June 29, 2015

Docking Adapter, Satellites, Student Experiments Lost In Dragon Failure (Source: Space News)
The cargo lost on a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft when its Falcon 9 launch vehicle failed June 28 range from a key piece of hardware for future commercial crew spacecraft to an experiment developed by middle school students, but NASA officials said none of the cargo was critical to the near-term operations of the International Space Station.

The Dragon, flying on the seventh mission under SpaceX’s Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA, carried 1,867 kilograms of pressurized cargo intended for the ISS, a total that increases to 1,952 kilograms when the weight of the cargo’s packaging is included. That total included 676 kilograms of crew supplies, 461 kilograms of hardware for the ISS, and 529 kilograms of scientific investigations.

The largest, and perhaps most valuable, item lost on the Dragon was an International Docking Adapter (IDA), a 526-kilogram item transported as unpressurized cargo in the “trunk” section of the Dragon spacecraft. The IDA, one of two built by NASA, would have been attached to the station to serve as a docking port for future commercial crew vehicles and potentially other spacecraft. (6/28)

Can Planets Be Rejuvenated Around Dead Stars? (Source: Space Daily)
For a planet, this would be like a day at the spa. After years of growing old, a massive planet could, in theory, brighten up with a radiant, youthful glow. Rejuvenated planets, as they are nicknamed, are only hypothetical. But new research from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has identified one such candidate, seemingly looking billions of years younger than its actual age.

How might a planet reclaim the essence of its youth? Years ago, astronomers predicted that some massive, Jupiter-like planets might accumulate mass from their dying stars. As stars like our sun age, they puff up into red giants and then gradually lose about half or more of their mass, shrinking into skeletons of stars, called white dwarfs. The dying stars blow winds of material outward that could fall onto giant planets that might be orbiting in the outer reaches of the star system. (6/28)

China's Beidou Navigation System More Resistant to Jamming (Source: Space Daily)
China has made breakthroughs in the anti-jamming capability of its Beidou satellite navigation system (BDS), the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Daily said. The new technology, developed by Wang Feixue and his team from the National University of Defense Technology, has made the satellites 1,000 times more secure, the newspaper said.

The first BDS satellite was launched in 2000 to provide an alternative to foreign satellite navigation systems. In December 2012, the system began to provide positioning, navigation, timing and short message services to China and some parts of the Asia Pacific. The BDS global network will have 35 satellites, five of which will be in geostationary orbit. The complete network should be installed by 2020. (6/28)

Editorial: Broadband from Space (Source: Financial Express)
While the developed world is already a well-connected place, there are still large swathes of the developing world that are not connected to the world wide web. These unconnected areas are emerging as the next battlefront for some of the leading technology companies that are looking to provide broadband to everyone, everywhere. Over the next five years, these corporations are looking to provide last-mile broadband connectivity to the unconnected world satellites.

That’s what OneWeb, a global consortium comprising Airbus, Bharti Enterprises, Hughes Network Systems, Intelsat, Qualcomm, Coca-Cola, Mexico’s Totalplay and Virgin plans to do. OneWeb has closed a $500 million funding round to build a global satellite network comprising 648 low-earth orbiting satellites that will provide affordable broadband services. The satellites will be connected to $250 solar-powered OneWeb user terminals on the ground, which will extend the reach of the mobile network with embedded LTE, 3G, 2G and WiFi access.

If all goes right the first of the satellites made by Airbus would be launched by Virgin Galactic (39 launches) and Arianespace (21) sometime in 2017. That’s a huge boost to Virgin which has yet to complete a space flight for paying passengers. What is not clear at the moment is the investment needed to roll out this program. That could well be critical to its success. (6/29)

High Schoolers' Experiment Lost Again on Launch Failure (Source: ABC)
Three high school students were going to get the science lesson of a lifetime by flying their experiment in space. Instead they got a life lesson about loss, but more importantly about determination, as they watched their experiment get wiped out for the second straight time by a rocket failure on Sunday.

The students from North Charleston, South Carolina, had come up with an intricate electronics circuitry experiment. It was supposed to fly last October to the International Space Station on an Antares rocket out of Wallops Island, Virginia. But it blew up as they watched from only 1.7 miles away. Joe Garvey was knocked over by the blast coming off the launch pad. Rachel Lindbergh felt the heat on her face.

Eight months passed. Every other student team got to fly their experiments again, but finally Sunday was the turn for Joe, Rachel and Gabe Voigt, and their teacher, Gabe's mother, Kellye. They drove down to Cape Canaveral, Florida, and joked about their luck. But Rachel, the eldest of the three students and a physics major headed to the University of Chicago, doesn't talk about luck. She talks about independent events and variables. (6/28)

Rocket Failure a "Huge Bummer" for Southern California Students (Source: NBC Los Angeles)
Students from Damien High School in La Verne designed an experiment to send to the International Space Station with the SpaceX Falcon rocket, which was carrying 23 other student experiments and supplies for astronauts at the station. "It is a huge bummer for them... but at the same time being a part of this experience has been exciting for them," said Charity Trojanowski, the co-director of the Students Spaceflight Experiments Program at Damien High School. (6/29)

Google’s Lunar XPrize Sparks $140 Million Race (Source: Bloomberg)
At least a dozen teams are racing to win Google Inc.’s $20 million prize for getting to the moon. They are likely to spend more than seven times that amount, betting the boost to their moon ventures will be worth even more. Google’s Lunar XPrize will go to the first privately funded team to land on the moon, then travel 500 meters and beam high-definition video back to Earth. Detecting water earns a bonus $4 million. Click here. (6/29)

$1 Billion Satellite Project to Use Russia's Vostochny Cosmodrome (Source: Moscow Times)
Russia's new Vostochny Cosmodrome has booked its first high-profile commercial satellite launches as part of a contract worth more than $1 billion between Russian space agency Roscosmos and French and British space companies, news agency TASS reported Friday.

French space launch provider Arianespace on Thursday announced it would purchase 21 Russian-built Soyuz rockets to launch between 650 and 720 microsatellites built by British firm OneWeb. The satellites will provide Internet services to all corners of the globe. The news is a major boost to Russia's space industry, which has suffered a series of embarrassing launch failures in recent years. (6/29)

Earth's Rotation is Slowing, so Everyone Gets an Extra Second This Week (Source: Mashable)
In case you need a little extra time this week, the last minute of Tuesday, June 30 will contain 61 seconds instead of the usual 60. Atomic clocks around the world will coordinate the leap second, which is necessary to keep Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) — the system that guides most international civil times systems — synced with the Earth's rotation. On Tuesday, atomic clocks should read 23:59:59, then 23:59:60, before switching over to Wednesday with 00:00:00. (6/29)

The Underfunded, Disorganized Plan to Save Earth from the Next Giant Asteroid (Source: Mashable)
For an outpost tasked with preventing mass extinction, the pace is certainly relaxed here at Catalina. Until a few decades ago, the powers that be didn’t take the threat of asteroids very seriously. This changed on March 23, 1989, when an asteroid 300 meters in diameter called 1989FC passed within half a million miles of Earth. As the New York Times put it, "In cosmic terms, it was a close call."

If 1989FC had hit Earth, it is unlikely that many humans would have survived the post-impact fallout. Perhaps more frightening than its proximity was the fact that we had no idea it was even coming. The existence of the asteroid wasn’t discovered until eight days after it had zipped by at around 46,000 mph.

After this arguably close brush with total annihilation, Congress asked NASA to prepare a report on the threat posed by asteroids. The 1992 document, "The Spaceguard Survey: Report of the NASA International Near-Earth-Object Detection Workshop," was, suffice it to say, rather bleak. If a large NEO were to hit Earth, the report said, its denizens could look forward to acid rain, firestorms, and an impact winter induced by dust being thrown miles into the stratosphere. Click here. (6/28)

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