April 2, 2016

Blue Origin Launches, Lands Again (Source: Florida Today)
Blue Origin launched and landed the same New Shepard rocket for a third time this morning in West Texas, completing a successful test flight that carried a University of Central Florida science experiment. Jeff Bezos, the billionaire founder of Blue Origin, said the rocket's BE-3 engine had fired properly to enable a soft touchdown by the booster, followed by an unmanned crew capsule's landing under parachutes. "Flawless BE-3 restart and perfect booster landing," Bezos said on Twitter. "[Crew capsule] chutes deployed." (4/2)

UCF Experiment Flown on Blue Origin Rocket Test (Source: UCF)
A University of Central Florida experiment designed to mimic impacts between objects in microgravity flew aboard the April 2 flight of Blue Origin’s reusable New Shepard space vehicle. Click here for a video description of the experiment. (4/2)

China Is Winning the 21st Century Space Race (Source: Fortune)
At a cost of more than $150 billion, the International Space Station (ISS) is the most expensive object ever built. This price tag is more than double thecombined costs of China’s Three Gorges Dam, Boston’s Big Dig, and theChunnel. But as noted by CNN, funding for the ISS may run out in the early 2020s.

That happens to be around the same time that the Chinese are expected to complete their own space station, potentially leaving the Asian power with the sole operating lab in the heavens. And given that Congress banned NASA from working bilaterally with anyone from the Chinese space program, it’s unclear if American astronauts will be welcome. Click here. (3/31)

Yuri's Night Events Gear Up (Source: Yuri's Night)
Yuri’s Night is a global celebration of humanity’s past, present, and future in space. Yuri’s Night parties and events are held around the world every April in commemoration of Yuri Gagarin becoming the first human to venture into space on April 12, 1961, and the inaugural launch of the first Space Shuttle on April 12, 1981.

Yuri’s Night events combine space-themed partying with education and outreach. These events can range from an all-night mix of techno and technology at a NASA Center, to a movie showing and stargazing at your local college, to a gathering of friends at a bar or barbecue. Seven Florida events are currently registered for Yuri's Night (between Apr. 9-16). Click here for a list. (4/2)

Countdown Begins for Florida Vacationauts (Source: WeAreGo)
We Are Go Florida is launching our Vacationaut Program. Sign up for program updates, first access to the online experience and app, and chances to win cool space swag. Click here. (4/1)

Meet the Astronaut Who Discovered Why You Throw Up After Drinking Too Much (Source: Newsweek)
Ken Money has one impressive resume. For starters, he’s an Olympic high jumper turned astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency. He never made it to space, but he did take several rides in NASA’s “vomit comets,” giant cargo planes that climb and dive to simulate zero gravity. His research from his first job probably came in handy on those flights. Money also published over a hundred articles as a scientist.

His expertise: motion sickness and the inner ear, the understanding of which remains critical to improving virtual reality technology. One of Money’s great discoveries was proving that alcohol sickness is actually a form of motion sickness. That makes sense when you consider how the world seems to spin after you’ve had too many drinks. Click here. (4/2)

The Ultimate List of Weapons Astronauts Have Carried Into Orbit (Source: Gizmodo)
Have you ever worried how real astronauts or cosmonauts can defend themselves or render harmless hostile life forms? What if an alien breaks into the International Space Station? Or a crew member loses his or her mind and goes berserk? The following set of images will put your mind to ease: aspacemen always carry some kind of weapon or at least a special tool which can be used as a weapon. Click here. (4/2)

CASIS Had a Bad Week in Washington (Source: NASA Watch)
CASIS (Center for Advancement of Science in Space, Inc.) came to Washington last week to talk about their management of science and commercial activity aboard the International Space Station National Laboratory. The first stop for CASIS was an event at the National Academy of Sciences on low Earth orbit commerce on Wednesday. The presentation that CASIS gave was their standard Powerpoint chart collection totally lacking in any meaningful information other than what you'd expect to see in a brochure.

The next day the CASIS entourage, led by President and Executive Director Greg Johnson, showed up at the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) meeting. Things did not go so well for them at the NAC. Within minutes of starting to talk, NAC members started to pepper Johnson with questions- questions that he was unable and/or unwilling to answer. It went downhill from there.

The CASIS presentation to the NAC did not provide the basic answers that the NAC membership sought. Committee members repeatedly asked CASIS' Johnson what the CASIS budget was, where it came from, and how much money CASIS had raised. You could hear the growing frustration in the voices of the NAC members the more that CASIS dodged their questions. Eventually CASIS' Johnson admitted that their budget was $15 million a year and that it all comes from NASA. Click here. (4/1)

NASA’s Building A Spaceport, Despite Obama’s Best Efforts (Source: Daily Caller)
NASA is about to build the spaceport that will take Americans to Mars, despite President Obama’s best efforts to stymie the plan. The spaceport is designed to service and launch the Space Launch System rocket (SLS) and the Orion capsule, which will carry NASA astronauts to Mars.

Obama has repeatedly attempted to cut the budget of both SLS, Orion and the rest of NASA’s space exploration programs, even outright threatening to veto them so that the money could be redirected to study global warming. Editor's Note: Seriously? I thought conservative pundits had moved past these kinds of misinformed complaints. (4/2)

Dreamsville: No Dream Chaser Landings in Florida? (Source: SpaceKSC)
The Huntsville Times reports that Sierra Nevada Corp. officials told their city officials the cargo version of the Dream Chaser will land, for now, only in Huntsville. Huntsville is “the only community” where Colorado space company Sierra Nevada is planning to land its Dream Chaser spaceship anytime soon, company officials said Thursday.

There's no doubt Dream Chaser will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V booster from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Launch Complex 41. The spaceplane design gives SNC's customers the flexibility to land at any runway of sufficient length. Although Kennedy Space Center's former Shuttle runway would seem a logical landing site, the Space Station Processing Facility is geared primarily to prepare experiments for launch, not post-flight analysis.

If Dream Chaser lands in Huntsville, it will need to be transported back to KSC for inspection and refurbishment before another flight. Sierra Nevada signed a deal in 2014 to use KSC's Operations & Checkout building for Dream Chaser, but that was when SNC was still bidding for a commercial crew contract. That competition was lost. With a commercial cargo contract won in January 2016, presumably that version of Dream Chaser will also go in the O&C. (4/1)

Lockheed Martin Joins Race to Build Hypersonic Jetliners (Source: Washington Post)
Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson said the company is developing technologies that would “allow quicker response times to increasingly mobile threats, and the ability to project strength more rapidly around the globe.” Lockheed is working on two programs with DARPA. While she did not mention it by name, the company is currently developing the SR-72, a follow-on to the Blackbird, at its notoriously secretive Skunk Works division. The unmanned aircraft would fly at Mach 6.

She also said that the efforts could also “enable hypersonic passenger flights, and even easier access to space.” In addition to its work with DARPA, the company also recently won a $20 million NASA contract to help design a passenger jet that could travel faster than the speed of sound. But unlike the Concorde, which unleashed a sonic boom every time it crested the sound barrier, the new plane would be much quieter, emitting what NASA calls “a supersonic ‘heartbeat’ — a soft thump.” (3/25)

Tardigrades Not So Alien After All (Source: Meta)
In Nov. 2015, tardigrades added another claim to fame to their list of superlatives when a study was published in PNAS claiming that 17% of the tardigrade genome was made up of foreign DNA, acquired through horizontal gene transfer. Horizontal gene transfer occurs when genetic material is transferred between organisms without reproduction and is prominent among microscopic organisms. However, low levels of foreign DNA are common and comprise 0.5% of genes in primates.

A recent study from researchers at the University of Edinburgh put this bold claim to the test and found no evidence of extensive foreign DNA in tardigrades. The authors of the new study have concluded that horizontal gene transfer accounted for 1-2% of genes at most, a percentage much more in line with previous estimates. (4/2)

Florida Tops Other Large States in Job Growth (Source: Gov. Rick Scott)
Governor Rick Scott announced that Florida businesses had the highest private-sector job growth rate of the 10 most populous states in February. This is the 14th consecutive month that Florida has led the nation’s largest states in job creation. Florida’s private-sector job growth rate of 3.4 percent is also significantly higher than the nation’s, which is at 2.2 percent.

This is the tenth consecutive month that Florida has created more private-sector jobs over the year than Texas. Florida created 235,200 jobs over the last year, while Texas created only 142,800 jobs. Since December 2010, Florida businesses have created 1,056,000 private-sector jobs. In February, the unemployment rate was 4.9 percent, Florida’s lowest rate in eight years. (4/1)

More States Deploying Drones (Source: Inside Bay Area)
That buzzing sound overhead may soon signal the arrival of the 21st-century version of a guy in a hardhat and bucket truck. State transportation departments are increasingly studying the use of drones for everything from inspecting bridges to clearing car accidents. Thirty three states have studied or used drones, helped develop drone polices, or aided in drone research. (4/1)

Ancient Site Spotted From Space Could Rewrite History of Vikings in North America (Source: Washington Post)
The ancient chronicles told of a larger-than-life Viking warrior with a shock of red hair, banished from his home for killing another man, who sailed with hundreds of followers to an icy island in the sea. And they told of his son, who set out only a few years later to an even more distant place he knew as “Vinland,” but which today’s historians believe were the eastern coasts of modern day Canada and the United States.

To date, the sagas have only led archaeologists to one actual, verified Norse historical site in the New World — the 1000-year-old seaside settlement L’Anse aux Meadows on the northernmost tip of Newfoundland. It would take 55 years and a view from space to track down a possible second one. The new archaeological find, announced Thursday, offers tantalizing evidence of a Viking presence 300 miles from the only place in Canada they’d ever been seen before. (4/1)

Blue Origin’s Craziest Spaceship Test Flight Yet (Source: Geek Wire)
Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos says his Blue Origin rocket venture will put its New Shepard suborbital spaceship to its sternest test to date: a flight that involves a quick restart of the craft’s rocket engine just six seconds before projected impact. If the restart doesn’t work on Saturday, the third flight of the reusable New Shepard will end with a fiery splat.

The mere fact of Bezos’ announcement is almost as remarkable as the flight plan. Previously, he might have said in advance that a flight would happen “very soon,” or the timing could have been figured out by checking the required notice from the Federal Aviation Administration. But today’s tweets represent the first time Bezos has publicly specified the date of a Blue Origin test flight in advance. (4/1)

An Oasis in the Brown Dwarf Desert (Source: SDSS)
Scientists report a wellspring of new brown dwarf stellar companions, throwing cold water on the entire idea of the “brown dwarf desert,” the previously mystifying lack of these sub-stellar objects around stars. Most stars in our Galaxy have a traveling companion. Often, these companions are stars of similar mass, as is the case for our nearest stellar neighbors, the triple star system Alpha Centauri. Click here. (3/1)

ASAP Concerned NASA is Taking Risks to Meet Orion Schedule (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
NASA’s key advisory body has warned the agency that schedule pressure, in combination with cost pressure, is causing compromises that carry additional risk. Focusing on the Orion spacecraft, NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) claimed NASA is “taking risk after risk” to meet the schedule for Orion’s opening missions.

The ASAP – chaired by VADM (Ret.) Joseph Dyer – is known as a “conservative” group of experts with a mandate to promote the highest level of crew safety when it come to spaceflight. The panel’s recommendations are usually respected, although they are mainly – as the group’s name suggests – advisory in nature. Nonetheless, ASAP has a large amount of influence, and their findings are sent directly to NASA’s Administrator.

Having now completed the first quarterly ASAP meeting of 2016 at the Kennedy Space Center, a letter was sent to NASA head Charlie Bolden earlier this month outlining the ASAP’s most-recent set of recommendations, including several references to the risks associated with schedule and cost pressures. (4/1)

First Flight of Angara A5V Launch Vehicle May Take Place in 2026 (Source: Tass)
Russia’s Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center (a branch of Roscosmos) has prepared and sent for examination to the specialized organization a preliminary design of the Angara A5V heavy-class carrier rocket the first flight of which is scheduled for 2026. The timeframe of the first flight of the launch vehicle is significantly different from the original date Roscosmos had previously announced - 2023.

"The beginning of the rocket’s tests in 2026 may postpone the start of a manned mission to the Moon until 2035, as many things should be done between the date of the first launch of Angara A5V and the start of the lunar mission," the newspaper writes. The Angara A5V payload capacity will be 38 tons. The Angara project includes three Angara A5 rockets, an Angara-A5P (manned) and Angara A5V (with increased lift capacity). (4/1)

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