally today during every phase of its approach to orbit, including two stage separations, solar array deployment, and the final push of Dragon into its intended orbit. Dragon will now chase the space station before beginning a series of burns that will bring it into close proximity to the station. If all goes well, Dragon will attach to the complex on October 10 and spend over two weeks there before an expected return to Earth on October 28. (10/7)

Orbcomm Prototype Satellite Riding Along on Falcon Mission (Source: Florida Today)
A Dragon capsule packed with cargo for the International Space Station isn’t the only thing SpaceX plans to launch from Cape Canaveral tonight. Hitching a ride with the Dragon on a Falcon 9 rocket is a prototype communications satellite owned by New Jersey-based Orbcomm Inc. The space station mission offered Orbcomm a hard-to-find opportunity to fly the satellite as a secondary payload alongside a primary customer rocketing in roughly the same direction. (10/7)

Bolden Wins Doolittle Award (Source: America Space)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden is the first recipient of the Gen. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle Memorial Award, which was presented to him at the Tuskegee Airmen’s Scholarship Foundation Gold Medal Gala Thursday in Los Angeles. Bolden a retired Marine Corps major general was presented the award for his outstanding military service, expert management as NASA’s 12th administrator and qualities of leadership that Gen. Doolittle practiced. (10/6)

Armadillo STIG-B Launches From New Mexico, Suffers In-Flight Abort (Source: Parabolic Arc)
New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) officials announced today the launch of a STIG-B rocket designed and built by Armadillo Aerospace of Texas. This launch was the first licensed Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) launch to take place from Spaceport America’s vertical launch complex at the spaceport, and the second research and development test flight this year at Spaceport America conducted by Armadillo Aerospace. The launch was a non-public, unpublished event at the request of Armadillo Aerospace, as the company is testing proprietary advanced launch technologies.

However, some sort of abort occurred during the flight, so it’s not clear how high it reached. The objective was to send the payload above 100 kilometers, the boundary of space. Armadillo's John Carmack said the recovery system functioned properly and the vehicle is safe, and that they plan to fly again in a couple of weeks. (10/6)

Northrop Grumman Opens Science Center Space Foundation in Colorado (Source: Northrop Grumman
The Space Foundation and Northrop Grumman Corporation (NOC) today celebrated the grand opening of the Northrop Grumman Science Center, featuring Science on a Sphere (SOS), the first major step in the development of the Space Foundation Visitors Center at its world headquarters in Colorado Springs. (10/5)

NASA Tracks Space Junk Ahead of Falcon Launch (Source: Space.com)
A piece of space junk that may buzz the International Space Station Monday has NASA weighing plans to move the orbiting lab, even as a private space capsule stands poised to launch toward the station on Sunday night. The space debris will pass near enough to the space station on Monday morning (Oct. 8) to require an avoidance maneuver as a safety precaution, NASA space station program manager Mike Suffredini said. The decision on whether to move the station is not yet final, but if such a maneuver is required it will not affect the scheduled launch of a private Dragon space capsule to the station, Suffredini said. (10/6)

Secret Spy Telescopes' New Role: Help NASA Hunt for Life (Source: Guardian)
Officials at NASA have been given an unexpected gift by American spy chiefs: a pair of space telescopes, each as large as the Hubble observatory. The huge instruments were designed by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) to peer down on sites in the Middle East and former Soviet Union. However, the project was cancelled and now NASA has been presented with the leftover instruments.

One group of astronomers has already begun work on plans to use a telescope to help in the hunt for life on other worlds. "These are very large telescopes, and from their design specifications they appear ideal for carrying out large surveys of the heavens, including searches for Earth-like worlds orbiting stars near our solar system." They have mirrors 2.4 meters in diameter – the same as the Hubble observatory's – and from space they could spot "a dime sitting on top of the Washington Monument", according to a NASA official.

An early beneficiary is likely to be the Wide-Field Infrared Space Telescope (W-First). It was expected to be launched in the mid-2020s and use a relatively modest 1.3m telescope to hunt for planets in orbit around stars and to search for dark energy, which is thought to permeate all space and which is accelerating the expansion of the universe. Thanks to the NRO, astronomers will be able to launch a bigger, better version of W-First before the end of the decade. (10/6)

Editorial: Space Exploration Has Enormous Influence on Technology, Innovation (Source: Times of Trenton)
In a sign of how successful nuclear energy has been in powering space missions, the Voyager 1 spacecraft is expected to become the first man-made object to move beyond our solar system and cross into interstellar space. Since its launch 35 years ago, Voyager 1 has had up-close looks at several planets. Now, as it breaks through the outer limits of the solar system some 11 billion miles away from the sun, the spacecraft still runs on nuclear generators known as radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs). Scientists expect to continue receiving data until the Voyager 1 spacecraft stops functioning in about 2025.

Many will ask: Why are we spending billions of dollars up there in space when we have pressing problems down here on Earth? Scientists say that space missions have had an enormous impact on technology and innovation, producing revolutionary spinoff technologies, ranging from digital imaging and improved kidney dialysis to collision-avoidance systems on aircraft, the benefits of which have been incalculable. These advances have produced whole industries.

Congress can help ensure enough nuclear fuel will be available for future space missions by authorizing construction of a reprocessing facility to extract plutonium from spent fuel currently stored at nuclear power plants. Often mistaken for nuclear waste, spent fuel contains plutonium and other valuable nuclear materials. A reprocessing facility similar to one operating in France could be built in conjunction with a deep-geologic repository for high-level nuclear waste. (10/7)

Molestation Slur on Scientist Hits Key Indian Science Projects (Source: Hindustan Times)
Several research projects funded by the ISRO and the department of science and technology are on the brink of grinding to a halt. Reason? The ministry received an anonymous letter alledging that government funds were being misused. When no irregularities were found in the inquiry, a student alleged that she was molested for more than 30 times over a period of nearly two years by the scientist who was heading the projects.

Humiliated and shell-shocked, the scientist, Avijit Mitra, head of the marine science department of Calcutta University, stopped going to college and is facing an inquiry. Mitra said, “Not only am I being framed, but I’m also being humiliated everywhere even before I’ve been pronounced guilty. How can I pursue my research in this state of mind?”

The student had lodged a complaint with the university authorities in July. The university authorities referred the complaint to the committee which probes allegations of sexual harassment. The committee, however, refused to look into the matter claiming that the alleged incident, if any, had taken place outside the campus. The girl then appealed to Governor MK Narayanan, who then wrote to vice-chancellor Suranjan Das to probe into it. (10/7)

A Boy's Childhood Dream to Visit Space, A Sister Determined to Help it Happen  (Source: Medicine Hat News)
A year ago this weekend, Daniel Hamer became Edmonton's 40th homicide of the year. His sister, Dee Robb, remembers sharing his fascination with spaceflight, as the siblings watched TV coverage of the now-retired space shuttle fleet from their home in Canada. "We were the shuttle generation," she recalled in an interview.

Robb has found a way to fulfil her brother's dream, albeit posthumously. A small personalized capsule, the size of a lipstick case, will be sent into space before year's end containing a portion of his ashes. It will be one of more than dozen capsules placed inside a canister and attached to a rocket, which is tentatively scheduled to launch in November from Spaceport America, a commercial spaceport in New Mexico.

After being attached to the side of a rocket, the capsules are blasted into sub-orbit and then after the rocket parachutes back to Earth, they are returned to family members as keepsakes. The voyage will be the 12th memorial spaceflight by Celestis Inc., a Houston-based company, which has been offering the service since 1997. (10/7)

Shuttle Tour a Reminder of Workers' Feat (Source: Florida Today)
My recent tour inside and around Atlantis, and talking to the people who’ve given their careers to the shuttles, provoked a lot of thoughts about that phase of our space program. I learned that: 1) The shuttles could have kept flying. Atlantis and her sister ships were old only in years. The space planes were built for many more flights. They never flew as frequently as envisioned. 2) The shuttles were too darn expensive to fly. Even in retirement, the number of people required to do detail work to maintain a shuttle is staggering. The $4 billion a year to operate the fleet went mostly to the standing army here and across the country needed to execute perfection.

If the shuttles didn’t excite you, then you weren’t paying attention. The space shuttles are the most incredible flying machines that human beings ever dreamed up and then actually got off the ground. Yes, getting people back on the moon, or walking on Mars, or exploring asteroids, all will be exciting. But the space shuttles were not un-exciting. The shuttles and the missions they flew were as astounding a series of adventures as the moon shots. (10/7)

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