December 11, 2012

South Korea Says North Korea Has Fired Long-Range Rocket (Source: New York Times)
North Korea fired a long-range rocket Wednesday in its second launch under its new leader, South Korean officials said, defying warnings from the U.N. and Washington only days before South Korean presidential elections. South Korean defense officials said the rocket was fired from a west coast launch pad but there was no immediate word if the rocket was successful.

North Korea had indicated technical problems with the rocket and extended its launch window. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, citing office rules. North Korea's Kim Jong Un took power after his father Kim Jong Il died on Dec. 17 last year, and the launch also comes about a month before President Barack Obama is inaugurated for his second term.

The North says the Unha rocket is meant to put a satellite in orbit. A similar launch in April broke apart shortly after liftoff, and the condemnation that attempt received is likely to be repeated. Washington sees the launch as a cover for a test of technology for missiles that could be used to strike the United States. Rocket tests are seen as crucial to advancing North Korea's nuclear weapons ambitions. (12/11)

Over 13,000 Petition White House to Build a Death Star (Source: Fox News)
They really want the Empire to strike back. Citing a need for increased “space superiority” and job creation, over 13,000 people have signed an official petition on demanding that the United States government secure funds and resources and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016.

“By focusing our defense resources into a space-superiority platform and weapon system such as a Death Star, the government can spur job creation in the fields of construction, engineering, space exploration, and more, and strengthen our national defense,” reads the petition. As of Tuesday afternoon, it had received 17,450 signatures -- needing 7,550 more to be officially considered. Click here. (12/10)

CNES To Build Seismometer for NASA’s Mars InSight Mission (Source: Space News)
The French space agency, CNES, on Dec. 11 said its board of directors has approved a $42 million investment to provide a seismometer for NASA’s InSight probe, to be launched to the surface of Mars in 2016. In cooperation with other European laboratories, CNES will provide the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structures (SEIS) seismometer. InSight will deploy a probe to the martian surface to study Mars’ geology and internal structure. (12/11)

Big asteroid Makes Earth Flyby Tuesday (Source: Orange County Register)
A 3-mile-long asteroid makes a "close" flyby of Earth on Tuesday – depending on your definition of close.
Asteroid Toutatis, discovered by French astronomers in 1989, will pass by at 18 times the distance from the Earth to the moon, or about 4.3 million miles, at 10:40 p.m. Pacific time. While there is no danger of the oblong asteroid hitting Earth, at least in the next few centuries, it does pass by the planet once every four years.

This year, it makes a close approach, said Lance Benner, a research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena who has been tracking the asteroid with radar from NASA's Goldstone radio telescope facility deep in the Mojave Desert. "This asteroid, during the next week and a half or so, should be bright enough that readers with a 6-inch telescope or a 4-inch telescope could see it in the night sky," Benner said Monday – provided they have sufficient skill in aiming the telescope based on finder charts. (12/11)

Long Odds for a Senate Space Bill (Source: Space Politics)
Last week the Senate passed a defense authorization bill that included none of the space-related amendments that had been proposed, including export control reform language and provisions to extend commercial launch indemnification and NASA’s waiver from the Iran North Korea Syria Non-Proliferation Act (INKSNA) so it can continue to purchase ISS-related goods and services from Russia.

For export control reform, the lack of an amendment in the Senate bill is less of a concern, since export control language is in the House version of the defense authorization bill and thus may remain in the final version of the bill. However, the other amendments do not have counterparts in the House bill (the House passed a two-year launch indemnification extension as a standalone bill last month.)

To address those other issues, Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) introduced S.3661. The bill offers provisions that the two senators had sought to include in the defense bill: a two-year extension of commercial launch indemnification; a permanent extension of NASA’s INKSNA waiver; “language meant to ensure that NASA adequately funds” the SLS, Orion, and commercial crew programs; and a report to Congress on how NASA’s human spaceflight program could establish a presence beyond Earth orbit “through the robust utilization of cis-lunar space.” Click here. (12/11)

House Science Committee to Take On NASA’s Strategic Vision This Week (Source: Space Politics)
The House Science Committee has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday at 9:30 am on “The Future of NASA: Perspectives on Strategic Vision for America’s Space Program.” (This hearing was originally scheduled for last week, but postponed when the House was not in session at the previous time.) The title of the hearing is pretty self-explanatory, with one of the topics of discussion to be the release last week of the report by the National Research Council on NASA’s strategic direction, or lack thereof.  Click here. (12/11)

ULA Successfully Launches Third X-37B for the Air Force (Source: SpacerRef)
A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket successfully launched the third Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-3) for the Air Force's Rapid Capabilities Office (AFRCO) at 1:03 p.m. EST Tuesday from Space Launch Complex-41 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The OTV, also known as the X-37B, supports space experimentation, risk reduction, and concept of operations development for long duration and reusable space vehicle technologies. The first two OTV missions also were successfully launched by ULA respectively on April 22, 2010 and March 5, 2011. (12/11)

GOP, Democrats in House Support Cuts to Defense (Source: The Hill)
A group of lawmakers, evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, is asking President Barack Obama to trim the Pentagon budget to avert sequestration and the "fiscal cliff." The 22 lawmakers have sent a letter to Obama and leaders of the House and Senate saying that cuts to defense can be achieved without across-the-board reductions called for in sequestration. (12/10)

U.S. Will Fall From Superpower Level by 2030, Study Says (Source: The Hill)
By 2030, the growing economic strength of Asian nations means the U.S. will no longer be at the apex of global military strength, a new National Intelligence Council report says, but will remain a leader among a cohort of equals. "Asia will have surpassed North America and Europe combined in terms of global power, based upon GDP, population size, military spending, and technological investment," the report says. (12/10)

Report: Lack of DOD Audits Costs $249 Million a Year (Source: Aerospace Daily)
A new report from the Defense Department inspector general says that the Pentagon and taxpayers will lose $249.1 million annually because of a decision not to have the Defense Contract Audit Agency perform audits on certain contracts. The report urges the department to make changes that include requiring audits on lower dollar-value programs. (12/10)

Space Firms Should Get Tax Breaks, California Lawmaker Says (Source: LA Times)
Calif. state Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, is proposing that private space companies be offered tax breaks as a way of encouraging them to locate and thrive in the state. "We need to level the playing field before we irretrievably lose business to our competitors," said Knight, whose proposed legislation would give the companies breaks from certain sales and use taxes. Click here. (12/10)

Lockheed Martin Renews Support for Spirit of Innovation Challenge (Source: SpaceRef)
Nancy Conrad, founder and chairman of the Conrad Foundation, announced today that the Lockheed Martin Corporation renewed its support as a Spirit of Innovation Challenge Corporate Partner. This is the third year the company will champion the aerospace & aviation category of the annual innovation competition.

The Spirit of Innovation Challenge invites teams of high school students from around the world to use their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills to develop commercially viable products and services to address issues of global sustainability for the benefit of humanity. (12/11)

Masten Tests New Katana Class Engine (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Masten Space Systems successfully tested a regeneratively cooled Katana class engine, the KA6A. The Katana class engines are rated up to 4,000lbf of thrust with this engine running at ~2,800lbf during this test. Masten has been designing, testing and improving several key pieces of enabling flight hardware and during this test evolution we demonstrate the successful integration of some of those items. Click here. (12/11)

Kazakhs Forcing Russia's Hand on Vostochny, Angara (Sources: Parabolic Arc, Space News, Interfax)
Kazakh officials are tired of Russia's delays and indecision on developing a new "Baiterek" launch complex for the long-delayed Angara launch vehicle. Russia’s plan to build another Angara launch complex at its new Vostochny spaceport in the Far East have undermined the economic rationale for bringing the rocket to Baikonur.

Kazakh officials were conducting serious negotiations to form a new joint venture with Russia around a launch vehicle other than Angara, such as Zenit. Built in Ukraine, the Zenit rocket already had an operational launch pad in Baikonur, however, a Russian firm RKK Energia recently publicized plans to develop a Sodruzhestvo (Alliance) heavy-lifting launch vehicle from components of the Zenit rocket.

Joint development of Baiterek was part of a January 2004 agreement that extended Russia’s lease on Baikonur to 2050. Kazakhstan now wants to renegotiate the lease with the aim of taking full control of Baikonur from the Russians. Russia has been developing Angara, which is set to make its inaugural launch next year, since 1995.  Angara is a modular family of rockets designed to loft light to heavy payloads into orbit. The goal is to replace a number of existing rockets, including the Zenit and Proton. (12/11)

Vortex Rocket Engine Reaps the Whirlwind (Source: Aerospace Engineering)
The inner surfaces of rocket engines can be subjected to extremely high heat. Temperatures as high as 3227°C (5800°F) can result from the powerful, thrust-generating exothermal reaction between fuel and oxidizer, which runs hot enough to melt or damage the walls of the combustion chamber.

That's why the cores of hot-running rocket engines are made of temperature-resistant materials that often incorporate networks of cooling passages. In these engine designs, vein-like ducts run with low-temperature (sometimes cryogenic) liquid propellants to carry off the heat and thus maintain structural integrity despite the violent conflagration just adjacent.

Rocket scientists and engineers at a small space-tech company in Madison, WI, think that they have developed a better way to burn rocket fuel. Orbital Technologies (Orbitec) has developed a system that keeps the hot burning gases away from the chamber walls. Orbitec's vortex-cooled liquid engines inject liquid oxygen into the combustion chamber in such a way to generate a stable, tornado-like cyclonic flow that confines the combustion to the central region of the chamber, which protects the surfaces. (12/9)

NASA's Twin GRAIL Probes About to Crash Into Moon (Source: Space Policy Online)
Twin NASA probes called Ebb and Flow will crash into the Moon next week after completing their Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission. The two probes entered lunar orbit over New Year's Eve 2011 and New Year's Day 2012 and have been providing detailed data on the structure of the Moon's interior ever since. They were designed for 90 days of operations once in lunar orbit, which was extended for another 90 days, but the amount of fuel onboard now is running out. Impact on the lunar surface is expected about 5:28 pm ET on Dec. 17. (12/10)

Settling Space Spats (Source: Satellite Pro)
As outer space activities grow in scope, the need for enforcement and dispute resolution will increase, but it will require unique approaches to preserve the unique space environment, writes space law expert, Michael J. Listner. Space law has been an enigma to most; however, as the scope of outer space activities becomes more prolific and as our everyday lives become more entwined with those activities, the laws and customs surrounding the access to and use of outer space becomes a more important topic to be considered.

International space law, which is based on customary and treaty law, has been difficult to enforce through penalties for non-compliance because not only are the treaties that make up the body of space law intentionally ambiguous, but the nature of international law seldom allows for penalties. This deficiency in international space law is made up for in some respect by potential political ramifications for noncompliance, and the members themselves are left to enforce the principles and laws typically through the enactment of domestic space law.

As outer space activities have grown, so have the issues such as space debris, signal interference between commercial satellites, availability of slots within the geosynchronous belt, the advent and impact of commercial space and other matters that have implications on the freedom of access to outer space. Click here. (12/8)

Delta 4 Investigation Uncovers Anomaly Sequence (Source: Space Safety)
On October 4, a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta 4 rocket took off, carrying a GPS satellite. Low thrust in its upper stage could have resulted in a misplaced satellite that day but for a successful compensation using reserve fuel. As a result of the anomaly, Delta 4 flights were delayed, as was flight of the X-37B which launches from an Atlas 5 using the same engine family, the RL-10, that experienced the anomaly.

It now seems that an investigation has uncovered the main events of the anomaly, as reported by Spaceflight Now. When the Delta 4′s upper stage ignited, a leak began above the trust chamber. Each of the subsequent burns produced less thrust than planned due to the leaking propellant. In what turned out to be a combination of good planning and sheer luck, the closed loop guidance system observed the subnormal thrust and compensated using reserves.

The satellite was luckily below Delta 4′s lift capacity, so there was more reserve available to draw upon than is usually the case. After placing the GPS satellite in its intended orbit, the upper stage even had about 30 seconds of burn left in it. “We were later informed by our GPS customer that this was the most accurate placement of the three GPS 2F spacecraft that have been launched,” said  ULA vice president of mission operations Jim Sponnick. (12/11)

North Korea May Be Disassembling Rocket (Source: Bloomberg)
North Korea may be disassembling a rocket it planned to launch this month, in a potential setback to the totalitarian state’s attempt to recover from a misfire eight months ago. Satellite photos show workers may have begun taking apart its three-stage rocket, according to an unidentified South Korean government official. South Korean and U.S. military officials are analyzing the satellite imagery to find a reason for the move, according to the report. (12/11)

Wallops Island Rocket Launch Scheduled for Friday (Source: Virginian Pilot)
A rocket launch for the Defense Department is scheduled for Friday night from NASA’s range. The Terrier-Lynx suborbital rocket is scheduled to launch between 9 and 9:30 p.m. The backup launch date is Dec. 18, between 8 and 8:30 p.m. (12/10)

Nair: ISRO Spy Case an Attempt to Destroy the Agency (Source: Economic Times)
Former ISRO Chairman G Madhavan Nair today alleged that the ISRO spy case in 1994 was an attempt to destroy the organisation and scientist Nambi Narayanan was the scapegoat in the episode.  "In our country, various types of injustice happen at different levels. Nambi Narayanan, falsely implicated in the case, is a living example of one such injustice," he said at a meeting to felicitate Narayanan.

The case pertains to charges of transfer of some secret documents on India's space programme to foreign countries by two scientists and four others, including two Maldivian women. It was first investigated by state police and then handed over to CBI, which found no espionage as alleged had taken place. Kerala High court had last month ordered the state government to pay Rs 10 lakh interim compensation to Nambi Narayanan for falsely implicating him in the case. Nair alleged efforts were made to put hurdles in ISRO's way whenever it achieved milestones in space technology. (12/11)

Energomash Reports Progress on New Rocket Fuel (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Experts at Energomash and RSC Applied Chemistry who are working on a specially designed experimental setup have obtained the first experimental batch of the latest high-performance rocket fuel, acetyl. The results confirmed the previously conducted theoretical studies, and showed the effectiveness of the technology for production of the new fuel.

Energomash is carrying out work on processing and certifying Atsetama as a prospective rocket fuel application at its own expense and through grant support from the Skolkovo Innovation Center. In accordance with the industry certification scheme for rocket fuels, engineers will conduct a series of studies of the physical and chemical properties of Atsetama and the stability analysis of structural materials to determine the parameters of firing, explosion prevention and other activities. (12/11)

Problem With Rover's Rock-Boring Tool Threatens Long-Term Mission (Source: Huffington Post)
As NASA's Mars rover Curiosity prepares to use its rock-boring drill for the first time, engineers are troubleshooting an issue with the power tool that may affect the entire mission. Curiosity's fast-spinning percussive drill should make it through the originally planned two-year prime mission, team members say. But at some point a bond in the drilling mechanism will fail, causing an electrical short that could threaten to knock out the entire rover. (12/10)

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