April 28, 2014

Turbulent Black Holes Grow Fractal Skins as They Feed (Source: New Scientist)
Feeding black holes develop a fractal skin as they grow. That's the conclusion of simulations that take advantage of a correlation between fluid dynamics and gravity. Fractals are mathematical sets that show self-similar patterns: zoom in on one part of a fractal drawing, like the famous Mandelbrot set, and the smaller portion will look nearly the same as the original image. Objects with fractal geometries show up all over nature, from clouds to the coast of England. (4/28)

NASA Seeks to Evolve Space Station for New Commercial Opportunities (Source: NASA)
As part of NASA's continuing effort to open low-Earth orbit to commercial space opportunities, the agency is seeking feedback on ways it can help create greater access to and use of the International Space Station for research and commercial activities. NASA is soliciting ideas from companies interested in using the space station and the low-Earth orbit environment in innovative ways that will develop a strong commercial market and assist the agency in achieving its exploration goals.

The expanding U.S. commercial space industry has been able to create self-sustaining economic opportunities in low-Earth orbit, enabled by NASA's commitment to reducing and removing barriers to a commercially-driven U.S. market. This has allowed the agency to sharpen its focus on deep space exploration. Responses to the RFI should detail ideas that could further efforts to:

A) Create a private system in low-Earth orbit, B) Develop crew transportation to enable commercial activities aboard the station beyond NASA requirements, C) Break down access-, programmatic- and business-related barriers to realizing these objectives, D) Address NASA capabilities or expertise that would help facilitate transitioning to a more commercially-driven presence, or E) Identify capabilities and resources NASA could purchase from the commercial sector to allow NASA research activities to continue beyond the life of the space station. (4/28)

CASIS Solicits Materials Science Research for ISS (Source: CASIS)
CASIS has issued a solicitation for flight projects to the ISS National Laboratory for both commercial and academic investigators. The purpose is to identify projects within the field of materials science. Responsive applications will describe using the space environment for development and testing of materials and components that will have Earth-based applications and will increase the return on the U.S. investment in the ISS National Lab. Click here. (4/28)

NASA Senior Leadership Changes (Source: SpaceRef)
Administrator Charles Bolden has announced several changes in NASA’s senior leadership. Lesa Roe has been named as the agency’s Deputy Associate Administrator. Steve Jurczyk will replace Roe as Director of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. Sumara Thompson-King has been named the agency's General Counsel, replacing Michael Wholley, who is retiring. (4/28)

Draft House Language Seeks to Halt Air Force Atlas 5 Launches This Year (Source: Aviation Week)
Draft legislation circulating in the U.S House of Representatives would bar the use of Russian rocket technology in launching U.S. Defense Department payloads as early as this year. The language -- drafted this month as the U.S. considers additional sanctions against Moscow over aggression in Ukraine -- aims squarely at the NPO Energomash-built RD-180 engine used to power the first stage of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas 5, a Lockheed Martin-built rocket that launches most U.S. government missions.

Specifically, the language asserts that “no payload acquired or operated by or on behalf of the Department of Defense shall be launched into space by any rocket engine designed or developed in the USSR or the Russian Federation, unless such engine was manufactured inside the United States.” If passed into law this year as part of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, the congressional direction could force the Air Force to launch satellites on the more-expensive Delta 4. (4/28)

SpaceX Escalates the EELV Debate (Source: Space Review)
For months, SpaceX has sparring with the Air Force and United Launch Alliance about a block buy contract that appeared to keep SpaceX from competing for many upcoming military launches. Jeff Foust reports that SpaceX has intensified that debate with plans to contest that contract in court. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2502/1 to view the article. (4/28)

...Try, Try Again (Source: Space Review)
After an earlier effort to develop Venus and Mars probes in the early 1960s resulted in launch and spacecraft failures, the Soviet Union redoubled its efforts with a new set of missions. Andrew LePage explores the development of that next generation of Venus and Mars spacecraft 50 years ago. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2501/1 to view the article. (4/28)

Customary International Law: A Troublesome Question for the Code of Conduct? (Source: Space Review)
Various nations, including the United States, are discussing a proposed code of conduct for outer space activities. Michael Listner examines whether the code, intended to be a non-binding document, could establish a form of international law depending on how the US or others implement it. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2500/1 to view the article. (4/28)

Microbes, Spacecraft, and Cheerleaders: Project MERCCURI (Source: Space Review)
Among the payloads delivered to the International Space Station this month on a Dragon cargo spacecraft is a microbiology experiment with an unusual public outreach angle. Bart Leahy describes the development of Project MERCCURI and the challenges it overcame to make it to space. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2499/1 to view the article. (4/28)

NASA, Industry Tackle Next-Gen Human Limits (Source: Aviation Week)
While most airline pilots probably have the “right stuff” to handle abnormal situations, loss-of-control accident statistics make clear that in the highly complex and automated cockpit of the 21st century, some percentage does not. Rather than blaming pilots for the rare but often deadly failure to perform, the FAA and industry Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST), has launched a multiyear, multipronged research effort with NASA and others.

The project aims to help find better ways to design cockpits and training to avoid the common human/machine-interface mistakes revealed by post-crash or post-incident analysis. Research is needed in certain key areas, including loss of attitude awareness (also known as spatial disorientation) and loss of energy state awareness (LESA), both of which fall into the broader category of crew attention management. Click here. (4/28)

NASA Honors Captain Kirk for Space Service (Source: C/Net)
When he wasn't busy falling for space-babes and violating the Prime Directive, Captain Kirk was building a reputation as an inspiration for space-minded people everywhere. Actor William Shatner has taken this mission seriously over the decades since the original "Star Trek" first aired. In honor of his support of NASA programs and science education, NASA honored Shatner with its Distinguished Public Service Medal, the space agency's highest award for non-government people. (4/28)

Canada's Challenge: Launching Our Own Satellites (Source: SpaceRef)
Last week COM DEV announced that Canada's earth observation Maritime Monitoring and Messaging Microsatellite (M3MSat) launch was being postponed at the insistence of the Government of Canada, a by-product of political tensions in the Ukraine with Russian as the instigator. This is a situation that need not have happened if Canada had a progressive space policy in place.

The result of the delay could very well be several years in launching the satellite and most certainly increased costs associated with the mission. Finding another launch provider may not be too difficult, but getting on their launch manifest anytime soon will be difficult. The big question, raised yet again, is why doesn't Canada have its own rocket launch capability? Click here. (4/28)

Cabana Featured at STA Luncheon in Washington (Source: SpaceRef)
The Space Transportation Association is pleased to announce a luncheon with Robert D. Cabana, Director, NASA Kennedy Space Center. Mr. Cabana will provide an update on activities at Kennedy Space Center in 2014 and beyond. Click here. (4/28)

Effort To Exempt Satellites from Russia Sanctions Complicated (Source: Space News)
The U.S. State Department on April 28 said it would deny requests to export defense hardware and services — categories that under the U.S. Munitions List include satellites and satellite components — to Russia as part of expanded U.S. sanctions aimed at reversing Russia’s incursion into Ukraine if the exports “contribute to Russia’s military capabilities.”

The new policy would appear to complicate a major lobbying effort that U.S. companies had been preparing to exclude at least some civil and commercial satellites from being denied a launch on Russian rockets. Industry officials have said requests to ship commercial satellites to Russian-managed launch pads in recent weeks have been met with a nonresponse by the U.S. State Department as the U.S. government adjusts its policy in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine. (4/28)

U.S. Imposes New Russian Sanctions Including Restricting Export Licenses (Source: Space Policy Online)
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced additional sanctions are being placed on Russia because of the situation in Ukraine. Asset freezes on 17 Russian companies and export license restrictions are among the new sanctions. The statement is general so it is not clear at this point whether any of the actions will affect space-related activities. (4/28)

Indonesia Taps SS/L, Arianespace To Build, Launch Satellite (Source: Space News)
Indonesia’s Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI) has contracted with Space Systems/Loral to build the BRISat C- and Ku-band telecommunications satellite to be launched in 2016 aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket, BRI announced April 28. Arianespace said it expects BRISat to weigh about 3,500 kilograms at launch — a fairly small satellite that in recent years has not been a core focus of Space Systems/Loral or Arianespace. Both companies have focused on larger spacecraft. (4/28)

Contractor Speeds Up Deliveries of Russian Engines (Source: The Hill)
ULA is accelerating deliveries of rocket engines from Russia as members of Congress seek to end contracts with the country over the conflict in Ukraine. ULA speeding up its schedule for receiving Russian-made engines, from once a year to twice per year. ULA received one shipment of four engines last November, but this year will receive shipments of two engines in August and three engines in October. "This year we are having the engines shipped once they are completed versus waiting to get one shipment," ULA's Jessica Rye said.

Members of Congress, as well as competing rocket manufacturers, argue that U.S. national security missions are vulnerable to Russia's supplying the engines, and that taxpayer dollars should not go towards bolstering Russia. Each engine reportedly costs between $11 to $15 million. ULA pushed back against those concerns, saying that Russia has taken no actions to restrict sales or exports of the RD-180 engines, and if it did, ULA would use its Delta IV rockets, which don't rely on Russian engines. (4/24)

Russia Sends Two Satellites Into Space (Source: Xinhua)
A Russian Proton-M rocket brought two satellites into space successfully, launching Russian satellite Luch-5V and Kazakh communication satellite KazSat-3 from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan at 8:25 a.m. Moscow time. Luch-5V, the third Russian follow-up data relay satellite, will make the data relay system complete. KazSat-3 is designed to provide telecommunications services, broadcasting and high-speed internet access to Kazakhstan and neighboring countries. (4/28)

Kazakh Police Detain Anti-Launch/Anti-Russian Activists (Source: RFE/RL)
Police in Kazakhstan have detained several activists from the Antiheptyl movement, known for its opposition to the launches of Russian Proton-M rockets from Kazakh soil. The name of the movement is taken from the name of the highly toxic fuel used by the rockets. About 15 activists staged their protest in front of the presidential office in Astana on April 28.

They placed their written demands to President Nursultan Nazarbaev in a mailbox in front of the building and said they were expressing their opposition to the April 28 launch of a Proton-M rocket from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan. The protesters then unfolded placards saying "No to censorship!", "No to Eurasian Union!", and "Long live Crimea!" (4/28)

Cold War Spy-Satellite Images Unveil Lost Cities (Source: National Geographic)
A study of Cold War spy-satellite photos has tripled the number of known archaeological sites across the Middle East, revealing thousands of ancient cities, roads, canals, and other ruins. In recent decades archaeologists have often used declassified satellite images to spot archaeological sites in Iraq, Turkey, and Syria. But the new Corona Atlas of the Middle East, unveiled Thursday at the Society for American Archaeology's annual meeting, moves spy-satellite science to a new level.

Surveying land from Egypt to Iran—and encompassing the Fertile Crescent, the renowned cradle of civilization and location of some of humanity's earliest cities—the atlas reveals numerous sites that had been lost to history. "Some of these sites are gigantic, and they were completely unknown," says atlas-team archaeologist Jesse Casana of the University of Arkansas, who presented the results. "We can see all kinds of things—ancient roads and canals. The images provide a very comprehensive picture." (4/27)

X-37B Gets Stranger (Source: Space Daily)
The highly extended mission hints that there's more than mundane testing on this flight. Perhaps components that were undergoing testing on previous flights are now on a true operational mission. Or perhaps we are witnessing a long endurance run to prove that certain critical satellite parts can work reliably for a long-duration spy satellite. Both theories are plausible. Click here. (4/28)

Space Terrorism, Floating Debris Pose Threats to US (Source: Space Daily)
The United States is increasingly vulnerable to space terrorism, according to a new report, as it is more reliant on its satellites and other installations in space to conduct national security operations. Because the US depends so much on its holdings in space for a variety of operations, and as it is the "primary guarantor of space access," it has more at stake in protecting its satellites from an attack or damage from another country's debris, according to a report from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). (4/27)

Astronaut Twins To Separate For The Sake Of Space Travel (Source: NPR)
This month, NASA revealed new details of the plan to send humans to Mars by 2030. It's an elaborate and expensive mission, involving a giant deep-space rocket, and roping an asteroid into the moon's orbit to use as a stepping stone to Mars. But there are still some serious questions about a manned expedition to Mars. Namely, is it safe?

That's where astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly come in. The Kelly brothers are identical twins, and the only siblings ever to both fly in space. Starting next March, Scott Kelly will spend a year at the International Space Station. While he's up there, he will be a part of some novel scientific experiments comparing his health to his brother's down on Earth. The idea is to learn about the effects of long-term space travel on the human body, which will influence how NASA proceeds with the Mars mission and other space travel initiatives. (4/28)

Editorial: We Need to Define Long-Term Goal of Spaceflight (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
While not known by the public at large, the space community is, in essence, at war with itself. Politicians have crept in and used this division to their own ends. What we are left with is a confused, lackluster policy (if it can be called that) toward spaceflight. Long term objectives have been hard to find. Prop up new commercial firms, go to an asteroid, maybe one day Mars – but nothing tangible, no clear direction. In the chaos one would hope that leadership would emerge from within the aerospace community – but we are more divided now than ever before. Don’t think so?

“We need to return to the Moon! No, we should go straight to Mars! The future of spaceflight is private industry – let’s stay in low-Earth-orbit even longer! No, only the government has the funding to spearhead a major space program! Robotic missions are safer and cheaper! But robots can never do all the tasks humans can do! The International Space Station is a waste of money. No, we’re getting loads of medical benefits and scientific knowledge from the ISS…”

It’s long past time to define a vision for space flight, a vision that will unite manned, unmanned, scientific, military, exploratory, public, private, and all other aspects of space flight. We talk endlessly about space travel becoming routine, taking for granted that this is what we want—but why? What’s the goal? The problem is, ever since the beginning of the space race in 1957, our progression into space has been measured in short-term goals. (4/27)

Microbe's Innovation Brought Doom to Earth (Source: Astrobiology)
The physical environment can produce sudden shocks to the life of our planet through impacting space rocks, erupting volcanoes and other events. But sometimes life itself turns the tables and strikes a swift blow back to the environment. New research suggests that the biggest extinction event on record may have been initiated by a small, but significant change to a tiny microbe. Click here. (4/28)

Space Ark Will Save Mankind From a Dying Planet (Source: The Times)
British scientists and architects are working on plans for a “living spaceship” like an interstellar Noah’s Ark that will launch in 100 years’ time to carry humans away from a dying Earth. Researchers around the UK are working with colleagues from the USA, Italy and the Netherlands on Project Persephone, investigating new bio-technologies that could one day help to create a self-sustaining spacecraft to carry people beyond our solar system. (4/28)

Editorial: Time to Build a New Ark (Source: Space News)
In spite of the overwhelming evidence that we had better build a space ark to ensure our own longevity, we continually give in to the small-minded naysayers, much like the villagers that Noah had to deal with in his time. Whenever there’s talk about space arks, the villagers are quick to mock and ridicule. Newt Gingrich was laughed off the U.S. presidential stage in 2012 for speaking of his vision of lunar colonies.

It is easy to remain quiet and tell ourselves that perhaps the villagers are right. Better to leave it alone. It’s something for people in the future to worry about. Many people, even in the space community, say we should not be setting our sights on space settlement now. Such a challenge is premature, they say. We should allow the evolution of spaceflight to take its course, and when the time is right, perhaps in 100 or 200 years, then there will be time enough to plan and build a new ark.

True, it’s easy to take that attitude, and certainly most people in and out of the space arena think that way. But what if Noah had said to God, “You know, God, we really don’t have the technology right now to build such an ark as you wish. Fortunately, there are already Noahs hard at work building the space ark. Peter Diamandis with the X Prize Foundation and Planetary Resources is building the frame of the ark. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who makes no qualifications about his intention to colonize Mars, is nailing planks. (4/21)

All Systems Go for Scotland's Space Industry (Source: Scotland Herald)
It is a tiny ­satellite - the size of a bag of supermarket sugar - and its camera lens is trained on a field in Aberdeenshire from 600km up in space. Here this miniaturised miracle relays back realtime information about the growing shoots of barley which the Scottish whisky industry is watching with interest. This is just one example of myriad new business uses of satellite technology as Scotland's commercial space industry is all systems go.

The micro-satellite industry - or cube satellite - is set to revolutionise farming, offshore renewables, forestry, weather forecasting, city traffic control, and even entertainment such as local advertising and television. Moreover, Glasgow, by good fortune rather than grand design, has become one of the hotspots for this exciting new industry. (4/13)

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