February 1, 2013

Andrews Space Snags Contract for Army Imaging Nanosat (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Andrews Space has been funded by the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command to design and deliver a Kestrel Eye Block 2 Earth imaging spacecraft as part of the Army’s Kestrel Eye program. Under the current effort, known as Kestrel Eye Block 2, Andrews will develop, build and deliver an Earth imaging nanosatellite. The spacecraft embodies a paradigm shift to lower-cost, higher persistence overhead reconnaissance capabilities.

While not meant to replace traditional imaging assets, Kestrel Eye Block 2 seeks to augment the current approach to remote sensing by demonstrating the application of low-cost, commercial technologies to enable a new tier of reconnaissance capability. (2/1)

National Space Society Starts Kickstarter Campaign to Promote Space Exploration (Source: Yahoo News)
As NASA faces more budget cuts from the fiscal cliff deal, the National Space Society (NSS) wants to make it clear that NASA is not dying, and the future of space exploration is still strong. The NSS has started a Kickstarter campaign to create a cutting-edge film to educate the public. I had the opportunity to interview Kenneth Murphy, who is the president of the North Texas chapter of the NSS, and Paul Damphousse, who is the executive director of the NSS, about the new project.

Q: Can you explain the goal of the National Space Society Kickstarter campaign and how it will be used to promote space exploration? A: The NSS is a nonprofit that relies on money from members to survive, so this fundraiser will help us reach more people. We want to put together a video that conveys the importance and significance of space. "Our Future in Space" will be distributed widely, and we want to get copies of it in the hands of the president, Congress and others. Everyone benefits from space exploration, and this video will show how it happens. Click here. (1/30)

Moment-By-Moment Review of Columbia's Final Re-Entry (Source: PJ Media)
The vehicle was still moving at about Mach 24 — twenty-four times the speed of sound. The yaw moment had changed almost imperceptibly, with a gentle tug to the left — there was a slight asymmetry in the aircraft’s aerodynamics, but no one on the ground or in the cabin noticed it at the time. Twelve seconds later, a temperature sensor indicated that a hydraulic brake line in the left wing was warmer than it should have been... Click here. (2/1)

Editorial: NASA's Mission is Not Safety (Source: USA Today)
It has been a century since the Panama Canal was completed. It was the greatest transportation project of its time, made possible only by new technologies such as dynamite. After Americans took over its construction, more than 5,000 died building the canal. That's more fatalities than we had in the Iraq War. Why was the project deemed worthy of expending so many lives? It is not because we didn't value them. Casualties under American leadership of the project were a fraction of the deaths in previous efforts.

In the wake of the Columbia disaster, NASA started Ares 1, a new launcher program whose primary requirement was safety, spending billions until it was canceled in 2009. NASA was spending so much, in fact, that even though it was supposed to be a rocket to return to the moon, there was no money left for the landers and other hardware to actually land there, the part of the mission that happened to be the most dangerous. Not long ago, NASA considered abandoning the $100 billion International Space Station because its leaders were unwilling to risk a life.

But should safety be NASA's highest priority? If it is, then that means other things, such as actually accomplishing things in space, are a lower one. The surest way to make sure our astronauts don't die in space is to keep them on the ground. And indeed, that is more and more what we do. The obsession with safety is testimony to just how unimportant we consider the opening of that final and harshest of frontiers. As NASA has dithered, private investors who understand the true scope of opportunity in space as well as the dangers are stepping up by investing in new ships, technologies and commercial ventures. Click here. (2/1)

Ten (and Three) Years Later... (Source: Space Politics)
Today marks the tenth anniversary of the loss of the space shuttle Columbia and its seven person crew. A lot has been, and will be, said about the accident itself and its aftermath. The accident, though, also ushered in an era of uncertainty in space policy, particularly in regards to human spaceflight, that arguably persists to this day. The accident immediately derailed plans to quickly finish assembling the International Space Station, plans that created schedule pressure later identified as a contributing factor in the accident.

Less than a year later, though, it looked like we had that certainty back, in the form of President George W. Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration. We would return the shuttle to flight, use it long enough to complete the ISS and then retire it, and then bring in a next-generation crew transportation system that would return humans to the Moon by 2020. It didn’t work out that way: while the vision was in place, the funding didn’t follow, particularly for NASA’s chosen approach: Constellation.

“I think the previous administration’s plans to go to the Moon was a great vision, but only poets plan strategy without a budget,” said Joan Johnson-Freese. “The Obama Administration, quite frankly, was right to pull the plug” on Constellation, she concluded. But the Obama Administration’s plans, rolled out three years ago today, also met with opposition, resulting in a compromise in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act October. And even those plans look questionable today, thanks to changing fiscal environment. Click here. (2/1)

Masten Announces February Flight Frenzy! (Source: Masten)
We finished our work early and now we have extra time for you! As a result, a special one-time deal can be yours this February. Think of it as our Valentine’s Day present to the space community. For projects that can fly by the end of February, we’re offering an open loop flight on our award-winning Xombie VTVL rocket for your sensor or experiment. You can choose from an 60 second hop up to 500 meters in altitude OR a translation flight 51 meters down range across the Mojave desert.

Your open-loop, self contained payload will collect real world data, gain valuable flight heritage, and have the opportunity to join the exclusive club of Xombie payloads. In the legendary windswept high desert of Mojave, California, you will join the ranks of other Masten clients such as the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory and Jet Propulsion Laboratory. You will be on the cutting edge of rocket-as-a-service technology and secure bragging rights with proof that you were one of the first. Click here. (2/1)

Can Earthlings Adjust to a Longer Day on Mars? (Source: Scientific American)
"Mutinous" is not a word frequently used to describe teams of NASA scientists and engineers. But that's precisely the term employed by Harvard sleep scientist Charles Czeisler to explain what happened when the group operating the Pathfinder mission's rover in 1997 was required to live indefinitely on Mars time. "They didn't really have a plan for dealing with the Martian day before they went up, and the rover lasted a lot longer than it was supposed to, so they actually had a mutiny and wanted to shut the thing off because they were so exhausted," he says.

The Mars day, called a sol, is 39 minutes and 35 seconds longer than an Earth day. Every time NASA lands a robot on the Red Planet, its operations team must adapt to that long Martian day for the first period of roving, to take full advantage of the hours between the data transmission at the end of the rover's day and the upload of new commands the following Mars morning.

Staying up for 40 minutes extra each day doesn't sound like much. "When you first think about it, it even sounds like a good thing, having a little extra time," Laura Barger says. But not for long: The team's work schedule floats through two time zones every three days, while its actual location merrily persists in its normal light-dark habits. The team creeps from day shifts to night shifts and back. Click here. (2/1)

Antares "Cold Flow" Test Complete - "Hot Fire Test Next (Source: Orbital)
Orbital recently completed an extensive series of cold-flow propellant tests (AKA wet-dress rehearsals) at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island in Virginia. The tests were performed to confirm that the launch complex's propellant handling systems would perform as required for upcoming Antares rocket launches. A "hot fire" test is now planned before the end of February. (2/1)

More on Russia's Sea Launch Failure (Source: AFP)
Energia chief Vitaly Lopota said the Russian rocket's engine appeared to fail less than a minute after the evening take-off but the reason was still unknown. "We had an abnormal situation -- the emergency shutdown of the first stage engine," Lopota. Several Russian media reports said the floating launch platform was unstable at the time of the launch because of heavy weather.

Sources said the Zenit had purposefully steered itself as far away from the Odyssey as possible -- instead of going straight up -- because the engines detected a problem and were programmed to save the ground crew. Sea Launch has been using the deep-sea platform to perform commercial operations since 1999. There had been only two complete failures out of the 34 missions conducted prior to Friday's launch.

But analysts said Sea Launch -- having emerged from bankruptcy protection in October 2010 after years of financial difficulties -- will be keen to prove that the accident was an anomaly that should not affect future launches. "This accident is very unpleasant for Sea Launch, which only recently started to repair its reputation on the commercial space services market," said Igor Marinin. Russia's space program is now especially closely watched because it provides the world's only manned link to the International Space Station (ISS). (2/1)

Asian Space Race Heats Up: Will India be Next to Launch People? (Source: WIRED)
The Asia-centered Space Race is heating up, with both North and South Korea recently launching payloads to space for the first time. John Logsdon explains how a presence in space – manned or otherwise – is useful for countries across the spectrum of economic development. Does he envision any countries in the next decade joining the manned spaceflight club? "Maybe, and that would be India, as a response to China," he says. "They may seem to be moving pretty fast, but don’t listen to what they say, look at their budgets." (2/1)

The Star Explosion That Wasn't: Astronomers Solve Mystery (Source: Space.com)
After a stellar explosion was reported in 1866, British astronomer John Herschel announced he had seen a bright flare from the same location 24 years earlier. Herschel's claim was contested almost immediately, with some saying he had seen only a fairly common star in 1842. Now the question of whether Herschel actually saw a recurrent  supernova or a common star has finally been answered, clearing up a point about stars that "go off" periodically.

To solve the 150-year-old mystery, Bradley Schaefer of Louisiana State University dug through the records of the Royal Society in Britain, to which Herschel donated his papers. Schaefer was unable to find the astronomer's original chart, but he found the second best thing: a copy made by Herschel and sent to another astronomer a few short weeks after the 1866 explosion. The document revealed that what Herschel observed was not the recurrent nova T Coronae Borealis (T CrB) but another star, BD+25°3020.

Rather than dying in a single blaze of glory, recurrent novas cycle through explosions on a steady basis. White dwarf stars pull in material from companion stars, and they flare up when enough material has fallen onto their surfaces. Understanding just how often an individual nova, such as T Coronae Borealis (T CrB), explodes is crucial to understanding objects that could eventually evolve into Type 1a supernovas. (2/1)

Another Russian Launch Failure (Source: Russian Space Web)
Struggling on its way back into the commercial launch market, the Russian-controlled Sea Launch venture failed to deliver a communications satellite into orbit from a floating platform in the Pacific Ocean. Less than a minute in flight, the RD-171 engine on the rocket's first stage was shot down by an emergency command and the vehicle crashed into the Pacific Ocean along with its payload around 50 seconds into the flight.

According to preliminary data, the rocket continued a powered flight for some 20-25 seconds. The Russian Interfax news agency reported that the rocket had deviated from its nominal ascent trajectory immediately after the liftoff. Accoding to industry sources, the launch vehicle headed south after the liftoff, instead of its normal eastern direction. (2/1)

Is Iran's Space Monkey a Fake? (Source: The Telegraph)
Earlier this week, Iran announced to much fanfare that they sent a live monkey into space in a capsule and later retried it intact after traveling to an altitude of 75 miles. Ahmad Vahidi, the defence minister, proclaimed it, saying: "This success is the first step towards man conquering the space and it paves the way for other moves", but added that the process of putting a human into space would be a lengthy one. "Today's successful launch follows previous successes we had in launching (space) probes with other living creatures (on board)," he added.

"The monkey which was sent in this launch landed safely and alive and this is a big step for our experts and scientists." But a series of photographs that show differences in the monkey's appearance, before and after the launch, appear to show two different monkeys. Before the launch, several state-controlled media branches posted photographs of the monkey with a distinctive red mole above its right eye. It also had light fur round its head. Upon the monkey's "return" from space, the mole had vanished, as had the fur.

The photographs have led to speculation that either they launched the capsule into space, but it never returned, or that the launch never took place. The US state department at the time expressed doubts about whether it had ever happened. Iranian state television showed still pictures of the capsule and of a monkey being fitted with a vest and then placed in a device similar to a child's car-seat. Click here to compare the monkeys. (2/1)

Crowdfunding Supports Copenhagen Suborbitals (Source: The Verge)
Inside an old storage warehouse in an abandoned shipyard in Copenhagen, Kristian von Bengston and Peter Madsen have been building a one-man rocket ship they intend to send on a 15-minute, parabolic trip to the edge of space and back. Von Bengston and Madsen’s non-profit, private space agency is called Copenhagen Suborbitals, and is probably the most extreme do-it-yourself project in the world. Von Bengston is an architect and former NASA contractor. Madsen is an engineer who founded a DIY collective that built three submarines as a hobby.

Copenhagen Suborbitals has no government grants, no investors, and no academic affiliation. Instead, they’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from ordinary people around the world who donated in exchange for a part of their dream. Every day the pair report to the chilly 300-square-foot workshop, occasionally joined by members of an all-volunteer rogue science army. They want to prove that anyone can go to space. "This project will not change anything in terms of science," von Bengston said, "but it will change the way we look at human space flight." (2/1)

Crowdfunding Revolution Ignites Next Space Race (Source: The Verge)
There are more projects like Copenhagen Suborbitals, amateur missions financed by space fans who want to be a part of something that feels big. We’re entering a second Space Age, in which innovation is led by the private sector, and crowdfunding is part of this new ecosystem. The Elon Musks and Richard Bransons of the world will take care of the multi-million dollar launches and $200,000-ticket space tours. Crowdfunding seeds projects at the other end of the spectrum, where tinkerers and star-gazers meet, and space may not be as far away as it looks. Click here. (2/1)

President Obama on NASA's Day of Remembrance (Source: NASA)
"Ten years ago, seven brave astronauts gave their lives in the name of exploration when America's first flight-ready space shuttle, Columbia, failed to return safely to Earth. Each year, on NASA's Day of Remembrance, we honor the crew of that Columbia flight, as well as those of Challenger and Apollo 1, and all the members of the NASA family who gave their lives in the pursuit of expanding our Nation's horizons in space-a cause worthy of their sacrifice and one we must never forget.

"The exploration of space represents one of the most challenging endeavors we undertake as a Nation. Whether it's landing a 1-ton rover on Mars, building a space telescope 100 times more powerful than the Hubble, or preparing to send humans beyond the Moon, it's imperative America continues to lead the world in reaching for the stars while giving us a better understanding of our home planet." Click here. (2/1)

Nelson: Learning From Tragedies, NASA Will Meet Challenges (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Ten years ago, the space shuttle Columbia broke up over the Southern United States. As we remember the astronauts who died, let us reaffirm our commitment to the nation's tradition of exploration. In preparing for the unknown, we push the limits of our imagination. We solve problems never faced before. We explore destinations never seen before. We advance science and technology. We grow our economy. We have a better understanding of our universe and our place in it. Click here. (2/1)

Women in Aerospace Offers Scholarships (Source: WIA)
Women in Aerospace Foundation is pleased to announce that we will be awarding two scholarships of $2,000 this year. We are now accepting Scholarship Applications for the 2013-2014 School Year. We encourage you to invite any rising senior in college who fits the following eligibility requirements to apply for this award. Click here. (2/1)

Embry-Riddle Participation at FAA Space Transportation Conference (Source: SPACErePORT)
Embry-Riddle will be well-represented at this year's 16th FAA Conference on Commercial Space Transportation in Washington DC, with students, faculty and management officials planning to attend. The university plans to make a major announcement at the conference. (2/1)

Commercial Aerospace Continuing on a Positive Flight (Source: AMD)
The commercial aerospace and UAS markets will lead the industry with significant growth in the coming years, while military aircraft will lag behind. Many items go into determining the amount of growth the aerospace industry will see during the coming years. For example, many companies are expecting a declining workforce during the next decade as baby boomers retire. Currently, workforce estimates show hundreds of thousands of high-level manufacturing jobs are going unfilled due to a lack of qualified employees. Click here. (2/1)

Regulation Reform May Help Commercial Spaceflight (Source: US News)
"When commonly available technologies are ITAR-controlled, it hurts American business without improving our national security," says Alex Saltman, executive director with the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. "The sluggish pace at which ITAR has been adapting to rapidly changing technologies has prevented commercial space companies from undertaking some projects and dramatically raised the cost of doing business with foreign customers, even our close allies."

Laurie Leshin, a former NASA scientist who worked on the Curiosity Rover, said at the same lunch that the "science community has been begging for ITAR reform." "Most science is now international," she said. "The way we collaborate internationally has been severely hampered by the ITAR regulations. To see some move toward reform is a good thing."

With ITAR, countries looking to expand their space offerings simply designed their own technology or bought satellite components from companies in Israel, Europe, and Russia, creating a brand of "ITAR-free" satellites that use zero American products. "The idea of ITAR was to preserve America's technological edge, but much of this technology flowed from other countries anyway," Gold says. "The only country whose airspace industry was harmed by this was ours." (1/31)

NASA Takes Strides Forward to Launch Americans from U.S. Soil (Source: Space Daily)
On Jan. 22, NASA took a crucial next step toward launching astronauts to the International Space Station from the United States. Beginning the first phase of the Commercial Crew Program's (CCP) certification efforts, three companies now are conducting activities that will confirm commercial spacecraft are safe to carry crews to the station. (2/1)

Earthrise Space, Inc. and Central Florida Racing Complex Announce Space Day Benefit (Source: UCF)
To further awareness of Florida’s team in the $30M Google Lunar X PRIZE, Earthrise Space, Inc. (ESI) and the Central Florida Racing Complex (CFRC) announce a benefit event, “Space Day” to be held at the CFRC on March 9th. The event, which is open to the public for paid admission, will provide an opportunity for attendees to interact with and support ESI’s Omega Envoy team while enjoying the thrills and excitement of a major Drift Racing competition.

The event will be attended by local celebrities, politicians, and Central Floridians who will show their support of ESI’s race to win the X PRIZE and their efforts to maintain Florida’s pre-eminent position in space exploration. ESI’s team is developing spacecraft capable of landing a rover on the moon, fulfilling the requirements of this international competition. Space Day attendees will be able to meet the ESI Team, including engineers, spacecraft designers and hardworking student interns from the University of Central Florida. Click here. (1/31)

Astrotech Wins Contract for NASA Payload Processing in Florida (Source: Astrotech)
Astrotech Corp. has been awarded a NASA Not-to-Exceed $9.1 million contract for commercial payload processing services at for launches from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The contract ordering period runs through December, 2017. Last month Astrotech was awarded a $16 million IDIQ contract for Western Range spacecraft processing at the Vandenberg Air Force Base facility in California. (1/31)

Build Your Own Moon: Online Lunar Game Nabs Honors (Source: Space.com)
An online game that allows players to build their own moon and sculpt its features has won big praise in science art competition. The game, called "Selene: A Lunar Construction GaME," measures how and when players learn as they discover more about how the Earth's moon formed and, by extension, the solar system. It received an honorable mention in the 2012 International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge.

As players experiment with the game, they learn more about one of the easiest heavenly bodies they can study, Selene developers said. Named for the Greek goddess of the moon, Selene works in two parts. In the first round, players aim asteroids of varying sizes, densities, and radiations so that they collide with one another. Too much force, and the rocks ricochet off one another. But even if you overshoot your target, the gravity of the growing moon may tug just enough to pull the new piece into the pack, giving participants a chance to watch accretion in action. Click here. (1/31)

Archive Offers New Life for Fallen Space Shuttle Columbia (Source: Reuters)
Space shuttle Columbia's flying days came to an abrupt and tragic end on Feb. 1, 2003. Although Columbia now lies in pieces, its mission is not over. The recovered wreckage, painstakingly retrieved from Texas and Louisiana for months after the accident, was preserved for a unique archive and education program at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

"I can talk about safety, but once I open those doors and folks enter into the room, it becomes a different conversation," said Michael Ciannilli, who oversees NASA's Columbia Research and Preservation Office. "When you come face to face with Columbia in the room, it becomes real. It becomes extremely real." Ten years ago, Columbia was on its 28th mission, a rare research initiative in the midst of International Space Station construction flights. Click here. (1/31)

NASA Workshop to Consider Use of Donated SpySat Optics (Source: NASA)
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center will host a national workshop for the Study on Applications for Large Space Optics (SALSO) Feb. 5-6. The workshop will feature presentations on concepts for the use of two large space telescopes that were transferred to NASA last year.  The SALSO workshop will help develop concepts aligned with five principal areas: space technology focused research, validation or demonstration; human exploration and operations; heliophysics; planetary science; and astrophysics.

The workshop will include as many as 34 presentations from industry, academia and government on potential uses of these telescopes. Based on workshop results, the SALSO team will chose as many as six concepts for additional detailed study by the mission design centers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Final study results will be presented to the NASA administrator in May. (1/31)

New Amos-6 Contract Boosts SpaceX Commercial Manifest (Source: InnerSpace)
SpaceX now has a purely commercial manifest of 23 missions scheduled over the next 4 years, exclusive of US government flights, Dragonlab flights and the anticipated demo flight for Falcon Heavy. Somewhat incongruously, its primary US competitor, United Launch Alliance, still maintains that it requires a large annual subsidy, which neither SpaceX nor Orbital Sciences receives, in order to remain financially viable, with the reason cited as a lack of market opportunity, a stance which seems to be in conflict with the market itself.

Altogether the current manifest for SpaceX rests at 40 flights through 2017, with more to come if the company is able to win a share of NASA’s next round of the Commercial Crew Program, and/or extend its partnership with Bigelow Aerospace.  SpaceX’s next flight, scheduled for March 1st,  is NASA’s Commercial Resupply Mission 2, (CRS-2),  which will be the final flight of the Falcon 9 in its original form.  Following that, attention will shift westwards to Vandenberg, California and the maiden launch of the upgraded Falcon 9 v1.1. which will loft a Canada’s CASSIOPE satellite into polar orbit. (1/31)

DigitalGlobe Completes GeoEye Buy (Source: Denver Business Journal)
DigitalGlobe Inc. said Thursday it has completed its $900 million acquisition of rival satellite-imagery company GeoEye Inc. The buyout combines the nation’s only commercial satellite-imagery businesses into one. The companies also do security work for government agencies. DigitalGlobe employs nearly 700 people in Longmont, and GeoEye has operations in Thornton. The combined company will be headquartered in Longmont. (1/31)

What's Happening on the Space Station? (Source: CNN)
High above us, beyond the skies, is the International Space Station, which weighs nearly 1 million pounds and has a wingspan the length of a football field. It has nine rooms, two bathrooms, two kitchens and two mini-gyms, and it is the largest spacecraft orbiting the Earth.

NASA announced this week that an instrument called ISS-RapidScat will be launched to the station in 2014 to improve weather forecasts, by doing things like monitoring hurricanes. It will also help scientists explore the Earth's global wind field; tropical clouds and tropical systems are affected by wind variations caused by the sun. Click here. (1/31)

Hutchison to receive National Space Trophy (Source: Bay Area Citizen)
The Rotary National Award for Space Achievement (RNASA) Foundation has selected former United States Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) to receive the 2013 National Space Trophy. Hutchison was nominated by Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company Executive Vice President Joanne Maguire. In nominating her, Maguire credited Hutchison as a “long standing champion of NASA and DoD space programs” and recognized her bi-partisan leadership ensuring passage of the three-year 2010 NASA Authorization Act. (1/31)

How NASA Selected The 2013 Class Of Astronauts (Source: Popular Science)
Want to be an astronaut? Well, NASA wrapped up its latest astronaut recruitment period last year, so you'll have to wait a few years until the agency posts the "Help Wanted" sign again. Over the two-and-a-half-month astronaut recruitment window, aspiring spacegoers deluged NASA with over 6,300 online applications through USAJobs.gov. That bumper crop - the second highest in NASA's history - is surprising given that NASA is without a space-capable vehicle since the retirement of the space shuttle. Click here. (1/31)

Study Rebuts Hypothesis That Comets Ended 9,000-Year-Old Clovis Culture (Source: Sandia)
Rebutting a speculative hypothesis that comet explosions changed Earth’s climate sufficiently to end the Clovis culture in North America about 13,000 years ago, Sandia lead author Mark Boslough and researchers from 14 academic institutions assert that other explanations must be found for the apparent disappearance. Sandia National Laboratories' Mark Boslough rebuts a speculative hypothesis about comets leading to the end of the Clovis culture in North America.

“There’s no plausible mechanism to get airbursts over an entire continent,” said Boslough, a physicist. “For this and other reasons, we conclude that the impact hypothesis is, unfortunately, bogus.” n a December 2012 American Geophysical Union monograph, first available in January, the researchers point out that no appropriately sized impact craters from that time period have been discovered, nor have any unambiguously “shocked” materials been found. (1/31)

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