January 17, 2015

At Least Two More Planets May Exist Beyond Pluto (Source: Discovery)
A new study suggests that at least two more planets are circling the sun far beyond Pluto’s orbit. The analysis is based on calculations of bodies located well past Neptune, regions of space that include the Kuiper Belt, the scattered disk and the Oort cloud.

Instead of randomly flying through space, 12 of these so-called “extreme trans-Neptunian objects” (ETNO) show some unexpected symmetry. “This excess of objects with unexpected orbital parameters makes us believe that some invisible forces are altering the distribution of the orbital elements of the ETNO,” said Carlos de la Fuente Marcos. (1/16)

Rosetta Will Prompt Science Images Rethink (Source: BBC)
The European Space Agency needs to find a new way for images and other data acquired by its science missions to come out into the public domain. That is the view of the organisation's director general, Jean-Jacques Dordain. He was expressing his frustration at not seeing more pictures from the main camera system on Esa's Rosetta probe, which is tracking Comet 67P.

These images are subject to a six-month embargo to allow the mission team to make discoveries without being scooped. But the policy has upset the thousands of ordinary members of the public who follow Rosetta on a daily basis because they are not being shown the very best views that have been acquired. (1/16)

NASA Considers Plan to Send 12 People to Space for a Year (Source: Washington Times)
NASA and international partners are mulling plans to send up to 12 subjects into space for a yearlong stay. American Scott Kelly and Russian Mikhail Kornienko are preparing for a yearlong mission to the International Space Station that will begin in March. NASA and its partners - Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada - are considering as many as 12 one-year test subjects at the space station. All but Russia are new to such long orbital hauls.

Two people are not enough from a scientific perspective, NASA’s space station program scientist, Julie Robinson, said Thursday. The space agency wants to start collecting data from Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko before making any firm decisions on further one-year missions, she said. (1/15)

Aviation Week's Person of the Year: Vladimir Putin (Source: Aviation Week)
In the space sector, Canada pulled a satellite from the launch manifest of a Soyuz rocket variant. Manufacturers began stockpiling titanium, fearing troubles in obtaining the important metal from Russian suppliers. And the U.S. moved to develop a big new rocket engine to replace a Russian powerplant used on vehicles that launch military and intelligence satellites.

In commercial aviation, Malaysia had one it its airliners shot out of the sky. The Netherlands lost hundreds of its citizens. Airlines around the world lost confidence in the intelligence they receive regarding the safety of overflights. And individual air carriers became political weapons.

In 2014, no other person has had such a sweeping impact on aerospace and aviation—for better or worse. And for all but the most cynical of observers, Putin’s far-reaching impact has definitely been for the worse. Because of this, he is the 2014 Person of the Year. (1/16)

Both U.S. Weather Satellite Programs Have Major Problems (Source: Washington Business Journal)
The federal government touts two major satellite programs for weather forecasting. And both are facing delays that could translate into gaps in crucial data used to track extreme storms, including hurricanes. Both NOAA programs, which deliver environmental data, face similar challenges.

The Government Accountability Office looked at the state of the Joint Polar Satellite System, or JPSS-1, which circles the Earth north to south twice a day in parallel with the sun, and the the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R program, or GOES-R, which will orbit the Earth above the equator and record distant images of the Western Hemisphere. Editor's Note: Florida Senator Marco Rubio now chairs the subcommittee overseeing NOAA. Click here. (1/16)

The Best Bet for Alien Life May Be in Planetary Systems Very Different From Ours (Source: WIRED)
In the hunt for extraterrestrial life, scientists started by searching for a world orbiting a star just like the sun. After all, the steady warmth of that glowing yellow ball in the sky makes life on Earth possible.

But as astronomers continue to discover thousands of planets, they’re realizing that if (or when) we find signs of extraterrestrial life, chances are good that those aliens will orbit a star quite different from the sun—one that’s redder, cooler, and at a fraction of the sun’s size and mass. So in the quest for otherworldly life, many astronomers have set their sights on these small stars, known as red dwarfs or M dwarfs. (1/16)

Com Dev Closing California Plant But Expects To Find Another U.S. Foothold (Source: Space News)
Satellite component builder Com Dev International of Canada said it is closing its California plant because of a lack of U.S. government communication satellite orders but likely will acquire a U.S. company in the near future — one that does not depend on government communications satellites. (1/16)

European Data-Relay Satellite’s Completion in Doubt (Source: Space News)
A data-relay satellite under construction as part of an ambitious partnership between the European Space Agency and Airbus Defence and Space may not be built because of ongoing concerns with the project’s business prospects, ESA Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain said Jan. 16.

The satellite is called EDRS-C by ESA and Airbus, and Hylas 3 by Avanti Communications of London. Avanti raised 73.8 million British pounds ($118 million) in early 2012 to finance a hosted telecommunications payload on board the satellite to expand its existing broadband telecommunications business. (1/16)

ESA Hikes Budget, Takes Steps To Send Astronaut to Chinese Space Station (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency is actively working with China with the goal of placing a European astronaut on the Chinese space station as part of a relationship that is likely to grow now that ESA governments have made China one of three long-term strategic partners for the agency, ESA Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain said Jan. 16.

For the moment, Dordain said, there are no specific plans for an ESA astronaut mission aboard China’s space station. But government ministers from the 20-nation ESA — to become 22 nations in the coming weeks with the addition of Hungary and Estonia — in December for the first time formally listed China alongside the United States and Russia as core ESA strategic partners. (1/16)

As SpaceX Turns up Rhetoric, USAF Taps Welch for Certification Review (Source: Space News)
Retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Larry D. Welch, a former chief of staff, will lead an independent review of the service’s launch vehicle certification process, which has come under criticism for the time it is taking to certify SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to carry military payloads. (1/16)

Russia Could Send 30 More RD-180s for Atlas (Source: Sputnik)
Russian rocket manufacturer Energia is currently in talks with US space launch provider United Launch Alliance (ULA) over a contract to deliver 30 additional RD-180 rocket engines, Energia head Vladimir Solntsev said Friday. "We are currently discussing [with ULA] a contract to increase the engine shipment – i.e. at least 30 more engines," Solntsev said. According to the Energia head, the United States wants the engines as soon as possible to "be sure of the future of Atlas-5 rocket." (1/16)

U.S. Can't Use Russian Engines for Military Purposes (Source: Interfax)
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said the $1 billion contract for the supply of sixty Russian RD-181 rocket engines for U.S. Antares rockets prohibits the use of the engines in military launches. "Naturally, the provisions of the contract with NPO Energomash expressly prohibit the use of our engines for military purposes," Rogozin said.

Editor's Note: So the Antares will be locked out of the U.S. military market, by Russia and probably also by the U.S. due to Russian engine use. (1/16)

Atlas V Launch Set for Tuesday (Source: Florida Today)
A powerful Atlas V rocket is set to roll to its pad Monday for ULA’s first mission of the year, a planned 7:43 p.m. Tuesday launch of a Navy MUOS communications satellite. It will be only the fifth time the Atlas V, flying for the 52nd time, has blasted off with five solid rocket boosters strapped to its first stage, combining with a Russian RD-180 main engine to produce 2.5 million pounds of thrust. (1/16)

SpaceX Set to Try Barge Landing Again (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk last week confirmed the company would again attempt to land a Falcon 9 rocket booster on an ocean-going platform after its next launch from Cape Canaveral. The first attempt on Jan. 10 resulted in the rocket stage smashing into the platform and breaking apart. Musk said a new set of “X-wing” fins added to help steer the booster’s descent from space ran out of hydraulic fluid too soon, but that the system would have “way more” fluid on the next flight. (1/16)

KSC Demolishes Another Shuttle Structure (Source: Florida Today)
A unique symbol of NASA’s space shuttle program and Kennedy Space Center fixture since 1978 was brought to its knees in recent weeks, the latest structure demolished because it wasn’t needed after the shuttle’s 2011 retirement. The Mate-Demate Device, or MDD, was a gantry-like structure designed to lift 100-ton shuttle orbiters on and off modified 747 jumbo jets that ferried shuttles home after landings at Edwards Air Force Base in California, and out west for maintenance. (1/16)

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