August 23, 2016

NASA Mathematician Who Advanced Human Rights with a Slide Rule and Pencil (Source: Vanity Fair)
When Katherine began at NASA, she and her cohorts were known as “human computers,” and if you talk to her or read quotes from throughout her long career, you can see that precision, that humming mind, constantly at work. She is a human computer, indeed, but one with a quick wit, a quiet ambition, and a confidence in her talents that rose above her era and her surroundings. Click here. (8/23)

NASA Reestablishes Contact with Long Lost Spacecraft After Two Years of Silence (Source: The Verge)
NASA has reestablished contact with its STEREO-B spacecraft, nearly two years after losing communication with the vehicle. The space agency has been trying to get in contact with the spacecraft since October 1st, 2014, when the last signal from STEREO-B was received on Earth. Finally on Sunday, NASA was able to pick up a signal from the vehicle using the Deep Space Network, or DSN — an international network of large radio antennas used for communicating with spacecraft.

STEREO-B is one of two spacecraft that make up NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO). The goal of the program is to study the Sun and better understand its behavior. Specifically, STEREO aims to figure out the origins of coronal mass ejections — massive explosions of charged particles that sometimes shoot out from the Sun. These plasma bursts travel all the way to Earth and collide with our planet’s magnetic field, creating powerful geomagnetic storms that can damage communications satellites and mess with our planet’s power grid. (8/22)

NASA Opens Research to Public: Why That’s a Big Deal (Source: CSM)
NASA announced last Tuesday that they would be releasing hundreds of peer-reviewed, scholarly articles on NASA-funded research projects online. The articles are entirely free to access for any member of the public. The new service is a big deal for the space agency, which has been gathering scientific information on a huge variety of topics since it was established in 1958.

The move comes amid a greater push for scientists to make their research free to the public for others to learn from and to build upon. One computer programmer and research associate at the Britain's University of Bristol went as far as to call the practice of sealing scientific research behind a journal's paywall "immoral." NASA's treasure trove of scientific articles can be accessed through NASA PubSpace, where anyone can search through a library of research papers already numbering in the hundreds.

According to NASA's website, all articles in peer-reviewed scholarly journals and will now be required to be publicly accessible via PubSpace. There will be some exceptions for articles that concern national security and patents, but minus those exceptions, every future academic paper on research funded by NASA will be available to the public for free. NASA's new policy is because of a 2013 request from the Obama administration to increase public access to the results of all federally funded research. (8/22)

NASA Knows Astrobiology Will Be a Multigenerational Effort (Source: Inverse)
Earlier this month, the journal Astrobiology published The Astrobiology Primer 2.0, a guide to everything we know about the field and the followup to an original released a decade ago. Dr. Penelope Boston, Director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, said the field was “a fundamentally a multi-generational enterprise” in addition to a multi-disciplinary one. The emphasis, then, is to train bright young minds early on to understand and navigate through understanding and predicting how life in other places could arise. (8/22)

Northrop Grumman to Provide Navigation System for German Satellite (Source: Northrop Grumman)
Northrop Grumman has been awarded a contract from OHB System AG to supply the space inertial reference system for Germany's SARah satellite-based radar reconnaissance system. Northrop Grumman will supply its Scalable Space Inertial Reference Unit-L for sensor pointing/stabilization and attitude control on the SARah satellite-based radar reconnaissance system. This contract marks the first international application of the new Scalable SIRU-L configuration. (8/22)

DARPA to Establish Satellite-Servicing Consortium to Discuss On-Orbit Repair Standards (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Defense Research Projects Agency plans to establish a consortium to discuss standards and practices for on-orbit satellite servicing as a corollary to Robotic Servicing of Geostationary Satellites (RSGS), an effort to develop robotic spacecraft to inspect, repair and move other satellites.

“Our fear was that we would create a robotic servicing capability through RSGS and when our industry partner went to Lloyds of London for insurance, someone would say, ‘You have no authority to conduct that mission,’” said Brad Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office.

Through the construction and operation of the International Space Station, the international community has established laws and regulations concerning government spacecraft conducting rendezvous and proximity operations with other government spacecraft as well as government spacecraft conducting rendezvous and proximity operations with commercial spacecraft. (8/22)

U.S. Air Force’s Next Launch Contract Up for Bid? An Experimental Satellite (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force released a draft solicitation that sets up a competition between SpaceX and ULA to launch a multipurpose experimental satellite in late 2018 that’s equipped to detect nuclear detonations for the Pentagon and carry out a laser communications demonstration for NASA. Known as Space Test Program Satellite (STPSat)-6, the spacecraft will host up to eight payloads. The satellite’s primary payload is the Space and Atmospheric Burst Reporting System (SABRS),  which is designed to complement nuclear detonation detectors aboard current GPS spacecraft. (8/22)

Russia Planning Larger Cargo Craft for ISS (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Russia is developing a new cargo spacecraft to replace the venerable Progress vehicle. The unnamed vehicle would be able to carry more cargo than the Progress, allowing Russia to reduce the number of ISS cargo flights a year from four to three. The vehicle makes use of some existing systems, but is unlikely to enter service before 2020. Its development comes as Roscosmos considers reducing the size of its crew on the ISS from three to two, perhaps as soon as next year. (8/22)

Arizona Judge Refuses to Dismiss Lawsuit Counts Against World View Incentive Deal (Source: Arizona Daily Star)
A lawsuit filed against Pima county over a multi-million-dollar deal it made with a balloon spaceflight company can proceed, a judge ruled Monday. Pima County Superior Court Judge Catherine Woods denied the county’s attempt to have three of four counts in a suit brought by the conservative Goldwater Institute dismissed. Woods said she would rule on the remaining count, which alleges that the county violated the Arizona constitution’s gift clause, later.

That clause bars state government entities from giving their “credit in the aid of … any company or corporation,” among other prohibitions. In February, the board of supervisors approved a $15 million deal in which the county would build a manufacturing center, headquarters and balloon launch pad for the for-profit firm World View, which makes helium-filled balloons for space tourism and research.

Regina Nassen, a deputy county attorney, argued that the company would pay back that sum and more over the course of a 20-year lease, according to the terms of the deal. “The county gets back at least what it spends,” she said. “It is not giving anything away.” In addition to violating the gift clause, Goldwater claims that the deal, paid for with bonds called certificates of participation (COPs), also violates county code and state law regarding county leasing and competitive bidding. (8/22)

New NASA RASC-AL Competition Seeks Mars Prototype Ice Drilling Systems (Source: FSGC)
Chances are that you’ve heard of NASA’s Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts-Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) portfolio of prestigious university-level engineering design competitions. Today, NASA is pleased to unveil a new hands-on competition for 2017 – the RASC-AL Special Edition: Mars Ice Challenge. 

In 2017, NASA’s Langley Research Center (LaRC) will celebrate its centennial anniversary. As a part of the centennial celebration activities at LaRC, NASA is sponsoring a Special Edition Challenge focusing on technology demonstrations for In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) capabilities on Mars, particularly extracting water from simulated Martian subsurface ice. (8/22)

Space and Booze, an Anecdotal History (Source: Ars Technica)
NASA had and continues to have a "no alcohol" policy for orbit, but some booze has made it to space. Kluger cited Apollo 8 (1968) as the earliest example. While Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders became the first crew to travel beyond low Earth orbit and see the far side of the Moon, they were also astro-alcohol pioneers. Click here. (8/22)

Roscosmos Plans to Create New Super-Heavy Rocket by 2023 (Source: Tass)
The Roscosmos state corporation has started designing a new super-heavy-class rocket, the Izvestia daily reported. The paper said the rocket will be created in 5-7 years. "With Roscosmos rocket systems general designer Alexander Medvedev, we have been developing a super-heavy-class carrier with the use of the engine we have - RD-171; it underlies the concept of a super-heavy carrier," Energia rocket and space corporation general director Vladimir Solntsev said. (8/22)

Court Says Feds Can't Escape Lockheed California Cleanup Costs (Source: Law 360)
The D.C. Circuit on Friday ruled the federal government must share future cleanup costs for contamination at Lockheed Martin rocket plants in California, rejecting the government’s argument that it’s already indirectly paid those costs under contracts with the defense giant.

The government has questioned its liability under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act for a portion of the cost of cleaning up hazardous substances that contaminated groundwater around three California rocket manufacturing facilities owned by Lockheed Martin. (8/19)

How to Dock CubeSats (Source: Space Daily)
The ability to autonomously rendezvous and dock CubeSats could enable in-orbit assembly of larger structures that simply would not be possible in any other way. The challenge is that CubeSats are faced with tight mass, propellant and power constraints. The control accuracy necessary for docking would be on the order of a single centimeter. Click here. (8/21)

NASA Selects University Partners for Small Spacecraft Collaboration (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected eight university teams to collaborate on the development and demonstration of new technologies and capabilities for small spacecraft. Each of the university teams will be working with engineers and scientists from NASA on two-year projects beginning this fall. These collaborations are directed toward making small spacecraft, some of which weigh only a few kilograms, into powerful and affordable tools for science, exploration, and space operations.

This is the third round of projects selected under the Smallsat Technology Partnerships initiative, managed by the Small Spacecraft Technology Program within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). Eight projects that were selected in 2015 are getting ready to begin their second year, and some of the projects selected in 2013 are preparing for space flight demonstrations. Editor's Note: Among the universities are the University of Miami and the University of Florida. Click here. (8/21)

NASA Funds Plan to Turn Used Rocket Fuel Tanks Into Space Habitats (Source: IEEE Spectrum)
NASA is very good about being on the cutting edge of space exploration, but it's less good about making non-cutting edge space exploration efficient and cost effective. The agency is acutely aware of this, which is why it's been trying to get commercial carriers to handle deliveries of (now) supplies and (soon) astronauts to the ISS.

The next step is for private companies to take over space station construction for (soon) Earth orbit and (eventually) deep space. To that end, NASA has selected six partner companies to develop full-sized ground prototypes and concepts for deep space habitats, with the eventual goal of deploying habitats near the moon as a stepping stone to Mars. (8/22)

How Obama's White House Charted a New Course for NASA (Source: Planetary Society)
With a sharp blast followed by a dull roar, the first Ares rocket lifted off on a test flight from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was October 28, 2009. The skinny, candlestick launcher was part of NASA's Constellation program, created in the wake of the space shuttle Columbia accident to fulfill George W. Bush's goal of returning humans to the moon by 2020.

In part two of our Horizon Goal series on the past, present and future of NASA's human spaceflight program, we learned how Constellation fell behind schedule and began gobbling up an increasingly large share of the agency's budget. Meanwhile, the space shuttles were on the verge of retirement. The U.S. was about to lose domestic access to the International Space Station, which was scheduled to be abandoned in 2016. Click here. (8/22)

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