Student Experiments to International Space Station aboard SpaceX Dragon Commercial Spacecraft


3 October 2012 – Washington, DC – According to NASA, twenty-three microgravity experiments designed by participants of NASA’s Student Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP) will become part of space history on October 7. They will be launched to the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX Dragon, the first commercially developed and built American spacecraft to fly a cargo resupply mission to the station.

Each experiment will study the effects of microgravity on physical, chemical and biological systems. The students have been immersed in every facet of research, from defining investigations to designing experiments, writing proposals, and submitting to a formal NASA review for selection of flight experiments. The 23 experiments represent more than 7,000 students and almost 2,000 proposals.

“SSEP offers a unique flight opportunity that allows students to experience both the excitement and the challenges inherent in conducting research in a microgravity environment,” said Roosevelt Johnson, deputy associate administrator for education at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “It really is STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] in action, using the International Space Station — which has America’s only orbiting National Laboratory — to host these students’ science experiments.”

SSEP began in June 2010 as a cooperative venture by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) and NanoRacks LLC, a national STEM education initiative. The organizations work together to give hundreds of students the opportunity to design and propose real experiments to fly in low Earth orbit. Teams submit formal flight experiment proposals, and a formal proposal review process selects the flight experiment for the community. A suite of programs leverages the flight experiment design competition to engage the entire community, including a mission patch art and design competition.

SSEP payloads were flown in 2011 aboard space shuttles Endeavour and Atlantis on their respective STS-134 and STS-135 missions. The third round of experiments in May was the first to be conducted in orbit by space station astronauts. Next week’s Dragon launch is the fourth flight opportunity. A fifth suite of experiments is scheduled for spring 2013.

More than 100 SSEP students, teachers, and family members will travel to Florida to attend the SpaceX launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. SSEP is one of many programs that use NASA’s science and exploration missions to encourage students to pursue a STEM-centric school curriculum. NASA’s Office of Education is committed to inspiring and developing the next generation of scientists and engineers through experiential, hands-on learning.

To learn more about the SSEP, including future opportunities for student participation, visit: http://ssep.ncesse.org. To learn more about NASA’s education program, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/education. To learn more about the International Space Station, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/station.

Source: NASA

Created in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is America’s focal point for research, development and exploration of outer space.  For over 50 years, NASA has been leading the world in the development and usage of advanced program and project management.  Additional information about NASA can be found at www.nasa.gov.

Port Terminal Project to Increase Grain Export Capacity in Vancouver, British Columbia


1 October 2012 – Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada – Richardson International Limited has announced plans to invest approximately $120 million in its port terminal facility in Vancouver to increase storage capacity for grains and oilseeds to meet growing global demand. Richardson has applied to Port Metro Vancouver for a permit approval for the project, which would take two years to complete.

One of the most efficient port terminal facilities in the world, Richardson’s Vancouver terminal is currently operating at maximum capacity, handling approximately 3 million metric tonnes (MMT) of grains and oilseeds each year. With growing global demand, Richardson expects to handle in excess of 5 MMT of grains and oilseeds annually with additional storage capacity in Vancouver.

“Increasing storage capacity at our Vancouver terminal is critical to our business,” said Darwin Sobkow, Richardson’s Vice President, Agribusiness Operations. “By increasing storage capacity and enhancing our operation, we will be better positioned to serve our farmer customers and meet increasing demand for Canadian grains and oilseeds from end-use markets worldwide.”

Richardson plans to build an additional concrete grain storage annex with a total capacity of 80,000 metric tonnes at its Vancouver terminal. The project includes the installation of distribution equipment and an upgraded dust filtration system. By eliminating existing steel storage bins, Richardson would net an additional 70,000 tonnes of storage, bringing total storage capacity at its Vancouver terminal to 178,000 metric tonnes.

Richardson recently invested $20 million to improve rail receiving capacity and increase operating efficiencies at its Vancouver terminal. By reconfiguring the rail yard and adding a second, fully-functional rail unload pit and railcar indexer, Richardson can double the number of railcars it unloads from 150 cars a day on a single track to 300 cars a day on a double track.

“Vancouver is the major port for exports of Canadian grains and oilseeds and this project is a significant investment in the Pacific Gateway,” says Curt Vossen, President of Richardson International. “It supports Port Metro Vancouver’s vision to grow the port and increase Canadian trade and it is an investment in the local economy through the creation of hundreds of jobs during construction and another 40 to 50 permanent positions at our facility.”

As part of Port Metro Vancouver’s permitting process, Richardson is conducting a stakeholder engagement program from October 1 to 19 to provide community members and other stakeholders with information and an opportunity to provide feedback on the project.

Richardson International is Canada’s largest, privately owned agribusiness and has served farmers across the country for more than 150 years. Based in Winnipeg, Richardson has over 1,700 employees across Canada and is a worldwide handler and merchandiser of all major Canadian-grown grains and oilseeds. Richardson is one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies and is recognized as a global leader in agriculture and food processing.  Information at http://www.richardson.ca/.

Source: Richardson International

Construction of Multi-Purpose Dams in Zambia to improve Lives and Livelihoods – receives planning funds


26 September 2012 – The African Development Bank announced the approval of an African Water Facility (AWF) grant of €950,000 to support a project to help the Government of Zambia develop, test and adopt updated guidelines, which will be used as framework for programming as well as designing the financing, construction and operations of multi-purpose small dams. The dams are expected to directly improve the lives and livelihoods of an estimated 90,000 people, and indirectly benefit about a million people living in rural areas, thus enhancing water security in more vulnerable parts of the country.

Specifically, the AWF funding will be used to modernize and update the guidelines that govern and promote investments in multi-purpose small dams, with the aim to give greater relevance to the selection of potential dams using criteria based on community interest and environmental protection, as well as to build confidence of potential development partners. This project should ultimately result in attracting the massive investments required to proceed.

The urgent need for building additional small-purpose dams in the country comes as increasing hydro-climatic variability due to climate change has intensified water stress, particularly in the drought-prone areas of the Eastern, Central and Southern provinces.

The small dams would help sustain the lives and livelihoods of local communities through multiple uses, by securing access to water:

  • for domestic use;
  • for agriculture, with the aim of increasing the agriculture yields of smallholder farming;
  • for fish farming;
  • for livestock; and
  • for various water-dependent activities such as mini hydropower systems, brick-making, tree growing, and food processing .

The small dams will also be beneficial instruments for climate change adaptation by attenuating the impact of flooding.

“The AWF is fully committed to supporting projects such as this one that propose water solutions poised to build resilience to climate change, increase food security and support socio-economic development,” said Dr. Akissa Bahri, Coordinator of the African Water Facility. “Heavily hit by climate change, Zambia will greatly benefit from improving its water storage capacity as a way to adapt to increasingly unpredictable rainfalls – one of the main sources of water for people living in the regions targeted by this project.”

In addition to the delivery and testing of the guidelines, another important attribute of the project is its contribution to design planning and mobilisation of funds to serve as a springboard to scale up water development program, such as the national Integrated Water Resources Management and Water Efficiency Implementation Plan (2007-30).

The project will be implemented over a period of 36 months from the date of grant signature. The Zambia Ministry of Lands, Energy and Water Development and the Department of Water Affairs will be the Executing Agency.

For more information about the African Water Facility, visit http://www.africanwaterfacility.org/en/.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) is a regional multilateral development finance institution established in 1964 to mobilize resources towards the economic and social progress of its Regional Member Countries (RMCs). It is headquartered in

Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire). Since beginning operation in 1966, the Bank has become a key player in promoting economic and social development in African states.  The African Development Fund established in 1972 and the Nigeria Trust Fund established in 1976, constitute with the AfDB as the flagship, the African Development Bank Group. For more information, visit www.adbg.org.

Source: African Development Bank

NASA Selects Advanced Robotics Projects for Development


14 September 2012, Washington, DC — NASA has announced the selection of eight advanced robotics projects that will enable the agency’s future missions while supporting the Obama administration’s National Robotics Initiative. The projects range from technologies for improving robotic planetary rovers to humanoid robotic systems and will support the development and use of robots for space exploration, as well as by manufacturers and businesses in the United States.

Robots can work beside, or cooperatively, with people to enhance individual human capabilities, performance and safety in space as well as here on Earth. Co-robotics, where robots work cooperatively with people to enhance their individual human capabilities, performance and safety, is a valuable tool for maintaining American leadership in aerospace technology and advanced manufacturing.

Image at right: NASA astronaut with two Robonauts in NASA’s Dextrous Robotics Laboratory; photo courtesy of NASA.

“Robonaut, NASA’s robotic crewmember aboard the International Space Station, is being tested to perform tasks to assist our astronauts and free them up to do the important scientific research and complex engineering taking place each day on our orbiting national lab,” said NASA Chief Technologist Mason Peck at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Selected through our participation in the National Robotics Initiative, these new projects will support NASA as we plan for our asteroid mission in 2025 and the human exploration of Mars around 2035.”

The proposals NASA has selected for development are:

  1. “Toward Human Avatar Robots for Co-Exploration of Hazardous Environments,” J. Pratt, principal investigator, Florida Institute of Human Machine Cognition, Pensacola
  2. “A Novel Powered Leg Prosthesis Simulator for Sensing and Control Development,” H. Herr, principal investigator, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
  3. “Long-range Prediction of Non-Geometric Terrain Hazards for Reliable Planetary Rover Traverse,” R. Whittaker, principal investigator, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh
  4. “Active Skins for Simplified Tactile Feedback in Robotics,” S. Bergbreiter, principal investigator, University of Maryland, College Park
  5. “Actuators for Safe, Strong and Efficient Humanoid Robots,” S. Pekarek, principal investigator, Purdue University
  6. “Whole-body Telemanipulation of the Dreamer Humanoid Robot on Rough Terrains Using Hand Exoskeleton (EXODREAM),” L. Sentis, principal investigator, University of Texas at Austin
  7. “Long, Thin Continuum Robots for Space Applications,” I. Walker, principal investigator, Clemson University, Clemson, S.C.
  8. “Manipulating Flexible Materials Using Sparse Coding,” R. Platt, principal investigator, State University of New York, Buffalo

The National Science Foundation (NSF) managed the solicitation and peer review selection process for these NASA awards. Awards range from $150,000 to $1 million, with a total NASA investment of $2.7 million.

NASA has a long history of developing cutting-edge robotic systems for use in space exploration. NASA also partners with American businesses, universities and other federal agencies to transfer those technologies back into the nation’s industrial base, improving manufacturing capabilities and economic competitiveness.  Recently, tremendous advances in robotics technology have enabled a new generation of assistive systems and devices in industries as diverse as manufacturing, logistics, medicine, health care, military, agriculture, and consumer products.

As part of the National Robotics Initiative, NSF, NASA, the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have managed a joint solicitation, seeking to engage our next generation of roboticists for the new global technology economy. All participating federal agencies are working with partners to foster the exchange of ideas and technologies that will directly benefit American today and well into the future.

The purpose of the initiative is to encourage innovative collaborative research that combines computer and systems science with mechanical, electrical and materials engineering and social, behavioral and economic sciences. The resulting research will tackle the most important and challenging problems in producing this class of human-assisting co-robotics.

NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist and the Space Technology Program lead the agency’s participation in the National Robotics Initiative. NASA’s Space Technology Program is dedicated to innovating, developing, testing, and flying hardware for use in NASA’s future science and exploration missions. NASA’s technology investments provide cutting-edge solutions for our nation’s future.  For more information about NASA’s participation in the National Robotics Initiative, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/robotics

For more information about NASA, visit: http://www.nasa.gov

Source: NASA

SKA appoints new Director General for world’s largest telescope project

5th September 2012, Manchester UK – The SKA Organisation Board of Directors has announced the appointment of Professor Philip Diamond as Director General of the SKA Organisation.  Professor Diamond will provide overall leadership for the SKA Organisation, the international coordinating body for the SKA telescope. The SKA will be the largest and most sensitive radio telescope ever built; it will enable astronomers to glimpse the formation and evolution of the very first stars and galaxies after the Big Bang, investigate the nature of gravity, and possibly even discover life beyond Earth.

“The SKA telescope is now moving from technology concept to the final detailed design. I am humbled to have the opportunity to lead the SKA Organisation during this exciting time and to work with colleagues around the world to realise the science vision of the SKA.” said Professor Diamond, commenting on his appointment.

Professor Diamond (pictured) will lead the pre-construction phase of the SKA, with the goal of realising construction readiness by the end of 2015, and preparing for the construction phase to follow. He will develop and maintain strategic relationships with national agencies, partners, governments, industry and other private sector entities, along with all other project stakeholders.

Professor John Womersley, Chair of the board of the SKA Organisation welcomed Professor Diamond to the project. “I am confident that Phil’s experience, energy and vision will drive the project forward and, working with the international partners, enable us to design and deliver the largest science facility on Earth. The SKA Board welcomes Phil to the SKA Organisation and wishes him every success as the project enters this crucial detailed design phase.”

Professor Diamond has 30 years of experience in the field of radio astronomy and a long standing involvement in the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope project. Professor Diamond will move from his current position as Chief of CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science (CASS), Australia in October 2012 to lead the SKA Organisation from the new headquarters at Jodrell Bank near Manchester, UK.

Professor Diamond has worked as a professional astronomer in five countries (UK, Sweden, Germany, USA and Australia) and has been the Director of two leading radio astronomy organisations: Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics and CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science (CASS). In his current role, as Chief of CASS, Professor Diamond directs the operation of two major facilities: the Australia Telescope National Facility (ATNF: comprising Parkes Observatory, the Australia Telescope Compact Array and the Mopra telescope) and the Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex (CDSCC) at Tidbinbilla, part of NASA’s Deep Space Network. In addition, he is responsible for the team designing and constructing ASKAP, the Australian SKA Pathfinder, currently being built in Western Australia.

He first became involved in the SKA in 2000, shortly after his return to the UK from 12 years at the NRAO in the USA, when he organised one of the early meetings of the International SKA Steering Committee (ISSC). Since that time, he has been heavily involved in various SKA activities. He was one of the longest-serving members of the ISSC, which later became the SSEC, and chaired the committee in 2005/6.

Professor Diamond will succeed Dr Michiel van Haarlem, the interim Director General, who has been in the position since the establishment of the SKA Organisation as a UK company limited by guarantee in December 2011.

The Square Kilometre Array will be the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope. The total collecting area will be approximately one square kilometre giving 50 times the sensitivity, and 10 000 times the survey speed, of the best current-day telescopes. The SKA will be built in Southern Africa and in Australia. Thousands of receptors will extend to distances of up to 3 000 km from the central regions. The SKA will address fundamental unanswered questions about our Universe including how the first stars and galaxies formed after the big bang, how dark energy is accelerating the expansion of the Universe, the role of magnetism in the cosmos, the nature of gravity, and the search for life beyond Earth. The target construction cost is €1,500 million and construction of phase one of the SKA is scheduled to start in 2016. The SKA Organisation, with its headquarters in Manchester UK, was established in December 2011 as a not-for-profit company in order to formalise relationships between the international partners and centralise the leadership of the project.  More information at http://www.skatelescope.org/.

Source: SKA Organization

Project to Benefit 300,000 in the State of Tocantins, Brazil

26 July 2012 – Washington, DC – The World Bank Board of Directors has approved a US$300 million loan to the State of Tocantins, in northern Brazil. Aimed at fostering local and state development through improved transport and enhanced public service delivery, the Tocantins Integrated Sustainable Regional Development Project will directly benefit 300,000 people in 72 municipalities.

The State of Tocantins is home to 1.3 million people, including vulnerable populations – 13,000 indigenous people and 7,500 people in Quilombos, slave descendent communities.  It also enjoys unique environmental assets, including large preserved areas. Though the state economy has registered steadily higher growth rates, it is still ranked 16th among all Brazilian states in income per capita.

“Tocantins is a young and promising state, with a lot of opportunities to economically grow and become self-sustainable,” said José Wilson Siqueira Campos, governor of the State of Tocantins. “Improving the transport system is crucial to create new job opportunities, to improve producers’ access to a stronger national and international market and to facilitate public students’ access to schools. The implementation of management for results will make public administration more efficient and will bring further development to the state, offering a better quality of life for those who live here. ”

The State has consistently prioritized its modernization through successive four-year plans. Their aim has been to foster sustainable development and to improve quality of life for its citizens. Aligned with this long-term strategy, the state’s new four-year plan, PPA (2012-2015), seeks to strengthen competitiveness for economic growth while ensuring social inclusiveness and environmental sustainability.

“Boosting State integration will enable a faster flow of goods to national and international markets, while ensuring environmental sustainability and social inclusiveness,” said Deborah L. Wetzel, World Bank director for Brazil (pictured left). “Improving transport in an integrated fashion, from local to main trunk roads and multimodal transport corridors, will give better access to markets, while fostering accessibility to employment opportunities as well as bringing more education and services for the rural populations.”

Some of the Project’s objectives are:

  • Improved accessibility and transport conditions on municipal and state roads in an articulated fashion with state and national transport corridors.
  • Improved transport management.
  • Modernized state administration.
  • Local and regional development.
  • Improved environmental management.
  • Improved quality and relevance in the education system.

This Investment Loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) to the State of Tocantins is guaranteed by the Federative Republic of Brazil and has a final maturity of 24,5 years, with a five year grace period.

For more about the Tocantins Integrated Sustainable Regional Development Project, go to http://www.worldbank.org/projects/P121495/tocantins-integrated-sustainable-regional-development?lang=en.

The World Bank has provided financing for more than 11,000 projects in over 100 countries since 1947.  To learn more about past and current IBRD projects, visit http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/PROJECTS/0,,contentMDK:21790401~menuPK:5119395~pagePK:41367~piPK:51533~theSitePK:40941,00.html

The World Bank is a source of financial and technical assistance to developing countries around the world. It consists of two unique development institutions owned by 185 member countries—the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA). Each institution plays a different but supportive role in the World Bank’s mission of global poverty reduction and the improvement of living standards. The IBRD focuses on middle income and creditworthy poor countries, while IDA focuses on the poorest countries. Together they provide low-interest loans, interest-free credit and grants to developing countries for education, health, infrastructure, communications and many other purposes.

Established in 1944 as the original institution of the World Bank Group, IBRD is structured like a cooperative that is owned and operated for the benefit of its 185 member countries.  Established in 1960, the IDA aims to reduce poverty by providing interest-free credits and grants for programs that boost economic growth, reduce inequalities and improve people’s living conditions.  For more information, visit www.worldbank.org.

Source: World Bank

Malawi and Tanzania launch Songwe River Basin Development Programme

13 August 2012 – The preparatory phase of the Songwe River Basin Development Programme was launched at a meeting in Kyela, Tanzania.  The meeting was hosted by the African Water Facility (AWF), in collaboration with New Partnership for Africa’s Development – Infrastructure Project Preparation Facility (NEPAD-IPPF).  The event was attended by more than 150 people, including local and national government officials from both countries and representatives from the beneficiary communities.

The objective of the preparatory phase is to foster regional cooperation and assist the two countries in creating a long-term strategic framework, investment plans, and an enabling environment for basin-wide development based on joint management of the shared waters. The project is expected to benefit the entire population of both countries, representing about 60 million people.

AWF and NEPAD-IPPF have respectively provided €3.5 million and €1.2 million in grants to the governments of Malawi and Tanzania to finance the preparatory work.  The AWF and NEPAD-IPPF funding will be used for the preparation of a long-term shared vision and for the 10-year Songwe River Basin Development Programme. It will also support detailed designs and the preparation of infrastructure projects in the field of hydropower, irrigation, water supply and sanitation, amounting to about €400 million.

“The AWF congratulates Malawi and Tanzania for this joint initiative that promises to bring wide-reaching benefits on both sides of the border,” said Akissa Bahri, Coordinator of the African Water Facility. “When it comes to developing the socioeconomic potential of shared water resources to reach maximum benefits, regional cooperation is often the best and smartest option.”

The goal of the Songwe River Basin Development Programme is to improve the health and living conditions of the people of the Songwe Basin region, enhance their food and energy security, and boost the economic development of the two countries.  The Republic of Malawi is the Executing Agency on behalf of the two governments

For more information, go to http://www.afdb.org/en/news-and-events/tanzania/

The African Development Bank (AfDB) is a regional multilateral development finance institution established in 1964 to mobilize resources towards the economic and social progress of its Regional Member Countries (RMCs). It is headquartered in

Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire). Since beginning operation in 1966, the Bank has become a key player in promoting economic and social development in African states.  The African Development Fund established in 1972 and the Nigeria Trust Fund established in 1976, constitute with the AfDB as the flagship, the African Development Bank Group. For more information, visit www.adbg.org.

Source: African Development Bank