The sun continued its resurgence in February:
You can check out the state of the sun and space weather each day at the HobbySpace Sun & Space Weather page.
The sun continued its resurgence in February:
You can check out the state of the sun and space weather each day at the HobbySpace Sun & Space Weather page.
Sky and Telescope magazine backs Uwingu’s Mars Crater naming project: Name a Mars Crater with Uwingu – SkyandTelescope.com.
It’s for a cause. Also unlike the name-a-star scams, Uwingu’s name-a-crater scheme isn’t purely for profit. Half the proceeds go to the Uwingu Fund, which promises to support space education and research. The other half goes to running the company, which has no paid staff and a few paid contractors, such as for website development.
So far, the Uwingu Fund has funded eight starter grants of at least $1,000 each, including grants to the Astronomers Without Borders, the International Dark Sky Association, and the Galileo Teacher Training Program. (The fund also supported SETI’s Allen Telescope Array as part of the Indiegogo campaign.)
The next episode of the program The Sky at Night on BBC Four will present the sounds of space:
Find more resources concerning the conversion of space signals into audio in the Natural Space Music section at HobbySpace.
PlanetVac uses pressurized gas to push regolith into a sample container (effectively acting like a planetary vacuum cleaner). Because of the low pressures on Mars, the Moon, and asteroids, the technique is extremely efficient because the efficiency is related to the ratio of the pressure of the gas you are using to the ambient pressure. Landers typically have high pressure Helium already on board, used to pressurize the fuel tanks, which could be used as the gas.
A report on the project was given at a conference this week: PlanetVac at the IEEE Aerospace Conference – The Planetary Society
PlanetVac system on Mars soil simulant
Honeybee Robotics’ PlanetVac system, sponsored by The Planetary Society,
after successful testing in vacuum chamber, sits on Mars soil simulant that it
successfully sampled. Credit: Honeybee Robotics
This video shows prototype tests in a vacuum chamber:
And here is a video from a 2012 visit to the Honeybee Robotics factory:
Here’s a recent announcement from Urban Aeronautics of Israel. I have followed the UrbanAero development of large vertical-takeoff/vertical-landing ducted fan vehicles for several years.
Green Hills Software, the largest independent vendor of embedded software solutions, has announced that the company’s INTEGRITY® real-time operating system (RTOS) and MULTI® integrated development environment (IDE) have been selected by Urban Aeronautics, Ltd. for the flight management system of the AirMule Unmanned Aerial System (UAS).
Green Hills products are widely deployed in avionics systems and other equipment that demand high levels of safety criticality.
The AirMule is a compact, unmanned, single engine, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft capable of evacuating two casualties or lifting significant payloads into urban or mountainous terrain. It is part of a new family of internal rotor (ducted fan) aircraft known as Fancraft™.
Urban Aeronautics is the world leader in the design of VTOL utility aircraft. These aircraft are capable of operating safely in a vast, new and significant range of missions in confined areas. This is possible via the exclusive reliance on internally mounted lift rotors.
Urban Aeronautics has taken the lead in the development of the AirMule. Flying autonomously or controlled remotely without on-board crew, the AirMule can carry a useful load of 500 kilograms and fly under the radar to land within a minimal space of 40m2 without a runway. It is designed to meet stringent US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) manned helicopter safety standards, fulfilling all airworthiness requirements for future implementation as a safe transporter of casualties from the disaster area.
Dr. Rafi Yoeli, president and chief executive officer of Urban Aeronautics, said: “Responsiveness, reliability and, above all, safety are the key requirements we have when selecting tools and components for our UAS craft. Green Hills Software has a proven track record of providing operating systems, middleware and development tools that meet these standards and so we had no hesitation in working with them.”
Christopher Smith, vice president of marketing, Green Hills Software, commented: “Urban Aeronautics has developed a highly innovative technology that promises to deliver significant benefits in search and rescue and other operational roles. Green Hills is proud that UA has chosen to rely on the trusted INTEGRITY RTOS and middleware for the AirMule.”
Information and videos on the AirMule can be viewed at: http://www.tactical-robotics.com.
About Urban Aeronautics
Urban Aeronautics Ltd., based in Yavne, Israel, has developed advanced aerodynamic technologies that are the basis for an entirely new family of internal rotor (ducted fan) aircraft known as Fancraft™. UrbanAero capitalizes on its extensive portfolio of Intellectual Property via two subsidiary companies, Tactical Robotics Ltd. and Metro Skyways Ltd., each of which is developing unique Fancraft™ for specific markets. Additional information on Urban Aeronautics can be found at: http://www.urbanaero.com.
About Green Hills Software
Founded in 1982, Green Hills Software is the largest independent vendor of embedded development solutions. In 2008, the Green Hills INTEGRITY-178 RTOS was the first and only operating system to be certified by NIAP (National Information Assurance Partnership comprised of NSA & NIST) to EAL 6+, High Robustness, the highest level of security ever achieved for any software product. Our open architecture integrated development solutions address deeply embedded, absolute security and high-reliability applications for the military/avionics, medical, industrial, automotive, networking, consumer and other markets that demand industry-certified solutions. Green Hills Software is headquartered in Santa Barbara, CA, with European headquarters in the United Kingdom. Visit Green Hills Software at www.ghs.com.
Green Hills, the Green Hills logo, MULTI and INTEGRITY are trademarks or registered trademarks of Green Hills Software in the U.S. and/or internationally. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.
Here’s a test flight from Dec. 2013:
Space historian Roger Launius has an interesting post on his blog about a study he has done into previous cases where the US government and private industry collaborated in a way similar to NASA’s recent commercial partnerships: Historical Analogies and the Commercial Development of Space – Roger Launius’s Blog
The study investigated six case studies: (1) the development of the transcontinental railroad supported by a unique land grant approach to subsidy, (2) support for the airline industry through legislation, appropriate regulation, and subsidies to grow a robust air transport capability, (3) the regulatory regime put into place with the rise of the telephone industry and the creation of government-sponsored monopoly that eventually had to be broken up, (4) government sponsorship of Antarctic scientific stations that evolved into a public/private partnership over time, (5) the fostering of a range of public works projects and their success or failure over time, and (6) the establishment of scenic and cultural conservation zones in the United States and how to balance economic development with preservation.
With the rise of a range of private sector entrepreneurial firms interested in pursuing space commerce, the process whereby those might be incubated, fostered, and expanded comes to the fore as an important public policy concern in a way never before present in the space age. In the United States, and virtually nowhere else in the world, we are witnessing the convergence of several powerful economic forces. These include the need to restore American capability to reach low-Earth orbit for the servicing of the International Space Station, the rise of a hospitality/tourism/entertainment industry interested in space, the development of expansive remote sensing and other applications in Earth orbit, and the possibilities envisioned for opening commercial space activities in the cis-lunar region.
More space policy/politics related posts:
The latest video report on activities aboard the Int. Space Station in the past week:
Here is a list of some space advocate related events this year:
* Humans to Mars Conference 2014 - April 22-24, Washington D.C.
H2M 2014 will continue the discussion started at the H2M 2013 Summit to explore how humanity can land on Mars by the 2030s. This event will feature a myriad of topics and discussions on:
- New concepts of Mars architectures
- Updates on science missions and objectives
- Planetary protection
- In Situ Resource Utilization
- Human factors
- International cooperation
This event will also pay special attention to engaging the public.
H2M 2014 will feature some of the most prominent people in space exploration as well as policy experts, business leaders, media personalities, international representatives, academic leaders, and members of the entertainment community.
2014 H2M will be a highly interactive conference. In addition to the onsite audience, we anticipate having over a thousand schools viewing H2M as well as tens of thousands of individuals from around the world viewing and participating online in the event. While H2M will be based in Washington, DC, our goal is to create a worldwide Mars exploration event.
Among our special guests are Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, Lori Garver, former Deputy Administrator of NASA, and astronaut Chris Ferguson. Tracks include: Living in Space, Mars, NASA/Exploration, Space-Based Solar Power, Space Engagement, Space Enterprise, Space Experience, Space Policy, Space & Media, Space Settlement, and Transhumanism. Other activities include: NASA Commercial Crew Program Panel, Space Tourism Panel, Science Panel, Space Arts, Students Movie Night – A Festival of Short Mars Films, Telescope Party, Student Space Settlement Design Contest Awards Ceremony, SpaceUp, and T-5 talks.
* NewSpace 2014 - July 24-26, Silicon Valley, California
Space Frontier Foundation is delighted to announce its list of panels for the NewSpace 2014 conference to be held between July 24-26 in Silicon Valley, CA. NewSpace 2014 is proud to usher in a broad spectrum of space related topics that will influence new ideas and innovation and serve as a stepping stone for the future of commercial space exploration and development.
The panelists will share their experience and expertise on a range of topics which include:
* International Mars Society Convention - August 7-10, 2014, League City, Texas
The four-day event will bring together key experts, scientists, policymakers and journalists to discuss the latest news on Mars exploration and efforts to promote a human mission to the Red Planet in the coming years.
* Int. Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS 2014) - Oct.15-16, Las Cruces, New Mexico
The International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) is the most relevant, high-value commercial space conference of the year. This year, through two high-impact days of dynamic dialogue and collaboration, ISPCS will address strategies to manage the risks and reap the rewards of the rapidly evolving commercial space industry. Handcrafted panel discussions will examine key industry issues and trends in the high-risk ventures of developing new platforms for suborbital space and beyond.
Join hundreds of passionate SEDS members from across the country in a celebration of space! SpaceVision is the annual networking conference for the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space and is run and led entirely by students.
Update: A reader sent me the time and place for the SEDS meeting.
An entry at Latest Worldwide Meteor/Meteorite News reports on a big fireball over New Mexico. They are looking for security camera and cell phone captures of the event:
Breaking News -NM Large Fireball Meteor 00:29:19 am MST 06MAR2014 – video coming soon.
Report your meteor sightings please-
Initial Meteor Sighting Reports-
On 3/6/14 1:43 27000, Thomas Ashcraft wrote:
March 06 2014 I captured a large fireball over north central New Mexico at 0729:19 UT +/- 2 seconds. (00:29:19 am MST). As bright or brighter than the full Moon. Possibly brighter. I will process it in the morning and post the movie. This one should have been captured well on Albuquerque cameras and might have been right over Albuquerque heading westerly. End point might have been western New Mexico or it might have crossed over the Arizona border. Hard to say from one camera view. Big one at least.
CubeSat Weekend: 29th-30th March 2014
The growth in the number of CubeSats being launched and operated to create new businesses and services is phenomenal. This is stimulating a range of new applications to be developed that can build upon near real time imagery through to novel communications solutions.
Do you want to understand how to develop and launch a satellite?
The CubeSat weekend will allow members of the public to work together to design, build and balloon launch a flight ready CubeSat engineering model, and a flight model suitable for launch into low earth orbit.
The purpose of the weekend is to demonstrate that amateur groups with no experience of spacecraft design or assembly can design, build and fly. Participants are invited to register teams of two to five members each, to build and test the CubeSat.
Another satellite image of the often strange and wonderful Mars landscape - Twitter / NASA:
Martian sand dunes in spring are emerging from their winter CO2 (dry) ice cover: http://www.nasa.gov/content/martian-sand-dunes-in-spring/#.UxikKfldWSo … @HiRISE pic.twitter.com/16HXzGC2SK
More info at
Mars’ northern-most sand dunes are beginning to emerge from their winter cover of seasonal carbon dioxide (dry) ice. Dark, bare south-facing slopes are soaking up the warmth of the sun.
The steep lee sides of the dunes are also ice-free along the crest, allowing sand to slide down the dune. Dark splotches are places where ice cracked earlier in spring, releasing sand. Soon the dunes will be completely bare and all signs of spring activity will be gone.
This image was acquired by the HiRISE camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Jan. 16, 2014. The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates the HiRISE camera, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
Caption: Candy Hansen
Here’s an announcement from the ESA Hubble Telescope group:
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has photographed the never-before-seen break-up of an asteroid, which has fragmented into as many as ten smaller pieces. Although fragile comet nuclei have been seen to fall apart as they approach the Sun, nothing like the breakup of this asteroid, P/2013 R3, has ever been observed before in the asteroid belt.
“This is a rock. Seeing it fall apart before our eyes is pretty amazing,” said David Jewitt of UCLA, USA, who led the astronomical forensics investigation.
The crumbling asteroid, designated P/2013 R3, was first noticed as an unusual, fuzzy-looking object on 15 September 2013 by the Catalina and Pan-STARRS sky surveys. Follow-up observations on 1 October with the Keck Telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, revealed three co-moving bodies embedded in a dusty envelope that is nearly the diameter of Earth.
“Keck showed us that this thing was worth looking at with Hubble,” Jewitt said. With its superior resolution, the space-based Hubble observations soon showed that there were really ten distinct objects, each with comet-like dust tails. The four largest rocky fragments are up to 200 metres in radius, about twice the length of a football pitch.
The Hubble data showed that the fragments are drifting away from each other at a leisurely 1.5 kilometres per hour — slower than the speed of a strolling human. The asteroid began coming apart early last year, but the latest images show that pieces continue to emerge.
“This is a really bizarre thing to observe — we’ve never seen anything like it before,”says co-author Jessica Agarwal of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Germany. “The break-up could have many different causes, but the Hubble observations are detailed enough that we can actually pinpoint the process responsible.”
The ongoing discovery of more fragments makes it unlikely that the asteroid is disintegrating due to a collision with another asteroid, which would be instantaneous and violent in comparison to what has been observed. Some of the debris from such a high-velocity smash-up would also be expected to travel much faster than has been observed.
It is also unlikely that the asteroid is breaking apart due to the pressure of interior ices warming and vaporising. The object is too cold for ices to significantly sublimate, and it has presumably maintained its nearly 480-million-kilometre distance from the Sun for much of the age of the Solar System.
This leaves a scenario in which the asteroid is disintegrating due to a subtle effect of sunlight that causes the rotation rate to slowly increase over time. Eventually, its component pieces gently pull apart due to centrifugal force. The possibility of disruption by this phenomenon — known as the YORP effect  — has been discussed by scientists for several years but, so far, never reliably observed (eso1405).
For break-up to occur, P/2013 R3 must have a weak, fractured interior, probably the result of numerous ancient and non-destructive collisions with other asteroids. Most small asteroids are thought to have been severely damaged in this way, giving them a “rubble pile” internal structure. P/2013 R3 itself is probably the product of collisional shattering of a bigger body some time in the last billion years.
“This is the latest in a line of weird asteroid discoveries, including the active asteroid P/2013 P5, which we found to be spouting six tails,” says Agarwal. “This indicates that the Sun may play a large role in disintegrating these small Solar System bodies, by putting pressure on them via sunlight.”
P/2013 R3′s remnant debris, weighing in at 200 000 tonnes, will provide a rich source of meteoroids in the future. Most will eventually plunge into the Sun, but a small fraction of the debris may one day blaze across our sky as meteors.
A reader points me to this CNBC interview with Steve Jurvetson (a founder of the famous DFJ venture capital fund) who talks about rocket costs and SpaceX (one of DFJ investments) in the context of the Senate hearing on Wednesday about Defense Dept launches : SpaceEx board member: Beginning of long new-space period – CNBC
More space policy/politics related links
The SkyCube amateur satellite project needs some crowd-observing to help locat their bird, which was recently released from the International Space Station: Satellite Lost and Found in Space – SkyandTelescope.com (via Behind The Black).
SkyCube, a crowd-funded nanosatellite built to engage the public in space exploration, has been deployed from the International Space Station. Now its creators are anxiously waiting to establish two-way contact.
Here is a video the deployment of SkyCube and 4 other nanosats:
A selection of space policy/politics related links:
Update: Reports on today’s Senate hearing on defense dept. launch services:
Webcast and witness testimonies at at Hearings & Testimony.
The latest SETI Institute seminar is titled “Refactoring Space Exploration with Soft Machines”:
Vytas SunSprial, NASA Ames/Stinger Ghaffrian
To understand how we control motion, we need to understand the physical mechanism being moved. Emerging theories of vertebrate physiology are overturning the traditional bone-centric model of the body in favor of a “tensegrity” model, in which the primary load paths are in the continuous tension network of the soft tissues. In this talk, I will discuss research and development at NASA Ames into dynamic tensegrity robots and how these “soft machines” may be controlled through biologically inspired methods. Along the way, I will talk about how the unique properties of tensegrity robots may enable new methods of planetary landing and exploration.
The administration will release its 2015 NASA budget proposal today:
Update: The budget has now been released. Total NASA budget is $17.5B. No big new initiatives. SLS/Orion, Commercial Crew, James Webb telescope, asteroid retrieval, etc are continued from last year.
Other space policy links:
NASA teleconference on the budget:
Selection of space policy/politics related posts:
MESSENGER Team Wins National Space Society’s Space Pioneer Award
for Science and Engineering
Washington DC – March 3, 2014: The National Space Society takes great pleasure in awarding its 2014 Space Pioneer Award for the Science and Engineering category to the (Mercury) MESSENGER Team. MESSENGER stands for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging. This spacecraft entered an orbit around the planet Mercury and conducted an extensive scientific survey of the entire planet, the first human object to do so. With this award, NSS recognizes both the importance of the first dedicated probe to orbit Mercury and the significance of the scientific results already released.
The National Space Society will present the Space Pioneer Award to MESSENGER project representatives Drs. Sean C. Solomon, Larry R. Nittler and Ralph McNutt at NSS’s annual conference, the 2014 International Space Development Conference (ISDC). The conference will be held at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel in Los Angeles, CA. The ISDC will run from May 14-18, 2014.
About the MESSENGER Team:
The Principal Investigator for the Messenger Team is Dr. Sean C. Solomon. He also directs the prestigious Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University. Dr. Larry R. Nittler is MESSENGER’s Deputy Principal Investigator. Dr. Ralph McNutt is MESSENGER’s Project Scientist. The historic achievements of the MESSENGER Team (after construction and launch of the spacecraft) include successfully placing the spacecraft accurately into its intended orbit around Mercury on March 18, 2011, after a series of six critical flybys of the Earth, Venus, and Mercury itself. Besides the critical contribution of accurately mapping Mercury’s surface, the science results have confirmed the presence of water ice and organic chemicals at the poles, and the fact that Mercury’s magnetic field is offset to the north substantially from its equator.
About the MESSENGER Mission:
MESSENGER confirmed suspicions of major regional volcanism and mapped global patterns of thrust fault scarps that show Mercury has contracted several times more than Mariner 10 data indicated. Global elemental and mineralogical mapping confirmed Mercury has a low-iron crustal mineralogy, but unexpectedly showed sulfur, potassium and other volatile elements are abundant, upsetting high temperature models of Mercury’s formation. MESSENGER has discovered pitted “hollows” with bright halos, found in many craters, which appear to involve volatile loss but their formation mechanism remains enigmatic.
About the Space Pioneer Award:
The Space Pioneer Award consists of a silvery pewter Moon globe cast by the Baker Art Foundry in Placerville, California, from a sculpture originally created by Don Davis, the well-known space and astronomical artist. The globe, as shown at right, which represents multiple space mission destinations and goals, sits freely on a brass support with a wooden base and brass plaque, which are created by Michael Hall’s Studio Foundry of Driftwood, TX. There are several different categories under which the award is presented each year, starting in 1988. The NSS Awards Committee has been chaired by John Strickland since 2007 and its members seek prestigious award candidates on a continual basis.