March 24, 2014

Florida Rocket Has Fallen on Cuba (Source: SPACErePORT)
Are Cuba and Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula safe from Texas-launched Falcon rocket hardware? On November 30, 1960, a Thor DM-21 rocket veered off course and debris fell on Cuba, reportedly killing a cow. The rocket, a predecessor to today's Delta family of rockets, launched from Complex 17 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Forty years later, CIA Director George Tenet mentioned the incident jokingly in a Sep. 2000 speech to the NRO:

“One of (the) more spectacular failures rained debris down on Cuba. Havana charged that a cow was killed in a deliberate US action. The Cubans soon paraded another cow through the streets with a placard reading ‘Eisenhower, you murdered one of my sisters’. It was the first and last time that a satellite has been used in the production of ground beef. The episode has gone down in history as the herd shot round the world.” (3/24)

NASA Partners With Micro Aerospace Solutions To Use KSC Labs (Source: NASA)
NASA has signed an agreement with Micro Aerospace Solutions (MAS) of Melbourne, Fla., for use of an offline hardware processing "clean room" laboratory and office space at Kennedy Space Center's Space Station Processing Facility. MAS will utilize the area to perform small satellite flight hardware and payload assembly, as well as testing and checkout operations.

The initial two-year agreement will allow Micro Aerospace Solutions access to the facility to begin work on April 1, 2013. MAS is a small business established in 2000, specializing in software, electrical and mechanical design engineering services. The company is involved in a wide variety of engineering disciplines including software engineering, thruster designs, propulsion systems, attitude control, command and data handling, as well as computer and communications systems for small and nanosatellites.

Micro Aerospace Solutions will relocate current employees to KSC to perform the work. More employees may be added depending upon pending project announcements. MAS is lead avionics integrator and software developer for the NASA Sunjammer small satellite mission to demonstrate a solar sail for propulsion in space. (3/22)

Black Hole - Star Pair Orbiting at Dizzying Speed (Source: ESA)
ESA’s XMM-Newton space telescope has helped to identify a star and a black hole that orbit each other at the dizzying rate of once every 2.4 hours, smashing the previous record by nearly an hour. The black hole in this compact pairing, known as MAXI J1659-152, is at least three times more massive than the Sun, while its red dwarf companion star has a mass only 20% that of the Sun. The pair is separated by roughly a million kilometres.

The duo were discovered on 25 September 2010 by NASA’s Swift space telescope and were initially thought to be a gamma-ray burst. Later that day, Japan’s MAXI telescope on the International Space Station found a bright X-ray source at the same place. More observations from ground and space telescopes, including XMM-Newton, revealed that the X-rays come from a black hole feeding off material ripped from a tiny companion. (3/19)

Megavolcanoes Tied to Pre-Dinosaur Mass Extinction (Source: Space Daily)
Along sea cliffs in southern England, geologist Paul Olsen of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory samples rocks from near the 201,564,000-year Triassic extinction boundary. Credit: Kevin Krajick/Earth Institute. Scientists examining evidence across the world from New Jersey to North Africa say they have linked the abrupt disappearance of half of earth's species 200 million years ago to a precisely dated set of gigantic volcanic eruptions.

The eruptions may have caused climate changes so sudden that many creatures were unable to adapt-possibly on a pace similar to that of human-influenced climate warming today. The extinction opened the way for dinosaurs to evolve and dominate the planet for the next 135 million years, before they, too, were wiped out in a later planetary cataclysm. (3/24)

Does Musk Really Love Texas, Or Is It Just a Ploy? (Source: Florida Today)
Is SpaceX going to launch from Texas or not? Based on recent news reports, SpaceX seems destined to do more in Texas than test engines and prototype vehicles. It’ll be concerning if Florida, NASA, the U.S. Air Force and other interested parties can’t do what’s necessary to keep more of SpaceX’s expanding operations somewhere on the underutilized spaceport that includes Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The long and daunting government hurdles to approving launch sites, approving launch vehicles and approving everything else related to flying from this coast could be less cumbersome at the company’s alternate site in Texas, the company hints. Musk keeps talking Texas up, swinging his position from “might” launch from Texas to “probably will” launch from Texas, which is promising a range of tax and other incentives to land what could be a dozen commercial launches a year of the company’s Falcon rockets.

This could be a ploy to get more out of sites like Florida, where he’s long fretted about red tape slowing down his bid to dramatically simplify and lower the cost of launching. In testimony earlier this month before a Texas legislative panel, however, he hit on the bottom line. Florida could still keep the future flight business with SpaceX, and gets its commercial launch complex, if it makes a “compelling” case on the financial side. Translation: make me a better incentives offer and we’ll talk more. (3/24)

Masten Aerospace Simulating Planterary Landing Trajectories in Mojave (Source: Space Safety)
The Xombie suborbital Reusable Launch Vehicle (sRLV) developed by Masten Space Systems completed a successful flight in the framework of NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, on March 22. “Today [March 22] saw the first successful test flight in a new campaign testing GENIE flight control system integrated onboard Masten’s Xombie platform” reported a statement of NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program.

The test was conducted at the Mojave Air and Space Port, in California to simulate Martian and Lunar landing trajectories. Xombie is a fully reusable vertical takeoff and vertical landing launch vehicle, which is used for low speed and low altitude testing. It is powered by a single engine capable of outputting 3 kN of thrust. Xombie is equipped with a hypervisor enabling third party software to control the vehicle in flight while Masten maintains the guidance, navigation and control supervision. (3/24)

Mars Curiosity Rover Gets Back to Sending Snapshots (Source: NBC)
After a week of down time due to a computer glitch, NASA's Mars Curiosity rover is once again sending back pictures of its rocky Red Planet locale at Yellowknife Bay. In this fresh panorama, the rover looks as if it's sticking its drill-equipped robotic arm right in your face. "That drill is hungry, looking for something tasty to eat, and 'you' (loaded with water and organics) are it," jokes scientist-writer Ken Kremer, who collaborated with Italian colleague Marco Di Lorenzo to assemble the panorama. Click here. (3/23)

Hubble Has 3 More Years to Make Amazing Discoveries (Source: LA Times)
Scientists and space junkies got some good news from NASA on Friday: The space agency announced it would keep the Hubble Space Telescope in operation through at least April 30, 2016. The three-year extension will cost NASA $76 million, according to the announcement. Hubble is operated by the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore through a contract with the Assn. of Universities for Research in Astronomy. (3/23)

Searching for Solar Systems Like Our Own (Source: MIT News)
The solar system's configuration is learned in grade school, and forever committed to memory with the help of foam balls, deconstructed coat hangers, and paint. It's a fairly straightforward arrangement: The sun revolves at the center as eight planets — along with dwarf planet Pluto — orbit within the same plane, and in the same direction as the sun's rotation. As it turns out, planets around far-off stars do not always obey these rules, as Josh Winn has found.

Winn has found that many of these systems display very different properties from our own, with planets circling at odd angles, out of alignment with their stars' rotation. "The planet could be going over the poles of the star instead of the equator, or going backward, or revolving in the opposite direction," Winn says. "It's sort of a gift from nature that it turned out these systems could be so interesting."

Winn and his group in MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research are deciphering the geometry of newly discovered planetary systems. The group analyzes changes in starlight as a planet transits, or eclipses, its star. These signals can give scientists clues to a planet's orbit, as well as its size. (3/20)

Using Antarctic Microbes to Consider Feasibility of Life on Mars (Source: Baltimore Sun)
Description: Unusual proteins within microbes allow the organisms to survive in cold and salty conditions in Antarctica, and could in theory help support life on Mars as well, according to NASA-funded study at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The study revealed slight differences between core proteins in ordinary organisms and those known as Haloarchaea, which can live in severe conditions with extreme salinity or temperatures, for example.

They studied such microbes from Deep Lake, a salty body of water in Antarctica, and found that atoms within the core proteins were more loosely connected, "allowing them to be more flexible and functional," DasSarma said. Continuing research is exploring individual proteins within a particular type of organism to learn about how the proteins could be used in producing useful materials. (3/22)

How NASA Got an Android Handset Ready to Go Into Space (Source: ARS Technica)
It’s what science fiction dreams are made of: brightly colored, sphere-shaped robots that float above the ground, controlled by a tiny computer brain. But it isn't fiction: it’s the SPHERES satellite, and its brain is an Android smartphone. Click here. (3/23)

Spaceflight Federation Supports FCC Commercial Space Frequency (Source: CSF)
“The FCC has recognized the potential of the U.S. commercial spaceflight industry by streamlining the process of obtaining authorization to use radio frequencies during commercial launches,” stated Commercial Spaceflight Federation President Michael Lopez-Alegria. “In so doing, they have expressed their support for the commercial space sector. I commend the FCC for taking this step and I look forward to working with the Commission to continue to create a welcoming regulatory environment for this new and promising high-tech industry.” (3/18)

Intelsat Announces Proposed Offering of Senior Notes (Source: Intelsat)
Intelsat S.A., the world’s leading provider of satellite services, today announced that its subsidiary, “Intelsat Luxembourg,” intends to offer $1,500,000,000 aggregate principal amount of senior notes due 2021 (the “notes”). Intelsat Luxembourg’s obligations under the notes will be guaranteed by Intelsat S.A. (3/19)

Astronomers Call on Congress to Support R&D Investments (Source: AAS)
Fifteen members of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) traveled to Washington, DC to express the need for sustained and predictable federal funding of research and development (R&D) programs — including NASA, NSF, and the Department of Energy — which are critically important to American economic growth.

The AAS delegation was part of a group of more than 200 scientists, engineers, and business leaders who converged on Capitol Hill for the 18th annual Congressional Visits Day (CVD), held March 12-13 and sponsored by the Science-Engineering-Technology Work Group. CVD is coordinated by coalitions of companies, professional societies, and educational institutions whose members feel strongly that science and technology comprise the cornerstone of our nation's future. (3/21)

China's 'String of Pearls' in Space (Source: IDSA)
Over the years China has been helping countries in the region to develop strategic maritime centers. It has assisted various states in creating new maritime facilities or improvising on their existing maritime assets. China is playing a critical role in developing various shipping facilities, constructing deep water ports and naval bases, developing pipeline projects and putting in place mechanisms for intelligence gathering.

By doing this, it has succeeded in engaging the various countries of the region in India’s neighborhood. China’s interests are not only restricted to establishing itself as an effective maritime power. It also has significant interests in other emerging domains of power projection like cyber and space. Particularity in the space arena China has been making significant investments and has made extremely rapid progress. Click here. (3/21)

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