Dying Satellites Could Lead to Shaky Weather Forecasts

Dying Satellites Could Lead to Shaky Weather Forecasts - NYTimes.com: "The United States is facing a year or more without crucial satellites that provide invaluable data for predicting storm tracks, a result of years of mismanagement, underfunding and delays in launching replacements, according to several recent official reviews.

The looming gap in satellite coverage, which some experts now view as almost certain to occur within the next few years, could result in shaky forecasts about storms like Hurricane Sandy, which is now expected to hit the northeast seaboard early next week."

Glitch halts South Korea's third attempt at rocket launch

Glitch halts South Korea's third attempt at rocket launch | Reuters: "South Korea called off the launch of a space rocket on Friday after a glitch in the Russian-built booster halted preparations five hours before the scheduled lift-off.

It was South Korea's third attempt to put a satellite into orbit and comes after North Korea succeeded in launching a rocket in April that it said was carrying a satellite, only to abort the mission early in its flight.

Friday's failure also puts South Korea far behind economic rivals China, India and Japan.

South Korean officials at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) that is conducting the launch said Russian engineers had found a leak in the sealing while injecting helium gas into the first-stage booster."

Fomalhaut b regains planetary status

Fomalhaut b regains planetary status | TG Daily: "The nearby star Fomalhaut does host a massive exoplanet after all, say NASA scientists following a second look at Hubble data.

Back in 2008, astronomers announced that they'd discovered a planet, named Fomalhaut b, shrouded by dust as it orbited Fomalhaut some 25 light-years away.

More recent studies, though, have claimed that this interpretation is wrong. Based on the object's apparent motion and the fact that NASA's infrared Spitzer Space Telescope failed to detect it, they argue that the object is a short-lived dust cloud unrelated to any planet.

Now, though, NASA says that the original theory was probably correct."

Cassini Sees Huge Burp at Saturn After Large Storm

NASA - NASA Spacecraft Sees Huge Burp at Saturn After Large Storm: "NASA's Cassini spacecraft has tracked the aftermath of a rare massive storm on Saturn. Data reveal record-setting disturbances in the planet's upper atmosphere long after the visible signs of the storm abated, in addition to an indication the storm was more forceful than scientists previously thought.

Data from Cassini's composite infrared spectrometer (CIRS) instrument revealed the storm's powerful discharge sent the temperature in Saturn's stratosphere soaring 150 degrees Fahrenheit (83 kelvins) above normal. At the same time, researchers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., detected a huge increase in the amount of ethylene gas, the origin of which is a mystery. Ethylene, an odorless, colorless gas, isn't typically observed on Saturn. On Earth, it is created by natural and man-made sources. "

Secret X-37B Mini-Shuttle Launch Postponed

Brevard Times - Space: Secret X-37B Mini-Shuttle Launch Postponed: "The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), the Air Force's unmanned, reusable space plane, has been re-scheduled to launch aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V booster rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on November 13, 2012 due to a chamber pressure anomaly observed during the Delta IV medium configuration launch of a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) IIF-3 on October 4, 2012.

While the mission successfully placed the GPS satellite in a precise orbit, a lower than normal chamber pressure was observed on the Delta IV RL 10 upper stage engine.

Although the Atlas V that will launch OTV-3 utilizes a different model of the RL10 engine, ULA leadership and the Air Force have decided to postpone the currently schedule launch to allow an additional two weeks for the flight data anomaly investigation to progress to a point that will enable a thorough crossover assessment for the OTV launch to be completed."

European Robotic Mini-Space Plane Project Could Fly by 2020

European Robotic Mini-Space Plane Project Could Fly by 2020 | Space.com: "A European-built robot space plane could be soaring in orbit before the end of the decade if the program to develop it gains funding approval next month.

The Innovative Space Vehicle (ISV) would be Europe's civilian equivalent of the U.S. Air Force's unmanned X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, a robotic miniature space shuttle that has flown on two missions since 2010. The unmanned space plane would be much smaller than the Air Force vehicle, however."

Frost on Mars? Curiosity uses its laser to probe mystery

Frost on Mars? Curiosity uses its laser to probe mystery (#PewPew) - latimes.com: "The Mars Curiosity rover, cozy at the sandy, windblown patch of ground called Rocknest, pulled out its laser late last week, aimed it at a target about 9 feet away and started zapping.

The goal? To find out whether frost accumulates on Mars' surface at night, according to Roger Wiens of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

"The idea was to take one measurement of Crestaurum at night and one during the day for comparison," the scientist and principal investigator for Curiosity's ChemCam instrument told the Los Angeles Times."

SpaceX Dragon OK'd to come home despite computer glitch

SpaceX Dragon OK'd to come home | FLORIDA TODAY | floridatoday.com: "SpaceX’s Dragon capsule on Sunday is set to end an 18-day stay at the International Space Station and return to Earth, NASA confirmed Wednesday.

Station mission managers unanimously gave a “go” for the departure to proceed despite a glitch that may make one of Dragon’s three flight computers unavailable.

The computer was knocked out of sync with the other two when it automatically reset itself without commands from the ground, but officials said the problem would not limit the spacecraft’s ability to fly home safely."

Soyuz successfully docks with International Space Station

Soyuz successfully docks with International Space Station | FLORIDA TODAY | floridatoday.com: "An American and two Russians arrived at the International Space Station today after a two-day trip from a central Asian spaceport.

NASA astronaut Kevin Ford and cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin docked at the Poisk module on the Russian side of the station at 8:29 a.m. EDT.

“A flawless approach. A flawless docking,” NASA mission commentator Rob Navias said. “Three new residents have arrived at the International Space Station.”"

Robot to be controled from Space Station

The next step in human exploration of the solar system will probably involve astronauts controlling rovers on the surface of the moon, mars or an asteroid from a vehicle orbiting above.  NASA and ESA plan to test this concept next week when an astronaut aboard the ISS will operate a robot on earth.

ESA - ESA Spacecraft Operations - Using space internet to control robots: "ESA and NASA have tested a communications protocol that will allow astronauts to control robots from space stations orbiting planets or asteroids. The test marks the way for a trial-run with an astronaut on the International Space Station next week.

Last week a Space Station user centre at the University of Boulder, USA sent a command to a NASA laptop on the International Space Station to start a script that controlled the Mocup robot at ESA’s ESOC operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

Keck observations reveal complex face of Uranus

Keck observations reveal complex face of Uranus: "The planet Uranus, known since Voyager’s 1986 flyby as a bland, featureless blue-green orb, is beginning to show its face.

By using a new technique with the telescopes of the Keck Observatory, astronomers have created the most richly detailed, highest-resolution images ever taken of the giant ice planet in the near infrared, revealing an incredible array of atmospheric detail and more complex weather.

The planet, in fact, looks like many of the solar system’s other large planets — the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn, and the ice giant Neptune — said Imke de Pater, professor and chair of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of the team members. The planet has bands of circulating clouds, massive swirling hurricanes and an unusual swarm of convective features at its north pole."

Rover swallows baby aspirin size Mars soil sample

The Curiosity rover has been busy the last few days scooping up soil samples.  The first two samples were emptied back onto the ground, due to possible contamination.  A small portion of the third scoop was delivered the the rover's CheMin instrument for analysis. Watch this video of the rovers scoop vibrating to level out the soil sample.

NASA - Mars Soil Sample Delivered for Analysis Inside Rover: "NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has ingested its first solid sample into an analytical instrument inside the rover, a capability at the core of the two-year mission.

The rover's Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument is analyzing this sample to determine what minerals it contains.

"We are crossing a significant threshold for this mission by using CheMin on its first sample," said Curiosity's project scientist, John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "This instrument gives us a more definitive mineral-identifying method than ever before used on Mars: X-ray diffraction. Confidently identifying minerals is important because minerals record the environmental conditions under which they form.""

How can the space station help humans follow robots to Mars?

NASA and it's international partners recently approved a year long stay aboard the ISS for two crew members. How will this and other work going on aboard the station pave the way for humans to follow Curiosity to Mars? This article from NASA's International Space Station page delves into the details.

NASA - How Space Station Can Help Humans Follow Curiosity to Mars and Beyond: "With all of the excitement of the Mars Curiosity landing, many are looking to move from robots to humans for exploration beyond Earth's orbit. Keeping in mind the Seven Minutes of Terror, just imagine the nail-biting moments of putting people into the harsh environment of space far from their home planet. Taking the guess work out of long-duration exploration, however, is one of the benefits of the International Space Station. This orbiting laboratory serves as a test bed for technology and helps researchers understand how to prepare for extended trips in space. "

What's Baking on Titan?

Cassini Solstice Mission: What's Baking on Titan?: "Radar images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft reveal some new curiosities on the surface of Saturn's mysterious moon Titan, including a nearly circular feature that resembles a giant hot cross bun and shorelines of ancient seas. The results were presented today at the American Astronomical Society's Division of Planetary Sciences conference in Reno, Nev.

Steam from baking often causes the top of bread to lift and crack. Scientists think some similar process involving heat may be at play on Titan. The image showing the bun-like mound was obtained on May 22, 2012, by Cassini's radar instrument. Scientists have seen similar terrain on Venus, where a dome-shaped region about 20 miles (30 kilometers) across has been seen at the summit of a large volcano called Kunapipi Mons. They theorize that the Titan cross, which is about 40 miles (70 kilometers) long, is also the result of fractures caused by uplift from below, possibly the result of rising magma."

Shuttle engine needs new brain for Space Launch System

NASA - Space Launch System Providing Engine 'Brains' With an Upgrade: "America's next heavy-lift rocket needs a strong and reliable engine to launch humans beyond low Earth orbit. That's why engineers with NASA's Space Launch System program, managed at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., will use the proven RS-25, the space shuttle's main engine during its 30-year history, to power the massive rocket's core stage. The RS-25, which was designed and developed with NASA by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif., is a crucial part to the core stage design, but a few enhancements are planned.

While the RS-25 engines launched 135 missions, it needs a new "brain" to drive the 3.5-ton engine.

"The computer controlling the SSME was manufactured in the early '80s and many parts are now obsolete," said Jeremy Richard, SLS Liquid Engines Office Subsystem manager. "While working on updating the technology, we discovered we could adapt the same controller being used by the new J-2X engine to the RS-25 engine, effectively streamlining the controller and resulting in a cost savings." "

Time-lapse video: Space shuttle Endeavour’s trek across L.A.

Click on the LA Times link below to see the video.

Time-lapse video: Space shuttle Endeavour’s trek across L.A. - Framework - Photos and Video - Visual Storytelling from the Los Angeles Times: "The space shuttle Endeavour made its final journey last weekend, traveling 12-miles from Los Angeles International Airport, through Inglewood, to the California Science Center in Exposition Park.

The retired orbiter was carried through city streets atop a special transporter. Throngs of people lined the route as it shimmied around trees, utility poles and other obstacles."

Scheduled October 25 X-37B launch may be delayed

Rocket Glitch May Delay Launch of Secretive X-37B Space Plane | Space.com: "An investigation into a rocket glitch may delay the planned Oct. 25 launch of the U.S. military's enigmatic X-37B space plane, Air Force officials say.

The anomaly occurred Oct. 4, when a Delta 4 rocket blasted the GPS IIF satellite safely into orbit. While the unmanned X-37B spacecraft is ready to fly and doesn't use the Delta 4 — it lifts off atop an Atlas 5 — the Air Force's investigation into the glitch may affect the space plane's launch schedule."

Starry night at Concordia station - Antarctica

Concordia sky | Flickr - Photo Sharing!: "Another starry night - or day - at Concordia research station in Antarctica. This photo was taken during four months of winter when the Sun never rises above the horizon.

Built on an ice plateau 3200 m up in one of the remotest places on Earth, the base hosts many research projects, from meteorology and glaciology to astronomy, technology and human biology.

ESA sponsors a medical research doctor in Concordia every winter to study the long-term effects of isolation."

Alpha Centauri Bb: An Interstellar Target?

Alpha Centauri Bb: An Interstellar Target? : Discovery News: "It may be too hot for life to survive on its surface, but the discovery of an Earth-sized planet orbiting Alpha Centauri B has ignited hope that the star -- one of two that orbit one another as a binary pair -- could play host to a whole system of rocky worlds.

The very fact that scientists using the European High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) telescope could detect the tiny gravitational tug of the orbiting world on its parent star is amazing enough, but the ramifications for the future of mankind have the potential to be nothing less than historic."

Tightly Packed Planets Spotted Around Sun-Like Star

Tightly Packed Planets Spotted Around Sun-Like Star | Wired Science | Wired.com: "The Kepler space telescope has spotted the most tightly packed exoplanet system yet, with five planets orbiting around the star KOI-500 within a fraction of the distance between Mercury and our Sun.

The system was discovered by Darin Ragozzine, a planetary scientist at the University of Florida at Gainesville, and his team. It’s roughly 1,100 light-years from us, in the direction of the constellation Lyre. Its five planets are each slightly larger than the Earth, but their orbits are remarkably close to KOI-500 — 150 times smaller than the orbit of the Earth. That’s even less than the orbital distance of Mercury. Yet despite flying around so fast that it’s only a manner of Earth days for each “year,” they exist in an orbital resonance that keeps them from crashing into each other or falling into the star."

Alien Planet Has 2 Suns, 4 Stars

'Tatooine' Alien Planet Has 2 Suns, 4 Stars, Amateur Team Finds | Exoplanets | Space.com: "Amateur astronomers have helped discover an alien planet with two suns and a twinkling twist: The entire twin-sun setup, a real-life version of Tatooine from "Star Wars," is orbited by two more stars — a solar system that is the first of its kind known.

The alien planet, called PH1, is a gas giant planet slightly bigger than Neptune. Its discovery in the midst of a strange, four-star planetary system is the first confirmed world discovered as part of the Yale University-led Planet Hunters project, in which armchair astronomers work with professional scientists to find evidence of new worlds in the bountiful data collected by NASA's Kepler space telescope."

New Horizons may have to dodge debris at Pluto

New Horizons may face hazardous debris ball at Pluto: "NASA's New Horizons mission may encounter tumultuous clouds of ice and rock when it flies by Pluto in 2015, and engineers are prepared move the spacecraft on an alternate course by the dwarf planet to spare the probe from fatal debris strikes, officials said Tuesday.

"This is our first time to the Kuiper Belt, the very frontier of our planetary system," said Alan Stern, the New Horizon principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo."

How was the moon really created?

Reports put new spin on story of moon's creation - latimes.com: "Scientists may never know exactly how the moon and Earth were formed some 4.5 billion years ago, but this week their understanding of the cataclysmic event made a significant leap forward.

In a slew of studies published Wednesday, planetary scientists provided new evidence supporting the long-standing — but imperfect — theory that the Earth and moon formed after the proto-Earth collided with another huge planetary body, sometimes referred to as Theia."

The exoplanet next door

The exoplanet next door : Nature News & Comment: "It is a world so close that E.T. could phone home in just four years. Astronomers have discovered the lowest-mass planet yet orbiting a Sun-like star. It orbits α Centauri B, a member of the stellar system that is our Solar System’s nearest neighbour. Although nearly identical to Earth in mass, the planet is much closer to its star than Mercury is to the Sun, meaning that it is a scorched and barren rock. Nevertheless, its astronomical proximity to Earth will undoubtedly stir dreams of interstellar exploration, particularly as astronomers search α Centauri for more hospitable worlds."

Rover's second scoop discarded due to contamination

Rover's Second Scoop Discarded, Third Scoop Commanded - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory: "Commands will be sent to Curiosity today instructing the rover to collect a third scoop of soil from the "Rocknest" site of windblown Martian sand and dust. Pending evaluation of this Sol 69 (Oct. 15, 2012) scooping, a sample from the scoopful is planned as the first sample for delivery -- later this week -- to one of the rover's internal analytical instruments, the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument. A later scoopful will become the first solid sample for delivery to the rover's other internal analytical instrument, the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument. "

The rover's second scoopful, collected on Sol 66 (Oct. 12), was intentionally discarded on Sol 67 due to concern about particles of bright material seen in the hole dug by the scooping. Other small pieces of bright material in the Rocknest area have been assessed as debris from the spacecraft. The science team did not want to put spacecraft material into the rover's sample-processing mechanisms. Confidence for going ahead with the third scooping was based on new assessment that other bright particles in the area are native Martian material. One factor in that consideration is seeing some bright particles embedded in clods of Martian soil. Further investigations of the bright particles are planned, including some imaging in the Sol 69 plan.

SpaceX, NASA investigating Falcon 9 engine shutdown

SpaceX, NASA investigating Falcon 9 engine shutdown | FLORIDA TODAY | floridatoday.com: "A joint SpaceX and NASA team will investigate the early shutdown of a Falcon 9 rocket engine during Sunday’s launch from Cape Canaveral, the company announced Friday.

“SpaceX is committed to a comprehensive examination and analysis of all launch data, with the goal of understanding what happened and how to correct it prior to future flights,” the company said in a statement.

The launch was the fourth overall by a Falcon 9 and SpaceX’s first under a $1.6 billion contract to deliver cargo to the International Space Station."

SpaceX satellite burns up on re-entry after Falcon Failure

SpaceX satellite burns up on re-entry after Falcon FAIL • The Register: "The satellite that made up the secondary cargo of SpaceX's latest orbital mission has burnt up in the Earth's atmosphere after failing to make it into the correct orbit.

The OG2 satellite, a prototype communications platform built by Orbcomm, was carried by the Falcon rocket as a secondary payload and was due to be boosted up into a higher orbit once the primary payload, SpaceX's Dragon capsule containing supplies for the International Space Station, had been delivered."

Mars rover Curiosity discovers rare Earth-like rock

Gulf Daily News » World News » Mars rover Curiosity discovers rare Earth-like rock: "A rock analysed by Nasa's Mars rover Curiosity has a surprising and more varied composition that resembles rare rocks from the bowels of our planet, the US space agency said. "This rock is a close match in chemical composition to an unusual but well-known type of igneous rock found in many volcanic provinces on Earth," Curiosity co-investigator Edward Stolper of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena said.

"With only one Martian rock of this type, it is difficult to know whether the same processes were involved, but it is a reasonable place to start thinking about its origin."

Mars rover spots shiny object on ground

After scooping up a bit of Martian soil, rover engineers noticed a bright object on the ground.  Speculation is it's a piece of metal or plastic that fell from the rover. Click here for a larger image.

Mars Science Laboratory: Images: "This image from the right Mast Camera (Mastcam) of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity shows a scoop full of sand and dust lifted by the rover's first use of the scoop on its robotic arm. In the foreground, near the bottom of the image, a bright object is visible on the ground. The object might be a piece of rover hardware. This image was taken during the mission's 61st Martian day, or sol (Oct. 7, 2012), the same sol as the first scooping. After examining Sol 61 imaging, the rover team decided to refrain from using the arm on Sol 62 (Oct. 8). Instead, the rover was instructed to acquire additional imaging of the bright object, on Sol 62, to aid the team in assessing possible impact, if any, to sampling activities.

For scale, the scoop is 1.8 inches (4.5 centimeters) wide, 2.8 inches (7 centimeters) long"

Video of first Martian soil sample vibrating in scoop

NASA - Multimedia - Video Gallery: "This video clip shows the first Martian material collected by the scoop on the robotic arm of NASA's Mars Curiosity rover, being vibrated inside the scoop after it was lifted from the ground on Oct. 7, 2012. The clip includes 256 frames from Curiosity's Mast Camera, taken at about eight frames per second, plus interpolated frames to run at actual speed in this 32-frames-per-second version. The scoop was vibrated to discard any overfill. Churning due to vibration also serves to show physical characteristics of the collected material, such as an absence of pebbles. The scoop is 1.8 inches (4.5 centimeters) wide, 2.8 inches (7 centimeters) long. "

SpaceX's "smooth" CRS-1 launch came uncomfortably close to disaster

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, launching the Dragon capsule on it's first commercial flight to the space station, suffered a major failure of one of it's Merlin engines around 79 seconds after launch.  The rocket was only a few seconds from the period of maximum pressure on the vehicle (max q) at the time, but the flight software was able to adjust for the engine loss and continue on.

The video below clearly shows what appears to be an explosion and then debris falling away from the vehicle at about the 1:19 mark.

SpaceX released this statement about the incident today:

Approximately one minute and 19 seconds into last night’s launch, the Falcon 9 rocket detected an anomaly on one first stage engine. Initial data suggests that one of the rocket’s nine Merlin engines, Engine 1, lost pressure suddenly and an engine shutdown command was issued immediately. We know the engine did not explode, because we continued to receive data from it. Our review indicates that the fairing that protects the engine from aerodynamic loads ruptured due to the engine pressure release, and that none of Falcon 9’s other eight engines were impacted by this event.
As designed, the flight computer then recomputed a new ascent profile in real time to ensure Dragon’s entry into orbit for subsequent rendezvous and berthing with the ISS. This was achieved, and there was no effect on Dragon or the cargo resupply mission.
Falcon 9 did exactly what it was designed to do. Like the Saturn V, which experienced engine loss on two flights, Falcon 9 is designed to handle an engine out situation and still complete its mission.

SpaceX launches first commercial cargo resupply mission

A Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) Falcon 9 rocket carrying its Dragon spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 8:35 p.m. EDT Sunday, beginning NASA's first contracted cargo delivery flight, designated SpaceX CRS-1, to the International Space Station. Under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services contract, SpaceX will fly at least 12 cargo missions to the space station through 2016. The contract is worth $1.6 billion.

The Dragon spacecraft will be grappled at 7:22 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 10, by Expedition 33 crew members Sunita Williams of NASA and Aki Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, who will use the station's robotic arm to install the Dragon. The capsule is scheduled to spend 18 days attached to the station. It then will return for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California.

"Just over one year after the retirement of the space shuttle, we have returned space station cargo resupply missions to U.S. soil and are bringing the jobs associated with this work back to America," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "The SpaceX launch tonight marks the official start of commercial resupply missions by American companies operating out of U.S. spaceports like the one right here in Florida."

Dragon is delivering a total of 882 pounds of supplies to the orbiting laboratory, including 260 pounds of crew supplies, 390 pounds of scientific research, 225 pounds of hardware and several pounds of other supplies. Dragon will return a total of 1,673 pounds of supplies, including 163 pounds of crew supplies, 866 pounds of scientific research, 518 pounds of vehicle hardware and other hardware.

Dragon's capability to return cargo from the station is critical for
supporting scientific research in the orbiting laboratory's unique
microgravity environment, which enables important benefits for
humanity and vastly increases understanding of how humans can safely
work, live and thrive in space for long periods. The ability to
return frozen samples is a first for this flight and will be
tremendously beneficial to the station's research community. Not
since the space shuttle have NASA and its international partners been
able to return considerable amounts of research and samples for

Materials being launched on Dragon will support experiments in plant cell biology, human biotechnology and various materials technology demonstrations, among others. One experiment, called Micro 6, will examine the effects of microgravity on the opportunistic yeast Candida albicans, which is present on all humans. Another experiment, called Resist Tubule, will evaluate how microgravity affects the growth of cell walls in a plant called Arabidopsis. About 50 percent of the energy expended by terrestrial-bound plants is dedicated to structural support to overcome gravity. Understanding how the genes that control this energy expenditure operate in microgravity could have implications for future genetically modified plants and food supply. Both Micro 6 and Resist Tubule will return with the Dragon at the end of its mission.

SpaceX is one of two companies that built and tested new cargo spacecraft under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. SpaceX completed its final demonstration test in Ma when it flew to the station and performed a series of checkout maneuvers, ultimately being grappled by the station crew and installed on the complex.

Orbital Sciences is the other company participating in COTS. Orbital's Antares launch vehicle is currently on (the launch pad at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The launch vehicle and pad will undergo a series of fueling tests that will take about three weeks. After tests are completed, a hot fire test will be conducted. Finally, a test flight of the Antares rocket with a simulated Cygnus spacecraft will be flown in late 2012. A demonstration flight of Cygnus to the station is planned in early 2013.

NASA initiatives like COTS and the agency's Commercial Crew Program are helping develop a robust U.S. commercial space transportation industry with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the space station and low Earth orbit. In addition to cargo flights, NASA's commercial space partners are making progress toward a launch of astronauts from U.S. soil in the next 5 years.

While NASA works with U.S. industry partners to develop and advance these commercial spaceflight capabilities, the agency also is developing the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System (SLS), a crew capsule and heavy-lift rocket to provide an entirely new capability for human exploration. Designed to be flexible for launching spacecraft for crew and cargo missions, SLS and Orion will expand human presence beyond low Earth orbit and enable new missions of exploration in the solar system.

To follow the SpaceX CRS-1mission and for more information about the International Space Station and its crew, visit:

SpaceX ready for resupply flight

SpaceX ready to resupply space station - latimes.com: "Hawthorne-based rocket maker SpaceX is poised to return to the International Space Station with its Dragon spacecraft to carry out the first contracted cargo resupply flight in NASA's history.

SpaceX performed a successful demonstration mission to the space station in May, showing NASA that the company could do the job. SpaceX has secured a $1.6-billion contract to carry out 12 such cargo missions, and Sunday's mission would be the first."

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk: Inaugural Commercial Re-Supply Contract Flight a Challenge -Aviation Week: "SpaceX CEO Elon Musk sounded a note of caution Friday as the launching of the Hawthorne, Calif.,-based company's first Falcon 9/Dragon mission to the International Space Station under its $1.6 billion NASA Commercial Resupply Services contract approached.

"Although I'm hopeful it goes really smoothly, I would like to remind people this is only the second time we are trying to go to the space station," Musk noted. "So, there is certainly a possibility the mission could abort, or something could go wrong. Although we have done everything we can to try to minimize that, it should still be viewed as an early mission."

SpaceX is ready to fly Sunday night | FLORIDA TODAY | floridatoday.com: "The weather forecast is fair for a Sunday evening launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket on a mission to deliver cargo to the space station, but conditions get better if liftoff is delayed a day or two.

The company held a Launch Readiness Review that confirmed the Falcon 9 rocket, the Dragon spacecraft and ground systems are ready for liftoff at 8:35 p.m. Sunday. The Dragon is packed with cargo bound for the International Space Station as well as a small communications satellite."

ISS to host year long mission

 NASA and its international partners have announced an agreement to send two crew members to the International Space Station on a one-year mission designed to collect valuable scientific data needed to send humans to new destinations in the solar system.

The crew members, one American astronaut and one Russian cosmonaut, will launch and land in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and are scheduled to begin their voyage in spring 2015.

The space station serves as a laboratory for technological demonstrations and scientific research, including experiments that improve understanding of how the human body reacts and adapts to the harsh environment of space. Data from a year-long expedition also will help inform assumptions about crew performance and health, and will help reduce the risks associated with future exploration.

"In order for us to eventually move beyond low Earth orbit, we need to better understand how humans adapt to long-term spaceflight," said Michael Suffredini, International Space Station program manager. "The space station serves as a vital scientific resource for teaching us those lessons, and this yearlong expedition aboard the complex will help us move closer to those journeys."

During the 12 years of permanent human presence aboard the space station, scientists and researchers have gained valuable, and often surprising, data on the effects of microgravity on bone density, muscle mass, strength, vision and other aspects of human physiology. This year-long stay will allow for greater analysis of these effects and trends.

"We have gained new knowledge about the effects of spaceflight on the human body from the scientific research conducted on the space station, and it is the perfect time to test a one-year expedition aboard the orbital laboratory," said Julie Robinson, NASA's program scientist for the International Space Station. "What we will gain from this expedition will influence the way we structure our human research plans in the future."

The expedition also will serve as a test bed for future exploration technologies. Those innovative technologies, the logistics of the trip to and from the space station and the selection of the crew will be announced at a future time.

Mini-shuttle X-37B talk stirs optimism on Space Coast

Mini-shuttle X-37B talk stirs optimism on Space Coast | FLORIDA TODAY | floridatoday.com: "The military’s mysterious mini-shuttle operations might be consolidated on Florida’s Space Coast, and the upcoming third flight of the Air Force vehicle might land at Kennedy Space Center’s three-mile shuttle runway.

In what could be an economic boon for an area still reeling from the 2011 retirement of the U.S. shuttle fleet, the Air Force said Thursday it was considering moving X-37B operations to KSC or Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Moreover, the upcoming third flight of the unmanned X-37B — a hush-hush vehicle also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle, or OTV — could be capped with a return to NASA’s Shuttle Landing Facility.

Maj. Tracy Bunko, a spokesperson for the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, said the service is “looking at space shuttle infrastructure for possible cost-saving measures, including the potential for consolidating landing, refurbishment and launch operations at Kennedy Space Center or Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.”"

Delta IV rocket lifts off with GPS satellite

Delta IV rocket lifts off with GPS satellite | FLORIDA TODAY | floridatoday.com: " A powerful Delta IV rocket and its payload – a Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite – blasted off from Launch Complex 37 at 8:10 a.m. today.

The 206-foot-tall United Launch Alliance rocket was fueled at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station this morning as the Air Force aimed to launch a new navigation satellite into orbit."

Scientists Eye 'Space Boat' to Explore Saturn's Moon, Titan

Scientists Eye 'Space Boat' to Explore Saturn's Moon, Titan | News & Opinion | PCMag.com: "NASA's Curiosity rover landed successfully on Mars in August, but to reach Saturn's largest moon, Titan, scientists are going to need a bigger boat — literally.
As reported by Space.com, a group of Spanish researchers have proposed a mission to Titan that would explore the moon's bodies of water via a special space boat.
A floating probe known as the Titan Lake In-situ Sampling Propelled Explorer (TALISE) would land in and explore Titan's largest lake, known as Ligeia Mare, for up to a year.
TALISE is a joint effort between engineering firm SENER and the Centro de Astrobiología in Madrid, Spain. According to Space.com, details about the project are still being worked out, but the proposal was presented last month at the European Planetary Science Congress in Madrid."

Short Sharp Science: Supersonic dive could make space safer for tourists

(Image: Luke Aikins/SIPA/Rex Features)
Dave's comment:  Helping make space tourists safer?  Give me a break.  No one's going to be bailing out of Space Ship 2 at 120,000 feet, passengers won't even have spacesuits.  This is a stunt, pure and simple.  But hey, I'll be watching.

Short Sharp Science: Supersonic dive could make space safer for tourists: "Felix Baumgartner will definitely be going faster than a speeding bullet if all goes as planned next Monday, when the daredevil skydiver is slated to make his keenly awaited leap from a capsule 36 kilometres above the surface of the Earth.

Within 40 seconds, he should accelerate to about 1110 kilometres per hour - faster than the speed of sound in the cold, sparse air at the edge of space. As part of the Red Bull Stratos project, the jump will potentially set the record for the highest skydive, and might see Baumgartner become the first human to break the sound barrier in free fall."

Moving the International Space Station to Avoid Debris Collision

Moving the International Space Station to Avoid Debris Collision | French Tribune: "On Thursday, at 7:22 a. m. Moscow time (0322 GMT), the operation of moving the International Space Station into a different orbit will finally begin. The aim is to avoid the collision that generally takes place due to fragment of debris released from this station. It’s the Russian space program's Mission Control Center’s decision to bring this move into effect.

As told by Mission Control Center spokeswoman Nadyezhda Zavyalova, the Russian Zvevda module will let off the booster rockets to transmit this operation.

It is a general process that as soon as the space station realizes higher chances of a collision or we might say that when this likelihood surpasses one in 10,000, then the space station decides to take several evasive maneuvers to prevent an accident."

NASA Mulls Deep-Space Station on Moon's Far Side

NASA Mulls Deep-Space Station on Moon's Far Side | Space.com: "There appears to be support within NASA to position astronauts at an Earth-moon libration point to bolster the space agency’s plans of pushing beyond low-Earth orbit with its Orion spacecraft design.

Anchoring hardware and a crew at the Earth-moon L2 "gateway" would offer many benefits, advocates say. One of them is building on multinational cooperation honed at the International Space Station (ISS).

Under review is use of Russian-supplied hardware at the L2 point, according to insiders contacted by SPACE.com. Surplus space shuttle gear and ISS-flight-ready spares are also in the mix."

SpaceX Falcon 9 successfully test fires its engines

SpaceX successfully test fired the 9 Merlin first stage engines of its next Falcon 9 rocket Saturday. This Falcon 9 is slated to launch the companies Dragon capsule on it's first commercial cargo run to the space station Oct. 7.

The rocket, minus the Dragon capsule, was rolled out to the launch pad horizontally and erected to an upright position. SpaceX then proceeded with a simulated countdown ending in a 2 second firing of it's engines. During the test firing the booster was clamped securely to the launch pad.

After the successful test the remaining fuel on board was unloaded, the rocket was rotated back to a horizontal position and rolled back into it's hanger for installation of the Dragon capsule.

Officially called CRS-1, this is the first scheduled cargo delivery to the ISS for SpaceX. In May the company successfully completed a test flight to the station. SpaceX has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA for 12 cargo flights to the orbiting outpost.

Orbital tests new launch pad

Antares rolls out to new pad - NASA

Orbital Sciences Corporation  has commenced Antares launch vehicle operations at the liquid-fuel launch complex at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. Orbital begin on-pad operations leading up to flight demonstrations of its Antares medium-class launch vehicle and Cygnus cargo logistics spacecraft, which will be used to deliver cargo to the International Space Station.

Over the next several months, the company plans to complete three major program milestones, including an on-pad hot-fire test of the Antares first stage, the maiden flight of a fully operational Antares rocket, and a demonstration mission to the ISS of Orbital’s cargo delivery system, prior to commencing operational cargo delivery missions to the ISS.

The first of the three milestones, the Antares hot-fire test operation, will demonstrate the readiness of the rocket’s first stage and launch pad fueling systems to support the upcoming flights. The hot-fire test involves firing Antares’ dual AJ26 rocket engines that will generate a combined total thrust of 680,000 lbs. for approximately 30 seconds while the first stage is held down on the pad. The hot-fire operation is expected to be conducted in four to five weeks following integration and check-out of the Antares first stage test unit with the launch complex’s fueling systems.

The hot-fire test will be followed about one month later by the maiden flight of the Antares rocket, which will carry a Cygnus mass simulator payload that will be heavily instrumented to gather data on the launch environment aboard Antares. In addition, four small “pico satellites” will be deployed from two dispensers that will be integrated with the mass simulator.

The last of the three COTS test milestones will be the COTS demonstration mission to the ISS. For this mission, a fully operational Cygnus spacecraft will be launched into orbit by Antares and, following an extensive series of in-orbit tests, will autonomously rendezvous and berth with the ISS. The first Cygnus will deliver approximately 550 kg of cargo upon its arrival and will remove about 1,000 kg of disposal cargo upon its departure from the orbiting laboratory.