May 28, 2015

Japan to Enlarge Massive Cosmic Ray Array in Utah (Source: Science)
Every once in a while, a cosmic ray—a subatomic particle from outer space—strikes the atmosphere with an energy 10 million times higher than a humanmade particle accelerator has ever achieved. Physicists don't know where such mind-bogglingly energetic particles come from, but they could be closing in on an answer thanks to the expansion of one of the world's biggest cosmic ray experiments.

Japan will spend $3.7 million to nearly quadruple the size of the Telescope Array (TA), which currently consists of 507 particle detectors spread across 700 square kilometers of Utah desert. The detectors sense the avalanche of particles, or what physicists call an "extensive air shower," triggered when a ray hits the atmosphere.

Physicists will deploy 400 more loosely spaced detectors to stretch TA's area to about 2500 square kilometers—twice the area of New York City—says Yoshiki Tsunesada, a physicist and TA team member at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. (5/27)

5 Things We Know Now About NASA's Commercial Crew Program (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA is moving forward on its plan to have American astronauts flying to the International Space Station again aboard American spaceships beginning in 2017. Some have called the back and forth flights "space taxis," but the space agency officially calls this its Commercial Crew program. It released new details Wednesday, and here's an update. Click here. (5/27)

NASA Visits Outback Queensland (Source: Warwick Daily News)
A NASA super pressure balloon the size of a football field crashed outside Thargomindah three weeks ago. Teams of scientists and astronomers from NASA arrived at Bulloo Downs Station from their base in Adelaide to recover the balloon and payload carrying scientific instrumentation weighing 3600kg. The flight of the balloon was terminated by NASA after a leak was discovered 32 days after leaving New Zealand. (5/28)

Orbital ATK Increases Quarterly Income (Source: Space News)
Orbital ATK reported an increase in income in its first quarter as a combined company. The firm said Thursday it had net income of $67.5 million in the first quarter of 2015, compared to $39.5 million a year ago for Orbital Sciences and the aerospace and defense segments of ATK. The two companies completed their merger in February. The company also said it has completed a hot-fire test of the RD-181 engine that the company will use in its Antares launch vehicle starting next year. (5/28)

Brazil Auctions Satellite Slots (Source: Space News)
Three satellite operators are winners in a Brazilian satellite slot auction. Telesat, Hispasat, and YahSat won a total of four slots at 20, 63, and 74 degrees west in GEO in an auction conducted by the country's telecommunications regulator, Anatel. The companies paid a combined $63.6 million for the slots, 70 percent above the minimum price, and have four years to show progress on building and launching the satellites they plan to operate in those orbial slots. (5/28)

UK Millionaire Buys a Russian Rocket for His Garden (Source: This is Wiltshire)
A Russian rocket that once sailed through the earth’s atmosphere faster than any other man-made object today resides in a Wiltshire garden after being snapped-up by internet millionaire Rory Sweet. Mr Sweet, 48, of Sherston, near Malmesbury, thought the Hypersonic Flying Laboratory - known as Kholod – was "the coolest thing I had ever seen" after he came across it at a car auction.

He promptly coughed-up £38,000 for the high flying craft which was once capable of almost 5,000mph before coming down to earth as a unique piece of garden furniture. Almost 40ft long and weighing five tonne, the rocket was first flown in 1991 after being built by the Russians in collaboration with NASA at a cost $10 million. (5/27)

External Tank Completes LA Endeavour Exhibit (Source: CollectSpace)
It's a sight no one thought possible again: a complete NASA space shuttle – the winged orbiter, twin rocket boosters and a massive external tank, all authentic hardware – standing vertical as if the vehicle was about to blast off for space. But come 2018, that's exactly what the California Science Center will be able to display, thanks to a newly-revealed agreement by NASA to donate its last remaining fuel tank built to launch the space shuttle. (5/28)

Astronaut Hall of Fame Inducting 4 Space Shuttle Veterans (Source: MyNews13)
This weekend will mark a milestone for an organization that honors men and woman who have reached for the stars. Four veteran shuttle astronauts are set to be inducted into the Hall of Fame — including the commander of the final space shuttle mission and the first woman in an astronaut class. John Grunsfeld, Steve Lindsey, Kent Rominger and Rhea Seddon will be honored this weekend at the 25th annual U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame induction ceremony under Space Shuttle Atlantis. (5/28)

Spacecraft Built from Graphene Could Run on Nothing but Sunlight (Source: New Scientist)
The material with amazing properties has just had another added to the list. It seems these sheets of carbon one atom thick can turn light into action, maybe forming the basis of a fuel-free spacecraft. Graphene was discovered accidentally by researchers playing with pencils and sticky tape. Its flat structure is very strong and conducts electricity and heat extremely well.

Yongsheng Chen of Nankai University in Tianjin, China, and his colleagues have been investigating whether larger arrangements of carbon can retain some of these properties. Earlier this year they published details of a "graphene sponge", a squidgy material made by fusing crumpled sheets of graphene oxide.

While cutting graphene sponge with a laser, they noticed the light propelled the material forwards. That was odd, because while lasers have been used to shove single molecules aroundMovie Camera, the sponge was a few centimetres across so should be too large to move. They even got the graphene to move by focusing ordinary sunlight on it with a lens. Click here. (5/28)

Spaceport America Signs Up Teleport Customer To Diversify Customer Base (Source: Space News)
Spaceport America, the commercial launch site in New Mexico most closely linked to Virgin Galactic, is seeking to diversify its user base beyond launch companies, an effort that has already resulted in one new customer.

Spaceport America announced May 19 a memorandum of agreement with X2nSat, a Petaluma, California, provider of satellite communications services, to establish a ground station on spaceport property. The parties expect to sign a long-term lease agreement for the ground station this summer. (5/27)

Space Florida Board Approves Launch Project Plans (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Space Florida board of directors, during a public meeting in Tampa, approved multiple requests for the agency to proceed with proprietary partnerships and project finance deals. The board also decided to delay approval of a deal to transfer control of NASA's Shuttle Landing Facility to the state, until stakeholders in Tallahassee could be fully briefed and the outcome of state budget requests is finalized, probably within 10 days.

Project Panther (known to be Blue Origin) is approved for conduit debt financing for facilities and equipment at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, including launch infrastructure and a manufacturing operation at the state-run Exploration Park on KSC property. This project, which could employ about 200, recently received a separate inducement of $8 million from the county government.

Project Nightfall (possibly Generation Orbit or Rocket Lab) is approved for a $1 million financing deal, convertible to company stock and collateralized by a 15-year lien on the company's equipment and facilities. This will lead to Florida-based test launches of a micro-satellite launch vehicle (~200 lbs to LEO), potential Florida-based manufacturing, and Florida-based launch operations. (5/27)

Space Florida Board Approves Facility Projects (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Space Florida board approved Project Expanse, allowing the agency to take a primary ownership stake in a multi-tenant facility in Pensacola, with an unnamed aerospace industry anchor tenant. The project aims to expand the state's aerospace industry supply-chain. $99K was approved in February for an initial investment. $1.4M was approved for investment in facility design/engineering services.

Also approved was Project Vienna for a $1.3M tax-exempt bond issuance, and "reverse reimbursement declaration" totaling $65M, all for an unnamed corporate partner. (5/27)

Space Florida Board Approves Transportation Plans (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Space Florida board approved plans to work closely with the Florida Department of Transportation, including to receive FDOT funding to update a statewide space transportation master plan, and an update to the existing master plan to allow FDOT transportation infrastructure funding to flow to some specific new projects (perhaps Blue Origin and Rocket Lab).

FDOT has included space transportation among the modes under its funding purview and has been providing about $15M annually for spaceport infrastructure projects. (5/27)

Mars Missions Help Nations Build Scientific Capabilities (Source: Emirates 24/7)
The benefits of Mars missions, space exploration and satellite developments were highlighted on the second day of the Global Space and Satellite Forum 2015, held in Abu Dhabi. Omran Sharaf, Project Manager, Emirates Mars Mission, Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center explained how the UAE’s Mars mission is a mission of hope for the nation and for the youth of the region.

He demonstrated that the mission is about contributing to society, building scientific capabilities and achieving sustainable development within the UAE. Omran emphasised the point that the government has set a goal of adding value and not just doing what others have done, specifically from the science point of view. Space exploration will lead to giving back to society and serving humanity he added. (5/28)

Decommissioning Hawaii Telescopes Would Have Economic Impact (Source: Pacific Business News)
The expedited decommissioning of telescopes on the Big Island could have a detrimental impact on Hilo and its economy, said Dr. Günther Hasinger, director of the UH Institute for Astronomy. Hawaii Gov. David Ige this week made several demands of the University of Hawaii to improve its stewardship of the Mauna Kea Science Reserve, including the decommissioning of several telescopes, the return of thousands of acres of land to the state, and for the formal commitment that the Thirty Meter Telescope project area will be the mountain’s last.

But Ige’s request that the decommissioning of telescopes begin as early as this year, with at least 25 percent of all telescopes gone by the time TMT is ready for operation in 2024, could rush things. While one telescope was already slated to begin decommissioning next year, the university may have to expedite a decommissioning plan that was approved by the state in 2010. (5/28)

Mars Polar the Newest (Thinly Sketched, Unfunded) Group Planning a Mars Colony (Source: National Post)
The race to Mars is on, even if right now it’s mostly tenuous and theoretical. Dutch-based Mars One wants to establish a colony on the red planet by 2025, though Canadian former astronaut Julie Payette says that it’s mostly smoke and mirrors at this point. That hasn’t stopped Mars One from getting a competitor, however. Mars Polar is a new venture aimed at starting a Mars Colony by the slightly more reasonable date of 2029.

“It is projected that every two years the colony will grow by interval of each successive crew of colonists (and through projected, programmed child birth of crew members creating families of colonists),” the Mars Polar group says in a mission statement on its website. Click here. (5/28)

Space: It Ain’t All Glamour (Source: TIME)
How did your pre-treated urine transfer rate work out this week? I’m sorry? You had no pre-treated urine transfer rate to worry about? Oh, then you must not be aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Mission planners are not shy about revealing just how hard they make the astronauts work, as a glimpse at NASA’s ISS blog reveals. On May 22, the crew woke up to a list of 65 must-do items; three days later it was 67; the next day was a lighter day by comparison, with a scant 55. Click here. (5/28)

KSC Visitor Complex Celebrates 25th Anniversary of U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame (Source: NASA)
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida will celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame at 9:45 a.m. EDT on Friday, May 29, with a surprise announcement and a groundbreaking ceremony for a major new attraction that will open in 2016.

Past, present and future pioneers of the American space program have been invited to participate in a special celebration, including members of the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, recipients of the Astronaut Scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, and students from Apollo Elementary School in Titusville, Florida. (5/28)

Australian Strawberry Farm to Become Space Facility (Source: ABC)
A pair of entrepreneurial brothers wants to make the Gold Coast the heart of future space exploration in Australia. A former strawberry farm north of the Gold Coast seems like an odd place to launch a stellar revolution. But Adam and James Gilmour want to turn it into a multi-million dollar space museum, astronaut training and rocket manufacture facility.

The brothers run Gilmour Space Technologies and Gilmour Space Corporation, designing rockets and promoting space tourism. Adam has recently quit his 20-year career as a financial planner and bought the land for just under $2 million. Now he has the stars in his eyes. "We won't send them into space from Pimpama but we can build the rockets there," Adam has told ABC Gold Coast's Bern Young. (5/28)

Space Florida Delays Decision on Shuttle Landing Facility Transfer (Source: Florida Today)
Space Florida postponed its board's scheduled vote on a deal to take over management of Kennedy Space Center's shuttle runway from NASA, pending resolution of the state's budget for next year. Frank DiBello, the state aerospace agency's president and CEO, said the deal's terms are set, but it made sense to wait for clarity on the budget because of the significant investments the state plans to make in the runway facility.

Space Florida anticipates spending $200,000 a month over the first two years to operate and develop the site, or nearly $5 million, according to a summary of the deal included in board meeting materials. The state would assume responsibility to operate and maintain the runway for 30 years with options for extensions, according to the materials.

Space Florida has been negotiating with NASA for nearly two years to transfer KSC's three-mile runway, where it hopes to attract companies designing spacecraft that take off and land horizontally like aircraft. The deal could return to the agency's board for a vote in as soon as a week to 10 days, DiBello said. (5/27)

Supersonic Decelerator Gets a Lift to Prepare for Hawaii Test (Source: Space Daily)
NASA teams are continuing preparations for the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) test off the coast of Hawaii June 2-12. This week the team completed a number of key pre-test procedures, including a successful mate between the test vehicle and balloon support systems. The LDSD project is designed to investigate and test breakthrough technologies for landing future robotic and human Mars missions, and safely returning large payloads to Earth. (5/27)

Ariane 5 Launches DirecTV-15 and Sky Mexico-1 Satellites (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
An Ariane 5 rocket successfully launched two communications satellites from Ariane Launch Complex No. 3 (ELA 3) at the spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. This marked the 223rd Arianespace mission to date and was designated Ariane Flight VA223. The booster delivered both the DirecTV-15 and Sky Mexico-1 satellites into orbit. (5/27)

Mission to Mars Could Make Astronauts' Skin Thinner (Source: The Telegraph)
Humans are facing a new obstacle on the journey to Mars after scientists discovered the long space flight can make skin thinner, exposing astronauts to even more deadly space radiation. Currently the biggest challenge facing space agencies is protecting crews from radiation on the nine month voyage to the Red Planet. But a study of ‘astromice’ living on the International Space Station for three months has found that their skin became 15 per cent thinner in the microgravity.

“Skin has not yet received much interest in space research although it is the largest organ of the human body,” said lead author Professor Betty Nusgens of the University of Liege in Belgium. “It has multiple functions including thermal regulation, tactile sense, protection against pathogens and deleterious environmental conditions such as radiations. (5/27)

No comments: