Atlas V Scrubbed for Weather, Soyuz Launches Progress to Station

Atlas V with NROL-52 satellite. (Credit: ULA)

ULA says it scrubbed an early-morning launch of an Atlas V carrying the NROL-52 satellite due to weather violations. The launch has been rescheduled for Sunday, Oct. 15, at 3:28 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It was the third scrub of the flight due to weather constraints and the fourth scrub overall.

A Russian Soyuz rocket carrying a Russian Progress resupply ship blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Saturday. The freighter will take about two days to reach the International Space Station. The launch comes two after a last-minute abort of the Soyuz booster.

On Friday, the European Sentinel 5 Precursor satellite was orbited by a Russian Rockot booster from the Plesestk Cosmodrome. The mission, a joint collaboration of the European Commission and European Space Agency, will measure greenhouse gases.

ESA Teams Prepare for Critical Days

ESA's José Morales is Spacecraft Operations Manager for Sentinel-3A, a Copernicus satellite set for launch in February 2016. (Credit: ESA)
ESA’s José Morales is Spacecraft Operations Manager for Sentinel-3A, a Copernicus satellite set for launch in February 2016. (Credit: ESA)

DARMSTADT, Germany (ESA PR) — Moments after Sentinel-3A separates from its rocket, a team of European mission control specialists will assume control, shepherding the new spacecraft through its critical first days in space.

Carrying a suite of cutting-edge instruments, Sentinel-3A is set to join the Sentinel-1A radar satellite and the Sentinel-2A high-resolution optical satellite in orbit to monitor the health of our planet.

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ESA Budget Gets 18 Percent Boost

ESA_budget_2016_node_full_imageBuoyed by major satellite and launch vehicle programs, the European Space Agency (ESA) has received an 18.44 percent increase in its budget for 2016.

The space agency’s budget rose from 4.43 billion euros in 2015 to 5.25 billion euros ($4.8 billion to $5.69 billion),  an increase of 817 million euros ($884.8 million).

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NASA Terminates Space Act Agreement With B612 Foundation

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NASA has terminated an unfunded Space Act Agreement with the B612 Foundation, a private organization whose goal is to launch a spacecraft called Sentinel that would conduct a comprehensive search for asteroids.

Its primary purpose was obtaining NASA technical consulting and agreement for B612 to use NASA tracking facilities for Sentinel after it was launched.  In return, B612 would keep NASA informed of the spacecraft’s technical characteristics and progress and deliver data from the spacecraft to the Minor Planet Center….

NASA spokesmen Dwayne Brown and Dave Steitz confirmed via email that NASA terminated the agreement with B612.  Steitz explained that B612 had not met an important milestone in the SAA — starting Sentinel’s development — and NASA therefore terminated the agreement because “due to limited resources, NASA can no longer afford to reserve funds” to support the project.  “NASA believes it is in the best interest of both parties to terminate this agreement but remains open to future opportunities to collaborate with the B612 Foundation,” he added.

B612 Vice President for Communications Diane Murphy also confirmed the termination, but said NASA had invited them to return to obtain another SAA when Sentinel’s launch date is closer.   She noted that “our timeline is dependent on our fundraising — and while that is going well – it is hard … and taking longer than we first anticipated.”   She provided a statement from Lu asserting that the “status of the SAA in no way changes the resolve of the B612 Foundation to move forward. … We will continue to work independently and together with NASA, the US Congress and others to see our goals realized.”

According to data compiled by Pro Publica, the foundation became tax exempt in July 2013. The foundation’s tax return for 2013, which is the most recent available, shows it received $1,618,005 in contributions that year while spending $1,556,227. Net assets at the end of the year totaled $195,931.

Foundation President Ed Lu received $240,000 in compensation in 2013. Secretary and Chief Operating Officer Danica Rema received $209,443 for the year. The tax return also lists an additional $271,277 in other salaries and wages. The return does not state who received this compensation. Almost half of it — $132,171 — is attributed to fund-raising expenses.

Asteroid Hunting Satellite Effort Floudering Due to Lack of Funds

b612foundationIn a setback for efforts to find giant space rocks that could kill us all, the B612 Foundation is not having much luck raising money for its asteroid-hunting Sentinel spacecraft.

Yet progress has been slow. The B612 Foundation raised donations of roughly $1.2 million in 2012 and $1.6 million in 2013 — far short of its annual goal of $30 million to $40 million. NASA says that Sentinel has also missed every development milestone laid out in the 2012 agreement. In a January statement to an advisory panel, NASA said that its “reliance on the private sector for a space-based NEO survey … is being re-examined”. NASA’s Lindley Johnson, director of the near-earth object programme, declined to speak to Nature, citing the ongoing discussions between the B612 Foundation and the agency…

If Sentinel receives substantial funding soon, it could launch by late 2019, says B612 Foundation chief executive and former astronaut Edward Lu. Even if NASA terminates its agreement with the foundation, he vows to keep the project going. “Believe me, I could do a lot of other things,” he says. “But I feel this is extremely important.”

Meanwhile, a group at NASA is pursuing a satellite of its own, which is competing with two dozen other proposals for funding.

NEOCam, meanwhile, would use an infrared telescope to search for asteroids from a vantage point between Earth and the Sun. In September, NASA will decide whether it is a finalist out of more than two dozen proposals being considered for launch by 2022 through the Discovery programme, which caps each mission’s cost at $450 million.

ESA Conducts Successful In-space Laser Communications Test

The Eutelsat-9B satellite with its EDRS-A payload. Also known as Europe’s SpaceDataHighway, EDRS uses cutting-edge laser technology to capture and relay information gathered by Earth-observing satellites. (Credit: Airbus Defence and Space SAS 2014)
The Eutelsat-9B satellite with its EDRS-A payload. Also known as Europe’s SpaceDataHighway, EDRS uses cutting-edge laser technology to capture and relay information gathered by Earth-observing satellites. (Credit: Airbus Defence and Space SAS 2014)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Marking a first in space, Sentinel-1A and Alphasat have linked up by laser stretching almost 36 000 km across space to deliver images of Earth just moments after they were captured.

This important step demonstrates the potential of Europe’s new space data highway to relay large volumes of data very quickly so that information from Earth-observing missions can be even more readily available.

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B612 Foundation Adds New Members, Gains Financial Support

b612foundationMOUNTAIN VIEW, CA (Sept. 17, 2013, B612 PR) – The world’s first privately funded deep space telescope mission, the B612 Foundation’s SENTINEL MISSION, has announced new support and additions to its Board of Directors, Strategic Advisory Board and increased financial support keeping the mission on track to launch in July 2018.

“The third quarter of 2013 was successful for us in many ways, as we received both welcome financial support, including a seven figure contribution, as well as added another wave of highly successful individuals to our team: the Strategic Advisory Board, Founding Circle and Board of Directors,” said Dr. Ed Lu, Co-Founder and CEO of the B612 Foundation. “These are the forward thinkers who are stepping up to ensure the security of our planet. We are very appreciative.”

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B612 Foundation’s Sentinel Telescope Will Cost $450 Million

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Dan Leone at Space News has a great update on plans by the B612 Foundation to launch its $450 million Sentinel asteroid-hunting telescope:

B612 plans to launch Sentinel in 2017 or 2018 aboard a Space Exploration Technologies Corp. Falcon 9 rocket, possibly as a secondary payload, according to Troeltzsch.

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B612 Foundation Advances Asteroid Mission

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Oct. 11, 2012 (B612 PR) — The B612 Foundation today announced the formation and initial findings of its Sentinel Special Review Team (SSRT) to aid B612 in building the world’s first privately funded deep space mission to protect Earth by providing early warning of threatening asteroids.

The SSRT will provide technical advice and assistance during the development and operations of the Sentinel Space Telescope mission.  Members include scientists and aerospace experts independently selected by the B612 Sentinel leadership, and members assigned by NASA, which is providing technical support through a Space Act Agreement.

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B612 Foundation Get Support for Asteroid Hunting Spacecraft

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA, September 19, 2012 (B612 PR) – The world’s first privately funded deep space mission – SENTINEL – received major support this week from prominent members of the business and financial community who joined the B612 Foundation’s Founding Circle. Founding Circle Members not only contribute substantial funding to the mission, but also pledge continued support in multiple areas of finance, technology and science.

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Sentinel Overview and Specifications


Sentinel Overview

Sentinel is a space-based infrared (IR) survey mission to discover and catalog 90 percent of the asteroids larger than 140 meters in Earth’s region of the solar system. The mission should also discover a significant number of smaller asteroids down to a diameter of 30 meters. Sentinel will be launched into a Venus-like orbit about the sun which significantly improves the efficiency of asteroid discovery during its 5.5 year mission.

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