May 18, 2013

Russia, France Planning 7 Kourou Launches by 2015 (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia and France will carry out seven Soyuz-ST carrier rocket launches from the Kourou space center in French Guiana by the end of 2014, Russia’s Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said. Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin and President of France’s Centre National d'√Čtudes Spatiales (CNES) Jean-Yves Le Gall reaffirmed the launch schedule under the 2008 contract between Roscosmos and French space company Arianespace during a meeting in Moscow on Friday. (5/18)

Why ‘Star Trek’ Matters (Source: Smithsonian)
Smithsonian scholar and curator Margaret Weitekamp argues that the Star Trek fictional series of space exploration helped define and inspire real world parallels. From advancing diversity in NASA to anticipating new technologies, “Star Trek” left its mark on American culture. Weitekamp, the Air and Space Museum’s curator of space science fiction materials, including a 14-foot model of the Enterprise, says, it will continue to do so. Click here. (5/15)

Russia Prepares for Reentry/Recovery of Bion Research Capsule (Source: Russian Space Web)
On May 14, 2013, the search team of Russia's Central Military District, which just completed the successful recovery of the Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft, was ordered to move to the Orenburg Region in southern Russia to support the landing of Bion M No. 1 on the morning of May 19. A total of seven Mi-8 helicopters, along with An-12 and An-26 fixed wing aircraft and 150 members of military personnel were expected to participate in the operation.

A special homing radio signal on the reentry module of the spacecraft was designed to help search and rescue team to locate the capsule. The life-support system onboard Bion-M was designed to function for at least 24 hours to ensure a well-being of all biological objects and experiments onboard. (5/17)

Will Smith and Son Jaden Visit Spaceport America (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Will Smith and his son, Jaden, star together in the film "After Earth" which is scheduled to open on May 31. On Friday, though, the father-and-son duo were in southern New Mexico at Spaceport America to help promote the film as well as promote a pact between Virgin Produced - the film and television arm of Virgin Group - with Overbrook Entertainment.

Virgin Galactic is a tenant at Spaceport America, the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport, about 40 miles north of Las Cruces. Overbrook Entertainment will support the "After Earth" franchise, according to a release. The movie's plot involves a crash landing that leaves the two main characters stranded on earth 1,000 years after humanity left the planet. (5/17)

Newly Illustrated Versions of the NSS Roadmap to Space Settlement (Source: NSS)
A newly illustrated version of the NSS Roadmap to Space Settlement is now available in three new formats: (1) A free downloadable PDF edition, (2) a free online full-screen flip-book edition, and (3) a quality full-color magazine-style printed edition for $9.95. Some new and striking art work appears for the first time in these new editions of the NSS Roadmap. Let these artists show you some of the possible paths to space development and settlement. These new editions provide you with additional ways to read and distribute this material to help promote the NSS Vision.

The Roadmap has two major goals: First, to inspire and having the entire sweep of future space history in an easily readable form in one's hands is inspiring. Second, by delineating and discussing specific Milestones, to make it easier for you to formulate and advocate policies that are most likely to advance the day when the NSS Vision becomes a reality. Click here. (5/18)

Kiera Wilmot: NASA Engineer Awards Fla. Teen Scholarship To Space Academy (Source: News One)
Florida teen Kiera Wilmot, 16, deserved some good news after being the target of a racist legal system, arrested and expelled for causing a small explosion during a science experiment. And she received it in the form of an unexpected scholarship to attend the United States Advanced Space Academy (ASA) from former NASA engineer Homer Hickam, reports the Black Youth Project.

As previously reported by NewsOne, on the morning of Monday, April 20,  Kiera mixed some household chemicals inside of an 8 oz. bottle of water. The top flew off the bottle and a cloud of smoke erupted. There was no damage caused and no one was injured, but Kiera was led away in handcuffs and faced possible charges of “possession/discharge of a weapon on school grounds and discharging a destructive device.” Kiera was expelled, served a 10-day suspension  and will have to complete her diploma in an expulsion program. (5/18)

China to Invest Big to Support Beidou System (Source: Xinhua)
China is expected to invest 7 billion yuan ($1.13 billion) to support the development of industries related to the country's Beidou satellite navigation system before 2015, an industry insider said. "Industries related to the Beidou system are entering a booming development stage," Yang Qiangwen, a senior engineer at the China Satellite Navigation Office, said at the Fourth China Satellite Navigation Conference on Thursday in Wuhan.

According to the office's figures, the central government has already invested around 3.5 billion yuan to boost industries related to the Beidou system. And as the support from the central government continues, Yang said that the Beidou system will bring new economic growth to the country. Industry experts estimated that the Beidou system may unleash a potential market worth 225 billion yuan, which may be the reason for the country's surging investments in the project. (5/18)

So, is Astronaut Chris Hadfield Interested in Politics? (Source: Vancouver Sun)
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield says he's interested in politics but has no immediate plans to make it his next career. He was asked whether he might use his newfound fame as a springboard into the political arena. "I'm as interested in politics as any Canadian, of course. That determines the fate of our country," Hadfield said Friday in an interview from Houston.

"But for me personally, right now, I have no aspirations at all." The three-time space visitor said Friday that there are so many short-term projects on his plate that he hasn't committed to any long-term plans yet. Let alone political life. (5/18)

US Spaceflight Ambitions Must Face Budget Reality, NASA Chief Says (Source:
Charles Bolden, NASA's chief and a self-described dreamer, says there is a line between dreams and reality when it comes to what the space agency can do, especially in light of current budget constraints. "I am the eternal optimist, but I am also a realist," the NASA administrator said at Johnson Space Center. "Every single thing that we have on our plate right now, an asteroid mission, Mars, those are all very realistic. We know conceptually how to do that. We don't have all the technological capability to do it yet."

"[We have] three destinations: low Earth orbit — the International Space Station right now — we're handing that off to commercial entities; an asteroid by 2025; and Mars is the ultimate destination for humanity," said Bolden. "And nobody can go there if we don't go. If NASA does not lead, humanity is not going there and we're going to go there by the 2030s."

"If the President and the Congress are not able to solve the sequester issue, which is a 10 year problem, we're in trouble," Bolden said. "If we have to operate under sequester, in 2014, NASA's budget goes from the present $16.8 billion — it will not go up to $17.7 [billion] — it will go down another $800 million to about $16.1 [billion]. That's significantly below the level of spending that we have right now." (5/17)

Private Space Plane Arrives in California for Key Flight Tests (Source:
A private space plane has arrived at a NASA facility in California to undergo tests that will help vet its ability to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station. A test version of the Dream Chaser space plane arrived at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in southern California on Wednesday (May 15) aboard a flatbed truck, wrapped in a protective white caul for the overland journey from Colorado.

Engineers will put the Dream Chaser through its paces at Dryden, testing out its flight and runway landing systems, NASA officials said. The vehicle will be towed down a runway by a truck, for example, to validate the Dream Chaser's brakes and tires. A heavy-lift helicopter will also carry the vehicle aloft, allowing engineers to examine the loads the space plane will experience during flight. Such "captive-carry" tests will lead up to a free-flight trial planned for later this year. (5/17)

How Electric Spacecraft Could Fly NASA to Mars (Source:
Electric vehicles aren't just popular on the ground — it turns out they're all the rage in space these days, too. While still not as common as traditional chemical spacecraft engines, electric engines are growing in popularity for both Earth-orbiting satellites and scientific spacecraft on missions to deep space. And electric engines could turn out to be a key element in NASA's goal of sending people to Mars, experts say.

"The maturity of the various technologies that make up electric propulsion is getting there," said Vlad Hruby, president of the Busek spacecraft engine company. Hruby said he's been waiting for a renaissance in electric spacecraft for about 20 years. "Now it's finally coming to fruition." In 2012, Boeing introduced an all-electric communications satellite design called the 702SP, which officials say has been popular with commercial clients. In April of this year, satellite builder Orbital Sciences said it's developing its own all-electric model to compete.

There are two main ways to power an electric spacecraft engine: via solar energy absorbed from the sun, or via nuclear fission. Both have been tested successfully, though solar electric propulsion is the most commonly used. "The solar array power is getting cheaper per watt, getting more efficient," Hruby said. "A bunch of factors are converging to finally make it the preferred method." (5/17)

Fallout from Huge Solar Flare Sideswipes Earth (Source:
A huge explosion on the sun dealt Earth a glancing blow on May 17 but did not pose a threat to the planet, scientists say. The sun storm erupted late Tuesday (May 14) during a powerful solar flare — the fourth unleashed by a single sunspot in just 48 hours — and hurled a massive cloud of charged particles out into space at millions of miles an hour. (5/17)

Huge Rock Crashes Into Moon, Sparks Giant Explosion (Source:
The moon has a new hole on its surface thanks to a boulder that slammed into it in March, creating the biggest explosion scientists have seen on the moon since they started monitoring it. The meteorite crashed on March 17, slamming into the lunar surface at a mind-boggling 56,000 mph (90,000 kph) and creating a new crater 65 feet wide (20 meters). The crash sparked a bright flash of light that would have been visible to anyone looking at the moon at the time with the naked eye, NASA scientists say. (5/17)

Russia to Move Angara Rocket to Plesetsk Center by June (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia’s new super-heavy class Angara carrier rocket will be delivered to the Plesetsk space center for further testing by June, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said. "The work on the rocket at the Khrunichev space company is almost completed,” Rogozin said.

Rogozin did not say when the rocket, capable of delivering up to 75 tons of payload into orbit, will make its maiden flight, but expressed confidence that the Angara development and testing schedule, approved by the Russian President Vladimir Putin, will be observed. Angara rockets, designed to provide lifting capabilities of between 2,000 and 75,000 kilograms into low earth orbit, have been in development since 1995. (5/17)

GPS Data Could Improve Tsunami Early Warnings (Source: BBC)
Scientists say they have found a way to provide faster and more accurate early warning systems for tsunamis. A German team says GPS satellite-based positioning could offer detailed information about the events within minutes of an earthquake occurring. They believe the technology could have improved alerts issued when the devastating tsunami hit Japan in 2011. (5/17)

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