March 19, 2013

Shiloh Debate Continues (Source: SPACErePORT)
Space Florida released this "notional" illustration of a Shiloh launch complex, with what appears to be a Falcon-Heavy rocket on one of two launch pads. The illustration clearly attempts to minimize the site's environmental footprint, with substantial vegetation surrounding the pads. This seems unlikely due to the need for clear ground to minimize unwanted burning after launches, and to mitigate the potential for wildfire encroachment and damage during the dry season. However, the acreage that might need clearing remains small compared to vast protected tracts surrounding the site.

Also, my recent observations about downrange clearance issues from the Boca Chica site might be challenged by suggestions that SpaceX could modify its flight profile to require a much smaller/closer clearance zone for Falcon stage-drops (or debris in the case of launch failures). If the first-stage trajectory was made more vertical than eastward, the rocket's first stage would fall closer to the launch site and the second stage could then veer eastward to (essentially) achieve orbit further uprange than is currently accomplished with Florida-based launches. This amended flight profile would probably reduce the rocket's payload weight capacity.

Then there's the question of synergy with other SpaceX operations. A Boca Chica site might benefit from being close to SpaceX's McGregor propulsion test site (457 miles by road), while a Shiloh site would most definitely benefit from being only about 30 miles away from the company's government launch operations at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The same Florida launch team could work both Florida launch sites, but the McGregor crew may be too far away from Boca Chica, and they may not have the requisite experience in launch operations. (3/19)

Space Florida to Pitch Commercial Spaceport to Volusia County Council (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
State officials hoping to bring a commercial spaceport to Volusia County will make their first appearance before the Volusia County Council on April 4 and Councilwoman Deb Denys couldn't be happier about that. The project has "huge potential," Denys said Monday. "We need everybody on board."

"I know there are environmental concerns and other mitigating factors," Denys said of the proposal to locate a private, commercial launch facility just inside Volusia County on land now owned by NASA. Having all council members ask questions of Space Florida officials and hear "the same thing at the same time," she said, will go a long way toward making sure everybody understands the issues. She and others hope local officials will support the proposal.

Space Florida, the state's public/private space development corporation, wants to convince NASA to release 150 acres of its land now contained within the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge or Canaveral National Seashore to operate a launch facility outside the security perimeter of NASA launch facilities. The area is south of Oak Hill, in a place known as Shiloh for the historic citrus community vacated when the federal government acquired Kennedy Space Center. Click here for a "notional" illustration. (3/19)

Arianespace to Launch Three Satellites for Intelsat (Source: Telecom Paper)
Launch services provider Arianespace has launched a services contract with Intelsat for the launch of three satellites through 2017. Weighing more than six tonnes each at launch, the satellites will be placed into GTO by the Ariane 5 ECA from Europe's Space Port in French Guiana. The three missions will include the launches of Intelsat's EpicNG class satellites. Intelsat EpicNG is designed to address mobile and fixed telecommunications, enterprise, mobility, video and government applications that require broadband infrastructure. (3/19)

eXploration Habitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge (Source: NSGF)
The eXploration Habitat (X-Hab) 2014 Academic Innovation Challenge is a university-level challenge designed to engage and retain students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). The competition is intended to link with senior- and graduate-level design curricula that emphasize hands-on design, research, development, and manufacture of functional prototypical subsystems that enable habitation-related functionality for space exploration missions.

NASA will directly benefit from the challenge by sponsoring the development of innovative habitation-related concepts and technologies from universities, which will result in innovative ideas and solutions that could be applied to exploration habitats. The Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) Deep Space Habitat (DSH) project will offer multiple X-Hab awards of $10K - $20K each to design and produce functional products of interest to the DSH project (see topic list) as proposed by university teams according to their interests and expertise.

The prototypes produced by the university teams may be integrated onto an existing NASA-built operational habitat prototype. X-Hab proposals will have a Notice of Intent and proposal phase, where down-selection will determine which projects will be funded. X-Hab university teams will either finalize their deliverables, or deliver their products in May-June 2014 to be integrated in the FY14 DSH habitat configuration. Universities may collaborate together on a Project Team. Click here. (3/10)

Florida Space Grant Consortium Selects Student Ambassadors (Source: FSGC)
The Ambassadors’ primary mission will be to inform students at their home universities about opportunities available to them at NASA and the NASA FSGC. Their primary responsibilities involve communicating with space-related student organizations and participating in public outreach events. Therefore, Ambassadors should have strong interpersonal skills as well as excitement for space exploration and STEM research. Here are the 2013 NASA FSGC Ambassadors. Click here. (3/18)

ULA Hosts First Tweetup for Atlas Launch (Source: America Space)
United Launch Alliance (ULA) conducted its first “Tweetup” at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The Colorado-based company held the event the day prior to the planned launch of an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. While NASA has been hosting “Tweetups” (since renamed “Socials”) since 2009, this is the first one held by ULA. Given that, by all accounts this event was a complete success; there can be little doubt that these events could become a regular occurrence. (3/18)

Curiosity Breaks Rock to Reveal Dazzling White Interior (Source: BBC)
A rock crushed under the Curiosity Mars rover's wheels has dazzled mission scientists in more ways than one. Mars is supposed to be the Red Planet, but the rock - dubbed "Tintina" - is a brilliant shade of white. The unusual colour indicates the presence of hydrated minerals that formed when water flowed through the robot's landing site in ancient times. Water-bearing minerals in Tintina and elsewhere add to the growing catalogue of water evidence at this location. (3/19)

The Ultimate Air Purifier Uses NASA Technology (Source: Fast Company)
As the space program shifted its focus from putting life into space to sustaining life in space, the plentiful technologies to emerge from its hollowed labs have followed suit. For example, one of the biggest breakthroughs of the '90s was a device that scrubbed the air of ethylene, a gas that builds up on the ISS and causes fruits and veggies to ripen too quickly. The technology was intended to slow down the process of ripening on long space journeys. A few years later, the experimental device was bought by a company now known as Airocide, which has built an empire around selling the technology to grocers, florists, and even hospitals. Click here. (3/18)

The Emerging Space Cyberwarfare Theatre (Source: Space Quarterly)
Cyberspace and outer space are merging to become the primary battlefield for global power in the 21st century. Both space and cyberspace systems are critical in enabling modern warfare--for strike precision, navigation, communication, information gathering--and it therefore makes sense to speak of a new, combined space-cyberspace military high-ground.

From the moment Sputnik was launched in 1957, and everyone's head turned skyward, space has occupied the military high-ground, defining much of the next fifty years of global geopolitics. Space-based systems, for the first time, broke the link between a nation's physical territory and its global ability to gather information, communicate, navigate, and project power. Click here. (3/19)

ILS Forced To Lower Launch Prices (Source: Space News)
International Launch Services (ILS) on March 18 said it has been forced to reduce prices in the wake of its December failure in order to accommodate customers paying higher insurance premiums to use ILS’s Proton heavy-lift rocket. ILS said it hopes that its prices will recover as the Reston, Va.-based company proceeds with six planned launches between March and August and re-establishes its credibility among customers.

In a press briefing here during the Satellite 2013 conference, ILS President Philip R. Slack said the three failures of Russian Proton rockets in the past two years has caused insurers to bump up their rates for commercial Proton launches. “A year ago we were within one-quarter or one-half a point of Ariane,” Slack said of ILS’s principal competitor, Arianespace of Europe. “We would be a couple of points higher today. We obviously needed to respond to market pressure. We expect to be able to bring those rates back down with seven Proton launches in the next six months.” (3/18)

FY2013 Budget Endgame In Sight (Source: Space Politics)
With just over a week before the current continuing resolution (CR) funding the federal government is set to expire, it appears a plan is taking shape to pass a final FY13 appropriations bill. Monday evening the Senate approved a cloture motion for its version of HR 933, cutting off debate and setting the stage for a vote on the bill tomorrow. While the House passed its version of the bill earlier this month, House appropriators may take the Senate version to the House floor on Thursday for passage--with the possibility of a few last-minute tweaks in a few programs.

If Congress does pass the Senate version of the bill, it’s not necessarily good news for NASA. The Senate version offers less money for NASA overall once a 1.877% rescission and 5% sequestration cuts take effect, even though it starts with more money than the House bill. The Senate version, though, does structure the funding differently than the House bill, which was a CR with several “anomalies” adjusting funding for exploration and a few other accounts.

While neither the House nor the Senate bills do anything about budget sequestration, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, was campaigning to cancel sequestration in an appearance earlier Monday at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “NASA Goddard is home to leaders in Maryland’s space and innovation economies, making discoveries that not only win Nobel Prizes, but create new products and jobs,” she said in a statement, adding that sequestration will have “a devastating impact on science, innovation and research at Goddard.” (3/18)

First Commercial Parabolic Flight Takes Place in Europe (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Congratulations to the SXC astronauts that successfully completed their first air ZeroG flight on Friday 15th of March. This was the first ever commercial public flight in Europe arranged by Avico and Novespace and offered through Spaceport Sweden’s space adventures and astronaut training program in collaboration with SXC. We look forward to many more missions offering the unique sensation of weightlessness under the instructions of ESA astronaut Jean-Francois Clervoy. (3/18)

Women in Aviation Conference Sets Attendance Record (Source: General Aviation News)
Women in Aviation, International set an attendance record at its 24th annual convention, held March 14-16 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville. Attendance totaled 3,375 individuals representing all segments of the aviation community. Attendees came from14 countries, in addition to the United States. The largest number of international attendees were from Nigeria, Canada and Ghana, in that order. (3/18)

Mars Rover Glitch: Curiosity Hit By New Computer Problem, NASA Says (Source: Huffington Post)
After recovering from a computer problem, the Mars rover Curiosity is sidelined again, further delaying the restart of science experiments. The latest complication occurred over the weekend when the six-wheel rover entered safe mode after experiencing a software file error. Curiosity remained in contact with ground controllers, but it can't zap rocks, snap pictures or roam around until the problem is fixed.

Rover team members had expected to resume activities Monday, but they now have to wait a bit longer – perhaps until the end of the week. Studies at the Gale Crater landing site have been on hold since the beginning of March after engineers discovered a problem with Curiosity's computer memory, possibly caused by space radiation. The latest snafu isn't as serious, but any unexpected problem throws off the schedule, Cook said.

It's the longest stretch of inactivity since Curiosity's daring touchdown near the Martian equator last year. Just before halting its investigations, the nuclear-powered rover used the drill at the end of its 7-foot-long robotic arm to bore into a rock near where it landed and analyze the powder. (3/18)

Russia Delays New Soyuz Launch (Source: RIA Novosti)
The first launch of Russia's new Soyuz-2.1V lightweight carrier rocket, scheduled for early 2013, is now likely to be delayed until the second half of 2013. "The first launch of the Soyuz-2.1V rocket has been preliminarily scheduled for the second half of this year," Progress design bureau's general director Alexander Kirilin said, without specifying the reasons for the delay.

Russia originally planned to launch the first Soyuz-2.1V in October but that was postponed after a failed ground test of its first-stage engines in August, Progress said. Last December, the commander of Russia's Aerospace Defense Forces, Maj.Gen. Alexander Golovko, said the first Soyuz 2.1V launch would take place at the start of 2013.

The new rocket is a modernized version of the Soyuz-2.1B, from which the Soyuz rocket's trademark four external booster rockets have been removed. The first stage is equipped with a rocket engine derived from the legendary NK-33, according to the Plesetsk cosmodrome website. The NK-33 was developed in the 1970's to carry Soviet cosmonauts to the moon onboard the giant N1 rocket. The rocket is capable of delivering a payload of up to 2.85 tons (6,300 lb) to an orbit at an altitude of 200 kilometers (120 miles), Progress claims. (3/18)

Mission to Ganymede More Tricky Than Expected (Source: Voice of Russia)
Russia's proposed landing mission to Ganymede was discussed extensively last week at an international meeting hosted by the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The mission to explore, and perhaps to drill, the Solar system's largest moon, presumably in close cooperation with the European Space Agency, would be a major challenge for Russia's space and science industries. The project is generally approved, but success is far from assured.

The mission to Ganymede, now better known by the simple name of "Ganymede Lander", is the latest reincarnation of Russia's contribution to the Laplas project, promoted by the European Space Agency (ESA) in the early 2000s. With Laplas becoming the single-spacecraft project JUICE (JUpiter ICy moon Explorer, until christened officially), Russian plans have also undergone major changes, although their main objective, sending a lander to Jupiter's biggest moon, remained intact.

The initial aim was to explore Europa, a smaller Jovian moon, where there is an ocean of liquid water beneath its frozen surface (around 10 km thick) and is therefore considered a good prospect for the exploration of habitable conditions. Ganymede also holds liquid water, but much deeper, under an icy crust of around 130-150 km. On the other hand, this moon is farther from Jupiter with less radiation than Europa, putting spacecraft at a much lower risk. (3/18)

3D Printing Takes on the Final Frontier: Food (Source: Space Safety)
Imagine one day being able printing your own dishes, like in a Star Trek movie. This is the dream of many astronauts. Currently, astronauts have a limited variety of vacuum-sealed or canned foods which they eat repeatedly and quickly gets monotonous; however, 3D food printing may radically change astronauts’ selection of food. In the future astronauts will have the opportunity for a more diversified diet.

This pioneering 3D food printing technology enables the creation of meals out of nearly all sorts of materials and increases the potential for personal choices. “Right now, astronauts on the space station are eating the same seven days of food on rotations of two or three weeks,” said Michelle Terfansky, an astronautical engineer, who is writing her master’s thesis on how to 3D print appetizing dishes in microgravity at the University of Southern California. “It gets the job done, but it’s not exactly home cooking.” Click here. (3/19)

AIAA Honors Embry-Riddle Aerospace Engineering Professor (Source: ERAU)
Dr. Tej Gupta, an aerospace engineering professor at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus, recently received the AIAA Cape Canaveral Section 2012 Outstanding Member Award. He was presented with the award at the 2013 Engineers Week Awards Banquet sponsored by the Canaveral Council of Technical Societies and the American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics (AIAA). It honors him as the section member who demonstrated the highest achievement in the past year in the field of aerospace relating to AIAA’s technical committee areas. (3/18)

Stars Align for Orbital’s Antares – A-One Debut Set for Mid-April (Source:
Orbital’s Antares rocket is finally set to make its debut flight into space, following the approval of a launch window that opens on April 16. Dubbed the A-One mission, Antares will be tasked with a 603 second validation mission to loft a Cygnus mass simulator payload to a target orbit of 250 km x 300 km with an inclination of 51.6 degrees.

Orbital’s new medium class launcher was set to launch in 2012. However, the schedule was delayed several times, as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) team at the Wallops launch site struggled with the completion of construction work on the pad’s propellant handling and pressurization systems. Once this work was completed, the core stage of the Antares rolled out of the newly built Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) for fit checks and system validation testing at the end of 2012. (3/17)

Pluto Could Have Ten Moons (Source: Discovery)
A recent simulation predicts that NASA’s New Horizons probe could slam into a rocky killing field encircling the “binary planet” Pluto-Charon, during its 2015 flyby. That’s according to a new theoretical dynamical simulation that predicts there could be as many as 10 moons circling the distant world — plus one or more ring systems. The Hubble Space Telescope has discovered four small moons to date circling Pluto-Charon, but the other predicted moons many be so small and dim that they are undetectable even with Hubble’s super-deep vision. (3/18)

Embraer Signs Jacksonville Airport Lease for Assembly Facility (Source: Embraer)
Embraer Aircraft Holding, Inc. announced today it has signed a 10-year lease on a 40,000-square-foot hangar in which the A-29 Super Tucano aircraft for the U.S. Air Force Light Air Support (LAS) program will be assembled.  Preparation of the facility is currently underway. The LAS aircraft are urgently needed to support the successful withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown welcomed Embraer to the city. “I'm excited for this economic milestone as Embraer's A-29 production facility becomes Jacksonville's first full-scale aircraft assembly operation,” said Mayor Brown. “Not only does this show confidence in our workforce, it expands Jacksonville's role as one of America's most military and veteran-friendly cities. I commend Embraer for embracing these values and I look forward to a long, productive relationship.” (3/18)

Federal Agents Stop, Arrest NASA Langley Contractor on Plane for China (Source: Daily Press)
A former employee of a NASA Langley Research Center contractor was sitting on a Chinese-bound plane at Dulles International Airport on Saturday when federal agents came on board and asked to have a word with him. Federal prosecutors are now accusing that man, Bo Jiang, of lying to those federal investigators about what he had in his possession. Just last week, the FBI had opened an active investigation into whether Jiang, a Chinese national, might have violated the federal Arms Export Control Act, according to an FBI affidavit.

But on Friday, agents learned that Jiang "was leaving the United States to abruptly return to China on a one-way ticket," according to the affidavit. On Saturday, Jiang flew from Norfolk International Airport to Dulles, where he was planning to fly to Beijing, the affidavit said. But while he was sitting on the plane as it readied for takeoff from the Northern Virginia airport, federal agents came on board to search Jiang and his possessions.

"Jiang told the Homeland Security Agent that he had a cellphone, a memory stick, an external hard drive and a new computer," FBI Special Agent Rhonda A. Squizzero wrote in the affidavit for the arrest warrant. "However, during the search, other media items were located that Jiang did not reveal. Such items found include an additional laptop, an old hard drive and a SIM card." (3/18)

India Readies to Take a Crack at Mars (Source: DNA)
Scientific payloads for India's Mars Orbiter will be received in the end of this month for integration with Mars-bound spacecraft which is scheduled to be launched on November 27 this year, ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan has said. The Mars Orbiter mission is the country's most ambitious mission so far as it would be the first time that any Indian satellite would have gone as far as the Red Planet which is estimated to be about 54.6 million Kilometers away, taking a journey time of nine months for it to reach Mars. (3/18)

Leaping Lunar Dust (Source: NASA)
Electrically charged lunar dust near shadowed craters can get lofted above the surface and jump over the shadowed region, bouncing back and forth between sunlit areas on opposite sides, according to new calculations by NASA scientists. The research is being led by Michael Collier at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center as part of the Dynamic Response of the Environment At the Moon (DREAM) team in partnership with the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI), managed at NASA's Ames Research Center. Click here. (3/15)

ESA Seeks Help to Control Robot Spacecraft (Source: BBC)
The European Space Agency is turning to owners of terrestrial robot aircraft to aid those that journey into space. The agency has released software that makes use of the cameras on the Parrot drone to simulate docking with a virtual space station. The Parrot drone quadcopter has proved popular with many iPhone owners as it can be controlled via the handset.

Data generated by the agency's app will be analysed to help fine tune navigation software for its own drones. Users of the ESA app will designate a real-world feature to serve as their docking port. An augmented-reality marker representing the port or airlock will then be overlaid on the image sent back to their handset by the drone's cameras. Docking attempts will be scored by how fast the maneuver is completed without bumps, scrapes or crashes. (3/18)

Astrium Americas Establishes New Space Propulsion Office in North America (Source: SpaceRef)
Astrium has opened an office to provide in-space propulsion capabilities to the North American market. Based in the Los Angeles area, it will initially focus on business development. "This new office is another step in better serving Astrium's expanding international in-space propulsion customer base," said John Schumacher. "It will help us to offer Astrium's expertise and capabilities in the in-space propulsion and equipment business to current and new U.S. customers, strengthen existing partnerships in the U.S. and enlarge our supplier base in North America."

Bob Huebner will lead the business expansion effort as the director of business development for in-space propulsion products and services in North America. Huebner brings 20 years of management and leadership experience in growing in-space propulsion businesses. He also has 15 years of technical experience with rocket propulsion, ramjets, scramjets and turbo machinery.

Astrium Propulsion & Equipment, provides design, development, production, integration and testing of rocket engines, complete space propulsion systems, subsystems and components. It provides propulsion systems and components to international customers with thrust levels range from 8 micro-Newton RIT- Xenon thrusters to the 1,350 kilo-Newton N Vulcan LOX/LH2 thrust chambers used on the Ariane 5 launcher. (3/18)

University of Miami Student Presents Research at Washington AIAA Event (Source: AIAA)
The role of space in the study of HIV and other infectuous diseases, the creation of hardy plant species adaptable to harsh environments, advanced cooling systems for space-based electronic systems, the effect of spacelight on bone loss and stem-cell regeneration, and the creation of transgenic crops using lessons learned in microgravity -- these are examples of the results of our nation's STEM investments.

"Students Bringing Space Research Down to Earth" will highlight some of our nation's most promising young researchers and their innovative and groundbreaking research, and discuss how work from the nation's space program helps everyday life on Earth. Panelists will include Aubrey Florom-Smith, speaking about her research at the University of Miami in Florida. Click here. (3/18)

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