Tag: Mars

Virginia, Orbital ATK Squabble Over Wallops Island Repairs

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An aerial view of the Wallops Island launch facilities taken by the Wallops Incident Response Team Oct. 29 following the failed launch attempt of Orbital Science Corp.'s Antares rocket Oct. 28. (Credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach)

An aerial view of the Wallops Island launch facilities taken by the Wallops Incident Response Team Oct. 29 following the failed launch attempt of Orbital Science Corp.’s Antares rocket Oct. 28. (Credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach)

Virginia and Orbital ATK are squabbling who is going to finish paying for repairs of a Wallops Island launch pad that was severely damaged by the explosion of the company’s Antares rocket last October.

NASA has covered about $5 million of the repair tab, while Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital ATK provided another $3 million. Virginia contributed too, committing roughly $3 million of the state-funded spaceflight authority’s $16 million annual operating budget.

That leaves another $2 million or so to complete repairs of Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, a state-leased corner of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia. The pad was developed to support Orbital ATK’s cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station under the company’s eight-flight, $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA….

“We believe Orbital is responsible for the damage to the pad,” Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne said in a May 12 phone interview. “We do not see it as a primary obligation of the commonwealth.”

Read the full story.

Years of Failures Haunt Russian Space Program

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Holy shi'ski! The rocket...it go KABOOMSKI! (Credit: Tsenki TV)

Proton rocket falls to Earth at Baikonur in July 2013. (Credit: Tsenki TV)

Sixteen botched launches in six years.

That’s the Russian space program’s sad record since May 2009. The failure of a Proton rocket earlier today with the loss of a Mexican communications satellite was yet another sign of the prolonged crisis affecting Russia’s once powerful space program.

The crash came less than three weeks after a botched launch left a Progress supply freighter spinning end over end like an extra point before it burned up in Earth atmosphere. There was also news today that another Progress cargo ship attached to the International Space Station failed to fire its engine as planned to boost the station’s orbit.

The list of Russian launch accidents over the last six years includes:

  • 13 complete failures resulting in the loss of all payloads;
  • 3 partial failures that left spacecraft in the wrong orbits;
  • complete loss of 20 spacecraft;
  • 6 Russian GLONASS navigation satellites destroyed; and,
  • an ambitious Mars mission left stranded in Earth orbit.

The table below shows the full extent of the damage.

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Honeybee Robotics Developing Prospector Spacecraft That Can Refuel Itself

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honeybee_roboticsNASA has selected Honeybee Robotics for four Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and one Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR) Phase I contracts, including one that would help develop a resource prospecting spacecraft capable of refueling itself using in-situ resources.

The five proposals include:

  • The World is Not Enough (WINE): Harvesting Local Resources for Eternal Exploration of Space (STTR)
  • Planetary Volatiles Extractor for In Situ Resource Utilization (SBIR)
  • Development of a Hermetically Sealed Canister for Sample Return Missions (SBIR)
  • Lunar Heat Flow Probe (SBIR)
  • Miniaturized System-in-Package Motor Controller for Spacecraft and Orbital Instruments (SBIR)

WINE, which is being done with the University of Central Florida in Orlando, involves a 3D-printed CubeSat that would be able to refuel itself by extracting in-situ resources. The spacecraft would be able to land on an asteroid or moon, examine the location, and fly to another location using the water it extracted in its thruster system.

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Getting the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) Vehicle to Test Altitude

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Crews from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility prepare the balloon for flight for the 2014 NASA Low Density Supersonic Decelerator test from the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii (Credit: NASA/Bill Rodman)

Crews from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility prepare the balloon for flight for the 2014 NASA Low Density Supersonic Decelerator test from the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii (Credit: NASA/Bill Rodman)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — In June NASA will conduct the second flight of the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) test vehicle from the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) located on the Island of Kauai, Hawaii.

The test will begin at an altitude of about 120,000 feet. But what does it take to get a supersonic test vehicle to that altitude? It’s easier said than done.

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House Measure Would Extend Commercial Spaceflight Learning Period by 8 Years

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Rep. Kevin McCarthy

Rep. Kevin McCarthy

The House Science Committee is set to mark up legislation on Wednesday introduced by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) that would extend the commercial spaceflight learning period for another eight years while requiring a series of progress reports on safety from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The proposed extension to the end of 2023 is three years longer than one in a measure introduced in the Senate. The FAA’s Office of Commercial Spaceflight (FAA AST) wants the moratorium on regulating the industry to expire as scheduled at the end of September.

McCarthy’s Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 (or SPACE Act of 2015) also contains several other key provisions, including the extension of launch liability indemnification cost sharing provisions and a rule change that would allow companies to hold experimental permits and launch licenses simultaneously.

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Study: Astronauts on Mars Missions Could Go All Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs

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mccoy crazy
Well, this is not good news for advocates of missions to Mars:

What happens to an astronaut’s brain during a mission to Mars? Nothing good. It’s besieged by destructive particles that can forever impair cognition, according to a UC Irvine radiation oncology study appearing in the May 1 edition of Science Advances.

Charles Limoli and colleagues found that exposure to highly energetic charged particles – much like those found in the galactic cosmic rays that bombard astronauts during extended spaceflights – cause significant damage to the central nervous system, resulting in cognitive impairments.

“This is not positive news for astronauts deployed on a two- to three-year round trip to Mars,” said Limoli, a professor of radiation oncology in UCI’s School of Medicine. “Performance decrements, memory deficits, and loss of awareness and focus during spaceflight may affect mission-critical activities, and exposure to these particles may have long-term adverse consequences to cognition throughout life.”

For the study, rodents were subjected to charged particle irradiation (fully ionized oxygen and titanium) at the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory at the Brookhaven National Laboratory before being sent back to Limoli’s Irvine lab.

Read more at http://phys.org/news/2015-05-long-term-galactic-cosmic-ray-exposure.html

CU Boulder to Partner with UAE on Mars Mission

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UAE Mars mission science objectives. (Credit: UAE Space Agency)

UAE Mars mission science objectives. (Credit: UAE Space Agency)

BOULDER, Colo. (CU Boulder PR) — A mission to study dynamic changes in the atmosphere of Mars over days and seasons led by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) involves the University of Colorado Boulder as the leading U.S. scientific-academic partner.

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Ventions Selected for 2 SBIR Phase I Contracts

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Engine hot fire (Credit: Ventions)

Engine hot fire (Credit: Ventions)

NASA has selected Ventions, LLC of San Francisco for two Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I awards to develop propulsion systems for use in space and on other worlds.

One proposal involves the development of small-scale, methane-fueled reaction control engines for in-space propulsion.

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UAE Video Promoting 2020 Mars Mission

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Although the UAE Space Agency is only 10 months, it has certainly reached parity with other agencies in terms of pursuing ambitious missions and producing slick promotional videos for said projects. The proof, as always, is not on YouTube but in the cold reaches of outer space near Mars, where many a spacecraft have failed before.

The video says they’re going to build the spacecraft themselves instead of buying technology abroad, but then it mentions unidentified partners. It’s not clear what that means.

UAE Unveils Plans for Mars Orbiter

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Planned UAE Mars orbiter. (Credit: UAE Space Agency)

Planned UAE Mars orbiter. (Credit: UAE Space Agency)

DUBAI, UAE, May 6, 2015 (Press Release) – The blueprints and science goals for the first Arab mission to Mars have been revealed for the first time. The Emirates Mars Mission probe, named “Hope”, will create mankind’s first integrated model of the Red Planet’s atmosphere.

The unmanned probe will leave Earth in 2020 on a mission designed to complement the science work of other missions and fill important gaps in human knowledge. Its unique orbits and instruments produce entirely new types of data on Martian climate dynamics to be shared with the global science community.

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