December 27, 2013

Russian Duo Begin EVA to Install Commercial Cameras (Source:
Expedition 38 Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy have begun another spacewalk outside of the International Space Station (ISS), tasked with the installation of photographic and scientific equipment. The spacewalk follows two US EVAs to replace a Pump Module to aid the Station’s cooling system.

Kotov and Ryazanskiy – donning their Orlan-MK 6 and 4 spacesuits – began their EVA by exiting the Pirs airlock at 1pm UTC. This is the third spacewalk within a week, following the two recent US EVAs. Their main task is to install a pair of cameras on the Zvezda Service Module as part of a Canadian commercial endeavor designed to downlink Earth observation imagery and to refresh experiments. (12/27)

Russian Anti-Gravity Observation Satellite Delayed Until 2015 (Source: RIA Novosti)
A Russian satellite to study anti-gravity forces by observing clusters of galaxies has been delayed until 2015 due to problems with a German-built telescope, a science official said. The satellite, to view galaxy-emitted X-rays in an attempt to unlock the secrets of so-called dark energy, a force believed to propel objects away from one another, had been previously expected to be launched next year.

However, a sensor on one of the craft’s two telescopes was malfunctioning, and immediate attempts to fix it revealed that its circuitry must be completely redesigned, Mikhail Pavlinsky, head of high-energy astrophysics at the Russian Academy of Sciences, told a press conference. (12/27)

Year in Review: Dark Energy Gets More Confusing (Source: Science News)
New measurements of light from distant exploding stars were supposed to illuminate the dark energy that is pushing the cosmos apart. Instead they have further shrouded the universe’s fate. Dark energy first made headlines in 1998, when researchers found that light from faraway supernovas was dimmer than expected, suggesting that the universe is expanding at a faster and faster pace.

To explain this acceleration, scientists surmised the existence of dark energy, which pushes space outward. Most physicists suspect that dark energy is a form of vacuum energy known as the “cosmological constant” because its strength never varies. If so, a number called w, which relates the pressure pushing space apart to the density of dark energy, must equal –1. But this year, scientists using a powerful new telescope arrived at a different value for w. By combining the supernova data with previous results from other studies, the researchers calculated w to be –1.186. (12/27)

EADS's Astrium Unit May Be Eclipsed by Costs (Source: Flight Global)
EADS’s Astrium space division ended 2013 on a note of triumph, with the Gaia star-mapping satellite it built for the European Space Agency enjoying a perfect Soyuz launch from the agency’s spaceport in French Guiana. But the company – which is also prime contractor for ESA’s Ariane 5 and in-development Ariane 6 rockets, as well as many of the most sophisticated commercial satellites flying today – faces several months of uncertainty.

EADS is reorganizing in a bid to boost its cost-competitiveness amid reduced military spending, by combining Astrium with its Cassidian defense products unit into a single division, to be called Airbus Defence and Space. What is known of EADS’s plans so far is that 5,800 jobs will be cut across Astrium and Cassidian – about 15% of the pre-shuffle headcount – and that Cassidian will lose at least one major facility, at Unterschleissheim near Munich. The impact on Astrium’s facilities and operations remains to be seen. (12/27)

Fortress Backs New LightSquared Bankruptcy Exit Plan (Source: Reuters)
LightSquared is proposing a new bankruptcy exit plan with financing from Fortress Investment Group and other backers, as the U.S. wireless communications company seeks to avoid a sale to highest bidder Dish Network Corp. LightSquared would receive $2.75 billion in fresh loans and at least $1.25 billion in equity investment from private equity firms Fortress and Melody Capital Advisors LLC, as well as JPMorgan Chase & Co and Harbinger Capital Partners. Harbinger, billionaire Philip Falcone's hedge fund, is LightSquared's controlling shareholder. (12/27)

Kazakhstan Developing Space Tourism (Source: Tengri)
Kazakhstan-based Diamond Trans has invested about $1 million to start the Space Harbor project that will feature trade and entertainment zones, hotels and office space. The project is centered around a glass dome enabling to observe space launches. The project seeks to ensure safety and comfort of arriving tourists. The administration of Baikonur city is considering renting out lands totaling 10 hectares adjacent to the facility under construction. Russia and Kazakhstan are expected to sign bulk of documents on space tourism projects early 2014. (12/27)

After Mars Mission, India Plans Manned Moon Mission (Source: India Today)
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and the Ministry of Defense (MoD) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a manned moon mission. The mission comes days after ISRO successfully launched Rs.450 crore Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) in November using its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-XL). The MoD has tasked the Indian Air Force (IAF) to identify the qualitative requirements for the crew. The Director General of Armed Forces Medical Services is to draw out the requirements. (12/27)

China's Moon Landing is Part of a New Space Race by Emerging Nations (Source: LA Times)
While NASA wrestles with budget problems, dozens of countries are aiming to show the world their technological prowess in space exploration. China's lunar triumph offered many Americans their first glimpse at an unfolding new space race involving countries with emerging economies. Space exploration, once the exclusive domain of the world's superpowers, is now being undertaken by dozens of nations aiming to show the world their technological prowess.

Although these countries are still decades behind the United States in space technology, their push into the cosmos comes at a time when NASA has been wrestling with budgetary restraints and struggling to achieve new milestones in space flight. The U.S. must stay at the forefront of space exploration by helping all countries, including China, advance their programs, Buzz Aldrin said. An existing law prohibits NASA from working with China, but Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-VA), the fiercest opponent of international cooperation with the country, announced his retirement this month. (12/27)

China Says Satellite Network to Be Big Asset, Others Can Use It Too (Source: Reuters)
China's homegrown satellite navigation system will bring untold economic, social and military benefits and other countries in Asia are welcome to use it, the director of China's satellite navigation agency said. The year-old Beidou satellite navigation system is a rival to the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) and Russian GLONASS. Beidou's 16 satellites serve the Asia-Pacific but the number of satellites is expected to grow to 30 by 2020 as coverage expands globally. (12/27)

Brown Dwarfs Star System May Harbor Nearby Alien Planet (Source:
Astronomers have spotted signs of a possible exoplanet in a nearby system of twin failed stars. If confirmed, the alien world would be one of the closest to our sun ever found. Scientists only discovered the pair of failed stars, known as brown dwarfs, last year. At just 6.6 light-years from Earth, the pair is the third closest system to our sun. It's actually so close that "television transmissions from 2006 are now arriving there," said Kevin Luhman.

The brown dwarf system, which has been dubbed Luhman 16AB and is officially classified as WISE J104915.57-531906, is slightly more distant than Barnard's star, a red dwarf 6 light-years away that was first seen in 1916. Even closer to our sun is Alpha Centauri, whose two main stars form a binary pair about 4.4 light-years away. The alien planet Alpha Centauri Bb is known to orbit one of the stars in the Alpha Centauri system, and currently holds the title of closest exoplanet to our solar system. (12/27)

Shiloh Launch Complex is Set for Federal Review (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Space Florida's plan to build a state-run launch complex on the environmentally sensitive fringes of Kennedy Space Center is ready for its federal and public vetting over possible environmental impacts. At stake are Florida's plans for a new launch complex marketed to private rocket companies weighed against environmentalists' hopes that the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge will be forever protected.

To compete for the growing private satellite launching business that has migrated overseas in recent decades, Space Florida, a public-private agency, wants to carve out about 200 acres known as the Shiloh site and build two state-of-the-art rocket launch complexes on 60 of those acres. The property is owned by NASA but managed as part of the wildlife refuge.

Space Florida expects a new launch center could be largely free of much of the federal red tape and the competing national priorities that can bog down private launches from the nearby KSC or from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch complexes. It's also close enough to the old KSC space shuttle landing strip, which Space Florida also is seeking to acquire, that the agency thinks companies could use them together. (12/26)

Visitor Complex Offers Best Viewing for SpaceX Launch (Source: KSCVC)
A Falcon 9 rocket will light up skies on the east coast during a dramatic SpaceX liftoff scheduled for Friday, Jan. 3. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex guests may view the dusk launch from the Apollo/Saturn V Center, the closest possible public viewing area, or special areas at the Visitor Complex. (12/26)

Eleven Great Space Moments Of 2013 (Source: Forbes)
It’s an impossible task to distill everything that humans have done, seen, and learned about in space in the year 2013, but here are eleven notable stories from the final frontier that will still be remembered in the decades to come. Click here. (12/26)

A Successful Year for U.S. Launch Providers as New Vehicles Debut (Source: Parabolic Arc)
It has been a busy year for American rocket companies, with 19 successful missions flown by the nation’s three launch providers. The U.S. space transportation fleet became more diverse as three boosters and a cargo vessel made successful maiden flights in 2013. Launch highlights for the year include a number of significant missions and firsts. Click here. (12/26)

Lockheed Martin Goes Dutch to Mars (Source: The Sentinel)
A Dutch nonprofit company looking to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars has chosen local aerospace giant Lockheed Martin to help accomplish the mission. Mars One, founded by Bas Landsorp and Arno Wielders of the Netherlands, is looking to launch a rover to the red planet in 2018 to study the feasibility for a human settlement.

Lockheed Martin is charged with developing a mission concept study for the Mars lander spacecraft, which will be based on the 2007 NASA Phoenix spacecraft. For the Phoenix mission, Lockheed designed, built, tested and operated the lander for NASA. For the Mars One lander study, Lockheed will evaluate the applicability of the design for the Mars One mission and identify any modifications that are necessary to meet their requirements. Lockheed will also provide cost and schedule estimates. (12/26)

How is Global Warming Affecting Precipitation? (Source: CSM)
The United States and Japan are getting set to launch a 4.3-ton satellite designed to monitor rain and snowfall in unprecedented detail. The agencies announced on Thursday that they have scheduled the launch for Feb. 28, 2014, from Japan's Tanegashima Space Center on an island off the southern tip of the larger island of Kyushu.

The spacecraft, the Global Precipitation Monitoring (GPM) satellite, has been designed as the centerpiece of an international squadron of nine satellites that are already on orbit. The data the new satellite will gather not only will feed unique information into current efforts to forecast weather and monitor the effects of global warming on precipitation. (12/26)

Mars Express to Make Daredevil Flyby of Phobos (Source: Discovery)
In a daredevil flyby, the European Mars Express satellite will buzz Phobos, the red planet’s largest of two moons. The orbiter will come within 45 kilometers (28 miles) of its surface. But there’s a catch — this isn’t a photo opportunity. Coming so close to Phobos without taking photos may sound like forgetting to pack your camera before an expedition to the Serengeti, but as the flyby will be so low and so fast, any attempt at photography would look like a blurred mess. So the flyby will instead be used as a prime opportunity to accurately measure Phobos’ gravitational field. (12/26)

Russian Communications Satellite Launched by Proton (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A Proton rocket fired away from the snow-covered Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Thursday, commencing a lengthy nine-hour mission to deploy a Russian civil communications satellite. Liftoff of the workhorse Russian rocket from the Central Asia launch base was at 5:49:56 a.m. EST, marking the final satellite launch of the year, according to published manifests. (12/26)

Test Launch of Russia's Smaller Soyuz Rocket by Year-End (Source: Voice of Russia)
A state commission working at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome may decide to conduct the first test launch of Russia's new Soyuz-2.1v light-class carrier rocket in 2013 instead of 2014, as it was planned earlier, a cosmodrome source has said.  "The state commission's session has been set for this afternoon. A decision may be made at it to conduct the rocket's launch within the next two days," the source said. (12/26)

Russia Bets on Sweeping Reform to Revive Ailing Space Industry (Source: Reuters)
From rocket-shaped playground equipment to faded murals of cosmonauts, mementos of the heyday of Soviet space exploration are scattered around this sandswept town that launched Yuri Gagarin into orbit in 1961. When President Vladimir Putin described the space port on the remote Kazakh steppe as "physically aged" in April, he could have been speaking about Russia's space industry itself.

In Baikonur as elsewhere, the once-pioneering sector is struggling to live up to its legacy, end an embarrassing series of botched launches, modernize decaying infrastructure and bring in new blood and new ideas. Putin hopes a sweeping reform he signed off on this month will not come too late to turn the industry around - part of a push to make Russia a high-technology superpower by salvaging leading Cold War-era industries and research centers. (12/26)

Russia Boosting Production of Engines for Russia's Rockets (Source: Itar-Tass)
The Voronezh Mechanical Plant (VMP) - a leading enterprise of the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, in 2013 increased the production of items for carrier rockets by 12.4 percent. The enterprise in the outgoing year has produced liquid-propellant engines for the Proton and Soyuz carrier rockets, the Energia upper stage, as well as the combustion chamber for the Angara carrier rocket to a total worth of 3.2 billion roubles.

A total of 20 various carrier rockets with engines made by the VMP have been launched in the outgoing year, Koptev said. In the sphere of civilian manufacturing, the enterprise’s output on the year results remains the same - 1.4 billion roubles. In addition to output growth, the average monthly wage at the plant had increased by 15 percent to reach 25,000 roubles. And the number of personnel remained the same - 6,500 people, he added. (12/26)

Federation Council Approves Law on ERA-GLONASS System (Source: Itar-Tass)
The Federation Council on Wednesday approved a federal law on the state automated information system ERA-GLONASS. For the present, the Russian legislation does not define mechanisms to use satellite navigation technologies to ensure road traffic safety.

The law approved on Wednesday regulates relations in the creation and functioning of the system of urgent operation in emergencies with the use of the Russian global navigation satellite system. The system is used to immediately receive information about traffic accidents and send it to duty services, including police. (12/26)

UK Bolsters Defenses Against Crippling Solar Storms (Source: Nature)
Christmas dinner by candlelight might seem quaint and appealing, but the possibility of days without satellite communications and power — let alone the television and the means to reheat the leftovers — are more alarming. The UK government has announced plans to fund a new space-weather forecasting service in an effort to lessen the effects of such disaster scenarios.

Run by the Met Office, the service would provide an early warning for businesses and services that are likely to be affected by severe space weather — changes in environmental conditions that result when magnetic storms in the Sun's atmosphere release streams of energetic particles into space. (12/26)

Launch of H-IIA Launch Vehicle Planned for February (Source: JAXA)
Mitsubishi and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will launch the H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 23 (H-IIA F23) with the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) core observatory onboard on Feb. 28. To capitalize on the excess launch capability of the H-IIA F23, we will also provide launch and orbit injection opportunities for seven small secondary payloads (piggyback payloads). (12/26)

Don't Discount China's Space Prowess (Source: CNN)
Earlier this week on News Stream, I had the pleasure to talk with former NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao. I was particularly riveted by his comments on China's space program. China's first moon rover is still exploring the lunar surface, capping off a big year for China's space program. Many pundits have pointed out that China is now doing what the United States already accomplished some 50 years ago. So how truly impressive are China's space achievements?

"I heard that argument a lot and frankly I think it's short-sighted," Chiao tells me. "Sure we went back to the moon over 45 years ago, but the fact is we can't do it today." Chiao goes on to say: "China's tech sophistication is very impressive to me. I've been over to see their space center and their space hardware. What they're lacking is operational experience." (12/26)

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