February 28, 2013

Video Contest Offers Trip to KSC, JSC, or MSFC (Source: Space Coalition)
Space exploration redefines what is possible and turns dreams into reality. We take small steps and giant leaps in pursuit of what we can only imagine will come as we reach beyond our horizons. Now we want to know what you think! It’s easy. Enter our Why Space Matters to the Future video contest. Get creative. Submit your short video and tell us how space exploration will benefit generations to come. Best of all, you could be one of three lucky winners of a VIP trip to one of NASA’s dynamic visitor centers: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, Space Center Houston in Texas, or the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Alabama. Get those video cameras rolling. Entries are being accepted March 1 - April 7, public voting from April 8-14 and winners announced April 17. Click here. (2/28)

NASA Picking 'Sustainability Solutions' on March 7 (Source: NASA)
NASA's Ames Research Center and Sustainable Silicon Valley (SSV) are partnering to showcase game-changing solutions to regional and global sustainability. Last fall, NASA and SSV invited researchers, inventors and companies to submit their creative solutions for competitive review by a panel of experts from academia, research, business and venture communities. After evaluating more than 100 entries that addressed water management, energy use, and transportation, judges will announce the most compelling entries on March 7. (2/28)

NASA's Van Allen Probes Discover a Surprise Circling Earth (Source: NASA)
After most NASA science spacecraft launches, researchers wait patiently for months as instruments on board are turned on one at a time, slowly ramped up to full power, and tested to make sure they work at full capacity. It's a rite of passage for any new satellite in space, and such a schedule was in place for the Van Allen Probes when they launched on Aug. 30, 2012, to study two giant belts of radiation that surround Earth.

But a group of scientists on the mission made a case for changing the plan. They asked that the Relativistic Electron Proton Telescope (REPT) be turned on early – just three days after launch -- in order that its observations would overlap with another mission called SAMPEX (Solar, Anomalous, and Magnetospheric Particle Explorer), that was soon going to de-orbit and re-enter Earth's atmosphere.

It was a lucky decision. Shortly before REPT turned on, solar activity on the sun had sent energy toward Earth that caused the radiation belts to swell. The REPT instrument worked well from the moment it was turned on Sep. 1. It made observations of these new particles trapped in the belts, recording their high energies, and the belts' increased size. Then something happened: the particles settled into a new configuration, showing an extra, third belt extending out into space. Within mere days of launch, the Van Allen Probes showed scientists something that would require rewriting textbooks. (2/28)

Space-Based Solar Farms Power Up (Source: BBC)
“Ex-NASA scientist seeks visionary billionaire to help change the world. High risk venture. Return not guaranteed. GSOH a plus.” John Mankins, the scientist in question, has not yet reached the point of placing a classified ad, but it could soon be an option. The 25-year veteran of the US space agency is the man behind a project called SPS-Alpha, which aims to loft tens of thousands of lightweight, inflatable modules into space. Once there, they will be assembled into a huge bell-shaped structure that will use mirrors to concentrate energy from the sun onto solar panels.

The collected energy would then be beamed down to ground stations on Earth using microwaves, providing unlimited, clean energy and overnight reducing our reliance on polluting fossil fuels. The snag? It is unproven technology and he estimates it will take at least $15-20 billion to get his project off the ground. Mankins initially had research funding from an advanced concepts arm at NASA, but that money dried up in September 2012; hence his continuing search for a benefactor.

“I can't think of a better solution than to find somebody who is very wealthy, very visionary and willing to make this happen,” he says. But not everyone shares Mankins' optimism. Space-based solar power (SBSP) is a topic that divides the scientific world into extremes. On one side are people like Mankins who believe it is the only solution to our ever increasing energy demands, whilst on the other is a sizeable chunk of the scientific community who believe any money put into solar power should remain firmly on the ground. Click here. (2/28)

Scott Hails EDC Of Space Coast For Rocket Crafters Effort (Source: Space Coast Daily)
Florida Gov. Governor Rick Scott has congratulated the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, the City of Titusville, and their partner organizations for their recent selection as Project of the Year 2012 by fDi Magazine for bringing Rocket Crafters to Florida. Last July, the EDC and partners announced that Rocket Crafters, a Utah-based corporation, would relocate to Titusville.

“We are pleased and honored that fDi Magazine recognized the potential this project has to transform both space tourism and point-to-point transportation from right here on the Space Coast,” EDC President Lynda Weatherman said. “In the case of Rocket Crafters, both the job creation figures and the nature of the investment garnered the award, said Elizabeth Holmenlund of fDi Magazine. “Headquarter projects are highly competitive so landing Rocket Crafters’ investment was a great win and suggests high satisfaction with Florida as an investment destination.” (2/25)

One Lucky Couple Might Get the Chance to Take a Nightmarish Trip to Mars (Source: Jezebel)
This is what happens when we start relying on the private sector for all of our space exploration — rich people do all kinds of crazy shit. Currently, thanks to an investment by NASA engineer-turned-multimillionaire Dennis Tito, engineers are currently in the process of constructing a spaceship that will take one lucky couple to Mars and back on a 501 day trip. I'm sorry — did I say lucky? What I meant to say was insane because that sounds fucking terrible. (2/28)

Inspiration Mars: an Adventure, Not a Venture (Source: NewSpace Journal)
Inspiration Mars has been grouped with a number of rather audacious NewSpace ventures announced since late 2011: air-launch company Stratolaunch Systems, asteroid mining companies Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, and Golden Spike with its plans for commercial human lunar missions. All are taking things that sound like science fiction and making them real.

However, there’s a key factor that sets Inspiration Mars apart that has nothing to do with technologies or missions. The others mentioned above all have business plans designed to create sustainable, profitable ventures. Inspiration Mars is very different: there’s no desire to make a profit, and their proposed mission is a one-shot effort.

“This is not a commercial mission,” Dennis Tito, the founder of Inspiration Mars, said at Wednesday’s press conference. “This is not mission that, if it’s successful, I’m going to come out to be a lot wealthier. Let me guarantee you: I will come out a lot poorer as a result of this mission. But my grandchildren will come out a lot wealthier from the inspiration that this will give them.” (2/28)

Harris Corp. Executive to Chair of Hosted Payload Alliance (Source: Fort Mill Times)
Janet Nickloy, director of Aerospace Mission Solutions for Florida-based Harris Corp., has been selected as the 2013 Chair of the Hosted Payload Alliance (HPA). The HPA seeks to bring together government and industry in an open dialogue to identify and promote the benefits of hosted government payloads on commercial satellites.

Nickloy has extensive expertise in aerospace and satellite communications markets. She currently is responsible for growth strategies related to payloads, electronics, and precision structures for commercial and government space and airborne platforms. Prior to this, she was a director of business development and a director of programs for the company’s government business. Nickloy is well-versed in hosted payloads through several ongoing implementations at Harris, including the global aviation surveillance payload for Aireon on the Iridium NEXT constellation. (2/20)

FSDC Readies for Florida Space Day (Source: FSDC)
The Florida Space Development Council (FSDC) will participate at Florida Space Day on March 6 in Tallahassee. FSDC President Laura Seward will represent the Council's 50+ individual and corporate members as she meets with legislators to encourage their support for policies and programs that will promote the development and diversification of Florida's space program. FSDC Vice President Edward Ellegood will also participate on behalf of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

They will join dozens of space industry leaders, split into 15 teams for appointments throughout the Capitol Building on the second day of the annual Legislative Session. The teams' visits will include meetings with the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and House and Senate leadership, and a reception on the top floor of the Capitol Building. In addition to promoting an agreed-upon list of Space Day policy issues, FSDC will refine their own list of issues (based initially on the Space Day list) for post-Space Day grassroots advocacy, culminating with letters to legislative leaders prior to the end of the Session on May 3. (2/28)

Spaceport Sweden Selling Parabolic Microgravity Flights (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Have you ever dreamt of flying, defying the laws of gravity and float free in the air like an astronaut? Since space exploration began, only a few hundred have had the privilege to experience the ultimate space experience and the magical feeling to float in total weightlessness. That is about to change. For the fist time ever, weightless flights will be offered to the general public in Europe. Spaceport Sweden has been selected as a key partner and reseller for the air Zero G flights in the Netherlands and Nordic countries (excluding Iceland). (2/28)

NASA Releases "Building Momentum" Video (Source: NASA)
This video highlights the steady progress being made by the Space Launch System, the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and the Ground Systems Development and Operations programs -- the core elements of NASA's human space exploration architecture. The video's different sections -- building momentum, building partnerships and building the future – show how the agency is creating a capability to reach for new heights in the solar system and push the boundaries of space exploration. (2/28)

NASA Inspection Finds Problems with Women-Owned Small Business Awards (Source: NASA Watch)
From the Inspector General's report: "Of the 67 sampled awards, we identified 20 that were made to firms that self- certified as being owned and controlled by women. Of those 20, we found indications that 7 (35 percent) may have been to companies that falsely self-certified their eligibility as a woman-owned small business."

Paraphrased from a NASA Watch commenter: This is a double problem. Not only are some of these businesses not 8A concerns...some male-run companies put 50.1% of their stock in their wives' names with no substantial participation by the wives... It is against the spirit if not the letter of the law. We have to compete against companies that are set up this way and lose contracts because we refuse to play that game. Some people need to go to prison over this, that might put the fear of government into them." (2/28)

Nine Questions for Dennis Tito on Private Martian Trips (Source: Space.com)
"First of all, I'm 72 years old. Even if I were 30 years younger, I wouldn't go, because the one criterion that’s very important for this crew is they will have to be really mechanically inclined. They will be overhauling this life support system if it breaks." Click here to read the Q&A. (2/28)

Ellen Ochoa, First Latina in Space, on Her Hispanic Roots (Source: Huffington Post)
Dr. Ellen Ochoa became the first Latina to go to space when she boarded the space shuttle Discovery in 1993. She made history again in January when she became the first Hispanic and second female director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Ellen Ochoa, who is of Mexican decent, spoke about her new role at the Johnson Space Center, growing up in California, her Hispanic roots and Latino representation in NASA. Click here. (2/28) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/27/ellen-ochoa-latina-_n_2773699.html

We Should Drop the Apollo Model in Space, but Keep the Inspiration (Source: Al Jazeera)
Instead of wondering how NASA lost its edge, we ought to lay a foundation for a systematic exploration of space. But when America took its first steps into space they were reactionary, not proactive. In response to the Soviet Union's Sputnik satellites, the military fast-tracked its efforts in space...

The model of Apollo - achieving a major goal with a crash program - is not something we should try and repeat. Landscapes have changed, both in space and in the United States. Instead of looking at Apollo and wondering how NASA lost its edge, we ought to focus on the things the agency had hoped to do initially: lay a foundation for a systematic and lasting exploration of space. Because even if the model is different, the inspiring pioneering spirit that marked the Apollo era can remain the same. (2/28)

Europe's Vega Launcher Readies for Second Mission (Source: Space Daily)
French Guiana is busy with activity as the second Vega undergoes its assembly for a mission scheduled in April. Build-up of the smallest member in Arianespace's launcher family marked a new milestone this week when its solid propellant second-stage was integrated atop the first stage, which also uses solid propellant. The vertical assembly process for Vega no. 2 is being performed on the ZLV launch pad, protected by a mobile gantry that will be withdrawn prior to the vehicle's liftoff. (2/27)

Bills for 11th-Hour Sequester Fix are Seen as Unlikely to Pass (Source: Politico)
Senate measures offered by a divided GOP to shape or halt sequestration appear doomed to failure, this feature says. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, is gaining backing for his own plan to raise taxes and cut spending. Because the sequestration bills are unlikely to gather enough votes for passage, the cuts are likely to be ordered Friday night. (2/27)

Pentagon May Ask for Fund-Transfer Authority (Source: Defense News)
If lawmakers fail to pass a 2013 defense spending bill and the Pentagon must operate on a continuing resolution from 2012 funding levels, the department hopes to gain authority to shift money between projects and change the rate at which it spends funds. Such flexibility would allow the Defense Department to continue or launch certain projects. (2/27)

KSC Visitor Complex Offers Florida Residents Exclusive Admission Package (Source: KSCVC)
The popular $99 Four-Pack special is back for a limited time – and this time exclusively for Florida Residents. Now through March 24, a party of four can experience all the fun and excitement Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex has to offer at the special price of $99 plus tax. The Florida Resident $99 Four-Pack is available only via a printed coupon which can be accessed on the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex website, here. Guests must present the coupon and proof of Florida residency to qualify for the special rate at the time of purchase. (2/28) www.KennedySpaceCenter.com/four-pack.aspx

Florida Pavilion Planned at Paris Air Show (Source: SPACErePORT)
Governor Rick Scott will lead a delegation of state officials and aerospace industry leaders at the Florida Pavilion during this year's Paris Air Show, planned June 17-23. The Florida Pavilion, once again, enjoys a premier location where Florida’s Industry and economic development community can meet existing clients and new prospects. Click here to be part of the Florida Pavilion. (2/28)

Organization Announces Plans for Human Mars Flyby Mission (Source: SpaceToday.net)
A nonprofit organization formally announced plans on Wednesday to fly a privately-funded human mission past Mars and back to Earth starting in 2018. The Inspiration Mars Foundation said it is in the early planning stages for such a mission, which would carry two people, preferably a married couple. Under the plan, the mission would launch from Earth in January 2018, fly past Mars that August, and return to Earth the following May.

One mission concept involves the use of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket and a modified Dragon spacecraft, but other concepts are under study, those involved with the project said. The foundation plans to raise an unspecified amount of money to pay for the mission through donations, media rights, and sponsorships, and doesn't plan to make this a for-profit venture. The foundation is backed by Dennis Tito, the first space tourist to visit the ISS in 2001, who believes this challenges of carrying out such a mission will be an inspiration for future generations. (2/28)

X-Ray Space Telescopes Measure Spin Rate of Black Hole (Source: SpaceToday.net)
European and American space telescopes have measured the spin rate of a supermassive black hole in the center of a galaxy, finding evidence to support one model of how such black holes accrete matter. ESA's XMM-Newton and NASA's NuSTAR spacecraft looked for x-ray emission from iron atoms near the supermassive black hole and found that it is spinning nearly as rapidly as the theory of gravity will allow. The joint observations support a model where matter flows into the black hole in a uniform manner, causing the black hole's spin rate to increase; if the matter came in irregularly and from different directions, it would rotate more slowly. (2/28)

Hawaiians Nominated to Space Panel (Source: Honolulu Civil Beat)
The Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs on Thursday (Feb. 28) will consider the governor’s picks for the Board of Directors of the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems. They include former Gov. George Ariyoshi, who has long advocated for Hawaii’s role in space exploration, and Henk Rogers of the Blue Planet Foundation. The center, known as PISCES, is part of the University of Hawaii. It’s dedicated to “the development, verification and validation of new technologies needed for operations on the Moon, Mars and beyond.” (2/28)

Biosphere Couple Offer to Go to Mars (Source: Arizona Daily Star)
Jane Poynter and Taber MacCallum kept their relationship alive inside Biosphere 2 and now they'd like to test their marriage on a long, risky flight to Mars. The couple spent two years inside Biosphere 2, emerging from the Southern Arizona experiment in contained living in September 1993. Now married, they are founders and officers of Paragon Space Development Corp., a Tucson firm that makes life-support systems for space travel. One man and one woman will make the flight and Poynter said she and MacCallum would like to be the pair if they can survive a crew selection process described as "extremely rigorous" at a news conference announcing the plan Wednesday. (2/28)

Chinese Probe in Breakthrough Outer Space Travel (Source: Xinhua)
China's second moon orbiter, Chang'e-2, has arrived in outer space about 20 million km from the Earth, marking a new breakthrough in the nation's efforts for deep space exploration. The probe is now continuing its deep space travel under normal conditions, according to the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND). Scientific planning, innovative orbit design, accurate observation and control are the major factors that helped Chang'e-2 save fuel in its flight and guaranteed successful travel in outer space, said Wu Weiren. (2/28)

China to Launch New Manned Spacecraft (Source: Xinhua)
China's new spacecraft will be launched sometime between June and August, a spokesperson for the office of the country's space manned program said. Three Chinese astronauts will board the Shenzhou-10, which is expected to dock with the orbiting lab module Tiangong-1, according to the statement. The Tiangong-1 was sent into space in September 2011. It later docked with the Shenzhou-8 unmanned spacecraft in November 2011, and with the Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft in June 2012. After years of testing, the new mission will mark the first formal application of the manned space transportation system, the statement said. (2/28)

NASA Cuts: A Danger for Everyone (Source: NorthJersey.com)
In what seems like a permanent mission to swallow the barrel of our own shotgun, we refuse to adequately fund our one line of defense against killer asteroids (NASA) and in this "GOVERNMENT IS SOOO EVIL!" era, you can pretty much type "NASA budget cuts" into Google on any given day and find something new that’s on the chopping block. Every year the pool of money devoted to scientific exploration shrinks — down to $17.7 billion from $18.4 billion two years ago — and programs are cut and ideas abandoned because politicians (including President Obama) refuse to devote money to it. That is not how it should be.

I will never understand the zeal with which we’ve abandoned our space program, and the lack of progress we’ve made since the leaps and bounds of the mid-20th century is especially frustrating. But hopefully, the Russian meteor will renew both interest in and concern about our space program and let us move forward again on the grand plans we’ve walked away from. As Bill Nye succinctly said in a CNN interview last summer: "If the Earth gets hit by an asteroid, it’s game over. It’s control-alt-delete for civilization." (2/28)

Man and Woman, Preferably Married, Wanted for Expedition to Mars (Source: Reuters)
A nonprofit foundation wants to recruit a man and a woman - possibly a married couple - for a bare-bones, 501-day journey to Mars and back that would start in less than five years. The mission, expected to cost upwards of $1 billion, would be privately financed by donations and sponsorships. Project founder Dennis Tito, a multimillionaire who in 2001 paid $20 million for a trip to the International Space Station, said he will pay start-up costs for two years to begin development of life-support systems and other critical technologies.

Currently, there are no U.S. human spaceships in operation, but several are under development and expected to be flying by 2017. That leaves little time to take advantage of a rare planetary alignment that would allow a craft to loop around Mars, coming as close as about 150 miles (241 kilometers) to the planet's surface, before returning to Earth. The launch window for the mission opens on Jan. 5, 2018. The next opportunity is not until 2031. "If we don't make 2018, we're going to have some competition in 2031," Tito told Reuters. (2/28)

India Planning Big Missions This Year (Source: New Indian Express)
India's space agency has three big missions lined up for this year including a GSLV flight for validating the indigenous cryogenic stage and the ambitious Mars mission later on in October. “May 2013 will be particularly hectic with the PSLV C-22 scheduled to lift off from the Sriharikota spaceport with the hefty Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System (IRNSS-1) and the GSLV D-5 mission which uses the indigenously built cryogenic stage,” said S Ramakrishnan. (2/28)

Orion Test Flight Still Set for 2014 (Source: Florida Today)
NASA is on track for the first test flight in 2014 of its Orion deep space crew capsule, and agency officials don’t expect delays if automatic federal spending cuts go into effect as scheduled on Friday. Dan Dumbacher, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development, said the agency is far enough along with preparations that sequestration shouldn’t affect the September 2014 test flight. (2/28)

Lawmakers Challenge Denial of Political Interference in NASA Probe (Source: Fox News)
Lawmakers looking into whether "political considerations" helped stonewall a federal probe into the transfer of sensitive weapons technology from a NASA center on Wednesday challenged a top U.S. attorney who claimed the allegations are "untrue." Melinda Haag, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California, recently denied claims that her office was blocked by the Justice Department when it tried to proceed with the case.

But Republican Reps. Frank Wolf, R-VA, and Lamar Smith, R-TX -- along with Sen. Charles Grassley, R-IA -- wrote in a letter to Haag Wednesday that the statement "conflicts factually with information we received from federal law enforcement." The lawmakers reiterated allegations "that politics played a role" in the handling of the case. They cited claims that a witness was supposed to testify before a grand jury in February 2011, "but this witness's appearance was cancelled abruptly and not rescheduled."

Whistleblower documents obtained last week by FoxNews.com tell a similar story. The allegations surround the Ames Research Center in California. 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. The documents claim the FBI has been working with other agencies since 2009 on an investigation into foreign nationals working at Ames. (2/28)

Atlas V Launch Teaches Students About Science and Space (Source: AFSPC)
A science field trip to Vandenberg Air Force Base provided 35 students from St. Mary of the Assumption School, in nearby Santa Maria, an opportunity to watch a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket blast into orbit carrying a NASA payload Feb. 11. Team Vandenberg launched the Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-3 just after 10 a.m. It was the sixth Atlas V rocket launched from the base. The school's Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program seeks to expose its students to as many real-world opportunities as possible. (2/27)

U.S.-Built Radar to Probe Oceans on Jupiter's Icy Moons (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
NASA will provide key components for an ice-piercing radar aboard Europe's Jupiter orbiter, helping scientists resolve the thickness and internal structure of ice sheets covering the giant planet's moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. The U.S. space agency's investment will total approximately $100 million, including design, development and operations of the radar equipment, components of a particle detection payload, and an ultraviolet spectrometer to study the interactions between Jupiter, its atmosphere and the icy surfaces of its moons. (2/27)

Astrium Looks To Asia For Partner On Earth Observation Satellite (Source: Aviation Week)
Astrium is speaking to countries outside Europe, including Singapore, about partnering in the development of GO-3S, the company’s new geostationary Earth observation satellite. Astrium sales and marketing director Gregory Pederson says the 10-meter-long, 4.9-ton GO-3S will cover about a one-quarter of the Earth’s surface. It will have a mirror about 4 meters in size that can observe a 100 km by 100 km (60 x 60 mi.) sector, with 3-meter resolution and a picture rate of five images per second. (2/27)

EADS Closes BAE Merger Saga as Profit Leaps (Source: Reuters)
Airbus parent EADS formally buried its attempted $45 billion merger with UK defense contractor BAE Systems Plc and cheered investors with evidence that civil aviation growth continues unabated. Shares in Europe's largest aerospace company reached a record high on Wednesday after it unveiled higher than expected 2012 earnings and raised its dividend despite charges at its defence and helicopter operations. (2/27)

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