Friday, October 29, 2010

NASA Technians Repairing Fuel Leaks Today

Discovery awaits technicians repairs on Friday. (NASA)

NASA has delayed the final flight of the space shuttle Discovery by at least one day to allow technicians to repair two leaks at the tail section of the orbiter.

"Managers are meeting to discuss the plan to repair helium and nitrogen leaks in the pressurization portion of Discovery’s right-hand Orbital Maneuvering System pod," NASA's Kennedy Space Center stated this morning. "The leaks must be fixed before launch and the decision was made to delay picking up the launch countdown by at least a day".

The leaks on the OMS pod were discovered during prelaunch checks last night. The launch team performed several tests to trouble shoot the two leaks before deciding to delay the start of the launch countdown.

If the leak fixes are successful, NASA on Saturday will start the countdown for the 133rd space shuttle flight at 2 PM EDT on Saturday.

Discovery's one day delay will target launch for Tuesday afternoon at 4:17:56 pm -- the opening of a five minute launch window.

Jeff Spaulding, NASA test director for STS-133, states that the work to make the repairs will take around 16 hours.

Air Force meteorologist Kath Winters stated this morning that "moisture from the south" due to a strong low pressure trough will influence the Space Coast's weather on Tuesday.

Due to a low cloud ceiling and and rain showers off shore, there is a 70% chance for favorable weather at launch time on Tuesday.

Launch Delayed One Day due to Leaks

Launch delayed at least one day until this Tuesday due to two leaks in the space shuttle Discovery's right OMS pod. New information upcoming via a NASA TV news conference.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Russia Launches Fresh Supplies to Space Station

A Russian rocket today sent aloft a spacecraft full of food and supplies bound for the six person crew of the International Space Station.

As a grocery store might deliver goods to your home, Russia launched 2.5 tons of multiple supplies up to the orbiting outpost 221 miles in space.

The night time lift-off occurred on time today at 11:11:49 am EDT (1511 GMT) from Pad 1 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

As the Soyuz lept from her pad, the space station flew high overhead just east of the launch site.

Two minutes after lift-off the first stage of the Soyuz separated on time as the craft speed eastward.

Space station flight engineer Shannon Walker confirmed minutes after lift-off that her Russian crew mates watched the launch from 221 miles above but that, "We (American side of station) didn't know to look for it at that time".

Mission Control near Houston expressed that a loss of signal prevented word from reaching the Americans in the Destiny module.

Progress is currently in an orbit 51.64 degrees to the equator. It's orbital time is 88 minutes, 57 seconds per revolution of the earth.

It's elliptical orbit will be adjusted by a series of burns over the next two days as it closes in on station.

On board the unmanned craft is, according to the space station's flight control room, "1,918 pounds of propellant; 1,100 pounds of oxygen; 498 pounds of water and 2,804 pounds of food, spare parts and supplies.

In total, Progress is carrying 5,670 pounds and five ounces of supplies.

The automated docking by Progress is planned for Saturday at 12:39 pm EDT (1639 GMT).

Four days later, the space shuttle Discovery is scheduled to dock with the orbiting outpost as she begins eight days of docked operations to deliver additional supplies and a storage module.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Russian Cargo Ship set for Wednesday Launch

Russian Soyuz U prepares for tomorrow's launch. (Energia)

A Russian cargo craft loaded with tons of food and supplies is ready to begin a three day trip to resupply the growing International Space Station on Wednesday.

Loaded with fuel, experiment hardware, water, air and requested personal items, the arriving craft will keep the crew of six happy and healthy for weeks to come.

The Soyuz U was transported horizontally to it's launch pad on Monday morning by way of rail car, and then moved into its vertical launch position. Crews then began the tasks of connecting both fuel and electrical connections to the rocket.

Launch of the Soyuz U rocket with the Progress M-08M supply ship is set to lift-off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in western Kazakhstan tomorrow at 11:11:53 am EDT (1511 GMT).

After a three day orbital chase, the Progress craft will fly in and dock to the Russian Zevezda service module on Saturday at 12:40 pm (1640 GMT).

The Progress docking begins a busy six weeks aboard the space station.

Three days after the supply ship docks, the space shuttle Discovery is scheduled to dock to begin an eight day visit to resupply the station and deliver a permanent storage module.

A Russian spacewalk was added on Tuesday. Cosmoanuts Fiodor Yurchikin and Oleg Skipochka will begin a six hour EVA on Nov. 15 starting at 9:25 am EST.

On Nov. 30, three of the current station crew members will undock and return to earth aboard their Soyuz TMA19 craft. Two weeks later, a fresh crew of three will launch and then dock their Soyuz TMA20 to begin their six month tour of duty.

Looking ahead into 2011, January and February will also be a busy time for the Expedition 26 crew. Three unmanned cargo crafts from the European, Russian and Japanese space programs, and the American space shuttle Endeavour will head to the orbiting outpost 221 miles above to bring fresh supplies and equipment.

To the crews living aboard the station, food has always been a form of leisure and most try out their own orbiting gourmet food styles while in micro-gravity.

The space station is a very multicultural location. An astronaut or cosmonaut from one country will always enjoy a taste from a special menu prepared by the crew of a visiting country.

The Russian Space Agency stated today, "Food boxes will contain not only standard rations, but also fresh fruits and vegetables – lemons, apples, onions, tomatoes, and a kilogram of garlic".

"(Progress) will also carry high-speed data transmission equipment to be installed on the outer surface of the station during EVA (spacewalk) by Oleg Skripochka and Dmitry Kondratiev in January," the space agency added earlier today.

Monday, October 25, 2010

NASA Officially sets Discovery's Launch Date

Discovery sits a top launch pad 39A this afternoon. (NASA)

NASA's space shuttle managers met today and selected November 1 as the official launch date for to begin Discovery's twelve day flight to earth's orbital outpost in space.

The routine meeting allowed officials to review any issues related to both the spacecraft and the payloads tucked inside NASA's oldest orbiter.

"We're in great shape out at the pad," NASA Launch Director Mike Leinbach stated this afternoon.

One such issue was fixed over the weekend as technicians at the Kennedy Space Center changed out two seals to help fix a fuel leak in the tail section of Discovery.

A very hazardous fuel known as Mono methyl hydrazine, which powers the shuttle's small maneuvering engines, was discovered leaking from a seal on the fuel line in the ship right side pod which sits under the vertical stabilizer. The primary and secondary seals were changed out on Saturday, and the fuel was reloaded on Sunday. Leak tests were then ran later in the day.

Meanwhile, at the Johnson Space Center south of Houston, the six member flight crew went into quarantine today as they prepare to live in a clean enviroment to lessen the chances of becoming sick.

On Thursday,
Discovery's all veteran crew of commander Steven Lindsey, pilot Eric Boe and mission specialists Timothy Kopra, Michael Barratt, Nicole Stott and Alvin Drew will arrive in Florida for launch.

An unofficial seventh member of the crew known as R2, a robo-naut which will be attached to the space station to perform tasks, is already inside Discovery awaiting it's multiyear stay aboard the outpost.

The launch countdown will begin at 3PM EDT on Friday, counting down to the target launch time of 4:40:26 pm.

If Discovery cannot launch on time, her launch window is short -- one week.

NASA needs to launch the 26 year-old spacecraft before November 7 or risk keeping her on earth until the opening days of December. This is due to sun angles on the station through out November which can cause instruments to over heat.

Two days after launch, Discovery will arrive at the station to begin eight days of docked operations to resupply with food, fuel and hardware; and add the final U.S. segment to the growing city in space.

Discovery will deliver the final American segment known as the Permanent Multipurpose Module, a bus sized cylindrical segment which will be used for storage. It will help free up more space inside the station's working and living segments for the crew of six.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ariane to Launch Dual Television Satellites Thursday

An Arianespace heavy lift rocket is set to carry dual satellites which will offer direct to home television service for Europe over to central Asia and Japan.

Lift-off is targeted for Thursday at 5:51:07 pm EDT (21.51 GMT) -- the opening of a seventy minute launch window -- from complex 3 in Kourou, French Guiana.

Today the launch team will perform a launch rehearsal as they ready the entire launch system for Thursday. The launch vehicle will then be rolled out to its launch pad early on Wednesday and connected to fuel and power lines.

Riding a top the Ariane 5 in the payload cone will be the W3B satellite for Eutelsat at the top, and stacked below it will be Japan's BSAT-3b.

The W3B television satellite will offer broadcasting service to multiple countries from it's perch at 16 degrees East longitude in geostationary orbit. Countries in Europe, northern Africa, the Middle East and in central Asia will receive service from the 53 Ku-band and three Ka-band transponders.

The satellite on orbit will measure nearly 112 feet from its six panel t-shaped solar array to array, and nineteen feet wide.

W3B will also offer high speed Internet, data and telephone service during it's planned fifteen year life.

In contrast, the Lockheed Martin built BSAT-3b for Japan's direct to home broadcast satellite will be used for high speed programming. Supporting only 12 Ku-band transponders, the satellite will operate over 110 degrees east.

BSAT-3b measures 48 feet from solar array tip to array tip by 6.23 feet wide as it sails through space.

This will be the Ariane 5's fourth mission of 2010 and only the 53rd since it first flew in 1996.

The 165 1/2-foot Ariane 5 is fueled during ascent by a core liquid fueled engine and two strap on soild fuel boosters.

The single Vulcain 2 main engine ignites at T-0 in the count followed by the 104-foot twin boosters igniting seven seconds later.

During the rocket's climb to space, it will steer out from it's launch pad in northeastern South America and eastward out over the southern Atlantic Ocean.

Just over two minutes into the launch, the boosters will have spent their fuel at will then jettison at 5:53:22 pm EDT.

After a brief ride to orbit, the first of the satellites to be deployed will be W3B at 6:19:11 pm, as the rocket's upper stage passes through 737 miles altitude.

Nearly ten minutes later, Japan's BSAT-3b will be released at an altitude of 2084 miles high.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Engineers Prepare Discovery for November Launch

Discovery's final crew during training last week. (NASA)

Engineers at the Kennedy Space Center are spending the next few days repairing a small leak on the space shuttle Discovery's fuel line which leads to a small engine that allows the orbiter to translate while in orbit.

Workers tell this reporter that the work will likely take about five days to fully perform, from draining the 1,500 gallons of propellant today; replacing the two seals on the fuel line; and then refilling the fuel of mono methyl hydrazine -- a very hazardous fuel.

"Crews will replace the primary and secondary seals at a flange located at the interface where two propellant lines meet in the shuttle’s aft compartment", NASA's Johnson Space Center stated earlier today.

The leak is inside Discovery's right hand pod next to the vertical stabilizer, and it allows fuel flow to one of two OMS engines. Discovery's crew will use the engines to raise and lower her orbital altitude.

"The Cape and the techs who work on the vehicle are miracle workers... the guys do an unbelievable, professional job", mission manager John Shannon stated this morning.

The small leak was discovered days ago and after performing a leak check it had stopped. NASA then decided to make the go ahead to replace the seals.

NASA's Mission Management Team remains confident that Discovery will meet her target launch date of November 1st. The space shuttle must launch by November 6 or stand down until December 1 due to other rocket launches on Florida's Space Coast.

Mission planners state that a launch between Nov. 1 thru 6 will support a twelve day flight. In Discovery launches after that, it will fly an eleven day mission.

Once launched, Discovery's all veteran crew of commander Steven Lindsey, pilot Eric Boe and mission specialists Timothy Kopra, Michael Barratt, Nicole Stott and Alvin Drew will spend two days performing rendezvous maneuvers to catch up with and dock with the International Space Station.

Once at station, Discovery will deliver the final American segment known as the Permanent Multipurpose Module, a bus sized cylindrical segment which will be used for storage. It will begin to free up more space inside the station's working and living segments.

Formally known as the Leonardo logistics module, the PMM has actually flown to station several times most recently two flights ago.

Inside the PMM will be 6500 pounds of cargo, spare parts, R2 - a robo-naut which will be used outside the outpost; and personal crew supplies to help resupply earth's orbiting outpost in space. Discovery's middeck will carry another 1500 pounds of supplies, too.

Robonaut will remain in the PMM through Discovery's flight, and will later be moved so that it's two halfs can be mated together and placed outside the station in the weeks to come.

Kopra and Drew will perform two spacewalks during this 35th shuttle flight to the ISS, on flight days 5 and 7.

The duo will install a alternative power cable between the Tranquility and Unity modules on the first spacewalk; relocate a failed ammonia pump module to another part of the station; and perform work on a camera and the railway system on the truss segment.

The second orbital excursion will focus on the change out of a bracket on the European Columbus module; and a Japanese glass bottle which the space walkers will fill up with the vacuum of space for a museum display back on earth.

After 170 revolutions of the planet, Discovery will head home to Florida on Nov. 12 (based on a Nov. 1 launch) for a mid-morning landing at about 10:39 am EST.

This will also mark Discovery's final space flight. NASA only has three more planned space shuttle flights left, with Endeavour flying her final scheduled flight on February 26, and Atlantis by next autumn.
copyright 1998 - 2010 Charles Atkeison, All rights reserved.