November 5, 2015

‘Alien Megastructure’ Update: SETI Telescope Detects No Sign of E.T. Yet (Source: GeekWire)
The SETI Institute says it hasn’t detected any alien radio signals coming from a star whose light seems to be dimming in a weird way, but it’s too early to determine what kind of phenomenon is behind the pattern.

The star, which is known as KIC 8462852 and lies about 1,500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus, has been the focus of otherworldly buzz for the past month due to anomalous observations gathered by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. Kepler’s data suggested that the star goes dramatically dim on an irregular schedule, at intervals ranging from five to 80 days.

Astronomers said the best natural explanation for the effect appeared to be a swarm of comets that just happened to be passing across the star’s disk when Kepler was looking. But one research team, led by Penn State astronomer Jason Wright, speculated that the effect could be caused by an alien megastructure that was being built around the star. (11/5)

NASA Can’t Prove Contractor's Auto Repairs at KSC Were Unneeded (Source: Law360)
A federal contractor struck back in Florida federal court Tuesday against a government suit alleging it filed more than 1,000 fraudulent claims for work, arguing the United States hasn’t proven the vehicle maintenance it performed on NASA cars was unnecessary.

URS Federal Services Inc. said in a motion to dismiss that the government’s claims that it schemed to file $387,000 in false claims for tire changes for a fleet of General Services Administration cars used by NASA without explaining how it knew the changes were gratuitous. (11/4)

Rocket Lab Selects Alaska Aerospace for Electron Launch Range Safety (Source: Space Daily)
Rocket Lab has announced they have selected Alaska Aerospace Corporation (AAC) to provide range safety support for their upcoming Electron launches in 2016. AAC's core business area is space launch. It developed, owns, and operates the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska (PSCA), a state-of-the-industry spaceport that provides access to planetary orbital space for commercial and government customers.

"AAC brings a critical component to our launch program by providing essential range safety capabilities during our initial development phase. This will allow Rocket Lab to control launch costs and for us to invest in development of an Autonomous Flight Termination System designed to provide a lower cost launch alternative for future commercial operations." said Peter Beck, Rocket Lab CEO.

AAC will also be providing support to Rocket Lab in the development of their Range Safety Data Package and working with the US Federal Aviation Administration, Office of Commercial Space Transportation, in securing Rocket Lab's US Launch Operators License. (11/5)

Rocket Lab's Range Choice Could Herald Eastern Range Change (Source: SPACErePORT)
By selecting the Alaska Aerospace Corp. to provide range safety services, Rocket Lab will probably take advantage of AAC's mobile range system for initial Electron launches from their New Zealand spaceport. Rocket Lab's launches from there will be licensed by the U.S. FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation. The AAC deal probably also paves the way for future Electron polar launches from Alaska's Kodiak Island spaceport.

But how might the deal impact Electron launches from Florida? The 1960s era agreement that put the Air Force in charge of range safety at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport is being reinterpreted by NASA and the Air Force to exclude commercial launches from KSC property. Because Rocket Lab plans to launch from NASA's LC-39C launch pad on KSC, the Air Force may not have a range safety role for those launches.

That means Electron launches from Florida may use a version of the AAC mobile range safety system instead of the Air Force's Eastern Range. The AAC system requires a small team of people and a smaller suite of tracking and telemetry equipment, compared to the expansive and expensive (and much more capable) Eastern Range. (11/5)

Hawaiian Airport Eyed for Commercial Space Flights (Source: Hawaii Tribune)
That’s a question that could be brought before Big Island residents close to the new year following the completion of a draft environmental assessment for a proposed spaceport certification. The environmental review is needed before the state applies for a launch site operator license with the FAA. If approved, space tourism companies then would be able to apply for their own individual licenses to use the airport.

The flights would take wealthy passengers into suborbit, where they can experience weightlessness. Jim Crisafulli, state Office of Aerospace Development director, said he anticipates public meetings regarding the findings of the review to be in Kailua-Kona early next year, possibly in January. The state could apply for the license within six months after the document is finalized, assuming a finding of no significant impact, he said. (11/5)

Houston Airport System Launches NASA Partnership to Develop Spaceport (Source: Houston Business Journal)
NASA's Johnson Space Center and the Houston Airport System announced Nov. 4 they've entered a formal partnership to work together on the development of Houston's spaceport at Ellington Airport. The Space Act Agreement, as it's called, is a five-year deal that officially allows NASA to work with the HAS at Ellington. Under the broadly framed deal, NASA will be able to provide safety training, engineering capabilities, operations support and other services. (11/5)

Aerojet-Powered Rocket Fails in Maiden Flight in Hawaii (Source: Sacramento Bee)
An experimental rocket with engines built by Aerojet Rocketdyne failed its maiden flight Tuesday shortly after launch in Hawaii, according to the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base. The 67-foot-long rocket was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai at 7:45 p.m. Pacific Standard Time but crashed less than a minute into the flight.

Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc. recently reported a $38.1 million quarterly loss, largely the result of a spectacular launch pad explosion in October 2014 that forced Aerojet to pay a hefty $50 million settlement to a key customer and prompted the end of a profitable supply contract. (11/5)

Have Scientists Found Evidence of a Parallel Universe? (Source: Space Daily)
Caltech cosmologist Ranga-Ram Chary thinks he may have found evidence of a parallel universe. In a new study, published in the Astrophysical Journal, Chary suggests cosmic bruising -- one universe bumping up against another universe -- could explain an anomaly he found in the map of the cosmic microwave background.

The cosmic microwave background is the light leftover from the mess of the newly born universe, the ancient shrapnel of the Big Bang. Chary developed a cosmic microwave background map using data from the European Space Agency's Planck telescope. When he compared it with a map of the entire night sky, he found an unexplained blob of bright light.

The cosmic background features bursts of ancient light, revealing the radiation signatures of the universe just a few hundred thousand years after the Big Bang. This ancient light is the result of recombination, when electrons and protons first teamed up to create hydrogen. Because hydrogen gives off a limited range of visible light, astronomers know what colors these ancient blobs should and shouldn't be. (11/4)

NASA Seeks Fresh Team of Astronauts To 'Put Boot Prints' on Mars (Source: Sputnik)
Attention US citizens: if you’ve ever dreamt of space travel, your time may have finally come! NASA has announced it’s looking for new astronauts for a future mission to Mars, and those who have a degree in science and adequate piloting experience can try their luck and submit an application for the program. Click here. (11/4)

New Generation of Weird-Looking Space Suits Will Take Us to Mars (Source: The Conversation)
When Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov conducted the world’s first space walk in 1965, the mission nearly ended in catastrophe. After 12 minutes outside the Voskhod spacecraft, the vacuum of space had caused Leonov’s suit to inflate so much he couldn’t get through the air lock. He was forced to manually vent oxygen from inside the suit to reduce its size and get back onto the ship before the effects of decompression sickness overcame him.

Amazingly, the design of many of the space suits in use today hasn’t changed that much. The Russians still use a variant of Leonov’s one-size-fits-all suit, the Orlan M, and the Chinese use the visibly similar Feitian. And while NASA’s Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) has been updated since its initial development in the 1980s, its primary life support system dates to the Apollo missions of the 1960s. Click here. (11/4)

Event Promotes New Space on Space Coast (Source: Founders Forum)
Come explore the vast opportunities for entrepreneurs in New Space. This event will highlight emerging opportunities in the commercial space industry through a panel of experts moderated by Dale Ketcham, Chief of Strategic Alliances for Space Florida.

On the heels of the recent announcement that Blue Origin will make Florida’s Space Coast its home port for both the manufacturing and launch of reusable rockets and the expansion of SpaceX operations in Cape Canaveral, this event will showcase commercial business trends and opportunities that are relevant and unique to Central Florida and the Space Coast. Click here. (11/3)

Harris Corp Unfurlable Mesh Reflectors Deploy on MUOS Satellite (Source: SpaceRef)
Two unfurlable mesh antenna reflectors developed by Harris Corp. have successfully deployed onboard the fourth Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellite built by Lockheed Martin for the U.S. Navy. This represents the seventh and eighth successful Harris reflector deployments in the five-satellite MUOS constellation. (11/4)

U.S. Policy Change Will Give Allies Access to MUOS (Source: Space News)
The U.S. government has agreed to allow allied nations to use the high-performance payload on the U.S. Navy’s next-generation narrowband communications satellite system, which is now expected to enter into full service in the summer of 2016, a U.S. Strategic Command official said Nov. 4.

The decision comes after years of allied complaints, especially from nations that had purchased U.S.-built Joint Strike Fighter aircraft on the assumption that they would be fitted with Mobile User Objective System communications pods. (11/4)

Dark Matter May Not Always Have Been Dark (Source:
Dark matter particles may have interacted extensively with normal matter long ago, when the universe was very hot, a new study suggests. The nature of dark matter is currently one of the greatest mysteries in science. The invisible substance — which is detectable via its gravitational influence on "normal" matter — is thought to make up five-sixths of all matter in the universe.

Astronomers began suspecting the existence of dark matter when they noticed the cosmos seemed to possess more mass than stars could account for. For example, stars circle the center of the Milky Way so fast that they should overcome the gravitational pull of the galaxy's core and zoom into the intergalactic void. Most scientists think dark matter provides the gravity that helps hold these stars back. (11/4)

University of Hawaii Sees Success in Failed Rocket Launch (Source: CSM)
Hawaii’s first satellite launch failed Tuesday, shortly after blasting off from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai. The University of Hawaii, a key partner in the launch along with Sandia National Laboratories, the Pacific Missile Range Facility, and Aerojet Rocketdyne, is investigating the failure.

Despite the disappointing outcome of the launch, the University of Hawaii considers the project to be a success, university spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said. "What happened today, this is a tremendous success for the University of Hawaii, Mr. Meisenzahl said. "We had a bout 150 students doing work on this program. They built a satellite, it met every milestone and passed every test. And they delivered it on time. I know people will think of this as a failure. This is not a failure. This is a tremendous step forward." (11/4)

Can We Afford to Go to Mars? (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)
A Q&A exploring the economic and financial aspects of space exploration, including how much the U.S. spends on space exploration, the cost of the International Space Station and the potential expenses of reaching Mars. Click here. (11/4)

Supporting a "Bridge" to Mars (Source: Toronto Star)
It’s a testament to what nations can accomplish when cooperation replaces strife. As of this week, humanity has continuously staffed the International Space Station for 15 years, maintaining a foothold on what is popularly called “the final frontier.”

More than 200 people from 17 countries have visited the giant orbiting laboratory since Nov. 2, 2000, including Canadian astronauts Dave Williams, Bob Thirsk, Julie Payette and Chris Hadfield. Together they’ve conducted more than 1,760 experiments, embarked on 180 space walks, seen 16 sunrises and sunsets each day, and consumed 26,500 meals. Click here. (11/4)

SpaceShipTwo Nearly Crashed in 2011 (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The SpaceShipTwo vehicle that crashed one year ago nearly met its end three years earlier during a hair-raising flight test that was downplayed at the time, according to documents released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). According to the official account, SpaceShipTwo suffered a tail stall after being released from its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft on Sept. 29, 2011. The stall was easily remedied by deploying the vehicle’s feather mechanism, which reconfigures SpaceShipTwo’s twin tail booms for reentry.

That part is true, but something much more frightening happened to the spaceship Scaled Composites was developing and testing for Branson’s company. After being released from the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft, the ship and its three-man crew ended up upside down — in an inverted flat spin — struggling to control the vehicle as it “dropped like a rock” toward the desert floor. The admission came during interviews the NTSB conducted with Scaled Composites’ engineers regarding last October’s crash.

After deploying the feather, pilot Mark Stucky,  co-pilot Clint Nichols and flight test engineer (FTE) Wes Persall landed safely after a white-knuckle flight that lasted 7 minutes 15 seconds. It was the shortest flight in the entire flight test program. Sources say a wing setting had been configured incorrectly. They also said that the flight had been delayed many hours, resulting in a very tired crew. (11/4)

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