November 28. 2013

Virgin Galactic Makes Key New Mexico Hires (Source: Albuquerque Business First)
Virgin Galactic has made the first of its key New Mexico hires as it progresses toward launching passengers into space from Spaceport America. The company has hired two New Mexicans. Kelly Barncastle will serve as terrestrial travel manager — helping space travelers get to, from and around New Mexico — and Greg Powe will manage the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space at the spaceport.

Powe’s background includes 22 years of experience at the White Sands Space Harbor and White Sands Test Facility. Barncastle is a New Mexico State University alumnus who will move back to Las Cruces for the position. He’s worked throughout the aviation industry, including at Virgin Atlantic when it launched in 2007. (11/27)

Ukraine to Russia: Keep Us In Mind for Big Rocket Designs! (Source: Russian Space Web)
As Russia's leading rocket firms are vying for the winning design of the prospective super-heavy rocket, Ukraine's KB Yuzhnoe bureau brought its own big space launcher to Moscow. The company, which develops the Zenit and Tsyklon boosters and supplies stages for the Antares launcher in the US, showcased a possible architecture of its super rocket at the MAKS 2013 air and space show in Zhukovsky in August.

The three-stage Mayak 33-4T rocket would consist of the four boosters of the first stage and single boosters on the second stage and the third stage. Somewhat surprisingly, the entire rocket would be propelled by engines developed at KB Yuzhnoe itself, company information said. Until today, largest engines for KB Yuzhnoe's Zenit rockets are supplied from Russia, even though the Ukrainian company claims to have developed 11 types of liquid-propellant engines in the course of its history with a thrust ranging from 0.5 to 48 tons. (11/28)

Japan Wants To Turn The Moon Into A Giant Power Plant (Source: Business Insider)
Shimizu Corporation, a Japanese architecture and engineering firm, has a plan to effectively turn the moon into a giant solar power plant, reports Inhabitat. It proposes building a massive collection of solar panels (a "Luna Ring") 6,800 miles long by 12 miles wide on the moon's surface. That's certainly a heavy-duty construction job for human beings, so Shimizu plans to get the work done with robots, only involving humans in supervisory roles.

Once complete, this hypothetical plant could continuously send energy to "receiving stations" around the globe by way of lasers and microwave transmission. This idea gets around two major hurdles for solar power, as there is no weather or darkness to curb electricity production on the moon. If operating in ship-shape, Shimizu says it could continuously send 13,000 terawatts of power back to Earth. By comparison, it took the United States all of 2011 to generate 4,100 terawatts of power. (11/27)

European Space Agency Sets a Path for Big Space Science (Source: BBC)
Europe has fixed a broad plan for the big space science missions it will launch over the next two decades. It will likely lead to a large X-ray telescope being launched in 2028, and to an orbiting observatory to detect gravitational waves going up in 2034. Together, these two ventures will cost in excess of 2bn euros (£1.7bn).

They join a mission already approved known as Juice, which will see a big satellite sent to observe Jupiter and its icy moons in 2022. The path ahead was set by the Science Policy Committee (SPC) of the European Space Agency (Esa), which is meeting in Paris, France. The committee's decision should now give clear direction and certainty to Europe's research and industrial base. (11/28)

Spaceflight Companies Look to R&D Clients for Repeat Business (Source: Bloomberg)
Commercial space travel is almost here. For real this time. Sometime in 2014, Virgin Galactic will be able to fly 100 kilometers into the sky and put you in near-zero gravity for a few minutes. The price tag: $250,000. Already Angelina Jolie, Ashton Kutcher, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, and Richard Branson, the company’s eccentric billionaire founder, have lined up with 600 other people to get on flights.

Booking a flight on rival XCOR Aerospace will cost roughly $100,000, the company says. Blue Origin, the space company launched by (AMZN) founder Jeff Bezos, says it’s close behind but hasn’t put out a price list just yet. Musicians, actors, and wealthy corporate executives won’t keep these companies flying forever. Virgin estimates it will run through its star-studded list in 12 to 18 months.

So most of the space companies expect to turn to a less glamorous source of business to keep them going: companies and researchers in search of a little time at near-zero gravity to conduct experiments. “Unlike tourists, researchers will fly their experiments multiple times,” says James Muncy of PoliSpace. The companies are also competing for former clients of NASA, which before its space shuttle program was mothballed in 2011, regularly ferried experiments into space and sometimes to the International Space Station. (11/27)

Space Tourism Is Closer and Cheaper Than You Think (Source: Bloomberg)
Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides discusses the future of space tourism with Deirdre Bolton on Bloomberg Television's "Money Moves." Click here. (11/27)

New Spaceport in the East is Almost Back on Target (Source: Siberian Times)
Vostochny Cosmodrome will 'improve life in the Far East and upgrade its industrial base'. The new launch centre and 'space city' is a vast infrastructure project in Russia's Pacific region. In October, the launch site was reported as being three months behind schedule. But vice-premier Dmitry Rogozin told a government meeting this week that failing managers were sacked, and 'institutional' problems resolved, leading to a major reduction in the delay. (11/27)

Neutrino Detector Finds Its First Evidence Of Intergalactic Neutrinos (Source: America Space)
To most people, the idea of burying a telescope in the ice would not be the best of ways at looking at the Universe. But when it comes to neutrino telescopes the deeper they are burried underground, the better. And a recent study published earlier this month, reports that the biggest of these facilities, the IceCube Neutrino Observatory in Antarctica, has detected its first extraterrestrial neutrinos coming from outside of the Solar System.

Neutrinos are subatomic, elementary particles like electrons. But unlike electrons that have a negative electric charge, neutrinos have none, which makes them imperviable to electromagnetic interactions with ordinary matter. Indeed, billions of neutrinos pass through every cubic centimeter of the Earth and our bodies every second, without leaving any trace. Yet, much like the hypothesized dark matter particles, neutrinos can in rare occasions collide with normal matter. (11/27)

Swampy Terrain May Explain Titan's Smooth Complexion (Source: Science)
Planetary scientists have long wondered why some regions of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, exhibit few impact craters. Now, a new study suggests that the areas where craters are sparse or missing were once sediment-saturated wetlands or shallow seas that swallowed up evidence that impacts occurred. The relatively smooth face of Titan is nothing like the pockmarked surface of our moon. The scars of impact craters are noticeably absent from Titan’s polar regions, for example.

And the craters that are present on Titan appear to be much shallower than expected, based on their diameter. Previous studies haven’t considered a scenario in which objects slamming into Titan land in a surface layer of liquid, such as a shallow sea, or in porous, soggy sediments—such as those in the region where the Huygens probe landed in 2005. In such areas, layers of mushy material could be hundreds of meters thick or more. (11/27)

Give Thanks for Cassini, One of the Greatest Space Missions Ever (Source: WIRED)
In 2004, NASA’s interplanetary explorer slipped into orbit around iconic, ringed Saturn. These were the waning days of that planet’s northern winter, and the north pole was a surprising, Neptunian blue. Distant, icy moon Enceladus was still thought to be like most other icy moons — cold, cratered, and small. But over the last nine years, Cassini’s travels through the Saturnian system have produced both startling discoveries and overwhelmingly beautiful images.

Now, as the seasons on Saturn shift and summer comes to the north, we know that Enceladus isn’t another placid, frozen moons. It’s one of the most exciting places in the solar system, and, along with sibling moon Titan, now sits atop the list of places to search for extraterrestrial lifeforms. In fact, most of what we’ve learned from Cassini about Saturn, its rings, and its moons is pretty different from what we expected, and that trend seems unlikely to fade. (11/27)

Roscosmos Set to Launch Five Spaceships in December (Source: Itar-Tass)
Roscosmos plans to launch five spaceships in December. “Under the this year’s launch schedule in December there will be five launches of carrier rockets with satellites aboard within the framework of Russia’s federal space program, international cooperation programs, commercial projects and projects in the interest of the Defence Ministry,” the agency said.

Two satellites - Inmarsat-5F1 and Express-AM5 - will be launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan’s steppe. The satellites will be taken into space by a Proton-M carrier-rocket with a Briz-M upper stage. Two spaceships will be launched from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northern Russia and the Gaia satellite of the European Space Agency will be placed into orbit by a Soyuz-ST-B carrier rocket with a Fregat-MT upper stage from the Kourou Space Center in French Guiana. (11/28)

The Stratospheric Rise of NASA's Instagram (Source: CNN)
350,000 followers agree: no one does selfies quite like NASA. It's the year of the "selfie" and the year that social media-transmitted self portraits were taken to new heights, with the arrival of U.S. space agency NASA on Instagram. In less than three months, the space agency has accumulated over 350,000 followers and given them an incredible insight into the day-to-day lives of astronauts and Nasa's work unraveling the mysteries of the universe. (11/28)

Mars One Planning Dec. 10 Announcement About Robotic Mars Mission (Source: NewSpace Journal)
Mars One, the Dutch group planning to send humans to Mars on commercially-funded one-way trips, will hold a press conference in Washington on Dec. 10. The announcement will be made jointly with Lockheed Martin and “Surrey Satellite Systems Limited.” Mars One will also use the press conference to “share new information on its public involvement activities leading up to this mission.” (11/28)

SpaceWorks Updates Spaceport Field Guide (Source: Parabolic Arc)
SpaceWorks Enterprises’ updated Spaceport Field Guide is now live and available. In the past, the Guide was a KMZ file that opened in Google Earth, meaning you had to have Google Earth installed on your computer to use it. Now, it is an embedded Google Map on our website with no download required. Click here. (11/28)

FAA: Airspace Congestion Pushed SpaceX Launch to Thanksgiving Day (Source: Space News)
The FAA has given launch service provider SpaceX approval for two mission attempts, on Nov. 28 and Nov. 29, to launch the commercial SES-8 telecommunications satellite. The FAA said it had refused SpaceX’s request to launch on Nov. 26 or Nov. 27. “These are two of the heaviest flight travel days of the year,” the FAA said.

The FAA for several years has made special arrangements for use of the National Airspace System around the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday to ease commercial air traffic congestion. Measures have included allowing commercial flights access to an off-shore air corridor running up and down the U.S. East coast that is otherwise reserved for military use.

FAA spokesman Hank Price said Nov. 27 that the agency would not speculate on whether a launch request on Nov. 30 or Dec. 1 — the end of the long holiday weekend — would be granted. Such a request has not been submitted and will be evaluated only once it has been received, with the decision based on expected air traffic volume. (11/27)

Russia Postpones Space Lab Launch Again (Source: RIA Novosti)
The Russian space agency has notified NASA that the launch of a new Russian research module to the International Space Station has been postponed until at least 2015. “We have met with our US colleagues and informed them that the MLM [multirole laboratory module] will not appear in orbit in 2014,” said Alexei Krasnov, head of piloted space flight programs at Russia’s Federal Space Agency.

The launch of the Nauka (Science) module has been repeatedly delayed. The module is being developed by the Khrunichev space center and the RKK Energia space corporation. The head of Energia, Vitaly Lopota, earlier blamed the Khrunichev center for the delay, citing technical glitches in the module and organizational issues. Lopota said that the launch schedule could be determined only after Khrunichev fixed all the problems. (11/27)

Deadline Approaching for Undergraduates to Fly Research in Microgravity (Source: NASA)
NASA is offering undergraduate students from minority serving institutions the opportunity to test an experiment in microgravity as part of the agency's Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program, in association with the Minority University Research and Education Program. The deadline for proposals is Dec. 4. The actual flight will take place in June 2014. All applicants must be U.S. citizens, full-time students and at least 18 years old. (11/27)

Red Planet or Bust: 5 Manned Mars Mission Ideas (Source:
Humanity's long-held dream of putting boots on Mars may become reality soon. A number of organizations, both public and private, are drawing up plans to send astronauts toward the Red Planet, whose allure as an otherworldly destination and potential host of alien lifehas beckoned scientists and dreamers for hundreds of years.

Here's a brief rundown of five of the most prominent possible manned Mars missions, starting with an ambitious effort that aims to launch less than five years from now. They include Inspiration Mars, Mars One, Elon Musk's Mars colony, Mars Direct, and NASA's plans. Click here. (11/27)

South Korean Govt Aiming to Launch Its Own Space Vehicles by 2020 (Source: Business Korea)
Korea plans to develop a space vehicle on its own and launch it during the first half of 2020, and send up a lunar orbiter and a lunar lander for itself before the end of the same year. In the longer term, it is planning to explore Mars, asteroids, and deep space to join the ranks of space industry powerhouses.

The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning held the sixth National Space Committee meeting on November 26 and finalized its three major plans for space development – the Long-term Plan for Space Development, the Space Technology Industrialization Strategy, and the Modified KSLV Development Plan.

The purpose of the KSLV, which stared in March 2010, is to put a 1.5 ton satellite into low earth orbit at an altitude of 600 to 800 km. According to the new plan, the government is going to launch a test vehicle in Dec. 2017, one year ahead of schedule, and then launch completed three-stage vehicles in Dec. 2019 and Jun. 2020. The government will also send up the lunar orbiter and lunar lander on the vehicles before the end of 2020, if the KSLV development turns out to be successful. (11/27)

Fan Base Grows as Chinese Lunar Project Progresses (Source: Xinhua)
China's lunar exploration program has made tremendous advances over the past decade, piquing the public's interest with its extraordinary expeditions. Chang'e-2, the nation's second lunar probe, has traveled more than 60 million km from the Earth and become China's first spacecraft to reach an asteroid, said Wu Zhijian, spokesman for the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense. (11/27)

Roscosmos May Open Office in Belarus (Source: Interfax)
Roscosmos head Oleg Ostapenko has called Russian-Belarusian cooperation in space exploration promising and announced Roscosmos' plans to open an office in Belarus. "The opening of a Roscosmos office is under consideration for giving a boost to our joint work," Ostapenko said. He also said that Russia and Belarus had agreed to set up a working group dealing with joint projects. "It could be a question of laser technologies, an upgraded Earth observation system and the use of the Glonass network," Ostapenko said. (11/27)

Air Force Welcomes New Craft Into Early Warning Network (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A next-generation missile detection satellite launched in March has been accepted into the U.S. military's early warning network after a seven-month checkout period, the Air Force announced. The second spacecraft in the Air Force's $17.6 billion Space Based Infrared System, or SBIRS, completed post-launch testing five months ahead of schedule, the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center said. (11/27)

Does the Positron 'Excess' Really Exist? (Source: Physics World)
The positron “excess” measured by two independent space missions and linked by some physicists to dark matter or pulsars does not exist, according to new theoretical work done by an international team of researchers. Instead, the researchers have calculated a "robust" upper limit for the positron flux created via interactions of high-energy cosmic rays with ambient gas in the galaxy and say that the flux measured by the Payload for Antimatter/Matter Exploration and Light-nuclei Astrophysics (PAMELA) experiment and the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) lies below this limit. (11/27)

An F-18 Used to Test SLS? (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS) is currently under development by NASA to ferry astronauts to a place that have not ventured in more than forty years – beyond the orbit of Earth. The shuttle launched like a rocket, but landed like an airplane. The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, commonly known as Orion, is capsule-based in its design and will splash down in the ocean. However, the heavy-lift booster which will send Orion on its way – needs to have a system in place to control its trajectory during ascent.

An F/A-18 research jet has recently been used by the space agency to simulate various flight conditions that SLS may experience as it makes its way off the launch pad and into space. The tests were conducted in order evaluate the launch vehicle’s flight control system. This is, in essence, an autopilot that provides enhanced performance and increased safety for the crew who will ride the massive rocket aloft. (11/27)

Vandals Spray Racial, Political Graffiti on Space Shuttle Independence (Source: KHOU)
Visitors found racial and political graffiti on one side of the full-size space shuttle replica outside Space Center Houston early Wednesday. “Houston we are the problem,” was among the writing on the side of Space Shuttle Independence. The graffiti included at least one racial slur along with other offensive messages. Black paint was also sprayed on part of the structure that holds up the replica. (11/27)

Mall-Size Comet Heads Toward Sun (Source: Daily Beast)
Here's a Thanksgiving surprise: a comet the size of a shopping mall is hurdling toward the sun is expected to skim one million miles from the surface on Thursday. If the clump of dust and ice remains intact before dawn it may be visible from Earth as an arc across the sky. "It could very well turn out to be really awesome," says astronomer Yan Fernandez of the University of Central Florida. The comet was discovered in 2012 and has confused astronomers by seeming near death and then reviving multiple times. (11/27)

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