Friday, April 29, 2011

NASA Delays Last Launch of Shuttle Endeavour Due to Malfunction

NASA called off its attempt to launch the final voyage of the space shuttle Endeavour yesterday (April 29) because of a malfunction in one of the spacecraft's critical power units. "It's unfortunate for the [Endeavour] team and Mark Kelly and his crew, but today the orbiter's not ready to fly, and as we always say in this business, we will not fly before we're ready," launch director Mike Leinbach said.

Two heaters on one of Endeavour's auxiliary power units, which power hydraulics systems on the shuttle during its return to Earth, failed this morning, rendering the unit useless. "The troubleshooting proved that it was a hard failure," Leinbach said. "We were not able to get it to come to life no matter what we did." Mission managers decided to delay at least 72 hours to look into the source of the problem. The next chance to launch Endeavour comes Monday-May 2 at 2:33 p.m. EDT from Launch Pad 39A here at Kennedy Space Center.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

NASA's Youngest Shuttle

NASA's youngest orbiter, born from a tragedy, Endeavour made its debut on April 25, 1991, as it was rolled out from Rockwell's construction hangar in Palmdale, Calif. The fifth and last of the U.S. space agency's reusable winged spacecraft to enter the shuttle fleet, Endeavour arrived at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida a month later.

In the two decades since, Endeavour has left its mark on history, saving the Hubble Space Telescope, giving birth to the International Space Station (ISS), and completing a mission begun by the fallen shuttle it was built to replace. It also launched the first African-American woman and the first married couple. Now it is set to fly one last mission to the ISS to deliver a state-of-the-art experiment, a crowning achievement for an accomplished spacecraft. "Since Endeavour's first flight to this flight, it's had a really outstanding career," said Capt. Mark Kelly, commander of Endeavour's final mission, after arriving April 27 in Florida for the orbiter's last launch.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

STS-134 Astronauts Arrive at Kennedy for Launch

The six astronauts for space shuttle Endeavour's STS-134 mission to the International Space Station now are at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for their prelaunch preparations. "We're really happy to be here today," said commander Kelly. "We got a chance to take look at the orbiter as we first flew over the field and then the over pad. It's great to see Endeavour all ready to go again."

Kelly introduced his crew, talked about how excited they were to fly this mission and deliver the special payloads to the station, and how happy he is that his wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, will be able to travel to Kennedy arriving in time for the launch on Friday.

Kelly and his crew then departed the shuttle runway. Later today, Kelly and Pilot Greg H. Johnson will practice landings in the Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA), which are Gulfstream II jets modified to handle like a space shuttle.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

NASA clears shuttle Endeavour for April 29 launch

The shuttle Endeavour was cleared for a launch attempt on April 29 to deliver a new class of physics instrument to the International Space Station on NASA's next-to-last shuttle flight, officials said Tuesday. Liftoff of the 134th shuttle mission is scheduled for 3:47 p.m. EDT from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The all-veteran crew is led by Mark Kelly, husband of Arizona Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who is recovering from a January 8 shooting that killed six people and injured 12 others.

Pending approval from her doctors, Giffords, who has not been seen publicly since the attack outside a Tucson, Arizona, grocery store, plans to attend the launch, Kelly has said. The primary purpose of the flight is to deliver the $2 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, or AMS, particle detector, an instrument designed to detect dark matter, antimatter and other exotic phenomena.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

PSLV-C16 launch successful

India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle- C16 placed on a 822-km sunsynchronous orbit three satellites – ResourceSat – 2, an Indo-Russian YouthSat and Singapore's first satellite X Sat, on Wednesday. The launch went off as per schedule and the satellites were placed in orbit 18 minutes after blast off from the launch pad at the Sriharikota spaceport.

Wednesday's successful launch, which was the 17th consecutive one for India's space warhorse PSLV, has pushed up India'a remote sensing capabilities. Indian Space Research Organisation chairman K Radhakrishnan said the launch was a grand success. "We wanted to put the satellites into a 820-km orbit, but we got an 822 km orbit," he said. The mission cost Rs 250 crore.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

NASA: Final Launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour Set for April 29

NASA's space shuttle Endeavour is ready to launch on its final voyage April 29, top mission managers decided on April 19. Shuttle officials approved the launch plan after a day-long meeting called the Flight Readiness Review (FRR), which allowed mission managers to discuss Endeavour's mission plan in detail and consider any possible issues that might delay liftoff.

None being found, officials decided to move forward with the target date of April 29 at 3:47 p.m. EDT for Endeavour's final blast off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, florida. "The team was unanimous and we're ready to go fly," NASA's associate administrator for space operations, Bill Gerstenmaier, said during a press conference following the meeting.

Endeavour is slated to carry six astronauts, a cargo bay full of spare supplies, and a $2 billion astrophysics experiment to the International Space Station. "The potential science that it can return to understand the dark matter that lives in the universe and understand these unique high-energy particles that are out there in space, it's going to be tremendously important," Gerstenmaier said. "This is a pretty unique mission to close out Endeavour's career."

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Countdown for PSLV-C16 mission on

The countdown for the launch of PSLV-C16 that will put the country's latest remote sensing spacecraft Resourcesat-2 and two small satellites in orbit on April 20 began in the early morning on Monday at the spaceport of Sriharikota.

"The 54-and-a-half-hour-long countdown started on schedule this morning at 3.42 AM. All the proceedings are smooth. The fourth stage of filling liquid propellants is in progress now," Indian Space Research Organisation spokesman S Sathish said. "The weather is normal for the launch," he said. As per the schedule, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV C-16) carrying Resourcesat-2, Youthsat and X-sat will lift-off from the launch pad at 10.12 am on Wednesday.

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Star Formation Linked to Sonic Booms

ESA's Herschel space observatory has revealed that nearby interstellar clouds contain networks of tangled gaseous filaments. Intriguingly, each filament is approximately the same width, hinting that they may result from interstellar sonic booms throughout our Galaxy. The filaments are huge, stretching for tens of light years through space and Herschel has shown that newly-born stars are often found in the densest parts of them. One filament imaged by Herschel in the Aquila region contains a cluster of about 100 infant stars.

Such filaments in interstellar clouds have been glimpsed before by other infrared satellites, but they have never been seen clearly enough to have their widths measured. Now, Herschel has shown that, regardless of the length or density of a filament, the width is always roughly the same. "This is a very big surprise," says Doris Arzoumanian, Laboratoire AIM Paris-Saclay, CEA/IRFU, the lead author on the paper describing this work. Together with Philippe André from the same institute and other colleagues, she analysed 90 filaments and found they were all about 0.3 light years across, or about 20,000 times the distance of Earth from the Sun. This consistency of the widths demands an explanation.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

NASA Names Mission Control for Legendary Flight-Director Christopher Kraft

NASA is recognizing Christopher C. Kraft Jr., America's first human space mission flight director, by naming the Mission Control Center in his honor for his service to the nation and its space programs. Johnson Space Center Director Michael Coats made it official April 14 at a dedication ceremony and unveiling of a new nameplate on the building, designating the legendary building as the Christopher C. Kraft Jr. Mission Control Center.

“Dr. Kraft’s life stands as a testament to his dream of exploring space. A dream he realized here on Earth, in this building and at this center, through his engineering and managerial expertise,” said Coats. “He is a space pioneer without whom we’d never have heard those historic words on the surface of the moon, ‘Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed.’ Those words effectively put Houston, and this building behind us, on the intergalactic map forever.”

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

NASA's Next Generation Space Telescope Marks Key Milestone

The first six of 18 segments that will form NASA's James Webb Space Telescope's primary mirror for space observations will begin final round-the-clock cryogenic testing this week. These tests will confirm the mirrors will respond as expected to the extreme temperatures of space prior to integration into the telescope's permanent housing structure. The X-ray and Cryogenic Facility at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. will provide the space-like environment to help engineers measure how well the telescope will image infrared sources once in orbit.

Each mirror segment measures approximately 4.3 feet in diameter to form the 21.3 foot, hexagonal telescope mirror assembly critical for infrared observations. Each of the 18 hexagonal-shaped mirror assemblies weighs approximately 88 pounds. The mirrors are made of a light and strong metal called beryllium, and coated with a microscopically thin coat of gold to enabling the mirror to efficiently collect light.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

NASA Announces New Homes for Space Shuttle Orbiters After Retirement

After 30 years of spaceflight, more than 130 missions, and numerous science and technology firsts, NASA's space shuttle fleet will retire and be on display at institutions across the country to inspire the next generation of explorers and engineers. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on Tuesday announced the facilities where four shuttle orbiters will be displayed permanently at the conclusion of the Space Shuttle Program.

Shuttle Enterprise, the first orbiter built, will move from the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York. The Udvar-Hazy Center will become the new home for shuttle Discovery, which retired after completing its 39th mission in March. Shuttle Endeavour, which is preparing for its final flight at the end of the month will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles. Shuttle Atlantis, which will fly the last planned shuttle mission in June, will be displayed at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex in Florida.

The MELFI Shuffle: Contingency Planning for Preserving Samples

The International Space Station is a unique laboratory, due to its microgravity environment, but it still shares similarities with Earth-bound research facilities. Both perform experiments as part of their research goals, yielding various samples from which they collect data towards results. These samples can require preservation in refrigerators and freezers. A recent malfunction of a Minus Eighty-Degree Laboratory Freezer for ISS, or MELFI, on the space station, however, brought to light one of the main differences between this orbiting lab and its Earthly counterparts-refrigeration repair companies do not make house calls in space.

The malfunction of the MELFI flight unit two has been an ongoing challenge for the space station. In October of 2009, and twice in December 2010, the unit experienced an automatic shutdown due to difficulties with the Electronics Units or EUs. The nonfunctioning EUs all returned to Earth for ground teams to identify the exact cause of trouble. The first EU returned to Earth for study on STS-131/19A, while the remaining two returned on STS-133/ULF-5 in March 2011. The first malfunction was linked to the motor drive electronics, a subassembly of the EU. The parts were replaced and the repaired EU is scheduled to return to the space station on STS-134/ULF-6 in late April 2011. The other two EUs are currently undergoing testing and the motor drive electronics appear functional, which indicates the malfunction is in the remaining parts of the EU.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Testing of AMS on Tap for the Weekend

At NASA Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A, crews will power up space shuttle Endeavour's payload, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2 today in preparation for testing, which will take place over the weekend. Teams have concluded, with an additional walk down of the pad, that there was no new damage following a storm earlier this week. NASA managers will hold a Flight Readiness Review on Tuesday, April 19, to assess the ground and flight team's readiness to support launch. An official launch date will be announced at the conclusion of the meeting. Endeavour's STS-134 mission is targeted for launch at 3:47 p.m. EDT on Friday, April 29.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Space Station Crew Launches from Birthplace of Human Spaceflight

One week shy of the 50th anniversary of the first human spaceflight, NASA astronaut Ron Garan and Russian cosmonauts Andrey Borisenko and Alexander Samokutyaev launched to the International Space Station at 6:18 p.m. EDT Monday (4:18 a.m. local time, April 5) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Soyuz rocket that lifted Garan, Borisenko and Samokutyaev into orbit was decorated with Yuri Gagarin's name. The mission lifted off from the same launch pad used April 12, 1961, when Gagarin became the first human to journey into space.

The crew is scheduled to dock its Soyuz TMA-21 spacecraft to the station's Poisk port at 7:18 p.m. on Wednesday, April 6. The crew members will join Expedition 27 Commander Dmitry Kondratyev and Flight Engineers Cady Coleman of NASA and Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency, who have been aboard the orbiting laboratory since December 2010. On Wednesday, NASA Television will broadcast live coverage of the docking beginning at 6:45 p.m.

Houston Deserves a Space Shuttle for Display, Astronaut Spouses Say

The spouses of two astronauts who died in the space shuttle Columbia accident have joined Houston’s vociferous campaign to win a space shuttle for display once NASA retires the orbiter fleet this year. Houston, home of NASA's astronaut corps and shuttle mission control, is hoping to be among the few sites in the country awarded a shuttle for public display when the 30-year program comes to an end. Houston has stepped up its campaign recently as the competition has become increasingly fierce.

For its part, Space Center Houston has some grand plans in the works should it receive a shuttle. "We currently have a building, about 53,000 square feet, that would house the orbiter," Allen said. "The theme we're looking at for the exhibits is the human side of the orbiter, what the astronauts were able to accomplish." Allen's not being picky. He said any of NASA's orbiters Discovery, Endeavour or Atlantis — would be welcome in Houston."We think we could tell that story about any of the three vehicles," he said.The center receives about 750,000 visitors a year, he said, and has hosted almost 14 million people since it opened in 1992.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Launch Pad Inspections Set For Saturday Following TCDT Conclusion Friday

Technicians and engineers on Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will begin detailed inspections of space shuttle Endeavour and its external fuel tank Saturday afternoon. They’ll look for any possible damage from severe storms that hit Kennedy on Wednesday and Thursday. Teams began an initial survey of the launch pad Friday, but weren’t able to do a thorough inspection because the pad was being used for a full launch dress rehearsal for Endeavour’s STS-134 mission called the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test (TCDT). Endeavour’s six astronauts successfully completed the simulated launch countdown and related safety training Friday afternoon and returned home to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Friday’s initial pad inspection did not find anything obvious, other than the previously identified minor foam insulation damage on Endeavour’s external tank that was caused by a strong storm on Wednesday. Teams will install platforms Saturday morning that will allow for close up surveys, which will provide data to engineering reviews to confirm there are no other issues. Endeavour is targeted to launch to the International Space Station on April 19 at 7:48 p.m. EDT.