NSS Phoenix Space News

Posts Tagged ‘Big Bang’

January 2011

Posted by drdave on January 2, 2011

31 January

  • Discovery is scheduled to begin her journey back out to Pad 39A with her modified External Tank (ET-137) at 6:00 PM Phoenix time (0100 UTC Tuesday) on Monday evening, following an issue-free installation of radius blocks on most of its intertank stringers. With a high-level of confidence in the mitigation of further cracks on the stringers during loading and launch, managers have called for the same modifications to take place on STS-134′s ET-122.

30 January

  • The Russian cargo spacecraft Progress M-09M docked with the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday.

29 January

  • The Runaway Star. Traveling at a breakneck speed of 87,000 kilometers per hour (or 24 kilometers per second), the massive Zeta Ophiuchi probably used to have an even larger binary partner that exploded as a supernova. So, like a hammer thrower spinning quickly at the Olympic Games, the blue supergiant star was treated like the hammer, released from the gravitational embrace of its exploding sibling in an instant. At the moment of detonation, it’s orbital momentum shot it off into space at high speed.

28 January

  • Hot on the heels of JAXA’s HTV-2 arrival at the International Space Station (ISS), Russia’s Progress M-09M/41P spacecraft has lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Friday morning at 1:31 AM GMT. Docking to the ISS at the Docking Compartment-1 (DC-1) Pirs Nadir port, recently vacated by Progress M-08M/40P, will occur two days later on Sunday 30th January at 2:40 AM GMT.
  • The fuel and most of the cargo are loaded and ATV has been hoisted to the top of Ariane 5 as teams on four continents prepare for the 15 February launch of Johannes Kepler from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

27 January

  • After less than a week in space, Japan’s HTV-2 spacecraft was successfully grappled by the ISS crew via the SSRMS (Space Station Remote Manipulator System), ahead of berthing to Node-2 Nadir – which was completed at 07:51 AM Phoenix time (14:51 UTC). Over the coming days, the ISS crew will remove external payloads from HTV-2 before moving the spacecraft to a temporary berthing location on Node-2 Zenith ahead of the arrival of STS-133 in late-February.
  • The first image of comet Tempel 1 taken by NASA’s Stardust spacecraft is a composite made from observations on Jan. 18 and 19, 2011. On Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14 in U.S. time zones), Stardust will fly within about 200 kilometers (124 miles) of the comet’s nucleus
  • Astronomers announced Wednesday the discovery of the most distant galaxy yet observed, an object that dates back to the first half-billion years of the universe. The object, designated UDFj-39546284, is a compact galaxy of blue stars with a redshift of approximately 10, which dates the galaxy to just 480 million years after the Big Bang. Astronomers discovered the galaxy in Hubble Ultra Deep Field – Infrared data collected by the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 in 2009 and 2010.

26 January

  • The European Space Agency (ESA) has released images of Phobos from the Mars Express at an altitude of 100 km. The images are from the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) science team and show a 3D view of the moon and the proposed landing site of the Phobos-Grunt mission.

25 January

  • A Russian Progress M-08M cargo spacecraft undocked from the ISS early on Monday, clearing a port for a new Progress scheduled for launch on Friday 28 January. The Progress spacecraft undocked from the Pirs module at just after 5:40 PM Phoenix time on Sunday (0040 GMT Monday) and deorbited over the south Pacific five and a half hours later.

24 January

  • A group of United Space Alliance (USA) and Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) technicians and engineers are heading into the final few days of work on modifying the stringers on Discovery’s External Tank (ET-137). With the root cause evaluations and subsequent modifications ensuring there is “no uncertainty” on all flight tanks, STS-133 remains on track for rollout to Pad 39A next Monday. All indications are that 24 February will be the start of the launch window.
  • Amateur satellite observers have confirmed that the Delta 4-Heavy launched last Thursday carried a Keyhole type replacement spy satellite. The newest satellite joins the two primary Keyholes in space today, having launched in 2001 and 2005 from Vandenberg aboard Titan 4 rockets, plus an older one deployed in 1996 that’s still running in a backup role. The Delta 4-Heavy flight targeted the orbit of the 2001 satellite, apparently to assume the lead observation duties from the aging craft that’s now achieved the record for the longest prime mission duration.

23 January

  • A team of scientists from several organizations will begin tests this spring on a space-based power generation technology using satellites, it was learned Saturday. The planned test will attempt to convert a strong electric current into microwaves and transmit them 10 meters away in a simulated outer space environment at Kyoto University. A successful test would likely accelerate the goal of putting a space-based power generation system into practical use by 2025.

22 January

  • The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully launched its large HTV-2 (“Kounotori” – White Swan) resupply mission to the International Space Station.
  • JAXA confirmed that the planned second burn and re-entry of the second stage of the H-IIB rocket was successful. This followed the launch of the Kounotori resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station.
  • Two Russian cosmonauts, Dmitry Kondratyev and Oleg Skripochka, spent five and a half hours in space working on the International Space Station late on Friday. The cosmonauts installed a high-speed data transmission block on the Russian service module “Zvezda,” disabled and dismantled a plasma injector equipment, and installed a TV camera on the MIM mini-research module of the Russian segment of the ISS.

21 January

  • Aviation Week discusses the plans by SpaceX to eventually carry crew to the International Space Station. “Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) says it will launch its Falcon 9 rocket at least 17 more times before it is ready to fly humans, with nine of those flights carrying the Dragon capsule it is developing for cargo missions to the International Space Station.”
  • Discovery.com “roasts” the Australian story about Betalgeuse going super nova in 2012. And Phil Plait gives us the straight scoop. Meanwhile, once interesting Huffington Post makes a complete hash of the story.
  • The launch of the JAXA resupply mission HTV-2 to the ISS is set for 10:37 PM Phoenix time tonight (5:37 UTC 22 February).

20 January

  • NASA selected astronaut Steve Bowen as a mission specialist on STS-133, the next space shuttle mission planned for launch on Feb. 24. Bowen replaces astronaut Tim Kopra, who was injured in a bicycle accident over the weekend. The agency will hold a media teleconference at 3:30 p.m. CST on Wednesday, Jan. 19, to discuss the change in crew personnel.
  • Russia launched a Zenit / Fregat-SB rocket carrying an Elektra-L satellite at 12:29:01 UTC.
  • The United States launched a Delta IV Heavy carrying the NRO L-49 spy satellite from Vandenberg Air Force base in California a little after 2:00 PM Phoenix time today.

19 January

  • NASA’s Stardust-NExT spacecraft is nearing a celestial date with comet Tempel 1 at approximately 11:37 p.m. EST, on Feb. 14. The mission will allow scientists for the first time to look for changes on a comet’s surface that occurred following an orbit around the sun.
  • The launch of the H-IIB Launch Vehicle No. 2 (H-IIB F2) with the KOUNOTORI2 (HTV2, a cargo transporter to the International Space Station) onboard has been rescheduled as clouds including a freezing layer that exceeds the restrictions for suitable weather are forecast to be generated at around the scheduled launch time on January 20, 2011 (Japan Standard Time.) No Earlier Than (NET) 22 January.
  • A Delta 4-Heavy rocket, made by United Launch Alliance, and carrying a massive spy satellite like the ones the Titans used to deploy before those rockets were retired from service in 2005, is scheduled for liftoff Thursday at 1:08 p.m. PST (4:08 p.m. EST; 2108 GMT) from Space Launch Complex 6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

18 January

  • Technology Review has an update on the status of Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser, descendant of NASA’s HL-20 manned space plane program from the 1970’s.
  • WikiLeaks documents published by a Norwegian newspaper have cost the CEO of OHB-Technology, a German satellite company, his job. Berry Smutny reportedly said “I think Galileo is a stupid idea that primarily serves French interests.” OHB-Technology company has the contract to build the first 14 satellites.

17 January

  • A recent storm of small “suicide” comets that pelted the sun could herald the coming a much bigger icy visitor.
  • Shuttle Discovery is aiming to roll back out to Pad 39A on February 1, following what will be the completion of numerous “radius block” modifications to the circumference of her External Tank (ET-137). NASA managers are also evaluating impacts to crew training – and potentially the launch date – following the injury sustained by STS-133′s Tim Kopra during a biking accident.
  • The Universe in High Definition – When it comes to digital cameras, people really care about their megapixels. The Sloan Digital Sky Survey has them all beat with a newly released TERApixel mosaic of the sky

16 January

15 January

  • The European Space Agency (ESA) has new commentary on the Johannes Kepler ATV-2 resupply vessel scheduled for launch to the International Space Station on 15 February 2011. It will be the heaviest load ever lofted into space by the Ariane 5 rocket, making the 200th flight of the European launcher even more spectacular.
  • International Space Station Program (ISSP) managers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston held a two-day meeting this week to discuss the prospect of adding a Bigelow Aerospace inflatable module to the ISS. The Technical Interchange Meeting (TIM) ran on Wednesday 12th and Thursday 13th January.

14 January

  • The Planck spacecraft, which is designed to study the faint afterglow of the Big Bang, has discovered a rash of new galaxy clusters, along with details of our own Milky Way.
  • NASA announced Thursday that astronaut Rick Sturckow will serve as a backup commander for the STS-134 space shuttle mission to facilitate continued training for the crew and support teams during STS-134 Commander Mark Kelly’s absence. Kelly’s wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was critically wounded in a shooting on Jan. 8 in Tucson, Arizona. Kelly remains commander of the mission, which is targeted for launch on April 19 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
  • Intelsat has said the former zombie satellite Galaxy 15 is again under full control and will return to commercial operation. During a webcast, Tobias Nassif, VP of satellite operations and engineering, said Intelsat has re-established full functionality over Galaxy 15. Galaxy 15 is currently positioned at 93 degrees West, where it will undergo additional testing and then be moved to either 133 degrees West or 129 degrees West, depending on demand for services. Intelsat expects to complete testing by January 31.

13 January

  • A preliminary NASA report, outlining plans for developing a Space Launch System (SLS) in response to the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, has put its weight behind a Inline Shuttle Derived (SD) Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLV). However, the report to lawmakers complained it would not be able to build the vehicle based on the funding and schedule requirements.

12 January

  • NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, an observatory originally designed to hunt for alien planets, has stumbled upon an intriguing discovery: a set of triplet stars circling a massive stellar parent.
  • Aviation Week comments on the fact that Space shuttle officials have concluded that a combination of weaker-than-expected materials and subtle assembly issues led to the external tank (ET) cracks that have stalled the launches of Discovery and Endeavour on NASA’s last two scheduled shuttle missions.

11 January

  • A newly discovered planet beyond the solar system is not only the smallest extrasolar planet yet found but also the first confirmed to be made entirely of solid material. Discovered by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft and dubbed Kepler-10b, the body has a diameter only 40 percent larger than Earth’s.
  • The Hubble Space Telescope has zoomed in on the mysterious green cloud of gas known as Hanny’s Voorwerp (after the Dutch school teacher Hanny van Arkel who discovered it using the citizen science project Galaxy Zoo) to reveal a zone of star formation.

10 January

  • Using the world’s largest telescopes in Hawaii and Chile, the researchers have used Quasar Absorption Line Spectroscopy to identify gas clouds called ‘damped Lyman alpha systems’ (DLAs). Among the thousands of DLAs known, the team have succeeded in finding a rare cloud released from a star very early in the history of the universe. The gas cloud was released by the exploding star around 13 billion years ago, one of the earliest stars in the universe.

9 January

  • By the end of the decade, five new telescopes will be completed which are each hugely more powerful than any before them and may answer vital questions about our universe. Among the objects that astronomers hope to study will be the first stars and galaxies that formed after the Big Bang – the birth of the universe 13.7 billion years ago. It is also hoped the new super-telescopes will be able to spot Earth-like planets in orbit round other stars and give early warnings of asteroids or meteorites heading on a collision course with Earth.

8 January

  • Following the further delay of the STS-133/ULF-5 mission into late February, International Space Station (ISS) Program Managers are readjusting the mission plans for Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-2 (ATV-2) “Johannes Kepler” and Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle-2 (HTV-2) “Kounotori”. Both vehicles will be present at the ISS during the STS-133 mission, which should provide for some stunning views during Discovery’s flyaround post-undocking.

7 January

  • Thursday’s Program Requirements Control Board (PRCB) meeting overviewed the status of Discovery’s External Tank (ET-137), with recommendations made to install radius blocks on over 100 stringers. A new launch date will be entered as a Change Request (CR) next week, based on negotiations with the ISS on the ability to achieve either a February 24 or 27 NET (No Earlier Than) target.

6 January

  • NASA released its annual SpinOff report at the end of December.

5 January

  • The root cause of the cracked stringers on STS-133′s External Tank (ET-137) may have been found, following the investigation team’s findings that the material used for the tank’s intertank support beams was found to be “mottled”, when compared to standard material. While the work on the 34 stringers is already approved, Thursday’s Program Requirements Control Board (PRCB) will discuss an option to install radius blocks on all 108 remaining stringers, which in turn would slip STS-133 out of the early February launch window.

4 January

  • Aviation Week reports on the newly ordered repairs to the external tank of the space shuttle Discovery. Launch is still slated for 3-10 February 2011.
  • Kathryn Aurora Gray, a precocious 10-year-old amateur astronomer from Fredericton, New Brunswick in Canada, has discovered a supernova explosion in a galaxy, called UGC 3378, within the faint constellation of Camelopardalis. The galaxy is approximately 240 million light-years away.

3 January

  • In 2011 a strong display of Quadrantid meteors is likely for Europe and points east to central Asia. Maximum activity is expected at around 0100 GMT on Tuesday, Jan. 4 when the radiant of this shower – from where the meteors appear to emanate – is ascending the dark northeastern sky. With no moonlight to interfere, this might turn out to be one of the best meteor displays of the year. Morning twilight will not interfere until about 6 a.m. local time. What about for North America? At the time the shower is reaching its peak, it will be Monday evening, Jan. 3 on the other side of the Atlantic; 8 p.m. EST in the East and 5 p.m. PST (still twilight) in the West. The radiant will be positioned low near the north-northwest horizon.

2 January

  • Long past their 90 day warranties, The Martian Rovers are approaching seven Earth years on the surface of Mars. Spirit landed on Mars on 4 January 2004. Its twin, Opportunity, hit the planet’s red dirt three weeks later, on 25 January.

1 January

  • An Indian rocket that tumbled out of control and was destroyed a minute after liftoff last month failed because of a snapped data cable, investigators said Friday. The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) lifted off normally on December 25 but started losing attitude control 47.8 seconds later; the rocket broke up at T+53.8 seconds and was destroyed by range safety at T+64 seconds. An initial investigation, chaired by former ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair, concluded that the primary cause of the failure is the “untimely and inadvertent” snapping of a group of 10 connectors at the base of the upper stage linking the rocket’s avionics, located in the upper stage, with the rocket’s lower stages. The snapped cables prevented commands from reaching the first stage’s electronics, causing the rocket to lose control. Why the cables snapped remains unknown.
  • In a controversial move, Brazil will pay more than €250 million over a decade to become a member of the European Southern Observatory (ESO). The agreement is part of a bid by Brazil’s government to lift the quality of domestic science by joining big international projects. Brazil has also been negotiating entry into Europe’s CERN particle accelerator.
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November 2010

Posted by drdave on November 7, 2010

30 November

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

29 November 2010

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

28 November 2010

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

27 November 2010

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

26 November 2010

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

25 November 2010

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

24 November 2010

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

23 November 2010

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

22 November 2010

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

21 November 2010

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

20 November 2010

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

19 November 2010

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

18 November 2010

17 November 2010

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

16 November 2010

15 November 2010

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

14 November 2010

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

13 November 2010

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

12 November 2010

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

11 November 2010

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

10 November 2010

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

9 November 2010

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

8 November 2010

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

7 November 2010

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

6 November 2010

5 November 2010

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

4 November 2010

3 November 2010

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

2 November 2010

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

1 November 2010

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