November 29, 2012

Technical Glitch Could Push South Korean Launch Into 2013 (Source: Arirang)
Another technical glitch has held the Naro back from a third attempt at a successful launch on Thursday. Just minutes before the scheduled lift-off at 4 p.m., engineers halted the countdown after detecting an irregularity at the tip of the Naro that allows for the rocket to manipulate the direction of the thrust from its engine.

The problem was found in the second stage of the two-stage rocket - the Naro is jointly built by Russia and Korea, with Russia having built the first-stage and Korea the second. This is the second time in two months that a launch has been postponed, and Korea is being extra cautious with this third launch because it is the Naro's last chance at a successful launch. Russia has agreed to provide the thruster engine for a maximum of three launches.

The Naro will be brought back to the assembly complex on Friday and engineers will conduct a closer inspection of what went wrong this time around. That process is expected to take at least three to four days. "The officials here could not give a clear answer on when the Naro's third and final launch will take place. However, they were skeptical of meeting the current launch deadline of Dec. 5 and hinted at the possibility that the lift-off may even be pushed back to next year." (11/29)

Panel Urges More Funding, Coordination For Space Weather (Source: Aviation Week)
Space weather — the high-energy interactions of the Sun with Earth and its surroundings — is a growing economic factor as more of the economy goes wireless, but U.S. government efforts to forecast it are hampered by a shortage of funding. House Science Committee witnesses from NOAA, which is responsible for operational space-weather forecasting, and NASA, which funds the space science that feeds the NOAA space-weather models, agreed with the thrust of the latest NRC decadal survey on space weather. (11/29)

Junk Radio Signals Track All Space Debris in One Go (Source: New Scientist)
Call it Junk FM. Rogue signals from your radio may help warn about space debris on a dangerous collision course with Earth. Stray FM signals from radios, bouncing back off space junk, could allow astronomers to track the whole population of space debris, suggest preliminary tests conducted this week at the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) radio telescope in Western Australia.

The MWA is a set of some 2000 radio antennas spread out over 3 kilometers. Because of its extraordinarily wide field of view, the MWA can continuously track objects rather than just calculate their orbits from snapshots. That will improve our understanding of how much space junk exists and how much more is being created. "We can quickly characterise it after a launch or a collision," Steven Tingay says. Continuous tracking would also improve orbital modelling in general and allow better protection of space assets, Tingay says.

Editor's Note: This "passive surveillance" technique was explored in the late 1990s as a potential solution for launch vehicle tracking. Called "Silent Sentry", it was viewed as a very promising approach that could have replaced the expensive radar systems at the Eastern Range. Conspicuously, all talk of Silent Sentry ceased not long thereafter, leading some to suspect that the technology "went black" for classified uses. (Some thought at the time it might--if used by our adversaries--represent a threat to U.S. stealth aircraft systems. (11/29)

Probe Finds Evidence of Water Ice at Mercury's North Pole (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft has identified large concentrations of hydrogen at Mercury's north pole, thought to be in the form of water ice. The hydrogen-rich layer, more than tens of centimeters thick and found in cold, permanently shadowed regions on Mercury, was identified using measurements from MESSENGER's Neutron Spectrometer (NS). "The material itself near the surface is practically pure water ice," William Feldman said. "The most likely explanation is that there was a big comet impact in the past 50 million years or so that delivered water.

Some of that water found its way to the poles to become ice, and most that ice later became covered by about 20 centimeters of soil or some other material. "If there is water ice, it says there is a delivery mechanism for water ice to all the planets, and it tells us something of the history of the solar system, and how water was delivered to the innermost planets," Feldman said. (11/29)

Green Propellant to Fly in 2015 (Source: Space Safety)
Currently, the most common fuel used in satellite and spacecraft thrusters is toxic and not very safe. A joint US government and industry team will be testing a safer propellant, called AF-M315E, for use in future missions. “We think the payoff for this is going to be really huge if we can take the first step in getting rid of toxic propellant,” said Randy Lillard, an aerospace engineer from NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist.

The $45 million project, run by NASA Glenn Research Center and the Air Force Research Lab, is named the Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM). It is expected to demonstrate the practical capabilities of AF-M315E as a high-performance, environmentally friendly alternative to hydrazine. (11/29)

Myrtle Turtle and Popeye Mouse Help Zerts Fix His Spaceship at KSC (Source: Beverly Rother)
Alien Zerts crash lands his space craft near the Kennedy Space Center in Florida where he meets NASA KSC employees who are willing to assist him with his needed repairs. Myrtle the Turtle and Popeye the Mouse have a chance encounter with Zerts where they become fast friends and join in assisting with the repairs. With gratitude, Zerts offers them an exciting adventure tour of our Solar System.

Beverly Rother, one of Florida's registered Virgin Galactic travel agents, wrote this educational children's book with Jonathan Seigel. It has been published in time for Christmas. Click here. (11/28)

AIA Seeks Teams for Team America Rocketry Competition (Source: AIA)
AIA is looking for middle school and high school teams that think they can fly a rocket with a egg payload to 750 feet with a flight time of 48-50 seconds and bring back the egg uncracked. If you know students up for the challenge we would encourage you to sign them up for the 2013 Team America Rocketry Challenge. Click here. (11/29)

Online Game Simulates SpaceX Grasshopper Landing (Source: WIRED)
Continuing our mission to game the news, we've explored the story of the recent breakthrough by SpaceX. It was with great interest that we saw the video of SpaceX's precision landing rocket taking off and landing. So we thought we'd give you the chance for a bit of precision testing of your own via our SpaceY rocket. In this game you need to take off and collect the numbered pick-ups and then land to complete a level. Click here. (11/29)

Space — the Final Junkyard (Source: DOD Buzz)
Last month DoD released an updated space policy that officials said reflects how the environment has changed in recent years, specifically the emergence of non-state threats and the growing amount of derelict rockets and satellites — “space junk” — in orbit that pose a hazard to working systems, especially those launched and maintained by the United States.

Acting deputy SecDef for Space Policy John Plumb addressed what the policy refers to as “international norms of responsible behavior related to the space domain” saying interference with systems would be “irresponsible in peacetime and during a crisis could be escalatory. The policy states this very clearly and it’s a message we want to make sure people understand.”

Veiled threats might deter those who would target our systems with malice, but they won’t do much against dead objects hurtling around up there — space’s version of a dumb bomb. In fact back in 1978 NASA scientist Don Kessler warned of a doomsday scenario where a single collision causes a chain reaction of other collisions that wipe out everything after a couple of trips around the planet. (11/26)

Embry-Riddle and AdvAero To Evaluate UAV Safety (Source: AIN Online)
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Montreal-based Advanced Aerospace Solutions (AdvAero) have announced a partnership using “rapid prototyping” to help prove the viability of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in U.S. civil airspace. Rapid prototyping is designed to more quickly deliver answers on the viability of research projects. “At some point we’re going to need to prove that we can fly unmanned vehicles safely through civil airspace,” said AdvAero CEO John Maris.

“You can simulate and simulate, but someone needs to actually try driving an aircraft through the airspace,” Maris said. The agreement commits AdvAero’s Piaggio Avanti P.180 research aircraft to the new partnership with ERAU, using the Daytona Beach, Fla.-based university’s UAV Center of Excellence.

With a safety pilot in the left seat of the Piaggio, the twin-turboprop aircraft can be flown from the right seat by an engineering pilot or from a workstation in the cabin to simulate a UAV flight, although that work station could just as easily be located on the ground 1,000 miles away. Maris claimed the Avanti could be flown even from an iPhone. (11/26)

Senate is Considering Defense Authorization Bill (Source: The Hill)
The 2013 defense authorization bill is now before the Senate for consideration, after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, avoided a GOP filibuster of the bill. "We proceeded to the bill on a motion ... that way, those who want to filibuster have to come and actually debate it," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. (11/28)

Rumors About Lockheed Bid Drive Up BAE Shares (Source: The Telegraph)
Rumors that Lockheed Martin might be interested in purchasing BAE Systems helped drive up shares of the British firm this week. BAE, whose proposed merger with Europe's EADS recently fell through, would not comment on the reports and a Lockheed spokesman dismissed them. (11/27)

Air Force Space Museum at Cape Canaveral Spaceport Posts Historic Videos (Source: Hobby Space)
The Air Force Space and Missile Museum, located in Cape Canaveral, Florida, has opened a YouTube Channel that offers a set of space history videos. Click here. (11/29)

Is Bolden’s Number Up? (Source: Space Politics)
The most damning comment in the Orlando Sentinel's article about Bolden comes from an anonymous “senior administration official.” “The senior White House staff is aware of the [NASA] administrator’s inability to advance their agenda and will have to decide whether they make an adjustment in a second term,” that official, not authorized to speak on the record, said. A second unnamed official said Bolden “was just the kind of leader NASA needed” during the Shuttle’s retirement, but suggested NASA “would benefit from a leader fully committed to implementing the bold policy put forth by the president and his administration.”

Of course, even with those comments, Bolden may remain at NASA for some time to come; an official said replacing Bolden would require replacing a “legend with a legend.” Editor's Note: President Obama had a very difficult time finding a NASA Administrator after his 2008 election. Bolden reluctantly accepted the job only after some aggressive lobbying by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). Some names recently suggested in the blogosphere to replace Bolden include Lori Garver, Steve Isakowitz, Mark Kelly, Bill Nelson, and Jeff Greason. (11/29)

Abbey & Chiao: Time for U.S. to Partner with China in Space? (Source: Discovery)
The future of America's space program is at a critical point in time; decisions are being made that will affect our ability to successfully maintain our leadership in human space flight, our national security and our capability to successfully compete with the international community in the commercial use of space. What does the future hold for U.S. human spaceflight (HSF)? The U.S. had been the undisputed leader in space exploration for several decades, until recently.

A partnership with China could be developed along the same lines as was done with integrating the Russian space program into the ISS partnership. Using this model, no military-sensitive technology would be transferred. China's economy would allow for it to fully fund its own efforts. Thus there would be little increased expense to the United States for developing this advantageous relationship. It is clear the United State's International Partners see the benefits of working with the Chinese on the Space Station; it is time for the United States to provide the leadership to make it a reality. (11/27)

Space Coast Getting $124 Million Boost From Aerospace Projects (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Florida Space Coast, hard hit by the economic meltdown and the end of the space shuttle program, got a couple of big shots in the arm on Wednesday as officials broke ground on two technology centers. Gov. Rick Scott was on hand for groundbreaking ceremonies for the new $24 million Embraer Engineering and Technology Center USA at Melbourne International Airport. The governor also attended the groundbreaking on $100 million Harris Technology Center in nearby Palm Bay. Both projects represent expansions of existing operations in those locations backed by the financial support of state and local governments.

Space Florida will finance, build, own and operate the Embraer technology center for the Brazilian-based commercial jet builder. The Sunshine State’s space agency worked with the Economic Development Commission (EDC) of Florida’s Space Coast and local officials to develop an incentives package for the company to expand its operations. Officials are touting Embraer’s expansion as a key step toward recovery in the wake of the space shuttle program’s end last year. (11/29)

Reaction Engines’ Plans for a Mach 5 Point-to-Point Transport (Source: Parabolic Arc)
In addition to being able to power a reusable, single-stage-to-orbit space plane, Reaction Engines’ SABRE propulsion technology could help to power a Mach 5 transport that would be able to fly from Brussels to Sydney in less than two to four hours. The British company has designed a SABRE-derived SCIMITAR pre-cooled engine powered by liquid hydrogen that uses the company’s lightweight heat exchanges. The engine would be capable of sustained Mach 5 flight. Click here. (11/28)

Space Florida Announces ISS Research Competition Winners (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida and NanoRacks announced the winners of the International Space Station (ISS) Research Competition at the American Society for Gravitational and Space Research (ASGSR) Meeting in New Orleans. A team of 15 independent judges evaluated the proposals based on defined value in the commercial marketplace, potential for future benefits in space travel, and professional qualifications of the applicants. Four (4) winning proposals originated from the commercial field and four (4) in the area of education and research.

The winners will each receive research payload transportation to the ISS via an upcoming SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Launch is currently slated for December 2013. The winning projects are from Cella Energy (FL), CSS-Dynamac/Limerick Institute of Technology (Ireland), Florida Institute of Technology, German Aerospace Center, Stanford/NASA Ames/Sanford-Burnham (CA), Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (FL), UC Davis/SciStarter/ScienceCheerleader (CA), and University of Florida. Click here. (11/29)

Schriever Squadrons Assure Safe Passage in Space Domain (Source: AFSPC)
Members of the 1st and 7th Space Operations Squadrons took notice when an upper stage Russian rocket disintegrated in low earth orbit Oct. 16. The break up introduced an estimated 500 pieces of debris into an area where the U.S. operates a multitude of satellites, further congesting an already crowded orbit around Earth. The event sheds light on an ever-growing issue for the space and satellite industry, one that seemed far fetched only a few years ago.

The Space Based Space Surveillance satellite and its sister, the Advanced Technology Risk Reduction satellite, were designed to provide space situational awareness of the geostationary belt, but increasingly are being tasked to support space situational awareness in other orbits as well.

A collision with something as small as a bolt, a rivet, even bits of shrapnel, traveling at a high rate of speed can render a satellite inoperable, if not totally destroy it, thus it's becoming ever more important to accurately track such debris. Along with radar and optical sensors on the ground, SBSS and ATRR are providing that tracking data to the Joint Space Operations Center, the organization that keeps a real-time catalog of orbiting objects. (11/29)

Elachi: Curiosity May Have Found Organic Compounds (Source: Pasadena Star-News)
The Curiosity rover may have found organic compounds on Mars, Jet Propulsion Laboratory director Charles Elachi said in Rome on Wednesday, according to multiple reports. "Perhaps Curiosity has found simple organic molecules," Elachi said at La Sapienza University. "It's preliminary data that must be checked (on) organic, not biological, molecules." More details could emerge Monday at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco, where a news conference about Curiosity is scheduled. "There's not going to be any earth-shaking news on Monday," JPL spokesman Guy Webster said. (11/29)

Bolden: No Proof of Life on Mars Yet (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr. said in North Alabama today that he's had no reports of the Curiosity rover finding proof of life on Mars. "We've not made any earth-shattering discoveries yet, to my knowledge," Bolden said in a meeting with reporters after touring the giant ULA rocket assembly plant on the Tennessee River here. Bolden said Curiosity's real discoveries will come when it begins its trek up Mount Sharp. That's when it will see evidence of long periods of history on Mars. (11/29)

Bolden's Future as NASA Chief Uncertain (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The NASA community is used to asking big questions, but none has loomed larger in recent weeks than this: What will happen to NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden? His future — like that of other agency heads — depends on whether President Barack Obama wants him back for a second term. But the question is especially pertinent in Bolden's case, as his time at NASA has been marked by several missteps, including an offhand criticism of Obama just before Election Day.

Sources inside Congress and the administration said it's wholly possible Bolden, 66, stays at NASA into 2013 and beyond. They caution, however, that his return is an open question, as the White House remains concerned whether the former astronaut and Marine Corps major general is committed to Obama's vision for the space agency. Bolden's fate could be significant for Kennedy Space Center, which is charting a new future — as, among other things, a launch base for commercial spacecraft — in the wake of the space shuttle's 2011 retirement.

Bolden has never fully embraced Obama's plan to remake NASA through heavy investment in technology, nor the idea of increased reliance on commercial rockets to ferry crew and cargo to the space station. Instead, he has been more closely aligned with the development of a big, new government-built rocket capable of taking astronauts to the moon or Mars, a rocket that Congress — with the administration's reluctant approval — ordered be built by 2017. (11/29)

Kids Visit KSC During Space Week (Source: Florida Today)
Veteran shuttle astronaut J.R. Reilly not only talks the talk, he walked the walks. Five of them to be exact — five spacewalks during 14 years in NASA’s Astronaut Corps — and Reilly had an auditorium of sixth-graders enrapt Tuesday as he recounted his high-flying adventures. “Out on the end of (shuttle’s robot) arm, nothing below me for 250 miles but the Earth. Now that’s an incredible view,” Reilly said. “You look out there and you can see the Earth’s horizon, curving off in both directions, and the black sky above the lit ground. It is really, really neat.”

This week and next, all 5,300 sixth-graders in Brevard County will be bused to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on a mission aimed at stoking interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers. Reilly, who flew shuttle missions in 1998, 2001 and 2007, is providing an “Astronaut Encounter.”

More than 60 schools will send sixth-graders to the 10th annual Brevard Space Week. “We’re touching every sixth-grader in the county,” said Kerri Lubeski, a senior educator and Brevard Space Week coordinator with Delaware North Park Services, the company that operates the visitor complex for NASA. Editor's Note: Space Week has been an annual project of the National Space Club, Florida Committee. (11/29)

Explore Mercury On Your Desktop (Source: LA Times)
As the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury, the detailed images beamed from Messenger’s cameras are enabling scientists to prowl the innermost planet’s hellish terrain, and creating new horizons for students and teachers. In one of the most entertaining public science education projects undertaken by NASA, Messenger’s Web page gives users a chance to zoom in on Mercury’s exotic, sun-seared landscapes with a blend of high-definition photographs, explanatory texts and charts, and a map of 99% of its tortured surface. Click here. (11/29)

JPL Workers Seek Federal Probe Into Stolen NASA Laptop (Source: Pasadena Star-News)
Several Jet Propulsion Laboratory workers Wednesday urged Congress to investigate the October theft of a NASA laptop that put their sensitive personal information at risk. The employees also said they are contemplating a class-action lawsuit. The unencrypted laptop was stolen Oct. 31 from a parked car in Washington, D.C. It contained personal information on more than 10,000 NASA employees, including contractors such as JPL. (11/28)

South Korea Halts Latest Launch Attempt (Source: CNN)
South Korea called off an attempt to put a satellite in orbit on Thursday, the latest setback to a program that has suffered failures in the past. The launch of the Naro-1 rocket was suspended minutes before takeoff at a launch site on the country's southern coast Thursday afternoon local time. An inspection found problems with the electronic signal in part of the rocket's mechanism, said Cho Yul-rae, a vice minister for education, science and technology. Additional time is needed to find out the reason behind the problem, he said.

Analysts say the planned launch could rile the country's hostile neighbor, North Korea, which carried out a botched launch in April for which it was widely criticized. The South Korean launch plan is different from that of the North because it is more transparent, is clearly focused on civilian applications and doesn't contravene U.N. sanctions. Despite that, North Korea is likely to "insist that a South Korean rocket launch should also be resisted by the international community," said Lee Chung-min. (11/29)

North Korea Speculation Overshadows South Korean Rocket (Source: AP)
South Korea on Thursday scrapped an attempt to fire its first satellite into orbit from its own soil amid speculation that North Korea was preparing to fire its own long-range rocket. Scientists in South Korea cited technical problems with the rocket's flight control system. It's the second time in a month that Seoul has been forced to cancel a launch at the last minute as it attempts to join an elite group of nations that have launched satellites from their own land.

But it is North Korea's rocket program that has raised worry in recent days. Two South Korean officials said Thursday that there are signs of preparations at a North Korean rocket site on the northwest coast. A North Korean long-range rocket broke apart shortly after liftoff in April, but the attempt drew United Nations condemnation and worsened already tense relations between the Koreas. (11/29)

What If NASA Could Figure Out the Math of a Workable Warp Drive? (Source: The Atlantic)
What if we, the people of the early 21st century, could be among the generation -- the first and only of all the generations ever -- that would be first to know that we were not alone? But then there is the inevitable letdown: Even if we did find a planet in one of those nearby stars' habitable zone and even, even, if we could detect an atmosphere that could harbor life, then what?

Alpha Centauri may be the closest star system to Earth, but it's still four light years away. Voyager 1, our farthest-traveled probe is moving at 38,000 miles per hour, and after 35 years, it's still in our solar system (barely). Moving at Voyager's speed, it would take 700 centuries for a mission to reach Alpha Centauri. With speeds like that, we stand to become the first generation to know life is out there, and to not be able to know much more than that. The prospect is maddening.

Of course, our only hope would be to travel at much, much greater speeds. So, one-tenth the speed of light and we could be there in 40 years. That's not half bad. As Seager notes, many people would be willing to give up Earth and make that assuredly miserable journey for the privilege of being the first humans to explore another solar system. But still: 40 years, it's no cakewalk. Click here. (11/29)

Roskosmos Commission Approves Main and Backup Crews of ISS (Source: Itar-Tass)
The main and backup crews of the next long-term expedition to the International Space Station ISS – MKS-34/35 – have passed the qualifying examination and are ready to fly. The interdepartmental commission made this decision on Thursday, the Cosmonaut Training Centre (CTC) told Itar-Tass. The main crew is approved as follows: Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield and NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn,” CTC spokeswoman Irina Rogova specified.

The commission also confirmed the readiness for flight of the backup crew – Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano and NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg. The launch of the Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur cosmodrome is scheduled for December 19, it’s docking with the ISS for December 21. The orbital mission of the main crew of ISS Expedition 34/35 will last for about five months. (11/29)

Germany Open To Providing Satcom Capacity to NATO (Source: Space News)
The German military is ready to consider providing part of its national military telecommunications satellite capacity to the NATO alliance along the same lines as Britain, France and Italy, a German Defense Ministry official said. German Air Force Lt. Col. Holger Lueschow said that after two years of operations of the two-satellite Satcom Bw system, and with new technologies available to squeeze more capacity from it, Germany “could offer a valuable resource to the NATO community.” (11/29)

How Space-Based Solar Power Will Solve All Our Energy Needs (Source: io9)
Humanity's demand for energy is growing at an astonishing rate. Combine this with an ever-dwindling supply of fossil fuels, and it becomes painfully clear that something innovative and powerful is required. There's one high-tech proposal that holds tremendous promise — an idea that has been around since the late 1960s. Here's how space-based solar power will eventually solve all our energy needs. Click here. (11/28)

China Proposes Space Solar Power Collaboration With India (Source: IBT)
China has proposed that it enter into joint agreements with India to collaborate on space solar power projects. During a trip to Beijing, India's former President APJ Abdul Kalam was submitted with the idea by senior Chinese officials – he was also offered the chance to teach at Beijing University. The China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), the government agency which oversees China's space missions and satellite launches, gave the 82-year-old Kalam a "great reception" at its headquarters.

"Wu Yansheng, president of CAST has said his organization is very much interested [in collaborating] with India and [the Indian Space Research Organisation] ISRO on the space mission and would like to establish a formal initiative from both the nations," V. Ponraj, a scientist who is a member of Kalam's delegation, said in a statement.

Some of the readers' comments to the Times report (from presumably Indians) reflected great suspicion over China's motives for seeking a scientific collaboration with India. One reader wrote: “China has a history of [untrustworthy] people. They always have stabbed us in the [back]... I smell a bad motive behind this. India should not entertain [this proposal] unless sure of mutual benefits.” (11/2)

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