December 24, 2011

Mysterious ’Space Ball’ Found in Namibia is a Really Serious Problem (Source: Smart Planet)
Uh oh… it looks like NASA might have dropped something — again. Or perhaps the strange object that suddenly came down from the heavens is the property of another Space Agency. Either way, somebody probably wants it back. Authorities in Namibia have alerted NASA and the European Space Agency of a mysterious piece of space junk that crash-landed in a remote area of Namibia.

The metallic sphere-shaped ball looks to be about the size of a basketball and weighs around 13 pounds and appears to be man-made. The “space ball” was initially discovered in November, a few days after residents living in a nearby village reported hearing a series of explosions, which were likely the sounds of a sonic boom as the plummeting debris broke through the sound barrier. The impact generated such great force that it created a hole 33 centimeter deep and 3.8 meters wide. The ball was found 60 feet from the crash site. (12/24)

Meridian Debris Falls in Russian Neighborhood (Source: Russian Space Web)
According to initial reports, the remnants of the spacecraft were expected to crash near Tobolsk in the Tyumen Region of Russia. However within three hours after the accident, Interfax news agency reported that fragments of the spacecraft were found near Ordynskoe in Novosibirsk Region.

Soon, a report came that a fragment from the failed mission crashed into the residential house in the village of Vagaitsevo, some three kilometers from the Ordynskoe regional center in Novosibirsk Region. Ironically, what was described as a 50-centimeter sperical gas tank hit the roof of the house along Cosmonauts Street. Fortunately, nobody was hurt in the incident, Russian media said. Click here. (12/24)

Commission Investigating Meridian Satellite’s Abortive Launch (Source: Itar-Tass)
The third stage of the Soyuz-2 launch vehicle, which was carrying the Meridian satellite to orbit on Friday, failed. “An accident occurred at the 421st second of the Meridian satellite launch from the Plesetsk spaceport in the off-normal work of the propulsion unit of the third stage of the launch vehicle. The satellite failed to reach a low orbit,” said an official.

“A state commission is investigating causes of the accident,” he remarked. “If the accident occurred when the third stage was working, fragments of the orbiting unit might have fallen over northern parts of Siberia,” a source in the Russian aerospace industry told Itar-Tass. (12/23)

Cape Canaveral Air Force Capt. Named Space Award Winner (Source: Florida Today)
Capt. Steve Nielson from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is the recipient of the 2011 Florida National Defense Space Award, the National Space Club of Florida announced. Nielson, the GPS Division Chief at the Air Force Station, began his Air Force career as an Avionics Systems Engineer and then served as Flight Test Engineer and Systems Engineer on various programs. He was then assigned to the 45th Launch Support Squadron at Cape Canaveral. (12/24)

Russia Space Chief: Industry in 'Crisis' After Latest Failure (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia's space industry needs an influx of new faces to overcome its current crisis, the head of the Roscosmos agency said on Friday, hours after a satellite crashed in southern Siberia. “The space branch is suffering a crisis. We must resolve this situation and give way to the youth...Perhaps it's time for reshuffle,” agency chief Vladimir Popovkin said. (12/24)

Could Starships Use Cold Fusion Propulsion? (Source: Discovery)
Voyager 1 is now leaving solar system, making it the first manmade probe to enter interstellar space. That's quite an achievement, and it only took 30+ years. But if we're going to get serious about boldly going where no man has gone before, and send humans beyond the solar system, we're gonna need a cheap and plentiful energy source to help us get there.

Exactly how much energy are we talking about? Well, back in January, a paper appeared on the arXiv by Marc Millis, a former head of NASA's Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project, calculating the costs -- in terms of energy -- of a truly interstellar manned space mission. And it wasn't good news.

For one scenario, he assumed a 500-person space ship on a one-way trip to establish a human colony on some distant exoplanet. That would require an exajoule of energy, or 1018 J, i.e., just about the same amount of energy consumed by everyone on Earth in one year. (12/24)

Proton-M Booster with Dutch Telecom Satellite put on Launching Pad (Source: Itar-Tass)
The Proton-M booster with the Dutch telecommunications satellite NSS-14 was put on a launching pad at the Baikonur spaceport, a Roscosmos source said on Saturday. The works of the first start-up day began as scheduled at the spaceport. The launch is scheduled for December 26. (12/24)

Soyuz Docks with Space Station (Source: CBS)
Amid word of yet another Russian space failure -- the fifth this year -- a Russian Soyuz ferry craft glided to a problem-free docking with the International Space Station Friday, boosting the lab's crew back to a full complement of six after an August launch failure that disrupted crew rotation flights. Soyuz TMA-03M commander Oleg Kononenko monitored an automated approach from the spacecraft's center seat, flanked by European astronaut Andre Kuipers on his left and American Donald Pettit to his right. (12/24)

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