NASA launches satellite to explore where air meets space

In this Oct. 1, 2019 photo made available by NASA, a Northrop Grumman L-1011 Stargazer aircraft takes off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The company's Pegasus XL rocket, containing NASA's Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON), is attached beneath the aircraft. (Randy Beaudoin/NASA via AP)
Updated 11 October 2019

NASA launches satellite to explore where air meets space

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: NASA has launched a satellite to explore the mysterious, dynamic region where air meets space.
The satellite — known as Icon, short for Ionospheric Connection Explorer — rocketed into orbit Thursday night. It was dropped from a plane flying over the Atlantic off the Florida coast.
The ionosphere is the charged part of the upper atmosphere extending several hundred miles (kilometers) up. It’s in constant flux as space weather bombards it from above and Earth weather from below, sometimes disrupting satellite communications.
The more scientists know, the better spacecraft and astronauts can be protected in orbit through improved forecasting.
Icon should have soared two years ago, but problems with Northrop Grumman’s air-launched Pegasus rocket interfered. Despite the long delay, NASA says the $252 million mission didn’t exceed its price cap.


MH17 probe reveals close ties between Russia, Ukraine rebels

Updated 14 November 2019

MH17 probe reveals close ties between Russia, Ukraine rebels

  • The Joint Investigation Team issued a fresh appeal for witnesses and revealed details of secure communications between Russian officials and rebels

THE HAGUE: An international team of investigators piecing together a criminal case in the July 2014 shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine said Thursday that evidence suggests links between Russia and separatists in the region were closer than previously believed.
The Joint Investigation Team issued a fresh appeal for witnesses and revealed details of secure communications between Russian officials and rebels in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) rebel group in eastern Ukraine.
“The JIT has information that indicates that the influence of the Russian Federation extended to administrative, financial and military matters in the DPR,” the team said in a statement, adding that contacts between Russia and the rebels intensified in the first half of July 2014.
“There was almost daily telephone contact between the leadership of the DPR and their contacts in the Russian Federation,” the JIT said. “They spoke with leaders in Moscow, near the border with Ukraine and in Crimea. Communication mostly took place via secure telephones provided by the Russian security service.”
In June, the investigators announced they had charged four people, including three Russians, with murder over the July 17, 2014, downing of Flight MH17. All 298 passengers and crew on board the Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flight were killed.
The suspects are due to go on trial in a secure courtroom near Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport in March, though they are not in custody and will likely be tried in their absence.
Russia has repeatedly denied involvement in the downing.
But investigators said their probe revealed that “Russian influence on the DPR went beyond military support.”
The team, made up of detectives and prosecutors from the Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia, Belgium and Ukraine, last year said it was convinced that the Buk missile system used to shoot down flight MH17 came from the Russian army’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile brigade, based in the Russian city of Kursk.
The team said Thursday it is looking for witnesses “who can share information about those who controlled the DPR leadership in Donetsk and commanded the deployment of the Buk” missile system.
“The indications for close ties between leaders of the DPR and Russian government officials raise questions about their possible involvement in the deployment” of the missile, the investigators said.