January 17, 2014

Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Has Commercial Crew Concerns (Source: NASA Watch)
"In an effort to devise a program that fits within available funding, the CCP is requesting proposals to develop a new system to transport humans into space by means of a fixed-price contract and source selection criteria that cause some within the space flight community to worry that price has become more important than safety. Competition between two or more CCP contractors potentially fosters improved attention to safety. However, the ability to sustain a competitive environment may fall victim to further funding shortfalls." (1/17)

ESA Promises NASA that Orion Service Module Delay Won’t Hold up 2017 Launch (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency has promised NASA that the latest delay in Europe’s work on NASA’s Orion crew transport vehicle will not force a slip in the vehicle’s planned 2017 unmanned test launch, and that European financial support for one of three companies competing for NASA commercial crew work will not disrupt the competition.

ESA Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain said the preliminary design review for the Europe-built service module for Orion is now scheduled to start April 1 and to be completed in mid-May. That is nearly a year behind the original schedule, with the delays resulting from multiple technical issues, notably the fact that the module’s initial design — based on Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle freighters for the international space station — is several hundred kilograms overweight. (1/17)

NASA Searches for Climate Change Clues in the Gateway to the Stratosphere (Source: NASA)
NASA's uncrewed Global Hawk research aircraft is in the western Pacific region on a mission to track changes in the upper atmosphere and help researchers understand how these changes affect Earth's climate. Deployed from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., the Global Hawk landed at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam Thursday at approximately 5 p.m. EST and will begin science flights Tuesday, Jan. 21. Its mission, the Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment (ATTREX), is a multi-year NASA airborne science campaign. (1/17)

Embry-Riddle Offers UAS Workshop (Source: Aviation Pros)
The Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) sector is one of the fastest-growing and most dynamic segments in the aviation industry. The majority of UAS growth has been in support of military and security operations; however, recent congressional mandates have unlocked the civilian market to a broad range of uses, including aerial photography, precision agriculture, mapping, environmental monitoring and public safety.

This three-day UAS fundamentals course is designed to identify the key concepts and challenges of UAS operations, including system components and classification, UAS design and limitations, issues around airspace integration and regulation, and future and current trends affecting the UAS industry. Click here. (1/17)

Drones Won't Be Integrated by 2015, FAA Says (Source: National Defense)
By 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration hopes to see a demonstration of drones being used in commercial skies, but the unmanned aircraft won't be in wide use by then. "I believe we will be able to demonstrate safe integration and what is required for integration of unmanned aircraft. But out of necessity I believe it's going to be staged," said Micheal Huerta, FAA administrator, to a Senate panel this week. (1/16)

'Supernova' Cave Art Was No Such Thing, Astronomer Says (Source: Scientific American)
Thousands of years ago a star exploded in a supernova, leaving behind the glorious riot of colored gas we see now as the Crab Nebula. The light from this explosion reached Earth in 1054 A.D., creating what looked like a new bright star in the sky as recorded by ancient Chinese and Arab astronomers. Native American cave paintings, too, have been thought to represent the supernova, but when one scientist went to look at the paintings in person recently he arrived at a different story altogether. Click here. (1/17) 

Here's What Happens If You Commit A Crime In Outer Space (Source: Business Insider)
You get arrested when you return to Earth. The principal basis of determination is the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. Article VIII of that treaty says: "A State Party to the Treaty on whose registry an object launched into outer space is carried shall retain jurisdiction and control over such object, and over any personnel thereof, while in outer space or on a celestial body." (1/7)

KSC Scientist on Feasibility of Elon Musk's Colony On Mars (Source: Quora)
I manage a NASA lab that develops tech for “living off the land” on the Moon or Mars or asteroids. That includes mining and processing local resources like water ice or oxygen extracted from soil minerals. Elon has sent his people to visit my lab several times to start up a collaboration with us on these technologies. I believe it is completely feasible. No miracle inventions are required.

No new physics. Just straightforward engineering and a modest budget for the development cost. My personal opinion (not representing the views of NASA or the federal government) is that I am optimistic. His organization has demonstrated efficiency, creativity, and sustained drive. He has super smart people working for him. He knows what is required to be successful. He is doing all the right things.

Space travel is becoming much easier and much more affordable as technology gets better. E.g., advanced manufacturing, computer aided design, computer simulation of the physics, a deeper and broader industrial base to provide advanced materials and a broad consumer market for technology to offset development costs. People think because it was hard to do these things 40 years ago it is still just as hard today. Obviously, that is false. I don’t see any reason to doubt that he will be successful. (1/16)

Florida Teen (and Embry-Riddle Student) Could be Headed to Mars (Source: NBC)
Since Holly Abernethy was a little girl, the Cape Coral teenager dreamed of outer space. We discovered she is on the short list of launching the first colony on Mars. Abernethy is one of just over a thousand vying for the chance. She beat out more than 200,000 applicants. The 19-year-old's mission would be to leave this planet behind and help start a permanent human population on the Red Planet. This is the goal of Mars One, which is a non-profit foundation based out of the Netherlands.

Abernethy's dream of living on Mars started with an online plea posted to Mars One's website as part of the application process. "My whole life I secretly wanted to go to Mars," Abernethy said in her video. "I have heart and passion and genuinely want to make a difference." Abernethy currently attends Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University of Florida's east coast. Click here. (1/14)

Mystery Rock 'Appears' in Front of Mars Rover (Source: Discovery)
After a decade of exploring the Martian surface, the scientists overseeing veteran rover Opportunity thought they’d seen it all. That was until a rock mysteriously “appeared” a few feet in front of the six wheeled rover a few days ago. News of the errant rock was announced by NASA Mars Exploration Rover lead scientist Steve Squyres. In a comparison of recent photographs captured by the rover’s panoramic camera on sol 3528 of the mission, only bare bedrock can be seen. But on sol 3540, a fist-sized rock had appeared. Click here. (1/17) 

NASA, China Meet On Possible Cooperation (Source: Aviation Week)
Top NASA officials took advantage of the recent gathering of space agency chiefs in Washington to look for ways to broaden cooperation with China, including rare direct talks with Chinese space leaders. More than 30 agency heads met under the auspices of the U.S. State Department and the International Academy of Astronautics Jan. 9-10 to discuss deep-space exploration.

The multilateral setting allowed representatives of the U.S. space agency to speak to their Chinese counterparts without violating the U.S. law that forbids cooperation in space between the two countries. “We are looking for ways in time to find different ways we can be a partner to them,” Charles Bolden said. “Human spaceflight is not something that’s going to happen with U.S. [and] China in the foreseeable future, because we are forbidden from doing that by law, so let’s just get that out there … That’s not going to change; not today, anyway.” (1/16)

Fifth Third’s Brian Lamb Tapped for Space Florida Board (Source: Tampa Bay Business Journal)
It’s an out-of-this-world board appointment for Brian Lamb, president and CEO for the Tampa Bay region of Fifth Third Bank. Lamb was appointed to the board of Space Florida, the organization created to strengthen Florida’s position as a leader in aerospace research, investment, exploration and commerce. Space Florida shares a board of directors with Enterprise Florida Inc. Lamb’s appointment to the Enterprise Florida board was announced last week. (1/16)

Cheaper Japanese Rocket Set for Lift-Off Next Month (Source: Asahi Shimbun)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has developed its most cost-effective H-2A series rocket to date. The H-2A Launch Vehicle No. 23, equipped with two auxiliary boosters, is 120 kilograms lighter than the previous model due to a new simplified engine design, making it cheaper to launch and manufacture.

The first stage of the rocket measures 37 meters in length and weighs 12 tons. The second stage measures 11 meters in length, with a weight of 2.6 tons. The launch vehicle, 4 meters in diameter, was shown to reporters on Jan. 16 at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.’s plant in Tobishima. The H-2A is scheduled to carry the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) core observatory satellite into orbit on Feb. 28. (1/17)

India to Launch Three Navigation Satellites This Year (Source: Xinhua)
India is to launch three navigation satellites this year, a senior ISRO official has reportedly said. "Three satellites belonging to the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) constellation will be launched by the space agency this year," the Scientific Secretary of the Indian Space Research Organization, V. Koteshwara Rao, was quoted by the media as saying Thursday. (1/17)

Africa Analysis: Issues Space Policy Must Address (Source: Sci Dev Net)
Last month, officials from across the continent met in Pretoria, South Africa, to discuss the draft of a long-awaited African space policy. The draft policy identifies two high-level policy goals for the continent: Firstly, to use space science and technology to boost quality of life for Africans, and to create wealth. Secondly, it wants to build Africa’s own space technology capacity in order to establish a local space industry that can service the needs of the African market.

The draft policy emphasises the need to leverage existing projects and infrastructure to achieve these goals. That means that those countries that already have some space capacity, such as Nigeria and South Africa, will play a big role in the policy’s implementation. The draft policy also wants to coordinate the fragmented activities on the continent.

This will involve not only assessing the needs of the nascent space industry, but also adopting good governance and management structures. But it is not clear in the draft policy who should carry out these activities. The draft speaks of the establishment of a continent-wide “organizational framework” to integrate Africa’s existing space capabilities and assets. It is unclear whether this proposed framework would be a simple intra-agency program to coordinate national space activities, or whether it will take the shape of a new African Space Agency. (1/17)

Australia: a Hub for Space Tourism? (Source: Telegraph)
Andy Thomas, who flew his first mission into space in 1986, spoke at a university in his home city of Adelaide, saying that Australia was well poised to play a major part in the expansion of commercial space travel. "I think proper space tourism, by which I mean orbital flight as opposed to sub-orbital flight, will be by the end of this decade," he told the Australian public broadcaster, the ABC.

Appearing with his fellow astronaut, the Italian Paolo Nespoli, he described Australia as the “ideal place” for future commercial ventures. “It's got wide open spaces, ideal for launch facilities, good climate, good engineering background,” he said. "It's got all of the elements you need." (1/17)

Matrix Hires Buiness Development Manager (Source: Matrix Composites)
Space Coast-based Matrix Composites announced that Jeffrey Sharbaugh has joined the company as Business Development Manager.  Sharbaugh joins Matrix Composites with over 34 years of Aerospace Sales and Marketing experience, having previously worked for Kaman Aerospace, Ducommun Aerostructures, Lord Corporation and the Hamilton Standard division of UTC. (1/15)

Second Spacewalk Planned to Install UrtheCast Cameras (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Russian cosmonauts will step outside the International Space Station later this month for a second try to set up a pair of Earth observation cameras after a cabling issue inside the complex cut short a spacewalk in December. Russian managers have scheduled the spacewalk for Jan. 27, a month after cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy had to call off the setup of two commercial high-definition video cameras outside the space station's Zvezda service module.

The cameras belong to UrtheCast Corp., a company based in Vancouver aiming to stream high-definition video of Earth from the space station in near real-time. The system includes a fixed medium-resolution camera and a high-resolution camera on a steerable platform to point toward targets on Earth as the space station flies overhead. (1/17)

Nelson Praises Shelby, Mikulski for Saving 'a Very Robust' Space Program (Source: Huntsville Times)
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) went to the Senate floor today to praise Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) and his Democrat counterpart for helping save "a very robust space program" with the new NASA budget. The Democrat drawing Nelson's praise was Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).

Mikulski is the Democrat chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Shelby is the ranking Republican. The two cooperated this year to write and pass a NASA budget of $17.6 billion, very close to the White House request and $1 billion more than the Republican-controlled House wanted. See this budget summary on the website spacepolitics.com. The spending plan is part of an overall $1 trillion Omnibus spending plan passed by the House Wednesday and by the Senate today. (1/16)

People Love NASA's New Spending Plan, But Will Russia Take it to the Bank? (Source: Huntsville Times)
The 2014 NASA budget traveling through Congress this week is getting praise for "strong funding" of key space programs, including the Space Launch System being developed in Huntsville. But another American space priority - building a commercial space taxi to the International Space Station - isn't feeling the love.

Funding for NASA's "commercial crew" program in this year's budget is more than ever, on paper. But it's still below what NASA said it needs to stay on track to launch American astronauts on American spaceships in 2017. Miss that deadline and America has two choices: Sit at home and waste the International Space Station taxpayers spent $80 billion to build, or buy more seats for Americans on Russian Soyuz rockets. (1/16)

Government Should Butt Out of Space Race (Source: USA Today)
A decade ago Tuesday, January 14th, 2004, President George W. Bush announced a seemingly bold new direction for NASA and human spaceflight. The "Vision for Space Exploration (VSE)," was a needed policy response to the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia almost a year earlier. The plan was to retire the Shuttle, return to the moon, and then go on to Mars.

The agency set off to implement the program, kicking off competitive industry studies to determine how best to get back to the moon, and plans for development of technologies needed to reduce the cost of future operations, such as reusable rockets, and getting propellants from the moon. The studies generally recommended using existing launch vehicles or modifications, to allow resources to be focused on those things needed to get beyond Earth orbit, such as lunar landers and propellant storage facilities in space.

But in the spring of 2005, a new head of NASA (Mike Griffin) essentially shelved all of the industry reports, and set up his own team, that in the fall of 2005 came up with a concept that no industry report had recommended, named "Constellation." It required the development of new launch systems, one of which was a heavy-lift system comparable to the Saturn launcher that won the moon race, though at a very high cost. Click here. (1/16)

Simulating Surgery On a Mock Mars Mission (Source: Space.com)
Within days of beginning our two-week stay at the Mars Desert Research Station, crew members already encountered minor medical problems — a sore back and a cold or flu among them. Take this six-member crew and put them on a 900-day mission to Mars, and it's possible that something could happen two or three times that would require the use of anesthesia, according to Crew 133 health and safety officer Matthieu Komorowski.

Komorowski is an anesthesiologist who recently received his medical degree from Lille 2 University in France. One of his major projects here at the Mars Desert Research Station is to see how well an untrained crewmember can administer anesthesia. Click here. (1/16)

Guest Lectures Lining Up for Embry-Riddle Commercial Space Students (Source: ERAU)
Embry-Riddle's new Commercial Space Operations degree program includes a deep bench of talented space industry advisors and will take advantage of the university's proximity to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. For the Spring 2014 semester, guest lectures are scheduled by officials from the White House OSTP (Phil Larsen), KSC (Scott Colloredo), CASIS (Trent Smith), NewSpace Global (Richard David), InterFlight Global (Oscar Garcia), FAA AST (Ray Jenkins), and others. (1/16)

Station Required No Evasive Maneuvers in 2013 Despite Growing Debris Threat (Source: Space News)
The international space station required no collision-avoidance maneuvers in 2013, after a record four such moves in 2012, despite a growing orbital-debris population intersecting its orbit, according to NASA data compiled from the U.S. Space Surveillance Network (SSN) of ground- and space-based sensors.

NASA said the relatively quiet year from a debris-threat perspective reflects “the chaotic nature of the [debris] population,” which has forced the station to fire its engines to avoid a debris threat on 16 occasions in the 15 years it has been in orbit. In addition to these 16 collision-avoidance maneuvers, one attempted maneuver failed and three others were never undertaken because the debris-proximity warnings came too late. (1/16)

Cleaning Up the Final Frontier (Source: Bloomberg)
The space refuse problem is most troublesome in low orbits of about 500 miles above the earth’s surface. There are 21,000 pieces of wreckage the size of grapefruit or bigger—and that number grows to 500,000 if you include fragments the size of BB pellets and dust specks, according to NASA data. Some of this detritus is burned off during reentry to earth. But depending on the trajectory, other pieces can stay in orbit for decades, even centuries.

Former astronaut Michael Bloomfield remembers watching debris burning up in the atmosphere below him during one U.S. shuttle mission. “That gets your attention,” he says. So did the time a fragment slammed into the window, leaving a pit mark. Even so, engineers disagree about how urgent the risk really is—and whether governments should spend billions on solutions that are years away from being ready. Click here. (1/16)

'Gravity' Pulls in 10 Oscar Nominations (Source: Space.com)
"Gravity" will be a force to be reckoned with at the 2014 Academy Awards. The space thriller garnered 10 nominations for this year's Oscars, tying with "American Hustle" for the most nods. Among its other nominations announced today, "Gravity" is up for best picture; Sandra Bullock is nominated in the lead actress category; and the movie's director Alfonso CuarĂ³n is up for best director. (1/16)

Pentagon’s Top Space Contractor Recognizes Imperative To Change (Source: Space News)
Amid a growing wave of sentiment that the U.S. military must adopt new ways of operating in space to cope with new threats and declining budgets, a top executive with Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon’s biggest space hardware contractor, said the company must change as well.

Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Denver-based Lockheed Martin Space Systems, said Jan. 14 that military space budgets “have come back to Earth” after a decade of solid growth. “It’s very clear that government and industry alike will have to change. And we must change,” he said. (1/16)

Omnibus Fully Funds Primary NOAA Satellites, Stiffs Free Flyer (Source: Space News)
The U.S. government’s primary civilian weather satellite programs are fully funded in an omnibus spending measure for 2014 that also requires the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to submit to lawmakers a plan in the coming weeks for ensuring long-term coverage.

However, the Consolidated Appropriations Act for 2014 (H.R. 3547), which passed the House Jan. 15 and is awaiting approval in the Senate, does not fund an adjunct satellite intended to host instruments that cannot fit on NOAA’s primary polar-orbiting platforms. (1/16)

Satellite Will 'Chase' Tropical Storms (Source: BBC)
Daniel Alvarado Varela is a 31-year-old with no children of his own, but he does have a "baby" of sorts. One weighing nearly four tonnes. That baby is the Core Observatory of the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission, a freshly-built satellite designed to observe storms forming in the tropical oceans and track their movement into other latitudes.

The spacecraft is also designed to improve measurements of rain and snowfall. Mr Alvarado, a Puerto Rican mechanical engineer who has worked on the probe's structure, has watched this baby develop since 2005, and was recently chosen to travel with it on what he calls the child's "graduation": a journey from the US State of Maryland, where the satellite was built, to the Japanese island of Tanegashima.

The satellite is a highly complex structure the size of a small private jet and is capable of "seeing" what happens inside clouds. Developed by NASA and the Japanese Space Agency (Jaxa), the core GPM observatory will carry two instruments that will help scientists to study the internal structure of storms, in order to understand how they change over time and why their intensity alters as they move from the tropics to other latitudes. (1/16)

What is the Shape of the Universe? (Source: Space.com)
If you could somehow manage to step outside of the universe, what would it look like? Scientists have struggled with this question, taking several different measurements in order to determine the geometry of the cosmos and whether or not it will come to an end. How do they measure the shape of the universe? And what have they found? Click here. (1/16)

NASA Awards Contract for Institutional Services at Wallops (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected LJT & Associates Inc., of Columbia, Md., to perform institutional services at the agency's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va. The contract, awarded under the Small Business Set Aside Program, is valued at a maximum of $257 million including a core requirement; indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity orders; and three options. The options, if exercised, would extend the contract to a total of seven years. (1/16)

In Search For Habitable Planets, Why Stop At 'Earth-Like'? (Source: NPR)
In their hunt for potentially habitable planets around distant stars, scientists have been so focused on finding Earth-like planets that they're ignoring the possibility that other kinds of planets might be even friendlier to life, a new report says. So-called superhabitable worlds wouldn't necessarily look like Earth but would nonetheless have conditions that are more suitable for life to emerge and evolve, according to the study published this month in the journal Astrobiology.

"In my point of view, astronomers and biologists are biased," says Rene Heller, an astrophysicist at Canada's McMaster University who is the study's lead author. "These scientists look for planets that are Earth-like." But it's possible that Earth is actually only marginally habitable by the standards of the universe, says Heller, who points out that our home may not represent a typical habitable world. (1/16)

How Life Began: New Clues From New Worlds (Source: TIME)
The odds that the universe is bursting with life seem to be getting better all the time. Astronomers recently announced that there could be an astonishing 20 billion Earthlike planets in the Milky Way—and that’s if you’re limiting the pool to planets orbiting stars like the Sun. If you add the small, reddish stars known as M-dwarfs, which also harbor planets, the number is even greater.

Within our own Solar System, meanwhile, the evidence for a plausibly life-friendly ocean on Jupiter’s moon Europa is stronger than ever, and the Curiosity rover has confirmed that some kinds of bacteria could have thrived in Mars’s Gale Crater billions of years ago. On a more universal scale, scientists know for a fact that two of the essentials for life—water and carbon—can be found literally everywhere. Click here. (1/16)

Lockheed Shrinking Team Supporting Nuclear Space Battery (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin Space Systems is shrinking a team of 140 down to 25 now that NASA has canceled work on the Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator (ASRG), a next-generation nuclear battery for planetary missions that cannot rely on solar power.

It will cost about $2 million and the effort of 10 employees to close out the program, Bob LeRoy, Lockheed’s director of East Coast Operations, said in a Jan. 14 phone interview. Another 15 employees, at a cost in the “single-digit millions” range, will continue workthrough mid-2014on ASRG hardware NASA wants completed, LeRoy said. That work will focus on the device’s controller, which is required to change the alternating current the ASRG produces into direct current compatible with a spacecraft bus. (1/16)

Kazakhstan Awaits Russia’s Response on Damage from Proton-M Fall (Source: Itar-Tass)
Kazakhstan has yet to receive Russia's response over the value of damage it estimates was caused by the failed launch of a Proton-M rocket at Baikonur cosmodrome last July, Kazakhstan’s Minister of Environment and Water Resources Nurlan Kapparov told journalists on Thursday.

“We await a response from the Russian side,” Kapparov said, adding that Kazakhstan had contacted Russia's Federal Space Agency, Roskosmos, occasionally, which had brought “constructive dialogue”. Russia “promises an official response soon but set no precise dates”, the minister added. Kazakhstan estimates environmental damage at 13.69 billion tenge (about $2,121 billion) and has referred the figures to Roskosmos. (1/16)

Morpheus Lander Takes Test Flight at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
NASA’s Morpheus lander today completed its third test flight at Kennedy Space Center. The prototype lander developed by the Johnson Space Center lifted off around 1:15 p.m. from a pad at the north end of the former shuttle runway and flew for 57 seconds. Powered by liquid oxygen and liquid methane, the vehicle climbed to about 187 feet, nearly doubling its ascent speed from the previous test last year. (1/16)

What Happened to all the Saturn V Rocket Stages? (Source: Discovery)
On Sept. 3, 2002, amateur astronomer Bill Yeung found an asteroid. Initially named J002E3, astronomers tracked it and found that it was in Earth orbit, which was surprising. Objects within the Earth-moon system are quickly ejected, meaning this asteroid must have been a recent capture. Spectroscopic observations revealed the “asteroid” had a signature consistent with white titanium dioxide paint NASA used to paint the Saturn V rockets. Asteroid J002E3 turned out not to be an asteroid at all but the upper S-IVB stage of Apollo 12’s Saturn V from 1969. Click here. (1/16)

NASA Partnership Opportunities for Commercial Lunar Lander Capabilities (Source: NASA)
Building on the progress of NASA's partnerships with the U.S. commercial space industry to develop new spacecraft and rockets capable of delivering cargo, and soon, astronauts to low Earth orbit, the agency is now looking for opportunities to spur commercial cargo transportation capabilities to the surface of the moon.

NASA has released an announcement seeking proposals to partner in the development of reliable and cost-effective commercial robotic lunar lander capabilities that will enable the delivery of payloads to the lunar surface. Such capabilities could support commercial activities on the moon while enabling new science and exploration missions of interest to NASA and the larger scientific and academic communities. (1/16)

Lynx Spacecraft to Give Big Boost to Space Tourism (Source: Rocket STEM)
Like a scene out of a futuristic movie, imagine an airplane that could take off from a runway, fly sub-orbital, and return to the ground with a runway landing. The concept seemed pretty far-fetched not even ten years ago. Now, a handful of commercial spaceflight companies are breathing life into what was once only sentiment. The Reuseable Launch Vehicle (RLV) industry is heating up fast. With several different companies having similar spacecraft in various stages of production or testing, the race is on, and XCOR Aerospace is close to the finish line.

XCOR has developed an RLV they call “Lynx”. It is powered by a fully reusable rocket propulsion system that gives it the unique capability of taking off and landing horizontally, while most other companies are using rocket rides and air-launch methods to take to the skies. Some of the advantages the Lynx spacecraft boasts are a low operating cost and the capability of fulfilling four flights per day with two-hour turnarounds in between, without any compromise to the safety of the vehicle. (1/16)

Here’s Your Chance to Hitch a Ride to an Asteroid (Source: National Geographic)
A trip to the moon on gossamer wings? While most of us Earthlings will never get to visit other worlds, here’s your chance to fly your name, at least, on a spacecraft heading to a distant asteroid in 2016. A microchip with the names etched on it will be secured to the side of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx (Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer) probe.

The probe will rendezvous with the 1,760-foot-wide (500-meter-wide) asteroid Bennu in 2018. The robotic explorer will spend the following two years mapping the giant space rock, and will also scoop up 2 ounces (60 grams) of its pristine surface material before returning the sample in a capsule to Earth in 2023. (1/16)

Rosetta on Track for Historic Comet Landing (Source: The Guardian)
At precisely 10am GMT on 20 January next year, a tiny electronic chip inside Europe's Rosetta spacecraft will flicker into life. The robot probe will then be several hundred million miles from Earth, an orbit that will be bringing it closer and closer to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a massive ball of ice, dust and organic materials that orbits the Sun every six and a half years.

Rosetta's electronic wakeup call will trigger circuits, heaters and instruments and bring the probe, which has been in hibernation for two and a half years, slowly back to life in preparation for its landing on the comet, one of the most spectacular feats of space exploration ever planned. (1/16)

China Test Hypersonic Missile Vehicle (Source: The Guardian)
China has for the first time tested a hypersonic missile vehicle designed to travel several times the speed of sound, according to the Pentagon. The test makes China the second country after the United States to conduct experimental flights with hypersonic vehicles, a technology that could allow armies to rapidly strike distant targets anywhere around the world. (1/16)

Lighting Science Bulbs Meet the Space Age (Source: Florida Today)
Retired NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria is quite serious about the "biologically corrected" light bulbs that he is helping to promote at the Consumer Electronics Show. The bulbs in question, both from Lighting Science, are the Definity Digital Good Night bulb that is meant to help you dose off at the proper time, and the Awake & Alert energy enhancing light, which has the opposite effect.

"Sleeping is important for everybody including astronauts, says Lopez-Alegria, who commanded International Space Station Expedition 14. "Sometimes we would launch in the middle of the night and have to shift our sleep to wake up at the right time. The way we would do that is by exposing ourselves to bright lights."

Lopez-Alegria says the technology is not yet up in outer space but he hopes it'll be part of the next ISS launch next summer. The idea is that one light will handle three functions: to help wake the crew up, help keep them alert during the work day, and help them sleep at bedtime. (1/16)

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