February 20, 2015

Re-engined Antares To Carry Space Station Cargo in 2016 Debut (Source: Space News)
Orbital ATK on Feb. 19 said its revamped Antares rocket featuring a new main engine would make its first launch in March 2016 carrying a fully loaded cargo ship bound for the International Space Station, without a preceding demonstration flight but following a January test firing of the rocket’s first stage. (2/19)

SPACErePORT LinkedIn Group Focuses on Spaceports (Source: SPACErePORT)
Interested in spaceports? Join the SPACErePORT LinkedIn group to follow what's going on in the world of U.S. spaceports. Click here. (2/19)

Mars One's Work on Robotic Mission to Mars is Stalled (Source: Space News)
Mars One has quietly suspended its work on two robotic missions it was hoping to launch in 2018 ahead of a manned mission to Mars. The Dutch-based nonprofit organization had contracted with Lockheed Martin and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. to work on parts of the plan, but both companies say there's been no follow-up from Mars One after completion of their contracts. Mars One would not comment on its progress. (2/19)

Embry-Riddle Visit By NASA Director for Solar System Exploration (Source: ERAU)
Dr. Firouz Michael Naderi, Director for Solar System Exploration at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), will deliver a keynote address titled “Where Did We Come From and Who (or What) Else Might Be Out There?” as the signature public event during Embry-Riddle’s celebration of National Engineers Week, Feb. 23-28, at the Daytona Beach Campus. (2/19)

Astronauts Repair Space Station Satellite Deployer (Source: Space News)
Astronauts on the International Space Station have made repairs to a set of small satellite deployers that malfunctioned several months ago, a move that the company that provided them calls a milestone for commercial activities there.

The deployer system, used to eject cubesat-sized spacecraft from the ISS, broke down in August, failing to release satellites when commanded. During the troubleshooting process in September, two satellites were inadvertently released. The deployers were returned inside the ISS through the airlock in the Japanese Kibo module in mid-September. (2/19)

Moon Water Ingredient More Plentiful on Slopes Facing Lunar South Pole (Source: Space.com)
Future moon colonists seeking water should focus on crater slopes that face the moon's south pole rather than those that face the equator, according to new data.

That conclusion comes after NASA's long-running Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) discovered there is very slightly more hydrogen — 23 parts per million by weight, on average — in "polar-facing slopes." Hydrogen could be a sign of lunar water since it, along with oxygen, form to make water. If this hypothesis is confirmed and there is enough water available, future colonists could mine the liquid rather than transporting it from Earth. (2/19)

Why I Want to be a Passenger on Mars One (Source: Guardian)
I have always been in awe of the night sky, trying to comprehend the vastness of space and the countless wonders it contains. But I have always felt a certain dissatisfaction with only being able to see it at a distance. One day I imagine that humanity will be able to visit other planets in the ​solar ​system, and venture even further to other stars, but this has always seemed very far away.

That’s the reason why I applied for the Mars One mission, aimed at starting a human colony on Mars – it seemed like a real opportunity to get closer to the rest of the night sky, to give me a chance to be a part of taking humanity into the stars. Click here. (2/19)

NASA Gearing Up to Reassemble the Space Station (Source: Discovery)
NASA this week begins work to reassemble parts of the International Space Station to create parking spots for two commercial space taxis. The reconfiguration, which is expected to be finished before the end of the year, is the first major overhaul of the station, which was completed in 2011 after more than a decade of space shuttle-based assembly missions.

Reconfiguring the station will open docking ports for Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Dragon capsules. One berthing slip will be at the front end of the Harmony connecting node, where the space shuttles used to dock. The other will be on Harmony’s zenith, or up-facing, port. The visiting ships also will need docking targets, communications systems and other gear, all of which will be installed during seven spacewalks planned for this year, said station operations manager Kenneth Todd. (2/19)

NASA Races to Fix Spacesuits After Near Drowning (Source: News.com.au)
With three complicated spacewalks planned in the coming days, NASA is rushing to resolve a spacesuit problem linked to a 2013 emergency when water dangerously flooded a European astronaut’s helmet.

The spacesuits that will be worn by astronauts Barry Wilmore and Terry Virts on their ventures outside the International Space Station are in working order, NASA said Wednesday, but engineers are concerned about a recurring issue with a piece of equipment known as the fan pump separator, part of the spacesuit’s temperature control system. (2/19)

SpaceX Rocket Test Shakes Central Texas; Why Was it so Loud? (Source: KCEN)
A company testing the bounds of human exploration right in our back yard is not making friends with everyone. The rumble of SpaceX's constant engine testing can be heard and felt dozens of miles away, and Tuesday night was just the latest example.

Most of the time the sound doesn't carry very far, depending on a number of factor, including the weather at the time of the test and how many engines are going at once. Dozens of viewers called our newsroom and sent messages on Facebook Tuesday night wondering about the source of the roar that shook their houses. (2/19)

Vandenberg Commander Looking Forward to Increased Launch Activity (Source: Lompoc Record)
As Col. Keith Balts, commander of the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg Air Force Base, gave his “State of the Base” presentation Wednesday afternoon to an audience that included Congresswoman Lois Capps and Santa Maria Mayor Alice Patino.

He described some of the base’s activities in 2014, things that he’s looking forward to in 2015 and gave a condensed version of the base’s history. He made the hourlong presentation during a joint luncheon hosted by the Lompoc and Santa Maria chambers of commerce.

Among the activities noted by Balts were the six launches the base hosted in 2014. That number was down from the 10 to 12 launches that typically blast off from VAFB, but Balts expressed optimism that the launch total could be on the rise in the very near future. (2/19)

New Mexico Senate Panel Passes Spaceport Sale Bill (Source: AP)
A panel of New Mexico senators offered no recommendation as it passed a proposal to pull the plug on the taxpayer-financed spaceport and put the futuristic hangar up for sale. The Senate Corporation and Transportation Committee voted unanimously Thursday to advance the legislation sponsored by Democratic Sen. George Munoz of Gallup.

The bill has added fuel to criticisms that Spaceport America - first initiated by former Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, and British billionaire Richard Branson - is a boondoggle. Under the legislation, the New Mexico Spaceport Authority and other agencies would have to develop a marketing plan by October to sell the spaceport. Proceeds would be used to repay development bonds. Taxes imposed in Sierra and Dona Ana counties to pay for the project would be rescinded. (2/19)

SpaceX Developing Rocket Assembly Building at LC-39A (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
SpaceX’s new rocket system, the Falcon Heavy, is continuing preparations for her 2015 debut, with work taking place around the country. Modifications to Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) are now making visible progress, in tandem with the opening hardware fabrication and testing at SpaceX assets – hardware that is being born with SpaceX’s forward-thinking reusable ambitions. Click here. (2/19)

Does Dark Matter Cause Mass Extinctions and Geologic Upheavals? (Source: New York University)
Research by New York University Biology Professor Michael Rampino concludes that Earth's infrequent but predictable path around and through our Galaxy's disc may have a direct and significant effect on geological and biological phenomena occurring on Earth. he concludes that movement through dark matter may perturb the orbits of comets and lead to additional heating in the Earth's core, both of which could be connected with mass extinction events.

The Galactic disc is the region of the Milky Way Galaxy where our solar system resides. It is crowded with stars and clouds of gas and dust, and also a concentration of elusive dark matter--small subatomic particles that can be detected only by their gravitational effects.

Previous studies have shown that Earth rotates around the disc-shaped Galaxy once every 250 million years. But the Earth's path around the Galaxy is wavy, with the Sun and planets weaving through the crowded disc approximately every 30 million years. Analyzing the pattern of the Earth's passes through the Galactic disc, Rampino notes that these disc passages seem to correlate with times of comet impacts and mass extinctions of life. The famous comet strike 66 million ago that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs is just one example. (2/19)

Lockheed Martin Pressing To Simplify Orion Heat Shield (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin Space Systems will spend March 4 debriefing NASA on the first test flight of the Orion deep-space crew capsule, with an eye toward selling the agency on a redesign of the craft’s all-important heat shield, a senior company official said here Feb. 18.

Mike Hawes, director of human spaceflight programs at Denver-based Lockheed Martin Space Systems, said data from the four-and-a-half hour Exploration Flight Test (EFT)-1, carried out Dec. 5, indicates that a lower-cost heat shield design could provide the necessary protection for Orion crews. Temperatures on re-entry “were lower than we expected” on EFT-1, Hawes told reporters here during Lockheed Martin’s annual media day.

That data supports a Lockheed Martin proposal to scrap the current heat-shield design, which features a 5-meter-diameter honeycombed frame, in favor of an alternative composed of rectangular heat-resistant tiles glued together with a silicone-based adhesive, Hawes said. (2/19)

Arianespace on Pace for One Launch Per Month in 2015 (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Last week’s successful launch of a Vega rocket with a European re-entry technology demonstrator marked the first of at least 11 flights planned this year by Arianespace to put communications satellites, Earth observatories and research probes into space. Arianespace is holding out hope for up to a dozen flights if payloads are ready on time and scheduling at the Guiana Space Center permits.

“The target is, on average, one launch per month,” said Stephane Israel, Arianespace’s chairman and CEO. The mix on Arianespace’s launch manifest this year includes six or seven Ariane 5 flights — each carrying two satellites — two or three launches of the Russian-made Soyuz rocket, and three missions using the lightweight Vega rocket, including the Feb. 11 launch already in the books. (2/19)

China's Hypersonic Glide Vehicle: A Threat to the United States (Source: Space Daily)
Beijing's significant military advance has been furthered with its venture into hypersonic weapons systems. China is working on hypersonic cruise missiles for which it is working on scramjet engines and also on Hypersonic Glide Vehicle (HGV).

In 2014, Beijing has conducted three test-firings of its HGV, the Wu-14. The first test-firing was conducted in January, while the second one was conducted in August and the latest one has been conducted in December and witnessed both success and failure with the tests. (2/19)

Sen. Cruz Calls Subcommittee Hearing on Space Exploration (Source: US Senate)
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, will convene a hearing on Feb. 24 at 2:00 p.m. entitled “U.S. Human Exploration Goals and Commercial Space Competitiveness.” Former NASA astronauts including Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon and the pilot of Apollo 11, and leaders in the commercial space industry will provide their testimony. (2/19)

Space Architecture Master Degree Plan Approved (Source: The Cougar)
A Master’s of Science in Space Architecture was approved by the UH Board of Regents during their meeting in the Student Center South ballroom on Thursday. UH will draw upon resources and curricula that is already established through existing degree programs and is going to “compliment and reinforce programs (that) are already successful,” according to the program description given to the Regents. (2/19)

Planets Can Alter Each Others Climates Over Eons (Source: Astrobiology)
A new study sheds light on how exoplanets in tightly-packed solar systems interact with each other gravitationally by affecting one another’s climates and their abilities to support alien life. Because the exoplanets are so close to one another in these compact solar systems, they have tidal influence, much like the Earth and the Moon have on each other. The tides modify the spin rates, axial tilts and orbits of these planets over time, and therefore alter their climates. (2/19)

ESA Approves Biomass Mission Featuring U.S. Antenna Technology (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency on Feb. 18 gave final approval for a $500 million mission to measure the biomass and carbon stored in tropical forests using a satellite in low Earth orbit equipped with a novel P-band-frequency sensor that features a 12-meter-diameter deployable antenna.

The decision by ESA’s Earth Observation Program Board will permit the 21-nation ESA to issue bid requests to the two consortia, led by Airbus Defence and Space and Thales Alenia Space, that have been working on the Biomass satellite design. (2/19)

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