Archives

June 2012


Space Propulsion Group, Inc. (SPG) today successfully completed a major technology development test of its 22-inch-diameter, Liquid Oxygen/paraffin-based advanced hybrid rocket motor. This cutting-edge hybrid propulsion technology has practical applications for numerous space-related industries, including transportation, defense, suborbital research and tourism.

Space Propulsion Group, Inc. (SPG) today successfully completed a major technology development test of its 22-inch-diameter, Liquid Oxygen/paraffin-based advanced hybrid rocket motor. This cutting-edge hybrid propulsion technology has practical applications for numerous space-related industries, including transportation, defense, suborbital research and tourism.


In This Week at NASA Senator Barbara Mikulski, chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, was joined by officials from NASA, Orbital Sciences Corporation and others at the Wallops Flight Facility for an update of Orbital's Antares rocket and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport's new pad, from which the vehicle will launch and more.


China is celebrating the safe return of three astronauts, who successfully completed a mission that included the country's first manual docking in space and the first Chinese woman astronaut. Live television images of the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft's return were broadcast around China Friday.

With the impending solar maximum expected to bring heightened rates of flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs), putting at risk an ever-increasing human presence in space, Oh et al. designed and assessed a prediction system to keep astronauts safe from these solar storms.


To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) NASA has released this video montage of highlights. From Kennedy's speech, Glen's Friendship 7 flight, the Apollo years, unmaned launches, the Shuttle era and through to the transformation of KSC for the next era of U.S. human spaceflight, watch it all.

New NanoRacks' Software Platform Speeds Space Customer Payloads to International Space Station

"A new software platform designed to ease the passage of payloads from earth to space was announced today at the AAS Space Station Research and Development Conference by NanoRacks, LLC, the leading company for space utilization. Payload TrackerTM is the first ever user-friendly tool that is specifically designed to allow customers, government officials, launch providers and others to track individual payloads through the myriad NASA safety and procedural requirements involved in launching customer project to the International Space Station."

The sun "peeking" through a solar array panel on the International Space Station caught the attention of one of the Expedition 31 crew members aboard the International Space Station. The thin blue line of Earth's atmosphere is visible in the background. ISS031-E-112645 (6 June 2012) --- high res (1.4 M) low res (85 K)

Photo: Zero Robotics (SPHERES ZR) Flying Inside the Space Station

"Two bowling-ball-sized free-flying satellites called Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites Zero Robotics (SPHERES ZR) are pictured during a test session in the Kibo laboratory of the International Space Station."

Two bowling-ball-sized free-flying satellites called Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites Zero Robotics (SPHERES ZR) are pictured during a test session in the Kibo laboratory of the International Space Station. ISS031-E-140672 (22 June 2012) --- high res (1.6 M) low res (91 K)

Two bowling-ball-sized free-flying satellites called Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites Zero Robotics (SPHERES ZR) are pictured during a test session in the Kibo laboratory of the International Space Station. ISS031-E-140672 (22 June 2012) --- high res (1.6 M) low res (91 K)

An Expedition 31 crew member aboard the International Space Station, flying approximately 240 miles above Earth, recorded a series of images of the current wild fires in the southwestern United States. These particular fires, of unknown cause, are burning at the south end of the Wyoming Range in southwestern Wyoming, and have affected 17,000 acres.

Data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft have revealed Saturn's moon Titan likely harbors a layer of liquid water under its ice shell.

Scullion & Wedemeyer-Boehm (2012); NASAScullion & Wedemeyer-Boehm (2012); NASA

The super tornadoes - which are thousands of times larger and more powerful than their earthly counterparts but which have a magnetic skeleton - spin at speeds of more than 6,000 mph at temperatures in millions of centigrade in the Sun's atmosphere.

In a press conference at the California Academy of Sciences Thursday morning, the B612 Foundation unveiled its plans to build, launch, and operate the first privately funded deep space mission - SENTINEL - a space telescope to be placed in orbit around the Sun, ranging up to 170 million miles from Earth, for a mission of discovery and mapping. The Foundation leadership and technical team include some of the most experienced professionals in the world to lead this effort.


In a press conference at the California Academy of Sciences Thursday morning, the B612 Foundation unveiled its plans to build, launch, and operate the first privately funded deep space mission - SENTINEL - a space telescope to be placed in orbit around the Sun, ranging up to 170 million miles from Earth, for a mission of discovery and mapping.


An international team of astronomers using data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has detected significant changes in the atmosphere of a planet located beyond our solar system. The scientists conclude the atmospheric variations occurred in response to a powerful eruption on the planet's host star, an event observed by NASA's Swift satellite.

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For the first time a clever new technique has allowed astronomers to study the atmosphere of an exoplanet in detail -- even though it does not pass in front of its parent star. An international team has used ESO's Very Large Telescope to directly catch the faint glow from the planet Tau Booetis b.

Extremely Little Telescope Discovers Pair of Odd Planets

"The KELT team scans those bright stars, and watches to see if the starlight dims just a little -- an indication that a planet has crossed in front of the star. The technique is called the "transit method," and takes advantage of situations such as the recent transit of Venus across the face of the Sun in our own solar system. It's a low-cost means of planet-hunting, using mostly off-the-shelf technology; whereas a traditional astronomical telescope costs millions of dollars to build, the hardware for a KELT telescope runs less than $75,000."


Though the KELT North telescope in southern Arizona carries a lens no more powerful than a high-end digital camera, it's just revealed the existence of two very unusual faraway planets.

Mauritania as photograph by International Space Station astronaut Andre Kuipers on 10 May 2012 using a Nikon D2Xs. Larger image

Functional Cargo Block, FGB, Zarya. The oldest part of the Station. In space since 1998. This photo was taken on May 16, 2012 by International Space Station astronaut Andre Kuipers using a Nikon D2Xs. Credit: ESA/NASA Larger image

Functional Cargo Block, FGB, Zarya. The oldest part of the Station. In space since 1998. This photo was taken on May 16, 2012 by International Space Station astronaut Andre Kuipers using a Nikon D2Xs. Credit: ESA/NASA Larger image

During each nighttime pass we can see many lightning flashes. This one over West Africa. This photo was taken on June 4, 2012 by International Space Station astronaut Andre Kuipers using a Nikon D3S. Credit: ESA/NASA Larger image

MESSENGER completed its 1,000th orbit of the planet closest to the Sun at 11:22 p.m. EDT on 22 June 2012. "Reaching this milestone is yet another testimony to the hard work and dedication of the full MESSENGER team that has designed, launched, and operated this highly successful spacecraft," says the mission trajectory lead Jim McAdams of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.

A maneuver on Tuesday adjusted the flight path of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft for delivering the rover Curiosity to a landing target beside a Martian mountain.

A recent workshop conducted for NASA by the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) in Houston, marked a key step in the agency's effort to forge a new Mars strategy in the coming decades. A report that summarizes the wide range of cutting-edge science, technology and mission concepts discussed is available online.


NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured approximately 18 hours of video for this dancing plasma from June 24 through June 25. Suspended in twisted magnetic fields, the hot plasma structure is many times the size of planet Earth.

From year to year, the moon never seems to change. Craters and other formations appear to be permanent now, but the moon didn't always look like this. Thanks to NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, we now have a better look at some of the moon's history. Learn more in this video!

This video is public domain and can be downloaded at: http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/goto?10930

This visualization shows ocean surface currents around the world during the period from June 2005 through Decemeber 2007. The visualization does not include a narration or annotations; the goal was to use ocean flow data to create a simple, visceral experience.

Turbulent jet streams, regions where winds blow faster than in other places, churn east and west across Saturn. Scientists have been trying to understand for years the mechanism that drives these wavy structures in Saturn's atmosphere and the source from which the jets derive their energy.


Turbulent jet streams, regions where winds blow faster than in other places, churn east and west across Saturn. Scientists have been trying to understand for years the mechanism that drives these wavy structures in Saturn's atmosphere and the source from which the jets derive their energy.

The NASA team at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans has completed the final weld on the first space-bound Orion capsule. The Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1) Orion will be shipped to the Kennedy Space Center for final assembly and checkout operations.

The NASA team at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans has completed the final weld on the first space-bound Orion capsule. The Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1) Orion will be shipped to the Kennedy Space Center for final assembly and checkout operations.


Team members at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory share the challenges of the Curiosity Mars rover's final minutes to landing on the surface of Mars. The newest Mars rover is expected to touch down on Mars on Monday, August 6 at approximately 1:30 a.m. EDT for people on the east coast and 10:30 p.m. PDT on Sunday, August 5th on the west coast.

NASA astronaut Don Pettit, Expedition 31 flight engineer, poses with several still cameras in the Cupola of the International Space Station. ISS031-E-112469 (10 June 2012) --- high res (1.4 M) low res (104 K)

NASA astronaut Don Pettit, Expedition 31 flight engineer, poses with several still cameras in the Cupola of the International Space Station. ISS031-E-112469 (10 June 2012) --- high res (1.4 M) low res (104 K)

Polar mesospheric clouds in the Northern Hemisphere are featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 31 crew member on the International Space Station. In both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, during their respective late spring and early summer seasons, polar mesospheric clouds are at the peak of their visibility.

On This Week at NASA we have the following stories: The International Space Station and its benefit to science as the world's only laboratory in microgravity is highlighted on Capitol Hill. Also, NASA administrator Charles Bolden Finds NEEMO; JPL has its annual Open House; Cleveland HUBZone; African Cosmos; Aerospace Scholars; NASA Now Emmy; SOI; and more!

In this NASA JPL video, Mars Science Laboratory team members share the challenges of Curiosity's final minutes to landing on the surface of Mars.

In this NASA JPL video, Mars Science Laboratory team members share the challenges of Curiosity's final minutes to landing on the surface of Mars.

Kids are always told to reach for the stars. Now, NASA is literally giving them a chance to by providing middle and high school students with unprecedented access to the International Space Station and letting them write the programs that control state-of-the-art robots on the International Space Station -- no Ph.D. in astrophysics required!

The NASA Tournament Laboratory, established by NASA and Harvard University, along with the enabling capabilities of the TopCoder community, have partnered with Tongal to hold a competition with cash prizes for winning ideas, pitches and promotional videos to inspire tomorrow's scientists to see mathematics as more than just digits on a calculator, to further the study of outer space and to push the limits of human knowledge about the worlds (and the space) beyond our planet. The winning videos will help inspire middle and high school students to compete in the Zero Robotics Challenge, which is managed for NASA by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT.

Design a space settlement! Space settlements are permanent communities in orbit, as opposed to being on the moon or other planets. Designing a space settlement involves physics, mathematics, space science, environmental science and many other disciplines.

The NASA Space Settlement Design Contest is intended for students in grades 6-12, although younger students may enter. Individual or teams from anywhere in the world may enter. Grade levels are judged separately, except for the grand prize. All participants will receive a certificate. Submissions must be received by March 15, 2013.

For more information about the NASA Space Settlement Design Contest, visit http://settlement.arc.nasa.gov/Contest/. If you have any questions about the contest, please email Al Globus at aglobus@mail.arc.nasa.gov.

Italy's Lake Garda and the city of Verona south of the Italian Alps are pictured in this image from Japan's ALOS observation satellite.

The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) was launched on 11 February 2010, and the EUV Variability Experiment (EVE), one of the three solar instruments aboard SDO, began normal operations on 1 May 2010. As part of the planned SDO EVE program, sounding rockets are flown regularly to provide underflight calibrations in order to more accurately track instrument degradation trends.

This image was taken on June 19, 2012 and received on Earth June 20, 2012. The camera was pointing toward Saturn at approximately 1,706,861 miles (2,746,927 kilometers) away, and the image was taken using the CB2 and CL2 filters. This image has not been validated or calibrated. A validated/calibrated image will be archived with the NASA Planetary Data System in 2013. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute Full-Res: W00074687.jpg


This image was taken on June 19, 2012 and received on Earth June 20, 2012. The camera was pointing toward Saturn at approximately 1,706,861 miles (2,746,927 kilometers) away, and the image was taken using the CB2 and CL2 filters.

The Rio+20 summit on promoting jobs, clean energy and a more sustainable use of our planet's resources closed today after three days of talks. During the summit, the role of Earth observation in sustainable development was highlighted.

ESA Summer Camp Yields Innovative Apps

"This week's ESA App Camp didn't see canoeing or campfires. Developers worked diligently despite the Mediterranean heat to create applications for mobile phones that bring Earth observation and GMES services to the everyday user. Ending today at ESRIN, ESA's centre for Earth observation, in Frascati, Italy, 21 developers from 17 ESA and EU Member States spent the week creating mobile applications - or apps - using satellite data."

Using the planetary radar system at Arecibo Observatory, astronomers have determined that asteroid 2012 LZ1 is twice as large as originally estimated based on its brightness, and large enough to have serious global consequences if it were to hit the Earth.

This visualization, created using Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter laser altimeter data, offers a view of Shackleton Crater located in the south pole of the moon. Thanks to these measurements, we now have our best-yet maps of the crater's permanently-shadowed interior.


Few nighttime sights offer more drama than the full Moon rising over the horizon. Now imagine that instead of the Moon, a gas giant planet spanning three times more sky loomed over the molten landscape of a lava world. This alien vista exists in the newly discovered two-planet system of Kepler-36.

Few nighttime sights offer more drama than the full Moon rising over the horizon. Now imagine that instead of the Moon, a gas giant planet spanning three times more sky loomed over the molten landscape of a lava world. This alien vista exists in the newly discovered two-planet system of Kepler-36.

"These two worlds are having close encounters," said Josh Carter, a Hubble Fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).

Deep in the Milky Way in the constellation of Scorpius (The Scorpion) lies the War and Peace Nebula, or NGC 6357 [1], a region of space where new stars are being born in of chaotic clouds of gas and dust [2]. The outer parts of this vast nebula have now been imaged by ESO's Very Large Telescope, producing the best picture of this region taken so far [3].

NASA Offers Web, Mobile Links to Follow Space Station and Mission Control

"NASA is using the Internet and smartphones to provide the public with a new inside look at what happens aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and in the Mission Control Center at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Log onto the agency's Space Station Live! web page or download the companion ISSLive! mobile application to get up-to-the-minute information."

NASA is using the Internet and smartphones to provide the public with a new inside look at what happens aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and in the Mission Control Center at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Inspired teams seeking a place to collaborate need look no further. The UK Space Agency is calling forward multi-disciplinary, multi-organisational groups for the Space Collaborative Innovation Team Initiative (Space CITI). Successful teams with innovative ideas will be provided with up to #0.5M funding and world class facilities to call home.

Space CITI is a pilot programme designed to support accelerated innovation and economic growth. Funding will be available for one or more focussed multi-disciplinary, multi-organisational teams to undertake a programme of work which exploits the unique environment of the International Space Innovation Centre (ISIC) at Harwell, Oxford.

The Arctic's 24/7 banking ship, We Make Money Not Art

"The event takes place in the early 2040s, when an ex-Soviet Arktika class, one of the nuclear powered icebreakers traditionally used for clearing shipping lanes north of Siberia as well as for scientific and recreational expeditions to the Arctic, is recommissioned to host a barely legal experiment in global finance. The icebreaker would be entirely refitted to welcome highly qualified traders on board and would circle at 88.7 degrees latitude - the heart of the arctic sea. By circumnavigating the world in twenty-four hours, the ship would thus stay in constant contact with trading zones throughout the world."

Stories From The First Transnational Traders, Tobias Revell

Keith's note:To be certain this has a couple of big questions such as does it make any sense? Why not just pay people to stay up all night and stay home. But stop and ponder for a moment: what happens when commerce, finance, industry, and consumption all actually begin to move off of Earth into space to locations that may not necessarily have a national designation - or have many, simultaneously. What is the time zone for outer space? Day and night happen multiple times a day in LEO. On the Moon takes 2 weeks. In deep space there really is no day/night cycle.

NASA Rocket Carrying Student Experiments Launched From Wallops Flight Facility

"A NASA rocket carrying seventeen educational experiments was successfully launched at 6:40 a.m. today from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The experiments built by university instructors and students from across the country were developed through programs conducted with the Colorado and Virginia Space Grant Consortia. The programs are designed to provide participants an introduction in building small experiments that can be launched on sounding rockets."

Jacobs ESCG works with NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston in imagining, designing, and planning the missions of tomorrow...today. In the Systems Engineering Simulator, Jacobs employee Amy Efting works in this innovative and unique facility to visualize what it would be like to drive on the moon, dock with the International Space Station, or travel to an asteroid. Her work with NASA impacts vehicle designs and sets up procedures for astronauts for future vehicles such as the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle.

Jacobs ESCG works with NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston in imagining, designing, and planning the missions of tomorrow...today. In the Systems Engineering Simulator, Jacobs employee Amy Efting works in this innovative and unique facility to visualize what it would be like to drive on the moon, dock with the International Space Station, or travel to an asteroid. Her work with NASA impacts vehicle designs and sets up procedures for astronauts for future vehicles such as the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle.

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft has returned data that indicate ice may make up as much as 22 percent of the surface material in a crater located on the moon's south pole.


NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft has returned data that indicate ice may make up as much as 22 percent of the surface material in a crater located on the moon's south pole.

ESA Call for Proposals: Supporting Young Scientists

"ESA is offering young postdoctoral researchers the opportunity to address key scientific challenges in Earth science by maximising the use of satellite data. New proposals for the Changing Earth Science Network initiative can now be submitted. The initiative supports young European scientists starting their career in Earth science for a period of two years to undertake innovative research projects that address the key scientific challenges of ESA's Earth observation science strategy."

NASA Set To Host Future Female Explorers

"Eighty-four female high school students from 29 states will plan a simulated mission to Mars and experience life as an engineer or scientist when NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston hosts two events focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in June and July. The Women in STEM High School Aerospace Scholars project, or WISH, is sponsoring two six-day summer camps for rising high school seniors."

NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter has been taken out of a protective status called safe mode. Remaining steps toward resuming all normal spacecraft activities will probably be completed by next week.

Titan appears to be strung like a bead on Saturn's rings, which cast shadows onto the southern hemisphere of the gas giant in this beautiful image from Cassini.

Faint but exquisite detail in the gas giant's upper atmosphere paints a tranquil scene. A thin band of bright white ammonia ice clouds is etched into the planet's disc towards the top of the image while clouds dotted below are faded scars of a huge storm that raged across the planet through much of 2011.

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured this view of the dwarf galaxy UGC 5497, which looks a bit like salt sprinkled on black velvet in this image.

The object is a compact blue dwarf galaxy that is infused with newly formed clusters of stars. The bright, blue stars that arise in these clusters help to give the galaxy an overall bluish appearance that lasts for several million years until these fast-burning stars explode as supernovae.

"This month, NASA engineer Eric Stackpole hiked to a spot in Trinity County, east of California's rough Bigfoot country. Nestled at the base of a hill of loose rock, peppered by red and purple wildflowers, is Hall City Cave. For part of the winter the cave is infested with large spiders, but is mostly flooded year-round. Locals whisper the cave's deep pools hold a cache of stolen gold, but Mr. Stackpole isn't here to look for treasure. He had, under his arm, what might appear to be a clunky toy blue submarine about the size of a lunchbox. The machine is the latest prototype of the OpenROV-an open-source, remotely operated vehicle that could map the cave in 3D using software from Autodesk and collect water in places too tight for a diver to go. It could change the future of ocean exploration. ... NEEMO caught the eye of NASA after winning a regional International Space Apps Challenge, where 2000 hacker participants gathered across the internet and worked collaboratively on 71 problems over a 48-hour deadline."

More from Brian Lam at The New York Times


On June 28, 2012, the B612 Foundation will announce its plans to build, operate and launch the world's first privately funded deep space mission-a space telescope to be placed in orbit around the Sun.

Project Morpheus executed another successful tether test on June 18th, 2012. This was the second flight after the integration of ALHAT sensor package.

Project Morpheus executed another successful tether test on June 18th, 2012. This was the second flight after the integration of ALHAT sensor package.

NASA Office of Education solicits proposals for the NASA Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR)

"Each funded NASA EPSCoR proposal is expected to establish research activities that will make significant contributions to the strategic research and technology development priorities of one or more of the Mission Directorates or the OCT and contribute to the overall research infrastructure, science and technology capabilities, higher education, and economic development of the jurisdiction. If submitted, Notices of Intent are due on July 20, 2012 and proposals are due on August 14, 2012."

ESA assembled a top engineering team, then challenged them to devise a way for rovers to navigate on alien planets. Six months later, a fully autonomous vehicle was charting its course through Chile's Mars-like Atacama Desert.

ESA assembled a top engineering team, then challenged them to devise a way for rovers to navigate on alien planets. Six months later, a fully autonomous vehicle was charting its course through Chile's Mars-like Atacama Desert.