May 30, 2013

Bacterium from Canadian High Arctic and life on Mars (Source: Space Daily)
The temperature in the permafrost on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian high Arctic is nearly as cold as that of the surface of Mars. So the recent discovery by a McGill University led team of scientists of a bacterium that is able to thrive at -15+ C, the coldest temperature ever reported for bacterial growth, is exciting. The bacterium offers clues about some of the necessary preconditions for microbial life on both the Saturn moon Enceladus and Mars, where similar briny subzero conditions are thought to exist.

The team of researchers, led by Prof. Lyle Whyte and postdoctoral fellow Nadia Mykytczuk, both from the Dept. of Natural Resource Sciences at McGill University, discovered Planococcus halocryophilus OR1 after screening about 200 separate High Arctic microbes looking for the microorganism best adapted to the harsh conditions of the Arctic permafrost. "We believe that this bacterium lives in very thin veins of very salty water found within the frozen permafrost on Ellesmere Island," explains Whyte. (5/27)

ILS Proton to Launch SES-6 Satellite (Source: ILS)
On June 3, a Proton M launch vehicle, utilizing a 5-burn Breeze M mission design, will lift off from Pad 39 at Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, with the SES-6 satellite on board. The first three stages of the Proton will use a standard ascent profile to place the orbital unit (Breeze M Upper Stage and the SES-6 satellite) into a sub-orbital trajectory.

From this point in the mission, the Breeze M will perform planned mission maneuvers to advance the orbital unit first to a circular parking orbit, then to an intermediate orbit, followed by a transfer orbit, and finally to a super-synchronous transfer orbit. Separation of the SES-6 satellite is scheduled to occur approximately 15 hours, 31 minutes after liftoff. (5/29)

Asteroid Mining Co. Offers 'Space Selfies' for Crowd-Funding Space Scope (Source: Collect Space)
The world's first public "photo booth" in orbit could circle the Earth on the first crowd-funded space telescope, if an asteroid mining company's campaign is a success. Planetary Resources kicked off its first Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign on Wednesday to raise $1 million from the public to build and launch a private space telescope.

In return for pledges of $25 or more, Planetary Resources will offer supporters the opportunity to send a digital photo of their choice to orbit, have it displayed on the exterior of the company's satellite and rephotographed with the Earth as a backdrop. Higher pledge levels will provide students and other educational groups the chance to take control of the telescope for their own observations. (5/29)

Can Mars Be Terraformed? NASA's MAVEN Mission Could Provide Answers (Source: Forbes)
For many, humanity’s long-term future is wedded to the idea that a significant portion of our population may one day migrate to Mars. But before drafting plans to actually terraform the Red Planet, planetary scientists here on earth need to figure out just how and why Mars went so wrong.

Until researchers can turn to potential Mars colonists and relate the vagaries of its climatic history with some certainty, the idea of actually claiming the planet as a large-scale primary residence will remain in doubt. To that end, late this year NASA is launching the first mission devoted solely to characterizing Mars’ upper atmosphere and specifically the processes that helped turn the planet into the dust bowl we’re roving today.

The $671 million mission will help planetary scientists finally unravel the storied history of the planet’s early atmosphere and why it lost so much of it. MAVEN’s nominal orbital mission of one earth-year should begin in November 2014, assuming its scheduled twenty-day Cape Canaveral launch window — which begins November 18th — goes as planned. (5/29)

Vanderbilt Takes First in NASA Rocket Launching Competition (Source: Inside Vandy)
The Vanderbilt Aerospace Club took first prize in the 2013 NASA Student Launch Projects challenge. The competition, which was hosted April 21 at Bragg Farms near Huntsville, Ala., challenges students to design, build and fly small rockets with science payloads to an altitude of 1 mile and return them safely to Earth. 

NASA judges evaluated the rocket designs based on a series of technical design reviews, the results from the flight including altitude, and the operation of the payload. Judges also evaluated each team's community outreach activities meant to share the enthusiasm for rocketry through a local educational campaign. (5/29)

UMass Team to Assess Mars-style Rover’s Abilities at Robotics Center (Source: UMass)
A team of UMass Lowell engineering students who have built a Mars rover-style robot for a national NASA competition will practice for the contest to be held next week. The team is one of only eight in the nation chosen to compete in the RASC-AL Exploration Robo-ops Competition. Teams must put their robot through a series of field tests at NASA’s training headquarters in Houston via remote control on June 4 through June 6. (5/29)

Asteroid 1998 QE2 Flies Close to Earth on Friday (Source: Wall Street Journal)
On May 31 at 1:59pm (PDT) Asteroid 1998 QE2 will cruise 3.6 million miles from Earth, approximately 15 times the distance between the moon and Earth. The distance of the asteroid is not particularly impressive as it will not be especially close. But what it lacks in distance it compensates for in size. At about 1.6 miles across, Asteroid 1998 QE2 is roughly the length of nine Queen Elizabeth II cruise ships, or for local Bay Area residents, the size of the city of Emeryville. (5/29)

A New Kind of Cosmic Glitch (Source: McGill)
The physics behind some of the most extraordinary stellar objects in the Universe just became even more puzzling. A group of astronomers led by McGill researchers using NASA's Swift satellite have discovered a new kind of glitch in the cosmos, specifically in the rotation of a neutron star. Neutron stars are among the densest objects in the observable universe; higher densities are found only in their close cousins, black holes.

A typical neutron star packs as much mass as half-a-million Earths within a diameter of only about 20 kilometers. A teaspoonful of neutron star matter would weigh approximately 1 billion tons, roughly the same as 100 skyscrapers made of solid lead. Neutron stars are known to rotate very rapidly, from a few revolutions per minute to as fast as several hundred times per second. A neutron star glitch is an event in which the star suddenly begins rotating faster.

These sudden spin-up glitches have long been thought to demonstrate that these exotic ultra-dense stellar objects contain some form of liquid, likely a superfluid. This new cosmic glitch was detected in a special kind of neutron star – a magnetar -- an ultra-magnetized neutron star that can exhibit dramatic outbursts of X-rays, sometimes so strong they can affect the Earth's atmosphere from clear across the galaxy. (5/29)

Super-Dense Star is First Ever Found Suddenly Slowing its Spin (Source: Penn State)
One of the densest objects in the universe, a neutron star about 10,000 light years from Earth, has been discovered suddenly putting the brakes on its spinning speed. The event is a mystery that holds important clues for understanding how matter reacts when it is squeezed more tightly than the density of an atomic nucleus -- a state that no laboratory on Earth has achieved. (5/29)

NASA, Researchers Use Weightlessness to Design Better Materials for Earth (Source: Northeastern U.)
Researchers from Northeastern University are among the many scientists helping NASA use the weightlessness of space to design stronger materials here on Earth. Structural alloys might not sound familiar, but they are an integral part of everyday materials, such as aircraft wings, car bodies, engine blocks, or gas pipelines. These materials are produced through solidification­—a process similar to the making of ice cubes. 

“Solidification happens all around us, either naturally, as during the crystallization of familiar snow-flakes in the atmosphere, or in technological processes used to fabricate a host of materials, from the large silicon crystals used for solar panels to the making of almost any man-made object or structure that needs to withstand large forces, like a turbine blade,” said Northeastern University Prof. Alain Karma, who was a collaborator in this study. (5/29)

Low-Sodium ‘Diet’ Key to a Stellar Old Age (Source: Monash U.)
Astrophysicists have found that contrary to decades of orthodoxy, stars with a high sodium content die before reaching the final, spectacular stages of life. An international group of researchers used the European Southern Observatory's 'Very Large Telescope' (VLT) to observe NGC 6752, a globular cluster of stars in our galaxy, 13,000 light years from Earth. They found that 70 per cent of stars in the tightly bound group fail to reach the final red giant phase. This phase is the last stage of nuclear burning before stars form a planetary nebula, where the gas and dust emitted through copius stellar winds are colourfully illuminated by radiation from the star's naked core. (5/30)

Planetary Resources Looks to Crowdfund a Space Telescope for the Public (Source: Universe Today)
How much would you donate to have access to a space telescope … or just to have an orbital “selfie”? Planetary Resources, Inc., the company that wants to mine asteroids, has launched a Kickstarter campaign for the world’s first crowdfunded space telescope. They say their Arkyd-100 telescope will provide unprecedented public access to space and place the most advanced exploration technology into the hands of students, scientists and a new generation of citizen explorers.

To make their campaign successful, they need to raise $1 million in Kickstarter pledges by the end of June 2013. Less than 2 hours into their campaign, they have raised over $100,000. Last year, Planetary Resources revealed their plans to develop a series of small spacecraft to do a little ‘space prospecting’ which would eventually allow them to mine near Earth asteroids, extracting valuable resources. (5/29)

Simulating Lunar Craters and the Impacts That Cause Them (Source: Physics World)
Remains of meteorites that hit the Moon at low velocities may be preserved within lunar craters, researchers in the US report. The team used computer simulations to show that nearly a quarter of craters may contain significant remnants of the projectiles that formed them, left behind as deposits in the craters' central peaks. The lunar surface is mainly made of the igneous rocks basalt and anorthosite.

Recent spectroscopic observations of the Moon by lunar orbiters, however, have revealed the presence of deposits of unexpected compositions – such as magnesium-rich spinels and olivines – within a number of the larger lunar craters. One such crater containing these deposits is known as Copernicus and has a diameter of around 100 km.

On the Earth, spinel is often associated with both intense metamorphism – formed in conditions of extreme temperature and pressure – and the rock peridotite, which dominates the make-up of the upper mantle. Given this, the spinel seen in impact craters on the Moon is often considered to have had its origins in the lunar mantle – having been brought up to the surface during crater formation. Click here. (5/29)

Analysts to Congress: Close Bases to Save Money (Source: The Hill)
Congress should cut military infrastructure and close bases if it is to carry out sequestration cuts in the best possible way, say analysts at four different think tanks. Even with such a move, they warn, the demands of the sequester are unworkable. "The wheels will come off. There is no way around it," said Robert Work with Center for a New American Security, one of four think tanks that came to Capitol Hill this week to run budget simulations on Pentagon spending. (5/29)

NASA Banking on Bigelow Study To Break Big Contractor Bias (Source: Space News)
Bigelow Aerospace has produced a report for NASA that shows how the agency could use privately operated space systems beyond low Earth orbit. A draft of the report, essentially a catalog of space systems and technologies that companies like Bigelow have proposed flying in space, was delivered to NASA’s top human spaceflight official during on May 23.

The report is the first deliverable due to the agency under a nonexclusive, unfunded Space Act Agreement that Bigelow signed with NASA in March. “Instead of being the typical approach where we put together all the plans and we ask for participation [from industry], we wanted to look at it the other way and see what’s available,” said William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations.

But since 2007, the agency has been experimenting with a different procurement model, embodied by the Commercial Crew and Cargo programs, where companies propose hardware and plans for fulfilling some NASA objective — cargo deliveries to the international space station, for example — and NASA funds those it thinks likeliest to succeed. (5/29)

NOAA Reactivates GOES-13 in Order To Pinpoint Malfunction (Source: Space News)
Engineers at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are reactivating a key geostationary weather satellite knocked offline last week in hope of pinpointing exactly why it malfunctioned. Geostationary-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-13 suffered an outage of its two main instruments May 22, prompting NOAA to activate a spare satellite in order to maintain East Coast coverage. The spare, GOES-14, was launched in 2009 and placed in a storage orbit at 105 degrees east, where it still resides despite being pressed into service last week as the temporary GOES-East. (5/29)

USA Relaxes Satellite Export Restrictions (Source: Flight Global)
The US government will greatly relax export restrictions on satellites and most components, according to a Federal document published on 24 May. The change to what is known as the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations (ITAR) has long been sought by the US satellite industry, which has been largely restricted from selling satellites and components abroad, leading to a near-total loss of market share.

The change moves satellites from the US Munitions List (USML), meant to restrict the sale of weapons and dual-use items, to the Commerce Controlled List for economically sensitive but non-militarised goods. Effectively, the move declares that satellites are not necessarily for military use. (5/29)

Soyuz Delivers Crew to Space Station in 6 Hours (Source: Flight Global)
The International Space Station (ISS) is fully staffed after the arrival late on 28 May of a multinational crew launched on a fast-track mission from Baikonur in Kazakhstan. US astronaut Karen Nyberg, Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and Luca Parmitano, of the European Space Agency, docked at the ISS less than six hours after blast off.

Until this year, crews flew a two-day trek to the space station until Russian engineers developed new launch trajectories that enable same-day dockings. Soyuz is the only vehicle capable of flying crew to the ISS and although the capability is meant to be augmented by new US-built commercial crew vehicles, astronauts will rely on Soyuz until at least 2017. The launch marks Soyuz's 1,749th in the life of the program. (5/29)

Modular Space Vehicle Nears Completion of Manufacturing Phase (Source: Space Daily)
A Northrop Grumman Corporation-led team recently completed the third gate review of its first Modular Space Vehicle (MSV) bus assembly, integration and test, marking completion of functional testing. The team will conduct comprehensive "day in the life" testing next for the Operationally Responsive Space-2 (ORS-2) bus, leading to hardware acceptance by the Air Force's ORS program office. To mark this occasion, the ORS office held an open house on May 9 at Applied Technology Associates in Albuquerque, where hardware integration and test were performed. (5/29)

Final Flight of Tiny Astrophysics Probe Slated for June 4 (Source: Space News)
A tiny astrophysics probe is slated to make its fourth and final suborbital flight June 4 when it lifts off aboard a Black Brant 12 sounding rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, NASA announced May 29. The Cosmic Infrared Background ExpeRiment (CIBER), a compact astrophysics observatory designed by Jamie Bock of the California Insitute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif., has been launched, recovered and recalibrated for reflight three times since 2009.

All three of those launches took place at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., and involved smaller sounding rockets than the Black Brant 12 slated for next week’s attempt. But the higher altitude and longer observation time made possible by the Black Brant comes at a price: CIBER is expected to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean about 640 kilometers off the Virginia coast and will not be recovered. (5/29)

NASA Soon To Judge Spy Telescope’s Suitability for JWST Follow-On (Source: Space News)
NASA will soon decide whether it is worth using one of the two Hubble-sized space telescopes it got from the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office last year for a dark-energy survey mission the National Academy of Sciences recommended as a follow-on to the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden is due to be briefed May 30 on a report published last week that concluded the partially completed spy telescopes with 2.4-meter primary mirrors — the same diameter as Hubble’s — offer a “feasible and affordable” way for NASA to complete the Wide-Field InfraRed Survey Telescope (WFIRST) — a mission designed to fulfill science objectives that in 2010 the National Academy of Sciences said were second only to those being tackled by JWST. (5/29)

Do Black Holes Create New Universes? (Source:
The universe may have been borne inside a black hole, and the black holes in our own cosmos might be birthing new universes of their own, if one physicist's controversial idea about time is true. Going against the standard view of most scientists, theoretical physicist Lee Smolin has suggested that time is real, rather than the illusion that Einstein's theory of relativity makes it out to be. Click here. (5/29)

U.N. Panel To Call for Global NEO Tracking Network (Source: Space News)
The United Nations committee responsible for space affairs in June will send to October’s U.N. General Assembly a resolution calling for an international network of ground-based telescopes to track and analyze potentially dangerous asteroids and other near-Earth objects (NEOs). The recommendations of the U.N. Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, scheduled to meet June 12-21 in Vienna, follow a multiyear study by a group of experts and calls for no new financing by the United Nations. (5/29)

Shopping for Shenzhou (Source: Space Daily)
We probably have less than two weeks to go before China launches three astronauts on board the Shenzhou 10 spacecraft. China's space program has captured the attention of millions of people in China and around the world. Large numbers of them are "hardcore" fans of spaceflight who follow the missions obsessively. This represents a large potential market for all sorts of products connected to China's space program. Generally, supply doesn't seem to match the potential market demand.

It's true that you can buy a fair amount of bling connected to China's space program. Model stores and online retailers hawk models of China's rockets and Shenzhou spacecraft. You can get some reasonably priced DIY kits, small replicas and more expensive metal models of Shenzhou, the Long March rockets and the Tiangong space laboratory. Look closely and you will also find mission patches. There are collectable stamps, coins and medallions, some of them at prohibitive prices. But generally, there isn't as much swag for sale as you would probably expect. (5/29)

Quantum Gravity Takes Singularity Out of Black Holes (Source: New Scientist)
Falling into a black hole may not be as final as it seems. Apply a quantum theory of gravity to these bizarre objects and the all-crushing singularity at their core disappears. In its place is something that looks a lot like an entry point to another universe. Most immediately, that could help resolve the nagging information loss paradox that dogs black holes.

Though no human is likely to fall into a black hole anytime soon, imagining what would happen if they did is a great way to probe some of the biggest mysteries in the universe. Most recently this has led to something known as the black hole firewall paradox – but black holes have long been a source of cosmic puzzles. (5/29)

Phew! Earth Won't End Up as a Venus-Like Hell (Source: New Scientist)
For similar stories, visit the Solar System and Cosmology Topic Guides
Earth's evil twin Venus was born that way, so our planet may not be destined to become a hellish wasteland, after all. Venus and Earth are the same size, made of similar materials and are next-door neighbours in the solar system. But while Earth is wet and lush with life, Venus is desiccated, acidic and very hot. Planetary scientists have long assumed that whatever happened to Venus to send it down this dark path could one day befall Earth. (5/29)

Galaxy Formation: Cosmic Dawn (Source: Nature)
For one sleepless week in early September 2009, Garth Illingworth and his team had the early Universe all to themselves. At NASA's request, Illingworth, Rychard Bouwens and Pascal Oesch had just spent the previous week staring into their computer screens at the University of California, Santa Cruz, scanning through hundreds of black-and-white portraits of faint galaxies recorded in a multi-day time exposure by a newly installed infrared camera on the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA simply wanted the three astronomers to preview the images and make sure that the camera was working correctly, before the agency released the data more widely. Click here. (5/29)

Teams Prepare For NASA $1.5 Million Robot Challenge (Source: NASA)
Eleven teams from across the country and around the globe are preparing to compete for $1.5 million during NASA's 2013 Sample Return Robot Challenge, June 5-7. Teams will demonstrate a robot that can locate and collect geologic samples from a wide and varied terrain, operating without human control. Innovations stemming from the challenge could improve NASA's capability to explore a variety of destinations in space, as well as enhance the nation's robotic technology for use in industries and applications on Earth. (5/29)

31 Space Biology Research Proposals (Five From Florida) Selected for NASA Grants (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected 31 experiments proposed to its most recent NRA “Research Opportunities in Space Biology”. Selected experiments are being implemented immediately. NASA's Space Biology Program will fund 31 proposals to help investigate questions about how cells, plants and animals respond to changes in gravity. Nine flight experiments will be conducted on the International Space Station, 14 ground-based studies are designed to lead to the development of hypotheses to be tested on space station, and 8 proposals to collect preliminary data by investigators new to space biology.

Five of the winning projects are from researchers working at the University of Florida in Gainesville and at the Space Life Sciences Lab at Kennedy Space Center. Click here to see the list. (5/29)

Bears May Hold Keys to Deep Space Travel (Source: North Shore News)
That space travel will continue is indisputable as we delve deeper and deeper into space to explore its mysteries. While the distances covered so far are staggering beyond belief, even farther distances face future space pioneers. Distances so great that astronauts will have to be in a state of suspended animation to endure them, a condition much like the hibernating state that our local black bears enter into every winter.

Ongoing scientific research into bear hibernation has revealed the discovery of two genes that are thought to trigger hibernation. These genes direct enzymes to burn fat rather than carbohydrates, thereby equipping the body for hibernation. During this dormant period the bear neither urinates nor defecates, a potentially dangerous situation that is automatically countered by the nitrogen waste being biochemically recycled back into protein. (5/29)

Japan to Rely More on Private Sector to Develop Cheaper Rocket (Source: Asahi Shimbun)
Japan on May 28 decided to develop its first new mainstay rocket model in about 20 years and enlist the help of private-sector companies to reduce costs. The new-generation H-3 will succeed the current H-2A series as Japan’s mainstay launch vehicle, according to an expert panel under the government’s Committee on the Space Policy.

The government plans to set aside related expenses in the draft budget for fiscal 2014 and is aiming for the first H-3 launch in fiscal 2020.The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has played a central role in rocket development programs, with the main goal being improvements in technological caliber. JAXA has been developing the H-2A rocket, while Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., a private entity, is in charge of its manufacturing and launches. (5/29)

How to Prevent an Astronaut Bloodbath on Mars (Source: The Verge)
Sometime within the next two decades, a select cadre of men and women will likely embark on a trailblazing adventure: the first manned mission to Mars. Several private organizations, including Dutch nonprofit Mars One and space tourist Dennis Tito's Inspiration Mars, have already announced plans to send people to the red planet. And NASA is preparing for its own massive undertaking, in the hopes of getting astronauts to Mars by the 2030s.

Pulling off a successful mission will require profound feats of technology and science. Among them? Figuring out how to prevent astronauts confined to a cramped, isolated capsule for several years from coming to blows. "When a bad day happens, it isn't so easy to address in space," says Douglas Vakoch, PhD, a clinical psychologist and senior scientist at the SETI Institute. "It's inherently difficult, psychologically, to make sure astronauts are able to handle this."

NASA is conducting its own research on the issue. Last week, the agency handed out a $1.3 million contract to psychologists at Michigan State University to further the development of a psychosocial sensing "badge" that astronauts would wear during their mission to the red planet. The pocket-sized badges, says project leader Steve Kozlowski, PhD, will be designed to track physiological markers of an astronaut's psychological health — like blood pressure and heart rate — as well as the dynamics of their social interactions. "You can never ensure that nothing bad will happen," Kozlowski said. "But a coherent means of assessing interactions and stress ... is one way to protect against any negative outcomes." Click here. (5/30)

Pebbly Rocks Testify to Old Streambed on Mars (Source: NASA JPL)
Detailed analysis and review have borne out researchers' initial interpretation of pebble-containing slabs that NASA's Mars rover Curiosity investigated last year: They are part of an ancient streambed. The rocks are the first ever found on Mars that contain streambed gravels. The sizes and shapes of the gravels embedded in these conglomerate rocks -- from the size of sand particles to the size of golf balls -- enabled researchers to calculate the depth and speed of the water that once flowed at this location. (5/30)

Lost In Space? Use the Pulsar Positioning System (Source: Discovery)
Currently, our armada of robotic space missions depend on Earth to tell them where they are in relation to our planet, but the uncertainties in solar system location increases with distance from the launch pad. We are able to accurately deduce the distance of a spacecraft from Earth (it’s radial distance) by analyzing the radio signals that we beam to and from the spacecraft to an accuracy of a meter or so. But what about tracking the spacecraft’s angular position in the sky?

Unfortunately, the angular position of a spacecraft can only be known as accurately as the angular resolution of Earth-based radio antennae. The uncertainty in angular position of any given spacecraft, using radio antennae, increases by 4 kilometers per astronomical unit (AU). This may not be a serious issue for spacecraft traveling through interplanetary space within a couple of AU from Earth. But what about Voyager 1? The uncertainty in that spacecraft’s position is over 500 kilometers.

A solution to this position uncertainty could lie in rapidly-spinning stellar husks called pulsars. Researchers have detailed interplanetary navigation by using known X-ray pulsars in our galaxy as fixed points in the sky, providing a spacecraft with a means to find its way in the dark. Like sailors used the stars to navigate their way around the globe, this hi-tech navigation system could be carried by spacecraft to pinpoint their location in three-dimensions during interplanetary sojourns — and it wouldn’t differ too much from the GPS system we use to navigate the 101 during rush hour. Click here. (5/28)

Bermuda Secures Caribbean Slot with EchoStar 6 Satellite (Source: Space News)
The government of Bermuda has secured an orbital slot over the Caribbean following a last-minute agreement with satellite fleet operators EchoStar Corp. of the United States and SES of Luxembourg to move a satellite to the slot before its reservation expired, according to U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) documents and SES. (5/27)

Japanese Government Recommends Developing H-2A Successor (Source: Space News)
A high-level Japanese government panel has tentatively recommended proceeding with development of a lower-cost, commercially viable successor to the nation’s workhorse H-2A rocket. The recommendation to develop the so-called H-3 rocket was handed down May 17 in a draft midterm report by the Space Transportation Systems Subcommittee of Japan’s Cabinet-level Office of National Space Policy (ONSP). The final report is expected in June, and assuming there are no major changes the H-3 program likely will move forward. (5/27)

Skybox Signs Distribution Deal with Japan Space Imaging (Source: Space News)
Satellite-imagery startup Skybox Imaging of Mountain View, Calif., has signed a multiyear agreement with Japan Space Imaging of Tokyo to bring high-resolution imagery to the Japanese market. The move marked the first publicly disclosed agreement between Skybox, which is planning a constellation of microsatellites providing imagery and full-motion video, and a non-U.S. partner. Industry officials have been closely watching Skybox with the belief that if the company is successful it may be a bellwether for other microsatellite companies. (5/27)

Commercial Crew Contenders Seek Hybrid Contracting Approach (Source: Space News)
Companies involved in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and other supporters of the effort said last week they believe the most effective way for NASA to continue the program is keep as much of the design and development work as possible under current Space Act Agreements versus more conventional contracts.

Three companies, Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corp. and SpaceX, currently have funded agreements under NASA’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) program. The agreements, announced last August, include both a series of baseline milestones funded under those awards as well as optional, as yet unfunded additional milestones. (5/27)

In Shanghai, A Globalization Push for Space Projects (Source: Space News)
If one day a global space agency saves Earth by deflecting an asteroid or gets every government to share Mars colonization costs, organizers of a science conference in China’s largest city last week said the Shanghai meeting should be remembered for helping make it happen.

Proposals for such major projects rooted in multinational participation were discussed here May 21 and 22 at the Fifth Conference on Advanced Space Technology sponsored by the Paris-based International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) and the Chinese Society of Astronautics (CSA). Sharing resources, tapping the world’s science and engineering talent pool and inspiring young people to pursue space-related careers were key reasons participants cited for expanding international cooperation on every continent. (5/27)

Two Missions for China’s Space Program (Source: Space News)
Yang Yuguang, a researcher for the state-run spacecraft builder China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., had finished his presentation on new orbiting module components, including a locking system for dockings and a space station water recycler, when a man at the back of the conference room raised his hand. “Can I buy that?” the man blurted. “It will be a pleasure for us to sell these products on the international market,” Yang replied.

Liftoff for China’s next manned spaceflight, Shenzhou 10, could come as early as late May, and China’s first lunar lander with a robotic rover, to be delivered by a Chang’e 3 probe, is slated to launch in the fall. Meanwhile, on the program’s commercial track, China has continued to roll out a growing range of products and services, from antennas and imagers to payload launch services and satellite systems that can be orbitally delivered with complementary tracking bases on the ground. (5/27)

Spotlight on Orbital Technologies Corp. (Source: Space News)
After 25 years of designing, developing and testing propulsion systems, Orbital Technologies Corp. (ORBITEC) is ready to sell rocket engines. In October, the company conducted the second successful test of its Vortex liquid rocket engine. The engine was integrated in a P-15 Prospector rocket designed and built by Garvey Spacecraft Corp. of Long Beach, Calif., and California State University, Long Beach. Now, ORBITEC and its partners, Minneapolis-based Alliant Techsystems, Moog Space and Defense Group of East Aurora, N.Y., Boeing, and others, are prepared to offer variants of that patented propulsion system.

Small- to medium-thrust versions could power spacecraft reaction control systems while more powerful models could serve as the upper stage for heavy-lift rockets. ORBITEC officials believe those engines, which are designed to reduce the price and mass of liquid rockets while increasing their performance, can help to expand space access just as improvements in jet engine technology helped pave the way for widespread air travel. “I see space travel expanding much like air travel did in the mid-1900s,” said Tom Crabb, ORBITEC president. (5/27)

Cosmonaut Details ISS Life as New Mission Begins (Source: Russia Today)
Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin is taking his fourth space flight. An experienced cosmonaut with a total 370 days in space, he still maintains that the toughest part about spending months in space is being separated from his family. “It's not the physical fatigue that dominates, but homesickness. Here you are sitting in the cabin with Moscow at the side - and it is always at the side, in the North. You're looking at the clock, you know that family is down there drinking tea, and you are not,” he says. Click here. (5/28)

ILC Dover To Be the Subject of Major Motion Picture (Source: Dover Post)
ILC Dover has had a role in making spacesuits for NASA since 1962 and that relationship continues to this day as the company was just awarded a contract to develop NASA’s next generation of spacesuits. The Frederica-based company designed the spacesuits for Project Apollo, the NASA initiative that landed the first men on the moon. The story of how ILC built the Apollo spacesuit and won the contract that landed their product on the moon became the topic of a book called, “Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo” by Nicholas de Monchaux in 2011. (5/28)

"A Certain Level of Stress is Necessary" (Source: DLR)
"I have never thought about going to orbit as a trip, I always talked about it as a mission. Really, there is not a lot I must prepare or take with me to the Station because there are people that have been asking me and preparing everything that I will need once I’m there. There will already be already sets of clothing, food, running shoes and bicycle shoes for me; everything has already been sent, or will be arriving when I am in the Station. The only things left for me to take are small items, like souvenirs, my wedding ring or pictures of my family or objects I want to take up to give to my friends and family when I return." Click here. (5/27)

Is It Time For A Private Space Race? (Source: Forbes)
With the NASA on Russia for rides to the International Space Station (ISS) at $70.7m a seat until 2017 at the earliest, advocates of space exploration are increasingly looking to the private sector for their jetpack, moonwalk, rocket-powered future.

NASA’s designs for the Space Launch System and the Orion capsule could play an important part in future space exploration but they have yet to take flight. Meanwhile for-profit companies are busy launching, designing and, yes, dreaming about humanity’s future in space. Click here. (5/28)

Space. Is. Awesome. (Source: Houston Chronicle)
I sometimes get bogged down by the politics of NASA and its Washington, D.C., overlords, and the seemingly futile cycle of human spaceflight program announcements, under-funding of said programs, and cancellation of such programs. But that’s losing sight of the forest for the trees — or whatever the heck that saying is. You know what I mean. And what I mean is that space is awesome. Human spaceflight. Robotic spaceflight. All of the above. Here are just two examples that I stumbled upon recently. (5/28)

Can Earthlings Crowdfund a Moon Colony? (Source: Bloomberg)
Even if NASA wanted to return to the moon, should it? Buzz Aldrin, the second astronaut to step onto the lunar surface, suggests focusing on Mars instead. "Landing people on the moon will be terribly consuming of resources we don’t have," he told Bloomberg News last week. "It sounds great -- 'Let’s go back. This time we’re going to stay.' I don’t know why you would want to stay on the moon."

With demand and financing for the future of so uncertain, perhaps it's time for moon-colony advocates to put their energy into a new approach: crowd-funding. Opening up the project to the crowd offers a way to gauge public support and bring in some much-needed revenue. Crowd-funded space projects have already produced results: The space-research and education company Uwingu has raised almost $80,000 through a campaign on the website

Of course, that leaves us a long way from the lunar surface: In 2009, the Center for Strategic and International Studies estimated that development of a moon base that could host a four-person crew would cost $35 billion. Still, SpaceX founder Elon Musk has shown that it's possible to attract startup money for celestial businesses, and crowd-funding, still in its infancy, raised around $2.7 billion last year. What do you think? Would you support a moon-colony mission? (5/28)

ISRO Readies to Launch Orbiter to Mars; Not So Fast, Say Ministers (Source: Deccan Chronicle)
When India launches its orbiter to Mars later this year, it will do so despite opposition from none other than some Union ministers. Sharing some details of what transpired at a meeting of the Union cabinet, minister of state in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), V. Narayanaswamy said on Tuesday that some ministers were opposed to the idea of Indian space scientists launching a mission to Mars in view of the cost involved- Rs 400 crores. (5/29)

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