December 3, 2012

Shareholders Approve DigitalGlobe-GeoEye Merger (Source: Space News)
Shareholders of imaging satellite operators GeoEye and DigitalGlobe have approved the merger of the companies in a transaction that would create a single major provider of commercial satellite imagery to the U.S. Department of Defense. Virginia-based GeoEye and Colorado-based DigitalGlobe announced their plans to merge in July, putting to rest months of speculation and jockeying driven by a significant projected drop in the U.S. government’s commercial satellite imagery purchasing budget.

Both companies operate multiple imaging satellites and are developing more-capable craft and ground infrastructure under contracts with the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). Under the terms of the merger agreement, GeoEye shareholders will be entitled to 1.137 shares of DigitalGlobe stock and $4.10 in cash, $20.27 in cash, or 1.425 shares of DigitalGlobe stock for each GeoEye share they own. (12/3)

Editorial: The Art of Compromise (Source: Space News)
Representatives of European Space Agency (ESA) governments made the best of a difficult situation during their Nov. 20-21 summit in Naples, Italy, most notably by defusing — at least for now — a clash between ESA’s two biggest contributors over launch vehicle investment strategy.

In another example of ESA’s ability to accommodate the often disparate agendas of key members, the ministers agreed to fund Germany’s proposal to upgrade the Ariane 5 rocket while keeping alive France’s vision for a next-generation successor. France wanted to skip the Ariane 5 Midlife Extension (ME) upgrade, slated to debut in about five years, and proceed directly to the Ariane 6, a modular rocket designed to launch single telecom satellites that also would replace the Europeanized version of the Russian-built Soyuz. (12/3)

Editorial: Space Mojo (Source:
The last decade of investment in research, development and operations has yielded important space-based mission capabilities that differentiate the United States and its allies in the execution of our national security objectives. This affirmation of the operational utility of our new space-based capability is important. Accomplishment of these difficult tasks reaffirms that the fruits of our labor and our dedication to a strong national security space program are paying off.

Today’s global military and intelligence operational demands require timely intelligence, reconnaissance, warning and communications to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of the force. The postwar period’s planned smaller and more lethal military force is required to be responsive and agile across a complex set of global demands. The military’s global insight depends on effective use of space capabilities. Click here. (12/3)

Editorial: Mars the Hard Way (Source: Space News)
In recent weeks, NASA has put forth two remarkable new plans for its proposed next major initiatives. Both bear careful examination. As the centerpiece for its future human spaceflight program, NASA proposes to build another space station, this one located not in low Earth orbit but at the L2 Lagrange point just above the far side of the Moon.

This plan is indeed remarkable in as much as an L2 space station would serve no useful purpose whatsoever. We don’t need an L2 space station to go back to the Moon. We don’t need an L2 space station to go to near-Earth asteroids. We don’t need an L2 space station to go to Mars. We don’t need an L2 space station for anything. The other initiative is a new plan for Mars sample return, which is now held to be the primary mission of the robotic Mars exploration program. This plan is remarkable for its unprecedented and utterly unnecessary complexity.

It is certainly possible to propose alternative robotic mission sets consisting of assortments of orbiters, rovers, aircraft, surface networks, etc., that might produce a greater science return than the Mars sample return mission, much sooner, especially in view of the fact that human explorers could return hundreds of times the amount of samples, selected far more wisely, from thousands of times the candidate rocks, than a sample return mission. Click here. (12/3)

Milky Way May Be More Massive Than Thought (Source: Scientific American)
Although scientists know the masses of the sun and Earth, it's a different story for the galaxy. Mass estimates range widely: At the low end, some studies find that the galaxy is several hundred billion times as massive as the sun whereas the largest values exceed two trillion solar masses. Astronomers would have an easier task if the galaxy consisted solely of stars. But a huge halo of dark matter engulfs its starry disk and vastly outweighs it. Now remarkable observations of a small galaxy orbiting our own have led to a new number. Click here. (12/3)

Russia Delays Glonass Launch (Source: RIA Novosti)
The launch of Russia’s second Glonass-K satellite has been delayed until 2013. “The launch has been postponed due to technical flaws in the Fregat booster made by the Lavochkin space company,” Alexey Zolotukhin said. A Soyuz-2.1b launch vehicle carrying the Glonass satellite had previously been scheduled to lift off from the Plesetsk space center in northern Russia by the end of 2012.

The new date for the launch will be set at a meeting of the state commission on spacecraft testing once all flaws have been fixed, Zolotukhin said. Russia launched its first Glonass-K satellite, which has a service life of 10 years, in 2011. Glonass is Russia’s answer to the US Global Positioning System, or GPS, and is designed for both military and civilian uses. (12/3)

EU Pushes ESA For More Collaboration (Source: Aviation Week)
The European Union has always had an uneasy relationship with the European Space Agency (ESA). A club of mostly EU-member states, ESA's 20 nations fund billions in a la carte development programs outside EU control, where the agency is free to uphold national industry workshare demands over competitive pricing, set policy and negotiate accords with other space powers, albeit without the international clout Brussels could bring to the table.

Since it was formally established in 1975, ESA's approach to R&D has proved effective at fostering technological innovation in Europe, helping sustain the aerospace and defense sector through economic ups and downs in the past three decades. Last month, the agency approved $13 billion in new spending over the coming years, a flat funding line compared with the last multiyear spending plan set in 2008, but significant given the drastic cuts some ESA member governments are seeing at home. (12/3)

Smithsonian Spidernaut Has Died (Source: Smithsonian)
It is with sadness that the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History announces the death of Nefertiti, the “Spidernaut.” “Neffi” was introduced to the public Thursday, Nov. 29, after traveling in space on a 100-day, 42-million-mile expedition en route to and aboard the International Space Station. She was there to take part in a student-initiated experiment on microgravity.

This morning, before museum hours, a member of the Insect Zoo staff discovered Neffi had died of natural causes. Neffi lived for 10 months. The lifespan of the species, Phidippus johnsoni, can typically reach up to 1 year. The loss of this special animal that inspired so many imaginations will be felt throughout the museum community. (12/3)

Rocky Planets May Be More Common Than Expected (Source: Cosmos)
A surprising new discovery challenges traditional theories as to how rocky planets – such as Earth – are formed, astronomers announced. Besides Earth, our Solar System has three other rocky planets: Mercury, Venus and Mars. They have a solid surface and core of heavy metals, and differ from planets that are large spinning bodies of gas, like Jupiter or Saturn. The new findings suggest rocky planets may be even more common in the universe than previously thought. (12/3)

Search for Life Suggests Solar Systems More Habitable than Ours (Source: OSU)
Scattered around the Milky Way are stars that resemble our own sun—but a new study is finding that any planets orbiting those stars may very well be hotter and more dynamic than Earth. That’s because the interiors of any terrestrial planets in these systems are likely warmer than Earth—up to 25 percent warmer, which would make them more geologically active and more likely to retain enough liquid water to support life, at least in its microbial form. (12/3)

Sea Launch Lifts Eutelsat Payload Into Space (Source:
Replacing the international communications satellite deployed by the maiden Delta 4 rocket a decade ago, a Sea Launch booster carrying the Eutelsat 70B spacecraft launched from its floating pad in the Pacific on Monday. This was the fourth flight for Sea Launch since the firm emerged from bankruptcy and corporate restructuring, having successfully gotten back into the business of hauling satellites to space in September 2011 with another Eutelsat payload.

The 20-story-tall Zenit 3SL rocket launched from the ocean-going platform stationed in the equatorial waters of the Pacific about 1,400 miles southeast of Hawaii. The Sea Launch deepwater platform and a separate launch control ship are based at the company's home port in Long Beach, California. Editor's Note: Russia now has a controlling interest in Sea Launch and has been reported to be in discussions with Vietnam to relocate the Sea Launch assets to a new home port in Asia. (12/3)

NASA Mars Rover Fully Analyzes First Soil Samples (Source: NASA)
NASA's Mars Curiosity rover has used its full array of instruments to analyze Martian soil for the first time, and found a complex chemistry within the Martian soil. Water and sulfur and chlorine-containing substances, among other ingredients, showed up in samples Curiosity's arm delivered to an analytical laboratory inside the rover. Detection of the substances during this early phase of the mission demonstrates the laboratory's capability to analyze diverse soil and rock samples over the next two years. (12/3)

Musk Q&A on Mars, Warp Drives, Etc. (Source: New Scientist)
Why are you so keen to get humans to Mars? - Because this is the first time in 4 billion years of Earth's history that it has been possible. That window may be open for a long time - and I hope it is - but it may not be. We should take advantage just in case something bad happens. It wouldn't necessarily be that humanity gets eliminated; it could just be a drop in technology. Click here. (12/3)

Japan Braces for North Korean Launch (Source: Al Jazeera)
For the second time this year, Japan ordered its military on standby in advance of a North Korea missile launch planned for later this month. An attempted missile launch in April ended in failure. Japan has reportedly been notified of the trajectory the missile launch will take and is prepared to order its military to shoot down the rocket if it looks as though it will approach Japanese territory. Most of the international community, including China and Russia, have condemned the decision by North Korea to launch the missile. (12/3)

Soyuz Light Rocket Debut Delayed by Live Test Failure (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The inaugural launch of the Soyuz-2-1v rocket has been delayed from this year until sometime in 2013 due to a live test firing failure that damaged the rocket. A planned 200-second firing of the first stage engine failed after only a few seconds, resulting in damage to the propulsion section of the rocket.

Sources indicated that “an erroneous shutdown command had been issued based on data from the RD-0110R steering engine which indicated that the engine’s turbopump exceed an allowable rotation speed. The turbine of RD-0110R was destroyed, even though all input parameters for its operation seemed to be normal.” The test article and stand have been repaired. The next live firing is now set for the end of February.

The new rocket is a scaled-down “light” version of the traditional Soyuz launch vehicle that is designed to deliver up to 2,800 kg of spacecraft into low Earth orbit. Modifications include eliminating four strap-on boosters and replacing the first-stage engine with the NK-33 motor, which was originally developed for the Soviet Union’s aborted manned moon program. (12/3)

Egolauncher (Source: Space Review)
A year after rolling out its plans to develop a massive air launch system, Stratolaunch Systems confirmed recently it parted ways with one of its original partners, SpaceX. Dwayne Day describes how this is evidence that Stratolaunch is less a viable commercial or military system than it is an ego-driven project. Visit to view the article. (12/3)

A Prize Competition Fails to Launch (Source: Space Review)
Last week NASA quietly canceled a planned prize competition to develop a low-cost dedicated launch vehicle for nanosatellites. Jeff Foust reports on the reasons behind the decision and the reaction from both potential competitors and the organization that planned to run the competition. Visit to view the article. (12/3)

Disappointment at NanoSat Challenge Cancelation (Source: SPACErePORT)
NASA's decision to pull the plug on the Nano-Sat Launch Challenge dashes the hopes of folks at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport who were looking forward accommodating to an entirely new class of vehicles, and opening up space access in Florida to university-led micro-payload projects. As part of the NASA challenge, Space Florida had planned to provide prize incentives for competing companies to conduct their missions from the state. (12/3)

Inserting the "S" Word: a Modest Proposal (Source: Space Review)
The direction and goals of national space policy remain an ongoing subject for debate. Derek Webber argues that including settlement as even a long-term goal of any future national space policy will provide new clarity and purpose to overall space efforts. Visit to view the article. (12/3)

Space Company Celebrates Quarter Century in Harlingen, Texas (Source: Valley Morning Star)
One of the best kept secrets in the Rio Grande Valley sits quietly around the bend on Rio Hondo Road not far from Valley International Airport. “I am actually surprised that we have been able to stay underneath the radar as well as we have,” said Tim Piller, site leader and production manager of an inconspicuous aerospace facility in Harlingen. "We build rockets,” said Piller of United Launch Alliance, the firm he works for.

ULA this year is marking its 25th anniversary in the community. It started in 1987 when General Dynamics established a space systems division plant here. Martin Marietta purchased General Dynamics in 1993. Martin Marietta then merged with Lockheed. in 1995 to form Lockheed Martin, and six years ago this month, the defense contractors Lockheed Martin and Boeing formed the Denver-based ULA venture.

Components for rockets to launch interplanetary exploration missions to Jupiter, Mars and Pluto and satellites in support of national defense, telecommunications, and weather have been manufactured by ULA at the facility here, and other locations in Alabama and California, while launches take place at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in Florida and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. (12/1)

NASA Procures Satellites for New Gravity Mission (Source:
NASA is moving forward with plans to build and launch two new satellites to replace the aging GRACE gravity-mapping mission, and the space agency has commissioned EADS Astrium to build the spacecraft for the joint U.S.-German project. But the replacement satellites, which will generally resemble the current spacecraft, may be launched well after the GRACE mission succumbs to aging hardware, according to scientists.

The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, or GRACE mission, has spent the last 10 years mapping Earth's gravity field and using the data to track changes in soil moisture, polar ice, and the planet's climate. Scientists have used GRACE's monthly gravity maps to chart ice melt, sea level rise, and droughts. (12/3)

Spacesuits: The Final Frontier (Source: New York Post)
One day, not long from now, everybody will need a spacesuit, whether it’s for a quick suborbital flight to Australia or a weeks-long jaunt to the newly discovered mineral baths on Mercury. When that time comes, two dudes from Brooklyn will be ready. One of them, Ted Southern, designs Broadway costumes and angel wings for Victoria’s Secret models. The other, Nikolay Moiseev, is a Russian-born engineer. Together from the Final Frontier Design studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, they are reinventing astronaut wear for a new era of space travel.

The two met by chance at a NASA contest five years ago and realized their mix of artistry and engineering skills was strong enough to build a company. But this is Brooklyn, where everything is handmade and local, so they’ve started teaching aspiring cosmonauts the basics of DIY spacesuit building, too. For $550 (equipment included), students at the 3rd Ward design workshop have learned casting and molding, taking small steps (for a man) toward making their own suits. Click here. (12/1)

Terminology Controversy Persists Over North Korea's Planned Launch (Source: Yonhap)
North Korea's planned space launch is raising a question over how to term the vehicle, with local media interchangeably calling it a missile or a rocket. The North said on Saturday that it plans to launch a rocket carrying a "working satellite" between Dec. 10 and 22, with South Korea and other neighboring countries suspecting it is a disguised launch of a ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. (12/3)

South Korea Not to Rush Rocket Launch (Source: Yonhap)
South Korea said Monday that it will not hurriedly push to fire what could be its first space rocket successfully launched from its own soil within this year as it needs a sufficient amount of time to analyze the exact cause of the problems behind the botched attempt last week. The countdown was halted less than 17 minutes from the scheduled launch of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 last Thursday due to problems detected in its upper second-stage rocket. This marked the second time that the country's third attempt to fire off a space rocket has been delayed. (12/3)

North Korea Tried to Import Foreign Missile Technology (Source: Chosun Ilbo)
North Korea has tried to import missile technology from Ukraine and other countries, the South Korean government here believes. A senior South Korean official said after failing four times so far to launch a rocket into space, the North turned to foreign technology and experts. "It appears that a missile expert of unclear nationality recently made a secret visit to the North," the official added on condition of anonymity.

The South Korean government believes North Korea used foreign help to solve problems like weak engine thrust, and that there is a significant chance that the upcoming missile launch scheduled for sometime this month will be successful. Last year, two North Korean agents were arrested in Ukraine and sentenced to eight years in prison for trying to smuggle out classified documents about fuel supply systems, liquid-fuel engines and rocket design. (12/3)

China Voices Concern over North Korea’s Planned Satellite Launch (Source: RIA Novosti)
China has voiced its concern over North Korea’s announced plan to launch a carrier rocket with a satellite later this month, Xinhua news agency reported citing a Foreign Ministry official. Qin Gang, a spokesman for the ministry, said North Korea has its right to develop its peaceful national space program, but all actions in this direction should be exercised within the frames of the UN Security Council resolutions. (12/3)

Russia Warns North Korea Against Rocket Launch (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia called on North Korea on Monday to abandon plans to launch a space rocket later this month, which Pyongyang announced on the weekend. “We strongly appeal to the North Korean government to reconsider the decision to launch the rocket,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The launch would contradict resolutions imposed by the U.N. Security Council, the ministry said. (12/3)

Has North Korea Learned its Lessons About Launches? (Source: NBC)
North Korea has two things to prove to the world when it tries once again to put a satellite into orbit, as announced over the weekend. First, engineers have to prove that they've solved the technical problems that led to an embarrassing launch failure in April. Second, officials have to prove that their intentions are as peaceful as they say they are. As hard as the first challenge is, the second one may be harder.

Some observers have referred to this month's scheduled launch as a test for a long-range missile capable of hitting the U.S., but this weekend's statement from Pyongyang was explicit: The North Koreans say they are simply trying again to put a satellite into orbit. Once again, the rocket is due to fly almost due south, putting the satellite in a polar orbit. This time, however, the North Koreans are hoping to avoid premature impact. In April, the first stage of the three-stage Unha rocket disintegrated, with the debris plunging into shallow waters west of the South Korean coastline.

From the North Koreans' perspective, the good news is that the first stage worked properly on at least two earlier launches, where upper stages then failed. So the design is probably fixable. But clues as to the nature of the failure have been scanty. Any debris that was recovered is probably in South Korean (and perhaps U.S.) hands. The available telemetry about the rocket's operating parameters probably was not extensive. (12/3)

Chinese Astronauts May Grow Vegetables on Moon (Source: Xinhua)
Chinese astronauts may get fresh vegetables and oxygen supplies by gardening in extraterrestrial bases in the future, an official said after a just-concluded lab experiment in Beijing. Deng Yibing, deputy director of the Beijing-based Chinese Astronaut Research and Training Center, said that the experiment focused on a dynamic balanced mechanism of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and water between people and plants in a closed system.

According to Deng, a cabin of 300 cubic meters was established to provide sustainable supplies of air, water and food for two participants during the experiment. Four kinds of vegetables were grown, taking in carbon dioxide and providing oxygen for the two people living in the cabin. They could also harvest fresh vegetables for meals, Deng said. The experiment, the first of its kind in China, is extremely important for the long-term development of China's manned space program, Deng added. (12/3)

Five Overhyped Mars Discoveries (Source:
NASA has been trying to dampen expectations for an upcoming Mars announcement after rumors abounded that the agency's Curiosity rover discovered something big. "Rumors and speculation that there are major new findings from the mission at this early stage are incorrect," NASA officials wrote in a statement on Thursday (Nov. 29). "The news conference will be an update about first use of the rover's full array of analytical instruments to investigate a drift of sandy soil."

In light of this latest saga, we took a look back at the five most overhyped Mars discoveries in years past: canals on Mars; flowing water on Mars; face on Mars; microbial life in Mars meteorite; and microbes on Mars. Click here. (12/3)

Fiscal Cliff Poses Hazards for Florida (Source: Sun-Sentinel)
For Florida, falling off the "fiscal cliff" would wipe out more than 130,000 jobs, stifle consumer spending and raise taxes for just about everyone who pays them. That sounds like a recipe for disaster — because it is. Congress intentionally created a nightmarish scenario last year — automatic spending cuts and tax hikes totaling more than $500 billion in fiscal 2013 alone — to force itself to find a better way to ease the nation's debt.

Now that negotiations are under way — with President Barack Obama facing off with congressional Republicans — Florida has much at stake. Even Social Security and Medicare benefits, though not part of the automatic cutbacks, could be thrown onto the bargaining table. While some argue that the Dec. 31 "cliff" deadline is meaningless, Floridians face painful consequences if the nation's leaders fail to strike a deal by early next year.

Without a deal, the combination of tax hikes and spending cuts would reduce Florida's economic output by $16 billion by the fourth quarter of 2013 and lead to a loss of 130,000 to 140,000 jobs, according to a University of Florida economist. That's enough to set off a mild recession and an uptick in the state's unemployment rate, said UF's David Denslow, who made the projections after reviewing a Congressional Budget Office assessment of the nationwide impact and applying it to Florida. (12/2)

Governors Pushing for Local Drone Test Site (Source: Washington Post)
The governors of Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia are partnering in an effort to establish a Federal Aviation Administration-designated test site for unmanned aerial systems in the region. The drone business has garnered attention in recent years as the Pentagon has increased its buying and commercial interest grows. The Mid-Atlantic Unmanned Aerial Systems Coalition, backed by the three state leaders, is hoping that an FAA designation could make the region a focal point for contractors and start-ups alike. (12/2)

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