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Saturday, June 30, 2012

China Open to Future Space Cooperation

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao
China's Premier Wen Jiabao has suggested international cooperation in the future relating to its human space program, including the exchange of taikonauts, astronauts and cosmonauts, design input for the larger Chinese space station planned for orbit in 2020, and inclusion of foreign designed space experiments.

In the construction of a Chinese space station, Wen said, "we are willing to carry out technical cooperation with other countries and regions," noting the possibilities of exchanges and cooperation in astronaut selection and training, joint flights and space medical research.

"China's manned space program is open and transparent," Wen said at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center following the Shenhou 9 landing in Inner Mongola this week adding, "We will respond positively to the initatives of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, and share with other countries our technological achievements and application results."  More from China Daily.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs contributor John Hickman offers a lunar land grab scenario entitled "Red Moon Rising" in the latest edition now online. On the other hand, this blogger offered a different set of scenarios in an InsideNOVA Op-Ed published in 2010 entitled "Envoys of Mankind" and a more unique piece on this blog from late 2009 regarding joint flights among the Chinese, Russians and Americans (now in need of a timeline adjustment).

Delta IV Heavy launches NRO L-15

“The RS-68A engines roar to life and liftoff,” said ULA launch commentator Don Spencer. “NRO systems continue to ensure vigilance from above.”

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-37 here at 9:15 a.m. EDT Friday, June 29, 2012. Designated NROL-15, the mission is in support of national defense.
A rocket concert complete with sound waves. Speakers-up!

Musk Talks Competitive Free Market Contracts

Elon Musk, founder of private space travel and exploration company SpaceX, says space travel will be increasingly available to the public in the coming years, and even trips to Mars are little more than a decade away. The Gavin Show also talks with Musk about competitive commercial contracts.

Friday, June 29, 2012

This Week @NASA: Wallops Island Efforts

Among the highlights @NASA this week include Senator Barbara Mikulski, chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, visit to NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia and the preparations for the launch of NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE, are in full gear at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., has put about $70 million in the federal checkbook during the last decade for critical upgrades to Wallops' infrastructure, including $6 million to make Wallops a hub for broadband service on the Eastern Shore and more than $67 million for launch facilities, which includes $15 million for the HIF and $17 million for the Antares launch pad, reports DelmarvaNow.

ISS Command Changes Hands from 31 to 32

The reins of the International Space Station were passed from Expedition 31 Commander Oleg Kononenko to cosmonaut Gennady Padalka during a ceremony on the orbital outpost on June 29, 2012.

Kononenko and Flight Engineers Don Pettit of NASA and Andre Kuipers of the European Space Agency arrived at the station on December 23, 2011, and will make a parachute-assisted landing on the steppe of Kazakhstan on July 1, 2012 in their Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft.

Padalka, who is the first three-time commander of the station, NASA Flight Engineer Joe Acaba and Russian Flight Engineer Sergei Revin will be joined on July 17 by oncoming Expedition 32/33 crew members Yuri Malenchenko, Flight Engineer Suni Williams of NASA and Aki Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Chinese Historic Space Mission Ends

Three Chinese taikonauts have returned safely from a thirteen-day historic mission in low-Earth orbit.

"It's time not for another government space race, but for expanded space cooperation and collaboration -- an effort the United States would lead, as it does today with the International Space Station program. Bring China into the international fold. This is how we can retain the leadership position. Otherwise, we risk falling behind," wrote former NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao for CNN.

Kennedy Space Center 50th Anniversary Video

Orbital's Cygnus capsule may test space brakes

The commercial Cygnus capsule, a commercial cargo spacecraft to be launched by Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corporation, may test re-entry "space brakes" to give NASA more down mass capability during the commercial cargo program being launched from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island.

"Space brakes" are being tested soon at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility using a sounding rocket to loft an experiment to space. The IRVE-3 project is gaining engineering traction for a new inflatable re-entry system development with launch this summer.

If the test proves successful, Orbital Sciences Corporation and NASA Langley Research Center may cooperate on a mission to utilize the Cygnus spacecraft for a recoverable re-entry test. The Cygnus spacecraft successful use of "space brakes" would open a new capability for the space agency and the private sector beyond the successful Dragon re-entry.

Cygnus with CST-100 docked
Orbital has reviewed a variant of the Cygnus pressured cargo module capable of carrying three or four astronauts, along with a human-rated version of the Antares. The anticipated development costs could be as much as $2-billion.

Stay turned to the NASA Wallops Flight Facility sounding rocket test of "space brakes" next month.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Taikonauts Exit Shenzhou 9 spacecraft

Taikonauts Land in Inner Mongolia

China's Shenzhou 9 spacecraft returned to Earth on Friday (10 PM EST, Thursday, June 28, 2012), ending a 13-day mission that put the country's first woman in space and completed a human manual docking test with the Tiangong space lab critical to its goal of building a larger space station by 2020.

China plans an unmanned moon landing next year and deployment of a moon rover with recovery of a soil sample and its scientists have raised the possibility of sending a taikonaut to the moon, but not before 2020.

Leroy Chiao Reviews China's Shenzhou 9

Miles O'Brien interviews former NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao about China's Shenzhou 9 mission. Chiao is one of the first people of Chinese descent (his parents emigrated to the US) to fly in space. He is a hero in China as a result - and has deep understanding of the Chinese space program.The Shenzhou 9 is to land later tonight at 10pm EST (Washington).

Hidden Magnetic Portals Around Earth

A NASA-sponsored researcher at the University of Iowa has developed a way for spacecraft to hunt down hidden magnetic portals in the vicinity of Earth. These portals link the magnetic field of our planet to that of the sun. Exploration is set to being in 2014. Some scientists have called these connection "ropes" in the recent  past.

Meanwhile, an international team of astronomers using data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has detected significant changes in the atmosphere of a planet located beyond our solar system. The scientists conclude the atmospheric variations occurred in response to a powerful eruption on the planet's host star, an event observed by NASA's Swift satellite. It is a scientific first!

Private Sector Surging into Orbit

With private companies launching their own spaceships and designing their own orbital stations, it's the dawn of commercial spacefaring. EuroNews talk to people involved in that development and we explore the world's first commercial spaceport with a review of Bigelow Aerospace by Mike Gold.

Spaceport Names New Executive Director

The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority has named a new executive director to manage the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Va.

The authority's board of directors announced Wednesday afternoon at a meeting at Wallops Island the selection of Dale K. Nash to the position beginning July 31, 2012. He will replace Dr. Billie Reed, who has served as executive director since the authority was established in 1995.

Dale K. Nash
Nash has spent nearly 30 years in the aerospace industry, most recently serving as CEO of Alaska Aerospace. He also served as director of launch operations at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Throughout his career, he has been directly involved in more than 60 space shuttle flights.

During his tenure at Alaska Aerospace, Nash was named in January 2007 as the Chief Operating Officer and was promoted to Chief Executive Officer of the corporation in February 2008. While at Alaska Aerospace Nash oversaw six successful launches, certification of the Range Safety and Telemetry System (GPS based), Kodiak Launch Complex expansion and modernization including a Rocket Motor Storage Facility, development of rapid launch enabling operational capabilities, and engineering plans for construction of a new medium-lift launch pad and processing facility.

Nash has a Bachelors degree in Engineering from the University of Utah, and a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Florida.

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport has plans for six commercial, civil and military orbital launches in the next fiscal year including cargo to the International Space Station and a probe to the Moon. Secretary of Transportation Sean T. Connaughton says Nash's experience will be a tremendous boost as the authority works to become the top commercial spaceport in America.

Going into the Asteroid Hunting Business

The B612 Foundation - a mash mix of astronomers, astronauts and tech pioneers - aims to launch their Sentinel Program to discover and map most of the larger and some of the smaller asteroids in the Earth 'threatening' neighborhood.

Shenzhou 9 Taikonauts Prepare for Landing

Shenzhou 9 is scheduled to land at about 10 p.m. EDT Thursday in a predefined zone inside northern China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region. The specific region for landing is known as Siziwang Banner, the same point of return used for China's three previous human space missions. MORE.

Female Taikonaut Does Tai Chi in Space

Tuesday was the second night shift for China's first-ever female taikonaut Liu Yang. After finishing her work, she performed some Chinese Kung Fu, bringing her and the ground staff a few minutes of entertainment and relaxation.

China achieved another milestone in its space program as the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft successfully completed its second docking with the Tiangong-1 space lab module by hand. This was China's first ever manned manual space docking.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Next ISS Crew Readies in Moscow

Expedition 32 Soyuz Commander Yuri Malenchenko, NASA Flight Engineer Suni Williams and Flight Engineer Aki Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency participated in traditional ceremonies at Red Square in Moscow on June 22, 2012, laying flowers at the Kremlin Wall and touring the Kremlin as they paid tribute to iconic Russian space heroes. The ceremony is part of traditional activities conducted in advance of their launch to the International Space Station on July 15. Prior to that, they fielded questions from the media at their training base at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, outside Moscow.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Things that make you go: "Hummm"

Chinese media cites Unidentifed Flying Objects (UFOs) at the launch of Shenzhou-9.

Voyager-1 Going Intersteller?

At the edge of the solar system, Voyager 1 is reporting a sharp increase in cosmic rays that could herald the spacecraft's long-awaited entry into interstellar space.

If future history has been written and directed correctly, the Voyager spacecraft just may come back, one day!

Atlas-V Boosts NROL-38 to Space

An Atlas V rocket blasts off with a national security payload NROL-38 to space for the National Reconnaissance Office on June 20, 2012 from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. has a profile analysis of the flight plan and assumptions as to the mission.

Taikonauts to Perform Re-Dock Sunday

The Tiangong-1 space lab and the Shenzhou-9 spaceship have been combined as one, and early Wednesday morning they completed their first repositioning since docking. The three taikonauts will undock their Shenzhou-9 spacecraft and redock manually with the Tiangong-1 lab on Sunday, June 23, 2012 to test the procedure.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Taikonauts Conduct Video Call to Earth

The crew of China's Tiangong-1 space lab have their first ever video call with ground control. Report by Sam Datta-Paulin of ITNews.

CCTV-4 (China)

US Senate subcommittee on space talks insurance, science and new opportunities

Witnesses representing US government agencies and the commercial spaceflight industry supported extending insurance indemnification for commercial spaceflight launches during a 20 June US Senate Science and Space subcommittee hearing. The indemnification is scheduled to expire on 31 December, reported Flight Global.

NASA is banking on its Commercial Crew Program to increase international space station (ISS) crew capacity to seven from the current six — something that could happen as soon as 2017 if Congress is willing to dramatically increase the program’s budget, the agency’s top human spaceflight official as stated in SpaceNews.

Several of the representatives spoke about the anticipated benefits of commercial spaceflight, which include being able to use the International Space Station to its full research potential, while also providing a platform for private companies to perform research and development in microgravity. Scientific experiments, such as vaccine development, already occur aboard the space station, but having more cost-effective means of reaching low-Earth orbit could revolutionize certain industries, such as pharmaceuticals and materials science, notes MSNBC.

The complete Senate Science & Space subcommittee hearing is available with the complete list of witnesses from today. The subcommittee was chaired by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla).

Bolden Calls Underwater NEEMO 16 Crew

From outside their underwater laboratory in Florida, NASA Astronaut and NEEMO 16 Commander Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger and European Space Agency astronaut Timothy Peake took a call from NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden on June 18. Bolden was speaking from the NASA TV studio at the agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C.

An international crew of four headed by Lindenburger has been performing spacewalks on the ocean floor to test concepts for future asteroid exploration as part of the 16th NASA Extreme Environments Mission Operations (NEEMO) mission. While living underwater in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Aquarius Underwater Laboratory off the coast of Key Largo, Fla., for 12 days, they're scheduled to perform a total of 16 underwater spacewalks. The mission is investigating communication delays, restraint and translation techniques and optimum crew size for an asteroid mission.

Expedition 32 Crew Ready for Soyuz Flight

Expedition 32 Flight Engineers Suni Williams (NASA), Yuri Malenchenko and Aki Hoshide (JAXA)take their final Soyuz systems qualification exams at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia. The trio is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station on July 14, 2012.

Shackelton Crater Ice Measured by LRO

Nearly 22% of the floor and walls of Shackelton Crater at the Moon's South Pole could be ice. Illuminated by a laser on NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) researchers measured the brightness of the area, gauging the amount of ice. The finding continues to spark interest among spacefaring nations and commercial interests.
Credit NASA/Zuber, M.T. et al., Nature, 2012 / Original Music by Mark Peterson / Loch Ness Productions / Mash Mix: More from NASA, MITnews, CBCnews, and RedOrbit.

C-NET suggests that the Russian Luna-24 first found Moon-water in 1976.

Global 'higgsteria' is stirring!

Experiment results don't line up with the Standard Model, right as the model's Higgs boson prediction is about to be confirmed. CERN scientists are crunching the data now.

The Higgs boson is a hypothetical elementary particle predicted by the Standard Model (SM) of particle physics. It belongs to a class of particles known as bosons, characterized by an integer value of their spin quantum number. The Higgs field is a quantum field with a non-zero value that fills all of space, and explains why fundamental particles such as quarks and electrons have mass. The Higgs boson is an excitation of the Higgs field above its ground state.

More from The Los Angeles Times and Wired.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Private Sentinel Space Telescope Mission to Look for Earth-Crossing Asteroid Dangers

The B612 Foundation ( aims to build, launch, and operate the world's first privately funded deep space telescope mission to create the first comprehensive dynamic map of our inner solar system, identifying the current and future locations and trajectories of Earth crossing asteroids. Mapping the great unknown of the inner solar system is the first step to opening up this next frontier. The B612 Foundation believes that humanity can harness the power of science and technology to protect the future of civilization on this planet, while extending our reach into the solar system.

Sentinel Space Telescope Mission, the first privately funded deep space mission, will be more completely announced at a Thursday, June 28, 2012 press coneference to be held at the Morrison Planetarium, California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco, CA, in Golden Gate Park. Ed Lu, Chairman & CEO,former Space Shuttle/ISS/Soyuz Astronaut; Rusty Schweickart, Chairman Emeritus, Lunar Module Pilot, Apollo 9; Scott Hubbard, Project Architect, Stanford University, former Dir., NASA Ames; and, Harold Reitsema, Mission Director, former Dir. Science Mission Dev., Ball Aerospace are the participants. More from Alan Boyle at MSNBC.

SpaceX 'SuperDraco' at full-throttle test

SpaceX has test fired the SuperDraco escape rocket engines yesreday at full-throttle required to certify the Dragon spacecraft to carry humans to low earth orbit, "tweeted" Elon Musk Monday.

SpaceX DragonRider is the in-development crew version of the now famous Dragon cargo commercial spaceship that docked at the International Space Station in May 2012. Its 8 SuperDraco launch abort thrusters can also be used for landing on land in addition to the usual parachutes for water touchdowns.

Expedition 31 Astronauts Talk Need for More Humans in Space, Science and Business

Expedition 31 Flight Engineers Joe Acaba and Don Pettit of NASA and Andre Kuipers of the European Space Agency discussed scientific research on the International Space Station and other facets of life and work in space during in-flight interviews June 19 with Fox Business News and the American Geophysical Union for nearly 16-minutes.

Pettit and Kuipers will return to Earth July 1, 2012 while Acaba will remain in orbit until mid-September, 2012.

Chinese Taikonauts Busy in Space

Chinese astronauts are on busy space schedule for the following two weeks. Despite being 350 kilometers above the surface of the earth, the taikonauts are now working and living by the familiar Beijing Time.

Dr. Morris Jones, an Australian space analyst and writer, provides insights as to the challenges ahead for the Chinese space mission validation of technology readiness in a piece for SpaceDaily.

50-Years of Women in Space Noted by CNN


NEEMO 16 commander Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger simulates asteroid mission

While on a simulated spacewalk underwater, NEEMO 16 commander Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger talks with about the mission that's helping to pave the way for the future exploration of asteroids.

ISS Update Commentator Pat Ryan interviews Dr. Steve Squyres, NEEMO 16 Aquanaut and Cornell Professor, about simulating a mission to an asteroid underwater. The Aquarius habitat simulates the isolation and limited space of a craft that would visit an asteroid.

Mike Wall, writing for the HuffPost, has a nice overview piece of the underwater asteroid training mission.

Proton-M rocket to launch the SES-5 June 20

A Proton-M rocket to launch the SES-5 (Astra 4B) communications satellite from Pad 24 at Site 81 in Baikonur under the direction of International Launch Services (ILS). The launch is now expected to be on June 21, 2012 (@ Baikonur launch site). The launch will be webcast live 2 pm EDT, June 20 for American east coast viewers.

Young Rocketeer of the Year 2012 Brittany Barns Planning Physics Career

Brittany Barns, a 2012 graduate of Central High School (Wise, Va.), and a 2012 Mountain Empire Community College (Big Stone Gap, Va.) in GIS, was named the 2012 Rocketeer of the Year from among the Sky-Tech Aerospace & Rocketry Team during the June meeting of the Wise County Board of Supervisors in Wise, Va.

Barns completed Level-2 National Association of Rocketry (NAR) powered flight in high power sports rocketry, completed ground school pilot training and two airplane flights, while completing the Mountain Empire Community College Geographic Information Science certificate and an introduction to satellite remote sensing by NASA DEVELOP scholars.

Last January, Barns was one of several local students to ask a question of the orbiting International Space Station astronauts at the University of Virginia's College at Wise. Her question related to human space flight from Wallops Island, Va. to ISS Expedition 30 Commander Don Burbank.

A Norton native, Barns will attend Virginia Tech in Blacksburg in the fall semester to begin a double-major in mathematics and physics. There, she will join the Virginia Tech rocket team. During here tenure at the STAR team co-captain, hundreds of middle school students in the Central Appalachian Mountains gained experience in model rocketry.

Barns, and her STAR Team rocket colleagues, will tour the NASA Wallops Flight Facility and the new commercial Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport launch pads at Wallops Island, Va. in August in recognition of their STEM-education community efforts and along with other US and international DEVELOP scholars. The STAR rocket team will also spend a week at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. learning about satellite remote sensing and how it may be applied to earth science.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mapping The Future With Landsat

Many non-profits are using Landsat as a tool to identify and protect areas that are important for conservation. This video shows how The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) has used Landsat in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to protect a wildlife corridor in the Maringa Lopori Wanga (MLW) region.

This area is located in the northern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) immediately south of the Congo River. Within its borders are two major reserves: The Lomako-Yokokala Faunal Reserve and the Luo Scientific Reserve. Wildlife travels between these two reserves via a natural wildlife corridor.

With Landsat, the AWF identified this corridor as a critical area for conservation and then began working with the DRC government and local communities to map the region. This process has had and will have significant impact on land use planning and zoning in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Kuipers Counting Down to Return from ISS

Expedition 31 Flight Engineer Andre Kuipers of the European Space Agency discussed the highlights of his half-year on the International Space Station during an in-flight interview with Euronews on June 18. Kuipers, who launched to the station in December 2011, will return to Earth July 1,2012 in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft for a landing in Kazakhstan along with crewmates Don Pettit of NASA and cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko.

"Ride, Sally, Ride!" - 29 Years Ago Today

When the first female NASA astronaut blasted off into space on June 18, 1983, her rocket burned a path to the stars that showed women could have the Right Stuff, too.

“In an instant, little girls learned that even the sky wasn't the limit,” Ride’s NASA bio says. At 31, she was also the youngest American ever in space, reports the New York Daily News.

Dr. Ride is currently on leave from Stanford University, and is the President and CEO of Sally Ride Science, a company she founded in 2001, that creates entertaining science programs and publications for upper elementary and middle school students, with a particular focus on girls. She has spearhead the student MoonKam project.

Medical experiments ahead of taikonauts

A number of medical experiments will be carried out in China's space lab by the taikonauts. These will constitute the country's first systematic and comprehensive medical experiments in space.

Taikonauts Board Tiangong 1 Lab

The Shenzhou 9 capsule completed the maneuver with the Tiangong 1 module and docked Monday morning with the automated orbiting mini-lab making space history with the three taikonauts exiting their spacecraft to board the lab.

The Tiangong 1, which was launched last year, is due to be replaced by a permanent space station around 2020. That station is to weigh about 60 tons, slightly smaller than NASA’s Skylab of the 1970s and about one-sixth the size of the 16-nation International Space Station.

The only other countries to complete an orbital docking with a human-rated spacecraft are the United States and then-Soviet Russia, which first did so in 1966 and 1969, respectively. Today, China is the third.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

China Developing New Booster Engines

China has developed a new circular engine, which will serve as the power system for rocket carriers in China's future manned space missions and lunar explorations.

The 120-ton, liquid oxygen kerosene, high pressure after-burning engine, has high performance, high reliability and is non-toxic and pollution-free. China is second, after Russia, to obtain this type of core technology. Researchers made more than 70 technical breakthroughs in designing, manufacturing and testing, and obtained nearly 20 national defense scientific and technical achievements along with patents. They also worked on developing nearly 50 new materials.

According to a Chinese government white paper issued at the end of last year, China will develop next-generation booster rockets including the Long March-5, Long March-6 and Long March-7, in the 2011-2015 period.

The question remains: are the Chinese building a Space Age Treasure Fleet?  

Life in the community of Jiuquan Spaceport

It could be any other small town in China. But these streets have witnessed the successful launch of 50 satellites, 8 spacecrafts and 1 target vehicle. The rocket shaped lampposts indicate the community's astronomical ambitions. But the small shops in the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center tell the story of everyday life.

China's Space Project 921 Making Progress

A brief introuction to China's human space program and Project 921.

Impressive 3D animation for Chinese television.

Shenzhou-9 Docking Set with Tiangong-1

The Wall Street Journal reports on the Monday docking between the Shenzhou-9 docking with the Tiangong-1 mini-lab for a nearly two-week stay. The hard dock is expected to occur at 3 AM EDT Monday, June 18, 2012, according to the BBC.

Yang Liwei, the first Chinese man in space, has known Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang since they were selected as China's first astronauts in 1998. Yang also took part in the selection process to choose China's first female astronaut for the Shenzhou-9 mission. He says the three astronauts "complement each other."
Dr. Mazlan Othman, Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, witnessed the launch at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center and subsequently spoke of the emerging opportunities for international cooperation.

A mode of dust suspended in a sunbeam

Dr. Carl Sagan's words set to contemporary sounds.

Iran Readies Monkey for July Orbital Flight

Iran will launch its Kavoshgar-5 rocket with a 300-kg capsule with monkey inside to space this July 2012, head of Iranian Space Agency, Hamid Fazeli said, IRNA reported.

The monkey is undergoing special training for the upcoming launch.  "Given the good support that has been offered by the government, we will have a program for sending living creatures into space," Head of the Iranian Space Agency Hamid Fazeli said.

He further announced that Iran will send Fajr (Dawn), Tolou (Sunrise) and Elm-o Sana'at (Promise of Science and Industry) satellites into orbit this year.

Iran, which launched its first satellite into orbit in 2009 and sent a rat, turtles, and worms into space aboard a Kavoshgar-3 rocket in 2010, unveiled its space monkey mission back in February 2011 as a prelude to launching a man into space by 2020.

Iran is nowhere near the Asian space front runners - China, Japan, and India. China is the only space power in Asia with a human space program today.

Iran is far from having a high-tech industrial base and has a glaring lack of expertise for building a man-rated, high-performance launch vehicle and autonomous crew vehicle, along with its virtually nil expertise in re-entry technique crucial for the successful accomplishment of a manned mission.

As Western space analysts point out, the rudimentary nature of the Iranian space program hardly provides credence to the Iranian claim of launching a human-rated space mission by the end of this decade.

Indeed, China, which realized its first manned flight in 2003, had successfully built and launched its high thrust cryogenic fuel-driven space vehicle in 1980. And India, despite its successful space program, is struggling it out to prepare a solid technological platform for its maiden human space flight mission slated for a take off in 2016.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

NanoSats Take Secondary Payload to NRO

A Thursday, August 2, 2012  launch date has been set at Vandenberg, Calif. for a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas-V SLC-3E to boost the classified NROL-36 payload to orbit for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

The vehicle will also carry the following secondary payloads: CINEMA (Cubesat for Ion, Neutral, Electron, Magnetic fields), University of California Berkeley; CSSWE (Colorado Student Space Weather Experiment), University of Colorado at Boulder; CP5, California Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo; CXBN (Cosmic X-ray Background Nanosat) Morehead State University; ORSES (ORS Enabler Satellite), US Army Space and Missile Defense Command; Aeneas, University of Southern California; Horus*, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; STARE, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; and three Aerocube spacecraft, the Aerospace Corporation.

*The presence of the Horus payload on this mission is unconfirmed.

NASA Looks to Commercial Sector for Access

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden pays congratulatory visits to the facilities Space Exploration Technologies in Texas and California following the company's teams for the successful round-trip of the company's Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station. Dragon demonstrated its ability to maneuver and berth to the ISS, then make its safe return to Earth. Also, Garver opens robotics challenge; chasing dreams at Langley; record-breaking engine test; networking for the future; new site for Curiosity; NuSTAR makes orbit; and more.

X-37B OTS Sleuth Shuttle Has Landed

The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), the Air Force's unmanned, reusable space plane, landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California at 8:48 a.m. (EDT) on June 16, 2012, officials reported. The mysterious unmanned mini-space shuttle on a classified mission has finally returned to earth after more than a year on-orbit. The shamus military-shuttle is expected to return to flight later this year.

Chinese National Pride Swells with Launch

Chinese national pride in the launch of the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft Saturday is best recognized in the chatter among millions of people in Asia and around-the-globe. The taikonauts are safely in orbit and closing on the Chinese Tiangong-1 mini-lab for a stay of up to two-weeks. Success of the mission will be a significant milestone for the Chinese national program. Time writer Jeffrey Kluger provides an analysis of China's new role in low earth orbit.

Meanwhile, Dr. Mazlan Othman, director of the Vienna-headquartered United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), told Xinhua at northwest China's Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center that the world is "waiting very anxiously for China's space station to be completed, which will give another opportunity for international cooperation."

Shenzhou 9 Taikonauts Now in Orbit

A Chinese Long March 2F rocket successfully launched the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft today, June 16th 2012 at 10:37 UTC. On board two male and the first Chinese female astronauts are on board as they travel in orbit.
China's taikonauts Jing Haipeng (C), Liu Wang (R) and Liu Yang attend the setting-out ceremony at the taikonauts' apartment compound of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, northwest China's Gansu Province, June 16, 2012.

Commercial Antares Liquid Booster Test-Firing Pushed Back at Wallops Island Spaceport

The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares booster is scheduled for transport launch vehicle from the horizontal integration facility (HIF building) to Pad 0-A, place Antares atop Pad 0-A, place fuel in Antares, remove fuel from Antares, and return Antares to the HIF building on Monday, June 25, 2012, according to updated, but unpublished report from the Delmarva Peninsula. The static hot fire test will not be held on this day, however.

Orbital now plans to test-fire the first stage of its Antares rocket in late July or early August at the new Wallops Island, Va., spaceport — a month later than the schedule announced in late April, according to SpaceNews.

A successful test-firing will be followed by a demonstration flight of the two-stage Antares vehicle, without the Cygnus cargo module, in August or September. The first Antares-Cygnus flight, designed to carry cargo to the international space station, then would occur in November or December, 2012.

Antares and Cygnus would begin regular cargo deliveries to the station, under Orbital’s Cargo Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA, at a rate of two flights per year starting in 2013.

ISS Update commentator Josh Byerly interviews Bruce Manners, NASA COTS Project Executive, about Orbital Sciences and the Cygnus rocket. Cygnus will deliver cargo to the International Space Station then return to Earth filled with trash for destructive entry like the Russian Progress resupply vehicle.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Final Countdown: Chinese Systems Go! ---- LIVE COVERAGE of Shenzhou 9 Launch!

Analysis of the Chinese space advances were reviewed by RT Today. More from Time.

The Chinese taikonauts spoke to a press conference earlier today and prior to their departure to the lauch pad. The launch is scheduled for Saturday morning for those in the United States (6:37am EDT, or 10:37 GMT; 1137 BST and 6:37pm or 18:37 local time in China). CHECK HERE FOR LIVE COVERAGE or other options.

US Senate Hearing: "Risks, Opportunities, and Oversight of Commercial Space"

Sen. Bill Nelson, Chair
The U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space will hold a hearing on the “Risks, Opportunities, and Oversight of Commercial Space.” This hearing will examine the commercial space industry, its role in the nation’s space program, and its contribution to U.S. global competitiveness on Wednesday, June 20, 2012, 10 AM EDT at the Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253 on Capitol Hill, Washington.

The hearing will also review progress of commercial efforts to transport cargo and crew to the International Space Station which are key components of the overall approach to U.S. human space flight established by the NASA Authorization Act of 2010. Please note the hearing will be webcast live via the Senate Commerce Committee website.

Mike Gold
Among the five witnesses are: William H. Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator, Human Exploration and Operations, National Aeronautics and Space Administration; Col. Pamela A. Melroy, USAF (ret.), Senior Technical Advisor, Office of Commercial Space Transportation Federal Aviation Administration; Dr. Gerald L. Dillinham, Director of Civil Aviation Issues U.S. Government Accountability; attorney Michael N. Gold, Director, D.C. Operations and Business Growth Bigelow Aerospace, LLC; and, Capt. Michael Lopez-Alegria, USN (ret.), President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.

Refresh the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee homepage 10 minutes prior to the scheduled start time to automatically begin streaming the webcast.

Why Won't the Supernova Explode?

A question has been troubling astronomers: Why won't the supernova explode? Although real stars blow up, the best computer models of dying stars do not result in much of a bang. NASA has launched a new observatory named "NuSTAR" to seek out the missing physics of exploding stars.

Liu Yang Named First Female Taikonaut

The three-member taikonaut for the Shenzhou 9 mission have been named at a press conference today with Jing Haipeng, Liu Wang and Liu Yang was introduced to the public via a televised press conference on Friday. It will be the second journey into space for 46-year-old Jing and the first space adventure for 43-year-old Liu Wang and the country's first female astronaut, Liu Yang, who is 33.

China will launch its Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft at 6:37 p.m. Saturday (6:37 a.m. in Washington), if the launch preperations continue on schedule.

Liu Yang, 33, is a People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force major. She was a veteran pilot with 1,680 hours of flying experience and the deputy head of a flight unit of the PLA's Air Force before being recruited as a potential taikonaut in May 2010, (BBC video of press conference).

China's latest space mission has attracted even more than the usual national attention, thanks to Liu's presence. Her selection to the mission team rapidly became the top subject on the country's Twitter-like microblogging service Sina Weibo, with 33 million posts, notes MSNBC's Maxim Duncan. Liu has been referred to as "a Chinese heroine in waiting" by SpaceDaily's Tony Quine.

More than 50 female astronauts from seven countries have gone into space to date. The longest space flight by a female astronaut lasted 188 days. All countries that have completed manned space missions have attached great significance to their respective first female astronauts' maiden space flights, including the former Soviet Union's first female cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova and Sally Ride, the first U.S. woman astrianut in space, and Iranian-American Anousheh Ansari, the first private-sector female space explorer. Now the name of Liu Yang will be added to space history books.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Social Media Stirs Female Taikonaut

The first female Chinese taikonaut is creating a stir on the Chinese and global social media this week. Above is one American example of the growing interest in the human flight to the Chinese space lab this weekend.  The final countdown is underway at the launch pad in Northwestern China's desert. Even the Christian Science Monitor's Peter Ford points to how aerospace stock investors are reacting to the pre-launch flurry within China.

NEO Flyby Caputured Today

Asteroid 2012 LZ1 came about 3.3 million miles from planet Earth on its closest approach on June 13th, 2012. The space rock is about 1640 feet wide. The Remanzacco Observatory captured imagery. Credit: Nick Howes, Ernesto Guido & Giovanni Sostero / Remanzacco Observatory.

Shenzhou-9 in Final Steps of Launch Campaign

The weather and taikonauts are in the final stages of the launch campaign with the crew expected to be named later today. The fueling of the booster has begun, according to a media report from Xinhua. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has also expressed a renewed willingness to work cooperatively with the United States to further space science, according to The People's Daily.

Nano-Bubbles in Lunar Soil Studied

Queensland University of Technology (Australia) soil scientist Marek Zbik has made a remarkable discovery in the Moon's regolith of nano particles inside bubbles of glass in lunar soil that could solve the mystery of why the moon's surface topsoil has many unusual properties.

The Queensland University of Technology's Science and Engineering Faculty member took the lunar soil samples to Taiwan where he could study the glass bubbles without breaking them using a new technique for studying nano materials call synchrotron-based nano tomography to look at the particles. Nano tomography is a transmission X-ray microscope which enables 3D images of nano particles to be made ( as seen in the video above).

Zbik's study results surprised the researcher who was quoted as saying, "Instead of gas or vapour inside the bubbles, which we would expect to find in such bubbles on Earth, the lunar glass bubbles were filled with a highly porous network of alien-looking glassy particles that span the bubbles' interior.

"It appears that the nano particles are formed inside bubbles of molten rocks when meteorites hit the lunar surface. Then they are released when the glass bubbles are pulverised by the consequent bombardment of meteorites on the moon's surface. This continuous pulverising of rocks on the lunar surface and constant mixing develop a type of soil which is unknown on Earth."

Zbik said nano particles behaved according to the laws of quantum physics which were completely different from so called 'normal' physics' laws. Because of this, materials containing nano particles behave strangely according to our current understanding.

"Nano particles are so tiny, it is their size and not what they are made of that accounts for their exceptional properties. We don't understand a lot about quantum physics yet but it could be that these nano particles, when liberated from their glass bubble, mix with the other soil constituents and give lunar soil its unusual properties," the scientist said in a university media advisory.

"Lunar soil is electro-statically charged so it hovers above the surface; it is extremely chemically active; and it has low thermal conductivity eg it can be 160 degrees above the surface but -40 degrees two metres below the surface. It is also very sticky and brittle such that its particles wear the surface off metal and glass."

To learn more about the research work see, Marek S. Żbik, Yen-Fang Song, Chun-Chieh Wang, and Ray L. Frost, "Discovery of Discrete Structured Bubbles within Lunar Regolith Impact Glasses," ISRN Astronomy and Astrophysics, (2012), Article ID 506187, 3 pages.

The upcoming July 2013 launch from Wallops Island, Va. of the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) aboard a USAF Minotaur-V may subsequently yield more data to enhance the study of the nano particles in the "electro-statically charged" lunar soil contained within the moon's tenuous atmosphere.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The New Dominion Readies Spaceport

The New Dominion, a sometimes moniker of Virginia, is the home of the new Antares liquid booster rocket set to liftoff from Wallops Island, Va. Later this year, the launch will mark the opening of the new liquid booster orbital commercial transportation hub to the International Space Station (ISS).

SpaceX 'Deep in the Heart of Texas!'

MSNBC science editor Alan Boyles gives his prospective in "NASA chief visits the Dragon's lair."

SpaceX owner Elon Musk told the Houston Chronicle regarding a Texas commercial spaceport, “So, right now, Texas, the south coast of Texas is the lead candidate for that third launch site, and I’m actually flying to meet with the Governor later today and a number of people on the Texas legislature side to talk about that as well as any potential questions in the future about flying astronauts if we’re successful in winning future NASA business in that regard.”

Elon is on his way to winning hearts and minds in Texas.

Virginia emerging as a space transport hub

The Virginia Chamber of Commerce is assisting in making the state's business sector more aware of the opportunities being created with the planned commercial cargo launches to the International Space Station from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Virginia.

"The Voice" today published a piece relating to the spaceport and the outlook for a piece of NASA's commercial crew program or other human orbital or suborbital flight opportunities on the horizon as the state launch pads proves viable.  Virginia is emerging as a space transportation hub.

NEEMO 16 Seeks to Jump into the Future

ISS Update commentator Josh Byerly interviews astronaut Mike Gernhardt, principle investigator for NEEMO 16, about the simulated asteroid mission taking place in the Aquarius undersea laboratory. This post continues mission coverage as NASA looks to take humans to an asteroid in the next decade.

Solar Pions Explained by Fermi Telescope

During a powerful solar blast in March, NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope detected the highest-energy light ever associated with an eruption on the sun. The discovery heralds Fermi's new role as a solar observatory, a powerful new tool for understanding solar outbursts during the sun's maximum period of activity.

Solar eruptions are now on the rise as the sun progresses toward the peak of its roughly 11-year-long activity cycle, now expected in mid-2013.

Call for Lunar Highlands Crust Conference

The Second Conference on the Lunar Highlands Crust will be held July 13–15, 2012 in Bozeman, Montana, at Montana State University. All workshop events will be held in the Strand Union Building (SUB) meeting rooms 233/235.

The first conference on the Lunar Highlands Crust was held in 1979. Since that seminal meeting, our knowledge of the lunar highlands has advanced enormously. Unimagined new data have become available, notably in orbital remote sensing of mineralogy, chemistry, topography, and gravity; geochronology; and geochemistry, especially isotopic constraints and the abundances and natures of lunar volatiles. These new data are paralleled by new concepts of solar system science, including the importance and timing of impact events (including the one that formed the Moon) and the nature of the early solar system disk and its dynamical instabilities.

In light of these advances in the last 34 years, the time seems right for a synoptic reexamination of the lunar highlands crust. The Second Conference on the Lunar Highlands Crust is intended to bring members of the planetary science community together to share their specialized insights into the lunar highlands crust, exchange ideas freely, and perhaps develop new cross-disciplinary ideas and tests of those ideas.

A field trip to the Stillwater Mine will be held on Thursday, June 12, and a field trip to Picket Pin Mountain will be held on Monday, July 16 (departing Bozemanon Sunday, July 15, following the conclusion of the final oral session). More details about the field trips, along with information about registration, accommodations, transportation, and much more, are available in the final announcement.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Moon Shadow upon Earth Captured by ISS

祝万事如意 (Godspeed in Chinese)

Shenzhou 9 pre-launch preparations are being made at the Chinese launch pad. Launch has been set for Saturday June 16, 2012 (China). The exact launch time is not yet known and neither female taikonaut has been publicly confirmed just yet. Below is a Chinese news video report.

NEMMO 16 Crew Conduct Asteroid Procedures

ISS Update commentator Josh Byerly interviews astronaut Stan Love about the NEEMO 16 mission from Aquarius Base. The international crew of the NEEMO 16 (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations) mission have begun their mission at the Aquarius underwater habitat in Key Largo, Florida. The 10 day mission will simulate Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) exploration procedures, although a real mission remains a notional and undefined target. More from

The NEEMO 16 crew consists of Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Commander, Kimiya Yui, Timothy Peake and Steve Squyres. More about the mission from science journalist Alan Boyle and NPR.

The effort to steer NASA's human spaceflight to the asteroids began in 2006 and crystallized in 2009, followed a presidential directive by Barack Obama in April 2010. Just this year, a mission to an asteroid was approved to launch in 2016 with the goal returning an asteroid soil sample to Earth by 2023.  Mining companies, like Planetary Resources, are being readied to pursue a commercial effort.

NASA EDGE Interviews Charlie Bolden

NASA EDGE interviews NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden about his life and his legacy at NASA.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Taikonaut Liu Yang May Get Nod for Space

As the countdown for the Shenzhou-9 taikonauts blast to low earth orbit in northwestern China and near Inner Mongolia, speculation continues as to the first Chinese female to be among the crew to board the Tiagong-1 space lab this month, with one report suggesting a preference may already be in the making.

A hero pilot who successfully averted a mid-air crash may get the honor. Liu Yang, who was one of the two woman taikonauts picked up for thee member manned flight by Shenzhou-9 to accomplish the country's first manned docking in space successfully, dealt with a mid-air emergency, official media in Beijing reported.

Liu was taking part in a routine PLA flight when her plane had a large bird hit shortly after take-off. The windshield splattered with blood and the cockpit filled with a burning smell after it hit 18 pigeons. Liu managed to stabilise the plane and made a successful emergency landing 11 minutes after the incident occurred, the state-run China Daily reported.

Born in Henan province Liu enrolled into Changchun No 1 Flight College of the PLA Air Force after graduating from high school and later became an Air Force cargo plane pilot. In China, pilots with the experience of dealing with emergencies are preferred for taikonaut selection, the report said.

Exactly which of the two female taikonauts designated will fly in what order remains to be seen. Nonetheless, both will most likely be making space flights in 2012.  SpaceDaily has a little more.
China's female taikonaut (astronaut-cosmonaut) candidate Liu Yang (L) [Photo/]

Japan Planning Cargo Mission to ISS in July

At the Spacecraft and Fairing Assembly Building (SFA2) at the Tanegashima Space Center (TNSC) in Japan, JAXA's H-II Transfer Vehicle, KOUNOTORI-3 (HTV3)'s integrated system checkout is being conducted smoothly after its assembly process completion. The target launch date for KOUNOTORI-3 is July 21, 2012.  Only the Russian Soyuz and the commercial SpaceX Dragon are now providing both up and down capability from the ISS.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Coming to a Chinese Launch Pad: Taikonauts!

The Chinese have 'go fever' developing at the Gobi desert Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center for the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft and their first human mission to dock with an orbiting space mini-space laboratory.  The mid-June launch campaign is underway for the Long March 2F liquid booster to leap skyward from Inner Mongola to the black of orbital space - some 200 miles above earth.

The world awaits the formal naming of the flight crew, including the first female taikonaut, certainly to be an immediate Chinese and international media sensation. Space officials are soon to make  public the names and backgrounds of the taikonauts just prior to boarding the Shenzhou 9 set to dock with the Tiangong-1 lab this June.

The Chinese space docking technology was demonstrated with the automated Shenzhou 8 in the fall of last year. The flight plan of Shenzhou 9 calls for the first taikonauts to manually dock in space with the Tiangong-1 orbiting vehicle, in another Chinese space first. There are a number of experiments the taikonauts will perform on-orbit prior to returning to Earth.

The  Shenzhou 10 spacecraft will launch later this year to dock with Tiangong-1, enabling a second crew of three taikonauts to validate mastery of docking technology and procedures by the Chinese and resume habitation of the space lab for perhaps an even longer-duration (hang time) stay.

As multiple nations and private space freighters go to orbit, the Chinese are set to demonstrate long duration 'hang time' of up to 15-to-20-days in space with three taikonauts, each prepared to spend time in orbit simulating applied-technology to later, in a fast-forward of temporal topography, send taikonauts to the moon.

The Chinese government policy is to place humans on the lunar surface, perhaps later in this decade, or 2020. Meanwhile, the Chinese are sending a spacecraft to the Moon next year to make a robotic lunar landing. By 2016, they plan a regolith soil sample return mission. There is a clear policy and technological effort being put forth by the Chinese to place humans back on the lunar surface by the end of the decade, if there are no major mistakes or accidents.

American space policy remains that there is no official linkages between American and Chinese space agencies. Unlike the Russians and European participants in the International Space Station partnership, the United States has declined to entertain ISS-use by the Chinese through US Congressional mandate. There is no anticipated docking by a Shenzhou spacecraft with the ISS any time soon.

Instead, the Chinese will build a Russian Mir-like 60 ton space station with the publicly stated intent to  invite international taikonaut participation from other nations. The Chinese have not released details of future international participation in their space station program.     

June 16, 2012 afternoon (Chinese time) has been selected as the first launch opportunity, Chinese media quoted an anonymous insider as saying.