As we continue to develop and settle space, accidents and medical emergencies will happen. Soon or later, someone will need to do surgery in space.

Equipment and procedures for surgery in zero and reduced gravity have yet to be developed and tested (a fact that’s often overlooked by advocates of manned deep-space missions), but some work has been done in this field.

Dr. James Burgess, a neurosurgeon at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh and an adjunct faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University, has invented one such device. The Aqueous Immersion Surgical System is a transparent plastic box that can placed over a wound and pumped full of saline solution. Carefully designed openings keep fluid in while allowing access for for surgical tools. The saline solution is pressurized and controlled to reduce blood loss, which will be critical on space missions where blood for transfusions is limited or unavailable.

AISS is being developed by a team of biomedical engineers and doctors from CMU and the University of Louisville. Prototypes will be tested on four flights of NASA’s C-9 microgravity aircraft on October 2–5. Additional microgravity flights are planned over the next three years. If the tests are successful, AISS may then be tested on a suborbital flight, according to Dr. George Pantalos, professor of surgery and biomedical engineering at the University of Louisville.

The nature of surgical experiments requires hands-on access by the surgeon. This is another example of an experiment that can be performed on reusable suborbital spacecraft which cannot be performed on sounding rockets. The development of a robust commercial suborbital spaceflight may, therefore, be a crucial enabler for safe and effective deep-space exploration.

Written by Astro1 on September 30th, 2012 , Commercial Space (General), Space Medicine and Safety

NASA James Webb Space Telescope
We were having lunch with an astronomer the other day when the subject of the James Webb Space Telescope came up. Somewhat to our surprise, he was not particularly interested in the JWST. Nor was his lack of interest simply due to the instrument’s enormous cost and uncertain schedule. He was much more excited more excited about the new PLANETS telescope being built in Hawaii.

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Written by Astro1 on September 30th, 2012 , Astronomy

Author J. K. Rowling claims that she turned down a chance to go into space. An article in the Independent, an Irish newspaper, quotes Rowling as saying, “I was offered a seat. For a mere £2 million I could have been on the shuttle, but I turned it down.”

This story belongs in the fiction section with Harry Potter.

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Written by Astro1 on September 30th, 2012 , Citizen Exploration

NBC News analyst James Oberg reports that Russian cosmonauts are unhappy with accommodations aboard the International Space Station. The complaints surfaced during a post-flight press conference by cosmonaut Gennady Padalka on September 21.

The Russian segment of ISS provides each cosmonaut with about 1/7 as much living space as the American segment, according to the report. Padalka also stated that the Russian segment is cold and noisy, according to Oberg, and compared it to a tiny Krushchev-era apartment or khrushchevka.

Padalka also complained about aging equipment, which hasn’t been updated “in the 20 years since the foundation of the new Russia.”

The housing accommodations are of concern to citizen space explorers visiting ISS. Citizen explorers who travel to the station via Soyuz stay in the Russian segment. Living conditions are undoubtedly acceptable to short-term visitors, who have not complained in the past, but there may be other effects.

Padalka stated that extended one-year stays aboard ISS are unacceptable without major improvements to the Russian accommodations. One-year stays have been proposed in order to free up seats in Soyuz capsules for citizen explorers such as Sarah Brightman. If the cosmonauts revolt, Roskosmos may need to change its plans. If that happens, there may be no more Soyuz flights for citizen explorers.

The situation will become more complicated in a few years when American companies such as SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada begin carrying NASA crew and citizen explorers to the space station. Those explorers will presumably stay in the American segment, although details have not been worked out yet. (Or if they have, they have not been made public.)

This points to the need for new facilities in orbit, such as the private space stations Bigelow Aerospace is working on. If those facilities are slow to emerge, the development of citizen space exploration in low Earth orbit may be hindered. Fortunately, a flourishing suborbital spaceflight industry will exist by that time and, unlike the orbital tourism industry, it will not be limited to multimillionaires.

Written by Astro1 on September 29th, 2012 , Citizen Exploration

“There’s a new word now for that old-school vision of California, and that word is – Texas!” Bill Whittle produced the following video about California’s economic problems and XCOR’s move to Texas.


California needs companies like XCOR a lot more than the companies need California, but the state does not seem to realize that. California’s denial mirrors many of the statements we hear from politicians in DC about commercial space. Like the government of California, they think private enterprise needs the government (in this case NASA) more than the government needs private enterprise.

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Written by Astro1 on September 24th, 2012 , XCOR Aerospace

Popular Mechanics has published a short summary of talks given at the Air Force Association Air & Space Conference, including interesting views from two former NASA astronauts.

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Written by Astro1 on September 23rd, 2012 , Military Space, Space Policy and Management

The Grasshopper test vehicle made its first brief test hop today at SpaceX’s test facility in McGregor, Texas.


The suborbital Grasshopper is intended to prove techniques that could lead to a recoverable first stage for the Falcon launch vehicle, as shown in the following animation.


Written by Astro1 on September 22nd, 2012 , SpaceX Tags:

XCOR Lynx suborbital spacecraft cockpit mockup

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Written by Astro1 on September 19th, 2012 , Citizens in Space, XCOR Aerospace

Space Florida, the state’s spaceport authority and aerospace economic development organization, and NanoRacks LLC have announced the Space Florida International Space Station Research Competition. NanoRacks will provide up to eight Payload Box Units (NanoLabs). Space Florida will cover the costs of payload transportation to ISS for eight winning applicants. An independent team of judges will review research proposals based on commercial viability and overall benefit to mankind.

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Written by Astro1 on September 19th, 2012 , NanoRacks, Spaceports

The B612 Foundation’s privately funded deep-space mission, Sentinel, received major support this week from prominent members of the business and financial community.

Steve Krausz, general partner at US Venture Partners; James Leszczenski, engineering manager at Facebook; and Shervin Pishevar, managing partner at Menlo Ventures have joined the Foundation’s Founding Circle, which contributes substantial funding to the mission and pledges continued support in areas of finance, technology and science.

The B612 Foundation has also received new support from the Margaret Jonsson Family Foundation of Dallas, Texas and the William K. Bowes Jr. Foundation of San Francisco.


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Written by Astro1 on September 19th, 2012 , Planetary Defense

Masten Space Systems has released the following statement on the loss of the Xaero vehicle during flight test on September 11.

Last week we encountered a sub system failure in flight that necessitated turning the rocket off while still in the air. Landing at that point winds up considerably rearranging the rocket into rocket parts.

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Written by Astro1 on September 19th, 2012 , Masten Space Systems

Consumer Reports has found that modern Pyrex glassware is less resistant to thermal shock than Pyrex which was made years ago. This is due to changes in the type of glass used to make Pyrex.

This mundane example reflects the problems engineers face when trying to recreate old systems. Components and materials that were used in the original design may no longer be available, and if they are still being manufactured, the new items may not be functionally identical to the original. That’s why it isn’t feasible to rebuild the Saturn V today, as some nostalgic space buffs have suggested. It’s not because NASA has lost the blueprints – that’s an urban legend – but because the supply chain for critical components no longer exists.


Written by Astro1 on September 18th, 2012 , Space Exploration (General)


Written by Astro1 on September 18th, 2012 , Virgin Galactic

We attended the 100 Year Starship Symposium mostly out of curiosity. There’s not a lot of commonality between 100 Year Starship and Citizens in Space. We focus on making low-end, near-term applications of human spaceflight available to the average citizen. 100 Year Starship, on the other hand, is about as high-end and long-term as you can get. Still, we were curious to see how the 100 Year Starship organization was planning to approach such an audacious challenge.

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Written by Astro1 on September 17th, 2012 , Space Exploration (General)

The X-Prize Foundation put together this video showing some of the hardware development and testing being conducted by the registered teams.


Written by Astro1 on September 17th, 2012 , Lunar Science

The Discovery Channel has done a lot to make the public aware of the dangers of asteroid impacts, through numerous documentaries. Discovery Communications, which owns the Discovery Channel, is doing more than just scaremongering, though. Discovery has partnered with Lowell Observatory to build the 170-inch Discovery Channel Telescope, which saw first light in April of this year.

The Discovery Channel Telescope will spend part of its time looking for potentially dangerous near-Earth objects. It won’t be hunting alone, though. Planetary Resources and the B612 Foundation are planning space-based telescopes to search for near-Earth asteroids. It’s good to see so the private sector stepping up to the plate on this, since politicians have shown so little interest.


Written by Astro1 on September 15th, 2012 , Astronomy, Planetary Defense

"Dressing For Altitude: US Aviation Pressure Suits from Wiley Post to the Space Shuttle" book cover

Dressing for altitude is a technical history that covers US pressure suits from the 1930’s up through the Space Shuttle program. The focus is on “aviation” pressure suits, so the book does not cover the Gemini and Apollo spacesuits, or the Shuttle EVA suit, which are covered well in other publications. It does, however, include the Mercury spacesuit, which was derived from a US Navy aviator’s pressure suit. The Shuttle launch and entry suits are, of course, covered.

This book will be of interest to anyone who’s concerned with commercial spaceflight safety. The ebook is available for free download from NASA.

Written by Astro1 on September 13th, 2012 , Books and Resources, Space Medicine and Safety

Astronauts have lived and trained in Texas for 50 years, but no astronaut has ever flown into space from Texas. That will change in the next few years when XCOR Aerospace begins flights from a new spaceport in Midland, Texas.

Maureen Adams, a teacher and principal at West Ward Elementary School in Killeen, hopes to be among the first Lone Star astronauts.

Citizen Astronaut candidate Maureen Adams

Adams is an astronaut candidate who is part of Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy which has purchased 10 flights on the Lynx suborbital spacecraft (currently being developed in Mojave, California by XCOR Aerospace). Citizens in Space has already chosen its first four astronaut candidates, three of whom are from Texas: Maureen Adams and two others to be named later this year.

“It’s too soon to say where the flights will launch from,” Adams said. “It could be Mojave, Midland, Florida, or even Curacao. I’m hoping for Texas.”

XCOR expects Lynx test flights to begin early next year and continue for about a year before commercial operations begin. Citizens in Space will fly soon after that. “We’re expecting that our first flights will be in early 2014,” Adams.

Adams has already proven she has the right stuff in a training program that includes high-g and zero-g aircraft flights, unpowered landings, and flight simulators. She was chosen as a citizen astronaut candidate in July 2009. At that time, the program was known as Teachers in Space. In 2011, Teachers in Space became Citizens in Space.

“We’ve broadened our focus to be more inclusive,” Adams said. “Our program will include informal educators, university students, and hobbyists, as well as teachers.

“We also have a new emphasis on citizen science. One of the complaints about Teachers in Space was that people didn’t know what the teachers would be doing during their flights.

“This isn’t just a joyride. Each of our flights will carry 10 to 12 citizen-science experiments. We’ll be operating experiments, working with researchers, and gathering new knowledge in areas of space science that have not been full explored.”

Adams emphasized the difference between citizen science and textbook experiments commonly performed in school classrooms. “These will be true experiments, not mere demonstrations of known principles. Citizen science is asking questions where the answers are not known.”

One of the experiments Adams may operate is a High Altitude Astrobiology investigation designed to capture microorganisms living at the edge of space. “Biologists have discovered there are living organisms at altitudes up to 100,000 feet or more, but we don’t have a good way to collect those organisms at present. Developing such a system is important for global epidemiology, bioprospecting, and other disciplines. That’s the sort of cutting-edge research we’ll be involved in.”

Other experiments may involve fluid physics, materials science, remote sensing, and astronomy.

“Students need to see teachers doing real scientific research,” Adams said, “And teachers need experience with real research so they can accurately teach the process to students.”

Written by Astro1 on September 12th, 2012 , Citizens in Space Tags:

Today is the 50th Anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s famous speech at Rice University, in which he called our the reasons for landing a man on he Moon. Kennedy’s speech remains one of the most famous and rousing bits of oratory in US history. Unfortunately, it was also one of the most misguided, and his words have helped to malform space policy for half a century.

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Written by Astro1 on September 12th, 2012 , Space History, Space Policy and Management

Masten Space Systems has posted a blog entry about today’s test flight, which didn’t go as well as planned.

Today, Masten Space Systems conducted a flight test of Xaero to 1 km altitude with the intention of testing flight controls at higher ascent and descent velocities. Our test objectives were met and initial results show the vehicle performed better than expected at altitude. However, the vehicle was lost during final approach to landing, and the initial cause appears to be a throttle valve failure. The most important thing is that our team is safe and with the data from this test, we expect to be flying again soon!

Thanks for your support!

That’s why they call it testing.

Written by Astro1 on September 11th, 2012 , Masten Space Systems reports an explosion on Jupiter, which was detected by two amateur astronomers.

According to, the event occurred at 11:35 Universal Time on September 10. Dan Peterson of Racine, Wisconsin, observing through a 12-inch Meade telescope, observed a white flash lasting for 1.5-2 seconds. George Hall of Dallas, Texas was capturing a video of Jupiter at the time, which also captured the event.

It’s believed that the explosion was due to a comet or small asteroid collision. Similar events were observed in the past, in June and August 2010. These events underscore the continuing importance of amateur astronomy, as well as the need to discover potential impactors that could hit our own planet.


Written by Astro1 on September 11th, 2012 , Astronomy

Safe, affordable pressure suits are a critical, enabling technology for commercial spaceflight. Cost reductions are especially important for suborbital spaceflight, where the ticket prices will be about an order of magnitude lower.

Some progress has been made in this area. Orbital Outfitters and the David Clark Company have produced prototype suits for suborbital spaceflight. A new company, Final Frontier Design, recently unveiled its prototype and even held a successful Kickstarter campaign.

This progress, while promising, is not sufficient. David Clark has a great of experience building pressure suits for NASA and the military, dating all the way back to the Bell X-1, but has never delivered a commercial spacesuit. (The company does have a great deal of experience delivering commercial products in other areas, however, especially its highly successful aviation headsets.) The other companies are startups, with a strong commercial orientation, but have not yet delivered a suit that’s actually flown in space.

A healthy industry needs to have multiplier suppliers for critical components like spacesuits. A single source would lead to monopoly pricing and leave the industry vulnerable to single-point failures due to a natural disaster, product recall, or business failure. Two suppliers are better, but a single failure would still put the industry right back in a monopoly situation. For the long-term health of the industry, at least three viable suppliers are preferable.

Right now, most impartial observers would put the number of proven suppliers at about one and a half.

One way to address this problem is a prize for low-cost spacesuit development.

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Written by Astro1 on September 11th, 2012 , Space Medicine and Safety

Among the emerging commercial space transportation companies, Blue Origin is the most secretive and mysterious. A rare glimpse inside the company’s Kent, Washington headquarters came in December 2011 when NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver got a VIP tour from Blue Origin founder (and CEO) Jeff Bezos. The following photo was released by NASA.

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver Tours Blue Origin

Jeff Bezos and Lori Garver stand at the center. The white-haired gentleman is Blue Origin president Rob Meyerson. What appears to be a Blue Origin crew capsule hangs in the background. An enlarged view of the capsule appears below.

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Written by Astro1 on September 9th, 2012 , Blue Origin

The National Museum of the US Air Force is preparing to display the Space Shuttle Crew Compartment Trainer (CCT), which was donated to the museum by NASA. The museum has selected an Ohio company, Display Dynamics, to build a full-scale mockup of the cargo bay and tail section, as shown in the following artist’s conception. The complete mockup will cost $1.5 million.

Shuttle Crew Compartment trainer exhibit planned for National Museum of the US Air Force

The Crew Compartment Trainer, which is being displayed temporarily in the museum’s Cold War Gallery, arrived at the museum by Super Guppy last month. It will eventually be displayed in a new Space Gallery in the museum’s fourth hangar, a $48 million structure scheduled for completion in 2015. A 60-seat classroom/theater is also planned as part of the Shuttle exhibit.

Written by Astro1 on September 8th, 2012 , Museums