June 13, 2017

NASA Signs First NextSTEP Contract For Commercial Habitat Concept Study

Image Credit: NanoRacks

June 13, 2017 – NanoRacks has become the first of six partners to sign a contract with NASA to develop deep space habitat concepts that were announced last summer. NanoRacks and NASA have signed the contract for Ixion, a concept that will focus on repurposing spent launch vehicle upper stages provided by United Launch Alliance (ULA). Space Systems Loral will provide robotic outfitting capabilities. Read More


New Horizons Team Digs Into New Data On Next Flyby Target

Paul Maley and Ted Blank, both of the International Occultation Timing Association, observe the occultation of Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 on the morning of June 3, 2017, from the Karoo desert near Vosburg, South Africa. Their target field — containing both Pluto and MU69 — is in the portion of the Milky Way seen here, in the constellation of Sagittarius. They positioned their telescope next to a small church, shielding it from winds that could arise during the cold winter night. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will fly past MU69 on Jan. 1, 2019. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Henry Throop

June 13, 2017 – It was the most technically-challenging and complex stellar occultation observation campaign ever attempted: At least 54 observing teams with dozens of telescopes dispatched across two continents, positioned to catch a rare, two-second glimpse of a small, distant Kuiper Belt object passing in front of a star. And it wasn’t just any KBO — it was the next flyby target of NASA’s New Horizons mission. Read More


Students And Educators Become Rocket Scientists For A Week At NASA Wallops

Image Credit: NASA

June 13, 2017 – Approximately 150 university and community college students and instructors and high school educators will explore rocket science during Rocket Week June 17 through 23 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Read More


Colorado Launches Inaugural STEM Activation Event To Engage Girls In Tech Careers

June 13, 2017 – As the technology sector continues to evolve, many companies are having difficulty finding qualified workers to fill in-demand, high-tech jobs. To help grow the talent pipeline and expand this traditionally male-dominated industry, the Colorado Technology Association’s Women in Tech Council hosted the SheTech Explorer Day Colorado, a day-long immersive event where 9th – 11th grade female high school students from across the state learned what it’s like to work in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Read More


Monitoring Sand Sheets And Dunes

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

June 13, 2017 – NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) captured this crater featuring sand dunes and sand sheets on its floor. What are sand sheets? Snow fall on Earth is a good example of sand sheets: when it snows, the ground gets blanketed with up to a few meters of snow. The snow mantles the ground and “mimics” the underlying topography. Sand sheets likewise mantle the ground as a relatively thin deposit. Read More


Colorado Astronaut Kjell Lindgren To Command International Undersea Expedition For NASA

With the famous Key Largo coral in the foreground, weightless aquanauts use spacewalk boom prototype to translate across the seafloor, simulating translation across the surface of an asteroid. Image Credit: NASA

June 13, 2017 – NASA will send an international crew to the floor of the Atlantic Ocean this summer to prepare for future deep space missions during the 10-day NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 22 expedition slated to begin June 18. Colorado astronaut Kjell Lindgren will command the NEEMO 22 mission aboard the Aquarius laboratory, 62 feet below the ocean surface near Key Largo Florida. Read More


Mimas Global Map

An updated global map of Saturn’s moon Mimas. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

June 13, 2017 – This global map of Saturn’s moon Mimas was created using images taken during Cassini spacecraft flybys. The moon’s large, distinguishing crater, Herschel, is seen on the map at left. Read More


B612 Creates Asteroid Institute

June 13, 2017 – The B612 Foundation today announced the formation of a new science and technology institute dedicated to protecting Earth from asteroid impacts. Dr. Ed Lu, three time US astronaut and Co-founder of B612, will serve as Executive Director of the new B612 Asteroid Institute, collaborating with a team of planetary scientists and engineers from around the world to conduct research, technology development, and data analysis on asteroid detection and deflection. The team includes several scientists and engineers from Colorado including Marc Buie and Dr. Dan Durda of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and John Troeltzsch of Ball Aerospace. Dr. Clark Chapman, Planetary Scientist (retired), SwRI, is a Co-founder of B612 and serves as a Board Director and Institute Advisor.


Wings Over The Rockies Hires New Director Of Education

April Lanotte joins Wings with more than two decades of teaching and aerospace education experience. Image Credit: Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum

June 13, 2017 – Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum (Wings), Colorado’s Official Air & Space Museum, today announced the addition of April Lanotte as Director of Education. Lanotte brings more than twenty years of teaching and supervisory education experience to the position. Read More


NASA Hosts Briefing On Latest Kepler Mission Results

This illustration depicts a sample of the many planets discovered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope. Image Credit: NASA/Wendy Stenzel

June 13, 2017 – NASA will hold a media briefing at 9 a.m. MDT Monday, June 19, to announce the latest planet candidate results from the agency’s exoplanet-hunting Kepler mission. The briefing, taking place during the Kepler Science Conference, will be held at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. The event will stream live on NASA’s website.


More News:

On The Road To Creating An Electrodeless Spacecraft Propulsion Engine
Source: Tohoku University

The universe is made up of plasma – a gas so hot that its particles are electrically charged. This makes it easily influenced by magnetic fields and forces, which can lead to complex behavior. Researchers from Tohoku University have been trying to find out how the plasma flow is influenced by its environment via laboratory experiments. And in doing so, have made headway on research towards creating an electrodeless plasma thruster used to propel spacecraft.


Research: Evidence For Possible Clouds In Pluto’s Present Day Atmosphere
Source: arXiv.org

Several trace constituents can reach saturation vapor pressure in Pluto’s present day atmosphere. As such, we describe a search for discrete could features in Pluto’s atmosphere using New Horizons data obtained on 14-15 July 2015, during the Pluto flyby closest approach. We report that Pluto’s present day atmosphere is at least largely (>99% by surface area) free of discrete clouds. We also report a handful of features that may plausibly be clouds, all of which were detected obliquely and at high phase observing geometry. No cloud candidates were identified away from the terminators or in low phase (backscattering geometry) images.


Meet Jessica Watkins, The Only Black Woman In NASA’s Newest Astronaut Class
Source: HuffPost

Watch out, universe. NASA’s newest class of astronauts includes one woman with some serious black girl magic. NASA announced its first class of astronaut candidates since 2013 on Wednesday. The twelve candidates from various backgrounds and fields of study met some pretty rigorous requirements and made it to the top of the pool of 18,300 applicants, a record number for NASA. Among them is one black woman: Jessica Watkins.


Girl Boss: 5 Things To Know About NASA’s Newest Black Astronaut Candidate
Source: Essence

Out of 18,300 applicants, only 12 new people were chosen by NASA for two years of training before giving them the title of ‘astronaut.’ Jessica Watkins is in that new class of astronauts and she is the only Black woman chosen to for this program.


Teledyne To Host Payloads On The International Space Station
Source: Space.com

Teledyne Technologies Incorporated today announced that Teledyne Brown Engineering’s Multi-User System for Earth Sensing (MUSES) was launched to the International Space Station (ISS) on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on June 3, 2017. Over the last week, MUSES was installed on the ISS and completed a successful initial operational assessment.


Fried Frontier: KFC Chicken Sandwich Heading To Stratosphere Next Week
Source: Space.com

World View Enterprises’ Stratollite balloon system is scheduled to carry a KFC Zinger chicken sandwich to the stratosphere on June 21, representatives of both companies announced today (June 13). The flight will mark the first multiday mission for Stratollite, and the longest-ever controlled stratospheric balloon voyage with a commercial payload, KFC representatives said.


SWF Participates In The 60th Plenary Session Of UN Committee On The Peaceful Uses Of Outer Space
Source: Secure World Foundation

SWF’s Executive Director Michael Simpson and Washington Office Director Victoria Samson participated in the 60th session of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), at the United Nations in Vienna, Austria. As NGO observers with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Secure World Foundation enjoys the privilege to attend certain meetings of the United Nations principal bodies.


Navigation From LEO: Current Capability And Future Promise
Source: GPS World

Robust position, navigation, and timing services from low Earth orbit (LEO) are here today, providing augmentation to GPS where GPS isn’t available. The addition of navigation signals from LEO provides a number of benefits.


Boeing Streamlining Defense And Space Unit To Boost Competitiveness
Source: Boeing

Boeing is taking the next step in making its Defense, Space & Security (BDS) unit more globally competitive by eliminating a layer of executive oversight. As of July 1, the current Boeing Military Aircraft and Network & Space Systems segments will evolve into smaller entities.


NuSTAR’s First Five Years In Space
Source: NASA

Five years ago, on June 13, 2012, Caltech’s Fiona Harrison, principal investigator of NASA’s NuSTAR mission, watched with her team as their black-hole-spying spacecraft was launched into space aboard a rocket strapped to the belly of an aircraft. Now, Harrison shares her take on five of the mission’s many iconic images and artist concepts — ranging from our flaring sun to distant, buried black holes. NuSTAR is the first telescope capable of focusing high-energy X-rays — and it has taken the most detailed images of the sky in this energy regime to date.


SOFIA Finds Cool Dust Around Energetic Active Black Holes
Source: NASA

Researchers at the University of Texas San Antonio using observations from NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, found that the dust surrounding active, ravenous black holes is much more compact than previously thought.


NASA Honors Comet Science Pioneer Michael A’Hearn
Source: NASA

NASA has posthumously awarded the Exceptional Public Service Medal to Michael A’Hearn, one of the world’s leading comet scientists. A’Hearn died May 29 at his home in University Park, Maryland at the age of 76. A’Hearn was most widely known as the principal investigator of NASA’s Deep Impact mission.


New Window Improves The View Of Science On Orbiting Laboratory
Source: NASA

One of the busiest work stations on the International Space Station got a major upgrade recently, and it already has saved dozens of hours on a variety of experiments for crew members aboard the orbiting laboratory.


Orion’s Monthly Highlights For May 2017
Source: NASA

Work continues to prepare NASA’s Orion crew module for its first integrated flight atop the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket – Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1). The crew module was moved from a clean room to a work station inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building high bay at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to prepare for the next additions to the spacecraft.


New Instrument Shows Big Potential To Help Mission Planners
Source: Air Force SBIR/STTR Concepts on the Horizon/ASTRA

Funding from the Air Force Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) Program helped Atmospheric and Space Technology Research Associates – also known as ASTRA – to create a new instrument to pinpoint atmospheric problems that impact communication and navigation signals.


GeoWave Builds Its Community At CalGIS/LocationCon
Source: DigitalGlobe

For the last several years, GeoWave has been an important tool for the US government, which leverages GeoWave to create a variety of solutions fueled by geospatial big data. But while our USG connection is stronger than ever and will continue to deepen, the drive for the GeoWave team now is diversity. We’re actively engaging with software developers from non-USG enterprises with new interests—with the goal of building the GeoWave ecosystem and significantly growing the set of contributors to the project.


VLA Gives New Insight Into Galaxy Cluster’s Spectacular “Mini-Halo”
Source: National Radio Astronomy Observatory

Astronomers using the National Science Foundation’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) have discovered new details that are helping them decipher the mystery of how giant radio-emitting structures are formed at the center of a cluster of galaxies.


Astronomer Jerry Nelson, Pioneering Designer Of Large Telescopes, Dies At Age 73
Source: University of California Santa Cruz

Jerry Nelson, a pioneering astronomer known for his innovative designs for advanced telescopes, died June 10 at his home in Santa Cruz. He was 73. A professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, Nelson was project scientist for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) and had served as project scientist for the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii from 1985 through 2012.


New Evidence That All Stars Are Born In Pairs
Source: UC Berkeley

Did our sun have a twin when it was born 4.5 billion years ago? Almost certainly yes — though not an identical twin. And so did every other sunlike star in the universe, according to a new analysis by a theoretical physicist from the University of California, Berkeley, and a radio astronomer from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory at Harvard University.


Hot Rocks, Not Warm Atmosphere, Led To Relatively Recent Water-Carved Valleys On Mars
Source: Brown University

Present-day Mars is a frozen desert, colder and more arid than Antarctica, and scientists are fairly sure it’s been that way for at least the last 3 billion years. That makes a vast network of water-carved valleys on the flanks of an impact crater called Lyot — which formed somewhere between 1.5 billion and 3 billion years ago — something of a Martian mystery.