July 24, 2017

Supersonic Research at Kennedy Space Center to Produce Sonic Booms (Source: Florida Today)
A NASA aircraft darting over the edge of the Space Coast at supersonic speeds in August is expected to create window-rattling sonic booms for aeronautical research, according to the agency. Teams from NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in California and Langley Research Center in Virginia are expected to converge on Kennedy Space Center to better understand how low-altitude atmospheric turbulence affects sonic booms.

Beginning August 21, a NASA-operated F/A-18 Hornet will take off from KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility and vault to an altitude of 32,000 feet just off the coast of Cape Canaveral before racing to Mach 1, the speed of sound, to produce sonic booms. (7/24)

Zero-G Blood and the Many Horrors of Space Surgery (Source: WIRED)
o astronaut has ever had a major injury or needed surgery in space. If humans ever again venture past low Earth orbit and outward toward, say, Mars, someone is going to get hurt. A 2002 ESA report put the chances of a bad medical problem on a space mission at 0.06 per person-year. As Komorowski wrote in a journal article last year, for a crew of six on a 900-day mission to Mars, that’s pretty much one major emergency all but guaranteed.

Worst case: Someone goes outside the spacecraft to fix something heavy and it gets away from them, crushing an arm or a leg. The astronaut gets exposed to vacuum, but makes it back inside the vehicle—dehydrated, partially frozen, bleeding heavily, in shock. What happens next will depend on whether the crew is in orbit around Earth, or in interplanetary space—and on what kind of gear is on board. Click here. (7/24) 

The Moon is a Harsh Milestone (Source: Space Review)
There has been growing interest in carrying out human lunar missions prior to going to Mars, thinking that will be an easier near-term step. Jeff Foust reports that, despite these discussions, governments and companies alike have found it difficult just getting robotic missions there. Click here. (7/24)
A Summer Update on the COPUOS Long-Term Sustainability Guidelines (Source: Space Review)
An ongoing topic of discussion and debate at the international level regarding space is its long-term sustainability. Christopher D. Johnson and Victoria Samson provide an update on those discussions that have played out at United Nations meetings in recent months. Click here. (7/24)
Blue “Hubble”: The Manned Orbiting Laboratory as a Planetary Telescope (Source: Space Review)
Could the Manned Orbiting Laboratory, intended to be a crewed reconnaissance satellite, have also played a role in spacebased astronomy? Joseph T. Page II finds some hints of such an alternative mission in declassified documents. Click here. (7/24)
Another View on the Problems Facing NASA’s Mars Exploration Program (Source: Space Review)
Advocates of the robotic exploration of Mars have warned of limited funding and plans for later missions needed to carry out Mars sample return. Louis Friedman argues that the focus on sample return, at the expense of other science, has also hurt the program. Click here. (7/24)

NASA Is Uploading Decades of Archival Footage to YouTube (Source: Motherboard)
Videos unearthed from another time in flight engineering are endlessly fascinating. Until now, footage from NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center, has been tucked away in a forgotten corner of the Internet. AFRC is in the process of uploading it legacy video database to YouTube. So far, they've posted around 300 of the approximately 500 videos that were deemed good candidates for migration. Click here. (7/19)

'Eyes in Space' and More Powerful Lasers Will Soon Enhance the Army's Arsenal (Source: US Army)
It's been a "dynamic year" for Army space and missile defense, with a multi-domain task force being formed, a new nanosatellite set to launch soon, and more powerful laser weapons in the works, said Lt. Gen. James H. Dickinson. Kestrel Eye, or KE, is an electro-optical nanosatellite being developed by the command. It will improve mission command on the move for a brigade combat team to allow tactical leaders to synchronize action, seize the initiative and maintain near-real-time situational awareness, Dickinson said.

KE is an improvement over older methods because it will provide satellite imagery without the need for U.S.-based relays, he noted. The nanosatellite is due to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, "very soon" as part of the International Space Station cargo resupply mission, he said. Once aboard the ISS, the crew will deploy this small satellite into its orbit. When it is a safe distance from the ISS, the satellite will automatically power up and be ready to receive signals. (7/21)

Is There Inconsistency in How NASA Treats its Private Partners? (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
A recent post appearing on the blog Parabolic Arc noted NASA will not be releasing a public report on the findings of the SpaceX Falcon 9 CRS-7 explosion that resulted in the loss of the launch vehicle, the Dragon spacecraft, and the roughly $118 million in supplies and hardware the spacecraft was carrying. The post also notes that the Orb-3 accident was handled differently by NASA, but were the two accidents so distinct as to warrant two totally dissimilar approaches?

The premise of the Parabolic Arc report was somewhat inaccurate. NASA didn’t refuse to issue a public report; the truth is, no public report was ever produced. NASA officials noted on Wednesday, July 19, that, as the agency was not required to create such a report, one was not generated. (7/23)

The Shuttle Replacement That Never Was (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
When the Space Shuttle was first proposed it was meant to be “all things to all users,” a replacement for all U.S. launch vehicles. All the expendable launchers, Atlas, Titan, and Delta would retire and the shuttle would be responsible for all U.S. launches from its three pads, LC-39A / B at Kennedy Space Center, and SLC-6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The shuttle’s launch rate was expected to be 100 launches a year. Enormous amounts of money would be saved through the Shuttle’s reusability. Unfortunately, this plan fell apart. The shuttle never came close to its predicted launch rate. Officials in the Air Force doubted that a human-rated system would ever save money. (7/23)

Hawaii Aerospace Agency to Share $119K NASA Grant (Source: Big Island Now)
A Hawaii state aerospace agency based in Hilo is a joint recipient of the $118,690 NASA Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant to research and develop space construction technology. The Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) and New York-based Honeybee Robotics, Ltd. will use the STTR funding to develop an In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) technology that could enable the future of space settlement. (7/22)

For 10 Years NASA Has Been Photoshopping its Astronauts Into Posters (Source: Business Insider)
Astronauts tend to be a straight-laced bunch. It makes sense, given the extreme discipline required of their job. But they like to lighten things up now and then just like anyone else, and that's on full display in the elaborately nerdy posters for International Space Station (ISS) missions.

Since the first ISS expedition in 2000, NASA has been making expedition posters featuring the crew, first through its Office of Communications and then is Space Flight Awareness team. In 2007, NASA thought it would be fun to switch from standard group photos to something more fun — heavily Photoshopped posters based on some of the crew's shared favorite pieces of pop culture. Over the past 10 years, this has included references to "Star Wars," The Beatles, and "Reservoir Dogs." Click here. (7/23) 

One Giant Leap For Music: NASA's Sonic History Inspires This Duo (Source: NPR)
You probably have a mental image of what NASA's space missions look like — rockets blasting off into the sky, fiery clouds of exhaust after liftoff — but what do they sound like? That's what inspired Wilco keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen and art historian James Merle Thomas to form the duo Quindar, named after the signal tones used in radio communication during NASA's Apollo space missions. The duo's new album, Hip Mobility, incorporates archival sound recordings from the Apollo and Skylab eras. Click here. (7/23)

Why We Should Be Wary Of Moon Tourism (Source: NPR)
Forty-eight years ago Friday, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin packed up the moon rocks they'd gathered and blasted off for their trip back to Earth. Should the stuff they left behind be protected? Moon tourism could be a reality someday. O'Leary thinks we should be wary of what might happen to artifacts like those left behind by Apollo 11. She points to other places that once were largely inaccessible but now cater to tourists.

For example, in Antarctica, there's been quite a bit of looting because tourism has increased. So I think as we realize we're losing important, significant places, then people step in and say we should do something about it. (7/21)

Georgia Gov. Candidate Endorses Spaceport (Source: Brunswick News)
Another high-profile candidate for governor has thrown his support behind a proposed spaceport in Camden County. Current Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle joins fellow Republican, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, in expressing support for the project.

“By investing in Camden County to create the first commercial spaceport in Georgia — the only exclusively vertical, non-federal range on the East Coast — we are making a significant investment in our future,” Cagle said in a statement. “Georgia is ready to lead the nation and the world in building a workforce and an economy that is second to none.” (7/22)

Could Space Pay for a Universal Basic Income? (Source: Boston Globe)
The idea of a universal basic income is gaining traction, in think tanks and in Silicon Valley, as a response to the rise of outsourced and automated labor. If everyone were guaranteed a minimum salary to meet the basic needs of food and shelter, so the argument goes, then people would be free to allocate their time according to their own preferences. A universal basic income could alleviate poverty, reward traditionally unpaid labor, and encourage entrepreneurial risk-taking.

But who would pay for such an expensive social experiment? Taxes on the wealthy and cuts to military spending are oft-cited solutions that seem unlikely to gain political momentum. Perhaps we should look at the looming space economy. The resources of space are plentiful, which international treaties say are for the benefit of all — but, for better or worse, could end up conveying their greatest benefits upon the wealthiest. If space is really the domain of all people and nations, then perhaps the wealth of space should be shared in the hands of everyone.

Why not plan for that, aligning the forces creating inequality with a solution to inequality? The emerging industries of space mining and tourism could potentially sustain a basic income for everyone. The demand by wealthy patrons for pleasure flights into zero gravity has shifted from publicity stunts fueled by Russian rocketry to full-fledged commercial spacelines. The pains of birthing new technology have kept contenders like Virgin Galactic from delivering their initial launch schedule, but the eventual departure of this flight and others like it is only a matter of time. Click here. (7/23)

Florida-Based ZGSI Focuses on Space Tech for Agriculture (Source: ZGSI)
Boca Raton-based Zero Gravity Solutions, Inc., an agricultural biotechnology public company commercializing its technology derived from and designed for Space with significant applications for agriculture on Earth, announced the addition of Rik Miller, a 31-year veteran of the DuPont Company (DuPont) to its senior advisory group.

Mr. Miller worked at DuPont from 1984 to 2015, where he held numerous successive senior leadership and management roles in sales and marketing in DuPont’s agricultural chemicals business. As president of DuPont Crop Protection, Mr. Miller developed and executed strategic growth plans, directed the global research and development investment and coordinated introduction of innovative technologies and products on a global scale. (7/19)

Canadian Spaceport Project Getting Mixed Reviews (Source: Chronicle Herald)
Guysborough officials have given the green light to a rocket launcher project near Canso. Some are keen to see a future beyond fish and tourism; others are concerned about public safety and the environmental impact the project could have. A local school principal would like proponents to come in and talk to kids about the plan to turn a piece of coast into the country’s first commercial spaceport.

Others have reservations about a project which failed after a decade-long struggle to get off the ground in Brazil. Brazil pulled out of the venture, which was to use the Ukrainian-built Cyclone 4M rocket, in 2015. That April, the deputy chief of the Brazilian Space Agency said a government review found too many open questions about its cost and future market success.

The economic challenge is compounded by the fact that the launch site is only a couple of kilometers from the tiny communities of Hazel Hill and Little Dover. The infrastructure component of the spaceport is budgeted at US$100 million and Steve Matier expects its construction will provide “several hundred jobs” with 30-50 full-time jobs to run the facility. (7/21)

Congress Shouldn’t Mix Planets and Politics (Source: Dayton Daily News)
In a 2009 panel on all-things science, noted self-proclaimed nerd Neil deGrasse Tyson shocked his audience in his answer to a politically loaded question. When asked which political party was better for science, Tyson remarked that Republicans were in fact more reliable providers of science funding.

While many on the right cheered this response, his answer relies on the false presumption that being “pro-science” means heavy government support and intervention into all things geeky. And, as the latest budget negotiations over NASA show, congressional Republicans are not immune from this faulty logic.

The $19.8 billion proposed by appropriators for NASA funding represents a $200 million increase from the year before. This is happening in the midst of large spending cuts to virtually all other federal programs and agencies. By constraining NASA’s mission and opening the door to private space exploration, lawmakers can be truly “pro-science” without bilking taxpayers. (7/22)

NASA to Use 11 Different Spacecraft to Measure the Sun During Solar Eclipse (Source: Global News)
As thousands in the United States (and Canada) get ready to view the Aug. 21 solar eclipse through their special glasses, NASA will be using 11 different spacecraft to study the sun’s outer atmosphere during the duration of the eclipse, NASA scientist Dr. Michelle Thaller said. “The moon is blocking out the main bright disk of the sun. So you can actually see what those levels of solar atmosphere are doing. It’s called the corona. It’s spectacular. And actually the way the corona works is still fairly mysterious,” Thaller said on Friday.

NASA will also fly high-altitude research balloons and airplanes for solar physics and other experiments. During the eclipse, the moon will pass between the sun and Earth, blocking the face of the sun and leaving only its outer atmosphere, or corona, visible in the sky. (7/21)

Those Weird Radio Waves That Were Puzzling Astronomers Have a New Explanation (Source: The Verge)
Last week, astronomers at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico announced they had picked up some strange radio signals coming from a small red dwarf star, and they couldn’t quite figure out what was causing them. Now, it seems they have an answer: it turns out these bizarre radio signals most likely came from the transmissions of a couple of satellites.

The radio signals initially perplexed the astronomers. A solar flare from the star could have caused the signals, but the waves weren’t at the right frequency. The astronomers said it was possible that the waves came from nearby satellites, but the structure of the signal made it seem like the waves had traveled a long way through space to reach Earth. No explanation perfectly fit the observation.

Fortunately, the Arecibo team did further observations of the star on Sunday. The astronomers analyzed the results, along with other research institutions and scientists, and they came to the conclusion that the signal didn’t come from deep space but from one or more satellites orbiting high in geostationary orbit. This explains the weird frequency and why it seemed like the waves were coming from the star. (7/21)

Hypersonic Weapons Pushing Back the Prospect of Nuclear Armageddon (Source: Sputnik)
The Russian military will start getting hypersonic weapons in just a few years. Washington is worried about this even though hypersonic weapons are pushing back the prospect of a nuclear Armageddon. Russia is now testing the Zircon-3M22 hypersonic sea-launched missile, which is slated to go in serial production shortly. Feeling it is being left behind, the US is beginning to worry and the Pentagon is in a state of mild panic.

US military experts call Zircon a quantum leap in the development of asymmetrical defense against a nuclear attack. According to news reports, the Zircon-3M22 flies six times the speed of sound and is virtually immune to currently existing missile defense systems. However, the Zircon’s maker, the Tactical Missile Weapons Corporation, plans to bring the missile’s speed up to about 13 times the speed of sound. With its stated range of 250 miles, the missile needs just three minutes between launch and targeted impact. (7/23)

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