January 25, 2013

NASA Artifacts Feed New Aerospace Research Museum (Source: CBS47)
When NASA’s space shuttle program ended last year, it opened a door to educate the public. Millions of dollars worth of equipment has been donated to Clovis North High School in Fresno, which will be used to create complete an aerospace research museum. Inside the cases were items such as: a robotic arm once used to retrieve satellites in outer space, a refrigerator/freezer from one of the shuttles and a collar off of a space suit.

“I can't even explain what it feels like that this is here today. There's no way to describe the feeling,” said Cliff Nitschke, A.P. Government teacher at Clovis North. Nitschke has waited eagerly for these artifacts to arrive. Three and a half years ago he put in a request to NASA, it granted his wish, and now Clovis North is part of an elite class.

Many of the students examining the items want to earn engineering degrees, so they are grateful for this opportunity. “The history behind this, the science behind this, everything behind this is incredible,” said Josh Samra, a Clovis North student. No date has been set for this museum to open. Once it does, it will feature the artifacts as well as books, videos and multimedia presentations for the public to view. (1/26)

National Research Council Reviews NASA's Strategic Direction (Source: AIP)
In 2011, Congress directed NASA to assess its goals, objectives, and strategies that were set forth in the 2011 NASA Strategic Plan. NASA requested that this assessment be conducted by the National Research Council (NRC). The NRC was asked to address the relevance of NASA's strategic direction as it relates to achieving national priorities, to examine the viability of these plans given the current economic conditions, and provide insight on the appropriateness of resource allocations among various NASA programs.

The NRC was also charged with addressing NASA's organizational structure to determine whether potential changes could be made to improve efficiency and effectiveness; lastly, they were tasked with determining "ways in which NASA could establish and effectively communicate a common unifying vision of the future that encompasses the agency's full array of missions."

The committee found that the vision statements for NASA in the 2011 Strategic Plan "to reach for new heights and reveal the unknown, so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind" and the mission statement "to drive advances in science, technology, and exploration to enhance knowledge, education, innovation, economic vitality, and stewardship of Earth" do not "articulate a national vision that is unique to the nation's space and aeronautics agency." Click here to download the a summary of the report. (1/25)

Byzantine NASA: Pioneering Spirit Lost? (Source: Discovery)
America is a nation built by pioneers, and has perpetuated a pioneer spirit that is arguably unique in the history of the world. Although a very young nation, America has been lauded over the years as being innovative, hard working, adaptive and above all, of having that "can-do" spirit. American pioneers pushed onward, moving from uncharted territories within the country, including mountaintops and ocean depths, to finally flying into the air and into space itself.

There exists a forward path for U.S. human spaceflight, but the programs are not being sufficiently supported, politically or financially. What happened? Did America somehow lose, or see a diminished pioneering spirit? There are those who argue that organizations naturally grow in size and complexity, such that they inevitably become Byzantine. There are those who would argue that NASA has already reached that point. Click here. (1/25)

Supergiant Star Betelgeuse to Crash Into Cosmic 'Wall' (Source: Space.com)
The red supergiant star Betelgeuse in the famed constellation Orion is on a collision course with a strange wall of interstellar dust, with the clock ticking down to a cataclysmic cosmic smashup in 5,000 years, scientists say. A new image of Betelgeuse by the European Space Agency's infrared Herschel space observatory, shows that the star will crash headlong into a trail of space dust while speeding through its part of the cosmos at a blistering 18.6 miles (30 kilometers) per second. That's about 66,960 mph (107,761 kph). (1/25)

NASA Global Hawk UAV Supports Studies on Climate Change (Source: SpaceRef)
A Northrop Grumman-built NASA Global Hawk is now conducting science missions to study the impact of atmospheric change on the Earth's climate. The Global Hawk is collecting data and helping scientists learn more about the humidity and chemical composition of air entering the tropical tropopause layer of the atmosphere and its impact on the Earth's overall climate.

The Airborne Tropical TRopopause Experiment (ATTREX) campaign, sponsored by NASA, began on Jan. 16 at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and will conclude on March 15. In collaboration with NASA, Northrop Grumman is also providing engineering analysis, mission planning, maintenance, pilots, and flight operations support for these important science missions. (1/25)

Russia and India Join Global Satnav Augmentation Meeting (Source: SpaceRef)
Experts ensuring that aircraft can safely rely on satellite navigation across Europe and other parts of the globe met this week to share future plans, welcoming Russian and Indian representatives for the first time. Ever more aircraft around the globe are using satnav augmentation to guide them on their way, with special infrastructure sharpening signal accuracy and reliability across given geographical regions. (1/25)

NASA Announces New Screening of Space Program Artifacts (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA again is inviting eligible educational institutions, museums and other organizations to screen and request historical space artifacts. This is the 16th screening of artifacts since 2009. The artifacts represent significant human spaceflight technologies and processes and the accomplishments of NASA's many programs. NASA and the General Services Administration worked together to ensure broad access to space artifacts and to provide a web-based electronic artifacts viewing capability. The web-based artifacts module is located here. http://gsaxcess.gov/NASAWel.htm

Eligible participants may view the artifacts and request specific items at the website through March 4. Only schools and museums are eligible to receive artifacts. They must register online using an assigned Department of Education number or through the state agency for surplus property in their state. (1/25)

Patronis to Chair Florida Defense Support Task Force (Source: FLDC)
"State Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City, was named chairman of the Florida Defense Support Task Force for the remainder of the current fiscal year by House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel. “Given the importance of the military to both our state economy and our citizens, it is essential that we continue to support our military installations, missions, families and veterans,” Patronis said. “I look forward to working with this council to ensure that Florida remains one of the most military friendly states in the nation.”

Home to 20 major military installations, the task force was created by the Legislature to “preserve, protect, and enhance Florida's military missions and installations.” Editor's Note: Florida's defense installations at Patrick AFB, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Eglin AFB, Hurlburt Field, and others host significant space-related programs or capabilities. (1/25)

Virginia Could Lose Up to 200,000 Jobs From Sequestration (Source: Politico)
Lawmakers in the Washington, D.C., area are again preparing for the effect of sequestration if it occurs March 1. "As much as 8% of our GDP in the metropolitan region and in northern Virginia could be at risk over just defense cuts," said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. Virginia could lose up to 200,000 jobs if sequestration occurs, according to analyses of the defense budget. (1/24)

SpaceX Prepares for Next ISS Mission While Orbital Inches Closer to Flight (Source: NewSpace Journal)
The two companies with International Space Station commercial cargo delivery contracts, Orbital Sciences Corporation and SpaceX, are at different stages in their efforts to carry out those contracts, with SpaceX having already completed one of its twelve contracted missions while Orbital continues to prepare for the first launches of its Antares launch vehicle and Cygnus spacecraft. Both companies, though, will be active over the next several months.

SpaceX is preparing for its second Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) cargo mission, CRS-2, now planned for March 1. “I don’t see anything that would keep that from happening,” NASA ISS program manager Mike Suffredini said at a press conference last week in Houston about upcoming ISS activities. The Dragon will berth with the station two days later, ISS flight director Tony Ceccacci said at the same press conference, and is currently scheduled to remain at the station until April 2. Click here. (1/25)

NASA's Next Space Telescope Coming Together, Piece by Piece (Source: Space.com)
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is one of the most intricate and powerful observatories ever devised. Almost immediately after launching into space in 2018, James Webb Space Telescope will begin the slow process of unfolding from its clamshell configuration into the most sensitive infrared instrument of its kind yet built. The telescope will then begin peering deep into the cosmos for signals left over from the Big Bang that created our universe.

But JWST's nail-biting deployment won't be the first time the craft unfolds. Before constructing the final components, engineers have been making sure to test and retest mockups in conditions potentially harsher than the telescope — the long-awaited $8.8 billion successor to NASA's iconic Hubble Space Telescope — will experience. Space-ready drafts of the mirrors, solar shields and electronics-bearing body of the craft have been fabricated by the Northrop Grumman.

Each piece is identical to the final product. The pieces of the giant telescope are exposed to the some of the worst trials engineers can come up with. The mockups must perform not only in ideal circumstances, but also in subpar conditions. The jet-sized telescope isn't being built all at once, but instead incrementally, allowing for testing of the individual parts. The first priority has been high-risk objects such as the mirrors and the instruments. JWST contains 18 hexagonal mirrors in an array, rather than one large mirror. (1/25)

Russia/Kazakhstan Tiff a 'Mountain Out of a Molehill' (Source: Voice of Russia)
Moscow and Astana have no major differences on the use of the Baikonur space centre. This came in a statement by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov following his talks with his Kazakh counterpart Yerlan Idrisov. That was the way the Russian topmost diplomat commented on reports that Russia has sent a note to Kazakhstan due to Astana’s decision to cut down on the number of Proton carrier-rocket launches from 17 to 12 from Baikonur this year, according to the Voice of Russia correspondent.

Lavrov feels that those who made public that information clearly sought to make a mountain out of a molehill. A number of media reported Thursday that the two sides may end their cooperation in all joint projects concerning space flights due to the limitation of Russian rocket launches. Moscow and Astana have been jointly using Baikonur since 1999. In 2004, Russia’s lease of the space center was prolonged until 2050. (1/25)

Interview With Golden Spike's Dr. Alan Stern (Source: America Space)
Within the past month or so, the commercial space firm, The Golden Spike Company, has burst onto the public consciousness with its announcement that it will be working to send people to the surface of the Moon for the first time in more than 40 years. AmericaSpace recently sat down with The Golden Spike Company’s Alan Stern, a man with an extensive history in space exploration, and he explained Golden Spike’s plans. Stern noted that there was a misperception about how the company was going to accomplish its objectives and worked to set the record straight. He also wanted to clarify who The Golden Spike Company’s primary clients will be. Click here. (1/25)

NASA's Future Remains Cloudy in Houston (Source: Houston Business Journal)
On the night of Jan. 24, a group of aerospace experts gathered at Rice University to discuss the status and future of NASA. Before the event, I spoke with the discussion moderator, George Abbey, the Baker Botts Senior Fellow in Space Policy at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, about what he thinks is in store for the space agency. “There is a National Research Council report that said it really well — NASA is at a transition point,” Abbey said. He explained the agency is facing budget pressure, increasing costs of operation and aging infrastructure all at once. Click here. (1/25)

NASA on Certifying Commercial Spaceflight Systems (Source: NewSpace Watch)
Tom Simon, a contracting officer's representative for NASA's Commercial Crew Program, discusses the importance of certifying commercial transportation systems are safe to carry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station in this "In Their Own Words" video. Editor's Note: This program is managed by NASA KSC at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (1/25)

Who's America's Space Partner? Increasingly, it's Europe (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA announced Friday that it will officially join the European Space Agency's Euclid mission team to study dark matter and dark energy in the universe. It was the second announcement of  new teamwork between ESA and NASA in recent months. In late November, NASA officials confirmed that ESA would provide the service module -- basically the engine and trunk -- for NASA's Orion capsule on future deep-space flights by America's Space Launch System.

The Euclid mission involves launching a telescope to Earth orbit at the LaGrange Point, which is far enough from both the sun and Earth that gravitational forces allow it to orbit in a basically stable position. From there, Euclid will map galaxies to learn more about the 85 percent of matter -- the dark matter -- that scientists know very little about. (1/25)

The Soviet Fire That Might Have Saved Apollo 1 (Source: Discovery)
On Jan. 27, 1967, the crew of Apollo 1 was killed when a fire broke out in their pure oxygen-soaked capsule during a routine pre-launch test. The dangers of an oxygen fire should have been obvious to NASA. It was obvious to the Apollo spacecraft’s builder, North American Aviation, who recommended the space agency not run tests with a highly pressurized spacecraft. It was also a danger the Soviet space agency knew well. In the early days of their training, cosmonaut hopeful Valentin Bondarenko was killed in an eerily similar accident to the Apollo 1 crew. Click here. (1/25) http://news.discovery.com/space/history-of-space/the-soviet-fire-that-might-have-prevented-apollo-1-130125.htm

Workforce: Young, Gifted and Slack (Source: The Economist)
One of the biggest problems facing the world in 2013 is the prolonged--and seemingly intractable--crisis of youth unemployment. In a recent McKinsey survey of more than 4,500 young people, 2,700 employers and 900 education providers across America, Brazil, Britain, Germany, India, Mexico, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, some 40% of employers reported that they struggle to fill entry-level jobs because the candidates have inadequate skills.

Almost 45% of young people said that their current jobs were not related to their studies, and of these more than half view the jobs as interim and are looking to leave. Without a remedy for this mismatch of demand and supply, we forecast that by 2020 there will be a global shortfall of 85m high- and middle-skill workers for the labor market.

But this business issue is a political issue, too. If young people who have played by society’s rules—working hard, for example, to graduate from school and university—find fewer and fewer opportunities to secure decent jobs and the sense of respect that comes with them, society will have to be prepared for outbreaks of anger or even violence. Click here. (11/21)

Kepler Telescope's Pointing System Under Scrutiny (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
NASA's planet-finding Kepler space telescope has suspended operations this week after a telemetry signature showed rising levels of friction in one of the spinning reaction wheels responsible for pointing the observatory toward its astronomical targets. But officials say the problem is different than the issue that caused one of Kepler's four reaction wheels to fail in July 2012.

"All these wheels have different personalities and different behaviors," said Charlie Sobeck, Kepler's deputy project manager at NASA's Ames Research Center in California. Normally, the reaction wheels spin between 1,000 and 4,000 rpm in both directions, Sobeck said. The momentum generated by the spinning wheels controls the attitude of the spacecraft, which must precisely point toward stars to detect signatures of extrasolar planets. (1/24)

Raytheon Sees Lower 2013 Earnings After Fourth-Quarter Fall (Source: Reuters)
Raytheon forecasts a drop of up to 9 percent in adjusted earnings per share this year as it reported fourth-quarter earnings per share fell 7 percent on nearly unchanged sales. Raytheon's revenue was nearly unchanged at $6.4 billion in the fourth quarter, but fell 1.5 percent to $24.4 billion in the full year. Sales were expected to range from $23.6 billion to $24.1 billion this year, Raytheon said. (1/24)

Who Will You Sue if Your Spacecraft Crashes? (Source: LA Times)
So you’re planning to blast off into outer space on a future commercial flight from New Mexico. What if things go south and you are injured or killed? Who do you or your survivors sue? New Mexico legislators have agreed to amend a state law that narrows who future space travelers can take to court if their venture goes ka-blooey. The new bill will protect spacecraft parts suppliers from damage lawsuits by passengers on space tourism flights launched from the state.

In coming years, Virgin Galactic plans to fly tourists into space from Spaceport America near the community of Truth or Consequences, for $200,000 a ticket. State officials said this week’s agreement was vital for developing a commercial space travel industry at a state-financed spaceport in southern New Mexico. The Space Flight Immunity Act, passed in 2010, protects Virgin Galactic from passenger damage lawsuits if the intrepid travelers had been informed of the risks of space travel. The amendment offers limited liability protection to suppliers and manufacturers of spacecraft parts and components as well.

Ray Vargas II, president of the New Mexico Trial Lawyers’ Assn., told the Los Angeles Times that his group has fought for years against any blanket protection for businesses in the still-risky realm of commercial space travel. "We’ve opposed blanket protections for two years, and this year we stood ready to oppose them again,” Vargas said. “But lawmakers urged us to get together with Virgin Galactic officials to work something out.” (1/24)

Florida Appropriations Committee Members Could Aid State's Space Ambitions (Source: SPACErePORT)
Florida members of the House Appropriations Committee in Washington seem well-placed to support some of the state's space policy and funding ambitions in Washington. On the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Subcommittee that funds NASA is Republican Rep. Tom Rooney of rural Central Florida. On the Defense Subcommittee is Chairman Bill Young of Tampa and Rep. Ander Crenshaw of Jacksonville. On the Military Construction and Vetrans Affairs Subcommittee are Bill Young, Tom Rooney, and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami-Dade. (1/25)

Lockheed Martin Reports Fourth Quarter And Full Year 2012 Results (Source: Lockheed Martin)
Lockheed Martin reported fourth quarter 2012 net sales of $12.1 billion compared to $12.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011. Net earnings from continuing operations were $569 million, compared to $698 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. (1/24)

Space Station Program Takes On Astronaut Vision Problems (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA this spring plans to introduce its first systematic study of the vision problems that surfaced two years ago as an unanticipated ailment among some astronauts assigned to long-duration missions aboard the International Space Station. The Ocular Health investigation, which will use tonometry to gather regular measurements of intraocular pressures from astronauts, ultrasound scans of their eyes and intracranial physiology, is scheduled to begin with ISS Expedition 35 in late March. It will last two years.

An estimated 20% of astronauts assigned to ISS missions, which can span four to seven months, report blurred vision linked to what space medical experts now term microgravity-induced visual impairment and intracranial pressure. The blurring typically disappears during the post-mission physical readaptation phase. (1/24)

Caribbean Commercial Space Conference Planned in Puerto Rico (Source: CSC2013)
CSC2013​ is a conference about commercial space travel, to be held in the Caribbean, which will have special speakers as well as interactive discussions and programs with attendees. We will talk freely about space exploration and discuss space travel and its benefits to our society. Come and join us for two days of fun and learn about the future of space travel! Click here. (1/24)

NASA Testing Vintage Engine From Apollo 11 Rocket (Source: AP)
A vintage rocket engine built to blast the first U.S. lunar mission into Earth's orbit more than 40 years ago is again rumbling across the Southern landscape. The engine, known to NASA engineers as No. F-6049, was supposed to help propel Apollo 11 into orbit in 1969, when NASA sent Neil Armstrong and two other astronauts to the moon for the first time. The flight went off without a hitch, but no thanks to the engine — it was grounded because of a glitch during a test in Mississippi and later sent to the Smithsonian Institution, where it sat for years.

Now, young engineers who weren't even born when Armstrong took his one small step are using the bell-shaped motor in tests to determine if technology from Apollo's reliable Saturn V design can be improved for the next generation of U.S. missions back to the moon and beyond by the 2020s. They're learning to work with technical systems and propellants not used since before the start of the space shuttle program, which first launched in 1981. (1/24)

Weird Spinning Star Defies Explanation (Source: Space.com)
Scientists have discovered a puzzling spinning star that is spontaneously switching between two very different personalities, flipping between emitting strong X-rays and emitting intense radio waves. While radio frequencies are known to vary as the star changes personalities, the newfound star is the first time example of variability in X-rays as well. The star, called a pulsar because it appears to pulse, has astronomers perplexed. (1/24)

NASA's First Disaster Happened on the Launch Pad (Source: Discovery)
In NASA’s early years, the agency learned by doing; developing tests and procedures as programs wore on. One test developed and used in the Mercury program was the “plugs-out test,” a prelaunch test of the spacecrafts systems through a simulated countdown on launch. It was never considered a dangerous test, but on Jan. 27, 1967, Apollo 1′s plugs-out test claimed the lives of the crew.

Typical for the first flight of a new program, the plan for Apollo 1 was a simple shakedown cruise. The crew – Mercury astronaut Gus Grissom, Gemini veteran Ed White, and rookie Roger Chaffee – would take just the Command and Service Module (CSM) into Earth orbit. The plugs-out test started out routinely with the flight-ready spacecraft mounted on its unfueled Saturn IB rocket. The umbilical power cords that supplied power were removed — the plugs were out — putting the spacecraft on its internal batteries and the crew cabin was pressurized with 16.7 pounds per square inch of pure oxygen.

As the crew entered the spacecraft around 1pm that afternoon, a full launch-day staff of engineers in mission control took their positions for the test. There was also a staff of men in the White Room; the room that gave the astronauts passage to the spacecraft remained attached to the vehicle. Click here. (1/24)

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