August 9, 2013

Asteroid Alert! Two Close Flybys on Friday (Source: SLOOH)
Discovered just 48 hours ago, asteroid 2013 PS13 is whizzing by Earth today (Aug. 9) at only .5 Lunar Distances from Earth alongside asteroid 2005 WK4, which is only 8.1 Lunar Distances away from Earth! Slooh tracked both asteroids this morning from the Canary Islands observatory. (8/9)

FSDC Accepting Bumper Award Nominations Through Aug. 31 (Source: FSDC)
The Florida Space Development Council, a statewide chapter of the National Space Society, invites nominations for the Bumper Award, to be provided annually to individuals or organizations that have had the greatest positive impact on Florida's space industry, or to Floridians who have had the greatest impact nationally. FSDC members and non-members are encouraged to submit 2013 nominees using a simple online form. Nominations will be accepted through August 31, 2013. Click here. (8/9)

University Launches Doctorate in Space Law (Source: University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
The University of Nebraska College of Law will open a new frontier in space law by launching a doctorate of juridical sciences degree (J.S.D.) program later this month. For the past five years, UNL has been the only law college in the nation to offer an LL.M., or master of laws, degree in space, cyber and telecommunications law.

Graduates of the one-year program have gone on to careers working for private companies like SpaceX; for civilian agencies like the State Department and NASA Jet Propulsion Lab; for military operations such as the U.S. Cyber Command and Space Operations at Vandenberg Air Force Base; as well as for think tanks, consultants and law firms.

Going forward, UNL will be the only U.S. law school to offer both an LL.M. and J.S.D. in space law. Its LL.M. also has been offered online since the 2012-13 academic year. The J.S.D. program will break new ground as the only doctoral-level space law program in the United States, said Matthew Schaefer, professor of law and director of the college's Space, Cyber and Telecommunications Law program. (8/9)

Suborbital Research Group Encourages Armadillo, Other Carriers (Source: CSF)
The Suborbital Applications Researchers Group (SARG) of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation notes John Carmack’s Aug. 2 statement regarding the hibernation of rocket development at Armadillo Aerospace. The STIG rocket appeals to researchers by providing many of the advantages characteristic of next-generation suborbital vehicles including a gentle lift-off, pressurized payload bay, late payload access before launch, rapid payload access after landing, and a lower cost than traditional sounding rockets.

Armadillo’s success to date, including domestic and international payloads lofted and safely recovered on several mission development flights and a flight to 95km memorably captured on video, highlights how close their hard work has brought them to achieving an important operational research capability eagerly awaited by many scientists. The researchers of SARG encourage Armadillo and all of the new suborbital companies in their pursuit of success with investors and vehicles. (8/9)

Tech Transfer Forum Will Link Industry with KSC Support (Source: EDC of FSC)
Companies interested in exploring innovative business development opportunities with NASA Kennedy Space Center are invited to an exclusive technology commercialization opportunity event on Sep. 12 at the Courtyard Marriott in Cocoa Beach. Organized by the Economic Development Commission (EDC) of Florida's Space Coast, the EDC/KSC Tech Transfer Forum will promote and facilitate technology licensing and co-development opportunities, as well as the availability of KSC lab capabilities that can support commercial development. Areas of concentration include robotics, sustainable living, environmental remediation, and modeling & simulation. Click here. (8/9)

Remembering the X-Prize Cup - Where Are All the Launch Companies Now? (Source: SPACErePORT)
Back in 2004 there were over 26 teams competing to win the Ansari X-Prize, a competition offering $10 million for the first to launch humans on a reusable spacecraft twice within two weeks. Scaled Composites won with a vehicle that has evolved into today's Virgin Galactic SpaceShip Two. After the win, the remaining teams were expected to continue developing their vehicles to compete for a share of the suborbital space tourism industry.

The X-Prize Cup event was established so teams could test and demonstrate their vehicles in an annual competitive venue. Florida lost to New Mexico in its "must-win" bid to host the X-Prize Cup. "What you're seeing here today is a taste of what X Prize Cup will be in the future. Our vision is to have an event that will attract hundreds of thousands of people... an event people plan their vacations around," said organizer Peter Diamandis at the first X-Prize Cup in 2005.

So what became of the event and its competitors? The last X-Prize Cup was held in 2008 in New Mexico. None of the events hosted actual suborbital vehicle flights. And today only a few of the original 26 X-Prize competitors are still in the suborbital space tourism game. The still-emerging industry's two key players, XCOR and Virgin Galactic, technically weren't even among the original X-Prize competitors. (8/9)

Poems Heading to Mars on Maven (Source: Denver Post)
More than 1,100 haiku will head to Mars after a contest sponsored by the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder. The short poems will ride on NASA's upcoming MAVEN, or Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, mission. Click here for a sample. (8/9)

NASA Finds Pink Planet That Challenges Current Theories (Source: Forbes)
About 57 light years from Earth, astronomers have discovered a large new planet, colored a deep magenta. It’s the second planet whose color has been directly observed by astronomers, the first being HD 189733b. The planet, GJ 504b, challenges current theories of planetary formation. GJ 504b is about the size of Jupiter, but has several times its mass.

Planets the size of Jupiter appear to be quite common throughout our galaxy – astronomers have discovered many outside of our solar system. But what’s unusual about this planet is that it’s located about 4.05 billion miles from its star – about 43.5 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun. If it were in our own solar system, it would be beyond the orbit of Neptune.

That’s what poses a problem for astronomers. The current model for how Jupiter-sized planets form is called core accretion theory. In this model of planetary formation, after a star is formed, it’s surrounded by a massive field of debris. At some point, comets or asteroids in the field collide, producing a more massive body. That body then collides into other bodies and gets more massive. (8/9)

Jupiter Moon Landing Best Shot at Finding Habitable World (Source: Russia Times)
New research indicates that Jupiter’s moon Europa is the most likely spot in our solar system to support life outside Earth. It comes as NASA develops a mission to land on and explore the moon’s ocean, which may closely resemble Earth's salty oceans. 

Leading planetary researchers have published a paper detailing plans for a possible “lander” to be launched within the next decade. The plan includes instruments resembling those used by the Mars Curiosity rover, such as a drill and a complement of cameras. According to the paper - published this week in the journal Astrobiology - the frozen, crackled surface of the moon is a compelling choice for robot landers. (8/9)

Space to Become Tourist Destination in the Future (Source: People's Daily)
In the future traveling into space will become a holiday option. Orbital Technologies, a Russian space exploration firm, is now planning to complete a space hotel in 2016. According to the company CEO the space hotel, or commercial space station, will orbit 350 kilometers above the earth. Designed to accommodate seven passengers, the space station will be like a capsule hotel.

In order to reach the space hotel passengers will make a two-day trip aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. During their journey an experienced professional team will accompany them and provide instructions. The company also plans to install windows, cameras and telescopes in the space station so customers can enjoy wonderful views of the universe. The current projected cost to transfer a person from earth to the space station is 800,000 dollars, and the total cost of spending 5 days in the hotel will be a further 160,000 dollars. It certainly makes for a luxury trip. (8/9)

Thales Alenia: U.S. Suppliers at Fault in “ITAR-free” Misnomer (Source: Space News)
French-Italian satellite builder Thales Alenia said that for the last 12 years its U.S. suppliers had mislabeled their components as “commercial” or “dual use” when in fact they were subject to defense-export controls known as ITAR. Thales Alenia said it and the US State Department, which had been investigating the company’s “ITAR-free” product line for suspected ITAR violations, have agreed that the company’s export controls have been sufficient, and that the fault lies not at the prime contractor, but with its U.S. suppliers. (8/9)

ViaSat Revenue Up Sharply but Greater Spending Ahead (Source: Space News)
Commercial and government satellite broadband hardware and services provider ViaSat on Aug. 6 reported sharply increased revenue, including continued fast growth of its U.S. military business, and warned investors that it would be accelerating its research and development spending.

ViaSat also said spending on its lawsuit against supplier Space Systems/Loral (SSL) and its former corporate parent, Loral Space and Communications, is increasing as the lawsuit nears its trial phase in 2014. ViaSat is alleging that SSL and Loral infringed on ViaSat patents in offering high-throughput Ka-band broadband satellite technologies developed for the ViaSat-1 satellite to other customers, including ViaSat competitors. Loral has countersued, alleging patent infringement on the part of ViaSat. (8/9)

Blue Origin Wary of Sharing Launch Pad with SLS (Source: Space News)
NASA’s plan to share a space shuttle launch pad being modified for its new heavy-lift rocket with commercial users may have a fatal flaw. “As a commercial customer, you want some assurances that that pad is going to be available in the future and the way the government’s budgets are structured, if I have a customer who wants to fly to space in three years and I sign them up, I need to know that I have a launch pad to do that,” Rob Meyerson, president of startup Blue Origin, said.

Rather than risk partnering with NASA on Launch Complex 39B, the pad being developed for the government-owned and -operated Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket, Blue Origin is proposing that the agency let it take over Launch Complex 39A and turn it into a multiuser complex for its own rockets as well as those built and operated by other companies.

Space Florida, which did not respond to the NASA solicitation for 39A, is looking into developing a commercial launch site north of the space shuttle launch pads in an area known as Shiloh. “We were not trying to take sides,” DiBello told SpaceNews. “I am saying to let Kennedy Space Center do its job because I suspect they’ve got a rationale, they’ve got criteria and they are going to make a decision that is good for the agency. You have to believe that or all this is for naught.” (8/8)

No Easy Decision for LC-39A (Source: SPACErePORT)
NASA is between a rock and a hard place with LC-39A. They are being forced to pick winners and losers among those companies seeking access to the facility? Give the pad to SpaceX and Blue Origin might be out of luck at the Cape (Shiloh and other pads (LC-36?) might remain options for them). Give the pad to Blue Origin and SpaceX may walk away, despite Blue Origin's desire for a multi-user approach. (SpaceX also has other options at the spaceport, including Shiloh.)

My first inclination would be to bring Space Florida to the table, but I'm sure they also would very much not want to be put in the position of upsetting either SpaceX or Blue Origin. Ultimately, I believe the decision may depend on the feasibility of Blue Origin's approach. Someone may have to first determine whether SpaceX's vehicles can reasonably (technically and economically) co-exist with Blue Origin's at the launch pad. Multi-user pads aren't easy, especially for large liquid-fuelled rockets.

If the multi-user approach is feasible, and if SpaceX can be convinced that it makes sense for them, then perhaps Space Florida can enter the picture to serve as the landlord and fair-broker between the two users. If it is not feasible (or desirable for SpaceX), then one company will be very unhappy with NASA's decision. (8/9)

Hughes Preps Latin American Broadband Service as U.S. Revenue Grows (Source: Space News)
EchoStar Corp.’s Hughes division on Aug. 6 reported a 6 percent increase in subscribers to its U.S. satellite consumer broadband service and said its new association with DirecTV as a distributor plus a voice-over-Internet Provider offering should stimulate further growth. EchoStar also said a recent Hughes contract with Telefonica Media for consumer broadband in South America — using Hughes ground gear but not a Hughes satellite — should help Hughes’ long-standing effort to begin its own broadband service in Latin America. (8/8)

When NASA and DOD Launched a Human Skull Into Space (Source: Motherboard)
In the golden age of space flight, NASA was no stranger to sending all sorts of wacky shit into the void. It became a sort of wink 'n nod game for the agency, which rocket-strapped, among other things, a wood panel from the Wright brothers' 1903 airplane, a lead cargo tag from the colony at Jamestown, tree seeds, a roast beef sandwich, and porn. But it's one rather grim artifact from a 1989 Shuttle Columbia mission that takes the crown--I'm talking about a real human skull.

The idea was to better understand how radiation blasts the human cranium in low-Earth orbit. As the centerpiece of "Detailed Secondary Objective 469", or what's more formally known as the In-Flight Radiation Dose Distribution experiment, its layers were packed with hundreds of thermo-luminescent dosimeters that took note of radiation intensity at variouis depths. It was the first of a few NASA missions that took along the skull. And never ones to miss out on a good gag, astronauts on some of these later rides had a real laugh in scaring the shit out each other. (8/8)

13 Little Things NASA Did to Get Alan Shepard Ready for Space (Source: The Atlantic)
I was digging around the NASA archives when I stumbled upon the flight surgeon's report for the Mercury-Redstone 3 mission, otherwise known as the second flight by a human into space, and the first by an American. Alan Shepard was the man chosen by the United States to leave Earth. The astronauts were accompanied by doctors at all times. They were fed a strict diet. Their vitals were measured. They were monitored constantly.

But while I've known this in the abstract, it wasn't until reading the surgeon's report that I realized that these flights, from a biomedical perspective, were experiments playing out in the astronauts' bodies. As such, as many variables as possible had to be controlled, while still allowing the pilots to function normally. Here are 13 tidbits I extracted from William K. Douglas' report detailing the pre-flight ritual. Click here. (8/8)

Japan Slips Epsilon Launch to Address Pad Issue (Source: JAXA)
JAXA decided to postpone the launch of the first Epsilon Launch Vehicle (Epsilon-1) with the Spectroscopic Planet Observatory for Recognition of Interaction of Atmosphere (SPRINT-A) payload to Aug. 27 from the Uchinoura Space Center. JAXA needs taken extra time to rectify an incompatibility found in the ground support equipment during tests at the launch site. The launch was originally scheduled for Aug. 22. (8/8)

Orbital's Cygnus Spacecraft to Host Fire Safety Experiment (Source: Orbital)
Orbital's Cygnus cargo-carrier spacecraft will host a NASA payload that will improve spacecraft fire safety for future space exploration vehicles. Known as the Spacecraft Fire Experiment (Saffire), the payload will be hosted aboard Orbital’s Cygnus advanced maneuvering spacecraft and is planned for flight by mid-2015.

“While the primary mission of Cygnus is to deliver cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), Saffire will demonstrate the ability of Cygnus to provide important secondary mission capabilities, including as a platform to conduct a wide variety of experiments and demonstrations beneficial to the scientific and engineering community,” said Mr. Frank DeMauro, Orbital’s Cygnus Program Manager.

The self-contained Saffire payload, built by NASA’s Glenn Research Center (GRC), will test the flammability of large samples of various types of materials in low-gravity environments. It will be integrated into Cygnus’ Pressurized Cargo Module and remain in place throughout the duration of the cargo delivery mission. (8/8)

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