November 8, 2013

NBC To Broadcast Virgin Galactic’s First Commercial Spaceflight (Source: Universe Today)
In true Richard Branson flair, the founder of Virgin Galactic has a multimedia plan in place for when he and his adult children, Holly and Sam, take the first planned tourist spaceflight next year. Virgin Galactic and NBCUniversal signed a “multi-platform partnership” for the network’s affiliates to transmit the flight all over the place. Disclosed platforms so far include CNBC, MSNBC,, Syfy and The Weather Channel.

They also plan a “primetime special” on NBC on the launch’s eve, and to host a live event for three hours on NBC’s Today show. Financial terms were not released. Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo is in the midst of powered flight tests and the company has hundreds of people signed up for flights. (11/8)

Physicists Eye Quantum-Gravity Interface (Source: Quanta)
It starts like a textbook physics experiment, with a ball attached to a spring. If a photon strikes the ball, the impact sets it oscillating very gently. But there’s a catch. Before reaching the ball, the photon encounters a half-silvered mirror, which reflects half of the light that strikes it and allows the other half to pass through. What happens next depends on which of two extremely well-tested but conflicting theories is correct: quantum mechanics or Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

In a strange quantum mechanical effect called “superposition,” the photon simultaneously passes through and reflects backward off the mirror; it then both strikes and doesn’t strike the ball. If quantum mechanics works at the macroscopic level, then the ball will both begin oscillating and stay still, entering a superposition of the two states. Because the ball has mass, its gravitational field will also split into a superposition. Click here. (10/31)

China Could Overtake the U.S. in Space Exploration, Expert Says (Source: Sydney Morning Herald)
China could overtake the U.S. as a space superpower, experts say, as NASA faces waves of budget cuts. "But look to the future, and there are unmistakable warning signs that China may surpass the United States and Russia to become the world's pre-eminent space-faring power," writes John Hickman, an international studies professor at Berry College in Australia. (11/7)

As China's Space Program Rises, Will NASA Rise Again? (Source: Houston Chronicle)
China has the opportunity in coming years to surpass the United States in space programs, forcing the government to step up NASA funding to retain a leadership position, partner with the Chinese or risk falling behind, according to space policy experts. Russia is reliant upon technology designed nearly five decades ago and is getting by on past momentum. China's space program, by contrast, is in ascendance.

By 2020, China plans to complete construction of its own space station. While that may seem modest compared to NASA's overall accomplishments, they signal an ambitious program that is advancing rather than regressing, space experts say. China has provided a stable budget and ample funding for its space goals, while NASA has been tasked with large expectations in human exploration without commensurate resources. (11/6)

Six-Tailed Asteroid Stuns Scientists (Source: Space Daily)
A strange asteroid that appears to have multiple rotating tails has been spotted with NASA's Hubble telescope between Mars and Jupiter, astronomers said Thursday. Instead of appearing as a small point of light, like most asteroids, this one has half a dozen comet-like dust tails radiating out like spokes on a wheel. (11/7)

NASA Technologists Embrace Laser Instrument Challenge (Source: Space Daily)
In 2007, the National Research Council threw down a challenge: Design a space-based laser altimeter that could measure the height of Earth's surface everywhere to within a mere 10 centimeters - all at 5-meter resolution. To this day, some believe it can't be done. Goddard scientist Dave Harding begs to differ.

He and his team have embraced the challenge and are developing a laser altimeter that could provide the data from a berth onboard the NRC-proposed Lidar Surface Topography, or LIST, mission. It would generate highly detailed maps of topography and vegetation that scientists could use to forecast and respond to natural hazards and study carbon storage in forests. (11/7)

Surprising Recent Discoveries of Three Large Near-Earth Objects (Source: Space Daily)
Two surprisingly large Near-Earth Asteroids have been discovered in just the last week or so, as well as a third moderately large asteroid which surprisingly has also gone undetected until now, even though it can pass close enough to the Earth to be classified as "potentially hazardous".

Not since 1983 has any near-Earth asteroid been found as large as the approximately 20-kilometer (12-mile) size of the two new large ones. In fact, there are only three other known near-Earth asteroids that are of comparable size or larger than the two new large ones. (11/7)

Inmarsat Revenue Down as U.S. Government Business Remains Weak (Source: Space News)
Inmarsat on Nov. 7 said it is seeing continued weakness in its U.S. government business but that for now the effect is limited and that its core business continues to grow. They warned that what it had hoped was a short-term dip in U.S. government business following the U.S. budget crisis and the troop-pullout from Afghanistan may drag on longer than expected. (11/7)

Google Lunar XPRIZE Establishes Milestone Prizes (Source:
Back in 2007, building upon the successes of the Ansari XPRIZE for suborbital spaceflight and the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge, XPRIZE and Google launched the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, the largest incentivized competition to date. The concept was easy to explain: land on the moon, move 500 meters and send back video, images and data. The prize requirements were conceived to demonstrate the minimum useful capability a spacecraft would need for future uses in space exploration and scientific research.

Thirty teams signed up for this audacious challenge by the close of registration in 2010 — three times as many as the initial concept study had suggested. Going back to the moon had clearly struck a chord! This week, XPRIZE and Google announced a series of Milestone Prizes available to competing teams. The reason for introducing these prizes deserves a little background.

We've learned that success is more likely if we continue to keep our eye on the entire ecosystem surrounding a prize, and when we address any significant challenges to that ecosystem that may arise. Given the large investment needed to send a robot to the moon, two elements of the Google Lunar XPRIZE ecosystem are critical: potential customers for the technology developed by teams, and investors to help create the businesses to leverage those markets. (11/7)

Is This Tiny Shuttle The Future of Spaceflight? (Source: Killer Apps)
Late last month, the future of spaceflight -- a mini-space shuttle dubbed the Dream Chaser -- made its first unpowered glide-flight. It was highly successful, at least until it touched down on the runway at Edwards Air Force Base and promptly flipped over onto its back. Ignominious start though it may be, it's just the beginning. Designer Sierra Nevada Corp. plans to quickly repair the vehicle and fly it again. A second Dream Chaser is under construction.

Reusability has long been a Holy Grail for spaceflight, and it's easy to understand why. Despite the higher cost of each flight and decreased payload, amortizing the engineering and material costs over a series of flights would be enough to ultimately drag the price down. Though launching is almost always the most expensive part of spaceflight, the obvious first target for reusability is the spacecraft that sits atop the rocket. Until now, however, it has simply been too risky and expensive to bother with. (11/6)

Ashton Kutcher's Space Trip Training Gets Messy (Source: Ottawa Sun)
Ashton Kutcher encountered an extremely messy training session for his upcoming trip to space, when he fell victim to multiple vomiting fits on a spaceship simulator. The star is just one of the celebrities who has signed up with Virgin Galactic, which offers rich fun lovers the chance to jet into space and experience a few minutes of weightlessness and a view of the earth from nearly 100 kilometers up. And to prepare for the out-of-this-world trip, Kutcher had to train in a Zero Gravity airplane - a session that left him feeling terribly ill. (11/7)

Beyoncé Could Still Beat Lady Gaga to Space-Singing (Source: Vanity Fair)
I always think that when celebrities get on private space flights it’s exciting. The more, the merrier. I’m not sure how soon Lady Gaga would get up there. Both Beyoncé and Justin Bieber—whom I call the Biebernaut—have tickets, so I’m not sure she’ll be the first one or not. There might be some competition there. I think Beyoncé and Justin Bieber said they wanted to record a music video too, and this was years ago that they bought their [Virgin Galactic] tickets. I’m not sure who’s ahead of who in the line. (11/7)

Reality Show Aims to Give Ordinary Americans a Shot at Space Travel (Source: Fast Company)
"Deep Space Homer," a beloved episode of The Simpsons, featured a cash-strapped NASA boosting public interest in the space program by sending ordinary American Homer Simpson into orbit. Turns out, the smart-about-science cartoon was prescient about space travel.

Legendary television producer Mark Burnett is teaming up with Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic for a new reality show where ordinary Americans compete to fly into space. On NBC's upcoming Space Race, which still doesn't have air or film dates, the winner's grand prize will be a trip into space courtesy of Virgin.

Space Race will prominently feature Spaceport America. Virgin Galactic will use Spaceport as its headquarters; Whitesides told Fast Company in a telephone interview that the company is still putting the finishing touches on the facility and conducting work on its test-flight program. By the time Virgin Galactic flies tourists into space, Burnett's reality show may be able to start taping. (11/7)

Indian Version of Space Race Reality Show Planned (Source: Hindustan Times)
On the face of it, this seems like the mother of all reality shows. Come 2014 and a new television show will invite people to compete for a seat on business tycoon Richard Branson’s tourist flight to space. The Indian version of upcoming American TV show Space Race will chronicle the struggle of 16 competitors vying for the coveted spot on the spacecraft. Interestingly, the rights to the show have been acquired by a Mumbai-based production house for the Indian market. (11/8)

Canada Revamps Satellite Regulations To Make Industry More Competitive (Source: Space News)
Canadian regulators on Nov. 5 acceded to satellite operators’ and users’ requests that the government reduce fees and ease coverage restrictions for satellite licensees and go to bat for them in seeking orbital slots outside Canada’s orbital arc. In a ruling that followed a monthslong consultation with satellite fleet owners and major domestic users of satellite capacity, Industry Canada said the revamped regulations should enhance the competitiveness of Canada’s satellite sector. (11/7)

Russian Military Satellite to Go Into Orbit Next Week (Source: RIA Novosti)
A Russian military satellite will blast off atop a Proton-M carrier rocket next week, Russia’s space agency Roscosmos said. “The launch of a Proton-M rocket with a satellite for the Defense Ministry is scheduled for November 12,” a Roscosmos spokesman said. The agency gave no further details about the satellite’s purpose or specifications. (11/8)

Kazakhstan Struggling to Establish Space Industry (Source: Tengri)
Kazakhstan is working towards creating its own independent space exploration industry; however, the nation doesn’t discard its partnership with Russia,” said Talgat Mussabayev, head of KazKosmos National Space Agency. “We are taking steps towards creating an independent space exploration industry; I have to admit not everyone likes what is going on”, he said.

“However, we cannot cope without Russia. Russia is home to all the technology, space industry facilities, all the rocket stuff”, he emphasized, adding that “we do have the Baikonur cosmodrome in our territory; however, nobody is our name so far." (11/8)

Kazakhstan Intent on Reducing Toxic Launch Chemicals, Not Immediately (Source: Tengri)
“Here at KazKosmos we do understand common people’s concerns over the launches. As you know, I was the first to speak against launching carrier rockets that use highly toxic heptyl and amyl,” Talgat Mussabayev told journalists. “Kazakhstan insists on reducing the number of such launches from Baikonur; however (…) an immediate complete ban on such launches is impossible for a number of reasons," he said. (11/8)

ATK Announces Second Quarter Results (Source: ATK)
ATK reported operating results for the second quarter of its Fiscal Year 2014. Orders for the quarter were up 17 percent to $1.5 billion, which represents a book-to-bill ratio of 1.3. Second quarter year-over-year sales were up 7 percent to $1.1 billion. The increase in sales was due to increased sales in the Sporting Group, partially offset by a sales decline in the Defense Group. Operating profit in the second quarter increased approximately $38 million. (11/7)

Canada Launches New Space-Themed $5 Bill (Source: Collect Space)
Canadians can now cash in on their country's contributions to the International Space Station with the release of a new five dollar bill emblazoned with the orbiting outpost's Canadarm2 robotic arm. The Bank of Canada began circulating the new $5 note on Thursday (Nov. 7), seven months after debuting the space inspired design aboard the space station. (11/7)

JWST On Cost, On Schedule after Shutdown (Source: Space News)
The two-week U.S. government shutdown that idled nearly 18,000 NASA civil servants had a minimal effect on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which nevertheless is grappling with a number of technical issues that threaten to eat into the 14 months of reserve funding the project has set aside, NASA officials told a National Research Council panel Nov. 4.  

Although it has forced NASA to tweak the flagship astrophysics mission’s testing schedule, “the shutdown did not impact the launch date” of October 2018, Eric Smith, acting director of the JWST program office at NASA headquarters here, told the National Research Council’s Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics. (11/6)

DARPA Seeks Retired Satellites for Parts in On-Orbit Salvaging Demo (Source: Space News)
DARPA hopes to narrow a list of about 140 retired satellites down to 10 finalists to be the subject of its first on-orbit operation in an experimental satellite servicing and salvaging project. Known as Phoenix, the goal of the program is to develop a maneuverable spacecraft equipped with a dexterous robotic arm to salvage useful components from retired communications satellites. Some have likened the project to performing on-orbit surgery. (11/7)

Com Dev, MDA Jockey for Position on Arctic Satellite Project (Source: Space News)
Com Dev International and MDA are positioning themselves for what they hope are key roles in a proposed new constellation of Canadian satellites designed to provide communication services and weather observation for the Arctic. Officials with the two main players in Canada’s space industry say the firms intend to respond to a Request for Information (RFI) the Canadian government issued Nov. 1.

The government is gathering information so it can eventually prepare a request for proposals for what is being called the Polar Communications and Weather (PCW) mission. That would see the launch of two optical satellites in a highly elliptical orbit for Arctic communications and weather observation. (11/6)

Young Geniuses Could Push the Space Race Forward (Source: FOX News)
Fresh ideas from young rocket scientists of the millennial generation might just kick-start the U.S. space program -- just as similarly young scientists did in the 1960s' race to the moon. Rocketeers like 24-year-old Cory Medina are inventing new ways to explore space. Click here. (11/6)

Possible Taurid Fireball Dazzles Southern California (Source: Discovery)
Wednesday night at around 8pm PST, local news stations received numerous reports of a bright fireball over Southern California. Residents throughout Los Angeles county, San Diego and desert cities reported seeing a bright object breaking up as it traveled through clear skies. Eyewitnesses quoted by regional NBC stations said they saw a “trail of debris” consistent with a meteor, while others mistook the fireball for a huge firework. (11/6)

Bacteria Starved in Space Grow Better (Source: Science News)
Bacteria aboard the final mission of space shuttle Atlantis have given scientists a better understanding of the effects of microgravity on potentially dangerous microbes. Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria were grown during the 12-day mission in 2011 and compared with bacterial colonies of the same species grown on Earth.

Both the space-flown and Earth-based bacteria experienced an environment low in phosphate and oxygen. In the end, the bacteria experiencing the conditions under micogravity divided more often than the bacteria on Earth. When either phosphate or oxygen was increased, the bacterial colonies had about the same final cell count. (11/6)

Satellite Will Fall to Earth, but No One Is Sure Where (Source: New York Times)
A European GOCE satellite that mapped Earth’s gravitational field in exquisite detail will be pulled down by gravity to its fiery destruction sometime in the next few days. Where and when it will crash no one knows. It could be almost anywhere on the globe. About 25 to 45 fragments of the one-ton spacecraft are expected to survive all the way to the surface, with the largest perhaps weighing 200 pounds. (11/6)

Loral Awarded Follow-on DARPA Contract (Source: MDA) Corp.
Loral has been selected to develop designs, processes and business terms for carrying small science and technology missions to space on its geostationary (GEO) satellite platform. Under phase two of the DARPA Phoenix program, SSL intends to detail the design and implementation processes for affordable delivery of small spacecraft beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The goal of the revolutionary Phoenix program is to enable cost-effective repurposing of serviceable space hardware that is already on orbit. (11/4)

Siberian Blast Points to More Destructive Meteors Ahead (Source: Science)
Three times in the past century, sizable asteroids have streaked into Earth’s atmosphere and exploded in midair. Astronomers have thought that such intense, rapid-fire pummeling was an anomaly. But now a group of researchers says it may be the norm. Their new analysis, based on February’s window-shattering blast over Chelyabinsk, Russia, suggests—but falls short of proving—that the world should expect 10 times as many atmospheric blasts as astronomers have been expecting. (11/6)

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