Monday, May 09, 2011

NASA Sets May 16 for Last Launch of Endeavour

NASA managers set May 16 as the new launch date for the final flight of Space Shuttle Endeavour after technicians completed work to rewire and retest a switchbox in the orbiters aft compartment. Shuttle managers ordered the repair work following a heater malfunction that forced NASA officials to the call off the planned April 29 launch.

At a briefing for reporters today at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Shuttle managers Mike Moses and Mike Leinbach announced that Endeavour’s last liftoff is now targeted for 8:56 a.m. EDT on Monday, May 16.

The STS-134 mission is the penultimate flight of the space shuttle program and will deliver the $2 Billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the International Space Station. Endeavour’s last launch attempt on April 29 was scrubbed about four hours prior to blastoff when critical hydrazine fuel line heaters failed to turn on inside one of the orbiters three auxiliary power units (APU’s).

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Friday, May 06, 2011

Space Shuttle Endeavour to Launch No Earlier Than May 16

NASA is now aiming to launch the space shuttle Endeavour on its final flight no earlier than May 16 – pushing the mission back another week to give ground crews more time to complete and test repairs to the orbiter.

Top NASA managers met may6th afternoon to assess progress on repairs to failed heaters that caused the agency to call off its first launch attempt on April 29. The heaters protect a crucial power unit, and without them, the unit would likely freeze on orbit and be unable to serve its role as one of three power sources for Endeavour's hydraulic systems during re-entry and landing.

Technicians worked on repairs all week and will continue to test the electrical circuitry that caused the initial postponement of Endeavour's STS-134 mission. Repair work will continue through the weekend, NASA officials said, and mission managers will hold a news briefing on Monday (May 9) to discuss the status of the work.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

NASA Selects Investigations for Future Key Missions

NASA has selected three science investigations from which it will pick one potential 2016 mission to look at Mars' interior for the first time; study an extraterrestrial sea on one of Saturn's moons; or study in unprecedented detail the surface of a comet's nucleus. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., would lead the Mars investigation.

Each investigation team will receive $3 million to conduct its mission's concept phase or preliminary design studies and analyses. After another detailed review in 2012 of the concept studies, NASA will select one to continue development efforts leading up to launch. The selected mission will be cost-capped at $425 million, not including launch vehicle funding.

NASA's Discovery Program requested proposals for spaceflight investigations in June 2010. A panel of NASA and other scientists and engineers reviewed 28 submissions. The selected investigations could reveal much about the formation of our solar system and its dynamic processes. Three technology developments for possible future planetary missions also were selected.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

NASA Spacecraft Closing in On Huge Asteroid Vesta

NASA spacecraft has reached a new phase of its mission to Vesta, the second-largest asteroid in the solar system, and is on track to arrive at the huge space rock in July. The probe, NASA's Dawn spacecraft, is now using cameras for the first time to aid its approach to Vesta, a massive asteroid that many astronomers classify as a protoplanet. If all goes well, the ion-propelled probe should enter orbit around Vesta on July 16 to begin a year-long study of the mysterious space rock.

"We feel a little like Columbus approaching the shores of the New World," said Christopher Russell, Dawn principal investigator at UCLA, in a statement. "The Dawn team can't wait to start mapping this terra incognita." At 329 miles wide, Vesta is the second-biggest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It appears to have layers – a core, mantle and crust – just as planets such as Earth, Venus and Mars do.

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