Search This Blog


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What's Up for December 2010?

December 2010: Catch a lunar eclipse and a meteor shower this month, and don't miss a morning trio of planets, (Saturn, Mercury and Venus) either!

The annual Geminid meteor shower – one of the year’s best if skies are clear - peaks on the night of the 13/14th. The fourth full moon of the season rises at 4:13 p.m. EST, on the 20th, only to be darkened by a total lunar eclipse. The eclipse begins at 1:32 a.m. on the 21st, and is total from 2:40 to 3:54 a.m. The winter solstice arrives later the same day, at 6:42 p.m.

NASA Astrobiology Press Conference Set

Astrobiology Video Premier: NASA will hold a news conference to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life beginning at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010 at the NASA Headquarters auditorium. The live broadcast of the conference will be available at Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe.

Though the science journal has embargoed details of the discoveries secret until the conference, it can be expected to be related with three fundamental questions from NASA's Astrobiology Program: How does life begin and evolve? Is there life beyond Earth and, if so, how can we detect it? What is the future of life on Earth and in the universe?

The briefing participants will include Mary Voytek, director of Astrobiology Program, Felisa Wolfe-Simon, NASA astrobiology research fellow, Pamela Conrad, astrobiologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Steven Benner, distinguished fellow from Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution and James Elser, professor from Arizona State University.

Space Agencies Focus on Moon and Mars

Twenty-six space agencies from around the world will carry out a joint flight to Mars after the year 2030, says the Head of the Russian Space Agency Roskosmos Anatoly Perminov. According to him, all 26 space agencies have signed a declaration to that end to point out that it is expedient to make joint flights to deep space.

When answering a question about the solar system planets that will be set as priorities for the first joint flight, Perminov said that the agencies in question are keenly interested in the Moon, especially now that it has been found out that there is water on the Earth’s satellite. But the main planet that everybody is focused on is, of course, Mars, Anatoly Perminov said.

Monday, November 29, 2010

DEVELOP and SERVIR Reach Out to Indian, Pakistani Delegation in Richmond, VA

A delegation of 20 leaders from India and Pakistan learned about applied science research in their own countries and about a federal and local government partnership between NASA and Wise County, Va., during a stop in Richmond.

The American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL), which fosters bipartisan, non-profit educational exchanges among nations, invited Wise and NASA to brief the delegation on November 18. ACYPL is supported by the United States Department of State.

Wise County representatives offered an overview of local government operations, including the use of geospatial technologies.

The presentation included Wise's partnership with NASA, which fosters applied Earth science training for students and early career professionals. The presentation highlighted the partnership’s research on ecological forecasting in India, natural disaster assessments in Pakistan and water quality/public health research in Haiti and Mexico. More from the NASA Langley Research Center.

This week at NASA ...

Dr. John Lewis Lectures on 'China Moon'

Doug Messier of Parabolic Arc points to the esteemed Prof. John Lewis' talk about Asia’s road to the moon during the Space Studies Institute’s Space Manufacturing Conference last month in California.

Dr. Lewis is well regarded within the space community through his three popular science books, Rain of Iron and Ice (on comet and asteroid bombardment of Earth; also in German translation), Mining the Sky (on space resources for use in space and on Earth; also in German and Chinese translation), and Worlds Without End (on the nature and distribution of planets in the universe from ancient writings on the plurality of worlds to the current flood of observations of planets in orbit about other stars).

Shuttle Discovery E-Tank Under Review

Despite the large amount of progress made towards flight rationale – called for in relation to Discovery’s External Tank (ET-137) stringer cracks – teams are heading into another week of deliberations, with a large amount of work ahead of them. Although STS-133 launch is threatening to move into next year, NASA managers will continue to evaluate the opportunity to make a late December orbital window, according to NASA Spaceflight with Chris Bergin, providing details.

The next window officially extends from Dec. 17 to Dec. 20. The next status review will be Thursday, Dec. 2 to determine flight readiness. The tank's problems began Nov. 5 as Discovery was fueled for launch with supercooled liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.

NASA engineers believe the top risk is that a broken stringer could dislodge a chunk of foam, causing it to strike the orbiter and damage its heat-shielding tiles. That type of damage doomed shuttle Columbia during re-entry in 2003.

Iran May Have North Korean Missiles

Iran obtained 19 advanced missiles from North Korea, potentially giving the Islamic nation the capability of attacking Moscow and cities in Western Europe, according to embassy cables posted by and provided to The New York Times, reports Bloomberg.

The 19 North Korean BM-25 missiles, based on a Russian design known as the R-27U, might give Iran the “building blocks” for producing long-range missiles, according to a Feb. 24 cable posted on WikiLeaks. The cable didn’t provide specific evidence and Russia calls the missile shipment a 'myth.' The Russians noted that Iran has an estimated 100 of the Shahab-3 and a few of the Sejil-2 missiles operational.

Meanwhile, China has dismissed U.S. requests for information on North Korea's shipment of missile parts to Iran via Beijing, although U.S. officials believe the North has shipped to Iran a number of long-range missiles that could hit Western Europe, Yonhap news agency reported Monday in a dispatch from Washington.

Citing a U.S. diplomatic cable leaked from WikiLeaks devoted to revealing secret documents, The New York Times said China has repeatedly refused to "act on detailed information about shipments of missile parts from North Korea to Beijing, where they were loaded aboard Iran Air flights to Tehran,” according to Yonhap.

According to The Hill, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, said that Iran is clearly on a path to building nuclear weapons and that military options have been on military leaders' minds "for a significant period of time." Mullen added, "Iran is still very much on a path to be able to develop nuclear weapons, including weaponizing them, putting them on a missile and being able to use them," [CNN].

The Commander of Iran's Basij Force, Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi, called the remarks by the US military leader "a joke." Naqdi also said that U.S. forces would immediately be surrounded by Basij forces if it tried to step ‘an inch’ into Iranian territory. Russia Today-TV reports more on the Iranian nuclear issue.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

North Korea Missile Threat Capability

North Korea's missile arsenal currently threatens South Korea and Japan, but the Taepo Dong-2 missile in development could reach Alaska and parts of Hawaii with a range of over 3,000 miles. Experts fear that within 10-15 years a three-stage version could be developed that could deliver a 200 kilogram payload to the continental United States with a range of 6,000 to 7,500 miles.

The No-Dong-A operational missile has the capability to strike South Korea and parts of Japan with a range of about 800 miles. It is believed that the North Koreans have several operational Scud B and Scud C missiles fully functional with ranges of 200 to 350 miles. More information about the missile capability of North Korea from Global Security.

Meanwhile, the USS George Washington continues military exercise operations in the Yellow Sea near Korea with Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet fighter aircraft. The exercises will take place over four days, but no live-fire drills are planned, said Cmdr. Jeff Davis, spokesman for the 7th Fleet in Japan. South Korean troops are being deployed on islands along North Korea, according to a SkyNews report.

Regional updates from The Korean Herald, The Korea Times, The Seoul Times, and The (North) Korean News.

The Cold War That Never Freezes Over

THE BIG PICTURE: "The Cold War That Never Freezes Over" is a US Army documentary from years ago about the Korean War conflict. It is an interesting short movie in light of the latest actions between North and South Korea.

Americans in Orbit: 50 Years (in 2012)

Americans in Orbit - 50 Years is working to inspire students to pursue careers in space exploration, aerospace engineering, and space science. Interesting educational project is also on Facebook.

Ariane-5 Launched from Kourou Spaceport

On 26 November Ariane V198, an Ariane 5 version, two telecom satellites: Intelsat 17 and Hylas-1, from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana at Kourou. The flawless launch delivered Hylas-1, ESA's first public--private partnership in a full satellite system, into space. The satellite was released into its transfer orbit after a textbook launch by an Ariane 5 vehicle from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana. The Ariane 5 booster is the primary launch vehicle of the ESA.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Anti-Stuff Captured by CERN in Geneva

Many Americans who overindulged on Thanksgiving may be thinking a bit of antimatter might not be a bad idea right about now. Well, you don’t really want to run into the stuff — we mean, the anti-stuff.

But an international group of scientists working at CERN, the particle lab near Geneva, Switzerland, has, more or less, done exactly that. They have capped five years of work by containing, for the first time, a few atoms of antimatter, as described in a light-hearted editorial footnote from The Worcester Telegram & Gazette Corp.

Is this antimatter the first step to a new space propulsion system?

Big Bang Inflationary Theory Upended?

Renowned cosmologist Roger Penrose said that analysis of this cosmic microwave background showed echoes of previous Big Bang-like events. The events appear as "rings" around galaxy clusters in which the variation in the background is unusually low.

The ideas within it support a theory developed by Professor Penrose - knighted in 1994 for his services to science - that upends the widely-held "inflationary theory", reports the BBC.

China and Russia Look to Space Cooperation

Russian space delegation attends an international aerospace salon recently in China. The Chinese are advancing their space technologies to launch interplanetary probes and more lunar missions. The Chinese are also planning to launch their own space station and human missions in the early part of this decade. The level of international participation by nations with the Chinese has yet to materialize in human space missions. The Russians are planning a joint Mars mission with the Chinese commencing next year. The video features a visit by the first Chinese taikonaut, (yuhangyuan), to orbit Earth Yang Liwei meeting with Russian aerospace representatives, more from Parabolic Arc).

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden recently visited the Chinese space facilities but little more than conversation and transparency has been demonstrated. No international spaceflight plans were made in the largely diplomatic mission. Some see the visit as a missed opportunity.

Miles O'Brien Looks at Private Space Flight

Judy Woodruff of PBS looks at the future of space exploration with the NewsHour's Science Correspondent Miles O'Brien. The segment reviews the retirement of the space shuttle system and the post-shuttle era. The Washington Post provides a summary of the private sector efforts now underway.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Saturn's moon Rhea has oxygen atmosphere

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has detected a very tenuous atmosphere known as an exosphere, infused with oxygen and carbon dioxide around Saturn's icy moon Rhea. This is the first time a spacecraft has directly captured molecules of an oxygen atmosphere – albeit a very thin one -- at a world other than Earth, reports the BBC.

The oxygen appears to arise when Saturn's magnetic field rotates over Rhea. Energetic particles trapped in the planet's magnetic field pepper the moon’s water-ice surface. They cause chemical reactions that decompose the surface and release oxygen. The source of the carbon dioxide is less certain. No alien life forms are expected, suggests New Scientist.

Oxygen at Rhea's surface is estimated to be about 5 trillion times less dense than what we have at Earth. But the new results show that surface decomposition could contribute abundant molecules of oxygen, leading to surface densities roughly 100 times greater than the exospheres of either Earth's moon or Mercury, in a NASA statement released today.

Here comes the Sun: Our Star and SOHO

The Sun is the source of life on Earth therefore we must understand how it works and affects our planet. Thanks to space science we now have a better knowledge of the mechanisms inside the Sun and many of its effects on the Solar System. Many more are yet to be fully understood or discovered. Linked also is video visually denoting some of the SOHO research.

Soyuz TMA-20 to Launch December 15, 2010

Russian cosmonaut Dmitri Kondratyev (center), Expedition 26 flight engineer and Expedition 27 commander; along with NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Paolo Nespoli, both Expedition 26/27 flight engineers are scheduled to launch to the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in December 15, 2010 aboard the Soyuz TMA-20 from the Baikonur cosmodrome.

With the launch of the Soyuz TMA-20, the International Space Station will enter into a busy traffic period. The STS-133 Space Shuttle Endeavor is tentatively scheduled for a December 17, 2010 lift-off from the Kennedy Space Center which is slated to return prior to the end of the year. The commercial Dragon spacecraft of SpaceX is to fly close to the ISS next month as well.

On January 20, 2011, the Japanese HTV-2 cargo spaceship will launch from Japan for the ISS followed by a Russian Progress 41 cargo spaceship on January 28, 2010. On February 15, 2010 the European ATV-2 cargo spaceship will launch from the French Guiana spaceport. STS-134 Endeavour is now scheduled for a February 27, 2011 departure from Florida bound to the ISS.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Soyuz Crew Returned to Earth

Expedition 25 has ended its stay at the International Space Station. The departing trio -- Doug Wheelock, Shannon Walker and Soyuz Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin -- undocked in the Soyuz TMA-19 at 8:23 p.m. EST, Nov. 25, 2010. Staying behind are Expedition 26 Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineers Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka. Though the ceremonial change-of-command ceremony occurred Wednesday, their increment officially began when the Soyuz TMA-19 undocked. The landing occured successfully. More from NPR, RIA Novosti and Russia Today (video story) in Korolev, Russia.

Orion Capsule to Fly on Delta IV in 2013?

Lockheed Martin Corp.'s development of a new astronaut capsule for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, seemingly sidetracked by White House opposition barely a few months ago, now appears to be gaining traction with a proposed unmanned test flight [of Orion]as early as 2013, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Joanne Maguire, overall head of the company's space programs, said in an interview that the Orion capsule is slated to blast off on top of a heavy-lift version of the U.S. military's Delta IV rocket. The flight, perhaps climbing to around 5,000 miles above the earth, is intended to test the capsule's emergency launch-abort system, as well other systems, and Orion's protection against damage from micro-meteorites.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 from Space Station Crew

STS-133 Delayed Now to December 17, 2010

Santa will be visiting the International Space Station this Christmas on a very high-tech sled if NASA engineers are able to launch the space shuttle Discovery on the STS-133 mission on Friday, December 17, 2010, at 8:51 PM from the Kennedy Space Center.

NASA has bumped space shuttle Discovery's launch date a few weeks, making a holiday mission likely. The STS-133 mission has been over a month and a half delayed after a series of problems halted the first launch attempt. The latest concerns have been with the cracks found in the large orange external fuel tank.

Ideally, Discovery's six astronauts will spend 11 days in space through the Christmans, delivering the final major U.S. module to the space station, along with supplies and landing prior to the New Year. The STS-133 mission will be Discovery's last flight before she is retired, permanently.After this mission, Endeavour is scheduled to fly in late February and Atlantis might make a final flight over the summer. But that schedule assumes Discovery makes it into orbit in December.

The mission would mark the first time since 1999 -- and only the fourth time ever -- that a U.S. mission was flown over Christmas, not counting the continuous U.S. presence on the space station.

Romanians Plan Orbital Lunch Capability

A Romanian government funded project to develop a platform for launching satellites into orbit, the NERVA Consortium proposes an experimental study for the performance evaluation of a small, refurbished SAM missile, followed by the design and development of mechanical and electronic upgrades of the vehicle in order to massively increase its performance up to a maximum altitude of 160 km and a remanent speed of 3700 m/s. This new vehicle will be developed and demonstrated through a series of live engine tests on the test-bank. This way, Romania be self-sufficient and will have practical access to orbital space research.

Dawn Closes on Vesta Asteroid for July 2011

Chris Russell, principal investigator for NASA's Dawn mission, explains how new images obtained by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope help his mission refine plans for Dawn's rendezvous with the large asteroid Vesta in July 2011.

Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, VA Readied for Taurus-2 Flights

The construction of multi-million dollar launch pad facilities at the FAA-commercial licensed Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, VA. continue to be underway in a timely fashion for the launch of the first commercial Orbital Sciences Corporation Taurus-2 booster in about 6-to-9 months. The spaceport manifest of planned flights is expected to rapidly grow upon the launch pad going operational in 2011. The pad water tower is said to be the tallest in the world. Viewers may click the picture to expand and see greater pad facility detail. An "official" pad dedication ceremony is planned for spring 2011.

Many Virginia space advocates remain hopeful that Bigelow Aerospace, SpaceX and other commercial launch firms will opt to launch their cargo and crews from Wallops Island, Va. in this decade.

European Astronauts Trained for ISS Flights

The European Space Agency's six latest astronaut candidates, (5 men, 1 woman), proudly received their diplomas at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany. From now on, they are officially 'astronauts', reports the BBC and The Guardian.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Orbital's X-34 Rolled to Mojave Spaceport

UPDATE FROM WIRED: -- The two X-34 hypersonic research aircraft developed by Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp. to serve as flight demonstrators for a NASA rocket engine technology development program in the mid-1990s were transported overland via truck from NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base to the Mojave Air and Spaceport Nov. 16-17. The two technology demonstrators will be stored temporarily at a hangar operated by the National Test Pilot School while undergoing inspections by Orbital Sciences personnel to determine if they are viable for flight, according to NASA Dryden Flight Research Center.

Meawnhile, the X-37B min-shuttle, now on orbit, may be preparing for a landing in California soon, according to a report.

Lunar X-Prize Deadline December 31, 2010

Potential Google Lunar X PRIZE teams must register for the competition by the end of the day on Dec. 31, 2010. Twenty-four teams from around the globe have now entered the competition to take commercial enterprise to Moon 2.0 with the chance to win $30 million in prizes. Join the Lunar Revolution!

Building Mars Curiosity for 2011 Flight

Engineers test new software for NASA's Mars Curiosity mission set for launch in 2011.

Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer Ready for 2011

Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer -- is a payload that will be attached to the International Space Station with a unique task: search the unknown, look at dark matter, hunt antimatter, in brief discover the invisible: what we can't see but still represents 90% of the universe.

ESA is supporting this mission designed by Nobel laureate particle physicist Samuel Ting team with the participation of Institutes from 16 countries. AMS, mostly made in Europe, assembled at CERN and tested at ESTEC, is planned to be sent to the ISS by the Space Shuttle in early 2011 STS-134 Endeavour.

Cassini-Huygens Changing Assumptions

In January 2005 the Huygens probe landed on Titan, the biggest of Saturn's moons. It was the first earth-born object to land in the outer solar system. Now, new discoveries by the Cassini-Huygens mission could change our assumptions about the presence of life in the Solar System.

Appalachian 'Rocket Boys' (& Girls) Redux

WCYB-TV report by Jim Conrad reports on the Wise efforts to participate in the Team America Rocketry Challenge 2011. The would-be rocket launch team has big ideas for the New Year including a Star Observation Party, a high altitude balloon microsat, a Yuri's Night Party, and higher-powered rocket launches in the Southwestern Virginia mountains of Wise, Va.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

NROL-32 Satellite Launched from Cape

A top secret satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office launched from Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral, Flordia aboard a Delta 4 at at 5:58pm EST Sunday, November 21, 2010. The National Reconnaissance Office operates the US fleet of imaging and radar satellites along with various other satellites used by various US agencies.

Students Develop Space Station Experiment

Everyone has to check out the five star incredible ***video*** from Valley Christrian High School in San Jose, California, as both students and adult mentors show the enthusiasm, passion and expertise that has gone into this first high school research project aboard the U.S. National Laboratory of the International Space Station. With the assistance of Virginia-based NanoRacks, LLC and the leadership of Jeffrey Manber, the project provides many future possibilities for applied learning by even the youngest scientists among us.

UFOs are student rocketeers in Virginia

Some of the several Wise County, Virginia rocketeers share in the conclusion of the rocket launch festivities at the Lonesome Pine Regional "Spaceport" (Airport) this past Saturday with local businesses providing public support in unusual ways!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Lonesome Pine Spaceport Developing NextGen of Rocket Scientists in Wise, VA

"Five, four, three, two, one, liftoff"--- was the refrain heard repeatedly at the Lonesome Pine Regional Spaceport (airport) as some thirty to forty Wise County high school, area college students and dozens of onlookers participated in a space technology event today, Saturday, Nov. 20. The young rocket scientists launched some fifty to sixty zippy rockets skyward to altitudes of 3,000 feet over Wise, Va., in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains.

Jimmy O'Dell Carroll, one of the original six Rocket Boys of the movie October Sky, participated with the Valley AeroSpace Team, lead by Augusta County's Chuck Neff, to teach and inspire the students to take-on new heights in science, technology, engineering and mathematics on a slighly chilly Saturday morning after building several rockets Friday afternoon and going late into the night.

Next year, students from southwestern Virginia will not only be encouraged to build rockets again, but step-up to participate in the development and construction of a high-altitude research balloon to launch from the Lonesome Pine Regional Spaceport complete with a somewhat sophisticated remote sensing data collection device know as a CubeSat or cube satellite.

The second-level $5,000 privately funded effort would have students actually build the CubeSat to fly thousands of feet into the atmosphere while transmitting data to a ground receiver. Students would recover the balloon through global positioning systems and analyze the data for a research project. More from The Kingsport Times-News and The Bristol Hearld Courier.

Minotaur-4 Launches from Alaska

Up north in Alaska the Minotaur IV launch vehicle lofted eight satellites for the United States Government and university research programmes on Friday night.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Obama Advances NATO Missile Defense

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has agreed to develop a missile defense shield capable of protecting Europe as well as America, US President Barack Obama has announced. NATO leaders will meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev Saturday to discuss the missile shield and other strategic issues.

Kodiak to Launch Minotaur 4 Saturday

Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska will launch a USAF payload aboard an Orbital Sciences Corporation Minotaur-4 Saturday at 8:24 p.m. EST (0124 Nov. 20 GMT), Saturday, November 20, 2010. SpaceflightNow has pictures from the launch pad, [video].

The U.S. Air Forces experimental STP-S26 mission is slated to launch today in an effort to demonstrate a myriad of new space technologies, including a command and control system, atmospheric sensors, and satellite deployment and propulsion systems, according to The News Miner in Alaska and Popular Science.

Taurus-2 booster on way to Wallops Island

Ukrainian rocket design firm Yuzhnoye delivered the first stage of the Taurus-2 launch vehicle to the United States, a step forward in the Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corporation's commercial cargo and re-supply of the International Space Station, the designing company said.

"The assembly of the basic part of the first stage of the booster was completed in October. The cargo left the port in Mykolaiv region for the Wallops Flight Facility," a Yuzhnoye statement said. The hardware is expected in Delware and will be trucked by highway to the launch site in Virginia. Ukrainain rocket scientists and engineers are working now on Wallops Island.

Yuzhnoye and another Ukranian company, Yuzhmash, in 2008 signed a long-term contract with U.S. Orbital Sciences Corp. cooperating in producing Taurus-2 rockets until 2019. The first is expected to fly from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Va. in the summer of 2011. [More from the Parabolic Arc blog.]

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Science: EPOXI at Hartley-2 Comet

Scientists at a NASA briefing held in Washington Nov. 18, 2010 discuss the data collected by the EPOXI mission on its recent flyby of comet Hartley 2. Travelling at a speed of 27,000 mph, the spacecraft passed Hartley 2 at an altitude of about 435 miles from the comet's surface, close enough to reveal details of its nucleus and give scientists the most extensive look at a comet in history. Comets are remnants of the formation of our solar system more than 4-and-a-half-billion years old.

Race to space in Mojave, California

Race to space in Mojave (KGET-TV full story link)
California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher came to Mojave for the spaceship factory groundbreaking last week. Rohrabacher is in line to become the chairman of the House Science Committee. "By not fostering this type of industry with tax incentives and helping hands from the government, not necessarily subsidies, but just to make sure they don't get overburdened with regulations, by not doing that we're writing off the future," said Rohrabacher.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

ATOMIC BOND: Ratify the START Treaty

Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) control is important to humanity everywhere. Reason demands that both the United States Senate in Washington and the Russian parliament in Moscow act promptly to ratify the new bilateral nuclear arms reduction agreement signed April 8 in the 65th anniversary year of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.

The new nuclear arms control treaty, known as the New Strategic Arms Control Treaty (New Start), requires two-thirds of the 100-member Senate, or 67-votes, to vote to ratify the pact between the Russian Federation and the United States of America. The number of votes needed for Senate ratification requires bipartisan support. The important policy measure should not devolve into partisan political rancor between the Senate minority and the White House.

The pact signed by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and American President Barack Obama is the most important step in nuclear arms control since the collapse of the Soviet Union nearly twenty years ago. The treaty provides an impressive thirty percent reduction in the number of active nuclear missile weapons on both sides.

The United States and Russia each would be limited to 700 deployed silo ICBMs, submarines and heavy bombers delivery systems and 1,550 warheads for a total of that make-up each side's triad nuclear strategic defense. Ratification would cut in half the number each agreed in the last verifiable arms control agreement signed in 1991. Both Washington and Moscow would continue to hold the keys to enough nuclear firepower to wipe humanity from Earth with treaty ratification. There is no logical reason for Senators to halt the nuclear diplomacy consent during the 'lame duck' Senate, (PBS Video).

Now the opinion of The Los Angeles Times.

STS-133 Shuttle Tank Repair Underway

At NASA's Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A, technicians are completing repairs on space shuttle Discovery's ground umbilical carrier plate (GUCP). On Nov. 17, the hydrogen vent line was reattached to the GUCP. That vent pipe carries excess hydrogen gas safely away from Discovery to a flare stack, where it is burned off. Teams will analyze the hardware fittings and pressure check the connections to look for any possible leaks. Discovery's next launch window for STS-133 extends from Nov. 30 through Dec. 6, 2010. Whether the shuttle will be able to launch in this window has been placed in doubt as technicians are finding numerous cracks on the ET and the type of repairs needed have never been attempted at the launch pad. It still remains to be seen if this is feasible.

Mission managers at NASA are scheduling a press conference to be held at 6 p.m. EDT on Monday, Nov. 22. The press conference will be held to discuss the problems facing the next space shuttle mission, STS-133. The event will be webcast on NASAT-TV.

Popular Science calls Falcon 9 “The First Astronaut-Worthy Private Rocket In Orbit”

Popular Science calls Falcon 9 “The First Astronaut-Worthy Private Rocket In Orbit” and goes on to explain, “When NASA retires the space shuttle next year, the only American-owned option the U.S. government will have for getting cargo to the International Space Station is to ride with a private spaceflight company. Such an arrangement became viable in June, when SpaceX’s Falcon 9—a 180-foot, kerosene-and-liquid-oxygen-fueled rocket capable of delivering six metric tons of cargo or seven astronauts to orbit—made its maiden voyage to space.”

“For 23 years, Popular Science has honored the innovations that surprise and amaze us − those that make a positive impact on our world today and challenge our views of what’s possible in the future,” said Mark Jannot, Editor-in-Chief of Popular Science. “The Best of What’s New Award is the magazine’s top honor, and the 100 winners − chosen from among thousands of entrants − represent the highest level of achievement in their fields.”

SpaceX is developing a family of launch vehicles and spacecraft that will increase reliability and performance of space transportation, while ultimately reducing costs by a factor of ten. With the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 rockets, SpaceX has a diverse manifest of launches to deliver commercial satellites to orbit. After the Space Shuttle retires, the Falcon 9 and SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft will start carrying cargo, including live plants and animals, to and from the International Space Station for NASA. Falcon 9 and Dragon were developed to one day carry astronauts.

NASA Regulation of Commercial Space?

Dr. David Livingston referenced the blog of Wayne Hale tonight on The Space Show. Hale referrers to the impending commercial space crew regulations set to enter promulgation next year to certify private spacecraft for NASA astronauts.

Hale states, in part, "NASA has released a draft (dated Oct. 8, 2010) of its requirements CCT-REQ-1130 ISS Crew Transportation and Services Requirements. I’d like for you to read it but it is behind NASA’s IT firewall and you must have an ID and password to access it. I have read it and I’m disappointed. The document runs a mind-numbing 260 pages of densely spaced requirements. Most disappointing, on pages 7 to 11 is a table of 74 additional requirements documents which must be followed, in whole or in part. Taken all together, there are thousands of requirement statements referenced in this document. And for every one NASA will require a potential commercial space flight provider to document, prove, and verify with massive amounts of paperwork and/or electronic forms. This, folks is the old way of doing business. This is one of the major reasons why spaceflight is as costly as it is."

That said, and it does ring true, where is the FAA/AST?

IF NASA commercial spaceflight regulations become too erroneous or costly, there should be a commercial space astronaut alternative to fulfill a specific mission without a NASA astronaut. In other words, let NASA set the mission criteria and then let the commercial space launch firm and the private sector astronauts achieve it without the regulations associated with flying government paid astronauts.

It really makes no sense whatsoever to have two sets of safety regulations by NASA and the FAA. There should not be a double standard for public and private sector space flyers and yet another for government astronauts. What kind of signal is the federal government sending to the private sector and the public?

What will be even more interesting to determine is if the Russian Soyuz has or will meet the ISS Crew Transportation and Services Requirements. If not, what signal does that send to the American private sector from the space agency?

The federal government should be at least equally concerned with international law and the safety of 'Envoys of Mankind' should there be an on-orbit problem from among the human space national programs. Having a different safety standard for American private and government astronauts is nothing more than the envisioned safety dance!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

ISS Cupola ' a window on the world'

NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly, Expedition 25 flight engineer, shows off the International Space Station's observation deck known as the cupola.

Robonaut-2 Remains Ready at Launch Pad

This month marks the launch of NASA's first human-like "Robonaut," a robot built expressly to work with astronauts on the International Space Station. WAMU 88.5 FM American University Radio discusses how humanoid robots could change the way we explore space on The Kojo Nnamdi Show. The STS-133 flight is now set for November 30, 2010 boosting Robonaut-2 to orbit. Kojo talks NASA robots with two guests.

The Martian Dichotomy Lecture

One of the largest features on Mars is its hemispheric dichotomy: the difference in crater density, elevation (~4 km), and crustal thickness (~30 km) between the Northern Lowlands and the Southern Highlands. Recent impact cratering simulations show that the ~10,000 km diameter Lowlands can be formed by a single large impact. This impact size was common at the end of planetary accretion and falls in the planetary-scale impact size regime, in which the curvature and radial gravity of the planet are important. Dr. Margarita Marinova discusses the implications of her research into the puzzling Martian hemispheric dichotomy in the one hour lecture.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cosmonauts Complete ISS Spacewalk

Outside the International Space Station, Expedition 25 Flight Engineers Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Skripochka conducted a 6 hour, 27 minute spacewalk from the Russian Pirs Docking Compartment airlock November 15, 2010. The spacewalk was the 151st in support of space station assembly and maintenance, the fifth in Yurchikhin's career and the first for Skripochka. RIA Novosti

Global Space Launch Update

Chang'E 2 Provides Unique Lunar Video

The Chinese Chang'E 2 video from the moon provides a unique observation of the lunar surface. Emily Lakdawalla, writing for The Planetary Society, provides insights into five video clips released by the Chinese from the Chang'E 2's solar panel deployment, orbit insertion burn, the first and second orbital trim maneuvers, and low lunar orbit.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Space, Inc. moving closer to launch

The United States is embarking on a new era of entrepreneurial space development, one in which private companies, rather than NASA, the federal space agency, operate the spaceships that deliver Americans to low Earth orbit, writes Todd Halvorson for Florida Today. The piece included a unique 30-minute video documentation Space, Inc. that is quite interesting and worthy of viewer time.

Chinese female taikonaut identified

Sources in China have confirmed the identity of one of the two female Air Force pilots currently vying to become China's first woman in space as Captain Wang Yaping, 32, a Transport Pilot in the People's Liberation Army Air Force(PLAAF), acoording to Tony Quine today.

Wang had been widely identified in the Chinese media as one of five pilots from the province of Shandong included in the group of fifteen female candidates, but Chinese space officials had refused to name any of the seven new taikonauts actually chosen, even though the names of their fourteen colleagues, selected in 1996 and 1998 are widely known. However sources in China, close to the Chinese manned space program, have recently confirmed that Wang is now being trained at the Chinese Astronaut Training Centre, near Beijing, with another woman pilot.

Whilst China has not given a official details of when it intends to send Captain Wang, or her unidentified colleague into space, several statements from leading officials, including Yang Liwei, the first Chinese in space, strongly suggest that they are aiming for the two or three person, Shenzhou 10 mission, currently planned to dock with the Tiangong 1 orbital module in late 2012. More at and

Envoys of Mankind Merit Mutual Protection

Envoys of mankind were the essential words used to describe humans in space by international law adopted more than 40 years ago. Humans from around the world are now going to space in larger number as the envoys of mankind,” a legal moniker adopted in the Outer Space Treaty and the Rescue of Astronauts regime by members of the United Nations.

The importance of this international law is growing every day as commercial space launch capability expands to place more and more non-government envoys of mankind into space in this decade, is part of an OpEd published today in The Manassas News & Messenger.

No matter who’s involved —Chinese, Indian, Russian, American NASA astronauts or private American space tourists — Americans need to lead in the development of protocol*vid and etiquette in providing assistance in space emergencies*vid. The complete OpEd is a worthy read.

Proton-M Boosts SkyTerra 1 Satellite

A Russian Proton-M booster rocket, Breeze-M upper stage and American SkyTerra 1 spacecraft launched today. The SkyTerra 1/ Proton M mission, contracted by International Launch Services Inc. (ILS), Reston, VA, soared to space Sunday, Nov. 14, at 8.29 p.m. MSK from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sen. Warner to Advance Commercial Space

U.S. Senator Mark Warner, D-Va., acknowledged that Virginia's Congressional delegation hasn't been as vocal supporting NASA as their counterparts in Florida, Texas, and other states. On Thursday at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Warner said he would change that.

Warner said Virginia could take on a larger role in human spaceflight with the continuing development of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA's Wallops Island.

One private company, Dulles-based Orbital Sciences Corp., is under contract to launch rockets from there that will supply the International Space Station. Other companies have expressed interest in the same, reports The Daily Press in Hampton, Va.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Rocketeers to Fly from the Lonesome Pine Regional Spaceport in Appalachian Mts.

"Five, four, three, two, one, launch!" --- will be the refrain heard repeatedly at the Lonesome Pine Regional Spaceport (airport) as some thirty to forty Wise County, Va. high school students and dozens of onlookers participate in space technology at 9 AM, Saturday, Nov. 20, with the launching some fifty to sixty zippy rockets skyward in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains.

Wise County, Virginia Public Schools have collaborated with the Valley AeroSpace Team (VAST), the Southwestern Virginia Technology Council, the Napoleon Hill Foundation and others to encourage students to gain applied-learning knowledge of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The students will test their aptitude for teamwork, design and hand-on construction of amateur model rockets complete with solid rocket propulsion motors and parachute recovery systems.

Each rocket should soar some eight hundred to one thousand feet into the low earth atmosphere, but not high enough to require a Federal Aviation Administration waiver, after launching skyward in the demonstration rocketry program. Organizers hope local students will be motivated and want to endeavor to establish an aerospace rocketry club to complete in regional and national rocketry challenges with other student teams from outside the area.

The would-be rocketeers will determine if they have the 'right stuff' to collaborate, team build, design, construct, launch, operate a rocket range safely, recover the rocket and payload without damage, and turn the small rockets around rapidly to fly again. If the first stage of the program is successful, the students will come together again to undertake challenges that are more difficult and add others to the fledgling high school-level aerospace teams. One rocket challenge will be to carry an egg payload over one thousand feet and bring it safely back to Earth, eggshell intact, and certainly not scrambled.

The privately funded $2,500 program will expose students to area teachers who have flown in zero gravity last year to hear of their experience in actual spaceflight training similar to that of professional astronauts. Each student will have copies of Napoleon Hill's Keys to Success book to grasp the requirements to conduct successful team projects along with how to make productive life choices. The students will learn about how rockets boost satellites to orbit to gather weather, environmental, telecommunications, and science data. These would-be rocket scientists will gain insights as to how scientists gather data for analysis from sounding and orbital rocket launches during the two-day build-to-launch effort.

The Valley AeroSpace Team has organized several student rocket launches in central Virginia enabling hundreds of Virginia students to launch their first model rockets the past few years. The certified Team America Rocketry Challenge instructors are dedicated citizens who believe in providing insight and opportunity for Virginia's youth. If only the VAST could replicated for every county and city in the Commonwealth of Virginia, there study curriculum would add applied learning significance to STEM education. It is no wonder that the Southwestern Virginia Technology Council wanted VAST here to share modern technology with the region's youth (audio).

The launch observation area at the Lonesome Pine Regional Spaceport will open at 9 AM, Saturday, November 20, 2010. The public may review the rockets, launch systems, and talk with the student builders and their mentors on-site. To gain detailed information on the Team America Rocket Launch Challenge, visit on the Web.

See you Saturday Nov. 20, 2010 at the Lonesome Pine Spaceport rocket range in Wise, Virginia!

Global Space Launch Plans Reviewed

Thursday, November 11, 2010

NASA Langley Debunks "Mystery Missile"

There is mounting evidence that the "missile" was in fact an airplane contrail. First, take a look at these pictures comparing the Nov. 8th event to other known airplane contrails. They all look like missiles. Second, Rob Matson notes that "a Boeing 757-200 from Honolulu to Phoenix flew right over Catalina Island at 37,000 feet at the time in question. Here is a map of the flight," reports Space Weather.

Patrick Minnis, a senior research scientist at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., who studies remote sensing of the atmosphere and Earth's surface, and colleague Doug Spangenberg, analyzed a sequence of infrared images of the area of the sighting collected between 5 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. Monday by GOES-11, a geostationary operational environmental satellite.

At 5:30 p.m. "suddenly there is contrail extending horizontally from the left side of the image ... that bends toward the (northeast) pointing directly at Catalina Island," Minnis said in an e-mail to the AP. The contrail had to have started 15 to 45 minutes earlier and become quite wide to be visible to the satellite, he said.

"The eastern end of it is roughly 200 miles from the LA coast. If the plane was at 39,600 feet, at least 60 miles of it could have been seen from the video viewpoint," reports The Washington Post with more details. CBS has a video report on the mystery missile.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Taurus 2 Booster Engine Tested at Stennis

NASA's Stennis Space Center conducted a successful 10-second test firing of the liquid fuel Aerojet AJ26 engine that will power the first stage of the Orbital Sciences Corporation's Taurus® II space launch vehicle. This test supports NASA's partnerships to enable commercial cargo flights to the International Space Station. The test served as a short-duration readiness firing to verify the AJ26 engine's start and shutdown sequences, as well as test stand operations and controls.

The Taurus® II will be launched from the FAA-licenced commercial Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Va. in the summer of next year.