NSS Phoenix Space News

Posts Tagged ‘Vandenberg Air Force Base’

June 2012

Posted by drdave on June 1, 2012

30 June

  • NASA astronaut Don Pettit, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers are scheduled to undock from the space station in their Russian-built Soyuz TMA-03M capsule at 9:48 PM Phoenix time Saturday (0448 UTC Sunday). The trio is expected to land at 1:14 AM (0814 UTC) Sunday on the Central Asian steppes of Kazakhstan.

29 June

  • There was another glide test of the SpaceShipTwo vehicle today at the Mojave Air and Space Port. A source says that WhiteKnightTwo took off with the spacecraft beneath it at about 6:50 AM Phoenix time. SpaceShipTwo landed about an hour later and both vehicles were back in the hangar by 8 AM.
  • A Delta 4 Heavy launched Friday morning carrying a classified satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The Delta 4 Heavy lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 6:15 AM Phoenix time (1315 UTC) on mission NROL-15 for the NRO.
  • B612 Debuts Its Asteroid-Seeking Sentinel: A private nonprofit group led by former astronauts, spacecraft designers, and asteroid specialists has proposed a spacecraft to find a half million asteroids in Earth-crossing orbits and provide advance warning of impact threats.

28 June

  • Astronauts Liu Yang, Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang have returned to Earth following a 13-day mission. The astronauts, including China’s first woman in space, carried out a successful manual docking with the Tiangong-1 laboratory module.
  • Astronomers announced this week that they have used spectroscopic observations of an extrasolar planet to directly measure its mass. Astronomers at the European Southern Observatory used an infrared spectrometer to study Tau Bootis b, an exoplanet orbiting the star Tau Bootis that was originally discovered in the mid 1990s.

27 June

  • Canadian space company MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) will buy the satellite manufacturing arm of Loral in a billion-dollar deal, the company announced late Tuesday night. MDA will pay $775 million in cash for the equity of Space Systems/Loral (SS/L), plus $101 million in a promissory note SS/L real estate.

26 June

  • SpaceX successfully fired its new Merlin 1D rocket engine at their facility in McGregor, Texas. The engine achieved a full mission duration firing and multiple restarts at target thrust and specific impulse (ISP). The engine firing was for 185 seconds with 147,000 pounds of thrust, the full duration and power required for a Falcon 9 rocket launch.

25 June

  • Turbulent jet streams, regions where winds blow faster than in other places, churn east and west across Saturn. Scientists have been trying to understand for years the mechanism that drives these wavy structures in Saturn’s atmosphere and the source from which the jets derive their energy. In a new study appearing in the June edition of the journal Icarus, scientists used images collected over several years by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to discover that the heat from within the planet powers the jet streams. Condensation of water from Saturn’s internal heating led to temperature differences in the atmosphere. The temperature differences created eddies, or disturbances that move air back and forth at the same latitude, and those eddies, in turn, accelerated the jet streams like rotating gears driving a conveyor belt.

24 June

  • In a new demonstration of Chinese space capabilities, a crewed Shenzhou spacecraft safely undocked with an orbiting lab module Sunday and then redocked under manual control. The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft redocked with the Tiangong-1 module at 12:48 am EDT (0448 GMT, 12:48 pm Beijing time) under manual control, about an hour and a half after undocking from the module.

23 June

  • The European Space Agency (ESA) gave its approval this week for the development of a space observatory that will seek new evidence of dark matter and dark energy. ESA gave the go-ahead to begin construction of Euclid, a spacecraft slated for launch in 2020, after selecting the mission as part of its Cosmic Vision program last fall. The spacecraft features a 1.2-meter telescope with instruments to map the three-dimensional distribution of up to two billion galaxies, measuring the dark matter associated with those galaxies and how they are affected by the accelerating expansion of the universe linked to dark energy.

22 June

  • Astronomers using data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft said Thursday they have discovered two dissimilar extrasolar planets with orbits very close to each other. The planets, designated Kepler-36b and c, orbit the same star 1,200 light-years from Earth in orbits only 1.9 million kilometers from each other. The inner planet, Kepler-36b, appears to be a “super-Earth” 4.5 times the mass and 1.5 times the radius of the Earth. The outer planer, Kepler-36c, is 3.7 times the radius and 8 times the mass of the Earth and is probably more like Neptune.

21 June

  • Data from a NASA orbiter suggests that water ice is present in at least minute amounts on the floor of a crater at the Moon’s south pole, scientists reported Wednesday. In a paper published in the journal Nature, scientists using the laser altimeter on NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft concluded that 22 percent of the material in a micron-think layer on the floor of Shackleton crater consists of water ice.

20 June

  • The United Launch Alliance (ULA) placed a new spy satellite into orbit this morning. An Atlas V 401 left the Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral at 5:28 AM Phoenix time (1228 UTC) carrying the NROL-38 satellite. This is ULA’s 50th EELV launch and uses a Centaur upper stage to carry the satellite to Geosynchronous orbit.
  • The Gruber Foundation announced today that the 2012 Cosmology Prize will be awarded to Johns Hopkins University professor Charles L. Bennett and the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) space mission science team that he led. Bennett and the WMAP team are being recognized by the foundation for their transformative study of an ancient light dating back to the infant universe. So precise and accurate are the WMAP results that they form the foundation of the Standard Cosmological Model.

19 June

  • The Atlas V rocket scheduled to launch the NROL-38 satellite has been rolled back to the launch pad following the repair of an environmental control system duct. Launch coverage begins Wednesday 20 June at 5:08 AM Phoenix time (1208 UTC). Weather conditions are 70 percent favorable for the morning lift off.

18 June

  • China’s Shenzhou-9 spacecraft successfully docked with its Tiangong-1 lab module on Monday. Shenzhou-9 docked in automated mode with Tiangong-1 at 11:07 PM Phoenix time Sunday (0607 UTC Monday) after what Chinese officials said was a normal approach. Two of three people on board Shenzhou-9, Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang, boarded Tiangong-1 about two hours later; the third crewmember, Liu Yang, followed a short time later after the others confirmed the conditions in the module were suitable.
  • Under a new agreement, privately operated spacecraft ferrying NASA astronauts to the international space station will be licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), but leave it to NASA to decide whether the vehicles are fit to dock with the station and carry astronauts in the first place, the heads of the two agencies said June 18 in a joint press briefing.
  • The launch of a Russian Proton-M carrier rocket with the SES-5 (Sirius-5) satellite from the Baikonur launch pad in Kazakhstan has been postponed from 10:23 p.m. Moscow Time on June 19 to the same time on June 20.

17 June

  • United Launch Alliance has postponed the launch of an Atlas V rocket from the Space Coast. After the rocket was rolled the launch pad, an issue with an environmental control system duct that failed near its connection to the Mobile Launch Platform was identified. The vehicle will be rolled back to the Vertical Integration Facility so the duct can be replaced. The launch is now set for Wednesday, June 20 from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
  • View the video of the landing of the X-37B at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
  • An international team of astronomers led by Fabian Walter of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy has managed for the first time to determine the distance of the galaxy HDF850.1, well-known among astronomers as being one of the most productive star-forming galaxies in the observable universe. The galaxy is at a distance of 12.5 billion light years. Hence, we see it as it was 12.5 billion years ago, when the universe was less than 10% of its current age. Even more of a surprise, HDF850.1 turns out to be part of a group of around a dozen protogalaxies that formed within the first billion years of cosmic history – only one of two such primordial clusters known to date. The work is being published in the journal Nature.

16 June

  • China sent into orbit on Saturday its first female astronaut, 33-year-old Liu Yang. A Long March rocket carrying Shenzhou-9 spacecraft lifted off from the Jiuquan space center on Saturday in the Gobi Desert at 3:37 Phoenix time (10:37 UTC).
  • The U.S. Air Force’s second X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-2) landed successfully at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., early this morning after a record 469 days in space – more than double the time clocked up by the flight of the first vehicle, OTV-1.

15 June

  • The original space shuttle‘ to come out of hiding in Downey, California. The town plans to display the full-scale mock-up of the space shuttle, which Rockwell built in 1972 to pitch its design to NASA.

14 June

  • Just weeks after SpaceX became the first private company to visit the International Space Station, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden toured the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne. Bolden joined SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk in thanking more than 1,000 employees who helped design, launch and recover the company’s Dragon capsule in May following its trip to the space station.

13 June

  • A Pegasus rocket successfully launched a small NASA spacecraft designed to help astronomers track down black holes. An Orbital Sciences Corporation L-1011 aircraft, flying out of Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, released the Pegasus XL rocket at 12:00 pm EDT (1600 GMT). The rocket’s first stage ignited five seconds after release, and it and two other stages propelled NASA’s NuSTAR into a circular low Earth orbit.

12 June

  • Project engineers have narrowed the landing site for NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover from 20 by 25 kilometers to 7 by 20 kilometers, allowing a more precise landing near the base of Mt. Sharp, the peak in the middle of Gale Crater that will be the focus of the rover’s scientific studies. The landing is scheduled for 10:31 PM Phoenix time on 5 August (0531 GMT 6 August).
  • The European Southern Observatory (ESO) gave the green light Monday to plans to build a telescope nearly 40 meters across in Chile. The European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) will be located in northern Chile, close to ESO’s existing Paranal Observatory, and feature a primary mirror 39.3 meters in diameter. That would give the telescope over 15 times the light-gathering power of each of the twin 10-meter Keck Observatory telescopes.

11 June

  • From PrivCo: “SpaceX’s last valuation on secondary markets of $10/share or $1.2 billion is dated to April 2012 before its historic mission. PrivCo estimates that given the mission’s success, new contracts the company stands to gain, and its rapid growth, SpaceX’s share price has now doubled in value to a PrivCo-estimated $20/share with a valuation of $2.4 billion. In an additional valuation data point, PrivCo confirms a recent $18.50/share ask price from secondary markets, up 85% from its last trade in April.”
  • One of the two female astronauts, Liu Yang(L) and Wang Yaping (R), from the Wuhan Flight Unit, will join Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft docking mission with Tiangong-1 spacecraft in mid-June.

10 June

  • Astronomers at one Florida university hope they’ve found a sweet way to help compensate for, and protest, massive budget cuts. Students, professors and scientists at the University of Central Florida will be selling super nova brownie cookies, Milky Way cupcakes and other earthly delights at a bake sale on Saturday to rally support for NASA’s space exploration budget, which is facing a nearly $300 million cut astronomers say will derail discovery.

9 June

  • Chinese officials announced Saturday that it will launch its next human spaceflight mission, which will feature a docking with its experimental lab module already in orbit, around the middle of this month. The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft and its Long March 2F rocket were moved to the launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on Saturday in preparation for what officials said would be a “mid-June” launch.

8 June

  • Citing growing costs, NASA officials announced Thursday they were canceling a small x-ray astronomy mission that was still in the early stages of development. The Gravity and Extreme Magnetism Small Explorer (GEMS) mission failed to pass a confirmation review by NASA last week, and the decision not to continue development of the mission was formally confirmed by the agency on Thursday.
  • Virgin Galactic held an open house at its facility in the Green Offices at 166 S. Roadrunner Parkway, the building with a curved bluish-green glass exterior. George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, noted that the facilities at Spaceport America, north of Las Cruces, were not ready yet, but they expect to start flights in the second half of 2013.

7 June

  • The space shuttle Enterprise arrived Wednesday at its new home, a former aircraft carrier turned museum in New York City. Enterprise was transported by barge up the Hudson from a dock in New Jersey to the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York, where it was hoisted onto the deck of the carrier Intrepid

6 June

  • A key member of Congress who had been critical of NASA’s commercial crew development efforts said Tuesday that he has reached an understanding with NASA about how the program should proceed. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), who chairs the appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA, had inserted report language into the House version of NASA’s fiscal year 2013 budget that called on NASA to use conventional contracts, and not Space Act Agreements, in the next phase of the program, and to select only one company to receive most or all the funds in that phase. Wolf said he’s reached an understanding with NASA to allow the agency to pick “2.5” companies, two with full awards and one with a partial award, in the next phase, which can be done through Space Act Agreements. NASA agreed to use conventional contracts in later phases of the program and to vet selected companies’ financial viability before making awards in this round. Wolf also said he supported funding the program at around the level of the Senate version of the NASA spending bill, $525 million, slightly higher than the $500 million in the House version but still below the $830 million requested by the White House.

5 June

  • It’s your last chance to catch one of the rarest cosmic spectacles — Venus slowly crossing the face of the sun. Weather permitting, the transit of Venus will be visible from much of Earth — Tuesday from the Western Hemisphere and Wednesday from the Eastern Hemisphere. This sight won’t come again until 105 years from now — in 2117.
  • The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) has given NASA two telescopes originally designed for reconnaissance satellites that the space agency believes could be repurposed for astronomy missions. The two telescopes, each with mirrors 2.4 meters in diameter, the same as Hubble, were built as spares for spy satellites not flown and are no longer needed by NRO. NASA is considering using one of the telescopes for a mission called the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) to study dark energy. WFIRST is a mission identified by astronomers as their top priority large mission for the current decade, but is one that NASA lacks the funding to develop.
  • The discovery of objects in the Kuiper Belt in the outer reaches of the solar system netted scientists a pair of major prizes last week. The $1-million Shaw Prize in astronomy for 2012 went to David Jewitt and Jane Luu for their discovery of the first Kuiper Belt objects in the early 1990s. The $1-million Kavli Prize in astrophysics also went to Jewitt and Luu, as well as Michael Brown, for their Kuiper Belt discoveries. Astronomers now believe there may be as many as 70,000 bodies at least 100 kilometers in diameter in the Kuiper Belt, and the discovery of some large objects there led to the reclassification by the International Astronomical Union of Pluto as a dwarf planet in 2006.

4 June

  • Enterprise passed the World Trade Center in New York on its barge trip toward the USS Intrepid.
  • One of the two solar arrays of a newly-launched communications satellite for Intelsat failed to deploy properly, the company announced late Friday. Intelsat said that one of the arrays on its Intelsat 19 satellite did not deploy as planned shortly after launch early Friday. Intelsat and the satellite’s manufacturer, Space Systems/Loral (SS/L), are studying the problem. If the array is not deployed, the spacecraft’s operations could be seriously impaired because of the limited power available to it from the single working array.
  • China’s aggressive satellite production and launch pace is threatening launch vehicle failures and the malfunction in orbit of important spacecraft, according to a largely classified Defense Department report to Congress. The report comes as China is poised for an extremely high profile mission, the launch into space of China’s first woman astronaut as early as mid June. Examples of failures stemming from the growing risk factors are cited in an unclassified summary of the 2012 Pentagon report titled “Military and Security Developments of the People’s Republic of China”.

3 June

  • Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) reached another milestone last week in its efforts to become the next commercial company to venture into space and provide NASA crew transport capabilities to low-Earth orbit, or “LEO” as it is more commonly called. The NewSpace firm successfully completed a “captive carry” flight test of a full scale version of their Dream Chaser spacecraft in the skies over the Rocky Mountains of Jefferson County, Colorado last week.

2 June

1 June

  • High above Earth, astronaut Don Pettit is about to become the first human to witness and photograph a transit of Venus from space. His images and commentary will be streamed to Earth during the crossing. Follow this on NASA TV on Tuesday afternoon, 5 June.
  • A Zenit-3SL rocket launched from the Pacific Ocean placed an Intelsat communications satellite into orbit early Friday. The Sea Launch Zenit-3SL rocket lifted off from a floating platform on the Equator in the Pacific Ocean at 10:23 PM Phoenix time Thursday (0523 UTC Friday) and released the Intelsat 19 satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit about an hour later.
  • The water plumes from Enceladus form nanograins that turn to plasma in a reaction with the magnetic fields surrounding Saturn.
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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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July 2011

Posted by drdave on July 1, 2011

31 July

  • Hayabusa returns to the Silver Screen.

30 July

  • A strange-looking scar on the moon has astronomers wondering whether the cause of this peculiar impact feature is a piece of space debris that smashed into the lunar surface or a spacecraft that made a planned crash landing decades ago. The “butterfly-shaped” mass of lunar rubble seen in the picture could be the remnants of NASA’s Lunar Orbiter 2, which made a planned crash landing on the moon in 1967 at the end of its mission.

29 July

  • China launched the latest in a series of what government officials call “experimental” satellites on Friday. The Long March 2C rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 12:42 AM Phoenix time (0742 UTC, 3:42 pm Beijing time) Friday, carrying the Shijian 11-02 satellite.
  • American spaceships are expected to make three trips to the International Space Station in the coming months. SpaceX is set to launch its Dragon capsule toward the station on 30 November, and another Dragon capsule on its first operational cargo-carrying mission three or four months later. Orbital Sciences is planning to send its Cygnus capsule to the station in February 2012.
  • This week, the moon is a thin waning crescent and will arrive at new phase on Saturday, leaving the sky dark and moonless from dusk to dawn. This makes it a great opportunity to enjoy two displays of “shooting stars” that will be active and near their peak this weekend, which can provide some entertaining viewing: the Delta Aquarids and the Alpha Capricornids.

28 July

27 July

  • A Long March rocket placed the latest spacecraft for China’s satellite navigation system into orbit on Wednesday. The Long March 3A rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 2:44 PM Phoenix time Tuesday (2144 UTC) and placed a Beidou satellite into an inclined geosynchronous Earth orbit.
  • For more than a decade, the International Space Station has been a busy orbiting research lab. But it could soon take on a new role as a testbed for ambitious missions deeper into space. The European Space Agency (ESA), foresees future ventures that could include Mars missions, lunar habitats or traveling to an asteroid – all needing new technologies and techniques that could be tested on the Station.

26 July

  • A newly discovered planetary nebula, the last gasps of a dying star, could provide scientists with answers about the ultimate fate of our Sun and solar system including the Earth.
  • Adding to the long list that is her legacy, Atlantis’ successful final test of Neptec’s TriDAR rendezvous and docking system has resulted in Orbital completing a deal to use high tech sensors on their Cygnus spacecraft. With the orbiter’s also testing DragonEye for SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, the two commercial vehicles will “Tally Ho” the ISS via the path finding conducted by Shuttle.
  • NASA and SpaceX continue to discuss the ground rules for the first mission by the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station.

25 July

24 July

  • John Kelly discusses the end of the Space Shuttle Program and NOT the end of the American Space Program.

23 July

  • NASA’s next Mars rover will land in a large crater that features a mountain the rover will climb, project scientists announced Friday. The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), also known as Curiosity, will land in Gale Crater near the planet’s equator. The crater, over 150 kilometers in diameter, features a central mountain about five kilometers high that the rover will climb during its mission, allowing the rover to study a variety of terrains.
  • Think Of The Moon As Just Another Continent

22 July

  • Scientists working with recovered data from the Pioneer 10 and 11 missions are closing in on a solution to the famous Pioneer Anomaly. Their just-published results show that the mysterious effect on the two spacecraft is not constant over time, probably indicating that no outside force is acting on the Pioneers, but rather, something inside the spacecraft is to blame.
  • Two teams of astronomers have discovered the largest and farthest reservoir of water ever detected in the universe. The water, equivalent to 140 trillion times all the water in the world’s ocean, surrounds a huge, feeding black hole, called a quasar, more than 12 billion light-years away. “The environment around this quasar is very unique in that it’s producing this huge mass of water,” said Matt Bradford, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Breaking from the strategy it used in the first two rounds of its commercial crew development (CCDev) program, NASA said it intends to use a traditional procurement process governed by the Federal Acquisition Regulations to fund its contribution to the next phases of work on privately owned human spaceflight systems.

21 July

20 July

  • During a July 15 meeting, NASA and SpaceX officials reached agreement on planning dates of 30 November for the launch and 7 December for the rendezvous and berthing of the Dragon cargo spacecraft with the International Space Station.
  • NASA announced that Deputy Administrator Lori Garver will provide opening keynote remarks at the Space Frontier Foundation’s annual NewSpace Conference at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 28. Media are invited to attend the conference, which runs July 28-30 at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.
  • Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope to look for potential rings around dwarf planet Pluto have instead uncovered a fourth moon orbiting the distant icy world.

19 July

  • The space shuttle Atlantis undocked from the International Space Station early Tuesday, ending the final visit of a shuttle to the ISS. Atlantis undocked from the ISS at 11:28 PM Phoenix time Monday (0628 GMT) and moved to a distance of nearly 200 meters away, after which the ISS turned 90 degrees to allow photography of the station from a new angle. The shuttle fired its thrusters to move away from the station for good at 1:18 AM (0818 GMT).
  • A Zenit rocket successfully launched long-delayed Russian radio astronomy satellite Spektr-R on Monday. The Zenit-3M rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 7:31 PM Phoenix time Sunday (0231 GMT Monday).

18 July

  • Jeff Foust at the Space Review discusses the limbo in which the Senate Launch System (SLS) is trapped. Its a rocket without a mission.
  • The U.S. Air Force successfully launched GPS IIF-2 Space Vehicle Number (SVN) 63, carried aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Medium rocket at 2:41 a.m. EDT July 16 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. This is the second in the series of 12 GPS satellites that Boeing has on contract with the Air Force. Boeing, maker of the satellite, reports signals are being received.

17 July

  • NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has entered orbit around the large main-belt asteroid Vesta, the space agency announced early Sunday. Dawn achieved orbit around Vesta on Saturday, although NASA was unable to give a specific time for its arrival; NASA previously estimated Vesta would go into orbit at around 1 am EDT (0500 GMT) Saturday.

16 July

  • A Delta 4 rocket, delayed two days by technical and weather issues, successfully launched a GPS satellite early Saturday. The Delta 4 Medium+ 4,2 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral at 2:41 am EDT (0641 GMT) and placed the GPS 2F-2 satellite into orbit.
  • A Proton rocket carried into orbit early Saturday communications satellite for a European company and the Kazakh government. The Proton M lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:16 PM Phoenix time Friday (2316 UTC).

15 July

  • Key senators on Thursday tried to push NASA to release more details about its planned heavy-lift rocket. House Republicans cut $2 Billion from the NASA budget, which is already insufficient to build the Senate’s heavy lift rocket.
  • India’s latest communication satellite, G-SAT 12, was launched today from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SHAR) in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.

14 July

  • The full House Appropriations Committee approved a 2012 spending bill Wednesday that would provide no funding for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.
  • The launch of a Delta IV rocket was scrubbed due to unfavorable weather conditions. The rocket is carrying the Air Force’s Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF-2 payload. The launch was rescheduled for Saturday, July 16 from Space Launch Complex 37.

13 July

  • A Soyuz rocket placed six new Globalstar satellites into orbit early Wednesday. The Soyuz 2 rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 7:24 PM Phoenix time Tuesday (0227 UTC)
  • Countdown commenced for PSLV-C17/GSAT-12 Mission
  • SpaceX Breaks Ground on Launch Pad for Falcon 9 Heavy at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

12 July

  • China launched a new data relay satellite to support its future human spaceflight activities. The Long March 3C rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 8:41 AM Phoenix time (1541 GMT) Monday and placed the Tianlian 1-02 satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit.
  • NASA has granted the final space shuttle mission an extra day in orbit to complete their work at the International Space Station. Shuttle managers determined there were enough consumables on board shuttle Atlantis to allow the orbiter to remain in orbit another day, giving the four-person STS-135 crew more time to complete their transfer of supplies to the ISS. Atlantis is now scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center at 2:56 AM Phoenix time (0956 GMT) on July 21.
  • Today, the spacewalkers will begin the day with the most crucial task of the outing: retrieving a broken cooling pump module from a storage platform on the exterior of the station and installing it inside the shuttle Atlantis’ payload bay.

11 July

  • The Planetary Science Institute (PSI) and XCOR Aerospace have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that lays the groundwork for flying the human-operated Atsa Suborbital Observatory aboard XCOR’s Lynx spacecraft. The Atsa project will use crewed reusable suborbital spacecraft equipped with a specially designed telescope to provide low-cost space-based observations above the contaminating atmosphere of Earth, while avoiding some operational constraints of satellite telescope systems.
  • The launch of Russia’s Soyuz-2.1a space carrier with six U.S. Globalstar-2 communications satellites, has been postponed due to technical reasons. The spacecraft equipped with a Fregat booster was scheduled to blast off on July 11 at 6:58 Moscow time (2:58 GMT) from the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan.

10 July

  • Atlantis completed the docking maneuvers today. This was Atlantis’ 19th docking to a Space Station – based on a total of seven dockings to the Russian space station MIR, and 12 to ISS – placing her in history as the single vehicle with the most space station dockings.

9 July

8 July

  • The shuttle Atlantis has launched successfully, following a dramatic hold at T-minus 31 seconds. The count was resumed almost immediately.

7 July

  • A Long March rocket placed into orbit the latest in a series of Chinese experimental satellites on Wednesday. The Long March 2C rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 9:21 AM Phoenix time (0421 UTC Thurday) Wednesday and placed the Shi Jian (SJ) 11-03 satellite into orbit.
  • A proposed appropriations bill released Wednesday by a House of Representatives committee would slash nearly $2 billion from NASA’s 2012 budget request and end the troubled James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) program.
  • Next week, Neptune will complete its first full orbit of the Sun since it was discovered in 1846. The blue planet, the farthest out in the Solar System, remains one of Earth’s most mysterious neighbours, but scientists now know one thing that they hadn’t for the past 165 years: the precise length of its day.

6 July

  • Countdown clocks started Tuesday afternoon for Friday’s scheduled launch of the space shuttle Atlantis on the final mission of the shuttle program, but weather could delay the mission. The countdown started Tuesday at 1 pm EDT (1700 GMT) for the launch of mission STS-135, scheduled for 8:26 am Phoenix time (1526 GMT).
  • Technology Review’s John Logsdon writes – “Forty years ago, I wrote an article for Technology Review titled “Shall We Build the Space Shuttle?” Now, with the 135th and final flight of the shuttle at hand, and the benefit of hindsight, it seems appropriate to ask a slightly different question—”Should We Have Built the Space Shuttle?” “

5 July

  • A while back when NASA released their latest images of Vesta (24 June), some amateur videographers started doing enhancements. See the results at the Planetary Society blog and Emily Lakdawalla’s commentary.

4 July

  • Part two of the NASASpaceFlight history of the Space Shuttle Atlantis – the MIR program.
  • Plans to strip mine the moon may soon be more than just science-fiction

3 July

  • NASASpaceFlight has a long review of the history of the Atlantis space shuttle.

2 July

  • Officials scrubbed an Ariane 5 launch Friday afternoon a few minutes before lift-off (2:43 PM Phoenix time – 2143 UTC) due to a liquid hydrogen valve that failed to close properly. A new launch date has not been announced.

1 July

  • Aviation Week reports that LightSquared has formally presented a revised plan for its nationwide wireless broadband network, as the final report of interference testing shows that its original deployment plan is “incompatible with aviation GPS operations.” Without significant mitigation, the report says LightSquared’s plans to deploy 40,000 high-power terrestrial transmitters across the U.S. “would result in a complete loss of GPS operations below 2,000 ft. above ground level over a large radius” from metropolitan areas. Whether the “revised” plan is viable is the subject of renewed debate.
  • Preparations are on in top gear for the launch of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV- C17) from Sriharikota on July 15 between 4.48 p.m. and 5.08 p.m. The rocket will put into orbit communication satellite GSAT-12. Both the launch vehicle and the satellite were built by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The satellite that weighs 1,410 kg has 12 extended C-band transponders.
  • Atlantis is continuing to behave on Pad 39A as preparations for entering S0007 tasks – otherwise known as the three day launch countdown – remain on track, with the clock’s scheduled to start ticking backwards at 1pm local on Tuesday. STS-135 will mark the final scheduled Space Shuttle mission, although the actual duration of the flight is still being discussed.

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April 2011

Posted by drdave on April 1, 2011

30 April

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

29 April

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

28 April

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

27 April

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

26 April

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

25 April

24 April

23 April

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

22 April

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

21 April

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

20 April

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

19 April

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

18 April

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

17 April

16 April

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

15 April

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

14 April

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

13 April

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

12 April

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

11 April

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

10 April

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

9 April

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

8 April

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

7 April

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

6 April

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

5 April

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

4 April

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

3 April

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

2 April

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

1 April

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

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