Weather scrubbed last Thursday's launch. A new target launch date should be announced soon.
Aviation Week has published a terrific article on the Shuttle Discovery flight, STS-131, that will take the innovative microgravity research NanoRacks platform and two "Cubelabs" to the International Space Station next month.
The flight is more than a simple delivery of hardware built right here in Kentucky, exciting as that is, but "could be a harbinger of how the U.S. hopes to do business in space in the years to come."
In addition to space station work, NanoRacks also also discussion with a other space companies about the use of the standard interface across several different space vehicles, orbital and suborbital, "so the customer can concentrate on developing the experiment or other hardware to be flown."
That's key. A focus on something other than the sheer technical challenge of getting to and staying in space represents an exciting new development in the commercialization of space. Working with NanoRacks, Kentucky Space is not only carving out a place for Kentucky-built and integrated suborbital and orbital payloads, but participating directly in the growth of space as a business frontier.
The managing partner for NanoRacks, Jeffrey Manber, also spoke on camera recently while in Lexington about the upcoming flight. Please check it out.
JPL has released a brief podcast of the sounds that can be heard from the Mars' rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
The picture above of a "PocketQub" was snapped on a recent trip to Morehead State University to talk with Profs. Bob Twiggs and Ben Malphrus. The personal satellite can be flown with whatever science or technology that can be put inside on missions measured in weeks or months at very low orbital altitudes, and vaporize on reentry into the Earth's atmosphere. This example is sitting on a magazine-sized brochure.
Please follow Kentucky Space on Twitter @kyspace.
The Google Lunar X PRIZE has announced a renewed emphasis on education, and points out the connection between new Moon race and lagging science literacy in the United States. Introducing herself, the new Education Manager for the prize, Chandra Gonzales, lays out the challenge:
One of the greatest challenges that I have seen in our education systems is the need to meet our world’s significant workforce shortages in the critical sciences, technology, engineering and math fields. Did you know that in the US alone, the Department of Education reported that only 18% of high school seniors are considered proficient in science and 5% of undergraduates earn degrees in science and engineering? I feel that it is imperative that educators work with industry to tackle this issue.
With a program built around teaching and flying the space sciences, Kentucky Space certainly understands the challenge as well. It's nice to see the Google Lunar X PRIZE connect "education to inspiration."
The Principal Investigator for the project, Dean Ahorn, has let Kentucky Space know that Nanosail-D has been resurrected and is being readied to fly on the FASTSAT-HSV1 satellite later this year. Similar in concept to the Planetary Society's Lightsail project, the 3U (unit) Cubesat packs an unbelievable amout of fabric into its diminutive body.
Use the radiation pressure of light from the stars or a laser to propel themselves forward, solar sails can in theory reach very high speeds over time.
The two spacecraft are among the very first to test the material and sails that could form the basis for a technology first envisioned by writers in the 1960s, as well as push the technology boundaries of what's possible using the Cubesat platform.
This video demonstrates how Nanosail-D will unfurl its sails.
These last 3 days some of the Kentucky Space team was able to visit NASA Wallops Flight Facility as NSROC tested the payload section of Hall 12.067, the launch vehicle for SOCEM. The payload section passed vibration testing in all 3 axes, was spin balanced, and then, today, underwent the spin-up and deployment test in which the payload section was spun up and the pyro holding the deployment door was fired, thereby releasing the two CubeSats (ADAMASat and the Cal Poly 1U) and the beanie. In this final test, all three pieces of hardware successfully exited the rocket body and inspection after the test did not reveal any damage to the payloads nor the rails of the PCL. Congratulations to all who have worked on SOCEM!
Anthony Karam - University of Ketucky, Kentucky Space