NSS Phoenix Space News

Archive for the ‘Solar System’ Category

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.

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July 2012

Posted by drdave on July 1, 2012

31 July

  • The Toshiba Vision screen in New York City’s Times Square will become the largest East Coast location for the public to see live mission coverage of Curiosity, NASA’s most advanced planetary rover, as it lands on the Martian surface at 1:31 AM EDT 6 August.
  • Top-secret surveillance spacecraft and several smaller research satellites will be launched aboard an Atlas 5 rocket scheduled for blastoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base early Thursday. The United Launch Alliance rocket is sitting at Space Launch Complex-3 East on South Base, where crews have spent the past several months preparing the booster for blastoff. The team is shooting for liftoff at 12:40 a.m. Thursday.

30 July

29 July

  • A second attempt to re-dock the Russian Progress M-15M resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) with the help of a new rendezvous system has been a success.

28 July

  • Russia’s Space Forces launched early on Saturday a Rokot carrier rocket with a Cosmos class military satellite and three civilian satellites on board. The Rokot blasted off from the Plesetsk space center in northern Russia at 05:35 AM Moscow time (01:35 UTC).
  • John Kelly discusses the recent review passed by the Space Launch System. But expresses concern that this may be another project given the green light by NASA that will run into budget and schedule difficulties.

27 July

  • The H-II Transfer Vehicle “Kounitori 3” (HTV3) started its final approach to the International Space Station (ISS), and was captured by the ISS robotic arm at 21:23 PM on July 27 (Japanese Standard Time, JST – 1223 UTC). After being maneuvered by the arm, the HTV3 was successfully berthed to the ISS at 2:31 AM on July 28 (JST – 1731 UTC).
  • Russia’s Space Forces launched early on Saturday a Rokot carrier rocket with a Cosmos class military satellite and three civilian satellites on board. The Rokot blasted off from the Plesetsk space center in northern Russia at 05:35 AM Moscow time (01:35 UTC).

26 July

  • A Long March rocket launched the third in a series of Chinese data relay satellites on Wednesday. The Long March 3C rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center and placed into geosynchronous transfer orbit the Tianlian 1-03 communications satellite
  • Even as Shenzhou 9 undocked from Tiangong 1, and before it returned to Earth, the Beijing Aerospace Control Centre was starting preparations for the Shenzhou 10 mission, possibly December 2012.

25 July

  • A test of a new docking antenna on a Progress spacecraft was aborted last Monday after a malfunction. The Progress M-15M cargo spacecraft, which arrived at the station in April, undocked from the station Sunday and moved out to a distance of over 150 kilometers before returning to the station’s facility for a planned redocking to test a new Kurs-NA rendezvous antenna. The docking was aborted, though, when the antenna malfunctioned when the Progress was about 15 kilometers away.

24 July

23 July

  • Sally Ride died on Monday in La Jolla, California after a 17 month battle with pancreatic cancer. She is survived by her mother and partner Tam O’Shaughnessy.

22 July

  • A Soyuz rocket successfully launched a collection of small satellites on Sunday. The Soyuz-FG rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 2:41 am EDT (0641 GMT, 12:41 pm local time) Sunday and placed five satellites into Sun-synchronous orbits.
  • The Discovery Channel Telescope at Lowell Observatory has seen First Light. Images include M109, the Sombrero Galaxy and M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy.

21 July

  • Japan successfully launched their HTV-3 re-supply mission to the International Space Station. Docking is expected to occur on 27 July with the Harmony Node.

20 July

  • On 20 July 1969, at 10:56 PM EDT, Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon.
  • Orbital Sciences Corporation announced Thursday it is now planning the inaugural launch of its medium-lift Antares rocket this October, with a demonstration flight of its Cygnus cargo spacecraft to follow by the end of the year. Orbital said it plans a “hot fire” test of the first stage of the Antares on its launch pad at Virginia’s Mid-Altantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) in late August or early September, to be followed by the first Antares launch, carrying a demonstration payload, in October..

19 July

  • Astronomers examining data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope have found evidence for an extrasolar planet two-thirds the size of the Earth tightly orbiting its star. The University of Central Florida astronomers found the potential world in Spitzer observations of GJ 436, a star already known to have a Neptune-sized exoplanet, when they noted small, periodic dips in the star’s infrared light that they believe are caused by another planet transiting the star’s disk.
  • Researchers have discovered a rare early galaxy (z=2.18) with pronounced spiral arms. The report is in the July 19 issue of Nature..

18 July

  • A problem with a spacecraft currently in orbit around Mars could mean that telemetry from next month’s landing by NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission could be delayed by perhaps hours. NASA had expected to use the Mars Odyssey orbiter to relay data from MSL as it landed on the evening of August 5. However, officials said Monday that a problem with a reaction wheel on Mars Odyssey means the spacecraft could be out of position to relay the data live.
  • Shot into space under a cloak of secrecy last month, a bright new object spotted in space this week has confirmed that the most recent Atlas 5 rocket successfully dispatched a data-relay satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office.

17 July

  • A Soyuz spacecraft carrying three new International Space Station crewmembers docked with the station early Tuesday. The Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft docked with the station’s Rassvet module at 12:51 am EDT (0451 GMT) Tuesday, two days after launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. On board the Soyuz were Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, American astronaut Sunita Williams, and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, who jointed the existing ISS crew of Russians Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin and American Joe Acaba.
  • NASA picked SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket for the planned December 2014 launch of the Jason-3 satellite for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and international partners. The satellite is designed to measure sea surface height to monitor ocean circulation and sea level. The contract is valued at $82 million.

16 July

  • NASA’s Launch Pad-39A serving as a back drop, bus loads of students arrived from Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) Melbourne Campus to watch and participate in this year’s Space University’s rocket launch competition.
  • Sierra Nevada Corporation has ramped up the hiring process for its Dream Chaser program in advance of a scheduled NASA announcement of the next round of commercial crew funding. Dream Chaser is in the running for additional development funds. Since NASA usually tells NASA awardees prior to the awards, the pre-emptive hiring may indicate Sierra Nevada knows it has been selected
  • Is Pluto a Binary Planet?

15 July

  • Russia successfully launched the Soyuz TMA-05M manned spacecraft toward the International Space Station (ISS) this Saturday evening, 14 July, at 7:40 PM Phoenix time (0240 UTC 15 July).

14 July

13 July

12 July

  • In an announcement today at the Farnborough International Air Show, Virgin Galactic revealed it is partnering with a privately funded satellite launcher to build a two stage air launched rocket capable of placing 225 kilograms into orbit for around $10 Million dollars.
  • Astronomers announced Wednesday the discovery of a fifth, and very small, moon orbiting the dwarf planet Pluto. Scientists detected the moon, temporarily designated S/2012 (134340) 1, in Hubble Space Telescope images of Pluto taken in late June and early July. The moon is thought to be irregular in shape and between 10 and 24 kilometers across, and in a circular orbit about 42,000 kilometers from Pluto.

11 July

  • Rocket Crafters Inc., a Utah-based company that specializes in hybrid-rocket design and aerospace-composite technologies, said Tuesday it is moving to Titusville, where it hopes to create as many as 1,300 full-time jobs. The company plans to develop and commercialize a new hybrid rocket-propulsion technology and an ultra-light, advanced composite material for the manufacture of dual-propulsion space planes for suborbital flight.
  • Astronauts return to Earth weakened and unsteady after weightlessness and radiation in space take their toll on the human body. New research now shows that the humble nematode worm adapts much better to spaceflight.

10 July

  • XCOR Aerospace, a suborbital vehicle developer based in Mojave, California, announced plans Monday to move its headquarters and create a research and development center in Midland, Texas. XCOR and a local development organization, the Midland Development Corporation, announced the plan that includes up to $10 million in incentives for XCOR to set up operations at the Midland International Airport.
  • The “Hot-Jupiter” exoplanet that orbits only 3.3 million miles from its sun, HD 189733A, is losing its atmosphere at the rate of a thousand tons per second, according to studies by Hubble and Swift over the past two years.
  • International Launch Services (ILS) successfully carried the SES-5 satellite into geostationary transfer orbit today on an ILS Proton for SES of Luxembourg.

9 July

  • Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built, commercial spaceport, has launched a new look for its brand on Independence Day. “Spaceport America is helping a new American Revolution take place in the commercial space industry, and what better time to showcase our new brand than the Fourth of July,” said Christine Anderson, Executive Director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA).
  • In findings released Sunday by the journal Science, two research teams take aim at the “arseniclife” bacteria. The microbe was announced by the journal in 2010 at a NASA news briefing as “the first known microorganism on Earth able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic.” The new findings show that was not the case.
  • Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has just celebrated its 3,000th sol* on Mars. This may sound like an important milestone, and it is. This tenacious six-wheeled robot has survived five Martian winters since it landed on the Red Planet on Jan. 24th, 2004 — considering its warranty was only 90 days, we’re certainly getting our money’s worth!

8 July

  • Midland Texas newspaper reviews XCOR.

7 July

  • The Guardian discusses the Opportunity mission on Mars at Endeavour Crater.

6 July

  • NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) praised the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion programs for making “considerable progress” during their latest meeting, but called for managers to ensure the debut SLS flight – known as Exploration Mission -1 (EM-1) – is heavily aimed at risk mitigation, ahead of the first crewed mission.

5 July

  • A dust disk spotted around a young star just a few years ago has disappeared in the course of just a few years, puzzling astronomers. In a paper published in the current edition of the journal Nature, astronomers reported that they are no longer able to detect a warm disk of dust surrounding the star TYC 8241 2652. That disk was discovered in data from NASA’s IRAS satellite in 1983, and seen in follow-up observations for 25 years. However, astronomers were unable to see it in infrared observations at the Gemini South observatory in Chile two months ago, leading astronomers to conclude that the warm, infrared-emitting dust disappeared within the last 2.5 years.
  • On Thursday, July 5, Arianespace successfully launched two satellites: the dedicated Internet satellite EchoStar XVII for the American operator Hughes Network Systems, and the MSG-3 weather satellite for Eumetsat, the European Meteorological Satellite organization.

4 July

  • Fireworks on the fourth: The violent behaviour of a young Sun-like star spinning at high speed and spewing out super-hot plasma has been revealed thanks to the combined X-ray vision of three space telescopes, including ESA’s XMM-Newton.
  • The coming months aboard the International Space Station promise to be exciting and dramatic, with no fewer than two spacewalks scheduled from the US and Russian segments, plus a Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV), SpaceX’s first dedicated Dragon cargo flight, the maiden voyage of Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus craft, the departure of a European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) and a ‘fast-rendezvous’ experiment which aims to dock a Progress freighter onto the space station just seven hours after launch.
  • The Economic Observer compares and contrasts China’s space program with the space industry in America. Their conclusion: China will be left in the dust.

3 July

  • The World Policy Journal discusses the changes in space policy as the Obama Administration enlists private enterprise in the space program.
  • Russia’s Energia space corporation is holding talks with U.S. aerospace giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin over manufacture of docking sites and thermal protection equipment for space capsules for the U.S. firms, Izvestia daily newspaper reported on Tuesday citing Energia head Vitaly Lopota.

2 July

  • Lockheed Martin has delivered the first space-bound Orion spacecraft crew module structure to the Operations and Checkout Building on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. The crew module structure recently underwent its final friction stir weld at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, La. and was transported to KSC last week to be readied for its Exploration Flight Test (EFT-1) in 2014.
  • United States Navy Captain and retired NASA Astronaut Alan Poindexter lost his life Sunday in a tragic jet ski accident near Little Sabine Bay off Pensacola Beach, Florida.

1 July

  • The Soyuz TMA-03M mission spacecraft carrying three U.S., Russian and European astronauts descended to a landing in remote Kazakhstan early Sunday, closing out a 193-day mission to the International Space Station that included the first visit by a U.S. commercial re-supply craft. The Soyuz capsule carrying Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, NASA astronaut Don Pettit and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers was greeted by helicopter borne Russian recovery teams, shortly after it touched down under parachute south of Zhezkaghan at 1:14 AM Phoenix time (0814 UTC). Pettit, Kononenko and Kuipers appeared to be in good shape.

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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 »

September 2011

Posted by drdave on September 3, 2011

30 September

  • Ian O’Neill at Discovery.Com discusses the SpaceX plan to use rocket power to recover the Dragon spacecraft, as well as both the first and second stages of the Falcon 9 rocket.

29 September

  • China successfully launched the TianGong-1 Space Laboratory module on live television today.
  • International Launch Services (ILS) have launched their Proton-M rocket on Thursday, on a mission which is marking their first ILS launch since the Russian workhorse returned to flight. Launch was on schedule at 18:32 GMT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, with the Proton tasked with deploying the QuetzSat-1 telecommunications satellite for SES, after what will be nine hours of flight.
  • Planetary scientists at Brown University and participating institutions have discovered vast, smooth plains around Mercury’s north pole that were created by volcanic activity more than 3.5 billion years ago.
  • Aerojet announced today that along with NASA and Orbital Sciences Corporation, the team conducted a successful ground test firing of an AJ26-62 flight engine that will power Orbital’s Taurus II medium-class space launch vehicle.
  • Scientists have released most accurate and detailed large cosmological simulation run to date. The Bolshoi simulation focused on a representative section of the universe, computing the evolution of a cubic volume measuring about one billion light-years on a side and following the interactions of 8.6 billion particles of dark matter. It took 6 million CPU-hours to run the full computation on the Pleiades supercomputer

28 September

  • China’s first space lab module Tiangong-1 is scheduled to be launched between 9:16 p.m. and 9:31 p.m. Thursday, a spokesman for China’s manned space flight project said on Wednesday.
  • A Minotaur 4 rocket successfully launched a small military communications satellite on Tuesday. The Orbital Sciences Corporation Minotaur 4+ lifted off from the Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska at 8:49 AM Phoenix time (1549 UTC).
  • Feast your Eyes on the Fried Egg Nebula

27 September

26 September

  • A Zenit-3SL successfully launched a communications satellite Saturday on the first mission for the Sea Launch company since it completed bankruptcy reorganization. The Zenit-3SL lifted off at 4:18 pm EDT (2018 GMT) Saturday from Sea Launch’s mobile launch platform on the Equator at 154 degrees west in the Pacific Ocean.

25 September

  • Super Earth exo-planets are the subject of both the Kepler mission and the Swiss-led HARPS mission.

24 September

  • A NASA spacecraft launched 20 years ago reentered late Friday night, although the exact reentry locations was unknown as of Saturday morning. The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) reentered some time between 8:23 PM Phoenix time Friday and 10:09 PM (0323 and 0509 UTC Saturday).

23 September

  • After years of delays, fledgling rocket company Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is ready to launch NASA’s first commercial cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) this fall. But that opportunity may continue to elude SpaceX for a while longer, as a recent Soyuz launch failure could prompt yet another schedule slip.
  • Rand Simberg takes apart Rory Cooper’s criticism of NASA. The blame really lies with Congress and Pork.

22 September

  • Japan has launched a new Information Gathering Satellite (IGS) known as Optical-4, via their H-2A (H-IIA) launch vehicle. Given the military nature of the payload, only amateur footage of the launch was available, although it did show the vehicle successfully lifted off from the Yoshinobu Launch Complex at the Tanegashima Space Center (TNSC) at 04:36 UTC on Friday.
  • Europe’s Ariane 5 ECA heavy-lift rocket successfully placed two telecommunications satellites — one carrying the first commercially hosted payload for the U.S. Air Force — into geostationary transfer orbit Sept. 21. The satellites’ owners reported that both spacecraft were healthy in orbit.

21 September

  • Place your bets on where the UARS satellite will fall.
  • A Proton-M rocket carrying a military satellite was successfully launched from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome early Wednesday.

20 September

19 September

18 September

  • The Orlando Sentinel discusses the dangers facing NASA and the new Heavy Lift rocket mandated by the Senate. Severe doubts exist that NASA can meet their own 2017 first flight deadline, and few think the Congress will provide enough funds.
  • As NASA’s defunct Upper Atmospheric Research Satellite (UARS) continues to head towards its death – which will result in re-entry around September 23 – NASA managers have discussed ways of improving their fragmentation models for future returning spacecraft, with the aim of reducing the the debris footprint for hardware which may threaten to survive entry.

17 September

  • The Senate Appropriations Committee this week approved a $17.9-billion budget for NASA that includes funding for exploration programs, commercial crew development, and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).
  • Eric Burger interviews Norm Augustine in Houston about NASA’s new Heavy Lift rocket program.

16 September

  • JPL has released new images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft map the giant asteroid’s varied landscape in unprecedented detail, closing in on equatorial grooves, a deep depression on the south pole and its colossal mountain.
  • NASA Rover finds a rare Mars rock with clues of ancient water.
  • The Soyuz TMA-21 spacecraft carrying ISS crewmembers Andrei Borisenko, Alexander Samokutyayev and Ron Garan landed at a designated area in Kazakhstan approximately at 08:00 AM Moscow time (0400 UTC).

15 September

  • The Space Frontier Foundation called Wednesday’s announcement by NASA that it will attempt to build Congress’s giant monster rocket a disaster that will devour our dreams for moving humanity into space. Rather than breathing life into a dying space program, it may well kill new initiatives to greatly expand US space exploration and settlement efforts.

14 September

  • NASA announced details of its new Heavy Lift rocket, which has been mandated by the Senate. What is lacking in this whole story is exactly what NASA will do with this big rocket. Missions to asteroids, Mars etc. are often tossed out by NASA representatives – but no timeline whatosever has yet to be presented – not even a “notional” one. Nor has an overall strategy or architecture been issued or any idea what the cost would be for the things that would actually fly on these rockets.

13 September

  • U.S. satellite television provider DirecTV will launch two satellites aboard Europe’s heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket, with the first launch in 2014, and has booked options for two other launches with the European company for satellites yet to be named.

12 September

  • The existence of Methane in the Martian atmosphere has been the subject of much controversy over the past decade. Astrobiology magazine reports on the various observations made from Earth and spacecraft orbiting Mars.

11 September

  • If all tests go according to plans, Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) ‘Megha-Tropiques’, an Indo-French advanced tropical climate monitoring satellite will be launched on October 12 at 11.00 am from Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh

10 September

  • A Delta 2 rocket successfully launched a pair of NASA spacecraft that will study the Moon’s interior. The Delta 2 7920H lifted off from Launch Complex 17B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, at 1308 GMT during the second of two one-second launch windows available Saturday. The rocket’s upper stage deployed the twin Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft a little over an hour after liftoff. The two spacecraft will enter orbit around the Moon in four months, where they will map the Moon’s gravity field.
  • Alliant Techsystems (ATK) successfully carried out Thursday the third test of a five-segment solid rocket motor that could be used for NASA’s Space Launch System and a commercial rocket.

9 September

  • Russian officials said Thursday that a one-time “production fault” caused the failure last month of a Soyuz rocket carrying a Progress cargo spacecraft to the ISS. The Soyuz rocket’s upper stage engine shut down during the August 24 launch, causing the Progress M-12M spacecraft to fall to Earth, crashing in a remote region of Siberia. Officials said that a fuel line became clogged because of a unspecified accidental production fault, which led to the engine shutdown. The Russian space agency Roskosmos has not indicated when it expects the launch vehicle to return to flight, although NASA officials said this week they were optimistic it would be able to launch a crewed Soyuz spacecraft before the ISS has to be decrewed in mid-November.
  • Gusty upper-level winds forced NASA to postpone Thursday’s scheduled launch of a lunar orbiter mission by a day, and technical concerns will delay it at least an additional day. NASA had planned to launch the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft on a Delta 2 from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Thursday morning, but high winds in the upper atmosphere scrubbed the launch.

8 September

  • Operators of NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are resuming use of the mission’s highest resolution camera following a second precautionary shutdown in two weeks. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) instrument powered off on Aug. 27 and again on Sept. 6. In each case, commanding for an observation was not properly received by the memory module controlling one of the instrument’s 14 electronic detectors (CCDs, or charge-coupled devices).
  • Key senators accused the Obama administration Thursday of artificially inflating the cost of a heavy-lift rocket designed to reach asteroids and Mars. The heavy-lift rocket, the capsule it will carry and the launch facilities to send it into space are forecast to cost $26 billion by 2017.
  • The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said Wednesday it successfully conducted a test ignition of the space probe Akatsuki’s main engine to prepare for a reattempt to send it into orbit around Venus in 2015 after its failure to do so last December.

7 September

  • Amateur astronomers: Grab a pair of binoculars and look skyward. With a little luck, you might be able to see a supernova or exploding star in the sky tonight. No fancy, inaccessible, high-tech, NASA-type telescopes needed. The supernova in question, known in the astronomy world as SN 2011fe, was discovered in the Pinwheel Galaxy about two weeks ago by astronomer Peter Nugent, a senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
  • A stellar newborn has turned up on Earth’s doorstep. Named AP Columbae, the star is so young it has yet to spark its main nuclear flame, and it’s so nearby—a mere 27 light-years from Earth—that scientists might be able to glimpse the glow of orbiting planets still cooling off from their formation.

6 September

  • The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said Monday it will ignite the engine of the space probe Akatsuki twice this month to check if it can enter orbit around Venus, after its failure to do so late last year.
  • China rescheduled the launch of its first prototype space station module in the wake of last month’s launch failure. Named Tiangong 1, which means heavenly palace, the 19,000-pound module will be launched on a Long March 2F rocket. The launch will be delayed because the Long March 2F rocket belongs to the same series as the vehicle that malfunctioned on 18 August.

5 September

  • Like its sister probe Voyager 2, the Voyager 1 spacecraft has been an instrumental force in our continued push to gain a better understanding of our solar system. From its encounters with Jupiter and Saturn, to its ongoing mission to explore the outer boundaries of the solar system, Voyager 1 stands as the farthest man-made object in our solar system and will eventually gain the distinction of being the first man-made object to enter interstellar.

4 September

  • With less than one week to go before the launch of the twin GRAIL lunar satellites from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL, NASA has completed the pre-launch flight readiness reviews for both GRAIL and the veteran Delta II rocket which will propel the spacecrafts into their cruise to Earth’s only natural satellite. The launch is scheduled for Thursday, 8 September at 05:37.06 or 06:16.12 Phoenix time.

3 September

  • Opportunity, NASA’s long-lived Martian robotic workhorse, has started a new round of studies at a place unlike anything seen before on Mars. Poised on the rim of a large crater called “Endeavour, Opportunity has been examining a rock with an unusually high concentration of zinc, among other targets. On Earth, such rocks usually mean they’ve spent time in water, typically warm water.
  • A NASA-backed team of scientists and engineers is set to map the Moon’s gravity—and internal structure. The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (Grail) mission will track minute changes in the distance between two satellites in the same orbit caused by changes in the density of the terrain below.

2 September

  • Blue Origin, the private entrepreneurial space group backed by Amazon.com mogul Jeff Bezos, has reported a failure in its suborbital rocket development plans. “Three months ago, we successfully flew our second test vehicle in a short hop mission, and then last week we lost the vehicle during a developmental test at Mach 1.2 and an altitude of 45,000 feet,” Bezos wrote in a statement posted to the Blue Origin website.
  • America’s National Research Council has finally heeded warnings from spaceflight experts, telling NASA it is not doing enough to address the hazards posed by the space debris that it and other space users leave in orbit. In a 1 September report (pdf) on space junk, the NRC says NASA “has not kept pace with increasing hazards posed by abandoned equipment, spent rocket bodies and other debris orbiting the Earth”.

1 September

  • Two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut living aboard the International Space Station are scheduled to return to Earth on 16 September, leaving the outpost with a three-person crew until Russia can resume crewed launches of the grounded Soyuz rocket.

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

July 2011

Posted by drdave on July 1, 2011

31 July

  • Hayabusa returns to the Silver Screen.

30 July

  • A strange-looking scar on the moon has astronomers wondering whether the cause of this peculiar impact feature is a piece of space debris that smashed into the lunar surface or a spacecraft that made a planned crash landing decades ago. The “butterfly-shaped” mass of lunar rubble seen in the picture could be the remnants of NASA’s Lunar Orbiter 2, which made a planned crash landing on the moon in 1967 at the end of its mission.

29 July

  • China launched the latest in a series of what government officials call “experimental” satellites on Friday. The Long March 2C rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 12:42 AM Phoenix time (0742 UTC, 3:42 pm Beijing time) Friday, carrying the Shijian 11-02 satellite.
  • American spaceships are expected to make three trips to the International Space Station in the coming months. SpaceX is set to launch its Dragon capsule toward the station on 30 November, and another Dragon capsule on its first operational cargo-carrying mission three or four months later. Orbital Sciences is planning to send its Cygnus capsule to the station in February 2012.
  • This week, the moon is a thin waning crescent and will arrive at new phase on Saturday, leaving the sky dark and moonless from dusk to dawn. This makes it a great opportunity to enjoy two displays of “shooting stars” that will be active and near their peak this weekend, which can provide some entertaining viewing: the Delta Aquarids and the Alpha Capricornids.

28 July

27 July

  • A Long March rocket placed the latest spacecraft for China’s satellite navigation system into orbit on Wednesday. The Long March 3A rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 2:44 PM Phoenix time Tuesday (2144 UTC) and placed a Beidou satellite into an inclined geosynchronous Earth orbit.
  • For more than a decade, the International Space Station has been a busy orbiting research lab. But it could soon take on a new role as a testbed for ambitious missions deeper into space. The European Space Agency (ESA), foresees future ventures that could include Mars missions, lunar habitats or traveling to an asteroid – all needing new technologies and techniques that could be tested on the Station.

26 July

  • A newly discovered planetary nebula, the last gasps of a dying star, could provide scientists with answers about the ultimate fate of our Sun and solar system including the Earth.
  • Adding to the long list that is her legacy, Atlantis’ successful final test of Neptec’s TriDAR rendezvous and docking system has resulted in Orbital completing a deal to use high tech sensors on their Cygnus spacecraft. With the orbiter’s also testing DragonEye for SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, the two commercial vehicles will “Tally Ho” the ISS via the path finding conducted by Shuttle.
  • NASA and SpaceX continue to discuss the ground rules for the first mission by the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station.

25 July

24 July

  • John Kelly discusses the end of the Space Shuttle Program and NOT the end of the American Space Program.

23 July

  • NASA’s next Mars rover will land in a large crater that features a mountain the rover will climb, project scientists announced Friday. The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), also known as Curiosity, will land in Gale Crater near the planet’s equator. The crater, over 150 kilometers in diameter, features a central mountain about five kilometers high that the rover will climb during its mission, allowing the rover to study a variety of terrains.
  • Think Of The Moon As Just Another Continent

22 July

  • Scientists working with recovered data from the Pioneer 10 and 11 missions are closing in on a solution to the famous Pioneer Anomaly. Their just-published results show that the mysterious effect on the two spacecraft is not constant over time, probably indicating that no outside force is acting on the Pioneers, but rather, something inside the spacecraft is to blame.
  • Two teams of astronomers have discovered the largest and farthest reservoir of water ever detected in the universe. The water, equivalent to 140 trillion times all the water in the world’s ocean, surrounds a huge, feeding black hole, called a quasar, more than 12 billion light-years away. “The environment around this quasar is very unique in that it’s producing this huge mass of water,” said Matt Bradford, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Breaking from the strategy it used in the first two rounds of its commercial crew development (CCDev) program, NASA said it intends to use a traditional procurement process governed by the Federal Acquisition Regulations to fund its contribution to the next phases of work on privately owned human spaceflight systems.

21 July

20 July

  • During a July 15 meeting, NASA and SpaceX officials reached agreement on planning dates of 30 November for the launch and 7 December for the rendezvous and berthing of the Dragon cargo spacecraft with the International Space Station.
  • NASA announced that Deputy Administrator Lori Garver will provide opening keynote remarks at the Space Frontier Foundation’s annual NewSpace Conference at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 28. Media are invited to attend the conference, which runs July 28-30 at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.
  • Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope to look for potential rings around dwarf planet Pluto have instead uncovered a fourth moon orbiting the distant icy world.

19 July

  • The space shuttle Atlantis undocked from the International Space Station early Tuesday, ending the final visit of a shuttle to the ISS. Atlantis undocked from the ISS at 11:28 PM Phoenix time Monday (0628 GMT) and moved to a distance of nearly 200 meters away, after which the ISS turned 90 degrees to allow photography of the station from a new angle. The shuttle fired its thrusters to move away from the station for good at 1:18 AM (0818 GMT).
  • A Zenit rocket successfully launched long-delayed Russian radio astronomy satellite Spektr-R on Monday. The Zenit-3M rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 7:31 PM Phoenix time Sunday (0231 GMT Monday).

18 July

  • Jeff Foust at the Space Review discusses the limbo in which the Senate Launch System (SLS) is trapped. Its a rocket without a mission.
  • The U.S. Air Force successfully launched GPS IIF-2 Space Vehicle Number (SVN) 63, carried aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Medium rocket at 2:41 a.m. EDT July 16 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. This is the second in the series of 12 GPS satellites that Boeing has on contract with the Air Force. Boeing, maker of the satellite, reports signals are being received.

17 July

  • NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has entered orbit around the large main-belt asteroid Vesta, the space agency announced early Sunday. Dawn achieved orbit around Vesta on Saturday, although NASA was unable to give a specific time for its arrival; NASA previously estimated Vesta would go into orbit at around 1 am EDT (0500 GMT) Saturday.

16 July

  • A Delta 4 rocket, delayed two days by technical and weather issues, successfully launched a GPS satellite early Saturday. The Delta 4 Medium+ 4,2 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral at 2:41 am EDT (0641 GMT) and placed the GPS 2F-2 satellite into orbit.
  • A Proton rocket carried into orbit early Saturday communications satellite for a European company and the Kazakh government. The Proton M lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:16 PM Phoenix time Friday (2316 UTC).

15 July

  • Key senators on Thursday tried to push NASA to release more details about its planned heavy-lift rocket. House Republicans cut $2 Billion from the NASA budget, which is already insufficient to build the Senate’s heavy lift rocket.
  • India’s latest communication satellite, G-SAT 12, was launched today from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SHAR) in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.

14 July

  • The full House Appropriations Committee approved a 2012 spending bill Wednesday that would provide no funding for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.
  • The launch of a Delta IV rocket was scrubbed due to unfavorable weather conditions. The rocket is carrying the Air Force’s Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF-2 payload. The launch was rescheduled for Saturday, July 16 from Space Launch Complex 37.

13 July

  • A Soyuz rocket placed six new Globalstar satellites into orbit early Wednesday. The Soyuz 2 rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 7:24 PM Phoenix time Tuesday (0227 UTC)
  • Countdown commenced for PSLV-C17/GSAT-12 Mission
  • SpaceX Breaks Ground on Launch Pad for Falcon 9 Heavy at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

12 July

  • China launched a new data relay satellite to support its future human spaceflight activities. The Long March 3C rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 8:41 AM Phoenix time (1541 GMT) Monday and placed the Tianlian 1-02 satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit.
  • NASA has granted the final space shuttle mission an extra day in orbit to complete their work at the International Space Station. Shuttle managers determined there were enough consumables on board shuttle Atlantis to allow the orbiter to remain in orbit another day, giving the four-person STS-135 crew more time to complete their transfer of supplies to the ISS. Atlantis is now scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center at 2:56 AM Phoenix time (0956 GMT) on July 21.
  • Today, the spacewalkers will begin the day with the most crucial task of the outing: retrieving a broken cooling pump module from a storage platform on the exterior of the station and installing it inside the shuttle Atlantis’ payload bay.

11 July

  • The Planetary Science Institute (PSI) and XCOR Aerospace have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that lays the groundwork for flying the human-operated Atsa Suborbital Observatory aboard XCOR’s Lynx spacecraft. The Atsa project will use crewed reusable suborbital spacecraft equipped with a specially designed telescope to provide low-cost space-based observations above the contaminating atmosphere of Earth, while avoiding some operational constraints of satellite telescope systems.
  • The launch of Russia’s Soyuz-2.1a space carrier with six U.S. Globalstar-2 communications satellites, has been postponed due to technical reasons. The spacecraft equipped with a Fregat booster was scheduled to blast off on July 11 at 6:58 Moscow time (2:58 GMT) from the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan.

10 July

  • Atlantis completed the docking maneuvers today. This was Atlantis’ 19th docking to a Space Station – based on a total of seven dockings to the Russian space station MIR, and 12 to ISS – placing her in history as the single vehicle with the most space station dockings.

9 July

8 July

  • The shuttle Atlantis has launched successfully, following a dramatic hold at T-minus 31 seconds. The count was resumed almost immediately.

7 July

  • A Long March rocket placed into orbit the latest in a series of Chinese experimental satellites on Wednesday. The Long March 2C rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 9:21 AM Phoenix time (0421 UTC Thurday) Wednesday and placed the Shi Jian (SJ) 11-03 satellite into orbit.
  • A proposed appropriations bill released Wednesday by a House of Representatives committee would slash nearly $2 billion from NASA’s 2012 budget request and end the troubled James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) program.
  • Next week, Neptune will complete its first full orbit of the Sun since it was discovered in 1846. The blue planet, the farthest out in the Solar System, remains one of Earth’s most mysterious neighbours, but scientists now know one thing that they hadn’t for the past 165 years: the precise length of its day.

6 July

  • Countdown clocks started Tuesday afternoon for Friday’s scheduled launch of the space shuttle Atlantis on the final mission of the shuttle program, but weather could delay the mission. The countdown started Tuesday at 1 pm EDT (1700 GMT) for the launch of mission STS-135, scheduled for 8:26 am Phoenix time (1526 GMT).
  • Technology Review’s John Logsdon writes – “Forty years ago, I wrote an article for Technology Review titled “Shall We Build the Space Shuttle?” Now, with the 135th and final flight of the shuttle at hand, and the benefit of hindsight, it seems appropriate to ask a slightly different question—”Should We Have Built the Space Shuttle?” “

5 July

  • A while back when NASA released their latest images of Vesta (24 June), some amateur videographers started doing enhancements. See the results at the Planetary Society blog and Emily Lakdawalla’s commentary.

4 July

  • Part two of the NASASpaceFlight history of the Space Shuttle Atlantis – the MIR program.
  • Plans to strip mine the moon may soon be more than just science-fiction

3 July

  • NASASpaceFlight has a long review of the history of the Atlantis space shuttle.

2 July

  • Officials scrubbed an Ariane 5 launch Friday afternoon a few minutes before lift-off (2:43 PM Phoenix time – 2143 UTC) due to a liquid hydrogen valve that failed to close properly. A new launch date has not been announced.

1 July

  • Aviation Week reports that LightSquared has formally presented a revised plan for its nationwide wireless broadband network, as the final report of interference testing shows that its original deployment plan is “incompatible with aviation GPS operations.” Without significant mitigation, the report says LightSquared’s plans to deploy 40,000 high-power terrestrial transmitters across the U.S. “would result in a complete loss of GPS operations below 2,000 ft. above ground level over a large radius” from metropolitan areas. Whether the “revised” plan is viable is the subject of renewed debate.
  • Preparations are on in top gear for the launch of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV- C17) from Sriharikota on July 15 between 4.48 p.m. and 5.08 p.m. The rocket will put into orbit communication satellite GSAT-12. Both the launch vehicle and the satellite were built by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The satellite that weighs 1,410 kg has 12 extended C-band transponders.
  • Atlantis is continuing to behave on Pad 39A as preparations for entering S0007 tasks – otherwise known as the three day launch countdown – remain on track, with the clock’s scheduled to start ticking backwards at 1pm local on Tuesday. STS-135 will mark the final scheduled Space Shuttle mission, although the actual duration of the flight is still being discussed.

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

June 2011

Posted by drdave on June 3, 2011

30 June

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

29 June

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

28 June

27 June

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

26 June

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

25 June

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

24 June

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

23 June

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

22 June

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

21 June

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

20 June

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

19 June

18 June

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

17 June

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

16 June

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

15 June

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

14 June

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

13 June

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

12 June

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

11 June

10 June

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

9 June

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

8 June

7 June

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

6 June

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

5 June

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

4 June

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

3 June

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

2 June

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

1 June

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

Posted in Asteroid, Comet, Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, International Space Station, Mars, Milky Way, NASA, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, Solar System, Soyuz, Sun | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

May 2011

Posted by drdave on May 1, 2011

31 May

  • A recent analysis of lunar rocks reveals that they have the same concentration of water as the Earth’s upper mantle, the layer of near-molten rock just beneath the crust.
  • Astronauts piloted the shuttle Endeavour on a unique course back toward the International Space Station Monday, testing a next-generation laser-based navigation sensor in hopes of verifying it can help guide future voyages to the space station, distant asteroids and Mars.

30 May

  • The space shuttle Endeavour undocked from the International Space Station for the final time Sunday at 8:55 PM Phoenix time Sunday (0355 GMT Monday). The shuttle then first maneuvered away and around the station. It approached the station again, coming within about 300 meters of the station in order to test a sensor system on the station to be used by future spacecraft docking with the ISS. Endeavour is scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 11:35 PM Phoenix time Tuesday night (0635 GMT Wednesday)

29 May

  • Endeavour is due to undock from the space station Sunday night at 8:55 PM Phoenix time (0355 30 May UTC) after nearly two weeks visiting the orbiting lab.
  • Inside a pristine clean room just outside the gate to the Kennedy Space Center, engineers casting brilliant beams of light on NASA’s Jupiter-bound Juno spacecraft finished checking the power efficiency of its 18,600 solar cells last week.

28 May

27 May

  • A battery of NASA payloads, including missions to Jupiter and Mars, occupy the Atlas 5 rocket manifest for the balance of 2011.
  • At 2:02 AM Phoenix time, Fincke and Chamitoff completed the 1,000th hour of spacewalk activity for space station assembly and maintenance. It also left Fincke on the threshold of a personal mark. About 5 p.m. Friday evening he will become the U.S. astronaut with the most time in space, more than 377 days, including two long-duration station missions. That will surpass the time in space of Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office.

26 May

  • NASA announced Wednesday that it will launch a robotic mission in 2016 to fly to a near Earth asteroid and return a sample to Earth. The Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission will be the third in NASA’s New Frontier program of mid-range planetary science missions. OSIRIS-REx will launch in 2016 to fly to asteroid 1999 RQ36, rendezvousing with it in 2020.
  • Two astronauts spent nearly seven hours outside the International Space Station on Wednesday completing a variety of tasks. During a spacewalk that lasted six hours and 54 minutes, Drew Feustel and Mike Fincke installed a new fixture on the Zarya module that can be used by the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm.

25 May

  • NASA will end efforts this month to restore communications with the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, effectively ending a mission that started over seven years ago. Spirit has been out of communication since March 2010, when it went into hibernation to conserve power during the Martian winter. Project officials speculate that the rover, stuck in a patch of sand for two years, suffered damage during the cold winter since it could not position itself to generate enough power from its solar cells to run heaters.
  • Two astronauts floated outside the International Space Station Wednesday (May 25) to upgrade the orbiting lab and complete some unfinished work from an earlier spacewalk. Endeavour shuttle astronauts Andrew Feustel and Mike Fincke began the third spacewalk of their mission at 10:43 PM Phoenix time (0543 GMT). The outing is expected to last about 6 1/2 hours. This is the sixth spacewalk of Feustel’s career, and the seventh for Fincke.

24 May

  • Expedition 27 Commander Dmitry Kondratyev and Flight Engineers Cady Coleman and Paolo Nespoli safely landed their Soyuz spacecraft on the Kazakhstan steppe Monday, wrapping up a five-month stay aboard the International Space Station.
  • Experts are examining the backshell for the Mars Science Laboratory, which was improperly lifted at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) last week, NASA says. The accident apparently involved the backshell being lifted with a crane in the wrong attitude, placing out-of-specification strain on clamps holding it together.

23 May

  • Nasa’s three-decade-long Space Shuttle era will come to a close on 8 July 2011. The US agency has confirmed the date for the blast-off for Atlantis, which will be the final launch of the Space Shuttle program. The STS-135 mission will be a 12-day flight to the International Space Station. The four crew members, shuttle commander Christopher Ferguson, pilot Douglas Hurley and mission specialists Rex Walheim and Sandra Magnus, are all veterans of the program.
  • NASA’s twin lunar probes have arrived in Florida to begin final preparations for a launch in late summer. The two Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory spacecraft (GRAIL) were shipped from Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, to the Astrotech payload processing facility in Titusville, Fla., Friday, May 20. 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.
  • Lou Friedman weighs in with “In my view the situation in the United States with respect to access to space is no different than if we had a space czar whose motive was to keep the country grounded.”

22 May

  • Endeavour’s flight crew have completed the second of four planned EVAs/spacewalks – focusing on port SARJ and Dextre lubrication and ammonia coolant line and tank work – lasting an epic eight hours and seven minutes. The spacewalk came after mission managers officially cleared Endeavour’s Thermal Protection System for reentry, following a multi-day review process of the vehicle’s ascent data, on-orbiter inspections, RPM photography, and Focused Inspection data.

21 May

  • An Ariane 5 launcher lifted off this evening from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on its mission to place two telecommunications satellites, ST-2 and GSAT-8, into their planned transfer orbits. Flight VA202 was the third Ariane 5 launch of 2011.
  • A Proton rocket successfully launched an American commercial communications satellite early Saturday. The Proton M lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 21:15 PM Phoenix time Friday (1915 UTC Friday, 1:15 am local time Saturday) and inserted the Telstar 14R satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit nine hours and 13 minutes later

20 May

  • Endeavour’s flight crew are working through the mission’s first EVA, focusing on MISSE experiment swap outs and ammonia jumper line installations. Meanwhile, engineers on the ground are pouring over imagery data from FD-3′s RPM (R-bar Pitch Maneuver) which helped engineers identify a debris impact area on Endeavour that might require a Focused Inspection (FI) during FD-6 (Saturday).
  • An Ariane 5 rocket is scheduled to blast off Friday with two satellites to provide direct television broadcasting and navigation services. Liftoff is set for 2038 UTC (1:38 PM Phoenix time) from Kourou, French Guiana.
  • Russia’s Proton-M carrier rocket with the U.S. Telstar-14P communication satellite on board will be launched from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan late on Friday

19 May

  • Astronomers have detected a group of large planets not orbiting any stars in a region near the center of the galaxy. Astronomers believe that these planets formed around stars and were later ejected due to gravitation interactions with other bodies. They project that the total number of free-floating planets in the galaxy is at least twice the number of stars.
  • NASA reported that space shuttle Endeavour astronauts successfully completed their primary mission this morning — delivering and attaching the $2 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to a truss outside the International Space Station. It is the largest scientific collaboration to use the laboratory. This investigation is sponsored by the United States Department of Energy and made possible by funding from 16 different nations. The instrument weighs nearly 8 tons.

18 May

  • In another historic milestone for Endeavour’s final flight, the fleet’s youngest orbiter chased down the International Space Station (ISS) to kick start the docked phase of the STS-134 mission. Endeavour arrived in superb shape, with the Mission Management Team (MMT) only having to review a handful of very minor issues, following an extremely clean ascent to orbit.
  • Comet Hartley 2 continues to puzzle scientists. Images by the EPOXI spacecraft in November 2010, the measurements of water, methanol, carbon dioxide and ethanol suggest a complex interior, which is the subject of a lot of speculation. “We haven’t seen a comet like this before,” says Michael Mumma of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “Hartley-2 could be the first of a new breed.”

17 May

  • The New Scientist is having a contest. The prize is a rock, which is a fragment of a larger piece that was blasted off the surface of the red planet by an impact long ago.

16 May

  • Endeavour has successfully reached orbit and is on its way to the International Space Station.
  • NASA started countdown clocks on Friday for Monday morning’s scheduled launch of the space shuttle Endeavour on that orbiter’s final mission. Countdown clocks started at 5:00 AM Phoenix time (1100 UTC) Friday for the launch, scheduled for 5:56 am Phoenix time (1256 UTC) Monday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

15 May

  • Commercial space pioneer Robert Bigelow, author Dr. John Logsdon and former Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin are among the featured participants coming for the International Space Development Conference in Huntsville this week.
  • European Space Agency (ESA) Arianespace will launch India’s heavy geo-stationary satellite (GSAT-8), intended for communication purposes, on board its Ariane-5 rocket May 20 from its space center in French Guiana.

14 May

  • Endeavour remains on track for launch on Monday, as she hit the start of her S0007 Launch Countdown operation on time at 7am Friday morning. No issues are being worked on the vehicle, although a meeting on Thursday confirmed a decision not to reopen the Payload Bay in order to help the STP-H3 VADER experiment, which is struggling to cope with the extended stay at the launch pad.
  • It’s been rumored for a while now, but NASA’s plans to respond to congressional (mal)direction are starting to come into focus, and it’s not a pretty picture. Over at the Orlando Sentinel, Mark Matthews has the story:

    NASA’s latest plan to replace the space shuttle would spend at least $10 billion during the next six years to test-fly a rocket made of recycled parts of the shuttle — with no guarantee the rocket would ever be used again, according to documents obtained by the Orlando Sentinel.

  • The X PRIZE Foundation and the LEGO Group today announced MoonBots 2.0: A Google Lunar X PRIZE LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Challenge. This second annual contest will challenge teams of youth to design, program, and construct robots that perform simulated lunar missions similar to those required to win the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, a private race to the Moon designed to enable commercial exploration of space while engaging the global public. To further this purpose, the X PRIZE Foundation and the LEGO Group have partnered with WIRED magazine and FIRST robotics to offer a competition that will excite students and their families about the Moon, robotics, and team building.

13 May

  • An underground ocean of magma powers much of the volcanic activity on Jupiter’s moon, Io. Scientists have cracked a long-standing puzzle posed by NASA’s defunct Galileo probe, which orbited giant Jupiter and surveyed its moons from 1995 to 2003. The Galileo team used the planet’s strong magnetic field to look for distinct radio waves bouncing back from the Jovian moons, a technique that previously netted evidence for underground saltwater oceans on Europa, Callisto and Ganymede.
  • China, the up-and-coming space power is finishing up testing on two large unmanned spacecraft scheduled to blast off later this year for the country’s first in-orbit docking demonstration.

12 May

  • NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has obtained its first image of the giant asteroid Vesta, which will help fine-tune navigation during its approach. Dawn expects to achieve orbit around Vesta on July 16, when the asteroid is about 117 million miles from Earth.
  • The six astronauts who will fly space shuttle Endeavour’s final mission returned to Florida today, hoping next Monday’s scheduled second-try at their launch is the trick.
  • For the first time, a Soyuz undocking is expected to take place while a space shuttle is docked. Endeavour is set to launch May 16 on the STS-134 mission to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and continue station outfitting. All Soyuz activities during STS-134 will be incorporated into mission coverage. Expedition 27 Commander Dmitry Kondratyev, NASA Flight Engineer Cady Coleman and European Space Agency Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli are scheduled to land in their Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft in southern Kazakhstan at 7:26 PM Phoenix time on May 23 (8:26 a.m. local time May 24).

11 May

  • The Crab Nebula, the dusty remains of an exploded star, has unleashed a surprisingly massive flare that is five times more powerful than any eruption previously seen from the celestial object, leaving scientists struggling to explain the event, NASA says. The so-called “superflare” was detected on April 12 by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, which is continuously mapping the sky in gamma ray wavelengths in search of gamma-ray bursts, the brightest explosions in the universe.
  • Kennedy Space Center (KSC) engineering teams have realigned processing targets for STS-135 to point towards a July 12 launch date. The preliminary target is dependant on numerous – and upcoming – factors, not least the need for Endeavour to launch on her re-planned May 16 date, but also a nominal pad turnaround and a smooth pre-launch flow for Atlantis herself.

10 May

  • NASA shuttle managers announced Monday that they have competed repairs to the shuttle Endeavour and set May 16th as the new launch date for the penultimate shuttle mission.

9 May

  • Yahsat Y1A, slated to provide high definition television (HDTV) to audiences across the Middle East, Africa and South West Asia, has successfully reached its orbital slot at 52.5 degrees East two weeks after launch. The communications satellite was launched into space by Aprianespace on 22 April 2011, alongside Intelsat’s New Dawn satellite.

8 May

  • China successfully launched a space environment-monitoring rocket Saturday morning from the southern island province of Hainan as part of the nation’s key “Meridian Project.” The rocket was sent into space at 7 a.m. from a launch site in Hainan, said a statement from the Center for Space Science and Applied Research of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).
  • The official ceremony marking ESA’s handover of the Soyuz launch site to Arianespace took place today at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, after the site was declared ready for the first flight and the completion of a simulated launch campaign.

7 May

  • United Launch Alliance successfully launched an Atlas V 401 with a Centaur upper stage. The payload was the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS).
  • NASA announced Friday that the launch of Endeavour on the next-to-last shuttle mission has been delayed again, this time to no earlier than May 16, as repairs continue. The root cause of the failure in the power controller box, called a Load Control Assembly, has not yet been found.
  • “China has the fastest growing economy in the world. But the American free enterprise system, which allows anyone with a better mousetrap to compete, is what will ensure that the United States remains the world’s greatest superpower of innovation,” the native of South Africa wrote Wednesday.
    Musk wrote the blog nearly three weeks after officials of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. acknowledged at a space conference that they could not match SpaceX’s launch prices.

6 May

  • The United Launch Alliance (ULA) will make a second attempt to launch their Atlas V 401 from Cape Canaveral on Saturday at 2:10pm EDT, following several failed attempts to find a gap in unacceptable weather during the 40 minute launch window on Friday – resulting in a 24 hour scrub turnaround. The Atlas V is carrying the first in a new series of early warning satellites to detect missile launches.
  • Endeavour’s final mission is now tracking a No Earlier Than (NET) May 16 launch date, following a Program level meeting to evaluate the schedule for the troubleshooting work on the orbiter’s Auxiliary Power Unit (APU-1) heater system. Work has – and continues to – focus on the Aft Load Controller Assembly (ALCA-2), while additional work is being performed on replacing wiring and thermostats to provide improved fault mitigation.

5 May

  • 50th anniversary of Alan Shepard historic flight.
  • Space tourist trips around the Moon will get a roomier spaceship. This newly announced habitation module will almost double the room in the Soyuz, adding substantial volume to the otherwise cramped quarters of the Russian capsule

4 May

3 May

  • NASA Space Shuttle and International Space Station managers met Monday and determined that Tuesday 10 May is the earliest Endeavour could be launched on the STS-134 mission with ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori and the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.
  • An asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier will come closer to Earth this autumn than our own moon does, causing scientists to hold their breath as it zooms by. But they’ll be nervous with excitement, not with worry about a possible disaster. There’s no danger of an impact when the asteroid 2005 YU55 makes its close flyby 8 November, coming within 201,700 miles (325,000 kilometers) of Earth.

2 May

  • The European Space Agency (ESA) reports on the recent testing of the the Eurobot Ground Prototype (Red Rover) between 18-22 April at Rio Tinto in Andalucia, southern Spain. This new robotic assistant is designed to move around and work on a planet either on its own or in league with astronauts.
  • Astrobiology Magazine discusses finding fossils in the desert sands of Morrocco, and the implications for fossil hunting on Mars.
  • The failure of the hybrid drivers in the Load Control Assembly (LCA) will require the removal and replacement of the LCA and a two day test regime before Endeavour can be returned to the scrubbed countdown. Conflicts with the 6 May launch of an Atlas 5 rocket means that Endeavour will launch no earlier than (NET) 8 May.

1 May

  • The space shuttle Endeavour will launch no earlier than May 8 as engineers continue to troubleshoot a problem with heaters in one of the orbiter’s auxiliary power units (APUs), NASA announced Sunday morning. NASA had hoped to launch Endeavour on mission STS-134 on Monday afternoon, after the APU heater problem scrubbed Friday’s launch attempt. However, initial efforts to identify and solve the problem Saturday failed. Engineers now believe the problem is with the Load Control Assembly on the shuttle’s aft compartment that will be replaced, work that pushes back the launch to at least May 8 and possibly later. NASA plans to announce an official launch date on Monday or Tuesday.

Posted in Asteroid, Comet, Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, International Space Station, Jupiter, Mars, Moon, NASA, Russian Space Agency, Solar System, Space Shuttle | 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 »

November 2010

Posted by drdave on November 7, 2010

30 November

  • Nemesis
  • Managers of NASA’s Cassini spacecraft mission expect to get a full stream of data during this week’s flyby of the Saturnian moon Enceladus, according to a release from Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the mission for NASA. Cassini resumed normal operations last week after going into safe mode on Nov. 2.

29 November 2010

  • Astrobiology Magazine discusses growing crops on other planets. Related discussions are gardens on the international space station, here and here.
  • Despite the large amount of progress made towards flight rationale – called for in relation to Discovery’s External Tank (ET-137) stringer cracks – teams are heading into another week of deliberations, with a large amount of work ahead of them. Although STS-133 is threatening to move into next year, NASA managers will continue to evaluate the opportunity to make a late December window.
  • Discovery.com discusses an unpublished paper submitted to the arXiv preprint service by world-renowned Oxford University physicist Roger Penrose and co-author Vahe Gurzadyan from the Yerevan Physics Institute in Armenia. They have announced a pattern in the CMBR that could reveal events that occurred before the Big Bang. The new proposal contradicts the current model of an early inflationary period.

28 November 2010

  • Discovery Magazine discusses the Large Hadron Collider and the finding that the big bang behaves like a liquid.

27 November 2010

  • Arianespace are back on the pace, with another dual launch taking place yesterday via their Ariane 5 ECA launch vehicle. The European workhorse is lofting HYLAS 1 and Intelsat 17 into their transfer orbits, with lift-off on time at 18:39 GMT – launching from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

26 November 2010

  • The European Space Agency has announced that two of 31 mission proposals have been chosen for additional development funding. The CarbonSat mission would quantify and monitor the distribution of two of the most important greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, also released through human activity: carbon dioxide and methane. Data from the mission would lead to a better understanding of the sources and sinks of these two gases and how they are linked to climate change. The FLEX mission aims to provide global maps of vegetation fluorescence, which can be converted into an indicator of photosynthetic activity. These data would improve our understanding of how much carbon is stored in plants and their role in the carbon and water cycles.
  • The Soyuz capsule with the three crew members of ISS Expedition 24/25 — Fyodor Yuгchikhin, Shannon Walker and Douglas Wheelock– landed softly at 07:46 Moscow time in the Kazakh steppe, a Mission Control Centre source told Itar-Tass.

25 November 2010

  • China launched the second Shen Tong-1 military communications satellite via a CZ-3A Chang Zheng-3A (Y19) launch vehicle, providing secured voice/data communications services for PLA ground users in Ku-band. Receiving the designation ZX-20A ZhongZhing-20A, the satellite was launched from the Xi Chang Satellite Launch Center, in Sichuan Province at 00:09 loca time on Friday.

24 November 2010

  • A Christmas mission may be the cards for Discovery’s final mission, as managers at the Program Requirements Control Board (PRCB) decided against shooting for the early December launch window opportunities. More work is required on assessing the status of External Tank (ET-137), resulting in a move to the December 17-20 window – although this target remains preliminary at best.
  • The fifth Ariane 5 mission of 2010 was given the go-ahead today for its November 26 liftoff with Arianespace’s dual payload of the Intelsat 17 and HYLAS 1 satellites.

23 November 2010

  • Observers tracking movements of the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B secretive space plane report the spacecraft is dropping altitude, a possible sign the clandestine mission is near landing as it approaches the limit of the its design life.

22 November 2010

  • The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees commercial space transportation, granted SpaceX the one-year license for re-entry of the Dragon capsule. This was the first time it sanctioned a re-entry operation.

21 November 2010

  • ULA launched the most powerful unmanned rocket, a 23-story Delta IV Heavy. The rocket launched at 3:58 PM Phoenix time from Cape Canaveral, carrying a classified National Reconnaissance Office spacecraft. It was the firm’s eighth launch of the year.

20 November 2010

  • The launch attempt of the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy with a National Reconnaissance Office payload was scrubbed November 19.

19 November 2010

  • Orbital Sciences Corporation used their Minotaur IV launch vehicle to loft eight satellites for the United States Government and university research programmes on Friday night. The mission, designated STP S-26, launched from the Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska one minute into a 90-minute window, with a lift-off time of 20:25 pm Eastern (01:25 UTC).
  • The NASA spacecraft that flew close to a distant comet earlier this month found itself hurtling through an unexpected cosmic ice storm, scientists revealed today. Speeding at 27,000 mph, the Deep Impact craft flew within 435 miles of comet Hartley 2 on 4th November – only the fifth time a comet had been viewed up close. Spectacular new images from the flyby revealed a blizzard of white specks surrounding the nearly 1 1/2-mile-long peanut-shaped comet.

18 November 2010

17 November 2010

  • SpaceShipTwo, Virgin Galactic’s commercial spaceliner built to fly paying passengers on suborbital thrill rides,made its third gliding flight from its mothership — the WhiteKnightTwo — high above the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. This latest glide test involved the piloting skills of Pete Siebold, along with co-pilot Clint Nichols.

16 November 2010

15 November 2010

  • NASA plans a news conference on 18 November to discuss findings by EPOXI during the rendezvous with comet Hartley 2.
  • A cosmic explosion seen 31 years ago may have been the birth cry of the youngest black hole ever observed, which could help researchers understand how black holes are born and evolve.

14 November 2010

  • The Russian-U.S. company International Launch Services (ILS) is scheduled to launch a Proton-M heavy carrier rocket with the SkyTerra 1 satellite at 10:29 AM Phoenix time today (08:29 p.m. Moscow time or 17:29 UTC) from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan. The satellite is designed to provide voice and data services in L-band.

13 November 2010

  • The Spaceship Company recently broke ground for its new final assembly, integration and test hangar at Mojave Air & Space Port. The new building, a 68,000-square-foot, clear-span, 737-sized hangar including offices, will serve as TSC’s operating headquarters once complete. It will be used primarily for the final assembly, integration and testing of TSC’s vehicles before they enter service, according to the company.
  • Shuttle repair crews are working this weekend to keep Discovery on track for a launch during a seven-day window that opens Nov. 30, a possibility even after new damage was uncovered Friday. Another cracked part was found on the shuttle’s external tank, next to one already under inspection.

12 November 2010

  • The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced that the next launch of the H-II Transfer Vehicle 2 (HTV2) cargo transporter to the International Space Station (ISS) has been scheduled for 20 January 2011. The launch window opens at 3:29 PM Japan time (06:29 UTC).
  • A leaking hydrogen vent line attachment fitting on the side of the shuttle Discovery’s external tank was removed and disassembled overnight, revealing an unevenly compressed internal seal. The quick-disconnect hardware also may have a less concentric fit than pre-fueling measurements indicated.

11 November 2010

  • The website NASASpaceflight, has the details on the cracks found in the external tank of the Space Shuttle Discovery.
  • Aerojet successfully test fired its AJ26 rocket engine at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The AJ26 engine is an oxidizer-rich, staged-combustion LO2/Kerosene engine with a pintel injector. It achieves very high performance in a lightweight compact package. Based on the NK-33 engine originally designed and produced in Russia for the Russian N1 lunar launch vehicle, the liquid-fuel AJ26 will provide boost for the first stage of the Taurus II launch vehicle. The engine tested today is the first of four engines to be tested at Stennis throughout the next several months. This testing is being conducted to support the Taurus II Initial Launch Capability (ILC) in the third quarter of 2011.
  • Beset by management problems, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is like to cost 1.5 Billion more than budgeted, and slip from a launch in 2014 to late 2015.

10 November 2010

  • A new study from Galaxy Zoo’s second crowd-sourced scientific effort, buoys the idea that galaxies with central bars somehow encourage the formation of big, blue and short-lived stars, and funnel gas and dust to supermassive black holes lurking at their cores. In the process, bars may quickly consume star-making materials to leave behind only a “dead” galaxy of red and fading stars.
  • The NASA Hubble Space Telescope has returned an image of a wandering cloud of gas and dust from an area of the well-known Pleiades star cluster. Starlight from Merope is slowly destroying the small nebula.

9 November 2010

  • NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has unveiled a previously unseen structure centered in the Milky Way. The feature spans 50,000 light-years and may be the remnant of an eruption from a supersized black hole at the center of our galaxy. “What we see are two gamma-ray-emitting bubbles that extend 25,000 light-years north and south of the galactic center,” said Doug Finkbeiner, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., who first recognized the feature. “We don’t fully understand their nature or origin.”
  • Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., expect the Cassini spacecraft will resume normal operations on 24 November, after the spacecraft went into safe mode on 2 November.
  • NASA hopes to lay the groundwork over the next six months for developing an affordable heavy-lift launch vehicle with $7.5 million in study contracts it plans to spread across 13 U.S. companies. The study contracts, announced Nov. 8, are NASA’s initial response to the 2010 NASA Authorization Act, which requires the agency to begin work this year on a vehicle capable of lifting at least 70 metric tons to low Earth orbit by 2016.

8 November 2010

  • China unveiled an image of the Bay of Rainbows taken by the lunar orbiter Chang’e-2 from a designed altitude of 18.7 kilometers. The image was taken on 28 October, and covers the area that China plans to land its next mission.
  • A new theoretical model of Solar coronal mass ejections (CMEs) will be presented at the 52nd Annual Meeting of the APS Plasma Physics Division. The Sun sporadically expels trillions of tons of million-degree hydrogen gas during a CME. Such clouds are enormous in size (spanning millions of miles) and are made up of magnetized plasma gases, so hot that hydrogen atoms are ionized. CMEs are rapidly accelerated by magnetic forces to speeds of hundreds of kilometers per second to upwards of 2,000 kilometers per second in several tens of minutes. CMEs are closely related to solar flares and, when they impinge on the Earth, can trigger spectacular auroral displays. They also induce strong electric currents in the Earth’s plasma atmosphere (i.e., the magnetosphere and ionosphere), leading to outages in telecommunications and GPS systems and even the collapse of electric power grids if the disturbances are very severe.

7 November 2010

  • Super Earths may be hostile to life, suggests a New Scientist article. “Rocky planets a few times heavier than Earth that we thought might be life-friendly may lack one vital feature: a protective magnetic field. Planets are thought to owe their magnetic fields to an iron core that is at least partly molten. But a simulation of super-Earths between a few times and 10 times Earth’s mass suggests that high pressures will keep the core solid, according to Guillaume Morard of the Institute of Mineralogy and Physics of Condensed Matter in Paris, France, and his team (arxiv.org/1010.5133).”

6 November 2010

5 November 2010

  • Discovery was making her first real attempt to launch on Friday, as the loading of her External Tank (ET-137) picked up following approval by the Mission Management Team (MMT). Tanking had been nominal until a leak was detected on the Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate (GUCP) – causing managers to carry out testing prior to detanking – ultimately leading to a delay to November 30.
  • At 8:20 PM Phoenix time, the ULA team successfully launched the fourth COSMO-SkyMed satellite for Boeing, the Italian Space Agency, Ministry of Defence and Thales Alenia Space. The ULA Delta II 7420-10 configuration vehicle used a ULA first stage booster powered by a Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RS-27A main engine and four Alliant Techsystems (ATK) strap-on solid rocket boosters. An Aerojet AJ10-118K engine powered the second stage. The payload was encased by a 10-foot-diameter composite payload fairing. COSMO-SkyMed 4 is the final satellite in the initial constellation for this system. Each of the four satellites is equipped with a high-resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar operating in X-band.
  • NASA and JPL have released more information on comet Hartley 2.
  • The Spaceship Company (TSC), which plans to be the first to carry paying passengers into space, will break ground on its Final Assembly, Integration and Test Hangar (FAITH) production hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port on Tuesday, 9 November 2010. The company is owned by Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic and will produce the White Knight Two and Space Ship Two vehicles.
  • Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is awaiting U.S. regulatory approval to launch its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo vessel as soon as 20 November after more than a year spent tying up loose ends associated with the recoverable space capsule’s re-entry license application.

4 November 2010

3 November 2010

  • The Mission Management Team (MMT) evaluations into the anomalies on the redundant Main Engine Controller (MEC) on SSME-3 have concluded with the approval for the required flight rationale, clearing Discovery to press ahead with Thursday’s launch attempt. Discovery’s next challenge is out of her control, with an 80 percent chance of unacceptable weather at T-0.

2 November 2010

  • Discovery has been given another hurdle to negotiate ahead of her opening launch attempt, after an electrical issue was noted on the redundant Main Engine Controller (MEC) on SSME-3. The original problem had been classed as cleared, following cycling and troubleshooting. However, a Mission Management Team (MMT) meeting later on Tuesday decided to scrub for at least 24 hours to work towards flight rationale.

1 November 2010

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