March 28, 2013

Export Control Reform Will Take All Year (Source: Aviation Week)
It will take another year for export-control reforms aimed at easing the path for the U.S. satellite industry to take effect, time enough for manufacturers and others affected by more than a decade of onerous International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) to push for additional changes.

Among issues the satellite industry is likely to address is the status of military hosted payloads, which will continue to be treated as munitions under the proposed rule to be published by the end of April. Industry will be able to enter comments on the proposed rule that will shift oversight of most satellite and satellite-component exports from the U.S. Munitions List controlled by the State Department back to the Commerce Department, where it once resided. (3/25)

ATK Tests New CASTOR 30XL Upper Stage Solid Rocket Motor (Source: SpaceRef)
ATK (ATK) successfully tested its newly developed CASTOR(R) 30XL upper stage solid rocket motor today at the U.S. Air Force's Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC) in Tennessee. The test was the final qualification for the ATK commercial motor, which was jointly developed by ATK and Orbital Sciences Corporation (ORB) in just 20 months from concept to completion. The CASTOR 30XL is designed to ignite at altitudes in excess of 100,000 feet.

In order to accurately test the motor performance, the static fire was conducted at AEDC using a vacuum chamber specially designed to simulate upper atmospheric conditions. Initial data indicate the motor performed as designed, and ATK will now analyze the results against its performance models. (3/28)

NASA Seeks New Director for the NASA Astrobiology Institute (Source: SpaceRef)
The ideal candidate will be an internationally recognized scientist with proven experience in leading large, multi-disciplinary, multi-site research programs or projects, possessed with a vision for leading the Institute into the future. Established in 1998 as part of NASA's Astrobiology Program, the NAI is a collaboration between NASA, US academic institutions, and foreign institutions, governments and research organizations - and is composed of over 800 US scientists and hundreds of researchers abroad. (3/28)

How an Early Launch Delay Impacted the Race to Space (Source: Al Jazeera)
We've just passed one of the seldom recognized but really interesting anniversaries in the history of spaceflight. At 12:30 in the morning on March 24, 1961, an unmanned Redstone rocket launched from NASA's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The eight and a half minute suborbital flight reached a peak of 113.5 miles (183km) before splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean. The mission was labelled "fully successful", but for Alan Shepard it was a bitter disappointment. He was supposed to be on that rocket. Click here. (3/28)

NASA Wants $100 Million To Catch An Asteroid (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA’s fiscal 2014 budget request will include $100 million for a new mission to find a small asteroid, capture it with a robotic spacecraft and bring it into range of human explorers somewhere in the vicinity of the Moon. Suggested last year by the Keck Institute for Space Studies, the idea has attracted favor at NASA and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. President Obama’s goal of sending astronauts to a near-Earth asteroid by 2025 can’t be done with foreseeable civil-space spending, the thinking goes.

But by moving an asteroid to cislunar space — a high lunar orbit or the second Earth-Moon Lagrangian Point (EML2), above the Moon’s far side — it is conceivable that technically the deadline could be met. The Keck study estimated it would cost about $2.65 billion to bring in a 500,000-kg (1.1 million-lb.) asteroid, using solar-electric propulsion to reach it and a deployable capture bag to enfold a carbonaceous asteroid measuring 7 meters across. (3/28)

NASA Inspectors: Agency 'Poorly Managed' Explosives at Stennis, Other Centers (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA's inspector general said in a report released Wednesday, March 27, that the Stennis Space Center here stored explosives in an unsafe building during part of 2012 that could have killed center workers in an explosion and did not have approved precautions in place during tests. The situation has since been changed. Stennis is the NASA center where spacecraft engines are tested, and it works closely with Huntsville's Marshall Space Flight Center, NASA's chief propulsion center. Marshall employees and contractors routinely travel to Stennis for tests.

Inspector General Paul Martin's report said NASA's overall Explosives Safety Program "was poorly managed and exposed personnel and facilities to unnecessary risk." Inspectors identified 155 violations of regulations, policies and procedures.

"For example, we found incompatible explosive materials stored in the same location, unsafe distances between occupied buildings and storage facilities containing energetic materials, inaccurate or incomplete inventories of energetic materials, and improper inspection procedures for vehicles used to transport these materials," said a press release. " In our judgment, a lack of oversight, resources, and training at both the local and Headquarters level contributed to the deficiencies we identified." (3/27)

Soyuz Sends US-Russian Crew on Fastest Ride to Space Station (Source: NBC)
A Russian Soyuz rocket sent a NASA astronaut and two Russian crewmates on the fastest trip anyone has ever taken to the International Space Station on Thursday. The spacefliers' Soyuz capsule is due to hook up with the station at around 10:30 p.m. ET, less than six hours after they were lofted into space from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (3/28)

10 Space Technologies That Help On Earth (Source: Information Week)
NASA nurtured many innovations, from a portable communications system to an ultrasound machine for telemedicine, that have made the leap from space to Earth. Click here to see ten of them. (3/19)

The Astronomer’s Guide to Vacationing in Europe (Source: Nick Eftimiades)
Living in Europe has its benefits. One of them is having access to some of the world’s most famous astronomical sites including observatories, museums, historical monuments, and naturally occurring events (you’re not going to see the northern lights in Florida). History is rich here, so don’t miss out on the once-in-a-lifetime experience.  If you take a vacation in Europe, take some time out and scratch your astronomy itch. If you are lucky, your spouse and kids will even enjoy the experience with you. Click here. (3/24)

FBI Comes Clean on Top X-File: 'Never Investigated' Hottel UFO Memo' (Source: NBC)
The FBI says it never followed up on the most popular file in its online reading room — a one-page UFO memo that passes along a second- or third-hand report about flying saucers and alien passengers that were supposedly recovered in New Mexico. The memo, dated March 22, 1950, has been viewed almost a million times over the past two years, the FBI said this week in a blog posting. It was written by Guy Hottel, who was the head of the FBI's field office in Washington at the time, and addressed to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

In the memo, Hottel discusses an account provided to an FBI agent ... that was attributed to an informant ... who purportedly heard from an Air Force investigator ... that "three so-called flying saucers had been recovered in New Mexico." "They were described as being circular in shape with raised centers, approximately 50 feet in diameter," the memo read. "Each one was occupied by three bodies of human shape but only three feet tall, dressed in metallic cloth of a very fine texture. Each body was bandaged in a manner similar to the blackout suits used by speed fliers and test pilots." Click here. (3/27)

Bowling Balls and the Mars Rover Team for a Math Lesson (Source: Daily Press)
Kolby Davis, in a red shirt and fresh Mohawk haircut, stepped to the lane line, hefting a chartreuse bowling ball in his left hand. The fifth-grader studied the pins, then with a flick of his wrist sent his ball spinning down the alley at Cine Bistro. The ball hooked, then knocked down seven pins. On his second roll, he caught the remaining three, earning a spare. He hopped and raised his arms in satisfaction.

Kolby, a fifth-grader at Kraft Elementary School in Hampton, was one of three students who bowled a frame to demonstrate Isaac Newton's second law of motion on Wednesday morning. The students were among more than 140 who participated in the math and physics lesson at the off-campus venue, a collaborative venture between the school division, NASA Langley Research Center, Cine Bistro and the City of Hampton. NASA education specialists teamed to present the lesson and a crew of technicians filmed the event and live-streamed it on NASA's Digital Learning Network.

In addition to bowling, the lesson involved the Mars rover, rockets and a guest appearance by one of the engineers who worked on Curiosity's entry, descent and landing on the red planet. NASA Langley spokeswoman Kathy Barnstorff said NASA Langley technicians used iPads and laptops to film and stream the event on the NASA Education Digital Learning Network. The fast-paced hour-long program took place in a theater that would show "Oz, the Great and Powerful" later that day. (3/20)

Texas Legislature Considers Beach Closure Bill for SpaceX Launch Pad (Source: Brownsville Herald)
A bill pertaining to the temporary closure of Boca Chica beach so SpaceX can conduct rocket launches — if they’re launched from Boca Chica beach — is scheduled to be heard Monday before the Texas House Committee on Land and Resource Management in Austin. SpaceX, or Space Exploration Technologies, has yet to select a site for its rocket launches, but state legislators want to get everything in place should rural Cameron County be the selected site for one of its facilities.

“This bill is absolutely critical to keeping Brownsville in the running to attract SpaceX,” said state Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, who authored the bill. “If we can’t temporarily close the beach, SpaceX can’t secure the launch site. If they can’t secure the launch site, they can’t choose Brownsville. It’s about that simple.”  Oliveira said Texas law states public beaches can only be closed if the public’s health, safety or welfare is at risk. House Bill 2623 would permit the county and state to close the beaches for rocket launches except on weekends and holidays. The public would have to be notified in advance of the closure. (3/27)

Sarah Brightman Initially Turned Down Space Travel Offer (Source: Express)
The classical singer, who was once married to theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber, is set to visit the International Space Station in 2015, but the star reveals she almost missed her chance. She tells Seven magazine, "When I first was asked to do it, I thought 'I don't think so'. It's a really important step to take. But the second time I felt ready. "I'm feeling anticipation about the flight, but no apprehension, just how I feel before I go on stage." (3/28)

American Space Strategy: Choose to Steer, Not Drift (Source: The Diplomat)
Space activities today play critical roles in United States national security, economic growth, and scientific achievements. The Global Positioning System is an integral part of several critical infrastructures and enables functions ranging from survey and construction, to farming, finance, and air traffic management – not to mention supporting U.S. military forces worldwide. The International Space Station represents a unique, collaborative partnership between the United States, Europe, Canada, Japan, and Russia. 

At the same time, new threats to U.S. space activities have emerged, threats that are different from those of the Cold War. In some cases, threats come from a known nation state while in others it is impossible to attribute responsibility. In 2007, China tested a high altitude anti-satellite weapon against one of its old weather satellites, creating tens of thousands of pieces of orbital debris and increasing the risk of collision and damage to many satellites, and the International Space Station, operating in low Earth orbit. (3/28)

Mars Mission Doesn’t Address Risks (Source: Daily Texan)
Multimillionaire space tourist Dennis Tito, one of seven civilians to ever go to space, announced he would try to undertake a mission to the Red Planet in 2018 using SpaceX’s Dragon capsule. The “Inspiration Mars Foundation” wants to put two people in a small capsule for a 501-day Mars flyby. Easier said than done. To understand why this is such an ambitious undertaking, it’s important to know how spacecraft move.

Einstein’s general theory of relativity explains that gravity due to the curvature of space-time causes the orbital motion of the planets. Basically it says that the planets move in ellipses or slightly eccentric circles. This type of movement is pretty efficient, so we emulate it with the movement of our spacecraft. To move between planetary bodies, we use what are called transfer orbits. After exiting the Earth’s atmosphere, a rocket will execute a burn that will put it on a trajectory that looks pretty similar to a planetary orbit. In terms of fuel, these transfer orbits lead to the most efficient ways of moving between planets. But the downside is that they are very slow. 

So our first difficulty lies in the fact that the proposed mission will take close to 17 months to complete and require two people to occupy 350 cubic feet of pressurized living room, carrying all of their food, water, and air with them. The food requirement alone is 3,000 pounds. The spacecraft is just too small. Click here. (3/28)

Can NASA Vet All Material in its Shuttered Tech Database? (Source: GCN)
When NASA recently took its large Technical Reports Server (NTRS) offline, following the arrest of a suspected spy,  it removed a database of aerospace information that had been shared with scientists and the general public for 19 years. And at least one analyst predicted it might stay shuttered. NTRS, which had been available online since its inception in 1994, contains conference papers, journal articles, meeting papers, patents, research reports, images, movies and technical videos related to aeronautics and aerospace.

Researchers, students, educators and the public have used the massive amount of data in NTRS, which holds approximately 500,000 aerospace related citations, 90,000 full-text online documents, and 111,000 images and videos. But after the FBI last week arrested Bo Jiang, a Chinese citizen had been working as a contractor at NASA’s Langley Research Center, NASA shut down NTRS. Click here. (3/27)

Stratolaunch Marches Forward (Source: Flight Global)
Stratolaunch is making steady progress on its satellite-launching aircraft design, and intends to reach major milestones "in the summer timeframe." On 26 March the company announced finishing the second of two large hangars at Mojave, in which the one-off aircraft will largely be assembled. The massive aircraft design, to be the largest ever built, is designed to carry rockets to altitude before launch. Small parts of the wings, including the centre wing spars, are currently in production, with an eye towards full-scale production beginning in several months.

"We're going to press for a critical design review by the end of the year, so we're continuing forward," says Wentz in an interview with Flightglobal. The aircraft design has undergone a notable change in recent weeks, with concepts showing a significantly lengthened, streamlined front end on both of its two fuselages.

"The tails came in a little heavier than we expected, so to move the center of gravity forward on the aircraft we had to extend out the cabin," says Wentz. "I think it was just the early design estimate was lighter, it was multiple factors, the weight, and center of gravity of the engines and where we placed them resulted in a change to our initial estimate." Click here. (3/28)

EADS Shareholders Back Sweeping Ownership Change (Source: Reuters)
Airbus parent EADS (EAD.PA) won backing for sweeping changes in its structure, claiming "emancipation" from political interference as shareholders tore up a Franco-German ownership pact in favor of greater management freedom. Investors in Europe's largest aerospace group also on Wednesday approved a maximum buyback of 15 percent of the group's shares, worth 5.1 billion euros ($6.6 billion) at current prices, but Chief Executive Tom Enders said market conditions would set the actual amount.

Created from a merger of French, German and Spanish assets with a tight rein on strategy, Europe's answer to Boeing has often been swept up in Franco-German industrial tensions, most notably when A380 superjumbo delays led to job cuts. Although the simplified structure and a new board have been welcomed following a decade in which EADS served as lightning rod for squabbles over industrial policy, shares in the group fell more than 3 percent as Spain moved to sell part of its stake sooner than expected. (3/27)

Ancient Asteroid May Have Triggered Global Firestorm on Earth (Source: CU)
A new look at conditions after a Manhattan-sized asteroid slammed into a region of Mexico in the dinosaur days indicates the event could have triggered a global firestorm that would have burned every twig, bush and tree on Earth and led to the extinction of 80 percent of all Earth’s species, says a new University of Colorado Boulder study.

The team used models that show the collision would have vaporized huge amounts of rock that were then blown high above Earth’s atmosphere. The re-entering ejected material would have heated the upper atmosphere enough to glow red for several hours at roughly 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit -- about the temperature of an oven broiler element -- killing every living thing not sheltered underground or underwater. (3/27)

Collision Course? A Comet Heads for Mars (Source: NASA)
Over the years, the spacefaring nations of Earth have sent dozens of probes and rovers to explore Mars.  Today there are three active satellites circling the red planet while two rovers, Opportunity and Curiosity, wheel across the red sands below.  Mars is dry, barren, and apparently lifeless. Soon, those assets could find themselves exploring a very different kind of world. "There is a small but non-negligible chance that Comet 2013 A1 will strike Mars next year in October of 2014," says Don Yeomans of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program at JPL.  "Current solutions put the odds of impact at 1 in 2000." (3/27)

When the Soviets Sent a Dummy Into Space (Source: Discovery)
The March of 1961 might have been the closest point between Soviet Union and America in the first wave of the space race. Both countries were fighting to get a man in space and both took major steps that month. For NASA, it was the final unmanned mission to test the booster that would take its first astronauts aloft. For the Soviets, it was the flights of Ivan Ivanovich that proved the Vostok capsule was ready for a man. Click here. (3/27)

Space Tourism: the Annoying Details (Source: Guardian)
The prospect of safe and affordable travel into space is one that excites many people. But modern tourism comes with a wide variety of complaints, and there's nothing to say these won't endure when it eventually moves beyond the planet. Space tourism could be the next big thing. People have always desired to visit exotic locations, and what could be more exotic than a whole other planet (or moon)?

In the perpetually-overcast UK before the package holiday and budget airlines, a genuine tan was apparently quite the status symbol, showing all that you had the desire and resources to visit far off places. Perhaps in the early days of space tourism the same will be true of recently acquired mobility problems suggestive of bone mass depletion from extended periods in microgravity? You never know. (3/28)

AAS Decries Impact of Federal Travel Restrictions on Science (Source: AAS)
The American Astronomical Society (AAS) today expressed deep concern about the U.S. government’s new restrictions on travel and conference attendance for federally funded scientists. Enacted in response to the budget sequestration that went into effect on March 1st, the policies severely limit the ability of many researchers to meet with collaborators and to present their latest results at professional meetings. The leadership of the AAS is especially worried about the restrictions’ deleterious effects on scientific productivity and on scientists’ and students’ careers. (3/27)

New ATV Launch Date Has Implications for O3b (Source: Space News)
Europe’s fourth ATV cargo carrier has been cleared for a June 5 launch to the international space station, a date that will complicate life for startup satellite broadband provider O3b Networks, whose first launch is scheduled to occur in late May from the same French Guiana spaceport. The 20,000-kilogram ATV-4 missed its original April launch date when a glitch was found in an avionics box during testing at the Guiana Space Center, located on the northeast coast of South America. (3/27)

Japan Prepares for Second Asteroid Sample Return (Source: Spaceflight Now)
Japanese engineers hurriedly redesigned the rock-collector and science payloads on the Hayabusa 2 spacecraft set to launch on an asteroid-sampling mission in late 2014, hoping to trump a problem which limited the load of asteroid rock fragments brought home by a preceding mission. With the launch of Hayabusa 2 scheduled in less than 2 years, engineers did not have time to make major alterations to the probe based on lessons learned from the Hayabusa mission, which returned the first samples from the surface of an asteroid to Earth in June 2010.

The 1,320-pound Hayabusa 2 probe, slightly larger than the preceding Hayabusa spacecraft, is due for launch on a Japanese H-2A rocket in December 2014, and its destination is asteroid 1999 JU3, an object about 3,000 feet in length. Hayabusa 2 will arrive at 1999 JU3 in 2018 and loiter around the asteroid for about 18 months. Hayabusa spent about three months near asteroid Itokawa, a smaller rock than 1999 JU3. Click here. (3/28)

NASA Pushing SLS for Inspiration Mars Launch (Source: NASA Watch)
After interaction with/pressure from NASA JSC and MSFC Inspiration Mars is now considering use of single launch of SLS for their mission. Of course, the use of SLS for Inspiration Mars is problematic if a 2018 launch is required. And even if the launch happens would NASA allow it to be used on on of the very first flights for a mission that many inside NASA think is risky - with no real ability to bail out?

This is not the same NASA that did Apollo 8 on the third Saturn V flight. As for what this would cost Mr. Tito - that's anyone's guess. What is the commercial price for a SLS launch? I am not certain NASA has even considered that. How do you calculate that price - the same way that the Shuttle commercial launches were priced? We've seen that movie before. (3/28)

Florida's Demand for STEM Jobs is On the Rise (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The demand in Florida for jobs relating to science, technology, engineering, and math -- known as STEM -- is on the rise, Gov. Rick Scott said at a press conference in Lakeland today. A press release from Scott's office shows the number of available online job openings in STEM-related fields in Florida "remains up sharply over the previous year, with more than 57,488 postings in February 2013." That's a 10.4 percent increase from the same period in 2012. (3/27)

What Exactly Is Drawing Young Women Away From STEM Fields? (Source: Huffington Post)
We consistently hear about the need to educate and recruit more young Americans for careers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Young women and girls are failing to follow STEM pathways in the same numbers as young men and boys, and the million dollar question is: Why?

Numerous research studies have tried to explain the dearth of women in these fields. Some suggest that women simply aren't as able as men when it comes to mathematics. Others suggest that women don't identify with mathematics, have a lack of interest in mathematics, or hold different lifestyle values. Although insightful, these studies do not offer a clear understanding of what it is that is pushing capable young women away from secure and potentially lucrative STEM careers.

The research we've done at the University of Pittsburgh and University of Michigan suggests that there is a pre-existing pool of individuals with both high math and high verbal abilities. Unfortunately, these individuals seem to be more likely to choose careers outside of science because their combination of skills provides them with more career options to choose from. Notably, we found this group to contain more females than males. (3/28)

In Space, Navy SEAL is 'Ready for Anything' (Source: Florida Today)
A lot of people know Chris Cassidy is only the second Navy SEAL to be selected to the NASA Astronaut Corps and to fly in space. But few know Cassidy led the first platoon of SEALs to be deployed to Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Or that Cassidy, who is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station today, led a platoon into mountainous al Qaida hideaway caves at Zhawar Kili, where Osama bin Laden operated a terrorist training base. (3/28)

No comments: