NSS Phoenix Space News

March 2010

Posted by drdave on August 6, 2010

29 March 2010

28 March 2010

  • Joel Achenbach at the Washington Post blogs NASA Administrator Charles Bolden’s answers to a series of questions about the NASA Space Program: There is no Plan B for Heavy Lift; the Augustine Committee’s findings made clear that Constellation was simply not affordable or executable under any reasonable budget scenario.
  • Major Timothy Peake, Britain’s first astronaut, discusses the launch of the UK Space Agency and other matters with the The Sunday Times in London.
  • Joel Achenbach at The Washington Post runs his full length discussion of the costs, goals and shock of cancellation of the Constellation program under the title “NASA’s $500 million launcher missing just one thing: the rocket it was made for”. He quotes Dale Ketcham, a University of Central Florida professor who runs a think tank called the Spaceport Research and Technology Institute on the $9.4 billion already spend on Ares I and the fact that Ares V would not be ready until 2028: “The taxpayers would really be ticked off: Sixty years later we go back and plant the flag and go home.”

27 March 2010

26 March 2010

  • Chris Bergin at NASASpaceFlight.com reports that “The decision to call a Special PRCB (Program Requirements Control Board) meeting on Tuesday paid dividends, as several outstanding issues gained the required flight rationale – with all dissenting opinions removed – to allow for Friday’s Agency-level Flight Readiness Review (FRR) to give a “go” for STS-131 to proceed towards an April 5 launch date”.
  • The New Scientist discusses Solar Sails as a tool for clearing orbiting space junk“.

25 March 2010

24 March 2010

  • The Mars Rover passed the twenty (20) kilometer mark on its odometer. JPL reports that, “Opportunity today surpassed 20 kilometers (12.43 miles) of total driving since it landed on Mars 74 months ago”.
  • The Hubble Space Telescope will be twenty a month from now. Science News has a review in its upcoming issue dated 10 April 2010.

23 March 2010

  • The British government on March 23 announced it will create a U.K. Space Agency to direct all British civil space investment, replacing the current British National Space Centre structure with a centralized space-policy command post that “will have the muscle it needs to coordinate space policy and boost our international standing,” according to a government policy document.

22 March 2010

  • Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two was carried aloft for its first test flight today.
  • The Board of Directors of Arianespace met on Monday, 22 March 2010 in Evry, near Paris. It congratulated the company on its technical performance and record order book, and decided to give it the resources needed for development by bolstering its financial structure.

21 March 2010

20 March 2010

  • An ILS Proton rocket with a Breeze-M upper stage has launched the EchoStar XIV telecommunications satellite.
  • The payload for Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-131) arrived and was transfered to the Payload Changeout Room. Meanwhile. engineers continue to work an issue with Discovery’s PCMMU (Pulse Code Modulator Master Unit), which first experienced a “momentary failure” on March 5, that kicked off a round of engineering evaluations and troubleshooting efforts.

19 March 2010

18 March 2010

  • International Space Systems has bid on the launch of 18 Galileo navigation satellites on three Proton Rockets. More business for the Russian Space Industry.

17 March 2010

16 March 2010

  • New thermal images from powerful ground-based telescopes show swirls of warmer air and cooler regions never seen before within Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, enabling scientists to make the first detailed interior weather map of the giant storm system.
  • Vadim Bobylev of the Pulkovo Observatory in St Petersburg, Russia, reports on the paths of neighbouring stars in Astronomy Letters. He found that the biggest threat comes from Gliese 710, an orange dwarf now some 63 light years away but zooming our way at 14 kilometres per second. Previous studies have suggested that Gliese 710 could pass through the Oort cloud in about 1.5 million years. This would scatter comets throughout the Solar System.
  • The Expedition 22 crew aboard the International Space Station prepared for the departure of two of its members.

15 March 2010

  • The Space Shuttle Enterprise, currently at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, has undergone rigorous testing to determine if it can once again be flown aboard the 747 carrier aircraft to a new home should the Smithsonian secure one of the now flying shuttles. Enterprise (OV-101) never flew in space, but was instrumental in proving flight worthiness in the atmosphere.
  • This Fall, law students at Sunderland University in the UK will be able to take a course in space law. Health, safety, satellite damage, land title and other topics are on tap.

14 March 2010

  • From NASASpaceFlight.com: “A leak relating to Discovery’s RCS (Reaction Control System) Helium Isolation Value – on the Right Hand (RH) OMS (Orbital Maneuvering System) fuel system – is undergoing troubleshooting at Pad 39A. Due to redundancy, flight rationale may be accepted to fly STS-131 “as-is” – should blowdown procedures fail to correct the issue – otherwise rollback and a long delay would occur due to the need to remove the OMS Pod to access the valve”.

13 March 2010

  • Florida Today reports on the 3.5 second successful firing of all nine Merlin engines on the Falcon 9 rocket. The announcement form Space-X says, “SpaceX successfully completed a test firing of the inaugural Falcon 9 launch vehicle at Space Launch Complex 40 located at Cape Canaveral. Following a nominal terminal countdown, the launch sequencer commanded ignition of all 9 Merlin first stage engines for a period of 3.5 seconds”. This sets up a probable launch attempt for 12 April 2010.
  • Dramatic. SOHO captures a comet diving straight into the sun.

12 March 2010

  • Ethidium represents a class of molecules that prevents RNA chains from doubling back on themselves and forming short, circular chains. This has always been a major problem with the “RNA before DNA” theory of biogenesis. Nicholas Hud et. al., a chemist at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, has proposed this solution. The New Scientist has the short version of the research.

11 March 2010

  • The heads of the International Space Station (ISS) agencies from Canada, Europe, Japan, Russia and the United States met in Tokyo, Japan, on 11 March 2010, to review ISS cooperation. Among other details, the Partnership is currently working to certify on-orbit elements through 2028.
  • A companion bill to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison’s proposal to keep the Space Shuttle flying until 2015 has been introduced in the House. This legislation, plus $2.4 Billion a year, could do it.
  • PhysicsWorld reviews another test of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity using data on more than 70,000 distant galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The average distance to the galaxies in the study is about 5.5 billion light-years.

10 March 2010

9 March 2010

  • The interior of Phobos, one of two Martian moons, is the subject of a series of 12 fly-bys by Europe’s Mars Express spacecraft. Six have been completed, including the closest ever pass of the moon, at 67 km, last week. The gravity data will help Russia’s Phobos-Grunt mission, set to launch in 2011 or 2012, maneuver efficiently around the moon before coming in for a landing.
  • The New York Times discusses President Obama’s upcoming Florida forum to discuss NASA’s future, scheduled for 15 April 2010.
  • Buzz Aldrin gears up for Dancing with the Stars.

8 March 2010

  • The Space Review leads off this week’s set of five articles with Jeff Foust and NASA’s need to win hearts and minds. Of note, peculiar but interesting, “the odds of becoming a NASA astronaut are very long: there are far more professional athletes in the US today than members of the astronaut corps”. And the metaphor of “The Rider and the Elephant” is apropos the current controversy.
  • W00T. ESA (European Space Agency) gets its Tweet back. It had been taken several years ago by Esa Alanen, who works at Finnish telecom giant Nokia. In thanks for his Twitter address, ESA offered Esa Alanen and family a VIP visit to the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne, and the chance to meet a real astronaut. This was especially fascinating for Esa’s six-year-old son Johannes, who “wants to be a spaceman”.

7 March 2010

6 March 2010

  • The Space shuttle Discovery will start its Flight Readiness Review (FRR) next week in preparation for its 5 April launch. Discovery will carry a multi-purpose logistics module filled with science racks for the laboratories aboard the station. The mission has three planned spacewalks, with work to include replacing an ammonia tank assembly, retrieving a Japanese experiment from the station’s exterior, and switching out a rate gyro assembly on the S0 segment of the station’s truss structure.
  • Aviation Week reviews China’s Moon Rocket plans. Liang Xiaohong, the vice-president of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, says it will have a thrust at lift off of 3,000 tons. America’s Saturn V S-1C first stage generated 3,470 metric tons.
  • The New Scientist reports on the discovery of previously unknown Near Earth Objects (NEO) by the WISE infrared observatory. In its first six weeks of observations, it has discovered 16 previously unknown asteroids with orbits close to Earth’s. One of these objects is as dark as fresh asphalt, reflecting less than 5 per cent of the light it receives. But the objects are bright in the infrared.

5 March 2010

  • The Wall Street journal jumped the gun on NASA’s review of heavy lift candidates, calling it “Plan B”. NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden then set the record straight. This error by the WSJ comes on the heels of the flap over the WSJ cherry picking phrases from Burt Rutan’ letter to Congressman Wolf (see 1 March below).
  • The 97-km long B-9B iceberg rammed into the Mertz Glacier Tongue in Eastern Antarctica in early February. The collision caused a chunk of the glacier?s tongue to snap off, giving birth to another iceberg nearly as large as B-9B. PhysOrg has a nice animation of this event

4 March 2010

  • The GOES-P weather satellite lifted off from Cape Canaveral this evening at 4:57 PM Phoenix time heading for geostationary orbit.
  • Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-131) was rolled out to the launch pad Wednesday. Repairs will now take place to the stack’s External Tank following “avian induced damage” to the tank’s foam (TPS-Thermal Protection System) .
  • From NASA Space Flight: “Senator Kay Hutchison – in conjunction with Representatives Suzanne Kosmas and Bill Posey – has produced a 37 page Bill that proposes major refinements to NASA’s FY2011 proposal, and NASA’s forward plan. The Bill is centered around a shuttle extension to 2015, in support of fully utilizing the International Space Station (ISS), along with saving elements of Constellation – such as Orion and a Heavy Lift Launcher (HLV).”

3 March 2010

  • The GOES-P weather satellite is now due to be launched no earlier than 4 March aboard a Delta IV-M from Cape Canaveral at 4:17 PM Phoenix time. The launch Window closes at 5:17 PM.

2 March 2010

  • Cassini will fly by Rhea today at an altitude of 100 kilometers. Particle and fields instruments will try to determine what is coming off Rhea. The last targeted flyby of Rhea happened in November 2005.
  • Arianespace announced that OverHorizon has chosen Arianespace to launch its first communications satellite, OHO-1. OHO-1 will be launched into geostationary transfer orbit in mid-2012, using an Ariane 5 launcher from the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. This is the fourth contract signed by Arianespace in 2010.
  • Speculation continues over whether the Mars Rover Spirit will rise again. Discovery.com reports on 34 centimeters of progress made by Spirit to get out of the sand trap before the Martian winter put a halt to activity. Survival is now the key.

1 March 2010

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