Friday, April 30, 2010

NASA, European Satellites Record Gulf Oil Slick

NASA's Terra image of the 'hurricane' shape oil slick Thursday.

Two NASA satellites and one from the European Space Agency are keeping the American government informed of the environmental damaged caused by a looming oil spill in the northern Gulf Of Mexico.

Explosions rocked an oil drilling platform located 55 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River on April 20, sending a crude oil slick onto the waters of the Gulf.

The Deepwater Horizon platform then sunk on April 22 causing an oil pipe below the rig to snap, forcing a larger amount of the drilled oil to pour into the waters.

In all, and estimated 700,000 gallons of marine diesel fuel is approaching the Mississippi and Alabama coastlines. Louisiana is already beginning to see the first "landfall" of patches of the crude.

In space, the properties of oil and water do mix. However here on earth, gravity plays a key role in keeping the two separate thus it's weight has carried most of it to the surface.

Satellite imagery taken on April 29 shows the oil slick in the shape of a hurricane symbol as it floats northward with the current south of Mississippi.

NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites have spent the past nine days taking images of the 94 miles long oil slick.

Terra's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer has taken several natural color images of the slick. Terra was launch in December 1999 as part of NASA's Earth observation program to study the health of the planet.

Meanwhile, Europe's Envisat recorded several images on Thursday afternoon as it passed high over the northern Gulf waters. All three satellites orbit in a low earth orbit as they collect data and pictures of the planet one orbit at a time.

ESA's Envisat photographed the slick on April 29.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Russia Launches Supply Craft to Space Station

The Russian Space Agency launched an unmanned spacecraft filled with fuel and supplies to the International Space Station in support of it's six member crew.

A Soyuz U rocket with the Progress M-05M lifted off today at 1:15:09 pm EDT (17:15 GMT) from Pad 1 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in western Kazakhstan.

This is the thirty-seventh Progress cargo craft to be sent to the space station.

The 167 foot Soyuz darted into the night sky and toward a 51.65 degree inclination to match that of earth's orbital complex in space.

The station's Expedition 23 crew includes Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineers T.J. Creamer, Soichi Noguchi, Mikhail Kornienko, Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Alexander Skvortsov.

Docking of the resupply craft to the Russian Piers port is planned for Saturday afternoon at 2:34 pm (18:34 GMT).

According to the space agency in Moscow, the entire checklist of supplies aboard Progress includes:
Prop in the propulsion system tanks 870kg

Gas in the oxygen supply system containers - oxygen 50kg
Water in the Rodnik system tanks 100kg

The items in the cargo compartment 1318kg
Equipment for the systems:
gas supply system 33kg
water supply system 73kg
on-board hardware control system 5kg
Telemetry data system (BITS2-12) 2kg
Thermal control system 6kg
Telephone and telegraph system 2kg
Onboard computer system 3kg
Maintenance and repair equipment 5kg
Sanitary and hygienic items 71kg
Food containers, fresh products 325kg
Medical equipment, linen, personal hygienic and prophylactics items 155kg
On-board documentation files, crew provisions, video- and photo-equipment 35kg
Equipment for Russian crew members 42kg
Stored items (kit 9) 5kg
FGB-hardware 64kg
MRM2-hardware 53kg
USOS hardware 420kg

Total mass of the cargo delivered 2,588 kg or 5,706 pounds.

Russian mission control near Moscow told this reporter that included in the personal supplies for the "Russian crew members (are) sweets, new movies and books".

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Space Station Resupply Craft Prepares for Launch

Russia's Soyuz U Prepares for Launch. (Yuznhy Space Center)

A Russian cargo spacecraft will journey into earth orbit on Wednesday carrying supplies and equipment to the International Space Station.

A Soyuz U rocket with the Progress M-05M (37) resupply craft is set to launch at 1:15 pm EDT (1715 GMT) on Wednesday, from Pad 1 at the Baikonour Cosmosdrome in Kazakhstan.

The two-stage Soyuz U rocket stands a few inches above 167-feet tall at launch. It's twenty core stage engines and eight smaller stabilizer engines provide much of the thrust during the first few minutes of flight.

This will be the thirty-seventh Progress to ferry supplies to the space station.
The Progress is scheduled to dock to the Pirs Docking Compartment on Saturday afternoon.

The unmanned cargo ship will carry 110 pounds of air and oxygen; 220 pounds of water; 1,918 pounds of propellant; and 3,031 pounds of experiment hardware and spare parts for the station's six person crew.

Hours after docking, the six-member station crew will open the hatches to Progress and begin unstowing the supplies.

The current Expedition 23 crew includes Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineers T.J. Creamer, Soichi Noguchi, Mikhail Kornienko, Tracy Caldwell Dyson, and Alexander Skvortsov.

The nearly 24-foot Progress uses two solar arrays to power the vehicle's time in space. Nine minutes after launch, the craft begins to deploy the arrays and a high gain antenna.

On April 22, the trash-filled older Progress
M03-M (35) undocked from station to make room for the new craft's arrival. Mission control in Moscow will fire its deorbit thrusters today for three minutes at 2:05 pm EDT (10:05 pm Moscow) to send it toward a reentry where it will burn up.

During the craft's recent solo flight, a program test known as the
Radar-Progress technical experiment was performed.

"The experiment is aimed at defining density, sizes and reflectivity of the ionosphere environment around the vehicle, which is caused by operations of the Progress` liquid propellant engines," Russian Space Agency public affairs told this reporter in a recent message.

Fragments of the craft are expected to splashdown at just before 3 PM EDT over the southern Pacific Ocean in a region located at 42 degrees south by 141 degrees west.

The next Progress launch is to take place in two months on June 28.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Endeavour Mission Delayed Until November

Alpha Magnetic Specrometer fixed on Space Station (NASA)

An issue with a payload destined to fly aboard a July space shuttle flight has forced the delay in that mission until November.

The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is the prime payload of the STS-134 mission of Endeavour, and was targeted for a July 29th liftoff.

Delays in preparing the payload at it's test center in Geneva, Switzerland has now pushed the launch back several months.

Endeavour will now fly the final space shuttle mission of the program sometime in late November or early December. A target launch date may not be known until August.

"Scientists with the AMS program recently decided to change out the current magnet in the particle physics experiment module that will be attached to the International Space Station to a longer lasting one," NASA's Johnson Space Center stated today. "This will take advantage of NASA’s plan to extend station operations until at least 2020."

On April 11, the V-shaped AMS payload was located in Noordwijk, The Netherlands, for several days of vacuum testing. It has since been returned to Geneva for further testing to prepare it for it's vertical attitude prior to launch.

The 15,300 pound AMS will be placed aboard the International Space Station and ran for several years.

It is a particle physics experiment in which scientists will use it's 300,000 data channels to flow information obtained to some 600 computers.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Proton-M Launches American Satellite to Orbit

An American satellite design to provide high definition television and high speed data to North America was launched from Kazakhstan today.

Liftoff of an International Launch Services Russian Proton-M occurred at 7:19:01 am EDT (1119 GMT) today, darting it's way into a warm blue sky.

The rocket's launch azimuth was 61.2 degrees.

The satellite will operate for SES World Skies from a geostationary altitude located at 101 degrees west.

Spacecraft separation from the Breeze-M upper stage is expected at 4:17 pm today, as the duo fly over the waters of the Indian Ocean just west of Somalia, Africa.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Russia Announces it's Own Mini Space Shuttle

The Russian Space Agency today announced that it has it's very own delta winged space shuttle in which they say can deliver payloads to orbit.

Called the Multipurpose Aerospace System (MAKS), the Russian shuttle has the same style and size as the American Air Force's recently launched X37-B spacecraft.

However, unlike the X37-B which used an Atlas 5-501 rocket to achieve orbit yesterday, the MAKS will use an airplane carrier to achieve the initial climb to orbit.

Rocket manufacture Molnia's General Designer Vladimir Skorodelov acknowledged his country's mini-shuttle today on the heels of the American launch of two space shuttles in April -- Discovery and the X37-B.

"The spacecraft was designed in '80s and it is still in work. This is a reusable multipurpose aerospace system of the same size as U.S. Х-37," Skorodelov stated to TASS news today.

Skorodelov also mentioned that Russia is eager to see it launched soon.

The space agency stated today that the cost of sending 2.2 pounds of cargo into space is between one to two thousand dollars. They stated that the American shuttle costs nearly $20,000 for the same weight.

Russia experimented with an unmanned space shuttle in the 1980's, which had nearly the same dimensions as the U.S. orbiters.

The Soviet Union's shuttle Buran (above) made one unmanned trip into space in November 1988, but the fall of the Soviet Union, and Russia in turn became cash strapped, and thus cancelled their shuttle program in 1992.

Russian Proton to Launch American Satellite Saturday

SES-1 will support North American TV and data services. (SES)

A Russian rocket will carry into orbit an American communications satellite designed for high definition television and data services for North America on Saturday.

An International Launch Service Proton-M with the SES-1/AMC-4R spacecraft is set to launch on Saturday at 7:19:01 am EDT (1119 GMT) from pad 39 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The SES-1 spacecraft will begin service weeks following launch to deliver high speed data or video to VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) credit card stations and HD-resolution video for networks.

The SES-1 supports 24 Ku-Band and 24 C-Band transponders as it anchors in geostationary orbit at 101 degrees West.

The spacecraft will operate for SES World Skies with an expected design life of 17 years.

The four-stage ILS Proton rocket stands 184 feet tall, and at launch will weigh 1,523,000 pounds fueled.

Powered by a core booster hosting six RD-276 engines, the first stage burn will last two minutes as the rocket speeds eastward out over Kazakhstan.

The second stage then takes over as the Proton heads out over northern Mongolia.

The spacecraft's protective fairing will peel away from the upper stage nearly six minutes into flight exposing the satellite to the first traces of space flight.

Following a four minute burn by the third stage's RD-0213 engine, the Breeze-M upper stage will then take over with a series of four burns to carry the spacecraft into a transfer orbit.

The final burn is scheduled for eight and one-half minutes into the flight and will last for twelve minutes.

The Breeze stage uses one main engine which is gimbaled during it's burns to carry it to a geostationary orbit 22,220 miles above the equator.

Spacecraft separation from the Breeze-M will occur at 4:17 pm EDT, over the waters of the Indian Ocean just west of Somalia.

An SES-3 spacecraft is scheduled for launch in February 2011.

The Proton was moved out to it's launch pad on the morning of April 20th by way of railway.

Also of note, SES has a spacecraft known as the Astra 3B down in Kourou, South America ready for launch in May. It's launch has been delayed a month due to an issue with the Ariane 5 rocket and it's launcher subsystems in early-April.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Air Force's Space Plane Orbits Earth

An Atlas rocket placed a winged spacecraft into orbit for the Air Force tonight which will test new technologies and could pave the way for a smaller military space shuttle.

The delta winged X37-B space plane is a test vehicle and will orbit earth for an unknown time -- likely several days to several weeks.

"If these technologies on the vehicle prove to be as good as we estimate, it will make our access to space more responsive, perhaps cheaper, and push us in the vector toward being able to react to war fighter needs more quickly," stated Mr. Gary Payton, Air Force Deputy Under Secretary for Space Programs.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5-501 with the Orbital Test Vehicle lifted-off from Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station this evening at 7:52:01 pm EDT (23:52 GMT).

The on time launch sent the white and bronze rocket into a beautiful sunsetting sky.

The single engine booster carried the 11,000 pound space plane up and out over the Atlantic Ocean. Following a several minute burn, the stage was cut loose and it's Centaur upper stage rocket began burning to carry the craft higher.

The final data point this reporter received from telemetry was at 8:08 pm, when the X37-B was 231 miles altitude and 245 miles down range from the Cape. It was then several hundred miles from orbital velocity (17,250 mph).

Twenty minutes after launch, the Air Force's new toy in space went into a protective news blackout for the remainder of the mission.

"As the first U.S. unmanned reentering space vehicle, the first of its kind, it has been remarkably easy to work with," stated Lt. Col. Erik Bowman of the 45th Launch Support Squadron. "Processing and preparations went extremely smooth, and there were absolutely no delays in the vehicle processing."

Over the course of several days to several weeks, the X37-B space plane will under go several tests as it flies unmanned some 350 miles or higher in earth orbit.

According to an Air Force statement following launch, "The X-37B will conduct various experiments and allow satellite sensors, subsystems, components and associated technology to be efficiently transported to and from the space environment where it will need to function. A number of new technologies will also be tested on the OTV itself."

Once the Air Force sends commands to send the reusable space plane home, it will reenter just like the space shuttle with a nose pitched up and wings level.

It will glide home under no human control, and will aim for a touchdown on runway 12 at Vandenberg, AFB in California.

The Air Force stated to this reported recently that the ground will be helpless as the X37-B drops towards California. There is no one guiding it home from a command center as landing occurs.

An exact landing date or time may not be known until minutes before the actual touchdown occurs.

Final Flight: Shuttle Atlantis Moved to Launch Pad

Under the darkness of the Kennedy Space Center, the space shuttle Atlantis was moved out to her ocean side launch pad today in preparation for her final flight.

First motion of Atlantis' mobile launcher platform crawler was set at 11:31 pm EDT, on Wednesday night.

Moving at just under 1 mph, the nearly four mile journey out to launch pad 39-A took just six hours and thirty-two minutes, arriving at 6:03 am today.

Atlantis' journey to her launch pad was twice delayed due to thunderstorms and concerns for lightning in the area. A planned sunrise roll out on Wednesday was scrapped due to the crawler way being too wet, as one technician accessed.

Atlantis' crew of six arrived here at America's Spaceport on Tuesday to perform launch pad emergency drills, and perform a practice countdown on Friday.

The traditional dry-count will see commander Kenneth Ham, pilot Tony Antonelli, and mission specialists Michael Good, Garrett Reisman, Piers Sellers and Steve Bowen climb aboard the orbiter for a simulated engine cut-off.

Atlantis will lift-off on a 12 day mission to the International Space Station, with Russia's Mini-Research Module tucked in her payload bay.

This flight will also mark the thirty-second and final space flight by Atlantis.

Launch of NASA's 132nd space shuttle flight is tentatively scheduled for May 14 at 2:19 pm.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Air Force Space Plane set to Launch Thursday

Air Force's X37-B primed for launch this week. (USAF)

A prototype of an advanced space plane by the U.S. Air Force will make it's debut on Thursday as it heads into space a top an Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral.

The 29-foot long, 11,000-pound Orbital Test Vehicle (X37-B) is a white winged craft with a similar style as the U.S. space shuttle.

"The OTV has the potential to revolutionize how the Air Force operates in space by making space operations more aircraft like and adding in the capability for returnable plug-and-play experiments," David Hamilton, Director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities office stated last week.

In 1999, NASA begun the X37 project, however the space agency handed it over to DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Pr
ojects Agency) in September 2004. DARPA is headquartered in Arlington, Virginia.

DARPA, originally formed in 1958 as the Advanced Research Projects Agency, is an office designed to prevent technological surprises against the United States, such as the Soviets launch of Sputnik in 1957.

The OTV project partnership between the military, DARPA and NASA was announced in October 2006.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5-501 remains set to lift-off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's launch complex 41 on April 22nd at 7:52 pm EDT (2352 GMT). The launch window closes at 8:01 pm.

This reporter has learned from a source that the Boeing-built X-37B will launch into a low earth orbit of about 350 miles high, and stay up for over 100 days. The craft has the ability to stay aloft for 270 days, the Air Force stated to this reporter.

During the classified year ahead, the robotic spacecraft will be maneuvered around and will test it's "advanced guidance, navigation and control, thermal protection systems, avionics and high temperature structures and seals", Staff Sgt. Vanessa Young reported.

The orbital vehicle will be powered via
Gallium Arsenide Solar Cells with lithium-Ion batteries.

Once the Air Force brings the reusable space plane home, it will reenter just like the space shuttle and will aim for a touchdown on runway 12 at Vandenberg, AFB.

The belly of the vehicle is protected with a black thermal protection system designed by NASA. The X37-B has a wing span of 14 feet, 11 inches from tip to tip.

Lt. Col. Troy Giese, the OTV systems program director said, "Upon being given the command to return to Earth, the X-37B will automatically descend through the atmosphere and land on the designated runway. There is no one on the ground with a joystick flying it."

If weather or technical issues arise on landing day, then Edwards, AFB will be called up with it's longer runway.

The question on the minds of most in both military and civilian uniforms are asking if this is a one time event, or the start of a second generation space shuttle.

The military was to have taken over shuttle Discovery in 1986 for DoD flights from Vandenberg. However fuel contamination issues and the Challenger break-up forced the cancellation of a military launch pad in California.

Following a successful flight, the next OTV flight is slated for mid-2011.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

VIDEO: Discovery's Sunrise Landing in Florida

Discovery returns home to the Kennedy Space Center today after traveling over 6 million miles during 15 days in space.

Discovery Lands Upon America's Space Coast

Discovery nears Kennedy Space Center today. (NASA)

The space shuttle Discovery left earth orbit this morning and glided home across America's heartland with a sunrise landing upon America's Space Coast.

Discovery returned home following fifteen full days in space which saw the orbiter docked to the International Space Station on a ten day resupply mission.

As NASA's oldest active space shuttle returned to Florida, she and her crew of seven crossed over the United States beginning over Northern Idaho; over Helena, Montana; southeastward to Little Rock; down to Montgomery and into northern Florida.

Discovery's main gear touched down upon runway 33 at the Kennedy Space Center at 9:08:35 am EDT, at a speed of 206 mph.

Commander Alan Poindexter then lowered the nose of the orbiter down allowing it to hit the runway twelve seconds later. Pilot James Dutton deployed the drag chute just prior to the nose touchdown to slow the orbiter as Discovery rolled to a stop after traveling 6,232,235 miles since her launch.

Wheels stop occurred at 8:09:33 am giving NASA's 131st space shuttle mission a flight duration of 15 days, 2 hours, 48 minutes and 8 seconds, according to Mission Control.

"It was a great mission," Poindexter radioed to Mission Control just after wheels stopped. "We're glad that the International Space Station is stocked up again."

It was the 74th landing by a space shuttle at Kennedy, and was the 38th space flight of Discovery.

Discovery's crew includes Poindexter, Dutton and Mission Specialists Rick Mastracchio, Stephanie Wilson, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Japanese astronaut Naoko Yamazaki and Clayton Anderson.

"We had a lot of adversity but we overcame it all with some great team work. I've had two homecomings this flight. I got to go home to the International Space Station and now I get to come home to KSC," stated Anderson who lived aboard the space station for five months. "To all of you who helped get us up and bring us back, thank you so very much. God bless America."

As the spacecraft flew 223 miles above the northern coastline of Australia, Discovery fired her twin orbital manuvering engines for 2 minutes, 57 seconds at 8:02:55 am.

The burn slowed the ship down by 205 miles per hour, decreasing her orbital velocity to allow the craft to drop out of orbit.

At 8:26 am, both Poindexter and Dutton were surprised at one point as the the forward jets of the orbiter began firing to maneuver the ship for her entry interface minutes later.

Reentry of Discovery back into the earth's atmosphere began at 8:27 am as the orbiter flew 399,800 feet over the northern Pacific Ocean, flying at a speed of 16,900 mph.

At this point, Discovery was 2005 miles ahead of the space station.

The mission flew with several high points and a few low points.

Moments after reaching orbit, the crew experienced a glitch with the ship's high gain television antenna known as the KU-band. The mission had to be reworked since the crew were not able to use the antenna for television downlink or high data speed-related transmissions.

The crew also had to wait until after docking with the space station to downlink the thermal protection system survey which was performed on day two of the flight.

A nominal docking on day three of the mission lead to the start of the crew off loading 8,000 pounds of fresh supplies and new equipment from the Leonardo module to the orbital complex.

Astronaut Wilson used the station's robotic arm to reach into Discovery's bay and pluck out the cargo module and dock it to the station. It stayed docked to the Harmony module for eight days.

On the third and final spacewalk of the flight, an issue arose with the nitrogen valve on the newly installed ammonia tank assembly located on the starboard truss segment of the station.

The issue remains on going and space station controllers are continuing to look into what can be done to repair the valve on the cooling system of the station's avionics.

Discovery's next mission is scheduled for September on a flight which will likely shift from the final flight of a space shuttle to the second from final flight soon due to a payload issue with a summer shuttle flight.

Discovery Returning to the Kennedy Space Center

Mission Control radioed the space shuttle Discovery the words of 'go for the deorbit burn' this morning, signaling that Discovery's coming home today.

The inclement along America's Space Coast forced Mission Control to waive off the first of two landing opportunities this morning into the Florida spaceport.

Discovery is now set up for a return home following 15 days in space to the Kennedy Space Center's runway 33 at 9:08 am EDT.

At 8:02:55 am, Discovery fired her twin orbital manuvering system engines which slowed the ship down by 205 miles per hour. The speed decrease is enough to slow Discovery's orbital velocity and drop the craft out of orbit.

The burn lasted 2 minutes, 57 seconds as she flew 223 miles over the southern Pacific Ocean.

Ground track by Discovery for a KSC landing.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Low Clouds Delay Discovery's Landing to Tuesday

The space shuttle Discovery will not land today here at the Kennedy Space Center due to low clouds above the shuttle's runway.

Discovery will now aim for a new landing attempt into to Kennedy at 7:33 am EDT on Tuesday.

Astronaut Chris Furgeson flying in a Gulfstream II jet over the tunway, stated minutes before the landing scrub, "We never saw the runway" of Runway 15. "It's unpredictable."

Discovery's crew had suited up into their orange pressure suits and were ready to land following fourteen days in space.

Discovery Aims for 10:23 am KSC Landing

NASA has released the landing ground track for today's 10:23 am EDT landing attempt here at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

Mission Control waived off today's first landing attempt due to clouds and rain forecast within 30 nautical miles of the runway 15, located on the north end of Cape Canaveral.

If Discovery is given a go for landing, her DeOrbit burn would occur at 9:17 am, and lead to a landing on rev 123.

Follow us via Twitter (@spacelaunchnews) for complete real time updates.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Discovery's Crew Prepares for Monday Landing

The crew of the space shuttle Discovery spent today testing the ship's controls and steering jets in preparation for a Monday morning landing here at the Kennedy Space Center.

Current weather models for America's Space Coast show low clouds and a 50% chance of showers within 30 nautical miles of KSC runway 15 tomorrow morning.

NASA's mission managers are selecting only Kennedy for a landing attempt on Monday, and will stay aloft an extra day if the weather is not acceptable. A Tuesday attempt would see both Kennedy and Edwards, AFB in California called-up to support landing.

Currently, landing by Discovery following 14 days in space is scheduled for 8:48 am EDT.

The crew will awake on Monday at 12:21 am, and prepare for landing day. The first task of many will be the closure of the twin 60-foot long payload bay doors at 5 AM.

If controllers feel the weather acceptable for landing, Discovery will begin her drop out of orbit at 7:40 am, as the ship fires it's twin engines and slowing the craft downby 230 miles per hour.

Meanwhile, the seven member crew prepared their ship for it's return home.

Commander Alan Poindexter, pilot James Dutton and flight engineer Dorothy Metcalf-Lindeburger test fired 44 steering thrusters which surround the orbiter, and performed a hotfire of one of three auxiliary power units.

The APU's provide power to the aerosurfaces of the shuttle, as the crew tested the elevons and rudder at 3:35 am to ensure their not frozen on landing day as the ship glides home.

Mission specialist Stephanie Wilson earlier stowed the orbital boom sensor using the shuttle's fifty-foot robotic arm, then stowed the arm itself -- both along either side of the payload bay.

The OBS was used several times to inspect the crafts thermal protection system around Discovery for any damage or micrometeorite hits.

Discovery undocked from the International Space Station on Saturday following ten days of resupply transfers from the Leonardo cargo module which the shuttle carried up.

As of 8:00 am this morning, Discovery was 125 miles ahead of the station in a slightly lower orbit, with the shuttle's distance increasing nine miles per orbit. The lower orbit by a few miles allows for the two spacecraft to separate at a quicker rate.

This flight is the second to final mission by Discovery, with only three more space shuttle flights left until the program retires. Discovery's next flight is scheduled for mid-September.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Shuttle Discovery Undocks from Space Station

The shuttle Discovery wrapped up a ten day visit to her port-of-call this morning with a departure and ceremonial clang of the brass bell announcing that she has departed the International Space Station.

Discovery undocked from the complex at 8:52 am EDT, this morning with pilot James Dutton at the control stick on the aft flight deck slowly guided the ship out onto the vast ocean of space.

The station-shuttle complex were 217 miles high over New Guinea and crossing northeastward out over the western Pacific Ocean at the time of undocking.

By 9:08 am, the shuttle was 200-feet away from the complex.

The shuttle then moved to a distance of 410-feet from the station. Dutton then began a 360-degree fly around of the orbital complex so that astronauts could photograph the station for engineers on the ground.

The ship's crew also shot close-up photographs of the newly installed ammonia tank assembly located on the starboard one truss.

Discovery docked to the space station on April 7 and went to work docking a module full of supplies, equipment, a crew quarters and more; and performed three spacewalks to install the new ammonia tank.

However, the new tank is not operation due to a faulty nitrogen valve which helps flow the ammonia from the tank and through lines to help cool the station's avionics systems.

Mission control near Houston are still looking at options in either replacing the valve assembly or the entire tank all together.

One option discussed would have station astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson spacewalk out with another crew member and replace the valve in a few weeks. Mission managers have stated that adding the valve replacement task to the next shuttle flight STS-132 in May would not happen. That flight has a packed mission of spacewalks already without room in their time line to add the repair job.

The space station's Expedition 23 crew gave a brief farewell ceremony for their departing visitors who arrived at the complex with nearly 17,000 pounds of supplies in the Leonardo module and the ships middeck.

This flight also marked the final time in which a shuttle will be able to carry back to earth a huge amount of the station's trash, experiments, and old equipment -- all stored in Leonardo.

Discovery's hatch was closed at 6:30 am, and pressure sealed for undocking; meanwhile, the station's hatch was closed twenty minutes later.

This week will mark the first time in which two winged spacecraft will fly in space, as the Air Force's X37-V craft prepares for it's Wednesday launch from Cape Canaveral.

The shuttle is scheduled to return home to the Kennedy Space Center on Monday morning at 8:51 am, after spending two full weeks in space.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Leonardo Berthed inside Discovery's Bay

Thirteen humans living and working in space. (NASA)

A cargo module which resupplied earth's outpost in space for eight days was returned back to it's home in shuttle Discovery's payload bay this morning.

The cargo module Leonardo was unberthed from the International Space Station late on Thursday, and after the crew stopped it's return for eight hours of sleep, they picked up operations and stored it in the payload bay of Discovery.

The Italian-built Leonardo was hard down in the aft section of Discovery's bay at 3:15 am EDT today.

"The payload is in the bay fully latch," Discovery astronaut Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger radioed her fellow crew mates in the station's Destiny Lab. "Good job ladies."

Mission specialist Stephanie Wilson with Japanese astronaut Naoko Yamazaki aiding her then slowly backed the robotic arm away from the module.

This came after Mission Control near Houston spent most of the crew's day on Thursday working an unmating issue between the module and the station's docking port.

Once the module departed the station at the end of the complex's robotic arm, it was moved into a low hover position over the shuttle's bay so that the crew could get to bed an hour later than planned.

This morning, Discovery's crew will exercise the craft's own robotic arm to perform one last survey of her thermal tiles and blankets. The crew and Mission Control engineers will be looking for any new micrometeorite debris hits or missed damage which could have occurred from launch day on April 5th.

Discovery's flight will mark the final time in which thirteen humans are in space at one time. The final three space shuttle flight's during the coming months will each carry a crew size of six.

Discovery's crew of seven and the station's crew of six are set to begin their eight-hour sleep period at about 4 PM today.

Discovery is scheduled to depart her port-of-call on Saturday morning at 8:52 am.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Leonardo Nears Undocking from Station after Delay

Flight controllers in Houston and astronauts aboard the International Space Station worked long and hard today to understand the cause of a latching issue which kept a cargo module from returning to the payload bay of shuttle Discovery.

The Leonardo cargo module was due to unberth from the space station this morning. However, "strange electronic readings" and a sheered screw forced NASA's Mission Control to delay the move via the station's robotic arm.

The area in question is in a region between the module and the station's Harmony module called the common berthing mechanism.

The CBM has four controller panel assemblies with 16 bolts total to help drive in the module for a hard dock and a tight seal to pressurize Leonardo.

The CPA #3 is a black and gray box which was found to have a sheered screw.

India's Space Program Suffers Setback Today

Today's GSLV-D3 launch screen grab via SpaceLaunch News.

India's upgraded GSLV rocket with a new cryogenic upper stage lifted-off today on a satellite delivery mission, only to begin tumbling when the upper stage's vernier engines did not light.

The GSLV-D3 (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle) rocket launched today from the Satish Dhawan Space Center, located on India's southeastern coastline, on time at 6:57 am EDT (10:57 GMT).

As the rocket lept upward it passed through cloudy skies as it began flying out over the eastern Indian Ocean.

The Indian Space Agency stated that the launch was normal through the end of the second stage engines burn as the rocket darted upward at a rate of 16,076 feet per second.

Applause broke out twice in the large control center.

It was then the turn of the inaugural flight of the cryogenic third stage engine coupled with several vernier engines on the GSLV.

At T+5 minutes, six seconds, the main engine of the upper stage ignited on time, but the two steering engines did not fire in sync with the engine. It lost control and went ballistic.

At T+ 8 minutes and 41 seconds, data stopped coming in, according to the space center's launch control.

A humbled K. Radhakrishnan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization announced moments later that "the control ability was lost as the two cryo engines would not have ignited. We saw the vehicle was tumbling and loosing control indicating the non-ignition" of the engines.

The upper stage with the payload attached stopped traveling upward and began to free fall back toward earth, landing in the Bay of Bengal minutes later.

The third stage engine uses liquid hydrogen at -445 degrees Fahrenheit as fuel and liquid oxygen at -400 degrees as oxidizer.

The major loss of this flight is with the new technologies GSAT-4 satellite carried in the nose section of the vehicle.

India's space program is striving toward human space flight and probes to the planets by 2025, and the launch director stated that today's failure will set the program back one year.

"We will put all efforts to ensure that the next flight with the indigenous cryogenic engine takes place within a year," Radhakrishnan told the launch team from the control center.

GSAT-4 carried numerous payloads and was to have operated from a geostationary orbit located at 82 degrees East longitude.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Crews Hold Conference, Extra Spacewalk Discussed

The thirteen earthlings living and working in space aboard the International Space Station held a formal news conference this morning as Mission Control worked details regarding a possible fourth spacewalk on Sunday morning.

The space station's six crew members and space shuttle Discovery's seven astronauts gathered together in the Japanese Kibo module at 7:25 am EDT, answering questions from journalists in America, Russia and Japan.

Wearing dark navy blue shirts, station commander Oleg Kotov, Alexander Skvortsov and Mikhail Kornienko of Russia, Timothy J. Creamer and Tracy Caldwell Dyson of America, Soichi Noguchi of Japan make up the current Expedition 23 crew.

Discovery's crew includes commander Alan Poindexter, pilot James Dutton Jr., and mission specialists Rick Mastricchio, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson Naoko Yamazaki and Clayton Anderson.

Discovery is currently scheduled to undock from station at 8:52 am on Saturday morning, followed by a Florida landing at the Kennedy Space Center on Monday morning at just before 9AM.

However, shuttle mission managers are seriously accessing what NASA says is a
"stuck valve in a nitrogen tank assembly that’s needed to pressurize a new ammonia tank" assembly on the Starboard 1 truss segment aboard station.

The tank was installed over several days by spacewalkers Anderson and Mastricchio, and is needed to help keep station avionic systems cool and help support a crew of six.

A team was activated earlier today which include EVA (spacewalk team), the flight director, the crew office and robotics and are off working a spacewalk plan to repair the valve on mission day thirteen at midnight Sunday morning.

"A “tiger team” is working to develop plans for a spacewalk that could be performed during Discovery's mission to replace the entire nitrogen tank assembly," Mission Control stated this afternoon. "A spare tank assembly is stored on the station’s truss structure."

A critical decision will be announced by late Thursday if Discovery's flight will perform the spacewalk, or allow station crew members to make the necessary repair next week.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Shuttle Atlantis Prepared for Her Final Flight

Atlantis is prepared for her Final Flight Today. (KSC/NASA)

The space shuttle Atlantis began her first steps toward her final scheduled space flight this morning as she was rolled from her hanger to the massive Vehicle Assembly Building here at the Kennedy Space Center.

Inside the VAB, Atlantis will be mated to her huge rust-colored External Fuel tank atop a mobile launcher platform in preparation for launch in mid-May.

Atlantis is scheduled to spend this week under going electrical and pipe fit connections between three attachment points on her belly and to fuel lines from the fuel tank. Attached to either side of the tank are a pair of solid rocket boosters.

Rollout from the VAB out to launch pad 39-A is slated for midnight on Tuesday morning.

Launch of Atlantis on her final space flight and STS-132, is planned for May 14th on a twelve day mission to the International Space Station.

Atlantis' final assembly was completed in April 1984, and underwent electrical testing for the next several months at the Rockwell plant in Palmdale, California.

It was exactly twenty-five years ago this week in which Atlantis (OV-104) arrived at KSC from being built in Palmdale to prepare for her first flight, STS-51J, later that Autumn of 1985.

Final Spacewalk of Discovery Mission Concludes

Shuttle Discovery astronauts performed the third and final spacewalk of their ten day visit to the International Space Station today.

Spacewalkers Rick Mastracchio and Clay Anderson began their venture outside the station at 2:14 am EDT, this morning as the pair switched their suit to internal power. Minutes later, they left the Quest airlock to begin a busy next six hours.

Today's spacewalk marked the final spacewalk ever to take place aboard Discovery, on this the second from last flight by the grand ol' ship.

The first chore of the orbital walk saw Mastracchio connect two nitrogen pressurization umbilicals and two ammonia transfer lines between the newly installed ammonia tank and the space station.

The pair exchanged an empty ammonia tank on Sunday with a new 1,700 pound tank which was brought up aboard Discovery last week.

Meanwhile, Anderson began retrieving the dual debris shields from their storage since last November to the airlock for their return home aboard Discovery in one week.

The two silver rectangular shields will be stowed later today in the Leonardo module.

"Wow, what a view," Anderson noted at late in the spacewalk at 8AM today as the orbital complex flew 213 miles off the coast of Mauritania, Africa. "The earth is a beautiful place," he added.

Over two hours into the sixth spacewalk for the orbital duo, the pair worked to stow the old ammonia tank into the aft section of Discovery's payload bay.

Using the space station's robotic arm, mission specialist Stephanie Wilson used the arm to lower the tank into position so that Anderson and Mastracchio could lower it into place and use four bolts to lock it down.

However, as is the trend in recent spacewalks over the past year, drama unfolded as Mastrscchio began having trouble with the alignment and boltdown of the spent tank.

Meanwhile, as the astronauts worked the torque wrench to get the bolts to turn the needed 16 times, controllers in Mission Control near Houston began having issues in the activation of the newly connected ammonia tank located on the Starboard Truss one.

An issue with a nitrogen valve is the likely issue as the ground continued to work the problem late into this morning.

Forty-five minutes of wrestling with the alignment of the tank's support bracket paid off and the bolts began turning and sinking into place.

The bolt wrenching delay forced NASA to delete the task of retrieving a European Space Agency experiment located outside of the Columbus module for it's return to earth.

"It's been awesome working with you guys, and Stephanie working robotics...", spacewalk coordinator Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger told her crew from inside the station's Destiny laboratory as the spacewalk concluded.

Today's spacewalk concluded at 8:38 am, following six hours and 24 minutes of work outside in the harsh vacuum of space.

In total, Discovery's three spacewalks added up to 20 hours and 16 minutes; It was the 143rd spacewalk in support of space station construction and maintenance; and the 236th 'walk in the American space program's history.

In all, astronauts and cosmonauts have spent 893 hours and 33 minutes outside of the space station performing tasks and upgrades to build and resupply earth's outpost in space.

Monday, April 12, 2010

India to Launch Scientific Satellite Thursday

GSAT-4 Stands Between it's Payload Fairing. (ISRO)

The Indian Space Agency are in the final stages of a rocket launch on a satellite delivery mission which the nation hopes will yield new technologies for their young space program.

India also hopes the satellite will help bridge isolated territories together.

The GSLV-D3 (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle) rocket is scheduled for lift-off on Thursday from the Satish Dhawan Space Center, located on India's southeastern coastline.

The 164-foot white rocket is a three stage performance vehicle with four liquid strap-on boosters. It's core first stage uses solid propellant, while the upper two stages use liquid fuel.

Lift-off thrust of the newly rated rocket will be 1.47 million pounds of thrust.

Seconds into its launch, the GSLV will head out over the Indian Ocean with it's 2 tonne payload.

The GSLV's payload will be the GSAT-4 scientific satellite and test bed for future technologies for the country of India.

GSAT will carry numerous payloads as it operates from a geostationary orbit located at 82 degrees East longitude.

The satellite will use the powerful Ka-band antenna which will operate at 30 Ghz up and 20 Ghz downlink.

It also will operate it's GAGAN navigational aid payload for earth ships via it's C-band, L1 & L5-bands.

GAGAN, or GPS Aided Geo Augmented Navigation, is a GPS-based satellite overlay system which receives information via the C-band and relays corrected location data through it's L-bands for a more precise location.

Among the experiments aboard the eight-foot long satellite include the Thermal Control Coating Experiment which will study how certain materials breakdown in the harsh environment of space travel over several years.

The payload will also be a platform in space as it looks at how structures behave during thruster firings on orbit.

Known as the On-board Structural Dynamics Experiment, the experiment will allow ground controllers a look at an slight out of limits moves as the satellites gyro's operate as it's plasma
Indian space officials hope GSAT will operate for greater than seven years, as it joins a collection of eleven geosat's which remain operational.

GSAT-4 will become the 19th Indian satellite built by the Indian Space Research Organisation.

The country's space agency announced recently that it hopes to launch humans into space and to set off to the planets with their own probes before 2025.

VIDEO: Yuri's Night 2010 Toast

Charles Atkeison & fellow Space Tweep Society members toast in Yuri's Night 2010 from Cape Canaveral, FL. Today marks the 49th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's first ever space flight by a human.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Astronauts Successfully Install Station Cooling Tank

The old ammonia tank hangs near the spacewalkers today. (NASA)

Shuttle Discovery astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Clay Anderson fought hard to tighten down hold down bolts on a new cooling tank aboard the International Space Station this morning.

Working at the Starboard Truss segment 1, the station's robotic arm slowly moved a new ammonia tank over to the waiting astronauts so that they could bolt it down in place.

As Anderson began installing four bolts at 5:05 am EDT, however two would simply would not align up so that he could torque them down.

The space walkers tried different approaches as they struggled to tighten bolt number one. Frustration began to takeover on the space walkers an hour after first trying to get the tank bolted down.

Inside the space station,
Discovery crew mate and coordinator of today's 142nd orbital walk to service the station, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, gave the crew advice and procedures to assist the pair.

Anderson even went back back to the airlock to retrieve a few extra tools.

Ninety minutes after starting the task, Anderson belted a "come on baby" as he successfully tightened down one and then two of the bolts.

The 1700-pound ammonia tank began to take root on the space station.

Anderson and Mastracchio then plugged in the tanks two electrical connections.

However, the longer than planned bolt down forced NASA to scrub connecting the fluid and nitrogen umbilical during this second of three planned orbital walks by the pair.

That task along with one other planned for today will be added to the final Extra Vehicular Activity or spacewalk planned for Tuesday morning.

As the EVA wrapped up,
Metcalf-Lindenburger gave the space walkers praise for the hard work today, "You guy did a great job -- it was a long, long day. You did a great job".

Today's spacewalk concluded at 8:56 am EDT, as the astronauts began to repressurize the American Quest airlock following a seven hour and 26 minute longer than planned excursion.

Twelve minutes later, the hatches leading into the space station were opened, and the spacewalkers were safely inside as they began to doff their white suits.

Today's spacewalk was the fifth by both
Anderson and Mastracchio, who now each total just over 32 hours outside a speeding spacecraft. The pair have spent nearly 14 hours working in the vacuum of space during the flight of Discovery.

Discovery Astronuts Spacewalk to Install Cooling System

Astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Clay Anderson went outside their home in space this morning to install a new cooling system and to perform several house keeping chores 220 miles above earth.

This second of three planned spacewalks began 45 minutes earlier than planned. It is expected to last 6 1/2-hours.

The second spacewalk of shuttle Discovery's ten day's of docked operations at the International Space Station began today at 1:30 am EDT, as the complex flew 219 miles above Australia and toward.

Six minutes later, the orbital duo left the American Quest airlock to begin the installation of a new ammonia tank assembly on the starboard truss segment. This is the 142nd spacewalk to assemble and maintain the station.

Thirty minutes into the EVA -- NASA-speak for spacewalk -- Anderson disconnected several electrical lines between the station the the old ammonia tank.

Mastracchio then began loosening the four bolts -- counter clockwise sixteen turns each -- which are holding the aging tank in place.

The old ammonia tank, which weighs 1295 pounds here on earth, will be exchanged with a new tank which weighs 1700 pounds.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Yuri's Night Celebrations Around Earth

Forty-seven cities around the globe held multiple parties this evening in celebration of the first human space flight forty-nine years ago.

Known as Yuri's Night, thousands of average citizens up to astronauts themselves attended parties with live bands, food, and in some places aerospace artifacts and rides in celebration of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's launch into the vast unknown on April 12, 1961.

In America, the parties also celebrated the first space shuttle launch, STS-1, which flew twenty years to the day of Gagarin's flight.

The pilot of the first space shuttle flight, Robert Crippen, discussed recently what Yuri's Night meant to him, "It should be a celebration of what humans are capable of; and it should be a celebration of, we need to learn to work together better. I hope it's a great celebration for everyone."

This year's celebration marks the tenth anniversary of the first Yuri's Night, and has become the largest of them all.

Each celebration location gave their own traditional Yuri's Night toast.

Celebrations were held in such regions from the crew aboard the International Space Station 225 miles above earth; to the party held at the Astronaut Hall of Fame at Cape Canaveral; a registered party in southern Kenya; over to London and several around Europe.

People not attending parties were connected tonight by computer and their internet driven phone as they used Twitter to type toast's of their own. Several of the celebrations were web-cam aired on a few Internet sites as well.

At a party at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, over 500 people attended including two-time shuttle astronaut Roger Crouch who flew in 1997.

Bands and science fair exhibits were the draw at NASA's Ames Research Center in California. Even the Ames center director was dressed as a Star Trek character.

Station flight engineer T.J. Creamer recorded a message in honor of the occasion, "The first word's spoken in space were "I see the earth, it is beautiful. Yuri Gag spoke those words in Russian. But we're continuing that tradition in multiple languages. We hope that you have an out of this world time, also, on Yuri's Night".

Friday, April 09, 2010

Fiftieth Ariane 5 Launch Scrubbed Again

Ariane 5 prepares for launch on Thursday (Ariane)

The launch of Ariane 5 rocket with two satellites aboard was scrubbed just seconds prior to launch today due to a technical issue.

A new launch date for the fiftieth Ariane 5 flight will be announced in days, Arianespace officials announced.

The countdown was halted at the T-42 seconds point following an issue with the rocket's core engine fuel pressurization to flight level.

The countdown then held for nearly forty minutes as the launch team worked the issue at hand, but eventually scrubbed for the evening to drain the rocket and stand down for the weekend.

Ariane 5 to Carry Satellite Duo into Orbit Today

A European Space Agency Ariane launcher is poised to blast-off from South America on Friday to deliver two communications satellites as it marks a historic milestone.

The fiftieth Ariane 5 mission will carry ASTRA 3B & COMSATBw-2 satellites into space, one for the European region and a second for the German military.

Launch of the Ariane 5 on mission 550 is set for this evening at 5:59:07 pm EDT (6:59 pm local time) from launch complex 3 in Kourou, French Guiana in South America. There is a 49-minute launch window.

This flight will also mark the 194th flight of the Ariane family.

This will mark the second launch attempt for this mission following a technical issue on March 26th with a launcher subsystem hours prior to lift-off.

At launch, the core rocket's Vulcan 2 engine will come to life followed by the twin solid rocket boosters to propel the ASTRA 3B & COMSATBw-2 toward a high orbit.

The 165-foot tall and 1.71 million pound Ariane 5 rocket will head out over the southern Atlantic Ocean as it flies into an approaching night time terminator line and toward the western coast of Africa.

The twin boosters will command to separate 140 seconds into the ascent at an altitude of 43 miles high, followed by the release of the payload fairing a minute later as the vehicle climbs higher and travels faster above the atmosphere.

The ASTRA 3B will travel into space riding a top of the COMSATBw-2 inside the vertical payload fairing.Astra will be the first to leave the nest as it separates from the upper stage at 6:31 pm, followed by COMSATBw-2's release about six minutes later.

Astra 3B will operate in a geostationary orbit located at 23.5 degrees east, and will support audio and television broadcasts for 109 million homes across Europe via a collection of 52 active Ka-band transponders.

The satellite was built by Astrium, and is a product of the company's newly advanced Eurostar E3000 product line.

COMSATBw-2 is the second of a series of military defense satellites for the German Ministry of Defense.

From it's location at 63 degrees east above the equator, COMSATBw will cover and track other military movements from North America over toward the Middle East region, and is designed to operate through 2025. It will also provide secure military communications of it's regional military.

The German satellite will be the 34th military payload launched by an Ariane rocket, according to Arianespace.This Ariane flight will be the first of seven planned for 2010.

The next Ariane 5 is scheduled for around April 30 with one comsat and one weather satellite.

Discovery Astronauts Perform Spacewalk

Two of shuttle Discovery's astronauts took an orbital walk today to prepare for a cooling system replacement and upgrade a navigation aid aboard earth's orbital outpost in space.

Rick Mastracchio and Clay Anderson began the first of three planned spacewalks this morning at 1:31 am EDT, as the pair placed their suits on internal power and opened the zipper hatch cover on the airlock on the International Space Station.
It was the start of the 141st spacewalk devoted to the construction of the space station.

First on the agenda had the spacewalkers translate over to the shuttle's payload bay and over to an ammonia tank located on the back wall of the bay.

The new ammonia tank was unbolted at 3:38 am, and Anderson then lifted the huge white box up to allow for the station's robotic arm to grapple it ten minutes later and slowly carry it over to station.
There are several ammonia tanks located on the outpost, and they provide cooling to the avionics and electronic systems.

As the Canadian-built robotic arm moved the ammonia tank over to a storage platform on the space station, Mastracchio and Anderson translated over to the Japanese Kibo module to retrieve a science experiment for it's return home to earth in one week.
A navigation aid known as the Rate Gyro Assembly was next on the crew's wrist-cuff checklist.
Mastracchio, performing his fourth spacewalk, unbolted the old gyro assembly and after a slight delay to free it, removed it at just before 6AM to allow for the new one to be installed on the starboard one truss.
Minutes after the installation of the new gyro, it was started by ground controllers and passed several aliveness tests.
The spacewalkers closed out a successful six hour, 28 minute spacewalk at 7:58 am, following the space duo's return to the airlock and suits placed on external power.
Today's orbital walk in space was Anderson's fourth, and he has now totaled 24 hours and 38 minutes of spacewalking time. Mastracchio has a combined spacewalking time which is two minutes more than his crew mate.
The combined orbital construction time outside the space station during the 141 'walks is now nearly 880 hours.
Anderson and Mastracchio will return out into the open vacuum of space on Sunday morning, and will replace the old ammonia tank with the new one.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

European Ice Mission Launches

A European Space Agency satellite was launched aboard a Russian rocket today from an old Cold War Silo in Kazakhstan.

A RS-20 Dnepr rocket departed it's missile silo with the CryoSat 2 spacecraft at 9:57 am EDT (1357 GMT) today, beginning a three year mission.

The SS-18 ICBM was pushed out of the silo and then light it's core engine to send it off in a southerly direction.

The main stage burned it's liquid propellant for nearly two minutes as the rocket aimed toward the south pole.

CryoSat will orbit the polar regions of the earth studying the ice regions and thickness of the caps for any signs of warming affects.

Scientists working on the CryoSat project mentioned today, "We know the extent of Arctic sea ice is diminishing. Now we need to know if it is also getting thinner."

Leonardo Cargo Module moved from Discovery

A bus sized cargo module brought up to the International Space Station aboard Discovery will be moved and docked to the orbital complex.

The Italian-built Leonardo cargo module was moved from the shuttle's payload bay beginning at 11PM EDT on Wednesday, and over to the station's Harmony module's earth facing port.

The Multi Purpose Logistics Module or MPLM is loaded with over 17,000 pounds of hardware and supplies which will be transfered from it's docked postion and over to different areas of the station during the next eight days.

Using dual robotic arms aboard both the shuttle and station, Discovery astronauts Stephanie Wilson and Naoko Yamazaki slowly manuvered the module over and docked it into place at 12:24 am this morning as the complex flew high over the south Pacific Ocean near New Zealand.

The duel crews plan to open the hatch into Leonardo at 8AM today.

The module is carrying the final crew quarters for the space station, four science experiment racks, fresh oxygen and fuel.

The four racks include the Minus 80-degree Freezer for ISS (MELFI-3); EXpedite the PRocessing of Experiments to Space Station (EXPRESS); Window Observational Research Facility (WORF); Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES).

As the module was beginning it's movement, two of Discovery's astronauts were preparing their space suits for Friday morning's first spacewalk of the STS-131 mission.

The thirteen crew members include station commander Oleg Kotov, TJ Creamer, Soichi Noguchi, Tracy Caldwell Dyson, Alexander Skvortsov and Mikhail Kornienko which make up the current Expedition 23 crew; and shuttle commander Alan Poindexter, pilot James Dutton and mission specialists Rick Mastracchio, Wilson, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenberger, Clayton Anderson, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Yamazaki create the record-tying single ship space population.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Shuttle Discovery Docks with Space Station

Thirteen people are living and working aboard the International Space Station today.

The space shuttle Discovery arrived at earth's orbital complex in space this morning as her crew begins nine days of docked operations to resupply and perform three spacewalks.

Due to the loss of the ship's high gain antenna known as the Ku-Band, commander Alan Poindexter guided Discovery in a slow approach up to the Harmony node section of the space station with the payload bay in the direction of travel.

Docking occurred on time at 3:44 am EDT today, as the two crafts sailed 225 miles high above the Caribbean Sea near Venezuela, as Discovery made her 31st orbit of the earth since her Monday launch.

Prior to docking, Poindexter performed a 360-degree backflip so that the station's crew could photograph the underside belly of the shuttle. These photographs, taken with 400-mm and 800-mm cameras were then sent to the ground so that engineers could access any tile damage which could have occurred since launch.

After a series of leak checks between the two ship's docking ports, the hatches were opened at 5:11 am and Discovery's crew of seven began floating aboard the space station.

Poindexter lead his pilot James Dutton and mission specialists Rick Mastracchio, Stephanie Wilson, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenberger, Clayton Anderson, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Naoko Yamazaki arrived inside the Destiny module.

A welcoming ceremony followed by a safety briefing were received by Discovery's crew as they began to customize themselves to working aboard the orbital complex.

Discovery's crew will spend their nine days at the space station delivering huge science racks filled with experiments; performing three spacewalks to retrieve a few experiments on the outside of station; install a huge ammonia tank box to assist with cooling a section of the outpost; and deliver fresh food water and supplies to the crew of six.

Once the crew arrived aboard station, it marked a series of firsts in space: Discovery's three women and station's Tracey Caldwell Dyson together mark the first time four women have been together aboard a single spacecraft.

It also mark the first time two Japanese astronauts have flown in space at one time as Yamazaki joined station's flight engineer Soichi Noguchi.

The space station's Expedition 23 crew compliment became six last Sunday with the arrival of Caldwell Dyson and two Russian Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Mikhail Kornienko. They joined existing crew members station commander Oleg Kotov, T.J. Creamer and Noguchi who began their six-month stay aboard on Dec. 22.
copyright 1998 - 2010 Charles Atkeison, All rights reserved.