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30 August 2008

NASA Intersted in Extending the Shuttle's Life


For whom the bell does not toll

Contrary to what we had been led to believe, NASA is now interested extending the aged Shuttle fleet's life until 2015, or whenever we get Orion off the ground.  As I understand, NASA has already started dismantling the infrastructure used to manufacture and maintain the Shuttle and claims that money needed to operate the Shuttle fleet takes away from Orion.  So either we'd have reinvest in the Shuttle infrastructure, delay Orion, or NASA sees a huge budget increase.  Keeping mind the status of our economy, which do you think is more likely.  I don't see NASA getting a budget increase.  No matter who gets elected.

In addition, how much does our new missle defense agreement with Poland and subsequent Russian saber rattling have to do with this new study?  It will be interesting to see how all this plays out.


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26 August 2008

The End of an Era



Lifted from Space Pragmatism

Though I knew of the impending retirement of the Shuttle fleet, it seems that the retirement schedulehad been released at it escaped my notice.  Without further ado: Endeavor's least flight is scheduled for 31 May 2010.

2008
10/08/08: STS-125/Atlantis
Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission No. 4; 5 spacewalks 

11/10/08: STS-126/Endeavour/ISS-ULF2
Starboard solar array rotary mechanism servicing; logistics/resupply; 4 spacewalks 

2009
02/12/09: STS-119/Discovery/ISS-15A
S6 solar arrays; 4 spacewalks 

05/15/09: STS-127/Endeavour/ISS-2JA
Kibo Exposed Facility; solar array batteries; 5 spacewalks 

07/30/09: STS-128/Atlantis/ISS-17A
Multi-purpose logistics module; lab racks; 3 spacewalks 

10/15/09: STS-129/Discovery/ISS-ULF3
Spare gyros, other spares; at least 3 spacewalks 

12/10/09: STS-130/Endeavour/ISS-20A
Node 3 connecting module, cupola; at least 3 spacewalks 

2010
02/11/10: STS-131/Atlantis/ISS-19A
Multi-purpose logistics module; science racks; at least 3 spacewalks; Atlantis' last flight 

04/08/10: STS-132/Discovery/ISS-ULF4
Russian research module; spares; at least 3 spacewalks; Discovery's last flight 

05/31/10: STS-133/Endeavour/ISS-ULF5
Spares; at least three spacewalks; Endeavour's last flight


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Why Go to Space Pt III

Continued from Part II

I have often had to justify why going into space is a good idea and use of resources when we have so many other problems. Here are some reasons.

But first, a matter of scale. The estimated federal budget for FY 2007 was 2.7 trillion dollars. Trillion, as in 1000 billion. The estimated NASA budget adjusted for inflation $17.2 billion. For that year, NASA consumed 0.6% of the Federal budget. Not even a whole percentage point for the national agency directed to lead us into the next stage of human technological development.

In exchange for 0.6% of the federal budget, you get a space program, national pride, economic stimulation, and a slew of inventions that you get to use and no royalties are charged!

Coming up next, NASA at the the hospital.


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Once in a life time chance

Shuttle launch viewed from the window of an Air Canada flight

How nice is that?

Video ends before SRB separation


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24 August 2008

NASA Launch Failure Packs a Wallop


NASA Launch Failure Packs a Wallop

A sub-orbital sounding rocket had to be destroyed mid flight after it veered from its flight path.  It was carrying two hypersonic experiments -one designed to gather air flow data on hypersonic flight and the other was exploring possible shapes for the re-entry capsules.


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Fab lab


Invention kits let you build (almost) anything

From MSNBC by way of Forbes

Now if he could harden it agaisnt radiation and seal it againt moon dust, we'd have something there.

The kits can include a laser cutter, computer-controlled wood router and a miniature mill for drilling circuit boards, all for around $50,000, including open-source software, batteries and micro-controllers.

Take a tele-operated mining colony on an asteroid or the Moon and put a Fab Lab up there with it, and you won't need to come to Earth for spares, just raw materials.

This could end up changing alot of things.


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21 August 2008

Shocks in Rockets?


NASA to use shock-absorbers to fix shaking in new Ares rocket

I don't know about you you, but I look forward to all the different weeks that the Science/Discovery Channel does during the year.  Shark Week is probably the most famous, but my favorite is Space Week.  If you can't any of it, you might have seen the series Moon Machines, where they talk about the hardware and all the problems they had developing it. The episode on the Saturn V talked about the how the second stage was the red headed step-child of the rocket.  The first stage was pretty much complete and mission bloat kept increasing the size of the third stage containing the Command, Service and Lunar Modules.  This meant cannibalizing the second stage.  In addition, during the flight of Apollo 6, pogo oscillations structurally damaged the rocket, reminiscent of the tiles being knocked off the shuttle.  Those vibrations ruptured a the hydrogen feed line to the igniter on on of the engines on the second stage, causing it to fail.  This caused the onboad computer to shut the engine down, but because the controls were wired incorrectly, another perfectly functioning engine was shut down.

Various shock absorbers were developed to dampen out the oscillations and none of the subsequent Apollo flights had the same problem.  I wonder how much of the need for the shock absorbers was taken from lessons learned during Apollo?


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Yet Another Lunar Probe in the Pipeline

Chandrayaan-I Set For Launch Later This Year

Chandrayaan-I (say that five times fast) is the ISRO's (India) first Lunar probe.  Set for a winter launch, it will carry five (5) Indian and six (6) international experiments.  Already assemble and undergoing tests, the designers of Chandrayaan-I are looking ahead to Chandrayaab-II - a joint project with Russia to land a rover on the Moon.


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Ares I Test

NASA Engineers Complete Engine Test Series For Ares I RocketNASA Engineers Complete Engine Test Series For Ares I Rocket

About 4 hours from me, at Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, NASA has completed a series of tests on the J-2X upper stage rocket motor for the ARES I.

Onward and upward.


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19 August 2008

Iranian Rockets

Spacenut says: Yeah! Ad astra per aspera!

Common sense says: The space race was born out of the need to develop long range ballistic missiles.

Iran says rocket can carry low-orbit satellite 

And in better news,

Iran To Launch Its First Satellite By Next Weekend

Let's make it a party:

China to launch Venezuela's first satellite


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Microsats in Orbit

From Space.com

New Thin Skin to Protect Tiny Spacecraft 
By Charles Q. Choi
Special to LiveScience
posted: 19 August 2008
11:05 am ET


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18 August 2008

Orion IOC Slips; Ares I Thrust Oscillation Fix is Ready

Aviation Week & Space Technology, 08/18/2008 , page 42 

Frank Morring, Jr., Washington

Orion/Ares I pushed back as engineers home in on vibration remedy


Engineers intent on solving a troublesome thrust oscillation problem besetting the next U.S. human launch system are set to brief bosses on ways to fix it, although tight funding and a better understanding of overall technical hurdles already has forced NASA to slide the target date of the vehicle’s first flight back a year.

Initial operational capability (IOC) of the planned Orion crew exploration vehicle and its Ares I crew launch vehicle will slip by at least a year, top officials say. The U.S. space agency is holding the March 2015 IOC "commitment date" for the new vehicles, but it has moved its "aggressive" internal target for the first piloted flight of the space shuttle follow-on to September 2014 from September 2013.

Under the probabilistic risk assessment techniques NASA is using to estimate the "gap" between the last space shuttle flight in 2010 and the first flight of Orion/Ares, there is a 65% chance of meeting the 2015 IOC, and only about a 50% chance of achieving the new earlier target, according to Jeff Hanley, manager of the Constellation Program that is developing the next generation of U.S. human spacecraft.

The new internal target is based on NASA’s recent funding history and its requested budget for future spending; it does not take into account any continuing funding resolution Congress may enact this fall that would hold agency spending in Fiscal 2009 to Fiscal 2008 levels, or otherwise change the requested appropriation.

Hanley says he was no longer confident that the old date of September 2013 would allow sufficient time to meet the goal. "September 2014 is much more in the realm of executability," he says.

The date change will require renegotiation of NASA’s Ares I and Orion development contracts, according to Doug Cooke, deputy associate administrator for exploration systems. It also will delay some of the planned testing leading to the March 2015 first flight of an Orion crew.

While that first flight date remains the official goal, a trial of the Orion pad abort system at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., already had slipped from the end of this year into 2009, Hanley says. The Ares I-X suborbital test of a largely boiler-plate version of the whole Orion/Ares I stack also was considered unlikely to meet its planned Apr. 15, 2009, target date even before the internal date was moved (AW&ST May 26, p. 22).

"Ares I-X and Pad Abort One are on a schedule that will be dictated by the progress the team makes to getting those to the finish line," Hanley says. "They’re not really affected by this schedule realignment. Our subsequent test program, Ascent Abort One and the ascent-abort test firings that follow probably will move to the right somewhat."

The Ares I-X test will carry instrumentation designed to help the Ares I project get better data on the thrust oscillation problem that cropped up last year. "Conservative" analysis predicted potentially dangerous vibrations in the Orion cabin triggered by thrust oscillation in the final few seconds of burning in the solid-fuel first stage (AW&ST Jan. 28, p. 400; Feb. 25, p. 36).

http://www.aviationweek.com/media/images/awst_images/large/AW_08_18_2008_790_L.jpg 

NASA has slipped its internal target for the first flight of the Ares I rocket with a crewed Orion capsule by a year, but engineers have settled on a solution for a tricky thrust oscillation in the stack.Credit: NASA MARSHALL SPACE FLIGHT CENTER 

Ares I engineers are to present their final recommendation on fixing the problem at NASA headquarters this month. After considering mounting the first-stage recovery parachutes on springs to "detune" the stack, they have settled on an approach designed to minimize changes to the Orion vehicle by handling almost all of the vibration in the first stage.

For a worst-case scenario, driven by data from Ares I-X and other testing, the Ares I project and its first-stage contractor-ATK-would develop an active tune mass absorber that would detect the frequency and amplitude of the thrust oscillation with accelerometers, and use battery-powered motors to move weights up and down to damp it out. The concept calls for mounting 16 - 20 of the devices on the aft skirt of the Ares I first stage.

Garry Lyles, an experienced launch vehicle engineer at Marshall Space Flight Center who heads up the effort to fix the thrust oscillation problem, says the approach will be able to reduce vibration loads on the crew in Orion to 0.25g, which is considered low enough for astronauts to be able to read displays and react to changing conditions effectively. It also would be able to handle variations in the vibrations produced by a given motor with "a lot of capability to tune in on the frequencies that were being generated."

Steve Cook, exploration launch vehicles project manager at Marshall, says the upcoming testing and analysis, including centrifuge tests at Ames Research Center that may update the Project Gemini-vintage human-loads guidelines, could eliminate the need for an active-damping concept. Lyles’ team has also studied passive damping in the aft skirt, which may be sufficient for handling the actual loads. A passive "compliance structure"-essentially a spring-loaded ring that would detune the stack by softening the interface between the first and upper stages-also is included in the design concept.

The active aft-skirt tune mass absorber would weigh about 6,500 lb., and the compliance structure would add another 6,000 lb. Both would drop away with the first stage, Cook says, meaning the maximum hit to overall vehicle performance in terms of payload to orbit would be 1,200-1,400 lb. That is within the performance margin maintained at this point in vehicle development, Cook says, and could drop if testing and analysis reveal the fixes are more than is needed.

"First, we’re going to look to see if we can leave off the compliance ring," Cook says. "Then we’d like to be able to go from an active system down to a passive system, and then the last thing we would do is to take the whole thing off as we go forward. So we’ve got a series of off-ramps with this design."

Cook says the thrust oscillation issue did not play into NASA’s decision to push back the internal IOC. The Ares I is in the final stages of preliminary design review (PDR), with a PDR board tentatively set for Sept. 10. But the thrust oscillation concern will be addressed in a "delta PDR" next spring, and developing the mitigation designs should fit within the overall schedule.

"The solution we’ve got works," Cook says. "It pounds it flat, gives us a lot of flexibility and we can handle it from a performance perspective."

While the Ares I/ Orion stack retains enough weight margin to accommodate the thrust oscillation fix, the project’s approach to weight reduction has come under fire from the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP), which warned that the "zero-base" approach used could make it difficult for necessary safety hardware to "earn its way in" to the vehicle design.

"When safety elements have to ‘earn their way’ onto a design that has already begun to take shape, objectivity and consistency in the decision-making could be compromised," the ASAP 2007 annual report states. But NASA believes its approach will produce safe spacecraft.

"Every system, whether it be safety-related or not, has undergone a great deal of scrutiny, so that we can understand exactly what it contributes to the spacecraft’s design, as well as the spacecraft’s reliability," Hanley says. "You start with a minimum functional design, and then you improve it in the areas where it gives you the greatest return. . . . We’re not done yet."


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Plan for the Development of Extra-solar Commerce & Habitation

Plan for the Development of Extra-solar Commerce & Habitation

An interesting read from the Space.com boards by a poster named night_shadow_1,

This is offered as a solution to the ever-increasing issues of our world's dwindling resources, and, lack of available viable habitat. Keeping in mind that our world is a finite (and ever over-crowding) habitat in itself, and, that we're all essentially imprisoned within it until we resolve our restrictions on mass extra-solar mobility and habitation, I see a dire need for our species to move ahead by leaps and bounds rather than through the current "baby steps" methodology.

  So I propose the following:

4 Fundamental changes for evolving our current "space exploration" endeavors:

  1. Save costs by converting our extra-solar unit designs from unique platform chassis to universal ones, and, introduce unique operational components as aftermarket additions. We've been designing "new" satellites for decades. Even though many of the chassis assemblies & components have experienced vast evolutionary advancements, as far as general applications go, the baser principles of the designs and operations of satellites have remained the same. As such, we should easily be able to find many ways to universalize & mass produce those baser chassis assemblages & adapt upgradable compartmentalization within them for refitting them with newer components in place of older ones as the demand to do so arises. Maybe then we would experience more of a cost-effective measure of longevity in the service lives of those units (as we've long experienced with the auto industry) rather than the constant short-term obsoletism that has been scene in the computing technology industry. This may, in fact, allow the obsoletism of computing technology to continue as it apparently is destined to do without the need to scrap entire satellite chassis. Recycling is, after all, the big fad of the century. 

  2. Start using our "shuttles" as shuttles & the ISS as a(n) construction yard/assembly plant. Use our shuttles to ferry pieces of chassis and components of larger haul assemblages to the ISS for building truely viable space-bound vehicles and habitats. And I mean real vehicles that can sustain long-term long-ranged repeat travel, and, real habitats that can sustain whole cyclical communities (along with bio-diverse nutrient resources & routinely relaying extra-solar traffic) for generations, not just a handful of specialized researchers for short periods. It has been expressed many times over that the costs for luanching even the smallest average payloads into space (as pre-assembled units) are ecceedingly costly. Argueably to costly. Let's start using what we've already built to expand by building more, bigger & better than before. 

  3. Implament municiple constructs, and universal commerce, into space-bound vehicles & habitats. Just as we have utilized localized governance, and corporate sponcorship, to forward the socio-economic potentials and securities of all other Earth-bound human developments, by all means it is long overdue that we allow these sociological & financial mechanisms help us establish & promote the advancement of extra-solar travel & habitation. First off, I'm sure it would be acceptable for everyone if we treated some of the available spaces within extra-solar habitats (currently only includes the ISS) as publically/commercially leasable real-estate just like we do here on Earth. Zoning and all would be included. And, I don't care if there are Microsoft billboards on the walls of public areas of extra-solar habitats, and/or, orbital CocaCola billboards along the routes of extra-solar traffic, if it means we actually have those things to work with. Obviously, it needs to be within reason but, it is far more unreasonable to think we can sustain the developments of such endeavors without including any such mechanisms within them. How else are we to establish sustainable mass extra-solar commerce and habitation? We simply can't without them. Look at the stagnation in the results of the past three decades of a purely scientific set of endeavors of our world's government's in space. Then look at the leaps and bounds made by the commercialization of low Earth orbit by corporate satellites.

  4. Include hi-profile/profit entertainment attractions into the mix. I (as well as I'm sure many others) would love, and pay well, to see extreme extra-solar athletes duke it out in zero-G arenas if the arenas were outfitted appropriately. A zero-G version of boxing (or wrestling) on pay-per-view for instance would make a mint right from the start. We could start the ball rolling by having those astronauts that keep complaining about bordom and wrestlessness form a set of extra-solar sports leagues with their expected down-times slotted for them to have at it in unused portions of the station. Maybe even start including a couple of well known atheletes (or pseudo atheletes) into the crews of future missions specifically for that purpose. Imagine the revenue generated from a couple of icons of wrestling (like the Undertaker & Stone Cold Steve Austin) going at it in space. Have a couple of the biggest names in illusion/magic team up to perform in space. A Chris Angel-Mind Freak special comes to mind. Also, include golbal-cast performance arts of major acts. MJ & Bono and there crews would probably love to play the ISS in Global-cast or do live shots of them bangin around in the payload bay of the shuttle. Maybe have Jackie Chan and Jet Li have at it zero-G style in a fake no-holds-barred martial arts act. Flashy showmenship, weapons and all. And the world would eat it up and pay through the nose to say they saw it live. The proceeds for any one of these acts alone would pay for the expenses of getting them there and back several times over with loads left over to finance the advancements of more of the same. Just look how much each of the aforementioned make in a single average show of similar coverage without the benefit of recognition of promoting something as pioneering & inspiring as Extra-solar entertainment. Lastly, indoctrinate a global holiday where the world has a day of orbital fireworks shows viewable from anywhere around the world. You can call it a celebration in recognition of our species' first successful venture into space and/or to pay homage to "our choice to do something about the threat of space junk" (relate it to what ever you want). The show would be amazing and inspiring, and thusly, extremely profitable for every business and governmental body promoting it. 

OK, that's all you get for now. I'm tierd and need to sleep.
The only permanently sustainable habitat for life is a mobile one.


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16 August 2008

Russian push into Georgia could knock Nasa off ISS

Russian push into Georgia could knock Nasa off ISS

Russia’s invasion of Georgia is sending ripples right out into space, with NASA facing the possibility of no longer being able to hitch a ride to the International Space Station on Soyuz flights.

With the space shuttle due to retire in 2010, and the US not likely to have a replacement manned space flight option ready till 2015, Russian’s space fleet is the only interim option for the US to get people into space and onto the ISS.
 

But the US and Russia have long been at loggerheads over Moscow’s less-than-hard line on Iran’s nuclear program, and the 2000 Iran-Syria Non-Proliferation Act bans the US from tech purchases from countries that trade nuke material with those countries.

That bill includes an exemption for Russia’s Soyuz program, allowing the US to book seats on Russian manned flights, but that expires in 2011, when it will be put to the vote again.

Senator Bill Nelson, the Florida-based democrat who is a major advocate for Nasa, has publicy acknowledged that Russia’s increasingly aggressive stance means Congress is unlikely to let the exemption through.

He told Florida Today: "It was a tough sell before, but it was doable simply because we didn't have a choice. We don't want to deny ourselves access to the space station, the very place we have built and paid for."

“That’s a $100bn investment up there that we won’t have access to,” he said to the Florida Sentinel.

He also acknowledged that even if Congress did extend the waiver an increasingly assertive Russia might simply snub NASA.

Nelson did not let the opportunity pass to take a pop at the Bush administration, criticising it for allowing the US to become dependent on Russia’s manned space program. "If I were president I'd be pulling out all the stops to get Russia to understand the consequences of continued bad behavior," Nelson told the Sentinel.

The US has indeed been taking a tougher line with Russia over the Georgian incursion, though whether that makes future space collaboration more likely is decidedly moot. With US forces delivering aid – and whisking Georgian troops back from Iraq – we seem to be heading back to the days when Russian and US astronauts being within 20 feet of one another in space is seen as a major advance in d├ętente. ®


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14 August 2008

Why Go to Space Pt II

Continued from Part I

I have often had to justify why going into space is a good idea and use of resources when we have so many other problems.  Here are some reasons.

But first, a matter of scale.  The estimated federal budget for FY 2007 was 2.7  trillion dollars.  Trillion, as in 1000 billion.  The estimated NASA budget adjusted for inflation $17.2 billion.  For that year, NASA consumed 0.6% of the Federal budget.  Not even a whole percentage point for the national agency directed to lead us into the next stage of human technological development.

In exchange for 0.6% of the federal budget, you get a space program, national pride, economic stimulation, and a slew of inventions that you get to use and no royalties are charged!

Coming up next, NASA in your city's museum


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UP Aerospace Launches LockMart Test Vehicle

UP Aerospace Launches LockMart Test Vehicle

by Staff Writers
Las Cruces NM (SPX) Aug 14, 2008
New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) officials announced a successful launch of a test flight vehicle for Lockheed Martin by UP Aerospace from Spaceport America on Tuesday, August 12. The brief test flight was a non-public, unpublished event at the request of Lockheed Martin, who is testing proprietary advanced launch technologies.

"The launch successfully lifted off at 7 a.m. local time at the beginning of our three-hour launch window. We are very pleased to be a small business partner with Lockheed Martin on their research and development technology programs by supplying low-cost, fast turnaround launch operation," said UP Aerospace President Jerry Larson.

The launch represents additional progress for Lockheed Martin, which did preliminary launch testing at the Spaceport in December 2007.

The latest launch represents yet another successful experience at Spaceport America, the nation's first purpose-built commercial spaceport.

"We are extremely pleased to host another launch by UP Aerospace, which continues to set the precedent for safe, practical commercial spaceflight at Spaceport America," said NMSA Executive Director Steve Landeene. "The aerospace community increasingly understands the benefits offered by Spaceport America."

Spaceport America is the nation's first purpose-built commercial space facility. Spaceport America holds great promise for New Mexico's economic future, and has been working closely with leading aerospace firms such as Lockheed Martin, UP Aerospace, Virgin Galactic, Microgravity Enterprises and Payload Specialties.

With planning moving along rapidly, the NMSA currently projects that licensed vertical launches can begin in the first quarter of 2009 and that the terminal and hangar facility for horizontal launches should be completed by 2010.


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MIT Solves Puzzle Of Meteorite-Asteroid Link

MIT Solves Puzzle Of Meteorite-Asteroid Link

By David Chandler
MIT News Office
Cambridge MA (SPX) Aug 14, 2008
For the last few years, astronomers have faced a puzzle: The vast majority of asteroids that come near the Earth are of a type that matches only a tiny fraction of the meteorites that most frequently hit our planet.

Since meteorites are mostly pieces of asteroids, this discrepancy was hard to explain, but a team from MIT and other institutions have now found what they believe is the answer to the puzzle.

The smaller rocks that most often fall to Earth, it seems, come straight in from the main asteroid belt out between Mars and Jupiter, rather than from the near-Earth asteroid (NEA) population. The research is reported in Nature.

The puzzle gradually emerged from a long-term study of the properties of asteroids carried out by MIT professor of planetary science Richard Binzel and his students, along with postdoctoral researcher P. Vernazza, who is now with the European Space Agency, and A.T. Tokunaga, director of the University of Hawaii's Institute of Astronomy.

By studying the spectral signatures of near-Earth asteroids, they were able to compare them with spectra obtained on Earth from the thousands of meteorites that have been recovered from falls. But the more they looked, the more they found that most NEAs - about two-thirds of them - match a specific type of meteorites called LL chondrites, which only represent about 8 percent of meteorites. How could that be?

"Why do we see a difference between the objects hitting the ground and the big objects whizzing by?" Binzel asks. "It's been a headscratcher." As the effect became gradually more and more noticeable as more asteroids were analyzed, "we finally had a big enough data set that the statistics demanded an answer. It could no longer be just a coincidence."

Way out in the main belt, the population is much more varied, and approximates the mix of types that is found among meteorites. But why would the things that most frequently hit us match this distant population better than it matches the stuff that's right in our neighborhood? That's where the idea emerged of a fast track all the way from the main belt to a "splat!" On Earth's surface.

This fast track, it turns out, is caused by an obscure effect that was discovered long ago, but only recently recognized as a significant factor in moving asteroids around, called the Yarkovsky effect.

The Yarkovsky effect causes asteroids to change their orbits as a result of the way they absorb the sun's heat on one side and radiate it back later as they rotate around. This causes a slight imbalance that slowly, over time, alters the object's path. But the key thing is this: The effect acts much more strongly on the smallest objects, and only weakly on the larger ones.

"We think the Yarkovsky effect is so efficient for meter-size objects that it can operate on all regions of the asteroid belt," not just its inner edge, Binzel says.

Thus, for chunks of rock from boulder-size on down - the kinds of things that end up as typical meteorites - the Yarkovsky effect plays a major role, moving them with ease from throughout the asteroid belt on to paths that can head toward Earth. For larger asteroids a kilometer or so across, the kind that we worry about as potential threats to the Earth, the effect is so weak it can only move them small amounts.

Binzel's study concludes that the largest near-Earth asteroids mostly come from the asteroid belt's innermost edge, where they are part of a specific "family" thought to all be remnants of a larger asteroid that was broken apart by collisions.

With an initial nudge from the Yarkovsky effect, kilometer-sized asteroids from the Flora region can find themselves "over the edge" of the asteroid belt and sent on a path to Earth's vicinity through the perturbing effects of the planets called resonances.

The new study is also good news for protecting the planet. One of the biggest problems in figuring out how to deal with an approaching asteroid, if and when one is discovered on a potential collision course, is that they are so varied. The best way of dealing with one kind might not work on another.

But now that this analysis has shown that the majority of near-Earth asteroids are of this specific type - stony objects, rich in the mineral olivine and poor in iron - it's possible to concentrate most planning on dealing with that kind of object, Binzel says.

"Odds are, an object we might have to deal with would be like an LL chondrite, and thanks to our samples in the laboratory, we can measure its properties in detail," he says. "It's the first step toward 'know thy enemy'."

In addition to Binzel, Vernazza and Tokunaga, the co-authors are MIT graduate students Christina Thomas and Francesca DeMeo, S.J. Bus of the University of Hawaii, and A.S. Rivkin of Johns Hopkins University. The work was supported by NASA and the NSF.


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13 August 2008

SpaceX Finds Cause of Failed Private Rocket Launch

From Sci-Tech Today

August 8, 2008 7:32AM

Saturday's foiled launch was the third miss for SpaceX, which hopes to break into the low-cost space launch business. Its 2006 maiden launch failed due to a fuel line leak. The rocket reached 180 miles above Earth on its second try last year, but its second stage prematurely shut off. The latest attempt used a different engine than the previous tries.

A privately held rocket company blamed a design error for its latest failure to reach orbit, which caused the loss of three government satellites and human ashes, including the remains of astronaut Gordon Cooper and "Star Trek" actor James Doohan. 

The two-stage Falcon 1 rocket, which blasted off from a Central Pacific atoll Saturday night, separated as planned on its way to space, but leftover thrust after engine cutoff caused the first stage to fall back and hit the second stage, according to Hawthorne-based SpaceX. 

The rocket, containing the remains of 208 people, dropped in the Pacific and was not recovered. 

The family of Doohan, who played Scotty on the television show "Star Trek," could not be reached Wednesday night. 

A message left with Cooper's widow Suzan Cooper was not immediately returned. Cooper was one of the original Mercury astronauts who set a space endurance record by traveling 3.3 million miles (5.31 million kilometers) aboard Gemini V in 1965. 

The rocket also carried three small satellites for NASA and the Defense Department. It was not immediately known how much the satellites cost. NASA lost a nanosatellite and an experimental solar sail. 

Saturday's foiled launch was the third miss for SpaceX, which hopes to break into the low-cost space launch business. Its 2006 maiden launch failed due to a fuel line leak. The rocket reached some 180 miles above Earth on its second try last year, but its second stage prematurely shut off. 

The latest attempt used a different engine than the previous two tries. SpaceX said the new engine performed flawlessly, but the failure occurred because there was a short time gap -- 1.5 seconds -- between engine shutdown and stage separation. 

Neither stage exploded, but they "got a little bit cooked," said Internet entrepreneur Elon Musk, who founded SpaceX in 2002. 

Musk said the problem could be easily fixed by increasing the timing between the two steps. Engineers did not detect the problem during testing because it was done at sea level, Musk said. 

SpaceX plans to launch another Falcon 1 as early as next month. 

Besides the Falcon 1, SpaceX is developing for NASA a larger launch vehicle, Falcon 9, capable of flying to the international space station when the current space shuttle fleet retires in 2010.


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NASA Safety Panel Worries About Moon Ship Design

From Sci-Tech Today

As the safety panel report came out, Constellation program officials announced in a telephone press conference that their own ambitious internal schedule for the first launch of the Orion capsule with astronauts aboard is being pushed back one year for lack of money. NASA is now aiming internally for September 2014.

 NASA is not properly emphasizing safety in its design of a new spaceship and its return-to-the-moon program faces money, morale and leadership problems, an agency safety panel found Monday. 

The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel cited "surprising anxiety among NASA employees" about the Constellation moon program and said the project "lacks clear direction." Its 143-page annual report specifically faulted the agency's design of the Orion crew capsule for not putting safety features first. 

Officials in charge of the program, defending the design safety at a news conference, wouldn't say whether astronauts are among the worried employees. Astronauts would have to fly in the Orion crew capsule, with a first launch planned by 2015. 

Past NASA spaceships were built with enough backup safety systems "to ensure safety and reliability," from the start, the report said. But it said that because of weight problems with the Orion design, NASA has used a different approach, one "without all safeguards included" from the beginning. In the Orion project, any added safety feature would have to "earn its way in" to the design by justifying that the increased safety was worth the extra cost and weight. 

That's not right, said the safety advisory panel, which includes two former space shuttle astronauts and was created after the deadly 1967 Apollo 1 fire. The panel said it is "concerned that this process may not be capable of providing adequate protection against hazards that will only come to light once the spacecraft is in operation." 

NASA's Constellation program officials defended the safety of the still evolving spaceship design, but acknowledged that some NASA employees are unhappy with it. 

Because it is so difficult and expensive to send a rocket to the moon and back, designers start with the minimum necessary and then improve it in areas that give the greatest return for the money and added weight, said Constellation program manager Jeff Hanley. 

"That has made some folks uncomfortable, but guess what? We're not done yet," Hanley said Monday. "We are not just blindly cutting out" back-up safety systems. 

"We're not going to please everybody," he said. "If we tried to please everybody the spacecraft would not get off the ground." 

Hanley said he had not seen the safety panel's report, which also praised some aspects of the program and looked at the agency in general. 

As the safety panel report came out, Constellation program officials announced in a telephone press conference that their own ambitious internal schedule for the first launch of the Orion capsule with astronauts aboard is being pushed back one year for lack of money. NASA has long promised its first launch of Orion by March 2015, but aimed internally for September 2013 as a launch date. Now it's aiming internally for September 2014. 

"The funding over the next two years became too tight for us, so I had to adjust the schedule for that," Hanley said. 

NASA plans to land astronauts on the moon by 2020.


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From Space Daily

Electron trapping during magnetic reconnection

Travelling faster than the speed of light

Cassini Begins Transmitting Data from Enceladus Flyby

Orbital Supporting MEASAT In Replanning Mission Schedule

Soil Studies Continue At Phoenix Mars Lander Site


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IKEA

IKEA to sell solar panels?


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12 August 2008

Good ol' Gubmint

Orion program delayed

*hangs head and watches China put first base on Moon*


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MIT Open Courseware

MIT Open Courseware

All I have to say is WOW!


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Freeluna - Lunar Colonization Blog

From FreeLuna I give you:

Freeluna - Lunar Colonization Blog: Huntsville from Above

Google Earth is truly the best app for losing hours of productivity

A picture on Spacedaily.com had me wondering where it was taken. Apparently from Google Earth or Google Maps. For what it's worth, here are a few coordinates of space facilities and or space tourism spots around the world. Feel free to add your own:

Huntsville Alabama Rocket Center (Space Camp)
34.710618,-86.655098

Baikonur, Kazakhstan
45.628362,63.321092 

Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan -- Soyuz Facility
45.920293,63.342206 

Kennedy Space Center, Florida
28.586029,-80.651472 

Guiana Space Center -- Ariane Launch Facility
5.16737,-52.70088 

JAXA Tanegashima Space Center
31.251057,131.081218


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Why Go to Space?

It is the single mostannoying question I get asked.  "Why should we spend millions going into space when we have homeless/unemployment/famine/animal abuse/Chinese babies to adopt here?"

More on this later.


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06 August 2008

Interesting articles

How to colonize the Solar System

Part 1: http://nottionalgeographic.blogspot.com/2008/04/how-to-colonize-solar-system-part-i.html

Part 2: http://nottionalgeographic.blogspot.com/2008/05/how-to-colonize-solar-system-part-ii.html

Good Read


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Moving Backwards

Less than 10 flights left for the Shuttle.  Billions spent on an international space station that we will be walking away from in the near future.  Constellation program - Apollo style capsules.  Does anyone else think that we're moving backwards?

We never achieved the dream of a fast turnaround reuseable Shuttle and threw away the program for the SSTO spaceplane before we even had a test flight.  Billions spent and nothing to show for it.  We're now going to be dependent on the Soyuz, a 42 year old launcher, to reach the station.

In the time it takes us to develop the Constellation program, we will have NO manned spaceflight capability.    Now in some circles, that isn't such a bad thing.  Man-rating a spacecraft adds mass and money to the cost of the program.  Robots can do almost all of what we do in space, especially with tele-operation.  With the retirement of the Shuttle, we lose little in a functional sense, butwe lose everything in the most important aspect of spaceflight: national prestige.  We bow out and leave the game to China and Russia.  If someone had told you in the 1960s and 70s that we wouldlose the lead in space exploration to Russia and China, you would have been laughed out of town.

What has happened to us?  Have we become a people that has come to terms with being just a member of the pack?  What happened to the drive and spirit allowed us to overcome a huge Soviet lead in rocketry and beat the to the Moon?

How long before American rockets say Made in China?


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Welcome

This is my first blog and hopefully it will be a successful, informative one.  My intent is to bring together people that realize that the preservation of our planet and future as a race lies in space.


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