August 7, 2014

NASA Selects Innovative Advanced Concepts For More Study (Source: Space Daily)
Looking ahead to an exciting future, NASA is continuing to invest in concepts that may one day revolutionize how we live and work in space with the selection of five technology proposals for continued study under the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program. NASA based the NIAC Phase II selections on their potential to transform future aerospace missions, introduce new capabilities, or significantly improve current approaches to building and operating aerospace systems.

The five studies chosen include: 1) A concept for a 10-meter, suborbital large balloon reflector that might be used as a telescope inside a high-altitude balloon; 2) A spacecraft-rover hybrid concept for the exploration of small solar system bodies; 3) A concept for deep mapping of small solar system bodies, such as asteroids; 4) A concept for a low-mass planar photonic imaging sensor to replace traditional, bulkier telescopes; and 5) A granular media imager concept to use an orbiting cloud of dust-like matter as the primary element for an ultra-large space aperture. (8/7)

November, January Dates for Launch Abort Tests of Crew-Capable Dragon (Source: Space News)
SpaceX will perform a pair of crucial launch abort tests beginning later this year for the crewed version of the Dragon space capsule central to the company’s bid to become NASA’s post-shuttle provider of astronaut transportation. The company plans to conduct a pad abort test at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in November, followed by an in-flight abort test from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in January, Garrett Reisman, SpaceX Dragon Rider program manager, said.

In the pad-abort test, Dragon will be mounted to a mocked-up SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and use its hydrazine-fueled SuperDraco thrusters to boost itself up and away from the pad, as it might need to do in the event of a major problem just before or during liftoff. The in-flight test will attempt to repeat the feat at altitude. (8/7)

UK to Launch Commercial Spaceport by 2018 (Source:
The U.K. government is laying the groundwork for its first spaceport in anticipation of a growing space tourism demand and a growing space plane industry by 2030, according to a new timetable. Government officials also envision orbital launches from that country within the next 15 years.

According to the new timetable, unveiled at the Farnborough International Airshow last month, the U.K. is planning to build $85.5 million spaceport (50 million British pounds) and anticipates a space tourism market worth $65 million each year, as well as a space plane industry worth $33.9 billion (20 billion pounds) by 2030. (8/6)

Robotic Rock Climbers Could Uncover Clues to Mars' Past (Source: Space Daily)
A robot that can scale the faces of steep cliffs might one day help explore Mars and find signs of life. The latest experiments with this "Cliffbot" showed it could help examine places otherwise difficult or impossible for astronauts to safely reach, although further improvements are needed for it to overcome obstacles. Click here. (8/7)

US EVA Delayed; Crew Preps For Russian EVA, Robonaut Upgrades (Source: Space Daily)
The six-person Expedition 40 crew of the orbiting International Space Station spent Wednesday conducting medical research, gearing up for a Russian spacewalk and preparing the station's robotic crew member for a mobility upgrade. The crew also stowed spacewalk tools and equipment following the postponement of two additional spacewalks that were planned for later in August.

International Space Station program managers decided Tuesday to postpone the U.S. spacewalks planned for Aug. 21 and 29 until the fall to allow new Long Life Batteries to be delivered to the station aboard the SpaceX-4 commercial resupply services flight. A potential issue with a fuse within the battery of the U.S. spacesuits prompted the decision. (8/7)

Let Universities Unleash Drones (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
It's a strange world where Martha Stewart gets to take pictures from a drone hundreds of feet in the air, while advanced aviation scientists at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University remain tethered to the ground by a 70-foot rope. In an essay last week for Time magazine, the nation's most famous (and felonious) domestic goddess waxed poetic about taking beach and home shots with her Parrot AR Drone 2.0. As a hobbyist, Stewart can simply visit one of several websites selling drones, offer up her credit card and have a drone delivered in flight-ready mode.

There are solid reasons to be cautious about such a rapidly evolving technology. Drones have limitless potential to benefit humans, in areas ranging from fire patrols to package deliveries. They could also seriously undermine Americans' expectations of privacy and safeguards against unreasonable searches. But the ideal place to address those questions is at universities like Embry-Riddle, where students are eagerly signing up for classes related to unmanned aircraft, and the nation's top experts in aviation are building research programs around the potential of drones.

Federal authorities currently allow public universities to apply for permission to operate drones, but shut out private institutions such as ERAU, Harvard and Stanford. Many of the nation's top aviation scientists and astronauts got their start by experimenting with unmanned model aircraft — and that the small, relatively inexpensive drones are well-suited for designing and testing innovations that could impact the safety and efficiency of full-sized aircraft. Loosening the restrictions on drone education and research could untether new economic possibilities — not just for Embry-Riddle, but across the nation. (8/7)

Russian Space Scientists Hope Sanctions Don't Impede Projects (Source: Space Daily)
Russian scientists hope that the western sanctions, imposed on Russia over the crisis in Ukraine, will not impede the implementation of space projects. The scientist specifically hopes the sanctions will not affect the Millimetron space observatory mission - a high-sensitivity astrophysics study unit operating in millimeter and submillimeter and infrared regions. (8/7)

Scientists Find Life in a Lake of Oil (Source: Air & Space)
The Cassini spacecraft has taught us much about the tantalizing world that is Saturn’s moon Titan. The atmosphere is 50 percent thicker than Earth’s and contains methane clouds, which dump their loads in monsoon-like rainstorms. Titan’s atmospheric composition—mostly nitrogen and methane—resembles that of Earth’s atmosphere more than 4 billion years ago, at a time when life originated on our planet.

Cassini has discovered huge ethane-methane lakes in the near-polar areas and dune fields in the equatorial regions. A relatively smooth landscape suggests that the moon is heated from the inside. Titan also probably has a subsurface ocean and groundwater consisting of a mixture of water and ammonia. There may even be geysers. Still, Titan is extremely cold. So, even with all these Earthlike traits, the question remains as to whether life could exist in a place that might be compared to an oil spill in Antarctica (except that it’s even more extreme).

New research by Rainer Meckenstock and colleagues—including me—just published in the journal Science reveals that life can exist in a place on Earth that’s almost as nasty. The international team analyzed a natural liquid asphalt lake in Trinidad and found that microbial life (bacteria and archaea) is concentrated in miniscule water droplets within the surrounding oil. The high salinity of the droplets and their isotopic composition indicates that the source of the hydrocarbons is the deep subsurface. (8/7)

New Horizons' First Optical Navigation Images of Pluto and Charon (Source: Planetary Society)
What's that in the distance? A binary star? Those are two little round worlds dancing in circles, whirling around a point in space located between the two of them. It's Pluto and Charon, clearly separated by New Horizons' high-powered Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) camera. Click here. (8/7)

Updated SPACErePORT Launcher Chart Includes Boca Chica, Alpha & Electron (Source: SPACErePORT)
It is becoming a bit overcrowded, but changes in the orbital space launch industry have required another update to the SPACErePORT's International Space Launch Vehicle chart. New additions include the Boca Chica launch site now planned for SpaceX's Falcon-9, and two proposed microsatellite launchers: the Firefly Alpha and the Rocket Labs Electron. Here's the chart. (8/7)

Firefly Space Systems Gains Partner in General Astronautics (Source: Firefly)
Firefly Space Systems is announcing the addition of Generation Astronautics, LLC (GenAstro) to its strategic team. Based in Washington D.C., GenAstro will assist Firefly’s senior management team in strategic planning, capturing new opportunities, and engagement with the federal government and industry. “GenAstro is proud to join the Firefly team as they advance the goal of making affordable, dedicated small satellite launch a reality,” said GenAstro Principal and Founder Paul E. Damphousse.

GenAstro is a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) based in Washington, D.C that provides clients with a unique blend of strategy development, operations and safety planning, and policy navigation within the commercial, civil, international, and national security space sectors. GenAstro focuses on the development of space architectures and infrastructure, from spaceport and suborbital operations, to high-speed point-to-point transport, to low-earth orbit, to cis-lunar space and the lunar surface. (8/6)

Most Interesting Thing to Happen in 4.6 Billion Years (Source: Planetary Resources)
Today we are extremely excited that the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft successfully rendezvoused with Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The Comet has been waiting for this day for the entire age of the Solar System, more than 4.6 Billion years, and today it’s being visited by an alien craft from another world – Earth, and we are the aliens that sent it there! At least for the comet, it may be the most interesting thing to happen in 4.6 Billion years.

The Rosetta spacecraft has been enroute to the comet for more than 10 years, a blink in time, but a long time for its Earth-bound operators, and now its true mission can finally begin. At a distance of some 555 million kilometers, it’s still far enough away from the Sun not to have much cometary activity, with only the faintest of activity visible in long-duration exposures. So it actually looks a little like… an asteroid! Click here. (8/6)

Did NASA Validate an “Impossible” Space Drive? In a Word, No. (Source: Discover)
Physicist John Baez has another, more colorful word to describe the spate of recent reports about a breakthrough space engine that produces thrust without any propellant. The word starts with “bull–.” I won’t finish it, this being a family-friendly web site and all. Baez himself has softened his tone and now calls it “baloney,” though his sentiment remains the same: The laws of physics remain intact, and the “impossible” space drive is, as far as anyone can tell, actually impossible.

Several years back, a British inventor named Roger Shawyer and his EmDrive tested a prototype rocket engine which he claimed generated thrust by bouncing microwaves around in an enclosed metal funnel. Since no mass or energy emerged from the engine, Sawyer’s claim was another way of saying that he’d found a way to violate the conservation of momentum. In Baez’s words, “this is about as plausible as powering a spaceship by having the crew push on it from the inside.” Sawyer argued that he was exploiting a loophole within general relativity. Baez calls his explanation “mumbo jumbo.” Click here. (8/6)

Going to Mars Could Define Humankind in Decades Ahead (Source: National Geographic)
Are we all Martians? Will we one day be taking our vacations there? Is extraterrestrial life not just the stuff of science fiction? There are some big challenges, but the architecture for sending humans to Mars is entirely understood. The issue is: Is there money? And is there public support? Elon Musk has the advantage of potentially doing some of that on his own.

One of the major issues is that, using current technology, it takes about nine months to get to Mars, and we know that the radiation exposure for that time is probably in the hazardous range. It may not kill you, but it would make you a fairly sick puppy. And so they need to get there quicker. The other obstacle is the life support for human beings when there. And then, getting away again. It turns out that leaving Mars is very difficult. Click here. (8/6)

Questions About Martian Colonies? New 'Mars Exchange' Has Answers (Source:
A private Mars colonization effort is about to get more interactive. The Netherlands-based nonprofit Mars One, which aims to land four settlers on the Red Planet in 2025, has launched a new project called "Mars Exchange" to help answer questions and spur discussion about the group's ambitious plans.

"Mars Exchange will foster a worldwide dialogue and encourage thought-provoking conversations on the subject of the human permanence on Mars," Mars One co-founder and CEO Bas Lansdorp said in a statement. "Mars One advisers, NASA scientists, Mars One team members and even a Nobel Prize winner will contribute." (8/5)

Significant ‘Star Wars’ Presence Planned for Disney Theme Parks (Source: Variety)
The Walt Disney Co. plans for “a far greater ‘Star Wars’ presence” in its theme parks, company chief Bob Iger said Tuesday. The first look at new attractions based on the sci-fi franchise, beyond “Star Tours” that currently operates at several of its parks, will be revealed next year, Iger said during a conference call with analysts to discuss Disney’s record third quarter results. (8/5)

Muted NASA Presence as Russia Hosts International Space Conference (Source: Moscow Times)
The 40th assembly of the largest international conference in space science kicked off at Moscow State University on Monday amid rising tensions between Russia and the West. The Russia-West punching match over Ukraine has seen an exodus from multilateral forums involving Russia, but attempts to drag the space industry into the fray since Russia's annexation of Crimea in March have had limited effect.

Representatives of the U.S.'s space agency, NASA, attended the Moscow conference, albeit in modest numbers, and calls for reprisals against the Russian space industry from Ukrainian delegates were rebuffed. (8/6)

Russia Not Sure What Has Become of Geckos in Space (Source: Moscow Times)
Scientists do not know if Russia's infamous sex geckos, which were launched into space last month, are dead, alive, or having sex, according to a space industry source. The Photon-M4 satellite was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 19 with five geckos on board, together with fruit flies, plant seeds and several other non-biological experiments. Less than a week after its launch, Mission Control reported that it had lost communications with the spacecraft.

On July 26, Russia's Federal Space Agency, or Roscosmos, said it had reestablished control over the vehicle and that the mission was proceeding as planned. However, on Wednesday a source in the space program told RIA Novosti that it is not clear what has become of the frisky geckos that have captured the world's attention throughout the flight. The gecko's mission is to mate in space, allowing Russian scientists to study the effects of zero gravity on an organism's reproductive system. (8/6)

Russia Needs to Produce More Military Spacecraft (Source: RIA Novosti)
ussia has to expand production of military spacecraft, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Tuesday. "Firstly, we need to increase production of military-purpose spacecraft. This is one of defense priorities, ensuring the country’s security," Rogozin said. Secondly, Russia needs high-tech spacecraft, which "will provide consumers in all regions of Russia with all types of communication, navigation, geodesy and cartography," according to the deputy prime minister. (8/5)

Repeated Malfunction Unlikely in Angara’s Next Launch (Source: Itar-Tass)
The repetition of a malfunction which delayed the maiden flight of Angara is ruled out in a next launch of this satellite carrier, said the first deputy general director of Moscow-based Khrunichev space research center. For the first time Angara was to be launched into geostationary orbit from Plesetsk in Russia’s northern Arkhangelsk region on June 27, but the automated system aborted the launch then. The blast-off was delayed for a day and then the rocket was taken off the launching pad for more pre-launch tests.

The launch was cancelled due to a malfunction in the propellant-feed system. The maiden flight of light space rocket carrier Angara was held without major hitches. The inaugural flight was made on ballistic trajectory on July 9, when a mass simulator with the second stage of the two-stage rocket had reached the target area at Kura test range on the Kamchatka peninsula. The launch of a heavy space rocket Angara-A5 is planned in December. The launch vehicle will bring a mass simulator on geostationary orbit. (8/6)

Will the Rosetta Mission Finally End Our Fear of Comets? (Source: BBC)
The Earth will crack, there will be pestilence and fornication, thousands will die. All because of the fire in the sky. This was the way that humans once viewed the arrival of bright burning comets that lit up the ancient dark. But has science finally ended our deeply held suspicions about these strange icy bodies?

Chinese astronomers first documented them more than 3,000 years ago, with 338 separate observations from roughly 1,400 BC to 1,600 AD. In Europe, people believed comets were a bad omen, a sign that disaster and misfortune were on their way. In 1665 English astrologer John Gadbury published De Cometis, asserting that comets were associated with very specific, unedifying events. If one appears in the constellation of Aries, he writes, "you have diseases affecting the head and eyes, detriment unto rich men's sorrows and troubles of the vulgar". (8/5)

Texas SpaceX Deal a High Risk Bet for the State (Source: Quartz)
To beat out six other competitors, Texas is putting up $2.3 million in cash and invest $13 million in infrastructure developments to bring a SpaceX launch facility to Brownsville. In return, SpaceX will invest $85 million in the launch facilities and, according to Texas’ governor, Rick Perry, create 300 jobs loading and serving rockets and managing their lift-off. Spaceports can be a terrible business. Just ask Spaceport America, a Virgin Galactic project that the state of New Mexico has spent $250 million on since 2005—and has yet to see a single launch.

Virgin envisioned a space tourism facility that would create a hub for business in the state. But Virgin Galactic’s technological progress has been slow, the cost of space flight remains high, and the rider experience promised by Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two looks relatively limited. Even when a launch comes (Branson says this year is the year, as he has since 2007) it’s not clear that there will be enough regular demand to bring a meaningful increase in visitors to the area. In other words, it looks like a boondoggle.

When companies use tax dollars to attract business investment, they tend to know what they are getting. But when New Mexico or Texas uses taxpayer dollars to fund spaceports, they are making a bet—that space technology eventually will attract even more economic development to the area, either by making space travel cheap enough to attract hundreds of thousands of tourists or by significantly increasing the volume of the commercial satellite business. (8/6)

UK's Moray Spaceport Gets Council Backing (Source: Press and Journal)
Moray’s spaceport is set for lift off after Moray Council backed the development as an economic priority. RAF Lossiemouth and Kinloss barracks were among eight sites in the UK named recently as possible locations. The enterprise would mean that Moray could cash in on the £400 billion global space market.

Yesterday, Councillor Graham Leadbitter put forward a motion calling for councillors to agree the scheme should be an “important economic development priority” for Moray Council and to task officers to progress work. The economic development and infrastructure committee agreed to support the motion, pledging their full support to the UK Government’s preliminary consultation on the proposals. (8/6)

Nova Scotia Man Hopes Rocket Company Lifts Off (Source: Global News)
A Nova Scotia man is shooting for the stars and trying to develop the country’s first orbital launch vehicles to deliver satellites into outer space. On Tuesday, 22-year old Tyler Reyno of Halifax launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for Open Space Orbital, a private company to be based in Halifax — with a manufacturing and engineering hub in Alder Point, Cape Breton — that would send satellites into space, via a rocket, in a cost-effective manner.

Reyno wants to raise $100,000 to develop and design a prototype of a rocket, which would be called Neutrino 1, conduct market analysis and cover costs related to permits. He estimates the final price tag on his venture to be approximately $50 million. Reyno said the company is meant to appeal to anyone interested in sending a satellite to outer space. (8/5)

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