NSS Phoenix Space News

Posts Tagged ‘Titan’

December 2011

Posted by drdave on December 1, 2011

31 December

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

30 December

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

29 December

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

28 December

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

27 December

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

26 December

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

25 December

24 December

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

23 December

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

22 December

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

21 December

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

20 December

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

19 December

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

18 December

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

17 December

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

16 December

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

15 December

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

14 December

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

13 December

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

12 December

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

11 December

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

10 December

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

9 December

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

8 December

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

7 December

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

6 December

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

5 December

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

4 December

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

3 December

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

2 December

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

1 December

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

Posted in China, Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, International Space Station, JAXA, Mars, Moon, NASA, Pluto, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, Saturn | 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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July 2010

Posted by drdave on August 6, 2010

31 July 2010

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

30 July 2010

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

30 July 2010

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

29 July 2010

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

28 July 2010

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

27 July 2010

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

26 July 2010

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

25 July 2010

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

24 July 2010

23 July 2010

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

22 July 2010

21 July 2010

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

20 July 2010

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

19 July 2010

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

18 July 2010

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

17 July 2010

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

16 July 2010

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

15 July 2010

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

14 July 2010

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

13 July 2010

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

12 July 2010

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

11 July 2010

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

10 July 2010

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

9 July 2010

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

8 July 2010

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

7 July 2010

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

6 July 2010

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

5 July 2010

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

4 July 2010

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

3 July 2010

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

2 July 2010

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

1 July 2010

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

Posted in Earth, JAXA, Mars, Mercury, NASA, Pluto, Russian Space Agency, Space Shuttle, The Planetary Society | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

December 2009

Posted by drdave on August 4, 2010

31 December 2009

  • From the NASA press release: “Kepler Mission scientists will reveal the space telescope’s latest discoveries at a news briefing in Washington on Monday, Jan. 4, 2010. The announcement will be made at 10 a.m. PST (1 p.m. EST) at a news conference during the 215th national meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park hotel.”
  • From ASU: “According to research published online in the Dec. 31 issue of Science Express and in the Jan. 22 issue of Science magazine by Greg Brennecka, a graduate student in the School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) at Arizona State University (ASU), the 238U/235U ratio can no longer be considered a constant in meteoritic material. Any deviation from this assumed value causes miscalculation in the determined Pb-Pb age of a sample, meaning that the age of the Solar System could be miscalculated by as much as several million years. Although this is a small fraction of the 4.57 billion year age of the Solar System, it is significant since some of the most important events that shaped the Solar System occurred within the first 10 million years of its formation.”

30 December 2009

  • The Arizona Daily Star reports that the U of A is one of three finalists for NASA’s Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer, or Osiris-Rex for the New Frontiers program. The UA’s Michael Drake, director of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, would head the project to explore an asteroid and return samples.
  • JPL announced that the WISE observatory has released its cover and begun observations. The first data should be released in about a month, after calibration is complete. WISE will perform the most detailed infrared survey of the entire sky to date. Its millions of images will expose the dark side of the cosmos — objects, such as asteroids, stars and galaxies, that are too cool or dusty to be seen with visible light.

29 December 2009

  • Graduate students at the University of Colorado at Boulder have been awarded an $840,000 grant to develop a five (5) pound satellite to observe energetic particles in space that should give scientists a better understanding of solar flares and their interaction with Earth’s atmosphere
  • On Orbit has images of the plumes of Enciladus.

28 December 2009

27 December 2009

  • JPL reports that the Cassini spacecraft will fly over the north pole of Titan today. The flyby, which brings Cassini to within about 960 kilometers (600 miles) of the Titan surface at 82 degrees north latitude, will take place the evening of Dec. 27 Pacific time.
  • Aviation Week discusses the contract awarded to EADS Astrium by the European Space Agency (ESA) for definition of a higher-power, more versatile variant of the Ariane 5 heavy-lift booster. It will feature a new upper stage, a re-ignitable Vinci upper stage engine and enhanced avionics and flight software. The enhanced Ariane V should make its first flight around 2017, and will have a payload capacity of 12 metric tons. This compare to 10 tons for the existing Ariane 5 ECA. The new Ariane V will be be capable of launching spacecraft into multiple orbits. It is intended to allow the Ariane 5 to remain competitive with new launch vehicles like China’s Long March 5.

26 December 2009

  • In November, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a study that expressed concern over the ability of NASA to utilize more than a fraction of the research potential of the International Space Station.
  • Discovery.com reports on the end of the ISS Butterfly Experiment. The National Space Biomedical Research Institute reports that “The four Painted Lady butterflies on the International Space Station have completed their normal life spans.”

25 December 2009

24 December 2009

  • Late Wednesday, the U.S. Senate passed legislation to extend federal liability protection for commercial space launch providers (First established by Congress as part of the Commercial Space Launch Act Amendments of 1988). Under the measure approved by the Senate, the U.S. government would continue for three more years to indemnify commercial launch operators against third-party claims for launch-related damages that exceed $500 million, up to a total of $1.5 billion.
  • Galaxies existing only 500 million years after the Big Bang have been reported in the journal Nature. Images taken in August by the Hubble telescope show three galaxies with a red shift around 10.

23 December 2009

  • The Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft docked with the nadir port of the station’s Zarya module at 5:48 pm EST (2248 GMT) Tuesday, two days after launching from Baikonur. On board are the Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov, NASA astronaut T.J. Creamer, and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi.
  • The air force web site discusses the successful test firing of ATK’s Castor 30 solid fuel second stage engine at the Arnold Engineering Development Center’s J-6 large-rocket motor-testing facility on 9 December 2009. Although the rocket engine can be used in military applications, it is designed to burn more slowly than most solid rocket engines, giving a gentler ride to commercial satellite payloads.

22 December 2009

  • The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released a letter to Senators Jay Rockefeller and Kay Bailey Hutchison (Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation), and Representatives Bart Gordon and Ralph M. Hall (House Committee on Science and Technology) concerning the oversupply of world wide launch capacity and its detrimental affects on the ability of the United States to develop technology skills and retain the workforce in the area of rocket propulsion.
  • Space News discusses NASA’s announcement concerning design fixes to protect astronauts from potentially dangerous levels of vibrations that could otherwise reach the planned Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle during its climb to orbit atop the Ares 1 rocket.
  • The Mars Rover Spirit, trying to escape its sand trap captivity, has made another discovery while spinning its wheels. It broke through a dark reddish-brown crusty surface that was an inch or so thick, exposing loose, sandy material. As the rover tried to break free, its wheels began to churn the soil, uncovering even more sandy material, bearing “a higher concentration of sulfate that seen anywhere else on Mars,” said Ray Arvidson of the Washington University in St. Louis. “These deposits are evidence of water-charged explosive volcanism. Such areas could have once supported life.”

21 December 2009

  • London-based Avanti Communications Group PLC has awarded a contract to Orbital Sciences Corp. to provide a new communications satellite.
    Orbital, headquartered in Dulles, will deliver the HYLAS 2 satellite in early 2012.
  • NASA’s Kennedy Space Center announced it will host a media event at 10 a.m. EST on Friday, Jan. 8, to showcase the Tranquility node, which will provide room for many of the station’s life support systems. The module was built in Turin, Italy, by Thales Alenia Space for the European Space Agency. Tranquiity features a cupola which will provide a multi-directional view of the exterior of the ISS. It will allow the crew to monitor spacewalks and docking operations, as well as provide a spectacular view of Earth and other celestial objects.
  • Dwayne Day has published an interesting essay on space fetishists (advocates of one size fits all solutions to space problems). A must read.

20 December 2009

  • Oleg Kotov (Russia), Timothy Creamer (NASA) and Soichi Noguchi (Japan) have launched on board the Russian Soyuz TMA-17 on Sunday, taking aim on the International Space Station (ISS) where they will join NASA’s Jeff Williams, commander of the Expedition 22 crew. The crew launched at 4:51pm Eastern from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
  • 30 years ago, on Christmas Eve, Arianespace launched its first Ariane rocket from its new spaceport at Kourou on the edge of the massive Amazon rain forest.

19 December 2009

  • Nature News takes note of a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, California where scientists report that as much as 50% of the plume shooting out of geysers on Saturn’s moon Enceladus could be ice. Previously, scientists had thought that only 10–20% of the plume was made up of ice, with the rest being water vapour.
  • NASASpaceFlight reports that “Capping off a highly successful year for the Space Shuttle Program, the STS-129 flight of Atlantis last month has undergone its final, official post-flight assessment: the all-important In-Flight Anomaly (IFA) review. In all, STS-129 was a clean flight, particularly for the vehicle’s Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) and Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs).”

18 December 2009

  • The seventh launch of the Ariane in 2009 by Arianspace put the HELIOS-2B satellite into a sun-synchronous polar orbit
  • XCOR announced that “The Yecheon Astro Space Center announced today that it has selected XCOR Aerospace as its preferred supplier of suborbital space launch services. Operating under a wet lease model, XCOR intends to supply services to the Center using the Lynx Mark II suborbital vehicle.”

17 December 2009

  • Amy Klamper at Spacenews.com thinks “New Direction for NASA Could Wait Until February”
  • The Ariane 5 launch of the HELIOS 2B satellite from French Guiana has been scrubbed.

16 December 2009

  • The Guardian has a report on planet orbiting a nearby star (smaller than the sun) that is nearly three times as large as Earth and made almost entirely of water, forming a global ocean more than 15,000km deep.
  • ATK successfully test fired the Orion capsule safety abort motor today.

15 December 2009

14 December 2009

  • The Russian space agency Roscosmos launched a venerable Proton rocket carrying three GLONASS-M satellites into orbit on December 14. Each 3,000-pound satellite is designed to last seven years.
  • The Wide-field Infra red Survey Explorer (WISE) lifted off from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base this morning, after the mission was delayed because of a problem with the spacecraft’s steering engine.

13 December 2009

  • On this day in 1965, Wally Schirra and Thomas Stafford in Gemini VIa and Frank Borman and James Lovell Jr. in Gemini VII were flying side by side 100 miles above the Earth. One held a sign “Beat ARMY” and out of the window on the other space craft you could read “Beat NAVY”.
  • The Gemenid Meteor Shower peaks tonight.

12 December 2009

  • The Financial Times features Burt Rutan. The 66 year old aerospace legend plans to beat any government to Mars
  • If all goes to plan, billionaire Richard Branson’s spaceships will take off with tourists on board in 2012 – from Kiruna in the far north of Sweden.

11 December 2009

  • Endeavor (STS-130) has arrived at the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) prior to mating with External Tank (ET-134) and the twin Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs). Launch is scheduled for early February on a 13 day mission to the International Space Station.
  • Europe’s Mars Express captured images of both Martian moons together at one time.

10 December 2009

  • NASA acknowledged that the mars rover Spirit’s right rear wheel may be inoperable. That would leave the rover with only four working wheels, and likely doom her to remain mired in the sand.
  • Paul Hill, the Director of NASA’s Mission Operations Directorate, hinted at an additional Space Shuttle flight, and discussed Commercial alternative launch vehicles.

9 December 2009

  • Arianespace has delayed the launch of the HELIOS 2B satellite for several days in order to replace a part in a launcher subsystem
  • NASA has succeeded in getting its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter out of safe-mode, and expect to resume science experiments next week.

8 December 2009

  • NASA managers have confirmed they are considering adding STS-135 to the Shuttle manifest in late 2010 or early 2011. They would use Atlantis, which would mean one more flight for that venerable shuttle after STS-133.
  • BioEdOnline has the latest on four Painted Lady butterflies that emerged from their chrysalis aboard the International Space Station.

7 December 2009

  • Calculations by Diedrich Möhlmann of the German Aerospace Center in Berlin suggest that liquid water may collect temporarily below the Martian surface.
  • Scaled Composites unveiled SpaceShipTwo, designed to take tourists to the edge of space.

6 December 2009

  • The New Horizon spacecraft with be half-way to Pluto at the end of December.
  • A new configuration of the Delta IV rocket has launched on its maiden flight. The new Medium+ (5,4) variant was used to orbit the Wideband Global SATCOM 3 (WGS-3) satellite for the US Air Force.

5 December 2009

  • There is a 60% chance weather will again delay the launch of the Air Force communication satellite on board a Delta 4 rocket.
  • NASA’s MODIS satellite has this image of dust storms off the coast of West Africa.

4 December 2009

  • Gwenaël Boué and Jacques Laskar recently published a paper entitles “A collisionless scenario for Uranus tilting“. They propose a model wherein Uranus once possessed a moon with a mass of 1% of the planet and orbiting at a certain distance. This configuration could unbalance the spin of Uranus and the wobble would tilt the planet. The moon was subsequently ejected during an encounter with another planet.
  • Why we shouldn’t release all we know about the cosmos.
  • Troubles launching an Air Force satellite from Cape Canaveral has delayed the Vandenberg launch of the Delta 2 rocket that will carry NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. WISE is designed to scan the whole sky in the infrared to find previously undetected celestial objects.

3 December 2009

  • The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft has been mated to its fairing in preparation for its scheduled 9 December launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. WISE will circle Earth over the Earth’s poles. During its nine months of operations, it will look for the coolest stars, dark asteroids and the most luminous galaxies.
  • The latest information from JPL on the efforts to free the Spirit rover. Dark days indeed.
  • “Safe Mode”. Another word for Ouch!!. Kepler experienced a safe mode event on Nov. 18, 2009. Engineers from Ames are working on the problem. No mission data was lost. Both Mars Orbiters are also in “Safe Mode”. See 2 December, below.

2 December 2009

  • The New Scientist reports that both of the Mars orbiters are out of commission, spelling problems for the two rovers. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spontaneously rebooted in August for the fourth time this year, and has been on stand-by ever since. On Friday, 28 November, Mars Odyssey suffered a memory glitch and has been in “safe mode” pending resolution.
  • Bad weather has delayed the launch of an Air Force satellite aboard an Atlas rocket until Thursday, 3 December between 7:22 PM to 8:43 PM EST.
  • The Geminid Meteor shower will peak the night of 13/14 December, with as many as 50-80 meteors per hour.

1 December 2009

  • The Soyuz TMA-15 spacecraft is scheduled to undock from the International Space Station Monday at 10:56 PM EST. Soyuz Commander Roman Romanenko, European Space Agency Flight Engineer Frank De Winne and Canadian Space Agency Flight Engineer Bob Thirsk are slated for a landing in Kazakhstan at 2:15 AM EST Tuesday (1:15 p.m. Kazakhstan time) to conclude their 188 days in space, 186 days on the station.
  • The Tranquility module is set for delivery in 2010 by the Space Shuttle Endeavour’s STS-130 mission to the International Space Station. Thales Alenia Space in Turin Italy built Tranquility. The pressurized node will provide additional room for crew members and many of the space station’s life support and environmental control systems. These systems include air revitalization, oxygen generation and water recycling. A waste and hygiene compartment and a treadmill also will be relocated from other areas of the station.

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