January 2, 2016

Merritt Island High School’s da Vinci Academy Closes 2015 With Honors (Source: Space Coast Daily)
The da Vinci Academy of Aerospace Technology at Merritt Island High School closed out 2015 with four exciting honors. First, the academy received an $8,000 grant from the Lockheed Martin Corporation. The funds will be used to support the purchase of supplies for the academy’s Project-Lead-the-Way engineering curriculum and to assist in funding several off-campus activities.

“We are very thankful to Lockheed Martin for this grant,” Charles Parker, academy director said. “Our curriculum is hands-on and supplies are the life blood of the program. This money will really go a long way as we continue to provide our students with a quality program.” As well, students will be attending E-Week activities in February in Brevard County, at the University of Florida, and at the University of South Florida.
Second, Da Vinci won a Northrop Grumman Foundation Team Grant to start a VEX Robotics team. Besides Northrop Grumman, the grant is supported by The Harris Corporation, NASA, and the REC Foundation. The academy’s Principles of Engineering class will be building a robot and competing in regional competitions. (1/2)

24 Florida Launches on Initial Manifest for 2016 (Source: SPACErePORT)
After 18 missions launched in 2015, the Cape Canaveral Spaceport is currently expected to accommodate 24 launches in 2016. (Annual manifests are famously subject to change, with substantial reductions due to technical problems with the launch vehicles, launch pads, payloads, and range safety systems.) This initial manifest will include 12 Falcon missions (two of the Falcon-Heavy variety), nine Atlas-5 missions, and three Delta-4 missions (one of the Delta-Heavy variety). Click here for a worldwide manifest. (1/1)

NASA Analyzes Paraguay's Heavy Rainfall (Source: Space Daily)
Widespread flooding has recently affected South America and Paraguay has been especially hard hit. A NASA analysis showed locations in central and southern Paraguay that received the largest rainfall totals from Dec. 23 to 29. In Paraguay, the Department of Meteorology and Hydrology (DMH) and the Emergencies Office have attributed this late-summer flooding to this year's strong El Nino phenomenon. (12/31)

NASA Uncertain How to Proceed in Developing Deep Space Module (Source: Examiner)
One of the provisions of the new NASA spending bill, which provided a hefty $1.3 billion boost to the space agency’s budget, is a mandate to build a prototype habitation module for deep space exploration by 2018. Space News suggested on Monday that NASA is uncertain how to proceed with this sudden largess. Quite some time has passed since the space agency has gotten more money than expected and been told to speed up the development of an item of hardware. Usually, the opposite happens, with accompanying delays and increases in overall costs.

Thus far it had been funding a number of studies by private companies. “Under its Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships, or NextSTEP, program, NASA awarded study contracts in March to Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Orbital ATK to study habitat designs. It also awarded contracts to Dynetics, Hamilton Sundstrand and Orbital Technologies Corp. for specific module technologies, such as life support systems.”

The contracts, each worth $1 million, were let out in March 2015 and were due to last a year. Then NASA planned to use the results of the studies to move forward to the next phase. That next phase could mean having commercial companies build prototypes. The space agency could even build the prototype in house. What Congress is thinking by speeding up the development of a habitation module is unclear. Click here. (12/30)

China Readies for Space Warfare (Source: Space Daily)
The Chinese military is undergoing a gradual shift to cyber and space warfare, and the move is more visible now as a new command structure has been created. After testing an anti-satellite weapon last fall, China moved one step forward in its preparations for future warfare, with the emergence of a brand-new Space Force, as reported by Washington Times.

In the event of an armed conflict, the Chinese military expects to use a combination of kinetic, electronic and cyber-attacks against satellites and ground support structures, the Times described earlier. The Space Force will be an integral part of the new Strategic Support Forces, to include not only space warfare units, but also Chinese nuclear forces as well as electronic- and cyber-warfare troops, and signals intelligence units. (1/1)

SpaceX's First Reusable Rocket is Back in its Hangar (Source: Engadget)
Now the rocket is back in its hangar at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and after showing no damage from its trip, is "ready to fire again." Click here. (12/31)

The Wonders of Deep Space: Scientists on the Hunt for Alien Molecules (Source: Salon)
Something strange was hiding in the Horsehead. The nebula, named for its stallionlike silhouette, is a towering cloud of dust and gas 1,500 light-years from Earth where new stars are continually born. It is one of the most recognizable celestial objects, and scientists have studied it intensely. But in 2011 astronomers from the Institute of Millimeter Radioastronomy (IRAM) and elsewhere probed it again.

With IRAM’s 30-meter telescope in the Spanish Sierra Nevada, they homed in on two portions of the horse’s mane in radio light. They weren’t interested in taking more pictures of the Horsehead; instead, they were after spectra—readings of the light broken down into their constituent wavelengths, which reveal the chemical makeup of the nebula. Click here. (1/1)

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