August 9, 2014

This Singapore Misfit is Kickstarting Australia’s Space Industry (Source: Tech In Asia)
Brian Lim was destined to be a bottom feeder in Singapore. His secondary school was in the bottom ten for the Normal stream – a classification for students who are less adept at scoring in examinations. And the paper chase was all that mattered: the system treated him as someone residing in the lowest rung of society. “Whenever I talked about silly ideas, I was told to sit down. I didn’t pass my ‘O’ Levels, and got kicked out of polytechnic after my first year,” he says.

Like any child, Lim had wild dreams: he wanted to be an astronaut. The education system didn’t take him seriously. In secondary school, he told his physics teacher that he wanted to learn about quantum mechanics. The teacher said that the subject didn’t exist in the curriculum. In polytechnic, Lim talked to his professors about how to build a space ship, but they dismissed him. He had to sneak off to a conference in the National University of Singapore to learn about it.

He joined Singularity University, a Silicon Valley organization that wants to use technology to solve global challenges that will impact a billion people in ten years. It’s an educational institution and startup accelerator rolled into one. Without revealing specifics, Lim says he’s working on a project that would use space in ways that don’t exist or haven’t been conceived yet. Today, Lim runs a startup in Australia called Launchbox, a company that wants to build and launch a satellite into space. (8/8)

SpaceX Might Win in Court, But Can It Beat the DOD's Procurement Culture? (Source: NDIA)
While SpaceX continues to fight a legal battle to gain access to the military rocket launch market, it remains in doubt whether the company’s commercial business model can coexist with the Pentagon’s highly regulated procurement system. SpaceX, is suing the U.S. government for the opportunity to challenge ULA, whict has had a near monopoly on military and intelligence agency satellite launches for more than a decade.

Although Defense Department officials made it clear they dislike being sued, especially by a company that wants their business, they are moving to make SpaceX eligible to compete in future launch programs. They insist it has been their plan all along to open up the market to newcomers, especially now that budgets are coming down and commercial players like SpaceX claim they can put satellites in orbit for a fraction of ULA’s cost.

Of concern to nontraditional companies like SpaceX are cultural and institutional pressures that drive the government to do business as usual with established government contractors. The Air Force said it is investing $100 million in engineering reviews and other regulatory procedures that are necessary to qualify SpaceX to compete for a portion of the launches that are currently performed by ULA's Atlas V rockets. (8/7)

RS-25 Engine Installed for Stennis Testing Amid SLS Schedule Debate (Source:
The Stennis Space Center is just weeks away from returning to RS-25 engine testing, following the installation of Engine 0525 on the A-1 Test Stand. The milestone comes as the launch date for the first Space Launch System (SLS) mission – Exploration Mission -1 (EM-1) – is almost certain to slip by at least six months, with weight issues for Orion’s re-entry the latest claimed issue.

The first mission, known as EM-1, is still officially manifested for December 15, 2017. However, internally that date has all-but been ruled out. While some elements have several months of contingency available, the overall picture continues to be evaluated, such as with the Orion Program, which is ruling out a 2017 debut, due to an extensive re-design effort to lighten the Command Module structure, that needs to be lighter to reduce re-entry speeds. (7/17)

Columbia Memorial Space Center Teams With Google for Online Museum Experience (Source: Press-Telegram)
Downey’s Columbia Memorial Space Center announced it was joining forces with Google to bring its exhibits to the world. The Google Cultural Institute functions as a kind of online museum that aims to bring cultural material like museum exhibitions, artwork, photos and documents available for free on the internet. (8/7)

Astronauts Rely on Sleeping Pills Unsuited to ‘Hazardous Occupations’ (Source: Washington Post)
These are among the standard warnings for lots of sleeping pills. And that’s fine if you don’t have to go out on the highway or operate a backhoe. But what if your workplace 24 hours per day is a hazardous machine in outer space, like the International Space Station? The question is getting renewed attention in the most extensive study to date of the sleeping habits of astronauts as recorded in flight.

They’ve got a problem sleeping, it said, and lots of them, up to three-fourths, take medication to help them doze off. The study looked at the data from more than 4,200 nights spent in space by 64 astronauts on 80 shuttle missions and 21 astronauts aboard ISS missions. “Crew members attempted and obtained significantly less sleep per night” than would otherwise be the case, the study found. Though NASA recommends eight hours of sleep for astronauts, as a group they averaged just less than six hours on shuttle missions and just more than six hours on ISS.

To help themselves sleep, the researchers found “widespread use of sleeping medications such as zolpidem and zaleplon during space flight,” said the summary. “Three-quarters of ISS crew members reported taking sleep medication at some point during their time on the space station. More than three-quarters (78 percent) of shuttle-mission crew members used medication on more than half (52 percent) of nights in space.” (8/8)

First Look at NASA's New $39 Million Huntsville Building (Source: Huntsville Times)
Four years after a brutal Washington budget fight over NASA's future led to hundreds of aerospace layoffs in Huntsville, the Marshall Space Flight Center is ready to cut the ribbon on a $39 million office building dedicated to its new mission in human space flight. On Wednesday, Aug. 13, U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Mobile) and U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) will help NASA officially open the 110,000-square-foot Building 4220.

The new building will house 400 engineers and technologists working on NASA's new Space Launch System (SLS). That's the new deep-space rocket Congress forced on the Obama administration in 2010 after the administration canceled NASA's Constellation rocket program for being behind schedule and over budget. U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Tuscaloosa), who is not scheduled to be at the ribbon-cutting, was critical in assuring that development of SLS came to Huntsville. (8/7)

ISRO Center to Take Innovations to Market (Source: Times of India)
The megapixel cellphone camera with which you take the ubiquitous selfie was originally designed for space photography. CAT scanners and MRI machines were developed by NASA for moon observations in Apollo missions. Velcro was popularized by NASA to bind equipment in zero-gravity situations. In fact, there are over 1,600 such technologies — including cochlear implants and freeze-dried foods — which were expressly conceived for space missions but ended up revolutionizing our lives on earth.

ISRO's Space Application Center's intention is to share its new space-age technologies with external entities, including public-funded enterprises, private industry, academia, and state or Central government organizations. Among the SAC technologies that can be deployed for earthly convenience are the miniature antenna and monopulse tracking receiver for communications; and distress alert transmitters that can be used in emergencies. (8/8)

The Spaceship Reinvented for New Frontiers (Source: CNN)
More than half a century after Sputnik, space travel remains shockingly wasteful. Every rocket we launch at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars can only be used once and completes its mission by falling to Earth in pieces. This disposable design has scarcely advanced since the 1960s. British engineer Alan Bond has been developing a new concept for over 30 years, and is now on the verge of achieving it.

His Skylon "spaceplane" design is intended to withstand multiple uses and requires minimal repairs and turnaround time, so it can function as a rapid response unit for space missions, and go far beyond the existing horizons. Central to the design is a HOTOL (Horizontal Take Off and Landing) system similar to a regular plane so that the craft returns intact. Beyond this, Bond's team at Reaction Engines has invented multiple new technologies, most crucially an ingenious concept engine, the SABRE (Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine). Click here. (8/8)

Mars-Bound Probes Built by India and NASA Are Nearing the Red Planet (Source:
Two Mars-bound spacecraft are both in excellent health ahead of their September arrivals in orbit around the Red Planet, managers for both missions report. India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) is more than 80 percent of the way to Mars and performing well, according to a Facebook update posted July 21 by the Indian Space Research Organization. MOM is expected to enter orbit on Sep. 14.

The second craft, NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN), is also performing well. MAVEN is scheduled to embark on its final approach to the Red Planet on Sept. 21, one week after MOM's arrival. Both MOM and NASA's MAVEN probes launched toward Mars in November 2013. (8/8)

Can We Call Pluto and Charon a 'Binary Planet' Yet? (Source: Discovery)
The debate as to whether Pluto is a planet or a dwarf planet rumbles on, but in a new animation of the small world, one can’t help but imagine another definition for Pluto. As NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft continues its epic journey into the outer solar system, its Kuiper Belt target is becoming brighter and more defined. Seen through the mission’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) camera, its new set of observations clearly shows Pluto and its biggest moon Charon locked in a tight orbital dance separated by only 11,200 miles.

Compared with the Earth-moon orbital separation of around 240,000 miles, you can see how compact the Pluto-Charon system really is. We’ve seen fuzzy photographs of both Pluto and Charon before, but this animation shows something more. This is unique for any planetary body in the solar system — only binary asteroids have been found to have barycenters outside of either mass’ body. This fact alone has led calls for Charon to be recognized as a planetary body in its own right, or that the Pluto-Charon system should be redefined as a “binary planet.” (8/8)

'Make Your Own SpaceShipTwo,' Part of New Virgin Galactic Deal (Source: Collect Space)
Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo will soon launch onto — and, in at least one example, out of — the pages of seven books thanks to a partnership between the private spaceflight company and DK, a global publisher of illustrated reference books. Virgin Galactic announced the collaboration with DK as its latest merchandising and marketing deal intended to document and promote its commercial space tourism services.

"Make Your Own Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo" is one of three new DK titles scheduled for release late next month. The 64-page hardcover will include 92 press-out parts that when pieced together using slots create a scale model of the SpaceShipTwo and its mothership, WhiteKnightTwo. Fully assembled, the book's version of the Virgin Galactic vehicle will measure 27.5 by 15 inches (70 by 38 cm). (8/7)

Alabama Commerce Secretary Talks Incentives, Economic Development (Source:
"On the aerospace side is probably where we've seen the most robust growth in a very interesting way because it's not just necessarily manufacturing. We're seeing a lot of engineering, we're seeing more design and we're seeing much more interest in Alabama from a cutting-edge, technological development perspective..." Click here. (8/8)

Sierra Nevada On Track For Restart Of Lifting Body Flight Tests (Source: Aviation Week)
Sierra Nevada Space Systems is readying the refurbished engineering test article (ETA) version of its Dream Chaser lifting body vehicle for a new series of flight tests this fall and says assembly of the first space-capable version of the vehicle is on track for an orbital test flight in November 2016. The Dream Chaser is up against capsule designs from Boeing and SpaceX for a contract to take astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. (8/6)

Florida Proposals Selected for NASA STTR Phase Two Awards (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected 23 proposals from small business and research institution teams to continue the development of innovative technologies that will support future agency mission needs and may also prove viable as commercial products and services. The projects are worth a combined total of approximately $17.2 million. Four of the projects involve Florida universities or small companies, including...

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Creare, Inc. (of New Hampshire) will develop an "Ultra-Miniaturized Star Tracker for Small Satellite Attitude Control." Streamline Numerics Inc. (of Gainesville) and Mississippi State University will develop a "High Performance Multiphase Combustion Tool Using Level Set-Based Primary Atomization Coupled with Flamelet Models." The University of Florida will work on three projects Prioria Inc. (of Gainesville) and companies in Alabama and, California on "Autonomous Onboard Failsafe System to Mitigate Common Failure Modes of Experimental SUAS," "Particle Flow Physics Modeling for Extreme Environments," and Attitude Control Enhancement Using Distributed Wing Load Sensing for Dynamic Servoelastic Control. (8/8)

In Low Gravity, Scientists Search for a Way to Sauté (Source: Cornell Chronicle)
Chow mein on Mars? Moo shu on the moon? What would it be like to stir-fry in space? A bit messy, according to Cornell researchers, who recently conducted the first partial gravity cooking on record. Postdoctoral research associates in the lab of biological and environmental engineering associate professor Jean Hunter, boarded a zero gravity G-Force 1 space simulator plane in late April to test the effectiveness of a specially constructed space galley. (8/8)

U.S. Network of Spaceports is Thriving - But More Needs Doing to Ensure Continued Growth (Source: SpaceRef)
The nation's commercial spaceport network will be expanding from the "8 that are operating now, to 17 in the next few years," Brian Gulliver, a spaceport development team leader at Reynolds, Smith and Hills, told an audience attending the panel "An Expanding Network of Commercial Spaceports" this morning at the AIAA SPACE 2014 Forum in San Diego.

The growth projections include both vertical launch and horizontal launch facilities. Spaceports expected to come on-line, after they pass extensive FAA scrutiny, will be located in multiple states, with new vertical launch facilities opening in Florida, Georgia and Texas, and horizontal launch facilities opening in Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, and Texas. Scott Colloredo, director of Center Planning and Development at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, noted that "declining budgets and idle facilities have prompted the transition of Kennedy from a solely federal port to a mixed federal/commercial port." Click here.

Editor's Note: Perhaps "thriving" isn't the best way to describe these spaceports. Most are struggling for business and some of the proposed new spaceports will surely fail unless the market grows substantially in coming years. (8/7)

Russia to Decide on Future of Sea Launch Project by End of 2014 (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia will decide on the future of the Sea Launch project, which uses Russian-Ukrainian Zenit-SL rockets to put commercial cargo into orbit, by the end of the year, the head of Russia’s United Rocket and Space Corporation Igor Komarov said. “The unique Sea Launch project faces serious risks as certain parts of Zenit carrier rockets are produced in Ukraine and the floating platform and command ship are based in the U.S."

"The new leadership of the Energia United Rocket and Space Corporation has been tasked with preparing proposals for this project,” Komarov said. Editor's Note: One proposal unveiled in recent months would have Russia relocating the Sea Launch ships to a port in Vietnam, where Russia hopes to project its influence in the region. (8/8)

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