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The ConeXpress Orbital Life Extension Vehicles.
Orbital Recovery has signed a long term contract with Arianespace to launch five of its space tugs as secondary payloads on future Ariane 5 launches. The ConeXpress Orbital Life Extension Vehicles (CX OLEV) will dock with satellites in geostationary orbit which are running out of fuel and take over the process of station keeping, which keeps the satellite in position and pointed at the same spot on the Earth. This will allow satellite operators to continue getting revenue from an otherwise perfectly functioning spacecraft.
European Astronomers have found a large disc of dust and gas in nebula M 17, which seems to be forming a huge star, 30-40 times larger than our Sun. Astronomers have long known that low mass stars (like our own Sun) form from discs, but it wasn't clear if huge stars do this too. The disc has 110 times the mass of our Sun, and was seen as a dark silhouette against a hot region of the nebula. The disc has a diameter of 0.31 light-years, which is 500 times larger than the orbit of Pluto.
As Cassini nears Saturn, new details are becoming clearer, including the banded clouds that make up the planet's atmosphere. When Cassini took this latest image on April 16, it was 38.5 million kilometers (23.9 million miles) away. It's close enough now that the entire planet no long fits inside a single frame of the spacecraft's narrow angle camera. The banded clouds follow Saturn's lines of latitude, which are created by the planet's rotation. Cassini will reach Saturn in July, 2004.
String theorists have a problem. They have a set of theories which could explain how all the forces in the universe are connected. Unfortunately, it depends on the existence of tiny vibrating strings which are so small they could never be seen directly. One strategy, proposed by physicists from Yale, would be to look at the afterglow from the Big Bang, which covers the entire sky. The small strings could project much larger shadows onto this radiation which would be light-years across, and detectable from Earth.
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