November 21, 2013

Ukraine to India: Together, We Can Have More Space (Source: DNA)
Ukraine is keen on working with India on space programs. After co-developing semi-cryogenic engines for the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) launch vehicles, Ukraine is now seeking other collaborations, including missions to moon. The head of the State Space Agency of Ukraine visited ISRO facilities in Bangalore and held meetings with its chairman K Radhakrishnan to explore areas where the two countries can work together. (11/21)

Interview with Tom Jones (Source: Epoch Times)
Jones: Space tourism is a great development. We can imagine we’re back in the 1920s when aviation, which had only been the province of governments and used in war time, was now being commercialized into airline and carrying mail and being commercialized for the first time. We had an explosion of air travel before World War II. Now, we have hundreds of millions of people flying ever year around the planet.

This is the same thing that’s going on in space. Making space widely available as a personal experience, and using that access to space to industrialize and build industrial parks and build an economy in space, is going to be really a key to the growth of our economic success in the 21st century. Click here.

Editor's Note: I tend to agree with the whole barnstorming analogy, but for spaceflight to truly develop along the lines of aviation, destinations are required. Space doesn't yet offer numerous destinations that would translate into widespread demand for transportation services. Perhaps point-to-point spaceflights to/from multiple Earthbound destinations can permit the industry to evolve beyond the limited suborbital tourism market we now see. Hopefully folks like Robert Bigelow or Elon Musk can establish new destinations in space too. (11/21)

"Gravity" Director Wants China to Take Him Into Space (Source: Xinhua)
The outer space blockbuster "Gravity," which took four-and-a-half years to make, will probably be director Alfonso Cuaron's first and last space movie. But he did express a willingness to explore space for real, if possible, with the help of the Chinese government.

"I know that I will never do another space movie. It took too long. But I would go to space as soon as I was invited," Cuaron told Xinhua. "So I'll keep on pleading. Maybe then Chinese authorities will want to send me to space. I would be very happy to accept the invitation, very honored," he said. (11/21)

We Haven’t Won Yet on Export Control Reforms (Source: Breaking Defense)
The defense industry is hard-pressed for good news these days after budget cuts, sequestration and the government shutdown. But there is one bright spot. The industry received some good news last month when new export control reforms went into effect. The reforms involved transferring authority for key categories of arms exports, including military aircraft parts and engines, from the State Department to the Department of Commerce.

The move from State to Commerce means that companies wishing to sell these parts will face fewer burdensome regulations, helping to sustain exports and providing needed relief for America’s defense industrial base. But, as helpful as this change has been, the most important item on the export control reform agenda will be less about the ability of US defense firms to sell abroad than whether the US military has access to cutting edge technology from commercial firms who are not normally considered a part of the defense industrial base.

Export control reform will continue to be a critical national security issue because of changes in global research and development. In the past, the federal government dominated global R&D spending so strict export controls were created to protect this dominance. Today, American R&D is predominately funded by the commercial market, one that is increasingly globalized. Click here. (11/21)

Foreign Satellites Launched by Dnepr Rocket (Source: Interfax)
A Dnepr rocket carrier has put several foreign satellites into their designated orbits. "All spacecraft have successfully detached from the booster. A command has been given to make the separation maneuver," it was announced in the observation center of the Yasny launch site. The rocket was launched at 11:10 a.m. Moscow time. It took 15 minutes to bring the satellites to their designated orbits.

The rocket carries a cluster of satellites from a number of countries: DubaiSat-2 (the United Arab Emirates), STSat-3 (South Korea), UniSat-5 (Italy), SkySat-1 and AprizeSat-7/8 (both the United States), Brite-PL (Poland), GOMX-1 (Denmark), WNISat (Canada), and nine ISIPOD containers with 14 CubeSat nanosatellites (the Netherlands) and BPA-3 satellite (Ukraine). (11/21)

Future Virgin Galactic Astronauts to Meet at Columbia Memorial Center (Source: Downey Beat)
On Tuesday, Dec. 3, the Columbia Memorial Space Center will welcome both Virgin Galactic Future Astronauts and Virgin Galactic Representatives for a special, interactive event. Challenger Center for Space Science Education (Challenger Center), in partnership with Galactic Unite and Virgin Galactic, will host a live Google Hangout at the Challenger Learning Center inside the City’s Columbia Memorial Space Center.

The day of activities will include interaction with Virgin Galactic Future Astronauts and Virgin Galactic representatives. The special guests will participate in a question and answer segment with students from Downey’s own Unsworth Elementary and four other Challenger Learning Centers across the country. The future astronauts will also fly a Challenger Center mission at the Colombia Memorial Space Center with the students and speak to them about the importance of STEM education.

Editor's Note: With continued delays in starting up their commercial service, Virgin Galactic is likely stepping up their sponsorship of such events to keep their customers engaged. Richard Branson recently said the company likely wouldn't start flying its customers until the second half of 2014. (11/21)

Leadership of Many Ensuring Space Future (Source: Florida Today)
Regarding Sunday’s guest column, “A Bright Future in Space,” by Lynda Weatherman and Frank DiBello, the countdown to launch truly has begun. Orion — NASA’s first spacecraft designed for long-duration, human-rated deep-space exploration — is in final assembly at KSC. It will fly its first high-orbital mission next fall. The Space Launch System also is progressing and will support human exploration missions not experienced since Apollo, as well as provide capabilities to advance space science opportunities.

The leadership of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Space Florida and the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, as well as elected state and county officials, has been a key factor making this possible. They are leading to the future and working to keep the Space Coast at the center of human exploration and America as a global technological leader. (11/21)

Thrill of Space Exploration is a Universal Constant (Source: Nature)
For this child in 1969, space travel, discovery and science were all much the same thing. Odd that it should take a film, the glorious Gravity, to remind me that they still are. And that the United States and Europe have — partly at the insistence of their scientific communities — dropped ambitions for human space flight and surrendered the field to China and India. I do not lament the surrender: I merely point out that, despite protestations to the contrary, it can lead only to the eclipsing of US leadership in global science and technology. (11/20)

Additional Indian Spaceport Wanted (Source: Outlook India)
Reviving his demand for establishing ISRO's third rocket launching pad in Tamil Nadu, DMK chief M Karunanidhi today said its establishment would develop southern districts in the state. Observing that Kulasekarapattinam of south Tamil Nadu is a suitable location for the third launch pad, as opined by experts from ISRO's Liquid Propulsion Systems Center at Mahendragiri in Tirunelveli district, he said, "If the facility comes there, it would help in the development of southern districts."

Contending that there was a doubt whether ISRO has any "hatred" or "indifference" towards Tamil Nadu, the DMK chief claimed while the Center allocated funds to carry out over 60 projects for ISRO, all of them were given to Andhra Pradesh. If the launch pad was established in Kulasekarapattinam, over 4,000 and 10,000 persons would get direct and indirect employment, while over Rs 3 lakh crore investment would be made, he claimed. (11/20)

China's Loss is India's Gain as the Nation Readies Second Moon Mission (Source: The Week)
A failed Chinese space mission is curiously turning out to be a shot in the arm for India's space exploration. Indeed, it may ultimately result in a Chandrayaan-2 that is more ambitious than what was planned. China had, in a joint mission with Russia, launched the Phobos-Grunt expedition to Mars in October 2011. While the spaceship was Russian-made and its destination was Phobos, one of the two Martian moons, the Chinese had packed in a payload, Yinghuo-1.

This was an orbiter, which would have separated from the satellite and was expected to orbit the red planet for around one year. However, there was a snag within days of takeoff from the Russian spaceport in Baikonur, while the satellite was still in a lower Earth orbit. The debris of the aborted mission ultimately fell over the Pacific Ocean some months later, thus nipping China's Martian probe in the bud. (11/19)

Isle of Man Group Plans Space Habitation Conference in Orlando, June 2014 (Source: SPACE)
The Scientific Preparatory Academy for Cosmic Explorers (SPACE), an Isle of Man nonprofit group, is planning their second Space Habitation Conference in Orlando on June 21-24, 2014, and has issued a call for papers to support the development of the event. Click here. (11/20)

JPL Plans Laser Comm From Space Station (Source: JPL)
OPALS will demonstrate optical communication by transferring a video from our payload on the International Space Station (ISS) to our ground receiver at JPL's Optical Communications Telescope Laboratory (OCTL) in Wrightwood, California. As the ISS travels across the sky, a laser beacon will be transmitted from the ground telescope to our payload and tracked. While maintaining lock on the uplink beacon using a closed loop control system and a two-axis gimbal, the OPALS flight system will downlink a modulated laser beam with a formatted video. (11/20)

Czechs Ink Deal For Lynx Research Flight (Source: Space Daily)
Czech universities and firms have received the go-ahead to conduct scientific research on board an American space tourism aircraft, according to the Czech Space Office (CSO). The CSO inked the deal Monday with the firm XCOR Aerospace, which is putting the final touches on its Lynx aircraft designed to shuttle tourists to the brink of outer space.

"The partnership with XCOR Aerospace, a world pioneer in commercial spaceflight, is an important step in our efforts to develop our country's space programme," CSO head Jan Kolar said. French and Dutch institutions have also signed similar contracts with XCOR Aerospace to send scientific projects up in space, according to Kolar. (11/19)

Russia Unveils "Advanced" Capsule (Source: Citizens in Space)
Russia is in a race with NASA’s Orion project to go back to the future. The S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia has released photographs that show a mockup of its “New-Generation Advanced Manned Transportation Spacecraft,” intended to replace the nearly 50-year-old Soyuz capsule with — wait for it — another capsule!

The new capsule is being designed to carry six cosmonauts, similar to the US Orion capsule. It will be launched on the Angara rocket, a new booster which is now in development. The photos show crew operation trials conducted by S.P. Korolev RSC Energia and the research institute of the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center back in August. Click here.

Editor's Note: Funny how the Russians keep copying U.S. designs, for better or worse. It began with the Buran space shuttle, then their Angara family of vehicles (remeniscent of EELV), then their Clipper winged mini-spaceplane (in response to NASA's Orbital Space Plane program), and now they plan a conical capsule similar to Orion. (11/20)

Costa Rican Woman Leading MAVEN Mars Mission (Source: Costa Rica News)
Sandra Cauffman, a Costa Rican, is a major component in the development of the MAVEN Mars mission which will be launched in 2014 to Mars to study volatile components in the atmosphere. “It’s great to say that I’m working on a Mars mission. Going to Mars to study how the Martian atmosphere evolved can help understand whether there was ever life on Mars and if life as we know it could be sustained,” said Cauffman in an interview on the NASA site. (11/20)

Thanks JFK: States Gained From Space Program (Source: Pew Stateline)
President Kennedy's commitment to getting a man on the moon launched American space exploration and transformed rural Southern economies with high-paying science jobs. Looking back on Kennedy’s presidency after 50 years, states can be thankful for the space program, which brought jobs and investment to states including Florida, Texas, Mississippi and California, and swelled the ranks of NASA contractors nationwide.

In the late 1960s, NASA employment made up 57 percent of the jobs in Hancock County, Miss., 22 percent of the jobs in Brevard County, Fla., and 17 percent of the jobs in Huntsville, Ala. The Apollo project, which flew 17 lunar missions from 1966 to 1972, eventually cost $24 billion. To support the missions to the moon, NASA built the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, the Mississippi Test Facility in Hancock County, the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, and the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

The aerospace industry is still a major force in the Southern economy, even as NASA budgets have steadily declined since Apollo. Private companies, including Boeing, have pledged to build spacecraft in Florida and Alabama in the coming years. States have also stepped up to sponsor space exploration as NASA’s influence has waned. New Mexico has invested millions into a commercial spaceport. Virginia and Maryland operate the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) which offers launch pads for rockets headed into outer space. State-run launch sites in Florida, Oklahoma, Alaska and New Mexico also serve space missions. (11/20)

Building a Home for Space...On Earth: Kring Talks Space at Embry-Riddle TEDx (Source: TEDx)
Dr. Jason Kring was recently awarded Professor of the Year by Embry-Riddle's Human Factors and Systems Department and has a 4.9 rating on! His interests include spaceflight human factors, behavioral health and human performance in extreme environments.

He is currently building a testbed for human factors and engineering research focused on habitat design for extreme environments such as space and calling its MEERS - the Mobile Extreme Environment Research Station. The last time he gave a public lecture, numerous people switched their college majors to go work with him, so watch out for his infectious passion! Click here. (11/20)

NASA's Next Frontier: Growing Plants On The Moon (Source: Forbes)
A small team at NASA’s Ames Research Center has set out to “boldly grow where no man has grown before” – and they’re doing it with the help of thousands of children, a robot, and a few specially customized GoPro cameras. In 2015, NASA will attempt to make history by growing plants on the Moon. If they are successful, it will be the first time humans have ever brought life to another planetary body.  

Along the way, they will make groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of biology, agriculture, and life on other worlds.  And though they may fail, the way they are going about their mission presents a fascinating case study of an innovative model for public-private collaboration that may very well change space entrepreneurship. Click here.

Editor's Note: The Space Life Sciences Lab at KSC was home to the world's leading research program on plant growth in space, with several unique growth chambers and many top-notch scientists focusing on the emerging discipline. It was all dismantled by NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, along with other exploration-oriented research programs, to help pay for the Ares-1 rocket proposed for NASA's new Constellation program. (11/20)

A Look at the Proposed Inspiration Mars Mission (Source: Parabolic Arc)
In testimony on Capitol Hill today, Inspiration Mars Chairman Dennis Tito said about $300 million could be raised privately while NASA would need to invest $700 million to make the proposed Mars mission a reality. According to the mission architecture, the main spacecraft would launch on NASA’s Space Launch System, with a crew rendezvous/docking later via a commercial space transport. Click here for mission graphics. (11/20)

Lost Apollo Data Gives Measure of How Fast Moon Dust Piles Up (Source: AGU)
When Neil Armstrong took humanity’s first otherworldly steps in 1969, he didn’t know what a nuisance the lunar soil beneath his feet would prove to be. The scratchy dust clung to everything it touched, causing scientific instruments to overheat and, for Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt, a sort of lunar dust hay fever. The annoying particles even prompted a scientific experiment to figure out how fast they collect, but NASA’s data got lost.

Or, so NASA thought. Now, more than 40 years later, scientists have used the rediscovered data to make the first determination of how fast lunar dust accumulates. It builds up unbelievably slowly by the standards of any Earth-bound housekeeper, their calculations show – just fast enough to form a layer about a millimeter (0.04 inches) thick every 1,000 years. Yet, that rate is 10 times previous estimates.

It’s also more than speedy enough to pose a serious problem for the solar cells that serve as critical power sources for space exploration missions. That faster-than-expected pile-up also implies that lunar dust could have more ways to move around than previously thought, Brian O’Brien added. (11/20)

Golden Spike Forms Lunar Science Advisory Board (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Golden Spike Company announced today it has created a Lunar Science Advisory Board to help guide the company’s development of the world’s first private human lunar expedition capability. The seven inaugural members of the Lunar Science Advisory Board, or LSAB, are distinguished lunar and planetary scientists from around the world. They will provide Golden Spike with scientific expertise and will recommend exploration strategies, sample collection and return requirements, and surface experiment package needs.

The LSAB will be chaired by prominent lunar scientist Dr. Clive Neal of Notre Dame University. Other inaugural members include Dr. Peter Brown of the University of Western Ontario in Canada, Dr. James Carpenter, located in Noordwijk, The Netherlands, Dr. Tai Sik Lee of Hanyang University in Korea, Dr. Georgiana Kramer of the University Space research Association, Dr. William B. McKinnon of Washington University in St. Louis, and Dr. Steven Mackwell, Director of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston. (11/20)

Tito Revises Plan for Mars Flyby in 2018: Now it's Up To NASA (Source: NBC)
Dennis Tito has revised his plan to send a husband and wife around Mars in 2018 — and is calling on NASA to take the lead role in the mission. "This partnership is a new model for a space mission," Tito told lawmakers. "It is not the model of traditional contracts or subsidies for vehicle developments, although those models are embedded in the NASA programs to be leveraged for this unique mission. It is a philanthropic partnership with government to augment resources and achieve even greater goals than is possible otherwise."

Tito initially envisioned the flyby as an effort primarily backed by private contributions, but the 90-day study determined that the mission had to be done with NASA hardware. "This is really a NASA mission," Taber MacCallum, Inspiration Mars' chief technology officer, said. "This is a mission we believe NASA should do." NASA said it's willing to share expertise with Inspiration Mars "but is unable to commit to sharing expenses with them." Click here. (11/20)

Russia to Design Two Space Probes for Israel (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia will design two space probes for Israel, President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday after the completion of talks with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. "Our countries are cooperating in space research actively,” Putin said. “September 1, a Russian carrier rocket brought into orbit an Israeli satellite. “Our joint plans include the designing of another two space probes for the Israeli side.” (11/21)

NASA Diagnosing Problem on Mars Rover Curiosity (Source: AP)
The Mars rover Curiosity has temporarily stopped science observations while NASA checks out an electrical problem. The space agency said Wednesday the voltage change was first discovered on Sunday and engineers think it might be some kind of short. The six-wheel, nuclear-powered rover halted work as a precaution. (11/20)

Arianespace Orders 10 Vega Launchers from ELV SpA (Source: Space News)
The Arianespace commercial launch consortium on Nov. 20 announced it had signed a contract for 10 Vega small-satellite launchers with prime contractor ELV SpA of Italy. The rockets will be ready for launch starting in 2015.

The contract, whose value was not disclosed, was signed in Rome during a bilateral Franco-Italian summit in the presence of the Italian and French heads of state and the two nations’ space ministers. The deal follows five rockets ordered previously as part of Vega’s introductory series of flights backed by the 20-nation European Space Agency. (11/20)

House Panel Likes 1-Year Launch Liability Shield, Sen. Nelson Wants More (Source: Space News)
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) is preparing to introduce a bill that would extend through 2016 a 25-year old law that limits damages U.S. rocket companies would have to pay following a catastrophic mishap. Nelson’s bill is expected to be filed this evening (Nov. 20). Earlier today, House lawmakers announced they would pursue only a one-year renewal of the indemnity shield, which is set to expire Dec. 31.

“We have reached an agreement with the minority to only extend the provision for one year, and take the issue up more thoroughly next year as part of a larger commercial space launch act,” Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS), chairman of the House Science space subcommittee, said during a Nov. 20 commercial spaceflight hearing. “I hope we can discharge the bill and pass it under suspension of the rules on the House floor very shortly.” (11/20)

Climate Scientists Can Breathe Easier After Minotaur Launch of Satellite (Source: Space News)
When NASA’s Glory climate-monitoring spacecraft plunged into the Pacific Ocean due to launch failure in March 2011, scientists were concerned they would have no way to prevent a lengthy gap in their observations of solar energy, the primary driver of Earth’s climate. Glory’s Total Irradiance Monitor instrument was designed to measure solar energy reaching Earth and extend a record of solar energy data spanning more than 30 years. (11/20)

Bolden: Crew Transport Project Will Drive Innovation (Source: FCW)
In releasing a request for proposals for the next phase in commercial space transport capabilities aimed at getting U.S. astronauts to the international space station, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden says he also hopes to spur innovation through his agency's acquisition process. Bolden said the next phase of NASA's Commercial Crew Program -- the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCTC) -- will "spur American ingenuity," in addition to establishing a more efficient way to get space crews into low-earth orbit. (11/20)

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