NSS Phoenix Space News

Archive for the ‘Earth’ Category

January 2013

Posted by drdave on January 1, 2013

17 January

  • NASA and ESA formally announced Wednesday that Europe will develop a service module for at least one Orion mission based on the ATV cargo spacecraft. The service module for the EM-1 Orion mission, an uncrewed launch on the first Space Launch System (SLS) launch planned for 2017, will be built by Europe. The module will be based on the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) cargo spacecraft Europe currently provides for taking cargo to the ISS, and this service module will take the place of ATV missions later this decade.
  • The U.S. Air Force has delayed the launch date of its next Boeing Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) satellite owing to additional work needed to mitigate possible risk discovered in the last Delta IV rocket launch, during which the RL10B-2 upper stage engine malfunctioned.

16 January

  • NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is set to test its drill in the coming days on a rock that scientists believe may provide new information on the existence of water on the planet in its past. Scientists have selected a rock dubbed “John Klein”, after the late deputy project manager for the mission, as the likely first target for the rover’s drill.

15 January

  • A massive wildfire swept through a major Australian astronomical observatory on Sunday, damaging some buildings but apparently sparing key telescopes there. The fast-moving fire hit the Siding Spring Observatory Sunday, part of a complex of fires in New South Wales, Australia that have broken out in extreme heat there. Authorities reported Monday that several buildings at the observatory, including lodges used by visiting astronomers and the visitors center, were destroyed. However, major telescopes there, including the 4-meter Anglo-Australian Telescope, appeared to have survived in good condition, although some instruments and equipment may be damaged.
  • NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity is driving toward a flat rock with pale veins that may hold clues to a wet history on the Red Planet. If the rock meets rover engineers’ approval when Curiosity rolls up to it in coming days, it will become the first to be drilled for a sample during the Mars Science Laboratory mission.

14 January

  • On Jan. 13, 2013, at 2:24 a.m. EST, the sun erupted with an Earth-directed coronal mass ejection or CME. Not to be confused with a solar flare, a CME is a solar phenomenon that can send solar particles into space and reach Earth one to three days later.

13 January

  • NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and Bigelow Aerospace Founder and President Robert Bigelow will discuss the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module program to the media on Wednesday, January 16, at Bigelow Aerospace facilities in Las Vegas.

12 January

  • The Canadian Space Agency announced this week that it will press ahead with the country’s next-generation radar satellite imaging system, signing a contract with a Canadian firm to build the satellites. The RADARSAT Constellation system will feature three radar imaging satellites in polar orbits to provide shorter revisit times for radar imagery.

11 January

  • New observations of the near Earth asteroid Apophis have ruled out any chance it will hit the Earth in 2036, NASA announced Thursday. The observations in 2011 and 2012, plus those carried out when the asteroid made a relatively close approach to the Earth on Wednesday, allowed scientists to refine the asteroid’s orbit. That new orbit effectively ruled out any chance that the asteroid, about 325 meters in diameter, will impact the Earth in 2036, with the odds of an impact now less than one in one million. Previously, there had been a very small chance of a 2036 impact, depending on the path the asteroid took when passing close to the Earth in April 2029.

10 January

  • Officials with NASA and four companies involved with the space agency’s commercial crew development program said Wednesday that their efforts remain on schedule, with some companies planning crewed test flights as early as 2015. Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and SpaceX all said that that they are on track with development of their systems under Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) awards they received from NASA in August. Sierra Nevada said they plan to begin glide tests of their Dream Chaser vehicle from Edwards Air Force Base in California later this quarter, while SpaceX has a pad abort test of its Dragon launch escape system scheduled for December. A fourth company, Blue Origin, had a funded award in the previous round of the program and said they plan to see an unfunded extension to help guide continued work on their vehicle. NASA officials said a request for proposals for the next phase of the development effort will go out this fall, with plans to award multiple contracts by May 2014.

9 January

  • Although not nearly as threatening as it was first perceived to be upon its discovery, the asteroid 99942 Apophis still has a very slight chance of impacting our planet on Friday, April 13, 2036. It will get closer to Earth this year, giving astronomers a chance to refine its trajectory for good and know whether we’re in trouble. And you can get a glimpse of it online tomorrow, courtesy of the Slooh Space Camera.
  • 15 flights are scheduled to blast off from Florida’s Space Coast, including the first SpaceX missions from Cape Canaveral fully dedicated to putting commercial satellites into orbit.

8 January

  • In a new and sharper hunt for the Universe’s most violent events, astronomers may have found two medium-sized galactic monsters. Launched in June, NASA’S NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Array) X-ray observatory has discovered what may be two intermediate mass black holes in the spiral galaxy IC 342, some 7 million light-years from Earth.

7 January

  • Small planets like our own are extremely abundant in the universe, according to new results presented here today at the 221st meeting of the American Astronomical Society.
  • The discovery by astronomers at the University of California, Berkeley, and Clarion University in Pennsylvania of six likely comets around distant stars suggests that comets – dubbed “exocomets” – are just as common in other stellar systems with planets.
  • The continuing success of NASA’s Kepler mission was highlighted on Monday, following the discovery of 461 new planet candidates – four of which are less than twice the size of Earth and orbit in their sun’s habitable zone. Scientists believe it’s just a matter of “when” a twin of our own planet is found by the spacecraft.

6 January

  • Moon Express, one of the teams competing in the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP), has reached an agreement where it will partner with Dynetics to acquire fellow GLXP team, the Rocket City Space Pioneers (RCSP). However, are not considered to be the team to beat by most experts—Astrobotic Technology currently holds that position.

5 January

4 January

  • NASA-funded researchers analyzing a small meteorite that may be the first discovered from the Martian surface or crust have found it contains 10 times more water than other Martian meteorites from unknown origins. This new class of meteorite was found in 2011 in the Sahara Desert. Designated Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034, and nicknamed “Black Beauty,” it weighs approximately 11 ounces (320 grams). After more than a year of intensive study, a team of U.S. scientists determined the meteorite formed 2.1 billion years ago during the beginning of the most recent geologic period on Mars, known as the Amazonian.
  • Comet Ison, due to loop around the Sun in December 2013, may or may not be “The Comet of the Century”. It is too early to tell.

3 January

  • Astronomers using the Canada-France-Hawaii and W. M. Keck Observatory telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii have been amazed to find a group of dwarf galaxies moving in unison in the vicinity of the Andromeda Galaxy. The structure of these small galaxies lies in a plane, analogous to the planets of the Solar System. Unexpectedly, they orbit the much larger Andromeda galaxy en masse, presenting a serious challenge to our ideas for the formation and evolution of all galaxies.

2 January

  • SpaceX and Orbcomm Inc. have agreed to new contract terms for the launch of 18 data communications satellites beginning in mid-2013, according to a filing with a U.S. regulatory agency. The $42.6 million contract covers the launch of 18 second-generation Orbcomm satellites on two Falcon 9 rockets between the second quarter of 2013 and the second quarter of 2014.

1 January

  • A study on the health effects of cosmic radiation has been published today in PLOS ONE. This new study is the first to establish a link between radiation experienced by space travelers and an increased chance of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
  • IEEE Spectrum reviews Virgin Galactic and the plans for SpaceShipTwo in 2013.
  • With all three Space Shuttle orbiters now tucked away inside their respective museums, the International Space Station (ISS) has completed its full year on-orbit in the post-Shuttle era, a year which has brought great successes for the orbital outpost. On the back of these successes in 2012, a promising 2013 awaits the station, with many new capabilities and technologies set to be demonstrated.
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November 2012

Posted by drdave on November 2, 2012

30 November

  • A Russian Soyuz rocket is set for liftoff at 0202:50 UTC Saturday (7:02:50 PM Phoenix time Friday) from the Guiana Space Center with the sharp-eyed Pleiades 1B Earth observation satellite to collect high-resolution imagery for French and European security services. It will join the Pleiades 1A satellite launched in December 2011, forming a two-spacecraft constellation placing every part of Earth in range of their cameras each day.
  • Stratolaunch Systems has turned to Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., to keep the world’s largest air-launch-to-orbit system on track for a 2017 test flight. Stratolaunch and SpaceX parted ways was because SpaceX, decided it did not want to disrupt its Hawthorne, Calif., assembly line to accommodate the design changes required to turn its nine-engine, liquid-fueled Falcon 9 into a four- or five-engine air-launched booster.

29 November

  • Curiosity on Mars: Rumors and speculation that there are major new findings from the mission at this early stage are incorrect. The news conference will be an update about first use of the rover’s full array of analytical instruments to investigate a drift of sandy soil. One class of substances Curiosity is checking for is organic compounds — carbon-containing chemicals that can be ingredients for life. At this point in the mission, the instruments on the rover have not detected any definitive evidence of Martian organics.
  • South Korean engineers scrubbed Thursday a second attempt to launch a rocket, citing technical problems with the rocket’s second stage. The Korea Space Launch Vehicle (KSLV)-1 rocket, also known as Naro-1, was to launch from South Korea’s launch site, the Naro Space Center, at 2 am EST (0700 GMT, 4 pm local time) Thursday, but the countdown was halted 17 minutes before the scheduled liftoff time.
  • Scientists Thursday announced new evidence from the MESSENGER spacecraft that Mercury, the planet orbiting nearest the Sun, hosts massive caches of ice and revealed new information on how water reached our solar system’s inner planets.

28 November

  • A Long March 3B rocket launched a Chinese communications satellite that will be used, in part, by a Sri Lankan company. The rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 3:13 AM Phoenix time (1013 UTC) Tuesday and placed the Chinasat-12 satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit. The satellite, a Spacebus 4000 model built by Thales Alenia Space, weighed approximately 5,000 kilograms at launch and carries a payload of C- and Ku-band transponders.

27 November

  • The BBC discusses the US Air Force X-37B, which is currently scheduled for launch on 11 December.
  • 80,000 people on Mars. Elon Musk wants to do that.

26 November

  • Capt. Scott Kelly, a veteran astronaut, will set the record for the longest single space mission for an American, NASA announced Monday. Kelly and Roscosmos cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will embark on a one-year mission to the International Space Station in 2015. The duo will help scientists explore the effects of living in space on the human body, NASA said. They will provide information regarding health and crew performance and help with determining and validating risk-reduction measures. All of this can help contribute to planning for missions to other celestial worlds, such as an asteroid or Mars.
  • It is not every day that astronauts can claim to return to Earth with a new species of life. But when the astronauts on ESA’s CAVES underground training course returned to the surface they were carrying a special type of woodlouse.

25 November

  • A Long March 4C rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 11:06 pm EST Saturday (0406 GMT, 12:06 pm Sunday Beijing time) and placed the Yaogan 16 satellite into orbit. The satellite will be used for a variety of earth sciences and disaster management applications.

24 November

  • Whatever Curiosity has found in the way of organic molecules on Mars, Stuart Clark at the Guardian observes that “… it is not evidence for life on Mars. It can’t be. Curiosity is not designed to look for life. Grotzinger has stated this himself.”
  • Space fans anticipate news of organic molecules from the Mars Curiosity rover, which were cryptically teased by the mission’s chief scientist, John Grotzinger. Grotzinger has refused to elaborate, pointing New Scientist, and other journalists, to a presentation scheduled for the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in San Francisco, which begins on 3 December.
  • Member states of the European Space Agency (ESA) and Canada met in Naples, Italy, to determine the space agenda and the budget for the next five years. The discussed projects include ExoMars rover, Ariane 5 rocket modernization and NASA’s new manned Orion multipurpose crew vehicle (MPCV), as well as some 12bn euros’ worth of activities.

23 November

  • Astronomers observing a stellar occultation by the dwarf planet Makemake found no evidence of an atmosphere around the distant, icy world. Astronomers observed the occultation using three telescopes at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile in April 2011 as the dwarf planet, about two-thirds the size of Pluto, passed in front of a distant star. The star abruptly disappeared and then reappeared, a telltale sign that there is no atmosphere around the dwarf planet.

22 November

  • The European Space Agency got the green light on 21 November to push ahead with a new generation of launchers and take its first foray into manned spacecraft, with a €10 billion ($12.9 billion) budget agreement for the next five years. Meeting in Naples, ministers in charge of space and science from the governments of the space agency’s 20 member states broadly signed up to ESA proposals to improve its Ariane 5 heavy launcher, begin design of a successor – Ariane 6 – and design and build a service module for NASA’s multi-purpose crew vehicle (MPCV) as part of ESA’s “barter arrangement” to the running costs of the International Space Station.
  • SpaceX intends to build a methane/liquid oxygen (Lox) engine, said founder Elon Musk, in a shift away from the highly refined kerosene rocket propellant (RP-1) that has powered the company’s previous engines. Speaking at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London, SpaceX chief executive and lead rocket engineer Musk said Lox and methane would be SpaceX’s propellants of choice on a mission to Mars, which has long been his stated goal.

21 November

  • The European Space Agency (ESA) have announced they will inform NASA they are ready to build an ATV derived Service Module for Orion, to be ready for the first launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) in 2017. The announcement came after the UK stepped up with additional funding, marking the country’s first real human BEO commitment.
  • A Proton rocket successfully launched an American communications satellite on the same day that the company that markets the Proton commercially replaced its president. The Proton M rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 1:31 pm EST Tuesday (1831 GMT Tuesday, 12:31 am local time Wednesday). Its Breeze M upper stage released the EchoStar 16 satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit 9 hours and 12 minutes after liftoff. The satellite, a Space Systems/Loral 1300-series satellite, weighed 6,683 kilograms at launch and carries 36 Ku-band transponders.
  • Workers have begun pre-construction preparations for the rebuilding of Runway 4-22 at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

20 November

  • Astronomers announced Monday they had directly imaged a massive extrasolar planet orbiting another star. Kappa Andromedae b has a mass 12.8 times that of Jupiter, placing it near the dividing line between planet and brown dwarf; astronomers call the world a “super-Jupiter” to cover both possibilities.

19 November

  • A Soyuz spacecraft carrying three returning International Space Station crewmembers safely landed early Monday in Kazakhstan. The Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft undocked from the ISS at 5:26 pm EST (2226 GMT) Sunday and landed north of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan, at 6:56 pm Phoenix time Sunday (0156 UTC, 7:56 am local time Monday). On board the Soyuz were NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, who spent 127 days in space.
  • A Long March rocket launched a Chinese environmental monitoring satellite on Monday. The Long March 2C rocket lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center at 5:53 pm EST Sunday (2253 GMT Sunday, 6:53 am Beijing time Monday) and placed the Huanjing-1C into a sun-synchronous orbit.

18 November

  • Aviation Week discusses the computer anomalies experienced by the SpaceX Dragon on the recent CRS1 mission to the International Space Station.
  • The Russian replacement for a defective part in South Korea’s space rocket that postponed its launch last month has arrived. A new rubber seal in the connector between the rocket and its launch pad arrived in Seoul on Saturday and was moved to the Naro Space Center, some 480 kilometers south of Seoul. The defect in the part was believed to be the main cause of the failure of planned launch of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1) last month.

17 November

  • Three international and commercial customers slated to fly satellites on Falcon 9 rockets next year are standing by SpaceX as the company probes a mysterious engine problem and prepares to debut an upgraded launcher.

16 November

  • NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, which has spent the last several weeks working at a single location on the Martian surface, will soon be on the move again, project scientists said Thursday. The rover has been stopped for over a month by a sand dune, collecting soil samples while also performing other observations. Project scientists said at a briefing Thursday that the rover would be on the move again in the next few days
  • Oversight report says NASA’s challenges include tight budgets and a big rocket program.
  • SpaceX’s Launch Anomaly Wasn’t the Only Flaw on CRS-1

15 November

  • A new commercial space company intends to send commercial astronauts to the moon by 2020.
  • Astronomers announced Wednesday the discovery of a “homeless” planet 100 light-years away not orbiting any star. Astronomers detected the object, designated CFBDSIR2149, using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, with followup observations made by ESO’s Very Large Telescope. The object four to seven times as massive as Jupiter and is part of a group of young stars called the AB Doradus Moving Group, but is not orbiting any of those stars.

14 November

  • NASA is marking two milestones in the search for planets like Earth; the successful completion of the Kepler Space Telescope’s 3 1/2- year prime mission and the beginning of an extended mission that could last as long as four years.
  • A Soyuz-2-1a/Fregat rocket has launched a communications satellite for the Russian military on Wednesday. The rocket, carrying the latest Meridian spacecraft, lifted off from pad 43/4 at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia, at 11:42 UTC on Wednesday. Spacecraft separation was successfully carried out at 14:00 UTC.

13 November

  • NASA Television will provide live coverage as three of the crew members on the International Space Station come back to Earth Sunday, 18 November. Expedition 33 Commander Sunita Williams of NASA, Flight Engineer Aki Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Russian Soyuz Commander Yuri Malenchenko will undock their Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft from the station, heading for a pre-dawn landing in Kazakhstan, northeast of the remote town of Arkalyk at 7:53 p.m. CST (7:53 a.m. Kazakhstan time on Nov. 19).

12 November

  • The NASA Mars Odyssey orbiter has resumed duty after switching to a set of redundant equipment, including a main computer, that had not been used since before the spacecraft’s 2001 launch. Odyssey relayed data to Earth late Sunday that it received from NASA’s Opportunity rover on Mars using the orbiter’s fresh “B-side” radio for UHF (ultra-high frequency) communications. In plans for this week are relay opportunities for the newest Mars rover, Curiosity, and resumption of Odyssey’s own scientific observations.

11 November

  • Specialists at the Plesetsk space centre in the Arkhangelsk region completed erecting the Soyuz-2.1a launcher with the Fregat upper stage carrying the Meridian spacecraft. Launch of Soyuz-2.1a with the Meridian spacecraft is due on November 14.

10 November

  • An Ariane 5 rocket successfully launched a pair of commercial communications satellites on Saturday. The Ariane 5 ECA lifted off from the spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana, at 4:05 pm EST (2105 GMT) Saturday, one day later than planned because of high upper-level winds on Friday. The Ariane 5 placed into geosynchronous transfer orbit the Eutelsat 21B and Star One C3 satellites about a half-hour after launch.
  • China plans to launch its next manned space mission in June of 2013. The three-person crew could be made up of a woman and two men.

9 November

  • Rocket engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne announced this week it was laying off 100 people because of uncertainty in the space industry. About three-quarters of the layoffs are taking place at two facilities in southern California. Rocketdyne cited the “uncertain future of the space industry and current economic conditions” as the reasons for the layoffs. Rocketdyne, which manufactured the Space Shuttle Maine Engine and builds the RS-68 engine for the Delta 4, is in the process of being sold to GenCorp, the parent company of rival engine manufacturer Aerojet.
  • The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency figures smaller is better: Striving for cheaper and more frequent launches, JAXA has set its sights on firing its new Epsilon small rocket into space from the Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima next August or September.
  • Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) — a commercial space advocate and global warming skepticannounced Nov. 8 his intentions to vie for the chairmanship of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee in the 113th Congress that convenes in January.

8 November

  • Astronomers announced Wednesday the discovery of a “super-Earth” extrasolar planet within the habitable zone of a nearby star. Astronomers said the planet, one of six known to orbit the star HD 40307, has a mass at least seven times that of the Earth and orbits the star at a distance similar to the Earth’s distance from the Sun. HD 40307 is a K-class star about 42 light-years from the Sun.
  • Comet collisions every six seconds explain 17-year-old stellar mystery.
  • The Russian government will hold a special conference November 26 on ways of reorganizing the space agency Roscosmos, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who supervises the defense-industrial complex, has said. He will make a report on the issue.
  • The U.S. Air Force is not close to finding a root cause of a recent low-thrust problem in an RL10 upper stage engine made by Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne, and the service may further delay launch of its Orbital Test Vehicle-3 mission as well as NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System K spacecraft.

7 November

  • Jupiter’s Great Red Spot only looks constant. In the late 1800s the behemoth storm looked more like a Great Red Sausage, stretching about 40,000 kilometers. Today, it is only 20,000 kilometers wide. Could it melt away entirely?

6 November

  • Wired magazine discusses the plans of SpaceX for controlled landing of the Falcon 9 first stage, and shows video of the 10 story tall Grasshopper test vehicle flight.

5 November

  • Scientists working on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover said Friday that initial measurements of the Martian atmosphere failed to turn up any evidence of methane, a constituent detected in some previous observations that could be linked to life. a laser spectrometer on Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars instrument measured the composition of the atmosphere at the Gale Crater landing site, putting an upper limit of just a few parts per billion on any methane in the atmosphere there.
  • Now you can also get an alert on your mobile device when the International Space Station is visible overhead thanks to NASA’s new Web app Spot the Station.

4 November

3 November

2 November

  • United Launch Alliance plans to blast a U.S. Air Force X-37B space plane into orbit 27 November, pushing back the launch of the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) to complete investigating a rocket engine anomaly that occurred during an Oct. 4 mission.

2 November

1 November

  • Mark Kelly, commander of the space shuttle Endeavor on its last mission to the International Space Station, discusses the Obama space policy and support for NASA.
  • US astronaut Sunita Williams and her Japanese colleague Akihiko Hoshide will make a spacewalk on Thursday outside the International Space Station (ISS) to isolate and repair an ammonia leak.
  • Light from the very first stars in the universe has been measured – and there is less of it than previously thought. The discovery should help us better understand how the hot haze of hydrogen that existed shortly after the big bang transformed into the complex web of stars and galaxies we see today.

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September 2012

Posted by drdave on September 12, 2012

21 September

  • SpaceX will begin its first official resupply flight to International Space Station on October 7, NASA announced Thursday.
  • The Space Shuttle Endeavour made two close passes over Runway 8-26 at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

20 September

  • M51 — also known as the Whirlpool galaxy—is a classic spiral galaxy that scientists have studied for centuries. But this mesmerizing new image of the galaxy has nabbed Australian photographer Martin Pugh the top prize in the fourth annual Astronomy Photographer of the Year awards, announced this week.
  • In a surprise finding, astronomers using instruments on NASA’s Dawn spacecraft have discovered the protoplanet Vesta is rich in hydrogen, which most likely was delivered by water-bearing meteorites striking the body.

19 September

  • The space shuttle Endeavor began what will be its final trip, departing the Kennedy Space Center Wednesday atop a 747 bound for California. Endeavour and its 747 carrier left KSC shortly after 7 am EDT (1100 GMT) Wednesday. After making passes over the Space Coast, it flew east, flying over the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans before arriving in the Houston area.
  • NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has driven up to a football-size rock that will be the first for the rover’s arm to examine. Curiosity is about 8 feet (2.5 meters) from the rock. It lies about halfway from Curiosity’s landing site, Bradbury Landing, to a location called Glenelg. In coming days, the team plans to touch the rock with a spectrometer to determine its elemental composition and use an arm-mounted camera to take close-up photographs. Both the arm-mounted Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer and the mast-mounted, laser-zapping Chemistry and Camera Instrument will be used for identifying elements in the rock. This will allow cross-checking of the two instruments.

18 September

  • With the combined power of NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes as well as a cosmic magnification effect, a team of astronomers led by Wei Zheng of The Johns Hopkins University has spotted what could be the most distant galaxy ever seen. Light of the young galaxy captured by the orbiting observatories shone forth when the 13.7-billion-year-old universe was just 500 million years old.

17 September

  • Doug Messier discusses the challenges facing NASA’s Budget: “NASA’s budget is facing deep cuts in January from two sources: sequestration and Mitt Romney. If President Obama and Congress cannot work out a deal, sequestration will cut NASA’s budget by 8 percent or $1.458 billion in early January, according to a new report issued by the White House. Meanwhile, Romney has promised if elected to send a bill to Congress on his first day in office, Jan. 20, that would slash non-security discretionary spending across the board. If the measure approved, it would result in a reduction of nearly $900 million from the space agency’s budget.”
  • The Russian Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft, also known by its US designation of 30S, undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) early Monday night ahead of a successful return to Earth with a landing in the Kazakh Steppe a few hours later. The landing brought to an end the four-month voyage of Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin, and NASA astronaut Joe Acaba.
  • The launch of the Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft with the next expedition to the International Space Station (ISS) has been delayed for about a week, head of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) Vladimir Popovkin said at a press conference on Monday after the successful landing of the Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft. “Some malfunctions have appeared in one of the devices of the decent module, we will replace it and carry out second tests.”

16 September

  • The Russo-American ISS mission crew members are set to travel back to Earth aboard the Soyuz TMA-04M spaceship. Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin, and NASA astronaut Joseph Acaba have already transferred to the Soyuz TMA-04M and battened down the hatches.
  • A Soyuz-2 modernized carrier rocket is to blast off from the Baikonur space launch center on Monday to deploy a European MetOp-B weather satellite into orbit.

15 September

  • For the last time in space shuttle history, a NASA orbiter has been mounted to the top of a jumbo jet to be flown to its next destination. For shuttle Endeavour, now sitting piggyback atop the space agency’s modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), its next and final mission is to become a museum exhibit. The spacecraft, flying aboard the aircraft, will leave at sunrise on Monday (Sept. 17) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for Los Angeles, where it is destined for display at the California Science Center (CSC).

14 September

  • Neil Armstrong was buried at sea.
  • The H-II Transfer Vehicle “KOUNOTORI3” (HTV3) re-entered the atmosphere after the third de-orbit maneuver at 2:00 p.m. on September 14, 2012 (Japanese Standard Time, JST). The spacecraft has successfully accomplished the main objective of shipping cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), and completed its 56-day mission.

13 September

  • NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity is wrapping up tests of its robotic arm and will soon begin driving to perform its first detailed examination of a Martian rock. Curiosity has been parked since September 5 as engineers check out the arm and the instruments mounted on it. With those tests nearly complete, Curiosity will begin driving again in the direction of a site called Glenelg several hundred meters away, where three different landforms meet.
  • Six weeks later than planned, following Range instrumentation issues at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the National Reconnaissance Office’s NROL-36 classified payload was successfully launched by an Atlas V rocket. The satellite is believed to be a pair of $1.3 billion NRO Ocean Surveillance Satellites (NOSS), dedicated to monitoring worldwide civilian and military shipping.
  • NASA on Wednesday released a request for proposals for the first of two contract phases to certify commercially developed space systems in support of crewed missions to the International Space Station. Through these certification products contracts, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) will ensure commercial missions are held to the agency’s safety requirements and standards for human space transportation system missions to the space station.

12 September

  • Early Monday morning U.S. amateur astronomers spotted a bright light squiggling across the upper cloud deck of Jupiter. Both assumed they’d witnessed a large meteor or comet impact, and so far, professional astronomers seem to agree. NASA’s Amy Simon Miller, though, cautioned that, “at this point, we can only confirm based on the fact that there were two independent reports.” Official observations will have to wait. Such a strike would be the fourth impact seen on Jupiter in just the last three years. And the fact that the explosion was visible via backyard telescopes more than 454 million miles (730 million kilometers) away—indicates it was probably a significant event.
  • An experimental unmanned rocket has crashed in the Mojave Desert as it descended from a test flight to an altitude of 3,281 feet. Masten Space Systems says its reusable Xaero rocket was lost Tuesday during final approach to landing at Mojave Air and Space Port.
  • A New View of The Pencil Nebula

11 September

  • An Indian rocket placed a commercial remote sensing satellite into orbit on Sunday. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) lifted off from India’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre at 12:23 am EDT (0423 GMT, 9:53 am local time) Sunday and placed the SPOT 6 satellite into orbit.

10 September

  • NASA cited SpaceX’s flight experience with the Dragon spacecraft and Boeing’s methodical approach to designing a crew capsule in its decision to award the companies $900 million to develop a human-rated commercial spaceship, according to a document released last week.

9 September

  • A new study presents an alternative explanation for the prevalence of Mars’ ancient clay minerals, which on Earth most often result from water chemically reacting with rock over long periods of time. The process is believed to be a starting point for life.
  • For 35 years, the twin Voyager missions – traveling in opposite directions – have pushed toward deep space staying in touch with mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The spacecraft are plutonium-powered messages in a bottle tossed into space by a civilization seeking contact with extraterrestrials all the while taking advantage of a rare opportunity to learn about its own solar system.

8 September

  • NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, having already driven more than 100 meters from its landing site, is stopping for several days to check out its robotic arm, project officials said this week. The rover extended its 2.1-meter arm on Wednesday for the first time since landing as engineers test out the arm and its instruments.
  • This Sunday, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is set to make another mark in its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) launcher business when it flies French earth observation satellite SPOT 6.

7 September

  • Rocket motor company ATK has made the final required burn test to qualify a new nozzle for the GEM-60 solid rocket motor, which powers the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Medium+ configuration.
  • After orbiting the giant asteroid Vesta for slightly more than 13 months, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft left the space rock this week, headed for the dwarf planet Ceres.
  • Space shuttle Endeavour, mounted atop NASA’s modified 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), will make the final ferry flight of the Space Shuttle Program era when it departs Monday, Sept. 17, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida headed to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

6 September

  • Wired Magazine discusses the new images of Curiosity’s wheel tracks on Mars.
  • Two International Space Station crew members successfully completed a spacewalk to install a new power switching unit. American Sunita Williams and Japan’s Akihiko Hoshide had to contend with a sticky bolt that prevented them from completing the installation in a previous spacewalk last week.

5 September

  • Scaled Composites is in final preparations for powered flight tests of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo (SS2), following completion of the glide-flight envelope at Mojave, California. The milestone means the suborbital spacecraft remains on track for the start of rocket-powered flights in the last quarter of this year, with passenger flights provisionally planned to begin by the end of 2013.

4 September

  • The Jupiter-bound Juno spacecraft was supposed to have completed the second of two critical engine firings Tuesday to aim for a gravity sling shot past Earth next year, but managers put off the burn to analyze pressure readings aboard the probe.
  • A design by Alliant Techsystems (ATK) was dropped from NASA’s shortlist of potential space station crew taxis because the company did not present a technically sound plan for combining existing rocket and spacecraft designs into a single transportation system, according to a NASA source selection document released 4 September.

3 September

  • Russian Ruler-for-Life Vladimir Putin has dismissed Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center General Director Vladimir Nesterov in the wake of last month’s failed launch of a Proton rocket, which stranded two communications satellites in useless orbits.

2 September

  • The Martian rover is already sending back dramatic images that are changing our view of the Red Planet. Now it is inching forward on its most crucial and perilous mission.

1 September

  • NASA’s twin, lunar-orbiting Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft began data collection for the start of the mission’s extended operations. At 9:28 a.m. PDT (12:28 p.m. EDT) yesterday, while the two spacecraft were 19 miles (30 kilometers) above the moon’s Ocean of Storms, the Lunar Gravity Ranging System — the mission’s sole science instrument aboard both GRAIL twins — was energized.

Posted in Asteroid, China, Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, India, International Space Station, JAXA, Jupiter, Mars, Moon, NASA, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, Solar System, Space Shuttle | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

August 2012

Posted by drdave on August 4, 2012

31 August

  • A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) spacecraft for NASA lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 here at 4:05 a.m. EDT today.
  • Rick Tumlinson discusses the Republican Platform support of Socialist Big Government space programs
  • NASA on Thursday halted attempts to replace a power distributor on the International Space Station after spacewalking astronauts were repeatedly stymied by a jammed bolt.

30 August

  • NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has begun its first long-distance trip, a 400-meter traverse to a location called Glenelg. The rover moved 16 meters on Tuesday on the first leg of the trip, the longest single drive after two shorter test drives in the last week. Curiosity will not arrive at Glenelg for several weeks, making stops along the away, including one at a point to be determined where the rover will test the robotic arm and the instruments on its end. Glenelg is a spot of interest to scientists where three different terrains intersect.

29 August

  • A week after it was scrubbed because of various issues, an Atlas V rocket is rolled back out to the launch pad. The rocket is carrying Radiation Belt Storm Probes, a pair of spacecraft that will be released into earth’s Van Allen radiation belts. Launch is scheduled for 4:03 AM EDT Thursday.
  • Wired Magazine details all the airplanes and rockets in Neil Armstrong’s Career: “From a very early age Neil Armstrong was fascinated with flight. He was playing with toy airplanes at 3, and by the time he was 5 or 6 Armstrong went on his first airplane ride in a Ford Tri-Motor. By 8 or 9 he said he was building model airplanes out of balsa wood. And by the time he was 15 he had saved enough money working at a drug store to begin taking flying lessons at the small airport near his home in Wapakoneta, Ohio.”

28 August

  • For the first time in history, a recorded song has been beamed back to Earth from another planet. Students, special guests and news media gathered at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., today to hear “Reach for the Stars” by musician will.i.am after it was transmitted from the surface of Mars by the Curiosity rover.

27 August

26 August

  • Neil Armstrong, the former NASA astronaut who became the first person to walk on the surface of the Moon in 1969, passed away Saturday at the age of 82. Armstrong died following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.
  • John Kelly at FloridaToday discusses the lack of funding in current civilian and defense budgets for launch technology.
  • On 8 September 2012, the Dawn science team will host “Hasta La Vesta”, a celebration of the exploration of Vesta and the departure of Dawn toward its 2015 arrival at Ceres.

25 August

  • Neil Armstrong, the former NASA astronaut who became the first person to walk on the surface of the Moon in 1969, passed away Saturday at the age of 82. Armstrong died following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures
  • Poor weather prevented Saturday’s planned launch of a pair of NASA space science satellites, and the threat of a tropical storm will keep the rocket grounded until late next week. NASA had hoped to launch the twin Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) at 4:07 am EDT (0807 GMT) Saturday, one day after a technical problem scrubbed the first launch attempt. However, stormy weather prevented the launch from taking place during a 20-minute window. NASA announced later Saturday morning that the launch would be postponed to no earlier than Thursday, August 30, because of concerns about Tropical Storm Issac.

24 August

  • SpaceX has completed all milestones under a development and demonstration partnership with NASA, clearing the way for the firm to begin regular operational cargo deliveries to the International Space Station in October, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced Thursday. The launch is tentatively scheduled to lift off on 8 October.
  • NASA will hold a televised news conference at 2 p.m. PDT (5 p.m. EDT), Monday, Aug. 27, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., about the activities of its Curiosity rover mission on Mars. The event will feature new images, an update of the rover’s progress, and a special greeting by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
  • Aviation Week and Space Technology discusses the state of international cooperation in space.

23 August

  • First science results from Curiosity’s ChemCam show the elemental spectra from the basaltic rock called Coronation at the landing site.
  • The Atlas V launch believed to be carrying a pair of ocean surveillance satellites to locate ships at sea, in a mission designated NROL-36, has been delayed until to September 13. Following the August 2 scrub – caused by a Range instrumentation issue – the mission has been pushed to the right several times, leading this latest launch date.

22 August

  • NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has begun driving from its landing site, which scientists announced today they have named for the late author Ray Bradbury. Making its first movement on the Martian surface, Curiosity’s drive combined forward, turn and reverse segments. This placed the rover roughly 20 feet (6 meters) from the spot where it landed 16 days ago.
  • Two Russian cosmonauts stepped outside the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday, performing a highly successful Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA), or spacewalk, on the exterior of the Russian Segment (RS) of the station. The spacewalk, known as RS EVA-31, included hardware relocations, installations, retrievals, and deployments.

21 August

  • The next two Galileo satellites are now in place at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, being prepared for their shared launch this autumn. The fourth Galileo satellite flight model arrived at Cayenne Airport in French Guiana on Friday 17 August, flown from the Thales Alenia Space facility in Rome aboard an Ilyushin aircraft.
  • The start of the Universe should be modeled not as a Big Bang but more like water freezing into ice, according to a team of theoretical physicists at the University of Melbourne and RMIT University.

20 August

  • NASA announced its newest mission today, a geophysical explorer of Mars called InSIGHT (an acronym for the mouth-numbing INterior exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport). It’s a really exciting scientific mission which will place a seismometer on the surface, bore a probe five meters down into the Martian soil to measure heat flow, and use a clever antenna trick to very accurately measure the wobbles of the Martian orbit.
  • NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity flexed its robotic arm today for the first time since before launch in November 2011. The 7-foot-long (2.1-meter-long) arm maneuvers a turret of tools including a camera, a drill, a spectrometer, a scoop and mechanisms for sieving and portioning samples of powdered rock and soil.
  • The Atlas V launch of the Radiation Belt Storm Probes spacecraft, targeted for 4:08 a.m. EDT on Thursday, August 23, 2012 has been delayed until 4:07 a.m. EDT on Friday August 24, 2012. There is a 20-minute launch window.

19 August

  • Today, NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity fired its laser for the first time on Mars, using the beam from a science instrument to interrogate a fist-size rock called “Coronation.” The mission’s Chemistry and Camera instrument, or ChemCam, hit the fist-sized rock with 30 pulses of its laser during a 10-second period. Each pulse delivers more than a million watts of power for about five one-billionths of a second. The energy from the laser excites atoms in the rock into an ionized, glowing plasma. ChemCam catches the light from that spark with a telescope and analyzes it with three spectrometers for information about what elements are in the target.
  • A Sea Launch Zenit-3SL successfully placed an Intelsat communications satellite into orbit early Sunday. The Zenit-3SL rocket lifted off from its floating launch platform on the Equator in the Pacific Ocean at 2:55 am EDT (0655 GMT) Sunday and released the Intelsat 21 satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit about a half-hour later.

18 August

  • From the Washington Post: Time for a Chinese “SALT” Treaty. “The absence of rules of the road in space jeopardizes international, national and economic security. Three sets of rules are particularly important — norms that support debris mitigation, those that support space-traffic management and those that bar purposeful, harmful interference of objects in space. The need for these rules was further highlighted in February 2009, when a dead Russian satellite collided with a functioning U.S. communication satellite. Norms against reckless behavior exist on highways, the high seas and in the air — but not in space.”
  • Before beginning the 4.3-mile (7-km) trek to the base of Mount Sharp, a journey expected to take months, the six-wheeled Curiosity will visit a relatively nearby site named “Glenelg,” which caught scientists’ interest because it includes three types of terrain.

17 August

  • A reboost of the International Space Station’s orbit by Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) ended earlier than planned Wednesday. Thrusters on the ATV-3 vehicle, also called Edoardo Amaldi, currently docked to the ISS were scheduled to fire for a little over a half-hour Wednesday to raise the station’s orbit by 7.7 kilometers. However, software on the ISS shut down the thrusters before completing the planned burn. ESA reported that a temperature alarm was triggered in one of the ATV’s thrusters not being used for the reboost, but instead of continuing the burn, the station’s software shut down the thrusters. The cause of the both the alarm and the shutdown remain under investigation.
  • The New Scientist discusses: Is space mining really feasible?
  • NASA has signed a new $8.5 billion contract with Caltech, extending the Institute’s management of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for an additional five years.
  • NASA’s Space Technology Program has selected five technologies that could revolutionize America’s space capabilities.

16 August

  • NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity is ready to start moving across the Martian surface after completing a software upgrade earlier this week. The rover has remained at its landing location since touching down on the surface late on August 5, as engineers checked out the spacecraft’s systems and performed a four-day upgrade of the flight software that includes routines for driving and operating its instruments. With that upgrade successfully completed, mission managers are planning an initial, short drive of no more than a few meters in the next week or so

15 August

  • A problem with a reaction wheel on NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will slightly delay the spacecraft’s departure from the vicinity of the asteroid Vesta but should not affect its journey to Ceres.
  • Vladimir Nesterov, director general of the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, has resigned following the failure of a Proton rocket to place two communications satellites in their proper orbits last week.

14 August

  • The second of four main instruments to fly aboard NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (Webb) has been delivered to NASA. The Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS) will enable the telescope to accurately and precisely point at the correct, intended objects for it to observe. The FGS is packaged together as a single unit with the Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS) science instrument.
  • Engineers working on NASA’s Dawn spacecraft are assessing the status of a reaction wheel, part of a system that helps the spacecraft point precisely, after onboard software powered it off on Aug. 8. Dawn’s mission is to study the geology and geochemistry of the giant asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres, the two most massive objects in the main asteroid belt. Telemetry data from the spacecraft suggest the wheel developed excessive friction, similar to the experience with another Dawn reaction wheel in June 2010. The Dawn team demonstrated during the cruise to Vesta in 2011 that, if necessary, they could complete the cruise to Ceres without the use of reaction wheels.

13 August

  • NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity is in the middle of a software upgrade that project officials say will prepare the rover for scientific activities on the Martian surface. The four-day upgrade, which started Friday, will install a new version of the software needed to operate the rover. The new version includes routines needed to operate scientific equipment and to drive on the Martian surface while avoiding obstacles.
  • The launch of a classified U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) payload has been delayed until Sept. 6, more than a month later than originally planned, due to a “range instrumentation issue”.

12 August

  • NASA’s Curiosity rover has shipped back to Earth high-resolution color images of its surroundings on Mars, sharpening our views of an intriguing channel, layered buttes and a layer of cobbles and pebbles embedded in a finer matrix of material. The images show a landscape closely resembling portions of the southwestern United States.

11 August

  • SpaceShipTwo made another successful glide flight at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California on Saturday morning. The space plane took off under its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft at 6:57 a.m. PDT. It glided to a landing about an hour later after a brief glide flight.

10 August

  • NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is meeting or exceeding the expectations of scientists and engineers involved with the project several days after landing, returning stunning images and other data from its landing site. Project officials say the rover, which landed in Gale Crater on Mars Sunday night, is in good health.
  • The Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos, are pushing forward with a “light” version of their veteran Soyuz launch vehicle – known as the Soyuz 2.1v. Manufactured by TsSKB-Progress, the new launcher – one that does not sport the famous four boosters around the core stage – will be capable of lofting 2.8 tonnes to Low Earth Orbit (LEO).
  • Space enthusiasts have been abuzz for days over whether the Mars rover Curiosity captured an extraterrestrial crash. Seconds after the car-size rover parked its six wheels in an ancient crater, a tiny camera under the chassis snapped a picture revealing a smudge on the horizon. It turned out Curiosity spotted the aftermath of its rocket-powered backpack crash-landing in the distance.

9 August

  • An apparent hardware malfunction caused a prototype NASA Mars lander (“Morpheus”) to crash and explode seconds into a test flight Thursday at Kennedy Space Center, destroying the vehicle.
  • With an eye toward buying its first astronaut taxi services by 2017, NASA unveiled details Aug. 8 about a safety certification process that will be conducted in parallel with the industry-led development of new crewed space transportation systems.

8 August

  • The upper stage of a Proton rocket that lifted off Tuesday malfunctioned, stranding its payload of two communications satellites in an intermediate orbit. The Proton M rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 3:31 pm EDT Monday (1931 GMT Monday, 1:31 am local time Tuesday) carrying the Express MD2 and Telkom 3 satellites.

7 August

  • The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE imaging team has released an image showing the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) heatshield in flight after being released.

6 August

5 August

  • NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft is healthy and right on course for a landing in several hours that will be one of the most difficult feats of robotic exploration ever attempted. Emotions are strong in the control room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, as the hours and miles race toward touchdown of the car-size Curiosity at about 10:31 PM Phoenix time tonight (about 1:31 a.m. Aug. 6, EDT).
  • Per the flight director’s checklist, about an hour before the scheduled landing (based on the time that the signal from the rover will reach Earth, about 14 minutes delayed), the mission manager will begin one of the few, but important actions, he and his team can take as Curiosity faces its “seven minutes of terror” from entry to touchdown. He will pop open and start passing around the peanuts.

4 August

  • The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) “Curiosity” is schedule to land on Mars tomorrow evening at 10:31 PM Phoenix time (0531 UTC 6 August).
  • The Indian government approved on Friday a project to send that country’s first mission to the planet Mars. The small Mars spacecraft is slated for launch in November 2013 on a PSLV rocket and go into a highly elliptical orbit of 500 by 80,000 kilometers around Mars. The spacecraft will carry a 25-kilogram payload of scientific instruments to study the planet’s atmosphere.
  • A baker’s dozen of satellites, including the NROL 34, a critical $1.3 billion sentinel for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), designed to electronically monitor worldwide military and civilian shipping, have been forced to wait for launch until 14 August, following a range instrumentation problem which scrubbed yesterday’s attempt with only minutes remaining on the clock. United Launch Alliance’s mighty Atlas V booster was fully fuelled and waiting out an extended hold in the final stages of the countdown, when, despite acceptable weather conditions at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the range remained ‘Red’, indicative of a ‘No-Go’ status for launch.

3 August

  • NASA announced Friday that it has signed funded agreements worth over $1.1 billion with three companies for the next phase of its commercial crew development program. Under the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreements, Boeing will get $460 million, SpaceX $440 million, and Sierra Nevada Corporation $212.5 million.
  • If a group of tourists piled out of a transport vehicle onto the surface of Mars, they’d no doubt start snapping pictures wildly. NASA’s Curiosity rover, set to touch down on the Red Planet the evening of Aug. 5 PDT (early morning EDT), will take a more careful approach to capturing its first scenic views.

2 August

  • The fourth Ariane 5 flight of 2012 has successfully launched two telecommunications satellites, Intelsat 20 for the international operator Intelsat and Hylas 2 for the British operator Avanti Communications. This launch set a new world record for geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) payload capacity of nearly 10.2 tonnes, 130 kg more than the previous record.

1 August

  • Russia’s Progress M-16M(Progress 48) mission one day sprint to the six person International Space Station has concluded with success. The unpiloted resupply capsule and its nearly three ton payload carried out a successful automated docking with the ISS Wednesday at 6:18 PM Phoenix time (0118 UTC, 2 August), or less than six hours after the Progress 48 lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan: an ISS first.
  • This year’s third Russian Progress transport ship blasted off from Baikonur in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, August 1. The Soyuz-U carrier rocket with the spaceship Progress M-16M was launched as scheduled at 23:25 Moscow time. In only six hours (not the two days for previous missions), the transport ship will bring more than 2.6 tonnes of supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).

Posted in Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, International Space Station, Mars, NASA, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, Soyuz | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

May 2012

Posted by drdave on May 1, 2012

31 May

  • Dragon splashed down at 1542 UTC. Recovery is in process at 1610 UTC.
  • Dragon has demated from the ISS and is scheduled to make its deorbit burn at 7:51 Phoenix time (1451 UTC).

30 May

  • Astronomer Jason Kalirai of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, has created a new method to measure the ages of individual halo stars. His technique exploits a basic concept of stellar evolution: The heavier a star is, the faster it dies. Halo stars die by becoming red giants and then white dwarfs—dense stars little larger than Earth. White dwarfs have no nuclear activity, so as they age, they cool and fade. Thus, the hottest and brightest of these burnt-out stars entered the white-dwarf stage most recently.
  • Preparations for the second landing of the X-37B, the Air Force’s unmanned, reusable space plane, are underway at Vandenberg Air Force Base. While the exact landing date and time will depend on technical and weather considerations, it is expected to occur during the early- to mid-June timeframe. Space professionals from the 30th Space Wing will monitor the de-orbit and landing of the Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle mission, called OTV-2.

29 May

  • Excalibur Almaz has detailed its plans to launch spacecraft to space stations in orbit around the moon, the first time the secretive company has done so publically. The British company will use legacy Russian hardware, capsules from the Soviet Soyuz space programme and space stations from Salyut, to launch people into orbit around the moon. Both capsules and stations will undergo upgrades, but the basic hardware has flown in space up to nine times, and is described by Excalibur CEO Art Dula as have a technical readiness level of nine, the highest possible.
  • Intelsat, the world’s leading provider of satellite services, and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), the world’s fastest growing space launch company, announced the first commercial contract for the Falcon Heavy rocket.
  • A Chinese Long March 4C has launched with a military payload, understood to be the Yaogan 15 military satellite, from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. Launch was recorded at 0731 UTC, catching out most observers, with the only news of the launch on Tuesday leaking out on the internet, prior to official media reports of a successful ride to orbit.

28 May

  • With Dragon now installed and ingressed on the International Space Station (ISS), Canada’s Dextre robot took an opportunity to greet the new spacecraft on Sunday. The SPDM (Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator) was translated to the SpaceX vehicle to practice the removal of cargo from the trunk, a key element of future Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) missions.

27 May

  • China launched a satellite late Saturday for civil and possibly military communications. The Long March 3B rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 8:56 AM Phoenix time (1556 UTC) Saturday and placed the 5,200-kilogram Chinasat 2A satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

26 May

  • The hatch on the Dragon spacecraft has been successfully opened, and the ISS crew is beginning to unload the 1014 lbs of cargo brought up on the spacecraft. 1367 lbs of cargo is scheduled to return on Dragon on 31 May.
  • A giant distributed radio telescope will be split over sites in South Africa and Australia, astronomers announced Friday. The Square Kilometer Array (SKA) Organization said Friday that dishes for the radio telescope will be built on sites in South Africa and Australia, with the majority of the telescopes being placed in South Africa.

25 May

  • Dragon is berthed to the International Space Station.
  • The Dragon spacecraft has passed all of the Approach tests and is proceeding toward Capture.
  • Boeing successfully completed the software Preliminary Design Review (PDR) for its Commercial Crew Development (CCDev-2) initiative on May 18. CCDev-2 is part of NASA’s Space Act Agreement. Software competency is essential to all operational aspects of Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft, including launch, orbital maneuvering, docking with and separating from the International Space Station, re-entry and landing. The PDR team analyzed the system’s flight software, including details regarding safety, testing, overall redundancy management, avionics hardware and ground systems.
  • XCOR announced today that it has achieved a key technical milestone with its flight weight rocket piston pump hardware. XCOR engineers have successfully and repeatedly pumped liquid oxygen (LOX) at flow rates required to supply the Lynx suborbital vehicle main engines.

24 May

  • SpaceX and Dragon completed today’s fly-under successfully.

23 May

  • The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) announced Monday that Iran is set to launch a satellite called Fajr (or “Dawn”) atop a Safir 1B rocket on a mission to demonstrate the country’s first use of a maneuverable spacecraft in orbit.
  • The SpaceX Dragon capsule has completed Flight Day 1 objectives (under final review by NASA and SpaceX), and will spend Flight Day 2 raising its orbit as it approaches the International Space Station. If all objectives are met, grappling is set for 1206 UTC Friday.

22 May

  • SpaceX successfully launched their Falcon 9 rocket and placed the Dragon capsule on a rendezvous path to the International Space Station (ISS). If all tests are successful, grappling and connecting to the ISS will occur on Friday morning.
  • When SpaceX’s Dragon capsule launches in spring 2012, a very special payload will be on board: 15 student experiments from the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. The big deal is that those experiments from “SSEP Mission 1 to ISS” will be part of space history. Dragon will become the first commercial vehicle to dock to the International Space Station, and these student experiments have the distinction of being the only payload on board.

21 May

20 May

19 May

  • The SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle aborted following engine start. Engine 5 recorded high pressure. The launch will be rescheduled for 22 May (NET).
  • From SpaceX on Facebook: “Engineers replacing failed valve on engine #5 following today’s abort. Data review Sunday, if all looks good next attempt is Tues. May 22 at 3:44 AM ET”.

18 May

  • NASA and SpaceX held a pre-launch briefing this afternoon at Kennedy Space Center. View the briefing here.
  • A Japanese H-2A rocket launched four satellites on Friday, including a Japanese earth sciences spacecraft and a South Korean remote sensing satellite. The H-2A 202 lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center at 9:39 pm Phoenix time Thursday (1639 UTC) and placed four satellites into Sun-synchronous orbits.
  • A Proton rocket launched a Canadian commercial communications satellite early Friday. The Proton-M rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 12:12 pm Phoenix time Thursday (1912 UTC Thursday) carrying the Nimiq 6 satellite. The Proton’s Breeze-M upper stage released the spacecraft into geosynchronous transfer orbit a little over nine hours later. Nimiq 6 was built by Space Systems/Loral and weighed about 4,500 kilograms at launch, carrying 32 Ku-band transponders.

17 May

  • A Soyuz spacecraft carrying three new ISS crew members docked with the orbiting outpost early Thursday. The Soyuz TMA-04M docked with the Poisk module of the ISS at 12:36 am EDT (0436 GMT) Thursday, two days after launch from Kazakhstan, and hatches opened at 4:10 am EDT (0810 GMT). On board the Soyuz were Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin and American astronaut Joseph Acaba, who brought the station’s crew complement back to six.

16 May

  • An Ariane 5 rocket successfully launched a pair of Lockheed Martin-built communications satellites for Japan and Vietnam on Tuesday evening. The Ariane 5 ECA lifted off from Kourou, French Guiana, at 6:13 pm EDT (2213 GMT) Tuesday and placed the JCSAT-13 and Vinasat-2 communications satellites into geosynchronous transfer orbit about a half-hour later.
  • The Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft with the new crew for the International Space Station (ISS), launched from the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, will dock with the ISS on Thursday morning in an automatic mode. The spacecraft will dock with the Poisk research module of the ISS Russian segment at 1:38 AM Phoenix time (0438 UTC).

15 May

  • A Soyuz FG rocket launched the Soyuz TMA-04M (RSC Energia) spacecraft carrying three new International Space Station crew members on Tuesday. The Soyuz rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 8:01 pm Phoenix time Monday (0301 UTC Tuesday) and placed the Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft into orbit. On board the Soyuz are Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin and American astronaut Joseph Acaba. The Soyuz will dock with the ISS at 11:39 pm EDT Wednesday (0339 GMT Thursday).
  • The Atlantic has an extensive by Ross Andersen with Sara Seager, a Professor of Planetary Science at MIT, on the plans of Planetary Resources to mine asteroids.
  • LightSquared, the company that ran into regulatory difficulties trying to establish a hybrid satellite-terrestrial broadband network in the US, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Monday.

14 May

  • Jeff Foust, at The Space Review, discusses “A test flight for SpaceX may also be a test for commercial crew”.
  • NSS Urges Congress to Ease Export Control Restrictions on Satellites and Space-Related Items
  • Scientists analyzing data from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft orbiting the large asteroid Vesta have concluded that the body has some of the key characteristics of a planet, suggesting it is a protoplanet left over from the solar system’s formation. Observations of the asteroid show that it is a differentiated body, featuring an iron core with a radius of 110 kilometers as well as a mantle and crust.

13 May

  • The Indian Space Research Organization on Saturday successfully tested the indigenous cryogenic engine at the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) at Mahendragiri for 200 seconds. The engine will undergo another two more tests, including endurance test of 1,000 seconds and vacuum ignition test. The engine is scheduled to propel GSLV D-5 in September or October.
  • John Kelly heaps scorn on the Congressional move to force NASA to prematurely select a single manned spacecraft contractor, “History shows going with one contractor results in years of delays and billions of dollars in cost overruns. Every past space transportation system development effort has become a cost and schedule boondoggle, often made worse by cost-plus contracting.”

12 May

  • One of the key pre-launch requirements for SpaceX’s upcoming Dragon mission to the ISS, the completion of software validation tasks for the spacecraft’s approach and berthing with the orbital outpost, has been passed, pending the expected completion of “action items”. The milestone means the latest launch date target of May 19 now holds a large amount of confidence.
  • Scientists are on an epic treasure hunt for meteorite fragments from a spectacular fireball that lit up the daytime sky over California last month. The space rocks came from a minivan-size asteroid that plunged through Earth’s atmosphere and exploded into a dazzling daytime fireball over California and parts of Nevada on April 22. Meteorite fragments were scattered around Sutter’s Mill, an old sawmill in Coloma, California.

11 May

  • The Sun moves much more slowly relative to nearby interstellar space than was previously thought, according to scientists working on NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission. Their study casts doubt on the existence of an abrupt “bow shock” where the edge of the solar system meets the interstellar medium – instead suggesting that the boundary between the two regions is much gentler.
  • Virgin Galactic expects to resume flight tests of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle as early as June from manufacturer Scaled Composites’ facility in Mojave, California. SpaceShipTwo has not flown since its 16th glide flight in September, 2011, when it entered a tail stall upon release from its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft.
  • Envisat, an enormous Earth-observing satellite that was officially declared dead in space Wednesday (May 9) may stay in orbit for the next 150 years, posing a threat to other spacecraft zipping around our planet.

10 May

  • NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Images Big Dipper
  • NASA’s Dawn spacecraft won’t end its 13-month-long visit to Vesta, the Solar System’s second biggest asteroid, until August, but researchers have now solidified the rock’s reputation as an archetype for understanding planetary evolution. In six reports in the 11 May edition of Science, Dawn mission scientists have confirmed several long-held assumptions about Vesta and detailed some puzzles about the roughly 520-kilometer-diameter body.

9 May

  • Four days after the launch of Tianhui-1B mapping satellite, China has launched a new optical remote sensing satellite on May 10, 2012 from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. Launch of Yaogan Weixing-14 (YG-14) satellite took place at 07:06UTC using a Long March 4B (Chang Zheng-4B) launch vehicle from the LC9 launch complex.
  • OpenMarket.org has a screed about “Republican Space Socialism Update”, taking House Appropriations Chairman Frank Wolf (R-Virginia) to task for decrying the wastefulness of competition in the Commercial Crew Development program.

8 May

  • Unionized workers at United Launch Alliance (ULA), the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture that makes the Atlas and Delta launch vehicles, ratified a new contract by default on Sunday when a strike vote fell just short of passage. Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) voted Sunday to reject a three-year contract offered by ULA, but a subsequent vote on whether to strike fell just short of the two-thirds majority needed to authorize a strike. Because the strike vote failed, the new contract went into force at midnight Monday.
  • Commercial remote sensing company DigitalGlobe has rejected a offer by rival GeoEye to acquire the company, saying it will wait until the end of the federal budget cycle to make a decision on whether to make its own bid to acquire GeoEye. DigitalGlobe said in a statement Sunday that the $17-per-share offer by GeoEye “substantially undervalues” the company.

7 May

  • Preparations for Orion’s first journey into space are accelerating, as flight controllers at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) fire up the former Shuttle Flight Control Room (FCR) for mission simulations, while Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) engineers finalize the vehicle’s baseline construction, ahead of shipping Orion to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for outfitting.
  • In a study published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, astronomers analyzing 63 hot Jupiters (depicted above) detected by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft have found no planets comparable in size to Earth orbiting nearby. In contrast, many hot Neptunes—close-in giant worlds with roughly 5% of Jupiter’s mass—do have planetary neighbors. The findings may mean that hot Jupiters assume their peculiar orbits after far-off giant planets kick them close to their suns. As the hot Jupiter dashes inward, its gravity ejects any smaller planets near the star, both explaining the absence of close planetary neighbors and suggesting that solar systems with hot Jupiters are unlikely to host life-bearing worlds resembling Earth.

6 May

  • China launched the second TH-1 Tianhui-1 satellite – Tianhui-1B – on Sunday, using a Long March 2D (Chang Zheng-2D) launch vehicle from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Launch took place at 07:10UTC from the 603 launch pad from the LC-43 launch complex. Tianhui-1B will conduct Earth-mapping using stereo-topographic techniques.

5 May

  • Supermoon: “We will have moon closest to the Earth at the exact moment, or within a minute or two of when it becomes full,” says Andrew Fraknoi at Foothill College in Los Altos, Calif., and senior educator at the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. “And this has no cosmic danger or significance but it means the moon will be a little bit brighter and a little bit bigger in our sky.”
  • NASA issued the following statement from William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington: “After additional reviews and discussions between the SpaceX and NASA teams, we are in a position to proceed toward this important launch. The teamwork provided by these teams is phenomenal. There are a few remaining open items but we are ready to support SpaceX for its new launch date of May 19.”

4 May

  • SpaceX and NASA are nearing completion of the software assurance process, and SpaceX is submitting a request to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for a May 19th launch target with a backup on May 22nd.

3 May

  • The European Space Agency (ESA) announced Wednesday that it has chosen a mission to several of Jupiter’s largest moons as its next large mission, confirming a choice made last month by an agency panel. The JUpiter ICy moon Explorer, or Juice, is planned for launch in 2022 and arrive at Jupiter in 2030. The spacecraft would fly by the Galilean moons of Callisto and Europa before entering orbit around Ganymede, the solar system’s largest moon.
  • ULA: “The launch of an Atlas V carrying the United States Air Force’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency-2 (AEHF-2) payload was scrubbed today due to lack of helium flow from the ground support equipment to the Interstage Adapter compartment on the launch vehicle. The Atlas V vehicle and AEHF-2 are safe and secure at this time. The launch is rescheduled for Friday, May 4 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The opening of the launch window is 2:42 p.m. EDT and extends until 4:42 p.m. The forecast for May 4 shows an 80 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for the launch tomorrow. “
  • The first flight of the Antares rocket will likely be in August.

2 May

  • SpaceX said Wednesday it is “unlikely” that Monday’s scheduled launch of a Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket will proceed because of additional testing being done on the spacecraft. The company said in a brief statement Wednesday afternoon that the Monday morning launch was unlikely to take place as scheduled to allow the company more time to work on software assurance issues regarding the Dragon spacecraft with NASA. No official launch delay had yet been announced, although some NASA documents has already pushed the launch back to the backup date of May 10.

1 May

  • Senior scientists and heads of the five International Space Station partners will present ground-breaking research and discuss future projects in Berlin on 2–4 May. Follow the first International Space Station symposium live on the web through its dedicated website. Visit www.isssymposium2012.com to follow the conference in real time.

Posted in Asteroid, Canadian Space Agency, China, Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, India, International Space Station, Meteor, NASA, National Space Society, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, Solar System, Sun | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

April 2012

Posted by drdave on April 1, 2012

30 April

  • The hot fire test of the Falcon 9 was successful, although an hour and 15 minutes later than scheduled due to a hold to correct an out of limit parameter (Overly restrictive redline on second stage engine position).
  • SpaceX plans to carry out a “hot fire” test of its Falcon 9 rocket on the launch pad today, one of the final tests leading up to next Monday’s scheduled launch of a Dragon spacecraft on a test flight to the International Space Station. SpaceX has scheduled the test, where the Falcon 9′s nine first-stage engines are briefly ignited, for 3:00 PM Phoenix time (1900 UTC) today. The test will be webcast on the SpaceX web site starting at 11:30 AM Phoenix time (1830 UTC).
  • A Long March 3B rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 1:50 PM Phoenix time Sunday (2050 GMT Sunday, 4:50 am Beijing time Monday) and placed two Beidou-2 satellites into medium Earth orbits. The satellites will be used as part of China’s Beidou satellite navigation system

29 April

  • A European weather satellite that was scheduled for launch in May will be delayed until at least July because of a dispute between Kazakhstan and Russia regarding the drop zones for the rocket’s stages. ESA had hoped to launch its MetOp-B polar-orbiting weather satellite on May 23 from Baikonur on a Soyuz-2.1a rocket. However, Kazakhstan protested those launch plans, which require the booster stages of the Soyuz to fall on Kazakh territory north of Baikonur, a different area than the customary drop zone for Soyuz launches to lower-inclination orbits.

28 April

  • Discovery Magazine reports that “Of all the hurdles facing Planetary Resources, a startup firm that this week unveiled its plan to survey and mine asteroids for water, precious metals and other resources, legal jurisdiction is not at the top of the list. ‘We as a U.S. company certainly have the right to go an asteroid and make use of its resources,’ Planetary Resources co-founder Eric Anderson told Discovery News.”…But?…
  • On Monday, April 30, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) will take the final step on the road to orbit before launching one of the company’s Falcon 9 rockets May 7. The NewSpace firm will conduct what is known as a static test fire of the rocket’s nine Merlin engines. During this test, the engines will be ignited in a final test before the upcoming launch. The Falcon 9 will essentially go through everything that the rocket will need to do on launch day – except conduct liftoff. For those wanting to view the static test fire, they need only visit http://www.spacex.com on April 30. SpaceX will kick things off at 2:30 PM EDT (11:30 AM Phoenix time). The test fire itself is slated to take place at 3 p.m. EDT (12 p.m. EDT). SpaceX will also webcast the launch live at http://www.spacex.com.

27 April

  • A Soyuz spacecraft carrying three ISS crewmembers landed safely on the steppes of Kazakhstan on Friday. The Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft touched down near Arkalyk, Kazakhstan, at 7:45 am EDT (1145 GMT), three and a half hours after undocking from the space station.
  • NASA flew the space shuttle Enterprise from Washington, DC, to New York on Friday, where it will be displayed at a museum there starting later this year. The 747 carrying Enterprise took off from Dulles International Airport outside Washington at 9:39 am EDT (1339 GMT) and landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York at 11:22 am EDT (1522 GMT). Once arriving in the New York area, the 747 and Enterprise made an aerial tour of the city, allowing people to view the orbiter as it flew up along the Hudson River and over various city landmarks.

26 April

  • The Hubble Space Telescope was launched on 24 April 1990, 22 years ago. See the latest composite image: The Tarantula star forming region.
  • Weighing 1,858 kilograms, Risat-1 was launched by an enhanced variant of India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) during the early morning hours from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota Island
  • NASA managers, in consultation with Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum officials, have selected Friday, April 27, to ferry space shuttle Enterprise from Washington Dulles International Airport to John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport in New York.

25 April

  • The Senate and House budgets for NASA may kill Commercial Crew Development. At the east, cripple the effort to escape having Russia ferry our astronauts.
  • Asteroid Mining for Fun and Profit. A recently formed company called Planetary Resources has announced ambitious plans to extract billions of dollars’ worth of water and precious metals from near-Earth asteroids.
  • U.S forces on the ground, air and sea routinely enter into coalitions with allies. It is time for similar cooperation to exist in space.

24 April

  • Just posted on Facebook by SpaceX: “May 7th, 9:38 AM ET launch target for the upcoming COTS 2 mission confirmed by NASA and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station”.
  • SpaceX announced late Monday that it will push back the launch of its Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station by about a week to allow time for additional tests. SpaceX had been planning to launch the Dragon spacecraft on April 30. No new launch date has been announced, but will likely be after the launch of an Atlas 5 carrying a military satellite now planned for May 3.
  • A Proton rocket successfully launched a communications satellite for a Middle Eastern company on Tuesday. The Proton M lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 3:18 PM Phoenix time Monday (2218 UTC) carrying the Yahsat 1B (Y1B) satellite.

23 April

  • Fireball over Nevada and California: “I have been looking at the sky for 30 years, and I have never witnessed something so amazing and puzzling. It is an event that makes you glad to be alive,” said Matthew Neal of San Francisco. “The main body was bright green and the head was bright red and white.” Greg Giroux of June Lake, Calif., located along the eastern Sierra just west of Yosemite National Park, also was impressed. “This was by far the brightest fireball/shooting star I’ve ever seen, especially since it was in full sunlight,” he said. “After the flash, it broke up into pieces, then I lost sight of it as it went behind a mountain.”
  • The ISS crewmen opened the hatches between the International Space Station (ISS) and the freighter Progress M-15M, which docked successfully to the ISS in the automatic mode on Sunday.
  • Chris Kraft (former director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center and former director of JSC Mission Control) and Tom Moser (former director of JSC Engineering, and former director of NASA’s Space Station Program), take aim at the Space Launch System in an op-ed piece in the Houston Chronicle. “The current national human exploration strategy, which is based on development of the SLS, is economically unaffordable. The SLS-based strategy is unaffordable, by definition, since the costs of developing, let alone operating, the SLS within a fixed or declining budget has crowded out funding for critical elements needed for any real deep space human exploration program.”
  • India is preparing to launch the Radar Imaging Satellite (RISAT-1) from the spaceport at Sriharikota at 5.45 a.m. local time on Thursday (2345 UTC and 4:45 PM Phoenix time Wednesday). The four stages of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-XL) have been stacked up at the first launch-pad on the island of Sriharikota and the satellite has been mated to the vehicle.

22 April

  • Progress M-15M, carrying 2.8 tons of food, water, propellant, and other supplies, is successfully docked with the International Space Station at 7:39 AM Phoenix time (1439 UTC) Sunday.
  • Optical, radar and laser observations of the Envisat satellite show that it is still in a stable orbit. Efforts to regain contact with the satellite have been under way since 8 April, when it unexpectedly stopped sending data to Earth.

21 April

  • Boeing has signed an agreement with NASA’s Mission Operations Directorate (MOD) at Johnson Space Center to collaborate on mission planning, training and flight operations for the company’s Commercial Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft.

20 April

  • Russia has successfully launched the Progress M-15M resupply spacecraft on course to the International Space Station. Docking is scheduled for Sunday at 8:40 AM Phoenix time (1500 UTC).
  • A spacecraft that would study three of Jupiter’s largest moons, including going into orbit around one of then, is the top choice of a committee selecting Europe’s next major space science mission. A European Space Agency (ESA) committee met this month and select the Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer, or Juice, as its preferred option for ESA’s Cosmic Vision competition for large-scale science missions. Juice would launch in 2022 on an Ariane 5 and arrive at Jupiter in 2030.
  • A new study sponsored by the Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS) has concluded that it would be possible to return an asteroid weighing approximately 500 metric tons to high lunar orbit where it would be mined for resources by 2025. The Asteroid Retrieval Feasibility Study, published on April 2, was prepared for KISS, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

19 April

  • On April 24, Planetary Resources officials will announce details of their space exploration plans in a press conference at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington. Investors include Charles Simonyi and James Cameron.
  • Appropriations committees in the US House of Representative and Senate have drafted spending bills that would fund NASA at close to the administration’s request for 2013. A Senate appropriations subcommittee approved a spending bill Tuesday that would give NASA $19.4 billion in fiscal year 2013, but over $1.6 billion of that represents funding for weather satellite programs transferred from NOAA. Without the NOAA funding, the NASA budget is a little over $17.7 billion, and includes an additional $100 million for Mars science programs cut in the administration’s proposal.

18 April

  • The space shuttle Discovery made its final trip on Tuesday, flown on its 747 carrier aircraft from the Kennedy Space Center to Washington to be put on display at the National Air and Space Museum. The 747 carrying Discovery took off from the Shuttle Landing Facility at KSC at around 7 am EDT (1100 GMT) and landed at Dulles International Airport in the Virginia suburbs of Washington four hours later.
  • Aviation Week reports that “The Pentagon has declared that the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) project has exceeded its original projected per-unit cost by 58.4%, triggering a rigorous review under the Nunn-McCurdy program oversight law.”

17 April

  • For the first time in history, NASA’s extensive Flight Readiness Review (FRR) process has concluded that a privately-owned spacecraft is tentatively cleared to visit the International Space Station (ISS). With a launch date still tracking April 30, the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft will lift off toward a space station that is now fully prepared to extend a robotic handshake to the commercial space industry, pending the closure of a few open items.
  • The Lyrid Meteor Shower peaks this week on 21-22 April.

16 April

15 April

  • Windy conditions at Cape Canaveral have delayed the lifting and mating of the shuttle Discovery to the 747. The shuttle will be delivered Tuesday, 17 April, to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D. C. It will be on permanent display in the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

14 April

  • The spacecraft Cassini will make a second pass today through the jets spraying from the south pole of Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons. Less than three weeks ago, Cassini made a similar pass through the jets (27 March). Combined with a previous pass on 1 October, these three passes should allow the ion and neutral mass spectrometer to determine the three dimensional structure of the jets and how they change over time.
  • NASA will partner with the US Air Force (USAF) to study next-generation upper stage propulsion, formalizing the agencies joint interests in a new upper stage engine to replace the venerable Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RL-10. NASA hopes to find a less expensive RL-10-class engine for a third stage of the Space Launch System (SLS)

13 April

  • A huge embarrassment for Kim Jong Un and North Korea.
  • The European Space Agency (ESA) confirmed Thursday that it has lost contact with its Envisat earth observing satellite. ESA announced in a statement that contact with Envisat was unexpectedly lost on April 8, and has yet to be restored.

12 April

  • Yuri’s Night. Find a celebration near you and enjoy.

11 April

  • New Mexico-based Virgin Galactic, which now expects to fly its first paying customers in 2013, was told by the U.S. government that the company may fly non-U.S. citizens to the edge of space without first obtaining an export license from the State Department.

10 April

  • A regulatory filing released Monday is the latest evidence that SpaceX is pursuing plans for a new spaceport on the Gulf Coast of Texas. The notice by the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation states that the office is starting work on an environmental impact statement for a proposed spaceport in Cameron County, Texas, north of Brownsville, on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
  • The United Launch Alliance (ULA), best known in recent years for their high end payload launch services, are continuing their transition back into Human Space Flight operations. With an early history in human launches stretching back to safely sending astronaut John Glenn into space, ULA’s Atlas V is the preferred launch vehicle for several Commercial Crew suitors.

9 April

  • Russia’s new Angara rocket family, which began development by Khrunichev after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, will finally fly next year after two decades of effort. Providing, of course, that work is completed in time on the rocket’s launch facility and other ground infrastructure at Plesetsk.
  • Given the delays launching the year’s first Atlas 5 rocket due to high-altitude winds and scheduling conflicts with a Navy submarine missile test off Cape Canaveral, the next Atlas mission is moving out a week or so as a result. The targeted April 27 Launch date will slide into early May.

8 April

  • The rocket for the planned satellite launch later this month by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has been installed on the launch pad, Xinhua correspondents saw at the launch site Sunday. We shall see.
  • Venus, a planet without its own magnetic field, may still be able to generate auroral activity, scientists reported this week. Data collected by Europe’s Venus Express spacecraft shows evidence of reconnection of magnetic fields in Venus’s magnetotail, a region on the opposite side of the planet from the Sun created by the solar wind’s interaction with the planet’s upper atmosphere. This reconnection, which converts magnetic energy to kinetic energy, creates auroral activity for planets with their own magnetic fields, like the Earth; scientists hypothesize this reconnection activity in Venus’s magnetotail could do the same. Similar phenomena could also take place on comets, scientists said, causing their tails to break off.

7 April

  • Engineers and astronomers are celebrating the much anticipated first light of the MOSFIRE instrument, now installed on the Keck I telescope at W. M. Keck Observatory. MOSFIRE (Multi-Object Spectrometer For Infra-Red Exploration) will vastly increase the data gathering power of what is already the world’s most productive ground-based observatory.

6 April

  • United Launch Alliance stated that a crew-carrying version of United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket, which is slated to loft the space taxis built by Boeing, Sierra Nevada and Blue Origin, requires about three more years of work. That means the rocket’s development is on track to help the companies start flying astronauts to the International Space Station by NASA’s desired 2017 start date.
  • Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-3 (ATV-3) “Edoardo Amaldi” raised the International Space Station’s orbit by nearly four kilometers on Thursday evening, aiding the phasing requirements for its Russian cousins. ATV-3 continues to have its power loss issue evaluated, while one of its Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) channels apparently failed on Thursday.

5 April

  • A NASA panel has concluded the agency should extend the mission of Kepler, a space telescope searching for extrasolar planets, as well as a number of other current astronomy missions. NASA’s Senior Review examined the effectiveness of current astronomy missions seeking funding to extend their operations. For Kepler, the panel concluded spacecraft operations should continue through fiscal year 2016. Kepler was launched in March 2009 for a prime mission of 3.5 years. The panel also supported extending the mission of several other astronomy missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope.

4 April

  • A Delta 4 rocket placed a classified military satellite into orbit on Tuesday. The Delta 4 Medium-Plus (5,2) lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 7:12 pm EDT (2312 GMT) Tuesday on a mission designated NROL-25 for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). United Launch Alliance (ULA) declared the launch a success, but neither it nor NRO provided additional details about the mission.
  • NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) X-ray astrophysics observatory, grounded in March by concerns with its Pegasus XL rocket, will have an opportunity to launch in June. Engineering reviews of the air-launched Orbital Sciences Corp. Pegasus rocket continue, according to NASA, with officials focusing on software to be used by a new computer flying on the Pegasus for the first time.

3 April

  • NASASpaceFlight has a two part series (part 1 and part 2) on preliminary design work for the Deep Space Habitat (DSH) destined to house astronauts on missions to the Moon, asteroids, the moons of Mars and Mars itself.

2 April

  • A Chinese Long March rocket successfully launched a French-built communications satellite on Saturday. The Long March 3B rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 6:27 am EDT (1027 GMT, 6:27 pm Beijing time) and released the Apstar-7 satellite into a geosynchrous transfer orbit 26 minutes later. Apstar-7 is a Spacebus 4000C2 model satellite built by French company Thales Alenia Space for Hong Kong-based satellite operator APT Satellite Holdings.
  • The launch of a Delta 4 rocket carrying a top-secret spy satellite has been delayed again due to the ongoing evaluation of the upper stage engine, moving the next liftoff attempt to Tuesday afternoon at 4:12 PM Phoenix time (2312 UTC) at the earliest.

1 April

  • Chances are not good for tomorrow’s launch of a Delta IV carrying the NROL-25 satellite. The weather outlook continues to remain the same for Monday, with a 70 percent chance the winds will be too strong for launch or a 30 percent chance of the Delta 4 blasting off as scheduled at 4:04 PM Phoenix time (2304 UTC). United Launch Alliance has completed its assessment of the RL10B-2 upper stage engine that prompted delay of this National Reconnaissance Office mission by a few days, clearing the way for the countdown to resume on Monday.
  • Europe’s ATV-3 unmanned resupply spacecraft, which docked with the ISS earlier this week, readjusted the space station’s orbit on Sunday. Two main engines of ATV-3 were switched on at 1:54 Moscow time on Sunday [21:54 GMT on Saturday] to raise the International Space Station (ISS) orbit by 1.7 km, to 389.8 km.

Posted in Asteroid, China, Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, International Space Station, Jupiter, Meteor, NASA, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, Saturn, Solar System, Soyuz, Space Shuttle | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

March 2012

Posted by drdave on March 4, 2012

31 March

  • China opened their 2012 commercial launch manifest with the lofting of the Apstar-7 into orbit. The launch took place at 10:27 UTC from the LC2 launch platform at the from the Xichang satellite Launch Center, using a Long March 3B/ (Chang Zheng-3B/E) launch vehicle.
  • Technicians will load more than 1,000 pounds of food and clothing into SpaceX’s Dragon capsule next month for delivery to the International Space Station on the commercial craft’s first flight to the outpost. The cargo is comprised of mostly low-value items such as food, water, and clothing to supplement supplies delivered this week aboard Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle.

30 March

  • After 45 years in service Russia’s Proton-K rocket has made its 311th and final launch Friday morning, on a mission to deploy an OKO early warning satellite for the Russian Aerospace Defense Forces with the aid of a Blok DM-2 upper stage. Launch was on schedule at 05:49 UTC (11:49 local time), from Area 81/24 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
  • The launch of a classified satellite on a Delta 4 has been postponed to at least Monday to complete analysis of an upper-stage engine issue. The Delta 4 Medium-Plus (5,2) was originally scheduled to launch Thursday from Vandenberg Air Force Base on mission NROL-25.
  • Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), the builder of the Falcon family of rockets and Dragon spacecraft, has announced the creation of a safety advisory panel for commercial, crewed space flight. SpaceX is one of the private companies that are working to return U.S. astronauts to orbit. SpaceX is developing its Dragon spacecraft to be used to ferry crews to the International Space Station (ISS).

29 March

28 March

  • A Russian satellite operator has ordered two communications satellites from Astrium, including one that will replace a satellite deorbited over the weekend. Astrium will build the Express-AM4R and Express-AM7 satellites for Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC), with the satellites planned for launch in 2014.

27 March

  • After a busy 2011, the nation’s spy satellite agency will begin another spurt of launches that kicks off Thursday with a Delta 4 rocket carrying top-secret cargo from Vandenberg Air Force Base. Liftoff is planned for 3:30 p.m. from Space Launch Complex-6 on South Base.

26 March

  • On Sunday, controllers deorbited a Russian communications satellite that was launched into the wrong orbit last year despite a last-minute bid to salvage the spacecraft. Polar Broadband Systems, sought to keep the satellite in orbit, moving it into an elliptical, inclined orbit to provide broadband communications services for Antarctica. However, Russian officials elected to proceed with the spacecraft’s deorbiting, and the spacecraft reentered over the North Pacific on Sunday.
  • A chemical analysis of lunar rocks may force scientists to revise the leading theory for the Moon’s formation: that the satellite was born when a Mars-sized body smacked into the infant Earth some 4.5 billion years ago.

25 March

  • Universe Today has a long report about experiments with Canada’s Dextre robot (highlight) and NASA’s Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) aboard the ISS in March 2012. Four more upcoming RRM experiments tentatively set for this year will demonstrate the ability of a remote-controlled robot to remove barriers and refuel empty satellite gas tanks in space thereby saving expensive hardware from prematurely joining the orbital junkyard.
  • International Launch Services (ILS) have launched their second Proton-M rocket of the year on Sunday. Lift off was on schedule at 12:10 GMT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, with the Proton’s Briz-M Upper Stage tasked with deploying the Intelsat 22 telecommunications satellite into a 65,000 km super-synchronous transfer orbit for the first time under ILS.

24 March

  • NASASpaceFlight reviews a possible mission to Near Earth Object 1999AO10, requiring a launch date of January 2, 2026. The NEO 1999AO10 deep space mission would last 155 days, around half of the mission length for the other candidate mentioned – 304 days – for NEO 2001 GP2.
  • The crew of the International Space Station sheltered in their Soyuz capsules for a short time early Saturday as a precaution when a piece of orbital debris from a satellite collision passed close to the station. Station controllers awakened the six ISS crewmembers at about 11:30 pm EDT Friday (0330 UTC Saturday) after data indicated a piece of debris would pass close to the ISS.

23 March

  • The Edoardo Amaldi, the third ATV from the European Space Agency, successfully lifted off from Kourou , and is on its way to the ISS.
  • Aviation Week talks about European Space Agency Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain and his meeting with his Chinese counterpart March 22-23 to discuss future cooperation in manned spaceflight, including the potential for a Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station (ISS).

22 March

  • ESA’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle, Edoardo Amaldi, is ready for launch to the International Space Station. Liftoff is 0434 UTC.
  • MESSENGER completed its one-year primary mission on March 17. Since moving into orbit about Mercury a little over one year ago, the spacecraft has captured nearly 100,000 images and returned data that have revealed new information about the planet, including its topography, the structure of its core, and areas of permanent shadow at the poles that host the mysterious polar deposits.

21 March

  • Space tourism company Virgin Galactic announced this week it has signed up a famous actor as its 500th customer for its suborbital spaceflights. Virgin said Monday that Ashton Kutcher is the customer number 500 for its upcoming SpaceShipTwo flights to space.
  • The Ariane 5 launch of Europe’s no. 3 Automated Transfer Vehicle was given the green light today for a March 23 liftoff from the Spaceport in French Guiana on a servicing mission to the International Space Station.
  • Bad weather has prompted NASA to reschedule the launch of five rockets from its Wallops Facility in Virginia. The rockets are part of a study of the upper-level jet stream. The launch had been set for Wednesday morning but has now been pushed back to early Thursday.

20 March

  • Following the safe arrival of the MetOp-B weather satellite in Kazakhstan, the sophisticated craft is now being carefully assembled and tested before launch on 23 May. MetOp-B will provide essential data for weather forecasting and climate monitoring.
  • The latest documentation relating to the efforts to create an Exploration Roadmap for NASA’s future has provided the strongest indication to date that the Agency wants to return US astronauts to the surface of the Moon. Listed as a Lunar Surface Sortie (LSS) mission, the Exploration Systems Development Division (ESD) revealed their plans via their latest Concept Of Operations (Con Ops) document.

19 March

  • With Space Shuttle orbiter Discovery buttoned up in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) ahead of her flight to her retirement home, and with Enterprise ready to make way for Discovery and head to her new display site, the Shuttle team at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is focused on finishing Transition and Retirement (T&R) work for Atlantis and Endeavour.

18 March

  • European Space Agency (ESA) officials decided this week to continue their plans for a pair of ambitious Mars missions later this decade even after the US decided it would no longer cooperate on the missions. ESA members decided Thursday to pursue the ExoMars program, which calls for the 2016 launch of an orbiter and the 2018 launch of a lander and rover.
  • As astronomy satellite that had been slated for launch this month will remain on the ground for up to two more months to correct a software problem, the space agency announced Friday. The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) spacecraft was slated to launch later this month on a air-launched Pegasus XL rocket from the Reagan Test Site (RTS) at Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.

17 March

  • Aviation Week notes that “An Astrium-built Russian satellite stranded in a useless orbit by a Proton launch mishap last summer may be salvaged to provide broadband satellite links to scientists working in Antarctica.”

16 March

15 March

  • Some astronauts who have spent extended time in space have suffered optical abnormalities that could affect their eyesight, scientists reported this week. In a paper published in the journal Radiology, researchers said a third of astronauts who spent time on long-duration missions to the ISS experienced symptoms such as flattening of the eyeball and bulging of the optic nerve that can affect eyesight. The cause of these symptoms isn’t clear but is thought to be linked to exposure to weightlessness.
  • There have been heated arguments at Satellite 2012 conference concerning the decision to buy United Launch Alliance (ULA) rockets through 2020 in a block buy. ULA likes it, and SpaceX does not.

14 March

  • FAA Issues Draft Environmental Assessment for SpaceShipTwo Powered Flights in Mojave
  • Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne tested its launch abort engine it is developing for a spacecraft to take humans to the International Space Station. The engine is designed to push the seven-person Crew Space Transportation-100 to safety in the event that an abort is necessary. The CST-100 is being built by Boeing for NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program.
  • SpaceX hopes to be ready to launch an unmanned Dragon capsule from Cape Canaveral on April 30, putting it on course to berth at the International Space Station three days later, according to tweets from the Satellite 2012 conference in DC. A NASA spokesman said an official target launch date would not be set until the conclusion of a flight-readiness review now planned for April 12.

13 March

  • The Orion Program is continuing to push forward at a lively pace, as the first MPCV (Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle) set to launch into space heads into the final pathfinder welds, ahead of closeout work. While work continues on the Exploration Flight Test -1 (EFT-1) Orion, the critical parachute system is set for another drop test in April, following its recent success at the end of February.
  • Commercial launch providers Arianespace and Sea Launch announced a total of three new launch contracts on Monday. Arianespace announced it won a contract from Eutelsat and Es’hailSat, the Qatar Satellite Company, to launch the Eutelsat 25B/Es’hail 1 satellite on an Ariane 5. The satellite, weighing over six tons, is being built by Space Systems/Loral and is scheduled for launch in the second quarter of 2013. Sea Launch announced it had secured a contract for another Eutelsat satellite, Eutelsat 70B.

12 March

  • Canada’s Dextre robotic space helper, working with NASA’s Robotic Refuelling Mission (RRM) experiment, have together completed a record breaking week of robotics operations on the International Space Station (ISS), a week which saw the first ever attempt at satellite servicing tasks successfully performed in space.
  • “Given current funding levels,” Mr. Bolden said in written testimony, “we anticipate the need to purchase [Russian] crew transportation and rescue capabilities into 2017.” The commercial U.S. space taxis were originally envisioned to be in service by early 2016.
  • SpaceX and NASA are in advanced discussions for the private space firm to use Kennedy Space Center’s pad 39A, one of the spaceport’s Apollo and space shuttle launch sites, as the Florida base for its Falcon Heavy rocket, officials said.

11 March

  • In a week that has seen the strong class X solar flares, the sunspot region AR1429 unleashed two class M flares yesterday at 0527 UTC and 1744 UTC, according to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
  • NASA has not yet asked the Russian Federal Space Agency to sign a contract to use Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ferry U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) from 2016 to 2017, Roscosmos manned flight programs director Alexei Krasnov told Interfax-AVN on Sunday. “The contract signed by us is valid through 2015. But this contract has not been prolonged for 2016-2017, and negotiations on prolonging it are not being held at the moment. Should NASA need to use our Soyuz [spacecraft] to deliver its astronauts over this period of time, I think they will notify us of it, will come up with such an initiative,” Krasnov said.

10 March

  • Iron-rich fragments from an ancient impact could explain puzzling magnetic fields measured in various places on the moon. The magnetic anomalies are perplexing because unlike metallic minerals deposited by an asteroid, normal lunar rocks cannot record a magnetic field.
  • Need a Job? They’re Hiring in Mojave(Doug Messier). There are several hundred open positions in Mojave as companies such as the Spaceship Company, XCOR and Scaled Composites begin to ramp up operations. “It’s ironic that we’re having a recruitment problem in Mojave,” said Stu Witt, CEO and general manager of the Mojave Air and Space Port. He added that this is a good problem to have.

9 March

  • ESA’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle, scheduled for launch on an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on 23 March at 04:31 UTC, is planned to dock with the International Space Station five days later. The precise time of docking automatically dock with the Station’s Russian Zvezda module will be known after launch.
  • The head of NASA visited Capitol Hill on Wednesday, making separate appearances in House and Senate hearings to support the agency’s 2013 budget request. Charles Bolden appeared before hearings of the Senate Commerce Committee and House Science Committee, fielding questions about the $17.7-billion budget proposed for the space agency in the next fiscal year. Much of the debate at the hearings was about the request for nearly $830 million for NASA’s commercial crew program, a sharp increase from the $406 million the program received in 2012 but similar to the original budget request that year. Bolden said the funding was needed to keep the effort on track to start providing service no later than 2017.
  • China’s Shenzhou 9 mission to dock with the Tiangong space station has been surrounded by controversy and confusion, including uncertainty over unmanned or manned, and continuing slippage of the launch date for this complex mission.

8 March

  • NASA models using data from the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) and the Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) have now provided more information about the two Coronal Mass Ejections (CME) associated with the two March 6 flares. The first is traveling faster than 1300 miles per second; the second more than 1100 miles per second. NASA’s models predict that the CMEs will impact both Earth and Mars, as well as pass by several NASA spacecraft – Messenger, Spitzer, and STEREO-B. The models also predict that the leading edge of the first CME will reach Earth at about 1:25 AM EST on the morning of March 8 (plus or minus 7 hours).

7 March

  • Neil deGrasse Tyson gets raked over the coals at the Atlantic for his take on NASA, its budget and its mission. Yikes.
  • A dust devil on Mars was captured by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

6 March

5 March

  • Metop-B, the European operational polar orbiting weather satellite designed and manufactured by Astrium, recently left the clean room at the European space industry leader’s site in Toulouse. Metop-B was prepared for shipping to the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, where a Soyuz launcher will place it in orbit with Starsem. The target launch date is 23 May 2012.
  • NASA has successfully conducted another drop test of the Orion crew vehicle’s entry, descent and landing parachutes high above the Arizona desert in preparation for the vehicle’s orbital flight test in 2014.
  • Dish Network Corp.’s hopes to start building a new wireless network have been dealt a setback by the Federal Communications Commission, which denied the satellite-TV provider’s request for a needed waiver and opted instead for a formal deliberation that will take until the end of the year.
  • A Department of Defense official urged his colleagues in 2010 to “synch up” with the GPS industry in order to defeat LightSquared’s plans to build the nation’s first wholesale broadband network.

4 March

3 March

  • The European Space Agency announced Friday that it has delayed the upcoming launch of an ISS cargo spacecraft in order to perform additional checks on the vehicle’s contents. The ATV-3 spacecraft, also called Edoardo Amaldi, was scheduled to launch March 9 on an Ariane 5 from Kourou, French Guiana. The delay is expected to be about two weeks.
  • An upgraded Long March-2F carrier rocket has completed assembling and is ready for China’s first manned space docking due between June and August this year

2 March

  • A SpaceX rocket scheduled to launch a cargo demonstration mission to the ISS this spring successfully completed a dress rehearsal of its launch on Thursday. SpaceX performed the “wet dress rehearsal” of its upcoming Falcon 9 launch on Thursday, rolling the rocket and its Dragon spacecraft to the pad at Cape Canaveral, fueling it, and performing a countdown all the way to the T-5 mark. SpaceX officials said the practice countdown went well.
  • Technicians at Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California are placing the two halves of the rocket nose cone, or fairing, around NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), in preparation for its launch. The launch is scheduled for no earlier than March 21.
  • NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has “sniffed” molecular oxygen ions around Saturn’s icy moon Dione for the first time, confirming the presence of a very tenuous atmosphere. The oxygen ions are quite sparse – one for every 0.67 cubic inches of space (one for every 11 cubic centimeters of space) or about 2,550 per cubic foot (90,000 per cubic meter) – show that Dione has an extremely thin neutral atmosphere.

1 March

  • Astronomers have spotted young stars in the Orion nebula changing right before their eyes, thanks to the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. The colorful specks — developing stars strung across the image — are rapidly heating up and cooling down, speaking to the turbulent, rough-and-tumble process of reaching full stellar adulthood.
  • Researchers at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC) at Stanford University estimate that “nomad” planets, ejected from their home stellar system and now free-floating through the Milky Way, could outnumber stars by as many as 100,000 to 1.
  • The planned March 6 launch of the SiriusXM FM-6 digital radio satellite aboard an International Launch Services (ILS) Proton rocket has been scrapped following concerns of a solar-array defect aboard the Space Systems/Loral-built satellite.

Posted in Asteroid, Canadian Space Agency, China, Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, International Space Station, Mars, Meteor, Milky Way, Moon, NASA, Roscosmos, Saturn, Space Shuttle, Star, Sun | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

February 2012

Posted by drdave on February 3, 2012

29 February

  • Sanjiv Ahuja resigned as CEO of LightSquared on Tuesday. The controversial communications company had sought to develop a hybrid satellite-terrestrial network. Ahuja will remain as chairman of the board of the company.

28 February

  • Xcor has announced delivery of the first flight-capable fuselage of its Lynx horizontal-takeoff suborbital spacecraft. The fuselage’s delivery to the factory, a major milestone in construction of the first vehicle, took place on 17 February. The engine truss, which will hold all the XR-5K18 liquid oxygen/kerosene rocket motor and its components, is nearing completion, and is scheduled for integration with the fuselage by April.
  • Virgin Galactic hopes to perform the first rocket-powered test flight of its suborbital spaceliner by the end of 2012, with commercial operations perhaps beginning a year or two later. Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo has already performed 16 unpowered flight tests.
  • The fight over NASA’s downsized Planetary Science budget has just begun.
  • Blue Origin plans to conduct a pad-abort test in the summer of 2012, a crucial milestone in qualifying the company’s New Shepard vehicle for human spaceflight.

27 February

26 February

  • The Max Plank Institute reports on the ultraluminous X-ray source (ULX) observed in Andromeda in late 2009 and early 2010.

25 February

  • China successfully launched a satellite into space at 12:12 a.m. Beijing Time Saturday, the 11th one of its indigenous global navigation and positioning network known as Beidou, or Compass system.

24 February

  • The Navy MUOS-1 satellite was launched aboard a 206-foot-tall United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The launch came at 3:17 PM Phoenix time.

23 February

  • For evidence that winners have friends, look no further than Vega. As soon as Europe’s new small launcher made its spectacularly successful maiden flight, Italian space agency head Enrico Saggese received a call from German counterpart Johann-Dietrich Woerner who, along with his congratulations, expressed enthusiasm that his agency, DL, might join forces with Saggese’s ASI to develop the launcher further.
  • Executives of Orbital Sciences Corporation confirmed this week delays in the first launches of its Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo spacecraft, pushing back the inaugural launch until at least June.
  • Twenty-five years ago today, a star died. It is more exact to say the star died 165,000 years ago, but it was at 7:36 Universal Time on February 23, 1987, that evidence of the explosive death first reached Earth. Supernova 1987A was spotted in the Large Magellanic Cloud in 1987, reached 3rd magnitude and was the brightest to grace our skies in 383 years.

22 February

  • GJ 1214b, first discovered in 2009, is now shown to be a steamy, water-rich sphere. But it’s not a water-world in the sense of splashing oceans and Kevin Costner: Scientists suspect that the planet’s interior is filled with some exotic, high-pressure form of solid H2O unlike anything seen on Earth.

21 February

20 February

  • The French had a word for it: Entrepot: A Commercial Outpost: The Space Review says: “I am convinced that propellant delivery is the 21st century equivalent of the Kelly Air Mail Act of 1925, which closed the business case for startup airlines, and the Pacific Railway Act of 1862, which closed the business case for the Transcontinental Railroad.”

20 February

  • Satellite firm Inmarsat (ISA.L) said on Monday that its partner LightSquared, a venture struggling to build a U.S. mobile broadband service with Inmarsat’s spectrum, had failed to pay a $56.25 million installment to the British company. The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday said it planned to revoke permission for LightSquared to build out its network after tests showed it would interfere with the Global Positioning System used by airlines, the military and others.
  • Passing over southern Canada, the crew aboard the International Space Station captured the moon reflecting off the many rivers that snake across the land. Its light casts shadows onto components of the Station.

19 February

  • A half century ago a Marine Corps test pilot climbed into his tiny Mercury capsule and thundered to orbit, where he spent just under five hours before safely returning to Earth. He exited his capsule and became an American legend. His name is John Herschel Glenn Jr.
  • Hayabusa 2 is being ready to fly, and if everything goes right, it will blast off in 2014 to collect cosmic material from asteroid 1999 JU3. The original Hayabusa garnered worldwide attention after the near-miraculous completion of its mission.

18 February

  • Light Squared is in deep doo doo: “LightSquared’s primary investor, Philip Falcone, is exploring possible lawsuits against the FCC and the GPS industry in the wake of the FCC’s rejection of the carrier’s plan for a 4G cellular network, sources familiar with the company’s planning confirmed on Friday.”
  • NOAA’s fiscal year 2013 budget request calls for more than $2 billion for the agency’s weather and climate satellite programs to cover geostationary and polar-orbiting spacecraft, a space weather mission, and a joint U.S.-European ocean research observatory.

17 February

  • Two cosmonauts worked outside the International Space Station for over six hours on Thursday, moving a crane and performing other tasks. Oleg Kononenko and Anton Shkaplerov spent six hours and 15 minutes outside the ISS in a spacewalk that ended at 3:46 pm EST (2046 GMT) Thursday. Their primary task was to move the Strela-1 crane from the Pirs airlock module to the nearby Poisk module on the Russian segment of the station. The move, originally planned for an EVA that took place last August, is part of work to replace the Pirs module with a multipurpose lab module next year.
  • High upper-level winds kept an Atlas rocket carrying a Navy communications satellite grounded on Thursday. The Atlas 5 511 was set to lift off late Thursday from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying the MUOS-1 satellite. However, upper-level winds were above limits throughout the 44-minute launch window, forcing controllers to scrub the launch. The launch has been rescheduled for 5:42 pm EST (2242 GMT) Friday.
  • Atlas V rocket launch scrubbed again. Third attempt expected next week.
  • The International Space Station is in line for an artificial gravity inducing centrifuge for future research projects involving small biological and materials samples later this year, following a Feb. 14 hardware exchange between Astrium Space Transportation, the developer, and NanoRacks LLC, the equipment integrator. The commercial device, which will allow scientists from the private sector, academia and government to vary g-forces on experiment samples, should be launched and operating within the U.S. National Laboratory elements of the station’s Japanese Kibo science module by year’s end.

16 February

  • Europe’s Mars Express resumed full science operations in early February, four months after scientists suspended research following persistent glitches in the probe’s solid-state mass memory unit, according to the craft’s mission manager.

15 February

  • A Proton rocket successfully launched a European communications satellite on Wednesday after technical problems delayed two earlier launch attempts. The Proton M lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 12:36 PM Phoenix time Tuesday (1936 UTC) carrying the SES-4 satellite. The rocket’s Breeze M upper stage released the satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit a little over nine hours later. The satellite, a Space Systems/Loral 1300 model, weighed 6,180 kilograms at launch.
  • From the Boston Globe: Science loses out to adventure Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s proposed cuts to NASA tilt in the wrong direction, preserving too much funding for a manned space program of questionable value even while slashing the agency’s more cost-effective robotic programs.

14 February

13 February

12 February

  • The new European Space Agency (ESA) Vega launcher passed its final hurdle on Saturday at Europe’s Spaceport, the Launch Readiness Review, and is ready for liftoff on Monday. This last review checks the final status of the entire launch system, including the vehicle and the ground infrastructure, following the full dress rehearsal of the countdown and launch of earlier this week. The first mission, designated VV01, is scheduled for liftoff during a two and a half hour launch window lasting between 1000–1230 UTC.
  • SpaceX has delayed its next demonstration flight of its cargo-carrying Dragon spacecraft until late April to deal with software issues. Another conflict is with the Russian launch of Progress M-15M on 20 April.

11 February

  • Orion teams are in the final stages of preparing for the first Generation II Parachute Test Vehicle (PTV2) airdrop at the end of this month. Following the failure of the last Capsule Parachute Assembly System (CPAS) test, the new system will be hoping for a successful outcome, when the vehicle is deployed out of the back of a C-17 aircraft over the US Army Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.

10 February

  • The Obama Administration’s fiscal year 2013 budget proposal will include a 20-percent cut in NASA’s planetary science program, likely killing planned cooperation with Europe on Mars exploration. The Washington Post reported Thursday that the 2013 budget proposal, scheduled for release on Monday, will cut NASA’s planetary science program budget from $1.5 billion in 2012 to $1.2 billion in 2013, with additional cuts projected out to 2017.
  • Engineers have fixed the glitch that caused a computer reset on the spacecraft carrying NASA’s Curiosity rover shortly after it launched toward Mars in November. The reset occurred on 29 November 2011, while the spacecraft was using its star scanner. NASA engineers determined that the glitch was caused by a previously unknown idiosyncrasy in the memory management unit of the spacecraft’s computer processor.

9 February

8 February

  • NASASpaceFlight discusses the ripple effects due to the failure of the Russian Soyuz TMA-04 pressurized Descent Module and the additional testing required for the SpaceX Dragon software.
  • NASA released Tuesday a call for a new round of funding to support the development of commercial crew transportation systems. Under the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) Initiative, NASA plans to award multiple funded Space Act Agreements (SAAs) to companies to support the continued development of crew transportation systems that NASA can later use to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

7 February

  • Plans for the US and Europe to jointly carry out Mars missions is in danger of collapse because of a lack of NASA funding, the BBC reported Monday. The ExoMars program was to feature joint missions performed by NASA and ESA, including a US-launched European orbiter in 2016 and a joint NASA-ESA lander/rover mission in 2018. The BBC reported that NASA officials have alerted their European colleagues that NASA will likely withdraw from the program, most likely when the agency’s 2013 budget proposal is released next week, because of a lack of funding. NASA had already indicated to ESA it would not be able to launch the 2016 orbiter, forcing ESA to contact the Russian space agency Roscosmos about a potential Proton launch of the spacecraft.
  • The Russian report on the failure of the Fobos-Grunt spacecraft has been released, and it appears that Fobos-Grunt was doomed before it launched on November 9, 2011. Cheap parts, design shortcomings, and lack of pre-flight testing ensured that the spacecraft would never fulfill its goals. Its troubles became apparent a few hours after its launch, when it failed to fire thrusters to take it out of Earth orbit and on its way to Mars and its moon Phobos. It fell back to Earth on January 15.

6 February

  • China’s new generations of the Long March rockets, Long March-5, -6 and -7, are expected to make their maiden flights in the next five years. China is seeking to develop non-toxic, low-cost, highly reliable, adaptable and safe carrier rockets. The Long March-5 rocket will be using non-toxic and pollution-free propellant. It has a maximum low Earth-orbit payload capacity of 25 tonnes and geosynchronous orbit payload capacity of 14 tonnes. The Long March-6 is designed to be a high-speed response launch vehicle and has a minimum of 1 tonne of sun-synchronous orbit payload. The Long March-7 has a maximum low Earth-orbit payload capacity of 13.5 tonnes and 5.5 tonnes of sun-synchronous orbit payload.

5 February

  • NASASpaceFlight discusses the Space Launch System (SLS – Senate Launch System) and the efforts to seek DoD and other payloads in addition to the stated goals that would yield “…a flight rate of just one mission per year in the 2020s – an unacceptably low flight rate in most people’s eyes.”

4 February

  • Iran launched a small imaging satellite, the third satellite launched by the nation. A Safir-1 rocket lifted off from an Iranian base near Semnan, Iran, at shortly after 7 pm EST Thursday (0000 GMT Friday) and placed the Navid-e Elm-o Sanat satellite into low Earth orbit. The satellite, weighing 50 kilograms, is primarily designed to take images of the Earth
  • Russia talks about returning to the Moon.

3 February

  • The launch of the next crew to the ISS will be delayed from late March to mid May because of problems with a Soyuz spacecraft, NASA officials confirmed Wednesday. A Soyuz spacecraft had been scheduled to launch on March 30 carrying two Russians and one American, but that flight will be delayed to May 15.
  • Rocket-powered flights of its SpaceShipTwo are on the books for summer.
  • The launch of the Dragon spaceship to the International Space Station is targeted for late March, but will most likely lift off in early April
  • A tentative date of 5 March 2012 has been set for the takeoff of the Proton-M launch vehicle with a U.S. Sirius FM-6 satellite from the Baikonur Space Center.

2 February

  • Sierra Nevada Corp., recently delivered the primary structure of its first Dream Chaser flight test vehicle to the company’s facility in Louisville, Colorado, where it will be assembled and integrated with secondary systems. This is one of 12 milestones to be completed under SNC’s funded Space Act Agreement (SAA) with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP).
  • NASA’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft successfully refined its flight path Wednesday with the mission’s first trajectory correction maneuver. The maneuver took place on Feb. 1. It is the first of a dozen planned rocket firings that, over the next five years, will keep Juno on course for its rendezvous with Jupiter.

1 February

  • New Horizons’ flight to explore the Pluto system in July 2015 will be a historic accomplishment for the U.S. space program, for planetary science, and indeed for all humankind.

Posted in China, Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, International Space Station, JAXA, Jupiter, Kuiper Belt, Mars, Moon, NASA, Pluto, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, Soyuz | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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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December 2011

Posted by drdave on December 1, 2011

31 December

  • NASA announced that “NASA’s Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL)-A spacecraft successfully completed its planned main engine burn at 2 p.m. PST (5 p.m. EST) today. As of 3 p.m. PST (6 p.m. EST), GRAIL-A is in an orbit of 56 miles by 5,197 miles (90 kilometers by 8,363 kilometers) around the moon that takes approximately 11.5 hours to complete.”

30 December

  • Two NASA spacecraft launched in December are ready to enter lunar orbit this weekend, project officials confirmed this week. The twin Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft will fire thrusters to go into orbit around the Moon, with GRAIL-A arriving at 2:21 PM Phoenix time (2121 UTC) Saturday and GRAIL-B at 3:05 PM Phoenix time (2205 UTC) Sunday.
  • The Chinese government published on Thursday a white paper describing that country’s five-year plan for spaceflight, including development of new launch vehicles and a continued emphasis on space stations and lunar exploration.

29 December

  • Less than a week after one Soyuz rocket failed, another successfully placed six Globalstar satellites into orbit on Wednesday. The Soyuz 2-1a rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 12:09 pm EST (1709 GMT, 11:09 pm local time) Wednesday and released six Globalstar satellites into low Earth orbits an hour and a half later.

28 December

  • China turned on this week the first phase of its own satellite navigation system that will eventually compete with GPS and other such systems. The Beidou, or Compass, system started providing navigation services Tuesday for users in China and “surrounding areas”, although elements of the system have been in orbit for a decade.

27 December

  • Comet Lovejoy became visible again to the naked eye in the Southern Hemisphere last week—and continued to streak across predawn skies through the holiday weekend. Lovejoy lost its original tail as it skimmed the sun’s surface, the comet “reappeared almost like a point and redeveloped a tail on the way out, which I thought was quite amazing,” said astronomer Lovejoy

26 December

  • The launch of a European communications satellite scheduled for this week has been delayed until mid-January because of a problem discovered Monday with its Proton rocket. The Proton-M rocket was scheduled to launch just after midnight local time Tuesday from Baikonur, carrying the SES-4 satellite for SES of Luxembourg. However, during pre-launch preparations Monday technicians discovered a problem with the avionics of the Proton’s Briz-M upper stage. The rocket will be rolled back to complete the repairs, and International Launch Services said in a statement Monday that those repairs would postpone the launch by about 25 days.

25 December

24 December

  • NASASPaceFlight discusses the Soyuz failure with Meridian, and the redressing Russia’s internal woes.

23 December

  • A Soyuz spacecraft carrying three people docked with the International Space Station Friday morning, restoring the station to normal six-person operations. The Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft docked with the station’s Rassvet module at 10:19 am EST (1519 GMT) Friday, two days after launch from Baikonur. On board the Soyuz are the three new members of the Expedition 30 crew, Don Pettit of NASA, Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos, and Andre Kuipers of ESA.
  • A Russian communications satellite failed to reach orbit Friday after the failure of the upper stage of its Soyuz rocket, the latest in a string of Russian launch failures. The Soyuz 2-1b rocket lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia at 7:08 am EST (1208 GMT, 4:08 pm Moscow time) carrying a Meridian communications satellite. While the launch initially appeared to go well, Russian officials later said the satellite failed to reach orbit and instead crashed in Siberia. Initial reports indicated a problem with the rocket’s third stage. The launch failure is the fifth in just over a year for Russia, including the loss of a Progress cargo spacecraft

22 December

  • An astronaut living in space has captured an unprecedented view of a comet from orbit in a jaw-dropping set of photos taken over a nighttime Earth. Comet Lovejoy is visible near Earth’s horizon in this nighttime image photographed by NASA astronaut Dan Burbank, Expedition 30 commander, onboard the International Space Station on Dec. 21, 2011. The amazing images show comet Lovejoy, which survived a trip through the sun’s atmosphere last week.

21 December

  • NASA astronaut Don Pettit, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, and Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers, part of the European Space Agency (ESA), lifted off atop the Russian Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 8:16 a.m. EST (1316 GMT) on a trip to the International Space Station.
  • On Wednesday, the space agency released new images of the hummocky surface of asteroid Vesta as Dawn circled from an average altitude of 130 miles (209 kilometers) above the surface, the closest it’ll get.

20 December

  • Russian Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft set for launch to International Space Station

19 December

  • Two planets, dubbed Kepler-20e and 20f, are the smallest planets found to date by the Kepler spacecraft observatory. They have diameters of 6,900 miles and 8,200 miles — 0.87 times Earth (slightly smaller than Venus) and 1.03 times Earth. These worlds are expected to have rocky compositions, so their masses should be less than 1.7 and 3 times Earth’s. Both worlds circle Kepler-20: a G8 yellow star a little less hot than the Sun and located 950 light-years from Earth

18 December

  • Flying on its last bit of fuel, NASA’s Deep Impact probe is carefully reshaping its course toward a potentially hazardous near-Earth asteroid in hopes the spacecraft can survey the body in January 2020.

17 December

  • A Soyuz rocket lifted off from Kourou Friday night, placing six French and Chilean satellites into orbit. The Soyuz STA rocket lifted off from Kourou, French Guiana, at 9:03 pm EST Friday (11:03 pm local time Friday, 0203 GMT Saturday) and placed its payload of six satellites into Sun-synchronous orbit over the next three and a half hours.

16 December

  • Citing uncertain budgets, NASA announced Thursday it was switching from a fixed-price contract back to Space Act Agreements (SAAs) for the next phase of its commercial crew development program. NASA had planned to issue an RFP next week for the “Integrated Design Phase” of the program, designed to mature several potential vehicles to the critical design review level of development. However, NASA officials said a “dynamic budget environment”, including uncertainty about how much money the program will get in future years, led it to go back to the more flexible SAAs used in the first two phases of the effort. A formal request for proposals for this program will go out in early 2012. The overall commercial crew program seeks to support the commercial development of spacecraft to transport astronauts to and from the ISS, as well as for other commercial applications. The program received less than half of the requested funding for 2012, and as a result NASA officials say they don’t expect vehicles to be ready to enter service until 2017.

15 December

  • A cloud of gas is being pulled closer to the supermassive black hole* lurking in the center of our galaxy, 27,000 light-years away. This unprecedented discovery is being monitored by an international team of scientists using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT). The cool cloud, composed mainly of hydrogen and helium, with a mass three-times that of Earth, has been picking up speed, and by 2013, astronomers will hopefully see some fireworks. By then, the first wisps of gas should be sucked into the black hole’s event horizon causing the black hole to flare brightly.

14 December

  • Boris Chertok, supporter of the founder of cosmonautics Sergei Korolyov, passed away in Moscow on Wednesday. “The last of the Mohicans” in Russian cosmonautics, Chertok was one of the first to make an endeavor to conquer space. He passed away barely 2.5 months before his hundredth birthday. He was closely involved in putting the world’s first satellite in orbit on Oct. 4, 1957, and preparing the first human flight to space by Yuri Gagarin on April, 12 1961.
  • The ill-fated Phobos-Grunt probe that got stuck in the orbit after an unsuccessful launch will fall to Earth on January 11, probably affecting four continents, the US Strategic Command shared its latest forecast. ­The current orbit of the vehicle suggests that it could collide with the surface on a vast part of the globe, from latitude 51.4°N to latitude 51.4°S. anywhere in Africa, Australia, Japan, North America or southern part of Western Europe, but definitely not on the larger part of the Russian territory.

13 December

  • A Japanese rocket launched the latest in a series of reconnaissance satellites for the country on Monday. The H-2A lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan at 8:21 pm EST Sunday (0121 GMT, 10:21 am local time Monday) and placed an Information Gathering Satellite (IGS) into orbit. Japanese officials released few details about the mission, although this IGS is believed to have a radar imaging payload.
  • Funded as a Paul G. Allen project under the banner of Stratolaunch, Burt Rutan is taking his space tourism concept a step further, by developing an air-launch system for payloads in the 10,000lbm class into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The system will be able to launch from several possible operational sites and eventually aims to provide crewed services.

12 December

  • NASA’s Cassini spacecraft successfully completed its closest-ever pass over Saturn’s moon Dione on Monday, Dec. 12, slaloming its way through the Saturn system on its way to tomorrow’s close flyby of Titan. Cassini is expected to glide about 2,200 miles (3,600 kilometers) over the Titan surface on Dec. 13.
  • NASA’s Dawn spacecraft successfully maneuvered into its closest orbit around the giant asteroid Vesta today, beginning a new phase of science observations. The spacecraft is now circling Vesta at an altitude averaging about 130 miles (210 kilometers) in the phase of the mission known as low altitude mapping orbit.

11 December

  • ESA astronaut André Kuipers is now officially ready for liftoff on 21 December: he and his crewmates have passed their final exams and left for the launch site yesterday. Every crew destined for the International Space Station must endure two days of final exams in the simulators at Star City near Moscow before they are cleared for flight.
  • A Proton-M carrier rocket with two telecommunications satellites onboard blasted off from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan on Sunday. The separation of Russia’s Luch-5A spacecraft is scheduled for 20:11 UTC Sunday, while Israel’s Amos-5 satellite will separate at 20.52 UTC.

10 December

  • NASA announced Friday that the next commercial cargo demonstration mission to the ISS by SpaceX will launch on February 7. On that date SpaceX plans to launch its Dragon cargo spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral. The spacecraft will approach the station and perform a flyby at a distance of two miles to demonstrate its ability to safely operate close to the station. If successful, the spacecraft will then more closely approach the station, whose robotic arm will grapple the spacecraft and berth it to the station’s Harmony node.

9 December

  • About 3,700 years ago, people on Earth would have seen a brand-new bright star in the sky. It slowly dimmed out of sight and was eventually forgotten, until modern astronomers later found its remains, called Puppis A. In this new image from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), Puppis A looks less like the remains of a supernova explosion and more like a red rose.
  • Russia’s troubled Phobos-Grunt spacecraft will fall back to Earth on January 9, the United States Strategic Command said.

8 December

  • NASA announced that the Mars rover Opportunity has found veins of Gypsum (calcium sulfate) on the crater wall of Endeavour Crater. “This tells a slam-dunk story that water flowed through underground fractures in the rock,” said Steve Squyres of Cornell University, principal investigator for Opportunity. “This stuff is a fairly pure chemical deposit that formed in place right where we see it.”

7 December

  • The Large Hadron Collider at CERN apparently has a signal for the Higgs boson. Both the ATLAS and CMS experiments are independently seeing a Higgs signal, and the predicted mass of the particle agrees with the experimental results. The Higgs appears to have a mass of 125 GeV (giga­electronvolts), and the signal has a 4.2 sigma, just short of the 5.0 value deemed to be conclusive.
  • New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) officials announced Tuesday a successful launch over the weekend of an advanced sounding rocket designed and built by Armadillo Aerospace. The launch took place from Spaceport America’s vertical launch complex on Sunday.

6 December

  • Astronomers announced Monday the first discovery in data from NASA’s Kepler mission of a planet in the habitable zone of a Sun-like star. The planet, designated Kepler-22b, is about 2.4 times the radius of the Earth and would have an average surface temperature of 22 degrees Celsius, but astronomers said they did not have information about the planet’s mass or potential composition, thus making them unable to say just how much this planet may be like the Earth.
  • SpaceX’s Dragon demonstration flight to the International Space Station (ISS) is understood to be moving into the February/March timeframe, while approval for the combination of the C2/C3 (D2/D3) missions – which would result in Dragon arriving at the orbital outpost – is still pending official approval from NASA and the ISS partners.
  • New views of giant asteroid Vesta revealed

5 December

  • Despite a small period of time where it was hoped communications and commanding might be established with the stricken Fobos-Grunt spacecraft, it now appears the Russian probe’s future is one which will see it head towards a fiery end, as its orbit continues decay over time. The likely scenario now points to a destructive re-entry sometime in January.
  • The Baikonur launch site is being prepared for the takeoff of the Soyuz TMA-03M manned spacecraft. The Soyuz-FG rocket and spacecraft will be positioned on 19 December, with take off at 7:17 AM Phoenix time (1417 UTC – 5:17 PM Moscow time) on 21 December. The spacecraft will carry the 30TH/31ST crew to the International Space Station (ISS), and their stay will last for six months. Oleg Kononenko, Andrei Kuipers and Donald Pettit are the crew members.

4 December

  • NASA’s New Horizons mission reached a special milestone today on its way to reconnoiter the Pluto system, coming closer to Pluto than any other spacecraft. It’s taken New Horizons 2,143 days of high-speed flight, covering more than a million kilometers per day for nearly six years, to break the closest-approach mark set by NASA’s Voyager 1 in January 1986.
  • NASA’s Cassini spacecraft captured unprecedented radar imagery of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus last month, uncovering new details of the moon’s highly reflective frozen surface.

3 December

  • Following the launch by the Atlas V 541 and two precise burns by the Centaur second stage, Curiosity was placed in such an accurate orbit to Mars that the first scheduled course correction has been postponed. Engineers tentatively plan to execute a maneuver in late December or early January to begin the process of steering the spacecraft toward Mars. A burn in early June will start zeroing in on the precise landing site.
  • The European Space Agency announced Friday it was ending efforts to establish communications with Russia’s Phobos-Grunt spacecraft after failing to restore control of the Mars probe. An ESA antenna in Australia had received signals from the spacecraft on November 22, but subsequent efforts from ESA facilities to establish two-way communications with and control of the spacecraft had failed.
  • In a potential marriage of the Space Launch System (SLS) with a central exploration plan, a Boeing-authored presentation has proposed an Exploration Gateway Platform architecture that not only returns man to the lunar surface – via the use of only one SLS launch to a reusable Lunar Lander – but provides a baseline for pathfinders towards an eventual crewed mission to Mars.

2 December

  • A Long March rocket launched the latest in a series of navigation satellites on Friday, in the process breaking a record for launch activity. The Long March 3A rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 4:07 pm EST Thursday (2107 GMT Thursday, 5:07 am Beijing time Friday), carrying a Beidou-2 inclined geosynchronous orbit (IGSO) satellite.
  • New images from Mars Express show the Phlegra Montes mountain range, in a region where radar probing indicates large volumes of water ice are hiding below. This could be a source of water for future astronauts.

1 December

  • Burdened by the cut from $850 Million to $406 Million for Commercial Crew Development (CCDev), NASA is weighing whether to reduce funding to all four participants (SpaceX, Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corp. and Blue Origin. ), or cease funding one or more.
  • In a bid to save the next Mars rover from budgetary oblivion, representatives from NASA, Europe and Russia will meet in Paris next week to hash out what each space agency can contribute to a pair of life-hunting Mars missions due to begin launching in four years.

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