Category Archives: Space and Satellites

The Space and Satellite blog posts news about the aerospace industry, including links to industry news and articles, and announcements of continuing education for professionals who are working in the space and satellite profession.

End of Primary Mission of NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope


WASHINGTON — The primary mission of NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope is about to end after more than five and a half years of probing the cosmos with its keen infrared eye. Within about a week of May 12, the telescope is expected to run out of the liquid helium needed to chill some of its instruments to operating temperatures.

The end of the coolant will begin a new era for Spitzer. The telescope will start its “warm” mission with two channels of one instrument still working at full capacity. Some of the science explored by a warm Spitzer will be the same, and some will be entirely new.

“We like to think of Spitzer as being reborn,” said Robert Wilson, Spitzer project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “Spitzer led an amazing life, performing above and beyond its call of duty. Its primary mission might be over, but it will tackle new scientific pursuits, and more breakthroughs are sure to come.”

Spitzer is the last of NASA’s Great Observatories, a suite of telescopes designed to see the visible and invisible colors of the universe. The suite also includes NASA’s Hubble and Chandra space telescopes. Spitzer has explored, with unprecedented sensitivity, the infrared side of the cosmos, where dark, dusty and distant objects hide.

For a telescope to detect infrared light — essentially heat — from cool cosmic objects, it must have very little heat of its own. During the past five years, liquid helium has run through Spitzer’s “veins,”
keeping its three instruments chilled to -456 degrees Fahrenheit
(-271 Celsius), or less than 3 degrees above absolute zero, the coldest temperature theoretically attainable. The cryogen was projected to last as little as two and a half years, but Spitzer’s efficient design and careful operations enabled it to last more than five and a half years.

Spitzer’s new “warm” temperature is still quite chilly at -404 degrees Fahrenheit (-242 Celsius), much colder than a winter day in Antarctica when temperatures sometimes reach -75 degrees Fahrenheit
(-59 Celsius). This temperature rise means two of Spitzer’s instruments — its longer wavelength multiband imaging photometer and its infrared spectrograph — will no longer be cold enough to detect cool objects in space.

You can learn more about Space Mission Design and Analysis at ATI Space Mission Design and Analysis

Workers For The U.S. Satellite Industry

I thought that this was interesting:

by Marion Blakey, President and CEO
Aerospace Industries Association

Photo 1
The U.S. satellite industry has a great deal to worry about these days ­— lost opportunities due to outdated export control rules, global competition from more and more countries every day, the various technical challenges of providing new services — but there’s another issue out there affecting the entire aerospace industry that demands attention in the satellite sector — a looming workforce crisis.

The U.S. aerospace industry workforce is currently dominated by aging workers — baby boomers who were enthralled with space travel and answered our nation’s call to win the Space Race and put Americans on the moon. Today, nearly 60 percent of aerospace workers were age 45 or older in 2007, with retirement eligibility either imminent or already reached.

There is a growing need to replace these experienced workers, especially the engineer talent pool, with capable new talent to ensure that the United States continues to be the world’s leader in satellite technology and other important aerospace applications. But there are not sufficient numbers of young people studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — the STEM disciplines — that would put them on the path to enter aerospace careers and replace our retiring workers.

There is very strong competition for our nation’s brightest math- and science-oriented students. Aerospace companies are forced to share talent with a variety of high-tech industries that were not even around when baby boomers were selecting their careers. For example, more than half of those who graduate with bachelor’s degrees in engineering go into totally unrelated fields for employment. And the numbers earning advanced degrees in STEM subject areas lag other fields by huge margins.

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What Effect Will Transformational Satellite (TSAT) Termination Have?

Defense Budget Recommendation Statement
As Prepared for Delivery by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Arlington, VA, Monday, April 06, 2009
DOD will “terminate the $26 billion Transformational Satellite (TSAT) program, and instead will purchase two more Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites as alternatives.”

Transformational Communications Satellite (TSAT)
Advanced Wideband System
The Transformational Satellite System (TSAT) provides orbit-to-ground laser communications. Throughput for the five-satellite constellation could top out at 10 to 40 gigabytes per second, with a total program cost of $12 billion-to-$18-billion for the entire constellation.
The Transformational Satellite Communications (TSAT) System will provide DoD with high data rate Military Satellite Communications (MILSATCOM) and Internet-like services as defined in the Transformational Communications Architecture (TCA). TSAT is key to global net-centric operations. As the spaceborne element of the Global Information Grid (GIG), it will extend the GIG to users without terrestrial connections providing improved connectivity and data transfer capability, vastly improving satellite communications for the warfighter.
As the terrestrial aspects of communication in the TCA evolve, so will DoD satellite resources. The stated goal of the Transformational Satellite communications system is to provide improved, survivable, jam-resistant, worldwide, secure and general purpose communications as part of an independent but interoperable set of space-based systems that will support NASA, DoD and the IC. TSAT will ultimately replace the DoD’s current satellite system and supplement AEHF satellites.
The TCA proposes a radio frequency (RF), i.e., traditional radio-based, crosslink to complete the AEHF group of satellites or constellation. The constellation is called the Advanced Polar System (APS), which supports strategic and national users in the polar region. The APS is designed to withstand nuclear attacks and support the strategic mission with uninterrupted service. These satellites introduce the use of jam-resistant laser crosslinks for connection into the TSAT.

NASA seminar “Around the World in 80 Telescopes”


WASHINGTON — A collection of NASA missions will be involved in a live event April 3 that will allow the public to get an inside look at how these missions are run. “Around the World in 80 Telescopes” is a 24-hour webcast that is part of the “100 Hours of Astronomy” event for the International Year of Astronomy 2009.

During the webcast, viewers will be able to visit some of the most advanced telescopes on and off the planet. For NASA’s space-based missions, the webcast will be broadcast from control centers throughout the United States. To view the webcast, visit:

As part of the webcast, each mission will release a never-before-seen image from the telescope or observatory. The new images can be found on the websites listed below. Please note these times correspond to the beginning of each mission’s segment on the live webcast and when each new image will be available.

The NASA missions participating in the Webcast, in chronological order, are (times EDT, April 3):

Hubble Space Telescope: 1:20 p.m.

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