Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Grassroots effort to retain Michael Griffin
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Chandrayaan's MIP Images Soon?
The impactor's final 3200 frames are on Earth, and features resolved on the surface are being painstakingly identified. While Indiaprwire reports a release of the fill set of images may be weeks or even months away, Techtree.com reports such a release will happen "soon."
While the particulars are not completely lost in translation, Techtree.com also reports "details" of the planned Chandrayaan 2 lunar lander, planned for 2012, have been released. While the original Soviet and American landers utilized "direct to landing" trajectories, the hazy schematic accompanying the Techtree.com article appears to show a terminal descent from lunar orbit design, a sample collection rover and, just as the Chinese are planning for Chang'e-2, leaving open the possibility of sample return.
Interestingly, Techtree writer Jayesh Limaye reports all ISRO activities were "earning about Rs.10 billion annually from its commercial wing and this is expected to grow at a brisk 20 percent each year."
LPSC Travel Grants Available
A travel stipend of $750.00 will be awarded to the top applicants to help cover their travel expenses for attending the LPSC in March. (The deadline for submitting the abstract is January 8, 2009 - Ed.)
The application deadline for the LPI Career Development Award is February 2, 2009.
Applications should be directed to:Dr. Stephen Mackwellc/o Claudia Quintana3600 Bay Area BoulevardHouston TX 77058-1113 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hat Tip to the Women in Planetary Science
Saving a vision of the moon
Tom Leo, Syracuse Post-Standard
Philip Horzempa, of Clay, is helping launch an effort to restore the first photos of Earth from space. Read The Full Story »
Monday, December 29, 2008
Ice 'most likely' source of H signature in Lunar Prospector data, study shows
The BBC has an update of the original story HERE.
Chandrayaan 3M details lunar Fe reserves
An experiment on board India’s first moon mission Chandrayaan-I has indicated that there are abundant iron containing minerals on the lunar surface. According to news reports, data sent back to earth by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument of the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) indicates abundance of iron-bearing minerals such as pyroxene.
The M3 is one of the 11 different instruments on board the unmanned Chandrayaan, which was launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre near the southern Indian city of Chennai on October 22. Out of those 11 instruments, 5 were indigenously built by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), while 3 were from the European Space Agency, 2 from NASA and 1 from Bulgaria.
The M3 had sent back images of the Orientale Basin on the western limb of the moon taken during the commissioning phase of Chandrayaan- I, Carle Pieters, a senior scientist from the US-based Brown University and principal investigator for the M3 experiment, was quoted as saying.
He said analysis of the data suggests there were large reserves of iron-bearing minerals on the lunar surface.
“The M3 provides us with compositional information across the moon that we have never had access to before,” Pieters said, adding that the data provided a new level of detail to explore and understand the moon.
Reaching for stars, dream is realized
Baltimore Sun Times
December 29, 2008
"I realized how unlikely it was," he says.
Report: Government Space Program Expenditures Reach Record High in 2008
Government space program expenditures worldwide are expected to grow at 4.5 percent per year through 2012, reaching nearly $70 billion.
ILEWG Summary of 2008
Dear Lunar and Space Explorer,
2008 has been a great year for international lunar exploration. We saw exciting results from Kaguya and Chang'E1.
Chandrayaan-1 was successfully launched on 22 October and inserted in lunar orbit, providing first data.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and LCROSS missions are under intense preparation for launch next spring.
There was a remarkable progress on the Constellation programme (in particular on Orion Crew vehicle and Ares launcher).
The Google Lunar X Prize is inspiring entrepreneurs, the public and the youth.
All these achievements have been recognised by ILEWG awards 2008 announced last October.
ILEWG has supported a number of conferences (SPIE, EGU Vienna, COSPAR Montreal, NLSI Ames, Europlanet Muenster, IAC Glasgow, ILEWG/LEAG/SRR in Port Canaveral). The 10th ILEWG Conference on Exploration and Utilisation of the Moon was organised jointly with NASA Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) and the Space Resources Roundtable (SRR), and included 200 participants, numbers of presentations (now posted on the LPI site), posters, discussions, recommendations and the Cape Canaveral Lunar Declaration 2008.
ILEWG has also enhanced the links with number of institutions (space agencies, IAF, COSPAR, IAA, Global Space Exploration, EGU, EuroPlanet, NLSI, Itaccus, GLXP, etc...).
COSPAR endorsed in July 2008 a recommendation to develop an "International Lunar Base" task group, and has asked ILEWG to organise a series of activities accordingly to report at COSPAR bureau in March 2009, and to the community at large during the COSPAR general assembly in Bremen on 18-25 July 2010.
The International Astronautical Federation has also asked ILEWG to co-sponsor a Global Lunar Conference in Beijing in early June 2010.
We want to enhance the activities of ILEWG task groups, with collaborations of institutes and experts.
1) Science of, on, and from the Moon;
2) Key technologies; Utilization of lunar resources; synergies with Mars and planetary exploration
3) Living and working on the Moon; Infrastructures for lunar bases; Surface operations and analogues; International Lunar Base
4) Society, law, policy, and commerce;
5) Public outreach, education, multicultural aspects; and Young Lunar Explorers.
Please contact me if you intend to support the ILEWG general events or to contribute to specific tasks groups.
Next year will be key to shape the future, and to make progress in space science, lunar and planetary exploration.
On behalf of ILEWG committee, I wish you (and your family) Happy holidays, and a very successful New Year 2009.
Prof Bernard H. Foing
ILEWG Executive Director
ILEWG website: http://sci.esa.int/ilewg
Cape Canaveral Lunar Declaration 2008
ILEWG awards 2008
Exploring space: Program vital to future
With the planned retirement of the workhorse space shuttle planned for 2010, NASA has to find a way to keep the International Space Station supplied with food and equipment. So the agency has announced deals with a couple of civilian companies, Orbital Sciences of Virginia and SpaceX of California.
As envisioned, SpaceX would start flying in 2010 and get as much as $1.6 billion for 12 flights. Orbital Sciences would start in 2011, pocketing $1.9 billion for eight flights.
One minor problem -- neither company has an operational spacecraft that could make deliveries to the space station. NASA's fallback position is to go with a third, as-yet-unnamed, company if one of the winning contractors fails.
There's another possibility that should be considered -- keeping the shuttles and astronauts in flying condition should they be needed, at least for a while. But it's also important, ultimately, to have the commercial sector deeply involved.
A lot of time, money and effort have been sunk into the International Space Station. It has such tremendous potential in the research area and as a platform to initiate more space exploration.
Space exploration is an important program, even a vital necessity. In these times of economic stress, it may look to many like a waste of money, but it isn't. It has a lot to do with the successful future of this country and the world.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Kaguya English Image Gallery Restored
Now, after what seemed an interminably long wait, JAXA has redesigned its Flash Kaguya Image Gallery, going live in English on Christmas Day.
At first glance any renewed attentions played by JAXA to the Kaguya public gallery is excellent news. Those who have gone so far as to extrapolate image names stored on "less than public" Internet servers, and downloaded all that was available from more than one website on the Home Islands may now have the most complete Kaguya collections available.
The images posted to this newest official JAXA site, however, are not anywhere close to being the more comprehensive "complete" collection of Kaguya images and videos that were formally available. Using the new site's search function, for example, areas on the Moon that were once announced by JAXA as their standards for instrument calibration in the years prior to the beginning of the Kaguya mission are just unavailable. It is not credible to believe that JAXA has not taken, by now, HDTV images of the entire Moon, of magnetometer measurements, etc. The improved release of a second improved topographical map of the entire Moon from laser altimetry is a delightful hint of what Japan has yet to make public. As delightful as that may be, however, any perfecting improvements the more detailed information that could be made to the large scale relief maps painstakenly maintained by the USGS in Flagstaff would be welcome.
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has better not be holding out for international DVD sales, as Japan appears to be. If so, JAXA should release that collection soon because LRO will eventually be launched, and its a superior spacecraft with a more powerful camera. As tentative as the hold may still be on a twenty year or so advantage in space technology on the part of the U.S., that advantage still remains dominant, at least for now.
But with LRO will the United States be also as apparently determined to ignore the spirit, if not the exact letter, of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, as is China, Japan and India?
In Japan, the distractions may be a dropping of the ball on the part of their private "copyright" partner NHK, the national television network.
In India, it may be no shortage of public relations partners with access to raw data from Changdrayaan but perhaps a lack in the ability on the part of their press and to make heads or tails of floods of new data, in the context of what is already known about the Moon.
Tails of proprietary information being hidden, regarding the locations of precious minerals and resources for example, makes little sense, and if true, such efforts are misguided. The promise of Helium-3 in fueling post-2050 world-wide economic growth is clear but some decades away. No part of the Moon can hide itself exclusively from any of the nations analysing the surface from orbit. Lower orbit, as will be the case soon for Kaguya, will reveal more diversity, beyond the imaginations of those who mistakenly dismissed the Moon as essentially worthless after the Apollo Era.
More likely each of these newly energized national space authorities are making the same mistake NASA once made, one hopefully unnecessary in the Internet age.
NASA set the standards for openness originally as a contrast with the secretive Soviet Bloc, with very public launches of manned vehicles from the U.S. in very experimental, complex spacecraft, during the Cold War. That sharing of information with the public was widespread but sparcer than many Americans can imagine in the present time. Data prepared for the level of public interest was prepared for the lowest common denominator among the taxpayers.
Photography from the Apollo missions appeared in brief, poorly printed highlights and in only slightly better collections printed often six months after each of those lunar missions in National Geographic and Life.
Often little provision is made for those, many of them students and scholars,with far more knowledge of these remarkable achievements, but possessing less "context" or "real interest" than the straight-arrow engineers and scientists.
Ironically, today the continuing restoration and digitization of that forty year old data and photographs is underway blowing off the dust from data collected during the Apollo landings, and are now seemingly more vivid and immediate (and to a far larger segment of the world's population. The channels of information, the media connecting NASA and the public, were far more narrow and few, being printed or televised before the practical use of digital video technology made possible by Apollo's innovative engineers.
Further, today "amateur" astronomers are better able to create using unimagined consumer computer power, the kinds of full mosaic photographs of the Moon than were professionals working at university observatories a half-century ago.
JAXA's Kaguya Selene lunar orbiter has been engaged in some serious surface investigation, recently, even as plans to eventually deorbit in 2009 were announced December 15. Before decommissioning Kaguya with her twin attendant gravity and relay subsatellites are to be brought down into a much closer orbit, as was Lunar Prospector before being intentionally impacted into the depths of a dark Lunar South Pole crater in a final but apparently fruitless effort to expose detectable water-borne ejecta. NASA's combined launch of a MRO-class HiRES camera and impactor, the LRO and LCROSS as early as late April, will add to the unfinished business exposed by the invaluable Lunar Prospector. Even without a camera, LP's data are still unveiling new information about the Moon, a decade after its obliteration.
LRO and LCROSS will soon join China, Japan and India (Chang'e 1, Kaguya (Selene) and Chandrayaan 1, respectively) in a new and almost fevered demonstration of sudden renewed interest in the Moon and her more obviously undiscovered secrets that began in earnest with the NASA/DOD sensor platform Clementine in 1994.
Much has been made in comparing the sharing of raw images by NASA JPL and partners from Mars, Mars orbit and from the vicinity of Saturn, against what can only be called a secretive, glacially slow clear reluctance to share similar data from the Moon by China and Japan, and now perhaps India as well. Unintentionally, the agencies are neglecting one of their greatest links to the grass roots support of the nominally interested general public: The Very Interested minority who constitute their greatest weapon in securing public will and public funding.
Indian's Chandrayaan science team has begun it weeks-old lunar survey by releasing an impressive assortment of images and video, and are now slowly backing away to devote more resources to gathering data they believe the general public is not capable of appreciating the breathtaking and entertaining images that are barely better in quality than the photography delivered by NASA and the Soviet Union four decades ago.
Of course, it's hard to get those ultimate close-ups without actually landing or, better still, engaging in ultimate Geology field trips experienced so far only by Senator Harrison Schmitt ithirty-six years ago this month.
China's Chang'e, first in the growing fleet of Lunar Orbiters presently examining the Moon, was quick to deliver an impressive brief examply of photography after arrival in lunar orbit in 2007, but afterward was followed by more than a year of near silence, aside from reports of the solar powered probe's survival after drops in available voltage during two lunar eclipses.
Finally, in November, China proudly took the wrappings off of a Full Moon mosaic slightly different and, in someways, slightly better and also slightly poorer than lunar albedo mosaics collected by Clementine. Since then, more silence from the world's most populated nation, with more hints , like India, of the shape of lunar missions to come.
After arriving in lunar orbit soon after Chang'e, Japan's Kaguya delivered a flood of the first high definition television videos and stills, along with mere tastes of the data collected from all but two of its instruments. From late 2007 until last spring JAXA could be counted on to deliver up spectacular new results at least once a month.
Among a few of the results delivered by JAXA were the best images of Far Side features in better contextural detail than when human eyes surveyed the Moon directly from orbit.
During the summer, however, aside from an occassional image sifted from earlier data and posted (usually two weeks after posting them first to the Japanese language version of Kaguya's Flash Gallery. Then new postings to the English website dribbled until the latter was permanently "disabled," intentionally or as a result of some "accident," the detail of which have remained cloudy.
Those of us who depend upon Charles Wood and friends, or our own regular visits to the Japanese language Kaguya Image Gallery were increasingly being disappointed.
While professional scholars and observers, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of others patiently wait for NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (unlikely to be in position to use the same HiRES camera over the Moon before late summer) high hopes are fueled the United States will deliver images and preliminary details almost instantly, raw or otherwise.
Any camera able to spot the tracks, shadows and detail of Spirit and Opportunity as they continue to roam through the Martian countryside much further below, should be able to unmistakably identify the artifacts of Apollo, Surveyor, Lunokhod, as well as impacts and final resting places of over 67 sites of manned and unmanned missions to the Moon between 1965 and 1976.
Putting to rest for all but the most obdurate skeptic's ridiculous conspiracy theories about the accomplished engineering demonstrated by the U.S. and U.S.S.R. would be a great service and a demonstration of NASA's commitment to transparency, and it would further NASA's well-earned reputation for showing the taxpayers results of very Open Source science.
The latest "new" announcements of the "discovery" of Iron, Thorium and Uranium on the Moon can be humored with a self-confidence NASA retains from having mapped the abundance of these elements and others, as well as reserves of volatiles like Hydrogen. Openness will be celebrated next March when the NASA-chartered Lunar and Planetary Science Institute holds its 40th annual conference, open to the hard-work shown in thousands of abstracts, Posters, and lectures prepared by both professionals and laymen "lunatics."
The space programs of the world should learn NASA has not lost out its advantage in space exploration by secrecy, and has won and maintained that advantage by innovation built on necessity. With LRO, let us hope NASA itself hasn't forgotten its strongest boosters.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Details on Orbital's ATV Cygnus
one of eight contracted flights between 2011 and 2015 -
Artists Rendering by Orbital
Under the contract, Orbital will transport about 20 metric tons of cargo in eight separate missions, from 2011 to 2015, to and from the International Space Station as it orbits the Earth.
Orbital has scheduled a demonstration flight in late 2010, said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer David W. Thompson. NASA's Commercial Resupply Services award to Orbital, Thompson said, will showcase "the types of commercial services U.S. space companies can offer NASA."
Orbital's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) is based on the company's new Cygnus maneuvering space vehicle. Cygnus is made up of a service module (propulsion, power systems and avionics) and one of three specialized cargo modules. Cargo modules can be pressurized or unpressurized and can include return cargo service.
Now in development is the Taurus II medium-lift launch vehicle.
Preparations for the first flight are under way at the Dulles headquarters and space vehicle engineering center; at the Chandler (AZ) launch vehicle operations; and at the Wallops Island payload processing center on Virginia's eastern shore. Orbital announced it will test the first-stage engines of the Taurus II rocket at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Preparations for the launch have begun at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island.
Dr. Armstrong answers WSJ editorial
Surprisingly, Dr. Armstrong seems to suggest NASA's recommendations are, on their face, based not upon political expediency but are an end result of the scientific method. Even in the context of NASA policy based on the mostly sound and rightly-respected opinions issued by the National Academies, there are more than a few who would disagree. Had anyone other than Dr. Armstrong issued such a statement it would have immediately become controversial. But respect for Dr. Armstrong's opinions arises from more than just his having been commander of the first manned mission to the lunar surface.
Always a civilian, with a well-deserved reputation for plain and instinctive brilliance and cool, Dr. Armstrong's opinion carries a lot of weight, and all the more because his is not an opinion he issues often.
Off the record, I can't help but wonder if his apparently blanket respect for NASA as an institution and creature of Congress is shared by the only scientist to visit the surface of the Moon, former New Mexico Senator Dr. Harrison Schmitt.
You recently reported on the decisions that the new administration will face in connection with the American manned space program ("Tough Decision Looms on Space Shuttle's Fate," U.S. News, Dec. 17). Your article indicated that President-elect Barack Obama's transition team "faces a tough early choice between extending the life of the aging space shuttle and accelerating its replacement."
I certainly hope that isn't accurate, in that the transition team should play no part in such decisions. While these men and women are experienced and enthusiastic space program veterans, they are neither aerospace engineers nor former program managers and cannot be sufficiently knowledgeable to make choices in the technical arena.
The transition team does have the responsibility to collect information to assist President-elect Obama in understanding the issues and decisions he will be facing. The making of decisions of such import, however, is the responsibility of the president and should be guided by the best advice from the most able and skilled experts on the subject. He should have no difficulty receiving high-quality information from NASA. Engineers are painfully honest and insist on presenting any assumptions used in their decision process. Therefore a conclusion can only be challenged when an erroneous assumption can be identified. Because this approach is somewhat unfamiliar in business and politics, its importance is often overlooked.
A great deal of thought and analysis has gone into NASA's program to return to space exploration as the principal focus of the agency. The breadth of NASA's creative thinking was limited by the funding constraints, and compromises had to be made. Even so, the agency has fashioned a challenging but credible program to return to the moon and go on toward Mars.
NASA's management is very strong and its engineering and scientific talent extraordinary. I believe they can be counted on to deliver new knowledge, excitement and inspiration as they continue their expansion of the human boundary.
New model of lunar motion from Apollo LLRR
They are the only instruments on the Moon left during the Apollo Era still adding daily to our knowledge of the Moon's motion and distance, the data from which are also millimeters away from determining the answer to important questions of Cosmology.
Still counting the time for entangled photons to be reflected back to Earth from LLRR panels left by Apollo 11, 14 and 15 (the last being the largest and most readily detected) the passive reflectors have remained undisturbed, while lasers, optics, materials and detectors have continue to grow. Cosmology, in the meantime, has also taken investigators places undreamed of in the Apollo Era.
Friday, December 26, 2008
NASA Rejects Trojan Horse
The Motley Fool
On Christmas Eve-Eve, NASA finally announced the results of its long-running Commercial Resupply Services competition, and as the tidbit above correctly points out, neither Lockheed nor Boeing (nor Alliant Techsystems (NYSE: ATK), for that matter) wound up in the winners circle. What you may not know, is that none of these three companies were actually bidding for the contract at all, at least not directly.
Instead, these three giants of the aerospace industry chose to hitch their carts to a foal of a company named PlanetSpace, which acted as the prime contractor in the bid. Turns out, NASA was not amused -- nor impressed.
Instead of awarding its $3.5 billion in cosmic-milk-run contracts to "Big Space" in the person of little PlanetSpace, NASA went with trusted workhorses this time:
- Orbital Sciences (NYSE: ORB) will make eight deliveries to the International Space Station, and be paid $1.9 billion for its trouble.
- SpaceX -- the cosmic project that Elon Musk took up after selling his beloved PayPal to eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) -- gets $1.6 billion to make a dozen runs.
Now, Reuters may consider these two firms "start-ups", but the fact is that unlike PlanetSpace, both have already been vetted by NASA, and found superior. In the recent Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contest, for example, Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation Orbital (25 years old, and so hardly a start-up) received $171 million worth of funding. Meanwhile, SpaceX got off to a running start with a $278 million contract of its own. (Not bad for a start-up, eh?)
Read More HERE.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Orbital will supply ISS from Wallops Island
Virginia's home of the occasional suborbital sounding rocket will be the site of at least eight orbital resupply missions to the International Space Station, part of 25 year old Orbital Science Corporation's winning bid shared with SpaceX and announced by NASA on December 23.
The company last summer chose the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island as its base of operations for its $45 million space launch vehicle program designed to replace the space shuttle.
Orbital Sciences is contracted to provide eight flights valued at $1.9 billion while SpaceX will provide 12 flights valued at $1.6 billion.The contracts, awarded under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services program, call for each company to deliver a minimum of 20 metric tons of cargo to the space station.
"This is big news; this is really and truly what we've waited for for so long," said Billie Reed, director of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, who has worked since 1992 on the spaceport initiative for the state. "It's a hard award for these eight launches; it provides solid business for Orbital, and consequently for us."
Orbital's first launch is planned for October 2011, Reed said. NASA has not decided on the specific contents of the first delivery, NASA spokesman Bill Gerstenmaier said, but the cargo will contain a mixture of food and other supplies for the space station crew and research materials.
Even China examines "competition" in Lunar Exploration
Chandrayaan 3M's colorful detail of regolith Fe
new information about the Orientale Basin region of the moon in a composite image
taken by NASA's Moon Mineralogy Mapper, a guest instrument aboard the Indian
Space Research Organisation's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft.
Iron oxides, particularly on dark "reddened" Near Side mare regoliths, are well-known markers of lunar morphology, for example "optical maturity," or "OMAT," though this last single example may only reliably demonstrate the exposure of small areas on the Moon's surface back 500 to 900 million years. Cosmic Iron also bonds well and marks with Titanium and otherwise volatile elements such as Oxygen.
“The Moon Mineralogy Mapper provides us with compositional information across the moon that we have never had access to before”, said Pieters. “Our ability to now identify and map the composition of the surface in geologic context provides a new level of detail needed to explore and understand Earth’s nearest neighbor.”
The image revealed changes in rock and mineral composition, indicated the abundance of iron-bearing minerals such as pyroxene, and provided a new level of detail on the form and structure of the region’s surface.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
SpaceX Falcon 9-Dragon to replace Shuttle Cargo after 2010 - NASA announces
to the International Space Station. - Credit NASA.
Hawthorne – NASA today announced its selection of the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft for the International Space Station (ISS) Cargo Resupply Services (CRS) contract award. The contract is for a guaranteed minimum of 20,000 kg to be carried to the International Space Station. The firm contracted value is $1.6 billion and NASA may elect to order additional missions for a cumulative total contract value of up to $3.1 billion.
"The SpaceX team is honored to have been selected by NASA as the winner of the Cargo Resupply Services contract," said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO, SpaceX. "This is a tremendous responsibility, given the swiftly approaching retirement of the Space Shuttle and the significant future needs of the Space Station. This also demonstrates the success of the NASA COTS program, which has opened a new era for NASA in US Commercial spaceflight."
Under the CRS contract, SpaceX will deliver pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the ISS, and return cargo back to Earth. Cargo may include both NASA and NASA-sponsored payloads requiring a pressurized or unpressurized environment. SpaceX will provide the necessary services, test hardware and software, and mission-specific elements to integrate cargo with the Dragon delivery capsule.
In 2006, SpaceX was named a winner under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) competition. Under the existing COTS agreement, SpaceX will conduct the first flight of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft in 2009. The final flight, currently scheduled for 2010, will demonstrate Dragon's ability to berth with the ISS.
Falcon 9 flight hardware has already started to arrive at the SpaceX launch site, Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral, in preparation for Falcon 9 going vertical on the pad within a few weeks. Construction of the SLC-40 launch site is proceeding ahead of schedule and is estimated to be completed in early 2009.
SpaceX is revolutionizing access to space by developing a family of launch vehicles and spacecraft intended to increase the reliability and reduce the cost of both manned and unmanned space transportation, ultimately by a factor of ten. With its Falcon line of launch vehicles, powered by internally-developed Merlin engines, SpaceX offers light, medium and heavy lift capabilities to deliver spacecraft into any altitude and inclination, from low-Earth to geosynchronous orbit to planetary missions. On September 28, 2008, Falcon 1, designed and manufactured from the ground up by SpaceX, became the first privately developed liquid fuel rocket to orbit the Earth.
As a winner of the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services competition (COTS), SpaceX is in a position to help fill the gap in American spaceflight to the International Space Station (ISS) when the Space Shuttle retires in 2010. Under the existing Agreement, SpaceX will conduct three flights of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft for NASA, culminating in Dragon berthing with the ISS. SpaceX is the only COTS contender with the capability to return cargo and crew to Earth. NASA also has an option to demonstrate crew services to the ISS using the Falcon 9 / Dragon system.Founded in 2002, the SpaceX team now numbers more than 620, located primarily in Hawthorne, California, with additional locations, including SpaceX's Texas Test Facility in McGregor near Waco; offices in Washington DC; and launch facilities at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and the Marshall Islands in the Central Pacific.
Enough with the LRO "Milestones"
Reminder of Chandrayaan's Terrain Camera Fly-Bys
ISRO has posted two stunning Lunar flyby videos which can be accessed from http://isro.org/pslv-c11/videos/tmc.htm and http://isro.org/pslv-c11/videos/tmca.htm.
The videos are combining multiple images taken from Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC) on the Chandrayaan-I.
While it has not been updated since November 16, ISRO had been posting first light imagery from Chandrayaan HERE.
ARCA Unveils "Launcher"
Haas, ARCA’s orbital rocket 'launcher' unveiled today, during a series of media events, scheduled for next year, details will be announched in a "short time."
Hat Tip to Space Fellowship News
Falcon 9 'fully integrated; by New Year - Musk
Click here for the full update on F9 progress at the Cape.
Yesterday we lifted the first stage off the shipping truck and lowered it onto the integration assemblies (shown below). With all of the F9 hardware currently at or on its way to the Cape, we are on track for a fully integrated launch vehicle by year's end.
Barring any unforeseen delays, the second stage and fairing are expected to arrive at the Cape by December 28th and will be mated on December 31st, just in time for the New Year.
The erector is also on track towards operational status in early January, with the base assembly to be aligned and tacked by December 26th and welding to be complete early in the New Year. Hold down assemblies are expected to arrive shortly after the New Year and with our ground control system at SLC-40 currently operational, it's just a matter of days before F9 is vertical at the Cape.
Moon Lust: Will International Competition or Cooperation Return Humans to the Moon?
When Apollo 8 launched for the moon in 1968, the heavens were primarily the domain of the two superpowers. Today space has been opened to myriad nations by vast technological advances and increased international cooperation. A telling example of the new celestial order came two months ago when India launched its first moon mission, the unmanned Chandrayaan 1 spacecraft. The satellite, now in lunar orbit, carried Indian instruments as well as those from the European Space Agency (ESA), NASA and Bulgaria—an arrangement far removed from the nationalist striving of the U.S.–Soviet space race.
As the world's numerous space agencies turn their attention back to manned space exploration of the moon and beyond, the future taking shape reflects space's democratization over the past 40 years. It is not clear whether the next country to land humans on the moon, a feat that has not been accomplished since 1972, will be the U.S., China, Russia or some other nation. Perhaps it will be a collaboration among nations or even a private firm operating outside the usual constraints of a nationalized space program. Although the specifics of manned lunar exploration over the coming decades are unclear, many experts see vast opportunities for space-faring bodies to work in concert toward loftier goals.
"The basic science and technology [of space travel] represents a major area of cooperation between countries," says Charles Vick, a senior technical intelligence analyst at globalsecurity.org, an Alexandria, Va., think tank. "I don't consider it competition; I consider it laying the foundation, ultimately, for manned expeditions to Mars."
Vick echoes a statement made by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin last year that China, should it choose to do so, could land a manned mission on the moon before the U.S. returns, which is currently slated to happen by 2020. "I would have to agree with that," Vick says, calling the Chinese space program "very well planned, very well thought out." China has already put astronauts into orbit, becoming only the third country to do so in 2003; this past September, Chinese astronauts completed their country's first spacewalk.
Vick believes a Chinese voyage around the moon, much like Apollo 8, could happen even sooner. "They already have the capability," he says, "to do a lunar circumnavigation mission just about anytime they want to in unmanned form, and then ultimately fly it manned."
Russia could also pull off a manned circumlunar mission in the coming years, Vick says. Space Adventures, Ltd., a Vienna, Va., space tourism company that has sent six clients to the International Space Station, even advertises a circumlunar trip aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft for $100 million per seat. And the head of the Russian space agency last year announced plans to send cosmonauts to the lunar surface around 2025. But Anatoly Zak, an expert on the Russian space program who runs russianspaceweb.com, thinks those projections are a bit inflated. He does not think that Soyuz will be ready for a lunar flyby anytime soon, and says that "without a significant increase in funding and drastic reforms within the industry, any manned lunar mission could not be achieved by 2025, in my opinion."
Other nations with lunar ambitions include India, Japan and the ESA, all of which have proposed, at least informally, manned moon missions in the next two decades or so. But none of those space agencies has yet achieved independent manned spaceflight, and many technological and economic hurdles stand in the way of a moon landing. "They're really just getting started," Vick says. "I don't see those nations being able to do such a thing without cooperation."
Read more Scientific American commentary HERE.
Monday, December 22, 2008
China's role in Team Selene tentative
Just a few days ago, the organizers of the Google Lunar X Prize announced that one of the new international participants was a Shanghai-based German-Chinese team known as Team Selene. This team has proposed a Lunar Rocket Car (LuRoCA 1) equipped with HDTV cameras.
This might not necessarily turn out to be one of the first commercial success stories in Chinese space history. Still, it is noteworthy. Markus Bindhammer, the German-born inventor who heads the team - Shi Xiaojun serves as executive designer - believes that Team Selene has caught everyone by surprise. He is not aware of any other Chinese aerospace or space technology companies active in this competition which now includes well over a dozen active teams.
"Our project is the first one [from China]. China will follow it, but with reservations at first. China is very open to new things and the people are enthusiastic. It is a first step in terms of cooperation between China and other nations regarding astronautics, and also a great chance for the Chinese aerospace industry," said Bindhammer.
Team Selene is not getting any support from the Chinese government or China's aerospace industry because nobody seems to know much about it.
Read more HERE.
WhiteKnightTwo Maiden Flight a "Big Day"
"It's a big day," said Stuart Witt, general manager of Mojave Air and Space Port. "I think it's a real reflective time. When everybody's looking for a bailout, there are still people that are doing something for a much larger reason," he told SPACE.com.
After a number of shakeout flights, the WhiteKnightTwo is to be outfitted with the now-under-construction SpaceShipTwo. That rocket plane is also being built by Scaled Composites of Mojave, California. Ultimately WhiteKnightTwo is to carry the space plane to altitude, where it will then detach and head for suborbital space flights.
The WhiteKnightTwo/SpaceShipTwo combo is to serve as the backbone of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic suborbital spaceline operations.
Upper Ionosphere lower than expected-USAF
Its sensors record the density and temperature of the plasma, as well as the strength and direction of electric and magnetic fields within it.
One of C/NOFS' first discoveries has been simply to identify where precisely in the sky the ionosphere is right now; and it is a lot lower than expected.
During the night it has been detected at about 420km, rising to 800km during the day. Scientists here at the American Geophysical Union meeting said more typical values would be 640km during night-time and about 960km during the day.
To some extent, this should not be too surprising. The ionosphere reacts to the Sun's 11-year cycle of activity and our star is currently in a very quiet phase.
First Indian satellite built for foreign customer launched atop Arianne V from Kourou
The state-of-the-art communications satellite, W2M ~ built by ISRO on a commercial basis in partnership with EADS Astrium ~ was launched from at Kourou, ISRO said here today.
Thirty-two minutes after its lift-off, W2M separated from Ariane-5, after reaching its intended geosynchronous transfer orbit. Building W2M signalled ISRO’s foray into the satellite-manufacturing market.
Weighing 3,463 kg at lift-off, it is the heaviest satellite built by ISRO and is capable of operating for over 15 years. It was built for Eutelsat Communications, which is a global satellite communications provider based in Paris.
Radio signals transmitted by W2M were successfully received by ISRO’s Master Control Facility at Hassan in Karnataka and the satellite’s health is normal.
While W2M was built under an $80 million contract by ISRO, officials said it was a good deal for the space agency which made a profit of $40 million in this venture. “ISRO builds such spacecraft without payloads for less than Rs 200 crore. That way we made a good profit,” an ISRO official said.
ISRO chairman Dr G Madhavan Nair was present at the French spaceport of Kourou when the W2M satellite was launched along with the Hot Bird satellite built by EADS Astrium, Europe’s leading satellite system specialist.
“It (W2M) is comparable to INSAT-4 series. For the first time, we have built a satellite for a foreign customer. That’s why the launch is important,” Dr Nair said.
The W2M project was undertaken in the context of an accord signed during the visit of the President of France on 20 February 2006 at New Delhi between Antrix Corporation Ltd., ISRO’s commercial arm, and EADS Astrium to jointly build the satellite.
ISRO spokesperson Mr S Satish said “weighing 3,462 kg at lift-off, W2M is the heaviest spacecraft built by the Indian space agency till date”. Dr Nair said ISRO is building another satellite, Hylas, under the ISRO-EADS Astrium alliance.
Hubble mission means the moon to astronomer-turned-astronaut
For an encore, Grunsfeld will use his telescope time to do research that has wide public appeal, a link to human spaceflight and significant scientific merit. "What I want to do with Hubble is shoot the moon," he said.
Grunsfeld will help equip Hubble with a new planetary camera and then use the instrument to examine ultraviolet light reflected from a huge crater on the face of the moon. The idea is to prospect for minerals, such as titanium oxides, that could be converted to breathing air or even rocket fuel at a moon base.
Reaching for the moon
July's planned Sub-Orbital Test for Ares 1X
Sunday, December 21, 2008
As 1968 drew to a close, 40 years ago...
But in its final days, the annus horribilis of 1968 was unexpectedly redeemed by a dazzling display of intrepidity and ambition and nerve: Apollo 8's flight around the moon - the first human voyage to another world.
In Sunday's Boston Globe can be read HERE.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Remembering Steven Ostro
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Gwynne Shotwell new SpaceX President
Forty years since Apollo 8
First Light from Moon Mineralogy Mapper
Next moon footprints Chinese, aero group warns
Becoming a laggard in space exploration simply because of economic woes would sacrifice technology opportunities and the ability to inspire future generations, said Marion Blakey, chief executive of the Aerospace Industries Association.
China and India have made important strides in space in recent months, triggering talk of a new space race.
"It has been a long time since we've had anyone breathing down our necks. Now we do," Blakey told the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit in Washington.
"The idea that the next boots on the moon are probably going to be Chinese is something that the public has not realized," said Blakey, who represents most of the companies that propelled 5 Apollo missions to the moon's surface some four decades ago.
Twelve U.S. astronauts have walked on the moon. The last human footprints were left by Eugene Cernan in 1972.
India launched its first unmanned moon mission in October.
That came on the heels of China's first space walk which grabbed international attention in September.
The 1960s space race that led to the successful Apollo moonshots was fueled by the Cold War.
The Aerospace Industries Association is campaigning for continued funding for defense and other aerospace sectors despite the economic slowdown, saying aerospace supports more than two million well-paid jobs in all 50 U.S. states.
But executives acknowledge the industry is bracing for a leaner period after several years of strong spending.
"I do not believe the American people will trade off the importance of exploring what clearly is the next frontier in the middle of short-term economic duress," Blakey said.
In January 2004, President George W. Bush announced a new plan for the United States to return to the moon as early as 2015 and no later than 2020, and use it as a stepping stone to deeper voyages into space including a future trip to Mars.
Europe last month agreed on a boost in space spending. But its $13 billion budget smaller that NASA of the United States at around $17.3 billion in 2008.
(For summit blog: summitnotebook.reuters.com/)