February 23, 2013

NASA’s Cold Fusion Tech Could Put a Nuclear Reactor in Every Home (Source: Extreme Tech)
The cold fusion dream lives on: NASA is developing cheap, clean, low-energy nuclear reaction (LENR) technology that could eventually see cars, planes, and homes powered by small, safe nuclear reactors. When we think of nuclear power, there are usually just two options: fission and fusion. Fission, which creates huge amounts of heat by splitting larger atoms into smaller atoms, is what currently powers every nuclear reactor on Earth.

Fusion is the opposite, creating vast amounts of energy by fusing atoms of hydrogen together, but we’re still many years away from large-scale, commercial fusion reactors. LENR is absolutely nothing like either fission or fusion. Where fission and fusion are underpinned by strong nuclear force, LENR harnesses power from weak nuclear force — but capturing this energy is difficult. Click here. (2/22)

Alabama Governor Visits Arsenal to Unveil Fusion Game-Changer for Space Exploration (Source: WHNT)
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley tried to escape the pain of sequestration long enough to celebrate the unveiling of a huge new piece of equipment acquired by UA-Huntsville. Charger One, as it has been named, could be a game-changer for deep space exploration. On Friday, Bentley helped pull the cords to unveil Charger One from behind a huge UA-Huntsville banner. Charger One is a Fusion Pulse Power Generator housed at the University’s Aerophysics Research Center on Redstone Arsenal.

“Fusion propulsion represents probably our best opportunity for deep space travel,” said UA-Huntsville President Robert Altenkirch. Simply put, scientists say this piece of equipment will allow space explorers to go much deeper in space, faster and safer than ever before. UA-Huntsville researchers used the governor’s new State Innovation Fund to make it happen, receiving a $300,000 grant and Governor Robert Bentley couldn’t be happier. (2/22)

3D-Printed Rocket Parts Will Take NASA to Mars (Source: Mashable)
NASA engineers are building the largest rocket ever constructed — one that will eventually take us beyond the moon — using 3D-printed materials. Creating this rocket, called the Space Launch System (SLS), is a top priority at the agency because it has a big date: Obama wants to get humans to an asteroid and then on to Mars by the mid 2030s. To speed up the construction process, NASA is relying on a form of 3D printing to fabricate some of its engine parts virtually out of thin air.

The machine, called selective laser melting, uses a laser to build a component. Unlike traditional rocket building, which relies on welding together disparate parts, 3D printing starts with an empty table. That space fills up with a completed component, built one layer at a time, out of NASA's 3D-printing material of choice. In this case, plastic. What used to take weeks to build now only takes hours. (2/23)

NASA’s IceSat-2 Mission To Launch on Penultimate Delta 2 Rocket (Source: Space News)
United Launch Alliance (ULA) will launch NASA’s Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (IceSat)-2 aboard a Delta 2 rocket in July 2016 under a $96.6 million fixed-price contract, the space agency announced Feb. 22. The Delta 2 will place IceSat-2, a climate-change observatory, into a near-circular Earth polar orbit following liftoff from Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, NASA said. NASA has now contracted for four of the five Delta 2 rockets remaining in ULA’s inventory. The vehicle is out of production. (2/23)

Lockheed Martin Nabs Military Satellite Contracts (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif., will continue ordering parts for two missile warning satellites and start work on four next-generation navigation satellites under three contracts worth more than $400 million combined, the U.S. Defense Department announced Feb. 21. The majority of the money, $284 million, will go toward the fifth and sixth satellites in the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) for missile warning. (2/22)

Medvedev: Russia to Aim for 15% of Global Space Market (SourcE: RIA Novosti)
Russia plans to increase its share of the global space market from the current 10 percent to 15 percent, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said. The plan was first outlined in Russia’s state program for the space industry, published in January. “We want to be not just a leading scientific power, a space researcher country, but also a player on the space service market,” Medvedev said. He did not give a timeframe for increasing the market share. The state program published in January has 2020 as its planning horizon. (2/23)

'Star Trek' Boosts Pluto Moons' Case for Vulcan (Source: NBC)
The organizer of a contest to name Pluto's two tiniest moons can't guarantee that either one of them will be called "Vulcan" — but if the name nominated by the original captain on the "Star Trek" TV show retains its lead in the voting, planetary scientist Mark Showalter promises to argue the best case he can. "My starting position is that we should work with the names that received the most votes," Showalter said.

The "Pluto Rocks" voting is due to conclude at noon ET Monday, to be followed by a 1 p.m. Google+ Hangout sponsored by the SETI Institute, the place where Showalter works. Right now, Vulcan holds a commanding lead with about 140,000 of the 370,000 votes cast. But even if Vulcan holds onto that edge, don't expect Showalter to declare immediately that Vulcan is the choice. (2/23)

NASA's Google+ Hangout Shows Off Zero-G Antics – and Cats! (Source: NBC)
NASA followed one of the classic rules for Internet videos during its first space-to-Earth Google Hangout on Friday: If you want to bring in the viewers, don't forget the cats. Astronaut Tom Marshburn's demonstration of how an astronaut in the International Space Station's zero-gravity environment can imitate a falling kitty was one of the highlights of the hourlong video chat, which addressed more than 30 questions sent in via YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and real-time hookups with kids across the country. (2/23)

FBI Probe at Ames Stonewalled, Sources Say (Source: Fox News)
A four-year FBI investigation into the transfer of classified weapons technology to China and other countries from NASA’s Ames Research Center is being stonewalled by government officials, sources tell Fox News. Documents which summarize these and other allegations and were given to congressional sources last week by a whistle-blower, described how a “secret grand jury” was to be convened in February 2011 to hear testimony from informants in the case, including a senior NASA engineer.

But federal prosecutor Gary Fry was removed from the case, which was then transferred from one office in the Northern District of California to another where, according to the documents, “this case now appears to be stalled.” “The information is staggering,” the whistle-blower told Fox News. The claims originate with several past and current NASA employees concerned with the systemic leak of highly sensitive information relating to missile defense systems, as well as what they call a troubled investigation into the leak. (2/23)

New Home for Runaway Black Hole (Source: Science News)
The most massive black hole ever measured may be an intergalactic hitchhiker that escaped from one galaxy before getting captured by another. If this scenario is proven correct, it would be the first time astronomers have definitively spotted a black hole that was expelled from its original galactic home. Computer simulations of galaxy mergers suggest that some supermassive black holes can be nomads: When the galaxies’ central black holes unite, they can emit an enormous surge of energy in one direction. (2/22)

Spanish Official Says Decline in Space Spending Is Temporary (Source: Spacce News)
The head of the Spanish delegation to the European Space Agency (ESA) on Feb. 22 said the nation’s dire financial situation is forcing substantial cuts to its space program but that a return to previous spending levels should occur by 2015. Addressing a briefing here on ESA’s Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity. or SMOS, satellite, in which Spain is a major investor and participant, Luis Valero said the reality of today’s budget cuts should not be understated, but should not be exaggerated, either. (2/22)

SES Pleasantly Surprised by North American Market (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator SES on Feb. 22 reported a surprising increase in revenue from its North American operations in 2012, saying U.S. government demand and the lease of a Ka-band payload to EchoStar more than offset losses stemming from solar-array circuit failures on another EchoStar-leased satellite. (2/22)

SpaceX Launch Week Begins with Static Fire Monday (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
SpaceX engineers will spend the next week testing its next Falcon 9 rocket and packing its privately-built Dragon spaceship with supplies and experiments before the next commercial resupply flight to the International Space Station blasts off March 1. Launch week begins Monday with the Falcon 9 rocket's customary preflight static fire test, in which the launcher's nine first stage engines ignite on the launch pad. (2/21)

Russia Looking To Germany for Radar Reconnaissance Satellites (Source: Space News)
The Russian Ministry of Defense is asking the German government for permission to purchase two medium-resolution X-band radar Earth observation satellites from Astrium GmbH for use by Russia’s military, European government and industry officials said. The request, for satellites that would resemble Germany’s government-commercial TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X spacecraft, both in orbit, has not yet been approved by the German government, according to the German space agency, DLR. (2/22)

Space Station-Bound ATV Forfeits April Launch Window (Source: Space News)
A glitch in an avionics box on Europe’s fourth ATV unmanned cargo vehicle discovered during testing will force a replacement and retesting of the box, and that will force the 20,000-kilogram vehicle to miss its planned April launch date to the international space station, the ATV-4 mission manager said. In a briefing with journalists, Alberto Novelli said the station’s traffic management has openings in May or June, each lasting several days, and that the ATV-4 should be able to make one of these launch windows. (2/22)

Progress Freighter Resets Space Station Orbit (Source: RIA Novosti)
The engines of a Russian Progress M-17M space freighter were fired on Friday to readjust the orbit of the International Space Station (ISS). After the re-boost, the space station’s mean orbital altitude stood at 409.7 kilometers (254.6 miles), 406.6 kilometers (252.6 miles) at the perigee and 423.1 kilometers (262.9 miles) at the apogee. (2/22)

Space Stuff Can Fetch Sky-High Prices, Expert Says (Source: Florida Today)
Someone is bound to show Don Willis a piece of space history he hasn’t seen before. “There is some valuable stuff out there,” said Willis, who has been collecting space memorabilia for 25 years and who works as a space memorabilia expert for the auction house Regency-Superior Ltd. Willis said “about one out of every five collections” provides him something new to marvel at.

Regency-Superior Ltd. will conduct free appraisals of early space memorabilia from noon to 4 p.m. today and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at 1026 S. Hopkins Ave. in Titusville. The auction house will pay cash and accept for consignment quality items for an upcoming space memorabilia auction in May. The two-day event in Titusville is a fundraiser for the US Space Walk of Fame Foundation, which operates a space museum in Titusville. (2/22)

NASA Administrator Addresses Sequestration (Source: WAFF)
NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden visited Huntsville to tour new technology developed for the next generation heavy lift launch vehicle. Bolden also addressed NASA's sequestration concerns. He said when you are talking a loss of funds, that means loss of jobs, and that is why he is so concerned. He said the big impact will be a lot of those businesses that NASA partners with. Bolden said he has given awards to several companies in Huntsville for their work, but does not believe a lot of them will even be eligible for NASA jobs because of the cuts.

He did not shy away when describing how much NASA will suffer because of sequestration. The three main NASA projects, all with Marshall ties, are all system go. They are a heavy lift launch vehicle with a multiple purpose crew vehicle, the James Webb Space Telescope that will take over for Hubble and the enhancement of the International Space Station with commercial capability.

Bolden fears projects launch times will get pushed back because of sequestration. "This is going to interrupt that progress to building up the kinds of organizations we needed to be able to send us to deep space and do other things," he said. Bolden also believes the Marshall Space Flight Center civil service workforce won't be affected. At other facilities, that may not be the case. (2/22)

Comet Will Be Visible from Hawaii in March (Source: Univ. of Hawaii)
Comet PANSTARRS C/2011 L4, discovered by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope on Haleakala in June 2011, is expected to become visible to the naked eye in Hawaii in March. The Institute for Astronomy of the University of Hawaii at Manoa will hold a free comet-viewing event from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on March 12. Stargazing will follow comet viewing. The comet is currently visible in the Southern Hemisphere, but is too far south to be seen here.

From about March 7, it will appear above the horizon in Hawaii. To see it, you will need an unobstructed, cloudless view of the western horizon. It is best to pick a dark spot, away from streetlights. Look in the direction of the sunset just after the sun has gone down. The comet will be just above the horizon. The chart below shows the position of the comet in the western sky at 7:00 p.m. throughout the month of March. (2/23)

No comments: