August 30, 2013

NASA Funds 6 Futuristic Space Exploration Tech Ideas (Source:
NASA has granted funding to six next-generation technology concepts that it believes could help advance humanity's understanding and exploration of the cosmos down the road.

The six ambitious ideas, which were selected under Phase 2 of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, cover a wide range of potential future applications. One proposal, for example, aims to develop laser thrusters for spacecraft, while another seeks to build tiny but tough robots that could explore other planets and moons en masse. Click here. (8/29)

The Sun's Older Twin, 250 Light-Years Away (Source: Science News)
When the sun enters its twilight years, chances are it will look just like HIP 102152. In terms of mass, temperature and chemical composition, the star HIP 102152 is the closest match to the sun ever found, astronomers announced August 28 at a press conference. But it’s also almost 4 billion years older, providing a tantalizing glimpse of what might happen to our 4.6-billion-year-old sun as it ages. (8/29)

Florida Looks to the Skies for 200 New Jobs (Source: SSN)
Gov. Rick Scott highlighted Florida’s aerospace and logistics industries this week as he continued highlighting job creation across the Sunshine State. On Thursday, Scott headed to South Florida to help launch Boeing’s 787 customer training campus in Miami which will create more than 100 jobs.

Earlier in the week, Scott was in Central Florida to make another announcement regarding an airlines logistics company creating more jobs in the Sunshine State. On Wednesday, Scott announced that logistics company National Air Cargo Holdings Inc. will relocate its corporate headquarters from Michigan to Orlando, creating 105 new jobs over a two-year period. National Airlines, a subsidiary of National Air Cargo Holdings, will also relocate to Orlando. (8/30)

DigitalGlobe Consolidates in Colorado (Source: DigitalGlobe)
DigitalGlobe announced its intention to relocate its global headquarters from Longmont, Colorado to the North Park development in Broomfield, Colorado in mid-2015. In order to consolidate four office locations in Colorado into a single site, DigitalGlobe signed a letter of intent and plans to enter into a lease agreement for a new campus at the North Park development. The new campus is expected to be ready for occupancy in the summer of 2015. (8/29)

Special Aerospace Services Teams With UC Boulder (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Special Aerospace Services (SAS), a leader in aerospace systems engineering solutions, announced on August 28, 2013 that it has signed a teaming agreement with the Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research at the University of Colorado Boulder. The agreement will leverage talent and technical expertise between the two organizations. (8/30)

Europe’s Galileo Navigation Satellites Unlikely To Reach Orbit this Year (Source: Space News)
The first four full-operational-capability Galileo positioning, navigation and timing satellites are unlikely to be launched this year because of delays in their preparation. Jean-Yves Le Gall, president of the French space agency, CNES, and until recently chief executive of Arianespace, said Aug. 28 that only two more launches of the Europeanized Russian Soyuz rocket are planned this year. The Galileo satellites launch on Soyuz rockets two at a time. (8/30)

Germany Tweaks Radar Satellite To Double Its Field of View (Source: Space News)
The German Aerospace Center, DLR, said it had begun operating the six-year-old TerraSAR-X radar Earth observation satellite in a new observing mode that captures images with a 200-kilometer swath. Up to now, the TerraSAR-X viewing modes had a maximum of 100 kilometers in width. The new Wide-ScanSAR mode, with a ground resolution of 40 meters, will be of use to oceanographers and others monitoring ocean wave patterns, ice floes and shipping movements, DLR said.

The Wide-ScanSAR images are taken “by sweeping [an] area in multiple stages, very quickly pivoting the radar beam numerous times across the direction of flight,” DLR TerraSAR Mission Manager Stefan Buckreuss said. TerraSAR-X, which was financed in part by Astrium Services of Germany, which sells imagery worldwide from TerraSAR-X and its twin, TanDEM-X, was designed to operate for five years in a near-polar orbit some 515 kilometers in altitude. It was launched in June 2007. (8/30)

GeoMetWatch Misses AsiaSat Financing Deadline for Hosting Weather Sensor (Source: Space News)
GeoMetWatch (GMW) has missed a financing deadline to fly a hyperspectral sounding instrument aboard a commercial telecommunications satellite, but GMW and the satellite’s owner are continuing their work on the project. David Crain said Las Vegas-based GMW “is in final negotiations” with Hong Kong-based AsiaSat that will prepare for the GMW sounder being integrated aboard an AsiaSat satellite to launch in 2016. (8/30)

Resurrected Satellite Helps Aussie Firm Clear Regulatory Hurdle (Source: Space News)
An Australian company has secured initial regulatory approval to use 30 megahertz of S-band spectrum for a low-orbiting constellation of two-way messaging and machine-to-machine (M2M) satellites by declaring capacity on a spacecraft on medium Earth orbit that had been given up for dead.

Sirion Global Pty Ltd, whose backers include former AsiaSat Chief Executive Peter Jackson, has designed a system of 10 satellites in two orbital planes at 6,500 kilometers in altitude. To win international regulatory approval, satellite system backers must secure regulatory approval first in their home nation, and then at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) of Geneva, a United Nations affiliate. (8/30)

NASA Among Dream Employers For Engineering Students (Source: Forbes)
Global research and advisory firm Universum recently culled its data to find the 100 most attractive employers for engineering students. They asked 9,770 undergraduate engineering majors in the U.S. to select the companies they would consider working for and then to identify their ideal employer. Almost one-fifth (19.4%) chose NASA, making it the No. 1 “most attractive” employer for engineering students. (6/12)

JWST, Commercial Crew Spared Cuts in NASA FY2013 Operating Plan (Source: Space Policy Online)
With only six weeks left in FY2013, Congress and the Obama Administration finally reached agreement on NASA's FY2013 operating plan that details how the agency will spend the money appropriated by Congress. Although the agency was subject to across-the-board cuts of about 7 percent that were to be applied proportionately to all its activities, at least two projects were spared those cuts -- the commercial crew program and the James Webb Space Telescope. (8/29)

Was NASA Serious about Trying to Rescue Skylab? (Source: Lanius's Blog)
Skylab's reentry became the butt of jokes throughout the world, and not a little ingenuity in turning the reentry into an economic boon. One company marketed the “Skylab Survival Kit,” consisting of a hard hat. The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a political cartoon that offered a multiple choice test asking readers to “pick the best example of good ol’ American know-how; Three Mile Island, DC-10, Skylab, Pinto, mass transit.”

Fortunately, Skylab’s return to Earth proved less catastrophic than predicted by virtually everyone, thanks to maneuvers by NASA to help the spacecraft reenter the atmosphere over relatively uninhabited portions of the Pacific Ocean. Might it have turned out differently? Over the years, there has been considerable debate over how serious NASA might or might not have been about preventing the Skylab orbital workshop from reentering the atmosphere. Click here. (8/30)

The Scoop on Space Poop: How Astronauts Go Potty (Source:
By the time astronaut Gordon Cooper launched on the last Project Mercury flight in 1963, NASA had created a urine collection device that astronauts could wear inside the one-person spacecraft. Cooper's flight was not an easy one. Near the end of his 22-orbit 34-hour mission, system after system in his capsule mysteriously started failing. He had to take over manual control and pilot the craft through a risky re-entry into the atmosphere.

What went wrong? An investigation showed that his urine bag leaked and droplets got into the electronics, hobbling his automatic systems, Roberts said. If rogue urine sounds problematic, think about the agony floating feces could inflict inside a cramped space capsule. When NASA started planning longer missions, they had to take astronauts' bowels into consideration. Click here. (8/30)

Sun-Synchronous Satellites - China (Source: Zarya)
This a list of satellites in sun-synchronous orbit owned by China. Names are not necessarily those by which they are known in the NORAD catalogue used by SpaceTrack. This page is a snapshot and is updated daily. The measure that results in an entry in this table is that the drift rate of LTDN (Local Time at the Descending Node) is no more than ninety minutes in five years. Listed satellites are not necessarily active. Click here. (8/30)

Milky Way's Giant Black Hole Spits Out Its Food (Source:
The colossal black hole at the heart of the Milky Way galaxy is a messy eater. Of all the gas that falls toward the black hole, 99 percent gets spewed back out into space, new observations show, making the black hole akin to a toddler whose food ends up mostly on the floor, rather than his mouth. Click here. (8/30)

Neil deGrasse Tyson Doesn't Think Elon Musk's SpaceX Will Put People On Mars (Source: Business Insider)
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wants to put humans on Mars in the next 10 to 15 years. Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn't think a private enterprise, such as SpaceX, could ever lead a space frontier. "It's not possible. Space is dangerous. It's expensive. There are unquantified risks," Neil deGrasse Tyson tells us. "Combine all of those under one umbrella; you cannot establish a free market capitalization of that enterprise." Click here. (8/30)

Arianespace Launch VA215 - Mission Accomplished (Source: Arianespace)
On Thursday, August 29, Arianespace carried out the 57th successful Ariane 5 launch in a row, orbiting two telecommunications satellites: EUTELSAT 25B/Es’hail 1 for the Qatari and European operators, Es’hailSat and Eutelsat, and GSAT-7 for the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). This was the fourth Ariane 5 launch in 2013 and Arianespace's 57th success in a row. (8/29)

Logsdon, Pace Criticize Lack of White House Leadership on NASA (Source: Space Policy Online)
George Washington University (GWU) space policy experts John Logsdon and Scott Pace agree NASA is adrift today, particularly with regard to the human spaceflight program, and blame the White House for a lack of leadership. The two veteran observers of and participants in U.S. space policy offered their views on NASA’s past, present and future.   

Pace has a long career in and out of government, including high ranking positions at NASA and the White House under Republican Administrations and was a top NASA official under the George W. Bush administration. Today he is Director of GWU’s Space Policy Institute. Logsdon founded the Space Policy Institute and is now a professor emeritus there.  

Both believe NASA is adrift today and criticized the Obama Administration for its lack of leadership. Logsdon stressed that when he talks about a lack of leadership he is referring more to the White House than to NASA itself. Pace said the "sense of drift, or the sense of a lack of consensus is fairly serious” and shows up particularly in terms of relationships with the international community. (8/29)

Spaceflight Federation Supports Texas Commercial Space Event (Source: SpaceRef)
Commercial Spaceflight Federation President Michael Lopez-Alegria will be moderating an all-astronaut panel on Sep. 4 as part of a three-day long meeting of commercial space industry leaders in the Houston area. The Director of Aviation for the City of Houston, Mario Diaz, will be opening the panel with remarks on the progress of establishing Ellington Airport as a spaceport.

The panel will take place at Space Center Houston at 5:00 p.m. CDT and will be webcast live from The event is open to public in Houston and tweeted questions will be taken from space enthusiasts around the world. Click here. (8/29)

Two Astronauts Who Beat The Odds To Get Into Space (Source: Universe Today)
Getting into space is never a guarantee for an astronaut. Heck, getting into an astronaut program can be tough, as Koichi Wakata and Rick Mastracchio told Universe Today. The crewmates on Expedition 38/39 are supposed to head to the International Space Station in November. But they beat incredible odds to be selected in the first place.

Wakata, who is with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), didn’t even have an astronaut program to join when he was a kid. Mastracchio (from NASA) did, but it took him nine years’ worth of applications to get in. Mastracchio made applications practically every year between 1987 and 1996. Every time he was turned down, he would look for a way to make himself better for the next round. (8/29)

Station Astronauts Continue Troubleshooting Recent Space Suit Leak (Source: Aviation Week)
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station will team with NASA ground controllers over the U. S. Labor Day weekend to replace water relief and gas trap valves in the space suit worn by European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano during a July 16 excursion that was cut short when his helmet began to fill with water.

Investigators are hopeful the swap out will point to a "smoking gun" behind the alarming incident that allowed 1 to 1 1/2 liters of water to flow into Parmitano's helmet and collect over his ears, eyes and nose. NASA spacewalks were suspended in the aftermath, and the U.S.-led, ISS mission management team is eager to restore the capability. (8/29)

Air Force Study Reveals Threats to US Space Activities (Source:
No matter where you look in the air, outer space and within the depths of cyberspace, these are congested, contested and competitive environments. A recently released U.S. Air Force study scopes out a science and technology vision to deal with these concerns.

At its heart, a new report, titled "Global Horizons," strives to take advantage of $1.4 trillion in worldwide research and development investments to protect the Air Force's global missions. Those missions involve operating in, from and through the global domains of air, space and cyberspace — all geared to support America's security interests. Click here. (8/29)

Trojan Asteroid in Uranus' Orbit: Planets are 'Playing Ball' With It (Source: LA Times)
Planetary scientists have detected a Trojan -- an asteroid-like object that shares a planet's orbit -- circling the sun ahead of Uranus. The discovery of 2011 QF99, the first of its kind for the ice giant planet, was reported Thursday in the journal Science. According to first author Mike Alexandersen, a doctoral student in astronomy at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, it happened almost by accident.

Studying images snapped using the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope during 2011 and 2012, Alexandersen and the team noticed one object that was moving across the field of vision more quickly than the others, an indication that it must have been closer to Earth than the rest.

That wasn't a surprise, but seeing an object that moved the way 2011 QF99 did was a shocker. The scientists had expected to see objects known as Centaurs, which often move inward into the solar system along quirky paths. But over the course of a year of observations they realized that this space rock was traveling in an orbit very much like that of Uranus, which made it seem more like a Trojan, gravitationally bound to its planet. (8/29)

Virginia, Alaska Form Space Launch Alliance (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Virginia and Alaska are teaming to make the most of their commercial space operations. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell announced an operating agreement between the Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Authority and the Alaska Aerospace Corp. The two spaceports will work together to share engineering, technical knowledge and operating procedures.

The spaceports don't compete for the same launches, so they could work together to offer customers launching options on both the East and West coasts, said Dale Nash, executive director of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority. Nash came to Virginia in 2012 after departing as CEO of the Alaska Aerospace Corp. (AAC), which operates KLC, a spaceport on Kodiak Island.

The Alaska facility has struggled financially, with the Legislature there threatening to cut its funding if it didn't bring in more business. The spaceport built to compete with Vandenberg in California. AAC was able to pay for operations from its launches with federal grants. But for the past two years it has relied on state subsidies, $4 million in 2011 and $8 million last year, when Parnell also approved $25 million to expand the Kodiak facility. AAC also received $8 million this year in funding from the Legislature. (8/29)

Globecomm Acquisition Planned by Equity Firm (Source: Space News)
Satellite and communications solutions provider Globecomm Systems is being acquired by an affiliate of private equity firm Wasserstein & Co. in a transaction valued at approximately $340 million, Hauppauge, N.Y.-based Globecomm announced Aug. 26.

The purchase price translates to $14.15 per share in cash, which Globecomm said represents a 21.9 percent premium over its closing share price on Jan. 14, the day it announced it had retained investment banker Needham and Co. to explore strategic options. At the time, Globecomm also said it had lowered its revenue and earnings expectations for the fiscal year ending June 30. (8/29)

SpaceShipTwo Glides Toward December Debut (Source:
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo (SS2), slated to become the world’s first commercial manned spacecraft, is undergoing rigorous testing at California’s Mojave Air and Space Port. Christened “VSS Enterprise”, the first in Virgin Galactic’s planned fleet of suborbital spaceplanes is scheduled to complete its first space flight in December, leading to an eventual debut with commercial passengers. (8/29)

Budget Clarity Will Set Off Defense M&A Spree, DOD Official Says (Source: Reuters)
Military industry mergers and acquisitions are stalled because of uncertainty about how much the U.S. government will have to spend on defense, says Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manufacturing and Industrial Policy Brett Lambert, but when the federal budget outlook is less murky, the defense sector will see a rapid spate of deals. "When it happens, it'll happen fast," Lambert says. "As soon as they have some clarity, you'll see a lot of action: second-tier, third-tier consolidation, more foreign interest. (8/28)

NASA Initiative Gives Students Hands-On Experience (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA's Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program (RGEFP), headquartered at NASA's Johnson Space Center, includes the "Microgravity University" (MU) which allows undergraduate engineering teams to compete for time aboard a Boeing 727-200 0g aircraft, sometimes called a Weightless Wonder or Vomit Comet. MU exposes student projects to brief periods of microgravity. Since MU's inception in 1995, more than 800 university students have taken flight along with their experiments. (8/26)

Sirangelo Appointed as Colorado’s New Chief Innovation Officer (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has appointed Mark Sirangelo, head of Sierra Nevada Corporation Space Systems, as the Chairman of the Colorado Innovation Network (COIN) and as the state’s new Chief Innovation Officer. He will begin work Aug. 30.

Sirangelo will oversee COIN, which was created to provide a roadmap for making Colorado the best state for innovation. The initiative is promoting a business environment that supports innovative practices through collaboration among government, business and civil society, with the ultimate goal of job creation and growth of the Colorado economy. (8/29)

Tethers Unlimited Awarded NIAC Phase II Contract (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA announced that the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program has selected Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) for award of a $500,000 Phase II contract to continue development of its “SpiderFab” technologies for in space fabrication of spacecraft components.

The SpiderFab architecture adapts additive manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing and robotic assembly technologies to enable space systems to fabricate and integrate large components such as antennas, solar arrays, sensor masts, and shrouds on orbit. Currently, large spacecraft components are built on the ground, and are designed to fold up to fit within a rocket shroud and then deploy on orbit. (8/29)

Russia, Europe Discuss Joint Missions to Jupiter’s Moon (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia’s and Europe’s space agencies are considering teaming up to study the largest moon in the solar system, Jupiter’s Ganymede, the European Space Agency (ESA) chief said. ESA general director Jean-Jacques Dordain said Europe planned to send an orbiter to Ganymede, while for a separate mission Russia’s federal space agency, Roscosmos, envisaged sending a landing module.

"We intend to study how these two missions may interwork, because our orbiter and the Russian landing module are capable of interacting with each other,” Dordain told reporters during the MAKS international air show near Moscow. Russian and European scientists plan to begin the Jupiter missions in the early 2020s. If successful, the missions would be Russia and Europe’s first to an outer planet – as Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are often referred to – apart from the ESA’s Huygens probe. (8/29)

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