October 11, 2013

Comparison Shopping for the Best Deals in Space Burial (Source: Slate)
Thomas Civeit wants to take you to space, too. The only catch is, you have to be dead. Civeit is the founder of Elysium Space, purveyor of what the company calls “dignified memorial spaceflight.” It’ll shoot your “cremains” (funeral director-speak for “ashes”) up to join the thousands of other artificial bits and pieces that circle the Earth. If all goes well, Civeit says, the first launch could come early next year, bearing the ashes of up to 100 of the dear departed.

Or part of them can, anyway. “Cremation leaves about six pounds of ashes,” says Civeit, a former NASA engineer who founded the company earlier this year. At a typical cost of $10,000 per pound to send a payload into space, that would be prohibitively expensive for most funeral shoppers, so, he says, “we’ll send up a symbolic portion, maybe a gram.” That’ll cost you $1,990 (plus tax and shipping).

It might come as a surprise that space burial is already a thing, but a company called Celestis (“Making Your Loved One Part of Space History”) has been providing the service since 1997, when pinches of 1960s icon Timothy Leary, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, and several others went into orbit. Elysium Space is a pioneer, it turns out, only in terms of cost. If you want the full orbital experience from Celestis, the price goes up to nearly $5,000. And for $12,500 you can go all the way to the moon, or even leave the Earth-moon system entirely.  (10/11)

Embry-Riddle Kicks Off Real World Design Challenge (Source: The Journal)
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) has unveiled the details of the 2014 Real World Design Challenge scenario. Open to students in grades 9-12, this year's scenario asks participants to focus "on the design and implementation of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to increase food production for the world's growing population through precision agriculture."

To assist with the free challenge, teachers will be provided with $1 million in engineering software, as well as training, access to mentors, and curriculum materials. Team solutions will be judged at the state level in the next few months, and a winning design will be selected at the national finals in November 2014. Members of the winning team will each receive a $50,000 scholarship to attend classes at any of ERAU's three campuses. (10/10)

The Longevity of Human Civilizations (Source: Astrobiology)
A question often asked by those involved in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is, “How long can advanced civilizations last?” The search for intelligent aliens is much less likely to succeed if cultures inevitably destroy themselves when they reach a certain level of technology. So the Drake Equation, which tries to estimate the possible number of intelligent alien civilizations in the galaxy, includes a factor for longevity. Click here. (10/11)

New Russian Space Chief to Continue Reforms (Source: Itar-Tass)
New Chief of the Roscosmos federal space agency Oleg Ostapenko said he will continue reforms in the country's aerospace industry begun by his predecessor Vladimir Popovkin. "Tremendous work has been carried out, but more has to be accomplished. I'm sure we'll cope with all the tasks set by the supreme commander-in-chief - the Russian president," Ostapenko said after the ceremony where Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin introduced him to Roskosmos personnel. (10/11)

Other Roscosmos Senior Officials Tender Resignation (Source: Interfax)
Roscosmos First Deputy Chairman Oleg Frolov has tendered his resignation, a source from the Russian space industry said. According to unofficial reports, Oleg Frolov has submitted his resignation statement. Also, resignation statements have been filed by Roscosmos press secretary Anna Vedishcheva and some other officials, the source said. (10/11)

USA Favored to be First to Return Humans to the Moon...But Only Because of Privateers (Source: Flight Global)
Last year, we did an analysis of what a nation needed to put its astronauts on the Moon and weighed up what each had and what each nation was lacking. We came to the conclusion that five elements were needed: 1) heavy-lift rocket to carry 70 tonnes to LEO; 2) capsule, service module and transfer stages; 3) lunar landing/ascent craft; 4) rendezvous/guidance and docking tech; and 5) political will and funding.

Following up from this and the notional odds we gave each nation in this “lunar race”, here we reassess each nation’s chances (and odds) for which will be first to make a manned landing back on the Moon. The USA remains the favorite at 6-4 (unchanged from 2012). China remains second at 5-2 (unchanged from 2012). Click here. (10/9)

German Imagery Policy Sets No Hard Limits on Resolution (Source: Space News)
The German government has put into place a two-step regulatory regime for commercial satellite imagery that subjects proposed sales of the most sensitive data to approval on a case-by-case basis, the German Aerospace Center, DLR, said Oct. 11. Germany’s TerraSAR-X radar Earth observation system will begin marketing 25-centimeter-resolution imagery. DLR said there is no fixed limit to what may be sold. (10/11)

Air Force ICBM Command General Fired Over 'Loss of Trust' (Source: Huffington Post)
The Air Force is firing the two-star general in charge of all of its nuclear missiles in response to an investigation into alleged personal misbehavior, officials said. Maj. Gen. Michael Carey is being removed from command of the 20th Air Force, which is responsible for three wings of intercontinental ballistic missiles — a total of 450 missiles at three bases across the country, the officials said.

The decision was made by Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command. Kowalski is in charge of all Air Force nuclear weapons, including bombers. An internal email obtained by the AP on Friday said the allegations against Carey stem from an inspector general probe of his behavior while on an unspecified "temporary duty assignment." The email said the allegations are not related to the operational readiness of the ICBM force or recent failed inspections of ICBM units. (10/11)

Iran to Launch Three Satellites in Six Months (Source: RIA Novosti)
Iran plans to launch three domestically designed satellites in six months, a high-ranking Iranian aerospace official said. Deputy head of Iran Space Agency (ISA), Hamid Fazeli, said that three satellites – Tadbir, Nahid and Sharif Sat – will be delivered to orbit before the current Iranian calendar year ends on March 20, 2014. Fazeli earlier said the country plans a manned space launch within the next five or eight years. (10/11)

One in Three Want Trip to Space (Source: ABTA)
As celebrations and events around the world mark United Nations World Space Week, 4-10 October, research from ABTA reveals that one in three of us would love to take a trip to the stars. 30% of the public in ABTA’s survey stated that they would love to travel into space given the chance and another 20% would be prepared to give it a go once travel into space has been test driven.

The younger generation are much keener on taking an inter-planetary trip with 43% saying they would love to travel into space, which climbs to 73% once it has been test driven. 38% of men say they would love to travel into space climbing to 60% once it has been test driven, but only 23% of women are keen, climbing to just 41% once it has been test driven. Interest wanes drastically with age with 69% of 55-64 year olds and 73% of 65+s saying they have no interest. (10/9)

Hadfield Details Dispute That Almost Kept Him From Space (Source: Maclean's)
Chris Hadfield tangled with space-program doctors mere months before his star turn as commander of the International Space Station, refusing to submit to surgery in a dispute that came close to scrubbing him from his now-celebrated mission. The former Canadian astronaut reveals details of the impasse—centering on an intestinal injury dating back to his childhood—in a book due to hit shelves October 29.

“Unbeknownst to me, a new panel of four laparoscopic surgeons had been asked to consider whether it would be a good idea to have what they kept calling ‘a quick look inside’—in other words, to perform exploratory surgery to see whether I really was okay or not,” Hadfield writes. (10/8)

DigitalGlobe Foundation to Support Educational Uses of Geospatial Technology (Source: DigitalGlobe)
DigitalGlobe announced the launch of the DigitalGlobe Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on fostering the growth of the next generation of geospatial technology professionals. As part of its long-term initiatives, the DigitalGlobe Foundation is particularly pleased to expand its partnership with U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF), which sponsors and promotes geospatial educational programs and has accredited geospatial programs at eight universities. (10/8)

Jellyfish Go Into Space (Source: Deep Sea News)
When a jelly grows, it forms calcium sulfate crystals at the margin of its bell. These crystals are surrounded by a little cell pocket, coated in specialized hairs, and these pockets are equally spaced around the bell. When jellies turn, the crystals roll down with gravity to the bottom of the pocket, moving the cell hairs, which in turn send signals to neurons. In this way, jellies are able to sense up and down. All they need is gravity.

Humans have gravity sensing structures too, and therein lies the crux: in space with no gravity, will these structures grow normally? If humans ever want to travel to deep space, we’ll need to be popping out kids while up there. Will these kids develop normal gravity sensing, even after growing up without it?

For jellies at least, things aren’t so good. After developing in space, astronaut jellies have a hard life back on Earth. While development of the sensory pockets appears normal, many more jellies had trouble getting around once on the planet, including pulsing and movement abnormalities, compared to their Earth-bound counterparts. (10/11)

China Overtakes India in Space Race (Source: New Indian Express)
China, which has made enormous strides in manned space missions, has pipped India in the space race and it will take the nation at least a decade to recover, former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) G Madhavan Nair has said.

The Chinese are very focussed about their space program and they have made steady progress. They have already put ten astronauts into space,’’ he said. In fact, the Chinese program, he said, was almost a ‘carbon copy’ of the manned space flight proposals he himself had submitted to the Indian Government five years ago. (10/11)

Cygnus Performing Well at the ISS Ahead of Unberthing (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Orbital’s ORB-D Cygnus is into the final leg of its debut mission to the International Space Station (ISS), ready to pave the way the ORB-1 Cygnus – set to launch on December 15. The new kid on the block has enjoyed a trouble-free stay on the ISS, with the only issue relating to a cabin fan problem. (10/10)

DARPA Awards $40 Million Contract for Orbital Salvage Demo (Source: Space News)
Novawurks Inc. of Los Alamitos, Calif., has won a contract worth as much as $40 million from DARPA for another round of work on an experimental satellite servicing and salvaging project known as Phoenix. The goal of Phoenix is to develop a maneuverable spacecraft equipped with a dexterous robotic arm to salvage useful components from retired communications satellites. (10/11)

Orbital Set to Wrap Up Cygnus Mission (Source: Space News)
Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Cygnus cargo capsule will wrap up its first mission to the international space station (ISS) Oct. 24, when the expendable spacecraft is set to re-enter the atmosphere and burn up along with a load of trash. The craft has been berthed with the station’s Harmony node since Sept. 29 and will detach from the orbital outpost Oct. 22.

A few days after Cygnus burns up over the Pacific Ocean, Orbital will provide NASA with a report on the mission, on which basis the space agency will decide whether the company is ready to fly eight cargo delivery missions to ISS ordered in 2008 under a $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract. (10/11)

Govt. Shutdown Having No Impact on Virginia Spaceport (Source: Space News)
Preparation for the next Antares/Cygnus mission, according to Orbital Sciences and its landlords at MARS, will not be interrupted by the ongoing government shutdown. “The Antares team is able to continue working on our systems during the shutdown,” Orbital spokesman Barron Beneski said. “Apparently, the skeleton services available at Wallops are enough for our staff to access the facilities.”

The head of the state-run organization that owns and operates the coastal Virginia facility from which Orbital’s eight cargo resupply missions will launch said neither his organization nor the launch facility itself was affected by the federal government shutdown. “There’s been no impact,” Dale Nash, executive director of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, said. Nash said that between the authority and its subcontractors, about 60 people are working at MARS. (10/11)

The New Race for the Moon (Source: SpaceRef)
The rise of China, rapidly accelerating technology, the increasing pace of lunar discoveries and the growing viability of lunar mining are drawing multiple countries and companies into development of new missions to the Moon. As many as 12 robotic lunar missions including orbiters, rovers and sample return missions are to be launched between now and 2020.

The U. S., China, India and Russia all plan missions during this period while new players eying post 2020 Moon missions include the United Kingdom, the European Space Agency (ESA) and even South Korea. Those giving serious study to the launch of manned Moon missions by 2025-2030 are China, Japan, India, and Russia.

As many as 3 of the Moon missions by mid decade could be commercial rovers spawned by the Google Lunar X Prize with $30 million in prize money divided between winners for successful lunar roving before the end of 2015. These new flights have the makings of a new Moon race, actually four, including one race for commercial exploitation and three geopolitical races-- China versus India; China versus Russia and one unspoken goal by both China and Russia. Click here. (10/4)

United Launch Alliance Fights Texas Tax Appraisals (Source: Vallley Morning Star)
The valuation of rocket-builder United Launch Alliance’s personal property has been slashed by about 50 percent over a number of years, according to appraisal district records. ULA, one of the top 10 taxpayers in the county and in Harlingen, and the Cameron Appraisal District have been wrangling in state district courts since early this year over the valuation of ULA’s personal property here.

Lawsuits for 2012 and 2013 tax year appraisals are pending in state district courts. The property taxes that ULA pays to the city, the county and other taxing entities are based on the appraisal district’s appraisal of ULA’s personal property, which includes inventory, fixtures, machinery and equipment.

Cameron Appraisal District appraised ULA’s personal property in Harlingen at $38,271,757, putting it among the largest taxpayers. But ULA lost that distinction for the county for the 2013 tax year, when the appraisal district’s Appraisal Review Board reduced the CAD’s new appraisal of ULA’s personal property from $35,157,460 to $19,688,399. Click here. (10/10)

Texas Contractors For NASA Facing Steep Drop-Off Amid Shutdown (Source: Aviation Week)
The 11,000-member contractor workforce at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, which supports operations aboard the six-person International Space Station as well as development of the Orion/Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, is facing an accelerating drop-off through furloughs if the U.S. government shutdown continues, a regional economic development official warns.

Twenty percent of Johnson’s contractor workforce had been furloughed as the second week of the shutdown began, but the numbers are expected to reach 60% by the end of October and 90% by mid-November if the shutdown continues, said Robert Mitchell, president of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership (Bahep), following an Oct. 8 meeting with representatives from nearly half of the 53 aerospace companies in the area. (10/10)

USAF Assessment Of Upgraded Falcon 9 Mission Delayed (Source: Aviation Week)
The U.S. Air Force’s work to determine whether the Sep. 29 first launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket will count toward the company’s requirements for certification to compete for government launches is being delayed by the U.S. government shutdown.

Mystery still surrounds what happened when Hawthorne, Calif. -based SpaceX commanded a restart of the upper stage engine following the drop-off of a small Canadian science satellite and three experimental payloads into polar low Earth orbit. Company founder Elon Musk has refuted suggestions that a rupture occurred with the upper stage. (10/10)

The Search for Other Earths (Source: Harvard Gazette)
Scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) are among those drafting the target list for NASA’s next planet-finding telescope, the orbiting Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, which will search the Earth’s galactic neighborhood for planets that might support life.

TESS cleared a major hurdle in April, gaining NASA approval for final design and implementation. Pending a series of reviews, TESS is expected to launch sometime in early 2018 and focus on Earth’s stellar neighbors, 500,000 of the nearest and brightest stars.  (10/10)

Water Discovered in Remnants of Body Orbiting White Dwarf (Source: Warwick)
Astrophysicists have found the first evidence of a water-rich rocky planetary body outside our solar system in its shattered remains orbiting a white dwarf. A new study by scientists at the Universities of Warwick and Cambridge published in the journal Science analysed the dust and debris surrounding the white dwarf star GD61 170 light years away. (10/10)

An Urgent National Threat -- From Space (Source: The Hill)
Space debris presents a serious danger to modern life, posing a threat to everything from cell-phone service to national defense. At a time when space junk is proliferating, America’s satellites are more vulnerable than ever to damaging collisions. The non-partisan Space Foundation hosted a panel discussion on Capitol Hill on Oct. 8, to discuss space situational awareness – that is, the ability to track natural and manmade objects in orbit.

Improving our capabilities here is essential for protecting American satellites. Outside the Earth’s atmosphere, human beings haven’t been very good about picking up after themselves. More than half a century of satellite launches, moon shots, and space stations have left a growing collection of space debris – by some estimates, over 500,000 pieces in all. (10/10)

Popovkin Replaced as Roscosmos Chief (Source: Space News)
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Oct. 10 named Oleg Ostapenko, a former commander of the Russian Space Forces, as the new director-general of the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos. Ostapenko, who up until his new assignment was Russia’s deputy defense minister, replaces Vladimir Popovkin, who is leaving after his attempts to turn around a space industry plagued by launch failures had little success. (10/10)

Sun Unleashes Strongest Solar Flare In 2 Months (Source: Space.com)
The strongest solar flare in nearly two months erupted from the sun Tuesday (Oct. 8), causing a minor geomagnetic storm as charged particles from the sun passed by the planet. The sun unleashed the moderate M2.8-class solar flare at 9:48 p.m. EDT on Oct. 9. (10/10)

Laser-Powered Space Travel (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Young K. Bae wants us to travel to the moon within hours, and to Mars within days. Rocket fuel won't allow our spacecraft to reach those speeds—Bae wants to do it with lasers. Bae is the CEO of the Y.K. Bae Corporation, which researches space exploration and green technology with an eye toward applying high-powered photons. Click here. (10/10)

Branson’s Space Vision Becomes Ever Grander (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Behind the pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming promotion for Virgin Galactic, one detects a slight hint of some of the frustration that bubbles just below the company’s slick exterior periodically. I mean, how cool is it to work at a spaceline whose founder keeps making promises they can’t keep,  wants everything done tomorrow, and has little idea how any of this stuff work? Probably not nearly as cool as you might think. (10/10)

Tito: 2018 Could be America's 'Last Chance' to be 1st in Sending Humans to Mars (Source: Huntsville Times)
If America doesn't embrace an opportunity in early 2018 to take part in a relatively short, free-return mission to Mars, it could be the country's "last chance" to be first in the race to send humans to the Red Planet, according to Dennis Tito, founder and chairman of the Inspiration Mars Foundation. (10/10)

Weird Shift of Earth's Magnetic Field Explained (Source: Space.com)
Earth's magnetic field shields the planet from charged particles streaming from the sun, keeping it from becoming a barren, Mars-like rock. For more than 300 years, scientists have recorded a westward-drifting feature in the field that models have been unable to explain.

By relying on insights gleaned from previous work, as well as data collected over nearly four centuries, an international team of scientists has been able to provide a model that accounts for the western drift of the magnetic field on one side of the planet. The magnetic field that encases the planet is caused by interactions deep inside Earth's core. The inner core is solid, while the outer core features flowing liquid iron, which generates currents that in turn lead to magnetic fields. (10/10)

Weird Orbits of Pluto's Moons Caused By Huge Collision (Source: Space.com)
The odd orbits of Plutos five known moons may be the result of a gigantic impact that occurred about four billion years ago, a new study reports. The huge collision that formed Pluto's largest moon, Charon, likely led to the creation and destruction of numerous smaller satellites shortly thereafter, researchers said.

This series of events eventually culminated in the strange configuration seen today, in which Pluto’s four tiny moons — Styx, Nix, Kerberos and Hydra — have orbital periods almost exactly 3, 4, 5 and 6 times longer than that of Charon, respectively. (10/10)

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