June 8, 2011

Mars Rover Launch Could Slip Again (Source: Florida Today)
Technical and budget challenges threaten another costly delay to the planned launch late this year of NASA's flagship Mars rover from Cape Canaveral, the agency's internal watchdog reported today. Several of the issues that delayed a 2009 launch of the Mars Science Laboratory -- nicknamed "Curiosity" -- still remain open, and hundreds of problem or failure reports must be resolved, according to NASA Inspector General Paul Martin. Continued cost increases mean the project may need more funding to ensure a successful mission, Martin says. (6/8)

New Data Still Have Scientists in Dark Over Dark Matter (Source: Space Daily)
A dark-matter experiment deep in the Soudan mine of Minnesota now has detected a seasonal signal variation similar to one an Italian experiment has been reporting for more than a decade. The new seasonal variation, recorded by the Coherent Germanium Neutrino Technology (CoGeNT) experiment, is exactly what theoreticians had predicted if dark matter turned out to be what physicists call Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs).

"We cannot call this a WIMP signal. It's just what you might expect from it," said Juan Collar, associate professor in physics at the University of Chicago. WIMPS might have caused the signal variation, but it also might be a random fluctuation, a false reading sparked by the experimental apparatus itself or even some exotic new phenomenon in atomic physics, Collar said. (6/8)

New Class of Stellar Explosions Found (Source: Space Daily)
They're bright and blue-and a bit strange. They're a new type of stellar explosion that was recently discovered by a team of astronomers led by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Among the most luminous in the cosmos, these new kinds of supernovae could help researchers better understand star formation, distant galaxies, and what the early universe might have been like.

"We're learning about a whole new class of supernovae that wasn't known before," says Robert Quimby, a Caltech postdoctoral scholar and the lead author on a paper to be published in the June 9 issue of the journal Nature. In addition to finding four explosions of this type, the team also discovered that two previously known supernovae, whose identities had baffled astronomers, also belonged to this new class. (6/8)

An Open Letter to Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan, and James Lovell (Source: SpaceRef.com)
Recently, a joint letter was penned by three legendary Apollo astronauts berating the Obama administration for "Grounding JFK's Space Legacy" and declaring that a coherent plan for maintaining America's leadership in space exploration is no longer apparent. While it may be that the current administration's plans are not perfect - and a new national debate on space appropriate - these plans stand head and shoulders over the plan that was the latter implementation of the Constellation program.

Furthermore, these space veterans have been misinformed pertaining to the reasons for the demise and cancellation of the Constellation program. First of all, the Constellation program that was cancelled is not the one created by the Bush administration in 2004 and endorsed by Congress. It becomes clear as you read the early VSE/Constellation documents ... that the VSE's initial concept ot Constellation has very little to do with the version of Constellation that was cancelled. Click here to read the document. (6/8)

NASA Spending Shift to Benefit Centers Focused on Science & Technology (Source: SpaceRef.com)
Euroconsult, the leading international consulting and analyst firm specializing in the space sector, along with the consulting firm Omnis, today announced the findings of a study today foreseeing a significant shift in NASA spending toward Earth science and R&D programs and away from legacy spaceflight activities.

With the shift in budget authority, NASA Centers focused on Earth observation, space technology, and aeronautics will see increases in funding, while those involved in human spaceflight will see major funding reductions. Indeed, the termination of the Space Shuttle program will lead to a budget cut over $1 billion for Space Operations, resulting in a 21% budget cut for the Johnson Space Center. Overall, the agency's budget for R&D will account for about 50% of all NASA spending. (6/8)

Delta-2 Launch Delayed at Vandenberg Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Officials delayed the Delta 2 rocket launch carrying Argentina's SAC-D satellite with NASA's Aquarius oceanography instrument to allow engineers more time to sort through a software issue. A review of the flight program for steering the rocket through high-altitude winds found that the last few seconds of the profile got truncated and the team isn't sure why, a NASA spokesman explained.

The time needed to examine the situation and determine how best to reload the software data meant a launch attempt wasn't feasible early Thursday. Friday's five-minute launch window opens at 7:20 a.m. local time (10:20 a.m. EDT; 1420 GMT). (6/8)

Soyuz Headed for ISS (Source: Voice of Russia)
On Wednesday night a Russian Soyuz spacecraft was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome and is headed for the International Space Station (ISS). The Soyuz will deliver Russian Cosmonaut Sergei Volkov, a representative of the Japanese Satoshi Furukawa Space Agency and NASA astronaut Michael Fossum to the ISS.

The new crew will install equipment on the outside of the station, as well as carry out a series of scientific experiments.In particular, the astronauts will grow tomatoes and cucumbers, as well as breed new strains of bacteria. (6/8)

Poll: Americans Want Space Program to Continue (Source: WCTV)
In a dramatic new Sachs/Mason-Dixon poll, an overwhelming majority of Americans say they don’t want America’s manned space program to end and they believe the United States should continue to be a global leader in space.

“Human space flight symbolizes American ingenuity, innovation and imagination and any effort to ensure our nation remains at the forefront of manned space flight is strongly supported by the American people,” said Ron Sachs, President of Ron Sachs Communications. “The American people are emotional about maintaining our nation’s leadership in this important scientific endeavor.”

Editor's Note: As pointed out at Space Politics, the single poll question incorrectly claimed that NASA has “no plans to continue sending men and women into space after 2011″. Click here to read the article. (6/7)

Foundation Sponsors Space Business Plan Competition (Source: SFF)
The Space Frontier Foundation (SFF) announced today that additional prize money to be awarded to the top three businesses competing in the 2011 NewSpace Business Plan Competition. These generous prizes, totaling $32,500, will help launch paradigm-shifting NewSpace companies while the competition itself will provide all the finalists with practical guidance from investors and business professionals. Click here for information. (6/8)

Two Commercial Missions on Sea Launch's Books for 2011 (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Two years after filing for bankruptcy, Sea Launch is gearing up for a pair of commercial satellite missions later this year from a mobile ocean-based launch pad and the historic Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The launches are planned for the Intelsat 18 and Eutelsat's Atlantic Bird 7 satellites.

Intelsat 18 will blast off as soon as September from the Baikonur Cosmodrome aboard a Zenit 3SLB rocket. Sea Launch netted the Intelsat 18 contract from Space International Services, or SIS, a Russian firm that took over managing the Zenit's Land Launch operations from Baikonur after Sea Launch filed for bankruptcy in 2009.

Editor's Note: Paying the costs for operating the Sea Launch ocean platform and its launch control/support ship requires several launches each year. They were previously unable to meet the minimum number of launches, which led to the company's recent bankruptcy. Odd that they would split launches between Baikonur and the ocean platform. (6/8)

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