July 2, 2015

US Scientists Find Earth Explosion Unavoidable (Source: Sputnik)
Scientists found a new model of fluid dynamics which explains the expansion of the universe without the idea of "dark energy" and could lead to the death of all living things much sooner than anticipated. Scientists at Vanderbilt University in the US calculated that according to a new model of fluid dynamics which departs from the earlier "ketchup" theory, the explosion of the earth is unavoidable.

The new findings indicate that Earth could explode, along with the rest of the universe, in as soon as 22 billion years, according to the new theory, which makes possible the "Big Rip" scenario in which the universe is pulled apart from the inside as it expands. The new theory also allows for a model of the universe which does not include "dark energy," a theorized substance which drives the accelerating expansion of the universe. (7/2)

Air Force ‘Invited’ To Observe Investigation Of SpaceX Launch Failure (Source: Breaking Defense)
Word from the Air Force is that SpaceX “remains certified” to launch the nation’s most expensive and heaviest intelligence and Air Force satellites. It took a few days, which is not surprising how politically and legally sensitive everything involving Elon Musk and SpaceX national security launch certification is and will be, but we got responses from Lt. Gen. Samuel A. Greaves about SpaceX certification and the effects of the destruction of the CRS-7 mission to resupply the International Space Station.

Q: "Does this failure prompt review of certification for national security launches?" A: "No, SpaceX remains certified.” It’s worth noting that a failure as complete as this one was — CRS-7 was completely destroyed — does not prompt a review of certification. That would seem to indicate that certification, once granted, is forever. However, later in the day we heard from SMC that certification is not forever. Greaves made it clear that decertification could occur should a national security space mission be destroyed or fail to achieve its primary objectives due to launch problems. (7/2)
Florida Tech Lightning Research Deepens Understanding of Sprite Formation (Source: Space Daily)
A new study led by Florida Institute of Technology Professor Ningyu Liu has improved our understanding of a curious luminous phenomenon that happens 25 to 50 miles above thunderstorms. These spectacular phenomena, called sprites, are fireworks-like electrical discharges, sometimes preceded by halos of light, in earth's upper atmosphere.

It has been long thought that atmospheric gravity waves play an important role in the initiation of sprites but no previous studies, until this team's recent findings, provided convincing arguments to support that idea. Ccomprehensive computer-simulation results from a novel sprite initiation model and dramatic images of a sprite event, and provides a clearer understanding of the atmospheric mechanisms that lead to sprite formation. (7/2)

Modified XR‑5 Hall Thruster Operates Successfully on Orbit (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
The improved XR‑5 Hall Thruster (designated the XR‑5A) has passed initial orbital validation testing on the United States Air Force's X-37B spacecraft on the AFSPC-5 mission. The Orbital Test Vehicle mission 4 (OTV-4) is still on orbit, with the XR‑5A Hall Thruster experiment being carried out as part of a collaborative effort with the Air Force Research Laboratory, Space and Missile Systems Center, and Rapid Capabilities Office. (7/2)

Aldrin: SpaceX Failure Shows We Need More Commercial Space Travel, Not Less (Source: TIME)
When the interests of the private sector are aligned with NASA’s mission to explore space, America wins. The recent failure of the commercial SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is a near-term setback. But getting that vehicle back in the air means something more for the tomorrows to come. It means getting down to business concerning the future of America’s space program.

I was witness to the Falcon 9’s failed flight on June 28. Sitting there at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, I had a front-row seat to the mishap. However disappointing is the loss of the SpaceX booster and destruction of the Dragon-carrying cargo ship headed for the International Space Station (ISS), it is a teachable moment. I think it punctuates the need for providing more appropriate budgetary funding for commercial space activities. (7/2)

Shelton Versus McCain on Import of SpaceX Failure (Source: Space Policy Online)
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), and Gen. William Shelton (Ret.) view the June 28 SpaceX launch failure very differently. In a McCain statement and a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Shelton, the two take opposite positions on what should be learned from the failure in terms of national security space launches and how long Russian RD-180 engines are needed by the U.S. military to have assured access to space.

The congressional push to end reliance on RD-180s began while Shelton was still on active duty and Commander of Air Force Space Command and he and McCain differed on these issues all along. At the last congressional hearing on the topic during Shelton's tenure, in July 2014, they were fully were on display. Apparently nothing has changed.

At the July 2014 hearing, Shelton agreed that it is time to build an American alternative to the RD-180, though he did not hide his admiration for the technical performance of the RD-180-powered Atlas V. Atlas V has a 100 percent success rate so far. He worried that it not be phased out before an American alternative is fully ready to replace it to ensure that ULA can be competitive with SpaceX later this decade. (7/2)

This Could be the First Airplane on Mars (Source: C/Net)
When I think of airplanes on Mars, I imagine a sci-fi scenario with robotic winged flying machines swarming through the Martian air, gathering data like a flock of hyper-intelligent space seagulls. The first airplane on Mars will be pretty far from this fantasy. Chances are, it will look a lot more like a kind of glider that's already in use on Earth, according to a NASA photo released Monday.

The proposed Prandtl-m aircraft is a relatively dainty flying-wing-style plane. The prototype will be based on the existing Prandtl-d, a radio-controlled glider designed and built by aerospace engineering students during a NASA internship in 2012 and 2013. A Prandtl-m prototype is scheduled to launch from a high-altitude balloon later in 2015. (6/30)

Orbital May Benefit From SpaceX’s Fiery Rocket Fail (Source: Bloomberg)
SpaceX’s explosive mission failure may benefit Orbital ATK Inc. as the two compete for future contracts to supply the International Space Station, according to Cowen & Co. The fiery destruction of an unmanned cargo ship launched Sunday by Space Exploration Technologies Corp. was the third loss of vessels headed for the research center in less than a year. Both U.S. competitors have now suffered setbacks, as did a Russian Progress 59 craft.

The failure makes SpaceX and Orbital’s “respective track records more equal” ahead of the next competition to win further resupply missions in September, said Cowen analyst Gautam Khanna in a note to clients Monday. Another benefit for Orbital could come from the NASA in the form of additional commercial resupply contracts, Khanna said. Extended missions appear more likely under the current deal even before the September competition, Khanna said. If awarded, it would make it easier to project Orbital’s earnings through 2017. (7/1)

Osiris-Rex Gets its First Asteroid-Inspecting Instrument (Source: Space News)
The first of five imaging instruments for a NASA asteroid-sampling mission launching next year arrived at spacecraft prime contractor Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton, Colorado, for integration, the University of Arizona said in a June 26 press release.

The instrument, the Osiris-rex Thermal Emission Spectrometer (OTES) allows Osiris-Rex, the Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security-Regolith Explorer, to analyze the mineral and chemical composition of its target asteroid and take the asteroid’s temperature. (7/1)

Rosetta Spacecraft Finds Massive Sinkholes on Comet's Surface (Source: Reuters)
The comet being studied by Europe’s Rosetta spacecraft has massive sinkholes in its surface that are nearly wide enough to swallow Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza. Scientists suspect the pits formed when material on the comet’s surface collapsed, similar to sinkholes on Earth, a study published in the journal Nature said.

The cavities on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which Rosetta has been orbiting since August, are enormous, stretching some 656 feet (200 meters) in diameter and 590 feet (180 meters) in depth. In comparison, the Great Pyramid is 756 feet (230 meters) across and currently 455 feet (139 meters) tall. (7/1)

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