NSS Phoenix Space News

September 2011

Posted by drdave on September 3, 2011

30 September

  • Ian O’Neill at Discovery.Com discusses the SpaceX plan to use rocket power to recover the Dragon spacecraft, as well as both the first and second stages of the Falcon 9 rocket.

29 September

  • China successfully launched the TianGong-1 Space Laboratory module on live television today.
  • International Launch Services (ILS) have launched their Proton-M rocket on Thursday, on a mission which is marking their first ILS launch since the Russian workhorse returned to flight. Launch was on schedule at 18:32 GMT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, with the Proton tasked with deploying the QuetzSat-1 telecommunications satellite for SES, after what will be nine hours of flight.
  • Planetary scientists at Brown University and participating institutions have discovered vast, smooth plains around Mercury’s north pole that were created by volcanic activity more than 3.5 billion years ago.
  • Aerojet announced today that along with NASA and Orbital Sciences Corporation, the team conducted a successful ground test firing of an AJ26-62 flight engine that will power Orbital’s Taurus II medium-class space launch vehicle.
  • Scientists have released most accurate and detailed large cosmological simulation run to date. The Bolshoi simulation focused on a representative section of the universe, computing the evolution of a cubic volume measuring about one billion light-years on a side and following the interactions of 8.6 billion particles of dark matter. It took 6 million CPU-hours to run the full computation on the Pleiades supercomputer

28 September

  • China’s first space lab module Tiangong-1 is scheduled to be launched between 9:16 p.m. and 9:31 p.m. Thursday, a spokesman for China’s manned space flight project said on Wednesday.
  • A Minotaur 4 rocket successfully launched a small military communications satellite on Tuesday. The Orbital Sciences Corporation Minotaur 4+ lifted off from the Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska at 8:49 AM Phoenix time (1549 UTC).
  • Feast your Eyes on the Fried Egg Nebula

27 September

26 September

  • A Zenit-3SL successfully launched a communications satellite Saturday on the first mission for the Sea Launch company since it completed bankruptcy reorganization. The Zenit-3SL lifted off at 4:18 pm EDT (2018 GMT) Saturday from Sea Launch’s mobile launch platform on the Equator at 154 degrees west in the Pacific Ocean.

25 September

  • Super Earth exo-planets are the subject of both the Kepler mission and the Swiss-led HARPS mission.

24 September

  • A NASA spacecraft launched 20 years ago reentered late Friday night, although the exact reentry locations was unknown as of Saturday morning. The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) reentered some time between 8:23 PM Phoenix time Friday and 10:09 PM (0323 and 0509 UTC Saturday).

23 September

  • After years of delays, fledgling rocket company Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is ready to launch NASA’s first commercial cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) this fall. But that opportunity may continue to elude SpaceX for a while longer, as a recent Soyuz launch failure could prompt yet another schedule slip.
  • Rand Simberg takes apart Rory Cooper’s criticism of NASA. The blame really lies with Congress and Pork.

22 September

  • Japan has launched a new Information Gathering Satellite (IGS) known as Optical-4, via their H-2A (H-IIA) launch vehicle. Given the military nature of the payload, only amateur footage of the launch was available, although it did show the vehicle successfully lifted off from the Yoshinobu Launch Complex at the Tanegashima Space Center (TNSC) at 04:36 UTC on Friday.
  • Europe’s Ariane 5 ECA heavy-lift rocket successfully placed two telecommunications satellites — one carrying the first commercially hosted payload for the U.S. Air Force — into geostationary transfer orbit Sept. 21. The satellites’ owners reported that both spacecraft were healthy in orbit.

21 September

  • Place your bets on where the UARS satellite will fall.
  • A Proton-M rocket carrying a military satellite was successfully launched from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome early Wednesday.

20 September

19 September

18 September

  • The Orlando Sentinel discusses the dangers facing NASA and the new Heavy Lift rocket mandated by the Senate. Severe doubts exist that NASA can meet their own 2017 first flight deadline, and few think the Congress will provide enough funds.
  • As NASA’s defunct Upper Atmospheric Research Satellite (UARS) continues to head towards its death – which will result in re-entry around September 23 – NASA managers have discussed ways of improving their fragmentation models for future returning spacecraft, with the aim of reducing the the debris footprint for hardware which may threaten to survive entry.

17 September

  • The Senate Appropriations Committee this week approved a $17.9-billion budget for NASA that includes funding for exploration programs, commercial crew development, and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).
  • Eric Burger interviews Norm Augustine in Houston about NASA’s new Heavy Lift rocket program.

16 September

  • JPL has released new images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft map the giant asteroid’s varied landscape in unprecedented detail, closing in on equatorial grooves, a deep depression on the south pole and its colossal mountain.
  • NASA Rover finds a rare Mars rock with clues of ancient water.
  • The Soyuz TMA-21 spacecraft carrying ISS crewmembers Andrei Borisenko, Alexander Samokutyayev and Ron Garan landed at a designated area in Kazakhstan approximately at 08:00 AM Moscow time (0400 UTC).

15 September

  • The Space Frontier Foundation called Wednesday’s announcement by NASA that it will attempt to build Congress’s giant monster rocket a disaster that will devour our dreams for moving humanity into space. Rather than breathing life into a dying space program, it may well kill new initiatives to greatly expand US space exploration and settlement efforts.

14 September

  • NASA announced details of its new Heavy Lift rocket, which has been mandated by the Senate. What is lacking in this whole story is exactly what NASA will do with this big rocket. Missions to asteroids, Mars etc. are often tossed out by NASA representatives – but no timeline whatosever has yet to be presented – not even a “notional” one. Nor has an overall strategy or architecture been issued or any idea what the cost would be for the things that would actually fly on these rockets.

13 September

  • U.S. satellite television provider DirecTV will launch two satellites aboard Europe’s heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket, with the first launch in 2014, and has booked options for two other launches with the European company for satellites yet to be named.

12 September

  • The existence of Methane in the Martian atmosphere has been the subject of much controversy over the past decade. Astrobiology magazine reports on the various observations made from Earth and spacecraft orbiting Mars.

11 September

  • If all tests go according to plans, Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) ‘Megha-Tropiques’, an Indo-French advanced tropical climate monitoring satellite will be launched on October 12 at 11.00 am from Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh

10 September

  • A Delta 2 rocket successfully launched a pair of NASA spacecraft that will study the Moon’s interior. The Delta 2 7920H lifted off from Launch Complex 17B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, at 1308 GMT during the second of two one-second launch windows available Saturday. The rocket’s upper stage deployed the twin Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft a little over an hour after liftoff. The two spacecraft will enter orbit around the Moon in four months, where they will map the Moon’s gravity field.
  • Alliant Techsystems (ATK) successfully carried out Thursday the third test of a five-segment solid rocket motor that could be used for NASA’s Space Launch System and a commercial rocket.

9 September

  • Russian officials said Thursday that a one-time “production fault” caused the failure last month of a Soyuz rocket carrying a Progress cargo spacecraft to the ISS. The Soyuz rocket’s upper stage engine shut down during the August 24 launch, causing the Progress M-12M spacecraft to fall to Earth, crashing in a remote region of Siberia. Officials said that a fuel line became clogged because of a unspecified accidental production fault, which led to the engine shutdown. The Russian space agency Roskosmos has not indicated when it expects the launch vehicle to return to flight, although NASA officials said this week they were optimistic it would be able to launch a crewed Soyuz spacecraft before the ISS has to be decrewed in mid-November.
  • Gusty upper-level winds forced NASA to postpone Thursday’s scheduled launch of a lunar orbiter mission by a day, and technical concerns will delay it at least an additional day. NASA had planned to launch the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft on a Delta 2 from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Thursday morning, but high winds in the upper atmosphere scrubbed the launch.

8 September

  • Operators of NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are resuming use of the mission’s highest resolution camera following a second precautionary shutdown in two weeks. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) instrument powered off on Aug. 27 and again on Sept. 6. In each case, commanding for an observation was not properly received by the memory module controlling one of the instrument’s 14 electronic detectors (CCDs, or charge-coupled devices).
  • Key senators accused the Obama administration Thursday of artificially inflating the cost of a heavy-lift rocket designed to reach asteroids and Mars. The heavy-lift rocket, the capsule it will carry and the launch facilities to send it into space are forecast to cost $26 billion by 2017.
  • The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said Wednesday it successfully conducted a test ignition of the space probe Akatsuki’s main engine to prepare for a reattempt to send it into orbit around Venus in 2015 after its failure to do so last December.

7 September

  • Amateur astronomers: Grab a pair of binoculars and look skyward. With a little luck, you might be able to see a supernova or exploding star in the sky tonight. No fancy, inaccessible, high-tech, NASA-type telescopes needed. The supernova in question, known in the astronomy world as SN 2011fe, was discovered in the Pinwheel Galaxy about two weeks ago by astronomer Peter Nugent, a senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
  • A stellar newborn has turned up on Earth’s doorstep. Named AP Columbae, the star is so young it has yet to spark its main nuclear flame, and it’s so nearby—a mere 27 light-years from Earth—that scientists might be able to glimpse the glow of orbiting planets still cooling off from their formation.

6 September

  • The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said Monday it will ignite the engine of the space probe Akatsuki twice this month to check if it can enter orbit around Venus, after its failure to do so late last year.
  • China rescheduled the launch of its first prototype space station module in the wake of last month’s launch failure. Named Tiangong 1, which means heavenly palace, the 19,000-pound module will be launched on a Long March 2F rocket. The launch will be delayed because the Long March 2F rocket belongs to the same series as the vehicle that malfunctioned on 18 August.

5 September

  • Like its sister probe Voyager 2, the Voyager 1 spacecraft has been an instrumental force in our continued push to gain a better understanding of our solar system. From its encounters with Jupiter and Saturn, to its ongoing mission to explore the outer boundaries of the solar system, Voyager 1 stands as the farthest man-made object in our solar system and will eventually gain the distinction of being the first man-made object to enter interstellar.

4 September

  • With less than one week to go before the launch of the twin GRAIL lunar satellites from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL, NASA has completed the pre-launch flight readiness reviews for both GRAIL and the veteran Delta II rocket which will propel the spacecrafts into their cruise to Earth’s only natural satellite. The launch is scheduled for Thursday, 8 September at 05:37.06 or 06:16.12 Phoenix time.

3 September

  • Opportunity, NASA’s long-lived Martian robotic workhorse, has started a new round of studies at a place unlike anything seen before on Mars. Poised on the rim of a large crater called “Endeavour, Opportunity has been examining a rock with an unusually high concentration of zinc, among other targets. On Earth, such rocks usually mean they’ve spent time in water, typically warm water.
  • A NASA-backed team of scientists and engineers is set to map the Moon’s gravity—and internal structure. The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (Grail) mission will track minute changes in the distance between two satellites in the same orbit caused by changes in the density of the terrain below.

2 September

  • Blue Origin, the private entrepreneurial space group backed by Amazon.com mogul Jeff Bezos, has reported a failure in its suborbital rocket development plans. “Three months ago, we successfully flew our second test vehicle in a short hop mission, and then last week we lost the vehicle during a developmental test at Mach 1.2 and an altitude of 45,000 feet,” Bezos wrote in a statement posted to the Blue Origin website.
  • America’s National Research Council has finally heeded warnings from spaceflight experts, telling NASA it is not doing enough to address the hazards posed by the space debris that it and other space users leave in orbit. In a 1 September report (pdf) on space junk, the NRC says NASA “has not kept pace with increasing hazards posed by abandoned equipment, spent rocket bodies and other debris orbiting the Earth”.

1 September

  • Two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut living aboard the International Space Station are scheduled to return to Earth on 16 September, leaving the outpost with a three-person crew until Russia can resume crewed launches of the grounded Soyuz rocket.

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