NSS Phoenix Space News

Posts Tagged ‘New Horizons’

October 2012

Posted by drdave on October 7, 2012

31 October

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

30 October

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

29 October

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

28 October

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

27 October

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

26 October

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

25 October

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

24 October

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

23 October

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

22 October

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

21 October

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

20 October

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

19 October

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

18 October

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

17 October

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

16 October

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

15 October

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

14 October

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

13 October

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

12 October

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

11 October

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

10 October

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

9 October

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

8 October

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

7 October

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

6 October

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

5 October

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

4 October

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

3 October

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

2 October

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

1 October

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

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December 2011

Posted by drdave on December 1, 2011

31 December

  • NASA announced that “NASA’s Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL)-A spacecraft successfully completed its planned main engine burn at 2 p.m. PST (5 p.m. EST) today. As of 3 p.m. PST (6 p.m. EST), GRAIL-A is in an orbit of 56 miles by 5,197 miles (90 kilometers by 8,363 kilometers) around the moon that takes approximately 11.5 hours to complete.”

30 December

  • Two NASA spacecraft launched in December are ready to enter lunar orbit this weekend, project officials confirmed this week. The twin Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft will fire thrusters to go into orbit around the Moon, with GRAIL-A arriving at 2:21 PM Phoenix time (2121 UTC) Saturday and GRAIL-B at 3:05 PM Phoenix time (2205 UTC) Sunday.
  • The Chinese government published on Thursday a white paper describing that country’s five-year plan for spaceflight, including development of new launch vehicles and a continued emphasis on space stations and lunar exploration.

29 December

  • Less than a week after one Soyuz rocket failed, another successfully placed six Globalstar satellites into orbit on Wednesday. The Soyuz 2-1a rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 12:09 pm EST (1709 GMT, 11:09 pm local time) Wednesday and released six Globalstar satellites into low Earth orbits an hour and a half later.

28 December

  • China turned on this week the first phase of its own satellite navigation system that will eventually compete with GPS and other such systems. The Beidou, or Compass, system started providing navigation services Tuesday for users in China and “surrounding areas”, although elements of the system have been in orbit for a decade.

27 December

  • Comet Lovejoy became visible again to the naked eye in the Southern Hemisphere last week—and continued to streak across predawn skies through the holiday weekend. Lovejoy lost its original tail as it skimmed the sun’s surface, the comet “reappeared almost like a point and redeveloped a tail on the way out, which I thought was quite amazing,” said astronomer Lovejoy

26 December

  • The launch of a European communications satellite scheduled for this week has been delayed until mid-January because of a problem discovered Monday with its Proton rocket. The Proton-M rocket was scheduled to launch just after midnight local time Tuesday from Baikonur, carrying the SES-4 satellite for SES of Luxembourg. However, during pre-launch preparations Monday technicians discovered a problem with the avionics of the Proton’s Briz-M upper stage. The rocket will be rolled back to complete the repairs, and International Launch Services said in a statement Monday that those repairs would postpone the launch by about 25 days.

25 December

24 December

  • NASASPaceFlight discusses the Soyuz failure with Meridian, and the redressing Russia’s internal woes.

23 December

  • A Soyuz spacecraft carrying three people docked with the International Space Station Friday morning, restoring the station to normal six-person operations. The Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft docked with the station’s Rassvet module at 10:19 am EST (1519 GMT) Friday, two days after launch from Baikonur. On board the Soyuz are the three new members of the Expedition 30 crew, Don Pettit of NASA, Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos, and Andre Kuipers of ESA.
  • A Russian communications satellite failed to reach orbit Friday after the failure of the upper stage of its Soyuz rocket, the latest in a string of Russian launch failures. The Soyuz 2-1b rocket lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia at 7:08 am EST (1208 GMT, 4:08 pm Moscow time) carrying a Meridian communications satellite. While the launch initially appeared to go well, Russian officials later said the satellite failed to reach orbit and instead crashed in Siberia. Initial reports indicated a problem with the rocket’s third stage. The launch failure is the fifth in just over a year for Russia, including the loss of a Progress cargo spacecraft

22 December

  • An astronaut living in space has captured an unprecedented view of a comet from orbit in a jaw-dropping set of photos taken over a nighttime Earth. Comet Lovejoy is visible near Earth’s horizon in this nighttime image photographed by NASA astronaut Dan Burbank, Expedition 30 commander, onboard the International Space Station on Dec. 21, 2011. The amazing images show comet Lovejoy, which survived a trip through the sun’s atmosphere last week.

21 December

  • NASA astronaut Don Pettit, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, and Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers, part of the European Space Agency (ESA), lifted off atop the Russian Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 8:16 a.m. EST (1316 GMT) on a trip to the International Space Station.
  • On Wednesday, the space agency released new images of the hummocky surface of asteroid Vesta as Dawn circled from an average altitude of 130 miles (209 kilometers) above the surface, the closest it’ll get.

20 December

  • Russian Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft set for launch to International Space Station

19 December

  • Two planets, dubbed Kepler-20e and 20f, are the smallest planets found to date by the Kepler spacecraft observatory. They have diameters of 6,900 miles and 8,200 miles — 0.87 times Earth (slightly smaller than Venus) and 1.03 times Earth. These worlds are expected to have rocky compositions, so their masses should be less than 1.7 and 3 times Earth’s. Both worlds circle Kepler-20: a G8 yellow star a little less hot than the Sun and located 950 light-years from Earth

18 December

  • Flying on its last bit of fuel, NASA’s Deep Impact probe is carefully reshaping its course toward a potentially hazardous near-Earth asteroid in hopes the spacecraft can survey the body in January 2020.

17 December

  • A Soyuz rocket lifted off from Kourou Friday night, placing six French and Chilean satellites into orbit. The Soyuz STA rocket lifted off from Kourou, French Guiana, at 9:03 pm EST Friday (11:03 pm local time Friday, 0203 GMT Saturday) and placed its payload of six satellites into Sun-synchronous orbit over the next three and a half hours.

16 December

  • Citing uncertain budgets, NASA announced Thursday it was switching from a fixed-price contract back to Space Act Agreements (SAAs) for the next phase of its commercial crew development program. NASA had planned to issue an RFP next week for the “Integrated Design Phase” of the program, designed to mature several potential vehicles to the critical design review level of development. However, NASA officials said a “dynamic budget environment”, including uncertainty about how much money the program will get in future years, led it to go back to the more flexible SAAs used in the first two phases of the effort. A formal request for proposals for this program will go out in early 2012. The overall commercial crew program seeks to support the commercial development of spacecraft to transport astronauts to and from the ISS, as well as for other commercial applications. The program received less than half of the requested funding for 2012, and as a result NASA officials say they don’t expect vehicles to be ready to enter service until 2017.

15 December

  • A cloud of gas is being pulled closer to the supermassive black hole* lurking in the center of our galaxy, 27,000 light-years away. This unprecedented discovery is being monitored by an international team of scientists using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT). The cool cloud, composed mainly of hydrogen and helium, with a mass three-times that of Earth, has been picking up speed, and by 2013, astronomers will hopefully see some fireworks. By then, the first wisps of gas should be sucked into the black hole’s event horizon causing the black hole to flare brightly.

14 December

  • Boris Chertok, supporter of the founder of cosmonautics Sergei Korolyov, passed away in Moscow on Wednesday. “The last of the Mohicans” in Russian cosmonautics, Chertok was one of the first to make an endeavor to conquer space. He passed away barely 2.5 months before his hundredth birthday. He was closely involved in putting the world’s first satellite in orbit on Oct. 4, 1957, and preparing the first human flight to space by Yuri Gagarin on April, 12 1961.
  • The ill-fated Phobos-Grunt probe that got stuck in the orbit after an unsuccessful launch will fall to Earth on January 11, probably affecting four continents, the US Strategic Command shared its latest forecast. ­The current orbit of the vehicle suggests that it could collide with the surface on a vast part of the globe, from latitude 51.4°N to latitude 51.4°S. anywhere in Africa, Australia, Japan, North America or southern part of Western Europe, but definitely not on the larger part of the Russian territory.

13 December

  • A Japanese rocket launched the latest in a series of reconnaissance satellites for the country on Monday. The H-2A lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan at 8:21 pm EST Sunday (0121 GMT, 10:21 am local time Monday) and placed an Information Gathering Satellite (IGS) into orbit. Japanese officials released few details about the mission, although this IGS is believed to have a radar imaging payload.
  • Funded as a Paul G. Allen project under the banner of Stratolaunch, Burt Rutan is taking his space tourism concept a step further, by developing an air-launch system for payloads in the 10,000lbm class into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The system will be able to launch from several possible operational sites and eventually aims to provide crewed services.

12 December

  • NASA’s Cassini spacecraft successfully completed its closest-ever pass over Saturn’s moon Dione on Monday, Dec. 12, slaloming its way through the Saturn system on its way to tomorrow’s close flyby of Titan. Cassini is expected to glide about 2,200 miles (3,600 kilometers) over the Titan surface on Dec. 13.
  • NASA’s Dawn spacecraft successfully maneuvered into its closest orbit around the giant asteroid Vesta today, beginning a new phase of science observations. The spacecraft is now circling Vesta at an altitude averaging about 130 miles (210 kilometers) in the phase of the mission known as low altitude mapping orbit.

11 December

  • ESA astronaut André Kuipers is now officially ready for liftoff on 21 December: he and his crewmates have passed their final exams and left for the launch site yesterday. Every crew destined for the International Space Station must endure two days of final exams in the simulators at Star City near Moscow before they are cleared for flight.
  • A Proton-M carrier rocket with two telecommunications satellites onboard blasted off from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan on Sunday. The separation of Russia’s Luch-5A spacecraft is scheduled for 20:11 UTC Sunday, while Israel’s Amos-5 satellite will separate at 20.52 UTC.

10 December

  • NASA announced Friday that the next commercial cargo demonstration mission to the ISS by SpaceX will launch on February 7. On that date SpaceX plans to launch its Dragon cargo spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral. The spacecraft will approach the station and perform a flyby at a distance of two miles to demonstrate its ability to safely operate close to the station. If successful, the spacecraft will then more closely approach the station, whose robotic arm will grapple the spacecraft and berth it to the station’s Harmony node.

9 December

  • About 3,700 years ago, people on Earth would have seen a brand-new bright star in the sky. It slowly dimmed out of sight and was eventually forgotten, until modern astronomers later found its remains, called Puppis A. In this new image from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), Puppis A looks less like the remains of a supernova explosion and more like a red rose.
  • Russia’s troubled Phobos-Grunt spacecraft will fall back to Earth on January 9, the United States Strategic Command said.

8 December

  • NASA announced that the Mars rover Opportunity has found veins of Gypsum (calcium sulfate) on the crater wall of Endeavour Crater. “This tells a slam-dunk story that water flowed through underground fractures in the rock,” said Steve Squyres of Cornell University, principal investigator for Opportunity. “This stuff is a fairly pure chemical deposit that formed in place right where we see it.”

7 December

  • The Large Hadron Collider at CERN apparently has a signal for the Higgs boson. Both the ATLAS and CMS experiments are independently seeing a Higgs signal, and the predicted mass of the particle agrees with the experimental results. The Higgs appears to have a mass of 125 GeV (giga­electronvolts), and the signal has a 4.2 sigma, just short of the 5.0 value deemed to be conclusive.
  • New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) officials announced Tuesday a successful launch over the weekend of an advanced sounding rocket designed and built by Armadillo Aerospace. The launch took place from Spaceport America’s vertical launch complex on Sunday.

6 December

  • Astronomers announced Monday the first discovery in data from NASA’s Kepler mission of a planet in the habitable zone of a Sun-like star. The planet, designated Kepler-22b, is about 2.4 times the radius of the Earth and would have an average surface temperature of 22 degrees Celsius, but astronomers said they did not have information about the planet’s mass or potential composition, thus making them unable to say just how much this planet may be like the Earth.
  • SpaceX’s Dragon demonstration flight to the International Space Station (ISS) is understood to be moving into the February/March timeframe, while approval for the combination of the C2/C3 (D2/D3) missions – which would result in Dragon arriving at the orbital outpost – is still pending official approval from NASA and the ISS partners.
  • New views of giant asteroid Vesta revealed

5 December

  • Despite a small period of time where it was hoped communications and commanding might be established with the stricken Fobos-Grunt spacecraft, it now appears the Russian probe’s future is one which will see it head towards a fiery end, as its orbit continues decay over time. The likely scenario now points to a destructive re-entry sometime in January.
  • The Baikonur launch site is being prepared for the takeoff of the Soyuz TMA-03M manned spacecraft. The Soyuz-FG rocket and spacecraft will be positioned on 19 December, with take off at 7:17 AM Phoenix time (1417 UTC – 5:17 PM Moscow time) on 21 December. The spacecraft will carry the 30TH/31ST crew to the International Space Station (ISS), and their stay will last for six months. Oleg Kononenko, Andrei Kuipers and Donald Pettit are the crew members.

4 December

  • NASA’s New Horizons mission reached a special milestone today on its way to reconnoiter the Pluto system, coming closer to Pluto than any other spacecraft. It’s taken New Horizons 2,143 days of high-speed flight, covering more than a million kilometers per day for nearly six years, to break the closest-approach mark set by NASA’s Voyager 1 in January 1986.
  • NASA’s Cassini spacecraft captured unprecedented radar imagery of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus last month, uncovering new details of the moon’s highly reflective frozen surface.

3 December

  • Following the launch by the Atlas V 541 and two precise burns by the Centaur second stage, Curiosity was placed in such an accurate orbit to Mars that the first scheduled course correction has been postponed. Engineers tentatively plan to execute a maneuver in late December or early January to begin the process of steering the spacecraft toward Mars. A burn in early June will start zeroing in on the precise landing site.
  • The European Space Agency announced Friday it was ending efforts to establish communications with Russia’s Phobos-Grunt spacecraft after failing to restore control of the Mars probe. An ESA antenna in Australia had received signals from the spacecraft on November 22, but subsequent efforts from ESA facilities to establish two-way communications with and control of the spacecraft had failed.
  • In a potential marriage of the Space Launch System (SLS) with a central exploration plan, a Boeing-authored presentation has proposed an Exploration Gateway Platform architecture that not only returns man to the lunar surface – via the use of only one SLS launch to a reusable Lunar Lander – but provides a baseline for pathfinders towards an eventual crewed mission to Mars.

2 December

  • A Long March rocket launched the latest in a series of navigation satellites on Friday, in the process breaking a record for launch activity. The Long March 3A rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 4:07 pm EST Thursday (2107 GMT Thursday, 5:07 am Beijing time Friday), carrying a Beidou-2 inclined geosynchronous orbit (IGSO) satellite.
  • New images from Mars Express show the Phlegra Montes mountain range, in a region where radar probing indicates large volumes of water ice are hiding below. This could be a source of water for future astronauts.

1 December

  • Burdened by the cut from $850 Million to $406 Million for Commercial Crew Development (CCDev), NASA is weighing whether to reduce funding to all four participants (SpaceX, Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corp. and Blue Origin. ), or cease funding one or more.
  • In a bid to save the next Mars rover from budgetary oblivion, representatives from NASA, Europe and Russia will meet in Paris next week to hash out what each space agency can contribute to a pair of life-hunting Mars missions due to begin launching in four years.

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November 2011

Posted by drdave on November 2, 2011

30 November

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

29 November

28 November

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

27 November

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

26 November

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

25 November

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

24 November

23 November

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

22 November

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

21 November

20 November

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

19 November

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

18 November

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

17 November

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

16 November

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

15 November

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

14 November

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

13 November

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

12 November

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

11 November

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

10 November

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

9 November

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

8 November

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

7 November

6 November

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

5 November

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

4 November

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

3 November

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

2 November

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

1 November

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

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

July 2010

Posted by drdave on August 6, 2010

31 July 2010

  • If you want to see Venice while keeping your feet dry, don’t go when the sun has lots of spots. Peaks in solar activity cause the city to flood more often, apparently by changing the paths of storms over Europe.

30 July 2010

  • Ground control teams began sending out a beacon for Spirit on July 26, but the rover has not yet responded. In a press release on Friday, NASA put out the word that it may never wake. “It will be the miracle from Mars if our beloved rover phones home,” Doug McCuistion, director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program.
  • The shuttle Endeavour’s three main engines were installed this week as workers prepare the ship’s two solid rocket boosters.

30 July 2010

  • Orbital Sciences Corp. will continue its work with NASA’s small rockets program as prime contractor on a $125 million, five year contract.
  • The Planetary Society has this to say about the NASA authorization bill in the House of Representatives: “the proposed bill abandons any significant investment in exploration technology, effectively eliminates the Administration’s approach for engaging the commercial sector, establishes a program of loan guarantees that the Administration did not request, and seeks to reinstate programs that have been determined to be unsustainable.”

29 July 2010

  • Popular Mechanics thinks NASA is being set up for failure: “NASA is being asked to do too much with too little by Congress, and, once again, America’s space agency is set up for failure. If this plan goes forward, it will preserve jobs in Utah, Alabama, Texas and Florida, but contribute little to actually accomplishing things in space. And we can expect to have to assemble another panel of experts a couple of years from now to tell us once again what we already know, and what Congress will continue to ignore, because pork will always reign over progress.”

28 July 2010

  • Astronomers expect to find a number of planets with cozy, Earth-like properties. Which is why the TED lecture by Dimitar Sasselov, a member of the planet-hunting Kepler space telescope’s science team, created such a furor. The latest to weigh in on the TED event on 16 July is The New Scientist article. Whether its 38 or 140, the withholding of data until February 2011 is causing a ruckus.
  • A rare specimen of massive stars that live fast and die young has been photographed by a European observatory in Chile.
    The blazing hot star is called WR 22 and is shedding its atmosphere many millions of times faster than our own sun in outward blasts that unleash powerful radiation emissions.

27 July 2010

  • Yuri Artsutanov and Jerome Pearson will appear at this year’s Space Elevator Conference, to be held in Redmond, Washington (August 12-15). Yuri is traveling all the way from St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • Russian astronauts have completed a space walk at the International Space Station using their new “smart suits”. They replaced a badly performing camera and hooked up the automated rendezvous equipment for autopilot dockings using the Russian KURS system on the new Rassvet module, delivered in May.
  • The August 2010 issue of Scientific America has Kepler Co-Investigator Dimitar Sasselov’s article Planets We Could Call Home. This is the gentleman who Spilled the Beans at TED.

26 July 2010

  • Kepler Co-Investigator Spills The Beans: Lots of Earth-like Planets. Harvard’s Dimitar Sasselov gave an address at TEDGlobal at Oxford this month, announcing the discovery by the Kepler observatory of “hundreds” of earth like planets. The video is at TED.
  • The first of three Glonass satellites has arrived at Baikonur in preparation for launch on 2 September 2010. The remaining two satellites will arrive in August, and mated to the DM upper stage and Proton rocket.
  • Prelaunch processing of the Progress M-07M cargo vehicle is underway by RSC-Energia. The Progress is scheduled to fly from Baikonur aboard a Soyuz-U rocket on 8 September 2010 on a resupply mission to the International space station.
  • Dextre, the special-purpose dexterous manipulator sometimes described as the hand for Canadarm2 on the International Space Station (ISS), is almost ready to begin serving as a backup for spacewalking astronauts and cosmonauts.

25 July 2010

  • Researchers poring over Google Earth images have discovered one of Earth’s freshest impact craters — a 45-meter-wide (148-foot-wide) pock in southwestern Egypt that probably was excavated by a fast-moving iron meteorite no more than a few thousand years ago.

24 July 2010

23 July 2010

  • Curiosity, the next Mars rover grows by leaps and bounds.
  • The best Mars map ever made is now available online for planetary scientists and armchair astronauts alike. And citizen scientists are invited to help make it even better.
  • More Curiosity news: the rover took its first steps Friday inside a clean room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, kicking off a test campaign to prove the $2.3 billion robot can operate on the surface of Mars.

22 July 2010

21 July 2010

  • NASA reports that the spacecraft Cassini has observed the formation of giant snowballs in Saturn’s F ring. The gravitational pull of the moon Prometheus creates wake channels, which trigger the formation of the snowballs. Some are as large as 20 km in diameter.
  • Scientists have completed installation of the Mars Descent Imager, or MARDI, on the new Mars Rover Curiosity. MARDI will return images of the descent and landing of Curiosity in 2012.
  • Workers started assembling twin solid rocket boosters this week to help power Endeavour toward orbit in February on the final scheduled launch of the space shuttle program.

20 July 2010

  • Preliminary data from the European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 spacecraft has been released. A better understanding of how Earth’s ice fields are changing has come another step closer.
  • Politicians on the House Science and Technology committee continue to cling to “the sunk cost fallacy” as they endorse efforts to keep the Constellation program on track, despite the legislation worked out last week between the Senate and the White House. Citing the $9 Billion already wasted on the Constellation program, committee leaders claimed that it was “imperative that … [NASA] builds on the investments made to date”.
  • This will warm the cockles of the hearts over at ATK: “It (the US solid rocket motor industry) is over capacity right now,” Brett Lambert said at the Farnborough Airshow on Monday, adding a consolidation was long overdue.

19 July 2010

  • Scientists at CalTech have obtained data from the Cassini spacecraft documenting the drop in the level of two lakes on Saturn’s moon Titan. The decline is about one meter per year for the past four years.
  • The DragonEye (DE) relative navigation sensor – set to ride with Discovery on STS-133 – will be installed two weeks later than planned, following a laser rod failure during testing. Discovery – currently enjoying a smooth processing flow – will be conducting the second test for the sensor during her arrival at the International Space Station (ISS) in November.

18 July 2010

  • Following on the recent fly-by of Lutetia by the Rosetta spacecraft, Emily Lakdawalla has a discussion over at The Planetary Society blog about how Lutetia compare to the other asteroids and comets visited by spacecraft.

17 July 2010

  • NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) observatory has just completed its first full sky survey. The first release of WISE data, covering about 80 percent of the sky, will be delivered to the astronomical community in May of next year.
  • WISE has also discovered 95 new Near Earth Asteroids.

16 July 2010

  • Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have confirmed the existence of a baked object that could be called a “cometary planet.” The gas giant planet, named HD 209458b, is orbiting so close to its star that its heated atmosphere is escaping into space.
  • The Senate Commerce Committee approved bipartisan legislation July 15 that authorizes NASA funding levels through 2013.

15 July 2010

  • Three research articles have been published from the third and final flyby of Mercury in September 2009 by Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging spacecraft (MESSENGER). Data from the final flyby has revealed the first observations of ion emissions in Mercury’s exosphere; new information about the planet’s magnetic substorms; and evidence of younger volcanic activity than previously recorded.

14 July 2010

  • Scientists at Penn State released information on a blast of the brightest X-rays ever detected from beyond our Milky Way. The X-Ray burst temporarily blinded the eye on NASA’s Swift space observatory earlier this summer. The burst was 168 times brighter than the typical burst and five times brighter than anything previously seen.
  • The South Pole-Aitken (SPA) basin is the largest and oldest recognized impact basin on the moon. It’s diameter is roughly 2,500 km or 1,550 miles. The moon’s circumference is just under 11,000 km, meaning the basin stretches across nearly a quarter of the moon.

13 July 2010

  • The wheels on Curiosity that will touch down on Mars in 2012 are several rotations closer to spinning on the rocky trails of Mars. This video clip shows engineers in the JPL clean room where the rover is being assembled as they put all six wheels into motion for the first time.
  • Japan’s Kaguya spacecraft first photographed the enormous caverns last year. Now the powerful Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC, the same camera that photographed Apollo landers and astronauts’ tracks in the moondust) is giving us enticing high-resolution images of the caverns’ entrances and their surroundings.

12 July 2010

  • India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C15) successfully launches CARTOSAT – 2B Satellite
  • A total solar eclipse arced across the southern Pacific Ocean Sunday, blotting out the sun and offering stunning views to skywatchers.

11 July 2010

  • Movie” of the encounter between Rosetta and the asteroid Lutetia.

10 July 2010

  • Rosetta has completed her fly-by of Lutetia. Close up images should arrive about 21:00 UTC.
  • International Launch Services (ILS) have launched the EchoStar XV telecommunications satellite via their veteran Proton-M launch vehicle and Breeze-M upper stage.

9 July 2010

  • The place to be for the upcoming Sunday solar eclipse is French Polynesia (between 7:00 am and 10:30 am local time – 1700 and 2030 GMT). Come to think of it, the place to be has always been French Polynesia.

8 July 2010

  • The International Space Station (ISS) may live on until 2028, following confirmation by the Space Station Program Control Board (SSPCB) that partner agencies have been asked to produce an extension blueprint for continued operation until 2025, with the potential to push as far as 2028.
  • Rocketplane Global has filed for bankruptcy. It had been working on a suborbital rocket-jet hybrid plane that would have lofted paying passengers above the 62-mile (100-kilometer) altitude mark.
  • JAXA had the following announcement on the HAYABUSA main web page: “This summer, we are exhibiting a part of the capsule of the Asteroid Explorer “HAYABUSA,” which returned to the Earth on June 13, and other interesting things at the Sagamihara City Museum, JAXA Tsukuba Space Center, and at the OO square on the first floor of Marunouchi Oazo Building. Why don’t you come and witness the real capsule that came back to the Earth after seven years in space!”

7 July 2010

  • Puff the Magic Dragon?
  • The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said Wednesday it has found several dozen additional particles in a container inside a tiny capsule that the Hayabusa unmanned space probe released in June after a seven-year round-trip to the asteroid Itokawa. Results of analyses will probably not come until September.

6 July 2010

  • From the JAXA Hayabusa website: “Minute particles were confirmed in the sample container of the HAYABUSA, whose unpacking operation was started on June 24 (JST) at the Curation Center at the Sagamihara Campus. We are still unsure if those particles are something from the ITOKAWA or from the Earth, thus we will further examine them”.

5 July 2010

  • SpaceDaily.com is reporting that Japanese scientists have found “minute particles” inside the Hayabusa return capsule. The JAXA web site for Hayabusa has not yet posted the press release concerning this announcement.

4 July 2010

  • Following an aborted docking maneuver on Friday, the Progress M-06M resupply spacecraft completed its docking program this morning at 16:17 UTC.

3 July 2010

  • NASA and Shuttle managers have devised a forward plan to complete the mandatory Wing Leading Edge (WLE) Spar inspections on Atlantis – one of only a few mandatory safety inspections required for Atlantis before she can be cleared for flight next year.

2 July 2010

  • The Russian Progress resupply mission to the ISS experienced technical difficulties and failed to dock. A second attempt is tentatively scheduled for Sunday at 9:17 AM Phoenix time (1617 GMT).
  • New Horizons successfully executed a June 30 thruster-firing, which lasted 35.6 seconds just about one mile per hour. This will make sure that New Horizons makes its planned closest approach 7,767 miles (12,500 kilometers) above Pluto at 7:49 a.m. EDT on July 14, 2015.
  • NASA astronaut Douglas Wheelock snapped this picture of auroral lights as seen from the International Space Station.

1 July 2010

  • As has been expected for many weeks, NASA managers have approved the Change Requests (CR) for the launch dates of the next two shuttle missions. With STS-133 moving to November 1, STS-134 is targeting February 26 – although the threat of the program running out of funding may force Endeavour’s launch up by a week or so. A decision on adding STS-135 also appears to be no closer.
  • The Russian space freighter Progress M-06M will dock with ISS as scheduled

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