NSS Phoenix Space News

January 2012

Posted by drdave on January 2, 2012

31 January

  • Japan is hoping the second time will be the charm for a mission to collect samples from an asteroid. The government has just given the green light for the Hayabusa 2 mission to aim for launch in 2014.

30 January

29 January

28 January

  • A problem with a Soyuz spacecraft could delay the launch of the next crewed mission to the ISS by several weeks, Russian officials said Friday. The descent capsule of the Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft, slated to launch in late March, did not pass a pressure chamber test recently and will have to be replaced, an industry source told Interfax. That would delay the next mission to at least mid-April and possibly until May, and the following one, planned for the end of May, to at least mid-June.
  • A Progress cargo spacecraft carrying nearly three tons of supplies successfully docked with the International Space Station on Friday evening. The Progress M-14M spacecraft (designated Progress 46 by NASA) docked to the Pirs module of the ISS at 7:09 pm EST Friday (0009 GMT Saturday), two days after launch from Baikonur.

27 January

  • A ship ferrying an Atlas 5 booster and other rocket parts to their Florida launch site crashed into a Kentucky bridge late Thursday, 26 January, but the flight hardware appears to be undamaged.
  • Launch of the SES-4 commercial communications satellite scheduled for 29 January 2012 has been delayed again until further notice, according to International Launch Services (ILS). The satellite was to have launched 27 December 2011, but that flight was called off due to problems with the Proton rocket’s Breeze-M upper stage.
  • Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) have provided a positive overview on their progress in readying their Dream Chaser spacecraft for commercial crew operations in 2016. Dream Chaser has been paired with the highly reliable Atlas V launch vehicle as part of their Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) aspirations.

26 January

  • NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered 11 new planetary systems hosting 26 confirmed planets. These discoveries nearly double the number of verified planets and triple the number of stars known to have more than one planet that transits, or passes in front of, the star.

25 January

  • Russia successfully launched the Progress M-14M resupply spacecraft into orbit aboard a Soyuz rocket. Docking with the ISS is scheduled for 5:08 PM Phoenix time Friday (0008 UTC Saturday).
  • A dazzling display of auroras lit up the far northern skies Tuesday night, 24 January, in a supercharged light show captured on camera by skywatchers around the world.

24 January

  • The Russian Progress M-13M resupply freighter pulled away from the International Space Station Monday afternoon to fly independently into a higher orbit for deployment of a science satellite. It reached the ISS on 2 November 2011 to deliver three tons of equipment, food, rocket fuel, air and water. Progress M-14M is scheduled for launch to the outpost later this week.
  • SpaceX has announced a delay to the upcoming launch of their Dragon spacecraft, initially scheduled for 7 February. The launch, from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, has been pushed back to no earlier than late March.

23 January

  • Last night the sun unleashed a flash of radiation called a solar flare, along with a generous belch of ionized matter that is now racing toward Earth at thousands of kilometers a second. The solar storm front from the ionized blast, called a coronal mass ejection (CME), should arrive tomorrow morning, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC).
  • In 2011, NOAA satellites were critical in the rescues of 207 people from life-threatening situations throughout the United States and its surrounding waters. The satellites picked up distress signals from emergency beacons carried by downed pilots, shipwrecked boaters and stranded hikers, and relayed the information about their location to first responders on the ground.
  • A new analysis of radar data from NASA’s Cassini mission, in partnership with the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency, has revealed regional variations among sand dunes on Saturn’s moon Titan. The result gives new clues about the moon’s climatic and geological history.

22 January

21 January

20 January

  • A Delta 4 rocket successfully launched the fourth in a series of US military communications satellites on Thursday. The Delta 4 Medium+Plus (5,4) rocket lifted off on schedule at 5:38 PM Phoenix time Thursday (0038 UTC Friday) and placed the WGS-4 satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

19 January

  • On July 6, 2011, a comet was caught doing something never seen before: die a scorching death as it flew too close to the sun. That the comet met its fate this way was no surprise – but the chance to watch it first-hand amazed even the most seasoned comet watchers.
  • The Mars Rover Opportunity is spending the winter on the edge of Endeavour crater at a spot called Greeley Haven.

18 January

  • A hold-down test of Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares rocket, a prerequisite for the launch vehicle’s maiden flight, likely will not be completed before April because of ongoing tests and certification work on the vehicle’s launch pad at Wallops Island, Virginia.

17 January

  • SpaceX’s next Falcon 9 flight with the Dragon spaceship – a mission which is expected to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) – is slipping in order to allow for due diligence “safety checks” ahead of launch. SpaceX’s decision to slip what was a February 7 launch came after comments noting their sense of responsibility in returning US crewed access to LEO. The specific reason for the delay has not been revealed, as much as the slip is is expected to be only a matter of weeks.
  • In order to reduce power consumption, mission managers have turned off a heater on part of NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft, dropping the temperature of its ultraviolet spectrometer instrument more than 23 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit). It is now operating at a temperature below minus 79 degrees Celsius (minus 110 degrees Fahrenheit), the coldest temperature that the instrument has ever endured. This heater shut-off is a step in the careful management of the diminishing electrical power so that the Voyager spacecraft can continue to collect and transmit data through 2025.
  • After nearly five years of construction and testing, the U.S. military’s next satellite with voluminous throughput to pump vital communications to battlefield forces awaits blastoff Thursday night from Cape Canaveral.

16 January

  • The Russian Defense Ministry has reported that the Fobos-Grunt spacecraft re-entered over the southern Pacific ocean around 10:45 AM Phoenix time on Sunday, 15 January (1745 UTC). The site was 775 miles west of Wellington Island off the coast of Southern Chile. There have been no reports of sightings.

15 January

  • The Russian Mars spacecraft Fobos-Grunt is in its last day in orbit. Although it made several predictions in the past few days, Roscosmos is no longer predicting where the probe will crash.

14 January

13 January

  • Russian officials and outside experts now believe the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, trapped in a decaying Earth orbit since November, will reenter by Monday. The latest report from the US Strategic Command predicts a reentry between 10:39 PM Phoenix time Saturday (0239 GMT Sunday) and 3:39 AM Phoenix time (0739 GMT) Monday.
  • A Long March rocket placed a Chinese weather satellite into orbit on Friday. The Long March 3A rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 7:56 pm EST Thursday (0056 GMT, 8:56 am Beijing time Friday) and placed the FengYun-2F into geosynchronous transfer orbit.

12 January

  • Astrobiology Magazine discusses the necessity of axial tilt for life to arise and be sustained on exoplanets.

11 January

  • Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory rover, is scheduled for a mid-course correction maneuver at 4 PM Phoenix time (2300 UTC) today. As of 8 PM Phoenix time, JPL reports a successful, complex thrusting schedule. Additional small adjustments will be made in the months ahead.

10 January

  • The six-member crew of the International Space Station (ISS) have been hard at work over the past few weeks, performing multiple hardware and software upgrades in order to ready the station to support the new fleet of commercial resupply vehicles, ahead of next month’s inaugural visit of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft to the orbital outpost.
  • When Felipe Menanteau and John Hughes of Rutgers University discovered a shadowy imprint within the cosmic background radiation with the Atacama Cosmology Telescope in Chile, little did they realize what it was. Followup work shows that “El Gordo” is comprised of the two largest colliding galaxy clusters ever observed, and 7 billion light years from Earth.

9 January

  • NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft is scheduled to perform a course correction this week that will put the probe on track for a landing on Mars this August. The maneuver, the biggest planned during the cruise phase of the mission, will be performed by the spacecraft’s eight thrusters, firing in a sequence over nearly three hours starting at 4 PM Phoenix time (2300 GMT) on January 11.
  • China successfully launched the Ziyuan III satellite Monday from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in northern Shanxi province. The satellite, a high-resolution remote-sensing satellite for civilian use, was launched at 11:17 a.m. aboard a Long March 4B rocket.

8 January

  • A new launch vehicle will be born in the coming weeks, as the small orbital launch vehicle “Vega” prepares for its long awaiting launch from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana. Vega will complete Arianespace’s family of three launch vehicles, following the successful debut of Soyuz in Kourou last year and the continued success of Ariane 5.

7 January

6 January

  • The Dawn spacecraft circling the asteroid Vesta, currently spends most of its time measuring gamma rays and neutrons so scientists can determine the abundances of elements in the material near the surface. The team is continuing to track the spacecraft in order to map Vesta’s gravity field. Taking advantage of the low altitude, the imaging campaign continues to reveal new details of the surface.
  • An engine firing on 11 January will be the biggest maneuver that NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft will perform on its flight between Earth and Mars. The action will use a choreographed sequence of firings of eight thruster engines during a period of about 175 minutes beginning at 4 PM Phoenix time (2300 UTC). It will redirect the spacecraft more precisely toward Mars to land at Gale Crater.

5 January

  • NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity will spend the next few months during the coldest part of Martian winter at Greeley Haven, an outcrop of rock on Mars recently named informally to honor ASU Regents’ Professor Ronald Greeley, a planetary geology who died Oct. 27, 2011.
  • Small asteroids too dim to detect seem to stray into Earth’s orbit quite frequently and stay for short periods of time. We may even be able to bring one of these moonlets back to Earth for study. Researchers have long suspected that wandering asteroids might occasionally get snagged by Earth’s gravity and become temporary moons, and a few years ago one of these was spotted. Called 2006 RH120, it is a few metres across and wandered into orbit around Earth in July 2006 before drifting off again a year later.
  • 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in the world.

4 January

  • Russian officials said Wednesday they now expect the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, launched two months ago on a mission to Mars, to reenter on or around January 15 after being stranded in Earth orbit.

3 January

  • NASASpaceFlight discusses the accomplishments of 2011 at the ISS, and the coming challenges: “The International Space Station (ISS) has now entered what will be a challenging new year, which will see access to the station for both crews and cargo tested, in wake of last year’s retirement of the Space Shuttle, the start of new commercial resupply flights, and recent failures of Russian launch vehicles.”

2 January

  • Popular Mechanics discusses the upcoming 2012 year in space. Commercial flights to the International Space Station (ISS) by Dragon from SpaceX and Cygnus by Orbital Sciences, testing of Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser, and sub-orbital flights by SpaceShipTwo from Virgin Galactic. Other work is ongoing by XCOR Aerospace, Armadillo Aerospace, and Blue Origin.

1 January

  • Just over a day after the first of two NASA spacecraft went into orbit around the Moon, its twin successfully entered lunar orbit. The Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) B spacecraft inserted itself into an elliptical lunar orbit at 3:43 pm Phoenix time (2243 UTC) Sunday after a 37-minute engine burn. GRAIL-B entered orbit just over 24 hours after GRAIL-A entered orbit around the Moon.
  • Lance Bush, an officer of Tucson-based Paragon Space Development Corp., was named president and CEO of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, a national network of centers based in Alexandria, Virginia.

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