Saturday, February 27, 2010

Delta IV primed to launch new weather satellite

A new American weather satellite is ready to begin a decade long mission next week to photograph and study our planet and the effects solar weather has upon our big blue marble.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA are responsible for the GOES-P meteorological satellite which will be used to take high resolution detailed images of the planet's weather systems, and use computer generated data to make a more accurate forecast on expected weather trends.

Launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV is set for Wednesday, March 3 at 6:17pm EST (2317 GMT) -- the beginning of a one hour launch window -- from space launch complex 37-B here at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Lift-off was targeted for two days earlier, however a flight readiness meeting on Feb. 26th pointed out the need to replace a solid rocket motor's steering control valve. And, on Monday, the ground crew needed extra time to replace a quick disconnect valve in a fuel line.

The Geostationary Operational Enviro
nmental Satellite -P will make observations of 60% of the earth's surface, including all of the western hemisphere from it's perch 22,300 miles above the equator.

Among the several instruments on board the GOES P is the Solar X-ray Imager. The SXI is an x-ray telescope which will monitor solar activity and it's effects on earth. The telescope will take a detailed image of the Sun each minute for analysis. This will help in early detection of huge solar flares which can interfere with radio and television broadcasts.

The Space Environment Monitor is a multi-instrument space weather detection device on the weather satellite, and will assist in special space weather forecasts for astronauts on the International Space Station and high altitude aircraft and jets.

This latest GOES satellite arrived at the Kennedy Space Center, touching down aboard a military cargo craft from it's manufacturing plant in California on December 17th.

The payload was then transferred west across the Indian River into Titusville and the AstroTech Facility for prelaunch preparations.

At launch, the Delta IV's main stage RS-68 engine will ignite followed by its twin solid fueled boosters as the spacecraft begins it's trip to orbit.

Launching in a flight azimuth of 95 degrees, the Delta IV will travel toward the east-southeast away from the Cape.

Following an on time launch, the twin boosters will burn out and then separate from the core booster at 6:20:40 pm, as it travels 17 miles above the coral waters 13 miles off Florida's coastline.

Spacecraft separation is planned for 10:40:26 pm later that evening.

In June 2009,the GOES-O launched from Cape Canaveral aboard a Delta IV.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Shuttle Shuffle: Discovery moved to the VAB

Discovery is moved today to the VAB at KSC. (KSC/NASA)

Technicians at the Kennedy Space Center moved the space shuttle Discovery from her hanger to the massive Vehicle Assembly Building this morning for mating to her fuel tank and rocket boosters in preparation for her Easter launch.

First motion of the orbiter transporter began at 10:19 am EST, as it backed the orbiter up and then traveled the short distance around the corner to the VAB.

It was the second move of a space shuttle today.

Earlier this morning, Endeavour -- having just returned from two weeks in space last night -- was the first to begin the shuttle shuffle as she was moved from the runway over to her hanger for processing.

Discovery was later attached to a huge yellow crane and will be lifted into a vertical position tonight for mating to her rust colored external tank. Following several days of electrical checks between the two, the STS-131 space shuttle stack will be moved out to launch pad 39A.

Rollout is currently scheduled for the first hours of March 2.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

VIDEO: Endeavour completes STS-130 tonight

Endeavour makes a night landing at Kennedy Space Center tonight.

Endeavour lands upon America's Space Coast

Endeavour returns home to the Kennedy Space Center (NASA)

Dropping out of a dark Florida sky and through scattered clouds, the space shuttle Endeavour landed this evening following a milestone mission which saw her crew install our window on space and the world.

NASA's Spaceflight Meteorology Group kept their eyes on the weather all through the day, as several cloud decks and nearby rain showers threatened to delay the shuttle's landing in both Florida and her alternate landing site in California.

Endeavour glided over the Florida peninsula and into the Kennedy Space Center where her main gear slammed upon runway 15 at 10:20:31 pm EST, concluding a 5.75 million mile flight to the International Space Station.

"Houston, it's great to be home. It was a great adventure," Endeavour's commander George Zamaka exclaimed after the orbiter stopped.

"The landing today went as smooth as you can hope for... by the numbers," Shuttle Launch Integration Manager Mike Moses stated tonight after the crew departed the orbiter.

One of the interesting aspects as Endeavour left orbit and began reentry into the earth's atmosphere at 9:51 pm, was station astronaut Soichi Noguchi's photograph (below) which he sent to the ground via Twitter.

Noguchi, 216 miles aboard the space station, commented after the landing about his photograph, "I watched the shuttle atmospheric reentry from Cupola window. The view was definitely out-of-the-world. (Here) Space Shuttle Endeavour making S-turn during atmospheric reentry. The first time it was photographed from Space."

This STS-130 flight was Endeavour's twenty-fourth space flight, and was her tenth to the space station. Total mission duration since booster ignition was 13 days, 18 hours, 6 minutes and 24 seconds thru wheels stop at 10:22:10 pm.

Zamaka's crew included pilot Terry Virts and Mission Specialists Kathryn Hire, Stephen Robinson, Nicholas Patrick and Robert Behnken.

"It was an outstanding mission. I can't be happier with the success we had and look forward to repeating that on our next mission," Moses added later as he bridged over to the next space shuttle flight this April 5th by Discovery.

Endeavour only has one more space flight left this summer before she is retired. The space shuttle program as a whole has only four flights left with discussion of a possible extra flight under review.

Endeavour GO for the De-Orbit Burn

The space shuttle Endeavour was given the go to leave orbit tonight in preparation for it's dark landing here at the Kennedy Space Center.

The deorbit burn is set for 9:14:51 pm EST. The twin orbital maneuvering system engines will burn for 2 minutes, 34 seconds to slow the orbiter down by 200 mph and drop her free fall out of orbit.

Landing is set for 10:20:36 pm upon runway 15. This will be the first night landing in nearly a year.

Main Space Station computer goes offline

A possible commanding issue caused a prime computer aboard the International Space Station to fail this morning as the five-member crew slept.

Commander Jeffery Williams and his crew began working with Mission Control in Houston to bring the computers back on line.

Command and control computer multiplexer/demultiplexer #1 went offline at about 8:55 am EST, due to the "ascending of commands from the ground", according to the space station control room.

By noon time, all three computers which have control of the space station were 'showing healthy'.

Computer #3 was set to primery, #2 remained as back-up, while #1 was moved to standby.

Mission control will be scatching their heads for a few hours to determine the cause of the computer shutdown this morning.

At 12:05 pm, there were still issues running between computers # 2 & #1 reported.

Mission control has also reported that the crew was not in any danger, nor did it affect the life support systems on board.

The station did loose both KU and S-band communications with the ground for an hour due to the failed prime and backup computers. They then again lost communications for a brief time again an hour later. KU-band provides the live video and high speed data traffic from the station to the ground.

By 1PM, the KU-band was still not operative.

The space shuttle Endeavour -- some 665 miles ahead of the station in orbit --had undocked just 37 hours earlier following the installation of the new node 3 Tranquility and cupola observation module.

There were commands in the Tanquility which did not sync up with earlier commands from the ground.

At 12:31 pm, controlers on the ground were working specific commands to a key computer on board Tranquility. A few minutes later, they uplinked the new commands.

The crew awoke this morning at 1AM, and were enjoying an off-duty day following a buy last ten days of joint docked operations with Endeavour's crew.

Endeavour prepares for Space Coast landing tonight

The six member crew of the space shuttle Endeavour spent this morning preparing their ship for tonight's planned landing upon America's Space Coast -- weather permitting.

After nearly 14 full days in space, Endeavour will leave orbit and glide in for a landing here at the Kennedy Space Center at 10:20 pm EST. If weather prompts a delay, there is also a back up landing time at 11:55 pm.

If weather goes further to rule out both Florida landing opportunities, NASA has called up Edwards, AFB for tonight and will work to get Endeavour down in southern California at either 1:25 am or 3:00 am EST.

Currently, low clouds at 6,000 feet and a chance of rain showers within a 30 nautical mile radius of the landing strip is forecast for both landing sites.

If Endeavour does not land overnight tonight, then the crew will spend an extra day in space and try again Monday night, however the weather forecast remains poor in Florida while California's Edwards looks much better.

Entry Flight Director Norm Knight this morning discussed the outlook for Monday, "For end of mission plus one, which is Monday, for KSC the current forecast indicates the site is degrading. That system that's moving across the central U.S. encroaches Florida and it brings thunderstorms, rain, high crosswinds and ceilings to the site. So if the forecast holds true for KSC, it doesn't look good for Monday".

Once Endeavour is cleared to land on the first opportunity tonight, the crew will suit up a few hours earlier in their partial pressure suits, drink plenty of fluids and strap in for the deorbit burn planned for 9:14 pm.

The burn by the shuttle's twin oms (orbital manuvering system) engines will slow the spacecraft's orbital velocity by a few hundred feet, just enough to being it's drop out of orbit.

The 130th space shuttle crew includes commander George Zamaka, pilot Terry Virts and mission specialists Kathryn Hire, Stephen Robinson, Nicholas Patrick and Robert Behnken.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Endeavour departs newly upgraded Space Station

The space shuttle Endeavour departed the International Space Station tonight after ten days of spacewalks and the addition of two key components as earth's orbital outpost sails into a new decade.

Endeavour separated from the space station at 7:54 pm EST, as the orbital duo sailed 209 miles over the north Atlantic Ocean following 9 days, 19 hours and 48 minutes of joint operations.

Prior to the shuttle's departure tonight, the space station was rotated 180-degrees from the Russian side of the station in the direction of travel to the space shuttle as the lead in it's orbital path.

Bolts and springs were then released popping Endeavour's orbital docking system outward from the station's docking port and sending the shuttle toward a Sunday evening Florida landing.

Endeavour pilot Terry Virts, operating from the aft flight deck, flew Endeavour forward in the direction of travel and leading the station.

The orbital complex now weighs 799,045 lbs, and is 98% completed by volume following the orbiter's delivery and mating of the Tranquility node and the cupola observation module this week.

"Thank-you for the great hospitality," shuttle commander George Zamaka radioed to the five member Expedition 22 crew of the space station.

"U.S. space shuttle Endeavour departing!", station commander Jeffery Williams announced, and then performed the traditional clanging of the gold bell from inside in true nautical formation. "God speed guys, we'll see you back on the planet."

Twenty minutes following undocking, a beautiful view of Endeavour's shadow on one of the space station's solar arrays became visible, and this reporter captured a video still as the pair flew 400 feet apart.

Minutes later at 410-feet out, Virts then began flying the orbiter in a 360-degree fly around of the station complex.

Led by commander Zamaka, the 130th space shuttle crew includes Virts and mission specialists Kathryn Hire, Stephen Robinson, Nicholas Patrick and Robert Behnken.

Later tonight, the crew will take close up views of the orbiter's thermal protection system to look for possible micrometeorite hits on the wing leading edges and nose section.

Landing remains set for Sunday night at 10:16 pm, here at the Kennedy Space Center.

Hatches closed, Endeavour set for Station Undocking

Patrick pauses to enjoy the view out cupola yesterday. (NASA)

The hatches between the International Space Station and shuttle Endeavour were closed this morning in preparation for this evening's undocking following ten days of joint operations.

The hatches between the two crafts were sealed and locked at 3:08 am EST this morning, following a brief farewell ceremony in which the five Expedition 22 crew members on station gave hugs and handshakes to Endeavour's crew of six.

Endeavour's crew led by commander George Zamka, pilot Terry Virts and mission specialists Kathryn Hire, Stephen Robinson, Nicholas Patrick and Robert Behnken, arrived at station at midnight on Feb. 10, and added two new sections to the orbital outpost -- Tranquility node and the cupola observation platform.

Late last night -- which is the middle of the day space station time -- the two crews gathered in the newly installed Tranquility for a ribbon cutting ceremony to commission the cupola platform.

Floating next to station commander Jeffery Williams, Zamka spoke to the planet earth these words, "We are here in Tranquility standing above the cupola to formally open the cupola for use by other crews that will be here on the space station. Arguably, mankind has been after this view for centuries, this perspective, this view of the world. And we finally have it, and we're going to take advantage and enjoy it."

The ceremony also addressed the small moon rocks which were brought up to station on Endeavour's flight and will be housed in the cupola "as a reminder of man's reach and man's grit as they go out and explore," Zamka added.

The space station's description of the cupola as their "window on the world" not only means the beautiful 360-degree observation of earth and the space around, but will serve as a 'crow's nest' for incoming manned and unmanned spacecraft as well.

Endeavour is set to conclude a day multifaceted flight on Sunday evening. The orbiter will begin firing her twin breaking engines to begin the drop out of orbit at 9:13 pm. Landing is planned at the start of the 218th revolution of the earth on Runway 15 here at the Kennedy Space Center at 10:16 pm -- the first of two landing opportunities. The back-up landing time is on the next orbit at 11:51 pm.

NASA's mission management team will call up the Edwards, AFB landing site for Sunday night as well due to unfavorable current weather trends along the Space Coast. will carry LIVE television of the entire mission, including Sunday's landing.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Animation: Cryosat 2 on orbit

The ESA Cryosat 2 on orbit 445 miles above earth.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

President Obama calls Space Station crews

Obama speaks with astronauts on Station today. (White House)

President Obama called up the crews of the International Space Station and the docked shuttle Endeavour today to send congratulations and ask questions as students and congressional leaders looked on.

Speaking from the White House's Roosevelt room, the president spoke directly to the eleven residents aboard earth's orbital outpost beginning at 5:19 pm EST.

"Hey Guys... well its great to talk to you guys," Obama began as large group of students, teachers and government officials surrounded his chair. "We have a bunch of excited young guys here."

"I just wanted to let you know how proud we are of all of you," the president added.

The 23-minute discussion included questions to the astronauts from middle school students who traveled to the nation's capital from Michigan, Florida and North Carolina.

Today's White House photo-op comes three weeks to the day in which the president canceled NASA's Constellation project which was to carry Americans to the space station in 2015 and the moon some five years later.

"We just wanted to let you know that the amazing work that's being done on the International Space Station, not only by our American astronauts but also our colleagues from Japan and Russia, is just a testimony to human ingenuity. A testimony to extraordinary skill and courage that you guys bring to bear, and it's also a testimony to why continued space exploration is so important. And it's part of the reason why my commitment to NASA is not wavering," the president radioed the crews.

Constellation's cancellation will cause thousands of professionals their jobs here on America's Space Coast.

Space station panoramic observation windows opened

The two crews aboard the International Space Station opened the outside shutters on their new panoramic observation platform -- opening their view upon the earth and space.

Astronauts Robert Behnken and Nicholas Patrick performed a nearly six hour spacewalk early this morning to remove insulation blankets from around the cupola observation module. Then, Endeavour's pilot Terry Virts at 12:25 am EST, today began using a control button inside cupola to open each of the seven protective shutters which cover each window.

"Hey Bob and Nick. Welcome back to the airlock. Great job raising the curtains on the bay window to the world," Endeavour mission specialist Kay Hire radioed to the spacewalkers who had just returned to the Quest airlock.

Today's third and final spacewalk of Endeavour's current docked mission to the space station concluded at 3:03 am. It was the 140th American-based spacewalk over the last eleven years in support of station construction, and the 233rd American spacewalk since Ed White's orbital walk in June 1965.

Endeavour's STS-130 astronauts Behnken and Patrick completed three spacewalks totaling 18 hours and 14 minutes.

The cupola has six trapezoidal windows around its diameter, and one large 31 1/2-inch window on top (image). And, like most homes here on earth, the cupola's windows do have shutters.

The heavy duty steel shutters swing open and closed on a hinge at it's bottom. Each night before the station crew goes to sleep, they will close the shutters to protect the windows from micrometeorites and space debris as they travel 17,250 miles around our beautiful planet.

The eleven astronauts which combine make up both Endeavour's and space station's two crews, will go to bed for eight hours at just after 8AM today.

Looking ahead to Friday, Endeavour's crew of six -- commander George Zamaka, Virts, Hire,
Behnken, Patrick and Steve Robinson -- will prepare the orbiter for undocking and the return home to Florida.

Landing is currently planned for Sunday evening at 10:20 pm, here at the Kennedy Space Center.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Endeavour astronauts begin orbital walk in space

Two crew members of the space shuttle Endeavour began their third and final spacewalk of the mission this evening which will see them connect power cables and open the shutters on earth's orbital bay window.

Tonight's spacewalk began at 9:15 pm EST, as the International Space Station flew 220 miles high above the southern Pacific Ocean.

Astronuts Robert Behnken and Nicholas Patrick left the Quest airlock minutes later to begin their six and one-half hour orbital walk in space.

Behnken began work by opening up a second coolant loop which will flow ammonia into the new Tranquility node.

Later tonight, the pair will remove the protective covers from the windows of the newly installed cupola observation module. Once the covers are removed, station crews will have a panaromic 360-degree field view of the earth and the space beyond as they sail upon the ocean of space.

Next space shuttle launch delayed until April 5

The flight of the next space shuttle mission has been pushed back two weeks due to several weather delays in preparing space shuttle Discovery for the next launch.

Discovery's move from the orbiter processing facility bay to the massive vehicle assembly building has already been delayed several days due to cold temperatures and rain here at the Kennedy Space Center. Rollover is now targeted for this weekend.

Technicians do not want the shuttle exposed to the extra cold temperatures due to it's effect on the 44 steering thrusters which surround the vehicle.

Space shuttle mission managers met this afternoon to approve a new time table for processing Discovery for her thirty-eighth flight.

Launch which had been planned for March 18, is now retargeted for Monday, April 5 at 6:27 am EDT -- the middle of a ten minute launch window.

Once inside the VAB, Discovery will be connected to her rust-colored external tank and rocket boosters a top the mobile launcher platform. The seven hour rollout to launch pad 39-A would then occur one week later.

Discovery new launch date is also based on the launch of a Russian Soyuz TMA with the next expedition crew bound for the space station on April 2.

The Soyuz would then dock on the 4th, allowing Discovery to then later dock on April 7th.

Stay tuned to for new developments on the next space shuttle flight.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Station crew relocate mating adapter tonight

Crew members aboard the International Space Station tonight relocated a docking port and preparing spacesuits for a Tuesday night orbital walk.

The crews of both the space shuttle Endeavour and station awoke today at 4:14 pm EST, to begin another complex day of robotics and outfitting the newly installed Tranquility nodeand cupola observation module.

They awoke to the music of Tool and the song "Parabola", for Endeavour astronaut and spacewalker Robert Behnken.

Endeavour astronaut Kay Hire used the space station's 57-foot robotic arm to grapple the Pressurized Mating Adapter 3 at 5:40 am this morning. PMA 3 has been unused and resting on the Harmony module.
The mating adapter was delivered to the station by Discovery on STS-92 in October 2000. Station commander Jeffrey Williams and flight engineer Soichi Noguchi began operations to unlatch the docking port from Harmony.

With Robert
Behnken and Nicholas Patrick at the controls, the station's arm slowly moved the PMA 3 over to the forward end of Tranquility where the cupola had been docked a day earlier.

At 9:02 pm, the adapter was docked to the node, and 26 minutes later was firmly latched using 16 bolts.
Also tonight, the crew will begin outfitting the cupola observation module, as well as more work setting up Tranquility.

Later this evening, the crews will receive some 'off-duty' time which will be used to rest and catch up on select unperformed chores; and Behnken and Patrick will begin preparations for Tuesday night's third and final spacewalk of Endeavour's flight.

The duo will enter the Quest airlock and close it's hatch at 7:25 am on Tuesday. They will then depressurize the airlock down to 10.2 psi as they prebreathe pure oxygen to purge the nitrogen out of their systems to keep from getting what underwater divers get known as the bends.

Cupola Observation Module installed on Node

A newly arrived observation platform known as cupola was positioned upon the Tranquility node this morning giving the crew aboard the International Space Station an out of this world view of the earth and beyond.

Astronauts Kay Hire and Terry Virts moved the station's 58-foot robotic arm over to and grappled cupola at 10:22 pm EST, on Sunday night. The grapple came later than planned following a few delays in depressurizing the domed structure.

A series of bolts would not release a half-hour later to allow for it's release. The crew worked with the ground to get those bolts unjammed.

Space station commander Jeffery Williams then called over to Hire and his crew, "We're go for cupola de-berth."

Once the bolts released the cupola from the end of newly installed Tranquility node, Hire began the nearly one hour short move at 12:25 am today to relocate cupola to the nadir side of Tanquility.

Sporting a thermal white jacket, the cupola was attached and firmly bolted down to its new port on the earth-facing side of Tranquility at 1:31 am. Four latches and then 16 bolts are used to secure this soon to be pressurized section to the node.

Endeavour's commander George Zamka radioed Mission Control today, "This is the payoff, it all went very smoothly today. The cupola's been an idea that's been around since the early '90s and we got it home".

The 1.6 ton cupola observation module is a pressurized work station in which station crew members will use to perform photography and studies of the earth. They will also use it to track approaching spacecrafts.

What exact does cupola mean? -- CUPOLA: noun: 1. Architecture a. A vaulted roof or ceiling. b. A small dome set on a circular or polygonal base or resting on pillars. c. A domelike structure surmounting a roof or dome, often used as a lookout or to admit light and air.

The cupola has six trapezoidal windows around its diameter, and one large 31 1/2-inch window on top. And like most homes here on earth, the cupola's windows do have shutters.

Prior to bed time, the space station crew will close the external shutters from inside the observation module. According to NASA, the "shutters are closed to protect the glass from micrometeoroids and orbital debris and to prevent solar radiation from heating up the Cupola or to avoid losing heat to space".

A Tuesday evening spacewalk will remove the seven protective insulation window covers from around cupola.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: NASA to add extra Shuttle flight has learned that NASA will announce an extra space shuttle flight to be added late this fall or early-2011, according to a source at the Johnson Space Center near Houston.

The much anticipated announcement could come in the coming weeks or sooner.

The mission would fly following the September 16th launch of Discovery on mission STS-133 -- a resupply flight to the International Space Station. To support Discovery in case the orbiter is damaged en route to orbit, NASA's Kennedy Space Center will have a rescue space shuttle stack awaiting in the high bay of the Vehicle Assembly Building.

Known internally at NASA as rescue mission STS-335, the shuttle would roll out to launch pad 39-A and launch during the second week of October. Discovery, meanwhile, would stay docked to the space station as her crew lives aboard the orbital outpost.

The specific space shuttle for the STS-335 flight would likely be Atlantis.

If Discovery returns home following a successful mission, then the STS-335 stack would then become known as the STS-135 flow.

The newly manifested STS-135 mission would likely take place in mid-November or early February 2011.

Currently, there are only four more shuttle flights planned thru September before the program concludes.

Following the Obama administration's cancellation of the follow-up to the space shuttle program -- know as Constellation -- many NASA centers would love to see the fisical year 2011 budget include an extra shuttle flight or two.

If STS-135 does fly and the orbiter is damaged during ascent, NASA would then put into standby mode two Russian Soyuz TMA capsules already located on the space station which would then ferry the STS-135's four astronauts, and two space station cosmonauts back to earth.

A typical crew trains for nearly one year for their flight, and February is quickly nearing March.

STS-135 would be used to ferry large equipment and supplies to the space station, and return used experiments and garbage back home. Items which would be too much for a Soyuz or unmanned cargo craft.

Astronauts connect support cables on Spacewalk

Two of space shuttle Endeavour's astronauts performed an orbital walk in space to connect support cables and hoses between the International Space Station and the newly installed Tranquility node.

Astronauts Robert Behnken and Nick Patrick began the second space walk of Endeavour's flight at 9:20 pm EST on Saturday night, and then departed the U.S. Quest airlock to begin over six hours of work.

The orbital duo went to work to begin routing avionics and supply cables from the Destiny laboratory to Tranquility node. Meanwhile, inside the new node, crews of the station and shuttle worked to begin powering up and testing electrical systems.

As Patrick performed work to open a cap on a quick disconnect valve, a small amount of ammonia was released in the direction of Patrick. At midnight EST, Behnken went over to inspect his partner's white spacesuit for any signs of ammonia (below). He was considered clean and the pair went back to work.

The Johnson Space Center informed this reporter tonight, "The astronauts will spend additional time in the airlock to allow for any possible flakes to be cleansed from their suits through the airlock environmental system".

Patrick and Behnken then began to wrap the hoses in protective insulation which will shield them from micrometeorites as the station complex speeds around earth at 17,250 mph.

At 12:55 am this morning,
Behnken began opening the four valves to allow the ammonia to begin flowing from Destiny to the node.

They then transitioned over to the nadir, or earth-facing port, on Tranquility to prepare it for Sunday evening's placement of the newly arrived cupola dome from the end of Tranquility to this new location. They opened up four petals on the cover of the common berthing mechanism is support of the cupola's arrival.

Inside the station, the crews installed the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device -- a computer controlled software system which helps guide the astronaut through a specific exercise regiment during his six-month stay on the space station.

The ARED is Windows-based and the astronaut uses a touchscreen computer tablet to input what desired exercise he or she would like to perform. The data of the exercise and how well the astronaut does is then transmitted down to the medical staff at the Johnson Space Center south of Houston.

This new software could become useful here on earth such as in submarines and naval ships on long tours.

Also, NASA's Mission Management Team elected to keep Endeavour in space one extra day to ensure all the tasks are performed. Endeavour's six-person crew will assist the station's five member crew in relocating several key components inside station such as the Waste Hygiene Compartment and Oxygen Generation System into the Tranquility node.

Landing is now targeted for a night landing at the Kennedy Space Center next Sunday evening, February 21st.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Astronauts open newly install Tranquility Module

The hatches leading into a new living compartment on board the International Space Station was opened tonight providing the crew an expanded area to exercise and live as earth's orbital outpost sails toward 2020.

Space station commander Jeffery Williams opened the hatches leading from the Unity module into the newly installed Tranquility node at 9:17 pm EST, and floated in along with space shuttle Endeavour's commander George Zamka, as the station flew 217 miles high over the Pacific Ocean just east of Australia.

The Italian-built Tranquility will serve as a U.S. section of the station, and will be the final American section added to the now 98% completed outpost.

Two hours later, the crews opened the hatch between the tranquility and the cuploa dome section - currently located on the opposite end of Tranquility's docked port.

The cupola will be a wonderful segment for the station crews. It is a dome segment with seven windows providing a 360-degree field of the earth and the space around the orbital complex. This will allow astronauts to have views of approaching spacecraft, orbital observations of both the earth and star fields, and give them a truley out of this world view.

Currently, station crew members use small port windows which measure about a foot across.

As Endeavour hangs docked to the space station, the total weight of the complex is now 1,011,500 pounds -- passing the 1 million pound mark for the first time this week.

Also tonight, Endeavour's protective thermal tiles were cleared for landing.

NASA's Mission Management Team chairman LeRoy Cain stated tonight, "The team has completed their analyses. We determined that Endeavour is cleared for entry. All the TPS is cleared and the vehicle is safe for deorbit, re-entry and landing."

Later tonight, Endeavour astronauts Robert Behnken and Nicholas Patrick will begin preparing for the start of the second planned spacewalk. They first will prepare a new space suit for Patrick after it was noted that the cooling fan on his suit did not work properly during Thursday night's spacewalk.

Endeavour's crew of six docked last Wednesday at midnight EST to the station, and will carry out two more spacewalks and will reposition the cupola to a new location on later tonight so that it faces earth.

Endeavour's Kay Hire will use the station's long robotic arm to grapple and slowly lift the cupola section several feet to the middle section of Tranquility. This will provide crews an improved view for earth observations.

Pilot Terry Virts and mission specialist Stephen Robinson round out Endeavour's crew.

The crews will begin their sleep period later this morning at 7:44 am, and awake eight hours later to begin a busy spacewalking day.

Endeavour is expected to undock this Thursday evening at 7:35 pm.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Astronauts unite Tranquility with the Space Station

(Updated at 1:25 am) -- Astronauts aboard the International Space Station spent overnight Thursday delivering and docking a new module which will greatly expand the living quarters of the orbital outpost in space.

While two spacewalking astronauts untethered the Tranquility node module from the payload bay of Endeavour, the crew inside the station worked its robotic arm to slowly lift the module from the bay and transitioned over to the Unity module on the station.

Tranquility is a pressurized cylindrical module with an internal width of nearly 16-feet and a length of 23 feet. It will serve as expanded living quarters for the crew.

Astronauts Robert Behnken and Nicholas Patrick switched their space suits onto internal power thus beginning their spacewalk at 9:17 pm EST this evening. They then left the Quest airlock to begin the first of three planned spacewalks of the STS-130 mission.

At 11:10 pm EST, astronaut Kay Hire began first motion in removing the Tranquility node from Endeavour's payload bay. Slowly and carefully lifting the module up and out over the shuttle's wing, the arm carried it over toward the Unity.

By midnight, the spacewalkers were nearly one hour ahead of their time line.

An hour later, at 1:04 am, Hire announced that the first stage of latching four bolts of Tranquility into Unity's left side port was complete.

Meanwhile, as one end of Tranquility was bolted to the station, the other end had the cupola dome temporarily docked. The cupola is a seven-window dome section which will give the station crew an out of this world 360-degree view of our universe. The cupola will be attached to the side of Tranquility with the help of the station's robotic arm on Sunday night.

Then at 1:20 am, Hire announced that the second series of 16 bolts had completely secured Tranquility to Unity as the orbital complex flew 217 miles over the west coast of Singapore.

The next task was for
Behnken and Patrick to begin installing power and avionics cables between Unity and the new module.

On Friday night at about 9:14 pm, the crews will open the hatches from Unity into Tranquility and set foot inside a cold, dark school bus size module. The crew will enter wearing a miners headlight for better visibility as the work to get lighting turned on.

Russian Proton rocket launches Intelsat 16

(Updated 5:30 am) -- A Russian Proton rocket launched a new communications satellite into orbit tonight set to provide high definition broadcasting for the Latin American region.

The International Launch Services Proton M rocket lifted-off at 7:39 pm EST, Thursday (0039 GMT) or 6:39 am local time this morning from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Carrying the Intelsat 16 television satellite, the Proton departed a very cold, below zero launch complex 39 and climbed into a dark sky as it flew eastward powered by six RD-275 engines in a 360-degree formation.

Total lift-off weight of the fueled rocket was 1,523,000 million pounds. Proton's thrust at launch was 2,360,000 to compensate and be able to win the fight over gravity.

Two minutes into the flight, the first stage burned out and was jettisoned. The four engine second stage then fired for the next three and one-half minutes propelling the craft higher as it continued on it's 51 degree inclination.

After burning it's third stage, the Breeze-M upper stage began a series of four major burns to get the spacecraft closer to it's transfer orbit of 308 x 23,412 miles as the vehicle crossed over an area between northwest Africa and southern Europe.

After achieving a near geostationary orbit, the Breeze-M released Intelsat 16 at 5:14 am EST (1014 GMT) this morning as it flew high off Africa's east coast and above the equator. Intelsat 16 will begin a nearly 15 year mission in a few months providing HDTV services to Mexico and Brazil through SKY network, a division of DIRECTv.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Astronauts prepare for a dynamic spacewalk

The two crews aboard earth's orbital outpost will gear up for a busy day of spacewalks and space robotics as they bring a critical new module and a observation dome over from the space shuttle to a space station docking.

Endeavour, which docked to the International Space Station on Wednesday, brought up the Tranquility node and the cupola section in her payload bay. The Tranquility is a bus-size module which will provide living quarters and house the COLBERT treadmill. The cupola is a dome section which has seven windows providing a 360-degree out of this world view.

Both station and shuttle crew members were awoken at 4:14 pm EST this afternoon to kick-off a busy day which will see two astronauts perform a six and one-half hour orbital walk in support of the installation of Tranquility to the station.

Astronauts Nicholas Patrick and Bob Behnken will leave the space station's air lock and head to Endeavour's aft section of the payload bay. The will begin preparing Tranquility for it's removal using a 58-foot long station robotic arm.

The duo are scheduled to switch their pressure suits to internal power and head out of the Quest airlock at 9:09 pm (0209 GMT).

First, Patrick and
Behnken will first remove a cover off an alignment camera on the station's Unity port in support of Tranquility's docking. They next will begin removing the covers off of seven windows which circle the dome-shaped cupola section in Endeavour's bay. At this point, the cupola is attached to the aft section of Tranquility.

The spacewalking duo will then disconnect umbilical cable between Tranquility and the orbiter which have provided power and life support to the node.

They will then turn their focus to the space station as they transition over and move a storage platform over to the P5 & P6 truss segment.

Shuttle crew member Kay Hire will then extend the station's arm out and grapple the Tranquility module, and slowly begin to rise it up and out of the bay. The 13.5 ton module with the cupola attached will be moved over to the Unity module for mating.

Once Tranquility had firmly docked, Patrick and
Behnken will begin connecting avionics and

Once the Tranquility node is attached the space station (above on Tuesday night) the orbital complex will be 98% completed. There will be four more space shuttle flights after this mission which will see a new Russian segment, supplies and hardware to complete this beautiful human-made world in space.

VIDEO: Atlas 5 launches NASA's SDO craft

VIDEO: NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory launch today.

Atlas lofts NASA Solar Observatory into Space

(updated at 12:16 pm EST) -- A NASA satellite designed to study the Sun's effect on earth, including the occurrence of severe space weather, was carried aloft this morning by an Atlas rocket from America's Space Coast.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory will set the stage as the space agency begins a new program known as Living with a Star. The SDO will spend over five years studying earth's closest star, our Sun, and the solar weather it emits and it's traverse across space and upon earth.

The solar spacecraft lifted-off atop a United Launch alliance Atlas 5 rocket today at 10:23:01 am EST, from pad 41 her at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

A beautiful launch, the Atlas 5 lept from her ocean side pad going straight up an before tilting toward and easterly trajectory of 28.7 degrees inclination.

Climbing through thin clouds, the Atlas rocket's RD-180 engine burned for four minutes, 16 seconds before being jettisoned seconds later.

The protective cover over the spacecraft known as the payload fairing then split in half and separated on time.

The rocket's centaur upper stage then took over burning its RL10 engine for the next several minutes. This burn placed the spacecraft into orbital velocity. Thirteen minutes after launch, the Centaur-SDO stack was 2,040 miles east of the Cape at an altitude of 118 miles.

Following several more burns and correction firings by Centaur, the solar observatory separated at 12:11:48 pm.

It's solar arrays and antenna then deployed thus beginning the SDO's odyssey of the Sun and the solar weather it creates.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

High Winds Scrub Atlas V Launch Today

High winds forced NASA to scrub the launch of an Atlas rocket this morning from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Launch has been retargeted for Thursday morning with a new launch time of 10:23 am EST. The launch window is one hour.
Wind speeds in excess of the 20 mph rule caused the Atlas launch team to delay the launch time three times before calling a scrub for the day one second after the count picked up at T-4 minutes.

Low clouds may be a concern tomorrow along America's Space Coast, thus the Air Force Meteorology group is forecasting 60% go for favorable weather. will have LIVE TV of the prelaunch through spacecraft separation beginning at 8AM EST tomorrow.

Endeavour Arrives at the Space Station

(Updated at 2:20 am) -- Speeding around the earth at Mach 25, the space shuttle Endeavour met up with the International Space Station tonight to begin eight days of expanding the living quarters and resupplying earth's orbital outpost.

NASA's 130th space shuttle flight brings with it a new module which will expand the living quarters and an observation dome with an out of this world 360-degree view.

Endeavour's drive and approach to the space station was beautiful and on time. However, minutes prior to docking shuttle astronaut Steven Robinson noted that the ship's on board trajectory control sensor which feds the crew closing information began to deliver bad data. Robinson then grabbed the hand held laser to help check the ship's closing rate and range to the station.

Minutes later, Mission Control was noticeably missing the TCS as it asked the crew to cycle it, but the crew found comfort in the hand held laser and did not try to restart the TCS.

Endeavour followed a slow line of approach to it's docking port and contact to the space station occurred at 12:06 am EST this morning as the orbital duo flew 217 miles above the northeastern Atlantic Ocean off the Portugal coast.

However, the docking ring of Endeavour met with the station's docking ring misaligned on contact. When the two rings met, motion vibrations forced the rings to slide slightly and misalign. It took Mission Control nearly 50 minutes to get the two crafts docking rings aligned to begin the hard mate between the two crafts.

An hour prior to docking, Endeavour approached the space station in beautiful fashion.

A post-Columbia predocking maneuver began a few minutes early at 11:00 pm EST, as the orbital duo flew 220 miles east of the Philippines. Beautiful video was down linked from the station as shuttle skipper Zamka pitched Endeavour's nose up 180-degrees and held it with the belly facing station's cameras (below).

Then station commander Jeffery Williams and flight engineer Oleg Kotov used 800-mm and 400-mm digital cameras to take several hundred images from inside the Russian Zvezda module of the orbiter's underside. The images where then downlinked to Mission Control and the Johnson Space Center near Houston for analysis for any damage from it's Monday launch.

Endeavour's crew of six -- Zamka, pilot Terry Virts, and mission specialists Nicholas Patrick, Robert Behnken, Stephen Robinson and Kathryn Hire -- later joined the five member crew of earth's orbital outpost in space as the hatches opened at 2:16 am.

The two crews will work together during eight days of docked operations.

Also, with the addition of Endeavour, the space station now weighs 1,011,500 pounds -- passing the 1 million pound mark for the first time. Once Tranquility and cupola are attached later this week, the station will be 97% complete.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Endeavour nears Space Station Docking Tonight

The space shuttle Endeavour tonight is manuvering toward a docking with the International Space Station and the start of seven busy and constructive days in the program's history.

Endeavour spent Tuesday firing her jets and preparing on board equipment to raise her orbital altitude and decrease her speed which will bring the two together in a sort of orbital ballet 220 miles above earth.

The orbital docking ring -- located in the forward section of Endeavour's payload bay -- was extended this morning in support of mating the two vehicles together.

At 7:44 pm EST tonight, the space station could see the orbiter as a bright star 220 miles above northeastern China.

At 11:05 pm, Endeavour will be stopped in a postition 600-feet below the stattion. At this point , the shuttle will begin a 360-degree backflip near the station which will allow two station crewmembers to photograph the belly of the shuttle.

Known as the Rendezvous Pitch Maneuver, Station commander Jeffery Williams and flight engineer Oleg Kotov will use 800-mm and 400-mm digital cameras to take over a two hundred images from inside the Russian Zvezda module. Pictures will be taken at the start of the flip and through the point when the orbiter spends ten minutes holding its belly facing the space station's cameras.

It will be these pictures in which ground engineers will use to inspect the underside of Endeavour to look for any signs of tile damage following their Monday morning launch.

Endeavour's commander George Zamka will then begin a slow approach to the station as the shuttle moves payload bay in direction of travel toward a docking.

Docking is planned for 12:06 am EST on Wednesday morning... just hours from now.

Endeavour's Crew Inspects Thermal Tiles

The crew of the space shuttle Endeavour spent early today inspecting the outer protective skin of the orbiter looking for any damage as they fly closer to a docking with the International Space Station.

Using the ship's robotic arm with the Orbital Sensor Boom attached, the crew slowly moved the sensor section with a camera attached over nearly every inch of the thermal protective tiles and blankets. It is these areas which protect the shuttle from the extreme heat of reentry prior to landing.

Any type of small break or gouge in the thermal protection system could cause the area to burn through to the ship's metal hull upon reentry.

Meanwhile, the orbiter continued to close in on her port-of-call today, including a few engine firings to both raise it's orbital altitude and speed of closure.

Docking time is planned for 12:06 am on Wednesday morning.

At 7:20 am EST today, Endeavour was some 850 miles behind the space station, and closing at a rate of 104 miles per orbit.

Endeavour will spend one week docked to the orbital outpost, expanding the living volume as it adds the final American module.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Endeavour's Crew begins busy second day

The six person crew of the space shuttle Endeavour will focus on the careful inspection of the thermal tiles of the craft tonight to detirmin if ice or debris damaged any areas during launch this morning.

The crew awoke at 6:15 pm EST to the music of "Give Me Your Eyes" played for first time space flyer pilot Terry Virts.

Detailed launch video studies here at the Kennedy Space Center shows a nearly foot long section of insulation which broke free from the upper section of the shuttle's external fuel tank and might have hit the orbiter. Tonight's inspections will look to see if it was a strike.
NASA's 130th space shuttle mission lifted-off this morning at 4:14:08 am, beginning a 13 day mission to deliver new living quarters and a multi-window dome section which will support earth views and station operations.

Tonight, Endeavour's payload bay cameras showed beautiful views of the Italian-built Tranquility node in the mid section of the bay. (above image at 6:10 pm tonight)
Tranquility will serve as both sleeping quarters and gymnasium and provide extra storage of supplies brought up by unmanned cargo crafts.

NASA Solar Observatory set for Wednesday Launch

A NASA satellite will embark on a multi-year mission to research and the Sun's effect on earth, as well as the dynamics of the solar flares which create space weather.

The Solar Dynamics Observatory was cleared for launch aboard an Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral, FL on Wednesday morning at 10:26:00 am EST. The launch window is one hour.

The spacecraft will operate using three science gathering instruments, and according to NASA when the amount of data starts to flow in it will get busy.

The main source of data collection will come from the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly, or AIA. Using four photographic telescopes, AIA will focus on the Sun's atmosphere going all the way down to the surface photographing with much greater detail what it observes than on past solar missions.

SDO will send back nearly 1 GB of data about the solar weather every 36 seconds, according to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

"SDO is going to send us images ten times better than high definition television," says Dean Pesnell, the project scientist for the SDO mission. "A typical HDTV screen has 720 by 1280 pixels; SDO's images will have almost four times that number in the horizontal direction and five times in the vertical. “The pixel count is comparable to an IMAX movie -- an IMAX filled with the raging sun, 24 hours a day."

Pesnell also adds that the science team will receive "IMAX-quality images every ten seconds".

A second experiment The Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) focuses on the outer shell of the Sun as it studies the magnetic field. The instrument will basically study the photosphere (Sun's surface) as it looks at the billions of ripples which move across the surface every day. These studies will help scientists at Stanford University work to figure out the Sun's internal makeup and activity. will have LIVE launch coverage beginning at 8AM EST on Wednesday. Follow our updates via Twitter: @spacelaunchnews.

VIDEO: Endeavour's Beautiful Night Launch

SLN Video: Endeavour lifts-off this morning on STS-130

Endeavour Launches on Station Construction Flight

A new decade of space flight began this morning as the weather along America's space coast cleared and the space shuttle Endeavour lifted-off on a construction flight to the International Space Station.

Low clouds over the launch pad here at the Kennedy Space Center gave the launch control team the only concern as a second flawless countdown attempt marched along with no technical issues worked.

Basked in brilliant white xenon lights, Endeavour's main engines fired and it's twin rocket boosters came to life pushing NASA's 130th space shuttle flight up and into a cold, dark Florida sky.

Endeavour's twenty-fourth mission into space began at 4:14:08 am EST, this morning to begin a thirteen day flight to add new living quarters to the nearly completed space station.

It likely will be NASA's last night launch in the space shuttle program. Only four flights remain in the programs future.

Lift-off weight of the entire space shuttle stack was 4,521,961 pounds; of that 267,470 pounds was the weight of Endeavour and her on board payloads.

As Endeavour lept from her seaside launch pad, the space station was flying 212 miles over western Romania.

Just over two minutes into the launch, Endeavour's rocket boosters separated from the sides of the orange external fuel tank having emptied their solid fuel and boosting the orbiter to an altitude of 34 miles.

It was at just prior to booster separation that engineers spotted something fall off the ship's external tank.

"We saw a piece of inter tank stringer foam come off," stated NASA's chief of space flight operations Bill Gerstenmaier. "It's probably about a quarter inch thick; maybe about a foot or so long. It didn't appear to impact the orbiter and we see no damage to the orbiter. It's something similar to what we've seen before."

As Endeavour's main engines continued to drive the space craft in a northeastern direction up the U.S. eastern coastline, the ship's twin smaller engines fired for a brief time to give the heavy craft an added boost.

Seven minutes later, at 4:22:31 am, the orbiter was in a low earth orbit, shut down it's main engines and jettisoned it's huge external tank while flying off the Novia Scotia coast at an altitude of 84 miles.

The crew of six --
commander George Zamka, pilot Terry Virts, and mission specialists Nicholas Patrick, Robert Behnken, Stephen Robinson and Kathryn Hire -- will spend overnight Monday inspecting the orbiter's heat shield and looking for any tile damage which may have occurred at launch.

Hire is a native of Mobile, AL (my hometown) and was a KSC space shuttle technician for several years in the 1980's.

Endeavour's crew will then dock to the space station on Wednesday morning at 12:09 am EST, as the orbital duo passes over northern Spain.

Three spacewalks and a lot of robotics will then take place as both Endeavour's crew and the five member crew of station will work together to remove the Tranquility node and cupola section from the shuttle's payload bay and over to it's docking port on station.

Endeavour's crew are delivering the final American modules to the International Space Station -- the Italian-built Tranquility module and a 360-degree seven window cupola compartment.

Astronauts Behnken and Patrick will begin the first of three spacewalks on Feb. 11 at 9:09 pm. The six and one-half hour planned orbital walk will focus on getting Tranquility ready to be installed on the space station's Unity node. They will be disconnecting the Tranquility cables which will be connected to Endeavour's payload bay; and remove eight flight covers from the docking port of Tranquility.

Two hours into the midnight spacewalk, robotic arm operator Hire will unberth Tranquility from the orbiter at 10:49 pm, and slowly move it over for docking to Unity. Once docked to Unity's left (port) side, the spacewalkers will begin connecting several heating and avionics cables to the new module.

On Friday night (Feb. 12), both the space station and Endeavour's commanders will open the hatch at 9:14 pm and enter the new Tranquility module for the first time. Due to lack of lights, the crews will enter using headset flashlights.

Endeavour is expected to return home to the Space Coast on Feb. 20 at 10:01 pm, following 13 days in space.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Endeavour fueled for morning launch attempt

Endeavour was fueled tonight as the launch team here at the Kennedy Space Center make a second attempt to launch the first of five final space shuttle missions.

The orange colored external fuel tank went into stable replenish mode at 9:53 pm EST tonight after over 535,000 gallons of super cold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen were filled into two separate inner tanks. The fuels mix together at launch to power the orbiter's main engines for nine minutes.

The current weather forecast calls for a chance of low clouds at launch time, thus the forecast is 60% go for launch.

Endeavour's crew of six will begin donning their launch and entry suits at 11:53 pm tonight, followed by the crew's departure for the launch pad at 12:24 am.

Commanding Endeavour's crew will be George Zamka who will be making his second trip to the space station. Terry Virts, who will serve as pilot, is making his first space flight. Mission Specialists Nicholas Patrick, Robert Behnken, Stephen Robinson and Kathryn Hire are all space veterans and round out the crew.

The crew will begin entering their spacecraft at just before 1:00 AM.

Endeavour will carry up the 7 meter-long Tranquility module and the dome shaped Cupola module. Tranquility is a pressurized cylindrical node (15 feet in diameter) which will house living quarters and serve as an exercise section of the station.

Weather Delays Sunday launch until Monday

Low clouds along America's Space Coast forced the launch team to scrub a Super Sunday launch of the space shuttle Endeavour and the launch team will try again on Monday.

NASA went into a 24-hour scrub turn around which will now retarget Endeavour's launch for Monday morning at 4:14:07 am EST, from launch pad 39-A here at the Kennedy Space Center.

"We tried really, really hard to work the weather. It was just too dynamic. We got to feeling good there at one point and then it filled back in and we just were not comfortable launching a space shuttle tonight," Launch Director Mike Leinbach told Endeavour's crew of the scrub ten minutes prior to the planned launch time.

The weather forecast is 60% favorable for a launch try tomorrow.

Just south of Endeavour's launch pad sits a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 which was scheduled to launch a NASA satellite on Tuesday. That launch of the Solar Dynamics Observatory has also been delayed one day and will fly Wednesday at 10:26 am.

One hour after the scrub, the six-member crew of Endeavour began to leave the shuttle's cockpit.

Led by commander George Zamka, Endeavour's 24th flight crew includes pilot Terry Virts, and mission specialists Kay Hire, Steven Robinson, Nicholas Patrick, and Robert Behnken.

Monday's early morning launch will also be the final planned night launch of a space shuttle in the program's history. The first night launch of a shuttle was Challenger's third flight in August 1983.

Once on orbit, Endeavour's crew will deliver the final American modules to the International Space Station -- the Italian-built Tranquility module and a 360-degree seven window cupola compartment.

Following an on-time launch, Endeavour will fly into an orbit lower than that of station to shorten the time it takes to catch-up with the orbital complex.

Once the orbiter nears the station, it will perform a back flip to allow the station's crew to photograph it's underside to check for any tile (or the thermal protection system) damage. On most launches ice and foam debris have struck the belly of the shuttle. A small 1/4-inch size of debris traveling at over 1000 mph can cause a serious dent or gouge on the ships surface.

Once the orbiter completes the back flip, Endeavour will fly in -- payload bay in the direction of travel -- for a docking to the space station. Docking is now planned for Wednesday morning at 12:53 am EST. will have complete LIVE video coverage of the launch beginning at 11PM EST tonight. Stay tune throughout the mission for our updates and coverage. Follow our updates on your mobile device via Twitter: @spacelaunchnews.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

NASA Administrator Bolden addresses the media

New NASA administrator Charles F. Bolden addressed the media here at the Kennedy Space Center this morning, answering questions about the space agency's future following President Obama's cancellation of the Constellation program.

Wearing a sports jacket and black turtleneck, a relaxed and upbeat Mr. Bolden answered our questions on the shutdown of the Constellation program and exactly what is America's future for placing humans in space -- both low earth orbit and beyond.

"We don't have a replacement for shuttle", Bolden exclaimed. "I'm uncomfortable having Soyuz as our (craft) starting at the end of this year."

The Constellation program was planned as NASA's attempt to carry humans back to the International Space Station beginning in 2015, and five years later to a landing on the Moon.

The Obama Administration cancelled the program a week ago.

Bolden did outline what he calls a Flexible Path which would see America journey to the Moon, then Mars, and decades later an Asteroid.

Plans now have NASA contracting out to several private companies to create several new launch vehicles which will return Americans to station in a few years, and to the Moon by 2025.

Bolden discussed that the current contract with the Russian Space Agency to fly one American to the station on each Soyuz craft begins later this year and runs through 2013.

Bolden touched on the urgency on the race back to the Moon: "I'm not concerned (if China or Brazil lands) because they'll be joining six American flags". He addressed the media with thoughts directed at what America has done with the Apollo program, and at the same time he seemed lost with exactly how America was going back and when.

The administrator also touched on future astronauts and their dirction through the 2010's and beyond as the space shuttle program ends.

"Some (astronauts) will stay around because they want to be a part of the development of the next generation spacecraft and the next generation capability," he stated. "We need to have the discussion of what the future... the next generation of astronauts will be like, and our international partners have a lot to say about that, because they happen to like the elite astronaut corps. So, we need to have the discussion of how important it is to have a career astronaut contingent as opposed to none."

Bolden's news conference comes some 18 hours prior to the scheduled launch of the first of five final space shuttle flights.

Bolden was asked and spoke of the concerns of the loss of jobs both here on the Space Coast and in other aerospace divisions which were supporting the upstart of Constellation.

His comments addressed the need to retire shuttle and have the private sector create a new stle of spacecraft and launcher, which will likly borrow on the knoweledge of the Ares 1 rocket.

Bolden started his first day on the job as the head of the space agency on July 17.
copyright 1998 - 2010 Charles Atkeison, All rights reserved.