November 21, 2012

Women Still Face Hurdles at Defense Firms (Source: Reuters)
More women are moving into leadership roles in the defense industry, but technical fields are still predominantly male, and women looking to advance still face obstacles, observers say. Firms must invest in STEM education in order to encourage women to enter the field, says Marion Blakey, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association. "Without that investment, declining enrollment in these fields by young women will deprive us of the very resource we are looking to access," she said. (11/21)

Brevard Workforce Releases Space Coast Jobs States (Source: Brevard Workforce)
Tasked with mitigating the seismic post-Shuttle workforce shifts on Florida's Space Coast, Brevard Workforce has used a mix of local, state and federal funding to assist displaced workers in a variety of ways. In their newly released 2011-2012 annual report, the agency posted some impressive statistics.

They accommodated an average of 526 visits per day and served 2,213 businesses, posting 6,239 job openings with a 93% placement rate for job seekers... 9,676 job placements (representing a 50% increase over the previous year. Brevard Workforce hosted "BizLaunch" sessions that resulted in over 30 new businesses created by participants. They accommodated 12,234 aerospace attendees at their employment assistance workshops (an increase of over 100% over the previous year. (11/21)

Florida-NASA Partnership Paves Way for Modernization (Source: NASA)
A facility full of platforms that once fit NASA's space shuttles like a glove is transitioning to make room for a new fleet of low-Earth orbit bound spacecraft. Now called the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility (C3PF), the former Orbiter Processing Facilty-3 (OPF-3) at KSC in the Cape Canaveral Spaceport is not only going through major renovations to support the manufacturing of Boeing's CST-100 spacecraft. It's also receiving international recognition as an innovative approach for converting excess government buildings into next-generation commercial facilities. (11/20)

ILS Proton Launches With EchoStar Satellite (Source:
International Launch Services (ILS) launched a Proton-M rocket from Baikonur in Kazakhstan, with a Briz-M Upper Stage to deploy the U.S. commercial EchoStar XVI communications satellite. The Proton vehicle has a heritage of nearly 400 launches since 1965 and is built by Khrunichev Research and State Production Center, one of the pillars of the global space industry and the majority owner of ILS. (11/20)

North Korea Jams South Korean Satellite Comms (Source: North Korea Tech)
North Korea earlier this year jammed military communications running through a South Korea satellite, according to a report in the Joong Ang Ilbo. An anonymous South Korean military official said a powerful signal sent from a location near Pyongyang caused interference to military communications on the Koreasat 5 satellite in March this year. However, as usual with such leaks from the Korean government to the local media, what actually happened remains far from clear.

Koreasat 5 was launched in 2006 and carries a mixed commercial and military payload. On the commercial side are 24 ku-band transponders operated by Korea Telecom that carry Korean TV channels and a direct-to-home service called Dream TV that’s aimed at The Philippines. There have been no reports that these were disrupted. (11/21)

Launch of U.S. Air Force's Secretive Space Plane Delayed Until Dec. 11 (Source: America Space)
United Launch Alliance (ULA) is working with the Eastern Range to launch one of the U.S. Air Force’s Orbital Test Vehicles (OTV) no-earlier-than Dec. 11. This marks the fourth delay of the unmanned space plane after an issue arose with the upper stage of a Delta IV launch vehicle. This will mark the third flight of one of the U.S. Air Force’s unmanned space shuttles and the first time that one of the space planes has been reused (the orbiter used on the OTV-1 flight will be reused on this upcoming mission). (11/20)

Satellite Brought Closer to Earth to Work (Source: Space Daily)
A European gravity-mapping satellite orbiting about 340 miles closer to Earth than any other satellite is to be brought even lower and closer, officials say. The Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer, or GOCE, launched by the European Space Agency in 2009, is to have its orbit lowered by 12 miles to improve the resolution of its data-gathering instruments, ESA officials said. (11/20)

Planck Spots Colossal Intergalactic Plasma Bridge (Source: NASA JPL)
The Planck space telescope has made the first conclusive detection of a bridge of hot gas connecting a pair of galaxy clusters across 10 million light-years of intergalactic space. Planck is a European Space Agency mission with significant participation from NASA. The presence of hot gas between the clusters, which are billions of light years away, was first hinted at in X-ray data from ESA's XMM-Newton, and the new Planck data confirm the observation.

If the cosmic microwave background light interacts with the hot gas permeating these huge cosmic structures, its energy distribution is modified in a characteristic way, a phenomenon known as the Sunyaev-Zel'dovich effect, after the scientists who discovered it. Astronomers using Planck and the Sunyaev-Zel'dovich effect were able to discover a bridge of hot gas connecting the clusters Abell 399 and Abell 401, each containing hundreds of galaxies. (11/20)

Fire at NASA's Michoud Facility in New Orleans (Source: AP)
A warehouse fire at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in eastern New Orleans drew three alarms, but no injuries were reported and the facility did not appear to be in danger. New Orleans Fire Department Capt. Edwin Holmes says a film crew was building a sound stage on the facility's property when insulation apparently caught fire about 8:30 p.m.

Holmes says the blaze has been contained inside the building. Still, he said late Tuesday that it would be awhile before the fire was considered under control because there is no electricity, making it difficult for firefighters to see through heavy smoke and visibly confirm the fire was out. Michoud was chosen last year to build components for a new mega-rocket designed to transport astronauts to deep space. (11/20)

Mars is Safe from Radiation – But the Trip There Isn't (Source: New Scientist)
You needn't fry on Mars. Readings from NASA's Curiosity rover suggest radiation levels on the Red Planet are about the same as those in low Earth orbit, where astronauts hang out for months on the International Space Station. A Mars visit would still be dangerous though, due to the years-long return trip.

Unlike Earth, Mars has no magnetosphere shielding it from solar and galactic radiation. But it does have a thin atmosphere, and readings from two of Curiosity's instruments suggest this provides some protection. The biggest threat to Mars voyagers would be the cumulative radiation exposure during the long trip. NASA estimates that a return human mission to Mars would take three years. During that time astronauts might receive more than seven times the radiation dose they get during six months on the ISS. (11/21)

A Mars Announcement ‘for the History Books’? Not So Fast (Source: TIME)
“This data is gonna be one for the history books,” Curiosity chief scientist John Grotzinger said. “It’s looking really good.” Hard to overplay a teaser quote like that from one of NASA’s usually reserved scientists, and on the surface it does sound potentially huge. What Grotzinger was talking about was a possible finding made by the rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument, which is essentially a tiny onboard laboratory in which samples of soil and air are broken down for their constituent chemicals.

One of the first things Curiosity is looking for is methane, a powerful marker of biology on Earth and likely on Mars too. Grotzinger's team nearly tripped up earlier when SAM’s sniffers indeed seemed to detect a whiff of methane. But the team stayed mum until they could confirm the find — and it was a good thing they did. “We knew...we had this risk of having brought air from Florida...We needed to diminish it and then make the measurement again,” Grotzinger said. They made that correction, and the sensational data evaporated.

What’s more, even when a NASA scientist finds something that truly qualifies for the history books, there’s a difference between what’s historic for scientists and for the rest of us. The discovery of hematites, salt and other by-products of water on the Martian surface by earlier rovers had champagne corks popping and people high-fiving at JPL. You ever get excited about a hematite? No, and few other nonscientists would either. "The whole mission is for the history books,” wrote Guy Webster. “It won’t be earthshaking,” he said later, “but it will be interesting.” (11/20)

New DOD Space Policy Addresses Safety, Security, Access (Source: DOD)
The new Defense Department space policy, updated to reflect the fast-growing use and sometimes misuse of the space domain, addresses issues of safety, sustainability and security in space for the 21st century and beyond. The policy, signed Oct. 18, 2012, by Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, follows the release in 2010 of President Obama’s National Space Policy, and in 2011 of the National Security Space Strategy, the first such strategy to be cosigned by the defense secretary and the director of national intelligence.

DOD’s space policy also reflects the 2012 DOD Strategic Guidance, which acknowledged growth in the number of spacefaring nations and threats. According to the guidance, the United States will continue to lead global efforts with allies and partners to assure access to and use of the global commons of space by strengthening international norms of responsible behavior and maintaining interoperable military capabilities. (11/21)

ESA Lunar Lander Shelved Ahead of Budget Conference (Source:
A European robotic lunar lander has been shelved during a budget-setting meeting of senior government ministers which began Tuesday, according to German space officials who said the project will be set aside in favor of launcher development, Earth observation, space station operations, and the joint ExoMars mission with Russia. The moon lander was a top priority for Germany, which hoped to secure funding from other ESA member states during a two-day conference of top government ministers.

"The problem with lunar lander is that we have not found enough money to do it," said Johann-Dietrich Woerner, chairman of the executive board of DLR, the German Aerospace Center. "We found enough countries, but not enough money. There are several smaller countries very much interested, but the big countries did not find enough money." (11/20)

Art Show in Space Could Last Billions of Years (Source:
A piece of artwork headed into space this week may be on display for the next few billion years. A collection of images called "The Last Pictures" is hitching a ride on a communications satellite today (Nov. 20) that may well orbit the Earth until our planet's predicted fiery death 5 billion years or so from now, according to the the project's creator.

"'The Last Pictures' tells a kind of story to the distant future about where these spacecraft came from and what happened to the people that made them," said artist Trevor Paglen, who spent almost five years assembling the collection. The satellite will launch atop a Russian Proton rocket at 1:31 p.m. EST (1831 GMT) from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, where the local time will be early Wednesday. (11/20)

When the Space Shuttle Engined Out (Source: Space Safety)
Space aficionados have been keeping tabs on the investigation into SpaceX’s engine out anomaly on the first commercial cargo trip to the International Space Station. But what many may not remember is that NASA’s own Space Shuttle experienced just such an event – and with only 2 functioning engines rather than Falcon’s 8 and carrying a full crew to boot.

On July 12, 1985 Space Shuttle Challenger launched on STS-51F carrying Spacelab-2. A little over five minutes into the ascent, both of the center engine’s temperature sensors had failed, automatically triggering engine shut down. A few minutes later, the right engine was on its way to the same fate until the crew disabled further automatic shut downs. The shuttle aborted to orbit at a lower than intended altitude, but managed to successfully complete nearly all objectives. Click here. (11/21)

Can Life Emerge on Planets Around Cooling Stars? (Source: Phys Org)
Astronomers find planets in strange places and wonder if they might support life. One such place would be in orbit around a white or brown dwarf. While neither is a star like the sun, both glow and so could be orbited by planets with the right ingredients for life. Click here. (11/20)

In Space, Flames Behave in Ways Nobody Thought Possible (Source: Smithsonian)
Recent tests aboard the International Space Station have shown that fire in space can be less predictable and potentially more lethal than it is on Earth. “There have been experiments,” says NASA aerospace engineer Dan Dietrich, “where we observed fires that we didn’t think could exist, but did.” That fire continues to surprise us is itself surprising when you consider that combustion is likely humanity’s oldest chemistry experiment, consisting of just three basic ingredients: oxygen, heat and fuel. Click here. (11/20)

Musk: Methane-Burning Reusable Rockets as Step to colonize Mars (Source: Flight Global)
Billionaire former Paypal Internet executive, Tesla electric car entrepreneur, and current SpaceX CEO and self-taught lead rocket engineer, Elon Musk, described his plan to enable a self-sustaining human colony on the planet Mars. This plan is to use reusable rockets and along with Mars landing and ascent craft. And to do it Musk announced that liquid oxygen (Lox) and Methane would be SpaceX's principal propellants of choice.

"We are going to do methane." Musk announced as he described his future plans for reusable launch vehicles including those designed to take astronauts to Mars, "The energy cost of methane is the lowest and it has a slight Isp (Specific Impulse) advantage over Kerosene," said Musk adding, "And it does not have the pain in the ass factor that hydrogen has".

SpaceX's initial plan will be to build a lox/methane rocket for a future upper stage codenamed Raptor. The design of this engine would be a departure from the "open cycle" gas generator system and lox/kerosene propellants that the current Merlin 1 engine series uses. Instead, the new rocket engine would burn lox/methane in a much more efficient "staged combustion" cycle that many Russian rocket engines use. Click here. (11/20)

Curiosity’s Secret Historic Breakthrough? Speculation on Organic Molecules (Source: WIRED)
Much of the internet is buzzing over upcoming “big news” from NASA’s Curiosity rover, but the space agency’s scientists are keeping quiet about the details. The report comes by way of the rover’s principal investigator, geologist John Grotzinger of Caltech, who said that Curiosity has uncovered exciting new results from a sample of Martian soil recently scooped up and placed in the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument.

“This data is gonna be one for the history books. It’s looking really good,” Grotzinger told NPR in an segment published Nov. 20. Curiosity’s SAM instrument contains a vast array of tools that can vaporize soil and rocks to analyze them and measure the abundances of certain light elements such as carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen – chemicals typically associated with life.

The mystery will be revealed shortly, though. Grotzinger told Wired through e-mail that NASA would hold a press conference about the results during the 2012 American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco from Dec. 3 to 7. Because it’s so potentially earth-shaking, Grotzinger said the team remains cautious and is checking and double-checking their results. (11/20)

No comments: