July 8, 2014

From Antibiotics to Yeast: Latest [Florida] Student Science Heads For Space (Source: NASA)
Astronauts on future missions may nibble on lettuce and grow their own antibiotics, depending on the results of research that student scientists plan to conduct on the International Space Station. Mission 5 of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) is scheduled to launch to the space station on July 11. A total of 1,344 proposals yielded 15 selected investigations for the flight. These investigations represent a diversity of subject matter from bacteria to tadpole shrimp and locations from Massachusetts to Arizona.

The provision of food in space proved popular, the focus of four studies. Students from Riebli Elementary and Mark West Charter School in California examine whether Triops longicaudatus, or tadpole shrimp, could be grown in microgravity as a food source for long-term missions. The species’ small size and high-protein content make that an attractive possibility.

Students from New York and Hillsborough County, Florida, envisioned astronauts growing their own lettuce. The New York students hope to determine how long the plant takes to germinate in microgravity, while the Florida group looks at the frequency of lettuce seed germination in space. (7/7)

Dauria Aerospace Announces Google Glass Experience of a Small Satellite Launch (Source: SpaceRef)
Dauria Aerospace, a multinational aerospace company providing global satellite-based remote sensing information services, with support of Roscosmos, launched its DX1 satellite onboard a Soyuz 2-1b rocket. The launch was captured through Google Glass and available to view and download on Dauria’s Youtube Channel: www.youtube.com/user/DauriaAerospace/. (7/8)

Soyuz Sends Payloads to Orbit (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
A Russian Soyuz-2-1B rocket successfully sent the Meteor-M 2 weather satellite to orbit. Liftoff occurred at 11:58 a.m. EDT from the Baikonur Cosmodrone in Kazakhstan on July 8. Today’s launch also included several secondary payloads including Scotland’s first satellite. In a strange twist, much like SpaceX’s June 21 launch attempt for the Orbcomm OG2 mission, coverage was “blacked out” 30 minutes prior to liftoff – suggesting a trend toward secrecy.

The Meteor-M2 satellite was launched to replace the Meteor-M3 series and will use the following instruments to complete its mission: MSU-MR – will map global and regional cloud cover, KMSS – multichannel scanning unit for Earth surface monitoring, MTVZA – an image and scanner which will monitor atmospheric temperature and humidity profiles as well as sea surface wind, IRFS-2 an advanced IR sounder, Severjanin – SAR for ice monitoring as well as Radiomet -  radio occulation unit for atmospheric temperature and pressure profiles. (7/8)

No, No, No, It's All About Mars (Source: Forbes)
Dear NASA: The shuttle? Really? Nobody cared about it the first time around. What about Mars? I think there’s some ongoing project to go there, but I’m not sure. Occasional news announcements reference technical steps you’re taking. I know there’s a museum exhibit about Mars at the Houston Space Center. But there’s no coherent or compelling story that I can follow, and I’m one of the few folks in this country predisposed to look for one.

So I have a recommendation: Convene a SWAT team of artists, producers, activists, and consumer marketers, and come up with a plan. No, not another communications plan, but The Plan to make a journey to Mars the most meaningful and inspiring public initiative of our century. Yeah, dream big. Like you used to. I can already imagine the three core components of such a plan. Click here. (7/8)

Flights From New York to Beijing in Just 2 Hours! (Source: Global Post)
Members of the 0.1 percent have long used their vast wealth to obtain yachts, armies of servants and even laws of their choosing. But the ability to bend space and time to their will has proven elusive. Until now. In the not-so-distant future, the global elite will be able to zip between practically any major city — London to Sydney, New York to Beijing — in a mere two hours or less.

While common travelers bump knees in economy class, chugging along at a sluggish 500 miles per hour, the extremely wealthy will travel at eight times that speed. They will blast up through the thermosphere — an atmospheric layer where gravity is far weaker — and then plummet smoothly toward their far-flung destinations. Called sub-orbital flight, this method of travel is poised to radically alter life for, well, an extremely tiny sliver of humanity. Click here. (7/8)

Scaling Up Alternative Space Funding Sources (Source: Space Review)
In recent years, some space-related projects have pursued unconventional funding sources, including crowdfunding and other donations, with some success. Jeff Foust reports on efforts to scale up those mechanisms for bigger, and more expensive, projects. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2550/1 to view the article. (7/7)

Conference Examines Human Exploration and Habitation in Space (Source: Space Review)
Last month a meeting of a little-known space group examined a variety of issues about humanity's future in space. Anthony Young recaps the conference's sessions on a wide range of topics and concepts. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2549/1 to view the article. (7/7)

Remembering Bill Gaubatz (Source: Space Review)
Bill Gaubatz, the DC-X program manager at McDonnell Douglas more than 20 years ago, passed away over the weekend. Jeff Foust looks back at the role he had in spurring development of reusable launch vehicle systems and technologies as the government ramps up a new X-vehicle program. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2548/1 to view the article. (7/7)

Moving the Earth (Source: Space Review)
As the Sun gradually warms over the next billion years, the Earth will gradually become uninhabitable. Robert Zubrin ponders what could be done to change that, and if it's possible to see if any other civilizations in the galaxy is trying the same. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2547/1 to view the article. (7/7)

Editorial: Another Continuing Resolution Looms for NASA (Source: Space News)
Just when it began to look as though Congress would actually pass a budget in time for the start of the fiscal year ahead, politics as usual once again has intervened. A so-called minibus appropriations bill that would have funded a wide range of federal activities, including civil space, next year was headed for a June 19 debate and vote on the Senate floor when it was derailed by a partisan procedural impasse. No new date for floor action has been scheduled.

Although there are three months to go before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, the congressional calendar is much shorter. Congress, which returned to work July 7 after a weeklong break, has just four legislative weeks left before it breaks again for its traditional August recess. This being an election year, lawmakers will be spending much if not most of their time from then until November wooing voters in their home districts.

July might therefore be the best window of opportunity for getting a budget passed. But if history is any indication, that’s a questionable prospect at best, meaning there is an increasing likelihood that agencies including NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will begin next year operating under a continuing resolution that funds activities at 2014 levels — assuming no showdowns that halt spending for large sectors of the government. (7/7)

New Vehicles Pave Way for Exploration (Source: RocketSTEM)
Why is NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to develop private human transport ships to low Earth orbit important? That’s the question I posed to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden when we met for an exclusive interview at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. The Commercial Crew Program (CCP) is the critical enabler “for establishing a viable orbital infrastructure” in the 2020s, Bolden explained. Click here. (7/7)

Asteroid-Tracking Satellite Not Up to the Job (Source: Ottawa Citizen)
A Canadian satellite designed to hunt hard-to-see asteroid hurtling by Earth was launched almost four years late, was underfunded and has raised concerns it can’t do its full job, according to a critical review of the project. The Near-Earth Object Surveillance Satellite, or NEOSSat for short, was supposed to be the first space-based telescope to track one particular kind of asteroids — known as Aten-class — that travel between the Earth and the sun, a path that makes them difficult to see from the ground because of scattered light in the atmosphere.

NEOSSat was launched on Feb. 25, 2013, eight years after the project was born – and 41 months late. Reviewers found the primary contractor on the project — originally a company named Dynacon, which then sold its satellite business to Microsat Systems Canada Inc., which finished the project — failed to attract the experts needed to finish the satellite, which forced the Canadian Space Agency to dedicate more resources to the project than it wanted.

That, in turn, caused it to overspend: The agency doled out just under $13.98 million, but budgeted about $12.97 million for its portion of the project. (The project was a joint initiative with Defence Research and Development Canada, which budgeted about $12 million for the job.) “The main issue with NEOSSat is that although images have been acquired, the image quality does not at present meet the imagery requirements of the scientific aspects of the mission. NEOSSat is only taking engineering images and not scientific images,” reads the review. (7/7)

Policy Debate Aside, NASA Preparing for Orion Capsule Test Flight (Source: Space News)
As NASA scurries to reconcile its planned asteroid relocation mission with the newly released National Research Council report’s focus on Mars, the U.S. space agency is confident about one thing: astronauts flying anywhere beyond the international space station will do so aboard an Orion deep-space capsule, the first of which has now been outfitted with a heat shield and attached to a structural service module in preparation for a test flight in December. (7/7)

NASA to Send 3D Google Smartphones for Robots to Space Station (Source: Reuters)
Google smartphones with next-generation 3D sensing technology are about to blast into orbit, where they will become the brains and eyes of ball-shaped hovering robots on the International Space Station. NASA plans to use the handsets to beef up its Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES, which could eventually take over daily chores for astronauts or even handle risky duties outside of the vessel. Click here. (7/7)

AFRL To Establish New Hypersonics Facility at Arnold (Source: Space News)
The Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) is planning a new hypersonic research branch at Arnold Air Force Base in Tennessee as the service ratchets up its development of an alternative to rocket-powered launchers and high-speed vehicles. The High Speed Experimentation Branch is expected to begin operations October 1. The new division will be directed by the AFRL’s Aerospace Systems Directorate located at Wright-Patterson Air Force base in Dayton, Ohio. (7/7)

Supermassive Black Hole Jet Mystery Solved (Source: Discovery)
One of the most enduring mysteries behind the dynamics of supermassive black holes, and their impacts on galactic evolution, has been uncovered by an international team of astrophysicists. Using the ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), located in the Atacama desert in northern Chile, researchers from the UK, Netherlands and the US have studied the core of a nearby galaxy in great detail. Click here. (7/7)

UK Demo Satellites Set for Launch (Source: BBC)
Two British spacecraft, including the first satellite made in Scotland, are due to go into orbit on Tuesday. The pair will launch on a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur in Kazakhstan. TechDemoSat-1 was prepared in Guildford by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited, with the assembly of UKube-1 undertaken at Clyde Space in Glasgow. Both platforms will trial innovative components, sensors and instruments that their producers hope can go on to win future business.

The UK missions are actually secondary payloads on the Soyuz flight; its main purpose is to launch a Russian meteorological satellite, Meteor-M2. TechDemoSat-1 is the bigger of the British duo at 157kg. Among its demonstration systems is a suite of instruments to study "space weather" - the storm of charged particles, mostly from our Sun, that envelop the Earth. (7/7)

The New Asia Space Dream (Source: Space News)
When space issues are debated in an Asian context, normally the focus is on the achievements and plans of states such as Japan, China and India. The reasons for this are obvious. These states gained spacefaring stature during the 1970-1980 period, have made significant investments toward acquiring and developing various satellite technologies, and over a period of time have emerged as major players in the global space domain. In comparison with these three states, and to a certain extant Israel, various other Asian states lack much in the space domain.

However, in the 21st century more Asian states are showing an interest in making investments toward acquiring space assets. States such as Iran, North Korea and South Korea have even succeeded in achieving spacefaring status against various odds. In a relative sense they have only rudimentary rocket technology; however, they have major ambitions. Today, many smaller Asian states are keen toward possessing their own satellite systems. Click here. (7/7)

Editorial: Reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank, Warts and All (Source: Space News)
Here’s the reality: Government export-credit agencies exist, and not just in the U.S., China, France and others have export financing arms that are actively involved in satellite deals that promise work for their domestic manufacturing industries. Non-U.S. government financing or loan guarantees do not necessarily work against U.S. companies.

For example, France’s Coface export-credit agency helped secure financing for a U.S. company, Iridium, to build its next-generation constellation of low-orbiting satellites, a deal that was contingent on a Franco-Italian manufacturer, Thales Alenia Space, getting the prime contract.

But the main point is, like it or not, this is the environment in which U.S. satellite and rocket manufacturers must compete. In the last few years alone, the Ex-Im has helped secure satellite manufacturing and launch contracts for U.S. companies including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital Sciences Corp., Space Systems/Loral and SpaceX. (7/7)

Does the Satcom Industry Have a Future? (Source: Space News)
Quietly, without any fuss, and largely unnoticed by managers and engineers alike, the satellite communications industry is sliding toward potential catastrophe. It may be facing its greatest competitive threat since the global expansion of undersea fiber optic cable. Earth observation satellites, and even nascent suborbital tourism, also are at risk.

Google’s purchase of Titan Aerospace, a developer of solar-powered stratospheric unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), for an undisclosed price, is not an obvious strategic move for a developer of search engines and other Internet services. Likewise, Facebook’s $20 million purchase of the British company Ascenta, which also makes high-altitude drones, seems to make little sense for a social networking company. Click here. (7/7)

Huntsville Aerospace Engineer to Run as Independent Against Congressman Mo Brooks (Source: Huntsville Times)
U.S. Rep Mo Brooks has some competition in his bid for a third consecutive term. The Alabama Secretary of State's office certified last week that Mark Bray, an aerospace engineer from Huntsville, has gathered enough signatures to run as an independent candidate for the 5th Congressional District seat. Bray is employed by Jacobs Engineering, where he supports the Space Launch System that NASA is developing in Alabama.

His 17-year aerospace career also includes jobs with Boeing and Qualis, plus work for the board that investigated the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003. Brooks, R-Huntsville, captured 80 percent of the vote in his June 3 GOP primary race against Athens native Jerry Hill. He has more than $800,000 cash on hand for the fall campaign and no Democratic challenger. (7/7)

Rocketdyne to Produce Engines for NASA (Source: LA Business Journal)
A $2.8 billion contract for Boeing Co. to build NASA’s next generation rocket is good news for Aerojet Rocketdyne in Chatsworth. The core stage of the Space Launch System will be powered by four RS-25 engines built by Rocketdyne and based on the design of the main engines on the Space Shuttle. The core stage contains the fuel for the engines and the electronic systems and will be assembled at a NASA facility in New Orleans. Rocketdyne is also supplying the J-2X engine for the upper stage of the new rocket. (7/3)

How NASA Reinvented the Tortilla, and Other Tales of Food in Space (Source: C/Net)
During the early space shuttle days, NASA sent its astronauts into the heavens with fresh bread packed into a special food locker so they could make sandwiches. But on one mission, a payload specialist from Mexico joined the shuttle crew, and he packed tortillas in the fresh food locker. Shortly thereafter, high above Earth, the rest of the crew saw the benefits of rolling food up in the tortillas. Click here. (7/7)

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