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JWST test gives NASA bad vibes

James Webb Telescope

NASA is investigating “anomalous readings” during a vibration test of the James Webb Space Telescope.

The spacecraft’s optical system, including its mirrors and instruments, were undergoing a vibration test at the Goddard Space Flight Center earlier this month to simulate launch conditions when the anomaly was detected.

Officials did not provide additional details about the problem, but noted that an inspection of the telescope did not find any evidence of damage. [Spaceflight Insider]


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Japan’s Epsilon rocket launched a space science mission this morning. The Epsilon lifted off from the Uchinoura Space Center on schedule at 6:00 am. Eastern and placed the Exploration of energization and Radiation in Geospace (ERG) satellite into an elliptical Earth orbit. The 350-kilogram ERG will study the Van Allen Belts and solar storms. The launch was the second for the solid-fueled Epsilon rocket, after a 2013 launch. [NASASpaceFlight.com]

The $1.2 billion OneWeb raised this week was the equivalent of two financing rounds in one. Greg Wyler, founder and chairman of OneWeb, said in an interview Monday that the company had previously planned to raise two $500 million rounds one year apart, but was quickly oversubscribed on the first of those two rounds thanks to interest from SoftBank. Wyler said that OneWeb, which has now raised $1.7 billion, will finance the rest of the system, whose total cost is estimated to be $2.5 billion to $3.5 billion, with debt rather than equity. [SpaceNews]

A controversy involving another state agency and a hip-hop star may require Space Florida to be more open about its deals. At a recent meeting of Space Florida’s board, one member warned that the agency must be prepared to explain in detail the return the state will get on the financing Space Florida offers to space companies. That concern comes after controversy involving Visit Florida, the state’s tourism agency, and its $1 million contract with Pitbull, the hip-hop artist; that and other questionable deals led to the recent ouster of the Visit Florida’s CEO. The warning came as Space Florida agreed to extend a line of credit for a venture known as only “Project Ice” that plans to produce fiber optic cables in space. [News Service of Florida]

A NASA cubesat to be deployed from the space station early next year will test a new deorbiting technology. The TechEdSat-5 spacecraft, delivered to the ISS on the Japanese HTV-6 cargo vehicle earlier this month, will demonstrate a parachute-like technology called Exo-Brake that will increase the satellite’s drag but also guide the spacecraft. That technology could eventually be used to guide capsules for reentry without the need for thrusters. [Space.com]

A star’s unusual spectral signature could be explained by it having consumed one of its planets. Astronomers noted that star HIP68468, around which astronomers have previously discovered planets, has unusually high levels of lithium and other elements associated with rocky planets. Such elements could not have formed in the star itself given its age, but could be explained if another rocky planet recently fell into the star. “It’s as if we saw a cat sitting next to a bird cage,” said one astronomer involved in the study. “If there are yellow feathers sticking out of the cat’s mouth, it’s a good bet that the cat swallowed a canary.” [Seeker]

Dark streaks seen on the surface of Mars are not necessarily evidence of liquid water there, scientists caution. The discovery of the dark streaks, known as recurring slope lineae, along with hydrated salts there, led many scientists to conclude that the streaks are formed by liquid water at or near the surface. At last week’s American Geophysical Union meeting, though, others said that the hydrated salts could be formed by atmospheric conditions, rather than in the presence of liquid water. [Space.com]

Lance Bass still wants to go to space. Bass, a former member of the boy band NSYNC, trained to fly on a Soyuz mission to the ISS in 2002, but was grounded when the funding for the trip fell through. “There’s no specific date, but there are plans for me to go,” he said in a recent interview, although it wasn’t clear if those plans involved another attempt to go to the space station or, instead, a suborbital flight. “Eventually in the next five to 10 years I would say that once we’re really flying to space a lot more that I’ll be able to take that mission.” [Business Insider]

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JWST test gives NASA bad vibes

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