News: June 2013 Archives

John Kelly: Private launchers fear new US rules, Florida Today

"Case in point: The U.S. State Department is proposing new rules that would add private manned spacecraft to a Department of Defense list of "munitions" technology that some in the industry fear would all but prevent any use of those vehicles on foreign soil.

... The rule is getting a cold reception from private space startups such as XCOR, a space tourism company that just this week said it plans to start suborbital test flights from Kennedy Space Center by 2015. "

Marc's note: July 8th is the last day for public comment on the proposed new rules. If the proposed rule change is enacted there's no doubt in my mind it will have a negative effect on the industry. As Kelly states; "While there are likely valid concerns about protecting technology from falling into the wrong hands, overdoing it could also hurt the space industry's long-term future."


Space Shuttle Atlantis - World's Most Comprehensive Attraction Devoted to NASA's 30-Year Space Shuttle Program - Opens June 29 at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex , KSC Visitors Complex

"Of the three space-flown orbiters distributed by NASA to science centers and museums throughout the country, only Atlantis is the focal point of a $100 million, 90,000-square-foot attraction containing four multimedia and cinematic productions and more than 60 interactive experiences that invite guests to "be the astronaut" and to celebrate the people, passion and patriotism behind the shuttle program."

Chinese Manned Shenzhou-10 Spacecraft Lands Safely in Inner Mongolia [Watch], SpaceRef

"The Chinese Shenzhou-10 landed safely in Inner Mongolia at 8:08 p.m. ET (8:08 a.m. Beijing time) returning the three astronauts to Earth after a 15 day mission. The astronauts were reported to be in good shape and feeling well. Nie Haisheng, Zhang Xiaoguang and Wang Yaping performed experiments and did two docking tests with the orbiting Chinese space lab module Tiangong-1, one automatic and the other manual."


The Heliophysics System Observatory [Large version]

"This image shows the Heliophysics System Observatory (HSO). The HSO utilizes the entire fleet of solar, heliospheric, geospace, and planetary spacecraft as a distributed observatory to discover the larger scale and/or coupled processes at work throughout the complex system that makes up our space environment."

Marc's note: This image was released as part of the IRIS science briefing today. All the briefing material can be accessed here.

Launch Update: Due to a power outage at the 30th Space Wing the IRIS mission is delayed 24 hours to 7:27 p.m. PDT Thursday, June 27. (Corrected)

UPDATE: IRIS Mission and Science Briefings [Watch]


Matt Reed: One is a boondoggle, the other ..., Florida Today

"A mars mission remains unfunded and biologically impossible for people. And as Dean pointed out, the Space Launch System rocket will carry an Orion capsule that can't land anywhere."

Marc's note: Context. Read the above statement and what do you think? Now put it in context with the rest of the editorial. Matt Reed is "Florida Today's editorial page editor and politically independent columnist."

The article starts with a rant on Senator Rubio's immigration reform which he says funding could be better used on the Space Coast. He then picks on an article he wrote last week supporting NASA's asteroid mission and it he seems to just casually throw out the statement above as if it was just a fact and hey that's one reason we need to do the asteroid mission. For the casual Florida Today reader with little or no knowledge they might take this "fact" at face value. It's one thing to make a point, it's another to throw out an inaccurate statement and try to pass it as fact. Florida Today should know better.

Ten Thousandth Near-Earth Object Unearthed in Space [Watch], NASA JPL

"More than 10,000 asteroids and comets that can pass near Earth have now been discovered. The 10,000th near-Earth object, asteroid 2013 MZ5, was first detected on the night of June 18, 2013, by the Pan-STARRS-1 telescope, located on the 10,000-foot (convert) summit of the Haleakala crater on Maui. Managed by the University of Hawaii, the PanSTARRS survey receives NASA funding."

Station Crew Members Take a Walk in Space [Watch], NASA

"Outside the International Space Station, Expedition 36 Flight Engineers Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin conducted a 6 hour, 34 minute spacewalk in Russian Orlan suits outside the Pirs Docking Compartment June 24."

ULA Troubles Continue

Orbital Sues ULA, Seeks RD-180 Engines, $515 Million in Damages, SpaceNews

"Orbital Sciences Corp., which wants to buy Russian-made RD-180 engines for its medium-lift Antares rocket, is suing rocket maker United Launch Alliance (ULA) for blocking any such sale, according to court papers dated June 20.

Orbital of Dulles, Va., claims Denver-based ULA has not only illegally prevented open-market sale of the RD-180, but also has monopolized the launch-services market for certain satellites in violation of U.S. antitrust laws, according to a complaint filed June 20 with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria."

Related: FTC Investigating United Launch Alliance

"The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is investigating whether United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, violated federal antitrust laws by "monopolizing" or restraining competition through an exclusivity agreement with the maker of the engines used in its rockets, according to a FTC document obtained by Reuters."

Supermoon Images

Supermoon in Washington [Large version], NASA

"A supermoon rises behind the Washington Monument, Sunday, June 23, 2013, in Washington.

This year the supermoon is up to 13.5 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than a typical full moon is. This is a result of the Moon reaching its perigee - the closest that it gets to the Earth during the course of its orbit. During perigee on June 23, the moon was about 221,824 miles away, as compared to the 252,581 miles away that it is at its furthest distance from the Earth (apogee). "

- More Supermoon images on Flickr.

JAXA President Monthly Regular Press Conference May 2013, JAXA

"Now, I really perceive that JAXA has graduated from the technological verification phase that has been a goal of JAXA's assignment in the last 10 years, and entered into the next phase as JAXA has successfully performed 19 consecutive launches of H-IIA and H-IIB launch vehicles combined.

That is also backed politically by the government's new "Basic Plan for Space Policy" and also by JAXA's new mid-term plan; therefore, I acknowledge that the technological backbone was confirmed and we can move to the next step."

ESA's Intermediate Experimental Vehicle Safe Splashdown, ESA

"ESA's experimental reentry vehicle passed its milestone descent and landing test on Wednesday at the Poligono Interforze Salto di Quirra off the east coast of Sardinia in Italy.

The full-scale Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) prototype was released from an altitude of 3000 m by a helicopter, falling to gain speed to mimic a space mission before parachute deployment. The parachute slowed IXV for a safe splashdown in the sea at a speed below 7 m/s."

NASA Sounding Rocket Launch Successful Next Scheduled for June 24, OnOrbit

"Following the successful launch today, June 20, of a NASA Terrier-Improved Orion sounding rocket, launch teams are now preparing for a two-rocket salvo June 24 from the Wallops Flight Facility, Va.

Live coverage of the launch is available via UStream beginning at 8:30 a.m. on launch day."

Stratolaunch Systems New Design Concept [Watch], SpaceRef Business

"Stratolaunch Systems unveils a new design concept for its space transportation system. With a wingspan of 385 feet, greater than the length of a football field and powered by six 747 engines, a mission range of 1,000 nautical miles and with a gross weight of 1.3 million pounds, the Stratolaunch can deliver 13,500 pounds to low earth orbit and into any orbit, any time."

NASA, Deloitte To Bring Space-Age Risk Management To Oil And Gas Industry, NASA JSC

"NASA Johnson Space Center and Deloitte will enter into a strategic alliance offering advanced risk-management services to oil and gas companies. The Space Act Agreement commencement ceremony is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Central, Thursday, June 27.

These capabilities include several operational risk-management approaches aimed at companies seeking to minimize the risk of catastrophic failures - the kinds of dramatic mishaps that, while highly unlikely, can occur in remote and harsh environments."

Marc's note: You would think companies in the Oil and Gas industry would already be well versed in this area but perhaps JSC can provide risk-modeling and simulation tools they don't already have.

NASA and Italian Space Agency Sign Agreement on Exploration of Mercury, NASA

"At a meeting in Rome Thursday, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Italian Space Agency (ASI) President Enrico Saggese signed a Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation on the European Space Agency- (ESA) led BepiColombo mission to Mercury, strengthening mutually beneficial cooperation between NASA and ASI in planetary exploration."

Hot-Fire Tests Steering the Future of NASA'S Space Launch System Engines, NASA

"Engineers developing NASA's next-generation rocket closed one chapter of testing with the completion of a J-2X engine test series on the A-2 test stand at the agency's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and will begin a new chapter of full motion testing on test stand A-1.

... The March 7 test, which set the short-lived duration record, was remarkable for another reason in that it marked the first time a 3-D printed part was hot-fire tested on a NASA engine system.

The prime contractor for the liquid engine, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif., built a maintenance port cover for the 10002 engine using an advanced manufacturing process called Selective Laser Melting. This construction method uses lasers to fuse metal dust into a specific pattern to build the needed part."


Billion-Pixel View of Mars Comes From Curiosity Rover, NASA JPL

"A billion-pixel view from the surface of Mars, from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, offers armchair explorers a way to examine one part of the Red Planet in great detail.

The first NASA-produced view from the surface of Mars larger than one billion pixels stitches together nearly 900 exposures taken by cameras onboard Curiosity and shows details of the landscape along the rover's route."

Marc's update: It seems folks at JSC can't access NASA's own the Billion-Pixel View of Mars web page due to an automated program which has deemed the page "non-job related" viewing and is blocking access to. Now there's an algorithm that needs updating.

NASA's Space Launch System Program Kicks Off Preliminary Design Review, NASA

"NASA is beginning a preliminary design review for its Space Launch System (SLS). This major program assessment will allow development of the agency's new heavy-lift rocket to move from concept to initial design.

The preliminary design review process includes meticulous, detailed analyses of the entire launch vehicle. Representatives from NASA, its contractor partners and experts from across the aerospace industry validate elements of the rocket to ensure they can be safely and successfully integrated.

... We are on track and meeting all the milestones necessary to fly in 2017."

Media Invited to View UP Aerospace SpaceLoft 7 Launch for NASA, NASA ARC

"News media representatives are invited to witness the first research flight on a suborbital rocket funded by NASA's Flight Opportunities Program when UP Aerospace Inc.'s SpaceLoft 7 vehicle lifts off June 21, 2013, at Spaceport America near Las Cruces, New Mexico. Liftoff is scheduled to occur between 6 and 9 a.m. PDT.

NASA has funded the flight for seven space-technology experiments to be flown in a space-relevant environment aboard the UP Aerospace sounding rocket. The sub-orbital flight is expected to provide up to four minutes of weightlessness for testing of the experiments. The flight is expected to last about 15 minutes and reach an altitude of 74 miles, with landing targeted about 320 miles downrange on the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range."

Mars base added to moon plan Politico

"Republicans in Congress are pushing for major cuts across the federal budget, but so far, they're not willing to sacrifice a plan to build a moon colony."

In fact, Republicans on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee are eyeing an even more ambitious goal: building a base on Mars, too.

"... The [NASA] Administrator shall establish a program to develop a sustained human presence on the Moon and the surface of Mars," states a recent discussion draft obtained by POLITICO."

Marc's note: Wow, what can I say, go for it! Oh hold on, there's no budget for this "go-as-we-can-afford-to-pay" plan. The rhetoric out of Congress is at an all time high and who can take anything they say seriously anymore. I suppose the only way to make them accountable, is to vote them out.

J-2X Update

LEO Progress: J-2X to Test Stand A1, NASA Blog (Liquid Rocket Engines)

"Recently, J-2X development engine 10002 was on the road. If you remember, E10002 went through a six-test series on test stand A2 that began in February and finished up in April. The next planned phase of E10002 testing is on test stand A1. In between these series, the engine was back in the assembly area of NASA Stennis Space Center Building 9101.

This respite between test series allowed for a complete series of inspections of the engine hardware. This is vital piece of the learning process for engine development. The basic truth is that a rocket engine is just darn tough on itself when it fires. The reason that we test and test and test is to make sure that our design can stand up to the recurring brutal conditions. The chance to look for the effects of that testing through detailed inspections away from the test stand is an opportunity to collect a great deal of useful information. "

NASA Announces Asteroid Grand Challenge, NASA

"NASA announced Tuesday a Grand Challenge focused on finding all asteroid threats to human populations and knowing what to do about them. The challenge is a large-scale effort that will use multi-disciplinary collaborations and a variety of partnerships with other government agencies, international partners, industry, academia, and citizen scientists. It complements NASA's recently announced mission to redirect an asteroid and send humans to study it."

"NASA also released a request for information (RFI) that invites industry and potential partners to offer ideas on accomplishing NASA's goal to locate, redirect, and explore an asteroid, as well as find and plan for asteroid threats. The RFI is open for 30 days, and responses will be used to help develop public engagement opportunities and a September industry workshop."

- Statement by Ed Lu - CEO, B612 Foundation

Women in Space Part One, Female Firsts in Flight for Space Exploration and Research, NASA Blog - A Lab Aloft (International Space Station Research)

"In today's A Lab Aloft, guest blogger Liz Warren, Ph.D., recalls the inspirational contributions and strides made by women in space exploration and International Space Station research.

This month we celebrate the anniversaries of three "firsts" for female space explorers. On June 16, 1963, Valentina Tereshkova of the Soviet Union became the first woman in space. Then on June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became America's first woman in space, followed by Liu Yang as China's first woman in space on June 16, 2012. Though their flight anniversaries are not in June, I would be remiss if I did not mention the first European woman in space: Helen Sharman in 1991; the first Canadian woman: Roberta Bondar in 1992; and the first Japanese woman: Chiaki Mukai in 1994."

Marc's note:Well worth reading.

Satellite Industry Report Shows Satellite industry Growth of 7% in 2012 [Download report], SpaceRef Business

"The Satellite Industry Association (SIA) today released its 2013 State of the Satellite Industry Report, showing a 7% growth in world satellite industry revenues in 2012, up from 5% growth in 2011. Globally, 2012 revenues for the satellite industry totaled $189.5 billion, up from $177.3 billion the previous year.

All four industry sectors grew, led by satellite services, the traditional driver for the industry. Both satellite manufacturing and launch services saw significant revenue increases, and satellite ground equipment revenues also continued to expand."

NASA Selects Next Generation of Space Explorers [Watch], NASA

"After an extensive year-and-a-half search, NASA has a new group of potential astronauts who will help the agency push the boundaries of exploration and travel to new destinations in the solar system, including an asteroid and Mars.

Eight candidates have been selected to be NASA's newest astronaut trainees, hoping to be among those who are the first to launch from U.S. soil on commercial American spacecraft since the retirement of the space shuttle."

- NASA will discuss the selections at 3 p.m. CDT Monday via a Google+ Hangout.

Marc's note: Call me skeptical, but perhaps some of these astronauts will make a fly-by of Mars or to its moons, but to land, I don't see that in the next 20 years with the current political situation. If a private-public attempt was made, say SpaceX teaming up with NASA, then maybe. And while there's ongoing "big picture" work for an international effort, until a decision is made by a President that it will happen and Congress buys into, it's just a dream.

New Horizons Team Sticking to Original Flight Plan at Pluto, JHUAPL

"Unless significant new hazards are found, expect NASA's New Horizons spacecraft to stay on its original course past Pluto and its moons, after mission managers concluded that the danger posed by dust and debris in the Pluto system is less than they once feared."


Subcommittee on Space Hearing - NASA Authorization Act of 2013, House Science Committee

The House Science Committee's space subcommittee has scheduled a hearing for 10:00 a.m. ET next Wednesday, June 19 on the "NASA Authorization Act of 2013." The House version of the bill has not been released yet but should be soon and possibly before the hearing.

The scheduled witnesses are:
- Dr. Steven W. Squyres, Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy, Cornell University
- Mr. A. Thomas Young, Former Executive Vice President, Lockheed Martin Corporation

UPDATE: Draft NASA Authorization Bill Nixes Asteroid Retrieval Mission, Space News

"The House Science, Space and Technology Committee has begun drafting a NASA authorization bill that would hold the agency to a top line of about $16.87 billion, bar funding for a planned asteroid rendezvous mission, and divert money for Earth observation into robotic missions to other parts of the solar system, according to an official summary of the bill obtained by SpaceNews.

The bill also would authorize NASA to spend $700 million annually on the Commercial Crew Program -- up from the $500 million Congress authorized in 2010 -- and require the agency to report every 90 days on the effort."

FUTHER UPDATE: NASA Invites Media to Asteroid Initiative Industry and Partner Day (June 18) , NASA

Northrop Grumman, ATK Complete Backbone of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, Northrop Grumman

"Northrop Grumman Corporation and teammate ATK have completed manufacturing of the backplane support frame (BSF) for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope. Northrop Grumman is under contract to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., for the design and development of the Webb Telescope's optics, sunshield and spacecraft."

Shenzhou-10 completes automated docking with space module, Xinhua

"China's Shenzhou-10 manned spacecraft successfully completed an automated docking procedure with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space module at 1:18 p.m. Thursday, according to the Beijing Aerospace Control Center.

The docking procedure was the fifth to take place between Shenzhou-type spacecraft and the space module. Previous dockings include two automated operations by the unmanned Shenzhou-8 in 2011 and both an automated and manual docking by the manned Shenzhou-9 in 2012."

Beyond the Politics: Space Exploration Is Imperative to Innovation and Inspiration, Eileen M. Collins and Nick Lampson for the Huffington Post

"As a nation, we must put politics aside to ensure that expanding the space frontier occupies a prominent place on our national agenda. We need strategic, adequately funded and aggressively paced programs to keep America at the summits of technical innovation and exploration."

"... Unfortunately, we've begun to pull back, as though the nation can prosper without the kinds of strategic commitments that have historically assured us economic as well as intellectual return."

Marc's note: There's nothing new in what Collins and Lampson write. Will Congress pay attention? Will this appeal to the public and cause some action? Call me cynical, but I don't think Congress or the public are paying attention.

Detailed Satellite Imagery of Severe Storm (Large image and video), NASA

"A powerful storm swept across the Midwestern U.S. late on June 12, 2012 and is continuing to move across the Mid-Atlantic. Around 0700z (3am EDT), the Suomi NPP satellite passed over the storm as the most intense areas were along the Ohio-West Virginia-Pennsylvania border."

Cash-Strapped Space Tourists May Find Friend in PayPal, Wall Street Journal

"The payments company is set to announce a payment program for space tourists later this month, known as PayPal Galactic. PayPal has been working with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Space Tourism Society and the SETI Institute, whose mission is to search for extraterrestrial intelligence, on the program, said a person familiar with the details."

"... Billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are also building space craft in their spare time."

Marc's note: Hmm I wonder what, if any, advantage there will be for the "space tourist" in this rumoured program? And I didn't realize Musk was building SpaceX in his spare time.

Exclusive: Antitrust probe of Lockheed-Boeing rocket venture

"The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is investigating whether United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, violated federal antitrust laws by "monopolizing" or restraining competition through an exclusivity agreement with the maker of the engines used in its rockets, according to a FTC document obtained by Reuters on Wednesday.

RD Amross, a joint venture of Russia's NPO Energomash and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a unit of United Technologies Corp, provides RD-180 engines for ULA rockets.

Industry sources say ULA is preventing RD Amross from selling the engines to other rocket makers, including Orbital Sciences Corp, which is trying to break into the lucrative market for government rocket launches."

United Launch Alliance Completes Dual Engine Centaur Preliminary Design Review and Development Testing in Support of Commercial Crew Program, ULA

"United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully completed the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) and initial round of development testing for the Dual Engine Centaur in support of NASA's Commercial Crew Program.

Under Independent Research and Development (IRAD) funding, ULA is re-establishing the Dual Engine Centaur (DEC) configuration for performance and human space flight safety. Atlas V is capable of flying both a single and dual engine on the Centaur second stage, but most satellite missions require only a single engine due to the powerful capability of the Atlas V booster to loft the payload into orbit."

Preparing NASA's Next Solar Satellite for Launch, OnOrbit

"Orbital Sciences team members move the second half of the payload fairing before it is placed over NASA's IRIS (Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph) spacecraft. The fairing connects to the nose of the Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL rocket that will lift the solar observatory into orbit. The work is taking place in a hangar at Vandenberg Air Force Base, where IRIS is being prepared for launch on a Pegasus XL rocket."

FTC Approves Concludes Investigation of GenCorp's Purchase of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, FTC

"Although the FTC concluded that the deal will give GenCorp a monopoly in the market for a type of advanced missile defense interceptor propulsion system, the Commission decided not to challenge the transaction, primarily because the Department of Defense wishes to see the transaction go forward for national security reasons."

IRIS Televised Launch Viewing at NASA's Ames Research Center, NASA Ames

"On Wednesday, June 26, NASA's newest mission, the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph or IRIS, will launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. IRIS will take flight using a Pegasus XL rocket, carried aloft by an Orbital Sciences L-1011 aircraft from Vandenberg. This exciting launch will broadcast live at the NASA Ames Visitor Center at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Registrations for attendance are available now!

Tickets are free and are first-come, first-serve. Space is limited and only ticketed guests will be admitted."

Commercial space companies expect Brevard push, Space Florida

"Three companies competing to fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station expect to increase their local activity in the second half of this year, executives said Tuesday.

The Boeing Co. soon will start moving into a former shuttle hangar at Kennedy Space Center, where it will assemble a test article of its CST-100 capsule.

SpaceX hopes to launch a pad abort test of its Dragon capsule in December from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, after potentially several more Cape rocket launches.

And Sierra Nevada Corp., developer of the Dream Chaser mini-shuttle, plans to staff a local office this year to prepare for future flight operations."

SMC Enters into Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with SpaceX, Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center

"The Space and Missile Systems Center has signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Space Exploration Technologies Corp., better known as SpaceX, as part of the company's effort to certify its Falcon 9 v1.1 Launch System for National Security Space (NSS) missions. This cooperative agreement facilitates data exchanges and protects proprietary and export-controlled data. The CRADA will be in effect until all certification activities are complete."

How Twitter Changed NASA Communications, Mediabistro

"At Mediabistro's AllTwitter Marketing Conference, NASA's social media manager said that Twitter has created a once-in-a-lifetime change in the way the space agency communicates with the world."

Marc's note: I remember attending the Participatory Exploration Summit at NASA Ames in 2007 where Biz Stone introduced Twitter to the audience. Ironically the conference was using now-defunct Jaiku for social participation. But afterwards Twitter began to catch on, including at NASA. NASA now has million of followers. SpaceRef and NASA Watch have grown to over 125,000+ followers for our Twitter accounts.

Opinion: The Future Now

The Myopia Problem, Space News

"It is the year 3013, one thousand years into the future. Looking up into the night sky, you see a crescent Moon that is crisscrossed by a sparkling web of city lights. Millions of people are routinely working, living, and playing on the Moon. Billions live on Mars.

Many would agree that such a bright, promising future is probable. Some would contend that it is inevitable. What cannot be argued is that it is impossible, for we have already slipped the surly bonds of Earth.

The question is "when," rather than "if."

We don't need to wait a millennium in order to get started. Fundamental new breakthroughs in physics are not required. Just as the hang glider and sailplane could have been developed and refined hundreds or thousands of years ago, we already have the needed technology to begin pioneering exploration of the Moon and Mars."

NOAA Returns a Healthy GOES-13 to Normal Operations as GOES-East, NOAA

"NOAA today officially returned the GOES-13 spacecraft to normal operations, after tests showed a micrometeoroid, likely hit the arm for the solar array panel on May 22, knocking the spacecraft off its delicate, geostationary balance."

China's latest 'sacred' manned space mission blasts off, Reuters

"A Chinese manned spacecraft blasted off with three astronauts on board on Tuesday on a 15-day mission to an experimental space lab in the latest step towards the development of a space station.

The Shenzhou 10 spacecraft was launched from a remote site in the Gobi desert in China's far west at 5:38 p.m. (0938 GMT) under warm, clear blue skies, in images carried live on state television."

Watch the launch:

"The NASA It Gets Better video is a video project created by the "Out & Allied @ JSC Employee Resource Group" of NASA's Johnson Space Center. It was created as an outreach tool primarily directed at high school and college-aged lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) individuals who are victims of bullying and/or have been affected by bullying. This video sends the message to current and future NASA employees that it is OK to be LGBTQ, and that NASA supports and encourages an inclusive, diverse workforce in our workplace."

NASA Announces 2013 Space Technology Research Grants, NASA

"NASA has selected 65 graduate students as the 2013 class of Space Technology Research Fellows. This third class of space technology graduate students will conduct research relevant to agency technology challenges aligned with NASA's space technology roadmaps, while pursuing degrees in related disciplines at their respective institutions."

Mars Rover Opportunity Trekking Toward More Layers, NASA

"Approaching its 10th anniversary of leaving Earth, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is on the move again, trekking to a new study area still many weeks away.

The destination, called "Solander Point," offers Opportunity access to a much taller stack of geological layering than the area where the rover has worked for the past 20 months, called "Cape York." Both areas are raised segments of the western rim of Endeavour Crater, which is about 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter.

"Getting to Solander Point will be like walking up to a road cut where you see a cross section of the rock layers," said Ray Arvidson of Washington University, St. Louis, deputy principal investigator for the mission."

Production of Key Equipment Paves Way for NASA SLS RS-25 Testing, NASA Marshall

"NASA plans to begin testing RS-25 engines for its new Space Launch System (SLS) in the fall of 2014, and the agency's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi has a very big -- literally -- item to complete on the preparation checklist.

Fabrication recently began at Stennis on a new 7,755-pound thrust frame adapter for the A-1 Test Stand to enable testing of the engines that will provide core-stage power for NASA's SLS. The stand component is scheduled to be completed and installed by November 2013."

NASA to Host June 7 Mars Rover Opportunity Teleconference, NASA

NASA will hold a media teleconference at 9 a.m. PDT (noon EDT) on Friday, June 7, to provide an update about the long-lived Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. The 10th anniversary of this rover's launch is next month.

The briefing participants will be:
-- John Callas, project manager for Opportunity, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
-- Steve Squyres, principal investigator for Opportunity, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.
-- Ray Arvidson, deputy principal investigator, Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.

NASA Satellite Sees Strong Thunderstorms in Developing Gulf Low, NASA

"NASA's Aqua satellite passed over low pressure System 91L in the Gulf of Mexico and captured infrared imagery that revealed a lot of uplift and strong thunderstorms in the eastern part of the storm despite a poorly organized circulation. NOAA's GOES-East satellite showed the large extent of the low pressure area stretching from Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula to Florida.

System 91L is a tropical low pressure area that has been lingering in the northwestern Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico for several days. The low pressure area is located in the central Gulf of Mexico and covers a large area. It has a large area of disorganized thunderstorms and strong gusty winds over the southeastern Gulf."

Update: NASA Sees Heavy Rainfall in Tropical Storm Andrea, NASA Goddard

NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover Nears Turning Point, NASA

"NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission is approaching its biggest turning point since landing its rover, Curiosity, inside Mars' Gale Crater last summer.

Curiosity is finishing investigations in an area smaller than a football field where it has been working for six months, and it will soon shift to a distance-driving mode headed for an area about 5 miles (8 kilometers) away, at the base Mount Sharp."

With the Public's Help NASA's Spitzer Telescope Sees Milky Way's Blooming Countryside, SpaceRef

"NASA has released new images the Spitzer Space Telescope which it characterizes as showing "blooming stars in our Milky Way galaxy's more barren territories, far from its crowded core" and the public, in part, helped NASA with these images.

The images are part of the Galactic Legacy Infrared Mid-Plane Survey Extraordinaire (Glimpse 360) project, which NASA says is mapping the topography of our galaxy."

Rocket Launch Scheduled June 4 From Wallops, NASA

"A Black Brant XII suborbital rocket carrying the Cosmic Infrared Background ExpeRiment (CIBER)is scheduled for launch between 11 and 11:59 p.m. EDT, June 4, from NASA's launch range at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

The NASA Visitor Center at Wallops will open at 9:30 p.m. on launch day for public viewing of the launch.

The mission will be available live on Ustream beginning at 10 p.m. on launch day at: http://www.ustream.com/channel/nasa-wallops"

Update: "The launch tonight of a Black Brant XII suborbital rocket from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia, has been postponed.

The mission was postponed due to difficulty in cooling the instruments on the payload down to the required temperatures before launch.

The launch is now scheduled between 11 and 11:59 p.m., June 5. The launch window runs through June 10. The rocket may be visible to residents in the mid-Atlantic region."

NASA Spacecraft Captures Swath of Destruction from Deadly Oklahoma Tornado, NASA

"On June 2, 2013, the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) instrument on NASA's Terra spacecraft captured this image showing the scar left on the landscape by the tornado's deadly track. In this false-color image, vegetation is red, water is dark blue, roads and buildings are gray and white, and bare fields are tan. The tornado track crosses the image from left to right as indicated by the arrows. The image covers an area of 6 by 8.6 miles (9.6 by 13.8 kilometers), and is located at 35.3 degrees north latitude, 97.5 degrees west longitude."

Marc's note: I just happened to turn on CNN as they began broadcasting live coverage of the tornado. It was surreal to be watching the destruction live. My heart goes out to those affected.

Space Storm Could Black Out US East Coast for Two Years - Expert, RIA Novosti

"Severe space 'weather' can knock out satellite communications and GPS systems, expose space tourists and astronauts to dangerous levels of radiation, and even cause massive blackouts on Earth that could last up to two years, scientists and NASA officials warned at a conference here on Tuesday.

The United States population that is at risk of an extended power outage from a Carrington-level storm is between 20-40 million, with an outage duration of possibly 16 days to one to two years, said Kathryn Sullivan."

Water on the Moon (video), NASA Goddard

"Since the 1960's, scientists have suspected that frozen water could survive in cold, dark craters at the Moon's poles. While previous lunar missions have detected hints of water on the Moon, new data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) pinpoints areas near the south pole where water is likely to exist."

Mars Express 10 Years of Highlights (Video), ESA

"The journey of the European Space Agency's Mars Express, from drawing board through launch, to its key science highlights during ten years of operations.

With its suite of seven instruments, Mars Express has studied the subsurface of the Red Planet to the upper atmosphere and beyond to the two tiny moons Phobos and Deimos, providing an in depth analysis of the planet's history and returning stunning 3D images."

- Also released today: Mars Mineral Globe (video), ESA

Marc's note: Congratulations to ESA and its partners for 10 years of great science by Mars Express.

The Front Burner: Plan shows agency still turns obstacles into opportunities, Orlando Sentinel op-ed by Frank DiBello, Space Florida

"This asteroid strategy will require much of this nation's technical brain trust and industrial base. It will demand new technology with serious and long-term applications, it will result in more launches, and sooner, of American astronauts beyond low Earth orbit, and it shrewdly taps into a growing public and scientific interest in near-Earth objects and planetary defense."

Kepler Delivers More Data for Exoplanet HuntersKepler Delivers More Data for Exoplanet Hunters, NASA Ames Research Center

"On May 28 NASA's Kepler mission delivered new data to the NASA Exoplanet Archive for Exoplanet hunters to dig into. At the same, NASA Ames Research Center's Michele Johnson sat down with Michael Haas, Kepler science office director, for an interview to find out more."

Marc's note: The data includes 1,924 Kepler Objects of Interest (KOIs) that have not been fully analyzed yet.

"MJ: If you haven't finished the analysis, why are you releasing this information now? It seems rather preliminary.

MH: You are right, it is preliminary, but it also represents a significant body of work and contains valuable information for the scientific community."


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