SpaceStationSim ISS Simulator game

The Space Foundation announced today that it has officially recognized the SpaceStationSim ™ video game from Vision Videogames, LLC, as a Certified Space Imagination Product. This certification, part of the Space Foundation’s Space Certification Program, recognizes superior entertainment products used to increase interest in and excitement for space.

“We feel very privileged to copublish such a unique and realistic game as SpaceStationSim,” said Paul Lombardi, chief executive officer of Enlight Interactive, USA. “In more than twenty years of developing and publishing state-of-the-art simulation games, rarely have we been so excited about a title.”

SpaceStationSim is Vision Videogames’ first PC-based video game and is a true 3-D construction SIM that encourages players to engage their imagination and build thousands of different configurations of the International Space Station (ISS) using dozens of modules and stylized components from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and its four exploration partners, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), European Space Agency (ESA), Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and the Russian Space Agency (RSA).

“The Space Foundation is pleased to certify Vision Videogames,” said Kevin Cook, director of Space Technology Awareness for the Space Foundation. “SpaceStationSim really engages the player, integrating the science and psychology of life in space and creating a sense of ownership in the worldwide effort to explore space and improve life on Earth.”

In addition to creating a unique ISS, the player of SpaceStationSim, in the roll of the Administrator of NASA, creates astronaut crewmembers to live and work aboard. The astronauts have unique needs, abilities and personalities, and the player manages their activities and personal relationships. Astronauts face mission critical situations, including fires and equipment breakdowns, while conducting micro gravity experiments and dealing with space tourists shipped aboard by the Russians. Through strategy, design, management, discovery, and care of the crew, the player’s ISS may usher in the dawn of a new age for man in space.

SpaceStationSim also is the first space station game developed in collaboration with NASA via a NASA Space Act Agreement. For more information and an online demo, visit

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Hubble sees faintest stars in a globular cluster

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered what astronomers are reporting as the dimmest stars ever seen in any globular star cluster. Globular clusters are spherical concentrations of hundreds of thousands of stars. Seeing the whole range of stars in this area will yield insights into the age, origin, and evolution of the cluster.

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Hokkaido Institute of Technology CubeSat

Hokkaido Institute of Technology’s HIT-SAT satellite has joined several other CubeSats carrying Amateur Radio payloads in space. The tiny satellite launched successfully September 23 (Japan Standard Time) from the Uchinoura Space Center in Japan, and its CW telemetry was copied around the world on the satellite’s initial orbits. Over the weekend, HIT-SAT’s CW telemetry was halted as a power-saving measure during attitude control procedures, and it remained silent after attitude control should have ended. But on September 27, ground controllers were able to restore the CW telemetry.

“Although the cause was still unknown, we hope the transmission of CW continues normally,” the HIT-SAT team said on its Web site. “We appreciate the cooperation and help of radio amateurs all over the world. Please hear the beat of our satellite’s heart.” HIT-SAT’s FM packet transmitter has been operating normally from the time the spacecraft reached orbit, and ground controllers have been able to obtain telemetry data from it.

Like other university-built CubeSats, HIT-SAT was constructed using mostly off-the-shelf parts. The 1200 bps FM packet downlink is on 437.425 MHz, while the CW telemetry downlink is on 437.275 with a transmitter power of 100 mW. The CubeSat uses a VHF uplink. The HIT-SAT team is seeking reception reports, including audio files. The satellite’s call sign is JR8YJT.

Once it’s fully operational, HIT-SAT will permit Earth station operators to request certain parameters by transmitting DTMF commands on the 145.980 MHz uplink. The satellite can report back time/date, temperature and power supply voltages and thank the Earth station by call sign. Only HIT-SAT ground station controllers can access the satellite at this point, however.

The diminutive satellite is a project of the Hokkaido Institute of Technology’s ham radio club. HIT-SAT hitchhiked on the M-V-7 vehicle that carried the Solar-B satellite into orbit. The satellite is in a sun synchronous orbit with an orbital altitude of 250 km at perigee and 600 km at apogee and an inclination of 97.79 degrees. A 12-cm square cube, HIT-SAT weighs 2.2 kg.

Students talk to ISS

Students at three schools participated in a bit of ham radio history Friday, September 22, when they spoke with the International Space Station’s first female civilian space visitor and two astronauts.

The Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program sponsored the separate, direct VHF contacts with US civilian space traveler Anousheh Ansari, European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Reiter, DF4TR, and US astronaut Jeff Williams, KD5TVQ. Ansari told students gathered at George Washington University, her alma mater, that everything looks “so beautiful” from the ISS.

“It’s great up here,” Ansari told the students, “The weightlessness feels fantastic. It’s like floating like a feather.”

Youngsters from Washington, DC-area elementary and middle and high schools joined GWU students in interviewing Ansari, who spoke via NA1SS with Williams as the control operator. Ansari, who returned to Earth September 28 with Williams and ISS Expedition 13 Commander Pavel Vinogradov, RV3BS, said she misses her family on Earth, but “otherwise, I think I’m just going to stay up here,” she quipped.

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AMSAT Project Eagle

AMSAT-NA has announced it’s revamping the design of its high-Earth orbit (HEO) Project Eagle satellite, currently in the development stages The next generation satellite will take maximum advantage of software-defined transponder (SDX) technology to offer a broader range of easily accessible Amateur Radio payloads. The AMSAT Board of Directors okayed the Eagle upgrade plans during the 2006 AMSAT-NA Space Symposium and Annual Meeting held October 6-8 in San Francisco. Eagle Project Manager Jim Sanford, WB4GCS, outlined the changes at his Space Symposium forum October 7.

“The structure which we have been presenting for several years is not going to meet our mission needs,” Sanford explained. “We have moved on to a later structure.”

Under the new plan, Sanford says, Eagle’s communications payloads will include a mode U/V linear transponder for SSB, CW and other modes. A second SSB/CW transponder will uplink on L band (1.2 GHz) and downlink on S1 band (2.4 GHz). Both would be usable over 75 percent of the satellite’s orbit by an AO-13 or AO-40-capable ground station, AMSAT says.

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Embry-Riddle Partners to Expand Space Research and Technology

Three Florida universities have signed an agreement to cooperate on space research and technology programs, including the creation of a joint institute to coordinate their activities.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Florida Institute of Technology, and Florida State University will combine their capabilities to pursue emerging research, technology development, and educational opportunities associated with government and commercial space and aerospace initiatives. The universities signed the agreement Oct. 5 in Orlando.

“FSU, Florida Tech, and Embry-Riddle each have unique aerospace-related capabilities, and our partnership on space programs can do much to expand and diversify Florida’s role in the industry,” said Rodney Piercey, dean of Embry-Riddle’s College of Arts and Sciences. “This is an exciting time for the space industry, with exploration, defense, and commercialization programs accelerating in the U.S. and abroad.”

“This is a winning partnership of public and private institutions, building on the strengths of some of the top space-related research and education programs in the United States. With Florida Tech’s roots planted deeply in the U.S. space program, we welcome a collaboration that will further this mission,” said Frank Kinney, vice provost for research at Florida Institute of Technology.

“This collaboration couldn’t be more timely or fitting for Florida or NASA,” said Kirby Kemper, vice president for research at Florida State University. “The future of our country’s aerospace industry depends on a better-trained, domestically produced workforce of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians. With stronger ties to the space industry, Florida’s research universities can strengthen both their gradate training in these fields and their research capabilities, as well.”

The joint institute will be open to participation by other universities and will work to develop collaborative programs with government agencies like NASA and Space Florida, as well as with commercial aerospace firms.

For program information, contact:
John Olivero, chairman of physical sciences at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (386) 226-6453 or

Pulsar Observations

The super-sensitivity of ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray observatory has shown that the prevailing theory of how stellar corpses, known as pulsars, generate their X-rays needs revising. In particular, the energy needed to generate the million-degree polar hotspots seen on cooling neutron stars may come predominately from inside the pulsar, not from outside.

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Titan’s Lakes

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has found lakes on Saturn’s moon Titan.

The lakes are most likely the source of hydrocarbon smog in the frigid moon’s atmosphere. Finding the source of the complex soup of hydrocarbons in Titan’s atmosphere has been a major goal for the Cassini mission and is a significant accomplishment.

Numerous well-defined dark patches resembling lakes are present in radar images of Titan’s high latitudes taken during a July 22 flyby. At Titan’s frigid temperatures, about minus 180 degrees Celsius, the liquids in the lakes are most likely methane or a combination of methane and ethane.

“This is a big deal,” said Steve Wall, deputy radar team leader at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “We’ve now seen a place other than Earth where lakes are present.”

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