March 25, 2012

Russian Satellite Destroyed Despite Promise for Scientists (Source:
Engineers on Sunday intentionally crashed a Russian Express communications satellite stranded in space by an August rocket mishap, declaring the mission a total loss despite efforts by a start-up company to purchase the craft to serve the Antarctic research community. The Express AM4 satellite was guided on a controlled descent by engineers at EADS Astrium, the spacecraft's prime contractor. After firing its engine at about 1033 GMT (6:33 a.m. EDT), the 6.3-ton satellite plummeted into Earth's atmosphere, burning up and spreading debris over the Pacific Ocean north of Hawaii. (3/25)

U.S. Satellite Launched on Proton Rocket (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia's Proton-M carrier rocket with a U.S. telecoms satellite was launched early on Sunday from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan, a spokesman for the Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said. "The spacecraft is scheduled to separate from the Briz-M booster at 7:40 am Moscow time on Monday," the spokesman added. Intelsat-22 has been built by Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems for Intelsat Ltd., which operates the world's most extensive satellite network, comprising over 50 satellites. (3/25)

Virginia Rocket Launch Rescheduled for Tuesday (Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)
The launch of five suborbital rockets from Virginia's coast has been rescheduled for an attempt early Tuesday morning. NASA has had to cancel the launch several days in a row because of bad weather. Cloudy skies at three viewing sites in Virginia, New Jersey and North Carolina have forced the agency to postpone the launch. The launch requires clear skies. (3/25)

Asteroid Headed for Earth? Give it the Laser Treatment (Source: Guardian)
It is a scenario that has formed the backbone of many a Hollywood blockbuster. Astronomers spot an asteroid hurtling towards our planet. Impact is imminent and guaranteed to be catastrophic. Asteroids are poorly understood objects and deflecting them from earthly impact will be a lot more difficult than film-makers appreciate. For example, an atom bomb blast is more likely to pour broken, radioactive pieces of debris on to us rather than deflecting the object into space. We will need to be more subtle in our attempts to deal with encroaching asteroids, say scientists.

The use of high-power lasers in space for civil and commercial applications is still in its infancy, Vasile acknowledges, and work still needs to be done in building devices that have high power, high efficiency and high beam quality all at the same time. Nevertheless, he is confident these issues can be overcome. Other scientists have warned that zapping asteroids with lasers would generate plumes of gas and dust that would block the laser beam. But Vasile rejects the idea that this could be a problem. (3/25)

Private Crew, Cargo Ships Are Musts (Source: Florida Today)
The future of the U.S. space program depends mightily on the success of private systems for flying cargo and people to the International Space Station as soon as possible. NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden went before Congress last week, and he used the stage to make a case for robust funding of the commercial cargo and crew programs. He pushed hard for representatives on the budget-writing House Appropriations Committee to approve the money sought by the White House -- if not more.

In a sometimes animated back-and-forth, representatives pressed Bolden about whether the program's goals were to get cargo and astronauts flying or to subsidize the commercial industry. "My No. 1 objective is to put a program into place that supports the International Space Station, that gives us an American capability to get our own crews to orbit and not have to be reliant on the Russians," he said. But Bolden added that national policy does call for incentivizing private space development.

"It is also to grow the economy. It is to build a viable commercial space industry that brings jobs to this nation and helps increase funding in our economy." Several pressed Bolden to consider funneling more of the money to fewer companies, possibly speeding work by the teams with the highest potential. (3/25)

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