March 17, 2014

Space Florida Award Winners To Send Science to ISS (Source: Space News)
Two space experiments that won a ride to the international space station in a competition hosted by Florida’s aerospace economic development agency, Space Florida, are set to launch as part of SpaceX’s third paid cargo run to the outpost. The launch, which had been scheduled for March 16, has been postponed to March 30. Click here. (3/17)

SNC Working with NASA Marshall, Teledyne Brown (Source: Space News)
Sierra Nevada Space Systems (SNC) said it is collaborating with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and Teledyne Brown Engineering, both of Huntsville, Ala., on mission concepts for the Dream Chaser spaceplane the Louisville, Colo.-based company is building with roughly $300 million in financial support from NASA.

SNC signed an annex to its commercial crew Space Act Agreement that will allow Marshall’s Mission Operations Laboratory “to collaborate with SNC’s engineers to evaluate design reference missions, operations planning, training and mission execution for utilizing the Dream Chaser as a platform to complement and support science being performed on the” international space station, the company wrote.

Editor's Note: SNC is working hard to demonstrate that they're moving forward smartly with Dream Chaser development, in advance of NASA's selection this summer of companies competing for the next phase of NASA's Commercial Crew contracts. NASA has been authorized to select only two contractors, but one will receive only half of the funding NASA had hoped to award. SNC, Boeing and SpaceX are the lead contenders. (3/17)

NASA Teams Up to Better Understand Supersonic Flight (Source: PDDnet)
Since the Concorde’s final landing at London’s Heathrow Airport nearly a decade ago, commercial supersonic air travel has been as elusive as a piece of lost luggage. However, this hasn’t stopped NASA from continuing the quest to develop solutions that will help get supersonic passenger travel off the ground once more. And, while aerospace engineers have made significant progress in their understanding of supersonic flight, one significant challenge remains: the loud sonic boom. Click here. (3/17)

NASA Will Award $35,000 to Citizen Asteroid Hunters (Source: GIGAOM)
Do you have a penchant for coding and algorithms? How about saving the planet from horrific destruction? If so, check out the Asteroid Data Hunter Challenge, a contest launched today by NASA and Planetary Resources that challenges citizens to develop better ways to spot asteroids.

The Asteroid Data Hunter Challenge will run tentatively through August 22. Participants will need to improve algorithms that spot asteroids in images taken by Earth-bound telescopes. The algorithms must improve detection sensitivity, minimize false positives, ignore data errors and be compatible with any computer. Teams that succeed will have a chance at $35,000. (3/17)

It’s Time to Return to the Moon, Former NASA Division Chief Says (Source: FOX News)
Close your eyes. You see that shimmering, veiny darkness that most people see, right? Not me. I see the moon. It’s the closest otherworldly body to us, making it the least challenging to explore of all the planets, moons and asteroids in our solar system. It's an opportunity for humans to establish a permanent presence off Earth -- a moon base for scientists or a colony for all of humanity.

It could facilitate planet-wide cooperation among Earth’s nations in the pursuit of an answer to life’s biggest question: “Why are we here?” The prospect of establishing a permanent presence on the moon would be a game-changer for the human race. If we can make it there, we could start to understand what it really takes -- from both the design and human survival perspective -- to live on a foreign body. Click here. (3/17)

Chinese, American, and Russian Anti-Satellite Testing in Space (Source: Space Review)
In May of last year, China launched what it said was a high-altitude sounding rocket for research purposes, but what many in the US believe was an ASAT test. In a comprehensive report, Brian Weeden examines the evidence that the launch was an ASAT test, the historical record of such tests by other countries, and its implications for space security. Visit to view the article. (3/17)

Aborted Takeoff (Source: Space Review)
After nearly two decades of development, the SOFIA airborne observatory is about to formally enter its operational phase. However, Jeff Foust reports, the future of SOFIA is in jeopardy after NASA proposed cutting funding for it in its 2015 budget proposal, a move that could significant scientific and even geopolitical implications. Visit to view the article. (3/17)

India's 2014-15 Space Budget: an Assessment (Source: Space Review)
Last month, the Indian government released its proposed budget for its next fiscal year, including more than $1 billion for the Indian space agency ISRO. Ajey Lele examines the budget and the priorities it assigns to efforts ranging from space science to human spaceflight. Visit to view the article. (3/17)

Regulatory Effects of the International Code of Conduct on Commercial Space (Source: Space Review)
Discussions about a potential International Code of Conduct for space activities have focused on its effects on national governments. Michael Listner examines how it could affect commercial space activities, particularly those regulated by the US, depending on how the code is interpreted. Visit to view the article. (3/17)

'Smoking Gun' Reveals How the Inflationary Big Bang Happened (Source: NBC News)
New findings show that the universe underwent a burst of inflation that was seemingly faster than the speed of light in the first instant of its existence, throwing off a storm of exotic gravitational waves in the process. The evidence comes from the BICEP2 experiment at the South Pole, which captures and analyzes the faint glow left over from the Big Bang. BICEP2's researchers found a subtle twisty pattern in the polarization of that light, which would be characteristic of primordial gravitational waves.

The results support a concept known as inflationary Big Bang theory, and they can be further analyzed to reconstruct how the Big Bang blew up 13.8 billion years ago. Physicists were gushing over the implications. "Other than finding life on other planets or directly detecting dark matter, I can't think of any other plausible near-term astrophysical discovery more important than this one for improving our understanding of the universe," Caltech theoretical physicist Sean Carroll said. (3/17)

Planet Labs to Launch 100 Satellite Constellation (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Planet Labs today announced that it has confirmed launches for more than 100 satellites over the next 12 months. The satellites will launch on rockets from the USA and Russia. This constitutes the largest constellation of satellites manifested in history. These new launches will build on Planet Labs first 28 satellites, Flock 1, which were launched in January.

This constellation will allow Planet Labs to image the whole earth every 24 hours. “We are imaging the planet to save the planet,” said Will Marshall, cofounder of Planet Labs. “Imaging the Earth at this frequency will help us to measure things from deforestation, to improving agricultural yield, to detecting overfishing. Our mission is to create information people need to help life on the planet.” (3/17)

Orion Space Capsule Gears Up for Tests at NASA Langley (Source: Daily Press)
NASA scientists are prepping the Orion Space Capsule for an out-of-this-world adventure. A mock version of the Orion recently traveled from Kennedy Space Center in Florida to Langley Research Center in Hampton. NASA Langley is conducting tests to ensure that the capsule will be safe to transport humans. Scientists will simulate water landings and conduct other evaluations. (3/17)

Lithuanian Satellites Prove Country Can Do Much (Source: Baltic Course)
On Monday, Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite met with creators of the first Lithuanian satellites and stressed that launching the satellites into space was a proof that Lithuania was a talented nation, which can achieve much. ""The first Lithuanian satellites created through a diligent work of researchers are already in outer space. They carry a message that we are an inventive, innovative and talented nation," said the president. (3/17)

Air Force Launching on Space-Debris Tracking (Source: Air Force Times)
The Air Force is moving ahead with plans to better track debris floating around in space -- debris that can damage satellites and cause other problems -- and it's planning to do so using a radar it calls the "Space Fence." The White House budget allots $214 million for Space Fence research and development in 2015. The program earlier was hit with a costly delay but is now moving ahead. (3/15)

DOD's Hale Not Optimistic About Extra $26 Billion (Source: Defense News)
The Pentagon sorely needs the extra $26 billion the White House defense budget calls for to make up for sequester cuts, says Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale, but he has expressed pessimism that the money will be forthcoming. Congress isn't likely to lift spending caps, he said. "I hope so, because we strongly support it," Hale said. "We need the readiness dollars. It would mitigate near-term readiness risk. But I think it may be a long shot." (3/15)

Is There a Military Human Spaceflight Mission on the Horizon? (Source: Launius's Blog)
There has been a long mating dance between the civil and military space programs over the years relative to the role of humans in space. In a succession of recent studies ranging from the Air Force Science Board’s “New World Vista” in 1995 to the Rumsfeld commission’s 2001 analysis of national security space issues, the DoD has persistently sought to find a role for humans in space.

...More likely is a scenario in which military astronauts will enter space in a manner similar to what soldiers excelled at throughout the first century-and-a-half of the republic: exploring, extending, and protecting the frontier. The United States Army explored the American West, kept order on the frontier, and opened the region to colonization. The frontier army pushed the line of occupation far beyond the settlements that would have resulted otherwise. (3/17)

ESA Looks to Reduce Debris Threat From Batteries (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Across a satellite’s working life, batteries keep the craft’s heart beating whenever it leaves sunlight. But after its mission ends, those same batteries may threaten catastrophe. Space debris mitigation rules require the complete deactivation of electrical power sources aboard a satellite on retirement, in order to guard against explosive accidents that might produce fresh debris dangerous to other satellites.

Now a new study by ESA’s Clean Space initiative – tasked with reducing the space industry’s environmental impacts on both Earth and space – aims to evaluate battery behaviour after a satellite shuts down, assessing the risk of breakup and ensuring full ‘passivation’. Batteries are among a satellite’s bulkier items of equipment. Typically, they feed their host with power during launch. Once in orbit, it switches to power from its solar arrays, but the battery is an important backup to store power for eclipses and emergencies. Click here. (3/17)

Start-Ups Aim to Conquer Space Market (Source: New York Times)
It was party time at the Planet Labs satellite factory, in an unkempt office in the trendy South of Market neighborhood here. A man in a blue tuxedo shared pancakes with about two dozen young engineers at the space start-up. The air was filled with the smell of bacon and the voices of Russian and Japanese astronauts. The astronauts communicated over a video hookup to the International Space Station, 230 miles above the kitchen, one morning last month.

“Now we’re going to push the boundaries,” said Chester Gillmore, the company’s director of manufacturing. He was referring to his cooking skills, but he could just as well have been talking about his 40-employee company, which has already put dozens of small satellites in space. Once they are connected, they will be able to provide near-constant images of what is going on back on Earth. And that, Mr. Gillmore believes, could be the basis of a very good business.

Silicon Valley, not content with changing how retailers, taxi companies and hotels do business, is taking its disruptive ways into outer space. Several young companies with roots in Silicon Valley are trying to elbow their way into a business long dominated by national governments and aeronautics giants like Boeing. Click here. (3/16)

Mercury, the Smallest Planet, Is Getting Even Smaller, Scientists Say (Source: National Geographic)
Like a raisin spinning around the sun, Mercury is shrinking and wrinkling. The planet is now up to 8.6 miles (14 kilometers) smaller in diameter than it was nearly four billion years ago. The planet is downsizing because it is cooling. Images snapped by a NASA spacecraft have provided the first complete picture of how the single rocky plate that encapsulates Mercury is contracting, warping the surface into puckered ridges and scallop-edged cliffs. (3/16)

Active Volcanoes Revealed on Venus (Source: Discovery)
Scientists have long suspected that volcanoes played a huge role in the evolution of cloud-shrouded Venus, the second planet from the sun. Now, images from Europe's Venus Express orbiter are showing that volcanic eruptions may not just be a thing from the past. Scientists discovered transient bright spots in a relatively young rift zone known as Ganiki Chasma, which was observed 36 times by the spacecraft's Venus Monitoring Camera. (3/17)

Cosmologists Capture Elusive Signal From the Beginning of Time (Source: WIRED)
A team of scientists may have detected a twist in light from the early universe that could help explain how the universe began. Such a finding has been compared in significance to the detection of the Higgs boson at the LHC in 2012.

What they detected is known as primordial B-mode polarization and is important for at least two reasons. It would be is the first detection of gravitational waves, which are predicted to exist under Einstein’s theory of relativity but have never before been seen. But the thing that has scientists really excited is that it could provide the first direct evidence for a theorized event called inflation that caused the universe to exponentially grow just a fraction of a fraction of a second after it was born. (3/17)

Astronauts to Return to Purdue for Reunion (Source: Purdue University)
Purdue University will host a group of its NASA astronaut alumni for a reunion that will culminate with a public forum April 12. Purdue has had 23 graduates become astronauts, including the late Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, and Eugene Cernan, the most recent man to walk on the moon. Eight of the astronauts are expected to attend the forum, "A Conversation with Our Astronauts." (3/14)

USAF Space Surveillance Program Pushes Orion Flight Test to December (Source: America Space)
One of the most anticipated upcoming spaceflights is now delayed by nearly three months to give priority to military satellites that need to launch too, and – being that military satellites concern national security – the first flight of NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle will now occur no-earlier-than early Dec. 2014. “The initial timeframe for the launch...has shifted from September-October to early December to support allowing more opportunities for launches this year,” according to NASA's press release.

Editor's Note: Processing for Orion may be on schedule, but Orion-driven modifications to the Delta-4 launch pad probably are not. I think this wasn't a situation where USAF pre-empted a NASA mission to give the DOD satellites an earlier launch. More likely NASA advocated the switch to allow more time for Orion launch pad work. NASA's stated reason: "to support allowing more opportunities for launches this year" seems like a fig leaf, covering the fact that their own launch plans were shaky. Unfortunately, the blame is therefore put on the Eastern Range, making the Cape Canaveral Spaceport seem unfriendly to potential new users. (3/16)

Amazon CEO's F-1 rocket engine recovery team honored by Explorers Club (Source: Collect Space)
The private expedition that successfully recovered from the ocean floor historic NASA moon rocket engines was honored in New York on Saturday (March 15) by a venerable group of explorers, including an astronaut who rode to space atop those very same engines.

The Apollo F-1 Engine Search and Recovery Team, as led by founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos, received the Citation of Merit from The Explorers Club, a professional society that promotes scientific exploration of the land, sea, air and space. The award was presented to Bezos by the club's president Alan Nichols and Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who in 1969 joined Neil Armstrong to become the first men to walk on the moon. (3/17)

NASA Shuttle Veteran Gives Old Parts New Life for L.A. Exhibit (Source: LA Times)
Dennis Jenkins spent 30-plus years — his entire career — sending the shuttles into space. Now, with the program part of a bygone era of exploration, the 57-year-old works for the California Science Center, helping officials figure out how to display their own orbiter, Endeavour.

The Exposition Park museum wants to showcase its crown jewel as if it's on the launch pad, a display that will take thousands of pieces to pull off — parts that are scattered at NASA facilities, museums and other places across the U.S. Most are one of a kind and impossible to replicate. So for the past year, Jenkins has crisscrossed the country, scouring NASA scrap yards and asking old colleagues if they have what he needs to rebuild the shuttle launch stack, piece by piece. (3/17)

ISS Orbit Adjusted to Avoid Space Garbage (Source: Itar-Tass)
The Russian Mission Control Center corrected on Monday the orbit of the International Space Station (ISS) because of a space junk threat. Progress M-22M cargo craft engines were used to raise the ISS orbit, sources from the center’s said. “Progress M-22M engines were switched on at 05:37 Moscow time and were running for 429 seconds,” the sources said. The engines provided a boost of 0.5 meters a second to the ISS and the orbit was raised by 0.9 kilometers to 414.65 kilometers. (3/17)

Russian Space Agency Announces Research Competition for Young Scientists (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia’s Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) with support of the Space Research Institute (IKI) of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) has announced a competition of innovative scientific works “Russia in Space: from Dream to Reality” that focuses on the “use of space activity results in the socio-economic sphere.” Competition works are accepted from March 17 to October 1, 2014.

“The goal of the competition is to create conditions for fulfillment of talents by students of Russian universities, young specialists and scientists, to support and stimulate their research activity, preserve and replenish Russia’s intellectual potential for the development of outer space for peaceful purposes, further develop integration of science and practice,” the agency said.

The competition will be held in the following fields: use of modern information technology in designing and creation of space systems and complexes; introduction of innovative and sectoral solutions based on the GLONASS satellite navigation; application of information technologies for the Earth remote sensing systems in the monitoring of hazardous geological processes in the territory of Russia; development of innovative solutions and technology for the infrastructure of the future cosmodrome Vostochny; new methods for implementation of programs for the study of the Solar system planets. (3/17)

RocketSTEM Hopes to Inspire With Space (Source: RocketSTEM)
RocketSTEM Media Foundation is a private, not-for-profit organization established for the purpose of fostering science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, as well as promoting the benefits of space exploration. While focused on development of a magazine at the present time, future plans include the creation of a set of lesson plans to be used by teachers at each grade level.

During 2014 and 2015, RocketSTEM plans to endow a scholarship fund for college students pursuing aerospace studies, and for younger students wishing to attend Space Camp in Alabama or the National Flight Academy in Florida. RocketSTEM's team is diverse and distributed, but Executive Director Chase Clark is based in Pensacola, Florida. Click here. (3/17)

NASA Funded Study Warns of ‘Irreversible Collapse’ in Coming Decades (Source: Metro)
Experts have warned that the world as we know it could be doomed to suffer ‘irreversible collapse’ in the coming decades. And no, this is not another conspiracy theory cooked up by the Mayans – this time the warning comes from a study funded by NASA. Led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharri, a new study made possible by the Goddard Space Flight Center warns that global industrial civilization is doomed to catastrophe because of the overstretched demand for resources.

‘The process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history,’ explains the academic paper set to be published in the Ecological Economics journal. A combination of unsustainable resource exploitation, unequal wealth distribution and overconsumption could lead to the collapse of industrialed society within a few decades, it warns.

The study suggests that even well-established, advanced civilisations can be ‘both fragile and impermanent’ – citing the fall of the Roman Empire as a prime example. Patterns of wealth stratification (such as increased disparity between rich and poor) and the stretching of resources have played a role in collapses throughout history and are prevalent today, the report said. In order to avert disaster the academics recommend policies to improve a fairer distribution of resources, dramatically reduce resource consumption and slow population growth. (3/16)

Mars Arctic 365 Mission Semi-Finalists Announced - One in Florida (Source: Mars Society)
The semi-finalists for crew selection for the Mars Society’s Mars Arctic 365 (MA365) mission have been announced. Chosen from a group of over 200 applicants, the 62 semi-finalists consist of 49 men and 13 women drawn from 17 countries, including the United States, Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Turkey, India, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

The 62 individuals selected represent a wide range of expertise and skills including geological, biological, medical, aerospace, mechanical and electrical engineering, mechanical trades, journalism and Arctic and wilderness survival training. One of the 62 is Pablo Martinez, a Process Engineer living in Orlando. He is a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

The next step in the MA365 crew recruitment will be a process leading to the selection of 18 finalists. The final 18 will be divided into three crews of six people each, who will then be sent to the Mars Society’s Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS) on Canada’s Devon Island for two weeks of trial field testing during the summer of 2014. On the basis of demonstrated performance, the best crew will then be chosen for further training, leading to the initiation of the Mars one-year mission beginning in the summer of 2015. Click here for info, and here to donate via IndieGoGo. (2/26) 

Congress Must Speed Up US Crew Flights From KSC (Source: Florida Today)
When President Obama campaigned in Titusville in August 2008, he said he would reduce the gap created by the Bush administration that forced NASA to rely on the Russian Soyuz for International Space Station access until at least 2017. Obama tried to keep his promise, funding a Bush-proposed commercial crew program and setting a target date for 2015.

But Congress cut funding for commercial crew by 62 percent from Obama’s requests during the last three fiscal years. In the current year, Congress cut Obama’s request by 15 percent. The result is that NASA will rely on Russia until at least 2017. NASA and the Obama administration repeatedly warned Congress of the consequences. Congress didn’t care. Now NASA worries what will happen if Russia ends access to the space station due to the Ukraine crisis.

I call for Florida’s representatives on the congressional space authorization committees, Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando, to convene emergency hearings that make up for your past mistakes and prime the pump so U.S. crew flights return to Kennedy Space Center by the end of 2015. (3/14)

Evolution of NASA Medical Kits: From Mercury to ISS (Source: Space Safety)
Since the dawn of human space exploration in the ‘50s, medicine has had to evolve quickly to support the presence of human beings in space – an environment for which humans were not designed. Space medicine advanced borrowing lessons learned not only from previous space missions, but also from similar environments. The most direct results of this progress are the medical kits that have flown through the years on every manned mission.

Evidenced-based medicine, lessons from research and clinical experience are the principal drivers that led each program or mission to the development of improved kits in a never-ending effort to secure astronauts’ lives while in orbit. Modified Delphi techniques as well as Monte Carlo analyses, expert opinion summits, and the development of a Patient Condition Database are some of tools used to choose effective therapies and treatments. Click here. (3/17)

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