Marc Boucher: August 2013 Archives

Col. Gregory H. Johnson Named CASIS Executive Director, CASIS

"Today, Gregory H. Johnson, Colonel (Ret), was named executive director for the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) - the nonprofit entity selected by NASA to manage the utilization of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. Col. Johnson will assume his role effective September 1, 2013."

Astronaut Gregory H. Johnson Leaves NASA, NASA

LADEE - Back to the Moon

LADEE - Going Back to the Moon [Watch], NASA

"A model of the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft is seen in the foreground during a LADEE mission briefing at NASA Headquarters, Thursday, August 22, 2013 in Washington."

Marc's note: While the debate continues on how many launches have taken place at Wallops, we do know that this is the first to the moon. And along with the adjacent Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport and Orbital launches from there, the Virginia space profile is increasing. You can follow the happenings in Virginia through our Twitter account Space Virginia.

NASA Releases New Imagery of Asteroid Mission [Watch], NASA

"NASA released Thursday new photos and video animations depicting the agency's planned mission to find, capture, redirect, and study a near-Earth asteroid. The images depict crew operations including the Orion spacecraft's trip to and rendezvous with the relocated asteroid, as well as astronauts maneuvering through a spacewalk to collect samples from the asteroid."

Marc's note: So while Congress refuses to fund the Asteroid Redirect Mission in the current budget process, NASA is pressing forward as if this mission is going to happen. You have to love their tenacity. However since Congress can't agree on a budget NASA is proceeding as it should under its existing mandate.

NASA Spacecraft Reactivated to Hunt for Asteroids, NASA

"A NASA spacecraft that discovered and characterized tens of thousands of asteroids throughout the solar system before being placed in hibernation will return to service for three more years starting in September, assisting the agency in its effort to identify the population of potentially hazardous near-Earth objects, as well as those suitable for asteroid exploration missions.

The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) will be revived next month with the goal of discovering and characterizing near-Earth objects (NEOs), space rocks that can be found orbiting within 45 million kilometers (28 million miles) from Earth's path around the sun. NASA anticipates WISE will use its 16-inch (40-centimeter) telescope and infrared cameras to discover about 150 previously unknown NEOs and characterize the size, albedo and thermal properties of about 2,000 others -- including some of which could be candidates for the agency's recently announced asteroid initiative."

NASA Asteroid Initiative Idea Synthesis Workshop, NASA

"The purpose of this conference is to publicly examine and synthesize highly rated responses to the NASA's Asteroid Initiative RFI. Findings will be developed and provided as inputs to NASA's planning activities.

Dates: (12 p.m. CDT) Monday, September 30, 2013-(5 p.m. CDT) Wednesday October 2, 2013

Address: Lunar and Planetary Institute, 3600 Bay Area Boulevard, Houston, TX 77058."

EVA 23: exploring the frontier, Luca Parmitano Blog

"At this exact moment, just as I'm thinking about how to uncoil the cable neatly (it is moving around like a thing possessed in the weightlessness), I 'feel' that something is wrong. The unexpected sensation of water at the back of my neck surprises me - and I'm in a place where I'd rather not be surprised. I move my head from side to side, confirming my first impression, and with superhuman effort I force myself to inform Houston of what I can feel, knowing that it could signal the end of this EVA. On the ground, Shane confirms they have received my message and he asks me to await instructions. Chris, who has just finished, is still nearby and he moves towards me to see if he can see anything and identify the source of the water in my helmet.

... As I move back along my route towards the airlock, I become more and more certain that the water is increasing. I feel it covering the sponge on my earphones and I wonder whether I'll lose audio contact. The water has also almost completely covered the front of my visor, sticking to it and obscuring my vision. I realise that to get over one of the antennae on my route I will have to move my body into a vertical position, also in order for my safety cable to rewind normally. At that moment, as I turn 'upside-down', two things happen: the Sun sets, and my ability to see - already compromised by the water - completely vanishes, making my eyes useless; but worse than that, the water covers my nose - a really awful sensation that I make worse by my vain attempts to move the water by shaking my head. By now, the upper part of the helmet is full of water and I can't even be sure that the next time I breathe I will fill my lungs with air and not liquid. To make matters worse, I realise that I can't even understand which direction I should head in to get back to the airlock. I can't see more than a few centimetres in front of me, not even enough to make out the handles we use to move around the Station."

NASA Seeks Uses for 3 Mobile Launch Platforms at KSC, Florida Today

"Commercial rocket launcher? Museum exhibit? Artificial reef?

All are potential uses for three historic mobile launch platforms from which NASA's moon rockets and space shuttles leapt toward space, but which now sit idle.

If those don't pan out, the two-story, 8.2 million-pound structures could be bound for the scrap heap.

"NASA does not currently have a need for the Mobile Launch Platforms to support current and future mission activities," said Tracy Young, a Kennedy Space Center spokeswoman. "Because of this factor, we are seeking information and concepts for traditional and non-traditional potential use of the structures as well as potential disposal options."

NASA Explores New Uses for Historic Launch Structures, NASA

Orbital's Cygnus Readying for First Space Station Flight, OnOrbit

"Orbital Sciences' Cygnus cargo craft is bound for the International Space Station on a test flight. This flight will prove Cygnus' ability to rendezvous with the station and be captured by the crew on board."

Marc's note: With just under a month to the Orbital Antares launch to the Space Station, NASA has released this slick video on the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program itself including SpaceX, but focusing on Orbital's Cygnus.

Much at Stake for Proton, Antares as September 15 Nears, Space Policy Online

"Purely by coincidence, if all goes according to plan September 15 will be a big day for a venerable Russian rocket recovering from a recent spectacular failure as well as a new U.S. rocket that is powered by Russian engines. A lot is at stake for both.

... A successful Proton launch could help restore confidence in the Russian space launch industry. A failure would add to the gloom and potentially drive commercial customers to competitors like Ariane, Sea Launch, and SpaceX.

Quite separately, the U.S. company Orbital Sciences Corporation is targeting September 15 for the first launch of its new Antares rocket to the International Space Station (ISS). Antares will launch Orbital's Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the ISS as part of NASA's commercial cargo program."

ISRO Scrubs GSLV-D5 Launch Due to Leak, SpaceRef Business

"India's attempt at launching the GSLV-D5 rocket today with the GSAT-14 satellite was postponed due to a leak found in the second stage. The mission is a critical one for India as it is their second attempt at launching a rocket with an indigenous cryogenic engine. The first attempt failed."

NASA Selects Innovative Technology Proposals for Suborbital Flights, NASA

"NASA has selected for possible flight demonstration 10 proposals from six U.S. states for reusable, suborbital technology payloads and vehicle capability enhancements with the potential to revolutionize future space missions.

After the concepts are developed, NASA may choose to fly the technologies to the edge of space and back on U.S. commercial suborbital vehicles and platforms. These types of flights provide opportunities for testing in microgravity before the vehicles are sent into the harsh environment of space."

NASA Announces Additional Commercial Crew Development Milestones, NASA

"NASA announced Thursday it is adding some additional milestones to agreements with three U.S. commercial companies that are developing spaceflight capabilities that could eventually provide launch services to transport NASA astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil.

The milestones are:

-- Boeing Spacecraft Safety Review. NASA's investment is $20 million and the milestone is planned to be accomplished in July 2014.

-- SpaceX Dragon Parachute Tests. NASA's investment is $20 million and the milestone is planned to be accomplished over several months culminating in November 2013.

-- SNC Incremental Critical Design Review #1. NASA's investment is $5 million and the milestone is planned to be accomplished in October 2013.

-- SNC Incremental Reaction Control System Testing #1. NASA's investment is $10 million and the milestone is planned to be accomplished in July 2014."

NASA Announces New Strategic Vision for Aeronautics Research [Watch], NASA

"Nearly every aircraft flying and air traffic management system now in use includes NASA-supported technologies that improve efficiency and safety," said Bolden. "This new vision will expand on that by fully integrating into aviation advances in other industries and parts of the economy to meet the future demands for global mobility in ways we can only begin to imagine today."

The new strategic vision greatly expands the relevancy of NASA's research and is based on three themes: understanding emerging global trends, using those trends to drive research directions and then organizing NASA's aeronautical research work in response to those drivers.

- Charles Bolden Speech (PDF)
- Aeronautics Research Strategic Vision (PDF)

Marc's note: It appears few media outlets deemed it necessary to cover this announcement. Other than publishing the press release there's scant coverage of it.

SpaceX Grasshopper Performs Divert Test [Watch], SpaceRef Business

"SpaceX completed what appears to be a successful divert test yesterday of its Falcon 9 Test Rig, code named Grasshopper.

According to SpaceX the Grasshopper flew to a height of 250 meters with a 100 meter lateral maneuver before returning to the center of the pad. Grasshopper is is taller than a ten story building."

NASA to Debut Water Falls Movie this Fall [Watch Trailer], SpaceRef

"This fall coming to select theatres, is a movie about water, one that NASA thinks will change how you view our watery world. Water Falls, A Science on a Sphere Film is a different type of movie.

According to NASA, the movie is designed for playback specifically on spherical screens and "the project immediately demanded an abstract, poetic presentation of its subject."

Marc's note: Goddard has set up an excellent web site to complement the movie with educational resources for teachers.

Virgin Galactic CEO Counts 625 Customers For Suborbital Trips, Aviation Week

"Virgin Galactic has signed up 625 individuals for its planned suborbital spaceflights, lining up revenue of at least $125 million, in what CEO George Whitesides asserts is a strong sign of the excitement and potential of commercial space ventures."

More Than 200 Tickets Sold For Space Travel, Curacao Chronicle

"About 230 tickets of $ 100,000 each were now sold to travel to space from Curacao space, according to a NOS report. The first flight from Curacao will be carried out in 2016 by Space Expedition Corporation with the Lynx. The commercial space flight is becoming a reality."

Marc's note: While the numbers and revenue look ok for a pricey service which hasn't launched a single customer yet, the true test will be to see how the customer rate climbs after the few customer launches. Meanwhile according to the Curacao Chronicle XCRO has sold 230 tickets though it's launch base in Curacao has yet to be approved.

Dream Chaser Completes Ground Tow Tests [Watch], Sierra Nevada Corporation

"Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announces the completion of the Dream Chaser Space System tow testing at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif. The ground tow tests were conducted in preparation for the upcoming approach and landing test scheduled for the third quarter 2013."

"We are very excited to complete this series of tests and achieve another critical milestone for our Dream Chaser flight test program," said Steve Lindsey, SNC's Space Systems senior director of programs and former NASA astronaut. "Watching Dream Chaser undergo tow testing on the same runway where we landed several space shuttle orbiters brings a great amount of pride to our Dream Chaser team. We are another step closer to restoring America's capability to return U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station."

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Update: Swapping Motion-Sensing Units, NASA

"NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is switching from one motion-sensing device to a duplicate unit onboard.

... The spacecraft has two identical copies of this motion-sensing device, called IMU-1 and IMU-2. Either of them can be used with either of the spacecraft's redundant main computers. Each contains three gyroscopes and three accelerometers.

"The reason we're doing this is that one of the gyroscopes on IMU-1 is approaching its end of life, so we want to swap to our redundant unit early enough that we still have some useful life preserved in the first unit," said Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission Manager Reid Thomas of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif."

Marc's note: An apparent minor servicing for MRO which has been on-duty for seven years and appears to be still be going strong.

Suborbital Rocket Launches From NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, NASA

"A Terrier-Improved Malemute suborbital rocket carrying experiments developed by university students nationwide in the RockSat-X program was successfully launched at 6 a.m. EDT, August 13, from NASA's launch range at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia."

Masten and JPL Team Up

JPL, Masten Testing New Precision Landing Software, NASA

"A year after NASA's Mars rover Curiosity's landed on Mars, engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., are testing a sophisticated flight-control algorithm that could allow for even more precise, pinpoint landings of future Martian spacecraft.

Flight testing of the new Fuel Optimal Large Divert Guidance algorithm - G-FOLD for short - for planetary pinpoint landing is being conducted jointly by JPL engineers in cooperation with Masten Space Systems in Mojave, Calif., using Masten's XA-0.1B "Xombie" vertical-launch, vertical-landing experimental rocket."

Marc's note: It's great to see this type of collaboration. With a limited market at the moment, and purely for discussion, I wonder if Masten might be an attractive acquisition by a larger company who would be interested in their technology and with the funds to do more.


Hyperloop By Elon Musk, Chairman, Product Architect & CEO, Tesla

"When the California "high speed" rail was approved, I was quite disappointed, as I know many others were too. How could it be that the home of Silicon Valley and JPL - doing incredible things like indexing all the world's knowledge and putting rovers on Mars - would build a bullet train that is both one of the most expensive per mile and one of the slowest in the world? Note, I am hedging my statement slightly by saying "one of". The head of the California high speed rail project called me to complain that it wasn't the very slowest bullet train nor the very most expensive per mile.

Marc's note: Musk has put forward another potential disruptive idea that if enacted could disrupt terrestrial transportation as we know it. Musk has made it clear he doesn't have the time to devote to this project but would be willing to collaborate with others and having someone else take the lead. Any takers?"

Update: In a teleconference Musk said his thinking has changed and he would like to build a "demonstration article".

Easily Retrievable Objects among the NEO Population,

"Asteroids and comets are of strategic importance for science in an effort to understand the formation, evolution and composition of the Solar System. Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) are of particular interest because of their accessibility from Earth, but also because of their speculated wealth of material resources.

The exploitation of these resources has long been discussed as a means to lower the cost of future space endeavours. In this paper, we consider the currently known NEO population and define a family of so-called Easily Retrievable Objects (EROs), objects that can be transported from accessible heliocentric orbits into the Earth's neighbourhood at affordable costs.

... Despite the highly incomplete census of very small asteroids, the ERO catalogue can already be populated with 12 different objects retrievable with less than 500 m/s of {\Delta}v. Moreover, the approach proposed represents a robust search and ranking methodology for future retrieval candidates that can be automatically applied to the growing survey of NEOs."

NASA Selects University Teams for New SmallSat Collaborative Projects, NASA

"NASA has selected 13 university teams for collaborative projects to develop and demonstrate new technologies and capabilities and spur innovation in communication, navigation, propulsion, science instruments, and advanced manufacturing for small spacecraft.

Selected project teams will work with engineers and scientists from six NASA centers. The goal of these efforts is to transform small spacecraft, some of which weigh only a few kilograms, into powerful but affordable tools for science, exploration and space operations."

Meteor Show Media Mayhem

The XKCD Guide to Meteor Showers (Spoof), XKCD

"This comic spoofs the way that astronomical events are often reported in the mass media -- events are often tagged with undeserved superlatives or described as being more dramatic than they actually are. In some cases, outright misinformation is spread. This phenomenon occurs in part the result of over-eager scientists, and in part because of journalists misunderstanding the subject."

Has CubeSats Time Come?

Can CubeSats do quality science? For one group, yes NewSpace Journal

"While interest in CubeSats--spacecraft as small as ten centimeters on a side and weighing one kilogram--has grown in recent years, one challenge facing the community of CubeSat developers is whether such spacecraft can perform useful missions, beyond education (many satellites are built by student groups) and technology development and demonstration. For one group at the University of Colorado, it appears that CubeSats can carry out research worthy of publication in scientific journals."

Astronaut Michael Foale Leaves NASA After 26-Year Career, NASA

"NASA astronaut Michael Foale has retired, ending a 26-year space agency career that included 375 days in space during six space shuttle missions and extended stays aboard two space stations.

Foale spent 145 days aboard the Russian space station Mir in 1997 and 194 days aboard the International Space Station as commander of Expedition 8 from October 2003 to April 2004. He also conducted four spacewalks over his NASA career totaling almost 23 hours."

Statement from SARG Chair Dr. Steven Collicott on Suborbital Research Needs, Commercial Spaceflight Federation

"The Suborbital Applications Researchers Group (SARG) of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation notes John Carmack's August 2, 2013 statement regarding the hibernation of rocket development at Armadillo Aerospace. The STIG rocket appeals to researchers by providing many of the advantages characteristic of next-generation suborbital vehicles including a gentle lift-off, pressurized payload bay, late payload access before launch, rapid payload access after landing, and a lower cost than traditional sounding rockets. Armadillo's success to date, including domestic and international payloads lofted and safely recovered on several mission development flights and a flight to 95km memorably captured on video, highlights how close their hard work has brought them to achieving an important operational research capability eagerly awaited by many scientists. The researchers of SARG encourage Armadillo and all of the new suborbital companies in their pursuit of success with investors and vehicles""

- John Carmack Joins Gaming VR Company Oculus Rift
- Armadillo Aerospace "Out of Money"

Marc's note: Armadillo Aerospace isn't the first space startup to run out of money and it won't be last. It's nice to see the CSF standing up for Armadillo and others but it's a bit late for Armadillo. Carmack has moved on and has made it clear the company is low in his priority list. As for others, market forces and or government support will determine if they survive and possibly thrive.

Europa Questions

If We Landed on Europa, What Would We Want to Know?, NASA

"Most of what scientists know of Jupiter's moon Europa they have gleaned from a dozen or so close flybys from NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1979 and NASA's Galileo spacecraft in the mid-to-late 1990s.

Even in these fleeting, paparazzi-like encounters, scientists have seen a fractured, ice-covered world with tantalizing signs of a liquid water ocean under its surface. Such an environment could potentially be a hospitable home for microbial life. But what if we got to land on Europa's surface and conduct something along the lines of a more in-depth interview? What would scientists ask? A new study in the journal Astrobiology authored by a NASA-appointed science definition team lays out their consensus on the most important questions to address."

Japan's HTV-4 Cargo Ship Arrives at the International Space Station [Watch], NASA

"Six days after launching from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan, the unpiloted Japanese Kounotori4 H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-4), met up with The International Space Station.

It was captured by the Expedition 36 crew aboard the ISS, using the station's Canadarm2 robotic arm. The HTV-4 was launched with more than 3 1/2 tons of cargo and experiments for delivery to the ISS."

NRC Warns Landsat-Type Data Not Sustainable Under Current Practices, Space Policy Online

"The National Research Council (NRC) today issued its much-anticipated report on how to ensure continuity of Landsat-type land imaging data. The bottom line is that a sustained program is not viable under current mission development and management practices. Instead, the NRC calls for a "systematic and deliberate program" instead of the "historical pattern of chaotic programmatic support and ad hoc design and implementation of spacecraft and sensors" that has characterized the Landsat program to date.

... In short, the report calls for a "systematic and deliberate program with the goal of continuing to collect vital data within lower, well-defined, manageable budgets" to "replace the historical pattern of chaotic programmatic support and ad hoc design and implementation of spacecraft and sensors in the Landsat series.""

Air Force X-37B support might be included in KSC renovation, Florida Today

"Space Florida on Wednesday advanced plans to renovate two former shuttle hangars that might eventually house a secretive military space plane program.

The agency's board approved spending up to $4 million more to overhaul Orbiter Processing Facilities 1 and 2 at Kennedy Space Center, on top of $5 million committed last year from funds provided by the state Department of Transportation.

As before, the future tenant was not identified, but is believed to be the Air Force's X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, a reusable unmanned system that resembles a small space shuttle. Previously, the Air Force has confirmed it is studying consolidation of X-37B operations at Kennedy or the Cape to save money."

At anniversary of Curiosity landing, recommit to planetary science: Adam Schiff (D-CA), Op-Ed Los Angeles Daily News

"One might think that the latest round of draconian cuts are driven by reductions to the federal budget -- and, in turn, to NASA's budget -- necessary to reduce our debt and deficit. But that isn't the case. To the president's credit, NASA's overall budget hasn't been targeted and remains largely flat, a signal achievement when domestic discretionary spending is at its lowest levels since the Eisenhower Administration. Instead, time and again, deficit hawks in the Office of Management and Budget have targeted specific parts of the NASA portfolio for disproportionate cuts, and none more so than arguably the most successful of all NASA's recent achievements -- planetary science.

And for whatever reason, the "crown jewel" of the planetary science program, Mars, is in the crosshairs and the men and women of JPL know it. Last year, as a way to highlight the budget cuts, some workers hosted a bake sale, and in an effort to cut back non-essential programs and activities in the wake of sequestration, popular outreach programs like the JPL's annual open house have been cancelled, as have visits to classrooms and other educational activities."

More Names Emerge for NASA Deputy Administrator, Space News

"The thing about throwing out names is that it encourages other people -- smarter, better connected people -- to follow suit, even if only privately.

And, boy, have they. Followed suit, I mean.

Included below are some solid candidates for NASA deputy administrator I shouldn't have overlooked and others I wouldn't have thought of myself. No tongue in cheek here. All top-shelf candidates, two of which could easily replace Charlie Bolden as NASA administrator if he's as sick of Washington as he sometimes lets on. "

Marc's note: The list includes: Pam Melroy, Patti Grace Smith, David Radzanowski, Ann Zulkosky and Richard DalBello. And this is only the beginning.

Oculus Rift hires Doom co-creator John Carmack as Chief Technology Officer, engadget

"It turns out that Doom co-creator John Carmack is more than just a virtual reality fanatic -- he's joining the company that's leading the most recent VR revolution, today announcing that he's taking the reins as Chief Technology Officer at Oculus Rift. In an email from the folks at Oculus, Carmack was confirmed to be out at the company he helped found -- id Software -- and joining Oculus full-time as CTO. He will apparently still serve some role at id, as id's parent company told Engadget, "The technical leadership he provides for games in development at id Software is unaffected." We've asked both Oculus and id's parent company for clarification."

Marc's note: Carmack tweeted this: "My time division is now Oculus over Id over Armadillo. Busy busy busy!" indicating exactly where his priorities are. Unfortunately with his new gig as CTO of Oculus Rift it would appear Armadillo Aerospace is truly out of business until such a time as some funding comes it way.

A Year of Curiosity on Mars [Watch], NASA

"Curiosity Rover team members at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., re-live the dramatic Aug. 6, 2012 landing and the mission's achievements to date in an event aired on NASA Television and the agency's website."

Marc's note: In case you missed JPL's Curiosity birthday special today, here it is.

Shelton Orders Shutdown of Space Fence, Space News

"The U.S. Air Force is shutting down a key part of its space surveillance network for tracking orbital debris, possibly as soon as Oct. 1, according to an Aug. 1 memo obtained by SpaceNews.

Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, "has directed that the Air Force Space Surveillance System be closed and all sites vacated" effective Oct. 1, the memo said. "This is your notice to begin preparing the site for closure."

Marc's note: Just as this project was about to go full-scale it's getting shutdown in a cost cutting move.

Orbits of Potentially Hazardous Asteroids, NASA

"This graphic shows the orbits of all the known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs), numbering over 1,400 as of early 2013.

These are the asteroids considered hazardous because they are fairly large (at least 460 feet or 140 meters in size), and because they follow orbits that pass close to the Earth's orbit (within 4.7 million miles or 7.5 million kilometers). But being classified as a PHA does not mean that an asteroid will impact the Earth: None of these PHAs is a worrisome threat over the next hundred years. By continuing to observe and track these asteroids, their orbits can be refined and more precise predictions made of their future close approaches and impact probabilities."

Marc's note: On a lighter note, imagine Planetary Resources, DSI and others "cleaning" up near space by mining these.

Congressman Kevin McCarthy Introduces Bill to Streamline Commercial Spaceflight Regulations, SpaceRef Business

"Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R) has introduced H.R. 3038, the Suborbital and Orbital Advancement and Regulatory Streamlining (SOARS) Act, intended to streamline the regulatory process associated with commercial spaceflight.

The bill was referred to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee where it may get full support from the Republicans on the committee but likely no support from the Democrats.

Co-sponsoring the bill is Congressman Bill Posey (R) of Florida, who is a member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee."

Japan's H-II Rocket Launches the HTV4 Spacecraft to the Space Station, NASA

"The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) HTV-4 Transfer Vehicle launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan for a rendezvous with the International Space Station.

Once there, the HTV-4 will deliver 3.6 tons of dry cargo, water, experiments and spare parts to the International Space Station. Unlike a Russian Progress vehicle which docks automatically, the HTV-4 will be captured by the Canadarm2 and berthed to the Harmony module. The cargo spacecraft will be commanded to fly within about 40 feet and then hold where Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg will operate the Canadarm2 during the approach and rendezvous of the space stations latest visitor."

Kepler Mission Manager Update: Pointing Test, NASA

"While both RW4 and RW2 have spun bi-directionally, friction levels remain higher than would be considered good for an operational wheel. However, it will be important to characterize the stability of the friction over time. A constant friction level may be correctable in the spacecraft's attitude control system, whereas a variable friction level will likely render the wheels unusable.

With the demonstration that both wheels will still move, and the measurement of their friction levels, the functional testing of the reaction wheels is now complete. The next step will be a system-level performance test to see if the wheels can adequately control spacecraft pointing.

... The team anticipates beginning the pointing performance testing on Thursday, August 8, 2013 and will continue into the following week if all goes well. A determination of whether Kepler can return to exoplanet data collection is expected a couple weeks after these pointing tests are complete."

NASA Curiosity Rover Approaches First Anniversary on Mars, NASA

"NASA's Curiosity rover will mark one year on Mars next week and has already achieved its main science goal of revealing ancient Mars could have supported life. The mobile laboratory also is guiding designs for future planetary missions.

... Curiosity team members at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif.,will share remembrances about the dramatic landing night and the mission overall in an event that will air on NASA Television and the agency's website from10:45 a.m. to noon EDT (7:45 to 9 a.m. PDT) on Tuesday, Aug. 6.

Immediately following that program, from noon to 1:30 p.m., NASA TV will carry a live public event from NASA Headquarters in Washington. That event will feature NASA officials and crew members aboard the International Space Station as they observe the rover anniversary and discuss how its activities and other robotic projects are helping prepare for a human mission to Mars and an asteroid. Social media followers may submit questions on Twitter and Google+ in advance and during the event using the hashtag #askNASA."

Artist Concept: NASA Space Launch System and Orion Spacecraft, SpaceRef

"NASA has releases new artist concepts of the SLS and Orion spacecraft including being stacked in the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida."

KSC Releases New Commercial Crew Program Marketing Video, SpaceRef Business

"The two minute video aims to capture the history and spirit of human spaceflight. The slick video does capture the essence, but seems to fall short of its goal."

Carmack: Armadillo Aerospace in "hibernation mode", NewSpace Journal

"Armadillo Aerospace, the suborbital vehicle company founded and funded by video game designer John Carmack, has kept a low profile in recent months. The company did not participate in the recent Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference in Colorado, an event where Blue Origin, Masten Space Systems, Virgin Galactic, and XCOR Aerospace all had special sessions. The last news from the company was in late February, when it reported on the launch of its STIG-B rocket at Spaceport America in early January. That launch failed when the main parachute snagged and didn't deploy properly, causing the rocket to hit the ground at high speed.

There is a good reason for that silence over the last five months: the company is, for the time being, effectively out of money. "The situation that we're at right now is that things are turned down to sort of a hibernation mode," Carmack said Thursday evening at the QuakeCon gaming conference in Dallas. "I did spin down most of the development work for this year" after the crash, he said."

LIVE Launch: JAXA Launch H-II Transfer Vehicle "KOUNOTORI"4 (HTV4), SpaceRef

"The KOUNOTORI is an unmanned cargo transporter to be launched by the H-IIB launch vehicle. It is designed to deliver up to six tons of supplies including food, clothes, and experiment devices to the ISS in orbit at an altitude of about 400 kilometers and return with spent equipment, used clothing, and other waste material. The KOUNOTORI with waste material is incinerated when it makes a re-entry into the atmosphere.

Launch Date: August 3, 2013
Launch Time: 3:48 p.m. ET - 19:48 GMT - 4:48 a.m. JST
Broadcast: LIVE on SpaceRef starting at approximately 3:00 p.m. ET. Check back for link.

NASA's Space Launch System Completes Preliminary Design Review, NASA

"NASA has achieved a major milestone in its effort to build the nation's next heavy-lift launch vehicle by successfully completing the Space Launch System (SLS) preliminary design review.

Senior experts and engineers from across the agency concluded Wednesday the design, associated production and ground support plans for the SLS heavy-lift rocket are technically and programmatically capable of fulfilling the launch vehicle's mission objectives. NASA is developing the SLS and Orion spacecraft to provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, with the flexibility to launch spacecraft for crew and cargo missions, including to an asteroid and Mars."

Lease on Kennedy Space Center's Pad 39 may be near, Bolden says, Florida Today

"A long-term lease of a mothballed Kennedy Space Center launch pad may still be near, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden suggested Wednesday.

At least one company and some members of Congress have asked NASA not to award a single company exclusive use of pad 39A, saying it should be made available to multiple launchers.

But Bolden said it was the neighboring pad 39B, which NASA is overhauling to support its own exploration rocket, that the agency has always envisioned for shared use."

Previous: Fighting Innovation at Pad 39A

Update: Space Florida has sent a letter to NASA Administrator Bolden.

Space Florida Letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden: Launch Complex 39A

"Chairman Wolf has long been a champion of a strong and vibrant US space program and we have no doubt his intentions are well founded. However, the nature of this letter, and particularly the subsequent explanatory correspondence provided by Representative Aderholt's staff, seem uncharacteristically random and offer a number of implausible assertions that serve only to obstruct the ongoing KSC process. I believe the Chairman is being poorly advised to follow this course of action.

... We strongly advocate for allowing NASA to continue to transfer its underutilized infrastructure to commercial operators in a fair process with terms and conditions that support a commercially driven business approach. NASA's planned approach on Pad 39A for partnership with private industry will accelerate the capability to deliver not only cargo, but also crew, and quickly end our dependence on other nations to transport our nation's crew to the International Space Station."



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