February 2, 2014

What the Media Missed About Virgin Galactic’s China Problem (Source: NewSpace Journal)
It’s not uncommon for the media to mangle space-related developments, either by getting the facts wrong or misinterpreting their importance, as they did recently reporting that Virgin Galactic did not yet have a license for its flights, even though it didn’t need a license now for its test flights and wasn’t even “late” in getting a response from the FAA regarding its application.

Sometimes, even when the media gets the news right, it’s not even new, or it misses a more significant issue. That was the case with reports that Virgin Galactic is not allowing Chinese nationals to fly. “Virgin Galactic adheres to both the spirit and the letter of U.S. export controls and has for now chosen not to accept deposits from countries subject to U.S. export and other regulatory restrictions,” spokesperson Christine Choi said. Despite the flurry of reports in the last week, Virgin’s prohibition on Chinese customers is not new.

Just over a month ago, Space Expedition Corporation (SXC), the Dutch company that is selling seats on XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx suborbital spaceplane, announced it has named a sales agent in… wait for it… China. “I am extremely excited about this opportunity with SXC as we introduce this unique travel experience to the rest of China,” Alex Zhang, CEO of Dexo Travel, the sales agent for SXC in China, said in the statement. (2/2)

NASA Offers Chance to Discover New Planetary Systems (Source: SEN)
Space enthusiasts are being given the chance to discover newly-forming solar systems in a fresh challenge backed by NASA. It is the latest in the Zooniverse collection of so-called citizen-science projects and the results will be of real interest to professional astronomers.

The new project is Disk Detective and it calls for the help of volunteers at home to find embryonic planetary systems hidden in the wealth of data that NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission returned in its survey of the skies. (2/1)

Deploying Cubesats from the Space Station (Source: ReelNASA)
NASA PAO Officer Amiko Kauderer talks to Michael Johnson, NanoRacks Chief Technology Officer, about the installation of the CubeSat deployer in the Japanese Experiment Module Airlock. The installation work is in preparation for the upcoming deployment of several tiny satellites. Click here. (1/31)

ISRO's Mahendragiri Centre Elevated, Gets More Powers (Source: Times of India)
The liquid propulsion systems center (LPSC) at Mahendragiri in Tirunelveli will henceforth be called as the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Propulsion Complex, according to ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan. With this, the long-pending demand of the scientists and stakeholders of the LPSC in Mahendragiri, one of the three such centers in the country, has been met. The move would now help the complex to get autonomous power and would function as a separate department of ISRO. (2/1)

Mica Leads KSC Hearing on Shuttle-Program Surplus (Source: Florida Today)
NASA’s handling of excess property after the shuttle program’s retirement will be the focus of an upcoming hearing led by U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-FL). The hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Feb. 10 at the KSC Visitor Complex. Witnesses are expected to include representatives from NASA, Air Force 45th Space Wing, General Services Administration, Canaveral Port Authority, Space Florida and Audubon of Florida. Mica chairs the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s subcommittee on government operations. (2/2)

Editorial: Tax Bill Would Put Spaceport in Jeopardy (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
At this critical time in the development of what we believe has the potential to be one of the greatest economic drivers for this community in decades, a local senator is trying to throw a monkey wrench in the gears. Instead of working to support Spaceport America, Sen. Lee Cotter, R-Las Cruces, is attempting to starve it of funding.

Cotter has introduced a bill that would prevent the Spaceport Authority from using gross receipts tax revenue in excess of what is needed to make bond payments for ongoing operations as the authority gears up for the start of Virgin Galactic flights, hopefully this year. Cotter said he would rather see all of the tax revenue go toward paying off the bond, which sounds reasonable. Except, conditions of the bond dictate it can not be paid off until 2019.

So that money would be sitting in a bank account collecting dust at the exact same time that the authority is desperate for funding to prepare for the start of commercial spaceflights. "It would be a devastating blow to the spaceport now," Spaceport Authority Executive Director Christine Anderson said. "This little bit of excess money is helping us stay alive." (2/2)

Mars: Its Landscape Looks a Lot Like Home (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Did you know the sky turns blue when the sun sets on Mars? Also, if you were able to visit, you’d find places named Laguna Hollow, Clovis, Ortiz and Sandia. And, in case you were wondering, Mars has a mineral makeup similar to that found in the Land of Enchantment. These are just a few of the facts and details that have emerged since NASA’s Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, landed on the Red Planet in January 2004. (2/2)

Mojave Jobs: Virgin Galactic Needs a Vice President of Safety (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Virgin Galactic, which plans to launch commercial space tourism later this year. The space tourism company, which says that safety is its North Star, needs a vice president of safety. This position has been advertised on the Virgin Galactic website for months now. Jon Turnipseed is listed as holding that position on Our Team section of the Virgin Galactic website. Oddly enough, multiple sources in Mojave say he has been gone from that post since around the beginning of last summer. (2/2)

Why Hawking is Wrong About Black Holes (Source: Universe Today)
A recent paper by Stephen Hawking has created quite a stir, even leading Nature News to declare there are no black holes. As I wrote in an earlier post, that isn’t quite what Hawking claimed. But it is now clear that Hawking’s claim about black holes is wrong because the paradox he tries to address isn’t a paradox after all. It all comes down to what is known as the firewall paradox for black holes.  

The central feature of a black hole is its event horizon. The event horizon of a black hole is basically the point of no return when approaching a black hole.  In Einstein’s theory of general relativity, the event horizon is where space and time are so warped by gravity that you can never escape. Cross the event horizon and you are forever trapped. This one-way nature of an event horizon has long been a challenge to understanding gravitational physics. For example, a black hole event horizon would seem to violate the laws of thermodynamics.  

One of the principles of thermodynamics is that nothing should have a temperature of absolute zero.  Even very cold things radiate a little heat, but if a black hole traps light then it doesn’t give off any heat.  So a black hole would have a temperature of zero, which shouldn’t be possible. Click here. (2/2)

NSS Supports SEA Legislative Blitz in Washington and at Home (Source: NSS)
The National Space Society (NSS) will be participating in the Space Exploration Alliance (SEA) 2014 legislative blitz and encourages all members to participate. SEA includes groups ranging from NSS and Explore Mars to AIAA, the Moon Society, the Mars Society, the Planetary Society, the National Society of Black Engineers, SEDS, and Buzz Aldrin’s ShareSpace Foundation.

The major goal of the SEA blitz from an NSS perspective will be to provide as much support for the NASA budget as possible during these difficult budgetary times. Now is the time to stand up for space and be counted. For those unable to participate, NSS is currently planning to organize a “home district” blitz later in the year, probably during August when Congress is in recess and members of Congress are most probably in their home districts. (2/2)

SLS Program Manager Talks About The Future of NASA’s Biggest Rocket (Source: WHNT)
There is no space shuttle. As of now, America has to hitch a ride with the Russians to get to the International Space Station. However, NASA is building a new rocket to carry Americans to other worlds, if we so choose. It’s the Space Launch System, SLS for short. Todd May is the program manager for NASA’s SLS. It’ll be the biggest, most powerful rocket ever built. But those superlatives bring plenty of complications. Click here. (1/31)

Minister to Announce New Canadian Space Policy Framework (Source: Global Post)
Federal Industry Minister James Moore will announce Canada's new space policy framework next week. An invitation to the event was sent to industry leaders under the name of Canadian Space Agency president Walt Natynczyk. The industry minister told an aerospace forum in Montreal in early December the Harper government’s space policy had been completed.

Moore, whose responsibilities include the space agency, said at the time the framework will provide the foundation for the next phase of the government’s space program. He indicated it would be based on the principles of partnership with other countries and the private sector and that it would cater to Canada's strengths and inspire Canadians. (1/31)

The Reasons for Going to Outer Space (SourceL TEDx)
At the TEDxPCC event,  Will Pomerantz, the Virgin Galactic Vice President for Special Projects,  gave his answers to the question, “Why is it worth it to explore outer space? Click here. (2/2)

Embry-Riddle to Represent USA at Maritime Robotics Challenge (Source: ERAU)
Embry-Riddle has been selected as one of three teams to represent the United States in the inaugural Maritime RobotX Challenge hosted by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) and the Office of Naval Research. Embry-Riddle is the only university in the world that participates in all six of the unmanned systems collegiate competitions hosted by AUVSI. ERAU has a track record of success, placing in the top five multiple times within the last three years. (2/1)

Lithuania's First Satellite to Send Greetings from Space (Source: Astrowatch)
On January 9, while the whole world watched Orbital's Cygnus launch to ISS, Lithuanians had their eyes on a small satellite onboard the Antares rocket. Lituanica SAT-1 was successfully launched among other cubesats, giving the country a solid reason to be space proud. Lithuania is the country with no significant space exploration history, thus launching nation's first satellite is really a major milestone in spaceflight for this Baltic state.

LituanicaSAT-1 is a cube satellite measuring 10x10x10 cm. The primary mission objective is to provide university students and young engineers knowledge and real hands-on experience in satellite engineering thereby helping to develop infrastructure and know-how in space technology by interdisciplinary interaction between academia and industry in Lithuania. (2/1)

Embry-Riddle Participates in FAA Space Transportation Conference (Source: SPACErePORT)
The FAA's annual Commercial Space Transportation Conference will be held this week in Washington DC, with discussions planned on commercial human spaceflight, launch and operations safety, space and air traffic integration, and international spaceport programs. Representatives from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University will participate. Click here. (2/2)

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