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Friday, September 4, 2015

This Week in Satellite News! (Aug 28 – Sep 4 2015)


If Greenland's Ice Melts, Sea Levels Rise 23 Feet | Video

"And it's melting!" according to NASA. The deep ocean beneath Greenland is fueled by currents from the subtropics. This warm and salty water is melting the ice from the bottom up and much faster than the surface water.


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SpaceX's 1st Falcon Heavy Rocket Launch Set for Spring 2016

PASADENA, Calif. — The long-delayed first flight of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy launch vehicle is now scheduled for April or May of 2016, a company official said Sept. 1.

Speaking at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' Space 2015 conference here, Lee Rosen, vice president of mission and launch operations for SpaceX, said the company was also wrapping up work on the renovated launch pad that rocket will use.

"It's going to be a great day when we launch that, some time in the late April-early May timeframe," he said of the Falcon Heavy.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy Illustration
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Flower Power: Giant 'Starshades' Prepped for Exoplanet Hunting

In an attempt to better characterize planets beyond the solar system, some scientists are turning to big, flower-shaped disks known as starshades.

Intended to be used in space in combination with a separately flying telescope, a starshade would block the light from a parent star, allowing dim exoplanets to be observed and studied. But before the first starshade can be sent to space, the technology must be tested on Earth — and that's not a trivial task.

Sunflower-Shaped Starshade

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Crowded House! International Crew Arrives at Space Station

Three new crewmembers arrived at the International Space Station early Friday morning, boosting the orbiting lab's population to a level not seen since late 2013.

A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying cosmonaut Sergey Volkov, the European Space Agency's Andreas Mogensen and Kazakhstan's Aidyn Aimbetov docked with the space station's Poisk module at 3:39 a.m. EDT (0739 GMT) Friday (Sept. 4), two days after blasting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The hatches separating the two spacecraft opened at 6:15 a.m. EDT (1015 GMT) Friday, NASA officials said. The Soyuz travelers then floated aboard the $100 billion orbiting complex, joining the six crewmembers already there — cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko, Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka; NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren; and Japanese spaceflyer Kimiya Yui.

Nine Crewmembers Aboard the Space Station

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U.S. Navy Launches 4th MUOS Telecom Satellite

WASHINGTON – After a two day delay caused by weather, the U.S. Navy launched the fourth satellite in its next-generation mobile communications system Sept. 2.

The multibillion-dollar Mobile User Objective System now consists of four geostationary-orbiting satellites. An on-orbit spare is expected to launch in 2016. Built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, California, the MUOS constellation is designed to provide smartphone-like communications to mobile forces at rates 10 times faster than the legacy system.

The launch completes what the Navy describes as the initial constellation and now provides near global coverage. Industry and government officials have discussed adding more satellites to the constellation as part of future international partnerships .

An Atlas 5 rocket from United Launch Alliance lifts the fourth communication satellite from the U.S. Navy's Mobile User Objective System  from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Sept. 2. Credit: U.S. Air Force.

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Thales Alenia Gets Going on Second-generation Cosmo-SkyMed Radar Satellites

PARIS — Satellite builder Thales Alenia Space on Sept. 2 said it had signed a contract with the Italian government to build one of the two planned next-generation radar reconnaissance satellites and to purchase the needed equipment for the second.

The contract is the latest development in the long Cosmo-SkyMed financial roller coaster. Inconsistent Italian government funding threatened to cancel the program until what appeared to be a definitive government commitment early this year.

The contract announced Sept. 2, signed with the Italian Space Agency, is valued at 182 million euros ($200 million). Of that sum, Telespazio of Rome, a provider of satellite services and ground equipment, will receive 28 million euros for its share of the ground segment work.

Artist's concept of one of two second-generation Cosmo-SkyMed radar reconnaissance satellites being built for the Italian government by Thales Alenia Space. Credit: Thales Alenia Space

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Space Station Schedule May Delay Antares Return to Flight

PASADENA, Calif. — While Orbital ATK says it is on schedule to have the new version of its Antares launch vehicle ready for flight in March, the vehicle’s first launch may be delayed by other missions to the International Space Station, including a Cygnus cargo spacecraft launching on an Atlas 5.

“Our initial launch capability for the re-engined Antares is scheduled for March of 2016,” said Mark Pieczynski, vice president of strategy and business development for Orbital ATK’s Flight Systems Group, in a panel session at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Space 2015 conference here Sept. 1.

Pieczynski said work replacing the AJ-26 engines previously used on the first stage of the Antares with RD-181 engines was on schedule. That effort, he said, includes a static fire test of the vehicle on the pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia planned for January.

Although Orbital ATK expects its re-engineed Antares to be ready by March, it could be some months after that before Wallops Island resumes its role as an International Space Station on-ramp. Credit: NASA

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