June 25, 2013

ATK and Air Force Test New Large-Class Stage-1 Rocket Motor (Source: ATK)
ATK and the U.S. Air Force successfully tested the newly developed Large Class (92-inch diameter) Stage I solid rocket motor May 23 at ATK’s test facilities in Utah. The high-performance motor was developed by ATK for the Large Class Stage I program and uses emerging technologies from other Air Force developmental programs, including the Propulsion Application Program and Integrated High Payoff Rocket Propulsion Technology. The contract is managed out of the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Hill Air Force Base. Preliminary results show all channels of data were collected, and performance appears to be within predictions. (6/25)

Space Astronomy Catches Black Holes In Wide Net (Source: Aviation Week)
The Chandra X-ray Observatory has reaped an unprecedented harvest of potential black holes in the nearby Andromeda Galaxy, and at the same time has added to the database scientists are using to work out how stellar mass black holes produce the high-energy light that signals their presence. Not that all of those black holes are visible, since most don't have the companion X-ray sources visible in the 150 Chandra observations that went into the 13-year search, according to Robin Barnard. “While we are excited to find so many black holes in Andromeda, we think it's just the tip of the iceberg,” Barnard says. (6/24)

Three ‘Super-Earths’ Found in Nearby Star’s Habitable Zone (Source: U. of Washington)
An international team of astronomers has found that a nearby star previously thought to host two or three planets is in fact orbited by six or seven worlds, including an unprecedented three to five “super-Earths” in its habitable zone, where conditions could be right for life. This is the first time that so many super-Earths — planets more massive than Earth but less than 10 times more massive — have been detected in the same system.

GJ667C, part of a triple-sun system in the Scorpius constellation, is a low-luminosity “M-dwarf” star about one-third the mass of the Sun. At about 22 light-years distance from Earth, it is a relatively close celestial neighbor. (A light-year is about 5.9 trillion miles.)

Since such low-mass stars are inherently faint, their habitable zones — the swath of space that would allow an orbiting rocky planet to sustain liquid water on its surface — lie much closer to the star. The closeness of the habitable zone then makes it easier to find potentially habitable rocky planets around low-mass stars. (6/25)

Can You Put Up With Space's Superpower Bacteria? (Source: Universe Today)
We all love space here and we’re sure, given that thousands of people applied for a one-way trip to Mars, that at least some of you want to spend a long time in a spacecraft. But have you thought about the bacteria that will be going along with you? If you don’t feel too squirmy to read on, understand this: one type of bacteria grown aboard two shuttle missions ended up being bigger and thicker than control colonies on Earth, new NASA research shows.

Two astronaut crews aboard space shuttle Atlantis grew colonies of bacteria (more properly speaking, biofilms) on behalf of researchers on Earth. Most biofilms are harmless, but a small number could be associated with disease. Biofilms were all over the Mir space station, and managing them is also a “challenge” (according to NASA) on the International Space Station. The type of microorganism examined was Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which was grown for three days each on STS-132 and STS-135 in artificial urine.

That was chosen because “it is a physiologically relevant environment for the study of biofilms formed both inside and outside the human body, and due to the importance of waste and water recycling systems to long-term spaceflight... Before we start sending astronauts to Mars or embarking on other long-term spaceflight missions, we need to be as certain as possible that we have eliminated or significantly reduced the risk that biofilms pose to the human crew and their equipment,” (6/25)

Com Dev Aims To Place Quantum Cryptography System on Microsatellite (Source: Space News)
Canadian satellite builder Com Dev is pushing ahead with a plan to put into orbit a communications system that — in theory, at least — can not be hacked. The Cambridge, Ontario, company wants to demonstrate quantum cryptography technology first on an airborne platform by next March before installing the proposed system on a microsatellite, said Ian D’Souza, mission scientist for what Com Dev is calling its quantum encryption and science satellite. (6/25)

How to Live on the Moon: A Lunar Base Guidebook (Source: Space.com)
The idea of living on the moon captures the imagination. Even before the first human set foot on the lunar surface during NASA's Apollo program in 1969, people around the world were dreaming about a permanent moon base to colonize Earth's closest celestial object. It might sound like something set firmly in the realm of fantasy, but experts in private industry and governments around the world are trying to understand how feasible it would be to establish a lunar base. Click here. (6/25)

Virginia Suborbital Launches Scrubbed Due to Poor Experiment Conditions (Source: Washington Post)
NASA is rescheduling its planned launch of two rockets from Virginia to Friday. The launch originally scheduled for Monday from Wallops Island was scrubbed again Tuesday because conditions weren’t what scientists needed to carry out their experiments. NASA plans to launch the Black Brant V and Terrier-Improved Orion 15 seconds apart in support of the Daytime Dynamo experiment.

NASA says the project is designed to study a global electrical current called the dynamo, which sweeps through the ionosphere. The ionosphere stretches from about 30 to 600 miles above Earth. A disruption in the ionosphere can disrupt communication signals from satellites. Each sounding rocket will go for a five-minute flight to about 100 miles up in the ionosphere. (6/25)

From Barbie Dolls to the 'Final Frontier' (Source: Press Democrat)
Outer space is the next step for Nicole Aunapu Mann, who grew up playing with Barbie dolls and soccer balls in Sonoma County, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and Stanford University and got a job in the Marine Corps flying jets at 1,300 miles per hour. Mann, 35, who flew 147 combat missions over Iraq and Afghanistan before becoming a test pilot four years ago, was named last week as one of eight astronaut candidates in NASA's 21st class of four men and four women with the right stuff.

Mann's life since graduating from Rancho Cotate High School in 1995 has followed a dream-like script of successes since she surprised her family by opting for both a military career and a high-risk occupation. “I liked the idea of being part of something that was bigger than me,” Mann said. In two months, the Marine Corps major will change into an astronaut's blue jumpsuit and begin a rigorous two-year training regimen at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. (6/25)

Ex-NASA Contractor Seeks Retrial In Iran Satellite Case (Source: Law 360)
A former NASA contractor urged a Maryland federal judge Monday to clear him of all charges or grant a new trial on the counts he was convicted of in a case accusing him of providing satellite technology to Iran, violating a trade act and money laundering. Nader Modanlo seeks another shot at shedding an indictment that accused him of violating the Iran Trade Embargo Act, money laundering, obstruction of bankruptcy proceedings and other charges, according to Monday’s motion. (6/24)

Astronaut Joseph Acaba Teaches Teachers About Science and NASA (Source: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)
Fifty teachers from across Texas sat in on a lecture by astronaut Joseph M. Acaba on Monday, June 24, at the International Cultural Center on the Texas Tech campus. Acaba, who has spent a total of 138 days in space during two missions, addressed the fourth annual MS 2 Conference, a middle school math and science scholarship degree program. (6/24)

Peru Launches First Homemade Rocket (Source: Space Daily)
Peru successfully launched its first rocket built with 100 percent Peruvian technology with the capacity to reach the stratosphere, head of the National Aerospace Research and Development Commission (Conida) said. Mario Pimentel Higueras said the "Paulet 1-B" rocket was launched Tuesday at the scientific base of Punta Lobos in Pucusana, south of the country's capital Lima.

Conida's chief said the launching of the rocket showed Peru could reach a level of technological capability by 2020 that would make it feasible for the country to send satellites into orbit. Pimentel affirmed the manufacturing of Paulet 1-B was a milestone in Peru's aerospace industry, because it was the first time that a device built solely with Peruvian technology was launched into space. (6/19)

Plan for Modified European Rocket Gets Backing (Source: Space Daily)
Two major figures in the European space industry on Monday backed plans to modify the Ariane 5 rocket to help it shoot larger satellites into orbit. The head of the European Space Agency, Jean-Jacques Dordain, said he would ask ESA member states for fast-track approval to have the modification carried out by the end of 2015. "The proposal has been made, and this week or next week we will be discussing at the next (ESA) Launchers Program Board... The goal is to have the modification operational by 2015 at the latest," he said.

The idea had been floated by the new head of satellite launch firm Arianespace, Stephane Israel. Israel called for a modification of the successful Ariane 5 ECA launcher so that it can handle larger electric-propelled satellites, one of the most promising areas of the satellite launch market. The proposed "Ariane 5 ECA Adaptation" would have a larger fairing to accomodate the more voluminous payload.

Separately, the new head of France's National Center for Space Studies (CNES), a major contributor to ESA and shareholder in Arianespace, said he also backed the "adaptation" plan. "Obviously, this is something that we fully support, as it's the key to ensuring that the Ariane 5 ECA can meet trends in the satellite market," said Jean-Yves Le Gall. Dordain did not seem to think that getting the modification money would be a problem. "It's not extravagant sums... around 30 million (euros)," or $39.9 million, he said. (6/17)

Embry-Riddle Space Medicine Workshop Featured on Space Show (Source: Space Show)
On Wednesday, June 26, The Space Show will focus on the Space Medicine Workshop at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida, sponsored by the Teachers In Space program of the Space Frontier Foundation. The four guests are Bob Werb, Dr. Jason Kring, Elizabeth Kennick and Rebecca Zgorski. Click here. (6/25)

Satellites to Bring 'Fast, Cheap' Internet to 'Under-Connected' (Source: AFP)
The first four of 12 satellites in a new constellation to provide affordable, high-speed Internet to people in nearly 180 "under-connected" countries, will be shot into space on Tuesday, the project's developers said. The orbiters, part of a project dubbed O3b for the "other 3 billion" people with restricted Internet access, will be lifted by a Russian Soyuz rocket from Kourou in French Guiana at 1854 GMT. (6/24)

SAIC Nabs $202M NASA Contract for Safety, Mission Assurance (Source: Washington Technology)
Science Applications International Corp. has won a $202 million contract with NASA to provide safety and mission assurance engineering support services to the agency’s facilities. The contract has a three-year base and two option years. SAIC will provide safety and mission assurance engineering support services to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas and White Sands Test Facility near Las Cruces, N.M. (6/24)

Tyson: Man’s Ability to Move Exoplanets into Habitable Zones 100% Possible (Source: NY Daily News)
The superhuman ability to move planets throughout the solar system at our choosing may sound like a far-fetched idea fueled by an out of this world comic book hero. But as scientists recently revealed, it’s tough — but not impossible.

In noted New York City Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson's podcast last week he was faced with just such a novel idea in a question posed by a listener, one he and a former NASA scientist say they had never considered before. Using the same methods scientists theorize would work to move meteorites, asked the listener, would it be possible to move uninhabitable planets, namely Mars or Venus, to regions of our solar system where they could potentially sustain human life? (6/24)

Aerojet Rocketdyne Signs Extension to Agreement with Russia's Fakel (Source: America Space)
Shortly after the completion of the $550 million Aerojet-Rocketdyne merger, the new company last week signed an extension to its teaming agreement with Experimental Design Bureau (EDB) Fakel of Kaliningrad, Russia. The agreement, which was announced at the Paris Air Show on 18 June, provides Aerojet Rocketdyne with the rights to market and sell Fakel’s low-power (up to 5 kW) Hall thrusters in the U.S. market. (6/24)

Spaceport America Handles Successful Rocket Launch (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Other than a small rain burst that caused a one-hour delay, a 20-foot-long rocket soared skyward Friday morning from Spaceport America without a hitch, becoming the 19th launch from the state taxpayer-financed facility. The UP Aerospace-owned vehicle, carrying payloads as diverse as chile seeds, science experiments and human remains, fired into the atmosphere a few minutes before 8 a.m., climbed to suborbital space, parachuted back to the ground and landed miles away to the east.

Pat Hynes, director of the Las Cruces-based New Mexico Space Grant Consortium, said she sold some payload space aboard the rocket to benefit future education-themed launches. Barnett's Las Cruces Harley-Davidson paid to send up 20 poker chips, a memento often traded by motorcyclists, said Pamela Strobbe, marketing coordinator for the Las Cruces store. During a 2011 flight, the company sent collector's pins into space. She said the store thinks it might well be the "first Harley-Davidson motorcycle memorabilia in space."

Some chile seeds were on board and will be given out in commemoration of Nordyke, Hynes said. A business that creates clothing out of recycled plastic bottles, Teeki.com, sent fabric to space that will later be turned into eight pairs of yoga pants. (6/24)

NASA Signs Deal for GeoMetWatch Climate Data (Source: Space News)
Commercial weather startup GeoMetWatch Corp. will provide NASA with four years’ worth of atmospheric sounding data from its first space-based sensor under an unfunded Space Act Agreement. NASA will use the data from the Sounding and Tracking Observatory for Regional Meteorology (STORM) sensor slated for launch as a hosted payload aboard the AsiaSat 9 telecommunications satellite for the space agency’s climate-change research program. STORM is a hyperspectral sensor designed to provide high-resolution soundings of atmospheric conditions, including temperature and humidity, for weather forecasting and storm tracking. (6/24)

Soyuz Launch of O3b Satellites Delayed by High Winds (Source: Space News)
The planned June 24 launch of the fifth flight of the Europeanized Soyuz rocket carrying four O3b Ka-band high-throughput satellites has been scrubbed because of high winds over the Kourou spaceport. The launch has been rescheduled for June 25. The potential wind shear at 12 to 14 kilometers in altitude forced the delay, which was announced before the vehicle was fueled. (6/24)

Orbital Sues ULA, Seeks RD-180 Engines, $515 Million in Damages (Source: Space News)
Orbital Sciences Corp., which wants to buy Russian-made RD-180 engines for its medium-lift Antares rocket, is suing rocket maker United Launch Alliance (ULA) for blocking any such sale, according to court papers dated June 20. Orbital claims Denver-based ULA has not only illegally prevented open-market sale of the RD-180, but also has monopolized the launch-services market for certain satellites in violation of U.S. antitrust laws.

Orbital wants a federal judge to strike down an exclusivity agreement ULA has with its engine supplier, RD AMROSS, and to force ULA to pay Orbital at least $515 million — and potentially more than $1.5 billion — for damages arising from ULA’s alleged monopolization of “launch systems and services used for medium-class payload missions,” according to court papers. Orbital wants the case to go before a jury. (6/24)

Aerospace Merger Means Big Savings for U.S. Government, Company Says (Source: Space.com)
Executives with Aerojet Rocketdyne, in its first week since forming from the merger of two rocket propulsion companies, said Tuesday (June 18) the new firm would save the U.S. government $1 billion over a decade and be responsive to the demands of customers, despite its dominance in the market for liquid-fueled rocket engines in the United States.

Warren Boley, president and CEO of Aerojet Rocketdyne, said here at the 2013 Paris Air Show that the combined company promised the U.S. government $100 million in acquisitions savings per year in order to help achieve the endorsement of the Pentagon as officials sought approval for the merger, which was finalized on June 14. (6/24)

Spacewalking Cosmonauts Prime Space Station for New Laboratory (Source: Space.com)
Two cosmonauts took a spacewalk outside the International Space Station on June 24 to prepare for the arrival of a new Russian laboratory later this year. Clad in bulky Orlan spacesuits, cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin spent more than six hours outside the space station to test automated docking system cables and install equipment to aid the arrival of the new Russian Multipurpose Laboratory, slated to launch by the end of 2013. (6/24)

Server Sky Proposes Constellation of Chipsats (Source: HobbySpace)
Server sky is a proposal to build large arrays of 5 gram paper-thin solar-powered computer satellites in 6400km earth orbit. Arrays act as large parallel computers and phased array antennas, transmitting thousands of communication beams simultaneously to low cost ground receivers and other arrays in space.

U.S. data centers consume 10GW of electricity to produce microwatt signals delivered to customers. Converting space solar power into computation and sending the only results eliminates most of the cost and mass of SBSP, as well as the expense and inefficiencies of data centers and fiber optic infrastructure. Server sky can provide high reliability broadband internet to developing nations with much lower economic and environmental cost. Click here. (6/24)

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