Posted by drdave on May 1, 2012
- Dragon splashed down at 1542 UTC. Recovery is in process at 1610 UTC.
- Dragon has demated from the ISS and is scheduled to make its deorbit burn at 7:51 Phoenix time (1451 UTC).
- Astronomer Jason Kalirai of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, has created a new method to measure the ages of individual halo stars. His technique exploits a basic concept of stellar evolution: The heavier a star is, the faster it dies. Halo stars die by becoming red giants and then white dwarfs—dense stars little larger than Earth. White dwarfs have no nuclear activity, so as they age, they cool and fade. Thus, the hottest and brightest of these burnt-out stars entered the white-dwarf stage most recently.
- Preparations for the second landing of the X-37B, the Air Force’s unmanned, reusable space plane, are underway at Vandenberg Air Force Base. While the exact landing date and time will depend on technical and weather considerations, it is expected to occur during the early- to mid-June timeframe. Space professionals from the 30th Space Wing will monitor the de-orbit and landing of the Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle mission, called OTV-2.
- Excalibur Almaz has detailed its plans to launch spacecraft to space stations in orbit around the moon, the first time the secretive company has done so publically. The British company will use legacy Russian hardware, capsules from the Soviet Soyuz space programme and space stations from Salyut, to launch people into orbit around the moon. Both capsules and stations will undergo upgrades, but the basic hardware has flown in space up to nine times, and is described by Excalibur CEO Art Dula as have a technical readiness level of nine, the highest possible.
- Intelsat, the world’s leading provider of satellite services, and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), the world’s fastest growing space launch company, announced the first commercial contract for the Falcon Heavy rocket.
- A Chinese Long March 4C has launched with a military payload, understood to be the Yaogan 15 military satellite, from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. Launch was recorded at 0731 UTC, catching out most observers, with the only news of the launch on Tuesday leaking out on the internet, prior to official media reports of a successful ride to orbit.
- With Dragon now installed and ingressed on the International Space Station (ISS), Canada’s Dextre robot took an opportunity to greet the new spacecraft on Sunday. The SPDM (Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator) was translated to the SpaceX vehicle to practice the removal of cargo from the trunk, a key element of future Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) missions.
- China launched a satellite late Saturday for civil and possibly military communications. The Long March 3B rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 8:56 AM Phoenix time (1556 UTC) Saturday and placed the 5,200-kilogram Chinasat 2A satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit.
- The hatch on the Dragon spacecraft has been successfully opened, and the ISS crew is beginning to unload the 1014 lbs of cargo brought up on the spacecraft. 1367 lbs of cargo is scheduled to return on Dragon on 31 May.
- A giant distributed radio telescope will be split over sites in South Africa and Australia, astronomers announced Friday. The Square Kilometer Array (SKA) Organization said Friday that dishes for the radio telescope will be built on sites in South Africa and Australia, with the majority of the telescopes being placed in South Africa.
- Dragon is berthed to the International Space Station.
- The Dragon spacecraft has passed all of the Approach tests and is proceeding toward Capture.
- Boeing successfully completed the software Preliminary Design Review (PDR) for its Commercial Crew Development (CCDev-2) initiative on May 18. CCDev-2 is part of NASA’s Space Act Agreement. Software competency is essential to all operational aspects of Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft, including launch, orbital maneuvering, docking with and separating from the International Space Station, re-entry and landing. The PDR team analyzed the system’s flight software, including details regarding safety, testing, overall redundancy management, avionics hardware and ground systems.
- XCOR announced today that it has achieved a key technical milestone with its flight weight rocket piston pump hardware. XCOR engineers have successfully and repeatedly pumped liquid oxygen (LOX) at flow rates required to supply the Lynx suborbital vehicle main engines.
- SpaceX and Dragon completed today’s fly-under successfully.
- The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) announced Monday that Iran is set to launch a satellite called Fajr (or “Dawn”) atop a Safir 1B rocket on a mission to demonstrate the country’s first use of a maneuverable spacecraft in orbit.
- The SpaceX Dragon capsule has completed Flight Day 1 objectives (under final review by NASA and SpaceX), and will spend Flight Day 2 raising its orbit as it approaches the International Space Station. If all objectives are met, grappling is set for 1206 UTC Friday.
- SpaceX successfully launched their Falcon 9 rocket and placed the Dragon capsule on a rendezvous path to the International Space Station (ISS). If all tests are successful, grappling and connecting to the ISS will occur on Friday morning.
- When SpaceX’s Dragon capsule launches in spring 2012, a very special payload will be on board: 15 student experiments from the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. The big deal is that those experiments from “SSEP Mission 1 to ISS” will be part of space history. Dragon will become the first commercial vehicle to dock to the International Space Station, and these student experiments have the distinction of being the only payload on board.
- The SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle aborted following engine start. Engine 5 recorded high pressure. The launch will be rescheduled for 22 May (NET).
- From SpaceX on Facebook: “Engineers replacing failed valve on engine #5 following today’s abort. Data review Sunday, if all looks good next attempt is Tues. May 22 at 3:44 AM ET”.
- NASA and SpaceX held a pre-launch briefing this afternoon at Kennedy Space Center. View the briefing here.
- A Japanese H-2A rocket launched four satellites on Friday, including a Japanese earth sciences spacecraft and a South Korean remote sensing satellite. The H-2A 202 lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center at 9:39 pm Phoenix time Thursday (1639 UTC) and placed four satellites into Sun-synchronous orbits.
- A Proton rocket launched a Canadian commercial communications satellite early Friday. The Proton-M rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 12:12 pm Phoenix time Thursday (1912 UTC Thursday) carrying the Nimiq 6 satellite. The Proton’s Breeze-M upper stage released the spacecraft into geosynchronous transfer orbit a little over nine hours later. Nimiq 6 was built by Space Systems/Loral and weighed about 4,500 kilograms at launch, carrying 32 Ku-band transponders.
- A Soyuz spacecraft carrying three new ISS crew members docked with the orbiting outpost early Thursday. The Soyuz TMA-04M docked with the Poisk module of the ISS at 12:36 am EDT (0436 GMT) Thursday, two days after launch from Kazakhstan, and hatches opened at 4:10 am EDT (0810 GMT). On board the Soyuz were Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin and American astronaut Joseph Acaba, who brought the station’s crew complement back to six.
- An Ariane 5 rocket successfully launched a pair of Lockheed Martin-built communications satellites for Japan and Vietnam on Tuesday evening. The Ariane 5 ECA lifted off from Kourou, French Guiana, at 6:13 pm EDT (2213 GMT) Tuesday and placed the JCSAT-13 and Vinasat-2 communications satellites into geosynchronous transfer orbit about a half-hour later.
- The Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft with the new crew for the International Space Station (ISS), launched from the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, will dock with the ISS on Thursday morning in an automatic mode. The spacecraft will dock with the Poisk research module of the ISS Russian segment at 1:38 AM Phoenix time (0438 UTC).
- A Soyuz FG rocket launched the Soyuz TMA-04M (RSC Energia) spacecraft carrying three new International Space Station crew members on Tuesday. The Soyuz rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 8:01 pm Phoenix time Monday (0301 UTC Tuesday) and placed the Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft into orbit. On board the Soyuz are Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin and American astronaut Joseph Acaba. The Soyuz will dock with the ISS at 11:39 pm EDT Wednesday (0339 GMT Thursday).
- The Atlantic has an extensive by Ross Andersen with Sara Seager, a Professor of Planetary Science at MIT, on the plans of Planetary Resources to mine asteroids.
- LightSquared, the company that ran into regulatory difficulties trying to establish a hybrid satellite-terrestrial broadband network in the US, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Monday.
- Jeff Foust, at The Space Review, discusses “A test flight for SpaceX may also be a test for commercial crew”.
- NSS Urges Congress to Ease Export Control Restrictions on Satellites and Space-Related Items
- Scientists analyzing data from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft orbiting the large asteroid Vesta have concluded that the body has some of the key characteristics of a planet, suggesting it is a protoplanet left over from the solar system’s formation. Observations of the asteroid show that it is a differentiated body, featuring an iron core with a radius of 110 kilometers as well as a mantle and crust.
- The Indian Space Research Organization on Saturday successfully tested the indigenous cryogenic engine at the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) at Mahendragiri for 200 seconds. The engine will undergo another two more tests, including endurance test of 1,000 seconds and vacuum ignition test. The engine is scheduled to propel GSLV D-5 in September or October.
- John Kelly heaps scorn on the Congressional move to force NASA to prematurely select a single manned spacecraft contractor, “History shows going with one contractor results in years of delays and billions of dollars in cost overruns. Every past space transportation system development effort has become a cost and schedule boondoggle, often made worse by cost-plus contracting.”
- One of the key pre-launch requirements for SpaceX’s upcoming Dragon mission to the ISS, the completion of software validation tasks for the spacecraft’s approach and berthing with the orbital outpost, has been passed, pending the expected completion of “action items”. The milestone means the latest launch date target of May 19 now holds a large amount of confidence.
- Scientists are on an epic treasure hunt for meteorite fragments from a spectacular fireball that lit up the daytime sky over California last month. The space rocks came from a minivan-size asteroid that plunged through Earth’s atmosphere and exploded into a dazzling daytime fireball over California and parts of Nevada on April 22. Meteorite fragments were scattered around Sutter’s Mill, an old sawmill in Coloma, California.
- The Sun moves much more slowly relative to nearby interstellar space than was previously thought, according to scientists working on NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission. Their study casts doubt on the existence of an abrupt “bow shock” where the edge of the solar system meets the interstellar medium – instead suggesting that the boundary between the two regions is much gentler.
- Virgin Galactic expects to resume flight tests of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle as early as June from manufacturer Scaled Composites’ facility in Mojave, California. SpaceShipTwo has not flown since its 16th glide flight in September, 2011, when it entered a tail stall upon release from its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft.
- Envisat, an enormous Earth-observing satellite that was officially declared dead in space Wednesday (May 9) may stay in orbit for the next 150 years, posing a threat to other spacecraft zipping around our planet.
- NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Images Big Dipper
- NASA’s Dawn spacecraft won’t end its 13-month-long visit to Vesta, the Solar System’s second biggest asteroid, until August, but researchers have now solidified the rock’s reputation as an archetype for understanding planetary evolution. In six reports in the 11 May edition of Science, Dawn mission scientists have confirmed several long-held assumptions about Vesta and detailed some puzzles about the roughly 520-kilometer-diameter body.
- Four days after the launch of Tianhui-1B mapping satellite, China has launched a new optical remote sensing satellite on May 10, 2012 from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. Launch of Yaogan Weixing-14 (YG-14) satellite took place at 07:06UTC using a Long March 4B (Chang Zheng-4B) launch vehicle from the LC9 launch complex.
- OpenMarket.org has a screed about “Republican Space Socialism Update”, taking House Appropriations Chairman Frank Wolf (R-Virginia) to task for decrying the wastefulness of competition in the Commercial Crew Development program.
- Unionized workers at United Launch Alliance (ULA), the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture that makes the Atlas and Delta launch vehicles, ratified a new contract by default on Sunday when a strike vote fell just short of passage. Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) voted Sunday to reject a three-year contract offered by ULA, but a subsequent vote on whether to strike fell just short of the two-thirds majority needed to authorize a strike. Because the strike vote failed, the new contract went into force at midnight Monday.
- Commercial remote sensing company DigitalGlobe has rejected a offer by rival GeoEye to acquire the company, saying it will wait until the end of the federal budget cycle to make a decision on whether to make its own bid to acquire GeoEye. DigitalGlobe said in a statement Sunday that the $17-per-share offer by GeoEye “substantially undervalues” the company.
- Preparations for Orion’s first journey into space are accelerating, as flight controllers at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) fire up the former Shuttle Flight Control Room (FCR) for mission simulations, while Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) engineers finalize the vehicle’s baseline construction, ahead of shipping Orion to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for outfitting.
- In a study published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, astronomers analyzing 63 hot Jupiters (depicted above) detected by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft have found no planets comparable in size to Earth orbiting nearby. In contrast, many hot Neptunes—close-in giant worlds with roughly 5% of Jupiter’s mass—do have planetary neighbors. The findings may mean that hot Jupiters assume their peculiar orbits after far-off giant planets kick them close to their suns. As the hot Jupiter dashes inward, its gravity ejects any smaller planets near the star, both explaining the absence of close planetary neighbors and suggesting that solar systems with hot Jupiters are unlikely to host life-bearing worlds resembling Earth.
- China launched the second TH-1 Tianhui-1 satellite – Tianhui-1B – on Sunday, using a Long March 2D (Chang Zheng-2D) launch vehicle from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Launch took place at 07:10UTC from the 603 launch pad from the LC-43 launch complex. Tianhui-1B will conduct Earth-mapping using stereo-topographic techniques.
- Supermoon: “We will have moon closest to the Earth at the exact moment, or within a minute or two of when it becomes full,” says Andrew Fraknoi at Foothill College in Los Altos, Calif., and senior educator at the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. “And this has no cosmic danger or significance but it means the moon will be a little bit brighter and a little bit bigger in our sky.”
- NASA issued the following statement from William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington: “After additional reviews and discussions between the SpaceX and NASA teams, we are in a position to proceed toward this important launch. The teamwork provided by these teams is phenomenal. There are a few remaining open items but we are ready to support SpaceX for its new launch date of May 19.”
- SpaceX and NASA are nearing completion of the software assurance process, and SpaceX is submitting a request to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for a May 19th launch target with a backup on May 22nd.
- The European Space Agency (ESA) announced Wednesday that it has chosen a mission to several of Jupiter’s largest moons as its next large mission, confirming a choice made last month by an agency panel. The JUpiter ICy moon Explorer, or Juice, is planned for launch in 2022 and arrive at Jupiter in 2030. The spacecraft would fly by the Galilean moons of Callisto and Europa before entering orbit around Ganymede, the solar system’s largest moon.
- ULA: “The launch of an Atlas V carrying the United States Air Force’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency-2 (AEHF-2) payload was scrubbed today due to lack of helium flow from the ground support equipment to the Interstage Adapter compartment on the launch vehicle. The Atlas V vehicle and AEHF-2 are safe and secure at this time. The launch is rescheduled for Friday, May 4 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The opening of the launch window is 2:42 p.m. EDT and extends until 4:42 p.m. The forecast for May 4 shows an 80 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for the launch tomorrow. “
- The first flight of the Antares rocket will likely be in August.
- SpaceX said Wednesday it is “unlikely” that Monday’s scheduled launch of a Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket will proceed because of additional testing being done on the spacecraft. The company said in a brief statement Wednesday afternoon that the Monday morning launch was unlikely to take place as scheduled to allow the company more time to work on software assurance issues regarding the Dragon spacecraft with NASA. No official launch delay had yet been announced, although some NASA documents has already pushed the launch back to the backup date of May 10.
- Senior scientists and heads of the five International Space Station partners will present ground-breaking research and discuss future projects in Berlin on 2–4 May. Follow the first International Space Station symposium live on the web through its dedicated website. Visit www.isssymposium2012.com to follow the conference in real time.
Posted in Asteroid, Canadian Space Agency, China, Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, India, International Space Station, Meteor, NASA, National Space Society, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, Solar System, Sun | Tagged: Advanced Extremely High Frequency-2, AEHF-2, Ames Research Center, Annular Eclipse, Ariane 5, Asteroid, Atlas V 531, Baikonur, Boeing, Callisto, Canada, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Chang Zheng-2D, China, Chinasat 2A, Dawn, DigitalGlobe, Dragon, Envisat, ESA, Europa, European Space Agency, Fajr, Falcon 9, FCR, Ganymede, GeoEye, Grand Canyon, GSLV D-5, H-2A, Hot Jupiter, Hypersonic, IAMAW, IBEX, Intelsat, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, International Space Station, International Traffic in Arms Regulations, Interstage Adapter, Interstellar Boundary Explorer, Iran, ISS, ITAR, JAXA, JCSAT-13, Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Johnson Space Center, JSC, Juno, Jupiter, Kennedy Space Center, KSC, LightSquared, Long March 2D, Long March 3B, Long March 4B, Long March 4C, MAF, Mahendragiri, Meteorite, Michoud Assembly Facility, Moffett Field, NASA, National Space Society, Nimiq 6, NSS, PDR, Planetary Resources, Preliminary Design Review, Proton-M, Protoplanet, Safir 1B, Shuttle Flight Control Room, Soyuz TMA-04M, Soyuz-FG, SpaceShipTwo, SpaceX, SSEP, Student Spaceflight Experiments Program, Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, Tanegashima Space Center, Tianhui-1B, ULA, United Launch Alliance, Vesta, Vinasat-2, Virgin Galactic, WhiteKnightTwo, Xichang Satellite Launch Center, Yaogan Weixing-14, YG-14 | Leave a Comment »
Posted by drdave on December 1, 2011
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- NASASPaceFlight discusses the Soyuz failure with Meridian, and the redressing Russia’s internal woes.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Russian Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft set for launch to International Space Station
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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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