April 23, 2015

Orlando Plans Nation's Largest Solar System Model (Source: Chad Miller)
A proper model of the solar system can never fit between your hands, or even in one room. Space is big. This will be the largest model of the solar system in the United States. Fourth largest in the world. We are going to use our city and region and state to make a model that brings extraordinary scale into intuitive grasp, and inspires citizens to think in perspectives outside the mundane.

The fountain in Lake Eola represents Orlando in many minds, and the fountain dome is a perfect stand-in for the Sun, an anchoring center of our metropolis and of our model star-system. Imagining the Sun as the fountain dome implies a scale that places planets and their moons in and around Orlando. By fantastic coincidence, almost all orbits cross a public school or park or public space. Click here. (4/23)

Raytheon Reports Solid First Quarter 2015 Results (Source: SpaceRef)
Raytheon's first quarter 2015 net sales were $5.3 billion compared to $5.5 billion in the first quarter 2014. Operating cash flow from continuing operations for the first quarter 2015 was $55 million compared to $659 million for the first quarter 2014. (4/23)

Shuttle External Tank Model Stuck in Rural Florida (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
A full-scale model of a Space Shuttle orange External Tank which once resided at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is sitting in Green Cove Springs, west of St. Augustine. The component which once wowed tourists, now sits rusting as it awaits the last leg of its journey to its new home and it is unclear when it will be leaving.

The tank – also known as STA – was the third and final test tank for the Space Shuttle program and was used for structures/stress testing at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama between 1977 and 1980. After it had completed this tasks the tank was on display at MSFC and later at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. It was then moved to the KSC Visitor Complex in 1997 were it was visible to the public until April 2013.

The tank measures in at 154 foot long. This is part of the reason why the tank has had its final journey delayed to the Wings of Dreams museum, 56 miles away. Officials still don’t know when the tank can start its trip to the museum. “We’ll have to close two state highways to travel from the Port of Green Cove Springs to our museum. Clay Electric Company has three divisions working on the logistics of taking down 34 pages of power lines,” said the Wings of Dreams Museum’s Bob A. Oehl. (4/22)

NASA Selects Commercial Suborbital Firms to Test Space Technologies (Source: NASA)
NASA's Flight Opportunities Program has selected seven space technology payloads for flights on commercial, parabolic or suborbital launch vehicles to demonstrate new space technologies. These flights provide a valuable platform to mature cutting-edge technologies, validating feasibility and reducing technical risks and costs before infusion into multiple future space missions.

Six of these new payloads will ride on parabolic aircraft flights, which provide brief periods of weightlessness. One will fly on a suborbital reusable launch vehicle flight. The flights are expected to take place in 2015 and 2016, and will be purchased by the selectees using grants negotiated with the program. The selectees have proposed flights on both Zero-G Corporation and Integrated Spaceflight Services parabolic aircraft and Masten Space Systems’ suborbital reusable launch vehicle. (4/23)

First Piloted Launch From Vostochny Spaceport Postponed (Source: Space Daily)
The launch of the first piloted spacecraft from the Russian Vostochy space complex will be postponed from 2018 to 2020, Kommersant newspaper reported Friday, citing space industry and governmental sources. (4/23)

China's Satellite Navigation System to Expand Coverage Globally by 2020 (Source: Xinhua)
The Beidou satellite navigation system will be fully operational worldwide by 2020, said Li Jian, deputy director of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) on Thursday. The system has been successfully tested in the general aviation sector, which includes all civil aviation operations other than scheduled air services, as well as by general aircraft including helicopters and private jets. (4/23)

Tough Times Ahead for Aerojet Rocketdyne (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Even before the Oct. 2014 Antares accident, Orbital Sciences was making plans to move away from the AJ-26 to a new engine. As a matter of fact, it is possible that the AJ-26 encountered not one, but two failures on the test stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

The AJ-26 is not alone in terms of encountering problems. In October of 2012, an Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10B-2 engine – located in the upper stage of a United Launch Alliance (ULA ) Delta IV M+ 4,2 – experienced a fuel leak which caused a lower-than expected thrust. The payload for the mission, the third GPS Block IIF satellite to be sent aloft, was placed into the correct orbit thanks to the sufficient fuel margins that allowed for compensation of the leak. Click here. (4/22)

Stiffed by U.S., Russia Plans GLONASS Station in Cuba Instead (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia is ready to hold talks with Cuba on placing signal calibration stations there that will service its GLONASS global positioning system, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said. "In a situation where the US has refused to place GLONASS ground-based stations for signal calibration on its territory, we're ready to hold talks with Cuba and thus solve the problem of furnishing GLONASS customers with the required high-precision signals." he said. (4/22)

Russia Planning Manned Flight Around Moon in 2025 (Source: Space Daily)
Russia is planning to carry out a manned mission around the Moon in 2025 and conduct a manned landing in 2029, according to a draft plans for 2016-2025. "As a result of the implementation of the program [in 2025], a piloted flight around the Moon will be carried out," while "the landing of cosmonauts on the Moon's surface is expected to take place in 2029," the document says. Editor's Note: 2025? This probably isn't the same flight that Space Adventures is selling to one or more of its wealthy customers. (4/23)

Rocket Crashes After Launch in Northern Russia (Source: Space Daily)
A surface-to-air missile crashed shortly after being launched in northern Russia on Wednesday, Russian news agencies said, in a failed test that will be seen as an embarrassment for the country's military forces. An official said the incident had involved an experimental military rocket, but state-owned weapons manufacturer Almaz-Antey was later quoted as saying it was an Antey-2500 missile that fell back to the ground. (4/22)

NASA to Launch West Virginia's First Satellite (Source; SpaceRef)
As part of the White House Maker Initiative, NASA aims to launch 50 cubesat satellites from all 50 states in the next five years. West Virginia is the first of 21 “rookie states” that have not previously participated in NASA’s CubeSat program to be chosen. This will also be the first time a mission from West Virginia will orbit Earth. It is slated to launch as an auxiliary payload on a NASA rocket in mid-2016 through NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative program. (4/22)

Boeing Reports 38% Rise in Net Profit (Source: BBC)
Boeing has reported a 38% rise in net profit to $1.34 billion in the first three months of the year, helped by increased production of commercial aircraft. Overall revenue grew 8% to $22.15 billion in the quarter, Boeing said. But its defence business suffered as tight budgets hurt sales. Cutbacks in US defense spending led to a decline in Boeing's defense and space business, with revenue down 12% compared with a year earlier to $6.71 billion. (4/22)

Russian Government to Close Two in Every Five Universities (Source: University World News)4
The number of Russian universities will be cut by 40% by the end of 2016, according to Minister of Education and Science Dmitry Livanov. In addition, the number of university branches will be slashed by 80% in the same period. The institutions are being axed under a federal plan for the development of education during 2016 to 2020.

Ministry of Education and Science data indicate that at present there are 593 state and 486 private universities, which have 1,376 and 682 branches respectively. Collectively, the universities cater for seven million students, of whom two million are holding state-funded places at an estimated average cost of $3,500 per student. (4/17)

Russia Abandons Plans to Build Super-Heavy-Lift Rocket (Source: Sputnik)
Russia will not develop a super-heavy space launch vehicle in the near future, but will modify a heavy Angara-A5 rocket to lift super-heavy loads, Roscosmos said Wednesday. "We have re-allocated funds for launch vehicles, especially in the super-heavy category, but ensured that all payloads planned until 2030 will be launched to orbit," Roscosmos head, igor Komarov told reporters. (4/22)

Russia Cuts Budget for New Space Program by $15Bln Due to Crisis (Source: Sputnik)
Russia's draft Federal Space Program for 2016-2025 envisions budget cuts by more than 800 billion rubles ($15 billion) to 2 trillion rubles ($37 billion), Roscosmos said Wednesday. "The cost of the program's projects has changed significantly in the past year due to current economic conditions, exchange rate fluctuations and changes in inflation rates," Roscosmos head, Igor Komarov, told reporters. (4/22)

SpaceX Targets May 5 for Dragon Pad Abort Test (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX as soon as May 5 will shoot a Dragon capsule from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in a test of a key safety system needed for astronaut launches in the next two or three years. The so-called "pad abort" test will launch a prototype crew spacecraft from a stand at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Launch Complex 40, simulating a launch pad emergency. (4/22)

First Visible Light Detected Directly from an Exoplanet (Source: Physics World)
The first-ever direct detection of the spectrum of visible light reflected from an exoplanet has been made by an international team of astronomers. Using the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) instrument at the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Observatory in Chile, the astronomers studied light from 51 Pegasi b – the first exoplanet discovered orbiting a Sun-like star. (4/22)

Proposed Bill Language Puts Brakes on Weather Satellite Program (Source: Space News)
Citing a looming gap in geostationary weather satellite coverage of a strategically important area of the world, a House military space oversight panel has recommended the U.S. Air Force go “back to the drawing board” on its next-generation polar-orbiting weather satellite program.

The subcommittee recommended withholding the full funding requested next year for the Air Force’s Weather Satellite Follow-on program until the secretary of defense briefs members on plans to provide continuing weather coverage the Middle East and Afghanistan. (4/22)

Proposed Bill Language Clarifies RD-180 Engine Restrictions (Source: Space News)
Under the most conservative reading of the law, ULA would have only five RD-180 engines available for the competitions, which are slated to begin later this year and could cover nine launches over the next three years. By the time the law went into effect, ULA had ordered a large number of the engines to fulfill existing launch contracts and compete for new ones.

But DOD lawyers were concerned that the engines that had yet to be paid for in full as of Feb. 1, 2014, would be swept up in the ban. The proposed new language specifies that the engines in question only had to be under firm contract as of that date to avoid the ban, a clarification that could make more RD-180s available for the competition. (4/22)

Falling Meteor May Have Changed the Course of Christianity (Source: New Scientist)
Nearly two thousand years ago, a man named Saul had an experience that changed his life, and possibly yours as well. According to Acts of the Apostles, the fifth book of the biblical New Testament, Saul was on the road to Damascus, Syria, when he saw a bright light in the sky, was blinded and heard the voice of Jesus. Changing his name to Paul, he became a major figure in the spread of Christianity.

William Hartmann, co-founder of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, has a different explanation for what happened to Paul. He says the biblical descriptions of Paul's experience closely match accounts of the fireball meteor seen above Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013.

He analyses three accounts of Paul's journey, thought to have taken place around AD 35. The first is a third-person description of the event, thought to be the work of one of Jesus's disciples, Luke. The other two quote what Paul is said to have subsequently told others. "Everything they are describing in those three accounts in the book of Acts are exactly the sequence you see with a fireball," Hartmann says. (4/22)

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