September 14, 2014

Engine Makers Pushing AM, Other Technologies For RD-180 Replacement (Source: Aviation Week)
Rocket-engine developments that evolved from preparations for an advanced strap-on booster to lift the largest version of the planned Space Launch System (SLS) could push a prototype 500,000-lb.-thrust U.S. replacement for Russia’s RD-180 to the test stand in 2.5 years, contractors say.

Dynetics and Aerojet Rocketdyne (AJR) have joined forces on risk-reduction work growing out of NASA’s SLS advanced booster program and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Hydrocarbon Boost effort. The goal is to hasten the AR-1 hydrocarbon-fueled rocket engine being proposed by AJR in hopes that Congress and the Pentagon will decide to go all-out on a U.S. powerplant for national security space launch in place of the RD-180.

Dynetics and AJR have merged their work for NASA and the Air Force in hydrocarbon rocket technology. The new technologies could remove some of the uncertainty that would go into replacing the 860,000-lb.-thrust RD-180 manufactured in Russia by NPO Energomash with the proposed AR-1, a 500,000-lb.-thrust oxidizer-rich, staged-combustion engine that could be twinned for vehicles requiring more thrust. (9/14)

Fourth SpaceX Cargo Mission to ISS Dragon Scheduled for September 20 (Source: RIA Novosti)
The launch of the next SpaceX Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) has been scheduled for September 20. The fourth SpaceX cargo mission to the ISS will launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in Florida at 2:16 a.m. EDT. The spacecraft will take over 5,000 pounds of supplies to the ISS, including food and necessities as well as scientific experiments, for example a 3-D printer. (9/13)

Colorful 1st Map of Rosetta Probe's Comet Target Revealed (Source:
The European spacecraft Rosetta made history last month when it entered orbit around a duck-shaped comet. Since then, the probe has captured such detailed views of the comet's landscape — its jagged cliffs, craters and boulders — that scientists have drawn their first map of the celestial object.

The European Space Agency (ESA) released the colorful map this week that shows the different regions of the 2.5-mile-long (4 kilometer) comet as seen by Rosetta. The map will help scientists pick out the best landing spot for Philae, a small probe riding aboard Rosetta, which is set to touch down on the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November. Philae's final landing site and a backup will be announced on Monday (Sep. 15). (9/12)

Updated List of NASA's Commercial Crew Partner Milestones (Source: Planetary Society)
Since most of us aren't privy to NASA's behind-the-scenes decision making process, I thought it would be helpful to take a look at each company's CCiCap milestones. All three companies received fixed-price funding awards tied to a series of progress milestones. When a company completes a milestone, it earns another portion of its award. Finding an up-to-date list of these milestones is surprisingly difficult, so I created my own. Click here. (9/12)

ISS Serves As Eagle Eye For Earth (Source: Aviation Week)
Engineers managing the International Space Station are preparing to kick off a new use for the orbiting outpost that has not been seriously considered for human spaceflight since the old U.S. Air Force Manned Orbiting Laboratory and Soviet Almaz military reconnaissance space stations were defunded in the 1960s and ’70s—monitoring the home planet.

Cold War military planners figured out that robotic spacecraft could deliver more imagery, thereby stretching funding dollars. Now scientists are finding that the massive multipurpose ISS has a little something for everyone, including oceanographers, climatologists and meteorologists, and at lower cost than custom-built birds. Click here. (9/14)

Water-Splitter Could Make Hydrogen Fuel on Mars (Source: New Scientist)
Lee Cronin at the University of Glasgow are developing a device that zaps water with electricity to release oxygen, then a silicon-based chemical mediator dissolved in the water mops up stray protons and electrons. When it is full, the mediator turns blue, letting a human operator know it can be removed and stored for later. When the hydrogen is needed, putting the mediator in contact with a platinum catalyst allows those electrons and protons to recombine to make hydrogen gas.

The whole process uses a single whack of power, and patchy renewable energy will suffice for this, says Cronin. In return, he says, 30 times as much hydrogen can be made than from existing systems. The device could find uses generating power in developing countries or for making fuel on Mars to power a rocket back to Earth. (9/12)

Jim Tighe to Depart Scaled Composites (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The chief aerodynamicist credited with designing SpaceShipTwo is departing the program on the eve of a crucial series of flight tests designed that Virgin Galactic hopes will lead to the start of commercial suborbital space tourism operations early next year. Multiple sources have confirmed that Jim Tighe announced on Thursday that he would be leaving his position as chief aerodynamicist at Scaled Composites in two weeks for a job at an unnamed aerospace company. It is not clear what prompted the move.

Tighe has been at the very center of the development of SpaceShipTwo, which Scaled Composites has built and is testing for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic company. Scaled Composites Founder Burt Rutan has credited Tighe with having designed the suborbital spacecraft. Tighe also played a central role in the design, development and testing of Scaled Composites’ SpaceShipOne predecessor, which won the $10 million Ansari X Prize in 2004 as the first private vehicle to reach space twice in two weeks. (9/12)

Lucky Golfer to Win Trip to Space on Lynx (Source: Parabolic Arc)
It has been announced that the first player to make a hole-in-one on the 15th hole of the KLM Open will win a trip into space courtesy of XCOR Space Expeditions. As part of a prize package worth US$100,000 this latest offering for an ace is sure to make an unprecedented impression on players and spectators of the event, held at the Kennemer Golf & Country Club from the September 11-14. (9/10)

Embry-Riddle Students Get Hands-On Experience With NASA (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
It wasn’t an ordinary boat ride for Jonathan Jaworski. It was a rare chance for the Embry-Riddle freshman to show NASA astronauts what he’s been working on in the college classroom. He was in Key Largo on Friday moving over choppy water. A 4-foot-long automated submarine called an ecodolphin was in tow and when he arrived at the destination, he put it in the ocean and showcased its functions to a group of NASA astronauts and researchers.

“We (students) actually constructed the ecodolphin. Being able show it off for NASA validates all of our hard work,” he said during a phone call as soon as he returned to dry land. “I think NASA is really excited about the dolphin. It’s a cute little submarine, so it’s been getting a lot of attention.” Jaworski is one of the Embry-Riddle students involved in a three-part research project with NASA and its Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO).

NEEMO is a training program in which a group of astronauts, engineers and scientists live in an undersea research station for three weeks at a time. NASA believes the habitat, which sits in about 60 feet of water nearly three miles off Key Largo, simulates what it’s like to be in space. The aquanauts suit up, escape the habitat for a “spacewalk” and roam throughout the water. The mission is over Sunday and students on the mission, who have been getting up at 6 each morning, are looking forward to going home. (9/14)

The Competition in Space Continues to Heat Up (Source: Behind the Black)
Reports coming out a commercial satellite conference in Paris that indicate that SpaceX has closed 9 deals, including several more for its as yet unflown Falcon Heavy. Also, a replacement for the destroyed Falcon 9R test vehicle will be shipped to McGregor for testing in less than two months. Considering how long it takes governments to build and fly test vehicles, getting this replacement in shape for flight mere months after the failure a few weeks ago is quite impressive. (9/13)

Panel: Pluto a Planet (Source: Arizona Daily Sun)
Tucson scientist David Grinspoon joined a panel recently talking about NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto – but the scientists were most animated when talking about the feud over the status of the recently classified “dwarf planet.” Long sought by Flagstaff’s Lowell Observatory as Planet X, and classified as the solar system’s ninth planet in 1930, Pluto took a hit in 2006 when it was downgraded to the new category, upsetting Pluto’s defenders.

“Dwarf people are people. Dwarf planets are planets,” said Fran Bagenal, a panelist and University of Colorado astrophysicist, when asked about Pluto’s current status. Panelists – NASA officials, academics and contractors overseeing the New Horizons mission – were unanimous in their support of the position that the littlest planet should still be called a planet, without qualifiers. (9/13)

China to Select Astronauts for Space Station in Next Two Years (Source: CRJ)
China plans to select its third batch of astronauts in the next two years, said deputy director of China's Astronaut Center on Saturday. Wang Weifen said that the third batch of astronauts are mainly selected for the construction of its space station, which is scheduled to be completed in 2022. "We will have a high standard for their physical, psychological capabilities and professional knowledge," said Wang.

Wang added that different from the first two batches of astronauts, who are mainly pilots from China's Air forces, the third batch of astronauts will also include doctors, psychologists and engineers from departments relevant to manned space research. No female astronauts are planned to be selected this time, said Wang. (9/13)

The $80m Virginauts Stranded on Earth (Source: Sunday Times)
Richard Branson is facing a backlash from aspiring astronauts who have booked $250,000 seats on his space rocket after he revealed the latest in a series of delays to the inaugural flight. News of the latest setback to Branson’s commercial space program came in an interview last week when the he said he hoped to take the first commercial trip into space on Virgin Galactic in “February or March or next year”. He has previously said that he would be traveling into space by the end of this year. The latest delay led to claims that the project was in crisis with some customers questioning whether the rocket would ever get into space. (9/13)

Up Aerospace, Born in Colorado Garage, Shoots Rockets for NASA (Source: Denver Post)
This is the story of a boy who dreamed of being an astronaut who now shoots rockets into space for NASA. In the late 1990s, Jerry Larson started Up Aerospace in his Highlands Ranch garage with the goal of inspiring high school and middle school kids to embrace science.

On Monday, Up was one of four U.S. companies picked for the latest round of contracts for NASA's Flight Opportunities program. This award means experiments from around the globe will ride into space aboard an Up Aerospace rocket, with the goal of providing data for future aerospace development. Click here. (9/14)

Companies Tied to Spaceport Up for Space Contract (Source: AP)
Two of the three companies competing for more than $3 billion to launch "space-taxi" flights have ties to southern New Mexico's Spaceport America. SpaceX, Boeing and Sierra Nevada (a rocket-system supplier for Virgin Galactic) are vying for the lucrative contract to take astronauts to the International Space Station by 2017 in space taxis. SpaceX also has a contract with Spaceport America to test its reusable rocket. (9/14)

Vostok-1 Rocket Fragment With Gagarin's Signature Sold in for $9,700 (Source: RIA Novosti)
The Vostok-1 rocket fragment with the signature of Yuri Gagarin has been sold at the auction in Berlin for 7,500 euros [about $9,700]. The Soviet Space Memorabilia Auction is held by the auction house Auctionata. The fragment of the rocket is a lot at No. 69, a small piece of metal the size of 2.2-1.7 inches. The starting price of the lot was designated as 3,000 euros [about $3,877]. (9/14)

Nicaragua Asks U.S. for Help Investigating Meteorite Crater (Source: Space Daily)
Astronomers, including experts at NASA, have questioned whether the blast and crater, reported earlier this week outside the Nicaraguan capital, were actually the product of a meteorite. Initial reports, including information issued by the Nicaraguan government, suggested a piece of space rock broke off from a larger asteroid passing between the Earth and its moon -- creating a sizable crater, measuring roughly 40 feet across, near Managua's international airport.

But NASA officials say the lack of eyewitness accounts raises doubts about that scenario. Plus, astronomers say, the timeline doesn't work out. Nicaraguan officials are apparently now quite confused themselves, and have asked the U.S. to help sort the whole thing out. It's not yet clear whether the U.S. will provide investigative assistance -- or what the assistance would look like. (9/14)

Two Space Coast Launches On Tap This Week (Source: Florida Today)
A 19-story Atlas V rocket is scheduled to roll to its Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch pad Monday morning in preparation for a 5:44 p.m. Tuesday blastoff with a secret U.S. government satellite. The mission called CLIO is not attributed to any agency, and spacecraft builder Lockheed Martin won't discuss it. The payload is described only as a "commercially based communications satellite."

The launch could be the first of two from the Cape this week. SpaceX's next launch of a Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule packed with International Space Station cargo is planned at 2:16 a.m. Saturday. The mission is SpaceX's fourth of 12 under a $1.6 billion NASA Commercial Resupply Services contract. (9/14)

The Space Store Moves from Denver, Opens on Space Coast (Source: MyNews 13)
Brevard County has made good progress in attracting aerospace companies. But they’re not the only space-related businesses relocating to the Space Coast -- a new store has opened hoping to attract space junkies. NASA baby socks, Apollo 11 action figures and space bingo; items that don’t appeal to the average person. But then again, Florida’s Space Coast isn’t home to average people.

“I think it’s a good time to be here and start up a store here, especially compared to being in Denver, so I saw an opportunity to be in Brevard County that it would be the best place to be,” said Brett Anderson, Owner, The Space Store. For eight years, Brett Anderson has operated his space-related merchandise and apparel store online, from Colorado. But he wanted a physical store for The Space Store. So he moved to Brevard County, America’s gateway to space for the past five decades, hoping to appeal to the county’s space enthusiasts. (9/13)

Prince Sultan Receives ASE Order and Award (Source: Arab News)
The Association of Space Explorers (ASE) awarded Prince Sultan bin Salman, chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), ASE’s Order and Award in recognition of his extensive efforts made in the field of space. The award was conferred on the prince on Wednesday in Beijing during its 27th Assembly. A statement from SCTA’s media head revealed that Prince Sultan is the first to receive the prestigious award for an astronaut outside of the United States and Russia. (9/14)

UAE Mission to Mars! (Source: Ahlan Live)
The UAE could send a spacecraft to Mars by as early as 2021, it’s been announced. Such a project would benefit all of humanity, said His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, adding that the mission’s findings would be made available to all countries who might wish to use them.

Presiding over a brainstorming session held on Saturday,13 September, Sheikh Mohammed said the goal of the project is to develop knowledge within universities and research centres and to build national capabilities in the aerospace field. Developing the Mars project would requires a great deal of scientific study and would lead to a host of long-term benefits, including boosting the UAE economy and developing technology in the fields of telecommunications, satellites and data transfer, he added. (9/14)

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