August 4, 3014

SpaceX Launch from Cape Set for Tuesday (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A SpaceX rocket is set for launch in the middle of the night early Tuesday and will carry a communications satellite to support customers in China, India, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. If all goes as planned, the Falcon 9 rocket will lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's launch complex 40 carrying an AsiaSat 8 satellite. The satellite will aid in direct broadcasting, private networks and broadband connectivity. The launch window on Tuesday is from 1:25 a.m. to 3:25 a.m. (8/3)

Nye: Donating Cost of One Cup of Coffee Could Help Find Aliens (Source: Huffington Post)
How much would you be willing to spend to find alien life? As Bill Nye explains in a new video, it might not cost you much more than a cup of java. In the Big Think video, Nye, CEO of the Planetary Society, says that if each American taxpayer contributed the cost of just one cup of coffee, we’d be able to fund an exploratory mission to Europa — a Jupiter moon that some experts consider the likeliest place in our solar system to host extraterrestrial life.

“It would be extraordinary if there are living things there,” he says of Europa, which has more water than all of the Earth's oceans combined. “It would be a great. It would be a worthy thing.” Nye and NASA scientists are attempting to convince Congress to spend $2 billion on a mission to Europa. (8/4)

Asteroid Mission Causes Big Stir Among Small-Bodies Scientists (Source: Space News)
NASA’s plan to retrieve an asteroid for astronauts to explore in lunar space by 2025 caused a big stir at the Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG) here July 30 when an asteroid expert delivered a withering critique of the mission and warned that it could bring NASA’s entire Planetary Science Division to ruin.

“If you get behind this in any way, it’s going to irreparably damage small-body exploration, and I think there’s implications to the broader Planetary Science Division,” Richard Binzel, an astronomer and asteroid specialist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told the group. Calling the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) a “one-and-done stunt,” Binzel warned SBAG members that embracing ARM meant risking their credibility in the eyes the lawmakers who control NASA’s purse strings. (8/4)

Absence of Russian Instrument on NASA Mars Rover Not Related to Politics (Source: RIA Novosti)
The absence of a Russian scientific instrument on board NASA’s new Mars rover, scheduled for launch in 2020, should not be linked to political reasons; the instrument simply did not pass the competition, Lev Zeleny, chief of the Institute of Space Research at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said on Sunday. “If you take part in the contest, it does not mean that you will definitely win. Several applications were submitted, ours was not chosen. I would prefer not to connect this to politics,” Zeleny said. (8/3)

Star Trek Legend Who Became NASA's 'Secret Weapon' (Source: CNN)
Nichelle Nichols has spent her whole life going where no one has gone before, and at 81 she's still as sassy and straight-talking as you'd expect from an interstellar explorer. "I don't have enough sense to keep my mouth shut," says the legendary Star Trek actor with a hearty laugh. "Whatever comes up, comes out."

As the startlingly beautiful and fiercely intelligent Lt. Uhura on the hit 1960s TV series, Nichols was a revolutionary figure at a time when the only African-American women you saw on U.S. TV were usually playing servants. Indeed, Star Trek was reportedly the only program Martin Luther King Jr would let his children stay up late to watch.

As the original series drew to a close at the end of the decade, a real-life space race was gathering pace -- and this time it was Nichols calling for auditions. The U.S. landed a man on the moon in 1969 -- but our astronauts needn't be limited to white males, said Nichols. The glamorous sci-fi celebrity was soon enlisted by NASA to recruit the country's first female and ethnic minority astronauts. (8/4)

This Was Your Daddy’s (Or Possibly Grand-Daddy’s) Space Station (Source: WIRED)
Once upon a time, on a planet called Earth, in a place called the U.S.A., folks knew what space stations were suppose to look like. If they weren’t big spinning wheels, they were fat drums with multiple decks. Radial and axial ports provided docking places for smaller specialized modules and reusable crew and cargo delivery vehicles.

Back in those days, they had big rockets that could put an entire 12-man space station up in one launch. Lest anyone worry about putting all our space station eggs in one rocket basket, those rockets were tough enough to shrug off lightning strikes and still launch men to the moon.

Alas, something went wrong and the tidy drums shrank and metastasized into elaborate, inelegant, multimodular monstrosities. The cargo and crew delivery vehicles grew and became frail and costly and the tough big rockets became lawn ornaments long before their time. Click here. (8/4)

Las Cruces Businesses Cashing In on Space Tourism (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
It's a stellar dream that has some Las Cruces businesses working hard here on the ground. New Mexico companies are starting to see their future take flight as they sign on with Virgin Galactic to provide services and support to Spaceport America as it continues it's push to make southern New Mexico a hub for space tourism.

Carolyn Wincer, a Virgin Galactic representative based in Las Cruces, recently announced the signing of contracts which name Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces and World Class Gourmet, based out of Savoy de Mesilla, as preferred providers for future space tourists. Hotel Encanto will serve as host for those taking the short flight to space and World Class Gourmet has been brought on as primary caterer for the well-off astronauts.

This is just the first round of announcements of local businesses that will be added to the project backed by Richard Branson to ferry the well-to-do into space from Spaceport America. Other New Mexico firms have already been contracted, including RMKM Architects, an Albuquerque-based firm supporting the design and delivery of the interior fit-out of the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space, and HB Construction, a general contractor doing the fit-out work at The Gateway. (8/4)

Russia May Stop Financing Baikonur in 2016 (Source: Tengri)
Russian Finance Ministry might stop funding Baikonur cosmodrome in 2016, Tengrinews reports citing Izvestia newspaper. The amount of funding for Baikonur cosmodrome in the 2016-2018 draft federal budget of Russia is significantly smaller than usually. Russian Center for Operation of Space Ground-Based Infrastructure confirmed that Baikonur financing was going to be reduced.

Russia plans to redirect those funds to its Vostochny Cosmodrome which is currently under construction in Russia's Far East, Russian Finance Ministry informed. The Center for Operation of Space Ground-Based Infrastructure also believes that all the investments which were previously planned for Baikonur will be channeled into Russian Vostochny Cosmodrome, since Russia does not have additional funds to maintain both spaceports. (8/4)

Two Soviet Satellites to Fall to Earth (Source: Moscow Times)
Two defunct Soviet-era satellites will fall to Earth on Monday evening, according to U.S. space tracking data, Interfax reported. Neither of the satellites — an early warning missile detection satellite and a weather satellite — pose an immediate danger to residential areas. Both of them are expected to burn up in the atmosphere over bodies of water, though some small fragments may survive reentry and reach the ground. (8/4)

NASA Goals, Budget Called "Fraud" (Source: Florida Today)
The NASA Advisory Council cited a "mismatch" between NASA’s aspirations and its budget for human spaceflight. The “mismatch” wording echoed blunt comments by member Tom Young, a former director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and retired Lockheed Martin executive, who said NASA lacks an executable exploration strategy. Unless the council said as much, he said, “I really think collectively we are perpetuating a fraud.”

He worried NASA is on a path to spend perhaps $160 billion over the next two decades but end up no closer to Mars. For the same funding, he said, NASA could fly 20 James Webb Space Telescopes — the successor to Hubble, targeted for launch in 2018 — or 60 Curiosity Mars rovers, missions producing or likely to produce scientific breakthroughs.

The council recognized that NASA’s near-term focus on an asteroid and longer-term goal of Mars respond to current national space policy and congressional guidance — policies the NAC is not empowered to change. But its recommendation concluded that unless NASA gets more money, cuts costs or changes its goal, it “runs the risk of squandering precious national resources on a laudable but unachievable goal.” (8/2)

Russia to Focus on Moon, Mars Exploration, Repeat Phobos-Grunt Mission (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russian scientists will focus on Moon and Mars exploration and repeat the Phobos-Grunt mission in the next decade, Space Research Institute Director Lev Zeleny said on Saturday. “The Moon and Mars are our priority for 2016-2025,” he said at the 40th COSPAR Scientific Assembly underway in Moscow on August 2-10. Roscosmos in partnership with the European Space Agency will be carrying out two stages of the ExoMars mission in 2016 and 2018. (8/2)

RSC Energia President Lopota Suspended from Post (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Embattled RSC Energia President Vitaly Lopota, who is the subject of a criminal investigation for alleged abuse of office, was suspended from his post on Friday by the company’s board of directors, ending a seven-year reign over the space company. The move appears to be part of an effort by Russia’s government to obtain majority control over Energia, of which it owns a 38-percent share.

The directors elected Igor Komarov as its new chairman of the board. Komarov is chief of the Russian United Rocket and Space Corporation (URSC), the government-owned company tasked with consolidating Russia’s sprawling space sector. Board members appointed Vladimir Solntsev as acting president to replace Lopota. Solntsev is executive director of Energia’s NPO Energomash subsidiary, which produced rocket engines. (8/2)

Energia President Offered Vice President Post at United Rocket and Space Corp (Source: Interfax)
Russian United Rocket and Space Corporation (URSC) President Igor Komarov has proposed that Vitaly Lopota, the president and general designer of the Energia space rocket corporation, become his deputy for technological development. "Vitaly ... has been invited to work at the URSC as a vice president for technological development," the URSC quoted Komarov as saying in a statement.

Lopota has headed the Energia corporation for seven years, Komarov said. "A number of serious projects have been implemented over this time, and some of them have become real breakthroughs," he said. Komarov pointed out that, as Lopota has been offered the office of URSC vice president for technological development, combining this job with the office of Energia president would be inappropriate. The URSC said the Energia board of directors met on August 1 and elected Komarov the board chairman. The board also decided to suspend Lopota's credentials as the Energia president and general designer. (8/2)

Astronaut Arranges for SEC Football in Space (Source: Nashville Tennessean)
While growing up in the Murfreesboro Road area, Barry Wilmore was like most kids and wanted to be either a policeman, a fireman or an astronaut. He settled on astronaut. On the way to achieving his lifelong dream, Wilmore also developed into an outstanding football player at Mt. Juliet High School and Tennessee Tech. He is still a big football fan today and set to make his third journey into space.

Wilmore, 51, and two Russian cosmonauts will travel to the International Space Station on Sept. 25. Wilmore will assume command of the expedition in November. The crew will return to Earth in March 2015. Because of his love for football, Wilmore had NASA arrange to provide the new SEC Network in the space station and plans to watch Tennessee Tech's games on the Internet. (8/2)

Dannenberg Leaves Horses for Rocket Horsepower (Source: Alomogordo Daily News)
The German army conscripted Konrad Dannenberg in 1939 and sent him to France. His master's degree in mechanical engineering, though, didn't do him much good doing his duties as a member of a horse cavalry. And, after about a year, the army realized Dannenberg couldn't ride so they discharged him. Subsequently, his education, which included knowledge of rocketry, did steer him to a more apropos career, at Peenemunde, the secret rocket-building facility along the Baltic Coast. Click here. (8/2)

NASA Clears ISRO Instrument Design (Source: Times of India)
A proposed joint satellite project between the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and NASA is taking shape. The satellite will observe and measure some complex processes, including ecosystem disturbances, ice-sheet collapse, and natural hazards such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes and landslides. ISRO and NASA have been talking about this dual frequency radar since late last year. Now, it's now a project, with NASA clearing ISRO's instrument design. The project, NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (Nisar), will use advanced imaging which will provide an unprecedented, detailed view of the Earth. (8/2)

Japan Set to Create Space Force Within SDF in 5 Years' Time (Source: Kyodo News Intl.)
Japan plans to create a space monitoring force within its Self-Defense Forces by around 2019, with the Defense Ministry having already informed the U.S., a source close to Japan-U.S. relations said. Initially, the force will be tasked with monitoring dangerous debris floating in Earth's orbit and protecting satellites from collisions with such debris, the source said. The Defense Ministry has altered its strategy on the use of space to include the development of such an observatory force, following the 2008 enactment of a law revising the principles for Japan's non-military activities in space. (8/2)

Midland Airport One Step Closer to Receiving Spaceport License (Source: NewsWest 9)
There are some new developments in the possible spaceport license coming to Midland. You'll remember there were recent concerns that launches from the spaceport might harm the Lesser Prairie Chicken species and that could possibly keep the spaceport from coming to West Texas.

The Midland International Airport sent a statement to NewsWest 9 saying the Department of Airports and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services agree there could be some effect on the birds. So both agencies will be monitoring the first five launches to make sure the Lesser Prairie Chicken will not be harmed. This helps Midland move another step closer to getting a launch site operators license by September 15. (8/2)

NASA Braces Mars Orbiters for Close Comet Flyby (Source: LA Times)
They are literally specks of dust, tiny bits of primordial material that wouldn't be visible to the naked eye. But for spacecraft in orbit around Mars, they could become minuscule agents of destruction. These dust particles will come hurtling past the Red Planet on Oct. 19, riding on the coattails of a comet. They'll blow by at an incredible 35 miles per second — 25 times faster than an armor-piercing projectile fired from a tank. And there could be millions of them.

At that velocity, they'll have the power to poke a hole in a spacecraft's gas line or crack a glass lens. They could knock out a computer board or take out a few cells on a solar panel. And that's why scientists and engineers at NASA are nervous. "They are essentially little cannonballs and bullets flying around, and they could do real damage," said Richard Zurek, chief scientist for the Mars Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (8/3)

Shuttle Relics Ready to Roar Again in Mississippi (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
The space shuttle's hydrogen-fueled rocket engines will soon roar again after receiving upgrades to fly on the Space Launch System, a heavy-lifting mega-rocket NASA hopes will take astronauts on journeys farther than humans have ever traveled. The first unmanned SLS flight is set for the end of 2017, at the earliest, but testing is already beginning to wring out the rocket's engines.

Each Space Launch System flight will use four of the space shuttle main engines on its core stage. Two strap-on rocket boosters, derived from the solid rocket motors that flew on the space shuttle, will help the massive launch vehicle get off the ground. With an initial version capable of lifting 70 tons into low Earth orbit -- and rockets producing 8.4 million pounds of thrust at liftoff -- the Space Launch System will be the most powerful booster ever built, according to NASA.

NASA kept parts for 16 shuttle rocket engines after the program's last mission in 2011. Officials shipped the powerplants from Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the Stennis Space Center, NASA's primary rocket engine test facility in southern Mississippi, for storage and upgrades for the Space Launch System. (8/3)

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