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Thursday’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from around the world. In Earth orbit, the SpaceX Dragon prepared to depart the International Space Station for a mid-day Pacific splashdown. The FAA gives Scaled Composites clearance to begin power flight tests of SpaceShipTwo. The U. S. Air Force X-37B is close to returning from a 15 month clandestine orbital mission. Two Google X-Prize competitors merge. A Texas space advocate is poised to return to Congress. White Dwarf stars reveal much about our Milky Way galaxy.
1. From the Los Angeles Times: Astronauts aboard the International Space Station prepare the SpaceX Dragon for a Thursday splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the California Coast. Dragon is concluding a nine-day test flight conducted under the sponsorship of NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program.
A. From Forbes.com: In an op-ed contributor Loren Thompson credits SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk with a remarkable achievement with the Dragon launch and space station rendezvous. However, the cautionary essayist warns Musk’s genius must prevail against possible changes in space policy, an uncertain market as well as aerospace rivals.
B. From Collectspace.com: SpaceX has licensed a Canadian company to produce a scale model of the company’s Dragon spacecraft.
2. From Space News: Scaled Composites receives authorization from the FAA to begin powered test flights of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo – suborbital commercial passenger rocket. The testing phase of the space plane will transition from glide to rocket power flight later this year, Virgin Galactic announced.
3. From Spaceflightnow.com: After 15 months of clandestine flight, the U. S. Air Force X-37B orbital space plane will return to Earth in the coming weeks, the Pentagon announces on Wednesday. Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., will serving as the landing site. The reusable Orbital Test Vehicle was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on Mar. 5, 2011.
4. From MSNBC.com and Cosmic Log: One competitor is gobbled by another in the race to reach the moon with a robotic lander or rover as part of the $30 million Google X-Prize competition. Moon Express acquires Next Giant Leap.
5. From Spacepolitics.com: In Texas, space advocate Nick Lampson captures the Democratic primary for the U. S. congressional district currently held by Ron Paul, the onetime Republican presidential contender. Lampson was defeated for re-election from a neighboring Congressional district in 2008. Lampson’s Republican challenger will be determined in a July run-off.
6. From The Los Angeles Times: The study of White Dwarfs, the remnants of larger stars like the sun, can tell us much about how the Milky Way formed and when, scientists report.
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