January 21, 2013

South Korea: North's Missile Parts from China (Source: NASA Watch)
The South Korean military says part of the North Korean missile launched last month were made in China. South Korea's military has analyzed pieces of the debris from the three-stage rocket, including a fuel tank that were salvaged in the Yellow Sea. A military official says some of the parts appear to have been imported from five countries including China. (1/21)

Gamma-Ray Burst Blasted Earth in 8th Century (Source: Cosmos)
A mystery wave of cosmic radiation that smashed into Earth in the eighth century may have come from two black holes that collided, according to a new study. Clues for the strange event were unearthed last year by Japanese astrophysicist Fusa Miyake, who discovered a surge in carbon-14 – an isotope that derives from high-energy radiation – in the rings of ancient cedar trees. Dating of the trees showed that the burst struck the Earth in either 774 or 775 AD. But what was the nature of the radiation, and what caused it?

A team of scientists suggest that two black holes collided and then merged, releasing an intense but extremely brief burst of gamma rays. A collision of neutron stars or ‘white dwarf’ stars (tiny, compact stars near the end of their lives) may also have been the cause, they say. Mergers of this kind are often spotted in galaxies other than our own Milky Way, and do not generate visible light. The event in 774 or 775 AD could only have taken place at least 3,000 light years from here, otherwise the planet would have fried, says the paper. (1/21)

NASA's Older Mars Rover Notches Another Milestone (Source: AP)
All eyes are on the NASA rover Curiosity. It is poised to begin drilling into a Martian rock soon. There's less attention being paid to another Mars rover — Opportunity. The older rover is quietly embarking on its tenth year of exploration. Compared to Curiosity, Opportunity is smaller and doesn't carry the same high-tech tools. But since landing in January 2004, it has made many discoveries including that Mars was once warmer and wetter than today.

Opportunity and its twin Spirit were only supposed to explore for three months, but both outlasted their original mission. Opportunity remains healthy and is studying interesting rocks in a massive crater. Spirit lost communication with Earth in 2010 shortly after getting stuck in Martian sand. (1/21)

Saturn's Moon Mysteries Multiply (Source: USA Today)
How did Saturn's moon Dione end up with a resurfaced face on one side? A team led by Noah Hammond of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., looks at this riddle. Surely real estate moguls in the future will have only one real choice when they decide they want to drive real estate prices up to astronomical levels. That would be Saturn's moons, offering ringside seats to the most sublime views in the solar system, the rings of the second-largest planet.

And the vista around Saturn would be worth the trip. With the international Cassini spacecraft mission now eight years into its tour of the ringed planet and its moons, the views of Saturn those moguls may enjoy someday have only gotten better. And some of the mysteries about Saturn's satellites, from the spouting geysers of Enceladus to the frozen lakes of Titan, have only grown deeper.

The latest puzzler comes from Dione, Saturn's fourth-largest moon, some 700 miles wide, an ice-crusted rock first spotted by the original Cassini, astronomer Giovanni Cassini of the Paris Observatory, in 1672. His namesake probe first flew over the moon in 2004 and revealed that "wispy terrain" long observed on the frozen moon was actually a series of ridges and cliffs, hundreds of feet high, cutting across one side of the moon. (1/21)

Meteorite May Offer Clues on Asteroid Vesta's Inner Life (Source: LA Times)
The cold, dead asteroid Vesta might have had a very active inner life early in the solar system's history, according to an unusual analysis of a Saharan meteorite. Vesta might have had a magma ocean underneath its rocky exterior, allowing bits of mineral to rise and fall between softer and harder layers of material, according to a study published online Sunday by the journal Nature Geoscience. If confirmed, that would make it more like Earth and the solar system's other rocky planets than scientists had realized. (1/21)

Kazakh Foreign Minister May Discuss Baikonur Situation in Moscow (Source: Interfax)
Kazakh Foreign Minister Yerlan Idrisov will pay an official visit to Russia on January 24-25, Kazakh Central Communications Service spokesman Altai Abibullayev told a Monday press briefing in Astana. "This is the first visit of the foreign minister to the Russian Federation," he said. "Probably," the two foreign ministers will discuss the Baikonur issue, Abibullayev responded to a question of the journalists. (1/21)

NASA Plum Brook Snags $22M in Upgrades Ahead of SpaceX Testing (Source: Sandusky Register)
"People both inside and outside NASA increasingly appreciate how critical Plum Brook is to the world's aerospace future," said Kurt Landefeld of the Friends of NASA Plum Brook, a local volunteer group. A one-of-a-kind, world-class testing facility, the Space Power Facility can create a vacuum and temperatures found in space. The latest upgrades could eventually help astronauts reach destinations such as the International Space Station, the moon and possibly Mars. (1/21)

Martians May Have Occupied the Red Planet... But Not in Any Recognizable Form (Source: Daily Mail)
Martians may well have existed, but not in any recognisable form. Scientists believe the discovery of minerals below the Red Planet's surface is the strongest evidence yet it may have supported life. But far from hosting little green men, our celestial neighbour was likely inhabited by simple microorganisms.

A new study led by the Natural History Museum, with the University of Aberdeen, found that all the ingredients for life were present just below the planet's surface for much of its history. When meteorites strike the surface of Mars, they act like natural probes, bringing up rocks from far beneath the crust. Looking at data from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and ESA's Mars Express spacecrafts, they analysed rocks and found they contain clays and minerals whose chemical make-up has been altered by water. (1/21)

Spaceport Crawlerway Set for SLS Facelift (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Preparations have begun to repair and upgrade NASA's famous crawlerway at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport as part of the continuing modifications taking place at the world famous spaceport. The work will stretch from the East Park Site near the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) all the way up to Pad 39B. Originally designed to support the weight of a Saturn V and payload – plus its Launch Umbilical Tower (LUT) and Mobile Launch Platform (MLP) – the crawlerway consists of a seven-foot bed of stones that lies beneath a layer of asphalt and a surface made of Alabama river rocks. (1/21)

Planetary Resources Shows Off Full Scale Space Telescope (Source: Planetary Resources)
In this video, you can see one of our full scale Arkyd-100 mechanical prototypes. The Arkyd-100 is our space telescope and technology demonstrator for our Arkyd Series prospecting missions. One of the earliest decisions we made was to design and build as much as possible in-house, right here at PRI. This is much the same way that Elon Musk and SpaceX have vertically integrated to drive innovation, control reliability, and keep costs down.  This mindset and capability will allow us to mass produce our spacecraft at extremely low cost. (1/21)
Cosmica Spacelines Offers Lynx Suborbital Flights (Source: Cosmica)
Cosmica Spacelines is building a future of unique experiences, changed perspectives and boundless potential through repeat access to space onboard XCOR’s Lynx spaceplane. The Cosmica Elite Private Spaceflight Club offers passionate individuals exclusive memberships with lifetime privileges to experience the excitement of flying to space, time and again. For technology development and fundamental science, Cosmica provides complete payload integration support so that the space industry’s leading professionals can unleash their creativity and truly focus on innovation. Click here. (1/21)

State Requests Spaceport Land Near Oak Hill (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
A state request asking for 150 acres of NASA-owned land near the Volusia-Brevard county line for a commercial spaceport didn't get the warm reception backers had hoped, but officials with the state's space development corporation say they plan to keep moving forward. Newly elected Volusia County Councilwoman Deb Denys hopes the state will win NASA's support for its proposals. "I think it's very promising for all of Volusia County," said Denys, who recently met with Space Florida officials.

With the opportunities for job creation that a launch pad would bring, Denys said the potential is "tremendous." Space Florida officials, who have indicated the spaceport would likely be in southern Volusia just south of Oak Hill, say they plan to keep moving forward on the launch complex proposal, regardless of the less-than-enthusiastic response from NASA. They are seeking proposals from companies interested in developing a commercial spaceport and also preparing to launch an environmental study of potential sites, still hoping to win NASA approval for the concept at some point. (1/21)

Oklahoma Officials Defend Spaceport Efforts (Source: The Oklahoman)
Advocates of the Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority say now is the time to accelerate — not abandon — efforts to turn the airpark here into a booming spaceport. Millions of dollars are being spent by other states in hot pursuit of space industries, but the facility at Burns Flat is currently one of only eight licensed launch sites in North America, said Bill Khourie, the authority's executive director.

“We're very privileged to even have the opportunity,” he said. “Plus, we have a suborbital space flight corridor that's the only one that has ever been approved in the national air space system that is not within a military operating area or restricted air space.” Khourie said it disappoints him when he hears people talk about giving up on the Oklahoma spaceport.

“No, we haven't had a suborbital space flight operation take place from the facility yet,” he said. “But we've had some research and development tests with a lunar lander prototype.” That might have generated some excitement, but the individual testing the prototype insisted on no publicity — just like many prospective businesses who have inquired about the airpark, he said. Click here. (1/21)

Oklahoma Spaceport's Blighted Buildings Rile Town Officials in Burns Flat (Source: The Oklahoman)
Thirteen years after Oklahoma lawmakers announced a grand vision for a futuristic spaceport here, town officials complain the state has little to show for its efforts beyond abandoned hangars and crumbling warehouses. “Ain't that a pretty sight?” Burns Flat Mayor Tom Ryan scoffed, referring to a double row of blighted former military warehouses with collapsed roofs.

Scraggly shrubs have grown up though the seams in the scarred concrete floors of the dilapidated structures. “It's a danger,” he said. “I would bet you that if private industry had something like that, they would be condemned. They would make them tear it down because of some kid getting in there and getting hurt.”

The decaying warehouses don't belong to some slumlord. They are owned by the Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority — a public body created by the Oklahoma Legislature in 1999 to lead the way in bringing the space industry to the state. Click here. (1/21)

Competition for Hypersonic Vehicles Resumes (Source: Space Daily)
In the US an experimental hypersonic vehicle has been developed.
The Russian Defence Ministry will start testing advanced hypersonic missiles in the coming summer. At present, Russia is conducting research in several areas of developing hypersonic technology, but it's unclear which will be successful.

The work on hypersonic vehicles conducted by the Soviet Union and the U.S. during the Cold War was suspended after it was ended. But it has restarted now. Both countries are aimed at creating guided means of destruction which should be an alternative to intercontinental ballistic missiles. This task was set at the dawn of the hypersonic technology. Click here. (1/21)

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