Space News Roundup – December 2012

SpaceX's Grasshopper Rocket Takes Off

Lockheed wins $1.9 billion contract for two U.S. satellites

Lockheed Martin has won a contract valued at $1.9 billion to build two additional advanced military communications satellites for the U.S. Air Force, the Pentagon said on Friday, December 28, 2012. The contract, which runs for ten years, through January 2022, covers production of the fifth and sixth satellites in the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite program.

Two AEHF satellites are already in orbit, and are designed to ensure that military communications continue among top military commanders and the White House in the event of a nuclear war. The satellites also provide transmission of more routine communications such as targeting data and video data feeds, and serve international partners including Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

SpaceX Launches Reusable Space Rocket (Video)

The private US space engineering firm SpaceX released a video showing its Grasshopper rocket making a short  journey that could take space exploration to new heights: reusable rockets that can lift off and land back on Earth vertically, to reduce the cost of commercial space travel.

SpaceX's Grasshopper Rocket Takes Off
SpaceX’s Grasshopper Rocket Takes Off

“The Grasshopper program is a critical step toward achieving SpaceX’s goal of developing fully and rapidly reusable rockets,” the company said on its website. “With Grasshopper, SpaceX engineers are testing the technology that would allow a launched rocket to land intact, rather than burning up upon reentry to Earth’s atmosphere.” The video shows what happened during the December 17 test flight from the SpaceX launch facility in McGregor, Texas.

As the engines fired up, the 10-story tall Grasshopper rocket lifted 12 stories – 131 feet (40 meters) – in the air, hovered in place, and then gently returned to earth, settling safely on the landing pad.

It was the third test launch for the Grasshopper, each one higher than the one before.

The first fight in September lifted six feet (1.8 meters) in the air. The second one in November rose 17.7 feet (5.4 meters).

Reported on

Iran to Launch 2 New Home-Made Satellites Soon

Head of the Iranian Space Agency (ISA) announced on Saturday (December 24, 2012) that the country is preparing to put two new home-made satellites, called AUT SAT and Sharif SAT, into orbit in the near future. “The AUT SAT will be put into the 55-degree orbit after some changes (in the satellite) and will be launched by Simorq (Phoenix) carrier,” Fazeli told reporters in Tehran. “We try to launch the AUT SAT before the end of this (Iranian) year (March 20),” he added. Fazeli referred to another home-made satellite named Sharif SAT being built by the researchers at Iran’s Sharif University of Technology, and said, “Sharif SAT will also be launched this year.”

Iran which first put a satellite into orbit in 2009, has managed to build several satellites in spite of sanctions and pressures of the US and certain European countries, dissatisfied with its progress and advancements. The country has already sent small animals into space – a rat, turtles and worms – aboard a capsule carried by its Kavoshgar-3 rocket in 2010. Reported on