August 27, 2013

SpaceX To Test Reusable Booster Tech During California Satellite Launch (Source: Space News)
SpaceX will test its flyback booster technology during the maiden launch of its Falcon 9 1.1 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California later this year, according to the company’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) commercial launch license.

In the first of a planned series of reusability tests, SpaceX plans to maneuver the first stage of the Falcon 9 1.1 rocket — an upgraded of version of the current Falcon 9 — after it separates from the rest of the vehicle during the flight. The stage would be brought down in the Pacific Ocean for what is being called a soft water landing.

Editor's Note: SpaceX early-on wanted to recover its first-stage engines for re-use, but early attempts in the Atlantic were not promising. This new approach seems to represent a near-term application of the company's Grasshopper-derived technology, in advance of their ultimate goal for dry vertical landings. (8/27)

USAF: Pentagon Must Update Space Policy (Source: Defense News)
Air Force Space Command has released a new white paper laying out its argument for moving towards a new architecture for military space programs. That strategy, known as “disaggregation,” has been promoted for some time by Gen. William Shelton, the head of Space Command. But this document, released Aug. 21, provides the clearest look yet at how the Pentagon views its future space strategy.

“The threat environment has changed extraordinarily, and we must adapt critical US capabilities if our operational advantage is to endure,” wrote the uncredited authors of the paper. In simpler terms, the idea behind disaggregation is to take the capability that has been crammed into a small number of highly-capable satellites and spread them across a much wider number of platforms.

Space systems are still structured on a Cold War-era strategy, where the threat to space assets was seen as highly unlikely. Such an attack would have triggered “mutually assured destruction” between the NATO powers, led by the United States, and the communist bloc, led by the USSR. But the 21st century has seen space grow more crowded, both with new players and with half a century of accumulated space debris. (8/27)

Gambling with a Space Fence (Source: Space Review)
Earlier this month the Air Force announced it would shut down at the end of this fiscal year its "Space Fence" used for tracking orbiting objects. Brian Weeden provides a thorough examination of what the Space Fence does and the implications, both technical and fiscal, of that decision. Visit to view the article. (8/26)

New Options for Launching Smallsats (Source: Space Review)
One long-running obstacle to the greater use of small satellites is the limited ways to get them into orbit. Jeff Foust reports on some emerging opportunities ranging from a NASA solicitation for a dedicated smallsat launch to use of the ISS as a launch platform. Visit to view the article. (8/26)

"I Guess an Exercise Program is in Order" (Source: Space Review)
One year ago Neil Armstrong passed away after heart surgery. O. Glenn Smith recalls his experiences with the famous astronaut, including an email exchange shortly before Armstrong's death. Visit to view the article. (8/26)

Jimmy Buffett Sings About 'That Rocket' Neil Armstrong Rode (Source: CollectSpace)
In "The Rocket That Grandpa Rode," a song on Jimmy Buffett's first new album in four years, the "man from Margaritaville" sings about the man on the moon. Buffett is "talking" about Neil Armstrong, the moonwalker who died one year ago Sunday (Aug. 25).

But it wasn't the astronaut's passing that apparently led to Buffet's song. As the lyrics to "The Rocket That Grandpa Rode" hint, inspiration came from a trip the musician took a year earlier, in July 2011. Buffett was among the guests invited to KSC to witness the final launch of the shuttle on July 8, 2011. To get to the VIP viewing site, the singer rode a bus with other spectators.

"And for some kids behind my seat, there's a very special treat, more than just history on parade," Buffett describes in "The Rocket That Grandpa Rode." Those kids happened to be Armstrong's grandchildren. Rick Armstrong, one of the moonwalker's two sons, and his children were seated in the very last row of the bus. He remarked something along the lines of "that's where the rocket that grandpa rode was put together." (8/27)

Space Tourism Industry Targets Asia's Wealthy (Source: AlJazeera)
It is an extraordinary holiday that starts at a price of $160,000 and the experience will last only six minutes. But if you are an adventurer with deep pockets then space tourism could be for you. Private companies are already looking for customers and Asia's wealthy are in their sights. (8/27)

NASA Langley Partners with Governor's School for Science Technology (Source: Daily Press)
The NASA Langley Research Center and the Governor's School for Science and Technology have partnered to provide gifted students with hands-on experience and guidance in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, the research center recently announced.

Students will interact with and be mentored by NASA Langley researchers on STEM projects. Researchers will assist students with college-level work and provide information about NASA's vision, mission, programs and projects. The science and technology school is one of 19 governor's schools in Virginia that serve as regional magnet programs for gifted students. (8/26)

Love of Math Leads to ULA Launch Team (Source: Lompoc Record)
Not eager to end up with a teaching career, Margarita Marquez wasn't sure how her love of math could add up to any other job — let alone one launching rockets. But an inspirational teacher steered Marquez to an electrical engineering degree that eventually landed her a job with United Launch Alliance at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Marquez, 38, of Lompoc is a systems test engineer and will sit with other critical team members on launch day for the Delta 4-Heavy rocket’s departure from Space Launch Complex-6. Liftoff is planned for 10:52 a.m. Wednesday. This is her third mission as a primary console operator. “It’s really fun,” said Marquez, who has worked four years for ULA and previously spent four years with Boeing Satellite Systems in El Segundo. (8/27)

Russian Meteor Had Near-Miss Before Exploding Over Chelyabinsk (Source:
The meteor that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February likely had a near miss before it hit Earth, possibly with another solar system object or a too-close graze by the sun, scientists have found. The bus-size space rock was largely vaporized by the heat of impact with Earth's atmosphere, but many fragments survived. Some fragments show evidence of melting, caused by intense heating, before they ever reached Earth's atmosphere. (8/27)

Russian Government to Review Aerospace Industry Reform Project (Source: Itar-Tass)
The Russian government will consider a project to reform the aerospace industry on September 4, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin wrote. "The Roskosmos aerospace agency submitted a plan to reform the aerospace industry. We'll review it on September 4," Rogozin wrote.

The idea to pool the potentials of the aerospace and aircraft industries is not new. Roskosmos's predecessor was the Russian Aviation and Space agency /Rosaviakosmos/, founded on the basis of the Russian Space Agency in May 1999. Roskosmos was founded in March 2004. (8/27)

Astronaut Leads Aerospace Program to Infinity and Beyond (Source: Daily Cougar)
Bonnie Dunbar first came to UH as a doctoral candidate while employed at NASA. After retiring in 2005, she went on to serve as president and CEO of the Museum of Flight, a nonprofit air and space museum in her home state of Washington.

When Dunbar came back to UH this year, she founded the STEM Center, a program that works to improve K-12 students’ capabilities in science, technology, engineering and math. Her newest appointment is within the interdisciplinary aerospace engineering program, which offers both Master of Science and doctoral programs under the Department of Mechanical Engineering. (8/27)

Japan’s ‘Smart’ Rocket Fails to Launch (Source: JDP)
What was a highly-publicized event turned out to be a “failure to launch” after all. Japan’s first new rocket in 12 years failed to lift off during its launch on Tuesday, in what was already the second setback this month for the Epsilon “smart” rocket. There was no immediate word on what the problem was this time around or if there will be another launch. Earlier this month, the supposed launch was postponed because of a computer glitch. (8/27)

Can We Make a National Heritage Site on the Moon? (Source: New Scientist)
Space archaeologist Beth O'Leary has long advocated protecting the Apollo lunar landing site. Now there is a bill in US Congress that proposes to do just that. "I wasn't involved in writing the bill, but I applaud those who put it forward. It is a first attempt to secure legal protection for the Apollo moon landing artefacts. Will it succeed? Probably not. But if it opens the discussion, that's good." Click here. (8/26)

Brown Dwarfs: From Zeroes to Astronomical Heroes (Source: New Scientist)
As if space wasn't lonely enough, pity the brown dwarf. Compared with their stellar siblings, these astronomical objects are something of a failure. And while they have much in common with planets, they don't seem to fit in there either. This awkward status as cosmic in-betweener means brown dwarfs are often overshadowed by their flashier counterparts, such as alien worlds or fiery supernovae. Yet not fitting in is precisely what makes brown dwarfs far more interesting and usefu than we once thought.

As new evidence of these celestial outcasts emerges, they are challenging our ideas about the differences between planets and stars. Some have weather unlike anything seen before, from molten iron falling as rain to silicate snow. And the traits they share with exoplanets means that we can learn things that telescopes pointed at alien worlds cannot reveal. (8/26)

Spacecom Wins $105M Ex-Im Bank Loan for Amos 6 Satellite (Source: Space News)
A U.S. Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank loan of $105.4 million to satellite fleet operator Spacecom of Israel will finance the launch, insurance and part of the construction of the Amos 6 telecommunications satellite to be placed into orbit in 2015. The loan, which was expected, will mainly be used to pay for the satellite’s launch aboard a Falcon 9 rocket operated by SpaceX, with which Spacecom has a longstanding reservation.

In addition to the launch, the U.S. contribution to Amos 6 includes ATK Space Components of Goleta, Calif., and its subcontractor, solar cell manufacturer Emcore Corp. of Albuquerque, N.M., which together will build the Amos 6 solar arrays. The arrays are designed to provide 10.3 kilowatts of power at the end of Amos 6’s 15-year service life. The Ex-Im Bank’s loan will also be used to finance insurance broker Marsh USA’s management of the launch insurance package. (8/26)

Strike Blinds the World's Largest Radio Telescope (Source: New Scientist)
Bothered by bad office coffee and rush-hour traffic? Tell it to the people who staff the world's largest radio telescope, perched 5000 meters above sea level in a remote Chilean desert. On 22 August, almost 200 people went on strike and demanded a pay rise to compensate for extreme working conditions at the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), which sits on the Chajnantor plateau in the Atacama desert.

The site, which will ultimately include 66 radio dishes, officially opened in March, although construction is on-going. Cleaning crews, mechanics and administrators working at the site have to deal with chapped skin, altitude sickness and chilly temperatures – not to mention being hours away from civilization. The workers have gone on indefinite strike following a breakdown in negotiations with Associated Universities Incorporated, which manages the observatory. (8/27)

Promise of Jobs Triggers Scramble for Civilian Drones (Source: Space Daily)
The promise of tens of thousands of jobs has U.S. states jockeying to become hosts for testing before drones are introduced alongside civil aviation in U.S. airspace. A vast network of unmanned aircraft manufacturers, marketeers and promoters that descended on Washington for a conference pressed home a point made in a March report: Growth in civilian drones can create up to 100,000 jobs nationwide.

States that encourage drone testing on their soil stand to gain more jobs than states that remain skeptical about the new technology, drone promoters say. As excitement over drone-related job prospects grows, the industry has gone to great lengths to separate -- in public consciousness -- civilian craft from the military types that provoked controversy, debate and protests. Click here. (8/26)

FAA Grounds Journalism School UAVs (Source: AP)
In July, the Federal Aviation Administration sent letters to the University of Missouri's Drone Journalism Program and a similar program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln ordering them to stop using unmanned aerial vehicles until a Certificate of Authorization is obtained. Students in the two programs have been testing how UAVs can be used to gather news in hard-to-reach locations. At the University of Missouri, students have used UAVs to do stories on bird migration, archaeology and fracking. (8/22)

How Astronauts Could Hibernate On Mars Voyage (Source:
By the time humanity is ready to put boots on Mars, the long cruise to the Red Planet may be as easy as a dream. NASA-funded scientists are investigating ways to induce a hibernation state in astronauts. The work could help bring manned Mars missions closer to reality by making the journey to the Red Planet cheaper, safer and less taxing for crewmembers both psychologically and emotionally, researchers said.

"Every year, it's, 'We're going to go to Mars in 20 or 30 years,'" said project principal investigator John Bradford, of SpaceWorks Engineering in Atlanta. "We plan to help stop that slide. This, we feel like, addresses a number of the key challenges, and maybe we can eliminate some of the technology requirements in multiple areas." (8/27)

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