29Apr2015

News Briefs – Breaking Stories – Oddities

News

A weekly addition of some of the more unusual stories and discoveries in space & astronomy from around the world. Updated daily for those wanting a quick update of current events so keep checking back for all the latest space news.


Exoplanet hunter sees first light at La Silla Observatory

The MASCARA (Multi-site All-Sky CAmeRA) station at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile achieved first light in July 2017.

The MASCARA (Multi-site All-Sky CAmeRA) station at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile has achieved first light. This new facility will seek out transiting exoplanets as they pass in front of their bright parent stars and create a catalogue of targets for future exoplanet characterisation observations.

In June 2016, ESO reached an agreement with Leiden University to site a station of MASCARA at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile, taking advantage of the excellent observing conditions of the southern hemisphere skies. This station is now made its first successful test observations.

The MASCARA station in Chile is the second to begin operations; the first station is in the northern hemisphere on the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands. Each station contains a battery of cameras in a temperature-controlled enclosure which will monitor almost the entire sky visible from its location.

“Stations are needed in both the northern and southern hemisphere to obtain all-sky coverage,” says Ignas Snellen, of Leiden University and the MASCARA project lead. “With the second station at La Silla now in place, we can monitor almost all the brighter stars over the entire sky.”

Built by Leiden University in the Netherlands, MASCARA is a planet-hunting instrument. Its very compact and low-cost design appears unassuming, but is innovative, flexible and highly reliable. Consisting of five digital cameras with off-the-shelf components, this small planet-hunter takes repeated measurements of the brightnesses of thousands of stars and uses software to hunt for the slight dimming of a star’s light as a planet crosses the face of the star.

This exoplanet discovery method is called transit photometry. The planet’s size and orbit can be directly determined through this method, and in very bright systems the planet’s atmosphere can also be characterised by further observations with large telescopes such as ESO’s Very Large Telescope.

The main purpose of MASCARA is to find exoplanets around the brightest stars in the sky, currently not probed either by space or ground-based surveys. The target population for MASCARA consists mostly of “hot Jupiters” — large worlds that are physically similar to Jupiter but orbit very close to their parent star, resulting in high surface temperatures and orbital periods of only a few hours. Dozens of hot Jupiters have been discovered with the radial velocity exoplanet detection method, as they exert a noticeably gravitational influence on their host stars.

“Not much can yet be learned from the planets discovered via the radial velocity method, as they require significantly better direct imaging techniques to separate the light of these cool, old planets from that of their host stars,” comments Snellen. “In contrast, planets that transit their host stars can readily be characterised.”

MASCARA also has the potential to discover super-Earths and Neptune-sized planets. The project is expected to provide a catalogue of the brightest nearby targets for future exoplanet characterisation observations, particularly for detailed planetary atmosphere observations.

Multiple Fatalities Prompt Roscosmos to Step Up Safety Measures

The death of two workers following the June 14, 2017, launch of a Soyuz rocket carrying the Progress MS-06 resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station has prompted Roscosmos officials to step up safety efforts.

The two workers were part of a team tasked with mitigating the effects of falling, spent rocket components after impacting in designated drop zones. Those hazardous areas, located on the flat, grassy Kazakh Steppe, often experience extreme weather conditions. Beyond large temperature swings – sometimes more than 50 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) over the course of a day – the treeless plains encounter strong wind gusts. It was one of these gusts that claimed the life of Yuri Khatyushin.

According to reports, when Khatyushin arrived at the drop site, a strong gust fanned the flames of a brush fire that had erupted from the fallen rocket stage, engulfing his vehicle. Another worker, Vyacheslav Tyts, suffered serious burns when removing fallen pieces from the Soyuz rocket. Tyts later died from his injuries after being hospitalized for more than two weeks.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

Orion: Crew Safety, Even Before Astronauts Take Flight

It’s the early 2020s. A crew of astronauts are secured in their seats inside Orion, eagerly awaiting the launch countdown to begin. It’s the spacecraft’s first crewed mission – heading beyond the moon. Behind this snapshot in time is years of ingenuity and preparation. All in the name of figuring out how to ultimately do something we’ve never done before: send humans to Mars.

While we haven’t yet arrived at the moment when we send humans beyond the Moon, prep is already underway. Lockheed Martin is pushing the envelope for crew safety early in the game – years before a crew even sets foot in Orion. Take a look at three ways Lockheed Martin is already ensuring Orion will bring astronauts home safely.

Read more at: Lockheed Martin

Orion Testers Make One Giant Leap into Gulf of Mexico

NASA’s Orion, carrying the nation’s hopes and dreams for reaching the Red Planet, completed an important test Thursday as a group of astronauts safely exited a mockup of the spacecraft’s crew module in conditions they might experience following an ocean splashdown.

Under a punishing midday sun, four astronauts found themselves bobbing in the Gulf of Mexico some four miles off Galveston Island. The mission was to simulate an emergency scenario that required opening the top hatch and jumping into the water – a high-risk possibility should Orion one day make it to Mars and back.

After climbing a rope ladder to the top of the spacecraft, the astronauts practiced deploying a life raft and throwing survival equipment overboard. They inflated banana-like flotation devices under their armpits and leaped into the Gulf’s blue-green water.

Read more at: Houston Chronicle

Starliner Meets Milestones as ULA Switches Atlas Booster for Maiden Flight

As Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner crew transportation vehicle for NASA continues to meet its processing milestones at the Kennedy Space Center and various test sites around the country, United Launch Alliance, the company tasked with launching Starliner on its journey toward the International Space Station, has made the decision to swap the Atlas booster that will power Starliner’s first flight next year.  Meanwhile, the first crewed Starliner mission appears to be slipping to “late 2018”.

Overall, things are going exceptionally well for Boeing in their construction efforts for the CST-100 Starliner crew transportation vehicle. With primary build operations taking place inside the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility (C3PF)(formerly known as Orbiter Processing Facility bay 3), the latest information points toward Boeing being on track to meet the uncrewed and crewed demo launch timelines in 2018.

Read more at: NASA Spaceflight

Raytheon, NASA Open Space Simulation Facility to Commercial Customers

As the headquarters for all aspects of human spaceflight — including spacecraft design and astronaut training — NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston is home to such technological wonders as a Space Shuttle and the Apollo-era Mission Control room.

Yet even among these marvels, the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) is an amazing sight. A super-sized pool used to simulate the microgravity conditions in orbit, the NBL is where astronauts learn to work in space, training on detailed, submerged full-sized mockups of the International Space Station (ISS).

NASA recently awarded Raytheon a sole-source services contract to continue maintaining and delivering innovative improvements to the JSC. And now, thanks to Raytheon innovations, the NBL — once the exclusive domain of NASA astronauts and engineers — is being opened to external customers.

Read more at: Colorado Spacenews

Kennedy Engineers to Support Liftoff of World’s Most Powerful Rocket

Liftoff of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft from Launch Complex 39B at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida will require a symphony of tightly coordinated commands for processing and launch. Kennedy engineers recently achieved authorization to operate the Kennedy Ground Control Subsystem, which is a network of controls, during hazardous operations at the Multi-Payload Processing Facility. The processing facility is used to prepare Orion for its test flight atop the SLS.

To gain authorization to operate, Kennedy updated access to the subsystem network and equipment, ensuring the network is secure from all malicious threats, whether internal or external. Kennedy now is prepared to support hazardous operations and ensure that the network meets agency standards for network and physical protection.

Read more at: NASA

Chinese TV Broadcasting Satellite Reaches Operational Orbit After Off-target Launch

The Chinasat 9A communications satellite has arrived at its operational perch more than 22,000 miles over the equator after a Long March rocket deployed the craft in a lower-than-planned orbit last month due to a roll control error in the launcher’s third stage, according to China’s top state-owned aerospace contractor.

The television broadcasting satellite fired its main engine 10 times to recover from an off-target launch aboard a Long March 3B rocket June 18, which placed Chinasat 9A into an orbit stretching less than halfway to the satellite’s intended altitude, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. said in a statement.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Company to Test Space-debris-retrieval Satellite in 2019, Aim to Commercialize by 2020

A Singapore-based venture company aspiring to enter the space business unveiled a life-sized model of a satellite that would retrieve space debris, with which the company plans to conduct a test run in orbit in 2019 and to make commercially viable by 2020.

“Space is filled with trash, and if things continue as they have, space exploration will no longer be sustainable. There definitely is demand (for the craft),” Mitsunobu Okada, the 44-year-old founder and CEO of Astroscale, said. Okada also revealed that his company has just accepted a 2.8 billion yen (about $2 million) investment from ANA Holdings Co. and other investors.

Most orbital debris is old satellites and satellite components. Around 750,000 pieces of space debris at least 1 centimeter in diameter are said to be in near-Earth orbit, and are interfering with countries’ and companies’ efforts to place new satellites.

Read more at: Mainichi

China’s Long March to the Moon

China is readying a robotic land, grab and go sampling of the moon, a multi-faceted mission that is a harbinger of things to come and a key step to landing a human crew on that neighboring world.

Chinese engineers are wrapping up work on the Chang’e-5 lunar mission for a targeted November launch atop a Long March 5 booster. It will depart from the newly completed Wenchang Space Launch Center in south China’s Hainan Province. If successful, this robotic mooncraft would carry the first lunar samples returned to Earth in over 40 years.

The country’s Chang’e-1 and -2 circled and charted the lunar surface in 2007 and 2010, respectively, with the Chang’e-3 spacecraft soft landing on the moon in December 2013, unleashing the wheeled Jade Rabbit rover to reconnoiter the lunar surface.

Read more at: Space News

Court Dismisses Orbital ATK Suit Against DARPA

A Virginia court has dismissed Orbital ATK’s complaint against a government robotic satellite-servicing program on Thursday, according to a court memo.

Orbital ATK filed a suit in February against the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites program, alleging it violatesNational Space Policy. The policy, issued by then-President Barack Obama in 2010, states that the government should not subsidize space-related activities in which private entities are willing to invest on their own.

The court ruled that Orbital ATK’s suit was based on an executive policy action, not law, and the program could not be stopped based on that.

Read more at: Defense News

Cameron Co. Judge: Residents to Benefit from Space X Project

Cameron County and the state are making major investments to get ready for Space X’s arrival at Boca Chica Beach. Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino explained to CHANNEL 5 NEWS how county residents stand to benefit.

Trevino said having rockets launch from Boca Chica Beach is something that seemed far-fetched for many. He said residents will now see improvement without having to pay more property taxes.

State Highway 4 is getting upgraded to withstand the weight of Space X rockets. Russell Davila, who’s lived along the road for the past 14 years, said he welcomes the project because of the high-paying jobs it promises to bring to the area. “It’s progress and you can’t stop progress, and I think it’s the right thing,” he said. “I can remember when kids graduated high school here and college, and you had to go somewhere else because there was no opportunity in the area.”

Last week, the state dispersed $2.6 million to the Cameron County Spaceport Development Corporation to pay Space X for some of the work they’ve done already.

Read more at: krgv

On-orbit Operations the Next Frontier for Space, Experts Say

Operating while in orbit is the next big challenge for the space sector, be it manufacturing, assembly, satellite servicing, or debris removal, experts said Thursday.

Speaking at a technology summit hosted by Defense One, Bhavya Lal, with the Institute for Defense Analysis at the Science and Technology Policy Institute, said focusing on the problems of the future will help the U.S. maintain its technological lead in space.

“One of the things we need to worry about is what are going to be the emerging technologies a decade from now so we can stay ahead of the Russia’s and China’s?” she said. “One potential technology that both the government and the private sector are starting to look at is on-orbit manufacturing, assembly, and servicing. I think it’s an area we need to think about more, we need to bring the private sector in more, the government needs to think differently about how you construct and use an on-orbit platform in the case of war.”

Read more at: Space News

Meet Scott Pace, the National Space Council’s New Executive Secretary

The National Space Council, an advisory group tasked with developing a unified strategy for government space interests, now has an executive secretary.

Scott Pace, the director of The George Washington University Space Policy Institute, will fill the position. He will report to Vice President Mike Pence and work with 13 key White House appointees representing agencies with a stake in space operations, including the Secretary of Defense and the yet-to-be-named administrator of NASA.

Pace, a longtime space policy expert, said in a November 2016 Aviation Week & Space Technology op-ed that a “strange inversion of space policy leadership” occurred during the Obama administration, in which Congress, not the White House, called the shots on how NASA should send humans beyond low-Earth orbit for the first time since 1972.

Read more at: Planetary

JAXA Tests Grapefruit-sized Video Drone Aboard ISS

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has begun testing a spherical drone about the size of a grapefruit in Japan’s Kibo science module at the International Space Station.

Aboard the ISS, astronauts take videos of their work and experiments and send them back to Earth. Preparing for and making the recordings is said take up 10 percent of the astronauts’ working hours.

The Int-Ball drone is designed to take over the video-making duties. With a diameter of 15 cm and 12 small propellers, the Int-Ball can move in any direction and take both still and moving images with a high-resolution camera. The 1-kg drone also employs ultrasonic sensors, an image-based navigation camera and inertial sensors to make accurate movements, JAXA said.

Read more at: Japan Times

Russian Space Agency to Start Preparations for Flight to Mars

Russia’s State Space Corporation Roscosmos will launch work in 2019 to prepare for a flight to the Red Planet and invites NASA to join it, the Roscosmos press office reported on Friday.

“It is at least early to say that humans will fly to Mars in 2025 or in 2030. Roscosmos follows the strategy of practicing technologies on the Moon: a take-off, landing, an inter-planetary flight, protection from radiation and processes in the human’s body. Also, it is necessary to practice many things with the help of automats before sending a human to Mars. And Roscosmos will implement this program. It will start in 2019,” the corporation said.

Roscosmos will also be glad to see NASA join the effort, the press office said.

Read more at: TASS

SpaceX Set to ‘Swallow Up’ Russia’s Share on Global Space Launch Market

The US private company SpaceX plans to capture over 60% of the commercial launch market in 2018, leaving Russia with less than 10%, SpaceX Senior Vice-President Tim Hughes said on Friday.

The SpaceX senior vice-president spoke before the Subcommittee on Space, Science and Technology of the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Technology.

The schedule presented by Hughes in his report and based on the company’s forecast suggests that this year SpaceX will capture about 45% of the commercial launch market, the European operator Arianspace will get 40% while Russia’s share will equal 15%. In 2018, SpaceX expects to capture 65% of the commercial space launch market and Europe will get 30% while Russia’s share will drop to less than 10%.

Read more at: TASS

NASA Admits it Probably Can’t Put a Person on Mars in the 2030s

NASA’s Journey to Mars might be officially dead. That is, the agency doesn’t seem likely to land an astronaut on the Red Planet in the 2030s, and NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration, William H. Gerstenmaier, recently said that NASA does not have the funding for a crewed Mars mission in the current timeline. Gerstenmaier also addressed the underlying problem: The agency just doesn’t know how to land something as heavy as a crewed spacecraft on Mars.

“I can’t put a date on humans on Mars, and the reason really is the other piece is, at the budget levels we described, this roughly two percent increase, we don’t have the surface systems available for Mars,” said Gerstenmaier at a meeting of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics. “And that entry, descent, and landing is a huge challenge for us for Mars.”

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

Cancer-Killing Treatment Tested on International Space Station

Microgravity research on the International Space Station may give new insights into fighting cancer, NASA said.

A new investigation in space is trying build a drug to to help the immune system kill cancer cells , which would prevent a given type of cancer from happening again in a patient. Investigators hope to make this possible using a new drug and antibody combination that could decrease the nasty side effects (such as nausea and hair loss) that are common with patients using chemotherapy, NASA officials said in a statement.

While chemotherapy is effective in treating cancer, the treatment unfortunately kills healthy cells along with the unhealthy ones. The new approach targets only cancer cells by combining an antibody with azonafide, a cancer-killing drug. Investigators said they are hopeful that the new combination will cause less severe issues than those associated with chemotherapy, though the treatment will still have side effects.

Read more at: Space.com

White House Not Expected to Rush Development of New Space Policy

Two people who served on the NASA transition team for the Trump administration said July 11 they don’t expect the White House to rush the development of a new national space policy.

In a panel discussion at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Propulsion and Energy Forum in Atlanta, Sandra Magnus and Chris Shank said they expected the Trump administration to use the newly-reestablished National Space Council to draft such a policy, but that it would not necessarily be a priority for it.

“There are some other pressing problems to be had there as well, as well as the annual budgeting and appropriations,” said Shank, who chaired the agency review team, or “landing team,” assigned to NASA by the incoming administration, and who is now senior advisor to the secretary and the under secretary of the Air Force.

Read more at: Space News

House Offers Increase to FAA Commercial Space Office

A spending bill to be marked up by House appropriators July 11 would provide a significant increase to the office responsible for licensing commercial launches, counteracting a planned cut.

The draft of the transportation, housing and urban development appropriations bill, released by the House Appropriations Committee July 10, would give the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) $21.587 million in fiscal year 2018. The bill will be marked up by an appropriations subcommittee July 11.

The House bill offers an increase of more than $1.7 million over what AST received in the final fiscal year 2017 omnibus spending bill, which provided $19.826 million for the office. That 2017 figure was, in turn, an increase of $2 million over the office’s 2016 budget.

Read more at: Space News

Moon Express Announces Trio of Expeditions to the Moon

Though not necessarily as widely known as their NewSpace counterparts, Moon Express showed that its plans to upend exploration beyond Earth are no less impressive than those of its peers. On July 12, 2017, the Florida-based company announced ideas for a trio of missions to the Moon, the first of which is tentatively scheduled for late in 2017 – potentially making them the first commercial company to reach Earth’s natural satellite.

As one of the teams competing for the Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP), Moon Express set itself up from the beginning to challenge for a prize totaling $30 million, by launching a robotic explorer to the Moon. To achieve this, the company must land on the surface, travel at least 500 meters (1,640 feet), and transmit high-definition video and photos back to Earth.

Although the company is comparatively young, having been founded in August 2010, Moon Express has wasted little time in advancing its goal of opening up lunar and deep space exploration to commercial interests.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

The Common Burden of “Spacemankind”

The debate on whether to perceive the outer space and celestial bodies as either province of all humankind or Common Heritage of Mankind (CHM), among academic circles, has been carried out since the failure of the Moon Agreement of 1979. Recently, it has gained more attention after the United States adopted its own asteroid mining law, while Luxemburg is developing its own set of regulations. As other countries and agencies study the idea of actually extracting precious resources from the Moon and near Earth asteroids, the “Phantom of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS)” appears again, playing his CHM tune.

The debate won’t be banished until a consensus is settled. The most common notion is that treating celestial bodies as CHM is based on a postcolonial approach to international economics and politics.

Read more at: Space Review

Trash in the Skies II: Industry Perspectives on Dealing with Space Debris

On Monday, July 10, SWF held a luncheon panel discussion on Capitol Hill that brought together private sector experts to discuss the current space debris situation, what steps are being done (or not done) to address it, whether the blanket 25-year rule is still sufficient, and what role industry can play in helping ensuring the long-term sustainability of space while fostering continued innovation and growth of the space sector. Speakers were from NASA, Aerospace Corporation, OneWeb, Altius Space Machines, and Aon Risk Solutions. The panel’s discussion touched on the concern of operators, salvage of debris in space, coordination between megaconstellations, and whether or not the government should be involved in regulating the mitigation of risk in the orbital environment due to space debris.

In 2012, Secure World Foundation (SWF) hosted an event on Capitol Hill called “Trash in the Skies: The Challenge of Space Debris” to discuss the impact the growing amount of space debris has had on space activities. The event highlighted the then estimated 22,000 pieces of space debris larger than a softball that could destroy a satellite in a collision, and the hundreds of thousands of pieces of smaller debris that could cause serious damage.

Read more at: SWF

Sweating the Small Stuff: CubeSats Swarm Earth Orbit

Back in February an Indian Space Research Organization rocket deployed over a hundred miniature spacecraft into Earth orbit. This constituted the largest stream of petite satellites, called CubeSats, ever dispensed into space courtesy of a single heave-ho booster—but not by much. Seventy more are slated to hitch a ride onboard a Russian rocket later this week. In launches large and small, on the order of 700 CubeSats have made their way into space since the late 1990s, and the pace is picking up.

CubeSats are a distinctively low-cost class of nanosatellite that can weigh less than three pounds and come in a standard size and shape. The average CubeSat size is “one unit” or “1U” measuring 10 X 10 X 10 centimeters, but can be upsized to 1.5, 2, 3, 6 or even 12U. This flexibility makes CubeSats a bargain compared with full-size satellites, with a wide range of costs. For instance, a simple CubeSat built by students or hobbyists might cost roughly $50,000 whereas more advanced projects from professional aerospace companies can range from $250,000 up to $2 million.

Read more at: Scientific American

Houston Spaceport Takes Another Small Step Forward

The Houston Spaceport has started searching for a design-build firm to develop the roads and utilities needed to attract a cluster of aerospace businesses to Ellington Airport.

Before launching spacecraft into zero gravity, officials want to create a community of companies that can invent, develop and manufacture space technologies. This design-build firm will lay the necessary groundwork — roads, water lines, communication cables, etc. — to attract those companies. “We are moving forward with the actual construction of the infrastructure that we’ve been planning for,” said Arturo Machuca, general manager of Ellington and the Houston Spaceport.

The project is expected to cost about $18.5 million. That money will come from Houston Airport System revenues and a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.

Read more at: Houston Chronicle

From the Other Side Of the Pond: A Cosmonaut’s View Of Space

During his three Soyuz flights (2008, 2011, 2016), Sergey Volkov logged 548 days in space. On the first flight, he orbited Earth in the International Space Station with Mark Kelly, husband of former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. On the last one, he flew on ISS with Mark’s twin brother, Scott.

Volkov, 44, got to know the Kelly’s quite well. When Gabby was shot in 2011, he understandably was devastated. “I was in Russia and, of course, our media broadcast the sad news,” says Volkov. “I was really frustrated and very sad for both Gabby and Mark. She’s an excellent person, a nice woman. I think she is probably not like other politicians.”

Read more at: Forbes

House Appropriators Approve FY2018 CJS Bill–Good News for NASA, Mixed for NOAA Satellites

The House Appropriations Committee approved the FY2018 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill this evening.  The final version makes no changes to the subcommittee-approved recommendations for NASA or NOAA. NASA would get a significant increase above President Trump’s request and above current spending.  NOAA’s near-term satellite programs, JPSS and GOES-R, are fully funded, but future programs did not fare well.

The committee’s lengthy markup dealt with a wide variety of issues, reflecting the bill’s broad jurisdiction — NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and all of the Departments of Justice and Commerce (NOAA is part of Commerce).  Especially tense debates took place on Department of Justice issues such as the investigation into whether Russia interfered in the U.S. election.  Although the NASA and NOAA portions were not controversial, in the end, the bill was approved on a largely partisan basis 31-21 (the committee has 30 Republicans and 22 Democrats).

Read more at: Spacepolicy Online

Space Corps Could be Next Military Branch

There’s a turf war brewing in the final frontier. House lawmakers on Friday approved a Defense authorization bill that would carve out the space mission from the U.S. Air Force and create a new branch of the military, the first in almost 70 years, the U.S. Space Corps.

The move is being spearheaded by Alabama GOP Rep. Mike Rogers who contends the department’s lack of focus on extra-terrestrial priorities has eroded the nation’s dominance in space.

The nation’s defense is being compromised because military satellites aren’t being deployed fast enough due to a bureaucracy that cares more about superiority in the air than space, said Rogers, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on Strategic Forces.

Read more at: Florida Today

Three ISRO Officials Suspended for Lapses

Three employees, including two senior officials of ISRO Propulsion Complex, Mahendragiri in Tirunelveli have come under scanner for alleged procedural lapses and have been kept under temporary suspension pending enquiry.
Deviprasad Karnik, Director of Publications and Public Relations, ISRO, confirmed the development to Express and identified the officials as Group Director Jessy Flora, Deputy General Manager Jesammal and an engineer Jebastine Donbraj. However, he didn’t reveal the reason for the suspension.

Sources said an internal inquiry had been ordered. The preliminary reports emerging from the closets of IPRC suggest that some procedural lapses have happened in procurement process. The suspension came into effect from July 13.
Only a few days ago there was a leadership change in IPRC.

Read more at: New Indian Express

Ex-director of Krasnoyarsk Enterprise Arrested for Theft During Vostochny Cosmodrome Construction

Mikhail Kalinin, the former CEO of the state enterprise Glavnoye Voyenno-Stroitelnoye Upravleniye No. 9, became another person of interest in the criminal case on corruption during the construction of the Vostochny Cosmodrome. He was taken into custody by the decision of the Zheleznogorsk Town Court. According to Kommersant, Mikhail Kalinin is accused of taking a bribe on an especially large scale and appropriating money.

As follows from the first case file, Kalinin demanded 4 million rubles ($66.250) from a Krasnoyarsk businessman for assistance in concluding a subcontract for construction work at the Vostochny Cosmodrome. The second criminal case against Mikhail Kalinin is connected with the appropriation of 10 million rubles for the construction of the spaceport.

Read more at: Crime russia

Scrap Dealer Finds Apollo-era NASA Computers in Dead Engineer’s Basement

A pair of Apollo-era NASA computers and hundreds of mysterious tape reels have been discovered in a deceased engineer’s basement in Pittsburgh, according to a NASA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report released in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Most of the tapes are unmarked, but the majority of the rest appear to be instrumentation reels for Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11, NASA’s fly-by missions to Jupiter and Saturn. The two computers are so heavy that a crane was likely used to move the machines, the report concluded.

At some point in the early 1970s, an IBM engineer working for NASA at the height of the Space Race took home the computers—and the mysterious tape reels. A scrap dealer, invited to clean out the deceased’s electronics-filled basement, discovered the computers. The devices were clearly labelled “NASA PROPERTY,” so the dealer called NASA to report the find.

Read more at: ArsTechnica

Review: Adventures in Outer Space

Many people complain about the supposed sorry state of education in the US, but few actually go about trying to do something worthwhile about it. Engaging young minds, especially at the high school level, is at best a challenging endeavor. Enter S.T.E.M. For the Classroom and their newest textbook, Adventures in Outer Space. It truly is a space nerd’s dream.

Most educators claim that using real-world examples help students to develop a deeper understanding of virtually any subject, and the authors follow this sage advice. Students not only learn the wonderful world of mathematics through the lens of real aerospace companies but also gain many valuable real-world skills, such as website administration and mobile app development. There are even many cross-curricular activities that force students to think beyond S.T.E.M., such as writing, discussion, and drawing exercises.

Read more at: Space Review

Orion: Designed with Humans in Mind

From launch to landing, Orion will be the safest spaceship in the world, returning humans to deep space and bringing them home safely. We’re pushing the envelope for crew safety – all in the name pioneering something never done before: sending people to Mars.

Snippet

NASA Astronaut Randy Bresnik Available for Interviews

July 8, 2017 – NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik, who is making final preparations for his launch to the International Space Station later this month, will be available for live satellite interviews from 9 to 10 a.m. EDT Friday, July 14, at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia.

NASA Awards Grants for Research, Flight Opportunities to Universities

July 8, 2017 – Twenty-two universities across the country have been selected to receive NASA grants for research and technology development projects in areas critical to the agency’s mission.

Vice President Pence Visits NASA’s Multi-User Spaceport

July 7, 2017 – Vice President Mike Pence thanked employees at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for their commitment to America’s continued leadership in the space frontier during a visit to America’s multi-user spaceport on Thursday.

NASA Awards Contract for Technology Research, Development, Support

July 7, 2017 – NASA has awarded a contract to Analytical Mechanics Associates, Inc. (AMA), of Hampton, Virginia, for technology research and development, and support of these activities, to help meet evolving NASA mission objectives.

NASA Provides Coverage of Vice President Pence’s Visit to Kennedy

July 5, 2017 – NASA will provide television, still image and social media coverage of Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, July 6.

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