NSS Phoenix Space News

Posts Tagged ‘Mars Science Laboratory’

December 2012

Posted by drdave on December 1, 2012

Happy New Year

31 December

  • The space Review discusses issues for 2013 including problems associated with sequestration due to the upcoming “Fiscal Bunny Slope”.
  • Engine Out” – Failures and other problems.
  • Russia is expected to spend 2.1 trillion rubles—about $70 billion—on the development of its national space industry in the next eight years, according to a statement last week by Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, which was quoted by Space Daily and RIA Novosti. He revealed that the plan is designed to satisfy three fundamental aims: ensuring that Russia maintains its position as a leading global space power, supporting its defense capability, and boosting its overall economic and social development. “The program will enable our country to effectively participate in forward-looking projects,” said Medvedev, “such as the ISS, the study of the Moon, Mars, and other celestial bodies in the Solar System.”

30 December

  • Ikaros, a Japanese probe launched in 2010, has been recognized by Guinness World Records as the first interplanetary solar sail spacecraft.
  • Only in America can the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology of the House of Representatives be the same congressman from Georgia who was caught on tape last summer during an “off-the-record” campaign appearance at a Baptist church saying, “All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell.” Read more.

29 December

  • The new Japanese asteroid mission, called Hayabusa2, is scheduled for launch in 2014 and aimed at the asteroid 1999 JU3, a large space rock about 3,018 feet (920 meters) in length. It is due to arrive at the asteroid in mid-2018, loiter at the space rock and carry out a slew of challenging firsts before departing the scene at the end of 2019.

28 December

  • South Korea has retrieved what appears to be part of the engine from North Korea’s long-range rocket launched earlier this month, a finding that could provide clues to the communist nation’s rocket technologies, a military source said Friday.
  • At the top of the Curiosity rover’s to-do list next year is the first use of its rock-boring drill, allowing scientists to examine samples from inside Martian rocks with the robot’s instrument suite. The drill is designed to hammer into rocks and collect material for analysis by the rover’s chemical and mineral sensors. For the drill’s first use, the Curiosity team is looking for a rock in a shallow pit named Yellowknife Bay.

27 December

26 December

  • Russian space rocket corporation Energia has completed the technical design of a new manned spacecraft whose flight tests are due to begin in 2017. The new spaceship will be able to fly not only to the International Space Station (ISS) but also to the Moon.
  • With most of its ground control team taking time off this week, Curiosity was loaded up with operating instructions for 11 days while at “Grandmother’s House”.

25 December

  • Doomsayers disappointed by 2012’s non-apocalypse will get a sop in 2013 in the form of a rare supercomet. Once widely seen as a portent of doom, comets are seldom as spectacular as the new arrival, known as C/2012 S1 (ISON), may be. At its peak it may outshine the moon, even by day.
    First spotted in September, ISON is rushing towards the sun from the outer solar system. Its closest approach to the sun will be in November, when Timothy Spahr of the Minor Planet Center at Harvard University expects it to put on as good a show as Hale-Bopp did in 1997.

24 December

  • SpaceX’s ambitions of creating a full reusable launch vehicle have taken another step forward via the third – and most ambitious to date – test of their Grasshopper test vehicle. The 40 meter leap into the skies at their test facility in Texas – followed by a stable hover and smooth landing – was conducted without a hitch.
  • Five years ago, the idea of easing export controls on commercial satellites was politically unthinkable. That mindset has changed during the last half decade, as the idea that those restrictions are harming both national security and the U.S. industry base has gradually gained traction. And during a year in which the U.S. Congress barely passed even routine bills, lawmakers came together to shed long-standing restrictions on the export of commercial satellites.

23 December

  • This is a bit of cheery news a day after the nonsensical “Mayan Apocalypse of 2012” — the potentially hazardous asteroid 2011 AG5 will not (I repeat, will not) threaten Earth in the year 2040.
  • John Kelly, At Florida Today, weighs in on the policy drift at NASA: “This week, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden appeared before yet another human space flight review committee (this is the second such panel convened over the past four years). He gave a less-than-enthusiastic endorsement of Obama’s targeted mission to an asteroid. He didn’t say NASA ought not do it, but he loaded up on caveats and qualifiers.” Kelly then goes on about what purpose might be visualized for the NASA super rocket (SLS), since it will not be capable of launching a mission to an asteroid by the time the asteroid mission is currently scheduled.

22 December

  • The US Geological Survey (USGS) announced Friday that it plans to decommission the aging Landsat 5 spacecraft in the coming months as Landsat 8 is prepared for launch. Landsat 5 launched in 1984 with a planned design life of three years, but has continued operations after the loss of Landsat 6 in a launch failure in 1993 and technical problems with Landsat 7, launched in 1999. Landsat 8, (Landsat Data Continuity Mission), is scheduled for launch in February andrecently arrived at its launch site, Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, from the Orbital Sciences Corporation facility in Arizona where it was assembled.

21 December

  • A meteorite that fell where California’s gold rush began has triggered a similar gold rush for scientists: to study one of the freshest, most unusual space rocks around. The Sutter’s Mill meteorite turns out to be a rare, carbon-rich type known as a carbonaceous chondrite. Its insides are a jumble of different primitive space materials mashed together in a single rock.
  • A Soyuz capsule packed with three astronauts has successfully docked with the International Space Station, taking the size of the full crew at the orbiting laboratory to six. American Tom Marshburn, Russian Roman Romanenko and Canadian Chris Hadfield traveled two days in the capsule before linking up with the space station’s Russian Rassvet research module.
  • The U.S. military is committing to average at least seven rocket purchases a year from United Launch Alliance for five years, a cost-saving move by the government that’s worth billions to the Centennial-based company in Colorado.

20 December

  • SpaceShipTwo completed its first glide test with the rocket motor and tanks installed. The flight was the 23rd in a series of unpowered tests and took place on 19 December. Last Friday, 15 December, SpaceShipTwo completed a test in this configuration, but remained attached to its mother ship, WhiteKnightTwo.
  • An Ariane 5 rocket launched communication satellites for the British military and for a Mexican government agency on Wednesday evening. The Ariane 5 ECA lifted off from the spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana, at 4:49 pm EST (2149 GMT) and placed the Skynet 5D and Mexsat Bicentenario spacecraft into geosynchronous transfer orbit about a half-hour later. Skynet 5D is an EADS Astrium Eurostar E3000 model spacecraft, weighing 4,800 kilograms at launch. Astrium Services will operate the spacecraft at 53 degrees east in GEO to provide communications services for the British Ministry of Defence and allies. Mexsat Bicentenario is an Orbital Sciences GEOStar-3 model spacecraft, weighing approximately 3,000 kilograms at launch. It will be operated by the Mexican Secretariat of Communications and Transport to provide C- and Ku-band communications services from 114.9 degrees west in GEO. The launch was the seventh and final Ariane 5 mission of the year, and the last scheduled orbital launch worldwide in 2012.

19 December

  • A Russian Soyuz FG rocket successfully launched the Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft carrying three astronauts to the International Space Station. Roman Romanenko from Roscosmos, NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn and the Canadian Space Agency’s Chris Hadfield lifted off at 5:12 AM Phoenix time (1212 UTC)
  • A Chinese Long March rocket successfully launched a Turkish remote sensing satellite on Wednesday. The Long March 2D rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 9:13 AM Phoenix time Tuesday (1613 UTC Tuesday, 12:13 am Beijing time Wednesday) and placed the Gokturk-2 satellite into a sun-synchronous orbit.

18 December

  • NASA’s twin GRAIL spacecraft crashed into a mountain on the Moon Monday afternoon, completing their nearly year-long mission there as planned. The two spacecraft, dubbed “Ebb” and “Flow”, crashed into a mountain near the crater Goldschmidt in the Moon’s north polar regions. Ebb crashed into the mountain at 5:28:51 pm EST (2228:51 GMT) and Flow crashed nearby 30 seconds later. NASA announced the impact sites would be named after Sally Ride, the first American woman in space who passed away earlier this year; she led the development of cameras on the spacecraft used exclusively for educational purposes.

17 December

  • Jeff Foust at the Space Review, discusses at length the role NASA should play in the exploration of space.

16 December

  • South Korean authorities on Friday moved to analyse the debris of a North Korean long-range rocket, launched earlier this week in defiance of repeated international warnings.
  • The Union of Concerned Scientists discusses the North Korean satellite, its functional parts and its current orbit. Apparently, based on American observations, the satellite achieved a circular around 500 kilometers above the Earth, but the satellite is tumbling, and not under North Korean control.

15 December

  • The Chinese spacecraft Chang’E 2 has captured stunning images of the asteroid Toutatis as it tumbled past the Earth on 13 December 2012.
  • Thales Alenia Space (Cannes, France), the manufacturer of the Yamal-402 satellite for Gazprom Space Systems, has carried out the fourth and the final maneuver to place the satellite into a planned geostationary orbit. Thales Alenia Space earlier devised a plan for transferring the satellite from a geostationary transfer orbit to the planned geostationary orbit by firing the satellite’s apogee kick motor four times instead of the previously planned three firings. The orbit placement sequence had to be adjusted after the Briz-M upper stage manufactured by the Khrunichev Space Center failed to place the satellite into the planned orbit. During the fourth firing, its sustainer engine stopped 4 minutes earlier than was planned.

14 December

  • The powerpack assembly for the Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR) J-2X engine has completed its year of testing at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The engine is set to provide the Earth Departure Stage (EDS) role for astronauts and hardware heading to destinations in deep space, should NASA opt to evolve SLS to the Block II configuration.

13 December

  • Ebb and Flow, the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission probes, are being sent purposely into the lunar surface because their low orbit and low fuel levels preclude further scientific operations. The twin lunar-orbiting NASA spacecraft that have allowed scientists to learn more about the internal structure and composition of the moon are being prepared for their controlled descent and impact on a mountain near the moon’s north pole at about 2:28 p.m. PST (5:28 p.m. EST) Monday, Dec. 17.
  • Astronomers have found a population of galaxies more than 13 billion years old in a new “deep field” image set from the Hubble Space Telescope. The galaxies, found in Hubble’s Ultra Deep Field 2012 (UDF12) near-infrared images, date back to between 350 and 600 million years after the Big Bang.

12 December

  • Scientists with NASA’s Cassini mission have spotted what appears to be a miniature, extraterrestrial likeness of Earth’s Nile River: a river valley on Saturn’s moon Titan that stretches more than 200 miles (400 kilometers) from its “headwaters” to a large sea.
  • An Atlas V successfully launched on Tuesday a classified military spaceplane. The Atlas 5 501 lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 1:03 pm EST (1803 GMT) carrying an X-37B on the Orbital Test Vehicle 3 (OTV-3) mission. The launch, which took place despite forecasts that called for only a 30 percent chance of acceptable weather at launch time, was declared a success by the Air Force, although it released few other details about the mission.
  • North Korea launched a rocket early Wednesday that appeared to place a small satellite into orbit, a move that took many by surprise. The Unha-3 rocket lifted off from its North Korean launch site at approximately 5:50 PM Phoenix time Tuesday (0050 UTC). Official government media announced that the launch was a success, and NORAD reported it was tracking what appeared to be the rocket’s satellite and upper stage in orbit.

11 December

  • Aviation Week: Launch market upstart Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) won the first two competitions out for bid under the Air Force’s new Orbital/Suborbital Program-3 (OSP-3) contract last week. These are the first Air Force-funded opportunities for would-be competitors to ULA to earn government money to prove out their young designs and march forward on the path to certification for launches in the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) class, which is used for the most valuable Pentagon and intelligence satellites.

10 December

  • NASA announced Monday the selection of three companies to conduct activities under contracts that will enable future certification of commercial spacecraft as safe to carry humans to the International Space Station. Advances made by Boeing, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX during the first contract phase known as the certification products contracts (CPC) will begin the process of ensuring integrated crew transportation systems will meet agency safety requirements and standards to launch American astronauts to the International Space Station from the United States, ending the agency’s reliance on Russia for these transportation services. The second phase of certification will result in a separately competed contract.

9 December

  • Yamal-402 satellite launched from Baikonur on Saturday was not placed in the planned orbit. When the propulsion engine of Briz-M upper stage was fired for the fourth time, it operated for a shorter time than it was supposed to. Hence, the satellite was not placed in the required orbit.

8 December

7 December

  • The United Launch Alliance (ULA) are clear to resume launches of their Atlas V rocket, after a review into an anomaly with their Delta IV Upper Stage, during the launch of the GPS IIF-3 satellite, reached a key stage. The green light allows for launches of the Atlas V – which shares commonality via the RL-10 engine on its Centaur Upper Stage – to resume, starting with the next X-37B mission on December 11.

6 December

  • The Washington Post: “It had to happen: A start-up company is offering rides to the moon. Book your seat now — though it’s going to set you back $750 million (it’s unclear if that includes baggage fees). Led by heavy-hitter former NASA executives, the Golden Spike Co. would boldly go where humankind went 40 years ago, this time commercially, hawking tickets to foreign governments or space tourists.”
  • Aviation Week: “NASA’s 2011 strategic plan is no longer viable, according to the Space Foundation’s report, which takes a long, hard look at NASA’s role more than five decades after its creation. Principal author G. Ryan Faith notes that the 2011 plan doesn’t even mention the word “space” in its vision and mission statements. It is time, the Foundation says, to find a job for NASA and stick to it. And the job for a “healthy national civil space enterprise,” the report says, is pioneering.”

5 December

    NASA announced Tuesday it plans to develop a Mars rover based on the Mars Science Laboratory mission for launch in 2020. The rover wil take advantage of spare parts built for the original MSL rover, Curiosity, including a backup RTG power source. A science definition team will select a new suite of instruments for the rover, as well as decide whether the rover should have the ability to collect and cache samples for later return to Earth on a future mission. NASA estimates the rover misson will cost $1.5 billion and will fit within the reduced funding profile for NASA’s Mars program in its 2013 budget request. NASA said it will also extend the lives of current Mars missions, including Curiosity.
  • The United States Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center has awarded SpaceX two Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV)-class missions: DSCOVR (Deep Space Climate Observatory) and STP-2 (Space Test Program 2). To be launched on SpaceX’s Falcon launch vehicles in 2014 and 2015 respectively, the awards mark the first EELV-class missions awarded to the company to date.

4 December

  • NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has detected evidence for simple organic compounds in a Martian soil sample, but scientists cautioned Monday they do not know yet if those compounds are of Martian or terrestrial origin.
  • A Zenit-3SL rocket successfully placed a communications satelite into orbit for Eutelsat on Monday. The Zenit-3SL, operated by Sea Launch, lifted off from its floating launch platform on the Equator in the Pacific Ocean at 3:44 pm EST (2044 GMT), and released the Eutelsat-70B satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit 66 minutes later. The satellite, built by EADS Astrium, weighed 5,210 kilograms at launch, and carries a payload of 48 Ku-band transponders.
  • NASA’s first Atlas 5 rocket on the West Coast underwent a practice launch day and fueling exercise Tuesday at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The United Launch Alliance booster is scheduled for blastoff in February carrying a remote sensing spacecraft known as the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, or LDCM.

3 December

  • The team of scientists operating NASA’s Curiosity rover has found organic materials on Mars — but isn’t sure whether the carbon-containing compounds are indigenous to the planet.

2 December

  • Arianespace launched their Soyuz ST-A rocket from the European Spaceport “Centre Spatial Guyanais (CSG)” in Kourou, French Guiana on Sunday morning, tasking the veteran launch with lofting the Pleiades 1B satellite into a Sun synchronous orbit. Following its 02:02 GMT lift-off, the satellite was successfully deployed 55 minutes later. This was the second launch attempt, following Saturday morning’s scrub.

1 December

  • An anomaly occurred during the final chronology for Flight VS04 – Pléiades 1B, thus halting the count-down. A new launch attempt is slated on the night of Saturday 1st to Sunday 2nd of December.

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August 2012

Posted by drdave on August 4, 2012

31 August

  • A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) spacecraft for NASA lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 here at 4:05 a.m. EDT today.
  • Rick Tumlinson discusses the Republican Platform support of Socialist Big Government space programs
  • NASA on Thursday halted attempts to replace a power distributor on the International Space Station after spacewalking astronauts were repeatedly stymied by a jammed bolt.

30 August

  • NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has begun its first long-distance trip, a 400-meter traverse to a location called Glenelg. The rover moved 16 meters on Tuesday on the first leg of the trip, the longest single drive after two shorter test drives in the last week. Curiosity will not arrive at Glenelg for several weeks, making stops along the away, including one at a point to be determined where the rover will test the robotic arm and the instruments on its end. Glenelg is a spot of interest to scientists where three different terrains intersect.

29 August

  • A week after it was scrubbed because of various issues, an Atlas V rocket is rolled back out to the launch pad. The rocket is carrying Radiation Belt Storm Probes, a pair of spacecraft that will be released into earth’s Van Allen radiation belts. Launch is scheduled for 4:03 AM EDT Thursday.
  • Wired Magazine details all the airplanes and rockets in Neil Armstrong’s Career: “From a very early age Neil Armstrong was fascinated with flight. He was playing with toy airplanes at 3, and by the time he was 5 or 6 Armstrong went on his first airplane ride in a Ford Tri-Motor. By 8 or 9 he said he was building model airplanes out of balsa wood. And by the time he was 15 he had saved enough money working at a drug store to begin taking flying lessons at the small airport near his home in Wapakoneta, Ohio.”

28 August

  • For the first time in history, a recorded song has been beamed back to Earth from another planet. Students, special guests and news media gathered at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., today to hear “Reach for the Stars” by musician will.i.am after it was transmitted from the surface of Mars by the Curiosity rover.

27 August

26 August

  • Neil Armstrong, the former NASA astronaut who became the first person to walk on the surface of the Moon in 1969, passed away Saturday at the age of 82. Armstrong died following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.
  • John Kelly at FloridaToday discusses the lack of funding in current civilian and defense budgets for launch technology.
  • On 8 September 2012, the Dawn science team will host “Hasta La Vesta”, a celebration of the exploration of Vesta and the departure of Dawn toward its 2015 arrival at Ceres.

25 August

  • Neil Armstrong, the former NASA astronaut who became the first person to walk on the surface of the Moon in 1969, passed away Saturday at the age of 82. Armstrong died following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures
  • Poor weather prevented Saturday’s planned launch of a pair of NASA space science satellites, and the threat of a tropical storm will keep the rocket grounded until late next week. NASA had hoped to launch the twin Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) at 4:07 am EDT (0807 GMT) Saturday, one day after a technical problem scrubbed the first launch attempt. However, stormy weather prevented the launch from taking place during a 20-minute window. NASA announced later Saturday morning that the launch would be postponed to no earlier than Thursday, August 30, because of concerns about Tropical Storm Issac.

24 August

  • SpaceX has completed all milestones under a development and demonstration partnership with NASA, clearing the way for the firm to begin regular operational cargo deliveries to the International Space Station in October, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced Thursday. The launch is tentatively scheduled to lift off on 8 October.
  • NASA will hold a televised news conference at 2 p.m. PDT (5 p.m. EDT), Monday, Aug. 27, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., about the activities of its Curiosity rover mission on Mars. The event will feature new images, an update of the rover’s progress, and a special greeting by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
  • Aviation Week and Space Technology discusses the state of international cooperation in space.

23 August

  • First science results from Curiosity’s ChemCam show the elemental spectra from the basaltic rock called Coronation at the landing site.
  • The Atlas V launch believed to be carrying a pair of ocean surveillance satellites to locate ships at sea, in a mission designated NROL-36, has been delayed until to September 13. Following the August 2 scrub – caused by a Range instrumentation issue – the mission has been pushed to the right several times, leading this latest launch date.

22 August

  • NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has begun driving from its landing site, which scientists announced today they have named for the late author Ray Bradbury. Making its first movement on the Martian surface, Curiosity’s drive combined forward, turn and reverse segments. This placed the rover roughly 20 feet (6 meters) from the spot where it landed 16 days ago.
  • Two Russian cosmonauts stepped outside the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday, performing a highly successful Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA), or spacewalk, on the exterior of the Russian Segment (RS) of the station. The spacewalk, known as RS EVA-31, included hardware relocations, installations, retrievals, and deployments.

21 August

  • The next two Galileo satellites are now in place at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, being prepared for their shared launch this autumn. The fourth Galileo satellite flight model arrived at Cayenne Airport in French Guiana on Friday 17 August, flown from the Thales Alenia Space facility in Rome aboard an Ilyushin aircraft.
  • The start of the Universe should be modeled not as a Big Bang but more like water freezing into ice, according to a team of theoretical physicists at the University of Melbourne and RMIT University.

20 August

  • NASA announced its newest mission today, a geophysical explorer of Mars called InSIGHT (an acronym for the mouth-numbing INterior exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport). It’s a really exciting scientific mission which will place a seismometer on the surface, bore a probe five meters down into the Martian soil to measure heat flow, and use a clever antenna trick to very accurately measure the wobbles of the Martian orbit.
  • NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity flexed its robotic arm today for the first time since before launch in November 2011. The 7-foot-long (2.1-meter-long) arm maneuvers a turret of tools including a camera, a drill, a spectrometer, a scoop and mechanisms for sieving and portioning samples of powdered rock and soil.
  • The Atlas V launch of the Radiation Belt Storm Probes spacecraft, targeted for 4:08 a.m. EDT on Thursday, August 23, 2012 has been delayed until 4:07 a.m. EDT on Friday August 24, 2012. There is a 20-minute launch window.

19 August

  • Today, NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity fired its laser for the first time on Mars, using the beam from a science instrument to interrogate a fist-size rock called “Coronation.” The mission’s Chemistry and Camera instrument, or ChemCam, hit the fist-sized rock with 30 pulses of its laser during a 10-second period. Each pulse delivers more than a million watts of power for about five one-billionths of a second. The energy from the laser excites atoms in the rock into an ionized, glowing plasma. ChemCam catches the light from that spark with a telescope and analyzes it with three spectrometers for information about what elements are in the target.
  • A Sea Launch Zenit-3SL successfully placed an Intelsat communications satellite into orbit early Sunday. The Zenit-3SL rocket lifted off from its floating launch platform on the Equator in the Pacific Ocean at 2:55 am EDT (0655 GMT) Sunday and released the Intelsat 21 satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit about a half-hour later.

18 August

  • From the Washington Post: Time for a Chinese “SALT” Treaty. “The absence of rules of the road in space jeopardizes international, national and economic security. Three sets of rules are particularly important — norms that support debris mitigation, those that support space-traffic management and those that bar purposeful, harmful interference of objects in space. The need for these rules was further highlighted in February 2009, when a dead Russian satellite collided with a functioning U.S. communication satellite. Norms against reckless behavior exist on highways, the high seas and in the air — but not in space.”
  • Before beginning the 4.3-mile (7-km) trek to the base of Mount Sharp, a journey expected to take months, the six-wheeled Curiosity will visit a relatively nearby site named “Glenelg,” which caught scientists’ interest because it includes three types of terrain.

17 August

  • A reboost of the International Space Station’s orbit by Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) ended earlier than planned Wednesday. Thrusters on the ATV-3 vehicle, also called Edoardo Amaldi, currently docked to the ISS were scheduled to fire for a little over a half-hour Wednesday to raise the station’s orbit by 7.7 kilometers. However, software on the ISS shut down the thrusters before completing the planned burn. ESA reported that a temperature alarm was triggered in one of the ATV’s thrusters not being used for the reboost, but instead of continuing the burn, the station’s software shut down the thrusters. The cause of the both the alarm and the shutdown remain under investigation.
  • The New Scientist discusses: Is space mining really feasible?
  • NASA has signed a new $8.5 billion contract with Caltech, extending the Institute’s management of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for an additional five years.
  • NASA’s Space Technology Program has selected five technologies that could revolutionize America’s space capabilities.

16 August

  • NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity is ready to start moving across the Martian surface after completing a software upgrade earlier this week. The rover has remained at its landing location since touching down on the surface late on August 5, as engineers checked out the spacecraft’s systems and performed a four-day upgrade of the flight software that includes routines for driving and operating its instruments. With that upgrade successfully completed, mission managers are planning an initial, short drive of no more than a few meters in the next week or so

15 August

  • A problem with a reaction wheel on NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will slightly delay the spacecraft’s departure from the vicinity of the asteroid Vesta but should not affect its journey to Ceres.
  • Vladimir Nesterov, director general of the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, has resigned following the failure of a Proton rocket to place two communications satellites in their proper orbits last week.

14 August

  • The second of four main instruments to fly aboard NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (Webb) has been delivered to NASA. The Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS) will enable the telescope to accurately and precisely point at the correct, intended objects for it to observe. The FGS is packaged together as a single unit with the Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS) science instrument.
  • Engineers working on NASA’s Dawn spacecraft are assessing the status of a reaction wheel, part of a system that helps the spacecraft point precisely, after onboard software powered it off on Aug. 8. Dawn’s mission is to study the geology and geochemistry of the giant asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres, the two most massive objects in the main asteroid belt. Telemetry data from the spacecraft suggest the wheel developed excessive friction, similar to the experience with another Dawn reaction wheel in June 2010. The Dawn team demonstrated during the cruise to Vesta in 2011 that, if necessary, they could complete the cruise to Ceres without the use of reaction wheels.

13 August

  • NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity is in the middle of a software upgrade that project officials say will prepare the rover for scientific activities on the Martian surface. The four-day upgrade, which started Friday, will install a new version of the software needed to operate the rover. The new version includes routines needed to operate scientific equipment and to drive on the Martian surface while avoiding obstacles.
  • The launch of a classified U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) payload has been delayed until Sept. 6, more than a month later than originally planned, due to a “range instrumentation issue”.

12 August

  • NASA’s Curiosity rover has shipped back to Earth high-resolution color images of its surroundings on Mars, sharpening our views of an intriguing channel, layered buttes and a layer of cobbles and pebbles embedded in a finer matrix of material. The images show a landscape closely resembling portions of the southwestern United States.

11 August

  • SpaceShipTwo made another successful glide flight at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California on Saturday morning. The space plane took off under its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft at 6:57 a.m. PDT. It glided to a landing about an hour later after a brief glide flight.

10 August

  • NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is meeting or exceeding the expectations of scientists and engineers involved with the project several days after landing, returning stunning images and other data from its landing site. Project officials say the rover, which landed in Gale Crater on Mars Sunday night, is in good health.
  • The Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos, are pushing forward with a “light” version of their veteran Soyuz launch vehicle – known as the Soyuz 2.1v. Manufactured by TsSKB-Progress, the new launcher – one that does not sport the famous four boosters around the core stage – will be capable of lofting 2.8 tonnes to Low Earth Orbit (LEO).
  • Space enthusiasts have been abuzz for days over whether the Mars rover Curiosity captured an extraterrestrial crash. Seconds after the car-size rover parked its six wheels in an ancient crater, a tiny camera under the chassis snapped a picture revealing a smudge on the horizon. It turned out Curiosity spotted the aftermath of its rocket-powered backpack crash-landing in the distance.

9 August

  • An apparent hardware malfunction caused a prototype NASA Mars lander (“Morpheus”) to crash and explode seconds into a test flight Thursday at Kennedy Space Center, destroying the vehicle.
  • With an eye toward buying its first astronaut taxi services by 2017, NASA unveiled details Aug. 8 about a safety certification process that will be conducted in parallel with the industry-led development of new crewed space transportation systems.

8 August

  • The upper stage of a Proton rocket that lifted off Tuesday malfunctioned, stranding its payload of two communications satellites in an intermediate orbit. The Proton M rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 3:31 pm EDT Monday (1931 GMT Monday, 1:31 am local time Tuesday) carrying the Express MD2 and Telkom 3 satellites.

7 August

  • The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE imaging team has released an image showing the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) heatshield in flight after being released.

6 August

5 August

  • NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft is healthy and right on course for a landing in several hours that will be one of the most difficult feats of robotic exploration ever attempted. Emotions are strong in the control room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, as the hours and miles race toward touchdown of the car-size Curiosity at about 10:31 PM Phoenix time tonight (about 1:31 a.m. Aug. 6, EDT).
  • Per the flight director’s checklist, about an hour before the scheduled landing (based on the time that the signal from the rover will reach Earth, about 14 minutes delayed), the mission manager will begin one of the few, but important actions, he and his team can take as Curiosity faces its “seven minutes of terror” from entry to touchdown. He will pop open and start passing around the peanuts.

4 August

  • The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) “Curiosity” is schedule to land on Mars tomorrow evening at 10:31 PM Phoenix time (0531 UTC 6 August).
  • The Indian government approved on Friday a project to send that country’s first mission to the planet Mars. The small Mars spacecraft is slated for launch in November 2013 on a PSLV rocket and go into a highly elliptical orbit of 500 by 80,000 kilometers around Mars. The spacecraft will carry a 25-kilogram payload of scientific instruments to study the planet’s atmosphere.
  • A baker’s dozen of satellites, including the NROL 34, a critical $1.3 billion sentinel for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), designed to electronically monitor worldwide military and civilian shipping, have been forced to wait for launch until 14 August, following a range instrumentation problem which scrubbed yesterday’s attempt with only minutes remaining on the clock. United Launch Alliance’s mighty Atlas V booster was fully fuelled and waiting out an extended hold in the final stages of the countdown, when, despite acceptable weather conditions at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the range remained ‘Red’, indicative of a ‘No-Go’ status for launch.

3 August

  • NASA announced Friday that it has signed funded agreements worth over $1.1 billion with three companies for the next phase of its commercial crew development program. Under the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreements, Boeing will get $460 million, SpaceX $440 million, and Sierra Nevada Corporation $212.5 million.
  • If a group of tourists piled out of a transport vehicle onto the surface of Mars, they’d no doubt start snapping pictures wildly. NASA’s Curiosity rover, set to touch down on the Red Planet the evening of Aug. 5 PDT (early morning EDT), will take a more careful approach to capturing its first scenic views.

2 August

  • The fourth Ariane 5 flight of 2012 has successfully launched two telecommunications satellites, Intelsat 20 for the international operator Intelsat and Hylas 2 for the British operator Avanti Communications. This launch set a new world record for geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) payload capacity of nearly 10.2 tonnes, 130 kg more than the previous record.

1 August

  • Russia’s Progress M-16M(Progress 48) mission one day sprint to the six person International Space Station has concluded with success. The unpiloted resupply capsule and its nearly three ton payload carried out a successful automated docking with the ISS Wednesday at 6:18 PM Phoenix time (0118 UTC, 2 August), or less than six hours after the Progress 48 lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan: an ISS first.
  • This year’s third Russian Progress transport ship blasted off from Baikonur in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, August 1. The Soyuz-U carrier rocket with the spaceship Progress M-16M was launched as scheduled at 23:25 Moscow time. In only six hours (not the two days for previous missions), the transport ship will bring more than 2.6 tonnes of supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).

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January 2012

Posted by drdave on January 2, 2012

31 January

  • Japan is hoping the second time will be the charm for a mission to collect samples from an asteroid. The government has just given the green light for the Hayabusa 2 mission to aim for launch in 2014.

30 January

29 January

28 January

  • A problem with a Soyuz spacecraft could delay the launch of the next crewed mission to the ISS by several weeks, Russian officials said Friday. The descent capsule of the Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft, slated to launch in late March, did not pass a pressure chamber test recently and will have to be replaced, an industry source told Interfax. That would delay the next mission to at least mid-April and possibly until May, and the following one, planned for the end of May, to at least mid-June.
  • A Progress cargo spacecraft carrying nearly three tons of supplies successfully docked with the International Space Station on Friday evening. The Progress M-14M spacecraft (designated Progress 46 by NASA) docked to the Pirs module of the ISS at 7:09 pm EST Friday (0009 GMT Saturday), two days after launch from Baikonur.

27 January

  • A ship ferrying an Atlas 5 booster and other rocket parts to their Florida launch site crashed into a Kentucky bridge late Thursday, 26 January, but the flight hardware appears to be undamaged.
  • Launch of the SES-4 commercial communications satellite scheduled for 29 January 2012 has been delayed again until further notice, according to International Launch Services (ILS). The satellite was to have launched 27 December 2011, but that flight was called off due to problems with the Proton rocket’s Breeze-M upper stage.
  • Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) have provided a positive overview on their progress in readying their Dream Chaser spacecraft for commercial crew operations in 2016. Dream Chaser has been paired with the highly reliable Atlas V launch vehicle as part of their Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) aspirations.

26 January

  • NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered 11 new planetary systems hosting 26 confirmed planets. These discoveries nearly double the number of verified planets and triple the number of stars known to have more than one planet that transits, or passes in front of, the star.

25 January

  • Russia successfully launched the Progress M-14M resupply spacecraft into orbit aboard a Soyuz rocket. Docking with the ISS is scheduled for 5:08 PM Phoenix time Friday (0008 UTC Saturday).
  • A dazzling display of auroras lit up the far northern skies Tuesday night, 24 January, in a supercharged light show captured on camera by skywatchers around the world.

24 January

  • The Russian Progress M-13M resupply freighter pulled away from the International Space Station Monday afternoon to fly independently into a higher orbit for deployment of a science satellite. It reached the ISS on 2 November 2011 to deliver three tons of equipment, food, rocket fuel, air and water. Progress M-14M is scheduled for launch to the outpost later this week.
  • SpaceX has announced a delay to the upcoming launch of their Dragon spacecraft, initially scheduled for 7 February. The launch, from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, has been pushed back to no earlier than late March.

23 January

  • Last night the sun unleashed a flash of radiation called a solar flare, along with a generous belch of ionized matter that is now racing toward Earth at thousands of kilometers a second. The solar storm front from the ionized blast, called a coronal mass ejection (CME), should arrive tomorrow morning, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC).
  • In 2011, NOAA satellites were critical in the rescues of 207 people from life-threatening situations throughout the United States and its surrounding waters. The satellites picked up distress signals from emergency beacons carried by downed pilots, shipwrecked boaters and stranded hikers, and relayed the information about their location to first responders on the ground.
  • A new analysis of radar data from NASA’s Cassini mission, in partnership with the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency, has revealed regional variations among sand dunes on Saturn’s moon Titan. The result gives new clues about the moon’s climatic and geological history.

22 January

21 January

20 January

  • A Delta 4 rocket successfully launched the fourth in a series of US military communications satellites on Thursday. The Delta 4 Medium+Plus (5,4) rocket lifted off on schedule at 5:38 PM Phoenix time Thursday (0038 UTC Friday) and placed the WGS-4 satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

19 January

  • On July 6, 2011, a comet was caught doing something never seen before: die a scorching death as it flew too close to the sun. That the comet met its fate this way was no surprise – but the chance to watch it first-hand amazed even the most seasoned comet watchers.
  • The Mars Rover Opportunity is spending the winter on the edge of Endeavour crater at a spot called Greeley Haven.

18 January

  • A hold-down test of Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares rocket, a prerequisite for the launch vehicle’s maiden flight, likely will not be completed before April because of ongoing tests and certification work on the vehicle’s launch pad at Wallops Island, Virginia.

17 January

  • SpaceX’s next Falcon 9 flight with the Dragon spaceship – a mission which is expected to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) – is slipping in order to allow for due diligence “safety checks” ahead of launch. SpaceX’s decision to slip what was a February 7 launch came after comments noting their sense of responsibility in returning US crewed access to LEO. The specific reason for the delay has not been revealed, as much as the slip is is expected to be only a matter of weeks.
  • In order to reduce power consumption, mission managers have turned off a heater on part of NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft, dropping the temperature of its ultraviolet spectrometer instrument more than 23 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit). It is now operating at a temperature below minus 79 degrees Celsius (minus 110 degrees Fahrenheit), the coldest temperature that the instrument has ever endured. This heater shut-off is a step in the careful management of the diminishing electrical power so that the Voyager spacecraft can continue to collect and transmit data through 2025.
  • After nearly five years of construction and testing, the U.S. military’s next satellite with voluminous throughput to pump vital communications to battlefield forces awaits blastoff Thursday night from Cape Canaveral.

16 January

  • The Russian Defense Ministry has reported that the Fobos-Grunt spacecraft re-entered over the southern Pacific ocean around 10:45 AM Phoenix time on Sunday, 15 January (1745 UTC). The site was 775 miles west of Wellington Island off the coast of Southern Chile. There have been no reports of sightings.

15 January

  • The Russian Mars spacecraft Fobos-Grunt is in its last day in orbit. Although it made several predictions in the past few days, Roscosmos is no longer predicting where the probe will crash.

14 January

13 January

  • Russian officials and outside experts now believe the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, trapped in a decaying Earth orbit since November, will reenter by Monday. The latest report from the US Strategic Command predicts a reentry between 10:39 PM Phoenix time Saturday (0239 GMT Sunday) and 3:39 AM Phoenix time (0739 GMT) Monday.
  • A Long March rocket placed a Chinese weather satellite into orbit on Friday. The Long March 3A rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 7:56 pm EST Thursday (0056 GMT, 8:56 am Beijing time Friday) and placed the FengYun-2F into geosynchronous transfer orbit.

12 January

  • Astrobiology Magazine discusses the necessity of axial tilt for life to arise and be sustained on exoplanets.

11 January

  • Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory rover, is scheduled for a mid-course correction maneuver at 4 PM Phoenix time (2300 UTC) today. As of 8 PM Phoenix time, JPL reports a successful, complex thrusting schedule. Additional small adjustments will be made in the months ahead.

10 January

  • The six-member crew of the International Space Station (ISS) have been hard at work over the past few weeks, performing multiple hardware and software upgrades in order to ready the station to support the new fleet of commercial resupply vehicles, ahead of next month’s inaugural visit of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft to the orbital outpost.
  • When Felipe Menanteau and John Hughes of Rutgers University discovered a shadowy imprint within the cosmic background radiation with the Atacama Cosmology Telescope in Chile, little did they realize what it was. Followup work shows that “El Gordo” is comprised of the two largest colliding galaxy clusters ever observed, and 7 billion light years from Earth.

9 January

  • NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft is scheduled to perform a course correction this week that will put the probe on track for a landing on Mars this August. The maneuver, the biggest planned during the cruise phase of the mission, will be performed by the spacecraft’s eight thrusters, firing in a sequence over nearly three hours starting at 4 PM Phoenix time (2300 GMT) on January 11.
  • China successfully launched the Ziyuan III satellite Monday from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in northern Shanxi province. The satellite, a high-resolution remote-sensing satellite for civilian use, was launched at 11:17 a.m. aboard a Long March 4B rocket.

8 January

  • A new launch vehicle will be born in the coming weeks, as the small orbital launch vehicle “Vega” prepares for its long awaiting launch from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana. Vega will complete Arianespace’s family of three launch vehicles, following the successful debut of Soyuz in Kourou last year and the continued success of Ariane 5.

7 January

6 January

  • The Dawn spacecraft circling the asteroid Vesta, currently spends most of its time measuring gamma rays and neutrons so scientists can determine the abundances of elements in the material near the surface. The team is continuing to track the spacecraft in order to map Vesta’s gravity field. Taking advantage of the low altitude, the imaging campaign continues to reveal new details of the surface.
  • An engine firing on 11 January will be the biggest maneuver that NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft will perform on its flight between Earth and Mars. The action will use a choreographed sequence of firings of eight thruster engines during a period of about 175 minutes beginning at 4 PM Phoenix time (2300 UTC). It will redirect the spacecraft more precisely toward Mars to land at Gale Crater.

5 January

  • NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity will spend the next few months during the coldest part of Martian winter at Greeley Haven, an outcrop of rock on Mars recently named informally to honor ASU Regents’ Professor Ronald Greeley, a planetary geology who died Oct. 27, 2011.
  • Small asteroids too dim to detect seem to stray into Earth’s orbit quite frequently and stay for short periods of time. We may even be able to bring one of these moonlets back to Earth for study. Researchers have long suspected that wandering asteroids might occasionally get snagged by Earth’s gravity and become temporary moons, and a few years ago one of these was spotted. Called 2006 RH120, it is a few metres across and wandered into orbit around Earth in July 2006 before drifting off again a year later.
  • 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in the world.

4 January

  • Russian officials said Wednesday they now expect the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, launched two months ago on a mission to Mars, to reenter on or around January 15 after being stranded in Earth orbit.

3 January

  • NASASpaceFlight discusses the accomplishments of 2011 at the ISS, and the coming challenges: “The International Space Station (ISS) has now entered what will be a challenging new year, which will see access to the station for both crews and cargo tested, in wake of last year’s retirement of the Space Shuttle, the start of new commercial resupply flights, and recent failures of Russian launch vehicles.”

2 January

  • Popular Mechanics discusses the upcoming 2012 year in space. Commercial flights to the International Space Station (ISS) by Dragon from SpaceX and Cygnus by Orbital Sciences, testing of Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser, and sub-orbital flights by SpaceShipTwo from Virgin Galactic. Other work is ongoing by XCOR Aerospace, Armadillo Aerospace, and Blue Origin.

1 January

  • Just over a day after the first of two NASA spacecraft went into orbit around the Moon, its twin successfully entered lunar orbit. The Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) B spacecraft inserted itself into an elliptical lunar orbit at 3:43 pm Phoenix time (2243 UTC) Sunday after a 37-minute engine burn. GRAIL-B entered orbit just over 24 hours after GRAIL-A entered orbit around the Moon.
  • Lance Bush, an officer of Tucson-based Paragon Space Development Corp., was named president and CEO of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, a national network of centers based in Alexandria, Virginia.

Posted in Asteroid, China, Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, International Space Station, JAXA, Mars, Moon, NASA, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, Soyuz, Space Shuttle | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on January 2012

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 »

October 2011

Posted by drdave on October 1, 2011

31 October

  • China successfully launched their Shenzhou-8 unmanned spacecraft aboard a Long March-2F (Y8) rocket. The mission is to practice docking with the Tiangong-1 module, which was launched on 29 September.
  • The School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University will assemble the OSIRIS Thermal Emission Spectrometer, or OTES. OTES will be responsible for capturing roughly 2 ounces of dust, soil and debris from a designated area the asteroid 1999 RQ36. The OSIRIS-REx mission is set to launch in September 2016.

30 October

  • A Soyuz rocket successfully placed a Progress cargo spacecraft into orbit Sunday, two months after a similar launch failed, thus clearing the way for a crewed Soyuz launch next month. The Soyuz rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 6:11 am EDT (1011 GMT, 4:11 pm local time) and placed the Progress M-13M spacecraft into orbit nine minutes later. NASA is happy.

29 October

  • In its last currently-scheduled launch, a Delta 2 rocket placed an Earth sciences satellite into orbit on Friday. The Delta 2 7920 lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 5:48 am EDT (0948 GMT) Friday and released the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) satellite into a sun-synchronous orbit nearly one hour later.
  • The Progress 45 cargo vessel is scheduled to blast off from Kazakhstan at 3:11 M Phoenix time (1011 GMT) Sunday. If anything goes wrong with the flight, the launch of three new station crewmembers, currently scheduled for 14 November, would likely be delayed, because both missions use similar Russian Soyuz rockets.

28 October

  • Chinese hackers are suspected of having interfered with the operation of two US government satellites on four occasions via a ground station, according to a report being prepared for the US Congress.

27 October

  • Aviation Week discusses the Washington hearings on the Commercial Crew programs by NASA.
  • ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft has revealed asteroid Lutetia to be a primitive body, left over as the planets were forming in our Solar System. Results from Rosetta’s fleeting flyby also suggest that this mini-world tried to grow a metal heart.

26 October

  • Virgin Galactic has selected former USAF test pilot Keith Colmer as the first astronaut pilot to join the commercial spaceline’s flight team. Colmer will join Chief Pilot David Mackay to begin flight training and testing, leading to operational missions to space with Virgin Galactic’s revolutionary vehicles, WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo.

25 October

  • A supernova that exploded in 185 CE expanded much faster than expected. NASA scientists have resolved the unusual remnant.

24 October

  • Fast and Furious – criticism of the Senate Launch System – “Propellant depots: the fiscally responsible and feasible alternative to SLS”
  • Aviation Week discusses the problems facing the Senate Launch System – “NASA Tries To Squeeze SLS Into Flat Budget”
  • Here There Be Dragons: SpaceX’s Spacecraft Arrives at Launch Complex 40

23 October

  • After years of exhaustive work, Curiosity, the most technologically advanced surface robotic rover ever to be sent beyond Earth has been assembled into the flight configuration.
  • Dead ROSAT Satellite Reenters Over South-East Asia

22 October

  • NASA rejected the Propellant Depot study’s most radical conclusion: that NASA could forgo the heavy-lift and use existing smaller rockets, combined with fuel depots, to reach its targets more quickly and less expensively.

21 October

  • A Soyuz rocket, launching from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana for the first time, placed two Galileo navigation satellites into orbit on Friday. The Soyuz-STB rocket lifted off from the spaceport near Kourou, French Guiana, at 6:30 am EDT (1030 GMT) Friday carrying the first two Galileo In Orbit Validation (IOV) satellites.
  • NASA, external review committees and SpaceX have gone back and forth with the software designed to take the Dragon resupply vehicle to the International Space Station and back.
  • It may be hard to imagine who will own the unofficial* land rights to the moon in the not-so-distant future, but a Russian space official thinks the future of manned lunar settlement will begin inside moon caves.

20 October

  • Space Exploration Technologies, SpaceX, announced it has successfully completed the preliminary design review of its revolutionary launch abort system
  • The launch debut of a Russian rocket from a European-run spaceport in South America was delayed Thursday, 20 October, by a fueling glitch.

19 October

  • International Launch Services (ILS) have launched their Proton-M rocket on Wednesday. The launch was on schedule at 18:48 GMT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, with the Proton tasked with deploying the ViaSat-1 telecommunications satellite – the highest throughput satellite ever built – into its GEO transfer orbit, after what will be over nine hours of flight.

18 October

  • The veteran aerospace company Boeing is wrapping up a series of key wind-tunnel tests on a scale version for a new spaceship designed to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
  • Aviation Week discusses Robonaut 2 (R2), the legless humanoid developed by NASA and General Motors. The Robot has moved for the first time since its launch to the International Space Station in February aboard the STS-133 mission.

17 October

  • The U.S. Defense Department and National Reconnaissance Office plan to spend $15 billion on rocket booster cores without enough information to determine whether they’re getting a “fair and reasonable” price, according to government auditors. A Government Accountability Office report released today questioned aspects of an Air Force and National Reconnaissance Office plan to buy eight booster cores a year from fiscal 2013 to 2017, a total of 40, to stabilize production. The booster core is the main component of a rocket.
  • Sir Richard Branson has dedicated the launchpad for his space tourism venture in the New Mexico desert – with his usual eye for a photo opportunity.

16 October

15 October

  • Virgin Galactic announced a pair of coups. It received an order to conduct at one manned suborbital experimental flights on its SpaceShipTwo vehicle for NASA, with the option for two more and hired former NASA executive Mike Moses as vice president of Operations.

14 October

13 October

  • A top NASA official told Congress on Wednesday an independent engineering team agrees with Russia’s findings in an investigation into a failure of a Soyuz rocket’s third stage in August, affirming plans to resume crewed flights to the International Space Station in November.
  • International space cooperation will be highlighted in a historic event on 20 October: the launch of Europe’s first Galileo navigation satellites on Russia’s first Soyuz rocket to depart from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. Liftoff is scheduled for Thursday, 20 October at 1134 UTC, 07:34 local time).

12 October

  • An Indian rocket successfully launched a joint Indo-French Earth sciences satellite on Wednesday. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) lifted off from India’s Satish Dhawan Space Center at 1:30 am EDT (0530 UTC, 11:00 am local time) and placed the Megha-Tropiques satellites into an 867-kilometer orbit.

11 October

  • New images released by NASA’s Dawn mission feature a mountain three times the height of the tallest mountain on Earth.
  • Astronomers have discovered more than two dozen previously unknown failed stars. The newfound objects are brown dwarfs, strange bodies that are larger than planets but too small to trigger the internal nuclear fusion reactions required to become full-fledged stars. Astronomers discovered the objects in two young star clusters using Japan’s Subaru Telescope in Hawaii and the Very Large Telescope in Chile. One of the brown dwarfs is just six times the mass of Jupiter.

10 October

  • Is OMB wiping out planetary exploration?
  • Orion managers are becoming more interested in the idea of the European Space Agency (ESA) taking over a role in NASA’s exploration future. Adhering to the international cooperation angle for the Agency’s future, managers have told their teams they are “serious” about ESA building the Service Module (SM) for Orion, via Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) hardware.

9 October

  • A Long March rocket launched a European communications satellite on Friday, marking the first Chinese launch for a Western company in over a decade. The Long March 3B rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 1:21 am Phoenix time (0821 UTC, 4:21 pm Beijing time) Friday and placed the Eutelsat W3C satellite into orbit.

8 October

  • NASA’s Dawn mission, which has been orbiting Vesta since mid-July, has revealed that the asteroid’s southern hemisphere boasts one of the largest mountains in the Solar System. Other results show that Vesta’s surface, viewed at different wavelengths, has striking diversity in its composition particularly around craters. The surface appears to be much rougher than most asteroids in the main asteroid belt. Preliminary results from crater age dates indicate that areas in the southern hemisphere are as young as 1-2 billion years old, much younger than areas in the north.

7 October

  • A communications satellite went into safe mode early Thursday, interrupting phone and data services over portions of North America. Telesat reported its Anik F2 communications satellite suffered an unspecified “technical anomaly” shortly after 6:30 am EDT (1030 GMT) Thursday, causing a disruption in the communications services it provided. Telesat reported that the satellite is healthy and should be returned to service, perhaps as soon as Friday.
  • Negotiations between the numerous International Space Station (ISS) partners are starting to result in an exciting 2012 manifest, as Agency vehicles play tag team with new commercial resupply craft. From a Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) standpoint, three – or four, if the C2/C3 demo slips to 2012 – SpaceX Dragon flights are set to head to the ISS, along with three Orbital Cygnus missions.
  • A France-made W3C communications satellite, carried by China’s Long March-3B rocket carrier, was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the southwest China’s Sichuan Province, on 7 October 2011. The European Eutelsat-W3C satellite will provide new capacity for broadcasting, telecommunications and broadband services.
  • The Mars Science Laboratory was matched up with its heat shield at Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility on Wednesday, 5 October 2011.

6 October

  • A land-based Zenit rocket launched a commercial communications satellite early Thursday. The Zenit-3SLB rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 5:00 pm EDT Wednesday (2100 GMT Wednesday, 3:00 am local time Thursday) and released its payload, Intelsat-18, into transfer orbit six and a half hours later.
  • Where did Earth get its Oceans? Comet 103P/Hartley 2, which made its closest approach to the sun last October, contains water with virtually the same chemical signatures as water in the oceans, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Nature.

5 October

  • A NASA camera that scans the night sky for meteors caught a stunning double feature when it spotted a fiery meteor breaking apart while a piece of an old Russian rocket zoomed overhead.
  • Europe’s space science decision-making body on 4 October selected a satellite to be developed with NASA to fly closer to the sun than any previous spacecraft (Solar Orbiter) and a telescope to explore the universe’s expansion (Euclid) for development and launch in 2017 and 2019, respectively.

4 October

  • NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is getting up close and personal with the giant asteroid Vesta, revealing rift valleys, mountainous uplifts and a belt of grooves near its equator.
  • The shocking discovery that the universe is expanding at a faster and faster rate has taken the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics. Three American-born astrophysicists will divide the $1.5 million prize, announced October 4 in Stockholm, for their discovery of Dark Energy.
  • The first elements of Europe’s new Vega small launcher left Italy last Thursday to begin their long journey to Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, marking the final step towards its inaugural flight in January.

3 October

  • The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), has officially opened for astronomers. The first released image, from a telescope still under construction, reveals a view of the Universe that cannot be seen at all by visible-light and infrared telescopes.

2 October

  • Russia has successfully launched the Kosmos (Glonass-M) satellite into orbit, following lift-off of their Soyuz 2-1B launch vehicle from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia, marking the first Soyuz launch since the August failure, which resulted in the loss of Progress M-12M. Launch occurred at 20:15 UTC on Sunday, with spacecraft separation over three hours later.
  • The launch of the GLONASS-M navigation satellite that was due last night is postponed for 24 hours because of bad weather conditions. This is the second time when the launch is being delayed.
  • The launch date of the next Falcon 9 rocket with its Dragon Spacecraft payload has been announced to occur no-earlier-than 19 December 2011.

1 October

  • Zach Rosenberg comments on “The Problems of Reusable Rockets” concerning SpaceX plans for a totally reusable Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
  • The world is a safer place today after it was announced that 93 percent of all near-Earth asteroids larger than a kilometre have been identified, and none of the them pose a risk to Earth. The findings are the result of NEOWISE: a survey with NASA’s orbiting Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE)
  • Astronomers are lining up to use a powerful new NASA telescope called SOFIA. The telescope has unique capabilities for studying things like how stars form and what’s in the atmospheres of planets.

Posted in Asteroid, China, Comet, Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, India, International Space Station, Moon, NASA, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, Soyuz, Space Shuttle, Star, Universe | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

August 2011

Posted by drdave on August 1, 2011

31 August

  • Dextre, the International Space Station’s robotic handyman, replaced an electrical switchboard outside the complex this week, the first time the Canadian space robot has performed a maintenance task.
  • On Tuesday, 30 August, NASA’s next Earth-observing research satellite arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to begin preparations for an October launch. The National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project (NPP) is the first of a new generation of satellites that will observe many facets of our changing Earth.
  • On the slopes of the vast Martian shield volcano Pavonis Mons, a rather odd-looking crater resides. Originally spotted by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) Context Camera (CTX) earlier this year, mission managers decided to zoom in on the suspect feature using the awesome power of the MRO’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera. Indeed, as HiRISE has confirmed, this is one very odd-looking crater.

30 August

  • Crews could be forced to abandon the International Space Station, at least temporarily, by mid-November if the Soyuz launch vehicle does not return to service by then, NASA’s space station manager said Monday.
  • A Tokyo company has unveiled what it hopes will be the first privately built unmanned rover on the moon, and win it U.S. $30 million in prizes from the X Prize Foundation in the process.
  • The Russian Federal Space Agency has lifted its ban on launches of Proton-M rockets equipped with Briz-M upper staged imposed following the failed launch of the Express-AM4 communications satellite

29 August

  • NASA’s next spaceship, the Orion, otherwise known as the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), is starting to resemble what it’ll look like ahead of launch, as Lockheed Martin engineers at their Denver facility work through a number of key development tasks. In a milestone for the vehicle, an Orion Ground Test Article (GTA) was mated with its Launch Abort System (LAS) for vibration testing.
  • Russia’s Space Agency Roscomos has postponed the launch of a new mission to the International Space Station (ISS) from September 22 to the end of October or beginning of November, due to an accident that caused the loss of a Progress M-12M cargo ship last week, the agency’s manned flight program Alexei Krasnov said on Monday.

28 August

  • According to an unnamed source in a position of authority in Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, the remarkable Chinese unmanned space module Tiangong 1 will be launched soon.

27 August

  • A report released this week by NASA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) concluded the agency acted properly when it made its decision earlier this year to award shuttle orbiters to four museums. The OIG report found that NASA acted according to federal law, and was not influenced by the White House or other politicians, when it awarded orbiters to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, the California Science Center in Los Angeles, the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York.
  • New evidence from the Hayabusa mission indicates that the asteroid Itokawa may have coalesced from a much larger body after an impact around 8 million years ago.

26 August

  • Russia has postponed all upcoming launches by its Soyuz rocket after a Progress spacecraft failed to reach orbit Wednesday, a decision that could delay the next rotation of ISS crew members.

25 August

24 August

  • Russia has lost six space vehicles over the past nine months.
  • Elon Musk, CEO/CTO of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), will discuss the future of human spaceflight in advance of his company’s planned Nov. 30 flight to the International Space Station, the first private mission to ISS for NASA, at a National Press Club luncheon on Thursday, Sept. 29.

23 August

  • Rocket failure dooms space station cargo freighter launch.
  • A Progress spacecraft carrying nearly three tons of supplies for the International Space Station was lost when its Soyuz rocket malfunctioned during launch. The Soyuz-U rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 9 am EDT (1300 GMT) carrying the Progress M-12M spacecraft (designated Progress 44 by NASA). According to NASA and Russian officials, the upper stage suffered a malfunction 5 minutes and 20 seconds after liftoff and communications with the vehicle were lost.

22 August

  • Space.com gives us a tour of the “Dwarf Planets” in our Solar System.

21 August

  • The Federal Space Agency might fail to complete its launch plan this year after the loss of the country’s most powerful telecommunications satellite. The Federal Space Agency must launch seven Proton-M rockets with Briz-M upper stages by the end of the year, but this schedule is likely to be reconsidered because of the latest faulty launch.

20 August

  • The failure of a Chinese Long March rocket Thursday will not affect the country’s plans to launch a 19,000-pound space station module later this year, a senior Chinese space official told state media. Some sources indicate Tiangong 1’s launch could occur in the next few weeks.

19 August

  • The launch of a Chinese experimental satellite on a Long March Thursday failed to place the satellite into orbit, although Chinese officials said it would not delay at least one upcoming launch. A Long March 2C rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 5:28 am EDT (0928 GMT, 5:28 pm Beijing time) Thursday carrying the SJ 11-04 satellite.

18 August

  • A European-built Russian communications satellite, launched Thursday on a Proton rocket, has been stranded in a transfer orbit after the rocket’s upper stage malfunctioned. The Proton-M rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 5:25 pm EDT Wednesday (2125 GMT Wednesday, 3:25 am local time Thursday) carrying the Express-AM4 satellite for Russian satellite operator RSCC. The satellite was to be released by the Briz-M upper stage after five engine burns, but telemetry from the upper stage was lost after the fourth burn.
  • NASA’s lunar-bound GRAIL twins were mated to their Delta II launch vehicle at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 17 at 8:45 a.m. EDT (5:45 a.m. PDT) today. The 15-mile (25-kilometer) trip from Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Fla., is the last move for GRAIL before it begins its journey to the moon. 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.
  • International Space Station (ISS) program managers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) have completed the Flight Readiness Review (FRR) for the upcoming ISS Expedition 29 on Wednesday. The FRR included a thorough review of all aspects of the Expedition 29 increment, the conclusion of which resulted in all groups issuing a Certification of Flight Readiness (CoFR) to support Expedition 29 and all associated operations.

17 August

  • A Dnepr launch vehicle carrying eight payloads blasted off from Yasny launch base (Orenburg Region, Russian Federation) on August 17, 2011 at 11:12:20 Moscow time (07:12:20 UTC). Sich-2 (Ukraine), Nigeriasat-2 and Nigeriasat-X (Nigeria), RASAT (Turkey), EDUSAT (Italy), Aprizesat-5, Aprizesat-6 (USA) satellites, as well as BPA-2 Advanced Avionics Unit (Ukraine), were successfully placed into target orbits.
  • Observations from ESO’s Very Large Telescope have shed light on the power source of a rare vast cloud of glowing gas in the early Universe. The observations show for the first time that this giant “Lyman-alpha blob” — one of the largest single objects known — must be powered by galaxies embedded within it.

16 August

  • A Long March rocket placed a ocean observation satellite into orbit on Tuesday. The Long March 4B lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center at 3:57 PM Phoenix time Monday (2257 UTC Monday, 6:57 am Beijing time Tuesday) and placed the Haiyang-2A into Sun synchronous orbit.
  • Ten days after leaving Earth in the nose of an Atlas 5 launcher, the Jupiter-bound Juno spacecraft is flying straight and true, allowing NASA managers to cancel a planned rocket burn to aim the probe toward the next waypoint on its five-year journey to the solar system’s largest planet.

15 August

  • The latest Earth observation satellite from UK small satellite manufacturer SSTL has successfully completed pre-launch tests and has been integrated with a Dnepr launch vehicle. NigeriaSat-2, one of the most advanced Earth observation small satellites ever to be launched, will lift-off from Yasny in southern Russia on 17 August, together with NigeriaSat-X, which was built under a training and development programme.
  • Engineers finished up functional testing of the $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory last week, verifying the Curiosity rover can make it to Mars and pursue scientific clues that the planet may have once harbored life.

14 August

  • NASA’s Mission Operations Directorate (MOD) are preparing for involvement in an underwater simulation of protocols which may become part of a manned mission to a Near Earth Object (NEO). The tests will be carried out during October’s NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) mission, which will be based at the Aquarius underwater habitat in Key Largo, Florida.
  • A new rocket engine RD-0124 was successfully tested at the Chemical Automatics Design Bureau in Voronezh, southwestern Russia, on Saturday. This engine will be installed at the third stage of Russia’s new carrier rocket Soyuz-2-1B and will take it into space with a satellite for the Glonass navigation system in December 2011

13 August

  • The ATV ‘Edoardo Amaldi’, designed and built by Astrium, is the third unmanned European freight spacecraft for the International Space Station (ISS). Following the extraordinary success of the ATV-1 ‘Jules Verne’ and ATV-2 ‘Johannes Kepler’ missions, ‘Edoardo Amaldi’ is on its way by sea to the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The cargo ship has undergone extensive system testing at Astrium’s north German Bremen site over the last few months and has now been given the go-ahead for the final stage prior to the its flight to the ISS, scheduled for spring next year.

12 August

  • A Chinese Long March rocket successfully launched a new communications satellite for Pakistan on Friday. The Long March 3B lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 12:15 pm EDT Thursday (1615 GMT Thursday, 12:15 am Friday local time) and placed the Paksat-1R satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit.
  • U.S. space agency NASA announced it is creating a directorate that will focus on International Space Station operations and human exploration beyond low Earth orbit. The organization — the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate — combines the Space Operations and Exploration Systems mission directorates.

11 August

  • NASA’s has released an infrared view of the “Dumbbell” planetary nebula (Messier 27) taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope. The nebula is a cloud of material expelled by a burnt out star called a white dwarf.
  • NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which left Earth Aug. 5 to began its five-year, 1.7 billion-mile journey to Jupiter, will offer the public the opportunity to participate in the mission’s science endeavors
  • Two bright galaxies on a cosmic collision path appear to be marking the occasion with a giant exclamation point in space. The spectacular new photo shows the galactic smash-up, called VV 340, in the early stages of collision. NASA released the cosmic crash scene and a video explaining the galaxy collision yesterday. In the photo, the edge-on galaxy near the top of the image is VV 340 North and the face-on galaxy at the bottom of the image is VV 340 South.

10 August

9 August

  • NASA has selected seven companies to integrate and fly technology payloads on commercial suborbital reusable platforms that carry payloads near the boundary of space.
  • An extremely powerful solar flare, the largest in over four years, rocked the sun early Tuesday (Aug. 9), but is unlikely to wreak any serious havoc here on Earth
  • NASA today selected Astrobotic Technology Inc. to research breakthroughs in methods to explore lava tubes, caves and recently discovered “skylights” leading down into these features on the Moon and Mars. Lava tubes and other types of caves can shelter astronauts and robots from harsh off-world environments, which on the Moon means micrometeorite bombardment, intense radiation and extreme temperature swings of 500 degrees from day to night. Cave-dwelling by early astronauts and robots likely will be less expensive than bringing shelter materials all the way from Earth.

8 August

  • The efforts relating to the debut launch of Orion – otherwise known as the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) – on a “multi-hour” test flight are ramping up, as managers discuss the preliminary objectives, which may include a “human capable” version of the spacecraft being tested. A launch date of July, 2013 has been set, with the Delta IV Heavy assigned to the role of launch vehicle.

7 August

6 August

5 August

  • The Juno spacecraft was launched successfully this morning. It will spend five years traveling to Jupiter, and a year exploring the gas giant.
  • Dark streaks that form seasonally within a Martian crater could have been created by flowing, salty water, scientists announced Thursday.
  • Boeing announced Thursday it will carry out the test flights of its commercial crew spacecraft on Atlas 5 rockets. Boeing’s CST-100 will be launched on three test flights in 2015 using the Atlas 5 412, the variant of the Atlas 5 that uses a single strap-on solid booster and a twin-engine Centaur upper stage.
  • Aviation Week discusses Japan’s manned spaceflight ambitions. First, deliver things to the International Space Station. Second, deliver things and bring things back. Finally, send people up and bring them back. That, in a nutshell, is the sequence that the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) wants to follow as it takes the first step, launching the HTV Kounotori cargo craft, and sets out its plans for the next two.

4 August

3 August

  • Juno is ready for the launch to Jupiter.
  • Two Russian cosmonauts have conducted what turned out to be an eventful EVA outside of the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday, as part of the ongoing Expedition 28. Going by the designation of RS (Russian Segment) EVA-29 (Extra Vehicular Activity-29), the excursion’s timeline had to be reorganized, resulting in the loss of a major three hour Strela task, now moved to a future EVA.
  • In a spectacle that might have beguiled poets, lovers and songwriters if only they had been around to see it, Earth once had two moons, astronomers now think. But the smaller one smashed into the other in what is being called the “big splat.”

2 August

  • NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, have released the first full rotation movie of the asteroid Vesta. Vesta rotates once every 5 hours and 20 minutes.
  • David Mackay, 53 from Salisbury, Wilts, UK, will be the chief pilot for Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic when it begins the first sub-orbital space flights by 2013.
  • Inmarsat, the leading provider of global mobile satellite communications services, announced on Monday, August 1, that Inmarsat SA, one of its subsidiary companies, had signed a contract with International Launch Services (ILS) for the launch of three Inmarsat-5 satellites.
  • NASASpaceFlight.com discusses the milestones being met under NASA’s CCDev-2 program for commercial manned flight.

1 August

  • Cheaper cargo to Mars? “I just want a cheap delivery system to go to Mars,” said astrobiologist Chris McKay, of NASA’s Ames Research Center.
  • NASA has released images of Vesta taken from an altitude of 5,200 kilometers.

Posted in Asteroid, China, Comet, Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, International Space Station, JAXA, Jupiter, Kuiper Belt, Mars, Moon, NASA, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, Soyuz, Sun | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

July 2011

Posted by drdave on July 1, 2011

31 July

  • Hayabusa returns to the Silver Screen.

30 July

  • A strange-looking scar on the moon has astronomers wondering whether the cause of this peculiar impact feature is a piece of space debris that smashed into the lunar surface or a spacecraft that made a planned crash landing decades ago. The “butterfly-shaped” mass of lunar rubble seen in the picture could be the remnants of NASA’s Lunar Orbiter 2, which made a planned crash landing on the moon in 1967 at the end of its mission.

29 July

  • China launched the latest in a series of what government officials call “experimental” satellites on Friday. The Long March 2C rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 12:42 AM Phoenix time (0742 UTC, 3:42 pm Beijing time) Friday, carrying the Shijian 11-02 satellite.
  • American spaceships are expected to make three trips to the International Space Station in the coming months. SpaceX is set to launch its Dragon capsule toward the station on 30 November, and another Dragon capsule on its first operational cargo-carrying mission three or four months later. Orbital Sciences is planning to send its Cygnus capsule to the station in February 2012.
  • This week, the moon is a thin waning crescent and will arrive at new phase on Saturday, leaving the sky dark and moonless from dusk to dawn. This makes it a great opportunity to enjoy two displays of “shooting stars” that will be active and near their peak this weekend, which can provide some entertaining viewing: the Delta Aquarids and the Alpha Capricornids.

28 July

27 July

  • A Long March rocket placed the latest spacecraft for China’s satellite navigation system into orbit on Wednesday. The Long March 3A rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 2:44 PM Phoenix time Tuesday (2144 UTC) and placed a Beidou satellite into an inclined geosynchronous Earth orbit.
  • For more than a decade, the International Space Station has been a busy orbiting research lab. But it could soon take on a new role as a testbed for ambitious missions deeper into space. The European Space Agency (ESA), foresees future ventures that could include Mars missions, lunar habitats or traveling to an asteroid – all needing new technologies and techniques that could be tested on the Station.

26 July

  • A newly discovered planetary nebula, the last gasps of a dying star, could provide scientists with answers about the ultimate fate of our Sun and solar system including the Earth.
  • Adding to the long list that is her legacy, Atlantis’ successful final test of Neptec’s TriDAR rendezvous and docking system has resulted in Orbital completing a deal to use high tech sensors on their Cygnus spacecraft. With the orbiter’s also testing DragonEye for SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, the two commercial vehicles will “Tally Ho” the ISS via the path finding conducted by Shuttle.
  • NASA and SpaceX continue to discuss the ground rules for the first mission by the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station.

25 July

24 July

  • John Kelly discusses the end of the Space Shuttle Program and NOT the end of the American Space Program.

23 July

  • NASA’s next Mars rover will land in a large crater that features a mountain the rover will climb, project scientists announced Friday. The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), also known as Curiosity, will land in Gale Crater near the planet’s equator. The crater, over 150 kilometers in diameter, features a central mountain about five kilometers high that the rover will climb during its mission, allowing the rover to study a variety of terrains.
  • Think Of The Moon As Just Another Continent

22 July

  • Scientists working with recovered data from the Pioneer 10 and 11 missions are closing in on a solution to the famous Pioneer Anomaly. Their just-published results show that the mysterious effect on the two spacecraft is not constant over time, probably indicating that no outside force is acting on the Pioneers, but rather, something inside the spacecraft is to blame.
  • Two teams of astronomers have discovered the largest and farthest reservoir of water ever detected in the universe. The water, equivalent to 140 trillion times all the water in the world’s ocean, surrounds a huge, feeding black hole, called a quasar, more than 12 billion light-years away. “The environment around this quasar is very unique in that it’s producing this huge mass of water,” said Matt Bradford, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Breaking from the strategy it used in the first two rounds of its commercial crew development (CCDev) program, NASA said it intends to use a traditional procurement process governed by the Federal Acquisition Regulations to fund its contribution to the next phases of work on privately owned human spaceflight systems.

21 July

20 July

  • During a July 15 meeting, NASA and SpaceX officials reached agreement on planning dates of 30 November for the launch and 7 December for the rendezvous and berthing of the Dragon cargo spacecraft with the International Space Station.
  • NASA announced that Deputy Administrator Lori Garver will provide opening keynote remarks at the Space Frontier Foundation’s annual NewSpace Conference at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 28. Media are invited to attend the conference, which runs July 28-30 at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.
  • Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope to look for potential rings around dwarf planet Pluto have instead uncovered a fourth moon orbiting the distant icy world.

19 July

  • The space shuttle Atlantis undocked from the International Space Station early Tuesday, ending the final visit of a shuttle to the ISS. Atlantis undocked from the ISS at 11:28 PM Phoenix time Monday (0628 GMT) and moved to a distance of nearly 200 meters away, after which the ISS turned 90 degrees to allow photography of the station from a new angle. The shuttle fired its thrusters to move away from the station for good at 1:18 AM (0818 GMT).
  • A Zenit rocket successfully launched long-delayed Russian radio astronomy satellite Spektr-R on Monday. The Zenit-3M rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 7:31 PM Phoenix time Sunday (0231 GMT Monday).

18 July

  • Jeff Foust at the Space Review discusses the limbo in which the Senate Launch System (SLS) is trapped. Its a rocket without a mission.
  • The U.S. Air Force successfully launched GPS IIF-2 Space Vehicle Number (SVN) 63, carried aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Medium rocket at 2:41 a.m. EDT July 16 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. This is the second in the series of 12 GPS satellites that Boeing has on contract with the Air Force. Boeing, maker of the satellite, reports signals are being received.

17 July

  • NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has entered orbit around the large main-belt asteroid Vesta, the space agency announced early Sunday. Dawn achieved orbit around Vesta on Saturday, although NASA was unable to give a specific time for its arrival; NASA previously estimated Vesta would go into orbit at around 1 am EDT (0500 GMT) Saturday.

16 July

  • A Delta 4 rocket, delayed two days by technical and weather issues, successfully launched a GPS satellite early Saturday. The Delta 4 Medium+ 4,2 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral at 2:41 am EDT (0641 GMT) and placed the GPS 2F-2 satellite into orbit.
  • A Proton rocket carried into orbit early Saturday communications satellite for a European company and the Kazakh government. The Proton M lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:16 PM Phoenix time Friday (2316 UTC).

15 July

  • Key senators on Thursday tried to push NASA to release more details about its planned heavy-lift rocket. House Republicans cut $2 Billion from the NASA budget, which is already insufficient to build the Senate’s heavy lift rocket.
  • India’s latest communication satellite, G-SAT 12, was launched today from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SHAR) in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.

14 July

  • The full House Appropriations Committee approved a 2012 spending bill Wednesday that would provide no funding for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.
  • The launch of a Delta IV rocket was scrubbed due to unfavorable weather conditions. The rocket is carrying the Air Force’s Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF-2 payload. The launch was rescheduled for Saturday, July 16 from Space Launch Complex 37.

13 July

  • A Soyuz rocket placed six new Globalstar satellites into orbit early Wednesday. The Soyuz 2 rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 7:24 PM Phoenix time Tuesday (0227 UTC)
  • Countdown commenced for PSLV-C17/GSAT-12 Mission
  • SpaceX Breaks Ground on Launch Pad for Falcon 9 Heavy at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

12 July

  • China launched a new data relay satellite to support its future human spaceflight activities. The Long March 3C rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 8:41 AM Phoenix time (1541 GMT) Monday and placed the Tianlian 1-02 satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit.
  • NASA has granted the final space shuttle mission an extra day in orbit to complete their work at the International Space Station. Shuttle managers determined there were enough consumables on board shuttle Atlantis to allow the orbiter to remain in orbit another day, giving the four-person STS-135 crew more time to complete their transfer of supplies to the ISS. Atlantis is now scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center at 2:56 AM Phoenix time (0956 GMT) on July 21.
  • Today, the spacewalkers will begin the day with the most crucial task of the outing: retrieving a broken cooling pump module from a storage platform on the exterior of the station and installing it inside the shuttle Atlantis’ payload bay.

11 July

  • The Planetary Science Institute (PSI) and XCOR Aerospace have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that lays the groundwork for flying the human-operated Atsa Suborbital Observatory aboard XCOR’s Lynx spacecraft. The Atsa project will use crewed reusable suborbital spacecraft equipped with a specially designed telescope to provide low-cost space-based observations above the contaminating atmosphere of Earth, while avoiding some operational constraints of satellite telescope systems.
  • The launch of Russia’s Soyuz-2.1a space carrier with six U.S. Globalstar-2 communications satellites, has been postponed due to technical reasons. The spacecraft equipped with a Fregat booster was scheduled to blast off on July 11 at 6:58 Moscow time (2:58 GMT) from the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan.

10 July

  • Atlantis completed the docking maneuvers today. This was Atlantis’ 19th docking to a Space Station – based on a total of seven dockings to the Russian space station MIR, and 12 to ISS – placing her in history as the single vehicle with the most space station dockings.

9 July

8 July

  • The shuttle Atlantis has launched successfully, following a dramatic hold at T-minus 31 seconds. The count was resumed almost immediately.

7 July

  • A Long March rocket placed into orbit the latest in a series of Chinese experimental satellites on Wednesday. The Long March 2C rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 9:21 AM Phoenix time (0421 UTC Thurday) Wednesday and placed the Shi Jian (SJ) 11-03 satellite into orbit.
  • A proposed appropriations bill released Wednesday by a House of Representatives committee would slash nearly $2 billion from NASA’s 2012 budget request and end the troubled James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) program.
  • Next week, Neptune will complete its first full orbit of the Sun since it was discovered in 1846. The blue planet, the farthest out in the Solar System, remains one of Earth’s most mysterious neighbours, but scientists now know one thing that they hadn’t for the past 165 years: the precise length of its day.

6 July

  • Countdown clocks started Tuesday afternoon for Friday’s scheduled launch of the space shuttle Atlantis on the final mission of the shuttle program, but weather could delay the mission. The countdown started Tuesday at 1 pm EDT (1700 GMT) for the launch of mission STS-135, scheduled for 8:26 am Phoenix time (1526 GMT).
  • Technology Review’s John Logsdon writes – “Forty years ago, I wrote an article for Technology Review titled “Shall We Build the Space Shuttle?” Now, with the 135th and final flight of the shuttle at hand, and the benefit of hindsight, it seems appropriate to ask a slightly different question—”Should We Have Built the Space Shuttle?” “

5 July

  • A while back when NASA released their latest images of Vesta (24 June), some amateur videographers started doing enhancements. See the results at the Planetary Society blog and Emily Lakdawalla’s commentary.

4 July

  • Part two of the NASASpaceFlight history of the Space Shuttle Atlantis – the MIR program.
  • Plans to strip mine the moon may soon be more than just science-fiction

3 July

  • NASASpaceFlight has a long review of the history of the Atlantis space shuttle.

2 July

  • Officials scrubbed an Ariane 5 launch Friday afternoon a few minutes before lift-off (2:43 PM Phoenix time – 2143 UTC) due to a liquid hydrogen valve that failed to close properly. A new launch date has not been announced.

1 July

  • Aviation Week reports that LightSquared has formally presented a revised plan for its nationwide wireless broadband network, as the final report of interference testing shows that its original deployment plan is “incompatible with aviation GPS operations.” Without significant mitigation, the report says LightSquared’s plans to deploy 40,000 high-power terrestrial transmitters across the U.S. “would result in a complete loss of GPS operations below 2,000 ft. above ground level over a large radius” from metropolitan areas. Whether the “revised” plan is viable is the subject of renewed debate.
  • Preparations are on in top gear for the launch of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV- C17) from Sriharikota on July 15 between 4.48 p.m. and 5.08 p.m. The rocket will put into orbit communication satellite GSAT-12. Both the launch vehicle and the satellite were built by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The satellite that weighs 1,410 kg has 12 extended C-band transponders.
  • Atlantis is continuing to behave on Pad 39A as preparations for entering S0007 tasks – otherwise known as the three day launch countdown – remain on track, with the clock’s scheduled to start ticking backwards at 1pm local on Tuesday. STS-135 will mark the final scheduled Space Shuttle mission, although the actual duration of the flight is still being discussed.

Posted in China, Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, International Space Station, Mars, Meteor, Moon, NASA, Neptune, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, Solar System, Space Shuttle | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a 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.

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