June 24, 2013

Is The Future Bright for Aerojet Rocketdyne? (Source: America Space)
Last week, California-based Aerojet and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne—the two premier rocket-power providers in the United States—finalized their merger, almost a year after it was first announced. GenCorp, Inc., the aerospace and technology firm which has owned Aerojet since 2005, declared Monday 17 June that it had completed the $550 million purchase of PWR from parent company United Technologies Corp. The pair have now been relaunched as “Aerojet Rocketdyne,” and GenCorp has pledged the U.S. government that the merger will save $100 million each year.

“The deal is the latest chapter of consolidation in the aerospace industry,” noted the Los Angeles Times, “which has unfolded over the last two decades and has cost tens of thousands of jobs throughout [Southern California].” At the time of last year’s initial agreement, GenCorp CEO Scott Seymour praised its “strategic value” and described the merger as an enterprise which would be “better positioned to compete in a dynamic, highly competitive marketplace and provide more affordable products for our customers.”

Prior to its acquisition, Rocketdyne was favorably positioned as a candidate to build the giant rocket, with RS-25 shuttle main engines utilized for its core stage and RL-10 engines for its second stage. As for Aerojet, the company is presently contracted to provide 20 AJ-26 engines for upcoming Antares missions, although Orbital Sciences has expressed an interest in the Russian-built RD-180 as a more suitable long-term alternative. This produced a measure of surprise from Boley, who described the potential engine-change decision as “not the conversation you are usually having after your first successful launch.” (6/24)

Redirecting an Asteroid Mission (Source: Space Review)
Since its announcement in April, NASA has struggled to win public and political support for its asteroid initiative, including a mission to move a small asteroid into cislunar space. Jeff Foust reports on how NASA may be tweaking the effort to place a greater emphasis on planetary defense, while some in Congress move to block the project. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2318/1 to view the article. (6/24)

Bird on a Wire (Source: Space Review)
On Saturday, the Kennedy Space Center's Visitor Complex will open its new exhibit showing the shuttle Atlantis. Dwayne Day offers a preview of what to expect when the doors open to the public. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2317/1 to view the article. (6/24)

Tiny Satellites Soar (and Crash) in Desert Launch (Source: Space.com)
Saturday was a good day for a launch at the Friends of Amateur Rocketry test site here near the community of Cantil. The skies were clear blue, the winds light and the temperature was hot but not scorching. At 10:52 a.m. local time (1:52 p.m. EDT; 1752 GMT) on Saturday (June 15), the countdown reached zero and a Prospector-18D rocket carrying four tiny CubeSats rose on a column of orange flames along its vertical launch rail.

The small rocket cleared the rail in the blink of an eye and arched over in the direction of Koehn Lake — a vast expanse of bone-dry desert that, on a much windier day, would have been engulfed in a dust storm right out of a French Foreign Legion movie. [See photos of the Prospector-18D launch] The Prospector never got there. As the rocket, built by Garvey Spacecraft Corp., was still soaring skyward, a bright orange parachute suddenly deployed at the bottom. As the chute and the rocket's fins were ripped free by aerodynamic forces, the rocket pitched over and crashed into the desert floor less than 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) from its launch pad. (6/21)

Launch of Merritt Island Students' Satellite Has Them Soaring (Source: Florida Today)
The launch of a satellite designed and built by Merritt Island High’s Satellite Club members may end up launching their future careers. A group of nine current students and recent graduates saw their CubeSat launch in a high-altitude test flight last weekend aboard a Prospector 18-D rocket in the Mojave Desert in California.

Not all went as planned but for the students, who designed and built the satellite with the help of NASA mentors, it was a learning experience they’ll never forget. “It’s amazing to think that we, as high school kids, were able to accomplish this,” said Gurkirat Kainth, 17, a recent graduate and former member of the Satellite Club. “We functioned just like we would on a job where you have responsibilities and you carry them out as a member of a team.” (6/24)

Chinese Astronauts Manually Dock Spacecraft (Source: Space Daily)
Three Chinese astronauts on the country's longest manned space mission on Sunday succeeded in manually docking their spacecraft with a module orbiting Earth, state media said. Docking techniques are a crucial element of China's space program, which aims to build a station orbiting the planet by 2020. The Shenzhou-10 -- "Divine Vessel" -- was piloted by mission commander Nie Haisheng, assisted by astronauts Zhang Xiaoguang and Wang Yaping, China's second woman in space. (6/23)

Near Earth Objects – Where Are They? (Source: LaunchSpace)
Many of us are worried about the IRS scandal, NSA looking over our shoulder and many other national issues. However, most citizens are not aware of an ever-present threat, not only to our privacy, but to the entire world. We call these near Earth objects, or NEOs.

NEOs are Solar System objects that pass near the Earth while traversing their heliocentric orbits. These objects have a closest approach to the Sun, or perihelion, of less than 1.3 AU. The population of NEOs includes a few thousand near-Earth asteroids (NEAs), near-Earth comets, a small number of solar-orbiting spacecraft and meteoroids large enough to be tracked in space before striking the Earth.

Scientists believe past Earth collisions have significantly influenced the geology and biology of our planet. Thanks to improved sensing techniques over the past 25 years, our awareness of the NEO threats has increased considerably. Click here. (6/24)

Ten Thousandth Near-Earth Object Found in Space (Source: NASA JPL)
More than 10,000 asteroids and comets that can pass near Earth have now been discovered. The 10,000th near-Earth object, asteroid 2013 MZ5, was first detected on the night of June 18, 2013, by the Pan-STARRS-1 telescope, located on the 10,000-foot (convert) summit of the Haleakala crater on Maui. Managed by the University of Hawaii, the PanSTARRS survey receives NASA funding. Ninety-eight percent of all near-Earth objects discovered were first detected by NASA-supported surveys.

"Finding 10,000 near-Earth objects is a significant milestone," said Lindley Johnson, program executive for NASA's Near-Earth Object Observations Program at NASA Headquarters, Washington. "But there are at least 10 times that many more to be found before we can be assured we will have found any and all that could impact and do significant harm to the citizens of Earth." During Johnson's decade-long tenure, 76 percent of the NEO discoveries have been made. (6/24)

Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch to Travel in Space (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia scaled back its ambition to send the Sochi 2014 Olympic flame into space on Monday but promised the next best thing: an unlit torch aboard a rocket bound for the International Space Station. Russian Olympic Committee chief Alexander Zhukov suggested earlier this year efforts would be made to send the flame into space as part of its 123-day tour of Russia, beginning in October.

On Monday, Sochi chief organizer Dmitry Chernyshenko and Vladimir Popovkin, the head of Russia's space agency, announced a torch - one of 14,000 expected to be used in the 65,000-kilometer relay - will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in central Kazakhstan on November 7. (6/24)

What to Wear on a Mars Trip? (Source: Space Safety)
While dealing with countless obstacles and technological challenges in preparation for a future long duration mission beyond Earth orbit, it seems as if scientists and engineers have forgotten about some rather mundane issues – such as astronauts’ clothes.

Busy trying to figure out real “rocket science” problems  - closed-loop life support systems, launchers more powerful than anything ever built before – the research teams probably didn’t consider the question of what the astronauts are going to wear as having crucial importance.

It hadn’t been until August of  last year, when one inquisitive professor of fashion and design overheard by sheer chance a part of a radio program discussing a possible future manned mission out of the Solar System, when durable space clothes came under scrutiny.  That inquisitive assistant professor was Karl Aspelund of the University of Rhode Island. (6/24)

Sally Ride: "We've Come A Long Way" (Source: Reconstructionists)
When she boarded the Space Shuttle Challenger on June 18, 1983, Sally Ride (May 26, 1951 — July 23, 2012) became not only the first American woman in space, but also the nation’s first lesbian astronaut and its youngest astronaut to ever to launch into the cosmos. A lifelong advocate for science education and the author of several science books seeking to inspire kids to reach for the stars, she gave generations of girls and young women affirmation and a promise of belonging in scientific careers. Click here. (6/23)

NASA's Next-Generation Rocket Enters New Design Phase (Source: SEN)
NASA's next generation rocket, which the agency hopes will launch its Orion crewship to asteroids and Mars, is entering its preliminary design phase -- the portion of a spacecraft's development where ideas are firmed up for construction. The rocket, called Space Launch System (SLS), is scheduled to launch for the first time in 2017. The agency has embraced a "flexible destination" approach with this system - as well as an asteroid it could also transport astronauts to Mars in the coming years. (6/24)

Astronaut Memorial Foundation Stands to Gain With Bill (Source: Florida Today)
Last year’s demise of the Technological Research and Development Authority (TRDA) could give a boost to the local foundation that honors fallen astronauts. Since 1989, the TRDA collected half the revenue from sales of Challenger-Columbia license plates. The rest went to the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, creator of the state’s first specialty tag after the Challenger disaster in 1986.

After alleged misuse of federal grants led to the TRDA’s dissolution, state legislation passed this year restored the foundation as sole recipient of tag revenue that totaled about $560,000 in 2011-12. The foundation expects Gov. Rick Scott to sign into law soon the bill that would make that change. The foundation has been hit hard by cuts to NASA education programs and the loss of tenants, including Space Florida and UCF, at its 47,000-square-foot Center for Space Education at the KSC Visitor Complex.

AMF's chairman says the roughly $250,000 the foundation stands to gain in additional tag revenue would almost exactly fill the expected hole in its $1.1 million operating budget. “It’s not like it’s going to bump us up any, it’s going to just maintain the status quo,” he said. The revenue only may be used to support educational and technology training programs, which would otherwise face cuts. (6/24)

Africa’s Prime View of Space Transforms into Action (Source: Voice of America)
A skyward glance on an African night is a look into the center of the Milky Way. The continent is well positioned on earth for a great look at our galaxy. Africa, as a continent, is not known for its space exploration. It was not a part of the space race of the 1960s. But these days, astronomy and space programs here have become key parts in teaching us about what is happening beyond our atmosphere.

Kevin Govender, the Director of the Global Office of Astronomy for the South African Astronomical Observatory in Cape Town, said Africa is well suited to look into outer space. "In terms of the continent, the interesting thing about Africa is if you look at the famous night time satellite view of the earth you find these bright lights in the U.S. and Europe and you find across Africa it is a very dark continent. That darkness is also something that gives people better access to the night sky. (6/20)

China's Home of Space Dreams (Source: China Daily)
The Shenzhou X manned spacecraft blasted off on June 12 from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, which is also home to scientists, soldiers and their families. Zou Hong unveils daily life at the center in Gansu province. The "Cape Canaveral of China" - Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, also known as Dongfeng Space Center - is located at the depth of Badain Jaran Desert, 210 kilometers from the northeast of Jiuquan city, Gansu province.

Built in 1958, the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center is the earliest and largest satellite launch center in China. Since its establishment, it has achieved many firsts for the development of the space industry of China, including the launch of China's very first satellite in 1970. It is also the breeding ground and launching pad of many vital space projects, including Shenzhou X manned spacecraft that blasted off on June 12, bringing the nation one step closer to setting up its own space station in 2020.

While the city is the cradle for space dreams, people in the city live a simple life, with no bars and night clubs. Most of the residents are scientists, members of the military and their family members, who dedicate their time to realizing the nation's space mission. Click here. (6/23)

Xi Vows Bigger Stride in Space Exploration (Source: China Daily)
President Xi Jinping said that the Chinese people will take bigger strides in space exploration, during his talk to astronauts aboard the orbiting space module Tiangong-1 on Monday. "The space dream is part of the dream to make China stronger. With the development of space programs, the Chinese people will take bigger strides to explore further into the space," said Xi.

Xi expressed his sincere greetings to the three astronauts who embarked on their space journey on June 11 on broad of the Shenzhou X spacecraft, the country's fifth manned spacecraft. "You have worked and lived in space for 13 days. We all care about you very much," Xi told crew members Nie Haisheng, Zhang Xiaoguang and Wang Yaping. Speaking of China's first space lecture, Xi said it would play an important role in fostering young people's interest in sciences and exploring the space.

China has sent ten astronauts and six spacecrafts into the space since its first astronaut Yang Liwei succeeded in his space trip in 2003. The manned space mission has reflected the courage to defy hardship and explore, a spirit that would inspire the entire nation, President Xi said. (6/24)

NASA Astronaut Group 21: 8 Brave New Astronauts to Visit Asteroid — Then Mars (Source: Policy Mic)
In October 2011, NASA began accepting applications for astronaut hires and after an extensive year-and-a half search, the NASA Astronaut Group 21 was formed from four women and four men in the second largest pool of applications NASA has ever had, comprising over 6,372 applicants (the largest was in 1978 just before the launch of the space shuttle program).

Currently in the process of identifying possible near-Earth asteroids, NASA has gathered a team of academically and physically impressive people with the goal of visiting one in 2025. NASA Astronaut Group 21, who will follow a robotic precursor mission, will then be launched even farther afield in the following decade ... to Planet Mars.

Before my dreams of becoming an astronaut were quelled with my not-so-20/20 vision and my impressive motion sickness, I spent many a day and night poring over the seemingly infinite documentation NASA provides on all things space related. The requirements for becoming a U.S. astronaut have really evolved since the early 60s. Those original seven pilots, whittled down from over 500 willing candidates, were all-action heroes. Nowadays, the training is no less intense but the requirements have shifted. Click here. (6/23)

NASA, Deloitte To Bring Space-Age Risk Management To Oil And Gas Industry (Source: NASA)
NASA Johnson Space Center and Deloitte will enter into a strategic alliance offering advanced risk-management services to oil and gas companies. These capabilities include several operational risk-management approaches aimed at companies seeking to minimize the risk of catastrophic failures – the kinds of dramatic mishaps that, while highly unlikely, can occur in remote and harsh environments.

A core value of NASA is safety, which serves as a cornerstone of mission success. This collaboration will enforce NASA’s constant attention to safety as a cornerstone upon which it operates as safely as possible. Through this collaboration, NASA will gain knowledge to help prepare for future missions and to enhance current safety and risk mitigation technologies to address the dynamic, harsh, and remote requirements of emergent programs. (6/20)

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