March 10, 2014

Space Station Crew Lands Safely in Kazakhstan (Source: Colllect Space)
Two Russian cosmonauts and a U.S. astronaut returned to a frigid homecoming Monday (March 10), landing on the windswept and snow covered steppe of Kazakhstan after 166 days aboard the International Space Station. Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy of the Russian federal space agency Roscosmos and Michael Hopkins of NASA touched down onboard Soyuz TMA-10M southeast of the Kazkh town Dzhezkazgan at 10:24 p.m. CDT.

The three launched to the station onboard the same capsule from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 25, 2013. The trio's return was almost delayed a day, as heavy fog and wintry weather conditions forced Russia's search and recovery teams to delay deploying their fleet of helicopters and all-terrain vehicles to the staging site for the landing. As the weather improved, the decision was made Monday afternoon to proceed with the crew's homecoming. (3/10)

McCarthy and Virgin Galactic Hope Commercial Space Measure SOARS (Source: Parabolic Arc)
In a move that would have a major impact on how Virgin Galactic and other space companies operate, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has introduced legislation that would simplify the FAA permitting and licensing procedures for new commercial spacecraft. The Suborbital and Orbital Advancement and Regulatory Streamlining Act (SOARS) also would broaden the definitions of launch vehicles and launch services to include the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft and spaceflight participant training conducted aboard it.

Another section of the measure would require the FAA to undertake a three-year demonstration project “to evaluate the benefits of using experimental aircraft for both the direct and indirect support of commercial space launch and reentry activities.” See more here. (3/10)

The Rogozin Plan: Competitiveness Through Gov’t Control, Larger Fines (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Russia’s Josef Stalin-admiring Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, whom Vladimir Putin has put in charge of revamping the defense and space sectors. And boy, does he sound confused. To summarize: It is intolerable that Russia has only three percent of the world’s space revenues, which come almost exclusively from launch vehicle contracts.

The future lies with companies becoming more competitive, creating more public-private partnerships, and securing additional outside funding. However, the government is consolidating much of the space industry — except for big companies like Energia and Khrunichev — under one government-controlled corporation, which might tend to limit competition, partnerships and outside investment. To encourage companies to deliver spacecraft on time, Rogozin would cut into their revenues with larger fines. (3/9)

A Time of Danger and Opportunity for US-Russian Space Relations (Source: Space Review)
Tensions between Russia and Ukraine could imperil US-Russian cooperation in space, some fear, including access to the ISS. Jeff Foust reports on the potential threats an intensified crisis could pose, but also the opportunities it could provide. Visit to view the article. (3/10)

Uwingu: Making an Impact (Source: Space Review)
Last month, Uwingu rolled out a new program to allow people to name craters on a Mars map for a fee. Alan Stern and Mark Sykes discuss the benefits this initiative promises for funding space science efforts, and how some have misunderstood it. Visit to view the article. (3/10)

Protecting Critical Space Capabilities from Physical and Fiscal Threats (Source: Space Review)
Space has become congested, contested, and competitive, officials have warned in recent years. Now, Thomas "Tav" Taverney argues, military space systems are facing fiscal threats that could imperil plans to protect those systems from other threats. Visit to view the article. (3/10)

Rocket Reusability: a Driver of Economic Growth (Source: Space Review)
On Sunday, SpaceX will launch its latest Falcon 9 rocket on another ISS resupply mission, but this time attempt to recover the first stage. Rick Boozer explains how this step towards reusability can change the economics of spaceflight. Visit to view the article. (3/10)

Be An Asteroid Hunter in NASA Grand Challenge Contest Series (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA’s Asteroid Data Hunter contest series will offer $35,000 in awards over the next six months to citizen scientists who develop improved algorithms that can be used to identify asteroids. This contest series is being conducted in partnership with Planetary Resources Inc. of Bellevue, Wash. The first contest in the series will kick off on March 17. Prior to the kick off, competitors can create an account on the contest series website and learn more about the rules and different phases of the contest series by clicking here. (3/10)

Uwingu Mars Mapping Project Announces Grant to Astronomers (Source: Uwingu)
Space startup Uwingu announced today a grant to Astronomers Without Borders (AWB), a global community of astronomy enthusiasts, educators, and others around the world interested in astronomy and the sky. Uwingu’s grant to AWB comes from funds raised in the past two weeks from Uwingu’s new Mars Crater Mapping project at

The project was established to help create a $10M fund for Uwingu grants to support a wide range of new space projects with individual space researchers and educators hurt by budget cuts, as well as space companies and organizations like AWB. Uwingu has previously made grants to a wide range of organizations including the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), the Galileo Teachers Training Program (GTTP), the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), and the Mars One project. (3/10)

Space Florida Competition Winners to Fly Experiments to ISS on Falcon-9 (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida and NanoRacks are pleased to announce that two of the seven winners of the Space Florida International Space Station (ISS) Research Competition are scheduled to launch their payloads to the ISS onboard SpaceX CRS-3 (Commercial Resupply Services, Mission 3), from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport on March 16.

The two NanoLabs projects heading to the ISS are: HEART FLIES (Ohio State University, Stanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, and NASA Ames Research Center); and Project MERCCURI (University of California-Davis, and Click here. (3/10)

Harris Corp. Advances Satellite Projects (Source: SpaceRef)
Harris Corp., based on Florida's Space Coast, has received an 18-month follow-on contract from Boeing to provide Ka-band antennas for the fourth Inmarsat Global Xpress satellite. Harris antennas will provide high-speed, mobile services with flexibility to adapt to changing needs. Harris already has delivered antennas for the first three Inmarsat Global Xpress satellites.

Also, Harris has achieved a key milestone under a five-year contract with Aireon LLC that will create the first global satellite-based aircraft tracking system. A Harris ADS-B receiver payload passed stringent testing for space and is now ready for production. The milestone is part of a contract with Aireon that will provide aircraft tracking through a hosted receiver payload flown on commercial Iridium NEXT satellites.

The company's Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) 1090 Extended Squitter receiver payload has been successfully tested and qualified for simulated operation in the harsh environment of space for more than 12 years. Simulated performance testing also validated the agility of the payload to adapt to evolving aircraft traffic patterns over the same span of time. (3/10)

Drones Again to Descend on Kennedy Space Center (Source: Florida Today)
They’ll be back. A fleet of small drones buzzed the sky near Kennedy Space Center recently, participating in the state’s first sponsored demonstration of the technology. The 21 flights performed during two days late last month served as practice for demonstrations Space Florida will lead in May, when the drone industry’s biggest annual conference will be held in Orlando.

Three Florida companies flew quad-copters, hex-copters and fixed-wing vehicles, ranging in size from roughly three to 15 pounds with wingspans up to about three feet. “It was an extremely successful event,” said Jim Kuzma, Space Florida’s chief operating officer. “If these companies can test here, they can grow here.” The three companies taking part, at their own expense, were Angel Eyes of Naples, Elevated Horizons of Orlando and Prioria Robotics of Gainesville.

Kuzma said they performed simulations including search and rescue and forest fire scenarios, and uses of “precision agriculture” sensors to spot conditions such as citrus greening. Space Florida coordinated the preliminary demonstration with NASA, the Air Force and Federal Aviation Administration, including closing airspace within a roughly one square mile box at Exploration Park, the planned research complex adjacent to the state’s Space Life Sciences Lab facility. Space Commerce Way at the park’s entrance was also closed at times. (3/10)

Russia to Launch Three Lunar Rovers From 2016 to 2019 (Source: Voice of Russia)
Roscosmos, will send three automated rovers to the moon from 2016 to 2019 as part of its plan to eventually send a manned mission to Mars, according to agency head Oleg Ostapenko. "Stage one priority is research projects to be carried out by automated rovers on the moon and Mars," said Ostapenko. "These plans will be officially committed to paper in a new federal space program. State financing will be provided for the building of three lunar surface vehicles - Luna-25, Luna-26, and Luna-27. The first one will be launched in 2016, the second one - in 2018, and the third one - in 2019." (3/9)

Robotic Exploration of Moon, Mars a Priority (Source: RIA Novosti)
The head of Russia's space agency Roscosmos said Tuesday that developing technologies for robotic exploration of the moon and Mars is a priority. Oleg Ostapenko said in an interview with state newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta that the agency would boost its unmanned space probe efforts ahead of three missions to the moon. The first mission, the long-delayed Luna-25, is slated to launch in 2016 and land at the moon's south pole.

The next two missions will include an orbiter to monitor the moon in 2018 and a polar lander with a drill to search for water ice in 2019. Subsequent missions are planned to deploy a robotic base on the moon and bring lunar soil back to Earth for analysis. Ostapenko was appointed head of Roscosmos in October amid a shakeup of the country's space industry following a string of failures of launch vehicles and spacecraft. (3/9)

China to Launch First "Space Shuttle Bus" This Year (Source: Space Daily)
China is expected to launch an upper stage aircraft this year that can be used as a "space shuttle bus" to propel payload in space, a senior official in charge of rocket research said Monday. The Yuanzheng-1 (Expedition-1) upper stage aircraft, attached with a carrier rocket, can carry aircraft using its own power system after reaching an initial orbit, said Liang Xiaohong, Party secretary of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology.

Yuanzheng-1, which uses liquid propellant, can fulfill several missions while in space and operate as long as 6.5 hours in orbit, said Liang, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the country's top political advisory body. It has the same function as a carrier rocket and can bring multiple aircraft to different locations in space, said Liang. (3/9)

Bright Pulses of Light Could Make Space Veggies More Nutritious (Source: Space Daily)
Exposing leafy vegetables grown during spaceflight to a few bright pulses of light daily could increase the amount of eye-protecting nutrients produced by the plants, according to a new study. One of the concerns for astronauts during future extended spaceflights will be the onslaught of eye-damaging radiation they'll be exposed to. But astronauts should be able to mitigate radiation-induced harm to their eyes by eating plants that contain carotenoids, especially zeaxanthin, which is known to promote eye health.

"When we pamper plants in the field, they produce a lot of biomass but they aren't very nutritious. If they have to fend for themselves-if they have to defend themselves against pathogens or if there's a little bit of physical stress in the environment-plants make defense compounds that help them survive. And those are the antioxidants that we need." Plants produce zeaxanthin when their leaves are absorbing more sunlight than they can use, which tends to happen when the plants are stressed.

Using the model plant species Arabidopsis, the team demonstrated that a few pulses of bright light on a daily basis spurred the plants to begin making zeaxanthin in preparation for an expected excess of sunlight. The pulses were short enough that they didn't interfere with the otherwise optimal growing conditions, but long enough to cause accumulation of zeaxanthin. (3/6)

Space Walk of Fame in Titusville Seeks Sponsor Support (Source: SPACErePORT)
The U.S. Space Walk of Fame Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the history of the U. S. Space Program through its Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and future Shuttle monuments in Space View Park and the free Space Walk of Fame Museum. The monuments and museum honor the men and women who made the space program possible and the astronauts who flew the missions. To keep the museum operational, organizers hope to get companies, local organizations and the public involved. Click here. (3/7)

Editorial: Take Advantage of Wallops Opportunities (Source: DelMarVa Now)
The best opportunities in life are those that are hard won. That’s certainly the case with NASA Wallops in Eastern Virginia, whose profile has soared in recent years as the nature of spaceflight and space exploration has changed. For decades, launches were the province of NASA’s Cape Canaveral facility (known as Cape Kennedy for a while, as older readers will remember).

From Cape Canaveral soared the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions, and later the space shuttles. It is a place etched in American history as a symbol of technological know-how and human courage. With the sun having set on the shuttle program, and with further human space exploration by NASA cloudy, the page has turned. Now, the focus is on launching satellites and cargo for the International Space Station, with the impetus coming more from the private sector than simply the public sector.

Bigelow Aerospace, of Las Vegas, is talking about conducting a demonstration mission that would involve human spaceflight, the Eastern Shore News reported earlier this month. Certainly, many hurdles need to be cleared, but such talk indicates the untapped potential of the Mid-Atlantic space facility. And regional leaders need to ask, Why not Wallops? Increased flight activity, manned or not, means the potential for more economic activity. (3/9)

Obama Launches 'Cosmos': 'The Next Great Discovery Could Be Yours' (Source: NBC)
More than three decades after "Cosmos" first came to television, President Barack Obama kicked off the 21st-century version of the science show with a tribute to astronomer Carl Sagan and his successors. "America has always been a nation of fearless explorers, who dream bigger and reach farther than others imagine," Obama said in a 30-second clip that led off Sunday's premiere. "That's the spirit of discovery that Carl Sagan captured in the original 'Cosmos.'

"Today we're doing everything we can to bring that same sense of possibility to a new generation - because there are new frontiers to explore, and we need Americans eager to explore them." Sagan, arguably the best-known science communicator of his generation, was the host of the first "Cosmos" series back in 1980. He passed away in 1996, but the "Cosmos" torch has been passed to astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson for the new 13-episode series airing on Fox and National Geographic channels. (3/10)

Orbital Introduces Geostar-3 Comsat Platform (Source: SpaceRef)
Orbital Sciences introduced its GEOStar-3TM satellite platform, stating the program is now ready for delivery to commercial satellite operators on production schedules of 24 to 27 months. The medium-class GEOStar-3 platform is an extension of Orbital’s highly successful small-class GEOStar-2 bus that has led its market niche for the past decade.

This evolutionary technology upgrade represents an incremental expansion of the company’s flight-proven, low-risk product line, based on a standard platform with configure-to-order payload flexibility to maximize customer value for fixed satellite services (FSS), direct to home (DTH) and high throughput satellite (HTS) applications. (3/10)

Stratton: Exploration Launches Florida Jobs and Opportunity (Source: Tallahassee Democrat)
Space exploration is critical to Florida’s identity and future. It creates high-tech jobs, scientific discoveries, business opportunities and educational excellence in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Its potential is boundless.

In Florida, aerospace means business. Nearly all 67 counties contribute to this $9 billion industry, led by almost 500 aerospace companies employing 30,000 residents, and space-related industries expand that economic impact to a total of $19.2 billion, supporting 20,000 companies and 140,000-plus jobs. Click here. (3/7)

First Space Tourists to Fly Around Mars and Venus in 2021 (Source: Voice of Russia)
American congressmen seem to be seriously interested in the idea of a space expedition in the course of which the spaceship will make flies around Venus and Mars. Several days ago, the Congress’s Committee of Science asked NASA to estimate the possibility of realization of such a flight (it is supposed that NASA would also take part in it). It is expected that the flight will start in November 2021 and will last 582 days, and that a married couple will take part in it. (3/9)

First Made-in-Alberta Satellite to Lift Off Next Year if Crowdfunding Successful (Source: Edmonton Journal)
Who wouldn’t want to be part of space history? That’s the bet behind an ambitious University of Alberta project to design, build, and launch the first made-in-Alberta satellite. With a team of 60 students working the technical side of the project, what’s now needed is $60,000 to get the satellite off the ground in 2015.

The fundraising campaign has moved online and anyone with at least five dollars can contribute, launching the university into a new era of philanthropy and space studies. “We’re trying to make aerospace history in Alberta,” said Ian Mann, a physics professor at the university. “The idea was to reach out with the project, to touch not just the campus community or the Edmonton community, but the Alberta and even the Canadian community to share in the excitement of this opportunity.” (3/10)

Comet Collisions Spotted Around Distant Star (Source: National Geographic)
Violent comet crashes are occurring around a star easily visible to sky-watchers, astronomers report. The star is one already known to harbor a burgeoning solar system. Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) Telescope in northern Chile announced this week that they have found a giant clump of carbon monoxide gas in the dusty disk previously seen surrounding a Southern Hemisphere star called Beta Pictoris. (3/7)

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