NSS Phoenix Space News

May 2011

Posted by drdave on May 1, 2011

31 May

  • A recent analysis of lunar rocks reveals that they have the same concentration of water as the Earth’s upper mantle, the layer of near-molten rock just beneath the crust.
  • Astronauts piloted the shuttle Endeavour on a unique course back toward the International Space Station Monday, testing a next-generation laser-based navigation sensor in hopes of verifying it can help guide future voyages to the space station, distant asteroids and Mars.

30 May

  • The space shuttle Endeavour undocked from the International Space Station for the final time Sunday at 8:55 PM Phoenix time Sunday (0355 GMT Monday). The shuttle then first maneuvered away and around the station. It approached the station again, coming within about 300 meters of the station in order to test a sensor system on the station to be used by future spacecraft docking with the ISS. Endeavour is scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 11:35 PM Phoenix time Tuesday night (0635 GMT Wednesday)

29 May

  • Endeavour is due to undock from the space station Sunday night at 8:55 PM Phoenix time (0355 30 May UTC) after nearly two weeks visiting the orbiting lab.
  • Inside a pristine clean room just outside the gate to the Kennedy Space Center, engineers casting brilliant beams of light on NASA’s Jupiter-bound Juno spacecraft finished checking the power efficiency of its 18,600 solar cells last week.

28 May

27 May

  • A battery of NASA payloads, including missions to Jupiter and Mars, occupy the Atlas 5 rocket manifest for the balance of 2011.
  • At 2:02 AM Phoenix time, Fincke and Chamitoff completed the 1,000th hour of spacewalk activity for space station assembly and maintenance. It also left Fincke on the threshold of a personal mark. About 5 p.m. Friday evening he will become the U.S. astronaut with the most time in space, more than 377 days, including two long-duration station missions. That will surpass the time in space of Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office.

26 May

  • NASA announced Wednesday that it will launch a robotic mission in 2016 to fly to a near Earth asteroid and return a sample to Earth. The Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission will be the third in NASA’s New Frontier program of mid-range planetary science missions. OSIRIS-REx will launch in 2016 to fly to asteroid 1999 RQ36, rendezvousing with it in 2020.
  • Two astronauts spent nearly seven hours outside the International Space Station on Wednesday completing a variety of tasks. During a spacewalk that lasted six hours and 54 minutes, Drew Feustel and Mike Fincke installed a new fixture on the Zarya module that can be used by the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm.

25 May

  • NASA will end efforts this month to restore communications with the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, effectively ending a mission that started over seven years ago. Spirit has been out of communication since March 2010, when it went into hibernation to conserve power during the Martian winter. Project officials speculate that the rover, stuck in a patch of sand for two years, suffered damage during the cold winter since it could not position itself to generate enough power from its solar cells to run heaters.
  • Two astronauts floated outside the International Space Station Wednesday (May 25) to upgrade the orbiting lab and complete some unfinished work from an earlier spacewalk. Endeavour shuttle astronauts Andrew Feustel and Mike Fincke began the third spacewalk of their mission at 10:43 PM Phoenix time (0543 GMT). The outing is expected to last about 6 1/2 hours. This is the sixth spacewalk of Feustel’s career, and the seventh for Fincke.

24 May

  • Expedition 27 Commander Dmitry Kondratyev and Flight Engineers Cady Coleman and Paolo Nespoli safely landed their Soyuz spacecraft on the Kazakhstan steppe Monday, wrapping up a five-month stay aboard the International Space Station.
  • Experts are examining the backshell for the Mars Science Laboratory, which was improperly lifted at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) last week, NASA says. The accident apparently involved the backshell being lifted with a crane in the wrong attitude, placing out-of-specification strain on clamps holding it together.

23 May

  • Nasa’s three-decade-long Space Shuttle era will come to a close on 8 July 2011. The US agency has confirmed the date for the blast-off for Atlantis, which will be the final launch of the Space Shuttle program. The STS-135 mission will be a 12-day flight to the International Space Station. The four crew members, shuttle commander Christopher Ferguson, pilot Douglas Hurley and mission specialists Rex Walheim and Sandra Magnus, are all veterans of the program.
  • NASA’s twin lunar probes have arrived in Florida to begin final preparations for a launch in late summer. The two Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory spacecraft (GRAIL) were shipped from Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, to the Astrotech payload processing facility in Titusville, Fla., Friday, May 20. NASA’s dynamic duo will orbit the moon to determine the structure of the lunar interior from crust to core and to advance understanding of the thermal evolution of the moon.
  • Lou Friedman weighs in with “In my view the situation in the United States with respect to access to space is no different than if we had a space czar whose motive was to keep the country grounded.”

22 May

  • Endeavour’s flight crew have completed the second of four planned EVAs/spacewalks – focusing on port SARJ and Dextre lubrication and ammonia coolant line and tank work – lasting an epic eight hours and seven minutes. The spacewalk came after mission managers officially cleared Endeavour’s Thermal Protection System for reentry, following a multi-day review process of the vehicle’s ascent data, on-orbiter inspections, RPM photography, and Focused Inspection data.

21 May

  • An Ariane 5 launcher lifted off this evening from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on its mission to place two telecommunications satellites, ST-2 and GSAT-8, into their planned transfer orbits. Flight VA202 was the third Ariane 5 launch of 2011.
  • A Proton rocket successfully launched an American commercial communications satellite early Saturday. The Proton M lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 21:15 PM Phoenix time Friday (1915 UTC Friday, 1:15 am local time Saturday) and inserted the Telstar 14R satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit nine hours and 13 minutes later

20 May

  • Endeavour’s flight crew are working through the mission’s first EVA, focusing on MISSE experiment swap outs and ammonia jumper line installations. Meanwhile, engineers on the ground are pouring over imagery data from FD-3′s RPM (R-bar Pitch Maneuver) which helped engineers identify a debris impact area on Endeavour that might require a Focused Inspection (FI) during FD-6 (Saturday).
  • An Ariane 5 rocket is scheduled to blast off Friday with two satellites to provide direct television broadcasting and navigation services. Liftoff is set for 2038 UTC (1:38 PM Phoenix time) from Kourou, French Guiana.
  • Russia’s Proton-M carrier rocket with the U.S. Telstar-14P communication satellite on board will be launched from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan late on Friday

19 May

  • Astronomers have detected a group of large planets not orbiting any stars in a region near the center of the galaxy. Astronomers believe that these planets formed around stars and were later ejected due to gravitation interactions with other bodies. They project that the total number of free-floating planets in the galaxy is at least twice the number of stars.
  • NASA reported that space shuttle Endeavour astronauts successfully completed their primary mission this morning — delivering and attaching the $2 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to a truss outside the International Space Station. It is the largest scientific collaboration to use the laboratory. This investigation is sponsored by the United States Department of Energy and made possible by funding from 16 different nations. The instrument weighs nearly 8 tons.

18 May

  • In another historic milestone for Endeavour’s final flight, the fleet’s youngest orbiter chased down the International Space Station (ISS) to kick start the docked phase of the STS-134 mission. Endeavour arrived in superb shape, with the Mission Management Team (MMT) only having to review a handful of very minor issues, following an extremely clean ascent to orbit.
  • Comet Hartley 2 continues to puzzle scientists. Images by the EPOXI spacecraft in November 2010, the measurements of water, methanol, carbon dioxide and ethanol suggest a complex interior, which is the subject of a lot of speculation. “We haven’t seen a comet like this before,” says Michael Mumma of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “Hartley-2 could be the first of a new breed.”

17 May

  • The New Scientist is having a contest. The prize is a rock, which is a fragment of a larger piece that was blasted off the surface of the red planet by an impact long ago.

16 May

  • Endeavour has successfully reached orbit and is on its way to the International Space Station.
  • NASA started countdown clocks on Friday for Monday morning’s scheduled launch of the space shuttle Endeavour on that orbiter’s final mission. Countdown clocks started at 5:00 AM Phoenix time (1100 UTC) Friday for the launch, scheduled for 5:56 am Phoenix time (1256 UTC) Monday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

15 May

  • Commercial space pioneer Robert Bigelow, author Dr. John Logsdon and former Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin are among the featured participants coming for the International Space Development Conference in Huntsville this week.
  • European Space Agency (ESA) Arianespace will launch India’s heavy geo-stationary satellite (GSAT-8), intended for communication purposes, on board its Ariane-5 rocket May 20 from its space center in French Guiana.

14 May

  • Endeavour remains on track for launch on Monday, as she hit the start of her S0007 Launch Countdown operation on time at 7am Friday morning. No issues are being worked on the vehicle, although a meeting on Thursday confirmed a decision not to reopen the Payload Bay in order to help the STP-H3 VADER experiment, which is struggling to cope with the extended stay at the launch pad.
  • It’s been rumored for a while now, but NASA’s plans to respond to congressional (mal)direction are starting to come into focus, and it’s not a pretty picture. Over at the Orlando Sentinel, Mark Matthews has the story:

    NASA’s latest plan to replace the space shuttle would spend at least $10 billion during the next six years to test-fly a rocket made of recycled parts of the shuttle — with no guarantee the rocket would ever be used again, according to documents obtained by the Orlando Sentinel.

  • The X PRIZE Foundation and the LEGO Group today announced MoonBots 2.0: A Google Lunar X PRIZE LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Challenge. This second annual contest will challenge teams of youth to design, program, and construct robots that perform simulated lunar missions similar to those required to win the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, a private race to the Moon designed to enable commercial exploration of space while engaging the global public. To further this purpose, the X PRIZE Foundation and the LEGO Group have partnered with WIRED magazine and FIRST robotics to offer a competition that will excite students and their families about the Moon, robotics, and team building.

13 May

  • An underground ocean of magma powers much of the volcanic activity on Jupiter’s moon, Io. Scientists have cracked a long-standing puzzle posed by NASA’s defunct Galileo probe, which orbited giant Jupiter and surveyed its moons from 1995 to 2003. The Galileo team used the planet’s strong magnetic field to look for distinct radio waves bouncing back from the Jovian moons, a technique that previously netted evidence for underground saltwater oceans on Europa, Callisto and Ganymede.
  • China, the up-and-coming space power is finishing up testing on two large unmanned spacecraft scheduled to blast off later this year for the country’s first in-orbit docking demonstration.

12 May

  • NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has obtained its first image of the giant asteroid Vesta, which will help fine-tune navigation during its approach. Dawn expects to achieve orbit around Vesta on July 16, when the asteroid is about 117 million miles from Earth.
  • The six astronauts who will fly space shuttle Endeavour’s final mission returned to Florida today, hoping next Monday’s scheduled second-try at their launch is the trick.
  • For the first time, a Soyuz undocking is expected to take place while a space shuttle is docked. Endeavour is set to launch May 16 on the STS-134 mission to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and continue station outfitting. All Soyuz activities during STS-134 will be incorporated into mission coverage. Expedition 27 Commander Dmitry Kondratyev, NASA Flight Engineer Cady Coleman and European Space Agency Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli are scheduled to land in their Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft in southern Kazakhstan at 7:26 PM Phoenix time on May 23 (8:26 a.m. local time May 24).

11 May

  • The Crab Nebula, the dusty remains of an exploded star, has unleashed a surprisingly massive flare that is five times more powerful than any eruption previously seen from the celestial object, leaving scientists struggling to explain the event, NASA says. The so-called “superflare” was detected on April 12 by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, which is continuously mapping the sky in gamma ray wavelengths in search of gamma-ray bursts, the brightest explosions in the universe.
  • Kennedy Space Center (KSC) engineering teams have realigned processing targets for STS-135 to point towards a July 12 launch date. The preliminary target is dependant on numerous – and upcoming – factors, not least the need for Endeavour to launch on her re-planned May 16 date, but also a nominal pad turnaround and a smooth pre-launch flow for Atlantis herself.

10 May

  • NASA shuttle managers announced Monday that they have competed repairs to the shuttle Endeavour and set May 16th as the new launch date for the penultimate shuttle mission.

9 May

  • Yahsat Y1A, slated to provide high definition television (HDTV) to audiences across the Middle East, Africa and South West Asia, has successfully reached its orbital slot at 52.5 degrees East two weeks after launch. The communications satellite was launched into space by Aprianespace on 22 April 2011, alongside Intelsat’s New Dawn satellite.

8 May

  • China successfully launched a space environment-monitoring rocket Saturday morning from the southern island province of Hainan as part of the nation’s key “Meridian Project.” The rocket was sent into space at 7 a.m. from a launch site in Hainan, said a statement from the Center for Space Science and Applied Research of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).
  • The official ceremony marking ESA’s handover of the Soyuz launch site to Arianespace took place today at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, after the site was declared ready for the first flight and the completion of a simulated launch campaign.

7 May

  • United Launch Alliance successfully launched an Atlas V 401 with a Centaur upper stage. The payload was the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS).
  • NASA announced Friday that the launch of Endeavour on the next-to-last shuttle mission has been delayed again, this time to no earlier than May 16, as repairs continue. The root cause of the failure in the power controller box, called a Load Control Assembly, has not yet been found.
  • “China has the fastest growing economy in the world. But the American free enterprise system, which allows anyone with a better mousetrap to compete, is what will ensure that the United States remains the world’s greatest superpower of innovation,” the native of South Africa wrote Wednesday.
    Musk wrote the blog nearly three weeks after officials of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. acknowledged at a space conference that they could not match SpaceX’s launch prices.

6 May

  • The United Launch Alliance (ULA) will make a second attempt to launch their Atlas V 401 from Cape Canaveral on Saturday at 2:10pm EDT, following several failed attempts to find a gap in unacceptable weather during the 40 minute launch window on Friday – resulting in a 24 hour scrub turnaround. The Atlas V is carrying the first in a new series of early warning satellites to detect missile launches.
  • Endeavour’s final mission is now tracking a No Earlier Than (NET) May 16 launch date, following a Program level meeting to evaluate the schedule for the troubleshooting work on the orbiter’s Auxiliary Power Unit (APU-1) heater system. Work has – and continues to – focus on the Aft Load Controller Assembly (ALCA-2), while additional work is being performed on replacing wiring and thermostats to provide improved fault mitigation.

5 May

  • 50th anniversary of Alan Shepard historic flight.
  • Space tourist trips around the Moon will get a roomier spaceship. This newly announced habitation module will almost double the room in the Soyuz, adding substantial volume to the otherwise cramped quarters of the Russian capsule

4 May

3 May

  • NASA Space Shuttle and International Space Station managers met Monday and determined that Tuesday 10 May is the earliest Endeavour could be launched on the STS-134 mission with ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori and the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.
  • An asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier will come closer to Earth this autumn than our own moon does, causing scientists to hold their breath as it zooms by. But they’ll be nervous with excitement, not with worry about a possible disaster. There’s no danger of an impact when the asteroid 2005 YU55 makes its close flyby 8 November, coming within 201,700 miles (325,000 kilometers) of Earth.

2 May

  • The European Space Agency (ESA) reports on the recent testing of the the Eurobot Ground Prototype (Red Rover) between 18-22 April at Rio Tinto in Andalucia, southern Spain. This new robotic assistant is designed to move around and work on a planet either on its own or in league with astronauts.
  • Astrobiology Magazine discusses finding fossils in the desert sands of Morrocco, and the implications for fossil hunting on Mars.
  • The failure of the hybrid drivers in the Load Control Assembly (LCA) will require the removal and replacement of the LCA and a two day test regime before Endeavour can be returned to the scrubbed countdown. Conflicts with the 6 May launch of an Atlas 5 rocket means that Endeavour will launch no earlier than (NET) 8 May.

1 May

  • The space shuttle Endeavour will launch no earlier than May 8 as engineers continue to troubleshoot a problem with heaters in one of the orbiter’s auxiliary power units (APUs), NASA announced Sunday morning. NASA had hoped to launch Endeavour on mission STS-134 on Monday afternoon, after the APU heater problem scrubbed Friday’s launch attempt. However, initial efforts to identify and solve the problem Saturday failed. Engineers now believe the problem is with the Load Control Assembly on the shuttle’s aft compartment that will be replaced, work that pushes back the launch to at least May 8 and possibly later. NASA plans to announce an official launch date on Monday or Tuesday.
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