August 19, 2013

GOES-12 Retired after 10 Years in Orbit (Source: Space News)
After 10 years of monitoring severe weather along the North and South American coasts, the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-12 was boosted to a graveyard orbit Aug 16 and switched off, a spokesman for NOAA said.

GOES-12 was launched in July 2001. In April 2003, it became GOES-East: the constellation’s primary observer of extreme weather along the U.S. East Coast. In 2010, GOES-13 took over GOES-East duties and GOES-12, which by then was suffering from thruster problems, was repositioned for coverage of South America. Even discounting the three years over South America, GOES-12 exceeded its design life by about three years. (8/19)

Cocoa Beach Welcomes Out-of-This-World Visitors (Source: Florida Today)
Cocoa Beach is already known for space and tourism. Now, it wants to combine the two. Not just by launching tourists into space, but by welcoming tourists from space. Mayor Dave Netterstrom is offering a free, all-expense-paid vacation to the first non-Earthling family to visit Cocoa Beach.

“We are the closest beach to the moon at the moment, so technically we are the closest one to the universe,” Netterstrom said. “We don’t know if there are beaches anywhere else in the universe.” The mayor figures if people such as Elon Musk and Richard Branson have plans to take people into space, they must have universal counterparts with similar aspirations.

And it’s not like Cocoa Beach doesn’t have some experience trying to lure visitors from other worlds. In the 1960s, the city near Kennedy Space Center designated itself an “Official Welcome Station for UFOs.” Local businesses have donated hotel rooms, meals, passes to attractions and merchandise for the prize package, which will go on display with a proclamation until it is claimed, according to the mayor. (8/19)

CASIS Launches “What Would You Send to ISS?” Crowdsourcing Contest (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) is sponsoring a four-week contest titled “What Would You Send to the ISS?”, which is open to the general public for submissions. The contest runs through Sep. 16. This contest solicits ideas from the public to innovatively utilize the ISS National Laboratory for scientific research and technology development that will improve life on Earth.

This includes ideas that exploit the space environment both for scientific and commercial applications. A total of five submissions will receive awards for their ideas. The grand-prize winner will receive $10,000, a paid trip to Florida, a one-day pass to Disney World, an opportunity to witness a CASIS payloads launch from Florida’s Space Coast as an invited VIP and the ability to work with CASIS staff to further discuss the winning proposal. Four runners-up will receive $5,000 each as a prize. (8/19)

Space Club Invites Nominations for Kolcum Award (Source: NSCFL)
The National Space Club, Florida Committee, is seeking nominations for their annual Harry Kolcum News and Communications Award. They will honor two people who have made contributions in informing and promoting the space program to the general public during the past 12 months.

One will be a representative of the news media who covers space from here in Florida, and the other will be a Florida-based public affairs/communications specialist representing the government or industry. For the latter category, feel free to think a little outside the box as we seek to honor someone who communicates the space story to the public.

The deadline is Friday, Sep. 13, after which a committee will deliberate and make a recommendation for approval during the October board meeting. The Kolcum award luncheon is on Tuesday, Nov. 13. Click here. (8/19) 

FSDC Accepting Bumper Award Nominations Through Aug. 31 (Source: FSDC)
 The Florida Space Development Council, a statewide chapter of the National Space Society, invites nominations for the Bumper Award, to be provided annually to individuals or organizations that have had the greatest positive impact on Florida's space industry, or to Floridians who have had the greatest impact nationally. FSDC members and non-members are encouraged to submit 2013 nominees using a simple online form, available here. Nominations will be accepted through Aug. 31. (8/19)

Musk, Bezos Fight to Win Lease of Iconic NASA Launchpad (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Two of the nation's best-known Internet entrepreneurs, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, are waging a behind-the-scenes fight to win the rights to one of KSC's most-iconic facilities: Launch Complex 39A. With KSC not scheduled to launch another NASA-built rocket until at least 2017, what was once known as "America's Spaceport" is now a ghost town, and NASA is aggressively trying to lease out its unused facilities.

SpaceX already has two U.S. launchpads — one is next door at the Cape Canaveral launch range — and it's angling for more. Musk envisions Complex 39A as the launch site for his astronaut-taxi service. But SpaceX doesn't want to share the pad. Company officials said they want exclusive rights because they anticipate a busy launch schedule, and they argue that modifying the facility to accommodate multiple users would be too expensive.

Enter Bezos, the Amazon founder with a $25 billion net worth. In 2000, Bezos founded a Washington-based space company, Blue Origin, that is developing its own line of reusable launch vehicles and capsules, though it has yet to put one in orbit. In October, it successfully tested an escape system for a crew capsule. Blue Origin has staked a claim to Launch Complex 39A with the idea of turning the facility into a "multiuser" pad that several companies could use. Click here. (8/19)

Surprise Chinese Satelllite Maneuvers Mystify Western Experts (Source: Space Policy Online)
China is the midst of conducting unusual satellite maneuvers involving a new satellite launched last month and an older satellite in orbit for eight years.  Exactly what capabilities the Chinese are demonstrating remains unclear to western analysts.

One of three Chinese satellites launched together on July 19 made a sudden maneuver yesterday.  The satellite, Shiyan 7 (SY-7, Experiment 7), already had completed a series of orbital changes that put it close to one of the companion satellites with which it was launched -- Chuangxin 3 (CX-3). Suddenly, however, it made a surprise rendezvous with a completely different satellite, Shijian 7 (SJ-7, Practice 7), launched in 2005. Click here. (8/19)

NASA Brings Out the Big Gun for Asteroid Impact Science (Source: WIRED)
The NASA Ames Vertical Gun range is a fantastic tool for studying the effects of meteorite impacts on different places in the solar system. Over the course of its nearly 50-year career, the gun range been used to figure out why the scars of an impact look different on Mars than they do on Venus. It has helped explain how the man on the moon could have gotten his face. And it has provided key data for many NASA missions, in particular the Deep Impact spacecraft, which shot a projectile into an asteroid.

At the far end of the barrel, a gunpowder explosion is used to compress hydrogen gas to as much as 1 million times atmospheric pressure. The compressed gas gets released and sent down the launch tube, firing a projectile pellet at speeds between 7,000 and 15,000 mph. The shot enters the cylinder, in which low pressure or even a vacuum is maintained, and hits a dish filled with different material that simulates whatever planetary body researchers are studying. (8/19)

A Closer Look at Orbital Sciences’ Stable of Launch Vehicles (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Although the Virginia company is traditionally a supplier of small launch vehicles, it recently made the leap to medium-lift rockets. Orbital currently operates four launch vehicles: Pegasus, Taurus, Minotaur, and Antares. Click here. (8/19)

My Ticket Into Space Looks Cheap, Price Soars to $250,000 (Source: Bloomberg)
Three years ago I bought a $200,000 ticket to fly on Virgin Galactic. I chose the “poor man’s” option, which requires only a 10 percent deposit. Three months before I fly, I will raid my 401(k) for the remaining $180,000 balance. So I won’t be among the first bunch of 500 fliers including Justin Bieber and Formula One legend Michael Schumacher who, according to reports, paid for their tickets up front.

Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson and his family will board the very first commercial flight. He has suggested that could happen as early as Christmas. As passenger number 610, I’ll probably get my turn in 2015. Branson raised the price of a suborbital space ticket by $50,000 to $250,000 (we early purchasers still get the original price). The new development has potential space tourists’ hearts ticking faster. It’s been a long wait -- nearly nine years -- since the smaller craft, SpaceShipOne, went on its history-making voyages. (8/19)

Meet the NASA Scientist Devising a Starship Warp Drive (Source: New Scientist)
To pave the way for rapid interstellar travel, NASA propulsion researcher Harold "Sonny" White plans to manipulate space-time in the lab. A space warp works on the principle that you can expand and contract space at any speed. Take a terrestrial analogy. In airports we have moving walkways that help you cover distance quicker than you would otherwise.

You are walking along at 3 miles an hour, and then you step onto the walkway. You are still walking at 3 miles an hour, but you are covering the distance much more quickly relative to somebody who isn't on the belt. Imagine an American football, for simplicity, that has a toroidal ring around it attached with pylons. The football is where the crew and robotic systems would be, while the ring would contain exotic matter called negative vacuum energy. Click here. (8/19)

Can Lightning Strike Twice for RLVs? (Source: Space Review)
Sunday marked the 20th anniversary of the first flight of the DC-X, an experimental vehicle designed to test technologies and operations for future reusable launch vehicles that, however, did not follow. Jeff Foust examines what the prospects are for a new generation of RLV "X-vehicles" in both government and the private sector. Visit to view the article. (8/19)

Neil Armstrong: One Small Friendship Remembered (Source: Space Review)
It's been nearly a year since the death of Neil Armstrong. Author Neil McAleer recalls his correspondence with the famous astronaut and the connection they had with a famous science fiction writer. Visit to view the article. (8/19)

Kepler Seeks a New Mission (Source: Space Review)
Last week, NASA announced that efforts to fix one of the reaction wheels on the Kepler spacecraft had failed, ending that spacecraft's planet-hunting mission. Jeff Foust reports on those efforts and what's next for the spacecraft and the overall mission. Visit to view the article. (8/19)

To Mars, or, Not to Mars? (Source: Space Review)
Governments and private organizations alike have proposed sending humans to Mars, yet many members of the public view such ventures as a waste of money. Thomas Taverney lays out his rationale for why and how humans should go to Mars. Visit to view the article. (8/19)

International Space School Opens in Samara (Source: Itar-Tass)
The ninth Internaitonal summer space school opens in Samara, Russia, on Monday. The principal purpose of the space school is to form a common inter-university educational space in the field of credited space technologies. Representatives of higher learning establishments of Spain, Germany, Colombia, Estonia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine have arrived here to attend two-week classes, Igor Belokonov, director of the school, professor at Samara state aerospace university (SGAU), said.

Students at the school will familiarize themselves with the University's program for scientific experiments, plans for the development of the Samar-based space rocket center TSKB-Progress, and hear a course of lectures on micro- and nano-scale satellites engineering and control. Particiants in the school studies will acquire knowledge of the use of computer-aided technologies for making satellites and designing electronic systems of spacecraft. (8/19)

Russia to Resume Proton-M Launches in Mid-September (Source: Space Daily)
Russia will resume launches of the Proton-M space rockets on Sept. 15, the operating company said Wednesday. "The International Launch Service's Proton return-to-flight mission will be the Astra 2E satellite for the (satellite operator) SES on September 15, 2013," the ILS said on its website. ILS is a joint company owned by Russia's Khrunichev, Energia, and Virginia-based Space Transport Inc. (8/19)

Roscosmos Denies Plans to Launch Proton From Baikonur on Sep. 15 (Source: Space Daily)
Roscosmos' Baikonur department head Anatoly Belokon has refuted the alleged plans to launch a Proton rocket from Baikonur on September 15. "Fresh launches are out of the question until we clean up the accident aftermath," Belokon said. Kazakh Environmental Protection Minister Nurlan Kapparov asked for comment on the Proton launch date reported by the media at a meeting of the governmental commission supervising the Proton-M crash cleanup. (8/19)

India Scrubs GSLV-D5 Launch Due to Leak (Source: SpaceRef)
India's attempt at launching the GSLV-D5 rocket Monday with the GSAT-14 satellite was postponed due to a leak found in the second stage. The mission is a critical one for India as it is their second attempt at launching a rocket with an indigenous cryogenic engine. The first attempt failed. (8/19)

Asteroid Experts Are Not Very Fond of NASA's Asteroid Mission (Source: NASA Watch)
NASA's new asteroid mission is viewed skeptically by many in the space community. At a July gathering of engineers and scientists at the National Academy of Sciences, veteran engineer Gentry Lee expressed doubt that the complicated elements of the mission could come together by 2021, and said the many uncertainties would boost the costs.

"I'm trying very, very hard to look at the positive side of this, or what I would call the possible positive side," he said. "It's basically wishful thinking in a lot of ways - that there's a suitable target, that you can find it in time, that you can actually catch it if you go there and bring it back," said Al Harris, a retired NASA planetary scientist who specializes in asteroids. "Of course there's always luck. But how much money do you want to spend on a chance discovery that might have a very low probability?" said Mark Sykes, the chair of a NASA advisory group on asteroids. (8/18)

NASA’s Mission Improbable (Source: Washington Post)
NASA is looking for a rock. It’s got to be out there somewhere — a small asteroid circling the sun and passing close to Earth. It can’t be too big or too small. Something 20 to 30 feet in diameter would work. It can’t be spinning too rapidly, or tumbling knees over elbows. It can’t be a speed demon. And it shouldn’t be a heap of loose material, like a rubble pile. The rock, if it can be found, would be the target for what NASA calls the Asteroid Redirect Mission.

Almost out of nowhere this mission has emerged as a central element of NASA’s human spaceflight strategy for the next decade. Rarely has the agency proposed an idea so controversial among lawmakers, so fraught with technical and scientific uncertainties, and so hard to explain to ordinary people. The mission, which could cost upward of $2 billion, would use a robotic spacecraft to snag the small rock and haul it into a stable orbit around the moon.

Then, according to NASA’s plan, astronauts would blast off in a new space capsule atop a new jumbo rocket, fly toward the moon, go into lunar orbit, and rendezvous with the robotic spacecraft and the captured rock. They’d put on spacewalking suits, clamber out of the capsule and examine the rock in its bag, taking samples. This would ideally happen, NASA has said, in 2021. (8/18)

Arabsat and Rival Es’HailSat Forge Strategic Partnership (Source: Space News)
Startup commercial satellite fleet operator Es’hailSat of Qatar and its prospective rival, the Arabsat consortium of Saudi Arabia, on Aug. 19 announced a strategic partnership under which Es’hailSat will acquire rights to 500 megahertz of Ku-band frequency at 26 degrees east for its Es’hail 2 satellite. (8/19)

RINGS Propels Satellites Without Propellants (Source: Gizmag)
Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) are testing a new propulsion system. Developed in the University of Maryland's Space Power and Propulsion Laboratory, this new electromagnetic propulsion technology called the Resonant Inductive Near-field Generation System (RINGS) uses magnetic fields to move spacecraft as a way to increase service life and make satellite formation flying more practical. (8/19)

UHCL Students Fight Fires in Microgravity (Source: Daily Cougar)
NASA’s Weightless Wonder aircrafts, which follow an elliptic path relative to the center of the Earth, are some of the closest approximations of zero gravity on the planet. They have been used for research, training and movie sets since 1959. A small team of students from San Jacinto College and UH-Clear Lake will get to experience one of these flights in order to conduct research on how to suppress fires in microgravity.

The team’s experiment, called the Acoustic Flame Suppression Mechanics, will test the use of sound waves to alter the physics of flames and suppress them without using water or fire extinguishers.  This knowledge can prove the difference between life and death when flames break out in the closed sections of space shuttles or stations. (8/19)

SpaceX: From Bothering Bovines to Revolutionizing Rockets (Source:
SpaceX are continuing to make progress on several key projects as they head into a busy period of launches. With the debut launch of their Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket still on for September, an eye to the future for both their launch vehicles and spacecraft was highlighted over recent days, with the most spectacular event conducted by the Grasshopper test vehicle – as much as it was less-appreciated by some of the locals.

Preparations for an upcoming launch are continuing at SpaceX’s SLC-4E pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) in California. F9S1-006 Stage on the test stageThe launch will debut the upgraded Falcon 9 rocket, known as the v1.1, which was the subject of extensive testing at the company’s Rocket Development and Test Facility in McGregor, Texas. Click here. (8/19)

No comments: