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CRAIG COVAULT

CRAIG COVAULT
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Behind The Scenes Of A Scoop  49
Aviation Week’s foray into the new arena of digital imaging led to two scoops of high-level intrigue and bargaining with the U.S. military.
Bush Administration Nixed NASA’s U.S.-China Cooperation Idea 

NASA tried and failed to obtain Bush administration approval of an overture to China for a cooperative U.S.-China space mission, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin tells Aviation Week & Space Technology.

The White House believes that a higher level of cooperation is too great a reward to China for its human rights and arms-trafficking violations of international law.

China’s Global Reach with Lightsat Technology 

China will accelerate the development in 2009 of increasingly capable microsats and smallsats for military and other space missions, according to the country’s launch schedule for next year and U.S. Defense Dept. and university analysis of Chinese work in this field.

China could also reveal more test activity with the secret Shenlong (Divine Dragon) air-launched booster designed for drop from a Chinese H-6 Badger bomber for smallsat launch operations.

The Black World’s New Star 

The National Reconnaissance Office hopes to recover momentum next week with the launch of an upgraded eavesdropping spacecraft, delayed three years by its own problems at the same time the NRO has juggled a flood of new requirements and accusations of mismanagement of existing programs.

The flight will mark the launch of the biggest, most secret and expensive military spacecraft on board the world’s largest rocket.

NRO Delays Delta IV Heavy Launch 

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) has delayed the planned Cape Canaveral launch next week of an advanced geosynchronous orbit Orion eavesdropping spacecraft onboard a Boeing Delta IV Heavy booster.

The delay to mid-January comes as the U.S. Air Force is troubleshooting problems with its Northrop/Grumman Defense Support Program (DSP) 23 spacecraft already positioned in a stationary orbit.

The Black World’s New Star 

The National Reconnaissance Office hopes to recover momentum next week with the launch of an upgraded eavesdropping spacecraft, delayed three years by its own problems at the same time the NRO has juggled a flood of new requirements and accusations of mismanagement of existing programs.

The flight will mark the launch of the biggest, most secret and expensive military spacecraft on board the world’s largest rocket.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Reveals Buried Glaciers 

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has revealed vast Martian glaciers of water ice under protective blankets of rocky debris at much lower latitudes than any ice previously identified on the red planet.

Scientists analyzed data from the spacecraft’s ground-penetrating radar and report in the Nov. 21 issue of the journal Science that buried glaciers extend for dozens of miles from edges of mountains or cliffs.

Complex Home-Improvement Mission for STS-126, ISS Crews 

The combined crews of the International Space Station and the space shuttle Endeavour are well along in their two-week orbiting home-improvement project, getting the outpost ready to handle six full-time residents and starting a complex repair that will not be finished until 2010.

NASA Narrows List Of Next Mars Landing Sites 

The NASA Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover team has selected four finalist landing sites, all with ties to Martian water, as it moves toward final site selection next summer to support an Atlas V launch in September 2009.

The nuclear-powered MSL rover is the size of a small car and carries much more powerful instrumentation to assess whether life evolved at any of the watery sites.

Asteriod Flights Would Replace Lunar Missions in Alternative Vision 

Sweeping changes to the Bush administration’s vision for space exploration—including the replacement of manned lunar flights with human missions to asteroids—are being proposed to the new Obama administration by a large group of former NASA managers, astronauts and top planetary scientists.

Phoenix Leaves Martian Science Legacy 

The Phoenix Mars lander is leaving a legacy of discovery that will support arguments by some scientists that water-ice-rich portions of the planet’s northern latitudes could have provided a habitat for the development of life in the recent geologic past.

New Iranian Missile Fired With Solid Propellant 

Iran’s defense ministry says it flight-tested a Ghadr-110/Samen/Sejjil solid-propellant ballistic missile with a 1,200-mi. range Nov. 13. Defense sources say several characteristics of the missile are evident as it sits on the launch pad. The rocket has two solid-propellant stages, each about 1.35 meters (4.4 ft.) in diameter. The first stage uses steering vanes mounted in the rocket nozzle, a technique dating to German World War II-era V-2s. But the second stage uses liquid-propellant Vernier jets protected by covers midway up the launcher.

Manned Asteroid Missions Proposed As Faster Springboard To Mars 

A large group of former NASA managers and planetary scientists is proposing sweeping changes to the Bush administration’s Vision for Space Exploration that would replace a human return to the moon with manned missions to asteroids and other locations much farther from Earth.

Iran Flight-Tests Solid-Fuel Missile 

Iran has flight-tested a Ghadr-110/Samen/Sejjil solid propellant ballistic missile with a range of 1,200 miles.

According to an analysis of photographs, the rocket uses two solid propellant rocket motor stages, each about 1.35 meters in diameter. The first stage uses steering vanes mounted in the rocket nozzle, a technique that goes all the way back to the German V-2.

Chinese-built Nigerian Satellite Fails In Orbit 

In another major failure for the Chinese space program, a second DFH-4 satellite bus, this one built for Nigeria, has failed in geosynchronous orbit.

China’s first DFH-4 failure in late 2006 was the worst in-space breakdown suffered by the Chinese. That satellite, designated Sinosat-2, was to provide Chinese communications services to the Pacific. The Nigerian satellite is designated NigComSat-1 and was launched last May by a Long March 3B rocket.

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