NSS Phoenix Space News

Posts Tagged ‘Galaxy’

January 2013

Posted by drdave on January 1, 2013

17 January

  • NASA and ESA formally announced Wednesday that Europe will develop a service module for at least one Orion mission based on the ATV cargo spacecraft. The service module for the EM-1 Orion mission, an uncrewed launch on the first Space Launch System (SLS) launch planned for 2017, will be built by Europe. The module will be based on the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) cargo spacecraft Europe currently provides for taking cargo to the ISS, and this service module will take the place of ATV missions later this decade.
  • The U.S. Air Force has delayed the launch date of its next Boeing Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) satellite owing to additional work needed to mitigate possible risk discovered in the last Delta IV rocket launch, during which the RL10B-2 upper stage engine malfunctioned.

16 January

  • NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is set to test its drill in the coming days on a rock that scientists believe may provide new information on the existence of water on the planet in its past. Scientists have selected a rock dubbed “John Klein”, after the late deputy project manager for the mission, as the likely first target for the rover’s drill.

15 January

  • A massive wildfire swept through a major Australian astronomical observatory on Sunday, damaging some buildings but apparently sparing key telescopes there. The fast-moving fire hit the Siding Spring Observatory Sunday, part of a complex of fires in New South Wales, Australia that have broken out in extreme heat there. Authorities reported Monday that several buildings at the observatory, including lodges used by visiting astronomers and the visitors center, were destroyed. However, major telescopes there, including the 4-meter Anglo-Australian Telescope, appeared to have survived in good condition, although some instruments and equipment may be damaged.
  • NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity is driving toward a flat rock with pale veins that may hold clues to a wet history on the Red Planet. If the rock meets rover engineers’ approval when Curiosity rolls up to it in coming days, it will become the first to be drilled for a sample during the Mars Science Laboratory mission.

14 January

  • On Jan. 13, 2013, at 2:24 a.m. EST, the sun erupted with an Earth-directed coronal mass ejection or CME. Not to be confused with a solar flare, a CME is a solar phenomenon that can send solar particles into space and reach Earth one to three days later.

13 January

  • NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and Bigelow Aerospace Founder and President Robert Bigelow will discuss the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module program to the media on Wednesday, January 16, at Bigelow Aerospace facilities in Las Vegas.

12 January

  • The Canadian Space Agency announced this week that it will press ahead with the country’s next-generation radar satellite imaging system, signing a contract with a Canadian firm to build the satellites. The RADARSAT Constellation system will feature three radar imaging satellites in polar orbits to provide shorter revisit times for radar imagery.

11 January

  • New observations of the near Earth asteroid Apophis have ruled out any chance it will hit the Earth in 2036, NASA announced Thursday. The observations in 2011 and 2012, plus those carried out when the asteroid made a relatively close approach to the Earth on Wednesday, allowed scientists to refine the asteroid’s orbit. That new orbit effectively ruled out any chance that the asteroid, about 325 meters in diameter, will impact the Earth in 2036, with the odds of an impact now less than one in one million. Previously, there had been a very small chance of a 2036 impact, depending on the path the asteroid took when passing close to the Earth in April 2029.

10 January

  • Officials with NASA and four companies involved with the space agency’s commercial crew development program said Wednesday that their efforts remain on schedule, with some companies planning crewed test flights as early as 2015. Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and SpaceX all said that that they are on track with development of their systems under Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) awards they received from NASA in August. Sierra Nevada said they plan to begin glide tests of their Dream Chaser vehicle from Edwards Air Force Base in California later this quarter, while SpaceX has a pad abort test of its Dragon launch escape system scheduled for December. A fourth company, Blue Origin, had a funded award in the previous round of the program and said they plan to see an unfunded extension to help guide continued work on their vehicle. NASA officials said a request for proposals for the next phase of the development effort will go out this fall, with plans to award multiple contracts by May 2014.

9 January

  • Although not nearly as threatening as it was first perceived to be upon its discovery, the asteroid 99942 Apophis still has a very slight chance of impacting our planet on Friday, April 13, 2036. It will get closer to Earth this year, giving astronomers a chance to refine its trajectory for good and know whether we’re in trouble. And you can get a glimpse of it online tomorrow, courtesy of the Slooh Space Camera.
  • 15 flights are scheduled to blast off from Florida’s Space Coast, including the first SpaceX missions from Cape Canaveral fully dedicated to putting commercial satellites into orbit.

8 January

  • In a new and sharper hunt for the Universe’s most violent events, astronomers may have found two medium-sized galactic monsters. Launched in June, NASA’S NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Array) X-ray observatory has discovered what may be two intermediate mass black holes in the spiral galaxy IC 342, some 7 million light-years from Earth.

7 January

  • Small planets like our own are extremely abundant in the universe, according to new results presented here today at the 221st meeting of the American Astronomical Society.
  • The discovery by astronomers at the University of California, Berkeley, and Clarion University in Pennsylvania of six likely comets around distant stars suggests that comets – dubbed “exocomets” – are just as common in other stellar systems with planets.
  • The continuing success of NASA’s Kepler mission was highlighted on Monday, following the discovery of 461 new planet candidates – four of which are less than twice the size of Earth and orbit in their sun’s habitable zone. Scientists believe it’s just a matter of “when” a twin of our own planet is found by the spacecraft.

6 January

  • Moon Express, one of the teams competing in the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP), has reached an agreement where it will partner with Dynetics to acquire fellow GLXP team, the Rocket City Space Pioneers (RCSP). However, are not considered to be the team to beat by most experts—Astrobotic Technology currently holds that position.

5 January

4 January

  • NASA-funded researchers analyzing a small meteorite that may be the first discovered from the Martian surface or crust have found it contains 10 times more water than other Martian meteorites from unknown origins. This new class of meteorite was found in 2011 in the Sahara Desert. Designated Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034, and nicknamed “Black Beauty,” it weighs approximately 11 ounces (320 grams). After more than a year of intensive study, a team of U.S. scientists determined the meteorite formed 2.1 billion years ago during the beginning of the most recent geologic period on Mars, known as the Amazonian.
  • Comet Ison, due to loop around the Sun in December 2013, may or may not be “The Comet of the Century”. It is too early to tell.

3 January

  • Astronomers using the Canada-France-Hawaii and W. M. Keck Observatory telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii have been amazed to find a group of dwarf galaxies moving in unison in the vicinity of the Andromeda Galaxy. The structure of these small galaxies lies in a plane, analogous to the planets of the Solar System. Unexpectedly, they orbit the much larger Andromeda galaxy en masse, presenting a serious challenge to our ideas for the formation and evolution of all galaxies.

2 January

  • SpaceX and Orbcomm Inc. have agreed to new contract terms for the launch of 18 data communications satellites beginning in mid-2013, according to a filing with a U.S. regulatory agency. The $42.6 million contract covers the launch of 18 second-generation Orbcomm satellites on two Falcon 9 rockets between the second quarter of 2013 and the second quarter of 2014.

1 January

  • A study on the health effects of cosmic radiation has been published today in PLOS ONE. This new study is the first to establish a link between radiation experienced by space travelers and an increased chance of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
  • IEEE Spectrum reviews Virgin Galactic and the plans for SpaceShipTwo in 2013.
  • With all three Space Shuttle orbiters now tucked away inside their respective museums, the International Space Station (ISS) has completed its full year on-orbit in the post-Shuttle era, a year which has brought great successes for the orbital outpost. On the back of these successes in 2012, a promising 2013 awaits the station, with many new capabilities and technologies set to be demonstrated.
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November 2012

Posted by drdave on November 2, 2012

30 November

  • A Russian Soyuz rocket is set for liftoff at 0202:50 UTC Saturday (7:02:50 PM Phoenix time Friday) from the Guiana Space Center with the sharp-eyed Pleiades 1B Earth observation satellite to collect high-resolution imagery for French and European security services. It will join the Pleiades 1A satellite launched in December 2011, forming a two-spacecraft constellation placing every part of Earth in range of their cameras each day.
  • Stratolaunch Systems has turned to Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., to keep the world’s largest air-launch-to-orbit system on track for a 2017 test flight. Stratolaunch and SpaceX parted ways was because SpaceX, decided it did not want to disrupt its Hawthorne, Calif., assembly line to accommodate the design changes required to turn its nine-engine, liquid-fueled Falcon 9 into a four- or five-engine air-launched booster.

29 November

  • Curiosity on Mars: Rumors and speculation that there are major new findings from the mission at this early stage are incorrect. The news conference will be an update about first use of the rover’s full array of analytical instruments to investigate a drift of sandy soil. One class of substances Curiosity is checking for is organic compounds — carbon-containing chemicals that can be ingredients for life. At this point in the mission, the instruments on the rover have not detected any definitive evidence of Martian organics.
  • South Korean engineers scrubbed Thursday a second attempt to launch a rocket, citing technical problems with the rocket’s second stage. The Korea Space Launch Vehicle (KSLV)-1 rocket, also known as Naro-1, was to launch from South Korea’s launch site, the Naro Space Center, at 2 am EST (0700 GMT, 4 pm local time) Thursday, but the countdown was halted 17 minutes before the scheduled liftoff time.
  • Scientists Thursday announced new evidence from the MESSENGER spacecraft that Mercury, the planet orbiting nearest the Sun, hosts massive caches of ice and revealed new information on how water reached our solar system’s inner planets.

28 November

  • A Long March 3B rocket launched a Chinese communications satellite that will be used, in part, by a Sri Lankan company. The rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 3:13 AM Phoenix time (1013 UTC) Tuesday and placed the Chinasat-12 satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit. The satellite, a Spacebus 4000 model built by Thales Alenia Space, weighed approximately 5,000 kilograms at launch and carries a payload of C- and Ku-band transponders.

27 November

  • The BBC discusses the US Air Force X-37B, which is currently scheduled for launch on 11 December.
  • 80,000 people on Mars. Elon Musk wants to do that.

26 November

  • Capt. Scott Kelly, a veteran astronaut, will set the record for the longest single space mission for an American, NASA announced Monday. Kelly and Roscosmos cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will embark on a one-year mission to the International Space Station in 2015. The duo will help scientists explore the effects of living in space on the human body, NASA said. They will provide information regarding health and crew performance and help with determining and validating risk-reduction measures. All of this can help contribute to planning for missions to other celestial worlds, such as an asteroid or Mars.
  • It is not every day that astronauts can claim to return to Earth with a new species of life. But when the astronauts on ESA’s CAVES underground training course returned to the surface they were carrying a special type of woodlouse.

25 November

  • A Long March 4C rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 11:06 pm EST Saturday (0406 GMT, 12:06 pm Sunday Beijing time) and placed the Yaogan 16 satellite into orbit. The satellite will be used for a variety of earth sciences and disaster management applications.

24 November

  • Whatever Curiosity has found in the way of organic molecules on Mars, Stuart Clark at the Guardian observes that “… it is not evidence for life on Mars. It can’t be. Curiosity is not designed to look for life. Grotzinger has stated this himself.”
  • Space fans anticipate news of organic molecules from the Mars Curiosity rover, which were cryptically teased by the mission’s chief scientist, John Grotzinger. Grotzinger has refused to elaborate, pointing New Scientist, and other journalists, to a presentation scheduled for the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in San Francisco, which begins on 3 December.
  • Member states of the European Space Agency (ESA) and Canada met in Naples, Italy, to determine the space agenda and the budget for the next five years. The discussed projects include ExoMars rover, Ariane 5 rocket modernization and NASA’s new manned Orion multipurpose crew vehicle (MPCV), as well as some 12bn euros’ worth of activities.

23 November

  • Astronomers observing a stellar occultation by the dwarf planet Makemake found no evidence of an atmosphere around the distant, icy world. Astronomers observed the occultation using three telescopes at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile in April 2011 as the dwarf planet, about two-thirds the size of Pluto, passed in front of a distant star. The star abruptly disappeared and then reappeared, a telltale sign that there is no atmosphere around the dwarf planet.

22 November

  • The European Space Agency got the green light on 21 November to push ahead with a new generation of launchers and take its first foray into manned spacecraft, with a €10 billion ($12.9 billion) budget agreement for the next five years. Meeting in Naples, ministers in charge of space and science from the governments of the space agency’s 20 member states broadly signed up to ESA proposals to improve its Ariane 5 heavy launcher, begin design of a successor – Ariane 6 – and design and build a service module for NASA’s multi-purpose crew vehicle (MPCV) as part of ESA’s “barter arrangement” to the running costs of the International Space Station.
  • SpaceX intends to build a methane/liquid oxygen (Lox) engine, said founder Elon Musk, in a shift away from the highly refined kerosene rocket propellant (RP-1) that has powered the company’s previous engines. Speaking at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London, SpaceX chief executive and lead rocket engineer Musk said Lox and methane would be SpaceX’s propellants of choice on a mission to Mars, which has long been his stated goal.

21 November

  • The European Space Agency (ESA) have announced they will inform NASA they are ready to build an ATV derived Service Module for Orion, to be ready for the first launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) in 2017. The announcement came after the UK stepped up with additional funding, marking the country’s first real human BEO commitment.
  • A Proton rocket successfully launched an American communications satellite on the same day that the company that markets the Proton commercially replaced its president. The Proton M rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 1:31 pm EST Tuesday (1831 GMT Tuesday, 12:31 am local time Wednesday). Its Breeze M upper stage released the EchoStar 16 satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit 9 hours and 12 minutes after liftoff. The satellite, a Space Systems/Loral 1300-series satellite, weighed 6,683 kilograms at launch and carries 36 Ku-band transponders.
  • Workers have begun pre-construction preparations for the rebuilding of Runway 4-22 at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

20 November

  • Astronomers announced Monday they had directly imaged a massive extrasolar planet orbiting another star. Kappa Andromedae b has a mass 12.8 times that of Jupiter, placing it near the dividing line between planet and brown dwarf; astronomers call the world a “super-Jupiter” to cover both possibilities.

19 November

  • A Soyuz spacecraft carrying three returning International Space Station crewmembers safely landed early Monday in Kazakhstan. The Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft undocked from the ISS at 5:26 pm EST (2226 GMT) Sunday and landed north of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan, at 6:56 pm Phoenix time Sunday (0156 UTC, 7:56 am local time Monday). On board the Soyuz were NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, who spent 127 days in space.
  • A Long March rocket launched a Chinese environmental monitoring satellite on Monday. The Long March 2C rocket lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center at 5:53 pm EST Sunday (2253 GMT Sunday, 6:53 am Beijing time Monday) and placed the Huanjing-1C into a sun-synchronous orbit.

18 November

  • Aviation Week discusses the computer anomalies experienced by the SpaceX Dragon on the recent CRS1 mission to the International Space Station.
  • The Russian replacement for a defective part in South Korea’s space rocket that postponed its launch last month has arrived. A new rubber seal in the connector between the rocket and its launch pad arrived in Seoul on Saturday and was moved to the Naro Space Center, some 480 kilometers south of Seoul. The defect in the part was believed to be the main cause of the failure of planned launch of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1) last month.

17 November

  • Three international and commercial customers slated to fly satellites on Falcon 9 rockets next year are standing by SpaceX as the company probes a mysterious engine problem and prepares to debut an upgraded launcher.

16 November

  • NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, which has spent the last several weeks working at a single location on the Martian surface, will soon be on the move again, project scientists said Thursday. The rover has been stopped for over a month by a sand dune, collecting soil samples while also performing other observations. Project scientists said at a briefing Thursday that the rover would be on the move again in the next few days
  • Oversight report says NASA’s challenges include tight budgets and a big rocket program.
  • SpaceX’s Launch Anomaly Wasn’t the Only Flaw on CRS-1

15 November

  • A new commercial space company intends to send commercial astronauts to the moon by 2020.
  • Astronomers announced Wednesday the discovery of a “homeless” planet 100 light-years away not orbiting any star. Astronomers detected the object, designated CFBDSIR2149, using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, with followup observations made by ESO’s Very Large Telescope. The object four to seven times as massive as Jupiter and is part of a group of young stars called the AB Doradus Moving Group, but is not orbiting any of those stars.

14 November

  • NASA is marking two milestones in the search for planets like Earth; the successful completion of the Kepler Space Telescope’s 3 1/2- year prime mission and the beginning of an extended mission that could last as long as four years.
  • A Soyuz-2-1a/Fregat rocket has launched a communications satellite for the Russian military on Wednesday. The rocket, carrying the latest Meridian spacecraft, lifted off from pad 43/4 at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia, at 11:42 UTC on Wednesday. Spacecraft separation was successfully carried out at 14:00 UTC.

13 November

  • NASA Television will provide live coverage as three of the crew members on the International Space Station come back to Earth Sunday, 18 November. Expedition 33 Commander Sunita Williams of NASA, Flight Engineer Aki Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Russian Soyuz Commander Yuri Malenchenko will undock their Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft from the station, heading for a pre-dawn landing in Kazakhstan, northeast of the remote town of Arkalyk at 7:53 p.m. CST (7:53 a.m. Kazakhstan time on Nov. 19).

12 November

  • The NASA Mars Odyssey orbiter has resumed duty after switching to a set of redundant equipment, including a main computer, that had not been used since before the spacecraft’s 2001 launch. Odyssey relayed data to Earth late Sunday that it received from NASA’s Opportunity rover on Mars using the orbiter’s fresh “B-side” radio for UHF (ultra-high frequency) communications. In plans for this week are relay opportunities for the newest Mars rover, Curiosity, and resumption of Odyssey’s own scientific observations.

11 November

  • Specialists at the Plesetsk space centre in the Arkhangelsk region completed erecting the Soyuz-2.1a launcher with the Fregat upper stage carrying the Meridian spacecraft. Launch of Soyuz-2.1a with the Meridian spacecraft is due on November 14.

10 November

  • An Ariane 5 rocket successfully launched a pair of commercial communications satellites on Saturday. The Ariane 5 ECA lifted off from the spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana, at 4:05 pm EST (2105 GMT) Saturday, one day later than planned because of high upper-level winds on Friday. The Ariane 5 placed into geosynchronous transfer orbit the Eutelsat 21B and Star One C3 satellites about a half-hour after launch.
  • China plans to launch its next manned space mission in June of 2013. The three-person crew could be made up of a woman and two men.

9 November

  • Rocket engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne announced this week it was laying off 100 people because of uncertainty in the space industry. About three-quarters of the layoffs are taking place at two facilities in southern California. Rocketdyne cited the “uncertain future of the space industry and current economic conditions” as the reasons for the layoffs. Rocketdyne, which manufactured the Space Shuttle Maine Engine and builds the RS-68 engine for the Delta 4, is in the process of being sold to GenCorp, the parent company of rival engine manufacturer Aerojet.
  • The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency figures smaller is better: Striving for cheaper and more frequent launches, JAXA has set its sights on firing its new Epsilon small rocket into space from the Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima next August or September.
  • Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) — a commercial space advocate and global warming skepticannounced Nov. 8 his intentions to vie for the chairmanship of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee in the 113th Congress that convenes in January.

8 November

  • Astronomers announced Wednesday the discovery of a “super-Earth” extrasolar planet within the habitable zone of a nearby star. Astronomers said the planet, one of six known to orbit the star HD 40307, has a mass at least seven times that of the Earth and orbits the star at a distance similar to the Earth’s distance from the Sun. HD 40307 is a K-class star about 42 light-years from the Sun.
  • Comet collisions every six seconds explain 17-year-old stellar mystery.
  • The Russian government will hold a special conference November 26 on ways of reorganizing the space agency Roscosmos, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who supervises the defense-industrial complex, has said. He will make a report on the issue.
  • The U.S. Air Force is not close to finding a root cause of a recent low-thrust problem in an RL10 upper stage engine made by Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne, and the service may further delay launch of its Orbital Test Vehicle-3 mission as well as NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System K spacecraft.

7 November

  • Jupiter’s Great Red Spot only looks constant. In the late 1800s the behemoth storm looked more like a Great Red Sausage, stretching about 40,000 kilometers. Today, it is only 20,000 kilometers wide. Could it melt away entirely?

6 November

  • Wired magazine discusses the plans of SpaceX for controlled landing of the Falcon 9 first stage, and shows video of the 10 story tall Grasshopper test vehicle flight.

5 November

  • Scientists working on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover said Friday that initial measurements of the Martian atmosphere failed to turn up any evidence of methane, a constituent detected in some previous observations that could be linked to life. a laser spectrometer on Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars instrument measured the composition of the atmosphere at the Gale Crater landing site, putting an upper limit of just a few parts per billion on any methane in the atmosphere there.
  • Now you can also get an alert on your mobile device when the International Space Station is visible overhead thanks to NASA’s new Web app Spot the Station.

4 November

3 November

2 November

  • United Launch Alliance plans to blast a U.S. Air Force X-37B space plane into orbit 27 November, pushing back the launch of the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) to complete investigating a rocket engine anomaly that occurred during an Oct. 4 mission.

2 November

1 November

  • Mark Kelly, commander of the space shuttle Endeavor on its last mission to the International Space Station, discusses the Obama space policy and support for NASA.
  • US astronaut Sunita Williams and her Japanese colleague Akihiko Hoshide will make a spacewalk on Thursday outside the International Space Station (ISS) to isolate and repair an ammonia leak.
  • Light from the very first stars in the universe has been measured – and there is less of it than previously thought. The discovery should help us better understand how the hot haze of hydrogen that existed shortly after the big bang transformed into the complex web of stars and galaxies we see today.

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December 2009

Posted by drdave on August 4, 2010

31 December 2009

  • From the NASA press release: “Kepler Mission scientists will reveal the space telescope’s latest discoveries at a news briefing in Washington on Monday, Jan. 4, 2010. The announcement will be made at 10 a.m. PST (1 p.m. EST) at a news conference during the 215th national meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park hotel.”
  • From ASU: “According to research published online in the Dec. 31 issue of Science Express and in the Jan. 22 issue of Science magazine by Greg Brennecka, a graduate student in the School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) at Arizona State University (ASU), the 238U/235U ratio can no longer be considered a constant in meteoritic material. Any deviation from this assumed value causes miscalculation in the determined Pb-Pb age of a sample, meaning that the age of the Solar System could be miscalculated by as much as several million years. Although this is a small fraction of the 4.57 billion year age of the Solar System, it is significant since some of the most important events that shaped the Solar System occurred within the first 10 million years of its formation.”

30 December 2009

  • The Arizona Daily Star reports that the U of A is one of three finalists for NASA’s Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer, or Osiris-Rex for the New Frontiers program. The UA’s Michael Drake, director of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, would head the project to explore an asteroid and return samples.
  • JPL announced that the WISE observatory has released its cover and begun observations. The first data should be released in about a month, after calibration is complete. WISE will perform the most detailed infrared survey of the entire sky to date. Its millions of images will expose the dark side of the cosmos — objects, such as asteroids, stars and galaxies, that are too cool or dusty to be seen with visible light.

29 December 2009

  • Graduate students at the University of Colorado at Boulder have been awarded an $840,000 grant to develop a five (5) pound satellite to observe energetic particles in space that should give scientists a better understanding of solar flares and their interaction with Earth’s atmosphere
  • On Orbit has images of the plumes of Enciladus.

28 December 2009

27 December 2009

  • JPL reports that the Cassini spacecraft will fly over the north pole of Titan today. The flyby, which brings Cassini to within about 960 kilometers (600 miles) of the Titan surface at 82 degrees north latitude, will take place the evening of Dec. 27 Pacific time.
  • Aviation Week discusses the contract awarded to EADS Astrium by the European Space Agency (ESA) for definition of a higher-power, more versatile variant of the Ariane 5 heavy-lift booster. It will feature a new upper stage, a re-ignitable Vinci upper stage engine and enhanced avionics and flight software. The enhanced Ariane V should make its first flight around 2017, and will have a payload capacity of 12 metric tons. This compare to 10 tons for the existing Ariane 5 ECA. The new Ariane V will be be capable of launching spacecraft into multiple orbits. It is intended to allow the Ariane 5 to remain competitive with new launch vehicles like China’s Long March 5.

26 December 2009

  • In November, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a study that expressed concern over the ability of NASA to utilize more than a fraction of the research potential of the International Space Station.
  • Discovery.com reports on the end of the ISS Butterfly Experiment. The National Space Biomedical Research Institute reports that “The four Painted Lady butterflies on the International Space Station have completed their normal life spans.”

25 December 2009

24 December 2009

  • Late Wednesday, the U.S. Senate passed legislation to extend federal liability protection for commercial space launch providers (First established by Congress as part of the Commercial Space Launch Act Amendments of 1988). Under the measure approved by the Senate, the U.S. government would continue for three more years to indemnify commercial launch operators against third-party claims for launch-related damages that exceed $500 million, up to a total of $1.5 billion.
  • Galaxies existing only 500 million years after the Big Bang have been reported in the journal Nature. Images taken in August by the Hubble telescope show three galaxies with a red shift around 10.

23 December 2009

  • The Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft docked with the nadir port of the station’s Zarya module at 5:48 pm EST (2248 GMT) Tuesday, two days after launching from Baikonur. On board are the Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov, NASA astronaut T.J. Creamer, and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi.
  • The air force web site discusses the successful test firing of ATK’s Castor 30 solid fuel second stage engine at the Arnold Engineering Development Center’s J-6 large-rocket motor-testing facility on 9 December 2009. Although the rocket engine can be used in military applications, it is designed to burn more slowly than most solid rocket engines, giving a gentler ride to commercial satellite payloads.

22 December 2009

  • The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released a letter to Senators Jay Rockefeller and Kay Bailey Hutchison (Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation), and Representatives Bart Gordon and Ralph M. Hall (House Committee on Science and Technology) concerning the oversupply of world wide launch capacity and its detrimental affects on the ability of the United States to develop technology skills and retain the workforce in the area of rocket propulsion.
  • Space News discusses NASA’s announcement concerning design fixes to protect astronauts from potentially dangerous levels of vibrations that could otherwise reach the planned Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle during its climb to orbit atop the Ares 1 rocket.
  • The Mars Rover Spirit, trying to escape its sand trap captivity, has made another discovery while spinning its wheels. It broke through a dark reddish-brown crusty surface that was an inch or so thick, exposing loose, sandy material. As the rover tried to break free, its wheels began to churn the soil, uncovering even more sandy material, bearing “a higher concentration of sulfate that seen anywhere else on Mars,” said Ray Arvidson of the Washington University in St. Louis. “These deposits are evidence of water-charged explosive volcanism. Such areas could have once supported life.”

21 December 2009

  • London-based Avanti Communications Group PLC has awarded a contract to Orbital Sciences Corp. to provide a new communications satellite.
    Orbital, headquartered in Dulles, will deliver the HYLAS 2 satellite in early 2012.
  • NASA’s Kennedy Space Center announced it will host a media event at 10 a.m. EST on Friday, Jan. 8, to showcase the Tranquility node, which will provide room for many of the station’s life support systems. The module was built in Turin, Italy, by Thales Alenia Space for the European Space Agency. Tranquiity features a cupola which will provide a multi-directional view of the exterior of the ISS. It will allow the crew to monitor spacewalks and docking operations, as well as provide a spectacular view of Earth and other celestial objects.
  • Dwayne Day has published an interesting essay on space fetishists (advocates of one size fits all solutions to space problems). A must read.

20 December 2009

  • Oleg Kotov (Russia), Timothy Creamer (NASA) and Soichi Noguchi (Japan) have launched on board the Russian Soyuz TMA-17 on Sunday, taking aim on the International Space Station (ISS) where they will join NASA’s Jeff Williams, commander of the Expedition 22 crew. The crew launched at 4:51pm Eastern from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
  • 30 years ago, on Christmas Eve, Arianespace launched its first Ariane rocket from its new spaceport at Kourou on the edge of the massive Amazon rain forest.

19 December 2009

  • Nature News takes note of a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, California where scientists report that as much as 50% of the plume shooting out of geysers on Saturn’s moon Enceladus could be ice. Previously, scientists had thought that only 10–20% of the plume was made up of ice, with the rest being water vapour.
  • NASASpaceFlight reports that “Capping off a highly successful year for the Space Shuttle Program, the STS-129 flight of Atlantis last month has undergone its final, official post-flight assessment: the all-important In-Flight Anomaly (IFA) review. In all, STS-129 was a clean flight, particularly for the vehicle’s Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) and Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs).”

18 December 2009

  • The seventh launch of the Ariane in 2009 by Arianspace put the HELIOS-2B satellite into a sun-synchronous polar orbit
  • XCOR announced that “The Yecheon Astro Space Center announced today that it has selected XCOR Aerospace as its preferred supplier of suborbital space launch services. Operating under a wet lease model, XCOR intends to supply services to the Center using the Lynx Mark II suborbital vehicle.”

17 December 2009

  • Amy Klamper at Spacenews.com thinks “New Direction for NASA Could Wait Until February”
  • The Ariane 5 launch of the HELIOS 2B satellite from French Guiana has been scrubbed.

16 December 2009

  • The Guardian has a report on planet orbiting a nearby star (smaller than the sun) that is nearly three times as large as Earth and made almost entirely of water, forming a global ocean more than 15,000km deep.
  • ATK successfully test fired the Orion capsule safety abort motor today.

15 December 2009

14 December 2009

  • The Russian space agency Roscosmos launched a venerable Proton rocket carrying three GLONASS-M satellites into orbit on December 14. Each 3,000-pound satellite is designed to last seven years.
  • The Wide-field Infra red Survey Explorer (WISE) lifted off from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base this morning, after the mission was delayed because of a problem with the spacecraft’s steering engine.

13 December 2009

  • On this day in 1965, Wally Schirra and Thomas Stafford in Gemini VIa and Frank Borman and James Lovell Jr. in Gemini VII were flying side by side 100 miles above the Earth. One held a sign “Beat ARMY” and out of the window on the other space craft you could read “Beat NAVY”.
  • The Gemenid Meteor Shower peaks tonight.

12 December 2009

  • The Financial Times features Burt Rutan. The 66 year old aerospace legend plans to beat any government to Mars
  • If all goes to plan, billionaire Richard Branson’s spaceships will take off with tourists on board in 2012 – from Kiruna in the far north of Sweden.

11 December 2009

  • Endeavor (STS-130) has arrived at the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) prior to mating with External Tank (ET-134) and the twin Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs). Launch is scheduled for early February on a 13 day mission to the International Space Station.
  • Europe’s Mars Express captured images of both Martian moons together at one time.

10 December 2009

  • NASA acknowledged that the mars rover Spirit’s right rear wheel may be inoperable. That would leave the rover with only four working wheels, and likely doom her to remain mired in the sand.
  • Paul Hill, the Director of NASA’s Mission Operations Directorate, hinted at an additional Space Shuttle flight, and discussed Commercial alternative launch vehicles.

9 December 2009

  • Arianespace has delayed the launch of the HELIOS 2B satellite for several days in order to replace a part in a launcher subsystem
  • NASA has succeeded in getting its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter out of safe-mode, and expect to resume science experiments next week.

8 December 2009

  • NASA managers have confirmed they are considering adding STS-135 to the Shuttle manifest in late 2010 or early 2011. They would use Atlantis, which would mean one more flight for that venerable shuttle after STS-133.
  • BioEdOnline has the latest on four Painted Lady butterflies that emerged from their chrysalis aboard the International Space Station.

7 December 2009

  • Calculations by Diedrich Möhlmann of the German Aerospace Center in Berlin suggest that liquid water may collect temporarily below the Martian surface.
  • Scaled Composites unveiled SpaceShipTwo, designed to take tourists to the edge of space.

6 December 2009

  • The New Horizon spacecraft with be half-way to Pluto at the end of December.
  • A new configuration of the Delta IV rocket has launched on its maiden flight. The new Medium+ (5,4) variant was used to orbit the Wideband Global SATCOM 3 (WGS-3) satellite for the US Air Force.

5 December 2009

  • There is a 60% chance weather will again delay the launch of the Air Force communication satellite on board a Delta 4 rocket.
  • NASA’s MODIS satellite has this image of dust storms off the coast of West Africa.

4 December 2009

  • Gwenaël Boué and Jacques Laskar recently published a paper entitles “A collisionless scenario for Uranus tilting“. They propose a model wherein Uranus once possessed a moon with a mass of 1% of the planet and orbiting at a certain distance. This configuration could unbalance the spin of Uranus and the wobble would tilt the planet. The moon was subsequently ejected during an encounter with another planet.
  • Why we shouldn’t release all we know about the cosmos.
  • Troubles launching an Air Force satellite from Cape Canaveral has delayed the Vandenberg launch of the Delta 2 rocket that will carry NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. WISE is designed to scan the whole sky in the infrared to find previously undetected celestial objects.

3 December 2009

  • The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft has been mated to its fairing in preparation for its scheduled 9 December launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. WISE will circle Earth over the Earth’s poles. During its nine months of operations, it will look for the coolest stars, dark asteroids and the most luminous galaxies.
  • The latest information from JPL on the efforts to free the Spirit rover. Dark days indeed.
  • “Safe Mode”. Another word for Ouch!!. Kepler experienced a safe mode event on Nov. 18, 2009. Engineers from Ames are working on the problem. No mission data was lost. Both Mars Orbiters are also in “Safe Mode”. See 2 December, below.

2 December 2009

  • The New Scientist reports that both of the Mars orbiters are out of commission, spelling problems for the two rovers. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spontaneously rebooted in August for the fourth time this year, and has been on stand-by ever since. On Friday, 28 November, Mars Odyssey suffered a memory glitch and has been in “safe mode” pending resolution.
  • Bad weather has delayed the launch of an Air Force satellite aboard an Atlas rocket until Thursday, 3 December between 7:22 PM to 8:43 PM EST.
  • The Geminid Meteor shower will peak the night of 13/14 December, with as many as 50-80 meteors per hour.

1 December 2009

  • The Soyuz TMA-15 spacecraft is scheduled to undock from the International Space Station Monday at 10:56 PM EST. Soyuz Commander Roman Romanenko, European Space Agency Flight Engineer Frank De Winne and Canadian Space Agency Flight Engineer Bob Thirsk are slated for a landing in Kazakhstan at 2:15 AM EST Tuesday (1:15 p.m. Kazakhstan time) to conclude their 188 days in space, 186 days on the station.
  • The Tranquility module is set for delivery in 2010 by the Space Shuttle Endeavour’s STS-130 mission to the International Space Station. Thales Alenia Space in Turin Italy built Tranquility. The pressurized node will provide additional room for crew members and many of the space station’s life support and environmental control systems. These systems include air revitalization, oxygen generation and water recycling. A waste and hygiene compartment and a treadmill also will be relocated from other areas of the station.

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