September 4, 2015

Enter the Starliner: Boeing Names its Commercial Spaceship (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Boeing’s commercial human-rated spaceship designed to ferry NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station will be named the CST-100 Starliner, company officials announced Friday during a grand opening of the crew capsule’s factory at the Kennedy Space Center.

The Boeing-operated crew capsule was known as simply the CST-100 before Friday, and managers said the craft will be ready to launch with human passengers by the end of 2017. Boeing officials revealed the new name in a ceremony at the Kennedy Space Center. Technicians are assembling a structural test article for the Starliner spacecraft inside a former space shuttle hangar at the Florida spaceport, and construction of flight-ready versions of the capsule will begin next year. (9/4)

First Commercial ISS Crew Could Start Training Early Next Year (Source: Aviation Week)
Boeing says it is on track to fly its CST-100 Starliner commercial crew vehicle in September and December 2017 for the first U.S.-launched human missions to the International Space Station since 2011, which means the NASA astronauts selected for those missions will need to start training as early as January. (9/4)

Spaceport Business Opportunities Expo Planned on Space Coast, Oct. 20 (Source: NASA)
KSC's 25th Anniversary Business Opportunities Expo is sponsored by the NASA/KSC Prime Contractor Board, 45th Space Wing, and the Canaveral Port Authority, and features approximately 150 business and government exhibitors. The event will be held on Oct. 20 at Port Canaveral's Cruise Terminal #10.

Exhibitors include businesses offering a variety of products & services. Representatives of NASA, the 45th Space Wing, prime contractors and other Government agencies will be available to answer specific questions about doing business with their respective organizations. Click here. (9/3)

NASA Plans Innovation Expo at KSC on Oct. 16-17 (Source: NASA)
For the first time ever, NASA is allowing public access to their Innovation Expo! Discover what it takes to foster innovative ideas at this two-day event at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Hear from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center experts during a series of engaging presentations, see a prototype of the cutting-edge Robonaut, who is assisting astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) right now and get firsthand information on NASA’s six programs currently in motion.

Find out about groundbreaking research being done on board the ISS and how this orbiting laboratory is the springboard for future missions to Mars. NASA is making plans to launch humans to Mars, but they haven’t forgotten about the small oasis we live in, Earth. Researchers continue to address the critical challenges our planet faces and how we can protect it for future generations. Throughout NASA’s Innovation Expo, you can see and hear more about these six programs and how vital they are to the future of space travel and Earth. Click here. (9/3)

Airless Space Weathering Duplicated in Lab Environment (Source: Space Daily)
Using laboratory instruments typically used to make semiconductor devices, space weathering of airless bodies in the Solar System has been simulated, allowing researchers to better determine the ages of their surfaces, states a new paper by Kimberly R. Kuhlman of the Planetary Science Institute.

Bodies in the Solar System that exhibit space weathering include the Moon, Mercury and asteroids. Kuhlman shot hydrogen atoms at solar wind speeds into tiny, polished samples of the common Solar System mineral orthopyroxene that had been placed on top of a silicon wafer. She then examined the compositional changes in the outer 20 nanometers of the implanted orthopyroxene using a scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM), and for the first time discovered the particles of iron beginning to form. (9/4)

Samsung Proposes 'Space Internet' to Meet Growing Data Demands (Source: The Verge)
Samsung is the latest contender to enter the race to beam down internet from space, but it seems to be getting in the game pretty late. In a research paper titled Mobile Internet from the Heavens, Farooq Khan, president of Samsung research and development in Texas, proposes creating a network of 4,600 micro-satellites, to bring low-cost internet to everyone.

The proposed network of satellites could deliver internet access faster than ground-based networks, writes Khan. These micro-satellites would orbit between 160 kilometers and 2,000 kilometers in altitude and handle traffic up to a zettabyte per month, or about 200GB per month for 5 billion users. (8/13)

Joint Russian/European ExoMars Launch Scheduled for January (Source: Interfax)
Russia has set a launch date for the ExoMars mission. Russian officials said the launch of the ExoMars orbiter, developed by the European Space Agency in cooperation with Russia, is scheduled for Jan. 7, 2016, on a Proton rocket from Baikonur. Launch preparations will affect other Proton launches from the spaceport, as the Russian space agency Roscosmos decided not to carry out an Proton launches in December. That will push back the commercial launch of the Eutelsat 9B satellite from late 2015 until some time after the ExoMars launch. (9/3)

Lunar Soil Samples Breaking Down Since 1970s (Source:
Lunar soil samples returned by the Apollo missions are crumbling into dust. A recent study found that the median particle size in one set of lunar samples was less than half that when first measured in the 1970s. Scientists believe that water vapor in the Earth's atmosphere is breaking down the particles, and that the samples currently available for study — about one-sixth of the overall cache of rocks and soils returned by the Apollo mission — should no longer be considered pristine. (9/3)

KSC on the Cusp of Launching Astronauts (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Over the past several years, NASA Kennedy Space Center has transformed into a 21st-century multiuser spaceport with modernized infrastructure for more cost-effective operations that is now capable of serving multiple government and commercial users. We are on the cusp of launching astronauts into orbit from the Space Coast for the first time since 2011. Click here. (9/3)

New Observatory Aims to Put Iranian Astronomy on the Map (Source: Science)
As the sun sets on an early August evening at this 3600-meter peak in central Iran, village lights shimmer in the distance and the temperature plummets. Alireza Behnam, a physicist, ducks into a cozy trailer parked at the site and heats water for tea. His immediate task on the mountain is to study the weather. His larger goal: help his country recapture some of its past astronomical glory.

A millennium ago, when Europe was in its Dark Ages, Persia and the rest of the Muslim world were dotted with observatories. Copernicus even drew on the meticulous records of planetary motion from the observatory at Maragheh in northwestern Iran for his proposal that Earth revolves around the sun. That astronomical tradition is due to resume next spring, not far from Behnam’s trailer, as construction begins on the $30 million Iranian National Observatory (INO), a 3.4-meter optical telescope. (9/3)

Crowded House! International Crew Arrives at Space Station (Source:
Three new crewmembers arrived at the International Space Station early Friday morning, boosting the orbiting lab's population to a level not seen since late 2013. A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying cosmonaut Sergey Volkov, the European Space Agency's Andreas Mogensen and Kazakhstan's Aidyn Aimbetov docked with the space station's Poisk module at 3:39 a.m. EDT Friday, two days after blasting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (9/4)

SpaceX's Grounding Turns Spotlight to Launch Competitors (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
As Elon Musk and SpaceX work to resolve problems that caused a Falcon 9 rocket explosion in June, another tycoon's company is getting ready to step into the limelight at Cape Canaveral. Jeff Bezos, founder of, is like Musk in that he made billions of dollars from Internet companies and then started a rocket company.

Bezos is expected to be at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport on Sept. 15 to announce his Blue Origin company will launch its New Shepard rockets there. He possibly also will reveal plans for rocket processing, assembly or even manufacturing for the Space Coast. The New Shepard, twice test-launched from Blue Origin's private launch complex in west Texas, is designed as a reusable, suborbital vehicle that one day could carry tourist passengers.

If Blue Origin enters the Cape Canaveral arena, it would have three private rocket companies, including SpaceX and United Launch Alliance. But Blue Origin may be years from launching. So for now, that leaves just ULA, which just launched an Atlas V on Wednesday to carry a Navy satellite into space. It has three more launches scheduled this year. Click here. (9/3)

Nelson Stirs Controversy with Comments on Shiloh Launch Site (Source: Daytona Beach News Journal)
The Shiloh site straddling the Volusia-Brevard county line appears out of the running as a spaceport site, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Wednesday, but many lobbying to bring the aerospace industry here disagreed with the Congressman's claim. "Shiloh is not going to become a spaceport," the Orlando Democrat said.

The statement came as a shock to many in attendance including Joe Coury, chairman of Space Volusia, a group of local chamber members, elected officials and businesses working to attract a portion of the rapidly growing commercial space industry to Volusia County.

"That's the first time I've heard anyone say that's not going to happen," Coury said later Wednesday. If Senator Nelson was talking about current market conditions, then he's right, Coury said. But if an environmental review of the site turns out favorable, he said, then "Shiloh stays on the table." (9/3)

A Glass for Enjoying Whisky in Space (Source: New York Times)
When space tourism finally takes off and the rich and famous head off for a holiday in orbit, they may want to sip something stronger than Tang as they gaze down at Earth. Click here. (9/3)

Russia Eyes Moon for Hi-Tech Lunar Base (Source: Sputnik)
More than four decades after humans last walked on the moon, Russian space agency Roscosmos is sending a robotic spacecraft to the moon to scope out potential locations for a planned lunar base. The high-tech base would feature living quarters for cosmonauts, laboratories, a launching and landing port for spacecraft, and even an astronomy observatory, Tech Insider reported. (9/3)

Is There a Planet X, a ‘Massive Perturber,’ Hidden Beyond Pluto? (Source: Washington Post)
Astronomers so far have detected about 1,500 icy bodies in the Kuiper Belt, according to Scott Sheppard, an astronomer with the Carnegie Institution of Washington. A few of them are big enough to rank as "dwarf planets." And there may be something much bigger lurking out there in the dark, says Sheppard. There are tantalizing hints of a hidden planet that's bigger than Pluto, perhaps even bigger than the Earth -- potentially Neptune-sized.

“I think there are definitely things out there bigger than Pluto that are yet to be discovered,” Sheppard told us. Sheppard and Chad Trujillo  of the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii  believe  “a massive outer Solar System perturber may exist.” Their paper reported discovery of what appears to be a dwarf planet, dubbed 2012 VP113 (nicknamed “Biden”), that's currently about three times farther from the sun than is Pluto -- out beyond Kuiper Belt. In describing this new world, the astronomers noted that a number of large, very remote objects share a similar orbital angle. That's suspicious if you're an astronomer expecting to see a random distribution of objects. (9/3)

Particle Collider Spits Out Tiny Drops of Primordial Goo (Source: Discovery)
A US-based laboratory has produced tiny droplets of a state of matter that existed in the first few milliseconds after the Big Bang after slamming particles together at close to the speed of light. The matter, known as a quark-gluon plasma (or QGP), is predicted to exist when temperatures and densities are so extreme that regular matter cannot exist. Instead, a “perfect liquid” exists for a short time before it cools and condenses into the regular stuff that forms the building blocks of matter. (9/3)

Spaceport America Open House Oct. 3, Limited to 200 Vehicles (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Spaceport America will host an open house event free to the public on Oct. 3. Reservations are required to join in the Spaceport America Open House Day. The first 200 personal vehicles to register will be confirmed on a first-come, first-served basis via the Spaceport America website and vehicles must have at least two passengers.

The first 100 personal vehicles will be allowed to drive in and park inside the Spaceport America site from 9 a.m. to noon. The second wave of 100 personal vehicles will be allowed to drive in from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Regional food vendors with food trucks are also urged to apply to participate at the Spaceport America Open House on Oct. 3. (9/3)

SETI’s Top Astrobiologist Has a Plan to Find Life on Mars (Source: WIRED)
If there were life on Mars, we’d know about it by now. Surely. Right? Not according to Nathalie Cabrol, an astrobiologist at the SETI Institute. “It’s been so difficult,” she says. “Because we haven’t looked yet!” Planetary scientists have been gathering information—on Mars’ geological evolution, its climate, whether the planet was habitable in the past—in order to prepare for the time when a mission will be dispatched with the explicit intent of actually finding life.

That mission may finally come in 2020, when NASA plans to send its next rover to Mars. Until then, though, Cabrol has a lot to do at home. First order of business: leading SETI’s scavenger hunt for life. Click here. (9/3)

Craig Technologies Hosts STEM Showcase on Manufacturing Day (Source: Craig)
Craig Technologies announced plans today to observe the nationally celebrated Manufacturing Day on Friday, October 2nd with a STEM Showcase designed to highlight local educational resources specific to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.
Invited organizations from the local community will furnish interactive displays showing a variety of STEM-related educational resources and enrichment activities available to the public. The showcase is being held at Craig Technologies Headquarters, 8550 Astronaut Blvd. in Cape Canaveral, from 2:00-6:00pm. (9/3)

What Happened to Early Mars' Atmosphere (Source: Space Daily)
Scientists may be closer to solving the mystery of how Mars changed from a world with surface water billions of years ago to the arid Red Planet of today. A new analysis of the largest known deposit of carbonate minerals on Mars suggests that the original Martian atmosphere may have already lost most of its carbon dioxide by the era of valley network formation. (9/3)

At KSC, Boeing to Unveil New Crew Capsule Name (Source: Florida Today)
Boeing's commercial jets have been known as the “Queen of the Skies,” “Triple Seven” and “Dreamliner.” At Kennedy Space Center on Friday, the company plans to unveil the name of its first commercial crew spacecraft, a crew capsule so far labeled CST-100, short for Crew Space Transportation-100, that is being developed to fly astronauts to the International Space Station. (9/3)

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