NSS Phoenix Space News

Posts Tagged ‘STS-134’

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.
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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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April 2011

Posted by drdave on April 1, 2011

30 April

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

29 April

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

28 April

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

27 April

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

26 April

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

25 April

24 April

23 April

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

22 April

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

21 April

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

20 April

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

19 April

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

18 April

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

17 April

16 April

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

15 April

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

14 April

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

13 April

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

12 April

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

11 April

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

10 April

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

9 April

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

8 April

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

7 April

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

6 April

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

5 April

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

4 April

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

3 April

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

2 April

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

1 April

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

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

March 2011

Posted by drdave on March 1, 2011

31 March

  • The Ariane 5 launch of two communications satellites was aborted Wednesday after the rocket’s main engine ignited. According to Arianespace, the rocket’s Vulcain main engine ignited as scheduled at 2:45 PM Phoenix time (2145 UTC) Wednesday, but the checkout process during ignition detected an unspecified anomaly, shutting down the engine before the two solid-rocket boosters ignited.

30 March

  • The MESSENGER spacecraft has begun returning images from Mercury.
  • Amateur sleuths have tracked down the X-37B on its second secret mission. And the information the skywatchers are finding says quite a bit about the classified operations of this mysterious spacecraft.

29 March

  • NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is preparing to orbit the “asteroid” Vesta. This intriguing world, scientists now know how special this world is, has been the subject of some debate on how to classify it. “I don’t think Vesta should be called an asteroid,” said Tom McCord, a Dawn co-investigator based at the Bear Fight Institute, Winthrop, Wash. “Not only is Vesta so much larger, but it’s an evolved object, unlike most things we call asteroids.”
  • A 165-foot-tall Ariane 5 rocket is scheduled to lift off at 2145 UTC Wednesday from the ELA-3 launch zone at the Guiana Space Center, a French-run spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. It will be carrying communications satellites for the Middle East and Africa
  • Discovery.com has an amazing collage of all of the Kepler spacecraft’s candidate exoplanets.

28 March

  • Japan’s HTV-2 Konotori robotic cargo space ship undocked from the International Space Station at 1545 UTC, a Russian mission control center official said on Monday. The cargo ship will enter the atmosphere on Wednesday at 7.09 am Moscow time (03.09 GMT), and the unburnt fragments will fall into the Pacific Ocean 31 minutes later.

27 March

  • Technicians completed inserting the $2 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer physics instrument and the Express Logistics Carrier No. 3 pallet of spare parts into the payload bay of shuttle Endeavour for hauling to the International Space Station.

26 March

  • Preparations for Atlantis’ honor of rounding off the 30 year long Space Shuttle program are proceeding to plan, with processing about to enter the latest milestone of Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) stacking inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB).
  • Congress continues its mess with the NASA Heavy Lift Rocket. Not required, no mission, no funding.

25 March

  • The NASA rover to be launched to Mars this year will carry the Mast Camera (Mastcam) instrument already on the vehicle, providing the capability to meet the mission’s science goals. Work has stopped on an alternative version of the instrument, with a pair of zoom-lens cameras, which would have provided additional capabilities for improved three-dimensional video.

24 March

  • Citing the inability of the Media to focus on the upcoming Endeavour mission rather than his personal life (his wife is congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords from Arizona) astronaut Mark Kelly asked NASA to cancel all of his press briefings.
  • NASA has unveiled a new facility to help ready commercial rockets for launch, and the first work at the new site should begin this month in preparation for a test flight to the International Space Station later this year. The facility is six stories tall, about 250 feet (76 meters) long and 150 feet (49 m) wide. Medium-class rockets with multiple stages will be assembled at the HIF, then rolled out for launch at a nearby Wallops pad. NASA’s first customer for the new rocket facility is Virginia-based Orbital Sciences, which will use the new building to assemble its Taurus 2 rocket.
  • On Thursday, March 24 at about 4:00 PM Phoenix time (2300 UTC), NASA’s Stardust spacecraft will perform a final burn with its main engines. This will be a burn to depletion, and will answer the question about how much fuel Stardust had left in its tank. “We’ll take those data and compare them to what our estimates told us was left,” said Allan Cheuvront, Lockheed Martin Space Systems program manager for Stardust-NExT. “That will give us a better idea how valid our fuel consumption models are and make our predictions even more accurate for future missions.”

23 March

22 March

  • United Launch Alliance (ULA) and XCOR Aerospace announced today their successful hot-fire demonstrations of a lighter-weight, lower-cost approach to liquid-fueled rocket-engine vacuum nozzles. The new nozzle technology on the Lynx 5K18 LOX/kerosene engine, which uses aluminum alloys and innovative manufacturing techniques, is projected to be less costly and save hundreds of pounds of mass compared to nozzles in use today in typical large upper-stage rocket engine systems.

21 March

  • Atlantis is continuing to enjoy a smooth processing flow inside her Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF-2) for the late June STS-135 mission, while her External Tank (ET-138) undergoes radius block modifications to avoid the potential of cracks forming in the intertank stringers.

20 March

  • Michael Shinabery, New Mexico Museum of Space History, discusses the early work of rocket pioneer Jacques Valier. Valier built solid fuel rocket powered vehicles in the late 1920’s, including a rocket powered Opel car and a test sled that reached 250 miles per hour.

19 March

  • The Russian space agency Roskosmos has rescheduled the launch of the next Soyuz mission (TMA-21) to the ISS for April 5 after a problem was found with the spacecraft.
  • Clear skies will reveal a “super moon” phenomenon on Saturday as the moon reaches its closest point to the Earth for almost two decades.
  • NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft encountered Uranus’ orbit today at 3:00 PM Phoenix time (2200 GMT) while flying 1.8 billion miles (2.9 billion kilometers) from Earth.

18 March

  • NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft successfully achieved orbit around Mercury at approximately 9 p.m. EDT Thursday. This marks the first time a spacecraft has accomplished this engineering and scientific milestone at our solar system’s innermost planet.
  • The realigned Russian Soyuz TMA-21 launch (5 April) will not impact the STS-134′s launch date. Endeavour is headed toward her 19 April launch target, after completing the first week of what will likely be her final pad flow.
  • A space-simulation chamber at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., is temporary home this month for the Curiosity rover, which will land on Mars next year.

17 March

16 March

  • Expedition 26 Commander Scott Kelly and Russian Flight Engineers Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka safely landed their Soyuz spacecraft on the Kazakhstan steppe Wednesday, wrapping up a five-month stay aboard the International Space Station. Kaleri, the Soyuz commander, was at the controls of the spacecraft as it undocked at 9:27 PM Phoenix time Tuesday night from the station’s Poisk module. The trio landed at 12:54 AM Wednesday at a site northeast of the town of Arkalyk.

15 March

  • The launch of a Soyuz spacecraft carrying the next crew for the ISS has been delayed several days because of a technical issue, Russian officials said Monday. The Soyuz TMA-21 spacecraft was scheduled for launch March 30 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, but has now been pushed back to early April. Russian officials said that a problem with the spacecraft’s communication system, caused by a faulty capacitor, caused the delay. The Soyuz will ferry to the ISS Russian cosmonauts Andrey Borisenko and Alexander Samokutyaev and NASA astronaut Ron Garan. The delay will not affect the return to Earth of three current ISS crewmembers, Scott Kelly, Oleg Skripochka, and Alexander Kaleri, who are scheduled to undock from the ISS Tuesday night on the Soyuz TMA-01M and land in Kazakhstan.
  • SpaceX will launch a communications satellite for SES, the first launch deal the entrepreneurial launch company has won from a major satellite operator. SpaceX will launch the SES-8 satellite for SES in the first quarter of 2013 on a Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral, the companies announced Monday. SES-8 is a medium-sized communications satellite being built by Orbital Sciences and will operate from 95 degrees east. The contract is the first time one of the big four satellite operators (Eutelsat, Intelsat, SES, Telesat) has purchased a launch from SpaceX, a signal that traditionally risk-averse customers like major satellite operators have become comfortable with the Falcon 9, which launched successfully twice last year. Falcon 9 prices start at around $50 million, significantly less than other commercial launchers with similar capacities.

14 March

  • ORBCOMM Inc. and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) today announced plans to carry the first two ORBCOMM next-generation OG2 satellites to orbit on the next Falcon 9 launch this year.
  • On March 17, NASA’s Messenger spacecraft will execute a 15-minute maneuver that will place it into orbit about Mercury, making it the first craft ever to do so, and initiating a one-year science campaign to understand the innermost planet.
  • Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne successfully completed a series of hot-fire tests of the Bantam demonstration engine for an innovative “pusher” launch abort system on The Boeing Company’s CST-100 spacecraft. The launch abort engine is a critical component of future commercial crew transportation to low-Earth orbit.
  • Satellite fleet operator Intelsat has agreed to be the inaugural customer for a novel system to refuel satellites in orbit being developed by MDA Corp. of Canada, agreeing to purchase one-half of the 2,000 kilograms of fuel that the spacecraft would carry into orbit for other satellites.

13 March

  • The HiRISE camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has seen dark rivulets form, grow, and then fade in the planet’s southern hemisphere. These transient slope lineae, as they’ve been dubbed by Alfred McEwen at the University of Arizona, could be formed by brines containing enough salt to depress their freezing points by more than 100°F (50° to 60°C).
  • Discovery.com reports on the THEMIS mission, designed to distinguish between two different competing models for where and when substorms arise in the Earth’s magnetosphere. The five spacecraft are spread out over vast distances across the magnetosphere, making it possible to examine different areas at the same time.

12 March

  • Japan has shut down its primary space center, including a control room for part of the International Space Station. after the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck the country yesterday, March 11.
  • The United Launch Alliance (ULA) have launched their Delta IV rocket carrying a classified spacecraft for the United States National Reconnaissance Office on Friday. The mission, designated NRO Launch 27, lifted off from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 37 at 4:38 PM Phoenix time (2338 UTC).
  • The Washington Times delivers a blistering condemnation of Congress and its pork barrel policy with NASA.

11 March

  • Just a day after the fleet leader, Discovery, landed at the nearby Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) to end her career, Endeavour, the youngest orbiter of the fleet headed out to Pad 39A as the STS-134 stack on Thursday evening (7:56pm Local), arriving at the pad at 3:49am Friday.
  • Political wrangling may end up killing both manned and unmanned space exploration. With the emphasis on budget cuts, the robotic exploration program is being squeezed and two prominent probes to Mars and Europa will probably die. Although the Augustine Commission condemned the Ares V rocket (Constellation Program) as unaffordable to operate even if we could afford to build it, Congress has now mandated that NASA build and launch a similar vehicle by 2016. We are doomed.

10 March

  • Canada is looking to its future with on-orbit maintenance and processing and other technology at the Canadian Space Commerce Association annual meeting being held in Toronto on March 18th at the MaRS Discovery District.
  • NASA’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft is undergoing space environmental testing at Lockheed Martin Space Systems’ facility in south Jefferson County. Juno, scheduled for launch on 5 August 2011 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, will orbit Jupiter’s poles 33 times to learn more about the planet’s origin, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.
  • For some, the Shuttle program has thankfully come to an end. It wasted 40 years of American resources toward progress in exploration of space.

9 March

  • Space shuttle Discovery and its six-astronaut crew ended a 13-day journey of more than five million miles and concluded the spacecraft’s illustrious 27-year career with an 11:57 a.m. EST landing Wednesday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
  • NASA plans to cover the upcoming landing of the Soyuz TMA-01M spacecraft in northern Kazakhstan at 2:48 AM CDT on 16 March, and the launch of the Soyuz TMA-21 on 29 March.

8 March

  • Discovery is spending its final day in orbit. Discovery is scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center at 9:58 AM Phoenix time (1658 UTC) on Wednesday.
  • NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft will enter orbit around Mercury on 18 March. MESSENGER has needed a six-year flight, passing Earth once, Venus twice and already passing Mercury itself three times, to shed enough energy to orbit the planet.

7 March

  • Discovery and its six astronauts undocked from the space station at 5:00 AM Phoenix time (1200 GMT), to end an 8-day visit to the International Space Station that delivered a new storage module, extra supplies, and a humanoid robot assistant to the orbiting laboratory.

6 March

  • NASA astronauts on the Space Shuttle Discovery are packing prior to leaving the International Space Station for the last time. A farewell ceremony at 1:28 PM Phoenix time (2028 UTC) will mark the end of their stay. They will close the hatches, stay overnight and undock tomorrow.
  • NASASpaceFlight on details of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle.

5 March

  • Poor weather postponed Friday’s scheduled launch of a military spaceplane on an Atlas 5 from Florida. The Atlas 5 501 successfully launched the X-37B OTV-2 spacecraft on Saturday, at 2:46 PM Phoenix time.
  • Discovery and her crew continue to operate flawlessly. Two additional days have been added to her mission.

4 March

  • The NASA climate satellite Glory failed to each orbit early Friday. A Taurus XL rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 5:09 am EST (1009 GMT). However, several minutes after liftoff launch controllers received telemetry that the rocket’s payload fairing failed to separate as planned. The failure appears very similar to the loss of NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory satellite in February 2009, also lost when the payload fairing of the Taurus XL launching it failed to separate after launch.
  • Liftoff of the US Air Force Orbital Test Vehicle (X-37B) from Cape Canaveral is scheduled for a launch window opening at 2039 GMT (1:39 PM Phoenix Time) Friday. The exact launch time will be announced around 8 a.m. EST Friday, according to the Air Force.
  • NASA chief Charles Bolden told a congressional committee Thursday that he would announce the final display locations places for the space agency’s shuttle orbiters on April 12, the 30th anniversary of the first shuttle flight.

3 March

2 March

  • After a flawless launch last Thursday and a textbook docking on Saturday, the Space Shuttle Discovery today delivered the European-built Leonardo Permanent Multipurpose Module to the International Space Station.
  • Russia lacks carrier rockets to carry out all space launches scheduled for 2011, the head of the Roscosmos space agency said on Wednesday. Last year, Russia led in the number of space launches, carrying out 31 launches, 15 more than the United States. In late January, Perminov said Russia was planning to carry out 48 space launches in 2011, including 9 missions to the International Space Station by Soyuz and Progress carrier rockets.

1 March

  • The 45th Space Wing is set to launch an Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle from Space Launch Complex 41 on March 4, 2011. The rocket will carry an Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV). The launch window for this Air Force mission opens at 3:39 p.m. EST.

Posted in Asteroid, Augustine Commission, Comet, Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, JAXA, Jupiter, Mercury, NASA, Pluto, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, Saturn, Space Shuttle | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

January 2011

Posted by drdave on January 2, 2011

31 January

  • Discovery is scheduled to begin her journey back out to Pad 39A with her modified External Tank (ET-137) at 6:00 PM Phoenix time (0100 UTC Tuesday) on Monday evening, following an issue-free installation of radius blocks on most of its intertank stringers. With a high-level of confidence in the mitigation of further cracks on the stringers during loading and launch, managers have called for the same modifications to take place on STS-134′s ET-122.

30 January

  • The Russian cargo spacecraft Progress M-09M docked with the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday.

29 January

  • The Runaway Star. Traveling at a breakneck speed of 87,000 kilometers per hour (or 24 kilometers per second), the massive Zeta Ophiuchi probably used to have an even larger binary partner that exploded as a supernova. So, like a hammer thrower spinning quickly at the Olympic Games, the blue supergiant star was treated like the hammer, released from the gravitational embrace of its exploding sibling in an instant. At the moment of detonation, it’s orbital momentum shot it off into space at high speed.

28 January

  • Hot on the heels of JAXA’s HTV-2 arrival at the International Space Station (ISS), Russia’s Progress M-09M/41P spacecraft has lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Friday morning at 1:31 AM GMT. Docking to the ISS at the Docking Compartment-1 (DC-1) Pirs Nadir port, recently vacated by Progress M-08M/40P, will occur two days later on Sunday 30th January at 2:40 AM GMT.
  • The fuel and most of the cargo are loaded and ATV has been hoisted to the top of Ariane 5 as teams on four continents prepare for the 15 February launch of Johannes Kepler from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

27 January

  • After less than a week in space, Japan’s HTV-2 spacecraft was successfully grappled by the ISS crew via the SSRMS (Space Station Remote Manipulator System), ahead of berthing to Node-2 Nadir – which was completed at 07:51 AM Phoenix time (14:51 UTC). Over the coming days, the ISS crew will remove external payloads from HTV-2 before moving the spacecraft to a temporary berthing location on Node-2 Zenith ahead of the arrival of STS-133 in late-February.
  • The first image of comet Tempel 1 taken by NASA’s Stardust spacecraft is a composite made from observations on Jan. 18 and 19, 2011. On Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14 in U.S. time zones), Stardust will fly within about 200 kilometers (124 miles) of the comet’s nucleus
  • Astronomers announced Wednesday the discovery of the most distant galaxy yet observed, an object that dates back to the first half-billion years of the universe. The object, designated UDFj-39546284, is a compact galaxy of blue stars with a redshift of approximately 10, which dates the galaxy to just 480 million years after the Big Bang. Astronomers discovered the galaxy in Hubble Ultra Deep Field – Infrared data collected by the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 in 2009 and 2010.

26 January

  • The European Space Agency (ESA) has released images of Phobos from the Mars Express at an altitude of 100 km. The images are from the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) science team and show a 3D view of the moon and the proposed landing site of the Phobos-Grunt mission.

25 January

  • A Russian Progress M-08M cargo spacecraft undocked from the ISS early on Monday, clearing a port for a new Progress scheduled for launch on Friday 28 January. The Progress spacecraft undocked from the Pirs module at just after 5:40 PM Phoenix time on Sunday (0040 GMT Monday) and deorbited over the south Pacific five and a half hours later.

24 January

  • A group of United Space Alliance (USA) and Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) technicians and engineers are heading into the final few days of work on modifying the stringers on Discovery’s External Tank (ET-137). With the root cause evaluations and subsequent modifications ensuring there is “no uncertainty” on all flight tanks, STS-133 remains on track for rollout to Pad 39A next Monday. All indications are that 24 February will be the start of the launch window.
  • Amateur satellite observers have confirmed that the Delta 4-Heavy launched last Thursday carried a Keyhole type replacement spy satellite. The newest satellite joins the two primary Keyholes in space today, having launched in 2001 and 2005 from Vandenberg aboard Titan 4 rockets, plus an older one deployed in 1996 that’s still running in a backup role. The Delta 4-Heavy flight targeted the orbit of the 2001 satellite, apparently to assume the lead observation duties from the aging craft that’s now achieved the record for the longest prime mission duration.

23 January

  • A team of scientists from several organizations will begin tests this spring on a space-based power generation technology using satellites, it was learned Saturday. The planned test will attempt to convert a strong electric current into microwaves and transmit them 10 meters away in a simulated outer space environment at Kyoto University. A successful test would likely accelerate the goal of putting a space-based power generation system into practical use by 2025.

22 January

  • The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully launched its large HTV-2 (“Kounotori” – White Swan) resupply mission to the International Space Station.
  • JAXA confirmed that the planned second burn and re-entry of the second stage of the H-IIB rocket was successful. This followed the launch of the Kounotori resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station.
  • Two Russian cosmonauts, Dmitry Kondratyev and Oleg Skripochka, spent five and a half hours in space working on the International Space Station late on Friday. The cosmonauts installed a high-speed data transmission block on the Russian service module “Zvezda,” disabled and dismantled a plasma injector equipment, and installed a TV camera on the MIM mini-research module of the Russian segment of the ISS.

21 January

  • Aviation Week discusses the plans by SpaceX to eventually carry crew to the International Space Station. “Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) says it will launch its Falcon 9 rocket at least 17 more times before it is ready to fly humans, with nine of those flights carrying the Dragon capsule it is developing for cargo missions to the International Space Station.”
  • Discovery.com “roasts” the Australian story about Betalgeuse going super nova in 2012. And Phil Plait gives us the straight scoop. Meanwhile, once interesting Huffington Post makes a complete hash of the story.
  • The launch of the JAXA resupply mission HTV-2 to the ISS is set for 10:37 PM Phoenix time tonight (5:37 UTC 22 February).

20 January

  • NASA selected astronaut Steve Bowen as a mission specialist on STS-133, the next space shuttle mission planned for launch on Feb. 24. Bowen replaces astronaut Tim Kopra, who was injured in a bicycle accident over the weekend. The agency will hold a media teleconference at 3:30 p.m. CST on Wednesday, Jan. 19, to discuss the change in crew personnel.
  • Russia launched a Zenit / Fregat-SB rocket carrying an Elektra-L satellite at 12:29:01 UTC.
  • The United States launched a Delta IV Heavy carrying the NRO L-49 spy satellite from Vandenberg Air Force base in California a little after 2:00 PM Phoenix time today.

19 January

  • NASA’s Stardust-NExT spacecraft is nearing a celestial date with comet Tempel 1 at approximately 11:37 p.m. EST, on Feb. 14. The mission will allow scientists for the first time to look for changes on a comet’s surface that occurred following an orbit around the sun.
  • The launch of the H-IIB Launch Vehicle No. 2 (H-IIB F2) with the KOUNOTORI2 (HTV2, a cargo transporter to the International Space Station) onboard has been rescheduled as clouds including a freezing layer that exceeds the restrictions for suitable weather are forecast to be generated at around the scheduled launch time on January 20, 2011 (Japan Standard Time.) No Earlier Than (NET) 22 January.
  • A Delta 4-Heavy rocket, made by United Launch Alliance, and carrying a massive spy satellite like the ones the Titans used to deploy before those rockets were retired from service in 2005, is scheduled for liftoff Thursday at 1:08 p.m. PST (4:08 p.m. EST; 2108 GMT) from Space Launch Complex 6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

18 January

  • Technology Review has an update on the status of Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser, descendant of NASA’s HL-20 manned space plane program from the 1970’s.
  • WikiLeaks documents published by a Norwegian newspaper have cost the CEO of OHB-Technology, a German satellite company, his job. Berry Smutny reportedly said “I think Galileo is a stupid idea that primarily serves French interests.” OHB-Technology company has the contract to build the first 14 satellites.

17 January

  • A recent storm of small “suicide” comets that pelted the sun could herald the coming a much bigger icy visitor.
  • Shuttle Discovery is aiming to roll back out to Pad 39A on February 1, following what will be the completion of numerous “radius block” modifications to the circumference of her External Tank (ET-137). NASA managers are also evaluating impacts to crew training – and potentially the launch date – following the injury sustained by STS-133′s Tim Kopra during a biking accident.
  • The Universe in High Definition – When it comes to digital cameras, people really care about their megapixels. The Sloan Digital Sky Survey has them all beat with a newly released TERApixel mosaic of the sky

16 January

15 January

  • The European Space Agency (ESA) has new commentary on the Johannes Kepler ATV-2 resupply vessel scheduled for launch to the International Space Station on 15 February 2011. It will be the heaviest load ever lofted into space by the Ariane 5 rocket, making the 200th flight of the European launcher even more spectacular.
  • International Space Station Program (ISSP) managers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston held a two-day meeting this week to discuss the prospect of adding a Bigelow Aerospace inflatable module to the ISS. The Technical Interchange Meeting (TIM) ran on Wednesday 12th and Thursday 13th January.

14 January

  • The Planck spacecraft, which is designed to study the faint afterglow of the Big Bang, has discovered a rash of new galaxy clusters, along with details of our own Milky Way.
  • NASA announced Thursday that astronaut Rick Sturckow will serve as a backup commander for the STS-134 space shuttle mission to facilitate continued training for the crew and support teams during STS-134 Commander Mark Kelly’s absence. Kelly’s wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was critically wounded in a shooting on Jan. 8 in Tucson, Arizona. Kelly remains commander of the mission, which is targeted for launch on April 19 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
  • Intelsat has said the former zombie satellite Galaxy 15 is again under full control and will return to commercial operation. During a webcast, Tobias Nassif, VP of satellite operations and engineering, said Intelsat has re-established full functionality over Galaxy 15. Galaxy 15 is currently positioned at 93 degrees West, where it will undergo additional testing and then be moved to either 133 degrees West or 129 degrees West, depending on demand for services. Intelsat expects to complete testing by January 31.

13 January

  • A preliminary NASA report, outlining plans for developing a Space Launch System (SLS) in response to the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, has put its weight behind a Inline Shuttle Derived (SD) Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLV). However, the report to lawmakers complained it would not be able to build the vehicle based on the funding and schedule requirements.

12 January

  • NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, an observatory originally designed to hunt for alien planets, has stumbled upon an intriguing discovery: a set of triplet stars circling a massive stellar parent.
  • Aviation Week comments on the fact that Space shuttle officials have concluded that a combination of weaker-than-expected materials and subtle assembly issues led to the external tank (ET) cracks that have stalled the launches of Discovery and Endeavour on NASA’s last two scheduled shuttle missions.

11 January

  • A newly discovered planet beyond the solar system is not only the smallest extrasolar planet yet found but also the first confirmed to be made entirely of solid material. Discovered by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft and dubbed Kepler-10b, the body has a diameter only 40 percent larger than Earth’s.
  • The Hubble Space Telescope has zoomed in on the mysterious green cloud of gas known as Hanny’s Voorwerp (after the Dutch school teacher Hanny van Arkel who discovered it using the citizen science project Galaxy Zoo) to reveal a zone of star formation.

10 January

  • Using the world’s largest telescopes in Hawaii and Chile, the researchers have used Quasar Absorption Line Spectroscopy to identify gas clouds called ‘damped Lyman alpha systems’ (DLAs). Among the thousands of DLAs known, the team have succeeded in finding a rare cloud released from a star very early in the history of the universe. The gas cloud was released by the exploding star around 13 billion years ago, one of the earliest stars in the universe.

9 January

  • By the end of the decade, five new telescopes will be completed which are each hugely more powerful than any before them and may answer vital questions about our universe. Among the objects that astronomers hope to study will be the first stars and galaxies that formed after the Big Bang – the birth of the universe 13.7 billion years ago. It is also hoped the new super-telescopes will be able to spot Earth-like planets in orbit round other stars and give early warnings of asteroids or meteorites heading on a collision course with Earth.

8 January

  • Following the further delay of the STS-133/ULF-5 mission into late February, International Space Station (ISS) Program Managers are readjusting the mission plans for Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-2 (ATV-2) “Johannes Kepler” and Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle-2 (HTV-2) “Kounotori”. Both vehicles will be present at the ISS during the STS-133 mission, which should provide for some stunning views during Discovery’s flyaround post-undocking.

7 January

  • Thursday’s Program Requirements Control Board (PRCB) meeting overviewed the status of Discovery’s External Tank (ET-137), with recommendations made to install radius blocks on over 100 stringers. A new launch date will be entered as a Change Request (CR) next week, based on negotiations with the ISS on the ability to achieve either a February 24 or 27 NET (No Earlier Than) target.

6 January

  • NASA released its annual SpinOff report at the end of December.

5 January

  • The root cause of the cracked stringers on STS-133′s External Tank (ET-137) may have been found, following the investigation team’s findings that the material used for the tank’s intertank support beams was found to be “mottled”, when compared to standard material. While the work on the 34 stringers is already approved, Thursday’s Program Requirements Control Board (PRCB) will discuss an option to install radius blocks on all 108 remaining stringers, which in turn would slip STS-133 out of the early February launch window.

4 January

  • Aviation Week reports on the newly ordered repairs to the external tank of the space shuttle Discovery. Launch is still slated for 3-10 February 2011.
  • Kathryn Aurora Gray, a precocious 10-year-old amateur astronomer from Fredericton, New Brunswick in Canada, has discovered a supernova explosion in a galaxy, called UGC 3378, within the faint constellation of Camelopardalis. The galaxy is approximately 240 million light-years away.

3 January

  • In 2011 a strong display of Quadrantid meteors is likely for Europe and points east to central Asia. Maximum activity is expected at around 0100 GMT on Tuesday, Jan. 4 when the radiant of this shower – from where the meteors appear to emanate – is ascending the dark northeastern sky. With no moonlight to interfere, this might turn out to be one of the best meteor displays of the year. Morning twilight will not interfere until about 6 a.m. local time. What about for North America? At the time the shower is reaching its peak, it will be Monday evening, Jan. 3 on the other side of the Atlantic; 8 p.m. EST in the East and 5 p.m. PST (still twilight) in the West. The radiant will be positioned low near the north-northwest horizon.

2 January

  • Long past their 90 day warranties, The Martian Rovers are approaching seven Earth years on the surface of Mars. Spirit landed on Mars on 4 January 2004. Its twin, Opportunity, hit the planet’s red dirt three weeks later, on 25 January.

1 January

  • An Indian rocket that tumbled out of control and was destroyed a minute after liftoff last month failed because of a snapped data cable, investigators said Friday. The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) lifted off normally on December 25 but started losing attitude control 47.8 seconds later; the rocket broke up at T+53.8 seconds and was destroyed by range safety at T+64 seconds. An initial investigation, chaired by former ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair, concluded that the primary cause of the failure is the “untimely and inadvertent” snapping of a group of 10 connectors at the base of the upper stage linking the rocket’s avionics, located in the upper stage, with the rocket’s lower stages. The snapped cables prevented commands from reaching the first stage’s electronics, causing the rocket to lose control. Why the cables snapped remains unknown.
  • In a controversial move, Brazil will pay more than €250 million over a decade to become a member of the European Southern Observatory (ESO). The agreement is part of a bid by Brazil’s government to lift the quality of domestic science by joining big international projects. Brazil has also been negotiating entry into Europe’s CERN particle accelerator.

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