Friday, February 27, 2009

Delta II Kepler Launch Delayed One Day

On the heels of the lost OCO satellite due to a failed nose fairing jettison after launch, United Launch Alliance has delayed the launch of their Delta II-7925 one day to research their nose fairing.

Liftoff of the Kepler telescope on a four year mission to discover earth-like planets is now planned for this Friday, March 6 at 10:49 pm EST.

Engineers from ULA are today inspecting and checking the region which allows the nose fairing cone to separate from around the spacecraft.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Image of the Suspect Hydrogen Flow Valve

On Launch Pad 39A earlier today, a technician holds one of space shuttle Discovery's gaseous hydrogen flow control valves after its removal.
The valves channel the flow of gaseous hydrogen [GH2] from the main engines to the external fuel tank. In a few days, technicians will install three newer, less flown GH2 flow valves into Discovery's aft compartment.

March 12 set as Discovery target Launch Date

Space shuttle program managers late today announced that they have moved to select March 12 as a target launch date, and that a flight readiness review next week will formalize that date.

Managers stated today that the change out of the three gaseous hydrogen [GH2] flow valves located in the engine section of Discovery has gone well. Following a few tests, managers will meet again on March 4th to formalize a new launch date or press on for a March 12 launch.

A lift-off of Discovery on Thursday, March 12th, would see her solid rocket boosters ignite at 8:54 pm EDT [daylight savings time or EDT begins on March 8].

Once in space, Discovery would steer for a docking with the international space station on March 14.

Now this is the big picture... Discovery has to launch prior to March 14th due to the Russian launch of the Expedition 19 crew to the station on March 29th. Due to the full slate of objectives during the shuttle's STS-119 mission, Discovery has to install a new set of solar arrays and perform four planned spacewalks and undock before the arrival of Soyuz TMA on March 31st.

If launch cannot occur before March 14th, then the KSC launch team will stand down until April 7th, which is also undocking and landing day of the current Expedition 18 crew aboard a Soyuz-TMA. And, as the shuttle team states, if Discovery flys in April instead of March, the mid-May Hubble servicing flight will be delayed two weeks.

Space Station work continues during Shuttle Delay

While space shuttle program mangers access whether or not to fly Discovery during March or wait until April, the three person crew aboard the international space station continue their daily work on orbit as they prepare for the arrival of two manned spacecraft soon.

Shuttle program manages late yesterday gave technicians here at the Cape the go ahead to replace Discovery's three gaseous hydrogen (GH2) flow valves which are located in the aft compartment of the orbiter. This work will take possible two weeks to perform and test, thus delaying Discovery's flight to the space station. The "suspect" GH2 valves aboard Discovery show signs of slight cracks at the lip of the valves, thus the need to replace them with newer, less flown valves.

On March 26th, a Russian Soyuz TMA-14 spacecraft will carry a new crew to the station to replace current station commander Mike Fincke and cosmonaut Yuri Lonchakov. The new Expedition 19 crew of Cosmonaut Gennady Padalkawill (commander), astronaut Mike Barratt (flight engineer), along with spaceflight participant Charles Simonyl, will dock to the outpost in space two days later.

Padalkawill & Barratt will stay in space until mid-October, when they will return home aboard a Soyuz and a thud in southwestern Russia.

Simonyl, who will stay aboard for about 10 days, will ride home with Fincke & Lonchakov around April 5th. Back in April 2007, Simonyl - a former chief at Microsoft - made his first trip to the space station following his launch from Russia.

You can have fun following Charles' prelaunch and flight activities via his personal Web site.

The current third station crew member, Sandy Magnus, was due to come home aboard Discovery this month, however that flight's delay until March or April will see her possibly become a member of Expedition 19, if Discovery cannot launch until April.

Charles Note: Based on current discussions here at the Cape, I feel it is very likely that Discovery will not fly until after April 8th. Due to the hydrogen flow valve change out and the Soyuz mission to the station in four weeks, an April 8 launch attempt will likely be the earliest option.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

NASA satellite mission fails in Launch Mishap

A NASA satellite design to observe and collect data on the earth's emission of carbon dioxide failed to reach its planned orbit following liftoff this morning from Vandenberg, AFB in California.

Launch occured aboard an Orbital Sciences Taurus XL rocket at 4:55:30 am EST.

Liftoff via NASA-TV showed a normal launch, as the solid fueled rocket burned through it's four stages during the ascent. However, launch operations came on suddenly near the end of powered flight calling, " appears we have had a contingency with the OCO mission ... enact the mission mishap preparedness plan."

Moments later, it was confirmed by launch control that the nose fairing did not seperate from around the O.C.O. spacecraft. Thus, the spacecraft had too much weight to achieve orbit.

This NASA image above shows the O.C.O. spacecraft inside the suspect nose fairing.

8:10 am ET UPDATE: During a news conference taking place right now here at Vandenberg, members of the O.C.O. team announced that the O.C.O. spacecraft, "landed just short of Antartica [and] in the [southern] Atlantic Ocean."

An investigation board will be announced in the coming weeks. Another Taurus XL launch is planned for later in 2009, and the Taurus XL team stated that that flight has not been impacted.

This was the second launch failure of the Taurus XL in it's eight flights.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

New Target Launch Date for Discovery

UPDATE: NASA shuttle program managers have delayed the launch of space shuttle Discovery until no earlier than February 27th. This is a "working date" and an official launch date will be announced late next week following a program management meeting.

Team of engineers and techs both here at Kennedy Space Center, and westward at the John Stennis Space Center in south Mississippi, are reviewing and continuing data runs regarding the hydrogen flow valves in the aft engine compartment of the orbiter.

If NASA sets the official date for Feb. 27, then the launch time would be 1:32 am EST.

++ SLN: Up to the Minute would then begin our LIVE launch coverage from here at the Cape at 8:30 pm EST, on Feb. 26th. Tune in via our NASA-TV link at top, right column. ++

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

NASA's Kepler Spacecraft nears March Launch

Next Month, a NASA spacecraft will set off on a decade long mission to discover new planets in other nearby solar systems as humanity looks to discover if there is a planet similar to that of earth.

NASA's Kepler spacecraft, according to mission management, will "survey more than 100,000 stars in our galaxy" to determine if there are any earth-type planets in their orbits.

A United Launch Alliance Delta II is set to depart launch complex 17B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on March 5th, at 10:48 pm EST. The 30 minute launch window extends from 10:48 pm to 11:18 pm.

++ SLN: Up to the Minute will provide LIVE coverage of the March 5th launch one hour prior to its planned lift-off. ++

The January 30th image of Kepler [above] - taken at the AstroTech facility here in Titusville, FL - shows the gold foiled observatory; several white thrusters; and one of its dark blue solar arrays.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Space Station News; Progress 32 Launches

Supplies, food and water are currently en route to the crew of the international space station this morning, following a beautiful launch from Russia of the Progress 32 supply vessel.

The cargo craft lifted off this morning at 12:49 am EST, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Russia. Nine minutes later, the craft was in earth orbit, and moments later deplyed its solar arrays.

Station port-of-call for the Progress is set to occur at 2.19 am EST, on Friday the 13th. Progress will arrive and then dock automatically to the Russian Piers docking port. Once docked, the station's crew will spend the next next week unloading 4,900 pounds of supplies, including 1,900 lbs. of propellant, aboard the station. It will later become a trash bin during March and then later undocked for a firery return to earth.

++ SLN: Up to the Minute will carry the docking LIVE via our link at top, right column.++

Meanwhile, the three person crew of the orbital outpost are busy with daily experiment runs, exercise, and cleaning chores. With Discovery's launch now delayed until NET Feb. 22, they are reworking mission time lines as they prepare to support the orbiter's docking. Discovery will bring to the station the final huge set of solar arrays. You can view the station most nights from your home, either after sunset or prior to sunrise, on a clear day.

For example, we picked Atlanta, GA and found that the city will have two great five minute viewing opportunities upcoming as the space station travels overhead at 223 miles up.

1) Monday 16th: 6:20a ET, station travels from S to NE (and)
2) Tuesday 17th: 6:48a ET, station travels W-SW to NE

Stay tune right here for future Discovery launch assessments as the Cape works to ready the orbiter for the first shuttle flight of 2009.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Shuttle Managers announce Launch Slip

Space shuttle program management announced this afternoon that the target launch date for the next flight would be delayed by a few days to allow for more testing related to the shuttle's hydrogen valves.

The planning launch date of February 19 has now been moved back to February 22, to give launch pad engineers more time to assess data being collected to see if slight cracks exist on any of the three hydrogen flow valves located in the aft engine compartment of Discovery. Cracks were discovered last November following Endeavour's mission.

During Endeavour's climb to orbit, when the shuttle's main engine's are at full throttle - one of her three hydrogen flow valve began leaking through a crack, causing extra hydrogen to flow into the main engines. The other two valves, according to shuttle managers, decreased their flow rate to keep the overall flow nominal.

If Discovery is given the go to launch on February 22, lift-off time would be 3:31 am EST from pad 39-A. That would place the orbiter on a space station docking timeline of 11:55 pm EST, the following day. Landing would then occur on March 7th, with a possible one day extension.

This Friday the 13th, a meeting will be held to assess the data taken on the valves and as to what options will need to be addressed.

Delta II Launches Weather Satellite from California

America's newest meteorological satellite received a ride into space early this morning, departing California aboard a Delta II rocket following a few days of delays.

The United Launch Alliance's Delta II lifted-off on time this morning at 2:22 am PST [5:22 am EST] from launch pad SLC-02 at Vandenberg, AFB in California [image above via VAFB]. Carrying NOAA's weather satellite - GOES-N - the Delta's upper stage will release the payload an hour later. A series of attitude firings and solar array deployments will then follow as it sets up for five years of polar orbital operations.

NOAA-N will follow in it's family history in taking the satellite pictures you view on your local news and the Weather Channel. It will also become a becon for tropical activity beginning this Summer forthe Pacific and Gulf of Mexico regions.

This April, a Delta IV will launch from here at the Cape and deliver the GOES-O weather satellite into a geostationary orbit around the equator.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Busy Work Day inside Discovery's Tail

Engineers and technicians are spending another day in the aft section of the space shuttle Discovery this morning as they inspect and repair damaged wiring in time for a possible launch late this month.

Up to the Minute recorded the image above at 8:01 am ET this morning, of Discovery as she sat surrounded by the rotating service structure on launch pad 39-A here at the Kennedy Space Center.

A planning target launch date of February 19th will be confirmed in one week following a readiness review.

Work on the electrical wire repair and inspection of a suspect liquid hydrogen control valve in the main engine section of Discovery. One of the three valves has a small crack on the leading edge, and testing is in work out to see if it will perform during the ascent. 

Delta 2 Launch Scrubbed at Vandenberg

The launch of a Delta II from Vandenberg, AFB in California was delayed earlier this morning due to an issue and has been rescheduled for Friday morning.

Currently, launch of a Delta II from launch complex 2 at Vandenberg, is set for tomorrow morning at 5:22 am EST (2:22 am PST). The launch window is 10 minutes.

+++'s Up to the Minute will carry LIVE coverage of the launch tomorrow beginning at about 3:30 am EST. Click On our NASA-TV link at top, right column. +++

Once aloft, the Delta II [above, taken yesterday via VAFB] will release NOAA's GOES-N meteorological satellite into a polar orbit above the earth. A "Polar orbit" means a vertical orbit. There it will begin to replace an aging GOES satellite.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


The launch of mission STS-119 and the space shuttle Discovery has been delayed one week due to the ship's replacement liquid hydrogen valve tests.

A new launch date of February 19th is simply a new target date and not official at this time. However, a Feb. 19th launch time would be 4:41 am EST. Discovery would then dock with the international space station less than two days later at just after 1 am EST on Feb. 21st.

A Feb. 10th launch assessment will discuss the readiness of the space transportation system.

Stay tune for more news soon...
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