NASA, DLR to End SOFIA Operations

SOFIA flying observatory (Credit: NASA-Jim Ross)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and its partners at the German Space Agency at the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) will conclude the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) mission, after a successful eight years of science. SOFIA will end operations no later than Sept. 30, 2022, at the conclusion of its current mission extension.

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Germany Made Important Contributions to James Webb Space Telescope

Shown fully stowed, the James Webb Space Telescope’s Deployable Tower Assembly that connects the upper and lower sections of the spacecraft will extend 48 inches (1.2 meters) after launch. (Credits: Northrop Grumman)
  • On December 25, 2021 at 9:20 a.m. local time (1:20 p.m. CET), the James Webb Space Telescope, the largest space telescope of all time to date, took off from the spaceport of the European Space Agency on an Ariane 5 launcher.
  • A total of four instruments are housed on James Webb.  Two of them come from Europe and have German shares.
  • The German Space Agency at DLR coordinates the German contributions for ESA and for an instrument in the national space program.

KOUROU, French Guiana (DLR PR) — James Webb Space Telescope – JWST for short – was launched from the European spaceport in Kourou (French Guiana) on its journey to Lagrange Point 2, 1.5 million kilometers away.  James Webb is the largest and most expensive space telescope of all time, which has now started its long journey into the depths of space with an Ariane 5 upper stage ‘Made in Germany’. In addition, MIRI (Mid Infrared Iinstrument) and Near Infrared ( Near Infrared Spectrograph) – two of the four instruments on board – German parts: The near-infrared instrument NIRSpec was built by Airbus in Ottobrunn and Friedrichshafen. With this instrument, scientists from all over the world want to analyze the ‘hours of birth’ of the universe. NIRSpec is primarily intended to detect the radiation from the first galaxies that formed shortly after the Big Bang. 

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Canada Plays Major Role in James Webb Space Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope after separation from its Ariane 5 booster. (Credit; NASA)

LONGUEUIL, Que., December 25, 2021 – Today, the James Webb Space Telescope (Webb) was successfully launched at 7:20 a.m. ET from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

The telescope, which promises to change our understanding of the universe, is an international collaboration between the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), NASA, and the European Space Agency. Through strategic investments in space research and development and our world-class expertise in astronomy, science and engineering, Canada’s  contribution opens tremendous science opportunities for Canadian astronomers, who will be among the first to have access to the data collected by Webb, and to study it.

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AFRL Collaborates with Magdalena Ridge Observatory to Further Space Exploration

The proposed Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer site, which will ultimately be composed of ten 1.4-meter telescopes. The site is managed by the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology located in Socorro, New Mexico. (Credit: NMT)

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFRL) – New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (NMT) astronomers are one-step closer to having their own high-powered window to space and the universe, after receiving congressional funding for the Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer (MROI).

The university will receive $6.2 million in congressional funds to complete the first phase of the anticipated $30 million five-year project to build three telescopes and two scientific instruments of the MROI in Socorro, New Mexico.

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Planned Comsat Constellations Now Exceed 94,000 Satellites

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A wave of new applications submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week for approval for communications satellites operating in the V band has sent the number of spacecraft in large constellations soaring to nearly 100,000.

A list compiled by Parabolic Arc shows that 94,255 satellites are included in the constellations. That number includes 29,439 satellites approved by the FCC or in development in China. The FCC has applicants pending before it for another 64,816 satellites.

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Growing Number of Satellites Contribute Significant Light Pollution to Night Skies

Trails caused by the fifth deployment of satellites making up the Starlink constellation. (Credit: Andreas Möller)

LONDON (Royal Astronomical Society PR) — Scientists reported new research results today suggesting that artificial objects in orbit around the Earth are brightening night skies on our planet significantly more than previously understood.

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2020 a Busy Year for Suborbital Launches

New Shepard landing on the pad in West Texas on October 13, 2020, with the NASA Lunar Landing Sensor Demo onboard. (Credit: Blue Origin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Suborbital launch used to be a sleepy field that rarely attracted much public attention. Let’s face it, atmospheric research and student experiments are not front-page news. Sounding rockets don’t have the majesty and power of a Falcon 9 or Atlas V.

In recent years, exciting new entrants in the field and widespread streaming of launches have made suborbital flights exciting. Last year saw important suborbital flight tests by SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and Skyrora that garnered worldwide interest.

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NASA Perseveres Through Pandemic to Complete Successful 2020

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2020, NASA made significant progress on America’s Moon to Mars exploration strategy, met mission objectives for the Artemis program, achieved significant scientific advancements to benefit humanity, and returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States, all while agency teams acted quickly to assist the national COVID-19 response.

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Congress Directs NSF to Provide Report on Arecibo Observatory

Damage sustained at the Arecibo Observatory 305-meter telescope. (Credit: UCF)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Congress has directed that National Science Foundation (NSF) to provide it with a report on the future of the Arecibo Observatory (AO), whose main 305-meter radio telescope collapsed on Dec. 1.

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Study Confirms Dark Coating Can Reduce Satellite Reflectivity

The trail of a Starlink satellite (the line from upper right to lower left) captured by the Murikabushi Telescope on April 10, 2020. (Credit: NAOJ)

TOKYO (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan PR) — Observations conducted by the Murikabushi Telescope of Ishigakijima Astronomical Observatory confirmed that dark coating can reduce satellite reflectivity by half.

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Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico Collapses

The UCF-managed Arecibo Observatory in the spring of 2019. (Credit: University of Central Florida)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The elevated instrument platform of the 305 meter (1,000 foot) telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico collapsed overnight, crashing into the dish below and adding to the gloom over the previous decision to decommission the iconic facility.

In a tweet, the National Science Foundation (NSF) said there were no injuries reported in the collapse.

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IG Report: NASA’s SOFIA Not Meeting Expectations

SOFIA flying observatory (Credit: NASA-Jim Ross)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s flying Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has struggled to meet its scientific expectations due to a lengthy development delay and a series of technical, operational and managerial challenges, according to a new audit from the agency’s Office of Inspector General (IG).

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Report Offers Roadmap to Mitigate Effects of Large Satellite Constellations on Astronomy

Telescopes at Lowell Observatory in Arizona captured this shot of galaxies May 25. Their image was marred by the reflected light from more than 25 Starlink satellites as they passed overhead. (Credit: Victoria Girgis/Lowell Observatory)

Summary: A report by experts representing the global astronomical community concludes that large constellations of bright satellites in low Earth orbit will fundamentally change ground-based optical and infrared astronomy and could impact the appearance of the night sky for stargazers worldwide. The report is the outcome of the recent SATCON1 virtual workshop, which brought together more than 250 scientists, engineers, satellite operators, and other stakeholders.

WASHINGTON (AAS PR) — The report from the Satellite Constellations 1 (SATCON1) workshop, organized jointly by NSF’s NOIRLab and the American Astronomical Society (AAS), has been delivered to the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Held virtually from 29 June to 2 July 2020, SATCON1 focused on technical aspects of the impact of existing and planned large satellite constellations on optical and infrared astronomy. NSF, which funded the workshop, also finances most of the large ground-based telescopes widely available to researchers in the United States.

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Tower Extension Test a Success for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope

Technicians inspect a critical part of the James Webb Space Telescope known as the Deployable Tower Assembly after fully extending it in the same maneuver it will perform in once in space. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — To test the James Webb Space Telescope’s readiness for its journey in space, technicians successfully commanded it to deploy and extend a critical part of the observatory known as the Deployable Tower Assembly. 

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NASA Telescope Named For ‘Mother of Hubble’ Nancy Grace Roman

Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is naming its next-generation space telescope currently under development, the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), in honor of Nancy Grace Roman, NASA’s first chief astronomer, who paved the way for space telescopes focused on the broader universe.

The newly named Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope – or Roman Space Telescope, for short – is set to launch in the mid-2020s. It will investigate long-standing astronomical mysteries, such as the force behind the universe’s expansion, and search for distant planets beyond our solar system.  

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