October 12, 2011

NASA Confirms Cause of Russian Soyuz Failure (Source: Space News)
An independent NASA panel reviewing data related to the Aug. 24 failure of a Russian Soyuz rocket has confirmed that the Russian space agency correctly identified the cause of the problem and is taking appropriate steps to resolve it before the rocket’s next launch scheduled for Oct. 30. Roscosmos determined that the most likely cause of the failure was contamination in the rocket’s fuel lines or stabilizer valve, which caused low fuel supply to the gas generator. (10/12)

Should We Put Human Spaceflight On Hold a Year to Save Astronomy? (Source: Houston Chronicle)
The biggest controversy in the world of astronomy today is the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the wildly popular Hubble Space Telescope. The controversy is budgetary: JWST’s estimated cost has risen from $1.6 billion, a decade ago, to $8.7 billion today. Of this $500 million is due to the addition of a five-year operating budget. But the rest is a huge cost overrun. The most recent estimate of $8.7 billion represents a $2.2 billion increase over the previous estimate by an independent panel last year.

Lawmakers are left to wonder: Will the spiraling costs ever end? Given enough funding the Webb could launch in 2018. Scientists believe they have solved the complex instrument’s technical issues, so this is primarily a money issue. Not all astronomers are particularly concerned that JWST may be canceled. There’s a rift in the community, with some astronomers not associated with the Webb project concerned that the telescope is suffocating limited allocations for other projects.

So where to find $2.2 billion? Space News has a suggestion: "The Space Launch System, which per the House and Senate spending bills is slated to receive nearly $2 billion next year, is an appropriate bill payer for JWST. Given that NASA has no established exploration destination requiring the heavy-lift rocket on the schedule mandated by Congress, stretching out its development to help fund an observatory of undeniable scientific merit — its substantial problems notwithstanding — is a fair trade." (10/12)

Iran's Space Monkey Launch Reportedly Failed (Source: AFP)
Iran acknowledged Wednesday that its attempt to send a live monkey into space last month failed. "The Kavoshgar-5 rocket carrying a capsule with a live animal was launched during Shahrivar," Deputy Science Minister Mohammad Mehdinejad-Nouri said, referring to an Iranian calendar month spanning August 23 to September 22. "However, the launch was not publicized as all of its anticipated objectives were not accomplished," he said.

He said the launch of a live animal into space was "strategic, and a priority," and expressed hope that future launches would attain more of the objectives set. On October 3, Iran indefinitely postponed plans to send a monkey into space, without giving any reasons. "One cannot give a set date for this project and as soon as our nation's scientists announce the readiness (of the project) it will be announced," said Hamid Fazeli, head of Iran's Space Organization.

The project, unveiled in February by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, envisaged launching a capsule to an altitude of 75 miles (120km) for a 20-minute sub-orbital flight. At the time, Fazeli touted the launch of a large animal as the first step towards sending a man into space, which Tehran says is scheduled for 2020. (10/12)

Private Spaceship Factory Opens for Business in California Desert (Source: Space.com)
In a grand and ceremonious style, a factory site that will crank out private spaceships has opened its hangar doors. The $8 million hangar was specifically designed to support the final stages of assembly and integration for prime customer Virgin Galactic’s fleet of passenger-carrying suborbital SpaceShipTwos and the mothership launch craft, WhiteKnightTwos.

Called the Final Assembly, Integration and Test Hangar, or FAITH, the special building was unveiled Sep. 19 at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. That’s the home port for Scaled Composites, builder of the SpaceShipTwo/WhiteKnightTwo launch system. FAITH is a 68,000-square-foot structure. "It can hold two WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft and several SpaceshipTwos at the same time," said George Whitesides.

FAITH is one of two facilities that TSC will use to produce commercial spacecraft. The other is a 48,000-square-foot (4,459 square meters) existing building at the Mojave Air and Space Port that TSC recently upgraded to serve as the company’s fabrication and vehicle sub-assembly facility. TSC has secured options to expand the size of the FAITH facility and build an adjacent flight test hangar, as the customer base grows. (10/12)

NASA Announces Two National Student Science Competitions (Source: NASA)
NASA is offering students the opportunity to compete in two microgravity challenges: "Dropping In a Microgravity Environment," or DIME, and "What If No Gravity?" or WING. DIME is a team competition for high school students in the ninth through 12th grades. WING is a competition for student teams from the fifth through eighth grades. Both are project-oriented activities that last throughout the school year for the selected teams.

DIME and WING are open to student teams from all 50 states, Washington, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each team must have an adult supervisor, such as a teacher, parent or technical consultant. Teams may be from any type of organization or club, such as a science class, a group of friends, a scout troop or youth group. (10/12)

Florida Space Day Planned on Jan. 11 in Tallahassee (Source: FL Space Day)
Florida space industry leaders will visit Tallahassee on Jan. 11 to participate in Florida Space Day. With over 400 statewide aerospace companies employing 31,000 workers, current aerospace issues impact all Floridians. NASA alone has contractors in 47 of the state's 67 counties and there are more than 1,000 subcontractors throughout the state.

During Space Day, industry advocates will conduct legislative visits with House and Senate officials to support aerospace initiatives and policies aimed at expanding and diversifying one of the state's targeted industries for economic development. Click here for information. (10/12)

Amateur Skywatchers Help ESA's Space Hazards Team (Source: On Orbit)
For the first time, observations coordinated by ESA's space hazards team have found an asteroid that comes close enough to Earth to pose an impact threat. The space rock was found by amateur astronomers, highlighting the value of 'crowd-sourcing' to science and planetary defense. The discovery of asteroid 2011 SF108 was made by the volunteer Teide Observatory Tenerife Asteroid Survey (TOTAS) team during an observation slot sponsored by ESA's Space Situational Awareness (SSA) program in September. (10/12)

Dynetics Hires Former Astronaut Jim Halsell (Source: Dynetics)
Dynetics officials announced that Jim Halsell, former NASA astronaut and retired Air Force colonel, will join the company as technical director in the space division. Halsell, whose most recent position was vice president of Safety and Mission Assurance at ATK, will manage advanced space transportation projects for Dynetics. (10/12)

Next Delta 4 rocket to Boost Military Satellite (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
The United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket that will deploy a vital communications satellite for U.S. military forces overseas was placed atop its Cape Canaveral pad this week. Liftoff is targeted for January 19 to deliver the Air Force's fourth Wideband Global SATCOM spacecraft into orbit and continue ongoing efforts to upgrade the military's main communications infrastructure. (10/12)

German Satellite's Doom Looms Sooner (Source: MSNBC)
Just a few weeks after a falling U.S. satellite put the world on alert, German officials say the defunct ROSAT X-ray telescope is on course to make a fiery re-entry in the Oct. 20-25 time frame — which is earlier than previously predicted. Initial projection called for atmospheric re-entry to occur in early November. The shift to a sooner date is due to updated data, and additional shifts are to be expected over the coming days.

ROSAT was launched in 1990 from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Mission managers turned the probe off in 1999, and its orbit has been slowly decaying ever since. Theoretically, ROSAT could come down at any latitude between 53 degrees north and 53 degrees south. ROSAT isn't as massive as UARS was, but because of the way it was built, more of its mass is expected to survive re-entry. Experts estimate that 30 pieces totaling 1.6 metric tons could make impact, compared with 26 pieces totaling a half-ton for UARS. (10/12)

Panetta Suggests Ways to Cut $450 Billion From Defense Budget (Source: Defense News)
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the Pentagon will look to reform procurement and consider purchasing fewer weapons in an effort to cut $450 billion from its budget over the next 10 years. He also said the Pentagon would aim to realize billions in efficiencies. "In this fiscal environment, every program, every contract and every facility will be scrutinized for savings, savings that won't reduce readiness or our ability to perform essential missions," Panetta said. (10/12)

Indian PSLV Rocket Lofts French-Indian Earth Observation Satellite (Source: Space News)
An Indian PSLV rocket successfully placed the Franco-Indian Megha-Tropiques Earth observation satellite into low Earth orbit Oct. 12 along with three microsatellites, the Indian and French space agencies said. Megha-Tropiques, which will spend about three months in testing before being declared operational, is designed to operate for at least three years studying tropical monsoons using a microwave imager from an orbit of about 865 kilometers inclined at 20 percent relative to the equator. (10/12)

Astronauts Prepare for Landing at KSC Autograph Show (Source: ASF)
More than 30 legendary astronauts will descend on Kennedy Space Center on November 5-6, for the world’s largest Astronaut Autograph and Memorabilia Show. Tickets are now available online at www.AstronautScholarship.org/aams. The show’s roster boasts more than 35 legendary astronauts and space icons, including Mercury 7 astronaut Scott Carpenter, Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin and Apollo 13 astronauts Fred Haise and Jim Lovell, to name a few. Guests will also have access to a lunch celebrating the Space Shuttle program, a Gemini XII Anniversary dinner, astronaut talks and more. (10/12)

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