December 9, 2012

Six Degrees of Inclination (Source: Space Safety)
Stay in a tilted bed for weeks with your head at the lower end and your body starts to change as if it were ageing prematurely or living in space. Twelve volunteers in ESA’s bedrest study are enduring the testing experience. The ‘pillownauts’ have to stay in a bed for 21 days that is inclined at 6º. The rule is that at least one shoulder and their hips must be in contact with the bed at all times, even when they eat, wash and go to the toilet.

As their muscles diminish – one participant has lost almost four kg – medical staff at the study clinic MEDES in Toulouse, France monitor them closely. “We want to find the best possible solution to counteract the effects of staying in space or being inactive when muscles and bones are not used regularly,” explains ESA specialist Vittorio Cotronei. Click here. (12/9)

Space Tourism, Just a Balloon Ride Away (Source: Space Safety)
As the Spanish team Zero2infinity shows, space tourism is more than just rocket science. On Nov. 12 the start up company Zero2infinity successfully tested a balloon that should be able to carry passengers to an altitude of 36 kilometers by 2014. During these balloon flights the space tourists could experience the near space environment with a breathtaking view of the Earth; furthermore, they could feel weightless like an astronaut.

The balloon testing took place at an Air Force base near Virgen del Camino in Spain. “You would spend two hours at the floating altitude of 36 kilometers (22 miles),” said José Mariano López-Urdiales founder and CEO of Zero 2 Infinity. “We could do it higher, but it would not make any difference, because you already see the same visual cues at 39 kilometers or even 100 kilometers.” (12/9)

FAA Space Transportation Conference Planned for Feb. 6-7 (Source: FAA)
For the latest information and dialogue on U.S. commercial launch activities, commercial human spaceflight, commercial crew, and commercial spaceports, join us in Washington, DC for the 16th Annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference.

The conference is set to take place on February 6th and 7th, and includes the opportunity to meet and network with key federal officials from DOT, NASA, and DOD, industry leaders, space entrepreneurs, international space partners, legislators, astronauts, educators, and space enthusiasts. This is the premier event for information about the FAA’s role and the future direction of commercial space transportation. Click here. (12/7)

India to Try Again With Cryogenic Upper Stage After Long Gap (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Most rockets take about nine minutes to put its payload into low Earth orbit, going from a dead stop on terra firma to 17,500 miles per hour. In the case of India’s GSLV rocket, it takes several years longer. That’s the typical interval between launch attempts. You then have to add on a couple of more years to account for all of the GSLV’s launch failures.

Of seven launches over nearly 12 years, India’s largest rocket has notched only two successes and one partial success. The last fully successful flight occurred in September 2004. In April, the Indian space agency ISRO will attempt to launch a GSLV rocket fitted with its second domestically produced cryogenic upper stage. The launch will take place exactly three years after the turbopump on the first homemade cryogenic engine malfunctioned. That failure came after 17 years of work on cryogenic technology.

April’s flight will also take place 2 years and 4 months after the most recent GSLV launch attempt. On Christmas Day 2010, the range safety officer blew up the rocket, which was equipped with a Russian-made upper stage, after the first stage veered off course. That failure sent the GSAT-5P satellite to a watery grave. (12/9)

Veteran Astronomer Sir Patrick Moore Dies at 89 (Source: The Scotsman) For more than half a century, he was Britain’s guide to the heavens, bringing astronomy to generations of star gazers. Sir Patrick Moore, the host of the world’s longest-running TV program, died on Sunday at the age of 89. Friends and carers, who were with him at the end, announced that he had passed away peacefully at 12:25 pm.

As well as 55 years of The Sky at Night, he was well known to computer games enthusiasts for playing the computer-generated host of seven series of GamesMaster in the 1990s. Despite being wheelchair bound and unable to look through a telescope because of ill health in later years, he continued to present, and was last seen on The Sky at Night on Monday last week. (12/9)

Weather Forecast Iffy for Tuesday's Atlas Launch (Source: Florida Today)
The early forecast is iffy for the planned 1:03 p.m. Tuesday launch of a secret military min-shuttle from Cape Canaveral atop an Atlas V rocket. Air Force meteorologists predict there's a 40 percent chance of favorable weather during a five-hour launch window. An approaching cold front is likely to produce chances of lightning, cumulus and thick clouds and disturbed weather. The odds are the same if the launch slips to Wednesday. (12/9)

Entrepreneur Workshop Planned on Dec. 11 for Aerospace Ventures (Source: TRDA)
Does your aerospace/energy/biotech/IT venture need assistance with business plan development, raising capital, legal matters, customer acquisition strategies, government contracting, grant opportunities (including SBIR) and networking? The Technological Research & Development Authority (TRDA) will host a series of Entrepreneurship Workshops from December through April, the first planned for December 11 in Melbourne. Click here. (11/9)

Russia's Proton Loses Another Satellite (Source: Aviation Week)
Khrunichev and International Launch Services (ILS) say an anomaly that occurred during the launch of the Yamal 402 satellite Dec. 9 has left the spacecraft in the wrong orbit. The satellite, built by Thales Alenia Space, was launched atop a Proton Breeze M rocket at 7:13 pm local time from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Preliminary flight information indicates the fourth and final burn of the Breeze M engine ended about four minutes early, subsequently separating the spacecraft.

Thales is recalculating the LEOP parameters in order to propose the possible recovery plans to Russia's Gazprom Space Systems. A Russian state commission will begin the process of determining the reasons for the anomaly. In parallel ILS will form its own failure review oversight board. (12/9)

North Korea "Seriously Examining” Launch Delay (Source: Washington Post)
North Korea said Sunday that scientists are “seriously examining” the possibility of changing a launch window for a rocket the country had planned to fire sometime after Monday. The short statement by an unnamed spokesman for the North’s Korean Committee of Space Technology provided few details. Recent satellite images have indicated that snow may have slowed preparations, but analysts believed Pyongyang could still be ready for liftoff starting Monday. NKorea says it’s “seriously examining” changing rocket launch window set for Monday to Dec. 22. (12/9)

India Lacks Neccessary Facilities for Space Tourism (Source: Times of India)
Veteran scientist N Sivasubramanian is a well known face in the space industry. He has received many awards including the President's Award for developing high precision instruments. In this interview he talks about space tourism, privatization, human spaceflight, and other issues. Click here. (12/9)

Russian Scientists Devising Plan to Correct Satellite's Orbit (Source: Russia Today)
Russian space scientists are devising a plan to bring the Yamal-402 communications satellite back into its correct orbit after it lost its trajectory and ended up in an orbit near to, but not exactly, where it was meant to be. Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, announced that the satellite did not reach its desired orbit due to an early separation of the rocket's upper stage. Scientists are looking into the possibility of using the satellite’s own fuel reserves and engines to bring it to where it's supposed to be. (12/9)

Former NASA Official Launches Appeal for Missing Moon Rocks (Source: Telegraph)
40 years on, many of the rocks brought back by the first men on the Moon have become symbols of greed, carelessness and criminality. President Nixon distributed 269 fragments of Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 moon rock to 135 nations. Today, 159 of them are unaccounted for, either lost, stolen or destroyed.

In addition, each of America's states and the District of Columbia were given two pieces, one from each mission; of those 100 samples, 19 are missing, plus one belonging to Puerto Rico and another to the US Virgin Islands. The hunt to locate them and restore them to the purpose for which they were intended, led by a law professor who was formerly a senior special agent in NASA's Office of the Inspector General (OIG), has lasted for more than a decade. Click here. (12/9)

Researcher Unravels 'Tin Whisker' Mystery (Source: U. of South Carolina)
Little-known culprits of electronic malfunction, tiny killers that leave no evidence the human eye can detect, are microscopic strands known as “whiskers.” These hair-like fibers of metal grow out of the tin used as solder and coating on many electronic circuits. The presence of these whiskers can cause short-circuits since they act as bridges to conduct electricity to closely-spaced parts

The importance of this research goes well beyond extending the operating life of consumer electronics. NASA has verified multiple commercial satellite failures it attributes to tin whiskers. Missile systems, nuclear power stations and heart pacemakers also have fallen victim to tin whiskers over the past several decades and they are also considered a suspect in reported brake failures in Toyota vehicles.

Yong Sun used a process called digital image correlation to track the deformation of the surfaces and was able to prove the growth of whiskers are caused by high-strain gradient built up inside the device. While manufactures had been able to control some whiskers by mixing small amounts of lead into tin solder, the 2006 European Union ban on lead in most electronic equipment had ignited a debate among scientists about whether whiskers would remain a perpetual problem. Some observers even predict that it’s only a matter of time before miniature devices built after the ban start failing en masse. (12/4)

Webb Telescope Costs Could Magnify (Source: Florida Today)
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Independent reviewers believe that NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope could be on a path that would lead to more schedule delays and, consequently, the possibility of added costs. You’ll recall, the space agency’s next great space telescope was originally estimated to cost taxpayers as little as $1 billion and blast off on a mission to study the evolution of galaxies between 2007 and 2011. Now, the cost estimate is about $9 billion and the launch target is late 2018.

After an exhaustive review of the project, and harsh criticism from Congress, NASA overhauled the telescope management and promised Webb was back on track. A new report, mandated by skeptical members of Congress and made public this week, indicates NASA has made progress on getting the telescope’s cost and schedule under control. Some “best practices” long suggested by the GAO are being abided by the new management of the Webb project. But, alas, some best practices are not.

First, the project has what could be too little time and money set aside for unexpected challenges in the development of perhaps one of the most complicated spacecraft NASA has ever flown. In the space business, time is money. If NASA must delay the launch into 2019, which is likely given the historical record, every few months could cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Click here. (12/9)

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