October 2, 2013

CASIS Partners with Naval Research Laboratory for Algal Bloom Investigations (Source: CASIS)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), which works with NASA to maximize use of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, announced a partnership with the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) to launch research investigations studying factors that contribute to occurrences of harmful algal bloom (HAB), or red tide.

The NRL plans to use advanced imaging technology on the (ISS) to develop early HAB detection, quantification and classification algorithms. CASIS has awarded $250,000 enabling the principal investigator, Dr. Ruhul Amin of the NRL, to expand this research. (10/2)

Does the US Have a Future in Space? (Source: EduTech Foundation)
Does the US have a future in space? Congressman Bill Posey and Frank DiBello, President and CEO of Space Florida discuss this question and other subjects with Dr. Al Koller and Steve Kane of SpaceTEC. The USA certainly does have a future in space, not only due its historic role, but with the emerging new commercial space industry and the fact that there are now 18 launch sites and active spaceports in the United States and at least a dozen more under development in ten states. Click here for the video. (10/2)

Latest Stats on Furloughed Federal Workers (Source: Space Policy Online)
Government Executive published an update this morning on the number of federal employees who have been furloughed as a result of the shutdown.  It shows that 98 percent of NASA workers were sent home, but that's not the record. According to its statistics, the National Science Foundation wins the prize -- such as it is -- for furloughing the largest percentage of its workforce, 99 percent. The Defense Department has furloughed 50 percent of its civilian workforce.

Matching NASA at 98 percent is the Federal Communications Commission.  Others that have furloughed more than 90 percent are the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Treasury Department, Department of Education, and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Those with the fewest furloughs are the Justice Department (16 percent), Homeland Security (14 percent), Veterans Affairs (4 percent), and Office of Personnel Management (10 percent). All told, Government Executive estimates 900,000 civilian federal workers, 43 percent of the total, have been furloughed. (10/2)

No, China Is Not About to Overtake the US in Space (Source: The Diplomat)
The country’s space program will need sweeping reform before that happens. China’s growth trajectory overall and more particularly in the space domain has been impressive. However, John Hickman’s categorical assertions in a recent Foreign Policy article that China is catching up and “may surpass the United States… to become the world’s preeminent spacefaring power” seems to us a touch far-fetched.

Certainly Hickman is right about Chinese determination and the “unquantifiable” factor of “an extraordinary sense of historical grievance” being a major driver of Chinese space dreams. China attributes its “military technological backwardness” to its past national humiliation at the hands of other major powers. Indeed, this is an important part of the national psyche and helps drives the Chinese space programs.

The problem lies in the tools needed to turn determination into material outcomes. The most important: China has nothing near the commercial space sector that the U.S. boasts. Sure, NASA now gets less than 1 percent of the U.S. federal budget, but much of America’s true capabilities are embedded in its private sector, which plays a much larger role than its equivalent does in China’s space sector and gives the U.S. a major advantage in space technology innovation. (10/2)

Miley Cyrus Claims She Wants to Fly on Virgin Galactic (Source: NewSpace Journal)
Pop star Miley Cyrus has become famous—or infamous—for a number of things, including her performance at the MTV VMAs a few weeks ago. But in an interview in Rolling Stone magazine, she reveals something else: an interest in going in space. “I’ve always dreamed of going into space. I’m going to go at some point,” she says in a wide-ranging interview. (10/2)

Explore Space From Earth (Source: CNN)
Clearly, the end of the U.S. space shuttle program in 2011 did nothing to diminish the appeal of extraterrestrial adventures. "Exploration and a sense of discovery are innate in humans, more in some and less in others," says Aashima Dogra. So maybe it's time for an Earthbound expedition inspired by the stars. For cautious enthusiasts -- or Mars One applicants waiting to hear back -- here are six space-related destinations on terra firma. Click here. (10/2)

Countdown to Launch of India's Mars Orbiter Begins Today (Source: The Asian Age)
On Wednesday, India’s orbiter to Mars will begin its journey from ISRO’s Satellite Center (ISAC) in Bengaluru to the launch pad at Sriharikota range, precisely five years to the day that Chandrayaan-I commenced a similar trip to the spaceport, marking the first step of the space scientists’ tryst with the red planet.

The 1,340-kg orbiter, set for launch by a modified, powerful version of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) on October 28, has been given the thumbs-up by experts after a slew of tests. (10/2)

US and China Partner on Small-Scale Space Projects (Source: South China Morning Post)
China and the United States are unlikely to partner on large space projects any time soon, but co-operation is already under way on smaller endeavours deeply rooted in science. In a visit to Beijing, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden met Bai Chunli, president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences on Wednesday.

They "exchanged frank opinions on pragmatic co-operation in relevant fields in the future", according to a statement by the academy. The administrator of the American space agency was visiting China to take part in the International Astronautical Congress (IAC), which was held in Beijing last week. It was Bolden's second official trip to China and he avoided revealing who he met in Beijing.

In 2010, he led a small delegation to China and visited some of the country's largest space facilities, such as the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. But the trip drew criticism from some US lawmakers who worried that China would steal US space technology for military use. (10/2)

Raising Questions About Animal Testing in Space (Source: Kansan)
Is sending cats to space the purr-fect plan to test the cosmos for humans? Iran has recently announced that they are planning on sending a Persian cat to space. Iran joined the space race in January 2013 by sending a monkey to space, but not without backlash. Most of the criticism was rooted in the accompanying photographs of the monkey. The fur color was different in two of the pictures, raising questions as to whether or not the monkey truly survived.

It was later confirmed that the monkey did in fact survive the flight, but the theories as to why the pictures differed vary depending on the source. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) was enraged to see the distressed look on the monkey’s face. As stated in their blog, “Monkeys are smart and sensitive animals that not only are traumatized by the violence and noise of a launch and landing but also suffer when caged in a laboratory before and after a flight — if they survive.” (10/2)

Origami Nanosats: The Future of Space Telescopes? (Source: Planetary Society)
At the European Planetary Science Congress last month, I sat through a very interesting session on the future of nanosats in planetary exploration and astronomy. My curiosity was piqued by a talk about unfolding complex structures from cubesat-sized payloads (something that the Planetary Society is certainly interested in).

Dr. Franck Marchis is working on the future concepts of what he calls "origami" telescopes from cheap nanosat technology. The basic concept is to develop a simple telescope payload with a deployable aperture, around one meter or so. Since these would cost on the order of $10 million, scientists can rapidly prototype and test various types of telescopes, and possibly even launch dozens into space at one time. Click here. (10/2)

Billionaire Rocketeers Duke it Out for Shuttle Launch Pad (Source: Reuters)
Four decades ago, NASA's Launch Complex 39A was at the center of the Cold War race to the moon. Now the mothballed launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, which dispatched Neil Armstrong and his crew on their historic Apollo 11 mission in 1969, is the focus of a battle of another sort, between two billionaire techies seeking to dominate a new era of private space flight.

NASA had hoped to turn over maintenance of the pad to a private company by October 1, saving itself $100,000 a month in maintenance costs, according to NASA spokeswoman Tracy Young. Instead, fierce competition for control of the pad by digital entrepreneurs Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos has led to a government probe and congressional lobbying, delaying NASA's choice of a partner. Click here. (10/2)

Mobile Launcher Major Modifications to Begin for SLS (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
The former Ares I Mobile Launcher (ML) will soon begin major modification work - pending the status of the government shutdown – ahead of its role with the Space Launch System (SLS). Work will begin with the demolition of the launch mount, which was designed with Ares I in mind, ahead of the installation of an array of umbilical connections.

When SLS rolls out for the first time in 2017, the huge vehicle will be already mated to its Mobile Launcher, following a stacking and integration flow within the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Z3The stack and ML will depart the famous building atop of one of the modified Crawler Transporters, making the slow crawl to the modified “clean pad” at complex 39B, where engineers will making the numerous connections between the ML and the pad electrical, hydraulic and fuelling lines. (10/2)

World’s Largest Solar Sail Completes Successful Test (Source: SunJammer)
NASA officials, team partners, and local students were on hand to witness a key milestone for the Sunjammer Mission as it successfully deployed a quadrant of its solar sail - a critical design component that will eventually herald an era of propellantless spacecraft. Sunjammer will be the largest solar sail ever flown using photonic pressure (or sunlight) to maneuver in space.

Solar Sails have the potential to be a game changer for space exploration as the low-cost, propellantless and highly maneuverable sail craft will enable future satellites and spacecraft to journey throughout the solar system and beyond. The prime contractor, L'Garde Inc., hosted the test deployment at its facility in Tustin, CA, with mission partners NASA and Space Services Inc. present for the event. (10/2)

Shutdown Won’t Affect Most Military Space Activities (Source: Space News)
Less than 36 hours into a government shutdown, the U.S. Air Force reiterated that its space activities are crucial to national security and will continue during the stoppage. “Satellite operations are essential to our national security and critical tasks will continue during the government shutdown,” said Capt. Adam Gregory, a spokesman for the secretary of the Air Force. Day-to-day satellite operations, such as those for missile warning, secure military communications and navigation, are performed by the military, he said. (10/2)

Russian Satellite Molniya-3-45 May Fall on Earth on January 1, 2014 (Source: Interfax-AVN)
Forty-five of the 158 launched communication spacecraft Molniya now remain on the orbits of artificial Earth satellites and 12 of them are expected to end their ballistic existence by 2030, the Interstate Joint-Stock Corporation (MAK) Vympel (part of the concern PVO Almaz-Antei) told Interfax-AVN on Wednesday.

"The first of them, Molniya-3-45, may cease its ballistic existence on January 1, 2014. This date is a tentative one and was obtained based on a study of the trajectory parameters as of March 23, 2013 and may be specified later," MAK Vympel said. "According to the corporation experts' estimations, 33 of these 45 spacecraft will fall on Earth after 2030 and 12 before 2030," the source said. (10/2)

Supervolcanoes Ripped Up Early Mars (Source: BBC)
Mars may have had giant explosive volcanoes in its ancient past that spewed billions upon billions of tons of rock and ash into the sky. Vast areas of collapsed ground in a region of the planet called Arabia Terra are their likely remains, believe Joe Michalski and Jacob Bleacher. The two scientists say such supervolcanoes would have had a profound impact on the early evolution of Mars.

Their gases would have influenced the make-up of the atmosphere and perturbed the climate. And the ashfall would have covered the landscape across great swathes of the planet. It is quite likely some of the deposits the rovers are now encountering on Mars have their origin in colossal blasts. (10/2)

Gravity Fact Check: What the Movie Gets Wrong (Source: TIME)
NASA doesn’t care if you have a hot body or not. Tall, short, lumpy, lithe—as long as you’re fit and fall within a reasonable height and weight range, you clear at least one simple hurdle to becoming an astronaut. But NASA isn’t Hollywood. And so, in the new—and extraordinary—movie Gravity, when Sandra Bullock comes inside after a spacewalk, she shucks her pressure suit and floats about in a crop-top and boxer briefs, perfectly toned, perfectly lovely, zero-g eye candy.

In truth, what an astronaut returning from what NASA calls extavehicular activity (EVA) would have on under her pressure suit would be what’s known as a Liquid Cooling and Ventilation Garment, a full-body, crazily complex bit of space finery that has about 300 ft. (91 m) of fashionable plastic tubing running through it. She’d also be wearing an adult diaper and would be wringing with sweat. Click here. (10/1)

Astronics Announces Acquisition of AeroSat (Source: Astronics)
Astronics Corporation (ATRO), a provider of advanced technologies for the global aerospace and defense industries, has acquired certain assets and liabilities from AeroSat Corporation, a supplier of aircraft antenna systems, for $12 million in cash, plus the potential for an earn out. Astronics expects the earnout will be between $5 and $20 million.

AeroSat designs and manufactures fuselage and tail-mounted antenna systems for commercial transport, business jet, and military aircraft customers around the world. Its antenna systems are typically used to enable satellite and ground-based communication to aircraft, commonly for broadband and TV applications. AeroSat is currently involved in a range of FAA certification efforts with Gogo Inc. for Ku Band send/receive satellite antennas intended for Gogo's international airline customers. (10/1)

Government Shutdown Impacts Asteroid Workshop in Houston (Source: Space News)
Attendees of the NASA-sponsored Asteroid Initiative Idea Synthesis Workshop that opened in Houston Monday were cooling their heels Tuesday as a government shutdown took effect following the failure of Congress to enact a stopgap spending measure by the Oct. 1 deadline for approving fresh appropriations.

The workshop was being held at the nonprofit Universities Space Research Association’s Lunar and Planetary Institute’s headquarters, not a NASA facility. But since the workshop was funded by NASA, organizers were required to shut it down. NASA notified attendees by email shortly after midnight that there would be no sessions on Tuesday or Wednesday “due to a lapse in government appropriations.”  (10/1)

Reassurances on ORS Prompt Senator To Release Hold on James Nomination (Source: Space News)
A U.S senator from New Mexico has lifted his hold on the Obama administration’s nominee to be the next secretary of the U.S. Air Force after service officials assured him they would keep a rapid-response military space office in the state through 2014. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) announced the move Oct. 1. However, the nomination of Deborah Lee James to replace the now-retired Michael Donley as Air Force secretary still faces a hold from Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). (10/1)

Win a Trip to Space on XCOR Lynx (Source: Evening Standard)
Deep in California’s Mojave desert the space race is being reborn — except this time you can go along for the ride. While Virgin Galactic is the space tourism option most people have heard of, in the hanger next door a smaller and very different type of spacecraft is beginning to take shape. Called the Lynx, the two-seater craft will take people on a half-hour suborbital flight to 330,000ft. And among its early passengers will be the winner of an Evening Standard prize draw. (10/1)

Smartest Aliens May Live Around Red Dwarf Stars (Source: Discovery)
Frost’s classic 1923 poem ”Nothing Golden Can Stay” is certainly true for planets that are in the habitable zone — or shall we say the golden zone — around their parent stars. A planet’s lease on life runs out when the evolving star grows too hot for the world hold onto water for sustaining life as we know it. With increasing stellar luminosity, the habitable zone sweeps outward beyond the planet’s orbital radius.

What’s sobering is that Earth has already spent 70 percent of its habitable years inside the sun’s golden zone.  And it took that long for intelligent life to appear on the surface. We’ve got about 1.7 billion years left, according to a paper published by Andrew Rushby and co-authors in Astrobiology Magazine. When the sun reaches 118 percent the brightness of what it is today our oceans will evaporate away and Earth will be desiccated, resembling the terrain on Saturn’s moon Titan.

The scientists say the best place buy real estate for long-term habitability is around a red dwarf star. A planet can remain cozy for advanced life for a stretch of time that is five times greater than for Earth. All other thing being equal, this suggests that SETI searches should target red dwarfs to see if they are home to advanced civilizations that do not have to worry about the clock running out. (10/1)

SpaceX Want Rockets That Fly Themselves Home (Source: Discovery)
Space Exploration Technologies founder Elon Musk had much to cheer about after the debut flight of the firm’s upgraded Falcon 9 rocket, but it was the booster’s fall back to Earth that got him most excited. After delivering its payloads into orbit on Sunday, the rocket’s first-stage reignited, a key test toward a booster that can brake its descent back through the atmosphere for a gentle ocean splashdown or precision landing at the launch site. (10/1)

American Company Offers Japanese Clients Space Burial (Source: Itar-Tass)
Japan is known for its extremely expensive land. As such, traditional burials have become a thing of the past – only the wealthiest can afford to be put into ground. This forces Japanese residents to seek alternative funeral methods. One such alternative method is offered by an American company Elysium Space Inc.

Instead of conducting a Buddhist funeral, the company offers families and close ones to send off ashes of the recently deceased into space. One gram of ashes is placed in an aluminum capsule, which is then launched to around Earth; throughout its travels its position can be tracked by a special mobile app. In a few months orbital decay leads to the capsule re-entering the atmosphere. (10/1)

Light Traffic at KSC Amid Government Shutdown (Source: Florida Today)
Traffic around Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39 area was sparse this morning as some contractors reported for work but many appeared to be leaving. A steady flow of cars could be seen exiting the center around 11:30 a.m. Most of the center's roughly 2,000 civil servants are on furlough, unless they have been labeled essential for safety reasons.

The NASA News Center was closed, and no public information officers were available to respond to media inquiries. The parking lot in front of Operations Support Building II, a large, glass-fronted office building overlooking KSC's launch pads, was virtually empty. One NASA contractor working for the center's institutional services contract said he and colleagues were told to report to work, but many weren't expected to stay a full day. (10/1)

Could China's Long March 9 Reinvigorate U.S. Space Program? (Source: Aviation Week)
In a conversation with Alan Bean, the fourth man to walk on the Moon and Lunar Module pilot for Apollo 12, I asked "How long will it be before we return to the Moon?" "Twenty years," he opined. "But if the Chinese decide to go there, we'll do it in five."

"Go China!," I responded, reasoning that if the only way of getting some urgency back into the U.S. manned space program was a little competition, so be it. Now, almost 10 years into the Next Century of Flight, it looks like China is getting serious about its own Moon plans, proposing a Long March 9 launcher more powerful than the Saturn V stack that first carried men to the Moon. (10/1)

Canada Drills for Role in International Moon, Mars Missions (Source: Space News)
Canada’s space agency hopes to focus on contributing robotics and advanced drilling technology as it plans out its future cooperative international endeavors for Moon and Mars missions. Those areas of interest for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) are tied to the 2013 Global Exploration Roadmap, released in August by the International Space Exploration Coordination Group.

That group is made up of space agencies from Italy, the United States, France, China, Canada, India, Japan, South Korea, Ukraine, Russia and the United Kingdom. Also included is the European Space Agency (ESA). The roadmap highlights feasible and sustainable exploration approaches to the Moon, near-Earth asteroids and Mars over a 25-year period. (10/1)

Distant Planet's Clouds are Mapped (Source: BBC)
Astronomers have created the first map of the clouds on a planet outside our Solar System. The planet in question is Kepler-7b, a large gaseous world like Jupiter, roughly 1,000 light-years away. The researchers used data from Nasa's Spitzer and Kepler space telescopes to study the exoplanet, which orbits close to its parent star. Their results suggest the hot giant is marked by high clouds in the west and clear skies in the east. (10/1)

How Wisconsin Celebrates Historic Fall of Sputnik Satellite (Source: Space.com)
On Sep. 6, 1962, a hefty chunk of the Soviet Union's Sputnik IV satellite dropped into the middle of the street on the corner of North 8th and Park streets in Manitowoc, Wis. To this day, that Soviet space encounter with an American city is celebrated at Manitowoc's Sputnikfest, an annual sci-fi and art festival that its organizers call "wacky tacky."

Yes, you've got your Cosmic Cake judging. There's a Miss Space Debris Pageant, too. But the celestial gala also serves as a fundraiser for children's art programs at the Rahr-West Art Museum, the lead coordinator of Sputnikfest. Organizers of this year's event, held Sept. 7, tossed out the welcome mat to all onlookers and out-of-towners by asking, "Sputnik landed here...Why don't you?" (10/1)

No Upper-stage Explosion After Falcon 9 v1.1 Launch, SpaceX Says (Source: Space News)
SpaceX) issued a statement Oct. 1 denying speculation that the upper stage of its Falcon 9 v1.1. rocket exploded on orbit following the rocket’s successful demonstration launch Sep. 29 from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The speculation was spawned in part by the fact that the U.S. Space Surveillance Network is currently tracking more orbital objects associated with the launch than expected. Here's SpaceX's explanation:

"Following separation of the satellites to their correct orbit, the Falcon 9 second stage underwent a controlled venting of propellants (fuel and pressure were released from the tank)... During this process, it is possible insulation came off the fuel dome on the second stage and is the source of what some observers incorrectly interpreted as a rupture in the second stage. This material would be in several pieces and be reflective in the Space Track radar. It is also possible the debris came from the student satellite separation mechanisms onboard." (10/1)

Government Shutdown Puts MAVEN Launch Preps on Hold (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Without funding to pay for numerous programs and research, engineers began shutting down work on a $671 million Mars science orbiter at the Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, halting critical preparations ahead of the mission's narrow interplanetary launch window in November. (10/1)

Reusable 'Slingatron' Launch Concept Could Slingshot Probes to Space (Source: Space.com)
A new kind of reusable launch system could make hurling satellites, spacecraft and other payloads into space much less expensive. A launcher that mimics the motions of the classical slingshot is currently under development by HyperV Technologies Corporation. Called the Slingatron, the device will utilize the centrifugal force generated by spiral motion to launch objects into space.

"The Slingatron space transportation system could provide routine daily multiple launches to low-Earth orbit and to Earth escape velocity," HyperV Technologies Vice President Chris Faranetta said. A classical sling maintains a constant string length as its user whirls it faster and faster. The Slingatron is styled around a modified version with a constantly-extending string, but replaces the fragile string with a steel track. As the payload moves around the track, it increases speed until it reaches about 4 miles per second (7 km/s), fast enough to hurl it into low-Earth orbit. (10/1)

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