European Space Agency Responds To Paris Attacks: ‘Shock, Dismay and a Terrible Sadness’

Space agencies around the world are expressing their support of Paris following the terror attacks that killed at least 129 people there Friday night. The European Space Agency’s headquarters are located in Paris, with one administrative center located 1.7 miles from the Bataclan concert hall in central Paris, where hundreds were held hostage and about 80 were killed. ESA Director General Jan Woerner wrote a blog post Saturday expressing his sadness over the attacks.

ESA has two sites in Paris. ESA HQ “Mario-Nikis,”  located in the 15th Arrondissement, serves as the main administrative center. ESA HQ Mario Nikis is located 6.7 kilometers (4.2 miles) from Bataclan. ESA HQ “Daumesnil” is home to the Directorate of Launchers. Located in the 12th Arrondissement, ESA HQ Daumesnil’s address is just 2.8 kilometers (1.7 miles) from Bataclan and 2.1 kilometers (1.3 miles) from the La Belle Equipe cafe, the site of several shooting deaths.

Read more at: International Business Times

Observers Capture Blazing Re-Entry of Unidentified Object WT1190F

The mysterious object known as WT1190F met its fiery demise over the Indian Ocean on Friday the 13th after creating a media buzz across the Internet.

Having been nudged from a highly elongated orbit around Earth that stretched to twice the distance of the Moon, WT1190F entered a collision course with Earth a number of weeks ago and was tracked by observers around the world as it made its speedy approach. With its size estimated to be no more than a few meters and its re-entry location precisely known in advance, WT1190F posed no risk to human life or property, but it presented a welcome opportunity to researchers studying the dynamics of high speed atmospheric entry.

Read more at: Spaceflight101

No-fly Zone, No Fishing on Nov 13

Sri Lanka is expected to impose a fishing ban in the Southern waters and a no-fly zone over the southern sky in preparation for the fall of mysterious space object WT 1190F near its Southern coast on Friday (13). The object, astronomers speculate is a hollow discarded piece from an early moon mission. It is expected to make landfall on sea 65 km to 100 km off Sri Lanka’s Southern tip at around 11.48 a.m. local time.

Head of Colombo University’s Physics Department, Dr. Chandana Jayaratne, opined that the piece of junk would pose no danger to Sri Lanka, since it will most probably be burned to cinders mid-air as it plunges through the earth’s atmosphere. The Arthur C Clark Institute’s Senior Research Scientist, Saroj Gunasekera did not rule out the remote possibility of a small fragment falling on the land, if all the pieces fail to burn up. “It will either be burned up or fragmented as it enters the earth’s atmosphere.” Gunasekera said.

Chief Air Traffic Controller of theAirport and Aviation Services Sri Lanka Krishanthi Tissera said that based on the feedback from the Arthur C Clark Institute and the Disaster Management Centre, they will observe a no fly zone above the southern sea on Friday.

Read more at: SriLanka News

Upgraded Cygnus Spacecraft Stacked and Ready to Conduct OA-4 Mission

Orbital ATK, United Launch Alliance (ULA), and NASA are preparing to return Cygnus, the “swan” to service. The spacecraft, loaded with some 7,745 lbs (3,315 kg) supplies, currently resides at the NASA’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. If everything goes according to plan, Cygnus will be launched atop a ULA Atlas V 401 rocket to the International Space Station on Dec. 3, 2015.

The automated vehicle slated to carry out this mission – is an enhanced version of the cargo freighter that has already carried out three flights to the orbiting laboratory – and the first of its kind to be scheduled to be launched.

Read more at: SpaceFlight Insider

NASA Chief: Time to Clean Up All that Space Junk

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden warns that too little is being done to remove debris from space, an issue that has drawn plenty of attention this week after an unknown object made a fiery entry into Earth’s atmosphere.

Speaking Thursday at the Council on Foreign Relations, Bolden said more countries need to step up to the plate and put funding into efforts to clean up space – which is crowded with all sorts of objects, from nonfunctional spacecraft, abandoned launch vehicle stages, mission-related debris and fragmentation debris – all traveling at 17,500 mph.

“Not a lot of countries are putting money into debris removal development, and more of us need to,” he said. “We are among those that’s not putting a lot of money into debris removal,” he said. “We work a lot on what we call debris mitigation, making rules that say when you put something in space it has to have enough fuel to, when its mission is over, you can either put it into a parking orbit where it won’t come back for a hundred years, or you can safely de-orbit it into the ocean. But that’s not the answer. The answer’s going to be debris removal, and we’ve got to figure out how to do that.”

Read more at: Fox News

NASA Names Acting Director of Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA officials said in a statement Friday that Todd May has been named to the post after the retirement of former director Patrick Scheuermann . May has served as the space center’s deputy director since August and had managed the Space Launch System Program since 2011.

Read more at: Topix

Medicines Last as Long in Space as Here on Earth: Study

Medicines don’t degrade faster in space than they do on Earth, a new study finds.

Researchers analyzed nine medications that were stocked on the International Space Station for 550 days and returned unused to Earth, where they were kept under controlled conditions for three to five months. The medications included pain relievers, sleeping aids, antihistamines/decongestants, an anti-diarrheal and an alertness drug.

The researchers assessed whether the active ingredients and the amount of degradation in the medications met United States Pharmacopeia (USP) guidelines for viability.

Read more at: Health

ITU Aircraft Satellite-tracking Agreement Bolsters Aireon Business Case

Global governments’ approval of radio spectrum permitting aircraft to provide additional tracking data to satellites reduces the chance of another lost jet like Malaysian Airlines MH370 and immediately improves the business case for mobile satellite services provider Iridium Satellites and its Aireon LLC aircraft-tracking affiliate.

The decision, made Nov. 11 by the 163 governments attending the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) in Geneva, came only after military users of nearby frequencies were assured that their Identification, Friend or Foe signals would not be upset by the civilian flight-tracking service.

Most modern aircraft for years have been equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) transponders to communicate with ground radars. But these links disappear over oceans, the poles and large forested areas and deserts.

Read more at: Space News

Astronaut to Carry Text of Paris Climate Deal into Space

French astronaut Thomas Pesquet will carry the text of any climate change deal clinched in Paris in December into space with him next year, a French junior minister for research said on Thursday.

“We truly hope to be able to give you the text of the final resolution,” Thierry Mandon told a news conference in Paris, adding that he was still hopeful of an agreement next month despite “much uncertainty” surrounding the talks.

At least 117 heads of state and government have confirmed they will attend the UN conference, known as COP21, in Paris at the end of the month with the hope of securing a deal to stave off catastrophic climate change.

Read more at: Daily Times

Democrats and Republicans Agree: If You Can Mine it in Space, it’s Yours

During the last 15 years one of the most promising developments in US spaceflight has been a proliferation of new businesses entering the sector. It’s not just SpaceX, but rather a host of companies such as Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, and many others seeking to make a buck or two in outer space.

On Tuesday evening Congress took a key step toward encouraging the development of this industry when the Senate passed H.R. 2262, the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, with bipartisan support. The legislation provides a number of pro-business measures, such as establishing legal rights for US citizens to own resources in outer space as well as extending indemnification for commercial launches through 2025.

“This bill provides the boost America’s private space partners need as they lead the world into the future,” said Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican who chairs the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. “This bill will keep America at the forefront of aerospace technology, create jobs, reduce red tape, promote safety, and inspire the next generation of explorers.”

Read more at: Arstechnica

Orion’s European Module Ready for Testing

A test version of ESA’s service module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft arrived in the US yesterday after leaving its assembly site in Italy last weekend.

The European Service Module is adapted from Europe’s largest spacecraft, the Automated Transfer Vehicle, which completed its last mission to the International Space Station in February. Just nine months later, prime contractor Airbus Defence & Space in Bremen, Germany, has delivered the first test module.

The module sits directly below Orion’s crew capsule and provides propulsion, power, thermal control, and water and air for four astronauts. The solar array spans 19 m and provides enough to power two households.

Read more at: ESA

ESA’s Mars Express Sheds New Light on the Red Planet’s Rare Aurora

ESA’s Mars Express has shed new light on the Red Planet’s rare ultraviolet aurora by combining for the first time remote observations with in situ measurements of electrons hitting the atmosphere.

On Earth, auroras are often-spectacular light shows at high northern and southern polar latitudes as the solar wind interacts with Earth’s magnetic field. As charged atomic particles from the Sun are drawn along Earth’s magnetic field, they collide with different molecules and atoms in the atmosphere to create dynamic, colorful curtains and rays in the sky, typically green and red, but sometimes including blues and violets.

These light displays are also found on other planets, including those with powerful magnetic fields such as Jupiter and Saturn. But they can even occur on planets with no magnetic field, such as Venus and Mars.

In the absence of a global magnetic field, solar particles can directly strike the planet’s atmosphere to generate an aurora. While Mars no longer has a global magnetic field, residual magnetism in the crust is known in the highlands of the southern hemisphere from measurements made by NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor.

Read more at: Scitech Daily

What’s Behind Japan’s Sudden Thirst for More Spy Satellites

Japan is planning to expand its fleet of reconnaissance satellites as part of an effort to improve the nation’s monitoring of North Korea and the Chinese navy. The move comes as Japan strengthens its military ties with the United States.

A Nov. 11 report by the Space Policy Commission, Japan’s top decision-making body for space matters, recommends doubling the number of Intelligence Gathering Satellites (IGS) to eight satellites and launching two relay satellites to support the expanded constellation. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is expected to adopt the recommendations in December.

Japan established the IGS program following the 1998 flyover of a North Korean Taepodong missile that North Korea claimed was a satellite launch. Fourteen Mitsubishi Electric Corp.-built IGS satellites have been launched since 2003.

Read more at: Space News

Our Spaceflight Heritage: The Shocking Launch of Apollo 12

On Nov. 14, 1969, at 11:22 a.m. EST (15:22 GMT), at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the second manned Moon landing mission launched. The gigantic, 363-foot-tall Saturn V rocket boosted a tiny, three-man capsule carrying Commander Pete Conrad, Command Module Pilot Dick Gordon, and Lunar Module Pilot Alan Bean on the adventure of a lifetime. Little did the three astronauts suspect that the launch itself would be one of the most extraordinary moments of the mission.

Apollo 12 was a follow-up to the successful Moon landing in July of that year, in which Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the lunar surface. Although Apollo 11 was a success, Neil Armstrong was unable to land his lunar module, Eagle, at the planned landing site on the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility.

Because of excess air expelled from the airlock when Eagle separated from the command module, Columbia, and because Armstrong found himself flying over dangerous, rocky terrain, he landed Eagle more than three miles from the planned landing site. One of the many goals of the Apollo 12 mission was to make a precision landing—specifically at the Surveyor Crater in the Ocean of Storms where the robotic Surveyor III spacecraft had landed in 1967. But in order to make a precision landing on the Moon, Apollo 12 first had to make a successful launch from Earth.

Read more at: SpaceFlight Insider

Here’s Why There’s Still Not a Human on Mars

For the last 70 years, scientists and engineers have dreamed of going to Mars. But their imaginative plans haven’t left the drawing board.

NASA is looking for astronauts. Ideal candidates are willing to travel—to Mars. The space agency—seemingly high off its recent Journey to Mars announcement and the successful design review of the Space Launch System rocket—is currently recruiting for the next class of astronauts, “in preparation for the agency’s journey to Mars.”

But keep in mind that when it comes to human missions to Mars, NASA’s “preparation” has already lasted quite a while: the last 70 years straight.

The delay is at least in part technical. A trip to the red planet is like visiting an even more inhospitable Antarctica, and its unbreathable atmosphere is less than two percent of what you’d find at Everest’s summit. Never mind the fact that you have to fly at least a year, round-trip, to get there in the first place.

Read more at: National Geographic

Trying to Understand CASIS Press and Social Media Impact

Let’s look at the media reach CASIS claims to have achieved in FY 2014. Page 32 of their FY 2014 Annual Report gives a summary (Larger image). This report represents what CASIS was capable of doing after being in operation for more than 3 years – after having received more than $42 million from NASA. Prior to this CASIS did not include these metrics in their reports. So this is the only snapshot we have.

In this 2014 summary CASIS claims to have issued 30 news releases. That’s one release issued a bit more often than once every 2 weeks. They also claim to have had 30 media events in FY 2014 but do not explain what constitutes an “event”. This could be a telecon or a full blown press conference. Hard to tell. They also claim to have had 3,891 “news mentions – clips, blogs”. If you go to this page and click on “Media Reach” you get a page that shows for 2015 CASIS has (first 3 quarters) had 18 press releases, 19 media events, 3,065 news mentions, and 2,711 Twitter mentions. Not much has changed.

Read more at: NASA Watch