December 15, 2014

NASA’s Morpheus Completes Successful Final Test at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
An experimental NASA lander took flight today for the last time at Kennedy Space Center, successfully completing a quarter-mile hop testing technologies that future exploration missions might incorporate. The four-legged Morpheus lander lit its engine at 4:11 p.m. and climbed about 800 feet, then flew forward 1,300 feet while descending to a pad in a simulated moonscape north of the shuttle runway, where it touched down in a cloud of dust.

Team members reported that Morpheus' laser-guided navigation system had controlled the entire flight, a key objective not achieved during several previous attempts. The 97-second flight was the last planned before Morpheus is shipped home next month to Johnson Space Center in Houston. (12/15)

Proton Rocket Blasts Off with Yamal 401 Satellite (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
An International Launch Services Proton rocket blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Monday with the Yamal 401 satellite, a 3.3-ton spacecraft to beam C-band and Ku-band communications services across Russia. Click here for photos and video. (12/15)

ESA and Omega: a Watch for Astronauts (Source: Space Daily)
Swiss watchmaker Omega has announced a new version of its historic space watch, tested and qualified with ESA's help and drawing on an invention of ESA astronaut Jean-Francois Clervoy. Jean-Francois flew in space three times in the 1990s and began thinking how to improve the wristwatches he wore on his missions. ESA filed a patent based on his ideas for a timepiece that helps astronauts to track their mission events.

One of the new functions allows the wearer to set a date in the past or future down to the second and have the watch calculate how much time has elapsed or is left. Other features useful for astronauts include flexible programming of multiple alarms with different ring tones. Omega, with its strong links to spaceflight since the first Moon landings in the 1960s, was interested in improving its line of Speedmaster Professional watches, and called on ESA's patent for the new Speedmaster Skywalker X-33. (12/15)

200 Million Pound Investment is Rocket Fuel for UK Space Industry (Source: Space Daily)
The UK Space Agency is making an extra investment of over 200 million pounds in Europe's space programme, providing the UK with increased leadership in a rapidly growing global sector and building on the UK space industry's 11.3 billion contribution to the UK economy. Click here. (12/15)

Sarah Brightman to Begin Training in January for Flight to ISS (Source: Space Daily)
Britain's popular soprano singer Sarah Brightman will begin training for her journey to the International Space Station in January next year. "It's been confirmed that Sarah Brightman will begin her flight training in January 2015," a spokesperson said.

If the famous singer passes the training standards, she will be part of a crew scheduled to dock with the ISS in October of next year, accompanied by Russian and Danish astronauts, Sergei Volkov and Andreas Mogensen respectively. Sara Brightman, 54, is a UNESCO Artist for Peace and the world's best-selling soprano singer. She announced her intention to go to space back in 2012. (12/15)

Athena-2S, Not Athena-3, On Tap for Medium-Lift Launches in Alaska (Source: Space Daily)
The Lockheed Martin proposal is based on making modifications to the existing small-lift launch facilities at Kodiak to provide medium-lift capability using an upgraded version of the Athena rocket family, the Athena-2S. According to Alaska Aerospace, "The RFP process was successful because it provided competition, increased industry awareness of the launch opportunities from Kodiak, and resulted in a lower cost option to bring medium lift capability to Alaska."

"When we originally met with Lockheed Martin to provide medium lift capability at Kodiak, we thought we would need a significantly larger investment," Campbell said. "I am pleased to see, through increased competition, that the price is much lower, and we will be able to complete the process with the money already appropriated by the State of Alaska."

Editor's Note: So it is the Athena-2S that will bring medium-lift to Alaska, not the Athena-3 as I've seen reported elsewhere. I can see now why the pad modifications are not as expensive as Alaska feared they would be. Athena-2S is simply an Athena-2 with solid rocket boosters attached, while Athena-3 is a much taller Athena-1 stacked atop a variant of a Space Shuttle solid rocket motor. The vehicles are offered by Lockheed Martin, but it they are made up mostly of ATK solid rocket components. Click here. (12/15)

Bezos Talks Space (Source: Business Insider)
You want to go into space. This is a proclivity that you share with fellow billionaires such as Elon Musk and Richard Branson. First of all, what is it about space that captivates you? Second, what are you doing that’s different? Third, just talk about how hard it is when you saw Richard have an accident that has set everybody back a long time. Talk about space. What’s the vision there?

Bezos: First of all, and most fundamentally, you don’t get to choose your passions. Your passions choose you. For whatever reason, when I was 5 years old, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon. I was imprinted with this passion for space and for exploration. I think it’s important. I could come up with lots of rational reasons why it’s important, and I really do believe them.

My vision is, I want to see millions of people living and working in space. I think it’s important. I also just love it. I love change. I love technology. I love the engineers we have. They’re brilliant. We have about 350 people there. The initial mission is space tourism. We’re also designing an orbital vehicle. We just won a contract to provide the new engines for the new version of the Atlas 5, which is the most successful launch vehicle in history. Click here. (12/14)

With An Eye To Mars, NASA is Testing its Astronaut Twins (Source: Smithsonian)
When Scott Kelly completes his year at the International Space Station in 2016, it will be the longest stint that any American has spent in orbit. It’s a privilege, he says, to be “the first U.S. crew member that’s asked to stay in space that long. Luckily for NASA, when Scott launches into space this coming March, he will leave behind a copy of himself—his identical twin brother, Mark Kelly, a retired astronaut. Because the Kellys have virtually the same genetic material, NASA can study how long-duration space flight affects the body and mind, using Mark as the control. Click here. (12/15)

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