Dmitry Medvedev is in a decidedly combative mood in the run-up to Russia’s Dec. 4 parliamentary elections.
The Russian president invoked murderous Soviet dictator Josef Stalin when discussing a series of embarrassing launch failures his country has suffered over the past year. He also threatened to target Russian missiles at a planned U.S. missile defense shield in Europe if he doesn’t get his way.
Well, not a whole lot of holiday cheer emanating these days from the Russian leader, who is stepping aside to allow Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to win the presidential election in March. Putin has said he would appoint Medvedev as prime minister.
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NASA CURIOSITY FACT SHEET — NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission is preparing to set down a large, mobile laboratory — the rover Curiosity — using precision landing technology that makes many of Mars’ most intriguing regions viable destinations for the first time. During the 23 months after landing, Curiosity will analyze dozens of samples drilled from rocks or scooped from the ground as it explores with greater range than any previous Mars rover.
Curiosity will carry the most advanced payload of scientific gear ever used on Mars’ surface, a payload more than 10 times as massive as those of earlier Mars rovers. Its assignment: Investigate whether conditions have been favorable for microbial life and for preserving clues in the rocks about possible past life.
An Atlas V roared off the pad at Cape Canaveral this morning with NASA’s $2.5 million Mars Science Lab aboard. The spacecraft, which includes a car-sized rover named Curiosity, has separated from the Centaur upper stage and is now in interplanetary space on its way to the Red Planet.
Congratulations to everyone at NASA and United Launch Alliance on this successful start to the mission. Best of look going forward. This mission promises to rewrite the textbook on Mars. I can’t wait to see it rolling around on Mars next year.
While leaving it largely to the Europeans to update the world on the Phobos-Grunt rescue efforts, Roscosmos public affairs officials have been able to focus on many other topics, including upcoming launches, spacecraft testing and ISS operations. The space agency’s own Phobos-Grunt updates have been — like the spacecraft’s communications sessions — rare, brief and largely uninformative.
On Friday, Roscosmos published a lengthy account of a Thursday meeting of the space agency’s Board of Personnel chaired by agency Head Vladimir Popovkin. The gathering included a who’s who of the Russian federal government and space industry, including the ministers of science and education, the heads of major corporations, and rectors of the nation’s largest universities.
The topic: how to address the acute problem of attracting highly-trained replacement workers to take low-paying jobs in a badly decayed Russian space industry.
ESA PR — 25 November 2011 — ESA astronauts will join Google and YouTube managers on 30 November to present highlights of the ‘Space Lab’ competition. Space Lab is challenging students around the world to design a science experiment for the International Space Station.
Launched just seven weeks ago, Space Lab has already attracted 5500 experiment proposals by registered team and individual competitors – and the dedicated YouTube site has recorded 14 million views.
UPDATE – 25 NOVEMBER 2011 — After establishing contact with Russia’s Phobos-Grunt Mars mission earlier this week, ESA’s tracking station in Australia received no signal from the spacecraft last night. ESA engineers are investigating the cause in close collaboration with Russian mission controllers.
Despite listening intently during four scheduled communication passes during the night of 24–25 November, ESA’s 15 m-diameter dish antenna at Perth, Australia, did not receive any signals.
SACRAMENTO, Calif., Nov. 22, 2011 – Aerojet, a GenCorp (NYSE: GY) company, in conjunction with Lockheed Martin and NASA, has successfully completed vibration, shock and hot fire design verification testing on its first MR-104G monopropellant rocket engine planned for use on NASA’s Orion spacecraft.
EADS PR — HERNDON, VA, Nov 22, 2011 — EADS North America Chief Executive Officer and former NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe today was named the new Chairman of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), America’s leading industry association promoting the defense industry and national security.
“Our national defense industry is a major engine for economic growth and job creation, and I’m pleased to be elected chairman of an association that is advancing the interests of our nation and all members of the defense industry in an increasingly competitive global marketplace,” O’Keefe said.
Prior to becoming CEO of EADS North America in November 2009, O’Keefe served as a company officer and Vice President of the General Electric Company in the Technology Infrastructure sector, leading the Washington operations of the GE Aviation business. From 2005 to 2008, he served as Chancellor of the Louisiana State University.
Now that China has its Tiangong-1 space station in orbit, the rising space power has a great bargaining chip for concluding cooperative agreements with other nations. This week, China signed a deal with Italy that could see the Italians helping to build future Chinese space stations and flying their astronauts to them.
Caption: A very brief test of the control system on the Armadillo Aerospace tube rocket, provisionally known as “Stig A”. This hover test was on 22 November 2011. It wasn’t set to aggressively hold position, just stay upright, thus the drift to the side. Buzzing at startup and shutdown are due to very low throttle levels on the engine.
Shot and edited by Ben Brockert
The second go at hovering Stig A, in which it exhibits high frequency instability and eats itself a bit.
More angles of an already-posted tank burst. Tank was pressurized with gas, rather than the standard water in a hydrotest, to simulate the burst of a tank pressurized in normal operations.
NEW YORK, Nov. 23, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — NewSpace Global, LLC (“NSG”; www.newspaceglobal.com ) announced today its official launch. NSG is an information service provider that offers customers specific analysis on the NewSpace or commercial space sector through monthly reports, customized analysis (e.g. “Deep Dive” reports on sub-sectors or individual target companies), consulting and advisory work, special events, and real-time tracking. NSG relies upon experts in technology, finance, investing, business, science, real estate, law and media.
ESA PR — 23 November 2011 — On Tuesday, 22 November at 20:25 GMT, ESA’s tracking station at Perth, Australia, established contact with Russia’s Phobos-Grunt spacecraft. Contact with the Mars mission was lost shortly after separation from the launch vehicle was confirmed on 8 November….
Despite these difficulties, it was a success: the signals commanded the spacecraft’s transmitter to switch on, sending a signal down to the station’s 15 m dish antenna.
Data received from Phobos-Grunt were then transmitted from Perth to Russian mission controllers via ESA’s Space Operations Centre, Darmstadt, Germany, for analysis.
Additional communication slots are available on 23 November at 20:21–20:28 GMT and 21:53–22:03 GMT, and ESA teams are working closely with Russian controllers to determine how best to maintain communication with their spacecraft.
Editor’s Note: This is an extremely positive development. What it means for the completion of the mission is unclear. Roscosmos have said they have until early December to salvage the mission. However, widespread reports in the Russian media indicated that the deadline passed on Monday, Nov. 21. However, there are now unconfirmed reports that the Nov. 21 was the deadline for returning soil samples from Phobos. If the mission can be revived, the spacecraft might be able to conduct surface operations at the Martian moon but not sample return.
Roscosmos is doing little to clarify the matter. Its most recent website update reads (via Google Translate):
November 23 at night the ground station of the European Space Agency (Perth, Australia) in one of four communication sessions received a radio signal from the spacecraft (SC) Phobos-Grunt in the illuminated portion of the coil. At present, Russian and European experts analyze the situation to develop further measures to establish communication with the spacecraft Phobos-Grunt.”
The results of our latest Parabolic Arc poll are in, and it doesn’t look like you all think all that much of NASA’s Space Launch System. A majority of you saw it as a buzzard feasting on the corpses of other programs. The second most popular answer was that it is a turkey that will never fly. Phoenix rising from the ashes of Constellation, a soaring America eagle, and a Canada goose make up the rear.
Thanks to everyone who voted. Please take a moment and vote on which British royal you would like to see become the first Royalnaut.
ULA PR — CENTENNIAL, Colo., Nov. 22, 2011 — United Launch Alliance (ULA) today announced the completion of a key milestone that could lead toward the certification of the Atlas V launch vehicle for human spaceflight.
ULA has successfully completed the second required major performance milestone of its Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) Unfunded Space Act Agreement. The Design Equivalency Review (DER) completes a rigorous assessment of the flight-proven Atlas V launch vehicle’s compliance with NASA human spaceflight requirements. Three of the four current NASA CCDev partners providing commercial crew integrated services have selected Atlas V as their launch vehicle.
To successfully complete the DER, NASA human spaceflight experts and ULA engineers worked over a span of several months to perform a detailed review of all NASA requirements and processes, and identified the extent to which the Atlas V meets those requirements. Because Atlas V is already certified to fly the nation’s most complex exploration and national security missions, the need for any lengthy and inherently risky launch vehicle development program is expected to be avoided.