NASA:Taurus launch scrubbed Kysat-1 still grounded

The US space agency NASA on Wednesday said its Glory climate mission launch has been delayed due to a technical issue and would attempt to launch again on Thursday morning. This is the rocket that the KYSAT-1 is riding up to space on.

The satellite is designed to provide scientists with a more detailed look at Earth’s atmosphere to better understand climate change. It had been due to launch aboard a Taurus XL rocket from Vanderberg Air Force Base in California at 2:09 am (1009 GMT).

‘Looks like we have to scrub. No launch tonight. Problem with a command circuit. Details to come,’ NASA said in a Twitter update.

Glory is to orbit Earth at a distance of 817 kilometres.

The mission is to measure tiny particles in the atmosphere known as aerosols, which reflect or absorb light and are considered key to regulating the temperature of the planet.

Glory programme executive Joy Bretthauer said the mission would provide measurements ‘that are vital to providing planet models and accurately predicting Earth’s future climate.’

The particles can be both natural and man-made, and range from sources as varied as car exhaust to sea spray, NASA said. Some, such as sea salt, reflect energy from the sun, helping to keep the planet cool, while others such as black carbon particles absorb energy and promote warming.

Biggest solar flare in years set to blast Earth’s atmosphere; could impact GPS, communication, power grids

Solar flare to hit earthA massive solar flare could make for a beautiful night for people in the northern United States – provided it doesn’t knock the lights out.
Common sense but, if you don’t need to have it(computers,radios,chargers,etc) turned on or plugged in right now, you should go ahead and turn it off and unplug it. I am not a “doom and gloom” kind of person, more it just makes sense that if there is an event (this thing hits us) and the device is not connected to the grid it will be more likely to survive. I digress…

The blast of charged particles unleashed from the sun earlier this week has been peppering the Earth over the last few days, but it’s biggest punch is expected to hit the Earth’s atmosphere on Thursday.

Monday’s eruption, considered an X-class flare, is the biggest solar flare in four years. It is already being blamed for disrupting radio communication in China, and could potentially affect power grids and satellite communication around the globe.

However, for the United States, the most likely outcome from this latest space storm could be a colorful night sky over New England and even parts of New York State.

“It won’t hit us dead-on,” physicist Dean Pesnell, project scientist for NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, told National Geographic.

The moon may make it difficult to see, but stargazers may be able to catch a reddish glow among the stars.

x-class solar flare will not be a direct hit“X-class flares are the most powerful of all solar events that can trigger radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms,” NASA said on Tuesday.

The China Meteorological Administration reported that Monday’s solar flare caused “sudden ionospheric disturbances” in the atmosphere above China and jammed short-wave radio communications in the southern part of the country.

And Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency reported there was a high probability that large solar flares would appear over the next three days.

Solar flares in 2006 are blamed for causing disruptions of GPS systems, according to New Scientist magazine. Another in 1973 knocked out power in Canada, impacted six million people.

Obama: Five-year freeze on NASA budget

WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama on Monday proposed reining in expenses at NASA, sending a 2012 budget blueprint to Congress that calls for a five-year freeze on spending levels at the US space agency.

Obama would restrict NASA’s budget to last year’s levels, $18.7 billion annually through fiscal 2016. The figure represents a 1.6-percent decrease from the spending total the agency had sought for fiscal 2011, which ends in September.

“This budget requires us to live within our means so we can invest in our future,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told a news conference.

Bolden sought to put a brave face on the budget limitations, saying the administration’s proposal “maintains our commitment to human spaceflight” and research.

Experts said it reflected Washington’s new fiscal reality, framed by voter frustration with excessive government spending.

“There is not a lot of money available,” said John Logsdon, a former director of the Space Policy Institute in Washington.

“It should not compromise what NASA wants to do but it certainly would slow it down,” said Logsdon, an independent consultant to the Obama administration.

The belt-tightening comes just as the United States winds down its space shuttle program, and struggles to move forward on a replacement for the vaunted vessels that have carried hundreds of astronauts into space.

Nearly half of Obama’s proposed 2012 NASA budget — and for the next five years — is dedicated to space operations and exploration systems, including $2.9 billion for the development of a heavy launcher and a space capsule intended for missions beyond low Earth orbit.

Seven billion dollars have been earmarked for work aimed at making the new heavy launcher operational by 2016. It will be crucial for sending astronauts beyond low Earth orbit to an asteroid and to Mars.

NASA has not yet determined the architecture of the system nor when it will be operational.

Obama’s budget would continue to push for commercial partnerships to develop reliable access to the space station and lessen the reliance on Russia, whose Soyuz spacecraft will be carrying US astronauts to the ISS until a shuttle successor is developed.

The draft budget proposes 850 million dollars in 2012 as seed money to help companies like SpaceX — which has already successfully launched a prototype space capsule into orbit.

A final US budget for fiscal 2011 has not been approved because Democrats and Republicans failed to agree on spending levels in the runup to last November’s mid-term election. At that time, Obama and fellow Democrats decided to maintain 2010 levels.

But Republicans won control of the House of Representatives and they are vowing massive spending cuts for the remainder of fiscal 2011 and beyond.

“We don’t know what NASA will get in 2011,” one administration official said.

Another administration official close to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, speaking anonymously, warned that deeper cuts could put the space programs at risk.

“If the Republicans get their way all of this is in jeopardy,” the official said.

Read more on this here

Obama’s NASA Budget Proposal-Business as Usual

Unlike last year, President Barack Obama’s proposed budget for NASA in the coming fiscal year includes no great policy changes. In keeping with the President’s propose to freeze domestic spending it comes out to $18.7 billion dollars for fiscal year 2012.

The outline of the budget proposal pretty much accepts the priorities set down in the bipartisan NASA authorization act passed last year. It promises to maintain the International Space Station. It would continue to build the heavy lift rocket and exploration vehicle, mentioning a visit to an asteroid “next decade.” There is a nod to the commercial space initiative that would provide subsidies to commercial companies to build Earth to low Earth orbit space transports. The budget would fund space science and robotic exploration. It would also fund Earth science and aeronautics. There is also mention of a green energy initiative for NASA service centers.

Of the accounts, space station operations, commercial space and Earth science are increased. The rest, especially the space exploration program, are deeply cut.

The one big problem with the President’s NASA budget proposal is that it seems to be more responsive to the last Congress, with which the administration had a tussle over its cancellation of the Constellation space exploration program and the doubling down on the George W. Bush era Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems (COTS) program. The current Congress already proposes to cut the current fiscal year NASA budget to just over $18.4 billion. $18.7 billion next year may be a little too high for the current Congress to swallow, all things considered.

The Obama NASA budget does not address some of the flaws of the space policy that was rolled out last year. The idea of bypassing the moon and going to an asteroid is still an unwise goal if one wants to mount a sustainable program of human space exploration. The moon has an abundance of frozen water that can be used to sustain a settlement and provide rocket fuel for deeper space missions. The moon has some resources, such as Helium 3, that might prove useful for the energy needs of human civilization. The budget just ignores those facts.

Read the rest of this story here

Ham radio help requested for KySat-1 launch

KYSAT1-kysat1 cube satAmateur Radio satellite KySat-1, due to be launched February 23!!!

As you may know, KySat-1 along with CubeSats from Montana State University and University of Colorado, will be launched into orbit from Vandenburg AFB on February 23 at 0809 UTC. As with all satellite missions, for us, verifying operation and establishing communication early is critical to mission success.

I would also like to invite amateur radio operators to help them establish contact with KySat-1. Information about the beacons, the mission, and the status of the mission can be found at the following link:
http://ssl.engineering.uky.edu/kysat1/

KySat-1 is the first satellite developed by Kentucky and its outreach capabilities will inspire K-12 students to purse Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).

KySat-1 Beacon 436.790 MHz
FM modulated pseudo-CW beacon every five minutes.
The frequency of the audio signal is 400 Hz @ 32 wpm
FM modulated AX.25 encoded digital beacon every 2.5 minutes.

It carries a digital camera and has a high bandwidth S-band downlink.

KySat-1 on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/KySpace

KySat-1 on the IARU Satellite Frequency Coordination pages can be found here

Ham Radio Not a Viable Option for Egypt

Despite the best efforts of Internet activists who are trying to help Egyptians communicate with the outside world, ham radio isn’t a viable option in this situation, experts said.

The Egyptian government has ordered the shutdown of all ISPs (Internet service providers) as well as some cell phone services. The move appears aimed at disrupting protestors, who have been demonstrating across the country since last week. They are calling for the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

In order to fill the communications gap, supporters around the world have set up free dial-up phone lines and are trying to get the word out to Egyptians that they are monitoring certain ham radio bands for their transmissions.

However, despite reports of ham radios being used to send Morse code, there have been no confirmed transmissions out of Egypt, said Allen Pitts, a spokesman for the National Association for Amateur Radio. “I haven’t heard of any transmissions, period,” he said.

The group We Rebuild has set up an IRC for ham radio enthusiasts around the world listening for transmissions on the designated band. They have reported hearing what may be Morse code and possibly some audio messages.

Hearing little, the supporters sometimes voice their frustration. One, called “+HAMguy,” joked: “Who needs a social life when you can listen to faint beeps all day long while talking to complete and utter strangers.”

There is a long history of using ham radio in emergency situations, but it is not ideal for the current situation in Egypt, Pitts said. “Ham radio does do wonderfully in situations like this … but in this particular case, there’s nobody transmitting,” he said.

That may be partly because there are few ham users in Egypt to begin with. “Most people cannot afford it or do not have the political connections needed to get a license there. Those with licenses are apparently, wisely, keeping low,” he said. They may be concerned about who is listening and whether there will be consequences for what they say.

Although there has been little to no traffic coming out of Egypt, ham radio enthusiasts have been having a lively discussion about whether the technology should be used in a situation of political upheaval.

“Amateur Radio should not be used for this political purpose — Especially to subvert the will of any government. It’s not its purpose. This is not emergency communications,” a person with the call sign KB3X wrote in a forum for ham radio users.

But others said the situation in Egypt is exactly the type of emergency where ham radio can be helpful, and that the politics behind it is irrelevant.

Read the rest of this story at PCWorld.com

LightSquared gets satellite waiver…Really?

The marginally insane plan for a US-spanning mobile network using frequencies reserved for satellite is looking more likely, thanks to an FCC decision that handsets won’t have to be satellite-capable.

Earlier this month the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) requested clarification in the rules, which demand that equipment supplied by LightSquared is satellite-capable but are less clear if the same obligation applies to its resellers. Now the FCC has decreed that it doesn’t, making LightSquared a satellite operator in name only despite the fact that it has (and is required to have) an operational satellite.

That’s important, because if LightSquared is going to make back the $7bn it plans to spend building the national network it’s going to have to find new customers for its connectivity. These will come in the shape of companies supplying set-top boxes, washing machines, games consoles and the like, which might not be happy sporting a satellite dish on top.

But the radio frequencies LightSquared is using are supposed to be reserved for satellite communications, which is how the company bought them on the cheap. Competitors were hoping that requiring every device connected to the LightSquared network to be satellite capable would drive up the price, to their advantage, but it seems that won’t be happening.

Even if the devices had been satellite-capable, LightSquared wasn’t planning on carrying more than 0.0005 per cent of the traffic via its bird, so arguments that removing the requirement will lead to increased interference are facetious at best, though that didn’t stop the NTIA making them.

LightSquared will have to undertake some work to ensure that it’s not going to interfere with the low-power GPS signals, but that’s nothing compared to the problems it faces raising the $7bn it needs to build network on the ground. It’s also unlikely the other operators are going to sit back and let this lie when they’ve spent so much money on radio spectrum on the basis that it isn’t encumbered by any satellite requirement.

It’s possible to imagine a similar scenario in Europe, but the task would be complicated by the lack of cross-Europe regulatory body – a satellite operator would need to get a similar waiver for every country, and the UK’s regulator Ofcom has made it clear it won’t be allowing this kind of behaviour.

Read the rest of this great story here

NASA seeks Amateur Radio operators aid with NanoSail-D

NASA seeks Amateur Radio operators’ aid

The US Space Agency NASA has asked for the help of Amateur Radio operators to help in receiving the signal from NanoSail-D on 437.270MHz.

The NASA Press release says:

Wednesday, Jan. 19 at 11:30 a.m. EST, engineers at Marshall SpacemFlight Center in Huntsville, Ala., confirmed that the NanoSail-D nanosatellite ejected from Fast Affordable Scientific and Technology Satellite, FASTSAT. The ejection event occurred spontaneously and was identified this morning when engineers at the center analyzed onboard FASTSAT telemetry. The ejection of NanoSail-D also has been confirmed by ground-based satellite tracking assets.

Amateur radio operators are asked to listen for the signal to verify NanoSail-D is operating. This information should be sent to the NanoSail-D dashboard here .

The NanoSail-D beacon signal can be found at 437.270 MHz.

The NanoSail-D science team is hopeful the nanosatellite is healthy and can complete its solar sail mission.
After ejection, a timer within NanoSail-D begins a three-day countdown as the satellite orbits the Earth. Once the timer reaches zero, four booms will quickly deploy and the NanoSail-D sail will start to unfold to a 100-square-foot polymer sail. Within five seconds the sail fully unfurls.

Read the full NASA Press Release at
http://www.nasa.gov

In a NASA first, NanoSail-D spacecraft to set sail on the sunlight

NASA nanosail-D satelliteNASA’s NanoSail-D is expected to test a type of propulsion that taps the momentum of photons in sunlight. Advocates say solar sails provide the best way toward interstellar travel.

A new NASA craft is due to set sail, literally, Thursday night. What’s more, it hopes to be unfurling its sail in outer space.

What, you may ask, is NASA doing with a sail-powered vehicle?

The answer is that the bread-loaf-size satellite, built on a shoe-string budget, is designed to test a space propulsion technology that until the past few years has dwelt in the realm of science fiction.

The satellite, NanoSail-D, is expected to open its thin, square, reflective sail at 10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, representing what would be the first successful on-orbit deployment of a solar sail in the history of the US space program.

It make lack the pizzazz of warp drive, the fictional propulsion system known to Star Trek fans. But many of its advocates argue that solar sails represent the best path to eventual interstellar travel. More immediately, the technology also holds the promise of reducing the amount of space junk orbiting Earth, boosters say.

The rooting section for Wednesday night’s sail-deployment attempt may be small, but it’s enthusiastic.

“The solar-sailing world is such a small world that we’re all rooting for each other,” says Bill Nye, executive director of the Planetary Society, a space-exploration advocacy group in Pasadena, Calif. The society has its own solar-sail demonstration program underway.

Solar sails operate on the same general principles as conventional sails operate. But where a sailboat gets its push from wind, a solar sail gets its push from sunlight – a possibility first envisioned after physicists figured out that while particles of light, known as photons, have no mass, they do carry momentum. When they strike an object, such as a reflective sail in space, they can transfer momentum to the sail and thus to the object hoisting it.

A craft propelled exclusively via solar sails travels at a snail’s pace when it starts. But with no air resistance in space, momentum would rapidly build. By some estimates, a mission to Pluto, currently a 10-year trip, could reach the dwarf planet in five years.

A solar-sail craft also could devote more of its payload to scientific experiments rather than mass-costly motors and fuel, which today’s craft carry for course corrections on a long voyage or altitude changes to maintain orbit around a planet or moon.

So far, Japan has lofted the most sophisticated solar-sail craft to date. The craft, IKAROS, launched in May 2009 with the country’s Venus climate orbiter, Akatuski. A month later, IKAROS deployed a square solar sail roughly 19 feet long on each side, which has propelled the craft on a trajectory that will put it in orbit around the sun.

Thin-film solar cells on the sail provide electricity for the craft. But one of its most ingenious features, Mr. Nye says, involves steering. Instead of moving the sail’s angle relative to the incoming sunlight, the craft uses strategically placed arrays of liquid crystals – much like those in a digital watch – to alter the ability of a given section of the sail to reflect light.

The approach allows the craft to alter course, but slowly. The system takes roughly 24 hours to achieve a one-degree change in course.

That works well for deep-space travel. But for orbital work, a craft would have to be more agile, requiring a mechanical means of trimming the sail.

Ironically, although NanoSail-D’s systems are identical to those required for solar propulsion, the craft will be demonstrating something different over the next 70 to 120 days: the use of such sails for braking.

NASA’s first attempt to loft NanoSail-D came in 2008 aboard Falcon 1, the first in a growing stable of rockets and capsules built by Spacex, one of a new generation of rocket-makers. The company currently has a contract with NASA to resupply the International Space Station once evaluation flights end for its larger Falcon 9, whose first two launches were successful. Unfortunately, the Falcon 1 carrying the first NanoSail-D failed. The NanoSail-D currently in orbit is a back-up unit that engineers have continued to modify over the past two years.

The craft was one of six payloads lofted by Orbital Science Corporation’s Minotaur IV rocket on Nov. 20. The six payloads rode into space on a common “bus.” NanoSail-D was to have ejected from the bus Dec. 6.

“The door opened, but nothing came out,” says Dean Alhorn, an engineer at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and the project’s lead investigator.

For more than a month, his team was in limbo, trying to figure out what might have caused the apparent failure.

Then, to everyone’s surprise, the craft phoned home Jan. 19, indicating that it somehow, finally, worked free of the bus. With the help of amateur-radio operators in the US, including the Marshall Space flight Center, and in Germany, who had equipment capable of receiving NanoSail-D’s encoded communications, the team gathered up the data and judged NanoSail-D to be in good shape, if somewhat tardy.

“I’m pleased with how everything has worked out,” Mr. Alhorn says.

The craft is orbiting some 350 nautical miles above Earth. There, drag from Earth’s extended atmosphere exerts more influence on a spacecraft’s speed than do photons from the sun. So the goal is to see how well a sail can guide a craft to a controlled reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, where it would incinerate.

By international agreement, satellite operators must design their craft to carry enough fuel to either boost themselves into an higher orbit reserved for dead spacecraft or to slow the craft for reentry. The goal is to reduce the likelihood that derelict spacecraft in low-Earth orbit will collide, adding to an already worrisome collection of spent boosters and dead satellites orbiting Earth. Collisions between these objects generate a tenuous but troubling cloud of debris that has threatened active spacecraft, including the International Space Station and the space shuttle.

Solar sails are far lighter and cost far less than the motors and fuel craft currently must carry for deorbiting, Alhorn says.

Even as NanoSail-D prepares to spread its wings, the Planetary Society has embarked on a three-step program of solar-sail development. It comes on the heels of a 2005 attempt to launch the organization’s Cosmos 1 solar-sail demonstration craft. The Russian rocket lofting the craft failed before the craft could reach orbit.

LightSail 1, which the Planetary Society says it hopes to launch during the first half of this year, would head directly for an orbit roughly 440 nautical miles above Earth. There, the influence of sunlight on the craft would exceed that of Earth’s atmosphere, allowing for the controlled solar-sail flight the group hopes to achieve. LightSail 2 would be larger, last longer, and carry scientific payloads for earth observation. If all goes well, LightSail 3 would be designed to travel farm from Earth to provide early warning of solar storms that erupt from the sun.

Italian amateur radio repeaters impact satellite operations by disregarding the IARU bandplan

Italian amateur radio repeaters disregard IARU bandplan

In Italy, FM and D-Star repeaters are being licensed in the 2m IARU Amateur Satellite segment 145.8-146.0MHz causing considerable interference to Amateur Radio Satellites and the International Space Station.

It would appear that the Italian regulator permits repeaters anywhere within 2m on a provisional basis for 60 days. Authorisation may become permanent if no complaints are received. It would appear it is up to Amateurs worldwide to make sure the Italian regulator is made aware of any problems.

Repeaters in 145.8-146.0MHz cause interference to both satellite transponders and to the important satellite control uplinks.

Communications via Amateur Radio satellites are possible using as little as 300mW to a quarter wave whip as demonstrated by EB4DKA on SO-50 – uplink frequency 145.850MHz, see
http://www.southgatearc.org/satellites/eb4dka.htm

In fact, contacts using as little as 50mW FM have been achieved via the Amateur Satellites. Any repeater operation in the satellite segment, no matter how low power, will block the transponders and critical satellite command and control systems.

Some of the Italian repeaters operating in the 2m Amateur Satellite allocation are:

FM repeater IR0CK 145.850MHz
http://tinyurl.com/2ugjbp8

D-Star Repeater IR3UEF 145.800MHz
(the International Space Station frequency)
http://www.jfindu.net/dstarlh.aspx?rptr=IR3UEF

D-Star Repeater IR0CD 145.975MHz
http://www.dstarusers.org/viewrepeater.php?system=IR0CD

Readers concerned about the blatent disregard of IARU bandplans are invited to make the Italian regulator aware of the international interference that repeaters operating in 145.8-146.0MHz cause. Email should be sent to:
it.lazio@sviluppoeconomico.gov.it

ISS Fan Club – Downlink Intruders in Italy
http://www.issfanclub.com/node/30224

YouTube – FM interference to amateur radio satellites
http://www.southgatearc.org/news/november2010/
interference_to_satellites.htm