NSS Phoenix Space News

Posts Tagged ‘Glonass-M’

November 2011

Posted by drdave on November 2, 2011

30 November

  • The second flight of the Air Force’s classified X-37B spaceplane will be extended beyond its original end this week. An Atlas 5 launched the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle 2 in March on what was originally announced to be a 270-day mission, which meant the spaceplane would have landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California this Wednesday. Air Force officials said this week the mission will be extended for an unspecified period to “extract the maximum value” from the mission.
  • A Long March 2C rocket launched a Chinese reconnaissance satellite on Wednesday. The rocket lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center at 11:50 AM Phoenix time Tuesday (1850 UTC Tuesday, 2:50 am local time Wednesday) and placed the Yaogan 13 satellite into orbit.
  • NASA has agreed to pay Boeing Satellite Systems some $289 million to build an additional Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS). The U.S. space agency placed the spacecraft order as the first of two available contract options was about to expire.

29 November

28 November

  • Russia has successfully launched another Kosmos (Glonass-M) class satellite into orbit, following lift-off of their Soyuz 2-1B launch vehicle from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia. Launch occurred at 08:25 UTC on Monday, with a successful spacecraft separation confirmed just over three hours later.
  • Virgin Galactic, which plans to send paying tourists to space from the New Mexico Spaceport in southern New Mexico, has rented a 2,500-square-foot office on the top floor of the new Green Offices at 166 South Roadrunner Parkway, about two blocks south of the MountainView Regional Medical Center in Las Cruces New Mexico.
  • When NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reaches Pluto in July 2015, it may find the region more hazardous than anticipated. The discovery of several moons around Pluto — and the potential for more — increase the risks during the probe’s flyby.

27 November

  • All eyes are on Curiosity today, as it speeds toward Mars and an August 2012 landing.

26 November

  • An Atlas 5 rocket successfully placed NASA’s latest Mars rover on a trajectory to the Red Planet on Saturday. The Atlas 5 541 lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 10:02 am EST (1502 GMT), at the beginning of its launch window. After two burns of the rocket’s Centaur upper stage, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft separated from the Centaur 44 minutes after launch.
  • Contact with Phobos-Grunt, the Russian Mars mission stranded in Earth orbit for over two weeks, was lost again late this week.
  • International Launch Services (ILS) successfully carried the AsiaSat 7 satellite into orbit today on an ILS Proton for Asia Satellite Telecommunications Company Limited (AsiaSat) of Hong Kong. This was the 5th commercial mission of the year for ILS and the 8th Proton launch so far this year.

25 November

  • The Earth is being bombarded by cosmic rays from elsewhere in the galaxy, and a team of astronomers may have found a potential source: a ‘cocoon’ of cosmic rays in a bubble blown by young, massive stars.
  • New competitors step up in EELV market.

24 November

23 November

  • A European Space Agency antenna in Australia has detected a radio signal from Russia’s Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, the first contract from the Mars-bound spacecraft since it was stranded in Earth orbit two weeks ago. A brief statement on the ESA web site stated that its tracking station near Perth, Australia, detected a signal from the spacecraft at about 3:25 pm EST (2025 GMT) Tuesday. According to reports the station’s 15-meter antenna received a radio signal, but “no meaningful telemetry”.
  • NASA’s space shuttle Enterprise will land next summer on the flight deck of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City. The World War II aircraft-carrier-turned-museum took over ownership of the prototype winged orbiter on Tuesday (22 November) in preparation for Enterprise’s delivery in 2012.

22 November

  • The Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft landed at 7:26 PM Phoenix time Monday (0226 UTC), several hours after undocking from the station. The Soyuz carried American astronaut Mike Fossum, Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov, completing a 167-day mission. Three people, American Dan Burbank and Russians Anatoly Ivanishin and Anton Shkaplerov, remain on the ISS, where they arrived just last week aboard TMA-22. Three new ISS crewmembers will be launched on December 21.
  • Russian Federal Space Agency experts are puzzled by the rising orbit of the Phobos-Grunt unmanned Mars probe, Roscosmos deputy head Vitaly Davydov said on Tuesday. The probe was launched on November 9 but its engines have not put it on course for the Red Planet. The craft, designed to bring back rock and soil samples from the Martian moon Phobos, is currently moving along a so-called support orbit and has been rising by up to one kilometer a day. The Phobos-Grunt probe will likely not fall to Earth until mid-March because of its rising orbit.

21 November

20 November

  • China successfully launched two research satellites, the SW-4 Shiyyan Weixing and the Chuang Xin-1 (3), from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The launch occurred at 00:15 UTC on Sunday from the 603 (SLS-2) launch complex using a Long March (Chang Zheng) 2D launch vehicle.
  • The Orlando Sentinel opines that the “Myopic space budget keeps U.S. grounded”

19 November

  • The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has stopped acquiring images from the 27-year-old Landsat 5 Earth observation satellite due to a rapidly degrading electronic component. Landsat 5 was launched in 1984 and designed to last 3 years. The USGS assumed operation of Landsat 5 in 2001 and managed to bring the aging satellite back from the brink of total failure on several occasions following the malfunction of key subsystems. There is now an increasing likelihood that the Landsat 5 mission is nearing its end. Landsat 8, currently called the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, is now scheduled to be launched in January 2013
  • SpaceX is looking at Puerto Rico, Texas, Hawaii, or Florida to be the home of a new commercial launch facility for its Falcon rocket family.
  • Shackleton Energy wants to be the first to mine the Moon.

18 November

  • An uncrewed Chinese spacecraft that tested docking technology returned to Earth on Thursday. The Shenzhou-8 spacecraft landed in China’s Inner Mongolia region at 4:30 AM Phoenix time (1130 UTC).

17 November

  • Planetary scientists have discovered what they believe to be a lake of water below the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa. Scientists modeled regions of Europa called “chaos terrains”, which are circular features with jumbled surface features. They believes these features are formed by lakes of salty liquid water just a few kilometers below the surface that seep up and break up the icy surface into the rough blocks seen in the chaos terrains.
  • The science team that oversees the imaging system on board NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has released the highest resolution near-global topographic map of the moon ever created.

16 November

  • A Soyuz spacecraft carrying three new International Space Station crewmembers docked with the station early Wednesday, ending any remaining fears that the station would soon have to be decrewed. The Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft docked with the station’s Poisk module at 10:24 PM Phoenix time Tuesday night (0524 UTC Wednesday).
  • Aviation Week reports that “A House-Senate conference committee has finalized a 2012 spending bill that includes $17.8 billion for NASA, funding a space telescope but cutting money for space technology and commercial crew programs. The “minibus” appropriations bill, which combines three separate spending bills, includes full funding for the Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket and Orion MPCV capsule. The budget also provides $530 million for the James Webb Space Telescope, although a provision in the bill sets a cost cap of $8 billion for the program, which has suffered cost overruns and schedule delays. NASA’s commercial crew effort would get $406 million, less than half the $850 million requested by the agency, and the space technology program would get $575 million, a little over half the requested amount.”
  • A robotic Chinese spacecraft that executed the nation’s first in-space docking has separated from its orbital partner in preparation for a return to Earth tomorrow, 17 November.

15 November

  • Emily Lakdawalla at The Planetary Society blog reviews the six day status of the Fobos-Grunt mission to Mars. There were official comments today about the status of the mission from Roskosmos head Vladimir Popovkin.
  • RIA Novosti has published an index to all of their Fobos-Grunt articles.

14 November

  • China’s two unmanned spacecraft separated and then re-docked smoothly on Monday, following the first successful docking on 3 November.
  • An eclectic lineup of former astronauts, aerospace industry companies, and critics have sent a pair of letters to Congress supporting full funding for NASA’s commercial spacecraft development program in FY 2012. NASA says it needs $850 million to move the Commercial Crew (CCDev) program along so private industry can deliver flights to the International Space Station (ISS) by the end of 2016. Failure to do so this year will result in a year’s delay in having an American solution to put people into low earth orbit (LEO) along with $480 million going out of the U.S. to Russia the following year for astronaut seats on Soyuz capsules, asserts the agency.
  • Russia’s Phobos-Grunt spacecraft remains stuck in low Earth orbit and ground teams have until early December to try to return it to operations before declaring the mission lost.
  • Aviation Week discusses the Space Launch System: “Struggling to stay within a flat budget for the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS), NASA plans to halt development of the J-2X rocket engine that will power its upper stage after the ongoing development-test series. Once the pacing item for the defunct Ares I crew launch vehicle, the Saturn-heritage J-2X may not fly until well into the 2020s. With the SLS program office expecting an annual development budget of $1.2 billion, near-term engine-development money is deemed better spent on a throwaway version of the RS-25D space shuttle main engine (SSME) that will power the SLS main stage. That engine—designated RS-25E—will use advanced manufacturing and design changes to lower the cost of the reusable SSME.”

13 November

  • Russia successfully launched the Soyuz TMA-22 manned mission to the International Space Station (ISS) at 0414 UTC (9:14 PM Phoenix time). The three man crew will return the ISS to its full six man crew for the first time since three crew returned on 16 September aboard TMA-21. TMA-22 is the first manned mission since the failure of the Soyuz resupply mission in August.
  • Pessimism continues to surround the Russian Fobos-Grunt mission. No communication has been established as of Sunday evening.

12 November

  • Three astronauts are slated to launch to the International Space Station this weekend, in what will be the first manned flight of the Russian-built Soyuz rocket since a failure in August temporarily grounded the fleet. NASA astronaut Dan Burbank and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin are scheduled to lift off aboard Soyuz TMA-22 from the Baikonour Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sunday, 13 November, at 9:14 PM Phoenix time (0415 UCT 14 November).
  • Latest orbital parameter comments from Ted Molczan: “USSTRATCOM has issued three new TLEs since my comments yesterday on the payload’s rate of decay. They confirm that the apparent small increase in orbital altitude is real, and apparently it is continuing.”

11 November

  • There is essentially no news concerning the status of the Fobos-Grunt mission to the Martian moon Phobos.
  • Emily Lakdawalla has a thorough summary of what is known about the Fobos-Grunt mission over at The Planetary Society.

10 November

  • Russia’s space agency says it has failed so far to fix a probe bound for a moon of Mars that got stuck in Earth’s orbit. Roscosmos spokesman Alexei Kuznetsov says efforts to communicate with the unmanned Phobos-Grunt (Phobos-Ground) spacecraft hadn’t brought any results yet.
  • From NasaSpaceFlight Forum: “Just a short report. [right after the launch] we’ve got telemetry from the 2nd stage of Zenit launcher, it shows normal separation. After the first loop the one and only [SC] telemetry session has been received, it showed deployment of the solar arrays, constant solar orientation and normal work of all systems. After the second loop we found the SC on the initial orbit, it was silent. No telemetry since that. Previous night at Baikonur there were failed attempts to restart the onboard computer. This attempts will be repeated this night.”

9 November

  • China’s YaoGan Weixing-12 (YG-12) satellite, highly likely to be used for military purposes, has been launched into orbit by a CZ-4B Chang Zheng-4B (Long March 4B) rocket on Wednesday. The launch took place from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center at 11:21 am local time.
  • In a full 500 second test firing, the J-2X engine, a key part of the evolved Space Launch System (SLS), has been put through its paces at NASA’s Stennis Space Center (SSC). Up to three of the powerful engines will power the Upper Stage of the Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLV), in configurations which includes sending humans and cargo to Mars.
  • NASA will test the re-entry capabilities of the Orion capsule in 2013 or 2014 using a Delta IV Heavy rocket to launch the spacecraft into an elliptical orbit 5,000 miles high. At the end of the second orbit, the unmanned test vehicle will re-enter the atmosphere at 20,000 miles per hour.

8 November

  • Russia launched the Fobos-Grunt mission to return a sample from the Martian moon Phobos. The Earth escape burns failed and the spacecraft is stranded in Earth orbit. Russian space scientists have three days to rescue the mission.
  • An asteroid the size of a city block zoomed inside the moon’s orbit today in a rare flyby that marked the closest approach to Earth by such a big space rock in 35 years. The asteroid 2005 YU55 came within 324,600 kilometers of Earth at 2328 UTC Tuesday evening before speeding off into deep space once again at about 46,700 kph.

7 November

6 November

  • As managers work on finalizing the exploration road map for their new flagship vehicles, one of the first pieces in the puzzle, the debut of the Orion crew vehicle in space, has been given final approval by NASA. The Exploration Test Flight (EFT-1) will see Orion launched by a Delta IV-Heavy from Cape Canaveral in the latter part of 2013, or early 2014.

5 November

  • NASA’s Deep Space Network personnel sent commands to the Voyager 2 spacecraft on 4 November to switch to the backup set of thrusters that controls the roll of the spacecraft. Confirmation was received today that the spacecraft accepted the commands. The change will allow the 34-year-old spacecraft to reduce the amount of power it requires to operate and use previously unused thrusters as it continues its journey toward interstellar space, beyond our solar system.

4 November

  • Russia has successfully launched a Proton-M launch vehicle with three GLONASS-M navigation satellites from the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan. ­The launch was to have taken place a day earlier, but was delayed as a switch malfunction in the ground-control system was discovered during a pre-launch test.

3 November

  • NASA’s next Mars rover has been placed atop the rocket that will launch it toward the Red Planet three weeks from now, officials announced today. Technicians hoisted the car-size Curiosity rover, the centerpiece of NASA’s $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory mission, atop its Atlas 5 rocket early Thursday morning at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Rocket and rover are slated to blast off on 25 November.

2 November

  • The Progress M-13M/45P cargo spacecraft has docked with the International Space Station. The spacecraft docked with the Pirs module of the ISS at 4:41 am Phoenix time (1141 UTC) Wednesday, three days after launch from Baikonur. The spacecraft carries 2.9 tons of food, water, propellant, and other supplies for the crew.
  • China declares first space docking successful.

1 November

  • Boeing and NASA announced Monday plans by the aerospace company to build its commercial crewed spacecraft in a former shuttle hangar at the Kennedy Space Center. Boeing will establish its Commercial Crew Program Office, which may eventually include manufacturing facilities, at KSC’s Orbiter Processing Facility-3 (OPF-3), a facility previously used to maintain shuttles between flights.
  • China’s Shenzhou 8 spacecraft has begun an orbital ballet in pursuit of the Tiangong 1 module (11 foot x 34 foot target). So far, only Russia, the United States and the European Space Agency have launched spacecraft with the ability to rendezvous and dock in orbit. Japan has demonstrated rendezvous and docking technology with its resupply freighter for the International Space Station. If successful, China’s autopilot docking will set the stage for one or two manned Shenzhou flights next year to visit the Tiangong 1 module and form a temporary mini-space station for technology testing and science experiments.
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December 2010

Posted by drdave on December 1, 2010

31 December

  • Following completion of repairs to the new cracks found on three stringers in the intertank region of STS-133 (Discovery), NASA managers are expected to make a decision by Monday on which of three options to carry out: 1) fly with no additional modifications to the tank, 2) adding what are called “radius blocks” or 3) adding “radius blocks with Z straps” on the stringers.
  • Thanks to congressional inaction, NASA must continue to fund its defunct Ares I rocket program until March, a requirement that will cost the agency nearly $500 million at a time when it is struggling with the expensive task of replacing the space shuttle.

30 December

  • NASA has completed its latest round of X-ray scans on the space shuttle Discovery’s external fuel tank, only to find more small cracks on the beleaguered tank’s support beams, the space agency announced today. The four new cracks were discovered on the tops of three metal ribs on the back side of the tank’s midsection, opposite from Discovery. Shuttle program managers met today and elected to repair these fresh fractures in the same way that earlier cracks found on the tank were fixed. This work will likely begin Jan. 3, and is estimated to take two to three days.

29 December

  • Arianespace has launched two communication satellites on their Ariane 5 rocket.
  • The Kremlin sacked two top space officials held accountable for a rocket crash that set back Russia’s plans to complete a constellation of orbital navigation satellites to rival the US global positioning system. A Russian rocket carrying three Glonass satellites into orbit veered off course shortly after blastoff from the Baikonur space centre in Kazakhstan this month and plunged into the Pacific Ocean, 1,000 miles north-west of Hawaii.
  • Ten years ago, on Dec. 30, 2000, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made its closest approach to Jupiter on its way to orbiting Saturn. The main purpose was to use the gravity of the largest planet in our solar system to slingshot Cassini towards Saturn, its ultimate destination. But the encounter with Jupiter, Saturn’s gas-giant big brother, also gave the Cassini project a perfect lab for testing its instruments and evaluating its operations plans for its tour of the ringed planet, which began in 2004.
  • Can reanimated corpses ever really be brought back to life? In the case of the Intelsat Galaxy 15 satellite that had its “brains fried” by a solar flare nine months ago, it would appear that zombies really can be brought back from the dead. Amazingly, the “zombiesat” is back online, communicating with mission control and there’s real optimism it might be brought back to full service!

28 December

  • Pending the successful outcome of STS-133′s External Tank (ET-137) clearance for flight, managers have created a preliminary schedule for Endeavour’s realigned milestones. Currently, STS-134′s April 1 launch date is only a placeholder, but remains a target that can be achieved – providing Discovery doesn’t slip from her early February launch window.

27 December

  • International Launch Services (ILS) have launched their Proton-M rocket on Sunday, on a mission which is marking the quick return to flight for the Russian workhorse which suffered from a failure during a recent government launch. Launched at 21:51 GMT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the Proton deployed the KA-SAT communications satellite for Eutelsat, after what was nine hours of flight.

26 December

  • NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, captured this view of a runaway star racing away from its original home. Seen here surrounded by a glowing cloud of gas and dust, the star AE Aurigae appears to be on fire. Appropriately, the cloud is called the Flaming Star nebula.

25 December

  • India’s largest rocket lost control and erupted in a fireball Saturday, dealing another blow to the country’s space program after back-to-back failures of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle. The GSAT-5P satellite was lost.

24 December

  • A lean team of Lockheed Martin engineers is taking fuel efficiency to new heights. Flight controllers here are meticulously managing what little fuel is left inside the Stardust spacecraft speeding toward a Valentine’s Day rendezvous with Tempel 1, a ball of ice and rock bombarded by a manmade impactor five years ago.

23 December

  • As the International Space Station prepares to enter a new era of governmental (ATV, HTV, and Progress) and commercial (SpaceX’s Dragon and Orbital’s Cygnus) unmanned resupply services, the ISS Program (ISSP) is pressing ahead with three software upgrades for the Space Station – which are aimed at accommodating multiple visiting vehicles at a single time, improving visiting vehicle communications, and correcting issues identified during previous visiting vehicle missions to the orbital outpost.

22 December

  • Following the postponement of the launch on Sunday due to a leak in the valve of the second stage, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said Wednesday it was prepared for the launch of GSAT-5P, an advanced communications satellite.

21 December

  • Newly released for the holidays, images of Saturn’s second largest moon Rhea obtained by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft show dramatic views of fractures cutting through craters on the moon’s surface, revealing a history of tectonic rumbling. The images are among the highest-resolution views ever obtained of Rhea.
  • Looking like space slug hidey-holes from Star Wars, huge pits gouge a bright, dusty plain near the Martian volcano Ascraeus Mons in a picture taken between October 1 and November 1 by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

20 December

  • Total lunar eclipse coincides with Winter Solstice for first time in 372 years.
  • International Space Station (ISS) program managers are currently in the process of conducting an assessment into the long-term configuration of the US Segment of the orbital outpost, as preparations are made for the post-Shuttle era which will see the addition of a new fleet of “Visiting Vehicles” arriving at the Station.
  • Space shuttle Discovery is scheduled to roll back from Launch Pad 39A to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for additional work related to its final scheduled mission. The first motion of the shuttle is targeted for 12:30 a.m. EST on Tuesday, Dec. 21. In the VAB, technicians will scan below the foam insulation surrounding the intertank section of Discovery’s external tank to look for any issues, such as cracks. They also will reapply foam after removing 89 sensors from the tank’s aluminum skin following an instrumented tanking test on Dec. 17.

19 December

  • The launch of Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-F06) with the satellite GSAT-5P on board, slated to take place from Sriharikota at 4.01 p.m. on Monday (December 20), has been postponed. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) took this decision after its rocket technologists detected on Saturday evening the leak of helium gas from one of the valves in the Russian upper cryogenic stage of the vehicle. The leak rate was on the higher side. The leak was noticed during the pre-countdown check of the vehicle.
  • NASA has granted funding for the WISE infrared telescope to finish an extra full sky scan, giving scientists an additional opportunity to comb the inner solar system for hard-to-see asteroids that could threaten Earth.

18 December

  • Engineers have gathered detailed data on the thermal and stress environments of the External Tank’s intertank stringers at the LOX flange and LH2 flange areas. NASA managers completed fueling Discovery’s External Tank with nearly 535,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, with a smooth Tanking Test that culminated in a GLS (Ground Launch Sequencer) cutoff at the T-31 second mark at 14:24 EST.
  • Another Chinese Beidou navigation satellite soared into space Friday, the fifth craft to join the country’s fleet of positioning satellites in 2010.
  • Soyuz TMA-20 spaceship carrying an international crew has docked with the International Space Station (ISS).

17 December

  • A NASA test at Kennedy Space Center today could help clear the way for the planned launch in early February of space shuttle Discovery’s 39th and final flight. More than 500,000 gallons of supercold propellant will be loaded into the shuttle’s 15-story external tank as engineers try to determine what caused cracks in structural braces in its aluminum-lithium hull.
  • A second look at a group of massive young galaxies 11 billion light-years away has revealed these juvenile giants in the throes of a celestial baby boom, birthing stars at an astonishing scale and rate.

16 December

  • NASA announced that an international team of scientists studying remnants of an asteroid that crashed into the Nubian Desert in October 2008 has discovered that it contained at least 10 different types of meteorites. Some of them contained chemicals that form the building blocks of life on Earth, and those chemicals were spread through all parts of the asteroid by collisions.

15 December

  • The Russian Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft blasted off to the International Space Station today (Dec. 15), launching three new crewmates to the orbiting outpost. The launch was from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 2:09 p.m. EST (1909 GMT) with NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman, Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Paolo Nespoli. Kondratyev is commander of the two-day Soyuz trip to the International Space Station. The trio is expected to dock at the station on Friday (Dec. 17) at 3:12 p.m. EST (2012 GMT).

14 December

  • With unacceptable weather at KSC restricting preparations for STS-133′s Tanking Test, managers decided to delay the test until at least Friday. With the Program Requirements Control Board (PRCB) approving the plan to collect data from ET-137′s stringers, a decision was also taken to roll the stack back to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) next week – allowing for further inspections of the tank.
  • Saturn’s majestic rings are the remnants of a long-vanished moon that was stripped of its icy outer layer before its rocky heart plunged into the planet, a new theory proposes.

13 December

  • Aviation Week reports that “With two near-perfect Falcon 9 launches and the successful orbital operation, reentry and parachute landing of its first Dragon capsule, Space Exploration Technologies is confident it will join Russian, European and Japanese cargo ships in reaching the International Space Station next year, a critical component of NASA’s plan to maintain a six-person crew after the space shuttles are retired. “
  • The Geminids promise to be the best meteor shower of the year. They are hitting a peak just in time for the holidays, but skywatchers should act fast: This sky show peaks overnight tonight.

12 December

  • NASA has not heard from the experimental NanoSail-D miniature solar sail in nearly a week, prompting officials to wonder if the craft actually deployed from a larger mother satellite despite initial indications it ejected as designed.

11 December

  • A final round of potential Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLV) options – which will allow the NASA leadership to choose the design of the Space Launch System (SLS) as early as April, 2011 – has been created by The Human Exploration Framework Team (HEFT), which is coming to the end of its current architecture design phase.

10 December

  • NASA has awarded a contract with a potential value of $171 million to Lockheed Martin Corp. of Gaithersburg, Md., for support of International Space Station cargo mission services.

9 December

  • The Akatsuki space probe suffered a sudden, dramatic loss of balance two minutes 23 seconds after commencing an unsuccessful attempt to enter orbit around Venus on Tuesday for an observation mission, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said Wednesday night.

8 December

  • NASA Administrator Bolden praised the SpaceX success: “This is the first in a new generation of commercial launch systems that will help provide vital support to the International Space Station and may one day carry astronauts into orbit. This successful demonstration flight is an important milestone in meeting the objectives outlined by President Obama and Congress, and shows how government and industry can leverage expertise and resources to foster a new and vibrant space economy. “

7 December

  • Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has quickly rebounded from the discovery of cracks in a nozzle on the upper-stage engine of its Falcon 9 booster and is moving ahead with plans to fire off the rocket on Dec. 8 to put the company’s Dragon capsule into orbit on a demonstration run for NASA.

6 December

  • Japan’s probe “Akatsuki” will attempt to enter the orbit of Venus on Dec. 7, and if successful it will become the first Japanese probe to orbit another planet. On the morning of Dec. 7, Akatsuki will reverse the thrust of its engines for about 12 minutes, reducing its speed before attempting to enter an elliptical orbit around Venus.
  • The Russian DM-3 booster with three Glonass-M satellites fell into the Pacific Ocean 1500 kilometers northwest of Honolulu. A program error caused a Russian Proton-M carrier rocket to deviate from its course and lose a booster carrying three Glonass-M satellites

5 December

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), on the sidelines of the visit of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, announced the renewal of a five-year contract with European space firm EADS Astrium to build commercial satellites to be launched from French space facilities.
  • A Russian Proton-M carrier rocket launched from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan will deliver three Glonass-M satellites into orbit on Sunday to complete the formation of Russia’s global navigation system, a spokesman for the Russian space agency Roscosmos said on Sunday.

4 December

  • The private spaceflight company SpaceX test fired the nine engines of its second Falcon 9 rocket on Dec. 4, 2010 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida ahead of a planned Dec. 7 launch to test the company’s new Dragon space capsule.
  • Following the decision to move Discovery’s STS-133 launch date target to No Earlier Than (NET) February 3, NASA managers have begun realigning the International Space Station (ISS) manifest. An April 1 placeholder has been selected for Endeavour’s STS-134 mission, while Japan’s HTV resupply vehicle is also involved in supporting the manifest changes.

3 December

  • Space-X will now begin its webcast at 9:00 AM Phoenix time (11:00 AM EST). The static test firing is scheduled for 10:00 AM Phoenix time (17:00 UTC).
  • The X-37B mystery space craft launched by the US Air Force on 22 April 2010, has returned to Earth after a 220 day mission. What the mission was, no one is talking.
  • Aviation Week discusses a Space-X response to NASA’s Heavy Lift requirement. Elon Musk states that scaling the Merlin engine to 1.7 million pounds of thrust and mating it to three Falcon 9 cores would yield a three stage rocket capable of delivering 150 mt to orbit. Development costs would be $2.5 Billion.
  • The main and backup crews of the new long-term expedition to the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday few from the Chkalovsky airport outside Moscow to the Baikonur cosmodrome, the Cosmonaut Training Centre outside Moscow told Itar-Tass. The Launch of the Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft that will take to orbit the ISS-26/27 Expedition crew, is scheduled for 22:09 MSK (19:09 UTC) on December 15, its docking with the ISS – for December 17.

2 December

  • At a press conference scheduled for Noon Phoenix time on Thursday, 3 December 2010, NASA is expected to announce the discovery of a bacteria that substitutes Arsenic for Phosphorous in its metabolic system. This expands the realm that extra-terrestrial life can occupy.
  • “One immediate challenge is the current lack of appropriations for fiscal year 2011,” said John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “The administration very much hopes Congress will act swiftly to provide funding and budgetary guidance that will enable NASA to fully implement the direction provided in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 and bring that new plan to fruition.”

1 December

  • Aviation Week reports that the US Air Force is preparing to land the X-37B spy space-plane between 3 and 6 December 2010.
  • Here is a graphic review of big events in the Solar System.
  • Space-X is preparing for the second launch of its Falcon 9 rocket and first live Dragon capsule on Tuesday next week. Erection is scheduled for tomorrow, Thursday, and a live fire test on Friday.

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