NSS Phoenix Space News

January 2013

Posted by drdave on January 1, 2013

17 January

  • NASA and ESA formally announced Wednesday that Europe will develop a service module for at least one Orion mission based on the ATV cargo spacecraft. The service module for the EM-1 Orion mission, an uncrewed launch on the first Space Launch System (SLS) launch planned for 2017, will be built by Europe. The module will be based on the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) cargo spacecraft Europe currently provides for taking cargo to the ISS, and this service module will take the place of ATV missions later this decade.
  • The U.S. Air Force has delayed the launch date of its next Boeing Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) satellite owing to additional work needed to mitigate possible risk discovered in the last Delta IV rocket launch, during which the RL10B-2 upper stage engine malfunctioned.

16 January

  • NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is set to test its drill in the coming days on a rock that scientists believe may provide new information on the existence of water on the planet in its past. Scientists have selected a rock dubbed “John Klein”, after the late deputy project manager for the mission, as the likely first target for the rover’s drill.

15 January

  • A massive wildfire swept through a major Australian astronomical observatory on Sunday, damaging some buildings but apparently sparing key telescopes there. The fast-moving fire hit the Siding Spring Observatory Sunday, part of a complex of fires in New South Wales, Australia that have broken out in extreme heat there. Authorities reported Monday that several buildings at the observatory, including lodges used by visiting astronomers and the visitors center, were destroyed. However, major telescopes there, including the 4-meter Anglo-Australian Telescope, appeared to have survived in good condition, although some instruments and equipment may be damaged.
  • NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity is driving toward a flat rock with pale veins that may hold clues to a wet history on the Red Planet. If the rock meets rover engineers’ approval when Curiosity rolls up to it in coming days, it will become the first to be drilled for a sample during the Mars Science Laboratory mission.

14 January

  • On Jan. 13, 2013, at 2:24 a.m. EST, the sun erupted with an Earth-directed coronal mass ejection or CME. Not to be confused with a solar flare, a CME is a solar phenomenon that can send solar particles into space and reach Earth one to three days later.

13 January

  • NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and Bigelow Aerospace Founder and President Robert Bigelow will discuss the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module program to the media on Wednesday, January 16, at Bigelow Aerospace facilities in Las Vegas.

12 January

  • The Canadian Space Agency announced this week that it will press ahead with the country’s next-generation radar satellite imaging system, signing a contract with a Canadian firm to build the satellites. The RADARSAT Constellation system will feature three radar imaging satellites in polar orbits to provide shorter revisit times for radar imagery.

11 January

  • New observations of the near Earth asteroid Apophis have ruled out any chance it will hit the Earth in 2036, NASA announced Thursday. The observations in 2011 and 2012, plus those carried out when the asteroid made a relatively close approach to the Earth on Wednesday, allowed scientists to refine the asteroid’s orbit. That new orbit effectively ruled out any chance that the asteroid, about 325 meters in diameter, will impact the Earth in 2036, with the odds of an impact now less than one in one million. Previously, there had been a very small chance of a 2036 impact, depending on the path the asteroid took when passing close to the Earth in April 2029.

10 January

  • Officials with NASA and four companies involved with the space agency’s commercial crew development program said Wednesday that their efforts remain on schedule, with some companies planning crewed test flights as early as 2015. Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and SpaceX all said that that they are on track with development of their systems under Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) awards they received from NASA in August. Sierra Nevada said they plan to begin glide tests of their Dream Chaser vehicle from Edwards Air Force Base in California later this quarter, while SpaceX has a pad abort test of its Dragon launch escape system scheduled for December. A fourth company, Blue Origin, had a funded award in the previous round of the program and said they plan to see an unfunded extension to help guide continued work on their vehicle. NASA officials said a request for proposals for the next phase of the development effort will go out this fall, with plans to award multiple contracts by May 2014.

9 January

  • Although not nearly as threatening as it was first perceived to be upon its discovery, the asteroid 99942 Apophis still has a very slight chance of impacting our planet on Friday, April 13, 2036. It will get closer to Earth this year, giving astronomers a chance to refine its trajectory for good and know whether we’re in trouble. And you can get a glimpse of it online tomorrow, courtesy of the Slooh Space Camera.
  • 15 flights are scheduled to blast off from Florida’s Space Coast, including the first SpaceX missions from Cape Canaveral fully dedicated to putting commercial satellites into orbit.

8 January

  • In a new and sharper hunt for the Universe’s most violent events, astronomers may have found two medium-sized galactic monsters. Launched in June, NASA’S NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Array) X-ray observatory has discovered what may be two intermediate mass black holes in the spiral galaxy IC 342, some 7 million light-years from Earth.

7 January

  • Small planets like our own are extremely abundant in the universe, according to new results presented here today at the 221st meeting of the American Astronomical Society.
  • The discovery by astronomers at the University of California, Berkeley, and Clarion University in Pennsylvania of six likely comets around distant stars suggests that comets – dubbed “exocomets” – are just as common in other stellar systems with planets.
  • The continuing success of NASA’s Kepler mission was highlighted on Monday, following the discovery of 461 new planet candidates – four of which are less than twice the size of Earth and orbit in their sun’s habitable zone. Scientists believe it’s just a matter of “when” a twin of our own planet is found by the spacecraft.

6 January

  • Moon Express, one of the teams competing in the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP), has reached an agreement where it will partner with Dynetics to acquire fellow GLXP team, the Rocket City Space Pioneers (RCSP). However, are not considered to be the team to beat by most experts—Astrobotic Technology currently holds that position.

5 January

4 January

  • NASA-funded researchers analyzing a small meteorite that may be the first discovered from the Martian surface or crust have found it contains 10 times more water than other Martian meteorites from unknown origins. This new class of meteorite was found in 2011 in the Sahara Desert. Designated Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034, and nicknamed “Black Beauty,” it weighs approximately 11 ounces (320 grams). After more than a year of intensive study, a team of U.S. scientists determined the meteorite formed 2.1 billion years ago during the beginning of the most recent geologic period on Mars, known as the Amazonian.
  • Comet Ison, due to loop around the Sun in December 2013, may or may not be “The Comet of the Century”. It is too early to tell.

3 January

  • Astronomers using the Canada-France-Hawaii and W. M. Keck Observatory telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii have been amazed to find a group of dwarf galaxies moving in unison in the vicinity of the Andromeda Galaxy. The structure of these small galaxies lies in a plane, analogous to the planets of the Solar System. Unexpectedly, they orbit the much larger Andromeda galaxy en masse, presenting a serious challenge to our ideas for the formation and evolution of all galaxies.

2 January

  • SpaceX and Orbcomm Inc. have agreed to new contract terms for the launch of 18 data communications satellites beginning in mid-2013, according to a filing with a U.S. regulatory agency. The $42.6 million contract covers the launch of 18 second-generation Orbcomm satellites on two Falcon 9 rockets between the second quarter of 2013 and the second quarter of 2014.

1 January

  • A study on the health effects of cosmic radiation has been published today in PLOS ONE. This new study is the first to establish a link between radiation experienced by space travelers and an increased chance of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
  • IEEE Spectrum reviews Virgin Galactic and the plans for SpaceShipTwo in 2013.
  • With all three Space Shuttle orbiters now tucked away inside their respective museums, the International Space Station (ISS) has completed its full year on-orbit in the post-Shuttle era, a year which has brought great successes for the orbital outpost. On the back of these successes in 2012, a promising 2013 awaits the station, with many new capabilities and technologies set to be demonstrated.

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December 2012

Posted by drdave on December 1, 2012

Happy New Year

31 December

  • The space Review discusses issues for 2013 including problems associated with sequestration due to the upcoming “Fiscal Bunny Slope”.
  • Engine Out” – Failures and other problems.
  • Russia is expected to spend 2.1 trillion rubles—about $70 billion—on the development of its national space industry in the next eight years, according to a statement last week by Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, which was quoted by Space Daily and RIA Novosti. He revealed that the plan is designed to satisfy three fundamental aims: ensuring that Russia maintains its position as a leading global space power, supporting its defense capability, and boosting its overall economic and social development. “The program will enable our country to effectively participate in forward-looking projects,” said Medvedev, “such as the ISS, the study of the Moon, Mars, and other celestial bodies in the Solar System.”

30 December

  • Ikaros, a Japanese probe launched in 2010, has been recognized by Guinness World Records as the first interplanetary solar sail spacecraft.
  • Only in America can the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology of the House of Representatives be the same congressman from Georgia who was caught on tape last summer during an “off-the-record” campaign appearance at a Baptist church saying, “All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell.” Read more.

29 December

  • The new Japanese asteroid mission, called Hayabusa2, is scheduled for launch in 2014 and aimed at the asteroid 1999 JU3, a large space rock about 3,018 feet (920 meters) in length. It is due to arrive at the asteroid in mid-2018, loiter at the space rock and carry out a slew of challenging firsts before departing the scene at the end of 2019.

28 December

  • South Korea has retrieved what appears to be part of the engine from North Korea’s long-range rocket launched earlier this month, a finding that could provide clues to the communist nation’s rocket technologies, a military source said Friday.
  • At the top of the Curiosity rover’s to-do list next year is the first use of its rock-boring drill, allowing scientists to examine samples from inside Martian rocks with the robot’s instrument suite. The drill is designed to hammer into rocks and collect material for analysis by the rover’s chemical and mineral sensors. For the drill’s first use, the Curiosity team is looking for a rock in a shallow pit named Yellowknife Bay.

27 December

26 December

  • Russian space rocket corporation Energia has completed the technical design of a new manned spacecraft whose flight tests are due to begin in 2017. The new spaceship will be able to fly not only to the International Space Station (ISS) but also to the Moon.
  • With most of its ground control team taking time off this week, Curiosity was loaded up with operating instructions for 11 days while at “Grandmother’s House”.

25 December

  • Doomsayers disappointed by 2012’s non-apocalypse will get a sop in 2013 in the form of a rare supercomet. Once widely seen as a portent of doom, comets are seldom as spectacular as the new arrival, known as C/2012 S1 (ISON), may be. At its peak it may outshine the moon, even by day.
    First spotted in September, ISON is rushing towards the sun from the outer solar system. Its closest approach to the sun will be in November, when Timothy Spahr of the Minor Planet Center at Harvard University expects it to put on as good a show as Hale-Bopp did in 1997.

24 December

  • SpaceX’s ambitions of creating a full reusable launch vehicle have taken another step forward via the third – and most ambitious to date – test of their Grasshopper test vehicle. The 40 meter leap into the skies at their test facility in Texas – followed by a stable hover and smooth landing – was conducted without a hitch.
  • Five years ago, the idea of easing export controls on commercial satellites was politically unthinkable. That mindset has changed during the last half decade, as the idea that those restrictions are harming both national security and the U.S. industry base has gradually gained traction. And during a year in which the U.S. Congress barely passed even routine bills, lawmakers came together to shed long-standing restrictions on the export of commercial satellites.

23 December

  • This is a bit of cheery news a day after the nonsensical “Mayan Apocalypse of 2012” — the potentially hazardous asteroid 2011 AG5 will not (I repeat, will not) threaten Earth in the year 2040.
  • John Kelly, At Florida Today, weighs in on the policy drift at NASA: “This week, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden appeared before yet another human space flight review committee (this is the second such panel convened over the past four years). He gave a less-than-enthusiastic endorsement of Obama’s targeted mission to an asteroid. He didn’t say NASA ought not do it, but he loaded up on caveats and qualifiers.” Kelly then goes on about what purpose might be visualized for the NASA super rocket (SLS), since it will not be capable of launching a mission to an asteroid by the time the asteroid mission is currently scheduled.

22 December

  • The US Geological Survey (USGS) announced Friday that it plans to decommission the aging Landsat 5 spacecraft in the coming months as Landsat 8 is prepared for launch. Landsat 5 launched in 1984 with a planned design life of three years, but has continued operations after the loss of Landsat 6 in a launch failure in 1993 and technical problems with Landsat 7, launched in 1999. Landsat 8, (Landsat Data Continuity Mission), is scheduled for launch in February andrecently arrived at its launch site, Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, from the Orbital Sciences Corporation facility in Arizona where it was assembled.

21 December

  • A meteorite that fell where California’s gold rush began has triggered a similar gold rush for scientists: to study one of the freshest, most unusual space rocks around. The Sutter’s Mill meteorite turns out to be a rare, carbon-rich type known as a carbonaceous chondrite. Its insides are a jumble of different primitive space materials mashed together in a single rock.
  • A Soyuz capsule packed with three astronauts has successfully docked with the International Space Station, taking the size of the full crew at the orbiting laboratory to six. American Tom Marshburn, Russian Roman Romanenko and Canadian Chris Hadfield traveled two days in the capsule before linking up with the space station’s Russian Rassvet research module.
  • The U.S. military is committing to average at least seven rocket purchases a year from United Launch Alliance for five years, a cost-saving move by the government that’s worth billions to the Centennial-based company in Colorado.

20 December

  • SpaceShipTwo completed its first glide test with the rocket motor and tanks installed. The flight was the 23rd in a series of unpowered tests and took place on 19 December. Last Friday, 15 December, SpaceShipTwo completed a test in this configuration, but remained attached to its mother ship, WhiteKnightTwo.
  • An Ariane 5 rocket launched communication satellites for the British military and for a Mexican government agency on Wednesday evening. The Ariane 5 ECA lifted off from the spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana, at 4:49 pm EST (2149 GMT) and placed the Skynet 5D and Mexsat Bicentenario spacecraft into geosynchronous transfer orbit about a half-hour later. Skynet 5D is an EADS Astrium Eurostar E3000 model spacecraft, weighing 4,800 kilograms at launch. Astrium Services will operate the spacecraft at 53 degrees east in GEO to provide communications services for the British Ministry of Defence and allies. Mexsat Bicentenario is an Orbital Sciences GEOStar-3 model spacecraft, weighing approximately 3,000 kilograms at launch. It will be operated by the Mexican Secretariat of Communications and Transport to provide C- and Ku-band communications services from 114.9 degrees west in GEO. The launch was the seventh and final Ariane 5 mission of the year, and the last scheduled orbital launch worldwide in 2012.

19 December

  • A Russian Soyuz FG rocket successfully launched the Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft carrying three astronauts to the International Space Station. Roman Romanenko from Roscosmos, NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn and the Canadian Space Agency’s Chris Hadfield lifted off at 5:12 AM Phoenix time (1212 UTC)
  • A Chinese Long March rocket successfully launched a Turkish remote sensing satellite on Wednesday. The Long March 2D rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 9:13 AM Phoenix time Tuesday (1613 UTC Tuesday, 12:13 am Beijing time Wednesday) and placed the Gokturk-2 satellite into a sun-synchronous orbit.

18 December

  • NASA’s twin GRAIL spacecraft crashed into a mountain on the Moon Monday afternoon, completing their nearly year-long mission there as planned. The two spacecraft, dubbed “Ebb” and “Flow”, crashed into a mountain near the crater Goldschmidt in the Moon’s north polar regions. Ebb crashed into the mountain at 5:28:51 pm EST (2228:51 GMT) and Flow crashed nearby 30 seconds later. NASA announced the impact sites would be named after Sally Ride, the first American woman in space who passed away earlier this year; she led the development of cameras on the spacecraft used exclusively for educational purposes.

17 December

  • Jeff Foust at the Space Review, discusses at length the role NASA should play in the exploration of space.

16 December

  • South Korean authorities on Friday moved to analyse the debris of a North Korean long-range rocket, launched earlier this week in defiance of repeated international warnings.
  • The Union of Concerned Scientists discusses the North Korean satellite, its functional parts and its current orbit. Apparently, based on American observations, the satellite achieved a circular around 500 kilometers above the Earth, but the satellite is tumbling, and not under North Korean control.

15 December

  • The Chinese spacecraft Chang’E 2 has captured stunning images of the asteroid Toutatis as it tumbled past the Earth on 13 December 2012.
  • Thales Alenia Space (Cannes, France), the manufacturer of the Yamal-402 satellite for Gazprom Space Systems, has carried out the fourth and the final maneuver to place the satellite into a planned geostationary orbit. Thales Alenia Space earlier devised a plan for transferring the satellite from a geostationary transfer orbit to the planned geostationary orbit by firing the satellite’s apogee kick motor four times instead of the previously planned three firings. The orbit placement sequence had to be adjusted after the Briz-M upper stage manufactured by the Khrunichev Space Center failed to place the satellite into the planned orbit. During the fourth firing, its sustainer engine stopped 4 minutes earlier than was planned.

14 December

  • The powerpack assembly for the Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR) J-2X engine has completed its year of testing at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The engine is set to provide the Earth Departure Stage (EDS) role for astronauts and hardware heading to destinations in deep space, should NASA opt to evolve SLS to the Block II configuration.

13 December

  • Ebb and Flow, the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission probes, are being sent purposely into the lunar surface because their low orbit and low fuel levels preclude further scientific operations. The twin lunar-orbiting NASA spacecraft that have allowed scientists to learn more about the internal structure and composition of the moon are being prepared for their controlled descent and impact on a mountain near the moon’s north pole at about 2:28 p.m. PST (5:28 p.m. EST) Monday, Dec. 17.
  • Astronomers have found a population of galaxies more than 13 billion years old in a new “deep field” image set from the Hubble Space Telescope. The galaxies, found in Hubble’s Ultra Deep Field 2012 (UDF12) near-infrared images, date back to between 350 and 600 million years after the Big Bang.

12 December

  • Scientists with NASA’s Cassini mission have spotted what appears to be a miniature, extraterrestrial likeness of Earth’s Nile River: a river valley on Saturn’s moon Titan that stretches more than 200 miles (400 kilometers) from its “headwaters” to a large sea.
  • An Atlas V successfully launched on Tuesday a classified military spaceplane. The Atlas 5 501 lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 1:03 pm EST (1803 GMT) carrying an X-37B on the Orbital Test Vehicle 3 (OTV-3) mission. The launch, which took place despite forecasts that called for only a 30 percent chance of acceptable weather at launch time, was declared a success by the Air Force, although it released few other details about the mission.
  • North Korea launched a rocket early Wednesday that appeared to place a small satellite into orbit, a move that took many by surprise. The Unha-3 rocket lifted off from its North Korean launch site at approximately 5:50 PM Phoenix time Tuesday (0050 UTC). Official government media announced that the launch was a success, and NORAD reported it was tracking what appeared to be the rocket’s satellite and upper stage in orbit.

11 December

  • Aviation Week: Launch market upstart Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) won the first two competitions out for bid under the Air Force’s new Orbital/Suborbital Program-3 (OSP-3) contract last week. These are the first Air Force-funded opportunities for would-be competitors to ULA to earn government money to prove out their young designs and march forward on the path to certification for launches in the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) class, which is used for the most valuable Pentagon and intelligence satellites.

10 December

  • NASA announced Monday the selection of three companies to conduct activities under contracts that will enable future certification of commercial spacecraft as safe to carry humans to the International Space Station. Advances made by Boeing, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX during the first contract phase known as the certification products contracts (CPC) will begin the process of ensuring integrated crew transportation systems will meet agency safety requirements and standards to launch American astronauts to the International Space Station from the United States, ending the agency’s reliance on Russia for these transportation services. The second phase of certification will result in a separately competed contract.

9 December

  • Yamal-402 satellite launched from Baikonur on Saturday was not placed in the planned orbit. When the propulsion engine of Briz-M upper stage was fired for the fourth time, it operated for a shorter time than it was supposed to. Hence, the satellite was not placed in the required orbit.

8 December

7 December

  • The United Launch Alliance (ULA) are clear to resume launches of their Atlas V rocket, after a review into an anomaly with their Delta IV Upper Stage, during the launch of the GPS IIF-3 satellite, reached a key stage. The green light allows for launches of the Atlas V – which shares commonality via the RL-10 engine on its Centaur Upper Stage – to resume, starting with the next X-37B mission on December 11.

6 December

  • The Washington Post: “It had to happen: A start-up company is offering rides to the moon. Book your seat now — though it’s going to set you back $750 million (it’s unclear if that includes baggage fees). Led by heavy-hitter former NASA executives, the Golden Spike Co. would boldly go where humankind went 40 years ago, this time commercially, hawking tickets to foreign governments or space tourists.”
  • Aviation Week: “NASA’s 2011 strategic plan is no longer viable, according to the Space Foundation’s report, which takes a long, hard look at NASA’s role more than five decades after its creation. Principal author G. Ryan Faith notes that the 2011 plan doesn’t even mention the word “space” in its vision and mission statements. It is time, the Foundation says, to find a job for NASA and stick to it. And the job for a “healthy national civil space enterprise,” the report says, is pioneering.”

5 December

    NASA announced Tuesday it plans to develop a Mars rover based on the Mars Science Laboratory mission for launch in 2020. The rover wil take advantage of spare parts built for the original MSL rover, Curiosity, including a backup RTG power source. A science definition team will select a new suite of instruments for the rover, as well as decide whether the rover should have the ability to collect and cache samples for later return to Earth on a future mission. NASA estimates the rover misson will cost $1.5 billion and will fit within the reduced funding profile for NASA’s Mars program in its 2013 budget request. NASA said it will also extend the lives of current Mars missions, including Curiosity.
  • The United States Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center has awarded SpaceX two Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV)-class missions: DSCOVR (Deep Space Climate Observatory) and STP-2 (Space Test Program 2). To be launched on SpaceX’s Falcon launch vehicles in 2014 and 2015 respectively, the awards mark the first EELV-class missions awarded to the company to date.

4 December

  • NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has detected evidence for simple organic compounds in a Martian soil sample, but scientists cautioned Monday they do not know yet if those compounds are of Martian or terrestrial origin.
  • A Zenit-3SL rocket successfully placed a communications satelite into orbit for Eutelsat on Monday. The Zenit-3SL, operated by Sea Launch, lifted off from its floating launch platform on the Equator in the Pacific Ocean at 3:44 pm EST (2044 GMT), and released the Eutelsat-70B satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit 66 minutes later. The satellite, built by EADS Astrium, weighed 5,210 kilograms at launch, and carries a payload of 48 Ku-band transponders.
  • NASA’s first Atlas 5 rocket on the West Coast underwent a practice launch day and fueling exercise Tuesday at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The United Launch Alliance booster is scheduled for blastoff in February carrying a remote sensing spacecraft known as the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, or LDCM.

3 December

  • The team of scientists operating NASA’s Curiosity rover has found organic materials on Mars — but isn’t sure whether the carbon-containing compounds are indigenous to the planet.

2 December

  • Arianespace launched their Soyuz ST-A rocket from the European Spaceport “Centre Spatial Guyanais (CSG)” in Kourou, French Guiana on Sunday morning, tasking the veteran launch with lofting the Pleiades 1B satellite into a Sun synchronous orbit. Following its 02:02 GMT lift-off, the satellite was successfully deployed 55 minutes later. This was the second launch attempt, following Saturday morning’s scrub.

1 December

  • An anomaly occurred during the final chronology for Flight VS04 – Pléiades 1B, thus halting the count-down. A new launch attempt is slated on the night of Saturday 1st to Sunday 2nd of December.

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November 2012

Posted by drdave on November 2, 2012

30 November

  • A Russian Soyuz rocket is set for liftoff at 0202:50 UTC Saturday (7:02:50 PM Phoenix time Friday) from the Guiana Space Center with the sharp-eyed Pleiades 1B Earth observation satellite to collect high-resolution imagery for French and European security services. It will join the Pleiades 1A satellite launched in December 2011, forming a two-spacecraft constellation placing every part of Earth in range of their cameras each day.
  • Stratolaunch Systems has turned to Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., to keep the world’s largest air-launch-to-orbit system on track for a 2017 test flight. Stratolaunch and SpaceX parted ways was because SpaceX, decided it did not want to disrupt its Hawthorne, Calif., assembly line to accommodate the design changes required to turn its nine-engine, liquid-fueled Falcon 9 into a four- or five-engine air-launched booster.

29 November

  • Curiosity on Mars: Rumors and speculation that there are major new findings from the mission at this early stage are incorrect. The news conference will be an update about first use of the rover’s full array of analytical instruments to investigate a drift of sandy soil. One class of substances Curiosity is checking for is organic compounds — carbon-containing chemicals that can be ingredients for life. At this point in the mission, the instruments on the rover have not detected any definitive evidence of Martian organics.
  • South Korean engineers scrubbed Thursday a second attempt to launch a rocket, citing technical problems with the rocket’s second stage. The Korea Space Launch Vehicle (KSLV)-1 rocket, also known as Naro-1, was to launch from South Korea’s launch site, the Naro Space Center, at 2 am EST (0700 GMT, 4 pm local time) Thursday, but the countdown was halted 17 minutes before the scheduled liftoff time.
  • Scientists Thursday announced new evidence from the MESSENGER spacecraft that Mercury, the planet orbiting nearest the Sun, hosts massive caches of ice and revealed new information on how water reached our solar system’s inner planets.

28 November

  • A Long March 3B rocket launched a Chinese communications satellite that will be used, in part, by a Sri Lankan company. The rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 3:13 AM Phoenix time (1013 UTC) Tuesday and placed the Chinasat-12 satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit. The satellite, a Spacebus 4000 model built by Thales Alenia Space, weighed approximately 5,000 kilograms at launch and carries a payload of C- and Ku-band transponders.

27 November

  • The BBC discusses the US Air Force X-37B, which is currently scheduled for launch on 11 December.
  • 80,000 people on Mars. Elon Musk wants to do that.

26 November

  • Capt. Scott Kelly, a veteran astronaut, will set the record for the longest single space mission for an American, NASA announced Monday. Kelly and Roscosmos cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will embark on a one-year mission to the International Space Station in 2015. The duo will help scientists explore the effects of living in space on the human body, NASA said. They will provide information regarding health and crew performance and help with determining and validating risk-reduction measures. All of this can help contribute to planning for missions to other celestial worlds, such as an asteroid or Mars.
  • It is not every day that astronauts can claim to return to Earth with a new species of life. But when the astronauts on ESA’s CAVES underground training course returned to the surface they were carrying a special type of woodlouse.

25 November

  • A Long March 4C rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 11:06 pm EST Saturday (0406 GMT, 12:06 pm Sunday Beijing time) and placed the Yaogan 16 satellite into orbit. The satellite will be used for a variety of earth sciences and disaster management applications.

24 November

  • Whatever Curiosity has found in the way of organic molecules on Mars, Stuart Clark at the Guardian observes that “… it is not evidence for life on Mars. It can’t be. Curiosity is not designed to look for life. Grotzinger has stated this himself.”
  • Space fans anticipate news of organic molecules from the Mars Curiosity rover, which were cryptically teased by the mission’s chief scientist, John Grotzinger. Grotzinger has refused to elaborate, pointing New Scientist, and other journalists, to a presentation scheduled for the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in San Francisco, which begins on 3 December.
  • Member states of the European Space Agency (ESA) and Canada met in Naples, Italy, to determine the space agenda and the budget for the next five years. The discussed projects include ExoMars rover, Ariane 5 rocket modernization and NASA’s new manned Orion multipurpose crew vehicle (MPCV), as well as some 12bn euros’ worth of activities.

23 November

  • Astronomers observing a stellar occultation by the dwarf planet Makemake found no evidence of an atmosphere around the distant, icy world. Astronomers observed the occultation using three telescopes at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile in April 2011 as the dwarf planet, about two-thirds the size of Pluto, passed in front of a distant star. The star abruptly disappeared and then reappeared, a telltale sign that there is no atmosphere around the dwarf planet.

22 November

  • The European Space Agency got the green light on 21 November to push ahead with a new generation of launchers and take its first foray into manned spacecraft, with a €10 billion ($12.9 billion) budget agreement for the next five years. Meeting in Naples, ministers in charge of space and science from the governments of the space agency’s 20 member states broadly signed up to ESA proposals to improve its Ariane 5 heavy launcher, begin design of a successor – Ariane 6 – and design and build a service module for NASA’s multi-purpose crew vehicle (MPCV) as part of ESA’s “barter arrangement” to the running costs of the International Space Station.
  • SpaceX intends to build a methane/liquid oxygen (Lox) engine, said founder Elon Musk, in a shift away from the highly refined kerosene rocket propellant (RP-1) that has powered the company’s previous engines. Speaking at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London, SpaceX chief executive and lead rocket engineer Musk said Lox and methane would be SpaceX’s propellants of choice on a mission to Mars, which has long been his stated goal.

21 November

  • The European Space Agency (ESA) have announced they will inform NASA they are ready to build an ATV derived Service Module for Orion, to be ready for the first launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) in 2017. The announcement came after the UK stepped up with additional funding, marking the country’s first real human BEO commitment.
  • A Proton rocket successfully launched an American communications satellite on the same day that the company that markets the Proton commercially replaced its president. The Proton M rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 1:31 pm EST Tuesday (1831 GMT Tuesday, 12:31 am local time Wednesday). Its Breeze M upper stage released the EchoStar 16 satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit 9 hours and 12 minutes after liftoff. The satellite, a Space Systems/Loral 1300-series satellite, weighed 6,683 kilograms at launch and carries 36 Ku-band transponders.
  • Workers have begun pre-construction preparations for the rebuilding of Runway 4-22 at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

20 November

  • Astronomers announced Monday they had directly imaged a massive extrasolar planet orbiting another star. Kappa Andromedae b has a mass 12.8 times that of Jupiter, placing it near the dividing line between planet and brown dwarf; astronomers call the world a “super-Jupiter” to cover both possibilities.

19 November

  • A Soyuz spacecraft carrying three returning International Space Station crewmembers safely landed early Monday in Kazakhstan. The Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft undocked from the ISS at 5:26 pm EST (2226 GMT) Sunday and landed north of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan, at 6:56 pm Phoenix time Sunday (0156 UTC, 7:56 am local time Monday). On board the Soyuz were NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, who spent 127 days in space.
  • A Long March rocket launched a Chinese environmental monitoring satellite on Monday. The Long March 2C rocket lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center at 5:53 pm EST Sunday (2253 GMT Sunday, 6:53 am Beijing time Monday) and placed the Huanjing-1C into a sun-synchronous orbit.

18 November

  • Aviation Week discusses the computer anomalies experienced by the SpaceX Dragon on the recent CRS1 mission to the International Space Station.
  • The Russian replacement for a defective part in South Korea’s space rocket that postponed its launch last month has arrived. A new rubber seal in the connector between the rocket and its launch pad arrived in Seoul on Saturday and was moved to the Naro Space Center, some 480 kilometers south of Seoul. The defect in the part was believed to be the main cause of the failure of planned launch of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1) last month.

17 November

  • Three international and commercial customers slated to fly satellites on Falcon 9 rockets next year are standing by SpaceX as the company probes a mysterious engine problem and prepares to debut an upgraded launcher.

16 November

  • NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, which has spent the last several weeks working at a single location on the Martian surface, will soon be on the move again, project scientists said Thursday. The rover has been stopped for over a month by a sand dune, collecting soil samples while also performing other observations. Project scientists said at a briefing Thursday that the rover would be on the move again in the next few days
  • Oversight report says NASA’s challenges include tight budgets and a big rocket program.
  • SpaceX’s Launch Anomaly Wasn’t the Only Flaw on CRS-1

15 November

  • A new commercial space company intends to send commercial astronauts to the moon by 2020.
  • Astronomers announced Wednesday the discovery of a “homeless” planet 100 light-years away not orbiting any star. Astronomers detected the object, designated CFBDSIR2149, using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, with followup observations made by ESO’s Very Large Telescope. The object four to seven times as massive as Jupiter and is part of a group of young stars called the AB Doradus Moving Group, but is not orbiting any of those stars.

14 November

  • NASA is marking two milestones in the search for planets like Earth; the successful completion of the Kepler Space Telescope’s 3 1/2- year prime mission and the beginning of an extended mission that could last as long as four years.
  • A Soyuz-2-1a/Fregat rocket has launched a communications satellite for the Russian military on Wednesday. The rocket, carrying the latest Meridian spacecraft, lifted off from pad 43/4 at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia, at 11:42 UTC on Wednesday. Spacecraft separation was successfully carried out at 14:00 UTC.

13 November

  • NASA Television will provide live coverage as three of the crew members on the International Space Station come back to Earth Sunday, 18 November. Expedition 33 Commander Sunita Williams of NASA, Flight Engineer Aki Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Russian Soyuz Commander Yuri Malenchenko will undock their Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft from the station, heading for a pre-dawn landing in Kazakhstan, northeast of the remote town of Arkalyk at 7:53 p.m. CST (7:53 a.m. Kazakhstan time on Nov. 19).

12 November

  • The NASA Mars Odyssey orbiter has resumed duty after switching to a set of redundant equipment, including a main computer, that had not been used since before the spacecraft’s 2001 launch. Odyssey relayed data to Earth late Sunday that it received from NASA’s Opportunity rover on Mars using the orbiter’s fresh “B-side” radio for UHF (ultra-high frequency) communications. In plans for this week are relay opportunities for the newest Mars rover, Curiosity, and resumption of Odyssey’s own scientific observations.

11 November

  • Specialists at the Plesetsk space centre in the Arkhangelsk region completed erecting the Soyuz-2.1a launcher with the Fregat upper stage carrying the Meridian spacecraft. Launch of Soyuz-2.1a with the Meridian spacecraft is due on November 14.

10 November

  • An Ariane 5 rocket successfully launched a pair of commercial communications satellites on Saturday. The Ariane 5 ECA lifted off from the spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana, at 4:05 pm EST (2105 GMT) Saturday, one day later than planned because of high upper-level winds on Friday. The Ariane 5 placed into geosynchronous transfer orbit the Eutelsat 21B and Star One C3 satellites about a half-hour after launch.
  • China plans to launch its next manned space mission in June of 2013. The three-person crew could be made up of a woman and two men.

9 November

  • Rocket engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne announced this week it was laying off 100 people because of uncertainty in the space industry. About three-quarters of the layoffs are taking place at two facilities in southern California. Rocketdyne cited the “uncertain future of the space industry and current economic conditions” as the reasons for the layoffs. Rocketdyne, which manufactured the Space Shuttle Maine Engine and builds the RS-68 engine for the Delta 4, is in the process of being sold to GenCorp, the parent company of rival engine manufacturer Aerojet.
  • The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency figures smaller is better: Striving for cheaper and more frequent launches, JAXA has set its sights on firing its new Epsilon small rocket into space from the Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima next August or September.
  • Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) — a commercial space advocate and global warming skepticannounced Nov. 8 his intentions to vie for the chairmanship of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee in the 113th Congress that convenes in January.

8 November

  • Astronomers announced Wednesday the discovery of a “super-Earth” extrasolar planet within the habitable zone of a nearby star. Astronomers said the planet, one of six known to orbit the star HD 40307, has a mass at least seven times that of the Earth and orbits the star at a distance similar to the Earth’s distance from the Sun. HD 40307 is a K-class star about 42 light-years from the Sun.
  • Comet collisions every six seconds explain 17-year-old stellar mystery.
  • The Russian government will hold a special conference November 26 on ways of reorganizing the space agency Roscosmos, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who supervises the defense-industrial complex, has said. He will make a report on the issue.
  • The U.S. Air Force is not close to finding a root cause of a recent low-thrust problem in an RL10 upper stage engine made by Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne, and the service may further delay launch of its Orbital Test Vehicle-3 mission as well as NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System K spacecraft.

7 November

  • Jupiter’s Great Red Spot only looks constant. In the late 1800s the behemoth storm looked more like a Great Red Sausage, stretching about 40,000 kilometers. Today, it is only 20,000 kilometers wide. Could it melt away entirely?

6 November

  • Wired magazine discusses the plans of SpaceX for controlled landing of the Falcon 9 first stage, and shows video of the 10 story tall Grasshopper test vehicle flight.

5 November

  • Scientists working on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover said Friday that initial measurements of the Martian atmosphere failed to turn up any evidence of methane, a constituent detected in some previous observations that could be linked to life. a laser spectrometer on Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars instrument measured the composition of the atmosphere at the Gale Crater landing site, putting an upper limit of just a few parts per billion on any methane in the atmosphere there.
  • Now you can also get an alert on your mobile device when the International Space Station is visible overhead thanks to NASA’s new Web app Spot the Station.

4 November

3 November

2 November

  • United Launch Alliance plans to blast a U.S. Air Force X-37B space plane into orbit 27 November, pushing back the launch of the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) to complete investigating a rocket engine anomaly that occurred during an Oct. 4 mission.

2 November

1 November

  • Mark Kelly, commander of the space shuttle Endeavor on its last mission to the International Space Station, discusses the Obama space policy and support for NASA.
  • US astronaut Sunita Williams and her Japanese colleague Akihiko Hoshide will make a spacewalk on Thursday outside the International Space Station (ISS) to isolate and repair an ammonia leak.
  • Light from the very first stars in the universe has been measured – and there is less of it than previously thought. The discovery should help us better understand how the hot haze of hydrogen that existed shortly after the big bang transformed into the complex web of stars and galaxies we see today.

Posted in China, Comet, Earth, European Space Agency, International Space Station, JAXA, Jupiter, Mars, Moon, NASA, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, Space Shuttle, Universe | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

October 2012

Posted by drdave on October 7, 2012

31 October

  • The Progress M-17M Russian cargo spacecraft performed an accelerated docking with the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday just under six hours after liftoff from the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan.
  • Data from NASA’s Dawn mission show that a form of weathering that occurs on the moon and other airless bodies we’ve visited in the inner solar system does not alter Vesta’s outermost layer in the same way. Carbon-rich asteroids have also been splattering dark material on Vesta’s surface over a long span of the body’s history. The results are described in two papers released today in the journal Nature.
  • Deep Space Antenna 3 (DSA 3), one of the world’s most sophisticated satellite tracking stations is nearing inauguration in Malargüe, Argentina, 1000 km west of Buenos Aires. The new station will ensure reliable communications with missions voyaging hundreds of millions of kilometres into our Solar System.

30 October

  • The third and final launch attempt of a homegrown South Korean space rocket, dubbed the Naro, has been rescheduled beginning 9 November. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology on Monday said more detailed analysis lies ahead of the defect that caused the launch to be postponed last week. The new launch attempt will also not be possible any earlier since the international community needs to be informed of the schedule. The launch window could be any time between the 9th and 24th of November.
  • Hawthorne will be able to hold onto its most prominent business for at least the next decade under a new deal with Space Exploration Technologies Corp. SpaceX agreed to stay in its 1-million-square-foot headquarters building through 2022 as long as the city reduces certain taxes on the business as promised.
  • The Taurid meteors, sometimes called the “Halloween fireballs,” show up each year between mid-October and mid-November, but Nov. 5 to 12 will likely be the best time to look for them this year, based on their peak of activity and the effect of moonlight on viewing conditions.
  • The American Islander, carrying the Dragon CRS1 capsule, has reached San Diego.

29 October

  • Be afraid – but not too afraid. It’s true that at some point, if we don’t take steps to prevent it, a big dumb object is going to smash into the Earth so hard that civilization as we know it will be seriously inconvenienced, or even wiped out (see? No reason for too much fear). But the odds are that such a cataclysm lies way, way in the future. Still, you never know…
  • In a story on Saturday, Allison Gatlin of the Antelope Valley Press quotes Scaled Composites Executive Vice President Kevin Mickey as saying that powered flights of SpaceShipTwo will begin next year. Virgin Galactic officials have said they hoped to begin powered flights by the end of this year. The powered flights will be preceded by un-powered glide tests of SpaceShipTwo that will begin later this year. These will be the first flights of the eight-person space plane after it has been fully fitted with its hybrid propulsion system.

28 October

  • The Dragon space craft unberthed at 4:20 AM Phoenix time (1120 UTC), released from the International Space Station’s SSRMS arm at 6:28 AM (1328 UTC) and left the vicinity of the ISS shortly thereafter. The SpaceX craft splashed down 220 miles off the coast of Baja California at 12:22 PDT (1922 UTC).

27 October

  • A Long March rocket placed the latest in a series of navigation satellites into orbit on Thursday. The Long March 3C rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 11:33 am EDT (1533 GMT, 11:33 pm Beijing time) Thursday and placed a Beidou satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

26 October

  • The planned launch of a homegrown South Korean space rocket has been put on hold at the last minute when a technical fault was detected. The rocket, dubbed Naro, was scheduled for the third and final launch attempt at a space center in Goheung, South Jeolla Province, between 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Friday. An official of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology told reporters, “The launch has been postponed as a leak was found in the part connecting the rocket and launch pad while injecting Helium gas this morning.”
  • Orbital Technologies Corp. (Orbitec) announced Oct. 25 the first successful flight test of its Vortex liquid rocket engine, which is designed to serve as a new upper stage for the medium- and heavy-lift rockets U.S. government agencies and commercial firms rely on to send satellites into orbit.
  • Scott Smith, a nutritionist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, knows exactly what he’d like to bring back from space — astronauts’ urine. Unraveling the mysterious impacts of microgravity on the human body takes careful and repeated analysis of urine, blood and other scientific samples, most of which have been stranded aboard the International Space (ISS) Station for more than a year.

25 October

  • The upper stage of a failed Russian launch earlier this year has exploded, creating hundreds of fragments that could exacerbate space debris concerns. The Breeze M upper stage exploded on October 16 while in an elliptical orbit of approximately 266 by 5,000 kilometers. the stage had been stranded in that orbit since August, when the stage failed during the third of four planned engine firings designed to place the two satellites it was carrying into geosynchronous transfer orbit. The explosion, likely caused when its nitrogen tetroxide and hydrazine propellants came into contact with each other, created more than 500 pieces of debris that are currently being tracked by the US Space Surveillance Network, with potentially many more smaller items.
  • Under the deft command of cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky, the Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft – bearing himself, fellow Russian Yevgeni Tarelkin and NASA astronaut Kevin Ford – has successfully arrived at the International Space Station. The trio docked at the ‘zenith’ (space-facing) Poisk module at 7:29 CDT this morning, two days after their launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

24 October

  • NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity used its Mast Camera (Mastcam) during the mission’s 78th sol (Oct. 24, 2012) to view soil material on the rover’s observation tray. The observations will help assess movement of the sample on the tray in response to vibrations from sample-delivery and sample-processing activities of mechanisms on the rover’s arm.

23 October

  • The Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft, carrying Oleg Novitskiy, the Soyuz commander, Evgeni Tarelkin and NASA’s Kevin Ford, sped toward an early 25 October docking with the International Space Station and a planned five month stay, following a trouble-free lift off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Liftoff was at 3:51 AM Phoenix time (10:51 UTC) from pad 31 at the Baikonur facility.
  • Both the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion crew capsule have continued their wind tunnel testing this month, with the Block 1 Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLV) – otherwise known as the SLS-1000x – set to facilitate a complete aerodynamic force and moment database delivery by the end of this year.

22 October

  • The ongoing investigation into a problem with an upper stage engine (RL10) on a recent launch will delay the next launch of the military’s secretive X-37B spaceplane until next month, United Launch Alliance announced late Friday. The Air Force had planned to launch the X-37B on the Orbital Test Vehicle 3 (OTV-3) mission this month on an Atlas 5 from Cape Canaveral.
  • NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) partner Blue Origin conducted a successful pad escape test Friday at the company’s West Texas launch site, firing its pusher-escape motor and launching a full-scale suborbital crew capsule from a simulated propulsion module.
  • A few weeks ago, SpaceX took the first step towards its reusable launch vehicle with a demonstration flight of its Grasshopper. The Grasshopper is the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket with spindly legs — hence the insect-inspired name — that can launch, hover, and land vertically on its own.

21 October

  • A Russian-made Soyuz rocket was erected into place Sunday, ahead of the start of a mission to take a three-man crew to the International Space Station. For the first time since 1984, the manned launch will take place from Baikonur cosmodrome launch pad 31, while the pad that is normally used, from which Yuri Gagarin began his landmark space mission, is undergoing modernization.

20 October

  • It’s been fifteen years since Cassini launched to Saturn. A joint program with the European Space Agency and the Italian space agency, the Cassini-Huygens mission left Earth on October 15, 1997. It flew by Venus twice, swung back by Earth, then went onward to Jupiter before settling in around Saturn in 2004; the Huygens probe landed onto the surface of Titan in 2005. In all, the spacecraft covered more than 3.8 billion miles on the seven year journey, and has spent the last eight years returning stunning images of, and incredible science from, the ringed planet and its moons.

19 October

  • Fans of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program will have their last opportunity to see an orbiter on the move when Atlantis makes its historic final journey on 2 November at Kennedy Space Center. Atlantis will travel the nearly 10 miles from Kennedy Space Center to its new home at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
  • SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft is behaving well – bar a couple of minor issues – during its berthed phase of the CRS-1 (SpX-1) mission, as it closes in on its departure at the end of the month. The unberthing will be conducted by the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS), which translated away from the Dragon to allow for an inspection this week.

18 October

  • Astronomers just keep finding more moons around Pluto. They scoped out the first and largest, Charon, in 1976; the fifth, tiny P5, was spotted just this summer by the Hubble Space Telescope. But finding new moons and other stuff floating around in the outer solar system may create headaches for the team operating NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft for the space agency’s mission to Pluto.
  • The annual Orionid meteor shower peaks over several nights close to October 20-22, which is favourable for this coming weekend. The shower is a result of debris shed by Halley’s comet in its 75 year journey around the Sun.

17 October

  • An Earth-sized planet has been discovered circling a star in the system, just 4.4 light-years away (Alpha Centauri B). The planet’s mass is similar to Earth’s, but its orbit is not. Tucked in close to its star — 25 times closer than the Earth is to the sun — the planet is likely a roasted world incapable of hosting life.
  • Blue Origin, the private spaceflight company founded by Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, is making progress towards orbital launches. Earlier this month, the company successfully fired the thrust chamber assembly for its new 100,000 pound thrust BE-3 liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen rocket engine.
  • After issuing an international call for tenders, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has chosen Arianespace to launch the GSAT 7 and INSAT 3D satellites. The contract also includes two more launch options for ISRO, the Indian space agency.

16 October

  • United Launch Alliance (ULA) has completed the “Hazard, System Safety and Probabilistic Risk Assessment” for launching crewed vehicles aboard its Atlas rocket. This was the fifth and final milestone of its current Space Act Agreement with NASA. Sierra Nevada (Dream Chaser) and Boeing (CST-100) plan to use the Atlas as their launcher.
  • A new radar designed to test methods for finding orbital debris that can be hazardous to space navigation has been installed in Spain. The radar will be used to develop future debris warning services, helping boost safety for European satellite operators.

15 October

  • The space shuttle Endeavour completed a 20-kilometer trek across the city of Los Angeles on Sunday, arriving at the museum that will be its permanent home. Endeavour arrived at the California Science Center, near the campus of the University of Southern California south of downtown Los Angeles, Sunday afternoon, two and a half days after leaving a hangar at Los Angeles International Airport, where it arrived on its 747 carrier aircraft last month. The journey across city streets took nearly a day longer than originally planned as crews maneuvered the orbiter around light poles and trees. Endeavour will go on temporary display in a hangar at the museum while a permanent building to host the orbiter is built.

14 October

  • International Launch Services (ILS) have launched their Proton-M rocket in a daylight launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Launch was on schedule at 8:37 am GMT, with the Proton’s Briz-M (Breeze-M) Upper Stage now tasked with deploying the large telecommunications satellite (Intelsat 23) into its desired orbit, after nine hours of flight.
  • A Chinese rocket placed a pair of technology demonstration satellites into orbit on Sunday. The Long March 2C lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center at 11:25 pm EDT Saturday (0325 GMT, 11:25 am Beijing time Sunday) and placed the Shijian 9A and 9B satellites into a near-polar orbit. The satellites, according to Chinese media, will be used to test technologies for future missions as well as demonstrate “inter-satellite measurement.”

13 October

  • One day down, one more to go in space shuttle Endeavour’s surreal trek through Los Angeles, a scene attracting thousands of spectators young and old along city sidewalks.
  • A joint SpaceX and NASA team will investigate the early shutdown of a Falcon 9 rocket engine during Sunday’s launch from Cape Canaveral.

12 October

  • On Friday, October 12, at 3:15 pm local time, Arianespace successfully carried out the third launch of the Soyuz rocket from the Guiana Space Center (CSG) in French Guiana, orbiting two more satellites in the Galileo constellation.
  • As far as errant chunks of space rock go, this one’s a tiddler. But this particular asteroid — called 2012 TC4 — is going to fly past the Earth at a distance of only 95,000 kilometers (59,000 miles), or one-quarter the Earth-moon distance. As far as near-misses go, that’s the outer edge of the bulls-eye.
  • Jake Matijevic, a seemingly innocuous chuck of igneous rock (meaning rock that solidified from a molten liquid) sitting on the surface of Mars inside Gale Crater, sits where NASA’s rover Curiosity landed two months ago. The football-sized rock, named after a well-respected Mars rover engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who died in August, was the first good target scientists found for Curiosity to zap with its laser. So for a couple of days last month, fire away the rover did, pulverizing bits of dust and rock to expose what lies within. Scientists expected the rock would be similar to igneous rocks studied by previous Mars rovers elsewhere on the planet. Instead, they discovered a rock that is much more chemically similar to an unusual, but well-studied type of rock on Earth that is found on islands like Hawaii and in continental rift zones like the Rio Grande, which extends from southern Colorado to Chihuahua, Mexico.

11 October

  • Singer Sarah Brightman will travel to the International Space Station as a space tourist, she and Space Adventures announced on Wednesday. Brightman will take a 10-day trip to the ISS at an unspecified future date, most likely 2015, when seats will be available on Soyuz spacecraft traveling to and from the station. Brightman has partnered with UNESCO to support its mission to “promote peace and sustainable development”; those activities are expected to include a singing performance of some kind while on the station.
  • Earth has a familiar magnetic field, and little Mercury has an oddly strong one, but could a chunk of rock as small as an asteroid (Vesta) ever have had a magnetic field spawned by the churnings of its own molten metal core? Theorists have had their doubts because the smaller the core, the faster the churning must be. But now, scientists studying a meteorite in the lab report having found signs that the tiny core of the asteroid Vesta once churned hard enough to create a magnetic field. The discovery would give theorists a much-needed, extreme example of a dynamo to ponder.

10 October

  • At 3:56 AM Pacific Daylight time, Wednesday 10 October, the SpaceX Dragon space craft was successfully grappled by the Canadarm on the International Space Station (ISS). Referring to the fact that Dragon is capable of carrying powered equipment to and from the space station, the space station crew reported that they had captured Dragon and were looking forward to the chocolate-vanilla swirl ice cream in the freezer aboard the space craft.

9 October

  • The Dragon space craft is on schedule for approach and grappling around 3:30 – 4:30 AM Phoenix time tomorrow, Wednesday (10:30 -11:30 UTC).
  • The Mars rover Curiosity has scooped up its first soil. A small bright object was spotted laying on the ground. Speculation is that it is a piece of the rover.
  • Aviation Week discusses the CRS-1 launch and the insertion of the secondary Orbcomm prototype OG2 communications satellite into an orbit lower than planned.

8 October

  • A SpaceX Falcon 9 successfully placed a Dragon cargo spacecraft into orbit Sunday night despite an anomaly with one of the rocket’s engines. The Falcon 9 lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 8:35 pm EDT Sunday (0035 GMT Monday) and placed a Dragon spacecraft into its planned orbit. Dragon is flying a mission designated CRS-1, the first of twelve commercial resupply missions NASA has contracted with SpaceX.
  • At 80 seconds into the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9, an “anomaly” occurred. Speculation is the #1 engine suffered an explosion. See the video here.

7 October

  • A Dragon spacecraft loaded with nearly a ton of equipment and supplies is cleared to launch Sunday night. The Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to lift off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 5:35 pm Phoenix time Sunday (0035 UTC Monday) in an instantaneous launch window. There are no technical issues with the launch and forecasts call for a 60% chance of acceptable weather at launch time. Dragon is flying a mission designated CRS-1, the first of twelve commercial resupply missions NASA has contracted with SpaceX.
  • United Launch Alliance (ULA) confirmed late Friday that there was a problem with the upper-stage engine during Thursday’s launch of a GPS satellite on a Delta 4 rocket. According to ULA, launch controllers noticed an “unexpected data signature” in the performance of the RL10 engine that powers the Delta’s upper stage. The unidentified problem caused reduced thrust levels from the engine, but the upper stage was still able to release its payload, the GPS 2F-3 satellite, into the proper orbit because of design margins and propellant reserves.

6 October

  • Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline, today announced that it has taken 100% ownership of its sister company, The Spaceship Company (TSC), by acquiring the 30% stake held by Scaled Composites (Scaled) since TSC’s formation under a joint venture with Virgin Galactic.
  • This week, the first stage of Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket, the biggest rocket ever to launch from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore, rolled out onto its new $145 million launchpad.

5 October

  • WhiteKnightTwo made its 100th flight, solo, on Thursday at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. It was at least the third such flight within the past nine days. The 100th flight took place on Oct. 4, the eighth anniversary of SpaceShipOne winning the Ansari X Prize and the 55th anniversary of Sputnik 1. No manned ship has been in suborbital space since that day in 2004.
  • The German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Cologne and the Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency (JAXA) in Tokyo announced this week that they have formalized a deal to send the German-built Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout, or MASCOT, on the Hayabusa 2 mission, set to launch in 2014.

4 October

  • The International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) has awarded the 2012 Laurels for Team Achievement Award to the MESSENGER team. The award was presented September 30 at the opening ceremony of the 63rd International Astronautical Congress, which is being held this week in Naples.
  • The U.S. Air Force successfully launched a United Launch Alliance Delta IV-Medium rocket carrying the third Global Positioning System IIF satellite at 8:10 a.m. EDT today from Space Launch Complex 37 here.

3 October

  • The orbit raising manoeuvres of GSAT-10 satellite have been successfully completed from ISRO’s Master Control Facility, Hassan. The third and final orbit raising manoeuvre was performed this morning (October 03, 2012) to place the GSAT-10 in an orbit with 35,734 km apogee (farthest point to earth), 35,585 km perigee (nearest point to earth) and an inclination of 0.172 degree with respect to the equator.
  • The European Space Agency (ESA) announced that their Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV)-3 unmanned cargo vehicle re-entered Earth’s atmosphere early Oct. 3 and broke apart in a predetermined uninhabited corridor over the southern Pacific Ocean.

2 October

  • The State of Virginia has finished construction on the Wallops Island, Virginia launch pad for Orbital Sciences’ Antares launch vehicle. The pad has officially been turned over to Orbital Sciences, allowing the company to begin launch operations.

1 October

  • The twin Galileo satellites are now fully fueled and mated together atop the upper stage that will haul them most of the way up to their final orbit. The launch is now planned for the evening of 12 October.

Posted in Asteroid, Canadian Space Agency, China, Commercial Space, European Space Agency, India, International Space Station, JAXA, Mars, Mercury, Meteor, NASA, Pluto, Russian Space Agency, Saturn, Soyuz, Space Shuttle | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

September 2012

Posted by drdave on September 12, 2012

21 September

  • SpaceX will begin its first official resupply flight to International Space Station on October 7, NASA announced Thursday.
  • The Space Shuttle Endeavour made two close passes over Runway 8-26 at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

20 September

  • M51 — also known as the Whirlpool galaxy—is a classic spiral galaxy that scientists have studied for centuries. But this mesmerizing new image of the galaxy has nabbed Australian photographer Martin Pugh the top prize in the fourth annual Astronomy Photographer of the Year awards, announced this week.
  • In a surprise finding, astronomers using instruments on NASA’s Dawn spacecraft have discovered the protoplanet Vesta is rich in hydrogen, which most likely was delivered by water-bearing meteorites striking the body.

19 September

  • The space shuttle Endeavor began what will be its final trip, departing the Kennedy Space Center Wednesday atop a 747 bound for California. Endeavour and its 747 carrier left KSC shortly after 7 am EDT (1100 GMT) Wednesday. After making passes over the Space Coast, it flew east, flying over the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans before arriving in the Houston area.
  • NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has driven up to a football-size rock that will be the first for the rover’s arm to examine. Curiosity is about 8 feet (2.5 meters) from the rock. It lies about halfway from Curiosity’s landing site, Bradbury Landing, to a location called Glenelg. In coming days, the team plans to touch the rock with a spectrometer to determine its elemental composition and use an arm-mounted camera to take close-up photographs. Both the arm-mounted Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer and the mast-mounted, laser-zapping Chemistry and Camera Instrument will be used for identifying elements in the rock. This will allow cross-checking of the two instruments.

18 September

  • With the combined power of NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes as well as a cosmic magnification effect, a team of astronomers led by Wei Zheng of The Johns Hopkins University has spotted what could be the most distant galaxy ever seen. Light of the young galaxy captured by the orbiting observatories shone forth when the 13.7-billion-year-old universe was just 500 million years old.

17 September

  • Doug Messier discusses the challenges facing NASA’s Budget: “NASA’s budget is facing deep cuts in January from two sources: sequestration and Mitt Romney. If President Obama and Congress cannot work out a deal, sequestration will cut NASA’s budget by 8 percent or $1.458 billion in early January, according to a new report issued by the White House. Meanwhile, Romney has promised if elected to send a bill to Congress on his first day in office, Jan. 20, that would slash non-security discretionary spending across the board. If the measure approved, it would result in a reduction of nearly $900 million from the space agency’s budget.”
  • The Russian Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft, also known by its US designation of 30S, undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) early Monday night ahead of a successful return to Earth with a landing in the Kazakh Steppe a few hours later. The landing brought to an end the four-month voyage of Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin, and NASA astronaut Joe Acaba.
  • The launch of the Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft with the next expedition to the International Space Station (ISS) has been delayed for about a week, head of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) Vladimir Popovkin said at a press conference on Monday after the successful landing of the Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft. “Some malfunctions have appeared in one of the devices of the decent module, we will replace it and carry out second tests.”

16 September

  • The Russo-American ISS mission crew members are set to travel back to Earth aboard the Soyuz TMA-04M spaceship. Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin, and NASA astronaut Joseph Acaba have already transferred to the Soyuz TMA-04M and battened down the hatches.
  • A Soyuz-2 modernized carrier rocket is to blast off from the Baikonur space launch center on Monday to deploy a European MetOp-B weather satellite into orbit.

15 September

  • For the last time in space shuttle history, a NASA orbiter has been mounted to the top of a jumbo jet to be flown to its next destination. For shuttle Endeavour, now sitting piggyback atop the space agency’s modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), its next and final mission is to become a museum exhibit. The spacecraft, flying aboard the aircraft, will leave at sunrise on Monday (Sept. 17) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for Los Angeles, where it is destined for display at the California Science Center (CSC).

14 September

  • Neil Armstrong was buried at sea.
  • The H-II Transfer Vehicle “KOUNOTORI3” (HTV3) re-entered the atmosphere after the third de-orbit maneuver at 2:00 p.m. on September 14, 2012 (Japanese Standard Time, JST). The spacecraft has successfully accomplished the main objective of shipping cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), and completed its 56-day mission.

13 September

  • NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity is wrapping up tests of its robotic arm and will soon begin driving to perform its first detailed examination of a Martian rock. Curiosity has been parked since September 5 as engineers check out the arm and the instruments mounted on it. With those tests nearly complete, Curiosity will begin driving again in the direction of a site called Glenelg several hundred meters away, where three different landforms meet.
  • Six weeks later than planned, following Range instrumentation issues at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the National Reconnaissance Office’s NROL-36 classified payload was successfully launched by an Atlas V rocket. The satellite is believed to be a pair of $1.3 billion NRO Ocean Surveillance Satellites (NOSS), dedicated to monitoring worldwide civilian and military shipping.
  • NASA on Wednesday released a request for proposals for the first of two contract phases to certify commercially developed space systems in support of crewed missions to the International Space Station. Through these certification products contracts, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) will ensure commercial missions are held to the agency’s safety requirements and standards for human space transportation system missions to the space station.

12 September

  • Early Monday morning U.S. amateur astronomers spotted a bright light squiggling across the upper cloud deck of Jupiter. Both assumed they’d witnessed a large meteor or comet impact, and so far, professional astronomers seem to agree. NASA’s Amy Simon Miller, though, cautioned that, “at this point, we can only confirm based on the fact that there were two independent reports.” Official observations will have to wait. Such a strike would be the fourth impact seen on Jupiter in just the last three years. And the fact that the explosion was visible via backyard telescopes more than 454 million miles (730 million kilometers) away—indicates it was probably a significant event.
  • An experimental unmanned rocket has crashed in the Mojave Desert as it descended from a test flight to an altitude of 3,281 feet. Masten Space Systems says its reusable Xaero rocket was lost Tuesday during final approach to landing at Mojave Air and Space Port.
  • A New View of The Pencil Nebula

11 September

  • An Indian rocket placed a commercial remote sensing satellite into orbit on Sunday. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) lifted off from India’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre at 12:23 am EDT (0423 GMT, 9:53 am local time) Sunday and placed the SPOT 6 satellite into orbit.

10 September

  • NASA cited SpaceX’s flight experience with the Dragon spacecraft and Boeing’s methodical approach to designing a crew capsule in its decision to award the companies $900 million to develop a human-rated commercial spaceship, according to a document released last week.

9 September

  • A new study presents an alternative explanation for the prevalence of Mars’ ancient clay minerals, which on Earth most often result from water chemically reacting with rock over long periods of time. The process is believed to be a starting point for life.
  • For 35 years, the twin Voyager missions – traveling in opposite directions – have pushed toward deep space staying in touch with mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The spacecraft are plutonium-powered messages in a bottle tossed into space by a civilization seeking contact with extraterrestrials all the while taking advantage of a rare opportunity to learn about its own solar system.

8 September

  • NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, having already driven more than 100 meters from its landing site, is stopping for several days to check out its robotic arm, project officials said this week. The rover extended its 2.1-meter arm on Wednesday for the first time since landing as engineers test out the arm and its instruments.
  • This Sunday, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is set to make another mark in its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) launcher business when it flies French earth observation satellite SPOT 6.

7 September

  • Rocket motor company ATK has made the final required burn test to qualify a new nozzle for the GEM-60 solid rocket motor, which powers the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Medium+ configuration.
  • After orbiting the giant asteroid Vesta for slightly more than 13 months, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft left the space rock this week, headed for the dwarf planet Ceres.
  • Space shuttle Endeavour, mounted atop NASA’s modified 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), will make the final ferry flight of the Space Shuttle Program era when it departs Monday, Sept. 17, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida headed to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

6 September

  • Wired Magazine discusses the new images of Curiosity’s wheel tracks on Mars.
  • Two International Space Station crew members successfully completed a spacewalk to install a new power switching unit. American Sunita Williams and Japan’s Akihiko Hoshide had to contend with a sticky bolt that prevented them from completing the installation in a previous spacewalk last week.

5 September

  • Scaled Composites is in final preparations for powered flight tests of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo (SS2), following completion of the glide-flight envelope at Mojave, California. The milestone means the suborbital spacecraft remains on track for the start of rocket-powered flights in the last quarter of this year, with passenger flights provisionally planned to begin by the end of 2013.

4 September

  • The Jupiter-bound Juno spacecraft was supposed to have completed the second of two critical engine firings Tuesday to aim for a gravity sling shot past Earth next year, but managers put off the burn to analyze pressure readings aboard the probe.
  • A design by Alliant Techsystems (ATK) was dropped from NASA’s shortlist of potential space station crew taxis because the company did not present a technically sound plan for combining existing rocket and spacecraft designs into a single transportation system, according to a NASA source selection document released 4 September.

3 September

  • Russian Ruler-for-Life Vladimir Putin has dismissed Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center General Director Vladimir Nesterov in the wake of last month’s failed launch of a Proton rocket, which stranded two communications satellites in useless orbits.

2 September

  • The Martian rover is already sending back dramatic images that are changing our view of the Red Planet. Now it is inching forward on its most crucial and perilous mission.

1 September

  • NASA’s twin, lunar-orbiting Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft began data collection for the start of the mission’s extended operations. At 9:28 a.m. PDT (12:28 p.m. EDT) yesterday, while the two spacecraft were 19 miles (30 kilometers) above the moon’s Ocean of Storms, the Lunar Gravity Ranging System — the mission’s sole science instrument aboard both GRAIL twins — was energized.

Posted in Asteroid, China, Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, India, International Space Station, JAXA, Jupiter, Mars, Moon, NASA, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, Solar System, Space Shuttle | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

August 2012

Posted by drdave on August 4, 2012

31 August

  • A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) spacecraft for NASA lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 here at 4:05 a.m. EDT today.
  • Rick Tumlinson discusses the Republican Platform support of Socialist Big Government space programs
  • NASA on Thursday halted attempts to replace a power distributor on the International Space Station after spacewalking astronauts were repeatedly stymied by a jammed bolt.

30 August

  • NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has begun its first long-distance trip, a 400-meter traverse to a location called Glenelg. The rover moved 16 meters on Tuesday on the first leg of the trip, the longest single drive after two shorter test drives in the last week. Curiosity will not arrive at Glenelg for several weeks, making stops along the away, including one at a point to be determined where the rover will test the robotic arm and the instruments on its end. Glenelg is a spot of interest to scientists where three different terrains intersect.

29 August

  • A week after it was scrubbed because of various issues, an Atlas V rocket is rolled back out to the launch pad. The rocket is carrying Radiation Belt Storm Probes, a pair of spacecraft that will be released into earth’s Van Allen radiation belts. Launch is scheduled for 4:03 AM EDT Thursday.
  • Wired Magazine details all the airplanes and rockets in Neil Armstrong’s Career: “From a very early age Neil Armstrong was fascinated with flight. He was playing with toy airplanes at 3, and by the time he was 5 or 6 Armstrong went on his first airplane ride in a Ford Tri-Motor. By 8 or 9 he said he was building model airplanes out of balsa wood. And by the time he was 15 he had saved enough money working at a drug store to begin taking flying lessons at the small airport near his home in Wapakoneta, Ohio.”

28 August

  • For the first time in history, a recorded song has been beamed back to Earth from another planet. Students, special guests and news media gathered at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., today to hear “Reach for the Stars” by musician will.i.am after it was transmitted from the surface of Mars by the Curiosity rover.

27 August

26 August

  • Neil Armstrong, the former NASA astronaut who became the first person to walk on the surface of the Moon in 1969, passed away Saturday at the age of 82. Armstrong died following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.
  • John Kelly at FloridaToday discusses the lack of funding in current civilian and defense budgets for launch technology.
  • On 8 September 2012, the Dawn science team will host “Hasta La Vesta”, a celebration of the exploration of Vesta and the departure of Dawn toward its 2015 arrival at Ceres.

25 August

  • Neil Armstrong, the former NASA astronaut who became the first person to walk on the surface of the Moon in 1969, passed away Saturday at the age of 82. Armstrong died following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures
  • Poor weather prevented Saturday’s planned launch of a pair of NASA space science satellites, and the threat of a tropical storm will keep the rocket grounded until late next week. NASA had hoped to launch the twin Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) at 4:07 am EDT (0807 GMT) Saturday, one day after a technical problem scrubbed the first launch attempt. However, stormy weather prevented the launch from taking place during a 20-minute window. NASA announced later Saturday morning that the launch would be postponed to no earlier than Thursday, August 30, because of concerns about Tropical Storm Issac.

24 August

  • SpaceX has completed all milestones under a development and demonstration partnership with NASA, clearing the way for the firm to begin regular operational cargo deliveries to the International Space Station in October, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced Thursday. The launch is tentatively scheduled to lift off on 8 October.
  • NASA will hold a televised news conference at 2 p.m. PDT (5 p.m. EDT), Monday, Aug. 27, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., about the activities of its Curiosity rover mission on Mars. The event will feature new images, an update of the rover’s progress, and a special greeting by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
  • Aviation Week and Space Technology discusses the state of international cooperation in space.

23 August

  • First science results from Curiosity’s ChemCam show the elemental spectra from the basaltic rock called Coronation at the landing site.
  • The Atlas V launch believed to be carrying a pair of ocean surveillance satellites to locate ships at sea, in a mission designated NROL-36, has been delayed until to September 13. Following the August 2 scrub – caused by a Range instrumentation issue – the mission has been pushed to the right several times, leading this latest launch date.

22 August

  • NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has begun driving from its landing site, which scientists announced today they have named for the late author Ray Bradbury. Making its first movement on the Martian surface, Curiosity’s drive combined forward, turn and reverse segments. This placed the rover roughly 20 feet (6 meters) from the spot where it landed 16 days ago.
  • Two Russian cosmonauts stepped outside the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday, performing a highly successful Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA), or spacewalk, on the exterior of the Russian Segment (RS) of the station. The spacewalk, known as RS EVA-31, included hardware relocations, installations, retrievals, and deployments.

21 August

  • The next two Galileo satellites are now in place at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, being prepared for their shared launch this autumn. The fourth Galileo satellite flight model arrived at Cayenne Airport in French Guiana on Friday 17 August, flown from the Thales Alenia Space facility in Rome aboard an Ilyushin aircraft.
  • The start of the Universe should be modeled not as a Big Bang but more like water freezing into ice, according to a team of theoretical physicists at the University of Melbourne and RMIT University.

20 August

  • NASA announced its newest mission today, a geophysical explorer of Mars called InSIGHT (an acronym for the mouth-numbing INterior exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport). It’s a really exciting scientific mission which will place a seismometer on the surface, bore a probe five meters down into the Martian soil to measure heat flow, and use a clever antenna trick to very accurately measure the wobbles of the Martian orbit.
  • NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity flexed its robotic arm today for the first time since before launch in November 2011. The 7-foot-long (2.1-meter-long) arm maneuvers a turret of tools including a camera, a drill, a spectrometer, a scoop and mechanisms for sieving and portioning samples of powdered rock and soil.
  • The Atlas V launch of the Radiation Belt Storm Probes spacecraft, targeted for 4:08 a.m. EDT on Thursday, August 23, 2012 has been delayed until 4:07 a.m. EDT on Friday August 24, 2012. There is a 20-minute launch window.

19 August

  • Today, NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity fired its laser for the first time on Mars, using the beam from a science instrument to interrogate a fist-size rock called “Coronation.” The mission’s Chemistry and Camera instrument, or ChemCam, hit the fist-sized rock with 30 pulses of its laser during a 10-second period. Each pulse delivers more than a million watts of power for about five one-billionths of a second. The energy from the laser excites atoms in the rock into an ionized, glowing plasma. ChemCam catches the light from that spark with a telescope and analyzes it with three spectrometers for information about what elements are in the target.
  • A Sea Launch Zenit-3SL successfully placed an Intelsat communications satellite into orbit early Sunday. The Zenit-3SL rocket lifted off from its floating launch platform on the Equator in the Pacific Ocean at 2:55 am EDT (0655 GMT) Sunday and released the Intelsat 21 satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit about a half-hour later.

18 August

  • From the Washington Post: Time for a Chinese “SALT” Treaty. “The absence of rules of the road in space jeopardizes international, national and economic security. Three sets of rules are particularly important — norms that support debris mitigation, those that support space-traffic management and those that bar purposeful, harmful interference of objects in space. The need for these rules was further highlighted in February 2009, when a dead Russian satellite collided with a functioning U.S. communication satellite. Norms against reckless behavior exist on highways, the high seas and in the air — but not in space.”
  • Before beginning the 4.3-mile (7-km) trek to the base of Mount Sharp, a journey expected to take months, the six-wheeled Curiosity will visit a relatively nearby site named “Glenelg,” which caught scientists’ interest because it includes three types of terrain.

17 August

  • A reboost of the International Space Station’s orbit by Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) ended earlier than planned Wednesday. Thrusters on the ATV-3 vehicle, also called Edoardo Amaldi, currently docked to the ISS were scheduled to fire for a little over a half-hour Wednesday to raise the station’s orbit by 7.7 kilometers. However, software on the ISS shut down the thrusters before completing the planned burn. ESA reported that a temperature alarm was triggered in one of the ATV’s thrusters not being used for the reboost, but instead of continuing the burn, the station’s software shut down the thrusters. The cause of the both the alarm and the shutdown remain under investigation.
  • The New Scientist discusses: Is space mining really feasible?
  • NASA has signed a new $8.5 billion contract with Caltech, extending the Institute’s management of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for an additional five years.
  • NASA’s Space Technology Program has selected five technologies that could revolutionize America’s space capabilities.

16 August

  • NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity is ready to start moving across the Martian surface after completing a software upgrade earlier this week. The rover has remained at its landing location since touching down on the surface late on August 5, as engineers checked out the spacecraft’s systems and performed a four-day upgrade of the flight software that includes routines for driving and operating its instruments. With that upgrade successfully completed, mission managers are planning an initial, short drive of no more than a few meters in the next week or so

15 August

  • A problem with a reaction wheel on NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will slightly delay the spacecraft’s departure from the vicinity of the asteroid Vesta but should not affect its journey to Ceres.
  • Vladimir Nesterov, director general of the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, has resigned following the failure of a Proton rocket to place two communications satellites in their proper orbits last week.

14 August

  • The second of four main instruments to fly aboard NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (Webb) has been delivered to NASA. The Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS) will enable the telescope to accurately and precisely point at the correct, intended objects for it to observe. The FGS is packaged together as a single unit with the Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS) science instrument.
  • Engineers working on NASA’s Dawn spacecraft are assessing the status of a reaction wheel, part of a system that helps the spacecraft point precisely, after onboard software powered it off on Aug. 8. Dawn’s mission is to study the geology and geochemistry of the giant asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres, the two most massive objects in the main asteroid belt. Telemetry data from the spacecraft suggest the wheel developed excessive friction, similar to the experience with another Dawn reaction wheel in June 2010. The Dawn team demonstrated during the cruise to Vesta in 2011 that, if necessary, they could complete the cruise to Ceres without the use of reaction wheels.

13 August

  • NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity is in the middle of a software upgrade that project officials say will prepare the rover for scientific activities on the Martian surface. The four-day upgrade, which started Friday, will install a new version of the software needed to operate the rover. The new version includes routines needed to operate scientific equipment and to drive on the Martian surface while avoiding obstacles.
  • The launch of a classified U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) payload has been delayed until Sept. 6, more than a month later than originally planned, due to a “range instrumentation issue”.

12 August

  • NASA’s Curiosity rover has shipped back to Earth high-resolution color images of its surroundings on Mars, sharpening our views of an intriguing channel, layered buttes and a layer of cobbles and pebbles embedded in a finer matrix of material. The images show a landscape closely resembling portions of the southwestern United States.

11 August

  • SpaceShipTwo made another successful glide flight at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California on Saturday morning. The space plane took off under its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft at 6:57 a.m. PDT. It glided to a landing about an hour later after a brief glide flight.

10 August

  • NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is meeting or exceeding the expectations of scientists and engineers involved with the project several days after landing, returning stunning images and other data from its landing site. Project officials say the rover, which landed in Gale Crater on Mars Sunday night, is in good health.
  • The Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos, are pushing forward with a “light” version of their veteran Soyuz launch vehicle – known as the Soyuz 2.1v. Manufactured by TsSKB-Progress, the new launcher – one that does not sport the famous four boosters around the core stage – will be capable of lofting 2.8 tonnes to Low Earth Orbit (LEO).
  • Space enthusiasts have been abuzz for days over whether the Mars rover Curiosity captured an extraterrestrial crash. Seconds after the car-size rover parked its six wheels in an ancient crater, a tiny camera under the chassis snapped a picture revealing a smudge on the horizon. It turned out Curiosity spotted the aftermath of its rocket-powered backpack crash-landing in the distance.

9 August

  • An apparent hardware malfunction caused a prototype NASA Mars lander (“Morpheus”) to crash and explode seconds into a test flight Thursday at Kennedy Space Center, destroying the vehicle.
  • With an eye toward buying its first astronaut taxi services by 2017, NASA unveiled details Aug. 8 about a safety certification process that will be conducted in parallel with the industry-led development of new crewed space transportation systems.

8 August

  • The upper stage of a Proton rocket that lifted off Tuesday malfunctioned, stranding its payload of two communications satellites in an intermediate orbit. The Proton M rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 3:31 pm EDT Monday (1931 GMT Monday, 1:31 am local time Tuesday) carrying the Express MD2 and Telkom 3 satellites.

7 August

  • The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE imaging team has released an image showing the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) heatshield in flight after being released.

6 August

5 August

  • NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft is healthy and right on course for a landing in several hours that will be one of the most difficult feats of robotic exploration ever attempted. Emotions are strong in the control room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, as the hours and miles race toward touchdown of the car-size Curiosity at about 10:31 PM Phoenix time tonight (about 1:31 a.m. Aug. 6, EDT).
  • Per the flight director’s checklist, about an hour before the scheduled landing (based on the time that the signal from the rover will reach Earth, about 14 minutes delayed), the mission manager will begin one of the few, but important actions, he and his team can take as Curiosity faces its “seven minutes of terror” from entry to touchdown. He will pop open and start passing around the peanuts.

4 August

  • The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) “Curiosity” is schedule to land on Mars tomorrow evening at 10:31 PM Phoenix time (0531 UTC 6 August).
  • The Indian government approved on Friday a project to send that country’s first mission to the planet Mars. The small Mars spacecraft is slated for launch in November 2013 on a PSLV rocket and go into a highly elliptical orbit of 500 by 80,000 kilometers around Mars. The spacecraft will carry a 25-kilogram payload of scientific instruments to study the planet’s atmosphere.
  • A baker’s dozen of satellites, including the NROL 34, a critical $1.3 billion sentinel for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), designed to electronically monitor worldwide military and civilian shipping, have been forced to wait for launch until 14 August, following a range instrumentation problem which scrubbed yesterday’s attempt with only minutes remaining on the clock. United Launch Alliance’s mighty Atlas V booster was fully fuelled and waiting out an extended hold in the final stages of the countdown, when, despite acceptable weather conditions at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the range remained ‘Red’, indicative of a ‘No-Go’ status for launch.

3 August

  • NASA announced Friday that it has signed funded agreements worth over $1.1 billion with three companies for the next phase of its commercial crew development program. Under the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreements, Boeing will get $460 million, SpaceX $440 million, and Sierra Nevada Corporation $212.5 million.
  • If a group of tourists piled out of a transport vehicle onto the surface of Mars, they’d no doubt start snapping pictures wildly. NASA’s Curiosity rover, set to touch down on the Red Planet the evening of Aug. 5 PDT (early morning EDT), will take a more careful approach to capturing its first scenic views.

2 August

  • The fourth Ariane 5 flight of 2012 has successfully launched two telecommunications satellites, Intelsat 20 for the international operator Intelsat and Hylas 2 for the British operator Avanti Communications. This launch set a new world record for geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) payload capacity of nearly 10.2 tonnes, 130 kg more than the previous record.

1 August

  • Russia’s Progress M-16M(Progress 48) mission one day sprint to the six person International Space Station has concluded with success. The unpiloted resupply capsule and its nearly three ton payload carried out a successful automated docking with the ISS Wednesday at 6:18 PM Phoenix time (0118 UTC, 2 August), or less than six hours after the Progress 48 lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan: an ISS first.
  • This year’s third Russian Progress transport ship blasted off from Baikonur in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, August 1. The Soyuz-U carrier rocket with the spaceship Progress M-16M was launched as scheduled at 23:25 Moscow time. In only six hours (not the two days for previous missions), the transport ship will bring more than 2.6 tonnes of supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).

Posted in Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, International Space Station, Mars, NASA, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, Soyuz | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

July 2012

Posted by drdave on July 1, 2012

31 July

  • The Toshiba Vision screen in New York City’s Times Square will become the largest East Coast location for the public to see live mission coverage of Curiosity, NASA’s most advanced planetary rover, as it lands on the Martian surface at 1:31 AM EDT 6 August.
  • Top-secret surveillance spacecraft and several smaller research satellites will be launched aboard an Atlas 5 rocket scheduled for blastoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base early Thursday. The United Launch Alliance rocket is sitting at Space Launch Complex-3 East on South Base, where crews have spent the past several months preparing the booster for blastoff. The team is shooting for liftoff at 12:40 a.m. Thursday.

30 July

29 July

  • A second attempt to re-dock the Russian Progress M-15M resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) with the help of a new rendezvous system has been a success.

28 July

  • Russia’s Space Forces launched early on Saturday a Rokot carrier rocket with a Cosmos class military satellite and three civilian satellites on board. The Rokot blasted off from the Plesetsk space center in northern Russia at 05:35 AM Moscow time (01:35 UTC).
  • John Kelly discusses the recent review passed by the Space Launch System. But expresses concern that this may be another project given the green light by NASA that will run into budget and schedule difficulties.

27 July

  • The H-II Transfer Vehicle “Kounitori 3” (HTV3) started its final approach to the International Space Station (ISS), and was captured by the ISS robotic arm at 21:23 PM on July 27 (Japanese Standard Time, JST – 1223 UTC). After being maneuvered by the arm, the HTV3 was successfully berthed to the ISS at 2:31 AM on July 28 (JST – 1731 UTC).
  • Russia’s Space Forces launched early on Saturday a Rokot carrier rocket with a Cosmos class military satellite and three civilian satellites on board. The Rokot blasted off from the Plesetsk space center in northern Russia at 05:35 AM Moscow time (01:35 UTC).

26 July

  • A Long March rocket launched the third in a series of Chinese data relay satellites on Wednesday. The Long March 3C rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center and placed into geosynchronous transfer orbit the Tianlian 1-03 communications satellite
  • Even as Shenzhou 9 undocked from Tiangong 1, and before it returned to Earth, the Beijing Aerospace Control Centre was starting preparations for the Shenzhou 10 mission, possibly December 2012.

25 July

  • A test of a new docking antenna on a Progress spacecraft was aborted last Monday after a malfunction. The Progress M-15M cargo spacecraft, which arrived at the station in April, undocked from the station Sunday and moved out to a distance of over 150 kilometers before returning to the station’s facility for a planned redocking to test a new Kurs-NA rendezvous antenna. The docking was aborted, though, when the antenna malfunctioned when the Progress was about 15 kilometers away.

24 July

23 July

  • Sally Ride died on Monday in La Jolla, California after a 17 month battle with pancreatic cancer. She is survived by her mother and partner Tam O’Shaughnessy.

22 July

  • A Soyuz rocket successfully launched a collection of small satellites on Sunday. The Soyuz-FG rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 2:41 am EDT (0641 GMT, 12:41 pm local time) Sunday and placed five satellites into Sun-synchronous orbits.
  • The Discovery Channel Telescope at Lowell Observatory has seen First Light. Images include M109, the Sombrero Galaxy and M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy.

21 July

  • Japan successfully launched their HTV-3 re-supply mission to the International Space Station. Docking is expected to occur on 27 July with the Harmony Node.

20 July

  • On 20 July 1969, at 10:56 PM EDT, Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon.
  • Orbital Sciences Corporation announced Thursday it is now planning the inaugural launch of its medium-lift Antares rocket this October, with a demonstration flight of its Cygnus cargo spacecraft to follow by the end of the year. Orbital said it plans a “hot fire” test of the first stage of the Antares on its launch pad at Virginia’s Mid-Altantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) in late August or early September, to be followed by the first Antares launch, carrying a demonstration payload, in October..

19 July

  • Astronomers examining data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope have found evidence for an extrasolar planet two-thirds the size of the Earth tightly orbiting its star. The University of Central Florida astronomers found the potential world in Spitzer observations of GJ 436, a star already known to have a Neptune-sized exoplanet, when they noted small, periodic dips in the star’s infrared light that they believe are caused by another planet transiting the star’s disk.
  • Researchers have discovered a rare early galaxy (z=2.18) with pronounced spiral arms. The report is in the July 19 issue of Nature..

18 July

  • A problem with a spacecraft currently in orbit around Mars could mean that telemetry from next month’s landing by NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission could be delayed by perhaps hours. NASA had expected to use the Mars Odyssey orbiter to relay data from MSL as it landed on the evening of August 5. However, officials said Monday that a problem with a reaction wheel on Mars Odyssey means the spacecraft could be out of position to relay the data live.
  • Shot into space under a cloak of secrecy last month, a bright new object spotted in space this week has confirmed that the most recent Atlas 5 rocket successfully dispatched a data-relay satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office.

17 July

  • A Soyuz spacecraft carrying three new International Space Station crewmembers docked with the station early Tuesday. The Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft docked with the station’s Rassvet module at 12:51 am EDT (0451 GMT) Tuesday, two days after launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. On board the Soyuz were Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, American astronaut Sunita Williams, and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, who jointed the existing ISS crew of Russians Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin and American Joe Acaba.
  • NASA picked SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket for the planned December 2014 launch of the Jason-3 satellite for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and international partners. The satellite is designed to measure sea surface height to monitor ocean circulation and sea level. The contract is valued at $82 million.

16 July

  • NASA’s Launch Pad-39A serving as a back drop, bus loads of students arrived from Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) Melbourne Campus to watch and participate in this year’s Space University’s rocket launch competition.
  • Sierra Nevada Corporation has ramped up the hiring process for its Dream Chaser program in advance of a scheduled NASA announcement of the next round of commercial crew funding. Dream Chaser is in the running for additional development funds. Since NASA usually tells NASA awardees prior to the awards, the pre-emptive hiring may indicate Sierra Nevada knows it has been selected
  • Is Pluto a Binary Planet?

15 July

  • Russia successfully launched the Soyuz TMA-05M manned spacecraft toward the International Space Station (ISS) this Saturday evening, 14 July, at 7:40 PM Phoenix time (0240 UTC 15 July).

14 July

13 July

12 July

  • In an announcement today at the Farnborough International Air Show, Virgin Galactic revealed it is partnering with a privately funded satellite launcher to build a two stage air launched rocket capable of placing 225 kilograms into orbit for around $10 Million dollars.
  • Astronomers announced Wednesday the discovery of a fifth, and very small, moon orbiting the dwarf planet Pluto. Scientists detected the moon, temporarily designated S/2012 (134340) 1, in Hubble Space Telescope images of Pluto taken in late June and early July. The moon is thought to be irregular in shape and between 10 and 24 kilometers across, and in a circular orbit about 42,000 kilometers from Pluto.

11 July

  • Rocket Crafters Inc., a Utah-based company that specializes in hybrid-rocket design and aerospace-composite technologies, said Tuesday it is moving to Titusville, where it hopes to create as many as 1,300 full-time jobs. The company plans to develop and commercialize a new hybrid rocket-propulsion technology and an ultra-light, advanced composite material for the manufacture of dual-propulsion space planes for suborbital flight.
  • Astronauts return to Earth weakened and unsteady after weightlessness and radiation in space take their toll on the human body. New research now shows that the humble nematode worm adapts much better to spaceflight.

10 July

  • XCOR Aerospace, a suborbital vehicle developer based in Mojave, California, announced plans Monday to move its headquarters and create a research and development center in Midland, Texas. XCOR and a local development organization, the Midland Development Corporation, announced the plan that includes up to $10 million in incentives for XCOR to set up operations at the Midland International Airport.
  • The “Hot-Jupiter” exoplanet that orbits only 3.3 million miles from its sun, HD 189733A, is losing its atmosphere at the rate of a thousand tons per second, according to studies by Hubble and Swift over the past two years.
  • International Launch Services (ILS) successfully carried the SES-5 satellite into geostationary transfer orbit today on an ILS Proton for SES of Luxembourg.

9 July

  • Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built, commercial spaceport, has launched a new look for its brand on Independence Day. “Spaceport America is helping a new American Revolution take place in the commercial space industry, and what better time to showcase our new brand than the Fourth of July,” said Christine Anderson, Executive Director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA).
  • In findings released Sunday by the journal Science, two research teams take aim at the “arseniclife” bacteria. The microbe was announced by the journal in 2010 at a NASA news briefing as “the first known microorganism on Earth able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic.” The new findings show that was not the case.
  • Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has just celebrated its 3,000th sol* on Mars. This may sound like an important milestone, and it is. This tenacious six-wheeled robot has survived five Martian winters since it landed on the Red Planet on Jan. 24th, 2004 — considering its warranty was only 90 days, we’re certainly getting our money’s worth!

8 July

  • Midland Texas newspaper reviews XCOR.

7 July

  • The Guardian discusses the Opportunity mission on Mars at Endeavour Crater.

6 July

  • NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) praised the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion programs for making “considerable progress” during their latest meeting, but called for managers to ensure the debut SLS flight – known as Exploration Mission -1 (EM-1) – is heavily aimed at risk mitigation, ahead of the first crewed mission.

5 July

  • A dust disk spotted around a young star just a few years ago has disappeared in the course of just a few years, puzzling astronomers. In a paper published in the current edition of the journal Nature, astronomers reported that they are no longer able to detect a warm disk of dust surrounding the star TYC 8241 2652. That disk was discovered in data from NASA’s IRAS satellite in 1983, and seen in follow-up observations for 25 years. However, astronomers were unable to see it in infrared observations at the Gemini South observatory in Chile two months ago, leading astronomers to conclude that the warm, infrared-emitting dust disappeared within the last 2.5 years.
  • On Thursday, July 5, Arianespace successfully launched two satellites: the dedicated Internet satellite EchoStar XVII for the American operator Hughes Network Systems, and the MSG-3 weather satellite for Eumetsat, the European Meteorological Satellite organization.

4 July

  • Fireworks on the fourth: The violent behaviour of a young Sun-like star spinning at high speed and spewing out super-hot plasma has been revealed thanks to the combined X-ray vision of three space telescopes, including ESA’s XMM-Newton.
  • The coming months aboard the International Space Station promise to be exciting and dramatic, with no fewer than two spacewalks scheduled from the US and Russian segments, plus a Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV), SpaceX’s first dedicated Dragon cargo flight, the maiden voyage of Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus craft, the departure of a European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) and a ‘fast-rendezvous’ experiment which aims to dock a Progress freighter onto the space station just seven hours after launch.
  • The Economic Observer compares and contrasts China’s space program with the space industry in America. Their conclusion: China will be left in the dust.

3 July

  • The World Policy Journal discusses the changes in space policy as the Obama Administration enlists private enterprise in the space program.
  • Russia’s Energia space corporation is holding talks with U.S. aerospace giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin over manufacture of docking sites and thermal protection equipment for space capsules for the U.S. firms, Izvestia daily newspaper reported on Tuesday citing Energia head Vitaly Lopota.

2 July

  • Lockheed Martin has delivered the first space-bound Orion spacecraft crew module structure to the Operations and Checkout Building on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. The crew module structure recently underwent its final friction stir weld at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, La. and was transported to KSC last week to be readied for its Exploration Flight Test (EFT-1) in 2014.
  • United States Navy Captain and retired NASA Astronaut Alan Poindexter lost his life Sunday in a tragic jet ski accident near Little Sabine Bay off Pensacola Beach, Florida.

1 July

  • The Soyuz TMA-03M mission spacecraft carrying three U.S., Russian and European astronauts descended to a landing in remote Kazakhstan early Sunday, closing out a 193-day mission to the International Space Station that included the first visit by a U.S. commercial re-supply craft. The Soyuz capsule carrying Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, NASA astronaut Don Pettit and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers was greeted by helicopter borne Russian recovery teams, shortly after it touched down under parachute south of Zhezkaghan at 1:14 AM Phoenix time (0814 UTC). Pettit, Kononenko and Kuipers appeared to be in good shape.

Posted in Canadian Space Agency, China, Commercial Space, European Space Agency, International Space Station, JAXA, Mars, NASA, Pluto, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, Solar System, Soyuz | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

June 2012

Posted by drdave on June 1, 2012

30 June

  • NASA astronaut Don Pettit, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers are scheduled to undock from the space station in their Russian-built Soyuz TMA-03M capsule at 9:48 PM Phoenix time Saturday (0448 UTC Sunday). The trio is expected to land at 1:14 AM (0814 UTC) Sunday on the Central Asian steppes of Kazakhstan.

29 June

  • There was another glide test of the SpaceShipTwo vehicle today at the Mojave Air and Space Port. A source says that WhiteKnightTwo took off with the spacecraft beneath it at about 6:50 AM Phoenix time. SpaceShipTwo landed about an hour later and both vehicles were back in the hangar by 8 AM.
  • A Delta 4 Heavy launched Friday morning carrying a classified satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The Delta 4 Heavy lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 6:15 AM Phoenix time (1315 UTC) on mission NROL-15 for the NRO.
  • B612 Debuts Its Asteroid-Seeking Sentinel: A private nonprofit group led by former astronauts, spacecraft designers, and asteroid specialists has proposed a spacecraft to find a half million asteroids in Earth-crossing orbits and provide advance warning of impact threats.

28 June

  • Astronauts Liu Yang, Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang have returned to Earth following a 13-day mission. The astronauts, including China’s first woman in space, carried out a successful manual docking with the Tiangong-1 laboratory module.
  • Astronomers announced this week that they have used spectroscopic observations of an extrasolar planet to directly measure its mass. Astronomers at the European Southern Observatory used an infrared spectrometer to study Tau Bootis b, an exoplanet orbiting the star Tau Bootis that was originally discovered in the mid 1990s.

27 June

  • Canadian space company MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) will buy the satellite manufacturing arm of Loral in a billion-dollar deal, the company announced late Tuesday night. MDA will pay $775 million in cash for the equity of Space Systems/Loral (SS/L), plus $101 million in a promissory note SS/L real estate.

26 June

  • SpaceX successfully fired its new Merlin 1D rocket engine at their facility in McGregor, Texas. The engine achieved a full mission duration firing and multiple restarts at target thrust and specific impulse (ISP). The engine firing was for 185 seconds with 147,000 pounds of thrust, the full duration and power required for a Falcon 9 rocket launch.

25 June

  • Turbulent jet streams, regions where winds blow faster than in other places, churn east and west across Saturn. Scientists have been trying to understand for years the mechanism that drives these wavy structures in Saturn’s atmosphere and the source from which the jets derive their energy. In a new study appearing in the June edition of the journal Icarus, scientists used images collected over several years by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to discover that the heat from within the planet powers the jet streams. Condensation of water from Saturn’s internal heating led to temperature differences in the atmosphere. The temperature differences created eddies, or disturbances that move air back and forth at the same latitude, and those eddies, in turn, accelerated the jet streams like rotating gears driving a conveyor belt.

24 June

  • In a new demonstration of Chinese space capabilities, a crewed Shenzhou spacecraft safely undocked with an orbiting lab module Sunday and then redocked under manual control. The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft redocked with the Tiangong-1 module at 12:48 am EDT (0448 GMT, 12:48 pm Beijing time) under manual control, about an hour and a half after undocking from the module.

23 June

  • The European Space Agency (ESA) gave its approval this week for the development of a space observatory that will seek new evidence of dark matter and dark energy. ESA gave the go-ahead to begin construction of Euclid, a spacecraft slated for launch in 2020, after selecting the mission as part of its Cosmic Vision program last fall. The spacecraft features a 1.2-meter telescope with instruments to map the three-dimensional distribution of up to two billion galaxies, measuring the dark matter associated with those galaxies and how they are affected by the accelerating expansion of the universe linked to dark energy.

22 June

  • Astronomers using data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft said Thursday they have discovered two dissimilar extrasolar planets with orbits very close to each other. The planets, designated Kepler-36b and c, orbit the same star 1,200 light-years from Earth in orbits only 1.9 million kilometers from each other. The inner planet, Kepler-36b, appears to be a “super-Earth” 4.5 times the mass and 1.5 times the radius of the Earth. The outer planer, Kepler-36c, is 3.7 times the radius and 8 times the mass of the Earth and is probably more like Neptune.

21 June

  • Data from a NASA orbiter suggests that water ice is present in at least minute amounts on the floor of a crater at the Moon’s south pole, scientists reported Wednesday. In a paper published in the journal Nature, scientists using the laser altimeter on NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft concluded that 22 percent of the material in a micron-think layer on the floor of Shackleton crater consists of water ice.

20 June

  • The United Launch Alliance (ULA) placed a new spy satellite into orbit this morning. An Atlas V 401 left the Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral at 5:28 AM Phoenix time (1228 UTC) carrying the NROL-38 satellite. This is ULA’s 50th EELV launch and uses a Centaur upper stage to carry the satellite to Geosynchronous orbit.
  • The Gruber Foundation announced today that the 2012 Cosmology Prize will be awarded to Johns Hopkins University professor Charles L. Bennett and the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) space mission science team that he led. Bennett and the WMAP team are being recognized by the foundation for their transformative study of an ancient light dating back to the infant universe. So precise and accurate are the WMAP results that they form the foundation of the Standard Cosmological Model.

19 June

  • The Atlas V rocket scheduled to launch the NROL-38 satellite has been rolled back to the launch pad following the repair of an environmental control system duct. Launch coverage begins Wednesday 20 June at 5:08 AM Phoenix time (1208 UTC). Weather conditions are 70 percent favorable for the morning lift off.

18 June

  • China’s Shenzhou-9 spacecraft successfully docked with its Tiangong-1 lab module on Monday. Shenzhou-9 docked in automated mode with Tiangong-1 at 11:07 PM Phoenix time Sunday (0607 UTC Monday) after what Chinese officials said was a normal approach. Two of three people on board Shenzhou-9, Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang, boarded Tiangong-1 about two hours later; the third crewmember, Liu Yang, followed a short time later after the others confirmed the conditions in the module were suitable.
  • Under a new agreement, privately operated spacecraft ferrying NASA astronauts to the international space station will be licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), but leave it to NASA to decide whether the vehicles are fit to dock with the station and carry astronauts in the first place, the heads of the two agencies said June 18 in a joint press briefing.
  • The launch of a Russian Proton-M carrier rocket with the SES-5 (Sirius-5) satellite from the Baikonur launch pad in Kazakhstan has been postponed from 10:23 p.m. Moscow Time on June 19 to the same time on June 20.

17 June

  • United Launch Alliance has postponed the launch of an Atlas V rocket from the Space Coast. After the rocket was rolled the launch pad, an issue with an environmental control system duct that failed near its connection to the Mobile Launch Platform was identified. The vehicle will be rolled back to the Vertical Integration Facility so the duct can be replaced. The launch is now set for Wednesday, June 20 from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
  • View the video of the landing of the X-37B at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
  • An international team of astronomers led by Fabian Walter of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy has managed for the first time to determine the distance of the galaxy HDF850.1, well-known among astronomers as being one of the most productive star-forming galaxies in the observable universe. The galaxy is at a distance of 12.5 billion light years. Hence, we see it as it was 12.5 billion years ago, when the universe was less than 10% of its current age. Even more of a surprise, HDF850.1 turns out to be part of a group of around a dozen protogalaxies that formed within the first billion years of cosmic history – only one of two such primordial clusters known to date. The work is being published in the journal Nature.

16 June

  • China sent into orbit on Saturday its first female astronaut, 33-year-old Liu Yang. A Long March rocket carrying Shenzhou-9 spacecraft lifted off from the Jiuquan space center on Saturday in the Gobi Desert at 3:37 Phoenix time (10:37 UTC).
  • The U.S. Air Force’s second X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-2) landed successfully at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., early this morning after a record 469 days in space – more than double the time clocked up by the flight of the first vehicle, OTV-1.

15 June

  • The original space shuttle‘ to come out of hiding in Downey, California. The town plans to display the full-scale mock-up of the space shuttle, which Rockwell built in 1972 to pitch its design to NASA.

14 June

  • Just weeks after SpaceX became the first private company to visit the International Space Station, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden toured the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne. Bolden joined SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk in thanking more than 1,000 employees who helped design, launch and recover the company’s Dragon capsule in May following its trip to the space station.

13 June

  • A Pegasus rocket successfully launched a small NASA spacecraft designed to help astronomers track down black holes. An Orbital Sciences Corporation L-1011 aircraft, flying out of Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, released the Pegasus XL rocket at 12:00 pm EDT (1600 GMT). The rocket’s first stage ignited five seconds after release, and it and two other stages propelled NASA’s NuSTAR into a circular low Earth orbit.

12 June

  • Project engineers have narrowed the landing site for NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover from 20 by 25 kilometers to 7 by 20 kilometers, allowing a more precise landing near the base of Mt. Sharp, the peak in the middle of Gale Crater that will be the focus of the rover’s scientific studies. The landing is scheduled for 10:31 PM Phoenix time on 5 August (0531 GMT 6 August).
  • The European Southern Observatory (ESO) gave the green light Monday to plans to build a telescope nearly 40 meters across in Chile. The European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) will be located in northern Chile, close to ESO’s existing Paranal Observatory, and feature a primary mirror 39.3 meters in diameter. That would give the telescope over 15 times the light-gathering power of each of the twin 10-meter Keck Observatory telescopes.

11 June

  • From PrivCo: “SpaceX’s last valuation on secondary markets of $10/share or $1.2 billion is dated to April 2012 before its historic mission. PrivCo estimates that given the mission’s success, new contracts the company stands to gain, and its rapid growth, SpaceX’s share price has now doubled in value to a PrivCo-estimated $20/share with a valuation of $2.4 billion. In an additional valuation data point, PrivCo confirms a recent $18.50/share ask price from secondary markets, up 85% from its last trade in April.”
  • One of the two female astronauts, Liu Yang(L) and Wang Yaping (R), from the Wuhan Flight Unit, will join Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft docking mission with Tiangong-1 spacecraft in mid-June.

10 June

  • Astronomers at one Florida university hope they’ve found a sweet way to help compensate for, and protest, massive budget cuts. Students, professors and scientists at the University of Central Florida will be selling super nova brownie cookies, Milky Way cupcakes and other earthly delights at a bake sale on Saturday to rally support for NASA’s space exploration budget, which is facing a nearly $300 million cut astronomers say will derail discovery.

9 June

  • Chinese officials announced Saturday that it will launch its next human spaceflight mission, which will feature a docking with its experimental lab module already in orbit, around the middle of this month. The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft and its Long March 2F rocket were moved to the launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on Saturday in preparation for what officials said would be a “mid-June” launch.

8 June

  • Citing growing costs, NASA officials announced Thursday they were canceling a small x-ray astronomy mission that was still in the early stages of development. The Gravity and Extreme Magnetism Small Explorer (GEMS) mission failed to pass a confirmation review by NASA last week, and the decision not to continue development of the mission was formally confirmed by the agency on Thursday.
  • Virgin Galactic held an open house at its facility in the Green Offices at 166 S. Roadrunner Parkway, the building with a curved bluish-green glass exterior. George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, noted that the facilities at Spaceport America, north of Las Cruces, were not ready yet, but they expect to start flights in the second half of 2013.

7 June

  • The space shuttle Enterprise arrived Wednesday at its new home, a former aircraft carrier turned museum in New York City. Enterprise was transported by barge up the Hudson from a dock in New Jersey to the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York, where it was hoisted onto the deck of the carrier Intrepid

6 June

  • A key member of Congress who had been critical of NASA’s commercial crew development efforts said Tuesday that he has reached an understanding with NASA about how the program should proceed. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), who chairs the appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA, had inserted report language into the House version of NASA’s fiscal year 2013 budget that called on NASA to use conventional contracts, and not Space Act Agreements, in the next phase of the program, and to select only one company to receive most or all the funds in that phase. Wolf said he’s reached an understanding with NASA to allow the agency to pick “2.5” companies, two with full awards and one with a partial award, in the next phase, which can be done through Space Act Agreements. NASA agreed to use conventional contracts in later phases of the program and to vet selected companies’ financial viability before making awards in this round. Wolf also said he supported funding the program at around the level of the Senate version of the NASA spending bill, $525 million, slightly higher than the $500 million in the House version but still below the $830 million requested by the White House.

5 June

  • It’s your last chance to catch one of the rarest cosmic spectacles — Venus slowly crossing the face of the sun. Weather permitting, the transit of Venus will be visible from much of Earth — Tuesday from the Western Hemisphere and Wednesday from the Eastern Hemisphere. This sight won’t come again until 105 years from now — in 2117.
  • The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) has given NASA two telescopes originally designed for reconnaissance satellites that the space agency believes could be repurposed for astronomy missions. The two telescopes, each with mirrors 2.4 meters in diameter, the same as Hubble, were built as spares for spy satellites not flown and are no longer needed by NRO. NASA is considering using one of the telescopes for a mission called the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) to study dark energy. WFIRST is a mission identified by astronomers as their top priority large mission for the current decade, but is one that NASA lacks the funding to develop.
  • The discovery of objects in the Kuiper Belt in the outer reaches of the solar system netted scientists a pair of major prizes last week. The $1-million Shaw Prize in astronomy for 2012 went to David Jewitt and Jane Luu for their discovery of the first Kuiper Belt objects in the early 1990s. The $1-million Kavli Prize in astrophysics also went to Jewitt and Luu, as well as Michael Brown, for their Kuiper Belt discoveries. Astronomers now believe there may be as many as 70,000 bodies at least 100 kilometers in diameter in the Kuiper Belt, and the discovery of some large objects there led to the reclassification by the International Astronomical Union of Pluto as a dwarf planet in 2006.

4 June

  • Enterprise passed the World Trade Center in New York on its barge trip toward the USS Intrepid.
  • One of the two solar arrays of a newly-launched communications satellite for Intelsat failed to deploy properly, the company announced late Friday. Intelsat said that one of the arrays on its Intelsat 19 satellite did not deploy as planned shortly after launch early Friday. Intelsat and the satellite’s manufacturer, Space Systems/Loral (SS/L), are studying the problem. If the array is not deployed, the spacecraft’s operations could be seriously impaired because of the limited power available to it from the single working array.
  • China’s aggressive satellite production and launch pace is threatening launch vehicle failures and the malfunction in orbit of important spacecraft, according to a largely classified Defense Department report to Congress. The report comes as China is poised for an extremely high profile mission, the launch into space of China’s first woman astronaut as early as mid June. Examples of failures stemming from the growing risk factors are cited in an unclassified summary of the 2012 Pentagon report titled “Military and Security Developments of the People’s Republic of China”.

3 June

  • Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) reached another milestone last week in its efforts to become the next commercial company to venture into space and provide NASA crew transport capabilities to low-Earth orbit, or “LEO” as it is more commonly called. The NewSpace firm successfully completed a “captive carry” flight test of a full scale version of their Dream Chaser spacecraft in the skies over the Rocky Mountains of Jefferson County, Colorado last week.

2 June

1 June

  • High above Earth, astronaut Don Pettit is about to become the first human to witness and photograph a transit of Venus from space. His images and commentary will be streamed to Earth during the crossing. Follow this on NASA TV on Tuesday afternoon, 5 June.
  • A Zenit-3SL rocket launched from the Pacific Ocean placed an Intelsat communications satellite into orbit early Friday. The Sea Launch Zenit-3SL rocket lifted off from a floating platform on the Equator in the Pacific Ocean at 10:23 PM Phoenix time Thursday (0523 UTC Friday) and released the Intelsat 19 satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit about an hour later.
  • The water plumes from Enceladus form nanograins that turn to plasma in a reaction with the magnetic fields surrounding Saturn.

Posted in Asteroid, China, Commercial Space, European Space Agency, International Space Station, Kuiper Belt, Moon, NASA, Russian Space Agency, Soyuz, Space Shuttle, Venus | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

May 2012

Posted by drdave on May 1, 2012

31 May

  • Dragon splashed down at 1542 UTC. Recovery is in process at 1610 UTC.
  • Dragon has demated from the ISS and is scheduled to make its deorbit burn at 7:51 Phoenix time (1451 UTC).

30 May

  • Astronomer Jason Kalirai of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, has created a new method to measure the ages of individual halo stars. His technique exploits a basic concept of stellar evolution: The heavier a star is, the faster it dies. Halo stars die by becoming red giants and then white dwarfs—dense stars little larger than Earth. White dwarfs have no nuclear activity, so as they age, they cool and fade. Thus, the hottest and brightest of these burnt-out stars entered the white-dwarf stage most recently.
  • Preparations for the second landing of the X-37B, the Air Force’s unmanned, reusable space plane, are underway at Vandenberg Air Force Base. While the exact landing date and time will depend on technical and weather considerations, it is expected to occur during the early- to mid-June timeframe. Space professionals from the 30th Space Wing will monitor the de-orbit and landing of the Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle mission, called OTV-2.

29 May

  • Excalibur Almaz has detailed its plans to launch spacecraft to space stations in orbit around the moon, the first time the secretive company has done so publically. The British company will use legacy Russian hardware, capsules from the Soviet Soyuz space programme and space stations from Salyut, to launch people into orbit around the moon. Both capsules and stations will undergo upgrades, but the basic hardware has flown in space up to nine times, and is described by Excalibur CEO Art Dula as have a technical readiness level of nine, the highest possible.
  • Intelsat, the world’s leading provider of satellite services, and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), the world’s fastest growing space launch company, announced the first commercial contract for the Falcon Heavy rocket.
  • A Chinese Long March 4C has launched with a military payload, understood to be the Yaogan 15 military satellite, from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. Launch was recorded at 0731 UTC, catching out most observers, with the only news of the launch on Tuesday leaking out on the internet, prior to official media reports of a successful ride to orbit.

28 May

  • With Dragon now installed and ingressed on the International Space Station (ISS), Canada’s Dextre robot took an opportunity to greet the new spacecraft on Sunday. The SPDM (Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator) was translated to the SpaceX vehicle to practice the removal of cargo from the trunk, a key element of future Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) missions.

27 May

  • China launched a satellite late Saturday for civil and possibly military communications. The Long March 3B rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 8:56 AM Phoenix time (1556 UTC) Saturday and placed the 5,200-kilogram Chinasat 2A satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

26 May

  • The hatch on the Dragon spacecraft has been successfully opened, and the ISS crew is beginning to unload the 1014 lbs of cargo brought up on the spacecraft. 1367 lbs of cargo is scheduled to return on Dragon on 31 May.
  • A giant distributed radio telescope will be split over sites in South Africa and Australia, astronomers announced Friday. The Square Kilometer Array (SKA) Organization said Friday that dishes for the radio telescope will be built on sites in South Africa and Australia, with the majority of the telescopes being placed in South Africa.

25 May

  • Dragon is berthed to the International Space Station.
  • The Dragon spacecraft has passed all of the Approach tests and is proceeding toward Capture.
  • Boeing successfully completed the software Preliminary Design Review (PDR) for its Commercial Crew Development (CCDev-2) initiative on May 18. CCDev-2 is part of NASA’s Space Act Agreement. Software competency is essential to all operational aspects of Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft, including launch, orbital maneuvering, docking with and separating from the International Space Station, re-entry and landing. The PDR team analyzed the system’s flight software, including details regarding safety, testing, overall redundancy management, avionics hardware and ground systems.
  • XCOR announced today that it has achieved a key technical milestone with its flight weight rocket piston pump hardware. XCOR engineers have successfully and repeatedly pumped liquid oxygen (LOX) at flow rates required to supply the Lynx suborbital vehicle main engines.

24 May

  • SpaceX and Dragon completed today’s fly-under successfully.

23 May

  • The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) announced Monday that Iran is set to launch a satellite called Fajr (or “Dawn”) atop a Safir 1B rocket on a mission to demonstrate the country’s first use of a maneuverable spacecraft in orbit.
  • The SpaceX Dragon capsule has completed Flight Day 1 objectives (under final review by NASA and SpaceX), and will spend Flight Day 2 raising its orbit as it approaches the International Space Station. If all objectives are met, grappling is set for 1206 UTC Friday.

22 May

  • SpaceX successfully launched their Falcon 9 rocket and placed the Dragon capsule on a rendezvous path to the International Space Station (ISS). If all tests are successful, grappling and connecting to the ISS will occur on Friday morning.
  • When SpaceX’s Dragon capsule launches in spring 2012, a very special payload will be on board: 15 student experiments from the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. The big deal is that those experiments from “SSEP Mission 1 to ISS” will be part of space history. Dragon will become the first commercial vehicle to dock to the International Space Station, and these student experiments have the distinction of being the only payload on board.

21 May

20 May

19 May

  • The SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle aborted following engine start. Engine 5 recorded high pressure. The launch will be rescheduled for 22 May (NET).
  • From SpaceX on Facebook: “Engineers replacing failed valve on engine #5 following today’s abort. Data review Sunday, if all looks good next attempt is Tues. May 22 at 3:44 AM ET”.

18 May

  • NASA and SpaceX held a pre-launch briefing this afternoon at Kennedy Space Center. View the briefing here.
  • A Japanese H-2A rocket launched four satellites on Friday, including a Japanese earth sciences spacecraft and a South Korean remote sensing satellite. The H-2A 202 lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center at 9:39 pm Phoenix time Thursday (1639 UTC) and placed four satellites into Sun-synchronous orbits.
  • A Proton rocket launched a Canadian commercial communications satellite early Friday. The Proton-M rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 12:12 pm Phoenix time Thursday (1912 UTC Thursday) carrying the Nimiq 6 satellite. The Proton’s Breeze-M upper stage released the spacecraft into geosynchronous transfer orbit a little over nine hours later. Nimiq 6 was built by Space Systems/Loral and weighed about 4,500 kilograms at launch, carrying 32 Ku-band transponders.

17 May

  • A Soyuz spacecraft carrying three new ISS crew members docked with the orbiting outpost early Thursday. The Soyuz TMA-04M docked with the Poisk module of the ISS at 12:36 am EDT (0436 GMT) Thursday, two days after launch from Kazakhstan, and hatches opened at 4:10 am EDT (0810 GMT). On board the Soyuz were Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin and American astronaut Joseph Acaba, who brought the station’s crew complement back to six.

16 May

  • An Ariane 5 rocket successfully launched a pair of Lockheed Martin-built communications satellites for Japan and Vietnam on Tuesday evening. The Ariane 5 ECA lifted off from Kourou, French Guiana, at 6:13 pm EDT (2213 GMT) Tuesday and placed the JCSAT-13 and Vinasat-2 communications satellites into geosynchronous transfer orbit about a half-hour later.
  • The Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft with the new crew for the International Space Station (ISS), launched from the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, will dock with the ISS on Thursday morning in an automatic mode. The spacecraft will dock with the Poisk research module of the ISS Russian segment at 1:38 AM Phoenix time (0438 UTC).

15 May

  • A Soyuz FG rocket launched the Soyuz TMA-04M (RSC Energia) spacecraft carrying three new International Space Station crew members on Tuesday. The Soyuz rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 8:01 pm Phoenix time Monday (0301 UTC Tuesday) and placed the Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft into orbit. On board the Soyuz are Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin and American astronaut Joseph Acaba. The Soyuz will dock with the ISS at 11:39 pm EDT Wednesday (0339 GMT Thursday).
  • The Atlantic has an extensive by Ross Andersen with Sara Seager, a Professor of Planetary Science at MIT, on the plans of Planetary Resources to mine asteroids.
  • LightSquared, the company that ran into regulatory difficulties trying to establish a hybrid satellite-terrestrial broadband network in the US, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Monday.

14 May

  • Jeff Foust, at The Space Review, discusses “A test flight for SpaceX may also be a test for commercial crew”.
  • NSS Urges Congress to Ease Export Control Restrictions on Satellites and Space-Related Items
  • Scientists analyzing data from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft orbiting the large asteroid Vesta have concluded that the body has some of the key characteristics of a planet, suggesting it is a protoplanet left over from the solar system’s formation. Observations of the asteroid show that it is a differentiated body, featuring an iron core with a radius of 110 kilometers as well as a mantle and crust.

13 May

  • The Indian Space Research Organization on Saturday successfully tested the indigenous cryogenic engine at the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) at Mahendragiri for 200 seconds. The engine will undergo another two more tests, including endurance test of 1,000 seconds and vacuum ignition test. The engine is scheduled to propel GSLV D-5 in September or October.
  • John Kelly heaps scorn on the Congressional move to force NASA to prematurely select a single manned spacecraft contractor, “History shows going with one contractor results in years of delays and billions of dollars in cost overruns. Every past space transportation system development effort has become a cost and schedule boondoggle, often made worse by cost-plus contracting.”

12 May

  • One of the key pre-launch requirements for SpaceX’s upcoming Dragon mission to the ISS, the completion of software validation tasks for the spacecraft’s approach and berthing with the orbital outpost, has been passed, pending the expected completion of “action items”. The milestone means the latest launch date target of May 19 now holds a large amount of confidence.
  • Scientists are on an epic treasure hunt for meteorite fragments from a spectacular fireball that lit up the daytime sky over California last month. The space rocks came from a minivan-size asteroid that plunged through Earth’s atmosphere and exploded into a dazzling daytime fireball over California and parts of Nevada on April 22. Meteorite fragments were scattered around Sutter’s Mill, an old sawmill in Coloma, California.

11 May

  • The Sun moves much more slowly relative to nearby interstellar space than was previously thought, according to scientists working on NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission. Their study casts doubt on the existence of an abrupt “bow shock” where the edge of the solar system meets the interstellar medium – instead suggesting that the boundary between the two regions is much gentler.
  • Virgin Galactic expects to resume flight tests of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle as early as June from manufacturer Scaled Composites’ facility in Mojave, California. SpaceShipTwo has not flown since its 16th glide flight in September, 2011, when it entered a tail stall upon release from its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft.
  • Envisat, an enormous Earth-observing satellite that was officially declared dead in space Wednesday (May 9) may stay in orbit for the next 150 years, posing a threat to other spacecraft zipping around our planet.

10 May

  • NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Images Big Dipper
  • NASA’s Dawn spacecraft won’t end its 13-month-long visit to Vesta, the Solar System’s second biggest asteroid, until August, but researchers have now solidified the rock’s reputation as an archetype for understanding planetary evolution. In six reports in the 11 May edition of Science, Dawn mission scientists have confirmed several long-held assumptions about Vesta and detailed some puzzles about the roughly 520-kilometer-diameter body.

9 May

  • Four days after the launch of Tianhui-1B mapping satellite, China has launched a new optical remote sensing satellite on May 10, 2012 from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. Launch of Yaogan Weixing-14 (YG-14) satellite took place at 07:06UTC using a Long March 4B (Chang Zheng-4B) launch vehicle from the LC9 launch complex.
  • OpenMarket.org has a screed about “Republican Space Socialism Update”, taking House Appropriations Chairman Frank Wolf (R-Virginia) to task for decrying the wastefulness of competition in the Commercial Crew Development program.

8 May

  • Unionized workers at United Launch Alliance (ULA), the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture that makes the Atlas and Delta launch vehicles, ratified a new contract by default on Sunday when a strike vote fell just short of passage. Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) voted Sunday to reject a three-year contract offered by ULA, but a subsequent vote on whether to strike fell just short of the two-thirds majority needed to authorize a strike. Because the strike vote failed, the new contract went into force at midnight Monday.
  • Commercial remote sensing company DigitalGlobe has rejected a offer by rival GeoEye to acquire the company, saying it will wait until the end of the federal budget cycle to make a decision on whether to make its own bid to acquire GeoEye. DigitalGlobe said in a statement Sunday that the $17-per-share offer by GeoEye “substantially undervalues” the company.

7 May

  • Preparations for Orion’s first journey into space are accelerating, as flight controllers at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) fire up the former Shuttle Flight Control Room (FCR) for mission simulations, while Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) engineers finalize the vehicle’s baseline construction, ahead of shipping Orion to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for outfitting.
  • In a study published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, astronomers analyzing 63 hot Jupiters (depicted above) detected by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft have found no planets comparable in size to Earth orbiting nearby. In contrast, many hot Neptunes—close-in giant worlds with roughly 5% of Jupiter’s mass—do have planetary neighbors. The findings may mean that hot Jupiters assume their peculiar orbits after far-off giant planets kick them close to their suns. As the hot Jupiter dashes inward, its gravity ejects any smaller planets near the star, both explaining the absence of close planetary neighbors and suggesting that solar systems with hot Jupiters are unlikely to host life-bearing worlds resembling Earth.

6 May

  • China launched the second TH-1 Tianhui-1 satellite – Tianhui-1B – on Sunday, using a Long March 2D (Chang Zheng-2D) launch vehicle from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Launch took place at 07:10UTC from the 603 launch pad from the LC-43 launch complex. Tianhui-1B will conduct Earth-mapping using stereo-topographic techniques.

5 May

  • Supermoon: “We will have moon closest to the Earth at the exact moment, or within a minute or two of when it becomes full,” says Andrew Fraknoi at Foothill College in Los Altos, Calif., and senior educator at the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. “And this has no cosmic danger or significance but it means the moon will be a little bit brighter and a little bit bigger in our sky.”
  • NASA issued the following statement from William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington: “After additional reviews and discussions between the SpaceX and NASA teams, we are in a position to proceed toward this important launch. The teamwork provided by these teams is phenomenal. There are a few remaining open items but we are ready to support SpaceX for its new launch date of May 19.”

4 May

  • SpaceX and NASA are nearing completion of the software assurance process, and SpaceX is submitting a request to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for a May 19th launch target with a backup on May 22nd.

3 May

  • The European Space Agency (ESA) announced Wednesday that it has chosen a mission to several of Jupiter’s largest moons as its next large mission, confirming a choice made last month by an agency panel. The JUpiter ICy moon Explorer, or Juice, is planned for launch in 2022 and arrive at Jupiter in 2030. The spacecraft would fly by the Galilean moons of Callisto and Europa before entering orbit around Ganymede, the solar system’s largest moon.
  • ULA: “The launch of an Atlas V carrying the United States Air Force’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency-2 (AEHF-2) payload was scrubbed today due to lack of helium flow from the ground support equipment to the Interstage Adapter compartment on the launch vehicle. The Atlas V vehicle and AEHF-2 are safe and secure at this time. The launch is rescheduled for Friday, May 4 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The opening of the launch window is 2:42 p.m. EDT and extends until 4:42 p.m. The forecast for May 4 shows an 80 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for the launch tomorrow. “
  • The first flight of the Antares rocket will likely be in August.

2 May

  • SpaceX said Wednesday it is “unlikely” that Monday’s scheduled launch of a Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket will proceed because of additional testing being done on the spacecraft. The company said in a brief statement Wednesday afternoon that the Monday morning launch was unlikely to take place as scheduled to allow the company more time to work on software assurance issues regarding the Dragon spacecraft with NASA. No official launch delay had yet been announced, although some NASA documents has already pushed the launch back to the backup date of May 10.

1 May

  • Senior scientists and heads of the five International Space Station partners will present ground-breaking research and discuss future projects in Berlin on 2–4 May. Follow the first International Space Station symposium live on the web through its dedicated website. Visit www.isssymposium2012.com to follow the conference in real time.

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April 2012

Posted by drdave on April 1, 2012

30 April

  • The hot fire test of the Falcon 9 was successful, although an hour and 15 minutes later than scheduled due to a hold to correct an out of limit parameter (Overly restrictive redline on second stage engine position).
  • SpaceX plans to carry out a “hot fire” test of its Falcon 9 rocket on the launch pad today, one of the final tests leading up to next Monday’s scheduled launch of a Dragon spacecraft on a test flight to the International Space Station. SpaceX has scheduled the test, where the Falcon 9′s nine first-stage engines are briefly ignited, for 3:00 PM Phoenix time (1900 UTC) today. The test will be webcast on the SpaceX web site starting at 11:30 AM Phoenix time (1830 UTC).
  • A Long March 3B rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 1:50 PM Phoenix time Sunday (2050 GMT Sunday, 4:50 am Beijing time Monday) and placed two Beidou-2 satellites into medium Earth orbits. The satellites will be used as part of China’s Beidou satellite navigation system

29 April

  • A European weather satellite that was scheduled for launch in May will be delayed until at least July because of a dispute between Kazakhstan and Russia regarding the drop zones for the rocket’s stages. ESA had hoped to launch its MetOp-B polar-orbiting weather satellite on May 23 from Baikonur on a Soyuz-2.1a rocket. However, Kazakhstan protested those launch plans, which require the booster stages of the Soyuz to fall on Kazakh territory north of Baikonur, a different area than the customary drop zone for Soyuz launches to lower-inclination orbits.

28 April

  • Discovery Magazine reports that “Of all the hurdles facing Planetary Resources, a startup firm that this week unveiled its plan to survey and mine asteroids for water, precious metals and other resources, legal jurisdiction is not at the top of the list. ‘We as a U.S. company certainly have the right to go an asteroid and make use of its resources,’ Planetary Resources co-founder Eric Anderson told Discovery News.”…But?…
  • On Monday, April 30, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) will take the final step on the road to orbit before launching one of the company’s Falcon 9 rockets May 7. The NewSpace firm will conduct what is known as a static test fire of the rocket’s nine Merlin engines. During this test, the engines will be ignited in a final test before the upcoming launch. The Falcon 9 will essentially go through everything that the rocket will need to do on launch day – except conduct liftoff. For those wanting to view the static test fire, they need only visit http://www.spacex.com on April 30. SpaceX will kick things off at 2:30 PM EDT (11:30 AM Phoenix time). The test fire itself is slated to take place at 3 p.m. EDT (12 p.m. EDT). SpaceX will also webcast the launch live at http://www.spacex.com.

27 April

  • A Soyuz spacecraft carrying three ISS crewmembers landed safely on the steppes of Kazakhstan on Friday. The Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft touched down near Arkalyk, Kazakhstan, at 7:45 am EDT (1145 GMT), three and a half hours after undocking from the space station.
  • NASA flew the space shuttle Enterprise from Washington, DC, to New York on Friday, where it will be displayed at a museum there starting later this year. The 747 carrying Enterprise took off from Dulles International Airport outside Washington at 9:39 am EDT (1339 GMT) and landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York at 11:22 am EDT (1522 GMT). Once arriving in the New York area, the 747 and Enterprise made an aerial tour of the city, allowing people to view the orbiter as it flew up along the Hudson River and over various city landmarks.

26 April

  • The Hubble Space Telescope was launched on 24 April 1990, 22 years ago. See the latest composite image: The Tarantula star forming region.
  • Weighing 1,858 kilograms, Risat-1 was launched by an enhanced variant of India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) during the early morning hours from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota Island
  • NASA managers, in consultation with Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum officials, have selected Friday, April 27, to ferry space shuttle Enterprise from Washington Dulles International Airport to John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport in New York.

25 April

  • The Senate and House budgets for NASA may kill Commercial Crew Development. At the east, cripple the effort to escape having Russia ferry our astronauts.
  • Asteroid Mining for Fun and Profit. A recently formed company called Planetary Resources has announced ambitious plans to extract billions of dollars’ worth of water and precious metals from near-Earth asteroids.
  • U.S forces on the ground, air and sea routinely enter into coalitions with allies. It is time for similar cooperation to exist in space.

24 April

  • Just posted on Facebook by SpaceX: “May 7th, 9:38 AM ET launch target for the upcoming COTS 2 mission confirmed by NASA and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station”.
  • SpaceX announced late Monday that it will push back the launch of its Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station by about a week to allow time for additional tests. SpaceX had been planning to launch the Dragon spacecraft on April 30. No new launch date has been announced, but will likely be after the launch of an Atlas 5 carrying a military satellite now planned for May 3.
  • A Proton rocket successfully launched a communications satellite for a Middle Eastern company on Tuesday. The Proton M lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 3:18 PM Phoenix time Monday (2218 UTC) carrying the Yahsat 1B (Y1B) satellite.

23 April

  • Fireball over Nevada and California: “I have been looking at the sky for 30 years, and I have never witnessed something so amazing and puzzling. It is an event that makes you glad to be alive,” said Matthew Neal of San Francisco. “The main body was bright green and the head was bright red and white.” Greg Giroux of June Lake, Calif., located along the eastern Sierra just west of Yosemite National Park, also was impressed. “This was by far the brightest fireball/shooting star I’ve ever seen, especially since it was in full sunlight,” he said. “After the flash, it broke up into pieces, then I lost sight of it as it went behind a mountain.”
  • The ISS crewmen opened the hatches between the International Space Station (ISS) and the freighter Progress M-15M, which docked successfully to the ISS in the automatic mode on Sunday.
  • Chris Kraft (former director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center and former director of JSC Mission Control) and Tom Moser (former director of JSC Engineering, and former director of NASA’s Space Station Program), take aim at the Space Launch System in an op-ed piece in the Houston Chronicle. “The current national human exploration strategy, which is based on development of the SLS, is economically unaffordable. The SLS-based strategy is unaffordable, by definition, since the costs of developing, let alone operating, the SLS within a fixed or declining budget has crowded out funding for critical elements needed for any real deep space human exploration program.”
  • India is preparing to launch the Radar Imaging Satellite (RISAT-1) from the spaceport at Sriharikota at 5.45 a.m. local time on Thursday (2345 UTC and 4:45 PM Phoenix time Wednesday). The four stages of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-XL) have been stacked up at the first launch-pad on the island of Sriharikota and the satellite has been mated to the vehicle.

22 April

  • Progress M-15M, carrying 2.8 tons of food, water, propellant, and other supplies, is successfully docked with the International Space Station at 7:39 AM Phoenix time (1439 UTC) Sunday.
  • Optical, radar and laser observations of the Envisat satellite show that it is still in a stable orbit. Efforts to regain contact with the satellite have been under way since 8 April, when it unexpectedly stopped sending data to Earth.

21 April

  • Boeing has signed an agreement with NASA’s Mission Operations Directorate (MOD) at Johnson Space Center to collaborate on mission planning, training and flight operations for the company’s Commercial Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft.

20 April

  • Russia has successfully launched the Progress M-15M resupply spacecraft on course to the International Space Station. Docking is scheduled for Sunday at 8:40 AM Phoenix time (1500 UTC).
  • A spacecraft that would study three of Jupiter’s largest moons, including going into orbit around one of then, is the top choice of a committee selecting Europe’s next major space science mission. A European Space Agency (ESA) committee met this month and select the Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer, or Juice, as its preferred option for ESA’s Cosmic Vision competition for large-scale science missions. Juice would launch in 2022 on an Ariane 5 and arrive at Jupiter in 2030.
  • A new study sponsored by the Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS) has concluded that it would be possible to return an asteroid weighing approximately 500 metric tons to high lunar orbit where it would be mined for resources by 2025. The Asteroid Retrieval Feasibility Study, published on April 2, was prepared for KISS, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

19 April

  • On April 24, Planetary Resources officials will announce details of their space exploration plans in a press conference at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington. Investors include Charles Simonyi and James Cameron.
  • Appropriations committees in the US House of Representative and Senate have drafted spending bills that would fund NASA at close to the administration’s request for 2013. A Senate appropriations subcommittee approved a spending bill Tuesday that would give NASA $19.4 billion in fiscal year 2013, but over $1.6 billion of that represents funding for weather satellite programs transferred from NOAA. Without the NOAA funding, the NASA budget is a little over $17.7 billion, and includes an additional $100 million for Mars science programs cut in the administration’s proposal.

18 April

  • The space shuttle Discovery made its final trip on Tuesday, flown on its 747 carrier aircraft from the Kennedy Space Center to Washington to be put on display at the National Air and Space Museum. The 747 carrying Discovery took off from the Shuttle Landing Facility at KSC at around 7 am EDT (1100 GMT) and landed at Dulles International Airport in the Virginia suburbs of Washington four hours later.
  • Aviation Week reports that “The Pentagon has declared that the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) project has exceeded its original projected per-unit cost by 58.4%, triggering a rigorous review under the Nunn-McCurdy program oversight law.”

17 April

  • For the first time in history, NASA’s extensive Flight Readiness Review (FRR) process has concluded that a privately-owned spacecraft is tentatively cleared to visit the International Space Station (ISS). With a launch date still tracking April 30, the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft will lift off toward a space station that is now fully prepared to extend a robotic handshake to the commercial space industry, pending the closure of a few open items.
  • The Lyrid Meteor Shower peaks this week on 21-22 April.

16 April

15 April

  • Windy conditions at Cape Canaveral have delayed the lifting and mating of the shuttle Discovery to the 747. The shuttle will be delivered Tuesday, 17 April, to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D. C. It will be on permanent display in the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

14 April

  • The spacecraft Cassini will make a second pass today through the jets spraying from the south pole of Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons. Less than three weeks ago, Cassini made a similar pass through the jets (27 March). Combined with a previous pass on 1 October, these three passes should allow the ion and neutral mass spectrometer to determine the three dimensional structure of the jets and how they change over time.
  • NASA will partner with the US Air Force (USAF) to study next-generation upper stage propulsion, formalizing the agencies joint interests in a new upper stage engine to replace the venerable Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RL-10. NASA hopes to find a less expensive RL-10-class engine for a third stage of the Space Launch System (SLS)

13 April

  • A huge embarrassment for Kim Jong Un and North Korea.
  • The European Space Agency (ESA) confirmed Thursday that it has lost contact with its Envisat earth observing satellite. ESA announced in a statement that contact with Envisat was unexpectedly lost on April 8, and has yet to be restored.

12 April

  • Yuri’s Night. Find a celebration near you and enjoy.

11 April

  • New Mexico-based Virgin Galactic, which now expects to fly its first paying customers in 2013, was told by the U.S. government that the company may fly non-U.S. citizens to the edge of space without first obtaining an export license from the State Department.

10 April

  • A regulatory filing released Monday is the latest evidence that SpaceX is pursuing plans for a new spaceport on the Gulf Coast of Texas. The notice by the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation states that the office is starting work on an environmental impact statement for a proposed spaceport in Cameron County, Texas, north of Brownsville, on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
  • The United Launch Alliance (ULA), best known in recent years for their high end payload launch services, are continuing their transition back into Human Space Flight operations. With an early history in human launches stretching back to safely sending astronaut John Glenn into space, ULA’s Atlas V is the preferred launch vehicle for several Commercial Crew suitors.

9 April

  • Russia’s new Angara rocket family, which began development by Khrunichev after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, will finally fly next year after two decades of effort. Providing, of course, that work is completed in time on the rocket’s launch facility and other ground infrastructure at Plesetsk.
  • Given the delays launching the year’s first Atlas 5 rocket due to high-altitude winds and scheduling conflicts with a Navy submarine missile test off Cape Canaveral, the next Atlas mission is moving out a week or so as a result. The targeted April 27 Launch date will slide into early May.

8 April

  • The rocket for the planned satellite launch later this month by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has been installed on the launch pad, Xinhua correspondents saw at the launch site Sunday. We shall see.
  • Venus, a planet without its own magnetic field, may still be able to generate auroral activity, scientists reported this week. Data collected by Europe’s Venus Express spacecraft shows evidence of reconnection of magnetic fields in Venus’s magnetotail, a region on the opposite side of the planet from the Sun created by the solar wind’s interaction with the planet’s upper atmosphere. This reconnection, which converts magnetic energy to kinetic energy, creates auroral activity for planets with their own magnetic fields, like the Earth; scientists hypothesize this reconnection activity in Venus’s magnetotail could do the same. Similar phenomena could also take place on comets, scientists said, causing their tails to break off.

7 April

  • Engineers and astronomers are celebrating the much anticipated first light of the MOSFIRE instrument, now installed on the Keck I telescope at W. M. Keck Observatory. MOSFIRE (Multi-Object Spectrometer For Infra-Red Exploration) will vastly increase the data gathering power of what is already the world’s most productive ground-based observatory.

6 April

  • United Launch Alliance stated that a crew-carrying version of United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket, which is slated to loft the space taxis built by Boeing, Sierra Nevada and Blue Origin, requires about three more years of work. That means the rocket’s development is on track to help the companies start flying astronauts to the International Space Station by NASA’s desired 2017 start date.
  • Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-3 (ATV-3) “Edoardo Amaldi” raised the International Space Station’s orbit by nearly four kilometers on Thursday evening, aiding the phasing requirements for its Russian cousins. ATV-3 continues to have its power loss issue evaluated, while one of its Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) channels apparently failed on Thursday.

5 April

  • A NASA panel has concluded the agency should extend the mission of Kepler, a space telescope searching for extrasolar planets, as well as a number of other current astronomy missions. NASA’s Senior Review examined the effectiveness of current astronomy missions seeking funding to extend their operations. For Kepler, the panel concluded spacecraft operations should continue through fiscal year 2016. Kepler was launched in March 2009 for a prime mission of 3.5 years. The panel also supported extending the mission of several other astronomy missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope.

4 April

  • A Delta 4 rocket placed a classified military satellite into orbit on Tuesday. The Delta 4 Medium-Plus (5,2) lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 7:12 pm EDT (2312 GMT) Tuesday on a mission designated NROL-25 for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). United Launch Alliance (ULA) declared the launch a success, but neither it nor NRO provided additional details about the mission.
  • NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) X-ray astrophysics observatory, grounded in March by concerns with its Pegasus XL rocket, will have an opportunity to launch in June. Engineering reviews of the air-launched Orbital Sciences Corp. Pegasus rocket continue, according to NASA, with officials focusing on software to be used by a new computer flying on the Pegasus for the first time.

3 April

  • NASASpaceFlight has a two part series (part 1 and part 2) on preliminary design work for the Deep Space Habitat (DSH) destined to house astronauts on missions to the Moon, asteroids, the moons of Mars and Mars itself.

2 April

  • A Chinese Long March rocket successfully launched a French-built communications satellite on Saturday. The Long March 3B rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 6:27 am EDT (1027 GMT, 6:27 pm Beijing time) and released the Apstar-7 satellite into a geosynchrous transfer orbit 26 minutes later. Apstar-7 is a Spacebus 4000C2 model satellite built by French company Thales Alenia Space for Hong Kong-based satellite operator APT Satellite Holdings.
  • The launch of a Delta 4 rocket carrying a top-secret spy satellite has been delayed again due to the ongoing evaluation of the upper stage engine, moving the next liftoff attempt to Tuesday afternoon at 4:12 PM Phoenix time (2312 UTC) at the earliest.

1 April

  • Chances are not good for tomorrow’s launch of a Delta IV carrying the NROL-25 satellite. The weather outlook continues to remain the same for Monday, with a 70 percent chance the winds will be too strong for launch or a 30 percent chance of the Delta 4 blasting off as scheduled at 4:04 PM Phoenix time (2304 UTC). United Launch Alliance has completed its assessment of the RL10B-2 upper stage engine that prompted delay of this National Reconnaissance Office mission by a few days, clearing the way for the countdown to resume on Monday.
  • Europe’s ATV-3 unmanned resupply spacecraft, which docked with the ISS earlier this week, readjusted the space station’s orbit on Sunday. Two main engines of ATV-3 were switched on at 1:54 Moscow time on Sunday [21:54 GMT on Saturday] to raise the International Space Station (ISS) orbit by 1.7 km, to 389.8 km.

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