February 1, 2011

Asteroid Survey Finds Over 33,000 Space Rocks (Source: Space.com)
Our solar system just got more crowded. A newly completed NASA survey of space rocks revealed 20 new comets, more than 33,000 asteroids, and 134 other near-Earth objects. NASA's NEOWISE mission recently finished the survey, which was a secondary job for the agency's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, space telescope. WISE fulfilled its primary goal of photographing the entire sky 1 1/2 times in infrared light last year. The telescope ran out of coolant to keep its electronics chilled in October 2010, but the NEOWISE mission was able to move forward using the two of its four detectors not affected by warmer temperatures. (2/1)

Weather Sat Program Slammed (Source: DOD Buzz)
The White House, Congress NASA, NOAA, Defense Department and prime contractor Northrop Grumman failed time and again in their management and oversight of the multi-billion dollar weather satellite program known as NPOESS. The failures led to huge cost overruns, long schedule delays and scarred the space acquisition community for years. Perhaps most significantly for the long haul, it left behind a sense of distrust and discord between DOD, NASA and the Commerce Department, making interagency cooperation a greater challenge than ever.

Those are the findings of a wide-ranging and authoritative study of the program by the Aerospace Corp., a federally-funded research corporation that does most of its work for the Air Force, combined with insights offered by a former senior Pentagon official who played a key role on overseeing the program for several years. The NPOESS program was designed to provide crucial weather data to the military and to civilian agencies. (2/1)

Russia Loses New Satellite (Source: Reuters)
Russia has most likely lost a newly launched military satellite, Interfax news agency said on Tuesday citing a source in the country's space rocket industry. The GEO-IK-2 spacecraft, designed to measure the shape of the earth, was launched Tuesday from the Plesetsk spaceport in northern Russia. "Contact has still not been established with the spacecraft and it will most likely be considered lost," an unnamed space source told Interfax news agency.

The loss of three GLONASS navigation satellites that crashed into the sea in December provoked outrage from the Kremlin, which is trying to build Russian technological independence. President Dmitry Medvedev afterwards sacked two top space officials. The GLONASS system, seen as a rival to the U.S. global positioning system (GPS), has been personally spearheaded by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. (2/1)

Completing Galileo To Cost $2.5 Billion (Source: Aviation Week)
European Commission managers say they’re happy with the progress made with the Galileo satellite navigation system and will commit to ensuring that the constellation is completed, even though the cost will rise more than 50%. The EC noted that Galileo has passed a number of major milestones in the past year that ensures it will reach its initial operational capability—-18 satellites and corresponding ground segment—-by 2014-15. This is 2-3 years later than the objective set when Galileo was overhauled in 2007, but still considered viable considering the system’s strategic value and the anticipated €240-billion ($322-billion) annual global market for navigation and timing services, the EC finds. (2/1)

Cost of NASA's Next Mars Rover Soars to $2.5 Billion (Source: MSNBC)
NASA's next-generation rover to the surface of Mars will be quite the behemoth — with a price tag to match. Nine months before its scheduled launch, the space agency said the flagship mission has burned through its reserves and needs an extra $82 million to complete testing before liftoff. It's the latest cost overrun to plague the Mars Science Laboratory, a nuclear-powered rover the size of a small sports utility vehicle that will study whether the planet was or is still habitable. (2/1)

Colorado’s eSpace Center Wants To Make Aerospace A Startup-Friendly Industry (Source: TechCrunch)
Private sector space tech companies — from Virgin Galactic to Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) — have been doing what only government agencies were empowered to do in earlier generations, launch vehicles into space, improve the fuel efficiency of aircraft, and more. A Boulder-based incubator called The eSpace Center for Space Entrepreneurship still thinks the industry could be friendlier to startups and innovators, though.

Founded in partnership with the University of Colorado, and with SNC as its lead sponsor, the eSpace incubator is currently seeking its third class of aerospace entrepreneurs, and reviewing applications on a rolling basis. The incubator will: give financial grants of up to $20,000 in seed funding to selected startups, and match them with mentors who are chief executives of companies relevant to each new venture; also giving them office space in Boulder for up to 18 months; access to manufacturing facilities; and a network of contacts within government agencies and large corporations in the field.

The eSpace incubator program has supported nine companies so far, two of which have graduated and moved into professional offices, and three of which have environmental uses for their space technologies, Dimeff confirmed. One of the clean- and space-tech businesses there now, TIGON EnerTec, is a University of Colorado spinout making light weight, hybrid propulsion systems for use in aircraft, boats and terrestrial vehicles. (2/1)

Antenna Decision Makes Waves (Source: Nature)
Free to a good home: one 12-meter radio antenna, perfect for high-resolution submillimeter-wavelength astronomy. Pick it up yourself; no guarantees. Estimated value: $10 million to $15 million. It was nearly that straightforward. Last year, the National Science Foundation (NSF) put out a call for expressions of interest in a prototype antenna that it had funded to test specifications for the Atacama Large Milli­meter Array (ALMA), a 66-dish radio observatory now nearing completion in Chile. But what began as an opportunity for some cutting-edge science now has some US bidders crying foul after the NSF told them in early January that it is giving the Alma Vertex Prototype Antenna to an institute in Taiwan.

"We've tried to find out why the NSF made the decision and we've been given only generalities," says Lucy Ziurys, an astrochemist at the University of Arizona in Tucson and the principal investigator for one of the US bids. Any suggestion of improper decision-making would be sensitive for the NSF at a time when government agencies are bracing for scrutiny from a budget-conscious Congress — and the donation of a major piece of research hardware outside the United States could raise uncomfortable questions. (2/1)

Russian Defense Satellite Launched from Plesetsk (Source: Itar-Tass)
A Rokot rocket took off Russia’s Plesetsk spaceport on Tuesday to bring to orbit a defense satellite, Space Forces spokesman Lt. Col. Alexei Zolotukhin said. The three-stage Rokot rocket with the Briz-KM booster unit is a product of the Khrunichev aerospace center. It is based on the RS-18 (NATO codename SS-19 Stiletto) intercontinental ballistic missile. The rocket’s takeoff weight is 107 tonnes, the length is 28 meters and the diameter is 2.5 meters. All the three stages of the rocket use highly toxic fuel. (2/1)

Moving Towards an International Space Code of Conduct (Source: Space Politics)
The Obama administration is considering signing on to a code of conduct for space operations promoted by the European Union. The “Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities” calls on countries to take measures to avoid satellite collisions and other activities that create space debris, such as “any intentional action which will or might bring about, directly or indirectly, the damage or destruction of outer space objects.” The administration is reportedly ready to sign on to the code with only a “few minor changes.”

The report is not that surprising. Back in December administration officials said it was “very consistent with the key policies outlined in the president’s new space policy.” A Washington Times article suggests there may be some congressional opposition to the code, quoting a couple unnamed staffers who expressed concerns that the code could be a “slippery slope” to space arms control, including preventing space-based missile defense systems.

Editor's Note: By signing this code of conduct, President Obama would at least partially fulfill one of his space-related his campaign promises. Click here for information. (2/1)

Elon Musk Looking to Get Into 'Black' Spy Sat Market (Source: The Register)
SpaceX is already taking NASA business away from the established American rocketry industry. And it now appears to be targeting the potentially much bigger market for launching secret US spy satellites. It seems rather significant that SpaceX's new office is located near the headquarters of the US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the National Reconnaissance Operations Center. (2/1)

Space Travel Will Always Be Dangerous, And That's OK (Source: NPR)
At some point we will stop collectively mourning those who die in space. As horrible as it sounds, that will be an important day for our future in space. The dangers of space travel remain daunting. From being blown out of Earth's deep gravity well on oversized roman candles, to spending weeks orbiting in the hostile, airless, radiation-drenched environment of Earth orbit, to the terrifying plunge at Mach 25 through the atmosphere; to be an astronaut demands the deepest kind of courage.

There is a transition waiting up ahead of us. If we successfully make it across, then we will truly have become a space-faring race. But it will come with a price. We are going to have to expect accidental deaths in space. Every dangerous profession holds this possibility. The construction of the Brooklyn Bridge — the technological marvel of its day in 1883 — took 27 lives, including it's designer John Roebling. Many more workers were seriously wounded, including Roebling's son Washington.

If we are to build an orbiting infrastructure, allowing Earth orbit to become an new domain of human enterprise, then there will have to be many space suited men and women involved. Some of those intrepid workers are bound to be claimed by the endeavor. If we then are to use that orbiting infrastructure and take the next steps to claim other worlds in the solar system then, without a doubt, more lives will also be lost. (2/1)

No Signal From Russian Military Satellite (Source: Interfax)
Ground services have been unable to contact the Geo-IK-2 geodetic spacecraft launched atop the Rokot carrier rocket from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome on Tuesday. The spacecraft is outside the visibility of Russian monitoring systems, the Russian Space Agency said. "It has now entered the radio visibility zone, we shall see whether it has been delivered into orbit," a source said. At the moment, the spacecraft is supposed to be making a third turn around the Earth, he said. (2/1)

Audit Finds Problems with NASA Shared Services Center (Source: SpaceRef.com)
NASA has consolidated and transferred more than 40 services to the NSSC since its inception in 2006. While most of the transfers occurred on time and as planned, the transfer of accounts payable and accounts receivable services was delayed, resulting in $3.75 million in additional costs. In addition, three services that initially were transferred to the NSSC were subsequently returned to the Centers for cost reasons.

Moreover, although NASA originally expected that approximately 200 civil service positions at the Centers would be freed up and reallocated from performing institutional support services to "critical mission-related activities" as a result of creation of the NSSC, we found that at the five Centers we visited positions were often redirected within the same functional area as the transferred services. Finally, we found that NASA's claim that creation of the NSSC would save the Agency $121 million over a 10-year period (fiscal years 2006-2015) was based on flawed data and is therefore not accurate.

Editor's Note: The NSSC was intially planned for location in Orlando but was instead located at Stennis after a competitive process garnered state-level incentives from Mississippi and Louisiana. (2/1)

Clyde Space to Expand Global Position with £1m Funding (Source: The Engineer)
Clyde Space has secured a funding package worth £1m, including significant equity investment, to support the company’s growth in the global space market. The company supplies power subsystems — including lithium-polymer batteries and high-efficiency solar panels — for small satellite missions, and is also engaged in the design and build of attitude controls and determination systems. Customers include the European Space Agency, NASA and the US Air Force. (2/1)

Dish Network To Acquire Bankrupt DBSD (Source: Space News)
Dish Network has agreed to purchase struggling satellite-terrestrial wireless broadband provider DBSD North America (formerly ICO North America) for $1 billion subject to adjustments. DBSD, whose satellite and planned terrestrial network foundered on a lack of financing, went bankrupt in 2009. It said that to launch a second spacecraft similar to its little-used satellite, in orbit since April 2008, would cost $300 million, and that to roll out a network of terrestrial signal relays for nationwide coverage in the U.S. would cost between $300 million and $800 million. (2/1)

Virgin Galactic Wants Abu Dhabi Spaceport (Source: Emirates 24|7)
Virgin Galactic, a space enterprise funded by billionaire Richard Branson of the Virgin Group, is interested in building a spaceport in Abu Dhabi as soon as it gets requisite approvals from US authorities, a top company executive said. In 2009, Aabar Investments purchased a 32 per cent stake in Virgin Galactic for $280 million.

“We have focused on launching and running safe commercial sub-orbital tourism flights from Spaceport America in New Mexico. However, in the future we may seek regulatory approvals from the US authorities required to take the system and operation out of the US. If we do that and are successful then Abu Dhabi is likely to be a location of particular interest,” said Stephen Attenborough, Commercial Director, Virgin Galactic. (2/1)

Year of the Launchers for ESA (Source: ESA)
In 2011 three launchers will take off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. Ariane 5, Europe’s heavy-lift workhorse, will be complemented by the Soyuz medium-class launcher and the new Vega small launcher. With Soyuz and Vega due to make their first flight from French Guiana in the second half of 2011, the new European launcher family will offer a full range of services to Europe. Click here to see the video. (2/1)

Jupiter Swallows an Asteroid (Source: Sky & Telescope)
On July 19, 2009, thousands of amateurs were converging on China and thereabouts with just one astronomical thought in mind: seeing a total eclipse of the Sun three days later. But the cosmos threw us all a curve that day, when Australian astrophotographer Anthony Wesley spied a dark smudge near Jupiter's south pole. Apparently something had slammed into the giant planet for the first time since Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9's celebrated death plunge in 1994. Astronomers at several observatories dropped everything to try to record as much detail of the unexpected impact event as possible before the ashes faded from view. (2/1)

Japan's Space Agency Teams with Fishing Net Maker to Collect Space Debris (Source: Telegraph)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Nitto Seimo Co aim to tackle the increasingly hazardous problem of debris damaging space shuttles and satellites. The new system involves launching a satellite attached to a thin metal net spanning several kilometers into space, before the net is detached and begins to capture space waste while orbiting earth. During its rubbish collecting journey, the net will become charged with electricity and eventually be drawn back towards earth by magnetic fields – before both the net and its contents will burn upon entering the atmosphere. (2/1)

No comments: