June 19, 2013

Planning Underway for 50th Anniversary Space Congress (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Canaveral Council of Technical Societies (CCTS) held the first "Space Congress" event in 1964 in Cocoa Beach, during the early days of the Apollo Program. The annual event became the world's most influential space conference and exhibition during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. After nearly a decade-long hiatus, the 42nd Space Congress was held in Cocoa in 2012. Based on the success of this one-day event, CCTS is now planning the 43rd Space Congress on April 24-25, 2014, marking the 50 years since the event's genesis.

The theme for the 43rd Space Congress is "Revolution in Space - Exploration and Entereprise". The two-day agenda will feature panel sessions and keynote speakers focused on some of the revolutionary changes underway in both commercial and government space programs, and how those changes are presenting opportunities and challenges nationwide and at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

Incidentally, the annual technical proceedings from all past Space Congress events are being archived at the Hunt Library on the Daytona Beach campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, making the historical papers available to student and faculty scholars, and supporting the development of a new Commercial Space Operations bachelor's degree program at the university. (6/19)

Interstellar Space Travel Art Contest Launches (Source: Space.com)
Sometimes, artists are just as qualified as engineers to envision future technology. Now, an organization aiming to spur the technologies needed for interstellar space travel is asking artists to sketch the vehicles that could take humanity to the stars. Submissions are open to the FarMaker Interstellar Speed Sketch 2013 contest, being organized in conjunction with a conference on interstellar travel called Starship Congress, to run Aug. 15 to 18 in Dallas, Texas. The deadline to apply is Aug. 1.

This year's theme for the contest is Project Daedalus, a study conducted by the British Interplanetary Society in the 1970s that investigated nuclear fusion-powered interstellar spacecraft. Winners of the contest, which will be judged by illustrator and concept artist Stephan Martiniere, a guest of honor and keynote speaker at Starship Congress, will be included in an upcoming book on Project Daedalus. Entrants may spend between 5 minutes and 1.5 hours sketching concept art on a variety of themes. Click here. (6/19)

Countdown to Launch India's Own GPS Begins (Source: India Today)
Like the U.S. GPS, India will soon have its own satellite-based navigation system. The Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System (IRNSS) is a cluster of seven satellites being developed by ISRO. The first satellite is expected to be launched on July 1 from Sriharikota on a PSLV rocket. All seven are expected to be in orbit by early 2015. (6/19)

Nigeria Plans to Train Astronauts for Space Travel With China's Support (Source: All Africa)
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the Nigerian government is to start the training of local astronauts for space travel by 2015. Minister of Science and Technology, Professor Ita Ewa, announced the government's intention to train astronauts for space travel. Ewa, who said the ministry was waiting for President Goodluck Jonathan to approve the training program, added that the country would also collaborate with the Chinese government for the development of a space rocket.

Already, the minister said a launch site with a 20-kilometer launch capability had been set up in Epe, Lagos State, adding that 12 engineers from the National Space Research and Development Agency (NARSDA) are in China for training. The minister explained that once the president has approved the program, the country would start preparing the launch of two more communication satellites.

According to him, the socio-economic benefits of such deployment of satellites include; security surveillance, flood management, environmental surveillance for pest and diseases infested areas, desertification and pollution, especially oil spillage in the Niger Delta. (6/18)

Governor Lingers on Decision for Challenger/Columbia License Plate Funding (Source: SPACErePORT)
Florida Governor Rick Scott has approved or vetoed 12 of 13 space-related bills or funding items since the state's annual Legislative Session ended. The lone remaining bill is designed to transfer annual revenues from the state's Challenger/Columbia license plates to the Astronauts Memorial Foundation (AMF) after the Technological Research and Development Authority (TRDA) is dissolved later this year.

AMF already receives 50% of the license plate revenues, and would double the funding stream after TRDA's 50% share is transferred. Gov. Scott has until June 29 to sign or veto the bill, or to let it pass into law without his signature. (6/19)

Space Tech is New Frontier for Australian Start-Ups (Source: StartUp Smart)
An invention by Australian space engineering start-up Saber Astronautics that aims to reduce “space junk” by dragging failed equipment from orbit has been chosen by NASA to be part of its 2013 low gravity test flights. The device is designed to minimise old and abandoned technology that would otherwise float around in space and potentially damage working technology.
“Space junk is a big problem. It can be really small but it’s going very quickly. If a piece of equipment dies out in orbit, it needs to be removed,” says Saber Astronautics director Dr Jason Held, who describes the device called DragEN as looking like a metal yoyo.

The tether-based technology is attached to the bottom of space technology such as satellites. Once deployed it drags the machinery back towards earth and is incinerated in the atmosphere. Held says the space industry is opening up to start-ups and Australia is well positioned to play a key and growing role. (6/19)

Canadian Space Agency President Pick Prompts Military Takeover Talk (Source: Space News)
The former head of the Canadian Forces is taking the helm of the country’s space agency, prompting both concern that the civilian organization could be heading in a more military direction and praise that a seasoned administrator is taking over. Gen. Walter Natynczyk, who retired last year as chief of the defense staff, was selected by the Conservative government as the new president of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) on June 14. (6/19)

Europe Faces Obstacles in Pooling Military Satellite Telecom Resources (Source: Space News)
Persuading European governments to pool their resources in their next-generation military satellite telecommunications programs will be a lost cause if the sales pitch focuses on the savings a single European system would offer over today’s five separate national systems, the chairman of the European Union Military Committee said June 19.

Gen. Patrick de Rousiers said placing the accent on cost reduction will cause European defense ministries to reject the proposal because it would mean their budgets would be cut. The European Defense Agency (EDA) of Brussels, Belgium, an organization of the 27-nation European Union, has said replacing today’s separate British, French, German, Italian and Spanish military telecommunications satellites with a consolidated network owned by multiple nations would result in savings of at least 1 billion to 2 billion euros ($1.3 billion to $2.6 billion). (6/19)

Zubrin: Curiosity's Radiation Results (Source: Space News)
According to Curiosity RAD measurements, the crew of a human Mars expedition using present-day propulsion technology (six-month transits each way, 18 months on the surface) would receive a round-trip radiation dose of about 0.6 Sievert (Sv), or 60 rem (1 Sv = 100 rem.) This result was not surprising. In fact it was entirely consistent with the data reported by many of the same scientists using the Mars Radiation Environment Experiment, or Marie, onboard the Mars Odyssey spacecraft in 2001, or estimates published by me in “The Case for Mars” in 1996.

What was new, however, was that NASA chose to represent these predictable results as dramatic findings presenting a show-stopper for human Mars exploration. “The findings...indicate radiation exposure for human explorers could exceed NASA’s career limit for astronauts if current propulsion systems are used,” the official release stated. “Exposure to a dose of 1 Sv, accumulated over time, is associated with a 5% increase in risk for developing fatal cancer. NASA has established a 3% increased risk of fatal cancer as an acceptable career limit for its astronauts currently operating in low-Earth orbit.”

Thus, with an estimated mission dose of 0.6 Sieverts, the risk would be 3%, right up against the limit that NASA has devised for itself. So the agency’s leadership is allegedly justified in avoiding the challenge of human Mars exploration, at least until radical advanced propulsion systems become available. They will let us know just as soon as that happens. In the meantime, we should all be content with a human spaceflight program that continues to spend billions of dollars every year for the foreseeable future in order to go nowhere. (6/19)

Positive Online Response to Planned Chinese Space Lesson (Source: China Daily)
Over 1,000 people raised questions for China's first upcoming lesson in space via Tencent Weibo (similar to Twitter) between May 24 and June 10, according to the Shanghai Morning Post. The questions include such as: "Do you have any thoughts about discovering aliens? Can a sponge-liked plate be created if steel melts in space and then gas is pumped into it? Is your physical consumption greater than that on earth when you undergo physical training?" Some of these questions might be answered by astronaut Wang Yaping. (6/18)

"Made in Space" 3D Printer Passes Micro-G Tests, Next Stop ISS (Source: NewSpace Watch)
The first 3D printer bound for space passed a series of critical microgravity tests at Johnson Space Center. Made in Space, the space manufacturing company, conducted examinations of their proprietary 3D printer technology during four microgravity flights lasting two hours each, simulating conditions found on the ISS. The printer, as part of the 3D Print Experiment in coordination with NASA, is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station (ISS) in 2014. (6/19)

Space Exploration Dollars Dwarf Ocean Spending (Source: Center for American Progress)
“Star Trek” would have us believe that space is the final frontier, but with apologies to the armies of Trekkies, their oracle might be a tad off base. Though we know little about outer space, we still have plenty of frontiers to explore here on our home planet. And they’re losing the race of discovery.

Hollywood giant James Cameron, director of mega-blockbusters such as “Titanic” and “Avatar,” brought this message to Capitol Hill last week, along with the single-seat submersible that he used to become the third human to journey to the deepest point of the world’s oceans—the Marianas Trench. By contrast, more than 500 people have journeyed into space—including Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who sits on the committee before which Cameron testified—and 12 people have actually set foot on the surface of the moon.

In fiscal year 2013 NASA’s annual exploration budget was roughly $3.8 billion. That same year, total funding for everything NOAA does—fishery management, weather and climate forecasting, ocean research and management, among many other programs—was about $5 billion, and NOAA’s Office of Exploration and Research received just $23.7 million. Something is wrong with this picture. Space travel is certainly expensive. But as Cameron proved with his dive that cost approximately $8 million, deep-sea exploration is pricey as well. (6/18)

Mars Base Added to Moon Plan (Source: Politico)
Republicans in Congress are pushing for major cuts across the federal budget, but so far, they’re not willing to sacrifice a plan to build a moon colony. In fact, Republicans on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee are eyeing an even more ambitious goal: building a base on Mars, too.

Those calls will be part of new legislation to be released Wednesday reauthorizing NASA for two more years, and though the bill doesn’t use the term “moon base,” the goal is clear. “The [NASA] Administrator shall establish a program to develop a sustained human presence on the Moon and the surface of Mars,” states a recent discussion draft.

New language in the bill also says that while the NASA chief is authorized to develop international partnerships to establish a “sustained presence” on the two celestial bodies, “the absence of an international partner may not be justification for failure to pursue such program in a timely manner.” Although it calls for bases on the moon and Mars, the bill doesn’t set a specific timetable for any of this and opts for a “go-as-we-can-afford-to-pay” strategy. (6/18)

Garvey Launch Parachute Glitch Brings Success Despite Hard-Landing (Source: Science Daily)
Test team personnel reported to the launch site as the sun began to rise on June 15. At 10:52 a.m. Pacific Time, the Prospector rocket's single liquid-fueled engine ignited and the vehicle quickly rose above the desert landscape, reaching a peak altitude of about 9,000 feet. The vehicle's parachutes released prematurely, but the rocket continued on its path, coasting and tumbling, ultimately landing on its side with its pint-sized payload still tucked safely inside.

But the early parachute deployment and hard landing are not considered setbacks, according to Garrett Skrobot, the High Altitude Demonstration Mission's project manager at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. "We consider it a success because we were able to test out all the experiments, and this flight also proves the versatility of the experiments we were flying," Skrobot said. "What we learned was that we're able to fly four payloads with new hardware in an unexpected environment -- and they performed...The whole point is to test these systems before going on to the next vehicle."

Each of the four CubeSats was designed to test or evaluate different aspects of the flight. All were retrieved from the rocket after landing, and team members already are working to recover as much data as possible from the satellites' memory cards. Two student-built spacecraft were designed to work together to record the launch environment. CP-9, built by the California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, and StangSat, created by students at Merritt Island High School in Florida, also were planned to demonstrate the ability to communicate with each other through an onboard Wi-Fi connection. (6/18)

Rocket Carrying Student Experiments to Launch from Virginia Spaceport (Source: Washington Post)
A rocket carrying students’ experiments is scheduled to be launched Thursday from the Wallops Island Flight Facility in Virginia. NASA says students from across the nation developed the experiments through the RockOn and RockSat-C programs. More than 100 students and instructors are expected to be at Wallops Island for the launch of the Terrier-Improved Orion suborbital sounding rocket. The launch is scheduled Thursday between 5:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. Friday is the backup launch day. (6/18)

Asteroid Redirect Mission: Impossible? (Source: Washington Post)
Although there are untold thousands of near-Earth asteroids out there, few are astrodynamically attractive. Their orbits are too eccentric, or too hard to pin down, or they’re just going too dang fast relative to the Earth. This mission needs a rock that’s going less than 2km per second relative to the Earth. And it can’t be spinning too fast. And ideally it wouldn’t be a pile of rubble, but would be carbonaceous, a primordial rock from the birth of the solar system, and full of interesting clues about how the Earth formed and became habitable.

The small rocks needed for this mission (under 10 meters in diameter) are the hardest ones to see. You might get a glimpse of one, but at first glance it’s hard to know much about it, such as the spin rate and the composition and even the size (for that you need to know the albedo). So as NASA asks for help in finding killer rocks it is also hoping to get some help in understanding the small-asteroid population out there as it continues to look for the perfect target for the redirect mission.

What we heard today is that there’s a potential variation on the redirect mission that would eliminate the problem of finding a small rock in the perfect orbit and with the perfect characteristics. Instead, a robotic craft could go to a known, big, well-understood asteroid, and break off a chunk. (6/18)

As Orbital Cries Foul on RD-180, Aerojet Restarts NK-33 Work (Source: Aviation Week)
Orbital seems now to be fighting a two-front war in its attempt to rebuild a medium lift launch market left dormant with the last days of the Delta II Rocket. The company is hoping that with its similarly sized Antares rocket, a new design, it can open doors for satellite makers to build smaller spacecraft, a potentially more affordable option to the large Delta IV and Atlas V boosters.

The two fronts include work to revive dormant NK-33 production and crater the exclusivity agreement now in place for sales of the Russian RD-180 to ULA for the Atlas V. The newly formed Aerojet Rocketdyne is crafting a plan with Russian Kuznetsov Design Bureau to restart production of the NK-33 rocket engine in order to assuage concerns from NASA that enough propulsion systems will be available for missions planned to resupply the International Space Station.

Under its CRS-1 contract with Nasa, Aerojet is overhauling 20 NK-33s for use on Antares. The motors have experienced stress and corrosion, which are addressed through the overhaul process. At issue, however, is concern from Nasa that there may not be enough suitable engines to support CRS-2, which would require 20 more. NASA, however, has requested that Orbital seek a production source for its Antares propulsion system. Aerojet Rocketdyne President Warren Boley is in talks with Kuznetsov to to begin delivering new NK-33s in late 2016. (6/18)

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