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Monday, January 31, 2011

David Morrison Addresses Asteroid Missions

Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) are both enemies (that can collide with our planet) and friends (future targets for human exploration missions). As the Spaceguard Survey nears its goal of finding 90% of NEAs larger than 1 km, public and government interest turns to the much more numerous sub-kilometer NEAs. These small asteroids are the most likely to hit Earth and are also the designated NASA target for astronaut visits in the late 2020s. Dr. David Morrison, Director of the Carl Sagan Center at the SETI Institute, addresses human knowledge (and ignorance) of the physical properties of the sub-km NEAs and discusses proposed space missions to reconnoiter these targets. [1hr]

Mars 500 Simulating Landing on Red Planet

In February experiment "Маrs-500" will come close to the most responsible stage - landing to a surface of the Red planet. It, certainly, imitation, but here mechanisms which should help cosmonauts-researchers, among them - a martian tractor "TOURIST". [Russian video]

Planck Time-Traveller Going Pre-Big Bang?

The universe was born 13.7 billion years ago with the Big Bang. But what was there before? Scientists are starting to get an answer thanks to the time-travelling Planck mission.

Taurus-2 Flight Engine at NASA Stennis

The final testing of the first stage flight engine of the Taurus-2 booster to be utilized by Orbital Sciences Corporation will get underway in a week or so at NASA Stennis. The commercial flight of the Taurus-2 will embark from the commercial Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Va. later this year.

40-Yrs Ago: Apollo 14 to the Moon

Forty years ago today, the Apollo 14 Saturn V took to space from Cape Kennedy, Florida for the third human landing mission to the Moon. Commander Alan Shepard, Command Module Pilot Stuart Roosa, and Lunar Module Pilot Edgar Mitchell launched on their nine-day mission on January 31, 1971. Shepard and Mitchell made their lunar landing on February 5 in the Fra Mauro formation; this had originally been the target of the aborted Apollo 13 mission.

The countdown and launch 'moments' are special memories to me inasmuch as I stood in the bleachers near Vice-President Spiro T. Agnew and Dr. Wernher von Braun at the Vehicle Assembly Building (which held Apollo 15 and Apollo 16) to watch my only human lunar space launch. "The moment" caused me to realize the nexus between rocket science and political science as President Richard M. Nixon directed NASA to commence Saturn-Apollo layoffs and end the lunar landings at Apollo 17. I was but age 15; the realization drove me into a career of law and politics entering the youthful epiphany of "No Bucks, No Buck Rogers!'

The Saturn V dwarfed the thunder and rumble of the several subsequent space shuttle at take-off I have had the good fortune to see since STS-1 in April 1981. In my judgment, the elimination of the Apollo program was the single largest national error in my lifetime. With a new NERVA-third stage for the Saturn, who knows where humans would be in the solar system today. I can only hope that in some parallel universe we continued aboard Saturns and far from Earth.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

U.S., EU Eye Code of Conduct for Space

The Obama administration is negotiating with the European Union on an agreement limiting the use of anti-satellite weapons, a move that some critics say could curb U.S. development of space weapons in general.

Three congressional staffers told The Washington Times that Pentagon and intelligence analysts said in a briefing Monday that the administration is looking to sign on to the European Union‘s Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities [PDF].

The briefing followed the completion of an interagency review that recommends the United States sign on to the document with only a few minor changes to its language, according to two administration officials familiar with the review. That recommendation is awaiting final approval from the National Security Council, reports The Washington Times and the Global Security News Wire.

The Russians and Chinese have been advancing a UN General Assembly consensus resolution on transparency and confidence building measures in outer space activities (TCBMs) with 68 countries acting as as cosponsors of the draft resolution in late 2009, and the EU countries joining as a collective cosponsor of the resolution in New York. The UN continued work on the resolution in 2010 and is expected to do so again this year.

ARISSat-1 Arrives at International Space Station Exciting Ham Radio Operators

The Russian Progress-41 flight carrying the ARISSat-1 Amateur Radio Experiment to the International Space Station arrived safely Saturday, January 29, 2011, [video].

The unpiloted flight of the Progress resupply craft automatically berthed to the Pirs docking compartment at 9:40 p.m. EST.

ARISSat engineers will be meeting with Russian EVA specialists in Houston on Tuesday, February 1 to prepare for the February 16 deployment of the satellite.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

NanoRacks’ LLC, Commercial Payloads Arrive at NASA's Space Station

Jeffrey Manber discusses Space Adventures $150-million moon tickets prior to his commercial venture placing student payloads on the International Space Station this week.

The successful docking of the JAXA HTV-2 cargo vehicle is great news for a high school in San Jose, California and Ohio State University. The docking marks the next critical milestone in these two commercial educational payloads, which was made possible by NanoRacks, LLC, the leading company providing commercial opportunities onboard the U.S. National Laboratory on Space Station. The company is working with NASA under a Space Act Agreement for the use of the ISS National Lab on the International Space Station.

For the NanoRacks team, these missions are proof-positive of a new can-do era. “For both educational payloads,” explains Managing Director Jeffrey Manber, “the schools went from zero to docking in less than nine months. That’s a great benchmark of what is now possible on the U.S. National Lab.”

Valley Christian Schools of San Jose California is undertaking a 30 day botany project to introduce their students to the unique environment of space. Equally exciting, it is the first commercial space station high school project. More can be learned at:

A third NanoRacks payload is also ready to be transferred to the space station. It is a USB connected optical microscope which will allow students and researchers to undertake more in-orbit analysis. “We have worked to identify niche areas of demand as we see the U.S. National Lab ramp up to full operational status” explains Manber. “And we want to be a key contributor as the Lab moves forward.”

NanoRacks, working with its partner Kentucky Space, has a turnkey operational system that can handle all aspects of customer requirements, from payload development, to NASA integration to mission operations, all in a customer friendly environment.

Integration of the three payloads onto the NanoRacks’ Platforms permanently installed on the station is expected to take place in early February 2011.

Taurus-2 rocket engine readied for flight testing and shipment to Wallops Island

Aerojet's AJ26 rocket engine for Orbital Sciences Corporation's Taurus II space launch vehicle has undergone two successful test firings at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi with results so successful that Orbital engineers decided a planned third test was unnecessary.

The AJ26 flight unit will be tested in February, and then delivered to Orbital at the Wallops Flight Facility launch site in Virginia for integration with the rocket's first stage core. The launch will depart from the commercial Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport operated by the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority.

Orbital's Taurus II rocket will first be used to carry out commercial cargo supply mission to the International Space Station. Orbital is developing the cargo logistics system under the joint Commercial Orbital Transportation Services research and development project with NASA, and is scheduled to carry out the first of eight cargo missions under the Commercial Resupply Services contract beginning in early 2012. An orbital test flight is expected in 2011.

Polar NOx Set to Launch by Virginia Tech

The Polar Night Nitric Oxide experiment will be launched on a suborbital flight aboard a NASA Black Brant IX sounding rocket. The launch is scheduled for no earlier than January 30, 2011 from the Poker Flats, Alaska launch facilities.

The Black Brant IX vehicle is a two-stage, solid propellant, four-fin stabilized sounding rocket. It is predicted to fly to an altitude of approximately 173 miles and is being readied with the assistance of NASA Wallops Flight Facility team.

Scott Bailey, assistant professor in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Virginia Tech, is leading the experiment called "Polar NOx." The experiment is designed to measure the intensity of nitric oxide in the mesosphere and lower thermosphere in the polar region.

Nitric oxide is believed to be a catalyst destroyer of ozone. Successful data acquisition will help scientists understand the abundance of nitric oxide in the lower thermosphere and its relationship to solar energy deposition.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Russian Progress Cargo Lofted to Orbit

The Russian cargo spacecraft Progress 41 (M-09M), launched Friday from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:40 Moscow time (8:32 p.m. ET Thursday, Washington), has been successfully set into orbit, reports ITAR-TASS, quoting the Mission Control Center at Kololov near Moscow.

At an altitude of about 200 kilometers above the Earth "Progress" was separated from the booster rocket "Soyuz" and continued its flight to the ISS according to the set trajectory. Docking with the International space station is planned on 05.39 Moscow time on Sunday on January, 30th (Saturday at 9:40 p.m. ET Washington). The docking will be televised on NASA-TV.

In addition to delivering fuel, oxygen, food and other supplies, the Progress 41 contains the new AMSAT ARISSat-1 Amateur Radio satellite. Progress is scheduled to dock with the space station on January 30 at 0240 UTC.

ARISSat-1 will be manually jettisoned from the ISS during a spacewalk on February 16, 2011. The satellites features a new software defined transponder that will provide simultaneous 2-meter FM, CW, BPSK transmissions, as well as a Mode U/V (70 cm uplink, 2 meter downlink) transponder.

ARISSat-1, the first of a series of educational satellites being developed in a partnership with the Radio Amateur Satellite Corp. (AMSAT), the NASA Office of Education ISS National Lab Project, the Amateur Radio on ISS (ARISS) working group and RSC-Energia. ARISSat satellites can carry up to five student experiments and the data from these experiments will be transmitted to the ground via an amateur radio link.

In addition, ARISSat-1 will transmit still frame video Earth views from four onboard cameras, commemorative greetings in native languages from students around the world, and a Morse code tracking beacon. ARISSat also will function as a world-wide space communications utility for use by amateur radio operators - including ham radio operators in Floyd County, Va.

More from MSNBC, RIA Novosti, and NASA

What would an accident do to a private launch company following the shuttle?

"What would that do to a private company?" - that is the question posed by National Public Radio by Nell Greenfieldboyce today, [audio]. Linked are a list of private space launch firms, the spacecraft names, launcher, maximum reach, passenger capacity, and status that are looking to place humans into space in this decade.

With the dreams and aspirations of leaders of the commercial space sector at stake, the question of Greenfieldboyce is quite legitimate. Commercial spaceports are being readied for suborbital and orbital human spaceflight in California, New Mexico, Florida and, perhaps, Virginia.

Three of the aforementioned states have passed spaceflight liability and immunity laws. Nonetheless, the FAA and NASA will play a significant regulatory role in the near-term future. How should the private sector, government and regulatory agencies respond to the barnstorming days of the space in this decade?

Morton Thiokol engineer Allan McDonald, a key figure in space shuttle accident history, lectures at Auburn University yesterday.

The Challenger Legacy is Space Education!

The NASA community paused Friday to remember the sacrifice of the Challenger crew 25 years ago. Families of the seven astronauts and agency officials gathered at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Jan. 28, 2011, to mark the anniversary.

This Week @ NASA: January 28, 2011

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has discovered what astronomers believe is the most distant object ever seen in the universe: a tiny, compact galaxy of blue stars that existed 13.2 billion years ago. Also, ISS's present and future visitors; shuttle Columbia's "Article of Hope;" Optimus Prime's NASA connection; and Apollo 14 remembered.

Challenger 25 Years: Tragedy to Triumph

What started out as a tragedy on the morning of Jan. 28, 1986 has turned into a monumental, educational triumph. The Challenger Center for Space Science Education (CCSSE), which serves as a living legacy to the astronauts of the Space Shuttle Challenger, celebrates its 25th year of using science and math to help students build the skills most needed for the 21st century, including decision-making, teamwork, problem-solving and communication. The Challenger Learning Center Network has grown to comprise 48 locations across America and other nations serving more than four million students to date.

Planet Data to Fuel Hunt for Life

Astronomers seeking new worlds capable of supporting life will next week unveil data on hundreds of possible planets circling other stars, quickening the pace of the high-stakes quest for the first habitable world outside our own solar system.

The flurry of new information on so-called exoplanets—those that orbit stars other than the sun—includes 400 promising prospects that NASA researchers have kept to themselves since their discovery last spring.

A carbon copy of Earth, warm and wet enough for the chemistry of life, is unlikely to be revealed among them—at least not yet. The new data, though, may offer important evidence of planets that are at least Earth-size and more likely to harbor life as we know it, writes Robert Lee Holtz for The Wall Street Journal. The full article also includes video.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Russia, US Set to Forge New Era in Space

Senator Nelson Speaks About Space and the 25th Challenger Anniversary

US Senator Bill Nelson (-Fla)talks about the Space Shuttle Challenger 25th anniversary and the future of U.S. space exploration and space policy.

STERO Star Research to be Revealed

For the past 4 years, the two STEREO spacecraft have been moving away from the Earth and gaining a more complete picture of the sun. On Wednesday, February 9, 2011, NASA will hold a press conference to reveal the first ever images of the entire sun and discuss the importance of seeing all of our dynamic star.

ESA ATV Johannes Kepler Readied for ISS

The European Space Agency's Jean-Michel Bois, head of the ESA operations team in Toulouse, discusses his work on the console in ATV-CC during today's final simulation of the critical launch and early orbit phase of the ATV Johannes Kepler running from lift-off planned for February 15, 2011 through to the start of phasing manoeuvres). Jean-Michel confirms thatthe ESA, CNES and industrial support teams at Toulouse are ready to go.

JAXA Kounotori2 Arrives at ISS on Orbit

An unpiloted Japanese resupply ship, the Kounotori2 H-2B Transfer Vehicle (HTV2 ), was captured and berthed to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module of the International Space Station Jan. 27, 2011. The berthing took place after an automated five-day flight following its launch on the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's H-2B rocket Jan. 22 from the Tanegashima (pron: Tah-nee-GOSH'-ih-mah) Space Center in southern Japan.

"The "Kounotori" (pron: kuh-nah-TORR'-ee), which means "white stork" in Japanese, is loaded with more than four tons of supplies and spare parts for the six crew members on the orbital laboratory. Expedition 26 Flight Engineers Cady Coleman and Paolo Nespoli were at the controls of the robotic work station in the space station's Cupola module to maneuver the Canadarm2 robotic arm for the grapple and berthing of the HTV2, which will remain at the orbital outpost until the end of March, 2011.

The Real "Sputnik Moment" in History

President Barack Obama made reference to a "Sputnik Moment" in America. The president pointed to how the national has fallen behind other nations in public STEM education, the ratio of those graduating with college degrees, the development of clean energy technologies, high-speed computers, modern magnetic levitation trains, airports, and highways. The linked documentary above provides insight into the period in American history for those of Generation X, Y and Z. The 56-minute Sputnik Moment is worth the time to view.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Heros: The NASA Day of Remembrance

NASA Day of Remembrance honors the Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia crews, as well as other members of the NASA family who lost their lives supporting the agency's missions.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter @ Work!

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) continues to provide stunning images of the surface of The Red Planet as its conducts reconnaissance and exploration of Mars from orbit. One of the more interesting cameras aboard the MRO is the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment. The HiRISE camera is a 0.5 m reflecting telescope, the largest ever carried on a deep space mission, and has a resolution of 1 microradian (μrad), or 0.3 m from an altitude of 300 km.

India Space Launch Sector Lifted from US 'Entity List' Export Restrictions

The Obama Administration removed from the from the US Commerce Department's export control 'Entity List' nine Indian space and defense related companies including those from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), from its export control 'Entity List'so as to strengthen high-technology trade between the two countries.

The Indian Space Research Organisation gained lifting of restrictions for much of the space sector including the Liquid Propulsion Systems Center, Solid Propellant Space Booster Plant (SPROB), Sriharikota Space Center (SHAR), and Vikram Sarabhai Space Center (VSSC) removing them from the export administration regulations (EAR).

The DRDO companies removed from the entities list: Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL), Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE), Defense Research andDevelopment Lab (DRDL), Missile Research and Development Complex; Solid State Physics Laboratory.

President Obama had assured India that he would remove the above companies from the 'Entity List' during his visit to India in November 2010. More from the US Department of Commerce and Jane's.

April 13, 2036: Our Day with Apophis

Russian astronomers have predicted that asteroid Apophis may strike Earth on April 13, 2036.

"Apophis will approach Earth at a distance of 37,000-38,000 kilometers on April 13, 2029. Its likely collision with Earth may occur on April 13, 2036," Professor Leonid Sokolov of the St. Petersburg State University said. However, the chance of a collision in 2036 was extremely slim saying that the asteroid would likely disintegrate into smaller parts and smaller collisions with Earth could occur in the following years.

"Our task is to consider various alternatives and develop scenarios and plans of action depending on the results of further observations of Apophis," Sokolov said. The asteroid, discovered in 2004, is considered the largest threat to our planet, although NASA scientists reduced the likelihood of a hazardous strike with Earth in 2036.

American Psyche and a 'Sputnik Moment'

STRATFOR VP of Analysis Peter Zeihan examines the psychological underpinnings of the American propensity to overreact and its connection to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address.

Bigelow, NASA on Verge of Deal to BEAM-Up Expansion for the Orbiting ISS?

Think Robert Bigelow’s much anticipated, sometimes ridiculed idea to build an orbiting space hotel from inflatable, habitable modules is something of a pipe dream? NASA apparently doesn’t think the technology is bunk. The space agency is reportedly in talks with Bigelow Aerospace to acquire one of its expandable modules for installation on the International Space Station.

That’s big news for both NASA and Bigelow. The Vegas-based aerospace firm has been working since 2009 to create inflatable space habitats for its own hotel as well as for corporate clients and government space agencies, going so far as to propose concepts for inflatable moon bases. It has launched two orbiting prototypes, Genesis I and Genesis II, but so far no government or corporate entity has bought into Bigelow’s technology, writes Clay Dillow for Popular Science in an interesting review.

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module [BEAM] would be attached to the International Space Station sometime near the middle of the decade if an agreement is signed later this year. Leonard David for reports that no agreement has been signed yet. Michael Gold, director of Washington, D.C., operations and business growth for Bigelow Aerospace LLC, based in Chevy Chase, Md. says, "But we're looking forward to doing so in the near future and we're pleased about the progress."

Gold said Bigelow Aerospace is working with the ISS National Laboratory program, as well as the space agency's Space Operations Mission Directorate, the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate and the Office of Chief Technologist. Officials in these offices "have supported and encouraged this initiative," Gold said.

Gold has met with the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority about the possible utilization of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport for future launches involving Bigelow Aerospace assets. Fox News has an interesting report on the privitization of space.

Next Space Station Crew Talk Plans Ahead

The next three crew members to live and work aboard the International Space Station met with reporters at a news conference held at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston on Jan. 26, 2011. The crew was questioned about the SpaceX Dragon capsule docking and the commercialization of space and how they will recognize the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's first human spaceflight.

NASA astronaut Ron Garan and crewmates, Russian cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Andrey Borisenko are three of the six crew members for Expedition 27 and 28. The trio is scheduled to launch to the station aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 29, 2011 (March 30 Kazakhstan time). They will join Expedition 27 NASA astronaut Cady Coleman, European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli and Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev who will stay aboard the station until mid-May.

Discovery Launch Date Target Feb. 24, 2011

Technicians reapplied foam insulation around space shuttle Discovery's external fuel tank inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Jan. 25, 2011. Discovery was moved from Launch Pad 39A back to the VAB on Dec. 21, 2010, so crews could make modifications to 94 support beams, called stringers, around the external tank's entire intertank section. Launch for Discovery's STS-133 mission to the International Space Station is targeted for Feb. 24, 2011.

"BUONGIORNO space station!"

Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 26 Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency discussed the progress of his mission and its importance to Europe with officials of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) during an in-flight event on Jan. 26, 2011. The ESA and ASI officials were located in Rome during the in-flight discussion.

Progress Spacecraft Readied at Baikonur

Work at the Baikonur Cosmodrome is underway for the launch of the next Russian Progress M-09M spacecraft for launch Friday, January 28, 2011 carrying essential supplies and cargo to the International Space Station crew. Docking is planned for Sunday, January 30, 2011. The launch and docking may be viewed on NASA-TV.

Meanwhile, the Japanese unmanned Kounotori 2 (Stork 2 in Japanese)is expected to dock with the International Space Station within hours bringing additional supplies to orbit [Japanese video].

Hubble Space Telescope sets new record

Astronomers have pushed NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to its limits by finding what they believe is the most distant, ancient object ever seen in the universe. Its light traveled 13.2 billion years to reach Hubble, roughly 150 million years longer than the previous record holder [video]. The age of the universe is 13.7 billion years. The dim object is a tiny, compact galaxy of blue stars that existed 480 million years after the big bang, only four percent of the universe's current age. It is so small, more than one hundred similarly-sized mini-galaxies would be needed to make up our Milky Way. More from The Washington Post, The New York Times, CosmicLog, and Nature.

Vostochny Spaceport Pushed by Putin

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Tuesday ordered the government to complete the paperwork for the construction of the new $2.7-billion Vostochny spaceport, located in the middle of the Siberian taiga near China, as soon as possible so that work begins this year as planned.

The Vostochny spaceport is designed to ease the country’s dependence on the Soviet-era Baikonur launch site, located in the wind-swept steppe of neighboring Kazakhstan and which Russia is leasing through 2050. Joint launches from France's Kourou site in French Guyana will begin sometime in the first half of this year, but the growing amount of business justifies a new national spaceport, Putin said.

Russia plans to send the first satellites and cargo into space from Vostochny by 2016, Federal Space Agency chief Anatoly Perminov said. Manned flights are scheduled to begin only by 2019. Perminov said manned launches will only be allowed after 15 successful launches of cargo spacecraft from the same site, which takes about three years.

By 2020 Vostochny will provide for 45 percent of the nation’s space launches, Perminov said in August. Baikonur will serve 11 percent, down from 65 percent now, while the northern Plesetsk spaceport will account for 44 percent.

There are 21 spaceports worldwide, owed by 11 countries, including Russia — which in 2009 claimed 40 percent of the highly competitive market for space launches. But such countries as China, South Korea, Indonesia and Brazil are building more of them, according to the government, as reported by The Moscow Times and The Voice of Russia.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Roscosmos: Show us the money for Soyuz

Virginia-based Space Adventures, which had announced the conclusion of an agreement with Russian Federal Space Agency and Rocket Space Corporation Energia (RSC Energia) to commercially offer three seats on the Soyuz spacecraft bound for the International Space Station (ISS), beginning in 2013, has not signed any contract neither with Roscosmos, nor with RSC-E, Roscosmos Human Spaceflight Directorate Head Alexey Krasnov told Marker and subsequently posted on the Russian Federal Space Agency web site.

According to Krasnov, the a.m. negotiations may commence in spring, provided that Space Adventures finds funding for increasing of Soyuz production, from four to five space vehicles per year.

“This release is a kind of indicator of Space Adventure’s intentions and find necessary funding in the market to finance construction of an additional Soyuz. The number of Soyuzes per year may be increased starting from 2014, provided that the company finds the money”, Krasnov stated, adding that Space Adventures shall finance the additional Soyuz in order to restart touristic space missions.

"Only after that, we will commence discussions with our international partners in the ISS program. There are many issues here, but they have not been studied so far, as we don’t have any subject agreement with Space Adventures”, Roscosmos official explains.

Meanwhile, the Virginia State Senate Finance Committee is expected to hold a hearing on Senate Bill 1447 late Thursday afternoon in Richmond to to direct income tax dollars generated by commercial human spaceflight entities based in the state to support the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority for the development of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, notes Clark Lindsey at HobbySpace and Doug Messier at Parabolic Arc.

Virgina space advocates seek means to conduct start-up studies to human-rate the fledgling commercial orbital spaceport and to actively pursue suborbital and orbital commercial human spaceflight prior to the end of the decade. State revenue from human spaceflights and spaceflight training sold by Virginia-based entities may provide some revenue to commence studies and design work. The FAA and NASA are promulgating commercial human spaceflight regulations presently.

Stardust-Next: Closes on Temple-1 Comet

Taikonaut Yang Liwei Wants to Fly Again

Chinese taikonaut and Red Army Major General Yang Liwei, the first boosted to orbital space aboard a Shenzhou spacecraft in October 2003, published an autobiography about six months ago, The Long March to Space [blog] and he now wants to fly again, according to journalist Yang Guang in China Daily.

The now deputy director of China Manned Space Engineering Office, Yang says he continues his spaceflight training in hopes of returning to space. Yang says he is still in the prime of life for a taikonaut and he dreams of another spaceflight, given the fact that one Russian cosmonaut has carried out six space missions, and an American astronaut (John Glenn) made history in 1998 by flying when he was 77 years old.

"I hope my fellow taikonauts and I can fly again in a few years," he says. "And I hope I don't have to wait until I'm 77 to break the record."

The now 46-year old Chinese space hero disclosed in his book that dog was on the menu during his 2003 orbit of the Earth. The disclosure brought rebuke from animal rights advocates in the West following the May 2010 disclosure. Dog is widely eaten in northern China. It did not appear on the last Chinese flight menu, however.

Yang says, having spoken to his international counterparts, that Chinese astronauts shoulder a stronger sense of honor and mission, and are more inured to hardships, [MORE].

Monday, January 24, 2011

US to Study Chinese Space Developments

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission invites submission of proposals to provide a one-time unclassified report on the development of the national space program of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and the potential impacts on future U.S. economic and national security. Proposal submissions are due February 9, 2011, 5:30 PM. Eleven areas of interest are identified, to wit:

1.Identify and assess the major motivating factors behind the PRC government’s investments in the space program. Is it motivated primarily by military concerns? Commercial interests? National pride? Or some combination of these or other factors?

2.Explicate the relationships between civilian government agencies and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in administering the space program. Assess which branches of the PLA have the greatest involvement with the space program, and describe their roles and contributions. Also, to the extent possible, identify and assess the political lines of authority that govern the space program – i.e., which agencies perform which roles, and who is ultimately in charge of the program?

3.Provide a comprehensive overview of the primary institutions involved in supporting the Chinese space program, in terms of research and development, manufacturing, and operations. Provide as well an overview of the facilities used for commercial and military space launches, and provide an assessment regarding the types of launches they could support (i.e., polar, low-earth-orbit, manned, reconnaissance, etc.).

4.Identify the major Chinese companies, business entities, and research institutions – both state-owned, and private – that are involved in China's military and civil space program, and describe the roles that they play in supporting the program. Identify as well the Chinese government and quasi-official think tanks, policy development organizations, and research institutions that develop and provide analysis and policy support to the PRC’s space program.

5.Identify the major platform development projects within the space program (i.e., developmental rockets, space capsules, a potential space shuttle, etc.), and provide an assessment both of the level of progress in these programs, as well as the prospects for aspirational and/or follow-on space platforms.

6.Provide a comprehensive overview of China’s major missile/rocketry programs, as well of as potential future developmental missile programs. Assess the roles and impacts of these programs in both the commercial realm (satellite launch support services, etc.) and the military realm (development of more advanced long-range offensive missile systems, etc.).

7.Provide a comprehensive overview of China’s major satellite programs, as well as of potential future developmental satellite programs. Identify the roles of these satellite constellations, and assess their likely future impacts in both the commercial realm (communications, navigation, etc.) and the military realm (C4ISR[*] support to developmental weapons systems, etc.).

8.Provide an assessment, based on the best available open source information, of China’s programs for conducting anti-satellite, anti-C4ISR warfare against enemy space systems. Assess the potential threat these systems might pose to U.S. military operations in the Western Pacific region.

9.Examine the identifiable linkages, if any, between China’s national-level science programs, its five-year economic development plans, and the national space program. Also identify, insofar as information is available, the industrial policy supports (industrial subsidies, etc.) offered by the government to entities in the space industry.

10.Identify the major foreign companies that support the development of China's civil and military space programs. Assess the role of foreign technology transfer in the development of China’s space industry. Identify major joint ventures, and other cooperative production and research and development activities, between Chinese entities and foreign companies that may have benefitted technology development in China’s space sector. Explicate the foreign technologies most sought for acquisition by organizations in the space program, and describe the impacts of export control regulations (U.S., E.U., and Japanese) on the ability of Chinese entities to acquire and/or develop these items.

11.Provide an overview of international cooperative and exchange programs with the PRC that support its space program, and identify all U.S. government cooperative efforts with the PRC on space-related initiatives. This should include, but would not be limited to, an explication and assessment of any and all decisions and actions between the United States and China related to implementation of a November 2009 agreement pertaining to manned space flight programs.[†] Provide analysis and an assessment of both the benefits and potential risks to the United States of U.S. cooperation with China on manned space flight initiatives.

Russians Point to Chinese Space Cooperation

China is on the threshold of conquest of space, notes this Russian-made space video report. Thirty years ago, China launched its first artificial satellite. In the long term, the Chinese plan construction of their own national orbital station and it will explore Mars with the Russians beginning this year.

The Chinese space effort is closely connected with Russian space technology, the video report notes. Observers mark external similarity of the Chinese space capsules and flight survival suits down to lines of seams and color scale. Mechanisms of docking of the ships in orbit are similar too. Many cite the similarities are because the Russian-Chinese cooperation agreement in space. The cooperation is expected to expand in the future.

Meanwhile, Popular Mechanics writer Joe Pappalardo looks at China's moon ambition from a strategic military view, or plausible lack thereof.

Endeavour Crater Next Target for NASA Opportunity Mars Exploration Rover

NASA's Opportunity celebrates its 7th birthday at Santa Maria Crater as the drive to the super-sized Endeavour Crater is on the horizon for exploration within the next year. The video provides a overview map of the rover trek ahead.

Mars Rover Will Check for Ingredients of Life

Dr. Paul Mahaffy is the Principle Investigator for the SAM analysis suite on Mars Science Laboratory Rover (Curiosity). An important goal of upcoming missions to Mars is to understand if life could have developed there. The vehicle should land in 2012.

The task of the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite of instruments and the other Curiosity investigations is to move us steadily toward that goal with an assessment of the habitability of our neighboring planet through a series of chemical and geological measurements. SAM is designed to search for organic compounds and inorganic volatiles and measure isotope ratios.

Other instruments on Curiosity will provide elemental analysis and identify minerals. Dr. Mahaffy discusses how SAM will analyze both atmospheric samples and gases evolved from powdered rocks that may have formed billions of years ago with Curiosity providing access to interesting sites scouted by orbiting cameras and spectrometers.

Commercial circumlunar flight go in 2015?

Eric Anderson, chairman of Space Adventures, speaking at the Digital – Life – Design (DLD) conference in Munich, Germany Sunday afternoon, announced his Virginia-based firm had sold one of two contract tickets to fly a Soyuz spacecraft around the Moon for $150-million.

Anderson declined to name the person who had purchased the $150-million one of the two seats for a circumlunar flight planned for 2015. “When we tell you, you’ll know who it is. You’ll recognize the name.” As to the second $150-million seat, “we’ve got people we’re finalizing with right now."

The plan has been to sell two commercial tickets to fly a Soyuz spacecraft on an Apollo 8-like flight from the Earth and go around the Moon and return to Earth on a one-half million mile journey.

Working with Russia, Space Adventures has launched eight private citizens into space over the past decade. The decade old business firm is also marketing an opportunity to be the first civilian to walk in space and three seats to fly a Soyuz booster and capsule to the International Space Station beginning again in 2013.

Space Adventures has also partnered with Boeing to sell passenger seats for future flights on its new crew capsule, CST-100, currently in development. The firm is now also marketing suborbital spaceflights with Armadillo Aerospace.

Watch live streaming video from dldconference at

Sunday, January 23, 2011

US-China in "Strategic Dialogue" on Space

IN BEIJING China's grand ambitions extend literally to the moon, with the country now embarked on a multi-pronged program to establish its own global navigational system, launch a space laboratory and put a Chinese astronaut on the moon within the next decade.

The Obama administration views space as ripe territory for cooperation with China. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has called it one of four potential areas of "strategic dialogue," along with cybersecurity, missile defense and nuclear weapons. And President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao vowed after their White House summit last week to "deepen dialogue and exchanges" in the field.

But as China ramps up its space initiatives, the diplomatic talk of cooperation has so far found little traction. The Chinese leadership has shown scant interest in opening up the most sensitive details of its program, much of which is controlled by the People's Liberation Army (PLA), Keith B. Richburg writes more for The Washington Post today.

Star Betelgeuse May Impode in Millennia?

Supergiant star Betelgeuse, the ninth brightest star in terms of apparent magnitude and the brightest stars one can see from earth despite being 640 light years away, is going to transform from a red supergiant into a supernova some day. Astronomers can not pinpoint the day, year, century, several millennia or even a million years. Nonetheless, the star will implode due to gravitational collapse from the loss of mass. Discovery News' Ian O'Neill gives the real story on Betelgeuse.

Spending Money Just to Spend Money

Last fall, President Obama cancelled most of the $12 billion Constellation program, an ambitious plan launched by his predecessor to fund a replacement for the retiring Space Shuttle and to get Americans back to the moon. Even though the program is now dead, language inserted in the 2010 federal budget forbids NASA from canceling any Constellation contracts until there is a 2011 budget—and there is still no 2011 budget, reports CNBC's Jane Wells.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

California Students Deploy ISS Experiments

British School Connects to ISS via AudioVid

Sevenoaks School & International Space Station from Graeme Lawrie on Vimeo.
The Sevenoaks School successfully hosted a live satellite video link with the orbiting International Space Station (ISS) on 20 January 2011 during a presentation by Dr. Nicholas Patrick, a NASA representative and mission specialist. Sevenoaks is the first UK school to have attempted a live video and audio link with a space vehicle of any sort. Other schools in the UK have spoken to ISS astronauts via radio links. All six space station crewmembers participated in a NASA PAO TV downlink for the Russian educational event with the Sevenoaks School at Sevenoaks, Kent, United Kingdom.

Eastern Shore Congressman Assumes Space Policy Role: Wallops Influence?

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee has announced subcommittee assignments for the committee’s Republican members. A freshman member, Congressman Scott Rigell (R-Va.) was assigned to the space and aeronautics subcommittee. The subcommittee will be chaired by freshman Congressman Steven Palazzo (R-MS).

In addition, Congressman Andy Harris (R-MD) represents the district that includes Maryland’s Eastern Shore, just north of Wallops Island, Va. Many of his constituents work at the commercial space launch and civil research facility aligned with NASA Goddard.

The Hampton, Va. Daily Press ran an editorial on Congressman Scott Rigell's assignment House Science, Space and Technology Committee. It is interesting to note Rigell's father and his connection to the Apollo Project.

The 'Wallops Island' influence is growing in the new Congress with the two new members on the House science committee, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) chairing the Senate NASA appropriations subcommittee, Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Va.) chairing the House NASA appropriations subcommittee, Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) on the Senate commerce subcommittee on spaceflight and Congressman Eric Cantor holding the Majority Leader post in the House.

Japan launches cargo; now on way to ISS

The H-IIB Launch Vehicle No. 2 with the KOUNOTORI2 (HTV2, a cargo transporter to the International Space Station, ISS) onboard was launched from the Tanegashima Space Center at 2:37:57 p.m. on January 22 (Sat., Japan Standard Time.) JAXA has issued two statements about the launch and controlled re-entry of the second stage. The HTV2 is also carrying a California high school space experiment.

More from the BBC, DailyMail, Mainichi Daily News, RIA Novosti, and

Friday, January 21, 2011

NASA Goes Nano-Sailing in Space

NASA engineers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., confirmed that the NanoSail-D nanosatellite deployed its 100-square-foot polymer sail in low-Earth orbit and is operating as planned. Actual deployment occurred on Jan. 20 at 10 p.m. EST and was confirmed today with beacon packets data received from NanoSail-D and additional ground-based satellite tracking assets. In addition, the NanoSail-D orbital parameter data set shows an appropriate change which is consistent with sail deployment.

"This is tremendous news and the first time NASA has deployed a solar sail in low-Earth orbit," said Dean Alhorn, NanoSail-D principal investigator and aerospace engineer at the Marshall Center. "To get to this point is an incredible accomplishment for our small team and I can't thank the amateur ham operator community enough for their help in tracking NanoSail-D. Their assistance was invaluable. In particular, the Marshall Amateur Radio Club was the very first to hear the radio beacon. It was exciting!"

NanoSail-D will continue to send out beacon signals until the onboard batteries are expended and can be found at 437.270 MHz. It can be tracked on the NanoSail-D dashboard at: More from NASA, The Huntsville Times,, USA Today, Universe Today and Twitter.

This Week with NASA

A new Mission Specialist for STS-133, Scientists revel in Stardust & Glory, an honor for the agency's Chief Technologist, Julian Bond speaks for MLK day, not your father's Dodge Charger, and Happy 25th for Voyager 2's Uranus Flyby.

Russia-Ukraine Launch of Zenit w/Electro-L

The "Zenit-3SB" with the automatic spacecraft of "Electro-L" was launched Thurday, January 20, 2011 from Launch Complex Platform 45 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome on the planned climate change study mission. More from RIA Novosti.

HAM Radio Station NA1SS Communicates with Earth-based Amateurs and Students

Ham radio operators around the globe are connecting frequently with the International Space Station Ham Radio Station NA1SS operated by astronaut and cosmonaut crew members licensed to communicate. Many commercial spaceflight participants have also communicated via Ham radio. The expectation is that the program will continue to expand with many more "Elmers" contacting humans in orbit.

Ham operators throughout the United States are assisting public schools students connect to the International Space Station astronauts to encourage GenZ or Click Gen make contact with humans on-orbit. NASA HQ will assist high schools arrange Ham radio contact with the orbiting ISS. An estimated 500 schools have made direct contact with the ISS. More information on the program.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Together let us explore the stars - Kennedy

"Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce," John F. Kennedy, Inaugural address January 20, 1961, beginning the year humans went to space for the first time.

Atlantis to Return to Space June 28, 2011

The Space Shuttle Atlantis has been given the 'GO' by NASA for the final and 135th flight of the space shuttle system on June 28, 2011 from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida amid federal budget uncertainty.

President Barack Obama has signed a bill authorizing NASA to conduct the third and final mission, but the US space agency's budget for 2011 remains to be approved so the shuttle flight depends on congressional authorization of extra funds during the winter or early spring.

The previously assigned four-member crew will take up supplies to the International Space Station, make one spacewalk, and return a faulty pump that has bedeviled engineers on a 12-day mission, according to NASA planners.

Atlantis was originally planned as an emergency launch-on-need (LON) rescue mission should the Endeavour crew have vehicle problems. The Atlantis will continue as the LON backup as "STS-335." But if Endeavour's flight proceeds normally, Atlantis will then be prepared for its own resupply mission, STS-135.

Discovery is scheduled to launch on February 24, 2011, the Endeavour is set for takeoff on April 19, 2011 and Atlantis has now been set for June 28, 2011 barring any assigned crew, engineering or political glitches, [MSNBC].

JAXA Kounotori2 Launch Campaign Resumes

The Japanese space agency (JAXA) has re-set the launch of the H-II Transfer Vehicle “Kounotori2″ (HTV2) for 12:37 a.m. EST on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011, shortly after midnight in Washington. NASA-TV plans live television coverage of the launch from Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan. The launch had previously been delayed. The HTV1 launch for the first time to the ISS in 2009.

Demonstrating a multinational commitment to support astronauts and comonauts aboard the orbiting International Space Station, Japan's H-II will be joined by a Russia Progress on January 28, 2011 followed by a European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) Johannes Kepler on February 15, 2011, in sending unmanned cargo vehicles to the ISS. Last but not least, the space shuttle Discovery is to make orbit Feb. 24, 2011, if the much delayed shuttle goes, [SpaceTravel].

Glory Prepared for Launch in California

NASA 's newest Earth-observing research mission, Glory, is designed to improve our understanding of how the sun and airborne particles called aerosols affect Earth's climate. Scientists discussed the scientific objectives of this mission with the press and others at a briefing at NASA headquarters. Glory is slated to launch aboard an Orbital Sciences Corporation's Taurus XL from the Vandenberg Air Force Base, California on February 23, 2011.

Opportunity Visits Santa Maria crater on Mars

Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is spending the seventh anniversary of its landing on Mars investigating a crater called "Santa Maria," which has a diameter about the length of a football field. The view above been assembled from multiple frames taken by the panoramic camera (Pancam) on Opportunity during the 2,453rd and 2,454th Martian days, or sols, of the rover's work on Mars (Dec. 18 and 19, 2010).

By mid-January 2011, Opportunity reached a location at the southeastern edge of Santa Maria crater. The rover team developed plans for Opportunity to spend a few weeks investigating rocks at that site during solar conjunction, a period when communications between Earth and Mars are curtailed because the sun is almost directly between the two planets. After completion of its work at Santa Maria, the rover will resume a long-term trek toward Endeavour, NASA JPL.

The NASA the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) is flying onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) mission sending back unique surface topography images of the Red Planet.

China Readies Yinghuo-1 for Mars Orbit

China, working jointly with Russia, plans to launch its first Mars probe, Yinghuo-1, in October 2011 along with Russia’s “Phobos Explorer” from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, following a 2-year delay.

The Yinghuo-1 probe is intended to orbit Mars for approximately one year, studying the planet’s upper atmosphere, but an equally important goal is to demonstrate that the Chinese space program is capable of executing such a mission so far from Earth.

According to a five-year plan, China also plans to send a probe to Mars indpendently by 2013 and to Venus by 2015, besides setting up its own manned space station by 2017 to carry out space science experiments. It may also send humans (taikonauts) into deep space and to the surface of the moon by 2025.

China plans to launch two space laboratories before 2016 to study the key technologies involved in building a space station, with a view to constructing a space station for taikonauts to serve on board over an extended period around 2020.

U.S.-China Space Policy: What's Up?

Flying below the news media’s radar -- but high on the Pentagon’s list of concerns during this week’s visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao -- is China’s space program. The joint statement issued by the two governments in Washington yesterday repeated past promises to “deepen dialog and exchanges in the field of space” but conspicuously excluded any discussion of space security, which had been included in the U.S.-Chinese joint statement released after President Obama’s trip to China in November 2009. This omission, according to Gregory Kulacki, the China Program manager at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), may be due to the fact the administration’s attempts to engage China on space have not been productive.

The Pentagon is about to release a National Security Space Strategy that questions how the United States should respond to what is being described as “China’s major investment in counter-space capabilities.” According to Kulacki, Obama administration officials responsible for engaging China on space issues have privately confessed frustration and disappointment with China’s response to their efforts, which they perceive as a lack of interest.

Kulacki argues the administration officials’ difficulties may stem from the unique history and development of China’s space program, which has important implications for its relationship with the United States. “The two countries are looking for very different things from cooperation,” he said, “which has tied the bilateral dialog on space into a Gordian knot that may take more to untie than the Obama administration is willing or able to give.”

For more from Kulacki on this topic, go to the UCS Global Security Program blog.

Space Telescope Swift Views Black Holes

Most large galaxies contain a giant central black hole. In an active galaxy, matter falling toward the supermassive black hole powers high-energy emissions so intense that two classes of active galaxies, quasars and blazars, rank as the most luminous objects in the universe. Thick clouds of dust and gas near the central black hole screens out ultraviolet, optical and low-energy (or soft) X-ray light. Although there are many different types of active galaxy, astronomers explain the different observed properties based on how the galaxy angles into our line of sight. We view the brightest ones nearly face on, but as the angle increases, the surrounding ring of gas and dust absorbs increasing amounts of the black hole's emissions. More about Swift from NASA Goddard and RedOrbit.