August 22, 2014

Commercial Crew: An 'Unqualified Success' (Source: Houston Chronicle)
One of the reasons why NASA went with the commercial crew program is that it believed the competitive private sector could deliver vehicles faster and cheaper than the agency could. Now as the program matures, one intriguing question is not only who will win a piece of the $4 billion on offer to complete development of a spacecraft by 2017, but whether NASA has enough funds to support more than one bidder. Click here. (8/21)

S3 Speaking with Investors to Accelerate Growth (Source: S3)
S3 is now officially announcing ongoing and upcoming discussions with prospective financial and strategic investors to further strengthen its position of European leader in this booming market. Swiss Space Systems, incorporated in 2012, has a core program that aims at developing reusable suborbital space systems -the SOAR launch system- in order to launch small satellites with a maximum weight of 250kg to low Earth orbit.

The objective is to carry out the first test flights by 2017 and first commercial launches by 2018 - an ambitious timetable, but as the founder and CEO of S3, Pascal Jaussi, said:  "Our launch program benefits from the input of technologies previously developed and certified through original partnerships between major players in the aerospace sector. The S3 program is the privatization of the Herm├Ęs and NASA’s X-38 programs, whose technological heritage allows S3 to save time that would otherwise be spent on research and development. Click here. (3/21)

Scientists Race for Data as MESSENGER Nears Crash on Mercury (Source: Baltimore Sun)
NASA's Messenger spacecraft has swung around its namesake planet for three years, beaming observations of Mercury back to Earth, but next March it will smash into the cratered surface it has been studying from afar. It's now orbiting as close as several dozen miles above the planet's gray, dimpled crust — and soon, closer. Data collected in the final months of the decade-long mission to explore the inner solar system could help prove the presence of ice in polar craters and provide more detailed accounts of what volatile elements are contained in lava flows or the mysterious depressions on the planet's surface. Click here. (8/21)

Microlaunchers Planned for Cubesat Launches (Source: GigaOM)
When Microlaunchers was founded in 1995, rocket launches were dominated by large companies and governments interested in shipping huge amounts of cargo up to space. Things aren’t too different today-–the space industry still revolves around getting large items like telecommunications satellites to orbit-–but change is happening. Companies like SpaceX and Firefly are reducing the cost for small payloads to make it to space. In 2013, more shoebox-sized satellites known as CubeSats launched than in all years prior combined.

Microlaunchers, which wants to manufacture large numbers of rockets that weigh anywhere between 220 pounds and 60 tons, is catching its second wind based on that trend. The startup would charge $50,000 to launch a single 2.2-pound CubeSat, and provide a private rocket that can launch at anytime weather permits. CEO Charles Pooley imagines rockets and launchpads small enough to be moved and handled as if they are toys. Larger rockets would be capable of carrying more cargo. Dozens could be lined up in a single area and launch every hour or two.

Microlaunchers co-founders Pooley and COO Blair Gordon have waited 20 years to see the rockets built. This year, the company embarked on raising $600,000 on AngelList and was accepted into the Las Vegas Start Up Hive incubator. If the money comes through, Microlaunchers plans to build its first fleet of 100 rockets. “There is demand for it,” Gordon said. “We just have to get to the next phase.” (8/21)

Atomic Clock Will Fly to Space Station in 2016 (Source:
A new atomic clock is due for installation on the International Space Station in 2016, ushering in a new age of physics experiments probing the relationship between space and time. Called PHARAO (short for Projet d'Horloge Atomique par Refroidissement d'Atomes en Orbit), the atomic clock tells time by using lasers to chill cesium atoms to minus 273 degrees Celsius. It was designed by CNES, the French space agency, and is expected to travel to the station in two years.

Once there, the space station's robotic arm will install it on a payload platform outside the Columbus Laboratory, one of the station's research modules. But PHARAO won't be alone. Another atomic clock called SHM, or Space H-Maser will also be on the orbiting outpost. SHM keeps time by using microwave radiation and hydrogen atoms. Together the two clocks will make up the Atomic Clock Ensemble in Space (ACES), a device that will be so accurate that it will lose only one second every 300 million years. (8/21)

Traces Of One Of The Universe's First Stars Detected (Source: Huffington Post)
An ancient star in the halo surrounding the Milky Way galaxy appears to contain traces of material released by the death of one of the universe's first stars, a new study reports. The chemical signature of the ancient star suggests that it incorporated material blasted into space by a supernova explosion that marked the death of a huge star in the early universe — one that may have been 200 times more massive than the sun.

"The impact of very-massive stars and their explosions on subsequent star formation and galaxy formation should be significant," said lead author Wako Aoki, of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan. The first stars in the cosmos, known as Population III stars, formed from the hydrogen and helium that dominated the early universe. Through nuclear fusion, other elements were forged in their hearts. At the end of their lifetimes, supernovas scattered these elements into the space around them, where the material was folded into the next generation of stars. (8/22)

NASA, Russia Squabble Over International Space Station Sea Plankton Claim (Source: Forbes)
"As far as we're concerned, we haven't heard any official reports from our Roscosmos (Russia's space agency) colleagues that they've found sea plankton," NASA spokesman Dan Huot said. "What they're actually looking for is residues that can build up on the visually sensitive elements, like windows, as well as just the hull of the ship itself that will build up whenever they do thruster firings for things like re-boosts. That's what they were taking samples for. I don't know where all the sea plankton talk is coming from." (8/21)

Europe's Fifth and Six Galileo Satellites Launched (Source: SpaceRef)
On 22 August, at 12:27 GMT/14:27 CEST, a Soyuz rocket launched Europe's fifth and six Galileo satellites from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Rewatch the moment of launch here. These new satellites joined four Galileo satellites already in orbit, launched in October 2011 and October 2012 respectively. This first quartet were 'In-Orbit Validation' satellites, serving to demonstrate the Galileo system would function as planned. (8/22)

Galileo Deployment Shifts Into High Gear (Source: Space News)
A Europeanized Russian Soyuz rocket on Aug. 22 successfully placed two European Galileo positioning, navigation and timing satellites into medium Earth orbit in the first launch of Galileo’s fully operational satellite models. European Space Agency officials said they expect to launch another pair of Galileo satellites aboard a Europeanized Soyuz in December, with 18 more identical satellites to launch between 2015 and 2017.

Operating from Europe’s Guiana Space Center in French Guiana, on the northeast coast of South America, the four-stage Soyuz rocket, including its Fregat upper stage, placed the two 732.8-kilogram Galileo satellites into a medium Earth orbit inclined at 56 degrees relative to the equator. Their operating altitude is 23,222 kilometers. Ground teams confirmed that the two satellites were healthy in orbit and sending signals. (8/22)

Stott Recalls 'Salvation' at Embry-Riddle (Source: ERAU)
In a middle school classroom in Clearwater, Florida, Nicole Stott chuckled when she read the findings on her career assessment exam. "It said something like fashion merchandising," she recalls. The prediction couldn't have been more off base. "My dad built airplanes in the garage when I was growing up and our family hung out at the airport.... As a NASA astronaut, Stott has done more than just fly. Click here. (8/22)

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