May 29, 2014

Investigative Commission Hints Sabotage Possibly Caused Proton Accident (Source: RIA Novosti)
A government commission investigating the recent crash of a Proton-M rocket believes a third stage engine glitch was at fault, while not ruling out that the failure occurred because of sabotage. “The version of premeditated sabotage has not been ruled out,” Roscosmos quoted the head of the commission, Alexander Danilyuk said.

Danilyuk gave no details at what stage during the rocket’s assembly sabotage could have occurred. Last week, Danilyuk said four causes of the Proton-M accident were being considered. The commission quickly excluded the accident’s cause as a result of a control system failure. Roscosmos Head Oleg Ostapenko earlier said an emergency shutdown of the third stage engine was being considered as the primary cause of the accident. (5/29)

Proton Probe Finds No Evidence of Deliberate Misconduct (Source: RIA Novosti)
The interdepartmental state commission investigating the recent Proton-M carrier rocket launch failure has so far found no evidence supporting the theory that it was caused by deliberate misconduct, Russia’s space agency Roscosmos said Thursday. (5/29)

Roscosmos Scolded for ‘Pestering Society’ with Proton Crash Theories (Source: RIA Novosti)
A Russian commission investigating the recent crash of a Proton-M rocket is creating troubled waters too soon with its half-baked theories, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin wrote on his Facebook page. “The crash commission at Roscosmos should have first finished its work and submitted the findings to the Russian government, before starting to pester society with its theories of what caused the accident,” Rogozin wrote. (5/29)

Russian Rocket Launches, Arrives At ISS With Three-Man Crew (Source: Radio Free Europe)
A Russian spacecraft carrying a three-man crew has docked successfully at the International Space Station (ISS) after a flawless launch. The Soyuz craft was carrying NASA's Reid Wiseman, Russian cosmonaut Max Surayev, and German astronaut Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency. The spaceship arrived shortly before 4 a.m. (CET) on May 29 after lifting off less than six hours earlier from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (5/29)

Skylon ‘Spaceplane Economics Stack Up’ (Source: BBC)
It appears a feasible proposition, economically. That is the conclusion of a study that considered a European launch service based on a Skylon re-usable spaceplane. The report, commissioned by the European Space Agency (Esa), was led by Reaction Engines Limited (REL) of Oxfordshire with help from a range of other contractors such as London Economics, QinetiQ and Thales Alenia Space (TAS).

It looked closely at how an operator of the UK-conceived vehicle might meet the demands of its market. Those requirements would be primarily to loft big telecoms satellites high above the equator of the Earth, but also to put smaller, Earth-observing spacecraft in Sun-synchronous orbits (a type of orbit around the poles). (5/29)

Origami Solar Panels to Power the Space Stations of Tomorrow (Source: WIRED)
Space stations need power -- say, from the Sun. But photovoltaic panels tend to be bulky and hard to deploy. What you'd like is something that tucks into the cargo bay of a rocket and then opens into an electricity-generating wall. One solution: "compliant mechanism design" plus origami, which could translate into scissor-like hinges and a rotating axis to help the fragile panels unfurl easily in orbit. Click here. (5/29) 

FAA Releases Texas Spaceport Environmental Report (Source: Brownsville Herald)
The FAA has released the final environmental impact statement for SpaceX’s proposed rock launch site in Cameron County. The FAA Wednesday afternoon released the much-anticipated report — one that local, county and state officials have been waiting for nearly two years to read. However, as of late Wednesday evening, the documents was not yet available for download on the FAA website. (5/29)

Permanently Manned ISS Could End in 2020 (Source: Voice of Russia)
Man in orbit might become history after 2020, as Russia sees no need to keep the ISS operating, announced Vice Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. Manned flights make little profit for Russia's space agency, which might focus on other projects. Roskosmos gets little commercial payback from the International Space Station despite spending up to 30 percent of its annual budget on the project, said Rogozin.

"Our profit is flat low... so we see no business interest in it [going on with the ISS]. Would there be other commercial proposals [we'd consider them]," Rogozin said. "There are rumors about Russia leaving the ISS project. We will not, the program is set to run until 2020 and we will stick to our international obligations. As for prolonging it till 2024 - that's what we really doubtful of," Rogozin stressed. (5/28)

Where Have All The Craters Gone? (Source: Space Daily)
Impact craters reveal one of the most spectacular geologic process known to man. During the past 3.5 billion years, it is estimated that more than 80 bodies, larger than the dinosaur-killing asteroid that struck the Yucatan Peninsula 66 million years ago, have bombarded Earth.

However, tectonic processes, weathering, and burial quickly obscure or destroy craters. For example, if Earth weren't so dynamic, its surface would be heavily cratered like the Moon or Mercury. Work by B.C. Johnson and T.J. Bowling predicts that only about four of the craters produced by these impacts could persist until today, and geologists have already found three such craters (larger than 170 km in diameter). (5/28)

Virgin Galactic Hoping for SpaceShipTwo Altitude Boost with New Fuel (Source: Space News)
Hoping to give customers a higher ride aboard its suborbital, six-passenger spaceship, Virgin Galactic will switch to an alternative plastic fuel rather than the original rubber propellant used by the prototype SpaceShipOne a decade ago and in SpaceShipTwo’s powered test flights.

The company, an offshoot of Richard Branson’s London-based Virgin Group, expects to make the change from hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB) rubber-based fuel grains to a type of thermoplastic called polyamide that was developed by Mojave, California-based Scaled Composites, designer and manufacturer of SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo. (5/28)

Hunt Intensifies for Aliens on Kepler's Planets (Source: Discovery)
Could ET be chatting with colleagues or robots on sister planets in its solar system? Maybe so, say scientists who last year launched a new type of Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, project to eavesdrop on aliens. Using data collected by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, a team of scientists spent 36 hours listening in when planets in targeted solar systems lined up, relative to Earth’s perspective, in hopes of detecting alien interplanetary radio signals.

“We think the right strategy in SETI is a variety of strategies. It’s really hard to predict what other civilizations might be doing,” said Dan Werthimer, director of SETI research at the University of California Berkeley. The idea to seek out aligned planets was triggered by the flood of data collected by NASA’s Kepler telescope, which was launched in 2009 to search for Earth-sized planets that are the right temperature for liquid water, a condition believed to be necessary for life. (5/28)

'Moonhouse' Project Aims to Build 1st Art Show on the Moon (Source:
The artistic minds behind a crowdfunding project want to land a small red house on the moon, creating the first-ever art installation on the lunar surface, representatives announced today. Called the Moonhouse project, artist Mikael Genberg and others involved with the Swedish effort want to place a robotic, self-assembling, red house that is modeled after the kinds of homes seen through much of Sweden on the lunar surface.

The team plans to send the project up to space in late 2015 atop SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket with the group Astrobotic — a private spaceflight team competing for the $20 million Google Lunar X Prize grand prize. Before they can make it to the moon, the Moonhouse project needs help from people on Earth. Genberg had the idea for this project about 15 years ago, however, it was put on hiatus due to funding issues. (5/28)

Space Hopefuls Dine on Worms in 'Moon Palace' Module (Source: New Scientist)
Maybe there's a reason we call them mealworms. Three volunteers in China have just spent three months eating beetle larvae as part of a project to test life-support systems for deep-space travel. Last week, one man and two women emerged from Moon Palace 1, an artificial biosphere at the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics. The 160-square-meter capsule is designed to test self-sustaining technologies that may one day be used on a long-duration mission.

The volunteers grew and harvested grain, vegetables and fruit, feeding the inedible leftovers to mealworms. Along with some meat, the mock crew ate dozens of mealworms each day, trying out different seasonings and cooking styles. The results of the trial have not yet been published, but the volunteers seemed to be healthy and happy after adjusting to the new diet. (5/28)

China Says Jade Rabbit Moon Rover Alive But Weak (Source: Reuters)
China's Jade Rabbit moon rover is alive and functional, state media said on Wednesday, but technical problems and bitterly cold lunar nights have "weakened considerably" the buggy's ability to operate. Jade Rabbit, named after a lunar goddess in traditional Chinese mythology, landed on the moon in December to great national fanfare. The buggy, which began experiencing "mechanical control abnormalities" in late January, is on a mission to conduct geological surveys and hunt for natural resources. (5/28)

Mars Volcano May Have Been Site for Life (Source: Guardian)
Geological landforms spotted on the flanks of a giant Martian volcano suggest that lakes could have existed there just 210m years ago. In geological terms, this is the recent past. On Earth at that time, the earliest dinosaurs were evolving as part of the late Triassic period. No one is suggesting that there were dinosaurs on Mars. Instead, the researchers believe that the lakes could have been home to bacteria and other single-celled organisms. (5/28)

Virginia Spaceflight Adventure Camp (Source: VSFA)
The Virginia Spaceflight Adventure Camp is the place to be this summer if you are a student 11-15 years of age and enjoy model rocketry, robotics and flight simulation! Besides the fun-filled classroom activities, you'll actually visit many operational NASA, NOAA and Navy facilities. Field trips include a visit to NASA's Range Control Center, Payload Testing & Assembly Center, Launch Sites, Aircraft Control Tower, Fire & Rescue Station, NOAA'S Command & Data Acquisition Station and the U S Navy Aegis Traning Center.

Since SFAC is held at NASA Wallops Flight Facility, an operational NASA base, students can expect to see F-18's, C-130's, P-3's, research aircraft, as well as Coast Guard & Navy aircraft. Fun-filled evenings include trips to a Chincoteague Island amusement park and Assateague Island National Wildlife Refuge. (5/28)

Morpheus Takes Night Flight at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
NASA's prototype lander, Morpheus, made its first night flight. The four-legged vehicle is scheduled to rocket off a pad at Kennedy Space Center around 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Official hoped the vehicle's ALHAT sensors – short for Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology — would steer it to the best landing site.

Ten previous free flights since November had followed a pre-set trajectory relying on the Morpheus' own GPS-based guidance system. Last week's flight used the sensors but as Morpheus approached the landing site, the vehicle resumed control. The Morpheus and ALHAT projects are simulating landings on another planet in an effort to advance technologies, including the autonomous landing system and a rocket engine powered by liquid methane and liquid oxygen. (5/28)

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