November 26, 2014

Orbital Sciences Entitled To Partial NASA Payment for Antares Failure (Source: Space News)
Orbital Sciences Corp. will get most of its planned revenue from NASA for the Oct. 28 launch of Orbital’s Antares rocket despite the rocket’s failure because the milestone that triggered payment was the rocket’s ignition and liftoff, not launch success, Orbital and its prospective merger partner, Alliant Techsystems (ATK), said Nov. 24.

Under Orbital’s $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) with NASA, Orbital’s obligations are not counted in launches, but in kilograms delivered to the space station. The Oct. 28 launch was the third of a then-planned eight cargo runs for NASA to meet the 20,000-kilogram requirement, with subsequent missions using a larger version of the Cygnus payload module, built by Thales Alenia Space in Italy. (11/26)

4 Things NASA Can Teach You About a Good Night's Sleep (Source: The Week)
Who knows about sleep? Astronauts. They have to. Their bodies are cut off from many of the normal external cues that remind us what time it is. But actually, it's even worse than that. In orbit they can experience a dozen sunrises and sunsets a day which makes their circadian rhythm go completely haywire. When you're in a tin can floating through the cold darkness of outer space, being off your game due to lousy sleep can have very bad results. Click here. (11/21)

Israel in Space (Source: Jerusalem Post)
The Israeli space program is held back by geography – but it doesn’t have to be. Israel launches from Palmachim Airbase, on the coast near Rishon Lezion. Palmachim is 31 degrees north, which gives it a speed penalty of about 240 kph. Still, 1,300 kph is a good boost – only slightly less than you’d get at Cape Kennedy. Unfortunately, however, you only get a speed boost if you launch east, the direction in which the Earth rotates. Every country in the world launches its rockets east – except Israel.

Israel has a close, friendly relationship with Kenya. Kenya lies on the equator, and on the Indian Ocean. Kenya has convenient sea access to Israel via Eilat. It’s easier to get things from Israel to Kenya than, say, from Moscow to Russia’s Kazakh launch center at Baikonur. Or from Western Europe to the French Guiana Space Center. Or from about 45 of the United States to Florida.

Israel has built things – constructed things – in Kenya before. Israel ought to build a new, extraterritorial launch complex on Kenya’s sparsely populated north-east coast, less than two degrees from the equator. I imagine a Kenyan land purchase could be negotiated. Editor's Note: There have been discussions in the past about launching the Shavit from Florida. Perhaps Space Florida's Israel/Florida aerospace grant program can advance this concept further. (11/25)

Virginia County Officials Seek NASA Input on Rezoning (Source: DelMarVa Now)
Accomack County officials said they will not take action on a developer’s rezoning request for property near NASA Wallops Flight Facility until they hear from NASA. The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to postpone action on a request from Atlantic Town Center Development Corporation for conditional rezoning of about 77 acres near Wattsville from agricultural to residential.

The developers propose to build 432 housing units, including multi-family housing, and commercial buildings on the property. Supervisor Robert Crockett in his motion included a stipulation that the board invite Caroline Massey, NASA Wallops Flight Facility Assistant Director for Management Operations, to come to a meeting in January to discuss further the development’s potential impact on Wallops operations. (11/25)

Africa’s First Mission to the Moon (Source: Universe Today)
Africa is home to 7 out of 10 of the world’s fastest-growing economies. It’s population is also the “youngest” in the world, with 50% of the population being 19 years old or younger. And amongst these young people are scores of innovators and entrepreneurs who are looking to bring homegrown innovation to their continent and share it with the outside world.

Nowhere is this more apparent than with the #Africa2Moon Mission, a crowdfunded campaign that aims to send a lander or orbiter to the Moon in the coming years. Spearheaded by the Foundation for Space Development, the goal of this project is to fund the development of a robotic craft that will either land on or establish orbit around the Moon. Once there, it will transmit video images back to Earth, and then distribute them via the internet into classrooms all across Africa. (11/26)

Fearing Another Disaster, Russia Delays Proton Launch (Source: Moscow Times)
The upcoming launch of a Russian Proton-M rocket with a European telecommunications satellite on Friday has been postponed after technicians at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan discovered a fault in the vehicle's control system on Wednesday. The Proton rocket was set to conduct its 400th flight on Friday. But with the vehicle's reputation still recovering from a series of embarrassing launch failures in recent years, officials are taking no chances.

The Proton rocket has been taken off its launch pad and returned to the assembly building, where engineers will replace the faulty command system and any other faults that may arise, the statement said. A new launch date for the rocket will be announced after the new components are installed, Roscosmos said without specifying a timeframe. Launch schedules at Baikonur, the world's busiest spaceport, are typically congested so the delay may be lengthy. (11/26)

It's T-Minus 1,000 Days for America's Total Solar Eclipse (Source: NBC)
Darkness is coming -- and you should book a hotel room now. That's what eclipse-chasers from around the world are doing, as they prepare for the first total solar eclipse to cut a swath from the Pacific to the Atlantic since 1918. The event is still 1,000 days away, counting from Tuesday, and will occur on Aug. 21, 2017. But that hasn't slowed enthusiasts who want a viewing spot along the path of totality, the strip of land along which the sun will be completely blotted out.

Hopkinsville, Kentucky, is the closest town to the point of greatest eclipse in 2017, which is why it's such a hot spot. But it won't be long before reservations get scarce at other points of interest in the total eclipse zone — ranging from Lincoln City on the Oregon coast, to Jackson Hole and Nashville, to Charleston on the South Carolina coast. (11/25)

Sesame Street Muppets Count Down to NASA Orion Launch (Source: CollectSpace)
Can you tell me how to get, how to get to... Mars? Elmo, Cookie Monster and the other popular muppets from "Sesame Street" have joined forces with NASA to count down to the launch of the first Orion spacecraft, scheduled for Dec. 4.

Beginning Tuesday (Nov. 25) and over the next ten days, NASA and "Sesame Street" will share online comic strips, videos and graphics of the Muppet characters interacting with the Orion space capsule in an effort to educate a new generation of space explorers about the Orion Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) and NASA's future journey to Mars. (11/25)

Louisiana Shipyard Builds "Space Port Drone Ship" (Source: Marine Log)
A shipyard in Louisiana has built what SpaceX entrepreneur Elon Musk describes in a tweet as an "autonomous space port drone ship." SpaceX plans to land the latest version of its reusable Falcon 9R rocket on the platform vertically. If it succeeds, it will add one more to the whole string of firsts racked up by the company. We asked SpaceX which Louisiana shipyard built the vessel, but were told, "beyond Elon's tweets, we aren't providing any additional information at this time." (11/24)

UF Converts Human Waste to Rocket Fuel (Source: Sun-Sentinel)
The University of Florida has developed a new source of fuel that's cheap and will never run out – human waste. Researchers developed a process to convert waste into rocket fuel at the request of NASA. But it may also turn up on earth, Pratap Pullammanappallil, a UF associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering. "It could be used on campus or around town, or anywhere, to convert waste into fuel," Pullammanappallil said.

NASA started by supplying the UF scientists with a packaged form of chemically produced human waste that also included simulated food waste, towels, wash cloths, clothing and packaging materials, Pullammanappallil said. He and a doctoral student ran laboratory tests to find out how much methane could be produced from the waste and how quickly. They found the process could produce 290 liters of methane per crew per day, all produced in a week, Pullammanappallil said. (11/25)

Zero-G Coming Back [to Florida] in 2015 (Source: Parabolic Arc)
After being grounded for much of 2014 due to having its jet’s engines repossessed, Zero Gravity Corp. is once again advertising parabolic flights opportunities for next year... "Back by popular demand, the ZERO-G Experience is returning to Tampa, Florida and Washington, D.C. ZERO-G will also be returning to Las Vegas, San Francisco, Cape Canaveral, and many more cities! The Research Flight Program will take place in Cape Canaveral, Florida from April 8-10, 2015."

One caveat: the aircraft has to undergo certification (FAA Part 121) once again before carrying passengers as a result of being grounded and getting a trio of new engines. Click here. (11/25)

ISS 3D Printer Creates First Product (Source: Parabolic Arc)
History was made on Nov. 24 at 9:28pm GMT, when the first 3D printer built to operate in space successfully manufactured its first part on the International Space Station (ISS). This is the first time that hardware has been additively manufactured in space, as opposed to launching it from Earth. “When the first human fashioned a tool from a rock, it couldn’t have been conceived that one day we’d be replicating the same fundamental idea in space,” said Aaron Kemmer, CEO of Made In Space, Inc.

The first part made in space is a functional part of the printer itself – a faceplate for its own extruder printhead. “This ‘First Print’ serves to demonstrate the potential of the technology to produce replacement parts on demand if a critical component fails in space,” said Jason Dunn, Chief Technical Officer for Made In Space. (11/25)

40 Student Launch Teams Join in NASA Competition (Source: NASA)
Florida student teams from FIU, UCF, UF, and Plantation High School have been selected by NASA to compete along with 36 other teams as part of the NASA Student Launch initiative. The competition will be held April 7-11, 2015, in Huntsville, Alabama.

The NASA Student Launch is a research-based, competitive and experiential exploration project that provides research and development to support the Space Launch System. The project involves reaching a broad audience of academic institutions across the nation in an eight-month commitment to design, build, and fly payloads or vehicle components that support SLS. (11/25)

UCF's Space Florida-Backed Experiment Makes Progress on ISS (Source: NanoRacks)
The University of Central Florida’s experiment, NanoRocks, currently on board the International Space Station (ISS) is producing promising results. The experiment, studying solar system formation, was brought to the ISS through a NanoRacks’ partnership with Space Florida’s International Space Station Research Competition. NanoRocks is one of seven competition winners to be flown through the NanoRacks-Space Florida program.

The scientific motivation behind the NanoRocks experiment is to understand collisions that occur in the early stages of planet formation, both in our solar system and systems around other stars. Specifically, UCF is studying how these developing planets get from just centimeters across to much larger objects, known as planetesimals, which are able to gravitationally attract to each other and form full size planets. Click here. (11/25)

Engineering Grad to Watch: Astronaut for Hire Aaron Persad (Source: U of T Engineering)
For Aaron Persad, ‘reach for the stars’ is far more than a clich├ęd phrase on a graduation card. “It may sound a bit wild, but I’m training as a commercial astronaut,” said Persad, who graduated on Nov. 18 with a PhD in mechanical engineering—one of 386 engineering students who walked across the stage at Convocation Hall this month.

But when you account for all the diverse and disruptive things Persad has built, taught, experimented with and discovered since his days as an undergraduate in engineering science at the University of Toronto, wrapping up his PhD to become a commercial astronaut seems like a natural step. Persad’s undergraduate thesis explored shuttle launch vibrations on stem cells, and he interned with the Canadian Space Agency’s flight research laboratory. (11/20)

Ontario Firm Crowdfunding its all-Canadian Mission to Mars (Source: Yahoo! News)
An Ontario company is hoping an ambitious crowdfunding campaign will take Canadian technology to the surface of Mars. The Pembroke-based Thoth Technology has launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $1.1 million to build all the hardware for its Northern Lights mission to our neighbouring planet, with the goal of blasting off in 2018. Click here. (11/19)

What’s Next for the Rosetta Mission and Comet Exploration? (Source: WIRED)
Somewhere dark and icy on a comet 320 million miles away, the history-making, comet-bouncing Philae spacecraft is sleeping. Its batteries are depleted and there isn’t enough sunlight to recharge. But while the lander finished its primary job, collecting invaluable data on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the Rosetta mission is far from over. For many scientists, the excitement is just beginning.

Mission engineers are now scouring the comet for signs of the lander. They’re using the OSIRIS camera onboard the Rosetta spacecraft that’s orbiting the comet to look for any glint of brightness reflected by Philae, says planetary scientist Sebastien Besse, a member of the OSIRIS team. They’re also using data from the CONSERT instruments on Rosetta and Philae, which send radio signals between the two spacecraft, to triangulate the lander’s location.

Over the next few months, the changing seasons will bring more direct sunlight onto Philae. The comet is also moving toward the sun, and the hope is that in the next few months, both the coming summer and increasing proximity to the sun will give Philae the warmth and power it needs to wake up. Click here. (11/25)

NASA Puts $1 Billion Space Medicine Contract Out for Bids, Again (Source: Space News)
NASA is again seeking bids on more than $1 billion of space medicine work covered under a contract that will be awarded at least two years later than planned because of prolonged sparring between incumbent Wyle Laboratories and SAIC. The Human Health and Performance contract, released for bids Nov. 20, is a follow-on to a bioastronautics contract awarded to El Segundo, California-based Wyle in 2003 and now worth about $1.5 billion.

SAIC spokeswoman Lauren Presti said that SAIC’s original proposal spelled out how the company would manage the Human Health and Performance contract following an SAIC corporate split. Regardless, GAO ordered NASA to either award the Human Health and Performance contract to Wyle, or seek bids for a third time. NASA chose to seek new bids. Bids on the new contract, which will have a five-year base period with a three-year option and a two-year option, are due Jan. 29. (11/25)

Close to the End for Venus Express (Source: Planetary Society)
Venus Express is nearly out of fuel. Any day could be the last of its long mission to Venus. Formal science operations ended in May, but since then it has performed aerobraking experiments, deep dives into Venus' atmosphere to test whether the atmosphere's effects on the spacecraft match the predictions of its human engineers, who built Venus Express to withstand the forces and temperatures of atmospheric dips. The campaign lasted from May 17 to July 12, when they raised the periapsis (closest approach) of the orbit well above the atmosphere. (11/24)

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