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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

German Space Tourist Ready

Space tourist Sonja Rohde, 31, is ready to be the first female German national to fly a commercial spaceflight aboard the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo Enterprise in 2009.

Rohde, daughter of the head of a real estate company in the German city of Hagen, remains determined to make the nearly 80-mile flight into near Earth space.

"It would be naïve to believe that something like 100% safety exists," she told the German edition of Technology Review in an interview, published in the November edition of the magazine. Burt Rutan, she said, "may be a flamboyant and lively inventor but he nonetheless strikes me as a reliable and respectable person."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Spooky Sounds from Space

Space instruments are used to measure various aspects of natural phenomena in space. NASA has caputured some of the "Spooky Sounds from Space" to share over the Halloween Holiday.

NASA Langley Research Center to Work on Lunar Housing in Va.

NASA Headquaters today spread the work among the ten [10] research centers in planning the human return to the moon in the years ahead with NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia set to work on lunar housing arrangements beginning in 2011.

The long-range planning enables the space agency to create a broad systems "architecture" to get back to, explore and have humans live on the moon. Langley will play a role in humans staying permanmently on the moon in the future. [Video]

NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California will host a new National Lunar Science Institute. The new lunar lander will be assembled at the Kennedy Spaceport in Florida.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

NPR Looks at Commercial Spaceflight Symposium

National Public Radio's Doug Fine looks at the developing commercial spaceflight plans at the past week's Third International Symposium for Personal Spaceflight in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Thousands attended the third annual X-Prize Cup this week in the desert of Southern New Mexico at Hollman Air Force Base.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Orbital Outfitters Debuts New Commercial Pilot SpaceSuit

NewSpace start-up Orbital Outfitters unveiled its prototype pressurized pilot spacesuit during the 2007 X-PRIZE Cup at Hollman Air Force Base in New Mexico, according to C/Net News.

The Industrial Suborbital Space Suit-Crew, or IS(3) C, is designed for pilots of a new generation of commercial suborbital rockets under a contract between Orbital Outfitters and XCOR Aerospace of Mojave, California.

Orbital Outfitters CEO Jeff Feige said the firm would introduce a commercial passenger suit sometime in mid-to-late 2008.

ISS Expanded With 'Harmony'

The Discovery STS-120 and Expedition 16 space crews entered the Harmony module addition to the International Space Station for the first time Saturday morning. Mission Specialist Paolo Nespoli and Expedition 16 Commander Peggy Whitson opened the hatches and thereupon acknowledged the schools that submitted the name "Harmony" in an academic competition.

The school bus-size [14 ton, 24-foot-long, 14-foot-diameter] chamber adds [2,600 cubic feet] 18% more living and working space to ISS. It is the seventh module added since 1998 and the first since 2001.

Harmony Attached to ISS

The new Italian-made "Harmony" docking module has been attached to the International Space Station by the spacewalking astronaut crew of space shuttle Discovery STS-120 and the crew members of ISS Expedition 16. The addition of the Harmony Node-2 module sets the stage for the arrival of new research laboratories from the European Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency during upcoming shuttle missions.

Discovery's two-week construction mission is considered one of most difficult in the nearly-27 year history of the U.S. space shuttle program set to end in 2010.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Bigelow to Offer $760 Million Human Space Launch Contract

The Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace commercial orbital space station firm is planning to offer a commercial human-rated space launch contract valued at $760-million to a commercial space launch firm to provide eight (8) flight services starting in 2010, the NewScientist has reported.

Bigelow Aerospace, is steadily advancing its business plan to put an inflatable hotel into orbit, with rooms renting for $20 million a month by 2010 if a human-rated commercial launch vehicle is found.

Robert Bigelow, president of Bigelow Aerospace, told NewScientist that he is worried that without an affordable commercial crew launch vehicle, none of its potential customers will be able to pay to get to Bigelow space stations. Art Bell interviews Bob Bigelow in audio/video 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Rocketplane XP Redesign Unveiled in New Mexico

RocketPlane Global, based in Oklahoma City, has re-engineered the design of its suborbital rocket, the Rocketplane XP, so that it can be used to launch up to five space tourists into suborbital space flights to 62-miles altitude. The new design was unveiled at the 2007 Wirefly X-Prize Cup at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, New Mexico today. [Promo Video]

Pathfinder Teacher Astronaut Program Announced Today

The nonprofit Teachers In Space program announced one small step for education today with the launch of a Pathfinder Astronaut competition that will select two teachers who will be the first astronauts to fly in space and return to teach in American classrooms at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico at the 2007 X-Prize Cup. The two Pathfinder Astronauts will fly commercially-built spacecraft to suborbital space.

The first two Pathfinder Astronaut competitions will demonstrate two different methods of selecting teachers to fly in space.

One competition will be for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) teachers. Applicants will submit a proposal for an experiment that can be performed on a suborbital spaceflight.

The other competition will be open to K-12 teachers from all subject areas. Applicants will submit a lesson plan or educational module based around a suborbital spaceflight. All submissions will be posted to a wiki website where they will be available to the entire educational community.

Teacher applications are available from Teachers in Space.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Phobos-Grunt Set for 2009

A "Cooperative Agreement between the China National Space Administration and the Russian Space Agency on joint Chinese-Russian exploration of Mars" signed earlier this year will result in the launch October 2009 of the Russian Phobos-Grunt [Russian language video] probe to land on the Mars moon Phobos for a soil sample return. A Chinese Mars probe named Yinghuo-1 will also be aboard a Russian Soyuz-2/1b rocket to orbit the Red Planet for a year to conduct Mars ionosphere occultation experiments.

China Launches Moon Probe

The $187-million Chinese moon rocket has launched [video] its first lunar probe -- the Chang'e 1 [ChangEr-1] this morning to commence a three-phased exploration of the Moon planned into 2020.

Many space policy analysts note that this is one more step in the People's Republic of China's goal of putting humans on the Moon before 2020 and rival the United States in space in the 21st Century. China plans to put three humans in orbit on its third human-rated spaceflight next year which includes conducting a spacewalk.

China is the second Asian nation to launch a spacecraft to map the Moon. Japan launched a lunar orbiter earlier this month while India is entering final preperation for a lunar launch early in 2008. MORE from NPR Radio.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Discovery Roars to Orbit

The Space Shuttle Discovery lifted-off from the John F. Kennedy Spaceport launch pad at mid-day Tuesday taking 'Harmony' to space for attachment to the International Space Station in the first living and working quarters expansion since 2001.

Ares 1 / Orion Launch Schedule Advanced to September 2013

The Ares-1 rocket designed to boost astronauts to the Moon again will start test flights sooner than expected closing the gap between the 2010 retirement of the space shuttle fleet to the testing of the next-generation Ares-1/Orion in September 2013, reports Florida Today.

One proposed launch manifest calls for the Ares-1 / Orion 13 to embark on a 21 day mission, launching in December, 2019 with three members of a four man crew set foot on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972. The manifest is subject to radically change as tests of the hardware continue.

International Lunar Exploration In Unprecedented Phase

The 58th Annual International Astronautical Congress meeting last month in India included a panel on "Lunar and Interplanetary Missions" [1 hour, 42-minute video now on-line] with Japanese, Chinese and Indian mission profiles. The international fleet of spacecraft expected to map the moon in detail is unprecedented in human history. Over the next few months four nations --- Japan, China, India, and the United States --- will place exploration spacecraft in lunar orbit with more to follow thereafter by these nations and the Europeans.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Chang'e 1 on Launch Pad for Wednesday Boost to the Moon

The People's Republic of China anticipates a prefered launch of its first lunar-bound spacecraft Wednesday, October 24 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province at about 6 AM ET, according to reports from CNN and the Xinhua News Agency quoting a China National Space Administration (CNSA) spokesperson. [Video in Chinese with English caption in full screen.]

Named Chang'e 1 after the legendary Chinese goddess who, according to legend, flew to the moon, the Chinese lunar spacecraft is a circumlunar satellite slated to enter earth-moon transfer orbit on October 31. It should arrive in the moon's orbit on November 5 after the October 24 launch by the Long March 3A rocket now errected on the launch pad.

In late November, the probe will commence taking 3-D images and analyzing the distribution of elements on the moon's surface if all goes as planned. China is also planning susbequent international ventures to explore the moon, a unmanned lunar rover in 2012 (Chang’e 2), a soil sample return spacecraft in 2017 (Chang’e 3). An Apollo 8-like cislunar human mission to the moon is possible under the China flag prior to 2020.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

'Hot Eagle' May Lead to Point-to-Point Dual-Use Possibilities

Major General Richard C. Zilmer has been among the advocates for the capability of Space Marines to get a squad (13 men) any where in the world in under two hours. It known as the Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion (SUSTAIN) concept.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, [DARPA], launched a spaceplane program called "Hot Eagle" [Ppt] in 2006. Video 1 and 2 denote associated research by DARPA. The U.S. Marine project is called "Great Leap Forward."

Zilmer noted in U.S. Senate testimony four year ago that “this challenging requirement is projected for initial operating capability (IOC) between 2025 and 2030.” The United States Marine Corps Universal Needs Statement noted: "The Marine Corps needs a capability to transport small mission-tailored units thru space from any point on the globe to a contingency at any other point on the globe within minutes...This includes a need for flexibility, such as the ability to loiter in Low Earth Orbit to optimise the time of insertion..."

The SUSTAIN project seems quite suitable for a point-to-point commercial demonstration from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport where the Navy now operates as a neighbor. Dual-use commercial and military applications of a point-to-point suborbital space vehicle is a growing possibility.

Pakistani Woman Readied for SubOrbital Spaceflight in 2009

Having made her name in Pakistan as a sculptor, musician, designer and poet, Namira Salim is poised to become the first Pakistani woman astronaut spaceflight participant as one of the first 100 people to fly aboard a Virgin Galactic SpaceShip2 spaceliner in 2009 from either the Mojave Spaceport in California or Spaceport America in New Mexico.

Salim, 35, was selected by Sir Richard Branson in March 2006 from among 44,000 candidates to be one of the first space tourists. She recently completed ground training.

"I am not only proud to be the first Pakistani, but particularly proud to be the first female from Pakistan to have had such a phenomenal experience," Salim recently told The Times of India.

Soyuz Lands on Ballistic Descent

The Soyuz-TMA 10 veered off course Sunday morning after being undocked from the International Space Station [ISS] at 3:14 a.m. EDT as a controlled re-entry through the Earth's atmosphere for a rough, high-G descent to land steppes of Kazakhstan. All passangers landed in good health despite a few tense moments.

Russians Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov, and Malaysian Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, landed short of the designated landing site. Yurchikhin and Kotov were returning home after a six-month stint at the international space station. Sheikh had been at the orbital outpost since Oct. 12.

The spacecraft deviated from the intended path because of a computer glitch that sent the spacecraft on a steeper-than-usual descent trajectory, the so-called ballistic descent.

The Space Shuttle Discovery is scheduled for a Tuesday lift-off from the Kennedy Spaceport to resume construction of the orbiting space station.

"KAGUYA" Enters Regular Control Mode in Orbit Around the Moon

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) injected the KAGUYA main satellite in its scheduled orbit and shifted its operation mode to the "regular control mode." Both the KAGUYA [SELENE] main satellite and its two baby satellites are in good health.

The regular control mode is attitude control method of a satellite with three axis control to observe the Moon's surface by having the observation equipment face the moon at all times, according to JAXA. The spacecraft regular observation mode begins circular polar lunar orbit in December.

KAGUYA was launched [video] from Japan September 14. The last spacecraft to orbit the Moon was the European Space Agency's SMART-1.

Meanwhile, the People's Republic of China Space Agency is planning the launch of its own lunar orbiter prior to the end of the month.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Challenging ISS Assembly Flight Set to Begin Tuesday 11:38 AM

The countdown clock has commenced at the Kennedy Spaceport for Tuesday's 11:38 AM EDT launch attempt of STS-120 Discovery to the International Space Station in what has been described as the most challenging assembly mission yet attempted on-orbit.

The space shuttle crew two week spaceflight primary goal is the delivery of a new Italian-built, multi-hatch module called Harmony. The module or Node-2 will be subsequently used for a gateway to European and Japanese research labs scheduled for launch in December, February and April.

The STS-120 crew will then join the current three-member space station crew to move an 18-ton set of solar arrays to its permanent mounting point on the end of the station's main power truss. The work will require five spacewalks and the use of two robot arms.

Rocketplane to Focus on the XP

The loss of a $207-million NASA COTS contract by Rocketplane-Kistler will enable the firm to focus its energy and resources on its Rocketplane Global XP space tourism vehicle, George French, the chairman and chief executive, told The Oklahoman today. The focus on the Global XP comes in the wake of NASA's cancellation of the firm's Space Act Agreement to demonstrate a commmercial space station resupply spacecraft.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Communist Party in Space?

The Chinese 14-member strong taikonauts corps (astronauts) may start a branch of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in space, said the country's first taikonaut Yang Liwei at the the 17th Congress of the Communist Party of the People's Republic of China meeting in Beijing, China.

Yang, a delegate to the 17th Congress, foresaw the day when residents of a Chinese space station would "carry out the regular activities of a CPC branch in space in the way we do on Earth, such as learning the party's policies and exchanging opinions on the party's decisions," says the official Xinhua news agency.

Yang orbited the earth for 21 1/2 hours in 2003. China is only the 3rd nation after the former Soviet Union and the United States to place people into space. The declaration of space communism is unlikely to impress the International Space Station partners.

European 'Cosmic Vision' Forms

The European Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 is a coherent 10-year plan structured around four main questions relating to conditions for planet formation and the emergence of life; the workings of the Solar System; fundamental physical laws of the Universe; and, origination of the Universe on which to build new spaceflight missions [ESA Pod Audio].

Eight space missions have been proposed by the scientific community from among 50 with vetting by the European Space Agency [ESA] and European industry to form international partnerships to ultimately execute two of them. Two classes of missions have been proposed. The L-Class would cost nearly $1-Billion USD while the smaller M-Class would cost less than $500-million USD.

The L-Class proposed missions include:
  • Laplace: This mission would go to Jupiter and its moons. A key target of interest would be the icy moon Europa [video] which is thought to harbour an ocean under its icy crust. The mission would deploy three orbiting platforms to perform coordinated observations of Europa, the other Jovian satellites, Jupiter's magnetosphere and its atmosphere and interior.

  • Tandem: The mission would explore both Titan and Enceladus, the other Saturnian moon currently fascinating scientists. The mission would carry two spacecraft - an orbiter and a carrier to deliver an instrument-carrying balloon and three probes on to Titan.

  • Xeus: This next-generation telescope would study the X-ray Universe. It comes in two parts: a mirror satellite and a detector satellite which have to be flown in formation with extreme precision.

  • Spica: The Japanese are proposing an L-Class mission which would launch a telescope to study the cosmos at far infrared wavelengths. If Europe became involved, it would bring expertise and technology developed for its own Herschel telescope due to launch next year.

The M-Class missions include:

  • Cross-scale: A swarm of 12 spacecraft to make simultaneous measurements of plasma (charged gas) surrounding Earth.

  • Marco Polo: A sample-return mission to a near-Earth object. It would consist of a mother satellite which would carry a lander, sampling devices, re-entry capsule as well as instruments.

  • Dune and Space: These are two mission ideas before ESA that would tell us more about the mysterious "dark matter" and even stranger "dark energy" that seem to dominate our Universe but which have proven frustratingly difficult to explain with current observation technologies.

  • Plato: A mission to find and study planets beyond our Solar System. It would be capable of observing rocky (similar to Earth) exoplanets around brighter and better characterised stars than its predecessors, such as the recently launched Corot mission.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

NASA Pulls COTS Plug on RpK

Rocketplane-Kistler [RpK] failed to meet financial milestones required by the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) demonstration program leaving the federal space agency with the decision made today to terminate the Space Act Agreement.

RpK had drawn down $32.1 million in NASA funding under the COTS Space Act Agreement. The commercial space launch firm will not be required to make a refund but will loose the option to draw a $175-million account balance.

The $175-million contract balance will now go into a prompt competition among other commercial space launch providers. The NASA decision opens the door for for other private firms to advance forward. The space firms may include PlanetSpace and t/Space as well as Constellation Services International, SpaceDev and Spacehab. The new award is expected to be made in the spring of 2008.

SpaceX, the second firm awarded a COTS Space Act Agreement, is thus far making its milestones. RpK is permitted to compete again for the new solicitation along with SpaceX, according to NASA.

NASA is seeking private commercialization of space launch resupply to the international space station post-2010 when the space shuttle fleet is to be retired from flight. The United States has contracted with the Russian Federal Space Agency for resupply of the space station until other commercial options become available.

New Evidence of Water on Mars

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit found a patch of bright-toned soil so rich in silica that scientists propose water concentrated it.
University of Guelph researchers has uncovered the strongest evidence yet of large reservoirs of water on Mars, according to a report from The Toronto Star.

Iain Campbell, a retired University of Guelph physics professor, noted the water isn't a liquid, but is chemically bound up in a white layer of mineral salts located only a penny's thickness below the planet's characteristic red surface. The iron and sulphur compound that makes up this white layer contains as much as 18 per cent water by weight, Campbell told The Star.

The Record reports that the mysterious white substance churned out of the Martian dust by the wheels of the Spirit rover is the first "on-the-spot'' evidence of water beneath the surface of the Red Planet.

"We have found water in certain white material that sits below the sandy surface. Nobody knows if there's a lot of this stuff or just a little, but in four places the rover dug this stuff up, sort of accidentally, with the wheels spinning," Campbell said.

NASA continues its "Follow the Water" on Mars with several missions to the Red Planet from the past, those now underway with rovers, a new lander on its way and future speacecraft being planned.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Space Mirror Concept Could Save Earth From Asteroid Impact

A fleet of spacecraft may one day be configured with large mirrors to point energy to an asteroid on an Earth impact trajectory to avert the asteroid impact in what has been termed the Mirror Bee’ concept.

The Glasgow University Space Advanced Research Team (SpaceART) has developed the space mirror asteroid deflection concept in response to the growing threat of an asteroid strike.

A single mirror would be effective, but it would need to be up to 10km across, notes Dr. Massimiliano Vasile. But using technology from missions involving constellations of satellites, multiple spacecraft could be flown in formation, with smaller mirrors, to focus the sunlight onto a single spot, 1-1.5m across.

If we have a satellite with a mirror 2m in diameter, we would need 1000 of them, and they’d have to focus the sunlight for 90 days to deflect an asteroid the size of Apophis,’ the space scientist said.

‘But if we go up to 20m, we’d need ten satellites and 200 days.’ The satellites would weight about 500kg, which is lighter than the satellites for the Galileo global positioning system, he added. ‘It’s well within our launch capabilities.’

Space X Passes NASA Review Intent to Service ISS in 2009

SpaceX has successfully completed the Critical Design Review (CDR) for its first Falcon 9 / Dragon mission as part of the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services(COTS) demonstration program continuing its track record of meeting all COTS milestones on schedule.

"In terms of overall design maturity of the Falcon 9 project, we are well ahead of the curve for a program of this size," said Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX. "Few CDRs feature multiple hardware items in fabrication, assembly, integration and test phases."

The Dragon spacecraft is designed to transport up to seven astronauts, as well as both pressurized and unpressurized cargo, to Earth orbit and back. The architecture allows for berthing/docking with the International Space Station, as well as private space stations that may come into being such as those of Bigelow Aerospace.

As part of NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS)competition, SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9 with a cargo carrying Dragon spacecraft on a series of three demonstration missions to the International Space Station, culminating with the delivery of supplies to the $100-billion dollar orbiting laboratory. SpaceX intends to demonstrate its launch, maneuvering, berthing and return abilities by 2009 -- a year before NASA has scheduled the conclusion of Space Shuttle operations.

Falcon 1 launched [video] on Omelek Island, Kwajalein Atoll March 20, 2007.

Senate Passes $18.5 Billion NASA Funding; Conference Committee to Resolve Difference

The United States Senate passed a $18.5 billion funding measure for NASA yesterday which includes $1-billion in emergency funding for the space shuttle program sought by U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.).

The House version of NASA funding passed earlier in the summer included included $17.6 billion for the space agency. The Senate and House versions must now go to a conference committee to resolve the nearly $1-billion difference.

Meanwhile, the Bush Administration had requested $17.3 billion for the 2008 budget for the space agency. The White House has threated a veto of the larger spending measure later this year. Stay tuned to the process.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Space Shuttle Launch is 'Go!'

Space Shuttle Discovery STS-120 has been cleared for launch October 23. Internal engineering debate has raged the past two weeks as to the safety of the heat shield resulting from cracks along its wings that could result in catastrophic damage during spaceflight re-entry.

Discovery is scheduled to lift off next Tuesday at roughly 11:40 a.m. ET. The 120th space shuttle flight will be webcast LIVE by NASA-TV. "One Day I'll Fly Away" [video] ... Godspeed the crew of Discovery!

The J-2X Rocket Engine to Carry America Back to the Moon

During the recent summer, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR) was awarded a NASA contract valued at $1.2 billion to design, develop and test a J-2X engine that will power the upper stages of the Ares I and Ares V launch vehicles that will power American astronauts back to the Moon by 2020.

Building on the experience and legacy of the Apollo-Saturn Program, the advanced J-2X is powered by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, and will provide 294,000 pounds of thrust to power the Ares vehicles. The J-2X incorporates significant upgrades to meet the higher performance and reliability requirements for the Ares vehicles.

The contract award included ground and test flight engines and extends through the end of 2012. The J-2X will be used to launch crew and cargo to low earth orbit, on lunar missions, and beyond.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Space-based Solar Power Generating Satellites Backed

Futuristic space-based solar power has the attention of the Pentagon in a report released this week that has created a "buzz" within mainstream media and within the space community.

A report released the past week by the National Security Space Office recommends that the United States government fund $10-billion over the next decade to demonstrate solar-power-generating satellites and provide financial incentives for further private development of the technology [video].

NASA first demonstrated wireless electric power [video] in the 1970's. A 2006 session at the National Space Society conference presented "Can Space Help Solve Eath's Enegry Crisis?" in video.

Col. Michael V. "Coyote" Smith appeared August 1, 2007 on The Space Show with Dr. David Livingston where space-based solar power generating satellites were discussed.

The Hunt Is On for Alien Life

The Allen Telescope Array (ATA video) has started operations and the collection of data from the universe with an astonishing 350 20-feet diameter radio telescopes sweeping the sky nearly 300-miles north of San Francisco at Hat Creek. The array will be looking for radio signals [video simulation] generated by alien intelligent life among 1,000,000 star systems throughout the Milky Way and many other galaxies.

Last Thursday the first 42 of the planned 350 radio telescope array commenced to collect radio data to be used to aid more conventional radio astronomers in research, according to London's daily Telegraph. The first test images produced by the array are radio maps of the Andromeda Galaxy and the Triangulum Galaxy.

The Allen Telescope Array is being funded with a $25-million grant from Microsoft Corporation co-founder Paul Allen. It is operated by the SETI Institute and the Radio Astronomy Laboratory from the University of California at Berkeley. SETI is seeking an additional $25-million for operations well into the 21st Century to fund the $50-million project.

Astronomers and space scientists involved the Allen Telescope Array hope it will help spot definite signs of alien life by 2025. No one knows when CONTACT will be made.

Science Friday's Ira Flatow interviewed Leo Blitz, director of the Allen Telescope Array; professor of astronomy and director of the Radio Astronomy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley Friday, October 19 for NPR Radio.

Friday, October 12, 2007

China Moon Launch Expected from Xichang Spaceport Oct. 26

The "Chang'e One" lunar probe is now on the launch pad and is expected to make its bid for the moon before the end of October.

"Chang'e I has already reached the launch site in Xichang of Sichuan Province, and is ready for launch due before the end of the year," said Sun Laiyan, chief of the China National Space Administration in remarks to the Chinese national media.

The launch date was not specified in the latest comment but earlier media reports have suggested it is likely by the end of this month [October 26]. If the Chinese have success with a lunar launch this year, it is anticipated that the China National Space Administration will begin on the moon probe project's second and third phases, which are landing on the moon and returning to Earth, Sun Laiyan said.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Saturian Enceladus Water Jets Images Denote Locations

The Saturn spaceprobe Cassini has provided imaging scientists with an array of data to identify the source locations for individual jets spurting ice particles, water vapor and trace organic compounds from the surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus. Scientists were enavled by the data to prepare a study published yesterday in the journal Nature.

Eight specific source locations on Enceladus have been idenified as prominent tiger stripe fractures, or sulci, in the moon's south polar region. The 'hot spots' raise intriguing questions about the geological activity that is causing the spray of icy particles to burst forth, and what lies beneath the hardened crust; whether it is a thin sheath of water or a lunar ocean.

The eight jet hot spots are located along four two-kilometre-wide tiger stripes or hot spots - named Alexandria, Cairo, Baghdad and Damascus on the moon Enceladus.

The Cassini spaceprobe has provided numerous surprises and unique scientific findings during its voyage through the Saturn system including Iapetus, Rhea, Titan, and Hyperion among the planet's sixty moons.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Could Launch Lunar Landers

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport is reviewing the possibility of supporting a NASA lunar lander using the Orbital Sciences' five stage Minotaur V launch vehicle in the near future. According to a briefing by NASA Wallops Flight Facility Director John H. Campbell to members of the Virginia Joint Commission on Science & Technology Aerospace Advisory Committee Tuesday at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, such a lunar launch program from Virginia is desirable and feasible to achieve low cost lunar missions.

Soyuz TMA-11 in Orbit Nearing the International Space Station

The Russian Soyuz TMA-11 successfully launched this morning from the Baikonur Cosmodrome Wednesday at 9:22 a.m. EDT and entered orbit less than 10 minutes later. Aboard the flight are International Space Station Expedition 16 Commander Peggy Whitson, Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko and spaceflight participant cosmonaut Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor (the first M'sian into space). The crew is expected to dock with the station Friday.

Monday, October 08, 2007

ISS an Orbiting Pharma Lab?

Thomas Boone Pickens III told Wired magazine that the International Space Station is a prime business location for a pharmaceutical lab after NASA cuts its annual $2.6-billion invesment in ISS operations in 2015.

The Japanese are now looking to do similar commercial activity on its segment of the ISS to be flown in 2008.

Private sector investment in the $100-billion orbiting space law slated to be completed in 2010 may be critical to its long-term survival as what will be the brightest object in the night sky by the end of the decade.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

'New Space' Video Released

The International Space University produced a new YouTube video titled "The New SpaceRevolution."
"Thoughtful people are creating a new paradigm," says an e-Mail to The Space Frontier Advocates.

The ISU also produced the YouTube video "Sputnik @ 50."

Soyuz TMA-11 Ready for Oct 10 W/1st Fem Station Commander

Malaysian Research Cosmonaut Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor; Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, Soyuz Commander and ISS Flight Engineer; and American Astronaut Peggy Whitson, the first female International Space Station Commander for Expedition 16 are set for launch October 10, 2007 from the the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. This will be Whitson's second 6-month stay aboard the ISS having served as the Science Officer on ISS Expedition 5.

The launch of the Soyuz TMA-11 9:22 AM ET Wednesday launch will be carried LIVE on NASA-TV and via webcasting.

A China Moon by 2020?

The next human to walk on the surface of the moon could be Chinese so say NASA space agency leaders suggesting loss of technological advantage and American prestige.

"I personally believe that China will be back on the moon before we are,'' NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said in a low-key lecture in Washington two weeks ago, marking the space agency's 50th anniversary, still a year away. "I think when that happens, Americans will not like it. But they will just have to not like it.''

The United States could lose technological superiority in space during the four- to five-year gap of manned space flights between the retirement of the space shuttle and the launch of the Constellation mission, echoed Bill Parsons, Director of the Kennedy Space Center said last Thursday adding more concern to the retirement of the space shuttle and the delays slowing the development of the Ares I and Ares V.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

JAXA to Lease Space on ISS Kibo

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is seeking private sector investment in its International Space Station module Kibo as plans are being made to boost it to orbit in April 2008. Applications will be accepted in November in hopes of covering some of Kibo's operational costs.

JAXA proposes that for a fee, companies, organizations or individuals will have the right to ask Japanese astronauts to operate equipment carried on the module for purposes such as shooting movies and TV commercials or offering classes. The module will be available for private sector use from June 2008 to March 2009.

Landsat Data Continuity Mission Planned for Launch July 2011

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has purchased an Atlas-V booster for launch of the Landsat Data Continuity Mission from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California in July 2011.

The Landsat mission will extend the more than 30-year record of high-quality land surface measurements from previous Landsat satellites, NASA said. Scientists use the remote sensing data from Landsat to study, understand and predict the effects of changes to Earth's land surface. Thousands of commercial users of the remote sensing data have created astounding and varied applications.

Senate Passes Space Funding

The United States adopted a measure Friday that provides a one billion dollar supplement replinishing NASA accounts tapped to make improvements to the space shuttle program in the wake of the 2003 crash of the space shuttle Columbia.

President George W. Bush is now expected to veto $56 billion measure funding science programs and the departments of Commerce and Justice for the fiscal year that began Monday of which the one billion dollars is a part. The larger funding measure already contained $17.5 billion for NASA, a 7 percent increase over 2007 funding.

Friday, October 05, 2007

In Space: Just Pay in Cold 'Quid'

As the development of space tourism continues and the possibility of multiple moon bases by 2050 exist, the foreign currency exchange firm Travelex with scientists from the British National Space Centre and the University of Leicester are seeking to establish the Quasi Universal Intergalactic Denomination, or Quid.

The QUID has been designed to withstand the stresses of space travel and the extreme environment found in orbit around the Earth. It has also been created so that it can be purchased on earth in any one of the 176 currencies used around the globe.

Travelex is currently quoting the currency at $12.77 USD to the Quid.

Professor George Fraser from the University of Leicester told BBC News: "With an inflatable space hotel, from Bigelow Aerospace, under development in the United States, and Virgin Galactic developing SpaceShipTwo, there will be better access to space than there has been."

Senator Mikulski Advances FY 07/08 Federal Space Budget

Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) has offered an amendment to include an extra $1-billion to pay back the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for the costs of returning the Space Shuttle to flight. The funding will also reimburse critical science, aeronautics and exploration programs that were cut to pay for repairs.

The amendment also includes $250,000 for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), at the Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's Eastern Shore, for infrastructure improvements to launch facilities. The site is being considered for future commercial orbital and NASA cislunar robotic launches.

Clinton Addresses Science Policy

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton delievered a science policy speech laying "out her plans to support scientific research and restore the role of science in decision-making." Clinton's remarks were made at the Carnegie Institute of Washington, October 4, 2007 at 8:45 AM.

The New York Senator pledged support to NASA's space and earth science programs. The presidential candidate urged: 1] Pursuing an ambitious 21st century Space Exploration Program, by implementing a balanced strategy of robust human spaceflight, expanded robotic spaceflight, and enhanced space science activities; 2] Developing a comprehensive space-based Earth Sciences agenda, including full funding for NASA's Earth Sciences program and a space-based Climate Change Initiative that will help us secure the scientific knowledge we need to combat global warming; and, 3] Promoting American leadership in aeronautics by reversing funding cuts to NASA's and FAA's aeronautics R&D budget.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

50 Years of the Space Age October 4 w/1st Orbit of Earth

Sputnik-1 was launched by the Soviet Union fifty years ago on 4 October 1957. The orbital launch marked the beginning of humanity's quest for space. Sputnik served as and the precursor to hundreds of satellite applications around the world and throughout the solar system the past half-century!

The brain behind the first orbital launch was the renounced Soviet rocket engineer Sergei Korolev. A BBC docu-drama provides historical context to the event.

The news from that day in 1957 set fear in the minds of The West. The Soviets continued with many space firsts until the United States landed the first humans on the Moon in 1969.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

MIT's AsteRope to Enable Astronauts to Walk on Asteroids

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have developed a protype tether to enable future astronauts to walk over an asteroid in little-to-gravity. Such a tether or 'AsterRope' system would wrap all the way around the asteroid and perhaps enable the astronaut to attach to it.

A 1-kilometer wide asteroid is estimated to have a surface gravity of just 1/28000th that of the Earth leaving any unthered astronaut with the possibility to jumping right off the asteroid surface and not come back down. The lack of surface gravity poses many challenges to asteroid explorers or space miners in future years.

"NASA has taken a brief look at a human visit to a Near Earth Object," notes former astronaut and MIT Professor Jeffrey Hoffman.

The space agency is also reviewing the possibility of creating a radiation shield by either flying a human-rated spacecraft to Mars in formation or building a human habitat/lab inside the asteroid.

The United States , Russian and British space agencies are reviewing possible plans to defend Earth from a large asteroid impact as well.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Ultimate Leap of Faith in 2009

Xtreme Space is planning to launch a human to over 20-miles or 120,000 feet into the atmosphere by 2009 in an attempt to break the long-held record of USAF Captian Joseph W. Kittinger II of 102,000 feet free fall that took him over Mach 1 above the New Mexico desert.

The ultimate plan is to ride a glass top rocket to over 60-miles into space and then eject and fly back to Earth in just the spacesuit and a parachute sometime in 2011 in the ultimate record breaking event. After nearly half-a-century someone should seriously think of smashing the old record suggests Rick Tumlinson. Several are thinking of it. Can you imagine it?

Chinese Human Spaceflight Story

The secret footage of the Chinese human spaceflight program are provided by Discovery through a five-part video series. It is highly recommended to those who seek greater understanding of China's fledgling human space program and the challenges it offers to others in the 21st Century. The story is told in Videos 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 beginning with the Jiuquan Spaceport Facility in the Gobi Desert.

Japan's Kaguya Spacecraft Takes Cislunar HDTV Shots of Earth

The Japanese spacecraft SELenological and ENgineering Explorer "KAGUYA" (SELENE) is refining its trajectory for an orbit of the Moon while returning the first High Definition Television (HDTV) image shots of the Earth from so deep in space in human history [about 110,000 km away Cislunar ].

The lunar orbiter was launched [video] September 13 from the remote but scenic launch-pad on Tanegashima Island, Japan. A Japanese promotional video explains the flight to the Moon. KAGUYA is expected to go into lunar orbit late this week.

STS-120 Readied for October 23

STS-120 Discovery Commander, retired Air Force Col. Pamela A. Melroy, reviews flight plans for the next mission to the International Space Station to deliver the Harmony Node 2 connecting module along with her crew. The 120th space shuttle flight is set to liftoff October 23rd from the Kennedy Spaceport in Florida. STS-120 will mark only 14 manifest flights remaining prior to the retirment of the space shuttle fleet in 2010.

The Soyuz TMA-11 is set to launch October 10 to deliver the first female International Space Station Commander, NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson. The STS-120 docking with the ISS will mark the first time a female station commander greets a female shuttle commander in space.