March 1, 2013

NASA Begins Flight Research Campaign Using Alternate Jet Fuel (Source: NASA)
NASA researchers have begun a series of flights using the agency's DC-8 flying laboratory to study the effects of alternate biofuel on engine performance, emissions and aircraft-generated contrails at altitude. The Alternative Fuel Effects on Contrails and Cruise Emissions (ACCESS) research involves flying the DC-8 as high as 40,000 feet while an instrumented NASA Falcon HU-25 aircraft trails behind at distances ranging from 300 feet to more than 10 miles.

"We believe this study will improve understanding of contrails formation and quantify potential benefits of renewable alternate fuels in terms of aviation's impact on the environment," said Ruben Del Rosario, manager of NASA's Fixed Wing Project.  ACCESS flight operations are being staged from NASA's Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in California and will take place mostly within restricted airspace over Edwards Air Force Base.

During the flights, the DC-8's four CFM56 engines will be powered by conventional JP-8 jet fuel, or a 50-50 blend of JP-8 and an alternative fuel of hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids that comes from camelina plants. More than a dozen instruments mounted on the Falcon jet will characterize the soot and gases streaming from the DC-8, monitor the way exhaust plumes change in composition as they mix with air, and investigate the role emissions play in contrail formation. (3/1)

NASA and Energy Consortium Partner for Space and Energy Opportunities (Source: SCEC)
NASA's Kennedy Space Center and the Space Coast Energy Consortium (SCEC) have created a partnership to develop and improve the Federal spaceport capabilities and to implement the objective of becoming a multi-user spaceport, serving both Government and commercial renewable energy entities. NASA and SCEC have agreed upon a five-year Space Act Agreement that defines how those goals are to be implemented. A major goal of the agreement is to jointly develop the Space and Energy Regional Innovation Center (RIC) that will sponsor, support and accelerate the commercialization of emerging energy products and leverage KSC's technical expertise and facilities to develop sustainable energy products and services.

The proposed RIC will focus on enabling end-stage technology development and demonstration of renewable energy technologies that can lead to commercial application. The RIC presents an opportunity for NASA to apply KSC Roadmap strategies to leverage its expertise and resources along with industry in pursuit of energy solutions. The demonstration and introduction of renewable and more efficient energy technologies will also benefit KSC operationally and help it meet the federal sustainability mandates and support space technology development.

The first project undertaken under this new agreement is the loan of a deployable solar-powered truss adapted by engineers working at Kennedy Space Center. The Consortium and several local partners will help to complete and test the prototype and return it to KSC for demonstration purposes. This technology was showcased on the national stage at the U.S. Department of Energy’s ARPA-e Energy Innovation Summit on February 25-27. (2/26)

President Mixes Space Fiction References in Call to End Sequester (Sources: SPACErePORT, CNN)
President Obama evoked both Star Trek and Star Wars in the White House's latest call for ending the now-in-progress budget Sequester. "These cuts aren't the solutions Americans are looking for" the President said, paraphrasing a line from Star Wars. "To deny the facts would be illogical," he continues, mimicking Spock from Star Trek. At least that's how the White House portrays it on a new Jedi Mind Meld tweet. (Jedi = Star Wars; Mind Meld = Star Trek)

The President's remarks were in response to a question from CNN's Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin in the White House Briefing Room on Friday, saying he didn't have the power to "somehow do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and convince them to do what's right." Click here. (3/1)

SpaceX Fixes Thrusters, Forges Ahead With Station Rendezvous (Sources: SPACErePORT, SpaceFlightNow)
After a post-launch anomaly for three of the Dragon capsule's four thruster pods, all are now operating nominally thanks to remote repair efforts by SpaceX flight engineers. "All systems green," Elon Musk tweeted. Dragon's four pods of Draco thrusters include sets of four and five jets. Three of the pods are required by NASA to allow an approach and rendezvous with the space station.

Controllers want to raise the craft's orbital perigee, or low point, as soon as possible because atmospheric drag could prompt a re-entry within a day or two at such low altitudes, according to Musk. Dragon was deployed in an orbit stretching from a low point of 123 miles to a high point of 199 miles. Dragon's rendezvous will not occur on Saturday as originally planned. SpaceX will work with NASA to arrange a new date/time for the event.

As with other anomalies on previous SpaceX missions, this affords SpaceX some valuable off-nominal learning opportunities. The company can improve its hardware and procedures to prevent future incidents without having to suffer a full mission failure. (3/1)

Sequester Measures Fail, Cuts are Set to Begin (Source: The Hill)
Sequestration cuts are to begin today, following failure in the Senate of two bills that would have replaced the automatic, across-the-board cuts. Democrats advanced a bill that would have included tax increases and spending cuts while a Republican measure focused on trimming spending. It's unclear if lawmakers will craft new legislation aimed at halting sequestration once it's under way. (2/28)

Defense Contractors Carry on the Fight (Source: USA Today)
Despite the fact that a solution to sequestration wasn't passed before today's deadline, the defense industry is pressing forward with the fight. "It's the dumbest way of doing things I've ever heard -- they don't even know what they'll be throwing away," said Ferco Aerospace Group Chairman Joe Murphy. "I know that the military needs to be drawn down, but it needs to be done with intelligence, not chopped off with a meat cleaver." (2/28)

California Aerospace Jobs, Companies are At Risk Because of Cuts (Source: LA Times)
Sequestration cuts are likely to eliminate jobs in Southern California's aerospace industry and may force some smaller firms out of business entirely, experts say. Some companies are scrambling to find non-defense customers to keep sales flowing. "We could wake up and face a world we've never seen before," said Seal Science Inc. President Gregory Bloom. "We can't make long-term decisions on an uncertain future." (2/28)

Sequester Will Prompt FAA to Close 168 Air-Traffic Towers (Source: CNN)
The Federal Aviation Administration has notified 168 air-traffic control towers operated by contractors of pending closures April 1 due to the sequester. The towers handle about 5.8% of commercial airline traffic in the U.S. (3/1)

Embry-Riddle Offers New Astronomy Degree (Source: ERAU)
Embry-Riddle's new bachelor's degree program in Astronomy--offered at our Prescott AZ Campus--takes advantage of the clear skies above northern Arizona’s mountains where the Prescott campus is located and where students will have hands-on access to the campus’s astronomical observatory. Students in the program will work with world-renowned faculty astronomers and their research projects using data from space-based and ground-based observatories around the world.
“Astronomers explore some of the most fascinating phenomena in the universe,” said Brian Rachford, associate professor of physics and director of the new program. “Our program will prepare students to become leaders in the exploration of the universe and develop scientific and technical skills that are applicable to a wide range of careers.”

Meanwhile, at the university's Daytona Beach campus, faculty astronomers currently operate a 20-inch Corrected Dall-Kirkham (CDK) telescope, and they are preparing to operate a new "Burke Observatory" atop the campus' new Arts & Sciences building. The Burke Observatory will feature a one-meter Ritchey-Chrétien telescope, the larges of any university-owned telescopes in Florida. (3/1)

Lawmakers Resurrect NASA Restructuring Bill (Source: Space News)
With the aim of overhauling NASA’s leadership structure, Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) and a coalition of mostly Republican lawmakers retooled a bill that died in committee late last year and refiled it last month for consideration by the 113th Congress. The revised bill would set a six-year fixed term for the NASA administrator, who along with a deputy and chief financial officer would be selected from a list of three nominees provided by an 11-member NASA board of directors. The board, another creation of the proposed legislation, would be made up of presidential and congressional appointees, who would serve three-year terms.

Thomas Young, who testified at the Feb. 27 hearing, said he was concerned that the board called for in the bill could become a tool of those who choose its members. In response to Rep. Bill Posey's (R-FL) concerns about potential unintended consequences, Young said: "The top of my list is the members of the board...The wrong board would be a disaster.” He said lobbying that could take place to secure a spot on the board might create a situation where board members would arrive to carry out the agenda of the people who appointed them, rather than an agenda that serves NASA’s best interests. (2/28)

Intelsat Looks To Pay Down Debt with Surplus Insurance Claims (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Intelsat on Feb. 28 said it expects to pocket some of the $488 million in insurance claims it expects to receive early this year because not all of it will be needed to launch replacement capacity. Intelsat is likely to be able to replace the Intelsat 27 satellite, which was destroyed Feb. 1 in a Sea Launch rocket failure, for much less than its insured value of $406 million. The satellite carried an expensive UHF-band communications payload that, while intended for U.S. or allied government use, had never found a customer. (3/1)

GSA Looks for Hangar One Tenants at Ames (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), on behalf of NASA, provides notice that the Government will issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) seeking a qualified lessee to provide for the rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of historic Hangar One, located at the Ames Research Center and potentially the management of Moffett Federal Airfield in Mountain View, CA. While the primary objective is to facilitate the expeditious re-siding of Hangar One, the Government will also consider proposals to manage the Moffett Federal Airfield. (3/1)

SpaceX Launches Second Station Resupply Mission From Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SPACErePORT)
SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon-9 rocket on Friday morning from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The rocket carried a Dragon Capsule filled with 1,268 pounds of cargo and supplies for a planned rendezvous with the International Space Station on Saturday morning. Shortly after the launch, after being placed in orbit, the Dragon Capsule suffered an anomaly with its thruster engines. SpaceX is working to fix the problem. (3/1)

SpaceX Blames Tech Secrecy Laws for Limited Info on Previous Falcon 9 Engine Failure (Source: Huntsville Times)
On the eve of its second supply mission to the International Space Station, SpaceX spent much of a pre-launch press conference Thursday discussing an engine failure on its last mission and defending its limited release of details about that failure. Blaming federal technology transfer laws, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said at one point, "I don't look good in horizontal stripes, and I want to see my kids graduate from college."

Asked about the failure and shutdown of one of the Falcon's nine engines on an October 7, 2012 station supply flight, Shotwell said the engine failed because of "a material flaw undetected in the jacket of the engine ... a breech" that led to "depressurization in the combustion chamber." The company believes it understands the cause, Shotwell said, but cannot discuss its recovery steps because of federal ITAR laws. (2/28)

United Space Alliance to Lay Off 504 Workers on Friday (Source: Florida Today)
United Space Alliance will lay off 504 workers at Kennedy Space Center on Friday, 55 fewer than previous estimates of 559. A significant number of the workers will be transferred to Jacobs Technology. However, the exact number has not been released, and Jacobs has declined to comment. An April 5 layoff is expected to affect about 100 USA employees, with three fourths of them in Florida and the remainder in Texas. On Feb. 1,USA had laid off 6,044 total employees in 11 reductions. On Feb. 26, USA had 1,606 employees total: 775 employees in Florida and 831 employees in Texas. (2/28)

Psychological Challenges of a Manned Mission to Mars (Source: National Geographic)
While humans have a long history of setting off into the unknown on our own planet, space travel beyond low-Earth orbit and the moon—-and what it means for the mental well-being of human crews—-is a new frontier. "I think these will be bigger challenges than technology challenges," said Jason Kring, a researcher at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida who studies how humans perform in extreme environments. Feelings of isolation and boredom, the knowledge that Earth is so very far away, and long periods of confinement are some of the mental issues researchers worry about for crew members.

Embry-Riddle's Kring and UCSF's Nick Kanas both questioned the wisdom of the proposed two-person Mars crew. "I think two is a setup for problems," said Kanas. "You can get along with anybody for a month, but you're talking about a year and a half or longer, and it's different." Kring said that if the teammates got upset with each other, there would be no one to help smooth things over or take up any slack workwise.

There have been instances in the Russian cosmonaut program in which crew members in space got mad at one another and didn't speak for months, Kring adds that crew members should also be comfortable with fluid situations and be able to deal with differences in how others live and work. "You don't want introverts and you don't want extroverts," Kanas said. In general, good crew members are those who enjoy both working alone on projects and socializing, Kanas said. Click here. (2/27)

NASA IG Raises Specter Of BRAC (Source: Aviation Week)
Efforts by NASA to dispose of costly, underutilized infrastructure are being slowed by uncertainty over its arching mission, external political pressure and inadequate funding, according to the agency’s inspector general (IG). NASA’s leadership is making headway on the long-standing issue that has been exacerbated by the space shuttle’s retirement, the initiation and rapid termination of the previous administration’s Constellation program and the tentative nature of future exploration initiatives, according to IG Paul Martin.

Yet he notes that the agency must move aggressively in the face of future constrained budgets and get past its “keep it in case you need it” management culture if it is to avoid the possibility of a Pentagon-style Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. “We acknowledge that NASA’s best efforts to address these challenges may be insufficient to overcome the cultural and political obstacles to eliminating or consolidating agency facilities,” Martin notes in his Feb. 12 report. (2/28)

Spaceflight Informed Consent, Tax Relief Measures Advance in California (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Last week, State Sen. Steve Knight introduced measures that would amend California’s spaceflight informed consent law to include vehicle manufacturers, suppliers and service providers, and also exempt aerospace products used in manufacturing and research and development (R&D) from sales and use taxes. These measures are in addition to a separate bill that Knight introduced in December that would provide sales and use tax exemptions on equipment and materials used for the renovation, reconstruction and rehabilitation of commercial space launch sites. Click here. (3/1)

NASA Helps Maryland Town Celebrate Space Day 2013 (Source: NASA)
The mayor of Takoma Park, Md., has proclaimed Saturday, March 2, "Space Day in Takoma Park." NASA's education program will be on hand to help inspire the next generation of explorers. Space Day events will take place at the Takoma Park Community Center. Bruce Williams, mayor of the small town just north of Washington, issued a proclamation to bring attention to space and astronomy, as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and to encourage the residents of Takoma Park to take advantage of this unique experience. (2/28)

Stott Space Aims to Mine Asteroids this Decade (Source: Space Daily)
With the launch of their Indiegogo campaign, Stott Space hopes to find the resources necessary to begin large scale asteroid mining within the decade. "This is not your typical space travel dream," says Isaac Stott, CEO of Stott Space Inc. "Current goals by existing asteroid mining companies are too small, and we know we can do better. By focusing our efforts on affordable and realistic technology, and allowing for our fellow humans to contribute to the development of this technology, we hope to make space the next destination for mankind." Click here. (3/1)

Comet Could Hit, Radically Change Mars in 2014 (Source: RIA Novosti)
New observations confirm that a comet heading toward Mars could collide with it in October 2014, possibly ushering in radical environmental change on the Red Planet, astronomy enthusiasts said. The C/2013 A1 comet may pass as close as 37,000 kilometers (23,000 miles) from the surface of Mars, according to data published on Wednesday by the New Mexico-based ISON-NM observatory.

A possible impact would release up to 20 billion megatons of energy and leave a crater 500 kilometers (310 miles) wide and two kilometers (1.2 miles) deep, given that the comet is 10 to 50 kilometers wide and moving at a speed of 56 kilometers (35 miles) per second in respect to the planet, according to ISON-NM’s data. A collision with C/2013 A1 could result in a radical transformation of Mars, said Robert Matson. The impact could raise enough dust and release enough frozen carbon dioxide to radically change Mars’ atmosphere, Matson said. (2/28)

Schiff to Have Space Agency Chief Explain Laptop File Theft (Source: Pasadena Weekly)
NASA is doing its best to downplay the loss of 40,000 personnel files — highly personal data about its past and present scientists and engineers — that were contained in a laptop computer stolen on Halloween from a car parked near the space agency’s headquarters in Washington, DC.

Not surprisingly, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden did not return messages regarding the Pasadena Weekly’s story last week on the lost files, which in November agency officials initially estimated to be four times fewer than the number of files they are now saying were actually lost that night. Instead, Michael Cabbage, NASA’s news and multimedia director, answered, insisting the situation is under control.

That may not be good enough for Congressman Adam Schiff of Burbank. A moderate Democrat and former federal prosecutor, Schiff’s district before last year’s state-mandated redistricting included Pasadena, home of Caltech and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which owned by NASA and managed by Caltech. Calling the theft of this laptop “deeply troubling,” Schiff said he will be asking Bolden during budget hearings beginning Monday what, exactly, is being done to better secure the personal information of agency employees. (2/28)

Is This a Baby Picture of a Giant Planet? (Source: Discovery)
Regardless of size, planets are all formed in pretty much the same way: through the aggregation of material within the disk of dust and gas surrounding a young star. While how long it actually takes and just what sort of planets are most likely to form where are still topics of discussion among astronomers, the birth process of a planet is fairly well understood. And this may be the very first image of it actually happening. Click here. (2/28)

Former NASA Astronaut to Open California Science Fair on March 19 (Source: KERO)
The more than 650 4th through 12th graders who will participate in the 25th annual Kern County Science Fair on March 19 at the Rabobank Convention Center are in for a treat.  To open the event at 9 a.m., NASA astronaut Jose Hernandez will share his amazing story of his rise from humble beginnings working alongside his family in the fields of French Camp, Calif. to achieving his lifelong goal of going to space. (2/28)

Big Meteorite Discovered in Antarctica (Source:
Meteorite hunters at the bottom of the world bagged a rare find this southern summer: a 40-pound (18 kilogram) chunk of extraterrestrial rock. A team from Belgium and Japan discovered the hefty meteorite as the members drove across the East Antarctic plateau on snowmobiles. Initial tests show it is an ordinary chondrite, the most common type of meteorite found on Earth, Vinciane Debaille, a geologist from Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium, said in a statement. (2/28)

Budget Cuts Set to Cripple Aerospace Industry Ahead of Launch (Source: WESH)
A big launch is set for Friday morning on the Space Coast, but the launch comes on the same day government budget cuts threaten to cripple the aerospace industry. SpaceX will launch its unmanned Dragon capsule on a resupply mission to the International Space Station. The launch will be the third mission aimed at the International Space Station. "So I can't tell you how excited I am to be back in Florida. As Mike said, that means we are launching," said SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell. "We are a launch company. We love to launch."

NASA is paying SpaceX a billion and a half dollars for 12 such flights, which is a lot cheaper than the space shuttle. The fact that a lot of SpaceX's money comes from NASA is troubling, given the automatic federal spending cuts scheduled to go into effect. NASA plans to cut off part of the supply of money to commercial space companies including SpaceX, at a time when the new commercial space industry is just getting off the ground. (2/28)

NOAA and NASA's Next Generation Weather Satellite May Provide Earlier Warnings (Source: NASA)
A new satellite that will detect the lightning inside storm clouds may lead to valuable improvements in tornado detection. The GOES-R satellite is currently being built with new technology that may help provide earlier warnings for severe weather. The national average is a 14-minute lead time to warn residents of a tornado, but NASA and NOAA scientists are looking to improve severe weather detection to save lives and property.

They are developing the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series, or GOES-R, to observe thunderstorm development with much greater spatial and temporal detail than ever before. Severe weather knows no specific season and the new technology aboard GOES-R is expected to help provide earlier detection for warnings, whatever the time of year. (2/28)

First Indian Naval Satellite May Launch This Year (Source: Deccan Herald)
India’s first military satellite may be launched later this year with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) securing the service of a foreign rocket to launch the 2.5 ton satellite for the Navy. The UPA government had sanctioned more than Rs 400 crore to book a berth for its GSAT-7 satellite on a commercial Ariane-5 rocket launched by Arianespace.

The 2013-14 budget allocates only a meagre Rs 14 crore for the GSAT-7 launch service. But the revised estimates of 2012-13 let out the crucial information. In the last fiscal, the government initially sanctioned Rs 207 crore for the launch service but later raised the allocation by more than double to Rs 448.51 crore, signalling advanced launch vehicle booking for the naval satellite. (3/1)

Europe's Space Industry – Competing Globally in a Complex Sector (Source: Europa)
Space has become a global business. The European space sector is increasingly under pressure from industries in new emerging space powers such as India and China. Also, the European space industry differs from its main international competitors to the following extent: its budget is smaller, it relies more on commercial sales, the part of military expenses is smaller, and synergies between civil and defence sectors are far less developed. Furthermore, unlike the US, Europe's downstream satellite navigation and Earth observation markets are only now emerging. Click here. (2/28)

Computer Swap on Curiosity Rover (Source: NASA JPL)
The ground team for NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has switched the rover to a redundant onboard computer in response to a memory issue on the computer that had been active. The intentional swap at about 2:30 a.m. on Feb. 28 put the rover, as anticipated, into a minimal-activity precautionary status called "safe mode." The team is shifting the rover from safe mode to operational status over the next few days and is troubleshooting the condition that affected operations yesterday. The condition is related to a glitch in flash memory linked to the other, now-inactive, computer. (2/28)

Post-Merger Loral Turns Its Gaze to Russia, Brazil (Source: Space News)
Telecommunications satellite competitions in Russia and Brazil will be the first tests of a wider commercial strategy for satellite builder Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) under the direction of its new owner, MDA Corp. of Canada, MDA officials said Feb. 28. MDA is counting on a fast start for SS/L in 2013 to compensate for the Palo Alto, Calif.-based satellite builder’s weak showing in the second half of 2012. (3/1)

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