NSS Phoenix Space News

March 2011

Posted by drdave on March 1, 2011

31 March

  • The Ariane 5 launch of two communications satellites was aborted Wednesday after the rocket’s main engine ignited. According to Arianespace, the rocket’s Vulcain main engine ignited as scheduled at 2:45 PM Phoenix time (2145 UTC) Wednesday, but the checkout process during ignition detected an unspecified anomaly, shutting down the engine before the two solid-rocket boosters ignited.

30 March

  • The MESSENGER spacecraft has begun returning images from Mercury.
  • Amateur sleuths have tracked down the X-37B on its second secret mission. And the information the skywatchers are finding says quite a bit about the classified operations of this mysterious spacecraft.

29 March

  • NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is preparing to orbit the “asteroid” Vesta. This intriguing world, scientists now know how special this world is, has been the subject of some debate on how to classify it. “I don’t think Vesta should be called an asteroid,” said Tom McCord, a Dawn co-investigator based at the Bear Fight Institute, Winthrop, Wash. “Not only is Vesta so much larger, but it’s an evolved object, unlike most things we call asteroids.”
  • A 165-foot-tall Ariane 5 rocket is scheduled to lift off at 2145 UTC Wednesday from the ELA-3 launch zone at the Guiana Space Center, a French-run spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. It will be carrying communications satellites for the Middle East and Africa
  • Discovery.com has an amazing collage of all of the Kepler spacecraft’s candidate exoplanets.

28 March

  • Japan’s HTV-2 Konotori robotic cargo space ship undocked from the International Space Station at 1545 UTC, a Russian mission control center official said on Monday. The cargo ship will enter the atmosphere on Wednesday at 7.09 am Moscow time (03.09 GMT), and the unburnt fragments will fall into the Pacific Ocean 31 minutes later.

27 March

  • Technicians completed inserting the $2 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer physics instrument and the Express Logistics Carrier No. 3 pallet of spare parts into the payload bay of shuttle Endeavour for hauling to the International Space Station.

26 March

  • Preparations for Atlantis’ honor of rounding off the 30 year long Space Shuttle program are proceeding to plan, with processing about to enter the latest milestone of Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) stacking inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB).
  • Congress continues its mess with the NASA Heavy Lift Rocket. Not required, no mission, no funding.

25 March

  • The NASA rover to be launched to Mars this year will carry the Mast Camera (Mastcam) instrument already on the vehicle, providing the capability to meet the mission’s science goals. Work has stopped on an alternative version of the instrument, with a pair of zoom-lens cameras, which would have provided additional capabilities for improved three-dimensional video.

24 March

  • Citing the inability of the Media to focus on the upcoming Endeavour mission rather than his personal life (his wife is congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords from Arizona) astronaut Mark Kelly asked NASA to cancel all of his press briefings.
  • NASA has unveiled a new facility to help ready commercial rockets for launch, and the first work at the new site should begin this month in preparation for a test flight to the International Space Station later this year. The facility is six stories tall, about 250 feet (76 meters) long and 150 feet (49 m) wide. Medium-class rockets with multiple stages will be assembled at the HIF, then rolled out for launch at a nearby Wallops pad. NASA’s first customer for the new rocket facility is Virginia-based Orbital Sciences, which will use the new building to assemble its Taurus 2 rocket.
  • On Thursday, March 24 at about 4:00 PM Phoenix time (2300 UTC), NASA’s Stardust spacecraft will perform a final burn with its main engines. This will be a burn to depletion, and will answer the question about how much fuel Stardust had left in its tank. “We’ll take those data and compare them to what our estimates told us was left,” said Allan Cheuvront, Lockheed Martin Space Systems program manager for Stardust-NExT. “That will give us a better idea how valid our fuel consumption models are and make our predictions even more accurate for future missions.”

23 March

22 March

  • United Launch Alliance (ULA) and XCOR Aerospace announced today their successful hot-fire demonstrations of a lighter-weight, lower-cost approach to liquid-fueled rocket-engine vacuum nozzles. The new nozzle technology on the Lynx 5K18 LOX/kerosene engine, which uses aluminum alloys and innovative manufacturing techniques, is projected to be less costly and save hundreds of pounds of mass compared to nozzles in use today in typical large upper-stage rocket engine systems.

21 March

  • Atlantis is continuing to enjoy a smooth processing flow inside her Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF-2) for the late June STS-135 mission, while her External Tank (ET-138) undergoes radius block modifications to avoid the potential of cracks forming in the intertank stringers.

20 March

  • Michael Shinabery, New Mexico Museum of Space History, discusses the early work of rocket pioneer Jacques Valier. Valier built solid fuel rocket powered vehicles in the late 1920’s, including a rocket powered Opel car and a test sled that reached 250 miles per hour.

19 March

  • The Russian space agency Roskosmos has rescheduled the launch of the next Soyuz mission (TMA-21) to the ISS for April 5 after a problem was found with the spacecraft.
  • Clear skies will reveal a “super moon” phenomenon on Saturday as the moon reaches its closest point to the Earth for almost two decades.
  • NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft encountered Uranus’ orbit today at 3:00 PM Phoenix time (2200 GMT) while flying 1.8 billion miles (2.9 billion kilometers) from Earth.

18 March

  • NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft successfully achieved orbit around Mercury at approximately 9 p.m. EDT Thursday. This marks the first time a spacecraft has accomplished this engineering and scientific milestone at our solar system’s innermost planet.
  • The realigned Russian Soyuz TMA-21 launch (5 April) will not impact the STS-134′s launch date. Endeavour is headed toward her 19 April launch target, after completing the first week of what will likely be her final pad flow.
  • A space-simulation chamber at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., is temporary home this month for the Curiosity rover, which will land on Mars next year.

17 March

16 March

  • Expedition 26 Commander Scott Kelly and Russian Flight Engineers Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka safely landed their Soyuz spacecraft on the Kazakhstan steppe Wednesday, wrapping up a five-month stay aboard the International Space Station. Kaleri, the Soyuz commander, was at the controls of the spacecraft as it undocked at 9:27 PM Phoenix time Tuesday night from the station’s Poisk module. The trio landed at 12:54 AM Wednesday at a site northeast of the town of Arkalyk.

15 March

  • The launch of a Soyuz spacecraft carrying the next crew for the ISS has been delayed several days because of a technical issue, Russian officials said Monday. The Soyuz TMA-21 spacecraft was scheduled for launch March 30 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, but has now been pushed back to early April. Russian officials said that a problem with the spacecraft’s communication system, caused by a faulty capacitor, caused the delay. The Soyuz will ferry to the ISS Russian cosmonauts Andrey Borisenko and Alexander Samokutyaev and NASA astronaut Ron Garan. The delay will not affect the return to Earth of three current ISS crewmembers, Scott Kelly, Oleg Skripochka, and Alexander Kaleri, who are scheduled to undock from the ISS Tuesday night on the Soyuz TMA-01M and land in Kazakhstan.
  • SpaceX will launch a communications satellite for SES, the first launch deal the entrepreneurial launch company has won from a major satellite operator. SpaceX will launch the SES-8 satellite for SES in the first quarter of 2013 on a Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral, the companies announced Monday. SES-8 is a medium-sized communications satellite being built by Orbital Sciences and will operate from 95 degrees east. The contract is the first time one of the big four satellite operators (Eutelsat, Intelsat, SES, Telesat) has purchased a launch from SpaceX, a signal that traditionally risk-averse customers like major satellite operators have become comfortable with the Falcon 9, which launched successfully twice last year. Falcon 9 prices start at around $50 million, significantly less than other commercial launchers with similar capacities.

14 March

  • ORBCOMM Inc. and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) today announced plans to carry the first two ORBCOMM next-generation OG2 satellites to orbit on the next Falcon 9 launch this year.
  • On March 17, NASA’s Messenger spacecraft will execute a 15-minute maneuver that will place it into orbit about Mercury, making it the first craft ever to do so, and initiating a one-year science campaign to understand the innermost planet.
  • Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne successfully completed a series of hot-fire tests of the Bantam demonstration engine for an innovative “pusher” launch abort system on The Boeing Company’s CST-100 spacecraft. The launch abort engine is a critical component of future commercial crew transportation to low-Earth orbit.
  • Satellite fleet operator Intelsat has agreed to be the inaugural customer for a novel system to refuel satellites in orbit being developed by MDA Corp. of Canada, agreeing to purchase one-half of the 2,000 kilograms of fuel that the spacecraft would carry into orbit for other satellites.

13 March

  • The HiRISE camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has seen dark rivulets form, grow, and then fade in the planet’s southern hemisphere. These transient slope lineae, as they’ve been dubbed by Alfred McEwen at the University of Arizona, could be formed by brines containing enough salt to depress their freezing points by more than 100°F (50° to 60°C).
  • Discovery.com reports on the THEMIS mission, designed to distinguish between two different competing models for where and when substorms arise in the Earth’s magnetosphere. The five spacecraft are spread out over vast distances across the magnetosphere, making it possible to examine different areas at the same time.

12 March

  • Japan has shut down its primary space center, including a control room for part of the International Space Station. after the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck the country yesterday, March 11.
  • The United Launch Alliance (ULA) have launched their Delta IV rocket carrying a classified spacecraft for the United States National Reconnaissance Office on Friday. The mission, designated NRO Launch 27, lifted off from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 37 at 4:38 PM Phoenix time (2338 UTC).
  • The Washington Times delivers a blistering condemnation of Congress and its pork barrel policy with NASA.

11 March

  • Just a day after the fleet leader, Discovery, landed at the nearby Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) to end her career, Endeavour, the youngest orbiter of the fleet headed out to Pad 39A as the STS-134 stack on Thursday evening (7:56pm Local), arriving at the pad at 3:49am Friday.
  • Political wrangling may end up killing both manned and unmanned space exploration. With the emphasis on budget cuts, the robotic exploration program is being squeezed and two prominent probes to Mars and Europa will probably die. Although the Augustine Commission condemned the Ares V rocket (Constellation Program) as unaffordable to operate even if we could afford to build it, Congress has now mandated that NASA build and launch a similar vehicle by 2016. We are doomed.

10 March

  • Canada is looking to its future with on-orbit maintenance and processing and other technology at the Canadian Space Commerce Association annual meeting being held in Toronto on March 18th at the MaRS Discovery District.
  • NASA’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft is undergoing space environmental testing at Lockheed Martin Space Systems’ facility in south Jefferson County. Juno, scheduled for launch on 5 August 2011 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, will orbit Jupiter’s poles 33 times to learn more about the planet’s origin, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.
  • For some, the Shuttle program has thankfully come to an end. It wasted 40 years of American resources toward progress in exploration of space.

9 March

  • Space shuttle Discovery and its six-astronaut crew ended a 13-day journey of more than five million miles and concluded the spacecraft’s illustrious 27-year career with an 11:57 a.m. EST landing Wednesday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
  • NASA plans to cover the upcoming landing of the Soyuz TMA-01M spacecraft in northern Kazakhstan at 2:48 AM CDT on 16 March, and the launch of the Soyuz TMA-21 on 29 March.

8 March

  • Discovery is spending its final day in orbit. Discovery is scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center at 9:58 AM Phoenix time (1658 UTC) on Wednesday.
  • NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft will enter orbit around Mercury on 18 March. MESSENGER has needed a six-year flight, passing Earth once, Venus twice and already passing Mercury itself three times, to shed enough energy to orbit the planet.

7 March

  • Discovery and its six astronauts undocked from the space station at 5:00 AM Phoenix time (1200 GMT), to end an 8-day visit to the International Space Station that delivered a new storage module, extra supplies, and a humanoid robot assistant to the orbiting laboratory.

6 March

  • NASA astronauts on the Space Shuttle Discovery are packing prior to leaving the International Space Station for the last time. A farewell ceremony at 1:28 PM Phoenix time (2028 UTC) will mark the end of their stay. They will close the hatches, stay overnight and undock tomorrow.
  • NASASpaceFlight on details of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle.

5 March

  • Poor weather postponed Friday’s scheduled launch of a military spaceplane on an Atlas 5 from Florida. The Atlas 5 501 successfully launched the X-37B OTV-2 spacecraft on Saturday, at 2:46 PM Phoenix time.
  • Discovery and her crew continue to operate flawlessly. Two additional days have been added to her mission.

4 March

  • The NASA climate satellite Glory failed to each orbit early Friday. A Taurus XL rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 5:09 am EST (1009 GMT). However, several minutes after liftoff launch controllers received telemetry that the rocket’s payload fairing failed to separate as planned. The failure appears very similar to the loss of NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory satellite in February 2009, also lost when the payload fairing of the Taurus XL launching it failed to separate after launch.
  • Liftoff of the US Air Force Orbital Test Vehicle (X-37B) from Cape Canaveral is scheduled for a launch window opening at 2039 GMT (1:39 PM Phoenix Time) Friday. The exact launch time will be announced around 8 a.m. EST Friday, according to the Air Force.
  • NASA chief Charles Bolden told a congressional committee Thursday that he would announce the final display locations places for the space agency’s shuttle orbiters on April 12, the 30th anniversary of the first shuttle flight.

3 March

2 March

  • After a flawless launch last Thursday and a textbook docking on Saturday, the Space Shuttle Discovery today delivered the European-built Leonardo Permanent Multipurpose Module to the International Space Station.
  • Russia lacks carrier rockets to carry out all space launches scheduled for 2011, the head of the Roscosmos space agency said on Wednesday. Last year, Russia led in the number of space launches, carrying out 31 launches, 15 more than the United States. In late January, Perminov said Russia was planning to carry out 48 space launches in 2011, including 9 missions to the International Space Station by Soyuz and Progress carrier rockets.

1 March

  • The 45th Space Wing is set to launch an Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle from Space Launch Complex 41 on March 4, 2011. The rocket will carry an Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV). The launch window for this Air Force mission opens at 3:39 p.m. EST.
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