Yahsat Partners with Arianespace and Orbital to Launch Al Yah 3 Satellite in 2016

UAE-based satellite operator Yahsat has announced its manufacturing and launch partners for the company’s recently announced third satellite—Al Yah 3—set to be launched in Q4 2016. Within a decade of operation by Yahsat, the third satellite extends the firm’s commercial Ka-banda coverage to extra17 countries and 600 million users throughout Brazil and Africa.

According to Yahsat, it has announced a partnership with Arianespace, which will launch the new satellite into orbit from French Guiana and Orbital Sciences Corporation (“Orbital”), which will manufacture Al Yah 3.

“The agreements supplement Yahsat’s world-class partnership model and knowledge-sharing vision, which aims at bringing UAE technology and home-grown services to some of the world’s most unconnected and underserved regions. The selection also supports Yahsat’s objective of finding the right balance between cost, innovation and reliability for this crucial next step in the execution of the company’s growth strategy,” stated Yahsat.

Explaining on the appointment of Arianespace and Orbital, Masood M. Sharif Mahmood, the CEO at Yahsat stated, “After a rigorous selection process, Yahsat has selected two industry-leading organizations that will manufacture and launch our third satellite in late 2016. Having worked with Arianespace for the launch of Y1A, one of the world’s most advanced satellites currently in orbit, and with Orbital’s impressive track record of building over 150 satellites that have amassed over 1,000 years of in-orbit experience, both companies have proven their ability to meet and exceed our expectations for world class connectivity in Africa and Brazil.

Read more at: Techmoran.com

NASA Reveals New Details About its Plans to Send Humans to Mars

NASA is serious about sending humans to Mars.

In a new document, America’s space organisation has outlined its future plans for missions to the red planet in unprecedented detail. The document includes some pretty lofty language, with NASA saying it’s acting for “all humanity”. To be fair, the goals it’s talking about are lofty as well.

“Like the Apollo Program, we embark on this journey for all humanity. Unlike Apollo, we will be going to stay,” it reads. “Mars is an achievable goal … We are developing the capabilities necessary to get there, land there, and live there.”

NASA’s plan is split into three distinct “phases”. The first, which is called Earth Reliant, involves research about the International Space Station. The agency says it will use the orbiting station to test new technology and improve humans’ ability to remain healthy in space.

The second phase, known as the Proving Ground, takes things further away from home, giving NASA an opportunity to test two pieces of technology that are currently in development: the Space Launch System, and the Orion spacecraft. Operations in this phase will primarily occur in “cislunar space”, which refers to space between Earth and the moon.

The final phase, Earth Independence, will send humans to both the moons and surface of Mars itself. The goal is to create “habitats that support human life for years, with only routine maintenance”, and to relay scientific data from Mars to Earth within just 20 minutes.

You can read the whole document here,

Read more at: AU News

Astronaut Brains as Beacons for Researchers

How astronauts adapt to the stresses of living in space is helping researchers to pinpoint the causes of common disorders on Earth.

From the brain’s point of view, living in space is very stressful. The signals from an astronaut’s body in space go haywire as they float in weightlessness. The inner ear reports that it is falling, but the eyes show that nothing is moving.

As fluid shifts to the head, the brain usually interprets this extra pressure as a sign it is upside down – but in space there is no up or down. The body clock might signal that it is tired after a day’s work on the International Space Station, but astronauts experience 16 sunrises and sunsets every 24 hours.

Despite all these conflicting signals the brain adapts and within a few days astronauts float through their home in space as if born there. The amazing ability of our brains to adapt to new experiences is what makes us survive and thrive, but brains also seem to benefit from the past. Experienced astronauts need less time to readapt to weightlessness than rookies, even if the missions are years apart.

Researchers at the University of Antwerpen, Liege and Leuven in Belgium have devised the ‘Brain-DTI’ study to learn more about how astronauts’ brains adapt to spaceflight. Before and after their flights, up to 16 astronauts will be put in an advanced MRI scanner. The images show the brain’s neural networks and how the connections change after the astronauts’ experiences in space. The research has far to go but it is already revealing some areas of the brain that are involved in adapting to new experiences based on conflicting signals from the body – and pointing to areas of interest for people on Earth.

Read more at: Technology.org

Rising Seas Threaten to Flood Launch Sites, NASA says

NASA’s rockets are astounding machines, capable of blasting into space at thousands of miles per hour and withstanding temperatures twice the melting point of steel.

But they can’t take off underwater. Rising sea levels caused by melting ice caps threaten to disrupt a handful of NASA launch sites along U.S. coastlines, the space agency warns. In the coming years, launch facilities at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center and other places may need to be retrofitted or even moved inland, NASA says.

“Every NASA center has its own set of vulnerabilities, and some are more at risk than others,” NASA climatologist Cynthia Rosenzweig said in a recent post on one of the agency’s websites. “But sea level rise is a very real challenge for all of the centers along the coast.”

In other words, NASA has a lot of people and property potentially in harm’s way, especially in a big coastal storm.

NASA says that more than half of its infrastructure stands within 16 feet of sea level. That includes more than $32 billion in laboratories, launch pads, airfields, testing facilities, data centers and other stuff — plus 60,000 employees — from Florida to California.

Read more at: CNN

Israeli Team Signs First Launch Deal in Google Moon Race

An Israeli team competing in a race to the moon sponsored by Google has signed a with California-based SpaceX for a rocket launch, putting it at the front of the pack and on target for blast-off in late 2017, officials said on Wednesday.

With the deadline to win a $20 million first-place prize just two years off, pressure is mounting on the 16 rivals from around the world hoping to complete a privately funded moon landing.

Silicon Valley’s Moon Express announced a week ago that it had signed a contract with Lockheed Martin-backed Rocket Lab. But Israel’s SpaceIL is the first team to have a launch agreement reviewed, verified and accepted by XPRIZE, the group overseeing the contest.

“The magnitude of this achievement cannot be overstated,” said XPRIZE President Bob Weiss. “This is the official milestone that the race is on … They’ve lit the fuse, as it were, for their competitive effort.”

The key hurdle was finding an affordable ride to outer space without government funding, said Eran Privman, CEO of SpaceIL. Because his team’s spacecraft is much smaller than most competitors – it looks like a robotic, four-legged table, about 1.5 meters tall and wide – the SpaceX Falcon 9 launcher can carry 20 small satellites whose fares will help cover costs, Privman said. “Other teams are trying to find such solutions,” he said.

Read more at: Reuters

This Heat Shield Could Help Us Get to Mars

In synchrony with The Martian‘s debut last weekend, NASA is pulling out all the stops to promote its Mars research. Today the agency released this image, taken during the testing of a heat shield that could one day help large spacecraft land on Mars.

The Adaptive Deployable Entry and Placement Technology (ADEPT) shield would pop open like an umbrella to help a landing spacecraft to slow down and keep cool while it’s streaking through a planet’s atmosphere. Made of carbon fiber supported by rigid ribs, the structure would conveniently stow away, compacted, on a spacecraft until needed.

NASA recently tested a miniature ADEPT device “under conditions akin to entering the Martian atmosphere.” Here, a 21-inch nozzle on the left blows hot air over the small vehicle. The temperature of the ADEPT model reached as high as 3,100 degrees Fahrenheit, in some places burning away a resin that protects the shield’s fabric joints—that’s where the blue color comes from.

Read more at: Popsci

Sierra Nevada on Watch for Critical Cargo Award

A prototype of Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser space plane is nearing shipment to California’s Mojave Desert to resume runway landing tests as officials wait for word from NASA whether the company will win a competition to ferry cargo to the International Space Station.

The announcement from NASA, expected in early November, bears additional significance for Sierra Nevada after the space agency bypassed the Dream Chaser last year with its selection of Boeing and SpaceX to ferry crews between Earth and the space station.

With design roots in NASA’s HL-20 lifting body testbed, the Dream Chaser was conceived by SpaceDev, a space firm founded in 1997 by entrepreneur Jim Benson. The spaceship’s survival story has weathered the death of Benson, its founding father, and SpaceDev’s acquisition by privately-held Sierra Nevada in 2008.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

ASU Business Professor Helps Astronauts Stay on Task

You’d be hard-pressed to find a seasoned businessman or woman who hasn’t sat through a mid-morning meeting, oblivious to the decisions being made or plans being hatched. Often, that out-to-lunch incognizance exists because that person’s mind is still kneading through a difficult problem left undone on his or her desk.

Such spacey discord – the occasional inability to completely disconnect ourselves from one chore to focus on the next – is something that happens to all of us, including those who actually go into space to perform various scientific and technical assignments.

That’s why NASA has commissioned Jeff LePine, a management professor at the W. P. Carey School of Business, to understand how astronauts aboard the International Space Station make transitions from task to task, particularly when they’re going from individual duties to team responsibilities, or from very important, engaging activities to those that are downright mundane.

LePine has teamed with management colleagues Ned Wellman, an assistant professor at business school, and Daniel Newton, a doctoral student, to conduct a three-year study for the U.S. space agency. In the end, the team hopes to walk away with a list of countermeasures they can provide mission planners and system developers to help ISS crews switch gears more effectively and avoid the risks of distraction.

Read more at: Space Daily

‘The Martian’: What Would it Take to Grow Food on Mars?

NASA has laid out plans to send people to Mars in the 2030s, but don’t expect these Red Planet visitors to landscape the rocky sphere with fresh produce the way astronaut and botanist Mark Watney does in “The Martian.”

(Spoiler alert) In the movie, when Watney (played by Matt Damon) gets stranded on Mars, he plants potatoes in a greenhouse using Martian soil and his own “metabolic waste.” And it works: He’s able to stay alive for more than a year living largely on potatoes.

Though “The Martian,” which hit theaters last Friday (Oct. 2), is fairly realistic, growing food on Mars wouldn’t play out exactly as described on the big screen. And it would take hundreds of years before the Red Planet could be farmed without protective greenhouses, according to Paul Sokoloff, a botanist at the Canadian Museum of Nature.

Martian soil is devoid of the nutrients found in Earth’s soil, and it is also fine, meaning water would likely seep through it much more quickly than it would on Earth. Using human poop or other fertilizers could provide a quick boost of nutrients, such as nitrogen, and may also change the texture of the soil so it would cling to water longer, said Sokoloff, who was a crewmember last year at the Mars Desert Research Station in Hanksville, Utah.Earthly soil gets its nitrogen from the atmosphere, though atmospheric nitrogen is in a form that is not easy for plants to use. To transform nitrogen into a better “food” for plants, bacteria “fix” it.

Read more at: LiveScience

How to Prepare for Mars? NASA Consults Navy Sub Force

As NASA contemplates a manned voyage to Mars and the effects missions deeper into space could have on astronauts, it’s tapping research from another outfit with experience sending people to the deep: the U.S. Navy submarine force.

The space agency is working with a military laboratory at the submarine base in Groton, Connecticut, to measure how teams cope with stress during month-long simulations of space flight.

While one travels through outer space and the other the ocean’s depths, astronauts and submariners face many of the same challenges. Isolated for long stretches of time, they rely on crewmates for their lives in remote, inhospitable environments.

“We have a shared interest with the Navy in team resilience,” Brandon Vessey, a scientist with NASA’s human research program, told The Associated Press. “When you stick people together for a long period of time, how are they going to do?”

The Navy research that piqued NASA’s interest started about five years ago when the Groton-based Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory, at the request of the submarine force, began examining ways to make tactical teams work together better.

Read more at: Phys.org

AF Secretary Gains New Space Authorities

The secretary of the US Air Force has been assigned new oversight responsibilities for space programs in the Department of Defense, in an expected but long-delayed move from the Pentagon.

Secretary Deborah Lee James has been designated the principal DoD space adviser (PDSA) as of Oct. 5. The secretary previously had the responsibility of Department of Defense executive agent for space (EA4S) to the principal DoD space adviser.

The move is geared toward creating a more cohesive approach to the Pentagon’s space architecture, said Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work in a statement.

“The PDSA will continue to chair the Defense Space Council (DSC), which remains the primary body to coordinate and resolve space issues,” Work said. “However, while the PDSA will deliver DSC recommendations on space issues, the PDSA will also provide independent assessment and recommendations to the deputy’s management action group when the DSC is unable to achieve a consensus.”

The move comes as the US is increasingly wary of expanded offensive space capabilities by China and Russia. Earlier this year, the Obama administration announced a plan to funnel $5 billion into developing new defensive space technologies for the US.

Read more at: DefenseNews

Dusty Plasma Effects on the Ionosphere Studied

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), in collaboration with numerous universities and government laboratories studying the effects of dusty plasmas

Plasmas are charged dust particles that can occur naturally in the mesosphere — generated an artificial plasma cloud in the upper-atmosphere to validate the theory of ‘dressed particle scattering’ caused by this phenomenon.

Named the Charged Aerosol Release Experiment (CARE II), an instrumented rocket was launched Sept. 16, at 19:06 GMT, from Andoya, Norway, utilizing a NASA Black Brant XI sounding rocket. After entering the ionosphere, 37 small rockets were fired simultaneously to inject 68 kilograms (kg) of dust comprised of aluminum oxide particulates, accompanied by 133 kg of molecules such as carbon dioxide, water vapor, and hydrogen.

The launch occurred just after sunset placing the dust particles in sunlight for easy viewing by cameras in darkness on the ground and with an airborne platform. The large concentration of dust and exhaust material interacted with the ionosphere to produce a so-called ‘dirty plasma’ with high-speed pickup ions. Visibly seen from the ground, the released dust produces an optical cloud, and, by attaching the electrons in the ionosphere, forms charged particulates. This plasma then generates waves that scatter radar signals used for remote sensing.

“The CARE launch was fully successful,” says Dr. Paul A. Bernhardt, CARE principal investigator. “Ground-based radars tracked the effects on the ionosphere for twenty minutes, providing valuable data on how rocket motors affect ionospheric densities. The data will be used to validate simulations of natural disturbances in the upper atmosphere.”

Read more at: Space Ref

DARPA Funded Research Develops Technique to Blow Bubbles in Space

Since long, Scientists have been trying to find a way to deploy large structures in space. However, transporting such large structures into space is not feasible given the limitations on payload size.

The patented invention from DARPA solves this problem by taking an ingenious approach of building large structures in space itself. It takes advantage of the very special conditions that exist in space, in particular, microgravity, which is the name given to extremely low gravitational forces in space.

One of the remarkable effects of microgravity is the creation and sustenance of very large bubbles. For example, it is possible to create bubbles in space that are 100 times bigger than the bubbles possible under earth’s gravity. A 50cm diameter bubble formed on earth will be 50m in diameter when formed in space.

To start with, injector ports are activated. Then, a polymer film is laid over two injector ports. A gas is then ejected through apertures in the injector ports causing the polymer films to inflate and form two bubbles which then intersect each other along a surface. When two bubbles of equal size intersect each other, the surface of intersection is a flat plane.

The polymer film includes a UV curing agent, which hardens the bubbles when exposed to UV radiation; for example the UV radiation from the sun. After hardening the polymer bubbles, one side of the intersection surface is coated with metal in order to provide a reflective surface.  Only the intersection surface is of use here, so the remaining parts of the bubbles are separated.

Such a reflective surface may be as large as a kilometer in diameter. It can be used as a solar sail for propulsion. Solar sails will make space travel far more cheaper, and help us reach further distances into the cosmos.

Read more at: Technology.org

Project Apollo Archive has the Right Stuff

More than 10,000 images taken during the Apollo missions are now online in a Flickr gallery as a part of the Project Apollo Archive. Anyone can peruse the album and explore the formative years of U.S. space exploration. The gallery includes photographs from the Apollo 7 mission through the Apollo 17 mission, including images from the first manned lunar landing and the harrowing Apollo 13 mission.

Archivist Kipp Teague and Apollo historian Eric Jones are the forces behind the Project Apollo Archive. Teague scanned the images provided by NASA and uploaded them online, making the pictures universally available. According to the Planetary Society, Teague and Jones began the project in 1999, posting edited images at 1000 DPI, which is low resolution by today’s standards. In 2004, the Johnson Space Center re-scanned the original photos to improve the quality. Teague reprocessed the archive enhanced at 1,800 DPI, so what you see in the Project Apollo Archive gallery is high resolution — but untouched.

The photos showcase the many facets of extra-planetary exploration. From the stunning shots of moon exploration, to earthrises, to smiling astronauts hanging out, this collection shows a variety of moments from the sublime to the every day. The collection provides a slice-of-life view into what it was like to be an astronaut in the 1960s and ’70s.

Read more at: CNN

Walk the line: NASA Studies Physical Performance After Spaceflight

Walking an obstacle course on Earth is relatively easy. Walking an obstacle course on Earth after being in space for six months is not quite as simple. The longer an astronaut spends in space, the more difficult it is for their brain to readapt to gravity. Astronauts returning to Earth after living aboard the International Space Station for that amount of time have exhibited balance control problems, muscle weakness and cardiovascular deconditioning.

It could take about six months to get to Mars, and when the crew suddenly returns to gravity on the Red Planet, they will have to land their spacecraft safely while possibly experiencing physical performance problems. Researchers are working to solve this problem so crew members can land . . . and then stand.

A study analyzing the balance control disturbances caused by gravity (g) transitions was recently completed by Jacob Bloomberg, a senior research scientist at NASA. Bloomberg and his team evaluated test subjects who have undergone body unloading, or not carrying one’s own weight, after returning from space shuttle missions, space station expeditions or from bed rest studies of up to 70 days.

To test just how much body unloading affects balance and stability, Bloomberg and his team developed the Functional Task Test (FTT), which identifies mission critical tasks that may impact astronauts’ movement and performance immediately after g-transitions. The FTT consists of seven functional and physiological tests.

Read more at: Science Daily

After Successful Test Flight, Perlan 2 Glider Aims for the Stratosphere

An experimental glider that could eventually reach the edge of space without the power of an engine had a successful first test flight over Oregon this week, winning applause on Thursday from Airbus, a major backer of the project. The manned glider, dubbed Perlan 2, reached an altitude of 5,000 feet, in a proof-of-concept test ahead of next year’s planned record-breaking journey to the stratosphere.

“This first flight is a milestone and we’re very impressed,” Allen McArtor, chairman of Airbus North America, told Reuters on Thursday after he traveled to Oregon to watch the test.

To start its flight, the Perlan 2 is towed behind a motorized aircraft but once airborne it is able to harness the energy of the wind to gain speed and altitude, said Ed Warnock, CEO of the Perlan Project, a nonprofit organization run by a volunteers.

“We are asked to sponsor all kinds of things but we were drawn to this by its daring, the imagination involved in actually flying a glider to the boundary of space, and the fact that they knew what they were talking about,” McArtor said of Airbus’ decision to invest in the project.

Read more at: NBC News