NSS Phoenix Space News

Posts Tagged ‘Exoplanet’

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.

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

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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