April 5, 2013

County Council Votes to Support Spaceport in Volusia (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
The Volusia County Council voted to draft a resolution supporting a commercial launch pad on NASA land in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The resolution will get written over the next month or so, and the council will have to vote again to approve it. Council members Pat Northey and Pat Patterson were the only two votes against writing it. (4/5)

Russian Space Agency Eyes Joining NASA Asteroid Defense Program (Source: Xinhua)
Russia's federal space agency Roscosmos mulled over joining an asteroid defense program with the U.S. NASA, the agency's head Vladimir Popovkin said. The program is aimed at capturing an asteroid and putting it into high lunar orbit for exploration. "We could send a manned expedition to explore the asteroid or study it with probes," Popovkin said. (4/5)

Chinese Scientists Contribute in Search for Dark Matter (Source: Xinhua)
Chinese scientists have made a significant contribution in the search for dark matter led by an international Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) team. An Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is a particle physics experiment module that is mounted on the International Space Station. It is designed to search for various types of unusual matter.

The core component of the AMS is a Chinese-made huge permanent magnet, said Chen Hesheng, primary member of the AMS team and also former director of the Institute of High Energy Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). The magnet, jointly made by CAS Institute of Electrical Engineering, CAS Institute of High Energy Physics and China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, is used to identify particles carrying positive electricity from those carrying negative electricity. (4/5)

Space Tourism Launches Policy Debate (Source: Reactions)
Tourist spaceships are “gliders” with wings and a rocket engine, so should policies be classed as space or aviation coverage? Insurers are debating how space tourism flights should be classed and, to date, Allianz is the only insurer to announce publicly that they will provide the coverage. Seven space tourists who have already flown purchased insurance for eight-day trips to space stations and they were covered like any other object being launched into space, with the premium rated accordingly. (4/4)

Marine Seeks Support to Go To Space (Source: Marine Corps Times)
Sgt. Anthony Egan, a Marine reservist, has done the easy stuff: made Eagle Scout, saw combat in Iraq, and secured a position in the New York Police Department. Now, he wants to be an astronaut. Egan is a contestant in the Axe Apollo Space Academy contest. The popular body spray manufacturer is offering to shuttle two winners 64 miles into space via the space tourism company SpaceXC.

The 20 contestants who receive the most votes online will be sent to a rigorous space training camp in Orlando, Fla. From there, the toughest two will get the coveted seats on the spacecraft. A 26-year-old bachelor from Staten Island, N.Y., Egan already has a résumé that reads like the archetypal American hero. In addition to his two years on active duty as a nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons specialist, his 2006 tour in Iraq, and his current job as a patrol officer with the NYPD, he volunteers for the Boy Scouts, the New York Blood Center and the Knights of Columbus. (4/4)

United Space Alliance to Make Final Shuttle Layoffs (Source: WKMG)
United Space Alliance on Friday will let 68 local employees go in its last round of layoffs tied to retirement of the space shuttle program. After the cuts, the company that served as NASA's prime shuttle contractor since 1996 and once employed more than 6,500 people here will have just 154 employees left on the Space Coast.

"A small number of USA employees will remain in Florida to close out the Florida-based contracts/operations," a company spokesperson said. NASA closed its Shuttle Transition and Retirement office at the end of March. USA continues to support International Space Station operations with more than 800 employees in Texas and about 90 in Alabama. (4/5)

How Long Do The Voyager Spacecraft Have Left? (Source: America Space)
Will we lose contact with NASA’s Voyager spacecraft? Just to clarify the question, the problem won’t be about our hearing them, but about the spacecraft ceasing to transmit once they run out of electrical power. The two Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977—-Voyager 2 on August 20 and Voyager 1 on September 5. Both spacecraft have radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) of about the same age, which work by using the heat from a decaying lump of plutonium isotope 238 to generate electricity.

Since we know the half-life of those lumps fairly exactly, we already know that after 2020 there won’t be enough power to continue running all the currently operational systems, and by around 2025 whatever work-arounds we may have jury-rigged will fail as both spacecraft lose the capacity to collect and transmit data. After that, they will carry on silently with their golden records attached, time capsules from 1997 Earth for any aliens that find them. (4/5)

Historic NASA test chamber upgraded for James Webb Space Telescope (Source: Collect Space)
A giant NASA vacuum chamber originally built to test the spacecraft that astronauts used to fly to the moon is now ready to check the space agency's next-generation telescope before it launches into deep space. Chamber A located in the Space Environment Simulation Laboratory at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston will begin testing components for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in 2014, leading up to the tennis-court-size observatory's planned launch four years later. (4/5)

Google Lunar X Prize: Who To Watch (Source: America Space)
So, who is serious, and who is all talk? Several frontrunners have emerged who are making real headway in planning key mission objectives. Astrobotic, a Pittsburgh-based company, announced it completed a prototype lunar lander as early as February 2011. In addition, the company also signed a contract with SpaceX to launch the lander to the Moon on a Falcon 9 rocket; the rocket is reserved for use in 2015 (the GLXP deadline). The rocket’s upper stage would, according to Astrobotic, “sling [the lander] on a four-day cruise to the Moon.”

Barcelona Moon Team, which hails from Spain, also is a serious contender. Galactic Suite, a company which leads the team, signed a launch service contract in 2012 to utilize a Chinese rocket’s services, which would carry their robot to the Moon. They plan on accomplishing this feat as early as 2014, which makes the odds for them to take the prize better.

SpaceMETA, from Brazil, is also in the planning and testing phase. They announced that they will start experimental stratospheric launches at high altitudes to test some of their navigation, stabilization, and imaging components, along with other systems. They seem to have the right spirit and are enthusiastic. (4/5)

Amid Declining U.S. Budgets, Astrium Sees Opportunity (Source: Space News)
The U.S. military space budget is in for a multiyear decline and NASA’s budget is stagnant at best, leaving U.S. manufacturers hungry for new markets — hardly the moment for a non-U.S. company to be looking to grow in the United States. Astrium Americas, a unit of Europe’s EADS aerospace giant, does not share that view. The company has created a new office in California to sell space propulsion technologies. (4/5)

GenCorp Reports 2013 First Quarter Results (Source: GenCorp)
Aerojet's parent company Gencorp reported results for the first quarter ended February 28, 2013. Net sales for the first quarter of fiscal 2013 totaled $243.7 million compared to $201.9 million for the first quarter of fiscal 2012. Net loss for the first quarter of fiscal 2013 was $14.0 million, or $0.24 loss per share, compared to a net income of $2.4 million, or $0.04 diluted income per share, for the first quarter of fiscal 2012. (4/5)

Incoming! Asteroid Miners are Getting Financial Boost From NASA Cash (Source: NBC)
Commercial ventures are planning to send out profit-hunting missions to asteroids by the year 2020 — but in the shorter term, they're bringing in money by developing technologies that may show up on NASA spacecraft before they're put to use commercially. For example, NASA said this week that it would award up to $125,000 to Arkyd Astronautics for a software system that would allow spacecraft to maneuver autonomously in close proximity with near-Earth asteroids — or the International Space Station.

"Companies like SpaceX and others providing commercial resupply services to the ISS, as well as vehicles like HTV and ATV, could benefit from the proposed software," Arkyd said in its proposal. So who's behind Arkyd Astronautics? Arkyd is actually an old code name for the Planetary Resources asteroid-mining company. The software system that won NASA's backing, known as COARSE, could be used on the spacecraft that Planetary Resources will send to asteroids. But it could conceivably be used before that on NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission, which is due for launch to a near-Earth asteroid in 2016.

The same dual-use principle applies to a $124.960 NASA grant that Planetary Resources won last year for work on a laser-based communication system for small satellites. Planetary Resources has said it is also receiving funding from the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. "With reference to DARPA, the company cannot comment on any specific project work at this time," said company president Chris Lewicki. (4/4)

Registration Opens for NASA Night Rover Energy Challenge (Source: SpaceRef)
Registration is open for teams seeking to compete in the $1.5 million energy storage competition known as the Night Rover Challenge, sponsored by NASA and the Cleantech Open of Palo Alto, Calif. To win, a team must demonstrate a stored energy system that can power a simulated solar-powered exploration vehicle that can operate through multiple cycles of daylight and extended periods of darkness. (4/4)

Shiloh Project Debated in Volusia County (Source: Florida Today)
Work on an environmental impact statement for Shiloh is expected to start in about a month after potential site configurations are defined. About a dozen speakers opposed the proposal for environmental reasons, generally saying they were pro-space but think any launches should occur at existing facilities at KSC or Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

A handful of others said Shiloh would help create important jobs while having a minimal environmental impact. The Volusia County Council will consider a resolution within a month. Two members of the seven-member council voted against considering a resolution of support right now. The Brevard County Commission has already approved a supportive resolution. (4/4)

Local Union Expects Cape Canaveral Layoffs on Friday (Source: Florida Today)
A local union expects automatic federal budget cuts to hit home Friday with dozens of layoffs at the U.S. military’s primary East Coast space launch base. Kevin Smith, president of the Transport Workers Union Local 525 in Merritt Island, said he expects 60 to 80 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station employees represented by his union to be laid off. The layoffs would be the result of “sequestration.”

Smith said he expects Local 525 union members with four companies to be laid off: InDyne Inc., an Air Force Eastern Range and Cape Canaveral base operations services provider; Space Coast Launch Services, a launch operations support company; G4S Government Services, which employs firefighters and paramedics at the base; and CMT (Creative Maintenance Technologies), a company that provides services which range from pest control to maintenance of critical rocket tracking radar antennas. (4/4)

Internal Investigation After Noose Found Hanging at NASA’s Wallops Spaceport (Source: WTKR)
On Thursday, the findings of an internal investigation at NASA’s Wallops flight facility will be revealed. A noose was found hanging at the facility. This investigation took weeks after someone discovered the noose last month. But NASA may not be the only group to take action after a union claims this is not the first sign of racial harassment. Union leaders have told members that if they find indications of workplace harassment – the union will seek legal action – if necessary. (4/4)

NASA Selects Small Businesses to Build Nanosatellite Launchers (Source: Flight Global)
NASA has selected small businesses to receive up to $38.7 million in grants for innovative technology developments, including a number of technologies relating to nanosatellite launch vehicles. One grantee intends to mature a vehicle currently used for suborbital launches to a full-size nanosatellite launch vehicle, the Garvey 10/250, which would - as the name suggests - launch a 10kg (22lb) payload into a 250km (155mi) low Earth orbit. A further planned development would increase the launch vehicle's capabilities to 20kg and 450km.

A similar grantee is Ventions LLC, which intends to build a new two-stage nanosatellite launch vehicle. NASA is interested in developing the Rocket Propellant-1 (RP-1)/liquid oxygen first stage engine. "Ventions has already completed several component-level demonstrations in the area, and is proposing additional optimization/testing," says NASA. (4/4)

International Space Apps Challenge (Source: SpaceRef)
The International Space Apps Challenge is an international mass collaboration focused on space exploration that takes place over 48-hours in 80 cities around the world (in 42 countries) on the weekend of April 20-21, 2013. The event embraces collaborative problem solving with a goal of producing relevant open-source solutions to address global needs applicable to both life on Earth and life in space. NASA is leading this global collaboration along with more then 150 partner organizations. (4/4)

Moon Landing Hoax Believers Follow Party Lines (Source: Space.com)
Even Moon landing hoaxers toe the party line. Who knew? A study reported by LiveScience reveals that the polarizing rift between Democrats and Republicans hits conspiracy theorists, too. The report by Bad Science debunker Ben Radford states: As one might expect, the more far-out the conspiracy theory, the fewer people endorse it. Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling, which conducted the research, noted, "Most Americans reject the wackier ideas out there about fake moon landings and shape-shifting lizards."

Even so, 20 percent of Republicans believe that President Obama is the Anti-Christ, compared with 13 percent of Independents and 6 percent of Democrats who agree. Still, about 7 percent of Americans polled in the study think NASA did indeed fake the Apollo moon landings, the study found. Seriously...7 percent. (4/4)

Intelsat Moves Forward with $800 Million IPO (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Intelsat Global on April 2 moved forward with its long-planned initial public offering of stock in a transaction valued at up to $823 million if its underwriters are able to sell their maximum allotments. The company also said it expects its revenue for the three months ending March 30 to fall between $645 million and $660 million. The lower figure would mean zero growth from the same period a year ago. The upper figure would represent a 2 percent increase. (4/4)

Kepler Reaction Wheel Remains a Concern (Source: Space News)
A reaction wheel on NASA’s Kepler spacecraft continues to experience elevated levels of friction after a brief rest period, but project officials say that does not necessarily imply an imminent failure that could jeopardize the spacecraft’s planet-hunting mission.

Spacecraft engineers in early January noticed increased levels of friction in one of four reaction wheels on the spacecraft used for attitude control. To address the problem, NASA suspended science operations of the spacecraft for ten days in January, hoping that this “wheel rest” period would resolve the issue. However, the high levels of friction continued in wheel No. 4 after normal spacecraft operations resumed in late January. (4/4)

Inspiration Mars Considers SLS, ULA Rockets for 2018 Mars Trip (Source: Hunstsville Times)
Dennis Tito, the man trying to mount a privately funded fly-by mission of Mars in 2018, is considering the Space Launch System being developed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center as his astronauts' ride to the red planet. A Marshall spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday that Tito and another executive of his Inspiration Mars non-profit organization, visited Marshall March 19 for a briefing on SLS. Marshall is leading development of the booster part of the new heavy-lift rocket for NASA.

"At their request NASA briefed them on the capabilities of SLS and Orion," Marshall spokeswoman Kim Henry said Wednesday. Asked if SLS could support a Mars mission, Henry said that it could. It was not immediately clear, however, how SLS could meet Tito's deadline for a launch of Jan. 15, 2018. That timing is critical to take advantage of a Mars-Earth alignment that won't occur again before 2031, Tito's organization says. (4/4)

Rocket Powered by Nuclear Fusion Could Send Humans to Mars (Source: University of Washington)
Human travel to Mars has long been the unachievable dangling carrot for space programs. Now, astronauts could be a step closer to our nearest planetary neighbor through a unique manipulation of nuclear fusion, the same energy that powers the sun and stars.

University of Washington researchers and scientists at a Redmond-based space-propulsion company are building components of a fusion-powered rocket aimed to clear many of the hurdles that block deep space travel, including long times in transit, exorbitant costs and health risks. Click here. (4/4)

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