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NASA Businesses Space

NASA Wants Private Company To Take Over Spitzer Space Telescope (spacenews.com) 37

schwit1 writes: NASA has issued a request for proposals from private companies or organizations to take over the operation of the Spitzer Space Telescope after 2019. SpaceNews reports: "NASA's current plans call for operating Spitzer through March of 2019 to perform preparatory observations for the James Webb Space Telescope. That schedule was based on plans for a fall 2018 launch of JWST, which has since been delayed to the spring of 2019. Under that plan, NASA would close out the Spitzer mission by fiscal year 2020. That plan was intended to save NASA the cost of running Spitzer, which is currently $14 million a year. The spacecraft itself, though, remains in good condition and could operating well beyond NASA's current plan. 'The observatory and the IRAC instrument are in excellent health. We don't have really any issues with the hardware,' said Lisa Storrie-Lombardi, Spitzer project manager, in a presentation to the committee Oct. 18. IRAC is the Infrared Array Camera, an instrument that continues operations at its two shortest wavelengths long after the spacecraft exhausted the supply of liquid helium coolant. The spacecraft's only consumable is nitrogen gas used for the spacecraft's thrusters, and Storrie-Lombardi said the spacecraft still had half its supply of nitrogen 14 years after launch." The way a private organization could make money on this is to charge astronomers and research projects for observation time. This could work, since there is usually a greater demand for research time than available observatories.
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NASA Wants Private Company To Take Over Spitzer Space Telescope

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  • by gtall ( 79522 ) on Thursday November 02, 2017 @04:08AM (#55474885)

    ...then the alleged Administration should put more money into research. China and most of the rest of the Asian countries understand research is the gateway to a better future. Hell, even the Arab countries get it. Africa gets it. Would someone please send a memo to la Presidenta Tweetie that research matters, but you do not get to dictate the results.

    Thomas Friedman had a great op-ed in the NYT about the U.S. military in Niger. The entire Sahel is under threat from climate change. With their economic prospects dimming, the young men are easy targets for Daesh recruiters. The Knob's response is to send in the U.S. military. Even Mattis recognizes the futility of that policy and once commented that without a functioning State Dept and programs designed for economic development, the U.S. will have to spend much more on bullets. Too bad he's another eunuch in the court of someone who, in Friedman's article, is too dim to connect the dots.

  • by mentil ( 1748130 ) on Thursday November 02, 2017 @04:16AM (#55474903)

    The way a private organization could make money on this is to charge astronomers and research projects for observation time. This could work, since there is usually a greater demand for research time than available observatories.

    How many of those astronomers and researchers are receiving funding from the US Govt? Paying the $14 million/year will likely be cheaper than privatizing it then paying for access. Of course, NASA might save money themselves and not care that the govt. is spending 2 dollars to save 1.

    • I think it's safe to assume all of them are. So privatizing the instrument is virtually guaranteed to cost the US more by shifting $14M from NASA (which can afford it) to something more than $14M to NSF in the form of grants which can't. NSF could of course not provide grants at which point it's not self funding and simply closes down. If NASA isn't going to run it then some NSF funded consortium should, otherwise just close it down.

  • Just wondering, now that it's run out of its cryogenic coolant, are its infrared sensors in the optimal wavelength to "see" Dyson spheres? (I guess that means it's looking for objects at about 300K).

    If so, that would be a really long-shot project to try using it on but if it has nothing else to do maybe some billionaire could fund it on a whim.

    On the other hand, just how much nitrogen propellant is left? If the orbit could be adjusted so that it could focus just on the dark side of the earth (wasn't blind

  • But then again, maybe not enough government money in it for him to bother with.
  • Maybe the can have a garage sale.
  • How about we take it over? We can crowd source the initial operating cost until we get up and running to charge for its use. How many slashdoters are in for this?
  • ... with a coin slot on the side.

  • Mayyyybe this would be OK if, and only if, the private company has to buy the telescope at full price and pay for any US government resources it uses to communicate with it. Otherwise it's another case of taxpayer-funded infrastructure being given/sold for pennies on the dollar to companies who then turn around and charge more for it that what it was costing taxpayers to maintain in the first place.

    And if the $14 million/year that NASA is saving is less than what government-funded scientists (and NASA them

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