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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WFIRST Continues to Make Progress Despite Cancellation Attempts

Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) continues to making steady progress toward an October 2026 launch despite the Trump Administration’s repeated attempts to cancel it, according to a new assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

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Webb Space Telescope Unlikely to Meet Launch Schedule

Deployment tests like these help safeguard mission success by physically demonstrating that NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is able to move and unfold as intended. (Credits: NASA/Chris Gunn)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In the latest not shocking, totally expected news out of Washington, NASA’s troubled James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has a very low chance of meeting its March 2021 launch date.

Exactly how low? Twelve percent.

That means the chance of JWST not making the launch date is….well, you do the math.

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NASA to Demonstrate First-of-its-Kind In-Space Manufacturing Technique for Telescope Mirrors

A Goddard engineer won a flight opportunity to show that an advanced thin-film manufacturing technique called atomic layer deposition, or ALD, could apply wavelength-specific reflective coatings on a sample — the first time ALD has been tried in space. (Credits: NASA/W. Hrybyk)

By ​Lori Keesey
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — Large telescopes that could be used for detecting and analyzing Earth-like planets in orbit around other stars or for peering back in time to observe the very early universe may not necessarily have to be built and assembled on the ground. In the future, NASA could construct them in space.

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SpaceX Outlines Plans to Reduce Starlink Satellite Brightness

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)

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — SpaceX is launching Starlink to provide high-speed, low-latency broadband connectivity across the globe, including to locations where internet has traditionally been too expensive, unreliable, or entirely unavailable. We also firmly believe in the importance of a natural night sky for all of us to enjoy, which is why we have been working with leading astronomers around the world to better understand the specifics of their observations and engineering changes we can make to reduce satellite brightness. Our goals include:

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Hubble: 30 Years Unveiling the Universe

Video Caption: This month marks the 30th anniversary of the international Hubble Space Telescope.

Launched on 24 April 1990, and deployed from the Space Shuttle Discovery cargo bay a day later (25 April 1990), the telescope has given us a new perspective on the Universe.

The joint NASA/ESA mission has shown us distant galaxies and spectacular nebulae. It has revealed supermassive black holes and planets in distant solar systems; and has proved that the Universe is not only expanding, the expansion is accelerating.

Hubble’s mission has also been eventful. When it was first launched, a defect in the mirror meant it sent back blurry images. Since then, five servicing missions have enabled the telescope to be improved and upgraded. Today, it is still going strong.

Learn more: http://bit.ly/HubbleCelebratesIts30th…

Hubble Marks 30 Years in Space With Tapestry of Blazing Starbirth

A colorful image resembling a cosmic version of an undersea world teeming with stars is being released to commemorate the Hubble Space Telescope’s 30 years of viewing the wonders of space. In the Hubble portrait, the giant red nebula (NGC 2014) and its smaller blue neighbor (NGC 2020) are part of a vast star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, located 163,000 light-years away. The image is nicknamed the “Cosmic Reef,” because NGC 2014 resembles part of a coral reef floating in a vast sea of stars. Some of the stars in NGC 2014 are monsters. The nebula’s sparkling centerpiece is a grouping of bright, hefty stars, each 10 to 20 times more massive than our Sun. The seemingly isolated blue nebula at lower left (NGC 2020) has been created by a solitary mammoth star 200,000 times brighter than our Sun. The blue gas was ejected by the star through a series of eruptive events during which it lost part of its outer envelope of material. (Credits: NASA, ESA and STScI)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA is celebrating the Hubble Space Telescope’s 30 years of unlocking the beauty and mystery of space by unveiling a stunning new portrait of a firestorm of starbirth in a neighboring galaxy.

In this Hubble portrait, the giant red nebula (NGC 2014) and its smaller blue neighbor (NGC 2020) are part of a vast star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, located 163,000 light-years away. The image is nicknamed the “Cosmic Reef,” because it resembles an undersea world.

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NIAC Award: Exoplanet Imaging Using Solar Gravitational Lens

Graphic depiction of Direct Multipixel Imaging and Spectroscopy of an Exoplanet with a Solar Gravity Lens Mission (Credit: S. Turyshev)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC)
Phase III Award
Amount: $2 million

Direct Multipixel Imaging and Spectroscopy of an Exoplanet with a Solar Gravitational Lens Mission

Slava Turyshev
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

The solar gravitational lens (SGL) is characterized by remarkable properties: it offers brightness amplification of up to a factor of ~1e11 (at 1 um) and extreme angular resolution (~1e-10 arcsec). As such, it allows for extraordinary observational capabilities for direct high-resolution imaging and spectroscopy of Earth-like exoplanets.

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CSA Issues Letter of Interest for 7 Priority Technologies

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has issued a Letter of Interest (LOI) for seven priority technologies the agency wants industry to develop under its Space Technology Development Program.

The technologies include: improved wide-field astronomical imaging; exoplanet search; advanced planetary exploration instruments; improvements in synthetic aperture radar imaging; and the use block chain with Earth observation data.

Below is a table summarizing the seven technologies.

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AAS Issues Position Statement on SpaceX’s Satellite Constellations

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)

American Astronomical Society Statement

On May 23rd entrepreneur Elon Musk’s company SpaceX launched 60 Starlink communication satellites aboard a single rocket. Within days skywatchers worldwide spotted them flying in formation as they orbited Earth and reflected sunlight from their shiny metal surfaces. Some people, unaware that artificial satellites can be seen moving against the starry background every clear night, reported UFO sightings. Astronomers, on the other hand, knew exactly what they were seeing — and immediately began to worry.

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JPL Shares in Cosmology Prize for Planck Mission

An artist’s concept of the Planck spacecraft. (Credits: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — The team of scientists behind the European Space Agency’s Planck mission has been awarded the prestigious 2018 Gruber Cosmology Prize. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, played a key role in the design and construction of the Planck instrument, and in the scientific analysis of the mission’s data.

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GAO: James Webb Space Telescope Keeps Slipping Into the Future

Artist’s impression of James Webb Space Telescope. (Credit; NASA)

NASA’s massive James Webb Space Telescope continues to pile up cost overruns and schedule delays as it prepares to exceed the $8 billion cap placed on the program by Congress.

“The project and observatory contractor significantly underestimated the time required to complete integration and test work on the spacecraft element,” according to a new assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). “Execution of spacecraft integration and test tasks was much slower than planned due to a variety of challenges including complexity of work and reach and access limitations on flight hardware.

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