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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Scientists Spy Solar 'Flux Ropes' with SDO

Researchers using the Solar Dynamics Observatory have spotted these tightly wound magnetic field lines that are at the heart of a coronal mass ejection. Previously they were only visible as the blast erupted away from the Sun.

Decade Ago: Space Shuttle Columbia & Crew

A decade ago today (February 1, 2003), the Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-107) broke-up in the skies over Texas on a re-entry path to the runway at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The crew of Space Shuttle Columbia consisted of 7 astronauts:  Rick D. Husband - Commander;  William C. McCool - Pilot; Michael P. Anderson;  David M. Brown;  Kalpana Chawla; Laurel Clark; and Ilan Ramon - first Israeli in space.

"The same Creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today. The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth; yet we can pray that all are safely home." - President George W. Bush, address to the nation from the Cabinet Room of the White House. 2:04 EST 01 Feb. 2003.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

TDRS-K Launched to Orbit by Atlas-V Rocket

The new Tracking and Data Relay Satellite K (TDRS-K) was launched by NASA to orbit Wednesday evening, January 30, 2013 at 8:48 pm EST in a perfect launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket boosted the $400-million advanced next-generation satellite into an orbit 22,300 miles (35,888 kilometers), where it will now join a network of other relay spacecraft above the surface of Earth.
TDRS-K animation above Earth
The TDRS-K satellite isthe first of three new satellites to launch between now and 2015 to bolster the TDRS communications satellite network that relays data and messages between spacecraft in orbit and ground stations.
The new TDRS-K satellite is the 11th spacecraft to join the TDRS network since the first TDRS satellite was launched in 1983. The most recent TDRS launch before now was more than a decade ago. Five TDRS satellites are still functioning in orbit.

Dream Chaser seeks to become reality

Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser is one of three programs seeded by NASA for commercial crew transport to Space Station. Now in early testing, this reusable vehicle's aerodynamic shape is a descendant of NASA's X-24A lifting body flown from 1969 to 1971. It took greater form as the NASA Langely Research Center's HL-20. The commercial spacecraft continues to meet NASA development milestones for possible flight.

On Wednesday, January 30, 2013 Sierra Nevada announced it has formed a partnership with Lockheed Martin Corp. to build the spacecraft's body. The Dream Chaser is intended to carry a crew of up to seven astronauts to low Earth orbit. The vehicle launches atop a rocket, but glides to a landing on its return. SNC is pushing to have the vehicle fully operational and ready for space sometime in 2017. Pete Spotts at The Christian Science Monitor provides more details. 

South Korea Places Satellite in Earth Orbit

South Korea successfully launched its Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSVL-1), also known as Naro, at 4 pm local time from the Naro Space Center, located 480 kilometers south of Seoul, according to South Korean media Yonhap News Agency on January 30, 2013.
"Five hundred forty seconds after the launch, Naro successfully separated the satellite," South Korean Science and Technology Minister Lee Joo-ho said at a news briefing Wednesday. "After analyzing various data, we have confirmed that [the satellite] has been successfully put into orbit."
The launch is a culmination of years of efforts by South Korea — Asia's fourth-largest economy — to advance its space program and cement its standing as a technology powerhouse whose semiconductors, smartphones and automobiles command global demand. North Korea's long-range rocket program, in contrast, has generated international fears that it is getting closer to developing nuclear missiles capable of striking the U.S., notes Sam Kin writing for the Associated Press

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

TDRS-K Atlas V rocket rollsout to launch pad

TDRS-K Atlas V rocket rollout to Space Launch Complex 41 the day before its scheduled launch on January 30, 2013 at 8:48 pm EST. The video is a 30-minute timelapse, sped up by 2X. The countdown clock is linked.

Terrier-Improved Orion Launches to Space Leaving Vapor Trails to Study Atmosphere

A Terrier-Improved Orion sounding rocket was launched from Wallops Island Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia during the early evening of Tuesday, January 29th, 2013 into space. The vehicle released chemical tracers creating red vapor trails at the edge of space over 100 kms altitude.

The vapor trails, while not seen in this video, but could be observed during the flight. Two red-colored lithium vapor trails were able to be seen as far away as  Outer Banks, N.C.; eastern Pennsylvania; and, New Jersey as well as in Virginia and Maryland. More from SpaceRef including a photo of the vapor trails.

South Korean KSLV-1 Rocket Countdown Underway; Weather Green for Launch

South Korea is poised for its third bid to send a satellite into orbit -- a watershed moment for the future of the country's space program and a high-stakes challenge to national pride in the wake of rival North Korea's successful launch of a satellite on an indigenously-built carrier in December 2012.

The South Korean military has deployed two Aegis destroyers to support the launch with advanced radar systems for the 4 pm Korean time planned launch, according to the Yonhap News Agency.
KSLV-1 rocket has at least until Feb. 8 to try and send the satellite payload into space orbit before it has to receive permission with international aviation bodies for new candidate dates.
Successful or not, this will be the last launch under the current agreement with Russia which agreed to provide the first stage for a maximum of three rockets. The rocket will launch from the Naro Space Center, located some 480 kilometers south of Seoul.
South Korea is moving to develop an indigenous 75-ton thrust engine, which will be used in a group of four to create a 300-ton thrust engine that is scheduled to be launched in 2021.
A successful launch of the Naro satellite would make South Korea the world's 13th nation to have ever sent off a space rocket from its own soil. The country has so far sent around 10 satellites into space, but all were launched from foreign soil and used foreign space rockets.

Challenger Astronaut's Childhood Dreams

Ronald E. McNair was a mission specialist on the ill-fated STS-51L mission. Not-for-profit organization StoryCorps, developed this animated short called "Eyes on Stars" about an African-American kid who battled adversity to reach his goals.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Commercial Software Works for SpaceX

With the help of industry software from Siemens AG, SpaceX has been able to construct and test rockets virtually, before building them physically, helping to increase productivity, improve accuracy, and reduce costs. Across the country, Siemens is inspiring new industries with answers that last. Siemens has launched a new ad with SpaceX featured recently.

Iran launches monkey into space and returns

The Islamic Republic of Iran has apparently sent a live monkey into space in a capsule, which was later retrieved alive and intact, according to state media in Tehran.  A Kavoshgar rocket reached height of more than 72 miles on a sub-orbital parabolic spaceflight with the primate.
"This shipment returned safely to Earth with the anticipated speed along with the live organism," Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi told the semi-official Fars news agency. "The launch of Kavoshgar and its retrieval is the first step towards sending humans into space in the next phase."

Iranian Space Agency head Hamid Fazeli told Mehr News that Iran was hoping to use monkeys to test the safety and feasibility of human spaceflight. "Monkeys have similarities to humans, so with them in space, we can examine human factors in space," Fazeli said.

The launch is siad to violate United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929, whose text bars Iran from "any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology."

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Burt Rutan: The Race for Space

Aerospace entrepreneur, Virgin Galactic spacecraft designer, and founder of aerospace research firm Scaled Composites, Burt Rutan is a bold visionary with a passion for the advancement of technology.
Named "Entrepreneur of the Year" by Inc. magazine and one of "The World's 100 Most Influential People" by TIME, Rutan designed the legendary Voyager aircraft -- the first to circle the world nonstop without refueling. He is also responsible for the design of SpaceShipOne, the world's first privately funded spacecraft which, in 2004, became the first private rocket plane ever to put a man into space. Rutan has been profiled by 60 Minutes and featured on the covers of both LIFE and TIME.

Japan Launches Two Spy Satellites

Japan launched two spy satellites Sunday to collect sharp imagery for the government's defense and intelligence agencies from the Tanegashima Space Center, Japan's primary launch site nestled on a picturesque island on the Pacific Ocean. The effort provides a continuing a series of clandestine space missions devised to keep track of North Korean military activity, reports SpaceflightNow.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

SkyCar going into production in 2014

Moller International is now apparently $80 million closer to putting the SkyCar into production with the financial backing of Athena Technologies, LLC of Harbor City California. The goal of the newly formed JV is to establish co-production for its aircraft in the US and the People's Republic of China.

Under the provisions of the memorandum, California-based MI will team with this Athena -led JV to jointly produce numerous models of its vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft. The JV will initially invest $80 million dollars of a planned $480 million investment with the objective of producing a variety of VTOL aircraft by 2014. Production will include the Skycar® 200 LS, Skycar® 400, Skycar® 600 and Neuera™ aircraft.

The SkyCar is designed for speeds of over 300 MPH at altitudes as high as 36,000 feet would seat two-to-four people, notes The Daily Mail (UK) and is designed by Dr. Paul Moller.

Under the agreement, Moller will retain its intellectual property rights, while providing the joint venture with aircraft designs, ready-to-install aviation engines and the requirements for the airframe and flight control system hardware to be produced in China. Athena is billed as a consortium of several U.S. private equity funds and credit guarantee companies, with a focus on U.S.-China trade relations and e-business networks.

Read more here:

South Korean rocket launch set for Jan 30, 2013 amid extreme bluster from North Korea

South Korea space center officials confirmed that it will make another bid on January 30, 2013 to put a satellite in orbit following the launch of a satellite to orbit by North Korea in December 2012. Meanwhile, the North Koreans have issued provocative statements that it plans to continue satellite launches and nuclear tests following recent United Nations Security Council sanctions flowing from its December 2012 space rocket launch, according to CNN.

India Continues Mars Campaign for Late 2013

Later this year in 2013, India may rendezvous with the Red planet with the planned launch of a small unmanned satellite called Mangalyaan in the orbit of Mars to study the thin Martian atmosphere in 2014. One science target is to gather more scientific data on methane in the Martian atmosphere.

The Indian Space Research Organisation is opting to bypass the Moon and proceed to Mars. The successful 2008 Chandrayaan mission to the Moon, India gained international scientific respect from the mission. India is expected to resume lunar exploration by mid-to-late decade (2016 now target) with a surface rover aboard Chandrayaan-2.

Russia Advancing 2015 Moon Lander, China to Land Moon Surface Rover in Late 2013

Russia's Federal Space Agency Roscosmos plans to launch automatic interplanetary station "Luna-Glob" in 2015 from the new Vostochny spaceport. According to the head of the Federal Space Agency, Vladimir Popovkin, "Luna-Glob" will become the first spacecraft to be launched from the  spaceport in the Amur region of eastern Russia. The station will also become Russia's first lunar probe of the 21st century.
The exploration of the moon will be conducted in several stages. If the launch is successful, moon orbiter "Luna-Globe-2" will fly to the moon in 2016. 2017 will see the launch of the heavy space vehicle Luna-Resource that will land on the moon with an expanded set of scientific equipment.

The United States will launch a new lunar orbiter in the summer of 2013 known as LADEE from Wallops Island, Virginia.  Meanwhile, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter continues in orbit around the moon conducting significant remote sensing.

The Chinese will also launch a lunar lander known as Chang'e 3, including a moon surface rover, in late 2013. The Chinese rover may become the first vehicle to travel about the moon since the Soviet Lunokhod 2 in 1973.

The Moon and the ISS Orbiting the Earth

Photographer Lauren Hartnett has taken an astonishing picture of the International Space Station side-by-side with the Moon in January 2013. Perhaps symbolic of the journeys yet to come from the station to the Moon. The Moon orbits Earth at roughly 250,000 miles, while the ISS is just 250 miles away.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Robotic Refueling Mission Successful @ISS

Public Affairs Officer Kyle Herring talks by phone with Ben Reed, Deputy Project Manager of the Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office at Goddard Space Flight Center. They talk about the Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) activities going on outside the International Space Station. The RRM is an experiment that uses Canadarm2 and Dextre to test techniques to service and refuel satellites to extend their original missions.

NASA: Reaching for New Heights

At NASA, they have been a little busy: landing on Mars, developing new human spacecraft, going to the space station, working with commercial partners, observing the Earth and the Sun, exploring our solar system and understanding our universe. And that's not even everything.

Commercial Space Transport Moves Ahead

Tom Simon, a contracting officer's representative for NASA's Commercial Crew Program, discusses the importance of certifying commercial transportation systems are safe to carry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station in this "In Their Own Words" video.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mars: Dry Ice and Dunes in Seasonal Change

Researchers using NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter see seasonal changes on far-northern Martian sand dunes caused by warming of a winter blanket of frozen carbon dioxide.

Earth has no naturally frozen carbon dioxide, though pieces of manufactured carbon-dioxide ice, called "dry ice," sublime directly from solid to gas on Earth, just as the vast blankets of dry ice do on Mars. A driving factor in the springtime changes where seasonal coverings of dry ice form on Mars is that thawing occurs at the underside of the ice sheet, where it is in contact with dark ground being warmed by early-spring sunshine through translucent ice. The trapped gas builds up pressure and breaks out in various ways.
Transient grooves form on dunes when gas trapped under the ice blanket finds an escape point and whooshes out, carrying out sand with it. The expelled sand forms dark fans or streaks on top of the ice layer at first, but this evidence disappears with the seasonal ice, and summer winds erase most of the grooves in the dunes before the next winter. The grooves are smaller features than the gullies that earlier research linked to carbon-dioxide sublimation on steeper dune slopes.

Asteroid 2012 DA 14 Flyby Feb. 15, 2013

Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office, gives exclusive insight on the the space rock (Asteroid 2012 DA 14) that will come between us and the moon on February 15th, 2013. The space rock will pass 21,000 miles above the Earth. The asteroid will not be visible to the naked eye. More from EarthSky.

Robotic Refueling Mission Spins Ahead

In orbit at 18,000 miles an hour, day and night change places every 90 minutes. Darkness and light, sleep and wake: it's tough to focus on precise tasks floating outside the International Space Station. But not if you're a robot. NASA's Robotic Refueling Mission puts that proposition to the test, with a first-of-its-kind demonstration of a simulated fuel transfer in space, no human in sight. But first, there's a pile of prep before the operation can commence.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

New Mexico Legislature Forging Compromise on Human Spaceflight Informred Consent

Virgin Galactic, the company that plans to fly customers into outer space from the state-funded Spaceport America in Southern New Mexico, has reached a compromise with the state's trial lawyers concerning liability issues that appeared to cause concern by one of the leading human suborbital commercial spaceflight providers.

George Whitesides, president and chief executive officer of Virgin Galactic, told The New Mexican on Tuesday that he supports the compromise, which was announced earlier in the day by top Democratic leaders in the Legislature.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, House Speaker Kenny Martinez and other leaders held a news conference to announce the compromise. The new proposal would set a cap on liability for the suppliers and manufacturers. It also would extend the contract between the spaceport and Virgin to 2021. Currently, the contract expires in 2018.

A 2010 state law shielded Virgin Galactic from being sued, except under certain circumstances, for damages by passengers or their families if there was an accident and the passengers had signed a form warning them of the risks of space travel.

However, the lawsuit protections didn't cover the suppliers and manufacturers of spacecraft parts and components. The compromise proposal changes that, putting them on the same footing as a space flight operator like Virgin Galactic, AP's Barry Massey reported in The Republic.  The Las Cruces Sun-News has more on the legislative accord.

Deep Space Industries, Inc. gains coverage in 2nd private effort to mine asteroids

Media outlets around the planet have picked-up on the latest venture to mine asteroids in near earth space with the so-called proposed FireFly, DargonFly and Harvester spacecraft by Deep Space Industries, Inc. (DSI) beginning as early as 2015, if the business plan closes.

The plan is to build unmanned ships that can somehow grab asteroids as they rocket past earth and mine precious metals like platinum from them, the Daily Mail reported.

"More than 900 new asteroids that pass near Earth are discovered every year," said Deep Space CEO David Gump in a statement. With a 55-pound spacecraft called FireFlies, Deep Space intends to locate and target asteroids, Fox News reported.

"One company may be a fluke," DSI co-founder Rick Tumlinson said at the press conference announcing the company. "Two companies showing up, that's the beginning of an industry," noted Popular Science in a reference  to start-up Planetary Resources, Inc. making its business plan public in April 2012 to seek to mine asteroids.

For its first customers, DSI is looking to NASA, which Gump says might want to pay for demonstration flights of the probes and—as the agency is doing with Google Lunar X PRIZE competitors—for data acquired during the construction and operation. At the same time, DSI is pursuing corporations who might want to enter into other sponsorship deals to put their logos on a spacecraft.

A bit further out, the company sees a market for refueling communications satellites that have run out of gas, using hydrogen and oxygen mined from asteroids. "We have been in discussions with one of the largest companies in the comsat industry interested in the future of getting propellant," Gump says. DSI figures comsat operators will pay $5 to $8 million per extra month of extended life of their satellites with asteroid-mined material because it could still cost less than using propellant, or new satellites blasted into orbit from Earth.

Full 1hr, 45min press conference in California. (Wiki).

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Oklahoma spaceport may soon be history

The Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority — a public body created by the Oklahoma Legislature in 1999 to lead the way in bringing the space industry to the state — has not had the best success rate over the past 13-years. The broken prospects at Burns Flat leaves some locals suggesting that the spaceport has  languished in space dreams long enough. It's time to quit star gazing and convert the spaceport to a more traditional regional industrial park, according to Randy Ellis writing for The Oklahoman.
Spaceport developers have hitched the hopes to the development of suborbital spaceflight, similar to that under development at Spaceport America in New Mexico and a more recent effort underway Colorado.  Oklahoma's suborbital space flight corridor is the only onegaining Federal Aviation Administration -approval in the national air space system that is not within a military operating area or restricted air space.
One company, Rocketplane Kistler, formerly based in Oklahoma, had plans to build a spacecraft and, as of 2006, had plans to offer commercial space flights from the Oklahoma Spaceport by 2009. Rocketplane Kistler, Global and Rocketplane Holdings declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2010 but after the state provided $18-million in state tax benefits.
The Burns Flat, Oklahoma spaceport site boasts a 13,503 feet long, about 300 feet wide and has an additional 1,000 feet of asphalt overrun on either end that would have been used in horizontal launch and landings for suborbital spacecraft but has lacked a tenant of any staying power.
But now the spaceport pins future hope, if its state operational funding continues, on civilian commercial applications for unmanned drone flights. The commercial drone industry may experience explosive growth once the FAA establishes guidelines for their use in national air space, which is scheduled to happen in 2015 and facilities around the nation are seeking to participate.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Deep Space Industries, Inc. Press Event Live

The world’s first fleet of commercial asteroid-prospecting spacecraft by Deep Space Industries, Inc. will be announced at 10 a.m. PST, 1 p.m. EST, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013 and carried LIVE from California by Spacevidcast. A pre-recorded video announcement will be at the Deep Space Industries, Inc. web site at that time too.

Planetary Resources' Chief Asteroid Miner Describes Progress Made on the Arkyd-100

Chris Lewicki, President and Chief Asteroid Miner at Planetary Resources, Inc., discusses the full scale Arkyd-100 mechanical prototypes. The Arkyd-100 is a space telescope and technology demonstrator for our Arkyd Series asteroid prospecting missions. Although the long-term goal of the company is to mine asteroids, its initial plans call for developing a market for small (30–50 kg) cost-reduced space telescopes for both Earth observation and astronomy.

On Tuesday, January 22, 2013, Deep Space Industries, Inc. will announce plans in California to seek to exploit resources in space with a group lead by David Gump, Rick Tumlinson and a host of others. 

Perhaps a new global competition will emerge (post Google Lunar X-Prize) for a private groups to return asteroid samples from space within the next two years or so. It does appear that competition is getting underway.

Exploration beyond Pluto?

Beyond Pluto lies a stranger part of the solar system many do not know of. Entire asteroid belts and planets larger than Jupiter may roam this distant region. However due to the immense distances involved in reaching this realm, it has not yet been explored, what may await us once we do voyage to this distant frontier?

Prior to the end of the 21st century, humanity should know significantly more about space beyond Pluto, perhaps beyond the Oort Cloud. One may speculate (with little imagination) that humanity will have a vibrant off-Earth economy having returned to the moon permanently; visited and mined asteroids; landed and colonized Mars; and, established a human-tended base on the Jovian moon Europa. Perhaps, there will be a re-fueling station on the Saturian moon Titan.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

New Horizons 7-Years into Pluto Journey

SEVEN YEARS AGO, the New Horizons spacecraft was launched toward Pluto. It is now more than halfway between the orbits of Uranus and Neptune. In fact, it is so far along the journey that the spacecraft will cross the orbit of Neptune and enter 'Pluto space' in August of next year for the dwarf-planet encounter along with its moons, Charon, Nix, Hydra, S/2011 P 1, and S/2012 P 1, with an estimated arrival date at the Pluto–Charon system of July 14, 2015. More on possible mission encounter changes from SpaceRef's Keith Cowing.

Meanwhile, other scientists and astronomers are giving more thought to the dwarf planet Sedna beyond Pluto and seven other dwaft planets. Sedna is the most distant solar system object ever discovered. It is twice as far from the Sun as any other solar system object and three times farther than Pluto or Neptune. Standing on the surface of Sedna, you could block the entire Sun with the head of a pin held at arm's length, according to Dr. Mike Brown.

NASA rebuffs Florida's request for property takeover at KSC, Florida Today reports

SpaceX Falcon 9 being erected at launch pad (Credit Wired4Space)
"NASA has rebuffed the state's request to take over property at the north end of Kennedy Space Center for development of a commercial launch complex, a potential setback in Florida’s effort to keep SpaceX from moving some launches to another state", James Dean of Florida Today reports.
In recent months, Georgia, Texas, Puerto Rico and Florida have been making overt efforts to seek to locate SpaceX launch operations in their respective commercial sites, along with the numerous of high-technology jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of infrastructure investment.
"Anticipating a significant increase in its flight rate, SpaceX wants a pad that offers easier access, more control over launch schedules and lower operating costs than might be possible inside secure government facilities such as Kennedy Space Center or Cape Canaveral Air Force Station", Dean writes in his report.
Gothic Rocket Pad (BM)
There are only four United States spaceports in the nation licensed to conduction orbital launch operations, Alaska, California, Florida and Virginia.  SpaceX is now utilizing launch pad facilities in California and Florida.

Commercial space firm Orbital Sciences Corporation will be launching commercial cargo from Virginia's Wallops Island in the coming spring of 2013 The Virginia-based firm has utilized the Alaska Kodiak site for military launches for polar orbit access in recent years.

The spaceport wannabes of Georgia, Texas, and Puerto Rico are each without space launch infrastructure or restricted flight ranges to immediately facilitate SpaceX or other private orbital launch firms promptly in this decade.

Possible inclinations from Virginia
To meet the launch rate demand of lower cost vehicles entering the global commercial satellite launch market, combined with the US civil and military space needs, the existing FAA-approved orbital launch sites in Alaska, California, Florida and Virginia may have growing demand. The questions for Florida and Virginia may be capacity and real estate. Virginia is pumping about $10-million annually into launch opeartions now.

South Korea Sets January 30 to February 8, 2013 for KSLV-1 Rocket Launch to Orbit

South Korea will make a bid in a January 30-February 8, 2013 window to put a satellite in orbit and gain entry to an elite global space club that includes Asian nations China, Japan, India, Israel, Iran and North Korea.
The 140-tonne Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1) will attempt another launch from the NARO Space Center on the south coast, following failed attempts in 2009 and 2010. Japan and China both achieved their first satellite launches back in 1970, India made its breakthrough in 1980, Israel in 1988, and Iran in 2009. North Korea launched an orbital satellite in late 2012, despite strong United Nations opposition.
The lack of American support contributed to South Korea, Asia’s fourth largest economy, lagging behind because of concern of missile technology transfer to other nations. Nonetheless, with a first stage manufactured by Russia, and the balance by South Korea's technicians, 2013 could be the year South Korea gains orbital status in the global space race.

Mars Curiosity Rover Strikes Signs of Water

NASA is one step closer to finding life on Mars. The Curiosity rover found flat rock with pale veins that might be signs of water.

Martian Crater May Once Have Held Groundwater-Fed Lake Says NASA/JPL

This view of layered rocks on the floor of McLaughlin Crater shows sedimentary rocks that contain spectroscopic evidence for minerals formed through interaction with water. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona.

A NASA spacecraft is providing new evidence of a wet underground environment on Mars that adds to an increasingly complex picture of the Red Planet's early evolution, according to NASA/JPL.

The new information comes from researchers analyzing spectrometer data from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which looked down on the floor of McLaughlin Crater. The Martian crater is 57 miles (92 kilometers) in diameter and 1.4 miles (2.2 kilometers) deep. McLaughlin's depth apparently once allowed underground water, which otherwise would have stayed hidden, to flow into the crater's interior.

Layered, flat rocks at the bottom of the crater contain carbonate and clay minerals that form in the presence of water. McLaughlin lacks large inflow channels, and small channels originating within the crater wall end near a level that could have marked the surface of a lake.

Together, these new observations suggest the formation of the carbonates and clay in a groundwater-fed lake within the closed basin of the crater. Some researchers propose the crater interior catching the water and the underground zone contributing the water could have been wet environments and potential habitats. The findings are published in the 20 January 2013 online edition of Nature Geoscience. More from the Natural History Museum.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

"Dear Mr. President: Launching the Economy"

NASA: Launching Our Economy is one of the enteries in the 2013 C-SPAN Student Cam Documentary Competition under this year's theme of "Dear Mr. President."

NASA Open House for Obama Inauguration

NASA's ongoing and future missions to Mars highlight the afternoon session of an open house held at the agency's Headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 18, 2013 in celebration of the 2013 Presidential Inaugural on Monday, Jan. 21, 2013. [2 hours]

Virginia Congressman Wolf Says: "China May Very Well Beat Us Back to the Moon"

In December 2012, Fight for Space went to Washington D.C. to interview politicians involved in space policy and reform, experts, and analysts. At the conclusion of the video, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Space Chairman, Congressman Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), comments that "China may very well beat us back to the moon."

It is estimated that China will operate 20% of the Earth orbiting satellites by the end of calendar year 2013.

"Save the date" - 5 April 2013 for Antares Launch from Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport may roar to life on Friday, April 5, 2013 with the much-anticipated commercial launches of the Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's Eastern Shore, reported The Daily Press.
Hot-fire test coming this month.
The first hot-fired test of the rockets engines on the pad is being set at the end of the month. April 5 is penciled in for a demonstration launch and attempt to berth with the International Space Station (ISS), and mid-August for the first official resupply mission.
Tamara Dietrich, writing for The Daily Press in Newport News, Va. noted that the "Antares heralds a new era in the Wallops facility, which until now has launched small rockets carrying light payloads such as satellites or science experiments. Last summer, the state completed work on a $145 million launch pad and infrastructure to accommodate bigger rockets."

A multi-user spaceport this decade.
Orbital Sciences Corporation is under contract with NASA for 8 resupply missions to the space station and two test launch missions, all of which will launch from Wallops Island.

Prior to 2016, one of the missions may provide NASA the opportunity for the new Cygnus spacecraft to return cargo from the ISS using atmospheric space brakes being developed at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.
For those seeking a front-row seat, Wallops "Space Island" recommends the NASA Visitor Center on Route 175, directly across from the Wallops runways and adjacent to the marsh. The latest launch schedule is available on the public information phone line at 757-824-2050. More from Popular Mechanics.

New Mexico Spaceport Pushes Legal Waiver

New Mexico's $209 million investment in Spaceport America is in jeopardy, unless lawmakers pass a crucial bill during the legislative session. The bill would give companies that manufacture, supply and build spacecraft immunity from lawsuits in the event something goes wrong except in cases of negligence. House Bill 49 and Senate Bill 63 have already been filed, reports KRQE 13 in New Mexico.
Virginia (2007), Florida, Texas and Colorado already provide the liability waiver, and other space-travel companies besides Virgin Galactic likely would not do business in New Mexico without protection under state law, it has been reported.

Doug Meisser recently posted a detailed financial analysis of the "(New) Mexican Standoff at the Old Spaceport" at the Parabolic Arc blog.

While another state may enjoy the short-term benefit of Virgin Galactic relocation should the New Mexico 'Roundhouse' legislature block the aforementioned bills, the damage to the NewSpace industry as a whole would likely suffer as states grow more fearful of spaceport infrastructure investment.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Comet of the Century?

Astronomers are keeping a close eye on a newly-discovered Comet ISON, which could become visible in broad daylight later this year when it skims through the atmosphere of the sun.

Meteorite Man Geoff Notkin to Boost Deep Space Industries Inc. Tuesday 22.01.2013

The world’s first fleet of commercial asteroid-prospecting spacecraft will be announced at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013 at the Santa Monica Museum of Flying by a new company, Deep Space Industries Inc.
Geoff Notkin

Host Geoff Notkin of the Science Channel’s Meteorite Men series will introduce the Deep Space founders - who include leaders in the space field - and will preview an animated video showing the new spacecraft and the company’s other plans, including a breakthrough process for manufacturing in space.

Deep Space is pursuing an aggressive schedule and plans on prospecting, harvesting and processing asteroids for use in space and to benefit Earth. The private sector team includes: chief executive office David Gump, founder of LunaCorp, Transformational Space Corp.,  and a and Google Lunar X Prize contender Astrobotic Technology Inc., Rick Tumlinson, a co-founder of Orbital Outfitters, Inc., and a host of space-related science and engineering experts.

Property claims may be issue?
Deep Space Industries, Inc. is not the first private sector firm to announce plans to search for and ultimately mine Near Earth Asteroids (NEOs). Planetary Resources, Inc. made such an announcement last year.

President Obama directed NASA in April 2010 to look to taking humans to investigate asteroids in the years ahead. Recent studies have suggested an asteroid be brought by the space agency into lunar orbit. NASA may have the opportunity to bid work to an emerging array of space mining companies to perfect mining techniques in the decades ahead.

Nonetheless, the issue of mining space resources does raise serious international legal issues.  Frans von der Dunk, professor of Space Law at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, College of Law, recently spoke with Bloomberg Law's Lee Pacchia about the legal implications of Deep Space Industries, Inc. and Planetary Resources,Inc. and such other private space ventures soon to emerge from enterprising business associations.

$30,000 Prize: New NASA Competition To Improve ISS Solar Power Collection

TopCoder, a competitive community of programers, has announced a $30,000 competition known as the Open Innovation challenge to help NASA optimize the position of the International Space Station's (ISS) solar array and minimize shadows on the station's longerons.

Bill Spetch of NASA sits down with Clinton Bonner of TopCoder to describe an ambitious Open Innovation challenge that is seeking to increase the energy harvesting capability of the ISS's solar panels. The ramifications could be huge. More power = more science NASA can do on orbit. More science could equal new breakthroughs for all of humanity.

Russia Back in Space Race With Plans To Probe Moon: Luna-Glob-1 Starts in 2015

In what may be super science's great tortoise-and-the-hare story, Russia has returned to the space race by announcing a series of lunar missions over the next half-decade.

Launching in 2015, Russia will send three unmanned probes to the surface of the moon—marking its first lunar visits since the Soviet mission in 1973. The first mission, Luna-Glob-1 will carry 20 kilograms of scientific equipment and aim to test a new surface-landing platform. The program will take a special interest in investigating the possibility of water at the lunar poles, and may include a manned mission no later than 2030.

Luna orbital scientific module ‘Luna-Glob-2’ is planned for launch in 2016. And in 2017, the three-ton Russian-Indian module ‘Luna-Resurs’ (Lunar resource), carrying advanced scientific equipment, will launch for the Moon, according to Russia Today.
The missions will launch from the Vostochny Cosmodrome, Russia's new billion-dollar launch site, currently under construction. With the retirement of NASA's shuttle program in 2011, Russia's Soyuz spacecraft is currently the only vehicle capable of carrying crew to the International Space Station, making Russia arguably Earth's preeminent space-faring nation and once again the leader in a space race that began way back in the 1950s.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev approved a plan in December 2012 to spend 2.1 trillion roubles ($70 billion) on space industry development in 2013-2020, to pursue projects to explore the moon and Mars, among other things.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mona Lisa Beamed To Moon to Prepare for LADEE Moon Mission in August 2013

A digital image of Leonardo da Vinci's painting became the first transmission via laser to a satellite in lunar orbit. Lasers offer a more efficient way to 'talk' with spacecraft. The beam traveled ~240,000mi to NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The test will assist to the NASA LADEE mission to explore the Moon set to be launched from the Virginia-based Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in August 2013.

NASA is planning a higher-bandwidth laser communication demonstration for its next mission to the moon, known as the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer. When LADEE is launched in August, it will carry an experimental laser system that's designed to transmit data at a rate exceeding 600 million bits per second, notes Alan Boyle in The Cosmic Log.

Next ISS Missions Previewed by Crew

The upcoming Expedition 35 and 36 missions aboard the International Space Station are previewed on Jan. 17, 2103 by the six spacefarers scheduled to participate. Chris Cassidy of NASA and Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) are set to launch to the orbiting laboratory aboard a Soyuz spacecraft March 27, 2013 and return to Earth Sept. 11, 2013.

International Space Station to Experience Heavy Traffic on Next Missions in 2013

The International Space Station Program and Science Overview briefing on Jan. 17, 2013 outlines the priorities and objectives of Expedition 35 and 36. These include several visiting spacecraft, such as multiple Russian Progress resupply ships, the fourth European Automated Transfer Vehicle, the fourth Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle, the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft and the debut demonstration and supply flights of the Orbital Sciences Cygnus spacecraft. [58-minutes]

Major Step for NewSpace Underway in Vegas

8 News NOW
NewSpace opportunities are unfolding in 2015 and 2016 as commercial space launch carriers enable to space station concepts and new human adventures. Salute to Robert Bigelow, Mike Gold and all at Bigelow Aerospace on entrepreneurial vision, capital commitment, and sheer determination!

Find out how Bigelow Aerospace's BEAM expandable module will enhance the living area of the International Space Station, in this infographic.
Source All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

Russians Prepare Progress М-18М Cargo Ship for Mid-February Baikonur Launch

The Russians are preparing the Progress M-18M (Progress 50) cargo spacecraft for docking with the International Space Station at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The vehicle is set to launch in 12 February 2013. The Progress 50 (Progress M-18M) will be the first of eight cargo flights in the ISS manifest for 2013.

ISERV Telescope Readied to View Earth

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield installed the ISERV telescope. (NASA/CSA)
The International Space Station SERVIR Environmental Research and Visualization System (ISERV, consisting of a new modified Celestron telescope, was installed on station yesterday for to Earth to acquire imagery of specific areas of the world for disaster analysis and environmental studies.
ISERV stands for the International Space Station SERVIR Environmental Research and Visualization System. The space station provides researchers a unique perspective through global observations from space. SERVIR is a Spanish acronym meaning "to serve." Also known as the Regional Visualization and Monitoring System, the program provides satellite data and tools to environmental decision makers in developing countries. SERVIR is a partnership between NASA and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
ISERV's main component is the optical assembly which consists of a 9.25 inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, a focal reducer (field of view enlarger), a digital single lens reflex camera, and a high precision focusing mechanism. A motorized 2-axis pointing mount allows pointing at targets approximately 23 degrees from nadir in both along- and across-track directions. The T61p WORF laptop provides system control, image storage, and data downlink functions. Utilizing a Canon EOS 7D DSLR, ISERV images a 13 km by 9 km footprint from a nominal 350 km orbital altitude, capturing up to 390 km² of image data per second in 3-second bursts.
The SERVIR is a global obeseravational system and ISERV is the first of an envisioned series of space station Earth-observing instruments, each to feature progressively more capable sensors. Future sensors could be mounted on the exterior of the station for a clearer, wider view of Earth.

The SERVIR coordination office manages the program, develops application prototypes for the SERVIR website, and integrates new or relevant technologies from NASA and other scientific research partner organizations into the system to meet the needs of the host countries. SERVIR's primary technical work occurs at the hubs, which are staffed by in-country and in-region experts. The hubs interface and coordinate with other international and national organizations in their respective regions regarding climate change, environmental monitoring, disasters, weather and mapping, among others.
SERVIR, jointly funded by NASA and USAID, is part of the Earth Science Division's Applied Sciences Program in NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Four other NASA field centers work with Marshall on the program: Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.; Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.; the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.; and Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

NASA astronaut Mario Runco explains how the HyperStar-equipped ISERV telescope has been installed into the WORF window on the International Space Station January 16, 2013 by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield.

LANDSAT 8 readied for Launch in California

NASA's Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) is scheduled to launch Feb. 11, 2013 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
After launch, LDCM will enter a polar orbit, circling Earth about 14 times daily from an altitude of 705 kilometers, returning over each location on Earth every 16 days. Following launch and the initial checkout phase, the USGS will take operational control of the satellite, and LDCM will be renamed Landsat 8.
Data will be downlinked to three ground stations in Gilmore Creek, Alaska; Svalbard, Norway; and Sioux Falls, S.D. The data will be archived and distributed at no cost to users from the USGS's Earth Resources Observation and Science Center in Sioux Falls. Landsat data has been collected since 1972.
LDCM carries two instruments, the Operational Land Imager (OLI), built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo., and the Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS), built by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. These instruments are designed to improve performance and reliability over previous Landsat sensors.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Bigelow Inflatable to Space Station in 2015; Commercial Habitats to Orbit in 2016

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver announced on Wednesday, January 16, 2013 a newly planned addition to the International Space Station that will use the orbiting laboratory to test expandable space habitat technology.
NASA has awarded a $17.8 million contract to Bigelow Aerospace to provide a Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), which is scheduled to arrive at the space station in 2015 for a two-year technology demonstration.
Bigelow Station in 2016?
The BEAM is scheduled to launch aboard the eighth SpaceX cargo resupply mission to the station contracted by NASA, currently planned for 2015.
After the module is berthed to the station's Tranquility node, the station crew will activate a pressurization system to expand the structure to its full size using air stored within the packed module. Astronauts periodically will enter the module to gather performance data and perform inspections. Following the test period, the module will be jettisoned from the station, burning up on re-entry.

Bob and Diane Bigelow
"What can I say? I'm, a dreamer and thankfully am married to someone who sees things the same way," said Robert Bigelow, the president and founder of Bigelow Aerospace.

"We've spent about $250 million so far, and I expect to spend another $250 million by 2016 when we will have two of our 330's ready to fly," Bigelow said. Bigelow plans to build the solar system's first private space station and wants to have it in place 235 miles above the earth, within four years.

In 2016, Bigelow plans to begin selling inflatable space stations to countries looking to increase their presence in space. 

"It's a historic program for the technology," said Mike Gold, Bigelow's director of D.C. operations and business growth. "There is substantial value to demonstrating the technology in a crewed environment for the first time."

Proposed Bigelow Lunar Habitat
Gold said expandable habitats offer larger volumes and improved protection from radiation and space debris. And because they are more affordable, he said, they "can protect ambitious human exploration programs from a threat even more pernicious than radiation or micrometeorites, such as budget cuts."

More from VegasINC, Leonard David at NBCNews, The New York Times, The Washington Post, AP,  Forbes and WLAS-TV 8 Vegas.

NASA, ESA Agree on New Orion Service Module; Fly Around Moon in 2017

The NASA animation above shows NASA's Orion spacecraft as it will appear on its Exploration Mission-1 in 2017, complete with a service module to be provided by the European Space Agency.

After Orion blasts off atop a Space Launch System rocket, the ESA-provided service module will fuel and propel the capsule on its journey through space. Exploration Mission-1 in 2017 will be the first mission to incorporate both the Orion vehicle and NASA's new Space Launch System.

It will follow the upcoming Exploration Flight Test-1 in 2014, in which an uncrewed Orion will launch atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket and fly 3,600 miles above Earth's surface, farther than a human spacecraft has gone in 40 years.

Press briefing January 16, 2013 on ESA-NASA partnership.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

JAXA Targets Asteroid 1999 JU3 in 2018-19

Asteroid Itokawa was the prime target of the successful JAXA Hayabusa 1
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will launch a new asteroid mission in 2014 called Hayabusa-2 to take samples of asteroid 1999 JU3 in mid-2018 to conduct a survey and perform a complex mission prior to departure at the conclusion of 2019 and a return to Earth in 2020.
Thermal view of Asteroid 1999 JU3
Asteroid 1999 JU3 is of particular interest to researchers because it consists of 4.5-billion-year-old material that has been altered very little. Measurements taken from Earth suggest that the asteroid’s rock may have come into contact with water. The C-type asteroid is expected to contain organic and hydrated minerals, making it different from Itokawa, which was a rocky S-type asteroid. Asteroid 1999 JU3 is also larger than Itokawa, which was 540 meters long, notes Leonard David writing for and SpaceNews.
Rendering of Hayabusa-2 landing
The goal for Hayabusa 2 is to build upon the legacy of the original Hayanusa 1 mission, by strengthening the shown weak points with  more durable ion engines, upgraded guidance and navigation technology, and new antennas and attitude control systems. Hayabusa 1 was Japan's first round-trip asteroid mission that sent the Hayabusa spacecraft to retrieve samples of the space rock Itokowa successfully but after a labored and lengthy effort.
A collision device strikes 1999 JU3
The German Aerospace Center will build a small lander called MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout) for the mission in a cooperation with the French space agency CNES. Mascot is a "hopping" lander packed with four separate instruments and is designed to move across the surface of an asteroid. Doing so will enable it to take measurements at different sites. As Mascot performs the near-asteroid maneuvers, a radiometer will measure the temperature of the asteroid and a camera will image the fine structure of the surface of 1999 JU3.
A 4-pound "collision device" will allow Hayabusa 2 to acquire samples of the asteroid that are exposed by the smashing event, fresh specimens that are less weathered by the brutal space environment on the asteroid's surface.

The United States and Europe have a number of ambitious asteroid exploration missions planned or in planning studies currently for this decade, including a possible deflection mission.

The Chinese recently conducted an imaging campaign of the asteroid Toutatis with Chang'E 2 in December 2012.

Finding Asteroids Before They Find Us

Edward Tsang "Ed" Lu speaks to the SETI Institute January 15, 2013. Lu, with Apollo 9 Astronaut Rusty Schweickart and Dr. G. Scott Hubbard, Astrophysicist and Author from Stanford University launched the B612 Foundation to build and operate the first privately funded deep space mission called SENTINEL in June 2012. The non-profit foundation will launch a space telescope in orbit around the Sun, about 170 million miles from Earth, where it will detect and track all moving objects, including asteroids posing threats to life on Earth.

DAY ONE: Robotic Refueling Mission on ISS

Day One of NASA's Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) wraps, and mission planners are giving it high marks. Designed to push the boundaries of what robots can do in space, the five-day RRM effort has ambitious goals. Operational managers at the Goddard Space Flight Center and the Johnson Space Center manipulate the Dextre robot arm on International Space Station, overcoming obstacles and successfully removing a mechanical cap without a human hand in sight.

NASA Public Affairs Officer Josh Byerly conducts a phone interview with Benjamin Reed, Deputy Program Manager of NASA's Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office, about this week's Robotic Refueling Mission activities.