November 5, 2013

Virgin Plans Next Powered Test Flight (Source: Discovery)
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, a six-passenger, two-pilot suborbital spacecraft, is expected to make its third powered test flight within a month, said the company’s chief executive George Whitesides. So far, about 650 customers have put down deposits or paid in full for rides aboard SpaceShipTwo, which now cost $250,000. SpaceShipTwo’s  last powered flight was in September when it fired its engine for about 20 seconds. To reach suborbital space, the engine will need to burn for about one minute. (11/4)

For ISRO, Chance to Hide GSLV Failures (Source: Indian Express)
A successful launch of the Mars mission, set to be launched on Tuesday, will help Isro hide away a series of failures that its has experienced in recent times, particularly the setbacks in the development of its heavy lift Geo Synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) which it needs to be in the premier league of space nations.

The GSLV program which will help Isro put heavy communication satellites of the 2000 kg plus category in space, a capability it now lacks, and crucial to Chandrayaan 2 — the space agency's full fledged exploratory mission to moon — has been floundering in recent times with a launch scheduled for August 19 aborted after a leakage was detected in its systems. (11/5)

FAA: NextGen Needs More Stable Funding (Source: AIN)
The Federal Aviation Administration said the implementation of NextGen is vulnerable to the political nature of its funding. "We remain committed to NextGen in its current schedule, but we need greater fiscal certainty this year and beyond," said FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker. (11/4)

Space Station Crew Faces Orbital Traffic Jam This Week (Source:
It's a busy week in orbit at the International Space Station. With nine astronauts set to crowd the station this week, part of its crew moved a Russian transport vehicle to a different dock to make room for the new arrivals. Three members of the six-person Expedition 37 climbed into the Soyuz TMA-09 spacecraft Friday (Nov. 1) to bring the vehicle from the Rassvet cargo and docking module to the Zvezda service module, which has another Russian docking port on the other side of the station. (11/4)

Bid for Mars Club: India Sends Mission to Red Planet (Source: Russia Today)
India has launched a rocket carrying a satellite towards Mars, a first interplanetary space mission for the Asian country. The spacecraft is expected to reach the Red Planet by September next year. The Mars Orbiter Mission blasted off from Sriharikota Island. If successful, the mission gives India a place among the US, Europe and Russia, which have managed to orbit or land on Mars in the past. China tried a similar mission in 2011, but its Yinghuo-1 probe failed to leave Earth’s orbit. (11/5)

Shanghai-Built Lunar Rover Set for Lunar Landing (Source: Space Daily)
A Shanghai-made lunar rover is all set to land on the moon with the Chang'e-3, China's third lunar probe that is set to be launched next month. The moon rover has been taken to the Xichang Satellite Launch Center with the Chang'e lunar probe on the Long March III carrier rocket. Inspections and preparatory work are going on to get the launch ready about a month later. (11/5)

Life, But Not as We Know It (Source: Space Daily)
A rudimentary form of life that is found in some of the harshest environments on earth is able to sidestep normal replication processes and reproduce by the back door, researchers at the University of Nottingham have found. The study, published in the journal Nature, centers on Haloferax volcanii - part of a family of single-celled organisms called archaea that until recently were thought to be a type of bacteria. (11/5)

Could a Vegetable Compound Protect Against the Effects of Radiation? (Source: Space Safety)
A compound found in cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower may be the key to radiation protection, scientists have found. The compound, called 3’3-diindolymethane or DIM, is under investigation as a cancer preventative agent. Used as a potential medical countermeasure, DIM may be able to prevent or mitigate acute radiation syndrome due to whole body exposure.

Previously studied as a cancer prevention agent, this is the first instance in which DIM has been considered as a radiation protector. One of the study’s author Dr. Eliot Rosen of Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in the US describes why this new development holds great intrigue and significance: “I find it fascinating that a known cancer preventive agent (DIM) has powerful radiation protection properties and wonder if there is a relationship in the case of DIM between its radioprotection and cancer prevention mechanisms.” (11/4)

Russia's Thrill-Seeking Tycoon Plans Space Trip (Source: Space Daily)
Other tycoons may plough their millions into yachts or private jets, but Vasily Klyukin prefers a good "adventure". On his diary for next year? A space trip with Leonardo DiCaprio. "I don't want to waste any time -- I want to live my life to the full," the Russian multi-millionaire, newly settled in the mega-rich principality of Monaco, told AFP in an interview.

Klyukin paid 1.2 million euros ($1.5 million) at a gala auction at the Cannes Film Festival in May to be travel buddy to Hollywood actor DiCaprio when he heads into space next year aboard the Virgin Galactic. For a coveted three hours, the Russian, who made his millions in banking and real estate, will get to see Earth from above, along with two pilots and five fellow passengers.

"A journey into space -- now that's the most incredible challenge of my life!" he said. More than 650 people including A-listers like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have so far booked seats for a minutes-long suborbital flight on the SpaceShipTwo (SS2) set to begin by the end of this year. (11/5)

Spaceflight Joins with NanoRacks to Deploy Satellites from the ISS (Source: Space Daily)
Spaceflight and NanoRacks have partnered to provide commercial launch services from the Space Station. Curt Blake, Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Spaceflight, said, "We are very excited to work with NanoRacks and leverage the unique capabilities of the International Space Station. The partnership is a great fit between two like-minded organizations that will help usher in a new chapter for low earth orbit satellite deployment."

Under this partnership Spaceflight and NanoRacks are collaborating to provide customers routine commercial launch services from the ISS. Each customer spacecraft will be deployed from the ISS via the Japanese Experiment Module airlock utilizing NanoRacks' Cubesat Deployers. NanoRacks operates via its Space Act Agreement with NASA.

Founded in 2010, Spaceflight is a leading provider of commercial launch services for small and secondary payloads. To date Spaceflight has launched five spacecraft including the Planet Labs Dove-1 and Dove-2 spacecraft, as well as three PhoneSats for NASA Ames Research Center. Spaceflight has over 36 spacecraft under contract for launch scheduled between 2013 and 2017. (11/5)

FAA’s Spaceflight Occupant Safety Practices Leave a Few Things Out (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The most interesting aspects are probably the things the FAA has decided are not established practices to safeguard space travelers. Like pressure suits. And launch escape systems. And defined standards to make sure occupants are healthy enough to fly. In other words, the very things that have been baked into national space programs for more than 50 years.

The practices — developed after a series of eight telecons between the FAA, commercial space industry and other stakeholders — cover both suborbital and orbital spaceflight. The agency, which is approaching commercial spaceflight on an informed consent basis, does not lay down any hard and fast rules. However, the practices could form the basis for future rule making. Click here. (11/4) 

How Can Poor Countries Afford Space Programs? (Source: The Economist)
As India's Mars probe begins its journey, many might wonder how a country that cannot feed all of its people can find the money for a Mars mission. How can poor countries afford space programs? India is not the only emerging economy with space ambitions. Nigeria already has a handful of satellites floating around the Earth (though these were launched by others). Depending how you define a space program, even minnows like Sri Lanka, Bolivia and Belarus have plans of some sort to get space activity under way.

By one count, including co-operative efforts between countries but not fully private ones, there are currently over 70 space programs, though only a dozen of these have any sort of launch capability. China’s program is advanced: last year it put a woman in space, and in December it will launch its first (uncrewed) lunar mission. From a distance, India's extra-terrestrial ambitions might seem like a waste of money. The country still has immense numbers of poor people: two-fifths of its children remain stunted from malnutrition and half the population lack proper toilets.

India’s overall space program costs roughly $1 billion a year. That is more than spare change, even for a near $2-trillion economy. Meanwhile, spending on public health, at about 1.2% of GDP, is dismally low. What if the 16,000 scientists and engineers now working on space development were deployed instead to fix rotten sanitation? Click here. (11/4)

Hale: Space Leadership for a Difficult Time (Source: Space News)
The building of the Transcontinental Railroad a century and a half ago was a great national project that literally transformed our nation. I read the great historian Stephen E. Ambrose’s “Nothing Like It in the World” about the building of the railroad, expecting it to be about blasting tunnels through the Sierra Nevadas or building trestles across great rivers or even about encounters with Native Americans. There was some of that, but Ambrose concentrated on what was really important in constructing the railroad: How did they get the money?  

That was a fascinating story of creativity in the extreme, risk taking, influencing, and skirting the boundaries of ethics. While the conventional wisdom of all the well-established railroad builders was that building the Pacific Railroad would take two or more decades and would never turn a profit, upstart non-railroad entrepreneurs got approval, raised the money, built it in less than five years and walked away rich men. Historical analogies are tricky, but there are lessons to be learned here. (11/4)

China Sets Ambitious Agenda In 'Asian Space Race' (Source: NPR)
It's been just a decade since China became the third nation to put up a manned spacecraft. And China is now leading what some see as a space race among Asian countries. "There's this geostrategic space race in Asia, where China has the clear lead, and India has been more or less desperately searching for what it can be the first to discover or the first to accomplish," Joan Johnson-Freese said.

Wu Ji says China's space programs welcome cooperation with any country. But he's frustrated that two years ago Congress approved a spending bill that bans NASA from using federal funds to cooperate with China. Opponents of U.S.-China cooperation argue that China's military helps run its space programs, and China really has nothing to teach us about space science. But Johnson-Freese says that even during the Cold War, the U.S. worked with the Soviet Union on some space programs.

Wu says he is dismayed by the recent changes in the U.S., whose space programs have long been the envy of the world. "I don't know if your listeners or people living in the U.S. understand these changes," he says. "But as I observe them from the outside, I feel that America is gradually contracting and closing itself off. It's a very strange thing." (11/4)

In Search of Other Earths (Source: Space Review)
Scientists are meeting in California this week for the Second Kepler Science Conference. Jeff Foust reports on some recent discoveries that are bringing astronomers to the goal of the mission: determining how frequent planets like the Earth are in the galaxy. Visit to view the article. (11/4)

Re-Thinking National Security Space Strategy: Chinese vs. American Perceptions of Deterrence (Source: Space Review)
The current national security space strategy places a priority on the use of deterrence to protect satellites. Christopher Stone argues that China's different concept of "deterrence" could render the Pentagon's strategy ineffective. Visit to view the article. (11/4)

NASA's Exploration Design Challenge (Source: NASA)
The goal of the Exploration Design Challenge is for students to research and design ways to protect astronauts from space radiation. NASA and Lockheed Martin are developing the Orion spacecraft that will carry astronauts beyond low Earth orbit and on to an asteroid or Mars. Protecting astronauts from radiation on these distant travels is an important -- and very real -- problem that needs solving. NASA would like your help! Click here. (11/4)

NASA Spacecraft Finds Bounty of Alien Planets, 104 Potentially Habitable Worlds (Source:
The search for other Earth-like planets in the galaxy got a major boost today (Nov. 4) with the discovery of hundreds of newfound alien planets identified by NASA's Kepler spacecraft, a haul that includes 104 strange, new worlds that could potentially support life.

Scientists with NASA's planet-hunting Kepler mission announced the discovery of 833 new planet candidates during a press conference today, bringing the total number of candidate worlds to 3,538. Of the 104 planets in the habitable zone, 10 of them are about the size of Earth, scientists say. (11/4)

The Numbers Are Astronomical (Source: Huffington Post)
A press conference today laid bare some new results from NASA's Kepler space telescope. They're astounding. It turns out that about 22 percent of all Sun-like stars boast a planet that's at the right orbital distance to sustain liquid water on its surface. In other words, one in five of such stars has an Earth-size orbiting world in the so-called "habitable zone."

As noted, 22 percent of all Sun-like stars will sport a habitable, Earth-size world. Since stars similar to Sol (so-called G and K stars) make up 20 percent of the roughly 200 billion stars of the Milky Way, they account for 9 billion planets able to support life. That's the contribution to the planetary population from cousins of the Sun.

However, three-quarters of the Galaxy's stellar complement is comprised of so-called "red dwarfs" -- dim, puny stars rather smaller and much dimmer than the Sun. A recent analysis of Kepler data by Harvard astronomers Courtney Dressing and David Charbonneau implies that 16 percent of red dwarfs sport a planet in the habitable zone. Do the multiplication, and you can throw another 24 billion candidates for life into the galactic barrel. (11/4)

Space Burial Company to Launch Human Ashes From Florida Starting in 2014 (Source:
Instead of giving your loved ones a traditional burial, why not send them off in style with a memorial spaceflight? That's the vision of Elysium Space, a company that aims to launch portions of cremated human remains into space. Under Elysium Space's plan, human ashes will launch into space and orbit the Earth for several months before burning up in the atmosphere as a "shooting star."

The company has already launched a mobile app to track ashes in orbit, and hopes to launch its first memorial flight in 2014. The company is contracting with commercial space transportation companies such as Orbital Sciences and SpaceX, and the first launch is slated for summer 2014 from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (11/4)

How to Launch Superfast Trips to Mars (Source:
New propulsion technologies may blast astronauts through space at breakneck speeds in the coming decades, making manned Mars missions much faster and safer. Souped-up electric propulsion systems and rockets driven by nuclear fusion or fission could end up shortening travel times to the Red Planet dramatically, proponents say, potentially opening up a new era in manned space exploration. Click here. (11/4)

Space Governance: A Modest but Important Start (Source: Space News)
In early October, the United Nations submitted the report from its Group of Governmental Experts on Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures in Outer Space Activities, which was presented at the 68th U.N. General Assembly. A statement released by the U.S. State Department congratulated the countries involved in the formulation of measures.

The document aims to enhance transparency in outer space activities through international cooperation, consultations, information exchange, risk reduction notifications and regular visits with an aim to minimize risks to space objects. While this may not entirely address the national security dilemmas of all actors who possess assets in space, it ought to be welcomed because it symbolizes a strong international commitment toward maintaining a long-term sustainable, stable and secure space environment.

Critics have often cited the voluntary nature and a lack of enforcement mechanism with transparency and confidence-building measures as a key weakness. They further point out the political hypocrisy and fate of many other multilateral regimes such as the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Arms Trade Treaty and the Hague Code of Conduct. The critics are wrong and right. Click here. (11/4)

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