Tag Archives: spaceflight

A private science mission to an asteroid?

A proposal to revive a project to send a private science probe to an asteroid.

The original project, NEAP, was proposed back in 1997 by the late Jim Bensen of SpaceDev (now Sierra Nevada). Benson wanted to not only do research, but he planned to claim the asteroid as his property upon landing. Though his proposal never flew, it was clearly a forerunner to today’s resurgence of the private space industry, and in many ways kickstarted that resurgence.

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Two old unused Soviet Almaz space stations sold to private company

Two old unused Soviet Almaz space stations have been sold to a private company and have arrived in their new home on the Isle of Man. Key quote:

The stations will be initially stored in Jurby, but there plans for research, testing and possible launch into orbit.

For those who do not know, the Almaz station was built in the 1970s by the Soviet Union to do manned military reconnaissance. Two manned Almaz stations were eventually flown, Salyut 3 and Salyut 5. The station hull itself became the fundamental module for all subsequent Soviet/Russian stations, including Mir and ISS.

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Charles Bolden has come out of hiding

Today NASA administrator Charles Bolden spoke at the AIAA meeting in Orlando. According to Florida Today, he said two things of interest:

  • He is proud of the achievements of the shuttle program and is sad the program is ending.
  • He believes flying three more shuttle missions would be safe.

Considering that his administration has done nothing to save the program, and in fact has almost seemed eager to shut it down at times, his sadness seems incredibly insincere and self-serving.

As for his second comment about the shuttle’s safety, I wonder how he knows this, especially since his own engineers are currently struggling to pin down the root cause of the external tank cracks that have delayed the last flight of Discovery, and appear to be a chronic problem that needs to be fixed before any shuttle can once again fly.

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Root cause of tank cracks possibly found

NASA engineers think they might have found the root cause of the cracks that have been appearing on the shuttle external tank. The cracks appear on structural units called stringers. Key quote:

“Some material used for the stringers was found to be ‘mottled,’ with a different surface appearance than the standard material. Testing revealed this mottled material had lower fracture toughness than the nominal material and exhibited unstable crack growth. All of the cracks found during tanking as well as cracks fixed during manufacturing were located on stringers made with this mottled material.”

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Arianespace Needs Aid To Avoid Loss in 2010

Another government-operated business that is losing money: Arianespace is requesting financial aid from the member nations of the European Space Agency to avoid a loss in 2010. This despite the fact that “the current request comes at a time when Arianespace might be expected to be in prime financial health.”

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Engineers considering repairs to shuttle tank

NASA engineers are considering giving Discovery’s external tank the equivalent of a girdle in order to keep it from developing more cracks during launch. Key quote:

If that decision is made, it is unlikely NASA could complete the work, repair the tank’s foam insulation and get Discovery back out to the launch pad in time to support a launch attempt during the next available window, which opens Feb. 3 and closes Feb. 10. Work to beef up all 108 stringers at the top of the intertank almost certainly would delay Discovery’s launch on a space station resupply mission to the next available window, which opens Feb. 27 and closes in early March.

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US, Germany developing secret spy satellites

According to Wikileaks cables, the United States and Germany plan to develop a secret constellation of spy satellites. Though Germany denies the story, their denial is somewhat puzzling:

German Aerospace Center spokesman Andreas Schuetz said that such a project for a high-resolution optical satellite has been in discussion for the past two years under the name HIROS. “HIROS is neither a spy satellite, nor a secret project,” Schuetz said. He insisted that the project was to be used only for government purposes, “for example crisis management during natural catastrophes and for scientific uses.”

He refused to give any further details, saying the plan was still in the project stage and could not be discussed.

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Heading towards a Maunder Minimum

Though I have been saying that the Sun’s lack of sunspots the last two years suggests the possibility of that we might be facing an extended period without solar activity, I am not a solar scientist. Today, in a paper published today on the Los Alamos astro-ph website, a solar scientist says just that. Key quote:

One method that has yielded predictions consistently in the right range during the past few solar cycles is that of K. Schatten et al., whose approach is mainly based on the polar field precursor. The incipient cycle 24 [on-going right now] will probably mark the end of the Modern Maximum, with the Sun switching to a state of less strong activity.

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India’s geosynchronous rocket fails at launch

Bad news for India’s space program: It’s geosynchronous rocket, GSLV, failed today less than two minutes after launch. Key quote:

[The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)] has had a troubled past with GSLV, with only two of the seven launches so far claiming total success. Though ISRO claims that four launches had been successful, independent observers call at least two of them either failure or partial success. When it comes to launching its workhorse PSLV, ISRO has had 15 consecutive successes.

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