June 8, 2013

One Solution for Space Debris (Source: LaunchSpace)
The topic of "space debris" is hot, and getting hotter! Spacefaring nations and the space community are concerned about this growing impediment to future space flight. NASA, DoD, FAA, ESA and the UN are all aware of the issues. There are international debris commissions and committees studying potential mitigation and remediation solutions.

Although space debris proliferation presents a long-term challenge that will require a long-term solution, the immediate problem is quite bounded. Recent studies of debris distribution reveal the near-term troubled zone to be a spherical shell between the altitudes of 700 km and 900 km. This is where a great many operational satellites and large debris objects co-exist. One suggested near-term partial solution by NASA is to remove a limited number of large debris objects that reside in the high density zone.

This approach could retard the growth of collision risk levels and lead to values that are consistent with statistical times-between-debris-collisions that are much higher than expected satellite mission lifetimes. Such an operation would have to be continued on a long-term basis, requiring the removal of some large objects each year. Such debris removal missions are possible, but complex and expensive. (6/10)

Budget Cuts Eliminate Federal Grants for Spaceport Infrastructure (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Department of Transportation’s matching grants program for space transportation was dropped from President Barack Obama’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget request due to funding constraints. The grants, which were first authorized in 1992, have been awarded to a number of licensed and proposed spaceports in recent years to help fund space-related infrastructure development. The grants require 50 percent local matches, including 10 percent from private-sector sources.

During last month’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) meeting, the Operations Working Group (OWG) recommended that the FAA’s Office of Space Transportation “pursue funding for STIM Grants in appropriations and future budget requests, and at an increased level over previous authorized amounts.” OWG said the program should be restructured to lower the amount that recipients must raise in order to obtain them. The 50 percent level is high, and the 10 percent private-sector contribution can be an obstacle. (6/10)

Two Years Later, SBIRS Geo-1 Finally Declared Operational (Source: Space News)
The first of a new generation of U.S. missile warning satellites, the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) Geo-1, was quietly declared operational last month, two years after its launch.

Air Force Space Command declared SBIRS Geo-1 operational May 17 and recommended Integrated Tactical Warning and Attack Assessment certification of the asset to U.S. Strategic Command, Air Force Lt. Connie Dillon, a Space Command spokeswoman, said June 7 in response to a SpaceNews query. The Air Force has attributed Geo-1’s lengthy commissioning period to an onboard communications issue correctable via a software upload. (6/7)

NASA's Next Manned Spacecraft Are Taking Shape (Source: WIRED)
Boeing, SpaceX and the Sierra Nevada Corporation have achieved major milestones in their space programs, testing the vehicles they hope will carry astronauts into orbit and reestablish NASA’s manned space program. NASA is providing a total of more than $1 billion in funding to the three companies to develop a new spacecraft. The agency has said it most likely will select a single design and hopes to begin flying astronauts by 2017.

The three companies are hip-deep in NASA’s commercial crew integrated capability program, competing for lucrative government contracts to shuttle astronauts to and from the International Space Station and other destinations in low Earth orbit. Boeing recently tested its CST-100 spacecraft and the integrated Atlas V launch vehicle in NASA’s transonic wind tunnel at Ames Research Center in California. The tests were the first with the spacecraft and launch vehicle integrated, and concluded more than two months’ work at the tunnel.

SpaceX and Sierra also continue making progress. SpaceX recently completed its pad abort test review with NASA, demonstrating where and how astronauts will escape should something go wrong during launch. Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser, which recently arrived at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, soon will begin flight testing, beginning with simple tows down the runway to make sure the landing gear and brakes are working properly. Sierra Nevada plans unmanned drop tests from a helicopter later this summer. (6/7)

Com Dev Posts Solid Numbers Despite Slowdown in Satellite Orders (Source: Space News)
Satellite on-board electronics manufacturer Com Dev of Canada on June 6 reported double-digit increases in revenue and backlog and a higher profit margin for the three months ending April 30 and said new commercial satellite contract wins by Boeing ultimately could provide a revenue boost at Com Dev. (6/7)

Ignoring Call for Strategic Pause, ESA Intends To Stay the Course on Ariane 6 (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency (ESA) has no intention of changing course for its future Ariane 6 rocket despite pointed criticism of the selected design by former ESA and European industry launch-vehicle experts, ESA Launch Vehicle Director Antonio Fabrizi said June 7.

Fabrizi said the current design, using two solid-fueled stages topped by a cryogenic upper stage, received the specific endorsement of ESA’s governments last November and cannot simply be set aside. He said the vehicle’s final design — both a single-block first stage and a multiblock cluster are being discussed — will be settled by early July. Once ESA and the French space agency, CNES, freeze the Ariane 6 specifications, they will issue requests for information to European industry and then more-formal requests for bids on the Ariane 6 components. (6/7)

Commercial Crew Gets Reprieve in NASA Operating Plan (Source: Space News)
NASA wants to reshuffle its 2013 budget to fund a post-shuttle crew transportation program at an all-time high and shore up the James Webb Space Telescope and Earth Science Division with funds siphoned out of the Planetary Science Division.

The changes are part of an operating plan delivered to NASA’s congressional overseers the week of May 27, according to a government source who has seen the document. The latest operating plan details changes NASA wants to make to its 2013 budget, part of the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013 (H.R. 933) that was signed March 26 and funds federal agencies through Sept. 30. (6/7)

ISS: A Future Beyond 2020? (Source: AmericaSpace)
Use of ISS is, per Section 501 (a) of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, to be operated until 2020. Although since the 2010 NASA Act was written NASA has talked about extending the use of ISS beyond 2020 to as late as 2030, the decision to operate ISS beyond 2020 has not yet been made. One factor that will have to be considered in any decision to operate ISS beyond 2020 is the station’s age. Completed in 2011, by 2020 elements of ISS are obviously aging; Zarya was lofted in 1996 with an estimated life-span of 15 years.

By 2020, Zarya, lofted in 1996 with an estimated lifespan of at least 15-years, the Unity Node, and the PMA–1 will have been in orbit over 24 years; those elements launched in 2000 such as Zvezda, the P6 truss, and Quest will have been in orbit around 20 years. By 2030, those elements in particular, and ISS in general, will certainly provide an unparalleled opportunity to witness how structures age in low-Earth orbit. But concomitant with that are the costs associated with the needed maintenance to counter the wear-and-tear of low-Earth orbit.

The issue of the costs of maintaining ISS has not been invisible to the station’s international partners. There has been a rising chorus among the ISS international partners of their unwillingness to use what little human spaceflight funding they have beyond 2020 to maintain a +20 year-old low-Earth orbiting space station. Given the scarce funding picture NASA itself faces for years to come and the operating costs of ISS at just over $3 billion annually, the space agency is unlikely to be able to afford both ISS and a beyond-Earth orbit exploration program. (6/7)

Russian Spy Satellite Launched Via Soyuz 2-1B (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
A Russian Soyuz 2-1B launch vehicle has lofted the second Persona reconnaissance satellite into space on Friday. The launch was conducted at 18:37 GMT from launch pad 43/4 at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia, with a successful spacecraft separation confirmed by the Russian military. The Soyuz-2-1 rocket is a descendent of the R-7 Semyorka, the world’s first intercontinental ballistic missile. A modified version was used to launch the first satellite, Sputnik 1. (6/7)

Orion Spacecraft Cool Under Pressure (Source: AmericaSpace)
The Orion spacecraft at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida has undergone extensive testing to prepare it for its first flight, currently scheduled to take place in September of next year. Tests to address new issues, as well as resolve old ones, have been taking place over the course of the past three weeks. Last November, Orion’s rear bulkhead cracked when the capsule was pressurized. NASA has gone back and reinforced these sections and re-tested Orion, which passed muster on Wednesday, June 5.

Brackets were designed to strengthen the sections that failed during the previous pressure tests. The loads and stresses that contributed to the failures are now spread out. NASA took the better part of a month to amend the issue, which a NASA release deemed “superficial.”

As with most machines destined to take to the skies, engineers made sure that the spacecraft was tested to see if it could withstand stresses much stronger than expected. As the technicians checked out Orion, they cranked up the pressure to 110 percent of what it is expected to encounter in space. Orion handled these loads successfully. (6/7)

Europe, Japan Examine Advance Mutual Back-Up Launch Capability (Source: Space News)
The launch service providers of Europe and Japan on June 7 agreed to investigate standardizing their satellite-preparation procedures to make it easier for satellite owners to make last-minute shifts between them. The agreement between Europe’s Arianespace consortium and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (MHI) of Japan is a follow-on to the two companies’ long-standing, but little-used, “Launch Services Alliance.”

The alliance between the two companies was intended to provide mutual backup launch services in the event one side’s vehicle — Europe’s Ariane 5 or Japan’s H-2A — was grounded. But the Japanese vehicle’s scant presence on the commercial launch market, and the fact that the Ariane 5 rocket has continued its dominance of that market, has left the correlation of forces between the two vehicles essentially unchanged over the years. (6/7)

NASA's Biggest Rocket Yet Aims for 2017 Test Flight (Source: Space.com)
NASA's largest rocket yet, a vehicle under development called the Space Launch System (SLS), is on track for its first test flight in 2017, according to experts who spoke at the Space Tech Expo in Long Beach last month. The rocket is designed to carry astronauts farther into the solar system than ever before. Meanwhile, NASA plans to leave travel to low-Earth orbit to commercial space companies, which are developing private space taxis to take over the job vacated by the retired space shuttle.

The test flight in 2017 is planned to go beyond lunar orbit, with the upper stage of the booster powered by derivatives of Pratt & Whitney/Rocketdyne's J2 engines, which date back to the Apollo program. In addition to the new components of the SLS, some reverse engineering of legacy hardware, such as the Saturn V's F-1 engines (capable of 1.5 million pounds of thrust), are being conducted. Whether or not such a large power plant will be built for future uses is unclear. (6/7)

Space Tourism Isn’t Just a Thrill Ride for the Rich (Source: Medium)
The sub-orbital tourism industry may seem extravagant, but it’s following a similar path the airline industry started on more than 100 years ago. In 1913, flying in a plane — any plane — was more of an unsafe thrill ride available only to the few adventurers willing to risk life and limb. They were flying for the excitement of being at the leading edge of a dangerous new form of travel. By the 1920s and 1930s flying was safer, but it was mostly a luxury reserved only for the wealthy. Fifty years later it had become a boring commodity sold at rock bottom prices to the masses. Space tourism will likely follow the same trajectory, only at a much steeper flight path. (6/7)

Russia to Launch Four Glonass Satellites This Year (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia plans to launch for more satellites for the GLONASS navigation system by the end of this year, the Aerospace Defense Forces head said on Saturday. “Three GLONASS satellites are scheduled to be launched on board of a Proton carrier rocket in July from the Baikonur space center and another one is planned to be launched in December from the Plesetsk space center,” Maj. Gen. Alexander Golovko said. (6/8)

Senator Continues to Block Promotion of Air Force General, Former Astronaut (Source: Washington Post)
A U.S. senator said Thursday that she will continue to block the promotion of a star Air Force general for granting clemency to a convicted sex offender, a move that is likely to end the commander’s military career. In a statement for the Congressional Record, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said she will place a permanent hold on the nomination of Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms to become vice commander of the Air Force’s Space Command.

McCaskill cited the general’s decision last year to erase the sexual-assault conviction of an Air Force captain — an action that emerged as a flash point in the national debate about sex crimes in the military. Helms became the first U.S. military woman to travel to space in 1993 as a crew member of the space shuttle Endeavour and served as a role model as she climbed to the Air Force’s upper ranks. (6/6)

Earth Dodges Another Small Asteroid (Source: SkyMania)
Earth narrowly dodged another cosmic impact today when an asteroid the size of a small house skimmed past. The chunk of space rock, which was only spotted hours two days earlier, flew by at around a quarter of the distance of the Moon. Dubbed 2013 LR6, the asteroid passed only 105,000 km above the Southern Ocean, south of Tasmania, Australia, at its closest approach at 4.42 UT.

With a diameter of around 10 meters, it was only discovered as incoming on Thursday. It was detected by a NASA-sponsored monitoring operation by robotic cameras called the Catalina Sky Survey, based in Arizona. Its mission is to discover as many of the asteroids as possible with orbits that cross the Earth’s. Asteroid 2013 LR6 is around half the diameter of an asteroid that exploded spectacularly over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk on February 15 this year, causing widespread damage. (6/8)

How I Made It: SpaceX Exec Gwynne Shotwell (Source: LA Times)
Gwynne Shotwell, 49, is president and chief operating officer of SpaceX, the Hawthorne company that builds rockets and space capsules to resupply the International Space Station for NASA. Shotwell is No. 2 at the pioneering company behind founder and chief executive Elon Musk. She is responsible for day-to-day operations and managing customer relationships and company growth. Shotwell, with a sunny demeanor and a blunt way of speaking, is often responsible for updating the media on SpaceX's missions while they're happening. Click here. (6/7)

First Woman Cosmonaut Offers to Join One-Way Trip to Mars (Source: Daily Mail)
A limitless imagination is key to pioneering new forms of space travel. But even by astronomical standards, it would be quite the flight of fancy. The first woman to go to space has said she would fly to Mars, given the opportunity - even if it meant she never returned to earth. 76-year-old Valentina Tereshkova said Mars is her favorite planet and she harbors dreams of going there.

The Russian astronaut said: 'We know the human limits. And for us this remains a dream. Most likely the first flight will be one way. But I am ready'. Ms Tereshkova, who became a national heroine at the age of 26 when she made a solo space flight, said she had been part of the group who studied the possibility of going to the Red Planet. (6/7)

Cutbacks Kick Off Kerfuffle Over Spanish-German Observatory (Source: Nature)
Spain’s National Research Council (CSIC) and Germany’s Max Planck Society agreed late last month to major budget cuts at the Hispano-German Astronomical Observatory at Calar Alto, Spain. The new contract cuts the observatory’s 2014-2018 budget from 2010 forecasts of more than €3.2 million per year to €1.6 million per year. Then the Max Planck Society, which has contributed nearly two-thirds of the observatory’s budget since 1979 in return for 50% of the facility’s observing time, will leave the joint venture.

The decision to drop out is not new; it was part of a 2010 agreement and is part of a shift toward new observatories with different capabilities. The observatory will start cutting staff this month, and beginning in 2014 it will operate only one of its three instruments, its 3.5-meter telescope. Its remaining 2.2-meter and 1.23-meter telescopes will be available to research teams with the funds to operate them. (6/7)

Sharing Technology Leaps Us Ahead (Source: Florida Today)
Remember a year or so ago when news broke that a couple of pricey, and highly capable, unused spy satellites were being given by the National Reconnaissance Office to NASA? Well, after study by NASA engineers and scientists, the agency has decided how to use the two spacecraft, which are said to be telescopes on par with or better than Hubble Space Telescope. The astrophysics community has determined, with NASA’s blessing, that a spacecraft could be modified for a long planned mission to study dark matter in the universe.

NASA announced its decision this past week, days after proponents made their pitch to space agency brass. The wide field infrared survey telescope (WFIRST for short) will be the benefactor. It tops the list of U.S. astrophysicists’ priorities for the coming decade. In a different budget time, NASA might have been able to leverage the assist from the NRO for saving money or shaving years off the development of the project.

In addition to studying dark matter, the telescope’s imaging capabilities will be capable of spotting Jupiter-sized planets around other stars, helping further NASA’s search for life elsewhere in the universe. If the U.S. is going to safely transition and grow its space program, the country needs this kind of technology-sharing and cooperation across the silos of the “old” space program. The military, intelligence, NASA and private segments need to cooperate on lessons they learn, the technological hurdles they overcome and the hardware itself. (6/8)

Stellar Winds May Electrify Exoplanets (Source: FGCU)
The strangest class of exoplanets found to date might be even stranger than astronomers have thought. A new model suggests that they are partially heated by electric currents linked to their host stars. Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) astronomer Dr. Derek Buzasi has proposed a model in which electric currents arising from the interaction between the planet's magnetic field and the hot charged wind from the star flow through the interior of the planet, heating it like an electric toaster. (6/4)

UP Aerospace Plans NASA Suborbital Launch at Spaceport America (Source: Spaceport America)
The New Mexico Spaceport Authority is excited to host a NASA Flight Opportunities Program launch conducted by UP Aerospace, Inc., at the Spaceport America Vertical Launch Complex on Friday, June 21. This will be the first sub-orbital NASA Flight Opportunities Program launch, and the 19th overall launch from Spaceport America.

The sub-orbital sounding rocket launch is part of the NASA Flight Opportunities Program, which is designed to provide suborbital payload launch opportunities for NASA and other government agencies, as well as for educational institutions and the private sector. Some of the Flight Opportunities payload customers for this launch aboard the SpaceLoft (SL-7) rocket include: the FAA, DOD, NASA, Celestis, Inc. and various schools. (6/5)

Our Guts May Hate Mars (Source: Slate)
Eighty thousand people recently applied for a trip to Mars, an excursion that will allegedly be funded by selling reality-TV show rights for the voyage. The company running this curious venture, Mars One, estimates that the price tag for an expedition of four astronauts—currently slotted for 2023—would be $6 billion. But the ticket’s one-way: There is no budget for bringing them back.

It wouldn’t be a suicide mission, though. The travelers would be going as homesteaders, intending to make Mars their permanent home. If you’re going to have permanent colonies, say boosters of the idea, you might as well do it from the start. It is not clear whether such a journey could be done safely for $6 billion, or at all. The hazards are numerous.

The surface is bathed in solar and cosmic radiation. The temperature rarely gets above freezing. There’s omnipresent dust with toxic chemicals in it. There’s a total lack of breathable air. And if you have a serious medical problem, the nearest emergency room will be at least 34 million miles away. But there’s another, more subtle hazard of Martian homesteading that people have barely begun to think about: the lack of soil. Click here. (6/6)

Full-Size Replica of Hubble Telescope Installed in Shuttle Atlantis (Source: WFTV)
The new Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction tells the stories of the Hubble Space Telescope’s successes and setbacks with an entire area – including a full-size, high-fidelity replica – devoted to the first of NASA’s great observatories. This week, crews installed the Hubble Space Telescope replica, which cuts through two stories of the attraction. The replica measures 43 feet long – more than a full-size school bus – and 14 feet in diameter. Its fully deployed solar arrays extend an additional 7 feet on each side. (6/7)

Abu Dhabi Spaceport: Thousands Expected to Take Suborbital Spaceflight (Source: Emirates 24/7)
Though several options and approaches are being studied for the spaceport in the UAE, Virgin Galactic expects thousands will take the suborbital spaceflight from Abu Dhabi. “If approved, Virgin Galactic intends for the UAE spaceport to be the first international commercial spaceport, contingent on US regulatory approvals. The UAE spaceport will be a very desirable destination attracting people from all over the world to experience the unique view of earth from above the UAE,” a company spokesperson said.
“It is anticipated that thousands of people will depart from Abu Dhabi on a memorable journey which will provide a life-altering perspective.” Asked if any location for building the spaceport in the UAE has been identified, the spokesperson said that no specific site has been selected and several options and approaches were under consideration. (6/8)

Justin Bieber, Scooter Braun Will Blast Into Space - Virgin Galactic-Style (Source: Wrap)
Justin Bieber is planning on getting really, really high in the future. The 19-year-old pop superstar and his manager, Scooter Braun, are among the elite coughing up $200,000 to become Virgin Galactic astronauts when Virgin's SpaceShipTwo is ready to launch consumers into space, Richard Branson announced on Thursday morning. (6/6)

Tereshkova: Professionals, Not Tourists, Should Fly in Space (Source: Itar-Tass)
Professionals, but not tourists, should fly in space, believes Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space. "I belong to professional cosmonauts. I believe specialists should fly into space at the present stage," Tereshkova said at a press conference in Star City on Friday. She noted the first space mission was long ago, and much was done in the space area, but much was not studied yet. Many years will pass before people begin to fly in space on tourist tours, the woman cosmonaut believes. In her view, only specialists, who can be useful, should fly on space missions. (6/7)

NASA's Tiny 'PhoneSats' From Smartphones Show Promise (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
 NASA is an agency known for going big: big missions, big rockets, big budgets. But nestled in California's Silicon Valley is one NASA unit headed in the opposite direction. Its latest mission is tiny but has led to big expectations for the Small Spacecraft Technology Program.

In April, this NASA team launched three little satellites — each about the size of a coffee mug — aboard a test rocket from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The probes shared two remarkable traits: All were built primarily from smartphone parts, and each cost less than $8,000. But instead of the "beep-beep-beep" sent by Sputnik, these so-called PhoneSats (for phone satellites) had the brains to broadcast much more complex data, including pictures of Earth. (6/9)

Monster Gas Cloud Could Unveil Milky Way's Black-Hole Hub (Source: Physics World)
An immense cloud of gas currently swooping around the center of our galaxy could reveal a multitude of small black holes nestled close to its heart. Over the next 12 months, the G2 gas cloud will pass through the galactic center where, according to the calculations of astrophysicists in the US, encounters with small black holes will produce bursts of radiation that could be detectable using space telescopes. (6/6)

NASA and LEGO Launch Design Contest to Build Future Air- and Spacecraft (Source: Collect Space)
NASA is challenging the next generation of aerospace engineers to toy with ideas for the future by using LEGO bricks to launch their concepts for advanced aircraft and spacecraft. NASA and LEGO, which most recently ended a partnership to fly the iconic plastic construction sets on the International Space Station, are now jointly presenting the "NASA's Missions: Imagine and Build" competition. The contest, which is open to teenage and older LEGO fans, began on Wednesday (June 5) and runs through July 31. (6/6)

Virginia Launch Provides Data on Galaxy Creation (Source: AP)
Researchers are studying data on galaxy creation collected by an experiment launched from Virginia's Wallops Island Flight Facility. NASA says a Black Brant XII suborbital rocket carrying the Cosmic Infrared Background ExpeRiment, or CIBER, was launched at 11:05 p.m. Wednesday. CIBER principal investigator Jamie Bock with the California Institute of Technology says researchers received good data from the rocket's payload. (6/6)

Can NASA Really Lasso an Asteroid? (Source: Washington Post)
If the recent spate of asteroid flybys has you a bit freaked out, don’t worry. NASA is working on a potential way to avert an asteroid Armageddon by intercepting these chunks of interstellar rock long before they ever have a chance to impact the Earth’s surface. The current vision, most recently outlined at the Human to Mars Summit in Washington, D.C. by NASA chief Charles Bolden, involves a bold vision to “lasso” asteroids and tug them into a new lunar orbit where astronauts can study them.

Thanks to the development of futuristic new technologies such as the ion propulsion engine – NASA thinks it’s realistic that astronauts could be tethering to an asteroid near the moon sometime within the next decade. The NASA asteroid lasso scenario has $78 million allotted to it in the president’s fiscal 2014 budget proposal and relies on an unmanned NASA spacecraft being able to fly millions of miles into deep space, capture an asteroid with a huge net (the “lasso”), and then nudge and guide the piece of rock into a new orbit in the neighborhood of the moon.

To make all this work, however, will require a number of technologies that are just now in their infancy. And, even if NASA can lasso an asteroid, should it even try? Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin, for example, has been an outspoken critic of NASA plans to launch an asteroid lasso mission. According to Aldrin, we should be focused first and foremost on a mission to Mars rather than making whimsical trips to deep space to rendezvous with asteroids. (6/5)

NASA Awards $1.2M to Hawaii Project Studying Food for Manned Mission to Mars (Source: The Republic)
NASA is giving more money to a Hawaii project studying what foods astronauts might eat during a manned mission to Mars. The University of Hawaii at Manoa said Wednesday the space agency is awarding $1.2 million to the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation program. The funds will pay for three more missions lasting four months, eight months and a year. Six researchers are currently on the first mission at the program site at 8,000 feet above sea level on Mauna Loa.

They're living and working like astronauts, suiting up in space gear whenever they go outside a simulated Martian base. They're cooking meals from a specific list of dehydrated and shelf-stable food items. Cornell University, Michigan State University and other organizations are also involved in the research. (6/5)

Russian Arctic-Mapping Satellite Malfunctions (Source: Reuters)
A Russian satellite launched last year to map the Arctic has stopped working, a source told the Interfax news agency on Thursday, in the latest disappointment for the country's once-pioneering space program. The orbiter, Zond-PP, was the first of five Earth-mapping satellites being developed by Russia. Launched in July 2012, it was expected to have a three-year life span. (6/6)

Russia Boosting Space Budget To Surpass China, Equal Europe (Source: Space News)
The Russian government’s decision to increase Russia’s space budget will permit Russia to surpass China and reach spending parity with the 20-nation European Space Agency (ESA), the head of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency said. Popovkin defended himself against accusations that he is against manned spaceflight, but said the manned program needs to meet the same value-for-money standards as the rest of the budget. Spending on cosmonaut-related activities traditionally has accounted for about 40 percent of the Roscosmos budget.

In the near term, Popovkin said, Russia needs to redress its past underinvestment in applications satellites, especially for Earth observation and meteorology. Only one-fifth of domestic demand for geospatial imagery can be met by Russia’s own satellites, he said, and Russian meteorological satellites fall short of international standards. Roscosmos, for the first time, has begun insisting on clawbacks from industry when the agency determines it has paid too much for a given product or service. He said this effort, which is ongoing, likely will lead to lawsuits as the agency seeks reimbursement. (6/5)

Cremains of Late Hatch Mayor to be Launched From Spaceport America (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
The cremated remains of late Hatch Mayor Judd Nordyke will be launched into space this month aboard a rocket flight from Spaceport America. A portion of his cremains will be aboard the same rocket carrying student payloads to space on June 21, a yearly education-themed launch. Also on the flight will be remains of the late Maria Sabaliauskas Swan, who was Miss Argentina in 1967 and first runner up in the Miss World pageant that year. Swan is a former New Mexico resident.

In addition, 34 other individuals' cremains will be launched as part of a service by Celestis Memorial Spaceflights. The company buys payload capacity aboard launches to fly a person's ashes into space. Nordyke, a spaceport supporter, died April 12 as a result of brain cancer. He was 72. Nordyke's wife, Marcia Nordyke, said she hadn't planned on sending her husband's remains to space. But she was contacted by email in late May by the CEO of Celestis Memorial Spaceflights, Charles Chafer. (6/4)

Defunct Business Admits Fraud in Stennis Concrete Tests (Source: Sun Herald)
A Diamondhead business that no longer exists has admitted making false statements on concrete-stress tests on jobs at Stennis Space Center. Corporate representative Robert C. Miller pleaded guilty on the company's behalf Tuesday in U.S. District Court, said a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office. Miller, 73, of Diamondhead, was doing business as Gulf Cities Testing Laboratories LLC, a subcontractor on projects at Stennis in 2011. Miller could not be reached for comment. His business phone has been disconnected. (6/4)

Dying Space Rock: Asteroid-Comet Hybrid Discovered (Source: Discovery)
At first blush, the object found soaring through the asteroid belt looked like a comet, most notably because of its long, well-formed tail. But a follow-up investigation with the Hubble Space Telescope revealed its true identity as an asteroid, albeit one of the most bizarre ever discovered. Trailing the asteroid’s body is stream of particles and dust stretching more 1 million kilometers (621,371 miles) across the sky. That’s three times the distance of Earth to the moon. (6/4)

Atlantis Facility Nears Completion (Source: KSCVC)
Progress continues on Space Shuttle Atlantis, the new $100-million home of the priceless artifact opening June 29.  The process of opening and securing the payload bay doors is complete, as is the extension of the Canadarm and the installation of the Hubble Space Telescope exhibit is underway. The shuttle is dramatically showcased as if it were in orbit – as only astronauts have had a chance to see it – departing from the International Space Station. Atlantis is elevated 30 feet off the ground and rotated at a 43.21-degree angle. (6/1)

Air Force Proposes Dramatic Redesign for GPS Constellation (Source: Inside GNSS)
With the budget vise tightening, top Pentagon managers are readying some potentially dramatic changes to the GPS constellation — changes that promise to lower both the cost of the satellites and the expense of putting them into orbit. The first changes would be subtle and are linked to buying the next block of GPS III satellites — a decision that sources confirm will be made by the end of September. 

To bring down the cost of the GPS III, which is widely viewed as unaffordable over the long run, the next contract likely will include satellite design alterations. The Pentagon will be looking to ditch capabilities that are no longer needed, a source explained, as long as it does not cost still more money. The Air Force has already said it will pursue dual-launch capability. The source said they are also considering easing some of the equipment standards. (6/3)

Aerospace and Aviation in Texas (Source: Area Development)
Texas has one of the most important, vibrant aerospace and aviation sectors in the country. It is home to two international airlines, 15 active military bases, and NASA’s world-famous Johnson Space Center. About 1,600 companies employ over 150,000 workers, making Texas one of the top three states in the country for aerospace research and development, manufacturing, as well as space exploration.

Commercial space travel R&D is rapidly evolving in Texas. In July 2012, XCOR announced the creation of its new Commercial Space Research and Development Center headquarters at the Midland International Airport. XCOR develops and produces reusable launch vehicles, rocket engines, and rocket propulsion systems. SpaceX is also Texas-based — its engineers in McGregor, Texas, design and manufacture advanced rockets and space capsules, including the Dragon spacecraft, the first commercial vehicle to successfully dock with the International Space Station. (5/31)

NASA, Educational Group Team Up to Learn STEM Teaching (Source: Washington Post)
Learning how to teach students the principles of science, technology, engineering and math, in hands-on training -- that's the goal of a new partnership between NASA Langley and the Virginia Science Technology Engineering and Applied Mathematics Academy. NASA is providing 10 mentors to assist with the program, which also will get students inside NASA Langley to shadow professionals in their work. (6/3)

Study: Many Exoplanets are Less Earth-Like Than Thought (Source: Space.com)
The deep-space planets discovered by the Kepler telescope are likely hotter and larger than previously thought, a new study reveals, and that means fewer are in the "Earth-like" category than projected. "[M]ost of the stars we observed are slightly larger than previously thought and one quarter of them are at least 35 percent larger," astronomer and leader of the study Mark Everett. "Therefore, any planets orbiting these stars must be larger and hotter as well." (6/4)

It's Time to Tackle Interstellar Spaceflight, Experts Say (Source: Space.com)
If humanity is serious about traveling to other star star systems in the foreseeable future, it needs to get the ball rolling now, say experts who have organized an upcoming conference on the subject. Pulling off our species' first interstellar spaceflight will require many decades of hard work by some of the planet's best minds. Some scientists and engineers are pushing for that work to begin now.

"An interstellar mission will be a pan-generational initiative requiring an immense investment of intellectual and financial capital, and so the necessary programs need to begin today," Richard Obousy, president and co-founder of Icarus Interstellar, a nonprofit group devoted to pursuing space travel to another star, said in a statement. (6/5)

European Cargo Freighter Separates From Rocket (Source: Space Daily)
Europe's heaviest-ever cargo carrier to the International Space Station successfully separated from its rocket launcher an hour after liftoff on Wednesday to start a 10-day journey to the International Space Station (ISS). The Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) Albert Einstein was rocketed into space from Europe's spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on an Ariane 5 launcher. (6/5)

New Chief Urges Ariane 5 Modification for Big Satellites (Source: Space Daily)
The new head of European satellite launch firm Arianespace on Tuesday called for a fast-track modification of the Ariane 5 launcher to help it place larger satellites into orbit. Stephane Israel, who took over as Arianespace's chairman and chief executive from Jean-Yves Le Gall in April, said in an interview with AFP that he considered the plan one of his "two main priorities."

Just last November, ministers of the European Space Agency (ESA) agreed after tough debate to fund a new launcher called Ariane 5 ME, and work towards a successor rocket, Ariane 6, whose maiden flight would be in 2021 or 2022. But Israel said he also wanted a "fast-track adaptation" of the existing Ariane 5 ECA, "which would be available in less than two years." He described it as a "quick win." (6/4)

Ariane Poised to Launch First 20 Ton Payload Into Orbit (Source: Space Daily)
Nearly 40 years ago, European countries worried by US and Soviet dominance of space gave the green light to the first Ariane rocket, a wee launcher capable of hoisting a satellite payload of just 1.8 tons -- the equivalent mass of two small cars.

On Wednesday, the fifth and mightiest generation of Arianes is set to take a whopping 20.2 tons into orbit, a cargo craft the size of a double-decker bus and a record for Europe, proud engineers say. The payload is the fourth cargo delivery by the European Space Agency (ESA) to the International Space Station (ISS), bringing food, water, oxygen, scientific experiments and special treats to the orbiting crew. (6/3)

House Panel Rejects Base Closures, Adds $5B to DOD (Source: The Hill)
The House Armed Services Committee has created a bill that turns aside Pentagon plans to close bases, to raise the cost of military health care benefits and to shrink pay raises for service members, and instead adds another $5 billion to the Defense Department's 2014 budget. The added money would help pay costs of the war in Afghanistan. (6/3)

Orbital to Build Air-Launched Rocket for Stratolaunch (Source: Flight Global)
Orbital Sciences will construct a low-Earth-orbit rocket for Stratolaunch that will be sent into space with a massive carrier aircraft set for a 2016 test flight. SpaceX was initially in the running to create the rocket, but dropped out of the process earlier. The rocket can launch 6,100 kg and will be hoisted aloft with a carrier plane -- now being built -- that has six 747 engines. (6/3)

Polish Students Design Best Mars Rover of 2013 (Source: Space.com)
In the rugged desert landscape of southern Utah, 7.5 miles from the nearest town, 10 student teams competed in the Mars Society's annual University Rover Challenge (URC). Six seasoned engineering students from Bialystok University of Technology in Poland took first place with the "Hyperion" craft — their prototype for what a future Mars rover might look like.

"Out of 500 possible points, they scored 493 — the highest-ever score at URC!" said Kevin Sloane, director of the challenge. Another Polish team, Scorpio 3 from the Wroclaw University of Technology, took second place, with 401 points. Brigham Young University placed third, with 350 points. (6/3)

Deadline Extended for Texas Spaceport Review (Source: Abilene Reporter-News)
The AA has extended the public comment period for the environmental review of a proposed rocket launch site in South Texas. The opportunity for private citizens, organizations and government agencies to comment on the draft environmental impact statement for the proposed site east of Brownsville had been scheduled to end Monday. The FAA announced it would extend the deadline to June 24 at the request of the Environmental Protection Agency. (5/3)

Did Comet Impacts Spur Life on Earth? (Source: Space.com)
The impact of comets crashing into Earth's surface may have provided the energy to create simple molecules that formed the precursors to life, a new study suggests. That conclusion, published in the June 20 issue of the Journal of Physical Chemistry A, was based on a computer model of such an impact's effect on a comet crystal initially made up of water, carbon dioxide and other simple molecules. (6/7)

Heat-Seeking, Alien-Hunting Telescope Could Be Ready in 5 Years (Source: Space.com)
We might find aliens through the heat their civilizations give off, astronomers say, but it will take a megatelescope to do the job. Such a telescope, in fact, is planned. The telescope — called Colossus — would be a massive 250-foot (77 meters) telescope, which is more than double the aperture of any telescope yet constructed.

To keep costs down, the proposed $1 billion telescope would use thin mirror technology and few large aperture mirror segments. The sensitivity of the scope, though, could be enough to spot cities or other signs of aliens for planets as far as 60 to 70 light-years from Earth, its backers said. "If we had an investor come and say 'look, here are the resources you need,' we could have the telescope built within five years," said Jeff Kuhn, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy, who is on the proposal team. (6/7)

Spinning for the Prize (Source: Space Review)
A short-lived team in the Google Lunar X PRIZE competition took a unique approach to landing a spacecraft on the Moon. Rex Ridenoure recounts the history and technology of the Southern California Selene Group and its spinning lander concept. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2307/1 to view the article. (6/3)

Planetary Resources Makes a Giant Leap in Space Crowdfunding (Source: Space Review)
Space ventures have become increasingly interested in crowdfunding as a way of supporting some of their projects, at least on a small scale. Jeff Foust reports on how Planetary Resources has set the bar much higher with a crowdfunded space telescope, and appears to be well on its way to clearing that bar. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2306/1 to view the article. (6/3)

International Space Law and Commercial Space Activities: the Rules Do Apply (Source: Space Review)
Some believe that commercial space activities are exempt from elements of international space law, like the Outer Space Treaty. Michael Listner makes the case that those treaties and national regulations required by them do apply to commercial ventures as well as governments. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2305/1 to view the article. (6/3)

Exoplanet Capabilities of WFIRST-2.4 (Source: Space Review)
NASA has completed a study about the potential use of a telescope donated by the NRO to carry out an astronomy mission called WFIRST. Philip Horzempa examines how this proposed mission would also be very useful in search for and studying extrasolar planets. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2304/1 to view the article. (6/3)

Iran Sets Up Space Monitoring Center (Source: Big Story)
Iran said Sunday that it set up its first space tracking center to monitor objects passing in orbit overhead, the breakthrough claimed by the Islamic Republic in its space program. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who inaugurated the facility near the town of Delijan some 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of Tehran, said the center will help the country to manage "activities of satellites" but was also capable of monitoring "very remote space," according to the official IRNA press agency.

Iran says it wants to put its own satellites into orbit to monitor natural disasters in the earthquake-prone nation, improve telecommunications and expand military surveillance in the region. The U.S. and its allies worry that the same technology could also be used to develop long-range missiles. Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi said the center was for Iran's space-related security but that Tehran would also share the acquired data with other countries, the official IRNA news agency reported. (6/9)

Editorial: Budget Cuts Hold U.S. Scientists Back (Source: CNN)
Astronomical Society meetings are terrific for learning about the latest research, networking with colleagues, recruiting graduate students or forming new research collaborations. But something is very different about this particular conference. That's because many colleagues who work for federal agencies like the National Science Foundation and NASA have been told to stay home.

Deep cuts in already paltry federal travel budgets mean federal scientists are not presenting their research findings. There is less communication between program officers and the scientists who carry out the Science Foundation and NASA missions. Important work funded by taxpayer dollars is not being disseminated, reducing return on investment. There are fewer conversations in which NSF and NASA officials learn about astronomers' latest results and talk about agency plans. (6/6)

Maine Company’s Blueberry Jam Headed to Space (Source: Maine Sunday Telegram)
An astronaut from Maine who is orbiting Earth on the International Space Station is about to get a special delivery direct from his home state - wild blueberry space jam. A spokesman for NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston confirmed Wednesday that several containers of Wild Maine Blueberry Jam produced by Stonewall Kitchen in York will be flown to the space station with a supply delivery in August. (6/6)

Engineer Jettisons Her NASA Career to Pursue Comedy (Source: San Juaquin Record)
For Shayla Rivera, it was rocket science. As an engineer with NASA's space-shuttle and space-station programs, colleagues always told her she was funny. She'd get the same humorous reactions as a motivational speaker. "I was just trying to be enlightening," she said. So  took her friends' advice and became a comedian.

"Yeah," she said with a laugh. "I needed a hook. I was the 'Puerto Rican Rocket Scientist.' I went from being a wanna-be astronaut to a wanna-be stand-up comedian. I was a jack of all trades and master of very few." After 20 years, there's no more wishful thinking. Rivera lifts off tonight at Stockton's Bob Hope Theatre as part of The Latin Comedy Jam - joining Los Angeles' Luke Torres, Dillon Garcia of Whittier and Huntington Park's Jerry Garcia. (6/7)

Disgraced Astronaut Nowak Subject of New Play (Source: Florida Today)
Art imitates life tonight when “Starcrosser’s Cut,” a new play about disgraced former astronaut Lisa Nowak, opens for a two-week run at a tiny black-box theater in Los Angeles. Written and directed by a 31-year-old South Florida native who attended Space Camp as a kid, the play is not just a simple retelling of Nowak’s infamous 2007 confrontation with a rival in a bizarre love triangle involving another astronaut. The Orlando airport incident resulted in an attempted kidnapping charge against Nowak and NASA terminating her as an astronaut.

Instead of a straight story, the 90-minute play written and directed by Joseph Tepperman is set inside Nowak’s mind. Tepperman works in a dreamscape and the slippery world of memory. The play features two actors: Shawn Lockie as Nowak and Tom Collit as the detective who arrested her. “The play is highly fictionalized,” Tepperman said. (6/6)

Developer Buys NASA Glenn Research Center Buildings (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
A pair of vacant federal office buildings near Cleveland Hopkins International Airport have been purchased by a private developer who plans to refurbish them and rent them out, government officials say. Developers Bill and Marty Gallagher bought the buildings on Brookpark Road at a government auction for $1.2 million, says Fairview Park Mayor Eileen Patton.

She said the buildings, totaling 200,000 square feet on 9.8 acres, were built in the 1960s and occupied by NASA Glenn Research Center until 2010, when NASA relocated those workers to the north side of its campus in Brook Park. She said one of the buildings has a theater, full kitchen, and dining area. (6/6)

Solar Energy Plan No Space Oddity (Source: The National)
Ambitious teams of scientists have long toiled behind the scenes on various missions to space. But even before they helped put a man on the moon back in 1969, one of their own had concocted another complex plan. Peter Glaser, who worked with Nasa on numerous experiments carried out in space or on the moon, is credited as the first person to have proposed a method for creating space-based energy that could be beamed back to earth.

He did so back in 1968 and received a patent for his idea five years later. His concept, in short, was to have a satellite that could harness solar energy from the sun, convert it into microwave frequencies and then zap it back as energy to the earth's surface, according to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a professional group.

"There will never be factories or colonies in space, or anything that represents anything ambitious without a lot more energy and a lot lower price," John Mankins says. That is where scientists hope research and development that looks at the prospects of space-based solar power, as well as a bit of lobbying, can come into play. Click here. (6/7)

Musk: No Near Term Plans for SpaceX IPO (Source: Reuters)
Technology entrepreneur Elon Musk on Thursday took to Twitter to say he had no near term plans for an initial public offering of his space transport company, SpaceX. "Only possible in very long term when Mars Colonial Transporter is flying regularly," Musk tweeted, referring to his publicly-stated desire to establish a colony on Mars.

There has been speculation in the media recently that Musk might take SpaceX public. Musk, one of the founders of Paypal, also founded electric car maker Tesla Motors and is the chairman of solar panel installer SolarCity Corp, both of which have logged big gains since going public. (6/6)

Station Astronauts Begin Studying Troubling Vision Issue (Source: Aviation Week)
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station this week kicked off a four-year study of vision problems that surfaced among crew members several years ago and now rank among the top health concerns facing fliers selected for future deep-space missions. Nineteen ISS astronauts have developed symptoms of impaired vision since the ailment was first recognized in 2005, according to Dr. Christian Otto, principal investigator for the NASA-sponsored Prospective Observational Study of Ocular Health.

The study, ultimately involving a dozen closely followed international astronauts, will search for a link between the blurred vision and the long observed shift of fluid from the lower torso to the chests and heads of fliers as they adjust to weightlessness. The fluid shift now appears to affect the eyes as well as the cardiovascular and central nervous systems. “This is probably a dose response. The longer you are in flight, it’s likely the worse this problem gets.” (6/7)

Opportunity Rover: NASA's Energizer Bunny (Source: Florida Today)
NASA’s long-lived Opportunity rover is approaching the 10th anniversary of its launch from Cape Canaveral and it just keeps going and going and going. Next stop: “Solander Point,” a north-facing slope on a Martian equatorial plain that enable the solar-powered rover to soak up sunlight and survive the impending southern hemisphere winter.

At the same time, this perfect vantage point will afford scientists with an enticing view of strata that should shed light on the geological history of ancient Mars environments that were warmer, wetter and more hospitable to life. (6/7)

NASA Selects New Suborbital Payloads, Total Tops 100 Experiments (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected 21 space technology payloads for flights on commercial reusable launch vehicles, balloons, and a commercial parabolic aircraft. This latest selection represents the sixth cycle of NASA's continuing call for payloads through an announcement of opportunity. More than 100 technologies with test flights now have been facilitated through NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate's Flight Opportunities Program.

Editor's Note: Among the new payloads are three from Florida, including: "Testing a Cubesat Attitude Control System in Microgravity Conditions" by Eric Bradley at UCF; "Advanced Optical Mass Measurement System" by Jason Reimuller at Mass Dynamix Inc. in Longwood; and "Planetary Atmosphere Minor Species Sensor" by Robert Peale at UCF. (6/7)

SpaceX Falcon 9-Reusable 1st Stage Firing (Source: SpaceRef)
SpaceX has released a video of the 1st long duration firing of their new Falcon 9-Reusable (F9-R) rocket, an advanced prototype for the world's first reusable rocket. The test took place at SpaceX's rocket development facility in McGregor, TX, lasting 112 seconds. Click here. (6/10) http://spaceref.biz/2013/06/spacex-falcon-9-reusable-1st-stage-firing.html

Embry-Riddle Gets to Work on Long-Awaited Tech Park (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
After about 10 years of discussions and planning, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has finished obtaining permits from various agencies and began this week knocking down trees at the 77 acres that will become the Aerospace Research and Technology Park.

Embry-Riddle received $8.97 million from the state last year toward development of the park. Bulldozers and excavators with Ormond Beach-based Halifax Paving started the $562,000 first phase of the project, which includes removing trees and constructing a road and entrance. Retention ponds will be put in over the next four months as well as underground utilities, landscaping and temporary signs.

Administrators have been in talks with prospective tenants and hope to make an announcement this month. The park, most of which lies on the east side of Clyde Morris Boulevard south of Bellevue Avenue, is expected to draw companies to the area and generate thousands of high-paying jobs over 10 years when fully built out with 600,000 square feet of buildings. (6/5)

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