NSS Phoenix Space News

June 2011

Posted by drdave on June 3, 2011

30 June

  • NASA’s plan to use commercial spaceships to carry astronauts to orbit after the space shuttles retire is coming along nicely, the agency announced today. The four private companies awarded funding under NASA’s most recent round of Commercial Crew Development 2 (CCDev2) contracts have met all of their initial milestones so far, agency representatives said.

29 June

  • A Minotaur rocket launched a small military satellite late Wednesday evening from Virginia. The Minotaur 1 rocket lifted off from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Virginia, at 11:09 pm EDT (0309 GMT Thursday) and released the ORS-1 satellite into low Earth orbit about 12 minutes later.

28 June

27 June

  • Space Security Policy: The US and EU recently released documents regarding space security. Should they come to an accord or should the US take the lead?
  • Continuing Light Squared Issues: John Byrne heads the wireless and mobile infrastructure research group at IDC. He said the interference issue may continue to be a sticking point for LightSquared, even with the proposed solution. “At this point I think you have to assume that the deployment is on hold until those concerns are addressed to the satisfaction of the FCC and all of the congressmen and senators that are on the FCC on this issue,” he said.

26 June

  • As military-launch costs soar, would-be competitors protest. Increase will be nearly 50 percent during the next four years.
  • The White Sands Space Harbor, the landing site for the STS-3 in 1982, will be closing its doors after 35 years due to the end of the space shuttle program; the last launch is scheduled to take place in July.
  • Following its replacement on Atlantis’ SSME-3 (Space Shuttle Main Engine), the new Main Fuel Valve (MFV) is undergoing a weekend of testing at Pad 39A, aimed at providing confidence the hardware will perform as required during the launch countdown. Meanwhile, inspections on ET-138′s stringers have been completed with no obvious issues reported.

25 June

  • If skies are clear and all goes well Tuesday evening, observers throughout Maryland and much of the Mid-Atlantic region should be able to watch a big rocket launch from Virginia’s Wallops Island. The Air Force will attempt to launch a battlefield imaging satellite into orbit from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. The ORS-1 satellite will ride atop a four-stage, solid-fuel Minotaur 1 rocket, the largest ever launched from the Delmarva peninsula.
  • Asteroid 2011 MD will pass approximately 12,000 kilometers above the Earth’s surface at about 9:30 am EDT (1330 GMT) Monday, JPL reported Friday.

24 June

  • NASA’s next Mars spacecraft arrived at Cape Canaveral this week in preparation for its launch later this year. The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), also known as Curiosity, arrived at the Kennedy Space Center on Thursday on board a C-17 cargo aircraft, which flew the spacecraft from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. MSL, the most advanced Mars rover built, is scheduled for launch late this year from Cape Canaveral on an Atlas 5 rocket.

23 June

  • Betelgeuse, a red supergiant in the constellation of Orion, is one of the brightest stars in the night sky. It is also one of the biggest, being almost the size of the orbit of Jupiter — about four and half times the diameter of the Earth’s orbit. The VLT image shows the surrounding nebula, which is much bigger than the supergiant itself, stretching 60 billion kilometres away from the star’s surface — about 400 times the distance of the Earth from the Sun.

22 June

  • Mark Kelly, the NASA astronaut who commanded the most recent shuttle mission and is married to congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, announced on Tuesday his plans to retire. Kelly announced via social media that he would retire from both NASA and the US Navy on October 1.
  • The “Deep Space Adventure” movie, lands July 8 at the Adler Planetarium, guiding earthbound visitors through an outer space journey that planetarium officials think is second only to actual space travel. 20 individual digital projectors for a screen resolution of more than 8,000-by-8,000 pixels will be replacing the 40-year-old Zeiss projector — made famous during a 2008 presidential debate when John McCain ripped a possible replacement as a “$3 million overhead projector”.

21 June

  • Russia successfully launched their Progress M-11M resupply mission to the International Space Station at 7:38 AM Phoenix time (1438 UTC).
  • Speaking at the 49th Paris Air Show in France, Vladimir Popovkin said that the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) will not produce a spaceship for tourists. Citing a full schedule of manned Soyuz and Progress re-supply missions to support the International Space Station as the reason for not proceeding at the moment, Popovkin did not rule out business in the future.

20 June

  • China is preparing to launch the ZX-10 ZhongXing-10 – also designated ChinaSat-10, Sinosat-5 or Xinnuo-5 – domestic communications satellite on Monday (16:05-16:30 UTC) from the Xi Chang Satellite Launch Center, in Sichuan Province.
  • Raffaello, more formally as the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, is stuffed with a full year’s worth of necessities for the International Space Station. It will be loaded into shuttle Atlantis’ payload bay Monday to prepare for launch next month.

19 June

18 June

  • NASA’s space probe Dawn is continuing its approach towards Vesta. The camera system on board is beginning to show the giant asteroid in more and more detail. The newest pictures taken on June 1st and processed by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany already hint at the huge crater on Vesta’s southern hemisphere that is known from earlier observations. In addition, the new images show a dark feature close to the asteroid’s equator.

17 June

  • A faulty engine valve on the space shuttle Atlantis found earlier this week can be replaced without causing a delay in the planned final shuttle launch.
  • A newly discovered comet from the farthest reaches of the solar system could become a sky spectacle in 2013. Right now the comet is 700 million miles (1.2 billion kilometers) from the sun, well beyond the orbit of Jupiter.

16 June

  • After nearly three months in orbit about Mercury, MESSENGER’s payload is providing a wealth of new information about the planet closest to the Sun, as well as a few surprises.
  • Comet Hartley 2’s hyperactive state, as studied by NASA’s EPOXI mission, is detailed in a new paper published in this week’s issue of the journal Science. “Hartley 2 is a hyperactive little comet, spewing out more water than most other comets its size,” said Mike A’Hearn, principal investigator of EPOXI from the University of Maryland, College Park. “When warmed by the sun, dry ice — frozen carbon dioxide — deep in the comet’s body turns to gas jetting off the comet and dragging water ice with it.”

15 June

  • The Sun may be entering an extended period of relatively quiet activity, a development that has implications for space exploration and possibly the Earth’s climate. Scientists said at a meeting Tuesday of the American Astronomical Society’s Solar Physics Division in New Mexico that evidence was mounting that the Sun’s activity would diminish, perhaps for an extended period. Solar scientists have not detected a zonal flow associated with the onset of a new cycle of solar activity, and others found a long-term weakening trend in sunspots.
  • NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or Stereo, has discovered 122 previously unknown sets of twin stars.
  • Lockheed Martin plans to lay off 1,200 workers in its Space Systems division by the end of the year, with sites in Denver, Sunnyvale, Calif., and Pennsylvania’s Delaware Valley region to be hardest hit. The layoffs amount to 7.5% of the 16,000-strong Space Systems workforce.

14 June

  • Orbital Sciences Corporation will build the latest spacecraft for a Thai company, and SpaceX will launch that satellite, in separate deals announced Monday. Orbital won a contract to build the Thaicom 6 satellite, based on the GEOStar bus. The satellite will carry a mix of C- and Ku-band transponders, with 3.7 kilowatts of power and a launch mass of 3,200 kilograms. That satellite will be launched by SpaceX on a Falcon 9 rocket in the second quarter of 2013.
  • Test results compiled by the National Executive Committee for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing indicate the 4G network under development from LightSquared interferes with GPS signals, darkening the network’s prospects.
  • The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)’s Hayabusa space probe has been officially recognized by Guinness World Records, adding yet another feather to the project’s cap after the accolades that have poured in from the scientific community over the past year. Recognition by Guinness World Records “will help spread knowledge of the Hayabusa probe’s achievements among the Japanese people, so I’m very happy,” said JAXA’s Hayabusa project manager Junichiro Kawaguchi.

13 June

  • Post flight processing continues on the Endeavour space shuttle.
  • NASA’s Dawn mission to the doughnut-shaped asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, which launched in September 2007, is now approaching Vesta, a protoplanet that is currently some 143 million miles from Earth.

12 June

  • Three years before its arrival the camera system on board the space probe Rosetta renders the first images of its destination. Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko is the 2014 target.
  • The European Space Agency should formally approve this summer the construction of an Italian-led demonstrator that will launch into space on a rocket, fly back to Earth like an airplane and parachute into the Pacific Ocean. The Intermediate Experimental Vehicle is on track to blast off on a Vega rocket in late 2013, speed around the Earth at a peak altitude of nearly 300 miles, then drop from space and fly back to Earth with the help of aerodynamic flaps and a parachute.
  • Today, Russia’s Mission Control will raise the orbit of the International Space Station (ISS) by 20 km (12.4 miles) using Europe’s ATV-2 Johannes Kepler to 365 km (226.8 miles).

11 June

10 June

  • A United Launch Alliance Delta II successfully launched the Aquarius / SAC-D ocean monitoring satellite this morning. Liftoff was at 7:20 AM Phoenix time (1420 UTC).
  • The Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft carrying three new ISS crew members docked with the station Thursday afternoon. The Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft docked with the Rassvet module of the station at 2:18 PM Phoenix time (2118 UTC) Thursday.
  • The new American commercial cargo spacecraft Dragon will be sent to the ISS at the end of this year, NASA Associate Administrator for Space Operations William Gerstenmaier told a press conference at the Mission Control Centre here on Friday.

9 June

  • On Wednesday, officials called off plans for today’s launch attempt of Aquarius/SAC-D mission. Engineers checking data spotted a problem with the pre-loaded computer flight profile that helps the steer the rocket through upper-level winds.
  • A report by NASA’s inspector general warned that the agency’s latest Mars rover mission may require additional funding in order to be ready for launch later this year. The report, by NASA’s Office of the Inspector General, found that the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission underestimated its costs by $44 million, and without additional funding the mission could miss its launch window late this year, forcing a two-year delay. MSL, also known as Curiosity, already missed its original launch window in 2009 in order because of development delays.

8 June

7 June

  • Russia successfully launched their Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft on a mission to the International Space Station. Docking is scheduled for 2:22 PM Phoenix time Thursday, 9 June (2122 UTC).
  • A NASA instrument will hitchhike aboard an Argentine satellite when it rides an American rocket to space from Vandenberg Air Force Base early Thursday morning. The United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket and the Aquarius/SAC-D satellite are set to lift off from Space Launch Complex-2 between 7:20 and 7:25 a.m. Thursday.

6 June

  • A decision on the configuration of the Space Launch System (SLS) Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLV) is just weeks away, as final evaluations take place into a “staged evolution of a single heavy launcher”, after NASA’s leadership rejected the two-phase approach, which would have resulted in an open competition for the Beyond Earth Orbit (BEO) derivative of the SLS.
  • A paper published in the current issue of Nature provides the first cohesive explanation of how the migration of Jupiter shaped the asteroid belt and stripped a lot of material from the region, essentially starving Mars of formation materials.

5 June

  • Assemblage of the Russian Soyuz-FG rocket to carry Soyuz TMA-02M manned spacecraft to the International Space Station was completed on Saturday. The mission to the International Space Station is set for June 8. Soyuz TMA-02M will bring new Expedition 28 astronauts to the ISS. The docking is slated for June 10.

4 June

  • A pair of Danish amateur rocket makers successfully launched their 30 foot tall, 1.6 ton liquid fueled rocket out over the Baltic Sea.
  • A team of scientists at the University of Arizona’s Luna and Planetary Sciences Laboratory has been picked NASA to head up an $800 million space exploration project named OSIRIS-REx. The plan is for NASA to launch the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft in 2016 for the 575-meter near-Earth asteroid 1999 RQ36. The spacecraft would then orbit and explore the asteroid for more than a year before closing in and collecting samples which would then be returned to Earth sometime in 2023.
  • The Boeing Company said Friday it had issued 60-day layoff notices to approximately 510 employees in its Space Exploration division as a result of the end of the Space Shuttle program. The notices include an estimated 260 employees in Houston, 150 at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., and 100 at the company’s Huntington Beach, California, facility.
  • A group of Canadians who spent their weekends hanging around garages has won the first edition of a NASA robotics competition ever to be opened to international competition. During the competition, the teams remotely controlled excavators — called “Lunabots” — to determine which could collect the most simulated lunar soil over 15 minutes. Laurentian’s team had the best result, digging up just over 237 kilograms of simulated moon rock. The second-place team from the University of North Dakota scooped up over 172 kilograms.

3 June

  • The space shuttle Atlantis arrived at the launch pad early Wednesday as preparations for the final mission of the space shuttle era continue. Atlantis arrived at launch pad 39A at 12:29 AM Phoenix time (0729 GMT) Wednesday, just under seven hours after leaving the Vehicle Assembly Building and less than an hour after the shuttle Endeavour landed at the Shuttle Landing Facility several miles away. Atlantis is scheduled for launch on STS-135, the final shuttle mission, on 8 July 2011.
  • Atlantis (STS-135) was soaked by thunderstorms and is undergoing checks following lightning storm

2 June

  • A drive of 482 feet (146.8 meters) on June 1, 2011, took NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity past 30 kilometers (18.64 miles) in total odometry during 88 months of driving on Mars. That’s 50 times the distance originally planned for the mission and more than 12 times the distance racehorses will run next week at the Belmont Stakes.
  • In two separate reports, astronomers reveal ancient globular clusters to be breeding much younger blue-straggler members, and a relatively young open cluster hosting an aging stellar population, calling into question theories of stellar evolution.
  • The Intelsat 18 telecommunications satellite will be launched by Sea launch Co. from the Russian-run Baikonur Cosmodrome in September or October following Sea Launch’s agreement to donate rocket hardware previously intended for a future Intelsat launch campaign
  • An asteroid the size of a small motorhome zoomed near Earth last night (June 1), coming closer to us than the moon ever does. The 23-foot-long (7-meter) space rock, named 2009 BD, came within 215,000 miles (346,000 kilometers) of Earth
  • Four astronomers who helped befuddle the world by discovering evidence for dark matter have won a prestigious cosmology prize. Scientists infer the existence of dark matter by its gravitational influence on the regular, visible matter around it. The scientists will share the $500,000 purse that comes with the 2011 Cosmology Prize of the Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation.

1 June

  • The space shuttle Endeavour landed at the Kennedy Space Center early Wednesday, completing its final mission and the next-to-last flight of the shuttle program overall. Endeavour landed at the Shuttle Landing Facility at KSC at 11:34 PM Phoenix time Tuesday (0634 UTC Wednesday) on the first available landing opportunity, ending a nearly 16-day mission to the International Space Station.
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