January 9, 2016

RocketStar Tests Aerospike Rocket Prototype in Florida (Source: SPACErePORT)
A team from New York-based RocketStar has conducted a test launch of a scale model prototype rocket. The test rocket, featuring a 3-D printed aerospike nozzle, launched Saturday morning from a field near the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in Central Florida. The company plans to launch full-sized rockets from Launch Complex 39C, recently developed by NASA for small-class rockets. Click here for the video and Twitter feed. (1/9)

Space Fungus! Mold Attacks Space Station Plants (Source: Discovery)
Four zinnia plants on the International Space Station are sickly or dead after mold was discovered in the Veggie experiment facility late December, according to NASA. The problem was immediately traced back to excessive water in the experiment, which was addressed. There are still three healthy plants that appear unaffected by the issue.

ISS commander and NASA astronaut Scott Kelly reported the mold to Mission Control Dec. 22 just as Veggie project manager Trent Smith was trying to manage the water problem. In pictures, Smith saw water on the plants a few days before. He told Discovery News he was trying to relay a command from NASA’s station operations team to increase fan speed in Veggie, but the mold developed before the command could be put through. (1/7)

African Space Policy Adds New Dimension for Aid (Source: SciDevNet)
With a billion people still in poverty, could rocket science be just what development needs? In October 2015, African science and education ministers adopted the continent’s first space policy. The accompanying strategy is due to be ratified by heads of state at the African Union summit later this month. The African space strategy supports building technological capacity in states not nearly in the same income bracket as India or China.

This means that development charities working in Africa will need to argue that not only can development lead to aerospace capability, which is how most people think anyway, but also that space technology can make a contribution to development. This, in turn, suggests that development agencies need to start rehearsing the benefits of space technology for development outcomes.

Ultimately this means a new frontier of collaboration between science, tech entrepreneurs and development practitioners — and NGOs may soon be expected to offer project ideas that join up national space programs with more traditional programmes. Take health and sanitation: NGOs running programs on this can expect to be asked to demonstrate space-related expertise, for instance in using satellite data to predict water shortages and how to improve access to water. (1/7)

India and the Global Spring of Space Commerce (Source: Asia Times)
In the garden city of Bangalore 9,246 miles from Cape Canaveral, exulting at Falcon 9 success was 25-year old Sanjay Nekkanti, co-founder of Dhruva Space, India’s first private company to make satellites. “My immediate thought (on Falcon 9’s first stage landing) was ‘Exciting times for space exploration,’ ” Nekkanti told Asia Times. Click here. (1/8)

'Time is Running Out' for Damaged Philae Comet Lander (Source: NBC)
It may be the end of the line for Philae, the lander sent by the Rosetta probe to survey the surface of a comet in 2014. What was going to be the first controlled landing on a comet turned out to be a bumpy ride that damaged its equipment and put it in a bad position for keeping its solar-charged batteries topped up.

The lander successfully sent data back to Earth via the probe for about two days, but since then only woke briefly in July 2015 — and the end of January is the last time it could wake again. After that, the comet — known as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko — will have grown too cold for Philae to function. (1/8)

HASC StratForces Chair Slams Air Force Space Management (Source: Breaking Defense)
The short view: Congressman slams Air Force for weather satellite fiasco. Long view: Congress, White House, Air Force, NASA, Commerce Department have all screwed up US weather satellite programs.

“We could have saved the Air Force and the Congress a lot of aggravation if we put a half of a billion dollars in a parking lot and just burned it,” Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, said at yesterday’s acquisition reform hearing. Stratforces, of course, oversees all military satellites, so Mr. Roger’s opinion carries quite a bit of weight. (1/8)

Vietnam Army Probes Mysterious 'Space Balls' (Source: AFP)
Vietnam's military is investigating the appearance of three mysterious metal balls — believed to be debris from space — which landed in the country's remote north, a senior army official said Friday. Two metal balls were discovered in northwestern Yen Bai province on January 2, said army spokesman Lieutenant General Vo Van Tuan. Later a larger ball weighing some 45 kilograms (100 pounds) landed in a maize field in neighboring Tuyen Quang province, he said. (1/8)

NASA Confirms 100 New Alien Planets (Source: National Geographic)
After being crippled by a mechanical malfunction, NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft is back in action and has found a slew of planets orbiting other stars.

Called K2, the revamped mission has already found more than 100 confirmed planets, the University of Arizona’s Ian Crossfield announced Tuesday at a conference of the American Astronomical Society. Some of these are very different from what the spacecraft observed during its original mission; many are in multi-planet systems and orbit stars that are brighter and hotter than the stars in the original Kepler field.

It has found a system with three planets that are bigger than Earth, spotted a planet in the Hyades star cluster—the nearest open star cluster to Earth—and discovered a planet being ripped apart as it orbits a white dwarf star. Scientists have also found 234 possible planets that are awaiting confirmation. (1/8)

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