July 15, 2013

China Launches Experimental Orbiter (Source: Xinhua)
China successfully sent an experimental orbiter into space on Monday, the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center has announced. The orbiter SJ-11-05 was launched from the center on Monday and went into scheduled orbit, according to the center, which is located in northwest China's Gobi desert. The orbiter was carried by a Long March II-C rocket. It will be used to conduct spacial scientific and technological experiments. (7/15)

Celestis Offers Sunjammer Cremains Flight Opportunity (Source: Celestis)
Celestis announces our participation in the Sunjammer Solar Sail, a deep space Voyager Service mission scheduled for liftoff in Q4 2014. The Sunjammer solar sail mission will carry your loved one on a monumental, truly historic mission into deep space -- a mission that could last for millions of years. Space Services Holdings, Inc. - Celestis' parent company - is part of a team of leading aerospace companies and government agencies - led by NASA - that is developing and launching Sunjammer, the world's largest solar sail. (7/14)

Science and the ARM (Source: Space Review)
NASA's plans to redirect an asteroid into cislunar space and sending astronauts to it would seme like something that would excite planetary scientists, given the prospects of returning large amounts of samples from that asteroid. However, Jeff Foust reports, some are worried about the challenges such a mission faces and the priority science would have on it. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2332/1 to view the article. (7/15)

You've Come a Long Way, Baby! (Source: Space Review)
Fifty-one years ago this week, Congress held hearings on whether women should be astronauts. Dwayne Day looks back at this key turning point in the debate about whether women should fly in space, in light of a letter from that era now making the rounds online. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2331/1 to view the article. (7/15)

Revisiting SLS/Orion Launch Costs (Source: Space Review)
NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket continues to receive scrutiny in some quarters because of concerns about just how affordable the vehicle will be. John Strickland examines the costs of SLS in light of recent developments that suggest the vehicle could have a very low flight rate. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2330/1 to view the article. (7/15)

The Chief Technologist's View of the HGS-1 Mission (Source: Space Review)
Jerry Salvatore, former chief technologist with Hughes, offers his own understanding of the facts surrounding who was involved in, and should get credit for, the rescue of the AsiaSat 3 satellite by the company 15 years ago. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2329/1 to view the article. (7/15)

Stimulating Greater Use of the ISS (Source: Space Review)
As researchers meet this week to discuss research on the International Space Station, NASA and the organization that manages ISS research are being pressed to make greater use of the station's facilities. Jeff Foust reviews those challenges and the efforts of one startup company that believes its research could have a significant commercial payoff. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2328/1 to view the article. (7/15)

Hubble Discovers New Neptune Moon (Source: NASA Watch)
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has discovered a new moon orbiting the distant blue-green planet Neptune, the 14th known to be circling the giant planet. The moon, designated S/2004 N 1, is estimated to be no more than 12 miles across, making it the smallest known moon in the Neptunian system. It is so small and dim that it is roughly 100 million times fainter than the faintest star that can be seen with the naked eye. (7/15)

Space Florida Initiates Environmental Study Process for Shiloh (Source: Space Florida)
An FAA-led environmental study to address the potential impacts of constructing and operating a commercial launch complex in the general vicinity of the former citrus community known as Shiloh will be performed by an independent consultant in accordance with FAA conditions and procedures, the State’s aerospace development organization announced today.

Space Florida has posted on its website a solicitation for the submission of competitive written qualifications packages from professional environmental consulting firms to provide services in support of the FAA in preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EIS is the next step in the initiative to establish a commercial spaceport complex jurisdictionally independent from the existing government launch facilities at Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and the U.S. Air Force Eastern Range.

The EIS will be used to support Space Florida’s application to the FAA for a Launch Site Operator License for the operation of vertical launch facilities and associated space vehicle processing, launch, and recovery infrastructure. As the leading federal agency for the EIS, the FAA will select an independent consultant from those responding to the solicitation. Click here. (7/15)

Updated Rocket Chart Includes Ariane-6, Upgraded Falcon Rockets (Source: SPACErePORT)
Embry-Riddle's chart of international orbital space launch vehicles has been updated to include multiple new rockets currently being developed in Europe and the U.S. New additions include the Ariane-6 which was recently approved for development by the European Space Agency, the Falcon-9 version 1.1, and the Falcon-Heavy which would use three Falcon-9 v.1.1 stages for heavier payloads. The rocket chart can be found here. (7/15)

Space: The Final Frontier of Environmental Disasters? (Source: WIRED)
Space may seem like a vast untapped resource, a new New World where dreams of conquest and colonization can play out. But the moon, planets, and other bodies in our solar system are pristine places of stark beauty. Nearly everyone knows Neil Armstrong’s iconic “One Small Step” speech. But far fewer remember the unpracticed first words of Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, as he stepped off the lunar lander.

“Beautiful, beautiful. Magnificent desolation,” he radioed back to mission control. Before we exploit these wildernesses, perhaps we should ask ourselves: Is there anything out there worth protecting? Most people are already aware that the area immediately around our world, low-Earth orbit, has become littered with space junk. Someday, orbital debris could similarly surround the moon or Mars. Unchecked mining on other worlds could tarnish their natural beauty and foster conflict. Click here. (7/15)

Congress Rejects Raid Planetary Science Funding (Source: Planetary Society)
I have good news! Today at the Outer Planets Assessment Group (OPAG) meeting, Dr. Jim Green, Director of NASA's Planetary Science Division, reported that Congress has rejected NASA's operating plan that raided Planetary Science funding to pay for unrelated programs. NASA is currently preparing a second draft that will more closely align planetary funding to congressional intent, which has yet to be delivered for review. We do not know what the exact number for planetary science will be, but it's safe to say that it will be an improvement over the first draft. (7/15)

Malone Urges Ergen to Merge Dish With DirecTV (Source: Bloomberg)
Liberty Media Corp. Chairman John Malone urged fellow billionaire Charlie Ergen to combine Dish Network Corp. (DISH) with DirecTV to get the advantages of bigger bulk in the pay-TV business. “It would be good if DirecTV could combine with Echo or Dish or whatever Charlie calls it now just because scale economics in the media business drives down costs and makes it possible for larger investment,” Malone said. (7/11)

Rain and SpaceX Thunder (Source: Waco Tribune)
I'd thought the weather would preclude testing at SpaceX's McGregor site today — but on the other hand, they've now confirmed they can fire the first stage during a gap in the rain. I haven't heard back from SpaceX yet, but the rumble that matched the usual SpaceX-test noise started at around 7:41 pm Sunday and lasted around three minutes — which is the duration a Falcon 9 first stage usually fires during an ascent. The previous test — which lasted at least two minutes was on July 4. (7/15)

Chinese Probe Reaches Record Height in Space Travel (Source: Xinhua)
China's space probe Chang'e-2 has flown to an outer space about 50 million km from the Earth, marking a new height in the nation's deep space exploration, Chinese scientists said on Sunday. The probe, which is now "in good conditions", reached the height at around 1 a.m. Sunday Beijing Time, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence said. (7/15)

Innovation Extends ORS-1's Life, Mission (Source: AFNS)
The Operationally Responsive Space-1 satellite launched June 29, 2011, and has been a star Air Force performer since its first day on orbit. Members of the 1st and 7th Space Operations Squadrons celebrated the spacecraft's second birthday recently. The vehicle has earned numerous awards from the scientific community thus far. It was named one of the top 25 most important concepts by C4ISR Journal, and the 2012 Mission Sustainment Integrated Product Team award from the Association of Old Crows.

Designed as a quick-response and low-cost alternative to traditional satellite systems, ORS-1 differs in several ways, but its primary distinction stems from its birth. It took approximately three years to develop from concept to launch and on-orbit operations, compared to seven years or longer for traditional systems.

Its payload technology was gleaned from a camera first developed for use aboard U2 spy planes decades ago. Contractors attached a larger telescope to the Senior Year Electro-Optical Reconnaissance System-2 camera to give it adequate resolution from orbit. "It was initially designed to operate for only a year, but 1 and 7 SOPS engineers and operators discovered they could expand the life of the vehicle by pushing it to a higher orbit," said. Lt. Col. Tony Calabrese. "That action alone extended the life of ORS-1 by three years." (7/14)

Alien Probes Could Be Surfing the Galaxy (Source: WIRED)
Computer simulations by a pair of researchers at the University of Edinburgh predict that a fleet of interstellar probes could explore the entire Milky Way galaxy within a fraction of the present age of Earth. This may seem like a tall order considering that our farthest interstellar spacecraft, Voyager 1, is still less than a light-day from Earth after being launched 36 years ago.

In the new simulation, however, alien probes only need to travel at 10 percent the speed of light to survey the entire galaxy within 10 million years. And, they could get a turbo-boost and save fuel by doing a slingshot off the gravitational fields of stars. The concept of self-aware and self-replicating probes traveling across the galaxy is nothing new, however; the idea goes as far back as 1960.(7/14)

Starwatch: What's the Dark Matter? (Source: Guardian)
Gravity binds most galaxies into groups or clusters. As long ago as 1933, the Swiss astronomer Fritz Zwicky recognized that the total mass of the visible material, the stars, gas and dust, in the Coma cluster of galaxies appeared insufficient to hold the galaxies together given their observed relative velocities. Without the additional gravitational pull of something he termed "dark matter", the cluster, and countless others, would simply dissipate and disappear as the galaxies flew apart.

Further evidence for this mysterious substance comes from studies of the orbital motions of stars in galaxies and of the gravitational lensing of light from remote galaxies and of the cosmic background radiation, the relic of the big bang, by foreground galaxies and galaxy-clusters.

But what is dark matter? There is growing theoretical and observational evidence pointing away from baryonic matter, which includes the atoms, protons and neutrons that make up everything from you and me to the stars themselves. Instead, what is probably the favoured explanation has dark matter consisting of non-baryonic particles, perhaps in the form of a vast number of WIMPS or weakly interacting massive particles. Created in the big bang, these interact mainly through gravity, (7/15)

Australia Like Mars? Dirt In Outback May Mimic Red Planet's Soil (Source: Space.com)
The red dirt in central Australia might be a close mimic for the red surface of Mars, suggests research that sheds light on how opals formed in the land Down Under. Precious opal is Australia’s national gemstone. Both precious opal and common opal are made of amorphous spheres of silica 150 to 400 nanometers or billionths of a meter wide, but in precious opal, these spheres are arranged in highly orderly arrays, resulting in scintillating colors.

The main source of the world's gem-quality opal is the red dirt of the Great Artesian Basin in central Australia, one of the largest continental basins on Earth. Precious opals have been mined there for more than a century, where they occur just within 165 feet (50 meters) of the surface.

It was long a mystery why precious opal formed at relatively shallow depths in central Australia, and why it could be found abundantly there yet almost nowhere else on Earth. Now geologist Patrice Rey at the University of Sydney in Australia finds precious opal in the red center of Australia may have formed due to conditions much like those seen on the surface of the Red Planet. (7/14)

NASA’s HI-SEAS Study Aims to Find an Ideal Food System for Astronauts (Source: Space Safety)
“It’s got that sizzle going—I love it,” said Dr. Sian Proctor as she fries rice and turkey Spam inside a two-story geodesic dome on an abandoned quarry in Muana Loa, Hawaii. She is one of six participants living in the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) habitat, researching food preparation strategies for long-term space exploration on Mars or the Moon. Click here. (7/15)

ULA Atlas V Set to Launch Second MUOS Satellite on Friday in Florida (Source: SpaceFlight101)
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle is set for blastoff on Friday to deliver the second Multi-User Objective System Satellite to orbit for the US Navy. Atlas V is fully assembled, topped with its payload and stands ready for liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Launch is set for a window of 12:48 to 13:32 UTC on Friday. (7/14)

Rep. Lamar Smith: Asteroid Retrieval is Costly and Uninspiring (Source: The Hill)
NASA is in the business of making the impossible possible. Throughout its history, our space program has set goals that required innovation and technologies yet to be developed, and the results have been astonishing. That’s how we put a human on the moon and landed rovers on Mars, all steps at reaching our ultimate goal of someday sending astronauts to our neighboring red planet.

The Russian meteor strike in April and recent close encounters with asteroids passing Earth have been stark reminders of the need to invest in space science. The Science, Space and Technology Committee has held hearings on how best to continue progress in this area. Yet when it comes to the Obama administration’s latest asteroid mission proposal, it has not been able to adequately justify the rationale or budget for such a mission. (7/9)

Using the Sun to Illuminate a Basic Mystery of Matter (Source: Space Daily)
Antimatter has been detected in solar flares via microwave and magnetic-field data, according researchers at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Solar Physics Division. This research sheds light on the puzzling strong asymmetry between matter and antimatter by gathering data on a very large scale using the Sun as a laboratory.

While antiparticles can be created and then detected with costly and complex particle-accelerator experiments, such particles are otherwise very difficult to study. However, the researchers have reported the first remote detection of relativistic antiparticles - positrons - produced in nuclear interactions of accelerated ions in solar flares through the analysis of readily available microwave and magnetic-field data obtained from solar-dedicated facilities and spacecraft. (7/15)

Technology Could Curtail Astronaut Conflict (Source: Space Daily)
Scientists aim to equip manned crews to Mars with innovative devices that keep track of social interactions and provide instant feedback when conflict and other troubles regarding teamwork emerge. NASA plans to send the first humans to Mars sometime in the next quarter-century. Such a mission will push the boundaries of teamwork for the handful of astronauts selected, as they will have to spend as long as three years isolated together in a tiny capsule traveling through the harsh dangers of space toward the Red Planet and back. Any problems in teamwork could jeopardize the mission.

To help maintain teamwork during a mission to Mars, scientists are developing devices aimed at monitoring astronauts in real time to learn how and why cooperation fluctuates over the course of a mission. "The intended purpose of the technology and analytics we are developing is to help the team be more aware and attuned so team members can effectively regulate their teamwork," said Steve Kozlowski, lead investigator on the project and an organizational psychologist at Michigan State University. Click here. (7/15)

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