February 19, 2013

Northrop Offers Scaled-Down AEHF to USAF (Source: Aviation Week)
Northrop Grumman is offering a new concept for addressing what company officials see as a growing demand for tactical, protected satellite-based communications to the Pentagon. The company, which builds the communications payload for the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite managed by Lockheed Martin, is proposing a version of that payload that would be sized for commercially available satellite busses.

The goal is to house only the tactical, protected EHF portion of the payload on this smaller satellite, leaving the nuclear-hardened equipment designed for the nuclear command and control mission to the larger, more costly AEHF spacecraft based on Lockheed’s A2100 bus. (2/15)

NASA/Microsatellite Market Assessment from SpaceWorks (Source: NewSpace Watch)
SpaceWorks has released an interesting presentation describing the status and prospects for satellites in the 1 to 50 kg range. Click here. (2/19)

KSC Engineers Designing Plant Habitat For Space Station (Source: NASA)
Some of the research on the International Space Station focuses on meeting the needs of long-term spaceflight to destinations such as asteroids or Mars. A group of engineers at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida is developing a plant habitat with a large growth chamber to learn the effects of long-duration microgravity exposure to plants in space.

Through most of Kennedy's history, the space center has focused on receiving, processing and launching vehicles developed at other centers. Design projects such as the plant habitat give people at the Florida spaceport an opportunity to further use their extensive knowledge base in preparing flight hardware. Click here. (2/19)

Planetary Resources to Claim Asteroid Ownership with Robotic Beacons (Source: Singularity Hub)
The first step to becoming a successful space mining outfit is finding resource rich asteroids. To that end, the firm recently completed the Arkyd-100 satellite prototype. Diamandis told us, the Arkyd-100 will be “pound for pound or kilogram for kilogram” the most sophisticated spacecraft out there. The satellite will use its telescope to look for suitable near-Earth asteroids from low-Earth orbit. Later expeditions will rocket out to prospective real estate, do spectral analysis, and if the asteroid contains valuable resources, lay claim with a beacon.

Eventually, says Diamandis, Planetary Resources will send robotic miners to asteroids as they cross Earth’s orbit, leave the robots to mine for a few years as their rock loops around the sun, and bring them home as it re-approaches Earth. Click here. Editor's Note: This method for "staking a claim" to an asteroid will surely raise international legal questions. (2/19)

Report Cites Concerns with U.S. Air Force Launch Competition (Source: Space News)
Companies vying to build up to 14 launchers that the U.S. Air Force plans to buy competitively starting in 2015 are worried that the scales will be tipped in favor of the incumbent, United Launch Alliance (ULA), by virtue of its current contracting arrangements with the service, according to a report by the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress.

The Air Force confirmed Feb. 13 that ULA, prime contractor on the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program, will be allowed to bid for the missions, which have been set aside for competition involving so-called new entrants into the U.S. national security launch market. The rockets are a subset of up to 50 launch vehicle cores the service plans to procure over the next several years; ULA will supply up to 36 of those on a sole-source basis.

Potential bidders for the competitively awarded launches have concerns about “perceived advantages” to Denver-based ULA, which today launches virtually all operational U.S. military satellites. The report cited two main issues: the $1 billion in annual Air Force payments to ULA to cover infrastructure and other costs, such as engine and technology development, that are not tied to specific missions; and rocket design specifications that could mirror ULA’s existing fleet of Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets. (2/15)

Air Force Sequestration Plan Targets Missile Warning, Space Surveillance (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force unveiled a plan for coping with the steep reductions that includes delaying the purchase of missile warning satellites and scaling back space surveillance efforts. Air Force leaders said these and other moves, including deferring aircraft purchases and furloughing about 180,000 civilian workers, would save at least $12.4 billion.

But the service stressed the changes would have a cost in “drastic” and “long-lasting impacts.” Some of the largest space-related savings would come from delaying the purchase of the fifth and sixth satellites in the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) for missile warning, the presentation shows. Last summer, Congress authorized the Air Force to spend $3.9 billion starting this year to buy those satellites, called GEO-5 and GEO-6. (2/8)

Bigelow’s Fares Show SpaceX Trumps Boeing on Price (Source: Space News)
Visitors to Bigelow Aerospace’s planned orbital outpost can save more than $10 million by choosing to fly aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule instead of a Boeing CST-100 space taxi, a price difference that may foreshadow what NASA would be charged to fly astronauts to the international space station by the commercial providers.

Both companies’ capsules are being developed under NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program, which is aimed at finding a U.S. alternative to flying astronauts on Russian Soyuz spacecraft, a service that costs about $63 million per person and is the only transportation to the station available since the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011.

A third commercial space taxi backed by NASA, Sierra Nevada Corp.’s winged Dream Chaser, is not suited for flights to Bigelow’s planned habitats, which require crew and cargo on the same mission, company founder and president Robert Bigelow said. A round-trip ride and 60-day stay aboard Bigelow’s planned Alpha Station, an inflatable habitat based on technology originally developed by NASA, would cost between $26.25 million and $36.75 million depending on which transportation provider a client chooses. (1/31)

Resolution Underscores Complications in ESA-European Union Partnership (Source: Space News)
European Union governments on Feb. 18 adopted a watered-down version of a proposal relating to future dealings with the European Space Agency (ESA), omitting references to security concerns with ESA’s non-EU members and glossing over differences in contract-award procedures. Meeting in Brussels, the EU Competitiveness Council nonetheless agreed on the value of a “cost-benefit analysis and impact assessment” of various ways the European Commission and ESA could work together.

The resolution, adopted without debate, is far from the European Commission’s initial proposal in November. That statement said the fact that the 20-nation ESA includes Canada, Norway and Switzerland as members raises concerns as ESA and the commission work together on dual-use and security- or military-related space projects. The document also said ESA’s policy guaranteeing that its member states’ domestic industries will receive contracts in direct proportion to their ESA contributions is incompatible with the commission’s value-for-money principles. (2/19)

Virgin Galactic Regulatory Regime Still Unsettled (Source: Space News)
 As space tourism startup Virgin Galactic prepares to begin rocket-powered test flights of its suborbital craft this year, the FAA continues to debate a regulatory regime that could see the company beholden to two separate offices within the agency. “The FAA guys on the aviation side look at it and see an airplane, and on the space side, they see a spacecraft,” Steve Isakowitz, executive vice president and chief technical officer of Virgin Galactic.

Virgin Galactic views WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceSpaceTwo as a single space-launch system for regulatory purposes. The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation has jurisdiction over the launch and atmospheric re-entry of commercial craft fitting that description. But the FAA is still debating whether, in a regulatory sense, there is an aviation component to Virgin Galactic’s space operations. As the company continues its test program with an eye toward starting revenue-generating flights sometime in 2014, the FAA is debating the regulatory regime internally. (2/12)

Report Calls for Sweeping Rethink of Swedish Space Spending (Source: Space News)
A government audit of Sweden’s national space program and its 1 billion Swedish krona ($158 million) in annual spending is calling for more government oversight of the European Space Agency (ESA) and a review of the Swedish Space Corp.’s structure and mission. In a report released Feb. 14 that it says is long overdue, the Swedish National Audit Office says Swedish space investment is distributed among multiple organizations that operate as stovepipes with no real communication between them and no common ambition. (2/14)

A Tale of Two Satellites (Source: Air & Space)
Opening at the National Air and Space Museum on April 12, the exhibit “Time and Navigation” tracks the progress of timekeeping over three centuries. One of the highlights of the exhibit, a Transit 5 navigation satellite used by the U.S. Navy to guide its nuclear-powered submarines, was added to the collection as a replacement for an artifact that got away.

The swap began in 1984. That year, when the U.S. Air Force called Johns Hopkins’ Applied Physics Laboratory looking for a spare satellite to launch into polar orbit, APL program manager David Grant knew just where the service could find one: hanging from the ceiling of the National Air and Space Museum. Grant had recently taken his children for a visit, and remembered seeing an Oscar 17 satellite on display. Click here. (2/19)

Skybox Accelerates Second Satellite Development (Source: Space News)
Skybox Imaging is accelerating construction of its second satellite to take advantage of an opportunity to launch this year aboard a Russian-built Soyuz rocket topped with a Fregat upper stage. Previously, Skybox planned to launch its SkySat-2 satellite in 2014 aboard a Russian-supplied Dnepr rocket, according to spokeswoman Melissa Wren of the Griffin Communications Group. With the Soyuz contract, the satellite is now scheduled to launch this summer. (2/12)

Skylon Spaceplane: The Spacecraft of Tomorrow (Source: Discovery)
It’s difficult not to be impressed by the towering rockets used around the world to launch spacecraft into orbit. From the colossal Saturn V rockets developed in the 1960s to the SpaceX Falcon 9, rockets are practically synonymous with space travel in modern culture. However, rockets are also a huge financial drain on any spaceflight, being only partially reusable. Wouldn’t it be nice if it were cheaper and more economical to get to orbit? Cue the Skylon spaceplane, currently scheduled to commence test flights in 2019.

Over 30 years in the making, Skylon is a vehicle being developed by British company Reaction Engines Limited, and is being built as the world’s first fully reusable spaceplane (a spacecraft that takes off and lands horizontally like a conventional aircraft). In fact, each Skylon spaceplane is intended to be reusable over 200 times — quite a drastic improvement over any space vehicle in active use today. The most notable benefit of this would be a dramatic reduction in the cost of transporting items to orbit. Click here. (2/19)

NASA Restores Communications with Space Station After Computer Glitch (Source: NBC)
NASA restored its communication link with the International Space Station on Tuesday, hours after it was knocked out by a glitch encountered during a computer software upgrade. Josh Byerly of JSC said the link was restored at 12:34 p.m. ET. The outage began at about 9:45 a.m. ET, during a planned upgrade for the custom-coded software that NASA uses for command and control as well as voice and data communication with the space station.

When the crew switched from the system's primary computer to a backup computer that already had the new software installed, communications were lost immediately, Byerly said. During the outage, the station's crew had to rely on Russian ground stations for communications. Those ground stations are in range only when the station is flying overhead, roughly every 90 minutes. (2/19)

Baikonur Launches to be Planned for Several Years in Advance (Source: Kyiv Post)
Kazakhstan has invited Russia to sign an intergovernmental agreement on environmental safety with regard to Baikonur space launches, Kazakh Deputy Prime Minister, co-chairman of the intergovernmental commission on Baikonur issues Kairat Kelimbetov said in an interview with Interfax.

"We have agreed in negotiations with Russian partners that Roscosmos and Kazcosmos will switch from annual Kazakh approval of Russian launch plans to the medium-term agenda. Plans will be drafted for at least two or three years or even for a longer period," he said. Hence, the sides "will create a medium-term concept of the gradual reduction of Proton launches. Both Russia and we want to see the prospective and to have a launch schedule," Kelimbetov said. (2/18)

Martinez and SpaceX Founder Discuss Brownsville Spaceport Project (Source: Brownsville Herald)
On Valentine’s Day, Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez met with Elon Musk to discuss the proposed Boca Chica launch site, which would augment SpaceX’s current launch site at Cape Canaveral and another site nearing completion in California. Georgia, Puerto Rico and another potential site in Florida are on the shortlist as well, though none of those sites came up during Martinez’s half-hour meeting with Musk. Likewise, neither Musk nor his staff brought up any major obstacles to locating the launch site at Boca Chica, Martinez said.

An Environmental Impact Statement has yet to be completed and a waiver granted, if possible, through the Legislature to the state’s public beach access law. The waiver would be necessary to legally close the beach for a period of time before and after each launch. Launches would take place no more than once a month after the site became fully operational, according to SpaceX. A second EIS hearing is set to take place in April, with the EIS itself expected to be completed this summer. SpaceX could make a decision on where to locate the new launch site in the third or fourth quarter of this year.

Musk said he liked what local officials have done to attract SpaceX and liked the Boca Chica site, Martinez said. “We didn’t talk about specific incentives or terms,” Martinez added. “I think the governor’s office has done a marvelous job on that... The vision of Brownsville and the vision he has for his company are very much in tune,” Martinez said. “We both feel like anything we work hard enough at we can get accomplished.” (2/18)

Florida Awards Grants for Defense Support (Source: Bay County Press)
Governor Rick Scott announced the 2012-13 Florida Defense Support Task Force Grants. The grants, totaling $2.6 million, have been awarded to ten projects that serve to protect military installations and grow jobs and opportunities across the state.

The 2012-13 Florida Defense Support Task Force Grants were awarded to the Bay County Defense Alliance, National Simulation Center in Orlando, Highlands County EDC, City of Jacksonville, Tampa Bay Defense Alliance, Santa Rosa County, the Greater Pensacola Chamber, the Andrews Institute in Gulf Breeze and the Florida 8 (a) Alliance in Jacksonville. (2/18)

Private Moon Travel Startup Launches Crowdfunding Campaign (Source: Space.com)
A private startup aiming to launch manned lunar expeditions has started a crowdfunding campaign to get the public involved. The company, Golden Spike, aims to get its first mission off the ground by 2020. To help achieve that goal, the startup's leaders are reaching out via the crowdfunding site Indiegogo in hopes of raising $240,000 ­— "a dollar for every mile on the way to the moon," said Golden Spike's president and CEO, planetary scientist Alan Stern.

"Ever since we launched [the company], we've been getting emails and tweets and Facebook posts about, 'How can I help?'" Stern said. "It just seems like there's a hunger out there to participate in grand exploration." Contributors during the 10-week campaign can secure rewards ranging from printed "thank you's" and subscriptions to Golden Spike's mailing list (for a $25 donation), to VIP trips to see the company's first moon launch (for a contribution of $50,000). Other options include nominating names for the lunar test vehicles, and having your name flown to the moon during Golden Spike's first lunar landing mission. (2/19)

Space Launch System, Orion Wouldn't be Affected by Sequestration (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA has decided to spare its Space Launch System and Orion crew capsule from any direct consequences of budget sequestration this year. Taking the cuts instead in the "exploration" part of NASA's budget would be commercial space companies trying to build spaceships to get American astronauts to the International Space Station. The Space Launch System (SLS) is NASA's name for a new booster being developed at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville for deep space missions and the Orion capsule that will ride on top of it.

Bolden and NASA managers assume that NASA will continue operating the rest of this fiscal year under congressional Continuing Resolution (CR) spending levels now in place. Congress is funding NASA and other agencies under a CR, which freezes them at last year's spending levels, because it cannot agree on a new budget. A 5 percent cut in CR spending for the entire fiscal year would translate to a 9 percent loss of money over the remaining seven months remaining in FY 2013. The total loss to NASA from sequestration for the year, based on its CR funding level of $16.9 billion, would be $894 million.

NASA would not be able to provide fourth quarter funding for FY 2013 program milestones at SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, and Sierra Nevada, Bolden said. That includes the SpaceX Inflight Abort Test Review, the Boeing Orbital Maneuvering and Attitude Control Engine Development Test, and the Sierra Nevada Corporation Integrated System Safety Analysis Review #2. What else would take hits under sequestration? Science and research missions and infrastructure work (including some for the Space Launch System) are at risk. (2/19)

Even Deadly Meteors and Asteroids May Not Unite the Human Race (Source: LA Times)
If a gigantic asteroid were barreling toward impact with our planet, you can bet there would be at least a few members of Congress who would insist on leaving it alone, either because they would see it as a warning shot from the Almighty or because a mining company with a savvy team of lobbyists had laid claim to the big rock. Two minutes before Armageddon, somebody will still be trying to figure out how to make a quick buck off of it and he’ll have friends in Congress insisting that it’s the American way.

Many people (including in Congress) refuse to accept the settled scientific facts that indicate the changing global climate is bringing more destructive storms, drought and rising seas. They cannot honestly refute the science, so they willfully ignore it. They have a vested interest in the status quo and so choose short-term political and economic gain over the long-term welfare of the human race.

It is oh-so-much easier to blame the president, blame a conspiracy of international scientists or talk about God’s wrath than it is to tell the oil and coal companies and the polluting industries that provide large donations at election time that they cannot do business as they have in the past. Click here. (2/19)

Nair: NASA Wary of ISRO's Growth (Source: New Indian Express)
NASA has always looked at India with suspicion while the country grew to a state of self-reliance in rocket technology and space missions, former Indian Space Research Organization chairman G Madhavan Nair said. After the ISRO developed its first experimental Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV3) in 1980, the Indian centers working on rocket programs were put under a ‘watch list’ and embargoed by NASA, he said. “Since the supply of even smaller parts were denied to the ISRO, it had to develop every part and supporting software programs in-house...But now, we are self reliant,” Nair said. (2/19)

Democratic Members Launch Climate Change Floor Initiative (Source: Rep. Waxman)
Following President Obama’s recent call to action on climate change in his State of the Union address, today nearly two dozen Democratic members of the House of Representatives announced the formation of the Safe Climate Caucus.  The Caucus members have made a commitment to talk every day on the House Floor about the urgent need to address climate change.

The group includes: Reps. Henry A. Waxman, Earl Blumenauer, Lois Capps, Emanuel Cleaver, Steve Cohen, Donna Edwards, Keith Ellison, Tulsi Gabbard, John Garamendi, Raul Grijalva, Rush Holt, Jared Huffman, Hank Johnson, Barbara Lee, Ben Ray Lujan, Edward Markey, Doris Matsui, Jerry McNerney, Jim Moran, Bobby L. Rush, Paul Tonko, Chris Van Hollen, and Peter Welch. (2/15)

Atlas 5 Rocket Preparing for its Third Launch of the Year (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
After successfully carrying out two high-profile satellite launches for NASA in the opening weeks of the year, the Atlas 5 rocket program has stacked its third booster of 2013 to deploy a critical missile-warning spacecraft for the Pentagon. The second Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous satellite, or SBIRS GEO 2 for short, will be hauled into orbit atop an Atlas 5 from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport on March 19. (2/19)

Meteorite-Struck Region Asks State for $17 Million Aid (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia's Chelyabinsk Region has asked the federal government to provide 500 million rubles ($16.6 million) aid to help repair damage after it was struck by a meteorite on Friday, regional governor Mikhail Yurevich said on Monday. (2/18)

Subatomic Calculations Indicate Finite Lifespan for Universe (Source: Reuters)
Scientists are still sorting out the details of last year's discovery of the Higgs boson particle, but add up the numbers and it's not looking good for the future of the universe, scientists said Monday. "If you use all the physics that we know now and you do what you think is a straightforward calculation, it's bad news," Joseph Lykken, a FERMI theoretical physicist, told reporters.

Lykeen spoke before presenting his research at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Boston. "It may be that the universe we live in is inherently unstable and at some point billions of years from now it's all going to get wiped out," said Lykken, who is also on the science team at Europe's Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator. (2/18)

We Need to Rethink How We Name Exoplanets (Source: New Scientist)
Fed up with dull names for exoplanets, Alan Stern and his company Uwingu have asked the public for help. Will it be so long 2M 0746+20b, hello Obama? "The number of planets in the Milky Way was recently estimated at more than 100 billion. We realized that that's far, far too many names for astronomers to supply, that it would take the general public too. We also realized how much fun this could be for people." Click here. (2/19)

Ohio Looks to UAVs for Jobs of the Future (Source: Bloomberg)
Ohio is partnering with Indiana to apply to the Federal Aviation Administration to serve as one of six test sites for unmanned aerial vehicles. "If you're building unmanned vehicles, that's the vehicle of the future," said Ohio Gov. John Kasich. "No question about it, it could bring a lot of jobs to Ohio." (2/18)

Fourth Lunabotics Mining Competition Coming to KSC on May 20-24 (Source: NASA)
NASA's Fourth Annual Lunabotics Mining Competition is a university-level competition designed to engage and retain students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). NASA will directly benefit from the competition by encouraging the development of innovative lunar excavation concepts from universities which may result in clever ideas and solutions which could be applied to an actual lunar excavation device or payload.

The challenge is for students to design and build an excavator, called a Lunabot, that can mine and deposit a minimum of 10 kilograms of lunar simulant within 10 minutes. Undergraduate and graduate student teams enrolled in a U.S. or international college or university are eligible to enter NASA’s Lunabotics Mining Competition. Design teams must include: at least one faculty with a college or university and at least two undergraduate or graduate students. Click here. (2/19)

NASA Seeks University Participants for Summer Rocket Workshop (Source: SpaceRef)
University faculty and students interested in learning how to build scientific experiments for spaceflight are invited to join RockOn 2013 from June 15-20 at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. RockOn 2013 is an annual workshop held in partnership with the Colorado and Virginia Space Grant Consortia. Registration is open through May. Click here. (2/19)

The Last Pictures: Contemporary Pessimism and Hope for the Future (Source: Space Review)
A recently-launched commercial communications satellite carried an unusual secondary payload: a collection of images created by an artist, designed to outlast humanity. Larry Klaes begins a three-part look at "The Last Pictures" and their significance. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2242/1 to view the article. (2/18)

From Seven Minutes of Terror to Seven Months of Science (Source: Space Review)
NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is now in its seventh month of operation on the Martian surface, as mission scientists and engineers deliberately put the rover through its paces. Jeff Foust reports on what Curiosity's lead scientist says is likely in store for the rover in the coming months. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2241/1 to view the article. (2/18)

Are There Going To Be Any Women at This Party? (Source: Space Review)
Is there a major deficiency in the ten-year history of this publication? Dwayne Day sees a lack of female writers, which may be indicative of broader issues with the space advocacy community. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2240/1 to view the article. (2/18)

NASA Seeks It All: High Lift, Low Drag (Source: Space Daily)
NASA and its industry partners have been working to disprove an aeronautical version of the notion that you can't have your cake and eat it too - and it may appear that indeed you can. The challenge is to figure out how to design an airplane wing so that it can provide high lift during takeoff and landing, yet still be able to cruise at altitude such that the air is moving absolutely smoothly across the wing - a concept called laminar flow.

Achieving this goal would enable an airplane to fly more efficiently throughout its flight, and that in turn could result in significant fuel savings that reduce both operating costs and noxious engine emissions. Laminar flow is particularly tough because the flaps and slats that are extended out from behind and ahead of the wing to create high lift during takeoff and landing, when retracted during cruise, leave small steps and gaps in the wing's surface. Click here. (2/19)

Space-Based Sensors A Ballistic Missile's Worst Nightmare (Source: Space Daily)
Space-based sensors can expand the range and effectiveness of the U.S. Navy's Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) capabilities, a recent missile defense test has shown. Conducted Feb. 13 by the Navy and U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), an Aegis "launch on remote" test used tracking data from the Space Tracking and Surveillance System-Demonstrators satellites to form a fire control solution for the missile interceptor.

The satellites were built by Northrop Grumman as prime contractor; Raytheon supplied the infrared sensor payloads for both satellites. The quality and accuracy of STSS-D tracking data were sufficient for a Navy Aegis guided missile cruiser to launch a Standard Missile-3 Block 1A interceptor "on remote" before the on-board radar's track could be used to launch the interceptor. (2/19)

NASA Scrambles for Better Asteroid Detection (Source: Space Daily)
NASA, universities and private groups in the US are working on asteroid warning systems that can detect objects from space like the one that struck Russia last week with a blinding flash and mighty boom. But the US space agency reiterated that events like the one in the Urals, which shattered windows and injured nearly 1,000 people, are rare. "We would expect an event of this magnitude to occur once every 100 years on average," said Paul Chodas of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at JPL.

Ten years ago, NASA would not have been able to detect 2012 DA14, said Lindsey Johnson, near earth object (NEO) project manager at NASA said recently. But he said NASA has made progress on learning how to detect small asteroids. Johnson said there are many of these objects flying around near the Earth -- say, half a million -- and they are hard to track because of their small size. In line with a goal set by Congress in 1998, NASA has already discovered and catalogued around 95 percent of the asteroids of a kilometer or more in diameter that are in the Earth's orbit around the sun and capable of causing mega-destruction.

All asteroid observations made anywhere in the world by telescopes, even by amateur star gazers, must be passed on to the Minor Planet Center, which is financed by NASA and run by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory for the Paris-based International Astronomical Union. But in times of tight budgets like these, NASA is trying to develop other systems specifically capable of tracking small objects in space. (2/19)

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