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Friday, August 21, 2015

This Week in Satellite News! (Aug 14 – Aug 21 2015)

Everyone's an Astronaut: Virtual Reality Shoots for the Moon (and Beyond)

SAN FRANCISCO — The world could soon tag along on every space-exploration mission, thanks to the power of virtual reality.
That's the vision of SpaceVR, a startup that aims to launch virtual-reality cameras to the International Space Station (ISS), the moon, Mars and anywhere else that spacecraft may travel in the future.
"We want to take space exploration where it was meant to go — the whole planet experiencing it together," SpaceVR co-founder and chief technical officer Isaac De Souza told here at the company's headquarters. "When people take their first steps on Mars, there should be a SpaceVR camera there to watch."

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Pluto Fly-By Video From New Horizons' Images By Björn Jónsson

Working from publicly released image data, software engineer Björn Jónsson created this dramatic scene depicting the culmination of Pluto New Horizon’s epic adventure. Atmospheric glow around the night side of Pluto was exaggerated for effect.
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Ghostly Particles from Outer Space Detected in Antarctica

Buried deep in the Antarctic ice, an observatory has spotted ghostly, nearly massless particles coming from inside our galaxy and points beyond the Milky Way.
Finding these cosmic neutrinos not only confirms their existence but also sheds light on the origins of cosmic rays, the researchers said.
The IceCube Neutrino Observatory is made up of 86 shafts dug 8,000 feet into the ice near the South Pole. The shafts are equipped with detectors that look for the telltale light from high-energy particles plowing through the surrounding ice.

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Japan Launches Vital Supplies (and Mice) Toward International Space Station

A robotic Japanese cargo vessel launched toward the International Space Station this morning, embarking on a five-day journey to the orbiting lab to deliver tons of supplies and experiment gear, including a rodent crew of 12 mice.
Japan's fifth H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-5) blasted off atop an HII-B rocket from Tanegashima Space Center today (Aug. 19) at 7:50 a.m. EDT (1150 GMT, 8:50 p.m. local Japanese time). NASA broadcast live video of the HTV-5 cargo ship launch direct from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, which built and launched the spacecraft.
If all goes according to plan, the cargo ship will arrive at the space station early Monday morning (Aug. 24). Astronauts aboard the orbiting lab can then begin offloading HTV-5's 6 tons (5.5 metric tons) of food, water, scientific gear and other supplies.

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Third Global Xpress Launch Slated for Aug. 28

WASHINGTON — Satellite operator Inmarsat of London said the launch of its third Global Xpress Ka-band broadband satellite, long delayed by reliability issues with the Russian-built Proton rocket, is now scheduled for Aug. 28 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The satellite will round out Inmarsat’s billion-dollar Global Xpress constellation, designed to provide broadband services to mobile and fixed-site users around the world. The system, intended for both commercial and government markets, is compatible with the U.S. Air Force’s Ka- and X-band Wideband Global Satcom system.
Global Xpress, Inmarsat’s first foray into Ka-band services, is over a year behind schedule due largely to reliability issues in recent years with the Proton, which is built by Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center of Moscow and marketed commercially by International Launch Services of Reston, Virginia. The rocket’s most recent failure occurred in May and destroyed a telecommunications satellite built for the Mexican government.

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Neon Found on the Moon!

The moon doesn't have any gaudy casinos or buzzing diner signs, but it does have neon.
NASA's LADEE spacecraft has made the first-ever detection of neon in the wispy lunar atmosphere, which is properly known as an "exosphere" because it's so thin — about 100 trillion times less dense than that of Earth at sea level.
"The presence of neon in the exosphere of the moon has been a subject of speculation since the Apollo missions, but no credible detections were made," study lead author Mehdi Benna, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said in a statement. "We were very pleased to not only finally confirm its presence, but to show that it is relatively abundant."

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Enormous Red Sprites Seen From Space (Update)

This gorgeous photo, captured from the International Space Station on the night of Aug. 10, 2015, shows an orbital view of thunderstorms over the city lights of southern Mexico as a recumbent Orion rises over Earth's limb. But wait, there's more: along the right edge of the picture a cluster of bright red and purple streamers can be seen rising above a blue-white flash of lightning: it's an enormous red sprite caught on camera!
First photographed in 1989, red sprites are very brief flashes of optical activity that are associated with powerful lightning. So-called because of their elusive nature, sprites typically appear as branching red tendrils reaching up above the region of an exceptionally strong lightning flash. These electrical discharges can extend as high as 55 miles (90 kilometers) into the atmosphere, with the brightest region usually around altitudes of 40–45 miles (65–75 km).

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Viking Aurora: Northern Lights Wow Photographer in Newfoundland

This stunning image of an aurora was taken was taken in Norstead, a Viking village replica.
The Norstead Viking Village in L'anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland is the only confirmed Viking site in North America. Astrophotographer Adam Woodworth took the image on June 22 while visiting the area.

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Friday, August 14, 2015

This Week in Satellite News! (Aug 07 – Aug 14 2015)

In-Space Satellite Construction May Be Coming Soon

A new partnership could pave the way for the first off-Earth assembly line.
Space manufacturing company Made In Space is teaming with NanoRacks, which helps commercial customers make use of the International Space Station, to develop an orbital construction-and-deployment service for tiny satellites known as cubesats.
The service, which the two companies are calling Stash & Deploy, will cache a variety of standard and custom cubesat parts aboard the space station. Many of these components will be built by Made In Space's Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF), a commercial-scale 3D printer that the company aims to launch later this year

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Ocean Glows an Ethereal Blue Under Milky Way's Starlight (Photo)

A magnificent blue glow lights up this skywatching image of the Milky Way and crashing waves.
Photographer Jeffrey Berkes took this image from Cannon Beach in Oregon around the Haystack Rock Bird Sanctuary in July. The blue bioluminescent glow in the coastal waters of the Pacific Ocean serves as a stunning earthly counterpart to the stars of the Milky Way shining brilliantly overhead.

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Epic Year-Long Mock Mars Mission to 'Launch' in Hawaii

Six new "Marstronauts" will head to Hawaii to spend a year there inside a mock Red Planet base, starting Aug. 28.
Officials with the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation  (HI-SEAS) mission announced the selection of the six scientists on July 29.
"The longer each mission becomes, the better we can understand the risks of space travel," Kim Binsted, HI-SEAS principal investigator and a professor at University of Hawaii at Mānoa, said in a statement.

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NASA Contest Offers $25,000 for Earthquake Detection Ideas

NASA needs your help to bolster current earthquake detection technologies, and they’re offering $25,000 to the team that develops the best way to detect an oncoming quake.
The space agency calls its challenge the "Quest for Quakes," and seeks to inspire new software codes and algorithms to identify electromagnetic pulses (EMP) that scientists theorize precede an earthquake.
Scientists have debated the connection between electromagnetic pulses and earthquakes for years, some believing distinct ultra-low frequency EMPs that emanate from the ground near earthquake epicenters for weeks prior to moderate and large quakes can be measured and used to warn people before an earthquake happens.

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Gallery: The Most Memorable Spacewalks in History

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NASA Europa Mission Team Meets for 1st Time

The team mapping out NASA's mission to the ocean-harboring Jupiter moon Europa met for the first time last week.
Scientists and engineers on the mission, which seeks to determine if Europa is capable of supporting life, got together at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. The chief goal of this first meeting was to start refining the mission's planned science operations, with a particular emphasis on how its nine instruments will work together to investigate Europa's habitability, agency officials said.
"That's why we're here, in one room, at the very start of the project," Robert Pappalardo, Europa project scientist at JPL, said at the meeting, according to a NASA press release. "So we can begin to function as one team, to understand the cross-cutting science issues we all face, and so we can use all of our tools together to understand Europa.

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Asteroid Mining May Be a Reality by 2025

Asteroid mining could shift from sci-fi dream to world-changing reality a lot faster than you think.
Planetary Resources deployed its first spacecraft from the International Space Station last month, and the Washington-based asteroid-mining company aims to launch a series of increasingly ambitious and capable probes over the next few years.
The goal is to begin transforming asteroid water into rocket fuel within a decade, and eventually to harvest valuable and useful platinum-group metals from space rocks.

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Asteroid Impact Early-Warning System's 1st Telescope Up and Running

The first Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System telescope is now in operation on Haleakala – on the Hawaiian island of Maui.
Known as ATLAS, the telescope is part of an asteroid impact early-warning system being developed by the University of Hawaii and funded by NASA. Once completed in 2015, ATLAS will consist of two telescopes 100 miles (62 kilometers) apart that will automatically scan the whole sky several times every night looking for moving objects.
The promise of ATLAS is that it can provide one day's warning for a 30-kiloton "town killer," a week for a 5-megaton "city killer" and three weeks for a 100-megaton "county killer."

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Friday, August 7, 2015

This Week in Satellite News! (Jul 31 – Aug 07 2015)


Proton Scheduled To Launch Inmarsat Satellite by Early September

PARIS — Russia’s Proton rocket is scheduled to return to commercial service in late August or early September following the conclusion of a government investigation into a May failure that destroyed a large Mexican telecommunications satellite and shook once again the market’s confidence in the rocket.

The customer on the next flight will be mobile satellite services provider Inmarsat of London, whose third and final Global Xpress Ka-band mobile broadband satellite has been awaiting a launch for months. The delay forced Inmarsat to delay the service’s full commercial start as many customers were awaiting an unbroken global service area – which requires three satellites – before committing to it.

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Perseids: Bright Meteor Shower in August

The 2015 Perseid meteor shower runs from July 13 to Aug. 26, with the peak observing time predicted for the overnight hours of Aug. 12 and Aug. 13. According to scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, this year's Perseids display could spawn up to 100 meteors per hour under the most optimum observing conditions (clear dark skies well away from any intereference from city lights).

The Perseids meteor shower happens every August. The Earth plows into debris left behind from Comet Swift-Tuttle, which last passed close to Earth in 1992.

While the comet poses no threat to the planet for the foreseeable future, it is a very large object. Its nucleus of 6 miles (9.7 kilometers) in diameter is about the same size as the one that crashed into Earth about 66 million years ago and killed the dinosaurs.

Earth And Space: Snowy Range Perseid Meteor Shower

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NASA to Pay Russia Another $490 Million to Fly Astronauts on Soyuz Spacecraft

WASHINGTON — NASA formally notified Congress Aug. 5 that it is issuing a $490 million extension of an existing contract to purchase Soyuz seats from the Russian space agency, saying that it was forced to do so because of cuts in the agency's commercial crew program.

"I am writing to inform you that NASA, once again, has modified its current contract with the Russian government to meet America's requirements for crew transportation services," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden wrote in the letter to the House and Senate committees that oversee NASA. "Under this contract modification, the cost of these services to the U.S. taxpayers will be approximately $490 million."

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US Senate Passes Commercial Space Bill

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate approved a bill Aug. 4 that extends two key provisions of commercial launch law as well as authorizes operations of the International Space Station beyond 2020, but the bill will have to be reconciled with a House bill that is more generous to industry.

The Senate passed S. 1297, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, by unanimous consent, a procedure for the expedited passage of noncontroversial bills. The Senate Commerce Committee approved the bill without debate May 20.

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Canada Finds its Way To Providing GPS 3 Search and Rescue Repeaters

VICTORIA, British Columbia — After delays because of concerns over funding, the Canadian government has decided to proceed with a project to provide search and rescue repeaters for the U.S. Air Force’s next-generation GPS satellites.

The repeaters provided by Canada’s Medium Earth Orbit Search and Rescue (MEOSAR) satellite project will significantly cut down on the time it takes to locate a distress signal, Canadian military officers say.

Canada’s Department of National Defence will begin negotiations with the U.S. Air Force to install the 24 search and rescue repeaters on the U.S. Air Force’s GPS 3 satellites, the Canadian government announced July 24.

Joint CF and USCG Exercise

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3 Years on Mars! Curiosity Rover Reaches Milestone

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has now been trundling across the Red Planet for three very productive and eventful years.

Curiosity landed on the night of Aug. 5, 2012, pulling off a dramatic and unprecedented touchdown with the aid of a rocket-powered "sky crane" that lowered the 1-ton rover gently to the Martian surface via cables.

The six-wheeled robot then set out to determine if its immediate environs — a 96-mile-wide (154 kilometers) crater named Gale — could ever have supported microbial life. That work and more are chronicled in a new NASA video on Curiosity's discoveries on the Red Planet.

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Startup Makes Progress in Beamed Propulsion for Reusable Launchers

SAN JOSE, Calif. — A small Colorado company has successfully tested a new type of propulsion technology that it believes could eventually enable low-cost, single-stage-to-orbit launch vehicles.

Broomfield, Colorado-based Escape Dynamics announced July 17 it carried out a small-scale test in the laboratory of its beamed microwave thruster. In that test, the company beamed microwave energy to a thruster, heating helium propellant and generating a small amount of thrust.

“Using microwave-powered propulsion is really what we think is the next giant leap in space access,” said company president Laetitia Garriott de Cayeux during a presentation at the NewSpace 2015 conference here July 17.

Artist's concept of a single-state-to-orbit spacecraft, powered with beamed microwaves. Credit: Escape Dynamics

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Why You Won’t Find DigitalGlobe’s Best Imagery on Google Maps

PARIS — Satellite geospatial services provider DigitalGlobe will not sell its highest-resolution imagery to map providers that distribute it free of charge, preferring to pay a revenue penalty in exchange for maintaining the value of data that, for now, only it can offer, company officials said.

In a July 30 conference call with investors, DigitalGlobe said its 30-centimeter-resolution imagery, available commercially since earlier this year following a U.S. government policy decision, has too much value to be thrown into the commodity mix along with other images used by Google Maps, Microsoft Bing and others.

DigitalGlobe won't sell its highest-resolution imagery, such as the picture above of the U.S. Capitol building taken by the company's WorldView-3 satellite, to mapping services that give it away for free. Credit: DigitalGlobe and Satellite Imaging Corp.

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Dizzying Up And Down Rocket Flight Captured By On-Board Cam | Video

The MAPHEUS-5 sounding rocket was launched from the Esrange Space Center in Northern Sweden on June 30th, 2015, reaching a height of 161 miles (259 kilometers). It carried 5 experiment modules that were successfully recovered after touchdown.

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