NSS Phoenix Space News

Archive for February, 2011

February 2011

Posted by drdave on February 2, 2011

28 February

  • Discovery spacewalkers wrapped up a six-hour, 34-minute spacewalk Monday, moving a failed 800-pound ammonia pump module, installing an extension cable and extending the rail track along the station’s main truss.

27 February

  • Virgin Galactic has signed a contract with Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Colorado for two seats aboard SpaceShip Two. Six additional seats are an option.
  • NASA’s first solar sail to circle Earth in low orbit is making regular evening passes over much of the United States and Canada over the next week, and may be visible to skywatchers if conditions are clear. The solar sail satellite, called NanoSail-D, is making promising passes over the 48 contiguous U.S. states and southern Canada through Monday, March 7.
  • Discovery.com discusses a double impact crater on Mars. These two impact craters were formed simultaneously. If one meteor smashed into the planet, followed by another impact at a later date, one of the craters would overlap the other. But for this double impact to look so symmetrical, they had to have impacted at the same time.

26 February

  • Discovery has completed its “back flip” maneuver and no damage was found during the inspection. Discovery is scheduled to dock at the International Space Station at 12:16 PM Phoenix time (1916 GMT).

25 February

24 February

  • STS-133 successfully put the Space Shuttle Discovery in orbit, and Discovery is now chasing the International Space Station. Docking is scheduled for 12:16 PM Phoenix time (1916 UTC) on Saturday, 26 February.
  • The Johannes Kepler (ATV-2) resupply spacecraft docked with the Zvezda module on the International Space Station (ISS) at 9:08 AM Phoenix time (1608 UTC) this morning. The cargo craft from the European Space Agency will deliver 1760 kg of dry cargo, including food, clothes and equipment, 860 kg of propellant, and 100 kg of oxygen for Zvezda’s tanks.
  • Launch managers say the next attempt to fly the Taurus XL booster carrying NASA’s Glory climate satellite won’t come until at least Friday morning at 2:09 a.m. local (5:09 a.m. EST) from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. NASA announced that managers are now evaluating possible Glory launch opportunities in early to mid-March.

23 February

  • The Orbital Sciences Taurus rocket was set to launch the Glory satellite early Wednesday morning, at 3:09 AM Phoenix time (1009 UTC), but the countdown was stopped several minutes before launch because of an issue with a control console that was providing erroneous readings that controllers were not able to understand and resolve in time for the launch. The launch is being rescheduled for the same time on Thursday, pending a resolution of the problem.
  • The US Air Force plans to launch the second test flight for the X-37B space plane on 4 March, the service says, provided the weather at Cape Canaveral cooperates.

22 February

  • Scientists debate life’s origins.
  • With the countdown clocks now ticking down for the launch of STS-133 at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) have been hard at work this past week, reconfiguring the station for the arrival of Discovery this Saturday. The reconfiguration period is set to continue this week, as the ISS and Expedition 26 crew gear up for STS-133 docked operations.

21 February

  • The fight is on over the 2012 NASA budget. And the dust is still flying on the 2011 budget.
  • Discovery.com discusses “A Universe Stranger Than We Can’t Imagine”.

20 February

  • A Taurus XL rocket is set to carry NASA’s Glory satellite to space in a launch early Wednesday morning at Vandenberg Air Force Base, two years after a failure abruptly ended another NASA mission with the same kind of rocket. The four-stage rocket’s liftoff from Space Launch Complex 576-E is shooting for 3:09:43 AM Phoenix time (1009 UTC) Wednesday.
  • A geomagnetic space storm sparked by a solar eruption like the one that flared toward Earth Tuesday is bound to strike again and could wreak havoc across the gadget-happy modern world, experts say. Contemporary society is increasingly vulnerable to space weather because of our dependence on satellite systems for synchronizing computers, navigational systems, telecommunications networks and other electronic devices.

19 February

  • The X PRIZE Foundation announced the official roster of 29 registered teams competing for the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, an unprecedented competition to send a robot to the Moon that travels at least 500 meters and transmit video, images, and data back to the Earth.
  • NASA managers confirmed Friday a February 24th launch date for the space shuttle Discovery. The shuttle will lift off on STS-133 at 2:50 pm Phoenix time (2150 UTC) Thursday, the date the agency had been planning towards but officially confirmed at the end of the flight readiness review on Friday.
  • Cosmonauts Dmitry Kondratyev and Oleg Skripochka installed two experiments and retrieved the materials science panels outside the International Space Station (ISS) during a 16 February spacewalk. In their 5 hour effort, the spacewalkers attached the Molniya-Gamma and Radiometria experiments to the exterior of the Zvezda service module. The first will investigate gamma-ray and optical flashes from cosmic sources and lightning associated with terrestrial thunderstorms. Radiometria will monitor ground-based microwave emissions that could be useful in the prediction of seismic activity, including earthquakes.

18 February

  • After what was an eventful pad flow for Discovery last week, STS-133 is enjoying a relatively trouble-free final week ahead of S0007 (Launch Countdown) operations. Despite the one day delay to Ariane 5′s successful launch of ATV-2, shuttle managers remain focused on a February 24 launch date, pending Flight Readiness Review (FRR) approval.

17 February

  • The European Space Agency’s ISS resupply cargo vessel “Johannes Kepler” was launched successfully aboard an Ariane 5 rocket. Docking directly and autonomously with Russia’s Zvezda module at the International Space Station is scheduled for next Thursday, 24 February, one day before the launch of STS-133 Discovery.

16 February

  • Scientists said Tuesday that the images from StardustNExtT showed the crater created by the impactor on NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft, which flew past the comet in 2005. The crater and other features on the surface of the comet’s nucleus show signs of erosion.
  • Two Russian cosmonauts will venture out of the International Space Station and focus on installation of two scientific experiments outside the Zvezda service module. The first is called Radiometria, and is designed to collect information useful in seismic forecasts and earthquake predictions. Radiometria will be installed on a portable workstation on the port side of the large-diameter section of the Zvezda module. The second is Molniya-Gamma, which will look at gamma splashes and optical radiation during terrestrial lightning and thunderstorm conditions using three sensors. The Molniya-Gamma will be installed on a portable workstation on the starboard side of the Zvezda module.

15 February

14 February

  • Happy Valentine’s Day
  • The House Committee on Appropriations released its proposal to cut $500 million from NASA’s science, exploration, and aeronautics and space technology accounts, but give more money to Space Operations for shuttle flights.
  • As the future of NASA’s budget finds itself under scrutiny again this week, managers have told their workforce that STS-135 will fly “regardless” of what happens with the funding situation via the Continuing Resolution (CR). Atlantis’ preparations for the final flight of the Space Shuttle are continuing without issue, as managers debate the payloads which will ride to the International Space Station (ISS).

13 February

  • Sand dunes in a vast area of northern Mars long thought to be frozen in time are changing with both sudden and gradual motions, according to research using images from a NASA orbiter. These dune fields cover an area the size of Texas in a band around the planet at the edge of Mars’ north polar cap. The new findings suggest they are among the most active landscapes on Mars.
  • NASA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos have started negotiating for at least two more years of Soyuz flights to the International Space Station (ISS) by U.S., European, Japanese and Canadian astronauts, as the space shuttle era draws to a close with no other replacement available. “We are negotiating for more Soyuz seats because we’re nearing the three-year lead time for ordering seats beyond the current contract,” the U.S. agency stated Feb. 9. “We are beginning discussions on the acquisition of crew-rotation services for 2014 and 2015.”
  • Lockheed Martin engineers in Denver are awaiting the arrival of the first complete Orion crew exploration vehicle structure for the start of ground tests. The ground test article left NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans by truck on Feb. 10. In Denver, technicians will integrate it with its heat shield and thermal protection backshell.

12 February

  • Bound by restrictions set in a temporary budget resolution, NASA has not yet committed full funding of a risk reduction test flight of the Taurus 2 rocket, one of the launch vehicles the agency hopes will be ready to resupply the International Space Station by the end of this year.
  • Boeing is weighing international sales of its CST-100 commercial crew spacecraft if NASA selects the firm to continue development of the capsule, a company official said Wednesday.

11 February

  • Currently on display in Washington D.C. is the Earth orbiting Dragon capsule from the December mission. SpaceX put the capsule on display to illustrate the progress commercial companies are making in space flight.
  • NASA managers are investigating a proposed plan that would see a Soyuz spacecraft undock from the International Space Station (ISS) during the upcoming STS-133 mission in order to take photographs of the orbital outpost, along with its record number of attached Visiting Vehicles (VVs) here, here and here, and the docked Space Shuttle Discovery.

10 February

  • The STS-133 stack has been checked for damage after a feeler gauge came apart during work to remove ET-137′s Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate (GUCP). The incident resulted in nine blades from the tool falling down the pad, with one becoming embedded in the tank – resulting in minor foam damage – before high winds dislodged it.
  • New Mexico’s governor, Susana Martinez, appointed seven people to the New Mexico Spaceport America board of directors. In January she forced the resignation of the executive director, and then removed the entire board.

9 February

  • NASA announced this week that the Planetary Society’s LightSail-1 solar sail mission is on their short list for upcoming launch opportunities. The missions selected are Cubesats destined for piggyback launches as part of NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative.
  • “We are definitely in the bonus round,” said Stardust-NExT Project Manager Tim Larson of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “This spacecraft has already flown by an asteroid and a comet, returned comet dust samples to Earth, and now has almost doubled its originally planned mission life. Now it is poised to perform one more comet flyby.” Its target is comet Tempel 1.
  • NASA Television plans live coverage of the launch and automated docking of the second unpiloted European cargo ship that will deliver approximately seven tons of fuel, food and supplies to the International Space Station. NASA TV coverage of the launch from the northern coast of South America will begin at 3:45 p.m. CST on Tuesday, Feb. 15. The European Space Agency and its launch services provider, Arianespace, are scheduled to launch the Johannes Kepler Automated Transfer Vehicle-2, or ATV2, on an Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou, French Guiana, at 4:13 p.m. (7:13 p.m. in Kourou). NASA TV coverage will continue through the deployment of the cargo ship’s solar arrays about 90 minutes after launch.
  • Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology, a Carnegie Mellon University spin-off company, has signed a launch services contract with Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) for a Falcon 9 rocket to deliver a lander, small rover and up to about 240 lb. of payload to the surface of the Moon.

8 February

  • NASA’s Stennis Space Center conducted a 53 second test of the Aerojet AJ26 rocket engine. The AJ26 will power the Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Taurus II rocket. The Taurus II, under construction in Virginia, is planned to be used to provide cargo and essentials to astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
  • Opening up the X-37B.
  • Not giving up on a solid fuel first stage launch vehicle, ATK and Astrium are working together in response to NASA’s Commercial Crew Development-2 (CCDev-2) procurement. The team is offering NASA launch services with the Liberty rocket.

7 February

  • Scientists have seen their first panoramic view of the sun, in photographs beamed down by twin spacecraft that faced each other across our nearest star and took snapshots of its surface. The images from Nasa’s $500m Stereo mission will be used to create a three-dimensional map of the sun in an attempt to understand its innermost workings.

6 February

  • Canadian robotics systems aboard the International Space Station retrieved two cargo platforms from the Japanese HTV resupply freighter this week, stockpiling the outpost with more spare parts and proving an adroit mechanized handyman can perform operational duties in space.
  • Following delays, a Minotaur I rocket was launched this morning from Space Launch Complex-8 at Vandenberg Air Force base at 5:26 AM Phoenix time (1226 UTC).

5 February

  • NASA announced that astronaut Mark Kelly will resume training as commander of the STS-134 space shuttle mission on Monday, 7 February. With the exception of some proficiency training, Kelly has been on personal leave since 8 January to care for his wife, congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was critically wounded in a Tucson, Arizona shooting.

4 February

  • Discover.com speculates on whether we know enough to suggest that there may be life on one of the Earth-like exo-planets announced yesterday.

3 February

  • Scientists analyzing data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft announced Wednesday that they have now found in excess 1,000 potential extrasolar planets orbiting other stars, including dozens of planets about the size of the Earth. The discoveries come from observations of more than 156,000 stars in one portion of the sky over several months in 2009. Scientists said they have found 1,235 “planet candidates” orbiting those stars, including 68 Earth-sized worlds. In addition, 54 of the exoplanet candidates found to date orbit their stars’ habitable zones; five of the 54 are Earth-sized while the rest are larger. Among the findings in the discovery is one solar system, orbiting a star designated Kepler-11, featuring six planets that orbit the star closer than Venus orbits the Sun.

2 February

  • Just over two weeks before its flyby of comet Tempel 1, NASA’s Stardust spacecraft fired its thrusters to help refine its flight path toward the comet. The Stardust-NExT mission will fly past comet Tempel 1 on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14, 2011).

1 February

  • Ground services have been unable to contact the Geo-IK-2 geodetic spacecraft launched atop the Rokot carrier rocket from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome (Arkhangelsk region) at 5 p.m. Moscow time on Tuesday. “There is no contact with the satellite,” a source from the space industry told Interfax-AVN.
  • The Space Shuttle Discovery has arrived back at its pad. Space shuttle Discovery repeated history Monday night (Jan. 31), making its final trip to the launch pad – for the second time. Discovery, NASA’s oldest flying orbiter and first one to reach its final flight, had been rolled to the pad last September, but unexpected damage to its external fuel tank required it to be brought back and extensively repaired.
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