September 5, 2013

Planning Begins for 2014 Space Day in Tallahassee (Source: FSDC)
The Florida Space Development Council and over a dozen other organizations in the state have begun planning for the next Space Day event in Tallahassee. The 2014 Space Day will be held in the Florida Capitol Building on March 12 during the 2014 Legislative Session. As was the case in 2013, the Legislature in 2014 is expected to consider an array of space-related funding and policy issues. FSDC will track the progress of these items, as was done with this chart in 2013. (9/5)

As Clock Ticks, International Cooperation Saves Earth (Source: The Courant)
A truly international response to Syria's use of chemical weapons is needed. Yet confusion reigns because Earth is a closed system of leaders and followers, and alliances and counter-alliances. But what if the threat to world stability were coming from outside the earth? Consider this political theater...

Act I: The U.S. finds out that a nation-destroying asteroid is heading our way. Act II: It learns that a team of philanthropic astrophysicists can save us by deflecting the asteroid into a new orbit that will miss the planet entirely. Act III: Our neighboring nations refuse to allow the deflection path to cross their territories, threatening "red line" military reprisals. Act IV: The standoff is resolved when a truly global policing organization steps in to make the call on behalf of the planet. Click here. (9/4)

It's Rocket Science at Penn State's Applied Research Lab (Source: Penn State)
Rocket engines will soon be blazing away in a series of tests at Penn State's University Park campus, enabling students to gain a better understanding of rocket performance and share some of their knowledge with NASA, according to an agreement reached between the University's Applied Research Laboratory and NASA's Johnson Space Center.

The space center will provide bipropellant rockets -- liquid methane/liquid oxygen control engines -- that it developed to the ARL's Space Systems Initiative for testing and characterization. The first of these engines has already arrived. According to Michael V. Paul, who heads the Space Systems Initiative, more than 80 undergraduate and graduate students will have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the safe design, construction and operation of high pressure cryogenic systems and rocket engines. (9/4)

SpaceShipTwo Goes Supersonic, Flips its Wings in Second Powered Flight (Source: NBC)
Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket plane, the vehicle most likely to become the world's first truly commercial spaceship, fired its engines in flight for the second time ever on Thursday. Following up on its first powered flight in April, the craft went supersonic once more — and tested its wing-tilting re-entry system for the first time. (9/5)

Ex-NASA Engineer Gets Probation in Software Piracy (Source: WHTM)
A former NASA engineer who pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy in a copyright infringement scheme led by two Chinese nationals has been sentenced to probation. Cosburn Wedderburn of Windsor Mill, Md., apologized before being sentenced by a federal judge Wednesday. He and prosecutors noted that he cooperated with federal investigators probing the website called "Crack 99," which sold pirated, industrial-level software in which the access control mechanisms had been "cracked," or circumvented. (9/4)

Chinese Military Payload Successfully Launched (Source:
China launched three military surveillance satellites Sunday aboard a Long March 4C rocket, but government officials are keeping their mission a secret. The Yaogan 17 payload, described by Chinese state media as a single satellite, launched at 3:16 p.m. EDT Sunday on a Long March 4C rocket from the Jiuquan spaceport. The three-stage, liquid-fueled rocket placed the Yaogan 17 payload in a 680-mile-high orbit with an inclination of 63.4 degrees. (9/2)

HTV-4 Departs Following Successful ISS Resupply Mission (Source:
Japan’s HTV-4 cargo vehicle has departed the International Space Station (ISS) ahead of a fiery plunge back to Earth. The spacecraft delivered vital supplies both for the crew and the Station itself during its mission, with its final role now involving a cargo of ISS trash that will be disposed off during its destructive re-entry. (9/4)

Eleven Nominated for FSDC's Bumper Award (Source: FSDC)
The Florida Space Development Council has resurrected the Bumper Award, originally established by the Florida Space Business Roundtable to honor a person or organization that has had the most significant impact on Florida's space industry development. The nomination period for FSDC's 2013 Bumper Award closed on Aug. 31, with 11 nominations received.

FSDC will now form a review/selection committee to narrow the list to a few finalists, with the winner to be announced at an appropriate venue in the near future. For more information on FSDC and to become a member, visit their website here. (9/5)

Pentagon Faces $20 Billion Budget Cut for 2014, Seeks Funding Flexibility (Source: Reuters)
It's looking increasing likely that the Pentagon will be forced to cut about $20 billion from its budget in fiscal 2014, according to Frank Kendall, U.S. undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics. Kendall said smaller programs are at risk of delays, deep cuts or cancellation. Kendall also noted that the Pentagon will seek more funding flexibility from Congress in a spending measure expected to be enacted at the end of this month. (9/4)

Orbital Sciences' Names Supply Ship After Astronaut (Source: CollectSpace)
When a first-of-its-kind commercial cargo spacecraft lifts off to the International Space Station later this month, it will fly under the name of the astronaut who helped make the historic mission possible. Orbital Sciences Corp. revealed Wednesday it had christened its first Cygnus resupply ship after G. David Low, a space shuttle astronaut who was overseeing the Dulles, Va. company's development of its commercial resupply launch system when he died of cancer in 2008. (9/5)

A Super Time for SuperEarths (Source: Astrobiology)
The headlines have been coming thick and fast – a trio of SuperEarths in the habitable zone of Gliese 667C, two probably rocky planets in the Goldilocks zone around Kepler-62 and possible SuperEarths orbiting Tau Ceti and HD 40307 at just the right distance for liquid water to exist on their surfaces, albeit under certain conditions. These are all just from the past twelve months. Should those exoplanet hunters who are seeking out Earth 2, a planet where life as we know it could possibly exist, start to feel excited?

Not yet. Our knowledge of these planets is woefully incomplete. However, the times may be changing. While we cannot yet determine whether a planet is hospitable to life, David Kipping of the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has led a team of astronomers to develop a new theoretical model that can tell us with one swift glance whether a SuperEarth – a world with two to ten times the mass of our planet and up to twice the diameter – has an atmosphere that might not be suitable for life. Click here. (9/5)

Walking a Mile in a Real NASA Astronaut’s Underwater Shoes (Source: ars technica)
“You’re stone cold.” The test conductor (TC) seemed to delight in telling me that I just committed a fatal spacewalking error (there are many to choose from). Her clever comments weren’t needed to teach me the importance of proper tethering. The life-saving handrail retreating from my outstretched glove was obvious enough. In space, my transgression could have sent me into an irreversible trajectory away from the space station, rendering me just another piece of space junk adrift in low-Earth orbit. Click here. (9/5)

Citizen Astronauts Complete Suborbital Scientist Course (Source: SpaceRef)
Citizens in Space announced that four astronaut candidates have completed Suborbital Scientist training at the National AeroSpace Training and Research (NASTAR) Center, a premier aviation and space training, research, and education facility aimed at optimizing human performance in extreme environments.

Maureen Adams, Lt. Col. Steve Heck (USAF-ret.), Michael Johnson, and Edward Wright have been selected by Citizens in Space to fly as payload operators on the XCOR Lynx spacecraft. The four citizen-astronaut candidates completed multiple centrifuge runs during the three-day training course, simulating g-forces that will be encountered during a suborbital spaceflight. (9/5)

Afrojack Wants To Perform DJ Set In Outer Space (Source: Huffington Post)
Lance Bass, Leonardo DiCaprio and Justin Bieber have all wanted to go to space -- but it's Afrojack who's dreaming even bigger. The DJ has revealed plans to train for space travel in order to play a set from the cosmos. Like DiCaprio's efforts, Afrojack may offer a contest in which a lucky set of fans can accompany him on the voyage. No time frame for the initiative has been revealed, given the mission's complicated nature.

Afrojack, born Nick van de Wall, says he wants to "do something that’s never been done before." Here's to hoping van de Wall's lofty dreams come true, unlike those of Bass, whose 2002 mission was canceled after TV producers failed to raise the $20 million needed for him to join the Russian Space Agency crew. (9/5)

Leaders Tout Proposed Spaceport in Houston (Source: Telegraph)
Working to bolster its somewhat waning ties to space exploration, Houston announced Wednesday that it's pushing forward with plans to build the nation's latest spaceport. The city is currently working to apply for a license from the Federal Aviation Administration to run a spaceport. Houston's proposed facility would be at Ellington Airport, which is home to U.S. military and NASA operations. (9/4)

NASA Official Talks SLS in Mobile (AL) Visit (Source: WAFF)
The director of NASA's Space Launch System Program spoke about NASA's "next great ship" from the deck of the battleship U.S.S. Alabama in Mobile on Wednesday. Todd May, who grew up in Fairhope, said the SLS, which is managed at the Marshall Space Flight Center, will be the most powerful rocket in the world. May was in the area as part of the NASA Business to Business Forum to update business on the progress of SLS. The first unmanned-flight test is scheduled for 2017.

"I grew up on the Gulf Coast," May said in a Marshall Space Flight Center press release. "And down there, we regularly stand on land and look out at the horizon. It beckons, 'What's out there?' Space exploration beckons the same thing. We intend to build the 'ship' that will take us to places in the universe we've never been before. And like the fleets that set out to sea, we look forward to the journey that awaits us."  (9/4)

NASA Time Capsule Ceremony at Space Shuttle Atlantis Attraction (Source: KSCVC)
A ceremony marking the placement of a NASA time capsule inside a wall of Space Shuttle AtlantisSM will be held at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Monday, Sept. 9 at 10 a.m. The capsule, which is filled with items related to the 30-year Space Shuttle Program, is scheduled to be opened by space enthusiasts in the year 2061. (9/5)

Why India Should Have A Declared Space Policy (Source: Eurasia Review)
A low-intensity debate has been taking place in India as to whether India should have a declared space policy or not. The general consensus appears to be that there is no need. But there are several arguments to make in favour of outlining a policy in the open. In today’s world, the advantages of a declared policy far outweigh the disadvantages. A declared policy calls for a clear understanding of how it should be tailored, what it should contain and what should be left out.

First, open policy statements and declared policies have remained the best means to assuage fears, build confidence and avoid ambiguities. These are important measures for building transparency and reducing tensions in regional and global contexts. Since the Asian context is characterized by growing competition and rivalry and the potential for conflict, even relative openness and transparency will go a long way in diluting the levels of regional insecurities. (9/4)

U.S. Satellite Component Maker Fined $8 Million for ITAR Violations (Source: Space News)
A U.S. supplier of radiation-hardened electronics for space and defense applications has agreed to pay an $8 million fine and adopt remedial measures to settle pending government charges that it failed to obtain proper export licenses for hardware that in many cases found its way aboard satellites that were launched from China and India.

The company, Aeroflex of Plainview, N.Y., supplied components that European manufacturer Thales Alenia Space used on communications satellites that were marketed as devoid of restricted U.S. technology and therefore eligible to launch on Chinese rockets. (9/5)

Russian Cosmonauts to Start Searching for Bacterium Corroding ISS Body (Source: Space Daily)
Russian cosmonauts, Alexander Misurkin and Fyodor Yurchikhin, staying aboard the International Space Station (ISS), recently conducted at EVA from the Space Station with the aim of examining the ISS body to find out whether there is a bacterium there that can destroy its surface. The bacteria research has been going on for more than 20 years now. Over the past period the Russian Space Agency has given Russian and foreign biologists more than 1 million pestiferous microbes that can destroy metals and polymers. (9/5)

China Civilian Technology Satellites Put Into Use (Source: Space Daily)
China's civilian technology satellites have officially been put into use, said the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND) on Wednesday. The satellites, named Practice-9 A and Practice-9 B, were developed by an affiliate company of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. (9/5)

Chinese Moon Landing Mission to Use "Secret Weapons" (Source: Space Daily)
Multiple "secret weapons" will be used on China's Chang'e-3 lunar probe, scheduled to launch at the end of this year for a moon landing mission, a key scientist said on Wednesday. The mission will see a Chinese orbiter soft-land on a celestial body for the first time.

In addition to several cameras, Chang'e-3 will carry a near-ultraviolet astronomical telescope to observe stars, the galaxy and the universe from the moon. The telescope will observe the universe "farther and clearer" and will possibly bring new discoveries since there will be no disturbance from the aerosphere, ionosphere and magnetosphere. Radar will be attached to the bottom of the rover to explore 100 to 200 meters beneath the moon's surface, which is unprecedented, said Ouyang. (9/5)

MSS Operators Generating Revenue of $1.5 Billion in 2012 (Source: Space Daily)
Euroconsult has announced the latest findings of the Mobile Satellite Service industry. According to their report, the active MSS terminal base grew at a CAGR of 10% over the past five years with over 2.9 million active MSS terminals deployed on a global basis in 2012. Revenues generated by the six active MSS operators stood at around $1.5 billion in 2012. (9/5)

Gravity Variations Much Bigger Than Previously Thought (Source: Space Daily)
A joint Australian-German research team led by Curtin University's Dr Christian Hirt has created the highest-resolution maps of Earth's gravity field to date - showing gravitational variations up to 40 percent larger than previously assumed.

Using detailed topographic information obtained from the US Space Shuttle, a specialist team including Associate Professor Michael Kuhn, Dr Sten Claessens and Moritz Rexer from Curtin's Western Australian Centre for Geodesy and Professor Roland Pail and Thomas Fecher from Technical University Munich improved the resolution of previous global gravity field maps by a factor of 40. (9/5)

NASA Picks Top 96 Ideas for Asteroid-Capture Mission (Source:
NASA  has selected the top 96 proposals of more than 400 submitted by outside groups in response to a June request for information (RFI) designed to aid its asteroid-capture mission and improve humanity's ability to protect Earth from dangerous space rocks, officials announced today (Sept. 4).

The chosen proposals are broad and varied, addressing how to slow down an asteroid's rotation rate, nudge it off a potential collision course with Earth and grab samples for scientists to study here on our planet, among other topics, officials said. NASA will examine the 96 concepts further during a public workshop from Sept. 30 through Oct. 2, enlisting the help of experts from within and outside the space agency. (9/4)

Could Lemur Hibernation Answer Space Travel Questions? (Source: LA Times)
A lemur that hibernates is strange and cute enough. But studying its lethargic state may provide a clue to sending humans on long-distance space travel or healing the ravages of heart attacks, stroke and head trauma, according to researchers at Duke University. The western fat-tailed dwarf lemur is the closest genetic cousin of humans to hibernate for long periods.

The revelation that primates hibernated led to a happy coincidence at Duke, which happens to have a lemur center and a sleep laboratory. Researchers there soon found two more Madagascar lemur species that hibernated. What happens to lemurs when they tamp down their metabolism to a state of torpor? What are their brain waves like? Do they sleep?

Research has shown sleep is crucial for recharging the body's metabolic batteries, and chronic deprivation can change food intake, cause weight gain, lead to insulin sensitivity and affect hormones. What if lemurs didn't need much sleep because they hibernated? Could it answer questions about human physiology? Click here. (9/4)

Design Firm Hoping to Profit from Space Tourism (Source: BBC)
Space suit creator Final Frontier Design is hoping its profits will rocket with the growth of commercial space travel. Currently based in a small studio in Brooklyn, New York, company founders Ted Southern and Nikolay Moiseev are wishing for a future slice of the $1.4bn investment in space tourism. Mr Southern said: "A lot of the rocket companies are hoping to fly 2014, 2015, 2016 - years out... It's been a challenge, for that reason, finding funding, finding partners, finding customers." Click here. (9/4)

Robot Astronaut Kirobo's First Words in Outer Space (Source: EON)
The robot astronaut Kirobo uttered the first words spoken by a robot in outer space: “On August 21, 2013, a robot took one small step toward a brighter future for all.”

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata, the first Japanese commander of the International Space Station (ISS), is expected to arrive at his post in November or December this year. He will then take part in the world’s first conversation experiment held between a person and a robot in outer space, an initiative designed to explore the possibilities of humans coexisting with robots in the future. The conversation will take place in the ISS’s Japanese Experiment Module. (9/4)

Too Big to Fail? The Green Bank Telescope’s Uncertain Future (Source: Scientific American)
One year after a controversial recommendation to cancel its National Science Foundation (NSF) funding, the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope, is searching for new partners to help support its $10-million annual operating costs. In the face of these potentially life-threatening cuts, some additional sources of revenue have been found—but the big telescope’s future still hangs in the balance. Click here. (9/5)

France's Investment ProgramAllocates €25 Million for Ariane 5 Upgrade (Source: Arianespace)
Following the first meeting of the joint government-industry committee on space, the French Minister of Higher Education and Research announced that the government was allocating 25 million euros to an upgrade of the Ariane 5 launcher, within the scope of France's Investment Program for the Future (Programme d’Investissements d’Avenir, or PIA).

The upgrade will increase the available volume under the fairing, adding up to 2 meters in payload height for Arianespace's launch customers, without carrying a performance penalty. This upgrade, scheduled for implementation in 2015, is designed to address the current trend in geostationary telecommunications satellites, which are gradually becoming larger as their power and complexity both increase. (9/4)

Death by Higgs Rids Cosmos of Space Brain Threat (Source: New Scientist)
The Higgs boson may have the right mass to wreck the universe – hurray! Death by Higgs is the simplest way to do away with a paradoxical menagerie of disembodied intelligent beings that shouldn't exist, yet remain in the best cosmological models.

What's more, the end is a comfy 20 or 30 billion years off. "That's quite a few billion; it's not like we should rush out and buy life insurance," says Sean Carroll at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, who put forward the idea along with Kimberly Boddy, also at Caltech. Click here. (9/4)

Building Really Big Structures in Space (Source: Hobby Space)
In the 1970s when gigantic in-space colonies similar to the one depicted in the recent movie Elysium were proposed, the obvious question was how could such behemoths possibly be affordable when it had cost billions just to send a handful of people to the Moon. That question still remains up front today for anyone proposing such free flying islands in space. Click here. (9/4)

NASA Launch Could Be First Step Toward Interplanetary Internet (Source: Washington Post)
Would it be accurate to describe LADEE's laser comm test as laser broadband internet from space?... Absolutely. I think that laser broadband internet from space is a very good description of it. As times go on we expect that we may eventually be able to get something you might call an interplanetary internet and this will be the first step in demonstrating we can do that. This will give us close to a gigabit per second from the Moon which is pretty impressive – that’s more connectivity than most companies. (9/4)

Stop Pretending We Aren't Living in the Space Age (Source: io9)
I am sick of hearing people say that the Space Age is "over" because we haven't sent humans back to the Moon. Seriously? That's your complaint? You people need to shut the hell up. Let's begin by talking about what the "Space Age" is, shall we? The term got bandied around a lot in the 1950s because it was the first time in human history that we sent anything into space.

During the "Space Race," which was really just another aspect of the Cold War, we started the glorious journey to the stars by sending remote-controlled probes into the upper atmosphere and eventually into orbit. Later, in the 1960s, we started sending people into space and eventually a few of them landed on the Moon. A few members of our species have been living in space since the late 1960s. What difference does it make if they aren't on the Moon? They are in space.

Believe it or not, we are actually clever enough monkeys that we are carefully doing a little reconnaissance in distant, dangerous places before we send people there. Which is why we have sent probes to Mars, the asteroid belt, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus, Pluto, and even to several moons and comets. (9/4)

Houston Airports Unveil First Look at Proposed Spaceport (Source: Digital Journal)
The Houston Airport System unveiled part of its vision for the future of Ellington Airport (EFD) today, as conceptual renderings of a possible Spaceport were released to the public.  The design/drawings capture various elements of the overall project, including a terminal facility, an aviation museum and the accompanying aerospace industries that would most certainly arrive should Houston become the nation's ninth licensed Spaceport. Click here. (9/4)

XCOR Begins Series on Lynx Build (Source: Parabolic Arc)
XCOR has begun a series of posts on its blog that will allow readers to follow the building and testing of the Lynx Mark 1 space plane. Click here. (9/4)

Massive Storm Churned Up Water From Saturn's Depths (Source: WIRED)
From across the vast expanse of our solar system, gas giants Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus appear serene. Their gaseous surfaces are unscarred by the meteor impacts that have gouged their rocky brethren in the inner solar system and the deep hues of browns, reds and blues misleadingly suggest a sense of calm.

In 2010 and 2011, Saturn once again gave us a demonstration of how far from the truth this portrayal is -- a giant storm 15,000 kilometers in width and 300,000 kilometers long churned up the northern hemisphere. Cassini had an unprecedented front row seat on the action, and detected for the first time the presence of water ice in Saturn's atmosphere. (9/4)

NASA Searches for Boring Mars Landing Site (Source: Florida Today)
This Mars mission promises to be a total bore. NASA has announced it has selected four possible landing sites most notable for being smooth, flat and barren for a mission to the Red Planet. Scheduled for a 2016 launch and landing, the space agency's Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander will bore into one of four sites, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced Wednesday. (9/4)

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