January 1, 2010

Worldwide Space Launches Top 75 in 2009 (Source: Space Policy Online)
There were 75 space launches in 2009, conducted by 10 countries (including Europe/Arianespace). Russia led the pack with 32 launches (all successful), with the U.S. launching 25 rockets (one of them failed). Europe launched seven (all successful), and China launched six (all successful). Japan, India, Iran, North Korea, South Korea, and Israel were also among those who launched (or attempted to launch) rockets into orbit. Click here for a list. (1/1)

Moon Hole Might be Suitable for Colony (Source: CNN)
Building a home near a moon crater or a lunar sea may sound nice, but moon colonists might have a much better chance of survival if they just lived in a hole.
That's the message sent by an international team of scientists who say they've discovered a protected lunar "lava tube" -- a deep, giant hole -- that might be well suited for a moon colony or a lunar base. The vertical hole, in the volcanic Marius Hills region on the moon's near side, is 213 feet wide and is estimated to be more than 260 feet deep, according to findings published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

More important, the scientists say, the hole is protected from the moon's harsh temperatures and meteorite strikes by a thin sheet of lava. That makes the tube a good candidate for further exploration or possible inhabitation, the article says. Any intact lava tube could serve as a shelter from the severe environment of the lunar surface, with its meteorite impacts, high-energy UV radiation and energetic particles, and extreme diurnal temperature variations." (1/1)

Las Cruces Man Finds Spaceport Opportunities (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Several years ago, Jim Hayhoe gave a presentation to the Hatch Board of Trustees about how the area could prepare for, and take advantage of, the impending construction of Spaceport America. "(Trustee) Andy Nuñez walked out from behind the podium and handed me a 60-pound bag of green chile and said, 'Your hired,'" Hayhoe said. "I had no idea I was going to get into consulting." Fast forward three years and the Las Crucen operates Spaceport America Consultants.

After years of working for Westinghouse Electric Corp. and Northrop Grumann Corp. on various programs like international defense electronics, unmanned aerial vehicle sensor initiatives and others, Hayhoe has now found himself in charge of his own company. Spaceport America Consultants now has multiple clients, including the Village of Hatch. "Basically what we're trying to do is develop economic opportunities for companies or municipalities as a result of the spaceport," Hayhoe said. "There's going to be massive economic growth as a result of the spaceport. The challenge is: How do you funnel it for a particular company or (town.)" (1/1)

Launcher Issues Blamed for 14-Month SBSS Slip (Source: Space News)
Ongoing problems with the Minotaur 4 rocket will delay by 14 months the launch of the U.S. Air Force’s Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) satellite, government documents show. The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center planned to launch SBSS in October 2009 with what would have been the first launch of the new Minotaur 4 rocket, built by Orbital Sciences Corp. The service announced that month the launch would be indefinitely delayed with technical problems, though no further explanation was given.

The Minotaur 4 relies on retired U.S. Peacekeeper missile motors for its first three stages and a commercial fourth stage. The rocket’s problem lies with the gas generator on the third stage motor, according to an industry source. The generator continues to run after the third stage motor shuts off, creating residual thrust that is a problem for a rocket designed to put a satellite into a very precise orbit, the source said. Air Force spokeswoman LaGina Jackson was unable to respond to questions by press time. (1/1)

NGA Awards Three Contracts for Radar Satellite Data (Source: Space News)
The U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) awarded contracts to three companies to provide commercial radar satellite data, each of which will rely on foreign-owned satellites because no U.S. firm operates spacecraft collecting the imagery NGA seeks. EADS North America of Arlington, Va., Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif., and MDA Geospatial Services of Canada were each awarded indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts worth as much as $85 million over five years to supply the NGA with synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data, according to a Dec. 29 NGA press release.

EADS North America will fill NGA imagery orders using data from the TerraSAR-X satellite that is on orbit and the TanDEM-X satellite that will launch in thAe coming months, both of which are operated by Astrium Services. Lockheed Martin Space Systems is teamed with e-Geos, a joint Italian Space Agency-Telespazio venture, to sell SAR data from the Cosmo-Skymed radar constellation that was financed by the Italian government. MDA Geospatial Services is a part of MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, which operates the Radarsat-1 and Radarsat-2 radar satellites. (1/1)

NASA Budget for Earth Science Lags Behind Rising Expectations (Source: Space News)
Over the past decade, NASA has convinced the White House, Congress and the public of the importance of investigating the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and land from space. That success has led to increasing pressure to extend NASA’s Earth monitoring program by launching new spacecraft and instruments, but not to the funding needed to carry out the new missions, said Michael Freilich, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division.

“There is relentless pressure to expand the scope of our contributions,” Freilich said. “People want us to do more. They for some reason don’t see a way of getting us additional resources.” Those funding constraints, coupled with technical issues, will prevent the Earth Science Division from launching any new spacecraft until late in 2010. NASA plans to launch the Glory climate-monitoring spacecraft in November and the joint U.S.-Argentine Aquarius sea surface salinity mission in December. Both missions were supposed to have launched by now but are behind schedule due to delays in the manufacture of the spacecraft and instruments.

Similarly, the NASA-led precursor to the National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), which previously had been slated to launch in 2009, is now expected to launch in late 2011. NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) was destroyed when the payload fairing on a Taurus XL rocket failed to detach. (1/1)

North Florida Travel Agent Selling Tickets to Space (Source: Jacksonville Daily Record)
Normally, travel agents are concerned about space on flights for their clients. Ponte Vedra-based travel agent Suzanne Perritt of Valerie Wilson Travel is focusing these days on finding flights into space for her clients. Perritt is one of six accredited space agents in Florida, and the only agent in North Florida, able to reserve seats on commercial space flights that are tentatively scheduled to be conducted by Virgin Galactic in two years. (1/1)

Marshall Up For $650 Million Mission (Source: Huntsville Times)
Marshall Space Flight Center is in the running for a $650 million NASA science mission that could bring new lunar rocks and dirt back from the moon. The ultimate goal would be to place a robotic probe on a large lunar crater, more than 15 miles across, on the far side of the moon. That crater is a scar of one of the largest impacts to the moon, said Dr. Barbara Cohen, a NASA planetary scientist who specializes in lunar work, "and it holds rocks and material that we could not drill down and find."

The mission is in a preliminary study phase, with $3.3 million going to Marshall to develop the research goals and the mission specifics. It would be led by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, Calif., and Washington University in St. Louis would do the primary science investigation, but Marshall would have a significant role in researching the returned samples, said Cohen. (1/1)

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