January 3, 2012

NASA, Navy Prepare for Orion Capsule and Crew Recovery (Source: Parabolic Arc)
At first glance, recovery operations of NASA’s Orion spacecraft look much like the efforts used to recover its Apollo predecessor. However, many design and technological upgrades have been added to the new spacecraft by teams at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Johnson Space Center in Houston. NASA also is partnering with the U.S. Navy to develop procedures to recover the Orion capsule and crew after splashdown.

All of Orion’s subsystems and components created around the country come together in the Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy. The unique benefit of this complete on-site operation enables the tem to efficiently build the spacecraft, move it directly onto the launch vehicle and then out to the launch pad. Conducting all these operations in one location saves the government transportation costs associated with tests and checkout prior to launch. Click here. (1/3)

Robotic Space 'Hedgehogs' Under Development (Source: CNET)
We already know how to explore planets with relatively low gravity, like Mars. The Curiosity Rover is engineered to hang onto the planet's surface, despite it having just 38 percent of the gravity we enjoy on Earth. What happens if you want to check out a small moon or an asteroid with a fraction of that gravity? You design a robotic hedgehog, of course. Stanford University researchers and NASA are working together on spiky space balls that could dance across the surfaces of moons and asteroids whose low gravity and rough surfaces would bog down a regular rover.

The robots have been nicknamed "hedgehogs" thanks to their roundness and collection of protruding spikes. Each rover is less than 2 feet in diameter and would be deployed from a mother spacecraft. The aim is to eventually land the mini-rovers on Phobos, a moon of Mars. Microscopes and other instruments onboard the robo-hogs would investigate the surface in an attempt to answer one of the long-standing questions about Phobos. Is it an asteroid captured by Mars' gravity or a chunk of Mars that blew out into space? (1/2)

The Future of Space Tourism (Source: BBC)
Excalibur Almaz is a suitably fantastical name for a company that recently announced it plans to offer passenger flights to the moon. The Isle of Man-based company has purchased four disused Russian space capsules and two space stations which, it hopes, will be used to propel paying passengers into lunar orbit as early as 2015.

Ambitious? Absolutely. They’re in good company, however, with Russia’s Soyuz and Virgin Galactic flights potentially taking tourists to the heavens in 2014 and 2013 respectively. I asked space expert Graham Southorn about the likelihood of future success for these space tourism providers – and this is what he had to say. Click here. (1/3)

Giant Planet's Start Seen Swirling Around Star (Source: USA Today)
How do jumbo planets such as Jupiter form? Astronomers may have caught one in a nearby solar system being born, offering an answer. A pair of dusty filaments stretch more than 7.4 billion miles across the length of the solar system of nearby star HD14252, feeding a young planet's growth in a manner never seen before, report radio astronomers led by Simon Casassus of Chile's Universidad de Chile in Santiago.

The team used Chile's new Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to take a close look at the dust disks swirling around the star. The find supports a theory that instabilities in such disks surrounding young stars build up to grow giant planets in a snowballing fashion. The Nature journal study reports a Jupiter-size planet is likely forming about 90 times farther away from the star than Earth's orbital distance from the sun. Boss suggests that other giant planets have likely already formed around the star, clearing a central dust-free ring around HD 14252. (1/2)

Bill to Rename NASA Dryden After Neil Armstrong Dies in Senate (Source: Space Politics)
The Senate did not consider on Wednesday HR 6612, a bill to rename NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center after Neil Armstrong. The House passed the bill 404-0 on Monday, but the Senate did not bring the bill up for a vote, or passage by unanimous consent, on either Tuesday or Wednesday. With the Senate adjourned until the 113th Congress convenes for the first time at noon on Thursday, backers will have to start over and reintroduce the bill. (1/3)

Mars Rover Mission Marks 9 Years on Red Planet (Source: Space.com)
As the world rang in the Near Year this this week, NASA was looking forward to a big milestone of its own — nine years and counting on the surface of Mars for an overachieving Red Planet rover mission. The golf-cart-size Spirit rover landed on Mars on Jan. 3, 2004, PST. Its twin, Opportunity, touched down at another Martian locale three weeks later, joining Spirit on a 90-day quest to search for signs of past water activity on the Red Planet. (1/3)

NASA Awards Contract for Institutional Support Services (Source: NASA)
NASA has awarded the Kennedy Space Center Institutional Support Services III, or KISS III, contract to Wichita Tribal Enterprises, LLC of Tulsa, Oklahoma. KISS III begins Feb. 1. The contract has a seven-month base period and options to extend the work through Sept. 30, 2016. If all options are exercised, the maximum potential value for the three-year, seven-month indefinite-delivery-indefinite-quantity contract is $48 million.

Wichita Tribal Enterprises will provide institutional support services in areas such as technical training, clerical support, financial management support, personnel program activity, employee development and training, employee benefits, personnel action processing, procurement administration and analyst support, business systems support, and records management. (1/3)

Hidden Treasure - The Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Public Tour (Source: America Space)
With the current economic reality, many planning vacations along Florida’s Space Coast are having to scale back their plans.  It turns out that the 45th Space Wing Public Affairs Office has a tour to many of the historic locations at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station that is the perfect price for those on a limited budget – it is free. The Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Public Tour is not only perfectly priced, it is also very comprehensive and providces

For those concerned about transportation, fear not, it too is provided. Tour guides, in the form of highly-knowledgeable volunteers, many of whom have years of service in the U.S. Air Force, escort guests on a free tour of the historic locations at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. (1/2)

Planets and Their Sun Grow Together (Source: Science News)
Some 450 light-years from Earth, embryonic planets may be feeding tendrils of gas to the newborn star they orbit. The discovery helps explain how a young star can grow even as budding planets suck up much of the gas and dust around it. Without the tendrils replenishing it, the star’s supply of gas would disappear in less than a year. Jupiter and Saturn may have done something similar for the sun in its early days, 4.5 billion years ago. “This is one of the nearest examples of the birth of a solar system,” says Simon Casassus, an astronomer at the University of Chile. (1/2)

Our Galaxy's "Geysers" are Towers of Power (Source: CSIRO)
"Monster" outflows of charged particles from the centre of our Galaxy, stretching more than halfway across the sky, have been detected and mapped with CSIRO's 64-m Parkes radio telescope. The outflows were were detected by astronomers from Australia, the USA, Italy and The Netherlands. They report their finding in today's issue of Nature.

But the outflows pose no danger to Earth or the Solar System. The speed of the outflow is supersonic, about 1000 kilometres a second. "That's fast, even for astronomers," Dr Carretti said. "They are not coming in our direction, but go up and down from the Galactic Plane. We are 30,000 light-years away from the Galactic Centre, in the Plane. They are no danger to us." (1/3)

NASA Funds Quickly Running Out (Source: WFTV)
NASA’s shuttle program has ended and very soon, so will the funds to maintain the facilities that supported the space program. That's left NASA with a long list of facilities from launch complexes to a parachute processing facility available for lease to private companies. “If we don't find a user and the (fiscal) cliff comes and the program no longer pays for it, NASA has no money for it. It becomes abandoned and eventually gets on our demolition list,” said Joyce Riquelme, director of Planning and Development for NASA.

Things haven't moved as quickly as Riquelme would have liked, but she’s hopeful some still  "undisclosed"  businesses may be expressing something more than interest in the very near future. “There's a lot if uncertainty in the commercial space industry,” she said. But already, Space Florida is making use of the Orbiter Processing Facility-Three and the Processing Control Center as it assists in the development of the Boeing CST-100, a space transportation system that could one day ferry astronauts to the International Space Station. (1/2)

‘Mars Within India’s Reach’ (Source: Hindustan Times)
Like China, India will be able to develop manned spaceflight, says Amitabha Ghosh, an Indian scientist who was a part of the NASA team that had identified the landing site of the Curiosity rover on Mars. “[The] Indian Space Research Organization had announced its plans to develop a manned spaceflight program. I do not know what the present status is, but I feel that India will be able to develop this capability,” Dr Ghosh said.

“I’m also optimistic that the Indian mission to Mars will be successful. I am a strong believer in being positive,” said Dr Ghosh who is  the chair of the science operations working group at NASA Mars Exploration Rover Mission. Dr Ghosh said attracting the best talent to the field of space exploration was the biggest challenge for India. “A very important driver in technology development is the ability of a country to attract the best global talent." (1/2)

Moog Buys Colorado Space Products Company (Source: Buffalo Business First)
Moog Inc. has begun the new year with the purchase of a Colorado manufacturer for $48 million. East Aurora-based Moog released terms of the acquisition of Broad Reach Engineering Company on Wednesday. The price breakdown for the Golden, Colorado company includes $37 million in cash, a $6 million note payable and a $5 million potential earn out payment, based on the achievement of certain financial targets. (1/2)

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