August 22, 2013

NASA Considers Prize Challenge for Extreme-Environment Science (Source: NASA)
Many potential NASA planetary science missions are to destinations where scientific measurements will need to be conducted in extreme environments. As described in the attachment, NASA is considering the use of a Challenge driven prize competition approach to accelerate development and demonstration of key technologies for these missions.

The purposes of this RFI are: (1) gather feedback on the competition being considered, the prize amounts and distribution structure, (2) to determine the level of interest in potentially competing in various phases of this Challenge, and (3) understand the applicability of the challenge capabilities for other terrestrial applications. Click here. (8/22)

NSBRI and NASA Seek Space Radiation Research Proposals (Source: Space Daily)
The National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) is soliciting for program proposals to establish a Center for Space Radiation Research (CSRR). The CSRR will build upon important discoveries made by the NSBRI Center of Acute Radiation Research and extend them by characterizing and quantifying the effects of space radiation on living systems.

Operating in close partnership with NASA's Human Research Program, the CSRR will be tasked with researching the acute effects of space radiation, as well as the longer term, so-called "degenerative" effects of space radiation on the cardiovascular and circulatory systems. (8/22)

Spacewalking Russians Stumped by Faulty Equipment (Source: Florida Today)
A pair of spacewalking cosmonauts had to give up on their main job Thursday, thwarted by a misaligned platform for a yet-to-be-launched telescope. Making their second spacewalk in under a week, Fyodor Yurchikhin and Aleksandr Misurkin struggled to install the 6-foot telescope mount. It appeared as though the platform was misaligned because of improper assembly on the ground, which could prevent the future telescope from pointing in the right direction.

Russian Mission Control instructed the spacewalkers to rotate the device, then debated for several more minutes what to do. Ultimately, flight controllers told the cosmonauts to give up and bring the platform back inside. "We have different objectives. We cannot spend a lot of time here," one of the cosmonauts complained.

Earlier, the spacewalkers had no problem removing and bagging a laser communication experiment, even though it was tough working in that location. The experiment needed to come off to make room for the telescope system. On Monday, an antenna cover came off and floated away. Russian space officials wanted to know which antenna lost its protective shield. The spacewalkers double-checked the remaining covers to make sure they were secure. At least two were loose, one by a lot. (8/22)

Embry-Riddle Chancellor Appointed to Advise Florida's First Online Learning Institute (Source: ERAU)
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's Worldwide Chancellor John R. Watret has been appointed to the advisory board for Florida’s first comprehensive online learning institute. Dr. Watret was appointed to serve by the State University System of Florida’s Board of Governors. He and four other board members will advise the institute as it works to expand online baccalaureate degree offerings at qualified state institutions in Florida. (8/22)

Asteroid Initiative Idea Synthesis Workshop Set for Sept. 30 in Houston (Source: Parabolic Arc)
After receiving more than 400 responses to the Asteroid Initiative RFI, NASA continues to review the submissions received from industry, scientists, engineers, and space enthusiasts worldwide.

As a follow up to the RFI, we will invite many of the submitters to share their ideas for discussion with the broader Asteroid Initiative community during an idea synthesis workshop at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston Texas, Sept. 30 – Oct. 2. Presenter invitations will be issued on Monday, Aug. 19, and presenters may participate in person at LPI or virtually. Virtual participation options will also be available for the public. (8/22)

Drop-Test of Japanese Supersonic Craft Fails (Source: America Space)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced that the first drop test conducted as part of its “Drop test for Simplified Evaluation of Non-symmetrically Distributed sonic boom” (D-SEND#2) program on Aug. 16 at Sweden's Esrange Space Center was unsuccessful. After separation from a balloon, the supersonic airplane model deviated from the expected flight path about 12 kilometers short of the targeted boom measurement area, and reached the ground about 8 kilometers short of the target area.

Although JAXA’s sonic boom measurement system worked properly and captured the sonic boom, it was confirmed that the pressure waveform measured was not from the expected nominal flight. The cause of the flight deviation remains under investigation by a team led by the director of the Program Management and Integration Department of the Institute of Aeronautical Technology. JAXA decided to postpone its second drop test. (8/22)

The Ethics of Interstellar Alien Encounters (Source: Discovery)
During the Starship Congress last week in Dallas, Texas, discussions focused on the myriad of topics associated with humans pushing into space and, ultimately, becoming an interstellar civilization. It quickly became apparent that if you think on a large enough scale, over a vast enough time frame, pushing humanity deeper into the galaxy is not a sci-fi notion, it’s an evolutionary imperative.

But let us assume for a minute that we will overcome the huge technological challenges of propelling starships to neighboring star systems and begin a new age of galactic colonization. Let us also assume that the profound question “Are we alone?” will be answered. We will have clawed our way to the stars to find that life is simply a chemical complication and, given the correct conditions, biology is possible anywhere. Click here. (8/22) 

SGS Official Makes Case for a Landsat Block Buy (Source: Space News)
The U.S. government should consider ordering a pair of Landsat spacecraft to ensure at least another two decades of continuous collection of medium-resolution land imagery, according to the head of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) center responsible for operating the recently launched Landsat 8 and processing and distributing its data worldwide.

“I like the idea of being able to do a block buy,” said Frank Kelly, director of the Earth Resources Observation and Science Data Center. A block buy is an obvious way to avoid disrupting the record of medium-resolution Earth observations the Landsat program has built up during the last 40 years, Kelly said. He said the user community has already identified one of its top priorities for the program: collecting Landsat images once every eight days.

That is only possible when there are two Landsat satellites on orbit, as there are today with Landsat 7 and Landsat 8. When NASA announced it would begin studying with USGS a long-term Landsat strategy, it said everything would be on the table, including hosted payload arrangements, commercial data buys, and partnerships with international space agencies whose satellites might be collecting Landsat-like images. The results of the study the two agencies are conducting will be published next August, Kelly said. (8/21)

Dual SLS Launch Campaign Required for NASA’s Lunar Return (Source:
A return to the surface of the Moon would require two Space Launch System (SLS) rockets launching over half a year apart, with a four person crew being transported to the Lunar surface on a multi-billion dollar Lander for a seven day sortie mission. The overview, provided in the latest Concept Of Operations (CONOPS) document, all-but rules out the option based on cost estimates alone.

Often cited as the preferred opening exploration option by numerous lawmakers, a return to the surface of the Moon would realign NASA with the plan outlined in the Vision for Space Exploration (VSE), before the aborted Constellation Program (CxP) failed to deliver on its goals. Click here. (8/21)

Construction of Russia’s Vostochny Spaceport to be Broadcast Live on Internet (Source: Itar-Tass)
Web cameras will be installed at the construction site where Russia is building its new Vostochny spaceport in the Far East, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said. The web cameras will provide 24-hour live broadcasts from the construction site. Rogozin criticised the Ministry for Regional Development and the Spetsstroy Federal Agency for Special Construction Projects for failure to implement orders concerning the construction of the spaceport. (8/21)

NASA Reactivates WISE Spacecraft for Asteroid Search (Source:
WISE spacecraft illustration (NASA) NASA announced Wednesday it is reactivating a dormant space telescope to resume its search for near Earth objects (NEOs). The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft will be turned back on next month for a three-year mission to search for and study NEOs under a project called NEOWISE. Scientists expect WISE's 40-centimeter telescope and instruments will be able to discover 150 NEOs and characterize 2,000 others, data which could help NASA identify a target for its proposed asteroid redirect mission. (8/21)

Former Astronaut Gordon Fullerton Passes Away (Source:
Gordon Fullerton, a former astronaut who flew on two shuttle missions as well as approach and landing tests of the shuttle, passed away at the age of 76. Fullerton jointed the NASA astronaut corps in 1969 after the Air Force canceled its Manned Orbiting Laboratory spaceflight program. He piloted the shuttle Enterprise during approach and landing tests of the orbiter at Edwards Air Force Base in 1977. He was pilot on the STS-3 shuttle mission in 1982, landing Columbia at White Sands in New Mexico when heavy rains prevented a landing at Edwards. (8/22)

Editorial: SpaceX Could Boost South Texas Region (Source: The Monitor)
The quiet purchase of land by SpaceX in South Texas holds infinite growth possibilities for the Rio Grande Region if this privately-owned leader in space travel were to build a spaceport near Boca Chica Beach in Cameron County. The economic implications are astronomical in terms of how the Valley, and undoubtedly the entire state of Texas, could benefit from such a facility.

If this happens, Texas — specifically South Texas — would be among only a handful of launch sites in the U.S. Currently, Florida and California have a corner on the market with most launches taking place from Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg Air Force Base. This would be the first launch pad in our state and undoubtedly make us the envy of other states. But it isn’t a lock because SpaceX is rumored to be considering sites in Puerto Rico, Florida and Georgia.

So it’s incumbent on Texas and local officials to do what they can to lure SpaceX here — as long as environmental considerations and safeguards are put in place to protect our fragile Gulf Coast. The possibility for a South Texas site dates back to a hot, sunny afternoon in McGregor, Texas, on June 13, 2012, when SpaceX CEO Elon Musk divulged he was going to pursue ventures in South Texas. And now, we hope he will make good on that promise. (8/22)

Aggie Astronaut Encourages Students to Be Persistent (Source: The Eagle)
Texas A&M's Dwight Look College of Engineering will welcome an incoming class of approximately 2,300 students when classes start Aug. 26. Before breaking into their books, however, more than 50 students got some advice from the Aggie Astronaut Mike Fossum, who has logged more than 194 days in space, during Wednesday's Engineering New Student Welcome.

Fossum, a 1980 mechanical engineering graduate, encouraged students to work hard to fulfill their dreams "because a dream by itself, it's just fleeting. It has no substance." "To make it come true, you've got to come up with a plan, you've got to work it and you've got to find a way every day to move just a step closer," he said. When Lakshmi Nathan, a 21-year-old chemical engineering major expecting to graduate in December, asked Fossum to identify the skill he valued the most, he responded with "persistence in everything." (8/22)

Rocks in Space (Source: New York Times)
So, which would you rather do: Capture an asteroid or go back to the moon? This is one of the many interesting issues facing Congress that we probably will not have time to debate once Congress actually comes back next month. Then it’ll be nothing but Obamacare and government shutdowns and the occasional discussion about whether Senator Ted Cruz has managed to dispose of his recently discovered dual Canadian citizenship.

Which I am personally looking forward to a lot. But today let’s consider the American space program. Space exploration is one of the extremely few areas in which there is a lot of bipartisan agreement in Washington. For instance, both parties believe that the U.S. should be trying to get to Mars. Eventually. Nobody thinks this will happen anytime soon — partly because the technology is so challenging and partly because Congress keeps cutting the space budget.

The third point of wide bipartisan agreement is that nobody wants their constituents to be clobbered by an asteroid. Really, this is a priority. The Obama administration is currently promoting an “asteroid grand challenge,” in which we’re invited “to find all asteroid threats to human populations” and figure out what to do about them. And — this is good news, people — we’ve already pinpointed about 95 percent of all the rocks in the solar system that are of planet-mashing size. Click here. (8/22)

NASA Extends Life of Gamma-Ray Hunting Fermi Space Telescope (Source:
A NASA space telescope tasked with probing the most powerful explosions in the universe has a new lease on life. NASA officials said Wednesday that they have officially extended the lifetime of the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, which has just completed its initial five-year mission. The new mission phase will allow Fermi telescope scientists to further probe the Milky Way in search of gamma-ray signals from elusive dark matter. (8/22)

Highest-Ever Resolution Photos of the Night Sky (Source: Carnegie)
A team of astronomers from three institutions has developed a new type of telescope camera that makes higher resolution images than ever before, the culmination of 20 years of effort. The team has been developing this technology at telescope observatories in Arizona and now has deployed the latest version of these cameras in the high desert of Chile at the Magellan 6.5m (21 foot) telescope.

Carnegie’s Alan Uomoto and Tyson Hare, joined by a team of researchers from the University of Arizona and Arcetri Observatory in Italy, will publish three papers containing the highest-resolution images ever taken, as well as observations that answer questions about planetary formation, in The Astrophysical Journal. (8/21)

KSC Visitor Complex Reopened After Water Main Rupture (Source: Florida Today)
Full admission and water services have been restored to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex after a water main rupture, according to a press release. NASA contractors ruptured the water main while installing new lines Tuesday, cutting off water and forcing the Visitor Complex to offer reduced admission. The bus tour was still offered and the Apollo / Saturn V Center was fully operational. (8/22)

Russian Aerospace Industry Needs State Help (Source: RIA Novosti)
The Russian space industry is plagued by such a great number of problems that the government cannot afford to leave it to its own devices, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said. “Constant [government] assistance is needed to ultimately break the vicious circle of accidents and failures,” Rogozin, who oversees the defense and aerospace sectors, said. He earlier heavily criticized Russia’s space industry, lambasting technical incompetence and calling for structural reform across the whole sector. (8/22)

The Birth of a Star, Captured in Stunning Detail (Source: LA Times)
Astronomers have captured stunning images of a star in the process of being born, and they are as beautiful as they are counterintuitive. In the images, you are not seeing the young star itself, but rather massive jets of gases such as carbon monoxide and ionized oxygen that are shooting away from the forming star at speeds of up to 1 million kilometers per hour (about 621,000 mph). Click here. (8/21)

Will 'Space Junk' Problem Intensify? (Source: Space Daily)
The United States is planning to shut down a key component of its space surveillance network that tracks satellites and "space junk" orbiting the Earth. As a result, satellite launches and flights to the International Space Station (ISS) may involve a higher degree of risk. The current Air Force Space Surveillance System known as Space Fence consists of three two-mile-long transmitter antennae and six receivers in the south of the country. It has been scanning the near-earth space for any orbital objects flying over America since the 1960s.

The Air Force Command has decided not to prolong a contract with the system's current operator. The company has until October 1 to remove its staff from all of the Space Fence facilities, at which point are going to be switched off. So far, it's unclear whether the system will be dismantled. The Space Fence can detect space objects as small as 10 cm (four inches) in diameter and thousands of larger objects, including lots space debris circling our planet and posing a serious threat to satellites and the ISS. (8/21)

Air Force Sets March 2014 Target for Space Fence Award (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force will award an overdue contract for its next-generation space-object tracking system in March 2014, more than a year later than originally planned. Lockheed Martin and Raytheon have developed competing designs for the next-generation Space Fence, a system of ground-based radars that would be capable of tracking greater numbers of smaller objects than the current system, which is slated to be shut down in September.

Award of a full-scale Space Fence development contract had been expected in 2012 or early 2013, but in July, Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, said the multibillion-dollar project is being held up due to a Pentagon review of its major acquisition programs. (8/21)

Japan Space Agency Unveils New Epsilon Rocket (Source: Space Daily)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency unveiled its new solid-fuel rocket Epsilon before its launch with a scientific satellite next week. Epsilon, a three-stage rocket with 24.4 meter in length, 2.6 meters in diameter and 91 ton in weight, is to be launched from the state-run agency's Uchinoura Space Center in southwestern prefecture of Kagoshima. The rocket is a successor of the M-5 rocket that was retired in 2006 and is planned to carry a telescope named SPRINT-A, world's first space telescope for remote observation of planets. (8/21)

High-Speed Tests Demonstrate Space Penetrator Concept (Source: Space Daily)
Tests are being carried out under a technology development program for planetary penetrators to assess the feasibility of delivering instrument packages to the subsurface of a planet or icy satellite at high speed. Traditionally, rovers or landers are delivered to the surface of a planet or moon, where a slow, careful descent is required, and where drilling or digging into the subsurface requires additional payload.

But engineers are looking at an alternative way to access the subsurface. Planetary penetrators delivered directly into the top 3 metres of the surface of a planet or moon offers such an alternative. At around 20 kilograms each, a suite of penetrators with identical payloads could be deployed across a wide surface area to yield key information about the body's interior. (8/21)

Smallsats Finding New Applications (Source: Aviation Week)
Small, low-cost satellites are coming into their own as a niche industry serving commercial and government markets, building on the free development work provided by a generation of engineering students at places like California Polytechnic State University and Morehead State University in Kentucky.

It is now clear that smallsat technology is leapfrogging beyond the classroom. No longer just a hands-on teaching tool, miniature spacecraft are in serious development as weather monitors, Earth- and space-observation telescopes and a host of scientific probes. Click here. (8/21)

Embry-Riddle Faculty, Students Take Spaceport Field Trip for New Space Degree (Source: SPACErePORT)
Faculty and students involved in Embry-Riddle's new Commercial Space Operations bachelors degree program are taking their first field trip to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport on Friday. With support from Space Florida, the group will be visting facilities for commercial, NASA, and Air Force space programs. (8/22)

NASA Selects Advanced Research and Technology Contract (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected Universities Space Research Association (USRA) of Columbia, Md., to support research and technology efforts at the agency's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. This cost-plus-fixed fee indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract has a maximum value of $65 million during a 4 1/2-year performance period beginning Oct. 1. (8/21)

NASA Awards Contract for Project and Engineering Support (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected Millennium Engineering and Integration Co. of Arlington, Va., to support flight and mission projects, and research and development at the agency's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. The cost-plus-fixed-fee hybrid contract has a potential value of $235 million and will include options and indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity task orders. The contract begins Oct. 1 with a 30-day phase-in and one-year base period followed by four one-year options. (8/21)

NASA Awards Human Health and Performance Contract to SAIC (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) of McLean, Va., to provide biomedical, medical and health services in support of all human spaceflight programs at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston. The contract begins Oct. 1 and has a maximum potential value of $1.76 billion, including a five-year base period and two option periods that could extend the contract through 2023.

The new human health and performance contract will support many NASA programs and offices including the International Space Station, Orion, Advanced Exploration Systems, Human Research, Commercial Crew and Cargo, and Space Technology Mission Directorate. (8/21)

Data Demand Drives Cubesat Ground Network (Source: Aviation Week)
The groundswell of cubesat projects underway at universities, government labs and private companies worldwide promises to generate more data than the ad hoc communications systems originally devised for the tiny birds can handle.

But just as the former graduate students who pioneered cubesats a couple of decades ago are finding ways to advance their small-space technology as entrepreneurs, teachers and corporate engineers, the community is starting to grapple with the flow of data expected to be generated as short-lived cubesats give way to swarms of tiny spacecraft carrying cameras, telescopes and other high-data sensors.

When cubesats were getting started as relatively inexpensive teaching tools for engineering professors canny enough to see the lure for prospective students of hands-on experience with real spacecraft, communication with the ground was almost secondary. Typically, each student mission devised its own communications link, usually with a one-off transmitter designed to work on an amateur-radio frequency. That held the cost down at both ends, and it met the relatively simple needs of the day. Click here. (8/21)

Ukraine, Russia to Hold Meeting on Resumption of Dnepr Launches (Source: Kyev Post)
Ukraine and Russia are preparing a meeting of their interagency commission as part of the Aug. 22 launch of a Dnepr rocket carrying South Korea's KompSat-5 spacecraft from the Yasny launch site. A meeting of a bilateral interagency commission, which will focus on the resumption of commercial launches of small satellites with the help of the Dnepr rocket, is scheduled for August 20-24 in Russia. (8/21)

Lest We Forget - Space is a Harsh Frontier, Warns Astronaut (Source: Channel 4)
Luca Parmitano, vividly recalls his mission with partner Christopher Cassidy on 16 July, when he felt "the unexpected sensation of water" at the back of his neck. "At first, we're both convinced that it must be drinking water from my flask that has leaked out through the straw, or else it's sweat. But I think the liquid is too cold to be sweat, and more importantly, I can feel it increasing."

With something obviously going wrong, the spacewalk was already being aborted, but the situation for Parmitano was getting worse: "As I turn 'upside-down', two things happen: the Sun sets, and my ability to see - already compromised by the water - completely vanishes, making my eyes useless; but worse than that, the water covers my nose - a really awful sensation that I make worse by my vain attempts to move the water by shaking my head. (8/21)

Donning the DIY Suit – Space Suit Session Day 03 (Source: WIRED)
Copenhagen Suborbitals is a DIY spaceflight company in the process of designing a space capsule for manned suborbital spaceflight. Here, founder Kristian von Bengtson and his collaborators are in the process of testing a specially designed spacesuit and taking rad pictures. Click here. (8/21)

Largest Piece So Far of Chelyabinsk Meteorite Found (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russian scientists have confirmed the authenticity of a 3.4-kilogram (7.5-pound) fragment of the Chelyabinsk meteorite – the largest piece found so far from the meteorite that hit the Urals region in February. An unnamed resident of the Chelyabinsk region in Russia’s Urals found the fragment near the village of Timiryazevsky and submitted it for analysis and authentication to Chelyabinsk State University. (8/21)

Stars' Twinkle Reveals Potential for Habitable Worlds (Source: Discovery)
In 1806, English poet Jane Taylor famously lamented that a little star’s twinkle, twinkle left her wondering what it was. Fast-forward 207 years and a new analysis of starlight collected by NASA’s Kepler space telescope shows patterns in the flicker that are directly tied to the amount of boiling taking place on a star’s surface, a key indicator of its size, mass and evolutionary state.

That information, in turn, reveals volumes about any orbiting planets, including those fortuitously positioned from their parent stars for liquid surface water -- apparently a key ingredient for life. “Everything you know about planets is tied to what you know about the host star,” Fabienne Bastien, an astronomy graduate student at Vanderbilt University, told Discovery News.

Bastien, who is working on a doctoral dissertation, was analyzing archived Kepler data for a totally different reason when she and colleagues chanced upon strange patterns in the data that they didn’t understand. “It was a complete surprise,” Bastien said. It turns out the pattern provides a quick and relatively reliable way to determine a star’s evolutionary state. (8/21)

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