November 8, 2014

Soviet Kosmos-1441 Satellite to Re-enter Atmosphere on Nov. 8 (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia’s Space Defense Force is keeping track of the Kosmos-1441 satellite, which is about to leave the orbit within hours, Space Defense Force spokesman Alexey Zolotukhin said. “Analysis indicates that fragments of the Kosmos-1441 satellite will leave the near-Earth orbit on November 8, 2014 over the Pacific Ocean.

The final date and site where the fragments will be dumped may change under the influence of external factors,” he said. Space Defense Force specialists are maintaining stable control of every single orbit. Also, Zolotukhin confirmed the dumping of fragments of another space satellite — Kosmos 1939 on October 29 — over the Caribbean. (11/7)

VIP Astronauts Were Bailing Out on Branson Even Before Crash (Source: Daily Mail)
For a man who built his fortune on the mantra that customers are always right, Sir Richard Branson was doubtless troubled by the letter sent to Virgin Galactic headquarters nine months ago. Drafted by lawyers, and dated February 21, it had been signed by ten of the company’s longest-standing clients, who in 2005 and 2006 had paid deposits of up to $200,000 (£125,000) each for a journey-of-a-lifetime to space.

That trip, which they were originally led to believe would take place in 2008, had still not happened. Despite endless hype, they’d suffered year after year of delays, missed deadlines and broken promises. ‘For almost a decade now, we have been founders and avid supporters of the adventure that is Virgin Galactic,’ the letter began. ‘In the early years as ticket holders, we felt as though we and the VG team were “in this together”. There was a feeling of trust and candour, and we felt included in the process.’ Now, however, things were different.

‘Many of us have had our customer deposits with Virgin Galactic for nearly ten years now, a length of time nobody anticipated at the time of sign-up,’ continued the letter, a copy of which was passed to me this week. ‘We would therefore like to request that the ticket deposits . . . be placed in an escrow account of our attorney’s choosing.’ (11/7)

Branson Pickle: Billionaire's 'Space'-Adventure Folly (Source: Huffington Post)
Virgin Galactic seems hopelessly named and hopelessly fated: It isn't anywhere near galactic; its craft don't even leave the confines of Earth. It's fair to say they will never get anywhere near our nearest neighboring galaxy, Andromeda, at least in our lifetimes and those of many more to come. The audacious project has, sadly -- and ultimately tragically, as three others were killed in a ground-based test-firing of a rocket in 2007 -- been constructed on hype and image.

It has been orchestrated by the savvy showman and boosted in the media by celebs' ready signing up for an outrageously expensive cheap thrill, when they really should know better (is it the blinkered-celestial view they hanker after or the "adulation" of being the first, even though they would be far from it?) -- but then all of this thrives on the fuel of publicity.

In the end, it is Branson, propelled by an overarching sense of boyhood adventure, or desperate folly, and rocketing to establish himself in the pantheon of brave travel pioneers, who has become entangled in a Gordian knot of his own vainglorious making and from which he does not know how to untie himself. It could be the undoing of a once-great entrepreneur. (11/7)

U.S. Military Allies Generally Agree WGS Is Cheaper than Commercial Alternatives (Source: Space News)
U.S. allied governments that have purchased shares in the U.S.-led Wideband Global Satcom constellation of military Ka-band communications satellites agreed generally — but not unanimously — with a U.S. Air Force assessment that WGS capacity was far less costly than equivalent bandwidth purchased on commercial satellites.

As one after another military service made the case that WGS is a better deal than commercial capacity at the Global Milsatcom conference organized by SMi Group Nov. 4-6, commercial satellite operators in the audience shook their heads and responded that military managers have little idea of what military satellite capacity actually costs. (11/7)

Orbital Outfitters Breaks Ground on Texas Facility (Source: Space News)
The Texas city hosting the newest commercial spaceport in the United States will also be home to a facility one company is building for the development and testing of pressure suits and other space hardware. An Oct. 27 ceremony at the Midland International Air and Space Port in Midland, Texas, to mark the receipt of a spaceport license from the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation also served as a groundbreaking for the Midland Altitude Chamber Complex at the airport. (11/7)

Astra 2G Launch Preparations Slow Amid Proton Concerns (Source: Space News)
Preparations for a late-November launch of a commercial telecommunications satellite aboard a Russian Proton rocket have been suspended in the face of persistent questions over whether Proton’s previous launch was as successful as claimed, industry officials said.

The Astra 2G telecommunications satellite, owned by SES of Luxembourg, was scheduled to start its planned fueling at Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in preparation for a Nov. 28 liftoff. The fueling has been put into question, officials said, as insurance underwriters involved in the Astra 2G launch policy continue to raise issues about what happened during the Oct. 22 launch of a Russian telecommunications satellite. (11/7)

Putin: Russia to Take Two Small Peruvian Satellites to Orbit (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia will take two small Peruvian satellites into orbit, President Vladimir Putin told reporters after talks with his Peruvian counterpart Ollanta Humala. “With the participation of Russian specialists, Peru’s first microsatellite Chasqui-1 was put into orbit. Two more small satellites are to follow,” he said.

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev launched Chasqui-1 by hand during a spacewalk on August 18. The tiny satellite, weighting one kilogram (2.2 pounds), was designed by students to take pictures of the earth and transmit them to a ground station using amateur radio frequencies. (11/7)

Twin Failures Draw Attention To Regulator’s Limited Resources (Source: Space News)
The low-profile approach that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s commercial space office had taken to two launch accidents in less than a week has won praise from industry, but some worry the concurrent investigations may be putting a strain on the small office. Click here. (11/7)

Musk’s Next Mission: Internet Satellites (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk shook up the automotive and aerospace industries with electric cars and cheap rockets. Now, he is focused on satellites, looking at ways to make smaller, less-expensive models that can deliver Internet access across the globe, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Musk is working with Greg Wyler, a satellite-industry veteran and former Google Inc. executive, these people said. Mr. Wyler founded WorldVu Satellites Ltd., which controls a large block of radio spectrum.

In talks with industry executives, Messrs. Musk and Wyler have discussed launching around 700 satellites, each weighing less than 250 pounds, the people said. That is about half the size of the smallest communications satellites now in commercial use. The satellite constellation would be 10 times the size of the largest current fleet, managed by Iridium Communications Inc. (11/7)

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