November 29, 2013

Tracking and Control System of Chang'e-3 (Source: CCTV)
Mr. Wu Fenglei, Deputy Director of the system design department of China's Aerospace Control and Command Center, says the role of the tracking and control system of Chang’e-3, is to receive data from the lunar probe, and send orders commanding its activities. He also reveals that they will use the X-band frequency in this deep space lunar project. China will for the first time, use the X-band observation system in tracking and controlling Chang’e-3. This is unlike the previous mission, which used the S-band system. What’s the advantage of using X-band? (11/28)

SpaceX Scrubs Thanksgiving Launch Attempt (Source: Waco Tribune)
A nail-biter ending turned into "to be continued" on Thursday as SpaceX engineers, hoping they could complete a data review from an aborted launch attempt earlier in the evening and be certain the engines were ready to go, ran out of time and called a halt to the second attempt. The Falcon 9 is briefly held at the launch pad after its engines ignite, while the flight computer assesses whether they're working properly. In the case of the first attempt Thursday, one or more engines didn't build to full power quickly enough, and the computer shut them all down. (11/28)

State Grant Helps Cecil Spaceport Prepare for Launch (Source: Florida Times-Union)
With its first tenant and a $1.8 million state grant in hand, Jacksonville Aviation Authority officials are looking to construct a hangar designed to accommodate commercial launch vehicles at the west Jacksonville airport. JAA will match the $1.8 million grant from the Florida Department of Transportation and Space Florida.

The final cost of the hangar could be more than $4 million and will be completed by early 2015, according to Todd Lindner, JAA’s senior manager of aviation planning and spaceport development. Meanwhile, Generation Orbit Launch Services Inc., the spaceport’s first tenant, is preparing for two test launches next year off Cecil’s runway in ahead of its first commercial launch in 2016. (11/28)

Anti-Asteroid Nuke Gains Steam (Source: DesMoines Register)
A plan by an Iowa State University professor to save the planet from a meteor collision continues to streak toward reality. The problem being puzzled over at the Asteroid Deflection Research Center in Ames would devastate humanity: an asteroid hurtling toward the planet, detected too late to be able to use other means to knock it off its collision course with Earth.

In this scenario, breaking up the rock with a nuclear device would be the last and best hope, according to ISU engineering professor Bong Wie. Wie is scheduled to meet Tuesday with NASA officials in Washington, D.C., to talk about his team’s research. He will also make his pitch for a five-year, $5 million grant to work out the technical details of launching a satellite into space to intercept an asteroid. (11/28)

US Law and the Protection of Lunar Heritage (Source: The Conversation)
With India and China planning lunar surface missions, privately-funded space entrepreneurs competing for the US$40 million Google Lunar X Prize and discussions around lunar mining intensifying, working out what to do with our moon’s cultural heritage is becoming urgent. Space lawyers Henry Herzfeld and Scott Pace propose a multilateral agreement at the highest international level, initially between the US and Russia, but open to other moon-faring entities such as China, India and the European Space Agency (ESA).

In 2011, NASA created a set of voluntary guidelines for future missions to avoid damage to Ranger, Surveyor and Apollo sites. These include measures such as no-go buffer zones, heritage “precincts” and recommendations about how to fly around sites to avoid stirring up destructive dust. Another proposal, which emerged in July this year, has raised alarm bells. The Apollo Lunar Legacy Act, which is currently before US Congress, aims to declare a National Park on the moon specifically to ensure the protection of US heritage sites.

Space legal experts have pointed out that this is incompatible with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty (OST), to which the US is a signatory. Herzfeld and Pace, argue that a multilateral agreement would not violate the Outer Space Treaty, and would allow the interests of other nations to be represented. The very sensitive issues around property and resource rights on the moon are side-stepped, leaving the way clear to effectively protect this precious heritage. (11/28)

Russia Plans Eight Space Launches for this Winter (Source: Interfax)
Russia plans seven space launches from Baikonur and Plesetsk and one from the Kourou European Space Center for the next three months. "The next mission is due to occur at 4:12 p.m. on December 8 from the 200th site of the Baikonur Space Center. A Proton-M LV with a Briz-M upper stage will put the Inmarsat-5F1 satellite into orbit," a source from the space industry told Interfax-AVN on Friday. (11/29)

Second Solar System Like Ours Discovered (Source: Universe Today)
A team of European astronomers has discovered a second solar system, the closest parallel to our own solar system yet found. It includes seven exoplanets orbiting a star with the small rocky planets close to their host star and the gas giant planets further away. The system was hidden within the wealth of data from the Kepler Space Telescope.

KOI-351 is “the first system with a significant number of planets (not just two or three, where random fluctuations can play a role) that shows a clear hierarchy like the solar system — with small, probably rocky, planets in the interior and gas giants in the (exterior),” Dr. Juan Cabrera, of the Institute of Planetary Research at the German Aerospace Center, told Universe Today. (11/28)

NASA to Send Seeds to Moon to Grow Lunar Salad (Source: The Telegraph)
It might make a more appetising soup than a salad. NASA is to send turnip, cress and basil seeds to the Moon in an attempt to grow them. The experiment will be the first attempt to germinate plants on another world. The seeds will be housed inside a specially constructed canister, known as the Lunar Plant Growth Chamber, that will carry enough air for 10 days.

NASA says the air in the chamber would be adequate to allow the seeds to sprout and grow for five days. It is hoped that the latest experiment will help to pave the way for astronauts to grow their own food while living on a lunar base. The mission is due to launch in 2015 as part of the Moon Express lander – a commercial project to land on the Moon.

Branson: From the Mojave to the Moon (Source: The Economist)
As an entrepreneur, I have seen many examples of technologies that are brought into existence by governments but show their true potential only when unlocked to the private sector. Progress in human space flight has been sluggish precisely because the world’s most powerful governments have wanted to keep it for themselves. Now, Virgin Galactic is on track to be the world’s first commercial spaceline. Already many more people have paid and signed up to travel to space with us than have actually been to space in history. My children I are getting our minds round the fact that we will be on the inaugural commercial flight in 2014.

Then there’s LauncherOne, a satellite-launch vehicle, which will take new, smart technologies to space. Before long we expect to be able to launch as many as 100 small satellites in a 24-hour period. Space will start to be a centre of solar power generation and asteroid mining. Our technology will also enable improved climate monitoring, more effective disaster management and more efficient transport of food. One day we may even launch giant mirrors to reduce solar radiation on Earth, offsetting some of the effects of climate change.

Using our second-generation payload vehicles we will eventually build space science labs and hotels, providing the capability for missions beyond the orbit of Earth. Our space-hotel guests will be able to take breathtaking excursions, flying a couple of hundred feet above the Moon’s surface in small two-man spaceships. In time, we will launch missions to Mars and beyond. (11/29)

'So Many Questions' About Comet Ison (Source: BBC)
Astronomers say some part of Comet Ison may have survived its close encounter with the Sun. It was thought the giant ball of ice and dust had been destroyed by the Sun's heat and gravitational pull. But US naval astrophysists say something re-emerged two hours after the comet disappeared from view. Karl Battams has been watching for the comet from the solar telescope control room at Kitt Peak Observatory in Arizona. (11/29)

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