NASA pulls funding from private asteroid hunter

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Because of a failure to meet its developmental deadlines, NASA has cut its ties with the privately funded Sentinel satellite, designed to spot 90% of all near Earth asteroids that might pose a threat to the Earth.

The problem for the B612 Foundation, the private company committed to building Sentinel, is that they haven’t clearly laid out a way any investors could make money from the satellite. Thus, they have so far raised only $1.6 million from private sources. They need almost half a billion to build it, according to their own budget numbers.

One comment

  • PeterF

    This is sad news for the B612 foundation but not necessarily that bad to people who think that Near Earth Objects are the second biggest threat to all life on earth. (The first being our local star experiencing an “end of life” event.)

    NASA had only agreed to provide analysis and data downlink for this project.

    Perhaps now that they won’t be chasing tax dollars they will find a new efficiency. With the advent of competitive commercial launch services slashing the on-orbit cost, I predict the era of satellites costing hundreds of millions of dollars will be coming to an end. (unless of course they are taxpayer funded)
    The current cost is driven mainly by the desire to trim all extraneous mass so that every gram of material performs at least one critical function. The George Washington bridge would have been a different sort of incredible engineering feat had it been designed using the same paradigm. But then they would not have been able to add a second roadbed.

    My point being, If B612 is not constrained by the cost of lifting excess mass they could probably have any university engineering department build the thing for the 1.6 million they have already raised as a senior class project. I know guys that could probably build an operational mock-up in their basement. (then they would probably then discover that it wouldn’t fit out the door)

    Frankly, I’m surprised that NASA had not implemented a similar satellite program themselves considering congress passed legislation requiring them to locate 90% of all NEOs 140 meters or larger. I suspect the decision to comply with the law using mainly ground based assets was driven by a combination of bureaucratic territorialism and current program budget constraints. A pity because public awareness of the danger posed by NEOs seems to be renewed every few years and that interest drives approval for budget increases.

    Please, Please, PLEASE don’t let this posting devolve into a NASA bash like the Dark Streaks posting did.

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