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News in HobbySpace
Archive July-Dec 2000

December 21, 2000

Volunteer for Mars crater survey. NASA's Clickworkers is an experimental program to find if public volunteers can contribute significantly over the Internet to serious space science projects. They look for research projects that "require human perception and common sense, but may not require a lot of scientific training."

The first project involves classifying craters on Mars. There are a lot of them and there is no automatic pattern recognition program trusted to do the job. But for people, "identifying craters on Mars is something almost anyone can do, and classifying them by age is only a little harder."

Student spacecraft to orbit and to Mars. Students can now build a lowcost satellite within the 1-2 year timeframe of an undergraduate project. Cubesats from One Stop Satellite Solutions (OSSS) comes in kit form with the essential components - communications and power systems - included. Scientific instruments, e.g. cameras or particle detectors, can be added by the students.

Based on technology developed at Stanford , the Cubesat nanosat is only a 10cm cube and weighs 1kg.

As described in the article U.Arizona Says Space Is A Cube - SpaceDaily - Dec.17.00 , one of the first student CubeSats will be an undergraduate project at the University of Arizona.

The article goes further to describe how multiple CubeSats, working in a formation flying scheme, could greatly extend their capabilities. A program has been proposed to NASA in which a cluster of 52 CubeSats would go to Mars.

For more about student and amateur satellite projects see - Satellite Building .

More Starshine next year. Covered with mirrors polished by high school and grammer school students from around the world, StarShine 1 was successfully launched launched in June 1999 from the space shuttle. The bright object was tracked by the students to measure its orbit decay , providing an exciting lesson in orbital mechanics and the dynamics of the atmosphere-solar interaction.

In 2001, there are two more StarShine satellites scheduled for launch. New students are now involved with this very successful educational project. The StarShine 2 deadline has passed but applications for participation are available for StarShine 3.

AO-40 Update... The Amsat amateur satellite AO-40, formerly called Phase 3D, has been out of contact for several days. It is hoped that it has simply gone into a hibernation state due to software problems and will automatically re-boot soon. Efforts to contact it will continue for several weeks.

[Dec.27.00 Contact! A0-40 has been found again: Contact restored with new amateur radio satellite - Spaceflight Now - Dec.27.00 ]

SETI@Home Update... As of Dec.18,2000, over 500,000 years(!!) of SETI signal processing have been achieved - Current Total Statistics .

[Dec.22.00 - Wired has an article about the status of Seti@Home - Seti Is Anybody Out There - Wired - Dec.22.00 . The "back-end" analysis is just starting. This involves looking at spots where promising signals were detected more than once. See the Map of the current hotspots .]

News brief...Rocket racing is being discussed as hobby for the ultimate thrill seeker - Anything New On Rocket Racing? - sci.space.policy - Deja.com archive

December 13, 2000

The astournaut list grows. Seven flights to the ISS have been reserved with a $7.5 million down payment by the German space TV program Space Commander . This brings to nine the number of space tourists, or astournauts if I may coin a phrase (or how about astourists?), headed for orbit.

MirCorp previously reserved one place for Dennis Tito, who is paying around $20 million for a flight, plus another place for the Destination Mir winner. (Earth's First Self-Financed Astronaut by Keith Cowing - Spaceref - Dec.11.00 )

Each year between 2002 and 2009, a winner of the Space Commander TV contest, the details of which are still being developed, will travel aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS. He or she will stay in a new Russian module being developed just for commercial purposes.

(Supposedly this is the same module that Spacehab calls Enterprise but none of the press reports state how Spacehab fits into all this.)

The International Space Station is becoming the destination of choice for space tourists now that it looks almost certain that Russia will de-orbit Mir in 2001.

[--Error--]Brainpool - Space Commander - News Conference streamed audio

December 1, 2000

2-Way satellite broadband goes online. StarBand Communications began offering direct-to-home internet service in November. Download speeds reach up to 500 kbps and upload speeds up to 150 kbps. The system remains in an "always-on" mode and is offered with a flat-rate monthly fee.

There are optional packages available including a combination Dish satellite TV and internet system.

Starband is backed by Gilat , the Israeli VSAT company, Echostar Communications (which owns Dish), and Microsoft.

Starband is the first to market but several other companies are planning similar services in the coming years.

While ground based broadband internet via cable TV or phonelines (i.e. DSL or Digital Subscriber Line) are becoming increasingly available, it is estimated that 30 million households in the US who live outside of urban/suburban areas will not have these services availablefor many years, if ever.

The DirectPC service, a spinoff of the DirecTV satellite TV enterprise, has offered a hybrid (i.e. 1-way) system for several years. High speed downloads (400Kbps) come through the dish but the uploads use a conventional dialup phone line.

The DirectPC system, however, has not gotten great reviews. For example, charges were based on time used and the amount of bytes downloaded rather than on a flat rate.

However, DirectPC now offers [--Link Dead--]flat rate packages and also a new upgraded version in collaboration with AOL, called AOL Plus , is being offered at a flat rate. A two way version of DirectPC will be available in a year or so.

While the failure of Iridium has given space based services a black-eye, direct-to-home TV is doing very well (now serving over 14 million households) and these new internet services have a good chance to succeed as well.

Volunteers needed for Mars colony (on earth). The Mars Society is calling for volunteers to work next summer at its Flashline research station in the Canadian arctic. The tasks range from helping with construction of the site to assisting with scientific experiments.

Stays are selectable from 1 to 9 weeks plus a week of travel time.

For information see the FAQ.

Christmas shop and support space exploration at same time. By going to your favorite internet stores via links at the following space sites, your purchases will help to support Mars exploration and reusable launch vehicle development.

Affiliate agreements bring a small commission on a sale to the site that brought you to the store. Here the commissions are being used to support space development efforts.

The Mars Society has its Buy It @ The Mars Society Mall page with a large list of internet stores.

Signing up at eSpaceTickets provides you a chance to win a ride on a MIG 25 Foxbat and later, when the vehicle is ready, a sub-orbital rocket ride. By going to your internet shopping store via the Buyers Club - Quality Selected Merchants MENU - Your Gateway to Outer Space , the store will pay an affiliate commission to eSpaceTickets.

The commissions go into a pot which will be opened whenever the total equals $250k. This will be used to pay both for the prizes and to make contributions to companies developing reusable launch vehicles. (See eSpaceTickets.com Buyers Club -- Terms and Conditions for more details.)

Space hams open for business. The crew on the International Space Station has successfully commissioned the Ham radio station located in the Zarya control module . Visit the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) for details of how you or your school can talk to the ISS astronauts via amateur radio.

[See also the ISS web site's page on the ham station - International Space Station Reference Ham Radio ]

Space station crew 'hams' it up ahead of cargo ship visit - CNN - Nov.13.00

Amsat Update... The Phase 3D amateur satellite launched on Nov.15 continues moving slowly towards its final orbit. The transfer orbit trip will take 270 days in total. After reaching the final orbit, the satellite will open its solar panels and generate enough power to become fully operational.

See the photos taken by a camera on board the satellite of its adapter support as it separates from the spacecraft.

The satellite has been renamed AMSAT-OSCAR 40.

November 15, 2000

News brief...Leonid showers will rain down this weekend. Find the forecast for your area - The Leonid Meteor Shower Coming This Weekend to Skies Near You - Space.com - Nov.15.00 * LeonidsLive.com -- Science news and live webcasts of the Leonid meteor shower . * SpaceWeather.Com * Space Weather Forecast for Nov. 15-19 at Space.com [Nov.21.00 See report on the Leonids at NASA's Leonids Galore ]

November 7, 2000

The most ambitious amateur satellite ever awaits launch.The 650kg Phase 3D satellite is expected to be launched later this month on an Ariane 5. It is riding piggyback with a large commercial satellite and 2 other secondary satellites (the total payload is over 6000kg!)

The satellite is the result of an international collaboration of Amsat members and universities led by Amsat-Germany. The satellite took several years to build and was then postponed several times due in particular to delays in the Ariane 5 program.

The Phase 3D, one of the few amsats to go outside of low earth orbit, will be launched into a wide eliptical orbit (4000 and 47,000 km ) at 64 inclined against the equator that will provide long periods of visibility to most of the earth. The amsat holds sophisticated high power digital transceivers working in the amateur bands.

It also carries a scientific instrument that will allow students to study the near earth radiation environment. Two cameras will provide high resolution images of the earth. An infrared LASER will also be available for communication with the ground.

Amsat News * Review of the Phase 3D project at Amsat-Germany *[--Error--]AMSAT Phase3-D Spacecraft Integration Laboratory Featuring the P3D Satellite

[Nov.15: Ariane 5 successfully launched and Phase 3D released. [--Link Dead--]Ariane-5 Rocket Launches Four Satellites - Yahoo . No news yet on whether contact made with the amsat. -Amsat Bulletin- Nov.15 - Nov.16 - first data received from Phase 3D ]

November 6, 2000

CATS competitors fall short.The race to be the first amateur rocket team to send a 2kg payload to 200km (124miles) has failed to produce a winner. The CATS (Cheap Access to Space) competition sponsored by the Space Frontier organization set a deadline of November 8 to win the $250 thousand dollar prize.

Several teams had been expected to make attempts at the prize this autumn but most dropped out due to either technical problems or failure to get licensing from the FAA. (Lost in Space Before the Race - Wired - Oct.7.00 )

HARC (High Altitude Research Corporation), however, did manage, at least, to attempt a launch with its "Rockoon" technique on October 30. A balloon, set aloft from a ship in the Gulf of Mexico, carried a rocket to 75,000ft where it was to be launched by radio signal. Unfortunately, there was a misfire and the rocket plummeted to the sea. Cheap Launch Ends in the Drink - Wired - Oct.30.00

There have been many requests for the competition sponsors to extend their deadline but as of yet it still stands.

October Sky: Amateur Rocket Prize - Space.com - Oct.7.00
HobbySpace Rocketry

A Soyuz capsule under your Christmas Tree? The Russian Soyuz TM-26 Descent Capsule was launched to Mir in August of 1997 with two cosmonauts and returned in Feb. 19, 1998, logging a total of 198 days in space. The Space Store** is now selling TM-26 for a modest $2.2 Million US Dollars. If not for yourself, surely you would like to give it to your local science museum.

SpaceHab , now the owner of The Space Store through its Space Media subsidiary, is collaborating with and RSC Energia (RSCE) in various projects, including the Enterprise commercial module for the International Space Station. Energia built the Soyuz capsules, as well as most Soviet and Russian spacecraft. Spacehab is helping them to preserve their many surplus used craft that would otherwise be

HobbySpace Collecting
HobbySpace Shopping

[** HobbySpace has a advertising affiliate agreement with The Space Store .]

News briefs... Starband (whose backers include Israeli VSAT maker Gilat, EchoStar, Microsoft) has become the first company to offer 2-way broadband internet service by satellite to the public - Dishing Up a New Link to the Internet - Washington Post- Nov.6.00 , High Speed Net Launched in Space - Wired - Nov.6.00 ...

Forbes looks at high powered rocketry in Let's Punch A Hole In the Sky - Forbes.com - Nov.00 ...

Microgravity research on John Glenn's shuttle flight points way to improved antibiotic production - [--Link Dead--]Antibiotics Race in Space - HealthScout - Nov.6.00 .

October 30, 2000

Build your own Aurora Alarm. Mark Haun's website describes his automatic Northern Lights detector that he built for a student project while at Walla Walla College , College Place, Washington. The system has "successfully detected about a dozen displays of the northern lights visible in the Pacific Northwest during the past three years."

The device is based on one described by Jesse Knight in Sky and Telescope magazine in the article "Monitoring the Aurora Electronically, June 1982

A sensitive light detector is combined with a narrowband optical filter to detect light that is characteristic of the Aurora. Microprocessor controls provide for software selection of alarm threshold conditions and algorithms.

Details of how to build the detector is given in his report: The Aurora Alarm: An Automated Detection System for the Northern Lights

Real time data from two detectors, one at Walla Walla and the other in Illinois (he would like to connect a wide spread array of detectors) are currently available.

{Checkout also the LivingSpace page for lots of real-time Auroral imagery from space.)

A chance to send a drawing into space. The European Space Agency is sponsoring a competition for kids between 8 and 12 from member states for the opportunity to send a winning drawing into space.

The drawing should be of a flag to represent the Earth and it will be carried into space inside the Envisat, the new advanced Earth observation satellite, which is currently scheduled for launch in mid-2001.

According to the press release , the "overall winner will fly to Kourou, in French Guiana, to see the launch of Envisat, the new advanced Earth observation satellite. The Ariane 5 launcher that will carry Envisat into space will bear the Envisat logo and the winning picture of the Earth flag. Prizes also include 16 sets of computers and printers: one for the winner from each of the 15 ESA Member States and from Canada, a contributor to the Envisat programme. "

The deadline is 31 March 2001.

News brief... checkout The Red Stuff at a film festival near you...

October 1, 2000

James Cameron, director of 'Titanic', may go to Mir. He has passed medical tests at a clinic in Moscow that clear him for a stay on Mir for an extended period. 'Titanic' director Cameron plans flight to Mir - Space Online - Oct.1.00 . [Oct.4 - [--Link Dead--]Director wants to Shoot into Outer Space - NYPost.com Oct.2.00 ]

[Oct.4 - Cameron denies plans for going to Mir. However, he did go through some of the Cosmonaut medical tests and carried out some of the training activities such as experiencing weightlessness on an aircraft flying parabolic trjectories. He is involved in several space related media projects and these activities were to help him get a better sense of what spaceflight is really like. Director James Cameron gets weightless for Mars - Boston.com - Oct.4.00 ]

[Cameron is a strong supporter of space exploration. He has been involved with Mars Society activities and is preparing a mini-series based on the Mars books of Kim Stanley Robinson .]

This news follows the recent announcement that millionaire Dennis Tito will go to Mir next year and that the [--Link Dead--]Destination Mir TV program (see below) will allow the winning contestant to spend a week on the space ship

Meanwhile, NASA Watch (Sep.29.00) reports that the media company Dreamtime is negotiating with Russian officials and NASA to allow them to send private individuals, e.g. paying tourists or contestant winners, to the International Space Station. They would ride aboard a Russian Soyuz module rather than on a Shuttle and possibly reside in a commercial module developed by Spacehab and Energia.

[--Error--]Space ventures vie for media dollars - MSNBC - Sep.28.00

See the HobbySpace Space Tourism section for more about the growing interest in this topic.

GlobeXplorer offers hi-res satellite images to the public. With a 12 terabyte database of both satellite and aerial images, the company provides free public access to images spanning nearly the entire earth.

Consumers have access to lower quality black & white images while business users are charged for images of higher quality, color, and with enhanced processing.

For many large metropolitan areas, users can employ an [--Link Dead--]interactive map to zero in on selected neighborhoods and even streets and houses. Resolutions can reach levels measured in centimeters (for aerial images).

Public accessible [--Link Dead--]images of a given geographic area can vary in age and resolution. Whereas subscription users can have the most recent exposures and the best resolutions.

For other public image databases, see the HobbySpace Eyes in the Sky section.

Europe opens a student satellite initiative. The SSETI - Student Space Exploration & Technology Initiative - is organized by the European Space Agency as an educational project to encourage student interest in space and science.

The aim is to "create a network of students, educational institutions and organisations (on the Internet) to facilitate the distributed design, construction and launch of (micro)-satellites and potentially more complex projects such as a moon-lander."

See the public interest site or the [--Link Dead--]technical site for additional info.

See also HobbySpace Satellite Building .

High Definition TV prepared for launch broadcasts. The Dreamtime company will initiate its HDTV service with a broadcast of the Soyuz launch of the first permanent Space Station crew (Expedition One) from Russia currently scheduled for Oct.30. HDTV cameras will be placed on the ISS itself in late 2001.

Cutting-edge TV technology arrives at NASA; First high-definition equipment from Dreamtime readied for missions - ENN - Sep.27.00

HobbySpace - SpaceCasts

Ham radio equipment delivered to the Space Station. Following the Mir and Shuttle successful experiences with amateur radio communications, the ISS will open a Ham station of its own.

Cosmonauts and astronauts on long duration stays aboard Mir reported that conversations with amateur radio buffs were great morale boosters. The Hams on the ground, in turn, were thrilled to make contact with space travelers.

The Shuttle SAREX (Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment) program used an onboard ham system not only to talk to individual amateur radio enthusiasts, but also to carry out pre-arranged contacts with particular schools that allowed students to converse with the astronauts during a pass over the US.

The ARISS - Amateur Radio on the International Space Station - program will continue such activities aboard the new orbiting base.

The recent shuttle mission delivered the radio equipment that will be installed later by the permanent crew. See images of the equipment and the area where it will be installed at the ARISS STS-106 photo gallery .

For more info, see the HobbySpace Radio section and the article International Space Station: What a ham - ENN.com- 9/19/2000

News briefs...SpaceDaily buys rights to space.tv domain name (SpaceDaily.Com Buys Space.TV - SpaceDaily - Sep.28.00 ). The site www.space.tv will soon be webcasting space launches and othe space related video...

August 21, 2000

Survive Russian Space Camp and Go To Space. The Survivor TV program has signed a $20 million contract with MirCorp for a group of contestants to go through Cosmonaut training. The candidate that comes out on top will then go on a week long trip to the Mir space station.
Reality-TV aims high with 'Destination Mir' - Space Online - Aug.12.00 * Producer Mark Burnett to Develop TV Show: Destination Mir - Space.com - Aug.10.00 * Survivor Producer Planning Space-Themed Show SpaceViews - Aug.9.00 * Destination Mir The space station is moving over to light entertainment -New Scientist - Aug.19.00

[NBC to Air Mir TV Show - SpaceViews - Sep.12.00 * CNN.com - Space - NBC strikes deal for 'Survivor' show in space - September 12, 2000 - NBC Plans Website to Sign Up Contestants For Mir - Space.com - Sep.25.00 ]

[--Link Dead--]Register for Destination Mir contestant selection

August 5, 2000

Watch the Space Station passing by. The ISS has become one of the brightest objects in the sky since the recent addition of the Zvezda module . When it's going over at the optimum time of darkness on the ground and sunlight illumination of the station, it is easily visible to the naked eye. However, the station moves quickly across the sky so you must know when and where to look. There are now several web sites that will tell you when the ISS will be visible at your location. See the Mir/ISS observing section of the Satellite Watching section for a list of tracking info sites.

July 6, 2000

Note: My wife and I are moving to Maryland from Stockholm tomorrow. So HobbySpace News will be updated intermittently at best for the next month or so until we get settled and I get back on-line. Please continue to check back occasionally and let me know if you have suggestions and/or criticisms about HobbySpace. - Clark

Previous space news:

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The Art of C. Sergent Lindsey
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