February 22, 2014

Scalpel. Check. Robot. Check. NASA Bots, One Day, May Operate in Space (Source: Computer World)
NASA wants a humanoid robot that can perform CPR, draw blood and operate on astronauts aboard the International Space Station or en route to Mars. "We're trying to get the best care for our astronauts, who are risking their lives to push the boundaries in space," said Dr. Zsolt Garami, an instructor at the Houston Methodist Research Institute, an arm of Houston Methodist Hospital.

"Our motivation was really when we saw astronauts perform ultrasounds on each other or on themselves. They just could use an extra hand.... Why not have a robot help? There's already a robot up in the space station, and he's already shown that he can switch buttons reliably. Why not make him a nurse or a physician?" Garami is working with NASA to teach robots how to perform medical procedures. He said the robots are quick learners -- much quicker than his human students. (2/22)

Study: Wallops Investment Would Open Shore Opportunities (Source: DelMarVaNow.com)
The Lower Shore’s economic and educational opportunities continue to grow with investments at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, a study released by Gov. Martin O’Malley shows. The massive Virginia complex, which generates 2,341 area jobs and contributes $188 million annually to the region, lacks the number of spinoff businesses like shops, restaurants and hotels, according to the report.

There also are opportunities for local colleges and universities to provide accredited engineering programs to better train students for the jobs being created at NASA, it found. In addition to NASA, Wallops also has a U.S. Navy base and a NOAA division. While the study finds growth potential as new launch providers come to Wallops and local schools tailor their offerings to jobs, it also probes tourism possibilities — such as an air and space museum or theme park in the area. (2/22)

Mars One’s Response to the Fatwa (Source: Mars One)
Mars One's mission is to extend to all humans, including Muslims, the chance to become the Neil Armstrong of Mars. Mars One has no political or religious interests, but hopes that this great honor will be achievable for anyone in the world, no matter what their religion or nationality is. The Muslim world has a rich tradition of exploration. Space Exploration, just like Earth exploration throughout history, will come with risks and rewards.

We would like to respectfully inform the GAIAE about elements of the Mars One mission that reduce the risk to human life as much as possible. It may seem extremely dangerous to send humans to Mars today, but the humans will be preceded by at least eight cargo missions. Robotic unmanned vehicles will prepare the habitable settlement. Water and a breathable atmosphere will be produced inside the habitat and the settlement will be operational for two years, even before the first crew leaves Earth.

Each of the cargo missions will land in a system very similar to the human landing capsule. An impressive track record of the landing technology will be established before risking human lives. It should be noted that the moon lander was never test on the Moon before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed successfully on the Moon. If we may be so bold: the GAIAE should not analyze the risk as they perceive it today. The GAIAE should assess the potential risk for humans as if an unmanned habitable outpost is ready and waiting on Mars. (2/22)

Boosters for Orion Spacecraft Leaving Decatur for Florida (Source: WAAY)
NASA and United Launch Alliance workers loaded up two rocket boosters Friday morning to send them to Florida -- and eventually to space. The Delta IV Heavy boosters will be used on Exploration Flight Test-1, the first Orion spacecraft mission. They will be loaded on a barge and eventually arrive at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral for final processing before launch, which is scheduled for the fall. (2/22)

Orion Testing Provides Lessons, Data For Splashdown Recovery (Source: NASA)
The first full joint testing between NASA and the U.S. Navy of Orion recovery procedures off the coast of California was suspended after the team experienced issues with handling lines securing a test version of Orion inside the well deck of the USS San Diego. NASA and the Navy were conducting tests to prepare for recovery of Orion after it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean at the end of its first space flight, Exploration Flight Test-1, in September.

The testing was planned to allow teams to demonstrate and evaluate the processes, procedures, hardware and personnel that will be needed for recovery operations. The lines were unable to support the tension caused by crew module motion that was driven by wave turbulence in the well deck of the ship. The team called off the week's remaining testing to allow engineers to evaluate next steps. (2/22)

New Project Aims To Offer Free Global WiFi Service From Outer Space (Source: Red Orbit)
A project being incubated by the Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF) has ambitious plans to beam WiFi to everyone on the planet for free. The organizations says that it is planning a project called “Outernet,” which will utilize a satellite constellation to make Internet universally-accessible and for no cost. Outernet says on its site that there are more computing devices in the world than people, but only 60 percent of the world has access to the Internet.

Outernet will consist of hundreds of low-cost, miniature satellites in Low Earth Orbit, each of which will be receiving data streams from a network of ground stations. These satellites will be transmitting the data in a continuous loop until new content is received. The organization said that its entire constellation will be using globally-accepted standards-based protocols like DVB, Digital Radio Mondiale, and UDP-based WiFi multicasting.

In June, the organization plans to develop prototype satellites and test out a long range of WiFi multicasting. A few months later Outernet will begin transmission testing in flight-like environments. The launch and testing of constellation operations is expected to begin by next January. Outernet is asking for contributions to the project of any size, which will all be 100 percent tax-deductible. (2/22)

A Closer Look at Blue Origin’s Expanded Testing in West Texas (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The FAA recently approved Blue Origin’s application to expand operations at its West Texas test site “to include new development vehicles, which would use liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellants.” The supplemental environmental assessment was required because of a shift in propellants used in flight tests. The FAA conducted an earlier review in 2006 when it originally approved the testing of reusable propulsion modules and crew capsules (CCs) at the site. Click here. (2/22)

Mojave Air & Space Port: The Modern Day Kitty Hawk (Source: Sacramento Bee)
A new short film has been released that celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit of the pioneers and companies that are reshaping the aviation and aerospace industry at the Mojave Air & Space Port in Mojave, California. The short film - Mojave Air & Space Port: The Modern Day Kitty Hawk – is produced and directed by Tara Tucker. The video will be available exclusively on AllThingsAero.com, a leading aviation and aerospace website, as well as on their YouTube channel. Click here. (2/22)

Canadian Space Agency Wins Hockey Bet with NASA (Source: The Province)
It was a sweet bet that paid off in mouthfuls for the Canadian Space Agency. On the line in the Canada-United States men’s hockey wager with NASA was a box of cookies. Thanks to Canada’s semi-final victory at the Sochi Olympics on Friday, the Americans will eventually ship a box of maple creams to the International Space Station.

The U.S. space agency had accepted the challenge by wagering a cookie emblazoned with red, white and blue “Stars and Stripes” icing. The Canadian Space Agency savoured the 1-0 victory, saying on its Twitter account: “Can’t tweet. Mouth full, crumbs abound!” (2/21)

Preparing For Next Round of Commercial Cargo Contracts (Source: NewSpace Journal)
NASA’s current contracts with Orbital Sciences Corporation and SpaceX for transporting cargo to and from the International Space Station, called Commercial Resupply Services (CRS), cover missions that run through 2016. With the station scheduled to remain in operations to 2020, and now to perhaps at least after the Obama Administration’s announcement of a proposed extension last month, NASA and those cargo providers have to start thinking ahead to a new round of CRS contracts.

On Friday, NASA issued a request for information (RFI) for a “follow on capability” for CRS, or CRS2. The RFI is designed to collect information form industry that would “help NASA refine and mature the follow on acquisition plan” for CRS2. The document doesn’t indicate when NASA would issue a formal RFP for commercial cargo services, but responses to the RFI are due on March 21. (2/22)

Sky’s the Limit for UAE Spaceport (Source: The National)
When discussing major global developments in space technology, this country is perhaps not the first to spring to mind. However, as is the case in so many other areas, the UAE certainly does not lack for ambition when it comes to the celestial realms. A savvy combination of international investment and the nurturing of domestic knowledge capacity has seen the country’s prominence grow in recent years.

The country’s ambitions in the space sector came to prominence on the global stage in July 2009, with a high-profile investment in the Virgin Group’s space tourism venture, Virgin Galactic. Aabar Investments, an investment vehicle of the Abu Dhabi Government, acquired a 32 per cent stake in Virgin Galactic for US$280 million. It subsequently increased its stake in the company by 6 per cent for an additional $110m.

Given Aabar’s investment in the company, it perhaps came as little surprise when Virgin Galactic announced in April 2012 that it planned to site the company’s second spaceport in Abu Dhabi. Virgin chairman Sir Richard Branson reaffirmed the company’s commitment to the project, saying he hoped to launch the Abu Dhabi space port within two years. (2/22)

Russia Ready to Unveil New 'Angara' Rocket (Source: Discovery)
Russia is preparing for the debut flight of a launch vehicle called Angara, its first new big rocket since the Soviet era. Angara is built around common core boosters that burn environmentally friendly liquid oxygen and kerosene (like SpaceX’s Falcon rockets). By adding additional liquid rocket boosters to the first stage, Angara’s lift capacity can be increased to handle heavy payloads.

Angara rockets will launch from Russia’s Plesetsk Cosmodrome, breaking Russia’s reliance on Kazakhstan, which took over the Baikonur Cosmodrome after the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. Angara rockets also can fly from Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome, which currently is under construction in the far eastern Amur region. (2/22)

Can a Muslim Take a One-Wway Trip to Mars? A Fatwa Says No (Source: CSM)
It appears that some Muslim religious clerics are dead-set against manned Mars expedition, at least not without a round-trip ticket. A fatwa committee under the United Arab Emirates' General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment (GAIAE) has issued a fatwa prohibiting involvement in a one-way trip to the Red Planet.

The fatwa comes as Mars One, a Dutch nonprofit seeking to establish a permanent Martian colony, continues to screen more than 200,000 applications for its four-person, one-way trip to Mars, scheduled for 2024.

“Such a one-way journey poses a real risk to life, and that can never be justified in Islam. There is a possibility that an individual who travels to planet Mars may not be able to remain alive there, and is more vulnerable to death.” The GAIAE warned that those who undertake this journey is likely to die for no "righteous reason," and are risking punishment in the afterlife "similar to that of suicide." (2/22)

Maryland Seeks UAS, Space Industry Growth (Source: MD Biz News)
Gov. Martin O’Malley released the Unmanned Aerial & Space Systems & Launch Industry Feasibility Study, which identifies opportunities for investment and growth in aerospace and space on Maryland’s Lower Eastern Shore. “Space is more than just ‘the final frontier’ for scientific exploration – it is a promising economic frontier for our nation, for our state, and, as this study attests, for our Lower Eastern Shore,” said Governor O’Malley.

“With Maryland residents comprising nearly 50 percent of its workforce, NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility has had a significant impact on the economy of the Lower Shore for more than six decades. This feasibility study outlines the potential for further development of the industry around Wallops" Located on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, just five miles from the Maryland border, Wallops has an economic impact of more than $188 million and generates 2,341 jobs for the Lower Eastern Shore region.

Expendable Launch Vehicle (ELV) launches and Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) test and development have driven much of the recent growth at NASA Wallops Space Flight Center. Commercial space flight and the emerging UAS industry continue to provide Wallops with future growth opportunities. Unmanned Aerial & Space Systems & Launch Industry Feasibility Study identifies specific areas of potential investment to spur additional growth in these industries at WFF. Click here. (2/21)

Orbital, Virginia Settle Lawsuit Over Launch Pad Costs (Source: Space News)
Virginia has agreed to take ownership of the vehicle that hauls Antares rockets out to its Wallops Island launchpad under a settlement to a lawsuit the company filed against the state in September. Orbital sued Virginia seeking money it paid to cover cost overruns during construction of the state-owned Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. Orbital was seeking $16.5 million, plus interest, from the state, which runs the spaceport through the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority.

The transporter was one of several assets Orbital bought from the state back in 2010 to provide a $42 million cash infusion for the overbudget Pad 0A, which gave Wallops the ability to launch liquid-fueled rockets. The state, in accordance with its 2012 memorandum of understanding with Orbital, was supposed to buy these assets back from the company, which under the same agreement agreed to launch 10 Antares missions from Pad 0A and pay Virginia $1.5 million per launch. Orbital has so far launched three of these missions.

Virginia, which is trying to attract other launch services providers to Pad 0-A, repurchased most of the assets but balked at taking back the transporter. Virginia officials said the vehicle could not be used with other rockets without substantial, and expensive, modifications. Orbital disagreed, and the mediator brought in to settle the argument, the U.S. government-funded think tank the Aerospace Corp., took the company’s side. Still, Virginia refused to pay up, leading Orbital to seek redress from the courts. (2/21)

Cecil Stakes a Claim to Space (Source: Jacksonville Business Journal)
In 2005, City of Jacksonville officials embarked on plans to make Cecil Airport — the former Navy base turned airport/commerce center — into a locus of aerospace activity. Late last year, a first tenant signed up to launch operations at Cecil Spaceport. Later this year, that firm — Generation Orbit Launch Services Inc., an Atlanta-based commercial space launch provider — plans to send aloft from Cecil a horizontally launched vehicle as part of a plan to convey a miniature satellite into space.

Advocates hope the company’s announcement will be the first of many for the Westside site, one that boasts a runway long enough to handle the (late, lamented) space shuttle. If more announcements follow, it could signify the beginnings of a new industry sector in Jacksonville: More launches at Cecil could attract a plethora of related companies, from fabricators to technologists — and if space tourism becomes a reality, the spinoff effects could reach as far as the hospitality industry. (2/21)

Editorial: Don't Plop Spaceport Into a Florida Wildlife Refuge (Source: Florida Times-Union)
Plans are being made for private companies to blast rockets into space from the middle of Yellowstone National Park. Unfortunately, the beloved park will have to be closed to visitors for a good part of the year to accomplish that. Sorry. And the park’s unique environment will likely be damaged. Sorry about that, too, but there’s money to be made.

OK. The above is fiction, but the harsh reality is Space Florida, which is leading the state’s efforts to boost the space industry, is pushing to build a private launch site in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Each year more than a million people visit the refuge, only about a two-hour drive from Jacksonville on Interstate 95. They are drawn there by the refuge’s beauty and the more than 500 species of fish, birds and wildlife that inhabit it. Those visitors pump more than $60 million into the local economy annually.

In the quest to create jobs, likely at the expense of others, Space Florida is planning for 24 launches a year from a 200-acre site within the refuge. That would require shutting down access to parts of the refuge in advance of each launch and would impact Mosquito Lagoon and Canaveral National Seashore, which generates another $67 million in local economic impact. There’s no question the surrounding area has been hit hard by the loss of space-related jobs that came with the end of the space shuttle program. The jobs that would come with the commercial launches are needed, but that can be accomplished without degrading the wildlife refuge. (2/21)

How to Protect Earth From Asteroid Destruction (Source: Network World)
There has been much discussion about how NASA and others could protect Earth from the threat of asteroids catastrophically striking the planet. This month NASA issued a report on the conclusions reached by a group of experts on the best ways to find, track and possibly deflect asteroids headed for Earth. Here we take a look at some of the key findings as well as other asteroid detection projects. Click here. (2/19)

Russia to Map Out Next Ten-Year Space Program (Source: Voice of Russia)
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has approved the proposal to draw up a new federal program for the development of Russian space centers in 2016-2026, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told reporters. "The prime minister has supported the idea to draw up a new federal target program for the development of space centers in the decade which starts in 2016. The current ten-year program expires in 2015," Rogozin said. (2/21)

Does Space Weather Impact Earth? Professor Wins NASA Grant to Find Out (Source: Culture Map)
It seems everyone has a theory about who to blame for weird weather. But not everyone has half a million dollars from NASA to back it up. University of Texas at Arlington physics professor Yue Deng won a $534,000 grant to study how space weather events affect Earth. Deng's research will explore how solar flares impact electrodynamics in the Earth's atmosphere.

"Almost all the influence of space weather on our society is affected by dynamics in the upper atmosphere. Neutral wind in the upper atmosphere is very difficult to model and measure, but it is still one of the most important parameters to consider," Deng said in a statement announcing the grant. Scientists in Alaska and Illinois will assist Deng in her research, which will draw data from satellites and other machinery in Alaska, Brazil and Germany. (2/21)

Krysten Ritter to Star in NBC's Astronaut Comedy (Source: Hollywood Report)
Krysten Ritter is ready to go to the moon for NBC. She is near a deal to play the starring role in the network's period space comedy Mission Contro. The workplace ensemble comedy, from executive producer Will Ferrell, is set in 1962 and in the tone of Anchorman. The single-camera comedy examines what happens when a strong woman butts heads with a macho astronaut in the race to land on the moon. (2/21)

TV's Soledad O'Brien to Host National Geographic's 'Live from Space' (Source: Space.com)
Journalist, producer and television host Soledad O'Brien will host the National Geographic Channel's television event "Live from Space," Nat Geo representatives announced Wednesday (Feb. 19). O'Brien will broadcast live from NASA's Mission Control in Houston to give viewers a glimpse of astronaut life and work aboard the International Space Station.

"Live from Space" is set to air live on Friday, Mar. 14 at 8 p.m. ET (7 p.m. CT) on the National Geographic Channel, as well as in 170 other countries. The two-hour show will follow NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata on the space station. The astronauts will take viewers on a guided tour of the space lab, demonstrating how they sleep upside down, stay fit, maintain personal hygiene and use the toilet in zero gravity. (2/21)

Masten Accomplishes Successful Free Flight in Mojave (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Mojave Air and Space Port Stu Witt announced that Masten Space Systems successfully flew a vehicle this morning. He said the vehicle went to an altitude of 300 meters, translated over and touched down safely on another landing pad. Witt did not say which vehicle it was, but I’m guessing it was a Xombie.

Masten has been working this week with Astrobotic Technology to for test the company’s landing sensor package and software system for its Griffin lander, which it plans to send to the moon in October 2015. Astrobotic is a competitor in the Google Lunar X Prize, which has prizes for the first private company to land a rover on the moon. (2/21)

How We Will Retrieve Dead Satellites In The Future? (Source: Universe Today)
Space agencies such as NASA and the European Space Agency have been working hard on reducing debris during launches, but there’s still stuff from decades before. And when a satellite goes dead, if it’s in the wrong orbit it could be circling up there for decades before burning up. How do you fix that?

Robotics has come a long way in 30 years, so space agencies are looking to use those instead to pick up derelict satellites since that would pose far less danger to astronauts. One example is the e.DeOrbit mission recently talked about by ESA, which would pick up debris in polar orbits of altitudes between 800 and 1,000 kilometers (about 500 to 620 miles).

The mission would use autonomous control and image sensors to get up close to the drifting satellite, and then capture it in some way. Several ideas are being considered, ESA added. A big enough net could easily nab the satellite, or perhaps one could clamp on using tentacles or grab it with a harpoon or robotic arm. (2/21)

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