June 21, 2013

NASA and UP Launch Suborbital Experiments in New Mexico (Source: Parabolic Arc)
New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) officials announced the launch today of the first NASA “Flight Opportunities Program” rocket designed to reach sub-orbital space. The public launch of SpaceLoft™ XL 7 (S-7) took place this morning from Spaceport America’s Launch Complex-1. This launch marks the 11th flight since 2006 at Spaceport America conducted by UP Aerospace and the 19th overall flight from the spaceport.

The successful launch of NASA’s SL-7 commercial-space, research-payload rocket took place at approximately 7:57 AM (MDT), which was within the dedicated 2.25 hour launch window, and flight data indicates the rocket attained a maximum altitude of approximately 119 km (74 miles). The parachute recovery system brought the SpaceLoft rocket and its payload safely back and was recovered intact 37.8 km (23.5 miles) downrange on White Sands Missile Range as planned. (6/21)

CASIS: Stem Cells in Space - Doing Research in Microgravity (Source: CIRM)
In a field as critical to human health and drug development as stem cell biology, it is all the more important to explore and exploit new research pathways. One example of a new and uncharted pathway is the exposure of stem cells to reduced gravity conditions that induce changes in cell growth and differentiation. This pathway is now accessible to scientists and innovators for far less cost than ever before and is made available by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS, via a formal Request for Proposals (RFP). Click here. (6/21)

Stratolaunch Unveils New Design (Source: SpaceRef)
Stratolaunch Systems has unveiled a new design concept for its space transportation system. With a wingspan of 385 feet, greater than the length of a football field and powered by six 747 engines, a mission range of 1,000 nautical miles and with a gross weight of 1.3 million pounds, the Stratolaunch can deliver 13,500 pounds to low earth orbit and into any orbit, any time. The rocket carried aloft by the Stratolaunch aircraft is being designed/developed by Orbital Sciences Corp., using know-how garnered from its Pegasus launch vehicle program.

Editor's Note: From an online discussion on NasaSpaceFlight.com: Although Orbital Sciences' Pegasus rockets can be launched from a wide variety of locations, the FAA's requirements for range safety and protected airspace, along with customer requirements for tracking and telemetry during launch, limited the operations to sites with controlled ranges and range assets (spaceports). So, in practice, while Pegasus did launch from five different locations, they were all pre-existing launch sites. This kind of dulls Stratolaunch's any-orbit, any-time claim. (6/21)

NASA's Latest Morpheus Test Proves It's Got Some Catching Up To Do (Source: io9)
NASA is currently working on a vertical landing system. And as you'll see in this video, it's anything but impressive — especially when considering that it fails in the first part of the video, that it's the 24th test, and the damn thing was tethered. Meanwhile, SpaceX is hopping rockets to a height of 820 feet.

Sure, Project Morpheus is different. It's a vertical lander intended intended to place 1,100 pounds of cargo on the moon. But come on. This is the best they can do? Perhaps if NASA received more funding its engineers could actually set about the tasks they're assigned. At the same time, private industry (SpaceX, Masten, Armadillo) has demonstrated success with a variety of larger or more sophisticated vehicles. (6/21)

Nelson Warns of Partisan “Chaos” Regarding NASA Authorization (Source: Space Politics)
Immediately after the House Science Committee’s space subcommittee wrapped up its hearing on a draft NASA authorization bill Wednesday morning, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) offered his views on the subject. Nelson, chairman of the space subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee, said his committee was working on its own version of a NASA authorization bill that would be ready by mid-July or perhaps sooner, in order to support appropriators.

Nelson made it clear that the Senate bill would differ in some key ways from the House bill. “I’m not going to approve of keeping it at $16.8B, because it would run the space program and NASA into a ditch,” Nelson said, referring to the overall budget authorized for NASA in the draft House bill. He was specifically critical of the earth sciences funding level in the House bill, saying it was “completely wiped out” in the bill. “You think Barbara Mikulski is going to allow that?” he asked.

Even if the Senate is able to approve a NASA authorization in a “nonpartisan/bipartisan” manner, “what plays out over the rest of the year is nothing but chaos.” He expects that the House will delay decisions on key bills until a deal is made on increasing the debt ceiling. While he was hoping to find a bipartisan approach to a NASA authorization, he wasn’t shy about making some partisan jabs of his own. “If you want to play footsie with the Tea Party, you may as well say ‘sayonara’ to our manned space program and unmanned space program,” he said. (6/21)

George LeMieux Makes Sense for Rick Scott as Lieutenant Governor (Source: Sunshine State News)
Buzz is building that Gov. Rick Scott could choose former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux as lieutenant governor -- and the idea makes a lot of sense for both Florida Republicans. LeMieux accompanied Scott to France this week for the Paris Air Show. While over there, LeMieux praised Scott for bringing jobs to Florida. This has set tongues wagging that LeMieux could be a contender to be Scott’s lieutenant governor, a position which has remained vacant since Jennifer Carroll resigned back in March.

At first glance, this makes little sense. LeMieux has never won elected office (he was appointed to the U.S. Senate by Gov. Charlie Crist), does not have much of a political base and his bid to challenge Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL, went nowhere. He has ties to former Gov. Charlie Crist, the former Republican who is now one of the leading contenders to take Scott on next year as a Democrat. But LeMieux brings some assets to the table for Scott. He comes from Broward County and could help the governor in that populous area. Scott only took 33 percent of Broward back in 2010 when he took on Alex Sink.

Editor's Note: As Lt. Gov., LeMieux would be chairman of Space Florida's board. As a U.S. candidate in 2011, LeMieux said this: "We should let the private sector do what it is doing...in pursuing low-Earth orbit. I think you're going to see these people reach the International Space Station on a regular basis. We should be proud of it. But going to the moon or Mars or an asteroid, that has to be NASA. I want to see some leadership to say wer'e going to a certain place by a certain time. And then we need to go and fund it." (6/21)

Space Lotuses to Touch Down in Shanghai (Source: Space Daily)
The 50 flowers of 13 varieties grown from seeds that traveled into space will be on show at Guyi Gardens on June 28. "The space lotuses will be a highlight, as many people are excited about the recent space mission," said Sun Jia, spokeswoman for the 500-year-old gardens in Jiading district. Sun added the best time to enjoy the show will be the full bloom period, which is expected to be near the end of July.

The venue has exhibited space lotuses before, but never so many varieties, as they are rare due to the complicated cultivating process, she said. The most famous in the show will be the No 36 Space Lotus, a white variety from Jiangxi province's Guangchang county, that was successfully cultivated after three trips to space. (6/21)

SpaceX Buys More Land at Texas Spaceport Site (Source: Valley Morning Star)
SpaceX continues to expand its property investments in Cameron County amid a commitment of $15 million from the state, and other legislation aimed at luring the space exploration firm to Texas. The firm now owns eight lots in Cameron County. The most recent purchases were made in May, the Valley Morning Star found. “That’s music to my ears,” state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. said Thursday.

“I’m happy to know that SpaceX is purchasing property if they are trying to finalize the location where the operations will take place,” the senator added. State Rep. Rene Oliveira said, “SpaceX has been taking steps to position the company in Cameron County for some time now. It’s a serious statement about the viability of our location for commercial space launch activity.” (6/20)

Mars Mission Success May Rely on US-Russian Collaboration (Source: Voice of Russia)
Muscle and bone loss as well as heart issues can occur on prolonged space missions. In addition, astronauts must be shielded from sudden bursts of high level radiation. Larry Young says that he and his colleagues at MIT are working closely with various groups in Russia including the Skolkovo Institute and the Moscow Aviation Institute to solve some of these problems.

His current work involves radiation protection and in particular, the protection of the central nervous system. He believes the answers are within reach and that because of the pooling of minds devoted to this effort that humans may reach Mars within this generation's lifespan. (6/21)

Atlantis Exhibit is 'Go' for Visitors (Source: Florida Today)
Just one week from its grand opening, the Atlantis exhibit at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is nearly ready. The final week will be one of fine-tuning inside the $100 million building, though a few public tours have been given a sneak-peek. “We’re ready to go,” said Tim Macy, director of project development for Delaware North Companies at the visitor complex. “We’re tweaking the sound, and doing color balance” in the theaters. (6/21)

Terror Threat at Indian Space Facilities (Source: Times of India)
Security has been beefed up at various ISRO facilities in the city and its outskirts after its Jalahalli office received letters threatening attacks on the facilities on June 20 or 21. The letters, written in English and Urdu and found at the parking lot at Jalahalli, warned of bloodshed, police sources said. They also listed HAL and NAL, besides a star hotel and a Shiva temple among potential targets.

Police sources said the letters could have been distributed by some disgruntled elements within ISRO as they clearly stated that they had joined the organization and would create some harm on June 20 or 21. Additional police commissioner (law & order) Kamal Pant said this may be a prank by some mischief-mongers but police aren't taking it lightly. (6/20)

Space Weather Piques Interest in U.S., Global Space Communities (Source: Space News)
In a year when Earth’s geostationary belt has had a close brush with an asteroid and meteoroids have both exploded over Russia and dinged a crucial U.S. weather satellite, another extraterrestrial threat is rising to prominence among U.S. government officials: space weather. Space weather refers to the effect that charged particles from the sun, ejected by our local star at rapid speed during so-called coronal mass ejections, have on man-made objects they cross paths with in space.

These solar storms, which like atmospheric storms vary in potency from mild to catastrophic, are still not well understood, despite the fact that there are about a dozen U.S. satellites in orbit whose instruments are useful for observing such phenomenon, according to the National Space Weather Program, part of NOAA. About half of these satellites are operated by NASA.

Recognizing that the nation’s electrical infrastructure has grown exponentially since then, some U.S. policymakers are pushing to make space weather a matter of national security. This year, the Department of Homeland Security is even considering drilling a recovery from a space weather-related disaster as part of its National Exercise Program. (6/20)

Most Southeast Volusia Cities Support Spaceport Development (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
A launch facility is only one of many opportunities Volusia County could benefit from if a commercial spaceport is developed on its southern border. County Airport and Economic Development director Rick Karl found himself in front of a receptive audience at the city's Economic Development Advisory Board meeting Wednesday. He came before the board to reiterate the county's support of a proposal that could put it at the forefront of competitive world of commercial space flight.

Elected officials in the cities of New Smyrna Beach and Edgewater have already joined Volusia County in supporting a resolution backing commercial space flight entities setting up shop here. However, Oak Hill city commissioners remain skeptical saying during a May 20 meeting questions still remain. It is predicted such a facility could generate jobs and foster economic development as well as expand and diversify domestic and international opportunities to improve the state's competitive business climate. (6/20)

Celestis to Give Gene Rodenberry Final Resting Place in Space (Source: Huffington Post)
Remains of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, his wife and the actor who played Scotty will get a final resting place in the "Final Frontier" under plans announced Thursday to launch a space archive. The project is being developed by the Houston company Celestis, which for years has offered a service that takes partial remains into space and then brings them back.

Celestis announced the new project a day before a launch from Spaceport America takes its 1,000th capsule into space. Ashes from the Roddenberrys have been on previous flights. But this time they will stay in space. Plans call for the archive to be launched with a large experimental solar sail planned by NASA next year. The public can pay to have digital files, photos and DNA samples included. Also on the mission will be hair from science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke. (6/20)

Falcon 9 Selected To Launch German Military Radar Satellites (Source: Space News)
It appears that SpaceX, whose Falcon 9 rocket’s book-to-bill ratio is taking on astonishing proportions, will be launching all three of Germany’s next-generation radar reconnaissance satellites under an agreement that makes use of long-dormant options held by Astrium of Europe for the now-shelved Falcon 1 rocket, industry officials said.

Officials said Astrium’s Falcon 1 launch contract options, agreed to in 2010, were transferred to Falcon 9 and that these will be used to launch the three SARah radar reconnaissance satellites to be built by OHB AG and Astrium Satellites of Germany under contract to the German defense procurement agency. (6/20)

O3b Networks Satellites Integrated on Soyuz for French Guiana Launch (Source: SpaceRef)
The fifth Soyuz to be launched from French Guiana is now complete following the integration of its upper composite consisting of four O3b Networks satellites, their protective payload fairing and the Fregat upper stage. This activity was performed at the Spaceport's ELS launch complex near the town of Sinnamary, beginning with the composite's transfer on a special transporter, followed by hoisting to the upper level of a purpose-built mobile gantry. (6/20)

Stéphane Israël Named Chairman and CEO of Starsem (Source: SpaceRef)
The Board of Directors of Starsem has named Stéphane Israël Chairman and CEO of the company. After his appointment, Stéphane Israël said he was very proud to be succeeding Jean-Yves Le Gall and to be entrusted with this position. Stéphane Israël was also named Chairman and CEO of Arianespace on April 22, 2013. He confirmed his determination to continue the fruitful partnership between Arianespace, Astrium, Roscosmos and the Samara Space Center TsSKB-Progress, a partnership that has conducted 26 launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, all successful. (6/20)

Planetary Resources Telescope Reaches Funding Goal, Add-Ons Await (Source: Endagadget)
And communal space astronomy is go. Planetary Resources has successfully hit the $1 million crowdfunding target for its ARKYD telescope, which should now be on track for its promised 2015 launch. The project has also racked up 11,000 backers, and that means a new round of add-ons for the extra-committed.

Backers can buy a special mission patch ($7), additional selfie photos (from $25) and even a half-size ARKYD replica ($650). There are a few more pragmatic reasons to invest, of course -- the company has stretch goals that could bring a second ground station, selfies during the beta phase and even hunts for undiscovered planets. Would-be researchers who still want to pitch in can visit Kickstarter by June 30. (6/20)

Air Mobility and Space Transportation (Source: Citizens in Space)
Jim Hillhouse, the founder and editor of the Americaspace blog wrote: "We have a gov’t owned rocket rather than a commercial rocket for the same reason we don’t have United Airlines or FedEx as a replacement for the Air Mobility Command. It’s bad policy to hinge a national goal, in this case beyond Earth exploration, on the whims of commercial companies whose loyalties are to its shareholders, not the American people. You say that’s a problem. I disagree."

As it turns out, Mr. Hillhouse is ill-informed. The great bulk of US military logistics (over 80%) is performed by commercial carriers. The military even maintains a Civil Reserve Air Fleet program under which it can commandeer commercial aircraft in case of a national emergency. There are over 1300 airplanes in the CRAF. The Air Mobility Command does not attempt to maintain enough aircraft to meet all of the military’s transport needs. It maintains only enough aircraft to handle those needs that cannot be met by commercial operators. (6/20)

Is Commercial Space Virginia’s Next Jobs Frontier? (Source: Stafford County Sun)
When Virginia in 1998 wanted to have Wallops Island designated a Space Port, I remember thinking that it sounded a bit silly. After all Wallops Island was a test facility that for years was used to launch nothing larger than a few small suborbital missiles. The idea that it could launch rockets with large-scale payloads seemed outlandish. One of those grand economic development ideas that sound good in a press release but never comes to much. But, that’s not what happened. (6/20)

China Seeks to Boost Share of Satellite Market (Source: Space Daily)
China is actively exploring commercial opportunities to boost its share of the global satellite-launching market, in an attempt to challenge US and European dominance of this field. China Great Wall Industry Corp, a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, is showcasing its next generation of heavy-lifting rocket, the Long March 5, which is expected to be first launched in 2015.

China launched 19 satellites last year, more than the US did for the first time. The country aims to increase its market share in the global satellite-launching business to 15 percent by 2020, according to report of Xinhua News Agency. It currently has about 3 percent market share and its main clients are countries from Asia, Latin American and Africa.

Since 2005, China has launched satellites for Nigeria, Venezuela, and Pakistan, and in April added Turkey, Argentina and Ecuador to its international roll call of clients, after sending three more satellites into orbit. China is basing its offering on a combination of high reliability and reasonable cost, but she admitted that it faces major obstacles in entering the US and European markets. (6/20)

China's Space Program Less Costly (Source: Space Daily)
China's manned space program has achieved rapid development in a "less costly way," a U.S. astrophysicist said Sunday. "China did a great job in successfully sending another three astronauts into space," George Smoot said while visiting the Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT) in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. (6/21)

Embry-Riddle Students Take Top Honors in FAA Design Competition (Source: ERAU)
Four teams from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University have outperformed the 62 other colleges and more than 1,200 other students at the recent 2012-2013 FAA Design Competition for Universities. The annual competition, which challenges U.S. college students to find innovative solutions to real-world airport and runway safety issues, included 244 submitted design proposals in six categories.
The Embry-Riddle teams consisting of Human Factors students finished No. 1 and No. 2 in the category of Runway Safety, No. 1 in Airport Management & Planning and No. 3 in Airport Operation & Maintenance. The first-place teams will receive their awards and present their design projects at FAA Headquarters on July 17. (6/20)

NASA Making Cleanup Progress in Pasadena (Source: La Canada Valley Sun)
A NASA-funded treatment plant in Pasadena has removed hundreds of pounds of toxic residue left over from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's early rocket-building days. The $8.5 million Monk Hill water treatment facility has removed 674 pounds of perchlorate from 7,773 acre-feet of water since it opened in 2011, said Steve Slaten, a NASA remediation project manager.

Twenty-three pounds of trichloroethylene, an industrial solvent, have also been removed from the water supply. The space agency agreed to pay for cleanup after perchlorates from rocket fuel was detected in several area wells. The first rocket test was conduced in 1936 in the Arroyo Seco, in the area where the lab now sits. Most of the waste dumping occurred in the 1940s and '50s. (6/20)

Europe Testing Prototype Mini-Shuttle (Source: Discovery)
The European Space Agency is developing its first spaceship designed to return back through Earth’s atmosphere, a key technology for flying and returning not only experiments, but perhaps eventually people as well. The first step of the project is called the Intermediate Experimental Vehicle, or IXV for short. On Wednesday, a full-scale mockup was dropped from a helicopter flying 1.9 miles (3 kilometers) above the Mediterranean Sea near Sardinia, Italy, to test its flight handling and parachute system.

The drop test clears the way for Europe to proceed with the launch in August 2014 of an IXV aboard a Vega rocket for a suborbital flight up to about 75 miles (120 kilometers) above the planet. From that altitude, the vehicle should be moving at about 4.6 miles per second (7.5 km per second) when it slams back through the atmosphere. A follow-on program called Pride is expected in 2018 with an orbital flight. (6/20)

USAF Cements SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Certification Path (Source: Aviation Week)
The U.S. Air Force and SpaceX have finally hammered out a road map to certification of the untested Falcon 9 Version 1.1 launch vehicle that is expected to compete to put sensitive Pentagon payloads into orbit. This is the latest step by the Air Force to end the United Launch Alliance (ULA) monopoly on lofting such payloads.

Certification for the Falcon 9 V1.1 could be approved as soon as 2015, based on the requirements laid out in a June 7 cooperative research and development agreement (Crada) between the Air Force and SpaceX. This Crada specifically covers only the Falcon 9 V1.1 launch system, and does not include the also unproven Falcon Heavy.

The Air Force says it “anticipates entering into additional Cradas with SpaceX to evaluate its Falcon Heavy rocket and with Orbital Sciences [Corp.] for its Antares launch vehicle.” Both the Falcon 9 V1.1 and Falcon Heavy will rely on the new Merlin 1D engine, which has yet to fly. (6/17)

Here You Go, Taxpayers: A Billion-Pixel Image of Mars (Source: The Atlantic)
Curiosity just delivered something new in the wonder department: a 1.3-billion pixel image of the surface of Mars. It's a composite, and zoomable and clickable and interactive. And a little bit addictive. The individual images, NASA explains, were taken on several different Martian days between October 5 and November 16, 2012. Bob Deen at JPL assembled the composite using 850 different frames from the telephoto camera of Curiosity's Mast Camera instrument.

He then supplemented those with 21 frames from the Mastcam's wider-angle camera and (and with 25 black-and-white frames -- mostly Curiosity's selfies -- taken from the Navigation Camera). The resulting mosaic, which uses the clickable, zoomable Gigapan platform, depicts illumination effects from variations in the time of Martian day. It also shows variations in the clarity of the atmosphere. "It gives a sense of place and really shows off the cameras' capabilities," Deen said of his (and Curiosity's) work. "You can see the context and also zoom in to see very fine details." Click here. (6/20)

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