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Thursday, July 23, 2015

This Week in Satellite News! (Jul 17 – Jul 24 2015)


Blast Off! New ISS Crew Launches After 2 Month Delay | Video

NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Kimiya Yui launched aboard from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on July 22nd, 2015. They were originally scheduled to launch in May but were pushed back after the failure of the Progress 59 cargo mission.


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NASA Finds Closest Earth Twin Yet in Haul of 500 Alien Planets

It may not be Earth's exact twin, but it's a pretty close cousin.

NASA's Kepler space telescope has spotted the most Earth-like alien planet yet discovered — a world called Kepler-452b that's just slightly bigger than our own and orbits a sunlike star at about the same distance Earth circles the sun.

"This is the first possibly rocky, habitable planet around a solar-type star," Jeff Coughlin, Kepler research scientist at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute in Mountain View, California, said during a news briefing today (July 23).

"We've gotten closer and closer to finding a true twin like the Earth," Coughlin added. "We haven't found it yet, but every step is important because it shows we're getting closer and closer. And this current planet, 452b, is really the closest yet."

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SpaceX 'Complacent' Before Rocket Explosion, Elon Musk Says

The explosion of a SpaceX rocket during a space station resupply mission last month jolted the company awake in some ways, CEO and founder Elon Musk said.

Prior to the June 28 Falcon 9 rocket explosion — which ended the company's seventh robotic cargo mission to the International Space Station less than 3 minutes after it blasted off — SpaceX had enjoyed a string of 20 straight successful launches over a seven-year stretch.

To some degree, I think the company became maybe a little bit complacent," Musk told reporters Monday (July 20) during a teleconference that discussed the probable cause of the mishap. "I think this is certainly an important lesson, and something we're going to take with us into the future."

SpaceX's Falcon 9 disaster

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Stephen Hawking: Intelligent Aliens Could Destroy Humanity, But Let's Search Anyway

This week, famed physicist Stephen Hawking helped launch a major new effort to search for signs of intelligent alien life in the cosmos, even though he thinks it's likely that such creatures would try to destroy humanity. 

Since at least 2010, Hawking has spoken publicly about his fears that an advanced alien civilization would have no problem wiping out the human race the way a human might wipe out a colony of ants. At the media event announcing the new project, he noted that human beings have a terrible history of mistreating, and even massacring, other human cultures that are less technologically advanced — why would an alien civilization be any different? 

Hawking Supports Search for Intelligent Life, Despite Fears of Destruction

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109 Percent Power! SLS Rocket Engine Test-Fired For 535 Seconds | Video

The NASA Space Launch System's RS-25 engine was test fired at NASA's Stennis Space Center on July 17th, 2015. The engine was tested at several power levels, "including a period of firing at 109 percent of the engine’s rated power," according to NASA. (Assembling a 40 Year-Old Rocket Engine Design | Time-Lapse Video)

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NASA Developing Solar-sailing Cubesats for Inaugural SLS Launch

WASHINGTON — NASA is developing a pair of solar-sailing, science-collecting cubesats that will hitch a ride on the Space Launch System’s inaugural July 2018 launch.

The two spacecraft, currently envisioned as six-unit cubesats with deployable solar sails, will travel beyond low Earth orbit to conduct scientific observations of an asteroid and the moon.

NASA’s Near Earth Asteroid Scout, or NEA Scout, cubesat will conduct a 2020 flyby of asteroid 1991 VG to determine its size, movement and chemical composition.

Artist's concept of NEA Scout, one of the two confirmed solar-sailing cubesats to be launched by SLS in 2018. Credit: NASA

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ESA Makes Research Investment in Next-generation Inmarsat System

LIVERPOOL, England – The European Space Agency, continuing in its relatively new role as pollinator of near-term satellite telecommunications technology, on July 16 contracted with Inmarsat to conduct research on a next-generation Inmarsat mobile communications system.

London-based Inmarsat said the work would include a broad overview of what would be an Inmarsat-6 generation of services, including low-orbiting satellite constellations, inter-satellite laser-optical communications and laser communications between satellites and platforms.

Coming only weeks after the 22-nation ESA signed cost-sharing agreements for new-generation satellite telecommunications technologies with Eutelsat of Paris and – in a first – Intelsat of Luxembourg and Washington. ESA also signed a separate accord with Inmarsat on improved air traffic management.

Alphasat is a large telecommunications satellite primarily designed to expand Inmarsat’s existing global mobile telecommunication network. It was engineered and built by Astrium through a public–private partnership (PPP) between ESA and Inmarsat.<br /><br />It is the largest European telecom satellite ever built, exceeding 6.6 tonnes at launch. Its solar array, spanning almost 40 m, generates more than 12 kW of power.<br /><br />Alphasat is based on Alphabus, the new European telecom platform developed by Astrium and Thales Alenia Space under a joint contract with ESA and France’s CNES space agency. Credit: ESA

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7 More USAF Weather Satellites at Risk of Explosion

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force has seven aging Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) spacecraft in orbit that are susceptible to the kind of explosive battery rupture that destroyed the 20-year-old  DMSP-F13  in February, producing more than 100 trackable pieces of orbital debris.

Of those seven satellites, only one — DMSP-F14 — is still in service. But all seven have the same kind of battery charger that an Air Force review released July 20 identified as the likely cause of the DMSP-F13 incident.


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Philae’s Comm Problem has Lander’s Operators Concerned

PARIS — Europe’s Philae lander, riding Comet 67P as it heats up and spews off increasing amounts of gas and dust as it approaches the sun, has likely changed position or suffered transmitter failure, raising concern over whether it will be able to communicate again, the lander’s control center said July 20.

Philae last reported in July 9 and since then has been unable to maintain stable, predictable communications lines. As it closes in on its Aug. 13 perihelion — its closest approach to the sun – the comet’s outgassing turns its surface into a more dangerous spot for a fragile lander whose purchase on the surface was never secure in the first place.

Just as important, the Rosetta orbiter that relays Philae data to the Earth cannot maintain its close orbit to scan for Philae signals because that puts Rosetta at risk of being blinded by the same outgassing.


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