June 30, 2014

Would Earth Look Like a Habitable Planet From Afar? (Source: Astrobiology)
Even when a distant world has the trademarks of habitability — it’s Earth-sized, it’s in the zone around its star where liquid water is possible — finding signs of life is tricky. The telescope technology of today falls short of being able to distinguish clues of life.

But readying the tools to find life now will help astronomers when telescopes get better in the next few decades. Sometimes, this requires looking at a planet that we already know has life — that would be Earth, the only confirmed one so far — and pretending that we are looking at it as a visiting extraterrestrial.

When viewing Earth from space, how could you tell that this planet is well-suited for life? Are there telltale signatures in the atmosphere or from our oceans? These are some of the questions that controllers of a lunar spacecraft sought to answer when it took a bit of a side mission. Instead of observing the Moon, NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) briefly looked at Earth. Click here. (6/30)

NASA Says U.S. Air Pollution Has Plummeted (Source: TIME)
Striking new images released by NASA this week show significant reductions in air pollution levels across the United States. In particular, at least one pollutant, nitrogen dioxide, has decreased substantially over the past decade. After ten years in orbit, the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA’s Aura satellite showed that the decrease is particularly prominent in the Northeast, the Ohio River Valley, and other major cities. For example, NASA reported a 32% decrease in New York City and a 42% decrease in Atlanta between the periods of 2005-2007 and 2009-2011. (6/29)

KSC Celebrates One Year of Atlantis (Source: Florida Today)
As the shuttle Atlantis exhibit marks its first anniversary, attendance has rocketed, up more than 25 percent this year, at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, said Therrin Protze, chief operating officer. "We needed it, with the cease of the shuttle program. We needed a good marketing product that people would want to come and see — and Atlantis is definitely that product. It's been real successful for us," Protze said.

"Atlantis has been absolutely instrumental in showing that we still are open at the Kennedy Space Center," he said. The $100 million Atlantis exhibit opened amid much fanfare on June 29, 2013. Economically speaking, Protze labeled the retired orbiter "a shot in the arm" for his tourist destination during the ongoing lull in manned spaceflight — as shuttle-bearing museums in California, New York and northern Virginia can also attest. (6/30)

Why Russia Won’t Catch Up in the Space Race (Source: TIME)
It takes a lot of things to run a successful space program, but petulance, anger and impulsiveness are not among them. That's a lesson Vladimir Putin has to learn. It’s a hard fact of exploratory history that angry people don’t achieve much in space. You have to be patient when you design your rockets, steely-eyed when you launch them and utterly unflappable when you actually get where you’re going. That stay-poised doctrine was conspicuously at work in the past few days, as two different space projects played out in two different parts of the world with two very different results.

On Friday, Russia scrapped the launch of its new Angara rocket—a booster that has been in development since 1994 and has gone pretty much nowhere. Putin was personally involved both in overseeing the launch and in authorizing the stand-down—a line of command that would seem awfully strange if it were President Obama on the horn with Cape Canaveral telling the pad engineers what they can launch and when they can launch it. Click here. (6/30) http://time.com/2937697/russia-space-angara-putin/

Russia, China Ready to Cooperate in Space, Explore Mars (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia is ready to work with China to explore the Moon and Mars, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Monday. “If we talk about manned space flights and exploration of outer space, as well as joint exploration of the solar system, primarily it is the Moon and Mars, we are ready to go forth with our Chinese friends, hand in hand,” Rogozin said during a roundtable held within the framework of The First Russia-China Expo.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister believes that Russia and China could potentially work together to create spacecraft, “a joint base of radio components independent from anyone,” as well as cooperate in cartography and communication. Roscosmos and its Chinese counterparts also signed a memorandum of understanding “on cooperation in global navigation satellite systems.” Rogozin said that the Russian navigation system GLONASS and the Chinese Beidou will very well complement each other. (6/30)

NRC's "Pathway to Exploration" Should Start with Asteroid Mission (Source: Space Review)
The National Research Council's human space exploration report released earlier this month did not look favorably on NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) plans. Lou Friedman and Tom Jones argue that ARM, rather than being a dead end towards the long-term goal of Mars, is instead a key enabling mission. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2545/1 to view the article. (6/30)

Red Tortoise, Blue Turtle (Source: Space Review)
In the past, many Western observers conflated China's robotic lunar exploration plans with its human spaceflight plans. But as Dwayne Day explains, the two may be finally, if slowly, starting to truly come together. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2544/1 to view the article. (6/30)

Air Launch, Big and Small (Source: Space Review)
While the concept of air launch seems compelling, such systems have failed to have much effect on the overall launch market. Jeff Foust reports on two different air launch ventures, one by DARPA and one funded by Paul Allen, attacking the air launch idea from two very different directions. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2543/1 to view the article. (6/30)

India and the Satellite Launch Market (Source: Space Review)
On Monday, an Indian PSLV rocket placed five satellites into orbit on a commercial mission. Ajey Lele examines what India needs to do to become more competitive in the global commercial launch market. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2542/1 to view the article. (6/30)

SpaceX Worker Killed at Company's Texas Facility (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
News Channel 25, which covers Waco and Killeen Texas, has issued a report that a SpaceX employee was killed in an accident at the company's McGregor, Texas rocket testing facility. The death occurred on June 25. The employee’s name has not been released and the incident involving their death is being described as an accident and that it was not related to a rocket test. Details on the accident as well as the name of the victim have not been released pending notification of their family – no details as to the nature of the accident have been issued. (6/30)

Mars One Announces RFP for 2018 Mars Lander Payloads (Source: Mars One)
Mars One is extending a formal invitation to universities, research bodies, and companies to contribute to the payload of the 2018 unmanned Mars Lander. The best ideas will be chosen by a panel of experts. This mission will act as a staging point for the first-ever human mission to the red planet in 2025.

Mars One is soliciting proposals for four demonstration payloads that will demonstrate technologies for the human mission in 2025, proposals for one payload that will be elected in a world wide university competition, and proposals for two payloads that are for sale to the highest bidder. These last two payloads can be used for scientific experiments, marketing activities or anything inbetween. (6/30)

SES to Arianespace: “Change, and Quickly!” (Source: Advanced Television)
Martin Halliwell, CTO at satellite operator SES, has issued a blunt warning to Europe’s space agencies, especially the French, that planned redesigns of the giant Ariane rocket launcher are not ambitious enough. Airbus Defence & Space and rocket-engine builder Safran has just created a joint-venture to build an Ariane-6 rocket, and in the process scrap the current upgrade scheme which has cost Europe’s European Space Agency partners millions in abandoned investment.

But even these new plans are inadequate, implied Halliwell. “The designs they have put forward, and the price points they have put forward, are a little lacking in ambition, we believe,” Halliwell said. “They will not get us where we need to go in the time scale we require.” (6/30)

India Launches Five Foreign Satellites (Source: Business World)
India on Monday successfully launched five foreign satellites from four countries on board PSLV-C23 rocket which placed them in orbit, an achievement described by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as an 'endorsement' of the country's space capabilities. After a perfect lift off, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV-C23 placed all five satellites into their intended orbits, one after the other between 17 and 19 minutes after liftoff, in textbook precision.

Though the Mission Readiness Review Committee and Launch Authorisation Board had on Friday cleared the launch, the launch time was rescheduled to 9.52 AM today, a delay of three minutes, attributed to "probable space debris" coming in the rocket's way. Besides its primary payload of 714 kg French Earth Observation Satellite SPOT-7, PSLV C23 carried and placed in orbit 14 kg AISAT of Germany, NLS7.1 (CAN-X4) and NLS7.2 (CAN-X5) of Canada each weighing 15 kg and the 7 kg VELOX-1 of Singapore. (6/30)

Virginia Spaceport Eyes Human Spaceflight (Source: Daily Press)
When Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced in Accomack County earlier this month that he'd like to launch into space one day from Wallops Island, County Administrator Steve Miner's jaw dropped. "First, I thought, 'It's hyperbole,'" Miner recalled. "Then I realized, no, he was quite serious. I'm sure the governor knows a lot that I don't."

The governor was speaking at the June 9 groundbreaking for the 200-acre Wallops Research Park, where $8 million was spent to install infrastructure, utilities and a 1,000-foot taxiway linking to runways at the neighboring NASA Wallops Flight Facility and its spaceport. McAuliffe called the research park a key element to transform the region into the "aerospace capital of the globe," according to the website delmarvanow.com.

Space tourism has long been one of the long-term objectives for MARS. In its 2012-2017 strategic plan for the spaceport, the authority said it would "actively monitor the market for human space tourism and assess its viability at MARS."  Dale Nash said the authority is in preliminary talks with several private space companies about human spaceflight into low-Earth orbit from MARS. He declined to say which companies out of proprietary concerns. (6/30)

Near-Earth Asteroids Key To Solar System's Earliest History (Source: Forbes)
Thousands of near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) circle us from almost every angle. But researchers still have nearly as many questions about these primitive relics as a generation ago. Because a portion of these whirling planetary dervishes represent the most primitive and un-evolved bodies in our solar system’s 4.56 billion year history, they can still tell us loads about our solar system’s earliest formation history. (6/30)

XCOR Aerospace Acquires Space Expedition Corporation (Source: XCOR)
XCOR Aerospace announced today that it has closed the acquisition of all operational subsidiaries of Space Expedition Corporation, the previously independent Dutch company also known as SXC. SXC served as XCOR’s general sales agent for XCOR Lynx flight sales and as their lead wet lease customer.

The new sales entity, XCOR Space Expeditions, will continue to focus on sales, commercial partnerships and participant (customer) training on a global level, and will serve as an open sales channel available for all future XCOR Lynx wet lease clients. The acquisition signals XCOR’s commitment to being “the most active space flight company in the world” through a marked increase in integrated sales activities and multiple wet lease operations.

As the most active spaceflight company in the world, XCOR is poised to become the company which delivers the most value for the price. With its high frequency of flights, XCOR will learn the most the quickest in the emerging commercial spaceflight industry and more customers will benefit from Lynx’s incredible in-the-cockpit experience. (6/30)

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