August 6, 2014

Sane Reasons To Be A Mars Colonizer (Source: Popular Science)
Is it insane to sign up for a one-way trip to Mars? Mason Peck would like to assure you it is not. He addressed the sanity of Mars colonizers in a post yesterday on the Mars One website. Peck is a Mars One adviser who previously served as NASA's Chief Technologist; Mars One is the company that plans to send one-way missions to colonize the Red Planet starting in 2024.

Mars One is now in the process of interviewing hundreds of applicants, out of an initial pool of more than 200,000. Eventually, the company wants to find just 24 to 40 colonizers to go permanently into space. Meanwhile, the company has launched a forum where experts answer ethical questions about the private mission. Peck's answer to "Is a one-way journey wrong?" is the forum's first post.

"There are many motivations for becoming one of the first settlers on Mars, none of them insane in my opinion," he wrote, before listing four. Later, he wrote, "In fact, I think we may be morally obligated to permit people the freedom to do so, and not impede their desire to realize their dreams by imposing our own fears or superstitions based on uninformed perspectives." (8/5)

ULA Standing By for RD-180 Deliveries Through 2017 (Source: Space News)
Economic sanctions the United States and Europe levied against the Russian government in July following the downing of a passenger jet by what U.S. authorities say was a Russian missile operated by Ukrainian separatists will not disrupt the flow of Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines to United Launch Alliance, a company executive said here Aug. 5.

“At our level, it’s business as usual,” Mark Peller, director of the hardware value stream for Denver-based ULA, said here in a panel presentation at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Space 2014 conference. Peller said ULA signed a contract earlier this year with RD-180 reseller RD Amross, a joint venture of the engine’s Moscow-area manufacturer, NPO Energomash, and United Technologies Corp., that calls for delivery of 29 engines through 2017. (8/6)

NASA Engineering Competition Will Include KSC Forum (Source: FSGC)
NASA and the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) invites you to participate in the exciting 2015 Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts-Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) Engineering Design Competition. Since 2002, RASC-AL has been challenging the brightest students at the nation’s top engineering schools to develop innovative, revolutionary concepts to solve challenges pertaining to NASA’s near and long term mission goals. 

Teams that are selected will receive a $6,000 stipend to facilitate full participation in the Forum held in Cocoa Beach, Florida in May/June 2015. This year’s RASCAL themes are looking for innovations in crafting NASA exploration strategy as it relates to extending humanity’s reach beyond low Earth Orbit (LEO).

Optimally, the RASC-AL themes lend themselves to a long-term class project or senior/Master’s thesis, where students develop scenarios for the synergistic application of innovative capabilities and/or new technologies for evolutionary architecture development to enable future missions, reduce cost, or improve safety. In an effort to help you incorporate a RASC-AL framework into your coursework (if interested), we are providing you with a sneak preview of the 2015 RASC-AL themes – 2 months earlier than ever before! Click here. (8/6)

Space Should be "Weapons Free" Zone (Source: Russia Today)
Ensuring that weapons are never deployed in space is one of Russia's key international security objectives, according to former Russian Ambassador to the U.K. Alexander Yakovenko. In this commentary, Yakovenko writes that Russia will continue collaboration efforts with the EU on a draft International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities. "Russia firmly believes that space belongs to all mankind and should be exploited by all states in a peaceful, transparent and open manner," he writes. (8/5)

For the Record Books (Source: Space KSC)
The just-under-22-days turnaround for SpaceX at LC-40 is a modern-era (2000 - present) record for shortest turnaround of a CCAFS pad to launch again. The previous record holder? SpaceX, earlier this year — 34 days between SES-8 on December 3, 2013 and Thaicom 6 on January 6, 2014.

The other pads researched were Launch Complex 37 with the Boeing Delta IV, Launch Complex 41 with the Lockheed Martin Atlas V, and Launch Complex 17 with the Boeing Delta II. LC-17 went inactive in 2012; it had two pads, so each pad was counted as a separate facility. Click here. (8/5)

Dream Chaser Program Expands (Source: SpaceRef)
Sierra Nevada Corp. has announced an expansion of its Dream Chaser program, which now includes a mix of small businesses, legacy aerospace firms, university partners, and foreign space operation organizations, in "32 states, 50 Congressional districts, and 2 foreign nations."

Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC Space Systems, announced that the "Dream Chaser" spacecraft is "on track for its anticipated first launch in November, 2016." Sirangelo said the November launch would be unmanned and would be the first of two required flights for certification. A crewed launch will follow in 2017, and Sirangelo expects "5 test flights in all, 3 of them crewed."

The Dream Chaser team now includes: "Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance, Draper Laboratory, Aerojet Rocketdyne, MacDonald Dettwiler & Associates Ltd. (MDA), UTC Aerospace Systems, Jacobs, Moog Broad Reach, Siemens PLM Software, Southwest Research Institute, and a number of companies categorized as small and disadvantaged businesses that have or are supporting the program such as Craig Technologies, David Clark Company, Special Aerospace Services, AdamWorks, and Arctic Slope Research Corporation." (8/5)

Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist Looks For ‘Disruption’ Before Investing (Source: Aviation Week)
Steve Jurvetson, one of the most successful venture capitalists on Sand Hill Road – the Wall Street of Silicon Valley – says he spent 10 years looking for a suitable space startup to back before he found Elon Musk. Musk was an attractive bet, Jurvetson said, because he’d already invested $100 million of his own dot-com money in the Falcon 1 space launch vehicle. But what closed the deal was Musk’s idea of colonizing Mars.

The "disruptive" startups he has convinced his partners at Draper Fisher Jurvetson to back are ready to tackle "the things they think of that are unique, are so big, so audacious, that it’s almost crazy to the average person." That approach gives a startup an "unfair advantage" that it can take to the bank. (8/5)

Captains of Industry Explore Space's New Frontiers (Source: AFP)
With spacecraft that can carry tourists into orbit and connect Paris to New York in less than two hours, the new heroes of space travel are not astronauts but daring captains of industry. This new breed of space pioneers are all using private money to push the final frontier as government space programmes fall away.

Times have changed. Once the space race was led by the likes of the US space agency NASA that put the first man on the moon in 1969. Today it is entrepreneur Elon Musk -- the founder of Tesla electric cars and space exploration company SpaceX -- who wants to reach Mars in the 2020s. The furthest advanced -- and most highly-publicised -- private space project is led by Richard Branson, the British founder of the Virgin Group. Click here. (8/3)

China's Circumlunar Spacecraft Unmasked (Source: Space Daily)
Later this year, China will send a spacecraft out to the Moon, then return it to Earth. The uncrewed vehicle will fly around the far side of the Moon and use the Moon's gravity to slingshot it back to Earth. As it approaches the home planet, the spacecraft will release a capsule that will parachute to a soft landing.

Officially, the mission is designed to test a re-entry capsule to be used in a future robotic lunar-sample return mission. In this analyst's opinion, the mission is also designed to prepare for a future Chinese astronaut launch to the Moon. Filling this information vacuum, I have now prepared a rough diagram of the expected layout of China's first circumlunar spacecraft. China has slowly trickled out details on this mission, but has yet to release any illustrations of the entire vehicle.

China has disclosed that the main module of the spacecraft is based on the same design as the Chang'e-1 and 2 lunar orbiters. This is a boxy structure that is itself derived from a Chinese communications satellite design. Using this basic structure again makes sense. It has a proven track record on two previous lunar missions. China has also released photographs of the re-entry capsule. It's a small scale-model of the Shenzhou re-entry module used to launch and return China's astronauts. (8/3)

Can A ‘Planet-Like Object’ Start Its Life Blazing As Hot As A Star? (Source: Universe Today)
Nature once again shows us how hard it is to fit astronomical objects into categories. An examination of a so-far unique brown dwarf — an object that is a little too small to start nuclear fusion and be a star — shows that it could have been as hot as a star in the ancient past.

The object is one of a handful of brown dwarfs that are called “Y dwarfs”. This is the coolest kind of star or star-like object we know of. These objects have been observed at least as far back as 2008, although they were predicted by theory before. Click here. (8/5)

Holly Branson Likely Out of First SpaceShipTwo Commercial Flight (Source: Parabolic Arc)
It would seem that Richard Branson’s daughter Holly will not be joining her famous father and brother Sam on the first SpaceShipTwo commercial flight, which is scheduled for the end of the year from Spaceport America in New Mexico. "Freddie and I are delighted to share the happy news that we are expecting twins!” Holly Branson announced on Tuesday in a blog post on the Virgin Group’s website. (8/5)

NASA's Next Opportunity for CubeSat Missions Focuses on States (Source: NASA)
NASA is opening the next round of its CubeSat Launch Initiative, part of the White House Maker Initiative, in an effort to engage the growing community of space enthusiasts that can contribute to NASA's space exploration goals. The CubeSat Launch Initiative gives students, teachers and faculty a chance to get hands-on flight hardware development experience in the process of designing, building and operating small research satellites.

One goal is extend the successes of space exploration to all 50 states by launching a small satellite from at least one participant in each state in the next five years. To this end, NASA is particularly focused this round on gaining participation in the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and 21 states not previously selected for the CubeSat Launch Initiative. These states are: Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming. (8/5)

Smartphone Advances Drive Smallsats (Source: Aviation Week)
Terrestrial smartphone technology, based in part on government space research, is finding its way back into space as low-cost, rapidly evolving processors, cameras, GPS receivers and other gear used in bulk by the burgeoning smallsat movement. In Silicon Valley, where the lifetime of a state-of-the-art smartphone is about one year, engineers at Ames Research Center have been plugging smartphones into spacecraft to get the most capable hardware into space quickly.

That approach has migrated into the commercial sector, where groups of Ames alumni are applying it to constellations of low-orbit smallsats that they are evolving toward the day when they can provide daily remote-sensing updates over the entire Earth. “We don’t actually use any phones anymore, but we do use consumer electronics, and all the chips that are in phones,” says Will Marshall, one of the founders of Planet Labs Inc. and a veteran of NASA’s PhoneSat project at Ames. (8/4)

Cubesats Headed For The Moon (Source: Aviation Week)
Tiny cubesats, once a teaching tool to give engineering students hands-on experience developing simple spacecraft, are about to make the leap to serious science as a low-cost way to find and quantify deposits of water ice on the Moon for future human explorers to use.

Students, their professors and their industry suppliers have pushed cubesat capabilities beyond simple low Earth orbit exercises with little more capability than the first Sputnik. In recent papers they addressed what it would take to send cubesats to the Moon, and both are working to realize that goal. Click here. (8/4)

Europe's Rosetta Arrives At Comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko (Source: Space Daily)
After a decade-long journey chasing its target, ESA's Rosetta has today become the first spacecraft to rendezvous with a comet, opening a new chapter in Solar System exploration. Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and Rosetta now lie 405 million kilometres from Earth, about half way between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars, rushing towards the inner Solar System at nearly 55 000 kilometres per hour.

The comet is in an elliptical 6.5-year orbit that takes it from beyond Jupiter at its furthest point, to between the orbits of Mars and Earth at its closest to the Sun. Rosetta will accompany it for over a year as they swing around the Sun and back out towards Jupiter again. Through a comprehensive, in situ study of the comet, Rosetta aims to unlock the secrets within. (8/5)

Extreme Volcanism On Io (Source: Space Daily)
During the middle of 2013, Jupiter's moon Io came alive with volcanism. Now, an image from the Gemini Observatory captures what is one of the brightest volcanoes ever seen in our solar system. The image, obtained on August 29, reveals the magnitude of the eruption that was the "grand finale" in a series of eruptions on the distant moon.

Io's volcanism is caused by the tidal push-and-pull of massive Jupiter, which heats the satellite's interior - making it our Solar System's most volcanically active known body. Katherine De Kleer's paper examines the powerful late-August eruption in detail, concluding that the energy emitted was about 20 Terawatts and expelled many cubic kilometers of lava. "At the time we observed the event, an area of newly-exposed lava on the order of tens of square kilometers was visible" says de Kleer. (8/6)

Despite SpaceX Plans, Nelson Pushes for Brevard Launches (Source: Florida Today)
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on Tuesday downplayed the news that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk selected Texas for the site of a private launch complex. Nelson, an Orlando Democrat, said many of SpaceX's launches would remain here and that the Cape is taking steps to welcome more commercial launches. "I think you're going to see a lot of commercial activity that is going to be there and on the Kennedy Space Center," Nelson said. "So I think we have a robust future."

Florida officials have rued the loss of those commercial launches — up to 12 a year — as evidence that the Space Coast is failing to adapt to a changing launch industry. Nelson said SpaceX's Texas site has some limitations. For example, he said, it is suitable only for missions to equatorial orbits that must "thread the needle" between the Florida Keys and north coast of Cuba. "How many launches will be financially viable for them to do that from there?" he said. "I think that's a story still to be told." (8/5)

Editorial: Abolish the Air Force (Source: Aviation Week)
Institutionally speaking, we are living in 1947. We created military services in order to provide institutional voice to certain kinds of capabilities. Interwar airpower enthusiasts argued that aviators needed an independent service because land and sea commanders could not appreciate the transformative implications of military aviation. Innovation, industry and doctrine would suffer as the parochial interests of the Army and Navy prevented aviators from spreading their wings, so to speak.

I argue that our institutions need reform, and that the Air Force should be folded into the Army and the Navy. Today the U.S. operates five air forces, each with distinct procurement, training and mission priorities: the U.S. Air Force and the aviation branches of the Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Coast Guard. Each operates by its own rules and has its own set of complicated relationships with other organizations. The creation of services inevitably results in the manufacturing of bureaucratic barriers between warfighters.

We don’t have endless disputes over close air support and the A-10 because either Air Force or Army officers are bad or stupid. Rather, we have these disputes because we have structured our system so that two services compete over resources and have an incentive to shirk joint capabilities. The borders that divide the services may (or may not) have made sense in 1947, but now they hamper good strategic and tactical thinking and contribute to a utterly broken procurement process. Killing a government bureaucracy is hard, but it can be done. Click here. (7/31)

Universal Space Network Opens Network Management Center (Source: USN)
Universal Space Network (USN) recently celebrated a ribbon cutting ceremony for its Chantilly Network Management Center (NMC) in Chantilly, Va.  At USN, the NMC acts as the customer interface for satellite operators to connect into, allowing access to the global network of antennas providing bent-pipe connectivity to their satellites in real-time. This NMC replaces a recently closed facility in Newport Beach, Calif. and provides USN with lower cost operations, increased resiliency and improved geography. (8/5)

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