July 16, 2013

China's Astronauts Ready for Longer Missions (Source: Space Daily)
Chinese astronauts are capable of conducting medium and long-term space missions and enduring the harsh physical conditions involved, a senior astronaut said on Thursday. "From Shenzhou V to Shenzhou X, we have been laying the foundation for future medium and long-term missions," said Nie Haisheng, one of three astronauts who took part in last month's 15-day space mission, the longest yet for China. (7/16)

UK Government to Invest in SABRE Engine (Source: SpaceRef)
Through the UK Space Agency, the Government is set to invest £60 million ($90.5) in the development of the SABRE - a British-designed rocket engine which could revolutionize the fields of propulsion and launcher technology, and significantly reduce the costs of accessing space. SABRE has the potential to create 21,000 high value engineering and manufacturing jobs; maximize the UK's access to a conservatively estimated £13.8 billion ($20.8) launcher market over the next thirty years; and provide economic benefits from spill-over technology markets.

Built by UK company Reaction Engines (REL), the unique engine is designed to extract the oxygen it needs for low atmosphere flight from the air itself, paving the way for a new generation of spaceplanes which would be lighter, reusable and able to take off and launch from conventional airport runways. Reaction Engines' concept for an 84m-long, unpiloted vehicle called Skylon would be one such spaceplane, doing the job of a big rocket but operating like an aeroplane. (7/16)

Finding NEO (Source: Air & Space)
Some see it as a bold, outside-the-box proposal to send American explorers into deep space for the first time in 50 years. Others call it a detour from Mars and the Moon. Either way, NASA’s idea of capturing a small asteroid and delivering it to a high lunar orbit for astronaut inspection will have to overcome daunting engineering and cost challenges before it can fly. That may have been the only consensus view among scientists and mission design experts who vigorously debated the Asteroid Retrieval and Redirection Mission (ARRM) in Washington.

The ARRM would launch a robotic spacecraft around 2018 that would use solar electric thrust to rendezvous with and snare a 500-ton, 7-meter-wide asteroid, and return it to translunar space in 2023 (NASA had originally said 2021, but the date is now flexible). Astronauts on their first trip beyond Earth orbit since 1972 would visit the retrieved rock in their Orion spacecraft and collect tens of kilograms of asteroid material for analysis on Earth.

One immediate challenge is “finding NEO”—a near-Earth object suitable for capture. NASA wants one with a mass between 500 and 1,000 metric tons in an Earth-like orbit, where a 40-kilowatt solar electric spacecraft could nudge it into a stable retrograde orbit high above the Moon. Ideally, the chosen asteroid should resemble carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, harboring water-rich minerals that might someday furnish propellant to lower the cost of expeditions to Mars. Click here. (7/16)

Blue Origin Bids for Shuttle Launch Pad (Source: Space News)
At least one other company is competing against SpaceX to take over a decommissioned space shuttle launch pad at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Privately owned Blue Origin also responded to a NASA solicitation for proposals for Launch Pad 39A, company president Rob Meyerson said.

“Blue Origin is considering various sites for our orbital launch operations, and submitted a proposal to NASA related to KSC Launch Complex 39A. We look forward to further discussions with NASA and Space Florida about the possibility of bringing our launch and vehicle assembly operations to the KSC area,” Meyerson wrote in an email.

United Launch Alliance, ATK, Orbital Sciences and Space Florida all passed on the project. Blue Origin has an unfunded partnership agreement with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which is aimed at restoring a U.S. human space transportation system to the international space station. (7/16)

Jurvetson to Give Tour of Space Artifact Collection — for a Price (Source: Parabolic Arc)
SpaceX investor Steve Jurvetson will give one lucky person a tour of his personal collection of space artifacts — if the price is right. All you have to do is go to Tourwithsteve.com and making the winning bid. According to the website: “The highest bid will help fund a scholarship for a space entrepreneur to attend Draper University and support a team on a wilderness survival mission.” (7/16)

Space Fence Contract on Hold Pending Review (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force is ready to award a long-overdue contract for its next-generation space-object tracking system, but the project is being held up due to a Pentagon review of its major acquisition programs, the service’s top uniformed officer for space said. Lockheed Martin and Raytheon have developed competing designs for the next-generation Space Fence, a system of ground-based radars that would be capable of tracking greater numbers of smaller objects than the current system.

Award of a full-scale development contract had been expected in 2012 or early 2013, but in April, Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, hinted that the $3.5 billion project might be delayed. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the department-wide review to examine major projects under scenarios in which Pentagon spending is cut by $100 billion, $300 billion and $500 billion during the next decade. (7/16)

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Approves $18 Billion for NASA in FY2014 (Source: Space Policy Online)
The Senate appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over NASA approved $18 billion for the agency for FY2014, a significant increase over the level recommended by its House counterpart last week and more than the Obama Administration requested. The Senate Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee, chaired by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who also chairs the full committee, approved the bill with little discussion. Full committee markup is scheduled for Thursday.

Little mention was made of NASA during the markup and the press release provides few details. The subcommittee approved $18 billion for FY2014, an increase above the $17.7 billion requested by the Obama Administration and significantly more than the amount approved by its House counterpart -- $16.6 billion (the full House Appropriations Committee will consider its subcommittee's recommendations tomorrow, but major changes are not expected). (7/16)

Sen. Nelson Speaks to "Future Space Leaders" at DC Event (Source: SPACErePORT)
Florida U.S. Senator Bill Nelson will be the keynote speaker at the close of a Future Space Leaders "Future Space 2013" event on July 17. The Future Space Leaders Foundation is hosting its second annual one-day event on Capitol Hill covering cross-cutting issues in space. Future Space 2013 will raise grant funds to support educational programs and networking opportunities for graduate students and young professionals. Click here. (7/15)

Spaceport Wars: Petition Proposed to Stop New Launch Pad in Florida (Source: We The People)
Opponents to Florida's plans to develop a new launch pad at "Shiloh", an abandoned town near Kennedy Space Center's northern boundary, have started a "We The People" petition to the White House to have the project halted. They claim the project's environmental impacts will be too severe. Click here. (7/15)

The Best Way to Explore Europa? Bomb It (Source: Discovery)
What’s the best way to explore Jupiter’s icy moon Europa? If tests by British scientists and engineers are anything to go by, bombing its icy crust with a heavy bullet-shaped penetrator should do the trick. Doesn't look like they're getting many signatures. Click here. (7/15)

Distorted GPS Signals Reveal Hurricane Wind Speeds (Source: AGU)
By pinpointing locations on Earth from space, GPS systems have long shown drivers the shortest route home and guided airline pilots across oceans. Now, by figuring out how messed up GPS satellite signals get when bouncing around in a storm, researchers have found a way to do something completely different with GPS: measure and map the wind speeds of hurricanes.

Improved wind speed measurements could help meteorologists better predict the severity of storms and where they might be headed, said Stephen Katzberg at the NASA Langley Research Center, a leader in the development of the new GPS technique. On a global scale, experts hope to use the new measurement method to better understand how storms form and what guides their behavior. (7/15)

Chinese Rocket Engine Test a Big Step for Space Station Project (Source: Space.com)
China has successfully test-fired the rocket engine that will power the next-generation heavy-lift booster, the Long March 5, that will help drive the country's space exploration into the final frontier. The new rocket engine is closely tied to China's planned space station, and is a big step forward for the country's moon exploration program. The first engine test, carried out on June 29, lasted roughly three minutes from ignition to shutdown, according to the China Manned Space Engineering Office. (7/15)

The Win-Lose of US-China Space Cooperation (China Wins; US Loses) (Source: America Space)
There has been an occasional flurry of speculation regarding the merits and advisability of potential joint space programs with China. So what’s behind the American interest in such joint space operations? What’s in it for the United States? Simply put, is it a good idea or a bad idea?

On the surface it would appear that the proposed space initiative is part of a broader effort begun during the Nixon Administration (“Only Nixon could go to China”) and continued to varying degrees to open and enhance dialogue with the communist PRC government—-the purpose of which to defuse tensions and reduce the possibility of conflict, armed or otherwise. Click here. (7/15)

South Pacific Galileo Station Endures Freak Rains and Flood (Source: ESA)
Think your summer has been bad? Engineers manning Galileo’s South Pacific ground station on New Caledonia found themselves marooned by heavy rains and a flash flood – though the station carried on operating regardless. Torrential rains lashed this French-administered group of islands at the start of July. The south coast of New Caledonia’s main island of Grand Terre recorded more than 700 mm of rain in 24 hours – the yearly average being roughly 1100 mm. (7/15)

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