Canadian Arrow’s Engine Tested

Image credit: Canadian Arrow

The Canadian Arrow X-Prize team has performed a successful low-pressure test of their liquid oxygen and ethyl alcohol rocket engine, bringing them one step closer to winning the $10 million X-Prize. The Canadian Arrow is based on the design of a World War II German V-2 rocket, but it’s been updated with modern technology. The team has scheduled several more tests of the rocket engine at higher pressures, and hopes to make an actual launch attempt some time in 2004.

The Canadian Arrow X PRIZE Team has successfully tested the rocket engine that is designed to, in the coming months, take passengers into space.

The test, conducted late last evening at a test site north of London confirms that the Canadian Arrow Team has successfully reengineered a World War II rocket design into a modern technology that is capable of winning the $10 million X PRIZE.

“Our team has spent five years researching, designing and building toward the test we performed tonight,” said Canadian Arrow Team Leader Geoff Sheerin. “We had a perfect ignition and good clean burn. There were a lot of smiles here, that’s for sure.”

The engine, with 57,000 pounds of thrust, is modeled after the German V-2 rocket engine and is believed to be the largest liquid propellant engine ever built in Canada. It is fueled by a mixture of liquid oxygen and ethyl alcohol and at full pressure, consumes approximately 250 pounds of propellant per second. Last night’s test was at partial pressure, and opens the door to higher pressure testing.

The engine and test stand are part of a 45 ft. tall structure that is surrounded on three sides by concrete walls that are two feet thick. Large berms stand between the engine test structure and the control centre that is built into the ground, and is where the team electronically directed and monitored the test.

“This has taken us a bold leap closer to our flights that will capture the X PRIZE,” said Sheerin. “It wasn’t just a test of our engine, but of our test stand, support equipment, team capabilities and many other things that will be necessary to support full launch capabilities.”

Next steps for the team will include continued testing of the engine to prepare it for actual flight onboard the first Canadian Arrow spacecraft that is scheduled for launch next year. When successful, the Arrow will make Canada the fourth nation to put humans into space.

Sheerin thanked his Team for their long hours and dedication. “Most importantly,” he told them, “we have taken the next step toward our stated goal of ‘making space for you.’

Original Source: Canadian Arrow News Release

Voyager is Nearing the Edge of the Solar System

Image credit: NASA

NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft has nearly reached the outer limits of the solar system to a region of space, called the heliosheath, where the solar wind blows against interstellar gas. In order to pass into this area; however, Voyager will first pass through a turbulent region called the termination shock. This is the first time scientists have ever gathered data about these distant areas of the solar system. Launched on September 5, 1977, Voyager 1 is now 13 billion km away from the Sun.

NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft is about to make history again as the first spacecraft to enter the solar system’s final frontier, a vast expanse where wind from the Sun blows hot against thin gas between the stars: interstellar space. However, before it reaches this region, Voyager 1 must pass through the termination shock, a violent zone that is the source of beams of high-energy particles.

Voyager’s journey through this turbulent zone will give scientists their first direct measurements of our solar system’s unexplored final frontier, called the heliosheath, and scientists are debating if this passage has already begun. Two papers about this research are being published in Nature on November 5, 2003. The first paper, by Dr. Stamatios M. Krimigis of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md., and his team, gives evidence supporting the claim that Voyager 1 passed beyond the termination shock. The second paper, by Dr. Frank B. McDonald of the University of Maryland, College Park, and his team, gives evidence against this claim. A third paper, published October 30, 2003 in Geophysical Research Letters by Dr. Leonard F. Burlaga of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., and collaborators, gives evidence that Voyager 1 did not pass beyond the termination shock. (Refer to Image 2a for an illustration of the termination shock and heliosheath).

“The Voyager 1 observations show we have entered into a new part of the solar system. Regardless of whether we crossed the termination shock or not, the teams are excited because this has never been seen before – the observations are different here than in the inner solar system,” said Dr. Eric Christian, Discipline Scientist for the Sun Earth Connection research program at NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC.

“Voyager 1 has seen striking signs of the region deep in space where a giant shock wave forms as the wind from the Sun abruptly slows and presses outward against the interstellar wind. The observations surprised and puzzled us, so there is much to be discovered as Voyager begins exploring this new region at the outer edge of the solar system,” said Dr. Edward Stone, Voyager Project Scientist, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif.

At more than eight billion miles (13 billion km) from the Sun, Voyager 1 is the most distant object built by humanity. Launched on September 5, 1977, it explored the giant planets Jupiter and Saturn before being tossed out toward deep space by Saturn’s gravity. It now approaches, and may have temporarily entered, the region beyond termination shock.

The termination shock is where the solar wind, a thin stream of electrically charged gas blown constantly from the Sun, is slowed by pressure from gas between the stars. At the termination shock, the solar wind slows abruptly from its average speed of 300 – 700 km per second (700,000 – 1,500,000 mph). (Refer to Movie 4 to see how this heats the solar wind in the heliosheath).

The exact location of the termination shock is unknown, and it originally was thought to be closer to the Sun than Voyager 1 currently is. As Voyager 1 cruised ever farther from the Sun, it confirmed that all the planets were inside an immense bubble blown by the solar wind, and the termination shock was much more distant (Animation 1).

Estimating the location of the termination shock is hard because we don’t know the precise conditions in interstellar space, and even what we do know, the speed and pressure of the solar wind, changes which causes the termination shock to expand, contract, and ripple. You can see a similar effect every time you wash dishes (Movie 3). If you place a plate underneath a stream of water, you notice the water spreads out over the plate in a relatively smooth flow. The water flow has a rough edge where the water slows down abruptly and piles up. The edge is like the termination shock, and as the water flow changes, the shape and size of the rough edge change.

From about August 1, 2002 to February 5, 2003, scientists noticed unusual readings from the two energetic particle instruments on Voyager 1, indicating it had entered a region of the solar system unlike any encountered before. This led some to claim that Voyager may have entered a transitory feature of the termination shock. Just as small bumps and “fingers” appear and disappear in the rough edge of the water flow over a plate, Voyager might have entered a temporary “finger” in the edge of the termination shock.

The controversy would be resolved easily if Voyager could still measure the speed of the solar wind, because the solar wind slows abruptly at the termination shock. However, the instrument that measures solar wind speed no longer functions on the venerable spacecraft, so scientists must use data from the instruments that are still working to infer if Voyager pierced the termination shock.

Evidence for crossing the shock includes Voyager’s observation that high-velocity electrically-charged particles (electrons and ions) increased more than 100 times during the August 1, 2002 to February 5, 2003 period. This would be expected if Voyager passed the termination shock, because the shock naturally accelerates electrically charged particles that bounce back and forth like ping pong balls between the fast and slow winds on the opposite sides of the shock.

Secondly, the particles were flowing outward, past Voyager and away from the Sun. This would be expected if Voyager already crossed beyond the termination shock, because the acceleration region in the termination shock would now be behind the spacecraft. Third, an indirect measure of the solar wind speed indicated the solar wind was slow during this period, as would be expected if Voyager was beyond the shock.

“We have used an indirect technique to show that the solar wind slowed down from about 700,000 mph to much less than 100,000 mph. This same technique was used by us before, when the instrument measuring the solar wind speed was still working, and the agreement between the two measurements was better than 20% in most cases,” said Krimigis.

Evidence against entry into the shock includes the observation that while there was a dramatic increase in low-speed particles, they weren’t seen at the somewhat higher speeds scientists believe the termination shock generates.

However, the strongest evidence against entry is Voyager’s observation that the magnetic field did not increase during this period. According to theoretical models, this must happen whenever the solar wind slows down. Imagine a highway with moderate traffic. If something makes the drivers slow down, say a puddle of water, the cars pile up – their density increases. In the same way, the density (intensity) of the magnetic field carried by the solar wind will increase if the solar wind slows down.

“The analysis of the Voyager 1 magnetic field observations in late 2002 indicate that it did not enter a new region of the distant heliosphere by having crossed the termination shock. Rather, the magnetic field data had the characteristics to be expected based upon many years of previous observations, although the intensity of energetic particles observed is unusually high,” said Burlaga.

The teams agree that Voyager 1 has seen a new phenomenon: a six-month period when low-energy particles were very abundant and flowing away from the Sun. When the unusual period ended, both agree that Voyager 1 was back in the solar wind, so if this was a temporary passage beyond the termination shock, the shock will be seen again, probably in the next couple years. Finally, the observations indicate that the termination shock is a lot more complicated than anyone thought.

For their original missions to Jupiter and Saturn, Voyager 1 and sister spacecraft Voyager 2 were destined to regions of space where solar panels would not be feasible, so each was equipped with three radioisotope thermoelectric generators to produce electrical power for the spacecraft systems and instruments. Still operating in remote, cold and dark conditions 26 years later, the Voyagers owe their longevity to these Department of Energy-provided generators, which produce electricity from the heat generated by the natural decay of plutonium dioxide.

The Voyagers were built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., which continues to operate both spacecraft 26 years after their launch. The spacecraft are controlled and their data returned through NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN), a global spacecraft tracking system also operated by JPL. The Voyager Project Manager is Ed Massey of JPL. The Voyager Project Scientist is Dr. Edward Stone of the California Institute of Technology.

Original Source: NASA News Release

Four New Space-Related Bills Passed

Image credit: Scaled Composites

The US government passed four new bills by voice vote that promote space and astronomy. The Commercial Space Act of 2003 hopes to better regulate commercial space launches, such as sub-orbital tourist flights. The Charles `Pete’ Conrad Astronomy Awards Act will encourage amateur astronomers to help spot potential Earth-crossing asteroids. The Remote Sensing Applications Act of 2003 will provide funding for satellite images to support various projects. And the Human Space Flight Independent Investigation Commission Act of 2003 will establish and independent commission to investigate future disasters, like the loss of Columbia.

The House Science Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics today approved four bills by voice vote, listed below.

H.R. 3245, “Commercial Space Act of 2003,” sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
This bill clarifies the legislative framework for commercial human space flight. Currently, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Space Transportation (AST) regulates U.S. commercial space launches for television, telecommunications and imagery satellites. H.R. 3245 ensures that commercial launchers – such as those being built by entrepreneurs to take people to the edge of space – would also be regulated by AST.

Last July, the Space & Aeronautics Subcommittee held a joint hearing with the Senate Commerce Committee on the regulatory issues facing such commercial human space. All of the witnesses at that hearing called for legislation to clearly define the FAA’s regulatory responsibilities on this issue.

“I believe that most Members of Congress share my view that the aerospace industry plays a critical role in advancing America’s space frontier,” said Subcommittee Chairman Rohrabacher. “This bill tells the Department of Transportation that this new commercial human space flight industry should be nurtured by streamlined and careful regulation”

The bill authorizes $11,523,000 and $11,000,000 for fiscal years 2004 and 2005, respectively, for the AST. The bill also authorizes $1,800,000 and $2,000,000 for fiscal years 2004 and 2005, respectively, for the Department of Commerce’s Office of Space Commerce, and delegates licensing authority for private-sector remote sensing systems to this Office.

H.R. 912, “Charles `Pete’ Conrad Astronomy Awards Act,” sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
The Charles “Pete” Conrad Astronomy Awards Act, named for the third man to walk on the moon, establishes awards to encourage amateur astronomers to discover and track asteroids crossing in a near-Earth orbit. Earth has experienced several near-misses with asteroids that would have proven catastrophic, and the scientific community relies heavily on amateur astronomers to discover and track these objects. The bill authorizes $10,000 for each of fiscal years 2004 and 2005 for NASA to administer the program. The House approved the bill by voice vote last year.

“Pete Conrad was a pilot, explorer, and entrepreneur of the highest caliber. I think it is fitting that we honor Pete Conrad by establishing this award to encourage amateur astronomers and private citizens to keep looking up and out into the future,” said Rohrabacher.

H.R. 1292, “Remote Sensing Applications Act of 2003,” sponsored by Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO)
The Remote Sensing Applications Act, also approved by the House last year, will establish a grant program to help integrate remote sensing data to address state, local and regional needs. The U.S. already collects an abundant amount of remote sensing data, but it is often used only for scientific ventures. However, it can have countless local applications including urban planning, coastal zone management, resource supervision and disaster monitoring for state and local authorities. The bill authorizes $15,000,000 for each of the fiscal years 2004 through 2008 for NASA to carry out this program.

“The Remote Sensing Applications Act gives state and local governments 21st century tools to deal with 21st century challenges. My bill will help begin to bridge the gap between established and emerging technology solutions and the problems and challenges we face regarding growth management, homeland security, forest fire management and other issues,” said Udall. “I am pleased the Subcommittee passed the bill today, and hope the full Committee will soon follow suit.”

H.R. 2450, “Human Space Flight Independent Investigation Commission Act of 2003,” sponsored by Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN)
H.R. 2450 would establish an independent, Presidentially-appointed investigative Commission in the event of incidents in the nation’s human space flight program that result in loss of crew, passengers, or spacecraft, including the International Space Station.

The Commission will consist of 15 members, to include the Chairman of the NTSB and 14 members appointed by the President and drawn in part from lists of candidates from the Majority and Minority Leaders of the Senate, and the Speaker and the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives. Except for the Chairman of the NTSB, no officer or employee of the Federal Government would serve as a member of the Commission.

Subcommittee Ranking Democrat Gordon said, “I appreciate the subcommittee’s support for this legislation, which provides for an independent and accountable accident investigation commission if, God forbid, we have another mishap in space. I hope the rest of my colleagues in the full Science Committee will act quickly to get this bill enacted into law.”

The Subcommittee accepted an amendment offered by Chairman Rohrabacher, clarifying that only those incidents involving missions carrying out U.S. Government activities would trigger the Presidentially-appointed Commission.

Original Source: House Committee on Science News Release

World Space Week Begins

People from 50 countries are celebrating space exploration as part of World Space Week – from October 4 to 10, 2003. Lance Bass, member of the pop group NSYNC, is the event’s youth spokesman, and will be traveling to various schools in the US to help build young students’ enthusiasm for space. Several other events are planned for this week, including a question and answer session with the astronauts on board the International Space Station. The first World Space Week was declared by the United Nations in 1999.

Lance Bass Will Join World Space Week

Image credit: World Space Week

He didn’t quite make it up the International Space Station, but Lance Bass, member of the Pop music group NSYNC is still interested in space. He’s going to be visiting schools in the Houston area during World Space Week (October 4-10, 2003) to help promote to children that science and math are “cool”. World Space Week was declared by the United Nations in 1999 and is celebrated in nearly 50 countries around the world. Many other events are planned for the week, including a webcast from the space station, giving people a chance to chat with the astronauts.

One year after completing his spaceflight training here, entertainer, certified cosmonaut and World Space Week 2003 Youth Spokesperson Lance Bass will return to Houston with a new, yet equally challenging mission: to convince young people that space, math and science are “cool.”

Bass will visit several Houston primary and secondary schools during World Space Week, October 4-10, to discuss the importance of science and math. He will review students’ design proposals for “Lance’s Lab,” a global youth competition in which the engineers and explorers of tomorrow design a hypothetical space station module for Bass to live and work in.

“I’m very excited about flying in space one day,” said Bass, member of popular band *NSYNC and avid space enthusiast. “What excites me even more is the possibility that eventually, nearly anyone will be able to travel in space just as easily as taking a plane from LA to Houston. But that day will only arrive if today’s young people choose to build an extraordinary future for themselves. The keys to that future are a solid foundation in math and science”

To conclude World Space Week on Friday, Bass will attend a public event that salutes the benefits space exploration brings to education and all aspects of life on Earth. The World Space Week Celebration, starting at 7 p.m. CT on October 10 at the Hyatt Downtown Houston, will support Spaceweek International Association’s programs to excite students about math and science. Celebration-goers will meet Bass, along with Houston Congressman Nick Lampson and other celebrities. Tickets are on sale to the public and can be purchased at www.spaceweek.org.

“Bass’ visits to schools will offer students and teachers the opportunity to create a renewed passion and understanding for the horizons that can be explored with math and science,” said Dennis Stone, president of Spaceweek International Association.

Declared by the United Nations, World Space Week is held October 4 – 10 each year and is marked by celebrations on all seven continents. This year, nearly 50 nations around the world are expected to participate. Events in the United States will focus on the vital role math and science education play in creating tomorrow’s space leaders and pioneers. Highlights include:

  • Teachers across the U.S. will use space in the classroom all week long to excite students about science and math;
  • NASA will host a Web cast from the International Space Station (ISS), October 9 at 12 p.m. CT, with an opportunity to ask questions of an ISS astronaut;
  • Earth & Sky Radio will host World Space Week radio broadcasts on October 7 and 10;
  • The Space Frontier Foundation will hold the “Alt.Space” conference on October 10 in Los Angeles;
  • The Iowa Space Grant Consortium will host a Space Week Science Challenge from October 4-10;
  • The Museum of Texas Tech University will feature a World Space Week celebration on October 4.

For detailed information on events and celebrations across the globe, visit www.spaceweek.org.

About Lance’s Lab
“Lance’s Lab” is a global youth competition, in which K-12 students are asked to design a hypothetical International Space Station module for Bass to live and work in. Lance’s Lab is a worldwide student contest that underscores the fundamental importance of math and science. Winners will meet Bass at an awards ceremony in early 2004.

Special instructional materials are available to schools at no charge, featuring space-related math and science activities for teachers to use during World Space Week. Materials are available in several languages with activities for all grade levels and require little or no teacher preparation. By participating in World Space Week, teachers can excite students about learning and receive cash grants. For details or to download educational materials, visit: www.spaceweek.org/education.html

About World Space Week
From the United States to Bangladesh, from Columbia to China, World Space Week is celebrated annually in some 50 nations, on all seven continents. It serves to celebrate the contributions of space science and technology to the betterment of the human condition.

Declared in 1999 by the UN General Assembly, World Space Week marks the anniversary of two great milestones of humanity’s expansion into space:

  • 4 October 1957 — Date of the launch into outer space of the first human-made Earth satellite, SPUTNIK I, thus opening the way for space exploration;
  • 10 October 1967 — Date of the entry into force of the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies

Founded in 1981, Spaceweek International Association (SIA) is non-profit organization that proudly supports the United Nations in the global coordination of World Space Week. SIA works to strengthen the link between space and society through public education, participation, and dialogue on the future of space.

Original Source: World Space Week News Release

Orbital Space Plane Review Completed

NASA’s Orbital Space Plane program reached an important milestone this week with the completion of its Level 1 requirements review. The review evaluated designs from several contractors for a spacecraft which will provide crew rescue and transfer of personnel to and from the International Space Station. This review was to ensure the proposed vehicles are safe, reliable, affordable, and can be maintained. The review team has also put forth their Level 2 requirements, which are much detailed and describe many features that the proposed designs must include.

NASA’s Orbital Space Plane program has successfully completed its Systems Requirements Review to evaluate the concept design of the nation?s next space vehicle ? aimed at providing crew rescue and transfer for the International Space Station. In addition, the review set Level II requirements ? guidelines that further narrow the scope of the system design.

NASA’s Orbital Space Plane (OSP) program is one step closer to becoming the nation’s next space vehicle with the successful completion of its Systems Requirements Review. The review evaluated the vehicle’s concept design for providing crew rescue and transfer for the International Space Station.

The NASA-led review evaluated contractor designs based on the primary design criteria, or Level 1 requirements, set by the agency in February. The contractor teams designing the OSP, The Boeing Company, Seal Beach, Calif.; Lockheed Martin, Denver; and a team including Orbital Sciences Corp., Dulles, Va., and Northrop Grumman, El Segundo, Calif., have been working to develop system specifications, including systems analysis, trade studies, and concept feasibility in preparation for the review.

The System Requirements Review includes analysis of requirements and supporting technical documentation to ensure the system is safe, reliable, maintainable and affordable. It is one in a series of reviews that occurs before the Orbital Space Plane system is built.

In addition, the review set Level 2 requirements, guidelines that further narrow the scope and add a level of detail to the system design. The Level 2 requirements address guidelines for safety, launch, emergency-return and crew-transfer missions, mission frequency, on-orbit mission duration, contingency cargo requirements, and docking and interfacing with the Space Station. The requirements also include limits on the gravitational loads on the crew, health monitoring of the crew, communications with the Space Station and mission control on Earth, reliability, system lifetime, and logistics. Each level of requirements provides a narrower parameter for the design of the vehicle system.

“This review is a critical step in making the Orbital Space Plane a reality,” said Dennis Smith, Orbital Space Plane program manager. “These requirements are the instruction manual for designing the entire system that will provide safe, reliable access to and from the International Space Station,” he said.

The Level 2 requirements are contained in a package of technical documents and plans, which include the Orbital Space Plane Systems Requirements Document, the International Space Station Interface Requirements Document, the Orbital Space Plane to Expendable Launch Vehicle Interface Definition Document, and the Orbital Space Plane Human Rating Plan, along with other reference and guidance documentation. An executive summary of the Level 2 requirements is on the OSP Web site. Following review of the documentation for export-control and security issues, the Level 2 documentation also will be available online.

A System Definition Review is scheduled for November 2003. It will include a further, more focused evaluation of the concept design including risk reduction and breakdown of the functional elements of the system based on the Level 2 requirements. The review also will set Level 3 requirements for the Orbital Space Plane system based on evaluation of the program objectives and contractor feedback.

The program is scheduled to issue a request for proposal to the three contractor teams in November 2003. A decision to develop a full-scale vehicle system is expected in 2004.

For the executive summary and other information about the Orbital Space Plane, visit:

http://www.ospnews.com

Original Source: NASA News Release

Madhavan Nair Selected as New Chairman of ISRO

Image credit: ISRO

Mr. G Madhavan Nair has been appointed as the new Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). Previous to this new position, Nair was the Director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, and has been involved in the agency since 1967 when he was first hired at the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station. His predecessor, Dr K Kasturirangan, left the position after he was nominated for India’s Upper House of Parliament.

The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has appointed Mr G Madhavan Nair as Secretary, Department of Space, Chairman Space Commission and Chairman, ISRO. Mr Madhavan Nair, who was Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram, was holding additional charge of these posts since September 1, 2003 after Dr K Kasturirangan relinquished the office consequent to the President of India nominating him as Member of Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament).

Mr Madhavan Nair is a leading technologist in the field of Rocket Systems. He has made significant contributions to the development of multistage Satellite Launch Vehicles for the Indian space programme. As Director, VSSC, he has led research and development in the area of satellite launch vehicles for orbiting spacecraft for remote sensing and communications.

After graduating in Engineering from Kerala University in 1966, Mr Madhavan Nair underwent training at Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC), Mumbai, and joined Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) in 1967. Since then, he has held various positions posting illustrious milestones on his way to the present position. He made impressive contributions to the first Indian Satellite Launch Vehicle, SLV-3. Subsequently, as Project Director, he brought to fruition the development of India’s first operational Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSLV. With six successful launches so far, PSLV has convincingly demonstrated its reliability for not only launching multiple satellites including placing them in different orbits in a single launch but also its capability to place satellites in Geo-synchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO). PSLV is also proposed for launching India’s unmanned lunar craft under Chandrayaan-1 mission. Mr Madhavan Nair, also contributed to the indigenous development of cryogenic technology and as Dire
ctor, Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre during 1995-99, he gave concrete shape for the vital infrastructure for its development.

Mr Madhavan Nair took over as the Director of VSSC in 1999 and in the following two years led the successful flight of GSLV in the very first attempt followed by another successful flight in May 2003. GSLV has since been commissioned into operational service for launching 2000 kg class satellites into GTO.

Mr Madhavan Nair has been the leader of the Indian delegation to the United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN-COPUOS). He has received several prestigious awards including Shri Om Prakash Bhasin Award, Swadeshi Sastra Puraskar Award, FIE Foundation Award and Vikram Sarabhai Memorial Gold Medal of ISCA. He was conferred ‘Padma Bhushan’ by the President of India in 1998.

The outgoing Chairman of ISRO, Dr K Kasturirangan, saw during his tenure of nearly a decade, the Indian space programme witnessing several major milestones including the commissioning of India’s prestigious launch vehicle, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and more recently, the commissioning of all important Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV). Further, the world’s best civilian remote sensing satellites, IRS-1C and 1D, experimental remote sensing satellites, IRS-P2 and IRS-P3, besides
an exclusive ocean observation satellite IRS-P4 were launched. A 1-m spatial resolution experimental satellite, TES, was also built and launched during his tenure. He also saw the launching of second generation INSAT satellites that vastly enhanced the capacity of INSAT system for telecommunication, television broadcasting and meteorology. Three satellites under the third generation series, INSAT-3A, INSAT-3B, and INSAT-3C were also launched besides an exclusive meteorological satellite, KALPANA-1. He chaired some of the prestigious international committees, such as, the International Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS), Panel for Space Research in Developing countries of COSPAR/ICSU, and the committee meeting at senior official level of UN-ESCAP, that led to the adoption of the “Delhi Declaration” by the Ministers of the region (1999-2000).

Dr B N Suresh is the new Director of VSSC. Dr B N Suresh, Outstanding Scientist at ISRO’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram, has been appointed as the Director of the Centre and he took over charge on September 20, 2003 from Mr Madhavan Nair. Dr Suresh joined ISRO in July 1969 and is an expert in control and guidance systems. He has made significant contributions to the design and development of all satellite launch vehicles of ISRO – SLV-3, ASLV, PSLV and GSLV.

Original Source: ISRO News Release

SpaceDev Will Build SpaceshipOne Motor.

Image credit: Scaled

Scaled Composites announced today that it has selected San Diego-based SpaceDev to build the rocket engine for SpaceShipOne. The hybrid engine uses nitrous oxide and rubber, and was chosen for both safety and performance. SpaceShipOne is Scaled Composite’s entrant into the X-Prize; a $10 million prize to the first private company able to launch a 2-person crew to an altitude of 100 km. No future plans or launch dates have been announced but the spacecraft must complete a successful flight before the end of 2004 to claim the prize.

Four years ago, Scaled conducted a study of rocket engine technologies that were appropriate for its future manned sub-orbital spaceship design. The results of this study were that a hybrid configuration using nitrous oxide (liquid N2O) and HTPB (rubber) propellants would likely provide the safest solution with operating characteristics that would complement the intended mission.

In Jan 2000, Scaled defined a new integrated concept for the hybrid motor that allowed the entire propulsion system to be mounted to the spaceship by simple skirt flanges on the oxidizer tank. This concept, which cantilevers the case and nozzle directly to the tank, required an advanced all-composite design approach. By early 2001, Scaled had committed to developing the two main motor composite components in-house: The first is the nitrous oxide tank, a composite liner laid up onto titanium flanges, with a graphite over-wrap provided by Thiokol. The second is a unitized fuel case/nozzle component fabricated using a high-temperature composite insulator with a graphite/epoxy structure laid up onto an ablative nozzle supplied by AAE Aerospace.

In mid 2001, Scaled awarded contracts to two competing small businesses for the “rocket science”. Each company was independently responsible for the development of the motor’s ignition system, main control valve, injector, tank bulkheads, electronic controls, fill/dump/vent systems and fuel casting. The vendors, Environmental Aeroscience Corporation (eAc) of Miami and SpaceDev (SD) of San Diego, were also tasked with conducting the ground firing tests of their motor systems in Scaled’s test facility during the development phase.

In June 2002, Scaled selected eAc to supply the components at the tanks’ front end: the nitrous fill, vent and dump system components and associated plumbing. Both vendors continued the development of all the other propulsion components.

The ground firing development program started in November 2002 with a 15 second run by the SpaceDev team and ended early this month with a 90-second run by eAc. Both vendors demonstrated full design-duration firings during the nine-month development phase. All tests have exclusively used 100% flight hardware, with no boilerplate components and both vendors’ motor systems met the contracted performance. The tests validated the inherent safety of hybrid type motors, with no instances of structural failure, hot-gas breach, explosion or other anomaly that would have put SpaceShipOne in jeopardy.

Because both teams were so closely matched, and since both have developed satisfactory motors the process to select one of these vendors to enter the motor qualification and flight test phase was difficult. However, today, Scaled is pleased to announce that it has awarded the contract for propulsion support for the SpaceShipOne flight test phase to SpaceDev, of San Diego.

Scaled now looks forward to entering into the historic phase of private manned space flight.

Original Source: Scaled Composites News Release

Brazil Vows to Continue Space Research

Brazil has pledged its renewed commitment to developing a rocket program in spite of the terrible disaster that killed 21 people at the Alcantra launch facility in August. They now plan to have a new rocket completed in 2006 and are willing to pay the $22 million required to repair the platform and equipment destroyed in the explosion. The government will also be compensating the families of the technicians who died in the accident and pay for the education of their children at university.

Solar Sail on Exhibit in New York

Image credit: Planetary Society

A full-sized replica of a Cosmos 1 solar sail is now on display at the Rockefeller Center “Centennial of Flight” exhibit in New York City. The 14.3 metre blade is made of a silvery Mylar-like material and joins several other exhibits at the show. If all goes well, the real solar sail will be launched on board a refurbished Russian ICBM some time this fall. The sail will be on display until August 18, 2003.

Planetary Society and Cosmos Studios will unfold a replica of one of the eight 47-foot blades that make up the Cosmos 1 Solar Sail spacecraft, which is slated to launch later this year. The silvery mylar-like blade will be on display in New York City as part of a large Rockefeller Center “Centennial of Flight” exhibit. The exhibit is from July 29 – August 18. Suspended from the soaring lobby ceiling, the blade will give the public their first-ever opportunity to see a technology that will likely fly missions throughout the solar system and to the stars.

A joint venture of The Planetary Society and Cosmos Studios, the Cosmos 1 Solar Sail is a visionary approach to space exploration. This is the first space mission ever conducted by a space interest group, and also the first by an entertainment media company.

“During the early 20th Century humanity found its wings above the sands of Kitty Hawk. Cosmos 1 represents the next centennial of flight, which will take us and our robotic emissaries from Earth to Mars, Pluto and beyond,” said Dr. Louis Friedman, Cosmos 1 Project Director and Executive Director of The Planetary Society.

“That a century after the Wright Bros.’ first flight, it is still possible for a small group of people with modest means to reach for the stars, is a good sign that the American dream remains vibrant,” said Ann Druyan, Cosmos 1 Program Director and CEO of Cosmos Studios. “Our launch vehicle, a Russian ICBM, has been converted from a weapon of mass destruction into a means of advancing the dream of exploring the universe. In this way, we hope to honor the inspiration of Carl Sagan and to give our kids a critically needed vision of a hopeful future.”

Solar sailing utilizes reflected light pressure pushing on giant panels, which adjust to the continuously changing orbital energy and spacecraft velocity. The sunlight pressure is powerful enough to push spacecraft between the planets. Beyond the solar system, space sailing can be done using powerful lasers focused over long distances in space. Solar sails might help us realize the long-sought dream of interstellar flight.

Other exhibits at the Centennial of Flight Anniversary will include a full-scale model of the Redstone Mercury rocket, a replica of Apollo 13, a model of the Wright Flyer, an X-43C (NASA’s prototype of the SCRAM JET engine), among other exhibits.

Cosmos 1 Solar Sail is a privately funded project with scientific and commercial applications that involve the cooperation of Russian space and defense organizations through a contract with The Planetary Society. The sail blade model being exhibited in part was developed by the Babakin Space Center near Moscow, Russia.

Babakin Space Center is the prime contractor for Cosmos 1. Babakin is a spin-off organization of NPO Lavochkin, one of the largest manufacturers of robotic spacecraft in the world. The Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Makeev Rocket Design Bureau also play major roles in project development. Makeev is responsible for development of the Volna rocket – which will launch Cosmos 1 – and has made arrangements with the Russian Navy for the launch.

Original Source: Planetary Society News Release