Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Alliant Techsystems (ATK) and NASA conducted a successful ground test earlier today of the second Ares five-segment Development Motor (DM-2). The successful test is a milestone in the development of what will probably be the cancelled Ares-1 and Ares-V. There is ongoing Congressional debate on the booster to be used by NASA in the future and how American astronuts will get to low earth orbit (LEO). More from BBC, SpaceRef and NASASpaceflight.
The CRuSR awards will fund two flights this fall and one this winter of Armadillo's Super-Mod vehicle from Spaceport America in New Mexico. The first two flights will be to an altitude of approximately nine miles and the third to approximately 25 miles.
The Masten Space Systems' Xaero vehicle will make four flights this winter from the Mojave Spaceport in California. Two flights will reach an altitude of approximately three miles and two others will be to approximately 18 miles, with an engine shutdown during flight.
Monday, August 30, 2010
Ad Astra Rocket Company and NASA have a Space Act Agreement to launch a flight version of the VASIMR, the VF-200, on the International Space Station in as early as 2014. The VASIMR will utilize a trickle-charged battery system allowing for 15 min pulses of thrust. If successful, the new propulsion system could cut the costs of orbital re-boosting of the ISS five-fold. Other new propulsion systems are also being reviewed by NASA now.
The Japanese JAXA space agency is taking the lead on the development of the technology while the United States struggles in taking-up the challenge. Wiki provides a premier on the history of the developing space-based solar power technology.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
This incredible video by Scott Manley/Armagh Observatory graphically provides 20-years of observation leading humanity to have a map of the asteroids in a number that appears to be growing by the day with the work of the WISE. [Above vid best viewed FULL SCREEN, look bottom left for data.]
Russia will launch its spacecraft from its very own cosmodrome by 2018. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced the ambitious project that will help mobilise Russia's intellectual resources and industrial potential. During a trip to Russia's Far East, Putin officially launched the scheme as he paid a visit to the site of the future cosmodrome. Russia will continue to use the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on which it has a lease until 2050.
China has a fourth spaceport, the second human-rated capable, under construction now. The United States has only Kennedy Space Center rated for human space launch travel. Wallops Island, Va. could be a second in the near future but it will largely rest with the wishes of the good US Senator from Maryland.
The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer leaves CERN to embark on a USAF plane, on its journey to Cape Canaveral, and then Space. The AMS will be installed on the International Space Station next year, where it will look for antimatter in Space. It is now at the Kennedy Space Center's space station processing facility. More from ESA 6-min video about the AMS.
NASA Flight Engineer T.J. Creamer's voyage on the International Space Station is featured from his launch aboard a Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft in December 2009, to his landing on the steppes of Kazakhstan in June of 2010. "15 nations = 1 international space station; together is the future."
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Brundage, a Wise, Va. native, is a University of Tennessee at Knoxville aerospace major with interests in hypersonics and nuclear fusion space-based propulsion systems. He completed his first NASA Langley internship in the summer of 2010.
Kiser, a Coeburn, Va. native, is a finishing medical and government student at Harvard University with interests in space medicine and astrobiology. An 'Advocate' of the Space Frontier Foundation, she has been involved with the Space Generation Congress since attending her first international space confab at Vancouver, Canada in 2005, while an undergraduate at East Tennessee State University, where she won the university's annual science award for three consecutive years.
Friday, August 27, 2010
One of the instruments on a 2016 mission to orbit Mars will provide daily maps of global, pole-to-pole, vertical distributions of the temperature, dust, water vapor and ice clouds in the Martian atmosphere [vid].
The joint European-American mission, ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, will seek faint gaseous clues about possible life on Mars. This instrument, called the ExoMars Climate Sounder, will supply crucial context with its daily profiling of the atmosphere's changing structure.
The European Space Agency and NASA have selected five instruments for ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter. The European Space Agency will provide one instrument and the spacecraft. NASA will provide four instruments, including ExoMars Climate Sounder, which is coming from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. More from NASA.
"But where are the Martians?" [new video]
Thursday, August 26, 2010
NASA's Kepler spacecraft has discovered the first confirmed planetary system with more than one planet crossing in front of, or transiting, the same star. The transit signatures of two distinct planets were seen in the data for the sun-like star designated Kepler-9. The planets were named Kepler-9b and 9c. The discovery incorporates seven months of observations of more than 156,000 stars as part of an ongoing search for Earth-sized planets outside our solar system. The findings will be published in this week's issue of the journal Science.
In June 2010, Kepler mission scientists submitted findings for peer review that identified more than 700 planet candidates in the first 43 days of Kepler data. The data included five additional candidate systems that appear to exhibit more than one transiting planet. The Kepler team recently identified a sixth target exhibiting multiple transits and accumulated enough followup data to confirm this multi-planet system. More from NASA Ames.
Corbyn is a man worthy of hearing? Perhaps so.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
"The statistical result is loud and clear … planets like our own Earth are out there. The galaxy is rich in these kinds of planets," noted Dimitar Sasselov in a recent TED event. More details Thursday afternoon and Friday.
Monday, August 23, 2010
NASA is expected to make an announcement Thursday on the progress of its Kepler spacecraft, which has been staring at one patch of space for evidence of other worlds including the "discovery of an intriguing planetary system," reports Space.com.
In the video above, Kepler co-investigator Dimitar Sasselov preempted the NASA announcement that the exoplanet-hunting Kepler Space Telescope has discovered about 140 candidate worlds orbiting other stars that are "like Earth." More from ABC News and Discovery News.
According to the report and LinkedIn, "Monroe is a professional staff member of the House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, and a principal advisor to the ranking member of the Science and Technology Committee, specializing in legislation and oversight of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), as well as the space-related activities of the Departments of Transportation and Commerce. Mr. Monroe also advises the ranking member of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee on technical, funding and policy issues."
Astrobotic Technology, a Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) spin-off company, has announced that Caterpillar, Inc. [CAT] will sponsor its first robotic expedition to the lunar surface for the Tranquility Trek mission in late 2012.
Caterpillar's experience in autonomous mining and construction machinery also will assist with learning how to "live off the land" using lunar resources. For example, polar ice deposits can be transformed into propellant to refuel spacecraft for their return to Earth, doubling their productivity, reports Moon Daily.
NASA's Second Annual Lunabotics Mining Competition has been set for May 23-28, 2011 at the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, Kennedy Space Center, Florida, according to a press release from the federal space agency. Part 2 and 3 of the video above.
This may be a very common event after all: another optical flash has been observed on Jupiter, again from an observer far east of the Greenwich meridian, though it was not Anthony Wesley (for once). This time it was Japanese amateur astronomer Masayuki Tachikawa who was pointing a video camera-equipped telescope at Jupiter and who was fortunate to capture an optical flash as it happened, blogs Emily Lakdawalla for The Planetary Society. More from SpaceWeather. The sighting by Tachikawa has now been confirmed.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Human missions to asteroids have recently gained great interest due to scientific, exploration, planetary defense and outreach reasons. Scientists Jesus Gil-Fernandez, Raul Cadenas, and Mariella Graziano provide an analysis of human missions to near earth asteroids (NEA's).
This month, NASA has winnowed down a list of a possible 44 asteroids down to meet NASA’s current criteria for a human exploration including that the duration be no longer than 180 days round trip, and that any object visited be larger than 50 meters (164 ft.) across.
Out of the 44 reachable asteroids, 27 are too small, and only 15 have orbits that could be reached sometime from 2020 to 2050. The 180-day mission constraint further cuts the list to three—the 60-meter-dia. 2009 OS5, for which a mission could be launched in March 2020 or March 2036; the 50-meter 1999 AO10, with a prospective launch date in September 2025; and the 100-meter 2003 SM84, with a possible launch in 2046, reports Aviation Week.
Copenhagen Suborbitals, a Danish firm, plans a space adventure this year that may result in the world’s first ever amateur-built rocket for manned space travel outside of the United States, Russia, and China, [video].
Kristian von Bengtson and Peter Madsen are the two ambitious men behind Copenhagen Suborbitals planning to place Madsen into space in a single passenger capsule, reports the METRO. The booster has been test-fired and the scheduled first flight is set for late August 2010 with the unmanned micro-spacecraft Tycho Brahe attached. The government-approved launch site is near Bornholm, Denmark on the Baltic Sea, [9min. video].
The first flight by Madsen may still be years away, however.
The Curiosity rover, (the Mars Science Laboratory), is coming together for launch to the Red Planet. This past week, Bill Harwood described how the rover will land on Mars. Continuing analysis of the geometry and communications options for the arrival at Mars have led planners for the Mars Science Laboratory to choose an Earth-to-Mars trajectory that schedules launch between Nov. 25 and Dec. 18, 2011. Landing will take place between Aug. 6 and Aug. 20, 2012.
Thirty-five years ago the first landing probes launched for Mars from Cape Canaveral. The Viking missions reached for the surface of Mars for the first time with 'lift-off'. The science data from the two 1976 landing site missions remain a hot science topic to this day as the Mars science community continues to seek knowledge of the neighboring planet.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
The Senate version is not great, but is livable, with $3.9 billion overall Exploration funding split as follows: $1.6 billion for NASA development of a new in-line Shuttle-derived heavy-lift launcher, $1.1 billion for continuation of the Orion capsule, and $1.1 billion for the rest of Exploration. That last $1.1 billion includes reduced but still substantial funding for the Commercial Crew, Commercial Cargo, and other new space technology/exploration precursors we support. (S.3729 also fully funds Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research, under another account.) Close to a billion dollars of NASA exploration funding directed toward useful things is hugely better than we would have hoped for coming into this year.
The House version is extremely bad. HR.5781 is essentially a blueprint for the destruction of NASA human space exploration in the name of saving it.
- Out of a total $4.5 billion Exploration funding, it devotes $4.2 billion to development of a new in-house NASA heavy booster (to be based on existing Ares work) plus a government-owned Station transportation system based on the Orion capsule.
- It makes drastic cuts in funding for developing US Commercial Crew and Cargo to Station capabilities, to a small fraction of NASA's request.
- It imposes "poison pill" requirements on potential US commercial crew services that neither NASA nor existing Russian crew service providers have to meet.
- It zeroes Exploration Technology and Robotic Precursor Missions funding.
What's Next: Our understanding is that they'll try to pass HR.5781 again right after Congress returns from this recess. There will be three opportunities to fix it: In negotiated modifications before it's reintroduced to the House, by amendment on the House floor, or by negotiations in the House-Senate conference committee that will reconcile the two versions. The process may move very quickly once Congress is back. We need to prepare the ground now.
The Space Access Society Recommends: Contact your Representative and both your Senators, and ask them to support the Senate version of the NASA Authorization bill, because the House version is unacceptably bad. Members of Congress are in recess until September 13 and many are back in their respective districts. Go see them; attend town meetings; and call their offices now.
Atlantis has gained one final mission, flying STS-135 to the International Space Station (ISS), with a launch date targeting June 28, 2011. Pending required funding allocation, Atlantis will carry a packed Multi-purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) and a Lightweight Multi-Purpose Carrier (LMC), on a 11+1+2 mission with a four person crew, reports NASA Spaceflight.com. The current assignment of Atlantis is STS-335 - Launch On Need (LON) for STS-134.
What NASA wants now is "robust" work on a new heavy-lift rocket starting next year, Garver said. If Congress agrees with that priority, Marshall will lead the program.
Garver showed a detailed knowledge of the spending plans making their ways through the Senate and House. The Senate version accelerates heavy-lift rocket work to next year and sends more money to the commercial sector than the House version, would preserve more of the current Constellation program.
Friday, August 20, 2010
You can now help pick the final songs to be heard on orbit from the last two space shuttle flights. Click here or just vote! Of course, my preference is not listed, but it is above. Nonetheless, I do have a recommendation for Kennedy Space Center's pre-launch.
Let the countdown begin. NASA's Dawn spacecraft is less than 1-year away from giant asteroid Vesta. Dawn is slated to enter orbit around Vesta in late July 2011 where it will remain for a year.
Previous missions have shown us a handful of asteroids, but none as large as this hulking relic of the early solar system. Measuring 350 miles across and containing almost 10% of the mass of the entire asteroid belt, Vesta is a world unto itself, advises a recent NASA audio report.
The Dawn spacecraft launched from the Kennedy Space Center in September 2007. After orbiting Vesta for a year, the Dawn spacecraft will execute a course change for a voyage to the asteroid Ceres where it will orbit in 2015. Scientists hope to expand their knowledge of asteroids and the asteroid belt between Mars and Juipter.
As Washington debates the 2010 NASA authorization bills, there is growing interest within the epistemic community for asteroid science. The new destination policy of the White House raises greater interest in asteroids.
An international team of astronomers using gravitational lensing observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has taken an important step forward in the quest to solve the riddle of dark energy, a phenomenon which mysteriously appears to power the Universe's accelerating expansion. Their results appear in the 20 August 2010 issue of the journal Science, reports popular media outlets BBC, Science Daily, Wired, and Sky&Tel.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Moacir Lorena Ferreira Jr. recently released a paper and and video [above] on the conceptual Electrodynamic Space Thruster produce an astonishing designed to propulsive force in deep space, using a sequenced pattern of phase-shifted electric oscillations, in theory. Reader comments are encouraged.
The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL, mission is scheduled to launch 8 September 2011 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. GRAIL will fly twin spacecraft in tandem orbits around the moon for several months to measure its gravity field in unprecedented detail.
Scientists will use the gravity field information from the two satellites to X-ray the moon from crust to core to reveal the moon's subsurface structures and, indirectly, its thermal history, according to mission scientists at MIT.
Following GRAIL, NASA will launch the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), a NASA mission that will orbit the Moon with the main objective to characterize the atmosphere and lunar dust environment. It is now scheduled for launch January 15, 2013 from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on a a Minotaur V launch vehicle.
Newly discovered cliffs in the lunar crust indicate the moon shrank globally in the geologically recent past and might still be shrinking today, according to a team analyzing new images from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft. The results provide important clues to the moon's recent geologic and tectonic evolution, suggests a NASA study released today. The Christian Science Monitor, The National Geographic News, The Guardian, and UPI has more.
The space travelers became instant stars, enjoying media support and later quiet and happy lives. One of Strelka’s pups was sent as a present to the family of US President John Kennedy by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Fifty years later, the Russian space dogs have become movie stars.
Mars does not have a single unified magnetic field like Earth; it has smaller, more fractured magnetic fields which cover the planet and have different intensities and polarities. It will be these regions where the greatest shielding of solar radiation, and thus will be the safest landing spots for the first human missions to Mars, according to early landing site studies.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
As a unique state-of-the-art particle physics detector, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02) will search for signs of antimatter and dark matter in Space. Designed to operate as an external module on the International Space Station following its deployment scheduled next February with STS-134, the over $1.5-billion instrument with aid in undertsanding the physics of the Universe. More from the ESA.
With China Chang´e-2 lunar spacecraft in a launch campaign for October 2010; it is seeking to duplicate previous success and pave the way to an evolving Moon exploration program with two landers and two sample returns vehicles sooner this decade.
Morris Jones, writing from Australia in Moon Daily, indicates there is reason to believe, China may equip the Chang´e-3 and Chang´e-4 lunar vehicles each with two surface lunar rovers and two sample-return boosters, suggesting a more rapid leap in lunar exploration technologies.
Chinese media statements have previously suggested that there would be one of each type of lander, with the rover mission scheduled for around 2013 and the sample-return mission for around 2017. A final decision will probably be made by the Chinese based upon the success rate of the Chang´e-2 lunar orbiter.
"We commend Dr. Pat Hynes and her team, and are excited to work with her innovative consortium from New Mexico, Florida, Texas, Colorado and California, as well as companies like Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and other members of the NMSU COE-CST industry advisory board," said Spaceport America Executive Director Rick Homans.
International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) - held at the Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum October 20-21 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The symposium brings together the community involved in all aspects of personal and commercial spaceflight to help grow the industry. ISPCS continues to grow because there is a need to bring companies and leaders together to grow this industry. The symposium is the response to this need, focusing on the salient technical, financial, and global topics driving the commercial and personal spaceflight industry. The ISPCS Public Forum is held at the Pan American Center on October 19. It is a free forum which will provide an update from mayors, (Florida and local) about the space industry’s effect on their city.
The planet Neptune will be in opposition on August 20, 2010 returning close to the spot where it was discovered in 1846, marking its first complete trip around the sun since its discovery. Coincidentally opposition in 1846 also fell on Aug. 20, although the planet wasn't actually spotted until over a month later, on Sept. 23, 1846, reports Space.com.
Nelson’s bill, known as the Commercial Space Jobs and Investment Act of 2010, would amend the Tax Code to encourage investment in commercial space flight facilities and equipment, research and job training, and other purposes. However, the measure appears to do nothing for the Virginia commercial Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport and NASA Wallops Flight Facility, the potential commercial launch site competitor to Cape Canaveral.
The Nelson bill would create up to five regional business enterprise zones around the country as “magnets” for commercial space ventures, which in turn would attract jobs to areas where there are lots of scientists and engineers that may be impacted by a reduction in the NASA Constellation program.
Specifically, the bill would allow space-related businesses — situated around places like the Kennedy Space Center — to qualify for major tax breaks and other incentives. Investors would be able to write off 20 percent of their investments in commercial space companies that operate in the five regional business enterprise zones. Other provisions include a Commercial Space Research Credit of 30 percent and a special depreciation allowance for commercial space property equal to 50 percent of the adjusted basis of the qualified commercial space property.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
The smog from peat and forest fires covered Russia the past month (including Star City). NASA has created this animation of the severity of the Eurasia fires and the amounts of carbon monoxide in the atmosphere from July 18, 2010 to August 10, 2010. The model was created utilizing data from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder on the Aqua satellite.
The excitement is infectious. You gotta love the eclipse chasers!
•November 13, 2012 – Australia and the Pacific Ocean
•November 3, 2013 – Atlantic Ocean and central Africa
•March 20, 2015 – North Atlantic Ocean, Norwegian Sea, Svalbard and the Faroe Islands
•March 9, 2016 – Indonesia including Sumatra, Borneo, and the north Pacific Ocean
•August 21, 2017 – United States from Oregon to South Carolina
•July 2, 2019 – South Pacific Ocean, Chile and Argentina
•December 14, 2020 – Chile and Argentina
The December 4, 2021 eclipse is in Antarctica.