Monday, April 27, 2009

Have Dish-TV? Then check out Channel 212

DISH-TV has a cool camera on one of their broadcast satellites in geo-stationary orbit above the western hemisphere taking black & white shots of the beautiful blue marble of Earth every thirty seconds.

IMAX Blu-Ray Giveaway! Win Your Copy this week and SLN: Up to the Minute this week are giving away the combo movie package from IMAX, The Blue Planet & The Dream is Alive - on Blu-Ray! In this age of better high definition, what better way for us to share the love than with these new Blu-Ray movies in 1080p.

Here’s how to enter:
  • Simply leave a comment on this post with an answer to our question: "What was your most memorable moment from the last 28 years of the Space Shuttle era".
Leave your comment below, and between 7 am EDT on April 27 [today] thru 6:59 am EDT, Friday May 1st, we will take enties on the bottom of this post only. Please make it at least two sentences, and really think of how important the space shuttle program has been to all of us during the last three decades.

We’ll pick the most interesting and thought driven answer to win this weekend and announce the winner on Monday, May 4th, 2009, right here on SLN's Up to the Minute.

If you win, we will email you and announce the winner's name only right here.

So, that’s pretty much all the general stuff you need to know — win an unopened IMAX Blu-Ray of the Blue Planet and the wonderful The Dream is Alive. You cannot find, much less even buy this at the NASA centers! Thank-you for your support.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Delta IV Launch Delayed until NET May 20th

NASA and the United Launch Alliance announced today that the Delta IV launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station with the GOES-O weather satellite will occur no earlier than May 20th.

They "anticipate" a further delay, and most here at the Cape believe that Delta IV will not fly until after the launch of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter on June 2.

"Recent production lot testing of the linear shape charge system has indicated the need to incorporate minor design changes to assure their reliability. The linear shape charge is a component of the Range Safety command destruct system", NASA spokesperson George Diller stated this afternoon here at KSC. "There are three linear shape charges on this Delta IV which will require a modification. Schedules are being developed for the qualification and implementation of the design modification."

The newest Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite - O will service the United States and most of North America from it's geostationary orbit above the equator. GOES-O will provide satellite imagery of weather systems - including inferred.

The Delta IV underwent a wet test on April 21st to see if a fuel leak - which was discovered in early April - had been repaired. No leaks were seen.

Atlantis Launch to Hubble now May 11th

Space shuttle program managers on Friday began to target May 11 as the new date for the launch of Atlantis on the final servicing flight to the Edwin Hubble Space Telescope.

Launch time on May 11 would be 2:01:49 pm EDT. A formal managers flight readiness review will be held next week to officially set Monday, May 11.

Atlantis' payload of equipment needed to repair and service the nineteen year old observatory reached the orbiter's payload bay on April 22. Mission STS-125 will include five spacewalks over eight days, as the crew work on Hubble at an altitude of 315 statue miles up.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


The IMAX film makers who brought America and the world The Dream is Alive and Blue Planet are currently working on a new movie of the upcoming final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope next month.

As the crew of Atla
ntis trains for mission STS-125 to repair and service America's eye on the universe, the IMAX team is there with the flight crew of seven astronauts - even in the huge pool at the Johnson Space Center near Houston - as they practice their mid-May work on Hubble.

"(We) completed our final practice for spacewalk 2 in the big pool, huge IMAX camera was in the pool with us filming a 3D movie. (A) really fun day
", STS-125 mission specialist and spacewalker Mike Massimino (below, on right with crew mate Mike Good) told via Twitter on Friday morning.

Atlantis's flight will be the last manned spaceflight for the next six to eight years which will fly higher than 300 statue miles. That alone will give the newer IMAX cameras a great view of the earth from the higher orbital altitude, with the space telescope resting in Atlantis' cargo bay.

had the Hubble Space Telescope team and the IMAX underwater film crew over at the house for dinner (tonight). Lots of great space and shark stories..." Mike stated late on Saturday evening.

Over the last twenty-five years, IMAX cameras have flown on several space shuttle missions and to the international space station. These films yielded beautiful video shots which are so impressive on the fifty-foot screens located at several NASA centers. IMAX has recently begun transfering several of their older films onto Blu-Ray as high def televisions and players become more common place on the dawn of the second decade of the 21st century.

Atlantis' crew includes commander Scott Altman, pilot
Gregory C. Johnson, and mission specialists Massimino, Mike Good, K. Megan McArthur, John Grunsfeld and Andrew Feustel.

The movie, maybe titled "Return to Hubble", will get it's premire at the Kennedy Space Center late this year or early 2010. You can watch the filming beginning on May 12th with the launch of Atlantis right here via SpaceLaunch News - LIVE!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Farm Camera Installed; Station Water Tested

A new camera designed to take detailed observations of the climate on earth to assist farmers and ranchers was activated today, along with work on several experiments and the testing of recycled water made for a full day aboard the orbiting international space station.

Known as the Agriculture Camera or AgCam, it will be mainly operated by the students and faculty at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. AgCam, according to the Johnson Space Center, "will take visible light and infrared images of the Earth, principally of growing crops, rangeland, grasslands, forests, and wetlands in the northern Great Plains and Rocky Mountain regions of the United States".

The current Expedition 19 crew of Commander Gennady Padalka, Mike Barratt and Japan's Koichi Wakata also spent today performing trash stowing and each crew member worked with a specific experiment. Wakata also tested water samples from the Water Recovery System, as NASA prepares the station to begin recycling its own water. Water recycling will assist the station in supporting a full time crew of six beginning May 29th.

Currently docked with the station is the Russian cargo ship known as Progress 32, Wakata spent today stowing waste materials and trash into the craft. Around May 4th, Progress 32 will undock from station and Russia will send commands to fire its engines for a destructive reentry.

The next space craft to visit the orbital outpost in space will be the Progress 33P, which is set to launch on May 7th and dock two days later.

The next space shuttle flight to station will be Endeavour on mission STS-127 in June, which will see the last piece of the Japanese station segment attached - the experiment platform.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

India Successfully Launches Satellites Tonight

The country of India launched a pair of satellites this evening from its coastal launch base into low earth orbit, one of which will assist their country in the war on terrorism.

Liftoff of the PSLV-C12 rocket occurred on time at 6:45 am Indian Time Monday morning, or 9:15 pm EDT Sunday evening, from from the Satish Dhawan Space Center's Pad 2 (above today), located on an island on the east coast of Andhra Pradesh in southern India.

The prime payload is the RISAT-2, or Radar Imaging 2 satellite, which India obtained from Israel last year, to help fight local terrorism and to survey terrorist cells in neighboring Pakistan. The high tech, super powerful radar imaging on RISAT will allow India to see through tree brush and canvas tents.

The secondary payload is the ANUSAT, which was developed by a university in India. Both satellites were sent into
an orbit of 550 km (345 miles) high and at an orbital inclation of 41 degrees to the equator.

This was the thirteenth successful launch out of 15 flights of the PSLV-C12.

India nears Military Satellite Launch

India is stepping up the way it locates terrorist cells in and around her country with the launch of a military radar satellite from it's space center tonight (USA time).

Scheduled for launch at 01:15 UTC on April 20th (or 9:15 pm EDT tonight), the Radar Imaging Satellite or RISAT 2 will lift off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center's Pad 2, located on an island on the east coast of Andhra Pradesh in southern India.

According to the Indian Space Research Organisation, RISAT-2 and a secondary payload, ANUSAT, will launch aboard the PSLV-C12 rocket and into an orbit of 550 km (345 miles) high, and at an orbital inclination of 41 degrees to the equator. This will be the 15th launch of the 44 meters tall PSLV-C12 rocket.

Using a hi-tech radar dish, the RISAT will take very detailed images of suspected terrorist threats and will watch over its bordering country of Pakistan. Pakistan Defense stated last week that "the newly-acquired satellite will immensely enhance India's capability to keep a tab on its unfriendly neighborhood. Risat-2 is considered to be the first of its kind for India."

The launch countdown began at the T-:48 hour mark on Friday night at 9:15 pm EDT. There will be no traditional LIVE television of the launch according to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

ISRO tells, "PSLV is a four-stage launch vehicle employing both solid and liquid propulsion stages. PSLV is the trusted workhorse launch Vehicle of ISRO. During 1993-2008 period, PSLV had fourteen launches of which thirteen were consecutively successful".

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Kennedy Space Center Family Day Today

On the heels of a busy month of April at America's Spaceport, employees here at the Kennedy Space Center will spend today with their families as the annual KSC Family Day gets underway under beautiful blue skies.

The main feature for most will be what I call a photographers delight as families get their final up close look at two space shuttle stacks sitting a top their launch pads over at complex 39. With Atlantis at pad 39-A and Endeavour on pad 39-B, the two space shuttles will remain exposed with their rotating service structures in the launch position.

While the closed to the public family day is in progress, technicians will move the payload canister for the STS-125 Hubble servicing flight out to pad 39-A where it will be installed into Atlantis [above, today @9:05 am ET] payload bay for flight. Atlantis is targeted for launch on May 12th at 1:31 pm EDT.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Photographic Delight: Two Space Shuttles await Flight

Following Endeavour's arrival a top launch pad 39-B early this morning, the rotating service structure for launch pad 39-A was swung back to expose Atlantis this afternoon - a photographic delight.

In the top and next image, Atlantis is on launch pad 39-A at left, while Endeavour sits on pad B, or the northern pad geographically.

In what will likely be the last time two space shuttle's occupy the launch pads at the same time, these great images were taken moments ago showing both pads here at Kennedy Space Center.

(KSC-NASA Images)

Endeavour Rollout Images from this Morning

8:15 am EDT: Endeavour under a blue sky at pad 39-B with the GO2 vent hood parked over the Tank in this updated image via NASA-TV.
Endeavour is shown in several NASA-TV still shots as she inched closer to the top of launch pad 39-B this morning between 6:30 and 7:01 am EDT.

Endeavour begins Trip to Launch Pad 39-B

The space shuttle Endeavour began her trip out to her seaside launch pad at midnight this morning to prepare for her flight on one of two missions - a shuttle emergency rescue flight or a space station construction and servicing mission.

First motions from the massive vehicle assembly building began at 12 midnight, with the entire shuttle stack beginning it's ride at about 1 mph down a gravel road to launch pad 39-B.

Meanwhile, over at pad 39-A, shuttle Atlantis sits awaiting her next flight on May 12th to repair and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope. Because Hubble is in a different orbital inclination (28.45 degrees to the equator) than the space station is (51.65 degrees), Atlantis could not get over to the station if she was damaged while on orbit. Damage coming from foam falling off the external tank and smashing the belly of Atlantis - such was the case of the doomed shuttle Columbia in 2003.

Post-Columbia rules dictate the need of having a back-up shuttle ready to go if an orbiter is damaged while in space. Atlantis STS-125 mission in May will be the final non-space station flight of the shuttle program. Read our background story on how the emergency rescue mission would work.

Between today and through Atlantis' mission, Endeavour will be prepared for the mission no one wants - STS-400. Near the end of Atlantis' 11-day flight, shuttle program managers will give the green or red light following on orbit crew inspections of the thermal tiles which surround the belly, wing leading edges and nose section.

If everyone is comfortable that Atlantis is healthy, then Endeavour will begin her move from pad 39-B south to Pad 39-A, and begin preperations for the much wanted STS-127 mission to the international space station.

Once Endeavour departs pad B, then ground crews will begin full scale work to prepare the northern pad for the first Ares 1X unmanned rocket test launch in late August.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Node 3's name is... TRANQUILITY

Following one of the most hyped name-the-spacecraft contests sponsored by NASA since the Constitution/ Enterprise name switch in 1976, the name TRANQUILITY won out over the even bigger vote winner COLBERT, as former space station astronaut Suni Williams made the announcement tonight on the Comedy Central network.

The much watched Colbert Report show had host Stephen Colbert and Williams make the announcement at 11:47 pm EDT tonight. TRANQUILITY won out for its significance of the upcoming 40th anniversary of the first moon landing upon the Sea of Tranquility.

TRANQUILITY is a multi-window module which will support several windows, giving astronauts and cosmonauts both a 360-degree view of space. The new Node will launch no earlier than February 2010 aboard the Endeavour STS-130 mission.

Instead, NASA has named their new space station treadmill COLBERT or
Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill. The new treadmill will launch in August, and later will be moved to the new Node once it arrives several months later. There station crew members can run in place for with an excellent view of the earth and space around them.

"We don't typically name U.S. space station hardware after living people and this is no exception," Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations stated today. "We have invited Stephen to Florida for the launch of COLBERT and to Houston to try out a version of the treadmill that astronauts train on."

ARES 1X Stacking continues in the VAB


Ares 1X stacking saw the attachment of the escape tower today in High Bay 4 of the Vehicle Assembly Building here at the Kennedy Space Center. The first Ares test flight, known as 1X, is scheduled for this August from Launch Complex 39-B.

Endeavour: Rescue Mission STS-400 Planned

In a few days, the space shuttle Endeavour will rollout to her ocean side launch pad right next to where her sistership Atlantis currently sits, to prepare for a possible rescue flight following Atlantis launch into space.

In the event that Atlantis' thermal tiles on her outerskin are damaged during her STS-125 launch and Mission Control states that reentry would be too risky, Endeavour would be called up on rescue mission STS-400.

STS-400 would see Endeavour launch with a crew of four from launch pad 39-B and into the same orbital inclination as Atlantis - 28.45 degrees to the earth's equator. After only one day of manuvers to catch up with the weakened Atlantis, Endeavour would slowly pull up and park her payload bay over her weakened sistership.

NASA's Shuttle Program Managers stated that Endeavour's 50-foot robotic arm would then latch Atlantis robotic arm so that both ships are then connected to begin crew rescue via spacewalks. Program managers also state that only the STS-125 crew of seven would spacewalk over to Endeavour's outside airlock during the span of several days.

Atlantis' spacewalking astronauts of John Grunsfeld and Andrew Feustel will depart Atlantis to prepare a rope which will assist fellow astronaut Megan McArthur over to Endeavour. The following day more of the crew will translate over concluding with Atlantis' skipper Scott Altman.

A few months ago, the Johnson Space Center said that the STS-400 crew would be made up of the commander, pilot, and two mission specialists from a recent space station mission - last November's STS-126 mission. Chris Ferguson would command STS-400, with pilot Eric Boe and mission specialists Robert Kimbrough and Stephen Bowen rounding out the crew.

A few days following Atlantis' May 12th launch, the STS-125 crew will use the robotic arm to survey the orbiter's tiles and thermal blankets along her wing leading edges, nose section and aft section. If issues with damaged tiles are seen, then two spacewalkers will venture outside to see if the damage can be repaired using an in flight maintenance kit.

If Atlantis is cleared for reentry, then Endeavour will be moved from Pad 39-B southward to Pad 39-A to be prepared for her prime mission STS-127 to the international space station.

Inside NASA, everyone we spoke with states that if Atlantis is deemed a loss while on orbit, it could mean the end of shuttle flights now instead of Autumn 2010 - the time when the shuttle fleet are set to retire.

ISS Node 3 to be Named... Colbert? or Serenity?

In a NASA HQ press release:

"NASA's newest module for the International Space Station will get a new name Tonight.

The agency plans to make the announcement with the help of Expedition 14 and 15 astronaut Sunita "Suni" Williams on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report." The program will air at 11:30 p.m. EDT, tonight.

The name, which will not be publicly released until the program airs, was selected from thousands of unique suggestions submitted on NASA's Internet site, The "Help Name Node 3" poll asked people to vote for the module's name either by choosing one of four NASA options or by offering their own suggestion. The poll closed on March 20.

"The node naming poll was organic and took on a life of its own," said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "We received more than a million entries, in large part because social media Web sites and television programs, such as 'The Colbert Report,' took an interest. This spread overall awareness of the International Space Station."

NASA originally planned to announce the node's name on April 28 after it arrived at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. However, the node's arrival at Kennedy is delayed until May, so the announcement moved to April 14.

The show's producers offered to host the name selection announcement after comedian and host Stephen Colbert took interest during the census and urged his followers to post the name "Colbert."

"I certainly hope NASA does the right thing," said Colbert. "Just kidding, I hope they name it after me."

Thursday, April 09, 2009

KSC prepares Atlantis & Endeavour for busy May

Atlantis sits on Pad 39-A this afternoon. photo: Atkeison/SLN
Technicians here at the Kennedy Space Center continue to prepare space shuttle Atlantis at the pad for her upcoming launch on mission STS-125 in one month on a servicing flight to the Hubble Space Telescope.

Late next week, Atlantis will have some company as KSC will rollout the STS-127 shuttle stack and Endeavour out to launch pad 39-B. Endeavour will stay at pad B up until Atlantis launches on May 12th, and will then move to pad A a few days later to prepare for her launch in mid-June.

Endeavour would launch from pad 39-B if Atlantis ran into trouble while on orbit. Known as rescue mission STS-400, Endeavour would fly up to Atlantis to rescue her crew. NASA's next manned space craft rocket, Ares, will begin test launches from pad B beginning in late-August. This journalist spent a few moments at both pads today at noon and took these two images to show you how Pad B now differs a bit from Pad A as they prepare B for Ares flights.

Pad 39-B today with 3 new lightning towers. photo: SLN

Space shuttle program managers discussed keeping the Endeavour stack in the VAB instead of out at pad B, however it would have caused work delays on the following two shuttle flights set for August and November.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

NASA's First Astronauts Selected 50 Years Ago

We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. - John F. Kennedy 1962.

Following the conclusion of World War II, America and Soviet Union relations begin to strain as the two countries built up their defense during a new war - The Cold War - of the 1950's. After the second war to end all wars, both America and the Soviets took the best German scientists, who by 1944 had developed the famed V2 rocket. A rocket which was unlike any before and could travel higher and further.

These post-war scientists and engineers found themselves developing the technology which had gone into the V2 into newer "missles" as both countries quietly began the space race.

In October 1958, one year after the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was created, Project Mercury was announced. President Dwight Eisenhower announced a world wide search for twelve (then later six) American test pilots to fly the Mercury spacecrafts into space and earth orbit. American military pilots were deployed around the world.

Project Mercury had three goals in 1959:
  • Place a manned spacecraft in orbital flight around the earth.
  • Investigate man's performance capabilities and his ability to function in the environment of space.
  • Recover the man and the spacecraft safely.
And so, after interviewing about 500 American military test pilots from around the world, the United States welcomed her first six astronauts: L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., Walter M. Schirra, Alan B. Shepard, Jr., Virgil I. Grissom, John H. Glenn, Jr., Donald K. Slayton and M. Scott Carpenter.

On April 9, 1959 - fifty years ago - these seven Project Mercury astronauts were announced at a huge press gala in Washington, D.C. ... and did the press begin a five year love affair with them.

From 1961 to 1963, six of the seven would fly Mercury space craft, beginning first with Alan Shepard on May 5th. His 16 minute "cannonball launch" gave Americans a much needed boost following the Soviets arrival in space three weeks earlier. My 1996 interview with Mr. Shepard for SpaceLaunch News magazine at Cape Canaveral was my meeting with the Christopher Columbus of the new Ocean of space.

In July of '61, Gus Grissom repeated Shepard's 16 minute non-orbital space flight; and NASA was so pleased it announced that the third Mercury launch would be aboard the Atlas rocket - a rocket which many felt was not as reliable due to several launch mishaps during testing.

In February 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth when after multiple delays his Atlas rocket lept off the pad and into the history books. This Marine orbited earth three times during his nearly five hour flight. Glenn became a big national hero, so much so that President Kennedy did not want Glenn to fly again in fear that America may loose a national treasure. Glenn eventually did return to earth orbit in 1998 aboard shuttle Discovery during the STS-95 mission.

Carpenter, Schirra and Cooper flew next aboard the Atlas rockets and concluded with a full day in space during Cooper's mission.

Grissom, Schirra and Cooper all flew the next phase of NASA's goal of going to the moon by the end of 1969 - Project Gemini. Shepard - who had an inner ear issue - was later cleared to fly 10 years after his Mercury flight as he went not just into earth orbit, but lunar orbit and three separate walks on the moon's surface during Apollo 14 in January 1971.

"Deke" Slayton, who had developed a heart issue in the early '60's, lost his flight status and became head of the astronaut office. He eventually flew on the final Apollo flight in July 1975 - a mission which brought the Americans and Soviets together for a handshake in space.

[Please take three hours this week and dust off your copy of the 1983 movie, The Right Stuff. A truly remarkable, entertaining and historic account from Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier through Cooper's ride to orbit. Grab the popcorn and do share this movie with your older children. - Charles]

Today, only Glenn and Carpenter are still around. Pioneers? Yes! But they will tell you in their military test pilot way - we were just doing our job.

They are forever now our Golden Boys!

Friday, April 03, 2009

SLN VIDEO: Atlas V WGS-2 Launch Highlights

ULA Atlas V Liftsoff from Cape Canaveral Tonight

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V departed from Cape Canaveral this evening on a mission for the United States Air Force to deploy a communications satellite which will assist the military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Launch from complex 41 here at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station occurred at 8:31 pm EDT, following a smooth countdown which saw just a couple of slight issues.

Two minutes, 22 seconds into the launch profile, the Atlas V solid rocket boosters separated from the core stage as the rocket moved above an altitude of 30 miles, traveling 4,500 mph.

At 9:02 pm, word from Mission Control came that "we have spacecraft separation" from the Centaur upper stage.

T-04 minutes and Counting... Atlas V is GO

Tonight's launch of the Atlas V with the Wideband Global SATCOM 02 remains GO just under 4 minutes until liftoff from Launch Complex 41. Weather: Temp. 77 F; scattered clouds at 5,000 and 10,000 feet. Humidity 70%.

Atlas V Fueling Underway at the Cape

Fueling is underway this evening in support of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V with it's centaur upper stage, as liftoff approaches at 8:31 pm EDT.

Winds gusting near 20 mph here on the Atlantic coast are expected to die down after Sunset. The countdown just picked up at the T-minus 2 hour mark.

KSC Visitors get upclose with Orion Module

(NASA-KSC Images)

The Orion crew exploration module mock up has arrived at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, and Apollo-styled module quickly became a popular attraction on Thursday at America's Spaceport.

Following a few days here at the visitor's area at Spaceport USA, it will be used at the KSC industrial complex and destined for the "open water" of the Atlantic Ocean as it begins water tests in support of the Orion landing operations.

"The Post-landing Orion Recovery Test, or PORT, is to determine what kind of motion astronauts can expect after landing, as well as outside conditions for recovery teams", stated Brian Dunbar with NASA public affairs on Thursday.

Orion - which is one piece of Project Constellation - will begin making routine trips to the international space station as it carries a crew of four and supplies beginning in 2015. NASA also plans to use Orion as the command module as America proudly returns to the Moon in 2020.

Once Orion begins its decent for landing back here on earth, it will carry a landing profile much like the Apollo command module did between 1968 thru 1975 -- an ocean landing.

This August, the Ares 1 will have a test launch from launch pad 39-B here at KSC with a dummy Orion module a top as NASA gets underway with the first real tests of the Constellation project.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Expedition 19 Crew takes over on Space Station

A new crew took command of the international space station this afternoon during a traditional change of command ceremony, as the 19th long duration crew of three begins their six month stay in space.

Expedition 19 Commander Gennady Padalka of Russia, American astronaut Michael Barratt and Japanese flight engineer Koichi Wakata will set the stage as they await the second half of their crew in May to arrive - giving the station a crew compliment of six. A Russian Soyuz TMA 15 launch in late May will carry a crew of three to the station to join the new commander.

Atlas V Set for Friday Cape Canaveral Launch

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V-016 was moved back to her launch pad by the Atlantic Ocean here at Cape Canaveral AFS for its scheduled launch tomorrow night on a mission to deploy a military satellite.

The 19-story tall Atlas rocket began its nearly 1,800-foot move to Launch Complex 41 this morning and was hard down on its pad at about 9:35 am EDT.

Liftoff is scheduled for Friday night at 8:31 pm EDT. The launch window extends until 9:33 pm. will have LIVE launch coverage of the Atlas flight beginning at 8:10 pm - tune in here!

Atlas will take into geostationary orbit the Wideband Global SATCOM - 2 communications satellite for the United States Air Force. WGS-02 will replace aging DSCS satellites and improve the way the air and ground military's navigate and communigate in one corner of the world. Eventually, about a dozen WGS satellites will be on orbit.

Launch was targeted for March 31st, however the launch was called off by the launch team so that a few more tests could be run on the recently replaced leaky fuel valve on the centaur upper stage.

Follow our Twitter Updates if you are mobile and would love to follow the prelaunch and launch updates.

Space E-Mail: Charles Talks to Simonyi on Station

Current international space station resident Charles Simonyi answered my email question from space following his arrival aboard the station on Saturday, March 28:
Simonyi: I am focusing on the experiments and communicating the experience. Time really flies, and it is only now on the third day that we unstowed my food rations, it is scary how much stuff is there and how much food we have in general. There is such thing as too much food because some of it may expire before we have a chance of consuming it. I’ll convey your message to the others! Thank you.

Charles and the Expedition 18 crew of Michael Fincke and Russian cosmonaut Flight Engineer Yury Lonchakov will return to earth on April 8th.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

North Korea Fuels Rocket for... Satellite Launch?

Latest AP story from our SLN wire:

SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea has begun fueling a long-range rocket for an impending launch, a news report said Thursday, as President Barack Obama warned the liftoff would be a "provocative act" that would generate a U.N. Security Council response.

North Korea says it will send a communications satellite into orbit on a multistage rocket sometime from this Saturday to Wednesday. The United States, South Korea and Japan think the reclusive country is using the launch to test long-range missile technology; they've warned the move would violate a Security Council resolution banning the North from ballistic activity.

Regional powers have also begun to deploy ships to monitor the launch, and Japan is preparing to intercept any debris that might fall if the launch goes awry — moves that have prompted several threats of retaliation from Pyongyang, including one Thursday.

The North has said debris from the rocket could fall off Japan's northern coast, so Tokyo has deployed battleships with anti-missile systems to the area and set up Patriot missile interceptors. It says it has no intention of trying to shoot down the rocket itself.

"If Japan imprudently carries out an act of intercepting our peaceful satellite, our people's army will hand a thunderbolt of fire to not only interceptor means already deployed, but also key targets," said a report Thursday by the North's official Korean Central News Agency that quoted the general staff of its military.

Stay tune for updates this weekend.

copyright 1998 - 2010 Charles Atkeison, All rights reserved.