April 16, 2011

Landsat: Who are the Customers? (Source: USGS)
Exactly who uses Landsat satellite imagery and what value do they derive from the information? In the first study of its kind, U.S. Geological Survey investigators surveyed a broad cross section of Landsat users to answer such questions. The short answer is that an expansive range of customers — academics to foresters and urban planners to agricultural managers — use Landsat satellite imagery in a wide variety of applications.

More than 2500 users of satellite imagery, including almost 1400 current users of Landsat imagery, in private, academic, government, and nonprofit sectors participated in the 2009–2010 survey. Respondents were surveyed about their use of satellite imagery, including Landsat, and what the impact would be without access to Landsat imagery. Click here for more. (4/16)

Spaceport to Launch Minotaur Rocket (Source: DelMarVaNow.com)
The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport will be the launch site later this spring for a Minotaur rocket carrying into orbit ORS-1, a military surveillance satellite that is the first operationally responsive space satellite designed to support combat operations. Some 50 tourism representatives from three states were briefed at Wright's Restaurant in Atlantic about the Department of Defense mission. This will be the fourth Minotaur rocket launched from Wallops. The launch will happen in May or June. (4/16)

Cigar-Shaped Asteroid Stronger Than '15 Atomic Bombs' Whizzes by Earth (Source: Daily Mail)
An asteroid as strong as 15 atomic bombs whizzed past earth last night at just ten times the distance of the moon. Astronomers first spotted the cigar-shaped rock spinning through space on Monday evening and tracked it. The star-gazers were baffled by why the asteroid 'blinked' at them until they realised that due to is long shape, the darkness came when it rotated slightly out of view. (4/16)

2011 Budget Should Allow Flexibility Despite Cuts (Source: Space.com)
Experts said NASA will likely be able to accomplish most of the plans on the table under the new bill. "NASA will be able to do what it has to do until the next budget," space policy expert Roger Handberg, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida, told SPACE.com. "NASA has been survival mode since last fall when the first continuing resolution was put in place." The new budget at least frees NASA from a stifling provision under its 2010 budget that prevented it from cutting funding to the moon-bound Constellation program. (4/16)

China Great Wall Confounded By SpaceX Prices (Source: Aviation Week)
China’s space industry remains hopeful it can do business with the U.S., despite a renewed chill in relations. But executives at China Great Wall Industry Corp. are finding it hard to believe that California-based SpaceX is offering lower launch prices than they can.

Declining to speak for attribution, the Chinese officials say they find the published prices on the SpaceX website very low for the services offered, and concede they could not match them with the Long March series of launch vehicles even if it were possible for them to launch satellites with U.S. components in them. (4/15)

Alliant Looks to Diversify Business (Source: Reuters)
Alliant Techsystems is pushing to expand its share of sales to commercial and international markets as some core U.S. government business winds down. The U.S. company, known for its booster rockets for the space shuttle, is set to lose those sales as that NASA program winds down this year. Business from the U.S. Department of Defense is also coming down due to flat spending, the company said.

Now Alliant, formed when Honeywell International Inc spun off its defense business in 1990, has gained new work in commercial aerospace and is looking to use its position as market leader in ammunition to expand in global markets, an executive said. "We are out to deliberately diversify ... to balance the portfolio," Blake Larsen, president of the company's aerospace systems segment, said.

Larsen said shuttle-related work provided about $300 million a year to Alliant Techsystems, which had total sales of about $4.8 billion in its most recent fiscal year. He said the company was pursuing future NASA business tied to commercial space transport. (4/15)

XL to Shoulder $11 Million Glory Satellite Loss (Source: Inside FAC)
XL Insurance is understood to write 100% of the commercial reinsurance coverage for the Orbital Sciences Corp. Glory satellite which failed to launch last month, Inside FAC understands. The carrier is believed to have an $11 million exposure for the commercial portion of the $464mn joint NASA and OSC project. The NASA portion of the program is covered by the US taxpayer. (4/15)

Surprising Find: Sonic Booms May Shape Cosmic Strings (Source: Space.com)
New images from space reveal a photogenic, yet puzzling, look at tangled cosmic filaments that may be shaped by interstellar sonic booms throughout our galaxy. The filaments are strings of gas in nearby clouds between stars in our galaxy. Intriguingly, each filament is approximately the same width, giving scientists a clue of how they are formed, astronomers said.

The filaments are huge, stretching for tens of light-years across space, with stars often crowding together in the densest parts of the strings. One filament observed by Herschel in the Aquila region contains a cluster of about 100 infant stars. While previous studies have observed filaments, no telescope has been able to measure their widths clearly enough. The new photos show that, regardless of the length or density of a filament, the width is always about the same.

Researchers analyzed 90 filaments and found they were all about 0.3 light-years across, or about 20,000 times the distance of Earth from the sun. This consistency of the widths demands an explanation, they said. The astronomers compared the observations with computer models, and concluded that filaments are probably formed when slow shockwaves dissipate in the interstellar clouds. (4/15)

Lockheed Martin Commends Congressional Action on Orion Spacecraft (Source: SpaceRef.com)
Following months of short-term, stop-gap funding for NASA, Lockheed Martin welcomes final passage of the FY 2011 budget by the Congress, which has been sent forward for President Obama's signature. As stated by Congressional committee members, continuing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) along with the heavy lift launch vehicle ensures that the United States will continue to be the world's leader in human space flight.

Orion was designed from inception to serve as the nation's next generation spacecraft to safely take humans on a variety of multi-purpose deep space missions throughout our solar system. The 2010 NASA Authorization Act, and now the FY 2011 Appropriations Act, continues Orion on a clear path forward to its first orbital flight in 2013 and crewed operations by 2016. (4/15)

Bolden: Tight Budget To Force Change in Scope of Orion Work (Source: Space.com)
Charles Bolden said development of the Orion capsule can proceed under an existing contract with Lockheed Martin but the scope might have to be revised because the budget outlook has changed since the deal was first negotiated. “I will tell you that in any of the contracts that we have today, we cannot pay the amount of money that was contracted X-number of years ago, so there will be negotiations among us and all of our contractors because we have got to get our costs down,” he said. “We may have to de-scope the vehicle in some manner.” (4/15)

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