November 29, 2014

Orion’s Crewed Asteroid Mission Unlikely to Occur Prior to 2024 (Source:
The proposed mission to send two astronauts to a captured asteroid near the Moon won’t occur until the middle of the next decade, according to an overview provided to NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP). Designated as Exploration Mission -2 (EM-2), it is likely alternative missions will be tasked to Orion and her Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, prior to the flagship mission to the asteroid. Click here. (11/28)

5 Reasons to be Thankful for NASA (Source: ThomasNet)
With Thanksgiving officially here, many people are left to reflect on another year gone by and remember what they’re most thankful for. This year was an exceptionally great one for me, so deciding on what I’m most thankful for is a piece of cake (or pie…).

This month I was able to take part in something most people don’t even know exists – a NASA Social event. These events are designed to bring together aerospace enthusiasts who actively follow NASA on social media. As a social media professional with a penchant for science-y subjects, this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Click here. (11/26)

Embry-Riddle Facuty Discuss the Science of 'Interstellar' (Source: ERAU)
Researchers and civilians alike are flocking to theaters to see director Christopher Nolan’s latest film, “Interstellar,” featuring a crew of space travelers sent through a wormhole in search of a new, habitable planet after Earth’s resources have been decimated. The film is heavy on the science, even going so far as to recruit theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, whose work inspired the film, as a scientific consultant and executive producer. But does it hold up? Click here. (11/19)

Orion Mission is Underway (Source: DA News)
NASA is just finishing off the last remaining parts of their next big mission spacecraft ‘Orion.’ which is set to take of next week. The unmanned mission will take off on the 4th December. The ship will circle the Earth twice and re-enter with a slashdown in the pacific at 20,000 mph reaching temperatures of 4,000 degrees.

NASA will be watching closely to see how Orion holds up during the flight. If successful, the capsule could be used for future long term missions into deep space, including trips to Mars. The ship seats 4 astronauts. (11/28)

Japan Postpones Hayabusa 2 Launch (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA ) has decided that the flight of their Hayabusa 2 spacecraft will have to wait a little longer before taking to the skies. JAXA had planned to launch the spacecraft atop the H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 26 on Nov. 30 from Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. The cause for the delay was something spaceflight watchers across the globe – are well familiar with.

Clouds, that included a freezing layer which violated launch guidelines for the H-IIA booster, were detected, forcing mission planners to hold off conducting the flight. Weather conditions will be re-evaluated and the mission is now scheduled to take place no-earlier-than Dec. 1 (although this date appears to be tentative at best). (11/28)

KSC' New Countdown Clock: A New Look for a New Era (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Well in advance of the Dec. 4 first flight of NASA’s new Orion spacecraft, the space agency has installed its brand new Countdown Clock. The new timepiece is less “clock” and more flat screen TV and made its appearance the week prior to the launch of Orion on Exploration Flight Test 1. The new clock is similar in design to one mounted on the side of the adjacent Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and is able to do much more than just count down to launch or the elapsed time of the space agency’s missions. Click here. (11/28)

Ripples in Space-Time Could Reveal 'Strange Stars' (Source:
By looking for ripples in the fabric of space-time, scientists could soon detect "strange stars" — objects made of stuff radically different from the particles that make up ordinary matter, researchers say. The protons and neutrons that make up the nuclei of atoms are made of more basic particles known as quarks. There are six types, or "flavors," of quarks: up, down, top, bottom, charm and strange.

Each proton or neutron is made of three quarks: Each proton is composed of two up quarks and one down quark, and each neutron is made of two down quarks and one up quark. In principle, strange matter should be heavier and more stable than normal matter, and might even be capable of converting ordinary matter it comes in contact with into strange matter. However, lab experiments have not yet created any strange matter, so its existence remains uncertain.

One place strange matter could naturally be created is inside neutron stars. Neutron stars are typically small, with diameters of about 12 miles or so, but are so dense that they weigh as much as the sun. Under the extraordinary force of this extreme weight, some of the up and down quarks that make up neutron stars could get converted into strange quarks, leading to strange stars made of strange matter, researchers say. (11/28)

Russian Space Object Baffles with Propulsion (Source: Florida Today)
On May 23, 2014, the Russians launched what has come to be known as Kosmos 2499 from Plesetsk, Russia. Originally designated as Object E, it was considered to be a piece of space debris, cast-off from the main mission. However, amateur satellite trackers soon established that Object E was no ordinary piece of space debris.

Instead of orbiting along the path determined by the Earth's gravity, it had a mind of its own. To deviate from its free-fall path, the satellite had to have some form of propulsion. (11/28)

Russia Plans Massive Productivity and Wage Hike for Space Industry Workforce (Source: Moscow Times)
In a bid to tackle the low productivity stifling Russia's space industry, the state-owned conglomerate that spans the sector has proposed doubling wages and implementing incentive systems to triple the efficiency of its workforce. The Soviet space program at its height in 1989 employed over a million people and accounted for 1.5 percent of Soviet gross domestic product. To work in the space sector was considered a plumb assignment.

But after years of industrial decay, low wages and brain drain, the industry is struggling to recruit fresh talent and move forward with new projects. The space sector now has a reputation for being geriatric and, at times, incompetent — many scoffed last year, when a Proton-M rocket crashed because its guidance computer's sensors were installed upside down. Reforms are expected to begin next year, and by 2016 the numerous companies that make up Russia's space sector will employ 196,000 people.

Although a single space industry employee brings his employer on average 1.6 million rubles ($32,000) in revenue, monthly salaries are around 44,500 rubles a month ($900), or just over $10,000 a year, the corporation said. The average Russian salary is just over 30,000 rubles a month. URSC is also pledging to take recruitment of young talent seriously by creating special programs to attract young talent to work on challenging and interesting projects, increasing spending on training threefold by 2016. (11/28)

In Texas, a New Kind of Space Race Emerges (Source: Texas Tribune)
Someday capsules sent aloft from a New Mexico desert will whisk celebrity passengers on flights into suborbital space. And someday rockets taking off from a sandy beach in Texas will carry colonists to Mars. What is the point of space, after all, if it cannot be filled with grandiose dreams? At least that is what city, county and Texas officials were betting on when they offered millions of dollars in incentives to lure SpaceX to Brownsville.

SpaceX is among a growing group of companies competing in a new kind of space race — an effort to monetize manned spaceflights. Several of the competitors have operations in Texas. While private companies are running the race, public dollars are often fueling it. In addition to SpaceX, XCOR Aerospace plans to use Midland’s airport to launch commercial spaceflights; Blue Origin has a launchpad in West Texas; and Firefly, a small satellite launch company recently announced the opening of an office in Cedar Park.

Keith Graf, the director of the Texas Office of Aerospace, Aviation and Defense, says the state’s wide-open skies and areas of low population are attracting companies that see profits in private spaceflight. Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation, a conservative research group in New Mexico, says no one knows when the private space industry will become viable. He did not think it wise for public money to be invested in the spaceward dreams of billionaires. Click here. (11/28)

Air Force Group Supports Human Spaceflight (Source: America Space)
At the Air Force's 45th Space Wing, Detachment 3 is specifically responsible for supporting U.S. human spaceflight for NASA and NASA-sponsored crewed missions. Detachment 3 is responsible for coordinating the DoD’s nominal and contingency support for U.S. human space flight programs. They coordinate astronaut rescue and recovery and provide landing site support, payload security, medical airlift / sealift support, and other services. They also develop plans for U.S Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) and coordinate with various military departments and other DoD agencies.

“When NASA needs something from the DOD that they can’t provide themselves or secure affordably through commercial means they come to us for that capability,” said Lt. Col. Michael “Tank” McClure, Commander of the 45th Operations Group Detachment 3. “We then go and scour aircraft and ship manuals to find the right capability to meet NASA’s requirement, then we coordinate the scheduling process for that asset or unit, then we train those forces for whatever the unique mission is that NASA needs them to do.” Click here. (11/28)

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