July 2, 2013

ISRO Successfully Launches India's First Navigation Satellite (Source: DNA)
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) which has been involved in over 100 missions for the first time in its 50 years old history launched a satellite in the night on Monday from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. At 11.41 pm, the rocket - Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle-C22 - standing around 44 metres tall and weighing around 320 tonnes roared into space turning the dark skies bright orange. The IRNSS-1A is the first dedicated Indian Navigation Satellite. In total seven satellites of the IRNSS constellation will be launched and the full constellation will be up during 2014 timeframe. (7/2)

Proton Fails 17 Seconds into Glonass Launch (Source: Space News)
A Russian Proton rocket carrying three Russian Glonass positioning, navigation and timing satellites failed 17 seconds after liftoff on July 2, with the rocket crashing some 2.5 kilometers from the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad in Kazakhstan. (Video here.) Roscosmos said that a preliminary assessment has found no fatalities or major injuries, nor any damage to the launch installations.

But this failure, occurring just 17 seconds after ignition, was apparently the result of a problem in the first stage, which is common to both Proton variants. Roscosmos said the failure followed the emergency switch-off of the engine powering the rocket following an unidentified “emergency.”

Reston, Va.-based ILS, recovering from Proton’s previous anomaly in December, had hoped to launch one commercial satellite per month between March and August and had been on track to do just that before the July 2 incident. The next commercial flight scheduled on Proton was scheduled for later in July, to carry the Astra 2E satellite for commercial fleet operator SES of Luxembourg. (7/2)

NASA: Russian Rocket Crash Won't Affect Astronaut Transport to ISS (Source: LA Times)
Russia’s dramatic launch and crash of an unmanned Proton rocket holding three Glonass navigation satellites is not expected to affect upcoming manned trips to the orbiting International Space Station, NASA officials said. (7/2)

Failed Launch Won't Affect Operation of Navigation System (Source: Itar-Tass)
The failed launch of three Glonass-M satellites will not affect the operation of the navigation system, a communications industry source said. "There'll be no consequences / of the failed launch of the satellites/. The system operates normally; satellites are gradually replaced," the expert said adding that four reserve satellites are currently in orbit. (7/2)

Atlas and Delta Rockets Get New Batch of Launch Orders (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
United Launch Alliance has received a seven-launch order for Atlas and Delta rockets to carry out missions for the U.S. Air Force and National Reconnaissance Office. Under terms of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle production services deal, the sole source acquisition award is worth $1 billion. The four Air Force launches will use the Atlas 5-401 and Atlas 5-501 configurations. The military also bought two Delta 4 rockets, one with a four-meter upper stage and two solid motors and the other with a five-meter upper stage and four solids. (7/2)

Real Doomsday: Earth Dead in 2.8 Billion Years (Source: Discovery)
“A combination of slow and rapid environmental changes will result in the extinction of all species on Earth, with the last inhabitants disappearing within 2.8 billion years from now,” Jack O’Malley-James predicts. He says that we’ve got about 2 billion years left before the oceans will have evaporated leaving behind a desiccated sand dune landscape as alien-looking as that of Mars. The last vestiges of life on Earth will have retreated to the few scattered reservoirs of water left on our planet. (7/2)

Pluto's Smallest Moons Receive Their Official Names (Source: SETI Institute)
The names of Pluto's two smallest known moons, previously referred to as "P4" and "P5", have been formally approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). P4 has been named Kerberos, after the three-headed dog of Greek mythology. P5 has been named Styx, after the mythological river that separates the world of the living from the realm of the dead. The moons join Pluto's previously known moons Charon, Nix and Hydra. According to IAU rules, Pluto's moons are named for characters associated with the Underworld of Greek and Roman mythology. (7/2)

Clouds Extend the Habitable Zone of Alien Planets (Source: SEN)
Computer simulations of the influence clouds have on a planet's climate suggest there could be billions more potentially habitable planets in the Universe than previously thought. According to the research even planets orbiting very close to a red dwarf star may retain surface water because of the way clouds affect the climate, suggesting there is a bigger orbital zone around such stars where life could exist.

This larger habitable zone means there could be 60 billion potentially life-supporting planets orbiting red dwarfs in our Galaxy - double the current estimate based on data from NASA's Kepler telescope which suggested there was one Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of each red dwarf. (7/2)

Mist Around the CZ-3B Disaster (Source: Space Review)
Over 15 years ago, a Chinese Long March rocket went off course seconds after liftoff, crashing not far from the launch site and, according to some accounts, killing many people. In the first of a two part article, Chen Lan examines what we have learned about that accident since 1996. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2323/1 to view the article. (7/1)

Smallsat Constellations: the Killer App? (Source: Space Review)
Interest in smallsats is rising as such spacecraft become more capable, but finding applications for them that will generate significant demand has been a challenge. Jeff Foust reports on how two companies, including one that announced its plans last week, are seeking to fly fleets of such satellites for Earth imaging applications. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2322/1 to view the article. (7/1)

Conflating Space Exploration and Commercialization: PayPal's Announcement (Source: Space Review)
Last week, electronic banking company PayPal announced, to some surprise, that it was kicking off an initiative to study how to perform financial transactions in space. John Hickman takes issue with the lack of critical reporting about the announcement in the press, especially those who confused space commercialization with space exploration. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2321/1 to view the article. (7/1)

Life and Death and Ice (Source: Space Review)
Although it won't be in theaters until August, the sci-fi movie Europa Report is available now via video on demand. Dwayne Day watched the movie and describes an interesting and thought-provoking film about a human mission to Europa. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2320/1 to view the article. (7/1)

Embry-Riddle to Host Florida's Largest University Telescope (Source: ERAU)
The observation dome that will house the state’s largest research telescope in operation will be hoisted and secured atop the currently under construction College of Arts & Sciences building at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Daytona Beach Campus. The two-piece retractable dome, which is 30 feet, 6 inches in diameter and 15 feet high, is made of galvanized steel. The dome moves electronically as the telescope is moved and is capable of a 360-degree rotation. Completion of the five-story, 140,000-square foot building that will house the telescope, classrooms, labs and faculty/office space is targeted for December 2013. (7/1)

Radiation Fears Shouldn't Hold Back Mars Colonization (Source: Space.com)
Mars One aims to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars in 2023, requiring no return mission. The absence of a return mission reduces the radiation exposure from galactic cosmic rays. These cosmic rays are hard to shield against without the use of a prohibitive shielding mass, which would require more than 10 times the standard spacecraft shielding. Reducing the time spent traveling through space — and, thus, the exposure from the cosmic rays — is significant, as these rays are the source of 95 percent of the radiation exposure, according to a recent paper published May 31 in the journal Science. (7/2)

NASA Seeks Information on Commercial Robotic Lunar Lander Capabilities (Source: NASA)
NASA Tuesday issued a Request for Information (RFI) that will help agency officials better understand current plans in the U.S. commercial space industry for a robotic lunar landing capability. The RFI will assist NASA in assessing U.S. industry's interest in partnerships to develop a robotic lander that could enable commercial and agency missions. The RFI is available at http://go.nasa.gov/17Pk12S. (7/2)

SpaceX Fronts Texas County Agenda (Source: Brownsville Herald)
Cameron County will continue to set the table for the possible construction of a SpaceX launch site at Boca Chica Beach today during a special meeting at 9 a.m. Cameron County Commissioners Court will consider an agreement with the Texas General Land Office concerning the terms and conditions of beach access restrictions or closures related to space launch and space flight activities near Boca Chica Beach. The court also will deliberate in executive session an agreement between the county and SpaceX for a joint spaceport project and land acquisition needs near the proposed launch site. (7/2)

The Revolution In Space Exploration Will Be Televised (Source: Forbes)
When I wrote last December that NASA needed a new narrative for communicating the value of space exploration, the comments I got back ranged from “you don’t understand how NASA works,” to “anyway, it’s impossible” (with a few notable and very encouraging exceptions).

I was wrong, or maybe the last six months just changed the game. But the space exploration meme is coming back in ways we’ve haven’t seen since the 1960s, and with it come opportunities for corporate sponsorship, educational tie-ins, potential jobs for kids who would like to work “out there” someday, and a return of a sense of national purpose that everyone might appreciate. Click here. (7/2)

International Lunar Resources Exploration Concept (1993) (Source: WIRED)
By the end of 1992, the handwriting had been on the wall for the Space Exploration Initiative (SEI) for some time. President George H. W. Bush had launched his moon and Mars exploration initiative on the 20th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing (20 July 1989), but it had almost immediately run headlong into a minefield of fiscal and political difficulties. The change of Presidential Administration in January 1993 was the final nail in SEI’s coffin. Nevertheless, exploration planners across NASA continued to work toward SEI goals until early 1994.

In February 1993, Kent Joosten, an engineer in the Exploration Program Office (ExPO) at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, proposed a plan for lunar exploration which, he hoped, would take into account the emerging realities of post-Cold War space exploration. His International Lunar Resources Exploration Concept would, he wrote, reduce “development and recurring costs of human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit” and “enable lunar surface exploration capabilities significantly exceeding those of Apollo.” Click here. (7/2)

Kazakhstan’s Space Program Gets another Assist from Surrey (Source: Space News)
British small-satellite manufacturer Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL), furthering its involvement in Kazakhstan’s nascent space program, on July 1 said it would provide an Earth observation satellite and satellite-platform technologies for future spacecraft following a contract with Ghalam LLP of Kazakhstan. Ghalam is a joint venture of Kazakhstan Garysh Sapary (KGS) and EADS Astrium of Europe, which owns SSTL.

The contract follows the October 2009 agreement between Astrium and the Kazakh government to embark on a broad satellite development effort whose long-term goal is to create an autonomous Kazakh satellite manufacturing capability. The 2009 agreement, which was signed during a bilateral French-Kazakh summit and valued at 230 million euros ($336 million), calls for Astrium to provide a high-resolution Earth observation satellite to Kazakhstan, and for SSTL to provide a medium-resolution spacecraft. (7/2)

Russia, Indonesia: No First Deployment of Weapons in Space (Source: Itar-Tass)
Foreign Ministers of Russia and Indonesia, Sergei Lavrov and Marty Natalegawa, signed a statement on no first deployment of weapons in outer space on the sidelines of the ASEAN Security Forum in Brunei, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported on Monday. The document “is designed to take an additional step towards strengthening security in outer space”, the ministry said. (7/2)

Space Nuke Fit to Obliterate Renegade Asteroids (Source: Discovery)
In the 1964 Cold War classic film, Dr. Stragelove, a device called the Doomsday Machine brings nuclear Armageddon to the world. It’s time we start building a Doomsday Delay Machine that will also use a powerful nuclear weapon — but for the opposite effect, to save life on Earth by blowing apart renegade asteroids. In a letter on Near Earth Objects (NEOs) from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to the Congress in 2010, OSTP strongly recommended that NASA take the lead in detecting NEOs and coming up with technologies to deflect them away from Earth.

There has been a lot of discussion about how to deflect an asteroid. Among the ideas: kinetic-energy impactors that give it a whack (as tested in 2006 on comet Temple 1, shown above), slow-pull gravity tractors and the staple of sci-fi disasters: nuclear bombs. But without testing these technologies in space it’s unlikely there will ever be a clear consensus on how to protect Earth in a timely manner.

Aeronautical engineer Alan Pitz and co-investigators say that we need to develop a knuckle-fisted asteroid interceptor. On short notice it is launched to sprint to an asteroid a blow it apart with a nuclear blast. He reports that we need at least three space missions to test out the space interceptor concept. There would be an asteroid orbiter mission, sample return, and an impact mission with a dummy payload. Pitz estimates the total development and flight cost at about $3 billion. That’s a small insurance premium for defending an entire planet. (7/2)

60 Billion Alien Planets Could Support Life, Study Suggests (Source: Space.com)
Though only about dozen potentially habitable exoplanets have been detected so far, scientists say the universe should be teeming with alien worlds that could support life. The Milky Way alone may host 60 billion such planets around faint red dwarf stars, a new estimate suggests.

Based on data from NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft, scientists have predicted that there should be one Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of each red dwarf, the most common type of star. But a group of researchers has now doubled that estimate after considering how cloud cover might help an alien planet support life. (7/2)

Boeing, SpaceX Detail Capsule Test Plans (Source: Aviation Week)
As tow tests of Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser begin in California, the two competing capsule-based contenders for NASA's commercial crew program (CCP) are running through a fast-paced series of milestones toward the start of planned demonstration flights.  The outcome of the upcoming tests has become crucial given increasing budget pressure. The program, which aims to develop U.S. human spacelaunch capability to succeed the now retired space shuttle, has been slipping as Congress continues to cut funding.

The shortfall has forced NASA to revise its acquisition plan that notionally calls for an RFP in FY-16, and first U.S.-crewed service flights to the Space Station in November 2017-—two years later than originally planned. To qualify, the teams must pass a rigorous, two-phase certification process which will include at least one crewed ISS mission in fiscal 2017. However, the squeeze on funding may force the agency to winnow down the contenders sooner than originally planned, which makes the upcoming milestones all the more important.

Boeing, with its CST-100, still aims to demonstrate the seven-person capsule on a three-day manned orbital test flight in 2016. SpaceX's plans to conduct a pad abort test in December remain on track, paving the way for a test flight to the space station with a non-NASA crew in 2015. “What we think we need to complete launch assurance is just over two years, so we could do a test with people on board around mid-2015. That is what we proposed under CCiCAP and it is the trajectory we are on today but,” depending on funding, that may not hold.” (7/2)

Boeing's CST-100 Plan Includes Potential Falcon-9 Launches (Source: Aviation Week)
Boeing's plan calls for the first two launches to be on an Atlas, but the company has not ruled out other launchers, including the Falcon 9 developed by CCiCAP rival SpaceX. “It's got to be compatible with others and we continue to have discussions with SpaceX because once the Falcon 9 has enough flights under its belt and is safe enough to fly crew, we feel we can make that business decision. We'll be going over [to SpaceX] soon to see what it will take to make sure our new vehicle is compatible with the Falcon 9. If the price point stays extremely attractive then that is the smart thing to do.” (7/2)

ESA's CryoSat Maps Largest-Ever Flood Beneath Antarctica Ice (Source: ESA)
ESA’s CryoSat satellite has found a vast crater in Antarctica’s icy surface. Scientists believe the crater was left behind when a lake lying under about 3 km of ice suddenly drained. Far below the thick ice sheet that covers Antarctica, there are lakes of fresh water without a direct connection to the ocean. These lakes are of great interest to scientists who are trying to understand water transport and ice dynamics beneath the frozen Antarctic surface – but this information is not easy to obtain. (7/2)

New Leadership for CSF's Suborbital Researchers Group (Source: CSF)
Dr. Steven Collicott has been named the new chair of the Suborbital Applications Researchers Group (SARG) following Dr. Alan Stern, who has stepped down after the completion of his term as the founding chairman. In addition, Dr. Makenzie Lystrup has been named vice-chair of the committee. Dr. Collicott is an experimentalist in fluid dynamics, and is currently a professor at Purdue University in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Dr. Lystrup is a planetary astronomer, and the Space Sciences Business Development Manager at Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. (7/2)

NASA Pitches Asteroid Capture To International Partners (Source: Aviation Week)
European space agencies will spend the rest of the summer evaluating whether there is a role for them in NASA’s proposed asteroid-capture mission, after Administrator Charles Bolden pitched the idea during visits to agency partners. Jean Jacques Dordain, director general of the European Space Agency (ESA), told Bolden he has set up a multi-agency working group headed by ESA human-spaceflight chief Thomas Reiter “tasked to elaborate a coherent approach with regard to your new initiative.”

Representatives of the national space agencies of France, Germany, Italy and the U.K. will participate in the working group, with a report due from ESA to NASA in September, Dordain told Bolden in a June 20 letter. “[W]e welcome this new initiative and are ready to support discussions on potential cooperation that would strengthen ongoing and future space exploration activities to be performed in an international framework,” Dordain wrote. However, he noted that ESA’s human spaceflight strategy includes the International Space Station in low Earth orbit, the Moon and Mars. (6/28)

Morgan Freeman Talks Aliens, Space, Origins Of Life On Earth (Source: Huffington Post)
Morgan Freeman is no scientist, as the Oscar-winning megastar is quick to point out. But he knows a thing or two about physics, in part because of his role as executive producer and host of the Science Channel's popular "Through The Wormhole" TV series. The show's new season began last month and runs through July 31, with episodes named for the big questions they explore, such as "How Do Aliens Think?" and "Did God Create Evolution?" Click here. (7/2)

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