December 24, 2013

China Looks To 2017 Sample-Return Moon Mission (Source: Aviation Week)
With Chang'e 3's lander now on the Moon, its 140-kg (310-lb.) rover deployed and instruments on both working well, China is looking ahead to a sample-return mission to Earth's natural satellite in 2017. The next mission, Chang'e 4, will be similar to the current effort, using a backup spacecraft and rover, but it will be adapted to prove technologies for the sample-return mission, Chang'e 5, says Wu Zhijian. Wu gave no schedule for Chang'e 4, but last year it was slated for 2015. (12/23)

Scientists Petition U.S. Congress for Return to the Moon (Source:
China’s Chang’e 3 robotic landing on the moon has helped spur a political crusade in the United States to more aggressively explore and utilize the moon. At the heart of the campaign is the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG), a group chartered by NASA Headquarters to assist in planning the scientific exploration of the moon. LEAG is organizing a letter writing campaign to Congress to underscore the importance of the moon. (12/23)

Space Fight Over Oil Exploration (Source: The Telegraph)
The government wants the Indian Space Research Organization to give up 7 km of its test range in the Bay of Bengal to allow a consortium of Cairn, Tata and ONGC to explore gas. Seismic surveys have identified the area as “highly promising”. The block — PR-0SN-2004/1— is located in the Palar basin along the east coast of Chennai and to the north-east of Sriharikota space station at a depth of 400 meters.

The cabinet committee on infrastructure (CCI) will meet to resolve a spat involving Isro and the operators of the block, which overlaps a “prohibited zone” in the ocean where Isro says its rocket debris may fall. The issue has seen the finance and petroleum ministries joining hands against the department of space with the Prime Minister’s Office trying to play the arbitrator. (12/23)

Contest Winner Set to Become First Black African in Space (Source: Guardian)
DJ from Mabopane township near Pretoria will be blasted 62 miles into orbit in 2015 after winning space academy competition. Born and raised in a township, Mandla Maseko has spent his life at the mercy of the heavens. "Once it rains, the lights go out," the 25-year-old said. "I do know the life of a candle."

But from this humblest of launchpads, Maseko is poised to defy the laws of physical and political gravity by becoming the first black African in space. The DJ is among 23 young people who saw off 1 million other entrants from around the world to emerge victorious in the Lynx Apollo Space Academy competition. Their prize is to be blasted 62 miles into orbit aboard a Lynx mark II shuttle in 2015. Editor's Note: See photos of the group's Florida-based exploits here. (12/24)

Air Force Still Deciding if Initial Falcon 9 v1.1 Flights Count Toward Certfication (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force expects to decide by early 2014 if the maiden launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket will count toward a new process to qualify the company to launch national security assets, a service spokeswoman said. Officials with SpaceX expect credit for the flight despite being unable to reignite the rocket’s upper-stage engine in a test that followed deployment of the satellite payload. They also expect to service to count the following mission, a Dec. 3 flight for satellite operator SES, Emily Shanklin, a SpaceX spokeswoman, said.

The formal Air Force decision in the coming weeks will provide a clearer look at how the service will employ the so-called New Entrant Certification Guide for companies like SpaceX that are hoping to break into the national security launch business. Currently, the Delta 4 and Atlas 5 rockets built and operated by United Launch Alliance (ULA) of Denver have a virtual lock on that market. But the lack of competition has been sore spot with lawmakers and the White House explicitly called for increased competition in its new national space transportation policy released in November. (12/24)

NASA Carbon Sleuth Gets Simulated Taste of Space (Source: NASA JPL)
A NASA observatory that will make the most precise, highest-resolution and most complete, space-based measurements of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere to date has marked a key milestone in preparation for its planned July 2014 launch. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)-2 spacecraft was moved into a thermal vacuum chamber at Orbital Science's Satellite Manufacturing Facility in Arizona in late November, where it underwent a series of environmental tests that were completed last week.

The thermal vacuum tests are designed to confirm the integrity of the observatory's electrical connections and to subject the OCO-2 instrument and spacecraft to the extreme hot, cold, airless environment they will encounter once in orbit. The observatory is continuing its integration and test campaign, scheduled for completion in the spring. The observatory will then be shipped to Vandenberg for its planned July 1, 2014, launch. (12/23)

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