February 26, 2013

Canadian Tour Companies Launch Private Spaceflight Deals (Source: Space.com)
Two high-end Canadian tourism companies are adding space to their list of exotic destinations. Adventure Travel Company (ATC), in Toronto, and Montreal-based Uniktour will offer amateur astronauts rides on the suborbital Lynx spacecraft under development by Mojave-based XCOR Aerospace. The companies, which offer personalized safaris and the like for well-to-do clients, are acting as agencies for Space Exploration Corp. (SXC). The Dutch marketing firm is selling Lynx tickets on behalf of XCOR, most notably for men's personal care product company AXE. (2/26)

New 45th Space Wing Commander 'Thrilled' to be Back (Source: Florida Today)
Col. Nina Armagno is returning to Partick Air Force Base as the commander of the 45th Space Wing after having served here in 2001. “I'm thrilled to be heading back to the Cape,” Armagno said. “While I'll be saddened to leave the Hawks of the 30th Space Wing, it is a distinct honor to be chosen to command the 45th Space Wing. From one amazing spacelift wing to another... what the men and women of Vandenberg and Patrick Air Force Base do for our nation is indispensible to the war-fighter and our national security.” (2/26)

3D Printers to Build NASA's Spare Parts & Rocket Engines (Source: Popular Mechanics)
In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama spoke glowingly of 3D printing, saying the technology "has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything." At NASA, the revolution is already under way. Engineers are now testing 3D printing (more broadly known as additive manufacturing) for making engine parts for the Space Launch System (SLS), the vehicle slated to take mankind back to the moon, to asteroids, and someday to Mars.

A 3D printer will soon head to the International Space Station. And in the future, NASA hopes 3D printers will let astronauts fabricate tools, spare parts, or virtually anything their mission requires throughout the solar system. "Additive manufacturing is this new technology that really gives us an endless set of possibilities for the products we manufacture at NASA for our terrestrial launch vehicle and our in-space applications," says John Vickers, assistant manager of the Materials and Processes Laboratory at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. (2/26)

ESA Faces the Limits of Expansion, Growing Power of EU (Source: Parabolic Arc)
At the European Space Agency (ESA) ministerial meeting on Nov. 20-21 in Naples, there was a new flag flying outside. The red-and-white flag of Poland, which had joined space agency the day before, was raised among those of ESA’s other 19 member states.

Poland became the third — and wealthiest — former Eastern Bloc nation to join ESA behind the Czech Republic and Romania.  The nation’s ascendance brought the number of full ESA member states to 20 from the original 10 countries that created the space agency in 1975. Canada is an associate member. Ten other European nations, nine of which have cooperative agreements with ESA, attended the quadrennial ministerial meeting as observers with hopes of eventually joining the space agency as full members. (2/26)

Florida Space Day Approaching, March 6 in Tallahassee (Source: SPACErePORT)
Dozens of space industry leaders from around the state will visit Tallahassee on March 6 for meetings with elected officials on the second day of the Florida Legislative Session. Click here to view the group's legislative priorities, and here to view the brochure they'll be sharing with elected officials. (2/26)

Educational Initiative Added to Space Day Request (Source: SPACErePORT)
Among the funding items advocated during Florida Space Day is a new item aimed at expanding the National Space Club (Florida Committee) annual Space Week program, which brings Central Florida elementary school students to Kennedy Space Center for education and inspiration. $610,000 is being requested by the KSC Education Foundation to significantly expand the number of students that would be included, from areas further away from KSC. (2/26)

CCiCAP Partners on Schedule in Meeting Milestones (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) milestones are on schedule, putting the U.S. one step closer to ending the gap in human access to space. In less than six months, twelve of the forty two planned milestones have been successfully completed. Furthermore, each of the partners has achieved progress beyond the formal milestone work content. Click here. (2/26)

Ukrainian Producer Responsible for Zenit Rocket Wreck (Source: Interfax)
Ukraine is responsible for the wreck of the Sea Launch Zenit rocket, Military Industrial Commission First Deputy Chairman Ivan Kharchenko said. "Dmitry Olegovich Rogozin has made the report (to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev). The conclusion is that defects in Ukrainian-made units caused the wreck. There are no claims to Russian hardware," Kharchenko said. (2/26)

NASA Eyes Declining Vegetation in the Eastern U.S. from 2000 to 2010 (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA scientists report that warmer temperatures and changes in precipitation locally and regionally have altered the growth of large forest areas in the eastern United States over the past 10 years. Using NASA's Terra satellite, scientists examined the relationship between natural plant growth trends, as monitored by NASA satellite images, and variations in climate over the eastern United States from 2000 to 2010.

Monthly satellite images from the MODerate resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) showed declining density of the green forest cover during summer in four sub-regions, the Upper Great Lakes, southern Appalachian, mid-Atlantic, and southeastern Coastal Plain. More than 20 percent of the non-agricultural area in the four sub-regions that showed decline during the growing season, were covered by forests. (2/26)

Why the Universe needs Dark Matter (Source: Science Blogs)
If you looked out at the planets in the Solar System orbiting our Sun, you’d expect that if you know where they are right now and how quickly they’re moving, you can figure out exactly where they’re going to be at any time-and-date arbitrarily far into the future. That’s the great power that comes with understanding the laws of nature that underlie any physical system: in this case, the laws of gravity that governs the motion of planets in our Solar System.

And if the planet you were observing wasn’t where it appeared to be, you’d assume that one of two things were amiss. 1) Either there’s extra mass somewhere in the Solar System that’s throwing off the motion of the planet you’re looking at, due to the effects of its gravity, or 2) Your understanding of the laws of gravity are incomplete, and need to be upgraded or modified in some way. Believe it or not, this has actually happened twice before in our own discovery of the Solar System. Click here. (2/26)

No Furloughs Expected at NASA Due to Sequester (Source: Space Policy Online)
Charlie Bolden gave some welcome news to NASA employees, telling them that no furloughs are expected if the sequester goes into effect. Unlike many other government agencies, including DOD, the across-the-board spending cut of 5% would not require NASA to furlough workers to make ends meet. "We have safely and efficiently phased out the Space Shuttle Program and managed existing programs to conservative spending levels," Bolden said. "This has postured us so that we do not plan to resort to furloughs at this time for NASA employees to meet our spending reductions under sequestration."

DOD is warning of much greater consequences for its activities and notified Congress last week that it may have to furlough all of its 800,000 civil servants. The Department of Commerce, NOAA's parent agency, told the Senate Appropriations Committee in a February 8 letter that up to 2,600 NOAA employees would have to be furloughed under the sequester. The sequester will go into effect on March 1 if Congress does not act. (2/26)

NASA Asks "Crowd" to Help Track What Astronauts Eat (Source: Forbes)
NASA has put a man on the moon, but it hasn’t yet come up with an efficient and accurate way for the International Space Station (ISS) crew to track their diets. Living in a zero-gravity environment poses risk of nutrient deficiency and bone loss, so keeping close tabs on food intake in space is crucial.

But the ISS crew complain that their meal monitoring methods are unreliable and tedious. Imagine having to recount everything you ate in a week while orbiting the Earth. That’s what astronauts do in a weekly “food frequency questionnaire.” NASA is turning to “the crowd” for help. The NASA International Space Station Food Intake Tracker—or ISS FIT—Challenge, launched February 10, is the latest open-innovation contest sponsored by the NASA Tournament Lab. Click here. (2/26)

Houses Passes Bill to Rename Dryden FRC After Armstrong (Source: Space Policy Online)
Picking up from where it left off in the 112th Congress, the House today passed a bill to rename NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center after Neil Armstrong. On December 31, 2012, the House passed a bill to rename Dryden FRC after the late Neil Armstrong, a test pilot long before he became famous as the commander of the first human landing on the Moon, Apollo 11. Time ran out before the Senate could pass the bill in the 112th Congress, however, so today the House passed a new bill, H.R. 667, with the same purpose. It renames Dryden FRC after Armstrong, while redesignating the Western Aeronautical Test Range as the Hugh L. Dryden Aeronautical Test Range. (2/25)

Editorial: House Republicans are Over the Moon About Sequestration (Source: Washington Post)
A meat cleaver hangs over the federal government, but the unflappable men and women of the House majority remain cool and poised. With just four days left to stop automatic spending cuts from affecting everything from air travel to food inspections, House Republicans had but one item on their agenda Monday: renaming a NASA facility in California. H.R. 667, as this urgently needed legislation is known, would “redesignate the Dryden Flight Research Center as the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center.”

You’d have to be on another planet to think that renaming NASA operations is Congress’s most pressing order of business this week. But for Republicans, using this moment to honor the first man to walk on the moon is not lunar lunacy. The naming proposal, sponsored by Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), was taken up at a time when House Republicans are pursuing a considered strategy of deliberate idleness. (2/25)

Resistive, Targeted Exercise Reversed Astronauts’ Bone Loss (Source: Space News)
International Space Station crew members who used a resistive exercise device that targets key parts of the body returned to Earth with dense bones and leaner bodies, a complete reversal from previous long-duration spaceflights, NASA scientists reported to the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences. NASA launched the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) to the space station in 2008 in an attempt to home in on specific areas of the body most prone to bone loss in zero gravity, including the hip, pelvis, top of the thigh and lumbar spine. (2/25)

Debris Falls from Orbit, Slowly (Source: Space Safety)
On February 25, projections forecast decay of a piece of catalogued debris from the Breeze-M upper stage that malfunctioned during an August 6, 2012 launch and subsequently exploded in orbit on October 16, 2012. The debris was anticipated to touch down over Indonesia. No sightings have been reported and it is possible the debris completely burned up in the atmosphere.

There’s plenty more where that came from, with thousands of pieces of debris from the same explosion still orbiting. The next debris decays to watch, though, are pieces of Iridium 33 and Cosmos 2251 originating from a 2009 on-orbit collision, and Fengyun 1c, stemming from a 2007 Chinese anti-satellite test. Those two events themselves produced enough debris to keep trackers occupied for many years to come. (2/26)

New Leadership Coming for 45th Space Wing (Source: Florida Today)
Patrick Air Force Base will soon have a new top officer. 45th Space Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Anthony Cotton is being assigned as deputy director at the National Reconnaissance Office, a position that will take him to northern Virginia. Col. Nina Armagno, who has been selected to become a brigadier general, will become the new commander of the 45th Space Wing and director of the Eastern Range at Patrick Air Force Base. Armagno, who is commander of 30th Space Wing, Air Force Space Command at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, previously served at Patrick from 2000 to 2001. (2/26)

A Cosmic Gift to L.A. (Source: LA Times)
One night on Mt. Wilson about 1908, a short, powerfully built man with a handlebar mustache looked through the largest telescope in the world. What he saw transformed him, and would put Los Angeles at the forefront of a movement to make astronomy the people's science. We may never know whether Col. Griffith J. Griffith saw the rings of Saturn or another celestial object with the then-new 60-inch reflector telescope, but we can be sure that it inspired his vision of a world-class observatory for the people of Los Angeles, allowing the masses a glimpse of the heavens.

Griffith's contribution was not just his namesake observatory, but his rejection of the notion more common in his time that an observatory belonged on a remote mountaintop and should be restricted to scientists. Griffith sought to make astronomy a public science — a notion embodied by Griffith Observatory, built near what is now the middle of the city, where it is accessible to anyone. (2/26)

Tracking Trains with Satellite Precision (Source: ESA)
Taking a cue from how ESA controls satellites, Spanish railways now have their own high-tech upgrade to keep travelers abreast of when the next train is going to pull into the station. Drawing on sophisticated software that keeps satellites on track, the system was developed by a group of Elecnor Deimos engineers who had worked extensively on ESA projects. The outcome of this technology transfer is that up-to-date train schedules are now displayed at over 400 Spanish stations. (2/25)

How Sequestration Could Hit NASA Projects (Source: Information Week)
At NASA, tech projects will be among those hit by the across-the-board budget cuts scheduled to hit federal agencies if Congress does not move to stop sequestration by the March 1 deadline. According to a letter sent to the Senate Committee on Appropriations earlier this month, sequestration will cause the cancellation or de-scoping of a number of tech projects, including the possible cancellation of a deep space optical networking program.

Sequestration could also cancel the Deep Space Atomic Clock, NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts Program, and some work on autonomous systems, and would include $51.1 million in cuts to NASA's science budget. These cuts are only the beginning. The sequestration effects sent to the Senate include only those projects that could see cuts in fiscal 2013, but sequestration will phase in over several years. In fiscal 2013 alone, the sequester would reduce NASA's funding level by $894 million from levels authorized by the continuing appropriations resolution. (2/25)

Could a Comet Hit Mars in 2014? (Source: Discovery)
A recently discovered comet will make an uncomfortably-close planetary flyby next year — but this time it’s not Earth that’s in the cosmic crosshairs. According to preliminary orbital prediction models, comet C/2013 A1 will buzz Mars on Oct. 19, 2014. The icy interloper is thought to originate from the Oort Cloud — a hypothetical region surrounding the solar system containing countless billions of cometary nuclei that were outcast from the primordial solar system billions of years ago.

We know that the planets have been hit by comets before (re: the massive Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 that crashed into Jupiter in 1994) and Mars, in particular, will have been hit by comets in the past. It’s believed Earth’s oceans were created, in part, by water delivered by comets — cometary impacts are an inevitable part of living in this cosmic ecosystem.

C/2013 A1 was discovered by ace comet-hunter Robert McNaught at the Siding Spring Observatory in New South Wales, Australia, on Jan. 3. When the discovery was made, astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona looked back over their observations to find “prerecovery” images of the comet dating back to Dec. 8, 2012. These observations placed the orbital trajectory of comet C/2013 A1 through Mars orbit on Oct. 19, 2014. (2/25)

Future Evidence for Extraterrestrial Life Might Come from Dying Stars (Source: H-S CFA)
Even dying stars could host planets with life - and if such life exists, we might be able to detect it within the next decade. This encouraging result comes from a new theoretical study of Earth-like planets orbiting white dwarf stars. Researchers found that we could detect oxygen in the atmosphere of a white dwarf's planet much more easily than for an Earth-like planet orbiting a Sun-like star.

When a star like the Sun dies, it puffs off its outer layers, leaving behind a hot core called a white dwarf. A typical white dwarf is about the size of Earth. It slowly cools and fades over time, but it can retain heat long enough to warm a nearby world for billions of years. Since a white dwarf is much smaller and fainter than the Sun, a planet would have to be much closer in to be habitable with liquid water on its surface. A habitable planet would circle the white dwarf once every 10 hours at a distance of about a million miles.

Before a star becomes a white dwarf it swells into a red giant, engulfing and destroying any nearby planets. Therefore, a planet would have to arrive in the habitable zone after the star evolved into a white dwarf. A planet could form from leftover dust and gas (making it a second-generation world), or migrate inward from a larger distance. If planets exist in the habitable zones of white dwarfs, we would need to find them before we could study them. The abundance of heavy elements on the surface of white dwarfs suggests that a significant fraction of them have rocky planets. (2/25)

HTV-3 Abort Caused By Friction With Station Arm (Source: Aviation Week)
An unplanned abort maneuver performed by the H-II Transfer Vehicle-3 (HTV-3) as it departed the International Space Station (ISS) last September has been traced to friction between the Japanese cargo vessel’s grapple fixture and the space station’s robotic arm, which nudged the vessel off course during release. The Sept. 12 abort, which occurred about a minute before HTV-3’s planned departure, sent the capsule speeding away from the space station at 1.2 meters (4 ft.) per second, rather than the intended 8 ft. per minute. (2/25)

Russia and Kazakhstan Heading for Cosmic Divorce Over Baikonur’s Future (Source: Global Times)
Neighbors and close political allies Russia and Kazakhstan have been engaged in an increasingly contentious row over the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Kazakhstan made the dispute public in December when the chairman of Kazkosmos announced that President Nazarbayev wants to renegotiate the lease agreement. He implied that Kazakhstan was determined to expel the Russians, though he hedged on timelines, noting that Moscow was resistant. The case shows how sovereignty and prestige still trumps pragmatic cooperation between these neighbors.

Kazakhstan ratified the current agreement on Baikonur in 2010, six years after Russia agreed to extend its lease until 2050 for a $115 million annual fee. Suspicious that Moscow might later renege on the agreement, leaving Kazakhstan's own space industry ambitions adrift, Astana simultaneously sought Moscow's commitment on a joint launch facility at Baikonur for Angara next-generation rockets, dubbed Baiterek. While operations continued at Baikonur in the interim, Moscow threatened to revoke its commitment to Baiterek over the lease ratification delay.

Meanwhile, Moscow separately announced its intention to build the Vostochny Cosmodrome, now under construction 100 kilometers from Russia's border with Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. Vostochny is projected to serve most of Russia's Baikonur traffic by 2020. The $13.5 billion project seems to have sapped the operational budget for the Russian space program, evidenced in recent years by the launch failures of the Phobos-Grunt Mars probe. (2/26)

Space Robots Aren't Even Close To Being As Capable As Humans (Source: Business Insider)
Space robots have been in the news a lot lately. We have the Curiosity rover on Mars doing science and other rovers, landers, and orbiters studying the planets in our solar system and beyond. But there's also been a lot of talk about sending humans back to the Moon or even to Mars. So what's the future of space travel — humans or robots?

Since Eugene Cernan left the moon in 1972, humans haven't traveled further than the International Space Station. We've sent dozens of robots and machines further into space, though. While sending robots to space is cheaper and less dangerous than sending humans, the future of space travel relies on human exploration, Senior Curator of Space History Roger Launius told a group of space fans as a part of a NASA Social tour of the museum. "We individually have a lot more capability than they do. We are a long way from the terminator, or the matrix." (2/25)

Entertainment Fraternity Competes For Space Travel (Source: The Gleaner)
Axe is giving fans the trip of a lifetime to space, and among the fans vying for the opportunity are two of Jamaica's top entertainment personalities. Radio disc jock and law student Sanjay Smith and TOK's Craigy T have signed up for Axe's innovative campaign, which was launched last month. When asked what the most exciting thing about the prospect of travelling to space was, Craigy T said: "The question is, what's not exciting about space travel?" (2/26)

Why Pluto Can't Have a Moon Named Mickey – But May Get Cthulhu Crater (Source: NBC)
More than 20 names were on the Pluto moon-naming ballot, including Vulcan (the Roman god of fire) and Cerberus (the watchdog of the underworld). Vulcan was added to the list after the contest started, at the urging of "Star Trek" actor William Shatner, and grabbed the lion's share of the votes. But there were scads of other suggestions that weren't used, mostly because they weren't in line with the International Astronomical Union's tradition that the moons of Pluto should be named after figures from Greek or Roman mythology with some sort of connection to the underworld.

It's the IAU that has the final say over the names for the moons, which were discovered over the past couple of years and are now known merely as P4 and P5. Now that the crowdsourcing contest is over, Showalter willl be meeting with his colleagues on the discovery team and discussing whether to go with Vulcan and Cerberus or some other names. The two most frequently suggested names (that were left off the ballot) were Mickey and Minnie. Although Mickey and Minnie make a cuter couple than Orpheus and Eurydice, they're not Greek or Roman mythological characters connected with the underworld.

The names of planetary features don't have to follow the rules about Greek or Roman mythology: On Mercury, for example, craters are named after famous writers and artists. The hydrocarbon lakes detected on Titan, Saturn's largest moon, are named after the earthly lakes they resemble. Titan's mountains are named after the fictional mountains from "The Lord of the Rings" and other works by J.R.R. Tolkien, while the Saturnian moon's dark plains are named after planets from the "Dune" science-fiction series. (2/26)

Editorial: Helping NASA Find its Vision and a Renewed Focus (Source: Fort Wayne News-Sentinel)
Mitch Daniels, former governor and current Purdue University president, will have a new task soon – co-chairing the Committee on Human Spaceflight. Good. Purdue has a long history with spaceflight that includes 21 graduates who have flown into space, so perhaps he’s the right one to help NASA get its focus and energy back. The committee, an offshoot of the National Research Council, is to study the long-term goals, capabilities and direction of the spaceflight program, including missions beyond low Earth orbit, and recommend how to make its mission sustainable.

In the beginning, NASA was one of the greatest points of national pride. Spurred on by a desire to beat the Soviet Union into space, the agency was driven and single-minded. It had but one goal – to get a man on the moon – and threw everything it had into it. But once that goal was achieved, NASA began drifting. Instead of having a mission to go somewhere, the nation let it settle for flying around and around in orbit with the space shuttle.

Now NASA is a pale imitation of its former glory. Even the shuttle mission is gone, and the budget has been slashed. President Obama may cut it even more. The agency’s goals are vague and diverse. Maybe it will go to Mars – and maybe it will be a manned flight, and maybe it won’t. Perhaps it will devote most of its energies to studying the heavens from here. Maybe it will – heaven forbid – increase its role in global-warming research. (2/25)

SEDS Calls for Action After Chelyabinsk Impact Event (Source: SEDS)
On the morning of February 15, the planet Earth was once again reminded of its vulnerability to the dangers of the universe. An estimated 10,000-ton meteor exploded over the skies of the southern Russian city of Chelyabinsk, releasing nearly 500 kilotons of energy from its entry into Earth’s atmosphere to its airborne disintegration. With injury estimates exceeding 1,000 and a reported 3,000 buildings damaged, it is a staunch reminder of the dangers and risks that we carry every day.

Students for the Exploration and Development of Space calls on leaders worldwide to recognize the danger we face and provide appropriate resources to reduce the risk to all of human life. The potential likelihood of localized or worldwide destruction with humanity caught unaware is far too grave to ignore. We must not delay in developing the technologies to not only discover these objects with greater speed and accuracy, but also those to divert such destructive forces once we do detect them from our fragile pale blue dot. (2/25)

Private Sector Seeks Profit, Adventure Beyond Earth Orbit (Source: Parabolic Arc)
With human flights beyond Earth orbit not expected to occur for at least eight years, the private sector is increasingly eying deep space for a series of ambitious robotic and human missions for both adventure and profit. Eight programs are currently underway that include robotic and human landings of the moon, human flybys of the moon and Mars, and the mining of the moon and asteroids. Backers of these initiatives include the X Prize Foundation, Google and its executives, and the world’s first space tourist, Dennis Tito. Click here. (2/25)

NASA to Buy Soyuz Seats Until Mid-2017 (Source: Interfax)
Roscosmos and NASA are negotiating a year-long extension of the contract, which assigns Soyuz seats for foreign astronauts traveling to the International Space Station (ISS). "Legal documents with regard to transportation of U.S., European, Japanese and Canadian astronauts aboard Russian Soyuz spaceships will be drafted by late March. The contract will be valid from mid-2016 through mid-2017," Roscosmos manned programs director Alexei Krasnov told Interfax-AVN on Monday. He said it would be premature to disclose the contract value but that would be done as soon as the contract was signed. (2/25)

New Venture Trying to Beat NASA to Mars Within the Decade (Source: Motherboard)
n 2001, Dennis Tito put his millions to good use: he bought a ticket on a Soyuz spacecraft and spent nearly eight days visiting the International Space Station. Now the world’s first space tourist wants to share the wealth. The 72 year old millionaire plans to send the first men to Mars within the decade. The new millionaire-funded organization, called the Inspiration Mars Foundation, laid out its plans last week. We don’t have all the details on the mission just yet – the foundation is going to release the details in a press conference on Wednesday, February 27 – but we do know that the plan is for an historic 501 day mission to Mars.

The idea is to take advantage of an excellent launch window in 2018, one that offers the shortest transit between the two planets. The next opportunity like this won’t come until 2031, so time is of the essence. The mission is designed to generate new knowledge and gain valuable experience in the nascent business of interplanetary travel, but the real purpose is inspiration. This “Mission for America,” as a release calls it, is meant to generate momentum for the next era of space exploration, and to encourage Americans to believe that great undertakings in space are worth their while. (2/25)

The Mars Spacecraft That Was Almost Destroyed On The Launchpad (Source: Universe Today)
On this day (Feb. 25) in 1969, Mariner 6 was hefted off of Earth on a path to Mars. What’s less known is the spacecraft nearly was destroyed only 10 days beforehand as the rocket began to collapse. This NASA account succinctly summarizes what must have been a terrifying moment:

"A faulty switch opened the main valves on the Atlas stage. This released the pressure which supported the Atlas structure, and as the booster deflated it began to crumple. Two ground crewman started pressurizing pumps, saving the structure from further collapse. The Mariner 6 spacecraft was removed, put on another Atlas/Centaur, and launched on schedule. The two ground crewman, who had acted at risk of the 12-story rocket collapsing on them, were awarded Exceptional Bravery Medals from NASA." (2/25)

Startup Developing Hosted Payload for Weather (Source: Aviation Week)
Commercial communications satellites are old news, and commercial remote-sensing satellites make imagery from Cold War reconnaissance satellites look quaint. Commercial cargo vehicles are arriving at the International Space Station, and commercial crew vehicles are on the way. Now a Las Vegas-based startup is taking another step in the direction of expanding human commerce into low Earth orbit—in the form of commercial weather satellites.

But as a commercial venture, GeoMetWatch Corp. isn't following the government paradigm of orbiting dedicated weather satellites with a handful of infrared and visible light-imaging channels. Instead, it is building on a government development that has gone unused to build hosted payloads that will fly piggyback on commercial geosynchronous communications satellites, sending back hyperspectral data in a continuous stream.

The first one is already in work at the new Advanced Weather Systems laboratory in Logan, Utah, the home of Utah State University. Known as “Storm,” for Sounding and Tracking Observatory of Regional Meteorology, the box-shaped hyperspectral imager would be bolted to the Earth-facing surfaces of at least six satcoms scattered around the equator. Integrated into the host spacecraft's power and data systems, the Storm units are expected to provide staring capability with a 2-km (1.2-mi.) resolution—in three dimensions. (2/25)

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