NSS Phoenix Space News

Posts Tagged ‘United Launch Alliance’

December 2012

Posted by drdave on December 1, 2012

Happy New Year

31 December

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

30 December

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

29 December

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

28 December

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

27 December

26 December

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

25 December

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

24 December

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

23 December

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

22 December

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

21 December

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

20 December

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

19 December

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

18 December

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

17 December

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

16 December

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

15 December

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

14 December

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

13 December

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

12 December

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

11 December

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

10 December

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

9 December

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

8 December

7 December

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

6 December

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

5 December

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

4 December

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

3 December

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

2 December

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

1 December

  • An anomaly occurred during the final chronology for Flight VS04 – Pléiades 1B, thus halting the count-down. A new launch attempt is slated on the night of Saturday 1st to Sunday 2nd of December.
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October 2012

Posted by drdave on October 7, 2012

31 October

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

30 October

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

29 October

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

28 October

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

27 October

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

26 October

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

25 October

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

24 October

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

23 October

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

22 October

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

21 October

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

20 October

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

19 October

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

18 October

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

17 October

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

16 October

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

15 October

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

14 October

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

13 October

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

12 October

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

11 October

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

10 October

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

9 October

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

8 October

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

7 October

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

6 October

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

5 October

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

4 October

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

3 October

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

2 October

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

1 October

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

Posted in Asteroid, Canadian Space Agency, China, Commercial Space, European Space Agency, India, International Space Station, JAXA, Mars, Mercury, Meteor, NASA, Pluto, Russian Space Agency, Saturn, Soyuz, Space Shuttle | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

September 2012

Posted by drdave on September 12, 2012

21 September

  • SpaceX will begin its first official resupply flight to International Space Station on October 7, NASA announced Thursday.
  • The Space Shuttle Endeavour made two close passes over Runway 8-26 at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

20 September

  • M51 — also known as the Whirlpool galaxy—is a classic spiral galaxy that scientists have studied for centuries. But this mesmerizing new image of the galaxy has nabbed Australian photographer Martin Pugh the top prize in the fourth annual Astronomy Photographer of the Year awards, announced this week.
  • In a surprise finding, astronomers using instruments on NASA’s Dawn spacecraft have discovered the protoplanet Vesta is rich in hydrogen, which most likely was delivered by water-bearing meteorites striking the body.

19 September

  • The space shuttle Endeavor began what will be its final trip, departing the Kennedy Space Center Wednesday atop a 747 bound for California. Endeavour and its 747 carrier left KSC shortly after 7 am EDT (1100 GMT) Wednesday. After making passes over the Space Coast, it flew east, flying over the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans before arriving in the Houston area.
  • NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has driven up to a football-size rock that will be the first for the rover’s arm to examine. Curiosity is about 8 feet (2.5 meters) from the rock. It lies about halfway from Curiosity’s landing site, Bradbury Landing, to a location called Glenelg. In coming days, the team plans to touch the rock with a spectrometer to determine its elemental composition and use an arm-mounted camera to take close-up photographs. Both the arm-mounted Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer and the mast-mounted, laser-zapping Chemistry and Camera Instrument will be used for identifying elements in the rock. This will allow cross-checking of the two instruments.

18 September

  • With the combined power of NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes as well as a cosmic magnification effect, a team of astronomers led by Wei Zheng of The Johns Hopkins University has spotted what could be the most distant galaxy ever seen. Light of the young galaxy captured by the orbiting observatories shone forth when the 13.7-billion-year-old universe was just 500 million years old.

17 September

  • Doug Messier discusses the challenges facing NASA’s Budget: “NASA’s budget is facing deep cuts in January from two sources: sequestration and Mitt Romney. If President Obama and Congress cannot work out a deal, sequestration will cut NASA’s budget by 8 percent or $1.458 billion in early January, according to a new report issued by the White House. Meanwhile, Romney has promised if elected to send a bill to Congress on his first day in office, Jan. 20, that would slash non-security discretionary spending across the board. If the measure approved, it would result in a reduction of nearly $900 million from the space agency’s budget.”
  • The Russian Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft, also known by its US designation of 30S, undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) early Monday night ahead of a successful return to Earth with a landing in the Kazakh Steppe a few hours later. The landing brought to an end the four-month voyage of Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin, and NASA astronaut Joe Acaba.
  • The launch of the Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft with the next expedition to the International Space Station (ISS) has been delayed for about a week, head of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) Vladimir Popovkin said at a press conference on Monday after the successful landing of the Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft. “Some malfunctions have appeared in one of the devices of the decent module, we will replace it and carry out second tests.”

16 September

  • The Russo-American ISS mission crew members are set to travel back to Earth aboard the Soyuz TMA-04M spaceship. Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin, and NASA astronaut Joseph Acaba have already transferred to the Soyuz TMA-04M and battened down the hatches.
  • A Soyuz-2 modernized carrier rocket is to blast off from the Baikonur space launch center on Monday to deploy a European MetOp-B weather satellite into orbit.

15 September

  • For the last time in space shuttle history, a NASA orbiter has been mounted to the top of a jumbo jet to be flown to its next destination. For shuttle Endeavour, now sitting piggyback atop the space agency’s modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), its next and final mission is to become a museum exhibit. The spacecraft, flying aboard the aircraft, will leave at sunrise on Monday (Sept. 17) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for Los Angeles, where it is destined for display at the California Science Center (CSC).

14 September

  • Neil Armstrong was buried at sea.
  • The H-II Transfer Vehicle “KOUNOTORI3” (HTV3) re-entered the atmosphere after the third de-orbit maneuver at 2:00 p.m. on September 14, 2012 (Japanese Standard Time, JST). The spacecraft has successfully accomplished the main objective of shipping cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), and completed its 56-day mission.

13 September

  • NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity is wrapping up tests of its robotic arm and will soon begin driving to perform its first detailed examination of a Martian rock. Curiosity has been parked since September 5 as engineers check out the arm and the instruments mounted on it. With those tests nearly complete, Curiosity will begin driving again in the direction of a site called Glenelg several hundred meters away, where three different landforms meet.
  • Six weeks later than planned, following Range instrumentation issues at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the National Reconnaissance Office’s NROL-36 classified payload was successfully launched by an Atlas V rocket. The satellite is believed to be a pair of $1.3 billion NRO Ocean Surveillance Satellites (NOSS), dedicated to monitoring worldwide civilian and military shipping.
  • NASA on Wednesday released a request for proposals for the first of two contract phases to certify commercially developed space systems in support of crewed missions to the International Space Station. Through these certification products contracts, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) will ensure commercial missions are held to the agency’s safety requirements and standards for human space transportation system missions to the space station.

12 September

  • Early Monday morning U.S. amateur astronomers spotted a bright light squiggling across the upper cloud deck of Jupiter. Both assumed they’d witnessed a large meteor or comet impact, and so far, professional astronomers seem to agree. NASA’s Amy Simon Miller, though, cautioned that, “at this point, we can only confirm based on the fact that there were two independent reports.” Official observations will have to wait. Such a strike would be the fourth impact seen on Jupiter in just the last three years. And the fact that the explosion was visible via backyard telescopes more than 454 million miles (730 million kilometers) away—indicates it was probably a significant event.
  • An experimental unmanned rocket has crashed in the Mojave Desert as it descended from a test flight to an altitude of 3,281 feet. Masten Space Systems says its reusable Xaero rocket was lost Tuesday during final approach to landing at Mojave Air and Space Port.
  • A New View of The Pencil Nebula

11 September

  • An Indian rocket placed a commercial remote sensing satellite into orbit on Sunday. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) lifted off from India’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre at 12:23 am EDT (0423 GMT, 9:53 am local time) Sunday and placed the SPOT 6 satellite into orbit.

10 September

  • NASA cited SpaceX’s flight experience with the Dragon spacecraft and Boeing’s methodical approach to designing a crew capsule in its decision to award the companies $900 million to develop a human-rated commercial spaceship, according to a document released last week.

9 September

  • A new study presents an alternative explanation for the prevalence of Mars’ ancient clay minerals, which on Earth most often result from water chemically reacting with rock over long periods of time. The process is believed to be a starting point for life.
  • For 35 years, the twin Voyager missions – traveling in opposite directions – have pushed toward deep space staying in touch with mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The spacecraft are plutonium-powered messages in a bottle tossed into space by a civilization seeking contact with extraterrestrials all the while taking advantage of a rare opportunity to learn about its own solar system.

8 September

  • NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, having already driven more than 100 meters from its landing site, is stopping for several days to check out its robotic arm, project officials said this week. The rover extended its 2.1-meter arm on Wednesday for the first time since landing as engineers test out the arm and its instruments.
  • This Sunday, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is set to make another mark in its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) launcher business when it flies French earth observation satellite SPOT 6.

7 September

  • Rocket motor company ATK has made the final required burn test to qualify a new nozzle for the GEM-60 solid rocket motor, which powers the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Medium+ configuration.
  • After orbiting the giant asteroid Vesta for slightly more than 13 months, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft left the space rock this week, headed for the dwarf planet Ceres.
  • Space shuttle Endeavour, mounted atop NASA’s modified 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), will make the final ferry flight of the Space Shuttle Program era when it departs Monday, Sept. 17, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida headed to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

6 September

  • Wired Magazine discusses the new images of Curiosity’s wheel tracks on Mars.
  • Two International Space Station crew members successfully completed a spacewalk to install a new power switching unit. American Sunita Williams and Japan’s Akihiko Hoshide had to contend with a sticky bolt that prevented them from completing the installation in a previous spacewalk last week.

5 September

  • Scaled Composites is in final preparations for powered flight tests of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo (SS2), following completion of the glide-flight envelope at Mojave, California. The milestone means the suborbital spacecraft remains on track for the start of rocket-powered flights in the last quarter of this year, with passenger flights provisionally planned to begin by the end of 2013.

4 September

  • The Jupiter-bound Juno spacecraft was supposed to have completed the second of two critical engine firings Tuesday to aim for a gravity sling shot past Earth next year, but managers put off the burn to analyze pressure readings aboard the probe.
  • A design by Alliant Techsystems (ATK) was dropped from NASA’s shortlist of potential space station crew taxis because the company did not present a technically sound plan for combining existing rocket and spacecraft designs into a single transportation system, according to a NASA source selection document released 4 September.

3 September

  • Russian Ruler-for-Life Vladimir Putin has dismissed Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center General Director Vladimir Nesterov in the wake of last month’s failed launch of a Proton rocket, which stranded two communications satellites in useless orbits.

2 September

  • The Martian rover is already sending back dramatic images that are changing our view of the Red Planet. Now it is inching forward on its most crucial and perilous mission.

1 September

  • NASA’s twin, lunar-orbiting Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft began data collection for the start of the mission’s extended operations. At 9:28 a.m. PDT (12:28 p.m. EDT) yesterday, while the two spacecraft were 19 miles (30 kilometers) above the moon’s Ocean of Storms, the Lunar Gravity Ranging System — the mission’s sole science instrument aboard both GRAIL twins — was energized.

Posted in Asteroid, China, Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, India, International Space Station, JAXA, Jupiter, Mars, Moon, NASA, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, Solar System, Space Shuttle | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

May 2012

Posted by drdave on May 1, 2012

31 May

  • 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).

30 May

  • 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.

29 May

  • 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.

28 May

  • 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.

27 May

  • 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.

26 May

  • 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.

25 May

  • 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.

24 May

  • SpaceX and Dragon completed today’s fly-under successfully.

23 May

  • 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.

22 May

  • 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.

21 May

20 May

19 May

  • 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”.

18 May

  • 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.

17 May

  • 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.

16 May

  • 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).

15 May

  • 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.

14 May

  • 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.

13 May

  • 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.”

12 May

  • 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.

11 May

  • 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.

10 May

  • 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.

9 May

  • 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.

8 May

  • 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.

7 May

  • 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.

6 May

  • 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.

5 May

  • 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.”

4 May

  • 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.

3 May

  • 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.

2 May

  • 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.

1 May

  • 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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

April 2012

Posted by drdave on April 1, 2012

30 April

  • The hot fire test of the Falcon 9 was successful, although an hour and 15 minutes later than scheduled due to a hold to correct an out of limit parameter (Overly restrictive redline on second stage engine position).
  • SpaceX plans to carry out a “hot fire” test of its Falcon 9 rocket on the launch pad today, one of the final tests leading up to next Monday’s scheduled launch of a Dragon spacecraft on a test flight to the International Space Station. SpaceX has scheduled the test, where the Falcon 9′s nine first-stage engines are briefly ignited, for 3:00 PM Phoenix time (1900 UTC) today. The test will be webcast on the SpaceX web site starting at 11:30 AM Phoenix time (1830 UTC).
  • A Long March 3B rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 1:50 PM Phoenix time Sunday (2050 GMT Sunday, 4:50 am Beijing time Monday) and placed two Beidou-2 satellites into medium Earth orbits. The satellites will be used as part of China’s Beidou satellite navigation system

29 April

  • A European weather satellite that was scheduled for launch in May will be delayed until at least July because of a dispute between Kazakhstan and Russia regarding the drop zones for the rocket’s stages. ESA had hoped to launch its MetOp-B polar-orbiting weather satellite on May 23 from Baikonur on a Soyuz-2.1a rocket. However, Kazakhstan protested those launch plans, which require the booster stages of the Soyuz to fall on Kazakh territory north of Baikonur, a different area than the customary drop zone for Soyuz launches to lower-inclination orbits.

28 April

  • Discovery Magazine reports that “Of all the hurdles facing Planetary Resources, a startup firm that this week unveiled its plan to survey and mine asteroids for water, precious metals and other resources, legal jurisdiction is not at the top of the list. ‘We as a U.S. company certainly have the right to go an asteroid and make use of its resources,’ Planetary Resources co-founder Eric Anderson told Discovery News.”…But?…
  • On Monday, April 30, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) will take the final step on the road to orbit before launching one of the company’s Falcon 9 rockets May 7. The NewSpace firm will conduct what is known as a static test fire of the rocket’s nine Merlin engines. During this test, the engines will be ignited in a final test before the upcoming launch. The Falcon 9 will essentially go through everything that the rocket will need to do on launch day – except conduct liftoff. For those wanting to view the static test fire, they need only visit http://www.spacex.com on April 30. SpaceX will kick things off at 2:30 PM EDT (11:30 AM Phoenix time). The test fire itself is slated to take place at 3 p.m. EDT (12 p.m. EDT). SpaceX will also webcast the launch live at http://www.spacex.com.

27 April

  • A Soyuz spacecraft carrying three ISS crewmembers landed safely on the steppes of Kazakhstan on Friday. The Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft touched down near Arkalyk, Kazakhstan, at 7:45 am EDT (1145 GMT), three and a half hours after undocking from the space station.
  • NASA flew the space shuttle Enterprise from Washington, DC, to New York on Friday, where it will be displayed at a museum there starting later this year. The 747 carrying Enterprise took off from Dulles International Airport outside Washington at 9:39 am EDT (1339 GMT) and landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York at 11:22 am EDT (1522 GMT). Once arriving in the New York area, the 747 and Enterprise made an aerial tour of the city, allowing people to view the orbiter as it flew up along the Hudson River and over various city landmarks.

26 April

  • The Hubble Space Telescope was launched on 24 April 1990, 22 years ago. See the latest composite image: The Tarantula star forming region.
  • Weighing 1,858 kilograms, Risat-1 was launched by an enhanced variant of India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) during the early morning hours from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota Island
  • NASA managers, in consultation with Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum officials, have selected Friday, April 27, to ferry space shuttle Enterprise from Washington Dulles International Airport to John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport in New York.

25 April

  • The Senate and House budgets for NASA may kill Commercial Crew Development. At the east, cripple the effort to escape having Russia ferry our astronauts.
  • Asteroid Mining for Fun and Profit. A recently formed company called Planetary Resources has announced ambitious plans to extract billions of dollars’ worth of water and precious metals from near-Earth asteroids.
  • U.S forces on the ground, air and sea routinely enter into coalitions with allies. It is time for similar cooperation to exist in space.

24 April

  • Just posted on Facebook by SpaceX: “May 7th, 9:38 AM ET launch target for the upcoming COTS 2 mission confirmed by NASA and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station”.
  • SpaceX announced late Monday that it will push back the launch of its Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station by about a week to allow time for additional tests. SpaceX had been planning to launch the Dragon spacecraft on April 30. No new launch date has been announced, but will likely be after the launch of an Atlas 5 carrying a military satellite now planned for May 3.
  • A Proton rocket successfully launched a communications satellite for a Middle Eastern company on Tuesday. The Proton M lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 3:18 PM Phoenix time Monday (2218 UTC) carrying the Yahsat 1B (Y1B) satellite.

23 April

  • Fireball over Nevada and California: “I have been looking at the sky for 30 years, and I have never witnessed something so amazing and puzzling. It is an event that makes you glad to be alive,” said Matthew Neal of San Francisco. “The main body was bright green and the head was bright red and white.” Greg Giroux of June Lake, Calif., located along the eastern Sierra just west of Yosemite National Park, also was impressed. “This was by far the brightest fireball/shooting star I’ve ever seen, especially since it was in full sunlight,” he said. “After the flash, it broke up into pieces, then I lost sight of it as it went behind a mountain.”
  • The ISS crewmen opened the hatches between the International Space Station (ISS) and the freighter Progress M-15M, which docked successfully to the ISS in the automatic mode on Sunday.
  • Chris Kraft (former director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center and former director of JSC Mission Control) and Tom Moser (former director of JSC Engineering, and former director of NASA’s Space Station Program), take aim at the Space Launch System in an op-ed piece in the Houston Chronicle. “The current national human exploration strategy, which is based on development of the SLS, is economically unaffordable. The SLS-based strategy is unaffordable, by definition, since the costs of developing, let alone operating, the SLS within a fixed or declining budget has crowded out funding for critical elements needed for any real deep space human exploration program.”
  • India is preparing to launch the Radar Imaging Satellite (RISAT-1) from the spaceport at Sriharikota at 5.45 a.m. local time on Thursday (2345 UTC and 4:45 PM Phoenix time Wednesday). The four stages of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-XL) have been stacked up at the first launch-pad on the island of Sriharikota and the satellite has been mated to the vehicle.

22 April

  • Progress M-15M, carrying 2.8 tons of food, water, propellant, and other supplies, is successfully docked with the International Space Station at 7:39 AM Phoenix time (1439 UTC) Sunday.
  • Optical, radar and laser observations of the Envisat satellite show that it is still in a stable orbit. Efforts to regain contact with the satellite have been under way since 8 April, when it unexpectedly stopped sending data to Earth.

21 April

  • Boeing has signed an agreement with NASA’s Mission Operations Directorate (MOD) at Johnson Space Center to collaborate on mission planning, training and flight operations for the company’s Commercial Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft.

20 April

  • Russia has successfully launched the Progress M-15M resupply spacecraft on course to the International Space Station. Docking is scheduled for Sunday at 8:40 AM Phoenix time (1500 UTC).
  • A spacecraft that would study three of Jupiter’s largest moons, including going into orbit around one of then, is the top choice of a committee selecting Europe’s next major space science mission. A European Space Agency (ESA) committee met this month and select the Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer, or Juice, as its preferred option for ESA’s Cosmic Vision competition for large-scale science missions. Juice would launch in 2022 on an Ariane 5 and arrive at Jupiter in 2030.
  • A new study sponsored by the Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS) has concluded that it would be possible to return an asteroid weighing approximately 500 metric tons to high lunar orbit where it would be mined for resources by 2025. The Asteroid Retrieval Feasibility Study, published on April 2, was prepared for KISS, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

19 April

  • On April 24, Planetary Resources officials will announce details of their space exploration plans in a press conference at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington. Investors include Charles Simonyi and James Cameron.
  • Appropriations committees in the US House of Representative and Senate have drafted spending bills that would fund NASA at close to the administration’s request for 2013. A Senate appropriations subcommittee approved a spending bill Tuesday that would give NASA $19.4 billion in fiscal year 2013, but over $1.6 billion of that represents funding for weather satellite programs transferred from NOAA. Without the NOAA funding, the NASA budget is a little over $17.7 billion, and includes an additional $100 million for Mars science programs cut in the administration’s proposal.

18 April

  • The space shuttle Discovery made its final trip on Tuesday, flown on its 747 carrier aircraft from the Kennedy Space Center to Washington to be put on display at the National Air and Space Museum. The 747 carrying Discovery took off from the Shuttle Landing Facility at KSC at around 7 am EDT (1100 GMT) and landed at Dulles International Airport in the Virginia suburbs of Washington four hours later.
  • Aviation Week reports that “The Pentagon has declared that the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) project has exceeded its original projected per-unit cost by 58.4%, triggering a rigorous review under the Nunn-McCurdy program oversight law.”

17 April

  • For the first time in history, NASA’s extensive Flight Readiness Review (FRR) process has concluded that a privately-owned spacecraft is tentatively cleared to visit the International Space Station (ISS). With a launch date still tracking April 30, the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft will lift off toward a space station that is now fully prepared to extend a robotic handshake to the commercial space industry, pending the closure of a few open items.
  • The Lyrid Meteor Shower peaks this week on 21-22 April.

16 April

15 April

  • Windy conditions at Cape Canaveral have delayed the lifting and mating of the shuttle Discovery to the 747. The shuttle will be delivered Tuesday, 17 April, to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D. C. It will be on permanent display in the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

14 April

  • The spacecraft Cassini will make a second pass today through the jets spraying from the south pole of Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons. Less than three weeks ago, Cassini made a similar pass through the jets (27 March). Combined with a previous pass on 1 October, these three passes should allow the ion and neutral mass spectrometer to determine the three dimensional structure of the jets and how they change over time.
  • NASA will partner with the US Air Force (USAF) to study next-generation upper stage propulsion, formalizing the agencies joint interests in a new upper stage engine to replace the venerable Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RL-10. NASA hopes to find a less expensive RL-10-class engine for a third stage of the Space Launch System (SLS)

13 April

  • A huge embarrassment for Kim Jong Un and North Korea.
  • The European Space Agency (ESA) confirmed Thursday that it has lost contact with its Envisat earth observing satellite. ESA announced in a statement that contact with Envisat was unexpectedly lost on April 8, and has yet to be restored.

12 April

  • Yuri’s Night. Find a celebration near you and enjoy.

11 April

  • New Mexico-based Virgin Galactic, which now expects to fly its first paying customers in 2013, was told by the U.S. government that the company may fly non-U.S. citizens to the edge of space without first obtaining an export license from the State Department.

10 April

  • A regulatory filing released Monday is the latest evidence that SpaceX is pursuing plans for a new spaceport on the Gulf Coast of Texas. The notice by the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation states that the office is starting work on an environmental impact statement for a proposed spaceport in Cameron County, Texas, north of Brownsville, on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
  • The United Launch Alliance (ULA), best known in recent years for their high end payload launch services, are continuing their transition back into Human Space Flight operations. With an early history in human launches stretching back to safely sending astronaut John Glenn into space, ULA’s Atlas V is the preferred launch vehicle for several Commercial Crew suitors.

9 April

  • Russia’s new Angara rocket family, which began development by Khrunichev after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, will finally fly next year after two decades of effort. Providing, of course, that work is completed in time on the rocket’s launch facility and other ground infrastructure at Plesetsk.
  • Given the delays launching the year’s first Atlas 5 rocket due to high-altitude winds and scheduling conflicts with a Navy submarine missile test off Cape Canaveral, the next Atlas mission is moving out a week or so as a result. The targeted April 27 Launch date will slide into early May.

8 April

  • The rocket for the planned satellite launch later this month by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has been installed on the launch pad, Xinhua correspondents saw at the launch site Sunday. We shall see.
  • Venus, a planet without its own magnetic field, may still be able to generate auroral activity, scientists reported this week. Data collected by Europe’s Venus Express spacecraft shows evidence of reconnection of magnetic fields in Venus’s magnetotail, a region on the opposite side of the planet from the Sun created by the solar wind’s interaction with the planet’s upper atmosphere. This reconnection, which converts magnetic energy to kinetic energy, creates auroral activity for planets with their own magnetic fields, like the Earth; scientists hypothesize this reconnection activity in Venus’s magnetotail could do the same. Similar phenomena could also take place on comets, scientists said, causing their tails to break off.

7 April

  • Engineers and astronomers are celebrating the much anticipated first light of the MOSFIRE instrument, now installed on the Keck I telescope at W. M. Keck Observatory. MOSFIRE (Multi-Object Spectrometer For Infra-Red Exploration) will vastly increase the data gathering power of what is already the world’s most productive ground-based observatory.

6 April

  • United Launch Alliance stated that a crew-carrying version of United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket, which is slated to loft the space taxis built by Boeing, Sierra Nevada and Blue Origin, requires about three more years of work. That means the rocket’s development is on track to help the companies start flying astronauts to the International Space Station by NASA’s desired 2017 start date.
  • Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-3 (ATV-3) “Edoardo Amaldi” raised the International Space Station’s orbit by nearly four kilometers on Thursday evening, aiding the phasing requirements for its Russian cousins. ATV-3 continues to have its power loss issue evaluated, while one of its Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) channels apparently failed on Thursday.

5 April

  • A NASA panel has concluded the agency should extend the mission of Kepler, a space telescope searching for extrasolar planets, as well as a number of other current astronomy missions. NASA’s Senior Review examined the effectiveness of current astronomy missions seeking funding to extend their operations. For Kepler, the panel concluded spacecraft operations should continue through fiscal year 2016. Kepler was launched in March 2009 for a prime mission of 3.5 years. The panel also supported extending the mission of several other astronomy missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope.

4 April

  • A Delta 4 rocket placed a classified military satellite into orbit on Tuesday. The Delta 4 Medium-Plus (5,2) lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 7:12 pm EDT (2312 GMT) Tuesday on a mission designated NROL-25 for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). United Launch Alliance (ULA) declared the launch a success, but neither it nor NRO provided additional details about the mission.
  • NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) X-ray astrophysics observatory, grounded in March by concerns with its Pegasus XL rocket, will have an opportunity to launch in June. Engineering reviews of the air-launched Orbital Sciences Corp. Pegasus rocket continue, according to NASA, with officials focusing on software to be used by a new computer flying on the Pegasus for the first time.

3 April

  • NASASpaceFlight has a two part series (part 1 and part 2) on preliminary design work for the Deep Space Habitat (DSH) destined to house astronauts on missions to the Moon, asteroids, the moons of Mars and Mars itself.

2 April

  • A Chinese Long March rocket successfully launched a French-built communications satellite on Saturday. The Long March 3B rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 6:27 am EDT (1027 GMT, 6:27 pm Beijing time) and released the Apstar-7 satellite into a geosynchrous transfer orbit 26 minutes later. Apstar-7 is a Spacebus 4000C2 model satellite built by French company Thales Alenia Space for Hong Kong-based satellite operator APT Satellite Holdings.
  • The launch of a Delta 4 rocket carrying a top-secret spy satellite has been delayed again due to the ongoing evaluation of the upper stage engine, moving the next liftoff attempt to Tuesday afternoon at 4:12 PM Phoenix time (2312 UTC) at the earliest.

1 April

  • Chances are not good for tomorrow’s launch of a Delta IV carrying the NROL-25 satellite. The weather outlook continues to remain the same for Monday, with a 70 percent chance the winds will be too strong for launch or a 30 percent chance of the Delta 4 blasting off as scheduled at 4:04 PM Phoenix time (2304 UTC). United Launch Alliance has completed its assessment of the RL10B-2 upper stage engine that prompted delay of this National Reconnaissance Office mission by a few days, clearing the way for the countdown to resume on Monday.
  • Europe’s ATV-3 unmanned resupply spacecraft, which docked with the ISS earlier this week, readjusted the space station’s orbit on Sunday. Two main engines of ATV-3 were switched on at 1:54 Moscow time on Sunday [21:54 GMT on Saturday] to raise the International Space Station (ISS) orbit by 1.7 km, to 389.8 km.

Posted in Asteroid, China, Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, International Space Station, Jupiter, Meteor, NASA, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, Saturn, Solar System, Soyuz, Space Shuttle | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

March 2012

Posted by drdave on March 4, 2012

31 March

  • China opened their 2012 commercial launch manifest with the lofting of the Apstar-7 into orbit. The launch took place at 10:27 UTC from the LC2 launch platform at the from the Xichang satellite Launch Center, using a Long March 3B/ (Chang Zheng-3B/E) launch vehicle.
  • Technicians will load more than 1,000 pounds of food and clothing into SpaceX’s Dragon capsule next month for delivery to the International Space Station on the commercial craft’s first flight to the outpost. The cargo is comprised of mostly low-value items such as food, water, and clothing to supplement supplies delivered this week aboard Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle.

30 March

  • After 45 years in service Russia’s Proton-K rocket has made its 311th and final launch Friday morning, on a mission to deploy an OKO early warning satellite for the Russian Aerospace Defense Forces with the aid of a Blok DM-2 upper stage. Launch was on schedule at 05:49 UTC (11:49 local time), from Area 81/24 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
  • The launch of a classified satellite on a Delta 4 has been postponed to at least Monday to complete analysis of an upper-stage engine issue. The Delta 4 Medium-Plus (5,2) was originally scheduled to launch Thursday from Vandenberg Air Force Base on mission NROL-25.
  • Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), the builder of the Falcon family of rockets and Dragon spacecraft, has announced the creation of a safety advisory panel for commercial, crewed space flight. SpaceX is one of the private companies that are working to return U.S. astronauts to orbit. SpaceX is developing its Dragon spacecraft to be used to ferry crews to the International Space Station (ISS).

29 March

28 March

  • A Russian satellite operator has ordered two communications satellites from Astrium, including one that will replace a satellite deorbited over the weekend. Astrium will build the Express-AM4R and Express-AM7 satellites for Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC), with the satellites planned for launch in 2014.

27 March

  • After a busy 2011, the nation’s spy satellite agency will begin another spurt of launches that kicks off Thursday with a Delta 4 rocket carrying top-secret cargo from Vandenberg Air Force Base. Liftoff is planned for 3:30 p.m. from Space Launch Complex-6 on South Base.

26 March

  • On Sunday, controllers deorbited a Russian communications satellite that was launched into the wrong orbit last year despite a last-minute bid to salvage the spacecraft. Polar Broadband Systems, sought to keep the satellite in orbit, moving it into an elliptical, inclined orbit to provide broadband communications services for Antarctica. However, Russian officials elected to proceed with the spacecraft’s deorbiting, and the spacecraft reentered over the North Pacific on Sunday.
  • A chemical analysis of lunar rocks may force scientists to revise the leading theory for the Moon’s formation: that the satellite was born when a Mars-sized body smacked into the infant Earth some 4.5 billion years ago.

25 March

  • Universe Today has a long report about experiments with Canada’s Dextre robot (highlight) and NASA’s Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) aboard the ISS in March 2012. Four more upcoming RRM experiments tentatively set for this year will demonstrate the ability of a remote-controlled robot to remove barriers and refuel empty satellite gas tanks in space thereby saving expensive hardware from prematurely joining the orbital junkyard.
  • International Launch Services (ILS) have launched their second Proton-M rocket of the year on Sunday. Lift off was on schedule at 12:10 GMT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, with the Proton’s Briz-M Upper Stage tasked with deploying the Intelsat 22 telecommunications satellite into a 65,000 km super-synchronous transfer orbit for the first time under ILS.

24 March

  • NASASpaceFlight reviews a possible mission to Near Earth Object 1999AO10, requiring a launch date of January 2, 2026. The NEO 1999AO10 deep space mission would last 155 days, around half of the mission length for the other candidate mentioned – 304 days – for NEO 2001 GP2.
  • The crew of the International Space Station sheltered in their Soyuz capsules for a short time early Saturday as a precaution when a piece of orbital debris from a satellite collision passed close to the station. Station controllers awakened the six ISS crewmembers at about 11:30 pm EDT Friday (0330 UTC Saturday) after data indicated a piece of debris would pass close to the ISS.

23 March

  • The Edoardo Amaldi, the third ATV from the European Space Agency, successfully lifted off from Kourou , and is on its way to the ISS.
  • Aviation Week talks about European Space Agency Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain and his meeting with his Chinese counterpart March 22-23 to discuss future cooperation in manned spaceflight, including the potential for a Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station (ISS).

22 March

  • ESA’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle, Edoardo Amaldi, is ready for launch to the International Space Station. Liftoff is 0434 UTC.
  • MESSENGER completed its one-year primary mission on March 17. Since moving into orbit about Mercury a little over one year ago, the spacecraft has captured nearly 100,000 images and returned data that have revealed new information about the planet, including its topography, the structure of its core, and areas of permanent shadow at the poles that host the mysterious polar deposits.

21 March

  • Space tourism company Virgin Galactic announced this week it has signed up a famous actor as its 500th customer for its suborbital spaceflights. Virgin said Monday that Ashton Kutcher is the customer number 500 for its upcoming SpaceShipTwo flights to space.
  • The Ariane 5 launch of Europe’s no. 3 Automated Transfer Vehicle was given the green light today for a March 23 liftoff from the Spaceport in French Guiana on a servicing mission to the International Space Station.
  • Bad weather has prompted NASA to reschedule the launch of five rockets from its Wallops Facility in Virginia. The rockets are part of a study of the upper-level jet stream. The launch had been set for Wednesday morning but has now been pushed back to early Thursday.

20 March

  • Following the safe arrival of the MetOp-B weather satellite in Kazakhstan, the sophisticated craft is now being carefully assembled and tested before launch on 23 May. MetOp-B will provide essential data for weather forecasting and climate monitoring.
  • The latest documentation relating to the efforts to create an Exploration Roadmap for NASA’s future has provided the strongest indication to date that the Agency wants to return US astronauts to the surface of the Moon. Listed as a Lunar Surface Sortie (LSS) mission, the Exploration Systems Development Division (ESD) revealed their plans via their latest Concept Of Operations (Con Ops) document.

19 March

  • With Space Shuttle orbiter Discovery buttoned up in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) ahead of her flight to her retirement home, and with Enterprise ready to make way for Discovery and head to her new display site, the Shuttle team at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is focused on finishing Transition and Retirement (T&R) work for Atlantis and Endeavour.

18 March

  • European Space Agency (ESA) officials decided this week to continue their plans for a pair of ambitious Mars missions later this decade even after the US decided it would no longer cooperate on the missions. ESA members decided Thursday to pursue the ExoMars program, which calls for the 2016 launch of an orbiter and the 2018 launch of a lander and rover.
  • As astronomy satellite that had been slated for launch this month will remain on the ground for up to two more months to correct a software problem, the space agency announced Friday. The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) spacecraft was slated to launch later this month on a air-launched Pegasus XL rocket from the Reagan Test Site (RTS) at Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.

17 March

  • Aviation Week notes that “An Astrium-built Russian satellite stranded in a useless orbit by a Proton launch mishap last summer may be salvaged to provide broadband satellite links to scientists working in Antarctica.”

16 March

15 March

  • Some astronauts who have spent extended time in space have suffered optical abnormalities that could affect their eyesight, scientists reported this week. In a paper published in the journal Radiology, researchers said a third of astronauts who spent time on long-duration missions to the ISS experienced symptoms such as flattening of the eyeball and bulging of the optic nerve that can affect eyesight. The cause of these symptoms isn’t clear but is thought to be linked to exposure to weightlessness.
  • There have been heated arguments at Satellite 2012 conference concerning the decision to buy United Launch Alliance (ULA) rockets through 2020 in a block buy. ULA likes it, and SpaceX does not.

14 March

  • FAA Issues Draft Environmental Assessment for SpaceShipTwo Powered Flights in Mojave
  • Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne tested its launch abort engine it is developing for a spacecraft to take humans to the International Space Station. The engine is designed to push the seven-person Crew Space Transportation-100 to safety in the event that an abort is necessary. The CST-100 is being built by Boeing for NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program.
  • SpaceX hopes to be ready to launch an unmanned Dragon capsule from Cape Canaveral on April 30, putting it on course to berth at the International Space Station three days later, according to tweets from the Satellite 2012 conference in DC. A NASA spokesman said an official target launch date would not be set until the conclusion of a flight-readiness review now planned for April 12.

13 March

  • The Orion Program is continuing to push forward at a lively pace, as the first MPCV (Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle) set to launch into space heads into the final pathfinder welds, ahead of closeout work. While work continues on the Exploration Flight Test -1 (EFT-1) Orion, the critical parachute system is set for another drop test in April, following its recent success at the end of February.
  • Commercial launch providers Arianespace and Sea Launch announced a total of three new launch contracts on Monday. Arianespace announced it won a contract from Eutelsat and Es’hailSat, the Qatar Satellite Company, to launch the Eutelsat 25B/Es’hail 1 satellite on an Ariane 5. The satellite, weighing over six tons, is being built by Space Systems/Loral and is scheduled for launch in the second quarter of 2013. Sea Launch announced it had secured a contract for another Eutelsat satellite, Eutelsat 70B.

12 March

  • Canada’s Dextre robotic space helper, working with NASA’s Robotic Refuelling Mission (RRM) experiment, have together completed a record breaking week of robotics operations on the International Space Station (ISS), a week which saw the first ever attempt at satellite servicing tasks successfully performed in space.
  • “Given current funding levels,” Mr. Bolden said in written testimony, “we anticipate the need to purchase [Russian] crew transportation and rescue capabilities into 2017.” The commercial U.S. space taxis were originally envisioned to be in service by early 2016.
  • SpaceX and NASA are in advanced discussions for the private space firm to use Kennedy Space Center’s pad 39A, one of the spaceport’s Apollo and space shuttle launch sites, as the Florida base for its Falcon Heavy rocket, officials said.

11 March

  • In a week that has seen the strong class X solar flares, the sunspot region AR1429 unleashed two class M flares yesterday at 0527 UTC and 1744 UTC, according to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
  • NASA has not yet asked the Russian Federal Space Agency to sign a contract to use Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ferry U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) from 2016 to 2017, Roscosmos manned flight programs director Alexei Krasnov told Interfax-AVN on Sunday. “The contract signed by us is valid through 2015. But this contract has not been prolonged for 2016-2017, and negotiations on prolonging it are not being held at the moment. Should NASA need to use our Soyuz [spacecraft] to deliver its astronauts over this period of time, I think they will notify us of it, will come up with such an initiative,” Krasnov said.

10 March

  • Iron-rich fragments from an ancient impact could explain puzzling magnetic fields measured in various places on the moon. The magnetic anomalies are perplexing because unlike metallic minerals deposited by an asteroid, normal lunar rocks cannot record a magnetic field.
  • Need a Job? They’re Hiring in Mojave(Doug Messier). There are several hundred open positions in Mojave as companies such as the Spaceship Company, XCOR and Scaled Composites begin to ramp up operations. “It’s ironic that we’re having a recruitment problem in Mojave,” said Stu Witt, CEO and general manager of the Mojave Air and Space Port. He added that this is a good problem to have.

9 March

  • ESA’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle, scheduled for launch on an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on 23 March at 04:31 UTC, is planned to dock with the International Space Station five days later. The precise time of docking automatically dock with the Station’s Russian Zvezda module will be known after launch.
  • The head of NASA visited Capitol Hill on Wednesday, making separate appearances in House and Senate hearings to support the agency’s 2013 budget request. Charles Bolden appeared before hearings of the Senate Commerce Committee and House Science Committee, fielding questions about the $17.7-billion budget proposed for the space agency in the next fiscal year. Much of the debate at the hearings was about the request for nearly $830 million for NASA’s commercial crew program, a sharp increase from the $406 million the program received in 2012 but similar to the original budget request that year. Bolden said the funding was needed to keep the effort on track to start providing service no later than 2017.
  • China’s Shenzhou 9 mission to dock with the Tiangong space station has been surrounded by controversy and confusion, including uncertainty over unmanned or manned, and continuing slippage of the launch date for this complex mission.

8 March

  • NASA models using data from the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) and the Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) have now provided more information about the two Coronal Mass Ejections (CME) associated with the two March 6 flares. The first is traveling faster than 1300 miles per second; the second more than 1100 miles per second. NASA’s models predict that the CMEs will impact both Earth and Mars, as well as pass by several NASA spacecraft – Messenger, Spitzer, and STEREO-B. The models also predict that the leading edge of the first CME will reach Earth at about 1:25 AM EST on the morning of March 8 (plus or minus 7 hours).

7 March

  • Neil deGrasse Tyson gets raked over the coals at the Atlantic for his take on NASA, its budget and its mission. Yikes.
  • A dust devil on Mars was captured by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

6 March

5 March

  • Metop-B, the European operational polar orbiting weather satellite designed and manufactured by Astrium, recently left the clean room at the European space industry leader’s site in Toulouse. Metop-B was prepared for shipping to the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, where a Soyuz launcher will place it in orbit with Starsem. The target launch date is 23 May 2012.
  • NASA has successfully conducted another drop test of the Orion crew vehicle’s entry, descent and landing parachutes high above the Arizona desert in preparation for the vehicle’s orbital flight test in 2014.
  • Dish Network Corp.’s hopes to start building a new wireless network have been dealt a setback by the Federal Communications Commission, which denied the satellite-TV provider’s request for a needed waiver and opted instead for a formal deliberation that will take until the end of the year.
  • A Department of Defense official urged his colleagues in 2010 to “synch up” with the GPS industry in order to defeat LightSquared’s plans to build the nation’s first wholesale broadband network.

4 March

3 March

  • The European Space Agency announced Friday that it has delayed the upcoming launch of an ISS cargo spacecraft in order to perform additional checks on the vehicle’s contents. The ATV-3 spacecraft, also called Edoardo Amaldi, was scheduled to launch March 9 on an Ariane 5 from Kourou, French Guiana. The delay is expected to be about two weeks.
  • An upgraded Long March-2F carrier rocket has completed assembling and is ready for China’s first manned space docking due between June and August this year

2 March

  • A SpaceX rocket scheduled to launch a cargo demonstration mission to the ISS this spring successfully completed a dress rehearsal of its launch on Thursday. SpaceX performed the “wet dress rehearsal” of its upcoming Falcon 9 launch on Thursday, rolling the rocket and its Dragon spacecraft to the pad at Cape Canaveral, fueling it, and performing a countdown all the way to the T-5 mark. SpaceX officials said the practice countdown went well.
  • Technicians at Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California are placing the two halves of the rocket nose cone, or fairing, around NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), in preparation for its launch. The launch is scheduled for no earlier than March 21.
  • NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has “sniffed” molecular oxygen ions around Saturn’s icy moon Dione for the first time, confirming the presence of a very tenuous atmosphere. The oxygen ions are quite sparse – one for every 0.67 cubic inches of space (one for every 11 cubic centimeters of space) or about 2,550 per cubic foot (90,000 per cubic meter) – show that Dione has an extremely thin neutral atmosphere.

1 March

  • Astronomers have spotted young stars in the Orion nebula changing right before their eyes, thanks to the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. The colorful specks — developing stars strung across the image — are rapidly heating up and cooling down, speaking to the turbulent, rough-and-tumble process of reaching full stellar adulthood.
  • Researchers at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC) at Stanford University estimate that “nomad” planets, ejected from their home stellar system and now free-floating through the Milky Way, could outnumber stars by as many as 100,000 to 1.
  • The planned March 6 launch of the SiriusXM FM-6 digital radio satellite aboard an International Launch Services (ILS) Proton rocket has been scrapped following concerns of a solar-array defect aboard the Space Systems/Loral-built satellite.

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June 2011

Posted by drdave on June 3, 2011

30 June

  • NASA’s plan to use commercial spaceships to carry astronauts to orbit after the space shuttles retire is coming along nicely, the agency announced today. The four private companies awarded funding under NASA’s most recent round of Commercial Crew Development 2 (CCDev2) contracts have met all of their initial milestones so far, agency representatives said.

29 June

  • A Minotaur rocket launched a small military satellite late Wednesday evening from Virginia. The Minotaur 1 rocket lifted off from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Virginia, at 11:09 pm EDT (0309 GMT Thursday) and released the ORS-1 satellite into low Earth orbit about 12 minutes later.

28 June

27 June

  • Space Security Policy: The US and EU recently released documents regarding space security. Should they come to an accord or should the US take the lead?
  • Continuing Light Squared Issues: John Byrne heads the wireless and mobile infrastructure research group at IDC. He said the interference issue may continue to be a sticking point for LightSquared, even with the proposed solution. “At this point I think you have to assume that the deployment is on hold until those concerns are addressed to the satisfaction of the FCC and all of the congressmen and senators that are on the FCC on this issue,” he said.

26 June

  • As military-launch costs soar, would-be competitors protest. Increase will be nearly 50 percent during the next four years.
  • The White Sands Space Harbor, the landing site for the STS-3 in 1982, will be closing its doors after 35 years due to the end of the space shuttle program; the last launch is scheduled to take place in July.
  • Following its replacement on Atlantis’ SSME-3 (Space Shuttle Main Engine), the new Main Fuel Valve (MFV) is undergoing a weekend of testing at Pad 39A, aimed at providing confidence the hardware will perform as required during the launch countdown. Meanwhile, inspections on ET-138′s stringers have been completed with no obvious issues reported.

25 June

  • If skies are clear and all goes well Tuesday evening, observers throughout Maryland and much of the Mid-Atlantic region should be able to watch a big rocket launch from Virginia’s Wallops Island. The Air Force will attempt to launch a battlefield imaging satellite into orbit from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. The ORS-1 satellite will ride atop a four-stage, solid-fuel Minotaur 1 rocket, the largest ever launched from the Delmarva peninsula.
  • Asteroid 2011 MD will pass approximately 12,000 kilometers above the Earth’s surface at about 9:30 am EDT (1330 GMT) Monday, JPL reported Friday.

24 June

  • NASA’s next Mars spacecraft arrived at Cape Canaveral this week in preparation for its launch later this year. The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), also known as Curiosity, arrived at the Kennedy Space Center on Thursday on board a C-17 cargo aircraft, which flew the spacecraft from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. MSL, the most advanced Mars rover built, is scheduled for launch late this year from Cape Canaveral on an Atlas 5 rocket.

23 June

  • Betelgeuse, a red supergiant in the constellation of Orion, is one of the brightest stars in the night sky. It is also one of the biggest, being almost the size of the orbit of Jupiter — about four and half times the diameter of the Earth’s orbit. The VLT image shows the surrounding nebula, which is much bigger than the supergiant itself, stretching 60 billion kilometres away from the star’s surface — about 400 times the distance of the Earth from the Sun.

22 June

  • Mark Kelly, the NASA astronaut who commanded the most recent shuttle mission and is married to congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, announced on Tuesday his plans to retire. Kelly announced via social media that he would retire from both NASA and the US Navy on October 1.
  • The “Deep Space Adventure” movie, lands July 8 at the Adler Planetarium, guiding earthbound visitors through an outer space journey that planetarium officials think is second only to actual space travel. 20 individual digital projectors for a screen resolution of more than 8,000-by-8,000 pixels will be replacing the 40-year-old Zeiss projector — made famous during a 2008 presidential debate when John McCain ripped a possible replacement as a “$3 million overhead projector”.

21 June

  • Russia successfully launched their Progress M-11M resupply mission to the International Space Station at 7:38 AM Phoenix time (1438 UTC).
  • Speaking at the 49th Paris Air Show in France, Vladimir Popovkin said that the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) will not produce a spaceship for tourists. Citing a full schedule of manned Soyuz and Progress re-supply missions to support the International Space Station as the reason for not proceeding at the moment, Popovkin did not rule out business in the future.

20 June

  • China is preparing to launch the ZX-10 ZhongXing-10 – also designated ChinaSat-10, Sinosat-5 or Xinnuo-5 – domestic communications satellite on Monday (16:05-16:30 UTC) from the Xi Chang Satellite Launch Center, in Sichuan Province.
  • Raffaello, more formally as the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, is stuffed with a full year’s worth of necessities for the International Space Station. It will be loaded into shuttle Atlantis’ payload bay Monday to prepare for launch next month.

19 June

18 June

  • NASA’s space probe Dawn is continuing its approach towards Vesta. The camera system on board is beginning to show the giant asteroid in more and more detail. The newest pictures taken on June 1st and processed by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany already hint at the huge crater on Vesta’s southern hemisphere that is known from earlier observations. In addition, the new images show a dark feature close to the asteroid’s equator.

17 June

  • A faulty engine valve on the space shuttle Atlantis found earlier this week can be replaced without causing a delay in the planned final shuttle launch.
  • A newly discovered comet from the farthest reaches of the solar system could become a sky spectacle in 2013. Right now the comet is 700 million miles (1.2 billion kilometers) from the sun, well beyond the orbit of Jupiter.

16 June

  • After nearly three months in orbit about Mercury, MESSENGER’s payload is providing a wealth of new information about the planet closest to the Sun, as well as a few surprises.
  • Comet Hartley 2’s hyperactive state, as studied by NASA’s EPOXI mission, is detailed in a new paper published in this week’s issue of the journal Science. “Hartley 2 is a hyperactive little comet, spewing out more water than most other comets its size,” said Mike A’Hearn, principal investigator of EPOXI from the University of Maryland, College Park. “When warmed by the sun, dry ice — frozen carbon dioxide — deep in the comet’s body turns to gas jetting off the comet and dragging water ice with it.”

15 June

  • The Sun may be entering an extended period of relatively quiet activity, a development that has implications for space exploration and possibly the Earth’s climate. Scientists said at a meeting Tuesday of the American Astronomical Society’s Solar Physics Division in New Mexico that evidence was mounting that the Sun’s activity would diminish, perhaps for an extended period. Solar scientists have not detected a zonal flow associated with the onset of a new cycle of solar activity, and others found a long-term weakening trend in sunspots.
  • NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or Stereo, has discovered 122 previously unknown sets of twin stars.
  • Lockheed Martin plans to lay off 1,200 workers in its Space Systems division by the end of the year, with sites in Denver, Sunnyvale, Calif., and Pennsylvania’s Delaware Valley region to be hardest hit. The layoffs amount to 7.5% of the 16,000-strong Space Systems workforce.

14 June

  • Orbital Sciences Corporation will build the latest spacecraft for a Thai company, and SpaceX will launch that satellite, in separate deals announced Monday. Orbital won a contract to build the Thaicom 6 satellite, based on the GEOStar bus. The satellite will carry a mix of C- and Ku-band transponders, with 3.7 kilowatts of power and a launch mass of 3,200 kilograms. That satellite will be launched by SpaceX on a Falcon 9 rocket in the second quarter of 2013.
  • Test results compiled by the National Executive Committee for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing indicate the 4G network under development from LightSquared interferes with GPS signals, darkening the network’s prospects.
  • The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)’s Hayabusa space probe has been officially recognized by Guinness World Records, adding yet another feather to the project’s cap after the accolades that have poured in from the scientific community over the past year. Recognition by Guinness World Records “will help spread knowledge of the Hayabusa probe’s achievements among the Japanese people, so I’m very happy,” said JAXA’s Hayabusa project manager Junichiro Kawaguchi.

13 June

  • Post flight processing continues on the Endeavour space shuttle.
  • NASA’s Dawn mission to the doughnut-shaped asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, which launched in September 2007, is now approaching Vesta, a protoplanet that is currently some 143 million miles from Earth.

12 June

  • Three years before its arrival the camera system on board the space probe Rosetta renders the first images of its destination. Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko is the 2014 target.
  • The European Space Agency should formally approve this summer the construction of an Italian-led demonstrator that will launch into space on a rocket, fly back to Earth like an airplane and parachute into the Pacific Ocean. The Intermediate Experimental Vehicle is on track to blast off on a Vega rocket in late 2013, speed around the Earth at a peak altitude of nearly 300 miles, then drop from space and fly back to Earth with the help of aerodynamic flaps and a parachute.
  • Today, Russia’s Mission Control will raise the orbit of the International Space Station (ISS) by 20 km (12.4 miles) using Europe’s ATV-2 Johannes Kepler to 365 km (226.8 miles).

11 June

10 June

  • A United Launch Alliance Delta II successfully launched the Aquarius / SAC-D ocean monitoring satellite this morning. Liftoff was at 7:20 AM Phoenix time (1420 UTC).
  • The Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft carrying three new ISS crew members docked with the station Thursday afternoon. The Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft docked with the Rassvet module of the station at 2:18 PM Phoenix time (2118 UTC) Thursday.
  • The new American commercial cargo spacecraft Dragon will be sent to the ISS at the end of this year, NASA Associate Administrator for Space Operations William Gerstenmaier told a press conference at the Mission Control Centre here on Friday.

9 June

  • On Wednesday, officials called off plans for today’s launch attempt of Aquarius/SAC-D mission. Engineers checking data spotted a problem with the pre-loaded computer flight profile that helps the steer the rocket through upper-level winds.
  • A report by NASA’s inspector general warned that the agency’s latest Mars rover mission may require additional funding in order to be ready for launch later this year. The report, by NASA’s Office of the Inspector General, found that the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission underestimated its costs by $44 million, and without additional funding the mission could miss its launch window late this year, forcing a two-year delay. MSL, also known as Curiosity, already missed its original launch window in 2009 in order because of development delays.

8 June

7 June

  • Russia successfully launched their Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft on a mission to the International Space Station. Docking is scheduled for 2:22 PM Phoenix time Thursday, 9 June (2122 UTC).
  • A NASA instrument will hitchhike aboard an Argentine satellite when it rides an American rocket to space from Vandenberg Air Force Base early Thursday morning. The United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket and the Aquarius/SAC-D satellite are set to lift off from Space Launch Complex-2 between 7:20 and 7:25 a.m. Thursday.

6 June

  • A decision on the configuration of the Space Launch System (SLS) Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLV) is just weeks away, as final evaluations take place into a “staged evolution of a single heavy launcher”, after NASA’s leadership rejected the two-phase approach, which would have resulted in an open competition for the Beyond Earth Orbit (BEO) derivative of the SLS.
  • A paper published in the current issue of Nature provides the first cohesive explanation of how the migration of Jupiter shaped the asteroid belt and stripped a lot of material from the region, essentially starving Mars of formation materials.

5 June

  • Assemblage of the Russian Soyuz-FG rocket to carry Soyuz TMA-02M manned spacecraft to the International Space Station was completed on Saturday. The mission to the International Space Station is set for June 8. Soyuz TMA-02M will bring new Expedition 28 astronauts to the ISS. The docking is slated for June 10.

4 June

  • A pair of Danish amateur rocket makers successfully launched their 30 foot tall, 1.6 ton liquid fueled rocket out over the Baltic Sea.
  • A team of scientists at the University of Arizona’s Luna and Planetary Sciences Laboratory has been picked NASA to head up an $800 million space exploration project named OSIRIS-REx. The plan is for NASA to launch the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft in 2016 for the 575-meter near-Earth asteroid 1999 RQ36. The spacecraft would then orbit and explore the asteroid for more than a year before closing in and collecting samples which would then be returned to Earth sometime in 2023.
  • The Boeing Company said Friday it had issued 60-day layoff notices to approximately 510 employees in its Space Exploration division as a result of the end of the Space Shuttle program. The notices include an estimated 260 employees in Houston, 150 at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., and 100 at the company’s Huntington Beach, California, facility.
  • A group of Canadians who spent their weekends hanging around garages has won the first edition of a NASA robotics competition ever to be opened to international competition. During the competition, the teams remotely controlled excavators — called “Lunabots” — to determine which could collect the most simulated lunar soil over 15 minutes. Laurentian’s team had the best result, digging up just over 237 kilograms of simulated moon rock. The second-place team from the University of North Dakota scooped up over 172 kilograms.

3 June

  • The space shuttle Atlantis arrived at the launch pad early Wednesday as preparations for the final mission of the space shuttle era continue. Atlantis arrived at launch pad 39A at 12:29 AM Phoenix time (0729 GMT) Wednesday, just under seven hours after leaving the Vehicle Assembly Building and less than an hour after the shuttle Endeavour landed at the Shuttle Landing Facility several miles away. Atlantis is scheduled for launch on STS-135, the final shuttle mission, on 8 July 2011.
  • Atlantis (STS-135) was soaked by thunderstorms and is undergoing checks following lightning storm

2 June

  • A drive of 482 feet (146.8 meters) on June 1, 2011, took NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity past 30 kilometers (18.64 miles) in total odometry during 88 months of driving on Mars. That’s 50 times the distance originally planned for the mission and more than 12 times the distance racehorses will run next week at the Belmont Stakes.
  • In two separate reports, astronomers reveal ancient globular clusters to be breeding much younger blue-straggler members, and a relatively young open cluster hosting an aging stellar population, calling into question theories of stellar evolution.
  • The Intelsat 18 telecommunications satellite will be launched by Sea launch Co. from the Russian-run Baikonur Cosmodrome in September or October following Sea Launch’s agreement to donate rocket hardware previously intended for a future Intelsat launch campaign
  • An asteroid the size of a small motorhome zoomed near Earth last night (June 1), coming closer to us than the moon ever does. The 23-foot-long (7-meter) space rock, named 2009 BD, came within 215,000 miles (346,000 kilometers) of Earth
  • Four astronomers who helped befuddle the world by discovering evidence for dark matter have won a prestigious cosmology prize. Scientists infer the existence of dark matter by its gravitational influence on the regular, visible matter around it. The scientists will share the $500,000 purse that comes with the 2011 Cosmology Prize of the Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation.

1 June

  • The space shuttle Endeavour landed at the Kennedy Space Center early Wednesday, completing its final mission and the next-to-last flight of the shuttle program overall. Endeavour landed at the Shuttle Landing Facility at KSC at 11:34 PM Phoenix time Tuesday (0634 UTC Wednesday) on the first available landing opportunity, ending a nearly 16-day mission to the International Space Station.

Posted in Asteroid, Comet, Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, International Space Station, Mars, Milky Way, NASA, Roscosmos, Russian Space Agency, Solar System, Soyuz, Sun | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

May 2011

Posted by drdave on May 1, 2011

31 May

  • A recent analysis of lunar rocks reveals that they have the same concentration of water as the Earth’s upper mantle, the layer of near-molten rock just beneath the crust.
  • Astronauts piloted the shuttle Endeavour on a unique course back toward the International Space Station Monday, testing a next-generation laser-based navigation sensor in hopes of verifying it can help guide future voyages to the space station, distant asteroids and Mars.

30 May

  • The space shuttle Endeavour undocked from the International Space Station for the final time Sunday at 8:55 PM Phoenix time Sunday (0355 GMT Monday). The shuttle then first maneuvered away and around the station. It approached the station again, coming within about 300 meters of the station in order to test a sensor system on the station to be used by future spacecraft docking with the ISS. Endeavour is scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 11:35 PM Phoenix time Tuesday night (0635 GMT Wednesday)

29 May

  • Endeavour is due to undock from the space station Sunday night at 8:55 PM Phoenix time (0355 30 May UTC) after nearly two weeks visiting the orbiting lab.
  • Inside a pristine clean room just outside the gate to the Kennedy Space Center, engineers casting brilliant beams of light on NASA’s Jupiter-bound Juno spacecraft finished checking the power efficiency of its 18,600 solar cells last week.

28 May

27 May

  • A battery of NASA payloads, including missions to Jupiter and Mars, occupy the Atlas 5 rocket manifest for the balance of 2011.
  • At 2:02 AM Phoenix time, Fincke and Chamitoff completed the 1,000th hour of spacewalk activity for space station assembly and maintenance. It also left Fincke on the threshold of a personal mark. About 5 p.m. Friday evening he will become the U.S. astronaut with the most time in space, more than 377 days, including two long-duration station missions. That will surpass the time in space of Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office.

26 May

  • NASA announced Wednesday that it will launch a robotic mission in 2016 to fly to a near Earth asteroid and return a sample to Earth. The Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission will be the third in NASA’s New Frontier program of mid-range planetary science missions. OSIRIS-REx will launch in 2016 to fly to asteroid 1999 RQ36, rendezvousing with it in 2020.
  • Two astronauts spent nearly seven hours outside the International Space Station on Wednesday completing a variety of tasks. During a spacewalk that lasted six hours and 54 minutes, Drew Feustel and Mike Fincke installed a new fixture on the Zarya module that can be used by the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm.

25 May

  • NASA will end efforts this month to restore communications with the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, effectively ending a mission that started over seven years ago. Spirit has been out of communication since March 2010, when it went into hibernation to conserve power during the Martian winter. Project officials speculate that the rover, stuck in a patch of sand for two years, suffered damage during the cold winter since it could not position itself to generate enough power from its solar cells to run heaters.
  • Two astronauts floated outside the International Space Station Wednesday (May 25) to upgrade the orbiting lab and complete some unfinished work from an earlier spacewalk. Endeavour shuttle astronauts Andrew Feustel and Mike Fincke began the third spacewalk of their mission at 10:43 PM Phoenix time (0543 GMT). The outing is expected to last about 6 1/2 hours. This is the sixth spacewalk of Feustel’s career, and the seventh for Fincke.

24 May

  • Expedition 27 Commander Dmitry Kondratyev and Flight Engineers Cady Coleman and Paolo Nespoli safely landed their Soyuz spacecraft on the Kazakhstan steppe Monday, wrapping up a five-month stay aboard the International Space Station.
  • Experts are examining the backshell for the Mars Science Laboratory, which was improperly lifted at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) last week, NASA says. The accident apparently involved the backshell being lifted with a crane in the wrong attitude, placing out-of-specification strain on clamps holding it together.

23 May

  • Nasa’s three-decade-long Space Shuttle era will come to a close on 8 July 2011. The US agency has confirmed the date for the blast-off for Atlantis, which will be the final launch of the Space Shuttle program. The STS-135 mission will be a 12-day flight to the International Space Station. The four crew members, shuttle commander Christopher Ferguson, pilot Douglas Hurley and mission specialists Rex Walheim and Sandra Magnus, are all veterans of the program.
  • NASA’s twin lunar probes have arrived in Florida to begin final preparations for a launch in late summer. The two Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory spacecraft (GRAIL) were shipped from Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, to the Astrotech payload processing facility in Titusville, Fla., Friday, May 20. NASA’s dynamic duo will orbit the moon to determine the structure of the lunar interior from crust to core and to advance understanding of the thermal evolution of the moon.
  • Lou Friedman weighs in with “In my view the situation in the United States with respect to access to space is no different than if we had a space czar whose motive was to keep the country grounded.”

22 May

  • Endeavour’s flight crew have completed the second of four planned EVAs/spacewalks – focusing on port SARJ and Dextre lubrication and ammonia coolant line and tank work – lasting an epic eight hours and seven minutes. The spacewalk came after mission managers officially cleared Endeavour’s Thermal Protection System for reentry, following a multi-day review process of the vehicle’s ascent data, on-orbiter inspections, RPM photography, and Focused Inspection data.

21 May

  • An Ariane 5 launcher lifted off this evening from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on its mission to place two telecommunications satellites, ST-2 and GSAT-8, into their planned transfer orbits. Flight VA202 was the third Ariane 5 launch of 2011.
  • A Proton rocket successfully launched an American commercial communications satellite early Saturday. The Proton M lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 21:15 PM Phoenix time Friday (1915 UTC Friday, 1:15 am local time Saturday) and inserted the Telstar 14R satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit nine hours and 13 minutes later

20 May

  • Endeavour’s flight crew are working through the mission’s first EVA, focusing on MISSE experiment swap outs and ammonia jumper line installations. Meanwhile, engineers on the ground are pouring over imagery data from FD-3′s RPM (R-bar Pitch Maneuver) which helped engineers identify a debris impact area on Endeavour that might require a Focused Inspection (FI) during FD-6 (Saturday).
  • An Ariane 5 rocket is scheduled to blast off Friday with two satellites to provide direct television broadcasting and navigation services. Liftoff is set for 2038 UTC (1:38 PM Phoenix time) from Kourou, French Guiana.
  • Russia’s Proton-M carrier rocket with the U.S. Telstar-14P communication satellite on board will be launched from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan late on Friday

19 May

  • Astronomers have detected a group of large planets not orbiting any stars in a region near the center of the galaxy. Astronomers believe that these planets formed around stars and were later ejected due to gravitation interactions with other bodies. They project that the total number of free-floating planets in the galaxy is at least twice the number of stars.
  • NASA reported that space shuttle Endeavour astronauts successfully completed their primary mission this morning — delivering and attaching the $2 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to a truss outside the International Space Station. It is the largest scientific collaboration to use the laboratory. This investigation is sponsored by the United States Department of Energy and made possible by funding from 16 different nations. The instrument weighs nearly 8 tons.

18 May

  • In another historic milestone for Endeavour’s final flight, the fleet’s youngest orbiter chased down the International Space Station (ISS) to kick start the docked phase of the STS-134 mission. Endeavour arrived in superb shape, with the Mission Management Team (MMT) only having to review a handful of very minor issues, following an extremely clean ascent to orbit.
  • Comet Hartley 2 continues to puzzle scientists. Images by the EPOXI spacecraft in November 2010, the measurements of water, methanol, carbon dioxide and ethanol suggest a complex interior, which is the subject of a lot of speculation. “We haven’t seen a comet like this before,” says Michael Mumma of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “Hartley-2 could be the first of a new breed.”

17 May

  • The New Scientist is having a contest. The prize is a rock, which is a fragment of a larger piece that was blasted off the surface of the red planet by an impact long ago.

16 May

  • Endeavour has successfully reached orbit and is on its way to the International Space Station.
  • NASA started countdown clocks on Friday for Monday morning’s scheduled launch of the space shuttle Endeavour on that orbiter’s final mission. Countdown clocks started at 5:00 AM Phoenix time (1100 UTC) Friday for the launch, scheduled for 5:56 am Phoenix time (1256 UTC) Monday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

15 May

  • Commercial space pioneer Robert Bigelow, author Dr. John Logsdon and former Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin are among the featured participants coming for the International Space Development Conference in Huntsville this week.
  • European Space Agency (ESA) Arianespace will launch India’s heavy geo-stationary satellite (GSAT-8), intended for communication purposes, on board its Ariane-5 rocket May 20 from its space center in French Guiana.

14 May

  • Endeavour remains on track for launch on Monday, as she hit the start of her S0007 Launch Countdown operation on time at 7am Friday morning. No issues are being worked on the vehicle, although a meeting on Thursday confirmed a decision not to reopen the Payload Bay in order to help the STP-H3 VADER experiment, which is struggling to cope with the extended stay at the launch pad.
  • It’s been rumored for a while now, but NASA’s plans to respond to congressional (mal)direction are starting to come into focus, and it’s not a pretty picture. Over at the Orlando Sentinel, Mark Matthews has the story:

    NASA’s latest plan to replace the space shuttle would spend at least $10 billion during the next six years to test-fly a rocket made of recycled parts of the shuttle — with no guarantee the rocket would ever be used again, according to documents obtained by the Orlando Sentinel.

  • The X PRIZE Foundation and the LEGO Group today announced MoonBots 2.0: A Google Lunar X PRIZE LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Challenge. This second annual contest will challenge teams of youth to design, program, and construct robots that perform simulated lunar missions similar to those required to win the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, a private race to the Moon designed to enable commercial exploration of space while engaging the global public. To further this purpose, the X PRIZE Foundation and the LEGO Group have partnered with WIRED magazine and FIRST robotics to offer a competition that will excite students and their families about the Moon, robotics, and team building.

13 May

  • An underground ocean of magma powers much of the volcanic activity on Jupiter’s moon, Io. Scientists have cracked a long-standing puzzle posed by NASA’s defunct Galileo probe, which orbited giant Jupiter and surveyed its moons from 1995 to 2003. The Galileo team used the planet’s strong magnetic field to look for distinct radio waves bouncing back from the Jovian moons, a technique that previously netted evidence for underground saltwater oceans on Europa, Callisto and Ganymede.
  • China, the up-and-coming space power is finishing up testing on two large unmanned spacecraft scheduled to blast off later this year for the country’s first in-orbit docking demonstration.

12 May

  • NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has obtained its first image of the giant asteroid Vesta, which will help fine-tune navigation during its approach. Dawn expects to achieve orbit around Vesta on July 16, when the asteroid is about 117 million miles from Earth.
  • The six astronauts who will fly space shuttle Endeavour’s final mission returned to Florida today, hoping next Monday’s scheduled second-try at their launch is the trick.
  • For the first time, a Soyuz undocking is expected to take place while a space shuttle is docked. Endeavour is set to launch May 16 on the STS-134 mission to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and continue station outfitting. All Soyuz activities during STS-134 will be incorporated into mission coverage. Expedition 27 Commander Dmitry Kondratyev, NASA Flight Engineer Cady Coleman and European Space Agency Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli are scheduled to land in their Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft in southern Kazakhstan at 7:26 PM Phoenix time on May 23 (8:26 a.m. local time May 24).

11 May

  • The Crab Nebula, the dusty remains of an exploded star, has unleashed a surprisingly massive flare that is five times more powerful than any eruption previously seen from the celestial object, leaving scientists struggling to explain the event, NASA says. The so-called “superflare” was detected on April 12 by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, which is continuously mapping the sky in gamma ray wavelengths in search of gamma-ray bursts, the brightest explosions in the universe.
  • Kennedy Space Center (KSC) engineering teams have realigned processing targets for STS-135 to point towards a July 12 launch date. The preliminary target is dependant on numerous – and upcoming – factors, not least the need for Endeavour to launch on her re-planned May 16 date, but also a nominal pad turnaround and a smooth pre-launch flow for Atlantis herself.

10 May

  • NASA shuttle managers announced Monday that they have competed repairs to the shuttle Endeavour and set May 16th as the new launch date for the penultimate shuttle mission.

9 May

  • Yahsat Y1A, slated to provide high definition television (HDTV) to audiences across the Middle East, Africa and South West Asia, has successfully reached its orbital slot at 52.5 degrees East two weeks after launch. The communications satellite was launched into space by Aprianespace on 22 April 2011, alongside Intelsat’s New Dawn satellite.

8 May

  • China successfully launched a space environment-monitoring rocket Saturday morning from the southern island province of Hainan as part of the nation’s key “Meridian Project.” The rocket was sent into space at 7 a.m. from a launch site in Hainan, said a statement from the Center for Space Science and Applied Research of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).
  • The official ceremony marking ESA’s handover of the Soyuz launch site to Arianespace took place today at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, after the site was declared ready for the first flight and the completion of a simulated launch campaign.

7 May

  • United Launch Alliance successfully launched an Atlas V 401 with a Centaur upper stage. The payload was the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS).
  • NASA announced Friday that the launch of Endeavour on the next-to-last shuttle mission has been delayed again, this time to no earlier than May 16, as repairs continue. The root cause of the failure in the power controller box, called a Load Control Assembly, has not yet been found.
  • “China has the fastest growing economy in the world. But the American free enterprise system, which allows anyone with a better mousetrap to compete, is what will ensure that the United States remains the world’s greatest superpower of innovation,” the native of South Africa wrote Wednesday.
    Musk wrote the blog nearly three weeks after officials of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. acknowledged at a space conference that they could not match SpaceX’s launch prices.

6 May

  • The United Launch Alliance (ULA) will make a second attempt to launch their Atlas V 401 from Cape Canaveral on Saturday at 2:10pm EDT, following several failed attempts to find a gap in unacceptable weather during the 40 minute launch window on Friday – resulting in a 24 hour scrub turnaround. The Atlas V is carrying the first in a new series of early warning satellites to detect missile launches.
  • Endeavour’s final mission is now tracking a No Earlier Than (NET) May 16 launch date, following a Program level meeting to evaluate the schedule for the troubleshooting work on the orbiter’s Auxiliary Power Unit (APU-1) heater system. Work has – and continues to – focus on the Aft Load Controller Assembly (ALCA-2), while additional work is being performed on replacing wiring and thermostats to provide improved fault mitigation.

5 May

  • 50th anniversary of Alan Shepard historic flight.
  • Space tourist trips around the Moon will get a roomier spaceship. This newly announced habitation module will almost double the room in the Soyuz, adding substantial volume to the otherwise cramped quarters of the Russian capsule

4 May

3 May

  • NASA Space Shuttle and International Space Station managers met Monday and determined that Tuesday 10 May is the earliest Endeavour could be launched on the STS-134 mission with ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori and the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.
  • An asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier will come closer to Earth this autumn than our own moon does, causing scientists to hold their breath as it zooms by. But they’ll be nervous with excitement, not with worry about a possible disaster. There’s no danger of an impact when the asteroid 2005 YU55 makes its close flyby 8 November, coming within 201,700 miles (325,000 kilometers) of Earth.

2 May

  • The European Space Agency (ESA) reports on the recent testing of the the Eurobot Ground Prototype (Red Rover) between 18-22 April at Rio Tinto in Andalucia, southern Spain. This new robotic assistant is designed to move around and work on a planet either on its own or in league with astronauts.
  • Astrobiology Magazine discusses finding fossils in the desert sands of Morrocco, and the implications for fossil hunting on Mars.
  • The failure of the hybrid drivers in the Load Control Assembly (LCA) will require the removal and replacement of the LCA and a two day test regime before Endeavour can be returned to the scrubbed countdown. Conflicts with the 6 May launch of an Atlas 5 rocket means that Endeavour will launch no earlier than (NET) 8 May.

1 May

  • The space shuttle Endeavour will launch no earlier than May 8 as engineers continue to troubleshoot a problem with heaters in one of the orbiter’s auxiliary power units (APUs), NASA announced Sunday morning. NASA had hoped to launch Endeavour on mission STS-134 on Monday afternoon, after the APU heater problem scrubbed Friday’s launch attempt. However, initial efforts to identify and solve the problem Saturday failed. Engineers now believe the problem is with the Load Control Assembly on the shuttle’s aft compartment that will be replaced, work that pushes back the launch to at least May 8 and possibly later. NASA plans to announce an official launch date on Monday or Tuesday.

Posted in Asteroid, Comet, Commercial Space, Earth, European Space Agency, International Space Station, Jupiter, Mars, Moon, NASA, Russian Space Agency, Solar System, Space Shuttle | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

March 2011

Posted by drdave on March 1, 2011

31 March

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

30 March

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

29 March

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

28 March

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

27 March

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

26 March

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

25 March

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

24 March

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

23 March

22 March

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

21 March

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

20 March

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

19 March

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

18 March

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

17 March

16 March

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

15 March

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

14 March

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

13 March

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

12 March

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

11 March

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

10 March

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

9 March

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

8 March

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

7 March

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

6 March

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

5 March

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

4 March

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

3 March

2 March

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

1 March

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

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

November 2010

Posted by drdave on November 7, 2010

30 November

  • Nemesis
  • Managers of NASA’s Cassini spacecraft mission expect to get a full stream of data during this week’s flyby of the Saturnian moon Enceladus, according to a release from Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the mission for NASA. Cassini resumed normal operations last week after going into safe mode on Nov. 2.

29 November 2010

  • Astrobiology Magazine discusses growing crops on other planets. Related discussions are gardens on the international space station, here and here.
  • Despite the large amount of progress made towards flight rationale – called for in relation to Discovery’s External Tank (ET-137) stringer cracks – teams are heading into another week of deliberations, with a large amount of work ahead of them. Although STS-133 is threatening to move into next year, NASA managers will continue to evaluate the opportunity to make a late December window.
  • Discovery.com discusses an unpublished paper submitted to the arXiv preprint service by world-renowned Oxford University physicist Roger Penrose and co-author Vahe Gurzadyan from the Yerevan Physics Institute in Armenia. They have announced a pattern in the CMBR that could reveal events that occurred before the Big Bang. The new proposal contradicts the current model of an early inflationary period.

28 November 2010

  • Discovery Magazine discusses the Large Hadron Collider and the finding that the big bang behaves like a liquid.

27 November 2010

  • Arianespace are back on the pace, with another dual launch taking place yesterday via their Ariane 5 ECA launch vehicle. The European workhorse is lofting HYLAS 1 and Intelsat 17 into their transfer orbits, with lift-off on time at 18:39 GMT – launching from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

26 November 2010

  • The European Space Agency has announced that two of 31 mission proposals have been chosen for additional development funding. The CarbonSat mission would quantify and monitor the distribution of two of the most important greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, also released through human activity: carbon dioxide and methane. Data from the mission would lead to a better understanding of the sources and sinks of these two gases and how they are linked to climate change. The FLEX mission aims to provide global maps of vegetation fluorescence, which can be converted into an indicator of photosynthetic activity. These data would improve our understanding of how much carbon is stored in plants and their role in the carbon and water cycles.
  • The Soyuz capsule with the three crew members of ISS Expedition 24/25 — Fyodor Yuгchikhin, Shannon Walker and Douglas Wheelock– landed softly at 07:46 Moscow time in the Kazakh steppe, a Mission Control Centre source told Itar-Tass.

25 November 2010

  • China launched the second Shen Tong-1 military communications satellite via a CZ-3A Chang Zheng-3A (Y19) launch vehicle, providing secured voice/data communications services for PLA ground users in Ku-band. Receiving the designation ZX-20A ZhongZhing-20A, the satellite was launched from the Xi Chang Satellite Launch Center, in Sichuan Province at 00:09 loca time on Friday.

24 November 2010

  • A Christmas mission may be the cards for Discovery’s final mission, as managers at the Program Requirements Control Board (PRCB) decided against shooting for the early December launch window opportunities. More work is required on assessing the status of External Tank (ET-137), resulting in a move to the December 17-20 window – although this target remains preliminary at best.
  • The fifth Ariane 5 mission of 2010 was given the go-ahead today for its November 26 liftoff with Arianespace’s dual payload of the Intelsat 17 and HYLAS 1 satellites.

23 November 2010

  • Observers tracking movements of the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B secretive space plane report the spacecraft is dropping altitude, a possible sign the clandestine mission is near landing as it approaches the limit of the its design life.

22 November 2010

  • The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees commercial space transportation, granted SpaceX the one-year license for re-entry of the Dragon capsule. This was the first time it sanctioned a re-entry operation.

21 November 2010

  • ULA launched the most powerful unmanned rocket, a 23-story Delta IV Heavy. The rocket launched at 3:58 PM Phoenix time from Cape Canaveral, carrying a classified National Reconnaissance Office spacecraft. It was the firm’s eighth launch of the year.

20 November 2010

  • The launch attempt of the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy with a National Reconnaissance Office payload was scrubbed November 19.

19 November 2010

  • Orbital Sciences Corporation used their Minotaur IV launch vehicle to loft eight satellites for the United States Government and university research programmes on Friday night. The mission, designated STP S-26, launched from the Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska one minute into a 90-minute window, with a lift-off time of 20:25 pm Eastern (01:25 UTC).
  • The NASA spacecraft that flew close to a distant comet earlier this month found itself hurtling through an unexpected cosmic ice storm, scientists revealed today. Speeding at 27,000 mph, the Deep Impact craft flew within 435 miles of comet Hartley 2 on 4th November – only the fifth time a comet had been viewed up close. Spectacular new images from the flyby revealed a blizzard of white specks surrounding the nearly 1 1/2-mile-long peanut-shaped comet.

18 November 2010

17 November 2010

  • SpaceShipTwo, Virgin Galactic’s commercial spaceliner built to fly paying passengers on suborbital thrill rides,made its third gliding flight from its mothership — the WhiteKnightTwo — high above the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. This latest glide test involved the piloting skills of Pete Siebold, along with co-pilot Clint Nichols.

16 November 2010

15 November 2010

  • NASA plans a news conference on 18 November to discuss findings by EPOXI during the rendezvous with comet Hartley 2.
  • A cosmic explosion seen 31 years ago may have been the birth cry of the youngest black hole ever observed, which could help researchers understand how black holes are born and evolve.

14 November 2010

  • The Russian-U.S. company International Launch Services (ILS) is scheduled to launch a Proton-M heavy carrier rocket with the SkyTerra 1 satellite at 10:29 AM Phoenix time today (08:29 p.m. Moscow time or 17:29 UTC) from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan. The satellite is designed to provide voice and data services in L-band.

13 November 2010

  • The Spaceship Company recently broke ground for its new final assembly, integration and test hangar at Mojave Air & Space Port. The new building, a 68,000-square-foot, clear-span, 737-sized hangar including offices, will serve as TSC’s operating headquarters once complete. It will be used primarily for the final assembly, integration and testing of TSC’s vehicles before they enter service, according to the company.
  • Shuttle repair crews are working this weekend to keep Discovery on track for a launch during a seven-day window that opens Nov. 30, a possibility even after new damage was uncovered Friday. Another cracked part was found on the shuttle’s external tank, next to one already under inspection.

12 November 2010

  • The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced that the next launch of the H-II Transfer Vehicle 2 (HTV2) cargo transporter to the International Space Station (ISS) has been scheduled for 20 January 2011. The launch window opens at 3:29 PM Japan time (06:29 UTC).
  • A leaking hydrogen vent line attachment fitting on the side of the shuttle Discovery’s external tank was removed and disassembled overnight, revealing an unevenly compressed internal seal. The quick-disconnect hardware also may have a less concentric fit than pre-fueling measurements indicated.

11 November 2010

  • The website NASASpaceflight, has the details on the cracks found in the external tank of the Space Shuttle Discovery.
  • Aerojet successfully test fired its AJ26 rocket engine at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The AJ26 engine is an oxidizer-rich, staged-combustion LO2/Kerosene engine with a pintel injector. It achieves very high performance in a lightweight compact package. Based on the NK-33 engine originally designed and produced in Russia for the Russian N1 lunar launch vehicle, the liquid-fuel AJ26 will provide boost for the first stage of the Taurus II launch vehicle. The engine tested today is the first of four engines to be tested at Stennis throughout the next several months. This testing is being conducted to support the Taurus II Initial Launch Capability (ILC) in the third quarter of 2011.
  • Beset by management problems, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is like to cost 1.5 Billion more than budgeted, and slip from a launch in 2014 to late 2015.

10 November 2010

  • A new study from Galaxy Zoo’s second crowd-sourced scientific effort, buoys the idea that galaxies with central bars somehow encourage the formation of big, blue and short-lived stars, and funnel gas and dust to supermassive black holes lurking at their cores. In the process, bars may quickly consume star-making materials to leave behind only a “dead” galaxy of red and fading stars.
  • The NASA Hubble Space Telescope has returned an image of a wandering cloud of gas and dust from an area of the well-known Pleiades star cluster. Starlight from Merope is slowly destroying the small nebula.

9 November 2010

  • NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has unveiled a previously unseen structure centered in the Milky Way. The feature spans 50,000 light-years and may be the remnant of an eruption from a supersized black hole at the center of our galaxy. “What we see are two gamma-ray-emitting bubbles that extend 25,000 light-years north and south of the galactic center,” said Doug Finkbeiner, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., who first recognized the feature. “We don’t fully understand their nature or origin.”
  • Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., expect the Cassini spacecraft will resume normal operations on 24 November, after the spacecraft went into safe mode on 2 November.
  • NASA hopes to lay the groundwork over the next six months for developing an affordable heavy-lift launch vehicle with $7.5 million in study contracts it plans to spread across 13 U.S. companies. The study contracts, announced Nov. 8, are NASA’s initial response to the 2010 NASA Authorization Act, which requires the agency to begin work this year on a vehicle capable of lifting at least 70 metric tons to low Earth orbit by 2016.

8 November 2010

  • China unveiled an image of the Bay of Rainbows taken by the lunar orbiter Chang’e-2 from a designed altitude of 18.7 kilometers. The image was taken on 28 October, and covers the area that China plans to land its next mission.
  • A new theoretical model of Solar coronal mass ejections (CMEs) will be presented at the 52nd Annual Meeting of the APS Plasma Physics Division. The Sun sporadically expels trillions of tons of million-degree hydrogen gas during a CME. Such clouds are enormous in size (spanning millions of miles) and are made up of magnetized plasma gases, so hot that hydrogen atoms are ionized. CMEs are rapidly accelerated by magnetic forces to speeds of hundreds of kilometers per second to upwards of 2,000 kilometers per second in several tens of minutes. CMEs are closely related to solar flares and, when they impinge on the Earth, can trigger spectacular auroral displays. They also induce strong electric currents in the Earth’s plasma atmosphere (i.e., the magnetosphere and ionosphere), leading to outages in telecommunications and GPS systems and even the collapse of electric power grids if the disturbances are very severe.

7 November 2010

  • Super Earths may be hostile to life, suggests a New Scientist article. “Rocky planets a few times heavier than Earth that we thought might be life-friendly may lack one vital feature: a protective magnetic field. Planets are thought to owe their magnetic fields to an iron core that is at least partly molten. But a simulation of super-Earths between a few times and 10 times Earth’s mass suggests that high pressures will keep the core solid, according to Guillaume Morard of the Institute of Mineralogy and Physics of Condensed Matter in Paris, France, and his team (arxiv.org/1010.5133).”

6 November 2010

5 November 2010

  • Discovery was making her first real attempt to launch on Friday, as the loading of her External Tank (ET-137) picked up following approval by the Mission Management Team (MMT). Tanking had been nominal until a leak was detected on the Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate (GUCP) – causing managers to carry out testing prior to detanking – ultimately leading to a delay to November 30.
  • At 8:20 PM Phoenix time, the ULA team successfully launched the fourth COSMO-SkyMed satellite for Boeing, the Italian Space Agency, Ministry of Defence and Thales Alenia Space. The ULA Delta II 7420-10 configuration vehicle used a ULA first stage booster powered by a Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RS-27A main engine and four Alliant Techsystems (ATK) strap-on solid rocket boosters. An Aerojet AJ10-118K engine powered the second stage. The payload was encased by a 10-foot-diameter composite payload fairing. COSMO-SkyMed 4 is the final satellite in the initial constellation for this system. Each of the four satellites is equipped with a high-resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar operating in X-band.
  • NASA and JPL have released more information on comet Hartley 2.
  • The Spaceship Company (TSC), which plans to be the first to carry paying passengers into space, will break ground on its Final Assembly, Integration and Test Hangar (FAITH) production hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port on Tuesday, 9 November 2010. The company is owned by Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic and will produce the White Knight Two and Space Ship Two vehicles.
  • Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is awaiting U.S. regulatory approval to launch its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo vessel as soon as 20 November after more than a year spent tying up loose ends associated with the recoverable space capsule’s re-entry license application.

4 November 2010

3 November 2010

  • The Mission Management Team (MMT) evaluations into the anomalies on the redundant Main Engine Controller (MEC) on SSME-3 have concluded with the approval for the required flight rationale, clearing Discovery to press ahead with Thursday’s launch attempt. Discovery’s next challenge is out of her control, with an 80 percent chance of unacceptable weather at T-0.

2 November 2010

  • Discovery has been given another hurdle to negotiate ahead of her opening launch attempt, after an electrical issue was noted on the redundant Main Engine Controller (MEC) on SSME-3. The original problem had been classed as cleared, following cycling and troubleshooting. However, a Mission Management Team (MMT) meeting later on Tuesday decided to scrub for at least 24 hours to work towards flight rationale.

1 November 2010

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