January 28, 2014

This Company Will Train You to Be An Astronaut (Source: Motherboard)
Lots of companies are plotting how they’ll eventually take tourists to space, and from the looks of websites like Virgin Galactic or Space Adventures, you can just throw down a couple hundred thousand (or a couple million) dollars and be on the first flight to low-Earth orbit. But it’s not quite that easy.

There’s always lots of talk about astronaut training for serious astronauts—NASA-trained scientists who have to do very important things aboard the International Space Station or are training for a theoretical mission to Mars—but ultimately, anyone who goes to space is going to have to have some sort of idea how their body is going to react to a microgravity environment. That’s where Waypoint 2 Space comes in.

The Houston-based company offers comprehensive astronaut training to anyone who has $45,000 to spend on the week-long "spaceflight fundamentals" course. On Tuesday, they announced that they're the first company to be licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration to begin a program like this. Other companies offer bits and pieces of training, such as weightless flights on the Vomit Comet, but Waypoint 2 Space is the first to offer full training. They've been cleared to start operating as early as May. (1/28)

Space Coast EDC Wins State Space-Focused Defense Grants (Source: Florida Today)
The Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast announced this afternoon that it had been awarded $270,000 in Florida defense grants for fiscal year 2013-14. The EDC's $200,000 Defense Infrastructure Grant, secured with support from Space Florida, will enable the design and integration of next-generation commercial flight safety infrastructure at the Cape required to support unmanned aerial systems as well as the launch and re-entry of spacecraft.

"As we continue transitioning Brevard County's heritage infrastructure to a commercially viable spaceport, the implementation of these latest-generation technologies will allow us to better compete with spaceports around the globe," Lynda Weatherman, the EDC’s president and chief executive officer said.

The $70,000 Defense Reinvestment Grant is designed to protect, enhance and retain Brevard County's military installations. "This grant will allow the EDC to more effectively engage with our local military operations in addressing the challenging impacts of sequestration and potential base program realignments," Weatherman said. (1/28)

ASAP Worried About Commercial Crew Funding, Acquisition (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Sounding much like a broken record, NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) has once again identified Congressional miserliness as a major threat to the success of the space agency’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP). "While the budget request to appropriated funding ratio was slightly improved in 2013... the shortfall remains a top concern and the 2014 budget remains uncertain,” the panel said.

“This shortfall is seriously impacting acquisition strategy, and there is risk that force-fitting the CCP into a fixed-price contract with only the funds available has the potential to adversely impact safety.” Although ASAP praised NASA’s move from Space Act Agreements to more defined Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) contracting as a “positive step,” the panel questioned whether firm fixed-price (FFP) contracts were the best way to go as opposed to traditional cost plus agreements. (1/28)

Wyoming Company Teams with NASA at KSC (Source: Casper Star-Tribune)
A Gillette-based company teamed with NASA to provide a crucial step in sending astronauts farther into space than before. L&H Industrial machined and installed parts on NASA's crawler transporter at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The vehicle eventually will carry NASA's new Space Launch System from the assembly shop to the launch site. Machine shop supervisor Adam Konrad said it's "pretty awesome" that L&H's logo will be right next to NASA's on the crawler. (1/28)

Russia Plans Three Spacewalks from ISS in 2014 (Source: Interfax)
Russian astronauts will go on three spacewalks from the International Space Station (ISS) this year; next time in August. "We have tasks for three spacewalks but that will depend on the preparedness of the hardware. So far, we plan one spacewalk in addition to today's [the spacewalk of astronauts Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky] and decisions regarding other spacewalks will be made depending on the readiness of the appropriate hardware." (1/28)

Asteroid Miners Could Be Threat on Earth (Source: Things of Interest)
The thing about asteroid mining is that whichever way you look at it, it involves a colossal amount of energy. It doesn't matter whether you perform the refining step in space or land a raw chunk of rock in a sterile part of Alaska and build the refinery around it. One way or another, if the thing landing on Earth is valuable enough to be worth the expense of deorbiting, then it's large enough that everybody in the world needs to pay attention to its impact energy.

The basic rule is you multiply by 15. A 3,000-tonne rock carries the same impact energy as 45-kilotonne nuclear bomb. At minimum. That's an incredibly tiny asteroid, one at the threshold of detectability, and - unless it's made of solid palladium - one with negligible revenue value relative to the cost of retrieving it. Before asteroid mining becomes profitable and practical, we're adding orders of magnitude to those numbers.

Very quickly, we end up in a situation where any solvent asteroid mining organisation is a de facto nuclear-equivalent power. Private organisations seriously attempting to acquire such power should be carefully scrutinised. It doesn't matter that the whole notion is fanciful right now; the explicit intention is to change that fact. Click here. (1/28)

River of Hydrogen Flowing Through Space Seen with Telescope (Source: NRAO)
Using the National Science Foundation’s Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT), astronomer D.J. Pisano from West Virginia University has discovered what could be a never-before-seen river of hydrogen flowing through space. This very faint, very tenuous filament of gas is streaming into the nearby galaxy NGC 6946 and may help explain how certain spiral galaxies keep up their steady pace of star formation. (1/27)

Virgin Galactic Expects to Get FAA License to Fly Soon (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Virgin Galactic still has obstacles to surmount before rocketing amateur astronauts to space from Spaceport America, not the least of which includes completing its test flight program and obtaining a spaceflight license from the U.S. government. The FAA is soon due to respond to Virgin Galactic’s application for the operator license it needs before it can fly tourists on suborbital trips to space – scheduled to begin later this year, according to the company’s latest projection. (1/28)

ULA Signs Deal to Deliver Three-Dozen Booster Cores (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A blockbuster rocket-buying agreement has been signed between the Air Force and United Launch Alliance, the supplier of boosters for national security spaceflight. The deal aims to produce 36 booster cores for the Pentagon's use over the next few years of Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets. Delivery of the rockets through 2017 comes at a savings of $4.4 billion over previous estimates in President Obama's FY 2012 budget. (1/27)

Wanted: Private Robot Moon Lander Ideas for NASA (Source: Space.com)
NASA is looking for innovative new ideas for robotic missions to the moon, and the space agency hopes private spaceflight companies may have the right stuff to help out. This month, the space agency rolled out its new Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown initiative (dubbed Lunar CATALYST for short) to give private companies a chance to develop robotic moon landers with help from NASA.

While the space agency won't provide any funding for the commercial projects, private companies selected for the program will have access to a range of NASA perks. "We're doing this to support lander development," Jason Crusan, director of advanced exploration systems at NASA said. (1/27)

Kerbal Has NASA Teeming with Little Green Men (Source: Polygon)
Kerbal Space Program is, at its core, a rocketry simulation. When it first became available for download it had a limited scope. There was a large hangar full of parts and little green pilots, a launchpad with a button to push and a patch of sky to fall through when it inevitably all went wrong. Since the day it was released, less than three years ago, KSP has grown to be so much more. Beneath its childish surface lies a complex physics system churning through mathematical calculations so expertly, real rocket scientists would blush to see it.

KSP has even earned the respect of NASA — many of its employees play it regularly. These past few months the team at KSP and the team at NASA have developed a professional, although distant, relationship. And this year they will begin to work together. Soon the Kerbals will embark on the next phase of space exploration, more than a decade before their real-life human analogues.

NASA hopes to land humans on an asteroid by 2025. It's their most daring mission in a half century, and they've asked the small team of eight developers headquartered in Mexico City to help promote that mission through their game. The same mix of playfulness and hard-core simulation that garnered the attention of the world's leading space agency has helped KSP become one of the most popular games on PC. Click here. (1/27) 

zero2infinity Receives Pressure Suit from Final Frontier Design (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The high-altitude balloon company zero2infinity, based in Barcelona, has received its first Space suit, designed by American company Final Frontier Design. This brings the company one step closer to crewed test flights, which should start later this year.

Nick Moiseev, who led the design of the suit at Final Frontier Design (FFD), used to be a space suit designer for Zvezda, Russia’s national space suit supplier. He was responsible for designing the suits for the Buran and those worn by cosmonauts on Mir and on the International Space Station. After participating in the NASA glove design competition together with Ted Southern, they created FFD in New York, to become the main suppliers of comfortable Space suits for the commercial space industry. (1/28)

UrtheCast Has Big Plans for Cameras on Space Station (Source: Global BC)
If you’re planning on getting married outdoors, you will soon be able to have it pictured from space. This could happen thanks to the Vancouver-based company Urthecast (pronounced “Earth-cast”) that had two of its cameras installed on the International Space Station (ISS) by two Russian cosmonauts Monday morning. The company’s cameras — a still camera and a high-resolution video camera — are set to make the unique view of Earth accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. (1/28)

Harris Corp. Reports Earnings (Source: Florida Today)
Melbourne-based Harris Corp., this morning reported revenue in the second quarter of fiscal 2014 of $1.22 billion and income from continuing operations of $137 million. Income from continuing operations in the prior year was $142 million. Orders in the second quarter were $1.47 billion compared with $1.36 billion in the prior year and book-to-bill for the company was 1.20 billion. (1/28)

Beings Not Made for Space (Source: New York Times)
In space, heads swell. A typical human being is about 60 percent water, and in the free fall of space, the body’s fluids float upward, into the chest and the head. Legs atrophy, faces puff, and pressure inside the skull rises. The human body did not evolve to live in space. And how that alien environment changes the body is not a simple problem, nor is it easily solved.

Some problems, like the brittling of bone, may have been overcome already. Others have been identified — for example, astronauts have trouble eating and sleeping enough — and NASA is working to understand and solve them. Then there are the health problems that still elude doctors more than 50 years after the first spaceflight. In a finding just five years ago, the eyeballs of at least some astronauts became somewhat squashed. Click here. (1/27)

The Alluring Mysteries of Uranus (Source: America Space)
Having been the object of neglect from space agencies on one hand, and hilarity from the general public on the other, Uranus still remains one of the most mysterious places in the Solar System. There are currently 22 planetary spacecraft scattered throughout the Solar System, actively exploring almost every part of the Sun’s planetary family. Yet, one glaring omission from this long list of space exploration targets has been the planet Uranus, ever since NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft paid a brief visit there, 28 years ago this month, in January 1986.

Although it shares many similarities with neighboring Neptune, Uranus is an interesting peculiarity on its own. And even though Voyager 2′s fly-by has provided us with the bulk of our current knowledge of the planet, a greater series of even more intriguing questions about this enigmatic cyan-tinted ringed world remain unanswered to this day. For starters, Uranus is famous for being the only planet in the Solar System with a rotational axis that is almost parallel to the plane of the ecliptic. (1/27)

Did We Break Space? (Source: National Journal)
No one really knows what an outer-space garbageman would look like. Nor does anyone want to find out. But our gradual accumulation of orbital trash is giving us narrower and narrower windows from which to leave the Earth—and causing headaches and danger for the astronauts and equipment already in orbit.

In space, there are no tow trucks to clear disabled equipment. And derelict hunks of metal don't sit by the side of the road—they hurtle around at 17,000 mph. At that speed, even a golf ball-sized object has the potential to take out a satellite system. Click here. (1/28)

Eighth Century Carbon Spike Not From Comet Impact (Source: Science News)
Around 775, Earth’s atmosphere experienced a jolt in carbon levels. Scientists proposed that the extra carbon-14, which occurs naturally in trace amounts in the atmosphere, could have come from an outburst of energetic particles from the sun or other stars.

A team of scientists suggested January 16 in Scientific Reports that the increased carbon could have come from a comet impact. But new calculations of the size and mass of such a comet show that the space rock would have been 100 kilometers across and 100 billion to 1,000 billion tons. An impact of a rock of that size would have been disastrous for the planet and would have left more evidence in geological and written records. (1/28)

The Challenge of Comprehending E.T.'s IQ (Source: Astrobiology)
Although we often ponder the possible otherworldly morphology of extraterrestrials, a harder exercise is conceiving alien intelligences. An alien might have four limbs, just like we humans. Or it might sport 17 tentacles, depending on evolutionary pressures. We can observe, quantify and describe such things. But how can we truly gauge the workings of an alien mind? Click here. (1/27)

Celestis Plans New Cremains Missions (Source: Celestis)
2014 promises to be an exciting year at Celestis!  We're busy preparing for our next Earthrise Service mission where your loved one's cremated remains can be flown into space and returned to Earth. We're also looking forward to our next Earth Orbit mission later this year and to our Sunjammer deep space mission. Click here. (1/27)

Space Property Rights: It’s Time, and Here’s Where to Start (Source: Space News)
‘We can lick gravity,” quipped Wernher von Braun, “but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming.” Robert Bigelow is trying to do what von Braun could only dream of: Build a Moon base — and a profitable one at that. He’s not just dreaming. Funded by his hotelier fortune, Bigelow Aerospace already has two autonomous prototype habitation modules in orbit.

Another Bigelow module is headed to the international space station next year. The company plans a full-scale space station once domestic crew transportation becomes available. The company also needs two other things, as Bigelow himself made clear at a press conference in November. First is the U.S. government’s assurances that it won’t allow other U.S. companies to interfere with Bigelow’s operations. Second, obviously, Bigelow must own any resources it mines: minerals, water, rocket fuel, etc.

“Without property rights, any plan to engage the private sector in long-term beyond [low Earth orbit] activities will ultimately fail,” declared a recent report Bigelow produced for NASA. Far from seeing the company as competition, NASA “finally understands the need for such public-private partnerships,” says James Pura, president of the Space Frontier Foundation. Click here. (1/27)

Johnson Space Center Closes for Winter Weather (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA's Johnson Space Center will be closed Tuesday due to the expected conditions caused by the winter storm. Center leadership will continue to monitor the situation to determine the reopening time on Wednesday. The closing allows JSC employees to avoid treacherous road conditions. Temperatures in the area are predicted to be below freezing on Tuesday, and roadways are expected to be icy. (1/27)

Camera Problem Persists After Spacewalk Setup (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy successfully re-installed a high-resolution video camera on the hull of the International Space Station Monday, but a problem of some sort prevented a second, lower-resolution camera from sending telemetry to the ground.

After multiple attempts to resolve the problem by disconnecting and re-mating several power and data cables -- and completing two other unrelated tasks -- the cosmonauts were told to collect their tools and return to the Pirs airlock module. "Well, at least one of them is working, and that's a big deal," one of the spacewalkers radioed. (1/27)

Ex-Military Spy Drone to Conduct NASA Climate Tests in Australian Airspace (Source: News ABC)
NASA is preparing to launch drone missions high in Australian skies during the next six weeks. NASA is operating an ex-US Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). NASA announced that one of two ex-military Global Hawk it operates will conduct scientific missions from the US Pacific Island territory of Guam, "to track changes in the upper atmosphere and help researchers understand how these changes affect Earth's climate".

NASA says scientists have installed 13 different instruments on the Global Hawks to capture air samples, and analyse clouds, gases and solar radiation for the Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment (ATTREX) flights. The Agency has previously launched drones to monitor hurricanes in the Atlantic, gathering data to assist in making more accurate predictions on tropical storms. The first mission was due to take off on Tuesday, but NASA did not release details of any flights over Australia. (1/27)

Space Tourism: Lunar Mission Brought Attention to Virginia (Source: DelMarVa Now)
The September launch of a lunar mission from NASA Wallops Flight Facility and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport brought a new level of attention to the region, according to information compiled by tourism officials and NASA. NASA estimates some 14,000 people viewed the Sep. 6, 2013, launch of a rocket carrying a robotic spacecraft called LADEE — or Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer — at Virginia and Maryland observation locations.

The NASA Visitor Center at Wallops had 2,080 visitors on launch day — significantly more than on other days. “In 2011, we hardly broke 2,000 the whole month,” said education coordinator Jessica Beebe. The visitor center in 2012 had about 3,000 visitors in September. The total for September 2013 was 7,707 visitors, more than twice the previous year. (1/27)

China's 'Jade Rabbit' Rover Readies for Shutdown (Source: CNN)
"This is space exploration; the danger comes with its beauty. I am but a tiny dot in the vast picture of mankind's adventure in space. The sun has fallen, and the temperature is dropping so quickly... to tell you all a secret, I don't feel that sad. I was just in my own adventure story - and like every hero, I encountered a small problem," said the Rabbit. "Goodnight, Earth," it said. "Goodnight, humanity." Click here. (1/27) 

Reinventing the Ariane Program to Compete with the Americans (Source: Le Monde)
Europe has enjoyed hard-won supremacy in space launch since 2003, and will remain so because Europe has decided to support Ariane-5 operations and its adaptations to the changing market. However, we must respond to the challenge of SpaceX and move forward without delay in the development of Ariane 6. Not to develop a new Ariane launcher, but to reinvent the Ariane's development, as happened with computers in the 1970s and with SpaceX today. This is the lesson we learn from the California garages. Click here. (1/27)

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