March 28, 2014

Tracking Range Issues Began with KSC Fire (Source: Florida Today)
Kennedy Space Center fire crews on Monday responded to and extinguished a small fire at an Air Force facility on the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, the apparent source of the problem that has grounded local launches. NASA said there were no injuries and damage from the incident was limited to a power supply within the TEL-4 facility, located south of the center’s Industrial Area on Merritt Island.

The incident is consistent with the Air Force’s report that it lost use of an unspecified tracking radar on Monday when it “experienced an electrical short, overheating the unit and rendering it inoperable.” Without the radar, the 45th Space Wing could not meet minimum public safety requirements for launches to proceed, and two launches scheduled this week were postponed. (3/28)

Sequestration Gone From Senate Democrats' Agenda (Source: Defense News)
It appears that an effort to ease or eliminate sequestration is gone from the legislative agenda for U.S. Senate Democrats this year. "Senate Democrats have figured out that sequestration relief will be an annual battle rather than a one-time event," said Lexington Institute CEO Loren Thompson, a consultant to defense firms. (3/27)

Airbus Opens State-of-the-Art Mars Yard in UK (Source: UKSA)
Europe’s first Mars rover will have an unmatched capability to autonomously navigate up to 70 metres a day with no outside guidance from ground control. The rover is being developed as part of the ExoMars mission - a European mission, part funded by the UK Space Agency, to put a rover on Mars in 2019. Its aim is to examine the geological environment on Mars and search for evidence of environments that may have once, and perhaps could still, support life.

The new extended Mars Yard will provide a realistic and representative Martian environment to allow the Guidance, Navigation and Control team of the ExoMars rover project to finalise the sophisticated autonomous navigation system. Alvaro Giménez said: “A facility like this enables us to develop sophisticated navigation systems to ‘teach’ Mars rovers how to drive autonomously across the Red Planet. This will be a fantastic resource for the ExoMars rover team and for future missions to come.” (3/28)

Consumer Electronics Credited for Small-Satellite Revolution (Source: Space News)
Commercial-off-the-shelf components are now just as reliable as hardware specifically developed for satellites, a development that, with Moore’s Law, has triggered the current explosion in small-satellite use for commercial, scientific and government missions, according to the chairman of a company that pioneered small-satellite development.

Sir Martin Sweeting, chairman of Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL), said commercial-off-the-shelf — or COTS — components built for today’s consumer electronics devices are reversing a 50-year history in which space technologies irrigated terrestrial industries. (3/28)

Bolden: Asteroid-Capture Mission Will Bring Mars Within Reach (Source:
NASA's wild plan to capture an asteroid and park it near the moon is only one step on the way to Mars, NASA chief Charles Bolden said Wednesday. The space agency is planning an ambitious mission to send a robotic spacecraft to an asteroid, bag the space rock and bring it into orbit around the moon. While the asteroid-capture mission may sound like a huge task in its own right, Bolden thinks that it's only one leap toward a larger mission.

The space agency should be focused on getting humans to Mars and establishing a presence on the Red Planet for years to come, Bolden said. The ultimate thing …  is to put boots on the ground on Mars, and that's not just to do a touch and go," Bolden said during a forum about the asteroid initiative Wednesday. "It's to live there one of these days."

The asteroid mission is an important step that can be used to test propulsion systems and other technology that could help humans get to Mars. It may also be a good way to gather more information about the early solar system and develop asteroid mining techniques, advocates of the mission have said. NASA officials hope to us the Orion capsule and Space Launch System rocket — both designed to take humans farther into space than ever before — to launch crews to the asteroid. (3/28)

NASA Measures Snowpack in California, Colorado (Source: ABC News)
The snowpack atop mountain peaks in California and Colorado has a new set of eyes watching from high above to better gauge the amount of water that will rumble down rivers and streams each spring as runoff. In a new mission, NASA fixed a lumbering twin-engine plane with high-tech equipment to make regular snow surveys, starting last weekend in drought-stricken California before the weather front expected to bring snow to the Sierra this week.

At an altitude of up to 20,000 feet, the so-called Airborne Snow Observatory measures snowpack's depth and water content with precision. Improving on the old method of taking snow samples from the ground, scientists said that from the lofty heights they can calculate snow depth to within 4 inches and water content to within 5 percent.

The figures will answer a list of questions about mountain snowpack, said Tom Painter, NASA's lead investigator for the mission. "About 75 to 80 percent of our water comes from the snowmelt," Painter said. "Understanding the snowpack is really, really important." (3/26)

Tours to Historic Shuttle Launch Pad to End March 31 (Source: CFL News 13)
If you want to get up close to Launch Pad 39-A, the historic site of so many Appollo and space shuttle launches, you have until March 31 to do so. The KSC Visitor Complex is ending its Up-Close Launch Pad Tour. The launch pad may soon be active again -- this time for SpaceX. The space company is working out an agreement with NASA to lease the pad for future flights.

SpaceX will eventually send crews to the International Space Station. Kennedy Space Center recently ended its tours of Vehicle Assembly Building as they continue to turn the center into a commercial spaceport. (3/27)

LSU Space Day Held on March 27 (Source: LSU Reveille)
Rockets will fly today at the University’s Space Day. The College of Engineering will host 175 middle schoolers from across the state at Patrick F. Taylor Hall to participate in space-themed competitions, including rocket and engine building. The event is intended to interest children in science, technology, engineering and math. This event will help attract students to the University to earn engineering degrees and potentially begin their careers at the NASA Michoud Assembly Center in New Orleans. (3/27)

Rutgers Student Chosen for Mars Mission (Source: Daily Targum)
A Scarlet Knight may be represented on the Red Planet in 2025. The Mars One project, which aims to create a colony on Mars with the first manned mission starting 2024, selected Brian R. Robles in a pool of 1,058 participants out of 200,000 applicants for the next round of selection. If Robles proceeds through the following rounds, he could be one of 40 people to go through a seven-year training program to prepare for life on another planet. Editor's Note: At least two Embry-Riddle students are among the current finalists. (3/28)

Mars One Building Simulated Colony to Vet Potential Colonists (Sources: Space Daily, Parabolic Arc)
Mars One is a a private, Netherlands-based push to realize a human colony on the red planet by 2025. Mars One announced plans to build a simulated colony here on Earth to vet astronauts and make sure they can withstand the cramped and isolated conditions colonists will have to endure before awarding them their one-way ticket.

They are currently in the process of courting financial sponsors and construction companies, and while the simulated Martian digs won't actually boast extraterrestrial life-support right off the bat, the company intends to retrofit the technology to the structure down the line. Newly added team member Kristian von Bengtson will be leading the outpost project from Denmark. He will also be leading the search for potential construction companies and major sponsors who would like the be a part of this outpost project.

Kristian von Bengtson: “Finally getting started on the outpost project is incredibly exciting and I am looking forward to replacing images with real life hardware. I think a lot of people are looking forward to opening the hatches of the outpost modules and taking the next step in the mission. I know I am.” The final location of the first simulation outpost has not yet been decided. (3/28)

NASA Chief, Congress Debate Economic Wisdom of Manned Expedition to Mars (Source: KPCC)
It's budget time on Capitol Hill. Thursday it was NASA's opportunity to defend its proposed $17.5 billion budget for next year — four percent above what the Obama administration has proposed. The top man at NASA, administrator Charles Bolden, outlined the White House priorities, which push for funding weighted toward human, rather than robotic, space exploration.

He emphasized the need for a heavy launch vehicle that will eventually allow NASA to move cargo and humans to Mars, working out the kinks by trying it out on the moon. Bolden told members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee he hoped they would agree with him that  the "ultimate goal in our lifetime is to see humans on Mars."

But not everyone agreed. Huntington Beach Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher told Bolden that human travel to Mars would be expensive and take away resources from other projects "that might be more important to humankind than ... a symbolic mission of putting a human being on Mars." (3/27)

India Sends Delegation to U.S. to Discuss Joint Space Projects (Source: Times of India)
A high-level delegation of ISRO led by its chairman K Radhakrishnan will visit the US between April 12 and 24 to discuss joint satellite projects with NASA. He said those accompanying him to the US will be director of ISRO's Ahmedabad-based Space Application Center Kiran Kumar and director of the ISRO Satellite Center in Bangalore S K Shiva Kumar. The group will make presentations at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology at Pasadena in California and Washington. (3/28)

Lockheed Martin to Add 200 Jobs, $80 Million to Orlando Area (Source: FDCA)
Lockheed Martin announced a substantial expansion in Orlando, which could add nearly 200 jobs, with a local economic impact of as much as $80 million. Gov. Rick Scott praised the development plans for the Mission Systems and Training facility of the Florida’s largest industrial employer. Lockheed Martin currently employs nearly 7,000 in the Orlando area and a workforce of nearly 11,000 across the state. (3/28)

New Satellite Data Adds Wrinkle To MH370 Search (Source: Aviation Week)
New details about communications between the missing Malaysia Airlines 777-200 and an Inmarsat satellite show an additional, “partial ping” occurred 8 min. after the final hourly contact between the aircraft and spacecraft. Using an analysis of satellite data furnished by Inmarsat, investigators said after primary radar and Aircraft Communications and Reporting System (ACARS) transmissions with MH370 ceased, the aircraft’s satellite antenna continued communicating hourly pings to the Inmarsat-3F1 spacecraft.

In the initial days following the aircraft’s disappearance, Inmarsat used six complete satellite pings recorded between 2:11 a.m. and 8:11 a.m. to determine the likely direction of the aircraft, leading investigators to establish arcs north and south of the equator that indicated a range of possible locations for the missing plane. More recently the company analyzed data from other flights that use its satellite network to establish a pattern that narrowed M370’s final path as traveling south over the Indian Ocean, in the vicinity of where search teams have been working for more than a week.

However, AAIB said there is now evidence of a seventh, partial ping, or “handshake” between the aircraft and the ground station that occurred at 8:19 a.m., 8 min. after the last complete ping was transmitted at 8:11 a.m., the AAIB said. "At this time this transmission is not understood and is subject to further ongoing work,” AAIB said. A subsequent ping was slated to occur at 9:15 a.m., but “no response was received from the aircraft,” indicating it was no longer logged on to the network, AAIB said. (3/25)

Soyuz Software Failure Caused by Rare Conjuncture (Source: Itar-Tass)
The failure of Soyuz TMA-12M software, which postponed the docking for two days, was caused by rare conjuncture, chief mission controller Vladimir Solovyov said after the successful docking of the spacecraft with the International Space Station on Friday. It was very rare conjuncture ballistic, light and shadow, work of certain sensors, speed, a very low impulse and narrow turning angles, he said. It caused the failure. To avoid risks, a decision was made for the longer flight scheme for the docking.

Smooth and precise work of all the onboard and ground systems is needed for a short-time docking operation, he noted. When a spacecraft flies to the station fast, it is a very tight scheme with only three-five minutes to analyze the situation. In this case, after a series of dynamic operations, the orientation system malfunctioned, and at some moment, the Soyuz was not orientated as needed, Solovyov explained. The situation could be corrected, but on manned missions, safety and reliability are taken into consideration first of all. (3/28)

Russian Aerospace Defense Troops Put Under Control Satellite Glonass-M (Source: Itar-Tass)
Aerospace Defence Troops put under control Russian navigation satellite Glonass-M which was launched from Russian northern spaceport Plesetsk on Monday. “Stable telemetric contact was established and is being maintained with the spacecraft, onboard systems of satellite Glonass-M operate well,” Zolotukhin added. (3/24)

Medical Rules, Standards, and Guidelines for Suborbital Space (Source: Space Safety)
Neither the Launch Act nor the Regulations create medical or training requirements for SFPs although the FAA has issued some guidelines regarding both topics. This is consistent with the FAA’s overall safety regime that limits itself to protecting the safety of the public and leaves safety of SFPs and crew to the operators. In 2004, Congress gave the FAA authority to create training and medical standards for SFPs. However, largely at the request of industry and space industry supporters, the FAA has yet to do so. Click here. (3/28)

Expedition 39/40 Crew Docks to the Space Station (Source: SpaceRef)
After launching in their Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft from Baikonur, Expedition 39/40 Soyuz Commander Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos, Flight Engineer Steve Swanson of NASA, and Flight Engineer Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos arrived at the International Space Station on March 27. They docked their craft to the Poisk module on the Russian segment of the complex. (3/27)

Falcon 9 Could Slash Launch Costs, Open Frontier for Private Investors (Source: Financial Post)
A successful launch of a rocket with legs by Elon Musk’s SpaceX may slash the costs of reaching space and give a boost to private space flight, former astronaut Chris Hadfield said. SpaceX’s launch of the Falcon 9 rocket with its four landing legs, set for March 30, “is hugely important because we’ve thrown away just about every rocket we’ve launched,” Hadfield said.

After the Falcon 9 rocket releases its payload to the space station, it’s “going to fire its engines again and land in the ocean as if it were landing on land,” Hadfield said. If they can pinpoint the landing after several trials, then Musk’s company “can cut the cost of access to space by maybe two orders of magnitude, which is enormous,” said Hadfield. (3/27)

Boeing Got $7,250 In Tax Breaks For Every $1 It Spent Lobbying (Source: Huffington Post)
When it comes to great investments, it's hard to beat collecting $7,250 for every $1 you spend. That's the benefit Boeing Corp. will reap from a ramped-up lobbying push in Washington state that ended with a massive $8.7 billion tax subsidy, according to an analysis of lobbying data released Thursday. The tax break came as part of a deal to keep production of a new jet, the 777X, in the Seattle area. (3/27)

Bolden, Lawmakers Point Fingers About Human Spaceflight (Source: Space News)
NASA's Charles Bolden and House space subcommittee members traded jabs Mar. 27 about whose fault it is that U.S. astronauts will not launch on U.S. spacecraft for at least another three years. During a hearing on NASA’s 2015 budget request, Republican lawmakers voiced fresh concerns about relying on the Russian Soyuz system for U.S. astronauts. Under current NASA planning, a U.S. alternative will not be ready until around 2017.

In the meantime, NASA pays Russia about $70M for every astronaut round trip to ISS. Congress has itself to thank for that, Bolden said. “This Congress chose to rely on the Russians because they chose not to accept the president’s recommendation and request for Commercial Crew,” Bolden said in a testy exchange with subcommittee chairman Steven Palazzo (R-MS). Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) said he was “astonished” that Bolden would claim President Obama's administration had nothing to do with the current gap in U.S. human spaceflight capability.

“When the space shuttle was mothballed [in 2011], President Obama was president of the United States,” Brooks said. “He could have made the decision to continue to use the space shuttle, or to continue to keep it available in the event of an emergency. He chose not to.” The NASA boss also reminded Brooks that the plan to end the shuttle program was set in motion by President George W. Bush. “I would have recommended we phase it out quicker,” Bolden said. (3/27)

NASA Still Intends To Use Donated Spy Telescope (Source: Space News)
NASA is pushing ahead with plans to use one of the Hubble-sized space telescopes donated by the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office to conduct a $2 billion mission to observe Earth-like planets and explore the nature of dark energy. While that project would not begin officially until 2017, NASA officials are starting work on mission-related technology as directed by President Barack Obama in the 2015 budget blueprint sent to Congress in early March.

Other factors propelling NASA to pursue the mission are congressional appropriations of $66 million for the effort in 2013 and 2014, Obama’s request for $14 million in 2015 funding and the space agency’s plan to provide money for a large-scale astrophysics mission to succeed the James Webb Space Telescope. (3/27)

Germany Calls for Redesign of Next-Generation Ariane (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Less than a year after selecting the design of Europe's future Ariane 6 launcher, government ministers will meet in Geneva on Friday to iron out lingering questions over the rocket after Germany's top space official last week called for the current form of the Ariane 6 to be ditched in favor of another configuration. DLR Chairman Johann-Dietrich Woerner said Europe could not afford proposed launcher developments presented to ESA at a council meeting on March 19-20.

"Our opinion is we should at least have another discussion," Woerner said. The discussions will continue Friday in Geneva, when the ESA member states participating in Europe's launcher program will meet to try to bridge differences in their visions for the future of the Ariane program. Click here. (3/27)

Orbital Producing 81 Satellites for Iridium NEXT in Foreign Trade Zone (Source: Orbital)
Orbital Sciences Corp. has started production of 81 satellites for the Iridium NEXT program as part of a contract between Orbital and Iridium’s prime contractor, French-Italian aerospace company Thales Alenia Space. Orbital will complete the assembly, integration, test and launch support phases for this second-generation global communications satellite constellation at its satellite manufacturing facility in Gilbert, AZ.

The commencement of production also signifies the opening of a Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) at the Gilbert facility, which allows Orbital to reduce program costs by importing foreign-sourced hardware from Thales Alenia Space. Orbital worked closely with the Town of Gilbert to develop the new FTZ, enabling the company to develop a highly efficient satellite production line. (3/27)

First of 64 MeerKAT Radio Telescope Antennas 'Stands-up' in South Africa (Source: General Dynamics)
General Dynamics and Stratosat Datacom, a South African company, have completed the installation of the first of 64 MeerKAT radio telescope antennas that will form the MeerKAT telescope array. The array is located in South Africa's Karoo region and will be a technologically advanced radio telescope designed to locate radio-frequency signals from the furthest reaches of the universe, possibly from the first stars and galaxies formed after the Big Bang.

The MeerKAT array will constitute 25 percent of the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), which is scheduled for completion in 2024. Until the SKA is completed, the MeerKAT array will be the largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the southern hemisphere.  Stratosat Datacom is the antenna prime contractor for the project. (3/27)

No comments: