September 10, 2013

Pentagon, NASA to Spend $44 Billion on Space Launches Through 2018 (Source: Reuters)
The U.S. Defense Department and NASA expect to spend about $44 billion to launch government satellites and other spacecraft over the next five years, including $28 billion in procurement funding, the Government Accountability Office said. It was difficult to determine exact funding plans because both agencies used different accounting methods, but GAO arrived at the combined total by analyzing Pentagon and NASA budget documents, and looking at funding from other government agencies.

GAO said the projected funding data was an initial step toward answering a larger request from lawmakers who question the steep cost of space launches, and why efforts to inject more competition have not gotten more traction. Senators Carl Levin and John McCain had asked GAO to investigate space launch funding to get a better handle on the overall government effort. GAO said it would continue to look into the larger question surrounding "impediments to economical procurement of government launch vehicles and launch services." (9/9)

Ariane Wins Commercial Launch Orders (Source: Space Today)
Arianespace announced Monday five new contracts for launches of commercial satellites on its workhorse Ariane 5 rocket. Arianespace won contracts to launch communications satellites for Intelsat, SkyPerfect JSAT, Star One, and two for DirecTV. The launches are slated for 2015 and 2016, all using Ariane 5 rockets. Arianespace also announced a contract with the government of Brazil to launch a civil/military communications satellite in 2016, also on an Ariane 5. (9/9)

Space Wealth Founder: Asteroids are Just the Beginning (Source: Upstart)
William BC Crandall has an MBA in extraterrestrial resource development (yes, that degree really exists). And he thinks that asteroid mining is the best way to jumpstart private space exploration. Considering news last week that NASA has selected 96 crowdsourced ideas to make that happen, he’s getting some powerful potential allies.

“You can talk about space exploration all you want. Unless you’re generating something you can sell, interest falls off,” said Crandall, who is also the founder of a non-profit organization called Space Wealth. Crandall breaks up space’s resources into three “fundamental” categories: location, energy and matter. Click here. (9/10)

Over 200,000 Apply for Mars Settlement (Source:; Mars One)
The first round of the Mars One Astronaut Selection Program has now closed for applications. In the 5 month application period, Mars One received interest from 202,586 people from around the world, wanting to be amongst the first human settlers on Mars.

Mars One applicants come from over 140 countries; the largest numbers are from the United States (24%), India (10%), China (6%), Brazil (5%), Great Britain (4%), Canada (4%), Russia (4%), Mexico (4%), Philippines (2%), Spain (2%), Colombia (2%), Argentina (2%), Australia (1%), France (1%), Turkey (1%), Chile (1%), Ukraine (1%), Peru (1%), Germany (1%), Italy (1%) and Poland (1%).

From this applicant pool, the Mars One Selection Committee will select prospective Martian settlers in three additional rounds spread across two years. By 2015, six-ten teams of four individuals will be selected for seven years of full-time training. In 2023, one of these teams will become the first humans ever to land on Mars and live there for the rest of their lives. (9/9)

Mission to Colonise Mars: 'Columbus Didn't Wait; Nor Should We' (Source: Guardian)
In 2022 four astronauts, picked from tens of thousands of applicants, will jet off on a one-way mission to Mars as part of the world's most expensive reality TV show. The £4bn project, founded in 2010 by engineer Bas Lansdorp, is set to recoup its costs by selling the broadcasting rights to the mission.

"The biggest media event in the world," said Paul Römer, the co-creator of Big Brother and ambassador of the project, on the Mars One website. "Reality meets talent show with no ending and the whole world watching. Now there's a good pitch." But the mission has been met by more than its fair share of sceptics. Funding issues, technological hurdles as well as the psychological challenges the astronauts will come up against have all come under scrutiny.

As 22-year-old hopeful Thomas Eccles points out, "can you imagine how deranged and unstable I would eventually become? That would make for some impressive TV gold. But having 'been to Mars' on your CV has got to be pretty impressive, right?" But a return to Earth to update CVs is far from guaranteed. Changes in bone density and circulation caused by Mars's gravity as well as the technical challenges involved in re-entering the Earth's atmosphere make a return seem unlikely. Click here. (9/10)

"When Can I Buy My Ticket to Outer Space?" (Source: Reason)
"How is it that I have billions or hundreds of millions of dollars, and I can't buy a ticket to space?" asks Katherine Mangu-Ward, as she explains why a handful of super-rich men have decided to fund a new era of private space travel. "This is not the deal. This is not what I thought was going to happen when I was 10."

Mangu-Ward joined others at FreedomFest 2013 in Las Vegas, to discuss the future of space exploration. The mainstream media's outlook has been uniformly pessimistic on the subject. NASA has scaled back its ambitions and its budget has contracted, while government-backed missions have drifted away. President Bush's ambitious plan for a manned mission to Mars, announced in 2004 to great fanfare, never got off the ground. Click here. (9/9)

Bob Geldof Set to Travel Into Space (Source: BBC)
The singer and campaigner Bob Geldof is to travel into space as a passenger on a commercial space flight. Space Expedition Corporation (SXC) is hoping to launch 100 people into space in 2014 at the cost of $100,000 (£64,000) per ticket. The first astronauts will travel 100km (62 miles) into space launching from Curacao in the Southern Caribbean sea.

Others who have already signed up include DJ Armin van Buuren and Victoria's Secret model Doutzen Kroes. Mr Geldof said: "Being the first Irishman in space is not only a fantastic honour but pretty mind-blowing. The passengers will travel on the Lynx X2 privately built spacecraft. which has a two-crew cockpit offering the passenger a "a true co-pilot astronaut experience". (9/10)

Meteor, or 'Fireball,' Passed Over Alabama (Source:
An official at NASA in Huntsville has confirmed that the bright lights and loud booms seen and heard south of Birmingham and across Alabama and at least two other states tonight were caused by a meteor -- one that was very bright and passed unusually close to the earth's surface. (9/9)

CubeSats on Space Patrol (Source: Sky & Telescope)
On September 13, 2012, an Atlas 5 rocket lofted a miniature telescope into low-Earth orbit, along with 10 other nanosatellites known as CubeSats that hitched a ride with the larger main payload. But one of these CubeSats had a different mission than the rest. Rather than look at the stars or back down at Earth, this satellite planned to look at junk. Space junk, to be precise.

Engineers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Naval Postgraduate School built the tiny, GPS-enabled telescope, which is composed of three stacked Rubik’s Cube-sized boxes. Despite a small budget and basic parts, this CubeSat aims to pinpoint space-junk trajectories, besting the accuracy of ground-based tracking tools by a factor of 100. (9/10)

Registration for TARC 2014 is Now Open! (Source: AIA)
Are you up for the challenge of building a rocket that can safely carry two raw eggs to a precise altitude of 825 feet in a total flight time of 48-50 seconds? Check out the full rules for more details on this year’s challenge. The 2014 Application Packet is now posted on (9/9)

Expedition 36 to End on 11 Sept. After Six Months on Orbit (Source: America Space)
Since November 2000, thirty-six discrete groups of men and women from nine sovereign nations—the United States, Russia, Germany, France, Japan, Belgium, Canada, Italy, and the Netherlands—have lived and worked aboard the International Space Station for months at a time. But even after more than a decade of uninterrupted—though disrupted—human presence on the multi-national orbiting outpost, there is no such thing as a “typical” ISS expedition.

The Expedition 36 “core” crew of Russian cosmonauts Pavel Vinogradov and Aleksandr Misurkin, together with NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, are due to return to Earth tomorrow after almost six months in orbit … and their long voyage has demonstrated that space missions can never be truly routine or predictable. (9/10)

NASA Managers Evaluate Yearlong Deep Space Asteroid Mission (Source:
On track for their respective debuts, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion feature front and center in one of NASA’s latest evaluations for a mission to a deep space near-Earth asteroid (NEA). The conceptual mission, set after SLS’ opening salvo of flights, would send a crew of four on a yearlong voyage to study one of Earth’s nearest celestial neighbors. Click here. (9/10)

New Computational Approaches Speed Exploration of the Universe (Source: Space Daily)
How many different molecules can be created when you release one of the universe's most reactive substances, hydrogen cyanide, in the lab? And will the process create some particularly interesting molecules? That is what scientists call a good question, because hydrogen cyanide seems to have played a role in creating some of life's building blocks. Hydrogen cyanide is an organic compound and it is found in large quantities in the universe.

It may have helped in producing amino acids and DNA bases, some of life's basic molecules. If hydrogen cyanide can lead to the formation of amino acids, can it also contribute to the formation of other essential compounds? Can hydrogen cyanide help explain how life originated on Earth? And how it can arise on other planets? Click here. (9/10)

O3b Delays Launch to 2014 for Additional Spacecraft Testing (Source: Space News)
Startup satellite broadband provider O3b Networks said its planned Sep. 30 launch of four satellites aboard a European Soyuz rocket has been delayed until early 2014 “for additional testing” to be conducted by the company. O3b did not detail the nature of the problem, which will delay the company’s commercial service start date.

O3b launched its first four satellites earlier this year and had been counting on the second group of four — with a third to be launched in 2014 — to start commercial introduction of its high-speed broadband delivery. In addition to whatever issue O3b has on its satellites, the company is fighting for access to the Europeanized Soyuz rocket, whose 2014 manifest is already crowded with launches of Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation constellation. (9/9)

Iridium Offers Full Satellite Buses in Novel Rideshare Opportunity (Source: Space News)
Mobile satellite services operator Iridium Communications is offering a service that provides the satellite platform developed for its Iridium Next constellation, plus on-orbit operations, to customers looking for an inexpensive way to fly their own missions.

Iridium said its Iridium Prime offering uses the same skeletal structure built by Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy for Iridium Next but without the L-band communications payload needed for Iridium’s own mobile communications mission. The platform could host payloads for Earth observation, science, space surveillance, telecommunications or other missions. (9/9)

Thales Alenia Space Asks France To Ease Imagery Sale Restrictions (Source: Space News)
Satellite manufacturer Thales Alenia Space (TAS), which builds the high-resolution optical sensors for France’s military reconnaissance satellites, has asked the French government to ease restrictions on the commercial sale of imagery with a resolution sharper than 50 centimeters, Thales Alenia Space Chief Executive Jean-Loic Galle said. (9/9)

NASA Loses Contact With Comet-Hunting Deep Impact Spacecraft (Source:
NASA's veteran Deep Impact probe may have chased its last comet. The spacecraft's handlers lost contact with Deep Impact — which slammed an impactor into Comet Tempel 1 in 2005, made a close flyby of Comet Hartley 2 in 2010 and recently observed ISON, a "comet of the century" candidate — sometime between Aug. 11 and Aug. 14, mission team members announced. (9/9)

Mysterious Actions of Chinese Satellites Have Experts Guessing (Source:
A set of three mysterious satellites has experts guessing about the Chinese space program's intentions. No one really knows what the Chinese are up to, and everything is speculation. That appears to be the consensus of space experts tracking a set of Chinese spacecraft. Some have speculated that the Chinese are testing possible anti-satellite technology, while others have described the satellites as prosaic probes meant to sharpen the country's overall space skills. (9/9)

Further Evidence of Link Between Cosmic Rays and Cloud Formation (Source: Physics World)
For well over a decade Svensmark has studied how the energetic particles reaching Earth from deep space, known as cosmic rays, can influence the planet's climate as a result of changes to the Sun's output. The idea is that cosmic rays seed clouds by ionizing molecules in Earth's atmosphere that draw in other molecules to create the aerosols around which water vapor can condense to form cloud droplets.

The low-lying clouds that result then have the effect of cooling the Earth by reflecting incoming sunshine back out to space. Since the Sun's magnetic field tends to deflect cosmic rays away from the Earth, the planet will be warmer when solar activity is high and, conversely, cooler when it is low. Click here. (9/9)

NASA 'Hawks' Keep Eye on Hurricanes (Source: America Space)
Two Global Hawks are stationed at Wallops, each of them is a little different than the other. They carry imaging and radar pods which are used to study the formation of hurricanes that form off the coast of Africa. They measure wind speeds and temperatures at different periods during the storms’ formations. Each of the UAVs conduct missions that last approximately 24-28 hours. They travel at altitudes of some 60,000 feet and are directed on their missions by flight controllers located at WFF. Click here. (9/9)

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