January 4, 2015

SpaceX Begins Texas Job Postings (Source: Brownsville Herald)
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has begun to post jobs for the development of the world’s first commercial, vertical and orbital rocket launch facility at Boca Chica Beach near Brownville. The present job postings on the website of the California-based SpaceX are for an electrical engineer for the launch pad facilities and for a field contact representative.

Brownsville now appears on the list of SpaceX locations that also include Cape Canaveral, Florida; Hawthorne, California; McGregor, Texas; Palo Alto, California; Seattle; Vandenberg, California; and Washington, D.C. (1/3)

Astrobotic Aims to Make City a Space Port for Shipping (Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
The future for a company like Astrobotic can seem almost whimsical to an outsider. The start-up space firm, originally created in 2008 to be the private partner with Carnegie Mellon University in the $20 million Google Lunar XPRIZE competition to get the first privately funded unmanned rover to the moon, likes to say it wants to be “FedEx to the moon” and deliver things for people, companies, universities or governments to the lunar surface.

It generated some buzz, but also some criticism, last month when it announced the creation of MoonMail to let people affordably send small keepsakes or mementos to the moon. But, of course, right now, there is no one delivering anything to the moon. And, even if you could, will there be enough demand to make a business out of it?

“Pittsburgh knows how to build an industry,” said Mr. Whittaker, a CMU robotics professor and legend in the field of robotics for the many innovative designs he has overseen in four decades of work. “Oil and gas, banking, steel, coal and now medicine, health care and technology, we’ve done it before. It really is a matter of pulling it all together in the industry. And that is one of the things favoring robotics and Pittsburgh now.” “It is the right location for an emergent, space-faring company,” he said. (1/3)

2015 Important One in KSC's Post-Shuttle Transformation (Source: Florida Today)
A storied Kennedy Space Center launch pad could roar back to life this year with the maiden flight of the world's new most powerful rocket, four years after a shuttle last blasted off from the site. The launch of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy and other progress toward new commercial operations at the center, including astronaut flights within a few years, promise to make 2015 a significant year in KSC's transformation into more than just a NASA spaceport.

That progress will be welcome, because four more years are likely to pass before KSC launches NASA's next big exploration rocket, the Saturn V-class Space Launch System, with an unmanned Orion spacecraft. It's a somewhat deflating reality on the heels of last month's exciting first test flight of an Orion capsule assembled at KSC, a mission hyped as a "first step to Mars."

While that buzz fades, managers are optimistic that the new deep space rocket and capsule are passing the midpoint from their approval in 2011 to their first launch together in 2018. If that span could be reduced to a week, this year would be "hump day." Click here. (1/3)

NASA Tests Inflatable Heat Shield Based on Child's Toy (Source: Daily Mail)
When some of the world's first aviation pioneers tried to reach the skies centuries ago, they inflated hot air balloons. And now NASA are looking into inflatable technology once more, this time as a way of reaching the next frontier in human space travel - Mars. Scientists are considering using a blow-up heat shield, which resembles stacking ring of doughnuts that young children play with, for future missions to the red planet.

NASA engineers believe a lightweight, inflatable heat shield could be deployed to slow the craft to enter a Martian atmosphere, which is much thinner than Earth's. Such an inflatable heat shield could help a spacecraft reach the high-altitude southern plains of Mars and other areas that would otherwise be inaccessible under existing technology. The experts say rockets alone can't be used to land a large craft on Mars, as can be done on the Moon. Parachutes also will not work for a large spacecraft needed to send humans to Mars, they add. (1/3)

Russia Should Develop Space Services Market (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia should develop the market of space services, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on Sunday commenting on the government’s order to establish the GLONASS joint stock company. “Russia should receive benefits from its unique orbital group … and should develop the market of space services,” he tweeted.

The Russian government’s website reported earlier on Sunday that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev had signed an order on establishment of the GLONASS joint stock company, where the chartered capital would make 100 million roubles ($1.8 million). All the 100% of the shares will be owned by the state. (1/3)

SpaceX Set to Kick Off 2015 Launch Calendar Tuesday (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX is poised to kick off Cape Canaveral's 2015 launch campaign with a 6:20 a.m. Tuesday attempt to boost another batch of cargo to the International Space Station. The launch is the first of as many as two-dozen from Cape Canaveral this year, according to the Air Force's 45th Space Wing. (1/2)

Germany Wraps Up a Successful Year in Spaceflight (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The past year - was a very successful and eventful one for the German Aerospace Center (DLR). Germany was active in the field of human spaceflight as the country’s astronaut, Alexander Gerst, spent six months on Space Station. DLR also played the lead role in ESA's Rosetta comet mission. But that was not all, for more than 10 years now, using the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) camera on board Mars Express spacecraft, German scientists have been photographing and mapping Mars. (1/2)

The Space Missions and Events We’re Most Looking Forward to in 2015 (Source: WIRED)
This year will be another exciting one for space exploration. While 2014 will be remembered as the year we landed on a comet(!), 2015 may be known as the year of Pluto (and other dwarf planets). The New Horizons spacecraft begins its approach to Pluto this month, and will get closest to the dwarf planet in July, taking in the best view ever of the icy, remote world—possibly revealing a dramatic landscape with mountains, volcanoes, and geysers.

Of course, that’s not all. The Rosetta mission will continue through the year and potentially beyond, making more discoveries as the spacecraft studies its comet up close. Despite tragedy and a rocket that exploded, private companies continue to push forward to make human spaceflight routine. Here are just a few of the highlights coming up in 2015. Click here. (1/2)

Big Bang to Be Investigated From Balloon in Antarctica (Source: New York Times)
Cosmologists celebrated the new year by launching a new expriment on a balloon in Antarctica to investigate the Big Bang. A set of six telescopes known as SPIDER will circle the continent for the next 20 days, observing a haze of faint microwave radio waves that are thought to be the fading remnants of the Big Bang. Click here. (1/2)

Mass. Companies’ Research Goes Into Orbit (Source: Boston Globe)
It’s not easy to survive 250 miles above Earth’s surface. Even on board the International Space Station, a place engineered to protect astronauts from extreme temperatures and lack of air outside the satellite, people have to work diligently to prevent their bones from weakening and their muscles from shriveling up. Microgravity, or near-zero gravity, is confusing for biological systems trained by the Earth’s what-goes-up-must-come-down physics.

That’s one reason why the space station is an excellent place for a laboratory. With construction completed in 2010, the space station has cranked into full research mode, and many Boston-area scientists are along for the ride. Academic researchers, drug companies, and even a golf club manufacturer are keen to exploit the potential of microgravity, the effects of which are felt on even a microscopic, chemical level. Click here. (1/2)

ISS Experiment Exposes Biological Limits in Space (Source: SEN)
As popular as wearable cameras are nowadays, it is unlikely that the average person will be able to capture an image quite as impressive as this below. Taken with the helmet camera of Oleg Artemyev, the photograph shows the Russian cosmonaut on a precarious spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS) last August during the installation of ESA's EXPOSE-R2 facility which gives 46 organisms a front-seat view of the Earth as they hurtle through space. Click here. (1/2)

UF Professor Emeritus Who Was Honored by NASA Dies at 87 (Source: Gainesville Sun)
Richard T. Schneider was a prominent University of Florida professor in the 1970s and 1980s, heading major projects and eventually being awarded NASA’s highest honor for civilians. But the longtime Alachua County resident was deeply proud of one other accomplishment — bringing his young family to America to pursue a better life, more than 50 years ago. Schneider died at home in Alachua on Dec. 31 following a long illness. He was 87. (1/2)

India Working on Manned Space Mission (Source: Live Mint)
After the success of Mangalyaan, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is working on developing technology to send a manned mission to space, the organisation’s former chief K. Radhakrishnan on Saturday said. “We have been able to send robots to space. Technology available in India needs to have a few more steps to be able to send human beings to space,” Radhakrishnan said. (1/2)

Branson: Why I Continued with Virgin Galactic After Fatal Crash (Source: Telegraph)
Sir Richard Branson has set out the thinking behind his decision to continue with the Virgin Galactic space program in the wake of the crash that killed one of the project’s pilots. In a message to the company’s staff which the entrepreneur has now made public, Sir Richard revealed that he considered abandoning the scheme after the accident in October that killed test pilot Mike Alsbury and seriously injured fellow pilot Peter Siebold.

“I found myself questioning seriously for the first time, whether in fact it was right to be backing the development of something that could result in such tragic circumstances,” he wrote. “In short – was Virgin Galactic and everything it has stood for and dreamt of achieving, really worth it?” He said the support from employees convinced him work should continue despite the “disbelief and shock” following the “fateful moment” when SpaceShipTwo tore itself apart.

"I got a very firm answer to that question immediately when I landed in Mojave,” Sir Richard wrote. “From the designers, the builders, the engineers, the pilots and the whole community who passionately believed – and still believe – that truly opening space and making it accessible and safe is of vital importance to all our futures." (1/2)

Korean Satellite on Possible Crash Course with Space Debris (Source: Arirang)
Korean space officials are scrambling to minimize the chance of one of their satellites colliding with some space debris. U.S. monitoring agencies warned Korea on Friday that the country's Science and Technology Satellite 3 could potentially crash into the debris on Sunday evening, Korea time, unless measures are taken.

Korea's Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning says officials will attempt to prevent a collision by changing the satellite's altitude during that time period. The debris they are watching is one of thousands of pieces of twisted metal that was produced after a Russian and U.S. satellite crashed into each other in 2009. The Korean satellite, launched in November 2013, is used to forecast geological events. (1/2)

NASA Needs New Goals: Rebooting Space Exploration (Source: Boston Globe)
If all goes as planned, another unmanned cargo mission will launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport on Tuesday to deliver scientific equipment, materials for research on fruit flies and flatworms, and an IMAX camera to the International Space Station. But if ferrying supplies sounds more like a job for UPS than NASA, it’s a reminder of how aimless the space-exploration agency has become, and how badly it needs a more clearly defined and inspiring mission for the 21st century. Click here. (1/2)

Kodiak Launch Site Repairs Continue Despite Alaska Governor’s Order (Source: Space News)
An executive order by the new governor of Alaska halting discretionary spending at the state’s spaceport will not stop its ongoing repairs but could affect other activities there, spaceport officials said. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker issued an administrative order Dec. 26 that directed state agencies to halt work “to the maximum extent possible” on six public works projects, including the state-owned Kodiak Launch Complex.

The order requires the affected projects, including the Kodiak Launch Complex, to immediately cease all discretionary spending and not incur new expenses. The order, though, does allow “contractually required spending” and payment of salaries to continue. Alaska Aerospace Corp. CEO Craig Campbell said the order will not affect ongoing repairs to a launch pad at Kodiak damaged in a failed test of the U.S. Army’s Advanced Hypersonic Weapon in August. Those repairs, he said, are being paid from a state insurance policy.

On Dec. 12, Alaska Aerospace Corp. announced an agreement with Lockheed Martin to upgrade the Kodiak launch pad to support launches of the company’s Athena 2S medium-lift vehicle. Those upgrades, estimated to cost $3 million to $5 million, will be paid from state funding appropriated in 2012. Campbell did not indicate if that agreement will be affected by the governor’s order. (1/2)

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