April 12, 2014

Spacewalk May Be Needed to Fix ISS Computer Breakdown (Source: Independent)
A computer breakdown on the International Space Station could require astronauts to undertake a spacewalk. NASA confirmed on Friday that a backup computer on the exterior of the ISS called a Multiplexer-Demultiplexer (MDM) is not responding to commands.

MDM computers control some systems associated with robotics aboard the space station. The primary MDM is functioning normally, NASA said, and Mission Control is now trying to determine whether the back-up computer can be brought back online or must be replaced. A replacement would involve astronauts spacewalking. (4/12)

ISS Issue Might Delay SpaceX Launch (Source: Waco Tribune)
The often-delayed launch of SpaceX Dragon cargo ship to the International Space Station, set for Monday afternoon, may be delayed yet again after a problem crept up with a computer module on the station. The Multiplexer-Demultiplexer, or MDM, stopped responding to commands, NASA said in a statement Friday evening. The unit, mounted outside the ISS, backs up the main MDM in robotic-arm operations — such as the one that will be needed to attach the Dragon to the station upon its scheduled arrival Wednesday.

According to a NASA statement: "NASA is continuing to work toward a Monday launch of the SpaceX cargo resupply mission pending further evaluations by the ISS Program." (4/12)

The Otherworldly Ambitions of Elon Musk (Source: San Jose Mercury News)
Elon Musk reigns over an entrepreneurial landscape of epic proportions: With Tesla Motors, the cherub-faced CEO wants to wean us off fossil fuels with electric cars for the masses. With SolarCity, he envisions panels blooming on a million rooftops. And even as the fortunes of these two firms soared on the SV150, this newspaper's latest index of Silicon Valley's top public tech companies, Musk was laying the groundwork for the world's biggest battery factory.

Yet this 42-year-old planet-saving, big-dreaming engineer has his sights on a celestial prize: Mars. With SpaceX, the rocket company he founded in 2002, Musk hopes to employ recyclable rockets to save humanity, blasting earthlings into space to one day build settlements on the Red Planet. "Mars is what drives him," said Louis Friedman, an astronautics engineer who has known Musk for a decade.

Don't bet against him. Silicon Valley's most intrepid CEO already has employed his potent combination of vision, determination and attention to detail to accomplish two tasks widely thought impossible: creating a viable new American car company with Palo Alto-based Tesla, and a successful private space venture with Hawthorne-based SpaceX. Click here. (4/11) 

SpaceX, A Somewhat Critical Look (Source: IEET)
I’ve been a bit baffled recently by the enthusiasm that so many friends and colleagues have been displaying for SpaceX and the whole idea of commercial space “exploration.” I don’t get it. I don’t doubt that what SpaceX is doing, and what surely other commercial companies will soon follow suit in doing, is important, and yes, even historical. But I seriously doubt that it has much to do with space “exploration.”

More likely it is space exploitation. Don’t get me wrong: space is, to some extent, a resource for humankind, and it is perfectly reasonable for us to exploit it. And history has certainly shown that the best way to accomplish that sort of task is to hand it to the private sector (of course, that’s not at all without potentially extremely serious drawbacks in and of itself, but that’s another story).

What history has also clearly shown is that basic science and exploration are best done by scientists who work without the constraints of financial interests, and these days this means government funding (in Galileo’s time it was the government too, but in the form of some rich nobel family running the city). Click here. (4/10)

XCOR Aerospace Hangs Sign on Texas Hangar (Source: Permian Basin 360)
An XCOR Aerospace sign is now mounted on a hangar in Midland International Airport, a sign of things to come. "We're gonna have a lot of our employees here 10, 12 hours a day. It's a 60,000 square foot space and there's a lot of room in there," said Brad Hartman, commercial division manager and master electrician for Electrical Maintenance & Construction.

Brad Hartman, from electrical maintenance and construction put in a bid with the general contractor, Western LLC, to do the work for XCOR. If EMC is the company chosen to do the electical work for XCOR, Hartman says it'll be a challenging but exciting job. "We're bringing high quality jobs into this area for engineers and for scientists that are really going to move us and diversity our economy and also make Midland International a more vibrant airport," said Midland City Councilman for District 4 J. Ross Lacy. (4/11)

KSC Visitor Complex Offers Youth Summer Camps (Source: KSCVC)
Camp Kennedy Space Center offers campers in grades 2-11 unique adventures and learning activities that can’t be found anywhere else. This year’s theme – Space Shuttle Atlantis: From Sketch Pad to Launch Pad – focuses on the orbiter and the historical impact of its 33 missions into space.

Along with many other activities, campers will experience the new home of Space Shuttle Atlantis, participate in a simulated Space Shuttle Mission, engage in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) activities, learn hands-on about the science of space travel, and hear real-life stories from a shuttle astronaut. Camp KSC runs Monday through Friday for nine weeks beginning June 9 and costs $295 per week per camper. For more information, call 866-870-8285 or click here . (4/11)

Human Lunar Missions Subject of Debate at Exploration Workshop (Source: Space News)
While a dozen space agencies, including NASA, have agreed upon a Global Exploration Roadmap that lays out general plans for human missions leading up to Mars, an April 10 workshop revealed continued disagreement on the best way to get there, particularly regarding the role of human missions to the surface of the Moon.

The NASA Community Workshop on the Global Exploration Roadmap, held at the Applied Physics Laboratory here, brought together representatives from NASA, industry and other space agencies to discuss the updated version of the roadmap. That report, released last year by the International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG), a group of 12 space agencies, outlined pathways for human exploration leading to humans on the surface of Mars.

“We all agree that, as a common, long-term goal, humans on the surface of Mars is something we all strive for,” said NASA’s Roland Martinez. In between the ISS and Mars, the report identifies three “mission themes” for missions that eventually lead to Mars: missions to near-Earth asteroids, the vicinity of the Moon and the surface of the Moon. However, the sequence and schedule of missions in those three areas remains unclear. (4/11)

ULA, SpaceX Lobby Up as Launch Competition Looms (Source: Space News)
As they vie for hundreds of millions of dollars in national security launch contracts, incumbent United Launch Alliance and newcomer SpaceX have more than doubled their lobbying expenses in recent years. According to data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, United Launch Alliance spent about $670,000 on lobbying efforts in 2013. That figure is up from the $120,000 the company spent in 2010, according to the site.

SpaceX spent $1.1 million on lobbying in 2013, including hiring former U.S. Sens. John Breaux and Trent Lott. The company’s lobbying costs have risen steadily from about $568,000 in 2010. The higher spending by both companies comes as lobbying spending across the defense aerospace industry has shrunk. SpaceX’s lobbying costs are far less than those of ULA’s parent corporations. ULA is a joint venture of defense giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Combined, the two companies spend roughly $30 million annually on lobbying efforts. (4/11)

International Day of Human Space Flight, Cosmonautics Day in Russia (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia celebrates Cosmonautics Day every April 12. This holiday was instituted by the April 9, 1962 executive order of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet (Parliament) in honor of the first manned space flight. On April 12, 1961, a launch vehicle orbited the Vostok spacecraft with the first cosmonaut, Soviet citizen Yuri Gagarin, on board. (4/12)

Putin Hopes For Further Cooperation With Committee on Space Research (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed hope that Russia will continue its cooperation with the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) during a meeting with the president of the organization on Friday. “The organization which you are heading is one of the world’s most reputable ones in the field of cooperation on space research,” the Russian leader said.

“We greatly hope that Russia will continue effectively working and helping all its partners, both Russian and from other counties, in your very hard but interesting and noble work,” Putin told Giovanni Bignami, the president of COSPAR, while visiting the Cosmonautics Memorial Museum in Moscow. (4/11)

Space Tourism: Commercial Flights into Space Throughout the Years (Source: Itar-Tass)
In this photo gallery by ITAR-TASS you will find two parts: the first one features the very first non-professional people to fly into space, and covers the time from 1985 to 1991; the second part features space tourists to fly to the International Space Station from 2001 to 2009. Click here. (4/12)

Solar Array Issue Will Have Little Impact on DMSP Mission (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
U.S. Air Force officials say a partially deployed solar array boom on a new military weather satellite will have "negligible" impact on the $518 million spacecraft's planned five-year mission. The polar-orbiting weather observatory for the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program was shot into space April 3 on an Atlas 5 rocket, but it ran into a problem extending its solar array boom.

The satellite's 10 solar cell panels, affixed on either side of the boom, generate electricity for the spacecraft's systems and weather instruments. "The team is currently working through a single anomaly affecting the solar array boom," a spokesperson said. "The boom successfully deployed, but stopped approximately 30 degrees short of its nominal position, and did not lock into place." (4/12)

Georgia Spaceport: The Transformation of a Company Town (Source: The Atlantic)
During the administration of the former submarine officer and former Georgia governor Jimmy Carter, and with Georgia Senators Sam Nunn and Herman Talmadge then big powers on Capitol Hill, the U.S. Navy decided that Kings Bay, immediately north of St. Marys, would be the East Coast home of America's nuclear-submarine fleet. (The West Coast home is near Seattle.)

-- And looking toward space. The commercial space-launch business is growing. According to local officials, this part of Georgia was in the running when Cape Canaveral was chosen as NASA's main site in the mid-20th century. And so they are making a 21st-century push to build a new "spaceport" in a former industrial area (and one-time Thiokol rocket-test site) just north of town, where companies like SpaceX would be able to launch their vehicles. Click here. (4/12)

How Urine Will Get Us to Mars (Source: Science News)
Every day, you flush a liter or two of urine down the toilet. Unless you live in one of the dry places considering toilet-to-tap systems, you probably never consider drinking it. But if humans are ever going to get to Mars, we’re going to get there drinking our own pee. Now scientists have built a recycling system that can turn astronauts’ urine into both clean drinking water and energy. That combination could be an important step in making long-distance space travel viable.

Astronauts report that the water made from recycled urine on the space station tastes great. But the system keeps breaking down, and it takes a lot of power to run it. The system “requires several consumables, and filtered components are discarded,” says analytical chemist Eduardo Nicolau.

The concept of the system he and his colleagues have come up with is to not only remove urea from wastewater, but also “to generate valuable components from human wastes instead of discarding them.” The new system also generates electricity, scientists from NASA and the University of Puerto Rico report. (4/11)

‘Cherry Tree From Space’ Amazes and Baffles Japan (Source: The National)
A cosmic mystery is uniting monks and scientists in Japan after a cherry tree grown from a seed that orbited the Earth for eight months bloomed years earlier than expected — and with surprising flowers. The four-year-old sapling, grown from a cherry stone that spent time aboard the International Space Station (ISS), burst into blossom on April 1, possibly a full six years ahead of Mother Nature’s normal schedule.

The early blooming baffled Buddhist monks at the ancient temple in central Japan where the tree is growing. “A stone from the original tree had never sprouted before. We are very happy because it will succeed the old tree, which is said to be 1,250 years old.” The wonder pip was among 265 harvested from the celebrated “Chujo-hime-seigan-zakura” tree, selected as part of a project to gather seeds from different kinds of cherry trees at 14 locations across Japan.

The stones were sent to the ISS in November 2008 and came back to Earth in July the following year with Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, after circling the globe 4,100 times. Some were sent for laboratory tests, but most were ferried back to their places of origin, and a selection were planted at nurseries near the Ganjoji temple. (4/11)

NASA Tries to Cash In on Russia Tensions (Source: National Journal)
NASA is trying to turn U.S. tensions with Russia into a proxy war with Congress over the agency's budget. Last week, NASA announced it was cutting off most communication with Russia's Roscosmos agency because of President Vladimir Putin's incursion into Crimea. But after a cursory mention of the crisis in Ukraine, the space agency spent nearly a dozen lines blaming Congress for NASA's inability to put its own astronauts into orbit. (4/12)

See What Dream Chaser will Look Like Landing in Houston's Spaceport (Source: Houston Business Journal)
Although the proposed spaceport at Ellington Airport is not intended to be used as the Dream Chaser’s launch site, the spaceport can be used as a landing site (see the attached video of what a launch and landing could look like). Click here. (4/12)

Space Coast High School Satellite Prepares for Milestone Review (Source: Florida Today)
In a Merritt Island High School classroom on a recent afternoon, students in the school's StangSat club gathered to review a PowerPoint presentation they've been working on for months. The group is in a multi-year project with NASA engineers and mentors to build a "cubesat," a satellite small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. It will measure the shock and vibrations of the rocket during launch.

Students are preparing for an upcoming Critical Design Review, a milestone after which they'll earn the "Go" to build the satellite that will launch into space. The review details the satellite's progression — from its successes and challenges to the risks associated with launching the cubesat into space. That includes the high-altitude test flight this summer in the Mojave Desert, when the satellite didn't turn on as expected.

It's sister satellite, built by students at California Polytechnical State University, had a bad solder joint on one of the resistors — and it never sent the signal to the StangSat. "If we don't get turned on, if our batteries are drained, if the software code is not correct," said Ryan Rohloff, a junior at Merritt Island High, of the risks detailed in the review presentation. (4/11)

The Future That Wasn't: Europe's Hermes Spaceplane (Source: America Space)
The genesis for Hermes, meant to be Europe’s answer to the United States’ Space Shuttle, began in the early 1980s with France’s space agency, CNES. It was proposed that Hermes, described in Jane’s Spaceflight Directory 1986 as being “about half the size of the US Shuttle,” would launch into space on an Ariane 5 rocket and land on Earth like a plane. Jane’s also stated that development was to begin in 1988, with a launch to happen in 1997. More optimistically, the Aerospatiale advertisement previously referenced stated Hermes would “enter service in 1995.” Click here. (4/11)

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