April 13, 2013

Volunteers Line Up For Tito's Mars Flyaround (Source: Aviation Week)
Inspiration Mars, the bold plan to send a man and woman on a 501-day trip around the Red Planet beginning in January 2018, reports individuals and industry are offering their services for the task, including “hundreds” of couples who have qualifications that would put them in the running. Dennis Tito said finding a suitable launch architecture to start the mission, and a thermal protection system to protect the crew when it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere are the biggest near-term hurdles to accomplishing the mission.

Tito is funding the first two years of the five-year development plans, and expects to fund the rest with contributions, media rights and other sources of income. Media response to the February kickoff press conference for the mission would have generated $80 million in advertising revenue, according to a team spokesman.

Part of Tito’s initial support is going to experts in space medicine, life support and thermal protection systems as the team defines the mission. The process includes devising medical, crew-selection and crew-training protocols, and even though there will not be a call for crew applicants until “at least next year,” there already has been an influx of volunteers. (4/12)

Support Space Exploration Day (Source: NSS)
The Utah Space Association NSS Chapter is supporting an effort to establish July 20 as a nationally recognized holiday called Space Exploration Day. This would commemorate humankind's first steps onto the surface of another celestial body. The holiday would promote the continuation of human space exploration, stressing the benefits to humankind that can come from increased space achievement. The Utah chapter encourages NSS members to support an official Proclamation that July 20 be designated as Space Exploration Day, a potential holiday on the order of Flag Day, and July 16 - 24 be designated as the U.S. Space Observance, in commemoration of the nine day Apollo 11 Moon Mission. Click here for information.

Editor's Note: As recently as October of last year, efforts were underway to change Columbus Day into Exploration Day, retaining its paid Federal holiday status. "Rededicating Columbus Day as Exploration Day will allow those who wish to commemorate his accomplishments to continue doing so," says Karl Frank. "But for those who find Columbus's role in history disquieting, it will enable them to celebrate the day in a very different way. Exploration Day covers the depth and breath of America’s rich history of exploration, research and discovery. Thus, Exploration Day will be something that unites rather than divides." (4/13)

Boeing Executive Defends SLS as Only Deep-Space Option (Sources: Space News, NASA Watch)
People that say there are other options, or other ways to get beyond low Earth orbit -- it's just not a fact, it's just not true. There are technologies you could develop that would be years and years in the future ... but SLS gives you the capability to do that much, much quicker." [John] Shannon, who spent 25 years at NASA before joining Boeing in January, pointedly dismissed the idea that NASA has to identify a specific destination and mission for SLS to make the big rocket worthwhile.

"This 'SLS doesn't have a mission' is a smokescreen that's been put out there by people who would like to see that [program's] budget go to their own pet projects," Shannon said. "SLS is every mission beyond low Earth orbit. The fact that NASA has not picked one single mission is kind of irrelevant." The White House requested about $1.7 billion for SLS alone, about $300 million less than the program has this year under a $1 trillion spending bill signed March 26. An administration official said the funding request for SLS, though lower than the 2013 level, is sufficient to keep the program on track. (4/10)

NASA Plans to Make Water on the Moon (Source: Discovery)
NASA is developing a lunar rover to find and analyze water and other materials trapped in deep freezes at the moon’s poles and to demonstrate how water can be made on site. Slated to fly in November 2017, the mission, called Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen and Lunar Volatile Extraction (RESOLVE), will have a week to accomplish its goals.

To stay within a tight $250 million budget cap -- including the rocket ride to the moon -- project managers are planning to use solar energy to power the rover’s systems and science instruments. However, sunlight on the places where water and other volatiles may be trapped only occurs for a few days at a time. (4/12)

Changes in Space Travel Since Yuri Gagarin's Flight (Source: National Geographic)
In the decades since Gagarin became the first person in space, what began as a politically fraught competition has yielded men on the moon, space walks, and visions of putting people on Mars. Here's a look at some of the important changes in space travel that occurred along the way. The Soviets kept secret the fact that Gagarin had to bail out of his spacecraft with a parachute several miles above ground during the landing. The spherical Vostok capsule lacked thrusters to slow it down, and requiring Gagarin to eject before reaching the ground might have meant the mission didn't qualify as the first successful human space flight.

Nowadays the U.S. and Russia collaborate regularly, with cross-training and joint flights to the International Space Station (ISS). The launch pad from which Gagarin took off—Baikonur Cosmodrome in what is now Kazakhstan—is still used today, most recently to send two cosmonauts and a U.S. astronaut to the ISS in March.

Gagarin's mission lasted 108 minutes, so he didn't have to eat. But the cosmonaut who followed him into space, German Titov, went up for more than a day. People wondered: Would he be able to swallow food? Today's big questions about space travel and the human body involve bone loss and radiation exposure, but fundamental questions existed even then. Click here. (4/13)

Navy Names New Ship After Astronaut Sally Ride (Source: KNSD)
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced Friday that a new Navy ship will be named after local astronaut Sally Ride. Mabus said the future ship – dubbed R/V Sally Ride (AGOR 28) – will be a Neil Armstrong-class auxiliary general oceanographic research or “AGOR” ship. Traditionally, AGORs are named for nationally recognized leaders in exploration and science. The ship will honor the memory of Ride, a renowned professor, scientist and innovator at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD. Ride was also the first woman and youngest person in space, and later served as director of NASA’s Office of Exploration. (4/12)

Marshall Developing Mini Version of SLS (Source: SpaceFlight.com)
The Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) is constructing a scaled version of the Space Launch System (SLS), ahead of test firing it later this year. Known as the Scale Model Acoustic Test (SMAT), the mini-version of the SLS will have functioning rockets mimicking both the core engines and boosters. Continuing the heritage of testing future launch vehicles at the scale model level, NASA engineers have test fired scaled versions of rockets to gain data on the acoustic environments endured during ignition and launch. (4/13)

Virgin Galactic Spaceship Reaches New Milestone (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
A Virgin Galactic spaceship that eventually will be launched from Spaceport America reached a new benchmark on Friday. The test flight was described by the company as a "key milestone in advance of SpaceShipTwo's first rocket-powered flight," according to a Virgin Galactic Facebook post. Oxidizer, the substance that allows combustion to happen outside Earth's atmosphere, was passed for the first time ever through the ship's rocket nozzle during flight, according to the company. The test was deemed successful. (4/12)

Hawaii Land Board Approves Thirty Meter Telescope (Source: AP)
A plan by California and Canadian universities to build the world's largest telescope at the summit of Hawaii's Mauna Kea volcano won approval from the state Board of Land and Natural Resources on Friday. The decision clears the way for the group managing the Thirty Meter Telescope project to negotiate a sublease for land with the University of Hawaii. The telescope would be able to observe planets that orbit stars other than the sun and enable astronomers to watch new planets and stars being formed. It should also help scientists see some 13 billion light years away for a glimpse into the early years of the universe. (4/13)

North Korea Threatens to Strike Colorado Springs (Source: Washington Post)
The latest ridiculous North Korean propaganda video includes threats to launch that nation’s (untested) KN-08 missiles at four U.S. cities: Washington, Colorado Springs, Colo., Los Angeles and Honolulu. The only problem is that the video, released by the state-run media organization Uriminzokkiri, misidentifies Colorado Springs’ location by about 1,000 miles. As the voice-over excitedly discusses North Korea’s plan to launch a missile at the home of a number of important military installations, as well as the U.S. Air Force Academy, a dot on a map meant to indicate the city actually appears somewhere over the deep south. (4/12)

Payload Integration is underway for Vega's Second Mission (Source: Arianespace)
The multi-satellite payload "stack" for Vega's upcoming flight from French Guiana is now taking shape as the Arianespace-managed integration process advances at the Spaceport. This activity began in the Spaceport's S5 clean room facility with installation of Estonia's ESTCube-1 student nanosatellite on a flat mounting surface called the P2 Plate - which serves as the lower interface in the Vega's payload stack. The small cube-shaped satellite and its dispenser were integrated using a bracket that was mounted to the P2 Plate.

The next step was the placement of Vietnam's VNREDSat-1 with its interface adapter on the P2 Plate, joining ESTCube-1. Both satellites are located in the payload stack's lower position, and will ride inside a larger dispenser system called VESPA. Completing the payload arrangement will be installation of the mission's third satellite - Proba-V - which is to ride atop the VESPA dispenser. (4/12)

UCF Wins $55 Million Grant for NASA Payload (Source: UCF)
UCF was awarded a $55 million NASA grant to build and launch into space an instrument the size of a microwave oven that will provide unprecedented imaging of the Earth’s upper atmosphere. The award is the largest single grant in UCF’s history, and UCF will become the first Florida university to lead a NASA mission. The information collected by the Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) mission will have a direct impact on understanding space weather.

The information may also lead to advances in directing airline traffic in a safer manner by providing a greater understanding of how space elements impact communication signals. The project is a collaboration between UCF, the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado, and the commercial satellite company SES Government Solutions. UCF will oversee the project and build the data center that will collect, process and distribute the data for the mission. (4/12)

CU-Boulder to Receive $36 Million from NASA for Space Weather Mission (Source: CU Boulder)
The University of Colorado Boulder will receive roughly $36 million from NASA to build and operate a space instrument for a mission led by the University of Central Florida that will study Earth’s upper atmosphere to learn more about the disruptive effects of space weather.

The mission, known as the Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk, or GOLD, involves imaging Earth’s upper atmosphere from a geostationary orbit some 22,000 miles above the planet. The mission is expected to have a direct impact on the understanding of space weather like geomagnetic storms that alter the temperature and composition of Earth’s atmosphere, which can disrupt communication and navigation satellites, affecting everything from automobile GPS and cell phone coverage to television programming. (4/12)

Travel Ban Sidelines NASA, but Symposium Still Attracts 9,000 (Source: Colorado Springs Business Journal)
The space industry’s largest global event takes place next week in Colorado Springs — without NASA, the U.S. space agency. Thanks to budget cuts by the federal government, no one from NASA will be exhibiting, presenting or attending the 29th annual Space Symposium.

“This has been our most challenging year,” said Space Foundation spokeswoman Janet Stevens. “We’ve had to branch out in a lot of areas we don’t normally have to — and we’ve had to redo the agenda, change events and move things around, all thanks to the U.S. government.” Despite the attrition, attendance is down only about 4 percent, which means about 9,000 people will flock to The Broadmoor for the conference. (4/12)

SpaceShipTwo Advances Towards Powered Flight with “Cold-Flow” Test (Source: Virgin Galactic)
History continues to be made in the skies above the Mojave Desert. Hot on the heels of last week’s nitrous venting and feather test, SpaceShipTwo achieved another successful first today with a spectacular “Cold Flow” flight.
The test objectives were successfully met, advancing another important step towards powered flight.

In preparation for SpaceShipTwo’s first powered flight, the test teams from Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic completed the profile of the upcoming milestone flight – apart from actually igniting the rocket. Importantly, and for the first time in the air, oxidizer was flowed through the propulsion system and out through the nozzle at the rear of the vehicle– thus successfully accomplishing the “Cold-Flow” procedure. (4/12)

Ukraine Aims to Accelerate Space Industry Development (Source: Xinhua)
President Viktor Yanukovych on Friday highlighted progress in Ukraine's aerospace industry in recent years and said his country would continue to develop its space projects. "Our state has made a significant contribution to the development of cosmonautics and continues to cooperate with many countries of the world," Yanukovych said during his meeting with National Space Agency chairman Yuriy Alekseyev and Aerospace Society president Vitaly Zholobov.

Ukraine was implementing a number of space projects with Russia and Kazakhstan and was working with Brazil to jointly launch Cyclone-4 rockets from Brazil's Alcantara base. In 2011, Ukraine joined China, the EU, Russia, and the U.S. as one of the top five space rocket-launching countries in the world. Since 1991, Ukraine has grown into a significant player in the space industry, having launched 128 rockets and delivered into orbit 250 satellites for 19 countries. This year, Ukraine has allocated about 322 million U.S. dollars to promote its aerospace industry over the next five years. (4/12)

How to Calculate Martian Habitability (Source: WIRED)
Proclamations about life on Mars are typically cloaked in mystical language, sketched with broad qualitative strokes that cause reflexive aversion among scientists used to the realm of mathematical rigor. Carol Stoker, a staff planetary scientist at NASA Ames Research Center, is hoping to change this. She’s come up with a four-component equation that calculates the probability that a particular site is habitable. 

The relevant factors are 1) Pw, the probability that liquid water is present, 2) Pe, the probability of a biologically usable energy source, 3) Penv, the probability of a non-injurious environment amenable to life, and 4) Pc, the probability that the chemical building blocks of life are present. Multiply these probabilities together – they all must be present at the same time at the same place, after all – and voila, a quantitative probability of habitability pops out. (4/12)

Brazilian Competition Proving Irresistible to Satellite Builders (Source: Space News)
Eight satellite builders have grouped themselves into seven separate bids for Brazil’s dual-use X- and Ka-band telecommunications satellite, a $362 million program that Brazilian officials say should result in the creation of a domestic Brazilian satellite builder that ultimately will compete globally with the eight bidders.

But despite the concern that whoever wins the Brazilian competition will be feeding the mouth that one day will bite it, the temptation to be an early partner in what is billed as a major national space program during its takeoff stage is too great. The seven bidding teams are expected to be reduced to three finalists late this spring, with a winner selected this summer. (4/12)

NOAA 2014 Budget Request Includes GOES-R Increase (Source: Space News)
The White House requested $5.4 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for 2014, a modest increase compared with the agency’s 2013 request that would mostly be used to keep a next-generation geostationary weather satellite program on track to begin launching in 2015.

Included in the request U.S. President Barack Obama sent Congress April 10 is $956 million for the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-R series of spacecraft. That is roughly $150 million more than Obama’s 2013 GOES-R request and $200 million more than the Lockheed Martin-led program stands to get this year under the sequestered spending bill Congress enacted in March to keep the government operating through September. (4/12)

Missile Tracking System Axed in Otherwise ‘Status Quo’ Budget (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Defense Department’s $527 billion spending blueprint for 2014 would leave the majority of unclassified space programs intact with the exception of proposed satellite systems for missile tracking and space surveillance, both of which are getting the ax, budget documents show.

If approved by Congress, the plan, which includes $52 billion more than the Defense Department is authorized to receive as a result of across-the-board federal spending cuts, would provide a total of $8 billion for military space programs in 2014, a level consistent with 2013 expenditures.

The plan includes funding support for two GPS 3 satellites, five Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) rockets, two Advanced Extremely High Frequency secure communications satellites and two geosynchronous satellites for the Space Based Infrared System missile warning constellation. (4/12)

Companies Jockey for Position in Changing U.S. Space Market (Source: Reuters)
Space companies are shifting strategies to benefit from a change in how the U.S. government buys satellites, rockets and space services. After years of billion-dollar cost overruns and schedule delays on complex satellite programs, U.S. officials are looking for smaller, less expensive spacecraft and exploring alternatives such pay-for-service deals, or packing sensors on government or commercial satellites.

Air Force General Robert Kehler, who heads the military command that oversees U.S. nuclear, satellite and cyber operations, warned thousands of top industry executives this week that big-ticket space programs would be reevaluated as part of a 60-day review ordered by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. The shift is changing the way big players like Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co, Northrop Grumman Corp, and smaller firms like Orbital Sciences Corp, ITT Exelis Corp, Harris Corp and Alliant Techsystems Inc map out future business plans. Click here. (4/12)

No comments: