Potential participants in the Nano-satellite Launch Challenge are telling us they’ve received official notification from Space Florida that NASA has canceled the Space Act Agreement for the Challenge.

What this means is not exactly clear. In theory, NASA could continue the Nano-satellite Launch Challenge with another partner. Most likely, however, means for the challenges that.

NASA’s explanation is that they surveyed 15 possible nanosat launch projects and found that two government-funded projects (SWORDS and ALASA) were the only candidates that appeared to have a chance of success. That explanation completely miss the point of prizes, which is to reward competitors only if they succeed, rather than prejudging outcomes.

[Update: An email from a NASA employee close to the Centennial Challenges program confirms that SWORDS and ALASA were key factors in the cancelation. The email also states that “NASA has also found a significant technology gap in low cost avionics and GN&C systems needed to support the development of a low cost nano-sat launch system.” That statement sounds surreal when a quick trip to RadioShack can net you a three-axis gyroscope and more computing power than the entire world possessed at the time of Sputnik.]

This announcement is disappointing, on two levels. It’s a setback for the teams who intended to compete, but it’s also a setback for the Centennial Challenges program, which has been drifting these past few years.

The Centennial Challenges program was inspired by the Ansari X-Prize, which proved that a small company could develop and fly a suborbital spacecraft at low cost. The Lunar Lander Challenge, one of the first Centennial Challenges, was a boon for suborbital companies such as Armadillo Aerospace and Masten Space Systems. Unfortunately, with the apparent cancelation of the Nano-satellite Launch Challenge, NASA has no challenges that are aimed at the most important problem facing future space activities – reducing the cost of access to space.

The major part of the blame lies with Congress, which has underfunded Centennial Challenges for years (when it funded it at all).

NASA itself deserves part of the blame, however. Over the years, the focus of Centennial Challenges has shifted from promoting innovation in the American aerospace sector to addressing the specific needs of NASA’s own programs, such as Mars sample return. This shift is not surprising given the way the program has bounced around the agency, finally ending up under the Office of the Chief Technologist.

Compounding the problem is the fact that NASA tried to pick a winning technology horse before the race began. A large part of the Centennial Challenges money was carved out early on for Space Elevator Challenges, even though the space-elevator concept was a high-risk technology with little likelihood of reducing launch costs in the near term. (They were egged on by the Space Frontier Foundation and the Spaceward Foundation, which were enamored of the space elevator despite its questionable economics and low technology readiness level.)

The US government has vested interest in lowering launch costs, and prizes can be a powerful tool for furthering that purpose. Unfortunately, this cancelation casts increased doubt on NASA’s reliability as a sponsor for space-access prizes. At some point, we have to ask ourselves if we’re trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Perhaps the time has come to consider other agencies, such as DARPA or the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation, as prize sponsors?

Written by Astro1 on November 28th, 2012 , Nanosatellites, Space Policy and Management

Burt Rutan recently gave a talk at the UP Experience, a one-day creative conference in Houston, during which he offered some useful insights into suborbital spaceflight as an enabler.


Written by Astro1 on November 26th, 2012 , Citizen Exploration, Scaled Composites

High-speed video (also known as super-slow motion) can be a valuable tool for recording experiment results. A number of companies manufacture high-speed cameras for scientific and industrial purposes. If you’re building an experiment to fly with Citizens in Space, you probably won’t be running out to buy one of those cameras, though. First, the price is a deterrent, with cameras selling for $25,000 and up. Then, there’s the matter of size. These cameras are fine for laboratory use but too large for the 1U and 2U CubeSat payload volumes we are offering.

Fortunately, consumer electronics have come to the rescue. High-speed video features are now incorporated into a number of small, low-cost consumer cameras. These consumer cameras do not achieve the extremely high frame rates achieved by professional high-speed cameras (thousands or even millions of frames per second), but their small size and low cost makes them well suited for our purposes. And in addition to high-speed video, these consumer cameras offer another useful feature – the ability to shoot high-resolution still images in rapid bursts.

The Point-and-Shoot Option: Casio Exilim

Casio was the first company to add high-speed features to its consumer cameras. [Update: Casio has recently discontinued selling point-and-shoot cameras in the US market. The models described here are still available on the used market. More recent models with similar features are available as unofficial imports on the “gray” market.] These features can be found in Casio’s Exilim line of point-and-shoot cameras, but not all Exilim cameras have the high-speed features. In the current US lineup, there is the EX-ZR100, which lists for $299. The simpler, slightly cheaper EX-ZR10 was recently discontinued in the United States but still sold internationally. The EX-ZR200, EX-ZR300, and EX-ZR1000 are newer models not officially imported into the US. The EX-FC150 is an older, discontinued model. All of these cameras, including the discontinued and international models, are available through Ebay and other online sources. So, you can shop around for the most suitable model and the best price.

Casio EZ-ZR200 high-speed camera

Video modes vary slightly from model to model, so it’s important to check the specs before you buy. All of these models will shoot standard and high-definition video at 30 frames per second (fps). High-definition video will be 1080p for current models, 720p for the FC150. High-speed video modes are 120 fps, 240 fps, 480 fps, and 1000 fps. Not all models provide the 120- and 1000-fps modes, however. The ZR100, for example, lacks the 120-fps mode. So, if you need 120 fps, the older FC150 would be a better choice.

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Written by Astro1 on November 22nd, 2012 , Electronics Tags:

As citizen scientists begin developing experiments to fly on the XCOR Lynx spacecraft (see our Call For Experiments), the range of hardware options for payload developers is rapidly increasing. Within the last month, two new microcontroller boards have appeared on the market.

Arduino Due 32-bit microcontroller board

The long-awaited 32-bit Arduino Due microcontroller board has been released and is available for purchase through Makershed, Sparkfun, and Adafruit. Retail price is $49.95.

Running at 84 MHz, the Arduino Due offers a significant performance boost over 8-bit Arduino boards such as the Arduino Uno (16 MHz). The Arduino Due uses the same Maker-friendly Arduino integrated development environment as the Arduino Uno. It also offers API-level software compatibility and compatibility with most Arduino hardware shields – all factors which minimize the learning curve for Arduino developers.

The Arduino Due provides 512 KB of flash memory and two backs of static RAM (64 KB and 32 KB). Full specifications can be found here.

Netduino 2 Plus .NET-compatible microcontroller board

Not to be outdone, Secret Labs LLC has released the 168-MHz Netduino Plus 2, with 1 megabyte of flash memory and 192 KB of RAM. The Netduino series of 32-bit microcontroller boards are compatible with most Arduino shields but run the Microsoft .NET Micro Framework. This makes Netduino a good option for developers who are familiar with the Microsoft .NET platform and Visual Studio development environment.

The Netduino Plus 2 retails for $59.95 and is available through Amazon and Adafruit.

It’s our hope that citizen scientists will try out a wide range of microcontroller and microprocessor options during our initial flight campaign. We will be publishing a guide to available processor options in the near future.

Written by Astro1 on November 21st, 2012 , Electronics Tags:

NASA Nano-satellite Launch Challenge
Rumors say the $3 million Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge, funded by NASA and run by the Space Florida Small Satellite Research Center, is about to be canceled. The official announcement is said to be coming Monday. [Update: See It’s Dead, Jim.]

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Written by Astro1 on November 20th, 2012 , Nanosatellites


Written by Astro1 on November 19th, 2012 , Spaceports

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center news blog has an interesting article about Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology.

The American space program stands at the cusp of a “water rush” to the moon by several companies developing robotic prospectors for launch in the near future, according to a NASA scientist considering how to acquire and use water ice believed to be at the poles of the moon.

“This is like the gold rush that led to the settlement of California,” said Phil Metzger, a physicist who leads the Granular Mechanics and Regolith Operations Lab, part of Kennedy’s Surface Systems Office. “This is the water rush.”

Collecting the water, or at least showing it can be collected, is where the Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology comes in. The small company signed on in April for the third phase of a Small Business Innovative Research deal that continues research work to develop technologies NASA may need to harvest space resources in the future. [Emphasis Added]

The company already is far along in its development of a rover that will work on its own. There is a deal in place with SpaceX to launch a lander and rover on a Falcon 9 rocket in October 2015. Astrobotic is competing against several other companies for the Google Lunar X-Prize, an award worth up to $30 million funded by the Internet search engine company.

It is disappointing, though, that the article still assumes that space resources will be harvested by NASA, rather than private enterprise. NASA was created to be a research and exploration outfit, not a mining company. The United States Geological Survey does not harvest mineral resources in the United States. It performs research that enables private companies to harvest minerals. Surely, that is a more appropriate role for NASA.

NASA is trying but still having trouble understanding the paradigm shift.

Written by Astro1 on November 19th, 2012 , Commercial Space (General), Space Policy and Management

Southern Georgia has joined the rapidly growing list of potential commercial spaceports sites.

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The Camden County Joint Development Authority announced today that its board has voted to explore the development of an “Aero-Spaceport” on land currently owned by Union Carbide Corporation and formerly leased to Bayer CropScience. In addition to functioning as a spaceport, the project would allow the city of St. Marys to relocate the existing St. Marys Municipal Airport away from Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, the largest employer in the region. Senior Navy officials have stated that the existing airport poses safety and security concerns.

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The proposed Aero-Spaceport site includes more than 4,000 acres of land, a small private airfield, and a rocket-engine testing facility that was used during the Apollo program. Saturn rocket engines were shipped to the site by barge along the adjoining Intracoastal Waterway.

Other sites for the new St. Marys Airport are under consideration, but none of those sites have the same spaceport potential. Joint Development Authority  executive director David Keating said, “Launching off out over marsh and then to ocean-based airspace, that’s what’s so special about this property, quick access to ocean-based airspace. And because of these unique features, the property has been generating significant attention for amongst aerospace and commercial-space companies.”

The Georgia Department of Economic Development has been exploring the market potential of a commercial spaceport at the site and reports “significant industry interest.”  The proposed spaceport would accommodate both horizontal and vertical launches. Horizontal-launch vehicles would share dual-use facilities with the new airport.

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If the project receives the necessary funding and regulatory approval, construction could begin as early as 2014. Initial Aero-Spaceport operations could begin in late 2014 or early 2015.

Written by Astro1 on November 15th, 2012 , Spaceports

While US lawmakers  and certain pundits panic over the alleged threat from the emerging Chinese space program (which is now replicating feats the US accomplished decades ago), European lawmakers are worried about a different competitor – an American one.

Space News quotes French Senator Bruno Sido, comparing SpaceX to ArianeSpace: “Visiting Les Mureaux is like entering an impressive laboratory. Visiting SpaceX, which occupies an old factory that once belonged to Boeing, is like entering IKEA. This company has already won many contracts, is well-supported by NASA and is building low-cost launcher that constitutes a real and serious threat.”

Citing the SpaceX competitive threat, French lawmakers are urging an early start on the next-generation Ariane 6 expendable launch vehicle.

Meanwhile, SpaceX is already testing an evolved, reusable Falcon first stage in his Grasshopper program. On November 1, the 10-story VTVL Grasshopper lifted 17.7 feet (5.4 meters, hovered, and touched down in an 8-second test hop at the SpaceX test facility in McGregor, Texas. Grasshopper consists of a Falcon 9 rocket first stage, Merlin 1D engine, four steel landing legs with hydraulic dampers, and a steel support structure.

SpaceX Grasshopper VTVL test vehicle for reusable Falcon rocket

SpaceX is operating inside of the Ariane decision cycle. Ariane 6 is intended to compete with Falcon 9, but by the time Ariane 6 becomes operational, SpaceX may have a fully reusable vehicle.

In fact, Ariane 6 appears to be a technological step backward. According to Aviation Week, the French space agency CNES favors a solid-rocket design for Ariane 6. The reasoning appears to be that a solid rocket could survive longer while losing market share. “Bonnal says even in the worst-case scenarios that assume a 20% decline in market price after 2020, when the rocket would enter service, the solid-rocket configurations could survive on eight launches per year, including three institutional ones for government customers.”

ArianeSpace seems to be securing its line of retreat, as it prepares to surrender the launch market to SpaceX.

Written by Astro1 on November 15th, 2012 , Commercial Space (General), Space Policy and Management, SpaceX

Several recent developments show that the Interplanetary CubeSat concept, which we reported on previously, is continuing to gain mindshare.

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Written by Astro1 on November 15th, 2012 , Innovation, Nanosatellites

NASA PhoneSat low-cost satellite using Nexus smartphone

NASA’s PhoneSat project has won the Popular Science‘s 2012 Best of What’s New Award for innovation in aerospace. PhoneSat will demonstrate the ability to launch low-cost, easy-to-build satellites with advanced capabilities enabled by off-the-shelf consumer smartphones.

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Written by Astro1 on November 15th, 2012 , Innovation, Nanosatellites

XCOR Lynx spacecraft wingXCOR Aerospace has announced that Alliant Techsystems (ATK) will build the wings and control surfaces for the Lynx Mark I spacecraft. XCOR has issued the first phase of a two-phase contract to ATK’s Aerospace Structures Division.

Andrew Jackson, vice president of ATK’s Aerospace Structures Division Launch Segment, said “This partnership with XCOR will provide unique insights and innovations. ATK is honored to continue our heritage in creating composite manufacturing solutions for spaceflight and excited to engage in this commercial environment with XCOR.”

XCOR CEO Jeff Greason said, “Our engagements with ATK impressed me from the start, not only due to their position as a leader in the industry, but through their immediate grasp of the unique challenges we face in the construction of Lynx wings. The story of Lynx is the story of sound design and reliable engineering.  We could not be more thrilled to work with ATK.”

XCOR chief operating officer Andrew Nelson said, “We are establishing a model of how smaller new space companies may utilize established government primes as our suppliers. ATK has demonstrated they are nimble, cost effective and can leverage deep experience from prior larger projects.”

The initial wing and control surface design has been developed by XCOR to rigorous design standards to enable the craft to perform tens of thousands of flights to and from suborbital altitudes exceeding 100 kilometers.  ATK will create a detailed design ready for manufacture, working with structural and flutter analysis experts from Quartus Engineering in San Diego, CA.

Written by Astro1 on November 14th, 2012 , XCOR Aerospace

Last week, we attended the Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching in San Antonio. During the three-day conference, hundreds of teachers visited our booth and signed up for our email list. We also had the chance to talk to many teachers about the way they are using space in the classroom.

We talked to a number of teachers who had participated, or were participating, in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program being run by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education and NanoRacks. All of them were enthusiastic about the program. At the same time, however, they also talked about the challenge of fitting a student experiment into the small test-tube size payload volume.

The teachers expressed a clear desire for larger payload volumes. We mentioned the CubeSat form factor (10 centimeters on a side), which they seemed to like.

At the same time, of course, schools have limited financial resources. NanoRacks has done an admirable job of streamlining the process for flying educational payloads to the International Space Station, but launch costs are not under their control. By squeezing 15 payloads into a CubeSat volume, they’re able to keep costs down to $21,500 – a price that’s within reach of school fundraising and sponsorship programs. That includes both launch costs and Nanorack’s own expenses and overhead.

It would be great if schools could fly a CubeSat-sized payload for $21,000, or even less, but that isn’t going to happen until launch costs go down. Before someone says, “Elon Musk is going to do that” – no, he isn’t. At least, not in the near term. Nanoracks is already flying on the Dragon capsule and paying SpaceX prices. Further cost reductions are necessary.

The real answer, in the near term, is reusable suborbital spacecraft. The XCOR Lynx, for example, can easily accommodate a dozen CubeSat experiments with a payload operator. Without a payload operator, it could carry 100 or more. Based on XCOR’s initial retail price of $95,000 per flight, this means launch costs of a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per cube. Armadillo Aerospace, Masten Space Systems, and Virgin Galactic will be offering flights at similar price points.

If the price of flying an experiment is reduced to the cost of a classroom microscope, space science could become a standard part of every high-school science curriculum. That would require streamlining the payload integration process as well as reducing launch costs. There will be a lot of work for payload integrators such as NanoRacks to do. Even orbital launch companies like SpaceX would benefit from a suborbital flight program for educational payloads. It would create an entry-level market for space experiments, some of which might grow into larger, orbital experiments.

Written by Astro1 on November 14th, 2012 , Commercial Space (General), Education, NanoRacks

Orbital satellite tracks

At the Arizona Science and Astronomy Expo in Tucson, DARPA unveiled a new program to engage amateur astronomers in helping to protect satellites.

The goal of the program, called SpaceView, is to provide more diverse data to the Space Surveillance Network, a worldwide network of 29 radar and optical telescopes which observes and catalogues space objects to spot potential collisions. SpaceView plans to engage amateur astronomers by purchasing remote access existing amateur telescopes or providing telescopes to selected astronomers. The telescopes would still be available for amateur astronomy when not in use by the SpaceView program.

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Written by Astro1 on November 13th, 2012 , Astronomy, Planetary Defense

Vitaly Lopota, head of the Russian space firm Energia RSC, has reportedly proposed developing a new rocket to deflect  Earth-approaching asteroids. Lopota’s statements were made in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta as reported by the Chinese news service xinhaunet.

According to Xinhaunet,  “Lopota said existing Russian rocket carriers with RD-171 engines could be redesigned to produce a rocket capable of destroying an asteroid.” The new rocket could be ready in 3-5 years.

Lapota implies that the RD-170 engine is the only one large enough to do the job. “‘We call them Tsar Engines, which no other country possesses,’ Lopota said, referring to Russian artifacts, the Tsar Cannon and Tsar Bell, which were the world’s largest in their time.”

These statements make little sense. A variety of techniques have been proposed for asteroid mitigation. There is no agreement over which is best, in part due to our lack of detailed knowledge about the general population of Near Earth asteroids and in part due to technical uncertainties in the techniques themselves, none of which have actually been tested in space. More research and development is needed, but no expert has seriously suggested that the size of existing launch vehicles (or rocket engines) is a critical problem.

Lapota is apparently using planetary defense as a lever, hoping to shake loose government funding for a product Energia wishes sell, whether it is relevant to the problem or not. That is hardly surprising, given the desperate straights of Energia and other Russian space companies in recent years. Perhaps he’s learned from the example of US politicians who exhibit similar behavior in calling for development of the superheavy Space Launch System.

Written by Astro1 on November 9th, 2012 , Planetary Defense

In the next few years, citizen space explorers will start to fly in large numbers. When they do, many of them will want to take pictures during their flights. Those who do might want to heed this advice from photo buff and NASA astronaut Don Petit.
[vimeo 51632896 w=700]

Written by Astro1 on November 9th, 2012 , Citizen Exploration

Teacher, Air Force Veteran Steve Heck Inducted Into Hall of Fame

(Dayton, OH) – Lieutenant Colonel Steve Heck (USAF-ret.) is being honored by the State of Ohio for his work with Citizens in Space, a non-profit project that promotes citizen science and citizen space exploration.

Lt. Col. Heck is one of 15 veterans who will be inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame today by Governor John Kasich in a ceremony at the National Museum of the US Air Force here in Dayton.

“It’s a great honor to be among this select group of veterans honored for their contributions to the State of Ohio,” Heck said. “I am grateful to the governor and State of Ohio for recognizing the importance of the Citizens in Space program and proud to receive this recognition for the role I have played in it.”

As an Air Force officer, Steve Heck flew the B-52 Stratofortress and KC-10 Extender, setting two world records in the KC-10 aircraft. After retirement, he became an elementary-, middle-, and high-school science teacher in Milford, Ohio.

In 2009, Steve Heck was selected as an astronaut candidate for Teachers in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy. In 2011, the program was expanded to include a broad range of citizen scientists and renamed Citizens in Space.

Steve Heck is one of three astronaut candidates selected by the United States Rocket Academy to fly on the Lynx, a suborbital rocketship being built by XCOR Aerospace in Mojave, California. The United States Rocket Academy has acquired an initial contract for 10 flights on the Lynx and plans to acquire additional flights on the Lynx and other vehicles in the future.

Heck has served the program as an instructor as well as an astronaut candidate, helping to develop a suborbital astronaut training curriculum for Citizens in Space, which will select seven additional astronaut candidates in the next 12-18 months.

“I’m pleased to be using my Air Force experience to help shape this program, which is paving the way for the next generation of American astronauts,” Heck said. “In the next decade, thousands of Americans will fly in space on vehicles like the Lynx, through programs like Citizens in Space. I am proud to help form the training that will ensure citizen astronauts are able to fly safely and accomplish their missions effectively.

“The astronauts selected for Citizens in Space will be busy during their flights, operating and supervising up to a dozen experiments. Preflight training is therefore crucial,” Heck said.

The XCOR Lynx is scheduled to roll out in 2013, followed by about a year of flight tests. If testing goes according to plan, Lynx will enter operational service in early 2014. “Development of the Lynx is proceeding at a rapid pace,” Heck said. “The challenge for Citizens in Space is to make sure we’re ready. We accept the challenge.”

Citizen astronaut candidate Lt. Col. Steve Heck (USAF-ret.)

Written by Astro1 on November 8th, 2012 , Citizens in Space

Of all the objections to suborbital spaceflight, this might be the silliest.

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Written by Astro1 on November 4th, 2012 , Commercial Space (General)

SpaceX performed another brief flight test of its reusable first-stage demonstrator, dubbed Grasshopper. According to SpaceX, the flight was the first test using closed-loop thrust vectoring and throttle control. The flight was scheduled for October 29, according to the FAA license, but there has been no confirmation of the date.

SpaceX provided a video, which Clark Lindsey of NewSpace Watch has reposted on YouTube.


It’s strange that this video was released but is not yet available on SpaceX’s own YouTube channel or on the SpaceX website. It’s hard to predict where and when SpaceX videos will appear. Some SpaceX fans got upset recently when Ariel Waldman criticized the SpaceX website, but truthfully, their public communications does seem to be a bit hit and miss. SpaceX fans should realize that it’s okay to like someone and still offer, or accept, constructive criticism. There’s a difference between being a fan and being a fanboy.

Written by Astro1 on November 4th, 2012 , SpaceX Tags:

From time to time, we hear people asking why companies like Armadillo, Masten, Virgin Galactic, and XCOR are developing suborbital vehicles for scientific research. “Don’t we already have sounding rockets for that sort of thing?”

We can understand the source of the confusion. The NASA Sounding Rocket Program claims to offer “unique opportunities for low-cost, fast-turn-around… access to space.”

That description sounds very much like what the reusable rocket companies are developing. The verbiage may have originated with attempts by former NASA Associate Administrator for Space Sciences Ed Weiler to kill the Commercial Reusable Surborbital Research (CRuSR) program authorized by Congress and divert the money to sounding rockets. The proposed funding for CRuSR was a drop in the bucket compared to NASA’s Sounding Rocket Program gets, but Weiler was opposed to NASA spending any money to fly payloads on reusable vehicles.

So, sounding rockets are now “low-cost access to space” – no matter how much they cost. But there’s a difference between “low-cost access to space” and low-cost access to space.

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Written by Astro1 on November 3rd, 2012 , Commercial Space (General)

Hurricane Sandy -- weather satellite image
While Frankenstorm / Post-tropical Storm Sandy fills the headlines, there is also growing concern over America’s weather satellites.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s GOES-13 (GOES-East) satellite failed on September 23. A backup satellite (GOES-14) was called into service and is now functioning as GOES-East. Unfortunately, the position of GOES-14 (further west than GOES-13) means there is some distortion on the Eastern edge of its images. Engineers are working on GOES-13 and hope to return it to service, but there is no timetable for that.

At the same time, there is growing concern over the Joint Polar Satellite System, which was scheduled for launch in 2014 but has been delayed until 2017 or later. The Government Accountability Office has predicted that this will lead to a gap of 17-53 months in polar-orbiting weather satellite data. The New York Times, Business Week, and Time magazine are among the media who have expressed concern.

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Written by Astro1 on November 2nd, 2012 , Space Policy and Management

Insulin Crystals -- comparison of samples made in space and on Earth

Robert Heinlein said that common wisdom is almost always wrong, by a factor of at least ten thousand to one.

During the 1980’s, there was a lot of enthusiasm for materials processing in space. A lot of it was driven by a popular book called The Third Industrial Revolution, written by  engineer G. Harry Stine. Stine believed that access to the space environment, including weightlessness, vacuum, and radiation, would revolutionize manufacturing.

Today, everyone “knows better.” We’re still doing experiments with materials processing, fluid physics, etc. in microgravity but almost no one expects these experiments to lead to large-scale, profitable manufacturing in space. Instead, microgravity is viewed as a research tool. The emphasis is on understanding phenomena that can improve processes on the ground. Once we understand how something works in microgravity, we can almost certainly find ways of reproducing the observed phenomenon more cheaply on the ground.

What “everyone knows” is wrong. In fact, products have already been manufactured in space and sold on Earth.

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Written by Astro1 on November 2nd, 2012 , Commercial Space (General)

Former NASA Shuttle commander and XCOR chief test pilot astronaut Col. Rick Searfoss

(Houston, TX) – Colonel Rick Searfoss (USAF-ret.) will address teachers at the Space Exploration Educators Conference, which takes place at Space Center Houston on February 7-9, 2013. Colonel Searfoss will speak during a session on “Citizen Science and Citizen Space Exploration” presented by Citizens in Space.

As a NASA Shuttle pilot and commander, Colonel Searfoss flew into space three times. As chief test pilot for the Lynx reusable spacecraft, now under construction by XCOR Aerospace, he expects to fly into space much more often.

“The suborbital Lynx spacecraft is designed to fly up to four times a day,” Colonel Searfoss said. “We need to dispel the myth that American spaceflight is ending. The real space age is about to begin. In the next decade, thousands of Americans will travel into space.”

Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy, has acquired a contract for 10 flights on the Lynx spacecraft, which will be made available to the education and citizen-science communities. Citizens in Space will select 100 citizen-science experiments and 10 citizen astronauts to fly as payload operators.

Colonel Searfoss will address teachers via two-way video link from the XCOR Aerospace hangar at Mojave Air and Space Port in California, where the Lynx spacecraft is now being built. “I would love to visit Houston again and meet teachers in person,” Colonel Searfoss said, “but the Lynx test schedule does not allow it. We expect to begin test flights early next year, perhaps around the time of the conference. So, we will have a lot of exciting developments to share with the teachers.”

In addition to teleconferencing with Colonel Searfoss, teachers will have the opportunity to meet the first three citizen-astronaut candidates selected by Citizens in Space. Teachers will learn how they can incorporate citizen science into the classroom, develop experiments to fly on Lynx, and apply for the citizen astronaut program.

“Suborbital spacecraft like Lynx will revolutionize access to space, for scientists, engineers, teachers, and students,” Col. Searfoss said. “The revolution begins in 2013. Teachers can hear all about it at the Space Exploration Educators Conference.”

Registration for the Space Exploration Educators Conference is open now. On-line registration and conference information is available at www.spacecenter.org/teachersseec.html.

Citizen astronaut candidate Maureen Adams and XCOR chief test pilot and former NASA Shuttle commander Colonel Rick Searfoss

Col. Rick Searfoss and citizen astronaut candidate Maureen Adams. 

Written by Astro1 on November 1st, 2012 , Citizens in Space, Education