- Sanjiv Ahuja resigned as CEO of LightSquared on Tuesday. The controversial communications company had sought to develop a hybrid satellite-terrestrial network. Ahuja will remain as chairman of the board of the company.
- Xcor has announced delivery of the first flight-capable fuselage of its Lynx horizontal-takeoff suborbital spacecraft. The fuselage’s delivery to the factory, a major milestone in construction of the first vehicle, took place on 17 February. The engine truss, which will hold all the XR-5K18 liquid oxygen/kerosene rocket motor and its components, is nearing completion, and is scheduled for integration with the fuselage by April.
- Virgin Galactic hopes to perform the first rocket-powered test flight of its suborbital spaceliner by the end of 2012, with commercial operations perhaps beginning a year or two later. Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo has already performed 16 unpowered flight tests.
- The fight over NASA’s downsized Planetary Science budget has just begun.
- Blue Origin plans to conduct a pad-abort test in the summer of 2012, a crucial milestone in qualifying the company’s New Shepard vehicle for human spaceflight.
- Jeff Foust at The Space Review discusses “The critical year for commercial cargo and crew”
- The 2012 Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference (NSRC-2012) takes place from today, Monday to Wednesday (Feb. 27 to 29) at the Crowne Plaza Hotel and Resort in Palo Alto.
- The Max Plank Institute reports on the ultraluminous X-ray source (ULX) observed in Andromeda in late 2009 and early 2010.
- China successfully launched a satellite into space at 12:12 a.m. Beijing Time Saturday, the 11th one of its indigenous global navigation and positioning network known as Beidou, or Compass system.
- The Navy MUOS-1 satellite was launched aboard a 206-foot-tall United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The launch came at 3:17 PM Phoenix time.
- For evidence that winners have friends, look no further than Vega. As soon as Europe’s new small launcher made its spectacularly successful maiden flight, Italian space agency head Enrico Saggese received a call from German counterpart Johann-Dietrich Woerner who, along with his congratulations, expressed enthusiasm that his agency, DL, might join forces with Saggese’s ASI to develop the launcher further.
- Executives of Orbital Sciences Corporation confirmed this week delays in the first launches of its Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo spacecraft, pushing back the inaugural launch until at least June.
- Twenty-five years ago today, a star died. It is more exact to say the star died 165,000 years ago, but it was at 7:36 Universal Time on February 23, 1987, that evidence of the explosive death first reached Earth. Supernova 1987A was spotted in the Large Magellanic Cloud in 1987, reached 3rd magnitude and was the brightest to grace our skies in 383 years.
- GJ 1214b, first discovered in 2009, is now shown to be a steamy, water-rich sphere. But it’s not a water-world in the sense of splashing oceans and Kevin Costner: Scientists suspect that the planet’s interior is filled with some exotic, high-pressure form of solid H2O unlike anything seen on Earth.
- U.S. Representatives Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) and John A. Culberson (R-Texas) : Slashing NASA’s budget for exploring the solar system would be a serious mistake that would threaten our nation’s hard-won and long-held leadership role, and would come at a terrible time, now that China and other nations are rising to challenge American primacy in space.
- Marsquakes on the red planet and crustal stretching on the Moon show that planet Earth is not the only geologically active body in our Solar System.
- The French had a word for it: Entrepot: A Commercial Outpost: The Space Review says: “I am convinced that propellant delivery is the 21st century equivalent of the Kelly Air Mail Act of 1925, which closed the business case for startup airlines, and the Pacific Railway Act of 1862, which closed the business case for the Transcontinental Railroad.”
- Satellite firm Inmarsat (ISA.L) said on Monday that its partner LightSquared, a venture struggling to build a U.S. mobile broadband service with Inmarsat’s spectrum, had failed to pay a $56.25 million installment to the British company. The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday said it planned to revoke permission for LightSquared to build out its network after tests showed it would interfere with the Global Positioning System used by airlines, the military and others.
- Passing over southern Canada, the crew aboard the International Space Station captured the moon reflecting off the many rivers that snake across the land. Its light casts shadows onto components of the Station.
- A half century ago a Marine Corps test pilot climbed into his tiny Mercury capsule and thundered to orbit, where he spent just under five hours before safely returning to Earth. He exited his capsule and became an American legend. His name is John Herschel Glenn Jr.
- Hayabusa 2 is being ready to fly, and if everything goes right, it will blast off in 2014 to collect cosmic material from asteroid 1999 JU3. The original Hayabusa garnered worldwide attention after the near-miraculous completion of its mission.
- Light Squared is in deep doo doo: “LightSquared’s primary investor, Philip Falcone, is exploring possible lawsuits against the FCC and the GPS industry in the wake of the FCC’s rejection of the carrier’s plan for a 4G cellular network, sources familiar with the company’s planning confirmed on Friday.”
- NOAA’s fiscal year 2013 budget request calls for more than $2 billion for the agency’s weather and climate satellite programs to cover geostationary and polar-orbiting spacecraft, a space weather mission, and a joint U.S.-European ocean research observatory.
- Two cosmonauts worked outside the International Space Station for over six hours on Thursday, moving a crane and performing other tasks. Oleg Kononenko and Anton Shkaplerov spent six hours and 15 minutes outside the ISS in a spacewalk that ended at 3:46 pm EST (2046 GMT) Thursday. Their primary task was to move the Strela-1 crane from the Pirs airlock module to the nearby Poisk module on the Russian segment of the station. The move, originally planned for an EVA that took place last August, is part of work to replace the Pirs module with a multipurpose lab module next year.
- High upper-level winds kept an Atlas rocket carrying a Navy communications satellite grounded on Thursday. The Atlas 5 511 was set to lift off late Thursday from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying the MUOS-1 satellite. However, upper-level winds were above limits throughout the 44-minute launch window, forcing controllers to scrub the launch. The launch has been rescheduled for 5:42 pm EST (2242 GMT) Friday.
- Atlas V rocket launch scrubbed again. Third attempt expected next week.
- The International Space Station is in line for an artificial gravity inducing centrifuge for future research projects involving small biological and materials samples later this year, following a Feb. 14 hardware exchange between Astrium Space Transportation, the developer, and NanoRacks LLC, the equipment integrator. The commercial device, which will allow scientists from the private sector, academia and government to vary g-forces on experiment samples, should be launched and operating within the U.S. National Laboratory elements of the station’s Japanese Kibo science module by year’s end.
- Europe’s Mars Express resumed full science operations in early February, four months after scientists suspended research following persistent glitches in the probe’s solid-state mass memory unit, according to the craft’s mission manager.
- A Proton rocket successfully launched a European communications satellite on Wednesday after technical problems delayed two earlier launch attempts. The Proton M lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 12:36 PM Phoenix time Tuesday (1936 UTC) carrying the SES-4 satellite. The rocket’s Breeze M upper stage released the satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit a little over nine hours later. The satellite, a Space Systems/Loral 1300 model, weighed 6,180 kilograms at launch.
- From the Boston Globe: Science loses out to adventure Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s proposed cuts to NASA tilt in the wrong direction, preserving too much funding for a manned space program of questionable value even while slashing the agency’s more cost-effective robotic programs.
- NASA intends to cancel plans to join Europe on a Mars sampling mission that is considered important to learning if life appeared beyond Earth as the U.S. space agency balances out a virtually flat $17.7 billion budget for 2013.
- NASA’s portion of the proposed 2013 budget would include a 20 percent cut on planetary science missions, while including some funding boosts for space technology and human exploration.
- Europe’s new Vega rocket lifted off like a streak from its launch pad at the Guiana Space Center in Kourou during a flawless 13 February debut that carried nine satellites to orbit: the Lares laser relativity satellite, Italy’s Almasat-1 and seven cubesats developed by European universities.
- The new European Space Agency (ESA) Vega launcher passed its final hurdle on Saturday at Europe’s Spaceport, the Launch Readiness Review, and is ready for liftoff on Monday. This last review checks the final status of the entire launch system, including the vehicle and the ground infrastructure, following the full dress rehearsal of the countdown and launch of earlier this week. The first mission, designated VV01, is scheduled for liftoff during a two and a half hour launch window lasting between 1000–1230 UTC.
- SpaceX has delayed its next demonstration flight of its cargo-carrying Dragon spacecraft until late April to deal with software issues. Another conflict is with the Russian launch of Progress M-15M on 20 April.
- Orion teams are in the final stages of preparing for the first Generation II Parachute Test Vehicle (PTV2) airdrop at the end of this month. Following the failure of the last Capsule Parachute Assembly System (CPAS) test, the new system will be hoping for a successful outcome, when the vehicle is deployed out of the back of a C-17 aircraft over the US Army Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.
- The Obama Administration’s fiscal year 2013 budget proposal will include a 20-percent cut in NASA’s planetary science program, likely killing planned cooperation with Europe on Mars exploration. The Washington Post reported Thursday that the 2013 budget proposal, scheduled for release on Monday, will cut NASA’s planetary science program budget from $1.5 billion in 2012 to $1.2 billion in 2013, with additional cuts projected out to 2017.
- Engineers have fixed the glitch that caused a computer reset on the spacecraft carrying NASA’s Curiosity rover shortly after it launched toward Mars in November. The reset occurred on 29 November 2011, while the spacecraft was using its star scanner. NASA engineers determined that the glitch was caused by a previously unknown idiosyncrasy in the memory management unit of the spacecraft’s computer processor.
- Looking towards launch next week to begin dramatically improving the capacity for U.S. military mobile communications (MUOS 1), a new breed of satellite was hauled to the towering Atlas 5 rocket assembly building Monday for mounting atop the powerful booster.
- The second mission of the X-37B robot spaceplane is approaching the one-year mark on its mission. On March 5, it will celebrate this milestone, assuming that the spacecraft is still in orbit.
- NASASpaceFlight discusses the ripple effects due to the failure of the Russian Soyuz TMA-04 pressurized Descent Module and the additional testing required for the SpaceX Dragon software.
- NASA released Tuesday a call for a new round of funding to support the development of commercial crew transportation systems. Under the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) Initiative, NASA plans to award multiple funded Space Act Agreements (SAAs) to companies to support the continued development of crew transportation systems that NASA can later use to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
- Plans for the US and Europe to jointly carry out Mars missions is in danger of collapse because of a lack of NASA funding, the BBC reported Monday. The ExoMars program was to feature joint missions performed by NASA and ESA, including a US-launched European orbiter in 2016 and a joint NASA-ESA lander/rover mission in 2018. The BBC reported that NASA officials have alerted their European colleagues that NASA will likely withdraw from the program, most likely when the agency’s 2013 budget proposal is released next week, because of a lack of funding. NASA had already indicated to ESA it would not be able to launch the 2016 orbiter, forcing ESA to contact the Russian space agency Roscosmos about a potential Proton launch of the spacecraft.
- The Russian report on the failure of the Fobos-Grunt spacecraft has been released, and it appears that Fobos-Grunt was doomed before it launched on November 9, 2011. Cheap parts, design shortcomings, and lack of pre-flight testing ensured that the spacecraft would never fulfill its goals. Its troubles became apparent a few hours after its launch, when it failed to fire thrusters to take it out of Earth orbit and on its way to Mars and its moon Phobos. It fell back to Earth on January 15.
- China’s new generations of the Long March rockets, Long March-5, -6 and -7, are expected to make their maiden flights in the next five years. China is seeking to develop non-toxic, low-cost, highly reliable, adaptable and safe carrier rockets. The Long March-5 rocket will be using non-toxic and pollution-free propellant. It has a maximum low Earth-orbit payload capacity of 25 tonnes and geosynchronous orbit payload capacity of 14 tonnes. The Long March-6 is designed to be a high-speed response launch vehicle and has a minimum of 1 tonne of sun-synchronous orbit payload. The Long March-7 has a maximum low Earth-orbit payload capacity of 13.5 tonnes and 5.5 tonnes of sun-synchronous orbit payload.
- NASASpaceFlight discusses the Space Launch System (SLS – Senate Launch System) and the efforts to seek DoD and other payloads in addition to the stated goals that would yield “…a flight rate of just one mission per year in the 2020s – an unacceptably low flight rate in most people’s eyes.”
- Iran launched a small imaging satellite, the third satellite launched by the nation. A Safir-1 rocket lifted off from an Iranian base near Semnan, Iran, at shortly after 7 pm EST Thursday (0000 GMT Friday) and placed the Navid-e Elm-o Sanat satellite into low Earth orbit. The satellite, weighing 50 kilograms, is primarily designed to take images of the Earth
- Russia talks about returning to the Moon.
- The launch of the next crew to the ISS will be delayed from late March to mid May because of problems with a Soyuz spacecraft, NASA officials confirmed Wednesday. A Soyuz spacecraft had been scheduled to launch on March 30 carrying two Russians and one American, but that flight will be delayed to May 15.
- Rocket-powered flights of its SpaceShipTwo are on the books for summer.
- The launch of the Dragon spaceship to the International Space Station is targeted for late March, but will most likely lift off in early April
- A tentative date of 5 March 2012 has been set for the takeoff of the Proton-M launch vehicle with a U.S. Sirius FM-6 satellite from the Baikonur Space Center.
- Sierra Nevada Corp., recently delivered the primary structure of its first Dream Chaser flight test vehicle to the company’s facility in Louisville, Colorado, where it will be assembled and integrated with secondary systems. This is one of 12 milestones to be completed under SNC’s funded Space Act Agreement (SAA) with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP).
- NASA’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft successfully refined its flight path Wednesday with the mission’s first trajectory correction maneuver. The maneuver took place on Feb. 1. It is the first of a dozen planned rocket firings that, over the next five years, will keep Juno on course for its rendezvous with Jupiter.
- New Horizons’ flight to explore the Pluto system in July 2015 will be a historic accomplishment for the U.S. space program, for planetary science, and indeed for all humankind.