May 8, 2014

University of Florida Wins FUNSAT Satellite Competition (Source: FSGC)
The Florida Space Grant Consortium (FSGC) completed its annual FUNSAT (Florida University SATellite) competition on Thursday at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. FUNSAT challenges interdisciplinary student teams from Florida universities to use their skills to design small satellites. This competition allows students to have a two-year turnaround on an actual system design project: the detailed design in the first year and the flight model construction in the second year.

This year's winning team is from the University of Florida. The team will receive $10,000 to support their satellite development. The team will pick "subcontractors" from the other competing university teams. The annual competition is supported by Space Florida. Click here. (5/8)

University of Florida Plant Growth Experiment Progresses on ISS (Sources: CASIS, UF)
University of Florida plant molecular biologists Robert Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul lead a team focused on growing plants in space environments. Click here for an update on their CASIS-supported experiment now underway on the International Space Station. (5/9)

NASA Robotic Mining Competition Planned at KSC on May 19-23 (Source: KSCVC)
University-level students and their robots from across the country will converge on Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex May 19-23 for the fifth annual NASA Robotic Mining Competition. The event will be held in the Rocket Garden where guests can observe the robotic contest from covered bleachers around the glass-enclosed competition areas. Competition viewing is included in daily admission to the Visitor Complex.
 
More than forty teams of undergraduate and graduate students will compete with robots that they have designed and built to cross a simulated Martian landscape, excavate surface materials and deposit those materials into a collector bin within 10 minutes. Teams will compete in up to five major competition categories. The robotic teams will practice and be inspected May 19 and 20. Official competition will be on May 21-23.
 
Universities participating in the Robotic Mining Competition include the University of Central Florida, University of Florida, Virginia Tech, University of Alabama, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Florida Institute of Technology, Florida International University, NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering, Purdue, and Stanford University. (5/8)

The Next Space Race (Source: Bloomberg)
“The Next Space Race” is a journey through the booming business of space exploration. The International Space Station is a near zero-gravity laboratory dedicated to scientific research. The end of NASA's shuttle program left the world with only one way to get there, buy a seat from the Russians. Now NASA is holding a billion dollar competition challenging private enterprise to build America's next spacecraft. Click here. (5/7)

Reality TV Could Fund First Mars Mission (Source: Newsweek)
The Mars One project is expected to cost $6 billion, from the research through an unmanned test mission in 2018 and its first human touchdown, tentatively penciled in for 2025. Mars One aims for its intrepid first immigrants to pull water from the planet’s soil and grow their own food with assistance from solar panels—skills Lansdorp assumes will “build up in a slow fashion,” and for which the project is currently creating a Mars simulation site in an undisclosed location.

Mars One plans to cover its costs by turning itself into must-see reality TV; it is reliant on individual donations, sponsorships and broadcast rights for the mission’s accompanying reality programming. Lansdorp won’t say what the TV show will look like exactly, but he expects to air short daily “news from Mars” segments and then heavier coverage of major events like launches and landings, as well as special programming around the “selection of follow-up crews.”

Editor's Note: Someone should introduce Lansdorp to Mark Homnick, who is leading an effort to develop a Mars-oriented attraction on the Space Coast, between KSC and Orlando. Interspace Florida is raising funds to build the science-based theme park, which could host a simulated Mars habitat. Click here. (5/8)

Hope Shills Eternal (Source: Newsweek)
In monetizing people’s obsession with living on Mars, Lansdorp’s project is not unique—and faces some competitive pricing. Dennis Hope of Gardnerville, Arizona, is the founder of Lunar Embassy, which sells deeds to land on the Red Planet as well as Venus, the Earth’s moon and several other cosmic commodities—all for a price that would appeal to even the most budget-conscious investor: just $19.99 to $22.49 per acre. (He’ll also sell you all of Pluto for $250,000.) (5/8)

Russia to Begin Moon Colonization in 2030 (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia will start colonizing the Moon in 2030, Izvestia daily reported on Thursday. The daily has received a draft concept of Russian lunar program developed by enterprises of the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), a Russian Academy of Sciences institute and Moscow State University. Notably, the draft concept envisages “creation of a lunar testing ground and a base for extraction of natural resources,” the daily reported.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said in an article published in Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily on April 11 that Russia’s strategic goals in space exploration were linked to a broader presence on low Earth orbits, colonization of the Moon and launching exploration of Mars and other objects of the Solar System. “Authors of the project do not rule out attracting private investors to lunar projects", and “first expeditions with cosmonauts’ landing to create a permanent lunar base are planned in 2030,” the daily reported. (5/8)

Support Charity and Get a "Ticket to Rise" to Space (Source: Huntsville Times)
Want a $10 chance to go into space? A national fundraising drive organized by a former Huntsville resident is offering you that chance just for supporting charity. It's called "Ticket to Rise," and it's the newest drive by the Urgency Network and VICE Media's Motherboard. Former Huntsville resident Donald Eley is a co-founder of the Urgency Network. Click here. (5/8)

NASA Fills In Research Gaps As It Hopes For Supersonic Demo (Source: Aviation Week)
A cockpit display allowing pilots to steer sonic booms away from noise-sensitive areas is expected to play a key role in securing regulatory approval for low-boom supersonic flight over land. NASA has the software, now it wants someone to develop the display. The contract is one of several to be awarded as NASA continues to prepare for a hoped-for flight demonstrator that would allow the agency to collect data on community response to low booms.

This information is needed to persuade regulatory authorities to lift the ban on civil supersonic flight over land. That NASA can predict sonic boom impact in real time shows how far it has come with its design tools, but its research plan to 2017 also suggests the agency is essentially marking time until it can build a demonstrator. (5/8)

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Adds Science-Based ‘Activity Adventures’ (Source: KSCVC)
The KSC Visitor Complex is now offering guests several hands-on, science-based “Activity Adventures” as part of their experience at the Central Florida destination. The activities, each from 90 minutes to two hours, provide guests the opportunity to launch a water rocket, create and then land a rover on “Mars” or race a jet car. Launched on April 15, the activities are offered at different times each day at the Visitor Complex, which recently extended its daily operating hours. (5/8)

Colin Pillinger Dies After Brain Hemorrage (Source: BBC)
British planetary scientist Colin Pillinger, best known for his 2003 attempt to land a spacecraft on Mars, has died aged 70, his family have said. Prof Pillinger was at his home in Cambridge when he suffered a brain hemorrage and fell into a deep coma. His family said he later died at Addenbrooke's Hospital without regaining consciousness. (5/8)

Best Views of Earth From Europe’s New Plant-Mapping Minisatellite (Source: WIRED)
Launched on May 7, 2013, the European Space Agency’s minisatellite Proba-V monitors Earth’s plants, covering the entire planet every two days. At the end of the month, after a year in orbit, this little bundle of sensors will be taking over the job of a series of satellites that have been tracking the health of the planet’s vegetation for 16 years. The ESA’s Spot-4 satellite stopped working in 2013, and Spot-5 is on its last legs. Click here. (5/8)

Futron Releases 2014 Space Competitiveness Index (Source: SpaceRef)
Futron has released its annual Space Competitiveness Index. Highlights this year include that China trailed the United States in orbital launches in 2013 for the first time in two years, yet continues to far outpace other emerging players in the speed with which it achieves new space milestones. Yet its commercial space role lags behind, and is beginning to reduce its competitiveness.

The U.S. remains the leader in space competitiveness, but is the only nation to decline for seven straight years. As other countries enhance their space capabilities while the U.S. undergoes uncertain transitions, it should not view its unique space agenda-setting power as guaranteed. Click here. (5/8)

Northrop Grumman Announces Major Space Coast Expansion (Source: Gov. Rick Scott)
Northrop Grumman could create up to 1,800 jobs and a $500 million capital investment in Brevard County. The jobs will stem from additional expansion at the company’s campus in Melbourne. The new jobs are in addition to recent announcements for a Manned Aircraft Design Center of Excellence in Melbourne and an Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence in St. Augustine.

The expansion will occur in multiple phases. The first phase will begin with the construction of a new 220,000 square foot office building and the addition of 300 jobs. Potential follow-on phases include construction of additional facilities totaling 500,000 square feet and 1,500 additional jobs. (5/8)

Ban On Exports To Russia Could Harm Global Space Industry (Source: Aviation Week)
As the Obama administration ratchets up sanctions against Moscow, U.S. reliance on Russian space hardware is under increasing political scrutiny. Although Washington has limited political and economic influence over Moscow, recent actions in all three branches of the U.S. government bring the potential to disrupt supply chains across the spectrum of global space manufacturing—from Russian ion-propulsion thrusters flying on U.S.-built satellites to the NPO Energomash RD-180 engine that powers the first stage of Lockheed Martin’s Atlas 5 rocket.

More broadly, Western governments are questioning regular use of Russian and Ukrainian launch vehicles to send commercial and government payloads to orbit, notably atop the Proton, Soyuz, Zenit and Dnepr rockets that routinely launch U.S. and European spacecraft.

For now, it is unclear how Western satellite manufacturers and operators will be affected by the ban. Industry officials say they might be unable to obtain U.S. export licenses for shipping spacecraft to launch providers representing Russian interests. (5/6)

Budget Bill: Boost Commercial Crew, Keep SOFIA, Kill Hosted Climate Instrument (Source: Space News)
A report accompanying the roughly $17.9 billion NASA budget the House Appropriations Committee is set to vote on May 8 shows the bill would set a new high-water mark for commercial crew funding, nix NASA’s plan to get a climate sensor to space as a commercially hosted payload, and continue funding a telescope-equipped 747 the White House has proposed grounding.

According to the report, the 2015 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) appropriations bill would give NASA’s Commercial Crew Program $785 million for 2015. While that is about 7.5 percent below what the Obama administration is requesting for its signature human spaceflight program, it is nearly 13 percent above the 2014 appropriation, the program’s current high-water mark. (5/7)

Embry-Riddle Launches New Master's Degree in Unmanned Systems (Source: ERAU)
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's Worldwide Campus will offer a Master of Science in Unmanned Systems starting this summer. “This work is complex, and organizations will be looking for employees with specialized education and training in the years to come. The Master of Science in Unmanned Systems will challenge students to seek innovative solutions to issues in this developing field.”
 
Beginning in August, unmanned systems coursework will examine the application, development, management and policies of unmanned systems and address issues including regulation; systems design; policy and ethics; education and training; and human performance and machine interaction. The degree has concentrations in unmanned aerospace system (UAS); aeronautics and design; human factors; space systems; safety/emergency response; operations; education; aviation/aerospace management; and aviation/aerospace research. (5/7)

Space Florida Sponsors K-12 "Planetary Lander" Competition (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida is pleased to announce the winners of the 5th Annual Planetary Lander Egg-Drop Competition, held at Palm Bay Magnet High School on May 3rd. Twenty-five teams of Florida K-12 students built 10x10x12-inch “planetary landers” that delivered a raw egg “payload” 20 feet to the ground – similar to how a real lander would deliver a payload on the Moon, Mars or an asteroid.

All landers were judged for creativity, shock-absorbing materials, d├ęcor and design to keep the landers upright in free fall and after impact, and most importantly for delivering the payload safely with the maximum points rewarded for not breaking the egg. The winners included the West Melbourne School for Science; Lithia Springs Elementary; Sabal Point Elementary School; and Durant High School. (5/6)

Nearest Bright ‘Hypervelocity Star’ Found (Source: University of Utah)
A University of Utah-led team discovered a “hypervelocity star” that is the closest, second-brightest and among the largest of 20 found so far. Speeding at more than 1 million mph, the star may provide clues about the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way and the halo of mysterious “dark matter” surrounding the galaxy, astronomers say. (5/7)

Astronomers Create First Realistic Virtual Universe (Source: CfA)
Move over, Matrix - astronomers have done you one better. They have created the first realistic virtual universe using a computer simulation called "Illustris." Illustris can recreate 13 billion years of cosmic evolution in a cube 350 million light-years on a side with unprecedented resolution.

Previous attempts to simulate the universe were hampered by lack of computing power and the complexities of the underlying physics. As a result those programs either were limited in resolution, or forced to focus on a small portion of the universe. Earlier simulations also had trouble modeling complex feedback from star formation, supernova explosions, and supermassive black holes. Click here. (5/7)

NASA Simulator Successfully Recreates Space Dust (Source: NASA)
A team of scientists at NASA's Ames Research Center  has successfully reproduced, right here on Earth, the processes that occur in the atmosphere of a red giant star and lead to the formation of planet-forming interstellar dust. Using a specialized facility, called the Cosmic Simulation Chamber (COSmIC) designed and built at Ames, scientists now are able to recreate and study in the laboratory dust grains similar to the grains that form in the outer layers of dying stars. (5/7)

NASA Telescopes Coordinate Best-Ever Flare Observations (Source: NASA)
On March 29, an X-class flare erupted from the right side of the sun... and vaulted into history as the best-observed flare of all time. The flare was witnessed by four different NASA spacecraft and one ground-based observatory – three of which had been fortuitously focused in on the correct spot as programmed into their viewing schedule a full day in advance.

To have a record of such an intense flare from so many observatories is unprecedented. Such research can help scientists better understand what catalyst sets off these large explosions on the sun. Perhaps we may even some day be able to predict their onset and forewarn of the radio blackouts solar flares can cause near Earth – blackouts that can interfere with airplane, ship and military communications. (5/7)

Ancient Crater Points to Massive Canadian Meteorite Strike (Source: University of Alberta)
The discovery of an ancient ring-like structure in southern Alberta suggests the area was struck by a meteorite large enough to leave an eight-kilometer-wide crater, producing an explosion strong enough to destroy present-day Calgary, say researchers from the Alberta Geological Survey and University of Alberta.(5/7)

Lynx "Cub Carrier" to Provide In-Cabin Experiment Accommodations (Source: USRA)
The United States Rocket Academy announced the delivery of the first Lynx Cub Payload Carrier, a new research platform which promises to dramatically reduce the cost of access to space for small scientific and education payloads. The Lynx Cub Carrier will fly on the XCOR Lynx spacecraft, which is now under construction at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

"The Lynx Cub Payload Carrier is a versatile system that installs in the Lynx cabin, behind the pilot's seat, allowing small experiments to be carried as secondary payloads on any Lynx flight," said United States Rocket Academy chairman Edward Wright. "The Cub Carrier can be installed and removed quickly for frequent, low-cost flight opportunities." (5/7)

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