September 27, 2013

Oldest ISS Element Cleared Until 2028 (Source: Aviation Week)
Engineers in Russia believe the Zarya cargo module, the oldest pressurized module on the International Space Station, can last in orbit until about 2028 – twice its design service life – despite microcracking in the hull during pressure and loads cycling of a test article on the ground.

Khrunichev State Research & Production Space Center has conducted two years of tests on the engineering hardware used to qualify the flight-version Zarya for its 15-year guaranteed service life, according to company official Sergey K. Shaevich. The results, he said during a presentation at the International Astronautical Congress here, further validated the original design and demonstrated that the module can continue to function in space.

That is good news for those who advocate keeping the station’s unique research capabilities in operation as long as possible. Zarya was launched on a Proton rocket in November 1998, and formed the basis for the ISS when assembly began with the arrival of the first U.S. node on the space shuttle Endeavour the following month. (9/24)

Detected Radio Bursts Evidence of 'Exotic Phenomena' (Source: PhysOrg)
The detection of four short bursts of radio waves, possibly arising from explosions billions of light years away, could be powerful tools to study our Universe. In 2006, a similar so-called 'Lorimer burst' was detected with the CSIRO Parkes radio telescope and its authenticity was debated with widespread scepticism about its astrophysical origin. Those doubts have been laid to rest with the recent discovery of four similar bursts, using the same radio telescope. (9/27)

Get Your Space Memorabilia Appraised (Source: Florida Today)
Ever wonder how much money that Apollo mission patch is really worth? How about the photo signed by an astronaut years ago? This weekend, space memorabilia expert Don Willis of the auction house Regency-Superior Ltd. returns to the Space Coast for three days of free appraisals on behalf of the Space Walk of Fame Foundation. (9/26)

Lunar Orbiters Discover Source of Space Weather Near Earth (Source: UCLA)
Solar storms — powerful eruptions of solar material and magnetic fields into interplanetary space — can cause what is known as "space weather" near Earth, resulting in hazards that range from interference with communications systems and GPS errors to extensive power blackouts and the complete failure of critical satellites. New research increases our understanding of Earth's space environment and how space weather develops.

Some of the energy emitted by the sun during solar storms is temporarily stored in Earth's stretched and compressed magnetic field. Eventually, that solar energy is explosively released, powering Earth's radiation belts and lighting up the polar skies with brilliant auroras. And while it is possible to observe solar storms from afar with cameras, the invisible process that unleashes the stored magnetic energy near Earth had defied observation for decades. (9/26)

Two Concepts for China's Exploration of Mars (Source: IEEE Spectrum)
While China’s space program puts the moon front and center—a lander and rover are scheduled to land on the lunar surface this December—China’s space scientists are already dreaming of Mars. At the International Astronautical Congress in Beijing this week, two Chinese researchers explained their novel concepts for Mars exploration.

The key feature of these plans is their novelty and innovation. China is acutely aware that it’s playing catch-up in space exploration, and is eager to find ways to break new ground: to boldly go where no man has gone before. Ying Ying proposed a Mars mission composed of four parts: an orbiter, a balloon, a rover, and a cluster of “penetrators.” In her vision, one large landing module would break away from the orbiter and enter the Martian atmosphere.

Once there, it would first release the missile-like penetrators designed to ram deep into the Martian ground, then it would send down the rover, and finally it would release the balloon, which would inflate and float away. Meanwhile, Hou Jian Wen of the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology proposed another concept: using clusters of micro- or nano-satellites to conduct observations in Martian orbit. (9/26)

Martian Chemical Complicates Hunt for Life’s Clues (Source: AGU)
The quest for evidence of life on Mars could be more difficult than scientists previously thought. A scientific paper published today details the investigation of a chemical in the Martian soil that interferes with the techniques used by the Curiosity rover to test for traces of life. The chemical causes the evidence to burn away during the tests.

In search of clues to life’s presence on Mars – now or in the past – Curiosity checks Martian soil and rocks for molecules known as organic carbon compounds that are the hallmark of living organisms on Earth. While trekking around the Rocknest sand dune in November 2012, the rover found evidence of perchlorate—a salt comprised of chlorine and oxygen. (9/26)

Number of Confirmed Alien Planets Nears 1,000 (Source:
Just two decades after discovering the first world beyond our solar system, astronomers are closing in on alien planet No. 1,000. Four of the five main databases that catalog the discoveries of exoplanets  now list more than 900 confirmed alien worlds, and two of them peg the tally at 986 as of today (Sep. 26). So the 1,000th exoplanet may be announced in a matter of days or weeks, depending on which list you prefer. (9/26)

Sunday a Big Day for Commercial Space Efforts (Source: Florida Today)
Sunday could shape up as a big day for new commercial spacecraft and rockets pursuing important milestones. Orbital Sciences Corp. said Thursday that its Cygnus cargo freighter could berth at the International Space Station early Sunday, pending a final review of plans with NASA. Hours later, SpaceX is targeting a test launch of its next-generation Falcon 9 rocket from California, with a window opening at noon Eastern time. (9/27)

Carpenter Suffers Stroke, Expected to Recover (Source: Collect Space)
Scott Carpenter, who in 1962 became the second American to orbit the Earth, suffered a stroke earlier this week but is expected to recover. Carpenter, 88, was at his home in Vail, Colorado when he was stricken four days ago. The former NASA astronaut is said to have experienced "some paralysis and is having trouble speaking," according to family friends. Carpenter is now recovering at a hospital in Denver. (9/27)

Bezos, Musk Vie for Launch Pad With Lobbyists (Source: Bloomberg)
In a battle of billionaires, space ventures owned by Internet pioneers Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are relying on prominent former lawmakers as they jockey for control over a historic launch pad at KSC. SpaceX, already delivering cargo to the station under a $1.6 billion NASA contract, has former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott on its lobbying team. Blue Origin hired two ex-lawmakers, including the former House Science Committee chairman, in May to lobby. In Congress, dozens of lawmakers with opposing views on the issue sent letters to NASA.

SpaceX has spent $540,000 in the first six months of 2013 to lobby, compared with $500,000 during the same period in 2012, Senate filings show. Its team at Washington-based Patton Boggs LLP includes Lott, a Mississippi Republican. Blue Origin hired the lobbying firm K&L Gates LLP the same month NASA sought proposals. Its contingent includes former House Science Committee Chairman Bart Gordon, a Tennessee Democrat, and former Representative James Walsh, a New York Republican who was chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that approved spending for NASA. The company spent $20,000 to lobby Congress in June. (9/27)

Epsilon: One Small Step for Japan’s Space Industry (Source:
The Epsilon is a three-stage rocket powered by solid-fuel boosters. Compared with the liquid-fuel H-IIA and H-IIB, the main workhorses in Japan’s rocket fleet for the last decade or more, the Epsilon is a compact vehicle, measuring 24.4 meters in height (compared to more than 50 meters for both the H-II models) and with a payload capacity of just 1.2 metric tons (compared to 10 tons for the H-IIA and 16.5 tons for the H-IIB).

But the launch cost also comes in at under half that for its larger siblings—a key selling point as Japan seeks to become a more competitive player in the global satellite launch market. This launch cost ¥5.3 billion, and JAXA hopes to lower this amount still further to around ¥3 billion. (9/27)

SpaceX Team Supports Hyperloop (Source: The Verge)
Today brings good news for Hyperloop fans, as a new group has formed to develop Elon Musk's designs, with the help of expert engineers and an innovative crowdfunding platform. The group comes out of JumpStartFund, a crowdfunding platform that lets users form proto-corporations around ideas they find interesting.

After today, the group will be led by Marco Villa, former director of mission operations for SpaceX, and Dr. Patricia Galloway, a former president of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Musk had previously said that the SpaceX team was intimately involved with developing the concept, and Villa is confident that the plans are feasible. Villa said, "There do not seem to be any technical issues on this project that we can’t solve." (9/27)

Ukraine, China Fulfil Dozen Contracts in Space Exploration Sphere (Source: NRCU)
Ukraine and China cooperate very fruitfully in the sphere of space exploration with peaceful aims by fulfilling about 15 contracts, said Yuriy Alekseyev. “We are fulfilling works on the outlined plan. We have about 15 serious contracts for supply of units and equipment, many of them concern the scientific activities,” Alekseyev has noted. Among the trends which are of mutual interest, he named the use of possibilities in deep-space communications. (9/26)

Dogonauts and Persian Cats: Why Send Animals Into Space? (Source: The Conversation)
If you believe news reports last week, Iran plans to launch a Persian cat into space in the next six months or so. What a good idea – how about launching Australia’s whole cat population on a one-way mission to nowhere! It would save millions of native animals from ending up as catfood. Click here. (9/27) 

Curiosity Rover Makes Big Water Discovery in Mars Dirt, a 'Wow Moment' (Source:
Future Mars explorers may be able to get all the water they need out of the red dirt beneath their boots, a new study suggests. NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has found that surface soil on the Red Planet contains about 2 percent water by weight. That means astronaut pioneers could extract roughly 2 pints (1 liter) of water out of every cubic foot (0.03 cubic meters) of Martian dirt they dig up. (9/26)

Shutdown Means NASA Furloughs (Source: Florida Today)
Almost all of NASA's 18,000 employees, including most of Kennedy Space Center’s roughly 2,000 civil servants, face unpaid furloughs if the federal government shuts down next week. Contingency plans first drawn up two years ago when NASA and other federal agencies were on the brink of a government shutdown suggest fewer than 3 percent of agency workers would be allowed to stay on the job because they're considered important to protecting lives and property. About 2,000 at KSC would face furloughs. (9/26)

Astronaut Attacks Asteroid Threat (Source: EE Times)
In the next few weeks the United Nations will pass a resolution calling for an international consortium to find ways to protect Earth from an asteroid collision. Former astronaut Ed Lu is already on the case, and it's a serious one. There's a 30 percent chance an asteroid will hit Earth this century with the force of a multi-megaton bomb, Lu told a Silicon Valley audience recently. A direct hit could wipe out a city; if it hits the ocean, an asteroid could raise a 2,000-foot tsunami.

Lu's startup, the non-profit B612 Foundation, hopes to change that. It plans to build an infrared space telescope and launch it July 20, 2018. It's expected to find and track movements of 200,000 asteroids a year as it orbits the sun. The so-called Sentinel will look 30 times deeper into space than Earth-bound telescopes to find a hundred times more asteroids per year than all other telescopes combined. (9/25)

Expand Georgia’s Space Business (Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution)
SpaceX engineers prefer to launch from Spaceport Georgia over water rather than over the heart of the U.S. from Texas. And they do not want to wait in line behind NASA and the Air Force to launch from Florida. Georgia could win the state competition. However, Florida and Texas have submitted economic incentive packages to Space X and have aggressively pursued the company at the executive level. Georgia has not yet submitted an offer, nor is it aggressively pursuing the business.

Recently, the One Georgia board turned down a grant request to fund an environmental study required by the FAA for licensing Spaceport Georgia. The state has left Camden County on its own to raise funds, navigate the FAA licensing process and mount a marketing campaign to attract Spaceport tenants. This is not the economic development taxpayers expect. There is still time for state officials to lead the effort. There is still time to submit a competitive incentive package offer to SpaceX. There is still time to assist Camden County.

SpaceX would be a catalyst for a commercial space industry in this state and create a powerful Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program for students. I urge Gov. Nathan Deal to become the first Georgia governor to develop this industry. As a commercial space industry engineer observed, “Spaceport Georgia in Camden County can be the best spaceport in the world, or the biggest mistake Georgia has made in generations if not developed.” (9/26)

Texas Has the Right Stuff (Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Our colleagues in Florida and Georgia are enthusiastic, energetic and, in the case of Florida, very well-funded by their state. But in Texas, there are many advantages in the race to partner with exciting space companies, both established and new. They include a recognized home for risk-taking entrepreneurs, available advanced research, top universities and a readily available, world-class spaceflight operations workforce.

Florida and Georgia have some of those advantages, but none have them like Texas. Texas also has the trump card of location and geography. The first advantage is a second-to-none business climate, one that works with businesses to say “yes,” not find ways to say “no.” Our jobs and new-business creation during the last decade speaks to this truth. Business owners have been voting with their feet, and they are choosing Texas in record numbers.

However, the main reason why Texas may end up ahead in the launch business is because of the unavoidable rules of orbital mechanics. Increased north latitude requires more energy to reach earth orbit. For the same energy, more payload can be launched from Texas than any of the other proposed sites. (9/26)

AEHF Launch Sparks STEM Dreams for Space Coast Students (Source: Lockheed Martin)
During the AEHF Atlas launch week, Lockheed Martin teamed up with partner organization Project Lead the Way (PLTW) to inspire future generations of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) leaders. The nine students are part of their high school’s PLTW engineering program. PLTW is the nation’s leading provider of STEM education programs for middle and high schools.

The students took part in a three-day launch event sponsored by Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. It began with a school assembly for approximately 70 of their fellow classmates and ended with the group witnessing the AEHF-3 launch.

“This was, to say the least, an extraordinary opportunity for the students at Merritt Island High School,” said Dr. Vince Bertram, PLTW president and CEO. “Not only did they witness history today, but more importantly, they experienced how their studies in science, technology, engineering, and math come together in the ‘real world’ of aerospace engineering.” (9/23)

The Harshest Habitats on Earth (Source: Space Daily)
As the remotely operated vehicle Jason approached the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, its cameras relayed an eerie scene back to the research vessel Atlantis. It looked like a dark lake on the seafloor. A narrow white stripe meandered across the brown seafloor like a beachfront; beyond it lay an impenetrable blackness. When the vehicle nosed closer, the water around it shimmered like waves of heat above a summer road, and cloudy wisps streaked the view ahead.

Jason was giving scientists their first clear look at a Deep Hypersaline Anoxic Basin, or DHAB. These depressions on the seafloor-utterly dark and under pressure up to 350 times higher than on land-are filled with water that is totally lacking oxygen and up to ten times saltier than normal seawater. They would seem to be more hostile to life than anywhere else on Earth. Yet they are home to thriving communities of microbes, challenging our ideas about the very conditions necessary for life. (9/26)

Russia Plans Next Rokot Launch in November (Source: Space Daily)
Russia is planning to launch a light-class Rokot carrier rocket with three research satellites from the Plesetsk space center in November, the Defense Ministry said Monday. "The Plesetsk center has started preparations for the November launch of three Swarm satellites designed for the study of the Earth's magnetic field," a Defense Ministry spokesman said. (9/26)

Soyuz Docks with Station (Source: Space Today)
A Soyuz spacecraft docked with the International Space Station Wednesday evening, doubling the population of the orbiting outpost. The Soyuz TMA-10M spacecraft docked with the Poisk module of the ISS at 10:45 pm EDT Wednesday (0245 GMT Thursday), and hatches between the Soyuz and station opened nearly two hours later. The Soyuz made the flight from the launch pad at Baikonur to the station in less than six hours.

The Soyuz brought to the station Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy and American astronaut Michael Hopkins, who join Russian Fyodor Yurchikhin, American Karen Nyberg, and Italian Luca Parmitano on the station. (9/26)

Japan to Launch Telstar 12 Vantage Satellite (Source: Space News)
Mitsubushi Heavy Industries (MHI) of Tokyo will launch the Telstar 12 Vantage telecommunications satellite for satellite operator Telesat in 2015 in what MHI said was its first contract to launch a commercial satellite. The satellite will be launched aboard an MHI-built H-2A rocket from the Tanegashima spaceport. MHI last year assumed full responsibility for operating and marketing the H-2A, which is used mainly to launch Japanese government funded payloads. (9/26)

Scientists Find a Martian Igneous Rock that is Surprisingly Earth-Like (Source: CalTech)
During its nearly 14 months on Mars, Curiosity has scooped soil, drilled rocks, and analyzed samples by exposing them to laser beams, X-rays, and alpha particles using the most sophisticated suite of scientific instruments ever deployed on another planet. Now a team of scientists reports its analysis of a surprisingly Earth-like martian rock that offers new insight into the history of Mars' interior and suggests parts of the red planet may be more like our own than we ever knew.  

The rock was encountered by Curiosity a few weeks after it landed, during its slow drive across Gale Crater on the way toward the crater's central peak, Mount Sharp. Visual inspection of the dark gray rock suggested that it was probably a fine-grained basaltic igneous rock formed by the crystallization of magma near the planet's surface. The absence of obvious mineral grains on its essentially dust-free surface further suggested that it would have a relatively uniform (i.e., homogeneous) chemical composition. (9/26)

France Favors CNES with Better-than-inflation Budget Bump (Source: Space News)
The French civil space budget in 2014 would slightly outpace the current low inflation rate, with a big increase in spending via the European Space Agency (ESA) offset by a decrease in France’s non-ESA-related programs. French spending at the 20-nation ESA would grow by 7.8 percent in 2014, to 854.4 million euros ($1.1 billion), to meet French commitments to begin work on a next-generation Ariane 6 rocket. (9/26)

Initial Operational Galileo Launch Pushed Well Into 2014 (Source: Space News)
Further delays in ground testing of two satellites that will become the first fully operational craft in Europe’s Galileo navigation constellation have pushed back their launch to around June 2014, industry officials said. The delay will compromise the goal of Galileo’s owner, the 28-nation European Commission, to demonstrate initial Galileo positioning, navigation and timing services by late 2014. (9/26)

Antares Moves Toward Commercial Operations (Source: Aviation Week)
Orbital Sciences Corp. engineers already are looking for another rocket engine to power the Antares medium-lift launch vehicle, after closing out the week demonstrating that the new commercial cargo carrier can safely approach the International Space Station (ISS). The supply of surplus Soviet-era Nk-33 kerosene-fueled engines extends beyond the 20 Orbital will need to fly out more than $2 billion in NASA work through 2015. (9/26)

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