October 1, 2013

Shutdown Impacts FAA Space Activities, Tours of KSC (Source: Space Politics)
The shutdown also has varying impacts for other non-NASA space activities in the military at NOAA, and the FAA. The FAA noted that next week’s meetings of the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee will be cancelled if the government is still in shutdown mode by midday on Monday, October 7 (the meetings are October 9 and 10.) And, if you’re curious, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, run by a private organization, remains open even with most of NASA shut down. However, bus tours of KSC are cancelled. (10/1)

Luna Desic Wins Grant for Pressure Suit Development (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Luna Desic of Mojave has completed a partial pressure suit under a $20,000 grant from SpaceGAMBIT. Luna Desic’s SilSuit was one of nine projects selected for funding by Maui Makers, LLC, which received a two-year grant of $500,000 from DARPA in 2012 to manage SpaceGAMBIT and fund community spaces (maker spaces, hacker spaces, fab labs, etc.) to work on open-source projects that help build mankind into a space-faring civilization.

The idea for the project came from when McBrayer used to work at a haunted house in the Atlanta area. He would wear rubber masks, which gave him the idea of using similar material for a spacesuit. “The goal is to use the spacesuit project to test out materials that can flex better by the human body,” McBrayer said. “We believe this material can be more comfortable for future astronauts.” (10/1)

Happy Birthday, NASA. Now Shut Down (Source: Forbes)
The federal shutdown means that NASA appears to be celebrating its 55th birthday at home today, with all but about 600 workers on furlough during the event. Life-sustaining missions related to the International Space Station will continue, but contractors may be affected. "If funding hasn't been obligated to contracts by today, then work by companies on those contracts will cease," said Jeff Foust, a space industry analyst at Futron. (9/30)

ORBCOMM Acuires SENS Asset Tracking Operation (Source: ORBCOMM)
ORBCOMM has completed the acquisition of Comtech Mobile Datacom Corporation’s (Comtech) Sensor Enabled Notification System (SENS) operation, which includes satellite hardware, network technology and web platforms. SENS is a market leader in providing one-way satellite products and services to more than 20,000 subscribers worldwide. (10/1)

US Federal Shutdown Puts Key Science Functions on Hold (Source: New Scientist)
Happy birthday NASA – have an enforced holiday without pay. Most of the agency's 18,000 employees were not in the office to celebrate its 55th birthday today, as a result of the US federal government shutdown. They are just a small proportion of roughly 800,000 "non-essential" government workers, including many key scientific and medical providers, who were not at work today .

Other agencies are similarly hit. The Environmental Protection Agency is working with a skeleton crew – just 6.5 per cent of its full staff – in case a disaster hits. Some branches of the federal government have larger numbers of essential workers, but will still be affected. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has 8 percent of its workers for tasks such as maintaining atomic clocks, which set the pace of nationwide infrastructure.

The National Institutes of Health won't admit new patients for clinical trials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is pausing its annual flu-monitoring programme. Research at the Food and Drug Administration has shut down, potentially delaying new drugs, and the National Science Foundation has stopped giving out grants. (10/1)

NASA Approves Orbital Sciences For ISS Commercial Resupply Missions (Source: Aviation Week)
Orbital Sciences has satisfied its Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems program requirements and is cleared to march ahead with plans to initiate a $1.9 billion, eight-flight Commercial Resupply Services contract in December. The first CRS flight is tentatively scheduled to lift off from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia on Dec. 8.

For its part, Orbital plans to step up its mass per mission to 1.5-2 tons on the next three CRS missions, then 2.5 tons on the final deliveries. The company also plans to reduce the two to three-day baseline rendezvous trajectory to one day over the early CRS flights, said Frank Culbertson, Orbital’s executive vice president. (10/1)

KSC Visitor Complex Chief Steps Down (Source: Florida Today)
Bill Moore, chief operating officer of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, announced he is leaving the space-themed theme park. The visitor complex is managed by Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts for NASA. "I am no longer working with Delaware North at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. After an amazing and extremely successful opening of the one of a kind shuttle exhibit it is time to go out on my own," Moore said. (9/30)

SCLS Wins Contract Extension for Florida Launch Base Support (Source: DOD)
Space Coast Launch Services, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, has been awarded a $35,355,805 modification to a previously awarded contract for operations, maintenance and engineering support to critical launch, spacecraft and ordnance facilities and support systems owned by the 45th Space Wing. Work will be performed at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, with an expected completion date of Sept. 30, 2014. The 45th Contracting Squadron, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, is the contracting activity. (9/23)

Government Shutdown Could Delay MAVEN's Launch to Mars (Source: Planetary Society)
A government shutdown could affect the launch schedule for MAVEN, NASA's next mission to Mars. Dwane Brown, Senior Public Affairs Officer at NASA, confirmed that "a shutdown could delay the pre-launch processing currently under way with a possible impact to the scheduled Nov. 18 launch date." The spacecraft currently sits in a clean room at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, going through its final stages of assembly and checkout prior to launch. (9/30)

Can We Be Green in Space? (Source: The Atlantic)
The survival of our species will someday require that we colonize other worlds. But can we get there without destroying our own in the process? As engineer Laurent Pambaguian put it, we're "living at a time when life is comfortable and we have not destroyed the planet yet.” That time may not be long. Pambaguian is part of the European Space Agency’s Clean Space Initiative, which seeks to understand the environmental impact of space exploration, then find ways to reduce it. Click here. (9/30)

Orbital's Weekend Success Clears Way for NASA Cargo Work (Source: Washington Business Journal)
Cygnus, carrying 1,300 pounds of food, clothing, spare parts, equipment and other cargo, will remain at the space station for a month. This mission was considered a demonstration mission and its success now means Orbital can begin regularly scheduled cargo delivery missions to the space station as early as the end of this year under a $1.9 billion NASA contract. Orbital stock was up 26 cents to $21.56 in Monday trading. Its shares have gained 57 percent this year. (9/30)

Hitting Pay Dirt on Mars (Source: New York Times)
It looked to be uniformly bland, which is why scientists chose it as the first rock to be examined up close last year by the Mars rover Curiosity: a run-of-the-mill volcanic rock, something to test and calibrate the rover’s instruments. The rock turned out to be anything but ordinary, scientists reported last week. It is unlike any Mars rock previously examined and more like an Earth rock.

And as for the pile of windblown dust and soil that the rover spent weeks analyzing? It was not dry as dust, but contained water. Such are the surprises that turn out to be a near constant of Mars exploration. (9/30)

For Its 55th Birthday, NASA May Have To Shut Down (Source: Forbes)
October 1st will mark the 55th Birthday of NASA, but if Congress and the President can’t agree on a budget or continuing resolution, it may have to spend that birthday shut down right along with many other Federal agencies. According to the plan for a shutdown submitted by NASA to the Office of Management and Budget, fewer than 600 NASA employees will remain working during a potential shutdown. That’s out of a total employment count that exceeds 18,000 people. (9/30)

Cassini Detects Plastic Ingredient on Saturn Moon (Source: AP)
You expect to find plastics in your lunch box, not on a moon of Saturn. But that's exactly where NASA found an ingredient of plastic — the first time the chemical has been detected on another world. The Cassini spacecraft found small amounts of propylene, a chemical used to make storage containers and other products, in the atmosphere of Saturn's largest moon Titan. (9/30)

How to Clean Up Dangerous Space Junk (Source: Space.com)
Humanity is generating space junk more quickly than the debris can fall back toward Earth naturally, putting satellites and spacecraft at risk of colliding with speeding pieces of debris. Unless something is done, the problem could get worse, said Donald Kessler, retired head of NASA's Orbital Debris Program Office. Emerging and currently available technologies could be used to get space junk under control.

By taking only five satellites out of orbit each year for the next 100 years, while adhering to an international understanding called the 25-year rule, space agencies could stabilize the orbital environment, according to a NASA study. The 25-year rule stipulates that nations should not launch objects whose lifetime in space will exceed 25 years after the completion of their missions.

There are other, more high-tech options on the horizon for space cleanup as well. DARPA's Phoenix spacecraft project would use old, but functioning pieces of defunct satellites to create new space-based systems — instead of adding completely new satellites. Officials working with the program would launch a "tender" vehicle that would make use of small "satlets" launched without an expensive antenna needed to make satellites function. (9/30)

UFO Over Indian Ocean? SpaceX Falcon 9 Sparks Sightings (Source: NBC)
SpaceX's first-ever Falcon 9 launch from California gave a big boost to commercial spaceflight — but it also boosted our planet's store of UFO lore. Reports about a fuzzy-looking unidentified flying object streamed in from observers in southern Africa and the Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius and Reunion. The sightings came about an hour after the Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket's launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (9/30)

Yanukovych Approves Ukrainian Space Program for 2013-2017 (Source: Interfax)
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has signed a law, "On the Approval of the State Target Scientific and Technological Space Program for 2013-2017," endorsed by the parliament on September 5. The program is focused on the creation of a geo-information support system and emergency situations monitoring from outer space, the launch of three satellites (the Sich-2-1 Earth observation satellite, the Microsat scientific and technological satellite, and the UMS-1 university satellite).

Also included is the deployment of the Tsiklon-4 launch site at the Brazilian Alcantara Space Center, the development of the Lybid national satellite communication network, the creation of new space rockets and their production technologies, the commercial use of Tsiklon-4, Zenit-2SLB, Zenit-3SLB (Land Launch), Zenit-3SL (Sea Launch) and Dnepr launch vehicles and international cooperation with Russia, EU member countries, Brazil, Canada, Belarus, the United States and Kazakhstan, and broader contacts with the European Space Agency. (9/30)

Astronauts Chamitoff and Garan Depart NASA (Source: NASA)
NASA astronauts Gregory Chamitoff and Ronald Garan are leaving the agency. Chamitoff is joining the faculty of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, and the University of Sydney in Australia. Garan will work on a range of new entrepreneurial and humanitarian efforts. (9/30)

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