Monthly Archive for November, 2013

Mars Orbiter Spacecraft Successfully Placed in Mars Transfer Trajectory


Indian_mars_orbiterMars Orbiter Mission Update
Dec. 1, 2013

The critical manoeuvre to place India’s Mars Orbiter Spacecraft in the Mars Transfer Trajectory was successfully carried out in the early hours of today (Sunday, December 1, 2013). During this manoeuvre, which began at 00:49 today, the spacecraft’s 440 Newton liquid engine was fired for about 22 minutes providing a velocity increment of 648 meters/second to the spacecraft. Following the completion of this manoeuvre, the Earth orbiting phase of the spacecraft ended. The spacecraft is now on a course to encounter Mars after a journey of about 10 months around the Sun.

It may be recalled that Mars Orbiter spacecraft was launched into an elliptical parking orbit with a perigee (nearest point to Earth) of 248 km and an apogee (farthest point to Earth) of 23,550 km by India’s workhorse launch vehicle PSLV on November 5, 2013. Following this, the apogee height of the spacecraft’s orbit was successively raised through a series of manoeuvres to nearly 1,93,000 km. Besides, health checks of the Mars Orbiter spacecraft as well as its payloads were performed. Since its launch, all systems on-board Mars Orbiter spacecraft are performing normally.

The spacecraft is being continuously monitored from the Spacecraft Control Centre at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bangalore with support from Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) antennae at Byalalu.

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NASA, CASIS Work to Resolve Space Station IP Rights Issue

NASA astronaut Michael Foale performs an inspection of the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) during Expedition 8 aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

NASA astronaut Michael Foale performs an inspection of the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) during Expedition 8 aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

NASA and CASIS officials are working to resolve an intellectual property rights issue that threatens to limit the amount of commercial research conducted aboard the International Space Station, Space News reports.

At the root of the problem is legislation that designated part of the space station a U.S. National Laboratory. In the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, the U.S. Congress directed the space agency to create a cooperative agreement with a nonprofit organization to manage the space station’s National Laboratory. Cooperative agreements established by federal agencies include standard, U.S. government-wide terms and conditions, including requirements for intellectual property rights, said Courtney Graham, NASA associate general council for commercial and intellectual property law. “If you look at any of the cooperative agreements from NASA’s Science Mission Directorate or any other part of NASA, you’ll see the same type of terms and conditions,” Graham said.

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Chinese to Launch Lunar Rover on Monday

(Credit: CNSA)

Model of Chinese lunar rover Yutu. (Credit: CNSA)

China’s surging space program will embark on its most ambitious robotic mission yet on Monday as it launches the Chang’e-3 mission to the moon. The spacecraft will land and deploy a six-wheel rover named Yutu (Jade Rabbit) that will explore the surface for three months.

The launch aboard a Long March-3B rocket from Xichang is scheduled for Monday at 1:30 a.m. local time (Sunday, 12:30 p.m. EST).  The moon landing — the first by any country since the Soviet Luna 24 mission in 1976 — is scheduled for mid-December. Only the United States and Soviet Union have soft landed spacecraft on the lunar surface.

Chang’e is named for the Chinese goddess of the moon. Yutu is the jade rabbit kept by the goddess.

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ISS Science Recap: Week of Nov. 18

Three nanosatellites, known as Cubesats, are deployed from a Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (SSOD) attached to the Kibo laboratory’s robotic arm. (Credit: NASA)

Three nanosatellites, known as Cubesats, are deployed from a Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (SSOD) attached to the Kibo laboratory’s robotic arm. (Credit: NASA)

ISS Science Highlights: Week of Nov. 18, 2013
by John Love, Lead Increment Scientist
Expedition 37/38

NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio performed a session for the Microbiome study aboard the International Space Station. This included subject sampling, saliva, perspiration and blood collection, space station surface sampling and survey questionnaires. Microbiome investigates the impact of space travel on the human immune system and on an individual’s microbiome (the collection of microbes that live in and on the human body) to help predict how long-term space travel may impact human health. It is known that factors such as stress, diet and an impaired immune system can trigger changes in the human microbiota, increasing the risk of contracting a disease. The product of this study will be an assessment of the likelihood and consequences of alterations in the microbiome due to extreme environments, and the related human health risk. Findings could be used to benefit people on Earth who live and work in extreme environments. Other potential applications of this study could be to further research in preliminary detection of diseases, alterations in metabolic function and immune system deficiency.

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SpaceX Aiming for Falcon 9 Launch Attempt on Monday Evening



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Argentina to Begin Testing of Small Satellite Launch Vehicle

Tronador II rocket. (Credit: Sergio Panei Pitrau)

Tronador II rocket. (Credit: Sergio Panei Pitrau)

Here’s an interesting item (via Google Translate) from the Argentine newspaper El País:

The Government of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner….announced this week that before the end of the month it will begin the first tests of the Tronador III satellite launcher in the village of Pipinas (156 kilometers south of Buenos Aires ). It will then test the first of up to six prototypes before installing in 2015 the final structure for satellite launches in the city of Bahía Blanca, located about 690 kilometers south of the capital of Argentina.

The plan foresees Argentina state satellite investment of $335 million between 2014 and 2016, including $9.2 million for the experimental vehicle. The rocket measures 14.5 meters, weighs nearly 3 tons and moves at 800 kilometers per hour. All satellite technology is developed by 350 Argentine scientists and technicians, although led by an Italian who heads the National Commission on Space Activities , Conrado Varotto. The project also involves the University of La Plata and technology public company in the southern province of Black River, Invap. The future launch platform at Bahía Blanca can put satellites weighing 250 kilos into a medium orbit.

“The Tronador III means sovereignty and development, because we will make full satellite mission alone,” said the Minister of Federal Planning, Public Investment and Services, Julio de Vido. “Sovereignty, that alone will allow us to complete satellite mission, i.e., building and putting satellites into orbit. And because we do technological development design and construction that is 100% Argentine, which also allow us to put in orbit satellites of others.”

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Algorithms + F/A-18 Jet = Vital Testing for SLS Flight Control System

An F/A-18 research jet simulated various flight conditions NASA's Space Launch System may experience as it makes its way from the launch pad to space. (Credit: NASA/Dryden)

An F/A-18 research jet simulated various flight conditions NASA’s Space Launch System may experience as it makes its way from the launch pad to space. (Credit: NASA/Dryden)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — Raise your hand if, in a math class, you ever said, “When will I ever use this in my life?”

Four young engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., can answer that question: They are using math to develop algorithms, or complex step-by-step equations, that can make an F/A-18 fighter jet fly like the Space Launch System (SLS) — NASA’s next heavy-lift launch vehicle.

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Colorado Governor Appoints Aerospace & Defense Industry Champion


Gov. John Hickenlooper

DENVER, Colo. (Governor Hickenlooper PR) — Gov. John Hickenlooper joined the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) on November 25, 2013 to announce that Maj. Gen. Jay H. Lindell will be Colorado’s Aerospace and Defense Industry Champion.

Lindell will be responsible for overseeing the implementation of the state’s aerospace strategic plan and developing and implementing strategies surrounding the state’s military bases, including leading efforts surrounding all Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) activities.

“Maj. Gen. Lindell will be a great advocate and passionate voice for ensuring that the state’s various industry networks and groups within aerospace and defense are united,” Hickenlooper said. “We know his extensive experience will help align military assets in preparation of consolidation and workforce training, and we are fortunate to have such a dedicated person to lead our efforts.”

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Cecil Airport Plans $4 Million Space Hangar With State Grant

Cecil Field in Jacksonville, recently designated a commercial spaceport.

Cecil Field in Jacksonville.

Cecil Airport in Jacksonville now has a tenant and a large state grant to help develop its spaceport operations:

JAA will match the $1.8 million grant from the Florida Department of Transportation and Space Florida, the state organization responsible for fostering growth in Florida’s space industry. The final cost of the hangar could be more than $4 million and will be completed by early 2015, according to Todd Lindner, JAA’s senior manager of aviation planning and spaceport development.

Meanwhile, Generation Orbit Launch Services Inc., the spaceport’s first tenant, is preparing for two test launches next year off Cecil’s runway in ahead of its first commercial launch in 2016.

The Atlanta-based company specializes in launching “micro” and “nano” satellites — which in some cases are small enough to hold in your hand — from a rocket attached to an airplane that takes off and lands on runways like passenger jets. That so-called “horizontal” launch method is less expensive than its traditional “vertical” counterpart….

“There are a large number of entities that have wanted access to lower orbit and zero gravity for initiatives like communications,” said Michael Stewart, JAA’s external affairs director. “The great thing about this industry besides the fact that it’s embryonic and it’s still developing right before our eyes is that it’s a proven technology.”

Read the full story.

State of Maryland, NASA Begin New Technology Transfer Partnership

Sen. Barbara Mikulski

Sen. Barbara Mikulski

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — The state of Maryland and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., have embarked on a new partnership effort, the main goal of which is to attract high technology companies to Maryland, which in turn will enable both future missions of NASA and the economic future of Maryland.

The agreement, signed by U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Goddard Space Flight Center Director Chris Scolese will help in several ways. Goddard will obtain specialized skills and technologies needed for its numerous mission applications. It will help the center engage in technical exchanges with local tech companies regarding new trends, theories, techniques and problems in aerospace technology. And finally, it will provide an opportunity for the development of local educational and labor resources specific to Goddard’s needs.

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Falcon 9 Aborts Just Prior to Liftoff



Update, 7:08 pm EST: Sounds like this is going to be a significant delay if they need to bring the rocket back to the hangar. This could postpone the Falcon 9 launch of Thaicom 6 — scheduled for Dec. 20 — into 2014.

Update, 6:51 p.m. EST:  Launch scrubbed for the day. Engineers called an end to the count with about a minute left in the second launch attempt. They said they were not finished reviewing data from the first aborted launch attempt.

 Update, 6:43 p.m. EST: A second abort as countdown reached 48 seconds.

Update, 6:27 p.m. EST: SES is willing to extend launch window by 20 minutes to 7:04 p.m. EST if necessary.

Update, 6:22 p.m. EST: The count has restarted.

Update, 6:18 p.m. EST: They will attempt another launch at the end of the window at 6:44 p.m. EST.

Update: 6:16 p.m. EST: Engineers looking at data to determine if they can make another launch attempt today. Window ends at 6:44 p.m. EST.

Update, 6:01 p.m. EST: Looks as if they are going to recycle the count and try to launch today.

The Falcon 9 rocket carrying the SES-8 communications satellite aborted on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral just as its nine first stage engines began to fire at 5:39 p.m. EST. Flames were seen at the bottom of Falcon 9 before the engines shut down.

The launch vehicle is in safe mode and engineers are attempting to recycle the vehicle so they can launch within the 65 minute launch window that ends at 6:44 p.m. EST.

SpaceWorks Updates Spaceport Field Guide


SpaceWorks Enterprises’ updated Spaceport Field Guide is now live and available. In the past, the Guide was a KMZ file that opened in Google Earth, meaning you had to have Google Earth installed on your computer to use it. Now, it is an embedded Google Map on our website with no download required.

View the guide here:

Huntsville Students Eye CubeSat Market

Mark Becnel, left, and his brother, Eric Becnel, with a mockup of the Chargersat-1 in the UAH Engineering Design and Prototyping Facility. The brothers plan to start a cube satellite production company after graduating with master’s degrees in aerospace engineering. (Credit:  Michael Mercier | UAH)

Mark Becnel, left, and his brother, Eric Becnel, with a mockup of the Chargersat-1 in the UAH Engineering Design and Prototyping Facility. The brothers plan to start a cube satellite production company after graduating with master’s degrees in aerospace engineering. (Credit:
Michael Mercier | UAH)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (November 12, 2013) – Two students soon to earn their master’s degrees in aerospace engineering at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) see so much opportunity in small satellites that they have formed a company to develop the technologies.

Mark and Eric Becnel are aiming their company Radiobro at providing turnkey cube satellite services to researchers who have experiments they’d like to fly, but who don’t have the resources to build their own satellites to fly them.

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Happy Thanksgiving!



Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Thanksgiving Day has already arrived in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Island in the Atlantic Time zone. About a half hour from now, the holiday will officially commence on the East Coast, where folks in New York are preparing for a parade and engineers in Florida for a launch. Six hours after it arrives in the East, Thanksgiving will begin in American Samoa, our western-most territory.

Wherever you are across this great land, and however you celebrate this day, I hope it is a happy one and joyous one filled with the four essentials — family, food, friends and fun.

ZERO-G Completes Microgravity Research Flight


Arlington, Virginia, November 27, 2013 (ZERO-G PR) -– Zero Gravity Corporation® (ZERO-G®) has successfully completed the latest ZERO-G® Weightless Lab microgravity research flight.  On November 17, ZERO-G clients tested equipment for future suborbital missions, studied the geology of Mars, deployed cubesats, evaluated fluid dynamics and analyzed customized devices for consuming liquids in space.

“ZERO-G’s research program gives universities, corporations, government and individuals seeking to conduct serious investigations unprecedented access to microgravity,” stated Terese Brewster, President and COO of ZERO-G.  “Now in our fourth year, ZERO’s Weightless Lab continues to provide an international clientele with Martian, Lunar, zero and hyper-gravity environments for the study of terrestrial and space applications.”

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