Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Russian Soyuz Launches Crew to Space Station

An international crew of three lifted-off this morning from the deserts of Kazakhstan bound for earth's orbital outpost as two of them begin a six month voyage in the ocean of space.

A Russian Soyuz FG rocket with the Soyuz TMA16 spacecraft a top launched on time this morning at 3:14:42 am EDT (11:14 am local time) under blue skies from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

American astronaut Jeffrey N. Williams, Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev and space flight participant Canadian Guy Laliberté dressed into their launch suits three hours prior to lift-off and headed out to launch pad #1 -- Yuri's pad -- and climbed aboard. The countdown saw no technical issues as it moved toward zero.

About two minutes into the launch profile, the strap on boosters separated from the core rocket as it approached a speed of 4,950 feet per second. Three minutes later, the main stage separated from the Soyuz upper stage at an altitude of 105 miles high.

The nine minute ride to earth orbit was beautiful as the trio begins a two day journey to the international space station.
Williams and Suraev will begin a six month stay aboard the space station as members of expedition 21 & 22 crews. Williams will later command expedition 22. Meanwhile, Laliberté will visit the station for 8 days and return back to the Asian desert on October 11 with the returning crew of Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka and NASA astronaut Michael Barratt .

Today's morning launch of the Soyuz now places the space craft in a position to dock with the space station on Friday morning at 4:37 am EDT, as the orbital outpost flies over Asia.

While on board, the pair will work on 47 experiments along with four other crew members. As the space station soars into a new decade, it will be visited by two space shuttles, a new docking module, two progress supply ships and another crew rotation as a Soyuz TMA-17 is currently set to launch on December 21st.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Countdown Underway for Russian Soyuz FG

A Russian rocket is just hours away from carrying two astronauts and one cosmonaut to the International Space Station on Wednesday as two of them begin a six month odyssey in earth orbit.

A Russian Soyuz FG rocket with crew members Maxim Suraev Victorovich, Jeffrey N. Williams and spaceflight participant Guy Lalibert'e will strap into their Soyuz TMA-16 space craft about ninety minutes before the 3:14:42 am EDT lift-off on Wednesday morning.

At 7:45 pm EDT this evening, Williams reported to, "Off to breakfast...last meal for awhile where the food behaves well on the plate. Everybody is happy and calm".

By 8:21 pm, with the three space men's breakfast complete, Williams replied, "Breakfast done. Off we go. See you after docking. Thank you for prayers and support. Enjoy the journey!"

The space trio will spend two days in a lower orbit than the space station which will allow them to catch up quickly and then dock on Friday morning at 4:37 am EDT.

SpaceLaunch will have live television of the launch beginning at 1:45 am EDT, on Wednesday morning. Also, follow our mobile updates directly to your cell phone or PDA phone via

STS-129 Atlantis Banner at KSC is Signed

The STS-129 space shuttle Atlantis banner was signed today by the technicians, managers and engineers here at the Kennedy Space Center. The banner will hang on the Mobile Launcher Platform when the stack rolls out to launch pad 39-A & and will hang at the pad up until just before launch.

We will post rollout images of Atlantis as it heads to 39-A in mid-October. Images: Jen Scheer

Monday, September 28, 2009

VIDEO: Space Station in the Night Sky

Charles Atkeison Videos the Space station from the Georgia-Florida region as it passes across the Lunar landscape this evening at 8 PM EDT.

Next Space Station Crew to Launch Wednesday

Laliberté, Suraev and Williams at Baikonur days ago (RSA)

Two new crew members and one space tourist will depart Russia for the International Space Station on Wednesday, as they replace two current members and begin a six month stay in earth orbit.

Out on historic launch complex 1 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome located in the Republic of Kazakhstan, a Russian Soyuz-FG LV rocket will carry two astronauts and one cosmonaut into space from the desert south of Russia.

Astronaut Jeffrey N. Williams and Cosmonaut Maxim Suraev Victorovich will liftoff inside a Soyuz TMA-16 spacecraft on September 30th at 3:14 am EDT, to begin a six month stay aboard earth's orbital outpost. Canadian private citizen Guy Laliberté, who paid Russia around $40 million to travel to the station, will stay for two weeks and return home aboard the currently docked Soyuz TMA-14 capsule with cosmonaut Gennady Pedalka and American Michael R. Barrett.

On Sunday morning at about 6:15 am EDT, Williams messaged this reporter from Baikonur, "Our families will land in Baikonur within 15 minutes. The energy level is up with everybody. The next couple of days tend to fly by!"

The 162-foot Soyuz-FG is a three stage rocket which uses twenty RD-107A engines burning a kerosene fuel, plus several vernier engines for steering during the climb to orbit. The Soyuz-FG can carry up to 16,314 pounds of payload into low earth orbit. The rocket's launch mass is 672,410 pounds.

The Soyuz TMA-16 at right with it's enclosure at left. (Energia)

Nine minutes following launch, the trio will arrive in space and begin two days of work to catch up with the Space Station. The Soyuz TMA-16 craft will keep a lower orbit than the station during those first days to assist in catching up with and later dock on October 2 at 4:37 am EDT.

Once aboard their new home in space, Williams and
Victorovich will begin ten days of work as they learn the layout of the station and transfer their personal items to their sleeping compartments.

Williams will serve as the flight engineer during the new Expedition 21 crew which begins on October 11, and later serve as the commander for the Expedition 22 crew beginning on November 30th.

Born in 1958, Williams had been to Earth's orbital outpost twice before logging nearly 194 days in earth orbit, and having performed three spacewalks in support of servicing the station. He was a crew member during the Expedition 13 rotation in 2006.

Russian cosmonaut
Victorovich is a colonel in the Russian Air Force and has spent just over 11 years training for this -- his first space flight. He will serve as flight engineer during Expeditions 21 and 22. Of note, in 2007, he received a law degree from the Russian Academy of Civil Service. He will become the first lawyer to travel into space.

And, if
Victorovich will become the first lawyer in space, his fellow crew mate will likely become the first clown in space.

First time space flier
Laliberté was born in Quebec, Canada in 1959 and early on developed a very comical and entertaining nature about himself. So much in fact that he created the iconic Cirque du Soleil -- an international circus which features many performances from circus' around the globe.

Laliberté has stated recently that he will carry a clown's red nose and perform a type of circus performance on the station in which he hopes the followers of Cirque will enjoy. Performing in microgravity could present a challenge to this performer, however he likes the fact that free falling in space does not require a net.

Williams and Victorovich's six months aboard, they will see several spacecraft come and go beginning with a Russian Progress M supply craft on October 17th. One month later, the space shuttle Atlantis is set to arrive on a supply mission. Another shuttle flight this February will see one of the final modules docked to the station -- Tranquility.

Williams and Victorovich are scheduled to serve aboard the space station through March 2010.

SpaceLaunch will have live television of the launch beginning at 1:45 am EDT, on Wednesday morning. Also, follow our mobile updates directly to your cell phone or PDA phone via

Russian Soyuz FG moved to Launch Pad 1

A Russian rocket which will carry a crew of three to the International Space Station on Wednesday was moved out to its launch pad this morning and the countdown ticks along.

The Soyuz FG booster with the Soyuz TMA-16 spacecraft perched a top, began it's several mile journey before sunrise in the deserts of the Baikonur Cosmodrome located in the Republic of Kazakhstan.

As with all manned crews, the rocket was errected on launch complex 1 - or Yuri's pad - in preparation for its lift-off on Wednesday morning at 3:14 am EDT (11:14 am local time).

Friday, September 25, 2009

VIDEO: This Morning's Delta 2 Launch

Delta 2-7920 lifts-off this morning at 8:20 am EDT.

Delta II rocket Launches Missle Defense Satellite

A Delta 2 rocket lifted-off into the blue skies of America's Space Coast this morning on a military duo satellite delivery mission following a two day delay due to weather and a pad fuel leak.

A United Launch Alliance Delta 2-7920 lifted-off from launch complex 17-B here at Cape Canaveral at 8:20 am EDT. As the rocket cleared the tower, it's Rocketdyne RS-27A main engine and six rocket boosters began to arc northeastward while speeding past thing clouds and into sunny weather. Launch temperature was 79 degrees F.

The white and blue Delta II flew parallel with the United States east coast as it headed up toward the north Atlantic Ocean carrying two missile defense agency satellites. The orbital inclination for both spacecraft will be at 58.0 degrees - a very high inclination orbit to cover most of the planet's surface.

The two satellites -- Space Vehicle 1 & 2 -- which are joined together to form the Space Tracking and Surveillance System – Demonstrators (STSS Demo). Using both infrared and visible light sensors, the STSS Demo payload will give the military the ability to detect and track ballistic missiles in all phases of flight which could threaten the United States and her partner countries.

At 9:07 am, the first of the two satellites, Space Vehicle 1, separated from the second stage booster at an altitude of 730 n
autical miles over the central Indian Ocean. Seven and one-half minutes later, the SV-2 satellite then separated as it cruised over the southern Indian Ocean at an altitude of 731 miles.

Once the satellite pair flew free of the Delta's second stage, ULA vice president Jim Sponnick stated, “Building on the launch of the STSS ATRR mission in May, I congratulate both the Missile Defense Agency and NASA for the start of a second successful mission that will demonstrate technologies very important to the defense of our nation”.

Delta II rocket fueled for Launch this Morning

A United Launch Alliance rocket with a missile defense satellite is fueled and ready to fly this morning following a two day delay due to weather and a fuel leak underneath the launch pad.

Launch of the Delta II-7920 with the STSS-Demo satellite is expected at 8:20 am EDT today, from launch complex 17-B here at Cape Canaveral, Air Force Station.

The liquid oxygen fuel loading was completed at 7:22 am this morning.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

NASA, ULA to Launch Delta II on Friday

NASA and the United Launch Alliance will wait an additional 24 hours to try to launch a Delta II rocket from here at Cape Canaveral due to a small fuel leak detected following this morning weather scrub.

Launch managers have elected to stand down until Friday morning to resume the countdown of a Delta II-7920 at 8 AM EDT - the opening of a one hour launch window.

ULA told this reporter late this evening, "Following Wednesday morning's weather launch scrub, teams detected a small leak in a flange in the fuel transfer system under the launch pad. Both the Delta II and the STSS spacecraft have no technical issues."

Friday's launch date is not firm, but a target date based on how quickly technicians can fix the leak on Thursday.

Delta II Launch nears 8:59 am EDT Cape Launch

The Delta II launch team is not working any technical issues as they march toward an 8:59 am EDT target launch time - the final minute of a one hour launch window - this morning.

Rain and cumulus clouds in the Cape Canaveral region forced the launch team to delay the launch due to liquid oxygen fueling which cannot be loaded during a rain storm. At 8:04 am EDT, the launch team completed the loading of the LO2 following a one hour delay.

At 8:14 am, there is a small cumulus cloud 10 miles to the northeast of the pad the launch team was watching.

Delta II nears 8:39 am EDT Launch from Cape

A Delta II rocket is just moments away from an 8:39 am EDT launch from here at Cape Canaveral, AFS on a satellite delivery mission for the missile defense agency.

Cape weather officials are watching a small area of showers moving at 10 knots toward the northeast which will bring light precipitation to the launch pad. Currently, the launch team is red for both cumulus clouds and rain in the flight path of the Delta II.

The launch team is looking to push back the target launch time to the middle of the one hour launch window at this time.

Once launch occurs, the rocket will climb and begin steering toward the northeast and move up the United States coastline as it launches in a high inclination orbit of 58 degrees.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Delta II Remains set for Launch Tomorrow

A tropical wave bringing clouds and a chance of morning showers along the American Space Coast is the only item the launch team is focused on as the countdown for the launch of a Delta II rocket prepares to start.

At 4PM EDT today, the countdown was ready to pickup in a few hours at the T-12 hour mark. There is currently a 50% chance of favorable weather at the beginning of the launch windown which begins st 8AM tomorrow morning.

Loading of the liquid oxygen will begin at 6:30 am. will begin LIVE television coverage of the prelaunch activites tomorrow morning at 5:58 am EDT.

ULA Delta II to Launch Missle Tracking Payload

A United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket is set to depart America's Space Coast on Wednesday with a new missile defense system tracking payload for the United States military.

Launch of the Delta II-7920 from launch complex 17B here at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, is planned for September 23, sometime during a 58 minute launch window which begins at 8:00 am EDT.

The Delta II's payload will be two satellites -- SV1 & SV2 -- which are joined together to form the Space Tracking and Surveillance System – Demonstrators (STSS Demo). Using both infrared and visible light sensors, the STSS Demo payload will give the military the ability to detect and track ballistic missiles in all phases of flight which could threaten the United States and her partner countries.

Once lift-off occurs, the Delta II will fly parallel with the United States east coast as it head up toward the north Atlantic Ocean. About 47 minutes and 45 seconds after launch, the first of the two satellites, SV1, will separate from the second stage booster at an altitude of 730 nautical miles over the central Indian Ocean. Seven and one-half minutes later, the SV-2 satellite will separate over the southern Indian Ocean at an altitude of 731 miles.

The orbital inclination for both spacecraft will be at 58.0 degrees - a very high inclination orbit to cover most of the planet's surface.

Last week, the U.S. Air Force public relations told this reporter, "Once on orbit, MDA (missile defense agency) will assess the satellites’ ability to detect and track ballistic missiles and function as part of a multilayered missile defense architecture".

In a document (#PE 0603893C) recently made unclassified and obtained by SpaceLaunch News, the internal MDA paper produces a strong government argument for the need of this space based defense system:

"Space sensors like Space Tracking Surveillance Systems (STSS) provide the most cost effective and operationally suitable means of providing global persistent surveillance and engagement, directly addressing the number one missile defense priority need for STRATCOM and other Combatant Commanders. The STSS Demonstrator satellites will demonstrate the ability of a space sensor to provide high precision, real time tracking of missiles and midcourse objects, thus enabling simultaneous regional, theater, and strategic missile defense. Data from STSS testing planned for FY10 will validate the ability to track cold, midcourse objects and close the fire control loop with BMDS interceptors from space. Additionally, STSS provides a new infrared sensor phenomenology for the BMDS, which, when combined with radars, provides robustness against current and advanced counter measures."

According to NASA's Kennedy Space Center, the "STSS Demonstrators Program is a mid course tracking technology demonstrator and is part of an evolving ballistic missile defense system. STSS is capable of tracking objects after boost phase and provides trajectory information to other sensors and interceptors".

Later this year and through 2010, the STSS multi-satellites will be used to test its accuracy with several sea, air and land based test ICBM launches.

Built by the Northrop Grumman Corporation, the $830 million dollar STSS-Demo payload is being launched with the support of NASA and the U.S. Air Force 30th Space Wing. will carry the launch LIVE beginning at 6:00 am tomorrow. We will also have current updates via our Twitter feed beginning early in the day. Subscribe via Twitter for our updates to your mobile phone, Blackberry or iPhone today.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Discovery Returns Home to America's Spaceport

Discovery arrives at America's Spaceport today (NASA)

Heavy gray clouds and anxious technicians greeted the space shuttle Discovery today as she arrived at America's Spaceport following a 2500 mile journey riding piggyback a top a NASA Boeing 747 jet.

The massive wheels of the 747-200 aircraft slammed the concrete of runway 33 at the shuttle landing facility here at the Kennedy Space Center at 12:06 pm EDT.

Inside the orbiter, is a space module which spent one week docked to the international space station, and is crammed with a multitude of trash, completed experiments and used parts. Discovery herself spent 10 days docked with station on a resupply flight.

Ten days ago, Discovery fired her breaking engines and left earth orbit aimed for a landing at Edwards, AFB in southern California due to inclement weather at Kennedy. Following one week of preparations which saw the orbiter raised and mounted a top the 747 jet on Friday, the pair departed the California desert at daybreak on Sunday.

Dodging thunderstorms, the Aeronautical Duo flew from the Florida panhandle and southeast toward central Florida. The mighty Boeing 747 banked from southwest of Orlando and headed due east toward the southern section of Cape Canaveral.

At 12:30 pm, Discovery was then towed to the nearby mate-demate device which allows technicians to safely remove the orbiter from the back of the 747 using a massive crane. Later today, Discovery will then be towed to the orbiter processing facility to continue the deserving work which was started out at Edwards in support of her next flight.

Discovery's next spaceflight is currently targeted for March 2010, on a resupply mission to the space station.

Discovery aiming for Noon arrival in Florida

The space shuttle Discovery will spend this morning dodging rain storms as she continues the final leg of her journey piggyback a top a Boeing 747-200 jet.

Spotty rain storms in the deep south forced NASA and the pilots of the shuttle carrier aircraft to reroute the second day of the Aeronautical Duo's cross country trip which began early yesterday from southern California.

The Boeing 747-200 aircraft took off from it's overnight stay at Barksdale, AFB in northern Louisiana this morning at 9:36 am EDT. At 10:08 am, the pair had to divert off its flight path as the crew worked to avoid a storm cell as they flew along I-20 west near Jackson, Mississippi.

NASA stated this morning, "The ferry flight team plans to divert to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida to refuel and temporarily wait for a break in the weather."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

NASA 747-Discovery Lands In Louisiana

Space shuttle Discovery and its ferry-flight Boeing 747-200 arrived at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.

Discovery arrives for overnight stay in Louisiana

Discovery arrives in Shreveport tonight (Val Horvath/Times)

The space shuttle Discovery riding a top a Boeing 747-200 jet arrived at Barksdale, AFB near Shreveport, Louisiana, following it's sunrise departure from the southern California desert today.

The Aeronautical Duo arrived at Barksdale at 6:39 pm EDT, this evening following refueling stops in Amarillo and Ft. Worth Naval Air Station, Texas.

Early tomorrow morning, the modified 747 jet will depart Shreveport and steer southeast as it carries a beautiful white dove bound for Discovery's home, the Kennedy Space Center. The 747 is due to land at Cape Canaveral on the shuttle landing facility at about 10:30 am.

NASA pilot Charles Justiz, flying aboard the NASA 747 told this reporter via text message tonight, "Weather looks good to finish Orbiter Discovery move tomorrow, but morning fog at Barksdale may delay getting started. Fingers crossed."

The last space shuttle orbiter to visit the northern Louisiana air base was Endeavour last December during her ferry flight back to Kennedy, too.

Aeronautical Duo Departs Edwards, AFB

A modified NASA Boeing 747 jumbo jet with the space shuttle Discovery bolted a top departed Edwards, AFB in southern California this morning in a sunrise take off from where the spacecraft landed one week ago.

The massive 747-200 aircraft throttled up her multiple engines and sped down runway 04 at Edwards, slowly lifting the nose up first before rising up to begin a nearly 2,500 mile journey to the Kennedy Space Center.

Discovery Ferry Flight Home Begins Soon

The cross country ferry flight of the space shuttle Discovery atop a 747 jumbo jet is scheduled to begin in one hour from southern California, as teams begin boarding and receive their final weather checks before departure.

Discovery, bolted down a top a modified Boeing 747-200 jet, is now scheduled to depart Edwards Air Force Base to begin a nearly 2,500 mile journey to her home here at the Kennedy Space Center at 9:30 am EDT this morning.

After flying over Arizona and New Mexico at an altitude of 15,000 feet, it is scheduled to make the first of two stops today at 12:13 pm EDT, as the aeronautical duo lands at the Rick Husband International Airport in Amarillo, Texas to refuel, perform a weather update east of north Texas and let the crew eat.

If the weather in Louisiana looks favorable, then the 747-combo will be wheels up about two hours later and possibly aim for Barksdale Air Force Base outside Shreveport for an overnight stay.

On Monday, the jumbo jet with its prized cargo riding a top, will depart northern Louisiana at sunrise and aim for a return to America's Space Coast at just before Noon with a traditional low fly over of the beaches from New Smyrna south to Cocoa Beach - including the KSC Industrial area. will have LIVE updates and television coverage of the flight, including Twitter updates (@spacelaunchnews).

Friday, September 18, 2009

Discovery to Depart California on Sunday

The space shuttle Discovery is scheduled to depart her recent landing site in southern California for her home base at the Kennedy Space Center on Sunday morning, that is if flight planners give the A-OK based on recent weather over Texas.

Discovery, which landed at Edwards, AFB and the Dryden Flight Research Center on September 11th following a two week space station resupply mission, was mated a top a NASA Boeing 747 jet this morning and is ready for the two day cross country flight.

Shuttle managers will meet again at about 2PM EDT on Saturday to determine the best flight path to take based on the latest weather observations over Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

On Wednesday, the aft main engine tail fearing was locked into position over the main engine nozzles to give the area a more aerodynamic style. On Thursday morning, the landing gear doors were closed on the orbiter as preparations were made to lift and mount the shuttle a top the 747.

A Sunday morning Dryden departure could see Discovery landing at Kennedy's shuttle landing facility on Monday evening, following an overnight stop over in central Texas.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

New Cargo Module Docked with Space Station

A Japanese cargo craft with some five tons of supplies and equipment for the international space station was firmly docked to the orbiting complex late today, as it begins a six week stay.

The H-II Transfer Vehicle was slowly and carefully aligned with the station's Harmony module's docking port and hard mated officially at 6:26 pm EDT today, as the orbital pair flew 220 miles above the eastern central Pacific Ocean.

The Japanese cargo module is now docked in place where an Italian cargo module, Leonardo, was docked just over one week ago after being brought up by space shuttle Discovery.

The gold-wrapped module supporting 57 solar array panels is equipped with a pressurized and non-pressurized section, in support of science experiments and equipment racks. On Friday, at about 2:20 pm EDT, the six person crew aboard the space station will open the hatches to the module and begin unstowing items per their checklist.

The H-II cargo craft measures nearly 10 meters in length, and has a diameter of 4.4 meters. There are four thrusters on the tail section which burned Monomethylhydrazine to change it's orbital altitude and steer in close to the space station for docking.

Next week, a science rack of experiments destined for the Japanese Kibo module's exposed pallet, will be removed using the station's main robotic arm and later handed off to the Japanese robotic arm. Japan's arm will then dock the new rack of experiments to Kibo's exposed facility.

The HTV is planned to be undocked from the U.S. Harmony module on November 1st, and later in the day will reenter the earth's atmosphere over the western Pacific Ocean.

Capture! Space Station Grapples Japan's HTV

The crew aboard the international space station plucked a new cargo craft from orbit this afternoon, seven days following its launch from Japan on a resupply mission with five tons of cargo.

The unmanned cargo craft known as H-II Transfer Vehicle was grappled by space station flight engineer Nicole Stott at 3:47 pm EDT, today as the orbital pair crossed 225 miles above western Romania in orbital darkness.

Following capture, applause broke out in Houston's Mission Control. Stott later made a special toast with her Expedition 20 crew, "We all just want to say Congratulations... we are so, so happy to have this vehicle here... we are gonna raise our drink bags and drink a special water toast here..."

The HTV is loaded with nearly five tons of equipment and supplies which the crew of six will open on Friday. Click on the HTV graphic for a larger view of the compartments.

The HTV will remain docked with the Harmony module until November 1st.

Japan's HTV Cargo Craft Near Space Station

The new Japanese H-2 Transfer Vehicle is ready to be plucked from the ocean of space this afternoon and docked to the international space station, as the crew of six receives new supplies and equipment.

New Expedition 20 astronaut Nicole Stott will use the space station's robotic arm to grapple and slowly guide the cargo craft over to a soft docking at 3:50 pm EDT today.

The H-II unmanned craft was launched from the
Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan on September 10, and has spent the past week flying at a lower altitude as it slowly caught up with the station.

The H-II craft will move to an attitude of 10 meters from the station and Stott will reach the Canadian built arm out and capture the module at it's center. She will then dock it to the Harmony port.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Delta II Launch Delayed into Next Week

The launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket has been delayed by several days due to reviews and sytems checks here at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

In a statement by ULA late on Wednesday, "The Delta II STSS Demo mission launch date went TBD today. We don't expect this to last long. Mission managers are meeting at 3 p.m. EDT Thursday to review status. When a specific date is chosen, it'll be posted here. Highly confident Demo will launch the week of Sept. 21."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Discovery May Depart California on Friday

The space shuttle Discovery could depart it's California landing site on Friday after being mated a top a 747 jet for its return to her home at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Discovery, which landed at Edwards, AFB in the south California desert on Friday evening, is being prepared for lifting and her mount a top a modified Boeing 747 jet later this week. Currently, officials at the Dryden Flight Research Center near Edwards state that the duel crafts could depart as early as this Friday morning for the two day trip back to Cape Canaveral.

Several turnaround technicians from Kennedy flew out to Dryden on Saturday and began work to safe and drain toxic fluids from the orbiter. They will begin lifting the 25-year-old space shuttle and begin stowing her landing gear.

Weather could force a one day delay in Discovery's departure and several at Dryden think that a Saturday morning departure is most likely to happen. They feel it will give the turnaround team more time to secure and bolt the orbiter down on the jumbo jet.

Discovery concluded a nearly 14 days space station resupply flight with a landing her due to bad weather along America's Space Coast. Friday's landing was only the third forced Edwards landing in the last ten months due to bad weather in Florida.

Friday, September 11, 2009

VIDEO: Discovery's Sunset Landing in California

Discovery lands in California tonight after nearly 14 days in space.

Discovery Lands in the California Desert

Dropping out of a cloudy California blue sky reflected by a setting Sun, the space shuttle Discovery tonight concluded a fourteen day mission to resupply and outfit the international space station with new equipment.

Speeding around earth at 17,300 mph, Discovery fired her two small engines at 7:47 pm EDT, to slow the craft down by about 250 mph so that earth's gravity would pull her down and drop out of orbit.

Discovery's main gear hit the Edwards, AFB concrete runway at 225 mph in the southern California desert at 8:53:25 pm, tonight. Pilot Kevin Ford then deployed the drag chute to help slow the orbiter down as the ship's commander Rick Sturckow slowly lowered the nose and seconds later applied the breaks to bring Discovery to a stop.

The orbiter's wheels came to a stop on runway 22L at 8:54:55 pm following a 13 day, 20 hour, 54 minute & 55 second supply transfer flight to earth's orbital outpost 222 miles above.

Discovery's 5.71 million mile mission was commanded by space veteran Sturckow. Pilot Ford was responsible for flying the orbiter following its undocking on Tuesday and station robotic arm operations. Mission specialists John "Danny" Olivas, Jose Hernandez, Patrick Forrester, Christer Fuglesang (European Space Agency) and Tim Kopra.

Kopra returned to earth following 58 days in space -- 53 of the days living and working aboard the space station as a member of the expedition.

Nicole Stott, who launch aboard Discovery and replaced Kopra following the ship's docking, will stay aboard the station until early December and come home aboard Atlantis on mission STS-129.

This 128th space shuttle flight concluded Discovery's 37th mission following her liftoff in the closing seconds of August 28th. Discovery and her crew of seven docked with the station two days later, which also happened to be the silver anniversary of Discovery's first trip into space.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Weather Delays Discovery's Landing until Friday

Bad weather here at the Kennedy Space Center forced NASA this evening to give the space shuttle Discovery a free day in space as Mission Control looks to bring the craft home tomorrow night.

The crew of seven received word this evening that the space center's weather would not improve inside the thirty mile radius. Thick clouds and popcorn thunderstorms were forecast to remain over Cape Canaveral for the two landing attempts.

NASA will try again on Friday evening at Kennedy's three mile runway, however the weather is forecast to be much worse with a broader, thicker cloud deck for the two landing attempts. Thus, Mission Control announced tonight that they will "call-up" the Edwards, AFB runway strip out in the California desert for two landing try's on Friday evening as well.

This will give Discovery four opportunities to land tomorrow, with California being the more likely site due to a better weather forecast.

The first landing opportunity at Kennedy will set up with a deorbit burn at 4:45 pm EDT, as Discovery aims for a landing on runway 15 at 5:48 pm. If weather puts a damper on the first try, a second Florida attempt would occur with the orbiter's engines firing at 6:21 pm to drop it out of orbit. Landing would then take place at 7:23 pm.

The first Edwards attempt would see the deorbit burn take place at 7:50 pm EDT, with a landing time of 8:53 pm on runway 22 -- a daytime landing as the sun sets in the Mojave Desert.

The crew of Discovery's 37th journey into space includes commander Rick Sturckow, pilot Kevin Ford, and mission specialists Jose Hernandez, Patrick Forrester, John "Danny" Olivas, Christer Fuglesang (European Space Agency) and Tim Kopra. Kopra will be returning home on Friday following over two months in space as a member of the space station's expedition 20 crew.

The first California landing attempt by Discovery on Friday.

Japanese Cargo Craft Launches to Space Station

A brand new Japanese cargo module filled with supplies and science experiments successfully lifted-off from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan today, on it's first flight to dock with the international space station.

The cargo craft, known as the H-II Transfer Vehicle, will spend one week in earth orbit prior to docking with space station's Kibo Japanese module.

Launch of the first flight of the H-IIB rocket occurred on time at 1:01:46 pm EDT (2:01 am Sept. 11) from the Yoshinobu Launch Complex at Tanegashima. The H-IIB is an improved version of the H-IIA in support of larger and heavier payloads such as the HTV.

Towering 56.6 meters in height, the H-IIB rocket is powered at launch with two liquid engines at the base of the first stage and four small solid rocket boosters.

Japan's entry into the resupply cargo crafts for station follow's both Russia's Soyuz Progress M and Europe's ATV unmanned vehicles in support of station operations. The three crafts will be the supply ships for the six-member crew aboard station as the space shuttle retires in late-2010.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Discovery Prepares for Thursday Evening Landing

The seven member crew of the space shuttle Discovery spent Wednesday preparing their ship for a Thursday evening landing here at the Kennedy Space Center following nearly 13 days in space.

The weather along the Space Coast is the only concern prior to the orbiters return from space. Prior to 5:50 pm EDT, the crew will receive a Go/No go call from mission control whether to proceed with landing.

There is a chance of isolated thunderstorms and a temperature of 81 degrees as the landing time approaches tomorrow.

Discovery's commander Rick Sturckow and pilot Kevin Ford will fire the orbiter's twin breaking jets to slow it down to drop out of orbit. The deorbit burn is scheduled for 5:59 pm, as Discovery circles the globe for the 202nd time since midnight on August 29th.

Mission specialists Pat Forrester, Jose Hernandez, Danny Olivas, Christer Fuglesang and Tim Kopra round out the 128th space shuttle flight's crew. Below, is the ground track Discovery will take as she approaches Florida.

Landing by Discovery is planned for 7:05:20 pm on runway 15 at KSC's shuttle landing facility.

There is a second landing opportunity for Kennedy Space Center which would see a main gear touchdown one orbit later at 8:42 pm.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Atlas 5 Lifts-off on Military Satellite Mission

A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 successfully lifted-off from America's Space Coast this afternoon on a classified mission to deploy a communications satellite into earth orbit.

Launch occurred on time under beautiful blue skies at 5:35:01 pm EDT, from launch complex 41 here at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Today's seventeenth flight of an Atlas 5 rocket since 2002 saw the main copper booster with an RD-180 engine separate at 5:39 pm, followed by the payload fairing jettison moments later.

The PAN payload is a classified payload, however Cape officials here mentioned to this reporter that it is a military communications satellite. Also, we have learned that it was launched into an orbital inclination of 23.06 degrees to the equator.

The PAN spacecraft later separated from the centaur upper stage about two hours following lift-off at 7:34:26 pm. Initial orbit of the spacecraft was 19,317 x 3949 nautical miles at separation tonight.

Discovery's Images of Earth's Orbital Outpost

Discovery undocked this afternoon, flew out to about 500 feet from the space station and performed a flyaround by pilot Kevin Ford. During the separation, Discovery's crew took several outstanding images of the station as flew 222 miles above earth.

Discovery Undocks from Space Station

Speeding at over 17,300 mph, the space shuttle Discovery undocked from the massive international space station this afternoon following eight days of docked operations to resupply earth's only outpost in space.

Discovery separated from the station at 3:26:28 pm EDT, as she slowly moved forward in the direction of the two craft's direction of travel. The orbital duo was flying 223 miles over western China near the Mongolian boarder at the time of separation.

Discovery docked with the space station on August 30 -- the 25th anniversary of her first launch -- and was docked with the space station for a total time of eight days, 19 hours and 32 minutes.

At 3:42 pm, Discovery was 210 feet out in front of the space station, as she separated at a rate of .26 feet per second.

Mission commander Rick Sturckow exclaimed to mission control at 3:51 pm, "We've got a beautiful view of the international space station!"

Monday, September 07, 2009

Cargo Module back in Discovery; Hatches Closed

An Italian-made cargo module was undocked from the space station this evening and swung over to the payload bay of the space shuttle Discovery where it was then lowered and latched for it's return home.

Leonardo was secured in the aft section of the payload bay at 9:20 pm EDT. It was then attached to a power supply which will keep the module pressurized to preserve the science experiments inside.

Leonardo will be returning a multitude of experiments, empty tanks and trash to name a few home to earth. In all, the cargo module and Discovery's middeck lockers will return 5,223 pounds of items back to earth.

In contrast, Discovery and Leonardo combined brought 18,548 pounds of equipment, storage racks, experiments, supplies, fuel and water on this resupply flight.

To date, the international space station is 84% completed, and weighs 720,000 pounds (excluding the space shuttle).

Also this evening, the hatches between the station and the shuttle closed at 11:11 pm, following a brief farewell ceremony.

Discovery's commander Rick Sturckow adressed the 13 crew members which make up the Expedition 20 crew and Discovery crew at 10:38 pm, "Well, Gennady, all good things must come to an end".

Station commander Gennady Padalka later spoke addressing departing crew member Tim Kopra, "I know you wern't up here as long as you wanted, but that's life...", refering to Kopra's multiple launch delays beginning in June as Endeavour went through six launch attempts.

Expedition 20 crew member Michael Barratt then rang the station bell - customary for departing crews, "US space shuttle Discovery departing. Space station flight engineer Tim Kopra departing."

Discovery brought up new flight engineer Nicole Stott as she begins her three month stay aboard the orbital outpost. Stott is replacing outgoing station crew member Kopra who has been living and working aboard the station since July 17th.

Stott, whose home town is Clearwater, Florida, will return home aboard the Atlantis STS-129 mission, now scheduled to launch on the afternoon of November 12.

Just after hatch closure, Discovery astronaut Jose Hernandez told SpaceLaunchNews, "We closed the hatch to the ISS. We’ll spend the night here & undock in the morning. Kevin (Ford) will then fly around the station & away we go!".

Looking ahead, Discovery will undock from the station on Tuesday afternoon at 3:26 pm. Following a 360-degree fly around of the station by pilot Kevin Ford, Discovery will begin separating away at 5:09 pm, to begin her trip back home.

Discovery is scheduled to land here at the Kennedy Space Center on Thursday evening at 7:05 pm, on Runway 15 in the middle of the Florida swamp lands of Merrit Island.

VIDEO: Tonight's Shuttle News Conference

Tonight's NASA lead shuttle flight director's news conference from JSC.

ULA Atlas 5 moves into Launch Position

The United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket was moved to it's ocean side launch pad this morning in preparation for it's lift-off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Tuesday.

Launch remains set for tomorrow evening from launch complex 41 at the start of a 2 hour launch window at 5:35 pm EDT. The window closes at 7:44 pm.

Atlas 5 will deliver into orbit a government communications satellites known simply as PAN. Read my story about the PAN payload. will have LIVE TV of the launch beginning at 5PM EDT tomorrow.

SpaceLaunch News is going to Mars in 2011!

SpaceLaunch News will travel to Mars in both spirit and name in 2011, and oh guess what...? You can too!

The name "SpaceLaunch News" will be placed upon a microchip along with thousands of other names from around the globe, and the chip placed aboard the upcoming Mars Science Laboratory rover prior to it's launch in the Fall of 2011.

The MSL rover is planned to touchdown on Mars in Spring 2012, and will use multiple experiments and high definition cameras as the rover begins a new decade of planetary exploration on the surface.

Click here to have your name entered onto the microchip as NASA prepares a new mission of exploration upon the Martian desert.

Busy Labor Day aboard the Space Station

As the space shuttle Discovery spends her final day docked with the international space station, the two crews will work through America's Labor Day as they return a cargo module to the shuttle's payload bay and say farewell to one another.

Six hours following the crew's wake up at noon EDT today, the space station's Canadian robotic arm will move in and grapple the Italian Leonardo cargo module and undock it from the station. The arm will slowly transition the module over to and place it in the American space shuttle.

Leonardo was docked to space station on August 31 (Read Story), and will be returned to the aft section of Discovery's payload bay at just before 9PM tonight. Over the past several days, the crews completed unloading the module of it's wealth of fresh supplies and new equipment; and began refilling it with 5,223 pounds of experiments, used hardware and trash for the return back to earth.

Leonardo is a reusable cargo carrier and has visited space six times now since 2001, hauling new equipment and supplies each time. The 21 foot long silver module is scheduled to return to space again this March on Discovery's return to station.

The seven member crew of Discovery will say farewell to the six person international crew of the space station in a farewell ceremony which will begin at 10:29 pm EDT this evening. A half hour later, Discovery's crew will close their hatch as the station crew closes their hatch in preparation for the shuttle's undocking and departure on Tuesday afternoon.

Discovery is scheduled to land back at the Kennedy Space Center on Thursday evening at 7:05 pm.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

VIDEO: Today's Space Station News Conference

This morning's NASA JSC Space Station Flight Director's News Conference.

A Saturday Night Orbital Spacewalk Concludes

A Saturday evening stroll outside earth's orbiting outpost in space concluded following the successful completion of several tasks designed to prepare the space station for a future module and the replacement of a failed gyroscope.

The third and final spacewalk of the space shuttle Discovery's servicing mission to the international space station ended at 11:40 pm EDT, as astronauts Danny Olivas and Christer Fuglesang switched their spacesuits back to external power after entering the Quest airlock.

Last evening's seven hour, one minute spacewalk wrapped up three productive days of work outside the station. Combined, all three spacewalks of Discovery's docked operations total 20 hours and 15 minutes. To date, there have now been 830 hours and 50 minutes of spacewalking time devoted since 1998 to space station construction and maintenance.

On what had been a very quiet and productive spacewalk, European astronaut Fuglesang's helmet camera came loose near the end of the orbital walk. The loose camera caused some initial concern in Mission Control and prompted them to radio, "We thought you were doing acrobatics."

Olivas transitioned over to his helmet cam and quickly unplugged it and gave it to Fuglesang to carry back to the airlock so that it accidentally did not break off and float away.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Final Spacewalk of Discovery Mission Underway

The final spacewalk of the space shuttle Discovery's mission to the international space station got underway late today as two astronauts perform several maintenance tasks to service the station and prepare it for a new module.

Discovery launched astronauts Danny Olivas and Christer Fuglesang (above), of the European Space Agency, switched their spacesuits to internal power at 4:39 pm EDT, and stepped outside the Quest airlock of the station to begin a six and one-half hour spacewalk.

First up for the orbital duo is the replacement of a failed space station rate gyro assembly. They will disconnect cables and remove four attachment bolts as they remove the old gyro. They then will install a new gyro and later store the old one for it's return back to earth.

This 133rd spacewalk in support of space station construction and maintenance will also see several 60-foot long heater cables attached to the station's Unity module in preparation for their attachment to the Tranquility module which is due to launch aboard Endeavour this February.

Discovery's 37th flight crew includes commander Rick "CJ" Sturckow, pilot Ford, and mission specialists Jose Hernandez, Patrick Forrester, Olivas, Fuglesang and former station expedition 20 member Tim Kopra. Kopra was replaced last week with new expedition flight engineer Nicole Stott who rocketed into earth orbit aboard Discovery in the closing seconds of August 29th.

Space station expedition 20 crew members include commander Gennady Padalka, Michael Barratt, Roman Romanenko, Frank De Winne, Robert Thirsk, and Stott.

Space Coast prepares for Tuesday Atlas 5 Launch

A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket is scheduled to boost a classified department of defense satellite into earth orbit on Tuesday from America's sunny Space Coast.

Lift-off of the Atlas 5-401 is set for Tuesday, September 8 at 5:35 pm EDT -- the opening of a 129 minute launch window -- from launch complex 41 here at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

The payload, simply called PAN, is classified government communications satellite with no details being released on the nature or look of the American payload. Based on rocket specifications, PAN is about 1 meter wide, and not as heavy as most DoD satellites.

At T-3 seconds, the Atlas' RD-180 engine will ignite launching the 107 foot, white and bronze colored rocket from it's sea side pad at T+1 second.

Following an on time launch, the spacecraft will separate from the centaur upper stage at the conclusion of the stage's second burn, at 7:34 pm. will carry the launch LIVE right here, and follow the countdown via our LIVE updates on your mobile phone or PDA on Twitter: @spacelaunchnews.

Final Discovery Spacewalk set for Today

Two of the space shuttle Discovery's astronauts will head back outside of the international space station late today as they prepare the outpost for the February arrival of the final U.S. module, Tranquility.

Mission specialists Danny Olivas and Christer Fugelsang (European Space Agency) are scheduled to switch their suits on internal power and head out of the station's Quest airlock at 4:49 pm EDT. The spacewalk is planned to last six and one-half hours.

A few of the prime tasks planned for this evening will be the replacement of a rate gyro assembly which failed several months ago. The orbital duo will disconnect cables and each remove two attachment bolts apiece to remove the old gyro. They then will install a new gyro and then store the old one for it's return back to earth.

Next, Olivas will separate from Fugelsang and transition over to the PMA-3 and set up a few heater cables, with one of them connected to the Unity module and the others tied down on one of the module's handrails. The cables will be used to connect the module with the upcoming arrival of the Tranquility module.

Tranquility is a pressurized module which will have windows providing a 360-degree view of the space station, and provide living quarters for off-duty residents. Endeavour will bring Tranquility to the station in February.

As Olivas works with the heater cables, Fugelsang will work to replace an nonoperational power control module located at the center of the space station. The removal and installation will be a one bolt operation.

This will be the 133rd spacewalk devoted to the construction of the space station.

Friday, September 04, 2009

VIDEO: Station-Shuttle News Conference

Today's Space Station Director's News Conference.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Spacewalkers Install New Coolant Tank Tonight

A pair of spacewalking astronauts left the international space station to install a new cooling unit which was brought up last week by the space shuttle Discovery.

Discovery astronauts John Danny Olivas and Christer Fuglesang (European Space Agency) began the 132nd spacewalk in support of space station construction at 6:12 pm EDT this evening.

This second of three planned orbital walks in space is focused on the installation of a new ammonia tank and the stowage of the old tank which was removed from station on Tuesday evening during the first spacewalk.

Shortly, Fuglesang will strap his boots into the end effector of the space station's robotic arm for a 30 minute ride as he carries the 1700 pound ammonia tank, while orbiter pilot Kevin Ford steers the arm from inside the Destiny module of station.

The pair will begin installing the new tank at about 8PM, and will later place the old tank in Discovery's bay for the return trip home. Once back on earth, the Johnson Space Center told this reporter last night that it will be refurbished and placed back in Discovery's payload bay for it's relaunch on the March 2010 STS-131 station resupply mission.

Discovery's crew includes commander Rick "CJ" Sturckow, pilot Ford, and mission specialists Jose Hernandez, Patrick Forrester, Olivas, Fuglesang and former station expedition 20 member Tim Kopra.

Astronauts prepare for Tonight's Spacewalk

Two of space shuttle Discovery's astronauts aboard the international space station will perform a second spacewalk this evening to install a massive cooling tank on the outpost's port side.

Astronauts Danny Olivas and Christer Fuglesang are currently asleep in the Quest airlock on the space station as they prebreathe pure oxygen to purge the nitrogen from their system to prevent them from getting the "bends" during their spacewalk tonight.

The pair will begin the second of three planned spacewalks today at 5:19 pm EDT. The primary goal of the walk is to remove the new ammonia coolant tank from the payload bay of Discovery and transfer it where the old tank was removed from on Tuesday evening.

The largest mass spacewalkers have ever moved about in space, the 1800 pound ammonia tank will be slowly moved over to the Port 1 truss. At about 7:30 pm, it will be installed into place for use through 2015.

Olivas and
Fuglesang will release several bolts holding the tank on a carrier in Discovery's payload bay. Then Fuglesang will put his feet in the foot restraints on the end of the space station's robotic arm as he picks up and carries the ammonia tank as astronaut Nicole Stott translates him over to the port 1 truss segment.

There the tank will be installed and coolant cables from the station attached.

On the subject of tonight's spacewalk, this reporter asked the chief of the flight director's office, John McCullough, during a NASA news conference Wednesday evening, "What technical differences are there between the new ammonia tank and the old one...?"

McCullough responded that he was unsure on any new advances in the new tank but that "this (new) one is full and that's the primary goal. The other one's been on orbit since 2002 and so it needs to come down and be refurbished; and the intension is to take it back up to station" on a later flight.

NASA will relaunch this older tank on Discovery's March 2010 flight on the STS-131 mission.

Also, overnight this morning, the crew of thirteen astronauts aboard the station-shuttle complex worked to unstow the Leonardo cargo module.

Discovery astronaut Jose Hernandez gave a "sweet-tweet" from orbit, "
Moved items from the MPLM (Leonardo) to ISS. Similar to moving items from a moving truck and placing them in their final place at a new home!"

Over fifty percent of the cargo module has been unloaded and placed upon station. Leonardo will be undocked from the station's Harmony module on Monday and returned to the payload bay of Discovery.

copyright 1998 - 2010 Charles Atkeison, All rights reserved.