August 15, 2014

Shuttle 'Independence' Hoisted Atop 747 for Houston Display (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
As Space Center Houston continues the march toward a planned 2015 opening of the Shuttle 747 exhibit, the Houston-based foundation reached another milestone today. The 171,860 lbs (77,954 kg). shuttle "hi-fidelity" mockup Independence was hoisted into place atop NASA’s original Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft or "SCA." Dubbed the “Rise of Independence”, the monumental event was open to the public so that they could take part in the assembly of Texas’ newest landmark. (8/14)

The Gravity of it All (Source: Pulse)
In the free-fall environment onboard the ISS, in low Earth orbit, microgravity affects not only the physical environment (e.g., functional removal of buoyancy-driven convection and sedimentation) but also living organisms, which have evolved within and adapted to a 1-g environment. In addition to its place as one of the four fundamental forces of nature, gravity has played a central part in the evolution of life: it influences biological functions from the level of whole organisms down to intracellular and bimolecular processes. Click here. (7/10)

Space-Age Tech Goes to the Clinic (Source: Pulse)
Anyone who has ever watched video of the now-retired U.S. space shuttle performing a mission such as repairing the Hubble telescope or of astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) installing a new station module or solar panel has seen some of the world’s most sophisticated robots in action. Click here. (7/13)

Leveraging Space Resources for STEM (Source: Pulse)
NASA has helped pilot American innovation over the past decades through contributions such as the Shuttle Program, the Hubble Space Telescope, collaborating to construct the International Space Station (ISS), and continued human spaceflight. NASA’s educational vision states that it will take full advantage of its unique capabilities to educate students, and the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 expanded that educational focus and introduced a new STEM advocate: the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS).

CASIS is a unique example of a science mission agency. Because CASIS has unparalleled access to one of the nation’s most specialized research platforms, it is expected to educate students and the general public on ISS research as well as to empower young minds to get involved with space research—and CASIS is doing just that (see “CASIS Education”). Click here. (7/8)

Harvesting the Benefits of Science in Orbit (Source: Pulse)
To do experiments in space, scientists must carefully think out and prepare their experiments long ahead of time, wait for an available launch window to get their projects up to the laboratories on the ISS, rely in some cases on the expertise of the astronauts to carry out the experiments correctly, and then wait for their results either to be transmitted or, in some cases, to be physically transported back to Earth. Yet, scientists from widely different fields are eagerly awaiting their chance to get their projects into orbit. Click here. (7/14)

Protein Crystal Growth in Space Accelerating Drug Development (Source: Pulse)
Structure-based drug design is on the front line of promising advancements in disease treatment and personalized medicine. However, the difficulties of characterizing protein structures hamper these drug development efforts. To visualize the topography of a protein, one must crystallize the protein in a solution, outside its natural environment of the human body.

Finding the ideal solution in which to grow protein crystals for three-dimensional (3-D) structural analysis is an arduous process; most proteins have distinct optimal requirements for crystallization, so no standard experimental conditions are available that will work for all proteins in the human body. Click here. (7/11)

Rodents in Space (Source: Pulse)
Long-duration spaceflight has deleterious effects on organisms adapted to life in Earth’s gravity. For humans, some of these effects are relatively minor, rapidly resolved, and well understood. For example, going from Earth gravity to weightlessness can cause disorientation and nausea (space sickness), whereas returning to Earth after getting used to microgravity can cause orthostatic intolerance (various symptoms that manifest when standing but abate when sitting back down).

Other effects of living in space are more persistent and potentially debilitating. Stemming from many organ systems responding to reduced gravity, these effects include cardiovascular and musculoskeletal alterations, neurovestibular and sensorimotor adaptation, immune dysfunction, delayed wound healing in soft tissues, and incomplete fracture repair in bones. Click here. (7/9)

Commercial Crew Decision This Month? (Source: NewSpace Journal)
The long-awaited decision on which company or companies will win contracts from NASA for the next phase of the agency’s commercial crew program can be expected by the end of this month, according to one report last night. Charles Lurio tweeted Thursday night that he expected NASA to announce the awardees of the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts either next Friday, August 22, or the following Friday, August 29:

NASA officials have not indicated a specific date for the CCtCap contract announcement, beyond that it would be in the “August-September” timeframe. “Our progress on commercial crew source selection deliberations has been evidently better than we anticipated,” NASA administrator Charles Bolden said in a presentation to the NASA Advisory Council July 30. (8/15)

An Order of Wings with My Spacecraft (Source: Huffington Post)
NASA is preparing an important decision about the future of manned spaceflight. The agency is expected to announce which firm(s) will receive funding under the final phase of the Commercial Crew Program. Commercial Crew is a follow-on to the extremely successful Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program which produced two private vehicles (SpaceX and Orbital) that now ferry supplies to the space station.

Following the guidance of Augustine Commission on Human Spaceflight, the White House has pursued the path toward privatization of routine space transportation. Unfortunately, NASA is under congressional budgetary and political pressure to reduce the number of Commercial Crew participants from the current three: SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC). Click here. (8/13)

Embry-Riddle Introduces Ph.D. in Human Factors (Source: ERAU)
Embry-Riddle has won approval of its new Ph.D. in Human Factors. Embry-Riddle is now the only university in the nation to offer a complete slate of Human Factors degrees: B.S. in Human Factors Psychology, M.S. in Human Factors and the new doctorate. Embry-Riddle’s other doctoral programs are in Aviation, Aerospace Engineering, Engineering Physics and Mechanical Engineering. Editor's Note: The university's human factors faculty have been engaged in several space-related research programs. (8/15)

Earth's Early Life Endured Long Asteroid Bombardment (Source: New Scientist)
It was a blitzkrieg with no let-up. Earth may have been pounded by massive asteroids for a billion years longer than we thought, with the impacts only stopping about 3 billion years ago. If that is true, early life had to endure a bombardment that periodically melted Earth's surface.

The planet formed 4.5 billion years ago, and chunks of rock many kilometres across continued falling onto it for hundreds of millions of years. It seemed there was a final burst of impacts around 3.9 billion years ago – and by 3.8 billion years ago it was all over. The first fossils of life are very slightly younger.

That story is wrong, says Donald Lowe. The barrage continued far longer. "Its termination was not an abrupt drop-off but a gradual waning until 3 billion years ago," he says. Lowe and his colleagues have spent 40 years studying a patch of ancient rocks in eastern South Africa. Over 25 years ago they found four layers of spherical particles, which seemed to have condensed from clouds of vaporised rock. Lowe says they are the traces of four major meteorite impacts, and date from between 3.5 and 3.2 billion years ago. (8/15)

Harlingen, McAllen Join SpaceX Incentive Efforts (Source: Brownsville Herald)
Economic development groups throughout the Rio GrandeValley are chipping in as CameronCounty and other entities put together an incentive package for SpaceX, which is poised to construct the world’s first commercial launch pad at BocaChicaBeach. Although the Brownsville Economic Development Council has led the way since word first broke that SpaceX was looking at South Texas, others from as far away from McAllen are getting out their checkbooks to make Elon Musk’s vision a reality.

Efforts from the Harlingen Economic Development Corp. on Thursday got a boost when Cameron County Commissioners extended an invitation for the group to get involved. The request was mostly a formality, explained Harlingen EDC Director Raudel Garza, but state laws require such an agreement before the group can offer incentives to a company locating outside of Harlingen. (8/14)

Virginia’s Wallops Island is Busier, with Bigger Rockets (Source: Washington Post)
Virginia has a low-key spaceport, if a place that blasts rockets into space can ever be low-key. Florida’s Cape Canaveral is more famous and California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base is more prominent because it handles national-security satellite launches. But Virginia’s Wallops Flight Facility is gradually shoving itself into space-buff consciousness.

Wallops Island has hosted a NASA (or precursor to NASA) launch site since 1945, but in the ’90s it became a major spaceport for Dulles-based Orbital Sciences Corp., whose rockets are getting bigger. In April 2013, Orbital launched a new, large rocket, named Antares, carrying the company’s Cygnus spacecraft on a mission to the International Space Station. Orbital has a commercial contract to supply cargo to the station (as does SpaceX, which launches from the Cape).

Wallops isn’t as busy as the Cape, which serves NASA and the Air Force. That means less risk of scheduling conflicts that delay flights. The higher latitude of Wallops (37.9 degrees, compared with 28.6 degrees at the Cape) also makes it easier to reach the space station, which has an orbit inclined 51.6degrees to the equator. The next launch of Antares/Cygnus is set for October, and — as with previous launches — will be visible to the District and points beyond. (8/15)

Public Will Soon Be Able to Buy Military-Grade Satellite Images (Source: Defense One)
On Wednesday, the world’s premier marketer of high-resolution satellite imagery, DigitalGlobe, successfully launched their new WorldView 3 (WV3) satellite. As Defense One reported in April, the WorldView 3 will operate 380 miles above the Earth’s surface and will go from pole to pole in 98 minutes, moving at 7 miles per second. Who will buy the imagery?

DigitalGlobe’s number one client remains the government, and the largest government client is the National GeoIntelligence Agency, NGA, which gave the company $32.3 million in the second quarter of this year. But DigitalGlobe sells their services to other bodies like NATO to help track Russian troop movements on the Ukrainian Border, and to Google for use with Google Maps. DigitalGlobe’s image archive is the best on the planet with enough pictures to show every corner of the Earth 30 times over.

The satellite uses a shortwave infrared sensor to see through haze, dust and smoke to tell you things like how moist the soil is that you’re looking at. The WV3 can identify minerals, differentiate between tree species—even help determine the health of trees. The images themselves are also pin-point accurate on a map, with each pixel assigned its own latitude and longitude number. (8/13)

Stardust Team Reports Discovery of Potential Interstellar Particles (Source: Space Daily)
Seven rare, microscopic interstellar dust particles that date to the beginnings of the solar system are among the samples collected by scientists who have been studying the payload from NASA's Stardust spacecraft since its return to Earth in 2006. If confirmed, these particles would be the first samples of contemporary interstellar dust.

A team of scientists has been combing through the spacecraft's aerogel and aluminum foil dust collectors since Stardust returned in 2006. The seven particles probably came from outside our solar system, perhaps created in a supernova explosion millions of years ago and altered by exposure to the extreme space environment. (8/15)

Editorial: Kazakh Space Industry Growth Will Help Country Develop (Source: Astana Times)
The first and largest cosmodrome, Baikonur, has an interesting and eventful history. The Baikonur complex was built in the 1950s on the vast steppes of Kazakhstan. During the Soviet period, about 1,000 carrier rockets with satellites and spacecraft for various purposes were launched from the facility. It is a big part of what made the Soviet Union the greatest space power on the face of the earth.

Since obtaining independence in 1991, Baikonur has been governed by Kazakhstan, even though it was originally planned to be shared by the newly created states of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) along with other space exploration facilities across the former Soviet Union.

In 1991-1993, a number of intergovernmental agreements on cooperation in space amongst the CIS countries were signed, but they could not provide a real recovery of the lost space capabilities because of the unwillingness of the majority of CIS states to invest. This was primarily because of economic circumstances. Click here. (8/15)

Two More Galileo Satellites Scheduled for August 21 Launch (Source: GPS World)
The next satellites in Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation system will be launched on August 21, ushering in the system deployment phase and paving the way for the start of initial services, according to the European Space Agency (ESA).

Galileo SATs 5-6 are scheduled to lift off at 12:31 GMT (14:31 CEST, 09:31 local time) August 21 from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on top of a Soyuz rocket. They are expected to become operational, after initial in-orbit testing, in autumn. (8/14)

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