November 18, 2012

China to Deliver Telecomm Satellite to Space For DR Congo (Source: Xinhua)
The state-owned China Aerospace & Technology Corporation (CASC) will team up with China Telecom to provide communication satellite in-orbit delivery for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The satellite, CongoSat-01, will be launched from the Xichang spaceport within three years from when the contract takes effect. (11/17)

Dragon's "Radiation-Tolerant" Design (Source: Aviation Week)
Last week, NASA revealed that SpaceX's first commercial resupply mission to the ISS experienced a number of anomalies in addition to the shutdown of a Falcon 9 first-stage engine, including the loss of one of three flight computers on the Dragon cargo vessel due to a suspected radiation hit. Over the weekend I spoke with John Muratore, SpaceX director of vehicle certification, who said the loss of the computer was a function of the radiation-tolerant system design on which Dragon relies, rather than hard-to-come-by "rad-hardened" parts that can be costly and difficult to upgrade. Click here. (11/18)

Astronauts Return Safely to Earth After Leaving Space Station (Source:
A veteran astronaut crew representing the United States, Russia and Japan have returned safely to Earth aboard a Soyuz capsule to wrap up a four-month mission to the International Space Station. The Soyuz spacecraft undocked from the space station at 5:26 p.m. EST as both ships sailed 256 miles above northwestern China. They landed in Kazakhstan at 8:56 p.m. EST. (11/18)

New Zealand Rocket Lab Tests Novel Propulsion with Launch (Source: NewSpace Watch)
New Zealand Rocket Lab successfully launched the first Viscous Liquid Monopropellant (VLM) powered rocket. The test flight was viewed by international space and propulsion industry executives and was deemed a powerful demonstration of the new technology and its advantages. VLM a propellant and propulsion system entirely developed by Rocket Lab New Zealand.

It has been sponsored by DARPA and ONRG over 2 programs to rapidly develop and mature the technology for use in a wide range of rocket propulsion applications. VLM is a single part high density monopropellant. It currently has performance and density equal or better than current solid fuel propulsion systems but has all the controllability of a liquid system with an ability to throttle arbitrarily, shut down and restart. (11/16)

Hovering Moon Base May Be on NASA's Horizon (Source: New Scientist)
Just a day after President Obama was re-elected, rumours began to fly that he will back NASA plans to build a hovering moon base. This lunar outpost would be parked in orbit, about 60,000 kilometres from the moon's far side, in a gravitational haven called a Lagrange point. There, the combined gravity of Earth and the moon would tug on a spacecraft with exactly the force needed for it to hover near the moon without spending fuel.

Putting a spaceport at the Earth-moon Lagrange point 2 (EML-2) might assist human missions to an asteroid or to Mars – both on the list of NASA goals Obama announced in 2010. Buzz about NASA's vision for an EML-2 outpost has been swirling since September, when the Orlando Sentinel obtained documents detailing how such a craft could be built using parts left over from the International Space Station.

NASA has probably already cleared plans for the craft with the Obama administration, space policy expert John Logsdon of George Washington University in Washington DC told on 7 November, and has been waiting until after the election to announce them. Asked about the spaceport, NASA officials would only say the agency is working towards sending a capsule to loop around the moon in 2017 and a manned mission to lunar orbit in 2021. Click here. (11/14)

Why Obama Must Restart the Space Race (Source: PoliticMix)
America is spending millions on sending astronauts to space. The only problem is their spending this money with Russia.  America has to get back in the space game. The ending of the NASA space shuttle program put thousands of engineers and aerospace professionals out of work.

What message are we sending to our competitors? With no immediate plans to build a new shuttle and no clue when we will ever launch a mission to Mars many people in the space community feel they are in limbo or better yet–lost in space.  During the second presidential debate the president stated we should be investing in space. However, the 2013 budget proposals state NASA will receive a cut of over $300 million or about (21 percent).

Since Apollo, NASA has had to constantly fight for resources to take the next steps in exploration. The major problem is Congress appropriates NASA’s budget as they do for all government agencies. However, the Congressional Committee on Science is in charge of budget issues for NASA. This committee is notoriously staffed with politicians from unscientific backgrounds who are loyal to their congressional district or political party and up for re-election in less than two years. (11/14)

Why America and Russia Should Fear China's Martian Moment (Source: PoliticMix)
China’s space ambitions are evident and clear. While the first space race with Russia made many people focus on a two superpower race to the Moon, Space Race 2.0 will make both nations fear the Dragon. To help America get started on the road to a resurgence in space, we must look at space exploration the same way the late, great, President Kennedy did. Kennedy looked at the Apollo missions not as something we merely wanted to do, but something the world needed us to do.

The pride Americans and citizens of the world felt when Neil Armstrong touched down on the lunar surface will only be matched when the first man or woman touches down on the martian surface. The only question is will that man or woman have an American, Russian or Chinese flag across their shoulder? Even better, will we have finally moved past nationalism and into an era of global unity as a species? (11/16)

Chinese Long March Launches Huanjing-1C Into Orbit (Source:
China conducted its 16th orbital launch of the year by orbiting the third satellite on its Environmental Protection & Disaster Monitoring Constellation. The Huanjing-1C (Environment-1C) satellite was launched on Sunday from the Taiyuan spaceport on a Long March 2C (Chang Zheng-2C) launch vehicle. This was the 171st successful Chinese orbital launch, the 171st launch of a Chang Zheng launch vehicle, the 41st successful orbital launch from Taiyuan and the fifth launch from Taiyuan this year. (11/18)

Free Admission to KSC Visitor Complex Would Never Be As Interesting (Source: Florida Today)
I know people have long been upset that it costs them money to visit our national space treasures at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. I also know some of you are perturbed that the private operator of the Titusville tourist attraction is ending its longtime olive branch to local space workers and enthusiasts: the free Brevard weekend. In its place, the complex is offering local residents a sizable, nearly monthlong discount.

Tempers have simmered here for decades now over the NASA decision, long ago, to let a private operator of the visitor center charge admission. Used to be, you got in free, but had to pay for extras like IMAX movies. Some don’t like the idea of having to pay to see space hardware they already paid for via tax dollars or that they labored over for many years at KSC.

But, the decision to charge admission to the tourist complex has been a good one long-term. The visitor complex under Delaware North Companies is a better facility than its free predecessor could be. The company has improved displays, upgraded to Smithsonian-quality curation techniques and added attractions not feasible under the free-admission arrangement. (11/17)

White House Petition Seeks Pre-Tax Deduction for Donations to NASA (Source: SPACErePORT)
"By permitting an option to allow pre-tax dollars deducted from each paycheck as a donation to NASA we citizens have an opportunity to directly benefit our nation's future. We are approaching a time when NASA's budget will be cut to less than a half of one percent of the federal budget, we the people can turn that around." Click here. (11/17)

NOAA Seeks Ideas on How to Mitigate Gap in Polar Orbit Data (Source: Space Policy Online)
NOAA) is seeking comments, suggestions and innovative ideas from the public on how to mitigate an anticipated gap in weather satellite data from NOAA's polar orbiting satellites in the 2016-2017 time frame. NOAA launched the last of its legacy Polar Operational Environmental Satellites (POES) in 2009. NOAA is now engaged in the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) program, but the first JPSS won't be operational until 2017. NOAA will use data from NASA's Suomi-NPP satellite, launched last year, as a bridge between POES and JPSS-1, but Suomi-NPP was designed as a test satellite and its design life is only three years. 

NOAA is concerned that in the 2016-2017 time frame it will end up with no operational polar orbiting satellites. DOD has its own polar orbiting weather satellites, as does Europe. The weather forecasts to which Americans have become accustomed rely on both U.S. and European satellites, which carry different instruments and are in complementary polar orbits: DOD satellites in the "early morning" orbit, European satellites in the "mid-morning" orbit, and NOAA satellites in the "afternoon" orbit.

NOAA insists that without its polar orbiting satellites in the afternoon orbit, weather forecasts would not be nearly as precise as they are now. NOAA says that it is already studying "substitute satellite observations, alternative non-satellite data, weather modeling, and data assimilation improvements." A new Federal Register announcement by NOAA reaches out to a broader audience to ensure that the agency can "examine all potential solutions... on how to preserve the quality and timeliness" of its forecasts. Responses are due by Dec. 19. (11/17)

New Satellite Will Be Space Mechanic, Gas Station (Source:
A young spaceflight company is building what it hopes will be the ultimate space handyman, a combination repair droid and orbital gas station to serve ailing satellites around Earth. The company, called ViviSat, is planning to launch a fleet of specially built spacecraft that will be able to attach to other vehicles in Earth orbit that need a pick-me-up.

"We call them Mission Extension Vehicles," ViviSat chief operating officer Bryan McGuirk said. "Our job will be to dock with commercial satellites to extend their lives." ViviSat initially plans to launch two Mission Extension Vehicles, or MEVs, but hopes to eventually expand the fleet to at least 10 craft. The spacecraft are being built by ATK. (11/16)

Costa Rica: Astrium North America Goes for Ad Astra Stock (Source: Costa Rica Star)
You don’t have to be a professional investor like Warren Buffet or a rocket scientist to regard the news with excitement: a European firm has announced its intention to buy stock in Ad Astra Rocket. Ad Astra is the company of Costa Rican physicist and former astronaut Dr. Franklin Chang working on the plasma rocket engine, which promises to revolutionize space travel in the next generation.

The firm is currently working on the new engine at a lab in Guanacaste province of Costa Rica. The interested firm is Astrium North America, a subsidiary of Astrium Europe. Ad Astra said that it is in advanced negotiations with the subsidiary for participation in the rocket engine company. Ad Astra, which has branches both in Costa Rica and the United States, first established relations with Astrium North America in 2009. (11/17)

Replacement for Defective Part in Korea's Naro Space Rocket Arrives (Source: Arirang)
The replacement for a defective part that postponed the launch of Korea's space rocket last month has arrived from Russia. A new rubber seal for the connector between the rocket and its launch pad was transported to the Naro Space Center in South Jeolla Province late Saturday. A team of Korean and Russian engineers will replace the defective part and begin prepartions for the launch preparations, which is likely to occur between Nov. 23-30. (11/18)

Europe Considers Future Space Programs (Source: SEN)
Next week, Ministers representing the 20 Member States that comprise the European Space Agency (ESA) will meet in Naples for The Ministerial Council 2012, to determine the future course of Europe’s space programs. They will consider all areas that ESA is active in, from space exploration to safeguarding Earth's environment while at the same time boosting Europe's technical expertise and economic competitiveness.

After the second World War individual European nations, left unable to compete in the race for space between Russia and America, realised that cooperation rather than competition was the way forward, and that more could be done in space by working together than any one nation could achieve. Click here. (11/18)

After 127 Days in Space, Sunita Williams Returns to Earth (Source: India Today)
Record-setting Indian-American NASA astronaut Sunita Williams along with two other cosmonauts will return to Earth today, after four months in orbit. Williams ceremonially handed over the command of the International Space Station to fellow NASA astronaut Kevin Ford on the eve of her departure from the complex on Saturday. Williams along with Aki Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Russian Soyuz Commander Yuri Malenchenko will return to earth on Sunday. (11/18)

Editorial: Will Obama’s Second Term Get Us Closer to a Big Goal? (Source: America Space)
Politics and space exploration – both manned and unmanned – are inextricably linked. Big decisions and goals come from the President and go through congress for funding, which means that when a new President takes office he can radically change the nation’s path in space. This is particularly true in NASA manned program, whose missions are far costlier than their robotic counterparts.

So for those excited by space exploration, President Obama’s reelection brings good news: space policy will remain unchanged. But the flip side is that NASA is still facing budget cuts, the effects of which we’ll likely still be feeling when a new President comes into office in four years. The presidential refrain of going back to the Moon, to an asteroid, or to Mars sounds exciting, but it’s a soundbite. These missions come with enormous price tags and timeframes spanning multiple presidencies.

It’s great for a president to bring up these goals and get people excited about space, but if the next person in office holds a different vision, progress towards that big goal will be lost and we’ll be no better off. What we need is to lay a solid foundation in space beyond applying lessons learned from one program to the next. A sustainable, modular rocket (like SLS) and a reusable, multipurpose spacecraft that can send manned and robotic missions to destinations throughout the solar system from low Earth orbit to the planets and faraway moons would give us something to use on a variety of missions for decades to come. Click here. (11/18)

IHMC, NASA Working on Robotic Exoskeleton (Source: Pensacola News Journal)
Mark Daniel is paralyzed from the waist down, but that’s not stopping him from helping researchers teach a robot how to walk. Daniel, 23, is a volunteer helping a team of engineers at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition working on a promising robotic exoskeleton. Called the X1, the exoskeleton is designed to give paraplegics and others with mobility disabilities the ability to walk again. It’s a 57-pound suit worn around the hips, legs and feet.

A collaboration between NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and IHMC, the project is led locally by Peter Neuhaus, a mechanical engineer with degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley. He has been working on robotics and exoskeleton research since joining IHMC in 2003. IHMC agreed to work on the software “brains” of the X1, while NASA is working primarily on the hardware, such as the bearings and actuator motors housed in the suit.

While IHMC’s focus is designing a suit to help disabled people walk, NASA’s interest in the research is the potential benefits the X1 can have on astronauts in space. Extended periods in micro-gravity environments can cause serious health consequences, primarily bone and muscle density loss. The remedy is exercise, and the X1 has the potential to provide that for weightless astronauts. (11/18)

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