January 9, 2013

Adjusting for Inflation (Source: Space KSC)
A NASA/Bigelow agreement could soon place a Bigelow inflatable habitat at the International Space Station. This is the result of discussions and negotiations dating back to 2011. In an April 2011 NASA report titled, Commercial Market Assessment for Crew and Cargo Systems, this passage provided a look at what is expected to be formalized in the NASA/Bigelow agreement...

"As an example of proof-of-concept activities that might be enabled by in-space technology demonstration activities, Bigelow Aerospace and NASA have discussed connecting a Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) to the ISS. Connecting a BEAM to the ISS would provide a demonstration of Bigelow’s technology. The demonstration would also provide both NASA and Bigelow with data on the performance of inflatable space habitation modules in orbit. With a successful demonstration of the ISS’s technology development capabilities, other users may follow." Click here.

Editor's Note: In February 2011, Bigelow and Space Florida jointly announced plans for collaboration, including Florida efforts to "help finance development and domestic production of commercially built orbital transportation systems for moving crew and cargo to and from Low Earth Orbit." The collaboration was aimed at jointly financing some of the capabilities that Bigelow would need to develop, deploy and operate its inflatable habitats from Florida. A Bigelow "Exhibit Center" was planned as a first step. Click here. (1/9)

Palazzo Chairs Space Subcommittee; Shelby Top Republican in Senate Appropriations (Source: Space Politics)
Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS) will return as chairman of the space and aeronautics subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, the full committee announced Tuesday. Palazzo chaired the subcommittee in the last Congress as well. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) will serve as the vice-chair of the subcommittee.

On the full committee, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who lost out on the committee chairmanship to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), will serve as vice-chairman. Democrats have not announced their leadership selections beyond Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), who will return as ranking member of the full committee. Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL), who was the top Democrat on the space subcommittee in the last Congress, has retired.

In the Senate, it appears that another senator with an interest in space issues will take a leadership position on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Although there’s been no formal announcement by the committee, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) announced via Twitter several days ago he will be the ranking member of the full committee. (1/9)

How SpaceX is Preparing to Launch Humans Into Space (Source: Venture Beat)
At a joint press conference with NASA and other commercial crew development (CCDev) participants today, current SpaceX employee and former NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman said, “We feel a sense of urgency to get Americans back into space on safe and reliable transportation on American-made rockets.” As Reisman said, “We already had a rocket traveling back and forth to the space station...What do we have to do to modify this to carry people?”

Well, that vehicle design already had windows; that was one step down, about a million to go. In addition to providing ample proof of the company’s financial stability, SpaceX had to design a new launch abort system, life support systems, a new launch tower, ergonomic space suits, and a lot more to get ready for putting people in space. The startup even conducted crew trials on the new designs with NASA astronauts.

All that was 2012. In 2013, SpaceX aims to complete the design, test the hardware, ensure crew safety, and get ready for NASA certification. Planned are a launchpad abort test, a human certification test review, an on-orbit and reentry preliminary design review, an in-flight abort test review, and other safety reviews. By December 2013, SpaceX should be ready for its first actual tests of the new systems. By 2014, SpaceX will be doing preliminary structure qualifications for the Dragon spacecraft, conducting an integrated critical design review, and finally — the main event — its in-flight abort test in April 2014. (1/9)

Ray Lugo Joins UCF to Direct Florida Space Institute (Source: SPACErePORT)
Ray Lugo, NASA's former director of Glenn Research Center, has joined the University of Central Florida (UCF) to serve as the new director of the Florida Space Institute (FSI). He is a UCF alumnus and former senior executive at NASA KSC. FSI is an Orlando-based multi-university initiative (including Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University) that supports space research, development, and education. Alan Stern has served as FSI's interim director for about a year, until Mr. Lugo's recruitment was finalized. (1/9)

Eradicating Space Dust and Saving Sea Turtles Get Boost from Space Institute (Source: UCF)
Teams working on a wide range of innovative research and technology development, including work that may lead to new techniques for keeping alien dust from clogging up sensitive space instruments and work on new satellite tracking systems to help track endangered sea turtles recently got a financial boost courtesy of the Florida Space Institute.

In its second round of grants this year, UCF's Florida Space Institute gave 20 teams a total of just over $1 million to help propel the promising research forward and bring new NASA and National Science Foundation work to Florida. The funds were made available to FSI through the Space Research Initiative (SRI); a collaboration between UCF and the University of Florida, created to support joint efforts between the two universities in space-related research.

“Both UCF and UF have a broad set of research capabilities in space science and technology. SRI gives researchers a running start on the most promising projects to grow Florida’s space research portfolio,” said Joshua Colwell, FSI’s assistant director. Scientists from both universities are involved in the projects, which include experts in chemistry, physics, biology, electrical engineering, planetary science, computer science, and nanotechnology. Click here. (12/18)

UCF and UF Share Funding for Space Research (Source: SPACErePORT)
For over a decade, UCF and the University of Florida have shared an annual ~$2 million state funding appropriation for space research projects. Click here to see the funding allocations for 2012. (1/9)

Florida Tech Plans Space Research Center (Source: SPACErePORT)
Among the space-related items proposed for legislative consideration in Tallahassee this year is a request for a recurring (10-year) annual investment of $5 million to establish a Space Exploration Research Laboratory (SERL) initiative that would be led by the Florida Institute of Technology. (1/9)

Space Alert: Hazardous Asteroid Approaches Earth (Source: Russia Today)
All eyes are set at the skies as a big hazardous asteroid is nearing Earth. According to scientists there is an actual possibility that the 300-meter-wide Apophis will eventually strike our planet, but the catastrophe is not imminent. On Wednesday the dangerous space traveler is passing Earth at 14 million km – a distance which raises no concerns.

The asteroid is planning a series of come backs of which the one in 2036 is said to be most threatening. The initial estimations indicated the probability that in 2029 the asteroid would strike Earth. However, additional calculations lessened this possibility and postponed it till 2036. According to NASA scientists in 2029 Apophis may pass through a gravitational keyhole which would change his orbit causing imminent collision with Earth in 2036. (1/9)

New 'Clipper' Mission Proposed to Study Europa's Ocean (Source: America Space)
Jupiter’s moon Europa is often referred to as a “waterworld,” and for good reason: a global ocean almost definitely exists below its outer icy crust, making it a primary focus of interest in the search for life elsewhere in the solar system. So far, most of the information we have about this fascinating moon has come from flybys of the Galileo and Voyager spacecraft; these missions have been invaluable, of course, although limited.

If we want to learn more about what is going on below in the Europan ocean, it will require new spacecraft with the necessary instruments to carry out long-term studies. Budgets are tight for an orbiter or lander, but a newly proposed “clipper” mission may just fit the bill. The Europa Clipper, which could launch by 2021, would make repeated flybys of Europa after a six-year journey. It would carry ice-penetrating radar, a topographical imager, a magnetometer, an infrared spectrometer, a neutral mass spectrometer, and a high-gain antenna.

It would also do reconnaissance for a possible subsequent future lander mission. During a nominal 2.3-year mission, it would make dozens of flybys of the moon, even as close as 15 miles (25 kilometers) from the surface. It would immensely increase our knowledge of both Europa’s surface and interior. (1/9)

Space Launch System: NASA's Giant Rocket Explained (Source: Space.com)
NASA unveiled its new rocket for deep space exploration - the Space Launch System - on Sept. 14, 2011. The rocket will launch astronauts into space on NASA's Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, and serve as the go-to booster for U.S. missions to explore asteroids and, eventually, Mars. Click here for an infographic comparing the rocket's initial and final configurations with the Saturn V and the Space Shuttle. Click here. Editor's Note: The infographic suggests the SLS 'Final Configuration' will use solid-fuel boosters, yet NASA plans to competitively select a design for the boosters and may choose a liquid-fuel alternative. (1/8)

Skeletal 'Nessie' Discovered in Our Galaxy (Source: Discovery)
Just as there are bones in your arms, there are bones in our galaxy's arms as well -- and researchers using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope have shared the x-rays to prove it. Alright, they're not actually x-rays but rather images made from observations in infrared light, which Spitzer is specifically designed to detect. (One does need to clarify such things in astronomy.) Orbiting Earth over 172 million kilometers away, Spitzer can see infrared radiation that isn't visible from the ground, radiation that's emitted from anything in the Universe warmer than zero Kelvin. Click here. (1/9)

AXE to Send 22 Guys to Space with New Apollo Campaign (Source: AXE)
AXE (the male toiletries brand) is going where only few have gone before by giving guys the ultimate out-of-this-world experience: a trip to space. To recruit guys for this once-in-a-lifetime epic journey, AXE is creating the AXE Apollo Space Academy (A.A.S.A) with one of the first men to walk on the moon, Buzz Aldrin. Beginning today, by joining A.A.S.A at AXEApollo.com, guys and girls will have a chance to compete for one of 22 tickets to travel to space on a flight with Space Expedition Corporation (SXC).

There's no bigger hero than an astronaut, so AXE is giving fans a chance to experience an adventure unlike any other. In the biggest product launch in its 30-year history, AXE is asking guys and girls from 60 countries in 45 languages around the globe to sign up for the A.A.S.A by creating their astronaut profile on AXEApollo.com and telling the world why they deserve to go to space. Two Canadians, with the most votes, will win a place at the final stage at the AXE Global Space Camp in Orlando, Florida where the final 22 space travelers will be selected based on competitive space-simulation challenges.

AXE with SXC has secured 22 seats aboard the suborbital spacecraft, aptly named, the Lynx. SXC operates XCOR Aerospace's Lynx suborbital space plane that will take passengers more than 100 kilometers into space, achieving astronaut status. Sign up for a chance to go to space by joining the A.A.S.A at this site. Terms and conditions vary by market. (1/9)

2013: A Very Busy Year at the Mojave Spaceport (Source: Parabolic Arc)
My two wishes for Christmas were to see SpaceShipTwo in powered flight and the Lynx making its first runway hop from the Mojave Air and Space Port by the end of the 2012. Neither of these wishes came true. Which means 2013 –best known thus far as the year not wiped out by the Mayan apocalypse — just got a whole lot better.

Powered flights by these two suborbital space planes will no doubt dominate the news coming out of Mojave in the coming year. However, these programs are not the only ones going on at the burgeoning desert spaceport. This is going to be a very busy year on multiple fronts. In addition to SpaceShipTwo and Lynx flights, Masten Space Systems will continue to fly its suborbital spacecraft from Mojave. Two tenants will be operating optionally piloted vehicles. And the roar of rocket tests and construction work will echo across the desert. Click here. (1/9)

Lynx Rocket Plane Readying for Summer Flight (Source: Michael Belfiore)
The Lynx, a two seat rocket-powered airplane under development by XCOR Aerospace, is on track to start flight testing this summer, company executives tell me. If all goes as planned, that will make two rocket planes blasting out of the Mojave Air and Space Port this year. Virgin Galactic‘s SpaceShipTwo is also prepping for its first powered flights.

In a Popular Mechanics article last summer, I compared Lynx to a space Corvette vs. SpaceShipTwo’s minivan. Smaller, quicker off the line, with more efficient engines, Lynx is designed to take off right from the runway to get to suborbital space, without needing a carrier aircraft to get it up to altitude first. Lynx’s engineers hope that, plus its easy-to-load all-liquid fuel, will allow it to fly up to four times a day. (1/9)

SpaceX’s Grasshopper – Will It Work? (Source: Launchspace)
The SpaceX “Grasshopper” is a modified Falcon 9 first stage with a Merlin 1D engine, four hydraulically damped steel landing legs and a steel support structure. It appears that the company’s plan is to take a modified design of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle that incorporates a fly-back booster and second stage concept. Thus, all of the vehicle’s components would return to Earth, be serviced and reused. Both stages would fly back to a landing site under their own power.

What are the chances that such a design would work and be practical? If we add all of the extra propellant for return maneuvers, extra structural mass needed for reuse and new systems for redundancy, the payload capacity of a modified Falcon 9 could be reduced by a factor in the neighborhood of 5 or more. This would mean the cost of a launch would be amortized over much less payload mass, thus, reducing the advantage of reusability. The bottom line: Converting an expendable launch system to a reusable one seems to be inefficient and impractical. (1/9)

Florida 2013 Launch Manifest Inches Upward With 14 Missions (Maybe 15) (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Cape Canaveral Spaceport's 2012 launch manifest included 10 missions, the same as in 2011, but less than the 11 in 2010 and 17 in 2009. During a National Space Club luncheon this week, General Tony Cotton, commander of the USAF 45th Space Wing, revealed Eastern Range plans to support as many as 15 launches in 2013 (in addition to offshore submarine-launched ballistic missile tests). He said the Eastern Range can accommodate as many as 25 launches per year.

The updated 2013 manifest includes six Atlas-5, three Delta-4, and five Falcon-9 launches. Seven will be military missions and four will be for NASA. Three will launch commercial satellites, all atop Falcon-9 rockets. Editor's Note: News reports on Gen. Cotton's comments provide conflicting reports of 15 launches on the 2013 manifest, with one attributing a sixth Falcon-9 ISS cargo mission for late 2013. SpaceX's website shows as many as six Falcon-9 rockets on-site or arriving at the spacecport in 2013, but does not indicate that they will all be launched in 2013.) (1/9)

No Shortage of Work and Launches for Eastern Range (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
While Kennedy Space Center has shipped out the space shuttles to retirement homes and NASA awaits arrival of its heavy-lift rocket later in the decade, launch pads across the river at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station continue to send boosters to Earth orbit and beyond. It's a point articulated Tuesday by the Air Force general running the Eastern Range at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

Gen. Tony Cotton wants the public to know the Cape still is in business, and Tuesday he summoned the press to the rarely-toured Morrell Operations Center, the command and control hub of the Range. The Air Force operates the vast Eastern Range network stretching from Florida across the Atlantic to track rockets and missiles as they travel downrange, providing the vital telemetry-relay, optical and radar monitoring of a vehicle's flight path and the command destruct authority to protect the public from a wayward booster.

With up to 15 launches confirmed or in-play for Eastern Range launch slots in 2015, Cotton assured reporters that despite the Space Shuttle's retirement, "Our manifest is strong. We're launching rockets here from the Space Coast." All launch plans are subject to change, of course. "More is better, and we can accommodate more," Cotton said, adding that the existing manpower and configuration could support 25 launches a year from the Eastern Range. (1/9)

Space Club Award Bestowed on Air Force Major from Florida Panhandle (Source: Florida Panhandle)
An Air Force officer who provides critical support to Special Operations Forces on Tuesday received a national defense award from the National Space Club's Florida Committee. Maj. Kenneth Holmes of Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field in the Florida panhandle was named the first recipient of the Forrest S. McCartney National Defense Space Award.

The award recognizes significant space-related contributions made by Department of Defense personnel while on-duty in the state of Florida. Holmes in 2012 was the Chief of Space Training for the Air Force Special Operations Command. He also ensures Special Operations Forces are supported with space-based capabilities during their missions around the world. (1/9)

Planet's Rogue Orbit Around Star Shocks Scientists (Source: Space.com)
The unbalanced orbit of a so-called "zombie planet" in a dusty star system has astronomers struggling to explain the exoplanet's behavior. New observations of the planet "Fomalhaut b" by the Hubble Space Telescope revealed the oddball orbit, which has wild extremes between its closest and farthest points from the parent star and appears to cross through a vast minefield of dusty debris.

Fomalhaut b is a giant alien planet that is nearly three times the mass of Jupiter. It was the first alien planet ever directly imaged in visible light. The planet orbits the dust-shrouded star Fomalhaut and is located about 25 light-years away in the constellation Piscis Austrinus.

The latest observations of the odd planetary system revealed that the dusty debris disk surrounding the star Fomalhaut is much wider than previously thought. The debris belt spans a vast region of space between 14 billion and 20 billion miles around the star. Stranger still: The planet Fomalhaut b appears to approach with 4.6 billion miles of its star at the closest point in its orbit, then swing way out to a point about 27 billion miles away at the farthest point. (1/9)

Russia's Bion-M Project to Test Panspermia Theory (Source: Interfax)
The Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medical and Biological Problems will carry out about 80 biological experiments in the course of the Bion-M project in spring 2013, Institute Director Igor Ushakov said. "The approximate launch window for Bion-M 1 is April 15-25, 2013," he said.

Ushakov thanked the Roscosmos administration for postponing the mission for six months - short daylight hours and cold weather would have been harmful for animals if the spacecraft had landed in fall or winter. "We would have lost a substantial part of our test subjects. We are grateful that our request has been granted. The spacecraft will land in May, which is the optimal time for this unique experiment," Ushakov stressed.

In contrast with the previous Bion experiments, this spacecraft will carry test subjects both inside and outside, which will test the Panspermia theory suggesting that life might have been transferred to Earth from outer space. "We will verify certain theories of the life genesis and distribution in the universe. We will evaluate the ability of microorganisms placed in capsules and minerals simulating meteorites that pierced through the atmosphere and fell over the Earth to withstand space conditions." (1/9)

US No Longer Lists Satellites as Weapons (Source: New Scientist)
Satellites are no longer weapons, according to a change in US anti-arms trafficking law. The move gives hope to commercial spaceflight companies wanting to sell their technology on the global market rather than just within the US. However, the focus on Earth-orbiting craft means deep-space missions could still be hampered by onerous security laws.

On 3 January, President Barack Obama authorised a revision of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations law. Since 1999, ITAR listed US satellites and related technology as munitions with strict limits on exports to foreign powers – much to the annoyance of satellite makers. They say they cannot earn what they need to stay innovative without selling advanced technology abroad. (1/9)

Down to Earth with a Bump as Cuts Force NASA to Sell-Off Assets (Source: Scotsman)
NASA is to sell off some of the American space program’s most historic buildings as part of a massive cost-cutting fire sale. A launchpad that saw Apollo rockets blast off for the moon, hangars that once housed the space shuttle fleet and the cavernous Vehicle Assembly Building at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center are all included in the sale, forced on NASA by the government’s decision to cut off vital maintenance funds.

And while many of NASA’s iconic facilities, including the three-mile shuttle landing runway, are likely to find new uses in the nascent commercial space industry, there is a danger some of the treasures from more than 50 years of manned spaceflight could be left to disintegrate. “Our only other choice, other than finding someone to use them, is to abandon them,” said Joyce Riquelme, NASA’s planning and development director at KSC. “The facilities out here can’t be in an abandoned state for long before they become unusable.” (1/9)

China No Longer Reliant on Satellite Image Imports (Source: Xinhua)
China's first high-resolution, stereo mapping satellite Ziyuan III meets international standards, ridding the country of its reliance on imports of satellite images. It was announced at a seminar reviewing the research and development of Ziyuan III held on Wednesday, one year after the satellite was launched. China used to import over 90 percent of its remote-sensing data. The launch of Ziyuan III has enhanced the country's capability to capture space remote-sensing images, bolstered state security and boosted the geo-information industry. (1/9)

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