The latest selection of space policy/politics related links:
- ITAR reform:
- Commercial space:
- Global space:
The latest selection of space policy/politics related links:
An announcement from Copenhagen Suborbitals:
Monday April 21st we test our SUPER HATV experimental rocket engine.
Monday April 21st 15.00PM CEST [9:00 am EDT] we are testing a new engine of the HATV type. We call this subtype “Super HATV”, and we invite you to watch the test live here on our website. The livestream will start approximately one hour before the engine fires. If the engine test is sucessful we will attempt to reload and fire it a second time. There will be no commentary available but you will be able to hear our internal radio communication.
This test is the first in a series of minor test planned this summer to investigate the behaviour of hypergolic hydrogen perioxide rocket engines. This engine type can be very useful in the future as control thrusters or main booster for smaller experimeltal rockets.
Please note that changes in schedule can occur due to weather conditions or technical problems. The live stream will start at 14:00 CEST [8:00 am EDT] and any major delays will be announced on the website.
* Successful launch of KickSat carrying 104 Sprite satellites
* Space-X Dragon Cargo Craft set to dock with ISS
* KickSat Project Announces Telemetry Download Competition
* Space-X supply ship begins journey to space station
* The STELAR Project 2014
* KickSat launch postponed until Friday
* Video of ISS HamTV – Koichi Wakata KC5ZTA April 13, 2014
* Upcoming AMSAT Events
* ARISS News
* Satellite Shorts from All Over
Other smallsat and space radio news:
Andrew Chaikin posts his latest video:
While not destructive like the Chelyabinsk fireball explosion, this meteor over the Russian town of Murmansk is quite a brilliant sight:
On Friday at Cape Canaveral, SpaceX launched a Dragon spacecraft on a cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station. With a modest amateur telescope, astrophotographer Thierry Legault in Paris imaged the shape of the Dragon, including its two solar panels, as it passed over Paris:
(Check out Legault’s other amazing images of spacecraft in orbit. )
Find more about spacecraft watching in the HobbySpace Satellite Observing section.
The LADEE spacecraft ends it all with a dive into the lunar surface:
Ground controllers at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., have confirmed that NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft impacted the surface of the moon, as planned, between 9:30 and 10:22 p.m. PDT Thursday, April 17.
LADEE lacked fuel to maintain a long-term lunar orbit or continue science operations and was intentionally sent into the lunar surface. The spacecraft’s orbit naturally decayed following the mission’s final low-altitude science phase.
During impact, engineers believe the LADEE spacecraft, the size of a vending machine, broke apart, with most of the spacecraft’s material heating up several hundred degrees – or even vaporizing – at the surface. Any material that remained is likely buried in shallow craters.
“At the time of impact, LADEE was traveling at a speed of 3,600 miles per hour – about three times the speed of a high-powered rifle bullet,” said Rick Elphic, LADEE project scientist at Ames. “There’s nothing gentle about impact at these speeds – it’s just a question of whether LADEE made a localized craterlet on a hillside or scattered debris across a flat area. It will be interesting to see what kind of feature LADEE has created.”
In early April, the spacecraft was commanded to carry out maneuvers that would lower its closest approach to the lunar surface. The new orbit brought LADEE to altitudes below one mile (two kilometers) above the lunar surface. This is lower than most commercial airliners fly above Earth, enabling scientists to gather unprecedented science measurements.
On April 11, LADEE performed a final maneuver to ensure a trajectory that caused the spacecraft to impact the far side of the moon, which is not in view of Earth or near any previous lunar mission landings. LADEE also survived the total lunar eclipse on April 14 to 15. This demonstrated the spacecraft’s ability to endure low temperatures and a drain on batteries as it, and the moon, passed through Earth’s deep shadow.
In the coming months, mission controllers will determine the exact time and location of LADEE’s impact and work with the agency’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) team to possibly capture an image of the impact site. Launched in June 2009, LRO provides data and detailed images of the lunar surface.
“It’s bittersweet knowing we have received the final transmission from the LADEE spacecraft after spending years building it in-house at Ames, and then being in constant contact as it circled the moon for the last several months,” said Butler Hine, LADEE project manager at Ames.
Launched in September 2013 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, LADEE began orbiting the moon Oct. 6 and gathering science data Nov. 10. The spacecraft entered its science orbit around the moon’s equator on Nov. 20, and in March 2014, LADEE extended its mission operations following a highly successful 100-day primary science phase.
LADEE also hosted NASA’s first dedicated system for two-way communication using laser instead of radio waves. The Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) made history using a pulsed laser beam to transmit data over the 239,000 miles from the moon to the Earth at a record-breaking download rate of 622 megabits-per-second (Mbps). In addition, an error-free data upload rate of 20 Mbps was transmitted from the primary ground station in New Mexico to the Laser Communications Space Terminal aboard LADEE.
LADEE gathered detailed information about the structure and composition of the thin lunar atmosphere. In addition, scientists hope to use the data to address a long-standing question: Was lunar dust, electrically charged by sunlight, responsible for the pre-sunrise glow seen above the lunar horizon during several Apollo missions?
“LADEE was a mission of firsts, achieving yet another first by successfully flying more than 100 orbits at extremely low altitudes,” said Joan Salute, LADEE program executive, at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Although a risky decision, we’re already seeing evidence that the risk was worth taking.”
A thorough understanding of the characteristics of our nearest celestial neighbor will help researchers understand other bodies in the solar system, such as large asteroids, Mercury and the moons of outer planets.
NASA also included the public in the final chapter of the LADEE story. A “Take the Plunge” contest provided an opportunity for the public to guess the date and time of the spacecraft’s impact via the internet. Thousands submitted predictions. NASA will provide winners a digital congratulatory certificate.
NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington funds the LADEE mission. Ames was responsible for spacecraft design, development, testing and mission operations, in addition to managing the overall mission. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., managed the science instruments, technology demonstration payload and science operations center, and provided mission support. Goddard also manages the LRO mission. Wallops was responsible for launch vehicle integration, launch services and operations. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., managed LADEE within the Lunar Quest Program Office.
For more information about the LADEE mission, visit: www.nasa.gov/ladee
For more information about LLCD, visit: llcd.gsfc.nasa.gov
Here is the latest episode of NASA’s Space to Ground weekly program, which reports on on activities aboard and related to the International Space Station:
In a TEDx talk, Shaun Moss lays out his vision of settling Mars in an affordable way. See the site International Mars Research Station for details.
From the caption:
Shaun Moss is a computer scientist with a 15-year passion for Mars. While reading Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson in 1999 Shaun realised that people would go to Mars in his lifetime, and he decided he wanted to be part of that. Since then he has been an active member of a variety of space enthusiast groups, mainly the Mars Society and Mars Society Australia (for which he acts as secretary and director) but also the Moon Society, the Mars Foundation and many others. Shaun’s research has included how to make air and steel on Mars, Martian timekeeping systems, terraforming and more, and he has given numerous presentations at conferences in Australia and the United States. For the past year he has been developing a robust and affordable humans-to- Mars mission architecture with the intention of establishing the International Mars Research Station. He publishes regular writing on Mars at his blog and is working on a book; he has already published a book on one of his other passions, Practical Metaphysics.
A class of Purdue students have assembled an elaborate plan to put a colony on the Moon: Purdue students pitch Mars colony to NASA – JCOnline. Here is their 1,100-page report.
Unfortunately, they more or less follow a 1960s Apollo model for lunar missions, which results in a hugely expensive multi-hundred billion dollar program. And that’s despite using NASA’s fictitious $500M cost for each SLS flight.
Yet more space policy/politics related links:
The International Space Station is home to Russian and American astronauts. Author and space analyst Rand Simberg breaks down the situation on the ISS. Could the conflict in Ukraine spread to space? The U.S. cannot get to the ISS without hitching a ride from the Russia. Does this mean that Russia could block U.S. access to space, or worse, annex the ISS? Find out.
[ Update: The video is now on Youtube:
* Thurs 4/17/14 Hr 2 | John Batchelor Show - Bob Zimmerman ( 3rd guest) in twice-weekly space news and policy report
The latest presentation to the Future In-Space Operations (FISO) study group is now posted in the FISO Working Group Presentations Archive. Both slides (ppt) and audio (mp3) are available for the talk, Planetary Exploration and the Plutonium-238 Connection, Ralph McNutt , APL/JHU – April.16.2014.
A sampling of the presentation slides:
Space had a positive effect on one particular cherry tree seed taken to space in 2008 by Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata to the International Space Station, where they stayed for 8 months till returned to Japan : Space sakura have returned to Earth with cherry blossom superpowers - RocketNews24.
Local botanical groups were only able to successfully breed descendants from the tree through grafting, as none of the seeds taken from it have sprouted after being sewn. Well, all except one, a seed from the Chujohime Seiganzakura that made the trip to space and back. Not only has the space sakura grown to four meters (13 feet, 1 inch) in height, flowers recently bloomed on the tree.
Generally, sakura blooming in the spring don’t shock anyone, given that all of Japan anxiously waits for the arrival of the cherry blossoms every year. The four-year-old Gifu space sakura managed to catch scientists and caretakers off guard, though, as ordinarily cherry trees of this type don’t produce blossoms until they reach a decade or so in age.
Scientists aren’t exactly sure why the trees in question are exhibiting such extraordinarily quick development. One researcher was quoted as saying that while it’s yet to be confirmed, they have to at least acknowledge the possibility that the environmental influences of space have somehow altered the plants’ DNA or stimulated their cells in as yet undetected ways, giving them capabilities beyond that of their earthbound brethren.
I can’t help but point out that Zero Gravity Solutions Inc is building a business on the effects of microgravity on stem cells (pun intended).
An announcement from the NASA Kepler mission:
Using NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered the first Earth-size planet orbiting a star in the “habitable zone” — the range of distance from a star where liquid water might pool on the surface of an orbiting planet. The discovery of Kepler-186f confirms that planets the size of Earth exist in the habitable zone of stars other than our sun.
The diagram compares the planets of our inner solar system to Kepler-186,
a five-planet star system about 500 light-years from Earth in the constellation
Cygnus. Image credit: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech
› Full image and caption
While planets have previously been found in the habitable zone, they are all at least 40 percent larger in size than Earth, and understanding their makeup is challenging. Kepler-186f is more reminiscent of Earth.
“The discovery of Kepler-186f is a significant step toward finding worlds like our planet Earth,” said Paul Hertz, NASA’s Astrophysics Division director at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “Future NASA missions, like the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite and the James Webb Space Telescope, will discover the nearest rocky exoplanets and determine their composition and atmospheric conditions, continuing humankind’s quest to find truly Earth-like worlds.”
The artistic concept of Kepler-186f is the result of scientists and artists
collaborating to imagine the appearance of these distant worlds.
› Full image and caption
Image credit: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech
Although the size of Kepler-186f is known, its mass and composition are not. Previous research, however, suggests that a planet the size of Kepler-186f is likely to be rocky.
“We know of just one planet where life exists — Earth. When we search for life outside our solar system, we focus on finding planets with characteristics that mimic that of Earth,” said Elisa Quintana, research scientist at the SETI Institute at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., and lead author of the paper published today in the journal Science. “Finding a habitable zone planet comparable to Earth in size is a major step forward.”
Kepler-186f resides in the Kepler-186 system, about 500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. The system is also home to four companion planets, which orbit a star half the size and mass of our sun. The star is classified as an M dwarf, or red dwarf, a class of stars that makes up 70 percent of the stars in the Milky Way galaxy.
“M dwarfs are the most numerous stars,” said Quintana. “The first signs of other life in the galaxy may well come from planets orbiting an M dwarf.”
Kepler-186f orbits its star once every 130 days and receives one-third the energy from its star that Earth gets from the sun, placing it nearer the outer edge of the habitable zone. On the surface of Kepler-186f, the brightness of its star at high noon is only as bright as our sun appears to us about an hour before sunset.
“Being in the habitable zone does not mean we know this planet is habitable. The temperature on the planet is strongly dependent on what kind of atmosphere the planet has,” said Thomas Barclay, research scientist at the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute at Ames, and co-author of the paper. “Kepler-186f can be thought of as an Earth-cousin rather than an Earth-twin. It has many properties that resemble Earth.”
The four companion planets, Kepler-186b, Kepler-186c, Kepler-186d and Kepler-186e, whiz around their sun every four, seven, 13 and 22 days, respectively, making them too hot for life as we know it. These four inner planets all measure less than 1.5 times the size of Earth.
The next steps in the search for distant life include looking for true Earth-twins — Earth-size planets orbiting within the habitable zone of a sun-like star — and measuring their chemical compositions. The Kepler Space Telescope, which simultaneously and continuously measured the brightness of more than 150,000 stars, is NASA’s first mission capable of detecting Earth-size planets around stars like our sun.
Ames is responsible for Kepler’s ground system development, mission operations, and science data analysis. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., managed Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo., developed the Kepler flight system and supports mission operations with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder. The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore archives, hosts and distributes Kepler science data. Kepler is NASA’s 10th Discovery Mission and was funded by the agency’s Science Mission Directorate.
The SETI Institute is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to scientific research, education and public outreach. The mission of the SETI Institute is to explore, understand and explain the origin, nature and prevalence of life in the universe.
For more information about the Kepler mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/kepler
Here’s an animation of the Kepler 186 system:
Here’s an article about the Space Project album mentioned here earlier: The Sounds of Space, in Indie Music – Science Friday
And here are two of the songs on the album:
Here’s sampling of recent space audio webcasts of interest:
Dr. Haym Benaroya from Rutgers University [...] discussed the NASA LADEE mission, lunar dust issues, the lunar surface, the importance our astronauts returning to the Moon and the Lunar Dust Experiment which so far has proven to be inconclusive regarding the questions it was to solve. Dr. Benaroya went over the toxic and corrosive nature of lunar dust to both humans and equipment, had similar things to say about Martian dust, and talked about how important it is for us to go back to the Moon.
We’re back at the California Science Center, final home of Endeavour, the shuttle that made 25 flights into space. Join the party as we celebrate the 53rd anniversary of humanity’s transition to spacefaring species with Yuri’s Night Executive Director Loretta Hidalgo Whitesides, Virgin Galactic CEO and Yuri’s Night co-founder George Whitesides, and astronaut Ron Garan, who heads Fragile Oasis. You’ll also get a Curiosity update from Emily Lakdawalla, and we’ll find out what happened this week in space history with Bruce Betts.
This episode is bursting with conspiracy theories and strange hypotheses, but that doesn’t stop your own personal astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson from dropping some serious science. You’ll learn why the government isn’t secretly using HAARP to manipulate weather and why we shouldn’t dispose of pollution in our atmosphere. Find out where black holes go when they die, why there is no speed of dark, what would happen to the planets if we moved the Sun, the difference between black holes and white holes, and whether we could use quantum teleportation to explore inside a black hole. Neil also explains atmosphere, air pressure and vacuums, why hot air rises but air is colder at higher altitudes, and why time passes differently on Jupiter than on Earth. Plus, he tells comic co-host Eugene Mirman how to use physics to communicate with a 3-meter tall alien “gummy bear.”
Find more space radio programs in the HobbySpace SpaceCasts section.
A report from ESA/Hubble:
An image of a galaxy cluster taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope gives a remarkable cross-section of the Universe, showing objects at different distances and stages in cosmic history. They range from cosmic near neighbours to objects seen in the early years of the Universe. The 14-hour exposure shows objects around a billion times fainter than can be seen with the naked eye.
This new Hubble image showcases a remarkable variety of objects at different distances from us, extending back over halfway to the edge of the observable Universe. The galaxies in this image mostly lie about five billion light-years from Earth but the field also contains other objects, both significantly closer and far more distant.
Studies of this region of the sky have shown that many of the objects that appear to lie close together may actually be billions of light-years apart. This is because several groups of galaxies lie along our line of sight, creating something of an optical illusion. Hubble’s cross-section of the Universe is completed by distorted images of galaxies in the very distant background.
These objects are sometimes distorted due to a process called gravitational lensing, an extremely valuable technique in astronomy for studying very distant objects . This lensing is caused by the bending of the space-time continuum by massive galaxies lying close to our line of sight to distant objects.
One of the lens systems visible here is called CLASS B1608+656, which appears as a small loop in the centre of the image. It features two foreground galaxies distorting and amplifying the light of a distant quasar the known as QSO-160913+653228. The light from this bright disc of matter, which is currently falling into a black hole, has taken nine billion years to reach us — two thirds of the age of the Universe.
As well as CLASS B1608+656, astronomers have identified two other gravitational lenses within this image. Two galaxies, dubbed Fred and Ginger by the researchers who studied them, contain enough mass to visibly distort the light from objects behind them. Fred, also known more prosaically as [FMK2006] ACS J160919+6532, lies near the lens galaxies in CLASS B1608+656, while Ginger ([FMK2006] ACS J160910+6532) is markedly closer to us. Despite their different distances from us, both can be seen near to CLASS B1608+656 in the central region of this Hubble image.
To capture distant and dim objects like these, Hubble required a long exposure. The image is made up of visible and infrared observations with a total exposure time of 14 hours.
Zoom in on CLASS B1608+656
This video begins with a view of the night sky before zooming in towards galaxy
cluster CLASS B1608+656. It homes in first on a view of the area around the
cluster from the Digitized Sky Survey (produced with a ground-based
telescope), before focusingon Hubble observations of the cluster.
Hubble’s very long exposure (14 hours) combined with advanced
instrumentation and a unique location above the distorting atmosphere
means that its observations are both much sharper and much brighter than
those taken from the ground-based telescope. Hubble’s image is clearly
visible as a square of brighter galaxies near the end of the zoom video.
Credit: NASA, ESA, Digitised Sky Survey 2, N. Risinger (skysurvey.org)
A critique of recent bombast in Congressional hearings : Editorial | A Feckless Blame Game on ISS Crew Access - SpaceNews.com
Those who bemoan NASA’s reliance on Russia, yet shortchange the very program designed to fix that problem, are at the same time adamant that the agency spend nearly $3 billion per year on SLS and Orion, vehicles that for all their advertised capability still have no place to go. Their size and cost make them poorly suited for space station missions, even as a backup to commercial crew taxis, and in any case the first SLS-Orion crewed test flight won’t happen before 2021.
NASA currently lacks an independent crew launching capability because of decisions made a decade ago, the consequences of which were fully understood and accepted at the time. The longer this situation lasts, however, the more culpable the current group of decision-makers will become.
In that vein, the current criticisms of NASA and the White House might be viewed as a pre-emptive strike by lawmakers who sense their own culpability. But in pressing arguments that fail to stand up to even modest scrutiny, they not only undermine their credibility, they give NASA cover to pursue a Commercial Crew Program approach that might not be sustainable.
If restoring independent U.S. access to station is as important as the administration’s congressional detractors say, they should fully fund the Commercial Crew Program, even if that means slowing development work on SLS and Orion, while ratcheting up the pressure on NASA to select a single provider. Only then can Congress truly say it has done its part to resolve the matter.
More space policy/politics related links:
* Tues 4/15/14 Hr 4 | John Batchelor Show - Bob Zimmermans twice-weekly report on space news and policy
This week’s European Southern Observatory (ESO) scientific highlight:
This new image from ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile reveals a cloud of hydrogen called Gum 41. In the middle of this little-known nebula, brilliant hot young stars are giving off energetic radiation that causes the surrounding hydrogen to glow with a characteristic red hue.
This area of the southern sky, in the constellation of Centaurus (The Centaur), is home to many bright nebulae, each associated with hot newborn stars that formed out of the clouds of hydrogen gas. The intense radiation from the stellar newborns excites the remaining hydrogen around them, making the gas glow in the distinctive shade of red typical of star-forming regions. Another famous example of this phenomenon is the Lagoon Nebula (eso0936), a vast cloud that glows in similar bright shades of scarlet.
The nebula in this picture is located some 7300 light-years from Earth. Australian astronomer Colin Gum discovered it on photographs taken at the Mount Stromlo Observatory near Canberra, and included it in his catalogue of 84 emission nebulae, published in 1955. Gum 41 is actually one small part of a bigger structure called the Lambda Centauri Nebula, also known by the more exotic name of the Running Chicken Nebula (another part of which was the topic of eso1135). Gum died at a tragically early age in a skiing accident in Switzerland in 1960.
In this picture of Gum 41, the clouds appear to be quite thick and bright, but this is actually misleading. If a hypothetical human space traveller could pass through this nebula, it is likely that they would not notice it as — even at close quarters — it would be too faint for the human eye to see. This helps to explain why this large object had to wait until the mid-twentieth century to be discovered — its light is spread very thinly and the red glow cannot be well seen visually.
This zoom sequence starts with a broad view of the Milky Way
and closes in on one of the more spectacular sections in the constellation
of Centaurus (The Centaur). In the final sequence we see the star formation
region known as Gum 41 in a new image from the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope
at the La Silla Observatory in Chile.
Credit:ESO/N. Risinger (skysurvey.org)/Hisayoshi Kato. Music: movetwo
This new portrait of Gum 41 — likely one of the best so far of this elusive object — has been created using data from the Wide Field Imager (WFI) on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. It is a combination of images taken through blue, green, and red filters, along with an image using a special filter designed to pick out the red glow from hydrogen.
ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 15 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is the European partner of a revolutionary astronomical telescope ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. ESO is currently planning the 39-metre European Extremely Large optical/near-infrared Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.
Another selection of space policy/politics related links: