January 6, 2010

Arianespace Outlines 2010 Launching Plan (Source: Xinhua)
Chairman and Chief Executive of Arianespace Jean-Yves Le Gall outlined Tuesday the new year agenda for its three launchers: Ariance 5, Soyuz and Vega, saying there will be seven missions for the heavy-lift Ariane 5 in 2010. From the French Guiana launch site, Arianespace center will kick off its first commercial launch in mid-March with two communication satellites for Luxembourg operator SES and German Defense Ministry atop Ariane 5, Le Gall said. The launch of the second Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) scheduled in November 2010 is the most eye-catching mission for the year. ATV-2 Johannes Kepler, named after the German astronomer and mathematicians, is an unmanned cargo spacecraft giving supplies to the international space station.

For the medium-lift launcher Soyuz, its first mission was set in this summer when a British satellite Hylas need to be sent into space, while the lightweight Vega will be ready for its first 2010 mission in the end of this year, Le Gall added. The commercial launch center will generate a yearly turnover of1.04 billion euros (1.49 billion U.S. dollars), up from 2008's income of about 950 million euros (1.36 billion U.S. dollars). (1/6)

Uncertainty as Ares Launcher is Built (Source: Florida Today)
A launch tower designed for NASA's Ares I rocket is rising high above Kennedy Space Center, growing piece by piece even as the agency awaits presidential direction that could cancel the rocket. The $500 million tower and its base, together called a mobile launcher, are a return to the way Saturn V rockets were taken from the Vehicle Assembly Building to their pads for moon missions.

The 10-million-pound mobile launcher will remain sheltered in the 52-story assembly building's High Bay No. 3 until ready for rides to launch pad 39B, where three 600-foot lightning towers have already been built to protect the Ares I. That moves most processing activities inside, which means a safer work environment and reduced costs to maintain infrastructure now constantly exposed to corrosive, salty ocean air. By late January, a crane next to KSC's assembly building is expected to lift the last of the steel-gray tower's 10 tiers, topping it off at 400 feet above the ground and 350 feet above the launcher platform.

A second phase starting in 2011 would add the guts of the ground support equipment, including umbilical lines, propellants and gases, electrical equipment and access equipment. If current plans hold, the entire project would be complete by early 2014, and possibly in time for a test flight being considered for 2013. But political direction in the coming weeks may determine whether an Ares I rocket will fly from the new mobile launcher. (1/6)

Most Earthlike Exoplanet Started out as Gas Giant (Source: NASA)
The most earthlike planet yet found around another star may be the rocky remains of a Saturn-sized gas giant. "The first planets detected outside our solar system 15 years ago turned out to be enormous gas-giants in very tight orbits around their stars. We call them 'hot Jupiters,' and they weren't what astronomers expected to find," said Brian Jackson at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "Now, we're beginning to see Earth-sized objects in similar orbits. Could there be a connection?"

Jackson and his colleagues turned to CoRoT-7b, the smallest planet and the most like Earth that astronomers have found to date. Discovered in February 2009 by the Convection, Rotation and Planetary Transits (CoRoT) satellite, a mission led by the French Space Agency, CoRoT-7b takes just 20.4 hours to circle its sunlike star, located 480 light-years away in the constellation Monoceros. Astronomers believe the star is about 1.5 billion years old, or about one-third the sun's age. (1/6)

Loral Selected for NASA Satellite Propulsion Work (Source: Loral)
Loral has been selected to provide a propulsion system to NASA Ames Research Center for the Lunar Atmosphere Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft. The contract demonstrates NASA's success in leveraging the capability of commercially proven technology for U.S. Government missions. NASA's LADEE spacecraft is a small observatory that will study the moon's thin atmosphere and dust above the lunar surface. The LADEE propulsion system will be a variant of the mission critical system used over many years on SS/L's geostationary satellites for television, radio, broadband internet, meteorology and a host of other services. (1/6)

NASA Hauls Shuttle to Launch Pad, Despite Cold (Source: Reuters)
The space shuttle Endeavour was hauled out to its launch pad on Wednesday, despite freezing temperatures. Temperatures were an unseasonably -- for Florida -- cool 29 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 2 Celsius) at the launch pad as NASA prepared to roll out Endeavour for its first mission of the new year. Nearby Melbourne set a record low temperature of 28 F. The shuttle is scheduled to lift off on February 7 on a mission to deliver the last major pieces of the International Space Station, a $100 billion project of 16 nations that has been under construction 220 miles above the Earth for more than a decade. (1/6)

NASA Supports the President's Educate to Innovate Campaign (Source: NASA)
NASA has launched an initiative to use its out-of-this-world missions and technology programs to boost summer learning, particularly for underrepresented students across the nation. NASA's Summer of Innovation supports President Obama's Educate to Innovate campaign for excellence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, education. The Summer of Innovation program will work with thousands of middle school teachers and students during multi-week programs in the summer of 2010 to engage students in stimulating math and science-based education programs. NASA's goal is to increase the number of future scientists, mathematicians, and engineers, with an emphasis on broadening participation of low-income, minority students. (1/6)

Kucinich 'Free Admission' Demand Stalls NASA Visitor Center Move (Source: WKYC)
The Visitors' Center at NASA Glenn opened its doors on a day devoted to celebrate being free -- July 4, 1976, the Bicentennial. The word "free" figures prominently into negotiations about a future move of the Center's exhibits to the Great Lakes Science Center. In June, NASA announced the Visitors' Center would likely close or move because of a budget crunch. A suggestion to move its imagination-inspiring displays to the Science Center made sense to many people. More visitors, young and old, would likely see them there. The NASA Glenn current location's strict security is an extra hassle for visitors to get through.

But the NASA Glenn Center has never charged admission. Admission to the the Science Center is $8 for visitors under 17. U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich is insisting on significant free admission for young people at the new site. He rejected a plan capping free admissions at 20,000. "There are so many families that can't afford admission. They supported NASA with their tax dollars. We want to make sure children have the opportunity to see these exhibits," he said. (1/6)

StratCom Takes On a New Mission (Source: World-Herald)
The U.S. Strategic Command is the nation's new traffic cop in outer space. StratCom will now oversee a military mission that tracks satellites and debris and tries to prevent space collisions, its leaders announced Monday. The command, which has its headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, is taking on the new interplanetary duties as the policing of space satellites grows tougher. StratCom leaders have long planned to take over what is called the “space situational awareness” mission, which began as an Air Force pilot program in 2004.

“We will continue to improve on how we gain (space situational awareness) and will communicate ... in order to reduce the likelihood of another satellite collision,” said Lt. Gen. Larry James, commander of StratCom's joint space command. Analysts at StratCom's joint space operations center in Southern California will now compile the analysis of orbiting satellites and other debris. If a collision seems imminent — or if an object can be moved or destroyed to prevent a collision — StratCom leaders will pass the information along to the rest of the U.S. military, foreign governments and companies that own and operate satellites.

That process will be overseen by leaders at Offutt. A handful of new analysts and administrators will be moved to both Offutt and to Vandenberg Air Force Base north of Santa Barbara, Calif., to handle the new mission, StratCom leaders said. Editor's Note: Click here to see the process in action. (1/6)

No comments: