August 5, 2014

Gamma Rays From Stellar Explosions Stump Astronomers (Source: Science News)
There’s a newfound source of gamma rays: explosions on the surfaces of stars. Figuring out how these novas generate such high-energy light might help astronomers understand the lifecycle of those types of stars and how they might evolve into more powerful explosions such as supernovas.

Over the last six years, the Fermi satellite has seen bursts of gamma radiation coming from a menagerie of sources such as pulsars and remnants of exploding stars. But in 2012 and 2013, Fermi detected something new — three gamma-ray bursts associated with novas. “There’s nothing in the literature that says novae can produce gamma rays,” says Teddy Cheung, who is part of the Fermi team. (8/4)

Loral Selected to Provide Intelsat Satellite (Source: SSL)
Space Systems/Loral (SSL) was selected to provide a communications satellite to Intelsat. Intelsat 36 is designed to provide media and content distribution services in Africa and South Asia. The satellite will be located over the Indian Ocean to provide both Ku- and C-band services, with MultiChoice, Africa’s leading pay TV provider, utilizing the Ku-band payload. (8/4)

ILS Reduces Staff by 25% (Source: Forbes)
International Launch Services will be laying off about 25% of its workforce, due to anticipated reductions in its launch schedule. “Staffing at ILS is now at a level that is consistent with our near-term business, which required us to decrease our workforce by roughly 25%... Previous staffing was consistent with planning for 7-8 launches per year. We are now targeting for 3-4 missions annually,” ILS President Phil Slack said.

A spokesperson for the company told me that the primary reason for the reduced launch expectations include increased competition due to smaller spacecraft. The Proton is a heavy lift vehicle and can handle both large payloads and multiple small payloads. However, for small, single payloads, there’s more competition, and consequently ILS’ competitors have received many of those contracts. (8/4)

SpaceX Commits to Spaceport in Texas (Sources: Venture Beat, Bloomberg)
Brownsville is about to get much more famous. Today, Gov. Rick Perry (R) announced that California-based commercial space-travel startup SpaceX had reached an agreement to build its first commercial spaceport and launch pad in Texas. SpaceX expects to launch 12 orbital rockets per year from the site. Per terms of the deal, SpaceX will build a control center in Cameron County, Texas, with a launch facility in Brownsville.

The state is providing $2.3 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund to bring an estimated 300 jobs to the launch site, which will inject about $85 million of capital investment into the economy, according to a news release. The state is offering another $13 million from the SpacePort Trust Fund to support the development of infrastructure. Local officials are awarding about $5 million of incentives. (8/4)

A NASA Scientist on Why Australian Funding Cuts are an Embarrassment (Source: ABC)
The federal budget was unveiled almost three months ago, but various sectors are still reeling from funding cuts. As well as universities, welfare, and government programs, scientific research has also been affected. In May, the federal government slashed funding to the CSIRO by $111 million over the next four years.

In Queensland alone, 100 CSIRO mathematicians and computer mapping staff will lose their jobs. Dr Abigail Allwood is a Brisbane-based scientsist who now works at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California. She says that the federal government's cuts to science are an embarrassment. (8/5)

New Canadian Rocket Company Plans "Neutrino" Small Launcher (Source: SpaceRef)
It might come as a surprise to most Canadians, but Canada has never launched a rocket into orbit. Sure, we were the third country in the world to build our own satellite, the Alouette, but it was launched by the U.S. on an American rocket. Sure we've sent astronauts into space, built the Canadarm, Canadarm2, Dextre, have satellites in orbit and even sent instruments to Mars. But sending a rocket into orbit, never. That could all change though if Open Space Orbital has its way.

Open Space Orbital of Nova Scotia is now going public with its plans to develop a small satellite rocket launcher, called Neutrino 1, which would be capable of launching small satellites weighing up to 50kg into orbit and is looking to the public to provide the initial seed money to get the company off the ground. Open Space Orbital launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $100,000 on Kickstarter. The money will be used to setup an office in Halifax, continue its preliminary research, and most importantly, continue the process of fundraising from private and government sources. (8/4)

I want a President Who Believes in Aliens (Sourcew: RedEye)
This summer has been an exciting time for political and space-alien junkies alike. On the E.T. front, NASA has discovered so many new planets that it spurred Sara Seager, a professor of planetary science at MIT, to say, “We believe we're very, very close in terms of technology and science to actually finding the other Earth and our chance to find signs of life on another world.”

And as far as politics goes, we’ve got exciting midterms—blah, blah—and the 2016 presidential race is heating up—blah, blah, blah—Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, “Chris Christie is his own newly discovered planet” joke, etc. OK, so our insipid political discourse is light years less exciting than exoplanets, which brings me to my next point: Isn’t it totally bizarre that we would never elect a president who claimed to believe in extraterrestrial life and included the issue in his platform?

Yet it’s beyond required that all of our candidates believe in an omnipotent magic man in the sky who reads their thoughts and does them favors if they ask nicely? C’mon, that’s weird! We treat the latter as pious and thoughtful and the former as kooks? That’s really weird! It ain’t exactly top-secret Area 51 info that extraterrestrial life certainly exists—or did you not see “Cosmos”? (8/4)

Best Method for Finding Aliens Will Involve a Ton of False Positives (Source: Motherboard)
If aliens aren't going to visit us in a flying saucer, we've got to find a way to determine whether they're out there, minding their own business on some faraway exoplanet. Unfortunately, one of the best proposed methods of doing it is likely to result in a whole bunch of false positives, according to a researcher at MIT.

There's a lot of ways that astronomers and SETI researchers are looking for inhabited planets—we're looking into intercepting radio transmissions, sending some out ourselves, looking for biological components on Mars, and even looking for alien pollution—but analyzing exoplanets' atmospheres for "biosphere gases" (the ones given off by life) is one of the more promising and realistic techniques.

At least, that's what we thought. But a new paper published by Sara Seager, a planetary researcher at MIT, suggests that maybe atmosphere analysis isn't all it's cracked up to be. That's because exoplanets are incredibly diverse, and the gases we're likely to run into (and that could be suspected to be coming from living things) could have perfectly normal geological origins. "False positives will, in many cases, be a problem, and in the end, we will have to develop a framework for assigning a probability to a given planet to have signs of life," she wrote. (8/5)

45 Years After Apollo 11, NASA Prepares for Another Big Splashdown (Source: Planetary Society)
Humans won’t ride in Orion until 2021. But in December, an uncrewed version of the capsule will be sent around the Earth for a two-orbit shakedown cruise. Last February, NASA and the U.S. Navy headed out into the Pacific to practice recovering a test version of Orion called the Boilerplate Test Article, or BTA. They also wanted to try fishing all of Orion’s hardware out of the sea—stuff that is shed as the capsule returns from space.

The tests encountered some snags—literally. Mike Generale, the Orion recovery operations manager and recovery test director at KSC, said that NASA and the Navy successfully recovered the forward bay cover and parachutes. They also demonstrated proper coordination with mission control in Houston. But when it came time to pull the Orion BTA out of the U.S.S. San Diego’s well deck, things got a little tricky.

The waves in the Pacific that day began steadily rocking the San Diego from bow to stern. Every time the stern lifted, more waves came crashing into the well deck, causing the water in the ship to slosh back and forth. Orion bounced and jostled. Line handlers on the well deck’s wing walls struggled to maintain control. And some of the tending lines got caught on the capsule’s recovery cradle. It was all too much—the team needed to stop and regroup. Click here. (8/4)

Feeling StrongARMed (Source: Space Review)
A mission to redirect an asteroid into lunar orbit to be visited by astronauts might sound like something of great interest to planetary scientists, but many remain skeptical of NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). Jeff Foust provides an update on ARM and why some scientists feel so strongly negative about the proposed mission. Visit to view the article. (8/4)

The ExoLance Project and the Search for Life on Mars (Source: Space Review)
Last week, Explore Mars formally kicked off a crowdfunding effort for the first phase of ExoLance, a project to develop penetrators that could fly to Mars as part of other missions. Joe Cassady explains why ExoLance could revolutionize the search for life on Mars. Visit to view the article. (8/4)

CubeSats to the Moon (Source: Space Review)
As CubeSats become widely used for various applications in Earth orbit, some are thinking about how such small spacecraft can be used for missions beyond Earth. Jeff Foust reports on recent proposals to send CubeSat missions to -- and, in some cases, into -- the Moon. Visit to view the article. (8/4)

The Moon or Mars? (Source: Space Review)
Two months after its release, a report by the National Research Council on human space exploration continues to trigger debate on what NASA should be doing beyond Earth orbit. Eric Hedman examines in particular the perceived disconnect in interest between the Moon and Mars. Visit to view the article. (8/4)

Operational Hosted Payloads Clear Big Government Hurdle (Source: Aviation Week)
U.S. Air Force adoption of a streamlined process to buy piggyback rides for government payloads on commercial spacecraft should go a long way toward accelerating the nascent hosted-payload industry, which has languished after a faltering start.

The USAF Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) has awarded indefinite-delivery / indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contracts worth as much as $494.9 million each over five years to 14 companies it judges able to put military and civil payloads on commercial satellites. The goal of the Hosted Payload Solutions (HoPS) program is to save taxpayers’ money by sharing the housekeeping services of power supply, data-handling and communications with the spacecraft owner. (8/4)

Center for Orbital Debris Recruits Industrial Affiliates (Source: LaunchSpace)
The newly formed Center for Orbital Debris Education and Research (CODER) at the University of Maryland is off to a rapid start. Collaborations within the industry are quickly being formed in order to create focused research projects that will hopefully lead to a better understanding of the many complex issues regarding orbital debris and its effects on the future of spaceflight as we know it.

CODER is starting its proactive outreach program with the 2014 Orbital Debris Workshop. This event will be held at the University of Maryland, November 18-20, 2014. The workshop will include presentations from experts on the technology, policy, legal and business aspects of dealing with orbital debris issues. More information on the CODER Industrial Affiliates Program and the Orbital Debris Workshop is available here. (8/4)

Sierra Nevada Corp. and BioServe Cooperation (Source: SNC)
Sierra Nevada Corp. is pleased to announce it is expanding its relationship with the University of Colorado Boulder (CU-Boulder) through the signing of a letter of cooperation with CU-Boulder’s BioServe Space Technologies (BioServe). Through the cooperation, SNC and BioServe will jointly explore ways the Dream Chaser Space Utility Vehicle (SUV) can serve as an orbital platform for scientific experiments in microgravity and space life science research.

SNC and CU-Boulder have a long-standing relationship collaborating on various projects throughout the development of the Dream Chaser commercial space transportation vehicle. Currently, CU-Boulder is a Dream Chaser program – Dream Team – member. CU-Boulder has provided SNC with leading research and development support over the past several years, including defining the overall cockpit design of the Dream Chaser spacecraft. (8/4)

Space Coast Dem. Candidate Gets $220K SpacePAC (Source: Sunshine State News)
A congressional candidate in Florida is getting a boost from a super political action committee with one donor, which happens to be his dad. Gabriel Rothblatt’s father, Martine founded Sirius Satellite Radio and a Maryland-based biotech company. The 8th Congressional District, in which Rothblatt is running, includes Kennedy Space Center.

Such vast, available resources, coupled with elite connections, could go a long way toward unseating the incumbent Republican with little outside name recognition, U.S. Rep. Bill Posey. Interestingly, Rothblatt’s super-PAC is called SpacePAC. “We are SpacePAC Space Political Affairs Committee, based in Washington, D.C.. with primary intent to make man’s access to space not a destination but a regular activity,” reads the super-PAC’s website. (8/4)

SLS Rocket to Launch Cubesat Program (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
If NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), the current heavy-lift rocket program designed to replace the space shuttle, does get the funding it needs, the first mission will carry not humans but 11 cubesats. The project to launch them via SLS is still in the planning stages, but NASA Human Exploration and Operations Directorate’s Advanced Exploration Systems program has chosen three of the 11 cubesat missions already.

Once NASA Advanced Exploration Systems officials approve each mission concept, researchers will begin the process of designing and building the cubesats themselves, each of which will be 6U in size. If all goes as planned, SLS will carry the cubesats below the Orion crew capsule where life support systems would normally go, and they will be released after the Orion is sent into a distant lunar retrograde orbit. Each cubesat would send data back via NASA’s Deep Space Network. (8/4)

No comments: