Recent News from the Commercial Space Gateway

(Discovery News) SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Defies Bleak Weather and Flies

Defying a bleak weather forecast, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Friday to send a Dragon cargo capsule on its way to the International Space Station. Continue reading →   

(Commercial Space Watch) Cargo Launches to Space Station aboard SpaceX Resupply Mission

Nearly 2.5 tons of NASA science investigations and cargo are on the way to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft.

The spacecraft launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 3:25 p.m. EDT Friday, April 18.

The mission is the company's third cargo delivery flight to the station through a $1.6 billion NASA Commercial Resupply Services contract. Dragon's cargo will support more than 150 experiments to be conducted by the crews of ISS Expeditions 39 and 40.

"SpaceX is delivering important research experiments and cargo to the space station," said William Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations. "The diversity and number of new experiments is phenomenal. The investigations aboard Dragon will help us improve our understanding of how humans adapt to living in space for long periods of time and help us develop technologies that will enable deep space exploration."

The scientific payloads on Dragon include investigations into efficient plant growth in space, human immune system function in microgravity, Earth observation, and a demonstration of laser optics communication. Also being delivered is a set of high-tech legs for Robonaut 2, which will provide the humanoid robot torso already aboard the orbiting laboratory the mobility it needs to help with regular and repetitive tasks inside the space station.

Dragon also will deliver a second set of investigations sponsored by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), which manages the portion of the space station that is designated a U.S. National Laboratory. The investigations include research into plant biology and protein crystal growth, a field of study experts believe may lead to beneficial advancements in drug development through protein mapping.

On its way to the ISS, SpaceX's Falcon rocket jettisoned five small research satellites known as CubeSats that will perform a variety of technology demonstrations. The small satellites are part of NASA's Educational Launch of Nanosatellite, or ElaNa, mission, and involved more than 120 students in their design, development and construction. One of the satellites, PhoneSat 2.5, is the third in a series of CubeSat missions designed to use commercially available smartphone technology as part of a low-cost development effort to provide basic spacecraft capabilities. Another of the small satellites, SporeSat, is designed to help scientists study the mechanisms by which plant cells sense gravity -- valuable research in the larger effort to grow plants in space.

Dragon will be grappled at 7:14 a.m. on Sunday, April 20, by Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, using the space station's robotic arm to take hold of the spacecraft. NASA's Rick Mastracchio will support Wakata in a backup position. Dragon is scheduled to depart the space station May 18 for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, west of Baja California, bringing from the space station nearly 3,500 pounds of science, hardware, crew supplies and spacewalk tools.

The ISS is a convergence of science, technology and human innovation that demonstrates new technologies and makes research breakthroughs not possible on Earth. The space station has been continuously occupied since November 2000. In that time, it has been visited by more than 200 people and a variety of international and commercial spacecraft. The space station remains the springboard to NASA's next great leap in exploration, including future missions to an asteroid and Mars.

For more information about SpaceX's third cargo resupply mission and the International Space Station, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/station

  

(Space Fellowship) SpaceX Dragon Heads to Space; Station Astronauts Prep for Wednesday Spacewalk

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, carrying the Dragon spacecraft loaded with nearly 5,000 pounds of supplies and experiment hardware for the International Space Station’s Expedition 39 crew, lifted off at 3:25 p.m. EDT Friday from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Friday’s launch of the third SpaceX commercial resupply services mission sent the Dragon space freighter on a course to rendezvous with the station Sunday morning. Commander Koichi Wakata and Fligh [...]
  

(Commercial Space Watch) Falcon 9 Reusable (F9R) First Test Flight at 250 Meters

Video of Falcon 9 Resuable (F9R) taking its first test flight at our rocket development facility.

F9R lifts off from a launch mount to a height of approximately 250m, hovers and then returns for landing just next to the launch stand. Early flights of F9R will take off with legs fixed in the down position. However, we will soon be transitioning to liftoff with legs stowed against the side of the rocket and then extending them just before landing.

The F9R testing program is the next step towards reusability following completion of the Grasshopper program last year (Grasshopper can be seen in the background of this video). Future testing, including that in New Mexico, will be conducted using the first stage of a F9R as shown here, which is essentially a Falcon 9 v1.1 first stage with legs. F9R test flights in New Mexico will allow us to test at higher altitudes than we are permitted for at our test site in Texas, to do more with unpowered guidance and to prove out landing cases that are more-flight like.

  

(Discovery News) Kamikaze LADEE Moon Mission Ends With a Splat

Out of fuel and flying fast, NASA’s LADEE spacecraft crashed into the moon early Friday, three days shy of its expected mission end. Continue reading →   

(Space Fellowship) Sun Emits a Mid-level Solar Flare

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however -- when intense enough -- they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel. To see how this event may impact Earth, please visit N [...]
  

(Discovery News) Bathing in the Sunset of an 'Earth-Like' Alien World

Could a sunset on Kepler-186f look like this? Continue reading →   

(Commercial Space Watch) NIAC Seeks Phase II Proposals

NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program is seeking proposals for technologies that could be used on future exploration missions. The new proposals will build on the most promising ideas developed in the program's first phase.

The NIAC program funds cutting-edge concepts that have the potential to transform future missions, enable new capabilities, or significantly alter current approaches to launching, building, and operating aerospace systems.

NIAC's Phase II studies provide an opportunity to develop the most promising Phase I concepts. These are aerospace architecture, mission, or system concepts with transformative potential. They must continue to push into new frontiers, while remaining technically and programmatically credible. NIAC's current portfolio of diverse efforts advances aerospace technology in many areas, including construction, human systems, transportation, imaging, and robotic exploration.

"During the second phase of our NIAC program, visionary concepts are matured to advance concepts from notional to feasible," said Michael Gazarik, NASA's associate administrator for space technology at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "These advanced technology concepts are critical for kick-starting innovation that will enable our future missions."

Recent NIAC Phase II studies have included a concept for a sample return for extreme environments, which could lead to a simple and efficient way to obtain multiple samples drilled out of an asteroid crust.

Another NIAC Phase II study is examining "SpiderFab," an approach to 3D-printing of large structures in space. This could one day enable NASA to produce giant telescopes in orbit without having to design them to fit within a rocket shroud or withstand the vibration and g-loads of launch.

"In NIAC Phase I Studies, the focus is basic feasibility and potential benefit. In Phase II, we can get into real systems engineering and in some cases even demonstration" said Jay Falker, NIAC program executive at NASA Headquarters. "This is critical for taking concepts from paper studies to engineering implementation. Phase II also helps address the important technology development needs of NASA's current and future programs."

NASA will be accepting NIAC Phase II proposals of no more than 20 pages until June 3. Selection announcements are expected later this year. This solicitation is open only to current or previously awarded NIAC Phase I concepts. Complete guidelines for proposal submissions are available on the NIAC website at

http://www.nasa.gov/niac

NASA expects to select approximately five new Phase II studies this year. The number of awards will depend on the strength of proposals, availability of appropriated funds, and the overall number of Phase I and Phase II awards. Selected proposers may receive as much as $500,000 over two years to further analyze and develop their innovative concepts.

"Over the next 18 months, NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate will make significant new investments that address several high priority challenges for achieving safe and affordable deep-space exploration," Gazarik added. "These focused technology thrust areas are tightly aligned with NASA's Space Technology Roadmaps, the Space Technology Investment Plan, and National Research Council's recommendations."

NIAC is part of NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use in NASA's future missions. To view the NASA NIAC Research Announcement for this solicitation and for more information about the agency's Space Technology Mission Directorate, visit:

http://go.usa.gov/R1N

  

(Space Fellowship) Hubble Sees Galaxies Spiraling around Leo

Shown here is a spiral galaxy known as NGC 3455, which lies some 65 million light-years away from us in the constellation of Leo (the Lion). Galaxies are classified into different types according to their structure and appearance. This classification system is known as the Hubble Sequence, named after its creator Edwin Hubble. In this image released 14, April, 2014, NGC 3455 is known as a type SB galaxy — a barred spiral. Barred spiral galaxies account for approximately two thirds of  [...]
  

(Space Politics) Bolden and Holdren reaffirm support for asteroid mission as the next step to Mars

The head of NASA and the President’s science advisor told the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) this week that the agency’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) remained the next logical step of a long-term strategy to eventually send people to Mars, despite the protestations of some in Congress as well as “outside fan clubs.”

“The FY15 budget [...]   

(Space Fellowship) NASA Completes LADEE Mission with Planned Impact on Moon's Surface

Ground controllers at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., have confirmed that NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft impacted the surface of the moon, as planned, between 9:30 and 10:22 p.m. PDT Thursday, April 17. LADEE lacked fuel to maintain a long-term lunar orbit or continue science operations and was intentionally sent into the lunar surface. The spacecraft's orbit naturally decayed following the mission's final low-altitude science ph [...]
  

(Space Fellowship) Russia to Test Launch New Angara Rocket June 25

MOSCOW – The date of the maiden launch of Russia’s new Angara rocket has been set for June 25, an official with the Russian Space Agency told RIA Novosti Friday. “The launch is set for June 25, with the 26th as a backup date,” the official said. He added the rocket would be fired without an orbital payload from the Plesetsk space center, located about 800 kilometers north of Moscow. The Angara family of rockets, in development since 1995, is planned to be built in light, semi-he [...]
  

(Discovery News) Hubble Cuts a Core Sample Out of the Cosmos

It's a big, big universe out there and the Hubble Space Telescope bores a hole over halfway out into it with this image, showing a gathering of galaxies near and far. Continue reading →   

(ScienceDaily) Bright points in sun's atmosphere mark patterns deep in its interior

Like a balloon bobbing along in the air while tied to a child's hand, a tracer has been found in the sun's atmosphere to help track the flow of material coursing underneath the sun's surface.   

(ScienceDaily) Vitamin B3 might have been made in space, delivered to Earth by meteorites

Ancient Earth might have had an extraterrestrial supply of vitamin B3 delivered by carbon-rich meteorites, according to a new analysis. The result supports a theory that the origin of life may have been assisted by a supply of key molecules created in space and brought to Earth by comet and meteor impacts.   

(ScienceDaily) First potentially habitable Earth-sized planet confirmed by Gemini and Keck observatories

The first Earth-sized exoplanet orbiting within the habitable zone of another star has been confirmed by observations with both the W. M. Keck Observatory and the Gemini Observatory. The initial discovery, made by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, is one of a handful of smaller planets found by Kepler and verified using large ground-based telescopes. It also confirms that Earth-sized planets do exist in the habitable zone of other stars.   

(ScienceDaily) A cross-section of the universe

An image of a galaxy cluster gives a remarkable cross-section of the universe, showing objects at different distances and stages in cosmic history. They range from cosmic near neighbors to objects seen in the early years of the universe. The 14-hour exposure shows objects around a billion times fainter than can be seen with the naked eye.   

(Space Fellowship) Red Moon, Green Beam

This is not a scene from a sci-fi special effects movie. The green beam of light and red lunar disk are real enough, captured in the early morning hours of April 15. Of course, the reddened lunar disk is easy to explain as the image was taken during this week's total lunar eclipse. Immersed in shadow, the eclipsed Moon reflects the dimmed reddened light of all the sunsets and sunrises filtering around the edges of planet Earth, seen in silhouette from a lunar perspective. But the green beam o [...]
  

(Discovery News) Earth-Likenesses: Have We Discovered Earth 2.0?

Astronomers have announced the groundbreaking discovery of an Earth-sized exoplanet orbiting a star within its habitable zone. Although this is exciting, calling this world "Earth-like" is a little premature. Continue reading →   

(Space Fellowship) NASA Rover Opportunity's Selfie Shows Clean Machine

In its sixth Martian winter, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity now has cleaner solar arrays than in any Martian winter since its first on the Red Planet, in 2005. Cleaning effects of wind events in March boosted the amount of electricity available for the rover's work. The mission is using the rover's added energy to inspect "Murray Ridge," on the western rim of Endeavour Crater, to learn about wet environments on ancient Mars. During Opportunity's first decade on Mars and the [...]
  

(Space Fellowship) Exoplanets Soon to Gleam in the Eye of NESSI

The New Mexico Exoplanet Spectroscopic Survey Instrument (NESSI) will soon get its first "taste" of exoplanets, helping astronomers decipher their chemical composition. Exoplanets are planets that orbit stars beyond our sun. NESSI got its first peek at the sky on April 3, 2014. It looked at Pollux, a star in the Gemini constellation, and Arcturus, in the Boötes constellation, confirming that all modes of the instrument are working. "After five years of development, it's really excitin [...]
  

(Space Fellowship) A cross-section of the Universe

An image of a galaxy cluster taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope gives a remarkable cross-section of the Universe, showing objects at different distances and stages in cosmic history. They range from cosmic near neighbours to objects seen in the early years of the Universe. The 14-hour exposure shows objects around a billion times fainter than can be seen with the naked eye. This new Hubble image showcases a remarkable variety of objects at different distances from us, extending back [...]
  

(Space Fellowship) Vitamin B3 Might Have Been Made in Space, Delivered to Earth by Meteorites

Ancient Earth might have had an extraterrestrial supply of vitamin B3 delivered by carbon-rich meteorites, according to a new analysis by NASA-funded researchers. The result supports a theory that the origin of life may have been assisted by a supply of key molecules created in space and brought to Earth by comet and meteor impacts. "It is always difficult to put a value on the connection between meteorites and the origin of life; for example, earlier work has shown that vitamin B3 could have [...]
  

(Space Fellowship) Bright Points in Sun's Atmosphere Mark Patterns Deep In Its Interior

Like a balloon bobbing along in the air while tied to a child's hand, a tracer has been found in the sun's atmosphere to help track the flow of material coursing underneath the sun's surface. New research that uses data from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, to track bright points in the solar atmosphere and magnetic signatures on the sun's surface offers a way to probe the star's depths faster than ever before. The technique opens the door for near real-time mapping of the sun's roi [...]
  

(Commercial Space Watch) Orbital Announces First Quarter 2014 Financial Results

Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE:ORB) today reported its financial results for the first quarter of 2014. First quarter 2014 revenues were $323.3 million, compared to $334.8 million in the first quarter of 2013. First quarter 2014 operating income was $23.0 million, or 7.1% operating margin, compared to $31.1 million, or 9.3% operating margin, in the first quarter of 2013.

Net income in the first quarter of 2014 was $13.8 million, or $0.23 diluted earnings per share, compared to net income of $19.6 million, or $0.33 diluted earnings per share, in the first quarter of 2013. Orbital's free cash flow* in the first quarter of 2014 was positive $87.0 million, a new quarterly record for the company, compared to negative $34.2 million in the first quarter of 2013. The company's cash balance as of March 31, 2014 increased to $350.8 million, up 76% compared to March 31, 2013.

Mr. David W. Thompson, Orbital's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said, "Orbital's free cash flow in the first quarter of 2014 set a new record for the company, reflecting achievement of important milestones in connection with the completion of our first operational cargo mission to the International Space Station under the company's Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA." He continued, "Although first quarter revenues and operating income were lower than expected due to an anomaly on a recently launched communications satellite, the company remains on track with our financial guidance for 2014."

- Complete financials on Orbital's website.

  

(Space Politics) Intel community willing to allow higher resolution commercial imagery

For the last few years, commercial satellite remote sensing company DigitalGlobe (and, before its merger with DigitalGlobe, GeoEye) has been lobbying the government to allow it to sell sharper satellite imagery that it’s currently allowed. DigitalGlobe is currently restricted to selling imagery with resolution no sharper than 0.5 meters per pixel, but has been pushing [...]   

(Space Fellowship) ATK Announces $178 Million Contract Award from ULA to Build Composite Launch Vehicle Structures

Contract Highlights Major Content on Both the Atlas V and Delta IV Programs. ARLINGTON, Va. -- ATK (NYSE: ATK) has reached agreement on a $178 million contract award as part of the Air Force's Phase 1 Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) buy from United Launch Alliance (ULA). The order value includes hardware for both of the current United States Air Force EELV launch vehicles, the Atlas V and Delta IV. The initial contracting period includes large composite structures with deliveries com [...]
  

(euronews) From sky to sea: drones hit the ocean

They've been flying through our skies for years. Now, unmanned drones are hitting the high seas. The Wave Glider is the brainchild of…




  

(Discovery News) When Apollo 12 Encountered the Surveyor 3 Moon Lander

Forty-five years ago, Surveyor 3 launched to the Moon. Two years later parts of it came back.   

(Space Fellowship) Waterton Lake Eclispe

Recorded on April 15th, this total lunar eclipse sequence looks south down icy Waterton Lake from the Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada, planet Earth. The most distant horizon includes peaks in Glacier National Park, USA. An exposure every 10 minutes captured the Moon's position and eclipse phase, as it arced, left to right, above the rugged skyline and Waterton town lights. In fact, the sequence effectively measures the roughly 80 minute duration of the total phase of the eclip [...]
  

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