August 30, 2014

Memory Reformat Planned for Opportunity Mars Rover (Source: NASA JPL)
An increasing frequency of computer resets on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has prompted the rover team to make plans to reformat the rover's flash memory. The resets, including a dozen this month, interfere with the rover's planned science activities, even though recovery from each incident is completed within a day or two.

Flash memory retains data even when power is off. It is the type used for storing photos and songs on smart phones or digital cameras, among many other uses. Individual cells within a flash memory sector can wear out from repeated use. Reformatting clears the memory while identifying bad cells and flagging them to be avoided. (8/29)

Curiosity, Cassini Among 7 Extended Planetary Missions (Source: Space News)
NASA approved extensions for all seven missions that were vetted by senior scientists in the agency’s 2014 senior review of operating planetary science missions, a senior NASA official told SpaceNews Aug. 27. “We sent out the letters to the projects [and] those letters state that we’re not canceling any missions,” Jim Green, NASA’s Planetary Science Division Director, said after a meeting at the National Research Council in Washington.

Green declined to discuss specifics, although he did say NASA would force some of the missions to run “leaner and meaner [by] cutting back in various aspects.” The details of the senior review board’s findings, and NASA’s formal response to those findings, is to be released the week of Sept. 1, Green said. (8/29)

Colorado Aerospace Leaders and CU-Boulder to Host Program on Mars Exploration (Source CU Boulder)
The importance of Mars exploration and how the aerospace industry partners with university researchers to advance one of Colorado’s leading economic sectors will be featured at a free program Monday, Sept. 8, in south Denver. Aerospace leaders will discuss the importance of Mars exploration and the role of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, or MAVEN mission, the involvement of Colorado companies in space exploration and the value of public/private partnerships involving university-based research. (8/28)

New Residents: Renovation Planned for Texas House Linked to SpaceX (Source: Valley Morning Star)
Weems Street at Kopernik Shores, also known as Boca Chica Village, could have a new resident soon. Two building permit applications filed this month with Cameron County show that renovations are planned for a vacant house owned by Elon Musk’s Dogleg Park LLC. The applications say the house’s roof and air conditioning system will be replaced. “Residential use” is listed in both applications. (8/29)

JAXA Asks for Withdrawal of Article on Hayabusa (Source: Japan News)
The space agency said Friday that it has requested the withdrawal of an article published in U.S. journal Science that was based on observation data from its Hayabusa asteroid probe. The article, published in June 2006, contained an error in the data analysis method, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, said. But the mistake was not made deliberately and should not be regarded as research misconduct, it said.

The article was lead authored by Tatsuaki Okada, associate professor at JAXA’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science. Based on observation data for the asteroid Itokawa, collected with X-ray equipment on Hayabusa, the article made the assumption that the elements constituting Itokawa would have the same composition as those of meteorites showering Earth. The error was discovered during a review of the data analysis method in the wake of a failure of similar observation equipment. (8/29)

Looming SLS Delay To Rekindle Debate about NASA’s Priorities (Source: Space News)
A long-running debate between the White House and Congress about funding levels and prioritization of NASA programs entered a new phase last week after a major cost and schedule review concluded the debut of the Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket may be delayed by nearly a year. The review established an estimated cost of $7.021 billion for SLS development from February 2014 through its first launch.

That is in addition to the several billion dollars NASA has spent on the rocket since being ordered by Congress in 2010 to build it. In a teleconference with reporters, William Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said the SLS project was still working toward an earlier launch date than November 2018 by mitigating risks raised in the review. “If we don’t do anything, we basically have a 70 percent chance of getting to that date,” he said. “We will be there by November of 2018, but I look to my team to do better than that.” (8/29)

Battle of the Heavyweight Rockets – SLS Could Face Exploration Class Rival (Source: Space News)
With the recent announcement the Space Launch System (SLS) has become challenged by her schedule, the NASA rocket may soon find herself in a battle with a commercial “alternative”. SpaceX’s super powerful Exploration class rocket is targeting crewed missions to Mars up to 10 years ahead of SLS – although both vehicles continue to avoid being classed as competitors. Click here. (8/29)

Heat Protecting Back Shell Tiles Installed on NASA’s Orion EFT-1 at KSC (Source: Universe Today)
Fabrication of the pathfinding version of NASA’s Orion crew capsule slated for its inaugural unmanned test flight in December is entering its final stages at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) launch site in Florida. Engineers and technicians have completed the installation of Orion’s back shell panels which will protect the spacecraft and future astronauts from the searing heat of reentry and scorching temperatures exceeding 3,150 degrees Fahrenheit. (8/29)

Russia will Cooperate with US on Asteroid Threat (Source: Discovery)
As tensions rise in Eastern Ukraine and the conflict between Russia-backed separatists and Kiev becomes ever more bloody, political volleys between the old Cold War rivals have become increasingly aggressive. But one question has yet to be addressed: If we spot an incoming asteroid, will information be shared between Russia and the US? We can breathe easy, at least according to Russian state media — the nation is willing to capitulate on this particular disaster scenario.

“The exchange of information between crisis centers of Russia’s EMERCOM and the FEMA with respect to emergency situations on the territory of the United States and the Russian Federation has begun,” said an EMERCOM statement on Friday. Generally, this “exchange of information” will cover large-scale natural and man-made disasters. Both FEMA and EMERCOM (Russian Emergency Situations Ministry) “also agreed on cooperating to protect their populations and infrastructures from asteroid and comet hazards and on rescue work at mining facilities.” (8/29)

Restructured OCX Contract Defers Some Capabilities by 2 Years (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force has finished renegotiating its contract with Raytheon for the ground system for the service’s next generation of positioning, navigation and timing satellites, hammering out a new deal that postpones some program elements by up to 23 months. Officials with Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services of Dulles, Virginia, said the new timeline would not lead to any delay in services from the Air Force’s GPS 3 satellites, which are slated to begin launching in 2016. (8/29)

Why Isn’t Anyone Interested In Uranus? (Source: American Live Wire)
“Why isn’t anyone interested in Uranus?” you ask? Good question . . . timely too. There have been missions to Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Saturn and Venus.  Spacecraft is even heading for the demoted, now non-planet Pluto. For some reason though no has really checked out Uranus yet. Click here. (8/29)

Space Station Robot Gets Legs (Source: Florida Today)
Before Robonaut 2, the humanoid robot aboard the International Space Station, could take its first steps later this year, it needed legs. Expedition 40 commander Steve Swanson attached them this week, the latest step in a series of "mobility upgrades." Designed by NASA in partnership with General Motors, the "R2" torso arrived at the station in 2011 and has been attached to a pedestal. (8/30)

Scrub of AsiaSat 6 Could Impact SpaceX Mission to Space Station (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The launch of a commercial satellite, AsiaSat-6, has become one of the factors as to whether-or-not SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft will take to the skies on Sep. 19 as is currently planned. With the recent delay of the AsiaSat 6 flight, the U.S. Air Force’s Eastern Range could potentially see as many three launches – in a time span of about ten days. A KSC spokesperson said that, at present, NASA is moving forward with plans to launch the fourth operational flight to the space station and the fifth flight of the Dragon overall.

“We’re still moving forward with the September 19 launch date. SpaceX says they need a little time to validate some things with their Falcon 9,” said NASA Spokesperson George Diller. “However, if they can launch the F9 with AsiaSat 6 by the middle of the month – we should still be able to carry out the mission on September 19.”

SpaceX's statement on the AsiaSat delay suggests that it could be as long as two weeks. If it is just two weeks, then there should not be a conflict on the Eastern Range (United Launch Alliance has the launch of the CLIO spacecraft slated to take place on Aug. 16, with the CRS-4 mission scheduled to take place three days later). Normally, the U.S. Air Force requires 2-3 days to reset the range to support a launch. (8/29)

The West Wind Blows Afresh (Source: Economist)
It takes chutzpah to tweet “rockets are tricky” shortly after one you have just launched has deliberately blown itself up. But Elon Musk is not a man who lacks self-confidence, and he did just that on Aug. 22 after the terminal malfunction a Falcon 9 vehicle. That Arianespace announced on the same day that two satellites it had tried to launch to join the Galileo constellation (intended to rival America’s GPS), had entered a “non-nominal injection orbit”—in other words, gone wrong—shows just how difficult the commercialisation of space can be.

If spacecraft are so precarious, then perhaps investors should lower their sights. But not in terms of innovation; rather in altitude. Airbus, a European aerospace company, thinks that developing satellite-like capabilities without satellites is the answer. Hence the firm’s recent trial, at an undisclosed location (but one subject to Brazilian airspace regulations) of Zephyr 7, a high-altitude “pseudo-satellite”, or HAPS for short.

Zephyr  is actually an unmanned, ultralight, solar-powered, propeller-driven aircraft. But it is designed, just as some satellites are, to hover indefinitely over the same part of the world. With a 23-meter wingspan and a weight of only 50kg, it is fragile and must remain above the ravages of the weather and the jet stream both by day and by night. It therefore flies at an altitude of around 21km during daylight hours, and then glides slowly down to around 15km when the sun is unavailable to keep it aloft. (8/29)

Capitol Hill Reacts to SLS Delay (Source: Space News)
In the wake of a review of the Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket that likely pushes its first launch into 2018, two key House members argued that NASA and the Obama administration were not adequately funding the program, while one of the agency’s biggest advocates in the Senate sought support for accelerating that schedule. In a letter released Aug. 28, Reps. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Steven Palazzo (R-MS), the chairmen of the full House Science Committee and its space subcommittee, respectively, asked NASA Administrator Charles Bolden for additional details.

The letter does not explicitly mention the latest NASA review, but instead references a July report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office on potential SLS delays, as well as recent comments by Orion program manager Mark Geyer that he was “struggling” to make a December 2017 launch date. “These findings are surprising to say the least considering the numerous claims of sufficient funding,” Smith and Palazzo write in the letter. “Despite numerous statements over several years that these two national priority programs are sufficiently funded, it now appears that this may not be the case.”

In a brief statement late Aug. 27, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), chairman of the Senate Commerce space subcommittee, offered a more positive spin on the review. “Technically things look good,” he said. “But we need to keep the budget on track so NASA can meet an earlier readiness date — which I think can be done.” (8/29)

U.S. To Keep Closer Watch for Debris Threat to Europe’s Metop Satellites (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Defense Department will extend its close debris-threat monitoring to two European polar-orbiting meteorological satellites under an agreement announced Aug. 29 by Eumetsat, Europe’s meteorological satellite organization. The agreement between the U.S. Strategic Command and the 30-nation Eumetsat adds a layer of protection to Eumetsat’s two Metop satellites.

NOAA operates two polar satellites of its own as part of the system. The polar-orbiting Eumetsat and NOAA satellites operate in sun-synchronous orbits of around 800 kilometers in altitude, an orbital corridor that includes satellite and rocket debris. The U.S. Space Surveillance Network of ground- and space-based assets tracks the paths of debris large enough to be in its catalogue and warns operators of possible future collisions so that the active satellites can be maneuvered out of the way. (8/29)

Report Cites Vulnerability in NOAA’s Satellite Ground Stations (Source: Space News)
Ground stations for the United States’ next civilian polar-orbiting weather satellite system contain several “significant” and high-risk vulnerabilities to would-be attackers, according to a new report from a U.S. government watchdog. NOAA is taking far too long to address these vulnerabilities, according to the report by the U.S. Commerce Department’s Office of Inspector General. NOAA is part of the Commerce Department. (8/29)

X-37B Space Plane Passes 600 Days in Orbit (Source:
The U.S. Air Force's mysterious unmanned space plane has winged beyond 600 days in orbit on a classified military mission that seems to have no end. The X-37B space plane is carrying out the Orbital Test Vehicle-3 (OTV-3) mission, a long-duration cruise that marks the third flight for the unpiloted Air Force spaceflight program. The Air Force launched the miniature space shuttle into orbit on Dec. 11, 2012 using an expendable Atlas 5 rocket. (8/29)

Air Force Awards Eastern Range Contract Extension/Modifications (Source: DOD)
Computer Sciences Raytheon has been awarded a $80,202,071 modification to a previously awarded contract to provide operations, maintenance, and sustainment of critical range and launch processing systems that support the launch processing mission of the 45th Space Wing and its launch customers at Cape Canaveral Air Station. This modification brings the total cumulative face value of the contract is $656,990,192.

lnDyne, Inc. has been awarded a $30,663,645 contract modification for infrastructure operations and maintenance services for non-personal services involving operations and maintenance of the facilities, systems, equipment, utilities and infrastructure primarily for Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and multiple Eastern Range annexes in support of the 45th Space Wing and its mission partners. (8/29)

Suborbital Rocket Launch from Wallops Island Tests New Tech (Source: ABC)
NASA is reviewing data from a rocket launch that tested a new sub-payload deployment method for suborbital rockets. NASA says a Black Brant IX suborbital rocket was launched at 5 a.m. Thursday from the agency's Wallops Island Flight Facility on Virginia's Eastern Shore. The new deployment method uses small rocket motors to eject sub-payloads from a rocket's main payload. Thursday's test included releasing vapor traces in space.

The agency says vapor clouds resulting from the test, along with the launch, were seen as far away as southern New Jersey, western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The NASA Sounding Rocket Program Office is reviewing data on the test's performance. (8/29)

A 25-Year Lock on Lucrative NASA work? Time to Open Field to Competition (Source: Washington Business Journal)
The Government Accountability Office has said on many occasions that an agency is not required to neutralize or eliminate the natural competitive advantage that an incumbent carries into a competition. In this case, the agency decides that it would promote greater competition if it could neutralize the competitive advantage of a 25-year incumbent. The incumbent protested the terms of a solicitation that did just that.

NMSU has been a 25-year incumbent on a contract for the operation and maintenance of NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility, as well as several other balloon launch facilities at various locations worldwide. NMSU protested that the RFP improperly excludes from competition or evaluation the cost of various elements of the agency’s requirements. NASA has apparently been concerned for several years with NMSU’s exclusive teaming agreement with the only balloon manufacturer that is acceptable to NASA for work on this project. Click here. (8/29)

Sparks Fly as NASA Pushes the Limits of 3-D Printing Technology (Source: NASA)
NASA has successfully tested the most complex rocket engine parts ever designed by the agency and printed with additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, on a test stand at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. NASA engineers pushed the limits of technology by designing a rocket engine injector --a highly complex part that sends propellant into the engine -- with design features that took advantage of 3-D printing. To make the parts, the design was entered into the 3-D printer's computer. The printer then built each part by layering metal powder and fusing it together with a laser, a process known as selective laser melting.

The additive manufacturing process allowed rocket designers to create an injector with 40 individual spray elements, all printed as a single component rather than manufactured individually. The part was similar in size to injectors that power small rocket engines and similar in design to injectors for large engines, such as the RS-25 engine that will power NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the heavy-lift, exploration class rocket under development to take humans beyond Earth orbit and to Mars. (8/29)

No comments: