November 25, 2014

Clinton-Era Deep Space Climate Observatory Ships to Florida Launch Site, Finally (Source: Space News)
After spending more than a decade in storage, the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) — a Clinton-era satellite formerly known as Triana — arrived in Florida Nov. 20 for integration with the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket set to launch it Jan. 23, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a press release.

DSCOVR uses hardware initially assembled for an Earth observation satellite conceived in the 1990s by then-U.S. Vice President Al Gore, earning the spacecraft the nickname Goresat. Resurrected by the Obama administration after the administration of President George W. Bush shelved the project in 2001, DSCOVR has been recast as a space weather mission and will head to Earth-sun Lagrange point 1 to keep an eye on charged particles blasting out of the sun.

The DSCOVR launch marks not only the end of a long wait on the ground for the erstwhile Goresat, but also the first Falcon 9 launch the U.S. Air Force has bought. The launch is costing the service $97 million. DSCOVR will launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Editor's Note: $97 million seems high for a vanilla Falcon-9 mission. And why is the Air Force buying a ride for NOAA? NASA usually does this for NOAA. (11/25)

Elon Musk and John Carmack Tweet Chat About How Best to Land a Rocket (Source:
If you follow either Carmack or Musk, you get a peek into the work being done by two absolutely brilliant individuals. Elon Musk took to Twitter for a SpaceX brain dump on Saturday, updating everyone on the decisions being made around the Falcon 9 and the Seafaring Spaceport they have been working on.

The Falcon 9 is currently being tested with hypersonic grid fins that will help with control and stability, which is a big deal when you consider Falcon’s long term destiny of being a fully recoverable rocket. During the brain dump, none other than John Carmack jumped in for a quick chat about whether or not Musk was making the right decision. Click here. (11/25)

Canada’s MDA Devising New Methods To Track Ships (Source: Space News)
MDA Corp. will over the next six months find new methods to combine the use of radar and optical satellites to track so-called dark ships — vessels that are not broadcasting Automatic Identification System (AIS) signals. The goal of the new research program is to better coordinate the two types of satellites, which in some cases need days of notice in advance for an imaging mission.

All ships above a certain weight class are now required to carry AIS packages that transmit information such as their position and heading. Satellites are used to relay that data to coastal authorities. Dark ships are vessels that are required to broadcast AIS signals but do not. The problem of dark ships, also known as dark targets, is significant in some areas.

One analysis of maritime traffic in the Mediterranean Sea indicated that upward of 50 percent of vessels in that body of water fell in the dark target category. Similar problems with such vessels exist in Southeast Asia. The MDA plan would be to use radar satellites to do broad area imaging to get general patterns of marine traffic. Optical imagery satellites would provide coverage of a much more specific and smaller area, such as choke points. (11/24)

Launch Pad Videos Released From Antares Explosion (Source: NBC)
It's been almost four weeks since Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket blew up just seconds after liftoff, but a new series of videos, recovered from cameras that were placed near the launch pad, shows just how much of an inferno it was. One compilation, posted to YouTube on Monday, combines video from and Zero-G News. AmericaSpace's Mike Killian said the video from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia had been impounded for the accident investigation and was only recently released to photographers. Click here. (11/24)

Russian Rocket Supply for Satellites Launches Continues (Source: Space Daily)
The supply of Russian-made rocket engines used to send US military satellites into space has not experienced any disruptions despite tense relations between the two countries, a US Air Force spokesperson has told Sputnik. "United Launch Alliance (ULA) received all planned deliveries for the calendar year. All engines in inventory are able to be utilized for government, civil and commercial launch missions," Capt. Chris Hoyler said.

With a current stockpile of 16 RD-180s, the United States has enough rockets to continue launches until 2016, after which, if the supplies are stopped, there would be significant delays in the ability to launch national security satellites into space, according to an RD-180 Availability Risk Mitigation Study. Hoyler said the US Air Force has not requested or received formal proposals to replace the RD-180. (11/25)

Asteroid Mining Could Make For Boom Times (Source: Space Daily)
NASA has concluded contracts with two private-sector enterprises, intending to develop practical approaches to asteroid mining, encouraged by the successful comet landing earlier this month, as such model of space exploration may prove commercially viable, possibly attracting investment capital and other market instruments into the traditionally government dominated aerospace industry. Click here. (11/25)

Russia Preparing Joint Moon Exploration Agreement With EU (Source: Space Daily)
Scientists from Russia and the European Union are preparing an agreement on joint exploration of the Moon, Lev Zelyony, director of the Space Research Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said. "There is a governmental agreement on the ExoMars program and now we are preparing an agreement on the participation of the European Space Agency in the exploration of the Moon," Zelyony said.

According to the scientist, the leaders of the European Space Agency and Russian Space Agency Roscosmos have affirmed their readiness to fulfill existing agreements and to sign new ones. "A big, huge number of contacts with European scholars over the years, dating back to the Soviet era, have never stopped. Generations pass, but the friendship remains. Many Russian scientists conduct experiments on western devices, all of this comes under the agreements," Zelyony added. (11/25)

Complex Life May be Possible in Only 10% of All Galaxies (Source: Science)
The universe may be a lonelier place than previously thought. Of the estimated 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, only one in 10 can support complex life like that on Earth, a pair of astrophysicists argues. Everywhere else, stellar explosions known as gamma ray bursts would regularly wipe out any life forms more elaborate than microbes. The detonations also kept the universe lifeless for billions of years after the big bang, the researchers say. (11/24)

NASA presents a year in the life of the Earth’s CO2 (Source: World Cement)
NASA has developed a simulation of how CO2 moves through the Earth’s atmosphere. The simulation visualises the dispersion of greenhouse gases (GHG), variations in CO2 levels in the northern and southern hemispheres, and how CO2 concentrations are affected by the growth cycle of vegetation throughout the seasons. Click here. (11/24)

The Need for Space Tourism, Explained by an Astronaut in 90 Seconds (Source: Newsworks)
In the wake of two recent commercial space mishaps, it's fair to ask: Does space tourism help or hinder space exploration? "To me," says former NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao, "the answer is clear — commercial space ventures definitely advance the cause." Chiao says that the view from 300 miles can remind you about what's truly important. "I believe that, the more people who have this enlightenment, the better it is for all of us," he says. Click here. (11/21)

Google Lunar Contest: Pittsburgh Team Unveils Rover (Source: Trib Live)
A team of Pittsburgh scientists Monday showed off a lunar rover they hope will win them $20 million in Google's international space race. Andy, a four-wheel, 55-pound, moon-trotting robot, is the Astrobotic and Carnegie Mellon University team entry in Google's Lunar XPrize , a contest intended to promote privately funded moon exploration. (11/24)

Here's Your Chance to Launch a Satellite to the Moon (Source: Washington Business Journal)
Have a hankering for space exploration, but don't have billions to invest like Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos? You're in luck. There is another option. NASA is calling upon inventors and small businesses to compete in the Cube Quest Challenge by designing, building and launching a cubesat to a lunar distance and/or beyond. Information was published in the Federal Register Monday. (11/25)

App Lets You Say Hello to an Astronaut in Real Time (Source: WIRED)
By the time you read this story, Samantha Cristoforetti will have just docked at the International Space Station. The Italian astronaut (the first female Italian astronaut to make it to the ISS) will be 250 miles above Earth’s surface, far beyond our ability to see her with our god-given eyes, but not quite far enough that we can’t say hello to her.

To say hello, all you have to do is press the green button. Using Friends In Space, a new web app from Italian design studio Accurat, terrestrial humans can directly communicate with Cristoforetti with the click of a mouse—she just needs to be orbiting your section of Earth. You can do more than that though: The website lets you track her past, current, and future orbits; it visualizes the astronauts’ daily log of activities; it loops in live audio and video from the ISS.

Oh, and it’s technically a social network, allowing you to connect with other digital stargazers by saying “hello” to them, when Cristoforetti is out of your orbit. Friends in Space was born after Accurat co-founder and design director Giorgia Lupi began corresponding with Cristoforetti on Twitter. The astronaut had seen some of the studio’s work and wondered if there was a way to collaborate on her inaugural launch. (11/24)

Italy Fails in Bid for More Space Funds, Clouding Outlook for ESA (Source: Space News)
The failure of an amendment adding funds to the Italian Space Agency’s budget has thrown into question Italy’s ability to commit to a next-generation Ariane rocket, continued use of the international space station and Italy’s next-generation civil/military radar satellite system, the head of Italy’s principal space-hardware prime contractor said Nov. 24.

Doubts about Italy’s ability to take part in Europe’s launch vehicle development and continued use of the space station have been overshadowed in recent months by the Franco-German dispute on launch vehicle strategy. But with France and Germany seemingly on the way to an agreement, Italy’s financial issues have now moved to center stage as European governments prepare to decide the launcher and space station issues. (11/24)

NASA Contract Puts Orbital’s Pegasus XL Back on the Board (Source: Space News)
Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Virginia, will launch a small NASA heliophysics mission aboard the venerable Pegasus XL air-launched rocket in 2017 under a $56.3 million contract award announced Nov. 20. Orbital’s price has risen for Pegasus XL, which was once a staple of the company’s launch business but now is seldom flown.

The air-launched rocket, dropped from a modified Lockheed L-1011 TriStar jetliner, last launched in June 2013, when it lofted NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph spacecraft. NASA paid about $40 million for that launch, the 42nd for Pegasus. Orbital has blamed a sharp downturn in the number of small-satellite launches for the drought of Pegasus business. (11/23)

Strange Thrust: Unproven Science That Could Propel Our Children in Space (Source: BoingBoing)
For many decades, a fantasy among space enthusiasts has been to invent a device that produces a net thrust in one direction, without any need for reaction mass. Of course, a reactionless space drive of this type is impossible. Or is it? Personally, I'm not so willing to use the word "impossible" anymore. In October of this year, at the laboratory of Dr. James Woodward in California State University at Fullerton, I watched a very small-scale experiment that was surprisingly persuasive.

Unlike all the "free energy" scams that you see online, Woodward's device does not violate basic physical laws (it does not produce more energy than it consumes, and does not violate Newton's third law). Nor is Woodward withholding any information about his methods. He has written a book, published by Springer, that explains in relentless detail exactly how his equipment works--assuming that it does, indeed, work. (11/24)

Editorial: The Future of Astronaut Activity (Source: Space News)
Fifty years ago, at the dawn of the Space Age, technologies were minted just to make spaceflight possible. But now, mature commercial technologies employed on Earth, from the prosaic to the profound, are finding their way into the astronaut’s tool chest.

These range from prospecting and mining to 3-D printing, ground- and altitude-based remote sensing and hyperspectral imaging, combined with adaptive optics and a range of laser-based applications, which include precision analyses of chemicals, separating minerals from ores, purification and welding — and we are fast approaching the development of high-energy death rays for planetary protection and missile defense alike.

Nanotechnology materials, precisely crafted by 3-D printers and laser technology to form metamaterials and shapes, may soon provide more efficient thermal and radiation protection for astronauts and may even be used to create nutritious, complex foods from simple chemicals. (11/24)

Time To Change a Poorly Crafted Law (Source: Space News)
On Dec. 23, 2004, U.S. President George W. Bush signed into law the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 (CSLAA). Meant to promote the development of the emerging commercial spaceflight industry, the CSLAA made the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration responsible for regulating commercial human spaceflight.

It gave the FAA authority to regulate commercial human spaceflight safety only for the aspects of uninvolved public safety, but forbade FAA to levy any safety regulation for the safety of crew and flight participants onboard for a period of eight years, unless an accident happened before.

....To paraphrase the finding of the U.S. Presidential Committee that investigated the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster of 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico: The commercial human spaceflight industry must move toward developing a notion of safety as a collective responsibility. Industry should establish a “Safety Institute. … an industry-created, self-policing entity aimed at developing, adopting and enforcing standards of excellence to ensure continuous improvement in spaceflight safety. (11/24)

Industry Worries Government ‘Backsliding’ on Orbital Debris (Source: Space News)
Despite growing concern about the threat posed by orbital debris, and language in U.S. national space policy directing government agencies to study debris cleanup technologies, many in the space community worry that the government is not doing enough to implement that policy. Click here. (11/24)

Earth and Life Sciences, Aircraft Ops Under Microscope in NASA Consolidation Effort (Source: Space News)
Lesa Roe, former director of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, is co-leading NASA’s Technical Capabilities Assessment Team (TCAT) along with her boss, NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot. TCAT began in 2012 but will not be in full force until after February, when NASA plans to appoint so-called capabilities leaders to monitor its 10 field centers and point out areas where two or more centers are spending money on the same things.

Each leader will be in charge of one broad area of expertise NASA is calling a technical capability. There will eventually be 19 such agency-wide capabilities, Roe told the NAC here, but NASA has so far identified only four: aircraft operations, Earth science research, life sciences research, and human factors — a discipline focused on making crewed systems such as spacecraft more user-friendly.

These four capabilities alone account for about $2.8 billion of the roughly $18 billion NASA spends a year and employ about 10,000 people, including contractors and civil servants, Roe told the NAC. There could be as much as $550 million in annual savings to be had in these four areas, Roe told the NAC, although she acknowledged the number is “a target” NASA might not be able to hit. Another target for savings under TCAT, Roe said, is mission operations. Click here. (11/24)

NASA Opens Cube Quest Challenge for Largest-Ever Prize of $5 Million (Source: NASA)
Registration now is open for NASA's Cube Quest Challenge, the agency’s first in-space competition that offers the agency’s largest-ever prize purse. Competitors have a shot at a share of $5 million in prize money and an opportunity to participate in space exploration and technology development, to include a chance at flying their very own CubeSat to the moon and beyond as secondary payload on the first integrated flight of NASA's Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Click here. (11/24)

Antares Failure Pushes Tiny Satellite Company To Hitch Ride with SpaceX (Source: Universe Today)
The various companies that had stuff sitting on the failed Orbital Sciences Antares rocket launch last month are busy looking for alternatives. One example is Planet Labs, which is best known for deploying dozens of tiny satellites from the International Space Station this year. The company lost 26 satellites in the explosion. But within nine days of the Oct. 28 event, Planet Labs had a partial backup plan — send two replacements last-minute on an upcoming SpaceX Falcon 9 launch. (11/24)

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