NSS Phoenix Space News

Archive for the ‘The Planetary Society’ Category

November 2011

Posted by drdave on November 2, 2011

30 November

  • The second flight of the Air Force’s classified X-37B spaceplane will be extended beyond its original end this week. An Atlas 5 launched the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle 2 in March on what was originally announced to be a 270-day mission, which meant the spaceplane would have landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California this Wednesday. Air Force officials said this week the mission will be extended for an unspecified period to “extract the maximum value” from the mission.
  • A Long March 2C rocket launched a Chinese reconnaissance satellite on Wednesday. The rocket lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center at 11:50 AM Phoenix time Tuesday (1850 UTC Tuesday, 2:50 am local time Wednesday) and placed the Yaogan 13 satellite into orbit.
  • NASA has agreed to pay Boeing Satellite Systems some $289 million to build an additional Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS). The U.S. space agency placed the spacecraft order as the first of two available contract options was about to expire.

29 November

28 November

  • Russia has successfully launched another Kosmos (Glonass-M) class satellite into orbit, following lift-off of their Soyuz 2-1B launch vehicle from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia. Launch occurred at 08:25 UTC on Monday, with a successful spacecraft separation confirmed just over three hours later.
  • Virgin Galactic, which plans to send paying tourists to space from the New Mexico Spaceport in southern New Mexico, has rented a 2,500-square-foot office on the top floor of the new Green Offices at 166 South Roadrunner Parkway, about two blocks south of the MountainView Regional Medical Center in Las Cruces New Mexico.
  • When NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reaches Pluto in July 2015, it may find the region more hazardous than anticipated. The discovery of several moons around Pluto — and the potential for more — increase the risks during the probe’s flyby.

27 November

  • All eyes are on Curiosity today, as it speeds toward Mars and an August 2012 landing.

26 November

  • An Atlas 5 rocket successfully placed NASA’s latest Mars rover on a trajectory to the Red Planet on Saturday. The Atlas 5 541 lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 10:02 am EST (1502 GMT), at the beginning of its launch window. After two burns of the rocket’s Centaur upper stage, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft separated from the Centaur 44 minutes after launch.
  • Contact with Phobos-Grunt, the Russian Mars mission stranded in Earth orbit for over two weeks, was lost again late this week.
  • International Launch Services (ILS) successfully carried the AsiaSat 7 satellite into orbit today on an ILS Proton for Asia Satellite Telecommunications Company Limited (AsiaSat) of Hong Kong. This was the 5th commercial mission of the year for ILS and the 8th Proton launch so far this year.

25 November

  • The Earth is being bombarded by cosmic rays from elsewhere in the galaxy, and a team of astronomers may have found a potential source: a ‘cocoon’ of cosmic rays in a bubble blown by young, massive stars.
  • New competitors step up in EELV market.

24 November

23 November

  • A European Space Agency antenna in Australia has detected a radio signal from Russia’s Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, the first contract from the Mars-bound spacecraft since it was stranded in Earth orbit two weeks ago. A brief statement on the ESA web site stated that its tracking station near Perth, Australia, detected a signal from the spacecraft at about 3:25 pm EST (2025 GMT) Tuesday. According to reports the station’s 15-meter antenna received a radio signal, but “no meaningful telemetry”.
  • NASA’s space shuttle Enterprise will land next summer on the flight deck of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City. The World War II aircraft-carrier-turned-museum took over ownership of the prototype winged orbiter on Tuesday (22 November) in preparation for Enterprise’s delivery in 2012.

22 November

  • The Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft landed at 7:26 PM Phoenix time Monday (0226 UTC), several hours after undocking from the station. The Soyuz carried American astronaut Mike Fossum, Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov, completing a 167-day mission. Three people, American Dan Burbank and Russians Anatoly Ivanishin and Anton Shkaplerov, remain on the ISS, where they arrived just last week aboard TMA-22. Three new ISS crewmembers will be launched on December 21.
  • Russian Federal Space Agency experts are puzzled by the rising orbit of the Phobos-Grunt unmanned Mars probe, Roscosmos deputy head Vitaly Davydov said on Tuesday. The probe was launched on November 9 but its engines have not put it on course for the Red Planet. The craft, designed to bring back rock and soil samples from the Martian moon Phobos, is currently moving along a so-called support orbit and has been rising by up to one kilometer a day. The Phobos-Grunt probe will likely not fall to Earth until mid-March because of its rising orbit.

21 November

20 November

  • China successfully launched two research satellites, the SW-4 Shiyyan Weixing and the Chuang Xin-1 (3), from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The launch occurred at 00:15 UTC on Sunday from the 603 (SLS-2) launch complex using a Long March (Chang Zheng) 2D launch vehicle.
  • The Orlando Sentinel opines that the “Myopic space budget keeps U.S. grounded”

19 November

  • The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has stopped acquiring images from the 27-year-old Landsat 5 Earth observation satellite due to a rapidly degrading electronic component. Landsat 5 was launched in 1984 and designed to last 3 years. The USGS assumed operation of Landsat 5 in 2001 and managed to bring the aging satellite back from the brink of total failure on several occasions following the malfunction of key subsystems. There is now an increasing likelihood that the Landsat 5 mission is nearing its end. Landsat 8, currently called the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, is now scheduled to be launched in January 2013
  • SpaceX is looking at Puerto Rico, Texas, Hawaii, or Florida to be the home of a new commercial launch facility for its Falcon rocket family.
  • Shackleton Energy wants to be the first to mine the Moon.

18 November

  • An uncrewed Chinese spacecraft that tested docking technology returned to Earth on Thursday. The Shenzhou-8 spacecraft landed in China’s Inner Mongolia region at 4:30 AM Phoenix time (1130 UTC).

17 November

  • Planetary scientists have discovered what they believe to be a lake of water below the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa. Scientists modeled regions of Europa called “chaos terrains”, which are circular features with jumbled surface features. They believes these features are formed by lakes of salty liquid water just a few kilometers below the surface that seep up and break up the icy surface into the rough blocks seen in the chaos terrains.
  • The science team that oversees the imaging system on board NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has released the highest resolution near-global topographic map of the moon ever created.

16 November

  • A Soyuz spacecraft carrying three new International Space Station crewmembers docked with the station early Wednesday, ending any remaining fears that the station would soon have to be decrewed. The Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft docked with the station’s Poisk module at 10:24 PM Phoenix time Tuesday night (0524 UTC Wednesday).
  • Aviation Week reports that “A House-Senate conference committee has finalized a 2012 spending bill that includes $17.8 billion for NASA, funding a space telescope but cutting money for space technology and commercial crew programs. The “minibus” appropriations bill, which combines three separate spending bills, includes full funding for the Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket and Orion MPCV capsule. The budget also provides $530 million for the James Webb Space Telescope, although a provision in the bill sets a cost cap of $8 billion for the program, which has suffered cost overruns and schedule delays. NASA’s commercial crew effort would get $406 million, less than half the $850 million requested by the agency, and the space technology program would get $575 million, a little over half the requested amount.”
  • A robotic Chinese spacecraft that executed the nation’s first in-space docking has separated from its orbital partner in preparation for a return to Earth tomorrow, 17 November.

15 November

  • Emily Lakdawalla at The Planetary Society blog reviews the six day status of the Fobos-Grunt mission to Mars. There were official comments today about the status of the mission from Roskosmos head Vladimir Popovkin.
  • RIA Novosti has published an index to all of their Fobos-Grunt articles.

14 November

  • China’s two unmanned spacecraft separated and then re-docked smoothly on Monday, following the first successful docking on 3 November.
  • An eclectic lineup of former astronauts, aerospace industry companies, and critics have sent a pair of letters to Congress supporting full funding for NASA’s commercial spacecraft development program in FY 2012. NASA says it needs $850 million to move the Commercial Crew (CCDev) program along so private industry can deliver flights to the International Space Station (ISS) by the end of 2016. Failure to do so this year will result in a year’s delay in having an American solution to put people into low earth orbit (LEO) along with $480 million going out of the U.S. to Russia the following year for astronaut seats on Soyuz capsules, asserts the agency.
  • Russia’s Phobos-Grunt spacecraft remains stuck in low Earth orbit and ground teams have until early December to try to return it to operations before declaring the mission lost.
  • Aviation Week discusses the Space Launch System: “Struggling to stay within a flat budget for the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS), NASA plans to halt development of the J-2X rocket engine that will power its upper stage after the ongoing development-test series. Once the pacing item for the defunct Ares I crew launch vehicle, the Saturn-heritage J-2X may not fly until well into the 2020s. With the SLS program office expecting an annual development budget of $1.2 billion, near-term engine-development money is deemed better spent on a throwaway version of the RS-25D space shuttle main engine (SSME) that will power the SLS main stage. That engine—designated RS-25E—will use advanced manufacturing and design changes to lower the cost of the reusable SSME.”

13 November

  • Russia successfully launched the Soyuz TMA-22 manned mission to the International Space Station (ISS) at 0414 UTC (9:14 PM Phoenix time). The three man crew will return the ISS to its full six man crew for the first time since three crew returned on 16 September aboard TMA-21. TMA-22 is the first manned mission since the failure of the Soyuz resupply mission in August.
  • Pessimism continues to surround the Russian Fobos-Grunt mission. No communication has been established as of Sunday evening.

12 November

  • Three astronauts are slated to launch to the International Space Station this weekend, in what will be the first manned flight of the Russian-built Soyuz rocket since a failure in August temporarily grounded the fleet. NASA astronaut Dan Burbank and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin are scheduled to lift off aboard Soyuz TMA-22 from the Baikonour Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sunday, 13 November, at 9:14 PM Phoenix time (0415 UCT 14 November).
  • Latest orbital parameter comments from Ted Molczan: “USSTRATCOM has issued three new TLEs since my comments yesterday on the payload’s rate of decay. They confirm that the apparent small increase in orbital altitude is real, and apparently it is continuing.”

11 November

  • There is essentially no news concerning the status of the Fobos-Grunt mission to the Martian moon Phobos.
  • Emily Lakdawalla has a thorough summary of what is known about the Fobos-Grunt mission over at The Planetary Society.

10 November

  • Russia’s space agency says it has failed so far to fix a probe bound for a moon of Mars that got stuck in Earth’s orbit. Roscosmos spokesman Alexei Kuznetsov says efforts to communicate with the unmanned Phobos-Grunt (Phobos-Ground) spacecraft hadn’t brought any results yet.
  • From NasaSpaceFlight Forum: “Just a short report. [right after the launch] we’ve got telemetry from the 2nd stage of Zenit launcher, it shows normal separation. After the first loop the one and only [SC] telemetry session has been received, it showed deployment of the solar arrays, constant solar orientation and normal work of all systems. After the second loop we found the SC on the initial orbit, it was silent. No telemetry since that. Previous night at Baikonur there were failed attempts to restart the onboard computer. This attempts will be repeated this night.”

9 November

  • China’s YaoGan Weixing-12 (YG-12) satellite, highly likely to be used for military purposes, has been launched into orbit by a CZ-4B Chang Zheng-4B (Long March 4B) rocket on Wednesday. The launch took place from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center at 11:21 am local time.
  • In a full 500 second test firing, the J-2X engine, a key part of the evolved Space Launch System (SLS), has been put through its paces at NASA’s Stennis Space Center (SSC). Up to three of the powerful engines will power the Upper Stage of the Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLV), in configurations which includes sending humans and cargo to Mars.
  • NASA will test the re-entry capabilities of the Orion capsule in 2013 or 2014 using a Delta IV Heavy rocket to launch the spacecraft into an elliptical orbit 5,000 miles high. At the end of the second orbit, the unmanned test vehicle will re-enter the atmosphere at 20,000 miles per hour.

8 November

  • Russia launched the Fobos-Grunt mission to return a sample from the Martian moon Phobos. The Earth escape burns failed and the spacecraft is stranded in Earth orbit. Russian space scientists have three days to rescue the mission.
  • An asteroid the size of a city block zoomed inside the moon’s orbit today in a rare flyby that marked the closest approach to Earth by such a big space rock in 35 years. The asteroid 2005 YU55 came within 324,600 kilometers of Earth at 2328 UTC Tuesday evening before speeding off into deep space once again at about 46,700 kph.

7 November

6 November

  • As managers work on finalizing the exploration road map for their new flagship vehicles, one of the first pieces in the puzzle, the debut of the Orion crew vehicle in space, has been given final approval by NASA. The Exploration Test Flight (EFT-1) will see Orion launched by a Delta IV-Heavy from Cape Canaveral in the latter part of 2013, or early 2014.

5 November

  • NASA’s Deep Space Network personnel sent commands to the Voyager 2 spacecraft on 4 November to switch to the backup set of thrusters that controls the roll of the spacecraft. Confirmation was received today that the spacecraft accepted the commands. The change will allow the 34-year-old spacecraft to reduce the amount of power it requires to operate and use previously unused thrusters as it continues its journey toward interstellar space, beyond our solar system.

4 November

  • Russia has successfully launched a Proton-M launch vehicle with three GLONASS-M navigation satellites from the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan. ­The launch was to have taken place a day earlier, but was delayed as a switch malfunction in the ground-control system was discovered during a pre-launch test.

3 November

  • NASA’s next Mars rover has been placed atop the rocket that will launch it toward the Red Planet three weeks from now, officials announced today. Technicians hoisted the car-size Curiosity rover, the centerpiece of NASA’s $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory mission, atop its Atlas 5 rocket early Thursday morning at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Rocket and rover are slated to blast off on 25 November.

2 November

  • The Progress M-13M/45P cargo spacecraft has docked with the International Space Station. The spacecraft docked with the Pirs module of the ISS at 4:41 am Phoenix time (1141 UTC) Wednesday, three days after launch from Baikonur. The spacecraft carries 2.9 tons of food, water, propellant, and other supplies for the crew.
  • China declares first space docking successful.

1 November

  • Boeing and NASA announced Monday plans by the aerospace company to build its commercial crewed spacecraft in a former shuttle hangar at the Kennedy Space Center. Boeing will establish its Commercial Crew Program Office, which may eventually include manufacturing facilities, at KSC’s Orbiter Processing Facility-3 (OPF-3), a facility previously used to maintain shuttles between flights.
  • China’s Shenzhou 8 spacecraft has begun an orbital ballet in pursuit of the Tiangong 1 module (11 foot x 34 foot target). So far, only Russia, the United States and the European Space Agency have launched spacecraft with the ability to rendezvous and dock in orbit. Japan has demonstrated rendezvous and docking technology with its resupply freighter for the International Space Station. If successful, China’s autopilot docking will set the stage for one or two manned Shenzhou flights next year to visit the Tiangong 1 module and form a temporary mini-space station for technology testing and science experiments.
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February 2011

Posted by drdave on February 2, 2011

28 February

  • Discovery spacewalkers wrapped up a six-hour, 34-minute spacewalk Monday, moving a failed 800-pound ammonia pump module, installing an extension cable and extending the rail track along the station’s main truss.

27 February

  • Virgin Galactic has signed a contract with Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Colorado for two seats aboard SpaceShip Two. Six additional seats are an option.
  • NASA’s first solar sail to circle Earth in low orbit is making regular evening passes over much of the United States and Canada over the next week, and may be visible to skywatchers if conditions are clear. The solar sail satellite, called NanoSail-D, is making promising passes over the 48 contiguous U.S. states and southern Canada through Monday, March 7.
  • Discovery.com discusses a double impact crater on Mars. These two impact craters were formed simultaneously. If one meteor smashed into the planet, followed by another impact at a later date, one of the craters would overlap the other. But for this double impact to look so symmetrical, they had to have impacted at the same time.

26 February

  • Discovery has completed its “back flip” maneuver and no damage was found during the inspection. Discovery is scheduled to dock at the International Space Station at 12:16 PM Phoenix time (1916 GMT).

25 February

24 February

  • STS-133 successfully put the Space Shuttle Discovery in orbit, and Discovery is now chasing the International Space Station. Docking is scheduled for 12:16 PM Phoenix time (1916 UTC) on Saturday, 26 February.
  • The Johannes Kepler (ATV-2) resupply spacecraft docked with the Zvezda module on the International Space Station (ISS) at 9:08 AM Phoenix time (1608 UTC) this morning. The cargo craft from the European Space Agency will deliver 1760 kg of dry cargo, including food, clothes and equipment, 860 kg of propellant, and 100 kg of oxygen for Zvezda’s tanks.
  • Launch managers say the next attempt to fly the Taurus XL booster carrying NASA’s Glory climate satellite won’t come until at least Friday morning at 2:09 a.m. local (5:09 a.m. EST) from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. NASA announced that managers are now evaluating possible Glory launch opportunities in early to mid-March.

23 February

  • The Orbital Sciences Taurus rocket was set to launch the Glory satellite early Wednesday morning, at 3:09 AM Phoenix time (1009 UTC), but the countdown was stopped several minutes before launch because of an issue with a control console that was providing erroneous readings that controllers were not able to understand and resolve in time for the launch. The launch is being rescheduled for the same time on Thursday, pending a resolution of the problem.
  • The US Air Force plans to launch the second test flight for the X-37B space plane on 4 March, the service says, provided the weather at Cape Canaveral cooperates.

22 February

  • Scientists debate life’s origins.
  • With the countdown clocks now ticking down for the launch of STS-133 at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) have been hard at work this past week, reconfiguring the station for the arrival of Discovery this Saturday. The reconfiguration period is set to continue this week, as the ISS and Expedition 26 crew gear up for STS-133 docked operations.

21 February

  • The fight is on over the 2012 NASA budget. And the dust is still flying on the 2011 budget.
  • Discovery.com discusses “A Universe Stranger Than We Can’t Imagine”.

20 February

  • A Taurus XL rocket is set to carry NASA’s Glory satellite to space in a launch early Wednesday morning at Vandenberg Air Force Base, two years after a failure abruptly ended another NASA mission with the same kind of rocket. The four-stage rocket’s liftoff from Space Launch Complex 576-E is shooting for 3:09:43 AM Phoenix time (1009 UTC) Wednesday.
  • A geomagnetic space storm sparked by a solar eruption like the one that flared toward Earth Tuesday is bound to strike again and could wreak havoc across the gadget-happy modern world, experts say. Contemporary society is increasingly vulnerable to space weather because of our dependence on satellite systems for synchronizing computers, navigational systems, telecommunications networks and other electronic devices.

19 February

  • The X PRIZE Foundation announced the official roster of 29 registered teams competing for the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, an unprecedented competition to send a robot to the Moon that travels at least 500 meters and transmit video, images, and data back to the Earth.
  • NASA managers confirmed Friday a February 24th launch date for the space shuttle Discovery. The shuttle will lift off on STS-133 at 2:50 pm Phoenix time (2150 UTC) Thursday, the date the agency had been planning towards but officially confirmed at the end of the flight readiness review on Friday.
  • Cosmonauts Dmitry Kondratyev and Oleg Skripochka installed two experiments and retrieved the materials science panels outside the International Space Station (ISS) during a 16 February spacewalk. In their 5 hour effort, the spacewalkers attached the Molniya-Gamma and Radiometria experiments to the exterior of the Zvezda service module. The first will investigate gamma-ray and optical flashes from cosmic sources and lightning associated with terrestrial thunderstorms. Radiometria will monitor ground-based microwave emissions that could be useful in the prediction of seismic activity, including earthquakes.

18 February

  • After what was an eventful pad flow for Discovery last week, STS-133 is enjoying a relatively trouble-free final week ahead of S0007 (Launch Countdown) operations. Despite the one day delay to Ariane 5′s successful launch of ATV-2, shuttle managers remain focused on a February 24 launch date, pending Flight Readiness Review (FRR) approval.

17 February

  • The European Space Agency’s ISS resupply cargo vessel “Johannes Kepler” was launched successfully aboard an Ariane 5 rocket. Docking directly and autonomously with Russia’s Zvezda module at the International Space Station is scheduled for next Thursday, 24 February, one day before the launch of STS-133 Discovery.

16 February

  • Scientists said Tuesday that the images from StardustNExtT showed the crater created by the impactor on NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft, which flew past the comet in 2005. The crater and other features on the surface of the comet’s nucleus show signs of erosion.
  • Two Russian cosmonauts will venture out of the International Space Station and focus on installation of two scientific experiments outside the Zvezda service module. The first is called Radiometria, and is designed to collect information useful in seismic forecasts and earthquake predictions. Radiometria will be installed on a portable workstation on the port side of the large-diameter section of the Zvezda module. The second is Molniya-Gamma, which will look at gamma splashes and optical radiation during terrestrial lightning and thunderstorm conditions using three sensors. The Molniya-Gamma will be installed on a portable workstation on the starboard side of the Zvezda module.

15 February

14 February

  • Happy Valentine’s Day
  • The House Committee on Appropriations released its proposal to cut $500 million from NASA’s science, exploration, and aeronautics and space technology accounts, but give more money to Space Operations for shuttle flights.
  • As the future of NASA’s budget finds itself under scrutiny again this week, managers have told their workforce that STS-135 will fly “regardless” of what happens with the funding situation via the Continuing Resolution (CR). Atlantis’ preparations for the final flight of the Space Shuttle are continuing without issue, as managers debate the payloads which will ride to the International Space Station (ISS).

13 February

  • Sand dunes in a vast area of northern Mars long thought to be frozen in time are changing with both sudden and gradual motions, according to research using images from a NASA orbiter. These dune fields cover an area the size of Texas in a band around the planet at the edge of Mars’ north polar cap. The new findings suggest they are among the most active landscapes on Mars.
  • NASA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos have started negotiating for at least two more years of Soyuz flights to the International Space Station (ISS) by U.S., European, Japanese and Canadian astronauts, as the space shuttle era draws to a close with no other replacement available. “We are negotiating for more Soyuz seats because we’re nearing the three-year lead time for ordering seats beyond the current contract,” the U.S. agency stated Feb. 9. “We are beginning discussions on the acquisition of crew-rotation services for 2014 and 2015.”
  • Lockheed Martin engineers in Denver are awaiting the arrival of the first complete Orion crew exploration vehicle structure for the start of ground tests. The ground test article left NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans by truck on Feb. 10. In Denver, technicians will integrate it with its heat shield and thermal protection backshell.

12 February

  • Bound by restrictions set in a temporary budget resolution, NASA has not yet committed full funding of a risk reduction test flight of the Taurus 2 rocket, one of the launch vehicles the agency hopes will be ready to resupply the International Space Station by the end of this year.
  • Boeing is weighing international sales of its CST-100 commercial crew spacecraft if NASA selects the firm to continue development of the capsule, a company official said Wednesday.

11 February

  • Currently on display in Washington D.C. is the Earth orbiting Dragon capsule from the December mission. SpaceX put the capsule on display to illustrate the progress commercial companies are making in space flight.
  • NASA managers are investigating a proposed plan that would see a Soyuz spacecraft undock from the International Space Station (ISS) during the upcoming STS-133 mission in order to take photographs of the orbital outpost, along with its record number of attached Visiting Vehicles (VVs) here, here and here, and the docked Space Shuttle Discovery.

10 February

  • The STS-133 stack has been checked for damage after a feeler gauge came apart during work to remove ET-137′s Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate (GUCP). The incident resulted in nine blades from the tool falling down the pad, with one becoming embedded in the tank – resulting in minor foam damage – before high winds dislodged it.
  • New Mexico’s governor, Susana Martinez, appointed seven people to the New Mexico Spaceport America board of directors. In January she forced the resignation of the executive director, and then removed the entire board.

9 February

  • NASA announced this week that the Planetary Society’s LightSail-1 solar sail mission is on their short list for upcoming launch opportunities. The missions selected are Cubesats destined for piggyback launches as part of NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative.
  • “We are definitely in the bonus round,” said Stardust-NExT Project Manager Tim Larson of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “This spacecraft has already flown by an asteroid and a comet, returned comet dust samples to Earth, and now has almost doubled its originally planned mission life. Now it is poised to perform one more comet flyby.” Its target is comet Tempel 1.
  • NASA Television plans live coverage of the launch and automated docking of the second unpiloted European cargo ship that will deliver approximately seven tons of fuel, food and supplies to the International Space Station. NASA TV coverage of the launch from the northern coast of South America will begin at 3:45 p.m. CST on Tuesday, Feb. 15. The European Space Agency and its launch services provider, Arianespace, are scheduled to launch the Johannes Kepler Automated Transfer Vehicle-2, or ATV2, on an Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou, French Guiana, at 4:13 p.m. (7:13 p.m. in Kourou). NASA TV coverage will continue through the deployment of the cargo ship’s solar arrays about 90 minutes after launch.
  • Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology, a Carnegie Mellon University spin-off company, has signed a launch services contract with Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) for a Falcon 9 rocket to deliver a lander, small rover and up to about 240 lb. of payload to the surface of the Moon.

8 February

  • NASA’s Stennis Space Center conducted a 53 second test of the Aerojet AJ26 rocket engine. The AJ26 will power the Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Taurus II rocket. The Taurus II, under construction in Virginia, is planned to be used to provide cargo and essentials to astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
  • Opening up the X-37B.
  • Not giving up on a solid fuel first stage launch vehicle, ATK and Astrium are working together in response to NASA’s Commercial Crew Development-2 (CCDev-2) procurement. The team is offering NASA launch services with the Liberty rocket.

7 February

  • Scientists have seen their first panoramic view of the sun, in photographs beamed down by twin spacecraft that faced each other across our nearest star and took snapshots of its surface. The images from Nasa’s $500m Stereo mission will be used to create a three-dimensional map of the sun in an attempt to understand its innermost workings.

6 February

  • Canadian robotics systems aboard the International Space Station retrieved two cargo platforms from the Japanese HTV resupply freighter this week, stockpiling the outpost with more spare parts and proving an adroit mechanized handyman can perform operational duties in space.
  • Following delays, a Minotaur I rocket was launched this morning from Space Launch Complex-8 at Vandenberg Air Force base at 5:26 AM Phoenix time (1226 UTC).

5 February

  • NASA announced that astronaut Mark Kelly will resume training as commander of the STS-134 space shuttle mission on Monday, 7 February. With the exception of some proficiency training, Kelly has been on personal leave since 8 January to care for his wife, congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was critically wounded in a Tucson, Arizona shooting.

4 February

  • Discover.com speculates on whether we know enough to suggest that there may be life on one of the Earth-like exo-planets announced yesterday.

3 February

  • Scientists analyzing data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft announced Wednesday that they have now found in excess 1,000 potential extrasolar planets orbiting other stars, including dozens of planets about the size of the Earth. The discoveries come from observations of more than 156,000 stars in one portion of the sky over several months in 2009. Scientists said they have found 1,235 “planet candidates” orbiting those stars, including 68 Earth-sized worlds. In addition, 54 of the exoplanet candidates found to date orbit their stars’ habitable zones; five of the 54 are Earth-sized while the rest are larger. Among the findings in the discovery is one solar system, orbiting a star designated Kepler-11, featuring six planets that orbit the star closer than Venus orbits the Sun.

2 February

  • Just over two weeks before its flyby of comet Tempel 1, NASA’s Stardust spacecraft fired its thrusters to help refine its flight path toward the comet. The Stardust-NExT mission will fly past comet Tempel 1 on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14, 2011).

1 February

  • Ground services have been unable to contact the Geo-IK-2 geodetic spacecraft launched atop the Rokot carrier rocket from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome (Arkhangelsk region) at 5 p.m. Moscow time on Tuesday. “There is no contact with the satellite,” a source from the space industry told Interfax-AVN.
  • The Space Shuttle Discovery has arrived back at its pad. Space shuttle Discovery repeated history Monday night (Jan. 31), making its final trip to the launch pad – for the second time. Discovery, NASA’s oldest flying orbiter and first one to reach its final flight, had been rolled to the pad last September, but unexpected damage to its external fuel tank required it to be brought back and extensively repaired.

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July 2010

Posted by drdave on August 6, 2010

31 July 2010

  • If you want to see Venice while keeping your feet dry, don’t go when the sun has lots of spots. Peaks in solar activity cause the city to flood more often, apparently by changing the paths of storms over Europe.

30 July 2010

  • Ground control teams began sending out a beacon for Spirit on July 26, but the rover has not yet responded. In a press release on Friday, NASA put out the word that it may never wake. “It will be the miracle from Mars if our beloved rover phones home,” Doug McCuistion, director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program.
  • The shuttle Endeavour’s three main engines were installed this week as workers prepare the ship’s two solid rocket boosters.

30 July 2010

  • Orbital Sciences Corp. will continue its work with NASA’s small rockets program as prime contractor on a $125 million, five year contract.
  • The Planetary Society has this to say about the NASA authorization bill in the House of Representatives: “the proposed bill abandons any significant investment in exploration technology, effectively eliminates the Administration’s approach for engaging the commercial sector, establishes a program of loan guarantees that the Administration did not request, and seeks to reinstate programs that have been determined to be unsustainable.”

29 July 2010

  • Popular Mechanics thinks NASA is being set up for failure: “NASA is being asked to do too much with too little by Congress, and, once again, America’s space agency is set up for failure. If this plan goes forward, it will preserve jobs in Utah, Alabama, Texas and Florida, but contribute little to actually accomplishing things in space. And we can expect to have to assemble another panel of experts a couple of years from now to tell us once again what we already know, and what Congress will continue to ignore, because pork will always reign over progress.”

28 July 2010

  • Astronomers expect to find a number of planets with cozy, Earth-like properties. Which is why the TED lecture by Dimitar Sasselov, a member of the planet-hunting Kepler space telescope’s science team, created such a furor. The latest to weigh in on the TED event on 16 July is The New Scientist article. Whether its 38 or 140, the withholding of data until February 2011 is causing a ruckus.
  • A rare specimen of massive stars that live fast and die young has been photographed by a European observatory in Chile.
    The blazing hot star is called WR 22 and is shedding its atmosphere many millions of times faster than our own sun in outward blasts that unleash powerful radiation emissions.

27 July 2010

  • Yuri Artsutanov and Jerome Pearson will appear at this year’s Space Elevator Conference, to be held in Redmond, Washington (August 12-15). Yuri is traveling all the way from St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • Russian astronauts have completed a space walk at the International Space Station using their new “smart suits”. They replaced a badly performing camera and hooked up the automated rendezvous equipment for autopilot dockings using the Russian KURS system on the new Rassvet module, delivered in May.
  • The August 2010 issue of Scientific America has Kepler Co-Investigator Dimitar Sasselov’s article Planets We Could Call Home. This is the gentleman who Spilled the Beans at TED.

26 July 2010

  • Kepler Co-Investigator Spills The Beans: Lots of Earth-like Planets. Harvard’s Dimitar Sasselov gave an address at TEDGlobal at Oxford this month, announcing the discovery by the Kepler observatory of “hundreds” of earth like planets. The video is at TED.
  • The first of three Glonass satellites has arrived at Baikonur in preparation for launch on 2 September 2010. The remaining two satellites will arrive in August, and mated to the DM upper stage and Proton rocket.
  • Prelaunch processing of the Progress M-07M cargo vehicle is underway by RSC-Energia. The Progress is scheduled to fly from Baikonur aboard a Soyuz-U rocket on 8 September 2010 on a resupply mission to the International space station.
  • Dextre, the special-purpose dexterous manipulator sometimes described as the hand for Canadarm2 on the International Space Station (ISS), is almost ready to begin serving as a backup for spacewalking astronauts and cosmonauts.

25 July 2010

  • Researchers poring over Google Earth images have discovered one of Earth’s freshest impact craters — a 45-meter-wide (148-foot-wide) pock in southwestern Egypt that probably was excavated by a fast-moving iron meteorite no more than a few thousand years ago.

24 July 2010

23 July 2010

  • Curiosity, the next Mars rover grows by leaps and bounds.
  • The best Mars map ever made is now available online for planetary scientists and armchair astronauts alike. And citizen scientists are invited to help make it even better.
  • More Curiosity news: the rover took its first steps Friday inside a clean room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, kicking off a test campaign to prove the $2.3 billion robot can operate on the surface of Mars.

22 July 2010

21 July 2010

  • NASA reports that the spacecraft Cassini has observed the formation of giant snowballs in Saturn’s F ring. The gravitational pull of the moon Prometheus creates wake channels, which trigger the formation of the snowballs. Some are as large as 20 km in diameter.
  • Scientists have completed installation of the Mars Descent Imager, or MARDI, on the new Mars Rover Curiosity. MARDI will return images of the descent and landing of Curiosity in 2012.
  • Workers started assembling twin solid rocket boosters this week to help power Endeavour toward orbit in February on the final scheduled launch of the space shuttle program.

20 July 2010

  • Preliminary data from the European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 spacecraft has been released. A better understanding of how Earth’s ice fields are changing has come another step closer.
  • Politicians on the House Science and Technology committee continue to cling to “the sunk cost fallacy” as they endorse efforts to keep the Constellation program on track, despite the legislation worked out last week between the Senate and the White House. Citing the $9 Billion already wasted on the Constellation program, committee leaders claimed that it was “imperative that … [NASA] builds on the investments made to date”.
  • This will warm the cockles of the hearts over at ATK: “It (the US solid rocket motor industry) is over capacity right now,” Brett Lambert said at the Farnborough Airshow on Monday, adding a consolidation was long overdue.

19 July 2010

  • Scientists at CalTech have obtained data from the Cassini spacecraft documenting the drop in the level of two lakes on Saturn’s moon Titan. The decline is about one meter per year for the past four years.
  • The DragonEye (DE) relative navigation sensor – set to ride with Discovery on STS-133 – will be installed two weeks later than planned, following a laser rod failure during testing. Discovery – currently enjoying a smooth processing flow – will be conducting the second test for the sensor during her arrival at the International Space Station (ISS) in November.

18 July 2010

  • Following on the recent fly-by of Lutetia by the Rosetta spacecraft, Emily Lakdawalla has a discussion over at The Planetary Society blog about how Lutetia compare to the other asteroids and comets visited by spacecraft.

17 July 2010

  • NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) observatory has just completed its first full sky survey. The first release of WISE data, covering about 80 percent of the sky, will be delivered to the astronomical community in May of next year.
  • WISE has also discovered 95 new Near Earth Asteroids.

16 July 2010

  • Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have confirmed the existence of a baked object that could be called a “cometary planet.” The gas giant planet, named HD 209458b, is orbiting so close to its star that its heated atmosphere is escaping into space.
  • The Senate Commerce Committee approved bipartisan legislation July 15 that authorizes NASA funding levels through 2013.

15 July 2010

  • Three research articles have been published from the third and final flyby of Mercury in September 2009 by Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging spacecraft (MESSENGER). Data from the final flyby has revealed the first observations of ion emissions in Mercury’s exosphere; new information about the planet’s magnetic substorms; and evidence of younger volcanic activity than previously recorded.

14 July 2010

  • Scientists at Penn State released information on a blast of the brightest X-rays ever detected from beyond our Milky Way. The X-Ray burst temporarily blinded the eye on NASA’s Swift space observatory earlier this summer. The burst was 168 times brighter than the typical burst and five times brighter than anything previously seen.
  • The South Pole-Aitken (SPA) basin is the largest and oldest recognized impact basin on the moon. It’s diameter is roughly 2,500 km or 1,550 miles. The moon’s circumference is just under 11,000 km, meaning the basin stretches across nearly a quarter of the moon.

13 July 2010

  • The wheels on Curiosity that will touch down on Mars in 2012 are several rotations closer to spinning on the rocky trails of Mars. This video clip shows engineers in the JPL clean room where the rover is being assembled as they put all six wheels into motion for the first time.
  • Japan’s Kaguya spacecraft first photographed the enormous caverns last year. Now the powerful Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC, the same camera that photographed Apollo landers and astronauts’ tracks in the moondust) is giving us enticing high-resolution images of the caverns’ entrances and their surroundings.

12 July 2010

  • India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C15) successfully launches CARTOSAT – 2B Satellite
  • A total solar eclipse arced across the southern Pacific Ocean Sunday, blotting out the sun and offering stunning views to skywatchers.

11 July 2010

  • Movie” of the encounter between Rosetta and the asteroid Lutetia.

10 July 2010

  • Rosetta has completed her fly-by of Lutetia. Close up images should arrive about 21:00 UTC.
  • International Launch Services (ILS) have launched the EchoStar XV telecommunications satellite via their veteran Proton-M launch vehicle and Breeze-M upper stage.

9 July 2010

  • The place to be for the upcoming Sunday solar eclipse is French Polynesia (between 7:00 am and 10:30 am local time – 1700 and 2030 GMT). Come to think of it, the place to be has always been French Polynesia.

8 July 2010

  • The International Space Station (ISS) may live on until 2028, following confirmation by the Space Station Program Control Board (SSPCB) that partner agencies have been asked to produce an extension blueprint for continued operation until 2025, with the potential to push as far as 2028.
  • Rocketplane Global has filed for bankruptcy. It had been working on a suborbital rocket-jet hybrid plane that would have lofted paying passengers above the 62-mile (100-kilometer) altitude mark.
  • JAXA had the following announcement on the HAYABUSA main web page: “This summer, we are exhibiting a part of the capsule of the Asteroid Explorer “HAYABUSA,” which returned to the Earth on June 13, and other interesting things at the Sagamihara City Museum, JAXA Tsukuba Space Center, and at the OO square on the first floor of Marunouchi Oazo Building. Why don’t you come and witness the real capsule that came back to the Earth after seven years in space!”

7 July 2010

  • Puff the Magic Dragon?
  • The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said Wednesday it has found several dozen additional particles in a container inside a tiny capsule that the Hayabusa unmanned space probe released in June after a seven-year round-trip to the asteroid Itokawa. Results of analyses will probably not come until September.

6 July 2010

  • From the JAXA Hayabusa website: “Minute particles were confirmed in the sample container of the HAYABUSA, whose unpacking operation was started on June 24 (JST) at the Curation Center at the Sagamihara Campus. We are still unsure if those particles are something from the ITOKAWA or from the Earth, thus we will further examine them”.

5 July 2010

  • SpaceDaily.com is reporting that Japanese scientists have found “minute particles” inside the Hayabusa return capsule. The JAXA web site for Hayabusa has not yet posted the press release concerning this announcement.

4 July 2010

  • Following an aborted docking maneuver on Friday, the Progress M-06M resupply spacecraft completed its docking program this morning at 16:17 UTC.

3 July 2010

  • NASA and Shuttle managers have devised a forward plan to complete the mandatory Wing Leading Edge (WLE) Spar inspections on Atlantis – one of only a few mandatory safety inspections required for Atlantis before she can be cleared for flight next year.

2 July 2010

  • The Russian Progress resupply mission to the ISS experienced technical difficulties and failed to dock. A second attempt is tentatively scheduled for Sunday at 9:17 AM Phoenix time (1617 GMT).
  • New Horizons successfully executed a June 30 thruster-firing, which lasted 35.6 seconds just about one mile per hour. This will make sure that New Horizons makes its planned closest approach 7,767 miles (12,500 kilometers) above Pluto at 7:49 a.m. EDT on July 14, 2015.
  • NASA astronaut Douglas Wheelock snapped this picture of auroral lights as seen from the International Space Station.

1 July 2010

  • As has been expected for many weeks, NASA managers have approved the Change Requests (CR) for the launch dates of the next two shuttle missions. With STS-133 moving to November 1, STS-134 is targeting February 26 – although the threat of the program running out of funding may force Endeavour’s launch up by a week or so. A decision on adding STS-135 also appears to be no closer.
  • The Russian space freighter Progress M-06M will dock with ISS as scheduled

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