NASA News: NASA Selects Technology Payloads For Reduced-Gravity Flights

WASHINGTON -- NASA has selected nine proposals to demonstrate new
technologies for the second set of payloads to fly on commercial
suborbital reusable launch vehicles and the Zero-G commercial
parabolic aircraft. NASA is using commercially available vehicles to
carry these technology demonstration payloads to help develop the
U.S. commercial reusable suborbital transportation industry.

NASA's Flight Opportunities Program provides test flights to
demonstrate and validate space technologies on airborne platforms
flying above 65,000 feet, the area known as "near space." The program
also supports parabolic flights that simulate brief periods of
microgravity or weightlessness.

"We're moving out with a set of payloads that can benefit from the
proving ground of near space," Mike Gazarik, director of NASA's Space
Technology Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington said. "We're
looking forward to increasing the number of commercial flights and
technology demonstration payloads flown, with companies providing a
viable reusable flying science lab capability for researchers from
all across America."

Selected for flight on both a suborbital reusable launch vehicle and
the Zero-G aircraft are:

- "Microgravity Multi-Phase Flow Experiment for Suborbital Testing,"
team leader Kathryn Hurlbert of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Selected for flight on suborbital reusable launch vehicles:

- "Application of Controlled Vibrations to Multiphase Systems for
Space Applications," Ricard Gonzalez-Cinca, Universitat Politecnica
de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain, and Richard Tyson, University of
Alabama in Huntsville
- "Environmental Monitoring Suite on Suborbital Reusable Launch
Vehicles," H. Todd Smith, and Lars P. Dyrud, Johns Hopkins University
Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md.
- "Measurement of the Atmospheric Background in the Mesosphere as a
Pre-cursor to Astronomical Observations," Sean Casey, USRA/SOFIA,
Moffett Field, Calif.
- "RF Gauging of the Liquid Oxygen Tank on a Reusable Launch Vehicle,"
Gregory Zimmerli, NASA's Glenn Research Center, Cleveland

Selected for parabolic flight aboard the Zero-G aircraft:

- "Assessing Vestibulo-Ocular Function and Spatial Orientation in
Parabolic Flight," Mark Shelhamer, Johns Hopkins University School of
Medicine, Baltimore
- "Evaluation of a Medical Chest Drainage System Functional in the
Microgravity Environment," C. Marsh Cuttino, Orbital Medicine, Inc.,
Richmond, Va.
- "Autonomous Cell Culture Apparatus for Growing 3-Dimensional Tissues
in Microgravity," Zarana Patel and Janice Huff of Johnson and Colin
Pawlowski of Yale University
- "A demonstrated application of a cost effective and novel platform
for non-invasive acquisition of physiologic variables from
spaceflight participant candidates," Ravi Komatireddy, University of
California at San Diego and West Wireless Health Institute of San Diego

The Zero-G aircraft flights are expected to take off in April 2012
from Ellington Field in Houston. The suborbital reusable launch
vehicle payloads are expected to fly on vehicles produced by
Armadillo Aerospace, Masten Space Systems, Near Space Corporation, UP
Aerospace, Virgin Galactic, Whittinghill Aerospace, or XCOR
Aerospace. NASA selected the seven companies in August to integrate
and fly space technology payloads. The suborbital reusable launch
vehicle payload flights tentatively are scheduled to begin in early 2012.

NASA selected the proposals following an announcement of fight
opportunities issued last December. NASA called for proposals that
demonstrate or mature new technology payloads using parabolic
aircraft or suborbital reusable launch vehicles for reduced gravity
or near-space flights. The announcement will remain open until
December 31, 2014.

Flight Opportunities, part of the Space Technology Program within
NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist, is managed at NASA's Dryden
Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif. NASA's Ames Research Center
in Moffett Field, Calif., manages the payload activities for the program.

For more information about the Flight Opportunities program, visit:


For more information about the announcement and request for
information, visit:





Arctic Sea Ice Continues Decline, Hits Second-Lowest Level

WASHINGTON -- Last month the extent of sea ice covering the Arctic
Ocean declined to the second-lowest extent on record. Satellite data
from NASA and the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center
(NSIDC) at the University of Colorado in Boulder showed that the
summertime sea ice cover narrowly avoided a new record low.

The Arctic ice cap grows each winter as the sun sets for several
months and shrinks each summer as the sun rises higher in the
northern sky. Each year the Arctic sea ice reaches its annual minimum
extent in September. It hit a record low in 2007.

The near-record ice-melt followed higher-than-average summer
temperatures, but without the unusual weather conditions that
contributed to the extreme melt of 2007. "Atmospheric and oceanic
conditions were not as conducive to ice loss this year, but the melt
still neared 2007 levels," said NSIDC scientist Walt Meier. "This
probably reflects loss of multiyear ice in the Beaufort and Chukchi
seas as well as other factors that are making the ice more vulnerable."

Joey Comiso, senior scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in
Greenbelt, Md., said the continued low minimum sea ice levels fits
into the large-scale decline pattern that scientists have watched
unfold over the past three decades.

"The sea ice is not only declining, the pace of the decline is
becoming more drastic," Comiso said. "The older, thicker ice is
declining faster than the rest, making for a more vulnerable
perennial ice cover."

While the sea ice extent did not dip below the 2007 record, the sea
ice area as measured by the microwave radiometer on NASA's Aqua
satellite did drop slightly lower than 2007 levels for about 10 days
in early September, Comiso said. Sea ice "area" differs from extent
in that it equals the actual surface area covered by ice, while
extent includes any area where ice covers at least 15 percent of the ocean.

Arctic sea ice extent on Sept. 9, the lowest point this year, was 4.33
million square kilometers (1.67 million square miles). Averaged over
the month of September, ice extent was 4.61 million square kilometers
(1.78 million square miles). This places 2011 as the second lowest
ice extent both for the daily minimum extent and the monthly average.
Ice extent was 2.43 million square kilometers (938,000 square miles)
below the 1979 to 2000 average.

This summer's low ice extent continued the downward trend seen over
the last 30 years, which scientists attribute largely to warming
temperatures caused by climate change. Data show that Arctic sea ice
has been declining both in extent and thickness. Since 1979,
September Arctic sea ice extent has declined by 12 percent per decade.

"The oldest and thickest ice in the Arctic continues to decline,
especially in the Beaufort Sea and the Canada Basin," NSIDC scientist
Julienne Stroeve said. "This appears to be an important driver for
the low sea ice conditions over the past few summers."
Climate models have suggested that the Arctic could lose almost all of
its summer ice cover by 2100, but in recent years, ice extent has
declined faster than the models predicted.

NASA monitors and studies changing sea ice conditions in both the
Arctic and Antarctic with a variety of spaceborne and airborne
research capabilities. This month NASA resumes Operation IceBridge, a
multi-year series of flights over sea ice and ice sheets at both
poles. This fall's campaign will be based out of Punta Arenas, Chile,
and make flights over Antarctica . NASA also continues work toward
launching ICESat-2 in 2016, which will continue its predecessor's
crucial laser altimetry observations of ice cover from space.

To see a NASA data visualization of the 2011 Arctic sea ice minimum as
measured by the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer - Earth
Observing System (AMSR-E) on Aqua, visit:


For more information about NASA and agency programs, visit:



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