February 8, 2013

KSC Seeks Sandy Money as Ocean Chews Toward Launch Pads (Source: Florida Today)
NASA longs to explore liquid planets but will first have to fend off our own watery world. That could take upwards of $45 million. As the ocean closes in on two historic launch pads, Kennedy Space Center officials have yet to hear how much they’ll see of the $15 million Congress just allocated for NASA as part of the $51 billion Hurricane Sandy relief bill. KSC hopes for at least $4 million to fix 1.2 miles of eroding dunes that stand between the Atlantic Ocean and the two former space shuttle launch pads — 39A and 39B. (2/8)

Space Systems Will Struggle to Support Strategic Shift to Asia-Pacific (Source: National Defense)
A new focus on the Asia-Pacific region, along with impending budget cuts — will make delivering space-based services to military users more challenging, the Defense Department's top civilian overseeing space policy said. "Space costs too much,” said Charles L. Beames, principal director of space and intelligence for the office of the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics. “We’re still coasting, really, on a mindset that was set a long time ago during the Cold War where we had space superiority.”

The Obama administration and Pentagon leaders have listed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technologies among the line items it wishes to protect from severe budget cuts, said Rob Hegstrom, director of battlespace awareness and program assessment for the undersecretary of defense for intelligence. “Even if we’re protected, though, we’re usually getting squeezed pretty hard,” he said. “I think those pressures are going to be there again." (2/7)

Space Science Groups Plan Joint Conference in Florida in November (Source: SPACErePORT)
This year, the American Society for Gravitational and Space Research annual meeting will be held in Orlando, Florida, in conjunction with the 5th International Symposium on Physical Sciences in Space. The joint conference will be held on November 3-8 at the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista, on Walt Disney World. Click here. (3/8)

Dinosaur Extinction Battle Flares (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)
Reviving a 30-year-old controversy, Berkeley scientists have pinned down the precise time when a monster comet or asteroid slammed into Earth and, they say, wiped out the dinosaurs in a global mass extinction. Paul Renne, a physicist at the Berkeley Geochronology Center, and his colleagues reported Thursday in the journal Science that with new and highly advanced dating technology they have calculated the impact to 66,038,000 years ago, give or take only 11,000 years.

In geologic terms, that's "to within a gnat's eyebrow," Renne said. And by that standard, both the impact and the mass extinction occurred at virtually the same time - within less than 33,000 years of each other, Renne and his international team of scientists maintain. Scientists have debated the cause of the dinosaurs' demise for more than 30 years. (2/7)

Finding the Key to Immunity (Source: ESA)
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.

By comparing the samples, investigators saw what was stopping the immune cells from working properly. A specific transmitter in the immune cells, called the Rel/NF-κB pathway, stops working in weightlessness. “Normally, when our bodies sense an invasion, a cascade of reactions occur that are controlled by the information held in our genes, similar to an instruction book,” explains Isabelle Walther. “Finding which gene does what is like looking for the right key to fit a keyhole, without having found the keyhole yet.” (2/8)

Supernova Alert! Astronomers Spot Warning Outburst (Source: Space.com)
Forecasting when stars will die in giant explosions may one day be possible by looking for the warning outbursts they release beforehand, researchers say. Supernovas are the most powerful stellar explosions in the universe, visible all the way to the edge of the cosmos. These stars detonate for two known reasons: either from gorging on too much mass stolen from a companion star or by running out of fuel and abruptly collapsing.

Astronomers have suggested that stars can give off smaller explosions just before they go supernova. To find out more about supernovas, researchers used three telescopes — the Palomar Observatory, the Very Large Array and NASA's Swift mission — to investigate a star 500 million light-years away. The star, which had about 50 times the mass of the sun, ultimately detonated as a supernova named SN 2010mc.

The researchers' data suggest that 40 days before the final explosion, the dying star produced a giant outburst, releasing as much matter as 1 percent the mass of the sun — about 3,330 times the mass of Earth — at about 4.5 million mph (7.2 million km/h). (2/8)

White House, Boehner at Impasse on Sequester (Source: The Hill)
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, is standing by his call for spending cuts, but no tax hikes, as a sequester solution. However, the White House is faulting him for what it calls a "list of demands" before sequestration takes place. The White House is referring to options Republicans previously floated as an alternative to the across-the-board cuts. Neither side has put forward a detailed plan this year that would halt the sequestration, due to hit March 1. (2/7)

Russia, Kazakhstan Ready to Deal with Baikonur Problem (Source: Interfax)
Russian and Kazakh experts and relevant departments have reconciled positions on the Baikonur spaceport, Presidents Vladimir Putin and Nursultan Nazarbayev said at negotiations in the Kremlin. The presidents had a detailed discussion of the bilateral cooperation program for 2013-2015, the formation of the Common Economic Space and progress towards the Eurasian Economic Union. They agreed on high- and top-level contacts, one of which would take place at the annual forum of border regions in Yekaterinburg this fall. (2/8)

Canada Funds Space Robot Projects Amid Competition (Source: Space.com)
Canada's government will chip in $5 million to help its space experts compete for robotics contracts, according to an announcement made in Montreal on Feb. 8. Scientists developing planetary rovers and other types of space robotics will receive the grant money over five years from the government's Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. (2/8)

Cape Canaveral's Surprise: Hangar R (Source: America Space)
Most people that travel past Hangar R, located at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida, don’t give the structure a second thought as they drive by. Perhaps they should, for the building contains a stunning array of spacecraft and launch vehicles that would be the envy of any museum. The hangar looks virtually identical to so many other buildings at the historic site. When one steps inside the pale beige building, this perception changes. Rockets, spacecraft, and missiles, all in pristine condition, crowd the insides of Hangar R. Click here. (2/8)

AXE-Apollo Florida Space Training Camp Could Change (Source: SPACErePORT)
The AXE Apollo sweepstakes for suborbital space flights is supposed to include an extensive training program in Orlando, but details remain sketchy and it seems unlikely that their plans will be fully realized. First, the AXE program had intended to use Tampa-based Aurora Aerospace's L-39 Albatross for jet-fighter flight training, but I hear that this may not be possible under current FAA restrictions. Also, the advertised plan for 6-G centrifuge training might have to be downgraded to a 2.5-G experience at Disney's Mission: Space ride. (2/8)

Monday Launch to Continue Landsat Legacy of Research (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Mapping the world and monitoring the changes on planet Earth for four decades, the Landsat series of spacecraft will see its most advanced and capable satellite launched Monday from a pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The Landsat Data Continuity Mission, or LDCM, is the eighth satellite built in the program and ensures uninterrupted science records of global resources will continue to be written for years to come.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket is poised to carry the 6,133-pound craft into a polar orbit Monday, blasting off from Space Launch Complex 3-East at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 10:02 a.m. local time (1:02 p.m. EST). (2/8)

Eutelsat and Arianespace Sign Multi-Year Launch Agreement (Source: Arianespace)
Eutelsat and Arianespace announced the signature of a long-term multiple launch services agreement which guarantees launch capacity and flexibility to Eutelsat for its industry-leading expansion programme. The agreement covers up to four launches in the 2016 and 2017 timeframe, with the assignment of each satellite to a launch vehicle to be made at a later stage. The new contract is in addition to the contract signed in July 2012 between Eutelsat and Arianespace for the 2014 and 2015 timeframe, covering one launch and an option for a further launch. (2/8)

Captain Kirk Calls Chris Hadfield at Space Station (Source: CBC)
Canadian actor William Shatner, best known as Star Trek's Captain Kirk, hailed the International Space Station and chatted with Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield this morning about the risks faced in space and rumours that Hadfield has volunteered to go to Mars. Over the casual, 10-minute conversation, Shatner asked Hadfield about the dangers of going into space, especially to a place such as Mars. (2/7)

Lecturer Questions Views on Space Exploration (Source: Brown Daily Herald)
Those who consider space “the last frontier” may not have thought reaching for the stars would pose a threat to Earth. In his lecture “The Sky is the Limit: The Errors and Dangers of Space Expansionism,” Daniel Deudney, associate professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University, criticized the optimism surrounding space expansionism and emphasized its associated security issues.

Humans have a history of looking at the night sky “in awe, in wonder, curiosity and have conjured expectations that the sky is the abode of great powers,” Deudney said. Once it became possible to put humans into space, proponents of exploration “developed an elaborate argument about why it’s desirable to go into space,” he said.

Deudney deconstructed arguments for space expansion, which he said are “never subjected to very serious critical analysis.” The pure expense and energy necessary to put objects into space — it costs $10,000 per pound, Deudney said — is a problem, and the process has remained expensive for the past 50 years. “The Apollo program cost as much as the interstate highway system,” he said. (2/8)

Astronaut Beams In to Indiana Senate (Source: Fort Wayne Journal Gazette)
Senators and staff received a unique treat Thursday when NASA Commander Kevin Ford beamed into the Indiana Senate for a broadcast visit from the International Space Station. Wearing a blue sweatshirt adorned with the state flag emblem, the native Hoosier talked about the importance of space exploration, his time going to school in Indiana and his 105-day stint on the station. Ford is the brother of former Sen. David Ford, R-Hartford City, who died in 2008 after a battle with cancer. (2/8)

Intelligent Civilizations Rarer Than One in a Million (Source: Berkeley News Center)
Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have now used the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia to look for intelligent radio signals from planets around 86 of these stars. While discovering no telltale signs of life, the researchers calculate that fewer than one in a million stars in the Milky Way Galaxy have planetary civilizations advanced enough to transmit beacons we could detect. (2/8)

UCF Aerospace Engineering Major Offers Opportunities Outside NASA (Source: UCF)
Out of this world. After years of countless math problems, technological experiments and all-nighters, that is the kind of job the approximately 500 Aerospace Engineering majors at UCF look forward to after graduation. Ideally located in close proximity to the Kennedy Space Center, UCF has much to offer students who want to make their mark on major space expeditions — or at least that was the case until the recent retirement of NASA’s space shuttle program, which spread concern throughout UCF’s Aerospace Engineering program.

The end of the NASA program was the direct result of the budget authority allotted by the federal government. According to NASA’s official website, spending on the program declined in past years, most recently from $18.5 million in 2011 to an estimated $17.8 million in 2012. In 2013, it fell once again to a requested $17.7 million. With so many jobs lost since the layoffs began in 2009, and the majority of them so close to home, Aerospace Engineering students at UCF need to assess other options they will have upon graduation. (2/8)

Space Industry Liability Bill Passed by New Mexico House (Source: Alamogordo Daily News)
A proposal to help New Mexico develop a commercial space travel industry is on a glide path to becoming law. The House unanimously approved the measure on Thursday to limit the liability of spacecraft manufacturers and their suppliers. The legislation is considered critical for ensuring that Virgin Galactic follows through on plans to fly tourists into space from a nearly complete spaceport in southern New Mexico, which has cost taxpayers more than $200 million.

"I see this as a stepping stone to broaden space flight activities... not only for New Mexico but for the entire country," said Rep. James White, an Albuquerque Republican. "There may be time when we launch spacecraft from here with passengers and land them within minutes on the other side of the world," he said.

Editor's Note: The point-to-point market will require spaceports that are strategically located to serve as multi-modal transportation hubs. Spaceport America's weakness is that it is far from any other vital transportation destinations, and is not well connected to other transportation modes (including traditional aviation) that could reach them quickly. (2/7)

NASA Delays Orion Abort Test Until After first Space Launch System Launch (Source: Huntsville Times)
The flat budget facing NASA is forcing the space agency to delay a planned flight test of the Orion capsule's launch abort system at least two years, according to a report today. The website spacenews.com reported the delay in an account of recent testimony by a top NASA official to a review panel. NASA's Dan Dumbacher said the in-flight test of the system designed to save astronauts from a launch abort will not happen until the full Space Launch System makes its flight debut in 2017.

"This is a development problem," the website quoted Dumbacher telling members of the National Research Council's Committee on Human Spaceflight. "You run into problems along the way, and there are things that have to be moved around and things that have to be reshaped." NASA still plans to launch an Orion in 2014 to test its heat shields and landing gear. That flight will be atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket assembled at ULA's facility in Decatur, Al. Reports say NASA and ULA are shooting for a Sept. 2014 launch.

Editor's Note: Unless this too has changed, the "Abort Test" launch would use a Peacekeeper-based rocket that would be deployed from Space Florida's Launch Complex 46. So this delay is not good news for Space Florida. (2/6)

Gerstenmaier: ISS Will Shape Commercial Spaceflight (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA’s top human spaceflight manager says the International Space Station holds the key to a shift from government to commercial access to low Earth orbit, driving the nascent market for new human-rated vehicles as researchers find industrial uses for its microgravity environment. NASA's William Gerstenmaier said the station already provides a significant launch market that can only grow as the orbiting lab is better utilized.

In 2012 the ISS was the destination of 15% of the total number of space launches worldwide. If the field is narrowed to the 17 comparable launches of spacecraft to low or geostationary transfer orbits, the 12 flights to the station represent a major new source of revenue, he said. And it is a new type of market, in that launch vehicle reliability for cargo isn’t as crucial as for expensive satellites.

“Station allows us a different way of doing business, where I could tolerate an individual failure,” he said. “I can’t tolerate the failure of an entire launch system, or an extended down period of time, but I can tolerate loss of an individual flight... Station is driving this market, but I think station has the potential to drive a fair amount of privately funded launches, separate from the U.S. government, and that could be the real benefit of space station,” Gerstenmaier said. (2/7)

The Flyby Clock: Visualizing a Century of Asteroid Encounters (Source: Daily Minor Planet)
Due to the interest sparked by the upcoming flyby of 2012 DA14, I thought it would be helpful to place its flyby in an historic perspective. To do so, I put together a visualization of all the flybys of known asteroids in the 21st century. This “Flyby Clock” illustrates the close-approach distance (both of the nominal “best fit” orbit, and of the range of orbits allowed by current measurement uncertainties) of the closest-passing known asteroids as arrayed on the face of a clock spanning the years 2000 through 2100. Also illustrated are the approximate relative sizes of each asteroid. Click here. (2/7)

FAA 2012 Compendium of Commercial Space Transportation (Source: NewSpace Watch)
Check out the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation's new publication The Annual Compendium of Commercial Space Transportation: 2012. Rather than post several different annual reports as they have in past years, they decided this time to combined the reports into one big publication. It's packed full of information, graphs, images, diagrams, data, etc. about space transportations sytems of all kinds from around the world. Click here. (2/8)

Policy Highlights From the FAA Space Transportation Conference (Source: Space Policy Online)
The following is a relatively concise set of bullet points of what we found to be new and especially interesting from a policy perspective. It is not meant to be a comprehensive summary of the many fascinating and useful presentations. Click here. (2/7)

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