January 18, 2013

Boeing 787 Batteries Made by Same Company Making Them for ISS (Source: Space Policy Online)
Government Executive (GovExec) reports that the same company that makes the troublesome lithium-ion (Li-Ion) batteries for Boeing's 787 Dreamliners is under contract to make them for use on the International Space Station (ISS) too. NASA says the ISS batteries are a different configuration, however, and rigorously designed. NASA confirmed that GS Yuasa is designing and developing Li-ion batteries for use on the ISS under contract to Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. "The design has been carefully implemented to mitigate and contain the potential hazards of Li-Ion cells."

NASA is in "close communication with Boeing, the FAA, and the cell manufacturer on the ongoing failure analysis, and will apply any relevant lessons learned as appropriate." Editor's Note: Meanwhile, Elon Musk tweeted that "Tesla & SpaceX [would be] happy to help with the 787 lithium ion batteries." (1/18)

Space Coast Energy Consortium to Showcase Local Tech at ARPA-E Summit (Source: SCEC)
The Space Coast Energy Consortium has been selected to exhibit at the 2013 Technology Showcase at the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit #3 which presents America's next generation of transformational energy technologies. Technology Showcase participants are a highly selective group of companies and research organizations. The technology submitted by the Consortium is a deployable solar truss developed by CPI Technologies of Merritt Island. Click here. (1/15)

Canada's Space Agency Spirals Toward Code Red (Source: CBC)
Over the past year, the Canadian Space Agency has been battered by government budget cuts, buffeted by a critical review, and now even its president is leaving. How acrimonious is the parting, no one is saying. But one of Canada’s first astronauts and arguably a national hero after 29 years in the space program, MacLean is leaving in total silence – not a public word to the media or anyone else. According to his office, MacLean is “busy until he leaves.”

The Harper government is expected to use the change in management to bring sweeping changes to the national space agency. While no one yet seems to know exactly how that extreme makeover will ultimately reshape the Canadian agency, there is no question the space program has reached a critical point in its history spanning more than a half-century. Sitting on the launch pad is not an option for the space agency.

The meteoric rise of space industries in China, Brazil, India and other developing countries is challenging Canadian enterprise – and our national space agency – to a whole new dimension of competition. At the same time, the end of the U.S. space-shuttle program has been a major loss to the Canadian robotics industry which grew in large measure around the fabled Canadarm and its remarkable technologies. One Canadian company alone has lost a $25-million annual business servicing the Canadarm units on the now defunct U.S. space-shuttles. (1/18)

Life has Prospects on Moons of Giant Extrasolar Planets (Source: Science News)
Earth-sized moons in planetary systems trillions of miles away could be hotbeds for alien life, astronomers report in the January Astrobiology. "It's the most thorough look at exomoon habitability I've seen," says Darren Williams, an astronomer at Penn State Erie who was not involved in the research. “I’m encouraged by the paper that we’ll find exomoons in abundance and that a fraction of them could be habitable.” 

Astronomers have found about 3,600 confirmed or probable planets orbiting other stars, none of which have the ideal combination of size and temperature to support life. However, more than 150 of them are gas giants in orbits where liquid water could exist, if only it had a solid surface to puddle on. Life might be able to survive on the rocky moons of those Neptune- and Jupiter-like planets. (1/18)

AFRL Selects Surrey Satellite US to Evaluate Small Satellite Approach to GPS (Source: SSTL)
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has selected Surrey Satellite Technology to investigate cost reduction and augmentation of the current GPS constellation through the application of the small satellite approach. AFRL has contracted SST-US to identify and analyze how small satellites can improve aspects of GPS system performance such as accuracy, coverage, and robustness at costs far below those of past procurements.

SST-US will examine how constellations of smaller satellites could improve the overall system performance and resilience, including ways to deliver high-power signals and alternative architectures for rapid commanding that could provide system capability improvement. The comprehensive study will incorporate details of the planned implementation, schedule, concept of operations, definition of the technical and programmatic risks, as well as the expected development, test, and operational costs. (1/18)

Competition Hopes To Fine Tune ISS Solar Array Shadowing (Source: Space Daily)
TopCoder has announced the Longeron Shadowing Optimization Challenge, a $30,000, open to the public competition, to make the energy-gathering solar arrays of the International Space Station (ISS) more efficient by eliminating the shadows it casts upon itself at different points during orbit. Click here. (1/18)

$87.1 Million Ex-Im Guarantee Orbital-Built Spanish Satellite (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) has authorized an $87.1 million guarantee of a loan extended by Credit Agricole and other European lenders to Hispasat Canarias S.L.U., a Hispasat S.A. (Hispasat) subsidiary based in Madrid, Spain, that will finance the assembly and purchase of a satellite to be manufactured by Orbital Sciences Corp. (1/18)

The Strange History of Robert Bigelow (Source: The Awl)
After my wife and I saw a UFO while driving to Lake Tahoe, I got online and looked for someone to call. It was the week after Christmas 2001, and at that time an organization run by Robert Bigelow took reports of "black triangles," supposedly under contract with the FAA. Then, as now, the massive low-flying silent ships were regularly spotted by drivers on the open road. We filled out an online report at the National Institute for Discovery Science website. A NIDS investigator called later claiming to be a former FBI agent.

The National Institute for Discovery Science, or NIDS, spent a lot of time and money collecting reports of "Big Black Deltas." In 2004, it published its inconclusive findings. Robert Bigelow then shut down his Las Vegas-based Institute For Discovery Science and announced a new company, Bigelow Aerospace. An earlier NIDS study suggested that the triangles were "lighter-than-air, blimp-style craft of the U.S. military’s making" powered by new "electrokinetic/field drives, or airborne nuclear power units."

The silent deltas reported around America in the 1990s and early 2000s may well have been prototypes of the massive airships that have just gone into official production in Southern California. The idea of NIDS fascinated me, both then and now. This was an actual paranormal investigations organization, and the more I looked into it, the more fascinating it became. Bigelow, who made a fortune from the extended-stay motel chain Budget Suites of America, had for years been pouring money into paranormal studies at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. The physics lab at UNLV is named for Bigelow. (1/18)

Space Club Luncheon Features Talk on Atlantis' New Home on Feb. 12 (Source: NSSFL)
The National Space Club, Florida Committee, will hold its next luncheon on Feb. 12 at the Cape Canaveral Radisson Resort. The featured speaker will be Bill Moore, COO of Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, operator of the KSC Visitor Complex. He will speak about the now-under-construction addition to the KSCVC for housing the Atlantis space shuttle. Click here. (1/18)

Russia to Launch Fewer Proton M Rockets in 2013 (Source: Voice of Russia)
Russia will carry out fewer Proton M launches in 2013 than planned, a Roskosmos source said. Such a reduction is connected with a decision by Kazakhstan’s authorities to cut the number of rocket launches from the Baikonur space launch facility from 17 to 12. Given the situation, Roskosmos is planning to reconsider the terms of Baikonur’s lease in favor of making the rent Russia pays for it dependent on the number of launches. Russia is currently renting the Baikonur Cosmodrome from Kazakhstan at $115 million a year. (1/18)

Kazakhstan Impedes Russian Space Launch Plans (Source: Interfax)
Kazakhstan has permitted only 12 of the 17 Proton-M rocket launches requested by Russia, a Russian space rocket industry source said on Friday. "The Kazakh side has reduced the number of launches of Proton-M launch vehicles in 2013 to 12, citing alleged environmental concerns, whereas Russia requested 17 launches," he said. "If nothing changes, this cut will primarily affect commercial launches," the source said.

"This decision will make Russian launch operators pay considerable fines for failure to meet their international obligations, which today is unacceptable for them and is equivalent to bankruptcy. Apart from that, this measure will deliver a serious blow to Russia's image as a space exploration leader," the source said. (1/18)

Moscow May Demand Review of Baikonur Lease Conditions (Source: Tengri News)
As Kazakhstan has restricted the number of Russia’s launches from Baikonur involving Proton-M carrier rockets to only 12 (instead of requested 17) in 2013, Moscow may demand to review the cosmodrome lease agreement conditions, Iterfax-Kazakhstan reports, citing Interfax Division for Military News as quoting a source in the Russia’s space industry.

“A possible scenario is to initiate talks to have the rent payments tied to the extent to which the Baikonur satisfies Russia’s needs”, the source said. “Russia is meeting Kazakhstan’s requirements to stagedly decrease harmful emissions of the carrier rockets”, the source said, reminding that Kazakhstan cited environment concerns when restricting the number of launches.

“In particular, Russia has implemented a costly program to modernize Proton carrier rockets to Proton-M. Heptyl-run Cyclon-2 and RS-20 are no longer used”, the source said, adding that “hardly will the sides come to terms within a short time”. The cosmodrome along with the town of Baikonur are rented out to Russia until 2050. The annual rent payments stand at $115 million. (1/18)

Next ISS Crew Could Use New 4-Orbit Rendezvous Approach (Source: Space Policy Online)
The next International Space Station (ISS) crew is ready to try a four-orbit rendezvous instead of the usual two-day approach when it heads to the ISS in March, but NASA and its ISS partners are still weighing the pros and cons of the shortened trip. Mike Suffredini, explained the overall pros and cons of the shorter transit time. On the positive side, he said, the crews would spend less time in Soyuz, and the size of the ground operations crew would be reduced, saving money.

On the other hand, the crew would have to remain buckled in their seats for as many as 10 hours, from the time they get strapped in on the ground until they dock. "Can they go stretch, can they use the facilities if necessary and ... [get] strapped back in" during that time, he asked.  More importantly, with a four-orbit rendezvous ground controllers would have to know in advance more precisely where the ISS would be at the time of launch. 

Under the four-orbit rendezvous scenario, "today If I do a debris avoidance maneuver I have to consider whether that impacts a flight in March," Suffredini said. What needs to be decided from an operational standpoint, he explained, is the savings in time versus the impact of "flying the ISS day by day." (1/17)

Boeing Outlines Technology for Crewed Mars Missions (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
With a focus on building the archetypal missions for NASA’s new Space Launch System rocket, the U.S.-based Boeing Corporation has outlined their view of what technologies can be used to accomplish humankind’s goal of visiting crews to the Martian system – missions Boeing believes are possible through the combination of the SLS rocket’s lift capability, the bourgeoning Solar Electric Propulsion technology field, and Bigelow’s soon-to-be-tested inflatable habitat modules.

Continuing from their initial presentation on potential SLS rocket uses beyond the opening two circumlunar missions, the Boeing Corporation has presented their idea of how to execute a phased approach to deep space exploration – with an eye for the eventual goal of landing human beings on the surface of Mars. Click here. (1/18)

Give Peace a Chance -- In Space (Source: The Atlantic)
The White House Death Star petition was a joke, but the prospect of war in outer space is anything but. For now, the prospect of military conflict in outer space still resides in the realm of dystopia or absurdity, to the point that a White House petition demanding the construction of a Star Wars-style "Death Star" could be treated as a harmless prank. In rejecting the petition this week, the White House rightly wondered why a debt-strapped U.S. government would spend $850 quadrillion on a weapons system "with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship."

In 1952, the eminent rocket scientist Werner Von Braun imagined that a future space station would function as an orbital nuclear platform. Space historians believe that Russia's Salyut 3 space station, which was launched in June of 1974, had a cannon on board, in case a craft or satellite from an enemy country attempted to disrupt its mission. The Soviet Union experimented with Fractional Orbital Bombardment Systems in the 1960s and 70s -- basically nuclear delivery systems that were capable of orbiting the earth. Click here. (1/18)

Virgin: Pressure Legislators for Spaceport Liability Bill (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
The CEO of Virgin Galactic asked Albuquerque business leaders today to help pressure the state Legislature to pass a bill that would shield spacecraft manufacturers from some lawsuits filed by space travelers. Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides made the remarks this morning during a presentation for the Albuquerque Economic Forum, a coalition of community business leaders.

Whitesides said the legislation is essential to recruiting new commercial spaceflight companies to move to New Mexico and join Virgin Galactic as tenants of the state’s $209 million spaceport. “What I would ask of all of you is, if you agree, to communicate the importance of the bill to your legislators, because I know they take this (business) community more seriously than many — than most — so that’s really critical,” Whitesides said.

Whitesides noted that other states attempting to lure commercial spacecraft manufacturers and operators to their own spaceports have expanded their legal protections beyond what New Mexico established in 2008. Now, the state needs to keep up, he said. The legislation, which is being considered for a third time by the state Legislature this year, has drawn strong opposition from the New Mexico Trial Lawyers Association. The group has said the bill would represent an unprecedented roll-back of legal protections for a single industry. (1/18)

Fermi Telescope May Change to Dark Matter Hunting (Source: BBC)
The Universe's highest-energy light could finally yield clues to the nature of the "dark matter" that makes up some 85% of the Universe's mass. The Fermi space telescope, designed to catch gamma rays, has seen hints of evidence for dark matter in high-energy gamma rays seen at the galaxy's center. The Fermi team is now opening a call for ideas on changing how it observes.

That may focus efforts on those early hints, opening the possibility to solve one of physics' greatest mysteries. We only know of the existence of dark matter because of its gravitational effects; true to its name, it cannot be seen because it interacts only very weakly with light or normal matter. Proving its existence, and learning something about what it is, has been a holy grail for astrophysicists since the 1930s. (1/18)

Congressman Fattah Science Agenda Supports National Labs Like CASIS (Source: International Business Times)
Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA), the Senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and a Member of Energy and Water Subcommittee met with leading scientists in energy, neurology and space technology this week to advance his comprehensive Science agenda in the 113th Congress.

"If America is to remain at the forefront of innovation, the federal government must invest in research and development," said Fattah.  "Whether we're looking into research in energy, space and technology or investigating if adults, suffering from mental illness, possessed any predetermining factors during early childhood and adolescence, we must provide the financial resources necessary to further pioneering discoveries."

On Wednesday, Duane Ratliff, Director of Operations for CASIS, the nonprofit nongovernmental organization hired by NASA to manage the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, provided Fattah an update on the progress in research and development at the space station. Congressman Fattah, a leading advocate for federally sponsored research, will reintroduce legislation later this month declaring 2013 as "The Year of the Federal Lab." (1/17)

Senator Nelson Gets New Space Staffer (Source: SPACErePORT)
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) has a history of pulling NASA KSC staff to serve one-year stints in his Washington DC office as "Fellows" assigned to support space issues. A new Fellow, Jason Hopkins is now in place for 2013, replacing Nick Cummings who has returned to his NASA job at the spaceport. These NASA fellows typically do a great job for the Senator, but his practice of using only temporary staff to deal with space policy has been criticized because it means they typically must spend months learning the ropes in Washington before they become truly effective, and then they are replaced again. (1/18)

NASA Beams Mona Lisa to Moon with Laser (Source: Space.com)
Call it the ultimate in high art: Using a well-timed laser, NASA scientists have beamed a picture of Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, to a powerful spacecraft orbiting the moon, marking a first in laser communication. The laser signal, fired from an installation in Maryland, beamed the Mona Lisa to the moon to be received 240,000 miles (384,400 km) away by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The transmission is a major advance in laser communication for interplanetary spacecraft. (1/17)

Antares Launch from Virginia Uses Smartphone Technology (Source: Delaware Online)
When Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares rocket lifts off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on its first flight later this year, it will carry into orbit three coffee cup-sized satellites that use smartphones as their onboard computers. The latest date given for the launch is Feb. 27, according to a project manager for NASA’s PhoneSat mission. The project’s aim is to demonstrate the ability to use commercially available technology to construct low-cost, easy-to-build satellites. (1/17)

NASA: 'Save the Date' for Antares Launch From Virginia (Source: Daily Press)
Wallops Island has an unofficial "save the date" from NASA for the much-anticipated commercial launches of the Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft from the Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's Eastern Shore. In a press briefing Thursday, NASA officials said April 5 is penciled in for a demonstration launch and attempt to berth with the International Space Station (ISS), and mid-August for the first official resupply mission. But those dates came with a reality check.

"Many things could happen," said Mike Suffredini, ISS program manager, noting that Dulles-based Orbital Sciences Corporation has already overcome a "number of hurdles" to get its technology to this point. "We think the schedule is starting to stabilize." Orbital spokesman Barron Beneski said recently the company has found minor issues with the liquid fueling systems at the new launch pad at Wallops, but "nothing that's really stumped us."

Suffredini said Thursday marked the last step in the cold-flow test for the Antares rocket, followed at the end of the month with a hot-fire test. In a hot-fire, the rocket is secured and doesn't leave the launch pad. Sometime between the hot-fire and the scheduled April demonstration launch, the Antares will undergo a test flight with a simulated Cygnus spacecraft, Beneski said. That could take place in February. (1/17)

$30,000 NASA Contest to Boost Space Station's Power (Source: Space.com)
NASA engineers want to squeeze as much power as possible from the wing-like solar arrays on the International Space Station, and the agency has launched a software contest to make it happen, officials announced today (Jan. 17). The space agency is sponsoring a $30,000 competition to optimize the position of the station's eight solar arrays during certain parts of its orbit using a software algorithm. The goal is to maximize power output and minimize shadowing of longerons, the long arms holding the arrays to the station, which are sensitive to temperature changes. (1/17)

Judge Rules in JPL's Favor in 'Intelligent Design' Wrongful Termination Lawsuit (Source: Pasadena Star-News)
David Coppedge, the man who sued the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and claimed the agency discriminated against him for his explicit religious view, has lost his wrongful termination lawsuit. Judge Ernest Hiroshige said Coppedge claims of discrimination and wrongful termination "fails, and judgment on this claim shall be entered in favor of Caltech."

Coppedge was let go during a round of layoffs in 2010. He claims his position on intelligent design cost him his job. "David was the victim of religious discrimination because a handful of malicious co-workers hated his Christian views, as well as his interest in intelligent design, which they ignorantly perceived to be a religious concept," Coppedge's attorney William Becker said. "He was demoted and fired for simply being a Christian and someone who believes that nature can be scientifically explained by reference to designs found within it."

JPL contended that Coppedge was laid off as part of a routine downsizing of the agency and the missions it supports. Attorneys for JPL did paint Coppedge as a difficult employee who pushed his views upon his co-workers. Coppedge openly distributed intelligent design DVDs and kept a log of who received the DVDs and their reaction to the message in the DVDs. (1/17)

NASA Confident SpaceX Engines Ready for March Launch (Source: Florida Today)
NASA and SpaceX have not closed their investigation into an engine failure during a Falcon 9 launch last fall, but are confident the company’s next rocket will be safe to launch March 1 from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport to the International Space Station. "As is often the case with a failure like this on a system you don’t get back, it was hard to find a specific smoking gun to point to, but a number of things were believed to be contributors that have been looked at," said Mike Suffredini.

Suffredini said a significant amount of pre-launch testing may have contributed to the early shutdown of one of nine Falcon 9 engines during the Oct. 7 launch of an unmanned cargo resupply mission. The rocket successfully deployed a Dragon capsule to orbit, but the engine problem kept a commercial communications satellite from reaching its intended orbit. The engines flying on the next Falcon 9 are new and have not been tested beyond what is required to certify them for flight, and have all undergone recent inspections. (1/17)

Three Shuttle Astronauts Selected for Hall of Fame (Source: ASF)
Curt Brown, Eileen Collins and Bonnie Dunbar, Ph.D., join an elite group of American space heroes as they are inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame® on Saturday, April 20, 2013, during a ceremony at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. They are being welcomed to the ranks of legendary space pioneers like Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Jim Lovell, Sally Ride and John Young – distinguished members of the Hall of Fame. (1/17)

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