Monthly Archive for November, 2014

ESA Conducts Successful In-space Laser Communications Test

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The Eutelsat-9B satellite with its EDRS-A payload. Also known as Europe’s SpaceDataHighway, EDRS uses cutting-edge laser technology to capture and relay information gathered by Earth-observing satellites. (Credit: Airbus Defence and Space SAS 2014)

The Eutelsat-9B satellite with its EDRS-A payload. Also known as Europe’s SpaceDataHighway, EDRS uses cutting-edge laser technology to capture and relay information gathered by Earth-observing satellites. (Credit: Airbus Defence and Space SAS 2014)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Marking a first in space, Sentinel-1A and Alphasat have linked up by laser stretching almost 36 000 km across space to deliver images of Earth just moments after they were captured.

This important step demonstrates the potential of Europe’s new space data highway to relay large volumes of data very quickly so that information from Earth-observing missions can be even more readily available.

Continue reading ‘ESA Conducts Successful In-space Laser Communications Test’

Process Converts Human Waste into Rocket Fuel

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Pratap Pullammanappallil poses in his lab next to an anaerobic digester, which turns human waste into rocket fuel. (Credit: University of Florida)

Pratap Pullammanappallil poses in his lab next to an anaerobic digester, which turns human waste into rocket fuel. (Credit: University of Florida)

By Brad Buck
University of Florida

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Buck Rogers surely couldn’t have seen this one coming, but at NASA’s request, University of Florida researchers have figured out how to turn human waste — yes, that kind — into rocket fuel.

Adolescent jokes aside, the process finally makes useful something that until now has been collected to burn up on re-entry. What’s more, like so many other things developed for the space program, the process could well turn up on Earth, said Pratap Pullammanappallil, a UF associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering.

“It could be used on campus or around town, or anywhere, to convert waste into fuel,” Pullammanappallil said.

Continue reading ‘Process Converts Human Waste into Rocket Fuel’

Hayabusa-2 Asteroid Mission Postponed Until Wednesday

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Hayabusa-2 (Credit: JAXA)

Hayabusa-2 (Credit: JAXA)

Editor’s Note: There has been another launch delay to Wednesday due to weather.

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) decided to launch the H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 26 (H-IIA F26) with the Asteroid Explorer “Hayabusa2” onboard in the following schedule.

Continue reading ‘Hayabusa-2 Asteroid Mission Postponed Until Wednesday’

Russia Space Consolidation to Include Significant Wage Hikes

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Vladimir Putin inspects construction at Vostochny. (Credit:  Presidential Press and Information Office)

Vladimir Putin inspects construction at Vostochny. (Credit: Presidential Press and Information Office)

Russia’s consolidation of its space industry will include efforts to boost salaries and worker recruitment:

United Rocket and Space Corporation (URSC) was created by presidential decree earlier this year in response to that crash. It has been tasked with reforming and consolidating most of the industry under its auspices. Reforms are expected to begin next year, and by 2016 the numerous companies that make up Russia’s space sector will employ 196,000 people, the corporation said in a statement on Friday.

“By 2025 plans are to increase productivity threefold, while real wages will double,” the statement said.

According to the corporation, which bills itself as “a socially responsible employer,” the planned productivity improvements hinge on the development of “a motivation system based on key performance indicators,” as well as housing and pension programs.

Although a single space industry employee brings his employer on average 1.6 million rubles ($32,000) in revenue, monthly salaries are around 44,500 rubles a month ($900), or just over $10,000 a year, the corporation said. The average Russian salary is just over 30,000 rubles a month.

URSC is also pledging to take recruitment of young talent seriously by creating special programs to attract young talent to work on challenging and interesting projects, increasing spending on training threefold by 2016.

Read the full story.

BBC Radio 4 Program About Virgin Galactic

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SpaceShipTwo disintegrates as its two tail booms fall away. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

SpaceShipTwo disintegrates as its two tail booms fall away. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

BBC Radio 4’s The Report broadcast an excellent half hour program on the SpaceShipTwo accident on Thursday. I was featured on the program along with other sources.

You can listen to the program(me) here.

Program Description: “The fatal explosion of a Virgin Galactic space plane at the end of October 2014 was a major set-back to Sir Richard Branson’s dream of a flourishing space tourism venture. Lesley Curwen tells the story behind the crash and asks whether the highly lucrative Virgin brand will survive the tragedy.”

Land Rover to Offer Alternative Prizes in Galactic Discovery Competition

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First Discovery Sport rolls off the assembly line. (Cedit: Land Rover)

First Discovery Sport rolls off the assembly line. (Credit: Land Rover)

Land Rover will offer alternative prizes to the winners of the Galactic Discovery competition following the loss of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo last month. The global winner would have earned a flight into space aboard SpaceShipTwo for himself and three friends.

Land Rover has published the following statement on its website (emphasis added):

Following the tragic accident involving Virgin Galactic’s test flight we have taken the decision to close the Galactic Discovery competition to new entries. The thoughts of everyone at Land Rover are with our friends at Virgin Galactic and test flight partner Scaled Composites.

All entries received up to and including October 31st, 2014 will go through the judging process as planned, and one winner will be selected from each participating market (the National Prize winners), followed by an overall global winner (the Bonus Prize winner).

In these exceptional circumstances, and in line with the competition terms and conditions, we will be offering an alternative prize to the global winner and, in some cases, to the national winners. You have our commitment that all prize winners will receive an amazing and memorable Land Rover experience, the details of which will be confirmed before December 2nd.

Thank you for your understanding,
The Land Rover team

Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic and Land Rover logos have been removed from the doors of six Land Rovers that Virgin Galactic has been using at its headquarters in Mojave, Calif.

Land Rover is still listed as an official Virgin Galactic brand partner on the spaceline’s website.

Orbital to Get Most of Planned Revenue From NASA Despite Antares Failure

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A massive explosion occurred right after the Antares rocket hit the ground.

A massive explosion occurred right after the Antares rocket hit the ground.

Despite the spectacular explosion of Antares rocket and the loss of the Cygnus freighter, Orbital Sciences Corporation will not lose much money from NASA:

Orbital Sciences Corp. will get most of its planned revenue from NASA for the Oct. 28 launch of Orbital’s Antares rocket despite the rocket’s failure because the milestone that triggered payment was the rocket’s ignition and liftoff, not launch success, Orbital and its prospective merger partner, Alliant Techsystems (ATK), said Nov. 24.

Under Orbital’s $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) with NASA, Orbital’s obligations are not counted in launches, but in kilograms delivered to the space station.

The Oct. 28 launch was the third of a then-planned eight cargo runs for NASA to meet the 20,000-kilogram requirement, with subsequent missions using a larger version of the Cygnus payload module, built by Thales Alenia Space in Italy.

Since the failure, officials from Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital have said the failure will not result in any substantial new costs to Orbital….

Because Orbital will be using a larger version of the Cygnus capsule, the company says it can meet the 20,000-kilogram requirement for CRS with four more flights instead of the five planned originally.

Space News has the full story.

Italy’s Economic Problems Punch Holes in ESA’s Budget

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ESA logoSpace News reports that Italy is likely to fall short on an expected increase in space spending for ESA’s budget:

In a Nov. 24 briefing with journalists, Jean-Loic Galle, chief executive of Franco-Italian space hardware builder Thales Alenia Space, said Italy’s ability to meet other ESA governments’ expectations of it at the Luxembourg conference hinged on an amendment to the Italian budget giving the Italian Space Agency (ASI) 200 million euros ($250 million) in additional funds per year between 2015 and 2017.

The funds would be used to assure that Italy takes its historic 19 percent share of Europe’s costs associated with the space station after having lowered its contribution in 2012; funds its dominant stake in upgrades to Europe’s Vega small-satellite launcher; and signs on to support the next-generation Ariane 6 rocket.

Galle said the 200 million-euro cash injection was also intended to finance continued work on Italy’s second-generation Cosmo-SkyMed radar Earth observation system, which Thales Alenia Space is building.

“Our information is that this money will not be available,” Galle said. “These funds were really mandatory for Italy to fund these programs, of which Cosmo-SkyMed and Vega are the most important for Italy. So now there is really a question mark over Italy and its contribution.”

Read the full story.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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HappyThanksgivingDay

It’s Thanksgiving Day here in the States. And, unlike last year, Elon Musk isn’t preempting our national holiday of feasting, drinking and football watching by trying to launch a communications satellite into orbit. (Thanks, Elon!)

So, barring any particularly newsworthy event, there will be no updates on this site until Friday.

To my fellow Americans, my best wishes for a very happy and safe Thanksgiving with friends, family and whichever total strangers you meet standing in line all day at Best Buy or other retailer of choice.

To everyone else, happy Thursday. We’ll see you again when the sun rises over California on Friday.

Bill Whittle Discusses SpaceShipTwo Tragedy

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Video Caption: There’s a demon in the skies over the Mojave Desert, and it’s taken another life and another vehicle. In his latest Firewall, Bill Whittle draws on his experience as a pilot to help unravel the psychology of the presumed pilot error behind the crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.

ISS Experiment Studies Solar System Formation

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WEBSTER, Texas, Nov. 25, 2014 (NanoRacks PR) – The University of Central Florida’s experiment, NanoRocks, currently on board the International Space Station (ISS), is producing promising results. The experiment, studying solar system formation, was brought to the ISS through a NanoRacks’ partnership with Space Florida’s International Space Station Research Competition.

NanoRocks is one of seven competition winners to be flown to low-earth orbit through the NanoRacks-Space Florida program.

Continue reading ‘ISS Experiment Studies Solar System Formation’

PopSci’s Best of What’s New: Dragon V2, LDSD & Chang’e-3

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Dragon Version 2. (Credit: SpaceX)

Dragon Version 2. (Credit: SpaceX)

Popular Science has published its year end  Best of What’s New list. In the aerospace category, the list included two NASA-funded programs and China’s first landing on the moon.

SpaceX Dragon Version 2 – Grand Award Winner

Elon Musk debuted a model of the human-rated Dragon spacecraft at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., in May. The vehicle, being developed under NASA’s Commercial Crew program, could carry astronauts to the International Space Station by the end of 2016.

Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator

Divers retrieve the test vehicle for NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator off the coast of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. (Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Divers retrieve the test vehicle for NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator off the coast of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. (Credit:
NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The LDSD project successfully flew a rocket-powered, saucer-shaped test vehicle into near-space in late June from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. The goal of this experimental flight test, the first of three planned for the project, was to determine if the balloon-launched, rocket-powered, saucer-shaped design could reach the altitudes and air speeds needed to test two new breakthrough technologies destined for future Mars missions.

For more information about the LDSD space technology demonstration mission: http://go.usa.gov/N5zm

Chang’e-3

The Chang'e-3 lander and Yutu rover on the moon.

The Chang’e-3 lander and Yutu rover on the moon.

China’s Chang’e-3 spacecraft soft landed on the lunar surface in December 2013 and then deployed the Yutu rover to further explore the moon. The moon landing was the first for China, and it marked the first exploration of the lunar surface in nearly 40 years. China is aiming to return soil samples from the moon with its Chang’e-5 spacecraft.

ISS 3D Printer Creates First Product

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ISS Commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore holds up the first 3-D printed part made in space. (Credit: Made in Space)

ISS Commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore holds up the first 3-D printed part made in space. (Credit: Made in Space)

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (Made in Space PR) — History was made on November 24th at 9:28pm GMT, when the first 3D printer built to operate in space successfully manufactured its first part on the International Space Station (ISS). This is the first time that hardware has been additively manufactured in space, as opposed to launching it from Earth.

“When the first human fashioned a tool from a rock, it couldn’t have been conceived that one day we’d be replicating the same fundamental idea in space,” said Aaron Kemmer, CEO of Made In Space, Inc. “We look at the operation of the 3D printer as a transformative moment, not just for space development, but for the capability of our species to live away from Earth.”

Continue reading ‘ISS 3D Printer Creates First Product’

S3 to Begin Zero Gravity Flights in Switzerland

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S3_zerog_flight_profile
PAYERNE, Switzerland, Nov. 25, 2014 (S3 PR) —
In 2015, Swiss Space Systems (S3) will put the ZeroG experience within everyone’s reach. S3 is launching affordable zero gravity flights from more than 15 locations across the world including, for the first time ever, Asia, the Middle East and Central America. The ZeroG world tour has been modified and will now start from Switzerland, during the second half of 2015, before heading to Canada and the US in 2015. During the 1st semester of 2016, the tour will then start from Asia before heading to the Middle East and Europe in some of the destinations previously scheduled for 2015, with new destinations added to this new schedule.

Continue reading ‘S3 to Begin Zero Gravity Flights in Switzerland’

Zero G Coming Back in 2015*

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Swimsuit 2014: Zero Gravity Kate Upton Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA. (Credit: James Macari)

Swimsuit 2014: Zero Gravity
Kate Upton
Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA. (Credit: James Macari)

After being grounded for much of 2014 due to having its jet’s engines repossessed, Zero Gravity Corporation is once again advertising parabolic flights opportunities for next year.*

Back by popular demand, the ZERO-G Experience® is returning to Tampa, FL and Washington, D.C.

ZERO-G will also be returning to Las Vegas, San Francisco, Cape Canaveral, and many more cities!

The Research Flight Program will take place in Cape Canaveral, FL from April 8, 2015 – April 10, 2015.

* Flight operations pending Federal Aviation Administration Part 121 approval

Basically, this means the aircraft has to undergo certification (FAA Part 121) once again before carrying passengers as a result of being grounded and getting a trio of new engines. Or maybe they got a new plane.