March 23, 2014

Private Space Travel Is Worth the Risk, If Done Right, Experts Say (Source:
Space tourism and commercial  space mining projects are ushering in a new era of human spaceflight, but their success of private spaceflight will depend on ensuring safety and reducing the cost, experts say. Spaceflight companies such as SpaceX or Space Adventures, Ltd. could make the dream of space travel a reality for some, and may take on the role NASA once had in pushing the frontier of space, a panel of experts said.

The 19th-century adventurers Lewis and Clark, for example, weren't the actual people who colonized Montana, said Michael Gold, director of Washington, D.C., operations and business growth for the Bigelow Aerospace, a company that is developing private inflatable space stations. It was the homesteaders, the farmers and the businessmen who followed later. "You can't just go to space like Montana homesteaders and pitch a tent," said Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Like all new forms of travel, private spaceflight carries significant risks. But the panelists said they didn't see the risks as insurmountable. Ultimately, a bad safety record would hurt companies. "There's a perception that commercial space is less safe," Gold said. But "if we have a bad day, we lose everything." But beyond having a good safety record, it's important to understand the risks, Austin said. "It doesn’t matter how safe [a spaceship] has been, it matters what one you're sitting on." (3/22)

Spaceflight Museum Moves to Larger Site (Source: Florida Today)
A museum dedicated to preserving the history of manned spaceflight will move in May to a larger location on U.S. 1 alongside other historic buildings in downtown Titusville. The U.S. Space Walk of Fame Museum will nearly triple the area to display its equipment, memorabilia and relics that are squeezed into its current location on Main Street. (3/22)

Pair of KSC Launches Planned for Next Week (Source: Florida Today)
Spring Breakers could enjoy two Space Coast launches in the next week. A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is expected to roll to its pad Monday morning in preparation for a 2:48 p.m. Tuesday launch of a National Reconnaissance Office satellite. Then late next Sunday, SpaceX plans to launch cargo to the station from Cape Canaveral, in a Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket. Liftoff is targeted for 10:50 p.m., an instantaneous window. (3/22)

Doubt Cast on Evidence for Wet Moon (Source: BBC)
Scientists have cast doubt on a major part of the case for the Moon having once held abundant water. A US team studied a mineral called apatite, which is found in a variety of lunar rock types. Apatite may have misled scientists into thinking the Moon is wetter than it actually is. Lead author Jeremy Boyce said: "We thought we had a great indicator, but it turns out it's not that reliable."

They simulated the formation of apatite minerals containing different amounts of volatile elements - hydrogen, chlorine and fluorine. They demonstrated that it was possible to start with any water composition in the magma and, by varying only the degree of crystallisation and the chlorine content, reproduce all the features seen in a diverse range of apatite from the Moon. (3/22)

Moon Camera Sale Soars Sky High Despite Questions About History (Source: Collect Space)
A camera claimed to have been used on the moon's surface sold for almost $1 million in Austria Saturday (March 22), despite concerns about its history. The WestLicht Photographica Auction in Vienna registered a hammer price of 550,000 euros (660,000 euros with the buyer's premium, or about $910,400 US) for a Hasselblad Electronic Data Camera (EDC) that the gallery described as having been used by astronaut James Irwin during the Apollo 15 mission.

The final sale price far surpassed the 150,000 to 200,000 euros (about $200,000 to $275,000) that WestLicht had estimated. If the camera sold by WestLicht is the same Hasselblad EDC that Irwin used to take 299 photos while exploring the moon, then it is not clear how it made its way from federal property to private hands.

A 2012 law made it legal for the Apollo-era astronauts to own, and if so desired, sell the spent equipment that they brought home as mementos. But as the Apollo 15 camera was never a souvenir and did not originate from Jim Irwin's estate, that law does not apply. (3/22)

Ariane Launches Astra 5B and Amazonas 4A Satellites (Source:
Arianespace lofted another two more satellites into orbit – namely Astra 5B and Amazonas 4A - via their Ariane 5 ECA rocket on Saturday. Launch from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana was delayed by 24 hours due to unacceptable rollout weather. However, Saturday proved to be no problem, with launch occurring at the opening of the window at 10:04pm UTC. (3/23)

Kuratite: New Mineral Discovered in Meteorite (Source: Sci-News)
The stony meteorite D’Orbigny is the source of a newly discovered mineral, kuratite. Its name honors Dr Gero Kurat (1938-2009), a world-renowned meteorite researcher and long-term head of the Mineralogical-Petrographical Department at the Natural History Museum in Vienna, Austria. The meteorite D’Orbigny, a 16.55-kg stone mostly covered with dark gray fusion crust, was found by a farmer plowing a corn field in July 1979 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Confirmation of it’s extraterrestrial status was finally achieved in 2000 after a sample was analyzed by Dr Kurat and his colleagues. The meteorite was determined to be an exceedingly rare achondrite known as an angrite. It is characterized by prominent vesicles which are rarely seen in meteorites. (3/21)

The Future of Satellites: What are the Options? (Source: Defense Systems)
DOD’s demand for bandwidth is increasing unabated as funding is being trimmed, forcing agencies to cut costs without scaling down capabilities. Meanwhile, the price of traditional satellite deployments continues to rise. A GPS satellite, for example, cost $43 million to build and $55 million to launch in early 1990s. A GPS III satellite will cost about $500 million and $300 million to launch.

So DOD is exploring a range of cost-cutting options for satellite communications that includes making technical changes, altering management strategies and using new launch techniques. At the same time, every study predicts a substantial increase in demand for bandwidth to support unmanned aerial vehicles, wireless devices and many other applications. That’s prompting strategists to re-examine every aspect of satcom — from launch methods to the terminals used on the ground — to improve efficiency. (3/21)

Satellite Industry Frets About Future Military Business (Source: National Defense)
The Pentagon spends about a billion dollars a year on satellite communications services from commercial vendors, which supply about 80 percent of the military’s demand. The industry is worried, however, about the future of its Defense Department business, for several reasons. Much of the demand for satellite communications, or satcom, was generated by wars that are coming to an end.

The Pentagon sees its future in Asia-Pacific, but has yet to share with vendors how it plans to acquire satcom in the region. Commercial satellite providers generally detest the Defense Department’s satcom buying methods because they favor one-year leases instead of the long-term agreements that private-sector investors prefer.

Suppliers also fear that the Pentagon, as budgets shrink, will pare back spending on commercial services and will rely more on military-owned satellites. Pentagon officials insist that these concerns are unfounded. They cite projections of soaring demand for commercial satcom in the coming years to satisfy the military’s appetite for data, for global connectivity and for bandwidth-hogging drones. (3/21)

Why is Syria Launching a Space Program During a Civil War? (Source: The Verge)
This week, as the civil war in Syria entered its fourth year, the government of President Bashar al-Assad announced plans to create the country's first space agency. The state-run SANA news agency did not indicate what kind of projects the Syrian Space Agency will undertake, saying only that they will be "of a scientific and research nature," nor did it specify how much it would cost to start up. The goal, it said, is to use "space technology for exploration and observing the Earth."

But there are doubts about the government's ability to launch a space program in the middle of a civil war that has ravaged Syria's economy and forced many of its best scientists to seek refuge in other countries. More than 140,000 people have been killed since unrest broke out between the Assad regime and various rebel groups in March 2011, and about 2.5 million have fled the country, according to estimates from the United Nations. Peace negotiations between the government and opposition groups ended in deadlock earlier this year, and the violence has shown no signs of letting up.

This week's announcement may be an attempt by government leaders to quell fears over its limping economy; during the same cabinet session, the country's prime minister insisted that Syria's economic situation remains stable and that attempts to stabilize its currency were effective. (3/21)

No comments: