August 20, 2015

NASA is Raiding Museums for Spare Parts (Source: TechRadar)
Engineers from NASA are being forced to cannibalise old parts from museums to meet budget goals for new chunks of the International Space Station. When the space shuttle program was shut down in 2011, the four remaining craft were sent to museums around the United States. Now, those shuttles are being stripped for useful parts.

This week, NASA is removing four tanks that stored water for the crew of the shuttle Endeavour, which is parked permanently in the California Science Center. Back in May, the same tanks were removed from the shuttle Atlantis, on display at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Each set of tanks has a combined capacity of 300 liters, and were designed for many more missions than they actually flew. (8/20)

NanoRacks External Platform, Cubesats, Launched to ISS (Source: NanoRacks)
The NanoRacks External Payload Platform (NREP), and 16 customer CubeSats, were successfully launched to the International Space Station on Aug. 19 via the fifth H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) Commercial Resupply Mission. The External Payload Platform offers new mission opportunities for small size hosted payloads in the extreme environment of space. (8/19)

New Space Station on Far Side of the Moon Within Orion’s Reach (Source: Bay Area Citizen)
Lockheed Martin has been working closely with NASA to develop the Orion spacecraft which will eventually carry astronauts into deep space, Dr. Michael Hawes said. “When can Orion do?” Hawes asked. “And, when we talk about “deep space”, what kinds of destinations are we talking about?” The first destination is the moon.

Hawes said plans are being developed to build a new space station with Orion’s help. “We may build a small station on the far side of the moon,” Hawes said. “We could do science from there. We can actually see the sun and the earth so we could still get power and communications. We’ll go out and look at asteroids. (8/19)

Start-Up Eyes Mining Asteroids for Space Colonies (Source: PC World)
From a nondescript office on the edge of the Ames Research Park in Silicon Valley, Deep Space Industries is plotting a futuristic scheme to locate asteroids, check them out and then send in mining spacecraft to strip them of their minerals. The goal: enable the even-more futuristic ambition of cities in space. Click here. (8/20)

As Humans, We Have an Urge to Explore. So, Where To Next? (Source: MacLean's)
If you were a Plutonian, and knew just when to look up a few weeks ago, you would have seen an amazing sight. There, in the eternally black sky, a shiny metal contraption the size of a small Buick suddenly appeared near the tiny sun, flashed swiftly from horizon to horizon, and disappeared into the darkness.

You might have raised an alien tentacle and scratched your ET head at the UFO encounter. You would have asked your Plutonian friends: “What was that?” and, “Where did it come from?” and, hauntingly, “Are we alone?” And you would have looked back at the sky with a renewed wonder and curiosity; a respect for both its immensity and its infinite variety. Click here. (8/20)

India for Satellite Tracking Unit in Fiji (Source: Deccan Herald)
India is keen to set up a satellite monitoring station in Fiji and gradually turn it into a hub for sharing its space technology with the Pacific Island nations. New Delhi is seeking to step up its presence in a region, where US, Japan and Australia compete with China for geo-strategic influence. (8/20)

Japan Launches Cargo Craft for ISS Resupply Mission (Source: Xinhua)
Japan on Wednesday launched an unmanned cargo transfer spacecraft that will deliver much-needed supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) following recent failures to send U.S. and Russian cargo craft to the ISS. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries launched the H-2 Transfer Vehicle " KOUNOTORI5" (HTV5) aboard the H-2B Launch Vehicle from Japan's southwestern Kagoshima prefecture.

Wednesday's liftoff has been the fifth flight of HTV since the first Kounotori vehicle was launched in September 2009 with 4.5 metric tons of supplies for the ISS. The HTV5 delivers a total 5.5 metric tons of cargo to the ISS. Japan's last resupply flight to the ISS was made by HTV4 in August 2013, delivering 5.4 metric tons of cargo to the ISS. By improving the way of loading of cargo, the HTV's loading capacity has gradually been increased. (8/20)

Russia to Build New Eco-Friendly Soyuz-5 Rocket by 2022 (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The new Russian medium-class Soyuz-5 carrier rocket that will use ecology-friendly fuel - could be built by 2022. This is according to Aleksandr Kirilin, the general director of the TSKB-Progress Space Center in Samara, Russia. The draft design of the rocket is expected to be ready by the end of this year. (8/20)

Ad Astra and NASA Move to Execution Phase of NextSTEP VASIMR Partnership (Source: SpaceRef)
Ad Astra Rocket Company and NASA have successfully completed contract negotiations on the company's Next Space Technology Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) award, announced on March 31, 2015, and now enter the execution phase of the project.

The parties executed the contract, a three-year, fixed price agreement, on August 7, 2015 for a total value of just over $9 million. The agreement is structured as a one-year contract with two additional one-year extensions based on the accomplishment of mutually agreed upon progress milestones. (8/10)

NASA Awards Grants to Expand STEM Education at Minority-Serving Institutions (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA's Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) has selected five universities for cooperative agreement awards totaling $6 million to provide educator training and expand course offerings in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Four universities were selected to receive MUREP Community College Curriculum Improvement (MC3I) grants, which provide up to $250,000 per year for a maximum of three years. The schools will work to increase the number of STEM classes available at minority serving community colleges. (8/18)

Something Deep Inside Pluto Is Replenishing Its Atmosphere (Source: WIRED)
Pluto has a problem: Its thin, nitrogen atmosphere shouldn’t be there. Ultraviolet rays from the sun should have knocked it away, molecule by molecule, in the dwarf planet’s first few thousand years. Four billion years later, Pluto’s atmosphere is still there, a gauzy interplanetary mystery. Okay, it’s really scientists who have the problem, because it’s not like there are nitrogen-breathing Plutonians down there pacing worriedly over impending suffocation. Right, NASA? Right?!? Click here. (8/19)

How Jupiter and Saturn Were Born From Pebbles (Source: Science)
By Jove, they've done it! Planetary scientists have overcome a key problem in explaining the emergence of the solar system's behemoths—Jupiter and Saturn. Previous models predicted too many gas giants. But a new study shows how just a few such monsters should emerge from a swirling protoplanetary disk of gas and dust.

The 4.56-billion-year-old solar system began in a hurry. Within a few million years, the sun had already eaten up most of its disk of gas and dust. So Jupiter and Saturn—which are shrouded in immense envelopes of gas—had to form quickly, before that disk disappeared. Many theorists believe that the gas giants began with rocky cores with masses equal to about 10 Earths, giving them enough gravity to gobble up their gas shells. But modeling the formation of those cores from bits of dust and getting the right number of cores in the right orbits has long challenged planetary scientists.

The model builds on a theory, called pebble accretion, that explains the formation of cores. Small dust grains can grow as they collide and stick together with static electricity. But beyond a certain size—about a meter—growth stops as collisions rupture the dust ball rather than add to it. This “meter-scale problem” was surmounted about a decade ago, when theorists realized that pebbles less than a meter in size are constantly moving in the wind of the spinning gas disk. When they encounter other pebbles, they clump together and take advantage of a wake in the wind of gas, like flocking birds. (8/19)

NASA Tries Crowdsourcing for Innovative Projects (Source: VentureBeat)
Crowdsourcing is a hot topic right now. Well-known companies have been crowdsourcing for some time now, with the most active crowdsourcing adopters of the past ten years being Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Danone. More recently Procter & Gamble, Unilever, and Nestlé were named as the top three in 2013 and 2014 (eYeka). Brands are becoming less ashamed of looking to their own consumers for financial assistance.

Recently, one of the most aspirational and inspirational brands in the world has looked to the crowd for help on a number of fronts. That out-of-this-world brand is NASA. Click here. (8/19)

Moon Mining Could Jump-Start the Space Economy (Source: Aviation Week)
NexGen Space sees the moon as a lucrative target for the nascent space economy. The company's plans call for the mining of lunar ice to be used as fuel. "America could lead the development of a permanent industrial base on the Moon of four private-sector astronauts, in about 10-12 years after setting foot on the Moon, that could provide 200 [metric tons] of propellant per year in lunar orbit for NASA for a total cost of about $40 billion (±30%)," says a recent report funded by NASA. (8/19)

Florida Nears Deal for Blue Origin Manufacturing at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
Florida is nearing a deal to establish a rocket manufacturing facility for Blue Origin. The Space Florida board Wednesday gave its staff the go-ahead to finalize an agreement that would provide incentives for Blue Origin to build a plant just outside the gates of the Kennedy Space Center and perform launches from Cape Canaveral's Launch Complex 36. More details about the plan are expected in a month or two. The meeting referred to the Blue Origin proposal only as "Project Panther," but previous reports had linked that to Blue Origin.

Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello said he expected more details to be made public "in the next month or so." Howard Haug, Space Florida's treasurer and chief investment officer, said the deal represented more than $200 million of investment and several hundred jobs. The funding will include $18 million combined from the Florida Department of Transportation, which supports aerospace infrastructure, and from the North Brevard Economic Development Zone. (8/20)

Space Florida Board Approves Staff Compensation Plan (Source: Florida Today)
Space Florida's board unanimously approved a compensation plan that could earn its top executives bonuses as high as half of their annual salaries. DiBello said the plan would ensure that the state-funded aerospace economic development agency and spaceport authority can recruit and retain the aerospace and finance industry talent it needs to succeed.

The four-person executive team led by DiBello, whose salaries range from $155,000 to $267,000, could earn performance bonuses of 30 percent to 50 percent, depending on their pay grade. All roughly 35 employees would be eligible for at least a 5 percent bonus. The plan will take effect during the next budget year that starts July 1, 2016.

Any bonuses would come from non-appropriated funds, depending on their availability each year, and employees' ability to meet performance metrics that have not yet been defined. Space Florida's board each year will review and approve the amount of money that may be available for bonuses. (8/20)

China's Largest-Ever Rocket Aims for Space Station (Source: Space Daily)
China successfully tested the power system of its Long March 5 carrier rocket on Monday. The test marks the completion of the manufacturing phase for the rocket. A final ground test for maybe the most powerful satellite launcher in the country. The massive rocket is 5 meters in diameter. That's equivalent to a 20-story building and it has a capacity much bigger than the current level.

"The capacity of the Long March 5 is twice the current capacity. It reached  25 tons to low earth orbit or 14 tons to geostationary transfer orbit," Lou Luliang, associate engineer of Long March 5, CASC, said. That capacity is a key to serving the newest chapter in China's manned space station development. China is stepping up efforts on its manned space program and its ambitious plans include a permanent space station, manned lunar missions, and a possible manned mission to Mars. (8/19)

How We'll Get People to Mars in One Piece (Source: Popular Science)
Aerospace engineer Dava Newman has devoted her career to figuring out how we might live in space—suspending subjects from the rafters of her MIT lab to study reduced gravity and designing a flexible, self-mending space suit. As NASA’s new deputy director, she is now tasked with the planning and policy that will make greater human space exploration possible. That means leading the agency’s 18,000 employees and 40,000 contractors toward a successful crewed mission to Mars by the 2030s. Click here. (8/18)

Branson vs. Musk: A Space Race with Lawyers (Source: CNBC)
Elon Musk wants to get to Mars. Richard Branson wants to create space tourism. Both, however, are engaged in a new space race that could involve as many lawyers as rocket scientists.

Branson is a partner in OneWeb, a company that is planning to launch a constellation of 648 satellites to provide fast Internet access globally. The satellites would be much closer to Earth, cutting down on lag times. OneWeb's partners include Intelsat and Qualcomm. It raised $500 million and signed a deal with Airbus to build the satellites, and CEO Greg Wyler said the whole venture could cost $2.5 billion. OneWeb hopes to launch the first satellites in 2017 on Russian rockets, and the company would sell its access to traditional telecom companies that would resell it to customers.

Musk's SpaceX wants to do the same thing. His company is busy hiring for a new satellite division in Seattle, and SpaceX hopes to launch 4,000 satellites on its own rockets. Rather than sell the service to telecoms, SpaceX may end up competing against them and sell directly to consumers. Google and Fidelity have invested $1 billion in the venture, even though OneWeb's Wyler used to work at Google on an Internet satellite project. (8/19)

Collectors Compete for Apollo Artifacts (Source: Air & Space)
Neil Armstrong is dead, but you can buy his breath on eBay. For the price of a used car, you can own five tiny bottles of water drained from the returning modules of Apollo 11 and 12, including one of condensation from astronauts’ exhalations. It’s the one marked “Waste Tank.”

Now, anyone with money to spend and an Internet connection can join the ranks of collectors of early space program artifacts. Robert Pearlman’s website collectSPACE is especially useful, keeping tabs on what’s for sale where and helping ferret out frauds on auction house websites. You can ask fellow collectors/historians for guidance, and hear from those who used­—or made—your object.

The same Internet that makes it easier to acquire rare objects also enables longtime collectors to share their treasures with the public, in digital closeup. A thorny legal question—Can you own bits of spacecraft NASA never formally de-accessioned?—has been resolved by a 2012 law in which Congress, perhaps reluctant to increase NASA’s legal budget, allowed Apollo-era astronauts to sell objects they kept as mementos. (8/19)

Inflatable Habitats: From the Space Station to the Moon and Mars? (Source:
The upcoming launch of a private inflatable module toward the International Space Station could help pave the way for colonies on the moon and Mars. Bigelow Aerospace's Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) will blast off on SpaceX's next robotic cargo mission to the space station for NASA. That flight was originally scheduled for September, but the disintegration of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket during the company's last cargo run in late June will likely delay it.

Whenever BEAM ends up reaching orbit, the module's addition to the International Space Station will be a big milestone for inflatable spacecraft in general and Bigelow Aerospace in particular, company representatives said. "This will give us the opportunity to demonstrate expandable-habitat technology as part of a crewed system for the very first time," said Michael Gold, director of Washington, D.C., operations and business growth for Bigelow Aerospace. "This will be a very big step."

Bigelow aims to provide expandable habitats in low Earth orbit and, eventually, on the surface of the moon and Mars, for use by governments, private companies, academic institutions and other customers. The company is also developing a module it calls the B330, because the craft offers 330 cubic meters of internal space. One 31-foot-long B330 can support a crew of six astronauts, company representatives say. (8/18)

KSC Mobile Launcher Construction Entering Final Phase (Source: Florida Today)
The towering Kennedy Space Center structure from which NASA's next exploration rocket will blast off is entering its final phase of construction, nearly a decade after its design began. NASA recently completed modifications to the $350 million Mobile Launcher, which stands more than 400 feet above the ground, enabling it to support the giant Space Launch System rocket.

NASA recently awarded a contract worth up to $45.8 million to J.P. Donovan Construction of Rockledge to install the electrical and plumbing systems and umbilical arms that will hook up to the SLS rocket and Orion crew capsule on top of it. (8/19)

CASIS Opens New Web Portal (Source: CASIS)
Research in space is already advancing R&D on the ground that will define tomorrow’s world, and our brand new, researcher-centered web portal is your consolidated link to all things ISS. You'll find virtually all the tools, info, and resources you need to optimize the project development process, give your research a competitive edge, and take the first step toward experiencing what space can do for you. Click here. (8/19)

Comet Impacts Could Have Helped Create Life on Earth (Source: Newsweek)
Comets may have helped to give rise to life on Earth. New research mimicking the conditions of a comet impact on our planet 4 billion years ago has shown that such an event could give rise to multi-chained peptides. That’s intriguing since peptides make up proteins, one of the fundamental building blocks of life as we know it.

The study is the first to provide evidence that an impact could make tri-peptides, consisting of three linearly linked molecules, says study author Haruna Sugahara. The simulation was carried out with a mixture of amino acids, which have been found on comets, as well super-cold ice and rock (of which they are made). The force of the impact was re-created with a propellant gun. Researchers analyzed the chemical products afterward and found that the force of the “impact” caused a significant proportion of the amino acids to form the beginning of chains that make up proteins. (8/19)

Asteroid Water Harvest to Introduce In-Space Refuelling Economy by 2025 (Source: IBT)
In 10 years, an in-space refuelling economy could start to deliver water from asteroids into rockets in space. Asteroid-mining companies aim to transform asteroid water into fuel and harvest valuable and useful platinum-group metals from space rocks.

Chris Lewicki, Planetary Resources president and chief engineer, said that within the decade or before 2020, they aim to create a space-based business that will be an economic engine and opens up space to the rest of the economy.  Planetary Resources and another company, Deep Space Industries, aim to assist humanity to explore the solar system farther by tapping asteroid resources, but at the same time, make profit from the project. Click here. (8/19)

Weather Microsatellites Coming Soon From NASA (Source: NASA)
Construction has started on a constellation of small weather satellites. NASA's Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) mission will launch eight microsatellites on a single Pegasus rocket to measure surface winds in the vicinity of hurricanes and other tropical storms to improve forecasting. The mission passed a pair of reviews earlier this summer, and construction of the first satellite, at the Southwest Research Institute in Texas, started last week. Launch is scheduled for late 2016. (8/20)

Aerojet Completes Work on "Green" Propulsion (Source: Aerojet)
Aerojet Rocketdyne has completed work on a "green" propulsion system for a NASA technology mission. The company said Wednesday it had completed work on the propulsion subsystem for the Green Propellant Infusion Mission and shipped the unit to the satellite's prime contractor, Ball Aerospace. The mission will test the use of a non-toxic alternative to commonly used satellite propellants like hydrazine. The spacecraft is scheduled for launch next year. (8/20)

Will Rockets Ever Be Reliable? (Source: Space Daily)
It's a fact of life. Rockets sometimes fail. The curse of the rocketeer strikes all, regardless of size, type, nationality or purpose. The history of rocket failures is older than spaceflight itself. It shows no signs of stopping in the future. The spaceflight community has ways of dealing with this. Test and check. Stop if there's a serious problem before launch. Launch if you can. If it fails, pick up the pieces (sometimes literally) and try to work out what happened. Do your best to make sure it doesn't happen that way again. Then repeat the cycle.

Thus we lurch through the launches, mostly getting it right, but still with enough failures to worry us. It's only fair that we should be worried. Yet it seems that too many people are not worried enough. We cannot expect spaceflight to be as reliable as ground transport or aviation, but it really should be a lot better. We have more than half a century of experience with rocketry. Click here. (8/20)

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