May 20, 2013

New Google-NASA Partnership Marks A New Era In The History Of Computing (Source: Forbes)
It’s easy to become jaded about announcements in the tech world.  Slick, media savvy CEO’s announce “revolutionary” new products with metronomic regularity. Version 1.0 becomes 1.1 and eventually 2.0 and on and on. It all seems like a blur. Meanwhile, the truly groundbreaking stuff often goes unnoticed (neither the transistor nor the microchip were instant hits). Paradigm shifts come in strange guises, with little or no tangible effect on immediate life and often take decades to make an impact.

So, we should take notice at the recent news of the Google-NASA quantum computing partnership which marks the beginning of a new digital paradigm. Although we must account for that which is beyond our present understanding, even the projects currently underway promise a future that seems almost more like science fiction than science fact. Click here. (5/20)

California Company to Take Over KSC Shuttle Facilities (Source: Florida Today)
A California company next month will take over Kennedy Space Center facilities once used to maintain space shuttle thrusters. United Paradyne Corp. of Santa Maria, Calif., has signed a 15-year lease to operate the Hypergolic Maintenance Facility, or HMF, in KSC’s Industrial Area. The company plans to employ 12 people in its first year at KSC with plans to employ up to 50 over the next four years, NASA said.

United Paradyne Corporation is a privately held business specializing in hypergolic storage facility operations and satellite fueling services, NASA said. According to a NASA press release, the company will use the HMF “to provide offline processing support services in the storage, delivery, handling and maintenance of hypergolic and green propellant commodities and satellite fueling operations. The company also will provide services to refurbish, manufacture and assemble test ground support equipment.”

Editor's Note: Hopefully KSC can follow the path blazed by Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Stennis has evolved into a "Federal City" that hosts over two dozen federal, state, academic, and industry tenants who take advantage of the center's capabilities. Stennis' success, however, was partly the result of aggressive support from powerful members of Congress who steered funding and programs to the center. (5/20)

Inspiration Mars Foundation Weighs Rocket Choice For 2018 Flyby (Source: Huffington Post)
The organizers of a private plan to send two people on a round-trip flyby of Mars in 2018 are choosing between a variety of commercial rockets and a NASA booster for the mission. The nonprofit Inspiration Mars foundation was founded by entrepreneur Dennis Tito, who flew to the International Space Station in 2001 aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Tito said the flyby mission is aimed at inspiring the public about space exploration and accelerating humanity's quest to visit Mars by taking advantage of a rare launch opportunity that allows for a relatively brief 501-day round trip.

The team hasn't yet chosen a launch vehicle for the mission, but said there are three main options. The first is the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, which is still in development. It should be able to launch about 10 metric tons of mass into low-Earth orbit, which is enough to send the Mars-bound capsule and crew in one go. The vehicle is due for its first test launch next year. A second option is to launch the crew separately from the fuel that will send them out to Mars and back. This scenario would use an Atlas 5 rocket for the fuel and a Delta 4 Heavy booster to carry the crew to Earth orbit.

Finally, there's NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which is being developed to send astronauts to an asteroid and Mars in the next decades. "The nice thing about the SLS is this mission closes with a single launch," Carrico said. The rocket should be able to launch more mass than Inspiration Mars requires, potentially offering extra energy that could be used to add more mass to the life support system or other equipment onboard the spacecraft, or to slow down the rather speedy planned Earth re-entry. (5/20)

Hutchison & Cernan: U.S. Must Stay Committed to Racing Towards Space (Source: USA Today)
What our nation fails to do today will be done by others tomorrow... Four years ago, as plans to retire the space shuttle moved forward, uncertainty about America's space program grew. In 2010, the Obama administration's budget plan put development of a next-generation deep space exploration vehicle on hold for five years. Congress addressed the uncertainty with a plan to ensure full utilization of the ISS without delaying production of a deep space vehicle.

We learned a painful lesson when the space shuttle retired without a follow-on capability to take U.S. astronaut researchers to the space station. The result is that we will pay $55 million to $70 million per seat on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. In all, the flight will cost $1.5 billion before a U.S. vehicle is operational. Congress' 2010 law will avoid that gap from ever happening again. By ensuring coverage for present priorities and future planning, development of the new heavy launch vehicle has begun. If we maintain the 2010 plan, when the space station is decommissioned in 2020, we will be ready to pursue further exploitation of the moon, possibly Mars and beyond.

Even in a time of tight budgets, policymakers recognized the need for planting seed corn. Fully utilizing the space station while allocating resources for the next deeper space pursuit are not opposing options. For America to realize the benefits of its investment in space exploration, Congress must stay on the balanced course it set in 2010. Or what our nation fails to do today will be done by others tomorrow. (5/20)

Gov. Scott Announces UPC's Expansion at KSC (Source: Gov. Rick Scott)
Today, Governor Rick Scott, along with the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast (EDC), announced that aerospace-related propellant services provider United Paradyne Corp. is expanding to Kennedy Space Center as it seeks to broaden its capabilities with government and commercial launch providers and expand its research and development operations.

Governor Scott said, “This is a great win for Florida’s Space Coast. Last week we learned that in just one month Florida’s unemployment rate dropped from 7.5 to 7.2 percent and that we’ve created more than 330,000 private sector jobs in a little over two years, which is an incredible success. These 50 new aerospace jobs mean that 50 more families will be able to pursue their dreams right here in the Sunshine State.” (5/20)

Ground Control Names Major Tim First U.K. Astronaut in 20 Years (Source: Bloomberg)
The U.K. named a former Apache helicopter pilot to be the first astronaut it will put into space in more than 20 years following an increase in government investment in space research. Tim Peake, who served as a major in the British army, will work for six months on the International Space Station. He’s one of six astronauts selected from among 8,000 hopefuls around the world. The flight is expected to take place in November 2015. (5/20)

Sending UK Astronaut is 'Enormous Logistical Problem' (Source: BBC)
Tim Peake may not be the first British astronaut - but he is the first taxpayer-funded one. He is costing the public £16m - a major leap for the British in space. Colin Pillinger, famous for the "Beagle 2 Mars" mission, told the Today programme: "It's an enormous logistical problem in order to get one astronaut into space." But he added: "Don't underestimate the value of sending an astronaut." (5/20)

A Roadmap for the Future of Astrobiology (Source: Astrobiology)
The NASA Astrobiology Program has started the process of outlining future research directions at the organization. Roughly every ten years, the program updates NASA’s official Astrobiology Roadmap – a document that guides research and technology development across NASA and encompass the space, Earth, and biological sciences. This time around, the program is opening the process up to the wider astrobiology community and calling for the public to participate in decisions that will guide research funding and missions for the coming decades. Click here. (5/20)

Welcome to the Real Space Age (Source: New York Magazine)
New York Magazine has published a ten-page series focused on the fast-changing focus and scope of our nation's space program, government and commercial, but mainly commercial. The series ends with a rundown of the five U.S. companies hoping to get you into space soon. Click here. (5/20)

Outer Space Comes Closer to a U.N. Regime (Source: IDSA)
Over the years various efforts have been made to devise a mutually agreeable space regime without much success. There has been a deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament for more than 15 years on space related matters. Also, the UN efforts like the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPOUS) and the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) have remained non-starters. Presently, two complimentary efforts are underway to develop a space mechanism: one, the International Space Code of Conduct, and the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures (TCBMs) in Outer Space Activities.

The present GGE constitutes a group of members nominated by 15 states. The permanent five (P-5) of the UN Security Council and Brazil, Chile, Italy, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Romania, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, and Ukraine are the other members of GGE. Apart from P-5 states, which indecently are also space-faring states, only two other members from this grouping have only recently become space-faring states, namely Ukraine and South Korea. In order to have a fair geographic representation, the UN appears to have compromised inducting the actual stakeholders.

Absence of a consensus has resulted in failure to establish any form of space regime. Urgency has arisen to start an initiative, fundamental in nature, with broad-based consensus. In the light of this, a great deal of thinking has gone into developing the TCBMs, which are voluntary in nature. The critical question, however, is whether it is ‘worth to accept the lowest common dominator just because no consensuses are likely to emerge?’ Click here. (5/20)

Texas Public Threat Assessment Points to Problems Near Spaceport (Source: SPACErePORT)
Texas' annual Public Safety Threat Overview for 2013 identifies tropical storms and organized crime tied to Mexican cartels as significant threats in the area planned for a SpaceX launch site. The document describes increasingly brazen and creative tactics used by the cartels and their affiliated gangs on both sides of the border, with billions of dollars in drugs coming into the U.S. through Cameron County and adjacent counties, while $19-39 billion in cash goes south into Mexico each year. Kidnappings are also a growing concern. Here's the report.

To combat the rise in crime and violence, Cameron County (home of the proposed Boca Chica spaceport) recently requested a federal grant. Their application cites "an increase in our kidnapping cases, organized criminal cases (aggravated robberies along the border areas- organized kidnapping ending in homicide), an increase in local street gang recruitment into cartels and more violence... Robberies were occurring numerous times a week due to the geographical location(s) and one of the groups responsible for the robberies was tied into the "Zeta" organization which ended up in seizure of high powered rifles and led to finding of human trafficking." Click here. (5/20)

Electric Propulsion (Source: Launchspace)  
Electric propulsion has been around for several decades. In fact, the idea dates back to 1906, when Robert Goddard made an entry in his personal notebook. Five years later, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky published the idea. The late 1950s and early 1960s saw a flurry of research on electric propulsion devices. By 1962, technical papers that addressed the use of these new gadgets for controlling the orbits of geostationary satellites started to appear. The first in-space demonstration of an ion engine was carried on board the SERT-1 (Space Electric Rocket Test) spacecraft, launched in 1964.

Advances have continued through the last several decades, and as a result, we now see many spacecraft applications for electric thrust devices. For example, many of the latest geostationary communications satellites use some form of electric propulsion for station keeping and orbit adjustment functions. Large electric device are being considered for planetary probes and other applications. One might go so far as to claim this technology is mature and ready for many missions. (5/20)

Space Florida Launch at Shiloh: Jobs Trump Rattlesnakes (Source: Headline Surfer)
NASA will postpone any final decision on Shiloh for the results of an environmental impact study for 150 acres out of the approximately 150,000 acres in the area shared by KSC and the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge. This is a shift in the position originally taken by NASA, which had earlier opposed the launch site. In my opinion, this shift was driven in part by the growing surge in popular and political support for the project best exemplified by the favorable resolution passed May 2nd by the Volusia County Council.

The Council’s resolution was strongly opposed by a phalanx of environmental activists who repetitively argued that the launches would endanger every creature that lives in the pristine area, impede traffic on the Intracoastal Waterway which passes through Mosquito Lagoon and reduce jobs for fishing guides. When the votes were cast, I believe that it was just this sense of over commitment which undid the environmentalists. Their arguments left me with the impression that they are good people whose depth of commitment to their cause is so great that it overwhelms their better judgment. However, the issue is far from over.

In many ways, the vote of the County Council was just a dog and pony show to demonstrate local support in preparation for the battle over the real decisions. These will be taken at the state and federal levels. And of course by the several private companies which are considering using the Shiloh sites for the launching of their space vehicles. The large majority of Volusians who want this badly-needed flagship development project for our county must leave no stone unturned in our continuing active support. Remember, there was a time when Florida was the center of "all" commercial space development in the world. Now we control none of it. That must be changed and we can begin to make that change happen right here in Volusia County. (5/18)

NASA-Built Nanosatellite Launch Adapter System Ready For Flight (Source: Space Daily)
Nanosatellites now have their own mass transit to catch rides to space and perform experiments in microgravity. A new NASA-designed and developed satellite deployer, dubbed the Nano Launch Adapter System (NLAS), is scheduled to demonstrate the capability to launch a flock of satellites into space later this year.

Capable of carrying up to 24 nanosatellite units, or more than 100 pounds of secondary payloads into orbit, the deployer is complete and ready for flight. NLAS is designed to sit beneath a primary spacecraft and connect it to the upper stage of a rocket. Standing a mere ten inches tall, NLAS is short enough to squeeze various configurations of cubesats, such as 3-unit satellites that measure approximately 14 inches long, 4 inches wide and 4 inches high, or 6-unit satellites that measure approximately 14 inches long, 9 inches wide and 4 inches high. (5/20)

Mice, Gerbils Perish in Russia Space Flight (Source: Space Daily)
A number of mice and eight gerbils sent into space in a Russian capsule destined to find out how well organisms can withstand extended flights perished during their journey, scientists said Sunday as the month-long mission touched back down on Earth. Most of the 45 mice sent into orbit -- along with the gerbils and 15 newts -- died on the mission, which nevertheless returned with data that scientists hope will pave the way for a manned flight to Mars.

The animals on board the Bion-M craft died because of equipment failure or due to the stresses of space, scientists said. The craft itself landed softly early on Sunday with the help of a special parachute system in the Orenburg region about 1,200 kilometers southeast of Moscow. It was also carrying snails, some plants and microflora. "This is the first time that animals have been put in space on their own for so long," Vladimir Sychov of the Russian Academy of Sciences announced upon the peculiar crew's return to Earth. (5/19)

Method Proposed for Detecting Gravitational Waves From Ends of Universe (Source: Space Daily)
A new window into the nature of the universe may be possible with a device proposed by scientists at the University of Nevada, Reno and Stanford University that would detect elusive gravity waves from the other end of the cosmos. Their paper describing the device and process was published in the prestigious physics journal Physical Review Letters.

"Gravitational waves represent one of the missing pieces of Einstein's theory of general relativity," Andrew Geraci said. "While there is a global effort already out there to find gravitational waves, our proposed method is an alternate approach with greater sensitivity in a significantly smaller device. Our detector is complementary to existing gravitational wave detectors, in that it is more sensitive to sources in a higher frequency band, so we could see signals that other detectors might potentially miss." (5/20)

Pakistan Adopts Chinese Rival GPS Satellite System (Source: Space Daily)
Pakistan is set to become the fifth Asian country to use China's domestic satellite navigation system which was launched as a rival to the US global positioning system. The Beidou, or Compass, system started providing services to civilians in the region in December and is expected to provide global coverage by 2020. It also has military applications. Thailand, China, Laos and Brunei already use the Chinese system, which currently consists of 16 operational satellites, with 30 more due to join the system. (5/18)

NASA Seeks High-Performance Spaceflight Computing Capabilities (Source: Space Daily)
NASA and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque are requesting research and development proposals to define the type of spacecraft computing needed for future missions. Through a broad agency announcement, the Air Force Next Generation Space Processor Analysis Program is seeking two to four companies to perform a yearlong evaluation of advanced, space-based applications that would use spaceflight processors for the 2020-2030 time frame.

NASA's decision to partner with the Air Force and issue a joint solicitation was influenced by a four-month formulation study funded by NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate's Game Changing Development Program. During that investigation, engineers from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., the Johnson Space Center in Houston, and NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., evaluated 19 real-life mission scenarios involving the use of flight processors. (5/20)

Space Warps Project Needs Your Help (Source: Space Daily)
Astronomers are asking volunteers to help them search for "space warps." More commonly known as "gravitational lenses," these are rare systems with very massive galaxies or clusters of galaxies that bend light around them so that they act rather like giant lenses in space, creating beautiful mirages. Anyone can participate in Space Warps project, which was launched on 8 May 2013. Click here. (5/10)

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