November 24, 2011

Did US 'Climate Weapon' Knock-Out Russian Probe? (Source: Russia Times)
Rumors are circulating that America’s ionosphere research site in Alaska caused the spacecraft’s failure. a retired Russian general believes that the glitch which prevented Phobos-Grunt from carrying out its space mission was caused by American radar sites in Alaska.

General-Lieutenant Nikolay Rodionov, who used to command the country’s ballistic missile early warning system, told Interfax that “the powerful electromagnetic radiation of those sites may have affected the control system of the interplanetary probe.” The general was apparently referring to the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) site located in Gakona, Alaska.

The facility’s stated purpose is the study of the ionosphere and its use for communication. But several popular conspiracy theories say it is developing a superweapon with potential to cause natural disasters on a global scale, including earthquakes, climate change and reversal of the magnetic poles. (11/24)

Actual Race to Mars Could Begin Saturday (Source: FOX News)
NASA will launch its newest Mars lander on Saturday; Russia hopes to salvage its mission to Mars moon Phobos as well. Is a race to Mars about to begin? It’s a grueling marathon, only this time the finish line is the Red Planet -- and the race takes place at 70,000 miles per hour.

NASA’s newest Mars rover is scheduled for launch Saturday; Curiosity should arrive at the Red Planet's mineral-rich Gale Crater next August, after a 354-million-mile, 8.5-month voyage aboard an Atlas V rocket. Meanwhile, ESA spokesman Bernhard von Weyhe said contact with Russia's Phobos-Grunt probe could be the first step in restabilizing the mission. If successful, Phobos-Grunt could leave Earth's orbit at more or less the same time as its American counterpart.

It's a head-to-head race begun not with a pistol but a rocket launch. So who will reach Mars first? It's difficult to say, according to theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, who noted that both probes will be traveling at roughly the same speed over the course. But it's a treacherous journey to Mars: Anything could happen, and the road is littered with failure. (11/24)

Earth’s Core Deprived of Oxygen (Source: Carnegie Institution)
The composition of the Earth’s core remains a mystery. Scientists know that the liquid outer core consists mainly of iron, but it is believed that small amounts of some other elements are present as well. Oxygen is the most abundant element in the planet, so it is not unreasonable to expect oxygen might be one of the dominant “light elements” in the core.

However, new research from a team including Carnegie’s Yingwei Fei shows that oxygen does not have a major presence in the outer core. This has major implications for our understanding of the period when the Earth formed through the accretion of dust and clumps of matter. (11/24)

Company Sets Sights on Space with Dream Chaser Project (Source:
Space Systems is one of seven business areas that make up Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC), a Sparks-based private company that has 2,200 employees working in 36 locations in 20 states. Other SNC business areas include intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, communications navigation surveillance and air traffic management.

The baby in the SNC family, the Colorado-based Space Systems division was formed after SNC bought three smaller companies and merged them into one business area. One of those companies was SpaceDev, which SNC acquired in late 2008. Part of SpaceDev's portfolio was the Dream Chaser, which is based on NASA's HL-20 design. The HL-20 originally was designed as an escape craft for the International Space Station. But the project ultimately was scrapped due to budget cuts. (11/24)

NewSpace Global Launches to Serve the Financial Sector on Commercial Space (Source: SpacecRef)
NewSpace Global, LLC announced its official launch. NSG is an information service provider that offers customers specific analysis on the NewSpace or commercial space sector through monthly reports, customized analysis (e.g. "Deep Dive" reports on sub-sectors or individual target companies), consulting and advisory work, special events, and real-time tracking. NSG relies upon experts in technology, finance, investing, business, science, real estate, law and media. Click here. (11/23)

Data Beamed from Russian Probe ‘Indecipherable’ (Source: RIA Novosti)
Telemetry data received from a wayward Russian Mars probe is impossible to decipher, a space industry source said on Thursday. The European Space Agency (ESA) tracking station in Perth, Australia, received signals from the Phobos-Grunt. “It was impossible to get anything out of the telemetry received this morning - there are encoding/decoding problems,” the source said.

Telemetric data beamed from the spacecraft is encoded by default, he added. “Tonight a command will be sent up for unencoded data,” he said. The mere data transmission shows that the unit is “alive” and powered but it is impossible to say anything about the status of the onboard control system, the source said. (11/24)

Leisure...In Space (Source: Alibi)
The future is crouching toad-like in the southern New Mexico desert in the form of an 18,000-acre spaceport. The initial round of construction on the world’s first purpose-built commercial rocket ship launching center is scheduled to be completed in January. The rest of it should be built by late 2013.

Spaceport America is financed by $209 million in taxpayer money. Funding runs out in two years. After December 2013, all operations must be entirely revenue driven, says Christine Anderson, executive director of New Mexico Spaceport Authority.

That’s where the operator comes in: Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. “They (Virgin Galactic) are certainly a big part of raising revenue because we have a 20-year lease with them,” Anderson says. “Also they are anchor tenants, so they’ll be flying all their flights out of Spaceport America.” (11/24)

NASA Planning to Send Astronauts to Mars (Source: KTRK)
NASA on Wednesday laid out its long term plan to get astronauts to Mars. Scientists hope a launch this weekend will help them start to address the dozens of health hazards humans would face on a flight to the red planet. But we're still decades and many issues away from putting an astronaut on the surface of the red planet. The space agency wants to know if it can use the Martian environment to generate oxygen, fuel or water there during a human mission, allowing us to bring less.

But with current technology, it would take six months just to get astronauts there. That alone is a concern because of exposure to space radiation that can cause cancer. So NASA is trying to figure out how to both shield humans from that radiation and make the trip there and back faster. (11/24)

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