- NASA and ESA formally announced Wednesday that Europe will develop a service module for at least one Orion mission based on the ATV cargo spacecraft. The service module for the EM-1 Orion mission, an uncrewed launch on the first Space Launch System (SLS) launch planned for 2017, will be built by Europe. The module will be based on the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) cargo spacecraft Europe currently provides for taking cargo to the ISS, and this service module will take the place of ATV missions later this decade.
- The U.S. Air Force has delayed the launch date of its next Boeing Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) satellite owing to additional work needed to mitigate possible risk discovered in the last Delta IV rocket launch, during which the RL10B-2 upper stage engine malfunctioned.
- NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is set to test its drill in the coming days on a rock that scientists believe may provide new information on the existence of water on the planet in its past. Scientists have selected a rock dubbed “John Klein”, after the late deputy project manager for the mission, as the likely first target for the rover’s drill.
- A massive wildfire swept through a major Australian astronomical observatory on Sunday, damaging some buildings but apparently sparing key telescopes there. The fast-moving fire hit the Siding Spring Observatory Sunday, part of a complex of fires in New South Wales, Australia that have broken out in extreme heat there. Authorities reported Monday that several buildings at the observatory, including lodges used by visiting astronomers and the visitors center, were destroyed. However, major telescopes there, including the 4-meter Anglo-Australian Telescope, appeared to have survived in good condition, although some instruments and equipment may be damaged.
- NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity is driving toward a flat rock with pale veins that may hold clues to a wet history on the Red Planet. If the rock meets rover engineers’ approval when Curiosity rolls up to it in coming days, it will become the first to be drilled for a sample during the Mars Science Laboratory mission.
- On Jan. 13, 2013, at 2:24 a.m. EST, the sun erupted with an Earth-directed coronal mass ejection or CME. Not to be confused with a solar flare, a CME is a solar phenomenon that can send solar particles into space and reach Earth one to three days later.
- NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and Bigelow Aerospace Founder and President Robert Bigelow will discuss the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module program to the media on Wednesday, January 16, at Bigelow Aerospace facilities in Las Vegas.
- The Canadian Space Agency announced this week that it will press ahead with the country’s next-generation radar satellite imaging system, signing a contract with a Canadian firm to build the satellites. The RADARSAT Constellation system will feature three radar imaging satellites in polar orbits to provide shorter revisit times for radar imagery.
- New observations of the near Earth asteroid Apophis have ruled out any chance it will hit the Earth in 2036, NASA announced Thursday. The observations in 2011 and 2012, plus those carried out when the asteroid made a relatively close approach to the Earth on Wednesday, allowed scientists to refine the asteroid’s orbit. That new orbit effectively ruled out any chance that the asteroid, about 325 meters in diameter, will impact the Earth in 2036, with the odds of an impact now less than one in one million. Previously, there had been a very small chance of a 2036 impact, depending on the path the asteroid took when passing close to the Earth in April 2029.
- Officials with NASA and four companies involved with the space agency’s commercial crew development program said Wednesday that their efforts remain on schedule, with some companies planning crewed test flights as early as 2015. Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and SpaceX all said that that they are on track with development of their systems under Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) awards they received from NASA in August. Sierra Nevada said they plan to begin glide tests of their Dream Chaser vehicle from Edwards Air Force Base in California later this quarter, while SpaceX has a pad abort test of its Dragon launch escape system scheduled for December. A fourth company, Blue Origin, had a funded award in the previous round of the program and said they plan to see an unfunded extension to help guide continued work on their vehicle. NASA officials said a request for proposals for the next phase of the development effort will go out this fall, with plans to award multiple contracts by May 2014.
- Although not nearly as threatening as it was first perceived to be upon its discovery, the asteroid 99942 Apophis still has a very slight chance of impacting our planet on Friday, April 13, 2036. It will get closer to Earth this year, giving astronomers a chance to refine its trajectory for good and know whether we’re in trouble. And you can get a glimpse of it online tomorrow, courtesy of the Slooh Space Camera.
- 15 flights are scheduled to blast off from Florida’s Space Coast, including the first SpaceX missions from Cape Canaveral fully dedicated to putting commercial satellites into orbit.
- In a new and sharper hunt for the Universe’s most violent events, astronomers may have found two medium-sized galactic monsters. Launched in June, NASA’S NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Array) X-ray observatory has discovered what may be two intermediate mass black holes in the spiral galaxy IC 342, some 7 million light-years from Earth.
- Small planets like our own are extremely abundant in the universe, according to new results presented here today at the 221st meeting of the American Astronomical Society.
- The discovery by astronomers at the University of California, Berkeley, and Clarion University in Pennsylvania of six likely comets around distant stars suggests that comets – dubbed “exocomets” – are just as common in other stellar systems with planets.
- The continuing success of NASA’s Kepler mission was highlighted on Monday, following the discovery of 461 new planet candidates – four of which are less than twice the size of Earth and orbit in their sun’s habitable zone. Scientists believe it’s just a matter of “when” a twin of our own planet is found by the spacecraft.
- Moon Express, one of the teams competing in the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP), has reached an agreement where it will partner with Dynetics to acquire fellow GLXP team, the Rocket City Space Pioneers (RCSP). However, are not considered to be the team to beat by most experts—Astrobotic Technology currently holds that position.
- Based on results from the Kepler mission, Scientists estimate that there are between 100 Billion and 200 Billion planets in our Milky Way galaxy.
- NASA-funded researchers analyzing a small meteorite that may be the first discovered from the Martian surface or crust have found it contains 10 times more water than other Martian meteorites from unknown origins. This new class of meteorite was found in 2011 in the Sahara Desert. Designated Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034, and nicknamed “Black Beauty,” it weighs approximately 11 ounces (320 grams). After more than a year of intensive study, a team of U.S. scientists determined the meteorite formed 2.1 billion years ago during the beginning of the most recent geologic period on Mars, known as the Amazonian.
- Comet Ison, due to loop around the Sun in December 2013, may or may not be “The Comet of the Century”. It is too early to tell.
- Astronomers using the Canada-France-Hawaii and W. M. Keck Observatory telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii have been amazed to find a group of dwarf galaxies moving in unison in the vicinity of the Andromeda Galaxy. The structure of these small galaxies lies in a plane, analogous to the planets of the Solar System. Unexpectedly, they orbit the much larger Andromeda galaxy en masse, presenting a serious challenge to our ideas for the formation and evolution of all galaxies.
- SpaceX and Orbcomm Inc. have agreed to new contract terms for the launch of 18 data communications satellites beginning in mid-2013, according to a filing with a U.S. regulatory agency. The $42.6 million contract covers the launch of 18 second-generation Orbcomm satellites on two Falcon 9 rockets between the second quarter of 2013 and the second quarter of 2014.
- A study on the health effects of cosmic radiation has been published today in PLOS ONE. This new study is the first to establish a link between radiation experienced by space travelers and an increased chance of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
- IEEE Spectrum reviews Virgin Galactic and the plans for SpaceShipTwo in 2013.
- With all three Space Shuttle orbiters now tucked away inside their respective museums, the International Space Station (ISS) has completed its full year on-orbit in the post-Shuttle era, a year which has brought great successes for the orbital outpost. On the back of these successes in 2012, a promising 2013 awaits the station, with many new capabilities and technologies set to be demonstrated.