March 15, 2013

NASA and the Spark of Innovation (Source: Washington Business Journal)
The late heart surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey, who collaborated with NASA on an artificial heart pump, once said this about the agency: “NASA… has as its goal to explore space. But to do so, you’ve got to do all kinds of research – biological research, physical research and so on. And anytime you have any type of intensive research going on, new knowledge is going to flow from it.”

While we cannot predict with certainty that specific federal research will lead to great breakthroughs, we know from experience that the track record of federal investments in fundamental research beyond the scope of the private sector is pretty darn good.

In a recent press conference that highlighted the damage that sequestration budget cuts would do to federally sponsored research, American Association of Universities President Hunter Rawlings held up a cell phone and noted that key components from this device — its GPS tracking mechanism, the phone’s liquid crystal display, and its integrated electronic circuitry — were all derived from federal research. (3/14)

US 'To Boost Missile Defenses' as North Korean Tensions Rise (Sources: BBC, AFP, NK News)
The Pentagon is expected to announce plans to boost missile defences on the US West Coast to counter the threat from North Korea. The US plans to add 14 interceptors, which can shoot down missiles in flight, to those already in place in California and Alaska, officials say. Tensions have escalated after North Korea's third nuclear test last month.

Only last week, the Pyongyang regime, which is known for its fiery rhetoric, threatened the US with a pre-emptive nuclear strike. However, analysts say that North Korea's missiles do not have the capability to reach the continental United States. Meanwhile, North Korea on Friday tested short-range KN-02 missiles in the Sea of Japan (known as the East Sea in Korea), in an apparent attempt to counteract joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises.

Also meanwhile, North Korea on Friday accused the U.S. and South Korea of carrying out a "persistent and intensive" cyber attack against its official websites in recent days. A number of official North Korean websites, including those of the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the daily Rodong Sinmun newspaper, and Air Koryo airline became inaccessible early Wednesday. (3/15)

Texas Legislators Consider Bills on Space Liability, Rocket Noise (Source: Brownsville Herald)
SpaceX celebrated its 11th anniversary Thursday as state lawmakers continued to work on several pieces of legislation in support of the company. State Rep. John E. Davis, R-Houston, on Thursday introduced House Bill 1791 before the Economic and Small Business Development Committee that would modify the limits of liabilities of space flight entities.

At Thursday’s committee hearing, Caryn Schenewerk, counsel and director of government affairs for SpaceX, testified that Texas is high on the list for a new launch site. “We have progressed the furthest in our conversations with the state of Texas as Elon (Musk) testified; it is the leader at this point” Schenewerk said. “We don’t want the one-in-10,000 person who wants to stop our activities and tries to get, for example, an injunction against the noise it will create. We want to know that we come to a community and to a state that values that noise,” she said.

“We hear people from McGregor say, ‘When I hear the sound of those rockets being tested, I hear money coming into my cash register at my business and I hear jobs being created in my county and my area,’” she told the committee.
Getting the state to approve legislation that will prevent individuals from filing legislation against SpaceX because of noise issues is a key for the company, officials said. “We are not asking to be exempt from any liability if something should happen... This is about noise. This is about someone being able to shut down our business over noise or that kind of activity,” Schenewerk said. (3/15)

Astronaut Charity Seeks Gala Sponsors (Source: ASF)
With the star-studded 2013 U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame Induction Gala coming to Kennedy Space Center on April 19, now is the time for corporations looking to expand their reach in the aerospace and commercial spaceflight industries to sign on as sponsors. The event, which supportsthe nonprofit Astronaut Scholarship Foundation’s (ASF) mission to aid the U.S. in retaining its world leadership in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by providing scholarships to exceptional college students pursuing degrees in these fields, is a black-tie affair honoring astronauts Curt Brown, Eileen Collins and Bonnie Dunbar.

As partners in this astronaut-endorsed venture, all sponsors receive benefits including but not limited to company recognition before and during the event, as well astickets to the gala, which includes a reception and gourmet four-course dining experience under a restored Saturn V rocket. Sponsors also enjoy ample opportunity to interact with astronauts, community leaders and aerospace industry influencers. (3/14)

How to Build a Multiverse (Source: Economist)
The heavens do not lend themselves to poking and prodding. Astronomers therefore have no choice but to rely on whatever data the cosmos deigns to throw at them. And they have learnt a lot this way. Thus you can even (see article) study chemistry in space that would be impossible in a laboratory. Some astronomers, though, are dissatisfied with being passive observers. Real scientists, they think, do experiments.

It is impossible—not to mention inadvisable—to get close enough to a star or a black hole to manipulate it experimentally. But some think it might be possible to make meaningful analogues of such things, and even of the universe itself, and experiment on those instead. Click here. (3/15)

Sandy Adams Among Those Suggested as Next Florida Lt. Governor (Source: SPACErePORT)
An online poll offered up by the conservative-leaning Sunshine State News asks who should replace Jennifer Carroll as the state's next Lieutenant Governor (and chairman of Space Florida). Among the nine names on the poll is former Congresswoman Sandy Adams, whose district included the Kennedy Space Center portion of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. She was leading the poll with 20% of the votes as of midday on Friday. Adams was elected to Congress by ultra-conservative Tea Party voters, but lost her seat in a redistricted primary battle against Rep. John Mica. (3/15)

Astrotech Wins NASA Task Order for Vandenberg Payload Support (Source: SpaceRef)
Astrotech has been awarded a NASA task order contract to provide payload processing services for the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite at the company's Vandenberg Air Force Base facility. SMAP is the second mission awarded by NASA under the current Not-to-Exceed $16 million task order contract. From Titusville, Florida, and Vandenberg AFB, California, Astrotech provides all support necessary for Government and commercial customers to process their satellite hardware for launch, including advance planning; use of unique facilities; and spacecraft checkout, encapsulation, fueling, and transport. (3/15)

Andrews to Supply Additional Power Units for Cygnus Spacecraft (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Andrews Space announced that they’ve received orders from Orbital Sciences Corporation for four additional Cargo Module Power Units (CMPUs) to supply power to payloads aboard Orbital’s Cygnus cargo logistics spacecraft. Cygnus craft will be used to deliver cargo to the International Space Station for NASA. (3/14)

Space Threats Double Feature in Congress Next Week (Source: Space Politics)
The House Science Committee has rescheduled the hearing on “Threats from Space: A Review of U.S. Government Efforts to Track and Mitigate Asteroids and Meteors, Part 1” for Tuesday, March 19, at 10 am. The hearing was planned for March 6 but postponed because of a threatened snowstorm. The same roster of witnesses as originally announced—-OSTP director John Holdren, AFSPC commander Gen. William Shelton, and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden—-will testify.

The Senate Commerce Committee’s space subcommittee is following suit with a hearing of its own on the topic of “space threats” at 10 am on Wednesday, March 20, titled “Assessing the Risks, Impacts, and Solutions for Space Threats”. This hearing features a different set of witnesses, including Jim Green, head of NASA’s planetary sciences division; Ed Lu, chairman and CEO of the B612 Foundation; Richard DalBello, vice president of Intelsat General; and Joan Johnson-Freese, professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College. (3/15)

Young Girl's Love of Flying Leads to History-Making Missions in Space (Source: USAF)
As a young child, Eileen Collins loved to sit with her dad in the family car and watch airplanes take off and land. The roar of the powerful engines and the grace of the aircraft as they seemed to float in the air always held excitement and enchantment for the young daughter of Irish immigrants. That love of flying would lead the Air Force colonel to be honored as the first woman to command a space shuttle mission, STS-93, in July of 1999, and place the NASA astronaut into the history books. (3/15)

Globalstar Foresees 2013 Growth in Voice Subscriptions (Source: Space News)
Globalstar on March 14 said it expects to renegotiate $72 million in bonds that are payable as of April 1 and said the company is already seeing increased voice use of its network with the successful launch of its second-generation satellites. With large financial demands dead ahead, Globalstar CEO Jay Monroe elected to use a March 14 conference call with investors to demonstrate the quality of Globalstar’s new service by conducting the entire prepared-remarks section of the call over the Globalstar network. (3/15)

Globalstar Announces 2012 Fourth Quarter (Source: NASDAQ)
Globalstar revenue was $19.1 million for the fourth quarter of 2012 compared to $17.4 million for the fourth quarter of 2011, an increase of approximately $1.7 million, or 10%. This increase was due primarily to higher service revenue resulting from growth in the company's average SPOT subscriber base of 21%. Service revenue was $15.3 million for the fourth quarter of 2012 compared to $13.6 million for the fourth quarter of 2011. The primary driver for this increase was from the SPOT business, which grew service revenue by $1.1 million, or 20%.

Duplex service revenue and Simplex service revenue also increased 14% and 18%, respectively. The improvement in Duplex service revenue was driven by an increase in ARPU to $18.49, an improvement of 23% over the fourth quarter of 2011. Driving this increase was the significant improvement in Globalstar's network performance, which supported higher subscriber rate plans and increased usage throughout 2012.

Subscriber equipment sales were relatively flat for the fourth quarter of 2012 compared to the fourth quarter of 2011. Duplex and Simplex equipment sales increased slightly, while sales of SPOT equipment decreased. The company reported a net loss of $19.0 million for the three months ended December 31, 2012 compared to a net loss of $33.7 million for the fourth quarter of 2011. (3/15)

Orbcomm Reports Sharply Higher Revenue (Source: Space News)
Orbcomm on March 14 reported sharply higher revenue and a doubling of gross profit for 2012 and said eight satellites of its second-generation constellation are on track for a September launch. Orbcomm also announced the acquisition of two companies for a combined $6.25 million in cash and $1.5 million in Orbcomm stock, and said both will bring new subscribers to Orbcomm and add at least $5 million to $7 million in annual revenue starting late this year. (3/15)

FAA Taps Nor-Tech for Help on Suborbital Radiation Exposure Studies (Source: Parabolic Arc)
As commercial aviation companies prepare to usher in an age of space tourism, regulatory bodies such as the FAA are tasked with the challenge of conducting research and collecting data to establish safeguards for the emerging industry.  One area of concern is the amount of cosmic radiation passengers and crew of suborbital commercial space flights will be subjected to as they reach altitudes up to 100 km above the Earth.

The FAA approached Nor-Tech to develop a custom HPC solution. Nor-Tech’s extensive experience and innovation in the field of portable and ruggedized clusters made them uniquely qualified for the project. Additionally, among the major tier one manufacturers, Nor-Tech’s was the only proposal that came even close to their budgeted price. Nor-Tech spent two and a half years working with physicists, medical doctors, physical engineers, and technicians at the FAA to learn the intricate details of their requirements. (3/15)

Florida Defense Day Planned on March 20 in Tallahassee (Source: FLDC)
Join us for Florida Defense Day 2013 in Tallahassee to meet directly with state leaders and defense contractors from across the state during the 2013 Regular Legislative Session. This once-a-year event is your opportunity to bring issues important to Florida's defense economic stakeholders straight to legislative decision makers. Click here. (3/15)

Rocket Design Challenge Pushes Global Private Sector Open Sourcing (Source: Aviation Week)
The recently founded DIYRockets is spearheading an open source competition for the collaborative creation of 3D-printed rocket engines capable of launching nanosatellites into orbit. The prizes are modest — just $10,000 in all — but the process is challenging and the goals ambitious.

Buoyed by surging interest in the private sector’s potential to open access to space by lowering the costs of hardware development and operations, the sponsors believe their 3D Rocket Engine Design Challenge will lead to prototyping, testing and eventually the global production of space hardware through innovative processes already fueling software development and automobile fabrication.

The application of open sourcing to the design of coveted space technologies could pose as much of a challenge as the actual hardware development for the fast-paced design challenge, which opened March 9 at the 2013 South by Southwest Conference and Festival in Austin, Texas. (3/15)

Largest Space Telescope to Lose Infrared Vision (Source:
The infrared eyes of Europe's Herschel observatory are about to go dark, but the space-based telescope will leave a legacy of data to keep astronomers occupied for years to come. Some time in the next few weeks, coolant inside Herschel's instrument bay will run out, leaving the telescope's detectors feckless in their mission to glimpse the coolest reaches of the universe. The best estimate puts the mission-ending event in the second half of March, according to Göran Pilbratt, Herschel's project scientist at ESA. (3/15)

Deal Marks New Race to Mars (Source: Scotsman)
Europe and Russia have signed a deal for a joint space mission to Mars. Europe had hoped to work with NASA on the two-spacecraft mission but turned to the Russians after NASA pulled out due to budget shortfalls and a change in direction. The announcement comes amid heightened excitement over the search for life on the Red Planet. NASA wants to follow up with a duplicate rover in 2020 and bring samples home for study, but the Russian and European team hope to launch probes in 2016 and 2018 – starting a new space race. (3/15)

From Counting to Characterising Exoplanets (Source: BBC)
We've come a long way since 1995 when Michael Mayor and Didier Queloz claimed the first official detection of an exoplanet orbiting a distant star - the somewhat prosaically named 51 Pegasi b, orbiting a sun-like star some 51 light-years from earth in the constellation Pegasus. According to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory that figure now stands at 932, with a further 2,717 planet candidates waiting to be confirmed.

Much of the heavy lifting when it comes to spotting these new worlds has been done by the Kepler Space Telescope. Trailing in the earth's wake as it orbits the sun, Kepler has been staring, unblinking, at a narrow patch of the Milky Way between Cygnus and Lyra for the last three-and-a-half years - waiting for the telltale dimming of a distant star's light as an orbiting planet passes in from of it.

Kepler's share of the planet-spotting booty, according to the latest tranche of data released at the American Astronomical Society in January, is 2,740 including 114 confirmed planets. Kepler has shifted the goalposts of scientific debate. The question now is not are there planets orbiting distant stars, or even how many, but what do these planets look like and, crucially, could any support life? (3/15)

A Dream Delayed: Man’s Mission to Mars (Source: The American)
NASA has decided that private enterprise will have to take on the job of reaching Mars. A new generation of space-minded tycoons is ready for the mission. We can do it. It has now been 63 years since the release of the first movie to treat space exploration as a serious topic. Eight years later, the government got around to establishing NASA to conduct civilian space exploration. Eleven years after that, NASA put a man on the moon. Mars was obviously the next target. Forty-four years later it still is. Click here. (3/15)

Bad Weather Keeps Soyuz and Station Crew in Space (Source:
A rarity for the Russian space program occurred Thursday when the landing of a Soyuz spacecraft was postponed due to adverse weather conditions back on Earth. The touchdown is reset for Friday at 11:06 p.m. EDT, when weather is expected to be greatly improved. (3/14)

Study Finds UAS’ to Create 70,000 Jobs (Source: AeroDef)
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) unveiled a new study, which finds that the unmanned aircraft industry is poised to create more than 70,000 new American jobs in the first three years following the integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into U.S. national airspace system (NAS). Integration is scheduled to take place in 2015. Beyond the first three years, the study projects that more than 100,000 new jobs will be created by 2025. (3/14)

CASIS Plans Non-Embryonic Stem Cell Research on Space Station (Source: CASIS)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit organization promoting and managing research on board the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, today announced a Request for Information (RFI) seeking to identify entities capable of serving as implementation partners for microgravity-based, non-embryonic stem cell research conducted on the station.
The CASIS Science Advisory Board has identified non-embryonic stem cell research as a strong opportunity for developing a biosciences portfolio for the ISS. This is due to previous experiments in microgravity that have demonstrated diverse cellular activities including cell proliferation, cell cycle, cell differentiation, apoptosis, genomic integrity and DNA damage repair.
From this RFI, CASIS will develop an internal database of entities that can support payload development needs for non-embryonic stem cell research. This information gathering opportunity comes before an official non-embryonic stem cell Request for Proposals is announced in the coming months. (3/14)

XCOR COO Featured at Space Pioneers Banquet on April 5 (Source: MSRP)
Andrew Nelson, XCOR Chief Operating Officer and Vice-President of Business Development, will be the keynote speaker at the April 5 annual banquet of the Missile, Range and Space Pioneers (MSRP) spring banquet. The event will also include an update on two college student projects funded this year by the MSRP, by Florida Tech student’s Nathan Higgins and Joe Bussenger on the development of a thrust vector control system by their student team.

The Spring Banquet is set for Friday 5 April 2013 and will held at Grand Ballroom at the Cocoa Beach Hilton. The event is open to the public. The Banquet will include a sit down dinner and cash bar. Social hour starts at 6PM with dinner served at 7PM. Seating is limited and tickets are available online at (3/14)

Embry-Riddle Sponsors Free Lecture on the Early Universe (Source: ERAU)
Abhay Ashtekar, director of the Institute for Gravitation and the Cosmos and holder of the Eberly Chair at Penn State, will visit Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University on Saturday, March 30, to speak on “The Very Early Universe: Explorations beyond Einstein.” The event, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Gale Lemerand auditorium in the Willie Miller Instructional Center. The university is located at 600 S. Clyde Morris Blvd. in Daytona Beach. Click here. (3/14)

Aerojet Requalifies Delta II AJ10-118K Second Stage Engine (Source: Aerojet)
Delta II second stage engine, the AJ10-118K, successfully passed a requalification test of its ablative chamber at Aerojet's J4 altitude simulation test facility in Sacramento. The intent of the requalification program was to replace the asbestos insulator material with a readily-available and environmentally-friendly alternative. Under contract to United Launch Alliance, Aerojet's AJ10 has provided second-stage propulsion on 151 Delta II flights to date with a 100 percent success rate.

There are currently four flights in the near-term manifest for Delta II, two in 2014 and two in 2016. Editor's Note: I'm not sure why more money is being spent on Delta II propulsion systems, since only a few Delta II rockets remain in inventory and the product line is supposed to be retired after these last rockets are flown. (3/14)

Solar Blast Suspected in Tree Ring Mystery (Source: Science)
A mysterious burst of charged particles from space hit Earth at some point from 774 to 775 C.E. Scientists know this thanks to a spike in radioactive carbon found in ancient tree rings. What they didn't know was the source of the burst. Now, a team of physicists argues that our own sun was the culprit. The sun normally emits bursts of charged particles called coronal mass ejections, but they either never strike the Earth or are too weak to do much damage. Theoretically, however, the sun could release a burst strong enough to explain the tree rings, the researchers believe.

They estimate that such a blast would have been about 70 times as powerful as that which knocked out power for millions in Quebec in 1989. It could also have been about 20 times as powerful as the blast behind the solar storm of 1859, which disrupted telegraph systems in North America and Europe. Our sun is probably capable of such a huge blast, given that many distant sunlike stars have been spotted releasing flares that big, if not bigger. (3/14)

Distant Planets’ Atmospheres Revealed (Source: Science News)
Alien worlds have become a little less alien. Astronomers have gotten the most detailed look yet at the atmosphere of a planet outside the solar system. The study is among the first to directly analyze the chemical makeup of an exoplanet. In the past, astronomers inferred the existence of exoplanets and their gases by looking for subtle changes in the light streaming from the planet’s star.

Now, with improved instruments, a research team has detected light coming directly from a planet light-years away. The data have high enough resolution to reveal not only the presence but the abundance of carbon monoxide and water in the planet’s atmosphere, the team reported online March 14 in Science. Such information could shed light on how the planet formed. Such studies could also reveal the presence of life on a distant planet, but the planet’s size and orbit have already ruled it out as a habitable world. (3/14)

CASIS Announces Grants for Protein Crystal Experiments (Source: Space Safety)
A researcher at NASA’s Johnson Space Center tells us that only about 200 proteins have been studied in space. It is estimated that the human body contains more than 2,000,000 proteins.These proteins are encoded by fewer than 25,000 genes. While the Human Genome Project was a major undertaking, the Human Proteome Project (which is just now getting underway) will be far larger.

The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit organization promoting and managing research on board the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, announced research grant awards totaling approximately $600,000 for two projects advancing protein crystallization in microgravity. Click here. (3/14)

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