Arianespace/Starsem Flight ST12 success

Arianespace/Starsem Flight ST12 successfully placed Israel’s AMOS 2 telecommunications satellite into geostationary transfer orbit on Sunday, Dec. 28 using a Soyuz/Fregat vehicle launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The satellite originally was scheduled for an Ariane 5 launch, but subsequently was switched to Soyuz/Fregat in a decision with the client and as a result of the flexible Arianespace/Starsem launcher family policy.

See our Mission Update and press release on the Arianespace Web site for more details on this joint Arianespace/Starsem success.


A team of engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif, successfully tested a new ion propulsion engine design, one of several candidate propulsion technologies under study by NASA’s Project Prometheus.

The event marked the first performance test of the Nuclear Electric Xenon Ion System (NEXIS) engine at the high-efficiency, high-power, and high-thrust operating conditions needed for use in large-scale nuclear electric propulsion applications.
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Santa will have company in the sky above most U.S. cities on Christmas Eve. The International Space Station will be visible, weather permitting, with its two crewmen snug in sleeping bags secured to the walls, with visions of dehydrated turkey dancing in their heads.

Cities from New York to Los Angeles, and most points in between, will have the Station pass high overhead, but easily visible, at various times Dec. 23-26. Exact sighting dates, times and viewing tips for hundreds of towns are available at:

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Mars Express releases Beagle 2

This morning, ESA’s Mars Express flawlessly released the Beagle 2 lander that it has been carrying since its launch on 2 June this year. Beagle 2 is now on its journey towards the surface of Mars, where it is expected to land early in the morning of 25 December. Mars Express, Europe’s first mission to Mars, has passed another challenging milestone on its way towards its final destination.
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Wetlands Management via satellite

Atlantis Scientific Inc. from Nepean, Ontario, Canada has been awarded EUR1,000,000 (1.6 million CND) by the European Space Agency (ESA), under the Data User Element (DUE) Program, to execute the Global Wetland Information Service (GlobWetland) Project over the coming 2 years. The Atlantis led consortium (joined by Wetlands International – NL, Synoptics – NL and Remote Sensing Solutions GmbH – DE) won the contract, and the project was officially kicked off by ESA on November 20th,, 2003.
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NASA has tested rocket engines and parachutes that could be instrumental in developing the first spacecraft crew launch escape system in almost 30 years.

The tests pave the way for a series of integrated Pad Abort Demonstration (PAD) test flights to support NASA’s Orbital Space Plane (OSP) program. Launch pad abort tests support development of a system that could pull a crew safely away from danger during liftoff. Knowledge gained from the testing will reduce the future design and development risks of a launch escape system that could be used for the OSP.
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NASA supported biologists developed a modeling approach that uses satellite data and specimen locality data from museum collections to predict successfully the geographic distribution of 11 known chameleon species in Madagascar. The model also helped lead to discovery of 7 additional chameleon species new to science.

The discovery suggests for poorly explored regions, NASA satellite data and data from museum collections can help identify promising places to survey for new species of life, while locating areas likely to be of conservation importance.
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