Posted by drdave on November 2, 2011
- The second flight of the Air Force’s classified X-37B spaceplane will be extended beyond its original end this week. An Atlas 5 launched the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle 2 in March on what was originally announced to be a 270-day mission, which meant the spaceplane would have landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California this Wednesday. Air Force officials said this week the mission will be extended for an unspecified period to “extract the maximum value” from the mission.
- A Long March 2C rocket launched a Chinese reconnaissance satellite on Wednesday. The rocket lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center at 11:50 AM Phoenix time Tuesday (1850 UTC Tuesday, 2:50 am local time Wednesday) and placed the Yaogan 13 satellite into orbit.
- NASA has agreed to pay Boeing Satellite Systems some $289 million to build an additional Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS). The U.S. space agency placed the spacecraft order as the first of two available contract options was about to expire.
- Aerojet completes Preliminary Design Review (PDR) on next-gen Upper Stage engine turbopump.
- The Soyuz-2 launch system will be used at Vostochny (Eastern) spaceport in the Amur Region, with the first blast-off is planned for 2015. The first launch of a manned spacecraft is planned for 2018.
- Russia has successfully launched another Kosmos (Glonass-M) class satellite into orbit, following lift-off of their Soyuz 2-1B launch vehicle from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia. Launch occurred at 08:25 UTC on Monday, with a successful spacecraft separation confirmed just over three hours later.
- Virgin Galactic, which plans to send paying tourists to space from the New Mexico Spaceport in southern New Mexico, has rented a 2,500-square-foot office on the top floor of the new Green Offices at 166 South Roadrunner Parkway, about two blocks south of the MountainView Regional Medical Center in Las Cruces New Mexico.
- When NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reaches Pluto in July 2015, it may find the region more hazardous than anticipated. The discovery of several moons around Pluto — and the potential for more — increase the risks during the probe’s flyby.
- All eyes are on Curiosity today, as it speeds toward Mars and an August 2012 landing.
- An Atlas 5 rocket successfully placed NASA’s latest Mars rover on a trajectory to the Red Planet on Saturday. The Atlas 5 541 lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 10:02 am EST (1502 GMT), at the beginning of its launch window. After two burns of the rocket’s Centaur upper stage, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft separated from the Centaur 44 minutes after launch.
- Contact with Phobos-Grunt, the Russian Mars mission stranded in Earth orbit for over two weeks, was lost again late this week.
- International Launch Services (ILS) successfully carried the AsiaSat 7 satellite into orbit today on an ILS Proton for Asia Satellite Telecommunications Company Limited (AsiaSat) of Hong Kong. This was the 5th commercial mission of the year for ILS and the 8th Proton launch so far this year.
- The Earth is being bombarded by cosmic rays from elsewhere in the galaxy, and a team of astronomers may have found a potential source: a ‘cocoon’ of cosmic rays in a bubble blown by young, massive stars.
- New competitors step up in EELV market.
- Russian specialists have deciphered telemetry data received from a wayward Mars probe, but have yet to find out the cause of its erratic behavior, a space industry source said on Thursday.
- Mars Science Laboratory Launch Milestones
- A European Space Agency antenna in Australia has detected a radio signal from Russia’s Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, the first contract from the Mars-bound spacecraft since it was stranded in Earth orbit two weeks ago. A brief statement on the ESA web site stated that its tracking station near Perth, Australia, detected a signal from the spacecraft at about 3:25 pm EST (2025 GMT) Tuesday. According to reports the station’s 15-meter antenna received a radio signal, but “no meaningful telemetry”.
- NASA’s space shuttle Enterprise will land next summer on the flight deck of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City. The World War II aircraft-carrier-turned-museum took over ownership of the prototype winged orbiter on Tuesday (22 November) in preparation for Enterprise’s delivery in 2012.
- The Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft landed at 7:26 PM Phoenix time Monday (0226 UTC), several hours after undocking from the station. The Soyuz carried American astronaut Mike Fossum, Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov, completing a 167-day mission. Three people, American Dan Burbank and Russians Anatoly Ivanishin and Anton Shkaplerov, remain on the ISS, where they arrived just last week aboard TMA-22. Three new ISS crewmembers will be launched on December 21.
- Russian Federal Space Agency experts are puzzled by the rising orbit of the Phobos-Grunt unmanned Mars probe, Roscosmos deputy head Vitaly Davydov said on Tuesday. The probe was launched on November 9 but its engines have not put it on course for the Red Planet. The craft, designed to bring back rock and soil samples from the Martian moon Phobos, is currently moving along a so-called support orbit and has been rising by up to one kilometer a day. The Phobos-Grunt probe will likely not fall to Earth until mid-March because of its rising orbit.
- Roger Handberg at The Space Review, discusses the short-term and long-term options for American human spaceflight.
- ESA has recently provided Air France with over 1200 new images to incorporate into the in-flight Geovision programme which displays captivating satellite views that link to the route on the onboard screens. The mesmerising scenes have been selected by ESA from various Earth observation satellites, including ESA’s Envisat and Proba, Korea’s Kompsat and France’s Spot.
- A fifth giant planet was kicked out of the early solar system, according to computer simulations by a US-based planetary scientist. The sacrifice of this gas giant paved the way for the stable configuration of planets seen today, says David Nesvorný, who believes that the expulsion prevented Jupiter from migrating inwards and scattering the Earth and its fellow inner planets.
- China successfully launched two research satellites, the SW-4 Shiyyan Weixing and the Chuang Xin-1 (3), from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The launch occurred at 00:15 UTC on Sunday from the 603 (SLS-2) launch complex using a Long March (Chang Zheng) 2D launch vehicle.
- The Orlando Sentinel opines that the “Myopic space budget keeps U.S. grounded”
- The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has stopped acquiring images from the 27-year-old Landsat 5 Earth observation satellite due to a rapidly degrading electronic component. Landsat 5 was launched in 1984 and designed to last 3 years. The USGS assumed operation of Landsat 5 in 2001 and managed to bring the aging satellite back from the brink of total failure on several occasions following the malfunction of key subsystems. There is now an increasing likelihood that the Landsat 5 mission is nearing its end. Landsat 8, currently called the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, is now scheduled to be launched in January 2013
- SpaceX is looking at Puerto Rico, Texas, Hawaii, or Florida to be the home of a new commercial launch facility for its Falcon rocket family.
- Shackleton Energy wants to be the first to mine the Moon.
- An uncrewed Chinese spacecraft that tested docking technology returned to Earth on Thursday. The Shenzhou-8 spacecraft landed in China’s Inner Mongolia region at 4:30 AM Phoenix time (1130 UTC).
- Planetary scientists have discovered what they believe to be a lake of water below the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa. Scientists modeled regions of Europa called “chaos terrains”, which are circular features with jumbled surface features. They believes these features are formed by lakes of salty liquid water just a few kilometers below the surface that seep up and break up the icy surface into the rough blocks seen in the chaos terrains.
- The science team that oversees the imaging system on board NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has released the highest resolution near-global topographic map of the moon ever created.
- A Soyuz spacecraft carrying three new International Space Station crewmembers docked with the station early Wednesday, ending any remaining fears that the station would soon have to be decrewed. The Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft docked with the station’s Poisk module at 10:24 PM Phoenix time Tuesday night (0524 UTC Wednesday).
- Aviation Week reports that “A House-Senate conference committee has finalized a 2012 spending bill that includes $17.8 billion for NASA, funding a space telescope but cutting money for space technology and commercial crew programs. The “minibus” appropriations bill, which combines three separate spending bills, includes full funding for the Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket and Orion MPCV capsule. The budget also provides $530 million for the James Webb Space Telescope, although a provision in the bill sets a cost cap of $8 billion for the program, which has suffered cost overruns and schedule delays. NASA’s commercial crew effort would get $406 million, less than half the $850 million requested by the agency, and the space technology program would get $575 million, a little over half the requested amount.”
- A robotic Chinese spacecraft that executed the nation’s first in-space docking has separated from its orbital partner in preparation for a return to Earth tomorrow, 17 November.
- Emily Lakdawalla at The Planetary Society blog reviews the six day status of the Fobos-Grunt mission to Mars. There were official comments today about the status of the mission from Roskosmos head Vladimir Popovkin.
- RIA Novosti has published an index to all of their Fobos-Grunt articles.
- China’s two unmanned spacecraft separated and then re-docked smoothly on Monday, following the first successful docking on 3 November.
- An eclectic lineup of former astronauts, aerospace industry companies, and critics have sent a pair of letters to Congress supporting full funding for NASA’s commercial spacecraft development program in FY 2012. NASA says it needs $850 million to move the Commercial Crew (CCDev) program along so private industry can deliver flights to the International Space Station (ISS) by the end of 2016. Failure to do so this year will result in a year’s delay in having an American solution to put people into low earth orbit (LEO) along with $480 million going out of the U.S. to Russia the following year for astronaut seats on Soyuz capsules, asserts the agency.
- Russia’s Phobos-Grunt spacecraft remains stuck in low Earth orbit and ground teams have until early December to try to return it to operations before declaring the mission lost.
- Aviation Week discusses the Space Launch System: “Struggling to stay within a flat budget for the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS), NASA plans to halt development of the J-2X rocket engine that will power its upper stage after the ongoing development-test series. Once the pacing item for the defunct Ares I crew launch vehicle, the Saturn-heritage J-2X may not fly until well into the 2020s. With the SLS program office expecting an annual development budget of $1.2 billion, near-term engine-development money is deemed better spent on a throwaway version of the RS-25D space shuttle main engine (SSME) that will power the SLS main stage. That engine—designated RS-25E—will use advanced manufacturing and design changes to lower the cost of the reusable SSME.”
- Russia successfully launched the Soyuz TMA-22 manned mission to the International Space Station (ISS) at 0414 UTC (9:14 PM Phoenix time). The three man crew will return the ISS to its full six man crew for the first time since three crew returned on 16 September aboard TMA-21. TMA-22 is the first manned mission since the failure of the Soyuz resupply mission in August.
- Pessimism continues to surround the Russian Fobos-Grunt mission. No communication has been established as of Sunday evening.
- Three astronauts are slated to launch to the International Space Station this weekend, in what will be the first manned flight of the Russian-built Soyuz rocket since a failure in August temporarily grounded the fleet. NASA astronaut Dan Burbank and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin are scheduled to lift off aboard Soyuz TMA-22 from the Baikonour Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sunday, 13 November, at 9:14 PM Phoenix time (0415 UCT 14 November).
- Latest orbital parameter comments from Ted Molczan: “USSTRATCOM has issued three new TLEs since my comments yesterday on the payload’s rate of decay. They confirm that the apparent small increase in orbital altitude is real, and apparently it is continuing.”
- There is essentially no news concerning the status of the Fobos-Grunt mission to the Martian moon Phobos.
- Emily Lakdawalla has a thorough summary of what is known about the Fobos-Grunt mission over at The Planetary Society.
- Russia’s space agency says it has failed so far to fix a probe bound for a moon of Mars that got stuck in Earth’s orbit. Roscosmos spokesman Alexei Kuznetsov says efforts to communicate with the unmanned Phobos-Grunt (Phobos-Ground) spacecraft hadn’t brought any results yet.
- From NasaSpaceFlight Forum: “Just a short report. [right after the launch] we’ve got telemetry from the 2nd stage of Zenit launcher, it shows normal separation. After the first loop the one and only [SC] telemetry session has been received, it showed deployment of the solar arrays, constant solar orientation and normal work of all systems. After the second loop we found the SC on the initial orbit, it was silent. No telemetry since that. Previous night at Baikonur there were failed attempts to restart the onboard computer. This attempts will be repeated this night.”
- China’s YaoGan Weixing-12 (YG-12) satellite, highly likely to be used for military purposes, has been launched into orbit by a CZ-4B Chang Zheng-4B (Long March 4B) rocket on Wednesday. The launch took place from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center at 11:21 am local time.
- In a full 500 second test firing, the J-2X engine, a key part of the evolved Space Launch System (SLS), has been put through its paces at NASA’s Stennis Space Center (SSC). Up to three of the powerful engines will power the Upper Stage of the Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLV), in configurations which includes sending humans and cargo to Mars.
- NASA will test the re-entry capabilities of the Orion capsule in 2013 or 2014 using a Delta IV Heavy rocket to launch the spacecraft into an elliptical orbit 5,000 miles high. At the end of the second orbit, the unmanned test vehicle will re-enter the atmosphere at 20,000 miles per hour.
- Russia launched the Fobos-Grunt mission to return a sample from the Martian moon Phobos. The Earth escape burns failed and the spacecraft is stranded in Earth orbit. Russian space scientists have three days to rescue the mission.
- An asteroid the size of a city block zoomed inside the moon’s orbit today in a rare flyby that marked the closest approach to Earth by such a big space rock in 35 years. The asteroid 2005 YU55 came within 324,600 kilometers of Earth at 2328 UTC Tuesday evening before speeding off into deep space once again at about 46,700 kph.
- Phobos sample return launches tomorrow.
- As managers work on finalizing the exploration road map for their new flagship vehicles, one of the first pieces in the puzzle, the debut of the Orion crew vehicle in space, has been given final approval by NASA. The Exploration Test Flight (EFT-1) will see Orion launched by a Delta IV-Heavy from Cape Canaveral in the latter part of 2013, or early 2014.
- NASA’s Deep Space Network personnel sent commands to the Voyager 2 spacecraft on 4 November to switch to the backup set of thrusters that controls the roll of the spacecraft. Confirmation was received today that the spacecraft accepted the commands. The change will allow the 34-year-old spacecraft to reduce the amount of power it requires to operate and use previously unused thrusters as it continues its journey toward interstellar space, beyond our solar system.
- Russia has successfully launched a Proton-M launch vehicle with three GLONASS-M navigation satellites from the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan. The launch was to have taken place a day earlier, but was delayed as a switch malfunction in the ground-control system was discovered during a pre-launch test.
- NASA’s next Mars rover has been placed atop the rocket that will launch it toward the Red Planet three weeks from now, officials announced today. Technicians hoisted the car-size Curiosity rover, the centerpiece of NASA’s $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory mission, atop its Atlas 5 rocket early Thursday morning at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Rocket and rover are slated to blast off on 25 November.
- The Progress M-13M/45P cargo spacecraft has docked with the International Space Station. The spacecraft docked with the Pirs module of the ISS at 4:41 am Phoenix time (1141 UTC) Wednesday, three days after launch from Baikonur. The spacecraft carries 2.9 tons of food, water, propellant, and other supplies for the crew.
- China declares first space docking successful.
- Boeing and NASA announced Monday plans by the aerospace company to build its commercial crewed spacecraft in a former shuttle hangar at the Kennedy Space Center. Boeing will establish its Commercial Crew Program Office, which may eventually include manufacturing facilities, at KSC’s Orbiter Processing Facility-3 (OPF-3), a facility previously used to maintain shuttles between flights.
- China’s Shenzhou 8 spacecraft has begun an orbital ballet in pursuit of the Tiangong 1 module (11 foot x 34 foot target). So far, only Russia, the United States and the European Space Agency have launched spacecraft with the ability to rendezvous and dock in orbit. Japan has demonstrated rendezvous and docking technology with its resupply freighter for the International Space Station. If successful, China’s autopilot docking will set the stage for one or two manned Shenzhou flights next year to visit the Tiangong 1 module and form a temporary mini-space station for technology testing and science experiments.