April 15, 2014

Saturn Spotted Giving Birth to New Moon (Source: WIRED)
According to an April 14 release from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Cassini spacecraft has documented the formation of a small, icy object within the rings of Saturn that may be a new moon. Additionally, the new object may provide clues to the formation of the planet’s known moons.

Images captured with Cassini’s narrow angle camera show disturbances at the very edge of Saturn’s A ring, which is the most distant of the planet’s large, luminescent rings. One of these disturbances is an arc measuring approximately 20 percent brighter than its surroundings, 750 miles long and six miles wide. Scientists also discovered unusual protuberances in the typically smooth profile at the ring’s edge. Scientists believe the arc and protuberances are caused by the gravitational effects of a nearby object.

Scientists say that the object is not expected to grow any larger, and may even be falling apart.  However, the process of its formation and outward movement aids in our understanding of how Saturn’s icy moons, including the cloud-wrapped Titan and ocean-holding Enceladus, may have formed in more massive rings long ago. (4/15)

Students Creating Satellite in Kazakhstan (Source: Tengri News)
A sophomore spacecraft inventor Nazifa Baktybayeva from Kazakhstan's Pavlodar is working on creation of a real satellite. Ms. Baktybayeva has been working on the the in-orbit satellite along with her fellow students from the Kazakhstan State Technical University. “The work is almost finished. Technical documentation has been completed and is in full compliance with the state regulations.

We are planning to start buying the materials soon and then start assembling the spacecraft,” the young scientists said. The satellite with a symbolic name Polytech #1 will give an opportunity for students to conduct research based on materials obtained from space. (4/14)

Texas Rocketry Students Taking a Shot at Nationals (Source: Morning Valley Star)
Six members of the Harlingen High School Engineering and Technology Club are preparing their rocket to compete in next month’s the national finals for the Team America Rocketry Challenge in Manassas, Va. Some of the students have been members of this extracurricular club for two and three years, and this is the first time they‘ve qualified to compete in the national event. (4/14)

Foreign Ministry: Ukraine is Not Going to Sell Rocket Tech (Source: LB.UA)
Ukraine's Foreign Ministry denies talks on the sale of the production technology of 'Satan' intercontinental ballistic missiles. "Information about the alleged conduct negotiations with enterprise managers" Pivdenmash "(Dnepropetrovsk) with representatives of foreign countries about selling technologies intercontinental ballistic missiles does not correspond to reality," - said the diplomat. (4/9)

Sierra Nevada Ranked as Space Innovator (Source: SNC)
Sierra Nevada Corp. announced that Fast Company magazine ranked SNC as one of the “World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Space.” Fast Company recognized SNC for “resurrecting the spaceplane” calling SNC’s Dream Chaser® spacecraft the, “…biggest contribution to the nascent commercial spaceflight industry” and the “…smaller, and arguably smarter take on the defunct Space Shuttle.” (4/15)

Canadian (B.C.) Aerospace Industry Gets $1M in Help (Source: Global News)
British Columbia’s aerospace industry is getting a $1-million lift from the provincial government, in a bid to expand the sector in the face of “unprecedented global growth.” The money is being given to the Pacific division of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, a non-profit group that advocates for its members on policy issues. The announcement was made in the Vancouver Island community of Sidney, B.C., Tuesday, the home of Viking Air Limited, which manufactures de Havilland aircraft products. (4/10)

Startup Aims To Pair Old Satellites with Operators Needing Quick Capacity Boost (Source: Space News)
Four commercial satellite industry veterans have formed a company designed to match aging in-orbit satellites whose owners are willing to lease them with satellite operators in need of short-term capacity in advance of launching their own asset. Gapsat Development Group Ltd., headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, expects to broker its first deal this year, said Gregg Daffner, the startup’s chief executive. (4/15)

Europe Weighs Galileo-compatibility Mandate for Smartphones (Source: Space News)
The European Commission, fearing that marketing its Galileo satellite navigation system will not be enough to ensure adoption of the service, is now weighing whether to mandate Galileo adoption not only in European critical infrastructures, but also in selected areas including smartphones. (4/15)

Google Tried to Design a Space Elevator (Source: Fast Company)
A working space elevator is still, sadly, not a reality. But sci-fi geeks may be excited to know that some of the most intelligent and imaginative minds on Earth have indeed looked into the logistics of building such a fanciful contraption. Rich DeVaul, head of Google X's Rapid Evaluation team, has confirmed for the first time ever that Google's super hush-hush R&D lab actually tried to design one. Click here. (4/15)

Hawthorne Unveils SpaceX Rocket Monument (Source: Daily Breeze)
Hawthorne city leaders on Monday afternoon unveiled a towering monument of a rocket on the city’s main drag to honor its most celebrated corporate citizen — the space transportation company SpaceX. “Space X is not just a tenant, they are a partner in the city of Hawthorne,” Mayor Chris Brown said during a brief address before the unveiling.

The monument is a 25-foot replica of a Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful rocket. Resting at a 45-degree angle on a thick support column, the tip of the rocket reaches 37 feet at its highest point. At night the rocket is backlit by 27 red LED lights emulating thrusters. A light in the front casts a green glow onto the monument, which weighs a hefty two tons. (4/15)

Homeless Vets Get Day at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
"It is great that these people are doing this for us," said the 59-year-old veteran, who is homeless. "It's something that will stay with us. I can tell this to my grandkids. I'll go back to the camp and think about what I saw today." Greene was one of three homeless veterans who were treated to a special day at the space center Monday. The idea was sparked by a KSC employee, Trudy Veach, who also is an American Legion Auxiliary volunteer who helps homeless veterans.

Greene, who served in the Navy from 1974 to 1978, and the others cheered after getting off the Space Shuttle Experience attraction. "I'm so happy," Pierce said after the first two hours at KSC. "They need to feel they are part of the community. They deserve every moment of happiness we can give them. Yes, they are going back to the woods, but they've had a chance to have a good day and enjoy this." (4/15)

DubaiSat-2 Fully Operational (Source: Gulf Today)
The Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (Eiast) has announced that DubaiSat-2’s in-orbit commissioning is complete and the satellite is now fully operational. The satellite had undergone the Launch and Early Operations Phase (Leop) starting last Nov 21, 2013. This phase requires testing for the satellite to verify and validate the operation of the system and subsystem level electronics of the spacecraft and how they function under the harsh space environment. (4/15)

Land Rover Announces Global Partnership With Virgin Galactic (Source: Land Rover)
Land Rover, the British brand synonymous with adventure, has revealed a long-term global partnership with Richard Branson's pioneering commercial spaceline, Virgin Galactic. Demonstrating their shared vision of pioneering spirit, technological innovation and sense of adventure, the partnership was announced against the backdrop of SpaceShipTwo, the world's first commercial passenger carrying spacecraft, together with Land Rover's new Discovery Vision Concept vehicle.  

The partnership will see Land Rover vehicles become part of daily life for the Virgin Galactic team and for all 'Future Astronauts', the space experience will now begin with Land Rover as they arrive in New Mexico for training, and continue to the moment they drive from the space terminal building to the waiting spaceship. Land Rover will base a fleet of vehicles at the Virgin Galactic test center in the Mojave Desert, California and at its astounding operational New Mexico base, Spaceport America. (4/14)

Former Astronaut Aims to Create Rocket Engine to Allow Speedy Travel to Mars (Source: Washington Post)
Franklin Chang Diaz got hooked on space exploration in 1957, when he was 7 and fascinated by the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik. Eleven years later, Steve Nadis writes in Discover magazine, Chang Diaz came from his homeland of Costa Rica to live with relatives in the U.S.; he had $50 in his pocket and knew barely a word of English.

Within a decade he had earned a PhD in plasma physics from MIT. He became an astronaut, completing seven space shuttle missions and logging some 1,600 hours in space. He spent 25 years with NASA, then retired to work full time on a goal he’d had ever since graduate school: creating a super-fast rocket engine.

His VASIMR VX-200 — the name stands for “variable specific impulse magnetoplasma rocket” — has the potential to get astronauts to Mars in 39 days, he says, more than three times as fast as current engines could. His company, Ad Astra, says it “is engaged in a friendly competition with his former employer, trying to create the rocket of the future.” (4/14)

NASA Signs Deal with SpaceX for Shuttle Launch Pad (Source: SEN)
After four months of negotiations, NASA on Monday signed a lease with Space Exploration Technologies to take over one of the mothballed space shuttle launch pads at the Kennedy Space Center. Terms of the agreement were not immediately available, though NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said the property agreement runs for 20 years. “As part of the agreement, SpaceX will be responsible for the operations and maintenance of the pad at their own expense,” Beutel wrote.

NASA selected SpaceX over a rival bidder, Blue Origin, a startup rocket company owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Blue Origin filed a protest over the selection process, postponing NASA’s decision until December. The U.S. space agency had hoped to have a lease signed by Oct. 1, saving itself about $100,000 a month in maintenance costs. (4/14)

Recovery Crews Positioned to Retrieve Falcon 9 First Stage (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Soon after the Falcon 9's first stage shuts down and separates from the launcher's upper stage -- a milestone expected to occur less than three minutes after liftoff -- the cylindrical 12-foot-diameter first stage will relight some of its engines for a braking maneuver. A few minutes later, the stage will ignite an engine again just above the water for a landing burn to set the rocket down into the sea at a slow velocity.

The splashdown is expected a few hundred miles northeast of Cape Canaveral, roughly due east of the Georgia-South Carolina border. The rocket is fitted with four landing legs made of carbon fiber and aluminum honeycomb. The 25-foot-tall legs will extend down and outward, deploying during the first stage's descent. "We have a boat downrange, and we will perform an entry burn and a landing burn," Hans Koenigsmann said, adding the test will pretend the Atlantic Ocean is actually a landing pad.

Teams are standing by to pluck the intact stage or fragments from the water and return them to SpaceX for analysis. The company hopes to achieve a controlled return of a Falcon 9 first stage to a precision landing in a touchdown zone near rocket's launch site before the end of 2014, but Koenigsmann admitted that is ambitious and will depend largely on how Monday's attempted water landing works out. (4/14)

Meteorite Impacts Could Have Fostered Life on Early Earth (Source: Science)
Could meteorite impacts on Earth have provided a habitat for early life? That’s the question being raised by a new study, which reports the first possible identification of fossil microbial traces from within an impact crater. The researchers were looking at rocks from the Ries crater (inset) of southern Germany, a 24-kilometer-wide depression formed about 14.6 million years ago by a meteorite crashing into Earth with the force of 1.8 million Hiroshima bombs.

The energy of impacts that create such craters can be high enough to melt rock; these melts cool rapidly, forming impact glass—a smooth, dark rock, similar to its volcanic cousin, obsidian—which contains various microscopic structures and crystals. Among the structures in the Ries glasses are peculiar curved and tubular features, about one-millionth to three-millionths of a meter in diameter. While previously thought to be simply unusual types of crystals, the team’s study revealed that the tubules may be biological in origin. (4/14)

Eutelsat To Pay Down Debt of Satmex Subsidiary (Source: Space News)
PARIS — Satellite fleet operator Eutelsat will redeem $360 million in bonds, carrying an average 9.6 percent annual interest, from bondholders in Eutelsat Americas, the former Satmex fleet operator that Eutelsat purchased in January. In an example of the kind of transaction that was beyond the reach of the former Satmex, Eutelsat is redeeming the bonds three years ahead of their May 2017 maturity date for 104.75 percent of their principal value, or $377 million, plus accrued and unpaid interest to May 15 of this year. (4/14)

Satellite Operators Press ESA for Reduction in Ariane Launch Costs (Source: Space News)
European commercial satellite fleet operators, including the world’s four largest by annual revenue, have written the European Space Agency urging that it find immediate ways to reduce Ariane 5 rocket launch costs and, in the longer term, make the next-generation Ariane 6 vehicle more attractive for smaller telecommunications satellites.

ESA governments are scheduled to decide in December whether to proceed with full development of an Ariane 6 rocket, to fly starting in 2021. The rocket’s principal design objective is that, by its 15th launch, it can be built and launched for a cost of no more than 70 million euros, or $96 million at current exchange rates. (4/14)

Recently Launched Amazonas 4A Suffers Power-System Glitch (Source: Space News)
Hispasat’s Amazonas 4A telecommunications satellite, launched March 22, has suffered an anomaly in its power system but is stable in orbit, Madrid-based Hispasat announced April 14. Built by Orbital Sciences Corp., Amazonas 4A is intended to expand Hispasat’s presence in Latin America. Hispasat has declined to say where the satellite ultimately will be operated, but it is being tested at 51 degrees west longitude.

One industry official said the satellite has been unable to fully deploy one of its solar arrays. A Hispasat spokeswoman on April 14 said this is not the case, but that a power subsystem aboard the satellite has malfunctioned. Hispasat and Orbital have begun an investigation into the cause of the defect and a possible solution is being devised but it is too soon to determine what happened and whether it can be corrected, the spokeswoman said. (4/14)

Rogozin Invites Best Minds to Create Anti-Asteroid Technology (Source: Space Daily)
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said there was no means capable of diverting asteroids from Earth and invited the best minds to help create such a technology, Itar-Tass reports. "This is a dangerous phenomenon. Those who think that we know everything about the far reaches of deep space and that no catastrophe will happen are seriously wrong," Rogozin said. (4/14)

German Space Research Center Under Espionage Attack (Source: Space Daily)
Germany's aeronautics and space research center has for months been the target of a suspected cyber attack by a foreign intelligence service, a German news weekly reported. Der Spiegel said that several computers used by scientists and systems administrators at the Cologne-based DLR center had been infiltrated by spy programs. "The government classes the attack as extremely serious because it, among other things, is aimed at armament and rocket technolgies," Spiegel said. (4/14)

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