July 7, 2014

CNN Launches Original Series on the Space Race (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will host a sneak preview of CNN's original series on the Space Race as part of their series about the Sixties. The event will take place on July 7 at noon at the Astronaut Encounter Theater at KSC's Visitor Center. The event is included with admission to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Following the preview, former NASA employees George Jenkins, Charlie Mars, Lee Solid, and John Tribe will hold a panel discussion on what it was like during the sixties. (7/7)

Pegasus Barge to Begin Renovations for SLS Core Shipping (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
NASA’s famous Pegasus Barge – best known for transporting External Tanks from the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) – is about to be handed over to a contractor for the modifications that will allow it to transport Space Launch System (SLS) Cores to Florida. The modifications will include the barge being “stretched” to cater for the large HLV cores. (7/7)

Despite Delays, SpaceX Still Winning Commercial Launch Business (Source: NewSpace Journal)
Early this year, SpaceX said it planned to carry out ten launches in 2014, and appeared to be on the fast track after launching the Thaicom 6 satellite in early January. Since then, though, the company has done only one other launch—a cargo resupply mission to the ISS in April—while the launch of six ORBCOMM satellites has been delayed from mid-May to, now, mid-July. That makes it increasingly unlikely it will meet its goal of ten launches by the end of 2014.

Yet, those delays do not appear to have deterred customers, even those mainstream commercial communications satellite customers that have, traditionally, valued schedule over cost. On Wednesday, Inmarsat announced a launch contract with SpaceX for at least one, and perhaps up to three, missions through the end of the decade. “We believe that SpaceX has demonstrated tremendous successful progress in its launch capabilities and is now a fully-credible provider of vehicles to support geostationary missions,” Inmarsat CEO Rupert Pearce said in the statement. (7/3)

White Knight Heading to Washington State (Source: Parabolic Arc)
On Oct. 4, there will be a celebration in Mojave, Calif., of the 10th anniversary of the winning of the Ansari X Prize. It looks as if neither of the vehicles involved in the historic flight will be at the dusty Mojave Air and Space Port for the festivities. SpaceShipOne, which Brian Binnie flew on the prize-winning flight, was long ago shipped off to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Now, its mother ship, White Knight, will fly off by the middle of the month for eventual display at a museum in Everett, Washington. White Knight will be displayed as part of the Flying Heritage Collection, which is located in a hangar at Paine Field in Everett, Gatlin reports. The collection is owned by billionaire Paul Allen, who funded the construction of SpaceShipOne and White Knight. (7/7)

NASA Invites Media to Facility Renaming Ceremony in Honor of Neil Armstrong (Source: NASA)
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is renaming one of its iconic facilities in honor of legendary astronaut and the first person to set foot on the moon, Neil Armstrong. A ceremony at the Operations and Checkout Building will be held on July 21, with remarks from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Kennedy Center Director Robert Cabana and Apollo 11 crew members Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin. (7/7)

Enthusiasm Wanes for Quick Start to New Engine Program (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
With the Obama administration, NASA and industry leaders preaching caution -- and no sign Russian rocket engine exports will end -- the rush to replace the Russian RD-180 engine used to power billions of dollars of U.S. military and scientific research satellites into space has cooled in recent weeks. Bills drawn up in both houses of Congress include funding lines to kick-start development of new rocket engine, but Congress has not sent a budget bill to the White House for President Barack Obama's signature.

There is no sign of an imminent cutoff to the supply of Russian rocket engines, despite initial indications from Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin in May that engine exports for U.S. military satellite launches would end. The RD-180 engine powers the first stage of the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, one of two launchers that put the bulk of the U.S. government's national security payloads into orbit. (7/7)

How Many Ways Can the Sun Kill You? (Source: Universe Today)
 The Sun has a Swiss army knife of ways it can do you in, from radiation to solar flares. And when it dies, it’s taking you with it. What are the various ways the Sun can do you in? Click here. (7/7)

Did Huge Impact Shape Planet Mercury? (Source: Space.com)
The mysterious makeup of the solar system's innermost planet may be due to a massive "hit and run" collision billions of years ago, a new study reports. A colossal but glancing smashup with a roughly Earth-size planet could have stripped away much of proto-Mercury's rocky mantle, explaining why the tiny, sun-scorched world has such a huge iron core today, researchers say.

Indeed, scientists think Mercury's core makes up about 60 percent of its mass. The figure is about 30 percent for Earth, Venus and Mars, the other rocky planets in the solar system. Before NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft (short for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) entered orbit around Mercury in March 2011, many scientists assumed a giant impact had blasted off the planet's mantle, but if that were the case one would expect that Mercury's crust would be depleted of light elements. (7/6)

A Timeline of the Future of the Universe (Source: From Quarks to Quasars)
Pointing telescopes into the heavens is not merely an arbitrary practice used to study our surroundings. It is much more than that. Not only does it give us the ability to study the very laws of physics that keep the Earth in rotation around the Sun, ultimately giving way to the development of multicellular life-forms, but it also serves as some sort of a time machine, allowing us to look back at  some of the very first celestial objects created after the dawn of time. Click here. (6/28)

36-Year-Old NASA Probe's Engines Successfully Fired Up by Private Team (Source: Scientific American)
An old NASA spacecraft under the control of a private team fired its thrusters yesterday (July 2) for the first time in a generation. NASA's International Sun-Earth Explorer 3 probe (ISEE-3), which the agency retired in 1997, performed the maneuver in preparation for a larger trajectory correction next week. The spacecraft hadn't fired its engines since 1987, ISEE-3 Reboot Project team members said.

It took several attempts and days to perform the roll maneuver because ISEE-3 was not responding to test commands. But this time, controllers got in touch. They increased the roll rate from 19.16 revolutions per minute to 19.76 RPM, putting it within mission specifications for trajectory corrections. "All in all, a very good day," co-leader Keith Cowing wrote in a blog post on the ISEE-3 Reboot Project's website. (7/6)

How NASA Trains Astronauts 40 Feet Underwater (Source: C/Net)
When astronauts prepare for future missions to the International Space Station, the advance training for the specific tasks they'll carry out on the ISS is obviously crucial. But here on Earth, how do you mimic space's unique zero-gravity environment? NASA answered that question in an ingenious way with a large-scale mockup of the ISS that the space agency built and placed in a huge swimming pool. Click here. (7/6)

Space Elevators Could be Built Cost-Effecctively Within a Century (Source: Factor-Tech)
The creation of space elevators is getting closer to reality and could enable cheaper space travel, a leading engineering expert has said. Peter Debney, a leading engineer at global construction and design firm Arup has said the devices, which would make space far more accessible, could be built cost-effectively within 100 years.

The idea of a space elevator – a transportation system that would use a cable to move people between Earth and space – has seen much speculation for years but the potential is now only starting to be realized. Previous predictions have said the elevators could be built as soon as 2035 but these would be hugely expensive and not cost effective – as many prototypes are. Click here. (7/7)

State Duma Ratifies Space Exploration Deal with Vietnam (Source: Vietnam.net)
Russia’s State Duma has approved an agreement on cooperation in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes. The inter-governmental agreement was signed in Hanoi on November 7, 2012 during Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Hanoi. The deal creates an institutional and legal framework for cooperation programs in joint specific areas relating to the exploration and use of outer space, as well as practical applications of space technology for peaceful purposes. (7/7)

Russia and Nicaragua Plan Space Cooperation (Source: Vice)
Russia has a new partner in space and drug trafficking. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega announced last week that he had signed an agreement with Moscow to explore the universe. “There is a convention on the cooperative use and exploration of extraterrestrial space for peaceful purposes,” Ortega said at a joint news conference with Russian Chancellor Sergei Lavrov on April 29 in Managua.

On April 1, Russian legislators passed draft legislation to establish a network of satellite navigation stations in Nicaragua. Now, further details are emerging about the collaboration between the countries. [Russia's State Duma approved the agreement with Nicaragua last week.] (5/5)

Militia Group Heading to Texas Border [Near SpaceX Site] (Source: Brownsville Herald)
A group that identifies itself as a coalition of “Patriots” has put out a call for people to go to the Texas-Mexico border and help with a citizen militia operation called “Secure our Border - Laredo.” Denise Freeman said she expected militia members to become visible in border communities, including the Rio Grande Valley, in the coming weeks but she wanted to stress that the operation’s commander — Chris Davis — is warning members against using any violent means.

“This is not a ‘go-in-guns-blazing’ kind of thing,” Freeman said. “This will be handled with the utmost professionalism and security and safety for everyone involved.” However, in a 21-minute Youtube video featuring a man who identifies himself as Cmdr. Chris Davis, the person said it’s time to secure the borders. “How?” he asked on the video. “You see an illegal. You point your gun dead at him, right between his eyes, and you say, ‘Get back across the border or you will be shot.’”

Editor's Note: This is reported from across the county line near where SpaceX is planning its Texas spaceport, a stone's throw from the Mexican border. The militia volunteers would presumably operate adjacent to the SpaceX site. (7/5)

Editorial: Time to Get to Work on Spaceport Road (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
When the state Legislature approved $6.4 million during the session that ended in February for the second phase of construction on the southern road to Spaceport America, Christine Anderson, head of the Spaceport Authority, said she was hopeful work could begin before the rainy season. Instead, the county has not yet started the bidding process for the first phase of construction. It will be two to four weeks before bids will be accepted. (7/6)

Hotel Picked for Virgin’s Space Tourists (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Well-heeled international tourists aren’t going to have to rough it quite the way it looked a few years ago when they prepare to travel to Spaceport America for a pioneering launch to the edge of space. Virgin Galactic has named the six-story, 203-room Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces as its official preferred hotel, meaning “space tourists” paying $250,000 a pop for the roughly two-hour flight are expected to stay there. (7/7)

A Dutch World Cup Victory Would Send The Team To Space (Source: Forbes)
The Netherlands National Team is now just one of four teams left in the World Cup. And if they manage to win the whole thing, they’ll get something in addition to the glory of the victory. They’ll also get a chance to visit the stars. (Making Robin van Persie a literal “Flying Dutchman.”)

That’s the promise of XCOR Aerospace, who has promised a free flight to every member of the team should they make the goal. The odds might be against them – FiveThirtyEight currently has them the least likely team to win, with only a 13% chance- but who knows? Space travel may be a heck of a motivator.

Why the Dutch team? Because that’s where XCOR Space Expeditions is headquartered. The company, which formerly operated as Space Expeditions, was purchased last week by XCOR. The company had served as a general sales agent for XCOR since 2011, and will now operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of XCOR. (7/7)

XCOR Comments on Evolving Business Model (Source: Forbes)
“As we approach first test flights, we want to ensure all other wet lease customers have an open platform for sales that is not affiliated with a specific wet leasee but with XCOR, the vehicle builder,” XCOR’s Chief Operating Officer Andrew Nelson explained to me. “Therefore as a natural product of growth, and positioning for success, we have decided to bring it in house as an open platform for all future wet leasees to use. It brings the customer closer to XCOR and presents a common brand identity.”

The parent company of Space Expeditions Corporation, Space Expeditions, NV, still exists separately as a passive holding company for investors in XCOR’s $14.2 million Series B investment, which was completed in May. According to Nelson, these investors also gained an undisclosed amount of common stock in XCOR as a result of the acquisition. (7/7)

The 25 Best College Astronomy Observatories (Source: College Rank)
In an effort to both attract and educate the world’s best physicists, astronomers and others, a large number of universities across the country have devoted significant time and effort to creating stunning observatories. Designed to combined the classic observatory with decidedly 21st century design and cutting-edge technology, these facilities are helping to create an entirely new generation of leading astronomers looking to the heavens for new theories, confirmation of older theories, and experiences that will define human interaction with space for decades to come.

Our understanding of outer space has improved in recent decades as the technology we use to explore the heavens has consistently, dramatically improved. These 25 college observatories are proof that our facilities, our technology, and even our communities, are the key to better education and a more thorough understanding of what lies beyond earth’s grasp. Click here.

Editor's Note: UF's Rosemary Hill Observatory is number four on this list. Not included is Embry-Riddle's new observatory in Daytona Beach, which will have the state's largest university-based telescope when it is operational this year. (7/7)

Legendary Soviet Buran Spacecraft Changes Location (Source: Voice of Russia)
The legendary Soviet Buran spacecraft has moved - up till now the shuttle was the gem of the Moscow central Gorky Park but has recently been dismantled and will now reside at the VDNKh All-Russian exhibition center built to showcase Soviet achievements. The 50 ton-machine covered 15 km across downtown of Moscow accompanied by police cars and curious passers by.

It is one of a dozen shuttles that were built for the Buran orbital ship project. Only one could fly in space, but the rest having been designed to test the ship's systems. One of these testing vessels was shipped from Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan and found its last resort in Gorky Park in 1993 and for a long period was used as an attraction. The prototype was to become a "space" theme cafe with tube packed cosmonaut meals and a flight simulator with 30 movable seats inside capable of giving the illusion of weightlessness, accompanied by a cinema screen showing Buran's only launch. (7/7)

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