March 31, 2013

3-D Printing Makes Its Mark in NASA’s New Engine (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The latest in cutting-edge manufacturing is already making a significant impact in the future of space exploration. Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, the prime contractor for the J-2X engine, recently used an advanced 3-D printing process called Selective Laser Melting, or SLM, to create an exhaust port cover for the engine. SLM uses lasers to fuse metal dust into a specific pattern to build the cover, which is essentially a maintenance hatch for the engine’s turbo pumps. (3/31)

2013 U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame Induction Celebration on Apr. 20 (Source: KSCVC)
Witness Curt Brown, Eileen Collins and Bonnie Dunbar, Ph.D. join an elite group of American space heroes as they are inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on Saturday, April 20, 2013, during a star-studded ceremony at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. More than 30 legendary astronauts and space icons will be present at this event to welcome the new inductees. Special event ticket packages featuring meet-and-greet opportunities are available. Click here. (3/27)

Soviet MIR EVA Spacesuit Auctioned for 112,000 Euros (Source: Space Daily)
A spacesuit used for Soviet spacewalks in the 1980s was auctioned in Paris for 112,484 euros ($143,979), the sale organisers said on Wednesday. Other Soviet-era space memorabilia that found buyers on Tuesday were a launch key from a Soyuz capsule, a capsule heat shield, Soviet propaganda posters and items from the Buran -- a rival to the US space shuttle that carried out only a single, unmanned flight in 1988 before the program was scrapped. The Orlan D spacesuit "was bought over the Internet by a European collector." (3/27)

Florida Coordinators Invite Golden Spike Support (Source: SPACErePORT)
Golden Spike continues to add state coordinators to its crowdsourcing efforts. Coordinators in Florida, including Dale Ketcham (Merritt Island), Laura Seward (Rockledge) and Allen Becker (Miami) work primarily for the noble cause of expanding human exploration, but also to bring more launch activity to Florida. The future of huan lunar exploration is the real motivation, regardless of launch point! Others so motivated in Florida are encouraged to participate. Contact Dale Ketcham here for information. (3/31)

China to Launch High-Res Earth-Observation Satellite (Source: Xinhua)
China will launch the first satellite for its high-resolution system for Earth observation in April. Examinations of the satellite and its carrier rocket, the Long March 2D, have been completed and the satellite is now in the launch stage, according to the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SATIND).

China plans to launch five to six satellites before the end of 2015 in order to build a spatial, temporal and spectral high-resolution observation system. The system will mainly provide services for the Ministry of Land and Resources, Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Environmental Protection, and is expected to help reduce disasters, protect resources,the environment and national security, as well as support geographic and oceanic surveys and urban transportation management. (3/29)

Canada Awards Contract to Support Space Station Tech (Source: CSA)
The Honorable Christian Paradis, Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), announced the renewal of its contract with MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) for the continuing operations and maintenance of the International Space Station's Mobile Servicing System, the Canadian robotics system that includes Canadarm2, Dextre, and the Mobile Base.

The Government of Canada's commitment to being an active partner in the International Space Station (ISS) through 2020, gives Canadian scientists access to the most unique orbiting laboratory. It also allows Canadian astronauts to participate in expeditions to the station which led to the first Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield, taking over command of the station on March 13, 2013. (3/28)

Sequestration's Effects on Commercial Crew (Source: Space Politics)
Bolden said the final 2013 budget, based on the Senate bill, gave commercial crew more money that it would have received under a continuing resolution (which would have funded the program at the pre-sequestration amount of $406 million versus the $525 million, before rescission and sequestration, the program got in the bill passed last week).

This budget, therefore, mitigated the worst of the adverse effects possible to the program NASA warned about in a letter to the Senate last month. But he warned milestones planned beyond the end of this fiscal year could be pushed back. There could also be modifications to the Commercial Resupply Services contracts NASA has with Orbital Sciences and SpaceX for cargo delivery to the ISS because of sequestration, he added. (3/30)

Explosives Safety Audit Blasts NASA (Source: Florida Today)
NASA and its contractors work with explosives, posing a danger to workers, property and the neighboring public if not handled properly. Safety precautions at KSC and other NASA centers would appear robust to any outsider. However, assumptions and apathy can prove dangerous and even deadly in the space business. So we, the neighbors of NASA sites, ought to take heed when any outside reviewer indicates a deficiency in space agency’s vaunted safety system.

That’s the case with this week’s audit by the NASA Inspector General of explosives safety at four NASA installations across the country. The inspector general’s investigators found “155 separate instances of improper storage, handling, or other procedural violations. The findings came in a review of work at four NASA centers, not including KSC. The spot checks were done at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, Wallops Flight Facility, White Sands Test Facility, and Stennis Space Center.

The primary cause: inadequate training and oversight at the local centers and NASA headquarters, according to the inspector general report. The auditors noted that NASA personnel quickly rectified the specific problems found. But, they also said that NASA lacks personnel and time to inspect and inventory explosives and other high-energy, potentially dangerous materials on its property. KSC Director Robert Cabana ought to order, as soon as possible, his own review of such materials at facilities. (3/30)

Ex-NASA Employees Now Enjoying Life as Game Developers (Source: Austin Statesman)
It’s a tough time in the gaming business. The industry is in transition, players are shifting to mobile devices and away from console and PC games. That has created an opening for small teams like Retired Astronaut Collective, a group of industry veterans who work in a shared office building at East Austin. The company just released its newest mobile game, “Udder Destruction,” a cartoonish game in which the player controls a rampaging cow who destroys everything in her path.

Is it child’s play? Sure, but so was “Angry Birds,” the runaway hit that involved launching birds into buildings – a clear inspiration for “Udder Destruction.” That mobile games can be made with small groups is good news for talent-heavy cities like Austin, said Retired Astronaut president Chris Chuter. He referred to the “10,000-hour rule” espoused in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers,” which says that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a particular discipline.

That mobile games can be made with small groups is good news for talent-heavy cities like Austin, said Retired Astronaut president Chris Chuter. He referred to the “10,000-hour rule” espoused in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers,” which says that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a particular discipline. (3/30)

Naro Rocket-Payment (Source: Yonhap)
South Korea is moving to cut launch-related payment due to its Russian partner by around $4.2 million to reflect the two failed launches of the Naro-1 rocket, an official source said Thursday. Cho Gwang-rae, head of Korea Aerospace Research Institute's (KARI) Naro rocket launch team said Seoul has decided to "retain" 2 percent of the $210 million it agreed to give Russia's Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center.

In a meeting with Yonhap News Agency in Moscow on Wednesday, the engineer said the original contract reached with Khrunichev in 2004 included a provision to hold back payment if the planned launches failed. The rocket launches were a joint endeavor between Russia -- who was in charge of making the large first-stage rocket -- and South Korea, who built the smaller second-stage and the small scientific satellite.

"Because the 2009 and 2010 attempts failed to place a satellite into space, KARI has opted to exercise the withholding option and only pay its Russian partner $205.8 million for the three launches," he said. After failing twice, the Naro-1 or the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1, blasted off successfully from the Naro Space Center on Oenarodo Island off of South Korea's southwestern coast on Jan. 30. (3/28)

Shenzhou 10 Sent to Launch Site (Source: CCTV)
The Shenzhou 10 spacecraft, a planned Chinese manned spaceflight, has been taken to the Jiuquan Satellite Launching Center. The spaceship was split into three parts and taken to the airport by trucks. Workers say, although the route was planned, the trucks stopped three times for checks. At the airport, two flights carried the parts to Jiuquan. Shenzhou 10 is scheduled to launch between June and August. It will carry a crew of three astronauts to dock with Tiangong 1 module, which was launched in September, 2011. (3/31)

Sun May Still Have Low-Mass Solar Companion (Source: Forbes)
Our sun may indeed have a far-flung gravitationally-bound companion — just not with the size or orbit that could have triggered periodicity in earth’s paleontological record, say astrophysicists now actively searching data from NASA’s WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) spacecraft. For decades astronomers and paleontologists have debated whether our sun has a stellar mass M-dwarf companion dubbed “Nemesis” that could have caused a 26 million-year periodicity in earth’s asteroidal and cometary impact record.

Such a small M-dwarf star has long been ruled out by WISE data, however, since observers would surely have spotted an object larger than roughly five Jupiter masses. However, two astrophysicists at the University of Louisiana continue to scour the spacecraft’s data for the signatures of “Tyche,” a totally different type of solar companion. Unlike Nemesis, Tyche (or Nemesis’ good sister), is a hypothetical 1 to 4 Jupiter-mass object that would lie about a third of a light year away, on a very long four million-year circular solar orbit inclined at least 45 degrees to the plane of our solar system. (3/31)

Two Mid-Span Supports Required to Avoid Booster Sag for QM-1 (Source:
ATK will use two “mid-span” supports on their upcoming static test of their five segment Solid Rocket Booster (SRB). The large pieces of hardware will help mitigate “sagging” in the motor, as it is tested in the horizontal position. The test – known as Qualification Motor -1 (QM-1) – has been slightly delayed to later in the year, partly due to a problem with one of the segments.

Since increasing the length from a four segment Reusable Solid Rocket Motor (RSRM) used by the Space Shuttle – to 154 foot long five segment booster that will ride with the Space Launch System (SLS) – a mid-span support was deemed necessary to decrease the sag in the test motor as it finds itself firing in the “usual” horizontal position. (3/30)

Mars Sand Dunes May Hint at Water Beneath (Source: Christian Science Monitor)
Shifting dunes on Mars, especially those near the planet's north pole, may harbor layers of liquid water not far beneath their ice-encrusted surfaces. That is the implication of studies of sand dunes in Alaska's Kobuk Valley National Park, some 380 miles northwest of Fairbanks. There, above the Arctic Circle, researchers using the dunes as stand-ins for dunes on Mars have found evidence for liquid water trapped between the dunes' icy winter coat and subsurface layers of ice or freeze-dried silt that form a temporary, cement-like barrier that prevents the water from percolating deeper into the dune. (3/30)

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