September 22, 2013

SpaceX Open to Accommodating Other Users at LC-39 (Source: NASA Watch)
"SpaceX has nearly 50 missions on manifest to launch over the proposed 5 year lease period and we can easily make use of the additional launch site. At the time we submitted the bid, SpaceX was unaware any other parties had interest in using the pad. However, if awarded this limited duration lease on 39A, SpaceX would be more than happy to support other commercial space pioneers at the pad, and allow NASA to make use of the pad if need be." (9/20)

NASA Desperately Needs Road Map to Manage Aging Assets (Source: House Science Committee)
According to NASA's own study, the agency has a backlog of nearly $2.2 billion in deferred maintenance. NASA is the ninth largest real property holder in the federal government. However, nearly 80 percent of the agency's facilities are 40 or more years old. (9/20)

Water on Mars: Curiosity Rover Uncovers a Flood of Evidence (Source:
Water, water everywhere, and some of it fit to drink. That’s the picture of ancient Mars that has emerged during the past few months thanks to discoveries by NASA's Curiosity rover, which has been exploring the Red Planet since touching down inside Gale Crater in August 2012.

The announcements have come in dribs and drabs, but presented together recently here at the European Planetary Science Congress, they provide compelling evidence that Mars was quite wet in the distant past. "We know that on Mars there was what we interpret to be a habitable environment, where water was good enough for us to drink," Melissa Rice said after a presentation on imaging results from Curiosity’s workhorse Mastcam instrument. (9/21)

Minuteman III Launches From California Spaceport (Source: Launch Alert)
An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched during an operational test at 3:01 a.m. (PDT) Sunday from Vandenberg AFB, Calif. The launch team, under the direction of the 576th Flight Test Squadron, included members from the 91st Missile Wing, Minot AFB, N.D., and 90 Missile Wing, F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo. (9/22)

Computer Issue Delays Cygnus Link-Up with Space Station (Source: Washington Post)
A brand new commercial cargo ship making its orbital debut experienced navigation system trouble Sunday, and its arrival at the International Space Station was delayed at least two days. The rendezvous was aborted less than six hours before the scheduled arrival of Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Cygnus capsule, packed with 1,300 pounds of food and clothes for the space station crew. (9/22)

Software Fix Being Developed for Cygnus (Source:
NASA and Orbital Sciences are replanning the Cygnus spacecraft's rendezvous with the International Space Station, now set for early Tuesday morning. Orbital says a software update to resolve the glitch in the Cygnus freighter's communications and navigation link with the space station will be installed and tested on a ground simulator today. If the testing goes well, the software patch will be uploaded to the Cygnus spacecraft overnight tonight. (9/22)

Editorial: NASA, Plutonium and a Tale of Systemic Mistakes (Source: Digital Journal)
Plutonium 238 is the fuel for Voyager as it leaves the solar system, and for many other space missions. The trouble is that the fuel is out of fashion, not being made for years, and the remaining stock is already mortgaged for other uses. Plutonium 238 is highly radioactive, with a half-life of 88 years, extraordinarily fast, which is what makes it a good energy source. It’s dangerous, but it’s also highly efficient.

You have to wonder what a sane perspective on nuclear energy would be like. There’s never been one. The tale of nuclear energy has been a series of extremes, not long term objectivity. Weapons, then “risk management by hysteria”. Even the idea of handling nuclear materials efficiently has rarely had any real traction. The trouble is that a combination of the Cold War, politics and a Chernobyl/Fukushima tarnished reputation have done nothing good for this technology. Click here. (9/22) 

Russian, US Scientists Urge Further Research Under Bion Project (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russian and US scientists, who took part in biological experiments on board Russia’s Bion-M1 satellite in spring, have called on respective space authorities to ensure the continuation of research under this project. Russia launched the Bion-1M satellite, its first biological research satellite since 2007, on a 30-day mission on April 19 to conduct biology, physiology and biotechnology research in orbit. The aim of the study was to help pave the way for future interplanetary flights including Mars missions. (9/22)

Boeing Fires Space Capsule Rockets (Source: Seattle Post Intelligencer)
Boeing and Aerojet Rocketdyne have test fired rocket engines for a proposed spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station, NASA announced Friday. Boeing is developing the CST-100 spacecraft and United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket for NASA's Commercial Crew Program, which also includes several other companies with competing systems.

The CST-100's orbital maneuvering and attitude control system has 24 thrusters in four clusters of six on the spacecraft's service module. The thrusters could steer the spacecraft in case an emergency called for it to separate from its rocket during launch or ascent and, in space, would perform such critical maneuvers as refining the orbit and slowing down before re-entry. (9/21)

Brevard Achievement Center Awarded $30.4M NASA Contract (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
NASA on Friday awarded a contract to Brevard Achievement Center of Rockledge to provide custodial services at Kennedy Space Center. The firm fixed-price contract begins Oct. 1 and has a maximum value of $30.4 million over a five-year period. Under the terms of the contract, Brevard Achievement Center will provide general cleaning and custodial suport for launch services, special events and emergency cleanup for 3.2 million square feet of office, shop, warehouse and support areas at KSC. (9/21)

Houston's Space Shuttle Replica to Get New Name in Public Event (Source: Collect Space)
Houston's mock space shuttle has a new name — and a date for its reveal. Space Center Houston, which serves as the visitor center for NASA's Johnson Space Center, has announced Oct. 5 as the day it will christen its full-size space shuttle orbiter replica. The public is invited to attend the naming, which is set to begin at 9:30 a.m. CDT. (9/21)

Mighty Eagle Flies Again at Marshall (Source: WAAY)
NASA's robotic lander prototype The Mighty Eagle flew another successful flight Friday during a series of tests to validate software for a California-based company. In addtion to validating flight software made by Moon Express, Inc., the flight also evaluated a new hazard avoidance system designed and developed at Marshall Space Flight Center, which manages the Mighty Eagle project. (9/20)

NASA Spends Millions on Unused Facilities (Source: Florida Today)
When NASA began planning for a return visit to the moon several years ago, the agency naturally started building the necessary infrastructure to get there. That included the $350 million A-3 test stand at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi to accommodate special testing requirements for rockets being built as part of what was called the Constellation Program.

The test stand was only two-thirds complete when President Obama canceled Constellation in 2010. Directed by Congress to finish the project anyway, NASA spent another $57 million on it. When it's completed this month, the test stand will sit idle until a new use is found, but will still cost taxpayers $900,000 a year to maintain.

A-3 will join a growing list of unused or underutilized structures costing the space agency tens of millions of dollars to maintain each year, according to NASA Inspector General Paul K. Martin. An in-house study last year estimated NASA has up to 865 “unneeded” facilities, collectively costing more than $24 million in annual upkeep, he said. (9/20)

Welcome Future Virgin Galactic Astronauts (Source: Parabolic Arc)
A group of Virgin Galactic’s future astronauts will be visiting Mojave next Wednesday morning for what is sure to be a great show on the ground and in the skies. Perfect flying weather. And watching weather. (9/21)

Stopgap Space Fence Replacement 'Looks Pretty Good,' Shelton Says (Source: Space News)
A patchwork of changes to the existing U.S. space-object tracking network, adopted to replace the recently shuttered Air Force Space Surveillance System (AFSSS), appears to be working as planned, according to Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command. Shelton said, “Thus far it looks pretty good.”

The changes implemented by Space Command included switching to modified operating modes for some of its other space tracking assets, specifically the Perimeter Acquisition Radar Characterization System at Cavalier Air Force Station in North Dakota and the space surveillance radar at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. Because of these changes, Shelton said, the Air Force has retained certain tracking capabilities that were thought to be unique to the AFSSS. (9/21)

Universe May be Curved, Not Flat (Source: Nature)
We live in a lopsided universe: That has been a lesson that cosmologists have learned from examining the detailed structure of the radiation left over from the Big Bang. Now, two cosmologists show that the data are consistent with a Universe that is curved slightly, similarly to a saddle. If their model is correct, it would overturn the long-held belief that the cosmos is flat. (9/20)

Earth Too Hot for Life in 1.75 Billion Years? Try Mars Instead (Source: LA Times)
Sometime between 1.75 billion and 3.25 billion years from now, our planet is going to be too hot to support life, according to a new study. When that happens, whatever life forms are around may want to move one planet over and set up camp on Mars. "We think that Mars will probably be our best bet once the Earth gets too hot," study leader Andrew Rushby of the University of East Anglia said.

Rushby is interested in how long planets can remain in the habitable zone around their sun. That's the zone with just the right conditions for liquid water to exist on the planet's surface. If a planet is too close to the sun, high temperatures would cause every drop of water to evaporate; too far away, and the planet is an icy wasteland. For now, Earth is squarely in the habitable zone, but it will not stay that way forever. As our sun gets older, it will also get bigger, brighter and hotter. (9/20)

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