Space News

Title: Hearings Show Our Dependence On Military Space Technology
Date: March 27, 2012
Source: Washington Post

Abstract: The United States may be falling behind in transportation, education and health care down here on Earth, but its military infrastructure is certainly way ahead when it comes to imagery and communications satellites armed with defensive and offensive capabilities out there in space.

That the United States leads in the militarization of space is apparent from House and Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearings this month on the fiscal 2013 budget of $9.7 billion for military space programs.

Like many Pentagon programs, these have had amazing successes but also billion-dollar overruns and costly failures.

Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, released at Wednesday’s Senate hearing, showed major Defense space acquisition programs “have increased by about $11.6 billion — 321 percent — from initial estimates for fiscal years 2011 through 2016.”

The military services see them as the future.

“Our assured access to space and cyberspace is foundational to today’s military operations and to our ability to project power whenever and wherever needed across the planet,” said Air Force Gen. William Shelton, head of Space Command. He listed enhancements to our space capabilities in “missile warning, positioning, navigation and timing; satellite communications; space situational awareness [knowing where everything is in space]; and space launch.”

Army Lt. Gen. Richard Formica, who heads Army Space and Missile Defense Command, claimed his service is “the biggest user of space-based capabilities,” which are critical to land operations. “If the Army wants to shoot, move or communicate, it needs space,” Formica said.

Implicit in those statements, whether the general realized it, is that without access to space the Army couldn’t do as well what it used to do before there was all this space-dependent gadgetry.

“Space capabilities enable effective command-and-control responsiveness and agility necessary for a globally engaged, superior naval force consistent with emphasis on forward operations and joint operations,” said the Navy Department’s Robert Winokur, its director of oceanography, space and maritime domain awareness.

Not surprisingly, each promoted one or more of his own service’s successes. For the Air Force, Shelton talked of “our efficient space procurement actions” for its Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) Program, which provides nuclear-protected communications to ground-based strategic and conventional forces.

It was later that Cristina Chaplain, GAO’s director of acquisition and sourcing management, told the panel of “the disconnect between ground equipment, particularly user equipment, and the satellites themselves. . . . The user equipment is just arriving years later than the satellites.”

One of those, Chaplain reported, is the AEHF ground-based terminal. It is not expected to be operational until 2017, three years after the satellite is scheduled to be operational. In addition, the first AEHF satellite, launched in August 2010, didn’t reach orbit until October 2011, 13 months after schedule, because one of its propulsion systems failed. Two more AEHF satellites are to be launched — one next month, the other in fall 2013. Three more are coming by 2019.

Winokur promoted the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS), which will increase text and voice capacity by more than 10 times and still carry current UHF payload for near -term usage. However, the GAO noted the first of five MUOS satellites was launched 26 months late.

The Air Force is upgrading the 34 on-orbit satellites that constitute the worldwide navigation Global Positioning System. The 12 new GPS IIF satellites have redundant digital atomic clocks and military signals more resistant to jamming. However, the first GPS IIF was launched more than four years late and the program has had cost growth through April 2011 of $2.6 billion, more than triple the projected cost, the GAO said.

Shelton talked of “passive and active defense measures to deter, and if necessary, defeat potential adversary attacks against our forces.” For satellite defense, Shelton mentioned a rapid-attack identification system, called RDGS-0. It has a central operations center that detects and reports sources of radio jammers hitting U.S. military and commercial satellites.

International discussions are set for June. Madelyn Creedon, assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs, told the Senate panel the talks may ultimately lead to “a voluntary code of conduct.” But she added such an agreement would have “the inherent right of self-defense reserved to every country.”

Formica in his prepared statement appeared to sum up a view shared by all the services: “Virtually every Army operation relies on space capabilities to enhance the effectiveness of our force — there is no going back.”

Maybe, just maybe, the U.S. military is becoming too dependent on space (Washington Post, 2012)

Title: Russia To Develop Sea-Based Space-Defense System
Date: August 31, 2012

Abstract: Russia is developing a sea-based missile- and space-defense system, which will be deployed in international waters. The system is expected to become an integral part of the Russian Navy.

The construction of the new sea-based missile-defense system has been entrusted to Almaz-Antey, the arms manufacturer that also produces the S-400 ‘Triumph’ missile defense system.

Anatoly Shlemov, the head of national defense orders for Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation, told RIA Novosti that  “this task has been definitely set for the [Russian] military-industrial complex.

Almaz-Antey is not working alone on the planned system, Shelmov said, without specifying additional details about the top-secret project.

At the St. Petersburg Economic Forum earlier this year, President Roman Trotsenko of the United Shipbuilding Corporation announced that the USC would begin construction in 2016 of a series of six nuclear-powered destroyers armed with high-tech missile- and space- defense system.

Trotsenko called the warships “benchmarks of Russian space defense in the World Ocean,”  but refused to comment further on the plans.

As it begins introducing the new S-400 system, Almaz-Antey is also finishing its S-500 ‘Prometheus’ system, which features space-defense capabilities. The S-500 is expected to be deployed in 2017, and will most likely arm the destroyers in project. 

Previously, Almaz-Antey created the S-300 system for naval use, developing the S-300 Fort F and Fort FM for the Russian Navy. 

The S-500 will supposedly able to engage targets in low earth orbit flying at speeds of up to 7 kilometer per second – the highest speed achievable by a ballistic missile at its highest trajectory in space.

The S-500’s capabilities are expected to exceed those of the US Aegis Combat System, but a point-by-point comparison is impossible until the S-500 is completed. 

The backbone of the Aegis Combat System – the Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) – is a closely guarded secret, though the Missile Defense Agency of the US Department of Defense once published information revealing that the SM-3 can intercept targets flying at a speed of 3.7 kilometers per second.

The latest versions of the S-300 can engage targets flying at speeds of up to 2.8 kilometer per second; the S-400 can intercept targets at 4.8 kilometer per second.

A warship equipped with Aegis Combat System has a 190-kilometer range, and can intercept targets in low earth orbit up to 180 kilometers and detect objects at distances of up to 320 kilometers.

The S-400 can hit air targets at distances of up to 400 kilometers, while detecting them from as far away as 600 kilometers.

The Aegis Combat System is currently used by the US, Australian, Japanese, Norwegian, South Korean and Spanish navies (RT, 2012).

Title: Nuclear Waste Set To Power Spacecraft
Date: September 9, 2012

Abstract: Britain’s nuclear waste could be used to power spacecraft as part of government attempts to offset the huge cost of the atomic clean-up by finding commercial uses for the world’s largest stock of civil plutonium.

A £1m pilot programme by the European Space Agency has shown that nuclear batteries for use on deep space missions could be made from an isotope found in decaying plutonium at the Sellafield waste storage site in Cumbria.

Britain’s National Nuclear Laboratory has harvested americium-241 from the plutonium, produced from reprocessing fuel.

The ESA believes this could replace plutonium-238, only available from Russia and the US, and provide an independent source of energy for planned deep space missions to Jupiter and other distant planets.

Tim Tinsley, who manages the programme for the NNL, said the space battery was an unforeseen benefit of past inaction, which has left 100 tonnes of plutonium in ponds at Sellafield.

“It is available due to a twist of fate,” he said. “We have been able to extract that americium and prove that it works.”

Full-scale battery production would be “worth hundreds of millions of euros” and provide skilled jobs in west Cumbria, an area of high unemployment, he said.

Nuclear batteries – each containing about 5kg of nuclear material – have been around since the 1950s and are used in Nasa’s Cassini and Voyager probes as well as Curiosity, which landed on Mars in August.

As the isotope decays, it gives off heat for several decades. This can either be used to keep instruments warm in the cold of deep space or converted to electricity for power. Once spacecraft fly beyond Mars, out of the sun’s rays, solar power is not available.

Mr Tinsley said: “The ESA would be able to go to places and do things they currently can’t do.”

Carla Signorini, ESA head of electrical engineering, said Sellafield was one of few places where the work could be done and that progress was “excellent”.

The department for energy said the programme could generate “considerable income”.

Other possible uses for the batteries would be in sea buoys or underwater equipment for the oil and gas industry.

“There are export opportunities,” added Mr Tinsley. “A lot of countries such as China and India have interests in space.”

The US may also need a fresh supply. Plutonium-238 can be made only in reactors dedicated to weapons, now shut down, and Nasa’s stocks could run out in 2018, according to the US National Research Council.

“It is a win-win,” said Graham Fairhall, chief scientist at NNL. “You are reducing a liability by getting external funding in. You have this material you have to find a way of treating, so why not use it for potential benefit?”

The programme’s future depends on how much money the government allocates to the UK Space Agency, which funds it via the ESA. The agency said it would like to press ahead but the batteries were lower priority than a new telecommunications platform and weather satellite.

The clean-up costs of Britain’s nuclear programme are estimated at up to £100bn, with £3bn spent annually, while the plutonium alone is a £4bn liability.

NNL, a government agency run under contract, has joined Systems Engineering & Assessment, a specialist engineering group active in the space sector, and the University of Leicester, which has a large space department, to run the programme.

Background News
Britain’s National Nuclear Laboratory has a pipeline of money-spinning products as well as its vital role in maintaining the safety and security of Britain and the world’s nuclear capability, according to Graham Fairhall, its chief scientist.

The government-owned NNL is run under contract by Battelle, the non-profit research group which also operates US nuclear laboratories, together with Serco, the facilities management group, and Manchester University.

Its recent innovations include the RadBall, an alternative to the Geiger counter in detecting radiation. The grapefruit-sized polymer-based device has been tested at Sellafield and shows “tremendous promise”. It can pinpoint radiation sources in an area without needing to send in a person and can reduce clean-up costs by targeting tiny sources of emissions.

The NNL, based near Warrington, with labs at Sellafield, Preston and Workington, was spun out of BNFL when the state-owned nuclear group was broken up in 2008 and employs 780 people. It is enjoying a new lease of life as the UK prepares to start building nuclear power stations again, Prof Fairhall said.

It is making the business case to commission never-used labs – mothballed a decade ago – that could handle the world’s most radioactive materials. They feature five cabinets with leaded glass and robotic manipulators that could experiment on spent fuel and waste.

The amount the government spends annually on nuclear research has dropped from £450m in 1972 to around £20m now, but NNL has £80m of income from winning commercial business (FT, 2012).

Title: East Coast Weather Satellite Fails, Spare Used
Date: September 24, 2012
MyFox DC

Abstract: The U.S. weather satellite that tracks the East Coast and Atlantic hurricanes is broken.

Meteorologists are scrambling to fill in lost data for forecasters with a spare satellite and help from a European satellite.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokesman Scott Smullen said engineers shut down the East Coast satellite on Sunday because of vibrations. They're still trying to diagnose the problem.

Smullen said there may be a slight decrease in the accuracy of weather forecasts. NOAA is checking to see if it will affect hurricane forecasting.

The $500 million satellite was launched in 2006, but it wasn't used regularly to monitor weather until 2010 (MyFox DC, 2012).

Title: US Astronaut Preparing For Mission Sees Science Breakthrough On Space Station In Coming Decade
Date: October 22, 2012
Fox News

 A U.S. astronaut departing this week for the International Space Station said Monday that the bulk of the scientific benefits from the orbiting laboratory will be seen over the coming decade, amid questions on whether the estimated $100 billion spent in last 12 years is worth the effort.

"The first ten years were really intensive in the construction side of it, bringing all the pieces together and really getting the science enabled," said NASA astronaut Kevin Ford, who will blast off on a Soyuz craft from the Russian-leased Baikonur spacer center in Kazakhstan on Tuesday together with Russian colleagues Oleg Novitsky and Yevgeny Tarelkin.

Portland, Indiana-born Ford said the station would now enter its "utilization phase."

"We're going to learn the bulk of everything we know about the science that we're doing up there in the next decade," he said at a press conference on the eve of the launch. He spoke from behind a glass screen designed to ensure the astronauts do not contract illnesses before their mission.

Of the three men departing Tuesday, only Ford has spent any time in orbit. He spent two weeks in space as pilot of the space shuttle Discovery in 2009 on a mission to transport scientific equipment to the ISS.

The U.S. space program has been in a vulnerable position since the decommissioning of the U.S. Shuttle fleet in 2011, which left Russia's Soviet-designed Soyuz craft as the only means for international astronauts to reach the space station.

Earlier this month, California-based SpaceX successfully delivered a half-ton of supplies craft called Dragon to the ISS, the first official shipment under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA. The contract calls for 12 such shipments.

Ford said private companies like SpaceX and Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp., whose Cygnus cargo vehicle is scheduled for its first trip to the ISS in December, would ensure the sustainability of the lab over the coming decade and enable new exploration.

"These companies out there are themselves learning a lot about getting to and from low-earth orbit and picking up that task so that NASA can indeed begin to concentrate on things out of earth orbit and going out further into our solar system," Ford said.

His remarks echo a statement to Congress in September by William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for space operations.

Gerstenmaier said commercial transportation would enable the United States to fly its own astronauts to and from the International Space Station, "end our sole reliance on foreign governments" and allow for the expansion of the full-time crew to seven from six.

The incoming Dragon held 1,000 pounds (453 kilograms) of groceries, clothes, science experiments and other gear. It is to depart with almost twice that much cargo at the end of the month. Dragon is the only cargo ship capable of bringing back research and other items, filling a void left by NASA's retired shuttles.

The departure of the Dragon and a spacewalk to carry out repair operations on the station will be among the first operations to be handled by the incoming team.

"We really face a lot of tasks that we'll concentrate on right off the bat when we get aboard," Ford said. "After the spacewalk comes down, hopefully we'll have a little time to catch our breath."

U.S. astronaut Sunita Williams, Russia's Yuri Malenchenko and Aki Hoshide of Japan, who have been at the ISS since mid-July, are scheduled to return to earth next month.

Another multinational three-man crew with astronauts from the United States, Canada and Russia will set off from Baikonur in late December to take their place.

"Christmas Day ... has already been cancelled because we'll be having a Soyuz arriving aboard with our crewmates," Ford said. "Perhaps when they arrive it will be like Santa Claus arriving and bringing us gifts from earth" (Fox News, 2012).

Title: Russian Spacecraft With US-Russian Crew Blasts Off To Orbiting Space Station
Date: October 23, 2012
Fox News

A Russian spacecraft surged into clear skies over the Central Asian steppe Tuesday, carrying a three-man crew on their way to the International Space Station.

The engines of the Soyuz TMA-06M sent a powerful roar across the tinder-dry countryside of southern Kazakhstan as scheduled in the afternoon to deliver NASA astronaut Kevin Ford and Russians Oleg Novitsky and Yevgeny Tarelkin to the orbiting laboratory.

"I spoke with the astronauts after they reached orbit," Russian Space Agency chief Vladimir Popovkin said. "They feel well. Everything went fine, despite the windy conditions."

After a two-day journey, the astronauts will join U.S. astronaut Sunita Williams, Russia's Yuri Malenchenko and Aki Hoshide of Japan's JAXA agency.

The crew will face what may be the heaviest workload in the 12-year history of the space station over its first week.

Tasks will include handling the departure of a Dragon cargo vehicle and a spacewalk to carry out repair operations on the station.

Of the three in Tuesday's takeoff, only Ford has flown in space before. He spent two weeks as pilot of the space shuttle Discovery in 2009 on a mission to transport scientific equipment to the space station.

Tuesday's launch took place in unseasonably warm conditions and afforded the small crowd of space officials, well-wishers and family members of the astronauts at the viewing platform a clear sight of the rocket disappearing into the distance.

Within a few seconds of the launch, the first set of booster rockets detached as planned in a puff of smoke and fell to earth leaving a streak of black fumes in its wake.

An announcer informed the crowd of the craft's progress over a loudspeaker. After nine minutes, he announced the Soyuz had reached orbit, prompting a burst of applause for the successful start to the mission.

Televised footage showed the soft toy hippopotamus mascot dangling over the crew floating in weightlessness.

The crew will be tightly packed into the cramped Soyuz for 48 hours before finally docking with the space station.

For the first time since 1984, the manned takeoff took place from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome's launch site 31.

The pad that is normally used for such missions — the one where Yury Gagarin became the first human to travel into space in 1961, is being modernized. Site No. 1, better known as Gagarin's Start, was last overhauled in 1983.

The need for a back-up launch site became particularly acute with the decommissioning of the U.S. shuttle fleet in 2011, when Gagarin's Start became the only operating pad available for manned launches to the space station.

"We had no doubts that we could launch astronauts from here, but this has completely convinced us ... that from 2014 we will be sending people from the Gagarin Start," Popovkin said after congratulating space agency workers.

Manned launches from Baikonur take place about four times a year. Popovkin said launches of a modernized version of the craft that flew Tuesday, Soyuz-2, would begin from Gagarin Start in 2016.

Space officials have in recent weeks sought to address misgivings over billions of dollars spent to develop the International Space Station.

Ford said Monday that the bulk of the scientific benefits from the orbiting laboratory will be seen over the coming decade.

"The first 10 years were really intensive in the construction side of it, bringing all the pieces together and really getting the science enabled," Ford said.

Ford, who hails from Portland, Indiana, said the station would now enter its "utilization phase."

"We're going to learn the bulk of everything we know about the science that we're doing up there in the next decade," he said.

The growing capabilities of private space vehicle companies also have boosted hopes that NASA will be able to focus increasingly on more ambitious exploration projects.

Earlier this month, California-based SpaceX successfully delivered supplies to the space station on a craft called Dragon, the first official shipment under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA. It calls for 12 such shipments.

The Ford, Novitsky and Tarelkin stay on the station also will see the first ever arrival of "Cygnus," a commercial cargo vehicle from the Orbital Sciences Corp., of Dulles, Virginia, scheduled for December.

"These companies ... are themselves learning a lot about getting to and from low-earth orbit and picking up that task so that NASA can indeed begin to concentrate on things out of earth orbit and going out further into our solar system," Ford said (Fox News, 2012).

Title: U.S. Satellite Plans Falter, Imperiling Data On Storms
October 26, 2012
New York Times

The United States is facing a year or more without crucial satellites that provide invaluable data for predicting storm tracks, a result of years of mismanagement, lack of financing and delays in launching replacements, according to several recent official reviews.

The looming gap in satellite coverage, which some experts view as almost certain within the next few years, could result in shaky forecasts about storms like Hurricane Sandy, which is expected to hit the East Coast early next week.

The endangered satellites fly pole-to-pole orbits and cross the Equator in the afternoon, scanning the entire planet one strip at a time. Along with orbiters on other timetables, they are among the most effective tools used to pin down the paths of major storms about five days ahead.

All this week, forecasters have been relying on such satellites for almost all the data needed to narrow down what were at first widely divergent computer models of what Hurricane Sandy would do next: hit the coast, or veer away into the open ocean?

Right on schedule, the five-day models began to agree on the likeliest answer. By Friday afternoon, the storm’s center was predicted to approach Delaware on Monday and Tuesday, with powerful winds, torrential rains and dangerous tides ranging over hundreds of miles.

New York and other states declared emergencies; the Navy ordered ships to sea to avoid damage. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York City warned that no matter where or when the storm landed, the city would not escape its effects. And from the Carolinas to New England, public safety officials were urgently advising tens of millions of residents to prepare for the worst, including the possibility of historic flooding, power failures and snow.

Experiments show that without this kind of satellite data, forecasters would have underestimated by half the huge blizzard that hit Washington in 2010.

“We cannot afford to lose any enhancement that allows us to accurately forecast any weather event coming our way,” said Craig J. Craft, commissioner of emergency management for Nassau County on Long Island, where the great hurricane of 1938 killed hundreds. On Thursday, Mr. Craft was seeking more precise forecasts for Sandy and gearing up for possible evacuations of hospitals and nursing homes, as were ordered before Tropical Storm Irene last year. “Without accurate forecasts it is hard to know when to pull that trigger,” he said.

Experts have grown increasingly alarmed in the past two years because the existing polar satellites are nearing or beyond their life expectancies, and the launch of the next replacement, known as J.P.S.S.-1, has slipped to 2017, probably too late to avoid a coverage gap of at least a year.

Prodded by lawmakers and auditors, the satellite program’s managers are just beginning to think through alternatives when the gap occurs, but these are unlikely to avoid it.

This summer, three independent reviews of the $13 billion program — by the Commerce Department’s inspector general, the Government Accountability Office, and a team of outside experts — each questioned the cost estimates for the program, criticized managers for not pinning down the designs and called for urgent remedies. The project is run by the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and NASA.

The outside review team, led by A. Thomas Young, an aerospace industry leader, called the management of the program “dysfunctional.”

In response, top Commerce and NOAA officials on Sept. 18 ordered what they called an urgent restructuring — just the latest overhaul of the troubled program. They streamlined the management, said they would fill major vacancies quickly and demanded immediate reports on how the agency planned to cope with the gap. They have moved quickly to nail down the specific designs of the J.P.S.S.-1’s components, many of them already partly built. And they promised to quickly complete a new independent cost estimate to verify the program’s budget.

Ciaran Clayton, NOAA’s communications director, said in a statement that the agency’s top priority was to provide timely, accurate forecasts to protect the public, and that it would continue to develop and update plans to cover any potential gap.

The under secretary of commerce responsible for NOAA, Jane Lubchenco, issued the memorandum ordering the changes. In it, she wrote that the administration had been trying all along to fix “this dysfunctional program that had become a national embarrassment due to chronic management problems.”

“It is a long, sad history,” said Dennis Hartmann, the chairman of a broad review of earth-observing satellite programs released in May by the National Research Council. The report projected a dismal decline in what has been a crown jewel of modern earth and atmospheric science.

The Joint Polar Satellite System also includes important sensors for studying the global climate, and these too are at risk.

But its main satellites are most notable because they put instruments to sense atmospheric moisture, temperature and the like into what is known as the “polar p.m.” orbit, a passage from lower altitude that provides sharp and frequent images of global weather patterns. (Other satellites stare continuously at one part of the globe from farther off, for short-term forecasting.)

Polar satellites provide 84 percent of the data used in the main American computer model tracking Hurricane Sandy.

For years, as the accuracy of this kind of forecasting has steadily improved, NOAA’s p.m. polar satellites have been a crucial factor, like the center on a basketball team.

But all the while, despite many warnings, the coverage gap has grown ever more likely.

The department told Congress this summer that it could not come up with any way to launch J.P.S.S.-1 any sooner. Kathryn D. Sullivan, assistant secretary of commerce, said it would “endeavor to maintain the launch date as much as practicable.”

The Government Accountability Office, which views a gap as “almost certain,” has been urging NOAA to come up with alternatives, like leaning on other commercial, military or government satellites for helpful data. But it said it would take a long time and more money to get any such jury-rigged system running.

For now, the agency is running on a stopgap bill that allows it to redirect money from other projects to the polar satellites. In approving it, Congress demanded a plan by next week showing how NOAA intended to stay on schedule and within a strict limit — about $900 million a year.

“NOAA does not have a policy to effect consistent and reliable cost estimates,” the Commerce inspector general said. The outside review team said it could not tell “if the current $12.9 billion is high, low, or exactly correct.”

The program’s problems began a decade ago with an effort to merge military and civilian weather satellites into a single project. After its cost doubled and its schedule slipped five years, that project was sundered by the Obama administration.

As its existing satellites aged and the delays mounted, NOAA finally put a new model named Suomi into orbit a year ago that now helps bridge the gap until the next launchings, in 2017 and in 2022 — two and four years late, respectively.

But there are lingering concerns that technical glitches have shortened Suomi’s useful lifetime, perhaps to just three years. Predicting a satellite’s lifetime is like trying to guess when a light bulb will go out. The most likely timing of a gap in coverage is between 2016 and 2018, according to the best official estimates.

That would “threaten life and property,” the independent review team warned.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 29, 2012
An earlier version of this article misstated the name of one of the government agencies running the project. It is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, not the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (New York Times, 2012).

Title: Naro Rocket Launch Delayed By Technical Glitch
October 27, 2012

The scheduled Oct. 26 launch of South Korea’s Naro rocket was delayed after a problem was found with the first stage rocket. Attention is now focusing on finding the root of the problems and coming up with a revised timeline for the postponed launch.

The delay has been attributed to a leak in the connection between the first stage rocket and the launch pad, or CD-2, inlet of helium gas. The cause of the leak and why it wasn’t found during preparations held the previous day are still unknown, which is a source of great curiosity for those who closely monitored the launch.

Analysis of component damage can be a drawn out process

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) and the Korea Aerospace Research Institute were scheduled to announce the final launch time after convening the third launch committee for the rocket in the morning. The first meeting was held at 10 a.m., and the Korean and Russian technical staff had been preparing for the launch since 7:30 that morning by injecting helium into the craft as the Korean and Russian flight test committee judged that the launch would be possible based on various data and analysis collected during tests. Helium was injected to turn on the various valves and equipment inside the rocket that operate under gas pressure

At approximately 10am, technical staff at the Mission Control Center found that the helium pressure figures on the dashboard had not risen sufficiently, so they carried out a naked-eye inspection of the launcher and found gas leakage caused by a part of the seal protruding from a connecting region. The seal, a ring-shaped component, made from rubber, serves to stop gas leaks from the connecting pipe. The management committee for the Naro space rocket suspended the launch procedure right away. It is reportedly quite rare for rocket launches to be delayed due to damage to gas inlet seals.

Yoon Woong-sup, a professor of mechanical engineering at Yonsei University, said, “Unlike in automobiles where the seal is closed after the injection of gasoline, rockets are designed to function so that fuel is injected until the very moment of launch and the inlet then separates as the launcher lifts off. First we have to lay the rocket on its side to remove all the helium and nitrogen to get at the cause, and if problems are found inside the inlet, we have to dissemble the rocket, so restoration is still a long way off.”

Cho Kwang-rae, the head of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute’s satellite launch project said, “No problems with the components were discovered throughout many repeated tests. The problem can be simply resolved by the replacement of the seal but if the cause of the breakage cannot be ascertained, considerable time will be needed.”

Some wondered if problems might have arose in the process of converting the engine (RD-191, with 200 tons of thrust), which was originally designed for Russia’s next-generation rocket the “Angara,” into a mini-size configuration used for the Naro rocket (RD-151, with 170 tons of thrust). However, Prof. Yoon said, “The problem was not related to rocket engine itself, so it is more than likely that the problem was related to materials of parts or structure, and not to its design.”

A launch by Oct. 31 is uncertain. Even if the cause of damaged seal is uncovered quickly, it looks as though it will not be easy to reattempt the launch by Oct. 31, the last day of the launch window that the Korea Aerospace Research Institute requested with international bodies.

Late afternoon on Oct. 26, the Korean and Russian technology team moved the rocket to the vehicle assembly building and dissembled the connection areas for examination. Roh Kyung-won, Director General of Space & Nuclear Technology of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said, “If the cause is uncovered early, the flight test committee can meet on Saturday, but the management committee for the Naro rocket will be held on Oct. 28 at the earliest.” After that, another two days will be needed for transportation and standing of the launcher and rehearsal.

If the launch is impossible this time, at least one week will be needed for another trial as South Korea has to convey the new launch date to the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Maritime Organization (HANI, 2012).

Title: Space Shuttle Endeavour Exhibit Opens At The California Science Center
October 31, 2012

A grand opening ceremony celebrated the Space Shuttle Endeavour exhibition and the new Samuel Oschin Pavillion at the California Science Center on Oct. 30.
Gov. Jerry Brown and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa helped welcome the Endeavour back home to Southern California.

“The shuttle is a big part of aerospace history, but also California history -- the Endeavour was built right here,” said Bill Nye who emceed the opening of the exhibition.

The shuttle Orbiter Endeavor was constructed locally in Downey and Palmdale. The Exhibition is appropriately titled “Endeavour: The California Story” and is an introduction to the space shuttle Endeavour and its ties to California where all the other shuttle-orbiters were built.

“We are delighted that the California Science Center will use the Endeavour to inspire a new generation of scientists and explorers,” said David McBride, director of NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center. “The next chapter in space exploration begins now.”

The new Samuel Oschin Pavilion is now open to the public. Space Shuttle Endeavour Exhibition Viewing times are 10 a.m., with the last entry at 3:45 p.m. Admission to see the shuttle is free but the science center recommends buying “timed tickets,” which are available for $3 for nonmembers and $2 for members.
For more information or to purchase tickets online visit (KHTS News, 2012).

Title: Astronauts Take Spacewalk To Find Ammonia Leak, Space Station Dodges Junk Despite Malfunction
November 1, 2012
Fox News

Two astronauts are spacewalking outside the International Space Station in an attempt to find an ammonia leak in a critical radiator system.

Station commander Sunita Williams and Japanese crewmate Akihiko Hoshide ventured out Thursday morning. They will isolate plumbing to help flight controllers locate the leak and open a spare radiator.

Their spacewalk got under way just hours after the orbiting lab had to dodge a piece of space junk.

On Wednesday evening, thrusters on a docked Russian supply ship were fired to move the space station out of harm's way. But a computer error caused the thrusters to malfunction, and the station did not reach the desired altitude.

NASA says the station and its six residents are safe despite their lower-than-intended orbit. The menacing debris is a satellite fragment (Fox News, 2012).

Title: Final 10-Mile Trek For Space Shuttle Atlantis
November 2, 2012
USA Today

Space shuttle Atlantis' final journey to retirement is down broad industrial avenues, most of them off-limits to the public. So Friday's trek won't replicate the narrow, stop-and-go turns Endeavour encountered last month while navigating downtown Los Angeles.

The mastermind behind Atlantis' slow 10-mile march through Kennedy Space Center is sweating bullets nonetheless.

Atlantis is the last of NASA's space shuttles to hit the road. It was the last to blast into orbit, more than a year ago, and its final crew members were expected to join a few dozen other astronauts at Friday's daylong hurrah.

"It's only a priceless artifact driving 9.8 miles and it weighs 164,000 pounds," said Tim Macy, director of project development and construction for Kennedy's visitor complex operator, the company Delaware North.

"Other than that, no pressure at all," Macy said, laughing. "Only the eyes of the country and the world and everybody at NASA is watching us. But we don't feel any pressure." He paused. "Of course, we feel pressure!"

The relocation of Atlantis has been plotted out for months, he noted, and experienced shuttle workers will take part.

"It's not like it's Tim and his buddies out here loading this up," Macy said last week. "We're using the expertise of NASA."

Atlantis will travel a mere 2 mph atop a 76-wheeled platform. The roundabout loop will take the shuttle past Kennedy's headquarters building for a ceremony and then to a still-under-design industrial park for public viewing. Tourist tickets run as high as $90 apiece for a chance to see the spaceship up close.

Crews removed 120 light poles, 23 traffic signals and 56 traffic signs in order for Atlantis to squeeze by. One high-voltage power line also had to come down. Staff trimmed back some scrub pines, but there was none of the widespread tree-axing that occurred in Los Angeles.

Atlantis will traverse just one noticeable incline, a highway ramp. The rest of the course is sea-level flat.

The grand entrance into Atlantis' new home also should be smooth going. One complete wall of the exhibit hall was kept off, carport-style, so the shuttle could roll right in. Construction will begin on the missing wall early next week.

Once safely inside, Atlantis will be plastic-wrapped for protection until the building is completed. The grand opening is set for July 2013.

Total exhibit cost: $100 million, a price borne by Delaware North.

Discovery, the oldest and most traveled space shuttle, was the first to leave the nest, zooming off to the Smithsonian in Virginia in April atop a modified jumbo jet. Endeavour, the baby of the fleet, headed west in September.

Here is a brief look at each of NASA's space shuttles in the order they flew, including the prototype Enterprise:

Enterprise: Shuttle prototype used in jetliner-drop tests over Edwards Air Force Base in California in 1977, never flew in space. Originally on display at Smithsonian Institution hangar in Virginia, it was flown to New York City this past April and moved into the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in June.

Columbia: Destroyed during descent on Feb. 1, 2003, after 28 missions stretching back to 1981. All seven astronauts were killed. The wreckage is stored in NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center, for research purposes.

Challenger: Destroyed during launch on Jan. 28, 1986, after 10 missions stretching back to 1983. All seven astronauts were killed. Buried in a pair of abandoned missile silos at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Discovery: Moved to Smithsonian Institution hangar in Virginia in April after 39 missions stretching back to 1984.

Atlantis: Being moved Friday to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center after 33 missions stretching back to 1985.

Endeavour: Flown to Los Angeles in September and moved into California Science Center in October after 25 missions stretching back to 1992. It was the replacement for space shuttle Challenger (USA Today, 2012).

Title: Russia Says Satellites Operating Normally After Cable Break
November 14, 2012
NBC News

Russia's space agency said it had to refigure communications with civilian satellites and the International Space Station on Wednesday after a cable broke outside Moscow, but that the satellites and the station were operating normally.

The space agency, Roskosmos, offered assurances after state-run news agency RIA cited an unnamed source as saying Russia lost the ability to control most of its civilian satellites and send commands to its segment of the space station.

"The cable break ... is not affecting the functioning of Russian satellites and the International Space Station," Roskosmos spokesman Alexei Kuznetsov said. He said the agency was able to communicate with the satellites and control them.

Kuznetsov said a cable had broken during work by a construction company at an unspecified site east of Moscow.

RIA had cited its source as saying the broken cable would not be repaired for at least 48 hours and that the problem could delay problem could delay the departure of a Russian, an American and a Japanese astronaut from the station, scheduled for November 19.

Kuznetsov said the incident had not affected plans for their undocking from the station and return to Earth.

The RIA report, citing as separate source, said military satellites had not been affected (NBC News, 2012).

Title: NASA Regains Space Station Contact After 3-Hour Outage
Date: February 19, 2013

Abstract: The International Space Station regained contact with NASA controllers in Houston after nearly three hours of accidental quiet, the space agency says.

Officials say the six crew members and station are fine and had no problem during the brief outage.

NASA spokesman Josh Byerly said something went wrong around 9:45 a.m. EST Tuesday during a computer software update on the station. The outpost abruptly lost all communication, voice and command from Houston.

Communication was restored less than three hours later, Byerly said

“We’ve got our command and control back,” he said.

Station commander Kevin Ford was able to briefly radio Moscow while the station was flying over Russia.

Normally, NASA communicates with and sends commands to the station from Houston, via three communications satellites that transmit voice, video and data. Such interruptions have happened a few times in the past, the space agency said.

If there is no crisis going on, losing communication with the ground “is not a terrible thing,” said former astronaut Jerry Linenger, who was on the Russian space station Mir during a dangerous fire in 1997. “You feel pretty confident up there that you can handle it. You’re flying the spacecraft.”

Not only should this boost the confidence of the station crew, it’s good training for any eventual mission to Mars because there will be times when communications is down or difficult during the much farther voyage, Linenger said.

In the past few weeks the space station had been purposely simulating communications delays and downtimes to see how activity could work for a future Mars mission, Byerly said. This was not part of those tests, but may prove useful, he said (CBS DC, 2013).

Title: Congressman Suspects NASA Let In Chinese Spies
Date: March 8, 2012

Abstract: Given recent budget cuts, it's refreshing to see a politician lobbying for additional NASA funding. Astrophiles may be less encouraged, however, to learn the rationale behind Congressman Frank Wolf's plea. Wolf claims that a Chinese national with ties to a potentially dangerous organization brought sensitive NASA information back to his native country, and the representative wants to channel resources into tightening security at the space agency.

"I was recently contacted by whistleblowers who provided me with a report alerting me to a very potential situation at NASA Langley Research Center involving a Chinese national who was allegedly provided access and information he should have otherwise been restricted from receiving," said Wolf in a press conference. "It is my understanding that this Chinese national is affiliated with an institution in China that has been designated as an 'entity of concern' by other U.S. government agencies."

The national in question was able to return to China and share the information he learned with others, Wolf said. While NASA itself is not allowed to hire Chinese nationals unless they have U.S. citizenships or green cards, subcontractors that provide the agency with talent may employ whomever they wish.

In addition to security concerns, Wolf cites preserving and growing the American aerospace industry as a reason behind his irritation. "If we can't keep cutting-edge technology protected from espionage, we will never be able to commercialize it and create the jobs our country needs," he said.

Wolf points out that there may be dozens of other Chinese nationals working for NASA subcontractors, workers who, if granted continued access to sensitive information, could jeopardize U.S. security. He also calls for the immediate takedown of a NASA website that shares sensitive, but declassified information with the world, including interested parties in China and Iran. [See also: Thirty Years of NASA Space Shuttle Missions]

While the story presents some discomfiting information, many details are still sketchy. Wolf did not cite a name or a particular position for his potential Chinese spy. Furthermore, much of Wolf's previous work in Congress has been directed towards curbing the influence of the Chinese government in American affairs.

Wolf plans to work along with Congress and NASA in order to prevent a repeat incident. To this end, he is willing to increase NASA's funding — something that the U.S. government has been very hesitant to do lately.

"I am prepared to approve a reprogramming from NASA to reallocate additional funding and staffing for agency security-related functions, including center security, export control and counterintelligence," stated Wolf. "There is no reason that these positions at any center or headquarters should not be fully staffed and resourced."

Refining protocol may not directly lead to better technology to explore space, but ensuring that NASA is fully staffed without resorting to contractors is a promising first step. Wolf makes seven security recommendations in total; now it's up to NASA and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies to see how many they can implement (, 2013).

Title: Second SBIRS Satellite Launched Successfully
Date: March 19, 2013
Source: Denver Post

Abstract: The U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin launched the second Space Based Infrared System GEO-2 spacecraft aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket Tuesday afternoon, marking a significant step for a project that has suffered long delays and bloated costs.

The rocket, made by Centennial-based ULA, lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida shortly after 3 p.m.

SBIRS is the United States' new consolidated system for infrared space surveillance, with Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora serving as its mission control station. The system uses geosynchronous earth orbit, or GEO, satellites.

"Once in orbit, it will park in geosynchronous orbit and scan and stare at the Earth's surface 24 (hours a day), 7 (days a week), 365 (days a year) to provide early warning of missile launches, helping to protect our nation and allies," Lockheed Martin spokesman Michael Friedman said in an e-mail to The Denver Post.

This mission will place GEO-2 in a fixed location above Earth's surface. It is the second of the six planned GEO satellites that the Air Force plans to put into orbit.

System surveillance includes: missile warning, missile defense, battlespace awareness, and technical intelligence.

About 200 employees at Lockheed Martin's Boulder facility developed the mission's ground system for receiving, processing and distributing the satellites data.

Lockheed Martin's facility in Sunnyvale, Calif., designed and built the space systems. Lockheed, already on contract for the third and fourth satellites, was recently granted a contract with the Air Force to build the fifth and sixth satellites in the system.

While it was a day of celebration for several Colorado aerospace entities, the high-tech system has had its problems.

A report released by the Government Accountability Office in March 2012 called SBIRS one of "the most troubled programs" in terms of cost overruns. The GAO found that the program costs have climbed 231 percent, resulting in an average cost of more than $3 billion for each satellite (Denver Post, 2013).

Title: NASA Brings Stargazers Down To Earth, Disputing Voyager 1 Success
Date: March 20, 2013
Source: RT

Abstract: The long-awaited and recently announced departure of NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft from our solar system may have hit a significant roadblock, after NASA urged people not to pop the champagne just yet, on the back of conflicting evidence.

A new study recently suggested that the exploratory spacecraft launched by NASA some 35-and-a-half years ago has gone beyond the heliosphere – our corner of space dominated by the influence of the Sun - and has experienced massive changes in radiation levels.

However, the US space agency said on Wednesday that it’s too early to celebrate, describing the current report as “premature and incorrect” in a statement to AFP.

The initial study on cosmic rays and radiation was published in the scientific journal, Geophysical Research Letters, purporting that the spacecraft left our solar system in August of 2012. The 845 kg space probe has been experiencing drastic changes in radiation levels since supposedly leaving the heliosphere, scientists say. Such changes in levels of cosmic radiation have not been witnessed since the spacecraft’s launch on August 25th 1977, and are consistent with galactic rays outside of our sun’s neighborhood.

“Within just a few days, the heliospheric intensity of trapped radiation decreased, and the cosmic ray intensity went up as you would expect if it exited the heliosphere,” said Bill Webber, professor emeritus of astronomy at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.

But while Webber never claimed he knew for sure that the craft had left our solar system entirely, fresh evidence from NASA appears to say with certainty it has not. In December 2012, the US space agency reported that it had reached a new region called the ‘magnetic highway’, but that is still not outside our solar system, although quite close.

Edward Stone, a project scientist with the Voyager team, said that “a change in the direction of the magnetic field is the last critical indicator of reaching interstellar space and that change of direction has not yet been observed.”

Voyager 1 and its brother Voyager 2 took off on a trip to explore Saturn, Jupiter and bodies outside our solar system in 1977. Voyager 1’s mission was over in November 1980, when it had finished exploring the two aforementioned planets and their moons. But with 18 billion kilometers (11 billion miles) traveled, scientists are holding their breath for what awaits the human race outside of our cosmic comfort zone. They say we only have about a year or two to wait till the first of the two crafts has made it into interstellar space.

In its 35 years of activity, Voyager 1 is still sending transmissions back to NASA, which makes it the oldest active spacecraft ever built. It takes around 16 hours to send and receive radio signals.

Both the Voyagers are carrying gold-plated phonograph records containing 115 images of life on Earth, various animal sounds, the sounds of weather and nature, as well as greetings in a number of languages, including printed messages from the former US President Jimmy Carter and former UN chief Kurt Waldheim. NASA praises its two prized spacecraft as “the most distant active representatives of humanity and its desire to explore” (RT, 2013).