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NASA Awards Launch Services Task Order for TROPICS CubeSats Mission

NASA has selected Rocket Lab USA Inc. of Long Beach, California, to provide the launch service for the agency’s Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation Structure and Storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) mission, as part of the agency’s Venture-class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare (VADR) launch services contract.

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Concept artwork of satellites comprising the TROPICS constellation working in concert to provide rapidly updating microwave observations of storms on Earth, measuring precipitation, temperature, and humidity of a storm.
Credits: NASA

NASA has selected Rocket Lab USA Inc. of Long Beach, California, to provide the launch service for the agency’s Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation Structure and Storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) mission, as part of the agency’s Venture-class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare (VADR) launch services contract.

Rocket Lab is one of 13 companies NASA selected for VADR contracts in 2022. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, manages the VADR contracts. As part of VADR, the fixed-price indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts have a five-year ordering period with a maximum total value of $300 million across all contracts.

The TROPICS mission consists of four CubeSats intended for two low-Earth orbital planes and is part of NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder Program. Rocket Lab will launch the TROPICS satellites into their operational orbits during a 60-day period (first insertion to final insertion). These two dedicated Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) licensed launches, each on an Electron Rocket are targeted to launch no earlier than May 1, 2023, enabling NASA to provide observations during the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season, which begins June 1.

The TROPICS constellation targets the formation and evolution of tropical cyclones, including hurricanes and will provide rapidly updating observations of storm intensity, as well as the horizontal and vertical structures of temperature and humidity within the storms and in their surrounding environment. These data will help scientists better understand the processes that effect these high-impact storms, ultimately leading to improved modeling and prediction.

Building on NASA’s previous procurement efforts to foster development of new launch vehicles for NASA payloads, VADR provides FAA-licensed commercial launch services for payloads that can tolerate higher risk. By using a lower level of mission assurance, and commercial best practices for launching rockets, these highly flexible contracts help broaden access to space through lower launch costs.

For more information about NASA and other agency programs, visit:

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https://www.nasa.gov

Source: NASA

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F-22 Safely Shoots Down Chinese Spy Balloon Off South Carolina Coast

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A U.S. Air Force fighter safely shot down a Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon today, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said in a written statement.

President Joe Biden ordered the action on Wednesday, but it was delayed until the balloon was over water off the coast of South Carolina to ensure no Americans on the ground were harmed. 

“The balloon, which was being used by the PRC in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States, was brought down above U.S. territorial waters,” Austin said.  

The action was taken in coordination and support of the Canadian government. “We thank Canada for its contribution to tracking and analysis of the balloon through [North American Aerospace Defense Command] as it transited North America,” Austin said. “Today’s deliberate and lawful action demonstrates that President Biden and his national security team will always put the safety and security of the American people first while responding effectively to the PRC’s unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” Austin said referring to the Peoples Republic of China. 

U.S. officials first detected the balloon and its payload on January 28 when it entered U.S. airspace near the Aleutian Islands. The balloon traversed Alaska, Canada and re-entered U.S. airspace over Idaho. “President Biden asked the military to present options and on Wednesday President Biden gave his authorization to take down the Chinese surveillance balloon as soon as the mission could be accomplished without undue risk to us civilians under the balloon’s path,” said a senior defense official speaking on background. “Military commanders determined that there was undue risk of debris causing harm to civilians while the balloon was overland.” 

An F-22 Raptor fighter from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, fired one AIM-9X Sidewinder missile at the balloon.  

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The balloon fell approximately six miles off the coast in about 47 feet of water. No one was hurt. 

Long before the shoot down, U.S. officials took steps to protect against the balloon’s collection of sensitive information, mitigating its intelligence value to the Chinese. The senior defense official said the recovery of the balloon will enable U.S. analysts to examine sensitive Chinese equipment. “I would also note that while we took all necessary steps to protect against the PRC surveillance balloon’s collection of sensitive information, the surveillance balloon’s overflight of U.S. territory was of intelligence value to us,” the official said. “I can’t go into more detail, but we were able to study and scrutinize the balloon and its equipment, which has been valuable.” 

The balloon did not pose a military or physical threat. Still its intrusion into American airspace over several days was an unacceptable violation of U.S. sovereignty. The official said Chinese balloons briefly transited the continental United States at least three times during the prior administration. 

While Chinese officials admitted that the balloon was theirs, they said it was a runaway weather balloon. “The PRC has claimed publicly that the high-altitude balloon operating above the United States is a weather balloon that was blown off course. This is false,” the official said. “This was a PRC surveillance balloon. This surveillance balloon purposely traversed the United States and Canada, and we are confident it was seeking to monitor sensitive military sites.” 

The mission now transitions to one of recovery. There are a number of U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels establishing a security perimeter around the area where the balloon came to Earth. They are searching for debris, said a senior military official also speaking on background.  

There is no estimate for how long the recovery mission will take, the military official said, but the fact that it came down in such a shallow area should make recovery “fairly easy”. 

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The military official gave some detail of the engagement. The F-22 fired the Sidewinder at the balloon from an altitude of 58,000 feet. The balloon at the time was between 60,000 and 65,000 feet.  

F-15 Eagles flying from Barnes Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts, supported the F-22, as did tankers from multiple states including Oregon, Montana, South Carolina and North Carolina. Canadian forces also helped track the overflight of the balloon. 

The Navy has deployed the destroyer USS Oscar Austin, the cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the USS Carter Hall, an amphibious landing ship in support of the effort. 

Source: US DoD

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The Media Trust Warns of Increased Digital Attacks Targeting Children and Elderly

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2023 outlook reveals growing assault on consumer expectations of digital trust and safety

MCLEAN, Va. (Newswire.com) – The Media Trust, the preeminent leader in digital trust and safety for websites and mobile apps, released a report detailing the harms experienced by consumers through their everyday use of websites and mobile apps. When accessing common online environments — news, entertainment, shopping, travel — children and the elderly were increasingly affected by malware, a 3.7X and 11X growth, respectively, throughout 2022. 

The report CYA 2023: 7 Digital Safety Trends for Uncertain Times highlights malware and ad-quality challenges facing brands, publishers, and platforms as they navigate consumer-loyalty concerns and the economic uncertainties of 2023. From poor security to inappropriate content, the consumer experience is under attack, which threatens monetization channels including commerce and online advertising. 

The report confirms:

  • 4,500+ active attacks targeting millions of consumers each month 
  • 1.3 billion malicious ads blocked on Fortune 1000 websites and apps
  • 2.2X growth in e-skimming attacks since 2020
  • 3X increase in just three months of an attack leveraging a particular corrupted JavaScript library
  • 16X rise in backdoors being installed on devices — personal, corporate, government

“Threat actors have greatly improved their ability to get their malicious wares in front of the most vulnerable consumers online,” explained Chris Olson, CEO of The Media Trust. “Every business with a digital channel — website, app, gaming console — needs to be aware of how these assets are used to target and harm your customers. You cannot simply look the other way and leave children and the elderly to fend for themselves. Your family, friends, and neighbors are all being hunted every time they use the internet.”

An informative, 30-minute webinar is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023. Register for  CYA 2023: 7 Digital Safety Trends Webinar

About The Media Trust: 

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Today’s digital ecosystem relies on The Media Trust to safeguard the consumer experience. We fix the issues that harm your customers, drive data breaches, violate regulations, impede revenue, and tarnish your brand. Acting as your audience, our unique digital safety platform captures their true user experience and stops harmful activity so you can better monetize and govern your digital assets. Since 2005, hundreds of digital businesses have depended on The Media Trust to protect their strategic digital revenue channels. Why not yours? The Media Trust — your partner in digital trust and safety. Learn more at www.mediatrust.com.

Source: The Media Trust

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TODAY IS NATIONAL GROUNDHOG DAY

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It’s February 2nd and this is the day that Mr./Ms. Groundhog may or may not see his shadow. If he does, could there there be six more weeks of winter?

#GroundhogDay

Groundhog Day (Pennsylvania GermanGrund’sau dåkGrundsaudaagGrundsow DawgMurmeltiertagNova ScotiaDaks Day) is a popular North American tradition observed in the United States and Canada on February 2. It derives from the Pennsylvania Dutch superstition that if a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day and sees its shadow due to clear weather, it will retreat to its den, and winter will go on for six more weeks; if it does not see its shadow because of cloudiness, spring will arrive early.

While the tradition remains popular in the 21st century, studies have found no consistent association between a groundhog seeing its shadow and the subsequent arrival time of spring-like weather.

The weather lore was brought from German-speaking areas where the badger (German: Dachs) is the forecasting animal. This appears to be an enhanced version of the lore that clear weather on the Christian festival of Candlemas forebodes a prolonged winter.

The Groundhog Day ceremony held at Punxsutawney in western Pennsylvania, centering on a semi-mythical groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil, has become the most frequently attended ceremony. Grundsow Lodges in Pennsylvania Dutch Country in the southeastern part of the state observe the occasion as well. Other cities in the United States and Canada also have adopted the event. (wikipedia)

#GroundhogDay

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