May 31, 2015

Russian Statement on Proton Failure Leaves Questions (Source: Space News)
he May 29 statement by Roscosmos on the May 16 Proton rocket failure confirmed initial suspicions of a third-stage engine issue but otherwise left many questions unanswered about the failure’s origin. Here is part of the best translation we have found:

"Abnormal termination of the Proton-M flight was caused by the Stage 3 Steering Engine failure due to increased vibration loads occurring as a result of the imbalance of the turbo pump unit rotor caused by the degradation of its material properties at high temperatures, and improper balancing." (5/29)

'It's Alive!' LightSail Solar Sail Reboots Itself After Orbital Glitch (Source: NBC)
After eight days of uneasy silence, the LightSail solar sail experiment rebooted itself to recover from a software glitch in orbit, the Planetary Society said. "Our LightSail called home!" said Bill Nye the Science Guy. "It's alive!" The LightSail nanosatellite is about the size of a loaf of bread, but there's a 344-square-foot sail of ultra-thin reflective plastic folded inside. (5/30)

3-D Printers Could Lead to Mars Colonization (Source: Great Falls Tribune)
Imagine being an astronaut stranded in space with a damaged spaceship and having no proper tools to be able to fix your ship. But wait, you have a 3-D printer and can easily just print off whatever parts you need. Wrench, screws, you name it! After fixing your spaceship, maybe you’re in the mood for some pizza so just request some, and in a bit your 3-D printer will have it ready. The whole thing sounds a bit futuristic right? Well, leave it to NASA to take a step forward to make this happen. (5/30)

Caltech Submillimeter Observatory in Hawaii to End Operations (Source: CSO)
After almost 29 years, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) will end operations of the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CSO) in Hawaii in September, 2015. As previously announced, Caltech will begin the planning for the dismantling of the observatory. This process will be planned in close coordination with the Office of Mauna Kea Management, University of Hawaii at Hilo, to ensure that it is undertaken promptly and in a culturally and environmentally respectful manner.

Caltech is sincerely grateful to the people of Hawaii Island for the use of Maunakea for nearly three decades, enabling superb research from this excellent astronomical site for the betterment of humanity. Caltech commits to the dismantling of the telescope and site restoration according to the Decommissioning Plan approved by the Board of Land and Natural Resources. (5/28)

Elon Musk's Growing Empire is Fueled by $4.9 Billion in Government Subsidies (Source: LA Times)
Los Angeles entrepreneur Elon Musk has built a multibillion-dollar fortune running companies that make electric cars, sell solar panels and launch rockets into space. And he's built those companies with the help of billions in government subsidies.

Tesla, SolarCity Corp. and SpaceX together have benefited from an estimated $4.9 billion in government support, according to data compiled by The Times. The figure underscores a common theme running through his emerging empire: a public-private financing model underpinning long-shot start-ups. "He definitely goes where there is government money," said Dan Dolev, an analyst at Jefferies Equity Research. "That's a great strategy, but the government will cut you off one day."

The figure compiled by The Times comprises a variety of government incentives, including grants, tax breaks, factory construction, discounted loans and environmental credits that Tesla can sell. It also includes tax credits and rebates to buyers of solar panels and electric cars. (5/30)

The US has Space Experts Worried About an Extra-Terrestrial Land Grab (Source: Quartz)
Plans to make money in space are missing one of the fundamental ingredients to any business: property rights. If you go mine an asteroid, as several companies plan to do, and bring some minerals back to earth, can you sell them? If you build a moonbase, as entrepreneur Robert Bigelow is contemplating, and someone else wants to land a rocket there, what’s to stop them?

Asteroid miners eager to raise funds to raid space rocks—some of which are packed with minerals valued in the trillions of dollars—are faced with a legal code that was never meant to apply to private enterprise in space, since it was written well before it took anything less than the resources of a national government to get to orbit. (5/30)

China Plans to Launch Dark Matter Probe (Source: Xinhua)
Chinese scientists are planning to launch a dark matter probe satellite by the end of this year, researchers with the project announced on Friday. The dark matter particle explorer (DAMPE) satellite will observe the direction, energy and electric charge of high-energy particles in space in search of dark matter, said Chang Jin, chief scientist of the project, at a press briefing held by the Shanghai Engineering Center for Microsatellites (SECM). (5/30)

Experiment Confirms Quantum Theory Weirdness (Source: Science Daily)
The bizarre nature of reality as laid out by quantum theory has survived another test, with scientists performing a famous experiment and proving that reality does not exist until it is measured. Physicists have conducted John Wheeler's delayed-choice thought experiment, which involves a moving object that is given the choice to act like a particle or a wave. The group reversed Wheeler's original experiment, and used helium atoms scattered by light. Click here. (5/27)

India's Long Launch Queue (Source: The Hindu)
The Satish Dhawan Space Center, ISRO’s rocket launch center located at Sriharikota, has a busy year ahead. On July 10, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV C28 is scheduled to launch three satellites designed by the U.K. for disaster management. This will be followed soon after by the test flight of the RLV-TD (Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator) from the same launch pad, and the launch of the PSLV C30 carrying the Astrosat satellite designed to serve as a space observatory.

ISRO is expected to cross a major milestone in August when it launches the GSLV- D6 powered by the indigenously developed cryogenic upper stage. The assembly of the engine is on at Mahendragiri, VSSC Director M.C. Dathan told reporters here on Friday. In January and February 2016, ISRO will launch the satellites that are part of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) aboard the PSLV C29 and C30 rockets. (5/30)

Seattle-Area Entrepreneurs Take On the New Frontier (Source: Seattle Times)
Differential equations are scrawled across an old-fashioned blackboard in Rob Hoyt’s office. On another wall, he’s framed the cover of a sci-fi novel he hasn’t had time to finish. Hoyt runs a space-technology company with the unlikely name of Tethers Unlimited that’s dedicated to figuring out how far-out ideas can be made practical.

His growing team of nearly 30 engineers has built a space-propulsion engine that uses water as fuel; invented a spiderlike robot to build large structures in space; and is researching how to capture an asteroid for study by enveloping it in a giant bag and towing it to lunar orbit. Click here. (5/31)

Space Florida, FSGC Announce 2015 Summer Interns (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida and the NASA Florida Space Grant Consortium have selected two Florida University students to participate in the 2015 Florida Space Internship Program, supporting Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields at the university level. The two University of Florida students, Lauren Brown and Nicholas Cullen, will be working on research projects alongside their mentors at the Space Life Sciences Lab, located on Exploration Park property at Kennedy Space Center. (5/28)

Sara Seager: The Search for Planets Beyond Our Solar System (Source: TED)
Planets with two suns ... planets wrapped in ice ... planets with liquid lava lakes: Every star we see in the sky has at least one planet orbiting it, says astronomer Sara Seager, and some of these exoplanets are very, very strange. Meet Seager's favorite exoplanets, and learn how scientists study these very distant objects. Could one of them harbor life? Click here. (5/29)

New, Interactive Astronaut Hall of Fame to Open Next Year at KSC (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
he U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame will relocate to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, where it will be merged into a high-tech, interactive attraction, officials announced Friday. The new attraction will be called "Heroes and Legends, Featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame." Ground was broken Friday on the hall's new home with 25 astronauts on hand, moments after officials announced the project. It's set to open next year.

Editor's Note: This will involve closure of the current Hall of Fame facility (formerly a U.S. Space Camp complex) across the river in Titusville. The closure and relocation will allow the rumored development of a hotel and conference center at the current Hall of Fame site. (5/30)

New World Order in Space -- why China Stands Out (Source: CNN)
China by virtue of the ambition of its space program stands out. Already, it has managed to land a rover on the Moon and to return an unmanned spacecraft from orbiting the Moon as part of its preparation for an eventual manned landing. It also aims to have a manned space station operational by 2020.

China is a relatively new actor among the traditional space powers, the Soviet Union and the United States. The quest to conquer space was driven from the middle of the 20th century by the rivalry between them. National pride was inextricably linked to the early achievements of getting a man into space and landing on the Moon. Click here. (5/30)

This Lunar Lander’s Ready For its Moonshot (Source: Bloomberg)
Astrobotic’s moon lander, Griffin, uses software to automate its navigation. It’s a leading contender in Google’s Lunar XPrize competition, which will award $20 million to the first team whose rover travels 500 meters (546 yards) on the moon. Click here. (5/30)

NASA Official Criticizes Cuts to Budget in Visit to L.A. Area (Source: LA Times)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden visited a rocket engine factory in Canoga Park on Thursday that could benefit as congressional Republicans push the agency to spend more federal money visiting other planets and less on studying our own. The factory operated by Aerojet Rocketdyne manufactures engines that will be used on NASA's gigantic rocket known as the Space Launch System, which is being developed for deep space missions.

During his visit, Bolden continued his criticism of a recent move by the House Appropriations committee to slash the space agency's budget for earth science, which includes studies of how the Earth's climate is changing. The House committee voted last week to make those cuts, while also giving the agency more than it requested for the Space Launch System and future missions to Mars and Europa, one of Jupiter's moons.

Bolden said Thursday that he welcomed the extra money for the Space Launch System, but said the cuts to earth science studies, which include satellites that monitor soil moisture, ice and water in underground aquifers, were devastating. (5/30)

ISRO Developing Heavy Lift Launch Vehicles (Source: The Hindu)
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is developing a series of heavy lift launch vehicles (HLV) capable of lofting satellites up to 10 tonnes into the orbit. Mindful of the need to keep development costs under control, we have adopted a modular approach to the design of the HLV, said Vikram Sarabhai Space Center Director M.C. Dathan.

“While the GSLV Mk3, scheduled to undergo operation flight test in December 2016, will be capable of carrying satellites up to four tonnes, the standard size of satellites is expected to go up to six tonnes in the near future, requiring rockets with more heft,” he explained. ISRO is toying with the idea of adding a semi-cryogenic stage to the GSLV Mk3 to generate a lift up to six tonnes. (5/30)

New Rocket that Will Take Russians to the Moon to be Built in Siberia (Source: Siberian Times)
The rocket that will be at the forefront of the new Russian era of Space exploration will be manufactured, assembled and tested in Siberia. Vice Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin wants to begin using the new technology, the Angara-A5V, as soon as possible with Omsk earmarked as the location for much of the work.

It has already been announced that the eagerly anticipated first manned launch from the new multi-billion rouble Vostochny cosmodrome in 2020 will use the rocket. In what is being heralded as a strategic move away from the old Soyuz technology first used in the 1960s, the Angara will also take the first Russians to the Moon.

Speaking to Rossiya-1 Channel, Mr Rogozin said the majority of the hardware for the Angara will be manufactured in Omsk. However, he gave no timeline for when this would happen. (5/30)

Space Weapons and the Risk of Nuclear Exchanges (Source: The Bulletin)
The Outer Space Treaty keeps weapons of mass destruction out of orbit. That's not the same as prohibiting warfare in space. Some nations have successfully tested destructive antisatellite weapons in space and many more are presumed to possess antisatellite capabilities. Meanwhile, important strategic capabilities such as early warning, secure communications, intelligence gathering, and command and control increasingly run through space.

This raises the troubling possibility that the use of antisatellite weapons amid a crisis between nuclear-armed nations might lead to a nuclear exchange—indeed, US war games have repeatedly demonstrated that antisatellite weapons can cause crises to escalate in unpredictable ways. Below, experts debate this question: To what extent do antisatellite weapons increase the risk of nuclear war—and what can be done to moderate the risk? (5/30)

Meet UF Professor Working on NASA's Next Mission to Mars (Source: MyFox Orlando)
How many people do you know who can say the work their doing is going to Mars? University of Florida Assistant Professor of Geology, Dr. Mark Panning, is one man who can say that. “It's pretty exciting stuff,” he said with a smile. Dr. Panning is on an international team behind NASA's InSight lander Discovery Program Mission to Mars.

InSight is an abbreviation for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. "The InSight Science Team is comprised of leading experts from around the world that work work collectively to design and implement the richest possible science return," said Suzanne Smrekar, a planetary scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Deputy Principal Investigator, InSight.

Panning said the project's principal investigator, Bruce Banerdt, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, asked him to be part of the team. The plan, said Panning, is to have the lander land on the surface of Mars not far from the Curiosity rover. (5/29)

Airbus Safran Agrees to $440 Million Ariane 6 Contribution (Source: Space News)
Airbus Safran Launchers, which is building Europe’s next-generation Ariane 6 rocket, on May 29 said it had agreed to contribute 400 million euros ($440 million) to the development contract it expects to sign with the European Space Agency in July.

Company President Alain Charmeau said that, in addition, Airbus Safran Launchers had agreed with ESA that another 200 million euros of the Ariane 6 development contract would be removed as unnecessary expenditures. (5/30)

Virgin Galactic Flight Trials Face Delay After Crash (Source: BBC)
Virgin Galactic's planned commercial space service may still be years away from taking flight, and its chief executive admits, "we've got work to do, that's for sure." Newsnight has spoken to several Virgin customers or "future astronauts", two of them on camera. One, Norwich-based Richard Burr, says he was originally told he would fly in 2007 or 2008, but is sympathetic to the company and has no intention of asking for a refund.

Another, Texas stockbroker BJ Bjorklund, told Newsnight that doubts about Virgin's ability to succeed in getting its customers into space caused him to decide he was "just going to back out of this program". Mr Bjorklund, one of the company's first 100 "founder astronauts" got his money back late last year.

As to when that commercial service might actually be ready, one former Virgin Galactic employee told Newsnight: "I can't say whether it will be two years or whether it will be five… They have a huge, huge, way to go." A customer who did not want to go on camera, and has not yet asked for a refund, told Newsnight: "Like most customers we're really not very confident" that the spaceship will fly as advertised. But he said he wouldn't ask for a refund "until there's absolutely no hope". (5/30)

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