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Thursday, March 5, 2015

This Week in Satellite News! (Feb 27 – Mar 6 2015)

 

Dawn Spacecraft's Arrival at Dwarf Planet Ceres: Full Coverage

A NASA spacecraft is expected make its historic arrival in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres, marking the first time a human-made probe has visited the cosmic body in history.

The Dawn spacecraft should arrive in orbit around Ceres, the largest celestial object in the main belt of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter, on Friday (March 6). Dawn, launched to space in 2007, first studied the protoplanet Vesta (the second-largest body in the asteroid belt) before moving on to Ceres.

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NASA's Curiosity Rover on Mars Sidelined By 'Short Circuit' Glitch

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity experienced an electrical problem last week, and the robot will stay put for a few days while mission engineers try to figure out exactly what happened.

The car-size Curiosity rover suffered a "transient short circuit" on Feb. 27 while it was transferring sample powder from its robotic arm to instruments on its body, NASA officials said. Curiosity halted the activity in response, as it was programmed to do in such situations.

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Google Gives Lick Observatory $1 Million to Relieve Funding Woes

Tech giant Google will give $1 million to Lick Observatory, a University of California facility that has been battling for funds since 2013. The money will go towards general expenses for the next two years and will supplement the $1.5 million annually that the Lick Observatory receives from the university.

"This is very exciting," UC Berkeley astronomy professor Alex Filippenko, who leads fundraising, said in a statement on Feb. 10. "There's a real opportunity to make a difference, through the research, education and public outreach we do at Lick Observatory."

Managers anticipate using the money immediately for two things: stopping occasional closures of the Shane 3-meter telescope due to staff shortages, and developing adaptive optics used to improve telescope imaging.

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NASA Making Plans for Russia’s Secession From ISS

NASA is mulling how it will keep the International Space Station in orbit past 2024 if Russia follows through on plans to detach the orbital outpost’s Russian modules and form a new space station.

“We are responsible for the day-to-day operations and control of the international space station [but] they [Russia] provide propulsion,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said March 5 during a House Appropriations commerce, justice, science subcommittee hearing. “[W]e are planning right now for them to at some point to take away the propulsion module.”

Bolden did not elaborate on the agency’s plans, and NASA spokesman Allard Beutel, reached by email March 5, had no immediate comment.

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Iridium Next Deployment Delayed, Adding to SpaceX’s 2017 Backlog

Mobile satellite services provider Iridium Communications has pushed back the inaugural launch of its second-generation constellation to October, saying payload-software issues need more time to validate.

McLean, Virginia-based Iridium said the four-month delay — which follows a three-month delay for different software concerns in mid-2014 — will have no effect on the in-service date for the 66-satellite Iridium Next constellation.

In a Feb. 26 conference call with investors and a subsequent interview, Iridium Chief Executive Matt Desch said the company has verified with its two launch service providers — Kosmotras of Moscow and SpaceX of Hawthorne, California — that both will be ready to launch on an accelerated schedule starting in October.

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ESA: U.S. Silence on Satellite Explosion No Cause for Alarm

The French and European space agencies have received no word from the U.S. Air Force in the month since the Feb. 3 debris-producing explosion aboard military weather satellite in a heavily trafficked orbit but said they hadn’t expected any.

These officials said nonetheless that if the Air Force’s Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) had concluded that debris from the DMSP-F13 satellite’s explosion placed a European satellite at risk, JSpOC likely would have sent out a notification in the days following the event.

70% of all catalogued objects are in low Earth orbit, as of Oct. 4, 2008, which extends to 2000 km above the Earth's surface. Note: The debris field shown in the image is an artist's impression based on actual data. However, the debris objects are shown at an exaggerated size to make them visible at the scale shown. Credit: ESA

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U.S. Air Force Considers Extending OSP-3 Launch Contracting Vehicle

The U.S. Air Force is planning to modify its current contracting vehicle for launching its mostly experimental small- and medium-class payloads due to a hiatus in activity that is expected to last for at least a third consecutive year.

In 2012, the Air Force awarded Orbital ATK of Dulles, Virginia, SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, and Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver so-called indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts that created a stable of vehicles qualified to launch the small and medium-sized satellites. Actual launch missions under the Orbital-Suborbital Program (OSP)-3 contract are awarded on a case-by-case basis. The program is intended to enhance launch vehicle competition and to give the government flexibility in choosing rockets for specific missions based on cost and risk.

DSCOVR launch

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