March 18, 2012

NASA Wallops Rocket Launches Moved to 20 March (Source: NASA)
NASA has rescheduled the launch of five suborbital sounding rockets from the Wallops Facility in Virginia as part of a study of the upper level jet stream to no earlier than Tuesday night, March 20. The high probability of unacceptable weather is preventing a launch attempt on March 19. The Anomalous Transport Rocket Experiment (ATREX) will gather information needed to better understand the process responsible for the high-altitude jet stream located 60 to 65 miles above the surface of the Earth. (3/18)

LightSquared: FCC's Planned Block Will Violate Our 'Constitutional Rights' (Source: The Hill)
Wireless start-up LightSquared will tell the FCC on Friday that the agency's proposal to block its planned 4G network would violate the law and the company's constitutional rights. "The federal government may not now — on the basis of flawed evidence, a flawed process, and conspicuous political pressure — strip away the approval it granted and leave LightSquared and its investors holding the bag for billions of dollars of losses. Its contractual obligations will not permit this; its constitutional responsibilities will not allow it," the company wrote in its formal comment to the FCC. (3/16)

Defiant LightSquared: We're Not Going Anywhere (Source: National Journal)
If the Federal Communications Commission officially decides to block LightSquared’s plans to build a nationwide wireless network, it would be an “astounding, unsupported, and unprecedented” reversal, the company argued on Friday. The FCC has proposed revoking permission for LightSquared to use some spectrum on the grounds that the plan interferes with global-positioning systems. And the company has started taking hits. On Friday, for example, Sprint officially ended its deal with LightSquared. But in documents filed with the FCC on Friday, LightSquared says blocking its network is “beyond drastic” and could set back the government’s broadband access goals by years. (3/16)

LightSquared Gets $65 Million as Sprint Quits (Source: Reuters)
Hedge fund manager Philip Falcone's LightSquared lost its main business partner, Sprint Nextel Corp but gained $65 million from the breakup that may help its last-ditch effort to get regulatory approval to establish a high-speed wireless network. Sprint said on Friday it would exercise its right to scuttle the $9 billion agreement that would have allowed LightSquared to use a network Sprint is building to sell its own high-speed wireless services. Sprint had the right to back out of the deal if LightSquared failed to get regulatory approval by a deadline that was twice extended. The company's fate is critical to investors in Falcone's Harbinger Capital Partners, which once controlled $26 billion in assets but is now down to about $4 billion. (3/16)

5 Spaceflight Companies Looking to Get There Soon (Source: NBC Bay Area)
At the 2012 Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference few weeks ago, we heard updates from all of the companies involved in commercial suborbital spaceflight. This includes big names such as Virgin Galactic and SpaceX, and we'll tell you what each one is promising and when they'll be able to deliver. In this post, we'll take a look at five of the most promising up-and-comers that are looking toward suborbit for manned space travel and more. Click her
Linke. (3/16)

India Allocates Rs 125 cr for Mars Mission, Eyes Nov 2013 Launch (Source: Business Standard)
After the moon mission, IRO's plans for Mars exploration got a shot in the arm with the government allocating the ambitious program Rs 125 crore in the Union Budget. The budget documents state that the space agency plans to launch a Mars Orbiter as early as November next year with a 25 kg scientific payload. (3/16)

NASA Laptop Stolen From KSC Worker (Source: CFnews13)
A civil servant with the Kennedy Space Center’s human resources office reported on March 5, that an agency laptop computer was stolen from the employee’s personal vehicle outside the employee’s home in Orange County. Officials said the laptop contained personal information. An email about the incident was sent to about 2,300 affected employees and student co-ops at KSC Friday afternoon. They said while the probability is low that KSC’s employees’ personal information will be exploited, NASA is responding to this from a “worst case scenario” perspective to help prevent any personal or financial harm from coming to the employees whose information was in the stolen laptop. (3/17)

North Korea's Rockets and Space Program Shrouded in Uncertainty (Source:
As North Korea gears up for a controversial satellite launch next month, the capabilities and intent of the secretive nation's space program remain shrouded in mystery. North Korea announced that it intends to loft an Earth-observing satellite to orbit between April 12 and April 16. The move is drawing condemnation from officials in the United States and South Korea, who suspect the launch is mere cover for military missile testing. The stakes are high, particularly since North Korea possesses nuclear weapons and is famously erratic in word and deed. But the West remains unsure just how serious the country is about scientific spaceflight — and how advanced its technology may be. (3/16)

US: North Korea Planned Rocket Launch a 'Deal-Breaker' (Source: AP)
North Korea plans to blast a satellite into space next month to mark the centenary of the birth of its founder, Kim Il Sung, which the U.S. quickly called a "deal-breaker" for a new agreement where the U.S. would exchange food aid for nuclear concessions. After Friday's surprise announcement, the United States warned it would not send food aid to North Korea if it goes ahead with the long-range rocket launch, and U.N. Security Council members said it may violate sanctions.

The North agreed to a moratorium on long-range launches as part of the food deal with Washington, but argues that satellite launches are part of a peaceful space program that is exempt from international disarmament obligations. The U.S., South Korea and other critics say the rocket technology overlaps with belligerent uses and condemn the satellite program as a disguised test of military missiles in defiance of a U.N. ban. (3/16)

Moscow Calls on North Korea to Abstain From Launching Satellite (Source: Itar-Tass)
Moscow has called on North Korea to abstain from launching a satellite, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday. “The report on the upcoming launch of a North Korean satellite causes profound concern,” the ministry said. “Russia has never denied the North Korean sovereign right to peaceful exploration of the outer space. At the same time, UN Security Council resolution 1874 binds Pyongyang to abstain from any launches using ballistic missile technology, irrespectively of the military or civilian use of rockets. The resolution was based on Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which is compulsory for all UN member states.” (3/16)

SLS Launch Vehicle Specifications Take Shape as Development Continues (Source:
Eight months after the conclusion of the final Space Shuttle mission, the iconic winged-vehicle’s successor continues to take shape at various NASA centers, as the U.S. space agency further defines the Space Launch System requirements – as seen in the expansive SLS Program Launch Vehicle Specifications document, which provides details on the latest design baseline requirements for SLS Block 1, Block 1A, and Block 2 configurations. Click here. (3/16)

SpaceX Balances Dragon Tests With Satellite Launch Pace (Source: America Space)
SpaceX is working to uncover routine man/machine interface issues between astronauts and its Dragon spacecraft. It is also pressing Falcon 9 rocket engine tests to prevent costly delays in satellite launches that make up 60% of the company’s business. The Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft could eventually carry NASA astronauts to and from the ISS depending upon the outcome of the NASA commercial competition between SpaceX and two other competitors.

SpaceX is also beginning tests at its McGregor, Texas facility of the SuperDraco rocket engine that will be embedded around the side of the Dragon spacecraft for up to 120,000 lb. of thrust for launch escape. The company is also performing several firing tests every week of its upgraded Merlin 1D rocket engine to replace the Merlin 1C’s currently used. SpaceX hopes to make a first launch from its new launch pad at Vandenberg AFB, Calif. with the uprated engines by October. (3/17)

SpaceX Readies Upgraded Engines (Source: Flight Global)
SpaceX is on track to fly the first upgraded Falcon 9 in early 2013. The upgraded Falcon 9 launch vehicle will include a number of new features, chief among them being the nine Merlin 1D first stage engines. The Merlin 1D will offer up to 155,000lb (689kN) of thrust, an upgrade over the 140,000lb predecessor, the Merlin 1C. The uprated thrust will allow Falcon to carry larger payloads. "We'll be flying that first upgraded Falcon from the launch site at Vandenberg. We'll have hardware there by December. I don't want to predict a launch date, [but] shortly thereafter," says SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell.

The flight will see the 800lb weather research and communications satellite, launched into a highly elliptical low Earth orbit (LEO) for the Canadian Space Agency. SpaceX is in the midst of a variety of ambitious engine programmes, including the Merlin 2, a significant modification of the Merlin 1 series, and the Raptor upper stage engine. Details of both projects are tightly held. (3/17)

Musk Counters Neil Armstrong, Critics on '60 Minutes' (Source:
Elon Musk made history in 2010 when his company, SpaceX, became the first to launch a privately built space capsule into orbit and return it safely to Earth. But now, the millionaire-turned-space pioneer has an even loftier goal: to be the first entrepreneur to put an astronaut in orbit. In an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" Musk discusses his ambitious future plans and responds to two high profile critics of commercial spaceflight: Iconic Apollo astronauts Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan — the first and last men to walk on the moon.

Moonwalkers Armstrong and Cernan have been vocal critics of the push to commercialize space. The spaceflyers both testified before Congress to protest against government reliance on private space vehicles, saying that the commercialization of space could threaten America's dominance in space exploration. In Sunday's interview, which CBS released a preview of Thursday, Musk tells "60 Minutes" correspondent Scott Pelley that Armstrong and Cernan's disapproval was painful to hear. Click here to see an excerpt. (3/17)

Eutelsat Cuts Satellite Deal with Ukraine, Buys Access to Brazilian Slot (Source: Space News)
Even as it struggles to resolve orbital-access issues at 26 degrees east longitude with Saudi Arabia and Iran, satellite fleet operator Eutelsat has reached an agreement with Ukraine to develop the 48 degrees east slot and is confident of finding an equitable compromise on a separate Iranian satellite system at 34 degrees east. The Paris-based operator is expanding westward as well. Eutelsat has won an auction sponsored by Brazil’s Anatel telecommunications authority for the rights to a Brazilian orbital position. (3/16)

FAA Considering Launch and Re-Entry of SpaceShipTwo From Mojave (Source: Tehachapi News)
The FAA has announced a Draft Environmental Assessment for the Launch and Reentry of SpaceShipTwo Reusable Suborbital Rockets at the Mojave Air and Space Port. The Draft EA was prepared to analyze the potential environmental impacts of issuing experimental permits and/or launch licenses to operate SpaceShip Two Reusable Suborbital Rockets and WhiteKnight Two carrier aircraft at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave. Under the Proposed Action, the FAA would issue experimental permits and launch licenses to multiple operators for the operation of SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnight Two at the Mojave Air and Space Port. (3/16)

Mysterious Objects at the Edge of the Electromagnetic Spectrum (Source: NASA)
The human eye is crucial to astronomy. Without the ability to see, the luminous universe of stars, planets and galaxies would be closed to us, unknown forever. Nevertheless, astronomers cannot shake their fascination with the invisible. Outside the realm of human vision is an entire electromagnetic spectrum of wonders. Each type of light--­from radio waves to gamma-rays--reveals something unique about the universe. Some wavelengths are best for studying black holes; others reveal newborn stars and planets; while others illuminate the earliest years of cosmic history.

NASA has many telescopes "working the wavelengths" up and down the electromagnetic spectrum. One of them, the Fermi Gamma-Ray Telescope orbiting Earth, has just crossed a new electromagnetic frontier. "Fermi is picking up crazy-energetic photons," says Dave Thompson, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "And it's detecting so many of them we've been able to produce the first all-sky map of the very high energy universe." Click here. (3/16)

Source of DoD Commercial Bandwidth Funds is Drying Up (Source: Space News)
With a primary source of funding for commercial satellite capacity drying up, the U.S. Department of Defense must find an alternative means to feed the tremendous appetite for bandwidth generated by unmanned aircraft, according to a U.S. Air Force official. For the past decade or so, the Pentagon has relied heavily on Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) accounts funded by wartime supplemental appropriations bills to pay for commercial satellite services. But the Pentagon likely will not be able meet the demand for commercial satellite bandwidth with OCO funding in the months and years ahead. (3/16)

Solar Storms Now an Official Threat to Security of Hi-tech Britain (Source: Guardian)
England's farmers may be praying for a sustained downpour amid the current drought, but Whitehall has a more exotic weather threat on its mind. Explosions on the sun that blast solar winds towards the Earth have been identified for the first time as one of the biggest threats to the UK's ability to carry on normal daily life, according to a new official government register of major risks to the country.

A significant event on the sun could leave large swaths of the country without electricity, lead to the immediate grounding of planes, disable communications and even destroy household appliances. The danger has been prioritized in the Cabinet Office's National Risk of Civil Emergencies as the sun enters the most active point in its 10-year cycle – its solar max – raising the chances of a damaging burst of radiation, plasma or energetic particles (such as neutrons). (3/17)

Delicate Rescue Saves Stranded $1.7B US Satellite (Source: Florida Today)
Air Force ground controllers delicately rescued a $1.7 billion military communications satellite last year that had been stranded in the wrong orbit and at risk of blowing up — all possibly because a piece of cloth had been left in a critical fuel line during manufacture. During the 14-month effort, the satellite had to battle gravity and dodge space junk while controllers improvised ways to coax it more than 21,000 miles higher to its planned orbit. “This rescue effort was definitely a very sophisticated and highly technical masterpiece,” said Col. Michael Lakos, chief of the Military Satellite Communications Division. (3/18)

Stranded Satellite Could Be Salvaged (Source: Aviation Week)
An Astrium-built Russian satellite stranded in a useless orbit by a Proton launch mishap last summer may be salvaged to provide broadband satellite links to scientists working in Antarctica, according to one of the effort’s organizers. A working group of Russian agencies and companies with a stake in the disposition of Express-AM4 will decide later this month what to do with the spacecraft, which has been declared a total loss by its insurance underwriter.

Now stranded in an elliptical orbit at an inclination of 51 deg., the spacecraft lacks enough fuel to reach its planned geostationary slot at 80 deg. E. Long. But there is enough fuel on board for it to function for as long as 10 years in a new orbit designed to keep it in sight of Antarctica for 14-16 hr./day, according to William Readdy, a co-founder of Polar Broadband Systems Ltd. (3/16)

Space Coast Prepares for Discovery's Departure (Source: Florida Today)
For nearly 30 years, it was “our” space shuttle. But in a month, the Space Coast must bid Discovery farewell. At daybreak on April 17, a jumbo jet will take off from Kennedy Space Center carrying NASA’s most-flown shuttle orbiter, making it the first to leave its home port to go on public display. At the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum, surrounded by Space Age artifacts, Discovery will begin a new mission to tell the shuttle program’s story, including those of the thousands of local residents who worked on the spaceships and watched them fly. (3/17)

Foundation Close to Naming New President (Source: Florida Today)
An aerospace company executive will soon be named president of the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, the head of a search committee said Friday. “The name will be well-recognized in the aerospace and NASA community,” said Mike McCulley, a retired astronaut and recent chair of the nonprofit’s board of directors who led the search. The new president will replace Stephen Feldman, who plans to retire July 31 at the end of a five-year contract, after 13 years leading the organization based at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

With an annual operating budget of about $1.5 million, the foundation honors fallen astronauts through educational programs and the Space Mirror Memorial at the Visitor Complex. A six-person selection committee reviewed 18 applicants, including a former astronaut, professors, museum and industry executives and fundraising professionals. The search committee began meeting to evaluate applications in January and interviewed seven contenders. (3/17)

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