August 29, 2014

KSC Tests Citric Acid on Stainless Steel Alloys at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: NASA)
Who would have thought that oranges and other citrus fruit would be good for more than eating? Now, the citric acid that these fruits contain also could be used to protect stainless steel equipment and structures at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Corrosion of stainless steel is a major concern in Florida. The harsh salt environment has been well-documented to cause damage to many different kinds of metal and metal alloy surfaces along the Space Coast.

One way to prevent corrosion of stainless steel is to create a protective barrier, using a chemical method referred to as passivation. A team at KSC is investigating citric acid as an alternative to nitric acid for protecting a specific set of stainless steel alloys currently used in ground support equipment and structures, including pipes, at the center. When compared to nitric acid, citric acid is safer to apply to metal surfaces, environmentally friendly, bio-based and can be a cost-saver. (8/28)

SpaceShipTwo Conducts Successful Glide Flight (Source: Parabolic Arc)
During a flight test at Mojave SpaceShipTwo was venting something, but I saw no flames nor did I hear the rumbling across the desert that accompanies a powered flight. It was fairly silent out there, except for the distant drone of WhiteKnightTwo’s engine. Virgin Galactic confirmed that the test was a cold flow of gasses used in  powered flight, “an in-flight test of #SpaceShipTwo’s ‘plumbing’ – the pressurization system for the rocket motor.” It was also a dress rehearsal for the next powered flight, which the company promises is “coming soon.” (8/29)

Nanosatellite and Microsatellite Market Analysis (Source: Markets and Markets)
Nanosatellite and microsatellite present an extensive opportunity for space explorations and research related to civil, commercial, government, and military activities. Space-based scientific research activities has been made economically feasible with the use of such low-budgeted small satellites that came into existence with the awareness of micro-electronic devices and that could enable multifaceted and complicated functions with significantly reduced mass and power requirements. This research report categorizes the Nanosatellite and microsatellite market to forecast the market size and analyze the trends in multiple submarkets. Click here. (8/29)

Bold Plan Proposed to Overhaul Mojave Spaceport (Source: Parabolic Arc)
A detailed plan to turn the Mojave Air and Space Port from a dusty flight and rocket test center into a destination for researchers and tourists alike is making the rounds in the state capital of Sacramento. The plan, created by the Centers for Applied Competitive Technologies (CACT) Hub at El Camino College, includes the development of passenger terminal at the spaceport, research park, business incubator, special economic zone, space-based education center, and a desert botanical garden.

Once implemented, the spaceport and small town that adjoins it would become a major hub for space transportation, manufacturing, flight testing, research and development, and education. However, the proposal faces two main challenges. The first is not to destroy what makes Mojave ideal as a test center. The spaceport is remote, largely shielded from prying eyes, few people visit, and the small local population don’t complain very much about all the noise from the rocket engine tests.

The second challenge is to raise the nearly $700 million in public and private investment the report estimates would be required to make the vision into a reality. The plan includes some extensive improvements to the Mojave spaceport, which still has the look and feel of the Marine Corps training base it was during World War II. The spaceport would be turned into a special economic zone. Click here. (8/29)

Stunning Images From The Worlds Sharpest Commercial Satellite (Source: Popular Science)
The WorldView-3 satellite, which launched on August 13, has sent back its first images. They’re gorgeous, and kind of creepy. The new satellite can see to a resolution of 31 centimeters. That means each pixel of the camera captures one square foot of land, which is sharp enough to see home plate at Yankee Stadium, to map crops by pattern and type, to identify the type and speed of cars and trucks, and measure population density, all from 383 miles above the Earth’s surface. Click here. (8/29)

Final Frontier Design launches “Space Suit Experience” (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Final Frontier Design (FFD) is proud to unveil their “Space Suit Experience” (SSE), offering the public a chance to wear and train in a real space suit. The SSE includes a historical briefing on space suit development and use, comparison testing in a vacuum chamber glove box, an astronaut-style fitting, and full pressurization in an IVA space suit, both standing and in launch position on FFD’s space flight simulator. The SSE is a unique, immersive event for one person. Click here. (8/29)

When Sputnik Crashed in Wisconsin (Source: Air & Space)
It came from outer space…. and crashed down in the middle of a street in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. That surely sounds like the start of a sci-fi movie. But half a century ago, the town was on the receiving end of a 20-pound smoldering hunk of the Soviet Union’s five-ton Sputnik IV satellite. Media reports from the September 6, 1962 event say there were no eyewitnesses, but “there are hundreds if you ask now,” says J. Gregory Vadney, executive director of the Rahr-West Art Museum, which hosts the festival.

Vadney says he heard there were “two police officers on routine patrol when they spotted the piece in the street. They believed it to be a metal ingot from one of the local manufacturing plants, speculated that it fell off a truck, and left it. Following patrol, they returned to the city police station, where they heard that a search had been called for the Sputnik IV spacecraft” and suddenly realized what they’d found.

The metal debris was sent off to the Smithsonian-Harvard Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which confirmed it was a piece of the satellite and sent a field agent out to collect smaller bits that landed around the area. The Soviet space encounter with an American city is now celebrated at Manitowoc’s annual Sputnikfest. (8/29)

Sen. Udall Visits with NMSU Student Launch Program (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
New Mexico State University aerospace engineer student Renee Mondragon, 23, operated a drone on Thursday while U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Pat Hynes, New Mexico Space Grant Consortium director, looked on. The demonstration was part of a tour of the consortium allowing Udall to visit with students from the Student Launch Program, which recently received a $500,000 grant from NASA. (8/28)

SpaceX Blames Rocket Explosion on Bad Sensor (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A faulty sensor aboard a prototype rocket likely led to its destruction last week during a flight at SpaceX's test facility in Central Texas, company officials said. The rocket testbed, powered by a modified first stage from the Falcon 9 booster with three engines, flew off of its prescribed trajectory during an Aug. 22 vertical takeoff and landing test flight. The rocket's on-board safety system recognized the problem and issued a self-destruct command. (8/28)

Slung Low, Sweet Satellites (Source: GPS World)
The wording is terse, the intent clear. “Following the failure on Friday August 22nd to inject Galileo satellites 5 and 6 into the correct orbit, the European Commission has requested Arianespace and the European Space Agency (ESA) to provide full details of the incident, together with a schedule and an action plan to rectify the problem.”

This is the only official face showing, but extremely high levels of activity take place behind the curtain, studying what might have caused several million Euros of hardware to end up much lower above the Earth than desired. Meanwhile, active speculation in the satnav blogosphere provides glimpses of possible outcomes from the latest satellite disaster — not exclusive to Galileo, by any means — created in all likelihood by a malfunction aboard its Soyuz launcher and/or the Fregat upper stage thereof. (8/28)

High School Students Tour Orion Facility (Source: Space Coast Daily)
Six students from Merritt Island High School’s da Vinci Academy of Aerospace Technology got an up-close look at the Orion spacecraft during a special tour by Lockheed Martin management. The tour –at the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Facility – was led by the LM Orion Operations Manager Jules Schneider and LM program planner Kari Peppers. Schneider briefed the students on the spacecraft’s test flight in December as well as plans for the future. (8/29)

Alaska Spaceport Facilities Damaged After Failed Launch (Source: Alaska Dispatch News)
Damage is visible at the Kodiak Launch Complex after a rocket launch was aborted early Monday morning, August 25, 2014, at the site. The rocket was carrying an Advanced Hypersonic Weapon, a glider that once launched from a rocket flies a non-ballistic trajectory to its target. The flight was terminated less than four seconds after the launch. The launch was controlled remotely -- no people were in the buildings shown in the photo at the time of the launch. Click here. (8/29)

Alaska Spaceport Board Wrestles With Damage Control (Source: Alaska Dispatch News)
With no answers yet about why a rocket launch failed in Kodiak, leaders of the Alaska Aerospace Corp. find themselves wrestling with the tricky question of public relations damage control. At a board meeting Thursday in Kodiak, they discussed whether the state-owned corporation could make any statement that the accident early Monday was not its fault. The short answer: No.

But some members said it would be correct to say that the rocket left the launchpad. And to that extent the support role of the Alaska Aerospace Corp. can be dubbed a success, pending any disclosures to the contrary in the weeks and months ahead. “Is it your understanding at this point that we did our job well and there’s no culpability for the damage that occurred?” asked Kodiak Sen. Gary Stevens, an ex-officio board member.

It is too soon to answer that question, as a full report on the cause may not be finished for months, according to Alaska Aerospace President Craig Campbell. But he said it is true that the rocket got off the ground. “That rocket did leave the pad and all our work is the support work to get to that point. And so I’m speculating that our team did awfully good,” said Campbell. (8/29)

NASA Tests Noise Suppression System on Rocket Scale Model (Source: WHNT)
NASA is testing techniques for crew and equipment safety on their new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS.) It’s more powerful than shuttles of the past, with 25-thousand pounds of thrust. But that also means it’s extremely loud– 120-180 decibels loud. That could endanger the crew and even the rocket itself.

Jeremy Kenny, a NASA Acoustics Engineer, put it into perspective. “Those kind of levels not only instantaneously, but permanently, cause human hearing loss,” he said. But it doesn’t just endanger the crew during the launch. “The noise levels can actually vibrate the vehicle structure itself, and fatigue and break it,” said Kenny. (8/29)

Brooks Praises SLS Progress (Source:
The U.S. space program is on a "clear path" to explore beyond low-earth orbit and eventually travel to Mars, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks said Thursday. "And SLS is how we'll get there," Brooks said in a statement. Brooks referred to the Space Launch System, the heavy-lift NASA rocket under development at Marshall Space Flight Center at Redstone Arsenal. (8/28)

FSU Scientist Uncovers Mars Climate History in Unique Meteorite (Source: Space Daily)
Was Mars - now a cold, dry place - once a warm, wet planet that sustained life? And if so, how long has it been cold and dry? Research underway at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory may one day answer those questions - and perhaps even help pave the way for future colonization of the Red Planet. By analyzing the chemical clues locked inside an ancient Martian meteorite known as Black Beauty, Florida State University Professor Munir Humayun and an international research team are revealing the story of Mars' ancient, and sometimes startling, climate history. Click here. (8/29)

Waking Up From Alaska's Aerospace Dream (Source: Juneau Empire)
When your head is in the clouds, it’s easy to lose track of your feet. On Monday, the 17th rocket since 1998 lifted off from the state-owned Kodiak Launch Complex. Four seconds after leaving the launchpad, the rocket exploded. The blast damaged the complex — how extensively we do not yet know — and it may be a sign that it’s time to give up on the dream of an Alaskan aerospace industry. Rather than use insurance payouts to rebuild the complex, Alaska Aerospace should consider using that money to demolish it.

When it was envisioned in the 1990s, the Kodiak Launch Complex was to be the centerpiece of a new branch to Alaska’s economy. Built with federal grant money secured by Sen. Ted Stevens, the launch complex would welcome rockets and satellites bound for polar orbits. But Kodiak Launch Complex hasn’t been able to compete with launches from Vandenberg in California, and private companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic haven’t shown much interest in launches from Alaska.

The problem has to do with the market. A contract with the Missile Defense Agency was lucrative for Alaska Aerospace and the Kodiak Launch Complex, but that contract ended years ago and federal budget cuts mean little is available to replace it. Three years ago, Alaska Aerospace (the state-owned corporation that operates Kodiak Launch Complex) began asking the Alaska Legislature for cash to make ends meet. This year, the corporation received $6 million in operating expenses and $2.4 million for capital costs. (8/29)

Undersea Astronaut Crew Will Test Deep Space Comm, Robotics Strategies (Source: Aviation Week)
Simulated spacewalks, communications delays and robotics will play featured roles as U.S., European and Canadian astronauts descend to the Aquarius undersea laboratory off the coast of Key Largo, Florida., for a second time this summer to address some of the obstacles human explorers can expect to face as they venture into deep space. U.S. astronaut Randy Bresnik will lead the seven-day training session, NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations 19, that is slated to get underway on Sept. 8.

During their excursions, however, the men will also work with 10-minute communications delays in their exchanges with "Mission Control," just as they might expect to if they were on a mission midway between the Earth and Mars, according to Bresnik in a preview provided to NASA TV viewers this week. Most days will be filled with spacewalk activities outside the Florida International University (FIU)-supervised Aquarius. Editor's Note: In addition to FIU, Embry-Riddle will support the NEEMO 19 mission. (8/29)

Mississippi, Louisiana Students Get Out-of-This-World Start to the School Year (Source: NASA)
Students from Mississippi and Louisiana will gather at the INFINITY Science Center in Pearlington, Mississippi, for a long-distance call with NASA astronauts currently orbiting Earth aboard the International Space Station  The special back-to-school education event will take place Tuesday, Sept. 2, at 1:20 p.m. EDT. The students will spend time learning about the orbiting laboratory, rockets and NASA’s new deep space exploration spacecraft, Orion, which is set to make its maiden spaceflight in December. (8/29)

12 Tech Attractions for Teens (Including KSC Visitor Complex) (Source: Family Vacation Critic)
Teenagers can be tough customers when it comes to choosing attractions to visit on your trip. Technology has become an integral part of the teen lifestyle, and many places, from museums to historic sites, have reacted to the times by incorporating more interactive and digital elements to their offerings. Click here. (8/29)

SpaceX Hit With 2nd Class Action Over July Layoffs
(Source: Law360)
SpaceX was hit with another proposed class action in California state court on Tuesday over the aerospace company’s alleged failure to give workers notice of a mass layoff in July, marking at least the second suit over the firings. Former SpaceX employee Laura Barragan claims the Elon Musk-founded company neglected to give her and other workers a written warning of the July 21 mass layoffs at its Hawthorne, California, facility, in violation of the California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. (8/28)

Galileo Satellites Incident Likely Result of Software Errors (Source: RIA Novosti)
The failure of the European Union’s Galileo satellites to reach their intended orbital position was likely caused by software errors in the Fregat-MT rocket’s upper-stage, Russian newspaper Izvestia reported. “The nonstandard operation of the integrated management system was likely caused by an error in the embedded software. As a result, the upper stage received an incorrect flight assignment, and, operating in full accordance with the embedded software, it has delivered the units to the wrong destination,” a Roscosmos was quoted as saying. (8/28)

Russia to Launch New Heavy-Lift Angara Rocket in December (Source: Moscow Times)
Having managed to launch its first rocket of post-Soviet design in July, Russia is now getting ready to test a beefed-up version of the vehicle by the end of the year, thereby highlighting the Russian space industry's position as a major global player. Preparations for the launch, which is scheduled for the end of December, are already under way at the Plesetsk spaceport.

Called Angara, the new rocket was commissioned in the early 1990s, when Russian space officials were concerned that an independent Ukraine might withhold deliveries of vital components used in the construction of Russian rockets like the Proton. The Angara rocket launched successfully on July 9, nearly two weeks after the cancellation of the first attempt, which was derailed by a leaky pressure valve.

The rocket's design means that it can be attached to the side of its core booster, which allows the vehicle's lifting capacity to be tailored to the weight of its payload. In this way, the Angara rocket follows the economical approach to rocket design currently employed by U.S-based commercial launch company SpaceX, which is developing a heavy launch vehicle based on its already proven Falcon-9 rocket. The two vehicles will compete on the global commercial launch market. (8/27)

NASA Commits to $7 Billion SLS Development (Source: CBS)
After a detailed engineering and cost analysis, NASA managers have formally approved development of the Space Launch System -- SLS -- heavy-lift rocket, the most powerful booster ever attempted and a key element in the agency's long-range plans to send astronauts to nearby asteroids and, eventually, Mars, officials announced Wednesday.

The SLS development program is projected to cost $7 billion from February 2014 through the rocket's maiden flight, a November 2018 test launch carrying an uncrewed Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle, or MPCV, on a three-week-long shakedown mission beyond the moon and back to an ocean-splashdown on Earth.

That target date is a year later than originally envisioned when NASA first laid out a tentative schedule for initial SLS flights. But senior agency managers say the projected cost and launch target are what came out of a detail analysis incorporating a wide variety of factors, including the possibility of unforeseen engineering challenges. (8/27)

Europa: How Less Can Be More (Source: Planetary Society)
Three factors make exploring Europa hard. First, we want to explore an entire complex world, and mapping its features requires acquiring vast amounts of data. Second, Europa lies far from the Earth, which necessitates capable communications and power systems (expensive) to return the data. Third, Europa lies within the harsh radiation fields of Jupiter, which requires significant radiation hardening (expensive) and limits the life of any spacecraft that explores this world. These factors can make a mission concept that seems like less actually be more. Click here. (8/26)

Commercial Crew Choice Will Lead To Flight-Testing (Source: Aviation Week)
Even if NASA selects Dream Chaser for the next phase of its public-private crew vehicle development project, NASA will need to flight-test its Orion crew capsule. Dream Chaser already has flown a free-flying glide test marred only by a landing gear failure after a successful approach and touchdown, and the company may tow it behind a C-17 for future tests in the atmosphere. In that sense, its flight-test regime up until launch to orbit will be similar to that of the space shuttle orbiter.

But testing requirements for capsules differ from those of the shuttle, which added ejection seats to the orbiter Columbia on its first spaceflight, and carried pilots on the Enterprise flights. The Dragon is already flying unmanned cargo missions to the ISS, and Boeing plans an unmanned Atlas V flight of its CST-100 capsule before sending a two-person crew to orbit. All three commercial crew contenders have hired retired shuttle astronauts to oversee planning for flight-crew operations. (8/28)

Italy Commits More Funds to Second-generation Radar Satellites (Source: Space News)
The Italian government’s agreement to commit another 66.6 million euros ($88 million) to the design of a second-generation Cosmo-SkyMed radar satellite system will keep the program moving forward but does not assure it will be completed in time to assure continuity with the first-generation system, Italian government and industry officials said.

Thales Alenia Space, Cosmo-SkyMed’s prime contractor, announced Aug. 27 that it and its sister company, ground-services provider Telespazio, had received contracts valued at 43.6 million euros and 23 million euros, respectively, to continue designing the two-satellite system. (8/28)

SES Gives Brazil Timetable for Filling Orbital Slots (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator SES of Luxembourg’s Brazilian affiliate has promised Brazil’s telecommunications regulator that the two orbital positions SES won at auction in May will be filled with satellites within four and six years. Three months after it paid $27 million for rights to 48 degrees and 64 degrees west at an auction managed by Brazil’s Anatel regulatory agency, SES DTH do Brasil agreed to place a satellite at the 48-degree slot within four years for fixed satellite services using Ku-, C- and Ka-bands. (8/29)

Revolution in Spaceflight Requires New Spacesuits (Source:
Space suits are created by science, but they can also seem magical, clothes that shield people from the inhospitable conditions of space. Spacesuits are a true paradox in design. They are both a machine and a garment. These suits must withstand large pressure differentials while remaining flexible; they must tolerate vast thermal variations inside and out, without being too heavy or stiff; they must be ultra-reliable and easy to put on. Click here. (8/28)

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