October 16, 2015

Drug Could Repair Microgravity Health Damage (Source: Discovery)
Changes in cell shape from extended exposure to microgravity can change different gene sequences that activate biochemical pathways — altering cell functions such as differentiation as cells divide. But there could be drugs created to counteract these effects, if they are found to be detrimental in the first place.

“It is well known that some natural compounds, like melatonin, are able to act as a cytoskeleton modulator,” said Palombo. “In particular, in our experimental setup, we aimed to investigate if melatonin could counteract microgravity effects on cytoskeleton, in order to hypothesize its potential pharmacological use for astronauts.”

Astronauts are already taking drugs these days to counteract bone loss, according to the research team. In addition to Vitamin D, calcium and lots of exercise (roughly two hours a day including setup time), they are encouraged to take bisphosphonate, a therapeutic agent that has been used to treat osteoporosis patients. (10/16)

OneWeb Pledges Vigilance on Orbital Debris Issue (Source: Space News)
Start-up satellite Internet provider OneWeb Ltd. on Oct. 15 said they will go far beyond what international guidelines recommend to reduce the chances that its 720-satellite constellation will create orbital debris. The measures include provisioning extra fuel to deorbit its satellites at the end of their lives, including a mechanical fixture on the satellites to permit easier grappling by future debris-clearing hardware, and assuring that except in rare cases of failure all satellites are out of orbit no more than five years after retirement. (10/15)

Bloostar and Other SmallSat Launchers Look to Fill a Need (Source: Space News)
According to a SpaceWorks study published in 2014, over 2000 nano/micro-satellites under 50 kg will need to be launched by 2020. Several of the companies interested in fulfilling that need presented their ideas at the International Astronautical Congress in Israel, including Zero 2 Infinity launching its new SmallSat launcher called Bloostar.

Other notable presentations at a Thursday afternoon session titled Small Launchers: Concepts and Operations were by Virgin Galactic, Dynetics and Interstellar Technologies Inc. They aren't the only companies interested in this growing market. There's also Firefly Space Systems, Rocket Labs, Generation Orbit and CubeCab. The one commonality between all the companies? None have yet to launch and most are still looking for funding to complete development of their launchers. Click here. (10/15)

Space Florida and FSGC Fund Florida University Space Research Projects (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida and the NASA Florida Space Grant Consortium (FSGC) have announced the 2015-2016 winners of the Florida Space Research Program (FSRP). The project launched in 2007 to increase statewide academic participation in space education, research, training and engineering programs. This year’s FSRP added a new category of NASA-KSC technology development. The program included a total investment of more than $592,000 in Florida research from FSGC, Space Florida, and university matching funds. Click here. (10/16)

China and the Moon Loom Large Yet Distant for Bolden, Woerner (Source: Space News)
The heads of the U.S. and European space agencies arrived at the 66th International Astronautical Congress with opposite problems they were powerless to resolve. NASA's Charles Bolden was forced to confront and explain a reality — U.S. government policy barring most space cooperation with China — that he did not advocate and clearly does not like but cannot reverse, and that pursues him to each international venue he attends.

The China policy has the effect of a sack of dead fish any time he is outside the U.S. At this point, most space industry officials know the situation but cannot help but asking: Charlie, what’s with the fish? For ESA Director-General Johann-Dietrich Woerner, the situation was very different. Instead of a reality he would prefer to avoid, Woerner has a dream — Moonvillage — that for the moment exists nowhere except in his imagination. (10/16)

New Details of Chinese Space Weapons Revealed (Source: Washington Times)
A forthcoming report by the congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission provides new details of China’s space-weapons programs, dubbed counterspace arms, that are aimed at destroying or jamming U.S. satellites and limiting American combat operations around the world.

“China is pursuing a broad and robust array of counterspace capabilities, which includes direct-ascent anti-satellite missiles, co-orbital anti-satellite systems, computer network operations, ground-based satellite jammers and directed energy weapons,” a late draft of the commission’s annual report states. “China’s nuclear arsenal also provides an inherent anti-satellite capability.”

China military planners expect to use a combination of kinetic, electronic and cyber attacks against satellites or ground support structures in a conflict. Two direct-ascent missiles capable of hitting satellites in both lower and higher orbits are under development, the SC-19 and the DN-2. Anti-satellite missile tests were carried out as recently as last year. (10/16)

Chinese Naga-L Rocket, at Foreign Spaceport, Would Turn Tables on U.S. Export Ban (Source: Space News)
China’s launch-vehicle manufacturer, frustrated with a longstanding U.S. government ban on the export of U.S.-built satellite parts to China, is designing a rocket that would be exported in an attempt to escape the law’s reach. The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) said it had started negotiations with authorities in Indonesia, Sweden and Tanzania about hosting the Naga-L rocket.

The two-stage Naga-L, whose basic version will be priced at $10 million per launch, is designed to appeal to owners of small satellites headed to low Earth orbit. It is based on components used for heavier-lift versions of China’s Long March rocket family and will be capable of placing a 600-kilogram satellite into an 800-kilometer polar low Earth orbit, without using an orbit-raising stage, if launched from Indonesia. (10/16)

Chasing Wormholes: The Hunt for Tunnels in Space-Time (Source: Space.com)
Science fiction literature is full of stories in which tunnels in space-time — known as wormholes — are used for time travel. How much fact lies within the fiction? The answer is, more than you might think. Scientists are looking at ways to use traversable wormholes (if they exist) to travel faster than the speed of light — and even to travel through time itself.

"A traversable wormhole is a hyperspace tunnel, also called a throat, that connects together two remotely distant regions within our universe, or two different universes — if other universes exist — or two different periods in time, as in time travel, or different dimensions of space," physicist Eric Davis told Space.com by email.

Davis specializes in the field of space-time as a member of the Tau Zero Foundation, where he uses equations from Einstein's general theory of relativity to think about possible (or impossible) designs for traversable wormholes, warp drives and time machines. (10/16)

Is it Ethical to Colonize Mars? (Source: CNN)
With the recent NASA announcement of liquid water flowing on Mars and the movie "The Martian" making a splash at the box office, we might well ask whether humans should go to Mars. There is almost no chance that Mars has intelligent life and for decades we earthlings have dreamed of living on Mars. But let's think about this from an ethical point of view. What is the moral value of native Martian life vs. creating a "backup Earth"?

The discovery of native life on Mars -- even if it is only the most primitive microbes -- would be one of the most important scientific discoveries in human history. Sound improbable? NASA does not think so; in fact, determining if life ever arose on Mars is its first goal for Mars exploration. Should we respect native Martian life forms if we find them? Most likely they would be microscopic. On Earth, we kill microbes all the time. So is it wrong to go to another planet and mess with the natives? After all, if that had happened to Earth in the past, we might not exist. (10/15)

What NASA's Doing to Help Mars Astronauts Fight Stress (Source: C/Net)
NASA and other space agencies are on a mission to bring humans to Mars as early as the 2030s. It's an exciting prospect, but it will be a physically and psychologically stressful endeavor for those making the journey, NASA reminds us in a video released Thursday titled "The Human Challenges of Mars: Stress."

Astronauts spend long periods crammed into small spaces, millions of miles away from friends and family, and they'll have to conduct critical tasks under tight deadlines. All this, plus living in a weightless environment, can lead to depression, fatigue, lack of motivation, irritability and changes in sleep patterns. Click here. (10/16)

Israel Aerospace Industries Sharpens its Satellite Export Focus (Source: Space News)
Israel Aerospace Industries, in its first satellite export contract, has sold a high-resolution optical imaging spacecraft to an unnamed government, IAI officials said. Sharpening its export focus, Tel Aviv-based IAI is also introducing an all-electric version of its Amos telecommunications satellite line, Amos-E, which the company said is aimed at a market of customers needing 10-20 transponders to maintain an orbital slot. (10/15)

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