August 28, 2013

NASA Test Fires 3-D Printed Rocket Motor Injector (Source: Space News)
A rocket motor injector manufactured via 3-D printing generated 20,000 pounds of thrust in an Aug. 22 hot fire test, according to NASA. The NASA-designed injector was made by Directed Manufacturing of Austin, Texas, using a technique known as selective laser melting, in which layers of nickel-chromium alloy powder were shaped into a fuel injector comprising only two parts, NASA said.

The test took place at Test Stand 115 at the Marshall Space Flight Center’s East Test Area. According to NASA, early test data shows the injector worked as designed in tests where operating pressure approached 100 kilograms per square centimeter in a vacuum, and temperatures were nearly 3,300 degrees Celsius. NASA plans to make the test and materials data available to all U.S. companies through the Materials and Processes Information System database managed by Marshall’s materials and processes laboratory. (8/28)

Northrop Grumman Awarded $152 Million for Canceled NPOESS Program (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force has awarded Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems of Redondo Beach, Calif., a $152 million contract modification for work related to a civil-military weather satellite program that was canceled three-and-a-half years ago, the Pentagon announced Aug. 23.

The modification moves the program, the National Polar Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) one step closer to termination, the Pentagon said. The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama canceled NPOESS in early 2010 due to mounting cost overruns and technical problems and directed the Air Force and NOAA to pursue separate systems. NOAA is proceeding with the Joint Polar Satellite System, while the Air Force is studying alternatives for its new system. (8/28)

ULA Launches Massive Delta IV From Vandenberg (Source: Parabolic Arc)
A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-6 here at 11:03 a.m. PDT Wednesday. Designated NROL-65, the mission is in support of national defense. This is ULA’s eighth launch in 2013, the 24th Delta IV mission and the second Delta IV Heavy launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (8/28)

SpaceX Gets FAA Waiver for Vandenberg Launch (Source: Waco Tribune)
A revamped Falcon 9 rocket set to launch a Canadian satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Sep. 10. a just-released FAA waiver offers a glimpse at one of the biggest changes to the rocket: the added capability to (at least attempt to) return rockets stages for re-use.

The first stage will coast after stage separation, and then perform an experimental burn with three engines to reduce the entry velocity just prior to entry. Prior to landing in the water, it will perform a second experimental burn with one engine to impact the water with minimal velocity. (8/28)

Programming Error Suspected for Scrubbed Epsilon Launch (Source: Japan Times)
Experts suspect a computer programming error and lax preliminary checks were among the reasons Japan’s newest rocket didn’t get off the ground Tuesday. The computer controlling the launch of the three-stage Epsilon rocket at the Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture detected an abnormality in the rocket’s position only 19 seconds before its scheduled liftoff scheduled for 1:45 p.m., but it was later found to be normal. (8/28)

What Stopped India's Rocket Launch? 750 kg of Leaking Fuel (Source: NDTV)
When India's Rs. 205-crore space mission was aborted earlier this month, scientists from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) blamed a fuel leak in the rocket that was meant to place a communications satellite in space. NDTV has now learnt that scientists discovered that 750 kilograms of highly inflammable and explosive fuel had leaked from the engine. (8/27)

Colorado Works to Create Bridge Beyond the Final Frontier (Source: Colorado Springs Business Journal)
Colorado is close to the heavens in more ways than one — not only in relative distance, but also from an economic perspective. As the state with the second-largest space economy, Colorado is either the primary or secondary home to more than 160 aerospace companies. And although many of those companies specialize in defense contracting, there are those that push the boundaries of the Final Frontier.

With a large segment of NASA-related research, experimentation and development at CU-Boulder, along with aerospace outreach and partnerships in Denver and Colorado Springs, CU and its branch campuses are ones to watch for liftoff. The CU system receives more funding from NASA than any other public university and is a leader in astronaut training, according to the Colorado Space Coalition’s industry cluster study. For years, Boulder has been the epicenter for astrophysics research and NASA-related projects.

Air Force Space Command, headquartered at nearby Peterson Air Force Base, has also officially designated UCCS as the Space Education Consortium’s lead university to educate the nation’s future aerospace workforce. Meanwhile, Spaceport Colorado is slated to present a new age of space exploration to the state. Located at Front Range Airport in Adams County, the port will serve as a hub for commercial space flight and is expected to be up and running in the next few years. (8/27)

NOAA and Eumetsat Agree on Joint Weather/Climate Monitoring (Source: Eumetsat)
Building on a 30-year relationship, EUMETSAT and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) signed a long-term cooperative agreement, ensuring continued space-based operational monitoring of weather, ocean and climate.

Having exchanged data from their geostationary spacecraft for decades and established back-up arrangements, EUMETSAT and NOAA now operate an Initial Joint Polar System consisting of the European Metop satellites and the US NOAA-19, -18 and Suomi NPP satellites, delivering global measurements that are essential for weather forecasting and environmental and climate monitoring.

The partnership also extends to the ocean surface topography mission implemented by the Jason series, which is crucial to sea level monitoring in our changing climate, to seasonal forecasting and to the development of operational oceanography. (8/28)

High Altitude Balloon Launch Platform (Source: Quirky)
Sending payloads into orbit is expensive business but technology is constantly advancing and making this process more economical. Private business has taken the helm of developing the next generation of launch vehicles and is looking for ideas to give them an edge and be the first for profitable high volume launches. One of the main expenses for rockets is the fuel, between sea level and 100,000 feet is the majority of air resistance that the rocket must overcome before it can accelerate to escape velocities.

The idea is to build a launch platform that can be cheaply raised to a high altitude and then safely deploy a rocket and return back to Earth and quickly be ready to launch again. Click here. Editor's Note: I think the benefit gained from altitude here is overrated. It's the zero-to-orbital-velocity requirement that sucks up all the fuel...not the sea-level-to-100,000-feet requirement. The air resistance at lower altitudes is a factor, but not so much that a balloon system makes sense. (8/28)

ESA, Roscosmos Discuss Europe’s Participation in Russian Lunar Projects (Source: Itar-Tass)
The European Space Agency (ESA) and the Federal Space Agency of the Russian Federation (Roscosmos) held talks about Europe’s participation in Russian projects for lunar studies, Rene Pichel, ESA representative in Russia, said. Pichel said cooperation with Russia [in lunar projects] will be discussed next year by a meeting of the council of the heads of the space agencies included in ESA.

The participation of ESA in these projects will be moderate at first, to expand later, Pichel said. If the agency’s council endorses the decision on ESA participation in Russian lunar missions, the two space agencies will sign a cooperation agreement, he said. (8/27)

Female Astronauts Face Discrimination from Space Radiation Concerns (Source:
Female astronauts have fewer opportunities to fly in space than men partially because of strict lifetime radiation exposure restrictions, astronauts say. Both male and female astronauts are not allowed to accumulate a radiation dose that would increase their lifetime risk of developing fatal cancer by more than 3 percent.

While the level of risk allowed for both men and women in space is the same, women have a lower threshold for space radiation exposure than men, according to physiological models used by NASA. "Depending on when you fly a space mission, a female will fly only 45 to 50 percent of the missions that a male can fly," Peggy Whitson, the former chief of NASA's Astronaut Corps, said.

"That's a pretty confining limit in terms of opportunity. I know that they are scaling the risk to be the same, but the opportunities end up causing gender discrimination based on just the total number of options available for females to fly. [That's] my perspective."  (8/27)

Russia to Make 2 Soyuz Launches From Kourou in 2013, 4 in 2014 (Source: RIA Novosti)
Two launches of Russian Soyuz rockets will be made from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana before the end of the current year and four next year, French Space Agency head Jean-Yves Le Gall told RIA Novosti on Tuesday. On September 30, Russia will orbit four 03b Networks satellites to provide broadband Internet access in remote areas, and on November 20 will send up the Gaia telescope for the European Space Agency.

Next year, Soyuz-ST rockets will orbit a Galileo navigation satellite, new O3b clusters and a Sentinel satellite as part of the ESA’s Global Monitoring for Environment and Security program, Le Gall said. There are no plans to increase the number of launches from Kourou, he said. (8/27)

Finding Luca’s Leak (Source: Air & Space)
It was fascinating watching space station astronauts re-create the recent water leak inside ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano’s helmet that cut short a planned spacewalk and led to some very tense moments for the crew. Engineers are still trying to figure out what caused the leak. As today’s video shows, the suit still has a problem. Click here. (8/27) 

Deep-Space Texting Service Struggles to Pay Earthly Bills (Source: Bloomberg)
An experiment to combine deep-space exploration with social media appears to have faltered over a scientifically mundane issue: paying the electricity bill. Lone Signal, a New York-based startup that sends text messages from anyone into deep space, has run into financial difficulties two months after it started transmitting from the Jamesburg Earth Station radio telescope in Carmel, Calif.

The company is “at a crossroads” and expects to transmit its final message and shut down on Thursday, depending on its ability to secure funding, Lone Signal Chief Executive Officer Pierre Fabre wrote in a blog post today on the company’s website. The company is considering a Kickstarter campaign, and talking with potential investors. (8/27)

Virgin Galactic Takes Step Toward Flight License (Source: Alamogordo Daily News)
Virgin Galactic, the main client of Spaceport America, has taken a step closer to launching passengers to suborbital space from southern New Mexico after a recent move by federal flight officials. The company's application for a license for its commercial space system, which includes a plane and a spaceship, has been officially accepted by the Federal Aviation Administration, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said. (8/27)

Water From Moon's Interior Detected for 1st Time (Source: CBC)
Scientists have discovered water on the moon's surface that originates from deep inside it. The discovery is a major breakthrough in research being done on lunar water. The water — known as magmatic water — was detected using data from NASA's Moon Minerology Mapper (M3). Magmatic water is usually released to the atmosphere during a volcanic eruption.

"For many years researchers believed that the rocks from the moon were bone dry and that any water detected in the Apollo samples had to be contamination from Earth," said Rachel Klima, a planetary geologist who's a member of the NASA Lunar Science Institute's scientific and exploration potential of the lunar poles team. (8/27)

Russian Rocket Engine Export Ban Could Halt US Space Program (Source: Russia Times)
Russia’s Security Council is reportedly considering a ban on supplying the US with powerful RD-180 rocket engines for military communications satellites as Russia focuses on building its own new space launch center, Vostochny, in the Far East. A ban on the rockets supply to the US heavy booster, Atlas V, which delivers weighty military communications satellites and deep space exploration vehicles into orbit, could put a stop to NASA’s space programs – not just military satellites.

An unnamed representative of Russia’s Federal Space Agency told the Izvestia newspaper that the Security Council is reconsidering the role of Russia’s space industry in the American space exploration program, particularly the 2012 contract on delivering to the US heavy-duty RD-180 rocket engines.

Previously, Moscow has not objected to the fact that America’s Atlas V boosters rigged with Russian rocket engines deliver advanced space armament systems into orbit. If a ban if put in place, however, engine delivery to the US would probably stop altogether, starting from 2015. A number of experts said termination of the engine contract would not be a good idea commercially for NPO Energomash, which produces the rockets, because at the moment it makes RD-180 engines exclusively for the US space industry. (8/27)

Russian Engines Production Could Shift to US (Source: SPACErePORT)
When the deals were struck to allow Russian RD-180 engines to power Atlas-5 EELV rockets for the U.S. military, the Air Force required that Pratt & Whitney ultimately would produce them in the U.S. (in West Palm Beach) to prevent a situation where Russia might impede U.S. access to space. Pratt & Whitney (now Rocketdyne) obtained the rights to do this, but held-off on the expensive plan after the Air Force was assured that an adequate number of the Russian-built engines could be stockpiled in the U.S. (8/27)

Up Into the Atmosphere in a DIY Space Suit (Source: WIRED)
We are at the end of ten very intense DIY space suit days. Tomorrow Cameron Smith and John Haslett are leaving us – but things will never be the same at Copenhagen Suborbitals. Like I stated last week (in this video) we have certainly moved to a next level in this crazy amateur manned space program – after having been introduced to the space suit and doing all these tests. Click here. (8/27)

New University Programs will Train Space Lawyers (Source: USA Today)
As the space tourism market continues to grow, two universities have developed programs to prepare law students to expand their jurisdictions beyond the ozone. The law schools at University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) and the University of Mississippi will begin new programs in space law this fall, which will train students to deal with issues ranging from commercial space flight to asteroid mining. Click here. (8/27)

Emerging Space Programs: the Age of Cooperation (Source: Space News)
For the last 10 to 20 years, the space sector has witnessed the emergence of new stakeholders starting their investment in space technology or acquiring their first satellite. These “emerging space programs,” understood as countries investing in first- or second-generation satellites, represent a growing share of global space activity and are major business prospects for industry players or cooperation targets for other space agencies.

Sri Lanka’s acquisition of a comsat from China earlier this year and the interest of Armenia for a similar deal illustrate a growing desire for more countries to hold their own satellite assets. Beyond these facts, we felt it necessary to assess in more detail the rationales, models and benefits of these emerging space programs. Why do they invest in space? For what purposes? And under which schemes? This is the purpose of our latest research report, “Trends and Prospects of Emerging Space Programs.” Click here. (8/26) 

India to Assemble Another Engine for Aborted GSLV (Source: FirstPost India)
The Indian space agency will assemble another engine to fly its heavy rocket geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV), while packing off the leaking one to its Liquid Propulsion Systems Center (LPSC) for detailed study, an official said Tuesday. He said: “It is not possible to give a time-frame for the GSLV’s flight now.”

In 2010, ISRO had to put off a PSLV launch as it found “a marginal drop in the pressure in the second stage of the vehicle during mandatory checks”. At that time, the faulty part was inaccessible as the rocket stages had been fully assembled. ISRO had to dismantle the second stage to correct the fault. In June this year, ISRO put off the launch of its PSLV rocket carrying India’s first navigational satellite after it found a problem in one of the electro-hydraulic control actuators in the second stage. (8/27)

Taxi to the Space Station (Source: Air & Space)
There is absolutely nothing special about Boeing's CST-100 design center externally—several floors of featureless work stations in a faceless low-rise glass office complex on Houston’s southeastern outskirts. But Alicia Evans and Kavya Manyapu bring the invisible fire of their life’s ambition to work every day. It sits close beside them as they work methodically through the morning’s spreadsheets and emails.

“Even if I don’t get to be an astronaut, I get to work for Boeing on a human spaceflight vehicle that a friend or colleague might fly on,” Evans reflects. “How awesome is that?” Evans and Manyapu’s boss, CST-100 project manager John Mulholland, and the corporate hierarchy above him are counting on the young engineers’ passion to pull Boeing through a challenge it has not quite faced before. Click here. (8/27)

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