News Briefs – Breaking Stories – Oddities


A weekly addition of some of the more unusual stories and discoveries in space & astronomy from around the world. Updated daily for those wanting a quick update of current events so keep checking back for all the latest space news.

We May Not Have Found Aliens Yet – We’ve Barely Begun Looking

With no luck so far in a six-decade search for signals from aliens, you’d be forgiven for thinking, “Where is everyone?” A new calculation shows that if space is an ocean, we’ve barely dipped in a toe. The volume of observable space combed so far for E.T. is comparable to searching the volume of a large hot tub for evidence of fish in Earth’s oceans, astronomer Jason Wright at Penn State and colleagues say in a paper posted online September 19 at arXiv.org.

“If you looked at a random hot tub’s worth of water in the ocean, you wouldn’t always expect a fish,” Wright says. Still, that’s far more space searched than calculated in 2010 for the 50th anniversary of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI. In that work, SETI pioneer Jill Tarter and colleagues imagined a “cosmic haystack” of naturally occurring radio waves she could sift through for the proverbial needle of an artificial, alien beacon. (9/30)

Griffin Proposes New Space Agency That ‘Disrupts’ Traditional Procurement (Source: Space News)
Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin is recommending that the Pentagon create a Space Development Agency to take over next-generation space programs and transform how the military acquires space technologies. Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan had requested that Griffin and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson submit separate proposals for how to create a Space Development Agency.

The standup of a Space Development Agency is one piece of a broader effort to form a new military service for space. Wilson submitted her plan in a Sep. 14 memo on how to organize a Space Force as a separate military department. Griffin’s proposal takes a very different approach. Wilson suggested the Space Development Agency should be organized under the existing Space Rapid Capabilities Office, geographically and organizationally connected to U.S. Space Command.

Griffin is proposing a new D.C.-based agency with a staff of 112 government personnel that would report to him initially, but eventually would shift to the control of a new assistant secretary of defense for space, an office that would first have to be approved by Congress. Griffin has been a frequent critic of the slow pace and high cost of military technology developments, and he contends that the Space Development Agency should lead a DoD-wide effort to accelerate innovation. (10/7)

Boeing Plans Changes to SLS Upper Stages (Source: Space News)
With NASA’s decision to continue using an interim upper stage for additional flights of the Space Launch System, Boeing is working on changes to both that stage and a more powerful upper stage. In an Oct. 3 call with reporters, John Shannon, vice president and program manager for the Space Launch System at Boeing, said NASA has asked Boeing to look at changes to the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) to improve its performance.

Those changes were prompted by the decision NASA made earlier this year to delay the introduction of the EUS. That stage was originally planned to enter use with the second SLS mission, Exploration Mission (EM) 2. Instead, the first flight of what’s known as the Block 1B configuration of SLS has been delayed to the fourth SLS launch, likely no earlier than 2024. (10/5)

SpaceX Launches Argentine Satellite, Posts First Ground-Landing on West Coast (Source: Space News)
SpaceX conducted its seventeenth launch of the year Oct. 7, sending an Argentine radar satellite into low-Earth orbit on a Falcon 9 rocket. The mission was also SpaceX’s first to include a successful land recovery of the rocket’s booster stage at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. All previous recoveries in California used a drone ship to land boosters out at sea.

The Falcon 9 Block 5 lifted off at 10:21 p.m. Eastern during an instantaneous launch window. The satellite, Saocom-1A, separated from the launcher’s upper stage about 13 minutes later. SpaceX landed the rocket’s first stage at a newly built landing pad called LZ-4 that is located near Vandenberg’s SLC-4E launch pad where the rocket took off. The company views ground-based rocket landings as better for expediting reuse, since drone ship landings require time to return to port.

SpaceX used the same first stage for the Saocom-1A mission that launched 10 satellites for Iridium about 10-and-a-half weeks ago, also from Vandenberg. Saocom-1A is a 3,000-kilogram synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite for the Argentine space agency CONAE that was originally contracted in 2009 for a launch in 2012. (10/8)



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