July 9, 2013

Does Yuan Wang 5 Sailing Plan Reveal Chang’e 3 Launch Date? (Source: Zarya)
China’s Yuan Wang 5 tracking ship set sail from its home moorings on the River Yangtse 2013 early-June, heading out into the north Pacific Ocean to take up station for the Shenzhou 10 mission. It joined Yuan Wang 3 and Yuan Wang 6, the only other two active ships in the fleet. They set off about six weeks earlier – initially to support the Chinasat 11 geosynchronous launch on May 1 and then to wait for the Shenzhou 10 lift off on June 11. Between missions, Yuan Wang 6 called in at Auckland, New Zealand and Yuan Wang 3 stopped by at Suva, Fiji. (7/7)

SpaceX Uses Drone to Capture Footage of Hovering Grasshopper Rocket (Source: LA Times)
SpaceX, the Hawthorne company that builds rockets and space capsules to resupply the International Space Station for NASA, has been testing a new reusable 10-story rocket out at its facilities in McGregor, Texas. It’s a little strange to see a rocket fire up its engines, blast off, and then hover in the air -- outside of a science fiction movie.

Each time they go a little higher with the 10-story Grasshopper rocket, and it’s impressive footage. During the latest flight on June 16, the rocket blasted off, rose 1066 feet, hovered and landed safely on the pad. SpaceX used a small drone to film the flight, which captured all the footage from above. The company has used the robotic aircraft a few times now, but this is the first time it has shown footage exclusively from this camera. (7/8)

Space Expedition Corp. Takes Asia Into Space (Source: SXC)
Space Expedition Corporation (SXC) announced its expansion into Asia today, marking another milestone in the space tourism industry. The Asia division of the company—SXC Asia—will be responsible for all the sales and marketing initiatives in the region, including recruiting and training highly qualified Space Tourism Specialists. The head office will be based in Hong Kong. The expansion will strengthen SXC’s customer network in Asia, especially in Greater China, and take SXC one step closer to making space travel more accessible and affordable. (7/8)

Six Minutes in Space: Yours for HK$1.7m (Source: South China Morning Post)
Twelve rich Asians, possibly including some from Hong Kong, will be among the first people to travel to space in mid-2015 - but only for five to six minutes. The Space Expedition Corporation (SXC), based in the Netherlands, has set up an office in Hong Kong in an effort to use the city to explore business in Asia and China. "In a few years, Asia and China … will make up about 30 to 35 per cent of our total sales. In this coming year, we expect to sell 50 to 80 tickets in China," SXC chief executive Michiel Mol said yesterday. (7/9)

Congratulations to New Mexico's New Space Scientists (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Good news! All the algae flown to space on June 21 from Spaceport America survived. Abe Anderson with Sapphire Energy was New Mexico Space Grant's technical advisor on this flight. He completed the initial analysis on the algae cultures. After the flight, the health and growth rate of the cultures that went to space were compared to cultures that remained on the ground. Some of the experiments leaked during flight and the algae were "disadvantaged." But, by July 1, all flown cultures, including the "disadvantaged," were reproducing similarly to the controls on the ground. (7/8)

Looking for Life in Outer Space -- Always a Worthy Goal (Source: LA Times)
When I read Monday that it was the 66th anniversary of the notorious report of a flying disk crashing to Earth on a ranch near Roswell, N.M., sparking endless theories that it was an alien spacecraft, I couldn’t help but remember my own summer years ago looking for life in outer space. My search, though, didn’t involve hunting down reverse-engineered spacecraft or photographing the sky for strange forms.

Instead, I sat at a desk in an astronomer’s office at the University of Chicago running a routine data reduction program on radio telescope data and cataloging the basic descriptions of the stars that telescope had been pointed at. And it was more thrilling than scanning the night sky for little green men because this project carried the possibility of really finding something legitimately extraterrestrial. (7/8)

A New Composite Cryogenic Propellant Tank (Source: LaunchSpace)
NASA has recently completed an important space technology development milestone by successfully testing a pressurized, large cryogenic propellant tank made of composite materials. This type of tank may be used to improve the performance of current and future launch vehicles. However, it is a key step on the road to a viable fully-reusable two-stage-to-orbit (TSTO) vehicle. (7/9)

Showdown on NASA's Future Expected (Source: Florida Today)
Conflicting visions of where the nation’s space program should be headed will get a full airing this week. A key House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee will begin crafting a bill Wednesday that would reauthorize NASA for the next two years. The impact of those decisions could be felt for the next decade, assuming they can be reconciled with the competing priorities of the Obama administration and lawmakers.

The Republican-led panel is expected to vote on a fiscal 2014 measure that assumes sequestration budget cuts will remain in effect through at least fiscal 2015. That means NASA would receive a maximum annual budget of $16.8 billion, slightly more than it got in fiscal 2013 but not the $17.7 billion President Barack Obama is requesting for next year. Under the Republican bill, space exploration would get $300 million more (about $3 billion) than the administration wants. But the bill would eliminate $100 million in seed money for NASA’s mission to retrieve an asteroid. (7/8)

Proton Launch Failures More Likely when Russia Footing the Bill (Source: Space News)
All rocket customers may be created equal, but the Russian government has cause to wonder about that. While no one has been able to explain the recent record of Russia’s Proton heavy-lift rocket, no one can dispute it: Over the past five years, Proton has launched 53 times, with 66 percent of the launches being commercial missions managed by International Launch Services (ILS). The remaining 34 percent were Russian Federal missions.

But 80 percent of Proton’s failures — four of the five — were of Russian government missions. And the fifth failure — an underperforming Breeze-M upper stage that placed Gazprom Space Systems’ Yamal 402 telecommunications satellite into a bad orbit — was a mixed-breed contract that bore the stamp of a Russian government launch with an ILS imprimatur. (7/8)

AFCEA Luncheon to Feature Boeing Commercial Crew System (Source: AFCEA)
AFCEA's Cape Canaveral Chapter will host a luncheon on July 18 featuring Boeing's Derek Otermat providing an update on the Commercial Crew Transportation System. The luncheon is open to the public. Click here for information. (7/8)

Why There is Not Enough Space in the Final Frontier (Source: Russia & India Report)
Space may well be limitless, but up there quality real estate is somewhat limited. In fact, there are just two places in the entire solar system where humans can hope to establish colonies in the next 100 years. These are the Moon and Mars. A quick glance at history shows that on our own planet we reached the limits of exploration and conquest three centuries ago.

During the colonial era, pirates such as Francis Drake of England were backed by their countries to find new land, gold and slaves – not necessarily in that order – for the greater glory of their country. The nations of Western Europe despatched – or more often expelled – their surplus and unwanted populations into the newly ‘discovered’ territories of North and South America, Africa and Oceania, eventually claiming entire continents in the name of their king, queen or Pope.

The parallels to colonialism are hardly far-fetched. American Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, wrote to National Public Radio in 2010 on the need for Americans to return to earth’s only satellite: “Some question why Americans should return to the moon. After all, they say, ‘we have already been there’. I find that mystifying. It would be as if 16th century monarchs proclaimed that ‘we need not go to the New World, we have already been there’." (7/8)

NASA Has 'Made Progress' on ISS Research, But Could do Better (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA Inspector General Paul Martin said Monday that the space agency has made progress maximizing research on the International Space Station, but could do more. One of the critical factors in doing more is "the availability of reliable transportation to and from the station for crew and cargo," the IG's report said.

The question of using the station to the maximum isn't academic. Beyond the issues of what could be done in zero gravity, the station cost $100 billion to build - most of that America's money - and it costs $3 billion a year to operate. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the science experiments on the station.

Complicating the task is the situation regarding the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the non-profit organization NASA chose to manage at least 50 percent of the research on the station. That relationship was mandated by Congress, and NASA currently gives CASIS $15 million a year. CASIS is expected to supplement that by its own efforts. Click here. (7/8)

Astronaut Scholarship Foundation to Celebrate Skylab's 40th Anniversary (Source: America Space)
On Saturday, July 27, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) will host a gala benefit in honor of Skylab, America’s first space station, at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s Apollo Saturn V Center. The surviving members of the three Skylab prime crews are scheduled to be on hand at this gala event; they include Joseph Kerwin, Paul Weitz, Alan Bean, Owen Garriott, Jack Lousma, Gerald Carr, William Pogue, and Ed Gibson. Click here. (7/8)

Italy's First Spacewalker Ready for Ambitious Space Station EVA (Source: America Space)
Two astronauts, including Italy’s first spacewalker, will venture outside the Space Station on 9 July on the first EVA from the U.S. Operating Segment (USOS) during the current Expedition 36. Chris Cassidy (EV1), a veteran of four previous spacewalks, and first-timer Luca Parmitano (EV2) will spend 6.5 hours outside the orbital outpost replacing a failed component of one of two space-to-ground antennas, installing two new radiator grapple bars, retrieving two materials exposure experiments, and tending to several other tasks.

Tuesday’s spacewalk will be followed, on 16 July, by a second excursion, also featuring Cassidy and Parmitano, as this year’s “hot EVA summer” heats up. During both excursions, the astronauts will lay the groundwork for the arrival of Russia’s long-delayed Nauka module, scheduled for early 2014. (7/8)

Shuttle Enterprise Exhibit Will Reopen in New York City (Source: CollectSpace)
NASA's first winged orbiter, a prototype spacecraft used in the late 1970s for atmospheric flight and ground tests, the shuttle Enterprise will reopen on display Wednesday (July 10) at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City. The space shuttle, which has been off-limits to the public for the past eight months, first debuted on exhibit on the flight deck of the Intrepid museum, a converted World War II aircraft carrier, last July. Three months later, Hurricane Sandy hit Manhattan, leaving the space shuttle with minor damage but destroying its air-pressurized enclosure. (7/8)

Bacteria In Space Grows in Strange Ways (Source: Space.com)
Bacteria grown in a dish of fake urine in space behaves in ways never-before-seen in Earth microorganisms, scientists say. A team of scientists sent samples of the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa into orbit aboard NASA's space shuttle Atlantis to see how they grew in comparison to their Earth-dwelling counterparts.

The 3D communities of microorganisms (called biofilms) grown aboard the space shuttle had more live cells, were thicker and had more biomass than the bacterial colonies grown in normal gravity on Earth as controls. The space bacteria also grew in a "column-and-canopy" structure that has never been observed in bacterial colonies on Earth, according to NASA scientists. (7/8)

Russia to Launch 2 Glonass Satellites After Proton Disaster (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia will launch two Glonass navigation satellites later this year to make up for the loss of three satellites in the recent Proton rocket explosion after launch from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan, a senior space industry official said.

“We are planning to launch two satellites from the Plesetsk space center [in northern Russia] to replenish the Glonass orbital grouping following the recent Proton-M accident,” said Nikolai Testoyedov, the head of the Information Satellite Systems (ISS) company, which manufactures satellites for the Glonass project. (7/9)

No Decision Yet to Replace Proton with Angara (Source: Itar-Tass)
No exact date for replacing Proton carrier rocket with Angara has been determined so far, Khrunichev Space Centre Director-General Alexander Seliverstov said on Monday, July 8. “There is no absolute set date for Angara to replace Proton in the commercial market. Proton commercial launches will continue from the Baikonur Cosmodrome for the foreseeable future,” Seliverstov said.

“Any decision on offering Angara launch services at the commercial market will be made only following the completion of the Russian Government Flight Testing and Qualification Program,” he said. Seliverstov said that the Angara development has reached the flight test stage. The first stage has been successfully flight demonstrated on the South Korean KSLV program. The focus is now on finalizing the launch site in Plesetsk.

Angara will allow Russia to launch all kinds of spacecraft to any orbit. Now Russia can launch heavy satellites only aboard Proton rockets from Baikonur, which it leases from Kazakhstan for about $115 million per year. According to Khrunichev, a big advantage of the new rocket carrier is that “it is a universal space rocket system” capable of taking three types of rockets into space: light with a payload of up to 3.5 tons, medium with a payload of up to 14.6 tons, and heavy with a payload of up to 24.5 tons. (7/8)

New Space Engine Could Turn Tiny CubeSats into Interplanetary Explorers (Source: Space.com)
Researchers plan to launch a tiny spacecraft to Earth orbit and beyond within the next 18 months, in a key test of new propulsion technology that could help cut the cost of planetary exploration by a factor of 1,000.

The scientists and engineers are developing a new plasma propulsion system designed for ultrasmall CubeSats. If all goes well, they say, it may be possible to launch a life-detection mission to Jupiter's ocean-harboring moon Europa or other intriguing worlds for as little as $1 million in the not-too-distant future. (7/8)

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