September 25, 2013

Soyuz Launches Crew to ISS (Source: Space Today)
A Soyuz spacecraft carrying three new International Space Station crewmembers is on its way to the station after a launch from Baikonur. The Soyuz rocket carrying the Soyuz TMA-10M lifted off from Baikonur and placed the spacecraft into orbit nine minutes later. The Soyuz is on a fast-track approach that will bring it to the ISS after just four orbits, with docking scheduled for 10:48 pm EDT Wednesday. (9/25)

China Launches Small Satellite on New Rocket (Source: Space Today)
A new small Chinese rocket launched a small Earth observing satellite on Wednesday. The rocket, called Kuaizhou, lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Chinese media said the satellite would be used to monitor natural disasters. The existence of the Kuaizhou rocket, had not been announced by China before the launch. Kuaizhou translates as "speedy vessel", leading some to speculate that the rocket is a rapid launch system of some kind, perhaps derived from solid-fuel ballistic missiles. (9/25)

Musk Calls Out Blue Origin, ULA for ‘Phony Blocking Tactic’ on Shuttle Pad Lease (Source: Space News)
SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk lashed out at Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance Tuesday night, accusing the two companies of trying to stymie SpaceX’s expansion plans with a “phony blocking tactic” that has stalled the lease of an old space shuttle launch pad SpaceX wants to take over. Both SpaceX and Blue Origin want to lease Launch Complex 39A from NASA at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (9/25)

Europe Will Select Its Next Major Science Mission in November (Source: Planetary Society)
Last spring, the European Space Agency (ESA) put out a call for concepts for its next two €1-billion science missions. If history proves to be a guide, there's a good chance that one of the selected concepts will be a solar system mission. ESA's managers will announce their selection this coming November. (9/25)

Space Tourism: KSC Visitor Complex Offers Florida Residents Exclusive Admission Package (Source: KSCVC)
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s popular Florida Resident Four-Pack special is back. A party of four Florida residents can experience all the fun and excitement the Visitor Complex has to offer at the special price of $139 plus tax, a savings of more than $60.
The Florida Resident $139 Four-Pack is available only via a coupon which can be accessed on the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex website. Guests must present the printed coupon and proof of Florida residency at the Visitor Complex ticket plaza to qualify for the special rate. (9/24)

Rock or Rocket? NEO Confusion Abounds (Source: Space Safety)
We’re all aware of the growing accumulation of space debris orbiting our planet, but some of these debris objects are coming back to haunt Earth in a rather unusual way. The European Space Agency (ESA) recently discovered that what was previously classified as near Earth object (NEO) 2013 QW1 is actually manmade. Click here. (9/25)

Mysterious Alignment of Ghostly Stars Discovered (Source: Astronomy Now)
Astronomers have used the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and ESO's New Technology Telescope to explore more than 100 planetary nebulae in the central bulge of our galaxy. They have found that butterfly-shaped members of this cosmic family tend to be mysteriously aligned - a surprising result given their different histories and varied properties.

The final stages of life for a star like our Sun result in the star puffing its outer layers out into the surrounding space, forming objects known as planetary nebulae in a wide range of beautiful and striking shapes. One type of such nebulae, known as bipolar planetary nebulae, create ghostly hourglass or butterfly shapes around their parent stars. (9/24)

Will Sick Mars Astronauts Be Forbidden from Returning to Earth? (Source:
Landing astronauts on Mars is a tall order, but bringing them back to Earth promises to be even trickier — especially if Red Planet explorers get the sniffles on the long flight home. Sick astronauts could conceivably have been infected on Mars, some parts of which may be capable of supporting life as we know it. So the world may be reluctant to welcome such travelers home, leery of possibly unleashing an extraterrestrial superplague on Earth's 7 billion people.

NASA is already thinking about how to deal with this concern as it works toward getting people to the vicinity of Mars by the mid-2030s. The key is to monitor the health of astronauts meticulously during all phases of Red Planet missions and any other deep-space efforts, said Cassie Conley, NASA's planetary protection officer. (9/24)

Second Minuteman III Launch Planned at California Spaceport (Source: Launch Alert)
An operational test launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile is scheduled for Thursday between 3:01 and 9:01 a.m. from Launch Facility-9 here on north Vandenberg. Col. Brent McArthur, 30th Space Wing vice commander, is the launch decision authority. (9/24)

How Engineers Revamped Spitzer to Probe Exoplanets (Source: NASA JPL)
Now approaching its 10th anniversary, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has evolved into an observatory for an endeavor not envisioned in its original design: the study of worlds around other stars. While its builders did not have this goal in mind, their visionary work made this unexpected capability possible. Thanks to the extraordinary stability of its design and a series of subsequent engineering reworks, the space telescope now has observational powers far beyond its original limits and expectations.

Spitzer views the universe in the infrared light that is a bit less energetic than the light our eyes can see. Infrared light can easily pass through stray cosmic gas and dust, allowing researchers to peer into dusty stellar nurseries, the centers of galaxies, and newly forming planetary systems. This infrared vision of Spitzer's also translates into exoplanet snooping. When an exoplanet crosses or "transits" in front of its star, it blocks out a tiny fraction of the starlight. These mini-eclipses as glimpsed by Spitzer reveal the size of an alien world. (9/24)

SpaceX Changes Tune on Lease Terms for Shuttle Pad (Source: Space News)
SpaceX, which had been seeking exclusive use of an old space shuttle launch pad, now says it would make the pad available to NASA and other users if it is allowed to lease the facility. SpaceX and Blue Origin both replied to NASA’s May request for proposals to lease Shuttle Launch Complex 39A, which the agency says it no longer needs.

Citing the technical complexity of maintaining a launch facility for more than one user, SpaceX proposed keeping the pad to itself over the course of a lease that would last at least four years, beginning in 2015. Blue Origin, which is quietly developing and testing orbital and suborbital spacecraft, offered to manage Pad 39A as a multiuser facility. Now, SpaceX is offering to also welcome other operators as part of a five-year lease it seeks.

“At the time we submitted the bid, SpaceX was unaware any other parties had interest in using the pad,” SpaceX spokeswoman Emily Shankin wrote in a Sept. 20 email. “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.” (9/24)

Russia Approves New Crew for International Space Station (Source: RIA Novosti)
A Russian state commission on Tuesday approved the makeup of the main and backup crews of a new expedition to the International Space Station (ISS), to blast off on Thursday. The main crew comprises Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky and NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins, while the backup crew is Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev of Russia and NASA astronaut Steven Swanson. (9/24)

Early Humans Saw Black Hole Light in the Night Sky (Source: New Scientist)
Some 2 million years ago, around the time our ancestors were learning to walk upright, a light appeared in the night sky, rivalling the moon for brightness and size. But it was more fuzzball than orb. The glow came from the supermassive black hole at our galaxy's heart suddenly exploding into life. (9/24)

NASA Awards Contract Modification for Shared Services Center (Source: NASA)
NASA has exercised the fourth option year under its existing contract with Computer Sciences Corp. for the continuation of NASA-wide financial management, human resources, procurement and information technology support services. The option increases the existing NASA Shared Services Center (NSSC) support contract by more than $44 million and provides services through Sep. 30, 2014. The NSSC is a partnership among NASA, CSC, and the states of Mississippi and Louisiana. (9/24)

Mars Hopper Concept 'is Feasible' (Source: BBC)
A UK team is developing its idea for a Mars "hopper" - a robot that can bound across the surface of the Red Planet. At the moment, landing missions use wheels to move around, but their progress can be stymied by sand-traps, steep slopes and boulder fields. A hopper would simply leap across these obstacles to the next safest, flat surface.

They propose the use of a vehicle powered by a radioisotope thermal rocket engine. It would work like this: carbon dioxide would be extracted from the Martian air, compressed and liquefied. Pumped into a chamber and exposed to the intense heat from a radioactive source, the CO2 would then explosively expand through a nozzle. (9/24)

China Reaffirms Commitment to $70 Million Price for Long March Launches (Source: Space News)
The company selling China Long March rockets on the commercial market said Sep. 24 that it is maintaining prices for telecommunications satellite missions at about $70 million, a price it says is backed by a 96 percent success record over 181 flights as of Sept. 23. (9/24)

Work Underway in Germany on Radar Satellite with 25-centimeter Resolution (Source: Space News)
Even as the U.S. and French governments debate whether to permit the commercial sale of optical Earth observation imagery sharper than 50 centimeters in resolution, Astrium Geo-Information Services of Germany is designing a next-generation radar satellite with a 25-centimeter ground sampling distance, an Astrium official said here Sept. 24.

The satellite, called TerraSAR-X Next Generation, would provide data continuity to users of the current two-satellite TerraSAR-X/TanDEM-X radar system that in 2014 will be complemented by the Spanish Paz radar satellite. TerraSAR-X, TanDEM-X and Paz satellites have sensors capable of delivering images with a resolution as sharp as 1 meter, meaning they can detect objects of that diameter and above. (9/24)

Eurockot Says It Has Enough Usable Missiles To Operate Through 2020 (Source: Space News)
The German-Russian company offering commercial launch services using converted Russian SS-18 missiles said it has enough usable missile hardware to continue operations through the end of the decade and is maintaining prices at between 30 million and 32 million euros ($39 million-$44.6 million) per launch. Germany-based Eurockot Launch Services GmbH, a joint venture between Astrium and Khrunichev, is presenting itself as a low-cost alternative to Europe’s new government-backed Vega rocket. (9/24)

Boeing and Bigelow Aerospace CST-100 Drop Test (Source: LightScope)
CST-100 is part of the Boeing Commercial Crew Transportation System (CCTS), which will transport people and cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), the Bigelow Aerospace Complex and other low Earth orbit destinations. Click here to see a video of the recent CST-100 drop test in the Nevada desert. (9/3)

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