September 3, 2013

NASA Redesigns JSC's Mission Control Center (Source: Collect Space)
NASA's Mission Control is gaining a new "look and feel," trading the "big blue consoles" that were iconic during the space shuttle program for upgraded "clean" workstations. The extensive improvements, which are now being tested in what was the flight control room (FCR) for the shuttles' final missions, are to prepare the Christopher C. Kraft, Jr. Mission Control Center (MCC) at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston for the space agency's next-generation spacecraft and missions. (9/3)

NASA and 3D Printing: Sky-rocketing (Source: Economist)
AEROSPACE was one of the first industries to take up three-dimensional (3D) printing. This is because 3D printers are good at making things which are complex and lightweight. The machines work additively, building up layers of material only where it is needed. This allows multiple parts to be consolidated into a single item, rather than expensively assembled with the additional weight of nuts, bolts and welds.

So far, 3D-printed aerospace parts tend to be used in non-critical areas, such as brackets or ducts. Now NASA has shown that the technology is capable of a far more demanding role: rocket engine parts. The results were impressive. The engine generated 20,000 pounds of thrust and operated flawlessly at temperatures up to 3,300°C. NASA will continue tests to see how durable the printed injector is. Companies will be watching the results closely. GE, for one, has plans to use additive manufacturing to make parts for its future jet engines. (9/3)

Major Construction at N. Korea's Rocket Test Site (Source: Space Daily)
Fresh satellite imagery shows North Korea has embarked on a major new construction program at the facility where it launched a long-range rocket in December, a US research institute said. The construction includes what could be a possible new launch pad for testing mobile ballistic missiles, the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University posted. Work has been under way at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, commonly referred to as Tongchang-ri, since the middle of the year, it said. (8/31)

Flying Above the Martian Radar (Source: Space Review)
Most of the attention devoted to Mars missions is focused on rovers like Curiosity, Opportunity, and NASA's planned 2020 rover. Jeff Foust reports on an upcoming orbiter mission, overlooked by many, that offers an opportunity to understand what happened to the Red Planet's atmosphere. Visit to view the article. (9/3)

Death, and Life, in Space (Source: Space Review)
With the movie now in theatrical release, more people have seen "Europa Report" and its story of a human mission to the Jovian moon Europa. Dwayne Day revisits his review of the movie and the criticisms others have raised about it. Visit to view the article. (9/3)

Air Force Extends Eastern Range Support Contract (Source: DOD)
The Air Force is exercising an option with Computer Sciences Corp., Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, for $81,671,340 (estimate) cost-plus-award-fee, firm-fixed-price, cost-reimbursable contract.  The Eastern Range Technical Services will provide operations, maintenance and sustainment of critical range and launch processing systems that support the launch processing mission of the 45th Space Wing and its launch customers at Cape Canaveral Air Station. (9/2)

KSC Employment Dips Below 8000 (Source: Florida Today)
Men had not yet set foot on the moon when Kennedy Space Center employment began a slide that purged more than 17,000 jobs over eight years. But two years after the final shuttle launch, the center has never employed fewer people than now. KSC’s total work force this summer dipped below 8,000 for the first time since NASA began keeping comprehensive records in 1964, two years after the center was formally established.

The total — including civil servants, contractors, construction workers and other tenants — is about half what it was four years ago and hundreds less than the previous low reached in 1976, a year after American and Soviet crews met in space and five years before the first shuttle launch. With local astronaut launches not planned before 2017 on commercial vehicles and 2021 on a NASA rocket, Kennedy jobs may not have hit the bottom but aren’t expected to fall much further.

Center Director Bob Cabana expects the numbers to stay flat for another year or more before the new commercial operations and NASA’s exploration program start to ramp up. While many displaced aerospace workers are struggling to find jobs, there’s a general sense that the area is weathering this space program bust more easily than when the Apollo program was canceled. (9/2)

Isakowitz: Virgin Tech Will Boost Economics of Space Travel (Source: Space Answers)
Why are space planes like Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo important for space exploration? “Well I think it’s going after one of the toughest problems in space exploration, which is that if you’re ultimately going to reduce the cost of getting people into space, one needs to demonstrate a routine ability to reuse hardware and to fly things over and over. [Space travel is] really the only transportation mode, whether it’s submarines, ships, cars or planes, where we throw everything away every time we fly. Click here. (9/3)

Commercial Space Groups to Discuss Ellington Spaceport (Source: Galveston Daily News)
As support for a proposed spaceport at Ellington Field builds, members of the commercial spaceflight industry and Houston Airport System will meet at Space Center Houston this week to unveil details of the plan. The system is expected to release conceptual renderings and graphics depicting the look and design of the spaceport. A new logo for the airport also is set to debut. 

The Wednesday event will feature keynote speaker and Houston Airport System Director Mario Diaz, a proponent of the spaceport. He has said Ellington could obtain a license from the Federal Aviation Administration next year. The subject should dominate discussion at the annual conference for the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, which is made up of more than 40 businesses and organizations in the commercial space industry. (9/3)

Completion of Russian Spaceport Facilities Delayed (Source: RIA Novosti)
Completion of some facilities at Russia’s new Vostochny cosmodrome will be delayed by up to two months, but the first rocket will nevertheless blast off from the Far Eastern spaceport on time in 2015, an official said Tuesday. The Vostochny cosmodrome is intended to reduce Russia’s reliance on Baikonour, the world’s first gateway to space located in the steppes of southern Kazakhstan and now leased by Moscow.

The initial launches at Vostochny are scheduled for 2015, while the entire space center is scheduled for completion by 2020, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said in April. “Today, according to our calculations, the delay to some of the facilities is up to 20-30 days, and for others up to two months,” said Alexander Busygin, who heads Federal Special Construction Agency Spetsstroi. (9/3)

Tooling Up for Larger Launch Vehicles (Source: Composites World)
The Space Launch System (SLS) will be the next heavy-lift launch vehicle for NASA. Composites have been chosen for both the launch vehicle structures and tooling because they offer performance and cost advantages over metals. Click here. (9/3) 

The Drake Equation Revisited (Source: Astrobiology)
Planet hunters keep finding distant worlds that bear a resemblance to Earth. Some of the thousands of exoplanet candidates discovered to date have similar sizes or temperatures. Others possess rocky surfaces and support atmospheres. But no world has yet provided an unambiguous sign of the characteristic that still sets our pale blue dot apart: the presence of life.

That may be about to change, says exoplanet expert Sara Seager at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Upcoming missions such as the Transiting Exoplanet Satellite Survey and the James Webb Space Telescope, both due to launch around 2018, should be able to find and characterize Earth-like planets orbiting small stars.

Spotting signs of life on those planets will be possible because of progress in detecting not only planets, but their atmospheres as well. When a planet passes in front of its host star, atmospheric gases reveal their presence by absorbing some of the starlight. Oxygen, water vapor, or other gases that do not belong on dead worlds could very well provide the first evidence of life elsewhere.  Click here. (9/3)

Galileo Secure Service Tested By Member States (Source: ESA)
European Union Member States have begun their independent testing of the most accurate and secure signal broadcast by the four Galileo navigation satellites in orbit. Transmitted on two frequency bands with enhanced protection, the Public Regulated Service (PRS) offers a highly accurate positioning and timing service, with access strictly restricted to authorised users. (9/3)

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