January 5, 2013

Copenhagen Suborbitals Crowdfunds Homebuilt Spaceflight (Source: Astronomy Aggregator)
Copenhagen Suborbitals, the small Danish outfit famous for not only homebuilding a fully working submarine but also a wide variety of capsules and rockets, have managed to fund their next step towards amateur spaceflight – the first amateur-built space capsule in the world. Earlier today their total raised on the crowdfunding website Indiegogo ticked over the $10,000 dollar mark, which should allow the construction of Tycho Deep Space II – a capsule under development but building on the work done on the original TDSI Capsule that was used to test a variety of systems and processes such as sea recovery and capsule escape. (1/5)

Sunita Williams: It is Ridiculous How Women are Treated (Source: Times of India)
The recent gang rape and murder in New Delhi has shocked astronaut Sunita Williams to such an extent that she has not watched the television and has not been following the news channels. Williams interacted via a video conference from NASA with some Indian students. "That is the best thing in space. You can get yourself away from all such things," she said.

Williams went on to stress on the gender equality for a better society. "Men dominate the academic field. But it is women who make up half the population. We might be smaller in sizes compared to men but we have the same brains as theirs. It is ridiculous how we are not honoured in the society and our decisions are not taken into account. It is irresponsibility on the part of men. They should use the ideas of women," she added. (1/5)

NASA Working to Make Anti-Radiation Tiles From Garbage (Source: CTV)
Astronauts may soon be padding their living quarters with discarded food wrappers if a NASA project to make tiles out of garbage survives ongoing rounds of testing. Developed by Ames Research Center, the small, round tiles are made from the equivalent of a day’s space station garbage, compressed to one-tenth its original size in a high-heat compactor. The process melts the trash without setting it on fire, producing a tile with a 20-centimeter diameter that is just over one-centimeter thick.

The tiles contain “plastic water bottles, clothing scraps, duct tape and foil drink pouches… patched together in a single tile along with an amalgam of other materials left from a day of living in space,” states NASA. Researchers at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center are now working to determine whether the tiles are safe to store on a spaceship, and if they could be used to protect astronauts from radiation -- a possibility due to the condensed plastic resulting from the garbage. (1/5)

SLS On Track as Engineers Work Through a Baffling Issue (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
As the Space Launch System (SLS) heads on to the path towards its Critical Design Review (CDR), engineers are close to mitigating an issue relating to the core stage’s slosh baffles. The work on the baffle design and placement is part of the stability analysis for the HLV’s ride uphill. In the latest milestone to end 2012 – the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) – SLS passed all 12 key criteria, with only five “yellow” risks, all of which are expected to be addressed.

In other words, SLS is suffering from zero critical design or schedule threats at this time. This is a refreshingly positive overview when compared to the numerous “red” issues suffered by Ares 1 at this same stage of development. One would hope for such an outcome, with the vehicle only just beginning its second full year of development. However, these early years are always the most critical, as teams literally draw the templates that will go to the giant machines at Marshall and Michoud for the physical cutting, bending and welding of metal that will piece together the monster rocket. Click here. (1/5)

Vietnamese Satellite Booked for Second Vega Launch (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Vietnam's first Earth observation satellite will be launched in April on the second flight of Europe's Vega launcher. The VNREDSat 1A satellite will be paired with the European Space Agency's Proba-V environmental payload for the launch, which will mark the first use of the launcher's Vespa dual-payload adapter. Arianespace signed the contract Friday with EADS Astrium, which is building the satellite for the Vietnamese Academy of Science and Technology. (1/4)

Crew Prepares for Student Robotics Competition (Source: Space Daily)
The Expedition 34 crew wrapped up its first workweek of the new year aboard the International Space Station with scientific research, routine maintenance and preparations for robotics competition taking place aboard the complex next week. Commander Kevin Ford and Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn, both NASA astronauts, configured bowling-ball-sized free-flying satellites known as Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES.

Station crews beginning with Expedition 8 have operated these robots to test techniques that could lead to advancements in automated dockings, satellite servicing, spacecraft assembly and emergency repairs. During the SPHERES Zero Robotics competition on Friday, Jan. 11, teams of high school students will gather at the European Space Research and Technology Center in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to watch the best teams' algorithms command the free-flying robots through a series of maneuvers and objectives. (1/5)

Crew Wraps Up Robonaut Testing (Source: Space Daily)
The Expedition 34 crew of the International Space Station powered up Robonaut 2 for more remote testing Thursday, deployed hardware for a study of the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body and performed routine maintenance on the systems aboard the orbiting laboratory.

Working inside the Destiny laboratory, Commander Kevin Ford activated Robonaut 2 and set up video cameras to record the second of two days of operations in this latest round of testing for the first humanoid robot in space. Ground teams put Robonaut through its paces as they remotely commanded it to operate valves on a task board. (1/5)

NASA Kepler Hints at Over 250 New Potentially Habitable Worlds (Source: Space Daily)
NASA Kepler released last month 18,406 planet-like detection events from its last three year mission to search for exoplanets (Kepler Q1-Q12 TCE). Further analysis is required by the NASA Kepler Team and the scientific community to extract and identify true planets, including those potentially habitable.

The Planetary Habitability Laboratory performed a preliminary analysis and identified 262 candidates for potentially habitable worlds in this dataset. These candidates become top priority for further analysis, additional observations, and confirmation. The Kepler Threshold Crossing Event (TCE) dataset consists of a list of stars with 18,406 transit-like features that resemble the signatures of transiting planets to a sufficient degree that they are passed on for further analysis.

Many of these objects are false positives caused by stellar transits or other physical and instrumental conditions not related to planets. Those that pass additional tests are added to the Kepler Objects of Interest (KOI) list, currently at 2,320 candidates, for further validation. Finally, those verified by more astronomical observations supplement the 132 Kepler confirmed planets so far. (1/5)

Defense Bill Includes Space Issues, Including Rep. Posey's (Source: Space Politics)
The most controversial part of the 2013 defense authorization act might well be Section 913, titled “Limitation On International Agreements Concerning Outer Space Activities.” That section addresses the administration’s interest in an international “code of conduct” for outer space activities. The section requires that the administration, should it sign such a code, to provide “a certification that such agreement has no legally-binding effect or basis for limiting the activities of the U.S. in outer space.”

Other sections are less controversial. Section 914 addresses the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) office, whose future was in jeopardy last year. The section revises the office’s organization and structure somewhat, placing it within the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, or SMC (although not to be co-located at the SMC headquarters.) The bill also creates an “executive committee” to provide oversight of the ORS Office.

The bill also includes “commercial space launch cooperation” language that was in the House version of the bill and previously proposed as a standalone bill by Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) earlier last year. It allows the Defense Department to enter into agreements to make investments into its launch site infrastructure to support commercial as well as government activities. (1/4)

Wolf Vows to Promote U.S. Competitiveness in Space Exploration (Source: Space Policy Online)
As the 113th Congress convened for the first time today, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), who will continue as chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA and NOAA, vowed to focus "more than ever" on American competitiveness in space exploration.

"Now more than ever, I am focused on promoting American competitiveness in space exploration and research and development, continuing to invest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs in schools, safeguarding public safety against foreign and domestic threats, preventing terrorism in the United States and advancing economic growth and job opportunities for the American people," he said in a press statement.

The Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee which he chairs has jurisdiction over the Departments of Commerce (including NOAA) and Justice, and science agencies including NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Considering the breadth of issues, the fact that space was mentioned first is probably a good sign for NASA, but cheering would be premature. The 113th Congress is immediately facing the prospects of forcing deep cutbacks in government spending overall. (1/4)

Space: the Next Frontier for Investing (Source: EuroMoney)
Paypal’s Elon Musk, Microsoft’s Paul Allen and Charles Simonyi, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson – all billionaires associated with investments 62 miles beyond Earth in space. But space is now on the radar of institutional investors and is being pitted as the next great innovation economy. There are now some 350 companies worldwide that operate in the NewSpace industry. The largest sub-sectors are those of satellites and launch vehicles but new industries are emerging.

This year start-up Planetary Resources launched with plans to mine asteroids. Microgravity Research firms are also looking to space for cures for diseases such as osteoporosis and cancer. Richard David is co-founder and CEO of NewSpace Global (NSG), which delivers information on investing in the commercialization of space as well as indices of companies that operate in space. He says around 75% of companies are privately held although more are turning to the public markets such as SpaceX which is planning to IPO.

Using a proprietary algorithm, NSG Analysts track the top 100 privately held NewSpace companies in the NSG 100 index. Last year’s top five highest NSG 100 companies produced 41%, 31% and high 20s score changes, while the worst performers lost as much as 16%. "In every hi-tech sector there is volatility, but over the next five to 10 years significant wealth will be created in the NewSpace industry. The key for investors is to make sure they are very informed and invest in companies which have a viable product that will have value to customers – not merely an impressive gimmick." (1/4)

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