November 19, 2012

U.S. Army, NASA Working on Low-Cost Nanosat Launcher (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The U.S. Army is leading an effort to develop a dedicated launcher that would be capable of launching nano-satellites into precise orbits from almost any location at an ultra-low cost. The program is called SWORDS, which stands for Soldier-Warfighter Operationally Responsive Deployer for Space. And NASA is a partner in the program, which expects to see an orbital test flight take place in the summer of 2013. Click here. (11/19)

zero2infinity Flies Microbloon to 32 Kilometers (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Barcelona-based company zero2infinity has successfully launched its newest prototype, the microbloon 2.0, to the edge of Space at almost 32km in altitude, that is, above 99% of the mass of the atmosphere. It was a major step in zero2finfinity’s mission to bring Space closer to society. Founder José Mariano López-Urdiales said: “It’s very exciting to be this close to flying people on bloon.

The environmental conditions inside the pod remained comfortable at all times. The efficiency of the aviation safety agencies (AENA, AESA), local governments and especially the Spanish Air Force was key for this success. When everyone works together, anything can be achieved in Spain.” (11/12)

Europe, U.S. Talk Space Program Link (Source: Space Daily)
European plans to join the United States in building a manned spaceship could see a British astronaut in space before the end of the decade, officials said. A meeting of ministers of the European Space Agency's 20 member states in Italy this week will consider a proposal to join in the construction of the four-person U.S. Orion space capsule.

"Europeans will have the power to put men and women into space," said Jean-Jacques Dordain, director general of the European Space Agency. "That would be a fantastic development for us... Britain has already indicated support," he said. No single nation can now afford to conduct a program of manned space exploration on its own, Dordain said. (11/19)

Cash-Short Europe Takes Aim at the Moon (Source: New York Times)
Forty years after humans last walked on the Moon, Europe’s space industry is hoping to play a key role in the resumption of manned lunar exploration planned for later this decade. But whether cash-strapped governments are prepared to pay for out-of-this-world projects remains unclear.

Science ministers from the 20 member states of the European Space Agency gather Tuesday in Naples for a two-day meeting where they will be asked to approve a budget of up to €12 billion, or $15.3 billion, for the next three years that would include financing for dozens of programs, including a new lunar crew transport vehicle, at least two Mars exploration missions and a successor to Europe’s highly successful Ariane 5 rocket. By comparison, the U.S. space agency, NASA, had a budget of $18 billion for the 2012 fiscal year. (11/19)

Doubling Up on ISS Tourists (Source: Space Safety)
Not long after official word that Sarah Brightman would be the next tourist to journey to the International Space Station aboard Russia’s Soyuz, it now seems Roscosmos may consider sending two tourists to ISS in the same vessel. On Nov. 15, Roscosmos manned space flight program director Alexei Krasnov indicated that such a decision was in the works. “The mission commander must be a professional. There can be no compromise on that. The other two candidates are still being discussed. We have time to adopt a decision,” he said. (11/19)

Space Coast Magnet Tech Company Gets DOE Funds for Wind Turbines (Source: AML)
Investing in next generation drivetrains can help lower the cost and improve the reliability of wind turbines, particularly in larger offshore applications. This includes both improving current drivetrain configurations, as well as creating innovative drivetrain designs. For these reasons, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently awarded Advanced Magnet Lab (AML) in Palm Bay, Florida, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, funding to continue work in developing their proposed next-generation drivetrains.

AML and its partners (Emerson Electric Corporation, Creare Inc., DNV USA, and DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory) are developing a 10-megawatt (MW) direct-drive fully superconducting generator for use in next-generation wind turbines. As wind turbines continue to increase in size, particularly in the offshore market, AML’s drivetrain concept has the potential to out-perform competing concepts, ultimately reducing the cost of wind energy. (11/19)

How Many Russian Earth Observation Satellites Will be in Orbit by 2015? (Source: Space Daily)
The launch of the Resurs-P spacecraft was postponed till the first quarter of 2013. This remote sensing satellite was to replace the Resurs-DK Number 1 spacecraft launched in 2006, which has already gone beyond its warranty period. Roskosmos plans to restore the group of remote sensing satellites by 2015-17, but apparently new spacecraft launch dates continue to be postponed.

The Resurs-P is meant to replace the Resurs-DK, a previous generation spacecraft, which was launched into space in 2006. Now the Resource-DK has already gone beyond its warranty period, and the quality of its pictures has deteriorated, in particular, their resolution has decreased from 1 to 3 meters. Alongside the Resource-P launch, there were plans of placing the geo-stationary Electro-L Number 2 spacecraft in orbit next year (on the orbital position over the Atlantic Ocean) and also the Resurs-P Number 2 spacecraft. Click here. (11/19)

GAO: NASA Should Step-Up Acquisition Risk Reduction (Source: Space Policy Online)
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report today recommending that NASA fully implement earned value management (EVM), which it calls "an important tool that could help reduce acquisition risk. Noting that many NASA projects experience cost overruns and schedule slips, GAO assessed how NASA is implementing EVM in 10 major projects to improve its acquisition practices.   Although it found that NASA has undertaken several initiatives to improve its use of EVM, cultural challenges are impeding its effective utilization. (11/19)

Nav Canada to Invest $150 Million in Air Traffic Venture with Iridium (Source: Reuters)
Nav Canada, the private company that manages air traffic over Canada, said it would spend $150 million for a controlling stake in a joint venture with Iridium Communications Inc that will track planes over oceans in real time. Nav Canada, which gets its money from airline fees, will make the investment in five installments through 2017, giving it a 51 percent stake in the joint venture, Aireon LLC.

The joint venture, first announced in June, will allow aircraft to fly longer in better weather -- saving fuel, decreasing carbon emissions and increasing passenger safety. Air traffic authorities currently need to keep aircraft widely spaced due to lack of radar visibility over oceanic airspace and mountainous terrain. (11/19)

Does the Moon Have Levitating Lunar Dust? (Source:
A NASA lunar orbiter will gather detailed information about the moon's atmosphere next year, including conditions near its surface and environmental influences on lunar dust. NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) is to depart the Earth for the moon in August 2013. LADEE is loaded with science gear, including instruments that can address a lingering question that's rooted in space history: Are electrostatically lofted lunar dust particles present within the moon's tenuous atmosphere? (11/19)

Defense Industry Will See Cuts Even Without Sequestration (Source: Defense News)
Defense firms and the Pentagon's budget will likely be facing steep cuts even if sequestration is averted, analysts say, because any fix to the across-the-board reductions will likely include trims to military spending. However, cuts that are part of a sequestration fix wouldn't have to be indiscriminately applied, they say. Under a sequestration fix, said Todd Harrison, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, defense cuts would likely be at "about half the level that sequestration would require." (11/18)

Andrews Adds Torque Rods to Portfolio of Space Products (Source: Space News)
Andrews Space of Seattle said Nov. 13 that it had signed an exclusive agreement with Sinclair Interplanetary to begin manufacturing and selling torque rods that Toronto-based Sinclair has been supplying to the small-satellite market for the past five years. Under the agreement, Andrews will take over manufacturing the Sinclair TQ-15 and TQ-40 torque rod products, which are intended for spacecraft weighing 30 to 180 kilograms.

Doug Sinclair, owner of Sinclair Interplanetary, said the transfer will allow his company to focus on development of next-generation reaction wheel and star tracker products. Melissa Wuerl, head of new business for Andrews Space, said she expects U.S.-manufactured torque rods will be available for delivery starting mid-2013. (11/19)

Editorial: Generating Growth from Space (Source: Space News)
Critical to an assessment of the potential for space activities is the appreciation that, although they most often conjure up images of rockets, satellites, the space station and Mars rovers, the expenditure on these “upstream” activities is modest by comparison with the revenues generated by the “downstream” services that make use of space technology, i.e. “space applications.”

In fact, the upstream sector (including satellite launches) produces about 10 billion euros ($12.8 billion) in revenues versus 150 billion euros in the downstream sector (including user terminals, sale of satellite capacity and value-adding services and applications, with the last accounting for 100 billion euros). Fostering the development and diffusion of these applications, and maximizing the exploitation of European capability, is therefore an important challenge.

Greater use of space services and applications is key to strategic and economic development across Europe. The space industry is an important driver of economic growth and of high-tech skills and research. Being instrumental in promoting and supporting the emergence of the European space industry, the European Space Agency (ESA) responded to this challenge with the Integrated Applications Promotion (IAP) program. Click here. (11/19)

Long-Term Budget Pressures On NASA Mount (Source: Aviation Week)
Traditionally challenged to meet cost/schedule management and performance goals, NASA is in for even tougher fiscal challenges, warns its inspector general, Paul Martin. NASA will be further tested across five fronts, including human spaceflight, by flat budgets or worse, as the White House and Congress attempt to rein in spending to deal with mounting budget deficits, Martin says in a new report.

The new pressures will be punctuated by the looming budget penalty known as sequestration and the January “fiscal cliff,” which threaten to cut an additional $1.5 billion from an annual NASA budget that has already declined to $17.7 billion from $18.4 billion in 2011. “Even if this looming cut is averted, NASA is likely to face constrained budgets for the foreseeable future,” notes Martin in the IG’s 2012 Report on NASA’s Top Management and Performance Challenges.

Human spaceflight is joined on the IG’s list of top concerns by project, infrastructure and facilities, and acquisition and contract management; and information technology security and governance. On the human spaceflight front, the agency has adjusted to the $406 million it received for FY-13 versus an $850 million request in FY-12 to foster the development of commercial crew transportation services. But the agency noted it cannot meet its goal of a 2017 startup without $850 million annually during the development period. (11/19)

Developing a Color Code for Habitable Exoplanets (Source: Discovery)
There's a growing number of exoplanets being found inside the habitable zones around their stars -- the "sweet spot" where temperatures would allow for liquid water oceans on Earth-sized worlds. These planets have largely been identified by detecting their passing in front of--or revealing a gravitational pull on--their parent star. But determining if these worlds are habitable (or, inhabited) will require teasing out and dissecting the anemic amount of starlight filtered through a planet's atmosphere, or reflected off of its surface. That's a tall order.

Scientists propose a "quick and dirty" way to sort out possibly inhabited worlds. His approach is to look at a planet's reflected light through different colored filters. This is simpler than the more arduous task of spreading out a planet's light into a spectrum. Such detailed spectroscopy of Earth-sized planets will have to wait for futuristic huge space telescopes. The catch is that the target planets have to be largely cloudless and have rocky surfaces -- not be smothered in thick atmospheres like Venus. (11/19)

MTN Investing Millions on Hybrid Broadband for Cruise Ships (Source: Space News)
Maritime communications provider MTN Satellite Communications, in a development that illustrates the exceptional dynamism of this part of the market, has invested tens of millions of dollars to deploy a hybrid satellite-terrestrial broadband network for cruise ships and leisure boats, MTN Chief Executive Errol Olivier said.

The MTN Nexus service, which Olivier said will roll out gradually as Florida-based MTN builds Wi-Fi and other terrestrial-wireless towers at high-demand ports of call, features a network of Ku-band satellite capacity that leans on, but does not rely on, Intelsat’s new Epic satellite service. Click here. (11/19)

Britain Steps Up in Space (Source: Space News)
The lead-up to the European Space Agency (ESA) ministerial meeting Nov. 20-21 in Naples, Italy, had been dominated by the twin palls of key member states in financial crisis and an impending clash between France and Germany over launcher investment priorities. But that was before Britain crashed the party with a welcome bit of unqualified good news: a pledge to increase its annual investment in ESA by 25 percent for the next five years. The Nov. 9 announcement by George Osborne, U.K. chancellor of the exchequer, was a huge surprise given the fact that Britain has been dialing back spending in so many other areas. (11/19)

The Election’s Over: It’s Time To Deal (Source: Space News)
With another highly charged U.S. election now in the rearview mirror, Washington’s attention has once again turned to sequestration, the dramatic budget cuts that will kick in automatically in early January unless Congress and the White House can come to terms on a plan for reducing the nation’s massive deficit. Not surprisingly, sequestration became an issue in the congressional and presidential campaigns, with candidates trying to assign blame to their opponents for the looming disaster.

One would think that in the wake of the election, which for the most part confirmed the political status quo, Democrats and Republicans would be prepared to roll up their sleeves and make a deal. But the posturing has continued, even as re-elected President Barack Obama met with congressional leaders Nov. 16 to begin hammering out a budget deal.

Election-year jockeying is a lousy justification for recklessly holding a critical industry — indeed the broader national economy — hostage, but it is a recognizable, tangible dynamic nonetheless. Now that the voters’ ballots have been counted, however, there is no excuse, not even the brazen political selfishness that pervades Washington these days, not to get a budget deal done and bury the sequestration specter for good. (11/19)

Making ISS a Research Success (Source: Space News)
The space station offers the potential to use the unique physical and microgravity environment and the vantage point of space to benefit society on Earth in many ways. These include opportunities for: achieving R&D breakthroughs relevant to industrial processes; obtaining better understanding of our world and universe; creating new understandings of and treatments for diseases; providing more diverse opportunities for technology testing in space; and developing techniques and processes benefiting manufacturing and consumer products. Click here. (11/19)

Spectacular Star Explosion Aftershock Revealed in Photo (Source:
A pair of European space telescopes have captured the aftershock of a devastating supernova —a snapshot in time of a star's explosive death. The new supernova photo combines views by the European Space Agency's infrared Herschel Space Observatory and X-ray XMM-Newton X-ray space telescope to reveal W44, the remnant of an exploded star about 10,000 light-years from Earth. Click here. (11/19)

Robotic Explorers May Usher in Lunar 'Water Rush' (Source: NASA)
The American space program stands at the cusp of a "water rush" to the moon by several companies developing robotic prospectors for launch in the near future, according to a NASA scientist considering how to acquire and use water ice believed to be at the poles of the moon. "This is like the gold rush that led to the settlement of California," said Phil Metzger, a physicist who leads the Granular Mechanics and Regolith Operations Lab, part of KSC's Surface Systems Office. "This is the water rush." Click here. (11/15)

Don't Let NASA Go Over Fiscal Cliff (Source: Patriot Ledger)
With the fiscal cliff looming, many expect deep budget cuts in “non-defense discretionary programs,” a broad Washington term that includes, among other things, all our science programs. All science needs defending, but NASA may be especially vulnerable, since few realize that much of NASA’s science has direct impact back here on Earth. Hundreds of satellites circle the Earth daily studying weather, mapping the globe, monitoring vegetation, enabling worldwide communications, and guiding us to our destinations via GPS.

The public loved NASA back in 1969 with Neil Armstrong’s “giant leap for mankind” onto the moon. The lunar lander had an electronic flight control system that evolved into a widely applicable “digital fly-by-wire” system that NASA first applied to an experimental aircraft in 1972. Starting with the Airbus in 1984, it gradually became the standard control system for most commercial aircraft, providing a smoother and safer ride. It was also adapted to electronic cruise control for cars. This is just one of many examples of NASA spinoffs.

For those who are not space geeks like me, perhaps weather satellites and spinoffs like control systems for smoother and safer flights, improved digital image processing for medicine, and preserving King Tut’s Tomb will convince you that we should do what we can to keep NASA science from going over the fiscal cliff. (11/19)

Musk: 'Europe's Rocket Has No Chance' (Source: BBC)
The Californian SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk has warned Europe it must replace its Ariane 5 rocket if it wants to keep up with his company. The low prices the US entrepreneur is quoting for his new Falcon 9 vehicle mean it is winning contracts that in the past would have gone to Ariane. Mr Musk said that the cost of producing the current European rocket would kill it as a commercial entity. "Ariane 5 has no chance," he told BBC News.

"I don't say that with a sense of bravado but there's really no way for that vehicle to compete with Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. If I were in the position of Ariane, I would really push for an Ariane 6." Ariane's future will be a key topic this week for European Space Agency (Esa) member states. They are meeting in Naples to determine the scope and funding of the organisation's projects in the next few years, and the status of their big rocket will be central to those discussions. (11/19)

Strange Signal at Galactic Center –-Is It Dark Matter? (Source: Scientific American)
Are there dark doings near the center of the Milky Way? That may be so when it comes to the collision of dark matter particles. Although such particles are invisible, we could still theoretically see the mess they make when they collide. It’s this idea that leads physicists to scour the galaxy for some glimmer of dark matter collisions. Spot a line produced by a pair of gamma-rays emanating from just the right spot and you may have found coveted clues to the dark matter mystery.

Now a collaboration of scientists using the Fermi Gamma-Ray Spacecraft’s Large Area Telescope instrument (Fermi–LAT) has confirmed seeing an unusual gamma-ray line near the galactic center. If the finding stands up to further scrutiny, it’s possible this line comes from the annihilation of dark matter. (11/18)

Roscosmos Requests Glonass Project Contractor Head’s Dismissal (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia’s Federal Space Agency has initiated the dismissal of Yuri Urlichich, who headed a Glonass project contractor, the space agency’s head Vladimir Popovkin said on Monday. Urlichich lost his post of the scandal-hit project’s chief designer on November 11. "We have sent documents to the Economic Development Ministry, requesting to relieve Urlichich of his duties in the Russian Space Systems. I think all the decisions will be made this week,” Popovkin said. (11/19)

'Super-Jupiter' Discovery Dwarfs Solar System's Largest Planet (Source:
In a rare direct photo of a world beyond Earth, astronomers have spotted a planet 13 times more massive than Jupiter, the largest planet in our own solar system. The planet orbits a star called Kappa Andromedae that is 2.5 times the mass of the sun and is located 170 light-years away from Earth. As a gas giant larger than Jupiter, it's classified as a "super-Jupiter."

The object is an interesting test case for theories of planet formation, scientists say. Based on observations of this system, the super Jupiter appears to have formed in the same way ordinary, lower-mass exoplanets do, by coalescing from a "protoplanetary disk" of material orbiting a nascent star. (11/19)

Brits Proposed an Early Space Station (Source: Alamogordo Daily News)
The idea for a manned space station left pulp science fiction for scientific authenticity when Harry Ross, on Nov. 13, 1948, described such a facility in a paper to the British Interplanetary Society. The station was based on a concept that Herman Potocnik described in his 1928 book "The Problem of Space Travel: The Rocket Motor." Potocnik was an Austrian Imperial Army officer who became an engineer.

Hermann Oberth, who published "The Rocket Into Planetary Space" in 1923, urged Potocnik to base his ideas of the future not on fanciful science fiction but on solid engineering principles. The design that Ross and Ralph Smith, both members of the BIS Technical Committee, created "had a mirror to collect solar energy and was to spin on its axis to provide artificial gravity," said Space Travel: A History.

The BIS documents stated that for power, "water or mercury would be heated in a ring-main of pipes at the circular focus of the mirror," which would drive "eight turbo-generators housed in blisters spaced around the circumference of the living quarters." Personal residences would house "a permanent staff of 24" working on site. (11/19)

South Korean Naro Rocket Launch Likely on Nov. 29 (Source: Yonhap)
South Korea will likely launch a space rocket next Thursday, the government said Monday, two days after the arrival of a replacement for a defective part in the rocket partly built by Russia. "When considering the time needed to thoroughly examine the new part and prepare for a launch, Nov. 29 is technically the most suitable for a third launch of the Naro rocket," the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said. (11/19)

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