August 12, 2014

ESA Cargo Vessel Ready for Delivery (Source: ESA)
ESA’s latest Automated Transfer Vehicle is set to dock with the International Space Station on Tuesday, delivering more than six tonnes of crucial supplies and scientific experiments to the orbiting research base. ATV Georges Lemaître will rendezvous with the Station at about 410 km altitude and complete a fully automated docking with the aft port of Russia’s Zvezda module. The vessel was given a ‘GO’ for docking by the Station’s mission management team earlier today, and ESA’s ATV Control Centre in Toulouse, France, are now preparing the final commands. (8/11)

Introducing ESA's Underground Astronauts (Source: ESA)
Each year, ESA sends up to six astronauts down into the caves of Sardinia, Italy, for two weeks on a simulated space mission. New and experienced astronauts from different space agencies are invited on underground ventures to improve their exploration skills and learn from each other in a multicultural team.

This year will see an underground reunion for ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano and cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin. They spent three months together on the International Space Station last year during Luca’s mission. Joining them will be experienced NASA astronaut Mike Fossum, a Station commander and veteran of seven spacewalks.

“Exploration can go in many different directions,” says Luca. “The infinite horizon and absolute black of space has an indisputable allure, but the darkness of a cave, snaking underground into places where light never visited, reminds me how much we still don’t know about our planet.” (8/11)

Apollo-Soyuz Paper Selected for Space History Prize (Source: Quest)
“Détente and Dissent: Apollo-Soyuz, Ruth Bates Harris, and NASA’s Rhetoric of Cooperation” has earned University of California, Santa Barbara graduate student Eric Fenrich the 2014 Sacknoff Prize for Space History. Established in 2011, the annual prize is designed to encourage students to perform original research and submit papers with history of spaceflight themes. 

The winner receives a $300 cash prize, a trophy, publication in the peer-reviewed journal, “Quest: The History of Spaceflight”, and an invitation to present at the annual meeting of the Society for the History of Technology. Chosen from entries representing students at universities throughout the world, papers submitted over the years have covered a wide range of topics including early animal research, the Korean space program, public diplomacy behind the astronaut world tours, and a history of space debris. Click here. (8/11)

Space Programs of North Korea, Iran: Covert Twins? (Source: Space News)
At their early stages, the space programs of the major powers were little more than adjuncts to their ballistic missile programs. Initially they were prestige programs, aimed to advertise nations’ ballistic missile prowess to their Cold War opponents as well as their home audiences. Only when the art of satellite orbiting was mastered with confidence (as measured by the growing reliability and decreasing failure rate) did space programs mature into what they are today.

Later newcomers to the space launch scene followed the same evolutionary pattern, with prestige programs morphing into military, commercial and scientific space. Both China’s and India’s space programs are prime examples of similar evolutionary chains.

The only two space programs that seem to be stuck in their embryonic “prestige” stage are those of North Korea and Iran — perhaps more so in the first than the latter. Both aimed mainly to display their regime prowess while acquiring proficiency in multistage rocket technology. However, there are several noticeable differences in their respective evolutions and tempos. Click here. (8/11)

Cubesats Driving Big Developments in Small Propulsion Systems (Source: Space News)
As cubesats prove their ability to capture imagery and gather scientific data, developers are eager to send the miniature spacecraft on increasingly complex missions, many of which require propulsion. “With any satellite there’s a lot of mission capability you can get when you’re able to maneuver,” said Andrew Petro, NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology program executive. “We are trying to do more things with these satellites and that requires mobility.”

NASA is exploring a wide range of propulsion technologies to enable cubesats to change altitude, conduct proximity operations, disperse and form arrays, including cold gas, monopropellant, liquefied gas, solid rocket, Hall effect and electrospray thrusters. “We want to cast a wide net,” Petro said. “We are not looking for one solution, but for a whole set of solutions.” Click here. (8/11)

ARM Candidates Include Two that Already Will Have Been Sampled (Source: Space News)
At least two of the six asteroids NASA has identified as candidates for redirecting to lunar orbit for astronauts to explore by 2025 will already have been probed and sampled by robotic spacecraft by that time. Brian Muirhead of JPL said that all six of the asteroids on NASA’s short list could be robotically retrieved between 2023 and 2025.

The candidates include three free-flying asteroids and three boulder-sized samples that could be collected from larger asteroids. Two of the potential boulder-retrieval targets either have been or will have been sampled by the time astronauts would get a crack at them as part of the Asteroid Redirect Mission. Click here. (8/11)

India Working on Manned Flight Mission (Source: The Hindu)
India’s scientists are on course to sending the country’s first manned flight to space, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) K. Radhakrishnan said. “A number of critical technologies are being developed for a possible human space flight in the future. A full-scale, unmanned crew module is getting ready to be flown onboard the experimental flight of GSLV Mk-III, to understand its ballistic re-entry characteristics,” Dr. Radhakrishnan said. (8/11)

Near-Term Future of On-Orbit Servicing is Robotic (Source: SpaceRef)
Currently, over "$500 billion dollars in satellite assets are stationed in geosynchronous orbit (GEO)," according to Gordon Roesler, a program manager in the Tactical Technology Office at DARPA, and if those assets break down, "given the remote, heavily radiated atmosphere of GEO, a company only has one replacement option at this time - launching a replacement system."

Launching replacement systems is an expensive undertaking for companies, as is system failure, because "insurance on satellite systems only covers the cost of the system, not the disrupted business," explained Maj. Gen. Jim Armor, Jr., U.S. Air Force (retired) and vice president of strategy and business development for ATK's Space Systems Division explained. Armor further clarified that there will be "nearly 200 satellite systems reaching retirement by 2020," forcing lots of replacement decisions. Click here. (8/11)

Three Commercial Companies Compete in New Space Race (Source: Houston Chronicle)
As NASA considers what company will build a replacement for the space shuttle, which the space agency needs to transport its astronauts to the International Space Station and end an uncomfortable dependence upon Russia, one of the three competitors is offering more than just a spacecraft. Boeing has put jobs on the table, too, saying it will build its CST-100 spacecraft at NASA's Florida space center, where the launch crowds could return as soon as 2017.

Boeing's insider style differs markedly from that of another competitor, SpaceX, an upstart that has taken an outsider's approach, preferring to build its spacecraft in-house. The final bidder, Sierra Nevada, is somewhere in between. NASA should make its decision on the "commercial crew" competition in the next few weeks. At stake is not just a $4 billion contract, but prestige. Click here. (8/11)

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