NSS Phoenix Space News

March 2012

Posted by drdave on March 4, 2012

31 March

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

30 March

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

29 March

28 March

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

27 March

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

26 March

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

25 March

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

24 March

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

23 March

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

22 March

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

21 March

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

20 March

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

19 March

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

18 March

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

17 March

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

16 March

15 March

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

14 March

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

13 March

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

12 March

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

11 March

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

10 March

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

9 March

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

8 March

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

7 March

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

6 March

5 March

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

4 March

3 March

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

2 March

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

1 March

  • Astronomers have spotted young stars in the Orion nebula changing right before their eyes, thanks to the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. The colorful specks — developing stars strung across the image — are rapidly heating up and cooling down, speaking to the turbulent, rough-and-tumble process of reaching full stellar adulthood.
  • Researchers at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC) at Stanford University estimate that “nomad” planets, ejected from their home stellar system and now free-floating through the Milky Way, could outnumber stars by as many as 100,000 to 1.
  • The planned March 6 launch of the SiriusXM FM-6 digital radio satellite aboard an International Launch Services (ILS) Proton rocket has been scrapped following concerns of a solar-array defect aboard the Space Systems/Loral-built satellite.
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February 2012

Posted by drdave on February 3, 2012

29 February

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

28 February

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

27 February

26 February

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

25 February

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

24 February

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

23 February

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

22 February

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

21 February

20 February

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

20 February

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

19 February

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

18 February

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

17 February

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

16 February

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

15 February

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

14 February

13 February

12 February

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

11 February

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

10 February

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

9 February

8 February

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

7 February

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

6 February

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

5 February

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

4 February

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

3 February

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

2 February

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

1 February

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

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January 2012

Posted by drdave on January 2, 2012

31 January

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

30 January

29 January

28 January

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

27 January

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

26 January

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

25 January

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

24 January

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

23 January

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

22 January

21 January

20 January

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

19 January

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

18 January

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

17 January

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

16 January

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

15 January

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

14 January

13 January

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

12 January

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

11 January

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

10 January

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

9 January

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

8 January

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

7 January

6 January

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

5 January

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

4 January

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

3 January

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

2 January

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

1 January

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

Posted in Asteroid, China, Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, International Space Station, JAXA, Mars, Moon, NASA, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, Soyuz, Space Shuttle | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on January 2012

December 2011

Posted by drdave on December 1, 2011

31 December

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

30 December

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

29 December

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

28 December

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

27 December

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

26 December

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

25 December

24 December

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

23 December

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

22 December

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

21 December

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

20 December

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

19 December

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

18 December

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

17 December

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

16 December

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

15 December

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

14 December

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

13 December

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

12 December

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

11 December

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

10 December

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

9 December

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

8 December

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

7 December

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

6 December

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

5 December

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

4 December

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

3 December

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

2 December

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

1 December

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

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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.

Posted in China, Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, International Space Station, JAXA, Mars, NASA, Pluto, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, The Planetary Society | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

October 2011

Posted by drdave on October 1, 2011

31 October

  • China successfully launched their Shenzhou-8 unmanned spacecraft aboard a Long March-2F (Y8) rocket. The mission is to practice docking with the Tiangong-1 module, which was launched on 29 September.
  • The School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University will assemble the OSIRIS Thermal Emission Spectrometer, or OTES. OTES will be responsible for capturing roughly 2 ounces of dust, soil and debris from a designated area the asteroid 1999 RQ36. The OSIRIS-REx mission is set to launch in September 2016.

30 October

  • A Soyuz rocket successfully placed a Progress cargo spacecraft into orbit Sunday, two months after a similar launch failed, thus clearing the way for a crewed Soyuz launch next month. The Soyuz rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 6:11 am EDT (1011 GMT, 4:11 pm local time) and placed the Progress M-13M spacecraft into orbit nine minutes later. NASA is happy.

29 October

  • In its last currently-scheduled launch, a Delta 2 rocket placed an Earth sciences satellite into orbit on Friday. The Delta 2 7920 lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 5:48 am EDT (0948 GMT) Friday and released the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) satellite into a sun-synchronous orbit nearly one hour later.
  • The Progress 45 cargo vessel is scheduled to blast off from Kazakhstan at 3:11 M Phoenix time (1011 GMT) Sunday. If anything goes wrong with the flight, the launch of three new station crewmembers, currently scheduled for 14 November, would likely be delayed, because both missions use similar Russian Soyuz rockets.

28 October

  • Chinese hackers are suspected of having interfered with the operation of two US government satellites on four occasions via a ground station, according to a report being prepared for the US Congress.

27 October

  • Aviation Week discusses the Washington hearings on the Commercial Crew programs by NASA.
  • ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft has revealed asteroid Lutetia to be a primitive body, left over as the planets were forming in our Solar System. Results from Rosetta’s fleeting flyby also suggest that this mini-world tried to grow a metal heart.

26 October

  • Virgin Galactic has selected former USAF test pilot Keith Colmer as the first astronaut pilot to join the commercial spaceline’s flight team. Colmer will join Chief Pilot David Mackay to begin flight training and testing, leading to operational missions to space with Virgin Galactic’s revolutionary vehicles, WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo.

25 October

  • A supernova that exploded in 185 CE expanded much faster than expected. NASA scientists have resolved the unusual remnant.

24 October

  • Fast and Furious – criticism of the Senate Launch System – “Propellant depots: the fiscally responsible and feasible alternative to SLS”
  • Aviation Week discusses the problems facing the Senate Launch System – “NASA Tries To Squeeze SLS Into Flat Budget”
  • Here There Be Dragons: SpaceX’s Spacecraft Arrives at Launch Complex 40

23 October

  • After years of exhaustive work, Curiosity, the most technologically advanced surface robotic rover ever to be sent beyond Earth has been assembled into the flight configuration.
  • Dead ROSAT Satellite Reenters Over South-East Asia

22 October

  • NASA rejected the Propellant Depot study’s most radical conclusion: that NASA could forgo the heavy-lift and use existing smaller rockets, combined with fuel depots, to reach its targets more quickly and less expensively.

21 October

  • A Soyuz rocket, launching from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana for the first time, placed two Galileo navigation satellites into orbit on Friday. The Soyuz-STB rocket lifted off from the spaceport near Kourou, French Guiana, at 6:30 am EDT (1030 GMT) Friday carrying the first two Galileo In Orbit Validation (IOV) satellites.
  • NASA, external review committees and SpaceX have gone back and forth with the software designed to take the Dragon resupply vehicle to the International Space Station and back.
  • It may be hard to imagine who will own the unofficial* land rights to the moon in the not-so-distant future, but a Russian space official thinks the future of manned lunar settlement will begin inside moon caves.

20 October

  • Space Exploration Technologies, SpaceX, announced it has successfully completed the preliminary design review of its revolutionary launch abort system
  • The launch debut of a Russian rocket from a European-run spaceport in South America was delayed Thursday, 20 October, by a fueling glitch.

19 October

  • International Launch Services (ILS) have launched their Proton-M rocket on Wednesday. The launch was on schedule at 18:48 GMT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, with the Proton tasked with deploying the ViaSat-1 telecommunications satellite – the highest throughput satellite ever built – into its GEO transfer orbit, after what will be over nine hours of flight.

18 October

  • The veteran aerospace company Boeing is wrapping up a series of key wind-tunnel tests on a scale version for a new spaceship designed to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
  • Aviation Week discusses Robonaut 2 (R2), the legless humanoid developed by NASA and General Motors. The Robot has moved for the first time since its launch to the International Space Station in February aboard the STS-133 mission.

17 October

  • The U.S. Defense Department and National Reconnaissance Office plan to spend $15 billion on rocket booster cores without enough information to determine whether they’re getting a “fair and reasonable” price, according to government auditors. A Government Accountability Office report released today questioned aspects of an Air Force and National Reconnaissance Office plan to buy eight booster cores a year from fiscal 2013 to 2017, a total of 40, to stabilize production. The booster core is the main component of a rocket.
  • Sir Richard Branson has dedicated the launchpad for his space tourism venture in the New Mexico desert – with his usual eye for a photo opportunity.

16 October

15 October

  • Virgin Galactic announced a pair of coups. It received an order to conduct at one manned suborbital experimental flights on its SpaceShipTwo vehicle for NASA, with the option for two more and hired former NASA executive Mike Moses as vice president of Operations.

14 October

13 October

  • A top NASA official told Congress on Wednesday an independent engineering team agrees with Russia’s findings in an investigation into a failure of a Soyuz rocket’s third stage in August, affirming plans to resume crewed flights to the International Space Station in November.
  • International space cooperation will be highlighted in a historic event on 20 October: the launch of Europe’s first Galileo navigation satellites on Russia’s first Soyuz rocket to depart from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. Liftoff is scheduled for Thursday, 20 October at 1134 UTC, 07:34 local time).

12 October

  • An Indian rocket successfully launched a joint Indo-French Earth sciences satellite on Wednesday. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) lifted off from India’s Satish Dhawan Space Center at 1:30 am EDT (0530 UTC, 11:00 am local time) and placed the Megha-Tropiques satellites into an 867-kilometer orbit.

11 October

  • New images released by NASA’s Dawn mission feature a mountain three times the height of the tallest mountain on Earth.
  • Astronomers have discovered more than two dozen previously unknown failed stars. The newfound objects are brown dwarfs, strange bodies that are larger than planets but too small to trigger the internal nuclear fusion reactions required to become full-fledged stars. Astronomers discovered the objects in two young star clusters using Japan’s Subaru Telescope in Hawaii and the Very Large Telescope in Chile. One of the brown dwarfs is just six times the mass of Jupiter.

10 October

  • Is OMB wiping out planetary exploration?
  • Orion managers are becoming more interested in the idea of the European Space Agency (ESA) taking over a role in NASA’s exploration future. Adhering to the international cooperation angle for the Agency’s future, managers have told their teams they are “serious” about ESA building the Service Module (SM) for Orion, via Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) hardware.

9 October

  • A Long March rocket launched a European communications satellite on Friday, marking the first Chinese launch for a Western company in over a decade. The Long March 3B rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 1:21 am Phoenix time (0821 UTC, 4:21 pm Beijing time) Friday and placed the Eutelsat W3C satellite into orbit.

8 October

  • NASA’s Dawn mission, which has been orbiting Vesta since mid-July, has revealed that the asteroid’s southern hemisphere boasts one of the largest mountains in the Solar System. Other results show that Vesta’s surface, viewed at different wavelengths, has striking diversity in its composition particularly around craters. The surface appears to be much rougher than most asteroids in the main asteroid belt. Preliminary results from crater age dates indicate that areas in the southern hemisphere are as young as 1-2 billion years old, much younger than areas in the north.

7 October

  • A communications satellite went into safe mode early Thursday, interrupting phone and data services over portions of North America. Telesat reported its Anik F2 communications satellite suffered an unspecified “technical anomaly” shortly after 6:30 am EDT (1030 GMT) Thursday, causing a disruption in the communications services it provided. Telesat reported that the satellite is healthy and should be returned to service, perhaps as soon as Friday.
  • Negotiations between the numerous International Space Station (ISS) partners are starting to result in an exciting 2012 manifest, as Agency vehicles play tag team with new commercial resupply craft. From a Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) standpoint, three – or four, if the C2/C3 demo slips to 2012 – SpaceX Dragon flights are set to head to the ISS, along with three Orbital Cygnus missions.
  • A France-made W3C communications satellite, carried by China’s Long March-3B rocket carrier, was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the southwest China’s Sichuan Province, on 7 October 2011. The European Eutelsat-W3C satellite will provide new capacity for broadcasting, telecommunications and broadband services.
  • The Mars Science Laboratory was matched up with its heat shield at Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility on Wednesday, 5 October 2011.

6 October

  • A land-based Zenit rocket launched a commercial communications satellite early Thursday. The Zenit-3SLB rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 5:00 pm EDT Wednesday (2100 GMT Wednesday, 3:00 am local time Thursday) and released its payload, Intelsat-18, into transfer orbit six and a half hours later.
  • Where did Earth get its Oceans? Comet 103P/Hartley 2, which made its closest approach to the sun last October, contains water with virtually the same chemical signatures as water in the oceans, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Nature.

5 October

  • A NASA camera that scans the night sky for meteors caught a stunning double feature when it spotted a fiery meteor breaking apart while a piece of an old Russian rocket zoomed overhead.
  • Europe’s space science decision-making body on 4 October selected a satellite to be developed with NASA to fly closer to the sun than any previous spacecraft (Solar Orbiter) and a telescope to explore the universe’s expansion (Euclid) for development and launch in 2017 and 2019, respectively.

4 October

  • NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is getting up close and personal with the giant asteroid Vesta, revealing rift valleys, mountainous uplifts and a belt of grooves near its equator.
  • The shocking discovery that the universe is expanding at a faster and faster rate has taken the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics. Three American-born astrophysicists will divide the $1.5 million prize, announced October 4 in Stockholm, for their discovery of Dark Energy.
  • The first elements of Europe’s new Vega small launcher left Italy last Thursday to begin their long journey to Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, marking the final step towards its inaugural flight in January.

3 October

  • The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), has officially opened for astronomers. The first released image, from a telescope still under construction, reveals a view of the Universe that cannot be seen at all by visible-light and infrared telescopes.

2 October

  • Russia has successfully launched the Kosmos (Glonass-M) satellite into orbit, following lift-off of their Soyuz 2-1B launch vehicle from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia, marking the first Soyuz launch since the August failure, which resulted in the loss of Progress M-12M. Launch occurred at 20:15 UTC on Sunday, with spacecraft separation over three hours later.
  • The launch of the GLONASS-M navigation satellite that was due last night is postponed for 24 hours because of bad weather conditions. This is the second time when the launch is being delayed.
  • The launch date of the next Falcon 9 rocket with its Dragon Spacecraft payload has been announced to occur no-earlier-than 19 December 2011.

1 October

  • Zach Rosenberg comments on “The Problems of Reusable Rockets” concerning SpaceX plans for a totally reusable Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
  • The world is a safer place today after it was announced that 93 percent of all near-Earth asteroids larger than a kilometre have been identified, and none of the them pose a risk to Earth. The findings are the result of NEOWISE: a survey with NASA’s orbiting Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE)
  • Astronomers are lining up to use a powerful new NASA telescope called SOFIA. The telescope has unique capabilities for studying things like how stars form and what’s in the atmospheres of planets.

Posted in Asteroid, China, Comet, Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, India, International Space Station, Moon, NASA, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, Soyuz, Space Shuttle, Star, Universe | 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 »

August 2011

Posted by drdave on August 1, 2011

31 August

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

30 August

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

29 August

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

28 August

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

27 August

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

26 August

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

25 August

24 August

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

23 August

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

22 August

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

21 August

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

20 August

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

19 August

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

18 August

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

17 August

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

16 August

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

15 August

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

14 August

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

13 August

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

12 August

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

11 August

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

10 August

9 August

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

8 August

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

7 August

6 August

5 August

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

4 August

3 August

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

2 August

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

1 August

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

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

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.

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