April 30, 2015

Rep. Johnson: Congress, We Have a Problem (Source: The Hill)
Just a few months ago we marked up and passed out of the House a bipartisan NASA authorization. That bill was negotiated on a bipartisan basis, voice voted out of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology, and then passed by the full House in a similar fashion.

Today, my committee, the Science, Space and Technology Committee, is marking up H.R. 2039 — a NASA reauthorization act that the Democrats on the committee did not even know existed until late last Friday. Needless to say, there was no bipartisan negotiating. After we saw the bill, we understood why.

In addition to other problems in the bill, it cuts earth science funding by more than $320 million. Earth science, of course, includes climate science. Despite the fact that in January NASA announced 2014 was likely the warmest year since 1880, it should come as no surprise that the majority wants to cut funding for climate science. Embarrassingly, just last week, every single Republican member of this committee present voted against the notion that climate change might be caused by people. Click here. (4/30)

Blue Origin Completes Test Flight from Texas (Source: Florida Today)
Blue Origin, the private space company founded by Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, successfully completed its first test flight on Thursday. From the company's private launch site in western Texas, an unmanned New Shepard spacecraft launched to an altitude of 307,000 feet – or just to the edge of space – and returned to the ground intact with a parachute-assisted landing.

"Any astronauts on board would have had a very nice journey into space and a smooth return," Bezos said. The company was unable to recover the vehicle's propulsion module, as the company hopes to do in the future. Click here for a video of the test. (4/30)

Evaluating NASA’s Futuristic EM Drive (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
A group at NASA’s Johnson Space Center has successfully tested an electromagnetic (EM) propulsion drive in a vacuum – a major breakthrough for a multi-year international effort comprising several competing research teams. Thrust measurements of the EM Drive defy classical physics’ expectations that such a closed (microwave) cavity should be unusable for space propulsion because of the law of conservation of momentum.

Last summer, NASA Eagleworks – an advanced propulsion research group at the Johnson Space Center – made waves throughout the scientific and technical communities when the group presented their test results in 2014 related to experimental testing of an EM Drive. It is a concept that originated around 2001 when a small UK company, Satellite Propulsion Research Ltd. started a Research and Development program.

The concept of an EM Drive was that electromagnetic microwave cavities might provide for the direct conversion of electrical energy to thrust without the need to expel any propellant. This lack of expulsion of propellant from the drive was met with initial skepticism within the scientific community because this lack of propellant expulsion would leave nothing to balance the change in the spacecraft’s momentum if it were able to accelerate. Click here. (4/29)

NASA's Messenger Impacts Mercury (Source: Florida Today)
NASA's Messenger — the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury — is no more. Messenger ended its four-year tour at the solar system's innermost planet with a crash landing Thursday. It plunged from orbit at a speed of more than 8,750 mph and carved out a crater an estimated 52 feet across. The spacecraft completed 4,104 orbits of hot, little Mercury and collected more than 277,000 images. (4/30)

NASA Tests Shape-Changing Airplane Wing (Source: UPI)
Researchers with NASA recently tested an airplane wing that can change shape. Engineers at the space agency say the new morphing wing technology could save millions of gallons in fuel. The newly completed tests confirm the wing's economic and aerodynamic benefits, but more importantly, prove that it is safe and ready for commercial use.

The technology -- called Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge (ACTE) -- is essentially a new and improved wing flap, offering pilots more control over the shape of a wing's surface. These controls can be manipulated to minimize wing structural weight and create optimal aerodynamics given varying flying conditions. (4/29)

Science Museum Oklahoma to Host Annual Space Day (Source: NewsOK)
Approximately 1,800 students will attend Space Day on Friday, May 1. The annual event at Science Museum Oklahoma, 2100 NE 52, explores the science behind flight and space exploration through hands-on activities and live demonstrations, according to a news release from the museum. Students will be able to test trajectory using ping pong balls and catapults, create a reaction rocket using household items and drop their own flying capsule from the mezzanine. (4/30)

Arizona’s Aerospace Industry May Turn to Space Tourism Programs (Source: Cronkite News)
Arizona’s missile and space vehicle industry has faced massive cuts to its government contracts over the last four years, forcing some companies to explore other revenue sources. Experts said the industry may turn to space tourism and commercial space programs to fill that gap. The state has several advantages to expand in this market: good weather, a strong infrastructure and legislative support.

“Government funding is on the decline, but space tourism is set to launch,” according to a 2014 industry report by IBISWorld, a Australian-based research company. Arizona has 1,200 companies operating in the aerospace field, making the state America’s third-largest supply chain contributor for aerospace and defense, according to a 2012 study by the consulting firm Deloitte, which looked at the emerging industry trends. (4/29)

Out-of-Control Spacecraft Is Bad News for Russia (Source: TIME)
But the problem comes at an unhandy time for Russia. Even as Roscosmos was fighting to right the Soyuz, a Dragon resupply vehicle, successfully launched by California-based SpaceX, was docked to the station and going through five weeks of unloading. Both SpaceX and the Virginia-based Orbital Sciences—which flies the Antares supply vehicle—are under contract to make cargo runs to the station.

Progress has a far longer success record than either of the comparative upstarts, but the current malfunction is the second since 2011, when another Progress spun out of control just 325 seconds after launch and crashed into the Kazakh steppe. None of this means anyone should be dissing the Soyuz or the Progress. They’re sweet machines that have been doing their jobs for a long, long time. And the Russian engineers who build and fly them have proved themselves pros. But technology changes, time passes and markets move. (4/30)

Flawed Booster Separation May Take Blame for Progress Failure (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Something went wrong with a Russian Progress resupply mission moments before the spacecraft deployed into orbit Tuesday on the way to the International Space Station, and investigators are analyzing whether the stricken supply ship may have lost control after a botched separation from its Soyuz rocket booster. (4/30)

Air Force Watching Tumbling Progress (Source: Free Beacon)
The Joint Space Operations Center is closely tracking the craft and has set up reporting procedures to alert authorities to its fate. “Currently, the [center] can confirm that the resupply vehicle is rotating at a rate of 360 degrees every five seconds,” Air Force said in a statement. A private space tracking website shows that Progress’ flight path regularly passes over the northern United States and Canada. (4/30)

Is the Mars One Mission a Scam? (Source: The Boar)
In 2012, Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp announced plans for the Mars One project – an extremely ambitious mission to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars in 2027. One of the main funding options for the project was a reality TV series, which would document the chosen volunteers as they embark on a one-way trip to Mars and colonize its red, desolate landscape.

However, as soon as the project was announced, concerns were raised over the technical and financial feasibility of such an endeavor. More recent criticisms even suggest that the entire project could be an outright scam that is deliberately fleecing its supporters. At times, it feels that the ultimate aim of Mars One is to create an extraordinarily profitable reality TV event- rather than achieving the milestone of sending people to another planet for the first time in history. (4/30)

No comments: