December 23, 2011

Russian Communications Satellite Falls After Launch (Sources: Reuters,
A Russian communications satellite fell to the ground on Friday soon after it was launched, adding to a string of disasters that have haunted the country's space industry. The agencies said the Meridian satellite, which can have both military and civilian use, did not reach its orbit and fell to the ground near the city of Tobolsk in Siberia, about 2,300 km from Moscow.

The sources blamed the accident on a failure of the Soyuz carrier rocket's third state, about seven minutes after launching from the Plesetsk spaceport. A source said the Meridian failure could delay the launch of Progress cargo craft, due in January. (12/23)

Variable Dark Energy Could Explain Old Galaxy Clusters (Source: New Scientist)
Does dark energy change over time? An alternative model of the as yet undetected entity that is thought to be accelerating the universe's expansion could explain some puzzling observations of galaxy clusters. But it will have to jump many more hurdles to compete with the simplest and so far most successful model of the elusive entity.

That model, called the cosmological constant, holds that there is a certain amount of repulsive energy in every cubic centimeter of space, and that amount stays the same over time. As the universe expands, more space exists, and so the expansion accelerates. (12/23)

Fundraising Lags to Complete Space Monuments in Titusville (Source: Florida Today)
For Mark Gaedcke of Titusville, a longtime veteran of the space shuttle program, the fleet’s retirement this summer meant the end of his job at United Space Alliance. Before he left, his co-workers threw him a surprise party and then gave him a second surprise. They chipped in to buy him a nameplate that will be part of a monument paying tribute to the hundreds of thousands of workers who played a role in the 30-year shuttle program.

But it may be a while before Gaedcke and others see completion of the monument at Space View Park in downtown Titusville. Fundraising is lagging, organizers say. Only about $120,000 of the estimated $300,000 project cost has been raised so far, said Charlie Mars, president of the U.S. Space Walk of Fame Foundation and Space Museum in Titusville.

Mars’ organization coordinated fundraising for monuments to the three earlier major U.S. manned space programs — Mercury, Gemini and Apollo — and is doing the same for the shuttle program. In all, about 500 people have paid $100 apiece for a black-granite nameplate that will include their name and employer, raising $50,000 for the project. That’s about a quarter of a percent of the 200,000 people Mars estimates have worked for NASA and its contractors on the shuttle program during the past three decades. (12/23)

NASA Completes Testing of Mirrors for Webb Telescope (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA has successfully completed the testing of mirrors for the James Webb Space Telescope, it says. The telescope features 21 mirrors, which were tested in a deep-freeze chamber in Huntsville, Ala. "Mirrors need to be cold so their own heat does not drown out the very faint infrared images," said Lee Feinberg, NASA Optical Telescope Element manager for the Webb telescope. (12/23)

Earth Has Two 'Moons' Right Now, Theorists Say (Source:
Earth has two moons, a group of scientists. One is that waxing and waning nightlight we all know and love. The other is a tiny asteroid, no bigger than a Smart Car, making huge doughnuts around Earth for a while before it zips off into the distance and is replaced by another. That's the scenario posited by the scientists who argue that there is a space rock at least 1 meter (3.3 feet) wide orbiting Earth at any given time, though it's not always the same rock. Click here. (12/23)

Final Chinese Launch Tally Surpasses U.S. Rocket Fleet (Source:
For the first time since the dawn of the space age, China's Long March rocket family eclipsed the annual flight rate of the U.S. fleet of space launchers Thursday with the successful deployment of a high-resolution mapping satellite. Chinese officials said the mission was flawless, marking the country's 18th successful space launch in 19 tries this year. The United States is 17-for-18 with flights of the space shuttle and the Atlas, Delta, Taurus and Minotaur rocket systems.

No more space launchings are scheduled from China or the U.S. this year. China's mark of 19 satellite blastoffs also sets a record for the Chinese space program. The previous high for Chinese launches in a year was set last year with 15 flights. Russian and Ukrainian launchers have lifted off 33 times this year, but three ended in at least partial failures. Those numbers include two Soyuz flights from the European-owned spaceport in French Guiana, and a Zenit rocket mission from the commercial U.S.-based Sea Launch platform in the Pacific Ocean. (12/23)

The End of the Space Shuttle (Source: Daily Press)
Engineers from NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton helped design the Space Shuttle. They also helped diagnose what went wrong after two accidents — Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003 — killed 14 astronauts. The shuttle was a drain a NASA finances, costing an estimated $175 billion through 2010. Many of the hundreds at Langley who watched the last launch said they were disappointed that NASA would temporarily rely on Russia to send astronauts into space. (12/23)

Space.Travel Announces Partnership with SpaceWed (Source: Space.Travel)
Space.Travel, the destination website for outer space, is pleased to announce a marketing partnership with SpaceWed. SpaceWed will offer Space.Travel members a ten percent discount on their space wedding rings. Space Wedding Rings offers a unique and sentimental way for regular people to be connected to space. This fits well with our website’s goal of sharing space experiences,” says Kenneth Schweitzer, founder of Space.Travel. (12/23)

How the Pentagon Will Create Space Travel Profits (Source: Market Oracle)
The mainstream media was all over Paul Allen's recent announcement proclaiming he intends to "transform" the space industry. But they missed the real story - one that will make a few savvy investors a small fortune. If you want big profits from the next generation of space travel, keep an eye on new developments at DARPA.

DARPA wants to create a whole "new space system." Don't get me wrong. I believe Allen's investment is an important vote of confidence in for-profit space travel. But hold on to your wallets folks, because I'd be surprised if he or any investors ever turn a profit from Allen's new venture. After reading about Allen's foray into outer space you might have been tempted to jump into some obvious industry stocks.

I believe a recent announcement by DARPA will become an investment bonanza. It didn't get much play in the major media because it's hard to see the profit potential in recycling dead satellites still orbiting earth. Under its Phoenix program, the agency wants to find ways to harvest parts from old satellites. To do so, DARPA intends to transform the nation's space system. I have followed this field for years and I firmly believe DARPA's interest will help lay the foundation for a whole new era of space travel. Click here. (12/23)

Self-Healing Electronic Chip Tests May Aid Space Travel (Source: BBC)
Self-repairing electronic chips are one step closer, according to a team of US researchers. The group has created a circuit that heals itself when cracked thanks to the release of liquid metal which restores conductivity. The process takes less than an eye blink to bring the circuit back to use.

The researchers said that their work could eventually lead to longer-lasting gadgets as well as solving one of the big problems of interplanetary travel. The process works by exploiting the stress that causes the initial damage in the chips to break open tiny reservoirs of a healing material that fills in the resulting gaps, restoring electrical flow. (12/23)

Japan: Space Strategy Office Would Promote Better Policy Coordination (Source: Yomiuri Shimbun)
The government plans to establish a space strategy office in the Cabinet Office to promote space development, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura announced at a press conference Thursday morning. In a move to integrate national space policy, the government intends to give the strategy office authority to coordinate space-related policy measures currently handed by various government entities.

"We're considering setting up a space strategy office, which will be positioned as the headquarters for national space policy," Fujimura said. "We'd like to submit bills [necessary to establish the office] at the next ordinary Diet session." The government aims to launch the strategy office in April and will submit related bills, including one to revise the Aerospace Basic Law, at the Diet session in January. (12/23)

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