SpacePolicyOnline.com Latest News
Russian space agency head Anatoly Perminov reportedly is leading an effort to plan an international asteroid deflection mission. Voice of Russia and other news sources quote Perminov as saying that Russia wants to launch a mission to the asteroid Apophis that could divert it from a potential collision with Earth in 2036 (Voice of Russia mistakenly says 2032). Perminov reportedly wants experts from other countries, including the United States, Europe and China to join the project.
Alarm about the possibility that Apophis might hit Earth was quelled by NASA analysis in 2009 showing a much reduced chance of such a catastrophe. Initial reports of a 2.9% probability of a collision in 2029 have been completely refuted, but a small chance of a collision in 2036 remains. Originally the likelihood of a 2036 collision was calculated at one in 45,000, but NASA now estimates it at four-in-a-million.
President Obama yesterday signed into law the Commmercial Space Launch Liability Indemnification extension. That was the last space-related law waiting for signature from the first session of the 111th Congress. Check out SpacePolicyOnline.com's updated fact sheet on major space-related legislation of the 111th Congress, first session.
As 2009 gives way to 2010 tomorrow night, the world will be treated to a Blue Moon. No, it won't change color. A Blue Moon refers to the unusual circumstance of having two full moons in the same month. It happens sufficiently rarely that the phrase "once in a blue Moon" was coined to signal an unlikely event. Not THAT unlikely, though. According to the Associated Press, they occur about every two and a half years. Let's hope it's not prophetic -- the space program has been singing the blues for far too long. Not to mention that the Moon has turned out to be a pretty exciting place -- scientifically speaking!
South Korea will try again to launch a satellite into Earth orbit using its KSLV-1 rocket by June 2010 according to the head of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI).
Lee Joo-jin told the Yonhap News Agency that a final report on the failure of its first attempt earlier this year is expected by the end of January. The KSLV-1, or Naro-1, is a joint development effort with Russia. The South Korean-built second stage is believed to have been the cause of the August failure, when a fairing failed to separate properly. South Korea also is developing its own launch vehicle, KSLV-2. The country's plans for space exploration include sending a spacecraft to orbit the Moon in 2020 and another to land on the Moon in 2025, according to Lee.
NASA has selected three missions as candidates for the next spacecraft to fly as part of its "New Frontiers" program. One would send a probe to descend through Venus' atmosphere and made a survivable landing on its surface, the second would orbit an asteroid, and the third would place a lander at the Moon's South Pole Aitken Basin. A final selection will be made in 2011 after 12-month detailed studies, with launch expected in 2018. The three were chosen from eight proposals.
The New Frontiers program is part of NASA's Planetary Sciences Division and nominally selects one medium-class space mission every three years for development. The mission cost cannot exceed $650 million, not including launch costs. The 2011 mission will be the third in the series. The first was the New Horizons spacecraft now enroute to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. The second, Juno, is scheduled for launch in August 2011 to orbit Jupiter around its poles.
A recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) shows that the Department of Defense (DOD) has a mixed record of implementing GAO's recommendations over the past eight years regarding DOD space activities.
GAO's letter report reviews all 3,099 recommendations that it made to DOD during that time period on all issues, not only those affecting DOD space programs. GAO then categorizes the recommendations as open, closed-implemented, or closed-not implemented. While it is a numerical assessment only, not a substantive assessment of what the recommendations were and the impact of implementing or not implementing them, the summary does provide an interesting glimpse of the extent to which DOD is responsive to GAO.
S. Neil Hosenball, who served as NASA's General Counsel from 1975-1985, passed away on December 23. His obituary appears in today's Washington Post. He succumbed to cancer.
Editor's Note: Among his many legacies, Neil Hosenball was instrumental in negotiating what is commonly known as the 1979 "Moon Treaty" through the United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) -- formally the Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. Although U.S. policy on certain language in the treaty changed and the United States ultimately decided not to sign the treaty, Neil's indefatigable pursuit of the agreement was testament to his skills as a space lawyer and negotiator.
The LA Times wants NASA TV to "Liven Up."
"Befitting its growing awareness of the world looking on, NASA TV later put its coverage on YouTube. However, the soundtrack is filled with technical gibberish as scientists ready their instruments, and the impact itself is virtually invisible."
Editor's Note: Granted, NASA TV is not Nova or the National Geographic channel. If it were, commentators probably would simply criticize NASA for spending taxpayer dollars on public relations. This definitely is a no-win situation for NASA.
The U.S. space launch propulsion industrial base faces significant challenges according to a report submitted to Congress on Tuesday by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The report was required by the 2008 NASA Authorization Act.
The Senate passed legislation on Wednesday extending government indemnification of third party liability for commercial space launches for three more years. The bill passed by unanimous consent without debate. As passed by the Senate, H.R. 3819 is identical to the version earlier passed by the House, so no further action by Congress is required; the President is expected to sign it.
As SpacePolicyOnline.com reported earlier, the government indemnifies commercial launch services companies against liability for third party claims between $500 million and $2 billion. That means the government will pay those sums to settle claims by third parties if a commercial launch vehicle were to crash into a populated area, for example. The commercial company is responsible for purchasing insurance for amounts up to $500 million and over $2 billion if required by the FAA's regulations. The current version of the legislation expires on December 31. This bill extends the provision through December 31, 2012.
Events of Interest