April 28, 2013

Nelson Quashes Speculation on a Gubernatorial Run (Source: Space Politics)
The speculation was at least fun while it lasted. On Thursday, Roll Call reported that Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), one of the few senators who shows a strong interest in space, was mulling a run for governor of Florida in 2014. Nelson was reelected to the Senate in 2012 and thus would not have to give up his seat to run for governor, unless he decided to resign to focus full-time on a gubernatorial run. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) opted not to resign when she ran for governor of Texas in 2010. She lost to incumbent Rick Perry.

That speculation, though, didn’t last long. On Friday, Nelson told MSNBC that he had “no intention of running for governor” in 2014. “I love this job as senator, except that I am very, very frustrated” by the difficulty in building consensus on issues, he said. Nelson’s departure from the Senate, either to campaign for office or if he was elected governor, would have created something of a policy vacuum in the Senate on space issues. He is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee’s space subcommittee, and is usually joined in hearings there by only the committee’s new ranking member, freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who won the seat vacated by the retiring Hutchison. (4/28)

GAO Official: Disaggregation May Have Merit, But Challenges Too (Source: Space Policy Online)
Christina Chaplain of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) was asked for GAO's assessment of disaggregation at a Senate hearing last week. GAO has several studies underway, she replied, and it appears the concept has merit in theory, but there are reasons to be cautious, too. Chaplain is director, acquisition and sourcing management at GAO, and leads the group that conducts most of GAO's studies about military space issues. 

She testifies to the Senate Armed Services Committee's (SASC's) Subcommittee on Strategic Forces annually providing a synopsis of GAO's recent assessments of how the Department of Defense (DOD) is managing its space programs. One topic that was discussed at length at Wednesday's (April 24) hearing was DOD's efforts to field more resilient space-based capabilities and the role that disaggregation might play. Disaggregation is a concept where instead of relying on a few, large satellites, needs might better be met by a system of many smaller satellites, including hosted payloads on commercial satellites, which could reduce vulnerability and lower costs.

In one sense, the idea of disaggregation builds on DOD's Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) effort that focused on building small satellites that could be launched relatively quickly to meet requirements of operational commanders. The ORS-1 satellite is widely considered a success, but DOD proposed terminating the ORS program office last year. Instead, it said it would integrate ORS lessons learned into the broader Air Force satellite acquisition process. Click here. (4/28)

IAASS Proposes Space Debris Removal Framework (Source: Space Safety)
On the heels of the European Conference on Space Debris, which concluded with an emphasis on the imminent severity of space debris fall-outs, Space Safety Magazine sponsor the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety (IAASS) has released a proposal to establish a regulatory and operational framework for space debris removal. Click here. (4/28)

U.S. Army Seeks New Technology to Replace GPS (Source: Space Daily)
The US army is working to limit its dependence on GPS by developing the next generation of navigation technology, including a tiny autonomous chip, the director of the Pentagon's research agency said Wednesday. DARPA was also the driving force behind the creation of the Global Positioning System. "In the 1980s, when GPS satellites started to become widely deployed... it meant carrying an enormous box around on your vehicle," she said. "Now it's got to the point where it's embedded not just in all our platforms but in many of our weapons," as well as in many civilian devices, she said.

But "sometimes a capability is so powerful that our reliance on it, in itself, becomes a vulnerability," she added. Among the fears: the GPS signal could be scrambled by an adversary, as happened recently in South Korea. Starting in 2010, DARPA has been working on a variety of programs aimed at developing new navigation and positioning technology -- at first with the goal of extending their reach to places where satellites don't work, such as underwater. (4/25)

Astronomer: Asteroid Could Make Close Flyby in 2026 (Source: Space Daily)
An Italian astronomer says new data suggest an asteroid 65 feet in diameter could pass dangerously close to Earth's surface in 13 years. Francesco Manca of the Sormano Astronomical Observatory near Milan, Italy, said the 2026 flyby of the asteroid 2013 GM3 could bring it within 5,300 miles of Earth. The asteroid was discovered in mid-April by researchers an observatory in Arizona, but preliminary calculation by NASA suggested it would pass 24,000 miles from Earth.

More observations are needed to better determine the asteroid's trajectory, Manca said. The asteroid is comparable in size to the meteorite that exploded in the air over the city of Chelyabinsk in the Urals in mid-February, injuring about 1,500 people when windows shattered in the shockwave from the meteorite's passing. (4/25)

Russian Cosmonauts to Take "Olympic Spacewalk" (Source: Xinhua)
Russian cosmonauts will take the Olympics torch to outer space, the federal space agency Roscosmos said Sunday. The space agency has approved a plan of an unscheduled spacewalk for Russian cosmonauts from the International Space Station (ISS) to take the Olympic torch to space, Roscosmos deputy head Vitaly Davydov told local media. "It will not be a replica but exactly the same kind of torch that will be used at the Olympiad. One of several thousand torches," Interfax news agency quoted Davydov as saying. (4/28)

Space Travel Testing Rockets Launched in Desert (Source: KSAZ)
Virgin Galactic is looking to capitalize on space travel. The company has finished a launch pad in the southwest desert and they're hoping to send tourists to outer space by next year. "The spaceport is finished doing interior work, putting computers in. What's impressive is that people working with NASA are now involved with the spaceport," says Betsy Donley, Virgin Galactic accredited space agent.

The rocket launch to test the power source of the space craft carrying passengers will be tested in the desert. Former NASA employees are also working with that process. "The new thing is that this rocket motor is being tested in the Mohave Desert and it is imminently going to be put in the space ship and they will fire it off," says Donley. Betsy Donley is an official space agent who books travel for folks. She visited the space port and says it's all built by bonds and Virgin Galactic.

"The government of New Mexico appropriated $225 million. Virgin Galactic put in some and they just passed another bond issue to do the rest." So the question is whether you would pay $200,000 for 5 minutes in space. The first trip is expected in 2014. The time in space is only 5 minutes -- but it will take 45 minutes to get back to Planet Earth. 600 people have already signed up. (4/28)

Delaware Space Grant Research Holds Annual (Source: UDaily)
The Delaware Space Grant Consortium (DESGC), of which the University of Delaware is an affiliate, held its annual symposium April 12 to highlight research work that has occurred as a result of funding support from the NASA Space Grant program. Sixty people attended the symposium, at which graduate fellows and undergraduate research interns presented results, either orally or by poster, of the work they have performed under Space Grant auspices during the past year. (4/26)

Vietnamese People Succeed at NASA (Source: Vietnam.net)
For years, the Vietnamese community in the U.S. have talked about astronauts Trinh Huu Chau or Eugene Trinh, an astrophysicist who joined NASA's flight attendants into space in 1992. He became the first Vietnamese American who went into space and stayed there for nearly 15 days.

Also at NASA, along with astrophysicist Trinh Huu Chau, some Vietnamese-origin experts are also frequently referred to an admiring way. Dr. Trinh Huu Phuoc and his wife, Dr. Vo Thi Diep are mentioned as a "perfect couple" at NASA. For the past 30 years, they have made many contributions to the U.S. space center. (4/27)

HAL to Produce Cryogenic Engines for ISRO (Source: The Hindu)
The Indian Space Research Organization is setting up a Rs.139-crore facility at the Bangalore unit of the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. to produce cryogenic engines and complex components for its GSLV and future rockets and it will be ready in three years. At present, ISRO is developing cryogenic engines with a consortium of Godrej and Hyderabad’s MTAR. HAL is said to have been approved as a second source of assemblage by the Space Commission last month. (4/27)

Wow is SETI's Answer (Source: America Space)
I thought it might be a good time to revisit the big question on so many minds for so many years. Are we alone? Many wonder why, in a galaxy supposedly teeming with life and after searching the cosmos for over 50 years with increasingly powerful radio telescopes, have we not heard a thing? Is it because the only aliens we will ever find are currently on our summer movie screens? Since the search began in earnest by Frank Drake in 1960, there have been a few candidate radio signals that have initially increased the heart rates of SETI scientists, but then after careful scrutiny turned out to have very mundane explanations.

All except for one. In 1977, while working on a SETI project at Ohio State University, Jerry Ehman discovered a signal that had been received from the university’s Big Ear Radio Telescope that was so startling he circled the numbers on the printout and wrote, “Wow!” The intensity of the signal was 30 times more powerful than the normal background radiation and could almost certainly be construed as a cosmic hello. This has become known as the famous Wow signal. Click here. (4/28)

NASA Still Aiming for Manned Mars Mission (Source: Florida Today)
NASA’s not giving up on flying people to Mars. Some critics of the space agency’s recent proposal to fly astronauts to an asteroid say we’re “settling” for something less than the big prize: humans walking on the red planet. Not true. The mission to an asteroid is part of a stepping-stone approach to sending human beings exploring deeper into the solar system. A sensible look at NASA’s current flight capabilities, human limitations and the space exploration budget means Mars isn’t possible yet.

With an Apollo-era style blank check, yes, NASA might be able to pull off a mission to Mars sooner. In the environment the space agency is likely to face over the next 20 years, the phased approach seems prudent. Incremental progress is important politically as well so that the people writing the budgets in Washington have successes to point to when they’re voting to boost the budget in better times. (4/28)

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