January 4, 2010

Crist To Meet With Space Officials (Source: Florida Today)
Gov. Charlie Crist will meet with space industry officials at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at the Canaveral Port Authority building in Port Canaveral. The space industry faces massive layoffs during the next two years as the space shuttle program comes to an end. Crist, who is running for the U.S. Senate, likely will seek input about what the state's role should be in the transition to a post-shuttle economy. The governor tentatively plans to meet with space industry workers before discussions with industry leaders and local officials, who have been invited to the meeting. (1/4)

Delta-4 Assigned to Launch Military Satellite (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
The U.S. Air Force has tapped the Delta-4 as its rocket of choice to launch the fourth Wideband Global SATCOM spacecraft two years from now. Liftoff of the WGS 4 communications satellite from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport is targeted to occur between December 2011 and February 2012. The contract award comes just a month after the successful launch of WGS 3 atop a Delta 4 rocket.

A powerful version of the United Launch Alliance-built Delta 4 is used to carry these sophisticated payloads into geosynchronous transfer orbit. The specific rocket configuration is known as the Medium+ (5,4), which is distinguished by a five-meter composite payload shroud, a similarly-sized cryogenic upper stage and four solid-fuel boosters strapped to the first stage. (1/4)

India Developing Anti-satellite Technology (Source: Space News)
India has begun development of lasers and an exoatmospheric kill vehicle that could be combined to produce a weapon to destroy enemy satellites in orbit, the director-general of India’s defense research organization said. “The kill vehicle, which is needed for intercepting the satellite, needs to be developed, and that work is going on as part of the ballistic missile defense program,” said V.K. Saraswat, director-general of the Defense Research and Development Organization, which is part of India’s Ministry of Defence. (1/4)

Northrop will Relocate HQ to Washington Area (Source: Washington Business Journal)
Defense contracting giant Northrop Grumman Corp. will move its corporate headquarters from Los Angeles to the Washington area by 2011, the region's latest economic development coup and another symbol of its economic prowess. The company broke the news in a news release Monday, saying it is considering locations in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Northrop Grumman will complete the search by the spring of this year and open its new corporate office by the summer of 2011. It expects to base its decision on the amount of financial incentives offered by local jurisdictions. (1/4)

Explosive Nearby Star Could Threaten Earth (Source: Space.com)
A massive, eruptive white dwarf star in the Milky Way — long overdue for its next periodic eruption — is closer to our solar system than previously thought and could threaten the Earth if it fully explodes millions of years from now. New observations of the white dwarf and its sun-like stellar companion are giving scientists a better understanding of the star's precarious position as a possible supernova, astronomers said.

The two stars are in a close binary system called T Pyxidis, located in the Southern Hemisphere constellation Pyxis. Researchers found that the system is only 3,260 light-years from our solar system – far closer than anyone previously thought. (A light-year is the distance that light travels in one Earth year, or about 6 trillion miles.) The new findings suggest the white dwarf, considered close to us by cosmic standards, could eventually go supernova. Gamma radiation emitted by the supernova could threaten the Earth with an energy equivalent to 1,000 simultaneous solar flares. (1/4)

Air Force Will Pay to Place SBSS Satellite in Storage (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force will contract to have its Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) system satellite placed into storage due to continued technical difficulties with the Minotaur 4 rocket that have delayed the spacecraft’s launch indefinitely, according to government documents. (1/4)

NASA's Next Project: Venus, the Moon, or an Asteroid (Source: cnet)
NASA has chosen three options it will consider as its next target for future scientific space exploration--Venus, the moon, or an asteroid.
The three areas of focus are finalists in a competition designed to help the space agency determine where it should spend its time and money to get the most scientific value out of research about our solar system. It's part of NASA's New Frontiers Program, which already has two missions under way. The first is the New Horizons mission, a spacecraft that's currently on its way to Pluto and has already sent back images from a quick flyby of Jupiter. The second is called Juno, a large-scale survey of Jupiter that's planned for launch in 2011. This competition will determine the focus of New Frontiers' third mission. (1/4)

Earth-Sized World Could Lurk in Outer Solar System (Source: Space.com)
Some astronomers say that a planet the size of Mars or Earth could be lurking on the fringes of our solar system. But even the latest space telescopes that launched in 2009 stand little chance of finding such a distant object. Such a world, if it exists, would probably have an orbit far beyond Pluto or similar dwarf planets in the outer solar system. It would likely resemble a frozen version of Mars or Earth at best, a most unsuitable home for life. And it would not be alone.

"When the solar system's story is finally written, it's much more likely that it will have closer to 900 planets rather than the nine that we grew up with," said Alan Stern, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colo. Just a handful of those potential discoveries might reach the size of Earth, compared to a swarm of Pluto-sized bodies that Stern and others expect to find.

Each object – be it termed a planet, dwarf planet or otherwise – would serve as a frozen time capsule that could reveal much about the early evolution of the solar system. It could even force scientists to once again rethink the definition of a planet, following the controversial downgrading of Pluto to a dwarf planet. (1/4)

Planet-Hunter Finds Five Lightweight Worlds (Source: MSNBC)
The list of known exoplanets in the galaxy just got bigger, thanks to the first observations of NASA's Kepler space telescope, which found five new lightweight worlds orbiting distant stars. The planet-hunting Kepler, which hopes to discover alien Earths, also found an odd object orbiting a star and is measuring the quakes that ripple across stellar surface.

The five newfound planets are all much larger than the Earth-sized bodies Kepler was designed to find. One comes in at around the size of Neptune, and the other four measure larger than Jupiter. (1/4)

Air Force Picks Booz Allen to Support Transformation of the Spacelift Ranges (Source: Booz Allen)
Booz Allen Hamilton has been awarded a $38.4 million Launch & Test Range System (LTRS) Systems Engineering and Integration (SE&I) contract, which provides support to the Los Angeles-based Spacelift Range Group (LRRG), Launch and Range Systems Wing (LRSW), Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC). Booz Allen will provide required SE&I support to modernize the spacelift range enterprise by putting in place the structure, processes and tools that will significantly increase the reliability, maintainability, availability, and dependability of the operating systems.

The four-year contract also provides a risk reduction and capability maturation program to develop and maintain the current and future architectures. LTRS consists of ground-based surveillance, navigation, flight operations and analysis, command and control, communications and weather assets located at the Eastern Range (Patrick Air Force Base, Fla.) and the Western Range (Vandenberg AFB, Calif.) for space missions. LTRS provides the Department of Defense, NASA and commercial customers a highly reliable, integrated system to support spacecraft launch, ballistic missile and aeronautical testing. (1/4)

Mars' Ancient Lake Beds Spied by NASA Probe (Source: BBC)
New images of Mars suggest the Red Planet had large lakes on its surface as recently as three billion years ago. The evidence comes from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) which spied a series of depressions linked by what look like drainage channels. Scientists say the features bear the hallmarks of being produced by liquid water. But they appear to have formed much later in Mars' history than many thought possible, the researchers add. (1/4)

This Year a Turning Point in Spaceflight (Source: Florida Today)
This year is going to be a turning point in spaceflight. The White House will soon decide the fate of the human exploration program. SpaceX will launch its first rocket from Cape Canaveral. The International Space Station's construction will be complete. The space shuttles will creep ever closer to retirement. Click here to view Florida Today's predictions. (1/4)

Manned Mission to Construct Huge GEO and Deep Space Telescopes Proposed (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Buoyed by the success of the Hubble Space Telescope, one of the key proposals on NASA’s internal interpretation of the Augustine Commission’s “Flexible Path” option includes a 45 day manned mission to construct a giant telescope in Geostationary orbit (GEO). A huge deep space telescope is also included in the roadmap, which would focus on a major advancement for the search of Earth-like planets.

The recently produced 64 page presentation is being called over-ambitious by NASA sources, though it provides a fascinating insight into what NASA could do with a supporting budget. The internal effort to “peel the onion” of the Augustine Panel's “flexible path” approach includes several NASA centers and associated bodies who are providing insights to various options that could be open to the Agency.

Those centers, Ames Research Center (ARC), Glenn Space Flight Center (GSFC), Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Johnson Space Center (JSC) and the Hubble-related Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) all contributed to the findings. The presentation covers several areas, from the need for a heavy lift launcher, to manned missions to Mars and its moons – and also Near Earth Objects (NEOs), as the main elements. However, a large section is also dedicated to the construction of large telescopes. (1/4)

NASA's Dangerous New Year (Source: Space Review)
The next several months will be critical to NASA and its future plans as the White House prepares a new space exploration policy. Taylor Dinerman warns of the potential dangers facing NASA if the White House changes course or doesn't raise then agency's budget. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1538/1 to view the article. (1/4)

Complexity and Danger (Source: Space Review)
Some argue that human spaceflight is such a complex, dangerous venture that it should be left to government agencies. Bob Clarebrough counters that private ventures are just as capable as governments, if not more so, to explore the solar system. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1537/1 to view the article. (1/4)

A Chinese Space Odyssey (Source: Malaysian Insider)
China’s ambitions to conquer space will take a big leap forward this year, as the country embarks on the most extensive space development program in the world in decades. The aim is to fire China towards its two long-held space dreams — to land a man on the moon and to set up a space station by 2020. A second lunar probe, the Chang’e-2, is lined up for October, continuing the 16-month orbit of the Chang’e-1 which ended last March. The first piece of a Chinese space station is also likely to take shape towards the end of the year, with the launch of the unmanned space docking module Tiangong-1, or Heavenly Palace-1. Major construction on a new major spaceport will be carried out this year on southern Hainan island. It will be the growing power’s fourth spaceport. (1/4)

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