March 21, 2013

Silicon Valley Space Center to Develop Suborbital Payloads for Lynx (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Silicon Valley Space Center will develop four scientific payloads to fly on the XCOR Lynx spacecraft, which is currently under construction in Mojave, California. The payloads will fly on missions sponsored by the United States Rocket Academy’s Citizens in Space program. The payloads are part of a cooperative agreement between the Silicon Valley Space Center and Citizens in Space, which was announced today.

Citizens in Space has acquired an initial contract for 10 flights on the XCOR Lynx. This initial flight campaign will carry 100 citizen-science payloads and 10 citizen astronauts who will act as payload operators. The experiments being developed by the Silicon Valley Space Center will serve as pathfinders for those citizen-science experiments. (3/21)

Loral Selected by Hughes to Build High Capacity Ka-Band Broadband Satellite (Source: SpacecRef)
Loral has been selected by Hughes Network Systems, LLC (Hughes), a wholly owned subsidiary of EchoStar Corp. to build what will be the world's highest capacity broadband satellite--JUPITER 2/EchoStar XIX. The new Ka-band satellite will help meet the growing demand for HughesNet(R) Gen4 high-speed satellite Internet service in North America, with 50 percent more capacity than EchoStar XVII, also known as JUPITER 1, which was launched in July 2012. (3/21)

Harris and NOAA Launch New Reporting/Tracking Tool for Weather Satellites (Source: SpaceRef)
Harris Corp. and NOAA have developed and successfully deployed a new tool that will help track and report anomalies in critical weather satellite information. Weather forecasters, emergency managers, scientists and other environmental data users throughout the western hemisphere rely on the accuracy and availability of this information to rapidly analyze and disseminate weather information to the public.

The Product Anomaly, Ticket, Relationship, Organization, and Notification (PATRON) tool was created for the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite -- R Series (GOES-R) Ground Segment but was immediately implemented to support other environmental satellites in operation today. PATRON is a trouble reporting and tracking system for satellite weather products created by the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service's Office of Satellite Products and Operations (OSPO).

Any abnormal occurrences in the process of receiving instrument data from the satellite, processing and formatting the data into usable weather products, and distributing the weather products to end users are considered anomalies. Florida-based Harris is a recognized leader in satellite ground data processing and mission command-and-control systems. (3/21)

India Designing Geo Imaging Satellite (Source: Business Standard)
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is designing a Geo Imaging Satellite (Gisat). The Gisat will carry a GEO imager with multi-spectral (visible, near infra-red and thermal), multi-resolution (50 m to 1.5 km) imaging instruments. It will be placed in geostationary orbit of 36,000 km.

The remote sensing satellites launched by Isro revisit the same area once every two to 24 days and acquire images of a geographical strip (swath) at different spatial resolutions (360 metre to better than 1 metre). Gisat will provide near real time pictures of large areas of the country, under cloud-free conditions, at frequent intervals. That is, selected sector-wise image every 5 minutes and entire Indian landmass image every 30 minutes at 50m spatial resolution. (3/20)

CASIS Announces Grant Awards for Materials Science (Source: CASIS)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit organization promoting and managing research onboard the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, today announced grant awards totaling $400,000 for two projects from its recent Request for Proposals (RFP) titled "Materials Testing in the Extreme Environment of Space."

The RFP sought to identify projects within the field of materials science that could make use of the physical and chemical properties influenced by microgravity, atomic oxygen, low pressure and/or vast temperature variations. The selected experiments will use the NanoRacks External Platform, which allows exposure to the extreme conditions of space for development and testing of new materials, components and systems.

The awardees include researchers at Advanced Materials LLC for radiation studies to examine fault-tolerant computers to meet the intensive demands of current and next generation satellites and space missions; and the Georgia Institute of Technology for developing cost-effective, energy-efficient photovoltaic cells made of lightweight carbon nanotubes. (3/21)

Volusia Spaceport Would Bring Progress, Jobs (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
A possible private space-launch site in southern Volusia County deserves full and enthusiastic support from the Volusia County Council when the plan comes before the council on April 4. Space Florida, the state's public-private space development corporation, will make its pitch before the County Council about a plan for a small site on land owned by NASA. The plan has met with some resistance from NASA itself, which may want to keep the land for vague reasons, and from environmentalists, who seem to always have at least a few reasons not to favor development on NASA's excess land.

Space Florida has done a good job of responding to criticisms of the proposal, which would affect the Shiloh area. Volusia County Councilwoman Deb Denys has said she supports it and wants everybody on board. And NASA has kept talking with Space Florida, despite the agency's reservations.

Like Space Florida and some members of the Volusia County Council, NASA needs to show more concern for creating jobs and patching the hole left by the cancellation of the space shuttle program. Volusia County is a natural choice for the space sector, given the resources of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the proximity to Cape Canaveral. The U.S. private space industry is still in its infancy and it needs nurturing. It should find a welcome home in Volusia County. (3/20)

How It Works: The Most Powerful Space Rocket (Source: Popular Science)
When the firm SpaceX launches its Falcon-Heavy rocket into space late this year, the craft will become the mightiest rocket in the world. Only NASA’s Saturn V, which sent Americans to the moon, has ever generated more power. In rockets, the most important measure of power is thrust. Falcon-Heavy’s 27 individual booster engines together generate 3.8 million pounds of thrust—enough to lift the 3.1-million-pound rocket and its 117,000-pound payload toward low-Earth orbit.

The rocket’s success is critical for both SpaceX and the U.S. space program: The Air Force has already hired SpaceX and its Falcon-Heavy to send two satellites into orbit sometime in 2015. Click here. Editor's Note: One of Falcon-Heavy's primary purposes is to allow SpaceX to launch large government satellites, including those currently limited to using Atlas-5 and Delta-4 rockets under the Air Force's EELV program. SpaceX has been planning to modify Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport to accommodate Falcon-Heavy operations. (3/21)

Wallops Island Gets Ready for the Big Time (Source: Air & Space)
In the early 1950s, before NASA, before the Space Age even started, you could rightly have called Wallops Island the nation’s leading rocket range. The former private hunting reserve off the coast of Virginia had been converted by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics to a launch site in 1945, when Cape Canaveral was still five years from firing its first rocket.

It wasn’t long, however, before most of the action moved south to Florida, and Wallops, though it continued as a NASA facility, never got the recognition that came to Canaveral or Houston. Instead, it became known as a small, remote outpost for launching suborbital sounding rockets—more than 15,000 and still counting—mainly for scientific purposes.

Recently, as new commercial launch companies have started to gear up, Wallops has become an attractive option for East Coast launches to orbit. Next month, Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp. is scheduled to test-launch its new Antares rocket from Wallops (officially the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport). Click here. (3/20)

Mars, Our First Outpost on the Final Frontier (Source: The Atlantic)
In the next generation or two—say the next 30 to 60 years—there will be an irreversible human migration to a permanent space colony. Some people will tell you that this new colony will be on the moon, or an asteroid. In my opinion asteroids are a great place to go, but mostly for mining. I think the location is likely to be Mars. This Mars colony will start off with a few thousand people, and then it may grow over 100 years to a few million people, but it will be there permanently. That should be really exciting, to be alive during that stage of humanity’s history. Click here. (3/21)

NASA Blocks Access to China, 7 Suspect Nations (Source: Florida Today)
Visitors from China and several other suspect countries will be denied access to NASA facilities until the agency finishes investigating its cybersecurity measures involving foreign nationals, NASA’s administrator told congressional lawmakers Tuesday. Access to NASA facilities will be denied to all visitors, including researchers and scientists, from China, Burma, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan. (3/21)

Sequester Keeps NASA Officials from Planetary Science Conference (Source: NBC)
Scientists from 37 countries are discussing the latest and greatest planetary science discoveries this week, but a few folks are notably absent: high-ranking NASA officials. Instead of briefing the 1,750 attendees of the 44th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference here in person, two senior NASA officials beamed in via Skype Monday to detail some of the finer points of the space agency's budget and goals for the coming years. "It's a pleasure to be coming to you from D.C., though I'd much rather be in Houston with all of you," said John Grunsfeld, NASA's associate administrator for science missions at the agency's headquarters in Washington. (3/20)

Sequestration Whacks National Space Symposium: NASA Drops Out, Some Air Force Cancel (Source: AOL Defense)
For those who aren't part of the insular space community, you need to know that the National Space Symposium is the most important conference on space issues in the world. Everyone goes: the intelligence community; the Air Force; Army; Navy; industry; allies; even senior Chinese officials show up fairly regularly these days. Some 9,000 people attend in a good year.

But this year no one from NASA will attend NSS at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs next month. Here is the remarkably prickly and hurt message out out by the Space Foundation, organizer of NSS, when it learned of NASA's decision: "On March 13, NASA announced its intent to withdraw from the global space community by not participating in the 29th National Space Symposium. This marks the first time in 29 years that NASA has so isolated itself...The Space Foundation, which was not consulted by NASA on this decision, is protesting this decision in the strongest possible terms."

One big difference between NASA and the Defense Department as they face sequestration: NASA does not plan to furlough anyone and they are still hiring for jobs already funded. Air Force officials have said they are curtailing their appearances at conferences, as have the other services. "Ironically, participation by other space agencies from around the world is at a record high. Participation by international and commercial companies continues to increase," Janet Stevens wrote. (3/20)

Boeing Exec Urges DoD To Relax Hosted Payload Rules (Source: Space News)
The head of Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems on March 20 urged the U.S. Defense Department to relax its rules on placing military payloads on commercial satellites, saying the current rules are unlikely to result in any hosted-payload efforts being consummated.

Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems has staked part of its pivot toward the commercial market on providing payloads that can be placed alongside a commercial payload on a commercially owned telecommunications satellite. The company is hoping that as the Defense Department adjusts to sequestration-related budget pressures, it will realize the benefits of hosted payloads and the use of commercial satellites to lower the costs of military access to space. (3/20)

Astronauts4Hire Announces Candidate Application Opportunity (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Astronauts4Hire (A4H) is pleased to announce that it is seeking highly qualified candidates to expand its cadre of prospective commercial astronauts. Individuals interested in becoming Flight Members can submit applications via the Astronauts4Hire website by April 20, 2013. Selectees will be announced during the first week of June 2013 at the Next-generation Suborbital Researchers Conference in Broomfield, Colorado. Click here. (3/20)

Senate Passes FY-2013 Continuing Resolution (Source: Space Policy Online)
The Senate passed its version of the FY2013 Continuing Resolution (CR) today that will fund the government for the rest of this fiscal year. The vote was 73-26. The bill approves the same level of funding as the House version -- $984 billion -- and keeps the sequester in place.  For most agencies, the best news about Senate passage is that they are closer to knowing how much money they can spend through September 30.  The existing CR expires on March 27.

The Senate bill is different from its House counterpart, however, so now must go back to the House for their agreement.   House Speaker Boehner indicated earlier that he was comfortable with the changes made by the Senate at that point, so hopes are high that the House will accept it.   The bill then would still need to be signed by the President. The Senate version includes a full year appropriations bill for agencies in the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill, which includes NASA and NOAA.  Although the total funding for NASA is lower in the Senate version, the agency would have greater flexibility in spending it than in the House version. (3/20)

New Space Station Crew Members to Launch and Dock the Same Day (Source: NASA)
Three new crew members are set to launch to the International Space Station on a six-hour flight to travel from the launch pad to their destination. Chris Cassidy of NASA, along with Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), are scheduled to launch in their Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:43 p.m. CDT, Thursday, March 28, (2:43 a.m. March 29 Baikonur time).

Cassidy, Vinogradov and Misurkin will become the first station crew members to make an expedited trip to the orbiting laboratory. Instead of taking the standard two days to rendezvous and dock with the station, they will need only four orbits of Earth to reach the station. This flight will employ rendezvous techniques used recently with three unpiloted Russian Progress cargo spacecraft. (3/30)

Sun in the Way Will Affect Mars Missions in April (Source: NASA JPL)
The positions of the planets next month will mean diminished communications between Earth and NASA's spacecraft at Mars. Mars will be passing almost directly behind the sun, from Earth's perspective. The sun can easily disrupt radio transmissions between the two planets during that near-alignment. To prevent an impaired command from reaching an orbiter or rover, mission controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory are preparing to suspend sending any commands to spacecraft at Mars for weeks in April. Transmissions from Mars to Earth will also be reduced. (3/20)

The Coming Age of Space Colonization (Source: The Atlantic)
Eric Anderson: "I think absolutely [the public] are right to feel a little bit disappointed [about the current state of space exploration]. On April 12, 1961, the first human being, Yuri Gagarin, goes to space. Then, July 29, 1969: We're on the moon. If you and I were doing this interview on July 30, 1969 and you had asked me what space exploration would be like in the year 2013, I would've told you it would be far more advanced than it is now." Click here. (3/20)

NASA Warns Sequestration Could Cut Missions (Source: KPCC)
Sequestration continues to dominate budget discussions on Capitol Hill. The top man at NASA said Wednesday he may have to cut some programs. NASA has great plans for Mars in the near future. Administrator Charles Bolden outlined the next two decades for the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science. Next year, the probe MAVEN will study the atmosphere of Mars; in 2016, a small lander called Insight begins its mission to drill deep inside the red planet. A similar version of Curiosity will launch in 2020, with plans to put humans on Mars in the 2030s.

But Bolden said sequestration makes planning tough: "That word keeps coming up because that changes everything that we told you." Bolden said a decade of sequestration means he either has to cut a billion dollars either in planned missions or people – scientists like those who work at Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Lab. "And I don’t think we want to do the people," Bolden said. (3/20)

Congressman: NASA Intentionally Skirted Rules (Source: Daily Press)
A Northern Virginia congressman contends that NASA Langley Research Center and other NASA facilities around the country have intentionally circumvented federal law restricting the foreign nationals they can hire. U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-VA, says NASA is required to abide by long-standing federal restrictions on which foreign nationals they can bring in to do research. But he said NASA farms out much of its work to contractors — and then proceeds to dictate to those contractors about which employees they want on board.

The problem, Wolf said, is highlighted by the case of Bo Jiang. Jiang, 32, a Chinese national who lives in Norfolk, was an employee of the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA), a Hampton-based nonprofit and a major contractor with NASA Langley Research Center. "I remain concerned that Mr. Jiang was employed by NIA, allegedly at the direction of NASA officials, in an apparent attempt to circumvent appropriations restrictions the Congress has in place to prevent the hiring of certain foreign nationals of concern," Wolf asserted. (3/20)

Meteor or Missile Attack: How Will Military Leaders Know? (Source:
The potential threat of asteroids took center stage during a hearing by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, which is expected to be the first in a series of congressional discussions on the subject. Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) — the committee's chairman — quizzed Gen. William Shelton, chief of the U.S. Air Force Space Command, about the military's ability to detect the Feb. 15 Chelyabinsk meteor, as well as differentiate between incoming meteors and incoming ballistic missiles. Click here. (3/20)

Mojave Gets Busy (Source: Parabolic Arc)
It was a busy day here with multiple activities at different locations at the Mojave Air and Space Port. WhiteKnightTwo with SpaceShipTwo attached was out on the ramp in front of the Scaled hangar. Engineers were doing pressurization tests using helium before they rolled the ships back into the hanger in the afternoon. Officials have said they want to do three glide tests with this configuration before beginning powered flights. SpaceShipTwo appeared to feature the same engine nozzle with a pipe in the middle that was seen three months ago.

Masten Space Systems conducted two successful tether flights at their test facility on the north side today. The second one lasted about 1 minute and 10 seconds. It’s not known which vehicle the company was flying, but it’s possible it was the recently unveiled Xaero-B. In another part of the test area, an unidentified team had hoped to do some tests today. However, they couldn’t get everything set up in time, so the tests were delayed to another day. (3/20)

Life on Mars! Unless it's E.T., Who Cares? (Source:
If a microorganism were found on Mars, would anyone care? NASA scientists announced on March 12 that the Red Planet could have supported ancient life — though they don't yet have evidence that it did. A sample of rock drilled by the Curiosity rover revealed conditions that could have supported ancient microbes at some point in the distant past.

The news of even potential life made headlines, and there's no doubt the discovery of actual microbial life on Mars would, too. But the impact of finding life on another world might not be as Earth-shattering as one might think, experts say. That's mainly because the life probably wouldn't be asking to be taken to our leader. For scientists, Mars life would be a big deal, Chris McKay said. Even more paradigm-altering would be to find that life on Mars originated independently.

Life evolving twice in the same solar system would suggest that life is common throughout the universe, McKay explained. Such a discovery would be huge for biologists, who would suddenly have an entirely new type of biology to study. McKay doesn't envision any major shifts in philosophy among the public in response to such a discovery, though. (3/20)

NASA Steps Up Security After Arrest of Former Contractor (Source: Reuters)
NASA has shut down access to an online database and banned new requests from Chinese and some other foreign nationals seeking access to its facilities amid mounting concerns about espionage and export control violations, the U.S. space agency's administrator said on Wednesday. The security measures include a complete ban on remote computer access by Chinese and some other non-U.S. contractors already working at NASA centers, agency chief Charles Bolden said at a congressional oversight hearing in Washington. (3/20)

Thales Alenia Space Seeks Wider Market for Iridium Bus (Source: Space News)
Thales Alenia Space is looking for a wider market for the satellite platform it has developed for the Iridium Next low-orbiting mobile communications satellites, with the first intended customer being the French Defense Ministry for an electronics-intelligence satellite. Company officials said they are making a joint proposal with Astrium Satellites to French defense forces for the Ceres satellite, which is the only major military space program on the horizon in France. (3/20)

Russia Pulls Plug on Public Satellite Broadband Project (Source: Space News)
A planned national Ka-band broadband satellite program by Russia’s state-owned RT Com has been canceled because of a lack of financing, a development that may leave more operating room for Russia’s two satellite fleet operators, Russian industry officials said. The cancellation of the RT Com project, for which MDA Corp. of Canada and Gilat Satellite Networks of Israel had been positioned as suppliers, does not mean a slowdown in Russian adoption of Ka-band satellites for broadband, the industry officials said. (3/20)

The Bermuda Triangle of Space: High-Energy Anomaly Threatens Satellites (Source: Defense News)
Shortly after the Sep. 2010 launch of an Air Force surveillance satellite, the satellite passed over the South Atlantic, and things went awry. The satellite was hit by radiation that sent the sensors reeling and knocked out an electronics board payload. Suddenly, the expensive, specially-designed satellite could no longer do what it was built for.

The effects of radiation are part of the price of doing business in space. There are solar flares, random magnetic distortions and what some NASA scientists call euphemistically the “killer electrons” of the Van Allen radiation belts. The place where spacecraft are most vulnerable, though, is an area slightly larger than the United States, centered 300 kilometers off the coast of Brazil.

This is where the trapped charged particles of the doughnut-shaped Van Allen radiation belts and cosmic rays from sun storms combine and bottom out at about 200 kilometers above the planet. Its formal name is the South Atlantic Anomaly, but some call it the Bermuda Triangle of space. It’s directly in the path of satellites in low Earth orbit, which fly through it regularly — in some cases, multiple times a day. (3/12)

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