NSS Phoenix Space News

Archive for the ‘Kuiper Belt’ Category

June 2012

Posted by drdave on June 1, 2012

30 June

  • NASA astronaut Don Pettit, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers are scheduled to undock from the space station in their Russian-built Soyuz TMA-03M capsule at 9:48 PM Phoenix time Saturday (0448 UTC Sunday). The trio is expected to land at 1:14 AM (0814 UTC) Sunday on the Central Asian steppes of Kazakhstan.

29 June

  • There was another glide test of the SpaceShipTwo vehicle today at the Mojave Air and Space Port. A source says that WhiteKnightTwo took off with the spacecraft beneath it at about 6:50 AM Phoenix time. SpaceShipTwo landed about an hour later and both vehicles were back in the hangar by 8 AM.
  • A Delta 4 Heavy launched Friday morning carrying a classified satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The Delta 4 Heavy lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 6:15 AM Phoenix time (1315 UTC) on mission NROL-15 for the NRO.
  • B612 Debuts Its Asteroid-Seeking Sentinel: A private nonprofit group led by former astronauts, spacecraft designers, and asteroid specialists has proposed a spacecraft to find a half million asteroids in Earth-crossing orbits and provide advance warning of impact threats.

28 June

  • Astronauts Liu Yang, Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang have returned to Earth following a 13-day mission. The astronauts, including China’s first woman in space, carried out a successful manual docking with the Tiangong-1 laboratory module.
  • Astronomers announced this week that they have used spectroscopic observations of an extrasolar planet to directly measure its mass. Astronomers at the European Southern Observatory used an infrared spectrometer to study Tau Bootis b, an exoplanet orbiting the star Tau Bootis that was originally discovered in the mid 1990s.

27 June

  • Canadian space company MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) will buy the satellite manufacturing arm of Loral in a billion-dollar deal, the company announced late Tuesday night. MDA will pay $775 million in cash for the equity of Space Systems/Loral (SS/L), plus $101 million in a promissory note SS/L real estate.

26 June

  • SpaceX successfully fired its new Merlin 1D rocket engine at their facility in McGregor, Texas. The engine achieved a full mission duration firing and multiple restarts at target thrust and specific impulse (ISP). The engine firing was for 185 seconds with 147,000 pounds of thrust, the full duration and power required for a Falcon 9 rocket launch.

25 June

  • Turbulent jet streams, regions where winds blow faster than in other places, churn east and west across Saturn. Scientists have been trying to understand for years the mechanism that drives these wavy structures in Saturn’s atmosphere and the source from which the jets derive their energy. In a new study appearing in the June edition of the journal Icarus, scientists used images collected over several years by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to discover that the heat from within the planet powers the jet streams. Condensation of water from Saturn’s internal heating led to temperature differences in the atmosphere. The temperature differences created eddies, or disturbances that move air back and forth at the same latitude, and those eddies, in turn, accelerated the jet streams like rotating gears driving a conveyor belt.

24 June

  • In a new demonstration of Chinese space capabilities, a crewed Shenzhou spacecraft safely undocked with an orbiting lab module Sunday and then redocked under manual control. The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft redocked with the Tiangong-1 module at 12:48 am EDT (0448 GMT, 12:48 pm Beijing time) under manual control, about an hour and a half after undocking from the module.

23 June

  • The European Space Agency (ESA) gave its approval this week for the development of a space observatory that will seek new evidence of dark matter and dark energy. ESA gave the go-ahead to begin construction of Euclid, a spacecraft slated for launch in 2020, after selecting the mission as part of its Cosmic Vision program last fall. The spacecraft features a 1.2-meter telescope with instruments to map the three-dimensional distribution of up to two billion galaxies, measuring the dark matter associated with those galaxies and how they are affected by the accelerating expansion of the universe linked to dark energy.

22 June

  • Astronomers using data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft said Thursday they have discovered two dissimilar extrasolar planets with orbits very close to each other. The planets, designated Kepler-36b and c, orbit the same star 1,200 light-years from Earth in orbits only 1.9 million kilometers from each other. The inner planet, Kepler-36b, appears to be a “super-Earth” 4.5 times the mass and 1.5 times the radius of the Earth. The outer planer, Kepler-36c, is 3.7 times the radius and 8 times the mass of the Earth and is probably more like Neptune.

21 June

  • Data from a NASA orbiter suggests that water ice is present in at least minute amounts on the floor of a crater at the Moon’s south pole, scientists reported Wednesday. In a paper published in the journal Nature, scientists using the laser altimeter on NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft concluded that 22 percent of the material in a micron-think layer on the floor of Shackleton crater consists of water ice.

20 June

  • The United Launch Alliance (ULA) placed a new spy satellite into orbit this morning. An Atlas V 401 left the Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral at 5:28 AM Phoenix time (1228 UTC) carrying the NROL-38 satellite. This is ULA’s 50th EELV launch and uses a Centaur upper stage to carry the satellite to Geosynchronous orbit.
  • The Gruber Foundation announced today that the 2012 Cosmology Prize will be awarded to Johns Hopkins University professor Charles L. Bennett and the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) space mission science team that he led. Bennett and the WMAP team are being recognized by the foundation for their transformative study of an ancient light dating back to the infant universe. So precise and accurate are the WMAP results that they form the foundation of the Standard Cosmological Model.

19 June

  • The Atlas V rocket scheduled to launch the NROL-38 satellite has been rolled back to the launch pad following the repair of an environmental control system duct. Launch coverage begins Wednesday 20 June at 5:08 AM Phoenix time (1208 UTC). Weather conditions are 70 percent favorable for the morning lift off.

18 June

  • China’s Shenzhou-9 spacecraft successfully docked with its Tiangong-1 lab module on Monday. Shenzhou-9 docked in automated mode with Tiangong-1 at 11:07 PM Phoenix time Sunday (0607 UTC Monday) after what Chinese officials said was a normal approach. Two of three people on board Shenzhou-9, Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang, boarded Tiangong-1 about two hours later; the third crewmember, Liu Yang, followed a short time later after the others confirmed the conditions in the module were suitable.
  • Under a new agreement, privately operated spacecraft ferrying NASA astronauts to the international space station will be licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), but leave it to NASA to decide whether the vehicles are fit to dock with the station and carry astronauts in the first place, the heads of the two agencies said June 18 in a joint press briefing.
  • The launch of a Russian Proton-M carrier rocket with the SES-5 (Sirius-5) satellite from the Baikonur launch pad in Kazakhstan has been postponed from 10:23 p.m. Moscow Time on June 19 to the same time on June 20.

17 June

  • United Launch Alliance has postponed the launch of an Atlas V rocket from the Space Coast. After the rocket was rolled the launch pad, an issue with an environmental control system duct that failed near its connection to the Mobile Launch Platform was identified. The vehicle will be rolled back to the Vertical Integration Facility so the duct can be replaced. The launch is now set for Wednesday, June 20 from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
  • View the video of the landing of the X-37B at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
  • An international team of astronomers led by Fabian Walter of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy has managed for the first time to determine the distance of the galaxy HDF850.1, well-known among astronomers as being one of the most productive star-forming galaxies in the observable universe. The galaxy is at a distance of 12.5 billion light years. Hence, we see it as it was 12.5 billion years ago, when the universe was less than 10% of its current age. Even more of a surprise, HDF850.1 turns out to be part of a group of around a dozen protogalaxies that formed within the first billion years of cosmic history – only one of two such primordial clusters known to date. The work is being published in the journal Nature.

16 June

  • China sent into orbit on Saturday its first female astronaut, 33-year-old Liu Yang. A Long March rocket carrying Shenzhou-9 spacecraft lifted off from the Jiuquan space center on Saturday in the Gobi Desert at 3:37 Phoenix time (10:37 UTC).
  • The U.S. Air Force’s second X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-2) landed successfully at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., early this morning after a record 469 days in space – more than double the time clocked up by the flight of the first vehicle, OTV-1.

15 June

  • The original space shuttle‘ to come out of hiding in Downey, California. The town plans to display the full-scale mock-up of the space shuttle, which Rockwell built in 1972 to pitch its design to NASA.

14 June

  • Just weeks after SpaceX became the first private company to visit the International Space Station, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden toured the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne. Bolden joined SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk in thanking more than 1,000 employees who helped design, launch and recover the company’s Dragon capsule in May following its trip to the space station.

13 June

  • A Pegasus rocket successfully launched a small NASA spacecraft designed to help astronomers track down black holes. An Orbital Sciences Corporation L-1011 aircraft, flying out of Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, released the Pegasus XL rocket at 12:00 pm EDT (1600 GMT). The rocket’s first stage ignited five seconds after release, and it and two other stages propelled NASA’s NuSTAR into a circular low Earth orbit.

12 June

  • Project engineers have narrowed the landing site for NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover from 20 by 25 kilometers to 7 by 20 kilometers, allowing a more precise landing near the base of Mt. Sharp, the peak in the middle of Gale Crater that will be the focus of the rover’s scientific studies. The landing is scheduled for 10:31 PM Phoenix time on 5 August (0531 GMT 6 August).
  • The European Southern Observatory (ESO) gave the green light Monday to plans to build a telescope nearly 40 meters across in Chile. The European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) will be located in northern Chile, close to ESO’s existing Paranal Observatory, and feature a primary mirror 39.3 meters in diameter. That would give the telescope over 15 times the light-gathering power of each of the twin 10-meter Keck Observatory telescopes.

11 June

  • From PrivCo: “SpaceX’s last valuation on secondary markets of $10/share or $1.2 billion is dated to April 2012 before its historic mission. PrivCo estimates that given the mission’s success, new contracts the company stands to gain, and its rapid growth, SpaceX’s share price has now doubled in value to a PrivCo-estimated $20/share with a valuation of $2.4 billion. In an additional valuation data point, PrivCo confirms a recent $18.50/share ask price from secondary markets, up 85% from its last trade in April.”
  • One of the two female astronauts, Liu Yang(L) and Wang Yaping (R), from the Wuhan Flight Unit, will join Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft docking mission with Tiangong-1 spacecraft in mid-June.

10 June

  • Astronomers at one Florida university hope they’ve found a sweet way to help compensate for, and protest, massive budget cuts. Students, professors and scientists at the University of Central Florida will be selling super nova brownie cookies, Milky Way cupcakes and other earthly delights at a bake sale on Saturday to rally support for NASA’s space exploration budget, which is facing a nearly $300 million cut astronomers say will derail discovery.

9 June

  • Chinese officials announced Saturday that it will launch its next human spaceflight mission, which will feature a docking with its experimental lab module already in orbit, around the middle of this month. The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft and its Long March 2F rocket were moved to the launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on Saturday in preparation for what officials said would be a “mid-June” launch.

8 June

  • Citing growing costs, NASA officials announced Thursday they were canceling a small x-ray astronomy mission that was still in the early stages of development. The Gravity and Extreme Magnetism Small Explorer (GEMS) mission failed to pass a confirmation review by NASA last week, and the decision not to continue development of the mission was formally confirmed by the agency on Thursday.
  • Virgin Galactic held an open house at its facility in the Green Offices at 166 S. Roadrunner Parkway, the building with a curved bluish-green glass exterior. George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, noted that the facilities at Spaceport America, north of Las Cruces, were not ready yet, but they expect to start flights in the second half of 2013.

7 June

  • The space shuttle Enterprise arrived Wednesday at its new home, a former aircraft carrier turned museum in New York City. Enterprise was transported by barge up the Hudson from a dock in New Jersey to the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York, where it was hoisted onto the deck of the carrier Intrepid

6 June

  • A key member of Congress who had been critical of NASA’s commercial crew development efforts said Tuesday that he has reached an understanding with NASA about how the program should proceed. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), who chairs the appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA, had inserted report language into the House version of NASA’s fiscal year 2013 budget that called on NASA to use conventional contracts, and not Space Act Agreements, in the next phase of the program, and to select only one company to receive most or all the funds in that phase. Wolf said he’s reached an understanding with NASA to allow the agency to pick “2.5” companies, two with full awards and one with a partial award, in the next phase, which can be done through Space Act Agreements. NASA agreed to use conventional contracts in later phases of the program and to vet selected companies’ financial viability before making awards in this round. Wolf also said he supported funding the program at around the level of the Senate version of the NASA spending bill, $525 million, slightly higher than the $500 million in the House version but still below the $830 million requested by the White House.

5 June

  • It’s your last chance to catch one of the rarest cosmic spectacles — Venus slowly crossing the face of the sun. Weather permitting, the transit of Venus will be visible from much of Earth — Tuesday from the Western Hemisphere and Wednesday from the Eastern Hemisphere. This sight won’t come again until 105 years from now — in 2117.
  • The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) has given NASA two telescopes originally designed for reconnaissance satellites that the space agency believes could be repurposed for astronomy missions. The two telescopes, each with mirrors 2.4 meters in diameter, the same as Hubble, were built as spares for spy satellites not flown and are no longer needed by NRO. NASA is considering using one of the telescopes for a mission called the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) to study dark energy. WFIRST is a mission identified by astronomers as their top priority large mission for the current decade, but is one that NASA lacks the funding to develop.
  • The discovery of objects in the Kuiper Belt in the outer reaches of the solar system netted scientists a pair of major prizes last week. The $1-million Shaw Prize in astronomy for 2012 went to David Jewitt and Jane Luu for their discovery of the first Kuiper Belt objects in the early 1990s. The $1-million Kavli Prize in astrophysics also went to Jewitt and Luu, as well as Michael Brown, for their Kuiper Belt discoveries. Astronomers now believe there may be as many as 70,000 bodies at least 100 kilometers in diameter in the Kuiper Belt, and the discovery of some large objects there led to the reclassification by the International Astronomical Union of Pluto as a dwarf planet in 2006.

4 June

  • Enterprise passed the World Trade Center in New York on its barge trip toward the USS Intrepid.
  • One of the two solar arrays of a newly-launched communications satellite for Intelsat failed to deploy properly, the company announced late Friday. Intelsat said that one of the arrays on its Intelsat 19 satellite did not deploy as planned shortly after launch early Friday. Intelsat and the satellite’s manufacturer, Space Systems/Loral (SS/L), are studying the problem. If the array is not deployed, the spacecraft’s operations could be seriously impaired because of the limited power available to it from the single working array.
  • China’s aggressive satellite production and launch pace is threatening launch vehicle failures and the malfunction in orbit of important spacecraft, according to a largely classified Defense Department report to Congress. The report comes as China is poised for an extremely high profile mission, the launch into space of China’s first woman astronaut as early as mid June. Examples of failures stemming from the growing risk factors are cited in an unclassified summary of the 2012 Pentagon report titled “Military and Security Developments of the People’s Republic of China”.

3 June

  • Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) reached another milestone last week in its efforts to become the next commercial company to venture into space and provide NASA crew transport capabilities to low-Earth orbit, or “LEO” as it is more commonly called. The NewSpace firm successfully completed a “captive carry” flight test of a full scale version of their Dream Chaser spacecraft in the skies over the Rocky Mountains of Jefferson County, Colorado last week.

2 June

1 June

  • High above Earth, astronaut Don Pettit is about to become the first human to witness and photograph a transit of Venus from space. His images and commentary will be streamed to Earth during the crossing. Follow this on NASA TV on Tuesday afternoon, 5 June.
  • A Zenit-3SL rocket launched from the Pacific Ocean placed an Intelsat communications satellite into orbit early Friday. The Sea Launch Zenit-3SL rocket lifted off from a floating platform on the Equator in the Pacific Ocean at 10:23 PM Phoenix time Thursday (0523 UTC Friday) and released the Intelsat 19 satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit about an hour later.
  • The water plumes from Enceladus form nanograins that turn to plasma in a reaction with the magnetic fields surrounding Saturn.
Advertisements

Posted in Asteroid, China, Commercial Space, European Space Agency, International Space Station, Kuiper Belt, Moon, NASA, Russian Space Agency, Soyuz, Space Shuttle, Venus | 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 »

August 2011

Posted by drdave on August 1, 2011

31 August

  • Dextre, the International Space Station’s robotic handyman, replaced an electrical switchboard outside the complex this week, the first time the Canadian space robot has performed a maintenance task.
  • On Tuesday, 30 August, NASA’s next Earth-observing research satellite arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to begin preparations for an October launch. The National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project (NPP) is the first of a new generation of satellites that will observe many facets of our changing Earth.
  • On the slopes of the vast Martian shield volcano Pavonis Mons, a rather odd-looking crater resides. Originally spotted by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) Context Camera (CTX) earlier this year, mission managers decided to zoom in on the suspect feature using the awesome power of the MRO’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera. Indeed, as HiRISE has confirmed, this is one very odd-looking crater.

30 August

  • Crews could be forced to abandon the International Space Station, at least temporarily, by mid-November if the Soyuz launch vehicle does not return to service by then, NASA’s space station manager said Monday.
  • A Tokyo company has unveiled what it hopes will be the first privately built unmanned rover on the moon, and win it U.S. $30 million in prizes from the X Prize Foundation in the process.
  • The Russian Federal Space Agency has lifted its ban on launches of Proton-M rockets equipped with Briz-M upper staged imposed following the failed launch of the Express-AM4 communications satellite

29 August

  • NASA’s next spaceship, the Orion, otherwise known as the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), is starting to resemble what it’ll look like ahead of launch, as Lockheed Martin engineers at their Denver facility work through a number of key development tasks. In a milestone for the vehicle, an Orion Ground Test Article (GTA) was mated with its Launch Abort System (LAS) for vibration testing.
  • Russia’s Space Agency Roscomos has postponed the launch of a new mission to the International Space Station (ISS) from September 22 to the end of October or beginning of November, due to an accident that caused the loss of a Progress M-12M cargo ship last week, the agency’s manned flight program Alexei Krasnov said on Monday.

28 August

  • According to an unnamed source in a position of authority in Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, the remarkable Chinese unmanned space module Tiangong 1 will be launched soon.

27 August

  • A report released this week by NASA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) concluded the agency acted properly when it made its decision earlier this year to award shuttle orbiters to four museums. The OIG report found that NASA acted according to federal law, and was not influenced by the White House or other politicians, when it awarded orbiters to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, the California Science Center in Los Angeles, the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York.
  • New evidence from the Hayabusa mission indicates that the asteroid Itokawa may have coalesced from a much larger body after an impact around 8 million years ago.

26 August

  • Russia has postponed all upcoming launches by its Soyuz rocket after a Progress spacecraft failed to reach orbit Wednesday, a decision that could delay the next rotation of ISS crew members.

25 August

24 August

  • Russia has lost six space vehicles over the past nine months.
  • Elon Musk, CEO/CTO of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), will discuss the future of human spaceflight in advance of his company’s planned Nov. 30 flight to the International Space Station, the first private mission to ISS for NASA, at a National Press Club luncheon on Thursday, Sept. 29.

23 August

  • Rocket failure dooms space station cargo freighter launch.
  • A Progress spacecraft carrying nearly three tons of supplies for the International Space Station was lost when its Soyuz rocket malfunctioned during launch. The Soyuz-U rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 9 am EDT (1300 GMT) carrying the Progress M-12M spacecraft (designated Progress 44 by NASA). According to NASA and Russian officials, the upper stage suffered a malfunction 5 minutes and 20 seconds after liftoff and communications with the vehicle were lost.

22 August

  • Space.com gives us a tour of the “Dwarf Planets” in our Solar System.

21 August

  • The Federal Space Agency might fail to complete its launch plan this year after the loss of the country’s most powerful telecommunications satellite. The Federal Space Agency must launch seven Proton-M rockets with Briz-M upper stages by the end of the year, but this schedule is likely to be reconsidered because of the latest faulty launch.

20 August

  • The failure of a Chinese Long March rocket Thursday will not affect the country’s plans to launch a 19,000-pound space station module later this year, a senior Chinese space official told state media. Some sources indicate Tiangong 1’s launch could occur in the next few weeks.

19 August

  • The launch of a Chinese experimental satellite on a Long March Thursday failed to place the satellite into orbit, although Chinese officials said it would not delay at least one upcoming launch. A Long March 2C rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 5:28 am EDT (0928 GMT, 5:28 pm Beijing time) Thursday carrying the SJ 11-04 satellite.

18 August

  • A European-built Russian communications satellite, launched Thursday on a Proton rocket, has been stranded in a transfer orbit after the rocket’s upper stage malfunctioned. The Proton-M rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 5:25 pm EDT Wednesday (2125 GMT Wednesday, 3:25 am local time Thursday) carrying the Express-AM4 satellite for Russian satellite operator RSCC. The satellite was to be released by the Briz-M upper stage after five engine burns, but telemetry from the upper stage was lost after the fourth burn.
  • NASA’s lunar-bound GRAIL twins were mated to their Delta II launch vehicle at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 17 at 8:45 a.m. EDT (5:45 a.m. PDT) today. The 15-mile (25-kilometer) trip from Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Fla., is the last move for GRAIL before it begins its journey to the moon. NASA’s dynamic duo will orbit the moon to determine the structure of the lunar interior from crust to core and to advance understanding of the thermal evolution of the moon.
  • International Space Station (ISS) program managers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) have completed the Flight Readiness Review (FRR) for the upcoming ISS Expedition 29 on Wednesday. The FRR included a thorough review of all aspects of the Expedition 29 increment, the conclusion of which resulted in all groups issuing a Certification of Flight Readiness (CoFR) to support Expedition 29 and all associated operations.

17 August

  • A Dnepr launch vehicle carrying eight payloads blasted off from Yasny launch base (Orenburg Region, Russian Federation) on August 17, 2011 at 11:12:20 Moscow time (07:12:20 UTC). Sich-2 (Ukraine), Nigeriasat-2 and Nigeriasat-X (Nigeria), RASAT (Turkey), EDUSAT (Italy), Aprizesat-5, Aprizesat-6 (USA) satellites, as well as BPA-2 Advanced Avionics Unit (Ukraine), were successfully placed into target orbits.
  • Observations from ESO’s Very Large Telescope have shed light on the power source of a rare vast cloud of glowing gas in the early Universe. The observations show for the first time that this giant “Lyman-alpha blob” — one of the largest single objects known — must be powered by galaxies embedded within it.

16 August

  • A Long March rocket placed a ocean observation satellite into orbit on Tuesday. The Long March 4B lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center at 3:57 PM Phoenix time Monday (2257 UTC Monday, 6:57 am Beijing time Tuesday) and placed the Haiyang-2A into Sun synchronous orbit.
  • Ten days after leaving Earth in the nose of an Atlas 5 launcher, the Jupiter-bound Juno spacecraft is flying straight and true, allowing NASA managers to cancel a planned rocket burn to aim the probe toward the next waypoint on its five-year journey to the solar system’s largest planet.

15 August

  • The latest Earth observation satellite from UK small satellite manufacturer SSTL has successfully completed pre-launch tests and has been integrated with a Dnepr launch vehicle. NigeriaSat-2, one of the most advanced Earth observation small satellites ever to be launched, will lift-off from Yasny in southern Russia on 17 August, together with NigeriaSat-X, which was built under a training and development programme.
  • Engineers finished up functional testing of the $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory last week, verifying the Curiosity rover can make it to Mars and pursue scientific clues that the planet may have once harbored life.

14 August

  • NASA’s Mission Operations Directorate (MOD) are preparing for involvement in an underwater simulation of protocols which may become part of a manned mission to a Near Earth Object (NEO). The tests will be carried out during October’s NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) mission, which will be based at the Aquarius underwater habitat in Key Largo, Florida.
  • A new rocket engine RD-0124 was successfully tested at the Chemical Automatics Design Bureau in Voronezh, southwestern Russia, on Saturday. This engine will be installed at the third stage of Russia’s new carrier rocket Soyuz-2-1B and will take it into space with a satellite for the Glonass navigation system in December 2011

13 August

  • The ATV ‘Edoardo Amaldi’, designed and built by Astrium, is the third unmanned European freight spacecraft for the International Space Station (ISS). Following the extraordinary success of the ATV-1 ‘Jules Verne’ and ATV-2 ‘Johannes Kepler’ missions, ‘Edoardo Amaldi’ is on its way by sea to the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The cargo ship has undergone extensive system testing at Astrium’s north German Bremen site over the last few months and has now been given the go-ahead for the final stage prior to the its flight to the ISS, scheduled for spring next year.

12 August

  • A Chinese Long March rocket successfully launched a new communications satellite for Pakistan on Friday. The Long March 3B lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 12:15 pm EDT Thursday (1615 GMT Thursday, 12:15 am Friday local time) and placed the Paksat-1R satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit.
  • U.S. space agency NASA announced it is creating a directorate that will focus on International Space Station operations and human exploration beyond low Earth orbit. The organization — the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate — combines the Space Operations and Exploration Systems mission directorates.

11 August

  • NASA’s has released an infrared view of the “Dumbbell” planetary nebula (Messier 27) taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope. The nebula is a cloud of material expelled by a burnt out star called a white dwarf.
  • NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which left Earth Aug. 5 to began its five-year, 1.7 billion-mile journey to Jupiter, will offer the public the opportunity to participate in the mission’s science endeavors
  • Two bright galaxies on a cosmic collision path appear to be marking the occasion with a giant exclamation point in space. The spectacular new photo shows the galactic smash-up, called VV 340, in the early stages of collision. NASA released the cosmic crash scene and a video explaining the galaxy collision yesterday. In the photo, the edge-on galaxy near the top of the image is VV 340 North and the face-on galaxy at the bottom of the image is VV 340 South.

10 August

9 August

  • NASA has selected seven companies to integrate and fly technology payloads on commercial suborbital reusable platforms that carry payloads near the boundary of space.
  • An extremely powerful solar flare, the largest in over four years, rocked the sun early Tuesday (Aug. 9), but is unlikely to wreak any serious havoc here on Earth
  • NASA today selected Astrobotic Technology Inc. to research breakthroughs in methods to explore lava tubes, caves and recently discovered “skylights” leading down into these features on the Moon and Mars. Lava tubes and other types of caves can shelter astronauts and robots from harsh off-world environments, which on the Moon means micrometeorite bombardment, intense radiation and extreme temperature swings of 500 degrees from day to night. Cave-dwelling by early astronauts and robots likely will be less expensive than bringing shelter materials all the way from Earth.

8 August

  • The efforts relating to the debut launch of Orion – otherwise known as the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) – on a “multi-hour” test flight are ramping up, as managers discuss the preliminary objectives, which may include a “human capable” version of the spacecraft being tested. A launch date of July, 2013 has been set, with the Delta IV Heavy assigned to the role of launch vehicle.

7 August

6 August

5 August

  • The Juno spacecraft was launched successfully this morning. It will spend five years traveling to Jupiter, and a year exploring the gas giant.
  • Dark streaks that form seasonally within a Martian crater could have been created by flowing, salty water, scientists announced Thursday.
  • Boeing announced Thursday it will carry out the test flights of its commercial crew spacecraft on Atlas 5 rockets. Boeing’s CST-100 will be launched on three test flights in 2015 using the Atlas 5 412, the variant of the Atlas 5 that uses a single strap-on solid booster and a twin-engine Centaur upper stage.
  • Aviation Week discusses Japan’s manned spaceflight ambitions. First, deliver things to the International Space Station. Second, deliver things and bring things back. Finally, send people up and bring them back. That, in a nutshell, is the sequence that the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) wants to follow as it takes the first step, launching the HTV Kounotori cargo craft, and sets out its plans for the next two.

4 August

3 August

  • Juno is ready for the launch to Jupiter.
  • Two Russian cosmonauts have conducted what turned out to be an eventful EVA outside of the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday, as part of the ongoing Expedition 28. Going by the designation of RS (Russian Segment) EVA-29 (Extra Vehicular Activity-29), the excursion’s timeline had to be reorganized, resulting in the loss of a major three hour Strela task, now moved to a future EVA.
  • In a spectacle that might have beguiled poets, lovers and songwriters if only they had been around to see it, Earth once had two moons, astronomers now think. But the smaller one smashed into the other in what is being called the “big splat.”

2 August

  • NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, have released the first full rotation movie of the asteroid Vesta. Vesta rotates once every 5 hours and 20 minutes.
  • David Mackay, 53 from Salisbury, Wilts, UK, will be the chief pilot for Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic when it begins the first sub-orbital space flights by 2013.
  • Inmarsat, the leading provider of global mobile satellite communications services, announced on Monday, August 1, that Inmarsat SA, one of its subsidiary companies, had signed a contract with International Launch Services (ILS) for the launch of three Inmarsat-5 satellites.
  • NASASpaceFlight.com discusses the milestones being met under NASA’s CCDev-2 program for commercial manned flight.

1 August

  • Cheaper cargo to Mars? “I just want a cheap delivery system to go to Mars,” said astrobiologist Chris McKay, of NASA’s Ames Research Center.
  • NASA has released images of Vesta taken from an altitude of 5,200 kilometers.

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

December 2010

Posted by drdave on December 1, 2010

31 December

  • Following completion of repairs to the new cracks found on three stringers in the intertank region of STS-133 (Discovery), NASA managers are expected to make a decision by Monday on which of three options to carry out: 1) fly with no additional modifications to the tank, 2) adding what are called “radius blocks” or 3) adding “radius blocks with Z straps” on the stringers.
  • Thanks to congressional inaction, NASA must continue to fund its defunct Ares I rocket program until March, a requirement that will cost the agency nearly $500 million at a time when it is struggling with the expensive task of replacing the space shuttle.

30 December

  • NASA has completed its latest round of X-ray scans on the space shuttle Discovery’s external fuel tank, only to find more small cracks on the beleaguered tank’s support beams, the space agency announced today. The four new cracks were discovered on the tops of three metal ribs on the back side of the tank’s midsection, opposite from Discovery. Shuttle program managers met today and elected to repair these fresh fractures in the same way that earlier cracks found on the tank were fixed. This work will likely begin Jan. 3, and is estimated to take two to three days.

29 December

  • Arianespace has launched two communication satellites on their Ariane 5 rocket.
  • The Kremlin sacked two top space officials held accountable for a rocket crash that set back Russia’s plans to complete a constellation of orbital navigation satellites to rival the US global positioning system. A Russian rocket carrying three Glonass satellites into orbit veered off course shortly after blastoff from the Baikonur space centre in Kazakhstan this month and plunged into the Pacific Ocean, 1,000 miles north-west of Hawaii.
  • Ten years ago, on Dec. 30, 2000, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made its closest approach to Jupiter on its way to orbiting Saturn. The main purpose was to use the gravity of the largest planet in our solar system to slingshot Cassini towards Saturn, its ultimate destination. But the encounter with Jupiter, Saturn’s gas-giant big brother, also gave the Cassini project a perfect lab for testing its instruments and evaluating its operations plans for its tour of the ringed planet, which began in 2004.
  • Can reanimated corpses ever really be brought back to life? In the case of the Intelsat Galaxy 15 satellite that had its “brains fried” by a solar flare nine months ago, it would appear that zombies really can be brought back from the dead. Amazingly, the “zombiesat” is back online, communicating with mission control and there’s real optimism it might be brought back to full service!

28 December

  • Pending the successful outcome of STS-133′s External Tank (ET-137) clearance for flight, managers have created a preliminary schedule for Endeavour’s realigned milestones. Currently, STS-134′s April 1 launch date is only a placeholder, but remains a target that can be achieved – providing Discovery doesn’t slip from her early February launch window.

27 December

  • International Launch Services (ILS) have launched their Proton-M rocket on Sunday, on a mission which is marking the quick return to flight for the Russian workhorse which suffered from a failure during a recent government launch. Launched at 21:51 GMT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the Proton deployed the KA-SAT communications satellite for Eutelsat, after what was nine hours of flight.

26 December

  • NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, captured this view of a runaway star racing away from its original home. Seen here surrounded by a glowing cloud of gas and dust, the star AE Aurigae appears to be on fire. Appropriately, the cloud is called the Flaming Star nebula.

25 December

  • India’s largest rocket lost control and erupted in a fireball Saturday, dealing another blow to the country’s space program after back-to-back failures of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle. The GSAT-5P satellite was lost.

24 December

  • A lean team of Lockheed Martin engineers is taking fuel efficiency to new heights. Flight controllers here are meticulously managing what little fuel is left inside the Stardust spacecraft speeding toward a Valentine’s Day rendezvous with Tempel 1, a ball of ice and rock bombarded by a manmade impactor five years ago.

23 December

  • As the International Space Station prepares to enter a new era of governmental (ATV, HTV, and Progress) and commercial (SpaceX’s Dragon and Orbital’s Cygnus) unmanned resupply services, the ISS Program (ISSP) is pressing ahead with three software upgrades for the Space Station – which are aimed at accommodating multiple visiting vehicles at a single time, improving visiting vehicle communications, and correcting issues identified during previous visiting vehicle missions to the orbital outpost.

22 December

  • Following the postponement of the launch on Sunday due to a leak in the valve of the second stage, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said Wednesday it was prepared for the launch of GSAT-5P, an advanced communications satellite.

21 December

  • Newly released for the holidays, images of Saturn’s second largest moon Rhea obtained by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft show dramatic views of fractures cutting through craters on the moon’s surface, revealing a history of tectonic rumbling. The images are among the highest-resolution views ever obtained of Rhea.
  • Looking like space slug hidey-holes from Star Wars, huge pits gouge a bright, dusty plain near the Martian volcano Ascraeus Mons in a picture taken between October 1 and November 1 by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

20 December

  • Total lunar eclipse coincides with Winter Solstice for first time in 372 years.
  • International Space Station (ISS) program managers are currently in the process of conducting an assessment into the long-term configuration of the US Segment of the orbital outpost, as preparations are made for the post-Shuttle era which will see the addition of a new fleet of “Visiting Vehicles” arriving at the Station.
  • Space shuttle Discovery is scheduled to roll back from Launch Pad 39A to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for additional work related to its final scheduled mission. The first motion of the shuttle is targeted for 12:30 a.m. EST on Tuesday, Dec. 21. In the VAB, technicians will scan below the foam insulation surrounding the intertank section of Discovery’s external tank to look for any issues, such as cracks. They also will reapply foam after removing 89 sensors from the tank’s aluminum skin following an instrumented tanking test on Dec. 17.

19 December

  • The launch of Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-F06) with the satellite GSAT-5P on board, slated to take place from Sriharikota at 4.01 p.m. on Monday (December 20), has been postponed. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) took this decision after its rocket technologists detected on Saturday evening the leak of helium gas from one of the valves in the Russian upper cryogenic stage of the vehicle. The leak rate was on the higher side. The leak was noticed during the pre-countdown check of the vehicle.
  • NASA has granted funding for the WISE infrared telescope to finish an extra full sky scan, giving scientists an additional opportunity to comb the inner solar system for hard-to-see asteroids that could threaten Earth.

18 December

  • Engineers have gathered detailed data on the thermal and stress environments of the External Tank’s intertank stringers at the LOX flange and LH2 flange areas. NASA managers completed fueling Discovery’s External Tank with nearly 535,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, with a smooth Tanking Test that culminated in a GLS (Ground Launch Sequencer) cutoff at the T-31 second mark at 14:24 EST.
  • Another Chinese Beidou navigation satellite soared into space Friday, the fifth craft to join the country’s fleet of positioning satellites in 2010.
  • Soyuz TMA-20 spaceship carrying an international crew has docked with the International Space Station (ISS).

17 December

  • A NASA test at Kennedy Space Center today could help clear the way for the planned launch in early February of space shuttle Discovery’s 39th and final flight. More than 500,000 gallons of supercold propellant will be loaded into the shuttle’s 15-story external tank as engineers try to determine what caused cracks in structural braces in its aluminum-lithium hull.
  • A second look at a group of massive young galaxies 11 billion light-years away has revealed these juvenile giants in the throes of a celestial baby boom, birthing stars at an astonishing scale and rate.

16 December

  • NASA announced that an international team of scientists studying remnants of an asteroid that crashed into the Nubian Desert in October 2008 has discovered that it contained at least 10 different types of meteorites. Some of them contained chemicals that form the building blocks of life on Earth, and those chemicals were spread through all parts of the asteroid by collisions.

15 December

  • The Russian Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft blasted off to the International Space Station today (Dec. 15), launching three new crewmates to the orbiting outpost. The launch was from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 2:09 p.m. EST (1909 GMT) with NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman, Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Paolo Nespoli. Kondratyev is commander of the two-day Soyuz trip to the International Space Station. The trio is expected to dock at the station on Friday (Dec. 17) at 3:12 p.m. EST (2012 GMT).

14 December

  • With unacceptable weather at KSC restricting preparations for STS-133′s Tanking Test, managers decided to delay the test until at least Friday. With the Program Requirements Control Board (PRCB) approving the plan to collect data from ET-137′s stringers, a decision was also taken to roll the stack back to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) next week – allowing for further inspections of the tank.
  • Saturn’s majestic rings are the remnants of a long-vanished moon that was stripped of its icy outer layer before its rocky heart plunged into the planet, a new theory proposes.

13 December

  • Aviation Week reports that “With two near-perfect Falcon 9 launches and the successful orbital operation, reentry and parachute landing of its first Dragon capsule, Space Exploration Technologies is confident it will join Russian, European and Japanese cargo ships in reaching the International Space Station next year, a critical component of NASA’s plan to maintain a six-person crew after the space shuttles are retired. “
  • The Geminids promise to be the best meteor shower of the year. They are hitting a peak just in time for the holidays, but skywatchers should act fast: This sky show peaks overnight tonight.

12 December

  • NASA has not heard from the experimental NanoSail-D miniature solar sail in nearly a week, prompting officials to wonder if the craft actually deployed from a larger mother satellite despite initial indications it ejected as designed.

11 December

  • A final round of potential Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLV) options – which will allow the NASA leadership to choose the design of the Space Launch System (SLS) as early as April, 2011 – has been created by The Human Exploration Framework Team (HEFT), which is coming to the end of its current architecture design phase.

10 December

  • NASA has awarded a contract with a potential value of $171 million to Lockheed Martin Corp. of Gaithersburg, Md., for support of International Space Station cargo mission services.

9 December

  • The Akatsuki space probe suffered a sudden, dramatic loss of balance two minutes 23 seconds after commencing an unsuccessful attempt to enter orbit around Venus on Tuesday for an observation mission, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said Wednesday night.

8 December

  • NASA Administrator Bolden praised the SpaceX success: “This is the first in a new generation of commercial launch systems that will help provide vital support to the International Space Station and may one day carry astronauts into orbit. This successful demonstration flight is an important milestone in meeting the objectives outlined by President Obama and Congress, and shows how government and industry can leverage expertise and resources to foster a new and vibrant space economy. “

7 December

  • Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has quickly rebounded from the discovery of cracks in a nozzle on the upper-stage engine of its Falcon 9 booster and is moving ahead with plans to fire off the rocket on Dec. 8 to put the company’s Dragon capsule into orbit on a demonstration run for NASA.

6 December

  • Japan’s probe “Akatsuki” will attempt to enter the orbit of Venus on Dec. 7, and if successful it will become the first Japanese probe to orbit another planet. On the morning of Dec. 7, Akatsuki will reverse the thrust of its engines for about 12 minutes, reducing its speed before attempting to enter an elliptical orbit around Venus.
  • The Russian DM-3 booster with three Glonass-M satellites fell into the Pacific Ocean 1500 kilometers northwest of Honolulu. A program error caused a Russian Proton-M carrier rocket to deviate from its course and lose a booster carrying three Glonass-M satellites

5 December

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), on the sidelines of the visit of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, announced the renewal of a five-year contract with European space firm EADS Astrium to build commercial satellites to be launched from French space facilities.
  • A Russian Proton-M carrier rocket launched from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan will deliver three Glonass-M satellites into orbit on Sunday to complete the formation of Russia’s global navigation system, a spokesman for the Russian space agency Roscosmos said on Sunday.

4 December

  • The private spaceflight company SpaceX test fired the nine engines of its second Falcon 9 rocket on Dec. 4, 2010 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida ahead of a planned Dec. 7 launch to test the company’s new Dragon space capsule.
  • Following the decision to move Discovery’s STS-133 launch date target to No Earlier Than (NET) February 3, NASA managers have begun realigning the International Space Station (ISS) manifest. An April 1 placeholder has been selected for Endeavour’s STS-134 mission, while Japan’s HTV resupply vehicle is also involved in supporting the manifest changes.

3 December

  • Space-X will now begin its webcast at 9:00 AM Phoenix time (11:00 AM EST). The static test firing is scheduled for 10:00 AM Phoenix time (17:00 UTC).
  • The X-37B mystery space craft launched by the US Air Force on 22 April 2010, has returned to Earth after a 220 day mission. What the mission was, no one is talking.
  • Aviation Week discusses a Space-X response to NASA’s Heavy Lift requirement. Elon Musk states that scaling the Merlin engine to 1.7 million pounds of thrust and mating it to three Falcon 9 cores would yield a three stage rocket capable of delivering 150 mt to orbit. Development costs would be $2.5 Billion.
  • The main and backup crews of the new long-term expedition to the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday few from the Chkalovsky airport outside Moscow to the Baikonur cosmodrome, the Cosmonaut Training Centre outside Moscow told Itar-Tass. The Launch of the Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft that will take to orbit the ISS-26/27 Expedition crew, is scheduled for 22:09 MSK (19:09 UTC) on December 15, its docking with the ISS – for December 17.

2 December

  • At a press conference scheduled for Noon Phoenix time on Thursday, 3 December 2010, NASA is expected to announce the discovery of a bacteria that substitutes Arsenic for Phosphorous in its metabolic system. This expands the realm that extra-terrestrial life can occupy.
  • “One immediate challenge is the current lack of appropriations for fiscal year 2011,” said John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “The administration very much hopes Congress will act swiftly to provide funding and budgetary guidance that will enable NASA to fully implement the direction provided in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 and bring that new plan to fruition.”

1 December

  • Aviation Week reports that the US Air Force is preparing to land the X-37B spy space-plane between 3 and 6 December 2010.
  • Here is a graphic review of big events in the Solar System.
  • Space-X is preparing for the second launch of its Falcon 9 rocket and first live Dragon capsule on Tuesday next week. Erection is scheduled for tomorrow, Thursday, and a live fire test on Friday.

Posted in Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, JAXA, Jupiter, Kuiper Belt, NASA, Russian Space Agency, Saturn, Solar System | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »