December 6, 2010

Falcon-9 Launch Postponed to No Earlier Than Wednesday (Source: NASA)
A demonstration launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket for NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program has been rescheduled for no earlier than Wednesday, Dec. 8. The delay is because of a crack in the engine nozzle on the rocket's second stage. During a routine review of close-out photos of the rocket on Monday, SpaceX engineers discovered the crack, which measures about three-inches long. SpaceX is considering several options, including repairing the crack or shipping a replacement part from California. More information on the launch schedule will be announced when available. (12/6)

Canadian Spaceport Campaign Launched (Source: CBC)
The head of the Muhammad Institute for Space Science, dedicated to putting the Islamic world back at the forefront of scientific discovery, wants to build a space-launch facility in Canada. Redouane Al Fakir's goal has been to return Muslims to the place of pride they held, centuries ago, as world leaders in astronomy. But the Vancouver astrophysicist wants all Canadians to be involved in his project. His proposed commercial spaceport would be the first of its kind in this country — and Al Fakir says it's about time. (12/6)

Russian Prosecutors to Examine Use of Funds for GLONASS (Source: Itar-Tass)
Prosecutors will examine the use of funds for the GLONASS system most seriously and thoroughly, and the first steps have already been taken, Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika said. "I have give instructions, and we are working together with the [Kremlin’s] Audit Department to draft a plan of examination, to work out an approach,” Chaika said. He could not say how long the examination will last. “It’s hard to say now. But I don’t think it will take long. But there is no doubt that it will be a very serious and thorough examination. If violations of the law are exposed, let alone serious ones, we will take very strong action,” he said. (12/6)

A 'Snake' Slithers Across the Sun (Source: MSNBC)
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory has captured what appears to be a giant snake slithering along the sun's southeastern limb. The feature is actually a magnetic loop of dense gas suspended over the solar surface. The snaky filament, which was first noticed last week by NASA's STEREO-B spacecraft stationed over the sun's eastern horizon, has begun to show signs of instability and has the potential for an impressive eruption in the hours or days ahead, according to

An eruption of a solar flare and magnetic filament in August sent two waves of electrically charged particles towards Earth and caused a spectacular display of the northern lights. Will this filament, which is more than 435,000 miles long, or almost twice the distance from the Earth to the moon, have a similar effect? Stay tuned to for pictures and updates. Click here to see the time-lapse image. (12/6)

DOE and NASA Reach Cleanup Agreements with California for Santa Susana Complex (Source: NASA)
The Department of Energy and NASA signed Administrative Orders on Consent (AOC) with the California Environmental Protection Agency that define the process for the characterization and cleanup end-state of portions of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL). The agreements come after more than 10 months of negotiations and extensive public comment on the conceptual framework for cleanup outlined in the Agreement in Principle and additional public comment on the legally enforceable process and procedures in the draft Administrative Order on Consent. (12/6)

Rocket Science 101 Offered to Wallops-Area Journalists (Source: Spaceports Blog)
The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA) & Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) in cooperation with the Virginia Press Association and Virginia Association of Broadcasters are sponsoring “Rocket Science 101” an educational seminar on April 21. The purpose of the workshop is to educate print, electronic, broadcast and cable media, about Virginia’s newest business, commercial space launches to the International Space Station from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Orbital Sciences' new Taurus II rocket beginning in mid-2011. MARS first launch to the moon in 2013 will also be discussed. Business, policy, science/technology and general interest journalists, reporters, publishers and writers are encouraged to attend. (12/5)

Commercial Crew Program Office Still Set for KSC (Source: SPACErePORT)
A NASA official says the agency is still in the process of developing the optimal acquisition strategy for Commercial Crew missions. KSC is assigned to be the lead center for the Commercial Crew program. KSC, therefore, will manage the contracts with companies selected by NASA to provide various launch and support services under the Commercial Crew program. (12/6)

NASA: Extra Shuttle Mission Still Possible Within FY-11 (Source: AIA)
With December out of the question for Discovery's last launch, a February launch date will move the final Endeavour mission into April. Even so, NASA says there is still room on the calendar for one more launch in late June before the shuttle fleet is retired. (12/6)

Falcon-9 Launch Delayed to Thursday or Later (Source:
Liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket has been postponed to at least Dec. 9. Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president, said engineers found an issue with the Falcon 9 rocket's second stage engines in a review of closeout photos this morning. "It looks like the first attempt of this flight is no earlier than Thursday, if things look good," Shotwell said. If a new niobium vacuum nozzle is required on the second stage Merlin engine, launch could be pushed back to Friday or Saturday, Shotwell said. (12/6)

Arianespace To Launch Franco-Italian Milcom Satellite in 2013 (Source: Space News)
The French-Italian Sicral 2 military telecommunications satellite will be placed into geostationary orbit as a co-passenger on Europe’s heavy-lift Ariane 5 ECA rocket in late 2013 under a contract the Arianespace commercial launch consortium. Sicral 2, expected to weigh about 4,400 kilograms at launch, will carry separate French and Italian SHF- and UHF- frequency communications payloads to be used independently by French and Italian forces. (12/6)

Breaking the Shackles of Apollo (Source: Space Review)
For decades after the Apollo program, many have argued for similar approaches for returning humans to the Moon. Travis Senor makes the case for a very different, long-term approach to human exploration of the solar system. Visit to view the article. (12/6)

Apollo: Secrets and Whispers (Source: Space Review)
Just how would a spy satellite been incorporated into an Apollo mission to take high-resolution images of the lunar surface? Dwayne Day follows up last week's piece on the Lunar Mapping and Survey System with additional insights and illustrations. Visit to view the article. (12/6)

Better Strategy Needed in Search for ET (Source: Space Review)
Last week's announcement of the discovery of a microbe that can incorporate arsenic, instead of phosphorus, into its DNA widens the prospects for life on other worlds. Lou Friedman argues that the search for extraterrestrial life, in particular intelligent life, would benefit from having a firmer strategy. Visit to view the article. (12/6)

Confronting Space Debris (Source: Space Review)
Everyone agrees that orbital debris is a major problem, but how big of a problem does it have to become before we take more action to resolve it? Jeff Foust reviews a new study that compares orbital debris with a wide range of other problems that have gone through similar cycles of action. Visit to view the article. (12/6)

Just in Time for Christmas (Source: Xtraordinary Adventures)
It's still not too late for the most unusual holiday gift! Xtraordinary Adventures, in conjunction with RocketShip Tours, is taking reservations on The Lynx, XCOR Aerospace's newest fully reusable rocket powered suborbital vehicle, to reward corporate executives worthy of the prize. With the lowest published price in the industry, Rocketship Tours / Xtraordinary Adventures offers a complete package of training, medical screening and suborbital flight for $95,000, less than half the price of Virgin Galactic at $200,000, and $7,000 less than Space Adventures' $102,000 price tag. Click here for information. (12/6)

NASA Ejects NanoSail-D Nanosatellite From Microsatellite in Space (Source:
On Dec. 6, NASA for the first time successfully ejected a nanosatellite from a free-flying microsatellite. NanoSail-D ejected from the Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satellite, FASTSAT, demonstrating the capability to deploy a small cubesat payload from an autonomous microsatellite in space. Nanosatellites or cubesats are typically launched and deployed from a mechanism called a Poly-PicoSatellite Orbital Deployer (P-POD) mounted directly on a launch vehicle. This is the first time NASA has mounted a P-POD on a microsatellite to eject a cubesat. (12/6)

Medvedev Orders Probe Into Loss of 3 GLONASS Satellites (Sources: Itar-Tass, RIA Novosti)
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has instructed the country’s Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika and head of his administration’s audit department Konstantin Chuichenko to check spending on the state program for the creation of the GLONASS satellite navigation grouping. The president ordered to look into the loss of three GLONASS spacecraft and to find those responsible for what has happened.

"According to preliminary information, there were no technical problems with the Proton itself during lift-off. A range of specialists consider that program errors in Proton's onboard computer led to the engines failing to function as normal, giving the rocket an extra boost and taking it into the wrong orbit," a source said. (12/6)

Launch Failure Leaves Russia Without Glonass Network (Source: Moscow News)
Russia’s flagship Glonass navigation system has been left incomplete after the loss of three satellites intended to complete the system. The trio plunged into the Pacific Ocean shortly after take-off on Sunday when the Proton-M rocket which carried them failed to reach its planned orbit. And the crash is an embarrassing blow to a prestige project which had been due to rival the American GPS system. (12/6)

China Builds Theme Park at Spaceport (Source: Xinhua)
China is building a science theme park in the middle of its newest spaceport to promote space science among the country's younger generation. The theme park in Wenchang City, southern Hainan Province, is located at the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center. The project is estimated to cost 3 billion yuan ($455 million) and is expected to be finished in 2013. Wenchang is planned as the launch pad for China's lunar probe rocket in 2013. The theme park will have four exhibition sections, featuring the earth, moon, Mars and the sun. Visitors can even enter parts of the launch station and watch the actual rocket launch. (12/6)

Synthetic Life Will Yield the Odds of Finding E.T. (Source: Discovery)
Finding the road to truly understanding the chances for life in the universe is motivating scientists to try and create life in the laboratory. We just can't build a time machine to go back 4 billion years and see what happened. Life must have gotten started on the primeval Earth under very restrictive conditions that were quite different than today, said biologist and Nobel Laureate Jack Szostak. I’m not talking about making something that oozes out of a Petri dish like a broken lava lamp blob. But, in its humblest incarnation, a very primitive working cell -- a self-contained chemical system that undergoes Darwinian evolution. Painstaking experiments are already underway. (12/6)

Japanese Probe Moves Into Orbit Around Venus (Source:
Japan's $300 million Akatsuki spacecraft will fire its main engine Monday and drop into orbit around Venus for up-close investigations of the sweltering planet's noxious atmosphere. The 1,000-pound probe has been speeding toward Venus since launching May 20 from the Tanegashima Space Center. The nearly seven-month journey ends late Monday with an insertion maneuver into orbit around Venus. (12/6)

Kennedy Wants Commitment to "Inner Space" on Anniversary Uncle's Moon Speech (Source: Space Policy Online)
On May 25, 2011, the nation will celebrate the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's famous 1961 speech on Urgent National Needs that included the call to land a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth. To commemorate the anniversay, JFK's nephew, Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), is proposing a national commitment to researching "inner space" instead of outer space. He wants a call for a similar commitment to research on mental health, or "inner space." (12/6)

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