NASA to Break Into Commercial Space Flight

July 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Whoever thought that NASA would be done with now that the Space Shuttle Atlantis had launched is dead wrong, as the American space agency is changing directions. NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida entered into an agreement with Sierra Nevada Space Systems of Sparks, Nev., last week to offer technical capabilities from the center’s uniquely skilled work force.

“The partnership is an effort to bring new commercial space activities to the center and help transition Kennedy from a government, program-focused, single user launch complex to a diverse, multi-use spaceport, enabling both government and commercial space providers,” said Kennedy Center Director Bob Cabana.

Kennedy will help Sierra Nevada with the ground operations support of its lifting body reusable spacecraft called “Dream Chaser,” which resembles a smaller version of the space shuttle orbiter. The spacecraft would carry as many as seven astronauts to the space station. Through the new agreement, Kennedy’s work force will use its experience of processing the shuttle fleet for 30 years to help Sierra Nevada define and execute Dream Chaser’s launch preparations and post-landing activities.

In 2010 and 2011, Sierra Nevada was awarded grants as part of the initiative to stimulate the private sector in developing and demonstrating human spaceflight capabilities for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The goal of the program, which is based at Kennedy, is to facilitate the development of a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability by achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from the space station and future low Earth orbit destinations.

“Our Dream Chaser vehicle was born at NASA, and NASA has continued to be an important partner in the vehicle’s development,” said Mark Sirangelo, head of SNSS. “By adding the Kennedy Space Center, with its highly experienced technical staff and world-class facilities, to the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser Program we blend the best of both the NASA shuttle heritage alongside the best of industry practices.”

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Last Space Shuttle Launch TODAY

July 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Space Shuttle Atlantis just hours before its historic launch. Courtesy of ABC News.

Watch Live via PlayStation®Home or NASA TV

The historic final mission of NASA’s Space Shuttle program — the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis — will be live-streamed in a special social viewing event featured on Sony Computer Entertainment America’s PlayStation®Home for PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system.

PlayStationHome viewers will be able to watch Atlantis’ launch live at 11:26 a.m. EST, today, July 8 via the NASA TV channel on Sony DADC’s LOOT Space Station Theatre within the Entertainment on Demand (EOD) system. For those that don’t have the PlayStation®Home, you can still view the live launch of Space Shuttle at NASA TV.

“We’re honored to be able to present this historic event as a social viewing experience in PlayStationHome,” said David Sterling, vice president, business development, Sony DADC. “It’s exciting to be able to deliver the ability for users to witness the final NASA Space Shuttle flight with their PlayStation® family.”

Atlantis will embark on a 12-day mission to the International Space Station with a year’s worth of supplies and will carry the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module containing supplies and spare parts for the space station and its crew. Also on board are multiple sets of patches and pins representing all 135 shuttle missions, as well as thousands of shuttle bookmarks for children. The patches and pins will be presented to schools following the flight.

The Space Shuttle Atlantis will be the 37th shuttle mission to the ISS. Weather conditions as of 12:18 a.m EST reveal a 30 percent chance of acceptable weather at launch, so there’s a strong possibility that the launch could be delayed.

“This is an incredible opportunity for different communities to experience the thrill of human spaceflight together,” said David Weaver, NASA associate administrator for the Office of Communications. “NASA looks forward to sharing more of our endeavors with PlayStation® users.”

NASA Astrobiology Institute Social Science Post-Doctoral Opportunity

June 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

A post-doctoral opportunity is available at the NASA Astrobiology Institutes. The purpose of this opportunity to study the NAI’s current collaborative practices and provide insight and recommendations for their evolution and improvement, particularly with respect to remote communication, data sharing and analysis across distance, collaborative problem solving, interdisciplinary science, and institutional identity.

The application deadline is July 1, 2011. Application instructions can be found here.

Qualified applicants would have a primary background in the social sciences, particularly interdisciplinary scientific collaboration in distributed organizations, including the use of technology for communication and collaboration across distance. A background in one of the scientific disciplines of astrobiology is highly desirable. Past surveys, recorded events, publications, reviews and other material provide some historical record of the Institute’s evolution, and are available for this effort. These include user surveys from a recent series of remote meetings and activities conducted using a number of collaborative technologies. Follow-up interviews may also provide additional insight on the effectiveness of these distributed interactions. The post-doctoral fellow will be able to use these resources in developing his/her own methodology and definition of research questions that contribute to the overall goal of informing NAI management about ways to improve the institute’s effectiveness in meeting its organizational objectives. The postdoctoral fellow would be based at the NAI Central management office in the Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California, but would be expected to travel to other locations (e.g., team home institutions, meeting locations) as necessary.

The NAI will provide an administrative adviser for this opportunity; applicants must also identify a recognized academic with the required expertise who is willing to serve as the academic adviser. A letter of commitment from this adviser must be submitted along with the application. Applicants should submit that letter as a PDF attachment in an email to nasapostdoc@orau.org, using this subject line: “Adviser’s letter of commitment for Research Opportunity 18644.” The requirement for an academic adviser may be waived for applicants who are more than five years beyond the doctoral degree AND hold the rank of Assistant Professor or higher, or equivalent. The NAI may also require an in-person interview with highly qualified candidates before making a final selection.

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