September 6, 2013

Arianespace Wins Business While Customers Await SpaceX Debut (Source: Space News)
The biggest development in the commercial satellite launch market in the coming months is likely to be the success — or failure — of the new Falcon-9 v1.1 rocket operated by SpaceX. But Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium appears to have quietly walked away with most of the recent contract awards.

Officials from Evry, France-based Arianespace have declined to comment beyond saying they have been successful of late. The company said it would be making several announcements the week of Sep. 9 during the World Satellite Business Week conference organized by Euroconsult.

Despite its low-orbit destination, a successful Falcon-9 v.1.1 Cassiope launch will trigger SpaceX’s entry into the commercial launch market for geostationary-orbiting telecommunications satellites, which make up most of SpaceX’s commercial backlog of more than $1 billion. Arianespace meanwhile has signed, or is about to sign, contracts for as many as six geostationary-orbiting telecommunications satellites. (9/6)

SpaceX Being “Extremely Paranoid” as It Readies for Falcon 9’s California Debut (Source: Space News)
Building on its experience setting up a space launch complex in Florida, California-based Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) is looking to begin operations in its home state this month, with a debut demonstration flight of an upgraded Falcon 9 rocket.

Privately owned SpaceX planned to conduct a static-test firing of the rocket’s new Merlin 1D engines the weekend of Sept. 7-8, the last major hurdle before a launch attempt could be made as early as a week or two later, founder and chief executive Elon Musk told SpaceNews. At press time, a NASA manifest had the launch slated for Sept. 14. (9/6)

Wallops Moon Launch a Boost for Region (Source: DelMarVaNow)
Chincoteague Island and environs have long been known for wild ponies, for breathtaking stretches of shoreline and for hospitality to visitors. In 2013, increasingly, they’re becoming known for something else — as a growing center for space exploration.

The launch of NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer from the Wallops Flight Facility in Eastern Virginia is but the latest — and perhaps most prominent — of a growing variety of space flights originating from the Shore. In the post-shuttle era, it turns out that Wallops is well-equipped to benefit from the changing nature of space research and space commerce. This presents a remarkable opportunity not only for Virginia but for the entire three-state Delmarva region. (9/6)

Chinese-Built Bolivian Satellite Tested (Source: Xinhua)
The Chinese-built Bolivian satellite Tupac Katari is undergoing testing in a space simulator to determine whether it can withstand the extreme temperatures of outer space, the Bolivian Space Agency (BSA) said Thursday. The testing phase aims to verify the satellite's various functions and detect any possible malfunction, said Ivan Zambrana, BSA director and supervisor of the Tupac Katari project. (9/6)

ATK/NASA Investigating Void Issue in SLS Test Motor Segment (Source:
Experts from ATK and NASA are investigating the cause of voids in the aft segment of the next test motor for the Space Launch System (SLS). Known as Qualification Motor -1 (QM-1), the original aft segment was scrapped following the discovery of voids via examinations, only for its replacement to mirror the problem – possibly caused by processing and design changes in the motor’s insulation and liner material. (9/5)

Is NASA Too Worried About Contaminating Mars? (Source: Scientific American)
Does Mars need protection from our microbes? Conventional wisdom says yes, as does space law—the United Nations Outer Space Treaty prohibits the contamination of potentially fertile worlds with earthly bacteria. Yet some researchers disagree: Mars will be just fine on its own, they say, and the stringent safeguards now in place discourage scientists from exploring the Red Planet. On missions dedicated to searching for life, costs “could easily double because of planetary protection procedures.” (9/6)

Moon Express Taps Lunar Experts (Source: GLXP)
Moon Express, Inc., a lunar resources company, announced that leading planetary scientists Dr. Paul Spudis and Dr. Jack Burns have joined the company to assist its plans to explore the Moon for precious resources. Dr. Spudis, an outspoken advocate of using lunar resources to develop the Moon and cislunar space, has joined Moon Express as its Chief Scientist, a part-time role established in collaboration with the Lunar and Planetary Institute.

Dr. Jack Burns, Director of the NASA Lunar Science Instituteís Lunar University Network for Astrophysics Research (LUNAR) and named to NASAís Advisory Council in 2008, has also joined Moon Express in a part-time capacity as chair of the companyís Science Advisory Board, focused on scientific and resource utilization goals and prospects for Moon Express. (9/5)

Orlando-Based IDEAS Tapped by Spaceport Sweden for Visitor & Science Center (Source: IDEAS)
Kiruna, in Swedish Lapland, together with Spaceport Sweden, are proud to announce the partnering with IDEAS, a world leading innovation studio, for the development of a Space Visitor & Science Center in Kiruna, Sweden contributing to a world-class all year round destination.

Kiruna has rich space heritage and is pioneering efforts to establish space tourism and manned spaceflight as an emerging industry. As part of the project, a feasibility and concept study has now been initiated to develop a world-class attraction in a SpaceVisitor & ScienceCenter in Kiruna

Orlando-based IDEAS leads a team of companies that will work together to provide the feasibility and concept study during a three month initial contract. Other team members include: Integrated Insight, Inc.; Exline Design and Architecture; Hurricane Communications and Consulting; and Blackhorse Worldwide. (9/6)

DalBello Headed to OSTP (Source: Space Policy Online)
Richard DalBello will begin his new job at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on Sep. 23. His appointment has been rumored for several weeks. DalBello has a long history of government and private sector experience in the space business. Currently he is Vice President of Government Affairs for Intelsat General. He will be OSTP's Assistant Director, Aeronautics and Space, the same position he held for four years of the Clinton Administration. (9/6)

Editorial: Space Launch System Making Progress Despite Budget Constraints (Source: Florida Today)
A recent article failed to recognize the significant accomplishments the Space Launch System (SLS) is making in what are less than ideal conditions for such a complex development program. The actual work by NASA and industry is progressing in spite of the pressure of expectations and abnormal budget realities.

This was demonstrated recently in a very successful SLS preliminary design review, showing this team has learned to operate in this difficult budget environment. SLS is delivering ahead of schedule within available funding, incorporating existing main engines from the shuttle program. The five segment boosters have had virtually perfect ground tests. The new core stage is ahead of schedule. Tooling and manufacturing is in place at Michoud.

The major risk to program cost and schedule is the lack of stable budgets. The dedicated people at NASA and in industry should be applauded and supported for the progress they are making in these difficult times. Their success will lead to incredible discoveries in human exploration of our solar system. (9/6)

Musk Using Leap Motion For Rocket Design (Source: MIT Technology Review)
That the SpaceX CEO used the Leap to help create a rocket part suggests the unwieldy gesture controller could be useful one day. Though I was frustrated just trying to get the Leap Motion 3-D gesture controller to work well with video games, Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is experimenting with a much more complicated use for the device: designing rocket parts.

In a video released Thursday afternoon and narrated by Musk, employees of rocket maker SpaceX are shown using a Leap Motion device to manipulate a virtual rocket engine model, viewing it on several different display technologies, including an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. The video also shows someone apparently designing a rocket’s cryogenic valve housing, with Musk’s voiceover saying, “You can really apply your intuition and take something from your mind to a physical object with far greater ease than we currently do.”

The video then shows the part being printed by a 3-D laser metal printer. Though we probably won’t be using gesture-control systems to design many rockets (real or toy) in the near future, the video does give a neat sneak peek at what may eventually be possible as the technology evolves. Click here. (9/6)

Russian Cosmonaut Bails Out of Upcoming Spaceflight (Source: RIA Novosti)
An experienced Russian spaceman set to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2015 suddenly tendered his resignation for unclear reasons, a Russian space industry representative said Thursday. Yury Lonchakov will be formally discharged from his job on September 14, Irina Rogova of the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center told RIA Novosti. Rogova's boss, Sergei Krikalev, was cited by Russian media as saying that Lonchakov "found a more interesting job," but did not elaborate. Rogova could not name Lonchakov's new job." (9/5)

NASA Clears Cygnus For Sept. 17 ISS Launch (Source: Aviation Week)
Japan’s HTV-4 resupply craft departed the International Space Station on Sep. 4, clearing a U.S. segment berthing port for Orbital Science Corp.’s Cygnus resupply capsule, which awaits liftoff from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport  under the demonstration phase of NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems (COTS) program.

Shortly after the HTV-4 departure, a NASA Flight Readiness Review (FRR) cleared the two-stage Antares rocket and its Cygnus supply capsule loaded with 1,540 lb. of ISS cargo for a Sep. 17 liftoff at 11:16 a.m. EDT. Orbital will have through Sep. 29 to launch the mission, under its current FAA licensing agreement, though it may have to adjust to any changes in Orbital’s scheduled Sep. 6 launch of NASA’s LADEE mission as well as a planned late September Russian ISS crew launch. (9/5)

Pressure Mounts on Orbital with SpaceX Likely Unavailable for December Cargo Run (Source: Space News)
Orbital Sciences Corp., which is preparing to send its Cygnus cargo freighter to the international space station (ISS) for the first time later this month, was put on notice Sept. 4 by a NASA official who said the Dulles, Va., company could be needed for another cargo run as soon as December because SpaceX — the agency’s other cargo-delivery contractor — likely will not be ready to fly.

Orbital is slated to launch Cygnus Sept. 17 from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va. It will be Cygnus’ maiden flight and the sophomore effort for its Antares carrier rocket, which flew successfully in its own demo mission April 21. Orbital is slated to carry nonessential cargo to ISS in order to prove the company is ready to begin service under the eight-flight, $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract it signed with NASA in 2008. (9/5)

Sierra Nevada's Hybrid Rocket Tech Powers Virgin Spaceplane (Source: SNC)
Sierra Nevada Corp. congratulates Virgin Galactic on another successful piloted test flight of SpaceShipTwo (SS2)  and is proud to announce that its hybrid rocket engines have once again powered the suborbital vehicle. Today’s test at Mojave Air and Space Port marks the second time SNC’s hybrid rocket technology has safely powered SS2 to new flight test milestones. SNC’s hybrid rocket propulsion system is the largest hybrid ever used for space vehicle propulsion and also propelled SpaceShipOne to win the Ansari X Prize. (9/5)

Deep Impact Spacecraft is Spinning Out of Control (Source: Nature)
NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft is in deep trouble. The craft, famous for blasting a projectile into the Comet Tempel 1 in 2005, lost contact with Earth sometime between 11-14 August. Recent commands to put the craft in hibernation, or safe mode, were unsuccessful and Deep Impact is now spinning out of control, says principal investigator Michael A’Hearn of the University of Maryland. The mission was renamed Epoxi when it was extended to observe comets and stars with transiting exoplanets. (9/5)

Coldest Brown Dwarfs Blur Star, Planet Lines (Source: JPL)
In 2011, astronomers on the hunt for the coldest star-like celestial bodies discovered a new class of such objects using NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) space telescope. But until now, no one knew exactly how cool the bodies' surfaces really are. In fact, some evidence suggested they could be at room temperature.

A new study using data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows that while these so-called brown dwarfs are indeed the coldest known free-floating celestial bodies, they are warmer than previously thought, with surface temperatures ranging from about 250 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (125 to 175 degrees Celsius). By comparison, the sun has a surface temperature of about 10,340 degrees Fahrenheit (5,730 degrees Celsius). (9/5)

Powerful Jets Blowing Material Out of Galaxy (Source: NRAO)
Astronomers using a worldwide network of radio telescopes have found strong evidence that a powerful jet of material propelled to nearly light speed by a galaxy's central black hole is blowing massive amounts of gas out of the galaxy. This process, they said, is limiting the growth of the black hole and the rate of star formation in the galaxy, and thus is a key to understanding how galaxies develop. (9/5)

'Boring' Higgs Has Powers We Never Dreamed Of (Source: New Scientist)
Before they found the Higgs, particle physicists fretted about a nightmare scenario. The particle might behave just as predicted by their standard model, giving them no clues as to where to go next. For a time after the discovery, the nightmare appeared to have come true. Many physicists were left crossing their fingers that something novel would turn up when the Large Hadron Collider switches on again in 2015.

Since then, the "boring" Higgs has proved quite interesting after all. Theorists have shown how it could solve a very weird problem in cosmology known as Boltzmann brains. Others have suggested that it could reveal the nature of dark energy. The Higgs may not have quite delivered the bonanza of insights that some had hoped for, but it is still the stuff of dreams. (9/5)

Astronomers Discover a Water-Rich Exoplanet  (Source: Science Recorder)
A Japanese research team of astronomers and other planetary scientists have used the Subaru Telescope to determine whether the surface of a planet that scientists have deemed a “super Earth” is rich in hydrogen or water. The telescope is equipped with two optical cameras, Suprime-Cam and the Faint Object Camera and Spectrograph (FOCAS), with a blue transmission filter that aided the scientists in their investigation.

Super-Earth GJ 1214 b (Gilese 1214 b) did not present through the filter with the appearance that would have indicated its richness in hydrogen so after taking into consideration previous research, the scientists concluded that the planet was most likely water-rich. (9/5)

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