Chinese Venture Firm Haiyin Capital is Investing in Space Company XCOR

Chinese venture capital firm Haiyin Capital has announced investments into a number of high-tech U.S. firms, many of whom are currently on a trip to China to make presentations and visit with investors and businesses there. One such firm is XCOR Aerospace, a commercial space company which aims to take tourists and payloads on suborbital trips into space. A person with knowledge of the deal has told FORBES that Haiyin’s total investment in the company is $5 million at a valuation of $140 million. When contacted, XCOR declined to comment on this figure or investment. Haiyin Capital makes an attractive offer to its investment partners, founding partner Yuquan Wang told me: the ability to leverage Chinese manufacturing to help them get their products to market faster, and the opportunity to make inroads into the growing Chinese market while they pursue the U.S. market was well. Things are different for XCOR, though. The company won’t be doing any manufacturing in China, but Wang says that the reason for investing in them is much simpler than that. “XCOR is a different story. We just like the team. They’re dedicated to something that’s really cool,” he said. “We’re not sinking money in looking for a large capital return. We wanted something encouraging and exciting in our portfolio.” Andrew Nelson, XCOR’s former COO who still works with the company on a consulting basis, told me that the influx of money will be helpful for XCOR as it gears up to conduct test flights of its Lynx spacecraft later this year.

Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2015/05/26/chinese-venture-firm-haiyin-capital-is-investing-in-space-company-xcor

Keeping Astronauts in Space Longer With Better Air and Water

As astronauts embark on increasingly ambitious space missions, scientists have to figure out how to keep them healthy for longer periods far from Earth. That entails assuring the air they breathe and the water they drink are safe – not an easy task given their isolated locations. But scientists are now reporting in the ACS journal Analytical Chemistry a new method to monitor the quality of both in real time with one system. Current options for testing air and water for contaminants, including microbes and radiation, require collecting samples and sending them back to Earth for analysis. But for long missions – aboard the International Space Station (ISS), for example – this approach could take six months before the astronauts have their results.

Source: Space Daily

Angara Rocket to Launch First Manned Spacecraft From Vostochny in 2023

Roscosmos chief Igor Komarov said Friday the construction of a special launch pad at the new Vostochny cosmodrome would allow launches of Angara-5V carriers capable of lifting super-heavy loads. “We will start launching the new generation spaceships with it. The first manned mission launch from Vostochny will take place in 2023,” Komarov said. The Angara family of space launch vehicles has been in development since 1995. In April, Komarov said Russia could use the modernized Angara-5 heavy-class carrier rocket in a moon exploration program in 2025 and a manned moon landing in 2029. The construction of Vostochny Space Center, which is located in the Amur Region of Russia’s Far East, began in 2012. Vostochny will enable Russia to launch most missions from its own soil and reduce the country’s reliance on the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Source: http://sputniknews.com/russia/20150605/1022996019.html

ESA Heading Towards Removing Space Debris

ESA’s goal of removing a derelict satellite from orbit is picking up pace, as a mission design is assembled to be put before European ministers next year for approval. The e.Deorbit mission came through ESA’s Clean Space initiative, tasked with reducing the environmental impact of the space industry in both the terrestrial and orbital realms. Space debris levels are increasing relentlessly, as colliding objects bequeath more debris and further collisions. Conserving the heavily trafficked and valuable low orbits calls for removing the large objects at a high risk of collision. e.Deorbit would target an ESA derelict in this region, capture it, then safely burn up both the satellite and itself through a controlled atmospheric reentry. Having proved this approach, multiple missions per year could be flown – and e.Deorbit is being designed with recurring flights in mind. In space industry parlance, e.Deorbit has completed its ‘Phase-A’ preliminary analysis that began in January 2014. With many aspects already finalised, it is now moving on to ‘Phase-B1’. The aim now is to bring e.Deorbit to a point where it is essentially ready to build if ESA’s Council of Ministers in December 2016 gives its assent for launch in 2021.

Source: ESA

What is The Difference Between Asteroids and Meteorites?

Asteroids, meteors, and meteorites … It might be fair to say these rocks from space inspire both wonder and fear among us Earthlings. But knowing a bit more about each of them and how they differ may eliminate some potential misgivings. While all these rocks originate from space, they have different names depending their location — i.e. whether they are hurtling through space or hurtling through the atmosphere and impacting Earth’s surface. In simplest terms here are the definitions: Asteroid: a large rocky body in space, in orbit around the Sun. Meteoroid: much smaller rocks or particles in orbit around the Sun. Meteor: If a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere and vaporizes, it becomes a meteor, which is often called a shooting star. Meteorite: If a small asteroid or large meteoroid survives its fiery passage through the Earth’s atmosphere and lands on Earth’s surface, it is then called a meteorite.

Source: http://www.universetoday.com/36398/what-is-the-difference-between-asteroids-and-meteorites/

Our Predictions of Solar Storms Have Not Been Very Accurate Until Now – Here’s Why

When a space hurricane was unleashed from the sun on January 7 2014, space-weather centres around the world sent out warnings. The hurricane was heading directly for Earth and was predicted to produce a strong geomagnetic storm. But then an unexpected thing happened: the storm bypassed Earth and headed for Mars instead. It confirmed that our techniques for predicting such events are not as accurate as we would like. I am one of the co-authors of a new paper that provides an insight into why the predictions were wrong and what we can do about this in future. The progress of the January 2014 solar flare in the sun’s atmosphere was monitored by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, a NASA mission launched in 2010 dedicated to our hosting star. Our research team, which was lead by Dr Christian Möstl from the Austrian Academy of Sciences, analysed the regions surrounding the storm’s original location on the sun. We found that the area surrounding it on one side was another intensely active region with a strong magnetic field, while the other side was occupied by a weak magnetic field called a “coronal hole”. The team concluded that the former strong field pushed the erupting storm away, channelling it into the weak field path and away from its original route.

Source: http://theconversation.com/our-predictions-of-solar-storms-have-not-been-very-accurate-until-now-heres-why-42669

Progress Failure Probe Points to Linkage With Soyuz Rocket

Russia says a design bug from the pairing of a Progress spacecraft with an upgraded version of the venerable Soyuz launcher led to the loss of a resupply mission bound for the International Space Station on April 28. The Russian space agency — Roscosmos — announced Monday the failure of the mission resulted from an abnormal separation of the Progress M-27M supply ship from the third stage of its Soyuz-2.1a launch vehicle. The government-appointed commission tasked with investigating the failure concluded a design flaw “associated with the frequency dynamic characteristics” in the connection between the Progress supply ship and the Soyuz rocket’s third stage led to the mishap. Officials previously said the botched separation occurred after a depressurization of the third stage’s propellant tanks. The abnormal release of the Progress spacecraft sent the cargo carrier into an unrecoverable spin. Ground controllers were unable to wrestle control of the supply ship, which re-entered the atmosphere May 8.

Source: http://spaceflightnow.com/2015/06/02/progress-failure-probe-points-to-linkage-with-soyuz-rocket/

Meteors Delivered Gold to Baby Earth, New Study Hints

Not all that glitters is gold. But Earth would have a lot less of the glittery stuff if not for a massive rain of meteors about 3.9 billion years ago, according to a new study. Based on analysis of some of the world’s oldest rocks, scientists have the first direct evidence that a cataclysmic meteor shower changed early Earth’s chemical composition. The find offers support for the theory that meteors delivered gold and other precious metals to infant Earth. The presence of precious metals in Earth’s mantle and crust poses a puzzle, because these elements are attracted to iron. When Earth first formed roughly 4.5 billion years ago, the planet was basically a ball of magma. As the planet cooled, denser material sank toward the center, eventually producing a core made mostly of iron. But that means any iron-loving—or siderophile—elements present in the primordial magma should have also retreated toward the core. In fact, based on the composition of meteorites thought to be akin to early Earth, our planet should have enough gold in its present-day core to cover the entire globe with a 12-foot-thick (4-meter-thick) layer of the precious metal.

Source: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/09/110907-gold-metals-earth-meteors-oldest-rocks-nature-science

NASA Mission Control Marks 50 Superb Years

Five decades ago today, NASA’s Mission Control Center came online for the first time. Better known by its radio call sign “Houston” (for the city it calls home), it was designed from the start to put a man on the moon. One of the most advanced facilities on the planet when it opened in 1965, it cost more than $100 million—that’s $750 million today. The facility was designed to handle a huge variety of scenarios, some of them utterly unpredictable. As a press release at the time noted, designers refined the specifications as they went along. “They had to: they were dealing with undefined dimensions—literally out of this world and off on tangents not yet explored by man.” “Houston” has evolved since 1965, of course, but photos from its early days and from 2015 prove the core concept was a good one. Today’s computer screens are bigger and more colorful. A 1990s revamp did away with the mainframe computer-based system to a more modern setup, and now that Americans are living on the International Space Station, the room is staffed at all times, rather than for the occasional launch. The facility has expanded to include a training flight control room (for practice), a life sciences control room (for experiments), and an “Exploration Planning Operations Center” (to test new concepts).

Source: http://www.wired.com/2015/06/nasa-mission-control-marks-50-superb-years-space-science/

CMSA Director Yu Tongjie Met with ESA Director

On May 27, 2015, Yu Tongjie, Director General of CMSA (China Manned Space Agency) met with Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of ESA in Beijing. The two chiefs agreed to further promote CMSA-ESA strategic cooperation in manned space program. They confirmed cooperation in Long-term Objectives and Implementation Plan and identified the responsibilities of three working groups. Yu Tongjie extended warm welcome to Dordain’s visit. He briefly reviewed mutual exchanges and visits, and summed up the accomplishments achieved in cooperation, saying that two sides have signed several cooperation documents and over ten technical meetings since the start of cooperation. He noted that cooperation between the two sides is based on mutual trust, friendship and support. He also introduced the progress of China Manned Space Program. This is Dordain’s last China trip as ESA Director. Yu Tongjie spoke highly of Dordain’s efforts and contributions in promoting two sides’ cooperation. He said, Dordain not only opened the door to CMSA-ESA human space cooperation but also pushed forward the establishment of China as ESA’s strategic partner in Europe’s ministerial meeting. Yu Tongjie concluded that with the government-level cooperative agreement as guidelines and with the establishment of three working groups, the two sides enjoyed good foundation in cooperation. To facilitate the following work, Yu Tongjie proposed to establish a joint committee headed by the two sides’ directors to coordinate, monitor and make decisions on related work in cooperation.

Source: http://en.cmse.gov.cn/show.php?contentid=1472

Goodbye GPS? DARPA Preparing Alternative Position-Tracking Technology

Finding GPS unreliable in certain situations, the U.S. government is placing a high priority on developing a more reliable real-time position tracking technology whose signals won’t disappear in blind spots and can’t be jammed. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is developing “radically” new technologies to deliver a more advanced position- and navigation-tracking system that is more reliable and accurate than GPS, according to a document on DARPA research projects posted on Thursday. DARPA—which is a part of the U.S. Department of Defense—thinks that new real-time positioning technology would give the U.S. military an advantage over rivals. GPS technology has provided a strategic advantage, but it isn’t foolproof, as it can be jammed by opponents or also be inaccessible in some parts of the world.

Source: http://www.pcworld.com/article/2902938/goodbye-gps-darpa-preparing-alternative-positiontracking-technology.html

Future Issues Perchlorate Poses for Colonizing Mars

There’s a problem on the surface of Mars, and its name is perchlorate. If humans want to colonize the Red Planet one day, as NASA hopes to do sometime in the next century, this naturally occurring thyroid disruptor and additive of rocket fuel may pose problems for human health. That’s why two Texas Tech University researchers were asked last December to NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, to discuss the health problems perchlorate poses and perhaps use the compound to human advantage. Texas Tech researchers have probed the problems with perchlorate for years, said Todd Anderson, one of the presenters at the December discussion and the interim director of The Institute of Environmental and Human Health. In fact, after finding it in store-bought and human breast milk and studying its environmental effects at a decommissioned ammunition Superfund site, he and other Texas Tech colleagues literally contributed to writing the book on it and titled their findings Perchlorate Ecotoxicology. Ball-and-stick model of the perchlorate ion. “A lot of perchlorate research has been done at Texas Tech during the last 15 years, and a lot of it has looked at the fate and effects of perchlorate,” Anderson said. “It’s an oxidizer in rocket fuel, but it also occurs naturally particularly in arid environments. Years ago, people found it in Levelland, Texas, in a water storage tank. So, we started doing research and getting funding to do a bunch of work on natural perchlorate. Not a lot was known about it at that time.” Anderson and others found that perchlorate occurred naturally in the atmosphere when ozone reacts with chlorine. It floats back down to Earth where bacteria break it down. However, in dry areas like the South Plains of Texas, the helpful bacteria that break perchlorate down don’t exist because of the arid conditions, said Andrew Jackson, associate chairman of the Department of Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering who also participated in the NASA event. Jackson explained that the compound gathers on the ground year after year in arid places such as West Texas. Agricultural irrigation flushed the surplus down through the soil into the groundwater where it can create problems for humans who use groundwater for drinking. The chemical has turned up in areas such as Antarctica and California’s Death Valley.

Source: http://www.depts.ttu.edu/vpr/discoveries/spring-2015/planetary-problems.php

Virgin Galactic Pilot Recalls Colleague’s Crash

For the first time, one of the pilots involved in Virgin Galactic’s spaceship crash has spoken to the media. Dave Mackay, the company’s chief pilot, spoke to the BBC about last October, when the company’s new spaceship broke apart in mid-air over California.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-33002052

Airbus Thinks it can Trump SpaceX’s Reusable Rockets

Airbus isn’t done trying to beat SpaceX… in fact, it’s going for the jugular. The German aerospace firm has unveiled Adeline, a reusable first-stage rocket engine that aims to one-up the efforts from its American rival. Rather than try to return the entire first stage to Earth, Adeline carries just the most expensive bits, the engine and avionics. The machine has an aerodynamic shield that reduces engine stress on the way down, and two winglets with rotary motors to guide the craft safely to the ground — Airbus envisions the rocket segment landing on runways, not launchpads. This approach reportedly requires much less fuel than SpaceX’s approach, and would lop as much as 30 percent off routine launch costs.

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2015/06/07/airbus-adeline-reusable-rocket-engine/