December 26, 2011

Soyuz Fails... Again (Source: Tea Party in Space)
Another Russian Soyuz rocket has failed again. Thankfully, it was carrying a Russian communications satillite and not Astronauts or Cosmonauts. This now brings the total number of failures to THREE in the last FIVE months. This is the same system NASA and Congress told us we could use to ferry our brave astronauts to the space station.

Just so everyone is clear: The quickest way to stop depending on Russia for rides into space is to fully fund the Commercial Crew program utilizing Space Act Agreements (SAAs). We have been saying this for how long? Because the congress inadiquately funded Commercial Crew, NASA was forced to use SAA's. It was a blessing in disguise. We can only hope that Russia figures out it's quality control problem and gets flying soon. (12/26)

Namibian Space Ball Identified as Ariane Hydrazine Tank (Source: The Australian)
The great mystery of the space ball has been solved. We can now rest easy in the knowledge aliens aren't pelting random space junk at Earth. There was wide speculation after a bizarre object, made from a “metal alloy known to man”, fell out of the sky on to remote grassland in Namibia. Authorities were so baffled by the find NASA and the European Space Agency were called in to investigate.

It seems this was totally unnecessary when you have the power of the internet. After the investigation went public, a commentator on tech site Gawker identified the ball as a piece of an unmanned rocket. "For anyone wondering what it actually is, it's likely a 39-litre hydrazine bladder tank (based on its apparent size; there are also much larger hydrazine tanks). They're used on unmanned rockets for satellite launches, which would explain why they're falling down in such a specific geographic footprint."

The European space company Astrium told Gawker the tanks are found in the Ariane 5 rocket, which are frequently used by the European Space Agency to launch satellites. The sphere was discovered mid-November, with forensic police conducting tests before announcing the find. Authorities remained baffled, but they did conclude the sphere did not pose any danger. Several such balls have also dropped in southern Africa, Australia and Latin America in the past 20 years. (12/26)

India 2011: Year of Satisfactory Space Missions (Source: Indo-Asian News Service)
Nine satellite launches, a policy for managing remote sensing data and commissioning of the country's fastest supercomputer- India's space agency can look back at 2011 with a fair sense of satisfaction, though the scrapping of a controversial spectrum deal with a private company remains a blemish on its yearly report card.

During 2011, the Indian Space and Research Organisation (ISRO) launched eight satellites using its own rocket Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and one communication satellite GSAT-8 through Ariane 5 from Kourou, French Guiana. Though launch of two more remote sensing satellites were announced before the year-end, they did not happen. (12/26)

Launch of Russian Proton-M Rocket Postponed (Source: RIA Novosti)
The launch of a Russian Proton-M carrier rocket with a Dutch telecommunications satellite SES-4 (NSS-14) onboard was called off on Monday due to "technical problems", a spokesman for the Khrunichev State Research and Production Center said. He said the new date for launch was being discussed. He did not elaborate on the cause of the delay. The launch would have been the 70th commercial launch of a Proton carrier rocket since 1995 and the 10th launch of this type of carrier rocket this year. (12/26)

2011 - Year in Review (Source: Space KSC)
When the Soyuz TMA-03M docked on December 23 at the International Space Station, its arrival put the punctuation mark to the end of an historic year in spaceflight. "Historic" can mean good or bad depending on your perspective. For many, 2011 means a year that the Space Shuttle came to an end, and thousands of workers lost their jobs — seven years after President George W. Bush announced in January 2004 that the Shuttle program would end once the International Space Station was completed.

For many others, 2011 will be remembered as the year that commercial cargo and crew programs inched closer to a new chapter in human spaceflight — saving the ISS from a projected shutdown in 2015, and unleashing new technologies that promise to bring down the cost of access to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Click here. (12/26)

Canadian Astronauts Could be Grounded for Years After Next Mission (Source: Winnipeg Free Press)
Canadian astronauts could be stuck on the ground for years following Chris Hadfield's space mission scheduled for 2012. That six-month visit to the International Space Station, which begins next November when Hadfield blasts off in a Russian spacecraft, will mark the end of a busy era for Canadian space travel. It's not clear when another Canadian will leave the planet, says an official at the national space agency. (12/26)

The 12 Most Anticipated Space Missions of 2012 (Source:
The space shuttle program is over, but that won't mean a lack of launches in 2012. Between commercial and government spaceflight, manned and robotic, there's a lot on next year's spaceflight docket. For NASA, this year will bring the first private space cargo missions to the International Space Station, while China plans to launch its first crew to a brand-new space laboratory in orbit. Meanwhile, new NASA probes are due to arrive at the moon and Mars,among other places. Click here for a look at the 12 most anticipated space missions of 2012 (12/26)

Balloons to the Edge of Space (Source: New Scientist)
Several companies hope to make their fortune by opening up space travel to people with the right stuff - money, in this case. Almost all the firms plan to do so using rockets, though, and rockets are dangerous. Of the 500-odd people launched into space so far, 18 have died. For some people, the risk is surely part of the attraction. But what if you wanted the serene experience of looking at the blue marble without the risk of meeting a sticky end? José Mariano López-Urdiales thinks he has the answer: space ballooning.

The company he founded, Zero2Infinity, based in Barcelona, Spain, hopes to start taking people up to near-space as early as 2013. Balloons cannot go as high as rockets, but in theory at least they should be far safer, since passengers won't be sitting on tons of explosives. Their environmental impact is also far lower than that of smoke-belching rockets. There is no doubt that it is possible, because it has been done many times before.

In the 1950s and 1960s, more than a dozen crewed balloons journeyed to near-space. In 1957, for instance, Joe Kittinger of the US air force ascended to a height of 29 kilometres in a capsule attached to a helium balloon. He enjoyed the ride so much that when ordered to descend, he replied: "Come and get me." Click here. (12/26)

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