Inside Space - November 7th, 2018

Inside Space (Nov 7th, 2018)

ICON delay / Elysium Planitia / Metop-C launch / Stratolaunch test

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1. A technical glitch with Northrop Grumman's Pegasus XL rocket delayed the launch of NASA's Ionospheric Connection Explorer satellite (ICON) Wednesday. The Stargazer L-1011 aircraft carrying the rocket and satellite was mid-flight when the error was detected and the mission aborted. The ICON mission to study the effects of solar wind and radiation in Earth's upper atmosphere on GPS and communications systems has been plagued by delays. The next available launch window for ICON is Thursday morning. --

2. The Elysium Planitia region on Mars was chosen as the November 26 landing spot for the Mars InSight lander's mission, specifically for its plainness. Elysium Planitia provides the required sunlight and flat terrain for InSight, which will remain in one spot on Mars and study the makeup of the planet's interior. "If it were an ice cream, it would be vanilla," Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator, said of the Elysium Planitia landing site. -- NASA

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3. The Metop-C weather satellite successfully launched aboard a Soyuz ST-B rocket Tuesday. Metop-C is the last of three polar-orbiting satellites built by Airbus Defence and Space for the European weather agency Eumetsat. The three satellites will be placed 120 degrees apart and will "collect imagery, temperature and humidity profiles in the atmosphere, and sea surface conditions" on Earth, while also tracking weather in space. -- SPACE NEWS

4. MIT graduate student James Clark suggests using lasers to search for alien life in a new "feasibility study" in Astrophysical Journal. By focusing a laser through a large telescope, a beam of infrared radiation distinguishable from the Sun would create a "planetary porch light" that would be able to be seen from 20,000 light years away, according to the study. The resulting beam would reach potentially habitable star systems like Proxima Centauri or TRAPPIST-1. The Arecibo Interstellar Message in 1974 was Earth's first attempt at contacting an alien civilization and touched off a debate among scientists that continues. -- EARTHSKY

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5. Stratolaunch recently performed a successful test-fire of a key component for its PGA rocket. The PGA -- named for company founder Paul Allen, who passed away in October -- will use liquid hydrogen and oxygen propellants to produce 200,000 pounds of thrust. “The hotfire test is an incredible milestone for both the propulsion team and Stratolaunch,” Jeff Thornburg, vice president of propulsion, said. The engine will be used in a family of vehicles still under development by Stratolaunch to launch from the company's giant aircraft, which is currently in taxi testing.  -- SPACE NEWS

6. Democratic Florida Senator and former astronaut Bill Nelson has called for a recount in his Senate race against Republican Rick Scott. Nelson, who spent six days in orbit aboard the space shuttle Columbia in 1986, trailed Scott by less than .5% of the vote Wednesday morning.

7. A researcher at Purdue University has developed a "drag sail" to help with the emerging space junk problem. The sail would attach to any satellite and deploy at the end of its life cycle to gently pull them out of orbit.

8. Scientists are a step closer to understanding how a comet's dust tail rifts are created, something that's puzzled them since 1744. The new theory suggests heat from the sun causes the release of gases trapped within the comet, producing the mysterious tails.

9. Astronomers have discovered a supermassive black hole nearly one billion light years away in the center of the brightest galaxy of the Abell 2597 cluster — the black hole has been observed pouring cold molecular gas into space. The discovery, made using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, could provide scientists with insight into the life cycle of galaxies.

10. Democrats seizing the House of Representatives Tuesday could mean trouble for President Donald Trump's proposed Space Force as a sixth military branch. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Washington) and other House Democrats have argued for keeping space operations within the Air Force.

Written and curated by Angela Underwood in upstate New York. After years of covering local and state-level politics as a Gannett journalist and tackling topics such as health and nutrition, Angela now enjoys covering stories that are out of this world. Follow her on LinkedIn here.

Editing team: Lon Harris (editor-in-chief at, game-master at Screen Junkies), Krystle Vermes (Breaking news editor at Inside, B2B marketing news reporter, host of the "All Day Paranormal" podcast), and Susmita Baral (editor at Inside, recent bylines in NatGeo, Teen Vogue, and Quartz. Runs the biggest mac and cheese account on Instagram).

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