May 1, 2013

NASA Says Space Station's Batteries Safer Than 787's (Source:
NASA officials are confident lithium-ion batteries due to launch to the International Space Station in 2016 will not overheat like the batteries that grounded the Boeing 787 Dreamliner earlier this year. The space station's existing nickel-hydrogen are up for replacement in a few years, and NASA managers selected more efficient lithium-ion batteries for the job.

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne - NASA's space station battery contractor - tapped GS Yuasa Lithium Power Inc., a U.S.-based subsidiary of GS Yuasa Corp. of Japan, to supply the cells for the space station's next-generation lithium-ion batteries. GS Yuasa is also the supplier for batteries used on the Boeing 787 airplane, which was grounded in January after batteries aboard two of the jumbo jets smoldered and caught fire. (4/30)

Former Members of Congress Hold Hearings on Extraterrestrials (Source: Daily Caller)
Six former members of Congress began holding a hearing Monday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., about the government’s supposed knowledge of extraterrestrial life. The hearings are expected to last 30 hours over the next five days. “The Citizen Hearing on Disclosure will attempt to accomplish what the U.S. Congress has failed to do for forty-five years – seek out the facts surrounding the most important issue of this or any other time,” said project’s website.

The members presiding over the hearing include former Michigan Democratic Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick, former Utah Republican Rep. Merrill Cook and former Alaska Democratic Sen. Mike Gravel, who attempted to win the Libertarian Party presidential nomination in 2008. Other members of the committee include former Maryland Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, former Oregon Democratic Rep. Darlene Hooley and former California Democratic Rep. Lynn Woolsey. (5/1)

US Airmen: ‘Aliens’ Messed with US, Soviet Nukes (Source: RIA Novosti)
In the midst of the Cold War on several occasions, nuclear missiles at US Air Force bases were mysteriously shut down, according to US servicemen who said they witnessed the failure of the heavily guarded missile systems. But they don’t blame America’s Cold War enemy, the Soviet Union; they say aliens from space did it.

“This was something Russia could have developed, but it turns out they didn’t develop this and we don’t have it either – to be able to shut down nuclear weapons with a beam of light,” David Scott, a former sergeant in the US Air Force, said at a conference in Washington on encounters with extraterrestrials. Scott and three retired Air Force officers told a panel of six former members of the US Congress at the conference about their experiences with extraterrestrial “visitors” who meddled with US nuclear weapons systems.

The conference, called the Citizen Hearing on Disclosure, is sponsored by the UFO truth organization Paradigm Research Group and is being held in the style of Congressional hearings, with time limits for witness testimony, question and answer sessions with former members of Congress, and statements entered into the record. About 40 international researchers, military and scientific witnesses are scheduled to testify, with some providing what they say is evidence of an alien presence on Earth. The former lawmakers listening to the testimony are each being paid $20,000 to attend the hearings. (5/1)

First Astrium Eurostar Satellite Sets In-Orbit Longevity Record (Source: Spaceref)
The first Eurostar satellite, Inmarsat-2 F1, designed and built by Astrium, Europe's leading space technology company, was retired from operational service this week and safely decommissioned after it had completed a long and flawless mission in geostationary orbit. It operated for 22.5 years - far outliving its projected life-span of 10 years.

Launched in October 1990, Inmarsat 2 F1 was the first ever Astrium's Eurostar satellite, and the first commercial satellite in the world to rely entirely on a digital system which could be reprogrammed in orbit. Operators benefited from a new concept in the ease of satellite operations, with solar sailing and autonomy providing a much reduced risk of operational errors, resulting in an excellent availability record for this class of satellite. (5/1)

NASA Selects Phase-2 Small Business Technology Transfer Projects (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected 14 proposals from small business and research institution teams to continue development of innovative technologies that are needed for future NASA missions and could become viable commercial products and services. The Phase II selectees in NASA's Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program may enter negotiations for possible contract awards, worth a combined total of approximately $9.8 million. High-tech firms in seven states submitted proposals in partnership with research institutions in nine states.

Two of the projects involve Florida companies and a university. Melbourne-based Gordon Nelson and Associates will work with Florida Tech on "New Flexible FR Polyurethane Foams for Energy Absorption Applications"; and Keystone Synergistic Enterprises of Port Saint Lucie will work with Mississippi State University on "Closed-Loop Control of the Thermal Stir Welding Process to Enable Rapid Process/Part Qualification." (5/1)

House Republicans Want $250M for East Coast Missile Shield (Source: Defense News)
A controversial East Coast missile shield is receiving new momentum from 16 House Republicans who want the Pentagon to spend up to $250 million on design, development and procurement for the system. The Republicans have sent a letter to Rep. Bill Young, R-FL, chairman of the House appropriations committee's defense subcommittee, telling him of the plans. The backers of the shield say threats from North Korea and Iran make the project necessary, while the White House and Democrat lawmakers say it's unneeded.

Editor's Note: This keeps popping up. While [some] lawmakers struggle to right-size the nation's budget, the demand for often unneeded DOD spending remains a major problem. This East Coast missile defense effort is another example of a costly solution in search of a problem. (Here's another one.) Of course I wouldn't object to seeing a missile defense test program at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, but developing an operational capability is premature based on both technology readiness and the lack of a credible threat. (5/1)

Daytona Beach Teacher Wins Space Foundation Scholarship (Source: Space Foundation)
Lorraine Lightner, a teacher at Mainland High School in Daytona Beach, Florida, is the 2013 recipient of the Space Foundation's Dr. Catherine Pedretty Space Scholarship for Teachers. The scholarship will pay for her to travel to Colorado Springs, Colo., this summer and participate in one of our Space Across the Curriculum courses. The scholarship covers travel, meals, lodging, full tuition and fees for her to attend any one of the Space Foundation's annual teacher professional development courses.

These week-long courses are designed to help teachers use space themes in their classrooms to improve student performance in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), as well as other subject areas. Lightner plans to use the scholarship to attend Meteorology and Space Weather. "This course would be perfect for my students because it would teach me hands-on ways to engage my students in the latest technology for predicting weather," she said. Click here. (5/1)

Blue Origin Patent Raises Concerns (Source: Citizens in Space)
A new patent awarded to Seattle-based rocket company Blue Origin is raising eyebrows. U.S.Patent Number 8,408,497 was awarded on April 2. The patent covers “Launch vehicles with fixed and deployable deceleration surfaces, and/or shaped fuel tanks, and associated systems and methods.” The patent has come as a surprise to many observers since the inventions described therein are not original to Blue Origin but are based on prior art in the field of rocket design.

Drawings show an aerodynamic decelerator wrapped around the vehicle like a collar and opens like a parasol. Not only are these inventions based on prior art by other inventors, many observers also feel they are obvious to those versed in the art, which should make them unpatentable under US law. The willingness of patent inspectors to issue such dubious patents is becoming a concern to many in the industry. Click here. (5/1)

Space Studies Institute (SSI) Opens Exotic Propulsion Initiative (Source: Hobby Space)
The Space Studies Institute, whose mission is “to complete the missing technological links to make possible the productive use of the abundant resources in space”. SSI just announced that it is starting a new project with Prof. Jim Woodward of California State University Fullerton: Exotic Propulsion Initiative. Click here. (4/30)

Uwingu Launches "Adopt a Planet" Campaign (Source: Uwingu)
Uwingu has announced the launch of the world’s first ‘Adopt-a-Planet’ campaign. This open-ended campaign gives anyone in the public—worldwide—the opportunity to adopt exoplanets in astronomical databases via Uwingu’s web site at Proceeds from the naming and voting will continue to help fuel new Uwingu grants to fund space exploration, research, and education.

Astronomers have detected and confirmed over 700 planets orbiting distant stars. Called ‘exoplanets,’ these planets have been given technical names such as “HD 222582 b” by astronomers, but not memorable human-friendly names, like the constellations or comets have. Via the Adopt-a-Planet campaign, Uwingu, working with the public, plans to create names for many or even all of these fascinating, distant worlds.

In Uwingu’s Adopt-a-Planet campaign, any nominated name that reaches 1,000 votes will qualify its namer to adopt the exoplanet of their choice with that name. Winners can choose which planet they would like to name from exoplanet lists created by astronomers. Click here. (5/1)

Nine Year Old Wins Contest to Name OSIRIS-REx Target Asteroid (Source: Hobby Space)
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission will take off in 2016 on a mission to visit the near-Earth carbonaceous asteroid (101955). It will grab a sample of the object and bring it back to earth for analysis. The name 101955 is, to say the least, a bit boring. So the OSIRIS-REx mission team sponsored a contest to give it a new name. The name "Bennu" was selected. It was proposed by Mike Puzio, age 9, of North Carolina. He said

Bennu was an important avian deity in ancient Egypt and one of the symbols of the god Osiris. Egyptians usually depicted Bennu as a gray heron. The double nature of asteroids delivering life’s molecules and sometimes bringing destruction such as the recent fall in Chelyabinsk, Russia, inspired the mission name, OSIRIS-REx, and now the asteroid’s name. (5/1)

Bolden: Launching American Astronauts from U.S. Soil (Source: NASA)
NASA is committed to launching our astronauts on American spacecraft from U.S. soil as soon as possible. Since the end of our Space Shuttle Program in 2011, NASA has relied on the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) for the launch and safe return of astronauts to and from the International Space Station aboard its Soyuz spacecraft. While our Russian counterparts have been good partners, it is unacceptable that we don't currently have an American capability to launch our own astronauts.

That’s why the Obama Administration has placed such a high priority on correcting this situation. Three years ago, the Administration put forward a public-private partnership plan, the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), to ensure that American companies would be launching our astronauts from U.S. soil by 2015. It's a plan that supports the U.S. human spaceflight program, boosts our economy, and helps create good-paying American jobs. If NASA had received the President's requested funding for this plan, we would not have been forced to recently sign a new contract with Roscosmos for Soyuz transportation flights.

Because the funding for the President's plan has been significantly reduced, we now won’t be able to support American launches until 2017. Even this delayed availability will be in question if Congress does not fully support the President's fiscal year 2014 request for our Commercial Crew Program, forcing us once again to extend our contract with the Russians. Further delays in our Commercial Crew Program and its impact on our human spaceflight program are unacceptable. That’s why we need the full $821 million the President has requested in next year’s budget. Click here. (4/30)

More Than 20,000 People Apply for One-Way Ticket to Mars (Source: Ars Technica)
Interest in the Mars One project had been quite high, with the company's latest press release noting that it had received "10,000 messages from prospective applicants from over 100 countries." But that was before it started taking actual, formal, paid applications from would-be astronauts. 

Turns out that in the week since, at least 20,000 people have paid $38 to formally apply for Mars One. Various sources around the Internet are reporting that the world is full of people who wouldn't mind living out the remainder of their days in a questionable camera-stuffed habitat on Mars. Around 600 of the applicants are Chinese citizens, and it's arguable that some might not understand what they're getting into. According to China Daily, some of the prospective astronauts are a little optimistic about what they might find waiting for them once they reach their destination:

"Ma Qing, a 39-year-old bookseller, said, 'I think the chance to be part of the project is a cool way for me to change a dull daily life. Besides, the air on Mars must be much cleaner and easier to breathe.'" Spoiler alert: Mars has an average atmospheric pressure of about 0.6 percent of Earth's, measuring 0.087 psi compared to Earth's 14.7 psi. It isn't a vacuum, but it's not far off, either. Click here. (4/30)

NASA Agrees to FAA Environmental Impact Study for Shiloh Launch Site (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
NASA has given state space officials – and Volusia County supporters – reason to be a bit more optimistic about a future commercial spaceport here by allowing a key environmental study to move forward. Space Florida, a state-run economic development agency, hopes to convince NASA to give up a 150-acre site on land the federal agency owns in southern Volusia as a potential site for a vertical launch spaceport, which state officials say would bring jobs and economic development to the region.

So it was good news for the state's space agency when NASA agreed last week to let the FAA lead an environmental impact statement process on its land. With both opposition and support growing for the proposal, Space Florida hopes the Volusia County Council will send its own signal on Thursday, endorsing a resolution of support for the Volusia site. Even with the number of unemployed dropping locally, Chamber officials say the county still has an "underemployment problem" with people who graduate from local universities unable to find jobs in their field locally.

The FAA, the agency responsible for licensing spaceports, is overseeing environmental impact studies in Texas and Georgia, and released its draft statement for Musk's preferred site in Texas last week. That study stated impacts would occur during 12 launches planned each year and any test runs that take place, which could require closing public areas, such as nearby beaches, for up to 180 hours a year. In Florida, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed Tuesday it believes the spaceport would impact public use and several protected species, including the Florida scrub jay. Click here. (4/30)

Alabama Senate Passes Spaceport Bill (Source: Anniston Star)
The Alabama Senate voted 24-4 Tuesday in favor a bill to set up an organization that would work to create a spaceport in Alabama. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, said the bill would give the state a head start in the race for the limited number of remaining licenses the FAA is offering for private spaceports. "If we let another state get ahead of us, we lose our opportunity," Dial said.

Dial has long argued that Alabama should take advantage of the small but growing private spaceflight industry. Last year, he persuaded the Legislature to pass a resolution to create Spaceport Authority to study the idea of a private space industry in Alabama. Dial's new bill would replace that organization with a new Spaceport Authority within the state's Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, with power to seek grants and a mandate to study spaceport sites and seek a spaceport license.

The bill generated some skepticism from lawmakers. Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Daphne, said it reminded him of the supersonic jet debate of the 1970s. "If we can't fly a supersonic plane between Paris and New York and make money, we're not going to make money from a spaceport," he said. Other lawmakers said they hoped their districts would be good candidates for a spaceport. Dial said his own eastern Alabama district would probably not be a good candidate due to its proximity to Atlanta and its air traffic. Editor's Note: There's a limit now? Not. (4/30)

Texas City Passes SpaceX Resolution (Source: Brownsville Herald)
The Brownsville City Commission Monday night passed a resolution encouraging the construction of a commercial launch site near Boca Chica Beach as SpaceX continues to consider South Texas as a possible location for its space exploration operations. The resolution notes the potential economic impact the construction of the world’s first commercial launch site could have on Brownsville and Cameron County should SpaceX decide to construct a launchpad near Boca Chica Beach.

A presentation ahead of the vote highlighted the project’s job-creating possibilities. If constructed, the new launch site is reported to directly or indirectly create about 1,000 jobs, all paying in excess of $55,000. The 12 monthly launches per year are also expected to attract up to 15,000 visitors each. The resolution passed unanimously, although District 2 City Commissioner Jessica Tetreau did not attend the meeting. (4/30)

FSDC Organizes SpaceX Launch Pad Tour for Members (Source: FSDC)
The Florida Space Development Council (FSDC) is organizing a May 17 tour of their newest corporate member's launch facilities at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. A limited number of FSDC members (U.S. citizens only) will tour SpaceX's Launch Complex 40 to see where the Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft are processed and launched. Click here. (5/1)

FSDC Encourages Members to Support Shiloh Initiative at County Meeting (Source: FSDC)
FSDC members are encouraged to support a proposal to establish a commercial launch complex near the borders of Volusia and Brevard counties in an area known as Shiloh. FSDC's leadership has supported the project through letters and public meetings, and is urging general membership involvement as well. The Volusia County Council will consider this resolution in support of Shiloh at their May 2 meeting in DeLand during their public hearing beginning at 2:00 p.m. (5/1)

France Determined To Orbit Elint Satellite by 2020 (Source: Space News)
The French Defence Ministry on April 29 said it is determined to place an electronics-intelligence satellite into orbit by 2020 to operate alongside a new-generation optical reconnaissance satellite and that it hopes to persuade one or more European governments to share in the investment. The French White Paper on Defense and National Security, which will be used to guide annual defense equipment investment, says space-based communications and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance is a topmost priority alongside medium-altitude, long-endurance drones and tactical drones, in-flight aircraft refueling and defense against cyberspace attacks. (4/30)

What Sparked Life's 'Left-Handed' Molecules? (Source:
The mysterious bias of life on Earth toward molecules that skew one way and not the other could be due to how light shines in star- and planet-forming clouds, researchers say. If correct, these findings suggest the molecules of life on Earth may initially have come from elsewhere in the cosmos, scientists added.

The organic molecules that form the basis of life on Earth are often chiral, meaning they come in two forms that are mirror images, much as right and left hands appear identical but are reversed versions of each other. Strangely, the amino acids that make up proteins on Earth are virtually all "left-handed," even though it should be as easy to make the right-handed kind. Solving the mystery of why life came to prefer one kind of handedness over the other could shed light on the origins of life, scientists say.

One possible cause for this bias might be the light shining on these molecules in space. One can think of all light waves as corkscrews that twist either one way or the other, a property known as circular polarization. Light circularly polarized one way can preferentially destroy molecules with one kind of handedness. (4/30)

Bigelow Working with NASA to Recruit Executives for Space Missions (Source: Vegas Inc)
Just months after reaching a deal with NASA to build an inflatable space room, local entrepreneur Robert Bigelow is working with agency officials to find ways for business executives to take part in human space missions. His company, Bigelow Aerospace, signed a deal with NASA last month to explore how the private sector can contribute to missions “Low Earth Orbit.”

That could include missions to the moon, which is about 240,000 miles away, and Mars, which is at least 33.9 million miles from Earth. No money will change hands between Bigelow and NASA. The study is expected to be completed this fall. (4/30)

SpaceX's Grasshopper: Extra Fuel Needed (Source: NPR)
Up untill now, spent rocket boosters just fall for free. What does it cost for the extra rocket fuel for Grasshopper? SpaceX isn't saying, but common sense says when the rocket comes down, most of that fuel has been burned, so it is much, much lighter. I couldn't find any numbers, but I did find this bit of accounting from a self-described rocket engineer in the comments:

"To put it in perspective, the cost of one of these rockets is about $60,000,000, and the total fuel cost for one trip is about $200,000. That means the cost of fuel is 0.3% of the vehicle. Let's say you spread the vehicle cost over 100 launches in its working life (all LEO launches with 29,000lbs payloads). That averages out to $20.76 per lb cargo (Space Shuttle was $8200 per lb)." If that's true, SpaceX is on its way to making routine space voyaging much cheaper. (4/30)

Despite Past Failures, NASA Again Pursuing Landsat Alternative (Source: Space News)
In a move that has longtime Landsat watchers wondering whether history is about to repeat itself, NASA is once again considering cheaper ways to maintain the program’s decade-spanning record of medium-resolution Earth observations. Previous attempts to find alternatives to building dedicated Landsat satellites have ended with engineers returning to the drawing board to design another government-owned, free-flying satellite.

For 2014, NASA requested $30 million to study a follow-on to the Landsat Data Continuity Mission. The results of the study will be part of the agency’s 2015 budget request, which is expected next February. NASA hopes to discover a feasible alternative to building and flying another dedicated satellite. (4/30)

Space Robotics Dominate New $5 Bill in Canada (Source: Universe Today)
In a world first, Canada’s Chris Hadfield unveiled a new money note — while in space. Hadfield spun a fiver before the camera Tuesday as part of a ceremony to announce new $5 and $10 bills that will be distributed in Canada this year. The $5 bill will feature two pieces of Canadian technology that helped build the station: Canadarm2, which is a mobile robotic arm, and the hand-like Dextre. Click here. (4/30)

Russia Charging NASA $70 Million Per Rocket Seat (Source: AP)
NASA is paying $424 million more to Russia to get U.S. astronauts into space, and the agency's leader is blaming Congress for the extra expense. NASA announced its latest contract with the Russian Space Agency on Tuesday. The $424 million represents flights to and from the International Space Station aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft, as well as training, for six astronauts in 2016 and the first half of 2017. That's $70.6 million per seat — well above the previous price tag of about $65 million. (4/30)

Mars Rover May Be in Trouble After Month of Silence (Source: Computer World)
NASA engineers are waiting to see if they can pull a long-running Mars rover out of stand-by mode. The Mars rover Opportunity, which has been working on the Red Planet for more than nine years, put itself into stand-by mode this month during a period when communications with its handlers on Earth were cut off. Earlier this month, communication with all NASA's machines working on Mars became spotty and then stopped all together because the sun was almost directly in the path between Earth and Mars.

The solar conjunction is just ending, and as communications began to be restored, NASA on Saturday learned of Opportunity's troubled status. On Monday, NASA programmers sent new commands to Opportunity to try to get the robotic rover to resume operations. "Our current suspicion is that Opportunity rebooted its flight software, possibly while the cameras on the mast were imaging the sun," said John Callas. (4/30)

World's Major Development Banks Look Closer at Earth Observation (Source: ESA)
International development banks often invest in regions where projects can be difficult to monitor and evaluate. Earth-observing satellites are proving to be important tools for the development sector. From 800 km high, satellites enable objective observations consistently over space and time. They can detect changes in land cover, monitor water quality and identify pollutants, evaluate the health of a coral reef or help assess how coastal zones are influenced by sea-level rise.

During their spring meeting last week, members of the Multi-lateral Financing Institutions Working Group on Environment learned more about how satellites can support bank activities. The Working Group consists of representatives from leading development banks and international financing institutions, including the World Bank, the European Investment Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, the Inter-American Development Bank and the African Development Bank. (4/30)

Is Antimatter Anti-Gravity? (Source: UC Berkeley)
Antimatter is strange stuff. It has the opposite electrical charge to matter and, when it meets its matter counterpart, the two annihilate in a flash of light. Four University of California, Berkeley, physicists are now asking whether matter and antimatter are affected differently by gravity as well. Could antimatter fall upward – that is, exhibit anti-gravity – or fall downward at a different rate?

Almost everyone, including the physicists, thinks that antimatter will likely fall at the same rate as normal matter, but no one has ever dropped antimatter to see if this is true, said Joel Fajans, UC Berkeley professor of physics. And while there are many indirect indications that matter and antimatter weigh the same, they all rely on assumptions that might not be correct. A few theorists have argued that some cosmological conundrums, such as why there is more matter than antimatter in the universe, could be explained if antimatter did fall upward. (4/30)

NASA Renews Lease with Yuma International Airport (Source: KYMA)
NASA has renewed it's lease with the Yuma International Airport and Monday conducted preparations for another parachute test drop. NASA has a hangar at the Yuma International Airport and several times out of the year including today prepares for testing on their Orion parachute. Gen Grosse with the Yuma International Airport says they conduct the tests about 6 months out of the year. (4/30)

Ticket Price for Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Going Up (Source:
Ticket prices for Virgin Galactic's suborbital SpaceShipTwo are slated to jump 25 percent in the next week or so, from $200,000 to $250,000, company officials say. The price bump comes in the wake of SpaceShipTwo's first rocket-powered test flight, a milestone the vehicle achieved Monday (April 29) in the skies above California's Mojave Air and Space Port. (4/30)

Celebrating Nearly a Decade of Branson Almost Sending Us to Space (Source: Smithsonian)
Richard Branson’s confidence, just like his ship, is soaring. He’s so confident, in fact, Virgin Galactic has decided to raise their rates: formerly $200,000, a trip to space with the company will now cost $250,000. But that confidence may be a bit misplaced, if the company’s track record in this regard is considered. In 2004, after years of work, the original SpaceShipOne took home the $10 million bounty of the Ansari X Prize.

Following that win, Branson partnered with Scaled Composites to form Virgin Galactic. At the time, the company announced that they planned to have people riding into space by 2007. “Within five years, Virgin Galactic will have created over 3,000 new astronauts from many countries,” Branson said, speaking alongside US aviation pioneer Burt Rutan, who designed and built SpaceShipOne.

In 2005, Branson walked back his estimate a bit, now gunning for 2008. “Space tourism is less than three years away, Sir Richard Branson has claimed.” The 2008 schedule came and went, and according to the BBC, the deadline for launch was pushed to 2010. In 2010, with construction of SpaceShipTwo complete, Branson said “We are 18 months away from taking people into space.” You see the pattern. (4/30)

Hybrid Engine Has Been Long Pole in Virgin's Tent (Sources: SPACErePORT, Parabolic Arc)
One of the early developmental problems for SpaceShipTwo was the development of its hybrid rocket engine, which relatively inert solid fuel and a separate oxydizer. Engineers at Sierra Nevada were having a hard time scaling up the hybrid engine system from the small, X-1 sized SpaceShipOne prototype to its business jet sized successor. The scaled-up versions were said to generate severe oscillations.

After less-than-stellar test firings, according to a Parabolic Arc article, the propulsion team considered abandoning the hybrid rocket for a liquid system. They ended up sticking with the hybrid, but confirmed that liquid propulsion might be considered later. A shift in propulsion would have caused significant changes in the vehicle’s design, further impacting the company's schedule. (4/30)

Capturing Asteroids - No Flight of Fancy (Source: Houston Chronicle)
It's now been three years, to the month, since President Barack Obama visited Kennedy Space Center and set his human spaceflight goal for NASA: to have astronauts visit an asteroid. But that goal has yet to ignite widespread enthusiasm in the space community - and as a result of continued political infighting the future of human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit is a muddied one. After the president released his budget in early April, which for the first time included about $100 million dedicated to an asteroid rendezvous, a bipartisan group in Congress was quick to respond.

"Last year, the National Research Council committee charged with reviewing NASA's strategic direction found that there was no support within NASA or from our international partners for the administration's proposed asteroid mission," said U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-VA, who chairs the House appropriations subcommittee with oversight over NASA. "However, there is broad support for NASA to lead a return to the moon."

And it wasn't just Republicans expressing that view. "Space is the world's ultimate high ground, returning to the moon and reinvigorating our human spaceflight program is a matter of national security," said. U.S Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston. "Returning to the moon would allow NASA to continue to develop technologies that have not only enhanced our exploration programs but have been applied across all disciplines of science." (4/30)

U.S. Air Force Makes Raidrs System More Permanent [Including at Cape Canaveral] (Source: Aviation Week)
The U.S. Air Force has been quietly developing and has finally fielded a permanent solution to protect its crucial satellite communications signals from interference, hostile or otherwise. The Rapid Attack Identification Detection Reporting System (Raidrs) is designed for “defensive counterspace,” or protecting satellite communications links by alerting operators to anomalies in signals in the C, Ku, X and UHF frequencies.

A Raidrs prototype, designed by Integral Systems of Lanham, Md., was in use in the Middle East since July 2005. The system included a series of antennas that could be used to locate an ellipsis of area where a jamming source could be located. Those antennas were deployed forward in U.S. Central Command and require protection. But they proved the concept of monitoring satellite communications signals and detecting the source of interference.

The Air Force now has a centralized operations center in Colorado. Five transportable Raidrs Transportable Ground Segments (RTGS) are being strategically located at Lualualei Naval Station, Hawaii; Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.; Misawa Air Base, Japan; Kapaun Air Station, Germany and an unidentified location in Central Command. (4/30)

How Mars and Jupiter Formed from Space Rock Crashes (Source:
The violent space rock collisions that gave birth to Mars appear to be surprisingly different from those thought to form the rocky core of Jupiter, scientists say. The difference comes from variations in the disc of dust, ice and other particles that swirled around the sun in the early years of the solar system.

Researchers said there was a "gradient" in the size of planetesimals — an early stage of planet formation — that orbited the young sun. Planets that were further away from the sun were more likely to grow larger than worlds closer in, they added. "This difference can be explained by the snow line," said Hiroshi Kobayashi, referring to the zone in the solar system where it was cold enough for icy compounds to condense 4.5 billion years ago.

"If we consider terrestrial planets, this is close to the sun, this means the temperature was very high, and the main component of the solid was rock, or something like that," Kobayashi added. "But if we consider the outer disc — in this case, the main component is ice — it probably was ice planetesimals [that formed Jupiter]." (4/30)

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