Sunday, May 31, 2009

Spudis: The not so barren Moon

Dr. Paul Spudis checks in to remind us of something soft-spoken Dr. Harrison H. "Jack" Schmitt has quietly been insisting upon since at least as long ago as the Lunar Prospector mission. Regardless of whether we prove water is abundant on the Moon, we already know with far more certainly that hydrogen is is there, and it is also available in the same Near Side basins where titanium oxide and iron oxides are located (and where Helium-3 probably makes up twenty percent by weight of the surface layer.)

From the his new blog posting at The Once and Future Moon
Smithsonian Air & Space

Can we be "resourceful on the Moon? (Part 1)

"It’s often said that the Moon is resource-poor. That is inaccurate; the Moon is resource different. It is depleted in volatile substances (those that have very low melting points). The most important rare resource on the Moon is hydrogen. The Moon itself has very little of this element, but the soils have a great deal of it; because the Moon has no atmosphere or global magnetic field, the stream of protons from the Sun (the solar wind) implants hydrogen onto the surface of the dust grains on the Moon. This solar wind hydrogen can be released through heating of the dust. When you have both hydrogen and oxygen, you have air, water, and rocket propellant."

"The typical hydrogen concentration in most soils is 20 to 100 parts per million. This is enough quantity to extract and use, especially if much of the mining and processing work is done through robotic machines operated from Earth. Hydrogen appears to be present in higher quantities in soils that have high titanium content, which are abundant on the lunar near side (the Apollo 11 landing site has one of the highest titanium contents found on the Moon to date)."

(That's true, by the way. No question.)

"Now there are even more exciting resource prospects. The Moon has abundant hydrogen at the poles, enriched by more than a factor of three over the global average. Some of this hydrogen, present in the permanently dark and cold floors of polar craters, may be in the form of water ice. Additionally, with the spin axis of the Moon perpendicular to the plane of its orbit around the Sun, some peaks near the poles appear to be in near-permanent sunlight, permitting continuous collection and use of solar electrical power, as well as the important benefit of a near constant surface temperature."

NIF demonstrates Super Laser

The National Ignition Facility has demonstrated it's Super Laser for the first time, showing the real potential for sustained fusion, materials, and a host of applications for astrophysics and engineering.

From Breitbart : NIF is touted as the world's highest-energy laser system. It is located inside the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory about an hour's drive from San Francisco.

Equipment connected to a house-sized sphere can focus 192 laser beams on a small point, generating temperatures and pressures that exist at cores of stars or giant planets.

NIF will be able to create conditions and conduct experiments never before possible on Earth, according to the laboratory.

A fusion reaction triggered by the super laser hitting hydrogen atoms will produce more energy than was required to prompt "ignition," according to NIF director Edward Moses.

"This is the long-sought goal of 'energy gain' that has been the goal of fusion researchers for more than half a century," Moses said.

"NIF's success will be a scientific breakthrough of historic significance; the first demonstration of fusion ignition in a laboratory setting, duplicating on Earth the processes that power the stars."

Construction of the NIF began in 1997, funded by the US Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

"NIF, a cornerstone of the National Nuclear Security Administration's effort to maintain our nuclear deterrent without nuclear testing, will play a vital role in reshaping national security in the 21st century," said NNSA administrator Tom D'Agostino.

"This one-of-a-kind facility is the only place in the world that is capable of providing some of the most critical technical means to safely maintain the viability of the nation's nuclear stockpile."

Scientists say that NIF also promises groundbreaking discoveries in planetary science and astrophysics by recreating conditions that exist in supernovas, black holes, and in the cores of giant planets

Electricity derived from fusion reactions similar to what takes place in the sun could help sate humanity's growing appetite for green energy, according to lab officials.

"Very shortly we will engage in what many believe to be this nation's greatest challenge thus far, one that confronts not only the nation but all of mankind -- energy independence," said lab director George Miller.

The lab was founded in 1952 and describes itself as a research institution for science and technology applied to national security.

"This laser system is an incredible success not just for California, but for our country and our world," Schwarzenegger said.

"NIF has the potential to revolutionize our energy system, teaching us a new way to harness the energy of the sun to power our cars and homes."

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Leroy Chao surfaces as ninth on Augustine II

No pattern of cronyism among
cited Commission members

Mark Matthews of the Orlando Sentinel reports in The Write Stuff we may add to the names already mentioned as possible member of the second Augustine former astronaut Leroy Chiao The new commission has been created by President Obama to examining American manned spaceflight policies, the Constellation program in particular.

"Sources said the former space station crew member likely would be named to the blue ribbon panel headed by retired Lockheed Martin CEO Norm Augustine that will help chart the future of NASA’s human spaceflight program,"Matthews posts.

"Reached by phone, Chiao said that he had been contacted by administration officials assembling the committee and that they expressed interested. “I don’t think I’ve done anything since I left NASA to [disqualify] me,” he joked."

"Chiao retired from NASA in 2005 after flying three shuttle missions and serving more than six months aboard the International Space Station, where he “performed numerous tasks including 20 science experiments and two repair and installation space walks,” according to his NASA biography."

"Since then, he’s worked as an executive at the private spaceflight company Excalibur Almaz and as a consultant and public speaker, according to Chiao’s own website. He has a doctorate in chemical engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and can speak English, Russian and Mandarin Chinese."

No "pay-to-play" pattern has emerged among those names already mentioned as possible members of the second Augustine Commission, or at least not in the Federal Election Commission's online data.

Norman Augustine was an early supporter of President George W. Bush in 2000 and contributed $2,300 each in 2007 to the presidential campaigns of Senator John McCain (R-NM) and former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA).

Dr. Sally Ride contributed $4,600 to President Obama election committee through the 2008 Democrat primary and the general election cycles in 2007, representing close to the maximum any individual can contribute to any single campaign committee.

General Lester Lyles contributed $1,000 to the Obama campaign in September 2008, barely considered "Big Money" in professional campaign financing.

In August 2007 he contributed $1,000 to the Dayton Power & Light employee's Political Action Committee, which has contributed over years regularly donatied to Dayton Congressman and now House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and also incumbent Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) "Dayton Power and Light Company Employee's Fund for Responsible Citizenship" contributed $1,000 to McCain-Palin during the General Election, and gave $500 to the Ohio Democratic Party in 2007.

Jeff Greason contributed $500 in early support for the brief presidential campaign of Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM), and there was a good-cross section of support for Democrats and Republican running for federal office among those who identified Greason's XCOR as their place of employment.

Bo Bejmuk has made mid-range contributions, from time to time, supporting Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), now the ranking member of the House Science and Technology Committee Twice, earlier in the past decade, Bejmuk contributed $500 Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA40).

Dr. Christopher Chyba is reported as having contributed exclusively to Democrat federal campaigns, in recent years, $500 each to General Wesley Clark in 2004 and subsequently to the primary campaigns of Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) early in 2008. In the final hours before Election Day 2008 Dr. Chyba contributer $1,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and through 2008 he contributed $750 to Barack Obama. Over the years, he has been a frequent supported with small donations made to Congressman Rush D. Holt (D-NJ12).

Leroy Chiao, Professor Edward F. Crawley of MIT and Wanda Jackson, CEO of Aerospace Corporation, do not appear in the FEC's records as contributing anything to any federal campaign in the past decade.

Stennis builds for the Moon

From Lunar Pioneer
Construction continues at Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, MS on the 235-foot A-3 engine test stand. The stand will be used to test engines on the next generation of NASA rockets, which are planned to take humans back to the Moon. - NASA (full image HERE.)

J.R. WELSH Sun Herald
Biloxi-Gulfport and South Mississippi

A massive steel structure jutting into the sky not far from Interstate 10 is sending the world a message: NASA is taking the next step in hurtling humans back to the moon.

Structural work was recently finished on the giant A-3 test stand. Now, things are moving further along in the construction phase.

In April Lafayette Steel Erector of Louisiana put the final steel beam on top of the towering test stand and bolted the beam in place, bearing the signatures of project team members. “We’re now 235 feet closer to going back to the moon,” A-3 project manager Lonnie Dutreix said.

The test stand has a final completion date of May 2011. Steel for the project began arriving at Stennis in October 2008 — enough to build 16 phases on foundations and footings that were placed in 2007. All told, four million pounds of fabricated steel were used.

With the steel skeleton erected, further work has begun. “We’re now working on general construction,” said Chris McGee, NASA’s news chief at Stennis.

The general construction package was awarded to Roy Anderson Corp., of Gulfport.

It cannot exceed $45 million, McGee said, and includes general mechanical and electrical support for the A-3. Work also is progressing on nearby canal docks that will allow materials to be brought to the test site, and work is under way on underground utilities.

When completed, the stand will be serviced by nine water storage tanks, each holding 35,000 gallons.

The test stand is an integral part of NASA’s new Constellation Program, which will take Americans back to the moon and possibly beyond. When completed, the A-3 stand will test J-2X engines that will propel the Ares I crew launch vehicle and the Ares V cargo launch vehicle.

NASA has tested space flight engines for many years, but the new stand was necessary to achieve the height simulations needed in the Constellation Program. The A-3 can simulate altitudes up to 100,000 feet and can withstand a million pounds of thrust. The J-2X is expected to produce less than 294,000 pounds of thrust; however, the extra capability was built into the A-3 to accommodate more powerful engines in the future.

Stennis, with its 125,000-acre acoustical buffer zone, was selected by NASA in the 1960s as an engine test site, specifically because of its space and isolation. The first test stand was used to test the Saturn V rocket for the Apollo Program. In the 1970s, Stennis began testing space shuttle main engines.

Aside from Steel Erector Inc., companies involved in the A-3 work have included prime contractor IKBI, of Choctaw, Miss., and Prospect Steel Co. of Little Rock. Prospect handled the steel fabrication work.

Ares I-X puzzle pieces coming together

From Lunar Pioneer

Work continues as we put together the pieces of hardware for the Ares I-X flight test scheduled for later this year. Two of the newly designed and manufactured segments, called the forward skirt and the forward skirt extension, were joined together earlier this month in the Assembly Refurbishment Facility at Kennedy Space Center. They are two of sixteen pieces that have been put together so far. When we put all 26 pieces together, we’ll say we've got a rocket. So, in a way, I guess you could say we're more than half way there.

The 16,000-pound forward skirt extension is a proof-of-concept, or demonstration of this prototype, that incorporates 18 months of design work and eight months of manufacturing. It's made of an aircraft-grade aluminum structure and houses three newly designed parachutes that will bring the first stage of the Ares I-X to a safe splashdown about 150 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean, east of Cape Canaveral.

The 14,000-pound forward skirt is constructed entirely of the same kind of armored steel used on Abrams A-1 tanks and armored Humvees. It is designed to simulate the stage that will contain the Ares I first stage electronics and provide access to the top of the motor. It also contains two video cameras that will capture the main parachutes deployment. Once attached, this assembly will be joined to the frustum, another new segment made especially for Ares I-X, and then be moved to the Vehicle Assembly Building for stacking.


Friday, May 29, 2009

ITER scaled back - Big Fusion delayed

According to a report in Nature, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) under development since 1989 and construction since 2006, has been formally scaled back because of cost overruns.

Geoff Brumfiel reports from the 40 hectare construction site at St Paul-lez-Durance in France, the "international experiment boldly aiming to prove atomic fusion as a power source — will initially be far less ambitious than physicists had hoped, Nature has learned."

"Faced with ballooning costs and growing delays, ITER's seven partners are likely to build only a skeletal version of the device at first. The project's governing council said last June that the machine should turn on in 2018; the stripped-down version could allow that to happen, but the first experiments capable of validating fusion for power would not come until the end of 2025, five years later than the date set when the ITER agreement was signed in 2006."

"The new scheme, known as 'Scenario 1' to ITER insiders, will be discussed on 17–18 June in Mito, Japan, at a council meeting that will include representatives from all seven members: the European Union (EU), Japan, South Korea, Russia, the United States, China and India. It is expected to be approved at a council meeting in November.

"Indeed, the plan is perhaps the only way forward. Construction costs are likely to double from the €5-billion (US$7-billion) estimate provided by the project in 2006, as a result of rises in the price of raw materials, gaps in the original design, and an unanticipated increase in staffing to manage procurement. The cost of ITER's operations phase, another €5 billion over 20 years, may also rise.

"In fact, the ultimate cost of ITER may never be known. Because 90% of the project will be managed directly by individual member states, the central organization has no way of gauging how much is being spent, says Norbert Holtkamp, ITER's principal deputy director-general. "They won't even tell us," he says. "And that's OK with me."

"Holtkamp says that the only way to get ITER built is to do the skeletal version first. Before scaling up to do energy-producing experiments, he says, "you really need to know whether the major components work. It's absolutely clear that this is the right approach." As to why Scenario 1 is being touted only now, Holtkamp says it took him time after joining the project to review the original schedule."

"Fusion researchers say that Scenario 1 is preferable to the alternative: a permanent smaller machine that would never produce significant amounts of power. "You can't build a half ITER because then you'll just go on and on not quite knowing what the answer is," says Steven Cowley, director of the UK Atomic Energy Authority's fusion laboratory at Culham."

The full Article can be read HERE.

Yet another prediction for Solar Cycle 24

An international panel of experts led by NOAA and sponsored by NASA has released a new prediction for the next solar cycle. Solar Cycle 24 will peak, they say, in May 2013 with a below-average number of sunspots.

"If our prediction is correct, Solar Cycle 24 will have a peak sunspot number of 90, the lowest of any cycle since 1928 when Solar Cycle 16 peaked at 78," says panel chairman Doug Biesecker of the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center.

It is tempting to describe such a cycle as "weak" or "mild," but that could give the wrong impression.

"Even a below-average cycle is capable of producing severe space weather," points out Biesecker. "The great geomagnetic storm of 1859, for instance, occurred during a solar cycle of about the same size we’re predicting for 2013."

The 1859 storm--known as the "Carrington Event" after astronomer Richard Carrington who witnessed the instigating solar flare--electrified transmission cables, set fires in telegraph offices, and produced Northern Lights so bright that people could read newspapers by their red and green glow. A recent report by the National Academy of Sciences found that if a similar storm occurred today, it could cause $1 to 2 trillion in damages to society's high-tech infrastructure and require four to ten years for complete recovery. For comparison, Hurricane Katrina caused "only" $80 to 125 billion in damage.

"Right now, the solar cycle is in a valley--the deepest of the past century. In 2008 and 2009, the sun set Space Age records for low sunspot counts, weak solar wind, and low solar irradiance. The sun has gone more than two years without a significant solar flare. In our professional careers, we've never seen anything quite like it," says Dean Pesnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA's lead representative on the panel. "Solar minimum has lasted far beyond the date we predicted in 2007."

"Meanwhile, the sun pays little heed to human committees. There could be more surprises, panelists acknowledge, and more revisions to the forecast."

"Go ahead and mark your calendar for May 2013," says Pesnell. "But use a pencil."

via NASA Science News
The full Article can be read or heard HERE.

Apollo 11 - The Untold Story

From Special K at Lunar Update - "Coming up on the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. Were you there, listening on a black and white TV? No, then you might be interested in reading the below Popular Mechanics article."

Link to the Excellent Feature Story, HERE.

OrbiterSim 2006 hits a new stride

With the rise of a younger crowd being cultivated at NASA, more than just Social Media and Twitter has arrived at Johnson Space Center and all the other specialized NASA campuses, where long-protected turf walls are "a tumblin' down."

Where computer simulation was born, smaller more accessible simulation programs, some around for years, are being pushed upon older managers by a new generation of space scientists and engineers too young to remember when there wasn't a Space Shuttle.

They certainly don't remember Apollo, but they may have already traveled to the Moon - in realtime, more than once, as well as Mars and Miranda, and perhaps even to other virtual star systems, each with planets as unique in character and hazards and possibilities for explorers as those in our Sun's family.

These simulators were not built by IBM, but their realism rivals and is inspired by George Lucas and Industrial Light & Magic of Marin County.

One such "very clean" simulator, with a large world wide community of devoted followers is the Open Source Freeware program Orbiter Simulator, first introduced to the world by the unassuming Martin Schweiger, a German engineer living in England ,in 2001. Orbiter Simulator 2006 P3 is the third and most popular iteration, with websites of scenario and space craft designers creating more "add-ons" than iPhone has apps.

From The Discovery Enterprise, Alex Michael Bonnici recently posted his impressions of how the Orbiter Simulator engine (which runs on Windows machines without detection by the sensitive, all-seeing Operating System Registry) handles an add-on emulating the full Apollo lunar landing mission from start to finish:

"The versatility of the Orbiter Space Simulator continues to amaze me," Bonnici writes. "I first wrote about this free space simulator program in my article "For All You Armchair Astronauts."Here is another awe inspiring film made by TexFilms using Orbiter."

"In “Apollo 11: Remastered” we can all vicariously embark on the epic voyage of Apollo 11 from launch to splashdown and relive this grand adventure. This film is a remake of TexFilms original Apollo 11 release featuring Orbiter Space Flight Simulator and AMSO Apollo addon."

The Discovery Enterprise post by Bonnici is HERE.
Visit the Orbiter Simulator Wiki HERE.

Spectacular new refinements to Kaguya laser altimeter maps have been released

Cropped to a much larger scale, just part of what was "terra incognita" of the lunar South Pole region of the Moon, from Earth's line of sight behind Malapert Mountain (center top, at 86 degrees south), the rim of South Pole Aitken Basin, most of which resides on the Far Side, and Shackleton, where Near Side longitudinal lines converge at 90 degrees South. Among other firsts Japan's first lunar orbiter, Kaguya (SELENE I) mapped the depths of permanently shaded Craters, likely cold traps for scarce volatiles, and even vitually-imaged the interior of Shackleton. All in all JAXA, and the other first-time lunar orbiters of ISRO and CNSA, have set quite an impressive standard for NASA's Lunar Reconassaince Orbiter (LRO) to surpass, after finally beginning its mission next month. JAXA released this astounding third refinement of Kaguya's laser altimeter topography May 28.

Kaguya Topography v. 3.5 far surpasses two earlier releases

Once again I'm in debt to Chuck Wood at Lunar Picture of the Day (LPOD). This time for alerting us to an update to the Kaguya (SELENE) Image Gallery, as always on the Japanese language site weeks before the same updates eventually make it to the English side of JAXA's tantalizing gallery.

It's not another HDTV image. It's a welcome third updated topography formulated from Kaguya's laser altimeter data gathered before its primary mission ended last December.

The first planet wide map was necessarily a little disappointing, of such large scale as to be exacting but of poorer resolution than the famous painted National Geographic wall map first released in March 1970, now hanging on my wall.

The second provided far greater detail and was made available in an appropriately huge .tiff file, ans representing data refined and many millions of data points. It was followed up with different projections showing definitive proof of Japan having located both the Moon's highest and lowest elevations. It's lowest was already known to be within the ancient South Pole-Aitken (SPA) Basin, easily seen affecting the shape of the Moon's backside in beautifully projected clarity. And its highest elevation was not very far away, also on the Far Side, on the rim of Korolev, within a formation that, taken on the whole, might well be part of the outer rim of a "Mega-Basin impact event" predating SPA, perhaps even centered near the northwestern edge of Mare Tranquilitais and larger than the entire Near Side of the Moon.

As excitement grows over the hopefully pending launch of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) with its companion mission the LCROSS impactor with its sensing shepherding vehicle, news arrived that JAXA had set a date for deorbitng Kaguya, near Gill Crater on June 10, only a week before an Atlas V carries the LRO/LCROSS bus to orbit and Trans Lunar Injection. to begin their long tours.

This has distracted those of us who regularly check Kaguya's Japanese language Flash Gallery for early releases, but Chuck Wood kept his eye on the Ball. JAXA has now released more laser altimeter data in an even more refined was, enough image and data to require a large Adobe pdf. format.

What a beauty, all 13.8 megabytes of it, layered much like those long available from the Planetary Data System and the Lunar and Planetary Science Institute. It represents even further improvements on what Chuch Wood admits are presently the best topographic maps of the Moon ever made.

Since the end of it primary mission at the end of 2008, after more than a year orbiting the Moon at around 100 kilometers in altitude, Kaguya has been lowered to as close as 15 kilometers in perilune, where JAXA investigators announced hopes to improve on magnetometer data and our understanding of the lunar morphology refinded from the 1998-1999 Lunar Prospector mission, most of it decyphered after that amazing and relatively cheap orbiter was itself "deorbited" ot far from the Moon's South Pole in 1999.

Work by Halekas, Hood, and many, many others have since continued to refine Prospector's returned data and mapped in crustal magnetism, e.g., at Descartes and Gerasimov, sufficiently intense to stand-off solar wind, miniature bowshocks whose longevity, along that of their associated surface albedos, continues to baffle.

Kaguya, like India's Chandrayaan, provided us with a hint of how we can expect data to be delivered from LRO during the next year and beyond.

Corrections and refinements will improve upon early results, after much more work.

Meanwhile, we are also promised real-time availability of HiRes camera imagery, in much the same manner images from Cassini and the rovers Opportunity and Spirit, which should provide for plenty to digest while professionals create the kinds of product that will undoubtedly raise as many question as are answered, and past the life-time of the vehicle, just the camera-less Lunar Prospector continues to surprise, through hard work, a decade after its impact.

Kaguya has refined the long-elusive center of gravity of the Moon down to within two or three meters, and mapped the compex gravity to a resolution never seen.

Kaguya has found, with precision, the lowest elevations (within South Pole Aitken Basin) and the Moon's highest (near on the rim of Korolov) and these are are also pinpointed, on this new map, as are the locations of each of the Apollo landing sites.

In the context of all the other data examine in both Kaguya's and soon LRO's laser altimeter data, that cluster of landing sites is a stark seen as proof of how much of Earth's Moon was left unexplored at the cancelling of Apollo.

Add to the new and skillful refinements to Apollo orbital photography and mini-satellite data being painstakingly restored today, and the exceptional new information being tweeked from the forty-year-old Lunar Orbiter data, it is probably safe to say that, beginning with the humble Prospector the DOD's Clementine sensor experiments, we have learned, and are learning, more about the Moon today than at any time since the Apollo Era.

Narrowing LCROSS impact visibility

Based on the comments during the joint Lunar Reconnaissance Orbit (LRO) and Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) press briefing, last week, as well as comments made by LCROSS project scientist Tony Colaprette, we surmised the best we could an eventual likely impact in a permanently shadowed crater timed to occure at perigee, 47 minutes after the Moon transits its highest point in the skies over the central pacific

A favorable libration also, during those house, much of the South Pole and south by southwest areas of the Nearside points to a planed target in the lunar South Pole region, though this is by no means certain. Commitment can wait until LCROSS is directed toward its first steering encounter with the Earth. A southern approach, sending the Moon toward the North over the South Pole to bring the spacecraft back after 130 days heading for the lunar south.

Fortunately, as hinted strongly at the time of the first initial report, LPOD contributor and observational lunar observers with better minds have taken it from here,

Jim Mosher, a frequent contributor to the Lunar Picture of the Day, has calculated how the fundamentals of a range of impact possibilities for LCROSS should the present launch date of June 17 slip yes again, because of weather or mechanical holds:

He and others present them HERE.

Virgin Galactic announces engine tests

Heads-Up to the essential Jeff Foust
Personal Spaceflight

"Virgin Galactic announced this morning that the company has successfully carried out its first full-scale engine tests for SpaceShipTwo. Virgin released a video featuring the tests along with a press release:"

"Neither the video nor the press release provide much in the way of technical details about the engine tests, other than the engine is the largest hybrid engine of its type ever. Both do play up the “low environmental impact” of this propulsion system, and the potential applications beyond space tourism for future space transportation systems using such technology. (Server farms in space?)"

"Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn is scheduled to speak later this morning at the International Space Development Conference in Orlando. I’ll be there and report on any other announcements or developments he provides there."

Personal Spaceflight Article HERE.

The Search for Lunar Regolith Simulants

CoreCast #97 Marisa Lubeck -- How the U. S. Geological Servey is creating artificial moon regolith, assisting NASA with planning future lunar exploration. (Transcript is also available)

With what is sounding like a real breakthrough in the search for a useful and realistic "simulant" to recreate the dusty lunar surface earlier this week, perhaps it's time to review this nagging problem once again.

The breakthrough

Earlier this year NASA was given its highest mid-term grades in the keeping up with the science preparations ahead of "extended human activity on the Moon, for its effort, but not for its progress in with the sticky problems in the path back to the Moon: lunar dust.

The biggest problem has been developing simulated dust like none found anywhere on Earth, silicate "ground exceedingly fine" by the same processed reworking the outer centemeters of the lunar surface every 10 million years or so. So far, the best available is a good proxy, aside from the slow process needed to come close to fixing nanophase iron, and the electro-static properties than may make lunar dust most of the Moon's atmosphere, levitating micro-fine particles in a wave that may continuous follow the sunset.

Today the U.S Geological Service, released a flash video discussing the situation, and their role, linked above.

You can read about the breakthrough HERE.

Bolden's address at Baylor Med Grads

General Bolden at Baylor Medical, Monday
"Impossible is nothing."

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Former astronaut and retired marine Major General Charles Bolden made his first public appearance since being nominated by President Barack Obama to be NASA's newest administrator.

Bolden delivered the keynote address to more than 40 graduating students at the Baylor College of Medicine yesterday. Some in the crowd wondered if he would discuss the headlines he made over the last week and a half. At one point, he talked about how special this week has been.

"This week was very emotional for me, particularly Tuesday morning as I listened to crew of STS-125 release the Hubble Space Telescope for what will probably be the last time," he told the graduates.
Video Report HERE.

Augustine II Member's names leaked

from The Write Stuff

Besides Augustine, they are:

CHRISTOPHER F.CHYBA, Ph.D. - Professor of Astrophysical Sciences and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University. One time Carl Sagan Chair for Study of Life in the Universe at SETI Institute in Mountain View, CA; Supporter of President's nuclear disarmament policy, writing here.

Dr. SALLY RIDE - Physicist and a former NASA astronaut who, in June 1983 became the first American woman and youngest American (at the time) to enter space. Headed Ride Commission investigating Challenger Disaster.

General LESTER LYLES (USAF, Ret.) - Previously mentioned as likely NASA administrator appointee, "an expert in military space issues and member of NASA Advisory Committee," "Director of DPL and DP&L since 2004. Independent consultant since August 2003; Commander of Air Force Materiel Command from April 2000 to August 2003 and the 27th Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force from 1999 to 2000. General Lyles is a Trustee of Analytic Services Inc. and a Director of General Dynamics Corporation, Precision Castparts Corp., Battelle Memorial Institute, USAA and KBR, Inc. General Lyles also is a Managing Partner of Four Seasons Ventures, LLC."

EDWARD F. CRAWLEY, Sc.D. - Ford Professor - Engineering Systems Division, MIT, and Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and of Engineering Systems. Engaged with NASA on design of lunar and earth observing systems; BP on oil exploration system designs.

BOHDAN "Bo" BEJMUK - Respected engineer and executive at Boeing; joined SeaLaunch in 1997 as Vice President and General Manager of Home Port in Long Beach, where he helped put together and run the company’s unique offshore rocket launch system. He also assembled and led an elite Boeing engineering team to assist leading the integration of Russian elements into the Station. He was also involved in the space shuttle program from its earliest days.

JEFF GREASON - President, CEO and founder of XCOR Aerospace and the Personal Spaceflight Federation. He was the team leader for engine development at the now-defunct Rotary Rocket, and previously worked at the computer chip manufacturer Intel. He has been active in lobbying to encourage support for private spaceflight activities.

WANDA AUSTIN -- President and CEO, The Aerospace Corporation, an independent non-profit dedicated to assisting the nation's space program. NASA recently commissioned her company to study whether military rockets could lift people and cargo to ISS and the moon, and the study concluded they could, contrary to previous assertions.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Zybek boasts Regolith simulant at volume

Zybek engineer Michael A. Weinstein uses a welding mask because the plasma process creates extremely high temperatures to melt minerals. (THE DENVER POST | John Prieto)

Plasma process speeds weathering at high volumes needed for badly needed properties, but does it embed nanophase fe?

BOULDER — There isn't a big demand for man-made moon dirt, but there is one customer — the National Aeronautics and Space Administration — and that's enough for Steve Wilson and Mike Weinstein.

NASA plans to construct a lunar base by 2024 and needs to know a lot about moon dirt.

So Wilson, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist, and Weinstein, a principal at Zybek Advanced Products Inc., teamed up to make as much as 100 tons of moon dirt for NASA.

It was just a few minutes after the first moon landing, in 1969, when astronaut Neil Armstrong, trying to plant an American flag, learned that moon dirt wasn't Earth dirt.

The surface looked sandy, but Armstrong struggled to get the pole in.

Moon-dirt particles are "very angular" and compact, making the soil tough to penetrate, Wilson said.

Mineral molecules on Earth, on the other hand, tend to be rounded at the edges because of weathering. And there's not much weather on the moon.

The Apollo astronauts also found that the moon dust got clogged in the joints of their spacesuits and was sharp enough on its edges to tear the fabric.

When NASA decided in 2006 to develop a solar-powered lunar base designed to use the moon's natural resources to supply air and energy, the agency was in the market for moon dirt.

The USGS, which makes "reference" samples of geochemical materials for scientists, was asked to find something akin to moon dirt, or, as geologists call it, "regolith."

"We knew the constituents of regolith from the Apollo samples, so the question was what on Earth came close?" Wilson said.

The answer turned out to be waste rock from Stillwater Mine, near Nye, Mont.

The material — crushed to simulate the angularity of molecules without being ground too much — got close to moon dirt, Wilson said.

But two key ingredients — a high-quality glass and a low-quality glass called aggulinate — were missing.

The two are created by the bombardment of the atmosphere-deficient moon by micrometeorites.

Enter Boulder-based Zybek and its plasma arc smelter.

On Wednesday, a crushed-rock mixture was fed into the belly of the smelter as the heat rose to as high as 40,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Dropping out of a funnel at the bottom of the smelter came a fiery orange stream of glass and aggulinate. The glass and aggulinate, which make up 40 percent to 50 percent of the regolith, will be blended with other ores, Wilson said.

The "lunar simulant" will be used to test breathing filters, systems to protect surfaces, bearings and gears from dust and grit, and the performance of vehicles and hardware, said Carole McLemore, NASA project manager.

"Anything that goes to the moon is going to touch regolith," she said. "So we want to know how it will perform before it gets to the moon."

Low tide sparks tsunami fear in Caribbean

This representation of tidal oscillations at Vieques Island
after a classic resonance of Earth, Lunar and Solar tides
resulted in an extraordinary low tide on the southern
banks of Puerto Rico, May 2009

Danica Coto, AP

"It's only the moon, emergency officials in Puerto Rico are telling nervous islanders who have feared that recent extreme tides portend a tsunami or biblical catastrophe."

"Waters receded up to 50 feet (15 meters) this week during low tide on Puerto Rico's southern coast, sparking a flurry of calls to seismology and geological agencies from people worried about natural disasters or supernatural events. Tsunamis are sometimes preceded by a dramatic drop in sea level."

"About 75 people have called Puerto Rico's seismological agency this week, including one woman who refused to believe the scientific explanation, said data analyst Harold Irizarry."

"She could not be convinced," he said."

"People in the southern coastal town of Ponce have been seen walking over areas normally covered by water, studying exposed rocks, coral and sea shells."

"The extreme-tide phenomenon has been noted across the Caribbean and in Central America."

"Some beaches along the Pacific coast of El Salvador have seen tides that are 10 feet (3 meters) lower than usual."

NASA modifies contract with Roscosmos

NASA has signed a $306 million modification to the current International Space Station contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency for crew transportation and related services in 2012 and 2013.

The firm-fixed price modification covers comprehensive Soyuz support, including all necessary training and preparation for launch, crew rescue, and landing of a long-duration mission for six individual station crew members.

Space station crew members will launch on four Soyuz vehicles: two in spring 2012 and two in fall 2012. Their landings are scheduled for fall 2012 and spring 2013, respectively. The contract modification also provides for crew post-flight rehabilitation, medical exams and services.

Under the contract modification, the Soyuz flights will carry limited cargo to and from the station, and dispose of trash. The cargo allowed per person is approximately 110 pounds launched to the station, approximately 37 pounds returned to Earth, and trash disposal of approximately 66 pounds.

China continues to talk manned moon flight

Nancy Atkinson
Universe Today

"A Chinese space scientist said that his country is considering the feasibility of a manned lunar landing mission sometime between 2025 and 2030. China is also planning a sample return mission to the Moon by 2017, said Ye Peijian, chief designer of the China’s Chang’e Project. “Through the development of lunar probes, we have made constant progress of the ability to explore the outer space,” Ye was quoted as saying by the China News Service."

Read the Article HERE.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Charlie Duke's surface notebook at auction

The cuff mounted checklist worn by Apollo 16 Lunar Module Pilot Charlie Duke while exploring the Descartes region on the moon in 1972 is displayed at Bonhams, April 27, in London. The piece, expected to fetch between $200,000 and $300,000, makes up part of a historic collection of space exploration artifacts being sold at auction on July 16. (Getty)

How did this piece of American history end up on the auction block, in London? The Getty Image above does not do it much justice.

This is the notebook that was once mounted to the cuff of Apollo 16 lunar module pilot and Brig. General Charles M. Duke, Jr. (USAF), referencing sampling to be done during his and Captain John Young's third EVA, north of their landing site, from the "Ejecta Blanket" of North Ray Crater.

The artwork is probably only a mystery to me

Was it added before or after the mission, and was it drawn by General Duke himself?

A contemporary of mine who, like me, remained glued to the television just as much during Apollo 16 as during Apollo 11, calls one of the sketches "endearingly crude." (I think they are magnificent. Do you know what a thimble filled with lunar dust is worth, just for its science value alone, these days?)

A student, too young to remember when there was not an International Space Station simply calls the artwork "cute," and calls my reluctance to post the sketch seen here, "charming." I think she just misunderstands my appreciation of fine art, what Dr. Sigmund Freud was referring to when pondering "what's on man's mind?"

What really grabs my attention is the sheer iconography this notebook represents, not simply because Larry Scott and I became enthralled with Descartes Formation, and its fascinating magnetic anomaly or bright albedo, in our studies - though it is true that my eye is first drawn in a telescope to North and South Ray Craters, and Descartes, when gazing through the telescope at Ellis Cove.

Imagine, for a moment, stumbling upon the notebooks of Columbus. You know already, because of his son's Ferdinand's biography, about Columbus and there are samples of his handwriting, her and there, apparently.

Just as we've collected those splendid restorations of the photography from Apollo 16, however, there is just no substitute for the experience of actually standing on Descartes, at EVA Station 4, for example, or the rim of Kiva, or experiencing the actual Descent down into the narrows between the "Smoky Mountains" and "Stone Mountain," the very northern edge of the rolling Descartes phenomena.

This notebook comes pretty close. It evokes inspiration, bordering on idolatry in me, I have to confess. It is hard evidence real human beings walked on the Moon with a studied purpose, forty years ago. I didn't just dream that.

There are few seemingly both unaffected and deeply affected by that experience than Charlie Duke. We can't all drop in on General Duke, down in the Texas Hill Country, and especially unannounced. Fortunately, he did leave a virtual light on.

He has a website, thank goodness. It's bound to keep fanatical pilgrims, the curious and the kooky, at a safe distance. - JCR

(In addition to becoming Tenth to walk on the Moon in 1972, General Duke also served as CapCom during the Apollo 11 landing in 1969. Many have heard his voice and not recognized his unique part in the last anxious moments that first Terminal Descent to the lunar surface. General Duke was the first person to talk to someone on the Moon.)

Eight ridiculous things bigger than NASA

Nancy Atkinson
Senior Writer
Universe Today

"The most often-used argument against space exploration is that we should use that money to alleviate problems here on Earth..."

"Americans also spend $586.5 billion a year on gambling..."

"It’s possible we could give up some other things to help alleviate the problems in our country without having to give up the spirit of exploration."

An article attracting attention HERE.

Soyuz away...

"nominal flight..."

Roscosmos Energia - Soyuz TMA-15 is in orbit, after another smooth ride into low Earth orbit. The three-man crew is now chasing the International Space Station, after an on time lift-off at 11:34 UT, 27 May. On-board were Commander Roman Romanenko (RU), Robert Thirsk (CAN) and Frank De Winne (BLG-ESA), three who will tally out the first permanent six-person crew on ISS, now continuously inhabited for nine years.

Soyuz readied for launch Wednesday

Commander Roman Romanenko (RU) (l), Robert Thirsk (CA) (c), and Frank De Winne (BLG) efore launch to the International Space Station
(Credit: Roscosmos Energia)

The Soyuz TMA-15 spacecraft, mounted atop the same launch pad used by Yuri Gagarin at the dawn of the space age, is scheduled for takeoff from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 6:34:49 a.m. EDT.

Soyuz commander Roman Romanenko, son of a Russian cosmonaut, will be strapped into the center seat, flanked by European Space Agency astronaut Frank De Winne of Belgium and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Robert Thirsk, a shuttle veteran.

"I can't think of three finer gentlemen to help us realize our dream of six permanent crew in orbit," Mike Suffredini, NASA's space station program manager, told the Soyuz crew Tuesday.

Assuming an on-time liftoff, Romanenko plans to oversee an automated approach and docking to an Earth-facing port on the front end of the space station's Russian Zarya module at 8:36 a.m. Friday. Waiting to welcome their new crewmates aboard will be Expedition 20 commander Gennady Padalka, NASA flight engineer Michael Barratt, and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata.

William Harwood cnet has the story HERE.

Critical tests for Ares 1-X begin

A Heavy Comparison: At approximately 14 feet in average diameter and 320 feet long, Ares I-X has a high "slenderness ratio" compared to other launch vehicles. The similarly-shaped Delta IV, for instance, is about 17 feet in average diameter and 225 feet long. The Saturn V was about 33 feet in average diameter and 363 feet in length. Image Credit: NASA

A critical series of ground tests are scheduled to begin this week at NASA's Kennedy Space Center to confirm that Ares I-X, the precursor to NASA's next generation launch vehicle, will behave as predicted as it lifts off the pad and powers through the initial stage of flight in a demonstration flight later this year.

Computer analytical models developed by the agency have predicted how the Ares I-X will behave when launched. The upcoming ground tests will validate those vehicle models that were used to derive the flight control parameters by comparing test data with the predicted vehicle flight behavior.

Called "modal survey testing," the tests include two partial stack tests and a test of the full Ares I-X vehicle on the Mobile Launch Platform that are located in Kennedy's Vehicle Assembly Building. The first partial stack test will involve only the top part of the vehicle that includes the launch abort tower, crew module, service module and spacecraft adaptor. The second partial stack test is composed of the interstage, frustum and simulated fifth segment of the first stage of the rocket.
More via SpaceRef HERE.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Expedition 20 prepares for launch

High-preforming interns first NASA Student Ambassadors

"Members of the NASA Student Ambassadors Virtual Community will interact with NASA, share information, make professional connections, collaborate with peers, represent NASA in a variety of venues, and help NASA inspire and engage future interns. Through the community’s Web site, participants will have access to tools needed to serve as a NASA Student Ambassador. The Web site provides the latest NASA news, blogs, and announcements; member profiles, forums, polls, and NASA contact information; and links to cutting-edge research and career resources."

via The Space Fellowship, HERE.

This is why we fly

Hubble repair mission showcases the value of the manned space program

Houston Chronicle

The billion-dollar Hubble Space Telescope boasts astounding accomplishments. For nearly two decades, this window to the universe has peered back millions of years in time to produce stunning photographs of stars, nebulae and galaxies whose light took eons to reach the Earth.

But the Hubble, launched with a flawed lens and fuzzy vision, would have been remembered as a colossal blunder had not the brave men and women of NASA been prepared to fly into space to install corrective optics.

For those who continue to question the necessity for a human role in the exploration of space, the marvelous achievements this past week of physicist, astronomer and astronaut John Grunsfeld and his shuttle Atlantis crew mates provide an inspiring answer.

In five grueling spacewalks to revive the aging Hubble, the astronauts demonstrated why human hands and minds in orbit remain indispensable.

The spacewalking mechanics, encumbered by bulky gloves and spacesuits, successfully pulled off unprecedentedly complex repairs. Nearly 37 hours of maintenance, installation and rehab work on the telescope not only restored the universe-piercing gaze of Hubble, but expanded its capabilities to probe even further into the mysteries of the cosmos.

Grunsfeld, who has visited the Hubble three times on repair assignments (including eight spacewalks), applied the last human touch to a project that has been the culmination of his multi-discipline career.

The telescope is expected to function with enhanced capabilities for at least five more years before it is decommissioned and guided by a robot craft in a fiery descent to the Pacific Ocean.

As the Obama administration evaluates the future of NASA’s manned space program, the final mission to Hubble echoes the experiences of earthbound explorers over the ages: Machines can assist humans, but not replace them.

That’s a message that Houstonian and former shuttle commander Charles F. Bolden Jr. — named on Saturday by President Obama to be the next NASA administrator — will be well qualified to deliver upon assuming his new post.

Decision Matrix Considerations at NASA

Determining components for Rovers, Spacecraft, Lunar Colonies and ISS is no easy matter in the race for Space. Additionally it is difficult to trust ones life to the components all built by the lowest bidder when it is know that such technologies, prototypes and one offs will mean life or death for real people; that is to say astronauts, research scientists or even wealthy space travelers whose funds are necessary for the advancement of the human race. Luckily there are many brilliant individuals working on Artificial Intelligent scripts and programs to help with the decision matrix to evaluate our best options for safety, efficiency and utility. Some of these programs are written HERE.

One individual who stands out as an up and coming scientist in this field is Richard Campanha whose script along with some in house testing on Dr. Christie Iacomini’s part with Paragon were what ultimately helped the script become useful in developing a decision matrix script for evaluating processes of manufacturing components to do a certain task on the Lunar Base Station. By developing a simple script capable of comparing over 5 different types of autonomous fuel/life support producing factories, that were previously unable to be compared.

This method was generalized and allowed for any future ISRU plants to be compared and contrasted.

By determining the best system the United States can realize its dreams of a Moon and Martian Colony. By putting a self-generating and rocket fuel factory on Moon in a Lunar Colony we can advance mankind’s exploration of the Solar System and have a re-fueling station. This will allow us a way to move more out equipment, weight, supplies and people out of our atmosphere without the fuel expenditures needed to carry more fuel for the actual journey.

For mankind and the United States of America to realize our dreams and successfully complete our Roadmap to the Moon, Mars and Beyond it will take the best and brightest amongst us and the inner strength of us all. Thankfully we have the brilliant minds we will need to make this dream a reality. Think on it.


Moon over Endeavour (UPI)

KSC (UPI) - NASA says it's planning the final events prior to space shuttle Endeavour's STS-127 June mission to the International Space Station.

STS-127 will be the 32nd construction flight to ISS, the last of a series of three flights dedicated to the assembly of the JAXA Kibo laboratory. NASA officials say Endeavour will be moved from Launch Pad 39B to pad 39A Saturday, with the STS-127 crew's Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test between May 31-June2.

Endeavour had, of course, been stationed at 39B in on stand-by as STS-400, an emergency rescue operation if necessary during the repair mission to the Hubble Space Telescope by the crew of Atlantis.

The launch of STS-127 is presently scheduled for June 13 at 7:17 a.m. EDT.

Space Frontier Foundation: NewSpace 2009 Agenda at NASA Ames

William Watson

The Space Frontier Foundation today announced that the program for its NewSpace 2009 conference is now available on the NewSpace 2009 website.

Held at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, the conference programming will span Friday, July 17, through Monday, July 20.

Friday, July 17: Space Elevator Day:

Hosted by the Space Science and Engineering Institute, a special one-day session will explore the potential and possibilities of space elevator technology with panels such as “Carbon Nanotube Technology”, “Economic Growth Opportunities”, and “Spaceward and the Elevator Games”. In the evening, the regular conference programming will commence with a screening of the film Orphans of Apollo.

Saturday, July 18: Enabling the Future:

As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Serving as the opening day of the full NewSpace conference, Saturday will begin with a special session organized by NASA Ames, which will explore public and private partnerships, small satellites, and commercial space initiatives at this leading edge research center. The afternoon will investigate what opportunities the future holds for NewSpace and features panels such as “Suborbital Point-to-Point: Going Places or Taking Us for a Ride?”, “Space Solar Power: Is There Light at the End of the Tunnel?”, and “NewSpace in the Age of Economic Uncertainty”.

Sunday, July 19: The Business of NewSpace:

Sunday morning will host a Business Plan Competition, where submitters will compete for real prizes. The afternoon will investigate business and policy of NewSpace with panels such as “Commercial Lunar Opportunities” and “Drawings to Dockings: the Future of COTS”. The day will close with a series of business case studies, where both successful and unsuccessful startups will be investigated and compared.

Monday, July 20: Apollo Anniversary Day: Moon, Mars, and Beyond:

Monday will serve as a look at what destinations lie in the future for NewSpace. To this end, it will investigate not only what destinations exist and how they will be utilized, but also how will we get there. This will be done with panels such as “Commercial Space Facilities”, “Eat or Be Eaten: The Threat and Promise of Near Earth Objects”, and “Lunar Science and Settlement”. The day will conclude with a final view of “Where Do We Go from Here?” The annual gala will follow, which will serve not only to commemorate Apollo, but to investigate what Apollo means to the future.

For twenty years, the Space Frontier Foundation has led the public conversation about the rapid economic development and settlement of space. Today, amidst global concerns about jobs, the environment, and the future, we invite you to join us help solve those challenges by opening the space frontier. Come to Silicon Valley this July and become a part of this next great era in human history.”

~ James Muncy, Space Frontier Foundation co-Founder

Discounted early-bird registration for the Conference is available at the NewSpace 2009 website, which also provides information about our group rate ($99/night) at the Domain Hotel in nearby Sunnyvale, California.

For more information about the foundation, conference and registration, visit - or RSVP on Facebook today!

Monday, May 25, 2009

The persistence of the Orphans of Apollo

The Soviet Union's Mir space station,
deorbited to makeway in its orbital plain for
the International Space Station

The Past and Future of NewSpace
Alan Boyle - CosmicLog / MSNBC

"Orphans of Apollo" chronicles the rise and fall of MirCorp, the venture created to turn Mir into an orbiting commercial paradise, through present-day interviews as well as extraordinary home video shot during Anderson's business dealings.

One sequence of shots shows Anderson and his buddies feasting on take-out pizza and wine and playing Risk while they fly on the millionaire's private jet for a crucial round of talks in Russia. During the year 2000, MirCorp's team spun out grand plans to refurbish the space station as a tourist destination and the setting for a reality-TV show. At one point NBC, one of the partners in the joint venture, had a deal with MirCorp and "Survivor" creator Mark Burnett to use Mir as the centerpiece of a prime-time series.

Thanks to Anderson's millions, MirCorp got their Russian "landlords" to send one more crew up to the space station in mid-2000 and keep the place running. But that was the venture's high point. The grand ambitions of Apollo's orphans ran up against a perfect storm of personality clashes, politics and economics.

Definite Must Read HERE.

STS-127 Mission Specialist Julie Payette
of the Canadian Space Agency

Canadian Space Agency astronaut Julie Payette, will embark on her second space voyage on-board Endeavour (STS-127), destined for the International Space Station, launching June 13.

On the flight Payette will operate three robotic arms during a "robotics-intense mission," the Shuttle's Canadarm, the ISS Canadarm2 and the JAXA arm on the Kibo module.

"Canadian robotic technology will be used almost every day of this assembly mission," says CSA.

Details on the mission, HERE.

Dassault Systèmes and the Singapore Space Challenge

Dassault Systèmes has announced its sponsorship of the annual Singapore Space Challenge: Space Design Competition, hosted by Singapore Space and Technology Association (SSTA) and co-developed with the Centre for Research in Satellite Technologies (CREST) at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

"The two-year sponsorship is Dassault Systèmes’ contribution towards promoting and generating interest in the new frontier among students and tertiary institutions in Singapore.

“We are pleased to have Dassault Systèmes as a key sponsor of Singapore Space Challenge: Space Design Competition in both 2009 and 2010. Software brings out the excitement in students as simulation brings concept to life,” said Adeline Tung, Vice President of SSTA.

Open to tertiary students in Singapore, the competition required teams to design a satellite or system of satellites for launch into Low Earth Orbit to monitor the seaways around Singapore and the neighboring countries.

This year’s competition has attracted a record 22 teams, more than triple the seven teams that took part in the inaugural competition.

Participating in the contest were teams from Victoria Junior College, Temasek Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Nanyang Girls’ High School, NUS High School of Mathematics and Science, and NTU.

Results of the competition will be announced on June 27, 2009. The first prize is S$10,000 cash, while the second and third prize winners will take home S$5,000 and S$2,500 respectively.

“Dassault Systèmes already has many customers in the satellite and space industries around the world. As the space industry is new in this part of the world, we are delighted to provide support to nurture its growth and drive more innovation. The Singapore Space Challenge is a good move by SSTA and will certainly boost the industry in Singapore,” said Keith Tan, Regional Channel Director, Dassault Systèmes.

In conjunction with the competition, SSTA organized the Singapore Space Challenge Seminar at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

More than 70 students from various tertiary institutions attended the seminar and heard from Dassault Systèmes’ experts on trends and key software relevant to the aerospace/space industry.

New images of the Tycho Brahe spacecraft

Copenhagen Suborbitals' workshop;
in the belly of an old ship in Copenhagen harbor

From The Space Fellowship, "the first pictures of the Tycho Brahe spacecraft in the CS workshop. The long tube at the end of the spacecraft is for the drouge parachute. The main parachutes will be situated arround this tube and will be covered by the outer hull."

Peter Madsen and Kristian von Bengtson
during the assembly of the space craft pressure structure.

More images are available Here

Space Foundation Applauds NASA Leadership Nominations

The Space Foundation welcomes the nominations of Major General Charles Bolden, USMC (retired), and Lori Garver to serve as NASA Administrator and Deputy Administrator, respectively.

"By announcing nominations for both Administrator and Deputy Administrator, the White House has demonstrated that it appreciates the importance of both of these key positions to the future of America's space agency," said Space Foundation Chief Executive Officer Elliot Pulham. "Charlie Bolden is an American hero who brings deep NASA knowledge and experience, and unsurpassed leadership skills to the key position of NASA Administrator. Lori Garver is an experienced space policy professional with significant previous NASA experience, strong knowledge of the space industry, and the political and communication skills that are crucial to communicating with the administration, Congress and the public."

"Together they should make a dynamic leadership team at a crucial juncture when NASA will be more important than ever to U.S. leadership," Pulham said. "As our posture as a global leader in space continues to be challenged by decades of insufficient investment and the rise of able competitors around the globe, NASA will be more relevant to U.S. leadership and economic rebuilding than ever before. Charlie Bolden and Lori Garver are solid candidates to lead NASA going forward."

ISDC 09 this week in Orlando

Senior hospitality/tourism/entertainment industry executives and space industry leaders will come together May 27, 2009 at the Omni Orlando Resort in Champions Gate, Fla., for Space Investment Summit 6 (SIS-6) to engage in a full day of presentations and discussion relating to a variety of emerging business opportunities.

The summit will focus on rapidly expanding linkages between space and non-space factors. The program will include stimulating keynote and panel sessions, featuring the most respected and creative minds in relevant industries, addressing timely topics such as development of exciting simulation and virtual space experiences.

Former NASA astronaut and retired Navy Captain Jon A. McBride, Vice President of Strategic Development for Delaware North Companies, will deliver a keynote luncheon presentation sharing his own unique perspective on business opportunities involving space themes. An example of his creative approach involves creation of the 44,000-square-foot Shuttle Launch Experience at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, where visitors can strap in and "get vertical" for an all-too-real simulation of the sights, sounds and feelings of a space shuttle launch.

Summit panel sessions will focus on the following major subjects: financial issues in the synergy of space and hospitality, tourism and entertainment; space-themed physical attractions; the multimedia virtual experience of space; and lively discussion concerning business challenges and opportunities.

The summit is organized by the Space Investment Summit Coalition in collaboration with the University of Central Florida, Rosen College of Hospitality Management, and hosted by the National Space Society (NSS), an active member of the Coalition. The event will be held immediately prior to the International Space Development Conference (ISDC) May 28-31, the annual conference of NSS.

“The summit has been carefully designed to stimulate dialogue among industry leaders, concerning market expansion created by the growing synergy of space, tourism, hospitality, and entertainment initiatives,” said Paul Eckert, summit coordinator and Boeing international and commercial strategist.

“This conference will bring together executives from the space and hospitality-tourism industries to discuss future joint ventures in the exciting, emerging world of space tourism,” said Dr. Abraham Pizam, dean of the Rosen College. “We are honored to support this event and assist in merging these great industries.”

The ongoing summit series helps stimulate private investment and business innovation, providing outstanding, twice-yearly venues for leaders to explore emerging space-related opportunities.

For more information, please visit