December 27, 2012

Energia Rejects Space Industry Engine Holding Idea (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russian space rocket corporation Energia head Vitaly Lopota on Wednesday rejected as a "non-market" measure the idea of establishing an engine holding company in the domestic space industry. "This proposal would completely eliminate the competitive environment in the country," Lopota said.

In the meantime, a Russian Federal Property Management Agency official said the issue was being discussed at several levels. "The central issue is how Russia can compete on the international market. Besides, no one can so far answer the question of what is better: a vertically or horizontally integrated company," said Sergei Barinov, deputy head of the Agency's infrastructural, defense and military industry management department.

Russian Space Agency Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin had previously said Russia planned to create a single holding company for booster rocket production to integrate the country's leading space vehicle producers Khrunichev and TsSKB Progress, and also an engine-building sub-holding company to include engine makers Energomash, the Khimavtomatiki design bureau, the Voronezh mechanical works, Proton PM and other firms. (12/27)

Russia Designs Manned Lunar Spacecraft (Source: Space Daily)
Russian space company Energia has completed the technical design of a manned spacecraft whose flight tests would be initiated in 2017, company officials say. "We have completed the technical design project taking into account the fact that the new spaceship is to fly to the moon, among other places," Energia President Vitaly Lopota said Wednesday. "If we get normal financing, we will start flight tests of the spaceship in 2017," he said. Energia was awarded the spaceship design contract in April 2009. (12/26)

A New State of Venus's Atmosphere (Source: Space Daily)
Observations from NASA's Pioneer Venus orbiter, which reached Venus in 1978, suggested that Venus's ionosphere had two states: a magnetized state with a large- scale horizontal magnetic field and an unmagnetized state with no large-scale magnetic field but with numerous small-scale thin magnetic structures known as flux ropes. Venus's ionosphere was observed to be in the unmagnetized state most of the time, but strong solar wind pressure shifted it to the magnetized state. (12/27)

Export Control Reform Will Strengthen U.S. University Research, Education (Source: USRA)
Legislation reforming space-related export control has passed the House and the Senate and is expected to be signed by the President. The passage of this legislation is significant and brings with it the promise that U.S. universities will be better supported in their mission to prepare the workforce needed to design and deploy the space systems of the future and enable the U.S. to remain a leader in space. Current law had resulted in unintended, adverse impact on U.S. universities, from classroom teaching to student-built CubeSats. (12/21)

NASA Langley Faces Fiscal Cliff Too (Source: Daily Press)
The "fiscal cliff" isn't averted by Congress by January, triggering $109 billion in automatic spending cuts for the next 10 years, NASA Langley Research Center would be among the agencies facing serious job losses, according to a new study by the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA). The AIA states that an 8.2 percent sequestration cut mandated under the Budget Control Act of 2011 would eliminate 713 contract jobs at Langley. (12/26)

Tough to Ascertain India’s Preparedness, says NASA Expert (Source: Hindustan Times)
A senior NASA scientist of the Indian origin feels it is difficult speak on the preparedness of India's ISRO on its Mars Mission scheduled for November 2013 because all the vital information on the mission is not available yet. "Yes, there would be a launch but it is difficult to conclude anything at this stage because of the lack of information," Dr Kumar Krishen said.

A scientist of Indian origin, Krishen has been working at NASA, Houston, USA, for more than 37 years. As a senior scientist, he plays a pivotal role in transfer of technology from NASA to US companies. During his private visit to India, he gave his opinion on space exploration and technology. The Mars Orbiter Mission is targeted for launch in November 2013 to study the surface and atmosphere of the planet. On human space missions, Krishen said that international collaboration and partnerships among different nations was essential.

"This partnership will help ISRO in training Indian manpower, developing instruments, extra vehicular activity astronaut suits, and infrastructure to get the latest technology for successful missions." Maintaining that private sector participation must be bolstered in human missions to space, he said by involving the private sector, the technology becomes available to the commercial sector. (12/25)

Russia May Join ExoMars Project in Q1 2013 (Source: RIA Novosti)
The Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos and the European Space Agency (ESA) could sign a long-anticipated agreement on Russia’s participation in a Mars research project in the first quarter of 2013, Roscosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin said. “The agreement will be signed. We are starting financing this project,” Popovkin said in an interview with the Izvestia newspaper published on Wednesday.

Popovkin discussed Russia’s readiness to join the project in a phone conversation with ESA head, Jean-Jacques Dorden, on December 21, and “the sides agreed to sign the agreement in the first quarter of next year.” According to Popovkin, the signing of the document was expected in November but it has been delayed due to “the complexity of official procedures adopted by ESA.” (12/26)

NASA, ISS Partners Eye New Universal Docking System (Source: Aviation Week)
After a 2012 course correction, efforts by NASA’s International Space Station program to develop a new universal docking system standard for use aboard the 15-nation orbital science lab and future deep-space exploration vessels is on track for an operational debut by 2017.

Rivals in NASA’s efforts to develop a U.S. commercial crew transportation capability — Boeing’s CST-100, Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser and the SpaceX Dragon — are in line to initiate and wring out the new universal NASA Docking System (NDS). NASA is targeting 2017 for the first ISS commercial crew missions and planning two U.S. segment docking ports equipped to accept the new, non-proprietary system.

Several years of station operations with the Boeing-inspired Soft Impact Mating Attenuation Concept (Simac), which has replaced NASA’s in-house International Low Impact Docking System (Ilids) design, are envisioned to help qualify the NDS international standard for the rigors of deep space. (12/26)

What Does Life in Space Sound Like? Astronaut Share Sounds of ISS (Source: Huffington Post)
If you've ever wondered what it's like to live on a hunk of metal orbiting the Earth at hundreds of miles an hour, Col. Chris Hadfield has an answer for you. Apparently it sounds a lot like a really loud hair dryer.

The Canadian colonel, who's currently in the midst of a six-month stint aboard the International Space Station during which he will become the first Canadian to command a spaceship, sent back an audio clip from the craft. He collected the recording of the ambient background noise within the U.S. lab portion of the craft after being asked by many on Twitter.

As commenters have pointed out, it's a pretty loud existence. But the source of the sound is also what's keeping the astronauts alive and working hard: The noise is largely created by life support systems and the 52 computers controlling all of the space station's systems at any given time. Click here. (12/26)

Russia to Launch New Light Class Carrier Rocket in 2013 (Source: RIA Novosti)
The first launch of a new Russian light class carrier rocket has been scheduled for the beginning of 2013, Russia’s Aerospace Defense Forces Commander Maj. Gen. Alexander Golovko said on Thursday. The Soyuz-2.1V features a powerful NK-33-1 engine and will be able to deliver a payload of up to 2.8 tons into low Earth orbit. “We are expecting to receive the rocket from the manufacturers soon and carry out the first launch in the beginning of 2013,” Golovko told reporters.

Russia originally planned to launch the first Soyuz-2.1V in October but it was postponed indefinitely after a failed ground test of its first stage engines in August. Deputy Defense Minister Col. Gen. Oleg Ostapenko earlier said a state commission will hold a meeting on Friday to set the dates for postponed launches of the Soyuz-2.1V and Rockot carrier rockets. (12/27)

AGI, AI Solutions to Provide JSPOC Orbit-Modeling and Analysis Software (Source: Space News)
Analytical Graphics, Inc. (AGI) and A.I. Solutions will provide the Air Force's Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) with software and support for Space Situational Awareness (SSA). (12/27)

Investigation Into Proton Launch Anomaly Continues (Source: ILS)
The Russian Commission, convened by Khrunichev, continues its investigation and is preparing a report concerning the root cause of the December 8th ILS Proton launch anomaly with the Yamal 402 satellite. Various root cause scenarios are being evaluated  prior to the issuance of a final conclusive report.

ILS has formed a Failure Review Oversight Board (FROB) in serial process at the conclusion of the Russian Commission. The FROB will review the Commission’s final report and corrective action plan, in accordance with U.S. and Russian government export control regulations.  The FROB will begin in Moscow after the report is issued and consists of ILS customers, industry subject experts, and insurance industry representatives. (12/27)

NASA Psychiatrist Explains Why Space Itself Is Not Detrimental (Source: Space Safety)
NASA psychiatrist Gary Beven explained why his job is important for the success of human space flight. Being only the fifth full-time NASA psychiatrist since the commencement of the American space program, Beven recalled that prior to the beginning of space stations and long duration stays in space, the need for psychiatry or psychology experts in the space adventure was frequently underestimated.

“NASA’s three Skylab missions in the early 1970′s, lasting up to two months, did not appear to produce any significant behavioral health deterioration in the crews. So at that time, space psychiatry as a field did not appear to be needed.”

Today psychiatrists play an important role in many aspects and phases of human space flight: “I am involved in the medical and psychiatric screening of astronaut candidates, the training of assigned ISS crew members, and evaluating ISS astronauts pre-flight, inflight, and post-flight,” Says Beven. Every two week the NASA psychiatrists hold a private video conference with each NASA astronaut, addressing their possible issues and behavioral health. Click here. (12/25)

South Korea: North Korean Rocket's Range Includes U.S. (Source: Space Safety)
Observers of North Korea's rocket launch fear that development of launch capabilities masks the intention to create nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). Now, South Korea has confirmed that those fears may be warranted. “As a result of analyzing the material of Unha-3, we judged North Korea had secured a range of more than 10,000km in case the warhead is 500-600kg,” a South Korean defense ministry official said. 10,000 km is far enough for North Korea to hit the western United States.

It is unlikely that the country will be able to cause any intentional harm for some time, since South Korea’s analysis noted a distinct crudity of design  – no surprise considering the years of sanctions that have kept many technological developments foreign to the isolated dictatorship. The oxidizer used was unsual and welding was noted to have been applied manually. There is no indication that North Korea possesses the technology to conduct a controlled reentry needed to deliver a missile. (12/26)

The Biggest Star of 2013... Could Be the Comet of the Century (Source: The Independent)
At the moment it is a faint object, visible only in sophisticated telescopes as a point of light moving slowly against the background stars. It doesn't seem much – a frozen chunk of rock and ice – one of many moving in the depths of space. But this one is being tracked with eager anticipation by astronomers from around the world, and in a year everyone could know its name.

Comet Ison could draw millions out into the dark to witness what could be the brightest comet seen in many generations – brighter even than the full Moon. It was found as a blur on an electronic image of the night sky taken through a telescope at the Kislovodsk Observatory in Russia as part of a project to survey the sky looking for comets and asteroids – chunks of rock and ice that litter space.

By the end of summer it will become visible in small telescopes and binoculars. By October it will pass close to Mars and things will begin to stir. The surface will shift as the ice responds to the thermal shock, cracks will appear in the crust, tiny puffs of gas will rise from it as it is warmed. The comet's tail is forming. As it passes the orbit of Earth, the gas and dust geysers will gather force. The space around the comet becomes brilliant as the ice below the surface turns into gas and erupts, reflecting the light of the Sun. (12/27)

Spaceport Plan Mapped Out for Virginia Governor (Source:
The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority has delivered to Gov. Bob McDonnell a five-year strategic plan required by legislation the General Assembly passed during its 2011 session. The plan evaluates the current state of the authority and describes eight strategic objectives for the authority to pursue over the next five years.

Legislation that took effect July 1 reconstituted the space flight authority, reformed its board of directors, amended its powers and duties and provided it additional funding. The authority “is now poised to become one of the most useable spaceports in the U.S. This strategic plan charts the path to achieving that goal, as well as the associated economic development and job creation opportunities resulting from Virginia’s position as a leader in a rapidly growing arena,” Executive Director Dale K. Nash wrote in a letter to McDonnell accompanying the plan. (12/23)

China Forms Key Lab for Cryogenic Propellant (Source: Xinhua)
China has established its first key national laboratory for space cryogenic propellant research, which will provide technological support for the country's future space missions. Established in a unit under the General Armament Department of the People's Liberation Army, the lab was created to accelerate China's efforts to break the technological bottleneck in the field.

China aims to develop the lab into a major platform for technological innovation in cryogenic engineering, according to an official statement Xinhua obtained Thursday. (12/27)

China's Beidou System Starts Service in Asian-Pacific (Source: Xinhua)
China's indigenous Beidou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) on Thursday began providing services to users in the Asian-Pacific region, according to a spokesman of the system. The services include positioning, navigation, timing and short messages for China and surrounding areas, said spokesman Ran Chengqi, also director of the China Satellite Navigation Office. The open service will be provided with positioning accuracy of 10 meters, velocity accuracy of 0.2 meters per second and one-way timing accuracy of 50 nanoseconds. (12/27)

Chinese Scientists Find Evidence for Speed of Gravity (Source: Xinhua)
Chinese scientists revealed Wednesday that they have found evidence supporting the hypothesis that gravity travels at the speed of light based on data gleaned from observing Earth tides. Scientists have been trying to measure the speed of gravity for years through experiments and observations, but few have found valid methods.

By conducting six observations of total and annular solar eclipses, as well as Earth tides, a team headed by Tang Keyun, a researcher with the Institute of Geology and Geophysics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), found that the Newtonian Earth tide formula includes a factor related to the propagation of gravity. Click here. (12/27)

The Year’s Most Audacious Private Space Exploration Plans (Source: WIRED)
It has been a remarkable and exciting year for commercial spaceflight companies. Private asteroid mining! Commercial trips to the moon! Mars settlements! We barely had time to catch our breath from the last secret organization announcement when suddenly some other team was cropping up and declaring a bold new adventure in space.

Many of these new companies have experts at their helms, founded or run by former NASA engineers and veterans of the spaceflight community. Others showed off their deep entrepreneurial pockets and touted the potential profits to be made in space. Click here. (12/27)

Debris from North Korea’s Launcher: What It Shows (Source: All Things Nuclear)
Press reports now say South Korea has recovered four pieces of the first stage of the Unha-3 rocket that North Korea launched on December 11 (U.S. time). Since all these pieces were found in approximately the same area, they must all have come from the first stage. The first and largest piece found was the oxidizer tank from the first stage, reported to be 7.6 m long by 2.4 m in diameter. Click here. (12/27)

The Common Space Fleet (1968) (Source: WIRED)
In 1968, as Apollo neared its culmination, various organizations within NASA and their contractors sought to chart the U.S. civilian space program’s post-Apollo future. Three underlying cost-cutting approaches guided much of their work. The first was re-application of hardware developed for Apollo. This was the approach proposed for the Apollo Applications Program (AAP), which had been endorsed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964-1965.

AAP was rapidly shrinking in 1968, following a half-billion dollar cut in its budget in August 1967. The second approach to NASA’s post-Apollo future was reusability. AAP largely rejected this option, though it did explore reuse of the Apollo Command Module (CM) capsules that would be used to transport AAP crews. Reusability became the basis for the Space Shuttle Program, Apollo’s eventual successor. This approach has, however, not been commonly used in space programs. Click here. (12/27)

A Brief History of Musical Firsts in Space (Source: The Atlantic)
Astronaut Chris Hadfield has a new song out, a sweet Christmas melody laid over some solid guitar strumming. But if you listen carefully, you'll hear something else: a soft whir of fans in the background. Why? Because this song wasn't recorded in the constructed silence of a recording studio, but on the International Space Station as it orbited Earth at about 17,000 miles per hour, some 260 miles overhead.

It seems that this is the first song written specifically for the International Space Station to be recorded there. But that's a pretty specific accomplishment -- and that's because humans have been playing music in space for about five decades. The first song we have a recording of from space was also a Christmas tune, this one a bit better known: Jingle Bells. Astronauts Walter M. Schirra Jr. and Thomas P. Stafford snuck some bells and a harmonica (now housed at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum) onto Gemini 6 in 1965. Click here. (12/26)

NASA Launches Telescope-Toting Balloon from Antarctica on Christmas (Source:
A giant helium balloon is slowly drifting above Antarctica, about 22 miles (36 kilometers) up. Launched on Tuesday (Dec. 25) from the National Science Foundation's Long Duration Balloon (LDB) facility on Earth's southernmost continent, it carries a sensitive telescope that measures submillimeter light waves from stellar nurseries in our Milky Way. "Christmas launch!" wrote officials with NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, which oversees the agency's balloon research program, in a Twitter post yesterday. "BLAST launched today from McMurdo Station, Antarctica." (12/26)

JAXA Gives Sneak Peek at New Hayabusa 2 Asteroid Probe (Source: Asahi Shimbun)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) showed reporters on Dec. 26 the body of its new asteroid-exploring space probe, Hayabusa 2, which is scheduled to be launched as early as 2014. The Hayabusa 2 is the successor to the original Hayabusa space probe, which brought back particles from an asteroid to Earth for the first time.

Almost the same size as the original Hayabusa, the Hayabusa 2 will incorporate new, improved technologies that were developed on lessons learned from the 6 billion kilometer (3.73 billion miles) journey of the original space probe to the asteroid Itokawa. With a 2014 launch date, the destination of the Hayabusa 2 is asteroid “1999 JU3.” JAXA scientists believe there are likely to be water and organic materials on 1999 JU3. (12/27)

Will Humans Keep Evolving on Ultra-Long Space Voyages? (Source:
In the Disney film "Wall-E," a colony of humans becomes an obese population after hundreds of years locked inside a spaceship. A lack of activity and an abundance of food left the starship denizens with little desire to stay in shape. But while "Wall-E" was science fiction, but at least one anthropologist believes the human race will change when it embarks on multigenerational space missions to Alpha Centauri or other nearby stars.

To the thinking of Cameron Smith at Portland State University, evolution will continue on starships despite the best attempts to limit it. "I believe that new pressure, breathing-gas compositions, gravity and radiation environments will act on the early stages of embryo and fetus development; this will be natural selection of new selective agents on the genome," Smith said. Click here. (12/27)

First 'Alien Earth' Will Be Found in 2013, Experts Say (Source:
The first truly Earth-like alien planet is likely to be spotted next year, an epic discovery that would cause humanity to reassess its place in the universe. While astronomers have found a number of exoplanets over the last few years that share one or two key traits with our own world — such as size or inferred surface temperature — they have yet to bag a bona fide "alien Earth." But that should change in 2013, scientists say. (12/27)

Russia Launches $70 Billion Space Program for 2013-2020 (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia will spend 2.1 trillion rubles (about $70 billion) under a state program for the development of the national space industry in 2013-2020, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said. “The total volume of funding is quite significant: 2.1 trillion rubles, including extrabudgetary sources,” he said. The program is designed to ensure the country retains its position as a leading global space power, while also supporting its defense capability, and boosting economic and social development, Medvedev said. (12/27)

Russia's Share of World Market of Space Services May Be Up to 16 Percent (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia’s share of the world market of space services may grow to sixteen percent, the chief of the Russian space agency, Vladimir Popovkin, told the government on Thursday. He was presenting the agency’s plan for the development of the space industry. “We expect that Russia’s share on the world market of space rocket technologies will go up from today’s 10 percent to 16 percent,” he said.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev asked which country controlled the largest segment of the market. “The United States’ presence is the greatest. Currently it stands at about 60 percent, including production and the services provided,” Popovkin said, adding that the United States also controlled about 70 percent of the television and radio market.

“In absolute terms our amount is to go up 2.5 times,” he said. The program will be implemented in two stages. “By 2015 we shall restore the capabilities we had back in the Soviet era, and in 2015-2020 we are to create conditions for a breakthrough on the basis of new technologies,” Popovkin said. (12/27)

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