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Submission Summary: 0 pending, 8 declined, 7 accepted (15 total, 46.67% accepted)

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Submission + - Zero Gravity 3D Printer Tests (

BJ_Covert_Action writes: "Many of us Slashdotters have fantasized about a future space-faring civilization where humans are not constrained to living on planets. We've discussed the idea of mining materials in space, and manufacturing equipment and spacecraft on orbit to reduce the dangerous and expensive leg of space access that involves atmospheric launch. However, this glorious future is often criticized as idealistic, as there is little reasearch being done in manufacturing equipment that works in space.

However, that is all changing. MADE IN SPACE is a company whose stated mission goal is to develop manufacturing technology for orbital operations using 3D printers. The company recently completed some initial testing of their modified 3D printers in a zero gravity environment. They are analyzing the post flight data and intend to perform more test flights in the future. Perhaps most excting of all is that this particular start-up isn't alone in their venture, as they have the backing of Autodesk, the company that brought us such successful design tools as AutoCAD."


Submission + - TEA Party Publishes Official Space Platform ( 31

BJ_Covert_Action writes: "Spaceref has taken note that the TEA Party has officially published a platform for its political stance on the space industry. It appears that the TEA Party takes itself seriously enough as a viable U.S. political party that it is not content to simply fulfill a niche third party role in the political spectrum. Rather, it has posted its official party platform, and it is encouraging all Americans from all political backgrounds to read the platform. Amongst other issues, the TEA Party is interested in reducing government involvement in the developing space industry, creating tax exemptions for space-related companies, and killing off, in entirety, the controversial NASA heavy lift rocket program (SLS, Constellation, etc.)."

Submission + - Student Built Spacecraft Separate and Communicate (

BJ_Covert_Action writes: "Some students from the Cockrell School of Engineering in Austin, Texas have built, developed, launched, and operated two historical satellites. The FASTRAC satellites make up the first small-scale satellite system which is composed of two separate spacecraft that can communicate to each other. On March 22, the single FASTRAC satellite successfully separated into two smaller spacecraft that are currently operating and communicating with each other. While separation and communication has occurred between paired satellites before, this is the first time it has been done with such a small platform (the FASTRAC spacecraft weigh approximately 60 lbs.).

Furthermore, this is the first time a student designed and built space system has been comprised of two separate spacecraft that can interact with each other. One of the most impressive things about this mission is that it was done incredibly cheap at $250,000, which is far below the costs associated with traditional spacecraft."

The Almighty Buck

Submission + - House Appropriations Committee Proposes Budget (

BJ_Covert_Action writes: The House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations has released a list of proposed spending cuts for the U.S. Federal Government. The proposed cuts include reductions in spending on many science organizations and funds such as NASA, NOAA, nuclear energy research, fossil fuel energy research, clean coal research, the CDC, the NIH, and numerous EPA programs. There are also quite a few cuts proposed on domestic services, such as Americorps and high speed rail research. The House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers acknowledges that the cuts go deep, and would hurt every district across the country. But they are still deemed necessary to rein in Congressional spending.

Notoriously absent from the proposed budget cuts are two of the largest spending sinks in the federal budget: the Department of Defense and Social Security.


Submission + - NASA Pitches Heavy Lift Vehicle to Congress (

BJ_Covert_Action writes: Well, Congress demanded, last year, that NASA develop a budget plan and proposal for a new heavy lift vehicle in light of the Ares V cancellation. Recently, NASA gave Congress just what they wanted. On January 11th, Douglas Cooke pitched an interim report to Congressional members detailing the basic design concepts that would go into a new heavy lift vehicle. Congress required that the new heavy lift vehicle maximize the reuse of space shuttle components as part of its budget battle with President Obama last year. As a result, NASA basically copy-pasted the Ares V design into a new report and pitched it to Congress on the 11th. The proposed vehicle will require the five segment SRB's that were proposed for the Ares V rocket. It will utilize the SSME's for it's main liquid stage. It will reuse the shuttle external tank as the primary core for the liquid booster (the same tank design that is currently giving the Discovery shuttle launch so many problems). And it will utilize the new J-2X engine that NASA has been developing for the Ares V project as an upper stage. In other words, NASA proposed to Congress exactly what Congress asked for.

The catch is, NASA also admitted that they will not be able to complete the proposed rocket on the budget that Congress has given them. Neither will they be able to finish the rocket on time. Finally, NASA has commented that a current study being conducted by 13 independent contractors is still being conducted to determine if there is a better design out there that NASA has, 'overlooked.' NASA has stated that, should that study finds any alternate, interesting designs then, they will need to consider those seriously.


Submission + - Low Quality Alloy Cause of Shuttle Main Tank Issue ( 1

BJ_Covert_Action writes: NASA engineers have finally discovered the root cause of the cracks that have been found on the space shuttle Discovery's main external tank. The main tank, one of the "Super Lightweight Tank" models developed by Lockheed-Martin employs an aluminum-lithium alloy developed by Lockheed-Martin specifically for this application. The new alloy is used in various structural stringers throughout the SLWT design. Unfortunately, the batch of this alloy used in the tank that is currently mated with the Discovery shuttle, appears to be of low quality. The alloy used in the stringers has a "mottled" appearance, compared to the nominal appearance typically used in the main tank stringers (see picture in article). This appearance is indicative of a fracture threshold that is significantly lower than typical. NASA has determined, through testing, that this low grade alloy has only 65% of the fracture strength of the nominal alloy typically used.

NASA engineers have devised a potential fix to the problem that they are currently testing to ensure that the repair will cause no unintended consequences. NASA plans to have the Discovery shuttle ready to launch again by February 24th, 2011.

Submission + - Atheists/Agnostics Know More About Religion ( 2

BJ_Covert_Action writes: According to the LA Times, a recent survey was conducted to determine which groups of people knew the most about various religious facts. Apparently, self-described atheists and agnostics got more survey questions correct than many religious folks. Also scoring high were Mormons and Jews. While many Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims took the survey, there were too few of each group to make for a statistically significant sample group. Protestants apparently had a hard time naming Martin Luther as the driving force behind their own break from the Catholic church. According to Allan Cooperman, the associate director for research at the Pew Forum, "American atheists and agnostics tend to be people who grew up in a religious tradition and consciously gave it up, often after a great deal of reflection and study."

Submission + - Linux Distro for an Old Lappy ( 2

BJ_Covert_Action writes: So I just zero filled an old Dell Inspiron 4100 laptop and am looking to revive it into a decent machine. It is running a Pentium-III M processor, 128 MB of RAM, and has a 30 GB hard drive slotted into it. I would like to slap a Linux distribution on the old girl as I figure that is the best way to make use of its hardware. Currently, I only have experience with Ubuntu on a couple of desktop computers. I have been fiddling with Ubuntu for about a year and a half now. I am comfortable on the command line, with the Gnome desktop, and with the file structure (i.e. /etc, /usr, and so on). I don't really know how to rank myself as a user other than that I tend to be able to get things done and, as long as I can get to Google, I am pretty decent at learning new Linux tricks on Ubuntu.

However, for this old clunker of a laptop, Ubuntu is a bit heavy. So I am looking for a newer (possibly better) and smaller distribution. I would like to use the laptop, primarily, for internet access, office applications, some music (in mp3 format), and, of course, perl hacking. That said, responsiveness is more important to me than having access to scores of programs. I would also like to get some new lessons out of this distribution and maybe learn a bit more about Linux (I hear both Arch Linux and Slackware are good for that). Some ease of use would be nice as jumping feet first into a full inferno of bewilderment would likely frustrate me. Furthermore, I might use this little laptop as a platform to let some friends try out Linux and see what they think.

So, with all that said, I have looked at Puppy Linux, Damn Small Linux, Xubuntu, Debian, PCLinuxOS, Slackware, Arch Linux, and Linux Mint. I am leaning towards Puppy Linux or DSL as the rest seem to be a little hardware hungry for my particular system. Puppy Linux appears to focus on user friendliness, but I don't know how much I could learn from it. DSL seems like it could be one hell of a ride, but from what I have read, there is no package management system (though I guess there is some kind of apt enable option you can check now?) which seems like it could make using DSL a pain. When it comes down to it. I am looking to clear up some of these rumors I have heard and get a few dotters' thoughts and ideas on which distributions might meet my requirements best.

Also, as one last note, I tend to use the internet to figure out solutions to most of my problems, so any distributions with a vibrant online community earn a ++ in my book.


Submission + - Commercial Launch Vehicle Market Ignores Recession (

BJ_Covert_Action writes: is running an interesting piece about the growing economy in the launch vehicle industry. Apparently, while the bulk of the world's industries are facing the global recession and some are struggling to get by, commercial launch vehicle programs worldwide are posting nothing but economic growth regarding their 2008-2009 numbers. It appears that commercial vehicle programs offered from China, Russia, and Europe are seeing the highest rate of adoption by the commercial sector. Meanwhile, the EELV program being managed by ULA, while not seeing as drastic a growth as other launch vehicle programs, is holding strong through its preferential status for military and DOD launches. Also on the American front, Elon Musk chimes in with some of his opinions regarding the launch vehicle market in the article with respect to the upcoming Falcon 9 test launches and, hopefully, commercial launches in 2010.

It appears that much of the growth in the launch vehicle industry stems from the fact that governments and civilian organizations alike are demanding more Earth Observation satellites than ever before, ranging in application from surveillance satellites to climate data gathering satellites. The other major contributor to the growth of the launch vehicle market seems to be the explosion in demands for communications satellites on orbit.

One industry financial analyst sums up the discussion with a wonderful little quip:

"Crisis, what crisis,"... "There is no crisis in orbit," ...


Submission + - SpaceX Announces Dragon as First Falcon 9 Payload (

BJ_Covert_Action writes: "SpaceX announced yesterday that it would be integrating a stripped down test version of its own Dragon cargo capsule as the payload for its first Falcon 9 test launch. The Falcon 9 rocket is currently scheduled to launch on November 29 of this year if everything goes according to plan. However, Elon Musk admits that launch day will likely slip to sometime early next year. The Falcon 9 is the heavy launch vehicle designed by SpaceX to be used as a cheap, commercial alternative to existing United States launch platforms. Having launched a few successful light missions with the Falcon 1 rocket, SpaceX is going to launch the Falcon 9 as its next milestone in commercializing the space industry.

Utilizing its own cargo capsule as the first Falcon 9 payload will effectively give SpaceX twice the tests for one launch slot on the Cape Canaveral range. The capsule that will be used is a test version of the full Dragon capsule that encompasses primarily the structure and a few components of the full version. It served originally as a ground test platform for the Dragon design team and now will double as an orbital testbed. If nothing else, the announcement, which was detailed by upped the ante in the commercial space market by showing the SpaceX is capable and willing to push the envelop on its development schedules. It should serve as a proper motivator for other commercial competitors such as Orbital Sciences with their Cygnus capsule which is also under development."


Submission + - Japan's Autonomous Resupply Spacecraft Rendevous w (

BJ_Covert_Action writes: posted a story on September 16th previewing the current docking sequence of Japan's new autonomous cargo vehicle for supplying the ISS. Thrusday, September 17th, the cargo vehicle will be moving into position to be grappled with the ISS's robotic arm for berthing with the ISS. The mission status can be followed real-time at Spaceflightnow's Mission Status Center. At the time of this submission, it appears that the unmanned cargo vehicle has been successfully grappled by the ISS and will slowly be maneuvered into its final docking position by about 6:00 PM EDT.

The vehicle not only brings with it the proof that it can perform as designed, but also two environmental science experiments (HREP and SMILES designed by NASA and JAXA respectively) which will monitor and study certain aspects of Earth oceans and weather. Also on board the HTV is a healthy amount of food, water, and technical equipment for use by the residing ISS crew.

The HTV is scheduled to be docked with the ISS for about 30 to 45 days at which point it will be loaded with trash from the ISS and break it's dock with the space station. The HTV will then be deorbited into the atmosphere where it will burn up somewhere over the remote south Pacific ocean.

If nothing else, the fact that space agencies will now have one more autonomous cargo vehicle with which to resupply the ISS is quite exciting and progressive for the space industry.


Submission + - Congress Considers Funding for Vehicle Mileage Tra ( 3

BJ_Covert_Action writes: According to thetruthaboutcars website, the House of Representatives is looking into legislation to divert $154,500,000 in tax dollars for a research project that involves tracking per vehicle mileage in the U.S. From the article:

US Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) introduced H.R. 3311 earlier this year to appropriate $154,500,000 for research and study into the transition to a per-mile vehicle tax system

The article goes on to describe how Oregon already has done some research and testing of of such a tracking system. Tracking the mileage per vehicle in the United States via a GPS-RFID reader technology combination would allow the federal government to accurately tax motorists based on how far they actually drive. Currently, motorist taxes are levied at the gas pump. The bill being discussed would invest nearly $155 million in developing a system that tracks vehicles based on a unique GPS unit installed in each car. The GPS unit would communicate the data it gathers to RFID readers placed along roadsides at a particular interval. The U.S. Treasury Department would be in charge of the research program and would, thus, receive the appropriated tax money for research.

Like all fun government surveillance legislation, this funding and, if implemented, the program itself raises more questions about American's right to privacy. Do we really want the government, or any other agency for that matter, to track our movement and driving habits on a regular basis?

There is a pdf of the bill available for download on the article page.


Submission + - Roiling Surface Plume of Betelgeuse Imaged (

BJ_Covert_Action writes: Astronomy Now is running a piece regarding some new, exquisitely detailed pictures taken of Betelgeuse, a star in the constellation Orion. Betelgeuse is classified as a supergiant star and is approximately 1000 times the size of the sun. Two teams of astronomers used ESO's "Very large Telescope," its NACO instruments, and as an imaging technique known as "Lucky Imaging" to take some of the most detailed pictures of Betelgeuse to date.

The new pictures reveal a gas plume on the surface of Betelgeuse which extends from the surface of the star a distance greater than that between our sun and Neptune. The images also showed several other 'boiling' spots on the surface of Betelgeuse, revealing the surface to be quite tumultuous. Currently, it is known that stars of Betelgeuse's size eject the equivalent mass of the Earth into space every year. However, the mechanisms for said ejections is currently unknown. This recent astronomy work will help researchers determine the mechanics behind such ejections.


Submission + - MRO Finds Life-Related Geology on Mars (

BJ_Covert_Action writes: The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has detected a set of "clay-bearing rocks lying directly in the path ahead for the Mars rover Opportunity." The rocks are approximately ten miles from the rover's current position which is about the same distance between the rover's current destination and it's position. The clay-bearing rocks are an important geological feature of the Martian surface because the clay is indicative of a warm, wet, non acidic location history on Mars. The rocks could, therefore, be a prime location for discovering signs of past life on the Martian surface.

Interestingly enough, the final landing target of the up and coming Mars Science Laboratory rover has similarly high priority characteristics. However, the MSL is scheduled for launch in 2011, whereas Opportunity could make it to the new rock target formation in as little as 12 months or as many as 18 months. The article on Spaceflightnow also involves a brief discussion relating to some funding issues for future mars missions as well as the expected praise of the Mars rovers' longevity.

Tags: Mars, Martian, lifeonmars, space, spacefossils, geology


Submission + - New GOES Satellite Successfully Launches (

BJ_Covert_Action writes: "At 6:51 Eastern Standard Time the latest in a constellation of weather and research satellites by NASA and NOAA was launched from Cape Canaveral. The GOES-O spacecraft is the second spacecraft of the third generation of the GOES satellites. The satellite was built by Boeing and was launched upon a Delta IV Heavy vehicle with two solid rocket boosters. This launch came successfully near the end of its launch window after a failed launch attempt yesterday, July 26, 2009 due to poor weather conditions. The weather satellite is only one of an increasingly large system of weather satellites in geostationary orbit by the same name. It serves as a reminder to folk that space programs are an increasingly necessary part of our everyday lives as it will help to monitor weather conditions on Earth.

The current mission status can be monitored at"

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