December 7, 2013

NASA Offering Technical Wizardry to Select Cleveland Manufacturers (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
Anxious to get a new $8 million pipe coating plant up and running, engineers at MesoCoat have been working feverishly to boost the power from a space-age lamp essential to its production process. Problem is, the challenge is tricky with plasma physics, a specialty known to a handful of experts, the kind who design deep space propulsion systems.

A couple of those folks just became available. NASA's Glenn Research Center will soon be sending rocket scientists to the Euclid factory to take a look at the works. Andrew Sherman, the company founder and chief executive, is thanking his lucky stars. MesoCoat is one of six local manufacturers chosen to receive free technical advice from NASA engineers and scientists as an encore to a program introduced last year.

Called the "Adopt-a-City Initiative," it's part of a NASA effort to spread its expertise and help create jobs in hometown communities. The companies are eligible for 40 hours of free consultation with NASA specialists. They can also tap a $270,000 loan pool made available by Cleveland and Cuyahoga County to pay for solutions. (12/6)

Why is China Targeting the Moon -- and Should NASA As Well? (Source: Fox News)
Americans from Buzz Aldrin to president Barack Obama say it’s a waste of time to put men back on the moon -- so why are foreign countries so eager to take that one small step? While several private American companies are planning robotic missions to the moon, China launched a man-sized robotic scout to the moon on Monday. The country’s recent manned missions and efforts to build a new space base suggest a future manned mission to the moon, though why is an open question.

Speculation has run from the desire to build a military missile base -- a Death Star of sorts -- to national pride to simple economics. The answer may be far simpler: The moon is “easy” to get to. “Mars and the asteroid mission is just clearly not something most of them can even fathom taking a major role in, whereas going to the moon is something that they can do, as the Chinese have proven,” said a NASA engineer.

Others, including a chorus of ex-astronauts and policy experts, argue that NASA is making a mistake by ignoring the moon, which still fascinates the Earthbound. Only 12 men have ever set foot on the moon, Americans all of them, the last one 41 years ago. Editor's Note: Few say going to the moon would be a waste of time. NASA seeks to actively support commercial lunar missions, while it focuses on more challenging destinations. (12/6)

NASA, CASIS Make Space Station Accessible for Stem Cell Research (Source: NASA)
NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) are enabling research aboard the International Space Station that could lead to new stem cell-based therapies for medical conditions faced on Earth and in space. Scientists will take advantage of the space station's microgravity environment to study the properties of non-embryonic stem cells.

NASA is interested in space-based cell research because it is seeking ways to combat the negative health effects astronauts face in microgravity, including bone loss and muscle atrophy. Mitigation techniques are necessary to allow humans to push the boundaries of space exploration far into the solar system. This knowledge could help people on Earth, particularly the elderly, who are afflicted with similar conditions. (12/6)

NASA Astronauts To Fly as ‘Participants’ on Commercial Space Taxis, FAA Rules (Source: Space News)
NASA astronauts will fly as “space flight participants” aboard commercial spaceships being developed to taxi crews to and from the international space station, the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation has determined. “NASA astronauts do not meet the definition of ‘crew’ as provided in the statute … because the definition of crew requires them to be employees of the licensee or subcontractor licensee."

"NASA astronauts are neither, so they will be flying under the category of ‘space flight participant,’ under the current regulations,” Pam Underwood, FAA deputy division manager at the Kennedy Space Center, said during a Dec. 4 industry briefing at the Florida spaceport. The ruling does not limit the scope of the work government-employed astronauts can perform aboard commercial space taxis, including piloting the vehicle, aborting launch if necessary, overseeing emergency response and monitoring and operating environmental controls and life support systems, the FAA said.

NASA sought the clarification because FAA regulations prohibit “space flight participants” to pilot launch or re-entry vehicles for public safety reasons. “The FAA’s concern … was based on the possibility that space flight participants would not have the proper vehicle and mission-specific training." (12/6)

Orbital: Sky Is The Limit (Source: Seeking Alpha)
Orbital Sciences Corp. is one of two companies that provide cargo services to NASA. This status is beneficial for the company's prospects. However, the recent budget act stated that the US Government would cut its discretionary spending which means that in the long run this budget cut might have a negative impact on the company's margins. Since these governmental changes can significantly affect Orbital I am interested in analyzing the company's prospects. Click here. (12/6)

New Fueling Facility to Boost Tempo at Arianespace Launch Site (Source: Space News)
Europe’s Arianespace commercial launch consortium on Dec. 6 agreed to spend 36.5 million euros ($50 million) to build a fueling facility at Europe’s South American spaceport to reduce the time needed between Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega launches, according to Arianespace and the French space agency, CNES. The building is scheduled to be operational in 2015.

CNES owns the property to be used for the new facility, which will be located at the Soyuz launch installation at the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana, on South America’s northeast coast. Arianespace will use its own funds for construction of the 1,152-square-meter facility, and has agreed that 60 percent of the work will be performed under contracts with local industry. (12/6)

How Many Satellite Launches Does it Take to Get to Mars? (Source: The Verge)
A steady stream of satellite launches would give SpaceX some of the funds it needs to work towards its eventual goal of sending humans to the moon and Mars, and boost the Dragon’s chances of supplanting Russia’s Soyuz capsule to shuttle astronauts to and from the ISS."The next really big challenge for [SpaceX] is to keep the same reliability and the same price but at a much higher tempo," says Jeff Foust.

Unlike many similar companies, SpaceX has a certain level of independence from NASA funding, with financial backing from Musk and a long list of private customers. "Essentially almost three quarters of our business is commercial," Musk said earlier this year. "So yeah, it would suck to lose the government as a customer, because it's our biggest customer. But it certainly wouldn't be a fatal blow." That prospect is unlikely, but it also means SpaceX can take risks independent of NASA’s budget. (12/7)

New Frontier for Space Coast Jobs (Source: Miami Herald)
Brevard County’s unemployment rate rose above 11 percent when NASA’s space shuttle program ended in 2011. Now it sits at 7 percent, and Gov. Rick Scott has millions in tax incentives on the line to take the number even lower. Things are better on the Space Coast, and getting better still. But in Scott’s zealous quest to find more private-sector jobs, the CEO-turned-governor sometimes relies on federal and state tax money to do the heavy lifting, according to a review of 342 jobs incentive deals crafted since Scott took office.

The trend is particularly acute in Brevard, which leans on NASA and the federal contracts it could bring. Boeing, which Scott offered nearly $7 million in exchange for 550 well-paying jobs, is expanding in Florida to team with NASA to build the successor to the space shuttle. A federal contract would cover much of Boeing’s expansion costs.

A start-up company called Rocket Crafters is considering a similar plan, though it intends to focus on the private sector. It has promised 1,500 jobs and $72 million in investment in Titusville to develop new space launch technology. In exchange, Scott offered about $7 million. Today, nearly 18 months after the state and Rocket Crafters signed their deal, there is little to show for it. The company has two employees in Florida, not 1,500. Click here. (12/6)

These are the Futuristic (and Hot) Space Suits Astronauts Could Wear on Mars (Source: GigaOm)
One of the standout talks from the inspiring TED Women on Thursday was from rocket scientist and MIT aeronautics professor Dava Newman. She showed off prototypes of three different space suits that she’d helped designed for future space missions, and particularly for astronauts one day on Mars.

Newman described space suits as “the world’s smallest space craft,” and showed off a video clip of a fumbling astronaut many decades ago on the Moon wearing a bulky traditional space suit. In contrast Newman’s designs are streamlined, body-hugging and provide the astronaut with mobility and flexibility. Click here. (12/6)

China’s Probe Will Add a Bit to Science and a Lot to the Country’s Swagger (Source: Economist)
China has released only limited information about its lunar landing mission. Its destination is believed to be Sinus Iridum, an area of the Moon free of loose boulders on the surface, and thus rover-friendly. The rover has six wheels and is intended to operate for three months. Reports of its weight have ranged from 100kg to 140kg.

CNSA has not revealed the planned date of the landing attempt—though according to the European Space Agency, which is using its network of tracking stations to relay signals from and send commands to Chang’e-3 on behalf of CNSA, it is Dec. 14. Critics doubt China will find much new of scientific value on the lunar surface, and suspect the mission has more to do with boosting the country’s prestige and preparing for the even greater prestige-boost of a manned lunar landing. (12/6)

'The Last Days on Mars' Shows Space Exploration's Scary Side (Source: LA Times)
Lean, muscular and on the money, "The Last Days on Mars" takes a familiar story and tells it so tautly that we are pleased to be on board. "Mars" has its own take on a narrative that has points in common with Ridley Scott's "Prometheus" as well as Sebastian Cordero's well-received "The Europa Report."

The film is set during the last 19 hours of an early manned mission to Mars, and the Aurora 2's nine crew members are barely holding it together and eager to be on the way home. Because it is a zombie film after all, "Last Days on Mars" has the blood, horror and grotesqueness the genre demands, but it also has unexpected elements that attracted the strong actors in its cast. (12/6)

How Will NASA Boldly Go With Slashed Funding? (Source: Houston Press)
Even though NASA is working on incredible projects, they've seen their budget brutally cut due to the sequestration and the Great Recession before that. Boldly going where no one has gone before is kind of tricky if you don't have scientists trying to figure out where we're going and how to get there.

The proposed 2014 budget proposes giving NASA $17.7 billion, which of course isn't exactly chump change, but it's still $50 million less than NASA's last budget in 2012. Yes, this proposed budget actually gives NASA about $1 billion back from the sequestration, but it still doesn't signal good things. (12/6)

How the US and China Can Help Each Other in Space (Source: New Scientist)
As China sends its first rover to the moon, veteran US astronaut Leroy Chiao says it's time for NASA to reach out and cooperate. Click here. (12/6)

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