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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Werb Suggests Ending Socialism in Space!

The word "socialism" has been bandied about a lot during the last year and applied to many situations that are a long way from the traditional understanding of the word: vesting full control over the means of production in government. It has been used to describe proposed and enacted changes to laws about health care, cap and trade, corporate bailouts, financial regulation, education and even middle-class tax cuts, writes The Space Fronteir Foundation board chairman Bob Web in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. The Guest Commentary is worthy of passing along to conservatives members of Congress and their staff this month.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Jack Kennedy Honored for Service in Virginia

The Southwestern Virginia Technology Council presented the Presidential Award to Jack Kennedy at the group's annual gala held at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon in June. The award was for his "driven determination and steadfast leadership in advancing Energy and Space exploration in Southwestern Virginia and across the Commonwealth" and it was presented by Virginia Technology Alliance Chairman Donald Purdie and Apollo 17 lunar astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt.

Kennedy is a co-founder of the Energy Technology Summit, held annually in April on the campus of the University of Virginia's College at Wise, brings experts and firms to the coal-producing region to review space-based solar power, solar power utilities, wind turbine technology, electric and hydrogen-powered automobiles, fusion, and a host of other cutting-edge energy technologies for possible investment. Hundreds of business, academic and government leaders have attended the summit the past three years for the technology council-sponsored event.

A civil, commercial, and military space enthusiast, Kennedy serves as a gubernatorial appointee on the 13-member Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority board of directors governing the state's commercial spaceport at Wallops Island, VA. From the 'Space Island' location the first commercial cargo launches will take flight to the International Space Station next year.

Kennedy's advocacy of the spaceport has manifested in many forms ranging from organizing ZeroGravity flights for Virginia school teachers; organizing enactment of Virginia laws favorable to commercial space launch opportunities; writing space-related commentaries for daily newspapers; editing a space-related blog read by hundreds from around the world; and, organizing college and university student earth science and observational astronomy programs.

The Space Frontier Foundation presented Kennedy with the prestigious "2009 In-Service to the Frontier Award" at ceremonies held at NASA Ames in Silicon Valley, California for his work in advancing first of its kind commercial space launch state law in Virginia. President Obama honored him with inclusion in the space policy conference last April at the Kennedy Space Center.

A Virginia licensed attorney, Kennedy is the Clerk of the Circuit Court for Wise County and Norton and resides in Wise, Va. He holds six degrees in business, management, judicial administration, political science, space science and law.

Monday, June 28, 2010

National Space Policy Released by President

The National Space Policy of the United States has been released by President Barack Obama today calling for greater international cooperation in space exploration and to address debris and other hazards in space, and the possibility of a treaty to limit space-based weapons. The President called for a "burgeoning commercial space industry."

Obama reiterated his plans from April to send Americans to visit an asteroid by 2025 - a key destination for a pathway to Mars by 2035. This plan has drawn Congressional critics but key legislation appears to be advancing.

The new White House space policy abandons some of the doctrine put forth by President George W. Bush and resumes space policies adopted by Presidents Bill Clinton George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan. The G.W. Bush space policy was criticized by some as being aggressive.

"No longer are we racing against an adversary," President Obama said in a statement. "In fact, one of our central goals is to promote peaceful cooperation and collaboration in space, which not only will ward off conflict, but will help to expand our capacity to operate in orbit and beyond."

"Above all, this policy is about the boundless possibilities of the future,” Obama said. “That is why we seek to spur a burgeoning commercial space industry, to rapidly increase our capabilities in space while bolstering America’s competitive edge in the global economy,” building on his April 15, 2010 comments at the Kennedy Space Center.

White House officials did say they are talking with the Chinese government about including them in U.S. space efforts — such as the International Space Station — but there is nothing concrete yet, [more from The Christian Science Monitor, MSNBC, UPI and AFP].

ICBM Test Set June 30 at 'Vandy'


A Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile [ICBM] opeartional test flight is scheduled to launch from North Vandenberg Wednesday, June 30, 2010 between 3:01 a.m. to 9:01 a.m. PDT to determine the weapon system's reliability and accuracy.

The USAF 576th Flight Test Squadron, which will direct the missile launch, installed tracking, telemetry and command destruct systems on the missile to collect data and meet safety requirements. Maintenance and operations task force personnel from the USAF 341st Missile Wing, Malmstrom AFB, Montana, are conducting operational tasks supporting the launch.

Virginia Spaceport Readies for Launch to ISS


Laurie Naismith, Director Government Relations & Public Affairs for the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority [VCSFA] notes that new liquid oxygen tank slowly made it's way on 56 wheels to the Wallops Island, Va. launch facility to support the Taurus 2 launch to the International Space Station next year. The VCSFA board governs the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport and seeks commercial space launch investment by commercial space launch firms.

Randa Milliron: A Spaceport of Her Own

Setting up a private rocket site in the remote Tropics of Tonga sounds like a movie supervillain plan, but Randa Milliron of the Mojave, Calif.-based InterOrbital Systems (IOS) explains why it's the best way to get us to orbit and beyond in the recent Podcast interview by Podcaster Dr. Alex "Sandy" Antunes for the 365 Days of Astronomy series [click link for audio].

"We like the idea of also having a spaceport in a resort [Tonga], and for us something exotic in the South Pacific is very very exciting. Our kind of a tag line on that is, "from paradise to outer space". We're strictly interested in orbital launch, I mentioned that you before, there are suborbital programs and orbital programs. We are strictly orbital and interplanetary," Milliron told Dr. Antunes in the short Podcast interview.

Whether or not InterOrbital Systems is successful in achieving orbital velocity and a sustainable Earth orbit in 2011 or thereafter remains to be seen but the dedication to a dream of expanding to a private spaceport in Tonga is interesting.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Russia to Resume Buran Space Shuttle?


In an unusual report from Space Daily, Russia is said to be returning to its program of building the space shuttles and super-heavy carrier rockets after 2018, citing an Interfax news agency report from Moscow on Friday. The Buran flew to space once over 20 years ago.

New carrier rockets will have a workload over 24 tons, director of Moscow's Central Machine-building Institute, Gennady Raikunov, reportedly said during the Strong Russia business conference with tests of the rocket to start in 2015 and its commercial exploitation will commence in 2018.

Russian space engineers also are working on building the rocket capable of delivering to the orbit a workload over 100 ton per launch, he said adding that in the more distant future, Raikunov's institute plans to work out a new manned spaceship and non-disposable boosters.

Miles O'Brien Reports: This Week in Space

2010 Lunar Conference Set for Moffett Field

The NASA Lunar Science Institute is pleased to announce the 3rd annual NASA Lunar Science Forum, to be held July 20-22, 2010, at the NASA Ames Conference Center, Moffett Field, California. This year's forum will feature sessions on scientific results from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, as well as the presentation of the annual Shoemaker medal and associated keynote lecture. As in past years, science sessions are structured to report on both recent results and future opportunities for lunar science, education and outreach. The event has an agenda and registration page.

Among the many highlights of the forum will be a musical and visual display by Jose Francisco Salgado, PhD entitled "Communicating Science through Art." Space journalist Andrew Chaikin will lecture about how recent lunar missions have revolutionized our thinking about our closest neighbor - "The New Moon," advises Clive R. Neal, PhD from the University of Notre Dame.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Cosmonaut Museum for 50th Year of Gagarin


A visit to Moscow this year and next would be incomplete without touring the Cosmonaut Space Museum and giving a hat tip to the first human in space, Yuri Gagarin [narrated video inside the museum]. It will be fifty (50) years ago on April 12, 2011 that Gagarin rocketed into orbital space and into the history books.

And while in Moscow, one may also want to take a trek to Korolev to visit the Russian ISS Mission Control Center and Star City for look-see into the cosmonaut training center [video]. Following the early 2011 retirement of the American space shuttle, Star City will be the only avenue to space for the West at least for three or four years.

But if you are a brave human being but one who can not expend $30-million and six months training for a Russian orbital spaceflight sometime in 2012, you could also take flight on the MiG 29 OVT. The Russians will provide a commercial flight on this spectacular bird for just the right price. Yes, exceedingly cheaper than a commercial orbital spaceflight and pulls up to a ballistic 8Gs in flight!

FINALLY: Ariane 5 Roars from Kourou


A second video provides poor view but the distant sound of the Ariane climbing to orbit.

3rd Attempt: Ariane 5 Launch Today!

UPDATE! The new launch time is slated for today between 5:41 pm and 6:52 PM EDT. This is the third launch attempt for Ariane Flight 195.
Arianespace will orbit the Arabsat 5A communications satellite for operator Arabsat, and the COMS multi-mission satellite for the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) with the launch scheduled from the the Ariane launch complex N° 3 (ELA3), in Kourou, French Guiana. LIVE WEBCAST COVERAGE beginning at 5:20 PM today.

Overview of Orbital's DARPA 6 Satellite

2010 New Space Set July 23-25 in Sunnyvale

NewSpace 2010 Conference, July 23-25: The annual conference held by the Space Frontier Foundation will take place at the Domain Hotel in Sunnyvale, California, at the center of Silicon Valley and near the NASA Ames Research Center. For some 20 years the Foundation’s members and Advocates have been the chief actors assailing old ideas and assumptions in quest of a “NewSpace” Era. Book your seat at the conference now.

With the suddenly ramped-up “mainstream” attention, a new and often far more intense phase of the battle has been joined. Hear from and meet those in the front lines of both the private and public fronts, [The Lurio Report].

Terrier-Orion Rock-On with Student Experiments from Wallops Island, VA

The Terrier-Orion suborbital sounding rocket launched Thursday morning [July 24, 2010] from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The rocket carried 11 experiments that were developed in part with a week long Rock-On workshop on how to build small experiments for launch aboard suborbital rockets. The rocket was estimated to be traveling more than 2,650 miles per hour less than a minute into the launch [video].

According to project documentation, the following universities had payloads on this mission: Temple University, West Virginia University, University of Louisiana University of Minnesota, University of Wyoming, University of Puerto Rico, University of Colorado at Boulder, Virginia Tech, University of Northern Colorado, and Colorado State University, notes NASA Watch.

The commercial Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport [MARS] is co-located on the NASA Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island, Virginia. Orbital Sciences Corporation will commence launching the new Taurus-2 to provide commercial resupply the International Space Station from 'Space Island' next year.

No Invitation Issued to Chinese to Join ISS

NASA says the International Space Station partner countries have not invited China to join the orbiting lab complex, dismissing a Russian news story proclaiming the Russian space agency contacted the rising space power about signing on to the project, reports SpaceflightNow.

But leaders of the Russian space program and the European Space Agency have been open to Chinese participation in the international project. Over a year ago presidential science advisor John Holdren had suggested the possibility that US astronauts could fly aboard a Chinese spacecraft in the future.

A commercial path to enable a Chinese citizen to visit the ISS and a second mission to a Chinese space station in 2012/2013 has been suggested here in months past. Such a two mission international profile could lead to a diplomatic breakthrough at some subsequent date among human spacefaring nations, as has been suggested here in months past. [Hat tip to Doug Messier.]

Friday, June 25, 2010

President Space Policy Directive Coming June 28, 2010 White House Announcement

President Barack Obama's space policy is coming to light on Monday, June 28, 2010 reports Space News in a document obtained by the space news outlet. The President seems to place special emphasis on international space cooperation, commercial space launch development and "innovative entrepreneurship."

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

NASA Shuttle Retirement Slowing to 2011

NASA managers now have under active consideration delaying the last two space shuttle flights to the International Space Station to allow the payloads to be modified. If the plan is adopted, the launch of Discovery (STS-133) would be delayed by about six weeks - from September 16 to October 29, 2010. The launch of Endeavour (STS-134) would be stalled by over three months - from November to February 28, 2011. A decision is decision is expected next week. More details from Florida Today and Space.com.

Continuing in the background noise is the ongoing discussion of an Atlantis (STS-135) four member crew mission June 24, 2011 to ferry more supplies and cargo to the ISS. A decision on the proposed mission may come July 1, 2010 as well. The extension of the ISS to 2020 may help drive a favorable decision enabling to two commercial cargo carriers - SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corporation - to demonstrate payload delivery capability on-orbit.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 to Fly in 2013

NASA has selected Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., to launch the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) mission. The spacecraft will fly in February 2013 aboard a Taurus XL 3110 rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

OCO-2 is NASA's first mission dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is the leading human-produced greenhouse gas driving changes in Earth's climate. OCO-2 will provide the first complete picture of human and natural carbon dioxide sources and "sinks," the places where the gas is pulled out of the atmosphere and stored. It will map the global geographic distribution of these sources and sinks and study their changes over time. The OCO-2 spacecraft will replace OCO-1, lost during a launch vehicle failure in 2009, [OCO Sci Video].

The total cost of the OCO-2 launch services is approximately $70 million, according to NASA JPL. More from The Christian Science Monitor.

Obama Space Policy Directive Coming Soon

The Obama administration is expected to release its National Space Policy sometime in the next few weeks. This public summary of the administration’s main principles and goals for using space will supersede the Bush administration’s policy, which was issued in 2006.

Press attention likely will focus on the National Space Policy’s implications for changes at NASA and the future of the piloted spacecraft program, but experts point out that the document language also will indicate how the Obama administration will approach space security, which is more important internationally. If the administration’s public statements are any indication, the new policy likely will represent a return to a more international approach to space; a more balanced view of civil, commercial and military uses of space; and a greater openness to arms control and cooperative solutions to international space security issues.

The Space Development Committee, a group that includes Apollo 11 astronaut Dr. Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 14 astronaut Dr. Edgar Mitchell, and members from NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Defense says the president's space policy should include space-based solar power.

"The answer is eight minutes above Mr. Obama's head. Solar power harvested in space means jobs, economic recovery, power to the global poor, and a new American century. Space solar power can turn America from a billion dollar a day oil importer to a net energy exporter. Space solar power can be harvested 24/7 and transmitted directly to the cities and villages that need it, from America, Europe, India, and China to the electricity-deprived corners of Africa and Asia. Drill up, not down, Mr. Obama. Space solar power," says Howard Bloom.

NASA Technologist to Host Industry Forum

NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist will host an Industry Forum at the University of Maryland University College on July 13-14, 2010 to discuss the agency's proposed new space technology investments. The event will focus on President Obama's Fiscal Year 2011 budget request for NASA's new Space Technology Programs. Representatives from industry, academia, and the federal government are invited to discuss strategy, development, and implementation of the proposed new technology-enabled strategy for exploration.

The meeting will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 6 p.m. EDT on July 13 and from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. EDT, at the University of Maryland University College, Inn and Conference Center, 3501 University Blvd. East, Adelphi, MD. The first day will also feature the announcement of three new Centennial Challenges prize competitions, [UPI].

To attend, interested parties must register for the free event. Registration is limited to 300 people and closes at 4:30 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, July 7, 2010.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Welcome to Summer 2010 at Stonehenge

Music and foto stills from Stonehenge, England 2010.
"Whatever is dreamed on this night, will come to pass."
- William Shakespeare - Acknowledging the Magic of This Time
A Mid-Summernight's Dream

Largest Solar Flare of 2010 Was Sunday!


It's no secret that the sun has been acting rather strange lately, and it's very difficult to predict what it will do next. Although the likelihood of a devastating solar flare is low, damage to our infrastructure by solar activity has happened in the past and it will happen again.

In 1859 a huge solar storm burned out telegraph wires across Europe and the United States. Dr Stuart Clark has written a book, The Sun Kings, about when that happened. He says that the Carrington flare”, as it was known, “smothered two-thirds of the Earth’s skies in a blood-red aurora a night later, and crippled all of global navigation and global communication, such as it was at that time. Compasses span uselessly and the telegraph network went down as phantom electricity surged through the wire.”

The sun's 11-year peak -- or "solar maximum" -- is due in 2013. The last one in 2001 did one billion dollars [USD] infrastructure damage.

Big Bang Set for New Mexico Space Museum!

There’s going to be great big bangs and lots of bright lights for the July 4th Fireworks Extravaganza on Sunday, July 4, 2010 at the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo. “We probably have at least a third more fireworks this year than last year and our fireworks company promises a grand finale like never before!” said Museum Marketing Director Cathy Harper, a Space Frontier Foundation Advocate.

The Fireworks will begin at approximately 9:15 pm. All events are weather permitting. A back up date of July 5 has been scheduled. Music for the fireworks program will be carried live on KZZX Radio, 105.3 FM, through the support of Burt Broadcasting.

The New Mexico Museum of Space History is a division of the NM Department of Cultural Affairs. For more information on Museum related activities or on how you can become a member of the International Space Hall of Fame Foundation, call 437-2840 or 1-877-333-6589, or visit the website [video].

Japan Considering Hayabusa-2 Probe Funding

Japan's space scientists are now gaining political and funding support for a new asteroid mission named Hayabusa-2 as a follow on to the now completed return of the Hayabusa space capsule likely to contain asteroid materials brought back to Earth for the first time, according to Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan [Time].

By improving the Hayabusa probe, JAXA is planning to visit a NEO whose orbit is similar to that of Itokawa, and aiming sample-return from an asteroid of different type from Itokawa. The target body of Hayabusa-2 is a C-type asteroid, considered to contain more organic or hydrated materials than S-type asteroids like Itokawa. What types of organic materials exist in the solar system, and is there any relation to life on Earth. No date has been set for the new mission.

The Japanese also were considering participation in an asteroid mission proposed by the European Space Agency called Marco Polo. The down select by European scientists and mission planners dropped the proposed mission from the ESA/JAXA mission portfolio in January 2010.

Obama plan to land on asteroid for 2025?

Millions of miles from Earth, two astronauts hover weightlessly next to a giant space rock, selecting pebbles for scientific research. The spaceship where they'll sleep floats just overhead. Beyond it, barely visible in the sky, is a glittering speck. It's Earth.

It sounds like a science-fiction movie, but this surreal scene could, if President Obama has his way, become a reality. However, unlike Hollywood depictions in such movies as Armageddon, it's going to be a lot harder to pull off, writes Traci Watson in an intriguing story for USA Today.

Roskosmos, Arianespace Sign $500 Mil Deal

Russia's Roskosmos signed a deal on Saturday to sell more than $500 million of space rocket launchers to the France's Arianespace company for flights from French Guiana following direct talks beteen Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in St. Petersburg, Russia this past weekend.

The contract between Roskosmos and Arianespace provides for a delivery of additional Russian Soyuz carriers for the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana, with the sum of the contract totalling 16.6 billion roubles or over $500USD, Roskosmos head Anatoly Perminov told Itar-Tass on Sunday.

“We shall have to deliver additionally ten Soyuzes for firings from the Kourou cosmodrome in French Guiana,” Perminov said, specifying that part of carriers are to be delivered by 2014; deliveries are to be made a year before a supposed launching. According to Perminov, the duration of the contract is not pegged to years, but depends on the number of firings.

Arianespace chief Jean-Yves Le Gall told Itar-Tass that it had been planned initially to make 14 blast-offs of Soyuz ST launch vehicles, but a decision was taken later on purchasing of additional ten carriers. “All in all, we plan to make 24 launches,” Le Gall added. He confirmed that the first launch of a Russian Soyuz ST from the Kourou spaceport would be made late this year.

Mike Griffin Talks with O'Brien About SpaceX

The Aurora Australis Shot from ISS

The International Space Station Expedition 23 crew sent this photo to Earth taken of the Aurora Australis or "Southern Lights" from orbit. The limb of the Earth and some stars in the background are seen from nearly 200-miles above the planet.

The aurorae are usually between 50-to–100 miles above the Earth’s surface. This particular May 29, 2010 sight was probably caused by subatomic particles from an explosive event called a coronal mass ejection from the Sun. Previous ISS shots of the Aurora Borealis have been a delight.

Friday, June 18, 2010

NASA DEVELOP Scholars Meet Moon Astronaut

Dr. Harrison 'Jack' Schmitt and Dr. Ronald A. Wells took time to meet with the Wise DEVELOP scholars using NASA remote sensing satellite data to assist in understanding global environmental problems. The students are spending the summer preparing research projects for publication and presentation to civil groups and government leaders. The summer program will end in mid-August, 2010.

Father and Son Rocket Science!


Just had to re-post this rocket launch since no national space program has done this before.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

ESA's Rosetta Set for Asteroid Encounter


The European Space Agency (ESA) comet-chaser Rosetta spacecraft is heading for a close encounter with asteroid Lutetia. Scientists dp not yet know what Lutetia looks like up-close but the two will meet on Saturday, July 10, 2010 in space, [video].

Rosetta will encounter Lutetia flying to within 3200 km of the space rock. Rosetta started taking navigational sightings of Lutetia at the end of May so that ground controllers can determine any course corrections required to achieve their intended flyby distance.

The close pass will allow around 2 hours of good imaging of asteroid Lutetia. The spacecraft will instantly begin beaming the data back to Earth and the first pictures will be released later that evening. More from the ESA.

JAXA Solar Sail Deployment Photographed


The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully took images of the whole solar sail of the Small Solar Power Sail Demonstrator "IKAROS" after its deployment of a separation camera on June 15 (Japan Standard Time, JST.) The IKAROS was launched on May 21, 2010 (JST) from the Tanegashima Space Center.

JAXA will measure and observe the power generation status of the thin film solar cells, accelerate the satellite by photon pressure, and verify the orbit control through that acceleration. Through these activities, JAXA will ultimately aim at acquiring navigation technology through the solar sail. The solar sail project is a part of an ongoing remote sensing mission en route to the planet Venus. More from BBC.

Rick Homans Back at Spaceport America

The New Mexico Spaceport Authority has a new executive director, and far from being a stranger to the job, the appointee knows the spaceport job from start-up to perhaps the first launch.

The spaceport board met Tuesday in Truth or Consequences and voted unanimously to hire Rick Homans. He will take over as permanent director on July 1, 2010 after stepping down as head of the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department.

Homans served as the first chairman of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority from 2005 to 2007 and was briefly its executive director in 2007 [video]. Gov. Bill Richardson said Homans' appointment provides the continuity needed to ensure Spaceport America's success and completion by 2011.

“Spaceport America will soon be moving from a major construction project to an operational spaceport, launching humans into sub-orbit, and Rick has the project background, knowledge of the issues, and relationships with the many government and business partners,” Governor Richardson said. “This appointment assures we have the continuity we need to ensure the success of Spaceport America.”

The first commercial suborbital spaceflights from Spaceport America in New Mexico are expected to begin next year as the construction phase continues to draw workers and space pioneers to southern New Mexico communities.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

NASA Issues RFI for Centennial Challenges


NASA is seeking private and corporate sponsors for the Centennial Challenges, a program of incentive prizes designed for the "citizen inventor" that generates creative solutions to problems of interest to NASA and the nation. NASA is looking for companies, organizations or individuals interested in sponsoring the non-profit allied organizations that manage the prize competitions. The Request for Information (RFI) was issued June 11, 2010.

Since 2005, NASA has conducted 19 competitions in six challenge areas and awarded $4.5 million to 13 different teams. Each of the challenges is managed by non-profit organizations in partnership with NASA. New challenges will be announced in 2010 and additional new challenges are expected in the years to follow. The topics may include, but are not limited to, the following technical areas: Energy Generation and Storage; Access to Space, Rocketry and Space Transportation; Robotics and Automation; Aeronautics; Earth and Space Science; Space Exploration; Life Sciences; Life Support, Habitation and Space Suit; Cryogenic Fluid Handling and Storage; Space Resources and Construction; Instruments and Sensors; and, Communications.

Soyuz TMA-19 Performs Flawless Launch


The Soyuz TMA-19 performed a flawless 'nominal' launch into the cloudless predawn desert skies from the the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan enabling viewers to watch the spacecraft booster separation as it continued into low earth orbit. The spacecraft and the crew of three, one Russian and two Americans, will dock with the International Space Station late Thursday afternoon with the crew spending nearly six months on-orbit. The launch marked the 100th space launch in support of the International Space Station since 1998.

While several women have flown to the ISS, this will be the first time a long-duration station crew has included two women with four men on-board. Both women are American - space rookie Shannon Walker, who launched today, and Tracy Caldwell Dyson who arrived on-orbit April 2, 2010.

Space journalist James Oberg has an interesting MSNBC article on this flight impressing the mind that the Star City will soon be a NASA astronaut's only path way to orbital space in the near-term.

Soyuz TMA-19 Live Coverage 5:35 PM Today

The Russian Soyuz TMA-19 spacecraft is on the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, for 5:35 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, June 15, 2010 liftoff [today]. The rocket ignition and orbital boost phase will be broadcast live on NASA-TV with pre-launch coverage beginning at 4 PM and going through 6 PM. The Soyuz will be the only spacecraft capable of sending humans to the International Space Station upon the retirement of the American space shuttle fleet late this year.

Nelson Writes of NASA Authorization Bill

US Senator Bill Nelson, (D-Fla), chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space, has released a June 14, 2010 letter sent to US Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, the powerful Chairwoman of the Subcommittee of Senate Appropriations overseeing NASA's budget, in which Nelson provides insight as to the developing national space policy over the next year.

In the letter, Nelson says the Senate NASA authorization legislation will propose continuing the ISS until at least 2020; enabling space station commercial cargo delivery; and, the flight of an additional space shuttle mission, perhaps in the summer of 2011.

In addtion, "the bill would support the continuation and expansion of the current risk reduction, safety, and technology development effort known as the '"Commercial Crew Development Program."' The bill would also require NASA to complete a number of studies, assessments, and milestones as we progress from a commercial cargo capability to commercial crew services. Astronaut safety will be the core component of all of these requirements, as with any human space flight program," Nelson writes.

Senator Nelson also states that he is proposing, "NASA embark immediately on an international effort to define near-term missions in the lunar and high- Earth orbits of space. These missions would incorporate both robotic capabilities and the development of on-orbit capabilities, technology, and infrastructure. Initial missions to Lagrange points or lunar orbit would form a foundation for follow-on missions to other destinations, ultimately leading to Mars."

"The authorization bill will direct NASA to initiate development of a heavy-lift vehicle in fiscal year 2011, both to support these new human space flight activities and to serve as a contingency capability to the ISS. The authorization will propose that both the heavy-lift and crew exploration vehicles leverage the workforce, contracts, assets, and capabilities of the Shuttle, Ares I, and Orion efforts."

Monday, June 14, 2010

Here Comes the Sun: Solar Flare Eruptions!


A one hundred year maximum solar flare cycle may be awakening from an 11-year deep slumber leaving millions around the planet facing widespread power blackouts and loss of critical communication signals for long periods of time, after the Earth is hit by a once-in-a-generation “space storm”, NASA has warned, [video].

National power grids could overheat and air travel severely disrupted while electronic items, GPS navigation devices and major satellites could stop working after the Sun reaches its maximum power in a few years, [photos June 14, 2010].

Senior space agency scientists believe the Earth will be hit with unprecedented levels of magnetic energy from solar flares after the Sun wakes from a deep slumber sometime around 2012-2013, The Daily Telegraph reported Monday, [video].

SpaceX to Launch Taiwan Formosat-5 Sat

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and the National Space Organization (NSPO) have signed a contract for the launch of NSPO's Earth Observation Satellite, Formosat-5, to be used to continue the image data service for civilian users and may also carry instruments to conduct space research and scientific experiments.

NSPO, the civilian space agency of the Republic of China (Taiwan), is involved in the development of space exploration, satellite construction and development as well as related research, technologies and infrastructure, including the FORMOSAT series of Earth observation satellites. With Formosat-5, NSPO aims to build up capabilities for independent development of spacecraft and payload instruments.

"The launch of Formosat-5 will build on the successful launch and operation of the FORMOSAT satellites," said Dr. H.P. Chang, Formosat-5 Program Manager of NSPO. "SpaceX's approach to launch services is very well-aligned with our goals and objectives for the program--we are very pleased to partner with them on this launch."

"With over 40 flights now on manifest, SpaceX is positioned to deliver launch services across the increasingly varied needs of our commercial and government customers," said Gwynne Shotwell, President of SpaceX. "We are pleased to be the launch services provider of choice for the Formosat-5 mission and look forward to supporting NSPO on this launch."

Formosat-5 is slated to launch as early as December 2013 from SpaceX's launch site on Omelek Island at the U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll (USAKA) in the Central Pacific, about 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii, [Business Wire].

Soyuz TMA-19 at Pad for Tuesday Launch


The Russian Soyuz TMA-19 spacecraft set to carry a new crew to the international space station is transported from a hangar to the launch pad at the Russian-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, Sunday, June 13, 2010. The Soyuz TMA-19 vehicle carrying Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, U.S. astronauts Shannon Walker and Doug Wheelock, is scheduled for orbit on June 16, 2010 and docking with the space station two days later. NASA-TV will begin live coverage of the launch preparations and launch at 4 PM Tuesday and continuing until 6 PM. More from Russia Today, AP. Pictured are the Soyuz TMA-19 prime and back-up crew in Moscow.

Indian Human Space Mission in 2017?


India is expected to go forward with a human spaceflight program to place a two-man crew in low earth orbit sometime between 2015 and 2017. Aviation Week recently noted a setback in India's human spaceflight hardware engine development but counsels that it may not slow it significantly.

Spacecraft May Bolster Mars Ocean Studies


The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission (MAVEN), slated for launch in 2013, will look for clues of a huge, potentially life-giving sea likely covered more than a third of Mars some 3.5 billion years ago and straddled the Martian north pole and contained the equivalent of a tenth of the water on Earth [NASA video].

Gaetano Di Achille and Brian Hynek of the University of Colorado in Boulder have been the first planetary scientists to link up all remote sensing data available on Mars' terrain into a single computer-driven model to complete an extensive study published in Nature Geoscience.

The computer models found 52 river-delta deposits scattered across the planet with than half occurring at about the same elevation, and thus probably marked the boundary of the once-massive sea, according to the study. The river deltas would have been connected either directly to the ocean, or to its groundwater table along with several large, adjacent lakes.

In a parallel study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research (Planets), Hynek and colleagues catalogued some 40,000 river valleys on Mars, four times the number previously suspected.

The new studies provide critical leads on where to look for signs of early Martian life with the study calculations revealing that the ancient sea covered 36 percent of the planet's surface and contained about 30 million cubic miles of water. Others studies also support the conclusions.

The MAVEN orbiter spacecraft may begin to provide essential evidence in mid-to-late 2014 to add to the body of ongoing research on Mars water and atmospheric participation in the past.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hayabusa Asteroid Capsule Has Landed

The Japanese capsule thought to contain the first samples grabbed from the surface of an asteroid has returned to Earth with delightful images from a group of astronomers from NASA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and other organizations [Japanese TV vid and Australian TV vid].

The science team had a front row seat to observe the Hayabusa spacecraft's fiery plunge into Earth's atmosphere. The team was aboard NASA's DC-8 airborne laboratory, packed with cameras and other imaging instruments, to capture the high-speed re-entry over an unpopulated area of central Australia [video].

One of the more exciting ground videos was posted with some Japanese commentary as the returning capsule glowed bright white, red and green over the Woomera night sky. Here are more reports from the BBC and SpaceflightNow. More information on whether or not the asteroid sample mission was successful will be announced following capsule recovery and analysis over the next few days.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Hayabusa Set to Land at Woomera

The Japanese Hayabusa spacecraft will flash over the Australian desert, lighting up brighter than Venus as it breaks up and incinerates as it returns to Earth, after releasing a canister containing hoped-for asteroid samples with possible live video feed provided by NASA aircraft.

The landing is now only hours away from the Woomera Prohibited Area following a seven year, 2.5 billion mile mission in space. If the spacecraft did indeed obtain an asteroid sample, it would be the first asteroid sample return mission is space exploration history.

NASA is sending a DC-8 aircraft to record the re-entry event flying over Australia at the time Hayabusa capsule enters the atmosphere. The aircraft plans to provide LIVE re-entry feed between 9:45-9:55 a.m. EDT June 13, 2010. The landing has been revised to 10:11 a.m. EDT (JapanTV).

As Hayabusa and its return capsule streak through the upper atmosphere, they will appear as twin, incandescent fireballs visible for about a minute to anyone within roughly 100 to 200 miles of the re-entry point. Hayabusa's refrigerator-size main body will most likely be incinerated during reentry. But the 16-inch return capsule is equipped with a high-tech heat shield, a parachute to help it land safely and a GPS signal to assist the international recovery team.

2010 Beijing Lunar Declaration Advanced

The Beijing Lunar Declaration 2010 was made during the 2010 Global Lunar Conference held in China this month with 467 International Lunar Explorers, registered delegates from 26 countries. Dr. Bernard H. Foing noted that delegates advocated for effective preparation to the Global Robotic Village through technical studies, research support, instrument preparation, pilot projects, and large involvement of the global community.

SpaceX Seeks to Accelerate Falcon 9-Dragon

Buoyed by the successful debut of its Falcon 9 rocket June 4, 2010, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) Corp. CEO Elon Musk is hoping to persuade NASA to waive one of three planned test flights designed to prove its reusable Dragon capsule can ferry cargo to the international space station, reports Amy Klamper in SpaceNews. The first NASA COTS demonstration flight is now being scheduled for summer 2010.

Under Musk’s proposal, SpaceX’s second COTS flight — a five-day mission during which Dragon would approach within 10 kilometers of the space station and exercise its radio cross-link to demonstrate the ability of the station’s crew to receive telemetry from the capsule and send commands — would be combined with the third and final COTS demo, in which Dragon is supposed to berth to the station for the first time.

Musk's goal is to accelerate the operational status of the Falcon 9 / Dragon capsule to carry cargo to the International Space Station as the space hardware proves worthy. If Musk gains the waiver, the first docking of the SpaceX Dragon capsule could come in the spring-summer of 2011.

Friday, June 11, 2010

JAXA Deploys Working Solar Sail in Space


The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) began to deploy the solar sail of the Small Solar Power Sail Demonstrator "IKAROS" on June 3, 2010 (Japan Standard Time). On June 10, 2010 (JST) we have confirmed that it was successfully expanded and was generating power through its thin film solar cells at about 770 km from the Earth, [BBC video].

JAXA will measure and observe the power generation status of the thin film solar cells, accelerate the satellite by photon pressure, and verify the orbit control through that acceleration. Through these activities, the Japanese space agency will ultimately aim at acquiring navigation technology through the solar sail. More from SpaceflightNow.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

South Korean Rocket Explodes After Liftoff

"An inboard camera detected a bright flash of light at 137 seconds into the flight, which coincides exactly with the loss of communication with the two-stage rocket," said Minister of Education, Science and Technology Ahn Byong earlier today. The Associated Press, CNN and BBC provide video reports as to the set back for South Korean efforts to launch satellites to orbit. Nonetheless, South Korean officials have indicated that a third launch attempt may yet be ahead.

"Talks are underway for a third launch of the rocket," Ahn said, citing a clause in the original Russsian-Korean booster rocket-building agreement that calls for provisions for a third launch if the first two rockets fail to place a satellite into orbit.

The Korean Times poses the question of what future the nation may have in space hardware development to launch spacecraft to the International Space Station and to remotely sense the Moon in by 2020 and to the surface by 2025. Meanwhile, the finger pointing for the faultly launch commenced including the formation of a Russian-Korean review board.