August 10, 2013

Elysium Space will Launch Your Loved Ones’ Ashes Into Orbit for $2000 (Source: TNW)
An ex-NASA engineer has launched Elysium Space, a new startup with the goal of sending spacecraft into orbit with the ashes of the deceased. Loved ones back on Planet Earth will then be able to monitor the location of the ashes from an app. A spot on the first “memorial spaceflight”, which is expected to take off next summer, costs $1,990.

Customers receive a kit with a metal capsule for storing the ashes and can attend the launch if so desired. The Elysium Space app is currently available on Google Play and an iPhone version is coming soon. This isn’t the first such service – Celestis has been offering the service for over a decade. However, Elysium Space founder Thomas Civeit is putting his NASA experience to work at making it more affordable. By comparison, Celestis’s Earth orbit service costs at least $4,995, though the company does offer a $995 flight that goes up into zero-gravity and comes back down. (8/10)

Florida Defense Contracts Down $1.5 Billion From High in 2010 (Source: FLDC)
Florida continues to trail other states in attracting federal defense contracts. The state's decline started even before Sequestration. The federal government, by operating under Continuing Resolutions for years and more recently under Sequestration, is impacting our national security by hurting the industrial base we rely on as a nation to keep our men and women in uniform equipped with the best, and it's affecting the economy and jobs, and more adversely, the small and medium sized businesses which build the parts that go into larger systems. Click here. (8/9)

India Plans Spy Satellite Launch By Month End (Source: Business Standard)
GSAT-7 has now begun its checkout at the Spaceport of Arianespace, in French Guiana in South America, to confirm the multi-band satellite's readiness with payloads in the UHF, S-band, C-band and Ku-bands. Developed by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), it utilises India's standard I-2K bus - the same as employed for the Indian Insat-3D satellite, which had lifted off on Arianespace's VA214 mission on July 25. (8/9)

Sally Ride Gets Posthumous Medal Of Freedom (Source: Popular Science)
Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut to go to space, will get a posthumous Medal of Freedom, the U.S. White House announced yesterday. Ride flew aboard the shuttle Challenger in 1983. She had been part of the first class of American astronauts to include women and non-white people. Today, the 2013 class of NASA astronauts is diverse and includes four men and four women. (8/9)

Bolden: Indo-US Space Ready for Lift-Off (Source: NDTV)
The world's foremost space exploration agency, the NASA from America, and the Indian space agency ISRO are today engaged in an intense dialogue to explore the last frontier of space together. In a first for Indian television, the chief of NASA, General Charles Bolden gave an extended exclusive interview to NDTV's Pallava Bagla at the agency's headquarters in Washington DC and explained how it was supporting India's upcoming maiden mission to Mars. Click here. (8/10)

Sarasota Company Makes Big LED Sign for NASA (Source: Herald Tribune)
A Sarasota sign company best known for its work for churches and businesses landed a job at Kennedy Space Center. Stewart Signs recently installed a large light-emitting diode, or LED, sign at the entrance to NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building. The sign, with a display area more than 11 feet high by 19 feet wide, shows a variety of graphics, video clips and text with information for workers and visitors.

Stewart has produced signs for military bases and government installations, but this was its first project with NASA, marketing manager Christine McKelvey said. Jim Bolton, operations manager at the assembly building, said the sign “has a lot of bling factor to it. One of the objectives of the sign is to clearly communicate to people as they are coming in to the facility what types of things are going on, any potential hazards, or any special-interest items,” he said. (8/9)

More than 100,000 Want to Go to Mars and Not Return (Source: CNN)
More than 100,000 people are eager to make themselves at home on another planet. They've applied for a one-way trip to Mars, hoping to be chosen to spend the rest of their lives on uncharted territory, according to an organization planning the manned missions. The Mars One project wants to colonize the red planet, beginning in 2022. There are financial and practical questions about this venture that haven't been clarified. Will there be enough money? Will people really be able to survive on Mars? But these haven't stopped some 30,000 Americans from signing up.

You can see some of the candidates on the project's website, but they're not the only ones who have applied, said Bas Lansdorp, Mars One CEO and co-founder. "There is also a very large number of people who are still working on their profile, so either they have decided not to pay the application fee, or they are still making their video or they're still filling out the questionnaire or their resume. So the people that you can see online are only the ones that have finished and who have set their profiles as public," Lansdorp said. (8/9)

What Will Virgin’s Customers See in the High Desert Next Month? (Source: Parabolic Arc)
I wandered over to the Mojave Air and Space Port on Tuesday afternoon for the spaceport’s Board of Directors’ meeting to discover it had been canceled due to a lack of sufficient business to put on the agenda. That was the official explanation, anyway. I think everyone is just on vacation, which is a smart move at this time of year. But, that doesn’t mean that nothing is going on. Oh, things are happening, all right. Big, mysterious things.

Virgin Galactic, which has invited its 600 plus millionauts to the spaceport on Sep. 25 to get a close-up look at their ride into space. Or something. It is possible Sir Richard Branson will once again grace Mojave with his presence and toothy grin. Branson doesn’t come out to Mojave all that very often, and he invites his future astronauts here even less frequently. In July 2008, he flew a group of them in for the roll out of WhiteKnightTwo. The following December, they were here to witness the roll out of SpaceShipTwo.

So, what could be planned this time? The details of the event appear to be a closely guarded secret. But, I can venture a few guesses. A powered flight would be a spectacular event for customers to see, and a way for Branson to demonstrate real progress toward commercial flight. That alone would make the trip worthwhile. There are a couple of potential problems, however. Virgin hoped to resume powered flights in early to mid-June. They expected SpaceShipTwo to be deep into its test flight program by the time everyone gathered in Mojave at the end of September. (8/9)

With Garver’s Departure, NASA Loses Strong Change Advocate (Source: Space News)
When NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver leaves her post in September to begin a new career as a labor leader, the Obama administration and its commercial space allies will have lost a passionate champion for leaving Apollo in the past and transforming the U.S. space agency into a model of 21st century innovation. Whether her departure is viewed as good or bad for NASA depends on whether one thinks the politically savvy Garver has helped chart a sustainable new course for a U.S. space program that had been bent on returning to the Moon, or cast it adrift.

Commercial space advocates are among those who will be sorriest when she steps down Sept. 6. “Lori made a real difference to the future of spaceflight,” Elon Musk said. “Most people put their career first, so they play politics and pander to the vested interests. But there are some who truly care about humanity’s future in space and will do the right thing in the face of immense opposition... Lori was one of them." (8/9)

On the Trail of Dark Energy: Physicists Propose Higgs Boson 'Portal' (Source: ASU)
One of the biggest mysteries in contemporary particle physics and cosmology is why dark energy, which is observed to dominate energy density of the universe, has a remarkably small (but not zero) value. This value is so small, it is perhaps 120 orders of magnitude less than would be expected based on fundamental physics. Resolving this problem, often called the cosmological constant problem, has so far eluded theorists.

Now, two physicists suggest that the recently discovered Higgs boson could provide a possible “portal” to physics that could help explain some of the attributes of the enigmatic dark energy, and help resolve the cosmological constant problem. In their paper, “Higgs Seesaw Mechanism as a Source for Dark Energy,” they explore how a possible small coupling between the Higgs particle, and possible new particles likely to be associated with what is conventionally called the Grand Unified Scale (GUS).

GUS – a scale perhaps 16 orders of magnitude smaller than the size of a proton, at which the three known non-gravitational forces in nature might converge into a single theory – could result in the existence of another background field in nature in addition to the Higgs field, which would contribute an energy density to empty space of precisely the correct scale to correspond to the observed energy density. (8/9)

Japan's Cargo Craft Makes Delivery to Space Station (Source: Spaceflight Now)
The International Space Station's robotic arm, under the control of astronaut Karen Nyberg, reached out and snared a Japanese resupply ship Friday after the unmanned cargo carrier completed a smooth laser-guided rendezvous with the 450-ton orbiting complex. Loaded with 3.6 tons of gear to bolster scientific research and keep the space station running, the H-2 Transfer Vehicle is the fourth logistics craft Japan has sent to the space station since 2009. (8/9)

Orbcomm Acquisitions Starting To Pay Off with New Contracts (Source: Space News)
Mobile machine-to-machine (M2M) satellite messaging services provider Orbcomm on Aug. 8 said its four relatively small acquisitions in the past two years are paying off with new contracts including a big recent win with heavy-equipment manufacturer Doosan of South Korea. Orbcomm said it is still hoping for a launch of eight second-generation M2M satellites late this year aboard an upgraded Falcon 9 rocket. (8/9)

Space Fence Shutdown Expected To Weaken Orbit Surveillance Network (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force’s decision to shut down a key component of its Space Surveillance Network will weaken the service’s ability to accurately detect and characterize objects in Earth orbit, experts say. The shutdown, ordered by Gen. William Shelton also will reduce the overall capacity of the system, these experts said. At the same time, they suggested it could increase pressure on the Air Force to award a contract on a next-generation system, which has stalled amid a Pentagon-wide review of its acquisition plans. (8/9)

'Elysium' Review: Action-Packed Sci-Fi with a Social Conscience (Source:
In the split universe that is Neill Blomkamp's summer action movie "Elysium," the 'haves' live, quite literally, a world above the 'have-nots.' And what the 'haves' have, on their pain-free, protected ring-world space station, is an opulent lifestyle facilitated by jealously guarded technology.

Aboard the titular space colony that is "Elysium," bio-medical scanner/repairer tanning-beds confer near-immortality to the privileged. The security personnel can closely monitor Earthly activities almost anywhere. Humanoid robot police tightly control borders, restricting human movement. And corporate executives rocket about in dark window-tinted space shuttles with Bugatti-coachwork. This is luxury life in the year 2145. (8/9)

ViaSat Revenue Up Sharply but Greater Spending Ahead (Source: Space News)
Commercial and government satellite broadband hardware and services provider ViaSat on Aug. 6 reported sharply increased revenue, including continued fast growth of its U.S. military business, and warned investors that it would be accelerating its research and development (R&D) spending. ViaSat also said spending on its lawsuit against supplier Space Systems/Loral (SSL) and its former corporate parent, Loral Space and Communications, is increasing as the lawsuit nears its trial phase in 2014. (8/9)

How Nigeria Has Been Using its Satellites (Source: New Scientist)
Yes, Nigeria has a space program. Since 2003 the West African country has been operating its own satellites, three of which are currently collecting data from Earth orbit. But this week Nigeria's space agency came under fire after UK newspaper the Daily Mail reported on British politicians questioning why Nigeria is spending money on satellites while accepting foreign aid for the large proportion of its citizens who live in poverty.

In fact, the country's satellites support food production in the region and disaster relief around the world – including helping with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the US. Nigeria's National Space Research & Development Agency (NASRDA) launched its first orbiter, NigeriaSat-1, in 2003.

The spacecraft was equipped with high-resolution optical and infrared cameras. "They are there to look at agriculture production, improving food security," says Audrey Nice of SST. The satellite was also designed for environmental monitoring, such as tracking desertification and even locust swarms. (8/9)

How £1billion of Your Cash is Being Used to Help Nigeria Join the Space Race (Source: Daily Mail)
Nigeria is spending millions to put a man into space – as Britain hands it more than £1billion in foreign aid. The oil-rich country, which has accepted £300million this year alone, has set in train ambitious plans to launch its own rockets. And the first Nigerian astronauts are being trained to join Russian, Chinese or American missions within the next two years.

Last night critics asked why Britain was, in effect, subsidising a space program for a nation where 70 percent of people live below the poverty line. This latest controversy came just two days after Ukip MEP Godfrey Bloom ignited a fierce debate by saying it was folly to give billions in aid to ‘Bongo Bongo land’.

Backbench Tory MP Philip Davies said it was ‘totally unjustifiable and unaffordable’ for Britain to give this money to Nigeria, given the scale of its ‘grandiose’ space program. ‘We cannot go around the world saying “don’t worry, we will feed your public for you while you waste your money on all sorts of other projects”,’ he said. (8/10)

Xtar Posts Improved Six-Month Results (Source: Space News)
U.S.-Spanish satellite operator Xtar LLC, which sells X-band capacity on two satellites to U.S., Spanish and other allied government users, reported increased revenue and a reduced operating loss for the six months ending June 30, Xtar majority owner Loral Space and Communications said. (8/9)

Do Astronauts Do Laundry in Space? (Source: Salon)
The European Space Agency (ESA) has gotten to the bottom of the most pertinent question we hadn’t been asking. Are all astronauts floating around in dirty underoos? The ESA’s video team polled people in various European cities to find out what the common Earthling thinks is going on under those spacesuits. Some apparently think astronauts get paper underwear, while others think a lack of gravity means the grime just floats away in what must be a kind of Pig-Pen-esque cloud. If only!

The answer is, astronauts don’t do laundry at all. Though NASA commissioned a washing machine for the International Space Station in 2011, apparently, astronauts’ dreams of freshly laundered linens have yet to materialize. Water is a precious commodity on the ISS, and no one wants to waste precious recycled urine on dirty socks. Fresh clothes are delivered from Earth like any other supplies. But since that doesn’t happen that often, astronauts usually have to wear their clothes–and underwear–for much longer than they would on Earth.

Since astronauts start to lose their sense of smell in space, it’s probably not that bad. Astronaut Don Pettit once wrote that he changed his underwear once every three or four days on the ISS–and that he had been wearing the same pair of shorts for months. And here’s a perk: When you’re an astronaut, your dirty laundry is literally just incinerated. Waste and dirty linens from the Space Station burn up on re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere! Ah, what a life. (8/9)

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