January 7, 2013

Embry-Riddle Targets Space Debris in Nanosatellite Competition (Source: ERAU)
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is one of 10 U.S. universities selected to design and build small satellites in a competition sponsored by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Space Vehicles Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory. The Embry-Riddle project will receive $110,000 over the next two years from the Air Force’s University Nanosat Program for the design phase of the competition. The winner, to be announced in January 2015, will be awarded additional funding for the construction and launch of their satellite.

Dr. Bogdan Udrea, assistant professor of aerospace engineering at Embry-Riddle, along with colleagues and students will develop a nanosatellite named Arapaima to conduct three-dimensional, visible and infrared imaging and surveillance of resident space objects (RSOs). “Space debris and hundreds of satellites are cluttering low-Earth orbit and threatening future space missions,” Dr. Udrea said. “Our project, if successful, will validate a range of low-cost, low-risk nanosat technologies that can be used for efficient RSO removal.” (1/7)

Separation of Powers Battle Continues Over the Code of Conduct (Source: Space Review)
The Defense Department authorization bill, signed into law last week, included a provision dealing with any efforts by the Obama Administration to negotiate an international code of conduct for space activities. Michael Listner explains how this continues a battle between the White House and Congress on who has the authority to enter into such an agreement. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2215/1 to view the article. (1/7)

Storm Preparations (Source: Space Review)
As the Sun approaches the peak of its 11-year activity cycle, there's renewed awareness, and concern, about the effects space weather can have on society, including disrupting communications and the power grid. Jeff Foust reports some people remain worried about the ability to predict such storms and to prepare for them. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2214/1 to view the article. (1/7)

Open Source Smallsats in Russia (Source: Space Review)
Small satellites are capturing the attention of scientists and engineers around the world. Igor Afanasyev describes one successful effort in Russia to fly a small satellite utilizing open source technology. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2213/1 to view the article. (1/7)

When Will the Next Doomsday (Not) Happen? (Source: Discovery)
Take a deep breath; Dec 21, 2012 is behind us. The Mayan calendar end-of-world debacle is over: zip, zilch, gone! The silliness, anxiety, and paranoia leading up to the predicted end of times was so bad that on Dec. 21st -- the appointed doomsday -- a worried citizen left a message on my office phone that accused me of skipping town to escape Armageddon. If history is any example, the next cosmic doomsday prediction is always right around the corner.

The Mayan blowout was just the latest in many centuries of bad calls by prognosticators who have the audacity to think they can divine the End of Everything. So, to be a little preemptive, let's look at just three cosmic events that might start another pop culture panic. Thankfully these aren't born out of mythology, psychics, and misinterpreted archeoastronomy. They are real events that will inevitably be embellished by the imaginations of modern day soothsayers. Click here. (1/7)

Space Trash May Make Radiation Shields (Source: Space Daily)
NASA researchers at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in Florida are evaluating small tiles made of space trash to find out whether they can be stored aboard spacecraft safely or even used for radiation shielding during a deep-space mission.

The circular tiles were produced at Ames Research Center, where engineers developed and built a compactor that melts trash but doesn't incinerate it. After compaction, a day's worth of garbage becomes an 8-inch diameter tile about half an inch thick. Plastic water bottles, clothing scraps, duct tape and foil drink pouches are left patched together in a single tile along with an amalgam of other materials left from a day of living in space.

Possible areas for increased radiation shielding include astronauts' sleeping quarters or perhaps a small area in the spacecraft that would be built up to serve as a storm shelter to protect crews from solar flare effects. Hummerick and the team working in the Space Life Sciences Lab at Kennedy are trying to identify if the tiles - which are made according to recipes based on trash from shuttle missions - are free of microorganisms or at least safe enough for astronauts to come into contact with daily. (1/7)

Sierra Nevada Has 6 Commercial Crew Milestones to Meet (Source: Parabolic Arc)
In continuing our look at the upcoming year in space, we find that the Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser vehicle has five milestones to meet this year under the current Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) phase of NASA’s commercial crew program. It also has a milestone still to meet from the previous Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) phase. Click here. (1/7)

NASA Finds 461 Alien Planet Candidates, Some Possibly Habitable (Source: Space.com)
NASA's Kepler Space Telescope has detected 461 new potential alien planets, including four worlds slightly larger than Earth that may be capable of supporting life as we know it. The 461 newfound candidate exoplanets, which were announced today (Jan. 7), bring Kepler's total haul in its first 22 months of operation to 2,740 alien worlds. Only 105 have been confirmed to date, but scientists say 90 percent or so should end up being the real deal. (1/7)

Monster Black Hole Burp Surprises Scientists (Source: Space.com)
Astronomers have discovered what appears to be colossal belch from a massive black hole at the heart of a distant galaxy. The outburst was 10 times as bright as the biggest star explosion, scientists say. The potential super-sized black hole burp find came as astronomers studied the galaxy NGC 660, which is located 44 million light-years away in the constellation Pisces.

"The discovery was entirely serendipitous. Our observations were spread over a few years, and when we looked at them, we found that one galaxy had changed over that time from being placid and quiescent to undergone a hugely energetic outburst at the end," study researcher Robert Minchin of Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico said in a statement. (1/7)

At Least One in Six Stars Has an Earth-Sized Planet (Source: Harvard-Smithsonian)
The quest for a twin Earth is heating up. Using NASA's Kepler spacecraft, astronomers are beginning to find Earth-sized planets orbiting distant stars. A new analysis of Kepler data shows that about 17 percent of stars have an Earth-sized planet in an orbit closer than Mercury. Since the Milky Way has about 100 billion stars, there are at least 17 billion Earth-sized worlds out there. (1/7)

17 Billion Earth-Size Alien Planets Inhabit Milky Way (Source: Space.com)
The Milky Way hosts at least 17 billion Earth-size alien planets, and probably many more, a new study reveals. Astronomers have determined that about 17 percent of stars in our galaxy harbor a roughly Earth-size exoplanet in a close orbit. Since there are 100 billion or so stars in the Milky Way, that works out to a minimum of 17 billion small, rocky alien worlds, or an Earth-size planet around one of every six stars. (1/7)

Exocomets May Be as Common as Exoplanets (Source: UC Berkeley)
Comets trailing wispy tails across the night sky are a beautiful byproduct of our solar system’s formation, icy leftovers from 4.6 billion years ago when the planets coalesced from rocky rubble. The discovery by astronomers at the University of California, Berkeley, and Clarion University in Pennsylvania of six likely comets around distant stars suggests that comets – dubbed “exocomets” – are just as common in other stellar systems with planets.

Though only one of the 10 stars now thought to harbor comets is known to harbor planets, the fact that all these stars have massive surrounding disks of gas and dust ‑ a signature of exoplanets – makes it highly likely they all do, said Barry Welsh, a research astronomer at UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory. (1/7)

Long Space Missions May be Hazardous to Your Sleep (Source: Science News)
Astronauts on a months-long mission to Mars and back will have more to contend with than boredom and a lack of gourmet cuisine: Disrupted sleep may be a serious side effect of extended space flight, potentially changing crew dynamics and affecting performance on high-pressure tasks.

In an epic feat of playacting, a crew of six men lived for 520 days inside a hermetically sealed 550-cubic-meter capsule in Moscow. As the grueling experiment wore on, the crew drifted into torpor, moving less and sleeping more. Four men experienced sleep problems, scientists report online January 7 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Developed by the Russian Academy of Sciences, the “Mars 500” project was designed to test the feasibility of sending people on a journey to Mars and back. The simulation was realistic: The chamber was sealed, mission control was on standby 24 hours a day with built-in communications delays during parts of the mission, and the crew had specific jobs to do during transit and on a simulated landing on Mars. (1/7)

ATK Awarded USAF Study Contract for Network Centric Weather Satellite Program (Source: ATK)
ATK was awarded a contract from the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) Defense Weather Systems Directorate to execute a study of Network-Centric Small Satellites as an element of SMC's Weather Satellite Follow-On Activities.

This study will provide comprehensive insight into the capabilities and characteristics of a 21st century weather data service that can systematically augment the legacy Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP). The study will focus on two aspects of such a mission system: 1) net-centric architectures, and; 2) small, agile, cost-effective heritage spacecraft buses that can be used to support a variety of future weather payloads. (1/7)

Fake Mission to Mars Leaves Astronauts Spaced Out (Source: Guardian)
As the cheerless skies and grim economy sap all will to return to work, take heart that even on a trip to Mars, it is hard to get out of bed in the morning. The drudge of interplanetary travel has emerged from research on six men who joined the longest simulated space mission ever: a 17-month round trip to the red planet in a pretend spaceship housed at a Moscow industrial estate.

Though chosen for the job as the best of the best, the would-be spacefarers spent more and more time under their duvets and sitting around idle as the mission wore on. The crew's activity levels plummeted in the first three months, and continued to fall for the next year.

On the return leg, the men spent nearly 700 hours longer in bed than on the outward journey, and only perked up in the last 20 days before they clambered from their capsule in November 2011. Four crew members suffered from sleep or psychological issues. Click here. (1/7)

Competition Reshaping Launcher Industry (Source: Aviation Week)
For decades, space-launch providers have survived, and prospered, on government support in the form of development funding, launch contracts and infrastructure subsidies to maintain access to space. That is changing as international competition increases, privately funded players enter the market and government budgets come under pressure. The result is an unprecedented set of challenges to traditional launch providers even as the industry continues to worry about future demand.

The replacement cycles of large commercial communications-satellite operators that have driven demand for launch services are nearing an end and, beginning around 2014, fewer launches are expected. In addition, budget constraints on governments are expected to limit their satellite procurements.

Europe's government-supported Ariane 5 currently launches roughly half of the world's commercial satellites, but faces increasing competition from the Russian Proton, which remains competitive despite a spate of launch mishaps. China, India and Japan are all developing potentially competing launchers, and SpaceX in the U.S. has more than $1 billion in commercial launch contracts for its privately developed, low-cost Falcon 9. (12/31)

15 New Planets Hint at 'Traffic Jam' of Moons in Habitable Zone (Source: Phys Org)
Volunteers from the Planethunters.org website, part of the Oxford University-led Zooniverse project, have discovered 15 new planet candidates orbiting in the habitable zones of other stars. Added to the 19 similar planets already discovered in habitable zones, where the temperature is neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water, the new finds suggest that there may be a 'traffic jam' of all kinds of strange worlds in regions that could potentially support life.

Rather than being seen directly, the new planet candidates were found by Planethunters.org volunteers looking for a telltale dip in the brightness as planets pass in front of their parent stars. One of the 15, a Jupiter-sized planet orbiting a Sun-like star, has been officially confirmed as a planet (with 99.9% certainty) after follow-up work with the Keck telescope in Hawai'i and has been named 'PH2 b'. It is the second confirmed planet to be found by Planethunters.org.

'There's an obsession with finding Earth-like planets but what we are discovering, with planets such as PH2 b, is far stranger,' said Zooniverse lead Dr Chris Lintott of Oxford University. 'Jupiter has several large water-rich moons - imagine dragging that system into the comfortably warm region where the Earth is. If such a planet had Earth size moons, we'd see not Europa and Callisto but worlds with rivers, lakes and all sorts of habitats - a surprising scenario that might just be common.' (1/7)

Flying, Rolling Robot Might Make a Great Titan Explorer (Source: Phys Org)
Many concepts have been suggested as to the best way to explore Titan, from Mars-style rovers to boats that would sail its methane seas to powered gliders… and even hot-air balloons have been put on the table. Each of these have their own specific benefits, specially suited to the many environments that are found on Titan, but what if you could have two-in-one; what if you could, say, rove and fly?

That's what this little robot can do. Designed by Arash Kalantari and Matthew Spenko at the Robotics Lab at Illinois Institute of Technology, this rolling birdcage is actually a quadrotor flying craft that's wrapped in a protective framework, allowing it to move freely along the ground and then take off when needed, maneuvering around obstacles easily. Click here. (1/7)

NASA Says 2013 Will be a Year of Science on the Space Station (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Right before Christmas, a Russian rocket carrying three astronauts — one American, one Russian and one Canadian — launched from a chilly spaceport in Kazakhstan to begin a five-month mission to the International Space Station. Unlike many of its predecessors, this crew's job is straightforward: Do science — from studying solar rays to investigating how microgravity affects fish and their bones, which could provide insight on why astronauts lose bone density while in space.

NASA will get one step closer toward finally fulfilling the promise of the $100 billion space station that was intended to be a groundbreaking laboratory circling about 220 miles above Earth. Though critics have questioned why it has taken so long — work began on the station in 1998 — NASA said the new emphasis on science and the arrival of new equipment mean the future looks bright. Click here. (1/7)

Apophis – a 'Potentially Hazardous' Asteroid – Flies by Earth on Wednesday (Source: Guardian)
Apophis hit the headlines in December 2004. Six months after its discovery, astronomers had accrued enough images to calculate a reasonable orbit for the 300-meter chunk of space rock. What they saw was shocking. There was a roughly 1 in 300 chance of the asteroid hitting Earth during April 2029. NASA issued a press release spurring astronomers around the world to take more observations in order to refine the orbit. Far from dropping, however, the chances of an impact on (you've guessed it) Friday 13 April 2029 actually rose. Click here. (1/7)

China Disappointed with U.S. Satellite Export Restrictions (Source: China Daily)
China's Ministry of Commerce expressed concern after the United States kept a tight rein on the export of satellites and related items to China, and a senior China-US trade expert urged Washington to drop its Cold War mindset and lift the barriers to benefit both countries. The responses came after US President Barack Obama signed on Thursday the National Defense Authorization Act of the 2013 fiscal year.

The authorization act includes provisions that relax export restrictions but continue to ban the export, re-export or transfer of satellites to China, as well as the launching of US satellites in Chinese territory. Shen Danyang, the ministry's spokesman, said on Saturday in a statement that China is "deeply disappointed and dissatisfied" with the US action. "The US has not fulfilled its promise to benefit China in its reform of the export control system and boost exports of high-tech equipment to China," he said. (1/7)

2013: New Rockets to Debut in United States, Russia as Taikonauts Head for Orbit (Source: Parabolic Arc)
A look ahead to the coming year in space finds the introduction of new launch vehicles in the United States and Russia and a third attempt to launch a Russian-Korean rocket from South Korea. Meanwhile, China will send another crew to its orbiting space station and a rover to the moon. Click here. Editor's Note: Iran's "Simorgh" rocket is also expected to debut in 2013. Click here for a chart of existing and proposed rockets. (1/7)

National Archives to Recall Nixon's NASA Years (Source: Virginian-Pilot)
The National Archives is displaying rarely seen documents and items showing milestones in manned spaceflight from President Richard Nixon's administration. NASA sent the first men to the moon on the Apollo 11 mission during Nixon's presidency and followed with five more lunar missions. The archives will look back at Nixon's support for the space program and his efforts to improve Cold War relations through cooperation in space.

The new exhibit "Nixon and the U.S. Space Program" opens Monday. It will include the telephone Nixon used to talk to the Apollo 11 astronauts after their moon landing, a speech drafted in case of disaster during Apollo 11 and tongs used during Apollo 12 to collect moon rocks. Wednesday marks the 100th anniversary of Nixon's birth. The display is open through June. (1/7)

Tea Party Group Celebrates Bi-Partisan ITAR Effort in Washington (Source: TPIS)
Tea Party in Space (TPiS), a non-partisan organization, is elated that President Obama signed the International Trafficking of Arms Regulation (ITAR) reforms into law last week. The reforms enacted allow the President to present of list of items pertaining to the commercial satellite industry to congress for removal from the restrictive ITAR regulations. Congress will continue to retain its vital oversight role with the new law.

Over the past few years other nations had a distinct advantage over the United States due to their regulatory laws. Some foreign companies even offered “ITAR Free” satellites that, while not having the same capability of American commercial satellites, had a distinct market advantage because of price and ease of purchase.

ITAR reform started in the Republican controlled house with bi-partisan support. Representative Adam Smith introduced HR-4310 which was co-sponsored by Rep. Buck McKeon, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Rep. Howard Berman, Rep Rick Larsen, Rep Ileana Ros-Lethinen, Rep. Loretta Sanchez, Rep. Rob Bishop, and Rep Earl Blumeanauer. The bill then went to the senate where Senator Michael Bennet introduced SB-3211 which was co-sponsored by Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Mark Warner, and Senator Mark Udall. (1/7)

Rutan Talked Space at Jacksonville Event in December (Source: Jacksonville Daily Record)
In a presentation liberally sprinkled with the words "weird" and "cool, commercial space entrepreneur and aerospace engineer Burt Rutan shared the story of his career and his forecast for the industry with more than 700 people Tuesday at the University of North Florida. In response to a question by a college-age student at the UNF Herbert University Center, Rutan made a prediction.

"I believe every person your age or younger can go to orbit in his lifetime if he wants to – or at least into space," said Rutan, 69, who retired last year after 46 years designing aircraft. Rutan talked about the history of spaceflight and the efforts both of the government and private industry. He outlined that SpaceShipOne was a personal goal, not a consumer request, and the inspiration was from the courage of visionaries. Asked about plans for a commercial spaceport at Cecil Field in West Jacksonville, Rutan didn't have a specific comment about it. (12/3)

Double-Star Systems Can Be Dangerous for Exoplanets (Source: Space.com)
Alien planets born in widely separated two-star systems face a grave danger of being booted into interstellar space, a new study suggests. Exoplanets circling a star with a far-flung stellar companion — worlds that are part of "wide binary" systems — are susceptible to violent and dramatic orbital disruptions, including outright ejection, the study found.

Such effects are generally limited to sprawling planetary systems with at least one distantly orbiting world, while more compact systems are relatively immune. This finding, which observational evidence supports, should help astronomers better understand the structure and evolution of alien solar systems across the galaxy, researchers said. (1/7)

ISS Ultrasound Investigates Why Astronauts Grow Taller in Space (Source: NASA)
Did you ever wish you could be just a teensy bit taller? Well, if you spend a few months in space, you could get your wish -- temporarily. It is a commonly known fact that astronauts living aboard the International Space Station grow up to 3 percent taller while living in microgravity. They return to their normal height when back on Earth. Studying the impact of this change on the spine and advancing medical imaging technologies are the goals of the Spinal Ultrasound investigation.

"This is the very first time that spinal ultrasound will be used to evaluate the changes in the spine," said Scott A. Dulchavsky, M.D., Ph.D., principal investigator for the station study. "Spinal ultrasound is more challenging to perform than many of the previous ultrasound examinations done in space."

Part of the difficulty with imaging the spine is quite simply human anatomy. Using Ultrasound 2, the machine aboard station as a facility for human health studies, astronauts have an advanced tool to view the inner workings of their bodies. The research could help with developing exercises for better crew health and guiding improved rehabilitation techniques when astronauts return to Earth. (1/2)

British Astronomers Launch Advanced Planet Search to Seek Signs of Life (Source: Guardian)
The art of hunting planets has come so far that astronomers can now list hundreds of alien worlds that orbit stars so faint they are not even visible as pinpricks in the clear night sky. Little is known of these far-flung planets. The most conspicuous are huge, the size of Jupiter, and scorched from circling so close to their suns. Others are giant iceballs, or waterworlds, or even rocky like Earth. But the finer details are a mystery, the stuff of speculation more than science.

To find out more about these other worlds, a team led by British astronomers is launching an ambitious search for planets that orbit the nearest, brightest stars to Earth. Their aim is to find prime candidates for the most important question of all: is there life elsewhere? Click here. (1/7)

Studying Space Travel with Fruit Flies (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)
One year from now, in a lab far, far away, a group of fruit flies could unknowingly be helping to make long-term space travel safer. An experiment led by local researchers will use fruit flies to study how the lack of gravity and changes in radiation in space affect the cardiovascular system of humans. It was one of eight projects recently selected by Space Florida, the state's aerospace authority, for a 30-day trip to the International Space Station set for December 2013. Click here. (1/7)

NASA Orion Recovery Operations Trapped in the '60s (Source: Citizens in Space)
NASA recently revealed details of the recovery concept for its Orion space capsule. The concept shows how much has changed, and not changed, since the 1960′s. A NASA artist’s conception shows the Orion capsule being recovered by a US Navy Landing Platform Dock (LPD) ship. This shows the diminished importance of NASA’s exploration program to overall US strategic policy. In the 1960′s, the Navy detailed an entire carrier battle group to recover an Apollo capsule, but now all it can spare is an LPD.

Any Navy veteran will tell you that search, rescue, and recovery operations at sea are never easy, or cheap. SpaceX is currently recovering its Dragon capsules at sea but is developing plans for land recovery in the future. Meanwhile, companies like Sierra Nevada, XCOR Aerospace, and Virgin Galactic are developing vehicles that can touch down on a runway like conventional aircraft. In the future, astronauts will not be rescued from outer space, they will fly back in style — but not, apparently, if the United States Congress has anything to say about it. Click here. (1/7)

No comments: