March 2, 2013

Dragon Cleared for Space Station Docking on Sunday (Source: Reuters)
A cargo capsule owned by Space Exploration Technologies was cleared for a belated docking at the International Space Station on Sunday morning at 6:31 a.m. EST after engineers resolved a problem with the spacecraft's thruster pods. (3/2)

Russian City Hit by Meteor Makes a Bid for Space Tourism (Source: The Independent)
All of the Disneylands may have a Space Mountain, while the Kennedy Space Center in Florida may document mankind's pioneering achievements in space travel, but it's not often a town can boast of how it survived an intergalactic assault from outer space.

But that's exactly what Chelyabinsk, to the east of Ural Mountains in southern Russia, did last month when an 10,000-ton meteor crashed through the atmosphere, producing a sonic boom and shattered into pieces 32 miles above the city. With hundreds injured from smashed windows and debris strewn across the city, tourism bosses in the area are now keen to cash-in on the day Chelyabinsk survived its space attack. (3/2)

China's First Solid-Fuel Rocket to Debut Before 2016 (Source: Xinhua)
China's first solid-fuel rocket Long March-11 is expected to make its first launch before 2016, a senior official of the rocket's designing institute said on Saturday. Liang Xiaohong, deputy head of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, said the rocket will be easy to operate and cost-efficient to launch. It can remain in storage for long period and reliably launch on short notice. (3/2)

Orbital: First Antares Rocket Ready To Fly (Source: Space News)
Following a successful test firing of its main engine Feb. 25, the Antares rocket developed by Orbital Sciences Corp. is in final integration at its Virginia launch site and scheduled to roll out to the pad in mid-March in preparation for an early April debut. Antares, developed with financial assistance from NASA, will be used to launch Orbital’s Cygnus cargo to the international space station (ISS) under an eight-flight, $1.9 billion services contract awarded by the space agency in 2008.

The Antares team at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., and the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority that operates the launch pad will spend the next five to six weeks refurbishing the platform and parsing a mountain of data from the 29-second hot fire of the rocket’s core stage. According to the data examined so far, Antares passed “with flying colors,” Mike Pinkston, Orbital’s program manager for Antares, said Feb. 28. (3/1)

China's Space Station Will Be Energy-Efficient (Source: Xinhua)
China's space station, which is expected to be completed around 2020, will set an example of green technology, a Chinese official said. The space station will use cutting-edge technologies in flight control, power supply and waste recycling. The green technologies to be applied in the station will raise its recycling rate and reduce its reliance on input from the ground. For example, waste water and urine will be used to extract oxygen, and carbon dioxide and other human waste will also be recycled, Zhou Jianping said. (3/2)

Shotwell: No Agreement with Tito's Mars Plan (Source: America Space)
Dennis Tito recently announced plans to launch a 501-day manned mission to Mars which would conduct a flyby of the planet – but would not land. Reports stated that SpaceX would participate in the mission utilizing SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft. SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said the reports are inaccurate. “As far as the Dennis Tito flight, I think his plan is very ambitious, we have been rumored to be in partnership with him, which we are not. But we are a launch service provider and if he can come up with the funding to execute this mission we’d be happy to have him as a customer,” Shotwell said. (3/2)

California Space Site Cleanup Will Be Costly (Source: LA Daily News)
An internal audit has concluded that NASA committed to an excessive and unnecessary cleanup of its portion of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory and a less expensive and invasive plan should be considered. The audit, released recently by NASA's Office of Inspector General, estimated that cleaning up the agency's portion of the property would cost $200 million.

"NASA's estimate of more than $200 million to clean the site to background levels is more than two times the cost of restoring the land for residential use and more than eight times the estimated cost of restoring the site for recreational use," according to the audit. "Moreover, we are concerned about the potential adverse effects on the surrounding community and on natural and archeological resources at the site should NASA press forward with clean up to background levels."

The standard of cleanup to background level was spelled out in a state law, SB 990, that was passed in 2007, but it also needed acceptance agreements from the three agencies involved in the property - Boeing, NASA and the Department of Energy. A background standard means the site must be cleaned to levels found before manufacturing took place on the property. (3/1)

1960s Rocket Plane Tests May Boost Suborbital Spaceflight Safety (Source:
The safety of the emerging suborbital spaceflight industry is getting a hard look these days, and some researchers think the test program of the 1960s-era X-15 rocket plane can offer some insights. Those pioneering flights half a century ago highlight health concerns for pilots and passengers of commercial suborbital spaceflight, experts say.

In particular, the NASA/U.S. Air Force X-15 program calls attention to the fact that knowing an individual's predilection for vertigo and spatial disorientation before flight can help improve his or her space voyage. Pilots prone to such problems can make mistakes during a flight, potentially leading to fatal accidents. Click here. (3/2)

Musk: SpaceX Dragon 'Back on Track' (Source: Discovery)
After missing its scheduled rendezvous with the Space Station, SpaceX says it is back on track, with all four of its Dragon thruster pods working. The first order of business was to raise Dragon’s orbit to prevent it from being pulled back into Earth’s atmosphere in a couple of days. “Orbit raising burn successful. Dragon back on track,” company founder and chief executive Elon Musk posted on Twitter seven hours after a Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport on the firm’s second cargo run for NASA. (3/2)

Sequester Starts, NASA to Lose $896 Million (Source: Space Policy Online)
Last night President Obama issued the sequestration order required under the 2011 Budget Control Act. Unless an agreement is reached to end the sequester before FY2013 runs out, defense agencies will lose 7.8 percent of their FY2013 funding levels and non-defense agencies like NASA will lose 5 percent. The cuts are applied to each budget account equally.

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) notified affected agencies that the President had issued the sequestration order in a memorandum and sent Congress a 70-page report detailing exactly how much must be cut from each budget account. Some agencies have limited authority to transfer funds between accounts so the numbers are not absolute, but should be pretty close at the account level.

The cuts also are intended to be applied equally to "all programs, projects, and activities within a budget account," but how strictly that phrase is interpreted could vary, thus it is not possible to say precisely how a particular NASA program will fare. Click here. (3/2)

Giant NASA Spider Robots Could 3D Print Lunar Base Using Microwaves (Source: WIRED)
The first lunar base on the Moon may not be built by human hands, but rather by a giant spider-like robot built by NASA that can bind the dusty soil into giant bubble structures where astronauts can live, conduct experiments, relax or perhaps even cultivate crops.

We've already covered the European Space Agency's (ESA) work with architecture firm Foster + Partners on a proposal for a 3D-printed moonbase, and there are similarities between the two bases -- both would be located in Shackleton Crater near the Moon's south pole, where sunlight (and thus solar energy) is nearly constant due to the Moon's inclination on the crater's rim, and both use lunar dust as their basic building material.

However, while the ESA's building would be constructed almost exactly the same way a house would be 3D-printed on Earth, this latest wheeze -- SinterHab -- uses NASA technology for something a fair bit more ambitious. SinterHab is so-named because it involves sintering lunar dust -- that is, heating it up to just below its melting point, where the fine nanoparticle powders fuse and become one solid block a bit like a piece of ceramic. To do this, the JPL engineers propose using microwaves no more powerful than those found in a kitchen unit, with tiny particles easily reaching between 1200 and 1500 degrees Celsius. (3/1)

Europe May Work With China on Space Station (Source: Scientific American)
China aims to establish a large manned space station within the next decade, officials have said, and the latest reports suggest that this outpost could host not only Chinese astronauts, but European spaceflyers as well. A plan is afoot for China and Europe to cooperate on the venture, which might see the European Space Agency (ESA) building technologies, including a rendezvous and docking system, for the station, in exchange for opportunities for its astronauts to visit the facility. (3/1)

Female Expected Aboard China's New Manned Spacecraft (Source: Xinhua)
A Chinese space expert said Friday that three Chinese astronauts, including one woman, are expected to board the Shenzhou-10, the country's new manned spacecraft, which should launch sometime between June and August. Zhou Jianping, the head designer of China's manned space program, said he expects a female astronaut to participate in the mission, together with two male astronauts. The Shenzhou-10 is expected to dock with the orbiting lab module Tiangong-1, he said. (3/1)

'Sling-Sat' Could Remove Space Junk on the Cheap (Source:
A proposed space-junk removal system would hop from one piece of debris to the next without burning much fuel, potentially making a de-clutter mission economically feasible with current technologiy. The TAMU Space Sweeper with Sling-Sat, or 4S for short, would harness the momentum imparted by capturing and ejecting one object to slingshot on to the next chunk of space junk, its developers say.

The most technically and politically sound idea is a simple rendezvous mission, during which a clean-up craft would travel to and de-orbit debris objects one at a time, Missel said. But such a mission would burn loads of fuel to get between widely spaced targets, making it “fatally plagued by inefficiency,” he added.

The 4S system, which Missel and Mortari are developing, aims to correct this fatal flaw. It would snare debris at the end of a spinning satellite, then fling the object down to burn up in Earth's atmosphere. The spacecraft would harness the momentum exchanged during both of these actions to cruise over to the next piece of space junk on its list, minimizing fuel use and extending its operational life to the point that such a mission might be practical. Here's a video. (3/1)

Mars Rover Curiosity Has First Big Malfunction (Source: National Geographic)
The Mars rover Curiosity experienced its first significant malfunction on Wednesday, when one of its two onboard computers became corrupted and failed to turn off and enter "sleep mode" as planned. The Curiosity team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory sent up commands to switch all operations from the corrupted A computer to the twin B computer early Thursday morning, according to a Thursday NASA statement. Most spacecraft have a backup computer to step in if the primary computer fails. (3/1)

No comments: