August 25, 2014

'Anomaly' Spoils U.S. Army's Hypersonic Missile Test (Source: NBC)
The U.S. Army's latest test of an advanced hypersonic weapon had to be terminated shortly after Monday's liftoff from the Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska due to a "flight anomaly," the Defense Department said. No injuries were reported, and program officials are looking into the cause of the anomaly, according to a Pentagon statement. Kodiak's KMXT-FM reported that the rocket carrying the prototype weapon nosed down seconds after launch, forcing operators to press the self-destruct button.

The test was part of the Defense Department's Conventional Prompt Global Strike program, which is aimed at developing low-cost conventional weapons that can strike anywhere in the world in less than an hour. The flight profile calls for a weapon-laden glider to be launched aboard a rocket, and then sent out at speeds of more than Mach 5, or 3,500 mph. In 2011, the U.S. Army successfully tested a hypersonic weapon prototype, but other tests have not gone as well. (8/25)

Calculating Conditions at the Birth of the Universe (Source: LLNL)
Using a calculation originally proposed seven years ago to be performed on a petaflop computer, Lawrence Livermore researchers computed conditions that simulate the birth of the universe. When the universe was less than one microsecond old and more than one trillion degrees, it transformed from a plasma of quarks and gluons into bound states of quarks - also known as protons and neutrons, the fundamental building blocks of ordinary matter that make up most of the visible universe.

The theory of quantum chromodynamics (QCD) governs the interactions of the strong nuclear force and predicts it should happen when such conditions occur. This is the first time that this calculation has been performed in a way that preserves a certain fundamental symmetry of the QCD, in which the right and left-handed quarks (scientists call this chirality) can be interchanged without altering the equations. Click here. (8/25)

SpaceX Failure Seen Slowing NASA Pick on Capsule Contract (Source: Bloomberg)
SpaceX's rocket test that ended with an explosion over Texas may slow a U.S. decision on a contract to take astronauts to the International Space Station, an aerospace analyst said. The company said the F9R vehicle self-destructed automatically after an “anomaly” following the Aug. 22 launch in McGregor, Texas.

NASA is nearing a decision among contenders including SpaceX for manned missions to the station by 2017. “The timing is difficult because you have this failure just before the award,” Marco Caceres, director of space studies at Fairfax, Virginia-based consultant Teal Group, said today. “At a minimum it may delay the announcement because NASA needs to get its ducks in a line and get all the information.” (8/25)

The Best Vines From Space (So Far) (Source: The Verge)
The first tweet from space was sent in 2009 — but considering how rapidly social media platforms grow, it's kind of amazing how long it's taken for astronauts to start using other services to share their unique view of our planet. Sure, they have "more important" things to do like "science experiements" that "benefit our society," but we totally should have had "Which Rugrats Character Are You?" quizzes on our Facebook news feed shared directly from space by now.

In the last two years, though, Commander Chris Hadfield upped the ante with his David Bowie cover; meanwhile, other astronauts like Koichi Wakata, Karen Nyberg, and Don Pettit embraced digitally sharing their photography, thoughts, and daily activities with us groundlings. That brings us to current International Space Station resident Reid Wiseman — the first man to vine from space. As of right now he's only posted 24 vines since his first on June 6th, but many of them are remarkable. Click here. (8/25)

Are Intelligent Civilizations Doomed? (Source: Universe Today)
The Great Filter theory says that something prevents intelligent civilizations from ever forming, in a darkly mysterious Philip K Dick kind of way. Consider the long series of steps that happened to get from the early Earth to where we are now: A planet with the right combination of atoms needed to have liquid water long enough for organic molecules to form, those molecules needed to somehow be able to reproduce, eventually becoming the first organisms, which became multicellular organisms, then learning to reproduce sexually, evolving tool use, and eventually becoming intelligent life, and all the while managing to survive a planetary extinction or two.

And then, at some point in the future, this intelligent life goes on to colonize an entire nearby galaxy. Since humanity has passed all those previous steps, we know they’re not impossible. Maybe really really improbable, but not impossible. As we imagine the future, there’s nothing in the laws of physics that’ll stop us from building machines that can help us colonize the entire galaxy. Pretty machines with blinking lights, possibly incorporating meat parts from future generations of humans. If we can do it, any race could do it.

If the universe has been around for 14 billion years, and we’ve done it in a fraction of that, there’s been plenty of time for this to have been done. And yet, still no aliens. So maybe the Great Filter is still waiting for us. No matter how hard we try to extend beyond our Solar System, something will stop us. So what could the Great Filter be? There are lots of ideas. Click here. (8/25)

Five Potential Sites for Rosetta's November Comet Landing (Source: ESA)
Using detailed information collected by ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft during its first two weeks at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, five locations have been identified as candidate sites to set down the Philae lander in November – the first time a landing on a comet has ever been attempted. Before arrival, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko had never been seen close up and so the race to find a suitable landing site for the 100 kg lander could only begin when Rosetta rendezvoused with the comet on 6 August.

The landing is expected to take place in mid-November when the comet is about 450 million km from the Sun, before activity on the comet reaches levels that might jeopardise the safe and accurate deployment of Philae to the comet’s surface, and before surface material is modified by this activity.

The comet is on a 6.5-year orbit around the Sun and today is 522 million km from it. At their closest approach on 13 August 2015, just under a year from now, the comet and Rosetta will be 185 million km from the Sun, meaning an eightfold increase in the light received from the Sun. Click here. (8/25)

Roscosmos Suggests Moon Base Elements and Exploration Robots (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia's moon exploration plans have found reflection in a draft Federal Space Program (FSP) for a 2016-2025 period, worked by the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos). The draft FSP envisions that already in 2018 work will be started to develop the elements of a moon base and special-purpose technology that will be required for building it.

The draft Program as pointing out that "The 'Manned Flights' avenue of research includes projects to bring into being an on-ground development complex as the prototype of a first-phase moon base consisting of four modules (habitation, laboratory, power, and modernized node) for comprehensive linkage and verification of the adopted architectural and technical solutions". The draft also presupposes that a mobile manipulator crane, a grader, an excavator, a cablelayer, and a mobile robot for lunar surface exploration will be created and tested for building a luna base. (8/11)

Do Russian Lunar Plans Signal an End to ISS? (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
At the start of 2014, NASA announced its support for an extension of the International Space Station (ISS) program until at least 2024. Recent news out of Russia, however, suggests that at least one ISS partner may view that date as the end of the line – if not even sooner. Roscosmos has for some time hoped to put cosmonauts on the Moon. Until now though, such statements were largely empty gestures without funding to support them.

Lately, a number of developments signal a growing seriousness towards finally putting Russians on the lunar surface, even including speculation about a long-term Russian presence on or near the Moon. Click here. (8/25)

How the SpaceX Economy Can Make You Money (Source: CNBC)
Dramatic rocket launches capture our attention, but opportunities to invest in the commercial space industry (also known as NewSpace) should not be overlooked. In contrast to the traditional model of large government-run programs, NewSpace is a global industry of private companies and entrepreneurs who primarily target commercial customers, are backed by risk capital seeking a return and profit from innovative products or services developed in or for space. As a result, from large publicly traded companies to nimble start-ups, there have never been more (or better) opportunities to invest in the future of space.

From 2011 to today, we have watched a universe of 100 companies targeting commercial space opportunities increase to 700 companies worldwide. Roughly 70 percent of these companies are privately held, limiting the opportunities for investors. But the other 30 percent are publicly traded. Let's break down some of the more established niches within the investable universe of space-related companies and become familiar with a few key terms: packages, trucks and primes. Click here. (8/25)

Soviet Space Memorabilia on Auction (Source: Auctionata)
Important symbols of freedom and technological advancement characterize this versatile auction. Among the Soviet spaceflight memorabilia, you will find a cognac bottle, signed by the first man in space, Juri Gagarin, who drank from it with other cosmonauts. Furthermore, you will also be able to bid on a tube of coffee, signed by the cosmonaut Pavel Popovitsch after it accompanied him into space. A hand-signed photo album and a moon globe belonging to Yuri Naumovich Lipsky from the year 1967 await you alongside other unique items. Click here. (8/24)

FSGC Sponsors Hybrid Motor Rocketry Competition (Source: FSGC)
The objective of the competition is to build and launch a hybrid powered rocket.  There are two categories of competition to choose from. The first category consists of launching a hybrid rocket to the maximum altitude.  The second category challenges the teams to fly their rocket closest to 2000 feet in altitude. There must be at least two teams competing in each category.  If there is only one team, that team will be asked to move to the other category. Click here. (8/25)

The Grand Tour Finale: Neptune (Source: Space Review)
This week marks the 25th anniversary of Voyager 2's flyby of Neptune, completing the initial reconnaissance of the solar system's four large planets. Andrew LePage recounts the development of the "Grand Tour" that was topped off by the Neptune encounter. Visit to view the article. (8/25)

The Unsettled Launch Industry (Source: Space Review)
Since the early 2000s, the commercial launch industry had been dominated by three companies. Now, Jeff Foust reports, those companies are facing serious challenges from new entrants, who themselves are dealing with issues of their own. Visit to view the article. (8/25)

Orbital Manoeuvres in the Dark: Apollo 11's UFO (Source: Space Review)
A new biography of Neil Armstrong offers an answer to a question raised by the Apollo 11 mission: what was the flashing light astronauts reported seeing trailing their spacecraft on the way to the Moon? Dwayne Day examines if that answer makes sense. Visit to view the article. (8/25)

The Downhill Slide of NASA's "Rocket to Nowhere" (Source: Space Review)
A GAO report last month argued that NASA's Space Launch System faces serious cost and schedule risks. Rick Boozer argues that this is the latest sign that the heavy-lift rocket is doomed. Visit to view the article. (8/25)

An Outer Space Solution to the Russia-Ukraine Conflict (Source: Space Review)
This week, the presidents of Russia and Ukraine are scheduled to meet in an effort to resolve the crisis between those two nations. Vid Beldavs suggests that the two nations should set aside their differences and work with the EU and others on major space projects instead. Visit to view the article. (8/25)

Is There Room for Entrepreneurs in Aerospace and Defense? (Source: Aviation Week)
This week, Senior Space Technology Editor Frank Morring, Jr., wrote about a new venture that is developing a low-cost launch vehicle to orbit small satellites. But Managing Editor for Technology Graham Warwick highlighted the challenges two smaller companies faced when they bid for – and ultimately lost – contracts to build technology demonstrators for the U.S. Army’s next-generation rotorcraft. Click here. (8/22)

Russia May Continue ISS Work Beyond 2020 (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia may continue working at the International Space Station (ISS) beyond 2020, Izvestia newspaper reported Monday. "The issue of Russia's participation at the ISS after 2020 remains open, but there is a 90-percent chance that the state's leadership will agree to participate in the project further," the paper wrote citing a source at Russia’s Federal Space Agency Roscosmos.

Russian space enterprises continue to make new modules for the space station according to the schedule, the paper said. NASA earlier said it had to freeze cooperation with Russian space researchers following Washington’s sanctions against Russia over the crisis in Ukraine. (8/25)

Florida Tech Professors Win Time on Hubble Telescope (Source: Florida Today)
Two Florida Tech professors have won time to perform science observations with NASA's famous Hubble Space Telescope. Prof. Eric Perlman and Asst. Prof. VĂ©ronique Petit, from the Department of Physics and Space Sciences, expect to receive grants of up to $100,000 related to their Hubble research. Florida Tech said Perlman would study high-energy flows of matter and radiation that emerge from the host galaxy's nuclear regions at nearly the speed of light. Petit will look at a massive magnetic star. (8/24)

Florida Tech Professor Wins "Space Archeology" Grant (Source: Florida Today)
Florida Tech last week announced a $172,000 NASA grant won by research associate Crystal McMichael. The funding from NASA's Space Archeology program will help McMichael collect and analyze sediment samples as part of a study tracing the spread of maize throughout the Great Lakes region. The research also utilizes remotely-sensed data collected by satellites. (8/24)

Sea Launch, ILS Reduce Staff as Projected Flight Rates Drop (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
With no near-term launch customers, Sea Launch said Friday it will cut its workforce and take its ocean-going vessels out of service in a money-saving measure, weeks after rival International Launch Services announced staff reductions in response to weakened commercial prospects for Russia's Proton rocket. Both companies announced they would cut about one-quarter of their staff, blaming gaps in their launch manifests triggered by market and geopolitical pressures, plus rocket reliability concerns. (8/24)

Khrunichev Investigation Focuses on Acquisition of ILS Shares (Source: Parabolic Arc)
In 2008, Khrunichev paid two and a half times more for a 51 percent share in the U.S.-based International Launch Services (ILS) than the company it bought it from had paid only two years earlier. The disparity between the purchase prices has vexed Russian investigators, as have the identities of those who controlled the British Virgin Islands company that sold its shares in ILS to Khrunichev.

Prosecutors have launched an investigation into the transaction that has ensnared former Khrunichev Director General Vladimir Nesterov and former Roscosmos head Anatoly Perminov, who both approved the acquisition. Both men are facing accusations of abuse of office, charges which they deny. ILS is the U.S.-based company that markets Khrunichev’s Proton rocket for commercial launches. In 2006, Lockheed Martin sold its 51 percent interest in the company for $108 million to Space Transport, Inc., which is registered in the British Virgin Islands. (8/24)

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