Aerospace

I've some background in space weather-- the influence of solar activity on Earth and near-Earth orbits.  My new job as a professor at Capitol College has brought me into contact with several bright students working on using picosatellites to test our orbital debris removal concepts.  Further, the number of other groups doing balloon and picosatellite work is increasing (yay!)  So it's time to update this column more frequently with not only my progress, but stories of other pico teams.
100 years yesterday, the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg while crossing the North Atlantic and sank, killing over 1500 passengers and crew. 
On April 5, 2010, the sun spewed a two million-mile-per-hour stream of charged particles toward the magnetosphere, the invisible magnetic fields surrounding Earth.

As the particles interacted with the magnetic fields, the incoming stream of energy caused stormy conditions near Earth. Some scientists believe that it was this solar storm that interfered with commands to a communications satellite, Galaxy-15, which subsequently foundered and drifted, taking almost a year to return to its station.
The Multi-Mode Sensor Seeker (MMSS), a sensor which is a mix of high-definition cameras, mid-wave infrared sensors and laser-radar (LADAR) technology, will start airborne tests this summer. It will be placed on a robotic helicopter called Fire Scout and carry advanced automatic target recognition software, so sensor prototype will allow Fire Scout to autonomously identify small boats on the water, reducing the workload of sailors operating it from control stations aboard Navy ships.

Look out pirates. You're now that much easier to find. 
Supersonic passenger jets are so 1970s. The Concorde has been gone for almost 10 years and most people don't miss it.  But its fundamental concept - people want to get places faster - has not gone away.

Now an MIT researcher says he has come up with a concept that may solve many of the problems that grounded the Concorde, like expensive tickets, high fuel costs, limited seating and noise disruption from the jet’s sonic boom. Qiqi Wang, an assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics, says the solution, in principle, is simple, going back to the earliest days of flight: Instead of flying with one wing to a side, why not two? 
In 1957, when the USSR launched Sputnik, it began a new era in the Cold War.  The Race to Space. Senator Lyndon Johnson worried the commies could rain nuclear bombs down on us from the high ground, making him the perfect guy to run NASA and because it was a military concern it got funded.  Only later it became a human exploration issue and much later became a science one.
Calliope integration and testing is on hold until Spring break, possibly until Summer.  This is driven by two factors: my new job has me short on time, and InterOrbital's deadlines have removed a strong time pressure.  It's a good situation-- it's always better to have more time.

One aspect of my new job is presenting mission scenarios and case studies from Mission Operations.  I posted a key trade in my science blog, looking at explosive bolts versus springs from a risk point of view.  In retrospect, this column-- being about crunchy engineering topics-- may have been a better venue.
In the midst of CNN's non-stop coverage of a deceased singer whose biggest career hit was a cover of a Dolly Parton song, there may be a ray of rational sunlight shining down on a person worthy of our time; an accomplished military veteran, test pilot, Mercury astronaut and Senator named John Glenn.  50 years ago the 40-year-old Marine lieutenant sat atop a building-sized rocket stuffed with solid propellant and left the confines of Earth - backwards.
It's Valentine's Day and the wonders of nature are getting in on the act.  Luckily, ESA was there to capture the memories.

Here, for your enjoyment, are the numerous ways the cosmos and the Earth hearts you.   If you want to see their slideshow with music, go here.   If you want all of the science of Valentine's Day, go here
Proba image of Tupai Island, French Polynesia
While I've been strangely silent, the space industry is surging ahead.  I have, off the record, been told of small companies looking to invest $10s of millions into launchers, of new picosatellite designs (like Cubesat and Tubesat) being bandied about, of a possible new East Coast space port.  NASA is publically funding multiple potential launch providers.