February 4, 2013

Multi-State Aerospace Alliance Plans Florida Space Day Presence (Source: SPACErePORT)
The "Aerospace Alliance" -- a partnership of Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi focused on joint aerospace industry development -- will have a presence at Florida Space Day in Tallahassee on March 6. Representatives of the Alliance will meet with Florida space industry officials and with Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll. Click here for more about the Alliance. (2/4)

To Save NASA, Does Charles Bolden Need to Go to China? (Source: Houston Chronicle)
If you’re interested in some of the reasons why the future of NASA is troubled, despite the happy talk from Congress and the agency itself, I’d advise you to spend some time watching this panel of space experts who recently discussed these issues at Rice University’s Baker Institute. They cover a lot of the challenges facing NASA, which principally are the lack clear human spaceflight goal, lack of political will and a lack of funds to carry out an ambitious program.

Interestingly, the panel almost universally advises Congress to allow NASA to do what it has been prohibited from doing until now: work with China. During the panel discussion, Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, sums it up thusly, “If you think China is a competitor, then keep them close so you know what they are doing. If you don’t think China is a competitor, then keep them close and let them pay the bills. Either way I don’t see the downside.”

China has the money and the will to do great things in space. NASA has more of the know-how. Bringing China — and eventually India, Brazil and other rising nations — into the existing international partnership could create a truly global partnership. To those who say there’s no way the United States could ever work closely with such an economic and military rival, I would simply ask them who currently takes U.S. astronauts — safely, I might add — into space. It won’t be easy. Politics rarely is. But for NASA, it may be critical. (2/4)

Nye: Reach for the Stars, Together (Source: New York Times)
There is no future for any of us in trying to suppress space exploration. Space inspires citizens in every country. Seeing the progress of space programs in Iran, South Korea and China, our response should be: “Let's work together for the betterment of humankind.” Since it was formed in the winter of 1979-80, the Planetary Society has supported international cooperation. We have had strong ties with many Russian, European, Canadian and Japanese space scientists and engineers for decades.

Space programs inherently lead to economic prosperity. For example, South Africa has a space agency now with the hope that it will bring thousands of Ph.D.'s to the country. People who study the history of space have expressed deep concern about the cost of competing with rather than cooperating with China... The cost of missions to distant worlds can be lowered tremendously through cooperation. It was disappointing a year ago when the U.S. had to pull out of an agreement with the European Space Agency concerning the next major mission to Mars. Click here. (2/3)

Cheng: U.S. Can Help Its Allies’ Space Efforts (Source: New York Times)
Asian space programs accelerated significantly in the past year. Both North and South Korea can now boast successful space launches. China conducted its most extended space mission with a crew, spending 10 days aboard the Tiangong-1 space lab. Its indigenous Beidou/Compass satellite navigation system began regional service. Japan, meanwhile, placed two imagery satellites into orbit last month. Very clearly, the major East Asian powers are all busily establishing their presence in space. Meanwhile, India has announced that it will launch a mission to Mars in 2013.

While there may be a budding Asian “space race,” it will be a marathon, not a sprint. None of the major Asian players are rushing to launch rockets, even as each keeps a wary eye on the neighbors. In this context, the United States has a unique opportunity to help influence terrestrial concerns through space activities. The United States is an ally of two of the burgeoning space powers (Japan and South Korea), and has been forging a variety of links to India. Click here. (2/3)

Oberg: Russia Must Choose: Low Tech or High? (Source: New York Times)
With the arrival of a new team of spaceflight players, and with the U.S. and Europe already transitioning to a new generation of space access hardware, Russia’s dominant position in “spacelift” – meaning big rockets – looks more and more like a blind alley. Far-sighted Moscow space experts have expressed concern that Russia has boxed itself in as a low-tech truck driver for other nations’ payloads, which then are performing the commercial space services where the real money is.

Moscow has consoled itself with lucrative launch contracts, which provide about a third of the space agency’s annual budget. But when new U.S. commercial spacelift gears up, along with major booster production enhancements in China and India, even those could fade away. As of now, Russia’s only other claim to space pride is its role in the International Space Station. Its rockets carry all crewmembers from the partner nations, as well as a large fraction of the support cargo and equipment.

But that's it. There aren't any other jewels left in the Soviet-era “space crown.” Russia hasn’t launched a successful interplanetary or lunar mission in a quarter century. Its navigation satellite system, Glonass, can compete only because of protectionist policies limiting foreign systems. Russian weather satellites are practically nonexistent. The nation buys 80 percent of its earth observation data from overseas providers, and a similar fraction of its electronic components for its satellites. Click here. (2/3)

Kulacki & Grego: With China, Setting Norms (Source: New York Times)
Fifty-five years ago, the launch of Sputnik announced the beginning of the space age and a fierce competition between the Soviet Union and the United States. But today space is international. North and South Korea bring the number of countries that have successfully launched satellites to 12. More than 1,000 active satellites are in orbit, owned by some 50 countries. But satellites and the rockets that put them in orbit also have military uses, so the spread of these technologies remains a focus of international controversy and concern.

China is a fulcrum of the U.S. debate over international cooperation and competition in space. U.S. commercial and scientific space professionals want to cooperate with their Chinese peers, who will bring considerable economic and technical resources to the development of the global space industry and to international space science and exploration. But U.S. political and military leaders, concerned about China’s attitudes and behavior, actively seek to limit Chinese participation in the international community of space-faring nations.

These obstacles are a global concern. Humankind’s future in space requires substantial coordination and cooperation among its users; the long-term security and sustainability of space cannot be achieved without it. Clear expectations for responsible behavior are needed to protect the rights of all space-faring nations as well as the space environment. But the suspicion, hostility and lack of normal civil, commercial and scientific cooperation between two of the most active and influential space-faring nations undermines efforts toward a meaningful international dialogue about what rules are needed and how they might be implemented. (2/3)

Ansari: Nations Can Cooperate, and Welcome Private Investment (Source: New York Times)
One of the reasons I love space is that it reminds people that they all live under the same skies and on the same planet. The future of humanity depends highly on how we learn to use the resources of space to address our needs here on Earth. The only way to accomplish this is by collaboration.

In the past, space has provided ground for collaboration among nations even when their relationships were rocky. The American-Russian Mir shuttle program is a good example. The International Space Station is another. Its work is the result of teamwork among 16 countries that have joined together in the spirit of peace and cooperation to benefit humanity. Scientists and innovators across borders all share the basic desire for discovery and understanding of the universe and its nature.

This characteristic stands independent of a native land and transcends the limitations of politics. Today, space can be the platform where countries like China, the U.S. and Iran find common objectives and learn to work together and establish better channels of communication. The new entrants in the space age can bring valuable resources to the table. So can private partners. Click here. (2/3)

Sequestration and Planetary Exploration (Source: Future Planets)
I’d hoped that I’d never need to write this post. The latest news in the U.S. is that a poison pill known as the Sequester is looking increasingly likely. If it happens, it will be a body blow to NASA’s planetary science program. Sequestration would require an 8.2% cut on March 1 to all discretionary federal spending including the NASA budget. After two years of small budget increases (inflation plus a little), the President’s proposed budget for FY13 imposed a 20.6% cut to the planetary program. (Congress hasn’t passed NASA’s FY13 budget, so the program is operating based on the President’s proposal.)

The sequester cuts would be in addition to the already planned cuts. Those planned cuts forced NASA to drop out of a joint Mars program with the Europeans, ended any chance for now of a mission to Europa, and reduced the planned rate of Discovery (~$500M) missions from several a decade to one. One challenge to looking at how NASA might further cut the planetary program if the sequester happens is that we don’t know how much of its overall budget it will protect.

NASA’s top three priorities are operation of the space station, developing its next human spaceflight system, and completing the James Webb Space Telescope. Given this, I guessing that the minimum cut for planetary science might be the 8.2% and the maximum might be double that (i.e., NASA protects half of its budgets for programs it considers higher priority). Click here. (2/4)

Boeing Sues Sea Launch (Source: SpaceRef)
Reuters is reporting that Boeing filed a lawsuit last Friday to recover $350 million from RSC Energia and its partners in Sea Launch, for refusing to pay their share of loan guarantees after the joint-venture went bankrupt in 2009. The news comes just days after the loss of Intelsat 27 which launched from the Sea Launch Odyssey platform last week. This was the first launch attempt by Sea launch after coming out of bankruptcy. The initial reason for the launch failure appears to have been a failed Ukrainian hydraulic pump. (2/4)

Unofficial: Sea Launch Failure Blamed on Ukrainian Hydraulic Pump (Source: Russian Space Web)
A reliable industry observer has suggested that a Ukrainian-built 11L729 hydraulic pump also known as BIM for "Bortovoi Istochnik Moshnosti - Onboard Power Source" as a likely culprit in the accident. The BIM pump provides hydraulic power to a steering mechanism that tilts combustion chambers of the main engine of the first stage from their vertical position up to seven or eight degrees in order to steer the rocket in flight.

Monitoring data available from the ill-fated launch indicated that despite its normal operation before liftoff, the pump's turbine had quickly slowed down its rotation and then completely stopped. As a result, the rocket likely lost its ability to follow its prescribed trajectory and the flight control system shut off the engine some 20 seconds after liftoff -- enough time for the vehicle to reach a safe distance from the launch platform.

The BIM pump failed at 4.5 seconds after the engines were brought into launch-ready position (or around half a second before liftoff, according to estimates), thus disabling the gimbal mechanism of the main engine and making it impossible to tilt its combustion chambers and steer the rocket in flight. As a result, the vehicle was not able to conduct its planned pitch maneuver and 16 seconds into the flight it exceeded allowable limit of 30 degrees for deviation in its rolling motion, triggering emergency actions by the flight control system. (2/4)

Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid was a Twin Terror (Source: New Scientist)
Asteroids 2, dinosaurs 0. The infamous space rock that slammed into Earth and helped wipe it clean of large dinosaurs may have been a binary – two asteroids orbiting each other. The dino-killing asteroid is usually thought of as a single rock with a diameter of 7 to 10 kilometers, but it may really have been two widely separated rocks with that combined diameter.

The surprise conclusion comes from a re-evaluation of the proportion of asteroid craters on Earth that were formed from binary impacts. It could also spell bad news for those hoping to protect our world from catastrophic collisions in future. Earth bears the scars of twin-asteroid impacts: the Clearwater Lakes near Hudson Bay in Canada, for instance, are really twin craters that formed about 290 million years ago. Examples like Clearwater are rare, though. Just 1 in 50 of craters on Earth come in such pairs. (2/1)

"Discovery of Alien" an 'X Factor' According to World's Leaders (Source: Daily Galaxy)
World leaders at at the 2013 World Economic Forum held in Davos, Swtizerland this January, asked the attending editors and journalists to identify five of the most potentially disruptive of the "unheralded" risks, which they dubbed ‘X factors'" according to Nature.com.*The report put together by Nature, titled "Global Risks 2013," came up with a list of five "X factors" that world leaders need to prepare for to avoid what it described as "systemic shocks and catastrophic events.

The "X factors" are described in the reports as factors that "no country alone can prevent," and illustrates the notion of an "X factor" as an "unheralded" event that may suddenly confront humanity. Among the five "X factors" identified was “Discovery of Alien Life." "Given the pace of space exploration, it is increasingly conceivable that we may discover the existence of alien life or other planets that could support human life," said the WEF. "What would be the effects on science funding flows and humanity’s self-image?" Click here. (2/4)

Space Skydiver Fell Faster Than Thought (Source: AP)
Supersonic skydiver Felix Baumgartner was faster than he or anyone else thought when he jumped from 24 miles up. According to the official numbers released Monday, the Austrian parachutist known as "Fearless Felix" reached 843.6 mph. That's equivalent to Mach 1.25, or 1.25 times the speed of sound. His top speed initially was estimated last October at 834 mph, or Mach 1.24. Either way, he became the first human to break the sound barrier with only his body. (2/4)

Florida Governor Seeks Funding for Space, Defense (Source: SPACErePORT)
Florida Governor Rick Scott has released his budget request for FY-2013/14 in advance of the state's annual Legislative Session, which begins on March 5. His proposed budget for "Strategic Business Development" includes $279 million for "flexible" and "reserve" funding for economic development opportunities; $3 million for defense support and military base protection; $10 million for Space Florida aerospace financing projects; $10 million for Space Florida operations ($4 million of which is now "recurring"). Also, the Florida Department of Transportation currently has $20 million budgeted for space transportation infrastructure. (2/4)

Florida Space Development Council Plans Advocacy Role in Tallahassee (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Florida Space Development Council (FSDC) has shared with its membership a list of space policy issues that are expected to be considered in Tallahassee during the state's upcoming Legislative Session. Members have been encouraged to provide comments on the list, toward the development of a final FSDC advocacy agenda that will be shared with elected officials before the close of the Legislative Session. Click here. (2/4)

The Future of Space Telescopes Beyond JWST (Source: Space Review)
While NASA is busy operating the Hubble Space Telescope and building its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, some are thinking about what comes after those missions. Jeff Foust reports on various efforts ranging from repurposing "free" telescopes provided by the NRO to using the ISS as an astronomical technology testbed. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2232/1 to view the article. (2/4)

A Personal History of Underwater Neutral Buoyancy Simulation (Source: Space Review)
Underwater training is taken for granted today as a necessary measure in preparing for spacewalks, but nearly half a century ago that wasn't the case. G. Sam Mattingly provides his perspective as one of the key proponents for underwater training for EVAs during the Gemini program. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2231/1 to view the article. (2/4)

How Geopolitical Factors Overshadow South Korea's Space Success (Source: Space Review)
Last week, South Korea joined the exclusive club of nations that have successfully launched satellites, a month after its neighbor to the north did the same. Ajey Lele argues that South Korea's success may be lost in larger geopolitical crises in the region. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2230/1 to view the article. (2/4)

Astrium Works with ESA to Design Ariane 6 (Source: Astrium)
The European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded Astrium €108 million worth of prime contractor agreements covering the development of the Ariane 6 and Ariane 5 ME launchers. Under these contracts, Astrium will launch the initial definition and feasibility studies for the future Ariane 6 European launcher. Expected to run for six months, the study phase aims to identify the concept and architecture for Ariane 6 and will set out the new launcher’s main specifications prior to its industrial development.

An outline of Ariane 6’s design has already been established: it will be a modular rocket with a payload capacity of 3 to 6.5 metric tons in geostationary orbit. Dubbed PPH, the launcher’s configuration comprises two lower stages in which solid propellant is used and a cryogenic upper stage powered by a Vinci® restartable engine, developed by Snecma (Safran Group). The task now facing Astrium is to study the various possible PPH configurations and propose the best solution for meeting the programme’s technical and scheduling objectives, while also keeping to the target budget (€70 million per launch) and achieving the same reliability as Ariane 5. (1/30)

Let's Get the Facts Straight about Iran's Space Monkey (Source: Guardian)
Was Iran engaging in monkey business when it claimed on Monday to have successfully fired a primate into space and brought it back alive? Despite several media reports in recent days casting doubts on the Iranian claim, it appears that the monkey has indeed returned from its suborbital flight intact.

Based on a photo inconsistency, conspiracy theorists took to the internet within hours of the news breaking, saying that the authorities had lied when they claimed the launch was successful and that the monkey has probably died on its way back to Earth. In a few days, the online allegations were picked up by newspaper websites in the UK and other parts of the world, and Iran was accused of covering up its failure by displaying another monkey. Click here. (2/3)

Where Are All the Dwarfs? (Source: AIP)
Astronomers of the international CLUES collaboration have identified “Cosmic Web Stripping” as a new way of explaining the famous missing dwarf problem: the lack of observed dwarf galaxies compared with that predicted by the theory of Cold Dark Matter and Dark Energy. High-precision observations over the last two decades have indicated that our Universe consists of about 75% Dark Energy, 20% Dark Matter and 5% ordinary matter. Galaxies and matter in the universe clump in an intricate network of filaments and voids, known as the Cosmic Web.

Computer experiments on massive supercomputers have shown that in such a Universe a huge number of small “dwarf” galaxies weighing just one thousandth of the Milky Way should have formed in our cosmic neighborhood. Yet only a handful of these galaxies are observed orbiting around the Milky Way. The observed scarcity of dwarf galaxies is a major challenge to our understanding of galaxy formation.
The CLUES simulations use the observed positions and peculiar velocities of galaxies within Tens of Millions of light years of the Milky Way to accurately simulate the local environment of the Milky Way. “The main goal of this project is to simulate the evolution of the Local Group - the Andromeda and Milky Way galaxies and their low-mass neighbors - within their observed large scale environment”, said Stefan Gottlöber. (2/1)

5-6 Satellites May Be Added to GLONASS in 2013 (Source: Interfax)
OAO Information Satellite Systems (ISS, Zheleznogorsk) is successfully implementing the program to create navigation satellites to support the orbital group GLONASS. "I think we will launch at least 5-6 navigation satellites in 2013: three GLONASS-M satellites will be launched some time in the middle of 2013, plus 1-2 GLONASS-M and GLONASS-K1 satellites," Testoyedov said.

"We launched six GLONASS satellites in 2011 and none in 2012 because they were not needed: the group, in which the orbital reserve worked effectively, turned out very stable and reliable. For this reason, the three GLONASS-M satellites that we could have launched if they had been needed are now stored at ISS. We will make another five GLONASS-M satellites in 2013," Testoyedov said. (2/4)

Scientists Offer Wary Support for NASA's New Mars Rover (Source: Space.com)
Scientists cheered NASA's decision to send a new rover to Mars in 2020, but stressed that the mission should pave the way to return Martian rocks to Earth — a major goal of the planetary science community. In a set of statements released Jan. 28 and Jan. 30, two large and well-respected groups of scientists — the Planetary Society and the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS), respectively — shared their views on the plan to send another robotic explorer to the Red Planet in seven years. Click here. (2/4)

Search for Near-Earth Asteroids Needs a Speed Boost (Source: Space.com)
At the current rate that near-Earth asteroids are being detected, it will take astronomers 15 years to identify every one of significant size and even more than 10 times longer to characterize their materials, a new study suggests. Astronomers should dramatically ramp up the sky surveys, not only to better prepare for threats to Earth but also to exploit asteroids' contents, scientists say.

These asteroids could be mined one day for valuable metals such as platinum and cobalt, yet at the current rate it will take 190 years to characterize their materials, Charlie Beeson, a doctoral candidate in astronomy at Harvard University, told an audience last month at the 221st annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society. Increasing the breadth of existing sky surveys and using an orbiting mission to search for asteroids could speed up the cosmic hunt, Beeson said. (2/4)

Yuri's Night Includes Multiple Space Coast Events (Source: Yuri's Night)
In celebration of the anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's launch into space on April 12, 1961, annual Yuri's Night celebrations are planned worldwide. Thus far, four events are planned on Florida's Space Coast. Click here for details. (2/4)

NASA's ‘Crazy’ Robot Lab (Source: BBC)
Inside a laboratory in California, space engineers are designing a new generation of rover... and they look like nothing you have seen before. It’s three in the afternoon, and in their Nasa lab in Silicon Valley, California, two engineers are playing with a toy designed for toddlers. The melon-sized plaything consists of a tactile lattice of brightly painted beads, connected by wooden rods and elastic cords. It twists and flexes as Vytas Sunspiral and Adrian Agogino crunch it in their hands and throw it between themselves across the room.

One online review describes the gadget as “great for sensory exploration,” but Sunspiral and Agogino are considering it for something way more ambitious: planetary exploration. This bundle of beads, rods and cords, they believe, could form the basis of a new generation of planetary rovers.

“The program that funded this bit of research, I call it the crazy ideas program,” exclaims the fast-talking Sunspiral, a towering figure whose name, long blonde hair, beard and glasses suggest a “crazy ideas” lab in Silicon Valley is his natural environment. For obvious reasons, NASA prefers not to use the word “crazy” in its research but includes the project under its Innovative Advanced Concepts Program. “Here, in the intelligent robotics group,” says Sunspiral, “we do all sorts of advanced research on robots.” Click here. (2/4)

Ahmadinejad Wants to Go to Space (Source: Reuters)
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants everyone to know he has the utmost confidence in his country’s space program. A week after sending a monkey into space--or photographing two different monkeys strapped into launch pods, as some claim--the provocative president announced that he is "ready to be the first human to be sent to space by Iranian scientists.” Ahmadinejad is known for making colorful  public statements, so it’s unclear how serious he is, but he has fallen out with parliament and will be looking for a new job come June. (2/4)

Finding the Key to Immunity in Space (Source: SpaceRef)
Living in space weakens astronauts' immune systems, researchers have discovered. The findings are providing clues on how to tackle diseases on Earth before symptoms appear. Ever since the first humans ventured into space we have known that astronauts can suffer from common infections that would be quickly dealt with by healthy people on Earth. Until now, it was not clear what was blocking astronauts' immune systems from working normally.

In 2006, ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter performed an experiment on the International Space Station using ESA's Kubik space incubator. A batch of human immune cells was allowed to float in microgravity while another was held in a centrifuge to simulate gravity. The cells were preserved for analysis back on Earth. The cells that experienced simulated gravity as if on Earth were found to be in good health compared to their weightless equivalents. Click here. (2/4)
Mapping Mars (Source: SpaceRef)
Nearly 90% of Mars' surface has been mapped by the high-resolution stereo camera on ESA's Mars Express, which celebrates ten years since launch this June. The mosaic comprises 2702 individual swaths of the martian surface, up to and including the spacecraft's 10 821st orbit of the planet, which it completed on 30 June 2012. In total, 87.8% of the surface has been mapped at any resolution, with 61.5% mapped at a resolution of 20 m per pixel or better. The map is equatorially aligned, meaning that regions at the poles appear distorted. (2/4)

Bigelow Posts "Opportunities and Pricing" for Alpha Station (Source: NewSpace Watch)
The Bigelow Aerospace website now includes a section titled Opportunities and Pricing. This refers to the Alpha Station, which they plan to launch in 2016. It will consist of two BA-330 modules. The prices cover trips to the station for individuals, for leasing a 110 cubic meter section of the station ("equal to an entire ISS module") for 60 days, and for naming rights of the entire station or of one of the modules. Click here. (2/4)

Pentagon Will Submit Sequestration Plan by Friday (Source: Defense News)
The Pentagon will submit a plan for dealing with sequestration to the White House by the end of this week, sources say. The Friday deadline will give the Defense Department several weeks to prepare for the defense cuts scheduled for March 1. The automatic cuts include $500 billion over 10 years. (2/2)

Editorial: U.S. Can Afford $500 Billion in (Smart) Defense Cuts (Source: CNN)
Military officials are presenting all kinds of apocalyptic scenarios about the looming automatic, across-the-board reductions in defense spending. And make no mistake: The way the so-called sequestration would make the defense cuts -- $500 billion over 10 years -- would be damaging. Every item in the defense budget except for military personnel accounts will have to be cut by the same percentage. That is no way to run a school board, let alone the world's largest organization and greatest military power.

Moreover, by the time sequestration would take effect, in March, the fiscal year will already be half over. Therefore, cuts in every defense budget item in the FY 2013 budget will have to be twice as drastic to get the roughly $50 billion in cuts in the remaining months of the fiscal year. That's too bad. Because the idea of reducing defense spending by $500 billion over the next 10 years is a good one.

Such a cut would represent only a 7% reduction to the defense budget in real terms and would bring defense spending back to where it was in 2006 in real dollars, at the height of the Iraq war. And defense spending would still be higher in inflation-adjusted dollars than the Cold War average. Even if sequestration took effect, the United States would also still spend more than the next 14 nations in the world combined, most of whom are allies. (2/1)

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