astroengine writes "As if the International Space Station couldn't get any cooler, the Japanese segment of the orbiting outpost has launched a barrage of small satellites — known as "cubesats" — from their very own Cubesat Cannon! Of course, the real name of the cubesat deployment system isn't quite as dramatic, but the JEM Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (J-SSOD) adds a certain sci-fi flair to space station science."
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DavidGilbert99 writes "Nowhere is safe. Even in the cold expanse of space, computer malware manages to find a way. According to Russian security expert Eugene Kaspersky, the SCADA systems on board the International Space Station have been infected by malware which was carried into space on USB sticks by Russian astronauts."
The Bad Astronomer writes "It sounds like a scene from Gravity: Astronauts aboard the International Space Station Thursday saw a weird, glowing cloud of light in the distance, most likely caused by a fuel dump or leaking fuel from a Russian missile launch. The extended life of a Topol missile was being tested in a ballistic launch to a test target in Kazakhstan, and the astronauts were able to take pictures of both the launch vapor trail and the glowing cloud. This event is similar to the eerie spiral lights seen over Norway in 2009 caused by a Russian missile launch as well."
minty3 writes "An 11-year-old Colorado boy may have found a way to literally make a beer that's out of this world. Michal Bodzianowski, a sixth grader at Douglas County's STEM School and Academy in Highlands Ranch, Colo., recently won a national competition where his beer-making experiment will be flown to the International Space Station." Noting that beer is safer than contaminated water, Bodzianowski pointed out that beer could be useful “in future civilization as an emergency backup hydration and medical source."
Nerval's Lobster writes "The upcoming movie Gravity features a pair of astronauts (George Clooney and Sandra Bullock) stranded in orbit after their space shuttle is destroyed by floating debris. Faced with dwindling oxygen levels, they struggle to reach the nearby International Space Station (ISS). It's a movie, so some deviations from reality are expected, but it also opens up an opportunity to talk with a NASA astronaut about what it's like to live in space. Catherine 'Cady' Coleman, who has spent thousands of hours aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia and the International Space Station, who gave Bullock advice on the role, suggests that the real NASA has the whole orbital-debris issue well in hand, but that it takes a lot of training (and on-the-job experience) to get the hang of living in space. 'When we get up to space and the people up there run around and show us stuff — that's really, really effective and there was nothing like that compared to the classroom.' Despite the physical and mental demands, and the the time spent away from family, she sees the endeavor as supremely worth it. 'We're all very privileged to do this job,' Coleman says. 'They spend a lot of money making you ready, and you have a responsibility to do your job.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Orbital Sciences Corp's robotic Cygnus spacecraft made history by docking with the International Space Station early Sunday. From the article: 'The robotic Cygnus spacecraft was captured by space station astronauts using the outpost's robotic arm at 7 a.m. EDT (1100 GMT) as the two spacecraft sailed over the Indian Ocean. The orbital arrival, which occurred one week later than planned due to a software data glitch, appeared to go flawlessly.'"
Reuters has a quick report that "[a] software glitch will delay Orbital Sciences' trial cargo ship from reaching the International Space Station until Tuesday, officials said on Sunday. The company's Cygnus capsule, which blasted off Wednesday from Virginia for a test flight, had been scheduled to reach the station on Sunday. ... Orbital Sciences said it had found the cause of the data discrepancy and was developing a software fix. ... The next opportunity for the capsule to rendezvous and dock with the station will be on Tuesday." The WSJ has a more detailed article, and notes "The mission is a challenge for Orbital, which has invested more than five years and about $500 million of its own funds to develop a commercial-cargo capability. But it also presents a dramatic test of NASA's plans to outsource to industry all U.S. resupply missions to the space station. The agency has paid Orbital about $285 million to spur development of the Cygnus and Antares rocket system."
R3d M3rcury writes with the story that "NASA and Boeing, along with other nations, are studying the feasibility of keeping the International Space Station in orbit until 2020 and possibly until 2028 — the 30 year anniversary of the launch of the first module." From the article: "To assess the long-term structural health of the station, Boeing engineers developed detailed computer models based on NASA's projected use -- the expected stresses caused by future dockings, reboosts, crew activity and thermal cycles -- and combined that with actual data from on-board accelerometers and strain gauges. ... "What we're looking at is theoretical crack growth," Pamela McVeigh, the engineer in charge of the Boeing structural analysis in Houston, told CBS News. "So the failure mode would be you'd have a crack beginning, probably (at) a bolt hole, and the crack would grow to another edge. So you'd lose like a flange on a C-beam, or an I-beam. The stiffness of your structure would then change, the bolt hole you that you were growing the crack out of, now that bolt wouldn't be effective."
Months after a successful test launch of the Antares rocket with a dummy payload, today Orbital Sciences Corp successfully launched their demo cargo mission to the ISS. Their Cygnus resupply craft detached from the second stage and at 11:33 a.m. deployed its solar array. From NASA: "Solar array deployment is complete for Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus spacecraft, now traveling 17,500 mph in Earth's orbit to rendezvous with the International Space Station on Sunday, Sept. 22, for a demonstration resupply mission. The spacecraft will deliver about 1,300 pounds (589 kilograms) of cargo, including food and clothing, to the space station's Expedition 37 crew, who will grapple and attach the capsule using the orbiting laboratory's robotic arm." There's an updates weblog, and some pictures.
Modern Farmer magazine has an article about NASA's efforts into growing food in space, a slow, difficult process that's nonetheless necessary if humanity is to have any significant presence away from Earth's surface. Quoting: "This December, NASA plans to launch a set of Kevlar pillow-packs, filled with a material akin to kitty litter, functioning as planters for six romaine lettuce plants. The burgundy-hued lettuce (NASA favors the 'Outredgeous' strain) will be grown under bright-pink LED lights, ready to harvest after just 28 days. NASA has a long history of testing plant growth in space, but the goals have been largely academic. Experiments have included figuring out the effects of zero-gravity on plant growth, testing quick-grow sprouts on shuttle missions and assessing the viability of different kinds of artificial light. But [the Vegetable Production System] is NASA's first attempt to grow produce that could actually sustain space travelers. Naturally, the dream is to create a regenerative growth system, so food could be continually grown on the space station — or, potentially, on moon colonies or Mars. ... Plant size is a vital calculation in determining what to grow on the space station, where every square foot is carefully allotted. Harvest time is also of extreme importance; the program wants to maximize growth cycles within each crew’s (on average) six-month stay."
cylonlover writes "Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) are testing a new propulsion system ... inside the station. While this might seem like the height of recklessness, this particular system doesn't use rockets or propellants. Developed in the University of Maryland's Space Power and Propulsion Laboratory, this new electromagnetic propulsion technology called the Resonant Inductive Near-field Generation System (RINGS) uses magnetic fields to move spacecraft as a way to increase service life and make satellite formation flying more practical."
After four months in a mock space habitat in Hawaii, participants in a study to determine how best to feed astronauts (HI-SEAS) on a mission to Mars emerged yesterday. A few days ago, the mission commander was interviewed in Astrobiology Magazine, noting the most successful foods: "There's also been a lot of really good cooked dishes. Some of our crew members are accomplished cooks, and every week there are different surprises. Some success meals were Russian borscht, Moroccan tagine, enchilasagna, seafood chowder, and fabada asturiana. Wraps work really well: we combine tortillas, different vegetables, Velveeta cheese, and sausage or canned fish into ever-changing combinations. This is actually in line with the success of tortillas at the ISS. In general, the dehydrated and freeze-dried vegetables are a real success. They're used on a daily basis in almost every meal." The crew kept weblogs, and did other things than just sit around and eat: some studied robotics and they went on a few simulated EVAs.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Miriam Kramer writes at Space.com that in the new movie Elysium, Earth is beyond repair, and the rich and powerful have decided to leave it behind to live in a large, rotating space station stocked with mansions, grass, trees, water and gravity. 'The premise is totally believable to me. I spent 28 years working on NASA's International Space Station and retired last summer as the director of ISS at NASA Headquarters. When I took a look at the Elysium space station, I thought to myself, that's certainly achievable in this millennium,' says Mark Uhran, former director of the International Space Station Division in NASA's Office of Human Exploration and Operations. 'It's clear that the number-one challenge is chemical propulsion.' Nuclear propulsion could be a viable possibility eventually, but the idea isn't ready for prime time yet. 'We learned an incredible amount with [the International Space Station] and we demonstrated that we have the technology to assemble large structures in space.' The bottom line: 'If you threw everything you had at it, could you reach a space station of the scale of Elysium in 150 years?' says Uhran. 'That's a pretty tall order.'"
Two ArduSats were launched last week from Japan, along with an ISS resupply package, and on August 9 this payload is due to arrive at the International Space Station. Jon Oxer is a co-founder of Freetronics, a company that sells Arduino-based products, so he has a vested interest in ArduSat's success. He's also a major Free Software booster, which may be part of the reason he was at OSCON -- where Timothy Lord and his camcorder caught up with him. BTW: This is the same JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) launch that is carrying the first talking humanoid robot to go into space from Earth. So this launch is not only "a giant leap for robots," as Japanese robot Mirata famously said, but is also a good-sized step for Arduinos. And for CubeSats, too.
DavidGilbert99 writes "It sounded like the future — a 600mph train taking people from San Francisco to Los Angeles in just 30mins. In fact it sounded like a future too good to be true. And so it seems to have proven. As Alistair Charlton at IBTimes reports, Elon Musk, the man behind PayPal, Tesla and Space X has admitted that Hyperloop is a step too far and he should never have mentioned it in the first place — 'I think I shot myself in the foot by ever mentioning the Hyperloop. I'm too strung out.' Oh well, let's hope SpaceX works out a bit better ... " Considering that SpaceX has already sent materials to the ISS and retrieved the capsule, it seems to have worked out pretty well so far.
Nerval's Lobster writes "In the new movie 'Elysium,' Earth a century and a half from now is an overtaxed slum, low on niceties like clean water and riddled with crime and sickness. The ultra-rich have abandoned terra firma in favor of Elysium, an orbital space station where the champagne flows freely and the medical care is the best possible. Mark Uhran, former director of the International Space Station Division at NASA headquarters, talked with Slashdot about what it would take (and how much it would cost) to actually build a space station like that for civilians. It turns out NASA did a report way back in 1975 describing what it would take to build a Stanford torus space station like the one in the movie: rotation for artificial gravity, a separate shield for radiation and debris, the ability to mine materials from astroids or possibly the moon, and $190.8 billion in 1975 dollars (the equivalent of $828.11 billion today). Looks like the ultra-rich are stuck on Earth for the time being." And still artificial gravity experiments languish.
A Russian spacecraft has successfully delivered new supplies to the ISS. Crucially, its payload is meant to prevent a repeat of the aborted spacewalk of earlier this month. Says the article:: "The cargo ship is loaded with nearly 3 tons (2.7 tonnes) of food, fuel, hardware and science experiment equipment for the six-person crew of the station's Expedition 36 mission. Among its cargo is a set of tools intended to help the astronauts investigate and patch up the spacesuit that malfunctioned during a July 16 spacewalk outside the orbiting laboratory."
Travis Goodspeed has authored a blog post detailing his method of tracking low-earth-orbit satellites. Starting with an old Felcom 82B dish made for use on maritime vessels, he added motors to move it around and a webcam-based homemade calibration system. "For handling the radio input and controlling the motors, I have a BeagleBone wired into a USB hub. These are all mounted on the trunk of the assembly inside of the radome, sending data back to a server indoors. ... In order to operate the dish, I wanted both a flashy GUI and concise scripting, but scripting was the higher priority. Toward that end, I constructed the software as a series of daemons that communicate through a PostgreSQL database on a server inside the house. For example, I can run SELECT * FROM sats WHERE el>0 to select the names and positions of all currently tracked satellites that are above the horizon. To begin tracking the International Space Station if it is in view, I run UPDATE target SET name='ISS';. For predicting satellite locations, I wrote a quick daemon using PyEphem that fetches satellite catalog data from CelesTrak. These positions are held in a database, with duplicates filtered out and positions constantly updated. PyEphem is sophisticated enough to predict in any number of formats, so it's easy to track many of the brighter stars as well as planets and deep-space probes, such as Voyagers 1 and 2."
astroengine writes "A planned six-hour spacewalk outside the International Space Station came to a dramatic and abrupt end on Tuesday when water started building up inside the helmet of Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano. Parmitano and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy were less than an hour into their spacewalk, their second in a week, when Parmitano reported that his head felt wet. 'My head is really wet and I have a feeling it's increasing,' Parmitano reported to ground control teams at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Parmitano returned safely to the space station interior, but the cause of the leak was not immediately known."
willith writes "I got to sit down with ISS TOPO Flight Controller Josh Parris at the Houston Mission Control Center and talk about how NASA steers all 400 tons of the International Space Station around potential collisions, or 'conjunctions,' in NASA-parlance. The TOPO controller, with assistance from USSTRATCOM's big radars, keeps track of every object that will pass within a 'pizza-box'-shaped 50km x 50km x 4km perimeter around the ISS. Actually moving the station is done with a combination of large control moment gyros and thrusters on both the Zvezda module and visiting vehicles. It's a surprisingly complex operation!"