June 27, 2013

Russian Strela Rocket Launches Kondor Satellite (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Russia’s Strela rocket has finally conducted its much-delayed flight Thursday, launching a Kondor radar imaging satellite for the Russian military. Liftoff from silo 59 at Baikonur Cosmodrome’s site 175 occurred at 16:53 UTC. (6/27)

Germans Plan to Send Robotic Apes to the Moon (Source: Bad Skeptic)
Robotics researchers and engineers at The German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) and the University of Bremen are building robotic apes. They plan to send them to the moon! Click here. (6/27)

How Does Spacetime Get Bent? (Source: io9)
In Einstein's universe, spacetime is supposed to be some crazy rubber sheet full of folds and bends. But the idea of curved space is not the most intuitive in the world. And what does light have to do with any of this? In this week's Ask a Physicist, we'll find out. Click here. (6/27)

NewSpace Business Plan Competition (Source: SpaceRef)
With $135,000 in prizes, more industry support than ever before, and a new location and date, the Space Frontier Foundation today announced the details of the largest, richest and most exciting NewSpace Business Plan Competition to date. In years past, this competition has been a part of the Space Frontier Foundation's NewSpace Conference, however, this year the competition will be a stand-alone event to be held in the Fall, allowing the Foundation to give this outstanding program its own spotlight.

The NewSpace 2013 Conference will be held July 25-27. Both events will be in California's famed investor hot-spot, Silicon Valley. "The competition aims to assist and showcase new startups and expanding firms who can demonstrate both the ability to provide a return on investment and the capacity to contribute to opening the space frontier," said Foundation Director, Thomas A. Olson. (6/27)

Sending Your Own Spacecraft to the Moon Just Became a Reality (Source: HobbySpace)
A new project to give thousands of people the opportunity to design, build and launch personalised spacecraft and send them to the moon has begun. Now anyone can become a citizen space explorer and take part in a mission to send their own Pocket Spacecraft to the moon. At a cost of just $159, explorers who back the project will be able to personalize their own spacecraft by adding a picture or message direct from their favourite social media or game profile or create their own unique design.

They can do this from their smartphone or web browser and will be able to monitor progress throughout their mission with their own Pocket Mission Control app. Users will be able to track the progress of their spacecraft as it is designed, built in the lab and travels through space. More technical explorers will be able to write software and even customise the on-board hardware enabling them to conduct their own unique experiments whether mapping the solar wind or playing laser tag – in space! Click here. (6/27)

Race To Mars - A Turn-Based Space Simulator Game (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Race To Mars is a turn-based, space company simulation game. Become the head of a newly created “New Space” company whose goal is to establish a colony on Mars. You begin as a start-up and develop cutting edge aerospace technologies to reach orbit. Flying beyond the vicinity of Earth, blaze the trail into space and leave the competition far behind on your way to victory.

Our game aims at achieving two goals: promoting the outer space industry and satisfying all fans of economy games. Race To Mars combines the realism of a space-port management sim and approachable gameplay. We assure you that both subject enthusiasts and casual gamers will find this mixture highly entertaining. Our priority is to make an approachable game without compromising its key economic and strategic features. Click here. (6/27)

Rep. Bill Posey Hosting Federal Contracts Conference in August (Source: Sunshine State News)
U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-FL, will host a conference on federal contracting at Florida Tech in Melbourne on Aug. 5-6. "Many of our local businesses specialize in technology, innovation and services that are applicable to meeting the needs of federal agencies,” said Posey. “Learning how to navigate the federal procurement process and accessing decision-makers within federal agencies helps Space Coast businesses and workers compete.”

“The federal government represents a key opportunity for Space Coast companies to tap into a funding source and client base that values innovation, precision and hard work – all hallmarks of the Space Coast’s increasingly vibrant economy,” said Lynda Weatherman, the president and CEO of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast. “We thank Congressman Posey for hosting this important event and encourage our county’s strong base of defense and technology companies to participate." (6/27)

New Daft Punk Song Features Apollo UFO Talk (Source: Space Answers)
If you’ve been listening to Daft Punk’s new album Random Access Memories lately, you may have noticed that at the start of the song Contact there’s an astronaut talking about some sort of UFO in space. Who’s talking, and is it a genuine transcript? Well, apparently Daft Punk actually asked for a transcript to use at the start of the song, so NASA gave them this excerpt from the Apollo 17 mission. The person talking in the song is Gene Cernan, commander of Apollo 17, as he along with fellow astronauts Jack Schmitt and Ronald Evans made their way to the Moon in December 1972.

Of course, the transcript taken out of context seems to indicate something mysterious going on. Has Cernan spotted some sort of UFO? Have Daft Punk uncovered a secretive NASA transcript that indicates the presence of alien life? Sadly, no, and the answer is slightly more mundane than you might have hoped (although still pretty cool if you think about it).

As the Apollo 17 spacecraft made its way to the Moon, it had discarded an upper stage of the Saturn V rocket that lifted it into space. Known as the S-IVB, this piece of the rocket remained on a similar trajectory to Apollo 17 until the lunar astronauts began their maneuvers to get into lunar orbit. Click here. (6/27)

ULA Selects Switzerland's RUAG to Develop Dual-Launch Capability (Source: ULA)
United Launch Alliance has selected RUAG Space AG of Zurich as its strategic partner to develop a Dual Launch Capability for ULA rockets. RUAG developed and currently produces Atlas V 5.4 meter payload fairings and interstage adapters for ULA. (6/27)

PayPal Launches Quest for Intergalactic Currency (Source: AFP)
Earthbound financial transactions service PayPal launched a quest for an intergalactic currency, saying it is time to figure out what space travelers will use as cash. "The time has now come for us to start planning for the future; a future where we aren't just talking about global payments," said PayPal president David Marcus. "We are expanding our vision off earth into space."

The initiative, headed by PayPal, aims to bring together parties with roles to play in the commercialization of space to explore a framework for a financial system that spans galaxies. "We are at that point now where it seems a natural time for scientists, governments, and everybody else to start taking this seriously." Astronauts living in the International Space Station still have bills to pay, even if they are just buying digital books or music for whiling away time in orbit, Marcus reasoned. (6/27)

NASA's Peruvian Stars (Source: Peru This Week)
Three Peruvian woman play important roles at the U.S. space agency, and now they want to teach children the key to achieving their goals: education. They are engineers for NASA. Because none of them was born into wealth, the Peruvians Melissa Soriano, Aracely Quispe and Rosa Ávalos have been able to reach the stars – almost literally – using the other key that they have found opens all doors: education. The ability to achieve one’s dreams is a secret that they have been sharing with students in Cusco, Puno and Lima as part of a tour organized by the U.S. Embassy. Somos spoke with these women in the Imperial City. (6/26)

Getting Your Research Into Space Is Easier Than You Think (Source: NASA)
CASIS Chief Operating Officer Duane Ratliff shares the secret to success in doing business with the International Space Station... “How do I get my research into space?” It is easily the most common question I receive when travelling across the country to support the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) at meetings and targeted events. After all, many scientists have been conditioned to think that microgravity research is expensive, complicated and, frankly, a mystery.

These misconceptions lead to the second—and understandable—question I get from a business perspective, which is, “Why should I invest time or money into sending my company’s research into space when I can invest right here on the ground?” This is where the exciting conversation begins on how to use the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory as your research platform. Why? It is nowhere near as intimidating or as expensive to send your investigations to the station as you might think. Click here. (6/26)

NASA's Stennis Space Center Empowered (Source: America Space)
At NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi the space agency, along with contractors Boeing and Aerojet Rocketdyne, put the structures that build and test the machines that make space flight possible on display. The tour followed a ribbon-cutting ceremony held to mark the new Vertical Weld Center at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility, which is located in adjacent Louisiana. Both of these events were held on Friday, June 20. They highlighted a single truth: efforts to construct and launch NASA’s Space Launch System, or “SLS,” are moving forward. (6/27)

Sierra Nevada Completes the Finance Milestone for Dream Chaser (Source: Space Daily)
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has successfully completed another Dream Chaser milestone under NASA's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreement. The CCiCap Investment Finance milestone represents SNC's commitment to significantly invest its own dollars into the design, development and testing of the Dream Chaser Space System.

The milestone, which was originally scheduled to be complete in July, was completed in early June, a month ahead of schedule. SNC is committed to the successful development and deployment of the Dream Chaser Space System by investing company resources in support of NASA's CCiCap program requirements. (6/27)

Safe Splashdown for ESA's Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (Source: Space Daily)
ESA's experimental reentry vehicle passed its milestone descent and landing test on Wednesday at the Poligono Interforze Salto di Quirra off the east coast of Sardinia in Italy. The full-scale Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) prototype was released from an altitude of 3000 m by a helicopter, falling to gain speed to mimic a space mission before parachute deployment. The parachute slowed IXV for a safe splashdown in the sea at a speed below 7 m/s.

This last step in a series of tests shows that IXV can be recovered safely after its mission into space. The IXV project is developing and flight-testing the technologies and systems for Europe's future autonomous atmospheric reentry vehicles. It will be launched by ESA next year on Vega, Europe's new small launcher, into a suborbital path. It will reenter the atmosphere as if from a low-orbit mission, testing new European reentry technologies during its hypersonic and supersonic flight phases. (6/25)

U.S. Air Force Orders Seven ULA Rockets (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force has awarded United Launch Alliance (ULA) of Denver a $1.1 billion contract to build seven rockets to launch Air Force and National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) satellites. The medium-lift rockets are part of the Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program to launch satellites to space. ULA, a Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture, is prime contractor on that program and the award was made on a sole-source basis.

The newly ordered launch vehicles include: four Atlas 5 rockets of various configurations, two each for the Air Force and NRO; and three Delta 4s, two for the Air Force and one for the NRO. About half of the money, $525 million, will be awarded during 2013, the release said. Work is expected to be completed by 2015, the announcement said. (6/27)

Russia to Launch its First Radar Satellite (Source: Russian Space Web)
Yet another two-decade-old Russian space project reached the launch pad Thursday. The blastoff of the Strela rocket from Site 175 in Baikonur is scheduled for June 27, 2013, at 20:53:00 Moscow Summer Time. The launch vehicle heading east from the Kazakhstan launch site will be carrying the Kondor-E satellite scheduled to separate from its rocket at 21:18:35 Moscow Time into a circular orbit with an altitude of 504.7 kilometers and an inclination 74.75 degrees toward the Equator.

Kondor-E would blast off on a Strela rocket from a very old but still operational underground launch pad. This hardened facility protected with a massive steel cover was originally built in the USSR along with numerous other fortified missile silos spread around Baikonur Cosmodrome. Although the main purpose of the site was testing Soviet UR-100-series ICBMs, the silo was also capable of launching an actual doomsday attack in the event of a nuclear war. (6/27)

Telespazio Chief Eyes Avio as Part of Broader Strategic Review (Source: Space News)
The new chief executive of satellite services provider Telespazio said he is positioning the company to better compete with Astrium Services, and that ownership of Italy’s Avio rocket builder would enhance his product portfolio. Luigi Pasquali declined to say whether Rome-based Telespazio’s parent company, Finmeccanica, would enter the bidding for Avio in competition with France’s Safran/Snecma and with the EADS-owned Astrium Space Transportation company of France and Germany. (6/27)

Security Achievement for Aerojet Rocketdyne Facility (Source: Aerojet Rocketdyne)
Aerojet Rocketdyne's Sacramento facility is a 2013 recipient of the Defense Security Service's (DSS) James S. Cogswell Outstanding Industrial Security Achievement Award. "The Cogswell Award recognizes industrial security excellence, and Aerojet Rocketdyne exemplifies that standard in all of its security operations," said Kyle Frigo, Sacramento facility security officer. (6/26)

KSC Enlisted to Support Hawaii Space Efforts (Source: Garden Island)
A Hilo-based space research and education center is enlisting the expertise of NASA's Kennedy Space Center. KSC will provide research project assistance to the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems, or PISCES, under a new agreement. PISCES Executive Director Rob Kelso the center will reimburse NASA for the help it receives to develop printing technology that can make use of the island's lava rock, which is similar to rock on the moon and Mars. (6/26)

Supreme Court Gay Marriage Rulings Hailed by NASA Deputy Chief (Source: Space.com)
Even top NASA officials are celebrating the landmark same-sex marriage decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court. Lori Garver, NASA's second-in-command, is hailing the ruling as a major win for equal rights. The highest U.S. court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which had prevented the federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages performed by states.

"This is a great day for equality and inclusion in America," Garver, who serves as NASA's deputy administrator, wrote on her agency blog today. "In striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Supreme Court has sent a clear message that all legal marriages in America, regardless of gender, are deserving of equal dignity under the law." (6/26)

NASA Chief Lauds Obama's Climate Change Plan (Source: Space.com)
President Obama's ambitious new strategy to combat climate change has won big praise from NASA, with the head of the U.S. space agency pledging a steadfast commitment to tracking the health of planet Earth. "Having looked back at Earth from outer space, I have seen just how fragile our home planet is — and I'm committed to doing everything I can to help protect it," NASA chief Charles Bolden, a former space shuttle commander, wrote in a NASA blog post Wednesday.

The president's proposal focuses on reducing the amount of carbon pollution in the country, leading the global effort to fight climate change, and preparing U.S. communities to endure the extreme weather expected to become more frequent in a warming world. NASA's satellite fleet may be among Earth's best witnesses to the effects of climate change. (6/26)

33 Fascinating Things About Atlantis (Source: Florida Today)
Here are some things you should know about Atlantis, which goes on public display Saturday at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Why 33? Atlantis flew 33 missions. Click here. (6/27)

Sterilizing Mars Spacecraft is Largely a Waste of Money (Source: WSU)
Two university researchers say environmental restrictions have become unnecessarily restrictive and expensive - on Mars. They say the NASA Office of Planetary Protection’s "detailed and expensive” efforts to keep Earth microorganisms off Mars are making missions to search for life on the red planet "unviable.” The researchers claim "the protocols and policies of planetary protection are unnecessarily restricting Mars exploration and need to be revised.”

The Office of Planetary Protection is like an interplanetary Environmental Protection Agency, with a mission "to minimize the biological contamination that may result from exploring the solar system.” As far as Mars is concerned, say Fairén and Schulze-Makuch, such efforts are probably in vain since "Earth life has most likely already been transferred to Mars.”

Meteorite impacts have had 3.8 billion years to spread Earth life forms to Mars. Several Earth spacecraft have visited Mars without undergoing the sterilization procedures now in place. If organisms transferred to Mars over the eons failed to survive, modern organisms would likely face the same fate. If they did survive, say Fairén and Schulze-Makuch, "it is too late to protect Mars from terrestrial life, and we can safely relax the planetary protection policies.” (6/27)

NASA Selects Surrey Satellite US for Atomic Clock Payload (Source: EON)
Colorado-based Surrey Satellite Technology US announced that NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has selected SST-US for the flight of the Deep Space Atomic Clock (DSAC) payload under the sponsorship of NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). DSAC will fly on the SST-US-owned-and-operated Orbital Test Bed (OTB) satellite, the first spacecraft to be integrated at the new SST-US facility in Englewood, Colorado. (6/27)

Fleet of Satellites to Support Massive Open Database of Earth Imagery (Source: IT World)
a team of former NASA scientists hopes its start-up -- which "will operate the world’s largest fleet of Earth imaging satellites" -- can be the next great catalyst for positive change. "We want to help people understand the planet and make better decisions," the Planet Labs founders say. "By giving people a view of the Earth in near real-time, we intend to spur people, companies, and governments to action. Planet Labs will be providing an entirely new data set -- unprecedented coverage and frequent imagery of the planet. This new information will inform future humanitarian, ecological and commercial endeavors." (6/27)

NASA Tests Fit of Orion Adapter Ring and ULA Delta IV (Source: Huntsville Times)
It looked like a good fit Wednesday as technicians lowered an aluminum adapter ring onto the top of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket at Marshall Space Flight Center. That means NASA stays on track to launch an Orion crew capsule into space in September 2014 atop a Delta IV for critical tests on the way to returning crews to deep space. (6/26)

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