April 21, 2015

Telescope Construction in Hawaii Delayed Indefinitely (Source: Pacific Business News)
Construction on the Thirty Meter Telescope on Hawaii's Mauna Kea volcano has been delayed for a third time this month, with no official date set to return. TMT spokeswoman Sandra Dawson told PBN Monday it is unclear when construction will resume. “There are conversations happening among various stakeholders so we’re playing it by ear to see those conversations play out and what happens,” she said.

In a statement released Friday evening, Gov. David Ige said that any further construction delays would be up to the TMT Observatory Corp., and that the nonprofit has the legal right to build the $1.4 billion project. "My understanding is that TMT followed an almost seven-year planning and permitting process, which included public hearings and community input,” he said. (4/20)

Hawaiian Protesters Target US Company Behind Controversial Telescope (Source: Radio Australia)
There's been a blockade of the site on Hawaii's Big Island for three weeks, but now a group of protestors have gathered on the Pasadena freeway in Los Angeles outside TMT's headquarters. Journalist Ed Rampell watched the demonstration unfold, and he says the turnout was higher than expected. Click here. (4/21)

Space Lawyers Actually Exist (Source: Lawyers Weekly)
Who is liable if a piece of space junk crashes into the International Space Station? Can corporations mine the moon? What jurisdiction handles space tourists if they break the law in orbit? If you want to find out what’s legal once you leave planet Earth, you’re going to have to talk to a space lawyer.

Over the past 60 years space lawyers have extended humanity’s jurisdiction into zero gravity and earned for themselves one of the coolest titles in the profession. This week space lawyers from all over the world are coming together for the 54th UN Office for Outer Space Affairs Legal Subcommittee meeting in Vienna. (4/21)

Dark Matter May Feel a "Dark Force" That the Rest of the Universe Does Not (Source: Nature)
After decades of studying dark matter scientists have repeatedly found evidence of what it cannot be but very few signs of what it is. That might have just changed. A study of four colliding galaxies for the first time suggests that the dark matter in them may be interacting with itself through some unknown force other than gravity that has no effect on ordinary matter. The finding could be a significant clue as to what comprises the invisible stuff that is thought to contribute 24 percent of the universe. (4/20)

Mysterious 'Supervoid' is Largest Object Ever Discovered in Space (Source: The Telegraph)
Astronomers have discovered a curious empty section of space which is missing around 10,000 galaxies.
The ‘supervoid’, which is 1.8 billion light-years across, is the largest known structure ever discovered in the universe but scientists are baffled about what it is and why it is so barren.

It sits in a region of space which is much colder than other parts of the universe and although it is not a vacuum, it seems to have around 20 per cent less matter than other regions. Although the Big Bang theory allows for areas that are cooler and hotter, the size of the void does not fit with predicted models. Simply put, it is too big to exist. (4/20)

ULA Incorporates 3D Printing Technology into Vulcan Development (Source: ComputerWorld)
United Launch Alliance says its Vulcan rocket will include scores of components that are produced via 3D printer, citing the cost savings of using 3D printer technology. "We have a long list of [parts] candidates to evaluate -- over 100 polymer parts we're considering and another 50 or so metal parts we're considering," said ULA's Greg Arend. (4/20)

Space Solar Power Initiative Established by Northrop Grumman and Caltech (Source: Northrop Grumman)
Northrop Grumman has signed a sponsored research agreement with the California Institute of Technology for the development of the Space Solar Power Initiative (SSPI). Northrop Grumman will provide up to $17.5 million to the initiative over three years. The team will develop the scientific and technological innovations necessary to enable a space-based solar power system capable of generating electric power at cost parity with grid-connected fossil fuel power plants.

SSPI responds to the engineering challenge of providing a cost-competitive source of sustainable energy. SSPI will develop technologies in three areas: high-efficiency ultralight photovoltaics; ultralight deployable space structures; and phased array and power transmission. (4/20)

Cosmic Rays Misbehave in Space Station Experiment (Source: Science News)
Installed on the ISS in 2011, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer collects and identifies cosmic rays, charged subatomic particles that permeate the galaxy. A new census of charged particles buzzing through space includes a puzzling feature that challenges predictions about how these particles originate. The results may force scientists to rethink theories that focus on supernovas as the producers of these speedy particles.

Based on the previously measured concentrations of galactic cosmic rays, many scientists suspect that the particles get flung toward Earth in the shock waves of exploding stars. But the new analysis of 300 million protons and 50 million helium nuclei adds a wrinkle to the shock wave explanation. While the number of particles observed generally drops steadily as their energy increases, at an energy of several hundred billion electron volts, the rate of that drop abruptly decreases.

The shock wave scenario doesn’t support that sudden rate change, says University of Wisconsin–Madison particle astrophysicist Francis Halzen. The measurement, which confirms less precise findings from previous experiments, suggests an additional source of cosmic rays. “This structure really challenges our notions about the origin of galactic cosmic rays,” Halzen says. (4/21)

'You can die on Mars. Or you can live in South Dakota.' (Source: Argus Leader)
Someone sitting in a focus group in Minneapolis was asked to describe what it would be like living in South Dakota. The response is not the stuff economic developers dream about. "You could really become a hermit," this person said. "You could really isolate yourself from everyone else." ... "My friends would think I'm crazy to go to either of the Dakotas, because they probably just think it's a barren wasteland, that there's not much to do, not much job opportunities. It gets cold there. Really cold there."

Enter the state's new advertising campaign. It starts about as far from the target market of South Dakota as possible — on Mars. "Mars," the commercial begins. "The air: not breathable. The surface: cold and barren. But thousands are lining up for a chance to go and never come back."

Cut to images of South Dakota as the narrator continues: "South Dakota. Progressive. Productive. And abundant in oxygen. Why die on Mars when you can live in South Dakota?" The final graphic reads: "South Dakota. Plenty of jobs. Plenty of air." (4/21)

India’s Second Moon Mission To Be Fully Homegrown (Source: Aviation Week)
India’s second lunar exploration mission – Chandrayaan-2, to be launched during the next two to three years – will be completely indigenous, the country’s top scientist says. “There have been significant changes in the planned configuration for Chandrayaan-2,” says A. S. Kiran Kumar, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). “Originally, the lander was supposed to come from Russia. Now we are developing our own technology. So it will be completely an indigenous system.” (4/20)

How Lasers Could be the Future of Space Cleanup (Source: CSM)
Lasers may be the future of garbage disposal – in space, at least. In a paper published in the latest issue of Acta Astronautica, researchers at the Riken research institute in Tokyo proposed a way to end the growing problem of space debris by shooting them down with lasers. The method would track space debris using the Extreme Universe Space Observatory’s (EUSO) super-wide-field telescope, mounted on the International Space Station.

The telescope, which is based aboard the space station's Japanese Experiment Module, was designed to detect high-energy cosmic rays. The study proposes using EUSO to spot the debris and then shooting them with powerful laser pulses from a high-efficiency fiber laser, also aboard the space station. The pulses would knock objects into the Earth’s atmosphere, where they would burn up. (4/19)

Virgin Galactic Aims to Begin Testing Another Spaceship (Source: CNBC)
Virgin Galactic, the space venture of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group, hopes to start testing another spaceship before the end of the year, the company's chief executive has said in one of his few public comments since a fatal crash last year. George Whitesides said the spacecraft would be better because of the lessons learnt from the crash, which occurred when a test pilot unlocked a mechanism meant to slow a descending craft while it was climbing. (4/20)

KSC Director Cabana to Discuss “Pioneering Space” at Space Club Meeting (Source: NSCFL)
Kennedy Space Center Director Robert D. Cabana will be the guest speaker for the National Space Club Florida Committee (NSCFL) meeting May 12. His presentation is entitled “Pioneering Space: The Journey Begins at KSC.” The luncheon event begins at 11:30 am and will be held at the Radisson at the Port Convention Center, Cape Canaveral.
Cabana is the tenth director of the KSC where he manages a team of approximately 8,600 civil service and contractor employees.  Prior to his appointment to Kennedy in October 2008, the former space shuttle astronaut served as the director of NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. (4/20)

RocketStar Launches Campaign for Aerospike Engine (Source: RocketStar)
Rocketstar, LLC, a New York City-based rocket engine company, is currently developing a new generation of rocket engines, beginning with an aerospike engine intended to democratize space and unlock its promise of the future by creating a cost-effective; reusable, reliable, environmentally friendly and highly cost effective rocket engine.

RocketStar is launching an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign in an effort to raise $250,000 for completion of a prototype and to conduct a burn test, both of which are required prior to building a full-fledged aerospike engine. Click here. (4/19)

Alaska Spaceport Talking with Potential Customers (Source: Kodiak Daily Mirror)
The Kodiak Launch Complex has also been a recent target of a public relations nightmare after a failed rocket launch on Aug. 25, 2014. Even after its announcement early this month that local construction crews have cleared all of the debris from the aborted launch, opponents still found some ammunition to target the launch complex, which has been renamed the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska.

The site averaged about 35 employees, but with the state budget cuts this year, it will be operating with about 25 to 30 employees. Since the Alaska Aerospace Corp. board was created in 1992, the corporation has received about $50 million from the state. During that time, it also boosted the local economy, bringing about $300 million in economic impact. This year, AAC was hoping to receive $4 million in state funding, tapering off to $2 million the next year as they hope to eradicate dependence on funding from state coffers.

AAC is currently engaged in building revenue generation and in talks with six potential customers. He said he could not divulge whether the six would include the military. "We still have a lot of customers interested, but they will not sign until they have confidence that our launch site will be ready when they need us," Greby said. "This is a very tough dry spell for us, which is why we have to tighten our belts." (4/19)

UAE Opens Space Center to Oversee Mission to Mars (Source: Sputnik)
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) opened the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center on Saturday to oversee preparations of the country’s Mars exploration probe mission. A resolution to this effect was issued by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

The MBRSC is affiliated with the Emirates’ institution for advanced science and technology, which was established in 2006 by the UAE government, Xinhua news agency reported from Dubai. The center is assigned to “further research, projects and space investigation, in a manner that supports the UAE's drive to develop this sector and to promote national capacity related to space information and science.” (4/19)

UAE Interested in Buying Sea Launch From Russia (Source: Sputnik)
The United Arab Emirates is interested in the acquisition of the Sea Launch spacecraft launch platform. Several meetings were held between the UAE and Russia. But at the moment the intensity of negotiations regarding the project has decreased possibly due to the fall in international oil prices. Two years ago, the UAE established its own space agency. With the acquisition of "Sea Launch" the UAE would receive technical specialists and an existing infrastructure. (3/24)

Roscosmos Details Russia’s Struggling Space Sector (Source: Space News)
Russia’s space industry reported a 13 percent decline in export revenue in 2014 but is otherwise midway through a broad restructuring designed to improve quality control, the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos, said. Export revenue totaled 4.374 billion rubles in 2014, the agency said. It was not until late 2014 that the ruble began a spectacular slide against the U.S. dollar. It has recovered somewhat in recent weeks.

The agency said Russia’s space sector, which including industry and scientific enterprises counted 238,000 employees in 2014, has made good on all its international commitments — starting with the International Space Station — but is still struggling to bring young people into the business. The agency said the average age of a space-sector employ in 2014 was 45, with 44 percent over 50 years old and 22.3 percent 30 years old or younger. Click here. (4/20)

DigitalGlobe Unveils New Tools for Troops, Others to Use Imagery (Source: Reuters)
DigitalGlobe Inc this week unveiled new Web-based tools that could help military troops, relief workers and others use its high-resolution satellite images, social media feeds and other data without needing massive bandwidth. The tools, which are in beta-testing now, give users access to complex data processing done in the cloud, including rapid analysis about everything from helicopter and paratrooper landing sites to social media usage in a specific area.

Accessible on any cellphone, iPad or other portable device, the analytical tools can also be downloaded and cached for later use, even when there is no connectivity, DigitalGlobe Chief Technical Officer Walter Scott said. Scott said DigitalGlobe developed the system to allow users to benefit more from its imagery, which he called the world's highest-quality commercial satellite data, and the growing amount of unclassified information available from sources around the world. (4/19)

Curiosity Detects Possible Liquid Brine in Martian Soil (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Mars, our closest planetary neighbor, is a cold and desolate place. Extreme conditions make it near impossible to support liquid water on the planet's surface, but thanks to recent weather and soil data collected by NASA's Curiosity rover, scientists have their first indirect evidence of the presence of a thin briny film near the equator. Acting as a natural anti-freeze, the brine pulls water from the atmosphere into the soil, but daytime temperatures are too high, and any liquid evaporates. (4/20)

Kiwi Lawyer Says Asteroid Mining is Legal (Source: New Zealand Herald)
A New Zealand-based lawyer specializing in international space law says there are no laws preventing the mining of asteroids for commercial or scientific gains and she expects to see the practice to begin within the next 10 years. Click here. (4/20)

Before Decade Is Out All US Military Satellites May Be Grounded (Source: The Hill)
Today, the launch infrastructure of the United States National Security Space -- comprised of the Department of Defense, the Services and the Intelligence Community -- is teetering on the edge of a gap in capability which, in less than five years, could mean no capacity to launch the bulk of critical national security missions for as long as ten years.

We are close to retiring our existing fleet of launch vehicles without new ones to assure our access to space. America’s enemies operate with the certain knowledge that they have nowhere to run, nowhere to hide from American reach. And assured access to space is the key.

The government needs to take ownership and face this problem head on. It needs to define the end state and show commitment to a credible, achievable and affordable solution for national security launch needs in the 2020s and it needs to commit the necessary resources to achieve the desired outcome. It has been said that today’s American military is ‘space based.’ It is our duty to make sure we can support our forces in the next decade with assured access to space. (4/20)

The Lunar “Distraction” (Source: Air & Space)
For years, many in the space community have said the same thing. During planning for the implementation of the 2004 Vision for Space Exploration, NASA spent more time worrying about their “exit strategy” from the Moon than they did about what they’d been charged to do on the lunar surface once they got there. Eventually, the concept was recast: Missions to the Moon are only valuable to test systems, equipment and procedures for the forthcoming mission to Mars.

Some look at the Moon only as a testing ground for equipment and procedures, and see no compelling reason to conduct human missions there. But recently, the agency has been re-examining the value of the Moon. After several years of the Moon being relegated to “been there, done that” status, perhaps the idea of using lunar resources to learn how to live and work productively in space is again gaining some traction.

The more we learn about the properties of the Moon, the more essential our nearest neighbor becomes in our understanding of the role it can play in our ability to create new spaceflight capabilities and opportunities. The old trope that the Moon is a “distraction” on the way to Mars had it exactly reversed. The Moon contains what we need to create new capabilities in space faring and is critical to achieving Mars and all of the other interesting destinations in the Solar System. (4/20)

A Five-Year Checkup (Source: Space Review)
Last week marked the fifth anniversary of President Obama's speech at the Kennedy Space Center, outlining his vision for the future of NASA's space exploration efforts. Jeff Foust examines the progress NASA has made in various aspects of that vision, and the controversies that linger to this day. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2736/1 to view the article. (4/20)

Phobos Indeed (Source: Space Review)
Recent studies and recommendations by advisory groups have raised interest in a mission to Phobos as a precursor to a Mars mission, perhaps in place of NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission. Louis Friedman notes that such interest in Phobos missions is not new, and may also not be that effective for long-term human Mars exploration. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2735/1 to view the article. (4/20)

The Attraction of Space Social Events (Source: Space Review)
Social events like Yuri's Night are increasingly popular, but are they an effective way to increase awareness of and interest in space? Alan Steinberg goes over the results of a survey that explored that issue. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2734/1 to view the article. (4/20)

Moon and Mars are Physically and Fiscally Feasible (Source: Space Review)
In recent weeks, plans for human Mars missions have been criticized for both their technical and financial feasibility. John Strickland argues that these critiques don't hold up when Mars architectures are revised to take advantage of reusable launch systems. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2733/1 to view the article. (4/20)

‘Golfing on Mars’ Is Not as Far a Drive as You Think (Source: NoozHawk)
Jocelyn Dunn is the first person to play golf on Mars. OK, not really on Mars, but pretty darn close. Sort of. Dunn is part of a six-member crew of faux Martian astronauts living at a facility in Hawaii.

HI-SEAS — the Hawaii Space Exploration and Analog Simulation — is a NASA-funded effort to study the psychological effects of long-duration space travel. The idea is to put astronauts together in a simulated Martian habitat for various periods of time and study what transpires. (4/19)

Hadfield Releasing Album Recorded in Space (Source: Rolling Stone)
Retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, whose cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" went viral in May 2013, will release an entire album of songs he recorded while manning the International Space Station. Hadfield laid down the album's guitar and vocal tracks while in orbit – "a human first," according to the press release – with only his acoustic guitar and a computer. (4/20)

NASA's Wild Airship Idea for Cloud Cities on Venus (Source: Space.com)
Astronauts could start exploring Venus in the not-too-distant future — as long as they stay high up in the planet's acid-laced skies. NASA researchers have come up with a plan to send piloted, helium-filled airships cruising through the Venusian atmosphere. The idea, called the High Altitude Venus Operational Concept (HAVOC), could eventually lead to the permanent settlement of Earth's hellishly hot sister planet, its developers say. Here's a video. (4/20)

NASA Extends Contract for Crew Health, Safety Work (Source: NASA)
NASA has extended and increased the value of its contract with Wyle Integrated Science and Engineering Group of Houston to provide continuing support to the Human Health and Performance Directorate at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. The cost-plus-award-fee contract modification increases the overall value of the contract by $97 million to $1.5 billion. (4/20)

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