Monday, November 30, 2009

Soyuz TMA15 Undocks from Space Station

A Russian Soyuz spacecraft departed the International Space Station with a crew of three following a six month stay, leaving the station a quieter place to live and work.

Orbiting the earth from 220 miles over deep southern Russia near eastern Mongolia, Belgian Frank De Winne, Canadian Robert Thirsk and Russian Roman Romanenko separated from the station at 10:56 pm EST, this evening (9:56 am Dec. 1st Kazakhstan time).

The trio's departure means that the station's crew size has dwindled down to two.

Not since July 2006 have their been just two crew members manning the orbital outpost. Last week, twelve humans were working and living on the station while Atlantis was docked on her resupply mission.

Following several hours of rocket firings to separate away from the station and place the Soyuz in it's proper alignment for landing, the spacecraft is scheduled to touchdown 80 Km north of the town of Arkalyk in central Kazakhstan at 2:15 am EST, December 1.

Tuesday morning's Soyuz landing will be the first Soyuz to land in Kazakhstan in the month of December since 1990 when the Soyuz 10 spacecraft landed following a mission to the MIR space station.

A few days before Christmas, the space station will receive new residents as the current two man Expedition 22 crew of American Jeff Williams and Russian
Max Suraev welcome the Soyuz TMA 17's crew of three: Russian Oleg Kotov, American T.J. Creamer, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Friday, November 27, 2009

VIDEO: Atlantis lands at KSC this morning

VIDEO: Atlantis returns home to KSC today.

Atlantis Returns Home to America's Spaceport

The space shuttle Atlantis left earth orbit and dropped through cold blue Florida skies this morning following an eleven day resupply flight to the International Space Station.

In one of the best weather days along America's Space Coast for a shuttle landing, Atlantis was given the "Go" for her return at 8:14 am EST based on light winds and no cloud cover in the region.

Commander Charles Hobaugh and pilot Barry E. Wilmore donned their entry suits and took their seats two hours before landing to maneuver the spacecraft to a precise window for leaving orbit for their trip home. The seven member crew also includes Randy Bresnik, Leland Melvin, Michael Foreman, Robert Satcher and Nicole Stott.

Atlantis' twin engines began firing for about 3 minutes at 8:37 am to slow the orbiter down by 211 mph, and begin her free fall descent to the Kennedy Space Center.

"You couldn't have picked a clearer day", Hobaugh radioed to Houston's Mission Control as he observed the runway in sight (above).

Flying without power at a speed of 224 mph, Atlantis' main gear slammed onto runway 33 here at America's Spaceport at 9:44:23 am EST, concluding a successful resupply mission to earth's orbital outpost in space. Her wheels came to a stop 42 seconds later.

The STS-129 mission elapsed time at wheels stop was set at T+10 days, 19 hours, 16 minutes and 55 seconds -- one of the shortest shuttle flight's in recent history.

Atlantis' 31st flight covered 4,490,138 miles since her November 16 launch.

For crew member Stott, she returns home following 91 days in space -- 86 spent living aboard the space station as a flight engineer of Expedition 21.

For mission specialist Bresnik, this flight mark several joyous marks -- both in space and back home near Houston. Bresnik made a couple of spacewalks earlier this week, and at the same time, his wife gave birth last Saturday night to a daughter. He received word of the birth announcement following one of his spacewalks.

Atlantis spent seven days docked to the station as her crew resupplied both the inside with fresh food, experiments and supplies; and performed three spacewalks to install new equipment and spare parts on the outside of the outpost.

NASA's 129th space shuttle flight marked the 31st flight to the space station.

Today's landing now means that there is only one flight left for NASA's fourth space shuttle orbiter. Atlantis final mission into space is set for this May on a resupply flight to the station. Atlantis first flew twenty-four years ago on a military DoD flight, STS-51-J.

There are also only five more space shuttle flights left. The next mission is currently planned for February 4th on a flight to deliver the Tranquility module to the station.

Atlantis nears a Blue Sky Florida Landing Today

The seven member crew of the space shuttle Atlantis are in their final hours of flight as they finish preparations for the ship's return to a Florida landing this morning.

Commander Charles Hobaugh and pilot Barry E. Wilmore will don their orange entry suits first at 7AM EST and begin to maneuver Atlantis to the proper alignment for her deorbit burn.

The burn is planned for 8:37 am and will slow Atlantis down by about 350 mph to begin her drop out of earth orbit.

Landing of the 129th space shuttle flight is set for 9:44 am on runway 33 here at the Kennedy Space Center's shuttle landing facility.

Today marks six of the crew members 12th day in space, however it's a special homecoming for the seventh member of the crew -- Nicole Stott.

Stott has spent three months living and working aboard the International Space Station since arriving on an August shuttle flight. Total today, Stott will have spent 91 days in space. She is due to return to the space station this September aboard the last planned space shuttle flight.

Atlantis will close her payload bay doors around 6:10 am, and the crew will also take in fluids to help condition their bodies for the dynamics of reentry and landing back in a 1G environment.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Atlantis' crew enjoys Thanksgiving in Space

On their final full day in space, the crew of the space shuttle Atlantis is spending a busy Thanksgiving Day in space today as they prepare for landing day on Friday morning.

The seven member crew of the 31st flight of Atlantis is only the seventh space shuttle flight to orbit the earth during the traditional holiday of thanks.

"As we orbit the Earth every 90 minutes, we would like to wish you a very happy Thanksgiving", Atlantis' commander Charles Hobaugh stated in a message to Americans this morning. The entire crew then gave a "Happy Thanksgiving" cheer.

Earlier this morning, Mission Control near Houston, Texas included in their technical messages the above instructions to the crew of how to prepare a turkey. The instructions were delivered in the same tech jargon as they would discuss how a spacecraft should maneuver. (Click the image for a larger view.)

Aboard the International Space Station, several crew members of the Expedition 21 crew will have turkey, stuffing, green bean and candy yams to celebrate the holiday. Station commander Jeffery Williams is the only American of the now five crew members.

Atlantis will spend today packing and stowing equipment for Friday's return home to the Kennedy Space Center. Hobaugh and pilot Barry Wilmore will test fire select thrusters on the ship as well as power-up and test the elevon, rudders and body flap.

Beginning at 9:13 am, Atlantis' crew will give three Thanksgiving television interviews, including a Tampa Bay station which is the home of returning station astronaut Nicole Stott who has spent some 90 days in space.

Atlantis undocked from the space station yesterday and are returning 2,100 pounds of cargo to earth stored on the middeck of the orbiter.

Touchdown is planned for 9:44 am EST tomorrow on Runway 33 here at Kennedy. NASA's 129th space shuttle flight will perform a deorbit burn at 8:36 am, which will slow the ship down by around 300 mph to begin it's drop out of orbit.

A second landing opportunity at KSC could occur if weather did not corporate for the first opp with a touchdown at 11:19 am. Weather is expected to be great for the first opportunity. will carry the landing LIVE, as we carry each mission Live from prelaunch to post-landing. Follow us via Twitter: @spacelaunchnews.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Atlantis Departs newly resupplied Space Station

The space shuttle Atlantis separated from the International Space Station this morning following one week of docked operations to resupply and add new equipment to the huge complex.

Atlantis' pilot Barry Wilmore gave a control stick on the aft flight deck a slight nudge and the orbiter undocked from the station at 4:53 am EST this morning as the two crafts flew 216 miles above the area north of New Guinea.

Atlantis spent six days, 17 hours docked with earth's orbital outpost, as the crew performed three spacewalks to install new equipment such as a 1,200-pound oxygen tank; and unloaded 37,000 pounds of food, clothes and fuel to resupply the station. Atlantis is also bringing home a load of garbage from station to clear room for the new equipment. The shuttle also gave the station a much needed altitude boost and attitude change.

Commanded by veteran astronaut Charles Hobaugh, Atlantis' crew includes Wilmore, Leland Melvin, Michael Foreman, Robert Satcher and Brandy BResnik. Atlantis is also bringing home space station flight engineer Nicole Stott who spent 87 days aboard the outpost.

Atlantis' STS-129 mission to the space station was the 31st by a space shuttle, and the 31st flight by Atlantis.

Atlantis is scheduled to land back at the Kennedy Space Center at the start of her 172nd orbit of the flight at 9:44 am EST, on Friday, Nov. 27th.

Monday, November 23, 2009

VIDEO: Atlas 5 launches into a beautiful morning

VIDEO: Atlas 5 successfully launches Intelsat 14 today.

Atlas 5 Lifts-off following delay due to Winds

A beautiful night launch illuminated America's Space Coast this morning following a 65 minute delay due to high upper level winds over the area.

Launch of the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 occurred at 1:55:01 am EST, this morning from launch complex 41 here at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Through Sunday night, the launch team marched toward a 12:50 am lift-off. However, high winds between 22,000 to 25,000 feet created concern as weather officials released several weather balloons checking for any changes in the winds.

The white and bronze Atlas rocket steered out over the dark waters of the Atlantic Ocean and into a star filled sky.

Powered by three solid rocket boosters and a kerosene RD-180 core engine, the Atlas steered southeast as it gained altitude. Ninety-two seconds into the flight, the SRB's ended their job with burnout. Forty seconds later, the three boosters separated from the core stage.

The primary payload of this 19th flight of an Atlas 5 is the Space Systems/Loral-built Intelsat 14 communications spacecraft which will provide television and high speed data for the America's, Europe and Africa.

Following several burns and a coast phase, the Atlas' upper stage released Intelsat 14 while over the southeastern Indian Ocean at 3:53 am EST.

Intelsat 14 will replace the aging Intelsat 1R, according to ULA. The 12,300 pound satellite will operate from a position over the equator at 45 degrees West.

This morning's launch marked the 601st Atlas flight since the late 1950's with half of those occurring here at Cape Canaveral.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

ULA Atlas 5 to boost Intelsat 14 Satellite

A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket will deliver an advanced communications payload into geostationary orbit next week, and will mark the final Atlas flight of the year.

Launch of the fifth Atlas 5-431 mission of 2009 is planned for 12:50:01 am EST, on November 23 from launch complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The launch window closes at 2:20 am.

A previous launch try on November 14 was cancelled due to an electrical issue on the bronze core, or first stage, booster.

Once launched, the bronze and white rocket with three strap-on solid rocket boosters, will carry the Intelsat and a secondary DoD payload through the dynamics of launch like a farmer with a basket of eggs -- gently. The rocket's flight path will carry it toward the southeast out over the central to southern Atlantic Ocean.

Fifty seconds into the flight, the rocket will steer through MAX-Q, when the forces of the Atlas pushing forward meet up with the dense atmosphere.

Two minutes, eight seconds into the flight, the trio of SRB's will separate from the bronze core first stage. The first stage's RD-180 engine will continued the rocket's ascent for another two minutes and 22 seconds.

The Atlas will carry into geostationary orbit the Intelsat 14 satellite which was built by Space Systems/Loral. A second satellite called the Internet Router in Space (IRIS) project will be a test bed for future military space based communications.

Intelsat 14 will provide both audio and video service to America, Europe and Africa with it's 40 C-band and 22 ku-Band antennas.

Friday, November 06, 2009

New Russian Poisk Module set for Launch

A new Russian docking module is destined to become a critical piece for the International Space Station as the country delivers a multifaceted docking port in support of space travel during the next decade.

The Russian Space Agency's Mini Research Module-2, or Poisk, will dock to the station's Zvezda service module two days following launch. It will serve as a docking port for Russian Soyuz and Progress spacecraft; will support future Russian spacewalks from it's 3-foot wide airlock; and act as a spare room for some of the crew's equipment in support of docking or spacewalks.

Launch of the Soyuz U rocket with the Poisk MRM-2 is planned for this Tuesday, November 10 at 9:22:01 am EST, (14:22 GMT) from launch complex 17P32 Pad 1 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, in Kazakhstan. The launch window is five minutes.

The new module will launch with 2,204 pounds of cargo in the pressurized section. New Russian Orlan spacesuits, science equipment and life support equipment will get a ride to the orbiting outpost in space.

Docking to the Russian Zvezda module by the Poisk is targeted for Nov. 12 at 10:44 am EST, or 15:44 UTC. Docking will likely occur a few minutes earlier based on a successful rendezvous

Built by RSC Energia, the MRM-2 Poisk hardware will allow for a fourth Russian spacecraft to dock with station as the need for new equipment and fresh supplies increases with the end of the space shuttle program during the first half of the 2010's.

There are also attachment points for future science experiments which will need the vacuum of space.

There are 523 cubic-feet of pressurized volume aboard Poisk, of that 380 are habitable for the crew.

The 8-ton module has a hull diameter of 8 feet and a length of 13 feet and 3 inches.

On June 10th, two spacewalkers replaced a door in the forward section of Zvezda with a docking cone which will allow for Piosk's docking.

In May 2010, the MRM-1 will launch aboard shuttle Atlantis for docking to the space station. MRM-2 was completed ahead of schedule, thus it's launching was moved up in support of future docked operations.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Russia launches duel Canadian satellites today

A Russian Space Agency rocket successfully carried duel science payloads into a dark, foggy sky today and up into orbit, including a European satellite which will study the earth's soil and water values over the next few years.

The Canadian Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) science satellite and the Project for Onboard Autonomy (Proba-2) launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia aboard the Rockot ballistic missile at 1:50:01 UTC this morning (8:50 pm EST on November 1st).

Seventy minutes into the launch, the SMOS was the first to separate from the Rockot's upper stage known as Breeze KM at an altitude of 470 miles. The Breeze stage then manuvered into a lower orbit and at T+3 hours following launch, the Proba-2 then separated completing a successful launch.

SMOS will study future climate changes from it's perch in low earth orbit over the next three years. According to Canadian space officials, "(SMOS) is the first ever satellite designed both to map sea surface salinity and to monitor soil moisture on a global scale. It features a unique interferometric radiometer that will enable passive surveying of the water cycle between oceans, the atmosphere and land".

Meanwhile, the Proba-2 science payload is a multi-useful microsatellite carrying a set of four science intruments to study the Sun; a high technology camera with a wide angle view of about 120º; and test small sensors for future European Space Agency satellites.
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