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Posts Tagged ‘Elon Musk’

June 2012

Posted by drdave on June 1, 2012

30 June

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

29 June

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

28 June

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

27 June

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

26 June

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

25 June

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

24 June

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

23 June

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

22 June

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

21 June

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

20 June

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

19 June

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

18 June

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

17 June

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

16 June

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

15 June

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

14 June

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

13 June

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

12 June

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

11 June

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

10 June

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

9 June

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

8 June

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

7 June

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

6 June

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

5 June

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

4 June

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

3 June

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

2 June

1 June

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

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May 2011

Posted by drdave on May 1, 2011

31 May

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

30 May

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

29 May

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

28 May

27 May

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

26 May

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

25 May

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

24 May

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

23 May

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

22 May

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

21 May

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

20 May

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

19 May

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

18 May

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

17 May

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

16 May

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

15 May

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

14 May

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

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

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

13 May

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

12 May

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

11 May

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

10 May

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

9 May

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

8 May

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

7 May

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

6 May

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

5 May

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

4 May

3 May

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

2 May

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

1 May

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

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