December 3, 2013

Life On Dying Planets? Alien Hunters Weigh Best Ways to Find Evidence of E.T. (Source:
If life does exist anywhere else in the universe, it may only be fleeting. Now scientists are researching how signs of life might look on dying planets. Astronomers have discovered hundreds of distant alien planets in the past two decades. Future missions could detect potential signs of life called biosignatures on those worlds, such as oxygen or methane in their atmospheres.

Researchers have noted that biosignatures of life on Earth have not remained the same over time, but have altered considerably over its history. This led the researchers to speculate about how Earth and other planets might look in the future. The scientists were testing a computer model of the climates and biospheres — the overall life — of possible exoplanets. "That was when the idea came about to run this model forward in time to see when all water and all life would disappear from the planet," O'Malley-James said. (12/2)

U.S. Students Fall Behind on International Test (Source: Washington Post)
Fifteen-year-old students in the U.S. are lagging behind their international counterparts in math and science, according to results of the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment. "Our scores are stagnant. We're not seeing any improvement for our 15-year-olds," said Jack Buckley, commissioner at the National Center for Education Statistics. American students scored above average in reading, average in science and below average in math. (12/2)

Strange 'Lava World' Is Most Earthlike Alien Planet Yet (Source: Live Science)
A puzzling alien planet is the closest thing to an Earth twin in size and composition known beyond our solar system, though it's far too hot to support life, scientists say. The exoplanet Kepler-78b, whose supertight orbit baffles astronomers, is just 20 percent wider and about 80 percent more massive than Earth, with a density nearly identical to that of our planet, two research teams report in separate papers published online today (Oct. 30) in the journal Nature. (10/30)

Putin Signs Decree to Establish New Space Corporation (Source: Space Safety)
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed into law a decree to establish a state corporation that will consolidate developers and manufacturers of spacecraft. The new United Rocket and Space Corporation will take over manufacturing facilities from the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), whose prestige has been severely dented in recent years by a string of failed rocket launches.

The decree was posted on the Russian government’s legal information website on Monday afternoon. The country is set to radically centralize its space industry in a bid to combat major inefficiencies and cut down on the misuse of funds under plans unveiled by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees the defense and aerospace sectors. (12/3)

Testing Continues at KSC for Satellite Servicing Capabilities (Source: NASA)
Since the first satellites were launched during the late 1950s, daily life has become more and more dependent on spacecraft orbiting the Earth. From time to time, these spacecraft experience failures or simply run out of the propellant necessary to keep them operating properly. Engineers at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida are partnering with counterparts at the agency's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland to develop systems to bring potential future robotic "service tow trucks" to orbiting spacecraft in need of aid.

Tom Aranyos, technical integration manager in NASA's Fluids and Propulsion Division at Kennedy, is leading the team of NASA and contractor specialists that built and assess performance of an engineering development unit (EDU) of a propellant transfer system. The system was designed to demonstrate that a robotically operated satellite could refuel another orbiting spacecraft within required typical mission operating parameters. (12/3)

ULA Prepares for Atlas-5 Launch From California (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
An Atlas 5 rocket is scheduled to launch a classified satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office on Thursday, and the preliminary forecast shows cold temperatures at the California launch site will be the only weather concern. The United Launch Alliance rocket is set to launch at 11:13 p.m. PST (2:13 a.m. EST Friday) from Space Launch Complex 3-East, or SLC-3E at Vandenberg Air Force Base on California's Central Coast. (12/3)

A Quick History of the Surface of Mars (Source: Hobby Space)
Billions of years ago when the Red Planet was young, it appears to have had a thick atmosphere that was warm enough to support oceans of liquid water – a critical ingredient for life. The animation shows how the surface of Mars might have appeared during this ancient clement period, beginning with a flyover of a Martian lake.

The artist’s concept is based on evidence that Mars was once very different. Rapidly moving clouds suggest the passage of time, and the shift from a warm and wet to a cold and dry climate is shown as the animation progresses. The lakes dry up, while the atmosphere gradually transitions from Earthlike blue skies to the dusty pink and tan hues seen on Mars today. Click here. (12/3)

Italian Defense Officials Fight To Restore Slashed Space Funding (Source: Space News)
Italian defense officials on Dec. 3 said Italy’s proposed 2014 space budget strips the country of doing anything aside from performing maintenance of its in-orbit satellites and existing space centers and threatens the future of Italy’s Cosmo-SkyMed radar reconnaissance program. (12/3)

Mo Brooks’ First Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Kill (Programs in My State) (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) has introduced a measure that would prevent the Obama Administration and any future president from canceling the Space Launch System and Orion crew vehicle programs without Congressional approval while freeing up hundreds of millions of dollars to be applied to those programs.

Bill H.R. 3625 targets terminal liability funds that Orion and SLS contractors are holding in reserve in case the government decides to cancel these programs for convenience. The measure says that “hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are unavailable for meaningful work on these programs.”

The measure would void any provisions in existing contracts that set aside termination liability funds, and prohibit the Administration from canceling these programs without Congressional approval. If Congress agreed to the cancellation, it would authorize additional expenditures to cover termination costs at that time. (12/3)

Space Travel to Transform Sleepy Desert Town Into a 'Spaceopolis' (Source: CNN)
The town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, is tiny. The population barely reaches 7,000, and the smattering of tourists it attracts throughout the year are undoubtedly lured by its rustic, small-town charm. Its handful of attractions include some vintage hot spring resorts (pre-World War II, the town was a hotspot for wellness tourism), some nearby ghost towns and roaming buffalo.

"Here, you're in the middle of what I consider to be the real West," says John Mulcahy, mayor of Truth or Consequences (or T or C, as it's known locally). Not surprisingly, T or C lacks the name recognition of, say, Santa Fe or Albuquerque. That is set to change in the next couple of years however, as the town is on the brink of becoming the epicenter for space tourism. Spaceport America -- which next year is slated to send a troupe of multi-millionaires up into the stratosphere when Virgin Galactic moves in -- is a mere 30 miles to the northeast. (12/3)

FSDC Plans Space Locals Event and Tour at Craig Technologies (Source: FSDC)
A tour the Craig Technologies' Aerospace & Defense Manufacturing Center in Cape Canaveral will be offered to FSDC members on Dec. 13 at 2:00 p.m. This tour is free and space is limited so please RSVP by Dec. 10 to reserve a spot. Founder and CEO Carol Craig will be our Space Locals speaker before the tour begins. She will give an overview of Craig Technologies, its impact on the space industry in our area, and her plans for the future. Click here. (12/3)

Asteroid Mining will Fuel Human Expansion into the Cosmos (Source: Planetary Resources)
All of the transportation needs in space –— from orbit raises to station keeping to Lunar landings or even expeditions to the outer planets –—  are near infinitely more achievable when access is fueled by the resources present in near-infinite quantities on asteroids.  In short, harnessing the resources of space for utilization in space is a far less daunting challenge than we are prone to believe. To help visualize why asteroids play such a vital role and where Planetary Resources comes in, we produced an educational short for you. Click here. (12/3)

Blue Origin Debuts the American-Made BE-3 Liquid Hydrogen Rocket Engine (Source: Blue Origin)
Blue Origin reached a key milestone in the development of the liquid-fueled BE-3 engine by successfully demonstrating deep throttle, full power, long-duration and reliable restart all in a single-test sequence. The BE-3 is the first completely new liquid hydrogen-fueled engine to be developed for production in the U.S. since the RS-68 more than a decade ago.

The test demonstrated a full mission duty cycle, mimicking flight of the New Shepard vehicle by thrusting at 110,000 pounds in a 145-second boost phase, shutting down for approximately four and a half minutes to simulate coast through apogee, then restarting and throttling down to 25,000 pounds thrust to simulate controlled vertical landing.  To date, the BE-3 has demonstrated more than 160 starts and 9,100 seconds of operation at Blue Origin’s test facility near Van Horn, Texas. Here's a video. (12/3)

FAA Rules on NASA Astronaut Participation in Licensed Launch/Re-Entry (Source: SpaceRef)
On July 3, 2013, NASA asked the FAA whether the FAA would restrict NASA astronauts, who are U.S. Government employees, from engaging in operational functions during an FAA-licensed launch or reentry. NASA noted that all NASA astronauts undergo extensive training and must meet rigorous medical and training requirements. NASA will also ensure astronauts complete training specific to each launch and reentry operator's vehicle and operations.

The FAA understands that the following scenarios are likely, but not definite. It is the FAA's understanding that a NASA astronaut's interaction with the controls of a launch or reentry vehicle may vary depending on a launch or reentry operator's designs and operational procedures, which are currently under development. During a nominal launch, a launch operator under an FAA license would most likely conduct the ascent using a flight computer as the primary means of controlling the flight path of the vehicle.

We conclude that, under 51 U.S.C. ch. 509 (Chapter 509), the FAA's space regulations at 14 CFR ch. III, and consistent with the FAA's discussion of its human space flight requirements,\1\ a NASA astronaut may engage in operational functions, up to and including piloting the vehicle, the conduct of aborts, emergency response, and monitoring and operating environmental controls and life support systems, and the launch or reentry would remain under FAA jurisdiction.

Security Fears Impede U.S. Space Cooperation with Rising China (Source: Space News)
As China readies its first robotic Moon lander and plots out a large space station for the early 2020s, U.S. space policy experts see a window for space collaboration, but one that is tempered by national security concerns and issues of global space leadership.

“There is a certain inevitability about the United States and China finding areas for space cooperation,” said John Logsdon, professor emeritus of political science and international affairs at the George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute in Washington. “To have leading space countries going their separate paths does not make sense in today’s world,” Logsdon said.

Mike Griffin said what worked for the United States and Russia could work with China. “But — and this is a key ‘but’ — China will not cooperate with us because they think we’re such good guys,” Griffin said. “They will want to do so if, and only if, we have a space program sufficiently grand in its scope and goals that it is clearly in their interest to work with us. Right now, we have little to offer. ... We have no sensible overarching civil space policy, no grand goals, no compelling plans. Why would they want to work with us?” (12/2)

Aerojet Rocketdyne Wins Medium Class Stage III Demonstration Contract (Source: SpaceRef)
Aerojet Rocketdyne has been awarded a contract under the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center Propulsion Applications Program (PAP) to demonstrate a Medium Class Stage III motor with propulsion technologies that are applicable to multiple future common strategic propulsion systems.

The contract includes development, fabrication and demonstration of a full-scale motor that is designed to replace the aging SR-73 third stage motors in the current Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. A full scale static test of the motor including thrust termination demonstration is planned. (12/2)

Russian Spaceship Software Failure Saves Fuel, Time (Source: Xinhua)
The failure of software responsible for the automatic docking of Russian cargo spacecraft Progress M-21M has resulted in the unexpected upside of saving time and fuel, Energia said. "After an alarm signal came out (during the docking), we switched to the manual mode of approaching and found out that we've saved about 200 kg of fuel," Energia's president Vitaly Lopota said. The manual docking, operated by Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov, also completed the process 10 minutes ahead of schedule. (12/2)

House Approves Bipartisan Launch Liability Measure (Source: SpaceRef)
The U.S. House of Representatives approved the Space Launch Liability Indemnification Extension Act (H.R. 3547) by a vote of 376 to 5. The bipartisan bill extends for one year a commercial space transportation risk-sharing and liability regime that was established by Congress in 1988. The bill extends provisions of the Commercial Space Launch Act Amendments, which cover third-party liability for licensed commercial space launches. (12/2)

Comet ISON Is No More, NASA Says (Source: NPR)
Comet ISON, a "shining green candle in the solar wind," is no longer with us, NASA declared Monday morning in a tribute to what many hoped would be the "comet of the century." On NASA's Comet ISON Observing Campaign website, astrophysicist Karl Battams writes that ISON was "born 4.5 billion BC, fragmented Nov. 28, 2013 (age 4.5 billion yrs old)." (12/2)

NASA Manager Pleads Guilty to Federal Charge (Source: Times Union)
A NASA manager who was responsible for developing privately-operated spacecraft has pleaded guilty in federal court in Orlando to a conflict of interest charge. Federal authorities say Edward Mango pleaded guilty Monday to a felony charge of acting in his official capacity while having a conflict of interest. He could face up to five years in prison.

Authorities say Mango loaned money to an unnamed NASA employee so that the employee could hire an attorney after being arrested by state authorities on unnamed charges. Mango intervened when the employee was facing disciplinary charges within NASA. Authorities say Mango contacted KSC's director and the center's human resources director urging them to be lenient. He didn't disclose he had loaned the employee money. The employee was spared appropriate discipline. (12/2)

Canadian Govt Moves to Strengthen Space Industry Sector (Source: SpaceRef)
The Government of Canada will: 1) double current support for the Space Technologies Development Program; 2) establish a space advisory board composed of industry leaders and chaired by Gen. Walter Natynczyk, President of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA); 3) ensure new space procurements are consistent with government priorities, in keeping with a 2012 report on leveraging military procurement; 4) continue to address the industry's market access and skills development challenges; and 5) examine opportunities for the private sector to support the CSA's activities. (12/2)

Repurposing ISS Trash for Power and Water (Source: Space Daily)
If trash disposal and recycling on Earth are challenging, imagine what it's like managing waste on the International Space Station. So NASA is looking at ways to reduce and repurpose trash generated on the space station, as well as on crewed spacecraft for future missions beyond low earth orbit.

NASA's Glenn Research Center is one of six centers involved in the Advanced Exploration Systems Logistics Reduction and Repurposing project (LRR) designed to identify the most effective systems for recycling waste now and for future deep space missions. Repurposing trash reduces mission costs, launch mass and the amount of trash for disposal. (12/3)

Space Science is Value for Money (Source: The India Telegraph)
Fisherman Nubin Roy felt a surge of pride when he heard about India’s Mars mission that some activists have criticized as a project that prioritises esoteric science over basic needs in an unequal society. But blind nationalism wasn’t driving his pride.

Twice a week, Roy sails into the North Andaman Sea on his 12-meter-long motorised boat to haul in groupers, mackerel, red and white snappers, and tuna for dinner tables on the islands, elsewhere in India or in foreign lands. Roy knows exactly where to anchor, guided by a strip of paper with latitude and longitude readings generated by scientists in Hyderabad who use India’s Oceansat-2 satellite to pinpoint marine zones abundant in fish. (12/2)

No comments: