February 25, 2013

SpaceX Conducts Static Fire Test for Falcon-9 Dragon Mission (Source: SpaceX)
SpaceX conducted a successful static fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket on Feb. 25, in advance of a targeted March mission to the International Space Station. The nine-engine test took place at the company's Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport as part of a full launch dress rehearsal leading up to SpaceX CRS-2, the second official cargo resupply mission under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract. (2/25)

SpaceX Dragon To Carry Manned Crew to Mars in 2018 (Source: Space Industry News)
Millionaire space traveler Dennis Tito plans a 2018 mission to Mars. New papers have stated that the mission could include a human crew in “Spartan Conditions”. In other words the crew would have only basic necessities like bare-bones food and water rations. Crew hygiene would be taken care of with sponge baths. The mission would launch with a SpaceX Dragon Capsule atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket and fly to Mars for on a mission in length of 501 days. The 2 person crew and capsule would not land on the red planet, but would circumvent Mars with a return mission to Earth. (2/21)

Capt. Kirk's Vulcan Entry Wins Pluto Moons Contest (Source: AP)
"Star Trek" fans, rejoice. An online vote to name Pluto's two newest, itty-bitty moons is over. And No. 1 is Vulcan, a name suggested by actor William Shatner, who played Capt. Kirk in the original "Star Trek" TV series. Vulcan snared nearly 200,000 votes among the more than 450,000 cast during the two-week contest, which ended Monday. In second place with nearly 100,000 votes was Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guarded the gates of the underworld. (2/25)

It's Time for a Real Policy on Asteroids (Source: Space Review)
The Russian meteor and separate asteroid flyby earlier this month reminded people of the threat near Earth objects pose to the Earth. Peter Garretson argues that this is an opportunity to developed a more detailed national policy about both the threat they pose and potential benefits these objects offer. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2248/1 to view the article. (2/25)

Turning ISS Into a Full-Fledged Space Laboratory (Source: Space Review)
The International Space Station is transitioning from a a complex space construction project to an advanced research laboratory. Jeff Foust reports on the efforts to demonstrate what research the station is capable of performing, and near-term prospects for some major discoveries made there. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2247/1 to view the article. (2/25)

US Cooperation with China in Space (Source: Space Review)
The question of whether the United States should cooperate with China in some manner in space activities is often a hot topic, with arguments for and against involving international leadership, national security, and other issues. Christopher Stone says some strategic context, particularly regarding how China is advancing its technological capabilities in general, is needed to properly consider this issue. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2246/1 to view the article. (2/25)

The Last Pictures: Contemporary Pessimism and Hope for the Future (Source: Space Review)
In the second part of his look at an unusual artifact installed on a recently-launched communications satellite, Larry Kales examines some similarities and differences between it and the items included on the Voyager and Pioneer spacecraft as symbols of our life on Earth, good and bad. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2245/1 to view the article. (2/25)

Editorial: Is Sequestration Really So Bad for Spaceflight? (Source: Space News)
The good news is that if sequestration happens, it will put a significant dent in the $1 trillion annual deficit. For NASA, the impact is straightforward: an effective cut of $700 million that likely won't be restored in future years. But since NASA has been able to fund projects at the higher levels of the current "Continuing Resolution" for two months longer than expected, overall cuts to NASA would be substantially less than the 8.5% that would have occurred had the sequestration happened as scheduled. NASA would probably be able to avoid wholesale cancellation of large programs and contracts -- at least for this year.

Even if one considers spaceflight of vital importance to the future of our country, when placed in direct competition with other priorities, can NASA really compete with more immediate locally important needs such as infrastructure and social programs? The bottom line is that space may fare better in an across-the-board sequestration than it would in a planned drawdown. If we fall off the fiscal cliff, we all fall together. (2/25)

Florida Space Grant Consortium Invites University Proposals (Source: FSGC)
The Florida Space Research Program (FSRP), formerly called Florida Space Research & Education Grant Program (FSREGP), is jointly funded by the Florida Space Grant Consortium, and Space Florida. Its purpose is to support the expansion and diversification of Florida’s space industry by increasing statewide academic involvement in space research, engineering, education, and training programs that are consistent with the state’s space industry priorities.

This matching grant program combines state, federal, and other funds for competitive award to projects sponsored within, or conducted in partnership with, the state’s public and private academic institutions. Teaming with industry, nonprofit institutions, and federal agencies is strongly encouraged. K-12 collaboration is also encouraged on appropriate projects. Click here for information. (2/25)

Indian PSLV Rocket Successfully Launches Satellites (Source: NewSpace Watch)
India today successfully launched seven satellites on a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle from the Satish Dhawan Space Center on Sriharikota Island. The primary payload was the Indian-French SARAL ocean monitoring satellite. Secondary payloads included the Canadian NEOSSat asteroid and satellite observatory, two Canadian nanosatellites in the BRITE series used for stellar observations, and the Canadian military's Sapphire satellite for surveying satellites and debris in earth orbit. (2/25)

NASA Would Like to Analyze Russian Meteor (Source: Forbes)
NASA would like to analyze fragments of a meteor that crashed in Russia on Feb. 15. The meteor landing is the largest one recorded since 1908. "If we get enough data we could tie it back to an orbit that take us back to the Main Asteroid Belt and then determine what kind of parent body it had," said Paul Abell, the lead scientist for Near Earth Objects at NASA Johnson Space Center. (2/21)

White House Releases State-by-State Sequester Impacts (Source: Washington Post)
The White House on Sunday detailed how the deep spending cuts set to begin this week would affect programs in every state and the District, as President Obama launched a last-ditch effort to pressure congressional Republicans to compromise on a way to stop the across-the-board cuts. Click here for Florida information, and here for the national state-by-state charts. (2/24)

Lockheed Martin to Begin Work On Next Set Of GPS III Satellites (Source: SpaceRef)
The U.S. Air Force has awarded Lockheed Martin two fixed-price contracts totaling $120 million to procure long lead parts for the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth next generation Global Positioning System satellites, known as GPS III. The GPS III program will affordably replace aging GPS satellites while improving capability to meet the evolving demands of military, commercial and civilian users.

GPS III satellites will deliver better accuracy and improved anti-jamming power while enhancing the spacecraft's design life and adding a new civil signal designed to be interoperable with international global navigation satellite systems. Incorporating lessons learned from previous GPS programs, the Air Force initiated a "back-to-basics" acquisition approach for GPS III. The strategy emphasizes early investments in rigorous systems engineering, industry-leading parts standards, and the development of a full-size GPS III satellite prototype. (2/25)

U.N. Agreement International Coordination on Asteroid Threats (Source: SpaceRef)
The striking coincidences of the asteroid 2012 DA14 flying close to the Earth,and a large meteor crash in Russia's Chelyabinsk region on 15 February, showed again the need for coordinated international efforts to predict, and if necessary, mitigate such threats posed by near-Earth objects in the future. This was one of the key items on the agenda of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee which concluded its 50th session on 22 February in Vienna.

The Subcommittee endorsed the report of its Working Group on Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) that recommended the establishment of an international asteroid warning network (IAWN) by linking together the institutions that are already performing many of the functions, including discovering, monitoring and physically characterizing the potentially hazardous NEO population and maintaining an internationally recognized clearing house for the receipt, acknowledgment and processing of all NEO observations. Click here. (2/25)

Orbital Redesigning Component Cited in Launch Failures (Source: Space News)
Orbital Sciences Corp. plans to redesign the nosecone system for its rocket fleet as part of its plan to recover from back-to-back Taurus XL launch failures that destroyed two NASA Earth observing satellites. Both mishaps were attributed to a failure of the small laucher's fairing separation mechanism to open up and release its payload. Orbital uses similar mechanisms on its other rockets, including the new medium-lift Antares. (2/25)

Meteor Blast Was Largest Detected by Nuclear Monitoring System (Source: Space News)
A global system of detectors that make up a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty network made its largest fireball detection to date when a meteor exploded over Russia on Feb. 15. A Vienna-based treaty monitoring organization runs the system, made up of infrasound (ultra-low frequency) stations. The Feb. 15 blast was detected by 17 stations in the network, the furthest being 15,000 kilometers away in Antarctica.

Editor's Note: A similar (but little-known and very secretive) monitoring capability exists at Patrick AFB on Florida's Space Coast. The Air Force Technical Applications Center (AFTAC) performs nuclear treaty monitoring and nuclear event detection for the U.S. government. No word from AFTAC on whether they too detected the meteor blast. Click here for more on AFTAC. (2/25)

Mars May Be Habitable Today, Scientists Say (Source: Space.com)
While Mars was likely a more hospitable place in its wetter, warmer past, the Red Planet may still be capable of supporting microbial life today, some scientists say. Ongoing research in Mars-like places such as Antarctica and Chile's Atacama Desert shows that microbes can eke out a living in extremely cold and dry environments, several researchers stressed this at "The Present-Day Habitability of Mars" conference in California.

And not all parts of the Red Planet's surface may be arid currently — at least not all the time. Evidence is building that liquid water might flow seasonally at some Martian sites, potentially providing a haven for life as we know it. "We certainly can't rule out the possibility that it's habitable today," said Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona. McEwen discussed some intriguing observations by HiRise, which suggest that briny water may flow down steep Martian slopes during the local spring and summer. (2/25)

'Blunt' NASA Boss: Sequestration Will Widen the Post-Shuttle Spaceflight Gap (Source: Huntsville Times)
The gap between America and Russia, which can still launch astronauts, will not close, Bolden said. "The gap is going to get bigger," he said. "I'm just being very blunt about. Anybody who thinks this is no big deal - it's a big deal... "Sequestration was intended to never have to happen," Bolden said. "Well, guess what. The Congress wasn't able to do what they were supposed to do, so we're going to suffer." (2/22)

Watch A Hybrid Rocket Burn From The Inside Out (Source: PopSci)
Space tourism front-runner Virgin Galactic hopes to launch customers toward the edge of space later this year. To get them there, in a winged craft called SpaceShipTwo, the company will light up hybrid-fuel rockets. Hybrid-fuel engines marry two classic designs: liquid-fuel (like the space shuttle’s main engines, which combine liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen) and solid-fuel (like the shuttle’s boosters, which use solid aluminum and ammonium perchlorate).

Solid-fuel engines are powerful, but they burn until the fuel is gone—whether you like it or not. Pilots can throttle liquid-fuel engines, but they’re very complex machines. Hybrid-fuel engines are the in-betweens. They burn solid fuel with a liquid oxidizer, which pilots can adjust, but they are far simpler than liquid-fuel engines. Learning how rocket engines work can be tricky, so wouldn’t it be cool to see through one? This is easier than you might think. Click here. (2/11)

A New Opportunity for U.S.-Asian Space Cooperation (Source: Defense News)
The satellite export control reforms in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) provide an opportunity to further Washington’s strategic interests through cooperation in Asia-Pacific national security space. Export reform may provide an opportunity to strengthen key alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia and Singapore; reinforce links with friends such as the Philippines and Thailand; and expand ties with Indonesia, Myanmar, Mongolia and Vietnam. These countries all seek to exploit space capabilities for national security purposes.

Japan, South Korea and Australia are developing national security space systems. Their efforts might be encouraged by deeper U.S. engagement and space-capacity building — actions consistent with the 2010 U.S. National Space Policy. Japan expressed interest in the co-development of systems of significant utility. South Korea’s development of an increasingly sophisticated satellite manufacturing and launch capability also provides opportunity. Certainly, many technical and operational details must be mastered, but both countries have much to contribute.

Other countries’ interests should be considered, too. Japan engaged Vietnam to provide radar satellites, and Thailand and Mongolia seek to monitor vastly different environments, from northern steppes to tropical jungle. As remote sensing systems use similar orbits, excess capacity will be useful to others. As the global economy increasingly shifts toward Asia, the strategic attributes of space power — perspective, access, presence and extended strategic depth — create economic openings and could help ameliorate the potential for conflict. (2/24)

‘Tea Party in Space’ is Boldly Ging Out There (Source: Baltimore Post-Examiner)
One of those humorous moments on Facebook hit when I saw a fan page for a group called Tea Party in Space. Seriously, Teabaggers who want manned space flights. At first I thought someone was being funny, that they had created this Facebook page as some sort of political satire or to just mock the Tea Party. There’s a lot of that going around on Facebook. After reading the comments of the people who are a part of this organization and those who like or oppose TPiS, it was apparent this was no joke.

Judging from the verbiage used in the organization’s “Core Values” and “Platform” topics, they’ve been around for a few years, at least since 2011. They talk about ending the Space Launch Systems program for instance, but as far as I know, the SLS program is still operational. TPIS wants is to stop the SLS program and put it all in the hands of private enterprise. That is the main concern of TPiS: promote space travel and exploration for private enterprise and reduce government involvement in it.

Along with that is to let the private sector go into space with as little regulation as possible. They refer to their platform as the “Oregon Trail space policy.” But this is where the TPiS platform gets murky. First they want to do away with the SLS program, but then they say NASA should only get involved in space projects that are entirely and completely for the U.S. government. (2/22)

Opponents Vote to Send Egypt's Morsi Into Space (Source: AFP)
Opponents of Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi are voting to send him where no Islamist leader has gone before: outer space. Morsi on Saturday was leading the field in Egypt in an online contest sponsored by deodorant makers Axe to send a lucky few on a [suborbital] shuttle operated by space tourism company Space Expedition Corp. Egypt's opposition movement April 6 entered Morsi into the competition.

"With God's help, and under His care, Morsi will soon be launched to the moon," the group said on its Facebook page, along with a picture of the president in a spacesuit. His opponents have enthusiastically embraced the possibility. "I just voted for Morsi to go to space. Proudest moment in voting history," one of them wrote on Twitter. Trailing far behind Morsi's almost 22,000 votes, Egyptian mountain climber Omar Samra said he selected Morsi even though he himself dreamed of going into space. (2/23)

Indian Startup Seeks Space Commercialization (Source: New Scientist)
Susmita Mohanty, the founder of India’s first private space company, Earth2Orbit, wants India to claim bigger piece of the space-launch pie. "We want to commercialise India's space capabilities, in particular the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. It is one of the world's most reliable in its class," she says. "I want to make it the rocket of choice for international satellite-makers looking to get to low Earth or sun-synchronous orbits. India could build and launch up to six each year, but currently launches only two." Click here. (2/25)

Justin Bieber Wants to Sing in Space, NASA Wants to Help (Source: Zimbio)
Justin Bieber's sold out practically every stadium on the planet, so now he's looking to expand — into space. Well, at least he joked about it on on Twitter. Saturday, the Biebs wrote on the site: "I wanna do a concert in space." By Sunday, NASA had responded. "Maybe we can help you with that. 'All Around the World,' next off it?" was the reply from NASA's official Twitter account. How cool is that? JB gets tweets from some of the biggest stars around, but somehow being acknowledged by NASA seems like a real win. (2/24)

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