Posted by drdave on December 1, 2012
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.
- 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.
- 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.
Posted in Canadian Space Agency, China, Commercial Space, European Space Agency, International Space Station, Mars, Moon, NASA, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, Saturn | Tagged: Ariane 5, Arianespace, Asteroid, Asteroid 2011 AG5, Atlas V, Briz-M, Canadian Space Agency, Carbonaceous Chondrite, Chang'e 2, China, Comet C/2012 S1, Comet Hale-Bopp, Curiosity, Deep Space Climate Observatory, DSCOVR, EADS Astrium, Earth Departure Stage, Ebb, EDS, EELV, Energia, Eurostar E3000, Eutelsat 70B, Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, Falcon, Flow, French Guiana, GEOStar-3, Gokturk-2, Golden Spike Company, Goldschmidt Crater, GPS IIF-3, GRAIL, Grasshopper, Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, Hubble Space Telescope, International Space Station, ISON, ISS, J2-X, Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Khrunichev Space Center, Kourou, Landsat 5, Landsat 8, Landsat Data Continuity Mission, LDCM, Long March 2D, Mars, Mars Science Laboratory, Meteorite, Mexsat Bicentenario, NASA, NK-33-1, North Korea, Orbital Sciences, Orbital Test Vehicle 3, Organic Compounds, OTV-3, Pleiades 1B, Rassvet, Sally Ride, Sea launch, Sir Patrick Moore, Skynet 5D, SLS, Soyuz 2.1v, Soyuz ST-A, Soyuz TMA-07M, Soyuz-FG, Space Exploration Technologies, SpaceX, Sutter’s Mill Meteorite, Thales Alenia Space, Toutatis, UDF12, ULA, Ultra Deep Field 2012, Unha-3, United Launch Alliance, United States Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, X-37B, Yamal-402, Zenit-3SL | Leave a Comment »
Posted by drdave on March 4, 2012
- China opened their 2012 commercial launch manifest with the lofting of the Apstar-7 into orbit. The launch took place at 10:27 UTC from the LC2 launch platform at the from the Xichang satellite Launch Center, using a Long March 3B/ (Chang Zheng-3B/E) launch vehicle.
- Technicians will load more than 1,000 pounds of food and clothing into SpaceX’s Dragon capsule next month for delivery to the International Space Station on the commercial craft’s first flight to the outpost. The cargo is comprised of mostly low-value items such as food, water, and clothing to supplement supplies delivered this week aboard Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle.
- After 45 years in service Russia’s Proton-K rocket has made its 311th and final launch Friday morning, on a mission to deploy an OKO early warning satellite for the Russian Aerospace Defense Forces with the aid of a Blok DM-2 upper stage. Launch was on schedule at 05:49 UTC (11:49 local time), from Area 81/24 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
- The launch of a classified satellite on a Delta 4 has been postponed to at least Monday to complete analysis of an upper-stage engine issue. The Delta 4 Medium-Plus (5,2) was originally scheduled to launch Thursday from Vandenberg Air Force Base on mission NROL-25.
- Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), the builder of the Falcon family of rockets and Dragon spacecraft, has announced the creation of a safety advisory panel for commercial, crewed space flight. SpaceX is one of the private companies that are working to return U.S. astronauts to orbit. SpaceX is developing its Dragon spacecraft to be used to ferry crews to the International Space Station (ISS).
- A Russian satellite operator has ordered two communications satellites from Astrium, including one that will replace a satellite deorbited over the weekend. Astrium will build the Express-AM4R and Express-AM7 satellites for Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC), with the satellites planned for launch in 2014.
- After a busy 2011, the nation’s spy satellite agency will begin another spurt of launches that kicks off Thursday with a Delta 4 rocket carrying top-secret cargo from Vandenberg Air Force Base. Liftoff is planned for 3:30 p.m. from Space Launch Complex-6 on South Base.
- On Sunday, controllers deorbited a Russian communications satellite that was launched into the wrong orbit last year despite a last-minute bid to salvage the spacecraft. Polar Broadband Systems, sought to keep the satellite in orbit, moving it into an elliptical, inclined orbit to provide broadband communications services for Antarctica. However, Russian officials elected to proceed with the spacecraft’s deorbiting, and the spacecraft reentered over the North Pacific on Sunday.
- A chemical analysis of lunar rocks may force scientists to revise the leading theory for the Moon’s formation: that the satellite was born when a Mars-sized body smacked into the infant Earth some 4.5 billion years ago.
- Universe Today has a long report about experiments with Canada’s Dextre robot (highlight) and NASA’s Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) aboard the ISS in March 2012. Four more upcoming RRM experiments tentatively set for this year will demonstrate the ability of a remote-controlled robot to remove barriers and refuel empty satellite gas tanks in space thereby saving expensive hardware from prematurely joining the orbital junkyard.
- International Launch Services (ILS) have launched their second Proton-M rocket of the year on Sunday. Lift off was on schedule at 12:10 GMT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, with the Proton’s Briz-M Upper Stage tasked with deploying the Intelsat 22 telecommunications satellite into a 65,000 km super-synchronous transfer orbit for the first time under ILS.
- NASASpaceFlight reviews a possible mission to Near Earth Object 1999AO10, requiring a launch date of January 2, 2026. The NEO 1999AO10 deep space mission would last 155 days, around half of the mission length for the other candidate mentioned – 304 days – for NEO 2001 GP2.
- The crew of the International Space Station sheltered in their Soyuz capsules for a short time early Saturday as a precaution when a piece of orbital debris from a satellite collision passed close to the station. Station controllers awakened the six ISS crewmembers at about 11:30 pm EDT Friday (0330 UTC Saturday) after data indicated a piece of debris would pass close to the ISS.
- The Edoardo Amaldi, the third ATV from the European Space Agency, successfully lifted off from Kourou , and is on its way to the ISS.
- Aviation Week talks about European Space Agency Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain and his meeting with his Chinese counterpart March 22-23 to discuss future cooperation in manned spaceflight, including the potential for a Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station (ISS).
- ESA’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle, Edoardo Amaldi, is ready for launch to the International Space Station. Liftoff is 0434 UTC.
- MESSENGER completed its one-year primary mission on March 17. Since moving into orbit about Mercury a little over one year ago, the spacecraft has captured nearly 100,000 images and returned data that have revealed new information about the planet, including its topography, the structure of its core, and areas of permanent shadow at the poles that host the mysterious polar deposits.
- Space tourism company Virgin Galactic announced this week it has signed up a famous actor as its 500th customer for its suborbital spaceflights. Virgin said Monday that Ashton Kutcher is the customer number 500 for its upcoming SpaceShipTwo flights to space.
- The Ariane 5 launch of Europe’s no. 3 Automated Transfer Vehicle was given the green light today for a March 23 liftoff from the Spaceport in French Guiana on a servicing mission to the International Space Station.
- Bad weather has prompted NASA to reschedule the launch of five rockets from its Wallops Facility in Virginia. The rockets are part of a study of the upper-level jet stream. The launch had been set for Wednesday morning but has now been pushed back to early Thursday.
- Following the safe arrival of the MetOp-B weather satellite in Kazakhstan, the sophisticated craft is now being carefully assembled and tested before launch on 23 May. MetOp-B will provide essential data for weather forecasting and climate monitoring.
- The latest documentation relating to the efforts to create an Exploration Roadmap for NASA’s future has provided the strongest indication to date that the Agency wants to return US astronauts to the surface of the Moon. Listed as a Lunar Surface Sortie (LSS) mission, the Exploration Systems Development Division (ESD) revealed their plans via their latest Concept Of Operations (Con Ops) document.
- With Space Shuttle orbiter Discovery buttoned up in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) ahead of her flight to her retirement home, and with Enterprise ready to make way for Discovery and head to her new display site, the Shuttle team at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is focused on finishing Transition and Retirement (T&R) work for Atlantis and Endeavour.
- European Space Agency (ESA) officials decided this week to continue their plans for a pair of ambitious Mars missions later this decade even after the US decided it would no longer cooperate on the missions. ESA members decided Thursday to pursue the ExoMars program, which calls for the 2016 launch of an orbiter and the 2018 launch of a lander and rover.
- As astronomy satellite that had been slated for launch this month will remain on the ground for up to two more months to correct a software problem, the space agency announced Friday. The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) spacecraft was slated to launch later this month on a air-launched Pegasus XL rocket from the Reagan Test Site (RTS) at Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.
- Aviation Week notes that “An Astrium-built Russian satellite stranded in a useless orbit by a Proton launch mishap last summer may be salvaged to provide broadband satellite links to scientists working in Antarctica.”
- The ruling council of the European Space Agency (ESA) on March 15 agreed to continue funding a Mars telecommunications orbiter and atmospheric gas analyzer mission for launch in 2016, which along with an entry, descent and landing module will be launched on a Russian Proton rocket donated by the Russian space agency, an ESA official said March 15.
- United Technologies Corp. (UTC) of Hartford, Conn., said March 15 it intends to sell its rocket-propulsion business, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. UTC said selling Rocketdyne will help finance its acquisition of aerospace systems and services vendor Goodrich Corp., Charlotte, N.C. Goodrich shareholders approved the takeover March 13.
- Elon Musk: “I would definitely like to go to Mars. I think it would be cool to be born on Earth and die on Mars,” he said as the night wrapped. “Hopefully, not at the point of impact.”
- Some astronauts who have spent extended time in space have suffered optical abnormalities that could affect their eyesight, scientists reported this week. In a paper published in the journal Radiology, researchers said a third of astronauts who spent time on long-duration missions to the ISS experienced symptoms such as flattening of the eyeball and bulging of the optic nerve that can affect eyesight. The cause of these symptoms isn’t clear but is thought to be linked to exposure to weightlessness.
- There have been heated arguments at Satellite 2012 conference concerning the decision to buy United Launch Alliance (ULA) rockets through 2020 in a block buy. ULA likes it, and SpaceX does not.
- FAA Issues Draft Environmental Assessment for SpaceShipTwo Powered Flights in Mojave
- Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne tested its launch abort engine it is developing for a spacecraft to take humans to the International Space Station. The engine is designed to push the seven-person Crew Space Transportation-100 to safety in the event that an abort is necessary. The CST-100 is being built by Boeing for NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program.
- SpaceX hopes to be ready to launch an unmanned Dragon capsule from Cape Canaveral on April 30, putting it on course to berth at the International Space Station three days later, according to tweets from the Satellite 2012 conference in DC. A NASA spokesman said an official target launch date would not be set until the conclusion of a flight-readiness review now planned for April 12.
- The Orion Program is continuing to push forward at a lively pace, as the first MPCV (Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle) set to launch into space heads into the final pathfinder welds, ahead of closeout work. While work continues on the Exploration Flight Test -1 (EFT-1) Orion, the critical parachute system is set for another drop test in April, following its recent success at the end of February.
- Commercial launch providers Arianespace and Sea Launch announced a total of three new launch contracts on Monday. Arianespace announced it won a contract from Eutelsat and Es’hailSat, the Qatar Satellite Company, to launch the Eutelsat 25B/Es’hail 1 satellite on an Ariane 5. The satellite, weighing over six tons, is being built by Space Systems/Loral and is scheduled for launch in the second quarter of 2013. Sea Launch announced it had secured a contract for another Eutelsat satellite, Eutelsat 70B.
- Canada’s Dextre robotic space helper, working with NASA’s Robotic Refuelling Mission (RRM) experiment, have together completed a record breaking week of robotics operations on the International Space Station (ISS), a week which saw the first ever attempt at satellite servicing tasks successfully performed in space.
- “Given current funding levels,” Mr. Bolden said in written testimony, “we anticipate the need to purchase [Russian] crew transportation and rescue capabilities into 2017.” The commercial U.S. space taxis were originally envisioned to be in service by early 2016.
- SpaceX and NASA are in advanced discussions for the private space firm to use Kennedy Space Center’s pad 39A, one of the spaceport’s Apollo and space shuttle launch sites, as the Florida base for its Falcon Heavy rocket, officials said.
- In a week that has seen the strong class X solar flares, the sunspot region AR1429 unleashed two class M flares yesterday at 0527 UTC and 1744 UTC, according to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
- NASA has not yet asked the Russian Federal Space Agency to sign a contract to use Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ferry U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) from 2016 to 2017, Roscosmos manned flight programs director Alexei Krasnov told Interfax-AVN on Sunday. “The contract signed by us is valid through 2015. But this contract has not been prolonged for 2016-2017, and negotiations on prolonging it are not being held at the moment. Should NASA need to use our Soyuz [spacecraft] to deliver its astronauts over this period of time, I think they will notify us of it, will come up with such an initiative,” Krasnov said.
- Iron-rich fragments from an ancient impact could explain puzzling magnetic fields measured in various places on the moon. The magnetic anomalies are perplexing because unlike metallic minerals deposited by an asteroid, normal lunar rocks cannot record a magnetic field.
- Need a Job? They’re Hiring in Mojave(Doug Messier). There are several hundred open positions in Mojave as companies such as the Spaceship Company, XCOR and Scaled Composites begin to ramp up operations. “It’s ironic that we’re having a recruitment problem in Mojave,” said Stu Witt, CEO and general manager of the Mojave Air and Space Port. He added that this is a good problem to have.
- ESA’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle, scheduled for launch on an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on 23 March at 04:31 UTC, is planned to dock with the International Space Station five days later. The precise time of docking automatically dock with the Station’s Russian Zvezda module will be known after launch.
- The head of NASA visited Capitol Hill on Wednesday, making separate appearances in House and Senate hearings to support the agency’s 2013 budget request. Charles Bolden appeared before hearings of the Senate Commerce Committee and House Science Committee, fielding questions about the $17.7-billion budget proposed for the space agency in the next fiscal year. Much of the debate at the hearings was about the request for nearly $830 million for NASA’s commercial crew program, a sharp increase from the $406 million the program received in 2012 but similar to the original budget request that year. Bolden said the funding was needed to keep the effort on track to start providing service no later than 2017.
- China’s Shenzhou 9 mission to dock with the Tiangong space station has been surrounded by controversy and confusion, including uncertainty over unmanned or manned, and continuing slippage of the launch date for this complex mission.
- NASA models using data from the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) and the Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) have now provided more information about the two Coronal Mass Ejections (CME) associated with the two March 6 flares. The first is traveling faster than 1300 miles per second; the second more than 1100 miles per second. NASA’s models predict that the CMEs will impact both Earth and Mars, as well as pass by several NASA spacecraft – Messenger, Spitzer, and STEREO-B. The models also predict that the leading edge of the first CME will reach Earth at about 1:25 AM EST on the morning of March 8 (plus or minus 7 hours).
- Neil deGrasse Tyson gets raked over the coals at the Atlantic for his take on NASA, its budget and its mission. Yikes.
- A dust devil on Mars was captured by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
- Metop-B, the European operational polar orbiting weather satellite designed and manufactured by Astrium, recently left the clean room at the European space industry leader’s site in Toulouse. Metop-B was prepared for shipping to the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, where a Soyuz launcher will place it in orbit with Starsem. The target launch date is 23 May 2012.
- NASA has successfully conducted another drop test of the Orion crew vehicle’s entry, descent and landing parachutes high above the Arizona desert in preparation for the vehicle’s orbital flight test in 2014.
- Dish Network Corp.’s hopes to start building a new wireless network have been dealt a setback by the Federal Communications Commission, which denied the satellite-TV provider’s request for a needed waiver and opted instead for a formal deliberation that will take until the end of the year.
- A Department of Defense official urged his colleagues in 2010 to “synch up” with the GPS industry in order to defeat LightSquared’s plans to build the nation’s first wholesale broadband network.
- The European Space Agency announced Friday that it has delayed the upcoming launch of an ISS cargo spacecraft in order to perform additional checks on the vehicle’s contents. The ATV-3 spacecraft, also called Edoardo Amaldi, was scheduled to launch March 9 on an Ariane 5 from Kourou, French Guiana. The delay is expected to be about two weeks.
- An upgraded Long March-2F carrier rocket has completed assembling and is ready for China’s first manned space docking due between June and August this year
- A SpaceX rocket scheduled to launch a cargo demonstration mission to the ISS this spring successfully completed a dress rehearsal of its launch on Thursday. SpaceX performed the “wet dress rehearsal” of its upcoming Falcon 9 launch on Thursday, rolling the rocket and its Dragon spacecraft to the pad at Cape Canaveral, fueling it, and performing a countdown all the way to the T-5 mark. SpaceX officials said the practice countdown went well.
- Technicians at Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California are placing the two halves of the rocket nose cone, or fairing, around NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), in preparation for its launch. The launch is scheduled for no earlier than March 21.
- NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has “sniffed” molecular oxygen ions around Saturn’s icy moon Dione for the first time, confirming the presence of a very tenuous atmosphere. The oxygen ions are quite sparse – one for every 0.67 cubic inches of space (one for every 11 cubic centimeters of space) or about 2,550 per cubic foot (90,000 per cubic meter) – show that Dione has an extremely thin neutral atmosphere.
- Astronomers have spotted young stars in the Orion nebula changing right before their eyes, thanks to the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. The colorful specks — developing stars strung across the image — are rapidly heating up and cooling down, speaking to the turbulent, rough-and-tumble process of reaching full stellar adulthood.
- Researchers at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC) at Stanford University estimate that “nomad” planets, ejected from their home stellar system and now free-floating through the Milky Way, could outnumber stars by as many as 100,000 to 1.
- The planned March 6 launch of the SiriusXM FM-6 digital radio satellite aboard an International Launch Services (ILS) Proton rocket has been scrapped following concerns of a solar-array defect aboard the Space Systems/Loral-built satellite.
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