News briefs: July 27-28
Posted: Mon, Jul 29, 2002, 8:01 AM ET (1201 GMT)
- Congressman Dave Weldon (R-FL) is critical of a provision in the Senate version of NASA's budget with the potential to move launches from the Kennedy Space Center. The provision instructs NASA to use the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia as a "testing and launch facility" for next-generation launch vehicles. Weldon, whose district includes KSC, said he is concerned that this could mean that a replacement for the shuttle would launch from Wallops instead of KSC. A spokesperson for Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who inserted the language into the bill, said it is intended only for small scientific payloads.
- Arianespace is in negotiations with Hispasat to launch two of its satellites in 2004, Space News reported Friday. Arianespace is trying to win launch contracts for the civilian Amazonas and military Spainsat communications satellites. Strong competition from Boeing has reportedly lowered the launch price to $60 million each, according to Space News.
- The Sun has undergone a burst of activity in recent days, with four solar storms observed in just over a week. The largest of the four, an X 4.8 flare, was observed on July 23; three other X-class flares were observed since July 15. Solar activity had been on the wane as the Sun passed the maximum of its 11-year cycle of activity.
- Astronomers are using computer simulations of colliding black holes to better understand gravitational waves, New Scientist reports. Astronomers believe that gravitational waves, predicted by general relativity but not yet observed, could be created when two black holes merge. The simulations will be used to prepare for observations by a new gravity wave observatory, LIGO, undergoing final testing.