October 9, 2012

Eastern Range Supports First SpaceX Launch for NASA ISS Resupply (Source: Spacec Daily)
SpaceX completed a successful launch of their Falcon 9 Dragon spacecraft, called Dragon C3, from Launch Complex 40 on Monday with safety and range support provided by service members assigned to the 45 Space Wing. A combined team of military, government civilians and contractors from across the 45th Space Wing provided vital support to the mission, including weather forecasts, launch and range operations, security, safety and public affairs. The wing also provided its vast network of radar, telemetry, optical and communications instrumentation to facilitate a safe launch on the Eastern Range.

The vice commander of the 45th Space Wing, who also served as the Launch Decision Authority for this historic launch, praised the work of all those involved in making this launch a success. "It's our team's pleasure to work on this mission and we applaud SpaceX and NASA for their great work; and we also praise the teamwork between our wing and all our mission partners involved in making this mission a success," said Col. Robert Pavelko, vice commander, 45th Space Wing. (10/8)

Austrian's Skydive More Than a Stunt; Could Aid Astronauts (Guardian)
Skydiver Felix Baumgartner's attempt at the highest, fastest free fall in history Tuesday is more than just a stunt. His planned 23-mile dive from the stratosphere should provide scientists with valuable information for next-generation spacesuits and techniques that could help astronauts survive accidents. Jumping from more than three times the height of the average cruising altitude for jetliners, Baumgartner hopes to become the first person to break the sound barrier outside of an airplane.

His team has calculated that to be 690 mph based on the altitude of his dive. His medical director Dr. Jonathan Clark, a NASA space shuttle crew surgeon who lost his wife, Laurel Clark, in the 2003 Columbia accident, says no one knows what happens to a body when it breaks the sound barrier. "That is really the scientific essence of this mission," said Clark, who is dedicated to improving astronauts' chances of survival in a high-altitude disaster. (10/8)

Skydiver Aborts Supersonic Jump Attempt Due to High Winds (Source: Space.com)
An Austrian daredevil's attempt to make the world's highest skydive, a jump that would send him falling faster than the speed of sound, was aborted today (Oct. 9) because of strong winds over his New Mexico staging ground. Felix Baumgartner was planning to leap from a balloon nearly 23 miles (37 kilometers) above Roswell, N.M., today (Oct. 9). But mission officials cancelled the liftoff at 1:42 p.m. EDT after winds began gusting at the launch site. It was the second time in two days that the record-breaking skydive was postponed by wind concerns. (10/9)

Science From Hell (Source: Huffington Post)
Here's an idea you probably haven't considered. Astronomer Edwin Hubble, who first discovered the expansion of the universe, was part of a devilish plan. Measurements of nearby galaxies suggesting that the cosmos began with an explosive event -- what we now call the Big Bang -- were a conspiracy to ensure that you don't yearn for spiritual salvation.

No, really. This is the claim of Paul Broun, a Republican representative from Georgia. Well, the approval rating of Congress is an anemic 10 percent these days, and these bizarre statements might just be another reason to be unhappy with those representing your interests under the Capitol dome. But here's the zinger: Broun sits on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. No doubt this reassures you about the chances that this country will continue to be in the forefront of groundbreaking research. (10/9)

Bill Nye: Broun 'Unqualified To Make Decisions About Science, Space, and Technology' (Source: Huffington Post)
For someone who sits on a key congressional science advisory committee, Rep. Paul C. Broun (R-GA) seems to take a pretty dim view of science. In videotaped remarks made Sep. 27 before a church group, Broun called what he had been taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang theory "all lies straight from the pit of Hell," adding that the lies were intended to "keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior." Broun is running unopposed for reelection to a fourth term in Congress. (10/8)

Why the Higgs Boson Didn't Win This Year's Nobel (Source: Space.com)
In the days leading up to today's (Oct. 9) announcement of the 2012 Nobel Prize in physics, speculation was rampant that the discovery of the Higgs boson particle would be rewarded this year. This summer, particle physicists at the world's largest atom smasher, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), announced they'd finally found what looks to be the Higgs boson after decades of searches have turned up nothing.

Recently, rumors started flying that the 2012 Nobel would reward either the teams responsible for the discovery, or the scientists who predicted the particle's existence almost 50 years ago. Today, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced that this year's Nobel in physics was awarded to French physicist Serge Haroche and American physicist David Wineland for their pioneering work in quantum optics — the study of the fundamental interaction between light and matter.

Why no glory for the Higgs? "It was too early," said Nobel laureate George Smoot of the University of California, Berkeley, who won the 2006 physics prize with John Mather for their work on the cosmic microwave radiation in space left over from the Big Bang. Their findings came from measurements made by NASA's COBE satellite after it launched in 1989. The Nobel committee has a history of taking its time to reward scientific discoveries. (10/9)

Crowdfunding a New Electric Propulsion Technology (Source: NewSpace Watch)
Another space venture is pursuing crowdfunding to get an innovative technology off the ground. HyperV Technologies Corp. is a Virginia based firm that plans to convert plasma accelerators used in fusion research into propulsion devices called pulsed plasma jet thrusters. Click here. (10/9)

The Hue of Alien Earths (Source: Physics World)
An international team of researchers claims that the link between the colour of a planet and its surface features can be used to prioritize which newly found exoplanets, especially rocky planets with clear atmospheres, should be studied in-depth for signs of life. The work provides an important link between Earth-based geomicrobiology and observational astronomy. A huge number of exoplanets have been discovered in recent times – just over 800 confirmed examples are known today, with more than 2000 candidates waiting to be confirmed. Of the candidate exoplanets, it is difficult to decide which ones are the most likely to harbour life. Click here. (10/9)

ATK Awarded $50 Million for NASA's Advanced Concept Booster Development for SLS (Source: ATK)
NASA has awarded ATK a $50 million contract to complete engineering development and risk reduction tests as part of the Advanced Concept Booster Development for the Space Launch System (SLS). ATK's effort focuses on overcoming key technological challenges in developing advanced booster requirements for NASA's SLS program.

Tasks within the scope of ATK's award include development of a lithium-ion battery-powered electric thrust vector control system; high-performance propellant; lightweight composite rocket motor case; and an advanced nozzle. All of these developments will culminate  with an integrated booster static test firing of these technologies. All of these tasks use cost-saving processes and materials that reduce cost and help lower risk as NASA moves towards a higher-performing booster in the future. (10/9)

EU, China Schedule December Meeting on Navigation Dispute (Source: Space News)
The European Union (EU) and China have agreed to meet in December to try and end their dispute on overlapping radio frequencies both plan to use for their future encrypted government/military satellite navigation services, according to a joint statement from both parties. The Joint Statement on Space Technology Cooperation, which was signed on Sep. 20 in Brussels, says the two sides are continuing collaboration on satellite navigation despite the signal conflict, which has been a subject of debate for at least two years. (10/9)

Meeting of heads of ESA and China Manned Space Agency (Source: ESA)
Wang Zhaoyao, Director General of the China Manned Space Agency, accompanied by the first Chinese female astronaut, Liu Yang, met ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain at the Agency’s headquarters in Paris on 8 October. Mr Dordain congratulated Mr Wang on the successful Shenzhou-9 mission, stating how impressed he had been when learning of the flawless automatic and manual docking with Tiangong-1. Following earlier discussions, the two sides have agreed to continue talking about possible avenues for cooperation between ESA and the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA).  (10/8)

Recovery Prospects Unclear for Orbcomm Craft Launched by Falcon 9 (Source: Space News)
Satellite messaging service provider Orbcomm on Oct. 8 said its prototype second-generation satellite was placed in the wrong orbit by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched Oct. 7 and that it is unclear whether the spacecraft can be recovered and put into operation. Orbcomm said it is working with satellite builder Sierra Nevada Corp. to determine whether the spacecraft has sufficient fuel to make an orbit-raising attempt worthwhile. (10/9)

Russian Rocket to Carry Galileo Satellites to Orbit on Oct. 12 (Source: Interfax)
A Soyuz-ST-B rocket will blast off the Kourou Space Center in French Guiana on October 12, the Federal Space Agency reported. "The launch of a Soyuz-ST-B rocket with a Fregat-MT booster and two Galileo IOV satellites aboard has been scheduled for October 12," it said. (10/9)

Large Water Reservoirs at the Dawn of Stellar Birth (Source: ESA)
ESA’s Herschel space observatory has discovered enough water vapour to fill Earth’s oceans more than 2000 times over, in a gas and dust cloud that is on the verge of collapsing into a new Sun-like star. Stars form within cold, dark clouds of gas and dust – ‘pre-stellar cores’ – that contain all the ingredients to make solar systems like our own.

Water, has previously been detected outside of our Solar System as gas and ice coated onto tiny dust grains near sites of active star formation, and in proto-planetary discs capable of forming alien planetary systems. The new Herschel observations of a cold pre-stellar core in the constellation of Taurus known as Lynds 1544 are the first detection of water vapour in a molecular cloud on the verge of star formation. More than 2000 Earth oceans-worth of water vapour were detected, liberated from icy dust grains by high-energy cosmic rays passing through the cloud. (10/9)

Dead Stars Could be the Future of Spacecraft Navigation (Source: NPL)
Spacecraft navigation currently relies on radio transmissions between a distant craft and a network of ground-stations on Earth. This means that the craft has to wait for an instruction from Earth to guide it through space and with the large distances involved this could take hours, days or even longer. This time delay affects a spacecraft's ability to react rapidly according to its location. Furthermore, the ground infrastructure is increasingly difficult and expensive to maintain due to the size of the radio antennas.

Scientists at NPL and the University of Leicester are exploring the use of X-rays from dead stars, called pulsars, to allow spacecraft to navigate autonomously. Pulsars are highly compact and rapidly rotating neutron stars that emit intense electromagnetic radiation observed as pulses, similar to the rotating beam of light seen from a light house. In some cases these pulses can be highly regular, making them suitable sources for navigation using a technique similar to GPS. (10/9)

NRO-Donated Telescope Would Increase NASA Mission Cost (Source: Nature)
The most likely first use for an NRO-donated telescope is as an alternative to the proposed Wide-Field Infrared Space Telescope (WFIRST), the top-ranked mission in the 2010 astronomy decadal survey. Some astronomers, however, are questioning whether the value of the free hardware — each NRO telescope is worth at least $250 million — can compensate for the extra costs entailed in going from a 1.3-meter mission to a 2.4-meter mission, which will require a larger rocket and a larger camera. Although the WFIRST mission was expected to cost $1.5 billion, one NASA estimate puts the NRO option at $1.75 billion.

But Princeton astronomer David Spergel, who organized the workshop, believes that that figure underestimates the savings to be made by using the NRO scope. Not having to cast and polish a primary mirror avoids a long, labour-intensive process requiring an army of technicians, he says. Spergel thinks that a $1.6-billion mission is realistic. He would bump up the cost another $200 million, however, to add an instrument that could take advantage of the extra light-gathering capability of the NRO telescope.

One way to reduce the cost of the NRO-WFIRST mission for NASA’s astrophysics division would be to launch it on one of the new SLS rockets. But that could mean moving the mission from its intended orbit around the Sun — at a dynamically stable spot known as a Lagrangian point some 1.5 million kilometers beyond Earth’s orbit — to a geostationary orbit about 36,000 kilometers above Earth (still much further out than Hubble). The geostationary option would be within reach of a wider variety of rockets — and of potential servicing missions by astronauts. (10/9)

Commercial Spaceflight Gets Down to Business (Source: Space Review)
The promise of commercial cargo and crew transportation has been just that: a promise, as yet not fully realized. Jeff Foust reports that may have changed Sunday night with the launch of the first commercial cargo mission to the International Space Station. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2168/1 to view the article. (10/9)

Future Exoplanet Missions: NASA and the World (Source: Space Review)
The search for extrasolar planets, particularly those similar in size and orbit to the Earth, has become one of the hottest fields in astronomy. In the first of a two-part article, Philip Horzempa examines some of the planned and proposed missions that can support those searches. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2167/1 to view the article. (10/9)

Perception vs. Reality in NASA's Commercial Crew and Cargo Program (Source: Space Review)
The current leadership at NASA and the White House gets much of the credit for supporting commercial crew and cargo ventures at the space agency. However, Christopher Stone argues that these programs are based on a foundation of policy that stretches back over multiple administrations and Congresses of both parties. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2166/1 to view the article. (10/9)

Sea and Space Meet for Business in Ireland (Source: ESA)
A new ESA project led by Irish industry is putting satellite data to use for monitoring the quality of coastal water. The Irish minister for Research and Innovation is supporting this initiative, in line with the country’s job creation priorities. The project, led by Ireland’s TechWorks Marine, working with Greek company Planetek Hellas, will combine satellite observations with data from ocean buoys to deliver timely, high-quality information for water and waste management operators. (10/9)

New Mexico Looks to Frontiers that are Out of This World (Source: East Valley Tribune)
As we barrel down the two-lane road, historical markers tell us we are traveling along the original El Camino Real, the frontier wagon trail from Mexico City to Santa Fe. Dating to 1598, it is the oldest European-American trade route. But we are not thinking about history. It's the future that looms before us. We turn into the entrance of the $209 million Spaceport America, the world's first purpose-built commercial space-launch facility. The Gateway to Space terminal will serve passengers on Virgin Galactic's suborbital spaceplane.

It's quiet now, but in December 2013, when billionaire Richard Branson is scheduled to take the inaugural commercial flight, the thundering noise and excitement will rattle the windows. To date, about 500 have reserved $200,000 tickets for a joy ride into weightlessness. We enter the cavernous operations center and wander about the empty runway. We are in the middle of nothingness, exactly the reason why Spaceport America is here.

Why in New Mexico? The state has thousands of acres of restricted airspace that will be made available for the momentous space flights to come. Three other factors make this location perfect: sparse population (not a house around for miles), 330 days of sunshine a year (little chance of flight delays due to thunderstorms) and high altitude (the first mile into space is free). (10/9)

Unidentified Object Found by Mars Rover (Source: Daily Mail)
NASA has revealed that the Mars Curiosity rover detected a bright object on the ground when it started to collect and sift martian soil for the very first time. Officials suspect the object is simply part of the six-wheeled vehicle which has dropped off, however they have taken a decision not to sample or scoop anymore soil until they can confirm what the unidentified object is.

video has been released which shows the first Martian material being collected by the scoop on the robotic arm of the one-tonne science rover, it was lifted from the ground on Oct 7 2012. The scoop vibrates to discard any overfill. Churning due to vibration also serves to show the physical characteristics of the collected material, such as an absence of pebbles. The scoop is 1.8 inches wide, 2.8 inches long. (10/9)

Editorial: Half a Percent (Source: The Battalion)
Fireman! President! Astronaut! Travel to any American classroom and ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and the responses will almost always be the same. A fascination with space has gripped the imaginations of Americans both young and old ever since the glory days of Apollo and Gemini. Space exploration serves to inspire new generations of engineers and scientists, all of whom grew up responding with the same answer. But for how long? Beneath the rhetoric of this year’s continued policy gridlock and presidential race lies an often overlooked fact: NASA and the nation’s space endeavors continue to be neglected.

In its proposed 2013 federal budget the White House apportioned $17.7 billion to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. At face value this may seem like a large sum, but to understand why such a value is actually extremely low one must first consult several other spending figures. According to The New York Times, NASA’s portion makes up only 0.5 percent of the proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2013. In the federal budget, NASA does not merit even a full percent of the nation’s spending abilities. Click here. (10/9)

College Students Shooting for the Moon (Source: America Space)
In early August, when most of the world was fixated on the copper skies of Mars, a few people were still looking at the gray pockmarks of the Moon. Where NASA’s Curiosity Rover was guided by collective lifetimes of experience and backed by the full funding of the United States government, the Google Lunar X PRIZE is seeking to fundamentally redefine the way humanity vaults into the reaches of space. A tantalizing $30 million in collective prizes awaits the privately-funded team that lands an unmanned vehicle on the lunar surface. Once it has touched down, the vehicle must travel at least 500 meters and transmit telemetry 250,000 miles back to Earth.

Around the world, 25 teams are working towards the end of a 2015 deadline. The nine still-active American teams hail from across the country, including Pennsylvania, California, Maryland and Florida. An hour’s drive from the Kennedy Center’s front door, Earthrise Space Inc. (ESI) is busy reaching for the Moon from their home office in Orlando’s Central Florida Research Park. Registered as Team Omega Envoy, the non-profit company believes it has found a winning model that does not employ seasoned scientists, but in working with the students who are aspiring to join those scientists in the aerospace industry. Click here. (10/9)

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