December 14, 2011

Physicists Help Narrow Search for Elusive Higgs Boson (Source: Space Today)
New York University physicists are part of a research team that has narrowed the search for the Higgs boson, a sub-atomic particle that is a building block of the universe. In an announcement made in Geneva, scientists said they have found signs of its existence and narrowed the regions where the elusive particle could be. "If these first hints evolve into a conclusive observation of the Higgs boson, it will be a triumph of human intellect and ingenuity," said NYU physicist Kyle Cranmer, one of the project's researchers. (12/14)

Glonass Satnav System Targets Latin America and India (Source: Space Today)
The Latin American and Indian markets will be a priority for Glonass, Russia's global satellite navigation system, Russian Space Systems Deputy General Director Grigory Stupak said. Glonass is Russia's answer to the U.S. Global Positioning System, or GPS, and is designed for both military and civilian uses. "Priority markets today are Latin America and India," Stupak said. A group of 31 Glonass satellites are currently in orbit with 24 needed to provide global coverage. (12/14)

New Mexico Spaceport Official Excited by Stratolaunch (Source: NewsWest 9)
News that Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and aerospace pioneer Burt Rutan are building the world's biggest plane to help launch cargo and astronauts into space has New Mexico officials excited. Allen and Rutan announced their plans Tuesday, saying the new craft would keep America at the forefront of space exploration.

The two men also collaborated on SpaceShipOne, which was the basis for the craft that will be used by Virgin Galactic at Spaceport America in southern New Mexico. The company has nearly 500 people signed up and ready to fly. New Mexico Spaceport Authority executive director Christine Anderson says it's gratifying to see the commercial space industry growing. (12/14)

More Souyuz Launches from Kourou Spaceport in Future (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russian boosters Soyuz will be launched from the Kourou Spaceport in French Guiana at least twice a year, the Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said, On December 17, Soyuz is due to launch into orbit five French communications satellites and a Chilean satellite. The first launch of Soyuz from the Kourou Center took place on October 21 when the booster put into orbit two satellites of the European navigation system Galileo. (12/14)

Largest Aircraft Ever Built to be Built in Mojave (Source:
The Huntsville, Ala., company, named Stratolaunch Systems, promises to bring "airport-like operations to the launch of commercial and government payloads and, eventually, human missions." The company plans for a first flight within five years -- but Mojave Air & Spaceport in eastern Kern County will see building activity and economic benefits much sooner, including scores of new jobs and the construction of two massive fabrication and hangar facilities in Mojave overseen by Bakersfield contractor Wallace & Smith. (12/14)

Space Command Looks To Fill Communication Gaps as Budgets Tighten (Source: National Defense)
“Doing more without more,” — the mantra coming from the office of the secretary of defense — is a challenge for the Air Force as it tries to keep pace with growing demands for its satellite communications. “Despite the reduced budgets, we are seeing a growth in our secure communications requirements,” said Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, commander of the Air Force’s space and missile center in Los Angeles.

The space domain, according to the National Space Policy, was centered around the so-called “three Cs.” Space is “contested, congested and competitive.” Add to that two more “Cs:” cost constrained, officials have noted. The problem is that developing, building and launching military communications satellites is one of the most expensive and complex tasks the U.S. military undertakes. “How do we continue to progress in space — particularly in our satellite communications arena — at the same time without large budgets?” she asked at the Milcom conference in Baltimore. (12/14)

US, Japan, Australia? Mars Probe Will Hit Earth in January (Source: Russia Times)
The ill-fated Phobos-Grunt probe that got stuck in the orbit after an unsuccessful launch will fall to Earth on January 11, probably affecting four continents, the US Strategic Command shared its latest forecast. The current orbit of the vehicle suggests that it could collide with the surface on a vast part of the globe, from latitude 51.4°N to latitude 51.4°S. anywhere in Africa, Australia, Japan, North America or southern part of Western Europe, but definitely not on the larger part of the Russian territory.

A more-or-less exact prognosis on the coordinates of the crash can only be made several hours before the collision. According to the previous forecast, the probe was due to enter atmosphere on January 9. On Monday Viktor Khartov, the head of the Lavochkin bureau that designed the interplanetary station Phobos-Grunt, officially announced that the probe – worth $161 million – will not be able to reach Mars and is considered lost. (12/14)

Australia in Space: Letting Others Watch Us, But at What Cost? (Source: The Conversation)
Australia’s Chief Scientist Ian Chubb has more than once described the Australia of the past as a “mendicant country” regarding science. While this is a controversial, perhaps overly-broad, generalization, that description is unsettlingly apt when it comes to our access to space-based technologies.

Australia owns very little of the space infrastructure it routinely needs to use, and our own Earth satellites are limited to a handful sent up by others for commercial communications. What we don’t own is “first tier” space assets – satellites that maintain polar orbits, that over time can track view the entire globe and can be generically purposed for all kinds of activities. This kind of kit allows things such as broader communication capacity and the images you see on Google Earth. This is the type of data we must purchase from other countries. (12/14)

LightSquared Outraged At Leaked GPS Interference Data (Source: Aviation Week)
LightSquared is calling for an investigation of the source of possibly leaked data from the recently completed GPS interference tests conducted by the U.S. government that evidently contradict more favorable test results recently promoted by the company. The tests LightSquared performed with GPS equipment makers Javad GNSS, PCTel and Partron were touted as demonstrating that concerns over the threat posed by the company’s proposed wireless service to GPS users were overstated. Click here. (12/14)

With One Press Conference, Paul Allen Puts Huntsville in Commercial Space Race (Source: Huntsville Times)
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, one of the world's richest men, put Huntsville in the commercial space race Tuesday with one press conference. Speaking from Seattle, Allen announced formation of a new Huntsville company - Stratolaunch Systems - to build and launch rockets from the world's biggest airplane as soon as 2016.

Huntsville's Dynetics Inc. is one of Allen's partners [contractors], along with space pioneer Burt Rutan and Elon Musk's SpaceX. Scaled Composites, the company Rutan founded in 1982, will build the airplane to carry aloft rockets built by SpaceX. Dynetics will design and build the control systems and dock that mates the rockets to the airplane. (12/14)

Mars-Bound Rover Previewing the Experience for Astronauts (Source:
Already 32 million miles from Earth on its interplanetary trek to Mars, the Curiosity rover has begun collecting useful scientific data about the radiation conditions that astronauts would encounter on the way to the red planet. The Radiation Assessment Detector, an instrument mounted the rover, has begun obtaining measurements on energetic particles penetrating the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft.

"RAD is serving as a proxy for an astronaut inside a spacecraft on the way to Mars," said Don Hassler, RAD's principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. "The instrument is deep inside the spacecraft, the way an astronaut would be. Understanding the effects of the spacecraft on the radiation field will be valuable in designing craft for astronauts to travel to Mars." (12/14)

Space Coast is a Contender for Stratolaunch Site (Source: Florida Today)
Stratolaunch press materials identified KSC as a potential base of operations, and a concept video appears to show the carrier aircraft taking off and landing from a runway with the Vehicle Assembly Building visible in the background. But company CEO Gary Wentz, a former chief engineer at NASA, said only that the company was “in discussions” about potential launch sites.

NASA officials confirmed KSC is one of those sites. “We’re pleased to be considered as a potential operations site for this new launch system,” said Allard Beutel, a Kennedy spokesman. “We don’t have any agreements in place, but we’re hoping (the center) can prove to be an economical partner for Stratolaunch Systems and others in this growing space industry.”

Editor's Note: The development of a massive hangar alongside KSC's Space Shuttle runway for Stratolaunch would appear to be an eligible project for Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) spaceport infrastructure funding. (12/14)

Lawmakers Will Introduce Bill to Avert Sequestration (Source: Defense News)
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said she and other senators plan to introduce a bill that would shield the Pentagon from more cuts. "We will be able to build a bipartisan coalition at the end of the day to avoid sequestration," Ayotte said. The Pentagon faces automatic budget cuts after the congressional supercommittee failed to trim the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion. (12/14)

Passage of Bill to Avoid Sequestration is Unlikely (Source: AOL Defense)
Defense analysts are not optimistic about the prospects of a Republican bill to avoid budget cuts at the Pentagon. The plan may not pass because "it seeks to direct budget cuts away from Republican priorities rather than sharing the pain," Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute said. (12/14)

Two Sentinel Satellites To Launch Atop Vega Rockets (Source: Space News)
Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium on Dec. 14 said it will launch two European Sentinel Earth observation satellites between 2014 and 2016 in the first two commercial contracts signed for the new Vega small-satellite launcher, which is still in development. Vega is expected to make its first launch in the first quarter of 2012, joining the European version of Russia’s Soyuz rocket alongside Europe’s heavy-lift Ariane 5 vehicle in operations from Europe’s Guiana Space Center in French Guiana. (12/14)

French Gyroscopes Picked for U.S. Weather Satellite (Source: Space News)
Astrium Satellites and its partner, iXSpace of France, will provide fiber-optic gyroscopes for attitude control aboard the U.S. Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS)-1 satellite to be launched in 2016. Astrium said it is the first time it will be delivering key internal measurement units for a U.S. government satellite program and is an example of Astrium’s recently redoubled efforts to promote itself as a component provider to other prime contractors in addition to building satellites on its own. (12/14)

DLR Chief Sees Battles Ahead on Station, Ariane (Source: Space News)
The head of the German space agency on Dec. 13 said Germany is preparing for a tough battle in 2012 to persuade its debt-burdened European partners to continue a large investment in the international space station. Johann-Dietrich Woerner, executive chairman of the German Aerospace Center, DLR, said Germany also expects a difficult debate with France over whether to begin substantial investment in a next-generation rocket to replace the heavy-lift Ariane 5 when European Space Agency (ESA) governments meet in November to discuss a multiyear spending package. (12/14)

Astronomy in South Africa: The Long Shot (Source: Nature)
The 90-kilometer drive starts in the sheep-ranching town of Carnarvon in western South Africa, and runs northwest through the semi-desert plains of the Karoo, where the only sign of human settlement is an occasional sheep farm. But as the road begins to pass north of the flat hills of the Losberg mountains, it suddenly comes upon seven huge white radio dishes.

This is the Karoo Array Telescope (KAT-7), a government-funded facility sheltered by distance and the Losberg from human-generated radio interference. Commissioned just this year, KAT-7 is both an operational radio telescope and a prototype for the much more ambitious MeerKAT project, a 64-antenna array that will be the largest radio-astronomy facility in the Southern Hemisphere when it is completed at this site in 2018. But KAT-7 also symbolizes an even bigger ambition: South Africa hopes that by 2024, this remote expanse will be the center of a radio facility spanning the continent. Click here. (12/14)

DOD Sets Date for a UP Aerospace Launch From New Mexico Spaceport (Source: UP Aerospace)
DOD's Operational Responsive Space (ORS) office has selected Mar. 7 for the launch of SpaceLoft-6. This will be the 6th launch of the SpaceLoft suborbital Reusable Launch Vehicle (sRLV) from Spaceport America and the 10th mission that UP Aerospace has conducted from the new spaceport in New Mexico since becoming operational in 2006. The sub-orbital mission is set to reach an altitude of 115 km and experience more than 4 minutes of microgravity time.

The DoD plans to launch a full manifest of payloads on board the SpaceLoft that will include more than 7 individual payloads and experiments demonstrating rapid payload build and launch. “This launch will once again demonstrate that SpaceLoft is the leader in reliable, economical, sub-orbital vehicles on the market today.” said Jerry Larson, President and Founder of UP Aerospace. (12/6)

Lockheed Martin Selects UP Aerospace to Support Reusable Booster System (Source: UP Aerospace)
Lockheed Martin awarded UP Aerospace a subcontract to support the Air Force's Reusable Booster System (RBS) in the areas of ground operations and flight testing at Spaceport America in New Mexico. The first phase award is a 9 month requirements definition effort with a follow on phase that is expected to span 4 years with multiple flight demonstrations beginning in 2015. (12/12)

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