September 26, 2014

New US-Russian Crew Launches to International Space Station (Source:
An American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts have blasted off on a history-making trek to the International Space Station, where they will spend nearly six months working in orbit. A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Barry "Butch" Wilmore and cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova launched into space from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome on Thursday. (9/25)

Solar System’s Water Older Than the Sun (Source: Reuters)
Water found in Earth’s oceans, in meteorites and frozen in lunar craters predates the birth of the solar system, a study published on Thursday shows, a finding with implications for the search for life on other planets. Scientists have long debated whether the solar system’s water came from ice ionized during the formation of the solar system, or if it predated the solar system and originated in the cold interstellar cloud of gas from which the sun itself was formed. (9/25)

Newfound Molecule in Space Dust Offers Clues to Life's Origins (Source:
The discovery of a strangely branched organic molecule in the depths of interstellar space has capped a decades-long search for the carbon-bearing stuff. The molecule in question — iso-propyl cyanide (i-C3H7CN) — was spotted in Sagittarius B2, a huge star-making cloud of gas and dust near the center of the Milky Way, about 27,000 light-years from the sun. The discovery suggests that some of the key ingredients for life on Earth could have originated in interstellar space. (9/25)

CubeSat Craze Could Create Space Debris Catastrophe (Source: New Scientist)
Swarms go up and they don't come down. Tiny, cheap CubeSats are becoming an increasing danger in space. The mini-satellites could cause catastrophic collisions with larger craft, threatening to produce orbiting blizzards of space debris like those in the movie Gravity. The more hardware there is in space, the greater the chance of collisions. To mitigate these risks, CubeSats are supposed to come down within 25 years. However, there is no enforcement of this rule.

CubeSat popularity looks likely to increase. Around 100 of the craft were launched between 2003 and 2012, then another 100 were launched in 2013 alone. Lewis and his colleagues extrapolated those numbers to model what would happen if between 205 and 700 CubeSats were launched every year for the next 30 years. At the 205-per-year launch rate, CubeSats will come within a dangerously close 17 kilometres of other spacecraft 16 million times over the three decades. At the highest rate, that rises to 165 million times. (9/25)

One of Soyuz’s Solar Batteries Fails to Unfold (Source: Itar-Tass)
One of solar batteries of Russia’s Soyuz TMA-14M has failed to unfold, the crew so far is keeping to the six-hour docking scenario. “It is true, one of the spaceship’s solar batteries has failed to unfold,” a spokesman said. When asked which of the two docking scenarios - six-hour or two-day - will be realized, he said that “it will be clear in several hours.” (9/26)

Waypoint 2 Space Crowdfunding Project to Bring Spacewalks Down to Earth (Source:
While most of us will never get the chance to go on a spacewalk, a simulated version of the out-of-this-world experience may soon be available to the general public. Houston-based Waypoint 2 Space trains people for commercial spaceflight and has launched a Kickstarter campaign to build a spacewalk simulator. The Modular EVA Training System (METS) Kickstarter will run through Nov. 8, and the company plans to officially open the device to amateur spacewalkers in March 2015. 

METS is designed to hold a spacecraft training module 12 feet (3.7 meters) long and 10 feet (3 m) wide. Trainees who enter the model spacecraft will experience the illusion of weightlessness, thanks to METS' gravity-offset system. The mock spacecraft will be enclosed in dark room, with only the trainees' spacesuit lights providing any illumination. METS will rotate horizontally and vertically, and star fields projected on the walls will move, to give trainees the sensation they are actually moving through space, company representatives said. (9/25)

Companies Vying to Turn Asteroids into Filling Stations (Source: BBC)
Private companies want to mine asteroids for fuel, and build filling stations in space. A bill now in front of the US Congress would help by allowing them to own what they discover - but it might, if passed, meet stiff international opposition. Click here. (9/25)

FAA Says Safety Report Doesn’t Reflect Plans to Regulate Human Spaceflight (Source: Space News)
An FAA official says a new report on commercial human spaceflight safety is intended to support the development of standards by industry and is not part of an effort to impose regulations on this emerging field. The Aug. 27 report by FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, titled “Recommended Practices for Human Space Flight Occupant Safety,” provides safety guidelines both suborbital and orbital crewed vehicles. The 56-page document covers aspects of the design, manufacturing, and operations of such vehicles.

“The future of the commercial human spaceflight industry will depend on its ability to continually improve its safety performance,” said George Nield, FAA associate administrator for commercial space transportation, at a meeting of the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC). “What is the best way for government and industry to work together the cause of spaceflight safety?”

The report, he said, came out of a three-year effort that involved discussions with COMSTAC members, the FAA’s Civil Aerospace Medical Institute, and its Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation. The FAA based the report on requirements developed by NASA for its commercial crew program. (9/25)

UK Joins List of U.S. Allies Agreeing To Strengthen Space Surveillance Sharing (Source: Space News)
The United Kingdom on Sept. 23 became the latest nation to sign a space surveillance data-sharing agreement with the U.S. The signing, which came during the Combined Space Operations Principals’ meeting in Ottawa, Canada, follows U.S. Strategic Command’s adoption in May of a new sharing strategy aimed at providing more detailed space situational awareness information to its closest allies.

The United States has similar agreements with Canada, Japan, Australia, Italy, France and the Republic of Korea. In all, the U.S. government has signed nearly 50 data-sharing agreements with other governments and private sector entities, Defense Department officials said in September. (9/25)

Astronauts Give Bill Clinton a Taste of Space Travel (Source:
Astronauts paid a virtual visit to former President Bill Clinton from the International Space Station on Wednesday (Sept. 24) to share their perspectives on Earth as it appears from their orbital home. NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman and European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst, part of the station's current Expedition 41 crew, beamed down by video to the Clinton Global Initiative, a gathering world leaders here aiming to develop solutions to major world problems. Joining Clinton on Earth was NASA astronaut Cady Coleman, who visited the station during its Expedition 26/27 mission. (9/25)

The Making of SpaceShipTwo (Source: Air & Space)
We're now about 40 percent of the way through the build for the next SpaceShip. It's quite exciting; it's starting to look like a real spaceship. We've got essentially the main body of the cabin, and the nose, and the main booms, the wings…you can see their shape. We're starting to put systems into the vehicle. Obviously the structure is what you look at when you start to say, 'that looks like a spaceship,' but then there are all the electrical systems, pneumatic systems, life support, landing gear actuators, etc. We've made some progress on the next WhiteKnight as well but really the focus this year has been on SpaceShipTwo, serial number two. Click here. (9/25)

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