Monday, March 29, 2010

The American Weather Satellite marks Golden Anniversary

America's first weather satellite soared into space and recorded the historic first images of planet earth fifty years ago this week.

On April 1, 1960, a Thor-Able rocket leapt from a deserted launch pad 17-A at 6:40 am EST, and into the history books from Cape Canaveral with the country's first weather eye on the sky.

The rocket climbed high at a fast rate as it carried the 270 pound cylindrical payload into earth orbit.

The Television Infrared Observation Satellite (TIROS-1) arrived into a 450 mile-high orbit hours later, and by that evening was powered up and transmitting the first images of our home planet from space.

TIROS-1 was a first of it's kind as it carried two television cameras to return nearly 23,000 grainy black and white images of cloud formations. However, it was these ghostly images which gave scientists their first visual views of how weather systems moved across the globe as they received several images at a time from it's on board recorder.

TIROS was a true test-bed for future observation satellites. It carried one wide angle and one telephoto lens to capture different views of the changing weather patterns. NOAA states that the wide angle could capture a 750-mile field of the planet.

The images were then received at two locations, Hawaii and New Jersey, and were known as Command and Data Acquisition stations.

Over the two stations, engineers would snap several images and down link the recorded images stored on a 400-foot reel of tape. Once received, the images were then placed on 35-mm film and distributed to the U.S. weather bureau near Wahington, DC.

Engineers had hoped that the drum shaped satellite would last four months, and were riding a spirit of mixed feelings when it stopped operating due to an electrical failure on June 15 after only 78 days of service.

The spacecraft had several tiny thrusters which helped maintain it's spin of around 12 rpm as it soared in low earth orbit. Without the thrusters, TRIOS' spin would be greater and the images returned to earth would have been very blurry.

The 88-foot tall white Thor DM18 Able-II rocket was made up of two stages, Thor and Able.

The Thor main stage's engine was fueled by a RP-1 and liquid oxygen mix, and burned for just shy of three minutes.

The Able second stage burned a single AJ-10 engine for nearly two minutes with a fuel mixture of nitric acid and Dimethylhydrazine.

The April 1st launch would be the last of the Thor-Able combination.

Sister satellite, TIROS-2, was later launched later that November and would last only eight weeks due to a failure.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Discovery Firmly Targeted for April 5 Launch

NASA's mission management team today firmly targeted a launch date for space shuttle Discovery -- Monday, April 5.

A day long meeting by NASA's top managers reviewed every issue brought to the table, from the Reaction Control System Helium Isolation Valve issue to protruding ceramic inserts which were found on the last shuttle flight.

In the end, every issue was cleared and at 4:50 pm EDT today, management elected to go fly on Easter Monday.

Launch time is planned for the middle of a ten-minute window, at 6:21:19 am EDT -- a half-hour prior to sunrise.

Managers meet with several leaders of the separate departs such as the orbiter, the external tank, the solid rocket boosters and space station to receive a detailed brief on any outstanding technical issues which needed to be addressed.

The one which has been in the forefront is the RCS helium regulators and the leak associated with a valve in the starboard Orbital Maneuvering System pod on Discovery.

Engineers discussed with management the recent testing performed, and stated that they still do not understand the RCS valve issue.

Managers after the meeting stated that Discovery could still fly with the valve in the open position, and that "We are ready to go fly".

Managers also looked at the reinforced carbon carbon blanket's which cover the nose cap and wing leading edges to ensure they are in positive shape.

NASA stated today from the meeting's location here at the Kennedy Space Center, "Thermograpy scans have been performed on shuttle Discovery's RCC and there are no concerns for STS-131."

Once on orbit, Discovery's crew of seven will steer their ship upon the ocean of space toward their port-of-call, the International Space Station.

At the helm of NASA's twenty-five year-old vessel will be
mission commander Alan Poindexter, the seven member crew (above) includes pilot James Dutton, Jr, and mission specialists Rick Mastracchio, Japanese astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, Stephanie Wilson, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger and Clayton Anderson.

Upcoming next week, the crew will arrive at Kennedy on Thursday morning at about 7AM to prepare for launch a few days later. And, the launch countdown is set to pick-up on Friday morning.

SCRUB! Tonight's Ariane 5 Launch Delayed

(UPDATED 11:40 am ET) -- The launch of an Ariane 5 rocket has been delayed for several days after the discovery of an issue with the "launcher subsystem", according to the Ariane launch team.

A new launch date could be announced as early as tomorrow following the replacement and testing of the faulty equipment.

The launch likely to be delayed until no earlier than Tuesday afternoon. Stay tune for new details soon.

The 166-foot rocket will deploy two communications satellites about a half-hour in to the ascent -- the ASTRA 3B and COMSATBw-2

Tune in for LIVE televised coverage of the launch here at

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Historic Ariane 5 Mission Prepares for Launch

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 Friday evening at 6:03:07 pm EDT (7:03 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.

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 April 22 with one comsat and one weather satellite.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

VIDEO: Today's ILS Proton-M Launch

VIDEO: Launch of a Proton-M with EchoStar XIV

Russian Proton lofts DISH-TV Satellite into Space

The workhorse of the Russian launch vehicles lifted-off tonight to deliver an upgraded satellite which will expand high definition services for the DISH-TV consumer pay television service.

Launch of the heaviest Proton satellite delivery mission began today at 2:27 pm EDT (12:27 am local time) or 1827 GMT -- the first day of the Spring Equinox.

Tonight's midnight launch from the Baikonour Cosmodrome in western Kazakhstan occurred on time as it punched through a clear, starry sky, and began it's trajectory across the country with a 61.25 launch azimuth.

The 191-foot Proton carried the EchoStar 14 satellite into orbit for the DISH-TV network's over 14 million customers in the United States.

Following a series of five long burns by the upper stage, the spacecraft will separate from the Breeze-M upper stage at 11:37 pm tonight (0337 GMT) -- just over nine hours following launch as it flies high off the Somalia coast.

This was the 21st ILS Proton launch in the last twenty months; and only the 355th Proton flight since the very first launch occurred in July 1965.

The next ILS Proton-M launch from Baikonour is planned for April 24th when it carries aloft the SES-01 satellite.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Discovery's Payload Canister Arrives at Pad

The payload canister arrived at space shuttle Discovery's launch pad this morning as the calendar ticks down to a possible Easter Monday launch date.

The white, nearly 60 foot container which contains the entire cargo Discovery will carry to the International Space Station arrived early this morning, however NASA's Kennedy Space Center technicians told this reporter the payload will not be installed until after a critical meeting early next week.

Engineers are targeting March 24 to install the payload aboard Discovery.

One week ago, a possible leak was discovered in the starboard orbital maneuvering system pod tank on Discovery as the tanks in both OMS pods were being vented to prepare for the loading of fuel .

Over the last five days, technicians have begun leak checks and tests, and will perform one this weekend, to evaluate the condition of the leak.

"Engineers continue evaluating data from a pressurization test of Discovery's right reaction control system's helium system to verify the overall health of the regulators downstream of the helium isolation valves," KSC public affairs told me. "Preliminary data shows positive results for the tests."

Discovery is still targeted to lift-off on a major resupply mission to the space station on April 5.

In a worse case scenario, if there is a leak and NASA's Shuttle Management Team states they cannot fly as is, then Discovery will be returned back to the Vehicle Assembly Building for unmating to her tank.

Discovery would then be returned to her hanger for possibly two weeks of repairs, thus setting the space shuttle program back as much as two months due to the leak.

Discovery uses the OMS pod to maneuver in short bursts as the orbiter flies through space, and a leak could disable several thrusters.

A flight readiness review meeting is currently scheduled for next Friday morning at Kennedy to determine the readiness of everything associated with NASA's 131 space shuttle flight.

Once Discovery arrives on orbit, she and her crew spend two weeks in space, eight of those days docked to earth's orbital complex in space.

At the helm of Discovery will be commander Alan Poindexter. The STS-131 crew includes pilot James Dutton, Jr, and mission specialists Rick Mastracchio, Japanese astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, Stephanie Wilson, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger and Clayton Anderson.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Crew Departs Space Station Returns Home

The Soyuz capsule lands safely today in snowy Kazakhstan (NASA)

The recent American commander of the International Space Station and his Russian flight engineer departed the orbital complex this morning following a busy six-month stay.

The outgoing Expedition 22 commander Jeffery Williams and cosmonaut Max Suraev said their goodbyes to the three fellow residents of the new Expedition 23 crew, and climbed aboard their Soyuz TMA16 spacecraft to begin the return trip home.

Undocking by the Soyuz from the Poisk Mini-Research Module occurred at 4:03 am EDT this morning, as the orbital duo flew 220 miles above the Mongolian border near Russia.

Unlike the space shuttle, the Soyuz time in orbit following a station undocking is brief.

The Soyuz, piloted by Suraev, spent two orbits of the earth dropping their altitude prior to their four-minute deorbit burn which began at 6:33 am.

Meanwhile, aboard the space station, new station commander Oleg Kotev, and flight engineers Soichi Noguchi of Japan and astronaut Timothy J. Creamer watched the live video coverage of the landing via their laptop computer.

The next landing event saw the Soyuz equipment section separate from the crew module twenty-five minutes later. This manuver set the module up for it's firery atmospheric reentry.

That warmth inside the crew module was plesent as it began it's plunge at 7:02 am, unlike the cold which which would later greet the space duo minutes later.

The weather was cold as the sun began to set as the crew module sat down in the remote site of north central Kazakhstan, near the town of Arkalyk.

A temperature of 21 degrees F and winds out of the southwest at 15 mph created a real feel temp of 0 degrees F for the rescue ground personal.

A vast recovery group of twelve MI military helicopters, a fixed-wing aircraft, medical teams and both NASA and Russian Space Agency personal were on hand for the landing.

A series of parachutes began slowing the spacecraft down and just before landing, several thrusters on the bottom of the Soyuz performed a soft-landing firing.

Landing upon the snow covered wide open area of Kazakhstan occurred on time at 7:24 am (1124 GMT), just 202 minutes following their station undocking.

Touchdown site was located at 50.4 degree
s North by 67.2 degrees East, or 60 km northeast of Arkalyk.

Seconds after landing, the Soyuz was buffeted by the winds and was tipped over on it's side and drug about twenty-five feet through three feet of snow.

During the next twenty minutes, as snow flurries began to coat the craft, recovery teams opened up the hatch, and removed W
illiams and Suraev and took them to a medical tent.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Russian Proton-M set to launch DISH-TV satellite

A Russian rocket will launch a new satellite for the DISH-TV cable system on Saturday as the company expands it's North America broadcast services in high definition.

An International Launch Services Proton-M rocket is set to launch the EchoStar XIV spacecraft from pad 200 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 20 at 2:27 pm EDT (1827 GMT).

Lift-off weight of the fueled rocket will be 1.55 million pounds.

This latest EchoStar will operate above the equator at 119 degrees west, and hold a position there to provide nearly 14 million Dish-TV subscribers in the United States high def television programming.

The 191-foot tall Proton rocket began it's horizontal move out to launch pad 39 on Tuesday evening to begin a standard three days of prelaunch hooks ups and preparations.

The Proton's first stage is powered by six RD-276 engines, which when ignited, will burn for just shy of two minutes. The engines burn an oxidizer fuel as a center tank feeds the fuel to six external tanks which line the outside of the rocket.

As the second stage takes over powered flight seconds later, it's three RD-0210 engines will push it's payload higher and faster during the next three minutes and 27 seconds.

Once the third stage takes over, the protective cover cone around the satellite will spit down from the tip and peel away at T+ 5 minutes, 47 seconds into the ascent.
Stage three is powered for just over two minutes with just one RD-0213 main engine and a four nozzle vernier engine as the rocket continues it's eastward trajectory.

All engines are built by NPO Energomash
which is located in Khimky outside of Moscow.

A little less than ten minutes into the ascent profile, the third stage will separate from the Breeze-M (BRIZ-M) upper stage. Two minutes later, at 2:38:44 pm EDT, the Breeze will begin a five minute, 30 second burn -- the first in a series of five burns.

As the Breeze-M carries its payload over Mongolia and the northeastern region of China, it's initial low orbit of 107 miles will slowly be raised over the next few hours as it maneuvers toward a geostationary orbit of 22,250 miles.
The satellite's orbital inclination will be 26.7 degrees to the equator.

Following a series of five long burns by the upper stage, Dish-TV's newest satellite will separate from Breeze at 11:37 pm (0337 GMT) -- just over nine hours following launch as it flies high off the Somalia coast.

The EchoStar-14 (SS/L-1300 design) built by Space Systems/Loral, carries a mass of 14,034 pounds on-orbit, and is expected to be in service for nearly 15 years.

EchoStar carries 103 Ku-Band antennas for receiving and transmitting specific television cable networks for Dish-TV.

Saturday's launch will be the second Proton of the year, and the 58th ILS-launched Proton rocket.

Monday, March 15, 2010

NASA's MSFC recognizes SpaceLaunch News story

The public affairs office at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville linked my story, 50 Years of Rocketry to their web page on Facebook today, and gave this author a big thumbs-up with the words "great piece".

I am not one to promote myself, but this was a great personal honor and I thank the Marshall team for their support.

Rick Smith, Marshall's media writer, emailed this journalist with his thoughts on the piece, "Thanks for the great writing! Keep it up!".

You can read my story on the Alabama space center here.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Space Station Residents Prepare for Return to Earth

Williams floats in the scenic Cupola module. (NASA)

The crew aboard the International Space Station are preparing today to begin a crew rotation which will see the departure of two and the arrival of three new residents.

Expedition 22 station commander Jeffery Williams and Flight Engineer Maxim Suraev are finalizing the loading of their Russian Soyuz-TMA 16 spacecraft for the return trip home to earth following 175 days in space.

Soyuz undocking is planned for Thursday morning at 4:03 am EDT (0703 GMT). The two will then return upon the deserts central Asia later that morning at 7:24 am.

The duo launched on September 30th from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, and docked to station two days later.

Following the Soyuz undocking, three crew members will be left aboard to become the core for the new Expedition 23 crew, led by new commander Oleg Kotov. Flight Engineers Soichi Noguchi and NASA astronaut T.J. Creamer will round out the crew.

An official commander to commander handover is set for Wednesday morning at 7:45 am.

The trio will not be alone for long as new residents launch to earth's orbital outpost in April to begin their six month journey aboard station.

Alexander Skvortsov, Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Mikhail Kornienko are set to lift-off aboard their Soyuz TMA18 spacecraft from Baikonur on April 2 at 12:04 am EDT (0404 GMT).

The Soyuz is scheduled to dock on April 4 at 12:28 am (0428 GMT), with hatch opening three hours later.

Three days later, seven guests will show up as the space shuttle Discovery returns to begin eight days of docked operations to resupply the space station.

In addition to fresh food, water, oxygen and personal supplies, Discovery will add a new ammonia tank and supply racks aboard station.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Marshall Space Flight Center: 50 years of Rocketry

The author stands below space shuttle Pathfinder recently.

Springtime vacations in the southeastern United States are always a fun and exciting time for families.

Whether it's taking in some sun on the beach; visiting scenic attractions and national parks; or the NASA space centers spread across four states -- there is always something cool to do.

One great destination is the site where the first rocket engine tests were performed and the space shuttle began to take shape -- The Redstone Arsenal and the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center.

Located in beautiful Huntsville, this NASA space center sits in the foothills of the Appalachians, surrounded by the picturesque scenery of the north Alabama region.

Mark your calendar today and make a point to spend a few days in Huntsville as the center begins it's celebration of Marshall's fiftieth anniversary.

Officially dedicated in July 1960, MSFC began to grow following President Kennedy's challenge to land a man on the moon prior to 1970. The region was used by the Army in the early days of rocket construction and testing on the Redstone site.

The space center's first director, Wernher von Braun, is credited as the Father of NASA's first rockets. A German rocket scientist and engineer, von Braun and his team left wartime Europe for America to begin work on America's rocket plans in the mid-1940's.

Marshall is one of NASA's lead centers as it supports experiments, water recovery and data systems aboard the International Space Center; and also "developed and manages NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, which probes the mysteries of space with unprecedented X-ray images that help to reveal the structure and evolution of the universe", according to Marshall.

Apollo 16 module which orbited the Moon. (photos: C Atkeison)

Prior to the launch of the Skylab missions, Marshall developed the orbital workshop and the four Saturn launch vehicles which carried the space station in 1973 and the subsequent three Apollo crews to orbit during '73 and '74.

The center has also managed several parts which make up the space shuttle system: the external fuel tank; the orbiter's main engines and solid rocket boosters since the mid-1970's.

This aerospace reporter visited Marshall recently, and reflected back on the center's Golden Age as I spoke to several of it's employees as they face the shuttle program's conclusion later this year.

As one visits the center's grounds, one can easily find themselves taking several gigabytes of images and video of the region around them.

Located at the visitor's center is a space shuttle mock-up resting a top a full scale external fuel tank and a pair of solid rocket boosters attached on either side of the tank.

The exact scale space shuttle stack features the space shuttle Pathfinder, including a cluster of real main engines. Two of the three engines actually flew on the very first shuttle mission, STS-1, in 1981.

Constructed here at Marshall in 1977, the orbiter simulator (later named Pathfinder, above) was used as a test model to check a specific hoisting system later to be used by the space shuttle Enterprise.

During the summer of 1978, Pathfinder was used as a structural test article in dress rehearsals at the Kennedy Space Center to check clearances in the massive Vehicle Assembly Building, and at the Mate-Demate device at the shuttle runway.

In the 1980's, Pathfinder was given the honor of an orbiter vehicle number: OV-098. Shuttle Challenger was OV-099, Columbia was OV-102 and Discovery is OV-103, for example.

According to a Marshall document, the bright rust-colored external tank - known as MPTA098 - was also built in 1977 to help begin main engine cluster testing in Mississippi later that year.

The twin rocket boosters were built after 1987, however were never used in flight or in ground tests.

As one takes in the majestic Marshall skyline, a towering Saturn 5 scale mock-up stands vertically near the Davidson Center.

The 363-foot Apollo-era stack replica is the only one to stand erect. The Saturn 5 flight hardware at both Kennedy and the Johnson Space Center near Houston are showcased horizontal, and Marshall also has a third Saturn 5 which lays horizontal inside the Davidson Center, too.

To see this Saturn 5 standing up right as it did during the moon program of Apollo makes the sight truly unique.

The indoors Saturn 5 lies in an exploded configuration, exposing the second stage engines and that of the upper stage's single engine. All three NASA centers have an actual flight hardware vehicle which was to have been destined for the Nixon-canceled moon flights of Apollo's 18, 19 or 20.

Von Braun and his team were the chief architects of the Saturn 5.

Adjacent to the mighty Saturn rocket is it's predecessor, the Saturn 1B rocket. The smaller 1B is recognized by its checker board center collar and sits at the entrance to the Rocket Garden behind the visitor center's main building.

Other exhibits you can view feature the latest in military technology; actual space crafts which flew including Apollo 16; a rock climbing wall for children and adults; and Space Camp, which is held nearly all year long. Watch my 2010 movie of the sights at MSFC.

Children ages 9 and above can attend Space Camp for a day to up to a week, and can even bring an adult for some of the camps they support.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Senators introduce bill to close spaceflight gap

This just in from Seator Hutchinson's office:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today introduced legislation to close the gap in U.S. human space flight that will occur if the space shuttle is retired before the next generation of space vehicle is developed.

Senator Hutchison’s bill would allow the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to extend the shuttle’s service as work continues on the next generation of American space vehicle.

Companion legislation is expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives next week by Reps. Suzanne Kosmas (D-Florida) and Bill Posey (R-Florida).

“We must close the gap in U.S. human space flight or face the reality that we will be totally dependent on Russia for access to space until the next generation of space vehicle is developed,” said Senator Hutchison. “If the space shuttle program is terminated, Russia and China will be the only nations in the world with the capability to launch humans into space. This is unacceptable.”

Hutchison said the Obama Administration’s budget proposal was “short-sighted and represents the wrong direction for U.S. space policy.”

The Administration proposes to retire the shuttle as scheduled while discontinuing years of work on development of a new launch vehicle and provides no short term solution to deliver critical equipment and components to the International Space Station that are essential to extending the life of the station until 2020.

“Not only are we turning our backs on 40 years of American space superiority, we are giving up vital national security and economic interests to other nations. This must not be an ‘either or’ proposition where we are forced to choose between continuing to fly the shuttle to service the station and maintain our independence in reaching space, or investing in the next generation of space vehicle. We can and must do both. By maintaining our independence from other nations in reaching space, the U.S. can fully realize the research potential of the space station as a national lab,” Hutchison said.

The Human Space Flight Capability Assurance and Enhancement Act would:

- Make shuttle retirement dependent on the availability of replacement capabilities for comparable size crew and cargo delivery, whether government-owned or commercial, (assuming a rate of 2 missions a year), or until it is conclusively demonstrated that the space shuttle cargo capabilities are not needed to ensure space station viability;

- Require International Space Station (ISS) operations and full utilization through at least 2020, and further establish the ISS National Laboratory operating mechanisms and procedures;

- Provide for the acceleration of a government-owned human space flight capability to as close to 2015 as possible;

- Expand support for Commercial Orbital Space Transportation (COTS) to support ISS -- both for cargo and for eventual crew launch capability;

- Reaffirm long-term goal of moving beyond low-Earth orbit whether to the Moon, Mars or alternative destinations;

- Provide for the near-term evaluation of heavy-lift rocket launcher design options, including shuttle-derived options, to enable the expansion beyond low-earth orbit and accelerate the start of vehicle design activity; and

- Authorize top-level funding for all of NASA's mission activities, but would only address the human space flight policy issues.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Private rocket's engine test shutdown in abort

A privately funded rocket standing secured to a launch pad at Cape Canaveral incurred an engine abort on the pad as it began to test fire it's first stage engines.

Owned and operated by Space X, the Falcon 9 rocket's core stage engines were ignited and abruptly shutdown at T-5 seconds at 1:42 pm EST, from complex 40.

A brief flash of fire at the base of the rocket and little smoke was the only indication this reporter saw in real time due to the lack of information coming from Space X officials.

The team notified the Kennedy Space Center officials that a target time of 1:30 pm would be supported, however that time came and went without an ignition.

After weighing their options, the Space X launch team decided to scrub for the day and possibly try again on Wednesday.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Delta IV launches GOES-P weather satellite

A ULA Delta IV launches tonight with the GOES-P (KSC)

(Updated at 11:20 pm) -- A next generation weather satellite was carried into space today to begin a decade long mission to study both the weather in the America's and in the vacuum of space.

The GOES-P high resolution weather satellite arrived successfully in orbit following a beautiful night launch.

The satellite will begin to photograph and study the weather for North America, and have an eye trained back at the Sun as it understands the effects of solar activity here on earth.

GOES-P will also serve to help locate and track distress signals from boaters and aircraft. The signals will give the Coast Guard a more accurate location to quicken the emergency response time.

Lift-off of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket occurred following a 40 minute delay tonight at 6:57:00 pm EST (2357 GMT), from launch pad 37 here at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

As the countdown was in a normal planned hold at T-5 minutes, several alarms lite the launch team's consoles. Those alarms then forced a delay in restarting the count.

That delay then saw the upper level winds go red, meaning that the wind's speeds of nearly 160 mph were to fast to allow the Delta to fly through up at the Jet Stream.

Residents along Florida's Atlantic coastline were able to enjoy an early evening launch as the flames of two rocket boosters and a main core engine carried the rocket due east on a 95 degree launch azimuth.

The 4800-pound spacecraft measures nearly 27 feet in length -- from solar panel to solar panel -- as it operates in a geostationary orbit of 22,300 miles above.

The Boeing 601 GOES-P spacecraft was then released on it's own at 11:18:26 pm tonight, as it soared 17,813 nautical miles over southern Singapore.

Tonight, the NOAA Satellite and Information Service said, "We should have
the first image around April 1".

The next NOAA weather satellite will be the GOES-R, now planned for launch no earlier than 2015.

Delta IV fueled for Today's Sunset Launch

A Delta IV rocket stands ready to carry a high definition weather satellite into orbit tonight from America's Space Coast.

Lift-off remains targeted for 6:17 pm EST (2317 GMT) today from launch complex 37 here at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

(For a complete rundown on the flight click here.)

Fueling of the main stage tank has begun and technicians are looking for any leaks between the ground and the vehicle.

Launch Weather Officer Joel Tumbiolo of the 45th Weather Squadron here at Cape is forecasting a 95% chance of favorable weather at launch time.

Weather at the pad is clear skies and a temperature of 53 degrees F. This spacecraft will be an important addition to the GOES family of weather satellites.

GOES-P is the third of the current series of high resolution imaging satellites.
GOES-P will also investigate and alert weather stations here on earth of recent solar flares which create solar weather.

This weather satellite will become an on orbit spare for several months.

Discovery's crew fields questions at launch pad

The seven member crew of the next space shuttle flight stood before their spacecraft and answered questions from the media this morning here at the Kennedy Space Center.

The crew flew into America's space coast on Monday for a week of launch pad training and a practice launch countdown on Friday.

Discovery's mission commander Alan Poindexter discussed his feelings on his crew's training this week at Kennedy, "It's a great exercise... it allows us to interface with the flight hardware. It allows us to exercise all the things were going to do an emergency egress".

Know as the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test, every shuttle crew participates in a series of drills and familiarization of the launch pad region; drive an armored emergency escape vehicle; and will suit up in their launch suits and board Discovery early tomorrow morning.

"We are so impressed by what's around us. I am touched by the banner 'We're behind you Discovery' ... its a team work," Japanese astronaut Naoko Yamazaki of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Discovery is scheduled to launch just before sunrise on April 5.

Once on orbit, the shuttle will dock two days later with the International Space Station and begin eight days of servicing and resupplying the outpost.

Discovery's crew will return home to south Houston late on Friday, and have this weekend off.

The next three weeks will focus on several practice sims as the crew perfects their on orbit duties and timelines involved. Every mission is based on rigid timelines which the crew must maintain during their day in space.

The crew will return back to Kennedy on April 1st for launch on Easter Monday.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Space shuttle Discovery arrives atop Pad 39A

The space shuttle Discovery was moved from her assembly building this morning out to her ocean side launch pad in preparation for her Easter Monday launch with a crew of seven.

The official first motion time for the STS-131 stack as it departed the Vehicle Assembly Building was 11:58 pm EST, on Wednesday evening.

Riding a top the mobile launcher platform at just 1 mph, the six hour, 3.5 mile journey was very quick as the space shuttle traveled through the darkness of a Florida wildlife preserve.

The uneventful trip out to launch complex 39 and pad A occurred under overcast skies, gusty winds and chilly temperatures this morning.

Discovery is currently set to launch on Monday, April 5 at 6:21:17 am EDT, on a resupply mission to the International Space Station. Tucked inside the orbiter's payload bay is the Leonardo module loaded with several tons of supplies and experiments.

The crew will also conduct three spacewalks to retrieve a science experiment and perform maintenance work outside the station.

The flight crew is here at Cape Canaveral this week for launch pad training and a mock practice countdown. They were at the VAB to watch the rollout begin -- the orbiter's first steps toward getting to the space station.

At the helm of Discovery will be commander Alan Poindexter.
The STS-131 crew includes pilot James Dutton, Jr, and mission specialists Rick Mastracchio, Japanese astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, Stephanie Wilson, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger and Clayton Anderson.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Discovery's crew arrives on the Space Coast

The crew of the next space shuttle flight arrived upon America's Space Coast Monday to begin three days of launch pad drills and emergency practices prior to their Easter Monday launch.

Led by mission commander Alan Poindexter, the seven member crew (above) includes pilot James Dutton, Jr, and mission specialists Rick Mastracchio, Japanese astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, Stephanie Wilson, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger and Clayton Anderson.

Known as the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test, the seven astronauts will learn their way around launch pad 39-A this week, and even don their launch suits and climb aboard shuttle Discovery in a few days for a practice countdown.

Most flight crews arriving here at the Kennedy Space Center for TCDT perform a traditional fly by of their spacecraft as she sits passively on her launch site.

Today, Discovery remains inside her hanger awaiting to be rolled out to her ocean side launch pad just after midnight on Wednesday morning.

The nearly seven hour shuttle move will help set the stage for the crew's launch a day after Easter, April 5.

Late this morning, the crew will receive some hands on training as they ride and even drive the M113 personnel carrier near launch pad 39-A.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Russian Proton-M set for night launch today

Russia will launch a cluster of satellites into space in a few hours as it expands the navigational network and replaces several aging spacecraft.

A Proton-M rocket is to carry three GLONASS-M navigational satellites into orbit tonight at 4:19 pm EST (2119 GMT) or 00:20 Moscow time from launch pad 81 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

What America call the Global Positioning system or GPS, mulitple countries including Russia call their satellite constellation for navigation the Global Navigation Satellite System or GLONASS.

The first GLONASS satellites were launched in October 1982, and currently have 22 in orbit -- nineteen of which are operational.

Where the GPS orbits at an inclination of 55 degrees to the earth's equator, each of the GLONASS satellites orbit at an inclination of 64.8 degrees. The higher the number the larger the area of the eastern hemisphere is covered by the system. Each orbit is just over 11 hours long.

Each GLONASS spacecraft travels in a 11,893 mile high circular orbit. Each GPS satellite orbits

The GLONASS satellites provide realtime location data as well as the velocity of an object.

GLONASS Constellation Status as of today, March 1, 2010:

|GLONASS|Cosmos|Plane/|Frequ.| Launch | Intro | Status |
|number |number| slot |chann.| date | date |

| 730 | 2456 | 1/01 | 01 | 14.12.2009 | 30.01.2010 | operating |
| 728 | 2448 | 1/02 | -4 | 25.12.2008 | 20.01.2009 | operating |
| 727 | 2447 | 1/03 | 05 | 25.12.2008 | 17.01.2009 | operating |
| 733 | 2457 | 1/04 | 06 | 14.12.2009 | 24.01.2010 | operating |
| 734 | 2458 | 1/05 | 01 | 14.12.2009 | 10.01.2010 | operating |
| 712 | 2413 | 1/07 | 05 | 26.12.2004 | 22.12.2005 | operating |
| 729 | 2449 | 1/08 | 06 | 25.12.2008 | 12.02.2009 | operating |
| 722 | 2435 | 2/09 | -2 | 25.12.2007 | 25.01.2008 | operating |
| 717 | 2426 | 2/10 | -7 | 25.12.2006 | 03.04.2007 | operating |
| 723 | 2436 | 2/11 | 00 | 25.12.2007 | 22.01.2008 | operating |
| 721 | 2434 | 2/13 | -2 | 25.12.2007 | 08.02.2008 | operating |
| 715 | 2424 | 2/14 | -7 | 25.12.2006 | 03.04.2007 | unusable |
| 716 | 2425 | 2/15 | 00 | 25.12.2006 | 12.10.2007 | operating |
| 718 | 2431 | 3/17 | 04 | 26.10.2007 | 04.12.2007 | operating |
| 724 | 2442 | 3/18 | -3 | 25.09.2008 | 26.10.2008 | operating |
| 720 | 2433 | 3/19 | 03 | 26.10.2007 | 25.11.2007 | operating |
| 719 | 2432 | 3/20 | 02 | 26.10.2007 | 27.11.2007 | operating |
| 725 | 2443 | 3/21 | 04 | 25.09.2008 | 05.11.2008 | operating |
| 726 | 2444 | 3/22 | -3 | 25.09.2008 | 13.11.2008 | unusable |
| 714 | 2419 | 3/23 | 03 | 25.12.2005 | 31.08.2006 | operating |

Note: All the dates (DD.MM.YY) are given at Moscow Time (UTC+0300)
copyright 1998 - 2010 Charles Atkeison, All rights reserved.