GenCorp Enters into Definitive Agreement to Acquire Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne from United Technologies Corporation

United Technologies Corp. said Monday it is selling Canoga Park-based Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, which helped propel the nation’s exploration in space, to Sacramento-based GenCorp Inc. for $550 million. (Dean Musgrove/Staff Photographer)

Canoga Park-based Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne sold to GenCorp for $550M

By Gregory J. Wilcox, Staff Writer

ited Technologies Corp. said Monday it is selling Canoga Park-based Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, which helped pioneer the nation’s exploration of space, to Sacramento-based GenCorp Inc. for $550 million.

UTC has owned Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne for seven years.

Rocketdyne’s engines powered astronauts to the moon in the 1960s and 1970s as part of the famed Apollo program and later boosted the Space Shuttle fleet to lengthy orbits of Earth and to the International Space Station. Rocketdyne was combined with Pratt & Whitney under UTC in 2005.

GenCorp spokesman Glenn Mahone said there won’t be any immediate changes at the newly acquired unit but would not discuss developments like staffing levels until after the deal closes.

“Because of regulation and other requirements, I’m not at liberty to discuss specific things like that,” he said.

GenCorp’s biggest component is Aerojet, which also makes rocket engines. The combined company will not have much overlap, Mahone said.

It is also too soon to say what will happen to the Rocketdyne name, which dates to the post-World War II era. But it has survived numerous ownership changes.

“We are in the regulatory stage and that would be a bit premature,” Mahone said of a name change. “I’m sure no discussions have been made relative to that.”

Both companies expect the deal to close in the first half of 2013.

“GenCorp and PWR have complementary products and technology services making for a combined company that will be a critical contributor to our nation’s strategic access to space,” Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne spokeswoman Erin Dick said in an email.

PWR has about 1,400 employees in Los Angeles County, most of them at facilities on Canoga Avenue in Canoga Park and DeSoto Avenue in Northridge.

Dick did not offer specifics about any staffing changes while the deal goes through the federal review process.

“We will evaluate our workforce to ensure we are staffed to continue delivering on our customer commitments while ensuring we are as lean and efficient as possible,” she wrote.

GenCorp, which also has a real estate component, is not getting all of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. UTC is retaining ownership of the 47-acre Canoga campus and has ambitious plans for the land.

A year ago the company filed plans with the city of Los Angeles for a 6 million-square-foot residential, retail and office complex anchored by a 16-story hotel at Victory Boulevard and Canoga Avenue.

PWR will lease the property back from UTC while it consolidates operations into the DeSoto campus, which is expected to be completed next year, Dick said.

“All other decisions related to operations, facilities and corporate structure will be determined by GenCorp once the sale is complete,” Dick said.

Hartford, Conn.-based UTC has been shopping Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne since March to help pay for its acquisition of Goodrich Corp. in Charlotte, N.C.

“We are pleased to announce GenCorp’s agreement to purchase Rocketdyne. It is a significant step in our ongoing portfolio transformation,” UTC Chairman & Chief Executive Officer Louis Ch nevert said in the statement. “While it is not core to UTC’s commercial building systems and aerospace businesses, Rocketdyne is a solid company and a national asset with many talented employees.”

UTC is a diversified company providing high technology products and services to the building and aerospace industries.

GenCorp Chief Executive Officer Scott Seymour said the acquisition of Rocketdyne will help enhance its competitive edge.

“We see great strategic value in this transaction for the country, our customers, partner supply base and our shareholders,” Seymour said in a written statement. “The combined enterprise will be better positioned to compete in a dynamic, highly competitive marketplace, and provide more affordable products for our customers.”

The Rocketdyne purchase almost doubles the size of GenCorp and provides additional growth opportunities, he said.


Press Release

SACRAMENTO, Calif., July 23, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — GenCorp Inc. GY +12.30% , headquartered in Sacramento, California, announced today that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR) from United Technologies Corporation UTX -1.28% for $550 million.

“We see great strategic value in this transaction for the country, our customers, partner supply base and our shareholders,” GenCorp Chief Executive Officer Scott Seymour said. “The combined enterprise will be better positioned to compete in a dynamic, highly competitive marketplace, and provide more affordable products for our customers.”

“In addition, this transaction almost doubles the size of our company and provides additional growth opportunities as we build upon the complementary capabilities of each legacy company that has enabled a generation of human space travel and national security launch services. We have the opportunity to build upon the proud heritage of our companies, the ability to create increased value for our customers and, best of all, to secure the future of both organizations,” Seymour continued.

PWR, headquartered in Canoga Park, California, is a provider of high-value propulsion, power, energy and innovative system solutions used in a wide variety of government and commercial applications, including the main engines for the Atlas and Delta launch vehicles, missile defense systems and advanced hypersonic engines.

The purchase price of $550 million, which is subject to adjustment for working capital and other specified items, is expected to be financed with a combination of cash on hand and issuance of debt. The acquisition of PWR is conditioned upon, among other things, the receipt of required regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. Subject to the satisfaction of these conditions, the acquisition is expected to close in the first half of 2013. The transaction is expected to be accretive to earnings in the first year.

Citigroup Global Markets Inc. is acting as exclusive financial advisor to GenCorp for this transaction. In addition, Morgan Stanley Senior Funding LLC and Citigroup Global Markets Inc. are providing fully committed financing to support this transaction.

Forward-Looking StatementsThis press release contains “forward-looking statements” as that term is defined in the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. No forward-looking statement can be guaranteed, and actual results may differ materially from those projected depending on a number of risks, uncertainties and other factors such as business climate, economic and competitive uncertainties, adverse legal and regulatory developments, and adverse changes in economic and political climates around the world. Such risks, uncertainties and other factors include, among other things: the possibility that the expected efficiencies and cost savings from the proposed transaction will not be realized, or will not be realized within the expected time period; the ability to obtain governmental approvals of the transaction on the proposed terms and schedule contemplated by the parties; and the possibility that the proposed transaction does not close, including, but not limited to, due to the failure to satisfy the closing conditions. Forward-looking statements in this document should be evaluated together with the many factors that affect GenCorp’s business as described in more detail in GenCorp’s Form 10-K for the year ended November 30, 2011, and any subsequent quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and current reports on Form 8-K filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

About GenCorpGenCorp is a leading technology-based manufacturer of aerospace and defense products and systems with a real estate segment that includes activities related to the entitlement, sale, and leasing of the company’s excess real estate assets. Aerojet is a world-recognized aerospace and defense leader providing propulsion and energetics to its space, missile defense, strategic, tactical missile and armaments customers throughout domestic and international markets. Additional information about GenCorp and Aerojet can be obtained by visiting the companies’ websites at and at .

Contact information:Investors: Kathy Redd, chief financial officer 916.355.2361Media: Glenn Mahone, vice president, communications 202.302.9941

SOURCE GenCorp Inc.

United Launch Alliance Completes Crucial Commercial Crew Development Milestone

ULA Completes Reviews which Establishes Atlas V Design and Certification Baseline for Human Spaceflight

CENTENNIAL, Colo., July 19, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — United Launch Alliance (ULA) today announced the completion of a crucial milestone in its on-going development and certification of the Atlas V launch vehicle for human spaceflight. ULA successfully completed the fifth milestone of its Commercial Crew Development (CCDev2) Unfunded Space Act Agreement (SAA) with NASA. ULA’s Engineering Review Board confirmed that Atlas V can readily comply with NASA’s stringent safety and performance requirements for human spaceflight, leading the way to develop a safe, reliable and cost effective Crew Transportation System (CTS).

ULA conducted the System Requirements Review (SRR) and Systems Design Review (SDR) that reflected the culmination of on-going efforts involving ULA design and development engineers, NASA technical experts and representatives from ULA’s commercial spacecraft customers. The SRR/SDR was a multi-disciplined technical review that ensured the Atlas V system can proceed into the detailed design and development phase to provide launch services for NASA’s commercial human spaceflight needs.

“The SRR/SDR were the result of an extensive effort with NASA and our commercial spacecraft partners during which we cooperatively established the baseline from which we will proceed into the detailed design and development phase of NASA’s Crew Transportation System,” said Dr. George Sowers, ULA’s vice president for Human Launch Services. “We continue to receive valuable insight from NASA’s human spaceflight experts as we move forward towards the certification of Atlas V for human spaceflight.”

With 31 successful missions spanning 10 years of operational service, the Atlas V is uniquely qualified to provide launch services for the CTS. Because Atlas V is already certified by NASA to fly the nation’s most complex exploration missions, as well as critical Air Force and National Reconnaissance Office national security missions, ULA was able to provide a wealth of design implementation, detailed system and sub-system analysis, qualification, certification, and flight data leading up to and during the reviews.

“Our partnership with ULA during this round of development has really been focused on understanding the core design of the launch vehicle,” said NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Manager Ed Mango said. “In these reviews we were able to see how ULA plans to modify the vehicle for human spaceflight.”

The SRR confirmed that the NASA CTS requirements applicable to the Atlas V are defined and testable, and are consistent with cost, schedule, risk, technology readiness and other system constraints. The SRR assessed the unique impacts of human spaceflight requirements as captured in the system specification, and ensured that the system requirements are consistent with NASA’s needs and concept of operations. The ULA, NASA and commercial spacecraft customer teams reviewed the detailed evidence that demonstrates how the existing, flight-proven Atlas V will meet NASA’s Human Spaceflight Certification requirements. The team paid particular attention to the comprehensive certification approach that will lead to CTS flight readiness.

As NASA moves forward with the Commercial Crew Development Program, ULA will extend its best in the world record of mission success to offer the safest possible launch services to meet the needs for the crew transportation system providers.

“The SRR/SDR was a key milestone in our support of the NASA Commercial Crew Development Program,” said Mike Holguin, ULA’s Commercial Crew Program manager. “The relationships we’ve forged will provide a solid foundation as we move forward into the next phase of the program.”

ULA program management, engineering, test and mission support functions are headquartered in Denver, Colo. Manufacturing, assembly and integration operations are located at Decatur, Ala., and Harlingen, Texas. Launch operations are located at Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., and Vandenberg AFB, Calif.

For more information on ULA, visit the ULA Web site at, or call the ULA Launch Hotline at 1-877-ULA-4321 (852-4321). For more information on ULA, visit the ULA Web site at, or call the ULA Launch Hotline at 1-877-ULA-4321 (852-4321). Join the conversation at and


Jessica Rye, (321) 730-5646 (office), (321) 693-6250 (cell),
Chris Chavez, (303) 269-5550 (office), (303) 332-6416 (cell),

SOURCE United Launch Alliance

PR Newswire (

NASA Selects United Launch Alliance’s Workhouse Delta II Rocket for Three Future Missions

A ULA Delta II Rocket on SLC-2 Launch Pad, VAFB, CA

United Launch Alliance/
By United Launch Alliance
Published: Monday, Jul. 16, 2012 – 6:02 pm

CENTENNIAL, Colo., July 16, 2012 — In the news release, NASA Selects United Launch Alliance’s Workhouse Delta II Rocket for Three Future Missions, issued 16-Jul-2012 by United Launch Alliance over PR Newswire, the headline should read “NASA Selects United Launch Alliance’s Workhorse Delta II Rocket for Three Future Missions” rather than “NASA Selects United Launch Alliance’s Workhouse Delta II Rocket for Three Future Missions” as originally issued inadvertently. The complete, corrected release follows:

NASA Selects United Launch Alliance’s Workhorse Delta II Rocket for Three Future Missions

CENTENNIAL, Colo., July 16, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — NASA’s Launch Services Program announced today that it selected United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) proven Delta II launch vehicle for three future missions.

The newly contracted missions include Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) scheduled to launch in July 2014, Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) scheduled to launch in October 2014, and the Joint Polar Satellite System-1 (JPSS) scheduled to launch in 2016.

All three missions will launch from Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) in California.

“ULA is honored NASA has selected the Delta II launch vehicle to launch these critical science payloads,” said Michael Gass, ULA president and CEO. “While we count success one mission at a time, we have been able to count on the Delta II’s success 97 times in a row over the last decade. This is a tribute to our dedicated ULA employees, our supplier teammates and our NASA Launch Services Program customer who ensure mission success is the focus of each and every launch.”

ULA’s Delta II has launched the majority of NASA’s critical science missions over the last decade including the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, Genesis, Phoenix Mars Lander, Stardust, the twin GRAIL spacecraft and most recently the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California October 2011.

“The Delta II vehicle continues to offer excellent reliability and best value to our customers,” said Gass. “We look forward to working with NASA for these future Delta II launch campaigns.”

ULA’s next launch is the Atlas V NROL-36 mission for the NRO scheduled Aug. 2 from Space Launch Complex-3 at VAFB, followed by the Atlas V Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission for NASA on Aug. 23 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

ULA program management, engineering, test, and mission support functions are headquartered in Denver, Colo. Manufacturing, assembly and integration operations are located at Decatur, Ala., and Harlingen, Texas. Launch operations are located at Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., and Vandenberg AFB, Calif.

For more information on ULA, visit the ULA Web site at, or call the ULA Launch Hotline at 1-877-ULA-4321 (852-4321). Join the conversation at and

Credit: ULA

SOURCE United Launch Alliance

NASA Selects Launch Services Contract For Jason-3 Mission

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft lift off from Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Kevin O’Connell

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., July 16, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — NASA has selected Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, Calif., to launch the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Jason-3 spacecraft in December 2014 aboard a Falcon 9 v1.0 rocket from Complex 4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.


The total value of the Jason-3 launch service is approximately $82 million. This estimated cost includes the task ordered launch service for the Falcon 9 v1.0, plus additional services under other contracts for payload processing, launch vehicle integration, mission-unique launch site ground support and tracking, data and telemetry services. NASA is the procurement agent for NOAA.

Jason-3 is an operational ocean altimetry mission designed to measure precisely sea surface height to monitor ocean circulation and sea level. Jason-3 will follow in the tradition of previous missions such as TOPEX/Poseidon, Jason-1 and the Ocean Surface Topography Mission/Jason-2. The Jason-3 mission will be developed and operated as part of an international effort led by NOAA and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites in collaboration with NASA and the French space agency, Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales.

Processed data from the satellite will be used in a broad range of applications including operational ocean and weather forecasting, ocean wave modeling, hurricane intensification prediction, seasonal forecasting, El Nino and La Nina forecasting and climate research. The data will help address questions about global climate change.

The Launch Services Program at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is responsible for launch vehicle program management of the Jason-3 launch services.

For more information about NASA and its missions, visit:

Credit: NASA Press Release

Asteroid miners to hitch a ride with Virgin Galactic


Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson at Farnborough International Airshow (Image: Dave Stock)

12:30 13 July 2012 by Paul Marks

Billionaire-backed Planetary Resources, the company that in April announced ambitious plans to mine space rocks for minerals, will hitch a ride with space tourism company Virgin Galactic.

The new union is a sign that the nascent commercial space-flight industrycould soon become self-sustaining. It was prompted by LauncherOne, a low-cost satellite-launching rocket that Virgin founder Richard Branson revealed on 11 July at the Farnborough International Airshow, UK.

Virgin Galactic, headquartered in Las Cruces, New Mexico, is best known for its plans to ferry paying tourists to the edge of space. The idea is to take the tourist-carrying SpaceShipTwo rocket to an altitude of 7 kilometres using aircraft WhiteKnightTwo. SpaceShipTwo will then be dropped so it can fire its engine and climb to an altitude of 100 kilometres – giving passengers a5 minute spell in microgravity and an out-of-this-world view. An air launch means the rocket itself does not have to push through the densest part of the atmosphere, making the launch extremely fuel efficient.

The idea behind LauncherOne is to use the same process to launch satellites. From 2016, Virgin plans to sling LauncherOne beneath WhiteKnightTwo in place of SpaceShipTwo for satellite launches.

Satellite shake-up

Branson says small satellites with masses up to 225 kilograms will be able to reach orbit for about $10 million – “two to five times less” than a regular satellite launch costs.

The low cost is attractive to Planetary Resources, headquartered in Seattle, Washington, which announced its partnership with Virgin at the same air show. It plans to use LauncherOne to send up 10 satellites a year, each weighing about 50 kilograms. These will be capable of spotting asteroids of between 50 and 500 metres across that have a reflectivity suggesting they are potentially rich in minerals.

Planetary Resources co-founder Eric Anderson says Virgin’s satellite launcher is more attractive than that of Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Virginia, which also offers air-launched rockets – but for satellites of up to about 1500 kilograms. “They are bigger rockets and cost ten times more than Virgin is planning,” Anderson says.

Because Planetary Resources plans to start launching its satellites in one-and-a-half to two years time, however, it may have to begin without Virgin, later switching. “If Virgin aren’t ready – we’ll launch anyway,” says Anderson.

Asteroid warning

The asteroid-hunting satellites are just a first step in Planetary Resources’ plan to mine asteroids. When the satellites find promising candidates, a second fleet of reconnaissance spacecraft will examine them at close quarters. Eventually, craft yet to be developed will then mine them. In the meantime, the asteroid-hunting satellites will be able to double up as an early warning system for potentially dangerous asteroids, says Anderson.

Alan Stern, a former head of NASA’s space science programme and chief scientist at lunar mining start-up Moon Express, based in Mountain View, California, is impressed by the way the commercial space firms are working together so soon: “This is a sign of a maturing commercial space economy, with business to business deals now proliferating. It is highly promising.”

Planetary Resources aren’t the only ones to have paid Virgin deposits for launches on LauncherOne. So have environmental monitoring start-upGeoOptics of Pasadena, California and satellite imaging firm SkyBox of Mountain View. What’s more, Surrey Satellite Technology in Guildford, UK, plans to customise microsatellites called CubeSats for cheap launches in the Virgin system, according to founder Martin Sweeting.

Credit: NewScientist

FARNBOROUGH: Virgin out to steal the show with SpaceShipTwo display


6 hours ago

If you’re looking out for show stealers at Farnborough, Virgin Galactic (OE23) is likely to be one of the candidates.

The company will be lighting up the static display with a mockup of its SpaceShipTwo (SS2), which is set to begin rocket-powered flight trials this summer, with plans to blast its first “astronauts” beyond the atmosphere in early 2013.

Sir Richard Branson himself will be appearing at the show on Wednesday to announce an expansion of the company’s current business plans for space tourism and research.

Virgin has been granted a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) experimental launch permit and hopes to see the first powered flights of SS2 by the end of the year.

The aircraft is carried to 50,000ft (15,200m) by its twin-fuselage carrier aircraft WhiteKnightTwo before it is released. For flights into suborbital space, SS2 will engage its own rocket power after the release to reach Mach 3.5 and climb beyond the atmosphere’s official 100km (62 miles) frontier to a maximum altitude of about 110km.

The six passengers and two pilots will experience about 6min of weightlessness – and stunning views – before re-entry. Drop tests conducted to date have verified the SS2’s capability to glide to a runway landing, which will be on the 10,000ft runway at Spaceport America in the New Mexico desert.

Following powered flight testing, the SS2 would undertake its maiden voyage into space, with the first paying passengers getting their taste of space sometime in 2013 after Virgin obtains a commercial permit for a suborbital reusable vehicle from the FAA.

Credit: FlightGlobal

JPL scientists show evidence of water on Saturn moon

By James Figueroa, SGVN
Finding water is a major step for finding life on other planets, which is why JPL and NASA scientists were so excited about reports coming from an aging Saturn exploration mission.In findings published in the journal Science, researchers detailed evidence that an ocean is beneath the icy outer layer of Titan, one of Saturn’s moons.Analyzing data from the Cassini spacecraft, researchers last month noticed the moon’s shape stretched significantly as it orbited closer to Saturn, which turned out to be 30-foot-high tides. Scientists believe the tides can only be caused by a vast amount of water.

If Titan’s subsurface was rock, its bulging shape would only be about 3 feet, researchers said.

“People understand tidal effects on Earth, knowing that the moon has mass, therefore gravity pulls on Earth, and that gets manifested as the rise of the ocean,” said Sami Asmar, a Cassini team member at JPL’s Pasadena campus. “People don’t think much about the Earth has a tidal pull on the moon. It’s a two-way street. But the moon doesn’t have an ocean, it does not get manifested that way.”

Asmar’s team calculates data from Cassini’s flights close to Titan and Saturn.

Titan’s orbit is slightly elliptical, so the Cassini team was able to observe the moon’s shape as it moved closer and farther from the planet.

Though the discovery of water would represent an important step in space exploration, Titan is unlikely to harbor life because its atmosphere is methane gas.

Scientists still expect to learn much from Titan.

“The presence of a liquid water layer in Titan is important because we want to understand how methane is stored in Titan’s interior and how it may outgas to the surface,” Cassini team member Jonathan Lunine of Cornell University said in a JPL report.

The Cassini mission is a joint effort by the Italian Space Agency and the European Space Agency, which built the Huygens probe that landed on Titan in 2005.

Hundreds of engineers, navigators and scientists manage Cassini from JPL in Pasadena.

Titan, along with Jupiter’s Europa moon, have long been thought to harbor water, and several scientists remarked on the find in a Science article.

“They all said this makes perfect sense, this is what we were expecting,” Asmar said.

626-578-6300, ext. 4475

Credit: PasadenaStarNews


The Lynx: A low cost suborbital vehicle

Lynx 5

By Kathleen Petty | Staff Writer | MyWestTexas

A two-seat reusable winged launch vehicle, the Lynx will take research and passengers to the suborbital level, or about 62 miles above the earth.

It will take off and land like an aircraft in a horizontal manner and its rocket propulsion system should allow the Lynx to take up to four flights per day. The ability to take off multiple times is possible because of fast turnaround between flights and the lower cost of operations and maintenance the Lynx requires when compared with more traditional spacecrafts, according to XCOR.

“We think Lynx is going to be an excellent scientific and educational research tool because of its low cost per flight (capability),” said Andrew Nelson, chief operating officer.

He said the vehicle is designed to handle a number of different experiments, including those that need to be mounted on the outside and have access to the higher atmosphere.

“Access to the vacuum of space and the upper atmosphere is important because atmospheric scientists want to know what is going on,” he said. “We know it’s important to global health. We just don’t know why.”

For example, if experiments could be performed on oncology drugs or other medications at the suborbital level, scientists believe they could produce better treatments, Nelson said.

After the vehicle has been successfully produced, Nelson said XCOR expects to have orders for Lynx vehicles from around the world.

And that, still is just a first step as XCOR leaders believe the Lynx will continue to be evolved and improved through the Midland R&D facility, he said.

“We’re really talking about transformative operations and technology that can impact everyone around the globe,” he said. “We see the Lynx as being that first stepping stone that gets us there. It’s a reasonable space plane that allows us to start beginning the industry.”

Credit: MyWestTexas

Jeff Greason, the CEO of XCOR, said some very inspiring things relevant to the current commercial space industry


A look at XCOR

By Kathleen Petty | Staff Writer | MyWestTexas

About the company:

Established: XCOR was founded in 1999 by Jeff Greason, Doug Jones, Dan DeLong and Aleta Jackson

Current location: Mojave Air & Space Port, Mojave, Calif.

Staff: More than 40

Funding: Research and development funding has come from a variety of sources including, private investors, revenue from consulting services, commercial development programs and government research contracts.

The company recently announced it finished raising $5 million that when combined with cash on hand will allow it to complete the production of the first version of the Lynx suborbital vehicle, said Andrew Nelson, chief operating officer.



– In 2001, XCOR created the EZ-Rocket, which was the first rocket-powered aircraft built and flown by a non-governmental entity

– In 2007,  Inc. Magazine  named XCOR among the top 500 fastest-growing companies after it experienced a 646 percent revenue growth between 2003 and 2006.

– In 2008 XCOR completed flight testing of the X-Racer, which completed seven flights in one day

– In total, the staff has completed nearly 4,000 engine firings and 500 minutes of run-time on its engines

– XCOR now is working on the Lynx, which will allow for a pilot and passenger to fly to the suborbital level, or about 62 miles above the earth. The vehicle will allow for sub-orbital research at what Nelson describes as a more affordable rate.

Rides also are being sold on the Lynx for $95,000 each and will allow the company to take part in the space tourism industry. About 175 already have been purchased.

The Lynx price, according to several articles, is a “bargain” when compared with the cost of rides with companies like Virgin Galactic, which has pre-sold at least 500 rides that each cost $200,000.

It’s anticipated the first flights will be available in 2013.

– In August, XCOR announced it had been selected by NASA to provide suborbital flights and payload integration services for research and scientific missions. The program will offer up to $10 million in contracts for XCOR.


A look at some of XCOR’s leaders:

— Jeff Greason, president: A co-founder of XCOR, Greason has about 20 years of experience between XCOR, Rotary Rocket Co. and Intel Corp. He led the engineering team that developed 11 reusable rocket engines, among several other duties at the company. He’s a member of the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee. He holds 18 U.S. patents and is a graduate of the California Institute of Technology.

— Dan DeLong, vice president and chief engineer: DeLong co-founded XCOR and has been designing, testing and fabricating systems for more than 35 years. At XCOR, he is the design lead for all new hardware development. Previously, he spent time with several companies including, Rotary Rocket Co., Teledyne Brown and Boeing, where he worked for about 10 years on space station support hardware and development projects. He holds a bachelor’s in engineering from Cornell University.

— Andrew Nelson, chief operating officer: Nelson was hired by XCOR in 2008. He worked previously with Morgan Stanley and the Lehman Brothers where he was an advisor to entrepreneurs and their companies, as well as others with complex investment banking needs. Before working on Wall Street, Nelson spent about 15 years in the aerospace, aviation and space industry. He has a degree in electrical engineering from Ohio University and an MBA in finance and entrepreneurship from MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

Credit: MyWestTexas


Education opportunities could emerge with XCOR’s possible move

By Meredith Moriak | Staff Writer | MyWestTexas

The possible relocation of a private aerospace engineering company to Midland could open the door for an aerospace engineering program at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, according to President David Watts.

Though he wouldn’t comment on XCOR Aerospace Inc. specifically, Watts said having such a company in Midland would “be a marvelous opportunity for engineering students. It could create a real synergy.”

UTPB gears its programs to “best serve existing and planned industry in the area,” Watts said about the current mechanical and petroleum engineering programs that were established during the last three years.

Watts said the university would consider adding a degree program if an aerospace company were to locate in Midland.

“We will work closely with the Permian Basin community and businesses to try and develop engineering programs that are most responsive to community and industry needs,” he said.

UTPB’s involvement to train future engineers is part of a three-pronged approach to partnering with schools, said Robert Rendall, secretary of the Midland Development Corp. board.

“We believe this company will be very interested in promoting math and science to the people in the public schools,” Rendall said.

He said there may be opportunities for students to gain first-hand knowledge with the company.

Additionally, Rendall said Midland College administrators have been in a discussion about providing technical maintenance training for the company’s employees.

“We believe (education) was one of the things that helped us land this company,” Rendall said.

Meredith Moriak can be reached at

Credit: MyWestTexas

With Mars Rover’s Newest Panorama, It Feels Like You’re There

If you seek a dazzling new image for a MacBook Pro’s Retina screen, look no further.

This week NASA released an ultra-high-resolution view of the frigid Martian landscape captured by the only rover currently operating on the red planet.

“The view provides … a spectacularly detailed view of the largest impact crater that we’ve driven to yet,” said planetary scientist Jim Bell of Arizona State University in a press release July 5.

The solar-powered, golf-cart-sized rover, called Opportunity, wrapped up exploration of the half-mile-wide Victoria Crater in August 2008. It then rolled for the next three years to reach the 14-mile-wide Endeavour Crater.

But the plucky robot must hunker down during Martian winters that last six Earth months, as Opportunity needs to have enough power to warm its fragile electronics. So from Dec. 21, 2011 through May 8, 2012, NASA instructed the robot to stay put and take 817 images.

The space agency stitched those photos together to craft a near-wraparound image of Opportunity’s overwintering spot, a rocky outcrop near the 4-billion-year-old Endeavour Crater that scientists named “Greeley Haven.”

NASA’s next car-sized rover called Curiosity arrives at Mars Aug. 5, but it won’t have to overwinter like Opportunity. Instead of relying on feeble sunlight, it will use a thermoelectric nuclear battery to provide it with decades’ worth of power.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State University [high-resolution version]

Dave Mosher is a contributor and freelance science journalist obsessed with space, physics, biology, technology and more. He lives in New York City. G+

Read more by Dave Mosher

Follow @davemosher and @wiredscience on Twitter.


Higgs boson announcement: Cern scientists discover subatomic particle

What happens inside the Large Hadron Collider. Scientists at Cern, near Geneva, have this morning announced the likely discovery of the Higgs boson particle. Photograph: Cern

Scientists gather for a major announcement in Cern, home of the Large Hadron Collider

7.17am: Good morning all.

Two teams of physicists at the Cern laboratory near Geneva are preparing today to announce their latest efforts to discover the Higgs boson.

The elusive “God particle” has become the most sought-after particle in modern science. Its discovery would be proof of an invisible energy field that fills the vacuum of space, and excitement in the scientific community is at fever pitch.

Peter Higgs, the Edinburgh University physicist who proposed the idea of the particle in 1964, is flying in to Geneva, as are two other men who published similar theories at around the same time: François Englert, professor emeritus at the Free University of Brussels (ULB) in Belgium, and Tom Kibble, professor emeritus at Imperial College London.

There have been rumours, speculation, and, last night, even an apparent leak from the laboratory when a video announcing the discovery of a new particle was accidentally posted on its website.

The Guardian’s Ian Sample has flown to Geneva and I’ll be live-blogging this potentially historic morning on this page.

7.38am: Now, two video links for your viewing pleasure.

This one is to Cern’s own live stream from where the scientific session is due to start at 9am local time (8am British time) – and subsequent press conference – will be held.

And here is a video from the Guardian’s own resident boffin, science correspondent Ian Sample. Heroically, he attempts to explain the Higgs boson by means of a tray from our canteen and some coloured ping pong balls.

7.52am: Clapping for Peter Higgs, who has just arrived in the auditorium. Now, the anticipation mounts.

8.02am: And we’re off. First up is Joe Incandela, the leader of the team using the CMS detector to search for new particles. He’ll be followed by Fabiola Gianotti from the other team using the Atlas detector.

He says the results are “very strong, very solid”.

8.13am: As Incandela speaks, the brilliant Ian Sample is live-tweeting from Cern.

I’ve been told that anyone who thinks they haven’t found a new particle after this has lost touch with reality.   

Incandela “Many people went many days without sleep.”   

And we’re keeping our observations extremely serious in keeping with the potentially historic nature of the day.

Does Joe Incandela (cms spokesman) not look a little like George Clooney?    

8.21am: I’m not going to lie: this is a little above my GCSE Physics.

8.24am: Reuters has just posted a flash update that claims Cern scientists have discovered a new sub-atomic particle that could be the Higgs boson.

8.31am: Here’s the Reuters take.

Scientists at the CERN research centre have discovered a new subatomic particle that could be the elusive Higgs boson, which is believed to be crucial in the formation of the universe.

“I can confirm that a particle has been discovered that is consistent with the Higgs boson theory,” said John Womersley, chief executive of the UK’s Science & Technology Facilities Council, at an event in London.

Joe Incandela, spokesman for one of the two teams hunting for the Higgs particle told an audience at CERN near Geneva: “This is a preliminary result, but we think it’s very strong and very solid.”

8.39am: Big applause.

Combined significance of all results 5 standard deviations. Room breaks into applause, whistles  

8.40am: Here’s Ian’s take.

incandela: says when they combine the results for two decay channels they get five sigma for the . That’s enough for a discovery.

8.43am: More interpretative tweets courtesy of those who can interpret these results.

And combined – 5 sigma. Round of applause. That’s a discovery of a Higgs – like particle at CMS. They thank LHC for the data!

5 sigma is the usual particle physics threshold for discovery. It roughly means that you’re 99.9999% sure

8.48am: Incandela has finished. There’s warm applause. His summary:

All channels combined, sensitivity is 4.9 sigma. All results are consistent.

We have observed a new boson with a mass of 125.3 plus or minus 0.6 GeV at 4.9 sigma standard deviation-Incandela. Applause!!!

8.53am: The American physicist Sean Carroll is live-blogging this announcement over at Discover magazine.

His reflection from Incandela’s presentation is:

Huge question ongoing: are we seeing a standard Higgs with a couple of statistical fluctuations, or are differences in different channels the sign of something new?

Easiest way to make different channels mismatch is to add new particles to your theory that couple to the Higgs, and enter as virtual particles that modify different decay rates.

Full employment for both experimentalists and theorists!

8.55am: Up now is Fabiola Giannotti, leader of the 3,000-strong group that works on the collider’s five-storey Atlas detector.

Ian Sample wrote a little piece about her and her work at the LHC last year.

The appointment put her in the top ranks of a profession dominated by men. She came to physics from an education steeped in ancient Greek, philosophy and the history of art – she had also trained as a pianist at the Milan Conservatory.

But she ultimately chose physics to answer the big question of why things are as they are. “Physics is, unfortunately, often seen as a male subject; sterile and without charm or emotion,” she told the Cern magazine. “But this is not true, because physics is art, aesthetics, beauty and symmetry.”

9.00am: A welcome summary in layman’s terms from Brian Cox.

In simple language, CMS have discovered a new boson, and it behaves like the Standard Model Higgs

9.05am: AP’s take on Incandela’s presentation.

One of the two independent teams at the world’s biggest atom smasher says it has found strong evidence of a new subatomic particle that looks like the one believed to give all matter in the universe size and shape.

Joe Incandela, leader of one of the teams, told scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, that the data has reached the level of certainty needed for a discovery.

But he has not yet confirmed that the new particle is indeed the tiny and elusive Higgs boson, popularly referred to as the “God particle.”

9.09am: The New Scientist, reporting from the auditorium, says Cern has pre-empted Gianotti. And the results from ATLAS also look exciting.

CERN PR just circulating room, pipping Gianotti to the post: sees  at around 126 Gev with 5 sigma certainty. Wow.

9.14am: “Both experiments observe a new particle in the mass region around 125-126 GeV,” confirms a press release from Cern.

Gianotti- who is still speaking- is quoted in this release as saying:

We observe in our data clear signs of a new particle, at the level of 5 sigma, in the mass region around 126 GeV. The outstanding performance of the LHC and ATLAS and the huge efforts of many people have brought us to this exciting stage, but a little more time is needed to prepare these results for publication.

Incandola, from CMS, adds:

The results are preliminary but the 5 sigma signal at around 125 GeV we’re seeing is dramatic. This is indeed a new particle. We know it must be a boson and it’s the heaviest boson ever found. The implications are very significant and it is precisely for this reason that we must be extremely diligent in all of our studies and cross-checks.

And Sergio Bertolucci, research director of CERN, says:

It’s hard not to get excited by these results. We stated last year that in 2012 we would either find a new Higgs-like particle or exclude the existence of the Standard Model Higgs. With all the necessary caution, it looks to me that we are at a branching point: the observation of this new particle indicates the path for the future towards a more detailed understanding of what we’re seeing in the data.

The results presented today are labelled preliminary, the statement adds.

They are based on data collected in 2011 and 2012, with the 2012 data still under analysis. Publication of the analyses shown today is expected around the end of July. A more complete picture of today’s observations will emerge later this year after the LHC provides the experiments with more data.

The next step will be to determine the precise nature of the particle and its significance for our understanding of the universe. Are its properties as expected for the long-sought Higgs boson, the final missing ingredient in the Standard Model of particle physics? Or is it something more exotic? The Standard Model describes the fundamental particles from which we, and every visible thing in the universe, are made, and the forces acting between them. All the matter that we can see, however, appears to be no more than about 4% of the total. A more exotic version of the Higgs particle could be a bridge to understanding the 96% of the universe that remains obscure.

Positive identification of the new particle’s characteristics will take considerable time and data. But whatever form the Higgs particle takes, our knowledge of the fundamental structure of matter is about to take a major step forward.

9.21am: First reaction from Peter Higgs has just landed in my inbox. According to a statement sent by Edinburgh University, the physicist says he is “astounded” at the speed with which the results have emerged and is preparing to celebrate.

Scientists at CERN are to be congratulated on today’s results, which are a great achievement for the Large Hadron Collider and other experiments leading up to this.

I am astounded at the amazing speed with which these results have emerged. They are a testament to the expertise of the researchers and the elaborate technologies in place.

I never expected this to happen in my lifetime and shall be asking my family to put some champagne in the fridge.

Higgs boson: Participants applaud after the presentation of the Atlas experimentsParticipants applaud after the presentation of the Atlas experiments. Photograph: Denis Balibouse/AP

9.23am: Gianotti is still presenting Atlas’s results but the reaction is already pouring in. Here’s are the first few paragraphs from Ian Sample’s first take on today’s momentous announcement.

Ian Sample
There comes a time in a scientist’s life when the weight of evidence can no longer be ignored. That moment came today for physicists at Cern, home of the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, who announced overwhelming evidence for the obscure but profoundly important Higgs boson, the particle that sparked the greatest hunt in modern science.

In presentations given to a packed auditorium at the laboratory on Wednesday morning, and webcast around the world, the leaders of two research teams, who worked independently of each other, said they had spotted a new particle amid the microscopic flashes of primordial fire created inside the world’s most powerful atom smasher.

Cern stopped short of claiming official discovery of the Higgs boson, even as many physicists conceded the evidence was now so compelling they had surely found the missing particle.

Formal confirmation of the discovery is expected within months, though it could take several years for scientists to work out whether they have found the simplest kind of Higgs particle that theories predict, or part of a more complex picture: for example, one of a larger family of Higgs bosons. The discovery of more than one kind of Higgs particle would open the door to an entirely new realm of physics.

9.29am: “#CERN” is trending worldwide. As is #Higgs, and #GodParticle (sorry), and ATLAS. No #Higgsteria yet though, despite a valiant effort by social media types.

9.32am: Today’s discovery is “unbelievably exciting”, according to Harvard physicist Lisa Randall.

She told the Guardian:

I really didn’t expect this. They got enough data and improved analysis to the point where we know about a new particle months before I expected (based on
asking lots of people)! It is unbelievably exciting.

Tommaso Dorigo, a scientist on the CMS experimental team at Cern, had this evaluation for Ian over in Geneva:

Is it a Higgs boson or not? Well, it has been found using techniques tuned for the Standard Model Higgs. A different object might have stepped in, but it is quite unlikely in my humble opinion.

A representation of traces of a proton-proton collision in the search for the Higgs bosonA representation of traces of a proton-proton collision in the search for the Higgs boson, released by Cern. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

9.35am: Cheers and applause for Gianotti now.

ATLAS – round of applause + cheers. 5 sigma discovery at 126.5 GeV

Standard Model expectation would be 4.6 sigma, so compatible with SM prediction

“I’m not done yet; there’s more to come!” she laughs. She has these guys in the palm of her hand.

9.41am: Some physicists are being more certain about interpreting these results than others. For Professor Stefan Söldner-Rembold, Professor of Particle Physics at the University of Manchester, “there is no doubt that the Higgs particle exists”.

Today we have witnessed a discovery which gives unique insight into our understanding of the universe and the origin of the masses of fundamental particles. There is no doubt that the Higgs particle exists and we now have to understand its properties and whether it behaves exactly as predicted by theory.

This discovery is the first milestone of the LHC physics programme and opens the door to many more exciting discoveries by the LHC experiments in the next decade.

9.44am: Rolf Heuer, Director General of CERN, offers this verdict:

As a layman I would say: I think we have it. You agree?

The audience claps. I think that’s a yes.

9.46am: Heuer flashes up on screen a slide that says Cern have discovered “a particle consistent with the Higgs boson- but which one?”

So, while this is undoubtedly a milestone with “global implications”, he says, it is also the beginning of a lot more research and investigation. But, he adds, “I think we can be very, very optimistic”.

9.49am: Peter Higgs, who first proposed the idea of this boson in 1964 and is now 83, may have shed a tear or two there- a sight which seems to have got everyone else going too.

Peter #Higgs is crying… it’s a great day for physics. I am proud of being a physician :°)

Peter Higgs crying at conclusion? Perfect. Brilliant day, folks. Can’t wait to see what scientists do tomorrow. 

Standing ovation at the @CERN -Boson announcement, and Prof. Peter Higgs crying with joy. Simply awesome. Over 30 years and $9b cost.

9.58am: Peter Higgs has just been asked to say a few words.

“For me it’s a really incredible thing that it’s happened in my lifetime,” he said, giving his congratulations to everyone involved in what he described as a “tremendous achievement”.

10.16am: Earlier I pointed out that four of the 10 worldwide trends on Twitter were Higgs-related. I erred. There were five- but one of them was Comic Sans.

Turns out that, instead of remarking on the incredible achievements of the physicists at Cern, some people would prefer to ridicule them for presenting their results in a funny font.

CERN need a design partner – Comic Sans for a serious presentation of breakthrough findings! Really?…

CERN’s Higgs presentation just added weight to the theory that Comic Sans is a terrible font.

10.18am: Press conference time. More layman’s terms please!

First question goes straight to the point: “Have you found the Higgs boson or not?”

Heuer replies that, as he said earlier, in layman’s terms, they have “got it”.

But as a scientist I say ‘what do we have?’ We have a boson. Now we have to discover what kind of boson it is.

10.25am: For anyone who’s just joined the fun, you can watch the live stream here.

10.28am: All the journalists are begging for layman’s terms. Rolf Heuer of CERN is trying all kinds of inventive allegories to explain the discovery. Is it working? Not entirely sure.

10.31am: Were they surprised by how quickly they made this discovery? After all, points out one journalist, “supersymmetry” was what they were expected to hit upon first.

Yes, replies Heuer. Gianotti agrees, attributing the speed to the “impressive performance of the accelerator” and the experiments which have worked very well.

Incandela says that this discovery could actually help in the search for supersymmetry.

In fact, the existence of a Higgs-like boson actually is a very strong motivation for the existence of supersymmetry…We’re going to try and hunt it down.

10.37am: Ooo, we’re into Rumsfeldian territory here. A spokesman says they also want to go after the unknown unknowns.

10.38am: How did the leaders of Atlas and CMS feel upon completing this discovery? Like “walking on air”, says Incandela.

It was a magnificent moment to see the reaction of the community.

Gianotti praises the “dedication, the competence, the talent” of everyone in her team, Atlas.

10.45am: John Ellis of CERN has emailed this evaluation to the Guardian’s Ian Sample.

There is no doubt that something very much like the Higgs boson has been discovered. The strengths of the signals observed independently by CMS and ATLAS are completely convincing, and they are supported by data from the Tevatron experiments CDF and D0.

Now the emphasis will shift to verifying the properties of the particle that has been discovered: does it have spin zero? Does it couple to other particles proportional to their masses?

The discovery will open up a new era in particle physics, as we look for deviations from the properties expected in the Standard Model, and for other physics beyond the Standard Model that might be connected, such as the nature of dark matter.

Heuer has just had another valiant effort at explaining the science in terms a small child would understand.

How close is what they’ve found to the Higgs boson, asks a journalist? It’s as if, he explains, you think you see your best friend- but is it your best friend or your best friend’s twin? Basically: more work is needed. He concluded:

Ask me again in three, four years.

10.54am: We’re asking commenters to help us explain the Higgs Boson. My colleague Hannah Waldram has passed me on these interesting contributions:


It’s like there has been a figure in black in the ballet that the other dancers can see so dance around and with but we can’t see. We see the shape of the ballet but cannot, until now see all the dancers.


It’s like zoologists trying to determine if they’ve discovered a new species of butterfly by looking at a meadow through binoculars. From 16 miles away.

Shiv MalikShiv Malik

Our very own Shiv Malik has also put his scientist’s hat on to try to explain

One talking point is how reliable the results are. This is based on how certain physicists are about the data they have. The way this is normally measured is through standard deviation i.e. the 1-5 sigma that we’ve been hearing about.

This handy explainer graphically shows what deviation is on a usual distribution graph or a bell curve, where most results are based around the middle but there are also some extreme results at either end.

Something like plotting height amongst a big population of 35 year old males would give you a bell curve graph like this. Tall and short at either end but most people are say, 5 Ft 8″. Five sigma from the standard deviation therefore means many steps away from the norm. In terms of height it would be say, adults males who are either 2ft or 7ft tall i.e. very unusual.

But now reverse engineer the exercise. Imagine you are looking at 7ft people and you want to know how likely it is that this is a strange result from the middle or the norm. How would you work this out? How would you come up with a number to represent this? Well, looking at the data, plotting the graph, you could say that 7ft adult males represent 5 sigma deviation from the norm, so you are pretty sure that this is an odd or unusual result and therefore worth being (statistically speaking) interested about. This is what those at CERN have been saying today.

11.00am: As the journalists in Geneva continue to beg the Cern guys for replies they can understand, here at the Guardian we are begging you to help us explain the Higgs boson.

My colleagues write:

Can you help us break it down into even simpler terms? If you’re a scientist, a teacher or a physics fan with a knack for explaining big ideas and small particles, we’re imploring you to help.

• How would you explain Higgs boson to a 7-year-old?
• What analogy best explains what’s happening at Cern?
• Can it be described in 200 words?

11.09am: A bold Reuters journalist just asked them to provide their own metaphors for the Higgs boson. Alas. “The podium is metaphorless,” replied Heuer.

Higgs boson: British physicist Peter Higgs (right) speaks with Belgium physicist Francois EnglertBritish physicist Peter Higgs (right) speaks with Belgium physicist Francois Englert. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

11.18am: Ok, that’s that. The press conference is over.

Throughout, Peter Higgs refused to make any comment other than to praise the achievement and to say he was making no further comment. He obviously didn’t want to hog the limelight, which will only endear him further to his new legion of Twitter fans.

11.25am: On a lighter note, here’s a storify of Twitter jokes about the Higgs boson as collated by Hannah Waldram.

Sure there are plenty more to come, so tweet your best to @guardian on #higgsjokes.

11.34am: You can now read Ian Sample’s excellent take on this morning’s announcement at length here.

And, for those of who still a little in the dark, check out this fun explainer video by PHD Comics on Vimeo. Thanks to Koos Fuite below the line for the spot.

11.55am: My colleagues Hannah and Laura have been collating some of the lovely explanations coming in in response to our plea to explain the Higgs boson in a way a 7-year-old child would understand.

My favourite- and certainly the most inventive- is egorulz’s effort below the line.

Once upon a time in a far away land, there were two rival families: Fermions and Bosons. Fermions were famous for their peculiar half spin dance. Electrons, protons and quarks were all Fermions.

The Bosons however were into full spinning though and despised half spin. Photons and Gluons were Bosons. It was rumored that Bosons had a long lost elder brother called Higgs Boson who had been missing for a long long time.

One day a wise old man came to the land of the feuding families. He told them they should stop quaerlling over half spin and full spin, since they all used to be the same, and that they all used to be massless.

The old man said that, in the beginning of time when the universe was created, everyone was born the same, but then they were immersed in a mysterious field called the higgs field making each of them different except for Photons who remained the same.

He said this mysterious field was made up of the Higgs Boson – the long lost Boson brother.

The families ofcourse refused to believe all this hogwash, and so the old man set about trying to prove his story and bring the Higgs Boson out of his hiding place.

To do this he asked for help from the scientists at CERN.

The family feud is coming to an end, at last.

12.03pm: The science community seems agreed: this is a big moment. But many, like Heuer, are cautioning that this could be just the beginning.

Dr Roberto Trotta, Lecturer in Cosmology at Imperial College London, has this to say, according to the Science Media Centre.

This could be just the first step towards uncovering a completely new layer of reality – the Higgs might lead to the discovery of supersymmetry: the notion that for every known particle there exist a super-particle with a much larger mass.

And if supersymmetry is real, then we are on our way to finally crack the mystery of the dark matter in the Universe. Dark matter might be ‘the last Highlander’ of all supersymmetric particles, the only surviving ‘sparticle’ from the Big Bang. And we might be on the verge of hunting it down at the LHC.

Professor John Womersley, STFC Chief Executive, said:

Obviously having found a new particle, there is still much, much more to do at the LHC – we need to confirm that this new particle is the reason some particles have tangible mass while others are insubstantial – as proposed by Peter Higgs and other scientists, who predicted that a previously unknown particle must exist for our current understanding of the Universe to work.

And, for Professor Valentin Khoze, Director of Durham University’s Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology (IPPP), this discovery is just opening the door to others that could be even more exciting.

The second part of the story about the Higgs particle is even more exciting as it provides us with a window to new physics – a tool for the exploration of the truly unknown.

The next stage will be a detailed and careful study of its properties. Successful completion of this second stage will bring us closer to uncovering new physics, explaining dark matter and other mysteries of the Universe.

12.09pm: Ian Sample has this thought for us:

Stephen Hawking bet Gordy Kane (UMICH) $100 that the Higgs would never be found at Cern. Wonder if he’s conceded defeat?  

12.24pm: Still full of Higgs related questions? CERN theorist Ignatios Antoniadis has had a go at answering some of the public’s most pressing queries here.

Broken down into the main points Antoniadis says:

• The newly-discovered particle looks like the Higgs boson but, as its properties have not been fully studied yet, a final label will “only come after further investigations”.

• The CERN scientists will specifically be looking at decay rates as these, together with mass, characterise particles. The particle could either decay “with the rates expected from the Standard Model (SM)”, or it will decay differently- which will then beg the question of whether the SM needs “small adjustments…or if new physics processes need to be looked for in order to explain its nature”. (I think this would be a pretty major upset.)

• The particle, because of its low mass, has allowed the scientific community to rule out theories such as “technicolor” and “some of the theoretical models used in Supersymmetry. However, other supersymmetric or not scenarios could still apply, as well as extra-dimensional theories.”

• The good news for theorists is that experimentalists may be able to provide us with this information about decay rates over the next few months.

12.38pm: And if after all this you STILL have questions relating to the-particle-that-may-be-Higgs-but-is-not-for-sure, there’ll be a live Q+A taking place at 1pm here.

My colleague Laura Oliver writes:

Got a question about the Higgs boson, Cern or the Large Hadron Collider, but been too afraid to ask? As we report live from Geneva on scientists’ latest efforts to find the ‘God particle’, two leading physics professors will be online to take your questions.

From 1pm BST we will have Professor Stefan Soldner-Rembold, professor of particle physics at the School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Manchester, and Professor Andy Parker, professor of high energy physics at the University of Cambridge, available to answer your questions about the Higgs boson.

12.43pm: And some more Higgs trivia (I’m not sure any of it is really trivial, but anyway) courtesy of the Press Association.

Q: What is the Higgs boson and the Higgs field?

A: The Higgs field has been described as a kind of cosmic “treacle” spread through the universe. As particles travel through the treacle they slow down, lose energy and get heavier. The Higgs boson is the force-carrying particle that helps transmit the effects of the Higgs field.

Q: What would the world be like without the Higgs boson?

A: According to the Standard Model theory, it would not be recognisable. Without something to give mass to the basic building blocks of matter, everything would behave as light does, floating freely and not combining with other particles. Ordinary matter, as we know it, would not exist.

Q: How did the Higgs boson get the nickname “the God particle”?

A: A Nobel laureate physicist from Fermilab called Leon Lederman wrote a book in the early 1990s about the search for the Higgs boson. His publishers coined the name as a marketable title for the book, but it’s disliked by many scientists.

1.27pm: My colleague Mary Hamilton happens to have a brother with a PhD in quantum mechanics (handy, that), who has spent his lunch break emailing his thoughts on the Higgs announcement and what it all means.

You can read John’s thoughts in full below the line but here’s his answer to the burning question: was it a standard model Higgs, or something else?

Well, according to today’s results, both detectors actually saw a bigger excess in the diphoton channel – i.e. more than would be predicted with a Standard Model Higgs. Also the tau-tau channel showed nothing at all. That could mean that this isn’t a SM Higgs which would be what’s know in the trade as “cool new science”.

Having said that, those discrepancies are not yet very significant (<2 sigma) so could just be luck, and one of the two detectors didn’t report anything on tau-tau yet.

1.34pm: Professor Stephen Hawking has admitted to the BBC that he’s lost his bet that the Higgs particle wouldn’t be found (see 12.09pm).

It seems I have just lost $100.

The results, said Hawking, “strongly suggest” that CERN had found the Higgs particle. If its properties turn out to be as expected, he said, “it will be strong evidence for the so-called standard model of particle physics, the theory that explains all our experiments so far.”

This is an important result and should guarantee Higgs the Nobel prize but it is a pity in a way because the great advances in physics have come from experiments that gave results we didn’t expect.

1.50pm: Brian Cox has been on the airwaves telling the BBC why, for him, this day is one for the history books.

This is without doubt in my opinion the biggest scientific discovery of my lifetime and without doubt one of the biggest scientific discoveries of all time, so I’m tremendously excited… This day will go down as one of the great days in the history of science I think, and that’s not overly hyperbolic.

Cox said he almost felt shocked that “such a strange thing” had been shown to be true.

This is a prediction that was made almost 50 years ago. And the prediction is that the universe, everywhere, empty space, everywhere you look, every little cubic centimetre of space in front of you and inside your body and across the universe, is rammed full of Higgs particles, and everything that makes up your body, the little subatomic particles in your hand, are bouncing off them, and that’s how they get their mass.

And more than that the theory said that these Higgs particles condensed out into empty space less than a billionth of a second after the universe began. It sounds very esoteric and fundamental. But what we’ve shown today is that’s right. That’s actually how the universe works. So it’s one of the central planks of our understanding of how everything in the universe works.

And even though, throughout my whole career as a particle physicist of 20 years now, this theory has been there, I think the realisation that it’s actually right is quite shocking, actually; I’m quite shocked that such a strange thing has been shown to be true.

2.39pm: We’re going to wrap up this live blog now. Thanks for all your illuminating and engaged comments; I can only apologise for my woeful inability to understand almost anything that was said by the clever people of CERN.

For a brilliant write-up of what today means- and, to quote him, why “the real work begins” now- have a look at Ian Sample’s latest report from Geneva.

Ian Sample

Ian writes:

Months and years of analysis lie ahead to confirm that the particle is the elusive Higgs boson. If so, physicists want to know whether it is the simplest kind of particle put forward in physicists’ theories, or something more unusual – and more exciting.