Thursday, April 29, 2010
More on the water frost-covered asteroid find from Popular Science, National Geographic, The Times of London, the BBC, MSNBC/AP, and Space Daily.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Part Two, Part Three, Part Four and Part Five. Exceptional theoretical intuition from Dr. Hawking. This five star review of possible ET astrobiology is fascinating. On first review, however, there is scientific demurer to the thickness of the Europa ice crust.
'On 26 April 2010, the ESO Council selected Cerro Armazones as the site for the planned 42-metre European Extremely Large Telescope. Cerro Armazones is an isolated mountain at 3060 metres altitude in the central part of Chile's Atacama Desert, some 130 kilometres south of the town of Antofagasta and about 20 kilometres away from Cerro Paranal, home of ESOs Very Large Telescope.' Operations are expected to start in 2018.
"A true breakthrough requires tremendous levels of risk," says Peter Diamandis. "It's really in the entrepreneurial sector that people are willing to risk their lives, risk their fortunes, their reputations, to do something they fundamentally believe they can do."
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has announced plans to launch a solar-powered 'space yacht'-the first of its kind- called the Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation of the Sun (IKAROS) from Tanegashima Space Center on May 18, 2010, according to JAXA [Video].
The spacecraft uses a special 66-foot (20m) sail made of thin-film solar technology that will allow the ship to use pressure, created by the reflection of sunlight off the sails, as propulsion. Furthermore, the satellite craft will also be equipped with solar cells to generate electricity, effectively making the IKAROS a hybrid spacecraft.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Coalfield.com - Let s inspire next generation of moon explorers
Monday, April 26, 2010
"The new NASA policy regarding the end of the doomed Constellation program and its goal of returning humans to the Moon may seem devastating to the Lunar Science community at first. But there may be a way for those of us who support Lunar exploration and development to leverage off of the new plans - perhaps actually getting more science fast and cheaper and building the elements needed for a human return that may happen sooner than the fanciful dates put forward by Constellation propagandists, and lead to a sustainable presence.
For this discussion though I will focus only on the near term Lunar science aspects of what is possible.
Instead of fighting or complaining about the new direction, perhaps this group and other Pro-Moon orgs. etc. should try a little jiu-jitsu move and be pushing now for USG financial support for private sector lunar missions to carry NASA and university payloads.
"Politically" speaking (wink - I mean non-partisan-internal maneuvering type politics) I think it would be a great way to leverage off of the new policies - if the White House/NASA leadership can be convinced that rather than waste existing work in Lunar sciences predicated on the dead end Constellation program funds and support be provided to these good works to help them obtain rides on new US private missions.
For example, David Gump and Red Whittaker of Carnagie Mellon have a good plan for such missions and sent an RFP out to this list. Bob Richards and his team, [Odyssey Moon], have a good plan, as do others - some of which have Nothing to do with the Google Lunar XPrize. I have been approached by three private teams to join them in developing missions to the Lunar surface (each completely different and all very innovative). One I know of comes in under $10 million to the surface (although it has very limited capability and is more of Lunar Sputnik proof of concept mission.)
An argument for this could be the same used for the rather odd Orion "emergency escape capsule" concession recently granted. (It was clearly not needed given Boeing/Bigelow are developing capsules, SpaceX has a capsule etc. and was designed purely to slice off and neutralize a potential jobs/money constituency). By offering a fund for such missions and science programs on the Moon (heck, maybe throw in NEOs and widen your support base) proponenets on the inside could argue elements of constituencies like JSC can be partially pacified...
An amount of funding that would be trivial compared to old style all government missions would yield an ongoing series of Lunar missions based on commercial flights to LEO/GEO, and NASA/commercial LEO/GEO to LS technologies. I understand that one of the commercial plans is offering lunar surface access of 100kg or more per mission at a price of roughly $15 million. That means for the cost of one LRO (around $150m+) Lunar scientists could get TEN missions on the surface! Even if you cut that in half it is a lot of missions. And they are repeatable and some can include rovers etc.
Another argument to the powers that be for this approach is that if they are trying to catalyze a commercial space industry in the Near Frontier (my term for the sphere around the Earth so far visited by humans/government explorers) these missions will provide additional markets.
Thus the science community gets access to the Moon, and private groups get funding to create/catalyze commercial transport systems to the Lunar surface (I use "private" on purpose as opposed to commercial, as some of these are university/commercial partnerships). I haven't even mentioned orbital opportunities, but you can project from the surface numbers that they could be many and relatively (in Marshall-speak terms) CHeap.
If even a subset of this group could coalesce around advocacy of this approach rather than being upset about the changes, be proactive rather than whining and trying to fight the future...a lot of good science could be done in the coming years - perhaps much more than would have happened as Constellation ate more and more of your budgets before collapsing.
There will need to be white papers, numbers etc. presented to get this done, and it needs to happen fast. As I am not at the level of credentials as many on this list regarding White Papers etc., I am going to do and OpEd on this idea as my contribution... (and others can join in...)
As the esteemed late Dr. Tom Rogers said to me regarding what became ISS (after the Space Frontier Foundation and our allies lost a bid to kill it by one vote in the [House] - we thought it might be going over budget and a potential dead end...lol)...and led to a concept of using the government's funding power to drive a new LEO based space industry called Alpha Town I presented in testimony to the House Space Sub-Committee in 1995: 'Let me skip the first fifty thousand words and tell you this Rick, if you think the space station is a lemon, and we're stuck with it, go figure out how to make some lemonade!'"
ITAR controls have been repeatedly identified as hindering the expansion of American commercial space launch capacity and satellite production in the past decade. Perhaps, the reforms sought by the Obama Administration this year will enhance US economic and national security.
The unique animation denotes the location of nightside aurorae on Mars. These aurorae, observed to date only by SPICAM on Mars Express, occur over areas on Mars characterised by a strong crustal magnetic field first discovered five years ago and subsequently mapped. The aurorae are illustrated in blue, and the magnetic field strength is illustrated by the height of the blue features. The video is referenced by Jean Tate.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Dr. Buzz Aldrin, the second human to walk on the moon and space advocate, has over the past few months spoken out about a Monolith on the moon Phobos of Mars. The former Apollo 11 astronaut has spoken with President Barack Obama about Phobos tweaking greater attention by NASA planners to look to the future and how to get there.
The interest in the small moon of Mars has attracted science investment from the Europeans and Russians space mission planners and scientists. Answers and more questions are expected as a Russian space probe Phobos-Grunt lands on Phobos in 2012 and a Chinese spacecraft is inserted into the orbit of The Red Planet at the same time.
Aldrin's continued advocacy of the moon Phobos is becoming more interesting as he shares a model of the smallest Mars moon with the President, space scientists, commercial space launch executives, and the popular media - all who tend to draw comparison to the mystery monoliths of the movies 2001 and 2010. Soviet space history gives rise to many Phobos mysteries too.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
The X-38 project was designed to ferry crews from the International Space Station to the ground should the need arise. But with the X-37B demonstration now in orbit, and the need for a commercial crew vehicle, is a X-38-type shuttlecraft on track to soon become commercially operational?
UPDATE FROM Times of London: The militarization of space on the High Frontier has been a part of the American space policy debate for years. The launches of the past Thursday in Florida and California certainly will raise heads around the globe as NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden commences diplomatic space talks with China. A CNN Video news clip provides more popular media explaination.
Friday, April 23, 2010
That would require detailed discussions on a uniform standard for docking and other interfaces, Wang said here in his first interview with Western reporters. He hopes the issue will be addressed during NASA Administrator Charles Bolden’s delayed visit to Beijing.
“We think that a joint spaceflight mission, joint development of space equipment and also joint utilization of space platforms are the most possible field to carry out discussion at the moment,” Wang says [More].
Upon a return from China last year, this Blogger advocated a joint mission among the Chinese, Russians and Americans using Russian and Chinese spacecraft as early as 2012-2013 including a commercial space flight participant-diplomat from the American side with a second flight to the Chinese mini-station by a NASA astronaut. It is still a good concept to pursue.
Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski will play a significant role in the future of the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, the commercial Mid-Atlantic Commercial Spaceport, the commercial future of Virginia's 'space island' and the future budget of the space agency more generally as chair of the powerful subcommittee of the US Senate appropriations committee yet to approve the Obama space budget.
The future economic growth of the Delmarva Peninsula is dependent upon her in the instant case. The Maryland Senator does have a keen interest in the future development of the spaceport as hundreds of space workers reside in her state and traverse Highway 13 every work day to the NASA Wallops Flight Facility just, 10-miles across the stateline into sister state Virginia. Mikulski's role will be "critical." Jeff Foust at SpacePolitics provides more on the recent Senate subcommittee hearing.
The Falcon is a suborbital vehicle launched on a solid-fuel rocket booster made from a decommissioned ballistic missile. Just outside the atmosphere, the plane separates from the rocket and glides back to Earth at more than 13,000 mph - more than 20 times the speed of sound, reports The Washington Times. For this maiden lift-off, the rocket was in a "lite" configuration consisting of only the first three stages and no fourth stage due to mission requirements [UPDATE].
DARPA's $308 million research program is building two Falcon vehicles, the second of which is scheduled for launch early next year. Defense analysts say the Falcon is part of the Pentagon's effort to develop the capability to strike anywhere in the world with a conventional warhead in less than an hour - known as Conventional Prompt Global Strike, or CPGS. [Scenario Animation Video]
Thursday, April 22, 2010
The view from Cape Canaveral appears to be a successful launch of the first X-37B from Air Force Station. The secret military mission of the test vehicle will certainly turn heads around the world tonight and in the days and months ahead. More from The Christian Science Monitor, The Los Angles Times, the Associated Press, and Popular Mechanics.
Meanwhile, a second hypersonic space vehicle - the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 - launched from the Vandenberg US Air Force Base in California, on a Mach 20 flight out and over the Pacific Ocean, boosted by a new Minotaur IV Lite rocket. Both spaceplanes took to the sky on the same day and minutes apart.
"I have 13 pages of questions," Mikulski, the subcommittee chair, told Bolden. "Where are we going, when will we get there, and what will it take?" [Video of the subcommittee hearing April 22, 2010]
Orbital Chief Executive David W. Thompson said that Taurus 2 and Cygnus, which are the company’s two biggest development programs, nonetheless are moving forward without major roadblocks. But the schedules of both programs are now so tight that any further hiccups likely would delay the launch still further.
Earlier this month Orbital told reports that NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program is slated to conduct a single demonstration flight of its Taurus 2 rocket and Cygnus cargo capsule in about a year. The company would then fly eight cargo-delivery missions to the space station through 2015 under a separate $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract.
Thompson expects Taurus 2 to begin launching for other customers, including NASA’s Earth science program and the national security community, in 2013, possibly sooner.
Orbital has room on its Taurus 2 manifest to add two to three flights a year in addition to the space station resupply missions, said Ronald Grabe, executive vice president and general manager of Orbital’s Launch Systems Group.
The Taurus 2 includes a first-stage core design by Ukrainian rocket builders Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash, a first-stage engine built in Russia but modified by Aerojet of Sacramento, and a stage-two motor built by Alliant Techsystems of Minneapolis.
Orbital could develop a Cygnus variant capable of returning space station cargo safely to Earth within two years if asked to do so by NASA. The vehicle would have to be equipped with heat shielding and parachutes, and that the extra weight of those items would reduce by half the amount of cargo it could deliver to the space station.
Several Ukrainian national rocket engineers will be working here to help build the first stage of the new Taurus-2 booster rocket, which is set to take flight from Wallops Island next April. The internationally made Taurus-2 with the Cygnus spacecraft will transport cargo to the orbiting International Space Station. It should be the first of many launches.
Orbiting commercial payloads will become a feat of international cooperation and global business acumen. Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles has built an international team of suppliers being integrated into one of the more capable mid-sized booster rocket producers
The surrealism associated with Ukrainian rocket engineers working in cooperation with U.S. space technology integrators must give pause to some seasoned Eastern Shore space-launch observers. Orbit-bound rockets launching from Virginia; numerous foreign nationals on a NASA space launch facility; and operations that continue for years are unexpected to most Virginians and all Americans.
It’s fitting that an international launch team is sending cargo to the International Space Station from Virginia. The effort is under way at one of the first commercial licensed orbital spaceports within the United States. Governors of Virginia have had the vision to seek to increase commercial space launch activity for strong economic benefits.
Hundreds of jobs have and are being created by the $1.9 billion commercial space launch project, and many of those are within Virginia. It is a unique beginning expected to yield more direct and indirect benefit to citizens of the region, to Virginia and Maryland, and to the nation as a whole.
The business operations being undertaken at Wallops Island are symbolic of the new commercial space age of the 21st century. We are rapidly becoming a world without borders in the international quest to place and support humans in orbit.
The multicultural launch team taking root at Wallops Island is space technology’s future, both on the ground and in orbit. The men and women working the Taurus-2 launch campaign are setting a new precedent.
“Space Island” is the NewSpace moniker for the pads at Wallops. It will launch cargo, and one day people, to low-Earth orbit (LEO) and spacecraft and cargo to the moon and beyond. It is largely the vision and determination of Billie Reed, executive director of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, and his associates.
The United States has suffered the loss of a significant measure of the global market for commercial space launch payloads. The effort now under way at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport will be a step toward the recovery of American space market share. Because of cumbersome export controls and foreign xenophobia associated with potential technology transfer, the Wallops Island effort is significant in the annals of space hardware development.
The success of Orbital Sciences Corp. in making the sum of the international parts greater than the Taurus-2 rocket will certainly lead to an even grander set of opportunities ahead for space commerce entrepreneurs and space exploration enthusiasts alike.
In 2008, the Mexican parliament approved the creation of a Mexican space agency (Agencia Espacial Mexicana - AEXA). The initiative was put forward in 2007 by NASA's Hernandez, whose father emigrated to the U.S. from Mexico. The structure of Mexico's space agency will be similar to that of NASA. The initial cost of the project is estimated at $80 million.
El astronauta José Hernández has volunteered to help start Mexico's space agency. He is the U.S.-born son of Mexican migrant farm workers.
Russia and Mexico signed an agreement on cooperation in space research and exploration for peaceful purposes in 1996. In March 2009, a delegation of experts from Russian space agency Roscosmos visited with Russian space experts syaing they were ready to help Mexico develop its national space program on a commercial basis.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
A secret space plane that has been years in the making is now set to launch into the final frontier. The United States Air Force plans to launch the X-37B orbital test vehicle tomorrow, to perform a series of tests. Is this the beginning of the United States going above and beyond in space exploration or the beginning of the militarization of space? The 'Baby Space Shuttle' will be launched from Cape Canaveral atop of an Atlas-V now set for Thursday.
Manber notes that China is also watching this launch carefully as the Asian nation appears on the rise in space technologies. Meanwhile, the USAF is planning a second launch depending upon the level of success with the first flight of the X-37B, reports MSNBC.
"The policies adopted in the next year may well determine the next fifty years of space commerce, space exploration, and space development. There is no more fitting place to wage the space policy debate than from Virginia - where the first American astronauts of yesteryear trained for the first human spaceflights, and where New World Virginia can now be in direct contact with the New Frontier of commercial spaceflight," the published commentary notes.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Space journalist Leonard David shares with his readers important points made by Roger Handberg, Professor and Chair in the Department of Political Science at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. In addition, Fox News recently reported on the potential military apps for the new space vehicle. A second spaceflight test of the X-37B is planned next year.
Russia has confirmed plans to launch a modernized Soyuz rocket from France's Kourou space launch center in French Guiana later this year. The launch, which has been repeatedly postponed, would be the first of 10 contracted in 2008 between the Russian space agency and the French satellite launch firm Arianespace. Parts of two Soyuz-ST rockets, modernized versions of the Soyuz-2 rocket developed specifically for launches from the Kourou space center in South America, were delivered to French Guiana last year.
Space shuttle Discovery's seven astronauts took a walk around the spacecraft that carried them more than 6 million miles. They each paused to express their thoughts about the mission and their gratitude to those on the ground who helped make the mission safe and successful after being greeted by NASA Deputy Administrator Laurie Garver.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Aldrin said he wanted to see "permanence on Mars within 15 years," and that Mars' moon Phobos may be the best spot for a permanent settlement. "This moon is the key to permanence of human beings from Earth on another planet in the solar system," said the globally well-known former Apollo 11 astronaut.
The Russian space agency is finalizing a revised launch campaign to the Martian moon Phobos for next year (Russian video) known as Phobos-Grunt. The mission is designed to soft land a probe to gather soil from the moon's surface and subsequently return the sample to Earth scientists.
The moon's orientation to the sun keeps the bottoms of the craters in permanent shadow allowing temperatures there to plunge below minus 400 degrees F, cold enough to store volatile material for billions of years, according to NASA.
"However, our research suggests that, in addition to the wicked cold, explorers and robots at the bottoms of polar lunar craters may have to contend with a complex electrical environment as well, which can affect surface chemistry, static discharge, and dust cling," Farrell said in a report from The Economic Times of India.
"We want to develop a fully three-dimensional model to examine the effects of solar wind expansion around the edges of a mountain. We now examine the vertical expansion, but we want to also know what happens horizontally," said Farrell.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Spaceport readers give Hathorne, Calif-based SpaceX a nearly 50-50 chance of being the first commercial space launch transport to deliver cargo to the orbiting space station; while Dulles, Va-based Orbital Sciences Corporation gained a 2 in 5 chance of being the first. Slightly more than 1 in 10 said another commercial space launch carrier would be first. President Obama seems to be betting on SpaceX too - until at least - he visits Wallops Island, Va. Credit Photo: AP and more from Elon Musk in video.
This Blogger was honored to among those in the crowd of 200 at the Kennedy Space Center to hear the President's words of a bold commercial and civil space policy for the coming decade that will take commercial astronauts to LEO and the Moon; NASA astronauts to asteroids, the moons of Mars and down to the Martian surface, each in innovative system-driven-steps.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev Monday called for a global space summit in an internationally televised two way, point-to-point video appearance with the orbiting cosmonauts and astronauts aboard the international space station on Cosmonauts Day 2010.
The Russian president's call for global space summit comes at a time when American President Barrack Obama meets with 200 US leaders of space technology and policy at the Kennedy Space Center this week as to the future of human spaceflight and the aspiration of the nation to move from low-earth-orbit to placing humans in deep space outside of Earth orbit.
"No country can develop space alone, we need to combine our efforts and we need to talk about it more often," Medvedev stated. "So maybe we could have some sort of international meeting, maybe at the heads of governments level. Because we talk about various issues, such as tackling all kinds of challenges, dangers and hazards that humanity is facing these days, various disarmament programs, etc., but there is a very important and positive factor that unites us all. So maybe it would be good to have a summit, maybe at the heads of governments level, for the countries that are working in space. So see, I have a very good idea on this holiday. What do you think?"
"Space is our highest priority, regardless of how hard the economic situation is in the country. Space will always remain our priority. This is not just somebody's interpretation, it's our official state position. I am here in my presidential office and when addressing you, I can confirm again the significance of space for the government," Medvedev said in a call to the crew of the International Space Station on the 49th anniversary of the launch of Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who became the first human to fly into outer space in 1961.
Russian space officials have recently indicated plans for a new nuclear propulsion systems and many other space system improvements in declaring 2011 The Year of the Cosmonaut in the coming 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's first human spaceflight.
Whether or not President Obama would enter into an international space summit is yet to be seen. Chinese space diplomats would be required to be involved in any global confab as only the third nation to place humans in orbit. Never has there been a global space summit by heads of state resulting in a significant diplomatic communique - perhaps the time is coming. But any development taken to head-of-state level would require extensive preparation and pre-summit negotiation on the course of the agenda.
Diplomats of China and Russia have previously requested the United States to enter into a treaty to ban space weapons to which America has demurred. Yet the possibility of an expansion of the International Space Station to include both India and China participation is growing more ripe on US domestic policy decision agenda. Chinese human spaceflight is maturing with orbital three member space crews even conducting a spacewalk. China will also launch a space mini-lab next year. Meanwhile, India plans human spaceflights beginning in 2014.
The FAA has given approval April 7, 2010 to allow thes NASTAR Center to offer prospective space launch operators seeking a launch license, its pre-approved, NASTAR Space Training Programs using the Space Training Simulator (STS-400) to satisfy the Crew Qualification and Training Requirements outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations (14 C.F.R. § 460.5). These regulations require crew members to complete training on how to carry out his or her role on board or on the ground and to demonstrate the ability to withstand the stresses of space flight, which may include high acceleration or deceleration, microgravity, and vibration.
Monday, April 12, 2010
The Apollo 13 moon landing mission was underway 40 years ago today with the April 11, 1970, 13:13 Central Time launch from the Kennedy Space Center. Two days later, en route to the Moon, April 13, 1970, the Apollo 13 astronauts were at risk of never coming home again as the world watched a prayed for the safety of the three would-be lunar astronauts. Fortunately for the crew of Apollo 13: "Failure Is Not at Option" as mission controllers work night and day to provide a lunar flyby trajectory back to Earth safely using the Moon landing module as a safe place until atmospheric re-entry. Those are days to be remembered in space history.
Twenty-nine years ago today, STS-1 Columbia roared to life with astronauts John Young and Robert Crippen taking the brand new spacecraft skyward to orbit for the very first time. This Blogger was honored to be at the Kennedy Space Center on this historic day.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
The 2010 Space Access conference in Arizona this weekend has several new technology presentations being positioned for market entry. One presentation of interest included Leik Myrabo of the RPI Laser Propulsion Laboratory/International Collaboration On Hypersonic BEP With Brazil/LTI Work With Umea Institute of Design On 2-5 Passenger Lightcraft Design using laser power for point-to-point flights. More about the project presentation and other presentations at 2010 Space Access from Henry Cate.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
One of America's leading commercial space firms, Bigelow Aerospace, is now looking to Wallops Island, Va. specifically to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, for potential commercial space launch services according to the firm's attorney who recently visited Virginia's Eastern Shore space facilities. It would be a major commercial space coup if Bigelow launches were to be based in Virginia.
Michael Gold, an attorney who represents Bigelow Aerospace, said the Nevada-based company will work at Wallops Island provided the nation commits to the commercial spaceflight agenda outlined by President Barack Obama, reports The Daily Press in Hampton, Va. Obama is slated to announce a major space policy in the coming week.
The space applications firm is looking for a commercial space launch firms and commercial space launch facilities to launch humans to the firm's privately owned human habitant space stations now planned to in this decade. The firm is now looking at the Atlas V commercial space launch booster. The Wallops Island site may be a perfect opportunity.
Some of the Bigelow Aerospace operations, such as Atlas V, could shift to Wallops Island, Gold said. Such a move could create hundreds of high-paying jobs on the Eastern Shore. "The economic impact of human spaceflight cannot be underestimated," Gold said.