April 6, 2013

Embry-Riddle Campus Cast as "Starship City, USA" (Source: Lift)
Embry-Riddle's Daytona Beach campus provided the setting for Starship City, USA--with students and faculty serving as extras--in a National Geographic Channel's program titled Evacuate Earth, which aired nationally in December. The speculative science program portrayed a neutron star explosion that threatens life on Earth, and explored the possibility of creating a giant spacecraft to save the human race.

The show highlighted Embry-Riddle laboratories and campus landmarks. Jason Kring, an assistant professor of human factors and systems, was featured as an expert source and said the show's general premise is sound. "If we detected a stellar remnant on a collision course with Earth and we had 50-100 years to plan, it's likely we could build a vessel that could save a percentage of the population," he said. (4/4)

China Conducts First Space Science Active Experiment (Source: Xinhua)
China's first space science active experiment was conducted Friday morning to study the dynamical processes of the Earth's ionosphere, a top scientific institute said. The experiment conducted at a sounding rocket launch site in Zhanzhou, south China's Hainan Province, will provide in-situ measurements for studying the vertical distribution of space environment, said Wu Ji, director of the National Space Science Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

The rocket, manufactured by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, carried three kinds of detecting instruments in the eight-minute flight, including a Langmuir probe, an electric field probe, and a barium powder releaser. The CAS's Hainan Sounding Rocket Launching Site close to the equator, was established in 1986. In addition to launching sounding rockets, it deploys more than 10 ground-based space environment observational instruments. (4/5)

Latin American Satellite Operators See No Shortage of Demand (Source: Space News)
Latin American satellite operators agree that their region’s bull market in satellite bandwidth has plenty of life left and is unlikely to be stopped by new commercial and government capacity about to be launched. In a unanimous show of optimism here during the Satellite 2013 conference last month, these companies said the increased capacity will be snapped up for consumer broadband applications and for the continued demand for satellite television. (4/5)

European Laser Comm System Draws Bead on U.S. Military Market (Source: Space News)
Europe’s satellite data-relay system, which is targeting the U.S. Defense Department as a major prospective customer, is accelerating deployment this year with the launch of satellites carrying laser terminals to low Earth orbit and to geostationary orbit.

For Astrium Services, which is developing the European Data Relay Service (EDRS) in partnership with the 20-nation European Space Agency (ESA), the push to attract U.S. military interest will include laser-communications tests between a satellite and a ground station installed on Mount Wilson in California. (4/5)

NASA Planetary Science Bracing for Brunt of Sequester (Source: Space News)
As NASA begins to apportion the 5 percent budget cut mandated under sequestration, parts of the U.S. space agency are being asked to cough up more so that others can cough up less or be spared altogether, a senior NASA official told an advisory panel April 4.

NASA’s Planetary Science Division, which Congress favored with a $200 million increase in the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013 (H.R. 933) that President Barack Obama signed into law March 26, is expected to lose most if not all of that money as sequestration siphons some $900 million off the agency’s enacted $17.5 billion top line. (4/5)

Report Says Cost of GPS Ground Segment Has Grown by $1B (Source: Space News)
Continuing a trend that has long hampered U.S. military space programs, the projected cost of a next-generation ground-control system for the U.S. Air Force’s GPS navigation constellation has grown by $1 billion in the last year, according to a report by Congress’ watchdog agency.

In a report released March 28, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said the contractor on the GPS Operational Control Segment (OCX), Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems of Aurora, Colo., underestimated the scope and complexity of key program elements. The report, “Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs,” said the OCX issue is typical of the of ground-segment development struggles that have plagued Pentagon space programs for years. (4/5)

Boeing Exec Says Sequestration May Force Contract Changes (Source: Space News)
Sequestration could force the U.S. Air Force to renegotiate some of its fixed-price satellite manufacturing contracts unless the service can find a way to restore the funding, according to a senior industry official. Boeing's Roger Krone emphasized that his company has received no direction from the Air Force and that his preference is to not have to reopen existing contracts. But it might be necessary if programs being managed under fixed-price contracts are forced to absorb an 8 percent sequestration budget cut.

Because of their complexity, government satellite programs typically are managed under so-called cost-plus contracts, whereby the customer bears most of the risk of cost growth. But when a program moves into a repetitive production phase, the government often moves to fixed-price arrangements that are typical of commercial satellite contracts, whereby the manufacturer is responsible for covering any cost overruns. (4/5)

The Planet That Wasn't (Source: Science)
When astronomers saw red dwarf KOI-256--about 400 light-years away in the constellation Draco—-dim every 28 hours or so, they first thought that a Jupiter-sized planet was passing in front. But upon looking closer at the Kepler space telescope data, they were surprised by how sharply the light dipped. Sensing something strange, the astronomers measured how much the red dwarf wobbled from the object's gravitational pull and found it wobbling 1000 times more intensely than it should. It turned out that the "planet" was actually a collapsed star. (4/5)

Boeing Completes Commercial Crew Launch Vehicle Adapter Review (Source: NASA)
Boeing, a NASA Commercial Crew Program (CCP) partner, has successfully completed a preliminary design review (PDR) of the component that would connect the company's new crew capsule to its rocket. The review is one of six performance milestones Boeing has completed for NASA's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative. The company is on track to complete all 19 of its milestones during CCiCap.

The component that was reviewed is called the Launch Vehicle Adapter. The critical structure is being designed by United Launch Alliance (ULA) to join Boeing's Crew Space Transportation-100 (CST-100) spacecraft to ULA's Atlas V rocket, just above the rocket's second stage. In recent weeks, teams from NASA, Boeing and ULA met at ULA's headquarters in Denver, Colo., to assess requirements and capabilities to safely launch people into low-Earth orbit from U.S. soil once again. (4/5)

NASA Selects Explorer Investigations for Formulation (Source: NASA)
NASA's Astrophysics Explorer Program has selected two missions for launch in 2017: a planet-hunting satellite and an International Space Station instrument to observe X-rays from stars. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) were among four concept studies submitted in September 2012. NASA determined these two offer the best scientific value and most feasible development plans.

TESS will use an array of telescopes to perform an all-sky survey to discover transiting exoplanets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, in orbit around the nearest and brightest stars in the sky. Its goal is to identify terrestrial planets in the habitable zones of nearby stars. Its principal investigator is George Ricker of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

NICER will be mounted on the space station and measure the variability of cosmic X-ray sources, a process called X-ray timing, to explore the exotic states of matter within neutron stars and reveal their interior and surface compositions. The principal investigator is Keith Gendreau of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. (4/5)

Jupiter's Moon Europa May Hold Ingredients for Life (Source: Pasadena Sun)
Hydrogen peroxide is used to clean counter tops here on Earth, but Jupiter’s moon Europa may use it for a more important endeavor — to supply energy to simple life forms. Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Caltech proposed the theory in a paper recently published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

"Life as we know it needs liquid water, elements like carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur, and it needs some form of chemical or light energy to get the business of life done," JPL scientist Kevin Hand said in a statement. "Europa has the liquid water and elements, and we think that compounds like peroxide might be an important part of the energy requirement. “ (4/5)

Georgia County Considers Spaceport Incentives (Source: Tribune & Georgian)
Camden County commissioners will be working Tuesday toward making southeast Georgia more attractive to spaceport recruiters. A scheduled 5 p.m. work session will aim to establish an enterprise zone at the former Bayer CropScience site at the end of Harrietts Bluff, where private space exploration company SpaceX is considering a new launch site.

The Coastal Regional Commission will be at the session to present and explain the incentives associated with creating an enterprise zone, some of which include property tax exemptions and reductions in occupational taxes, building permit fees and other costs that accrue for new businesses.

County administrator Steve Howard said that an enterprise zone is "a smart thing to have for the future of that site" regardless of whether the 4,000-acre parcel is chosen by SpaceX. He added that the state recommended this plan as a way to better recruit a space company to the area. (4/5)

2014: Most Strenuous Year in Building Vostochny Spaceport (Source: Itar-Tass)
The year 2014 will be most strenuous in building Russia’s new Vostochny spaceport, Minister for the Development of the Far East and presidential envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District Viktor Ishayev said. He said the maximum amount of work is scheduled for 2014 when 7,000 people will be employed in the project.

Ishayev visited the construction site on Thursday, April 4. He noted that “work is only getting underway and there are 3,700 people currently employed here but their number will soon grow to 7,000.” The envoy said his visit was a routine one and its results would be reported to President Vladimir Putin. (4/5)

Solar Sail Could Open Space Exploration Opportunity (Source: Clean Energy Authority)
NASA’s upcoming demonstration of the 13,000-square-foot Sunjammer solar sail could be just the beginning for the technology. Nathan Barns, Chief Operating Officer for L’Garde – the company that developed the solar sail – said it’s a technology that could revolutionize space measurements and exploration. The demonstration sail will go to a spot about 1.5 million kilometers from earth, where there is equilibrium in the sun’s and earth’s gravity.

The sail will keep the demonstration equipment steady and allow it to measure solar flares and try to learn enough about them to one day be able to predict them. That’s a cool demonstration project, Barnes said. But the solar sail could actually make much more exotic space missions possible.

“We could go a little closer to the sun,” he said. “We could go 3 million kilometers, twice the distance, and we’d be in the sun’s gravity.” But the solar sail could blow the equipment back from the sun to keep the firey ball from consuming it indefinitely. There is no end to how long the sail could sustain a location, Barnes said. Previously, space craft would need massive fuel tanks, which could be vulnerable to the heat so close to the sun, and which wouldn’t last forever. (4/5)

Space Aeronautics Internship Program at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: FSGC)
The Florida Space Grant Consortium (FSGC) and Space Florida (SF) have partnered in a STEM Summer Internship Program at the Space Life Sciences Laboratory (SLSL) in Exploration Park at KSC. This trial program in 2013 will comprise up to 4 SLSL research project interns. This is a paid internship of $5,000 for the 10-week program that will commence on June 3, and conclude on August 9.
The goal of the Internship program will be to train and recruit Florida science/engineering students into the aerospace & aviation workforce as future employees, while encouraging further study and academic achievement. Particular emphasis will be directed towards building and strengthening allegiances between Space Florida, Florida Space Grant Consortium, NASA-KSC, Florida Universities, as well as Space Life Sciences Laboratory & Exploration Park tenants. Click here. (4/5)

Effect of Sequester is Subtle So Far, Some Say (Source: CBS)
The U.S. economy does not appear to be taking a grave hit from the sequestration cuts, some experts say, and that may be partly due to a delay in their implementation and the fact that agencies have some leeway in how they're carried out. "The cutbacks are still real, they'll be identifiable," said Stephen Fuller, director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University. "But I don't think they'll be as noticeable to John Doe Citizen. They'll be spread out and more likely absorbed within the expanding economy." (4/4)

Brain Initiative: Alzheimer's Experiment on the Way (Source: Alzheimer's Weekly)
A University of Florida experiment is on its way to the International Space Station. In the weightlessness of space, it will allow scientists to control the culprit behind Alzheimer's, amyloid fibril assembly. Shaohua Xu's theory on the genesis of Alzheimer's disease, both controversial and praised, is a dramatic departure from conventional wisdom. Medical researchers familiar with his work, however, believe that his hypothesis is ground-breaking.

In his research, Xu found that Alzheimer's begins when molecules of a normal brain cell protein called "tau" do something abnormal: they join to form tangled fibers that the cell cannot remove. The fibers accumulate until essential substances cannot move through the cell and the cell dies. Advocates of Xu's theory include KSC physician Daniel Woodard, the first medical doctor to review the research. He says, "Shaohua's theory is revolutionary; his evidence is overwhelming. The medical implications are beyond anything in my experience."

Xu has conitnued his work with former astronaut Sam Durrance at Florida Tech. They recently won a grant enabling the next stage of their experiment to travel on a flight to the International Space Station. Their proposal, “Self-Assembly in Biology and the Origin of Life (SABOL): A Study into Alzheimer’s,” was just one of eight proposals chosen by Space Florida and NanoRacks, LLC, in the ISS Research Competition. Click here. (2/24)

Senator: NASA to Lasso Asteroid, Bring it Closer (Source: Politico)
NASA is planning for a robotic spaceship to lasso a small asteroid and park it near the moon for astronauts to explore, a top senator revealed Friday. The robotic ship would capture the 500-ton 25-foot asteroid in 2019. Then using an Orion space capsule, now being developed, a crew of about four astronauts would nuzzle up next to the rock in 2021 for spacewalking exploration.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL, said the plan would speed up by four years the existing mission to land astronauts on an asteroid by bringing the space rock closer to Earth. Nelson, who is chairman of the Senate science and space subcommittee, said Friday that President Obama is putting $100 million in planning money for the accelerated asteroid mission in the 2014 budget that comes out next week. The money would be used to find the right small asteroid. Click here. (4/5)

NASA Partners with Minnesota Company to Take Over KSC Hangar (Source: Florida Today)
A Minnesota company will take over a local NASA facility and its inspection equipment, preserving it for potential future use on space systems. PaR Systems Inc. signed a 15-year lease to take over operations and maintenance of Hangar N, a NASA facility located on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Hangar N specialized in non-destructive test and evaluation, or NDE. It is among the facilities once supported by the space shuttle program for which NASA has sought new commercial or government users.

Based in Shoreview, outside Minneapolis, PaR Systems is a privately held business specializing in process automation, robotic solutions and services for critical applications in demanding environments, NASA said. The company will initially employ eight people at KSC. (4/5)

Sequester Continues to Impact NASA Glenn, Brook Park (Source: Cleveland Sun News)
As the sequester soldiers on, NASA continues to shoulder some of the mandatory federal spending cuts.
How those cuts will effect individual centers, like Brook Park’s NASA Glenn Research Center, is still being determined. In recent months, Representative Marcy Kaptur has trumpeted the loss of 150 jobs and major programs as a result of the sequester. NASA officials have not confirmed those numbers and remain fairly mum on all things sequester related.

Glenn is Brook Park’s largest employer, with about 3,200 employees, including regular staff and contractors. Allard Beutel a NASA representative did say that the organization has “notified contractors, grantees, cooperative agreement holders and Space Act Agreement holders that sequestration may impact current and future agreements they have with the agency.”

Steve Fought, a spokesman for Kaptur, said that everyone should have a clearer idea of how the sequester will cut into Glenn budgets on April 10 when President Barack Obama releases the administration’s budget. Fought added that the Glenn job loss Kaptur has talked about, cuts of 150-175 jobs and a pair of major research programs being lost, are approximations based off of conversations with NASA workers and Washington officials. (4/5)

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