March 26, 2013

Obama Budget Plan Gains Cautious GOP Support (Source: Defense News)
Several Republican lawmakers have indicated they are willing to consider a White House budget proposal that would significantly reduce Pentagon budget cuts put in place by sequestration. "I would consider any plan that avoids sequestration," said Sen. John McCain, R-AZ. (3/25)

FSDC Promotes Shiloh at Titusville City Council Meeting (Source: FSDC)
Laura Seward, president of the Florida Space Development Council, attended a March 26 Titusville City Council meeting on behalf of the organization's members to voice FSDC's support for the proposed Shiloh launch site. An opposing viewpoint was offered by single attendee, raising concerns about the project's environmental and tourism impacts. The city government will have no direct influence over the project (it is ultimately NASA's decision whether it can proceed) but Space Florida is working to rally support from throughout the region. (3/26)

Troubled Proton-M to Blast Off After December 2012 Embargo (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia’s Proton-M carrier rocket will blast off on Tuesday from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan for the first time since last December’s failure. The launch of Proton-M with a Mexican communication satellite, SatMex-8, was initially scheduled for December 27, but was postponed indefinitely following the Yamal-402 satellite trouble. The satellite separated four minutes early due to an apparent glitch in the Briz-M booster. (3/26)

Apollo F-1 Engine Conservation Begins at Kansas Cosmosphere (Source: Cosmopsphere)
Just four days after CEO Jeff Bezos and his team recovered more than 25,000 pounds of Apollo-era F-1 rocket-engine parts from the Atlantic Ocean floor, the artifacts have arrived at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center’s internationally acclaimed SpaceWorks conservation and restoration division.

It is at SpaceWorks’ 20,000-square-foot facility that conservators, artisans, craftsmen and engineers will painstakingly separate the components of each recovered piece – some weighing more than 2,000 pounds – and continually flush each piece in 15x20-foot basins containing water and anti-corrosion agents to remove ocean debris and prevent further decay. Once each piece is stabilized, it will undergo a detailed conservation process, including thorough cleaning, photography and a meticulously documented provenance of its components, manufacture and use. (3/26)

Canadian Man Seeks Votes for Axe Space Travel Competition (Source: The Charter)
Though many who dream of becoming an astronaut give it up at an early age, it’s still a very real possibility in the mind of one Sunnyside man. Patrick Farrell, a pyrotechnician and father of two, has been using social media to accumulate votes in the hopes of winning one of two tickets available to Canadians to travel to space on a flight with SXC, or Space Expedition Corp., an international space agency. (3/26)

SpaceX Dragon Capsule Returns to Earth (Sources: Space News,
An unmanned SpaceX space capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean March 26, reaching the wet finish line of the spaceflight company’s second cargo delivery flight to the international space station for NASA. The Dragon space capsule left the space station early March 26 and, under bright red and white parachutes, splashed into the Pacific at 12:36 p.m. EDT. The capsule was aimed at a drop zone about 344 kilometers off the coast of Baja California, Mexico.

Plans call for the capsule to reach the Port of Los Angeles within 30 hours of splashdown, where SpaceX will hand over sensitive biological samples to NASA. The spacecraft will then travel to SpaceX's development facility in McGregor, Texas, where the rest of Dragon's payloads will be unpacked and transferred to the custody of NASA. (3/26)

Australia-Based U.S. Radar To Watch China Launches (Source: Aviation Week)
Launched southward, Chinese polar-orbiting reconnaissance satellites cross Antarctica and then head up the Atlantic and past South America. Only then, perhaps 40 min. after they depart their Taiyuan launch base, can U.S. radars on the islands Antigua and Ascension get a look at them.

In a world of ever-faster military information distribution and decision-making, 40 min. is a long time. That is surely one strong reason why the Antigua radar is moving to Western Australia, from where it can begin tracking Chinese polar satellites much sooner. It so happens that the western edge of the Australian continent, the radar's intended home from 2014, is at 114 deg. E. Long., nearly dead south of Taiyuan, which is at 112 deg. E.

A second U.S. sensor could be heading to Western Australia: an advanced satellite-watching telescope that the U.S. Air Force says is an order of magnitude more effective than older models, such as one on Diego Garcia, far out in the Indian Ocean. Analysts expect that its key tasks will include monitoring geostationary satellites over the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean. (3/25)

XCOR Fires Lynx Engine with Piston Pumps for Both Fuel and Oxidizer (Source: XCOR)
XCOR Aerospace announced a first in aviation and space history, the firing of a full piston pump-powered rocket engine. This breakthrough is the foundation for fully reusable spacecraft that can fly multiple times per day, every day. It is a game changing technology that has the power to fundamentally alter the way we as a society view, visit, and utilize the abundant resources around our planet and in our solar system.

The initial portion of XCOR's pump test program culminated in a 67-second engine run with the propulsion system mated to the flight weight Lynx fuselage. After the installation of the flight sized liquid oxygen tank, the next test sequence will extend the engine run duration to the full powered flight duration of the Lynx Mark I suborbital vehicle.

“Through use of our proprietary rocket propellant piston pumps we deliver both kerosene and liquid oxygen to our rocket engines and eliminate the need for heavy, high-pressure fuel and oxidizer tanks. It also enables our propulsion system to fly multiple times per day and last for tens of thousands of flights,” said XCOR CEO Jeff Greason. “This is one more step toward a significant reduction in per-flight cost and turnaround time, while increasing overall flight safety.” (3/26)

Antares Launches Next In Preparation for Space Station Missions (Source: Space Policy Online)
Orbital has scheduled the first Antares test flight for the April 16-18, 2013 time period,  Antares will launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility (WFF), Wallops Island, VA.   Orbital replaced a company (Rocketplane-Kistler) that did not meet its milestones under the COTS program a year and a half after the program started.  Consequently it is only now reaching the test phase. NASA hopes Orbital will begin operational flights to ISS later this year. (3/26)

After Budgetary Dust Settles, NASA Left with $16.5 Billion for 2013 (Source: Space News)
NASA will see a $1.3 billion budget cut this year under a stopgap spending bill the U.S. Congress approved March 21. After absorbing across-the-board cuts known as sequestration, NASA stands to receive $16.5 billion for 2013 — an amount 7.3 percent below the $17.8 billion the agency has been held to since 2011 under a series of short-term spending resolutions Congress has been passing in lieu of annual appropriations bills. (3/25)

ILS Back in Action with Proton Launch (Source:
International Launch Services (ILS) launched their Proton-M rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Tuesday at 3:07 EDT. The Proton’s Briz-M (Breeze-M) Upper Stage is now tasked with a multi-hour mission to deploy the Satmex 8 telecommunications satellite into its desired transfer orbit. The Proton vehicle has a heritage of nearly 400 launches since 1965 and is built by Khrunichev Research and State Production Center, one of the pillars of the global space industry and the majority owner of ILS. (3/26)

30 Billion Rubles Needed to Set Up Asteroid and Comet Security System (Source: Itar-Tass)
An asteroid and comet security system will cost an estimated 30 billion rubles to set up, the deputy general director of the JSC Russian Space Systems (RSS), Anatoly Perminov said. He said that Russia was already taking steps to create a system countering space threats.

“It is seen as a package solution addressing three issues: monitoring asteroids, meteorites and comets; keeping an eye on space junk and assessing ‘space weather’ factors, specifically, their impact on the operation of space, energy and transport facilities,” Perminov added. He said that in tackling number one and two tasks on this list the RSS was cooperating with Roscosmos and the Central Research Institute of Machine Building (TsNIIMash). (3/26)

Roscosmos Plans Piloted Flight Over the Moon After 2030 (Source: Itar-Tass)
Roscosmos is planned to make a flight over the Moon on a prospective piloted spaceship after 2030, Anatoly Malchenko told reporters on Tuesday. He recalled that the United States is planning to make a flight over the Moon on its new piloted spaceship by 2021. “For us this task is impossible by 2021, but we set this task by 2030,” he noted. “After 2030 a piloted spaceship will make a flight over the Moon. But this will be not just a flight, but a flight for research,” he remarked. (3/26)

Nation's Budget Problems Slow NASA's Toxic Cleanup (Source: Mountain View Voice)
Until budget problems are sorted out, NASA officials say they plan to simply put a fence around piles of contaminated soil that could harm wildlife in Moffett Field's wetlands. On March 15 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered NASA to clean up piles of contaminated soil near the Bay Trail at Moffett Field that threaten to contaminate a former salt pond along the trail.

The soil -- excavated from other areas of Moffett -- are contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), zinc, lead, chromium, cadmium, and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT). According to the Environmental Protection Agency, erosion of the soil mounds into the adjacent ponds poses a threat to wildlife, including the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse. NASA officials say a silt fence around the mounds -- typically made of plastic -- may have to do for over a year until a "permanent remedy" can be developed. (3/26)

Space Oddity: Music Experience Aims to Emulate Cosmos (Source:
The only light in the cavernous room at the Park Avenue Armory comes from a handful of red-tinted stage lights illuminating the "lunar surface" in the middle of the performance space. It takes a minute for your eyes to adjust, so it's even more disorienting when someone hands you a white cape and tells you to take off your shoes. This is the beginning of OKTOPHONIE, the newest sold-out performance experience to grace the halls of the armory. (3/26)

Russia to Put 68 Spacecraft Into Orbit by 2015 (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia plans to put 68 spacecraft into orbit by 2015 and to almost double the number of its communications satellites to 44 by 2020, a deputy head of the Central Research Institute of Machine Building said Tuesday. “Under Russia's federal space program, we will launch 68 spacecraft between 2013 and 2015,” Anatoly Malchenko told the InfoSpace Innovative Technologies Forum. Malchenko said all these spacecraft are now being manufactured or developed, adding that the number of spacecraft could reach 113 by 2020 if a key space program document is approved. (3/26)

NASA to Launch Enormous, Arthur Clarke-Inspired Solar Sail in 2014 (Source: WIRED)
The Sunjammer Project is part of a Nasa research project to develop a technology demonstration of a mission-capable solar sail. It is led by California-based industry manufacturer L'Garde and builds on two successful ground-based experiments in a vacuum chamber at the Plum Brook Facility in Ohio as well as the 2011 deployment of a 9.2-square-metre " nanosail" into Earth's orbit.

The Sunjammer project is named after science fiction author Arthur C Clarke's story of the same name. The story centers around a spaceship designer John Merton who develops a vehicle with a large solar sail powered entirely by radiation pressure. These fictional sun-yachts can achieve speeds of 2,000 miles an hour within a day, pushed simply by sunlight.

The 2014 Sunjammer mission will deploy a sail that measures approximately 38 meters along one side with a total surface area of around 1,200 square meters, or a third of an acre. That's seven times larger than any solar sail tested in space to date. Despite being so large when deployed, the sail collapses into a space the size of a dishwasher and weighs just 32kg -- ten times less than the largest sail flown in space. (3/26)

Japan Breaks China's Stranglehold on Rare Metals (Source: Telegraph)
Japanese scientists have found vast reserves of rare earth metals on the Pacific seabed that can be mined cheaply, a discovery that may break the Chinese monopoly on a crucial raw material needed in hi-tech industries and advanced weapons systems. Beijing shocked the world when it suddenly began to restrict exports in 2009, prompting furious protests and legal complaints by both the US and the EU at the World Trade Organization. China claimed that it was clamping down on smuggling and environmental abuse.

"Their real intention is to force foreign companies to locate plant in China. They're saying `if you want our rare earth metals, you must build your factory here, and we can then steal your technology," said professor Kato. The latest discovery is in Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone in deep-sea mud around the island of Minami-Torishima at 5,700 meters below sea level. Although it is very deep, the deposits are in highly-concentrated nodules that can be extracted using pressurized air with minimal disturbance off the seafloor and no need for the leaching.

The team of scientists from Japan's Agency for Marine-Earth Science and the University of Tokyo first discovered huge reserves in the mid-Pacific two years ago. These are now thought to be 1000 times all land-based deposits, some of it in French waters around Tahiti. Editor's Note: These metals are among those targeted by asteroid prospecting companies like Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries. I wonder if falling Earthbound prices might make asteroids a less attractive source. (3/25)

IAU on the Naming of Exoplanets (Source: IAU)
In 2009, the Organizing Committee of IAU Commission 53 Extrasolar Planets (WGESP) on exoplanets discussed the possibility of giving popular names to exoplanets in addition to their existing catalogue designation (for instance HD 85512 b). Although no consensus was reached, the majority was not in favour of this possibility at the time.

However, considering the ever increasing interest of the general public in being involved in the discovery and understanding of the Universe, the IAU decided in 2013 to restart the discussion of the naming procedure for exoplanets and asses the need to have popular names as well. In 2013 the members of Commission 53 will be consulted in this respect and the result of this will be made public on this page.

The nomenclature for exoplanets is indeed a difficult matter that deserves careful attention in many aspects. Such a system must take into account that discoveries are often tentative, later to be confirmed or rejected, possibly by several different methods, and that several planets belonging to the same star may eventually be discovered, again possibly by different means. Thus, considerable care and experience are required in its design. (3/25)

IndieGoGo Campaign to Play NASA Short in Movie Theaters (Source: IndieGoGo)
NASA recently made an inspiring new online video narrated by Mr. Peter Cullen, the voice of Optimus Prime (see above), to show the progress being made on these new systems, but the agency is barred by law from buying advertising time for such a spot. 

Today we're running a crowdfunding campaign to edit this video into a 30 second spot, and place it in over 50 movie theaters around the country, starting with the premier of 'Star Trek Into Darkness.'   

By backing this 30 second trailer in the top movie theater markets around the United States, you can show our students and young people that we're in an exciting new era of space exploration. Now is the time to reach them - to remind them that an inspiring space program awaits, one that is worthy of their ambition. Click here. (3/25)

NASA, Masten and Draper Labs Giving Xombie Desert Sky Workout (Source: Moon And Back)
Masten Space Systems ‘Xombie’ sRLV completed a successful flight Friday as part of a NASA program testing an autonomous guidance, navigation and control package. Masten’s founder Dave Masten reacting to the flight’s results by tweeting “Awesome Xombie flight with GENIE control.”

NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, under who’s auspices the Xombie test flights are being conducted issued this statement: “Today [Friday] saw the first successful test flight in a new campaign testing GENIE flight control system integrated onboard Masten’s Xombie platform. This March 2013 test campaign consists of 2 flights, C4 and C5, targeting an increasing altitude and downrange distance.”

The Descent and Landing Flight Campaign is meant to simulate Martian and Lunar landing trajectories. Xombie is a fully reusable vertical takeoff and vertical landing (VTVL) launch vehicle used for low speed and low altitude testing. The vehicle is equipped with a hypervisor that enables third party GN&C/avionics packages to control Xombie in flight while maintaining Mastenʼs GN&C as a supervisor and always-on safety net. (3/25)

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