August 15, 2013

FSDC Event Features Air Force Leaders (Source: FSDC)
The Florida Space Development Council, a chapter of the National Space Society, will sponsor a "Space Locals" discussion with 45th Space Wing Lt. Colonels David Ashley, Paul Konyha and James Smith. They will discuss the Air Force's enduring and evolving role in support of launch operations at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The event will be held on Sep. 7 at the Courtyard Marriott in Cocoa Beach at 2:00 p.m.

Also upcoming for FSDC are an Aug. 23 tour of the Space Life Sciences Lab at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, an Oct. 12 Southeastern Regions workshop for NSS chapters in Cocoa Beach, a Dec. 13 tour of Craig Technologies and the former Shuttle Logistics Depot in Cape Canaveral, and a December networking event co-sponsored with the National Space Club's Florida Committee. Click here for a statewide space events calendar and information on joining FSDC. (8/15)

Lockheed Martin Selects CubeSat Integrators for Athena Launches (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Lockheed Martin has chosen three world-class companies to provide CubeSat integration for Athena launch services. Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems LLC of Irvine, Calif., TriSept Corporation of Chantilly, Va., and Spaceflight, Inc. of Tukwila, Wash. will provide turnkey CubeSat integration services for multi-payload and RideShare missions using Athena launch services beginning in 2015.

Athena can boost payloads ranging from 280 kg (615 lbs) to up to 5,900 kg (13,000 lbs) utilizing launch sites at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska. Using ATK’s flight-proven CASTOR 120 for Stage I and Stage II, the modernized launch vehicles feature a newly developed and flight proven CASTOR 30 for the upper stage, and Lockheed Martin’s modernized electronic systems. Both solid rocket motors are in production and are used on other launch vehicles. (8/14)

No Liftoff for These Space Flights of Fancy (Source: Wall Street Journal)
On July 18, the future of NASA became all too clear. Forget journeys to the stars. Space exploration is now clearly tethered to the earthly desires of politicians. The result is that America's incoherent space program is unable to accomplish anything except spend money the federal government doesn't have.

We saw the process at work in budget negotiations in the House, where politicians divided along partisan lines in the vote over NASA's budget. The Democrats and NASA were pushing to fund a proposed asteroid mission, whereby an unmanned spacecraft in 2018 would capture an asteroid, and bring it closer to Earth so that astronauts could visit it in 2021. This mission was created by NASA to fulfill President Obama's 2010 commitment that the U.S. send humans to an asteroid by 2025.

Not surprisingly, all 17 Democrats on the House Science committee voted for this budget plan. But the Republicans in Congress don't want NASA to capture an asteroid. They want to reactivate George W. Bush's proposal from 2004 that was canceled by Mr. Obama in 2010. President Bush wanted humans go back to the moon and use that as a springboard for going to Mars. All 22 Republicans on the committee voted against the asteroid mission. (8/13)

Florida Looks to Revitalize Space Coast with New Launch Pads (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Two years after NASA grounded the space shuttle, Florida is trying to help reignite the fortunes of its Space Coast. The state's aerospace economic development agency aims to build a launchpad on a 200-acre plot here, in a rocket buffer zone just north of the Kennedy Space Center. The agency, Space Florida, hopes to lease the pad to commercial space companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin.

The agency plans to spend up to $2.3 million on the project, which it said would help the state compete with Texas, Georgia and Puerto Rico, all of which are trying to lure commercial space business with new launchpads. Before proceeding, though, it has to overcome a few hurdles—for one thing, Space Florida still needs to obtain the land from NASA, to which Florida Gov. Rick Scott has conveyed his backing of the project.

More problematic may be the resistance from local environmentalists, historic preservationists and some businesses. The area the agency covets is home to the oldest intact British plantation ruins in the country—with remnants of a slave village, a sugar mill and a distillery—a prehistoric garbage pile with discarded shells and pottery, and ancient Indian burial grounds. Click here. (8/14)

Newfound Pulsar May Explain Odd Behavior Of Our Galaxy's Black Hole (Source: Science Now)
A strange type of star never before found near the Milky Way’s center is providing new clues about the bizarre behavior of the supermassive black hole lurking at the heart of our galaxy. The black hole, known as Sagittarius A*, is as massive as 4 million suns and is thought to have played a critical role in shaping the Milky Way. Yet it somehow devours only a tiny fraction of its available food supply—a smorgasbord of gas and dust cast off by nearby stars.

That’s a puzzle astronomers have been trying to solve for years. Observations of an elderly, rapidly rotating star known as a pulsar in the vicinity of Sgr A* have now provided the first sensitive measure of the magnetic field associated with the black hole. The strength of that field may help account for Sgr A*’s poor eating habits. (8/15)

"Easily Retrievable Asteroids” May Prove Mining Boon (Source: Space Safety)
A team of scientists went looking for some asteroids that would make good candidates for space mining. They found some. After combing through a database of over 9,000 near Earth objects (NEOs), the team found 12 candidates that could be nudged into Sun-Earth Lagrangian points with no more than 500 m/s ΔV. They called this candidate group Easily Retrievable Objects (EROs).

lthough some concern has been expressed that displacing these asteroids could bring them into a collision course with Earth, the risk appears to be rather low. The closest a Lagrange 1 or 2 point orbiting object would come to Earth would be about 1.5 million km. If one were to be mistakenly punted in Earth’s direction, these candidates are too small to do much harm, except perhaps to a passing satellite; the rocks themselves would burn up in the atmosphere. (8/14)

NASA, Commercial Crew Partners Fund Additional Development Milestones (Source: NASA)
NASA is adding some additional milestones to agreements with three U.S. commercial companies that are developing spaceflight capabilities that could eventually provide launch services to transport NASA astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil.

NASA is exercising and funding specific additional Space Act Agreement milestones for Boeing, SpaceX, and Sierra Nevada to include one or two additional milestones each under CCiCap. These milestones each reduce risks, advance the partners' development efforts or accelerate schedules consistent with the goals of CCiCap. NASA plans to use fiscal year 2014 funding for the total government investment of $55 million.

They will include a Boeing Spacecraft Safety Review ($20 million) planned to be accomplished in July 2014; SpaceX Dragon Parachute Tests ($20 million) planned to be accomplished over several months culminating in November 2013; an SNC Incremental Critical Design Review #1 ($5 million) planned to be accomplished in October 2013; and an SNC Incremental Reaction Control System Testing #1 ($10 million) planned to be accomplished in July 2014. (8/15)

India Drops Russia from Chandrayaan-2 Lunar Mission (Source: Space News)
Fallout from a failed Russian mission in 2011 has led India to go it alone on what would be its second mission to the Moon. As conceived in 2008, the Chandrayaan-2 mission was to include a Russian lander along with an Indian rover and orbiter, all launched on an Indian rocket. But the failure of Russia’s Phobos-Grunt mission led the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, to propose changes to Chandrayaan-2 that led India to reconsider the joint effort, according to a government minister. (8/15)

IAU: Public Naming of Planets (Source: SpaceRef)
The concept of the public naming of astronomical objects is not new and it predates any attempt at their scientific naming, also known as designations or nomenclature. It is only in modern times, with the availability of ever more sophisticated telescopes both on the ground and in space, that astronomers have come to need established naming procedures for celestial objects to use in their research. Many objects now have both a public name and a scientific designation, with some having more than one each.

The IAU has been the official arbiter of planetary and satellite naming since 1919. IAU decisions are officially adopted by the nearly 11,000 professional astronomers who are its members, from more than 90 countries. Naming celestial objects with scientific designations or public names is one of the duties the IAU takes on for the benefit of mankind.

It is therefore in line with a long-established global tradition and experience that the IAU fully supports the involvement of the general public, whether directly or through an independent organised vote, in the naming of planetary satellites, newly discovered planets, and their host stars. The IAU does not consider itself as having a monopoly on the naming of celestial objects -- anyone can in theory adopt names the way they choose. Click here. (8/15)

Chinese Weather Satellites to the Rescue? (Source: Space News)
NOAA has been keeping the wraps on a report that suggests coping with a potential gap in American satellite coverage by using Chinese weather satellite data. The report, which was completed in February, describes the Chinese data as a possible “silver bullet” solution to the problem of aging U.S. satellites and slower than expected deliveries of successors.

Last year, NOAA asked Riverside Technology of Fort Collins, Colo., to look for a way out of the coverage conundrum. Riverside recommended that the U.S. negotiate with China to receive data from its Feng Yun 3 series of weather satellites. It said NOAA should start work “immediately with the (U.S.) security community” to figure out how to receive and process the data securely. (8/15)

SpaceX Grasshopper Makes Exquisitely Controlled Lateral Move (Source: Space Safety)
In a divert test on August 13, SpaceX’s vertical-landing Grasshopper tried out its first lateral move. With a degree of control difficult to believe, the Grasshopper titled just enough to move 100 m off to the side of the launchpad before reversing the maneuver to land precisely on its liftoff point.

The Grasshopper is the first credible attempt to make a reusable heavy launch vehicle. Success could dramatically change the cost of doing business in space, making commercialization efforts much more feasible due to reduced launch costs. Click here to see the video. (8/14)

Masten's Xombie Rocket Lands on its Feet (Source: New Scientist)
Future NASA spacecraft could be powered by Xombies – vertical take-off, vertical landing (VTVL) rockets, as the industry calls them, are a mainstay of sci-fi but have not been used much in real-life space exploration. The Apollo Lunar Module, which ferried astronauts from orbit to the surface of the moon and back, is the only VTVL craft that has been used on a NASA mission.

Other VTVL rockets have been developed and tested on Earth, but their guidance algorithms often date back to the Apollo era. NASA is using the Xombie rocket, developed by Masten Space Systems in Mojave, California, to test new algorithms, which should cut fuel usage and enable missions to a wider variety of destinations.

This latest flight, which took place on 30 July, simulated a course correction during a landing on Mars. The rocket's flight algorithms were able to divert it from an incorrect landing point and land it safely. The Xombie isn't the only VTVL rocket on the up and up. SpaceX continues to test its Grasshopper rocket, which has achieved an altitude of 325 metres and yesterday demonstrated its own course-correction skills. (8/14)

DC-X VTVL Team Celebrates 20th Anniversary (Source: Alamogordo Daily News)
If not for a lack of funding and a freak accident, who knows what would have happened with the Delta Clipper Experimental project. But as it stands, the vision of the project's team led to bigger dreams of commercial space travel and the creation of Spaceport America.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Delta Clipper Experimental space vehicle testing at White Sands Missile Range. The folks who worked on the project will be inducted Saturday night into the International Space Hall of Fame. The induction will mark the first time an entire group of people will be enshrined. (8/14)

Navy Testing Recovery of NASA's Orion Spacecraft (Source: Virginian-Pilot)
A test of recovery operations for NASA’s newest manned space capsule will continue Thursday at Norfolk Naval Station. A mock-up of the Orion spacecraft will be used in the dockside test, during which the amphibious transport dock Arlington will flood its well deck to bring in the capsule. An open-water test of the recovery system will take place next year. Orion is scheduled for a test flight in September 2014. (8/14)

Astronaut Joins UTEP to Launch Space Research (Source: El Paso Times)
A UTEP graduate, a new space research center and the Space Shuttle Columbia will bring the growing field of commercial spaceflight right to the hands of students. University of Texas at El Paso welcomes former NASA astronaut and UTEP graduate John Danny Olivas as the director of the new Center for the Advancement of Space Safety and Mission Assurance Research (CASSMAR). The center will focus on risk-reduction research to make commercial human spaceflight safer, Olivas said. (8/13)

Safe Rocket Fuel Could Have Military Applications (Source: National Defense)
NASA is testing a green fuel that could cut mission costs and potentially raise performance by 50 percent, a program official said. Ball Aerospace joined NASA to run the Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM), a program focused on developing an environmentally safe fuel that could replace the hydrazine currently used in spacecraft.

If verified as a valid alternative, this new propellant could be used not only in spacecraft, but also in military vehicles that operate on hydrazine, said Roger Myers, executive director of Aerojet Rocketdyne, a partner in the program. Hydrazine is highly toxic and can induce negative side effects when inhaled or through skin contact. (8/14)

Thales Alenia Space Wins Hotly Contested Brazilian Satellite Contract (Source: Space News)
The Brazilian government has selected Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy to build an X- and Ka-band satellite for military and civil use following a year-long competition that turned in part on how much technology the winning bidder would transfer to Brazil’s fledgling space program, the joint venture handling the project announced Aug. 12.

The Geostationary Defense and Strategic Communications Satellite, or SGDC, was viewed by several bidders a door opener to further work in Brazil on Earth observation and meteorological satellite programs. Visiona Tecnologica Espacial SA, a joint venture of Brazil’s Telebras telecommunications network operator and Embraer Defense, has been assigned the role of future Brazilian satellite manufacturer under Brazil’s ambitious space program. (8/13)

Why Bill Gates is Wrong to Disparage Private Investment in Rockets (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Lots of billionaires are investing money in space exploration ventures — at least 10 by last count. They’re putting their money behind everything from rockets to spaceships to asteroid mining to space hotels. But the king of American billionaires and the world’s second richest man, Bill Gates, is having none of it.

“Everybody’s got their own priorities. In terms of improving the state of humanity," Gates said. "I don’t see the direct connection. I guess it’s fun, because you shoot rockets up in the air. But it’s not an area that I’ll be putting money into.” Now Gates is a brilliant man. And his various foundations are doing wonderful things for humanity. But with that being said, I think he’s wrong here.

Space exploration benefits humanity in multiple ways. Foremost, it’s the natural extension of our innate curiosity. Humans have always explored. To further this exploration benefits the species. Secondly, there are finite resources on planet Earth. If we can obtain precious metals from asteroids rather than strip mining them here, all the better. (8/13)

More Than 200 Tickets Sold For XCOR Lynx Space Travel (Source: Curacao Chronicle)
About 230 tickets of $ 100,000 each were now sold to travel to space from Curacao space, according to a NOS report. The first flight from Curacao will be carried out in 2016 by Space Expedition Corporation with the Lynx. The commercial space flight is becoming a reality.

The rocket plane goes up four times a day into space. In an interview with NOS, Air Force test pilot Harry van Hulten explains that the goal is that they come in an orbit. “If you circle around the earth, you can be, within a half hour, anywhere in the world. Then you can have lunch in Australia and back home in time for dinner.” (8/14)

UN Group Takes Step Forward on Space Safety (Source: ISSF)
 The International Space Safety Foundation (ISSF) applauds the United Nations Group of Government Experts on Transparency and Confidence Building Measures (TCBMs) for reaching consensus on space activities. As the US State Department stated, the group noted the importance of spacefaring nations to “consider and implement a range of measures to enhance the transparency of outer space activities, further international cooperation, consultations, and outreach, and promote international coordination to enhance safety” in the uses of outer space.

This consensus is an important first step towards enhancing the sustainable exploration and exploitation of space. ISSF looks forward to working with the UN as well as the United States government towards achieving those goals. (8/13)

NASA Goes Digital for Launch Videography (Source: Popular Photography)
NASA has to be careful with its technology. The organization can't just grab the latest and greatest gadgets — every piece of gear has to be rigorously tested to make sure it'll hold up to the extremes that it'll have to survive. That's why for years, NASA stuck with analog footage for recording shuttle launches, but they might finally be on the cusp of changing.

Over at the Zeiss blog, the lens manufacturers reveal that in 2009, NASA finally thought digital video was of high enough quality to consider for official use recording shuttle launches. NASA approached four camera companies to trial their gear for a launch, including high-speed camera manufacturers PCO, who used Zeiss lenses.

Due to launch delays, all four cameras had to be left in the elements for a week, as they couldn't be accessed due to safety reasons. The PCO+Zeiss combo was the only system that didn't fail and need rebooting, and apparently captured incredibly sharp images. (8/13)

UCF Space Institute  Plans SpaceTech 1.0 Conference in Orlando (Source: FSI)
The Florida Space Institute at the University of Central Florida will sponsr SpaceTech 1.0 on Sep. 5 in Orlando. The lack of communication between the world of academia and business is based on unrealistic fears and misunderstanding. In order to correct this social issue scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and students must be brought together under one common goal.

Space science and technology provides a solid theme for all of previously mentioned actors. Each class of person brings a specific point of view on this issue, and each class can benefit from the other class’s point of view.  With a focus on space this conference will provide an opportunity to revitalize the space program. This is accomplished by showing the unintended benefits of space research. Also the conference will show how those benefits can create profits which can drive new research creating a beneficial cycle for all.

Space Tech 1.0 provides a forum for new ideas and innovation under the broad umbrella of space sciences and space technologies. Attendees will have exposure to multidisciplinary experts that are interested in creating collaborations. Click here. (8/14)

ULA Preparing for its 75th Mission (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Assembly of United Launch Alliance's next Atlas 5 rocket is underway in the towering integration facility at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport's Launch Complex 41 to deploy an ultra-secure U.S. communications satellite in September. The rocket is taking the shape of the 531 configuration in the Atlas 5 family, which will feature a five-meter-diameter nose cone, three strap-on solid fuel boosters and a single-engine Centaur upper stage.

That power will lift the Air Force's Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite No. 3 into a supersynchronous transfer orbit from the Florida spaceport. Liftoff is scheduled for Sept. 25 at 2:36 a.m. EDT. It will be the sixth Atlas of the year, the 40th overall since 2002, the 15th in service to the Defense Department and United Launch Alliance's 75th flight since its formation in 2006. (8/14)

NASA Announces Next Opportunity for CubeSat Space Missions (Source: NASA)
NASA is now accepting proposals for the CubeSat Launch Initiative. Proposals must be submitted electronically by 4:30 p.m. EST Nov. 26. NASA will select the best proposals by Feb. 7. Developers whose proposals are selected may have the opportunity to see their creations launched as an auxiliary payload on a mission between 2014 and 2017.

NASA will not provide funding for the development of the small satellites and selection does not guarantee a launch opportunity. CubeSat investigations should be consistent with NASA's strategic plan and educational vision and goals. The research should address specific aspects of science, exploration, technology development, education or operations.

From the first four rounds of the NASA CubeSat Launch Initiative, 89 payloads from 25 U.S. states made the short list for launch opportunities in 2011 through 2016. Of the selected CubeSats, 12 satellites have already launched. Twenty-one CubeSats are scheduled for launch later this year. (8/13)

Would the Nazis Have Gone to the Moon? (Source: Discovery)
In the late 1940s and early 50s the writings of German rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun, who first developed liquid fueled rockets as military weapons, spelled out the strategy he and Nazi Germany would have used to explore space. In reality von Braun and much of his rocket team surrendered to the Allies at the end of WWII.  He went on to build the Saturn V moon rocket for the Apollo missions.

If a victorious German empire instead emerged from WWII, von Braun might have been able to convince his Nazi overlords to devote exorbitant resources to fulfilling his childhood dream of space conquest. At the least he could have piggybacked on Nazi space militarization. Click here. (8/14)

Virgin Galactic CEO Counts 625 Customers For Suborbital Trips (Source: Aviation Week)
Virgin Galactic has signed up 625 individuals for its planned suborbital spaceflights, lining up revenue of at least $125 million, in what CEO George Whitesides asserts is a strong sign of the excitement and potential of commercial space ventures. Virgin’s commercial human spaceflights could begin next year, he added.

“That will be a fundamental shift,” Whitesides stressed. “It’s sort of like we’ve been working on this for so long in the space community that it always seems like it’s in the future. But we’re really almost there, where people will be able to buy a ticket and go down to Spaceport America, get their week of training, and … have your ‘Right Stuff’ moment.” (8/13)

Space Companies Make Progress in Testing Landers (Source: SEN)
ASA is continuing to investigate new landing techniques as it prepares for further exploration of the Solar System. The agency pioneered soft landings, of course, when it successfully put a number of spacecraft, from the robotic Surveyors to the manned Apollo lunar modules, on the surface of the Moon in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Similar landings of robotic craft followed on Mars, culminating, just over a year ago, in the awesome touchdown of NASA’s latest Mars rover Curiosity Hearts were in the mouths of space fans around the world during “seven minutes of terror” that ended with the runabout being lowered by a hovering crane. Click here. (8/14)

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