Today’s Tidbits: October 15, 2018

Today’s Tidbits: October 15, 2018

Here are’s tidbits for October 15, 2018:  computer, space and science visionary Paul Allen dies; Nick Hague back in Houston; Harris and L3 announce merger.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Computer, Space and Science Visionary Paul Allen Dies

Paul Allen. Credit: Vulcan, Inc. press release.

Paul Allen died today at the age of 65 from complications of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.  While he is probably best known globally as the co-founder (with Bill Gates) of Microsoft, he is also a legend in the space community.

Allen financed the development of SpaceShipOne, Burt Rutan’s winning entry in the Ansari X-Prize to build a reusable vehicle capable of carrying three people that could fly to an altitude of 100 kilometers (generally recognized as a demarcation between air and space) twice within two weeks.  It, of course, led to SpaceShipTwo, which is in development and testing by Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic with the goal of flying tourists on suborbital space flights.

Allen also funded Stratolaunch, an enormous airplane intended to be used as a platform to send payloads into space. The plane’s wingspan is 117 meters (385 feet), more than the length of a football field including both end zones.

Getting into space was only one of his passions, though.  He also was one of the major funders of an array of 42 radio telescopes, the Allen Telescope Array, to search for signals of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe as part of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI).

Those were only a few of his business and philanthropic pursuits.  His company, Vulcan, Inc., issued a press release listing many of his interests and a timeline of his achievements along with a statement from his family. [].  It says that he “thoughtfully addressed how the many institutions he founded and supported would continue after he was no longer able to lead them,” but this is not the time “to deal in those specifics.”

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation issued a statement saying that he “exemplified a true pioneering spirit” that “will live on as we continue to surpass space technology milestones in his memory.”

Nick Hague Back in Houston

Soyuz MS-10 astronaut Nick Hague is back in Houston after his aborted launch last Thursday.  The Soyuz FG rocket that was supposed to send him and Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin to the International Space Station malfunctioned when the first and second stages separated 2 minutes and 45 seconds after liftoff.  The two men experienced 6-7 Gs as their Soyuz spacecraft separated from the rocket and made a safe landing 34 minutes later.  They have been undergoing medical tests since then, but Hague finally was OK’d to return home.

When Soyuz FG rockets will to return to flight is unclear, but NASA Administrator Bridenstine expressed confidence on Friday that the next ISS crew, Soyuz MS-11, will go on schedule in December.  Russian space agency general director Dmitry Rogozin tweeted that “the boys” will still get their chance to fly to ISS, probably next spring.

Harris and L3 Announce Merger

Harris Corporation and L3 Technologies announced an all-stock “merger of equals” over the weekend.  The combined company, L3 Harris Technologies, Inc., will be the 6th largest defense company in the United States with a combined market value of about $34 billion.  The deal already has been approved by both boards of directors. Now it must obtain regulatory approval from the U.S. government and shareholder approval.  The companies expect the deal to close in mid-2019.  The merged company will be headquartered in Melbourne, FL, the current home of Harris Corp.

Harris, which acquired Excelis in 2015, is involved in a broad array of space projects.  Its website lists Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR); positioning, navigation, and timing (e.g. GPS); space antennas; space payloads and electronics; space superiority; spaceport operations; strategic, tactical and maritime satellite communications; and “universe exploration.”  The latter includes manufacturing the test equipment for and assisting in testing of the Optical Telescope Element and Integrated Science Instrument Module (OTIS) for the James Webb Space Telescope.

L3’s Space and Navigation unit traces its heritage back to the Bendix Corporation that, among other things, provided the inertial guidance system for the Saturn rockets.  Its website says the company also built the pointing and attitude control system for the Hubble Space Telescope, and gyro assemblies for IRIDIUM satellites and commercial remote sensing satellites.  It also built the control moment gyros (CMGs) for the International Space Station.

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