April 9, 2013

South Texas Spaceport Authority Holds First Meeting (Source: Brownsville Herald)
The Cameron County Space Port Development Corp. was launched Monday when its board of directors held its first meeting at the Dancy Building. The purpose of the non-profit body is to facilitate establishment of the aerospace industry in Cameron County, starting with the rocket launch site that SpaceX aims to build. Despite competition from Florida, Georgia and Puerto Rico, Texas is the leading contender for the project, Musk has said.

Bruce Hodge, general counsel for Cameron County Commissioners Court, walked the seven-member board through some of the intricacies of electing officers, enacting bylaws, and so on. Hodge cautioned the board members that they’re subject to all laws regarding open meetings, public records and other statutes that pertain to county governance. The board is required to meet at least once a quarter. Members settled on the first Tuesday of every month as their regular meeting date. The next meeting is scheduled for May 7.

“The function of the Space Port Corporation is to be able to attract economic development opportunities within the statutes and laws of the state of Texas, and be able to do some things creatively that currently the Commissioners Court is not able to do, such as tap into the (Texas Spaceport Trust Fund), and work on issues regarding property and real estate,” he said. (4/9)

Green 'Mercury Meteorite' Too Old to Have Come From Innermost Planet? (Source: Space.com)
A strange green space rock hailed as perhaps the first meteorite ever discovered from Mercury may be too old to have come from the solar system's innermost planet, some scientists say. Last month, scientists announced that the green-hued meteorite NWA 7325 shares many chemical similarities with Mercury, suggesting it may be the first known visitor from the small, sun-scorched planet.

But NWA 7325's advanced age -- it's thought to be more than 4.5 billion years old -- casts some doubt on this interpretation, some scientists have stressed, citing the example of Earth's moon to help make their point. A test with the potential to be particularly informative would assess NWA 7325's levels of "cosmogenic radionuclides," unstable atoms generated by exposure to cosmic radiation. "If this stone had exceedingly high cosmogenic nuclides, that would be an argument for it coming from Mercury, because Mercury is so close to the sun," Korotev said. (4/8)

Radarsat 1 Stricken by Technical Failure (Source: SpaceRef)
Radarsat 1 has experienced a technical anomaly on orbit which may leave it permanently impaired. As a result of the technical problem which occurred March 29, the spacecraft entered into "safe mode", a semi-dormant state by which the spacecraft conserves energy. This provides the technical team at the Canadian Space Agency's (CSA) time to investigate and assess any necessary remedial action. (4/9)

Colorado's Aerospace Industry at the Center of Space Exploration (Source: CO Space Coalition)
With the retirement of NASA's space shuttle program and a shrinking national budget, it would be easy to assume that the future of mankind's race to space has come to a standstill. But in reality, private companies are forging ahead to develop programs and spacecraft that allow the future of space exploration and human spaceflight to not only stay in orbit - but travel way beyond.

This collaboration is most apparent in Colorado, which ranks first in the nation for its concentration of private aerospace employees and which has seen a remarkable 19.3 percent increase in its aerospace economy over the last decade. "Colorado is a mile closer to space and home to some of the nation's most innovative aerospace companies including United Launch Alliance (ULA), Sierra Nevada, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, and Ball Aerospace," said Tom Clark, CEO of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. (4/9)

Is Mars for Sale? (Source: Mashable)
Early explorers risked their lives to reach the ends of the world, but not purely for the advancement of mankind. In reality, their bravery was motivated by one very powerful prospect: the possibility of wealth, be it treasure or land. Today, Mars is our land beyond the horizon — a territory that can only be reached by plunging off the edge of our flat, incomplete map. But just like setting sail to the unknown West, sending a human to Mars is enormously expensive, not to mention dangerous, perhaps even deadly.

But even with the clear risks, people are sinking millions into private Mars colonization projects. Will they eventually pull a King Ferdinand and claim Martian land as their own? "There aren't really any laws that have been tested and widely adopted with respect to extraterrestrial land ownership or even ownership of the stuff that we bring back," says Andrew Rush, a space lawyer who regularly works with emerging aerospace companies.

Rush says the most applicable piece of law we have regarding real estate outside of Earth is the Outer Space Treaty, which has served as the basic framework for international space law since 1967. Article II of the treaty addresses claiming ownership of extraterrestrial property: "Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means." Click here. (4/9)

Dynamics of Large Fragments in the Tail of Active Asteroid P/2010 A2 (Source: SpaceRef)
We examine the motions of large fragments at the head of the dust tail of active asteroid P/2010 A2. In previous work we showed that these fragments were ejected from the primary nucleus in early 2009, either following a hypervelocity impact or by rotationally induced break-up.

Here, we follow their positions through a series of Hubble Space Telescope images taken during the first half of 2010. The orbital evolution of each fragment allows us to constrain its velocity relative to the main nucleus after leaving its sphere of gravitational influence. We find that the fragments constituting a prominent X-shaped tail feature were emitted in a direction opposite to the motion of the asteroid and towards the south of its orbital plane.

Derived emission velocities of these primary fragments range between 0.02 and 0.3 m/s, comparable to the ~0.08 m/s gravitational escape speed from the nucleus. Their sizes are on the order of decimeters or larger. We obtain the best fits to our data with ejection velocity vectors lying in a plane that includes the nucleus. This may suggest that the cause of the disruption of P/2010 A2 is rotational break-up. (4/9)

DigitalGlobe Acquires Tomnod Crowd-sourced Data Operation (Source: Space News)
Imaging satellite operator DigitalGlobe of Colorado announced April 8 it has acquired Tomnod, a Web-based operation that uses crowd-sourced information to add value to imagery. In a posting on its website, DigitalGlobe said the acquisition is not material to the company’s financials but that it supports DigitalGlobe’s vision of being the “indispensable source” of information about the planet. (4/9)

KSC Hosts State and Federal Transportation Officials for Intermodal Discussion (Source: NASA KSC)
Whether there are rocket boosters arriving by rail or barge, motors and space station supplies by truck, or satellites and spacecraft by plane, NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida is bustling with new spaceport activities. U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) representatives learned March 27 that Florida's Space Coast is a hub for intermodal space transportation.

During a day of briefings and tours hosted by Space Florida, an aerospace economic development agency, the transportation group learned about how the state is working to grow and diversify its aerospace industry. "We serve as the state's spaceport authority, just like an airport or seaport authority," said Frank DiBello, president and chief executive officer of Space Florida. "We are also responsible for development and growth of the aerospace industry in the state."

Trey Carlson of the Center Planning and Development Directorate at Kennedy presented elements of NASA's master plan to the FHWA and FDOT representatives. Carlson, who is Kennedy's master planner, said the agency currently is studying how best to use the facilities available at the center. Carlson explained that Kennedy is, once again, making great strides to transform as evolves from an historically government-only launch facility to a multiuser spaceport for both government and commercial customers. (4/9)

Recovery Prospects Low for Dormant Radarsat-1 (Source: Space News)
The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) announced April 9 that the country’s Radarsat-1 satellite has experienced technical problems that could hinder its future performance. The CSA said in a statement that the unspecified “technical anomaly” happened March 29 and it has put the spacecraft into “safe mode”, a semi-dormant state by which it conserves energy.

Radarsat-1 was launched in 1995 and has been seen as a technological success story for Canada’s space sector. According to the CSA it has surpassed its expected lifetime by 12 years. Government and commercial users of Radarsat-1 have been advised that no new orders for imagery are being accepted, but that requests for archival images will continue to be processed, the CSA added. (4/9)

Addressing the Challenges of Space Security (Source: Space News)
Over the past three years, we have begun numerous space security discussions with foreign governments. These include discussions with traditional allies like France, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan, as well as with new partners such as South Africa, Brazil and India. We have also had a robust discussion with the Russian Federation on space security. Engaging China on space security is extremely important, and we continue efforts to do so.

We have also been working with the European Union (EU) and like-minded nations to develop an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities. The United States believes that a code of conduct would provide concrete benefits for the long-term sustainability, security, safety and stability of the space environment. For example, a nonlegally binding code would provide pragmatic, near-term solutions by establishing guidelines for responsible behavior in space, in order to reduce the hazards of accidental and intentional debris-generating events. (4/9)

Editorial: Living with Sequestration (Source: Space News)
There’s a parallel to be drawn between the specter of a killer asteroid bearing down on Earth, something that’s gotten a lot of attention of late, and the indiscriminate U.S. federal budget cuts known as sequestration that took effect March 1. In both cases — one a remote possibility, the other an immediate reality — authorities see disaster coming but are unable to prevent it.

But unlike the celestial doomsday scenario, where the rogue space rock is detected too late to mount an effective defense, there was more than enough time to avert sequestration, a misguided policy that was set in agonizingly slow motion by the White House and Congress over a year-and-a-half ago. Congress simply chose to do nothing as the sequestration deadline inched closer, while the White House shrugged its shoulders and pointed fingers.

It also turns out that sequestration, while certainly painful, is not quite the budgetary Armageddon that many U.S. government officials, particularly in the Department of Defense, made it out to be. Had the Pentagon reacted to the impending cuts with a solid contingency plan — as opposed to hyperbole and denial — it might not be furloughing workers at the moment. (4/8)

Editorial: Make Way for a New Generation in Space (Source: Space News)
Space is an aging industry that benefits from the wealth of information brought about by the decades of experience of its current leaders. It is also an industry that generally relies on verified “space proven” methods over newer untested technologies that harbor unknown risks. While the already proven methods and technologies are crucial in bringing reliability to an inherently risky industry, it is also important not to ignore new and emerging ideas and approaches.

we should take care of the newcomers, those who live in the “space generation” but are losing track of it. National space programs tried hard to push for exploration beyond low Earth orbit; we landed on Mars and even went to the edge of our solar system. But it is not enough. There is a lack of attraction among the general public; the “wow effect” that inspired the first generation is gone, replaced by many other things.

This “new generation” (we have not found our name yet) has the knowledge and the technology. So then what happens? The world has evolved very fast, faster than politics, law and sometimes society itself. Space, as I mentioned, still relies on the “space proven” methods, but the world is moving faster, and if we do not get into the rhythm, it will pass. The space program will remain as a dream lost in the past generations; the new ones will settle into what we inherited and we will live happily ever after, just orbiting in a collapsed low Earth orbit and geostationary orbit. (4/8)

Alien Megaprojects: The Hunt has Begun (Source: New Scientist)
Aliens: where are you? Our hopes of finding intelligent companionship seem to be constantly receding. Mars and Venus are not the richly populated realms we once guessed at. The icy seas of the outer solar system may hold life, but almost certainly no more than microbes. And the search for radio signals from more distant extraterrestrials has so frustrated some astronomers that they are suggesting we shout out an interstellar "Hello", in the hope of prodding the dozy creatures into a response.

So maybe we need to think along different lines. Rather than trying to intercept alien communications, perhaps we should go looking for alien artefacts. There have already been a handful of small-scale searches, but now three teams of astronomers are setting out to scan a much greater volume of space. Two groups hope to see the shadows of alien industry in fluctuating starlight. (4/9)

Brightman: Space Love Influences New Album (Source: BBC)
Singer Sarah Brightman says she has been fascinated with the idea of space travel since man first landed on the moon and now she is training to be a cosmonaut. The 52-year-old, who is hoping to make a trip to the International Space Station, says her new album Dreamchaser is influenced by her love a of space travel. Brightman told BBC Breakfast that she has created "space moments" throughout her music career. (4/9)

SeaLaunch in Talks With Five New Customers (Source: RIA Novosti)
RKK Energia is in talks with five prospective customers to launch aboard "Sea Launch", said the president-general designer of Energia Vitaly Lopota. "Five more customers began negotiations" - Lopota said at a news conference in Moscow. (4/9)

New Launch Control Facility Planned at Virginia Spaceport (Source: SpaceRef)
The Army Corps of Engineers has issued a solicitation to identify qualified small business concerns that are interested in and capable of performing a firm fixed priced contract for the Design-Build construction of a 16,000 square foot Mission Launch Control Center located at the Wallops Flight Facility. The primary functions of the building are support of the mission launch control for Launch Pad A and Launch Pad B, and launch control for Sounding Rockets Program Office. (4/8)

Readings from NASA's Curiosity Rover Show Mars is Losing its Air (Source: NBC)
Scientists say new readings from NASA's Curiosity rover have confirmed how Mars lost its once-thick atmosphere. The measurements from Curiosity's Sample Analysis at Mars instrument, or SAM, provide fresh support for the view that a high-velocity stream of electrically charged particles from the sun has been stripping off Mars' atmosphere from the top. Mars is more vulnerable to that kind of atmospheric loss than Earth because it doesn't have a global magnetic field to serve as a shield against the solar wind. (4/9)

Australian Government Launches 'First National Space Policy' (Source: ABC Radio)
The Federal Government has launched what it describes as Australia's first space policy at Mount Stromlo in Canberra. The launch showcased 14 Australian space research projects, funded by a $40 million Federal Government investment to support space-related research, education and innovation activities. The ANU is one six universities in Australia to receive the funding boost. Minister Assisting for Industry and Innovation Kate Lundy says the money will go towards developing technology to make satellites run more effectively. (4/9)

At 50, Wildlife Refuge Demonstrates Compatibility With Launch Activity (Source: Florida Today)
The 140,000-acre Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, set aside by NASA as a buffer for launch operations at KSC, has become proof to many that high-tech and wildlife can coexist. NASA asked for appropriations for the early land buys on Merritt Island in 1961 to support the Apollo program. The land would eventually become the Kennedy Space Center.

The space agency bought much of the Merritt Island refuge’s land for more launch pads that never materialized. Naturalist Allan Cruickshank, who worked for the Audubon Society, prodded NASA officials to let the Fish and Wildlife Service take over managing the lands. This year, the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge marks 50 years of wildlife protection around the Kennedy Space Center.

Editor's Note: The refuge is indeed proof that launch activities can be conducted in a manner that protects the nearby environment. The refuge is home to a great number of protected species, attracts one million visitors annually, and serves as an extremely well-instrumented site for environmental monitoring and research. Space Florida seeks about 150 of the 140,000 acres for a "Shiloh" launch complex that would continue this tradition of stewardship. (4/9)

ISRO Planning First Privately Built PSLV Launch in 5 Years (Source: Indian Express)
Moving forward on its plans to rope in the industry in its activities, ISRO is looking towards the launch of the first privately built rocket in the next five years. The Indian Space Research Organization has embarked on hiving off production of communication satellites and polar satellite launch vehicles (PSLVs) to the industry.

"We are now setting up a national committee to work out the modalities on how to go about it," ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan said when asked about the agency's plans to rope in the industry for producing PSLVs and communication satellites. "My target is five years from now on. Five years from now the first PSLV will roll out from that entity," Radhakrishnan said. (4/8)

Astronaut Joins Dream Chaser Team (Source: Boulder County Business Report)
Former NASA astronaut Lee Archambault has joined Sierra Nevada Corp.'s Dream Chaser team as a chief systems engineer and test pilot. SNC is designing and building the Dream Chaser at its space systems division headquarters in Colorado. About 150 employees are working on Dream Chaser, with most based in Louisville, CO. (4/8)

Combating the Asteroid Threat (Source: USA Today)
Asked a few weeks ago at a Congressional hearing what we could do if we had a few weeks' warning of an incoming asteroid, NASA chief Charles Bolden said: "pray." This isn't the place for a faith-based initiative. But things are looking up. Step one in protecting the Earth from an asteroid threat is to find the asteroids that might hit us. NASA has been looking for the really big ones -- the "civilization killers" that are 1000 meters or more across -- and has probably found most of them by now.

But what about the ones that aren't that big, but that would nonetheless produce an earth-shattering kaboom measured in the megatons or hundreds of megatons if they struck? In that area, we're starting to see more action. First, a nonprofit, the B612 Foundation, is working to launch an infrared space telescope, called Sentinel, that will spot over 90% of asteroids over 140 meters, and a significant number of smaller ones. Click here. (4/8)

ITT Exelis Building Weather Sensor for S. Korean Satellite (Source: Space News)
ITT Exelis will build an advanced weather sensor for a South Korean satellite program under what the company said is a multimillion-dollar contract. The sensor is a variant of the Advanced Baseline Imager developed for the U.S. government’s civilian Geostationary-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-R program, the company said. Dubbed the Advanced Meteorological Imager (AMI), the sensor will fly on South Korea’s geostationary-orbiting Geo-Kompsat 2A satellite, slated for a 2017 launch. (4/8)

Boeing Phantom Works Designs New Small-satellite Offering (Source: Space News)
Boeing Phantom Works, the research arm of the U.S. aerospace giant’s sprawling defense business, is introducing a new line of small-satellite platforms featuring common avionics and software in hopes of tapping what company officials see as a multibillion-dollar market in the years ahead. The Phantom Phoenix line of platforms would range anywhere from several to 1,000 kilograms in weight and could be adapted for short-term experiments or operational missions lasting up to seven years or more.

The demand Boeing sees is mostly within the U.S. Defense Department and intelligence agencies. The company also is betting that the so-called disaggregation of space, whereby big multimission satellites are replaced by constellations of smaller, cheaper spacecraft, becomes a reality. “We can project markets in 10, maybe 15 years that are in the double-digit billions of dollars,” Darryl Davis, president of St. Louis-based Phantom Works, said in an April 2 interview. “That’s what drives us to do this. (4/8)

Teenage 'Astronaut Abby' Raising Money to Teach Kids About Space (Source: Space.com)
A 15-year-old girl wants to go to outer space, and you can help her get there. Abigail Harrison wants to be the first astronaut to go to Mars, but first, she is going to see her mentor, astronaut Luca Parmitano, launch to the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in May of this year. Harrison is hoping to raise $35,000 through the crowdfunding website Rockethub.com to help her travel the United States, bringing her experience in Kazakhstan to kids around the country.

"Astronaut Abby" (Harrison's nickname) wants to get other teens and younger children involved in the sciences through her trip. You can contribute to Astronaut Abby's campaign through Rockethub. So far, she has raised $8,140 of her $35,000 goal with 40 days left to go. She is also chronicling the project on her Astronaut Abby website and via Twitter @AstronautAbby. (4/8)

Commercial Spaceflight Companies Will Revolutionize Space Science (Source: Scientific American)
One of the most vexing problems in space research is that so little has changed in 50 years about the way we get to space. Consequently, space access remains both expensive and rare. It has still not reached the stage where scientists can themselves routinely travel there to conduct research, unlike oceanographers, who routinely reach the deep ocean, or geophysicists, who venture to the poles.

All this is poised to change. The advent of for-profit commercial spaceflight—most recently highlighted by the successful launches of the Dragon space cargo capsule, built and operated by SpaceX, to the International Space Station (ISS)—will likely transform space research. Scientists will enjoy lower launch costs, far more frequent access to space and the opportunity to personally run their experiments in orbit.

These advances will not only help the big space research enterprises at NASA and the Japanese and the European space agencies, they will also probably make space access affordable to a broad, global base of nations, academic institutions and corporations. (4/8)

Russia’s Space Program to Focus on Landing Missions (Source: RIA Novosti)
Landing missions to celestial bodies in the Solar System will form the backbone of Russia’s space research program in the coming decades, a prominent Russian expert said Monday. “We’ve found our direction, our niche,” Lev Zelyony, the director of the Institute of Space Research at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said at a press conference in Moscow.

The Soviet Union has a track record of successfully landing unmanned probes on celestial bodies, including two moon rovers as well as a number of probes to Venus, an achievement that has not been reproduced since by any other space agency to date. However, Russia’s space program was largely halted after the Soviet Union’s collapse, though it is gradually being redeveloped on a smaller scale, Zelyony said. (4/8)

New NASA Mission to Probe Celestial Lighthouses (Source: SEN)
Spinning in space are incredibly dense stars that shoot out X-rays at a predictable rate, like a lighthouse. A new NASA mission proposes to examine the nature of these neutron stars - also known as 'pulsars' - as well as how accurately we can use these beacons as celestial guiding points for deep space missions. Called NICER (Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer) the mission will use X-rays to look at emissions from these strange stars. The instrument will launch in 2017. It will be mounted on the International Space Station for observations from low Earth orbit. (4/9)

Intraterrestrials: Mars Life May Hide Deep Below (Source: Discovery)
Almost every month we see news dispatches from Mars, where the nuclear-powered rover Curiosity finds water-bearing minerals in rocks and other circumstantial clues that the Red Planet could have once supported life. But in terms of finding direct evidence of past or present Martians, the rover barely scratches the surface, says geochemist Jan Amend.

Curiosity’s drill can, at best, penetrate a few inches into the crust of Mars rock. Amend’s guess is that life has buried itself deep into the Martian crust a half-mile or more beneath the withering orange surface. Even if the ancient streams or lakes on Mars evaporated, there could very likely still be substantial reservoirs of water, in either liquid or frozen form, in the subsurface. Click here. (4/8)

Gagarin's Spaceplane Quest (Source: Discovery)
Cosmonauts and cosmonaut candidates went through a special course at the Zhukovsky Academy to complete their Pilot-Engineer-Cosmonaut Diploma. To graduate, cosmonauts had to study all aspects of spaceflight and write a thesis in an area of their choosing. It was similar to an American PhD dissertation in that they would have to defend their work before their committee of teachers and tutors in both a written and an oral exam. For his work and thesis at Zhukovsky, Gagarin took on one of the hardest technical problems: designing a practical and reusable orbital spaceplane.

Gagarin recognized that the Soviet Vostok and Voskhod capsules were limited, much like NASA’s Mercury and Gemini spacecraft were. Owing to the damage caused by the heat shield burning away during atmospheric reentry, the capsules could only be used once. And without a proper landing system, there was no option but for cosmonauts to either eject or stay in their descent module and hope their landing rockets fired to give them a soft landing. Click here. (4/8)

For Private Manned Mars Mission, It's Make-or-Break Time (Source: Space.com)
Progress made during the next year or so will determine whether a private manned Mars mission can get off the ground in 2018 as planned, its organizers say. The pressure is on the nonprofit Inspiration Mars Foundation, which intends to launch two astronauts on a flyby mission around the Red Planet in January 2018. If the team misses this window, the next one won't open until 2031, when Earth and Mars are again suitably aligned for a fast roundtrip trek. Click here. (4/8)

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