August 23, 2013

Colonial History May Ground Shiloh Launch Site Plans (Source: MyFox Tampa Bay)
Developers want to build a new commercial spaceport near the Kennedy Space Center. But the future could collide with the past. One site being proposed is where a sugar plantation once stood in the 1700's. Our crew went to the barely-visible ruins along a remote coastline. We saw stones that experts say are from the early buildings of the plantation that covered more than 2,000 acres, including villages for slaves.

"This is definitely one of the most important historic sites in North America in our opinion," said Margo Schwadron, an archeologist who works for the National Park Service, which oversees part of the plantation site which is located on land owned by NASA. Historical records show the plantation was built around 1763 on land owned by William Elliott, a wealthy man in England who hired Scottish overseer John Ross to run the plantation, which produced sugar, rum and indigo.

He acquired more than 80 slaves in Georgia to transform the barely explored coastal area into a remote plantation. "This was the end of the line," explained John Stiner of the National Park Service. "This was the southernmost British plantation on the whole east coast of North America." The plantation ceased operation in the 1780's after raids by Spanish privateers, but not before the slave population had built homes and raised children. (8/23)

Shiloh Launch Site Plans Could Boost Historic Preservation (Source: SPACErePORT)
The call for historical preservation at Shiloh seems to be a last-ditch effort to derail plans for building a new launch complex there. But an approach to preserving the site could easily be built into any launch site plans. Rather than allow the site to remain relatively anonymous as it decays away, the launch facility could preserve and promote the site, including enhanced public access in conjunction with the National Park Service. (8/23)

NASA Reveals Plan to Wrangle Asteroid for Study After Slingshotting Around Moon (Source: NY Daily News)
The real space cowboys are getting ready to ride. For months NASA has been expressing an interest in capturing a nearby asteroid and putting it somewhere near the moon for the sake of studying it and harvesting samples. The space agency hopes to complete the mission by the year 2025.

NASA released a computer generated video Thursday demonstrating exactly how it plans to carry out the tall task of wrangling an asteroid. Arbitrarily using music that is very similar to Hans Zimmer's 'Inception' soundtrack, in the video you can see that there are some immensely impressive plans in the works.

As the video demonstrates, the idea would be to have the Orion spacecraft undertake a nine-day trip to an asteroid that has been captured, a trip that would require the crew to slingshot their ship around the moon using its gravity to pick up speed. Once they reach the asteroid, the astronauts will spacewalk onto the rock and take samples for study. Click here. (8/23)

Space Settlements Represent Hope for Humankind (Source: NSS)
The National Space Society (NSS) offers a comparison of its vision for space settlement to that promoted by many dystopian science fiction movies of today. NSS has supported the concept of rotating space settlements in orbit or deep space since the epochal publication by Dr. Gerard K. O'Neill of his seminal article on space colonies in Physics Today (1974).

Since those days, concepts of democracy and egalitarian societies have been integral to our vision. A goal of NSS is the creation of a free, spacefaring civilization with people living and working in space. We believe in democracy to build and operate space settlements, whether in space, on the Moon, on Mars, or even on planets around other stars.

NSS is happy that space settlements are beginning to appear in popular culture such as the recent motion picture Elysium. While NSS accepts that a conflict is fairly fundamental to a good story, we would like movie viewers to keep in mind that the tyrannical government depicted in the movie does not represent the path of humans in space envisioned by the NSS and its thousands of members. (8/23)

DOD: Sequester Could Mean 6,272 Layoffs (Source: Bloomberg)
Sequestration cuts to the defense budget could eliminate 6,272 from the Pentagon's civilian payroll, the Defense Department says, with most coming from the Navy and Army and the remainder from agencies across the department. The Pentagon, in a draft planning document, outlined the options being weighed if the sequester cuts $52 billion from next year's budget. (8/22)

DigitalGlobe Raising GeoEye 1’s Orbit To Keep Up with Commercial Demand (Source: Space News)
Geospatial imagery provider DigitalGlobe says the commercial market for satellite Earth imagery is growing faster than the U.S. government market and that the company remains sold out in certain regions despite its purchase, in January, of rival GeoEye and GeoEye’s satellites.

DigitalGlobe said it is raising the orbit of the GeoEye-1 satellite, a move that will reduce the maximum precision of its images but broaden its field of view. DigitalGlobe officials said the maneuver will increase the image-gathering capacity of their five-satellite fleet by about 5 percent. (8/23)

First Spacecraft to Moon from Wallops Island to Launch in Two Weeks (Source: Daily Press)
NASA will launch a probe to study the moon's atmosphere from Wallops Island — the site's first lunar launch — in two weeks. The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE, is scheduled to launch at 11:27 p.m. Sept. 6 from Wallops Flight Facility, NASA officials said. (8/23)

Commercial Space Flights Gearing-Up (Source: South China Morning Post)
Most of us have read "1,001 places to visit before you die" and other such morbidly titled lists. But none of these yet include a trip to suborbital space. Yet space is the travel industry's next big destination - and those suborbital holidays may be starting sooner than you think.

So far Virgin Galactic, part owned by British industrialist Richard Branson, has gathered more than HK$500 million in deposits from 600 people intent on a ride on its SpaceShipTwo. It will carry six passengers at a time on an "out-of-the-seat" zero-gravity experience into the black of space at a cost of HK$1.9 million for a two-hour trip. Click here. (8/23)

A Spaceport for Tuticorin (India)? (Source: Daijiworld)
Indian space scientists say that a rocket launch pad in Tamil Nadu's Tuticorin district is technically an ideal location for space missions provided other requirements are also met. "Tuticorin is a good location for a rocket that needs to fly southwards. As a matter of fact, Tuticorin was long ago considered for locating a rocket launching site but the locals opposed this," a senior official of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said.

"A rocket launch site should be on the east coast and near the equator. And Tuticorin district satisfies that condition," a former ISRO official told IANS. According to him, a spaceport in Tuticorin district will be ideal for putting satellites in polar orbit normally undertaken through ISRO's polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV) and not for satellites for geostationary orbits undertaken by the geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV). (8/23)

Space Coast Hopes iPad App Spurs Tourism (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Brevard County is hoping an iPad app with space-exploration puzzles will attract tourists to the birthplace of U.S. space travel. The Space Coast Office of Tourism has dedicated $25,000 to promoting Solar Flux HD, a game created by Firebrand Games. The independent game developer has an office in Merritt Island and another in Scotland, said Rob Varley, executive director of the tourism-promotion office.

The iPad puzzle game lets players explore the universe and attempt to save dying stars, navigate gravitational fields, and slingshot around planets and other galactic obstacles. The agency is working with the developer and Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to promote the app.

Among the ideas for generating buzz: a nationwide contest that would offer players a chance to win an all-expense-paid trip to the Space Coast, and possibly the chance to help design future levels of the game. "It remains to be seen how much mileage we're going to get out of it, but we've gotten a lot of good comments," Varley said. (8/22)

Monster Delta-4 Rocket Set for Liftoff at Vandenberg (Source: Lompoc Record)
A monstrous rocket aims to make its second departure from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Wednesday, a launch date that has remained firm even as crews wrestled with scheduling challenges caused by sequestration. The Delta 4-Heavy rocket’s blastoff is planned between 10 a.m. and noon Wednesday from Space Launch Complex-6 on South Base. The former space shuttle launch pad is tucked in a canyon and isn’t visible from around the Lompoc Valley. (8/23)

Sun Belches Humongous Plume of Radioactive Plasma (Source: Christian Science Monitor)
Right now, Earth is in the path of not one but two coronal mass ejections (CMEs). One burst from the sun's surface early Tuesday morning, moving fast, and the other left not long after midnight early Wednesday morning, moving more slowly. When the sun erupts a huge burst of matter and energy like this, the particles can fly anywhere between 200 and 1000 miles per second, says Art Poland, an astrophysicist with George Mason University.

Tuesday morning's CME was moving at 570 miles per second, NASA reported, and Wednesday's was a more sedate 380 miles per second. The charged particles from the earlier CME may already be in our atmosphere, while Wednesday's particles could reach us by midnight Friday night (Eastern Time). (8/23)

NASA’s NEXT Step for Cubesats Is a Dedicated Launcher (Source: Space News)
NASA is back in the hunt for a dedicated small-satellite launcher, with a firm, fixed-price contract aimed at reducing a backlog of more than 50 cubesats the agency has amassed through its Cubesat Launch Initiative flight brokerage program.

Released for bids Aug. 5, the NASA Launch Services Enabling eXploration & Technology (NEXT) contract is a three-pronged experiment for NASA, which is trying simultaneously to launch cubesats without relying on ride-along arrangements, accelerate development of a new space rocket and build a framework for buying such rockets on a commercial basis, should its latest cubesat launch experiment prove successful. (8/22)

NASA's Shuttle-Ferrying Jumbo Jet to Go On Display with Boeing's Help (Source: CollectSpace)
A NASA jumbo jet that for more than three decades ferried space shuttles across the country is now being readied for its own move, thanks to the support from the company that built it. On Thursday, the visitor center for NASA's Johnson Space Center announced Boeing will provide the needed disassembly and reassembly of the modified Boeing 747 so that it can be featured in a new $12 million, six-story educational attraction. (8/22)

Sierra Nevada Completes Captive-Carry Test for Dream Chaser (Source: NASA)
NASA partner Sierra Nevada Corp. successfully completed a captive-carry test of the Dream Chaser spacecraft on Aug. 22 at the agency's Dryden Flight Research Center in California. During the two-hour test, an Erickson Air-Crane helicopter picked up a test version of the Dream Chaser flight vehicle and flew it a distance of three miles over a dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base at a maximum altitude of approximately 12,400 feet.

The spacecraft followed the projected path it will fly during future approach and landing tests at Dryden. Dream Chaser's flight computer, along with its guidance, navigation and control systems were tested. The landing gear and nose skid also were deployed during flight. (8/22)

Space Coast Composites Company Advances Wind Tunnel Work (Source: Matrix)
Matrix Composites, based on Florida's Space Coast, delivered its final Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Composite Wind Tunnel Blade Spacer to the United States Air Force. The multi-million dollar contract was awarded in 2011 for an initial quantity of nine LRIPs to be followed by the manufacture of more than 200 production Spacers. Full rate production efforts are expected to extend into 2015. (8/22)

Korean Arirang-5 Satellite Launches on Dnepr Rocket (Source: Arirang)
It took almost eight years to get to this day but on Thursday evening Russia time South Korea sent its fourth multipurpose satellite into space. At a price of over $200 million the Arirang 5 left its launch base in Yasny which is located about 1,800 kilometers southeast of Moscow. The launch vehicle was a Dnepr, a converted Soviet-era intercontinental ballistic missile. The satellite will be able to observe the planet's surface day or night and rain or shine. (8/22)

Space Coast Arm of Millennium to Support NASA Ames Contract (Source: MEI)
NASA has selected Millennium Engineering and Integration (MEI) to support flight and mission projects, and research and development at the agency's Ames Research Center. 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. Among the resources to be used in support of the contract are MEI's personnel on Florida's Space Coast. (8/22)

Is China's Space Program Shaping a Celestial Empire? (Source:
China is pressing forward on its human space exploration plans, intent on establishing an international space station and, experts say, harnessing the technological muscle to launch its astronauts to the moon. Highlighting China's intent, the country is working with the United Nations to stage a major workshop on human space technology, to be held Sept. 16-20 in Beijing.

The meeting is organized jointly by the U.N. Office for Outer Space Affairs and the China Manned Space Agency, co-organized by the International Academy of Astronautics and hosted by the China Manned Space Agency. The five-day international workshop will bring together senior experts, professionals and decision-makers from public sectors, academia and industry worldwide.

On the agenda, the workshop aims to contribute to "establishing institutional capacity in microgravity science and enhancing international cooperation in human space exploration as a global endeavor," according to meeting documents. "With such a strong partner as China, I am convinced that this workshop will be extraordinary and interesting, and valuable results will be achieved for the whole space community," said Mazlan Othman, director general of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs. (8/22)

Is The Universe Expanding Or Just Getting Heavier? (Source: Discovery)
The earliest cornerstone for the Big Bang theory is spectral data that showed the light from distant galaxies is proportionally redder (redshifted) than from local galaxies. This is interpreted as being caused by the uniform expansion of space that attenuates light, as predicted by Einstein’s Special Relativity. The rate of expansion gives an age for the universe and inevitably leads to the conclusion the universe was once smaller, denser, and much, much hotter. Click here. (8/22)

Shockwaves Could Crinkle Space-Time Creating A New Kind Of Singularity (Source: Message to Eagle)
Mathematicians have discovered a new way to crinkle up the fabric of space-time, at least in theory. "We show that space-time cannot be locally flat at a point where two shock waves collide," said Blake Temple, professor of mathematics at UC Davis. "This is a new kind of singularity in general relativity."

Einstein's theory of general relativity explains gravity as a curvature in space-time. But the theory starts from the assumption that any local patch of space-time looks flat, Temple said. A singularity is a patch of space-time that cannot be made to look flat in any coordinate system, Temple said. One example of a singularity is inside a black hole, where the curvature of space becomes extreme. Temple and his collaborators study the mathematics of how shockwaves in a perfect fluid can affect the curvature of space-time in general relativity. Click here. (7/17) 

The White Elephant in NASA’s Living Room (Source: PJ Media)
Between the Republicans and Democrats on the relevant NASA committees, there were two points of contention: one about the agency’s direction, and the other about the budget with which it would carry it out. Congressional Republicans have never been happy with what they perceive as the administration’s abandonment of George W. Bush’s moon program, and the new asteroid proposal did nothing to assuage them.

They insist, instead, on a return to the moon, and in late July, on party-line votes, both the authorization and appropriations committees in the Republican-led House prohibited any agency expenditures on the asteroid mission. Unfortunately, they don’t seem inclined to properly fund a lunar project. Over in the Senate earlier in the month, the major issue wasn’t over what NASA would do, but how much money they’d get to do it.

Space committee Republicans, including Ranking Member Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, insisted that NASA not be authorized to spend more than allowed by the sequester, while Democrats, led by Chairman Bill Nelson (also of Florida), insisted that an authorization bill (which doesn’t provide actual funding, but only allows NASA to spend what is appropriated) didn’t have to be bound by it. Click here. (8/21) 

Orbital's First Antares Launch to Space Station Now Planned for Sep. 17 (Source: Orbital)
Orbital and NASA have identified Sep. 17 as the targeted launch date for the COTS Demonstration Mission to the International Space Station. The launch of Orbital's Antares rocket carrying the company's Cygnus cargo logistics spacecraft will originate from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport launch pad 0A located at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility. Orbital's Antares team is targeting a launch time of 11:16 a.m., which is at the opening of an available 15-minute launch window. (8/22)

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