NSS Phoenix Space News

April 2011

Posted by drdave on April 1, 2011

30 April

  • NASA continues to work on the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Engineers expect to open the aft bay of the shuttle and begin testing of the heaters, Load Control Assembly and electrical cables by this evening. It is not certain that Endeavour will be ready for launch by the time its window opens on Monday, 2 May, at 11:33 AM Phoenix time (1833 UTC)

29 April

  • The Russian Progress M-10M resupply spacecraft has completed its docking with the International Space Station.
  • Next up, launch of the Endeavour STS-134 mission at 12:47 PM Phoenix time today. Scrubbed due to heater failures on the APU1 unit.

28 April

  • A Soyuz rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 6:05 AM Phoenix time (1305 GMT) and placed the Progress M-10M spacecraft into orbit. The spacecraft is carrying 2.6 tons of food, water, propellant, and other supplies for the International Space Station. Part of the spacecraft’s payload of experiments were considered time-sensitive enough by Russian officials that they declined to postpone the launch to avoid a scheduling conflict with the shuttle Endeavour, which was scheduled to launch on April 19. Instead, NASA had to delay Endeavour by ten days. The Progress is scheduled to dock with the Pirs module of the station at 10:29 am EDT (1429 GMT) Friday.
  • Get up in the wee hours of the morning May 6th and head out into the country, far from the city lights. You won’t be alone. The birds will be up and singing about the coming dawn, and, of course, about the eta Aquarid meteor shower. The eta Aquarids are best viewed from the southern hemisphere, but there’s something special about them no matter where you live: “Each eta Aquarid meteoroid is a piece of Halley’s Comet doing a kamikaze death dive into the atmosphere,” explains NASA astronomer Bill Cooke.

27 April

  • A team of Italian and US researchers have made lab equipment that recreates the jets that shoot out of stars and black holes. Astrophysical jets are narrow streams of charged particles spurting from the centre of young stars and supermassive black holes. They hurtle in opposite directions at near light speed.
  • SETI has placed the collection of 42 radio dishes in northern California called the Allen Telescope Array into “hibernation due to lack of funding.

26 April

  • Chinese authorities in charge of the manned space program unveiled plans on Monday to build a 60-ton space station, made up of three capsules, and develop a cargo spaceship to transport supplies. The 18.1-meter-long core module, with a maximum diameter of 4.2 meters and a launch weight of 20 to 22 tons, will be launched first. The two experiment modules will then blast off to dock with the core module. Each laboratory module is 14.4 meters long, with the same maximum diameter and launch weight of the core module. The 60-ton space station is rather small compared to the International Space Station (419 tons), and Russia’s Mir Space Station (137 tons).

25 April

24 April

23 April

  • The multibillion-dollar U.S.-European Mars exploration program has suffered a serious — but not fatal — blow with NASA’s confirmation that it can no longer afford to launch its own rover alongside a European rover in 2018.
  • The suborbital Virgin Galactic spacecraft SpaceShipTwo has completed its fifth unpowered flight. The glide test from high altitude lasted 14 minutes and 31 seconds.

22 April

  • Arianespace successfully launched the Ariane 5 rocket carrying the Yahsat Y1A and Intelsat New Dawn at 2:37 PM Phoenix time (2137 UTC) on April 22, 2011.
  • NASA’s Dawn spacecraft could settle the matter of whether Vesta is an asteroid or a “minor planet”. Originally spotted 200 years ago, it is officially a “minor planet”. It seems large for an asteroid at 530 km in width.
  • Russia will not permit the first U.S. commercial spacecraft (SpaceX Dragon) to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) unless its safety is fully tested, a high-ranking official with Russia’s space agency Roscosmos said on Friday.

21 April

  • Atlantis is tasked with the final mission as part of the Space Shuttle Program (SSP), with a launch date of June 28 resulting in a vital logistics run to the International Space Station (ISS). The current plan is for Atlantis to then retire at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), as she becomes the centerpiece of a new exhibition.

20 April

  • An Indian rocket launched a remote sensing satellite and two smaller spacecraft on Wednesday. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India, on schedule at 9:42 PM Phoenix time Tuesday (0442 UTC, 10:12 am local time Wednesday). The rocket’s primary payload was Resourcesat-2, a 1,206-kilogram remote sensing satellite.
  • Shuttle managers on Tuesday confirmed plans to launch the space shuttle Endeavour on its final mission a week from Friday. Endeavour is scheduled to launch on STS-134 at 12:47 PM Phoenix time (1947 UTC) on Friday, April 29

19 April

  • NASA has awarded Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) $75 million to develop a revolutionary launch escape system that will enable the company’s Dragon spacecraft to carry astronauts. The Congressionally mandated award is part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) initiative that started in 2009 to help private companies mature concepts and technologies for human spaceflight.
  • NASA has awarded seed money to four companies for work on commercial crew vehicles in the second round of its Commercial Crew Development (CCDev-2). A total of $269.3 million to help mature concepts for private spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station and other low-Earth-orbit destinations. Boeing received $92.3 million on top of the $18 million it won last year. Sierra Nevada Corp., last year’s top winner, will get $80 million to go with the $20 million it received in 2010. Space Exploration Technologies Inc. (SpaceX), which already has flown its Dragon cargo capsule to orbit and back, has been granted $75 million to develop a launch abort system and other hardware so the Dragon can carry crew. Blue Origin, the secretive startup organized by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, was allotted $22 million to continue work on its vertical takeoff and landing craft.

18 April

  • Launcher and pad preparations to boost the Ukraine-built Cyclone-4 from Brazil’s Alcantara launch center are entering their final phase, with the goal of completing the qualification liftoff next year.

17 April

16 April

  • Space.com discusses the new NASA budget. The new budget at least frees NASA from a stifling provision under its 2010 budget that prevented it from cutting funding to the moon-bound Constellation program. Yet that program was canceled by President Barack Obama in early 2010, and NASA has been targeting new goals ever since.

15 April

  • The March 30 launch abort of Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket after the main engine had been ignited was caused by one or more components attached to the engine nozzle that prevented the nozzle from moving freely during ignition, the head of the Arianespace launch consortium said April 15.
  • In Texas, County Commissioner Calls for a Congressional Investigation why no Space Shuttle is coming to Houston.
  • Two small U.S. military satellites are queued up and waiting to ride into space on Minotaur rockets in May, but managers want to make sure the boosters are immune from the glitch that doomed the launch of a NASA science mission in March.
  • How many flights will the US Air Force X-37B make? Perhaps as few as two, perhaps three.

14 April

  • Wayne Hale, former NASA Space Shuttle Program Manager, explains why Houston did not get a Space Shuttle: “Because we just don’t care enough to do anything about it.”
  • The United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket has performed its twenty-fifth launch, delivering into orbit the classified NROL-34 payload for the US National Reconnaissance Office. The launch took place from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 04:24 UTC Friday (9:24 PM Phoenix time Thursday).
  • Spending bill will put an end to the Constellation program

13 April

  • Boeing expects to select a single vehicle next month from an unspecified number of rockets in the running to launch unmanned flight tests and early crewed missions of the seven-person CST-100 space taxi it is developing with financial backing from NASA. The four real candidates are: United Launch Alliance’s Delta 4 and Atlas 5, Space Exploration Technologies’ Falcon 9, the European Ariane 5.
  • The Vostok 3KA-2 space capsule was sold for nearly $2.9 million in a Sotheby’s auction to Russian businessman Evgeny Yurchenko. The spacecraft flew in space in March 1961, 20 days before the historic April 12, 1961 launch of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin on the first human spaceflight.
  • Celestial Fireworks from Dying Stars.

12 April

  • NASA’s space shuttles, which have been carrying astronauts aloft for 30 years, were assigned to their final destinations on Tuesday: one will head to the nation’s capital, another to Los Angeles, and the third from its current home at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the center’s visitor complex next door.
  • Yuri’s Night celebration in Moscow.
  • The Adler Planetarium will soon be home to a space flight simulator used to train every shuttle astronaut who has traveled to space.

11 April

  • Arianespace announced that “With the additional checkout and verification now in progress on the Ariane 5 ECA launcher, Arianespace has decided to resume the operations for Ariane Flight VA201 with the Yahsat Y1A and Intelsat New Dawn satellite payloads.”
  • Engineers and scientists eagerly unpacked the Juno spacecraft from its shipping crate Saturday, kicking off nearly four months of launch preparations before the $1 billion mission is shot toward Jupiter this summer.

10 April

  • Following a meeting between NASA and Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) managers on Friday, a decision was made to call off the planned Soyuz documentary flyabout of the International Space Station (ISS) and Endeavour during the STS-134/ULF-6 mission, due to concerns with crew impacts in the event that the Soyuz should fail to re-dock with the ISS. Flyabout planning efforts are now shifting to the STS-135/ULF-7 mission.

9 April

  • Plans to launch an Atlas 5 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base next week have been delayed two days by a need to replace a questionable part on the space booster. The team now is shooting for a blastoff from Space Launch Complex-3 East on South Base at 9:24 PM Thursday, 14 April, carrying a National Reconnaissance Office spacecraft to orbit for a clandestine mission.
  • NASA’s Juno spacecraft has arrived in Florida to begin final preparations for a launch this summer. The spacecraft was shipped from Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, to the Astrotech payload processing facility in Titusville, Florida. The solar-powered Juno spacecraft will orbit Jupiter’s poles 33 times to find out more about the gas giant’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.

8 April

  • NASA’s Swift satellite, Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory have teamed up to study one of the most puzzling cosmic blasts ever observed. More than a week later, high-energy radiation continues to brighten and fade from the gamma-ray burst.
  • Space.com presents a compilation of “Firsts” in the Space Age on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s manned spaceflight.
  • April is proving to be the cruelest month for the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), a major space mission to look for gravitational waves that was slated for launch around 2015. But news broke this week that NASA is abandoning funding for the project, which means the U.S. will cede its role in developing this critical instrument in order to redirect funds to the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

7 April

  • The Russian Soyuz TMA-21 piloted spacecraft docked with the International Space Station (ISS). The new ISS crew consists of Russians Alexander Samokutyayev and Andrei Borisenko, and U.S. astronaut Ronald Garan.
  • NATURE reports that NASA is disbanding two major US science teams following a bilateral meeting with the European Space Agency, Nature has learned. In a public presentation April 4, Jon Morse of NASA Astrophysics Division said that the International X-ray Observatory Science team and the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA)’s International Science Team will formally no longer exist and the project offices are closing.
  • Virgin Galactic dropped the White Knight Two and Space Ship Two on the San Francisco Airport Thursday. Watch the video from Wired.

6 April

  • Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) head Elon Musk revealed their latest launch vehicle on Tuesday, the Falcon Heavy. Effectively three Falcon 9 core stages strapped together, the new vehicle – set to debut as soon as 2013 – will be the most powerful US rocket to have launched since the Saturn V was built for the Apollo Program, eventually sharing a 20 missions per year manifest with the Falcon 9.

5 April

  • Chinese Space Junk Won’t Hit Space Station
  • Russia’s Soyuz TMA-21 spacecraft, which also goes by its American designation of 26S, has blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday (4th April) at 10:18:20 PM GMT, carrying three crew-members for the International Space Station’s (ISS’) Expedition 27 and Expedition 28 crews.

4 April

  • The scheduled April 19 launch of the space shuttle Endeavour is expected to be postponed for at least 10 days, sources close to the project said Sunday. The glitch evidently has to do with a scheduling conflict involving a Russian resupply craft, the Progress, which was to launch a few days after the Endeavour. That craft cannot dock with the International Space Station while the shuttle is there, and NASA had hoped to persuade the Russians to agree to put the Progress into a “parking” orbit until the Endeavour had completed its mission.

3 April

  • NASA has announced the winners of the 18th annual NASA Great Moonbuggy Race — and it’s Puerto Rico’s year. Teams representing Teodoro Aguilar Mora Vocational High School of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, snared the top two berths in the high school division; and, for the second straight year, the University of Puerto Rico in Humacao held off all comers to win the college division.
  • The New Scientist discusses stars that orbit the wrong way in their galaxy’s heart are probably the remnants of another galaxy that was eaten. Astronomers have noted for years that the stars at the heart of some galaxies orbit in the opposite direction to that of their neighbours further out.
  • NASA managers have been presented with a working plan and completed assessments on the potential for a Soyuz fly-around of the Shuttle/Station stack during Endeavour’s docked mission. With many of the hurdles from the canceled STS-133 fly-about plan removed, the unique event has a high potential of being approved by the International Space Station (ISS) partners.

2 April

  • Russia’s soyuz TMA-21 rocket has been moved into position at the Baikonur launch pad in Kazakhstan before the scheduled blast off date on Tuesday. The craft will have an international crew of US astronaut Ron Garan, and Russian cosmonauts Aleksander Samokutyaev and Andrei Borisenko.
  • The Endeavour astronauts followed a realistic countdown sequence Friday, getting suited up and strapping inside the space shuttle for a thorough dress rehearsal that culminated with a pretend ignition and shutdown of the three main engines at T-minus 4 seconds.

1 April

  • More than 70 million observations during the past two 2 years in orbit from ESA’s GOCE satellite has given scientists their most detailed map yet of Earth’s gravitational field. The lumpiness of that geoid—the theoretical surface that a planet-wide ocean would take if there were no tides or currents—betrays the irregularity of the planet’s mass distribution, including concentrations of mass such as mountain ranges and ice sheets.
  • The Soyuz site at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana is now ready for its first launch. ESA yesterday handed over the complex to Arianespace, marking a major step towards this year’s inaugural flight.
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