Fraudulent metals manufacturer caused NASA $700M in satellite mission failures - Edmonton Journal - Canadanewsmedia
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Fraudulent metals manufacturer caused NASA $700M in satellite mission failures – Edmonton Journal

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The company falsified thousands of certifications for aluminum parts over 19 years for hundreds of customers, including NASA


This February 24, 2009 NASA video grab image shows NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory and its Taurus booster as it lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, in California.


HO/AFP/Getty Images

(Bloomberg) — A metals manufacturer faked test results and provided faulty materials to NASA, causing more than $700 million in losses and two failed satellite launch missions, according to an investigation by the U.S. space agency.

The fraud involved an Oregon company called Sapa Profiles Inc., which falsified thousands of certifications for aluminum parts over 19 years for hundreds of customers, including NASA.

The bad parts were used in the making of Taurus XL, a rocket that was supposed to deliver satellites studying the Earth’s climate during missions carried out in 2009 and 2011. The launch vehicle’s fairing, a clamshell structure that carries the satellite as it travels through the atmosphere, didn’t fully open, causing the unsuccessful launch, according to a statement from NASA.

“When testing results are altered and certifications are provided falsely, missions fail,” said Jim Norman, director for launch services at NASA in Washington. He added that years of scientific work were lost because of the fraud.

Fake tests

News of the satellite failures comes a week after Norsk Hydro ASA, the current parent company of Sapa, agreed to pay $46 million to NASA, the Department of Defense and others to resolve criminal charges and civil claims related to the fraud, which took place from 1996 to 2015.

The company admitted that employees had faked test results related to the metal’s strength and reliability under pressure. Sapa Profiles, now known as Hydro Extrusion Portland Inc., also agreed to plead guilty to one count of mail fraud and is barred from U.S. federal government contracting.

“Corporate and personal greed perpetuated this fraud against the government and other private customers, and this resolution holds these companies accountable for the harm caused by their scheme,” said Brian Benczkowski, assistant attorney general of the criminal division at the Department of Justice, in an April 23 statement.

A spokesman for Norsk Hydro said the case has been settled. Last week, it said it has invested “significant time and resources to completely overhaul our quality and compliance organizations.”

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Mini Mercury skips across sun’s vast glare in rare transit – Fernie Free Press

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Mini Mercury skipped across the vast, glaring face of the sun Monday in a rare celestial transit.

Stargazers used solar-filtered binoculars and telescopes to spot Mercury — a tiny black dot — as it passed directly between Earth and the sun on Monday.

The eastern U.S. and Canada got the whole 5 1/2-hour show, weather permitting, along with Central and South America. The rest of the world, except for Asia and Australia, got just a sampling.

Mercury is the solar system’s smallest, innermost planet. The next transit isn’t until 2032, and North America won’t get another shot until 2049.

In Maryland, clouds prevented NASA solar astrophysicist Alex Young from getting a clear peek. Live coverage was provided by observatories including NASA’s orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory.

“It’s a bummer, but the whole event was still great,” Young wrote in an email. “Both getting to see it from space and sharing it with people all over the country and world.”

At Cape Canaveral, space buffs got a two-for-one. As Mercury’s silhouette graced the morning sun, SpaceX launched 60 small satellites for global internet service, part of the company’s growing Starlink constellation in orbit.

ALSO READ: ‘Very surreal’: B.C. students help design space colony in NASA-backed competition

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press


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A Star Ejected from the Milky Way's 'Heart of Darkness' Has Reached a Mind-Blowing Speed – Space.com

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As humankind’s ancestors were learning to walk upright, a star was launched out of the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy at a staggering 3.7 million mph (6 million km/h). 

Five million years after this dramatic ejection, a group of researchers, led by Sergey Koposov of Carnegie Mellon University’s McWilliams Center for Cosmology, has spotted the star, known as S5-HVS1, in the Crane-shaped constellation Grus. The star was spotted traveling relatively close to Earth (29,000 light-years away) at unprecedented, searing speeds — about 10 times faster than most stars in our galaxy. 

“The velocity of the discovered star is so high that it will inevitably leave the galaxy and never return,” Douglas Boubert, a researcher at the University of Oxford and a co-author on the study, said in a statement

Related: Top 10 Star Mysteries of All Time

An artist’s impression of te star S5-HVS1 being ejected by the Milky Way galaxy’s supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A*.

(Image credit: James Josephides (Swinburne Astronomy Productions))

“This is super exciting, as we have long suspected that black holes can eject stars with very high velocities. However, we never had an unambiguous association of such a fast star with the galactic center,” Koposov said in the statement. 

The star was discovered with observations from the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT), a 12.8-foot (3.9-meter) telescope, and the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite. The discovery was made as part of the Southern Stellar Stream Spectroscopic Survey (S5), a collaboration of astronomers from Chile, the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. 

Now that the star has been spotted, researchers could track the star back to Sagittarius A*, the black hole at the center of the Milky Way. It also serves as an incredible example of the Hills Mechanism, proposed by astronomer Jack Hills 30 years ago, in which stars are ejected from the centers of galaxies at high speeds after an interaction between a binary-star system and the black hole at the center of the galaxy.

The location and direction of the star S5-HVS1 in the night sky. The star is rocketing away from the center of our galaxy.

(Image credit: Sergey Koposov)

“This is the first clear demonstration of the Hills Mechanism in action,” Ting Li, a fellow  at the Carnegie Observatories and Princeton University who led the S5 collaboration, said in the statement. “Seeing this star is really amazing as we know it must have formed in the galactic center, a place very different to our local environment. It is a visitor from a strange land.”

“While the main science goal of S5 is to probe the stellar streams — disrupting dwarf galaxies and globular clusters — we dedicated spare resources of the instrument to searching for interesting targets in the Milky Way, and voila, we found something amazing for ‘free.’ With our future observations, hopefully we will find even more!” Kyler Kuehn, deputy director of technology at the Lowell Observatory who is part of the S5 executive committee, added in the statement.

This discovery was published in a study on Nov. 4 in the journal the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 

Follow Chelsea Gohd on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Most distant world ever explored gets new name: Arrokoth – Castlegar News

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The most distant world ever explored 4 billion miles away finally has an official name: Arrokoth.

That means “sky” in the language of the Native American Powhatan people, NASA said Tuesday.

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew past the snowman-shaped Arrokoth on New Year’s Day, 3 1/2 years after exploring Pluto. At the time, this small icy world 1 billion miles (1.6 billion kilometres) beyond Pluto was nicknamed Ultima Thule given its vast distance from us.

“The name ‘Arrokoth’ reflects the inspiration of looking to the skies,” lead scientist Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute said in a statement, “and wondering about the stars and worlds beyond our own.”

The name was picked because of the Powhatan’s ties to the Chesapeake Bay region.

New Horizons is operated from Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland. The Hubble Space Telescope — which discovered Arrokoth in 2014 — has its science operations in Baltimore.

The New Horizons team got consent for the name from Powhatan Tribal elders and representatives, according to NASA. The International Astronomical Union and its Minor Planet Center approved the choice.

Arrokoth is among countless objects in the so-called Kuiper Belt, or vast Twilight Zone beyond the orbit of Neptune. New Horizons will observe some of these objects from afar as it makes its way deeper into space.

Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press

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