Happy New Year
- The space Review discusses issues for 2013 including problems associated with sequestration due to the upcoming “Fiscal Bunny Slope”.
- “Engine Out” – Failures and other problems.
- Russia is expected to spend 2.1 trillion rubles—about $70 billion—on the development of its national space industry in the next eight years, according to a statement last week by Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, which was quoted by Space Daily and RIA Novosti. He revealed that the plan is designed to satisfy three fundamental aims: ensuring that Russia maintains its position as a leading global space power, supporting its defense capability, and boosting its overall economic and social development. “The program will enable our country to effectively participate in forward-looking projects,” said Medvedev, “such as the ISS, the study of the Moon, Mars, and other celestial bodies in the Solar System.”
- Ikaros, a Japanese probe launched in 2010, has been recognized by Guinness World Records as the first interplanetary solar sail spacecraft.
- Only in America can the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology of the House of Representatives be the same congressman from Georgia who was caught on tape last summer during an “off-the-record” campaign appearance at a Baptist church saying, “All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell.” Read more.
- The new Japanese asteroid mission, called Hayabusa2, is scheduled for launch in 2014 and aimed at the asteroid 1999 JU3, a large space rock about 3,018 feet (920 meters) in length. It is due to arrive at the asteroid in mid-2018, loiter at the space rock and carry out a slew of challenging firsts before departing the scene at the end of 2019.
- South Korea has retrieved what appears to be part of the engine from North Korea’s long-range rocket launched earlier this month, a finding that could provide clues to the communist nation’s rocket technologies, a military source said Friday.
- At the top of the Curiosity rover’s to-do list next year is the first use of its rock-boring drill, allowing scientists to examine samples from inside Martian rocks with the robot’s instrument suite. The drill is designed to hammer into rocks and collect material for analysis by the rover’s chemical and mineral sensors. For the drill’s first use, the Curiosity team is looking for a rock in a shallow pit named Yellowknife Bay.
- The first launch of a new Russian light class carrier rocket has been scheduled for the beginning of 2013. The Soyuz-2.1V features a powerful NK-33-1 engine and will be able to deliver a payload of up to 2.8 tons into low Earth orbit.
- Russian space rocket corporation Energia has completed the technical design of a new manned spacecraft whose flight tests are due to begin in 2017. The new spaceship will be able to fly not only to the International Space Station (ISS) but also to the Moon.
- With most of its ground control team taking time off this week, Curiosity was loaded up with operating instructions for 11 days while at “Grandmother’s House”.
- Doomsayers disappointed by 2012’s non-apocalypse will get a sop in 2013 in the form of a rare supercomet. Once widely seen as a portent of doom, comets are seldom as spectacular as the new arrival, known as C/2012 S1 (ISON), may be. At its peak it may outshine the moon, even by day.
First spotted in September, ISON is rushing towards the sun from the outer solar system. Its closest approach to the sun will be in November, when Timothy Spahr of the Minor Planet Center at Harvard University expects it to put on as good a show as Hale-Bopp did in 1997.
- SpaceX’s ambitions of creating a full reusable launch vehicle have taken another step forward via the third – and most ambitious to date – test of their Grasshopper test vehicle. The 40 meter leap into the skies at their test facility in Texas – followed by a stable hover and smooth landing – was conducted without a hitch.
- Five years ago, the idea of easing export controls on commercial satellites was politically unthinkable. That mindset has changed during the last half decade, as the idea that those restrictions are harming both national security and the U.S. industry base has gradually gained traction. And during a year in which the U.S. Congress barely passed even routine bills, lawmakers came together to shed long-standing restrictions on the export of commercial satellites.
- This is a bit of cheery news a day after the nonsensical “Mayan Apocalypse of 2012” — the potentially hazardous asteroid 2011 AG5 will not (I repeat, will not) threaten Earth in the year 2040.
- John Kelly, At Florida Today, weighs in on the policy drift at NASA: “This week, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden appeared before yet another human space flight review committee (this is the second such panel convened over the past four years). He gave a less-than-enthusiastic endorsement of Obama’s targeted mission to an asteroid. He didn’t say NASA ought not do it, but he loaded up on caveats and qualifiers.” Kelly then goes on about what purpose might be visualized for the NASA super rocket (SLS), since it will not be capable of launching a mission to an asteroid by the time the asteroid mission is currently scheduled.
- The US Geological Survey (USGS) announced Friday that it plans to decommission the aging Landsat 5 spacecraft in the coming months as Landsat 8 is prepared for launch. Landsat 5 launched in 1984 with a planned design life of three years, but has continued operations after the loss of Landsat 6 in a launch failure in 1993 and technical problems with Landsat 7, launched in 1999. Landsat 8, (Landsat Data Continuity Mission), is scheduled for launch in February andrecently arrived at its launch site, Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, from the Orbital Sciences Corporation facility in Arizona where it was assembled.
- A meteorite that fell where California’s gold rush began has triggered a similar gold rush for scientists: to study one of the freshest, most unusual space rocks around. The Sutter’s Mill meteorite turns out to be a rare, carbon-rich type known as a carbonaceous chondrite. Its insides are a jumble of different primitive space materials mashed together in a single rock.
- A Soyuz capsule packed with three astronauts has successfully docked with the International Space Station, taking the size of the full crew at the orbiting laboratory to six. American Tom Marshburn, Russian Roman Romanenko and Canadian Chris Hadfield traveled two days in the capsule before linking up with the space station’s Russian Rassvet research module.
- The U.S. military is committing to average at least seven rocket purchases a year from United Launch Alliance for five years, a cost-saving move by the government that’s worth billions to the Centennial-based company in Colorado.
- SpaceShipTwo completed its first glide test with the rocket motor and tanks installed. The flight was the 23rd in a series of unpowered tests and took place on 19 December. Last Friday, 15 December, SpaceShipTwo completed a test in this configuration, but remained attached to its mother ship, WhiteKnightTwo.
- An Ariane 5 rocket launched communication satellites for the British military and for a Mexican government agency on Wednesday evening. The Ariane 5 ECA lifted off from the spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana, at 4:49 pm EST (2149 GMT) and placed the Skynet 5D and Mexsat Bicentenario spacecraft into geosynchronous transfer orbit about a half-hour later. Skynet 5D is an EADS Astrium Eurostar E3000 model spacecraft, weighing 4,800 kilograms at launch. Astrium Services will operate the spacecraft at 53 degrees east in GEO to provide communications services for the British Ministry of Defence and allies. Mexsat Bicentenario is an Orbital Sciences GEOStar-3 model spacecraft, weighing approximately 3,000 kilograms at launch. It will be operated by the Mexican Secretariat of Communications and Transport to provide C- and Ku-band communications services from 114.9 degrees west in GEO. The launch was the seventh and final Ariane 5 mission of the year, and the last scheduled orbital launch worldwide in 2012.
- A Russian Soyuz FG rocket successfully launched the Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft carrying three astronauts to the International Space Station. Roman Romanenko from Roscosmos, NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn and the Canadian Space Agency’s Chris Hadfield lifted off at 5:12 AM Phoenix time (1212 UTC)
- A Chinese Long March rocket successfully launched a Turkish remote sensing satellite on Wednesday. The Long March 2D rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 9:13 AM Phoenix time Tuesday (1613 UTC Tuesday, 12:13 am Beijing time Wednesday) and placed the Gokturk-2 satellite into a sun-synchronous orbit.
- NASA’s twin GRAIL spacecraft crashed into a mountain on the Moon Monday afternoon, completing their nearly year-long mission there as planned. The two spacecraft, dubbed “Ebb” and “Flow”, crashed into a mountain near the crater Goldschmidt in the Moon’s north polar regions. Ebb crashed into the mountain at 5:28:51 pm EST (2228:51 GMT) and Flow crashed nearby 30 seconds later. NASA announced the impact sites would be named after Sally Ride, the first American woman in space who passed away earlier this year; she led the development of cameras on the spacecraft used exclusively for educational purposes.
- Jeff Foust at the Space Review, discusses at length the role NASA should play in the exploration of space.
- South Korean authorities on Friday moved to analyse the debris of a North Korean long-range rocket, launched earlier this week in defiance of repeated international warnings.
- The Union of Concerned Scientists discusses the North Korean satellite, its functional parts and its current orbit. Apparently, based on American observations, the satellite achieved a circular around 500 kilometers above the Earth, but the satellite is tumbling, and not under North Korean control.
- The Chinese spacecraft Chang’E 2 has captured stunning images of the asteroid Toutatis as it tumbled past the Earth on 13 December 2012.
- Thales Alenia Space (Cannes, France), the manufacturer of the Yamal-402 satellite for Gazprom Space Systems, has carried out the fourth and the final maneuver to place the satellite into a planned geostationary orbit. Thales Alenia Space earlier devised a plan for transferring the satellite from a geostationary transfer orbit to the planned geostationary orbit by firing the satellite’s apogee kick motor four times instead of the previously planned three firings. The orbit placement sequence had to be adjusted after the Briz-M upper stage manufactured by the Khrunichev Space Center failed to place the satellite into the planned orbit. During the fourth firing, its sustainer engine stopped 4 minutes earlier than was planned.
- The powerpack assembly for the Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR) J-2X engine has completed its year of testing at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The engine is set to provide the Earth Departure Stage (EDS) role for astronauts and hardware heading to destinations in deep space, should NASA opt to evolve SLS to the Block II configuration.
- Ebb and Flow, the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission probes, are being sent purposely into the lunar surface because their low orbit and low fuel levels preclude further scientific operations. The twin lunar-orbiting NASA spacecraft that have allowed scientists to learn more about the internal structure and composition of the moon are being prepared for their controlled descent and impact on a mountain near the moon’s north pole at about 2:28 p.m. PST (5:28 p.m. EST) Monday, Dec. 17.
- Astronomers have found a population of galaxies more than 13 billion years old in a new “deep field” image set from the Hubble Space Telescope. The galaxies, found in Hubble’s Ultra Deep Field 2012 (UDF12) near-infrared images, date back to between 350 and 600 million years after the Big Bang.
- Scientists with NASA’s Cassini mission have spotted what appears to be a miniature, extraterrestrial likeness of Earth’s Nile River: a river valley on Saturn’s moon Titan that stretches more than 200 miles (400 kilometers) from its “headwaters” to a large sea.
- An Atlas V successfully launched on Tuesday a classified military spaceplane. The Atlas 5 501 lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 1:03 pm EST (1803 GMT) carrying an X-37B on the Orbital Test Vehicle 3 (OTV-3) mission. The launch, which took place despite forecasts that called for only a 30 percent chance of acceptable weather at launch time, was declared a success by the Air Force, although it released few other details about the mission.
- North Korea launched a rocket early Wednesday that appeared to place a small satellite into orbit, a move that took many by surprise. The Unha-3 rocket lifted off from its North Korean launch site at approximately 5:50 PM Phoenix time Tuesday (0050 UTC). Official government media announced that the launch was a success, and NORAD reported it was tracking what appeared to be the rocket’s satellite and upper stage in orbit.
- Aviation Week: Launch market upstart Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) won the first two competitions out for bid under the Air Force’s new Orbital/Suborbital Program-3 (OSP-3) contract last week. These are the first Air Force-funded opportunities for would-be competitors to ULA to earn government money to prove out their young designs and march forward on the path to certification for launches in the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) class, which is used for the most valuable Pentagon and intelligence satellites.
- NASA announced Monday the selection of three companies to conduct activities under contracts that will enable future certification of commercial spacecraft as safe to carry humans to the International Space Station. Advances made by Boeing, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX during the first contract phase known as the certification products contracts (CPC) will begin the process of ensuring integrated crew transportation systems will meet agency safety requirements and standards to launch American astronauts to the International Space Station from the United States, ending the agency’s reliance on Russia for these transportation services. The second phase of certification will result in a separately competed contract.
- Yamal-402 satellite launched from Baikonur on Saturday was not placed in the planned orbit. When the propulsion engine of Briz-M upper stage was fired for the fourth time, it operated for a shorter time than it was supposed to. Hence, the satellite was not placed in the required orbit.
- There’s a new and deep rift in the fabric of astronomy worldwide, as news spreads of the death of Sir Patrick Moore today.
- The United Launch Alliance (ULA) are clear to resume launches of their Atlas V rocket, after a review into an anomaly with their Delta IV Upper Stage, during the launch of the GPS IIF-3 satellite, reached a key stage. The green light allows for launches of the Atlas V – which shares commonality via the RL-10 engine on its Centaur Upper Stage – to resume, starting with the next X-37B mission on December 11.
- The Washington Post: “It had to happen: A start-up company is offering rides to the moon. Book your seat now — though it’s going to set you back $750 million (it’s unclear if that includes baggage fees). Led by heavy-hitter former NASA executives, the Golden Spike Co. would boldly go where humankind went 40 years ago, this time commercially, hawking tickets to foreign governments or space tourists.”
- Aviation Week: “NASA’s 2011 strategic plan is no longer viable, according to the Space Foundation’s report, which takes a long, hard look at NASA’s role more than five decades after its creation. Principal author G. Ryan Faith notes that the 2011 plan doesn’t even mention the word “space” in its vision and mission statements. It is time, the Foundation says, to find a job for NASA and stick to it. And the job for a “healthy national civil space enterprise,” the report says, is pioneering.”
- NASA announced Tuesday it plans to develop a Mars rover based on the Mars Science Laboratory mission for launch in 2020. The rover wil take advantage of spare parts built for the original MSL rover, Curiosity, including a backup RTG power source. A science definition team will select a new suite of instruments for the rover, as well as decide whether the rover should have the ability to collect and cache samples for later return to Earth on a future mission. NASA estimates the rover misson will cost $1.5 billion and will fit within the reduced funding profile for NASA’s Mars program in its 2013 budget request. NASA said it will also extend the lives of current Mars missions, including Curiosity.
- The United States Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center has awarded SpaceX two Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV)-class missions: DSCOVR (Deep Space Climate Observatory) and STP-2 (Space Test Program 2). To be launched on SpaceX’s Falcon launch vehicles in 2014 and 2015 respectively, the awards mark the first EELV-class missions awarded to the company to date.
- NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has detected evidence for simple organic compounds in a Martian soil sample, but scientists cautioned Monday they do not know yet if those compounds are of Martian or terrestrial origin.
- A Zenit-3SL rocket successfully placed a communications satelite into orbit for Eutelsat on Monday. The Zenit-3SL, operated by Sea Launch, lifted off from its floating launch platform on the Equator in the Pacific Ocean at 3:44 pm EST (2044 GMT), and released the Eutelsat-70B satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit 66 minutes later. The satellite, built by EADS Astrium, weighed 5,210 kilograms at launch, and carries a payload of 48 Ku-band transponders.
- NASA’s first Atlas 5 rocket on the West Coast underwent a practice launch day and fueling exercise Tuesday at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The United Launch Alliance booster is scheduled for blastoff in February carrying a remote sensing spacecraft known as the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, or LDCM.
- The team of scientists operating NASA’s Curiosity rover has found organic materials on Mars — but isn’t sure whether the carbon-containing compounds are indigenous to the planet.
- Arianespace launched their Soyuz ST-A rocket from the European Spaceport “Centre Spatial Guyanais (CSG)” in Kourou, French Guiana on Sunday morning, tasking the veteran launch with lofting the Pleiades 1B satellite into a Sun synchronous orbit. Following its 02:02 GMT lift-off, the satellite was successfully deployed 55 minutes later. This was the second launch attempt, following Saturday morning’s scrub.
- An anomaly occurred during the final chronology for Flight VS04 – Pléiades 1B, thus halting the count-down. A new launch attempt is slated on the night of Saturday 1st to Sunday 2nd of December.