NSS Phoenix Space News

Posts Tagged ‘Kennedy Space Center’

October 2012

Posted by drdave on October 7, 2012

31 October

  • The Progress M-17M Russian cargo spacecraft performed an accelerated docking with the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday just under six hours after liftoff from the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan.
  • Data from NASA’s Dawn mission show that a form of weathering that occurs on the moon and other airless bodies we’ve visited in the inner solar system does not alter Vesta’s outermost layer in the same way. Carbon-rich asteroids have also been splattering dark material on Vesta’s surface over a long span of the body’s history. The results are described in two papers released today in the journal Nature.
  • Deep Space Antenna 3 (DSA 3), one of the world’s most sophisticated satellite tracking stations is nearing inauguration in Malargüe, Argentina, 1000 km west of Buenos Aires. The new station will ensure reliable communications with missions voyaging hundreds of millions of kilometres into our Solar System.

30 October

  • The third and final launch attempt of a homegrown South Korean space rocket, dubbed the Naro, has been rescheduled beginning 9 November. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology on Monday said more detailed analysis lies ahead of the defect that caused the launch to be postponed last week. The new launch attempt will also not be possible any earlier since the international community needs to be informed of the schedule. The launch window could be any time between the 9th and 24th of November.
  • Hawthorne will be able to hold onto its most prominent business for at least the next decade under a new deal with Space Exploration Technologies Corp. SpaceX agreed to stay in its 1-million-square-foot headquarters building through 2022 as long as the city reduces certain taxes on the business as promised.
  • The Taurid meteors, sometimes called the “Halloween fireballs,” show up each year between mid-October and mid-November, but Nov. 5 to 12 will likely be the best time to look for them this year, based on their peak of activity and the effect of moonlight on viewing conditions.
  • The American Islander, carrying the Dragon CRS1 capsule, has reached San Diego.

29 October

  • Be afraid – but not too afraid. It’s true that at some point, if we don’t take steps to prevent it, a big dumb object is going to smash into the Earth so hard that civilization as we know it will be seriously inconvenienced, or even wiped out (see? No reason for too much fear). But the odds are that such a cataclysm lies way, way in the future. Still, you never know…
  • In a story on Saturday, Allison Gatlin of the Antelope Valley Press quotes Scaled Composites Executive Vice President Kevin Mickey as saying that powered flights of SpaceShipTwo will begin next year. Virgin Galactic officials have said they hoped to begin powered flights by the end of this year. The powered flights will be preceded by un-powered glide tests of SpaceShipTwo that will begin later this year. These will be the first flights of the eight-person space plane after it has been fully fitted with its hybrid propulsion system.

28 October

  • The Dragon space craft unberthed at 4:20 AM Phoenix time (1120 UTC), released from the International Space Station’s SSRMS arm at 6:28 AM (1328 UTC) and left the vicinity of the ISS shortly thereafter. The SpaceX craft splashed down 220 miles off the coast of Baja California at 12:22 PDT (1922 UTC).

27 October

  • A Long March rocket placed the latest in a series of navigation satellites into orbit on Thursday. The Long March 3C rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 11:33 am EDT (1533 GMT, 11:33 pm Beijing time) Thursday and placed a Beidou satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

26 October

  • The planned launch of a homegrown South Korean space rocket has been put on hold at the last minute when a technical fault was detected. The rocket, dubbed Naro, was scheduled for the third and final launch attempt at a space center in Goheung, South Jeolla Province, between 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Friday. An official of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology told reporters, “The launch has been postponed as a leak was found in the part connecting the rocket and launch pad while injecting Helium gas this morning.”
  • Orbital Technologies Corp. (Orbitec) announced Oct. 25 the first successful flight test of its Vortex liquid rocket engine, which is designed to serve as a new upper stage for the medium- and heavy-lift rockets U.S. government agencies and commercial firms rely on to send satellites into orbit.
  • Scott Smith, a nutritionist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, knows exactly what he’d like to bring back from space — astronauts’ urine. Unraveling the mysterious impacts of microgravity on the human body takes careful and repeated analysis of urine, blood and other scientific samples, most of which have been stranded aboard the International Space (ISS) Station for more than a year.

25 October

  • The upper stage of a failed Russian launch earlier this year has exploded, creating hundreds of fragments that could exacerbate space debris concerns. The Breeze M upper stage exploded on October 16 while in an elliptical orbit of approximately 266 by 5,000 kilometers. the stage had been stranded in that orbit since August, when the stage failed during the third of four planned engine firings designed to place the two satellites it was carrying into geosynchronous transfer orbit. The explosion, likely caused when its nitrogen tetroxide and hydrazine propellants came into contact with each other, created more than 500 pieces of debris that are currently being tracked by the US Space Surveillance Network, with potentially many more smaller items.
  • Under the deft command of cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky, the Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft – bearing himself, fellow Russian Yevgeni Tarelkin and NASA astronaut Kevin Ford – has successfully arrived at the International Space Station. The trio docked at the ‘zenith’ (space-facing) Poisk module at 7:29 CDT this morning, two days after their launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

24 October

  • NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity used its Mast Camera (Mastcam) during the mission’s 78th sol (Oct. 24, 2012) to view soil material on the rover’s observation tray. The observations will help assess movement of the sample on the tray in response to vibrations from sample-delivery and sample-processing activities of mechanisms on the rover’s arm.

23 October

  • The Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft, carrying Oleg Novitskiy, the Soyuz commander, Evgeni Tarelkin and NASA’s Kevin Ford, sped toward an early 25 October docking with the International Space Station and a planned five month stay, following a trouble-free lift off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Liftoff was at 3:51 AM Phoenix time (10:51 UTC) from pad 31 at the Baikonur facility.
  • Both the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion crew capsule have continued their wind tunnel testing this month, with the Block 1 Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLV) – otherwise known as the SLS-1000x – set to facilitate a complete aerodynamic force and moment database delivery by the end of this year.

22 October

  • The ongoing investigation into a problem with an upper stage engine (RL10) on a recent launch will delay the next launch of the military’s secretive X-37B spaceplane until next month, United Launch Alliance announced late Friday. The Air Force had planned to launch the X-37B on the Orbital Test Vehicle 3 (OTV-3) mission this month on an Atlas 5 from Cape Canaveral.
  • NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) partner Blue Origin conducted a successful pad escape test Friday at the company’s West Texas launch site, firing its pusher-escape motor and launching a full-scale suborbital crew capsule from a simulated propulsion module.
  • A few weeks ago, SpaceX took the first step towards its reusable launch vehicle with a demonstration flight of its Grasshopper. The Grasshopper is the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket with spindly legs — hence the insect-inspired name — that can launch, hover, and land vertically on its own.

21 October

  • A Russian-made Soyuz rocket was erected into place Sunday, ahead of the start of a mission to take a three-man crew to the International Space Station. For the first time since 1984, the manned launch will take place from Baikonur cosmodrome launch pad 31, while the pad that is normally used, from which Yuri Gagarin began his landmark space mission, is undergoing modernization.

20 October

  • It’s been fifteen years since Cassini launched to Saturn. A joint program with the European Space Agency and the Italian space agency, the Cassini-Huygens mission left Earth on October 15, 1997. It flew by Venus twice, swung back by Earth, then went onward to Jupiter before settling in around Saturn in 2004; the Huygens probe landed onto the surface of Titan in 2005. In all, the spacecraft covered more than 3.8 billion miles on the seven year journey, and has spent the last eight years returning stunning images of, and incredible science from, the ringed planet and its moons.

19 October

  • Fans of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program will have their last opportunity to see an orbiter on the move when Atlantis makes its historic final journey on 2 November at Kennedy Space Center. Atlantis will travel the nearly 10 miles from Kennedy Space Center to its new home at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
  • SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft is behaving well – bar a couple of minor issues – during its berthed phase of the CRS-1 (SpX-1) mission, as it closes in on its departure at the end of the month. The unberthing will be conducted by the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS), which translated away from the Dragon to allow for an inspection this week.

18 October

  • Astronomers just keep finding more moons around Pluto. They scoped out the first and largest, Charon, in 1976; the fifth, tiny P5, was spotted just this summer by the Hubble Space Telescope. But finding new moons and other stuff floating around in the outer solar system may create headaches for the team operating NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft for the space agency’s mission to Pluto.
  • The annual Orionid meteor shower peaks over several nights close to October 20-22, which is favourable for this coming weekend. The shower is a result of debris shed by Halley’s comet in its 75 year journey around the Sun.

17 October

  • An Earth-sized planet has been discovered circling a star in the system, just 4.4 light-years away (Alpha Centauri B). The planet’s mass is similar to Earth’s, but its orbit is not. Tucked in close to its star — 25 times closer than the Earth is to the sun — the planet is likely a roasted world incapable of hosting life.
  • Blue Origin, the private spaceflight company founded by Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, is making progress towards orbital launches. Earlier this month, the company successfully fired the thrust chamber assembly for its new 100,000 pound thrust BE-3 liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen rocket engine.
  • After issuing an international call for tenders, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has chosen Arianespace to launch the GSAT 7 and INSAT 3D satellites. The contract also includes two more launch options for ISRO, the Indian space agency.

16 October

  • United Launch Alliance (ULA) has completed the “Hazard, System Safety and Probabilistic Risk Assessment” for launching crewed vehicles aboard its Atlas rocket. This was the fifth and final milestone of its current Space Act Agreement with NASA. Sierra Nevada (Dream Chaser) and Boeing (CST-100) plan to use the Atlas as their launcher.
  • A new radar designed to test methods for finding orbital debris that can be hazardous to space navigation has been installed in Spain. The radar will be used to develop future debris warning services, helping boost safety for European satellite operators.

15 October

  • The space shuttle Endeavour completed a 20-kilometer trek across the city of Los Angeles on Sunday, arriving at the museum that will be its permanent home. Endeavour arrived at the California Science Center, near the campus of the University of Southern California south of downtown Los Angeles, Sunday afternoon, two and a half days after leaving a hangar at Los Angeles International Airport, where it arrived on its 747 carrier aircraft last month. The journey across city streets took nearly a day longer than originally planned as crews maneuvered the orbiter around light poles and trees. Endeavour will go on temporary display in a hangar at the museum while a permanent building to host the orbiter is built.

14 October

  • International Launch Services (ILS) have launched their Proton-M rocket in a daylight launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Launch was on schedule at 8:37 am GMT, with the Proton’s Briz-M (Breeze-M) Upper Stage now tasked with deploying the large telecommunications satellite (Intelsat 23) into its desired orbit, after nine hours of flight.
  • A Chinese rocket placed a pair of technology demonstration satellites into orbit on Sunday. The Long March 2C lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center at 11:25 pm EDT Saturday (0325 GMT, 11:25 am Beijing time Sunday) and placed the Shijian 9A and 9B satellites into a near-polar orbit. The satellites, according to Chinese media, will be used to test technologies for future missions as well as demonstrate “inter-satellite measurement.”

13 October

  • One day down, one more to go in space shuttle Endeavour’s surreal trek through Los Angeles, a scene attracting thousands of spectators young and old along city sidewalks.
  • A joint SpaceX and NASA team will investigate the early shutdown of a Falcon 9 rocket engine during Sunday’s launch from Cape Canaveral.

12 October

  • On Friday, October 12, at 3:15 pm local time, Arianespace successfully carried out the third launch of the Soyuz rocket from the Guiana Space Center (CSG) in French Guiana, orbiting two more satellites in the Galileo constellation.
  • As far as errant chunks of space rock go, this one’s a tiddler. But this particular asteroid — called 2012 TC4 — is going to fly past the Earth at a distance of only 95,000 kilometers (59,000 miles), or one-quarter the Earth-moon distance. As far as near-misses go, that’s the outer edge of the bulls-eye.
  • Jake Matijevic, a seemingly innocuous chuck of igneous rock (meaning rock that solidified from a molten liquid) sitting on the surface of Mars inside Gale Crater, sits where NASA’s rover Curiosity landed two months ago. The football-sized rock, named after a well-respected Mars rover engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who died in August, was the first good target scientists found for Curiosity to zap with its laser. So for a couple of days last month, fire away the rover did, pulverizing bits of dust and rock to expose what lies within. Scientists expected the rock would be similar to igneous rocks studied by previous Mars rovers elsewhere on the planet. Instead, they discovered a rock that is much more chemically similar to an unusual, but well-studied type of rock on Earth that is found on islands like Hawaii and in continental rift zones like the Rio Grande, which extends from southern Colorado to Chihuahua, Mexico.

11 October

  • Singer Sarah Brightman will travel to the International Space Station as a space tourist, she and Space Adventures announced on Wednesday. Brightman will take a 10-day trip to the ISS at an unspecified future date, most likely 2015, when seats will be available on Soyuz spacecraft traveling to and from the station. Brightman has partnered with UNESCO to support its mission to “promote peace and sustainable development”; those activities are expected to include a singing performance of some kind while on the station.
  • Earth has a familiar magnetic field, and little Mercury has an oddly strong one, but could a chunk of rock as small as an asteroid (Vesta) ever have had a magnetic field spawned by the churnings of its own molten metal core? Theorists have had their doubts because the smaller the core, the faster the churning must be. But now, scientists studying a meteorite in the lab report having found signs that the tiny core of the asteroid Vesta once churned hard enough to create a magnetic field. The discovery would give theorists a much-needed, extreme example of a dynamo to ponder.

10 October

  • At 3:56 AM Pacific Daylight time, Wednesday 10 October, the SpaceX Dragon space craft was successfully grappled by the Canadarm on the International Space Station (ISS). Referring to the fact that Dragon is capable of carrying powered equipment to and from the space station, the space station crew reported that they had captured Dragon and were looking forward to the chocolate-vanilla swirl ice cream in the freezer aboard the space craft.

9 October

  • The Dragon space craft is on schedule for approach and grappling around 3:30 – 4:30 AM Phoenix time tomorrow, Wednesday (10:30 -11:30 UTC).
  • The Mars rover Curiosity has scooped up its first soil. A small bright object was spotted laying on the ground. Speculation is that it is a piece of the rover.
  • Aviation Week discusses the CRS-1 launch and the insertion of the secondary Orbcomm prototype OG2 communications satellite into an orbit lower than planned.

8 October

  • A SpaceX Falcon 9 successfully placed a Dragon cargo spacecraft into orbit Sunday night despite an anomaly with one of the rocket’s engines. The Falcon 9 lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 8:35 pm EDT Sunday (0035 GMT Monday) and placed a Dragon spacecraft into its planned orbit. Dragon is flying a mission designated CRS-1, the first of twelve commercial resupply missions NASA has contracted with SpaceX.
  • At 80 seconds into the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9, an “anomaly” occurred. Speculation is the #1 engine suffered an explosion. See the video here.

7 October

  • A Dragon spacecraft loaded with nearly a ton of equipment and supplies is cleared to launch Sunday night. The Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to lift off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 5:35 pm Phoenix time Sunday (0035 UTC Monday) in an instantaneous launch window. There are no technical issues with the launch and forecasts call for a 60% chance of acceptable weather at launch time. Dragon is flying a mission designated CRS-1, the first of twelve commercial resupply missions NASA has contracted with SpaceX.
  • United Launch Alliance (ULA) confirmed late Friday that there was a problem with the upper-stage engine during Thursday’s launch of a GPS satellite on a Delta 4 rocket. According to ULA, launch controllers noticed an “unexpected data signature” in the performance of the RL10 engine that powers the Delta’s upper stage. The unidentified problem caused reduced thrust levels from the engine, but the upper stage was still able to release its payload, the GPS 2F-3 satellite, into the proper orbit because of design margins and propellant reserves.

6 October

  • Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline, today announced that it has taken 100% ownership of its sister company, The Spaceship Company (TSC), by acquiring the 30% stake held by Scaled Composites (Scaled) since TSC’s formation under a joint venture with Virgin Galactic.
  • This week, the first stage of Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket, the biggest rocket ever to launch from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore, rolled out onto its new $145 million launchpad.

5 October

  • WhiteKnightTwo made its 100th flight, solo, on Thursday at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. It was at least the third such flight within the past nine days. The 100th flight took place on Oct. 4, the eighth anniversary of SpaceShipOne winning the Ansari X Prize and the 55th anniversary of Sputnik 1. No manned ship has been in suborbital space since that day in 2004.
  • The German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Cologne and the Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency (JAXA) in Tokyo announced this week that they have formalized a deal to send the German-built Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout, or MASCOT, on the Hayabusa 2 mission, set to launch in 2014.

4 October

  • The International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) has awarded the 2012 Laurels for Team Achievement Award to the MESSENGER team. The award was presented September 30 at the opening ceremony of the 63rd International Astronautical Congress, which is being held this week in Naples.
  • The U.S. Air Force successfully launched a United Launch Alliance Delta IV-Medium rocket carrying the third Global Positioning System IIF satellite at 8:10 a.m. EDT today from Space Launch Complex 37 here.

3 October

  • The orbit raising manoeuvres of GSAT-10 satellite have been successfully completed from ISRO’s Master Control Facility, Hassan. The third and final orbit raising manoeuvre was performed this morning (October 03, 2012) to place the GSAT-10 in an orbit with 35,734 km apogee (farthest point to earth), 35,585 km perigee (nearest point to earth) and an inclination of 0.172 degree with respect to the equator.
  • The European Space Agency (ESA) announced that their Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV)-3 unmanned cargo vehicle re-entered Earth’s atmosphere early Oct. 3 and broke apart in a predetermined uninhabited corridor over the southern Pacific Ocean.

2 October

  • The State of Virginia has finished construction on the Wallops Island, Virginia launch pad for Orbital Sciences’ Antares launch vehicle. The pad has officially been turned over to Orbital Sciences, allowing the company to begin launch operations.

1 October

  • The twin Galileo satellites are now fully fueled and mated together atop the upper stage that will haul them most of the way up to their final orbit. The launch is now planned for the evening of 12 October.

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July 2012

Posted by drdave on July 1, 2012

31 July

  • The Toshiba Vision screen in New York City’s Times Square will become the largest East Coast location for the public to see live mission coverage of Curiosity, NASA’s most advanced planetary rover, as it lands on the Martian surface at 1:31 AM EDT 6 August.
  • Top-secret surveillance spacecraft and several smaller research satellites will be launched aboard an Atlas 5 rocket scheduled for blastoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base early Thursday. The United Launch Alliance rocket is sitting at Space Launch Complex-3 East on South Base, where crews have spent the past several months preparing the booster for blastoff. The team is shooting for liftoff at 12:40 a.m. Thursday.

30 July

29 July

  • A second attempt to re-dock the Russian Progress M-15M resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) with the help of a new rendezvous system has been a success.

28 July

  • Russia’s Space Forces launched early on Saturday a Rokot carrier rocket with a Cosmos class military satellite and three civilian satellites on board. The Rokot blasted off from the Plesetsk space center in northern Russia at 05:35 AM Moscow time (01:35 UTC).
  • John Kelly discusses the recent review passed by the Space Launch System. But expresses concern that this may be another project given the green light by NASA that will run into budget and schedule difficulties.

27 July

  • The H-II Transfer Vehicle “Kounitori 3” (HTV3) started its final approach to the International Space Station (ISS), and was captured by the ISS robotic arm at 21:23 PM on July 27 (Japanese Standard Time, JST – 1223 UTC). After being maneuvered by the arm, the HTV3 was successfully berthed to the ISS at 2:31 AM on July 28 (JST – 1731 UTC).
  • Russia’s Space Forces launched early on Saturday a Rokot carrier rocket with a Cosmos class military satellite and three civilian satellites on board. The Rokot blasted off from the Plesetsk space center in northern Russia at 05:35 AM Moscow time (01:35 UTC).

26 July

  • A Long March rocket launched the third in a series of Chinese data relay satellites on Wednesday. The Long March 3C rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center and placed into geosynchronous transfer orbit the Tianlian 1-03 communications satellite
  • Even as Shenzhou 9 undocked from Tiangong 1, and before it returned to Earth, the Beijing Aerospace Control Centre was starting preparations for the Shenzhou 10 mission, possibly December 2012.

25 July

  • A test of a new docking antenna on a Progress spacecraft was aborted last Monday after a malfunction. The Progress M-15M cargo spacecraft, which arrived at the station in April, undocked from the station Sunday and moved out to a distance of over 150 kilometers before returning to the station’s facility for a planned redocking to test a new Kurs-NA rendezvous antenna. The docking was aborted, though, when the antenna malfunctioned when the Progress was about 15 kilometers away.

24 July

23 July

  • Sally Ride died on Monday in La Jolla, California after a 17 month battle with pancreatic cancer. She is survived by her mother and partner Tam O’Shaughnessy.

22 July

  • A Soyuz rocket successfully launched a collection of small satellites on Sunday. The Soyuz-FG rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 2:41 am EDT (0641 GMT, 12:41 pm local time) Sunday and placed five satellites into Sun-synchronous orbits.
  • The Discovery Channel Telescope at Lowell Observatory has seen First Light. Images include M109, the Sombrero Galaxy and M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy.

21 July

  • Japan successfully launched their HTV-3 re-supply mission to the International Space Station. Docking is expected to occur on 27 July with the Harmony Node.

20 July

  • On 20 July 1969, at 10:56 PM EDT, Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon.
  • Orbital Sciences Corporation announced Thursday it is now planning the inaugural launch of its medium-lift Antares rocket this October, with a demonstration flight of its Cygnus cargo spacecraft to follow by the end of the year. Orbital said it plans a “hot fire” test of the first stage of the Antares on its launch pad at Virginia’s Mid-Altantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) in late August or early September, to be followed by the first Antares launch, carrying a demonstration payload, in October..

19 July

  • Astronomers examining data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope have found evidence for an extrasolar planet two-thirds the size of the Earth tightly orbiting its star. The University of Central Florida astronomers found the potential world in Spitzer observations of GJ 436, a star already known to have a Neptune-sized exoplanet, when they noted small, periodic dips in the star’s infrared light that they believe are caused by another planet transiting the star’s disk.
  • Researchers have discovered a rare early galaxy (z=2.18) with pronounced spiral arms. The report is in the July 19 issue of Nature..

18 July

  • A problem with a spacecraft currently in orbit around Mars could mean that telemetry from next month’s landing by NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission could be delayed by perhaps hours. NASA had expected to use the Mars Odyssey orbiter to relay data from MSL as it landed on the evening of August 5. However, officials said Monday that a problem with a reaction wheel on Mars Odyssey means the spacecraft could be out of position to relay the data live.
  • Shot into space under a cloak of secrecy last month, a bright new object spotted in space this week has confirmed that the most recent Atlas 5 rocket successfully dispatched a data-relay satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office.

17 July

  • A Soyuz spacecraft carrying three new International Space Station crewmembers docked with the station early Tuesday. The Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft docked with the station’s Rassvet module at 12:51 am EDT (0451 GMT) Tuesday, two days after launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. On board the Soyuz were Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, American astronaut Sunita Williams, and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, who jointed the existing ISS crew of Russians Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin and American Joe Acaba.
  • NASA picked SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket for the planned December 2014 launch of the Jason-3 satellite for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and international partners. The satellite is designed to measure sea surface height to monitor ocean circulation and sea level. The contract is valued at $82 million.

16 July

  • NASA’s Launch Pad-39A serving as a back drop, bus loads of students arrived from Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) Melbourne Campus to watch and participate in this year’s Space University’s rocket launch competition.
  • Sierra Nevada Corporation has ramped up the hiring process for its Dream Chaser program in advance of a scheduled NASA announcement of the next round of commercial crew funding. Dream Chaser is in the running for additional development funds. Since NASA usually tells NASA awardees prior to the awards, the pre-emptive hiring may indicate Sierra Nevada knows it has been selected
  • Is Pluto a Binary Planet?

15 July

  • Russia successfully launched the Soyuz TMA-05M manned spacecraft toward the International Space Station (ISS) this Saturday evening, 14 July, at 7:40 PM Phoenix time (0240 UTC 15 July).

14 July

13 July

12 July

  • In an announcement today at the Farnborough International Air Show, Virgin Galactic revealed it is partnering with a privately funded satellite launcher to build a two stage air launched rocket capable of placing 225 kilograms into orbit for around $10 Million dollars.
  • Astronomers announced Wednesday the discovery of a fifth, and very small, moon orbiting the dwarf planet Pluto. Scientists detected the moon, temporarily designated S/2012 (134340) 1, in Hubble Space Telescope images of Pluto taken in late June and early July. The moon is thought to be irregular in shape and between 10 and 24 kilometers across, and in a circular orbit about 42,000 kilometers from Pluto.

11 July

  • Rocket Crafters Inc., a Utah-based company that specializes in hybrid-rocket design and aerospace-composite technologies, said Tuesday it is moving to Titusville, where it hopes to create as many as 1,300 full-time jobs. The company plans to develop and commercialize a new hybrid rocket-propulsion technology and an ultra-light, advanced composite material for the manufacture of dual-propulsion space planes for suborbital flight.
  • Astronauts return to Earth weakened and unsteady after weightlessness and radiation in space take their toll on the human body. New research now shows that the humble nematode worm adapts much better to spaceflight.

10 July

  • XCOR Aerospace, a suborbital vehicle developer based in Mojave, California, announced plans Monday to move its headquarters and create a research and development center in Midland, Texas. XCOR and a local development organization, the Midland Development Corporation, announced the plan that includes up to $10 million in incentives for XCOR to set up operations at the Midland International Airport.
  • The “Hot-Jupiter” exoplanet that orbits only 3.3 million miles from its sun, HD 189733A, is losing its atmosphere at the rate of a thousand tons per second, according to studies by Hubble and Swift over the past two years.
  • International Launch Services (ILS) successfully carried the SES-5 satellite into geostationary transfer orbit today on an ILS Proton for SES of Luxembourg.

9 July

  • Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built, commercial spaceport, has launched a new look for its brand on Independence Day. “Spaceport America is helping a new American Revolution take place in the commercial space industry, and what better time to showcase our new brand than the Fourth of July,” said Christine Anderson, Executive Director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA).
  • In findings released Sunday by the journal Science, two research teams take aim at the “arseniclife” bacteria. The microbe was announced by the journal in 2010 at a NASA news briefing as “the first known microorganism on Earth able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic.” The new findings show that was not the case.
  • Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has just celebrated its 3,000th sol* on Mars. This may sound like an important milestone, and it is. This tenacious six-wheeled robot has survived five Martian winters since it landed on the Red Planet on Jan. 24th, 2004 — considering its warranty was only 90 days, we’re certainly getting our money’s worth!

8 July

  • Midland Texas newspaper reviews XCOR.

7 July

  • The Guardian discusses the Opportunity mission on Mars at Endeavour Crater.

6 July

  • NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) praised the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion programs for making “considerable progress” during their latest meeting, but called for managers to ensure the debut SLS flight – known as Exploration Mission -1 (EM-1) – is heavily aimed at risk mitigation, ahead of the first crewed mission.

5 July

  • A dust disk spotted around a young star just a few years ago has disappeared in the course of just a few years, puzzling astronomers. In a paper published in the current edition of the journal Nature, astronomers reported that they are no longer able to detect a warm disk of dust surrounding the star TYC 8241 2652. That disk was discovered in data from NASA’s IRAS satellite in 1983, and seen in follow-up observations for 25 years. However, astronomers were unable to see it in infrared observations at the Gemini South observatory in Chile two months ago, leading astronomers to conclude that the warm, infrared-emitting dust disappeared within the last 2.5 years.
  • On Thursday, July 5, Arianespace successfully launched two satellites: the dedicated Internet satellite EchoStar XVII for the American operator Hughes Network Systems, and the MSG-3 weather satellite for Eumetsat, the European Meteorological Satellite organization.

4 July

  • Fireworks on the fourth: The violent behaviour of a young Sun-like star spinning at high speed and spewing out super-hot plasma has been revealed thanks to the combined X-ray vision of three space telescopes, including ESA’s XMM-Newton.
  • The coming months aboard the International Space Station promise to be exciting and dramatic, with no fewer than two spacewalks scheduled from the US and Russian segments, plus a Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV), SpaceX’s first dedicated Dragon cargo flight, the maiden voyage of Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus craft, the departure of a European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) and a ‘fast-rendezvous’ experiment which aims to dock a Progress freighter onto the space station just seven hours after launch.
  • The Economic Observer compares and contrasts China’s space program with the space industry in America. Their conclusion: China will be left in the dust.

3 July

  • The World Policy Journal discusses the changes in space policy as the Obama Administration enlists private enterprise in the space program.
  • Russia’s Energia space corporation is holding talks with U.S. aerospace giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin over manufacture of docking sites and thermal protection equipment for space capsules for the U.S. firms, Izvestia daily newspaper reported on Tuesday citing Energia head Vitaly Lopota.

2 July

  • Lockheed Martin has delivered the first space-bound Orion spacecraft crew module structure to the Operations and Checkout Building on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. The crew module structure recently underwent its final friction stir weld at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, La. and was transported to KSC last week to be readied for its Exploration Flight Test (EFT-1) in 2014.
  • United States Navy Captain and retired NASA Astronaut Alan Poindexter lost his life Sunday in a tragic jet ski accident near Little Sabine Bay off Pensacola Beach, Florida.

1 July

  • The Soyuz TMA-03M mission spacecraft carrying three U.S., Russian and European astronauts descended to a landing in remote Kazakhstan early Sunday, closing out a 193-day mission to the International Space Station that included the first visit by a U.S. commercial re-supply craft. The Soyuz capsule carrying Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, NASA astronaut Don Pettit and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers was greeted by helicopter borne Russian recovery teams, shortly after it touched down under parachute south of Zhezkaghan at 1:14 AM Phoenix time (0814 UTC). Pettit, Kononenko and Kuipers appeared to be in good shape.

Posted in Canadian Space Agency, China, Commercial Space, European Space Agency, International Space Station, JAXA, Mars, NASA, Pluto, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, Solar System, Soyuz | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

May 2012

Posted by drdave on May 1, 2012

31 May

  • Dragon splashed down at 1542 UTC. Recovery is in process at 1610 UTC.
  • Dragon has demated from the ISS and is scheduled to make its deorbit burn at 7:51 Phoenix time (1451 UTC).

30 May

  • Astronomer Jason Kalirai of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, has created a new method to measure the ages of individual halo stars. His technique exploits a basic concept of stellar evolution: The heavier a star is, the faster it dies. Halo stars die by becoming red giants and then white dwarfs—dense stars little larger than Earth. White dwarfs have no nuclear activity, so as they age, they cool and fade. Thus, the hottest and brightest of these burnt-out stars entered the white-dwarf stage most recently.
  • Preparations for the second landing of the X-37B, the Air Force’s unmanned, reusable space plane, are underway at Vandenberg Air Force Base. While the exact landing date and time will depend on technical and weather considerations, it is expected to occur during the early- to mid-June timeframe. Space professionals from the 30th Space Wing will monitor the de-orbit and landing of the Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle mission, called OTV-2.

29 May

  • Excalibur Almaz has detailed its plans to launch spacecraft to space stations in orbit around the moon, the first time the secretive company has done so publically. The British company will use legacy Russian hardware, capsules from the Soviet Soyuz space programme and space stations from Salyut, to launch people into orbit around the moon. Both capsules and stations will undergo upgrades, but the basic hardware has flown in space up to nine times, and is described by Excalibur CEO Art Dula as have a technical readiness level of nine, the highest possible.
  • Intelsat, the world’s leading provider of satellite services, and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), the world’s fastest growing space launch company, announced the first commercial contract for the Falcon Heavy rocket.
  • A Chinese Long March 4C has launched with a military payload, understood to be the Yaogan 15 military satellite, from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. Launch was recorded at 0731 UTC, catching out most observers, with the only news of the launch on Tuesday leaking out on the internet, prior to official media reports of a successful ride to orbit.

28 May

  • With Dragon now installed and ingressed on the International Space Station (ISS), Canada’s Dextre robot took an opportunity to greet the new spacecraft on Sunday. The SPDM (Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator) was translated to the SpaceX vehicle to practice the removal of cargo from the trunk, a key element of future Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) missions.

27 May

  • China launched a satellite late Saturday for civil and possibly military communications. The Long March 3B rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 8:56 AM Phoenix time (1556 UTC) Saturday and placed the 5,200-kilogram Chinasat 2A satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

26 May

  • The hatch on the Dragon spacecraft has been successfully opened, and the ISS crew is beginning to unload the 1014 lbs of cargo brought up on the spacecraft. 1367 lbs of cargo is scheduled to return on Dragon on 31 May.
  • A giant distributed radio telescope will be split over sites in South Africa and Australia, astronomers announced Friday. The Square Kilometer Array (SKA) Organization said Friday that dishes for the radio telescope will be built on sites in South Africa and Australia, with the majority of the telescopes being placed in South Africa.

25 May

  • Dragon is berthed to the International Space Station.
  • The Dragon spacecraft has passed all of the Approach tests and is proceeding toward Capture.
  • Boeing successfully completed the software Preliminary Design Review (PDR) for its Commercial Crew Development (CCDev-2) initiative on May 18. CCDev-2 is part of NASA’s Space Act Agreement. Software competency is essential to all operational aspects of Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft, including launch, orbital maneuvering, docking with and separating from the International Space Station, re-entry and landing. The PDR team analyzed the system’s flight software, including details regarding safety, testing, overall redundancy management, avionics hardware and ground systems.
  • XCOR announced today that it has achieved a key technical milestone with its flight weight rocket piston pump hardware. XCOR engineers have successfully and repeatedly pumped liquid oxygen (LOX) at flow rates required to supply the Lynx suborbital vehicle main engines.

24 May

  • SpaceX and Dragon completed today’s fly-under successfully.

23 May

  • The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) announced Monday that Iran is set to launch a satellite called Fajr (or “Dawn”) atop a Safir 1B rocket on a mission to demonstrate the country’s first use of a maneuverable spacecraft in orbit.
  • The SpaceX Dragon capsule has completed Flight Day 1 objectives (under final review by NASA and SpaceX), and will spend Flight Day 2 raising its orbit as it approaches the International Space Station. If all objectives are met, grappling is set for 1206 UTC Friday.

22 May

  • SpaceX successfully launched their Falcon 9 rocket and placed the Dragon capsule on a rendezvous path to the International Space Station (ISS). If all tests are successful, grappling and connecting to the ISS will occur on Friday morning.
  • When SpaceX’s Dragon capsule launches in spring 2012, a very special payload will be on board: 15 student experiments from the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. The big deal is that those experiments from “SSEP Mission 1 to ISS” will be part of space history. Dragon will become the first commercial vehicle to dock to the International Space Station, and these student experiments have the distinction of being the only payload on board.

21 May

20 May

19 May

  • The SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle aborted following engine start. Engine 5 recorded high pressure. The launch will be rescheduled for 22 May (NET).
  • From SpaceX on Facebook: “Engineers replacing failed valve on engine #5 following today’s abort. Data review Sunday, if all looks good next attempt is Tues. May 22 at 3:44 AM ET”.

18 May

  • NASA and SpaceX held a pre-launch briefing this afternoon at Kennedy Space Center. View the briefing here.
  • A Japanese H-2A rocket launched four satellites on Friday, including a Japanese earth sciences spacecraft and a South Korean remote sensing satellite. The H-2A 202 lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center at 9:39 pm Phoenix time Thursday (1639 UTC) and placed four satellites into Sun-synchronous orbits.
  • A Proton rocket launched a Canadian commercial communications satellite early Friday. The Proton-M rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 12:12 pm Phoenix time Thursday (1912 UTC Thursday) carrying the Nimiq 6 satellite. The Proton’s Breeze-M upper stage released the spacecraft into geosynchronous transfer orbit a little over nine hours later. Nimiq 6 was built by Space Systems/Loral and weighed about 4,500 kilograms at launch, carrying 32 Ku-band transponders.

17 May

  • A Soyuz spacecraft carrying three new ISS crew members docked with the orbiting outpost early Thursday. The Soyuz TMA-04M docked with the Poisk module of the ISS at 12:36 am EDT (0436 GMT) Thursday, two days after launch from Kazakhstan, and hatches opened at 4:10 am EDT (0810 GMT). On board the Soyuz were Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin and American astronaut Joseph Acaba, who brought the station’s crew complement back to six.

16 May

  • An Ariane 5 rocket successfully launched a pair of Lockheed Martin-built communications satellites for Japan and Vietnam on Tuesday evening. The Ariane 5 ECA lifted off from Kourou, French Guiana, at 6:13 pm EDT (2213 GMT) Tuesday and placed the JCSAT-13 and Vinasat-2 communications satellites into geosynchronous transfer orbit about a half-hour later.
  • The Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft with the new crew for the International Space Station (ISS), launched from the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, will dock with the ISS on Thursday morning in an automatic mode. The spacecraft will dock with the Poisk research module of the ISS Russian segment at 1:38 AM Phoenix time (0438 UTC).

15 May

  • A Soyuz FG rocket launched the Soyuz TMA-04M (RSC Energia) spacecraft carrying three new International Space Station crew members on Tuesday. The Soyuz rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 8:01 pm Phoenix time Monday (0301 UTC Tuesday) and placed the Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft into orbit. On board the Soyuz are Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin and American astronaut Joseph Acaba. The Soyuz will dock with the ISS at 11:39 pm EDT Wednesday (0339 GMT Thursday).
  • The Atlantic has an extensive by Ross Andersen with Sara Seager, a Professor of Planetary Science at MIT, on the plans of Planetary Resources to mine asteroids.
  • LightSquared, the company that ran into regulatory difficulties trying to establish a hybrid satellite-terrestrial broadband network in the US, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Monday.

14 May

  • Jeff Foust, at The Space Review, discusses “A test flight for SpaceX may also be a test for commercial crew”.
  • NSS Urges Congress to Ease Export Control Restrictions on Satellites and Space-Related Items
  • Scientists analyzing data from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft orbiting the large asteroid Vesta have concluded that the body has some of the key characteristics of a planet, suggesting it is a protoplanet left over from the solar system’s formation. Observations of the asteroid show that it is a differentiated body, featuring an iron core with a radius of 110 kilometers as well as a mantle and crust.

13 May

  • The Indian Space Research Organization on Saturday successfully tested the indigenous cryogenic engine at the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) at Mahendragiri for 200 seconds. The engine will undergo another two more tests, including endurance test of 1,000 seconds and vacuum ignition test. The engine is scheduled to propel GSLV D-5 in September or October.
  • John Kelly heaps scorn on the Congressional move to force NASA to prematurely select a single manned spacecraft contractor, “History shows going with one contractor results in years of delays and billions of dollars in cost overruns. Every past space transportation system development effort has become a cost and schedule boondoggle, often made worse by cost-plus contracting.”

12 May

  • One of the key pre-launch requirements for SpaceX’s upcoming Dragon mission to the ISS, the completion of software validation tasks for the spacecraft’s approach and berthing with the orbital outpost, has been passed, pending the expected completion of “action items”. The milestone means the latest launch date target of May 19 now holds a large amount of confidence.
  • Scientists are on an epic treasure hunt for meteorite fragments from a spectacular fireball that lit up the daytime sky over California last month. The space rocks came from a minivan-size asteroid that plunged through Earth’s atmosphere and exploded into a dazzling daytime fireball over California and parts of Nevada on April 22. Meteorite fragments were scattered around Sutter’s Mill, an old sawmill in Coloma, California.

11 May

  • The Sun moves much more slowly relative to nearby interstellar space than was previously thought, according to scientists working on NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission. Their study casts doubt on the existence of an abrupt “bow shock” where the edge of the solar system meets the interstellar medium – instead suggesting that the boundary between the two regions is much gentler.
  • Virgin Galactic expects to resume flight tests of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle as early as June from manufacturer Scaled Composites’ facility in Mojave, California. SpaceShipTwo has not flown since its 16th glide flight in September, 2011, when it entered a tail stall upon release from its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft.
  • Envisat, an enormous Earth-observing satellite that was officially declared dead in space Wednesday (May 9) may stay in orbit for the next 150 years, posing a threat to other spacecraft zipping around our planet.

10 May

  • NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Images Big Dipper
  • NASA’s Dawn spacecraft won’t end its 13-month-long visit to Vesta, the Solar System’s second biggest asteroid, until August, but researchers have now solidified the rock’s reputation as an archetype for understanding planetary evolution. In six reports in the 11 May edition of Science, Dawn mission scientists have confirmed several long-held assumptions about Vesta and detailed some puzzles about the roughly 520-kilometer-diameter body.

9 May

  • Four days after the launch of Tianhui-1B mapping satellite, China has launched a new optical remote sensing satellite on May 10, 2012 from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. Launch of Yaogan Weixing-14 (YG-14) satellite took place at 07:06UTC using a Long March 4B (Chang Zheng-4B) launch vehicle from the LC9 launch complex.
  • OpenMarket.org has a screed about “Republican Space Socialism Update”, taking House Appropriations Chairman Frank Wolf (R-Virginia) to task for decrying the wastefulness of competition in the Commercial Crew Development program.

8 May

  • Unionized workers at United Launch Alliance (ULA), the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture that makes the Atlas and Delta launch vehicles, ratified a new contract by default on Sunday when a strike vote fell just short of passage. Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) voted Sunday to reject a three-year contract offered by ULA, but a subsequent vote on whether to strike fell just short of the two-thirds majority needed to authorize a strike. Because the strike vote failed, the new contract went into force at midnight Monday.
  • Commercial remote sensing company DigitalGlobe has rejected a offer by rival GeoEye to acquire the company, saying it will wait until the end of the federal budget cycle to make a decision on whether to make its own bid to acquire GeoEye. DigitalGlobe said in a statement Sunday that the $17-per-share offer by GeoEye “substantially undervalues” the company.

7 May

  • Preparations for Orion’s first journey into space are accelerating, as flight controllers at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) fire up the former Shuttle Flight Control Room (FCR) for mission simulations, while Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) engineers finalize the vehicle’s baseline construction, ahead of shipping Orion to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for outfitting.
  • In a study published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, astronomers analyzing 63 hot Jupiters (depicted above) detected by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft have found no planets comparable in size to Earth orbiting nearby. In contrast, many hot Neptunes—close-in giant worlds with roughly 5% of Jupiter’s mass—do have planetary neighbors. The findings may mean that hot Jupiters assume their peculiar orbits after far-off giant planets kick them close to their suns. As the hot Jupiter dashes inward, its gravity ejects any smaller planets near the star, both explaining the absence of close planetary neighbors and suggesting that solar systems with hot Jupiters are unlikely to host life-bearing worlds resembling Earth.

6 May

  • China launched the second TH-1 Tianhui-1 satellite – Tianhui-1B – on Sunday, using a Long March 2D (Chang Zheng-2D) launch vehicle from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Launch took place at 07:10UTC from the 603 launch pad from the LC-43 launch complex. Tianhui-1B will conduct Earth-mapping using stereo-topographic techniques.

5 May

  • Supermoon: “We will have moon closest to the Earth at the exact moment, or within a minute or two of when it becomes full,” says Andrew Fraknoi at Foothill College in Los Altos, Calif., and senior educator at the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. “And this has no cosmic danger or significance but it means the moon will be a little bit brighter and a little bit bigger in our sky.”
  • NASA issued the following statement from William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington: “After additional reviews and discussions between the SpaceX and NASA teams, we are in a position to proceed toward this important launch. The teamwork provided by these teams is phenomenal. There are a few remaining open items but we are ready to support SpaceX for its new launch date of May 19.”

4 May

  • SpaceX and NASA are nearing completion of the software assurance process, and SpaceX is submitting a request to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for a May 19th launch target with a backup on May 22nd.

3 May

  • The European Space Agency (ESA) announced Wednesday that it has chosen a mission to several of Jupiter’s largest moons as its next large mission, confirming a choice made last month by an agency panel. The JUpiter ICy moon Explorer, or Juice, is planned for launch in 2022 and arrive at Jupiter in 2030. The spacecraft would fly by the Galilean moons of Callisto and Europa before entering orbit around Ganymede, the solar system’s largest moon.
  • ULA: “The launch of an Atlas V carrying the United States Air Force’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency-2 (AEHF-2) payload was scrubbed today due to lack of helium flow from the ground support equipment to the Interstage Adapter compartment on the launch vehicle. The Atlas V vehicle and AEHF-2 are safe and secure at this time. The launch is rescheduled for Friday, May 4 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The opening of the launch window is 2:42 p.m. EDT and extends until 4:42 p.m. The forecast for May 4 shows an 80 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for the launch tomorrow. “
  • The first flight of the Antares rocket will likely be in August.

2 May

  • SpaceX said Wednesday it is “unlikely” that Monday’s scheduled launch of a Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket will proceed because of additional testing being done on the spacecraft. The company said in a brief statement Wednesday afternoon that the Monday morning launch was unlikely to take place as scheduled to allow the company more time to work on software assurance issues regarding the Dragon spacecraft with NASA. No official launch delay had yet been announced, although some NASA documents has already pushed the launch back to the backup date of May 10.

1 May

  • Senior scientists and heads of the five International Space Station partners will present ground-breaking research and discuss future projects in Berlin on 2–4 May. Follow the first International Space Station symposium live on the web through its dedicated website. Visit www.isssymposium2012.com to follow the conference in real time.

Posted in Asteroid, Canadian Space Agency, China, Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, India, International Space Station, Meteor, NASA, National Space Society, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, Solar System, Sun | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

March 2012

Posted by drdave on March 4, 2012

31 March

  • China opened their 2012 commercial launch manifest with the lofting of the Apstar-7 into orbit. The launch took place at 10:27 UTC from the LC2 launch platform at the from the Xichang satellite Launch Center, using a Long March 3B/ (Chang Zheng-3B/E) launch vehicle.
  • Technicians will load more than 1,000 pounds of food and clothing into SpaceX’s Dragon capsule next month for delivery to the International Space Station on the commercial craft’s first flight to the outpost. The cargo is comprised of mostly low-value items such as food, water, and clothing to supplement supplies delivered this week aboard Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle.

30 March

  • After 45 years in service Russia’s Proton-K rocket has made its 311th and final launch Friday morning, on a mission to deploy an OKO early warning satellite for the Russian Aerospace Defense Forces with the aid of a Blok DM-2 upper stage. Launch was on schedule at 05:49 UTC (11:49 local time), from Area 81/24 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
  • The launch of a classified satellite on a Delta 4 has been postponed to at least Monday to complete analysis of an upper-stage engine issue. The Delta 4 Medium-Plus (5,2) was originally scheduled to launch Thursday from Vandenberg Air Force Base on mission NROL-25.
  • Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), the builder of the Falcon family of rockets and Dragon spacecraft, has announced the creation of a safety advisory panel for commercial, crewed space flight. SpaceX is one of the private companies that are working to return U.S. astronauts to orbit. SpaceX is developing its Dragon spacecraft to be used to ferry crews to the International Space Station (ISS).

29 March

28 March

  • A Russian satellite operator has ordered two communications satellites from Astrium, including one that will replace a satellite deorbited over the weekend. Astrium will build the Express-AM4R and Express-AM7 satellites for Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC), with the satellites planned for launch in 2014.

27 March

  • After a busy 2011, the nation’s spy satellite agency will begin another spurt of launches that kicks off Thursday with a Delta 4 rocket carrying top-secret cargo from Vandenberg Air Force Base. Liftoff is planned for 3:30 p.m. from Space Launch Complex-6 on South Base.

26 March

  • On Sunday, controllers deorbited a Russian communications satellite that was launched into the wrong orbit last year despite a last-minute bid to salvage the spacecraft. Polar Broadband Systems, sought to keep the satellite in orbit, moving it into an elliptical, inclined orbit to provide broadband communications services for Antarctica. However, Russian officials elected to proceed with the spacecraft’s deorbiting, and the spacecraft reentered over the North Pacific on Sunday.
  • A chemical analysis of lunar rocks may force scientists to revise the leading theory for the Moon’s formation: that the satellite was born when a Mars-sized body smacked into the infant Earth some 4.5 billion years ago.

25 March

  • Universe Today has a long report about experiments with Canada’s Dextre robot (highlight) and NASA’s Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) aboard the ISS in March 2012. Four more upcoming RRM experiments tentatively set for this year will demonstrate the ability of a remote-controlled robot to remove barriers and refuel empty satellite gas tanks in space thereby saving expensive hardware from prematurely joining the orbital junkyard.
  • International Launch Services (ILS) have launched their second Proton-M rocket of the year on Sunday. Lift off was on schedule at 12:10 GMT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, with the Proton’s Briz-M Upper Stage tasked with deploying the Intelsat 22 telecommunications satellite into a 65,000 km super-synchronous transfer orbit for the first time under ILS.

24 March

  • NASASpaceFlight reviews a possible mission to Near Earth Object 1999AO10, requiring a launch date of January 2, 2026. The NEO 1999AO10 deep space mission would last 155 days, around half of the mission length for the other candidate mentioned – 304 days – for NEO 2001 GP2.
  • The crew of the International Space Station sheltered in their Soyuz capsules for a short time early Saturday as a precaution when a piece of orbital debris from a satellite collision passed close to the station. Station controllers awakened the six ISS crewmembers at about 11:30 pm EDT Friday (0330 UTC Saturday) after data indicated a piece of debris would pass close to the ISS.

23 March

  • The Edoardo Amaldi, the third ATV from the European Space Agency, successfully lifted off from Kourou , and is on its way to the ISS.
  • Aviation Week talks about European Space Agency Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain and his meeting with his Chinese counterpart March 22-23 to discuss future cooperation in manned spaceflight, including the potential for a Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station (ISS).

22 March

  • ESA’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle, Edoardo Amaldi, is ready for launch to the International Space Station. Liftoff is 0434 UTC.
  • MESSENGER completed its one-year primary mission on March 17. Since moving into orbit about Mercury a little over one year ago, the spacecraft has captured nearly 100,000 images and returned data that have revealed new information about the planet, including its topography, the structure of its core, and areas of permanent shadow at the poles that host the mysterious polar deposits.

21 March

  • Space tourism company Virgin Galactic announced this week it has signed up a famous actor as its 500th customer for its suborbital spaceflights. Virgin said Monday that Ashton Kutcher is the customer number 500 for its upcoming SpaceShipTwo flights to space.
  • The Ariane 5 launch of Europe’s no. 3 Automated Transfer Vehicle was given the green light today for a March 23 liftoff from the Spaceport in French Guiana on a servicing mission to the International Space Station.
  • Bad weather has prompted NASA to reschedule the launch of five rockets from its Wallops Facility in Virginia. The rockets are part of a study of the upper-level jet stream. The launch had been set for Wednesday morning but has now been pushed back to early Thursday.

20 March

  • Following the safe arrival of the MetOp-B weather satellite in Kazakhstan, the sophisticated craft is now being carefully assembled and tested before launch on 23 May. MetOp-B will provide essential data for weather forecasting and climate monitoring.
  • The latest documentation relating to the efforts to create an Exploration Roadmap for NASA’s future has provided the strongest indication to date that the Agency wants to return US astronauts to the surface of the Moon. Listed as a Lunar Surface Sortie (LSS) mission, the Exploration Systems Development Division (ESD) revealed their plans via their latest Concept Of Operations (Con Ops) document.

19 March

  • With Space Shuttle orbiter Discovery buttoned up in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) ahead of her flight to her retirement home, and with Enterprise ready to make way for Discovery and head to her new display site, the Shuttle team at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is focused on finishing Transition and Retirement (T&R) work for Atlantis and Endeavour.

18 March

  • European Space Agency (ESA) officials decided this week to continue their plans for a pair of ambitious Mars missions later this decade even after the US decided it would no longer cooperate on the missions. ESA members decided Thursday to pursue the ExoMars program, which calls for the 2016 launch of an orbiter and the 2018 launch of a lander and rover.
  • As astronomy satellite that had been slated for launch this month will remain on the ground for up to two more months to correct a software problem, the space agency announced Friday. The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) spacecraft was slated to launch later this month on a air-launched Pegasus XL rocket from the Reagan Test Site (RTS) at Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.

17 March

  • Aviation Week notes that “An Astrium-built Russian satellite stranded in a useless orbit by a Proton launch mishap last summer may be salvaged to provide broadband satellite links to scientists working in Antarctica.”

16 March

15 March

  • Some astronauts who have spent extended time in space have suffered optical abnormalities that could affect their eyesight, scientists reported this week. In a paper published in the journal Radiology, researchers said a third of astronauts who spent time on long-duration missions to the ISS experienced symptoms such as flattening of the eyeball and bulging of the optic nerve that can affect eyesight. The cause of these symptoms isn’t clear but is thought to be linked to exposure to weightlessness.
  • There have been heated arguments at Satellite 2012 conference concerning the decision to buy United Launch Alliance (ULA) rockets through 2020 in a block buy. ULA likes it, and SpaceX does not.

14 March

  • FAA Issues Draft Environmental Assessment for SpaceShipTwo Powered Flights in Mojave
  • Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne tested its launch abort engine it is developing for a spacecraft to take humans to the International Space Station. The engine is designed to push the seven-person Crew Space Transportation-100 to safety in the event that an abort is necessary. The CST-100 is being built by Boeing for NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program.
  • SpaceX hopes to be ready to launch an unmanned Dragon capsule from Cape Canaveral on April 30, putting it on course to berth at the International Space Station three days later, according to tweets from the Satellite 2012 conference in DC. A NASA spokesman said an official target launch date would not be set until the conclusion of a flight-readiness review now planned for April 12.

13 March

  • The Orion Program is continuing to push forward at a lively pace, as the first MPCV (Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle) set to launch into space heads into the final pathfinder welds, ahead of closeout work. While work continues on the Exploration Flight Test -1 (EFT-1) Orion, the critical parachute system is set for another drop test in April, following its recent success at the end of February.
  • Commercial launch providers Arianespace and Sea Launch announced a total of three new launch contracts on Monday. Arianespace announced it won a contract from Eutelsat and Es’hailSat, the Qatar Satellite Company, to launch the Eutelsat 25B/Es’hail 1 satellite on an Ariane 5. The satellite, weighing over six tons, is being built by Space Systems/Loral and is scheduled for launch in the second quarter of 2013. Sea Launch announced it had secured a contract for another Eutelsat satellite, Eutelsat 70B.

12 March

  • Canada’s Dextre robotic space helper, working with NASA’s Robotic Refuelling Mission (RRM) experiment, have together completed a record breaking week of robotics operations on the International Space Station (ISS), a week which saw the first ever attempt at satellite servicing tasks successfully performed in space.
  • “Given current funding levels,” Mr. Bolden said in written testimony, “we anticipate the need to purchase [Russian] crew transportation and rescue capabilities into 2017.” The commercial U.S. space taxis were originally envisioned to be in service by early 2016.
  • SpaceX and NASA are in advanced discussions for the private space firm to use Kennedy Space Center’s pad 39A, one of the spaceport’s Apollo and space shuttle launch sites, as the Florida base for its Falcon Heavy rocket, officials said.

11 March

  • In a week that has seen the strong class X solar flares, the sunspot region AR1429 unleashed two class M flares yesterday at 0527 UTC and 1744 UTC, according to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
  • NASA has not yet asked the Russian Federal Space Agency to sign a contract to use Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ferry U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) from 2016 to 2017, Roscosmos manned flight programs director Alexei Krasnov told Interfax-AVN on Sunday. “The contract signed by us is valid through 2015. But this contract has not been prolonged for 2016-2017, and negotiations on prolonging it are not being held at the moment. Should NASA need to use our Soyuz [spacecraft] to deliver its astronauts over this period of time, I think they will notify us of it, will come up with such an initiative,” Krasnov said.

10 March

  • Iron-rich fragments from an ancient impact could explain puzzling magnetic fields measured in various places on the moon. The magnetic anomalies are perplexing because unlike metallic minerals deposited by an asteroid, normal lunar rocks cannot record a magnetic field.
  • Need a Job? They’re Hiring in Mojave(Doug Messier). There are several hundred open positions in Mojave as companies such as the Spaceship Company, XCOR and Scaled Composites begin to ramp up operations. “It’s ironic that we’re having a recruitment problem in Mojave,” said Stu Witt, CEO and general manager of the Mojave Air and Space Port. He added that this is a good problem to have.

9 March

  • ESA’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle, scheduled for launch on an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on 23 March at 04:31 UTC, is planned to dock with the International Space Station five days later. The precise time of docking automatically dock with the Station’s Russian Zvezda module will be known after launch.
  • The head of NASA visited Capitol Hill on Wednesday, making separate appearances in House and Senate hearings to support the agency’s 2013 budget request. Charles Bolden appeared before hearings of the Senate Commerce Committee and House Science Committee, fielding questions about the $17.7-billion budget proposed for the space agency in the next fiscal year. Much of the debate at the hearings was about the request for nearly $830 million for NASA’s commercial crew program, a sharp increase from the $406 million the program received in 2012 but similar to the original budget request that year. Bolden said the funding was needed to keep the effort on track to start providing service no later than 2017.
  • China’s Shenzhou 9 mission to dock with the Tiangong space station has been surrounded by controversy and confusion, including uncertainty over unmanned or manned, and continuing slippage of the launch date for this complex mission.

8 March

  • NASA models using data from the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) and the Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) have now provided more information about the two Coronal Mass Ejections (CME) associated with the two March 6 flares. The first is traveling faster than 1300 miles per second; the second more than 1100 miles per second. NASA’s models predict that the CMEs will impact both Earth and Mars, as well as pass by several NASA spacecraft – Messenger, Spitzer, and STEREO-B. The models also predict that the leading edge of the first CME will reach Earth at about 1:25 AM EST on the morning of March 8 (plus or minus 7 hours).

7 March

  • Neil deGrasse Tyson gets raked over the coals at the Atlantic for his take on NASA, its budget and its mission. Yikes.
  • A dust devil on Mars was captured by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

6 March

5 March

  • Metop-B, the European operational polar orbiting weather satellite designed and manufactured by Astrium, recently left the clean room at the European space industry leader’s site in Toulouse. Metop-B was prepared for shipping to the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, where a Soyuz launcher will place it in orbit with Starsem. The target launch date is 23 May 2012.
  • NASA has successfully conducted another drop test of the Orion crew vehicle’s entry, descent and landing parachutes high above the Arizona desert in preparation for the vehicle’s orbital flight test in 2014.
  • Dish Network Corp.’s hopes to start building a new wireless network have been dealt a setback by the Federal Communications Commission, which denied the satellite-TV provider’s request for a needed waiver and opted instead for a formal deliberation that will take until the end of the year.
  • A Department of Defense official urged his colleagues in 2010 to “synch up” with the GPS industry in order to defeat LightSquared’s plans to build the nation’s first wholesale broadband network.

4 March

3 March

  • The European Space Agency announced Friday that it has delayed the upcoming launch of an ISS cargo spacecraft in order to perform additional checks on the vehicle’s contents. The ATV-3 spacecraft, also called Edoardo Amaldi, was scheduled to launch March 9 on an Ariane 5 from Kourou, French Guiana. The delay is expected to be about two weeks.
  • An upgraded Long March-2F carrier rocket has completed assembling and is ready for China’s first manned space docking due between June and August this year

2 March

  • A SpaceX rocket scheduled to launch a cargo demonstration mission to the ISS this spring successfully completed a dress rehearsal of its launch on Thursday. SpaceX performed the “wet dress rehearsal” of its upcoming Falcon 9 launch on Thursday, rolling the rocket and its Dragon spacecraft to the pad at Cape Canaveral, fueling it, and performing a countdown all the way to the T-5 mark. SpaceX officials said the practice countdown went well.
  • Technicians at Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California are placing the two halves of the rocket nose cone, or fairing, around NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), in preparation for its launch. The launch is scheduled for no earlier than March 21.
  • NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has “sniffed” molecular oxygen ions around Saturn’s icy moon Dione for the first time, confirming the presence of a very tenuous atmosphere. The oxygen ions are quite sparse – one for every 0.67 cubic inches of space (one for every 11 cubic centimeters of space) or about 2,550 per cubic foot (90,000 per cubic meter) – show that Dione has an extremely thin neutral atmosphere.

1 March

  • Astronomers have spotted young stars in the Orion nebula changing right before their eyes, thanks to the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. The colorful specks — developing stars strung across the image — are rapidly heating up and cooling down, speaking to the turbulent, rough-and-tumble process of reaching full stellar adulthood.
  • Researchers at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC) at Stanford University estimate that “nomad” planets, ejected from their home stellar system and now free-floating through the Milky Way, could outnumber stars by as many as 100,000 to 1.
  • The planned March 6 launch of the SiriusXM FM-6 digital radio satellite aboard an International Launch Services (ILS) Proton rocket has been scrapped following concerns of a solar-array defect aboard the Space Systems/Loral-built satellite.

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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.

Posted in China, Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, International Space Station, JAXA, Mars, NASA, Pluto, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, The Planetary Society | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

June 2011

Posted by drdave on June 3, 2011

30 June

  • NASA’s plan to use commercial spaceships to carry astronauts to orbit after the space shuttles retire is coming along nicely, the agency announced today. The four private companies awarded funding under NASA’s most recent round of Commercial Crew Development 2 (CCDev2) contracts have met all of their initial milestones so far, agency representatives said.

29 June

  • A Minotaur rocket launched a small military satellite late Wednesday evening from Virginia. The Minotaur 1 rocket lifted off from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Virginia, at 11:09 pm EDT (0309 GMT Thursday) and released the ORS-1 satellite into low Earth orbit about 12 minutes later.

28 June

27 June

  • Space Security Policy: The US and EU recently released documents regarding space security. Should they come to an accord or should the US take the lead?
  • Continuing Light Squared Issues: John Byrne heads the wireless and mobile infrastructure research group at IDC. He said the interference issue may continue to be a sticking point for LightSquared, even with the proposed solution. “At this point I think you have to assume that the deployment is on hold until those concerns are addressed to the satisfaction of the FCC and all of the congressmen and senators that are on the FCC on this issue,” he said.

26 June

  • As military-launch costs soar, would-be competitors protest. Increase will be nearly 50 percent during the next four years.
  • The White Sands Space Harbor, the landing site for the STS-3 in 1982, will be closing its doors after 35 years due to the end of the space shuttle program; the last launch is scheduled to take place in July.
  • Following its replacement on Atlantis’ SSME-3 (Space Shuttle Main Engine), the new Main Fuel Valve (MFV) is undergoing a weekend of testing at Pad 39A, aimed at providing confidence the hardware will perform as required during the launch countdown. Meanwhile, inspections on ET-138′s stringers have been completed with no obvious issues reported.

25 June

  • If skies are clear and all goes well Tuesday evening, observers throughout Maryland and much of the Mid-Atlantic region should be able to watch a big rocket launch from Virginia’s Wallops Island. The Air Force will attempt to launch a battlefield imaging satellite into orbit from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. The ORS-1 satellite will ride atop a four-stage, solid-fuel Minotaur 1 rocket, the largest ever launched from the Delmarva peninsula.
  • Asteroid 2011 MD will pass approximately 12,000 kilometers above the Earth’s surface at about 9:30 am EDT (1330 GMT) Monday, JPL reported Friday.

24 June

  • NASA’s next Mars spacecraft arrived at Cape Canaveral this week in preparation for its launch later this year. The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), also known as Curiosity, arrived at the Kennedy Space Center on Thursday on board a C-17 cargo aircraft, which flew the spacecraft from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. MSL, the most advanced Mars rover built, is scheduled for launch late this year from Cape Canaveral on an Atlas 5 rocket.

23 June

  • Betelgeuse, a red supergiant in the constellation of Orion, is one of the brightest stars in the night sky. It is also one of the biggest, being almost the size of the orbit of Jupiter — about four and half times the diameter of the Earth’s orbit. The VLT image shows the surrounding nebula, which is much bigger than the supergiant itself, stretching 60 billion kilometres away from the star’s surface — about 400 times the distance of the Earth from the Sun.

22 June

  • Mark Kelly, the NASA astronaut who commanded the most recent shuttle mission and is married to congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, announced on Tuesday his plans to retire. Kelly announced via social media that he would retire from both NASA and the US Navy on October 1.
  • The “Deep Space Adventure” movie, lands July 8 at the Adler Planetarium, guiding earthbound visitors through an outer space journey that planetarium officials think is second only to actual space travel. 20 individual digital projectors for a screen resolution of more than 8,000-by-8,000 pixels will be replacing the 40-year-old Zeiss projector — made famous during a 2008 presidential debate when John McCain ripped a possible replacement as a “$3 million overhead projector”.

21 June

  • Russia successfully launched their Progress M-11M resupply mission to the International Space Station at 7:38 AM Phoenix time (1438 UTC).
  • Speaking at the 49th Paris Air Show in France, Vladimir Popovkin said that the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) will not produce a spaceship for tourists. Citing a full schedule of manned Soyuz and Progress re-supply missions to support the International Space Station as the reason for not proceeding at the moment, Popovkin did not rule out business in the future.

20 June

  • China is preparing to launch the ZX-10 ZhongXing-10 – also designated ChinaSat-10, Sinosat-5 or Xinnuo-5 – domestic communications satellite on Monday (16:05-16:30 UTC) from the Xi Chang Satellite Launch Center, in Sichuan Province.
  • Raffaello, more formally as the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, is stuffed with a full year’s worth of necessities for the International Space Station. It will be loaded into shuttle Atlantis’ payload bay Monday to prepare for launch next month.

19 June

18 June

  • NASA’s space probe Dawn is continuing its approach towards Vesta. The camera system on board is beginning to show the giant asteroid in more and more detail. The newest pictures taken on June 1st and processed by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany already hint at the huge crater on Vesta’s southern hemisphere that is known from earlier observations. In addition, the new images show a dark feature close to the asteroid’s equator.

17 June

  • A faulty engine valve on the space shuttle Atlantis found earlier this week can be replaced without causing a delay in the planned final shuttle launch.
  • A newly discovered comet from the farthest reaches of the solar system could become a sky spectacle in 2013. Right now the comet is 700 million miles (1.2 billion kilometers) from the sun, well beyond the orbit of Jupiter.

16 June

  • After nearly three months in orbit about Mercury, MESSENGER’s payload is providing a wealth of new information about the planet closest to the Sun, as well as a few surprises.
  • Comet Hartley 2’s hyperactive state, as studied by NASA’s EPOXI mission, is detailed in a new paper published in this week’s issue of the journal Science. “Hartley 2 is a hyperactive little comet, spewing out more water than most other comets its size,” said Mike A’Hearn, principal investigator of EPOXI from the University of Maryland, College Park. “When warmed by the sun, dry ice — frozen carbon dioxide — deep in the comet’s body turns to gas jetting off the comet and dragging water ice with it.”

15 June

  • The Sun may be entering an extended period of relatively quiet activity, a development that has implications for space exploration and possibly the Earth’s climate. Scientists said at a meeting Tuesday of the American Astronomical Society’s Solar Physics Division in New Mexico that evidence was mounting that the Sun’s activity would diminish, perhaps for an extended period. Solar scientists have not detected a zonal flow associated with the onset of a new cycle of solar activity, and others found a long-term weakening trend in sunspots.
  • NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or Stereo, has discovered 122 previously unknown sets of twin stars.
  • Lockheed Martin plans to lay off 1,200 workers in its Space Systems division by the end of the year, with sites in Denver, Sunnyvale, Calif., and Pennsylvania’s Delaware Valley region to be hardest hit. The layoffs amount to 7.5% of the 16,000-strong Space Systems workforce.

14 June

  • Orbital Sciences Corporation will build the latest spacecraft for a Thai company, and SpaceX will launch that satellite, in separate deals announced Monday. Orbital won a contract to build the Thaicom 6 satellite, based on the GEOStar bus. The satellite will carry a mix of C- and Ku-band transponders, with 3.7 kilowatts of power and a launch mass of 3,200 kilograms. That satellite will be launched by SpaceX on a Falcon 9 rocket in the second quarter of 2013.
  • Test results compiled by the National Executive Committee for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing indicate the 4G network under development from LightSquared interferes with GPS signals, darkening the network’s prospects.
  • The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)’s Hayabusa space probe has been officially recognized by Guinness World Records, adding yet another feather to the project’s cap after the accolades that have poured in from the scientific community over the past year. Recognition by Guinness World Records “will help spread knowledge of the Hayabusa probe’s achievements among the Japanese people, so I’m very happy,” said JAXA’s Hayabusa project manager Junichiro Kawaguchi.

13 June

  • Post flight processing continues on the Endeavour space shuttle.
  • NASA’s Dawn mission to the doughnut-shaped asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, which launched in September 2007, is now approaching Vesta, a protoplanet that is currently some 143 million miles from Earth.

12 June

  • Three years before its arrival the camera system on board the space probe Rosetta renders the first images of its destination. Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko is the 2014 target.
  • The European Space Agency should formally approve this summer the construction of an Italian-led demonstrator that will launch into space on a rocket, fly back to Earth like an airplane and parachute into the Pacific Ocean. The Intermediate Experimental Vehicle is on track to blast off on a Vega rocket in late 2013, speed around the Earth at a peak altitude of nearly 300 miles, then drop from space and fly back to Earth with the help of aerodynamic flaps and a parachute.
  • Today, Russia’s Mission Control will raise the orbit of the International Space Station (ISS) by 20 km (12.4 miles) using Europe’s ATV-2 Johannes Kepler to 365 km (226.8 miles).

11 June

10 June

  • A United Launch Alliance Delta II successfully launched the Aquarius / SAC-D ocean monitoring satellite this morning. Liftoff was at 7:20 AM Phoenix time (1420 UTC).
  • The Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft carrying three new ISS crew members docked with the station Thursday afternoon. The Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft docked with the Rassvet module of the station at 2:18 PM Phoenix time (2118 UTC) Thursday.
  • The new American commercial cargo spacecraft Dragon will be sent to the ISS at the end of this year, NASA Associate Administrator for Space Operations William Gerstenmaier told a press conference at the Mission Control Centre here on Friday.

9 June

  • On Wednesday, officials called off plans for today’s launch attempt of Aquarius/SAC-D mission. Engineers checking data spotted a problem with the pre-loaded computer flight profile that helps the steer the rocket through upper-level winds.
  • A report by NASA’s inspector general warned that the agency’s latest Mars rover mission may require additional funding in order to be ready for launch later this year. The report, by NASA’s Office of the Inspector General, found that the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission underestimated its costs by $44 million, and without additional funding the mission could miss its launch window late this year, forcing a two-year delay. MSL, also known as Curiosity, already missed its original launch window in 2009 in order because of development delays.

8 June

7 June

  • Russia successfully launched their Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft on a mission to the International Space Station. Docking is scheduled for 2:22 PM Phoenix time Thursday, 9 June (2122 UTC).
  • A NASA instrument will hitchhike aboard an Argentine satellite when it rides an American rocket to space from Vandenberg Air Force Base early Thursday morning. The United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket and the Aquarius/SAC-D satellite are set to lift off from Space Launch Complex-2 between 7:20 and 7:25 a.m. Thursday.

6 June

  • A decision on the configuration of the Space Launch System (SLS) Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLV) is just weeks away, as final evaluations take place into a “staged evolution of a single heavy launcher”, after NASA’s leadership rejected the two-phase approach, which would have resulted in an open competition for the Beyond Earth Orbit (BEO) derivative of the SLS.
  • A paper published in the current issue of Nature provides the first cohesive explanation of how the migration of Jupiter shaped the asteroid belt and stripped a lot of material from the region, essentially starving Mars of formation materials.

5 June

  • Assemblage of the Russian Soyuz-FG rocket to carry Soyuz TMA-02M manned spacecraft to the International Space Station was completed on Saturday. The mission to the International Space Station is set for June 8. Soyuz TMA-02M will bring new Expedition 28 astronauts to the ISS. The docking is slated for June 10.

4 June

  • A pair of Danish amateur rocket makers successfully launched their 30 foot tall, 1.6 ton liquid fueled rocket out over the Baltic Sea.
  • A team of scientists at the University of Arizona’s Luna and Planetary Sciences Laboratory has been picked NASA to head up an $800 million space exploration project named OSIRIS-REx. The plan is for NASA to launch the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft in 2016 for the 575-meter near-Earth asteroid 1999 RQ36. The spacecraft would then orbit and explore the asteroid for more than a year before closing in and collecting samples which would then be returned to Earth sometime in 2023.
  • The Boeing Company said Friday it had issued 60-day layoff notices to approximately 510 employees in its Space Exploration division as a result of the end of the Space Shuttle program. The notices include an estimated 260 employees in Houston, 150 at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., and 100 at the company’s Huntington Beach, California, facility.
  • A group of Canadians who spent their weekends hanging around garages has won the first edition of a NASA robotics competition ever to be opened to international competition. During the competition, the teams remotely controlled excavators — called “Lunabots” — to determine which could collect the most simulated lunar soil over 15 minutes. Laurentian’s team had the best result, digging up just over 237 kilograms of simulated moon rock. The second-place team from the University of North Dakota scooped up over 172 kilograms.

3 June

  • The space shuttle Atlantis arrived at the launch pad early Wednesday as preparations for the final mission of the space shuttle era continue. Atlantis arrived at launch pad 39A at 12:29 AM Phoenix time (0729 GMT) Wednesday, just under seven hours after leaving the Vehicle Assembly Building and less than an hour after the shuttle Endeavour landed at the Shuttle Landing Facility several miles away. Atlantis is scheduled for launch on STS-135, the final shuttle mission, on 8 July 2011.
  • Atlantis (STS-135) was soaked by thunderstorms and is undergoing checks following lightning storm

2 June

  • A drive of 482 feet (146.8 meters) on June 1, 2011, took NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity past 30 kilometers (18.64 miles) in total odometry during 88 months of driving on Mars. That’s 50 times the distance originally planned for the mission and more than 12 times the distance racehorses will run next week at the Belmont Stakes.
  • In two separate reports, astronomers reveal ancient globular clusters to be breeding much younger blue-straggler members, and a relatively young open cluster hosting an aging stellar population, calling into question theories of stellar evolution.
  • The Intelsat 18 telecommunications satellite will be launched by Sea launch Co. from the Russian-run Baikonur Cosmodrome in September or October following Sea Launch’s agreement to donate rocket hardware previously intended for a future Intelsat launch campaign
  • An asteroid the size of a small motorhome zoomed near Earth last night (June 1), coming closer to us than the moon ever does. The 23-foot-long (7-meter) space rock, named 2009 BD, came within 215,000 miles (346,000 kilometers) of Earth
  • Four astronomers who helped befuddle the world by discovering evidence for dark matter have won a prestigious cosmology prize. Scientists infer the existence of dark matter by its gravitational influence on the regular, visible matter around it. The scientists will share the $500,000 purse that comes with the 2011 Cosmology Prize of the Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation.

1 June

  • The space shuttle Endeavour landed at the Kennedy Space Center early Wednesday, completing its final mission and the next-to-last flight of the shuttle program overall. Endeavour landed at the Shuttle Landing Facility at KSC at 11:34 PM Phoenix time Tuesday (0634 UTC Wednesday) on the first available landing opportunity, ending a nearly 16-day mission to the International Space Station.

Posted in Asteroid, Comet, Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, International Space Station, Mars, Milky Way, NASA, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, Solar System, Soyuz, Sun | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

May 2011

Posted by drdave on May 1, 2011

31 May

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

30 May

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

29 May

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

28 May

27 May

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

26 May

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

25 May

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

24 May

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

23 May

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

22 May

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

21 May

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

20 May

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

19 May

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

18 May

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

17 May

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

16 May

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

15 May

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

14 May

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

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

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

13 May

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

12 May

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

11 May

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

10 May

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

9 May

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

8 May

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

7 May

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

6 May

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

5 May

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

4 May

3 May

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

2 May

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

1 May

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

Posted in Asteroid, Comet, Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, International Space Station, Jupiter, Mars, Moon, NASA, Russian Space Agency, Solar System, Space Shuttle | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

April 2011

Posted by drdave on April 1, 2011

30 April

  • NASA continues to work on the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Engineers expect to open the aft bay of the shuttle and begin testing of the heaters, Load Control Assembly and electrical cables by this evening. It is not certain that Endeavour will be ready for launch by the time its window opens on Monday, 2 May, at 11:33 AM Phoenix time (1833 UTC)

29 April

  • The Russian Progress M-10M resupply spacecraft has completed its docking with the International Space Station.
  • Next up, launch of the Endeavour STS-134 mission at 12:47 PM Phoenix time today. Scrubbed due to heater failures on the APU1 unit.

28 April

  • A Soyuz rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 6:05 AM Phoenix time (1305 GMT) and placed the Progress M-10M spacecraft into orbit. The spacecraft is carrying 2.6 tons of food, water, propellant, and other supplies for the International Space Station. Part of the spacecraft’s payload of experiments were considered time-sensitive enough by Russian officials that they declined to postpone the launch to avoid a scheduling conflict with the shuttle Endeavour, which was scheduled to launch on April 19. Instead, NASA had to delay Endeavour by ten days. The Progress is scheduled to dock with the Pirs module of the station at 10:29 am EDT (1429 GMT) Friday.
  • Get up in the wee hours of the morning May 6th and head out into the country, far from the city lights. You won’t be alone. The birds will be up and singing about the coming dawn, and, of course, about the eta Aquarid meteor shower. The eta Aquarids are best viewed from the southern hemisphere, but there’s something special about them no matter where you live: “Each eta Aquarid meteoroid is a piece of Halley’s Comet doing a kamikaze death dive into the atmosphere,” explains NASA astronomer Bill Cooke.

27 April

  • A team of Italian and US researchers have made lab equipment that recreates the jets that shoot out of stars and black holes. Astrophysical jets are narrow streams of charged particles spurting from the centre of young stars and supermassive black holes. They hurtle in opposite directions at near light speed.
  • SETI has placed the collection of 42 radio dishes in northern California called the Allen Telescope Array into “hibernation due to lack of funding.

26 April

  • Chinese authorities in charge of the manned space program unveiled plans on Monday to build a 60-ton space station, made up of three capsules, and develop a cargo spaceship to transport supplies. The 18.1-meter-long core module, with a maximum diameter of 4.2 meters and a launch weight of 20 to 22 tons, will be launched first. The two experiment modules will then blast off to dock with the core module. Each laboratory module is 14.4 meters long, with the same maximum diameter and launch weight of the core module. The 60-ton space station is rather small compared to the International Space Station (419 tons), and Russia’s Mir Space Station (137 tons).

25 April

24 April

23 April

  • The multibillion-dollar U.S.-European Mars exploration program has suffered a serious — but not fatal — blow with NASA’s confirmation that it can no longer afford to launch its own rover alongside a European rover in 2018.
  • The suborbital Virgin Galactic spacecraft SpaceShipTwo has completed its fifth unpowered flight. The glide test from high altitude lasted 14 minutes and 31 seconds.

22 April

  • Arianespace successfully launched the Ariane 5 rocket carrying the Yahsat Y1A and Intelsat New Dawn at 2:37 PM Phoenix time (2137 UTC) on April 22, 2011.
  • NASA’s Dawn spacecraft could settle the matter of whether Vesta is an asteroid or a “minor planet”. Originally spotted 200 years ago, it is officially a “minor planet”. It seems large for an asteroid at 530 km in width.
  • Russia will not permit the first U.S. commercial spacecraft (SpaceX Dragon) to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) unless its safety is fully tested, a high-ranking official with Russia’s space agency Roscosmos said on Friday.

21 April

  • Atlantis is tasked with the final mission as part of the Space Shuttle Program (SSP), with a launch date of June 28 resulting in a vital logistics run to the International Space Station (ISS). The current plan is for Atlantis to then retire at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), as she becomes the centerpiece of a new exhibition.

20 April

  • An Indian rocket launched a remote sensing satellite and two smaller spacecraft on Wednesday. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India, on schedule at 9:42 PM Phoenix time Tuesday (0442 UTC, 10:12 am local time Wednesday). The rocket’s primary payload was Resourcesat-2, a 1,206-kilogram remote sensing satellite.
  • Shuttle managers on Tuesday confirmed plans to launch the space shuttle Endeavour on its final mission a week from Friday. Endeavour is scheduled to launch on STS-134 at 12:47 PM Phoenix time (1947 UTC) on Friday, April 29

19 April

  • NASA has awarded Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) $75 million to develop a revolutionary launch escape system that will enable the company’s Dragon spacecraft to carry astronauts. The Congressionally mandated award is part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) initiative that started in 2009 to help private companies mature concepts and technologies for human spaceflight.
  • NASA has awarded seed money to four companies for work on commercial crew vehicles in the second round of its Commercial Crew Development (CCDev-2). A total of $269.3 million to help mature concepts for private spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station and other low-Earth-orbit destinations. Boeing received $92.3 million on top of the $18 million it won last year. Sierra Nevada Corp., last year’s top winner, will get $80 million to go with the $20 million it received in 2010. Space Exploration Technologies Inc. (SpaceX), which already has flown its Dragon cargo capsule to orbit and back, has been granted $75 million to develop a launch abort system and other hardware so the Dragon can carry crew. Blue Origin, the secretive startup organized by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, was allotted $22 million to continue work on its vertical takeoff and landing craft.

18 April

  • Launcher and pad preparations to boost the Ukraine-built Cyclone-4 from Brazil’s Alcantara launch center are entering their final phase, with the goal of completing the qualification liftoff next year.

17 April

16 April

  • Space.com discusses the new NASA budget. The new budget at least frees NASA from a stifling provision under its 2010 budget that prevented it from cutting funding to the moon-bound Constellation program. Yet that program was canceled by President Barack Obama in early 2010, and NASA has been targeting new goals ever since.

15 April

  • The March 30 launch abort of Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket after the main engine had been ignited was caused by one or more components attached to the engine nozzle that prevented the nozzle from moving freely during ignition, the head of the Arianespace launch consortium said April 15.
  • In Texas, County Commissioner Calls for a Congressional Investigation why no Space Shuttle is coming to Houston.
  • Two small U.S. military satellites are queued up and waiting to ride into space on Minotaur rockets in May, but managers want to make sure the boosters are immune from the glitch that doomed the launch of a NASA science mission in March.
  • How many flights will the US Air Force X-37B make? Perhaps as few as two, perhaps three.

14 April

  • Wayne Hale, former NASA Space Shuttle Program Manager, explains why Houston did not get a Space Shuttle: “Because we just don’t care enough to do anything about it.”
  • The United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket has performed its twenty-fifth launch, delivering into orbit the classified NROL-34 payload for the US National Reconnaissance Office. The launch took place from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 04:24 UTC Friday (9:24 PM Phoenix time Thursday).
  • Spending bill will put an end to the Constellation program

13 April

  • Boeing expects to select a single vehicle next month from an unspecified number of rockets in the running to launch unmanned flight tests and early crewed missions of the seven-person CST-100 space taxi it is developing with financial backing from NASA. The four real candidates are: United Launch Alliance’s Delta 4 and Atlas 5, Space Exploration Technologies’ Falcon 9, the European Ariane 5.
  • The Vostok 3KA-2 space capsule was sold for nearly $2.9 million in a Sotheby’s auction to Russian businessman Evgeny Yurchenko. The spacecraft flew in space in March 1961, 20 days before the historic April 12, 1961 launch of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin on the first human spaceflight.
  • Celestial Fireworks from Dying Stars.

12 April

  • NASA’s space shuttles, which have been carrying astronauts aloft for 30 years, were assigned to their final destinations on Tuesday: one will head to the nation’s capital, another to Los Angeles, and the third from its current home at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the center’s visitor complex next door.
  • Yuri’s Night celebration in Moscow.
  • The Adler Planetarium will soon be home to a space flight simulator used to train every shuttle astronaut who has traveled to space.

11 April

  • Arianespace announced that “With the additional checkout and verification now in progress on the Ariane 5 ECA launcher, Arianespace has decided to resume the operations for Ariane Flight VA201 with the Yahsat Y1A and Intelsat New Dawn satellite payloads.”
  • Engineers and scientists eagerly unpacked the Juno spacecraft from its shipping crate Saturday, kicking off nearly four months of launch preparations before the $1 billion mission is shot toward Jupiter this summer.

10 April

  • Following a meeting between NASA and Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) managers on Friday, a decision was made to call off the planned Soyuz documentary flyabout of the International Space Station (ISS) and Endeavour during the STS-134/ULF-6 mission, due to concerns with crew impacts in the event that the Soyuz should fail to re-dock with the ISS. Flyabout planning efforts are now shifting to the STS-135/ULF-7 mission.

9 April

  • Plans to launch an Atlas 5 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base next week have been delayed two days by a need to replace a questionable part on the space booster. The team now is shooting for a blastoff from Space Launch Complex-3 East on South Base at 9:24 PM Thursday, 14 April, carrying a National Reconnaissance Office spacecraft to orbit for a clandestine mission.
  • NASA’s Juno spacecraft has arrived in Florida to begin final preparations for a launch this summer. The spacecraft was shipped from Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, to the Astrotech payload processing facility in Titusville, Florida. The solar-powered Juno spacecraft will orbit Jupiter’s poles 33 times to find out more about the gas giant’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.

8 April

  • NASA’s Swift satellite, Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory have teamed up to study one of the most puzzling cosmic blasts ever observed. More than a week later, high-energy radiation continues to brighten and fade from the gamma-ray burst.
  • Space.com presents a compilation of “Firsts” in the Space Age on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s manned spaceflight.
  • April is proving to be the cruelest month for the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), a major space mission to look for gravitational waves that was slated for launch around 2015. But news broke this week that NASA is abandoning funding for the project, which means the U.S. will cede its role in developing this critical instrument in order to redirect funds to the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

7 April

  • The Russian Soyuz TMA-21 piloted spacecraft docked with the International Space Station (ISS). The new ISS crew consists of Russians Alexander Samokutyayev and Andrei Borisenko, and U.S. astronaut Ronald Garan.
  • NATURE reports that NASA is disbanding two major US science teams following a bilateral meeting with the European Space Agency, Nature has learned. In a public presentation April 4, Jon Morse of NASA Astrophysics Division said that the International X-ray Observatory Science team and the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA)’s International Science Team will formally no longer exist and the project offices are closing.
  • Virgin Galactic dropped the White Knight Two and Space Ship Two on the San Francisco Airport Thursday. Watch the video from Wired.

6 April

  • Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) head Elon Musk revealed their latest launch vehicle on Tuesday, the Falcon Heavy. Effectively three Falcon 9 core stages strapped together, the new vehicle – set to debut as soon as 2013 – will be the most powerful US rocket to have launched since the Saturn V was built for the Apollo Program, eventually sharing a 20 missions per year manifest with the Falcon 9.

5 April

  • Chinese Space Junk Won’t Hit Space Station
  • Russia’s Soyuz TMA-21 spacecraft, which also goes by its American designation of 26S, has blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday (4th April) at 10:18:20 PM GMT, carrying three crew-members for the International Space Station’s (ISS’) Expedition 27 and Expedition 28 crews.

4 April

  • The scheduled April 19 launch of the space shuttle Endeavour is expected to be postponed for at least 10 days, sources close to the project said Sunday. The glitch evidently has to do with a scheduling conflict involving a Russian resupply craft, the Progress, which was to launch a few days after the Endeavour. That craft cannot dock with the International Space Station while the shuttle is there, and NASA had hoped to persuade the Russians to agree to put the Progress into a “parking” orbit until the Endeavour had completed its mission.

3 April

  • NASA has announced the winners of the 18th annual NASA Great Moonbuggy Race — and it’s Puerto Rico’s year. Teams representing Teodoro Aguilar Mora Vocational High School of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, snared the top two berths in the high school division; and, for the second straight year, the University of Puerto Rico in Humacao held off all comers to win the college division.
  • The New Scientist discusses stars that orbit the wrong way in their galaxy’s heart are probably the remnants of another galaxy that was eaten. Astronomers have noted for years that the stars at the heart of some galaxies orbit in the opposite direction to that of their neighbours further out.
  • NASA managers have been presented with a working plan and completed assessments on the potential for a Soyuz fly-around of the Shuttle/Station stack during Endeavour’s docked mission. With many of the hurdles from the canceled STS-133 fly-about plan removed, the unique event has a high potential of being approved by the International Space Station (ISS) partners.

2 April

  • Russia’s soyuz TMA-21 rocket has been moved into position at the Baikonur launch pad in Kazakhstan before the scheduled blast off date on Tuesday. The craft will have an international crew of US astronaut Ron Garan, and Russian cosmonauts Aleksander Samokutyaev and Andrei Borisenko.
  • The Endeavour astronauts followed a realistic countdown sequence Friday, getting suited up and strapping inside the space shuttle for a thorough dress rehearsal that culminated with a pretend ignition and shutdown of the three main engines at T-minus 4 seconds.

1 April

  • More than 70 million observations during the past two 2 years in orbit from ESA’s GOCE satellite has given scientists their most detailed map yet of Earth’s gravitational field. The lumpiness of that geoid—the theoretical surface that a planet-wide ocean would take if there were no tides or currents—betrays the irregularity of the planet’s mass distribution, including concentrations of mass such as mountain ranges and ice sheets.
  • The Soyuz site at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana is now ready for its first launch. ESA yesterday handed over the complex to Arianespace, marking a major step towards this year’s inaugural flight.

Posted in Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, International Space Station, Jupiter, Moon, NASA, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, Space Shuttle | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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.

Posted in Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, JAXA, Jupiter, Kuiper Belt, NASA, Russian Space Agency, Saturn, Solar System | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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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