Tuesday, October 23, 2012

B612 Foundation To Launch Private Satellite To Orbit The Sun To Hunt For Asteroids

The B612 Foundation, a 501(c) 3 organization, aims to build, launch, and operate the first privately funded deep space mission – a space telescope to be placed in orbit around the Sun.

The orbits of the inner solar system where Earth lies are populated with a half million asteroids larger than the one that struck Tunguska in 1908, and the vast majority are uncharted. These asteroids are a scientific and economic opportunity in that they contain the original building blocks of the Solar System, are targets for future human exploration, and may contain valuable raw materials.

These asteroids are also a threat in that they can pose great risk to humanity here on Earth. Taking advantage of these opportunities and dealing with these threats require not only knowing where each of these individual asteroids is now, but also projecting where they will be in the future. The B612 Foundation will create the first comprehensive, dynamic map of our inner solar system that will show the current and future locations and trajectories of these Earth crossing asteroids.

Credit: B612 Foundation

Mapping the great unknown of the inner solar system is the first step to opening up this next frontier. The B612 Foundation believes that humanity can harness the power of science and technology to protect the future of civilization on this planet, while extending our reach into the solar system

The B612 Foundation earlier this month announced the formation and initial findings of its Sentinel Special Review Team (SSRT) to aid B612 in building the world’s first privately funded deep space mission to protect Earth by providing early warning of threatening asteroids.

The SSRT will provide technical advice and assistance during the development and operations of the Sentinel Space Telescope mission. Members include scientists and aerospace experts independently selected by the B612 Sentinel leadership, and members assigned by NASA, which is providing technical support through a Space Act Agreement.

“Because the ultimate success of the Sentinel mission in finding and tracking threatening asteroids is so crucial to humanity, the B612 Foundation felt it was necessary to assemble one of the most experienced spacecraft technical teams on Earth to help it in its mission” said B612 Chairman and CEO Ed Lu. “They will provide the B612 Sentinel team with the best possible unbiased critical evaluation of our plans, as well as ongoing technical advice.”

Tom Gavin serves as the Chair of the SSRT, having served in similar roles for numerous space missions as Director of Flight Projects and Mission Success at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The SSRT is further comprised of 10 of the world’s most seasoned and experienced experts in the aerospace community, within the areas of spacecraft development and operations, program management, launch vehicles, telescope instrumentation, and asteroid detection and tracking. Members include: Steve Battel, Robert Berry, John Casani, Glenn Cunningham, Orlando Figueroa, Stephen Francois, Robert Jedicke, Paul Jones, George Pace, and Mark Saunders. The full list of members and their bios, including the participants provided by NASA through the Space Act Agreement found on their website.

“I am particularly pleased to have the help of this stellar review team, which, collectively has more than 400 years of experience managing and leading some of the most ambitious and successful space missions ever flown, including the Spitzer Space Telescope, Galileo, Cassini, Mars Odyssey, Mars Exploration Rovers, and Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous missions. ” said Sentinel Mission Director Harold Reitsema.

First SSRT Milestone Review
The first major task of the SSRT was to review the technical requirements and management structure for Sentinel, and to evaluate the feasibility of the proposed plans. This review, dubbed the Program Concept and Implementation Review, was conducted by the SSRT on September 11-13 in Boulder CO, where the Sentinel Spacecraft will be built.

Among the specific items reviewed by the SSRT were the:
• Sentinel mission requirements for finding and tracking asteroids
• Sentinel spacecraft subsystems, including data handling, communications, infrared focal plane, telescope, navigation, etc.
• Development, test, and requirements verification plans
• Management and organizational plans
• Infrared detector development and test plans
The major finding of the first SSRT review was that the Sentinel Mission implementation plans and mission design, as put forth by the B612 Foundation and its partner Ball Aerospace, are technically sound and will lead to a successful Sentinel mission. The SSRT further found that B612 and Ball Aerospace have developed a very viable detection method for finding and tracking Near Earth Asteroids.

“This is a major milestone in the development of Sentinel, and has validated the enormous amount of design and planning work that has already been carried out by Ball Aerospace.” said SSRT Chair Tom Gavin.

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