April 20, 2014

FAA Center of Excellence Meeting in Florida This Week (Source: SPACErePORT)
The FAA’s Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation (COE-CST) will hold its annual administrative meeting this week at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne. The COE-CST includes nine partner universities and multiple affiliate members (including Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University) that focus their research efforts on space traffic management and operations, space transportation operations and technologies, human spaceflight, and space transportation industry development. Click here. (4/20)

Holdren and Bolden: Tech Development Is Surest Path to Mars (Source: Space News)
In the latest salvo in an ongoing debate about the best road to Mars, two senior Obama administration officials stressed a path directed by technology development and again dismissed the idea of setting astronauts on a fast-track mission to the red planet, as some in Congress want NASA to do.

Congress thinks “we can just go to Mars tomorrow by pouring some more money in ... but they don’t get that we won’t get there without investments in advanced technology,” John Holdren, science adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama, told members of the NASA Advisory Council April 16.

The Obama administration has made technology development a hallmark of its NASA policies, but according to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who addressed the council alongside Holdren, “technology development is not a high priority in the Congress right now, unfortunately.” (4/17)

SpaceX Dragon Makes Easter Delivery at Space Station (Source: Space.com)
It's not exactly the Easter bunny, but a commercial Dragon cargo ship built by SpaceX made an Easter delivery to the International Space Station Sunday to deliver tons supplies, and possibly even some treats, for the astronauts on board. The robotic Dragon spacecraft arrived at space station Sunday morning, floating within reach of the orbiting laboratory's robotic arm. Station astronauts used the arm to capture the Dragon spacecraft.

The mission is SpaceX's fourth Dragon flight to the space station and third of 12 cargo delivery missions under a $1.6 billion deal with NASA. The Dragon spacecraft is carrying 5,000 lbs. (2,268 kilograms) of food, supplies and gear for 150 different experiments. A miniature lettuce farm, space robot legs and laser communications system are among the delivery's highlights. (4/20)

Another Meteorite Over Russia (Source: YouTube)
Overnight on April 18-19, a meteor-like object was observed streaking across the sky over Murmansk, Russia. It is possible that the object is part of the annual Lyrid meteor shower, which is nearing its peak. There were no reports of any emergency services being called, but it did put on quite a show. Check it out here. (4/19)

Russia Launches New ICBM From Plesetsk Spaceport (Source: Space Daily)
The Russian Strategic Missile Troops have successfully test fired an RS-24 Yars intercontinental ballistic missile with a multiple re-entry vehicle from the Plesetsk cosmodrome, a Russian Defence Ministry official said. The experimental warheads arrived in the designated area on the Kura test range in the Kamchatka Peninsula. The set goals of the launch have been fully met, Colonel Yegorov said, RIA news reports. (4/16)

Red Tape Hinders Study of Asteroid Impacts on Earth (Source: Space.com)
Red tape is making it tougher for researchers to study and characterize asteroid strikes on Earth, which are apparently more common than previously thought, experts say. The bureaucratic snafu affects the use of U.S. government space assets that help scientists study "airbursts" like the meteor that exploded without warning over Russia last year.

At issue is the ability to combine space data with outputs from a global network of seismic, infrasound and hydroacoustic sensors that have been deployed worldwide to provide treaty verification for a nuclear test ban. This network is the International Monitoring System (IMS) overseen by the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).

Last year, the Air Force Space Command signed a memorandum of agreement with NASA's Science Mission Directorate. That document spelled out specifics for the public release of meteor data from sources such as high-flying, secretive U.S. government space sensors. However, multiple scientists noted that the JPL website had not been updated recently. "Because of budget and personnel reductions on our military partner, they ran into workforce issues to accomplish this task," said Lindley Johnson. (4/20)

Satellite Telecom Vulnerable to Hackers (Source: Space Daily)
Security flaws in many satellite telecommunications systems leave them open to hackers, raising potential risks for aviation, shipping, military and other sectors, security researchers said Thursday. A paper released by the security firm IOActive found "multiple high risk vulnerabilities" in all the satellite systems studied.

"These vulnerabilities have the potential to allow a malicious actor to intercept, manipulate, or block communications, and in some cases, to remotely take control of the physical device," the report said. (4/19)

How Close Are We Really to Finding Life in Outer Space? (Source: Policy Mic)
NASA's recent discovery of Kepler-186f, the first habitable Earth-sized planet is big news in humankind's long search for extraterrestrial life. Thanks to the Kepler Space Telescope, which was launched in 2009 to hunt planets across the universe, we've managed to find around 1800 exoplanets so far, many of which have been discovered in just the last year or so.

Kepler has had so much success because it's the first piece of space technology that is remarkably adept at detecting tiny changes in light coming from distant stars. The small, periodic dimming of a stars light is the classic smoking gun which scientists use to find exoplanets. The long-held Holy Grail for planet hunters has been to find a world which is the Earth's "twin" and therefore thought to be capable of supporting life.

Kepler has advanced this cause amazingly so far, managing to find many planets that are a similar size to our Earth. In fact, thanks to Kepler, we now know that the Earth-sized planets are actually quite common in our galaxy. The bad news? Most of the Earth-sized planets found so far are either too hot or too cold to support life. For instance Kepler-20e, the first Earth-sized planet discovered, has an extremely small 6-day orbit, making planet's surface temperature is an inhospitable 1,400 degrees. Click here. (4/20)

The Telescope Big Enough to Spot Signs of Alien Life (Source: Guardian)
Engineers are about to blast away the top of a Chilean mountain to create a site for the European Extremely Large Telescope. It will allow us, for the first time, to directly observe planets outside the solar system. Cerro Armazones is a crumbling dome of rock that dominates the parched peaks of the Chilean Coast Range north of Santiago. A couple of old concrete platforms and some rusty pipes, parts of the mountain's old weather station, are the only hints that humans have ever taken an interest in this forbidding, arid place.

Dramatic change is coming to Cerro Armazones, however – for in a few weeks, the 10,000ft mountain is going to have its top knocked off. "We are going to blast it with dynamite and then carry off the rubble," says engineer Gird Hudepohl. "We will take about 80ft off the top of the mountain to create a plateau – and when we have done that, we will build the world's biggest telescope there."

Given the peak's remote, inhospitable location that might sound an improbable claim – except for the fact that Hudepohl has done this sort of thing before. He is one of the European Southern Observatory's most experienced engineers and was involved in the decapitation of another nearby mountain, Cerro Paranal, on which his team then erected one of the planet's most sophisticated observatories. (4/20)

Flower-Shaped Starshade Might Help Detect Earth-Like Planets (Source: TED)
Astronomers believe that every star in the galaxy has a planet, one fifth of which might harbor life. Only we haven't seen any of them — yet. Jeremy Kasdin and his team are looking to change that with the design and engineering of an extraordinary piece of equipment: a flower petal-shaped "starshade" that allows a telescope to photograph planets from 50,000 kilometers away. It is, he says, the "coolest possible science." Click here. (4/20)

Egyptsat-2 a Step Towards Egyptian Space Agency (Source: All Africa)
Presidential Adviser for Scientific Affairs Essam Hegy said that new Egyptian Satellite (EgySat -2) is an essential step towards establishing the Egyptian Space Agency. Hegy said the photos captured by the satellite will help develop the agricultural and water resources as well as monitoring the environmental and urban changes in Egypt. He said that the satellite is the first scientific project in Egypt's modern history and lays the foundation of building a modern and strong State. (4/18)

Emirati to Win Place on Virgin Galactic Space Flight (Source: Arabian Business)
An Emirati will win the chance to travel into space on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo as part of a nationwide competition announced on Sunday by Abu Dhabi-based Aabar Investments. The company, which has a 37.8 percent stake in Virgin Galactic, which is owned by British billionaire Richard Branson, said in a statement that the prize winner would be given a place onboard SpaceShipTwo when it begins running commercial trips into space. (4/20)

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