August 13, 2014

Last European Cargo Ship Docks with Space Station (Source: AFP)
Europe turned a page in its space flight history on Tuesday when it delivered supplies to the International Space Station for the last time. An automated cargo ship successfully docked with the ISS as scheduled in a precision maneuver broadcast live on the web. The Georges Lemaitre automated transfer vehicle (ATV), named after the father of the Big Bang theory of how the Universe was formed, is the most complex spacecraft ever built in Europe. (8/12)

US Suppliers Could Lose Global Space Market Share Over Sanctions (Source: RIA Novosti)
US companies producing space-qualified components could lose some of their global market share due to Washington's sanctions, which prevent them from trading with Russia, the head of Russia's United Rocket and Space Corporation (URSC), Igor Komarov, said.

"There's growing discontent in Russia, as well as globally, with the fact that the overwhelming majority... of radiation-resistant components are produced in the United States. I think if they press ahead with these sanctions, their [market] share in 3-4 years will drop far below 50 percent," Komarov said. Long-term sanctions against Russia could also force the country's space industry to rely less on imports and more on its own efforts. (8/13)

ULA CEO Steps Down In Face of Competition (Source: Aviation Week)
ULA CEO Michael Gass is stepping down as ULA faces unprecedented scrutiny over the cost of its launch services for the U.S. government. Since ULA was established in 2006—from a 50/50 partnership between Lockheed Martin and Boeing, legacy manufacturers of the Atlas V and Delta IV rockets, respectively—it has been the sole provider of these rocket services to the U.S. Air Force, Navy and National Reconnaissance Office. The pair merged to lower the high cost of launch for the U.S. government.

Meanwhile, the company is being challenged by SpaceX. The Air Force is now reviewing data from three SpaceX launches of its Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket, with the goal of getting it certified to compete against ULA’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) systems for U.S. government work.

The company is also up against pressure due to the deteriorating relationship between Washington and Moscow, prompting a full review of propulsion alternatives for the Atlas V—the RD180 engine is made in Russia and sold to ULA. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has suggested that Moscow could halt RD180 deliveries, though to date Russia has not made good on the threat. (8/13)

Former NASA Chief: U.S. Not On A Path To Mars (Source: Aviation Week)
U.S. policymakers and others passionate about a human Mars landing are delusional if they believe the nation that ended its first foray into deep space with the Apollo moon landings is on a calculated path to the Red Planet, according to former NASA administrator Mike Griffin. Current efforts, focused on NASA’s Asteroid Retrieval Mission (ARM) as a springboard, are fizzling because the U.S. is not the "spacefaring" nation most assume, he said.

"There are reasons other than technical why that has not happened. It isn’t about the money," Griffin told the conference organized around Mars Direct, the society’s strategy for establishing a sustained human presence on Mars without intermediate destinations by using current technologies and extracting fuel, life support and construction materials from the planet’s atmosphere and soil.

"The answer is because we are not a spacefaring nation," Griffin asserted. "The bottom line, for me, is that we have better stuff in museums than we have in operations today. I can’t think of another technical discipline in which that statement would be true." (8/11)

The Nerdiest Satellite in History Blasts Off (Source: Mashable)
At 11:30am PT, an Atlas V 401 rocket carrying a very important payload launched past a threatening bank of coastal fog into clear blue California skies on Wednesday. Some 20 minutes later, the payload — a high-tech satellite — took up residence 385 miles above the Earth, where it will slowly start to change the lives of millions.

You may not have heard of this satellite, the WorldView-3, which isn't surprising considering how the company behind the launch, DigitalGlobe, has been advertising it. They'll tell you it has the fastest, highest resolution super-spectral imaging capability on the market, with 31-centimeter panchromatic resolution, 1.24 meter multispectral resolution and 3.7 meter short-wave infrared resolution. Nerds. (8/13)

Why Hasn't This Asteroid Disintegrated? (Source: Science)
Planetary scientists have found an asteroid spinning too fast for its own good. The object, known as 1950 DA, whips around every 2.1 hours, which means that rocks on its surface should fly off into space. So apart from gravity, some other sticky force—identified in a new study—must help to hold the asteroid together.

Astronomers have known that the vast majority of asteroids do not revolve faster than once every 2.2 hours. Beyond this limit, outward centrifugal forces exceed the gravitational pull the asteroid exerts on surface rocks, and the asteroid falls apart. But there are dozens of asteroids that spin faster than this theoretical cutoff.

One idea is that these outliers are solid, metallic bodies with a tensile strength that would allow spins of any speed. But scientists tend to favor a “rubble pile” model—clumps of gravel and grit held together loosely—and these porous objects would not be able to resist a spinning self-destruction. (8/13)

Why South Korea's Only Astronaut Quit (Source: ABC)
She went from astronaut to an astro-not. Yi So-yeon, South Korea's first and only astronaut quit her job this week, ending the country's manned space program. The Korea Aerospace Research Institute said Yi sent a resignation letter by mail that explained she would be stepping down from her position due to personal reasons, according to local reports.

Yi beat out more than 36,000 South Koreans who applied to become the first Korean astronaut. The government paid $20 million to Russia for her ticket to space, something that has been called a "matter of national pride." She made history on April 8, 2008, when she boarded a Soyuz spacecraft bound for the International Space Station, becoming the first Korean and the 49th woman to visit space.

During her 11 days at the ISS, Yi conducted science experiments and even hosted a traditional kimchi dinner in honor of the first Russian in space, Yuri Gagarin. Since her stint in space, Yi has worked on research from the ground, given speeches about her time in space and participated in educational programs to inspire students. In 2010, she began a new journey as an MBA student at the University of California, Berkeley's Haas School of Business to pursue more down-to-earth endeavors in the private sector. (8/13)

Dnepr Rocket with Japanese Satellites to be Launched in Early October (Source: Itar-Tass)
The Russian-Ukrainian conversion rocket Dnepr (RS-20) with Japanese satellites will be launched in the Orenburg region, southern Urals, in early October, a source in the Russian Military Industrial Commission said. “The launch is scheduled for the beginning of October. There have been no cancellations so far,” he said when asked whether the plans had not been affected by Japanese sanctions against Russia. The rocket will orbit five Japanese satellites, including four micro ones. “The satellites will be brought to Russia on August 20,” the source said, adding that this year’s third Dnepr launch was scheduled for December. (8/13)

Florida Losing Space Jobs Race Against Texas (Source: SPACErePORT)
Florida Governor Rick Scott and Texas Governor Rick Perry have enjoyed friendly competition on sporting events and economic development opportunities. The two states typically rank near the top (usually after California) in various economic measures, and both governor's have similar conservative mindsets. "I'm going to kick Rick Perry's *** [on job creation]" Scott told the Daily Caller in 2011. "More jobs in Florida!" he said.

Unfortunately, Perry is often the winner, at least in the emerging economic frontier of commercial space. A decade ago, Florida had a strong lead in the space industry, but since then Texas has captured multiple spaceport projects, for Blue Origin in west Texas, XCOR in Midland Texas, SpaceX in south Texas, and a fourth planned at Ellington Field near Houston. SpaceX also now has a major rocket testing operation near Waco, and startup Firefly Space Systems wants to build its rockets in Austin.

The fight to keep SpaceX's commercial launches in Florida revealed little support among Tallahassee elected officials, some thinking SpaceX was dipping too many times at the taxpayer well (state incentives were provided in recent years for SpaceX's other launch pad needs in Florida). During the 2014 Legislative Session, Gov. Scott put no incentives on the table to keep SpaceX's business. Florida's DOT would likely have kicked in some millions for SpaceX's spaceport infrastructure under its annual spaceport funding program, but Texas committed $15.3 million. (8/12)

XCOR Sets “Wall Breaking” Ceremony in Midland (Source: Parabolic Arc)
XCOR and Midland Development Corporation have set a “wall breaking” ceremony for Friday morning that will mark the beginning of renovations at the company’s hangar at Midland International Airport. The event will feature XCOR and MDC staff and special guests. Refreshments will be provided. XCOR plans to move its research and development operations to Midland from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

The company signed a deal two years ago under which Midland will provide a $10 million incentives package. Officials are awaiting approval of a spaceport license for Midland from the Federal Aviation Administration. That approval is expected to come no later than Sept. 15. (8/12)

SpaceX Faces Second Lawsuit Over Pay and Working Conditions (Source: Parabolic Arc)
SpaceX is facing a second lawsuit from employees, this time from both past and present. reports: For the second time in a week, former and current employees of SpaceX hit the rocket manufacturer with a putative class action in California court, accusing it on Friday of failing to provide rest breaks or pay full wages.

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that SpaceX supervisors impose schedules on their employees that make it impossible for them to take statutorily required rest periods every four hours or first or second meal breaks as required by California law. SpaceX is well known to have a culture in which many employees routinely work 60 to 80 hour weeks. It’s easy to imagine that such schedules require careful attention to rest and meal breaks and accounting for hours worked. (8/12)

NASA Ready To Put Robotic Refueling to the Test (Source: Space News)
The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center team that engineered five successful in-space servicing missions to the flagship Hubble Space Telescope is preparing for a ground-based satellite refueling demonstration next April that will include nearly every constraint the team would face if it tried to robotically service an operational satellite.

The demo, part of a project known as Restore, will be a “full-up, bring-it-all-together” test staged in a converted clean room at Goddard’s Building 29, according to Ben Reed at the Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office. The team, led by veteran robotics wizard Frank Cepollina, was formed after the final Hubble servicing mission in 2009 in order to preserve the expertise and capabilities Goddard developed during nearly two decades of supporting astronaut repair calls to the orbiting telescope. (8/11)

NASA Plans More Kauai Tests of Decelerator (Source: Washington Times)
A spokesman for NASA says the agency will return to Kauai next year for more test flights of an aircraft that could one day land on Mars. NASA in June conducted tests of its saucer-shaped Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator. The Garden Island reports the agency is continuing to test a decelerator and a supersonic parachute that could allow the craft to land heavier payloads or people on Mars. (8/11)

ULA Names New President/CEO (Source: ULA)
United Launch Alliance (ULA) today named veteran aerospace industry executive Tory Bruno as its next president and chief executive officer, succeeding Michael Gass, who has served as president and CEO since ULA’s founding in 2006. Bruno’s appointment is effective immediately; he and Gass will work collaboratively to ensure a smooth leadership transition and continued commitment to mission success. (8/12)

The Search for Life on Mars (Source: Salem News)
Two years have passed since the Mars Science Laboratory successfully soft-landed on Mars. This landing utilized a new and previously untested landing technique called a sky crane, which performed flawlessly that day, and as such was one of the greatest technological achievements in history. However, even that accomplishment will pale compared to the discoveries that Curiosity is likely to make in its next phase of operation. The rover is approaching its primary objective — the base of Mt. Sharp. When it arrives, we will witness through robotic eyes the most stunning vistas ever seen on another planet.

Curiosity has revolutionized our understanding of Martian water-laden sediment and how it might preserve evidence of past life. It has shown that Mars once had water that not only could have supported life, but also might have been potable for humans. But these advances are likely to be only the “warm-up act” as Curiosity approaches the target at which it has been aiming for the past two years.

Unfortunately, Curiosity is not equipped to detect past or present life — unless it happens to image a fossil or life form with its cameras — and no current, or any scheduled, NASA mission is tasked with the job of searching for current microbial life on Mars. This needs to change. The 2020 rover currently under development will be searching for indicators of past life, but that is where its life detection investigations will stop. It may very well take human explorers to verify the existence, or lack thereof, of microbial life on Mars, but it would be extremely advantageous to determine whether current life exists prior to sending human crews. (8/11)

Moog Developing Microsatellite Deorbit Module for European Market (Source: Space News)
To satisfy European customers looking for ways to meet emerging requirements to deorbit satellites at the end of missions and customers worldwide seeking to move spacecraft in orbit, Moog Inc. Space and Defense Group is developing a Modular Propulsion System (MPU) for satellites weighing 180 to 500 kilograms. (8/11)

Our Dreams of Space Are Fueled by the Art of David A. Hardy (Source: Motherboard)
David A. Hardy is one of the most legendary space artists of all time. The author of books, the illustrator of compelling magazine covers and artist behind thousands of works in a career that has spanned six decades, Hardy is still active at the age of 78. He is known for creating swooping alien landscapes, including rovers on Mars, spaceships, and compelling planetary scenes.

Space art is an art movement just like impressionism, abstract expressionism or internet art. The early artists who defined the genre include American space artist Chelsey Bonestell, who wanted to show the world what he saw in a telescope, and French astronomer-artist Lucien Rudaux, who helped carve out space art in the 1920s and 1930s. Click here. (8/11)

US Space Spy Radar Moving to Western Australia (Source: Nine News)
A new eye on space will be opened in Western Australia when a $30 million project to relocate a high-tech telescope is completed. Construction is set to start next month on the $4.5m opening stages of the plan, which will end with a US C-band space surveillance radar being moved from New Mexico to Exmouth, more than 1000km north of Perth. The Harold E Holt naval communications station will be the new home for the telescope, which will reportedly cost $10 million a year to operate. (8/12)

We are Creating the Next Space Billionaires (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
The billionaire space industry investors prefer going to the large space labs, like the Jet Propulsion lab, to see how spacecraft are being built and meet with the lead scientist or engineers on the projects and discuss their own research. Paul Allen, who is funding the construction of a small satellite launcher called the Stratolauncher at Mojave Air and Space Port, and Richard Branson were early investors in commercial space. Click here. (8/11)

Former Space Coast Teacher Honored with ISS Experiment Memento (Source: Florida Today)
As teachers returned to work Monday, the first day back at West Shore Jr./Sr. High included a special presentation to honor a former colleague and friend. Jason Whitworth, a former gym teacher and cross country coach, was the inspiration behind a student science project that researched ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a fatal disease. Whitworth was diagnosed with ALS in September 2011.

The science experiment flew to the International Space Station last school year. On Monday, Whitworth received a special present acknowledging his role, a gift from Steven Kremer, chief for the range and mission management office at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The plaque includes pictures of the Orbital Sciences mission that carried “Project Whitworth.” (8/11)

Proposed Cubesat Craft Would Hop and Roll Over Asteroids, Moons (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The NASA Innovative Advance Concepts (NASA) program has awarded Marco Pavone of Stanford University a Phase II grant to continue development of small exploration vehicles that would hop and tumble across the surfaces of asteroids, moons and comets.

The spacecraft/rover hybrids would be deployed from a mother ship orbiting the body to be explored. Their movements would be controlled by three internal flywheels. The award is worth up to $500,000. The earlier Phase I award was worth up to $100,000. (8/12)

Rocket Scientist Becomes Deputy Governor of Zhejiang (Source: South China Morning Post)
A veteran space scientist who rose to prominence in China’s equivalent of Nasa has been appointed the deputy governor of Zhejiang province, in a rare but not unusual move. Dr Yuan Jiajun, 52, former commander of previous Shenzhou manned space projects, was approved for the deputy governor post, effective immediately, by the Zhejiang People’s Congress on Monday, according to the provincial government’s website. (8/12)

ALMA Confirms Comets Forge Organic Molecules in Their Dusty Atmospheres (Source: NRAO)
An international team of scientists using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has made incredible 3D images of the ghostly atmospheres surrounding comets ISON and Lemmon. These new observations provided important insights into how and where comets forge new chemicals, including intriguing organic compounds.

Comets contain some of the oldest and most pristine materials in our Solar System. Understanding their unique chemistry could reveal much about the birth of our planet and the origin of organic compounds that are the building blocks of life. ALMA's high-resolution observations provided a tantalizing 3D perspective of the distribution of the molecules within these two cometary atmospheres, or comas. (8/11)

DOD Launch From Wallops Island Postponed (Source: Times Dispatch)
The launch of a Defense Department rocket from Wallops Island has been postponed because of inclement weather. The launch window for the Terrier-Lynx suborbital rocket was originally set to open today. NASA says the rocket will now launch no earlier than Saturday night. A second rocket is expected to be launched about two weeks after the first rocket. (8/12)

Red Dwarf Stars May Be Best Places to Find Alien Life (Source: Astrobiology)
Red dwarfs are the most common type of star in the universe, and nearly every one of these stars may have a planet located in its habitable zone where life has the best chance of existing, a new study concludes. This discovery may increase the chances that alien life could exist elsewhere in the cosmos, researchers say.

Red dwarfs, also known as M dwarf stars, are up to 50 times dimmer than the Sun and are just 10 to 20 percent as massive. They make up to 70 percent of the stars in the universe. The fact that red dwarfs are so common has made scientists wonder if they might be the best places to discover alien life. Astronomers are discovering more and more planets around red dwarfs, and recent findings from NASA’s Kepler space observatory reveal that at least half of these stars host rocky planets that are one-half to four times the mass of Earth.

All in all, planets about the size of Earth seem plentiful in the universe, as do other worlds that are smaller than most gas giants, on the order of Neptune (which is 17 times the mass of Earth). Why such worlds are abundant is a mystery. Of particular interest were the so-called habitable zones of these stars, the areas where planets are potentially warm enough to sustain liquid water — and potentially life — on their surfaces. Click here. (8/12)

Outer Space Observation Gets $6.7M Boost from Ottawa (Source: CBC)
There will be new technology, some of it designed and made in the Montreal area, destined for outer space. The federal government announced it will invest about $6.7 million to position Canada as a world player in space. The money will go to 12 Canadian companies — three of them from Montreal — to create innovative systems and products for Earth Observation missions that are supported by the Canadian Space Agency. (8/7)

Canadian Nanosats CanX-4 and CanX-5 Achieve Notable Firsts (Source: SpaceRef)
There's nothing routine about launch and spaceflight. For two Canadian nanosats, CanX-4 and CanX-5, the June 30th launch aboard an Indian rocket proved a challenge. But just over a month into the mission the team of engineers from the University of Toronto Space Flight Laboratory have completed some notable firsts.

With a primary mission of demonstrating of on-orbit formation flying, which for this mission meant having the two satellites controlling their position and orientation with respect to one another, the first challenge came when it was time to integrate the satellites with the rocket. A change in plans meant the two nanosats couldn't be integrated on the rocket as expected. Instead of the two being joined together for launch and then separated in space afterwards, the two spacecraft were mounted separately and ejected separately. (8/11)

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