January 25, 2014

Walloped by a Rocket Launch on Virginia’s Wallops Island (Source: Washington Post)
n early January, on a field a couple of miles from a launchpad on Virginia’s Wallops Island, I gazed eastward and listened to a countdown. The numbers descended, and then in the distance, a rocket lifted silently, gracefully, as if in slow motion. Ten seconds later, a wave of sound hit me square in the chest with such power that I felt as if a Harley were rumbling through my body. Click here. (1/24)

WISH: Women in STEM High School Aerospace Scholars (Source: WISH)
NASA' s WISH project offers female high school juniors a unique experience to learn about careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields.  WISH starts with a nationwide, online learning community and culminates with a summer educational experience at a NASA center for the top performing online students. Click here. (1/24)

Airbus To Provide Ground Network for French Recon Satellites (Source: Space News)
Airbus Defence and Space will build the ground segment for France’s next-generation optical and infrared reconnaissance satellite system and maintain it for 12 years under a contract valued at 300 million euros ($400 million) and announced Jan. 23. (1/24)

James Webb Space Telescope Passes a Mission Milestone (Source: NASA)
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has passed its first significant mission milestone for 2014 -- a Spacecraft Critical Design Review (SCDR) that examined the telescope's power, communications and pointing control systems. "This is the last major element-level critical design review of the program," said Richard Lynch, NASA Spacecraft Bus Manager for the James Webb Space Telescope at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "What that means is all of the designs are complete for the Webb and there are no major designs left to do." (1/24)

NASA's Discovery Work Faces Delay (Source: Space News)
NASA's Discover planetary science missions won't meet a key congressional deadline, but the space agency says it is stepping up the pace to prepare for proposal requests. Congress had wanted NASA to issue request for proposals for the missions by May 1, but NASA says the timeline is too ambitious. Instead, NASA plans to release its announcement of opportunity by the fiscal year's end, says James Green, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division. (1/23)

Three of Four MUOS Stations Accepted by Navy (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Navy has formally accepted three of a planned four General Dynamics-built ground stations for its next-generation mobile communications satellite program. Designed to provide smartphone-like communications to mobile U.S. forces, the multibillion-dollar Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) ultimately will consist of four geostationary-orbiting satellites plus one on-orbit spare, and four ground stations. (1/24)

Air Force’s 2014 Space Procurement Agenda Has Familiar Ring (Source: Space News)
Owing to delays driven primarily by budgetary uncertainty, three of the biggest U.S. military space contracts expected in 2014 are holdovers from last year: a next-generation space surveillance and tracking radar, a consolidation of launch range operations and maintenance work and a new line of satellite terminals for critical strategic communications.

The U.S. Air Force also is expected to finalize contracts with Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif., for additional satellites in its latest constellations for missile warning and navigation. But the long-term future of these and other satellite programs of record is uncertain as the Air Force continues to examine alternatives to its existing space architectures, an exercise driven by both budgetary and vulnerability concerns. (1/24)

NASA, NOAA Prepare for Procurements on Signature Programs (Source: Space News)
NASA is set this year to award its first contract for a crewed spacecraft since the space shuttle and also to begin procurement of NOAA’s next polar-orbiting weather satellite. The big human spaceflight acquisition is already underway. In August, or September at the latest, NASA expects to award at least one company a Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCtCap) contract to develop a spacecraft capable of sending astronauts to and from the international space station.

Meanwhile,NOAA, according to an industry source, is planning to start competition for its second Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) spacecraft in 2014. NASA, as usual, will manage the procurement for NOAA. JPSS-2 would be the third satellite in the JPSS program, an $11 billion successor to the civil-military National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System program — known as NPOESS — canceled in 2010. (1/24)

Space-Raised Flies Show Weakened Immunity to Fungus (Source: UC Davis)
Venturing into space might be a bold adventure, but it may not be good for your immune system. Now a study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, shows how growing up on the space shuttle weakened a key arm of the immune system in Drosophila flies.

The flies were sent into space as eggs on a 12-day mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. The flies take about 10 days to develop into adults. After they returned to Earth, researchers tested their responses to two different infections: a fungus, which flies fight off through a pathway mediated by the Toll receptor, and a bacterial infection that flies resist through a gene called Imd ("immune deficiency").

While the response through the Imd pathway was robust, the Toll pathway was "non-functional" in space-raised flies, Kimbrell said. In Earth-based experiments, the researchers found that when flies were tested in a centrifuge under hypergravity conditions, their resistance to the fungus was improved, suggesting that their Toll pathway was boosted. (1/24)

New UH Mānoa Faculty Make a Big Splash (Source: UH)
Researchers from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa's School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and University of California – Berkeley discovered that interplanetary dust particles (IDPs) could deliver water and organics to the Earth and other terrestrial planets.

Interplanetary dust, dust that has come from comets, asteroids, and leftover debris from the birth of the solar system, continually rains down on the Earth and other Solar System bodies. These particles are bombarded by solar wind, predominately hydrogen ions.  This ion bombardment knocks the atoms out of order in the silicate mineral crystal and leaves behind oxygen that is more available to react with hydrogen, for example, to create water molecules. (1/24)

Orion's Life-Support Module Prepares for Launch (Source: New Scientist)
Rockets get all the glory, but this unthrilling structure could be keeping astronauts alive in a few years' time. It is the service module for NASA's forthcoming deep-space capsule, Orion, which is being groomed to ferry astronauts to the moon, asteroids and perhaps even Mars.

Anyone who remembers the terrifying Apollo 13 disaster, en route to the moon in April 1970, will recall how vitally important the service module is. Wiring insulation inside a liquid oxygen tank on the Apollo 13 service module failed, leading to an explosion that crippled the spacecraft and left the crew capsule to be pushed back to Earth by the lunar lander. Luckily, thanks to some heroic improvisation, all on board survived.

This particular module won't carry all of its life-support kit when it flies a 4-hour, uncrewed orbital test flight in September. But future Orions will travel to the moon in 2017, unscrewed, followed by a crewed mission in 2021. Experiences on those trips will give NASA an idea of its suitability for a Mars mission. (1/24)

Russian Space Agency Joins Social Networks (Source: RIA Novosti)
The Russian Space Agency said Friday it has opened accounts on Facebook and Twitter to improve its public relations. “Creating official pages on social networks will improve the dialogue between Roscosmos and Russians on current issues and will also convey information on the space industry to the public,” Roscosmos said in a statement. (1/24)

Continental Telescope Array Could Usher Astronomy Revolution in Africa (Source: Scientific American)
Scientists are predicting an astronomy renaissance on the African continent in coming years, thanks in part to a giant radio telescope array being built there. But the road to cosmic cachet is not an easy one, and African science advocates are scrambling to take full advantage of the opportunities coming their way.

The challenge is to make sure African astronomers benefit from the surge of facilities being built in their midst. "We want to build long-term sustainable collaborations that are mutually beneficial to the U.S. and to Africa. We don’t want brain and data drain from Africa to the U.S." (1/24)

China's Lunar Rover Experiences 'Abnormality' (Source: ABC)
China's first moon rover has experienced a "mechanical control abnormality" according to the country's state media, in what appears to be a setback for a landmark mission in its ambitious space program. The abnormality occurred due to "the complicated lunar surface environment," according to the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND). Scientists were "organizing an overhaul", Xinhua's report added, without giving further details. (1/25)

Nosek May Ride SpaceX All the Way to Mars (Source: San Fancisco Business Times)
As a boy, Founders Fund Partner Luke Nosek dreamed of building rockets, but he pursued other scientific interests, including computers, which led him to become a cofounder and vice president of PayPal. After PayPal was acquired by EBay for $1.5 billion in 2002, Nosek escaped Silicon Valley and traveled the world, but whenever he would stop into an Internet cafe, he would check on the progress that fellow PayPal co-founder Elon Musk was making on his new startup SpaceX.

Then in 2008, Nosek got the chance to lead a $20 million investment in SpaceX from Founders Fund, then a young venture outfit he started in 2005 with PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and other Internet luminaries. That bet seems brilliant today, a month after SpaceX succeeded in launching its first commercial geostationary satellite, opening up a market potentially worth many billions of dollars. Click here. (1/25)

Arizona Eyed as Location for ‘Space Tourism’ (Source: Lake Powell Chronicle)
The Balloon Regatta has become a galactic experience for Page, which brings in stellar crowds and big dollars to a little town. However, an out-of-this world balloon event could be coming to Page that just might eclipse the regatta. World View Enterprises, Inc. and Paragon Space Development Corporation, both out of Tucson, announced their mission to begin taking space tourists to the edge of the atmosphere as early as 2015. (1/23)

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