June 18, 2015

DOD Funds Electric Propulsion Effort for Cubesats (Source: Space News)
A Boston-area company developing electric propulsion systems for smallsats has won a Defense Department contract. Accion Systems received a $3 million contract from the Pentagon's Rapid Innovation Fund, which the company will use to develop next-generation propulsion systems. Accion Systems is working on ion electrospray thrusters that can fit within cubesats. One such system is on a spacecraft launched last month, but has yet to be tested in orbit. (6/18)

Researchers Discover First Sensor of Earth's Magnetic Field in an Animal (Source: PhysOrg)
A team of scientists and engineers at The University of Texas at Austin has identified the first sensor of the Earth's magnetic field in an animal, finding in the brain of a tiny worm a big clue to a long-held mystery about how animals' internal compasses work.

Animals as diverse as migrating geese, sea turtles and wolves are known to navigate using the Earth's magnetic field. But until now, no one has pinpointed quite how they do it. The sensor, found in worms called C. elegans, is a microscopic structure at the end of a neuron that other animals probably share, given similarities in brain structure across species. The sensor looks like a nano-scale TV antenna, and the worms use it to navigate underground. (6/17)

Germany Selects US-Based Researcher to Lead Space Agency (Source: DLR)
A professor at an American university will become the next head of Germany's space agency. The DLR Senate unanimously selected Pascale Ehrenfreund to be the next chair of the executive board of the German Aerospace Center, or DLR. Ehrenfreund, an astrobiologist, is currently a research professor at George Washington University's Space Policy Institute. She will be the first woman to lead any major German research institute. (6/18)

Russia May Consolidate Earth Observation Under New Center (Source: Tass)
Russia is considering consolidating all of its Earth observation spacecraft under the authority of a single center. The Russian space agency Roscosmos is planning to create the center, based on the existing Research Center for Earth Monitoring, to operate current remote sensing satellites and oversee development of new ones. Russian officials hope the new center will become "a powerful global-level player" in the overall remote sensing field. (6/18)

Sour Grapes About FIFA Extends To The Moon (Source: Moscow Times)
A Russian official upset with the U.S. investigation into the international soccer federation FIFA wants an international investigation of his own—into the Apollo lunar landings. Vladimir Markin, spokesman for Russia's Investigative Committee, said in a column this week that he wants an investigation of the "disappearance" of film of the Apollo landings and hundreds of kilograms of lunar rocks those missions returned.

"We are not contending that they did not fly [to the moon], and simply made a film about it," he said. "But all of these scientific — or perhaps cultural — artifacts are part of the legacy of humanity, and their disappearance without a trace is our common loss. An investigation will reveal what happened." (6/17)

Russia Warns Against Arms Race in Space (Source: Space Daily)
Russia warns against the danger of the arms race spilling out into space and hails the BRICS countries' effort to prevent this from happening, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Friday. "Russia is resolutely against weapons in space," Ryabkov stated during the opening of the 7th BRICS Academic Forum in Moscow. He also mentioned a series of consultations on space exploration security earlier held by delegations of the five-nation bloc. (7/16)

NASA 'Eyes' Study Louisiana's Changing Wetlands (Source: Space Daily)
NASA recently completed an intensive study of Louisiana Gulf Coast levees and wetlands, making measurements with three advanced imaging instruments on two research aircraft. NASA instruments fly over the Gulf Coast one to three times per year to keep consistent records of ground subsidence - the gradual sinking of an area of land - which can compromise the integrity of roads, buildings and levee systems. Scientists also closely monitor vegetation changes in the coastal wetlands to better understand how to preserve them. (6/17)

Lunar Dust Cloud Helps to Explain a 50-Year Moon Mystery (Source: Popular Mechanics)
In the late 1960s, NASA sent a series of unmanned Surveyor spacecrafts to the Moon and encountered a mystery that's still unsolved today: Viewed from certain angles before sunrise, part of the Moon's horizon seems to glow. Why's this weird? Because with the moon having barely any atmosphere, there's seemingly nothing that could be doing the glowing.

Later, during the Apollo missions, Moon-walking and orbiting astronauts also reported the same inexplicable phenomenon. They took notes and snapped photos. And before the three members of Apollo 17—the last men to walk the Moon—left for Earth, they even sketched the glow, trying to make sense of the mystery. Today, a team of astrophysicists has come as close as we've ever been to explaining the mysterious phenomenon.

Thanks to the the recently launched lunar orbiter LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) the team discovered that an a incredibly thin but ever-present cloud of dust that hangs over part of the Moon. It's the first lunar dust cloud ever discovered. Horányi's discovery lends credence to our best theory explaining the lunar glow: that it's caused by sunlight energizing small flakes of floating Moon-dust. (6/17)

Bacteria From Earth Could Survive On Mars (Source: TLN)
Scientists have taken microbes isolated on Earth and subjected them to conditions that mimic life on Mars. The experimental outcome shows that earth microbes could survive on Mars. Of all the planets in the solar system, Mars is the closest to having Earth-like conditions. Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and millions of years ago, when the Sun was warmer, conditions on the planet would have been very different.

Scientists are interested to know if life once existed on the planet and whether life – in the microbial sense – exists now, even under the harsh climatic conditions. The atmosphere of Mars consists of about 96 percent carbon dioxide, 2 percent argon and 2 percent nitrogen along with traces of oxygen and water.

The research is interesting on two fronts. First, its answers the question about whether life could exist on Mars, and clearly bacteria can. Secondly, it informs about any bacteria that any future astronauts might take with them to Mars could survive the planet’s environment. At this stage the work relates to a specific class of bacteria. (6/17)

North Carolina Ophthalmologist Prepares for Suborbital Spaceflight (Source: Times-News)
For more than 70 years, Michael Brennan’s dream of going into space seemed light-years away. But by 2017, he’ll be able to cross “astronaut” off his to-do list. Brennan, an ophthalmologist at Alamance Eye Center retiring in August, is preparing to become one of the first passengers on Virgin Galactic’s commercial suborbital spaceflights.

“When I knew I would be able to go into space, my wife said, ‘See? I knew it would work out,’” Brennan said. “Now is about the right time to retire since I’m going to have to be free and ready for the trip.” Brennan always wanted to be an astronaut, even though his parents pushed him in other directions. His father wanted him to go to Notre Dame and become a priest, while his mother wanted him to study agriculture at Wisconsin. But the quickest path to a career in space was through West Point. (6/17)

Space Internet Has Already Reached Earth (Source: Bloomberg)
We’ve been told that the space Internet will arrive soon, courtesy of Elon Musk’s SpaceX or a rival effort from Greg Wyler's OneWeb. Both companies intend to surround earth with thousands of satellites positioned in relatively low orbits. OneWeb believes this space Internet should arrive by 2019; Musk’s SpaceX would hypothetically deliver a similar service around the same time.

Here’s the thing: It turns out that space Internet already exists. You don’t hear about it that often because the company delivering it, O3b Networks, isn't run by a techno-celebrity named Musk or a radical like Wyler. But sure enough, O3b has operated a network of 12 Internet-beaming satellites for the past few months.

The O3b name stands for “the other 3 billion,” an indication of the company's aspiration to provide high-speed Internet access for the chunk of the world’s population that can't be reached effectively by fiber optic cables. O3b’s satellites sit in an orbit about 5,000 miles from earth—much closer to customers than previous satellites that attempted to deliver similar services—allowing data transfers at near-fiber optic Internet speeds. (6/17)

Environmental Group Discusses Georgoa Spaceport Concerns (Source: The Conversation)
Many Camden County residents are excited about the prospect of a spaceport, but not everyone is convinced it will have a positive impact on the region. Members of the environmental group One Hundred Miles held a closed meeting Tuesday with other stakeholders — including representatives from environmental groups, homeowners associations, conservation groups and property owners — to discuss possible impacts a spaceport could create for the region.

Megan Desrosiers, executive director of One Hundred Miles, said the intent of the meeting was to discuss possible benefits and potential concerns of a commercial spaceport in Camden County and to identify alternative viewpoints given by supporters of the project. Desrosiers, in a phone interview Tuesday, said she could not identify those who attended the meeting because they wanted a chance to report what was discussed with their boards or organizations.

Possible concerns express by others recently include the size of maritime protection zones that would have to be established for launches, as well as impacts to traffic at regional airports and tourism at Cumberland Island National Seashore and state parks. Camden County officials have signed an agreement to purchase a 4,000-acre industrial site they plan to market as a commercial spaceport. (6/18)

Spaceports Battle for Space Tourists (Source: KRQE)
Virgin Galactic and its future base, New Mexico’s Spaceport America, have a serious competitor chomping at their heels from a private spaceport in far West Texas. After years of mostly secret research and testing, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is making a big public move on the space tourism market with his personal rocket company, Blue Origin.

Following a recent successful unmanned test flight of the company’s ‘New Shepard’ spacecraft at Bezos’ private spaceport near Van Horn, Texas, they now have a new online marketing campaign aggressively targeting would-be space adventurers. The Blue Origin spaceport is in the Texas desert about 30 miles south of the New Mexico state line, along the highway between Carlsbad, New Mexico and Van Horn, Texas. (6/18)

SES Ready To Reuse Falcon 9 ­— For the Right Price (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator SES said it wants to reuse the first stage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that will launch the SES-9 satellite by September for a future, discounted SpaceX launch, and is awaiting the response of SpaceX. SES Chief Technical Officer Martin Halliwell said he remains convinced that SpaceX is on the verge of proving its reusability thesis, which is that recovering, refurbishing and reusing a Falcon 9 first stage will dramatically reduce launch costs. (6/18)

Take Selfies From the World’s Most Expensive Satellite — For Free (Source: Business Insider)
The International Space Station took 15 nations about $100 billion and nearly two decades to build. Basically, it's humanity's most expensive object. It's also now host to Iris, an ultra-high-definition video camera. A company called UrtheCast sent up the 4K camera in 2013, and it will sell data-rich videos to governments and businesses starting late July for about $20,000-$30,000 each. However, the rest of us will soon be able to take the ultimate selfie — from space — for free.

No, you won't see your beautiful face from 250 miles up. Each pixel in UrtheCast's highest-res imagery from Iris can resolve about 1 meter (a little more than three feet). So scribbling your marriage proposal on a lawn or a public park will require some pretty big letters. "You'll never see the guy in the backyard mowing the lawn, but you can see a golf cart," said Scott Larson. (6/18)

NASA Harnesses Space Technology to Find Victims of Natural Disasters (Source: FOX News)
While Google recently made news with a patent filing for drones that could provide emergency medical services, NASA has long been finding ways to take their innovative space-bound technology find a way to apply it to everyday life on Earth. Most recently, NASA is taking their advances designed to explore the likes of Jupiter and Saturn and apply it directly to saving lives.

The NASA Jet Propulsion Lab team worked with the Department of Homeland Security to develop a version of this space exploration system to rescue humans in disasters. The cutting-edge Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response (FINDER) technology recently saved four lives in during a collapse of a textile factory and another building in village of Chautara in Nepal.

What exactly is FINDER? It is a portable, lightweight, 20-pound radar detector that is about the size of an average suitcase. The detector is ideal for finding people trapped under debris from natural disasters like avalanches, earthquakes, and wildfires. The sooner a victim can be located, the sooner they can be rescued and receive medical care. (6/18)

NASA Data Show the World is Running Out of Water (Source: The Independent)
The world’s largest underground aquifers – a source of fresh water for hundreds of millions of people — are being depleted at alarming rates, according to new NASA satellite data that provides the most detailed picture yet of vital water reserves hidden under the Earth’s surface.

Twenty-one of the world’s 37 largest aquifers — in locations from India and China to the United States and France — have passed their sustainability tipping points, meaning more water was removed than replaced during the decade-long study period, researchers announced. Thirteen aquifers declined at rates that put them into the most troubled category. The researchers said this indicated a long-term problem that’s likely to worsen as reliance on aquifers grows. (6/17)

Three Things Orion’s First Flight Taught Us (Source: Space News)
A few days before New Year’s Eve, after the Orion capsule finished its cross-country trek from San Diego to Kennedy Space Center in Florida, engineers got to work analyzing the data from the 1,200 onboard sensors that measured every aspect of the spacecraft’s performance during its Dec. 5 debut.

One of the most important benefits from Exploration Flight Test (EFT)-1 is being able to evaluate our designs and verify that our models match actual flight performance. This is critical for the future design process as we continue to develop the most advanced spacecraft ever built. Click here. (6/17)

A Clearer View From the Space Station (Source: SEN)
The view from space​ just got better. Those of us that remain Earthbound can now enjoy superb views of life on board the International Space Station (ISS) and of our home planet thanks to the introduction of 4K Ultra High-Definition (UHD) video. This new capability will provide high resolution, high frame rate video of the various experiments that are undertaken on the ISS as well as unprecedented images of the Earth. (6/16)

DARPA Air-Launch Cubesat Rocket Could Fly Soon (Source: AmericaSpace)
DARPA may be gearing up for a test of a small air-launch system designed to be a pathfinder for another such launcher. The Small Air Launch Vehicle to Orbit (SALVO) is a small rocket launched from an F-15 aircraft, designed to place a 3U cubesat into orbit.

The rocket, developed under a DARPA contract to San Francisco-based Ventions, is intended to be an operational "icebreaker" for the larger Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) smallsat launcher being built by Boeing for DARPA. F-15 flights of SALVO test articles have reportedly already started, and Ventions reported on its website that it has completed acceptance testing of the SALVO first stage engines. (6/17)

France and Spain Plan Mars Cooperation with NASA (Source: Space News)
NASA signed agreements with some European counterparts Tuesday regarding future Mars missions. Under one agreement, the French space agency CNES agreed to provide the mast for the SuperCam instrument on the Mars 2020 rover. NASA also signed agreements with two Spanish agencies to extend cooperation on current and future Mars missions, including the 2020 rover and the InSight lander to launch next year. The agencies signed the accords during meetings Tuesday at the Paris Air Show. (6/17)

Hidden World of Complex Dark Matter Could Be Uncovered (Source: Scientific American)
The beautiful spinning pinwheel of the Andromeda galaxy, our celestial neighbor, poses a mystery. The breakneck speed of its rotation cannot be explained by applying the known laws of physics to the disk's visible matter. By rights, the gravity generated by the galaxy's apparent mass should cause the stars in the periphery to move more slowly than they actually do. If the visible matter was all there was, Andromeda, and nearly all such quickly rotating galaxies, simply should not exist.

Cosmologists believe that some unseen kind of matter—dark matter—surrounds and permeates Andromeda and other galaxies, adding the necessary gravitational force to keep them spinning as observed. Dark matter, which appears to contribute about 25 percent of the universe's mass, would also explain other aspects of the cosmos. (6/17)

How Do Astronauts Breathe in Space? (Source: ABC Science)
According to the advertising blurb for the 1979 movie, Alien: "In space no one can hear you scream." This makes sense, because there's no air in space. But inside the International Space Station (ISS), the American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts do breathe air almost identical to the stuff we breathe down here on planet Earth - same pressure and about 80 per cent nitrogen and 20 per cent oxygen.

But from where do they get their oxygen? It turns out they get it by 'splitting' H2O with electricity. But, like everything to do with space travel, it's tricky. The ISS has been continually inhabited by humans since November 2, 2000. They're mostly astronauts from the USA and cosmonauts from Russia, but there have been many other spacefarers from some 13 different countries.

When they go to sleep, the inhabitants of the ISS have to make sure that they are in a well-ventilated area. If there is not good airflow, the carbon dioxide they breathe out will accumulate around their heads. On Earth, the expired air from our lungs is usually warmer than the ambient air. When you combine this difference in temperature with Archimedes' Principle, the warm air rises and the cooler air falls. But this does not happen in the microgravity of space. (6/17)

Rainfall Measuring Satellite Falls Into Indian Ocean (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
A satellite, built jointly by NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), to measure the amount of rainfall on Earth has ended its long-lasting mission in a fiery demise. According to the U.S. Strategic Command’s Joint Functional Component Command for Space, the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) spacecraft re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere on June 15 at 11:55 p.m. EDT, over the South Indian Ocean. (6/17)

Agreement with ULA Encourages Expansion and Job Growth in Texas (Source: Valley Morning Star)
Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell signed on the dotted line Monday, executing an agreement with aerospace firm United Launch Alliance, which could be worth more than $2.25 million in grants over five years. “It’s a great day for Harlingen and the Rio Grande Valley,” the mayor said of ULA’s continuing presence in the city.

The establishment of an economic development program and agreement with ULA reflects the city’s commitment to the aerospace firm, supporting its growth and encouraging expansion, while bringing job stability to employees, and the prospect of new jobs. Boswell said the incentive agreement finalized Monday between ULA, the city, and Harlingen Economic Development Corp., took more than nine months to structure and complete. (6/16)

What Possible Intelligent Life Beyond Earth May Know About Us (Source: ABC)
If intelligent life forms exist beyond Earth, they likely know we're here, a NASA official said today at the Astrobiology Science Conference in Chicago. "We put atmospheric signatures that guarantee someone with a large telescope 20 light years away could detect us," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "If there is life out there, intelligent life, they’ll know we’re here." (6/16)

Embraer Expansion on Space Coast Brings Seating Solutions (Source: Area Development)
Embraer will construct a new building in the Spaceport Commerce Park in Titusville, Florida. The project, known locally as Project Eagle during the site selection process, will bring 150 new jobs to the area. The new facility will produce seating solutions for various Embraer products. Embraer acquired a California–based company which will operate as Embraer Aero Seating Technologies.

“The new Embraer Aero Seating Technologies is focused on the design, development and production of luxury aircraft seating solutions,” said Frederico Fleury Curado, Embraer President/CEO. “With the support of Enterprise Florida, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Brevard County, the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast and the North Brevard Economic Development Zone, we are proud to grow this operation to include the great state of Florida.”

Last month, the NBEDZ voted to award “Project Eagle” $2,500,000 to offset the costs of constructing the new facility in Titusville, along with the provision of a suitably-sized approximating 15 acre county-owned lot in the park cleared and prepped for construction. “The availability of the incentives from NBEDZ were a significant factor in winning this competitive project,” stated George Mikitarian, NBEDZ Board Chairman. “The impact from this project will be seen in both North Brevard and throughout the County.” (6/15)

Air Force Seeks Info on Space Weather Sensor (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force has issued a request for information for a space environment sensor that would operate as a secondary payload aboard a proposed next-generation weather satellite. In a June 16 posting on the Federal Business Opportunities website, the service said it was seeking industry feedback on likely capabilities, costs and risks on a sensor to measure energetic charged particles aboard the Weather Satellite Follow-on program. Responses are due July 16. (6/17)

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