April 13, 2014

SpaceX Dragon Flight to ISS is On for Monday (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA officials said today that SpaceX’s launch of a Dragon freighter to the International Space Station is on for Monday despite the failure of an external computer on the orbiting facility. The Falcon 9 launch is set for 4:58 p.m. EDT from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (4/13)

Sea Launch Vessels Featured in Captain America Film (Source: Sea Launch)
The Sea Launch Odyssey Launch Platform and Sea Launch Commander vessels based in Long Beach, California were prominently featured in Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The new blockbuster film from Marvel Studios was released nationwide on April 4, 2014.

Marvel’s designers & production crew creatively re-imagined the vessels into a singular set that combined attributes from both vessels to craft The Lemurian Star. The Lemurian Star serves as the heart-pounding backdrop for the thrilling opening sequence in the film where Captain America leads fellow Avenger Black Widow and his select team of S.H.I.E.L.D. Strike Agents onto the vessel to rescue captured S.H.I.E.L.D. agents from French mercenary Batroc. (4/13)

Study Raises Red Flags on California Aerospace Industry (Source: National Defense)
A combination of unfriendly tax policies, military budget cuts and cutthroat competition is wreaking havoc on California’s storied aerospace industry, a new study cautions. “Aerospace is one of California’s most important sources of jobs and revenues. The state must take steps to support it into the future,” says a report recently published by the consulting firm A.T. Kearney.

While military budget cuts have hit aerospace manufacturers nationwide, California is being disproportionately affected because state tax and industrial policies make it difficult to compete against other U.S. and foreign firms, says Randall Garber, partner at A.T. Kearney public sector and defense services. (4/13)

Orion Passes Tests to Prepare for Flight (Source: SEN)
As NASA prepares to send its Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle far beyond the International Space Station this year, the spacecraft underwent 26 hours of continuous operations on the ground on 8 April and performed well, the agency said. This "integrated system testing" was necessary to verify that the spacecraft's various systems can work well together. Among other things, technicians verified the spacecraft's computer, propulsion valves, software and temperature sensors. (4/12)

Texas Officials Embrace SpaceX Progress (Source: Morning Valley Star)
State and federal officials say they welcome recent developments that have advanced SpaceX’s proposal to build the world’s first private, commercial vertical launch site and control center in Cameron County. “The state stands ready to continue to support local officials in recruiting the SpaceX project to South Texas,” said Gov. Rick Perry’s spokeswoman, Lucy Nashed. The governor is a strong supporter of bringing commercial space travel to Texas, she said.

Editor's Note: Florida Governor Rick Scott and Texas Governor Rick Perry have been friendly rivals on several sporting events and economic development issues. But thus far Gov. Scott is not signing up for a battle of incentives to capture SpaceX's commercial launch pad. Florida has done much to support SpaceX's launch operations at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, and expanding in Florida already makes sense if SpaceX seeks to leverage its existing workforce and other resources at the Cape. (4/12)

Cosmonaut Appointed Representative of Sevastopol Governor in Moscow (Source: Itar-Tass)
Acting governor of Sevastopol Aleksei Chaly has appointed cosmonaut Sergei Krikalyov as his representative in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The corresponding order had been signed on April 8 and came into force on Saturday. “In connection with the change of the city management structure, appoint from April 12, 2014 Krikalyov Sergei Kostantinovich as representative of the governor of the federal city of Sevastopol in the cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg,” Chaly decreed. (4/13)

Why NASA Isn’t on Speaking Terms With China or Russia (Source: Slate)
So NASA has been dragged into the fallout over Russia's seizure of Crimea from Ukraine. The space agency has suspended contact with Russia except for that concerning International Space Station operations. Will this action influence Vladimir Putin and his apparent dream of geographically reassembling parts of the Soviet Union as a new Russian empire? That's highly unlikely. So why do it?

Space has a long history of serving as a surrogate for demonstrating U.S. displeasure about foreign or domestic policy actions in other countries. Though examples date back to the Cold War, the most recent case relates to China. China has been banned for years from participating in the ISS because select members of the U.S. Congress consider it inappropriate to work with a communist government. Click here. (4/13)

Honey, I Want to Move to Mars (Source: Texas Monthly)
You might have read about my wife, heard her on the radio, or seen her on TV. She’s Sonia Van Meter, the Austin woman (and stepmother) who is a semifinalist for Mars One, the privately funded European nonprofit that wants to recruit and train people to be sent to Mars in groups of four starting in 2024. When people learn of this, they invariably ask how I feel. Click here. (4/13)

Flight 370 Search Brings Inmarsat Unaccustomed Bit of Fame (Source: New York Times)
On an enormous electronic map of the globe in the modernist headquarters of a satellite company here, two green hexagons the size of dinner plates hovered off the west coast of Australia, revealing signals from an armada of ships and planes converged in the hunt for any remains of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

The searchers were there in large part because the company, Inmarsat, had produced an innovative analysis of a series of fleeting radio signals from the plane — picked up by one of its satellites in the hours after the jet, carrying 239 people, disappeared from radar screens March 8. (4/13)

Prototype of China’s Manned Moon Rover Debuts (Source: ECNS)
China's self-developed manned moon rover made its first appearance at the 11th China Chongqing Hi-tech Fair on Thursday. The vehicle has been developed by a research team of experts from 27 Chinese key universities. With a size similar to that of a sport-utility vehicle, the rover looks like little more than iron frames and wheels.

"In fact, these frames are made of hi-tech materials which are light and unbreakable. The rover is big enough to hold two astronauts, and can carry several tools," said Zhan Hanqing, one of the designers of the rover and a professor at Chongqing University, the major institute responsible for the project. Click here. (4/10)

CASIS ARK 1 Research to Ride a Dragon to Space Station (Source: CASIS)
Advancing Research Knowledge 1 (ARK 1) is the first increment marking a series of research payloads being sent to the space station under the CASIS umbrella. The nonprofit manages the U.S. national laboratory aboard the space station to maximize use of the in-orbit research facility. Through a formal solicitation process as well as an unsolicited proposal process, CASIS has pathways whereby new and existing users within academia, industry and other governmental agencies can access the space station for research and technology development. Click here. (4/10)

The High Cost of SLS (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA really hasn’t made much progress in bringing down operating costs. The annual program cost of the Space Launch System will be about $3 billion. This is roughly what NASA is spending annually to develop the Space Launch System and its Orion deep-space vehicle. It is also roughly what NASA is spending on station operations, and approximately what it cost to maintain the space shuttle program when it was operating.

NASA officials are claiming that launches will cost about $500 to $700 million each. That sounds fairly reasonable given the massive payload SLS would be able to place into orbit. And you might think, well, in a good year NASA might be able to launch two of them? Wrong. The $500 to $700 million figure might be the marginal cost of the launch, not including all the additional fixed costs of the infrastructure and program (the $3 billion per year figure). Just like the shuttle program cost about $3 billion per year whether NASA launched once or five times. Click here. (4/12)

China Uses Satellite, Drones to Fight Pollution (Source: Space Daily)
China is using satellites and drones to detect air pollution around Beijing and the practice will be expanded, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said. Satellites and drones, which can detect clandestine emissions and capture images with a resolution of up to 4 centimeters, have been used in the cities of Tangshan, Xingtai and Handan in north China's Hebei Province, a pollution-plagued region surrounding Beijing. (4/13)

Hubble Extends Stellar Tape Measure 10 Times Further (Source: Space Daily)
Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers now can precisely measure the distance of stars up to 10,000 light-years away -- 10 times farther than previously possible. Astronomers have developed yet another novel way to use the 24-year-old space telescope by employing a technique called spatial scanning, which dramatically improves Hubble's accuracy for making angular measurements. The technique, when applied to the age-old method for gauging distances called astronomical parallax, extends Hubble's tape measure 10 times farther into space. (4/13)

Supernova Cleans Up Its Surroundings (Source: Space Daily)
Supernovas are the spectacular ends to the lives of many massive stars. These explosions, which occur on average twice a century in the Milky Way, can produce enormous amounts of energy and be as bright as an entire galaxy. These events are also important because the remains of the shattered star are hurled into space. As this debris field - called a supernova remnant - expands, it carries the material it encounters along with it. (4/13)

NASA Simulation Portrays Ozone Intrusions From Aloft (Source: Space Daily)
Outdoor enthusiasts in Colorado's Front Range are occasionally rewarded with remarkable visibility brought about by dry, clear air and wind. But it's what people in the mountainous U.S. West can't see in conditions like this - ozone plunging down to the ground from high in the stratosphere, the second layer of the atmosphere - that has attracted the interest of NASA scientists, university scientists and air quality managers. Ozone in the stratosphere, located on average 10 to 48 kilometers (6 to 30 miles) above the ground, typically stays in the stratosphere. Not on days like April 6, 2012. Click here. (4/13)

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