December 12, 2014

Boeing Developing Simulation and Analytics Lab in Huntsville (Source: Boeing)
Boeing has begun construction on a 7,000-square-foot addition to its research and technology center in Alabama. Known as the Center for Applied Simulation and Analytics (CASA), the new lab space will serve as a hub for Boeing, its research partners and academic collaborators to create and develop simulation and analytics technologies, providing advanced simulation of Boeing products from concepts through operations.

"This lab will help us create flexible and affordable environments for modeling, simulation and analytics research," said Steve Swaine. "Our goal is to bring the best and brightest in the support and analytics industry together in one location and give them all the tools they need to create the most effective simulations and analysis methods for validating new technologies." (12/12)

Actor Seth Green Designs Mission Patch for ISS Science Experiments (Source: CollectSpace)
Looking at the latest mission patch bound for the International Space Station, you would never know it was designed by actor Seth Green. The six-sided emblem displays no apparent references to the celebrity's well-known roles and projects. There are no call outs to "Austin Powers," "Family Guy" or even "Robot Chicken." But, in fact, the patch does include a subtle nod to Green's personal character.

"Honestly, my first thought was the yellow and blue from BSG [Battlestar Galactica]," Green explained, describing what inspired him to choose the patch's colors in a video released by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS). The non-profit invited the actor to design the insignia representing its payload of sponsored science experiments flying to the space station in 2015. (12/9)

NASA to Host Info Session on Antares Explosion Impact (Source: DelMarVa Now)
NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility will host an information session for the public from 6-8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 15, at the Wallops Visitor Center to provide updates on environmental remediation work completed and underway following the Antares rocket launch failure in late October.

Subject matter experts from Wallops’ environmental team will be on hand to answer questions about the mishap’s environmental impact on Wallops Island, as well as testing and remediation efforts conducted to date and planned for the future. In addition, launch and range safety officials will be available to speak about safety processes and procedures before, during and after launch operations. (12/11)

ESA and China Plan Crude Oil Experiment (Source: ESA)
ESA is finalising its first experiment on a Chinese space mission: small containers of crude oil will help to improve our understanding of oil reservoirs buried kilometers underground. The package has already passed a gamut of testing at ESA’s Technical Center, ESTEC, in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, including the temperature shifts of orbital flight and the vibration and shocks of launch and reentry.

Known as the ‘Soret Coefficient in Crude Oil’ experiment, it consists of six sturdy cylinders, each containing a milliliter of crude oil, pressurised to 400 times our normal atmospheric level – among the highest pressure items ever made for space. (12/11)

Florida's Final 2014 Launch Slides to Dec. 19 (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The planned Dec. 16 launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket and its Dragon spacecraft has been delayed three days - to no-earlier-than Dec. 19. NASA has stated the cause for this most recent delay was to ensure that everything possible was done while the booster was on the ground to ensure success. This latest slip was noted on the website for the United States Air Force’s 45th Space Wing. (12/11)

Commercial Space Industry Regroups After Accidents (Source: Roll Call)
Two accidents in the commercial space industry this year — an unmanned rocket that exploded shortly after launch in the fall and an experimental suborbital craft that broke apart during flight shortly after — are almost sure to come up the next time a congressional committee discusses the private spacecraft market. But, experts say the incidents won’t have much of an effect on the sector’s increasing expansion.

Thus far, members of Congress, who have largely cheered the development of the commercial space business, haven’t jumped on the incidents as a reason to clamp down on the industry. After the Orbital Sciences explosion, Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said, “space flight is inherently risky,” but commercial space ventures “will ultimately be successful.” He expressed similar thoughts on the Virgin Galactic accident.

Experts are hoping other lawmakers take similarly deliberative approaches; some have expressed frustration about the way the recent accidents have been reported. (12/11)

Ponds or Pounding are Both Possible Origins of Life (Source: New Scientist)
It's hard to think of two more wildly different possibilities: did life on Earth get its start amid the gentle bubbles of a "warm little pond", as Darwin put it, or was it born amid the colossal blows of space rocks slamming into our young planet? Click here. (12/11)

Budget Deal is Good for Planetary Science (Source: LA Times)
An omnibus spending package is up for a vote in Congress this week – and supporters of NASA are cheering it on. If approved in the House and Senate, the federal spending appropriations for the 2015 fiscal year would give the space agency enough funding to send the Mars 2020 rover to the Red Planet on time and to invest in a flagship mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa. The bill would provide NASA with $18.01 billion. Within that amount, planetary science would get $1.437 billion, a $157-million boost. (12/10)

XCOR Presents New Platforms For Suborbital Science (Source: XCOR)
XCOR Aerospace presents new instruments for solar observation and atmospheric phenomena measurement. Both instruments – the Southwest Research Institute’s (SwRI) Solar Instrument Pointing Platform (SSIPP) and KickSat’s sprite, will demonstrate future platforms for commercial suborbital science. The SSIPP will examine solar wave dynamics above the Earth’s atmosphere while onboard the Lynx. The KickSat sprite, which is generically known as a chipsat, is only the size of a couple of postage stamps, but has many capabilities of larger spacecraft such as memory, sensors, radio transceiver, and solar cells. (12/11)

NASA Still Faces Challenges, GAO Says (Source: Washington Post)
Many in the space community are still beaming over last week’s launch of Orion, the historic unmanned test flight that NASA said touched off a “new era” in human space exploration. But at a congressional hearing Tuesday, a government watchdog report and some skeptical members of Congress brought some of the grandiose talk of a trip to Mars down to Earth, saying that the program still faces daunting challenges that NASA has struggled to overcome.

The Government Accountability Office’s Cristina Chaplain said in testimony that the agency’s human exploration program is plagued by “inconsistent and unrealistic schedule goals,” as well as “significant technical and funding issues.”

Regarding SLS, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) said it could cost at least $10 billion to develop “this monstrous rocket project.” Even then, he said, it “won’t have a real mission until we go to Mars, which could be two decades or three decades from now, depending on if we can ever get over the technological hurdles we haven’t gotten over yet.” Meanwhile, the program would continue to eat up much of the budget and take away from other endeavors, Rohrabacher said. “We made a wrong decision when we went down this road,” he said. (12/11)

MoonMail: Company Launches Program to Land Mementos on the Moon (Source: CollectSpace)
A commercial "lunar logistics" company working to send robotic landers to the moon is inviting the public to 'mail' their keepsakes and personal mementos on one-way trips to the lunar surface. Astrobotic Technology on announced the launch of its new "MoonMail" program, which offers to send heirloom rings, family photos, locks of hair and other small personal items on the company's first private moon mission set to launch in the next few years. (12/11)

NASA’s Flight Research UAVs (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA is making increasing use of small unmanned aircraft for flight research to reduce costs and risks. Here are some recent examples of new technologies being tested in small packages. Click here. (12/18)

NASA To Weigh Several Factors in Decision on Asteroid Mission Option (Source: Space News)
NASA will weigh several factors when it makes a Dec. 16 decision on a plan for its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), including how well each option supports later human missions to Mars, according to the agency official who will make that decision. NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot said he will use a “matrix” of variables when deciding between two options for carrying out the robotic portion of ARM.

In one approach, called simply Option A by NASA, a robotic spacecraft would shift the orbit of a small near-Earth asteroid, up to ten meters in diameter, into an orbit around the Moon. The alternative, Option B, would use a robotic spacecraft to grab a boulder a few meters across from a larger asteroid and move that into lunar orbit. Click here. (12/11)

Could Mankind Really Survive 100 Years in Space? (Source: NBC)
A hulking spaceship the size of the Empire State Building, powered by nuclear explosions meant to carry human beings all the way to another solar system. It could never happen, right? That was the idea behind a very real plan called Project Orion, drawn up by physicist Freeman Dyson in the late 1950s. It's also the concept behind a new SyFy show called "Ascension." The series wonders, "What if President John F. Kennedy had taken Dyson seriously and launched a giant spaceship towards another star?" Click here. (12/11)

Colorado Space Roundup Focuses Eyes on Top Aerospace Prize (Source: Denver Post)
If there's one thing Colorado aerospace proponents like, it's talking about where the state ranks in the national aerospace race. Colorado is currently the No. 3 space economy in the nation, according to the Colorado Space Coalition. The state has about 400 aerospace-related companies and about 170,000 aerospace-related jobs, the greatest per-capita rate of any state, according to data from the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation.

However, Colorado wants to be No. 1, and gatherings like the Colorado Space Roundup are one step toward getting there, Johansson said. The annual event brings together the key players in the state's aerospace economy — or, as Johansson calls them, "competimates" — to discuss how to best move the industry forward.

Central to this effort is the development of an educated, homegrown workforce. However, this is not just the responsibility of the state's universities, said Brian Sanders, deputy director of the Colorado Space Grant Consortium, a statewide program funded by NASA that gives university students hands-on experience with space programs. (12/11)

Taking the Cube Quest Challenge (Source: Make)
The NASA Centennial Challenges Program is the agency’s flagship program of technology prize competitions—from lunar landers, to astronaut gloves, to airships. Back in 2011 we even partnered with NASA to develop inexpensive science kits for suborbital flights for the MAKE Space Challenge.

Amongst the latest challenge announcements from the agency is the Cube Quest Challenge which offers a total of $5 million to teams that can design, build, and deliver small spacecraft capable of operating near and beyond the moon. The Challenge is designed to encourage development of technology to allow deep space exploration using small spacecraft—like CubeSats. Click here. (12/11)

Spaceport America Launches Online Shop to Help Pay Bills (Source: KQRE)
The launch of commercial flights to space from Spaceport America was supposed to help the economy here take off. However, after years and years of delays, the Spaceport is trying other things to make money, like starting a new online store. The Spaceport sent out a newsletter this month to let people know about the online shop, encouraging everyone to do their holiday shopping on the site. You won’t find tickets for a flight to space, but it does have everything from shirts and coffee mugs to shot glasses. (12/10)

Rewards Offered for Return of Delaware’s Apollo 11 Moon Dust (Source: Dover Post)
Former NASA investigator Joe Gutheinz is offering a cash reward of up to $10,000 for the return of Delaware’s Apollo 11 lunar samples. His reward is in addition to a similar, $10,000 offer from the H2 Channel’s “Lost History” program, which featured a story about stolen lunar samples on Nov. 21. Gutheinz said his offer is good only through Jan. 9, 2015, and will be paid once NASA and the Delaware officials can verify the lunar rocks are the actual sample stolen in 1977.

Gutheinz said he has not been able to uncover any additional clues about who took the sample, but said it was “most likely stolen by a young white male who either still has it hidden away or has lost track of it over the decades.” The Texas-based attorney has made similar offers for other, missing lunar material. “I may be a retired NASA senior special agent, but I still care about protecting the history and treasure of NASA,” he wrote. (12/10)

President Obama Praises NASA's Orion Spaceship Test Flight (Source:
The first test flight of NASA's Orion crew capsule represents a big step along humanity's path to Mars, President Barack Obama said Tuesday. The president took note of the spaceflight success, which marked the farthest a human-spaceflight vehicle has traveled since the end of NASA's Apollo program in 1972.

"I'm sure you were all as proud as I was to see Orion's first sucessful flight test last Friday," President Obama said Tuesday during a speech to the Senior Executive Service, a group of high-ranking federal civil servants. "America was already the first nation to land a rover on Mars," Obama said. "When an American is the first human to set foot there, we'll have Julie and her team to thank. And at that point, I'll be out of the presidency, and I might hitch a ride." (12/10)

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