Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Atlantis Harddown at Launch Complex 39-A

The space shuttle stack for the upcoming STS-125 mission to the Hubble Space Telescope arrived at its seaside launch pad for flight late this morning.

Atlantis, which will fly an 11 day flight beginning on May 12, was hard down at the pad at 11:17 am EDT.

Veteran astronaut Scott Altman will command the fourth and final mission to service Hubble. Pilot Gregory C. Johnson, and Mission specialists John M. Grunsfeld, Michael J. Massimino, and first-time space fliers Andrew J. Feustel, Michael T. Good and Megan McArthur round out the crew of seven.

This will be the last time American astronauts will soar beyond 300 miles altitude for nearly a decade, given Hubble's current altitude of about 310 statue miles. The views from Atlantis payload bay camera should be nice - if only we could boost the space station a tad higher.

Atlantis Moves to Launch Pad for May Launch

Atlantis nears launch pad-39A at 7:55 am EDT (above)

The space shuttle Atlantis began the first motions toward her mid-May launch this morning as the huge shuttle stack departed the vehicle assembly building here at the Kennedy Space Center for her seaside launch pad.

First motion occurred at 3:54 am EDT, and should arrive at launch complex 39-A at 10AM. Liftoff is currently scheduled for May 12th on a mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Atlantis to Rollout to Launch Pad Tuesday

As the cool dew lays cover on the predawn of Tuesday morning, in the middle of a swamp field on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean the world's first reusable space vehicle will move from its assembly building to her launch pad to prepare for a return to earth orbit.

The space shuttle Atlantis will begin her 3.5 mile journey to launch complex 39 and pad A at 4:01 am EDT tomorrow.

Atlantis is currently scheduled to launch on a return servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope on May 12th. This will be the final flight to both repair and upgrade Hubble which was launch aboard Discovery in April 1990. This mission will hopefully extend Hubble's life through 2014.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Atlas V Cape Launch Delayed until April 3

UPDATE: United Launch Alliance and the Air Force has delayed Tuesday evening's planned launch of an Atlas V-016 from here at Cape Canaveral AFS until a No Earlier Than April 3 launch, due to a suspect valve which was replaced and now is in need of more tests.

According to the Air Force in a statement (180309) released earlier this morning, "During the past two weeks, the Atlas V vehicle was rolled back into the Space Launch Complex-41 Vertical Integration Facility and the suspect valve was replaced. The rescheduling of the mission gives the launch team the time to ensure the WGS-2 mission is ready for a second launch attempt."

The Air Force's Wideband Global SATCOM-2 satellite is the payload which Atlas V will boost to a position above the equator, and is the next in a series of WGS satellites intended to speed up data relays to between two to four gigabytes per second, from around the globe.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Discovery Towed This Evening off the Runway

Following her landing four hours ago, orbiter Discovery is shown here this evening being towed from the shuttle landing facility here at the Kennedy Space Center, to the orbiter processing facility #3 to prepare for her next voyage into earth orbit.

Discovery's next flight is currently scheduled for November 12th on mission STS-129 - a return flight to the international space station.

A Few more Landing Images of Discovery

At spacelaunchnews.com, we had a thrilling front row seat for the landing and we wanted to share a few of these KSC-NASA images with you. Main Gear touchdown occurred at 3:13:17 pm EDT today, concluding Discovery's 36th voyage into space.

Discovery just seconds prior to touchdown here at the Kennedy Space Center's Runway 15. Post-landing checks showed she was very clean with a few minor nicks to the thermal times.

SLN VIDEO: Discovery Lands Today

Discovery Lands at Kennedy Space Center

Discovery touchesdown on Runway 15 at KSC today. (NASA)

The space shuttle Discovery dropped out of earth orbit today and glided to a beautiful landing here at the Kennedy Space Center following 13 days in space - of which eight of those were docked with the international space station.

Discovery dropped through cloud layers and flew through 20 mph winds as she cut a path across central Florida beginning south of Tampa Bay at 3:05 pm ET. Nine minutes later - at 3:13:17 pm ET - Discovery's main gear slammed runway 15 moving at about 220 mph. A drag chute then was deployed, slowing the orbiter down and putting less stress on her brak
es as she slowed to land the nose gear seconds later.

"Welcome home Discovery after a great mission to bring the international space station to full power," stated Mission Control after Discovery came to a stop. "A special welcome home to Sandy after living and working on board ISS as a member of Expedition 18 and to the entire crew of STS-119. Great job everybody."

Wheels stop occurred at 2:14:45 pm, at a mission elapsed time of 12 days, 19 hours, 39 minutes and 1 second. Discovery traveled 5.3 million miles on her 36th voyage into space.

Discovery begins her Atmospheric ReEntry

Dropping below 400,000 feet, Discovery started hitting the first traces of the earth's atmosphere as reentry begins for her crew of seven.

All APU's are running which will provide power to Discovery's elevon's, rudder and body flap as the orbiter whips through the atmosphere as a glider.

Discovery Go for 3:14 pm KSC Landing Today

Following a one orbit landing delay due to winds and clouds layers, NASA's Mission Control in Houston told the crew just now that they are go to perform a three minute burn which will take them out of orbit and glide them home for landing

The deorbit burn will occur at 2:08 pm EDT, and this will set Discovery up for a landing on the 202nd orbit of here STS-119 mission at 3:14 pm, at the Kennedy Space Center. Landing will occur on Runway 15, thus Discovery will land from north to south.

Discovery's crew is led by commander Lee Archambault, along with Pilot Tony Antonelli, and Mission Specialists Joseph Acaba, John Phillips, Steve Swanson, Ricky Arnold and Sandy Magnus, they are coming home following the deployment and installation of a huge new set of solar arrays for the right side of the space station.

For Magnus, this will be a sweet homecoming following 134 days in space as a member of the Expedition 18 crew.

Mission Control states Weather Forecast "Encouraging"

Cape weather is seeing the winds are shifting to out of the south and Mission Control just radioed the crew that "this is very encouraging". The image was recorded at 1:14 pm EDT.

The crew was just given a go to begin drinking fluids so that they do not get too hydrated during the entry phase through landing. Also, astronaut Brent Jett has just taken off in a NASA Gulfstream II jet to survey the weather through the 20,00 feet region and below.

Discovery Landing Delayed One Orbit

Winds gusting near the 28 mph limit and scattered clouds at 5,000 feet have caused Mission Control to delay today's landing one orbit to 3:14 pm EDT today.

The crew is awaiting word before 2PM ET if Discovery will be go for the DeOrbit Burn at 2:08 pm. Stay Tune.

Discovery Doors Closed; Weather Looks Marginal

Discovery has just closed her payload bay doors in preparation for today's 1:39 pm EDT landing here at the Kennedy Space Center.

In what is known as Block 9 to the crew, the doors were closed and latched at 10:04 am EDT. Up next is Block 10, which is Discovery maneuvering to a proper attitude for the orbiter's S-Band communications.

Current weather forecast calls for KSC to have strong winds from the south and increasing. A layer of broken clouds between 4K & 5K feet; Broken at 20,000 feet. Winds are expected from the south at 23 knots, with a crosswind at 22 knots for the 1:39 pm ET first landing opportunity on Runway 15.

Expedition 19 Crew Arrives at Space Station

A Russian Soyuz TMA-14 spacecraft carrying the Expedition 19 crew docked with the international space station this morning following a beautiful LIVE video downlink of the new-look complex in space.

In an event which was carried LIVE on SpaceLaunch News.com, the crew of three aboard the Soyuz - Commander Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, American astronaut Michael Barratt and space tourist Charles Simonyi docked with the space station a few minutes early at 9:05 am EDT or 4:05 pm Moscow time.

A slight issue with the Soyuz thruster firings on automatic caused Padalka to switch to manual control to bring the craft in for a perfect docking.

Padalka and Barratt will begin to replace current Expedition 18 commander Mike Fincke and flight engineer Yury Lonchakov, who have been aboard the orbital outpost since October.

The hatches between the Soyuz and station will be opened at about 12 noon EDT.

Great Images of Station During Docking Today

The view of the new-look international space station at about 8:55 am EDT, in this view from the Soyuz TMA-14 [below] as it held a distance of 195 meters for several minutes while over southern Europe.

Live from the Kennedy Space Center

Good morning from the Kennedy Space Center, as SpaceLaunch News.com keeps you updated during a busy and interesting day in spaceflight history.

At this moment, there are three manned spacecraft orbiting about 218 miles above the southern Pacific Ocean [right]. One of them - Discovery - left the international space station two days ago after bringing up and installing the final solar array truss for the earth's outpost in space.

A second ship, a Soyuz TMA-14 - which launched two days ago - is in the final stage of arriving and docking this morning at 9:14 am EDT with the station as two of the three crew members aboard begin their six month stay in space. The third spacecraft is the a fore mentioned space station. A huge, beautiful complex which can now support a crew of six for six months at a time.

As the space station trails Discovery in orbit by 1000 miles, the orbiter is busy preparing for today's 1:39 pm landing here at KSC. Currently, NASA astronaut Brent Jett will soon be flying overhead here at KSC taking off and performing weather checks aboard a NASA T-38A jet, and later [after 10AM ET] a Gulf Stream II jet.

The weather is beautiful right now with scattered high clouds over a nice blue sky; temperature 70 degrees F; Humidity is 90% and the wind is from the south at about 10 to 12 mph.

A Busy Day in Space Flight Today

The crew of Expedition 19 aboard a Soyuz TMA-14 are closing in on the international space station this morning. Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, American Michael Barratt and veteran space tourist Charles Simonyi have been in space for two days now and are scheduled to sock at 9:14 am EDT.

At 7:07am ET, the Russian Soyuz TMA-14 performed a burn at 404 Km from the station while the two were over the southwestern Atlantic Ocean.

Meanwhile, an arc of the earth away in earth orbit, the crew of orbiter Discovery awoke at 5:13 am EDT this morning to prepare for today's landing back here at the Kennedy Space Center following nearly 13 days in space - eight of which were docked to the international space station.

"I'm looking forward to being home and seeing everyone today... hopefully," stated former station Expedition 18 crew member Sandra Magnus who is coming home after 134 days in space.

Discovery's commander Lee Archambault, pilot Dominic Antonelli, and mission specialists Steven Swanson, John Phillips, Joseph Acaba, Richard Arnold and Magnus will begin donning their entry pressure suits at about 11:10 am and then begin to strap in for landing.

Discovery Milestones Today:

09:54 am - Payload Bay door closure begins
12:33 pm - DeOrbit Burn begins for three minutes
01:08 pm - Reentry by Discovery
01:39 pm - Main Gear Touchdown on KSC Runway 15

There is a second landing opportunity at 3:13 pm EDT, if Mission Control elects to hold off one orbit for any reason. A landing today is prime so that time critical experiments from t
he space station get to back to their destined labs for analysis. In addition, Sunday's weather at both KSC and Edwards, AFB in California is forecast No-Go due to winds and clouds.

This is cool: At this moment there are three manned space craft in space and 13 humans in space - living aboard and coming and going from the space station.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Last Full Day on Orbit; Discovery Landing Info

Discovery and her crew of seven will spend their last full day in space today packing and stowing equipment, talking with students in Hawaii, and testing the shuttle's wing flaps in preparation for the orbiter's glide home to America's Spaceport - the Kennedy Space Center - tomorrow.

Discovery will fire her twin orbital maneuvering system jets at 12:33 pm EDT on Saturday to begin her decent and take her out of orbit. At about 1:10 pm, as the orbiter begins it's 201st orbit of the mission, Discovery will reenter the earth's atmosphere in a 2500 degree Fahrenheit fireball with her nose pitched up 39 degrees.

The NASA groundtracks can best show you where Discovery will be crossing on her glide in on Saturday. Click on the images for a larger view.

Touchdown here at Kennedy's Runway 15 will see main gear touchdown at 1:39 pm EDT.

However on tap for today, mission commander Lee Archambault and pilot Tony Antonelli will test the orbiters aerosurfaces and jet thrusters beginning about 9:45 am EDT. They will power up one of Discovery's power units so that they can put the orbiter's rudder and flaps through a series of tests to ensure they will work during landing.

Later today, the astronauts will talk with students in Honolulu, Hawaii at 1:03 pm EDT.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

BREAKING STORY: North Korea to Launch "Satellite"

The United States government states that North Korea has a ballistic missile on their launch pad. North Korea states that it is a satellite launch which is slated for April 4th.

The US says that when launched, they will be watching the beginning trajectory. If it is not a satellite launch, it can be over Japan in about 8 minutes.

Stay Tune for new reports soon.

Expedition 19 Crew in Space; Docking Saturday

Expedition 19 Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineer Michael Barratt along with space tourist Charles Simonyi are on orbit and two days away from their docking with the international space station, and the start of Padalka & Barratt's six month stay in space.

Nine and a half minutes after launch, their spacecraft reached orbit. Its antennas and solar arrays were deployed shortly afterward, stated Mission Control in Moscow.

The Soyuz TMA-14 will slowly fly up to the station early Saturday morning EDT, and then dock to the Russian side of the station at 9:14 am EDT.

New Expedition 19 Crew Launches to Station

Soyuz TMA-14 Launches Today with Expedition 19. (D. Steitz)

A new long duration crew is bound for their new home in space following a beautiful launch this morning from a rainy, overcast sky at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The four liquid-fueled boosters of the Soyuz rocket boosted the 15,800 pound Soyuz TMA-14 spacecraft with the Expedition 19 crew aboard at 7:49:15 am EDT, or 5:49 pm local time, today. Two minutes into the flight, sunshine began to light the cabin as the ship soared through the last traces of the earth's atmosphere.

For the first time in spaceflight history, there are currently 13 humans in space - 10 Americans, 2 Russians & 1 from Japan. There are currently three manned spacecraft's in orbit now.

Soyuz Rocket Fueled; Crew Boarding for Flight

Launch of the Soyuz TMA-14 spacecraft carrying the next long duration crew bound for the international space station is set for liftoff in one hour, however the weather at the launch site is very overcast.

Expedition 19 commander Gennady Padalka, flight engineer Michael Barratt and space tourist Charles Simonyi have boarded the craft - which sits on the same launch pad cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin used 49 years ago this April 12th.

Liftoff time is scheduled for 7:49:14 am EDT [5:49 pm local time] today.
Earlier this morning, NASA astronaut Barratt told members of the media, "There's a rocket out there with our name on it. Ready or not we're gonna fly it!"

New Station Crew Set for Liftoff in Hours

A Soyuz-TM prepares for Thursday's Expedition 19 launch.

On the horizon this morning will be the launch of a Russian Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstanon, on a mission to deliver a new crew to the orbiting international space station.

Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, Expedition 19 commander, and NASA astronaut Michael Barratt, along with veteran space tourist Charles Simonyi, are scheduled to lift-off aboard the Soyuz TM-14, today at 7:49 am EDT.

SpaceLaunchNews.com will have LIVE launch coverage of the Soyuz's flight beginning at 7 AM EDT tomorrow.

At about 7:05 am EDT, the crew will walk up and begin to board their spacecraft. The walkway and stairs are the same one's cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin used in 1961 when he becam the first human to fly in space.

Following two days of orbital altitude maneuvering to catch up with the space station, the Soyuz will dock to the Russian docking port on Saturday morning at 9:14 am EDT.

The crew of Expedition 19 will join Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, who arrived aboard the station on March 17th, and will replace the current E-18 crew which were launched to the station last October 12th, also from
Baikonur Cosmodrome. The Expedition 18 crew of astronaut Michael Fincke, Russian Federal Space Agency cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov and Charles Simonyi will undock on April 7th from the beautiful orbital complex and land several hours later.

Expedition 19 will stay aboard the station until October 11th.

[note: SpaceLaunchNews.com journalist Charles Atkeison emailed Charles Simonyi a few questions this morning and we are awaiting his reply.]

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New HD Images of Space Station Downlinked

Discovery sent down some high def video from this afternoon's space station fly around moments ago, beginning at 6:40 pm EDT. What a beautiful view as the station [and Discovery] sailed 228 miles over the southern Pacific Ocean and northeastward over the Gulf of Mexico, the southeastern United States and over the north Atlantic.

Images from Discovery's Station Fly Around

Cameras from aboard the international space station recorded these images of Discovery between 4:35 and 4:50 pm ET today, as the pair flew 225 miles above the Gulf of Mexico. Discovery later flew high over a cloudy Houston, Texas - home of the Johnson Space Center - at 4:52 pm [first image above].

"NASA's 100 Billion dollar picture", is what Mission Control jokingly called the image above late today, following yesterday's President Obama call to the crews and what one senator priced the space station at after construction.

High over the Pacific Ocean, Discovery's camera captures the top of the station from 610 feet out at 4:30 pm ET.

SLN VIDEO: Space Station Fly Around Today

Discovery Fly Around of Station Begins

UPDATE 4:22 pm EDT: Discovery & space station - now separated by 252 feet - are now 232 miles above the Pacific Ocean south of Australia; Discovery beginning the station fly around maneuver.

[Note the shuttle's shadow on the starboard truss, which is the left side of this 4:21 pm image.]

"Discovery, Alpha, Godspeed. Thanks for making us symmetrical, giving us full power and all the other wonderful things you did for us. You did great work," Expedition 18 commander Mike Fincke called out from inside the Destiny lab.

Discovery Undocks from Space Station

Following eight days of joint docked operations to attach and power up the final solar array truss and perform three spacewalks, Discovery undocked from the international space station this afternoon and slowly moved away as the orbiter begins her trip home.

Undocking occurred as the shuttle and station complex traveled 216 miles over the Indian Ocean in orbital darkness at 3:53 pm EDT today. [image above]

Discovery Moments from Undocking - All Go

3:00 pm Update: As the Discovery - international space station complex orbits 223 miles high over the south eastern Pacific Ocean right now [image at right], the crews are nearing the orbiter's undocking in 53 minutes.

Discovery will undock and move belly first in the station & shuttle's direction of travel. The orbiter, flown by pilot Tony Antonelli will move out 400 feet and begin a fly around of the complex.

Hatch Closure Underway; Undocking at 3:53 pm ET

The two crews aboard the international space said their good-byes, especially flight engineer Sandy Magnus who has lived aboard the orbiting complex since last November, as Discovery prepare for departure today.

Discovery will depart her port-of-call shortly following eight days at the space station, which saw the installation of the final huge set of solar arrays and three spacewalks in support of station construction. Undocking time remains scheduled for 3:53 pm EDT.

Expedition 19 & Soyuz preLaunch NASA Images

Here is a few images from yesterday, March 24th, at the the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstanon, Russia. The Soyuz with the Soyuz TM-14 atop, sits proudly atop it's pad awaiting tomorrow morning's launch with the space station Expedition 19 crew. Read our story of the flight below.

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