Monday, August 31, 2009

SLN VIDEO: Tonight's Space Station News Conf

Space Station News Conference Tonight from NASA JSC

Leonardo Supply Module Docked to Station

An Italian-built supply module filled with racks of experiments, supplies and equipment was removed from the bay of space shuttle Discovery and successfully docked to the space station late today.

The 21-foot long Leonardo module was bolted down and officially mated at 5:49 pm EDT, as the space station flew 221 miles over central South America.

The entire process -- from unberthing the module from the shuttle's payload bay to docking it at the Harmony module's earth facing port -- ran thirty minutes ahead of schedule.

Beginning on Tuesday morning at 1:34 am EDT, the combined station and shuttle crew of 13 will enter the pressurized module and begin transferring the 15,200 pounds of item to station.

Transfers will continue all week as the crew takes an item and places it in a predetermined location per an item checklist. Once the module has been unloaded late this week, completed space experiments, empty containers and basic trash will be loaded onto the Italian module for it's return back to earth.

Leonardo will be undocked from the station and returned to Discovery's bay this Monday evening.

Leonardo arrived at the Kennedy Space Center following it's air flight from Italy in August 1998. This is the module's sixth trip to the space station, having first flown in March 2001 aboard Discovery.

Space Station Arm to dock Leonardo Today

Discovery astronauts Stott and Olivas late on Saturday.

The astronauts aboard the international space station will use their Canadian-built robotic arm to pluck the supply packed Leonardo module from Discovery's payload bay for docking later today.

Beginning at 3:39 pm EDT, the station's arm attached to the orbiter boom extension will reach over to the newly docked space shuttle and slowly raise the module from it's payload bay.

After carefully carrying the module over to the station's Harmony node, the station's arm will attach it to begin seven days of docked operations as astronauts unload the vast array of equipment and supplies for storage on the growing space station.

The Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) is a pressurized cargo carrier holding 15,200 pounds of new experiments from around the globe; the COLBERT treadmill which will improve astronaut exercise on board; and several tanks of oxygen and fuel.

Inside the storage module is a new carbon dioxide scrubbing device; two experiment racks to support new investigations in microgravity; and several items intended for February's upcoming Tranquility module's arrival -- including a new sleeping station compartment

In Leonardo awaiting to be transfered aboard station is a second Minus Eighty Laboratory Freezer which will "preserve biological samples collected on station for later return" to labs back here on earth, stated NASA's Johnson Space Center last week.

Leonardo will stay docked until next Monday evening.

Also on Sunday evening, Discovery astronaut and space rookie Nicole Stott officially became a member of the station's Expedition 20 crew at 11:49 pm EDT, replacing current two month resident Tim Kopra who joins the STS-128 crew.

Discovery's crew now includes commander Rick "CJ" Sturckow, pilot Kevin Ford, and mission specialists Jose Hernandez, Patrick Forrester, John "Danny" Olivas, Christer Fuglesang (European Space Agency) and former station member Kopra.

Earlier this morning, Hernandez told, "Finished flight day 3 & docked to the Station. Met our 6 neighbors & they seem nice! So nice we are giving one of them a ride home!".

On an interesting note, on Wednesday morning at 3:50 am EDT, Discovery will begin her 5,000th orbit of the earth since launching exactly 25 years ago.

India announces loss of Lunar Satellite

The Indian government announced today that they have lost contact with their satellite mission to the Moon, with no causes as to why the satellite has disappeared.

India's Chandrayaan-I satellite stopped transmitting back to earth on Saturday following 3422 orbits of the Moon during 312 days.

The satellite's lunar mission was hoped to last 2 years as it tookt detailed, high resolution images of the surface, and carried experiments from the United States and Europe.

India is preparing the Chandrayaan-II satellite for launch aboard a GSLV rocket by 2012. A portion of the C-II will actually be based on the lunar surface.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Discovery's Crew Enters Space Station

Discovery's seven astronauts boarded the international space station tonight following a textbook docking by her commander as a combined 13 astronauts begin eight days together 220 miles above earth.

The hatches of both spacecraft opened at 9:33 pm EDT, and as Discovery's crew floated on board the orbiting outpost, the expedition 20 crew shook hands and hugged their newly arrived guests.

This will be only the second time in human space flight that 13 people are working and living on one spacecraft. NASA has prepared for this moment over past year by installing a second toilet (with a third on the shuttle), oxygen, a water purifier and extra supplies to support large crews.

Discovery's crew flying on her 37th mission includes commander Rick Sturckow, pilot Kevin Ford, and mission specialists Jose Hernandez, Patrick Forrester, John "Danny" Olivas, Christer Fuglesang (European Space Agency) and Nicole Stott.

Sturckow served as the pilot for the first space station assembly flight in 1998 when the two first pieces of the station were connected thus forming the nucleus of the space station complex.

Stott will switch places with current Station resident Tim Kopra at 11:30 pm, to begin a three month stay as a member of the expedition 20 and 21 crews on station. She will return home aboard Atlantis in late-November.

Up next will involve plucking the Leonardo MPLM (Multi-purpose logistics module) from the orbiter's payload bay with the station's robotic arm, and docking it to the station's Harmony port beginning on Monday afternoon. This is the module's seventh trip into space as a supply vessel.

Leonardo is a pressurized module full of 5,200 pounds of racks with experiments, supplies, and hardware -- including a huge freezer for storing new growth samples; a treadmill known as COLBERT which is arriving in two parts; and a new sleeping compartment for the recently expanded station crew.

Leonardo will be docked slowly to the station at 6:19 pm tomorrow.

Discovery Docks with Space Station on her 25th Anniversary

On the silver anniversary of her first launch into space, the space shuttle Discovery performed a perfect rendezvous and docking to the international space station tonight to begin eight days of docked operations.

Discovery docked with earth's orbital outpost in space at 8:54 pm EDT, as the two flew 222 miles over the northeast Atlantic Ocean and orbital darkness.

It was a perfect approach as docking occurred ten minutes earlier than scheduled and using less fuel than was planned.

Earlier at 8:03 pm, Discovery performed a ten minute back flip so that two of the space station's six crew member could photograph the belly's tiles for traces of damage.

Inside the space station, commander Gennady Padalka, "Space shuttle Discovery, arriving," as he rang the traditional port-of-call bell.

Discovery will remain docked to station for eight days as it resupplies the space station and perform three spacewalks to install a new ammonia tank; retrieve a few experiments from outside; and install a rack to stow extra parts.

Discovery's Crew Completes Tile Inspection

Space shuttle Discovery astronauts spent their second day in space surveying the tiles and blankets which cover the spacecraft looking for any damage following their Midnight ride into space on Saturday.

Pilot Kevin Ford and mission specialists Jose Hernandez and Patrick Forrester spent several hours using the ship's 50-foot robotic arm and it's attached orbiter boom sensor to examine and perform a detailed look of the shuttle's aft section tiles, wing leading edges and nose section.

As of Sunday morning EDT, the crew did not see any damaged tiles or thermal blankets during the survey.

Early this morning, mission specialist and first time space flier Jose Hernandez told this reporter, "Flight Day 2 - my first full day in orbit! We used the robotic arm to do our routine inspection of the Shuttle”s thermal protection system. Also did rendezvous tool checkout!"

Meanwhile, on the mid deck, astronauts spent Saturday evening and into this morning EDT, preparing experiments and other items which will be transferred following Sunday night's docking. They also inspected the spacesuits which will be used on Tuesday's spacewalk in which Danny Olivas and Nicole Stott will go outside the station for 6 1/2-hours.

The crew will go to bed this morning at 5:30 am and awaken at 1:30 pm this afternoon to begin their third day -- docking day.

Discovery is currently in a lower orbit than the space station's so that that the shuttle can catch up at a quicker rate. Per orbital mechanics, an object in a lower orbit will circumnavigate the planet at a faster rate than an object in a higher orbit.

Beginning at 3:24 pm, Discovery's crew will begin rendezvous operations. Mission commander Rick Sturckow and pilot Ford will perform a series of jet firings to move Discovery's orbit higher as they close in on station.

An hour prior to docking, Discovery will begin a station-keeping attitude about 600 feet away, and perform a ten minute back flip so that the crew aboard the station can take several detailed images of the orbiter's belly using several camera's with 400 and 800 mm lens. The images will be sent to the ground as mission control inspects the belly for any tile damage which may have occurred during the ascent.

Discovery is scheduled to dock with the orbital outpost in space on Sunday night at 9:03 pm, as the orbital duo fly 222 miles over Poland.

Following final latching and leak checks between the two crafts, the two hatches are scheduled to open at 11PM tonight.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Discovery Crew Inspects Thermal Tiles

The crew of the space shuttle Discovery awoke this afternoon to begin their second day in space and will spend the day inspecting the thermal tiles of the orbiter and preparing for Sunday night's docking with the international space station.

The seven member crew awoke at 2:30 pm EDT, to the music of Gene Autry's Back in the Saddle Again, for mission commander Rick Sturckow - a former California rancher himself.

The crew awoke following a brief sleep period following a beautiful launch at the stroke of Midnight EDT this morning.

Discovery's 37th crew includes pilot Kevin Ford, and mission specialists Jose Hernandez, Patrick Forrester, John "Danny" Olivas, Christer Fuglesang (European Space Agency) and Nicole Stott.

On board Discovery in the aft section of her payload bay is the Leonardo module filled with racks of equipment, experiments and supplies for the station's crew of six. Leonardo is a pressurized module carrying such items as
a huge freezer for storing new growth samples; a treadmill which will arrive in two parts; and a new sleeping compartment. Food, water, oxygen and fuel is among the 5,200 pounds of new items for the station's crew.

Late afternoon on Sunday, Discovery will begin its final approach as the craft moves to 600 feet from the space station. It will be at this point at 8:02 pm where the orbiter will perform a back flip to allow two of the station's crew members to photograph the belly of the orbiter. The photographs will be sent to the ground as Mission Control looks for any tile damage which may have occurred at launch.

Discovery will then move into position to fly payload bay first as it's docking adapter connects with the space station docking port at 9:03 pm EDT.

Once docked the two crafts will pressurize the docking modules, check for leaks and open the hatches at 10:58 pm to begin eight days of docked operations.

Stott, a space rookie who worked during the 1990's at the Kennedy Space Center processing space shuttles such as Endeavour, will switch places with current resident Tim Kopra and begin a two month stay as a flight engineer aboard earth's orbital outpost.

On Monday evening at 6:19 pm EDT, the station robotic arm having grappled the Leonardo module will dock it to the American Harmony module.

Discovery is scheduled to land back at the Kennedy Space Center at 7:06 pm EDT of September 10th after 202 orbits of the earth, and nearly 13 days in space.

SLN Video: Discovery Lifts-off This Morning

Discovery Launch Images

A few of our favorite images from this morning's midnight launch of Discovery. Above, a photographer grabs a great shot from his perch at Space View Park in northern Titusville. The park lies 12 miles across the river from the launch pad.

Below, a KSC-NASA images showing how dramatic the launch truly is as Discovery departs the pad a few seconds following booster ignition.

Discovery Soars to Space on her 25th Anniversary

NASA's fourth space shuttle mission of the year thundered into earth orbit early this morning to begin a two week mission to resupply the international space station with supplies, equipment and a new treadmill.

A quiet, textbook countdown was met with beautiful weather as the Moon hung low over America's space coast on Friday evening. The flight crew awoke; the shuttle was fueled and the launch team was go to begin the final count.

In the darkness of America's spaceport, Discovery's three main engines roared to life followed by the ignition of her twin solid rocket boosters committing Discovery to a lift-off at 11:59:37 pm EDT, on Friday night.

"2, 1 booster ignition and lift-off of Discovery, celebrating it's 25th birthday by racking up science and supplies to the space station," KSC launch commentator Mike Curie as the shuttle stack soared past the launch tower mast.

As the boosters ignited, 225 miles above the Indian Ocean southwest of Tasmania, the space station soared with it's crew of six watching via a laptop computer.

As a 700-foot flame pushed Discovery upward toward space, night turned to day for a minute while a the shockwave created by the launch moved across America's spaceport and pounded the chests of us three miles from launch pad 39-A.

Two minutes into the launch - at 12:02:39 am on Saturday morning - the rocket boosters separated from the sides of the external tank as Discovery's three main engines carried the craft parralel along the United States east coast.

Discovery's crew includes commander Rick Sturckow, pilot Kevin Ford, and mission specialists Jose Hernandez, Patrick Forrester, John "Danny" Olivas, Christer Fuglesang (European Space Agency) and Nicole Stott.

Discovery is scheduled to dock with the station on Sunday night at 9:03 pm, as the orbital duo fly 222 miles over Poland.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Discovery: T-2 minutes and Counting...

Space shuttle Discovery is just under two minutes until launch. All remains go for liftoff at 11:59:37 pm EDT, and the launch team are not working any issues.

The critical point in tonight's launch will be at T-31 seconds when Discovery's on board computers accept control of the launch.

Discovery: T-9 Minutes and Counting...

Clocks in the launch control center have resumed counting down at T-8 minutes, 30 seconds and counting. Weather remains perfect for liftoff as the closing seconds of Friday night EDT tick away.

During the T-9 minute hold, a great shot of the Moon over the space shuttle stack was seen as it seem to pass by the gaseous oxygen vent hood.

At T-5 minutes, or 11:54:37 pm, pilot Kevin Ford will activate Discovery's three auxilary power units for flight. The three APU's power the movement of the main engine bells as they steer during ascent. The APU's also control the wing elevons and rudder as well.

At T-2 minutes, the flight crew of seven will close their visors for launch. The external tank will be pressurized for flight.

Flight Crew Departs to Board Discovery

The seven member flight crew of tonight's space shuttle launch departed their crew quarters minutes ago to head out to the ocean side launch pad and board Discovery to begin 13 days in space.

The crew departed at 8:09 pm EDT, and after poising for a few pictures they boarded the Astro Van for the 12 mile trip to the launch pad.

As the crew departed, Air Force meteorologist Kathy Winters broke the news to launch director Pete Nickolenko that the weather was now green across the board.

NASA begins Fueling Space Shuttle Discovery

Discovery sits passively on pad 39-A late today.

Tanking operations officially began at 2:45 pm EDT. Fueling of over 527,000 galls of both liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen are beginning to flow into the huge rust colored tank.

Tanking was delayed only 11 minutes due to weather in the area.

Mission managers meet for over two hours as the subject of the liquid hydrogen fill and drain valve was discussed. Tuesday night, the 8 inch valve gave indications that it was still open when the launch team commanded it closed. Still unsure as to why it happened, manager worked a plan for late today when the command will be given for the valve to close.

According to NASA, "The plan includes being able to open and close the valve two times during the tanking process if the valve position indicator sensor doesn't work. Teams would use alternate means, including monitoring pressure in the system, to provide confidence the valve is closed for launch".

Lift-off remains set for 11:59:37 pm EDT tonight, as Discovery soars into earth orbit to begin a 13 day mission to the international space station.

Discovery's Mission: Space Station Resupply

The international space station will receive a major delivery order as a moving truck filled with racks of experiments, equipment and supplies arrives at their door as NASA and it's space partners increase the productivity of earth's only outpost in space.

NASA's 128th space shuttle mission will head to the space station beginning this weekend on a resupply flight as Discovery and her crew of seven unload 15,200 pounds of cargo from the Leonardo module tucked in the orbiter's payload bay.

Once Discovery has docked with the station on flight day 3, the crew will begin work to power up the station's robotic arm using the attached orbiter boom sensor and pluck Leonardo out of its bay and slowly dock it with the station. Leonardo is also known as the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM), and is a pressurized room filled with racks of equipment such as a huge freezer for storing new growth samples; a treadmill which will arrive in two parts; and a new sleeping compartment.

Commanding this 37th flight of Discovery will be three time spaceflight veteran Rick "CJ" Sturckow. Sturckow served as the pilot for the first space station assembly flight in 1998 when the two first pieces of the station were connected 220 miles up.

Serving as pilot on STS-128 is retired U.S. Air Force colonel and spaceflight rookie Kevin Ford. Ford will operate the station's robotic arm and fly Discovery around as the shuttle separates from the orbital outpost.

Mission specialists include Danny Olivas, who will perform three spacewalks on this mission; Patrick Forrester, who will be the choreographer (IV) for the three spacewalks; Jose Hernandez, who will use the orbiter's arm to inspect for tile damage on day 2; Christer Fuglesang of the European Space Agency and will perform two of the three spacewalks; and Tampa Bay native Nicole Stott, who will begin her stay on the space station as part of the Expedition 20 & 21 crews. Stott will return back to earth on the next shuttle flight STS-129 in December.

There will be three spacewalks performed on flight days five, seven and nine, each lasting 6 and one-half hours.

On the first spacewalk or EVA-1, Olivas and Stott will headout to the left side of the backbone of the station to begin unbolting an empty ammonia tank. The tank will be replaced on the second spacewalk. The pair will also head over the the ESA Columbus module and grab two experiments for their return back to earth aboard Discovery eight days later.

The second orbital walk in space will have Olivas and Fuglesang retrieve the 1800 pound new ammonia tank from Discovery's bay and replace the empty one. This new tank, according to the Johnson Space Center, "is the most mass ever moved around by spacewalking astronauts during station assembly".

The third and final planned spacewalk during STS-128 will see Olivas and Fuglesang prepare the station for the February 2010 arrival of the Tranquility node. The orbital duo will attach cables between the right side truss segment and the Unity node where Tranquility will be docked. They will also install a bracket which will store spare station parts; and install a circuit breaker.

As NASA's current oldest orbiter sails upon the ocean of space this week, she will celebrate the silver anniversary of her first voyage into space - STS-41D. Launched on August 30, 1984, the first flight of Discovery performed an experiment which had a lasting effect on the space station program. Mission Specialist Judith Resnik deployed the OAST-1, or the very first retractable solar array in space as a test bed for the then future space station Freedom project.

Discovery was named for the famous explorer Henry Hudson's ship, the HMS Discovery which sailed in the early 1600's; and Capt. James Cook's vessel which explored in the 1770's.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Discovery GO for Friday Night Launch

NASA's Mission Management Team said late today that they are go to restart the countdown and launch space shuttle Discovery in the closing seconds of Friday night following major tests on a suspect fuel valve.

Launch control here at the Kennedy Space Center were to try for launch early Friday morning at 12:22 am EDT, however the MMT wanted to give the same team who researched the issue with the fill and drain valve a rest before they went on console to work the launch. Thus, they delayed the restart of the countdown until early Friday morning.

The 8-inch diameter valve allows liquid hydrogen (LH2) in the aft section of Discovery and must be closed at the time of launch. Late into Friday afternoon's fueling, when the valve is super cold due to the cryogenic LH2 fuel passing through it, the team wil cycle the valve to ensure that it is indeed closing.

Also late this afternoon at 4PM EDT, technicians moved the rotating service structure (image above) back around Discovery so that they can perform a few updates to the space shuttle stack. Among the tasks include replacement of several tyvek covers on the forward RCS jets. They help keep moisture and dirt out of the jets, and are replaced every seven days due to wear.

The RSS is expected to be rolled back into the launch postion at about 6AM on Friday.

For launch day, the MMT will meet one last time to review any new issues and to check if weather will allow the launch team to begin flowing the super cold fuels into the LH@ and LO@ (liquid oxygen) tanks beginning at 2:34 pm.

The flight crew will awake at 1 PM to begin their launch day and have breakfast 30 minutes later. At 8:09 pm, the crew will then depart their living quarters for the ride out to launch pad 39-A to begin boarding Discovery.

The weather forecast is currently 60% favorable at the 11:59:35 pm launch time, with anvil clouds and rain as possible issues.

Discovery's 37th crew includes commander Rick Sturckow, pilot Kevin Ford, and mission specialists Jose Hernandez, Patrick Forrester, John "Danny" Olivas, Christer Fuglesang (European Space Agency) and Nicole Stott. will have continuing LIVE TV, including our LIVE updates here and via Twitter @spacelaunchnews.

ARES 1 Motor Test Scrubbed at T-20 seconds

A major test of the new Ares 1 rocket motor was delayed this afternoon in Utah as the failure of a power unit on the new rocket failed with just 20 seconds before ignition.

Ignition of the powerful rocket motor was to have punched the quiet beautiful mountain side of the Midwest at 3:15 pm EDT today, however an auxiliary power unit failed and the count held.

There is no new time or date for the rescheduled test.

When the demo motor does fire, it will produce some 3.6 million pounds of thrust as the ATK company and NASA work to prepare the next booster which will carry humans to the space station and beyond following the space shuttle's retirement soon.

The ARES 1 demonstration motor (above today) is using an aft skirt from the very first space shuttle flight's solid rocket booster, STS-1.

Discovery delayed until Friday night

NASA decided today to delay the launch of Discovery 24 hours so that engineers could take more time to view the fuel valve tests ran last night.

Launch is now set for tomorrow night at 11:59:35 pm EDT.

Discovery Launch Attempt Likely after Tests

Things are looking up for space shuttle Discovery this morning, with the odds of launching tonight improving following five valve cycle tests last night.

A few more tests were ran over night, and NASA's Mission Management Team will meet at Noon EDT today to formally review the results and make a Go/ No Go to begin fueling of the external fuel tank this afternoon.

A liquid hydrogen (LH2) fill and drain valve, located in the aft section of the orbiter, did not register closed as fueling neared completion on Tuesday during the final hours of the second launch attempt.

Beginning at 6:28 pm last evening, technicians cycled the LH2 valve open and closed five times with perfect results.

Beginning at 8:57 am EDT, the countdown clock will resume at the T-11 hour mark. At noon, the MMT will meet for an hour to discuss the results of the valve tests and if everyone is go for launch. If the MMT is go, then fueling of the external tank would begin at 2:57 pm as the launch team chill downs the fuel lines, and ten minutes later, the first drops of cryogenic fuels will begin to flow into the tanks.

Launch is targeted for 12:22:09 am EDT tomorrow morning, or 04:22:09 UTC.

Monday's first launch attempt was scrubbed at T-9 minutes due to low clouds and rain near the Kennedy Space Center.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

NASA to Study Valve Issue; Launch Uncertain

A troublesome fuel valve in the tail section of the space shuttle Discovery has forced NASA to delay the launch until Friday morning as they begin two days of tests and data collection.

Mission management team chairman Mike Moses addressed a few of us at 10:05 pm EDT tonight, "As we got into tanking we ran across a failure signal... the LH2 (liquid hydrogen) inboard fill and drain valve" did not indicate closure.

The valve is connected to a 8 inch duct line used to fill the hydrogen tank up for flight. The valves are changed out every 16 flights, and this flight of Discovery would be its 16th.

Mosses added, "When we went to close the valve, we did not get an indication that it went closed. You want the valve to go closed at launch." The launch team managers "really do think that this is telemetry" and not a huge valve replacement.

NASA has until August 30th to launch Discovery on her 14 day flight to the international space station. Beginning Wednesday night, mission management team members will begin accessing data on the valve and will formally meet at 12 noon EDT on Thursday to share and learn what they know.

If this valve issue cannot be addressed via the data the team collects, then NASA will likely postpone launch until mid-October due to a series of rocket launches to the space station during September, including a Japanese cargo carrier, a Russian cargo carrier and a human launch aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket.

As of tonight, NASA will target Discovery's launch for no earlier than Friday morning at 12:22:07 am.

The flight crew will stay here at Kennedy Space Center through Friday.

Discovery Launch Scrubed due to stuck Valve

Discovery sits at Pad 39-A this evening following the scrub.

Launch control at the Kennedy Space Center stopped fueling the space shuttle's fuel tank late today and canceled tonight's launch attempt of Discovery due to a fuel valve which would not close.

"A problem cropped up with a fill-and-drain valve in the bottom part of the shuttle, the aft part of the shuttle, related to the liquid hydrogen," NASA launch commentator Allard Beutel stated as the scrub was official.

As of tonight, launch would occur no earlier than this Friday morning at 12:22:07 am EDT.

LAUNCH DAY: Discovery to try again Tonight

On the heels of a launch scrub earlier this morning, the launch team here at the Kennedy Space Center will try again to get the space shuttle Discovery off the ground on Wednesday morning on a resupply flight to the international space station.

Low clouds, rain and lightning within 20 miles from Discovery's launch pad forced both Cape weather and Houston's Spaceflight Meteorology Group to be no-go to resume the countdown at the T-9 minute hold at 1:26 am EDT this morning.

NASA has recycled the count and will try again beginning tonight to launch Discovery at 1:10:22 am EDT. The launch window is short -- only five minutes.

The Air Force weather office here at Cape Canaveral is calling for 70% favorable weather at launch time for Discovery (above, at 8AM today).

Discovery's 37th crew in 25 years includes mission commander Rick Sturckow, pilot Kevin Ford, and mission specialists Jose Hernandez, Patrick Forrester, John "Danny" Olivas, Christer Fuglesang (European Space Agency) and Nicole Stott.

A few launch milestones tonight (EDT):
  • 2:30p -- Crew awakes to begin launch day
  • 3:30p -- External tank fueling begins
  • 8:40p -- Weather briefing by commander, pilot and mission specialist 2
  • 8:50p -- Astronauts don flight suits
  • 9:20p -- Depart for launch pad
  • 9:50p -- Arrive at White Room and begin ingress
  • 11:10p -- Close Discovery's crew hatch
  • 1:01:22 am -- T-9 minutes and counting
  • 1:02:52 am -- Crew access arm retraction
  • 1:05:22 am -- APU Start by pilot
  • 1:10:16 am -- Main Engines start
  • 1:10:22 am -- SRB Ignition - launch commit!
Once in space, Discovery's crew will open the huge 60-foot payload bay doors. They will then turn the crew cabin from rocket mode into an orbital space platform by setting up laptop computers and stowing launch seats. And, they will prepare for late-Wednesday's thermal protection system survey using the ship's robotic arm.

Thursday will be docking day as Discovery approaches and then docks with the space station as they travel 220 miles over southern Russia.

Stott, a former KSC orbiter process worker turned astronaut, will begin her stay aboard the space station as a member of the Expedition 20 crew. She will replace Tim Kopra who arrived for a six-week stay on July 17. Stott will return home aboard the next space shuttle flight in late-November.

(Be sure to watch the countdown and launch LIVE via our widescreen TV available at

SCRUB: Rain Clouds Delay Discovery Launch

Strong rains, lightning and low clouds formed along the Space Coast forcing NASA to scrub this morning's launch attempt of the space shuttle Discovery and retargeting launch for early Wednesday morning.

The launch team is resetting the clock to target launch of Discovery on her 37th mission for tomorrow at 1:10:22 am EDT.

Cape weather is predicting a 70% chance for favorable weather at launch time.

We will have continuing LIVE NASA-TV in widescreen via, and updates via our Twitter feed all day today through launch.

NASA has until August 31st to launch Discovery, or stand down until mid-October due to several factors. On September 10th, a Japanese cargo ship launches to the space station; and on September 30th, the 21st station expedition crew launches and will dock with the space station two days later.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rain and Lightning threatens Discovery Launch

Rain and clouds over the Kennedy Space Center during the 11PM EDT hour is the only concern as the countdown moves toward launch in two hours. The seven member crew have fully boarded and the side hatch of space shuttle Discovery was closed at 11:34 pm.

Cape weather continues to monitor lightning south of KSC at about 10 to 15 miles out. KSC reports that the shuttle weather officer Kathy Winters reported a lightning strike six miles east of Discovery's launch pad.

At 11:53 pm, KSC went under a Phase Two lightning advisory until further notice.

New updates as the countdown moves forward tonight.

Crew boards Discovery for Launch

The seven member crew of Discovery spent the 10PM EDT hour tonight boarding the orbiter and strapping in for a kick-in-the-pants ride to space as the count down clock ticked closer to zero.

Discovery's commander Rick “C.J.” Sturckow boarded and took his seat on the flight deck on the left side (top image). Mission specialist and spaceflight rookie Nicole Stott ingressed next this evening and took her seat on the middeck. The crew also includes pilot Kevin Ford and mission specialists Jose Hernandez, Patrick Forrester, John "Danny" Olivas, and Christer Fuglesang (European Space Agency).

External Tank Fueling Underway on Discovery

The huge rust-colored external fuel tank is being loaded with super cold fuels for launch tonight as the space shuttle stack sits atop launch pad 39-A here at the Kennedy Space Center.

Fueling of the tank got underway on time at 4:11 pm EDT. Just over 526 thousand gallons of both liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen began slow filling into their respective tanks at 4:21 pm. Fully fueled at launch, the tank weighs a combined 1.66 million pounds.

Launch control is watching a few areas of rain in the Cape Canaveral area, however they will dissipate prior to launch time at 1:36:04 am EDT, tomorrow morning.

Tonight's launch will be the 33rd night launch for a space shuttle, the first occurring 26 years ago this week on STS-8. This week will also mark the silver anniversary of Discovery's first flight into space on mission STS-41D. Tonight will mark the start of her 37th voyage into space. is broadcasting LIVE television of the prelaunch operations here at the space Center. Twitter has been down in recent hours, however check back here for continuous updates on the flight of America's pride, Discovery.

Discovery Fueling begins at 4:20 pm ET Today

NASA is just hours away from the launch of space shuttle Discovery at 1:36:04 am EDT tomorrow morning. Discovery's external tank (above, at 8AM EDT) will begin receiving nearly 500,000 gallons of cryogenic fuels at 4:20 pm.

The flight crew of commander Rick Sturckow, pilot Kevin Ford and mission specialists Jose Hernandez, Patrick Forrester, John "Danny" Olivas, Christer Fuglesang (European Space Agency) and Nicole Stott will be awoken shortly at 2:11 pm to begin their launch day activities.

Weather looks great for launch overnight tonight.

It's Launch Day! Discovery's Mission Nears

NASA and the Kennedy Space Center remain go for launch this morning as technicians prepare to fuel the space shuttle Discovery to kickoff a 13 day mission to resupply and deliver new equipment to the international space station.

Launch of NASA's 128th space shuttle flight is scheduled for 1:36:04 am EDT on Tuesday morning, from Launch Complex 39-A. The launch window will last only 5 minutes. The weather forecast looks great with an 80% favorable rating from Cape Weather, as only a few light clouds will hug the space coast at launch time.

Due to the darkness and lack of Moon light following orbital insertion, the crew will not be able to photograph the external fuel tank as is normally the custom following tank separation.

Earlier today at 5AM EDT, crews at Discovery's ocean side launch pad began moving the massive rotating service structure back away from it's protective stance around the orbiter.

Launch Countdown Milestones include (EDT):
  • 9:11a: T-11 hours and counting
  • 10:21a: Discovery's fuel cells activated
  • 11AM: Launch pad 39-A cleared of extra personal
  • 2:11p: Flight crew awakes for Flight
  • 4:11p: T-6 hours and counting
  • 4:11p: Fuel lines to the External Tank chilled
  • 4:20p: External Tank fueling begins as Liquid Oxygen & liquid hydrogen begin flowing
  • 7:11p: T-3 hours and Holding (2 1/2 hrs)
  • 9:46p: Flight crew departs for Pad 39A
  • 10:16p: Crew begins to ingress Discovery
  • 11:21p: Discovery's hatch closure begins
  • 12:42a: T-9 minutes and Holding begins
  • 1:27:04a: T-9 minutes and counting
  • 1:28:34a: Retraction of crew access arm
  • 1:31:04a: APU Start by Pilot
  • 1:35:58a: Main engines start...
  • 1:36:04a: T-0: Lift-off of Discovery!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

NASA Clears Discovery for Launch on Tuesday

NASA's mission management team met today and gave the space shuttle Discovery their official go for launch as workers ready the vehicle for an early Tuesday morning launch from America's Space Coast.

The management team met early today for a lengthy discussion on several key issues which needed to be cleared prior to giving the "go" for launch.

A few items of concern actually have been of issue for the past several weeks.

First, they included the ever present external tank foam problem. Ever since the Columbia breakup in 2003 due to foam which broke off during launch and punched a whole under the orbiter's wing, NASA has worked the continuing issue of foam breaking off and striking the shuttle during the climb to orbit. Even a .30-inch size piece of foam can cause major belly damage as it slams into the fragile thermal protection system at speeds of over two thousand mph.

The foam acts as an insulator for the super cold (cryogenic) fuels located in two inner tanks of the rust colored external fuel tank.

Kennedy Space Center technicians over the past month have performed sample foam tests to check for loose areas which could break off due to the violent nature of launch.

Mike Moses, Chairman of the Mission Management Team, said late today, "We still have a lot of work to do" in ensuring that future tanks have strong, safe insulation.

Next, the team discussed an issue with an electrical box which houses the power bus system for the orbiter's reaction control system. The forward power control assembly (FPCA) was described by Moses as "one step upstream from a circuit breaker in your house".

One of three FPCA's failed earlier this month and was replaced with a backup unit. It's the job of the FPCA to power control the forward reaction control thrusters or RCS jets; the orbiter docking system; and several items in the payload bay. The possibility of a bent electrical connector is a problem in which if you turn an item on, you may not be able to turn it off.

"How do we know if the box is o.k.? We don't...," Moses confirmed.

The real concern for the team is the RCS jets. Normally, the orbiter's flight crew disables the thrusters just after reaching space and then enables them prior to its arrival at the space station so that it can perform a number of maneuvers for docking. On this flight of Discovery, the crew will leave the RCS thrusters in the "on" position, and disable them just after docking two days into the flight.

NASA feels confident that they will be able to turn off the thrusters following docking. A thruster that accidentally fires during joint docked operations could cause damage and injury.

Last, the team outlined the weather conditions here at the Kennedy Space Center beginning on Monday afternoon and up into the 1:36:04 am EDT launch time.

Weather at the time of fueling of the external tank is expected to be 60% favorable tomorrow. Lightning within 5 miles of the launch pad and anvil clouds is the main concern for Air Force Weather Officer Kathy Winters, who was also a member of the MMT meeting today.

"Tanking (fueling) weather is what we will be watching," Winters stated late today. "As we get to tanking, the weather should be improving." Fueling is expected to begin at 4:20 pm, weather permitting.

Winters also stated that Discovery's launch time weather is 80% favorable; and that the two transAtlantic abort landing sites - Zaragosa and Maron - look good weather wise.

Weather Outlook for Discovery Launch Improves

While technicians here at the Kennedy Space Center continue to prepare the space shuttle Discovery for lift-off on Tuesday, the weather outlook at launch time has improved along the Space Coast.

The current weather forecast from the Air Force Spaceflight Meteorology Group improved slightly since last evening with the weather at the time of Discovery's launch now 80% favorable with only light clouds in the area.

Discovery (above, at 8:42 am ET Today) stands ready and technicians are not working any issues as the launch team moves toward a Moonless night launch at 1:36:05 am EDT on Tuesday.

The countdown clocks are currently holding at T-19 hours, and will resume counting again at 12 noon EDT. There are several standard built-in holds in every launch countdown, and act as windows of time to catch up on delayed work or a troublesome issue.

Later this afternoon, crews at the pad will perform main engine prep work, and focus late today on work associated in preparing the rotating service structure to be moved back into the launch position. RSS rollback is planned for 5AM tomorrow morning and will be complete prior to Sunrise. will begin our LIVE launch coverage beginning at 4PM EDT tomorrow afternoon. Please follow us via Twitter (@spacelaunchnews) for live countdown updates to your cell phone or PDA device.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Countdown Underway for Launch of Discovery

Clocks here at the Kennedy Space Center began ticking backward as the Launch Control Center picked up the countdown toward the launch of the space shuttle Discovery this Tuesday morning.

Launch of NASA's fourth space shuttle flight of 2009 is scheduled for 1:36:05 am EDT, on Tuesday morning.

The Air Force Weather Office here at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is forecasting a 70% chance of acceptable conditions at launch. The real concern will come late afternoon on Monday when launch control prepares to load the super cold fuels into the rust-colored external fuel tank. There is a 30% chance of possible lightning along the Space Coast, a task which states lightning cannot be with 20 miles of the launch pad at the time of fueling.

The seven member flight crew arrived at America's spaceport on Wednesday, a tad earlier than most crews due to the remodeling of the crew quarters at the Johnson Space Center south of Houston. Shuttle crews normally begin one week of quarantine prior to launch day, thus this crew will spend most of it at the Operations and Checkout building about 10 miles from the launch pad.

Friday, August 21, 2009

SLN VIDEO: Launch of Ariane 5 Tonight

Launch of the ESA Ariane 5 at 6:09 pm EDT tonight.

Europe's Ariane 5 Successfully Launches Today

The workhorse of the European Space Agency launched from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, South America today on a duel satellite delivery mission which will provide strong telecommunications from the central and southern Pacific communities.

Lift-off of the Ariane 5 on it's fourth flight of the year occurred on time at 6:09:07 pm EDT today, as the twin solid rocket boosters ignited propelling the rocket toward space.

Combined with a Vulcan single engine, the boosters burned to send the Ariane up to an altitude of nearly 230,000 feet. Due to the close proximity of Kourou with the earth's equator, it takes less time and fuel to get payloads into geostationary orbit.

The first satellite to deploy was Japan's JCSat-12 which occurred on time at 6:35 pm, followed by the Australian DIRECTV and communications payload, Optus D3, at 6:40 pm. Optus will work on station at 156 degrees East longitude, and above the equator.

Earlier this year, Japan and Arianespace signed an agreement whereas Ariane will launch the JCSat-13 in two years.

This was the 190th launch of an Ariane-family rocket launch, and the 32nd consecutive successful mission of the Ariane 5.

Arianespace has three more Ariane 5 flights scheduled for the last four months of 2009, the next coming around September 29th.

ESA to Launch Ariane 5 this Evening

Ariane 5 is moved into launch position on Thursday. (ESA)

The countdown began at 6:39 am EDT this morning for the launch of a European Space Agency Ariane 5 rocket this evening from its ocean side launch pad on a multi-satellite delivery mission for Japan and Australia.

Liftoff is targeted for the beginning of a one hour launch window at 6:09 pm EDT, from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, South America. (Read our preLaunch Story)

Tonight's Ariane 5 launch will be the fourth of seven planned for 2009, and will loft two huge communication satellites into geostationary orbit. The JCSat-12 for Japan and the OPTUS D3 for Australia will provide both audio and video communications for their countries central and south Pacific customers.

Arianespace hopes to increase its Ariane launch rate to ten flights next year with the addition of the new Vega launcher. will provide LIVE launch television of the flight beginning at 5:30 pm EDT tonight. We will have Twitter (@spacelaunchnews) updates to your mobile phone or PDA.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Discovery's Crew Arrives at KSC for Launch

The crew of the next space shuttle flight arrived here at the Kennedy Space Center to prepare for their launch to the international space station early this Tuesday.

Due to storms and weather between Houston and Cape Canaveral, the crew flew together in a NASA Gulfstream II jet instead of seperate T-38 Talon jets. The Gulfstream arrived at the shuttle landing facility at 6:38 pm EDT, this evening.

"Well, good afternoon," Discovery's commander Rick Sturckow began as he approached the microphone here at the SLF. "It's great to arrive here in Florida for the launch of STS-128. We've been studying and training hard for just about a year now and we're ready to go accomplish this mission. Very happy to be here."

Discovery's crew includes pilot Kevin Ford, and mission specialists Jose Hernandez, Patrick Forrester, John "Danny" Olivas, Christer Fuglesang (European Space Agency) and Nicole Stott.

Stott, who will be dropped off for a 2 1/2-month stay aboard the space station, summed up her thoughts tonight, "I'm really, really happy to be back here at KSC; and I'm really looking forward to the ride to station next week."

The launch countdown is slated to begin this Friday night at 11PM EDT, as NASA aims to launch Discovery this Tuesday morning at 1:36:02 am.

Discovery Launch Targeted for this Tuesday

NASA's Shuttle Mission Management Team announced late Tuesday that the space shuttle Discovery's external fuel tank is safe to fly without the need of extra insulation foam checks and repairs.

The previous two shuttle flights saw small amounts of foam fall off the external fuel tank's ice ramps a minute or so into launch. The ramps are located at the intertank region facing the orbiter's nose. It has been shown in tests that even a .5 inch segment of foam can blast a small hole into the orbiter's surface as it flies throught the middle region of the earth's atmosphere.

However, following extensive foam tests on external tank #132 -- both in the Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building and more recently out at her ocean side launch pad -- Discovery's rust colored tank has been ruled safe for flight.

Launch of NASA's 128 space shuttle flight remains set for this Tuesday morning - early - at 1:36:02 am EDT. The launch window lasts five minutes.

Once on orbit, Discovery's crew of seven will guide their spacecraft toward a docking with the international space station two days later. On flight day four, the crew led by commander Rick "CJ" Sturckow, will use Discovery's robotic arm to grapple and remove the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module from the payload and attach it to the station.

The module is a pressurized storage unit filled with racks of experiments, fresh food, fuel tanks and equipment for the six-member crew which live aboard the orbital complex 220 miles high. In all, Leonardo will house 15,200 pounds of supplies for transfer over the the station.

Discovery's crew also includes pilot Kevin Ford, and mission specialists Jose Hernandez, Patrick Forrester, John "Danny" Olivas, Christer Fuglesang (European Space Agency) and Nicole Stott.

Stott, a former KSC orbiter process worker turned astronaut, will begin her stay aboard the space station as a member of the Expedition 20 crew. She will replace Tim Kopra who arrived for a six-week stay on July 17. Stott will return home aboard the next space shuttle flight in late-November.

There will be three spacewalks performed on flight days 5, 7 and 9, to carry out tasks from the replacement of an empty ammonia tank on the station's port truss; prepare the station's Unity node for the arrival this February of the Tranquility node; and retrieve a science experiment which had been exposed to the vacumm of space on the European Columbus module for its return to earth.

This will be Discovery's 37th space flight, having first flown into space exactly 25 years to the week of her first flight from the same launch pad.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

European Rocket Ariane 5 to Launch Friday

The new workhorse of the European Space Agency is ready for it's fourth mission of the year on Friday, carrying two media satellites into geostationary orbit.

The launch of an Arianespace Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket is set to depa
rt it's Atlantic Ocean launch pad in Kourou, South America at the opening of a one hour launch window at 6:09 pm EDT.

On board the 193-foot Ariane 5-ECA will be two major communications satellites for Australia and Japan -- Optus D3 and JCSat 12 -- respectively.

The Optus D3 satellite will serve to broadcast television and communications via 32 KU-Band antennas to Australia and New Zealand at an orbital position of 156 degrees East. It is expected to serve it's southern pacific comunity for 15 years.

Japan's JCSat 12 -- which will ride in the top section of the Ariane's payload fairing --carries thirty KU-Band and 12 C-Band transponders and will serve as a back-up comsat.

An Ariane 5 launch is different than most as it leaves the launch pad. At T-0 (6:09 pm), the core main stage Vulcain 2 engine ignites and is brought up to 100% thrust. This huge engine will burn for 650 seconds of the flight. Seven seconds later, the rocket's twin solid rocket boosters are ignited and allowing for lift off from Pad 3.

Two minutes, twenty seconds after core engine ignition, the twin boosters will then separate at an altitude of 229,650 feet. One minute later, as the rocket enters a lesser atmosphere, the white payload cover is then jettisoned as it speeds through 397,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean.

The first to be deployed will be JCSat at T+26m:52s into the ascent profile. The Sylda 5 will then be ejected at T+32m:51s, and this will be followed by the release of the Australian satellite 90 seconds later, thus concluding Ariane flight 548.

This will be the 190th Ariane mission for the European Space Agency, and the 46th Ariane 5 launch since it's madien flight in June 1996. will provide LIVE launch TV of the flight beginning Friday at 5:45 pm EDT. Also, follow our Twitter feed for LIVE mobile updates,

Monday, August 17, 2009

VIDEO: Today's Delta II Launch Highlights

Replay Today's Delta II Launch -- Great Video Highlights.

Final Air Force Delta II Launches from the Cape

A United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket departed Cape Canaveral this morning in a sunrise launch to boost a new Global Positioning System satellite.

Launch of the Delta II-7925 from launch complex 17-A occurred at 6:35 am EDT, as the sun's rays brought a hint of red and blue hues upon the Florida sky.

"What a marvelous launch. It was truly gorgeous as we followed it toward the horizon -- the colors of the sky and the rocket's plume created a heavenly view," SpaceLaunch News' publisher Mary Myers told this reporter when asked of her impression on what we had witnessed.

One minute into the flight as the rocket rose faster than the speed of sound, it trailed past a crescent Moon in the shape of a huge smile.

The GPS system is made up of 24 satellites traveling in an orbit of 10,998 x 104 nautical miles at 8800 mph. The satellites, as this new will be, is inclined 40 degrees to the earth's equator.

The new spacecraft successfully separated from it's third stage motor over the Wake Island area over the western Pacific at 7:43 am EDT.

This morning's launch was the 48th successful Delta 2 launch of the GPS satellite series, and the final one aboard the Delta II. Future, more larger and upgraded GPS satellites will ride larger rockets such as the Delta IV beginning in 2014.

This new NAVSTAR GPS 2R-21 satellite will begin on orbit operations in a few weeks, as it replaces an aging GPS 2A spacecraft which has been in operation since 1996

The next Delta II launch is planned for September 15 from complex 17-B here at Cape Canaveral.

Delta II Liftsoff from America's Spacecoast

A United Launch Alliance Delta II lifted off at 6:35 am EDT, this morning on a mission to deploy a new Global Positioning System into orbit.

As the sun began to rise launch occurred making for a beautiful scene here on America's space coast.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

NASA Black Brant IX Rocket set for Monday Launch

A NASA Black Brant IX unmanned rocket will carry aloft an experimental inflatable spacecraft shell which the space agency hopes will aid in the landing of future larger spacecraft on other worlds.

On board the Black Brant IX will be the Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE) which will test a new light weight material which will be inflated with nitrogen to grow from it's rocket packed 16 inches to 9 3/4-feet in size. If successful, the silicon-coated multi-layered Kevlar aeroshell IRVE will serve to protect a future spacecraft reentering a planet's atmosphere and bring it down to the surface safely.

"The whole flight will be over in less than twenty minutes," IRVE project manager Mary Beth Wusk stated recently. "We separate from the rocket ninety seconds after launch, and we begin inflation about three-and-a-half-minutes after that. Our critical data period after it inflates and re-enters through the atmosphere is only about 30 seconds long."

Scientists want to be able to land larger mass objects on other cestrial bodies such as Mars, and this test will help demonstrate the drag effect as it encounters a planet's atmosphere as it arrives from space.

"To land more mass you have to have more drag," IRVE's principal investigator Neil Cheatwood said recently. "We need to maximize the drag area of the entry system. We want to make it as big as we can, but the limitation has been the launch vehicle diameter."

The launch is sometime during a nearly four hour launch window which begins at 7:30 am EDT, tomorrow morning from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility launch pad 2 at Wallops Island, Va. Click Here to watch LIVE-TV of the launch day activities beginning at 6:30 AM EDT.

An exact launch time will be announced a half-hour or so prior to liftoff. Being a smaller lighter rocket, winds and exact weather is critical so that the Black Brant is not thrown off course.

Four minutes into launch and at an altitude of 131 statue miles, the 1,400 pound IRVE will begin it's mission as it descends out over the north Atlantic Ocean. Six on board video cameras will capture the inflation of the nearly ten foot shell and it's performance through rentry at T+7 minutes after launch.

Nineteen minutes into the mission, the vehicle is expected to splashdown about 102 miles down range from Wallops and sink, according to NASA officials this week.

The rocket flying this mission is not common to most, however it has become a work horse for the scientist and technicians preparing future planetary landers. Wallops also uses the Black Brants 9, 10, 11 & 12.

According to Wallops spokesperson Sandy Kleckner, "The Black Brant IX is a two-stage sounding rocket that consists of a Terrier 1st stage and a Black Brant 2nd stage. This vehicle is capable of carrying a payload of 800 pounds and a payload of 300 pounds."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Delta II set for a Sunrise Launch on Monday

A United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket remains poised for its sunrise launch on Monday morning from here at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Launch time is scheduled for 6:35 am EDT, and will provide LIVE launch coverage beginning at 6:15 am. (Read our mission story below)

Currently, Cape Weather is forecasting a 70% GO for favorable weather at launch time.

The ULA image shows the NAVSTAR GPS IIR-21 satellite in it's payload fairing.

Follow our LIVE Twitter feed (@spacelaunchnews) for mobile updates toyour Blackberry or PDA device.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Final Air Force Delta II to Launch on Monday

The final United States Air Force Delta II rocket is scheduled to liftoff from Cape Canaveral next week on a flight to deliver a new Global Positioning System satellite into earth orbit.

Launch of the United Launch Alliance Delta II-7925 from the Space Coast's complex 17-A is planned for this Monday morning at 6:35 am EDT. The short launch window closes at 6:49 am.

Following an on time liftoff, the new spacecraft would separate from it's third stage motor over the Wake Island area over the western Pacific at 7:43 am EDT.

This will be the final Air Force driven Delta II, however ULA will continue to process Delta II flights. Future GPS satellites will be a tad larger and will be carried into orbit on stronger launch vehicle such as the Delta IV.

When the satellite reaches orbit, Monday's Delta II mission will have successfully delivered it's 48th GPS payload.

Following a successful launch, the GPS 2R-21 satellite will orbit the earth at an altitude of 10,998 x 104 nautical miles once every 12 hours, and provide greater detailed navigational support of landmark areas to within three meters or less. Its orbital inclination will be 40 degrees to the equator.

Each new GPS satellite carries a ten year design life, and operates with 23 other GPS satellites to incorporate a truly successful navigational platform for users here on earth. From military to commercial use, GPS services continues to increase with the service on mobile phones and other portable devices. It is also a platform in which Google Maps has based it's free service upon. will provide LIVE launch morning coverage beginning at 6:15 am EDT. Also, follow our mobile updates via Twitter @spacelaunchnews.

Friday, August 07, 2009

NASA-TV: This Week @NASA August 7, 2009

This Week @ NASA: August 7, 2009

Thursday, August 06, 2009

NASA's Kepler Telescope Tracks Hot Planet

A new NASA space probe has tested its scientific instruments on a very hot giant planet which is orbiting a sun similar to our own in a galaxy far, far away, and this discovery will likely be the first of many for the rookie voyager.

NASA's Kepler space telescope trained its newly calibrated telescope instruments on a gaseous planet very similar to Jupiter. Kepler discovered that the planet's surface is very hot since its orbit is so close to its sun, known as HAT-P-7, as it takes only 2.2 days to orbit the star. The planet is called HAT-P-7b and has an estimated day surface temperature of about 4,300 degrees Fahrenheit. It's night surface drops down to about 1,100 degrees as HAT-P-7b moves around in circular orbit.

The bright planet orbits the star in a solar system located 1,000 light years from earth. A light year is 5.87 trillion miles.

This newly discovered exoplanet is twenty-six times closer to it's sun (3.7 million miles) than earth's distance (92.9 million miles) to her own sun. According to NASA's Ames Research Center, the hot planet "is so close to its star, the planet is as hot as the glowing red heating element on a stove".

The enlarged NASA artist image above shows just how dynamic the conditions on this gaseous planet really are. Methane, carbon dioxide, helium gaseous make up most of it's limited atmosphere.

The director of the Science Mission Directorate's Astrophysics Division at NASA, Jon Morse, stated today, "As NASA's first exoplanets mission, Kepler has made a dramatic entrance on the planet-hunting scene. Detecting this planet's atmosphere in just the first 10 days of data is only a taste of things to come."

Launch from Cape Canaveral in March, Kepler is on a nearly four year mission to discover earth-size planets outside our own galaxy. It is currently nine million miles from earth.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Discovery's Crew arrives at Kennedy Space Center

The seven member crew of the next space shuttle mission arrived late this morning at the Kennedy Space Center for a few days of countdown practice and safety training prior to their late-August launch.

The crew departed Houston, Texas for Cape Canaveral at 8:50 am EDT, in four T-38A jets. The crew was diverted up to Montgomery, Alabama's Maxwell, AFB, due to a large red storm cell south of Mobile and in the normal flight path most crews take when making this route.

Led by commander Rick "C.J." Sturckow, the crew of Discovery's STS-128 mission include pilot Kevin Ford and mission specialists Pat Forrester, Jose Hernandez, Danny Olivas, Christer Fuglesang and Nicole Stott, the crew began arriving at Kennedy beginning at 11:37 am EDT, followed by several more jets carrying the rest of the crew.

This afternoon, the crew will travel over to an area between Launch Pads 39 A & B for a few armoured carrier driving lessons. The crew will practice in the M113 emergency evacuation vehicle - something NASA keeps near the pad on launch day in case a serious issue occurs and the crew needs a quick, safe get away.

On Friday, the flight crew will depart for pad 39-A to board Discovery for a mock countdown dress rehearsal with the launch control center.

"We are very happy to be down here in Florida," mission commander Sturckow stated at Noon EDT. His pilot Ford added, "(We) had a great look of the rocket sitting on the pad" as they flew over the Space Coast.

Stott chimed in with "It's like coming home... so it's great to be here and seeing old friends". Stott worked at Kennedy in support of processing the space shuttle orbiters for their missions beginning in the late-1980's.

Discovery is marching toward an August 25th launch target date. Repairs on the pad of a rocket booster nozzle valve is the prime issue pad workers are involved with. Another issue is the liquid hydrogen gaseous flow line valve connection to the mid section of the external fuel tank. An issue which plagued two previous shuttle missions this year will be closely focused upon as the launch team moves toward August 25.

The STS-128 payload canister was transferred to the pad hours following the shuttle stacks arrival at the pad late yesterday. Inside, is the Italian logistics module
Leonardo, filled with major racks of experiments, food, supplies and a new treadmill all for the international space station.

If Discovery does launch in late-August, it would occur exactly 25 years to the week of her first launch on STS-41D, on August 30, 1984.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

KSC Images from Discovery Rollout Today

The space shuttle Discovery made it to her ocean side launch pad today, following a late start and a muddy trip caused by thunderstorms over the Kennedy Space Center last night.

Discovery, which is slated to liftoff on a space station resupply mission on August 25, was hard down on launch pad 39-A at 1:50 pm EDT, this afternoon. The following NASA-KSC images show a beautiful white dove ready to continue America's focus of the future of humankind.

copyright 1998 - 2010 Charles Atkeison, All rights reserved.