November 17, 2014

Biodiversity and Rocket Launches: Cohabiting at the Guiana Space Center (Source: Space Safety)
The countdown is coming to an end. The engines ignite; the rocket is engulfed by a cloud of fire and smoke, lift off, and in an instant it’s gone… billowing towards the heavens. Launch activity is an essential component of the spaceflight industry. It is impossible to benefit from space science and technology without putting satellites in orbit. But what are those billowing clouds actually made of? And what effect does a rocket launch have on the surrounding environment? Click here. (11/17)

Russian Satellite Constellation to Reach 150 by 2025 (Source: Sputnik)
Russia will increase its orbital satellite constellation to 150 spacecraft by 2025, United Rocket and Space Corporation (URSC) head Igor Komarov said. "According to the Federal Space Program's new project, the orbital constellation of social-economic purpose satellites will increase to 75 [currently 35], 20 of which will be remote sensing satellites … As for the satellites for government needs, their number is expected to reach 150 by 2025," Komarov said, stressing that the spacecraft should meet the highest international standards. (11/17)

Researchers Point to Supermassive Black Hole as Elusive Neutrino Source (Source: Aviation Week)
Physicists may have linked the elusive source for the highest energy neutrinos, abundant sub-atomic particles with no electrical charge that race through the universe, to a black hole -- the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy called Sagittarius A* (pronounced "Sagittarius A-star").

Observations leading to a potential breakthrough in the identification of a source were made with three NASA space telescopes, the 15-year-old Chandra X-ray Observatory, 10-year-old Swift Gamma Ray Burst mission observatory and the 2-year-old NuSTAR (an X-ray observatory), as well as the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, which is positioned under the South Pole. IceCube has recorded 36 high-energy neutrinos since the facility became operational in 2010.

"We now have the first evidence that an astronomical source, the Milky Way's supermassive black hole may be producing these very energetic neutrinos," states University of Wisconsin physicist Yang Bai. The Earth is showered by lower energy neutrinos whose origin is the sun. However, neutrinos millions to billions of times more energetic emanate from well beyond the solar system. (11/14)

Russia to Start Deploying Own Space Station in 2017 (Source: Sputnik)
Russia will start deploying its own orbital space station in 2017, using part of the modules constructed for the International Space Station (ISS), Kommersant newspaper reported. "The new station will be located geometrically more advantageous, allowing an extended field of view of the Earth's surface. As much as 90 percent of Russia's territory and the Arctic offshore area will be visible from the station," the source said, noting that the ISS' field of view covers no more than 5 percent of the region. (11/17)

Editorial: Flawed Spaceport Strategy Puts New Mexico Lead at Risk (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
One anchor does not a busy shopping mall make. Spaceport America, reeling from the tragic crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo rocket in the Mojave desert, is learning that depending on one major tenant isn’t a solid business plan. In fact, it’s discouraging to learn that Spaceport management is only now putting together a marketing plan to try to attract other tenants to the southern New Mexico site.

“We have a plan,” Spaceport Executive Director Christine Anderson said after the crash. “We’ve been working on it all week, but it’s pretty fresh. We’re still developing it.” That comes some eight years after the Legislature acted to create the world’s first commercial spaceport built for that purpose.

The facility is designed around Virgin Galactic’s needs – a horizontal runway, and Virgin’s terminal and hangars. There is a vertical launch pad that a few customers have used to boost payloads to suborbital space. But that seems to have been an afterthought. Now, ramping up that end of the business is on a front burner. (11/17)

Alien Life Could Thrive on 'Supercritical' CO2 Instead of Water (Source:
Alien life might flourish on an exotic kind of carbon dioxide, researchers say. This "supercritical" carbon dioxide, which has features of both liquids and gases, could be key to extraterrestrial organisms much as water is to biology on Earth.

Most familiar as a greenhouse gas that traps heat, helping warm the planet, carbon dioxide is exhaled by animals and used by plants in photosynthesis. While it can exist as a solid, liquid and gas, past a critical point of combined temperature and pressure, carbon dioxide can enter a "supercritical" state. Such a supercritical fluid has properties of both liquids and gases. For example, it can dissolve materials like a liquid, but flow like a gas. (11/16)

Virginia Air and Space Center Director Settling Into New Mission (Source: Daily Press)
Just a few steps inside the Virginia Air and Space Center's employee entrance, Robert Griesmer stopped and took a moment to look up and admire. "There's a feeling you get when you walk in, that this is someplace special," said Griesmer, during an interview held on just his eighth day as the downtown museum's executive director.

A Long Island, N.Y.-native, Griesmer spent more than two decades at museums in Norwalk and West Hartford, Conn., before accepting a job at the Virginia Air and Space Center in September. The initial attraction, he said, was to the museum's mission and the financial support it received in recent years from the city and from NASA. "It's what's inside of institutions like this that people want to pay money for," he said. "We want to reinforce and invest in our core mission and we want to focus on helping the people that help educate children." (11/17)

Is NASA's Orion Launch a Mission to Nowhere? (Source: UT San Diego)
NASA's new Orion spacecraft will bolt off a launch pad in Florida early next month in what could be the first step toward the human exploration of Mars. The gum-drop shaped capsule will briefly orbit Earth, then parachute into the Pacific, where it will be retrieved by a Navy ship from San Diego. But will anyone care?

Three years after the U.S. space shuttle program ended, NASA is struggling to grab and hold the public’s attention as it introduces its next-generation manned spacecraft, a vehicle that has cost at least $6.1 billion to develop so far.

For the moment, the space agency doesn’t have a compelling human story to tell about the launch, which is set for Dec. 4. Space experts said it will be six to seven years before Orion actually carries astronauts. Tight budgets, design issues and policy questions have slowed the program’s development. As a result, NASA doesn’t have definitive plans and clear time tables for manned trips to the moon, an asteroid or Mars. (11/17)

Morpheus Ready for New Series of Flight Tests at KSC (Source: AmericaSpace)
At the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, at the northern edge of KSC's former Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF), is an area that looks very much like the surface of the Moon, complete with rocks and craters to serve as a site to flight test the agency’s Morpheus prototype planetary lander.

A total of 14 free flight tests have been conducted so far, the last of which took place under cover of darkness on May 28, 2014, and although Free Flight 14 (FF14) concluded Project Morpheus’ flight test campaign the team feels there are some areas they can improve upon, and so operations are again in full swing for a new series of flight tests, the first of which is currently scheduled to take place on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014. (11/17)

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