October 6, 2013

Company Sponsors Open House for Use of Shuttle Equipment (Source: Craig Technologies)
Craig Technologies, the company selected by NASA to maintain an impressive suite of KSC manufacturing and test equipment from the former Shuttle Logistics Depot in Cape Canaveral, sponsored an Oct. 4 "Manufacturing Day" open house at the facility for students. As the equipment's caretaker, Craig is permitted to use it for new commercial and government contracts, and to make it available for third party users.

Manufacturing Day (MFG DAY) is a national program that gives companies like Craig Technologies an opportunity to open their doors and show, in a coordinated effort, what manufacturing is — and what it isn’t.  MFG DAY is designed to amplify the voice of individual manufacturers and coordinate a collective chorus of manufacturers with common concerns and challenges. (10/6)

Orbital Sues Virginia, Says State Owes It $16.5 Million (Source: Space News)
Orbital Sciences Corp. is suing the state of Virginia over $16.5 million the company says it shelled out to help cover cost overruns incurred during construction of the state-owned launchpad Orbital leased to launch cargo to the space station for NASA. In a lawsuit filed Sep. 24, Orbital is demanding the $16.5 million, plus interest. Orbital is seeking a jury trial against the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority and Virginia’s state comptroller, David A. Von Moll.

Orbital filed suit less than a week after its Antares rocket launched the first Cygnus space freighter from the launch pad. Orbital struck a deal with Virginia to launch its missions from Pad-0A, which the state agreed to build. However, Virginia bungled the construction project, which led to delays and cost overruns beginning in 2010, Orbital said in the complaint. The company stepped in — “reluctantly,” according to the complaint — and started buying MARS assets to provide the state with cash to continue construction.

Orbital bought $42 million worth of hardware, with the understanding that Virginia would eventually buy these assets back, the complaint says. The state bought back about $25.5 million worth of hardware in 2012, but balked at repurchasing a horizontal rocket transporter and associated hardware. The state argued this hardware could only be used for Antares and therefore was not a reimbursable cost. Orbital disagreed. (10/6)

Mediation Favored Orbital in Launch Pad Funding Dispute (Source: Space News)
The Aerospace Corp., a federally funded think tank specializing in military space, was brought in to mediate the dispute between Orbital Sciences Corp. and the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority and ruled  in Orbital’s favor in 2012. Orbital subsequently sought payment but was told June 5 by Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton that the state would not pay. Connaughton informed Orbital of the state’s decision during a meeting of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority’s board of directors. (10/6)

Gravity Isn't Quite Accurate, And That's OK (Source: Esquire)
One of the great central action sequences of Gravity — Alfonso CuarĂ³n's mind-blowing new movie about two astronauts trapped in space — is unnecessary. I don't mean it's unnecessary to the plot, or to the movie and our enjoyment of it, because the scene is beautifully, even hauntingly rendered. It is in no way extraneous, since nothing in Gravity is extraneous.

What I mean is, were the same situation playing out in real life — I don't want to give too much away, but it involves a parachute — there would be no call for action. In the movie, the problem that confronts Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is almost impossibly complex, requiring every last fragment of her daring and guile. In reality, that same dilemma could be solved, quite literally, by her pressing a big red button on the Soyuz panel in front of her face.

I hate that I know that the big red button exists, and I hate that I'm the guy who sat in a packed, pin drop-quiet theater taking bitch notes. But having written a story ("Home") and a book about three astronauts who were stranded in space, and having gone a long way toward seeing that story made into a movie (Expedition Six) until Gravity helped kill it, I found myself in that most terrible role: the man who knows too much. (10/5)

LADEE in Lunar Orbit (Source: Astrogators Guild)
The LADEE spacecraft is now in Lunar orbit. Tracking data will later confirm the precise parameters of the orbit, but based on telemetry of thruster performance and accelerations, the LOI-1 burn appears to be close to nominal. The planned Lunar orbit has an orbit period of 23.1 hrs. The next planned maneuver is scheduled for the 2nd aposelene, which would occur roughly 1.5 days from now. For LOI-1 results close to nominal, this maneuver can be waived. (10/6)

UH Seeks Volunteers for Simulated Space Mission on Mauna Loa (Source: Honolulu Star Advertiser)
University of Hawaii researchers are looking for volunteers to act as crewmembers for a new series of space exploration analog studies scheduled to take place in an isolated research dome on Mauna Loa. The studies will test whether group cohesion over the short term predicts team performance over the long term.

They will also examine how technical, social and task roles evolve over long-duration missions and establish baselines for a variety of cognitive, social and emotions factors over missions of different durations. The information gleaned from these studies will assist NASA in understanding how teams of astronauts will perform on long-duration missions such as those required for human travel to Mars.

The studies will be conducted a the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation site located on Mauna Loa. Participants will live in the same geodesic dome habitat previously used for a NASA-funded Mars food study. Missions will range from four months to 12 months. (10/5)

Houston-Based Shuttle Replica to be “Independence” (Source: KHOU)
The space shuttle replica to be displayed at the visitor center for NASA’s Johnson Space Center will be known as “Independence.” The name announced Saturday is the winner from among 10,263 entries received by officials at Space Center Houston in a summer-long “Name the Shuttle” contest. The replica will sit atop a 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft as part of a $12 million, six-story attraction under construction. (10/5)

Government Shutdown Cancels NASA Ames Blood Drive, Causes Shortage (Source: NBC)
The government shutdown has had an impact on a critical need for blood in the Bay Area. The Stanford Blood Center has an O-negative and B-negative blood shortage. A blood drive scheduled for yesterday at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View could have helped fill that need, but it was canceled because of an employee furlough due to the government shutdown. A Stanford Blood Center representative said they hold blood drives at NASA Ames five times per year and get an average of 75 units of blood each time. (10/5)

Chinese? You're Not Welcome (Source: The Economist)
The American government views China's space program with suspicion. Chinese taikonauts are, for instance, banned from the International Space Station, which despite its name is largely an American venture. Most recently, this frosty attitude was on display at an international space conference that took place in Beijing at the end of September. NASA—the world's biggest space agency—was notable chiefly by its diminuitive presence. Its boss, Charles Bolden, had to seek a special dispensation even to be there.

The frostiness is beginning to affect scientific research, too. Over the past few days Chinese researchers, including some who work at American universities, have been told that their nationality means they are not welcome at a conference on exoplanets due to be hosted at NASA's Ames research centre in California next month. Incensed, several prominent American astronomers have said that they will boycott the meeting in protest.

The ban seems to be the result of a law passed earlier this year at the behest of Frank Wolf, a Republican congressman who chairs the Congressional committee with jurisdiction over NASA. It forbids NASA fom co-operating with the Chinese state or any Chinese company. It also prohibits hosting Chinese visitors at any NASA facility.  The language of the law is so broad that it extends to Chinese researchers affiliated to American universities. (10/6)

NASA Reaffirms Support to India's Mars Orbiter Mission (Source: Outlook India)
NASA has reaffirmed its communications and navigation support to India's Mars Orbiter Mission and stated that the current US government partial shutdown would not affect ISRO's launch schedule. India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft is scheduled for launch on the afternoon of October 28. The launch window remains open till November 19. The American NASA/JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) is providing communications and navigation support to this mission with their Deep Space Network facilities. (10/6)

Avoiding Armegeddon: Hunt is On for Dangerous Asteroids (Source: USA Today)
More than 1,000 people were injured last February in Chelyabinsk, Russia, when a meteor exploded over the city. The collision shattered windows and pelted startled residents with shards of glass and debris. In the aftermath, the world was transfixed by extraordinary videos of the huge fireball as it streaked across the sky. Many wondered, why on earth did no one see it coming?

"The odds of asteroid impacts are much higher than people realize," said Ed Lu, a former astronaut and chief executive officer of the B612 Foundation, which searches for asteroids that could potentially hit the Earth and cause human devastation. He said that there is a 30 percent chance of a city-destroying asteroid hitting the Earth in the next 100 years.

The primary source of meteors like the one that exploded over Russia is the asteroid belt between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars. The gravitational pull of giant Jupiter causes space debris to collide repeatedly, breaking into smaller and smaller fragments that became asteroids. Click here. (10/6) 

Government Shutdown Could Be Big Setback for NASA and Taxpayers (Source: Space.com)
The government shutdown could delay NASA's goals and cost taxpayers money, according to one former astronaut. Although a skeleton crew will support the astronauts on the International Space Station from the ground, important science and spaceflight missions that need funding and attention are threatened by the ongoing government shutdown, said Tom Jones, a veteran of four spaceflights.

"We're losing time," Jones told SPACE.com. "It's not going to endanger operations on the space station, but if it continues for more than a couple of weeks then you're going to have a significant amount of lost time, productivity and planning for the next stage of space station research, for example." (10/6)

No comments: