Monday, December 12, 2011

NASA launches online music channel Third Rock Radio

ATLANTA -- NASA on Tuesday launched a new rock space station on the Internet designed to incorporate music for those in technology fields.

"Your connected to America's space station... this is Third Rock!," the new station announced which blends new rock music with Indie and some Alternative.

"No one knows more about discovering new rock than NASA," states RFC Media co-founder and president known simply as Cruze. "Exciting new music is being discovered online through specialty sites like Third Rock America's Space Station where listeners will hear about great new artists way before their friends hear of them."

The Houston-based radio station's commercial free first day incorporated music with short interview clips from NASA employees, such as "Carly" who described her job tasks.

NASA hopes to use the station to promote new discoveries in both music and new tech and engineering jobs across America.

RFC Media will add iPhone and Android Third Rock Radio apps in the near future. NASA will also add a link on their popular NASA app.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Georgia's Rock Ranch and NASA celebrate fifty years of spaceflight

(MACON, Ga.) -- America's space program has landed in the heart of Georgia in a corn field located on a cattle ranch.

Autumn's arrival across Georgia brings with it a season for pumpkins, harvests and a huge NASA-styled corn maze located in the heart of the Peach State.

The Rock Ranch, located northwest of Macon, is a member of the nationwide program Space Farm 7, and the home to a NASA sponsored corn maze depicting a huge astronaut and the NASA logo in honor of fifty years of space exploration.

Space Farm 7 are seven ranches selected by the space agency across America to help promote the science of agriculture for children.

“In 1969, I sat with my family glued to a television watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon for the first time,” the ranch's General Manager Jeff Manley said. “So, now that we have the opportunity to commemorate with NASA their decades of successes, it is truly an honor.”

Several space educational displays stand near the maze on loan from the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The 1,250 acre Rock Ranch, owned by Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy, is a working cattle ranch created to help teach children and adults the sciences of agriculture and farming.

NASA is helping to promote the growing of crops not only on earth but in space for future long duration trips to an asteroid or Mars.

Manley adds The Rock Ranch's partnership with NASA allows the ranch to present a rich educational moment for children unable to visit the several space centers across America.

Festivities surrounding the astronomical corn maze begins on September 24, and run every Saturday thru November 13, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Children and adults can also take a train Ride and a hay rides; visit a petting zoo, speed down a zip line or take a pony ride. The famous Pumpkin Cannon is another ballistic highlight of the day.

Tickets can be purchased online or at the entrance.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

NASA science satellite to plunge back to earth Friday

ATLANTA, Ga. -- A NASA science satellite will plunge back to earth on Friday raining over twenty pieces of debris over an unknown region of our planet.

NASA said on Thursday the satellite will not fall toward North America due to it's orbital track.

The satellite known as UARS for Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite is expected to re-enter the earth's atmosphere on Friday afternoon EDT, and moments later, NASA states sections of the spacecraft will crash to the planet.

"The satellite will not be passing over North America during that time period," NASA's Brian Dunbar stated on Thursday. "It is still too early to predict the time and location of re-entry with any more certainty, but predictions will become more refined in the next 24 hours."

NASA and astronomers world wide will be following the craft's decent on Friday.

One leading astronomer at the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, Georgia has been following UARS's return for several weeks.

"UARS is a satellite which has accomplished it's scientific mission," Tellus' astronomy program manager David Dundee said. "It's a piece of space history."

The spacecraft was launched from the Kennedy Space Center aboard the space shuttle Discovery in September 1991, to begin a multi year mission to study earth's ever changing atmosphere.

In 2005, NASA scientists began to fire the spacecraft's thrusters to begin it's slow decent back to earth.

"Once you get to 100 miles up, the craft will begin to encounter different density's of the upper atmosphere which will begin to cause it to fall more rapidly," Mr. Dundee explained.

UARS was circling earth in a 115 by 120 mile high orbit as of Thursday, making one complete revolution every 89 minutes.

Dundee estimates between 24 to 36 pieces will make it to the ground, with around six of those weighing between 200 to 300 pounds.

A high resolution NASA camera located a top Tellus records in bound objects, as many as eight a night, and was ready to track the seven ton UARS had the craft's orbital track brought it over the southeastern United States.

Dundee expects pieces of the spacecraft to tumble into an ocean.
NASA stated today that there has not been any recorded injury to a human from a falling spacecraft to date.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Labor strike delays today's Ariane 5 launch

A labor strike has delayed Today's launch of an Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou, South America, and Arianespace cannot confirm a possible new launch date.

Countdown clocks stopped around 11:00 a.m. EDT today, nearly two hours before the loading of super cold fuels into the rocket's main stage.

"The Trade Union of French Guiana Workers has just started a strike action within the Telespazio company," Arianespace announced today. "This action will make unavailable means of measurement in the Space Center which are absolutely necessary for (Ariane's) launch planned for Tuesday."

A delay of several days is expected following a teleconference by this aerospace reporter.

Once launched, the Ariane rocket will deliver two communications satellites into geostationary orbit, one for Arabsat and a second for SES North America.

The French Space Agency and Arianespace are working today to have the strikers and Telespazio management return to the bargaining table to end the walkoff.

Based in Rome, Italy, Telespazio handle's the space systems division of Ariane, including the rocket's prelaunch processing.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Arianespace moves toward Ariane 5 and Soyuz 2 launches

Europe's heavy lift launcher will make it's final flight of the year from French Guiana on Tuesday as the launch team steers toward flying two Russian Soyuz rockets from the jungles of South America before the New Year.

Arianespace's Ariane 5 rocket will deliver two communications satellites into geostationary orbit, one for Arabsat and a second for SES North America.

This launch will mark the sixtieth Ariane 5 launch, and the fifth and last of 2011.

The heavy lifter is riding on a string on forty-five consecutive successful launches and Arianespace's Chariman and CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall commented days ago on an August 31 decision to delay this flight three days to make additional inspections on the rocket's upper stage engine.

"We do not tolerate any defect on our launchers," Le Gall said. "There was no hesitation on our part in delaying this upcoming flight to ensure the highest level of quality for a successful mission.”

Arianespace expressed concern "by (recent) mission failures of other vehicles" in the launch community.

Russia's Soyuz U rocket was lost en route to delivering cargo to the space station in August, and the country lost contact with their Proton-M upper stage and it's payload during a launch a week earlier.

Even China suffered a setback on August 18 as it's Long March 2C was lost due to an issue with it's second stage engine as it carried a satellite toward orbit.

The Ariane launch team will begin loading the liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen fuels into the main stage for use by it's core engine at 12:48 p.m. EDT, on launch day.

Launch of Ariane 5 is set for Tuesday at 5:38:07 p.m. EDT (9:38 p.m. GMT) -- the opening of an eighty-four minute launch window -- from launch complex ELA-3 at Kourou, French Guiana.

Twin solid rocket boosters will ignite lift-off combined with a Vulcain 2 core liquid fueled main engine to send the white rocket eastward out over the central Atlantic waters.

As the 165-foot tall Ariane travels higher and faster, the boosters will exhaust it's propellant a little over two minutes after launch and separate as the rocket soars 43 miles high.

Meanwhile, the main engine burns for nine minutes.

One critical milestone will happen three minutes into the launch phase as the rocket's protective payload fairing is jettisoned as it moves into the upper atmosphere.

Just over nine minutes after launch, the engine will shutdown at an altitude of 116 miles, and the first stage will then separate seconds later. The second stage's HM-7B engine will then fire up for the next few minutes.

The first payload to be deployed will be that of Arabsat 5C which will ride to orbit on the top of the two satellite stack.

Built by Thales Alenia Space and Europe’s EADS Astrium, the Arabsat 5C will be used for both private and government communications using both Ka-Band and C-band range.

Thales Alenia Space designed and constructed nearly fifty percent of the International Space Station's living area for the crew; and, the European Automated Transfer Vehicles which delivered supplies to the outpost from Kourou.

The satellite is intended to operate for nearly 15 years from a position of 20 degrees East providing communications from north Africa and the Middle East region.

Arabsat 5C will separate from the upper stage at 6:05 pm, based on an on time launch, from an altitude of 605 miles.

Ariane's second payload, the Orbital Sciences built SES-2 will support both high definition television and communications for North America and the Caribbean over a planned 15 years.

SES-2 will separate and fly free at 6:14 p.m. from an altitude of 1,725 miles.

Once on orbit 22,300 miles above a position at 82 degrees East over the equator, the nearly 78-foot long satellite will undergo a few weeks of testing before becoming operational.

Once Ariane has successfully completed it's mission, Arianespace will begin preparing for the inaugural launch of a Soyuz rocket from Kourou.

The Soyuz launch complex is located seven miles northwest of the Ariane complex, and is mostly based on the configuration of Russia's Soyuz launch pad in Kazakhstan.

The first launch of the Soyuz 2 is planned for just after sunrise on October 20, with a pair of European Galileo navigation satellites.

Arianespace then hopes to get a second Soyuz off the ground before 2011 concludes.

(Charles Atkeison reports on aerospace, science & technology. Follow his updates via Twitter @AbsolutSpaceGuy.)

Friday, August 05, 2011

Atlas V 551 launches new NASA spacecraft to Jupiter

Launch of a ULA Atlas V 551 rocket from Cape Canaveral AFS today at 12:25:01 pm EDT.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

NASA spacecraft to begin five year voyage to Jupiter Friday

NASA's Juno spacecraft will reach Jupiter in 2016. (NASA)

A NASA spacecraft will begin a 1700 million mile voyage on Friday from America's Space Coast as it travels to our solar system's largest and most complex planet.

NASA's Juno spacecraft will study Jupiter's atmosphere for moisture and map it's magnetic fields and much more during it's one year mission around the planet.

Scientists hope to understand the make up of the large gaseous planet and it's origins, and answer the ago-old question, "does Jupiter have a solid core?"

The 45th Weather Squadron at Cape Canaveral stated today that the launch weather will be 70% favorable on Friday. Clouds, light winds and a low chance of rain in the area during the morning hours are the forecast.

Forecasters state that slow moving tropical storm Emily should not affect the launch day weather.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket is set to lift-off from launch complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 11:34:01 a.m. EDT on Friday. The launch window runs until 12:43 p.m.

The 197-foot tall Atlas must launch within 22 days of Aug. 5 due to the alignment of the planets and the course Juno will take to reach Jupiter.

The Atlas V will launch into a 28.8 degree inclination using a powerful core stage RD-180 main engine and five solid rocket boosters. The boosters will burn for the first 92 seconds of launch while the core engine will continue to burn for another three minutes.

Two burns by the Atlas' Centaur upper stage will move Juno higher and faster in earth orbit.

Juno will separate from the Centaur at 12:27:49 p.m., as the spacecraft soars 141 nautical miles high over northwestern Australia.

As Juno sails free for the first time, controllers on the ground will begin deploying the craft's three solar arrays five minutes after separation as Juno begins a full check out in orbit. Two of the three arrays are made up of four-hinged segments while the third is only three segments with a vector magnetometer at the end.

The three arrays extend from the hexagonal core of the spacecraft, giving the spacecraft a length of 66-feet.

The $1.1 billion interplanetary mission will head out past Mars before circling back around earth on October 9, 2013 for a gravity boost, much like a sling shot affect.

At closest approach, Juno will soar 311 miles above earth, before speeding off toward the gaseous planet.

Juno is scheduled to arrive at Jupiter on Independence Day 2016, to begin a one year mission to study in high resolution it's magnetic fields.

The craft's instruments include ultraviolet and infrared imagers, a high resolution color camera and several plasma and radio experiment packages.

"Like the sun, Jupiter is mostly hydrogen and helium, so it must have formed early, capturing most of the material left after our star came to be," NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. said. "How this happened, however, is unclear."

Juno will perform 33 orbits during that one year as it circles around the planet's poles.

Juno's mission will conclude on October 16, 2017 as controllers at the Jet Propulsion Lab fire the craft's thrusters to begin it's deorbit and send it into Jupiter's thick, heavy atmosphere.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Space station astronaut calls iPhone 4 from 240 miles up

(HOUSTON) -- Orbiting 240 miles high above earth, astronauts aboard the International Space Station use huge satellites in orbit to talk with controllers back at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

On July 19, one astronaut aboard the orbiting complex called an iPhone 4 located in Mission Control to chat.

NASA astronaut Ronald Garan called an employee of the space center's iPhone to chat with a group of thirty visiting space tweeps -- those who use Twitter to chat and discuss space and science interests.

Garan, who is known as @Astro_Ron on the social network site, spoke for nearly two minutes to the group who threw questions at comments his way.

This aerospace reporter (@AbsolutSpaceGuy) was among those who spoke with the astronaut who commented at one point that it was past his bedtime.

This space tweep also recorded the conversation via his own iPhone 4, and is attached to this article.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Typhoon on course to strike Japan's space program

Powerful typhoon Ma-on is forecast to strike Japan Tuesday. (NASA)

A powerful typhoon is on a forecast path to make landfall over central Japan on Wednesday, a strike which could damage the heart of the island nation's space program.

Typhoon Ma-On is currently located several hundred miles to the southeast of Japan's southern tip at 20.6 North and 140.4 East.

Several tracking and communication antennas and launch sites for their unmanned space program could see damage from the storm's 140 m.p.h. winds, with gusts approaching 160 m.p.h.

Winds and high surf could begin pounding southern Japan's coastline as early as Monday, with the eye expected to make landfall on Tuesday night.

Japan's space agency JAXA communicates regularly with their lone astronaut aboard the orbiting International Space Station, Satoshi Furukawa.

Furukawa has been busy performing several experiments in the Japanese Kibo module, and most recently assisting the visiting crew of space shuttle Atlantis as they unstow fresh supplies and equipment.

SpaceLaunch News spoke with JAXA and NASA's Lead Shuttle Flight Director Kwatsi Alibaruho, and they had no comment on the impending storm's effect on contingency plans.

Weather forecasters in Tokyo are issuing updates on the storm's progress every six hours.

Ma-On's news comes today as Japan was jolted once again with a 5.5 magnitude earthquake.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Delta IV rocket to launch Air Force navigation satellite

An unmanned rocket will deliver a next generation navigational satellite into earth orbit for the U.S. Air Force on Friday from America's Space Coast.

The Air Force's 45th weather office indicated today that there is a 70% chance for favorable weather at launch time.

"On launch day conditions aloft will consist of an upper level high pressure center over the (southeast)", weather officials said in a statement. "Thunderstorms will move very little during the afternoon and evening hours. At the beginning of the launch window any remaining thunderstorm activity is expected to be either dissipated or offshore."

The weather office located at Patrick, AFB added, "Main concern during the launch window will be for any remnant cloud cover associated with the earlier thunderstorm activity."

A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Medium with the GPS IIF-2 satellite is set to lift-off from launch complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 2:45 a.m. EDT -- the start of a nineteen minute launch window.

The Delta IV will use twin solid rocket boosters to support a core main engine to boost the spacecraft in orbit.

As the Delta IV heads eastward out over the Atlantic waters, a brief sunrise in the darkness of the Florida coastline.

Monday, July 11, 2011

FOX NEWS Video: Atlanta Man Tweets for NASA

Atlanta Man Tweets for NASA:


ATLANTA - One local man is sharing his view of the historic mission - one tweet at a time.

Charles Atkeison of Atlanta saw the very first space shuttle launch as a boy. It's an experience he says inspired his love of space and science.

He now writes about the shuttle program professionally. But for the shuttle's final voyage Atkeison took on a different title - space "tweep."

NASA selected him from more than 5,000 applicants worldwide to tweet about what he sees and hears to his 881 followers.

Charles Atkeison's tweeting duties aren't over. He'll head to the Johnson Space Center and mission control to detail Atlantis' return to earth.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Shuttle Atlantis' rocket boosters arrive at Port Canaveral

NASA's Liberty Star tows home Atlantis' booster today. (Atkeison)

The twin rocket boosters which launched NASA's final space shuttle mission were returned back to Cape Canaveral on Sunday.

As the first booster arrived at noon, it received a heroes welcome as a small fire boat pumped water up and out in a salute to the first arriving craft, Liberty Star.

Standing on a pier next to the captain's wife and over forty on lookers, applause broke out and waves to the crew as the Liberty Star broke the quietness of the ocean's waves.

NASA boats Liberty Star and Freedom Star towed the twin boosters from behind and across the choppy waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Waves and rain fall delayed retrieval efforts some 140 miles northeast of the Kennedy Space Center, off the coast of Jacksonville.

Each booster was then shifted to the side of the ship in which the booster had flown during launch. The Liberty Star carried the right hand booster on the ship's right or starboard side.

The 149-foot tall solid-fueled boosters produce a 700-foot golden flame, and carried Atlantis up to an altitude of 145,000 feet on July 8 before separating 125 seconds into the flight.

These were the final boosters to be towed in for years to come as the space shuttle program come to an end with this final flight.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Astronauts inspect shuttle Atlantis for thermal damage

Astronauts scanned Atlantis today for thermal damage. (NASA)

Astronauts aboard the space shuttle Atlantis spent Saturday surveying their spacecraft for possible damage on her thermal skin and maneuvering to a higher orbit to prepare for Sunday's docking to the International Space Station.

Atlantis' commander Chris Ferguson and pilot Doug Hurley moved the ship's 50-foot robotic arm over to grapple an extension boom to assist in performing scans of the tiles and blankets which cover Atlantis.

Attached to the end of the robotic arm, the orbiter boom sensor system allows laser sensors and intensified television camera are used to look for any nicks or damaged tiles underneath the wing leading edges, over the nose region and across the spacecraft.

As the robotic operations occurred,
mission specialists Rex Walheim and Sandy Magnus worked to set up an exercise bicycle on the shuttle's middeck.

Magnus then floated up to the flight deck to assist Hurley with the inspections of the starboard wing's trailing edge
and reenforced carbon-carbon survey by the OBSS at 7:46 a.m.

Earlier in the morning,
Ferguson and Hurley performed a few burns by Atlantis smaller engines to keep the spacecraft on course for an 11:07 a.m. docking to the space station on Sunday.

Once docked, Atlantis' crew on Monday will grapple and swing a bus sized cargo module from the shuttle's payload bay over to and dock it to the station.

Crews will then begin unloading the several tons of supplies and equipment off the
21-foot long Raffaello module, and later store several hundred pounds of packing supplies and trash into the cargo carrier.

Flight controllers could elect to keep Atlantis docked to the space station one additional day, thereby extending the mission one day so that the shuttle's crew of four can assist the station's crew of six with unloading of the cargo module and the storage of trash and old equipment for the return to earth.

Atlantis lifted-off yesterday at 11:29 a.m. to begin this final space shuttle mission, and the 135th flight in the program's thirty year history.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Atlantis lifts-off on the final space shuttle mission

Space shuttle Atlantis lift-off today on 12-day flight. (NASA)

Space shuttle Atlantis launched this morning to begin a twelve day mission to resupply the International Space Station.

Nearly 900,000 spectators around the Kennedy Space Center and along the Space Coast witnessed the final launch of a space shuttle today.

NASA's final shuttle countdown was not without a few minutes of drama in the final seconds.

Lift-off occurred two minutes late and with only 58 seconds left in the launch window, due to the need for controllers to inspect that the gaseous vent arm, which retracts away from the top of the huge rust-colored fuel tank, was indeed fully retracted.

Atlantis' solid rocket boosters ignited at 11:29 a.m. EDT, and launching for the last Americans from American soil for several years.

In earth orbit 240 miles above, the crew of the space station watched the lift-off live on a computer laptop attached the wall.

Nine minutes after launch, Atlantis arrived in earth orbit at an altitude of 140 x 36 miles. An engine firing thirty-six minutes later of her twin OMS engines raised the shuttle orbit to 143 x 98 miles.

Atlantis will continue to increase her altitude over the next two days as her crew nears the station.

Atlantis commander Chris Ferguson leads this final shuttle crew. Pilot Doug Hurley, and mission specialists Rex Walheim and Sandy Magnus round out the all veteran crew.

Walheim thanked Pratt-Whitney and the space shuttle main engine team for the group's work on the three powerful engines which helped get the shuttle to space.

Atlantis is carrying a bus size cargo module known as Raffaello loaded with tons of fresh supplies for the space station, and a storage rack which includes spare parts and hardware.

The 21-foot long Raffaello module will be plucked from the aft section of Atlantis payload bay at 5:36 a.m. on Monday, and docked to the station's Node 2.

A pair of apple iPhone 4's will travel aboard Atlantis for a series of tests by the station's crew for improving future technologies with the popular phone.

Each iPhone 4 model will have a special application loaded to test the calibration of the smart phone in space, and uses for it's camera as the crew aims it toward the earth in a series of photography tests.

The twin iPhones will be housed inside a NanoRacks cube carrier when shuttle Atlantis lifts-off on July 8 from the Kennedy Space Center.

Experimental tests also include how solar radiation effects the smart phone's memory, and test how it may aide in navigation by photographing a series of locations on earth.

The duel phones are intended for tests by NASA astronauts Ron Garan and Mike Fossum, and several of the six space station crew members following Atlantis' departure on July 18.

A one day mission extension is likely and will be added a few days after the shuttle docks.

Atlantis is due to separate from the space station for the final time at 1:59 a.m. on July 18.

Pilot Hurley will fly Atlantis out to a distance of 400-feet and then begin a 360-degree fly around of the complex, while Magnus and
Walheim use digital cameras to photograph the space station in detail.

The final two days of Atlantis' flight will focus on stowing equipment and to share with the world one final end-of-shuttle ceremony.

Atlantis crew will discuss on NASA TV the history of what shuttle has done for not just America but the entire planet, and take a look into the future of human space flight.

Landing is planned back at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility Runway 15/33 on July 20 at 7:06 a.m.

Shuttle Atlantis crew departs for launch pad

Atlantis' crew boards today for the ride to shuttle Atlantis. (NASA)

As NASA's launch team watches the weather, a crew of four astronauts suited for flight and departed for their spacecraft this morning for the final mission of the space shuttle program.

Low clouds and a chance for more rain has the current weather chances at only 30% favorable for today.

The crew departed their living quarters at 7:36 a.m. EDT, to make the twenty-minute ride over to their ocean side launch pad to board the shuttle Atlantis.

Atlantis commander Chris Ferguson leads this last shuttle crew are all space veterans and include pilot Doug Hurley, and mission specialists Rex Walheim and Sandy Magnus.

The crew were awoken today at 4:30 a.m. EDT in the crew quarters of the operations & checkout building located 10 miles from the launch pad. An hour later, the crew headed over for breakfast, their last one on earth for thirteen days.

The crew later received a weather briefing before suiting up in their orange partial pressure suits at 6:50 a.m.

NASA launch director Mike Leinbach received a full weather briefing as the crew departed for the launch pad.

The launch team will take the count down to the T- 9 minute hold, and perform a final weather check to determine if today is a good day to fly.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Weather likely will delay final shuttle launch

Final space shuttle crew stands ready for launch on Friday. (NASA)

A tropical wave will bring showers and low clouds to the American Space Coast on Thursday and the system's effect will likely delay Friday's launch attempt of the final space shuttle mission.

Air Force weather officer Kathy Winters and her group issued a 30% chance that weather will be favorable for Friday morning's launch attempt by Atlantis, with not much of an improvement on Saturday with only a 40% of good weather.

"Our primary concerns for launch are showers and thunderstorms within 20 nautical miles of the Shuttle Landing Facility (runway), flight through precipitation, and cumulus clouds," Winters stated this morning from Cape Canaveral.

If weather keeps the space shuttle grounded, then NASA has only Sunday and maybe Monday to launch before standing down several days due to an Air Force rocket launch in the early hours of July 14.

The Eastern Test Range has always needed two full days to turn around following a Cape launch or a shuttle landing before moving on to the next launch.

NASA thus must launch Atlantis by Monday or face a five day delay for the Delta 4 rocket launch.

Rain showers could even delay the retraction of the protective service structure on Thursday afternoon, a planned prelaunch event which allows the space shuttle to be exposed to the elements.

Currently, launch remains planned for Friday at 11:26:46 a.m. EDT, from launch complex 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center.

A launch attempt on Saturday would see mission STS-135's solid rocket boosters ignite for launch at 11:04:15 a.m.

Launch time on Sunday would see Atlantis lift-off at 10:38:31 a.m., and for Monday 10:15:58 a.m.

Sunday's launch forecast currently improves to 60% favorable.

"With the launch time moving earlier and a slightly dryer atmosphere each day, the threat of weather decreases each day," Winters added this morning.

On Tuesday, the last shuttle launch countdown began on time at 1:00 p.m. at the T-43 hour mark. Several planned holds in the count will carry that time down to zero on Friday, for now.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Space shuttle Atlantis nears her final voyage

Final Mission: Atlantis will fly the 135th space shuttle flight. (NASA)

The theater of American space flight will change forever as NASA concludes the final space shuttle mission this month while preparing the new replacement rocket for future human space travel away from earth orbit.

Following thirty years of space shuttle flights, Atlantis' mission will mark a historic benchmark as she set sails on the sunset of the program's 135 flights.

Led by commander Chris Ferguson, the last shuttle crew are all space veterans and include pilot Doug Hurley, and mission specialists Rex Walheim and Sandy Magnus.

Standing a top her launch pad, technicians are working around the clock to ensure this mission reaches orbit and her port-of-call in good shape.

NASA is watching the weather as a tropical wave moves west and effects the weather during Friday. Air Force weather officer Kathy Winters stated today only a 40% chance of favorable weather around launch time.

Thunderstorms the day before will likely slow down work to a stop as technicians work to ready the ship, including the retraction of the rotating service structure at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday.

Atlantis will carry a bus size cargo module known as Raffaello loaded with tons of fresh supplies for the space station, and a storage rack which includes spare parts and hardware.

"I certainly feel honored to be part of the last crew," Magnus said recently. "And the thing I think that I feel the most honored about is it requires a special skill set to operate with a crew of four and I’m very flattered that it’s felt that I have that skill set that is needed to do that."

NASA's final space shuttle flight will launch on Friday morning with a crew of four veteran astronauts to begin a twelve day voyage to the International Space Station. Launch time is planned for 11:26:46 a.m. EDT from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Two days after launch, the orbiter will dock with the orbiting outpost at 11:09 a.m. on Sunday, followed by hatch opening between the two spacecraft 75 minutes later.

The 21-foot long Raffaello module will be plucked from the aft section of Atlantis payload bay at 5:36 a.m. on Monday, and docked to the station's Node 2.

A pair of apple iPhone 4's will travel aboard Atlantis for a series of tests by the station's crew for improving future technologies with the popular phone.

Each iPhone 4 model will have a special application loaded to test the calibration of the smart phone in space, and uses for it's camera as the crew aims it toward the earth in a series of photography tests.

The twin iPhones will be housed inside a NanoRacks cube carrier when shuttle Atlantis lifts-off on July 8 from the Kennedy Space Center.

Experimental tests also include how solar radiation effects the smart phone's memory, and test how it may aide in navigation by photographing a series of locations on earth.

The duel phones are intended for tests by NASA astronauts Ron Garan and Mike Fossum, and several of the six space station crew members following Atlantis' departure on July 18.

A one day mission extension is likely and will be added a few days after the shuttle docks.

Atlantis is due to separate from the space station for the final time at 1:59 a.m. on July 18.

Pilot Hurley will fly Atlantis out to a distance of 400-feet and then begin a 360-degree fly around of the complex, while Magnus and
Walheim use digital cameras to photograph the space station in detail.

The final two days of Atlantis' flight will focus on stowing equipment and to share with the world one final end-of-shuttle ceremony.

Atlantis crew will discuss on NASA TV the history of what shuttle has done for not just America but the entire planet, and take a look into the future of human space flight.

Landing is planned back at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility Runway 15/33 on July 20 at 7:06 a.m.

This mission will be known not for the science and engineering support it provided for the space station, but for one thing -- the final space shuttle flight.

The last time humans will soar through space in a winged spacecraft and then land on a runway for years to come.

As July closes so does this chapter of the space program as NASA turns to the private sector for a space craft to carry Americans back into space.

Private space companies such as SpaceX will need around five years to be ready with a suitable manned space craft to launch. In the meantime, NASA will be paying Russia nearly $45 million each time to send an American to the space station thru 2016.

It was also one warm July in which American space travel stopped in 1975, for six years, as NASA prepared for the space shuttle's arrival.

Now, fade out shuttle - Fade in the future.

NASA hopes that the Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle will be America's next spacecraft to carry humans out of low earth orbit such as the Moon.

NASA projects the Orion vehicle will not be ready for it's first flight until around 2016 as NASA decides what rocket it will launch a top.

Then there is the need to build the launch pad around the rocket's size and fueling specifications.

MPCV is built by Lockheed Martin Corp. in Colorado, the module will have a separate service module which will be jettisoned prior to it's return to earth. NASA states "this module can also transport unpressurized cargo and scientific payloads" during flights.

The 23 ton crewed vehicle will launch on a heavy-lift rocket toward a destination past the space station and beyond low earth orbit to the moon.

NASA hopes to announce what that large multi-stage rocket will be later this year.

(Follow Charles Atkeison via Twitter @AbsolutSpaceGuy for real time aerospace news and updates.)

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Georgia museum to host final space shuttle launch viewing

If you are unable to attend the historic final space shuttle launch this week, north Georgia's Tellus Science Museum will host a special launch day event for the public.

Tellus Science Museum showcases the sciences of astronomy, geology, prehistoric artifacts, space and aviation in beautiful exhibit halls.

Tellus' Joe Schulman states that the show will begin at 11 a.m. for both members and visitors to the museum which is located in Cartersville, just off of Interstate 75.

The large movie screen will show live NASA TV of the prelaunch activities leading up to and thru the launch. As the visitors watch, space shuttle experts will be on hand to discuss what to expect as the the minutes tick away.

As launch time nears, museum curator Julian Gray will broadcast live from the space center with launch updates, while museum astronomer David Dundee talks about past historic flights by the shuttle program.

Launch of Atlantis on NASA's 135th space shuttle flight is set for this Friday, July 8 at 11:26:46 a.m. EDT, from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Mr. Schulman told this aerospace reporter that the launch date is subject to change, and to follow news on the launch before arriving on Friday.

The first launch was that of Columbia in April 1981, and since then the space shuttle's huge payload bay allowed NASA to launch space telescopes and planetary probes, link up with Russia's Mir space station and construct the International Space Station.

The price of the launch viewing is free to members and is included in the normal admission price for visitors.

The museum's theater can support nearly 200 guests, and large television monitors outside the theater will also broadcast the final space shuttle launch.

Located northwest of Atlanta just off exit 293 and I-75 in Cartersville, this science museum is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The center is closed on July 4th, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Years Day.

With the arrival of summer, Tellus is a fun-filled, inexpensive option for those looking for a short day trip with the children.

Visit the Tellus web site for the latest on membership, guest pricing, directions and schedule information.

(Follow Charles Atkeison via Twitter @AbsolutSpaceGuy for real time aerospace news and updates.)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Europe's Ariane 5 to launch two broadcast satellites Friday

Europe's heavy-lift rocket heads to its launch pad. (Arianespace)

A mighty European rocket will carry aloft two high definition broadcast satellites on Friday, providing direct to home television for Europe and Japan.

The European ASTRA 1N and Japan's BSAT 3C/JCSAT 110R satellites will be carried into earth orbit by the mighty Ariane 5.

The 165-foot white rocket was rolled to it's launch pad today, where it was then connected to fuel lines and power support equipment.

Fueling of the core stage with super cold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen fuels will begin five hours before launch.

Powered by twin solid rocket boosters and a core main engine, the fifty-ninth flight of an Ariane 5 is set for 5:43:07 p.m. EDT (6:43 p.m. local) from launch complex 3 in Kourou, French Guiana.

The rocket will soar up and out over the southern Atlantic waters on a trajectory inclined 2 degrees to the equator.

The three segment, 103-foot tall boosters create 91% of the rocket's thrust during the opening minutes of the launch.

Just over two minutes into the flight, the twin boosters will have exhausted it's solid fuel and then separate ten seconds later at an altitude of 43 miles high.

Next, the cone-shaped payload cover will split in half and separate just over three minutes into the ascent.

The 55-foot tall payload fairings acts as a protective shield as the rocket's speed acts against the think atmosphere, where pressures build in a dynamic force known as MAX-Q.

The French-built ASTRA 1N broadcast satellite will ride to space in the top position of the nose fairing section, with JCSAT 110R positioned below.

The cryogenic fueled Vulcain 2 engine will keep pushing the rocket higher before shutting down nearly nine minutes after launch at a speed of 15,395 m.p.h.

The Ariane's upper stage takes over seconds later and will boost the duel payload into a higher elliptical orbit and at a faster orbital velocity of 22,029 m.p.h.

The 11,795-pound SES ASTRA 1N will be placed into orbit at 28.2 degrees East for a short time, and slowly moved over to it's planned operating location at 19.2 degrees East.

The twenty-one foot long satellite will operate with 52 Ku-bands transponders to support most of Europe's cable and satellite broadcasts to homes and businesses.

ASTRA will be the first to separate from the upper stage and satellite stack at 6:10 p.m. at an altitude of 615 miles.

Following the separating of ASTRA's support structure nine minutes later, the second satellite will be positioned for release by a series of thruster firings.

JCSAT 110R will then separate from the upper stage thirty-eight minutes after leaving the jungles of South America.

Built jointly by Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems and Sky Perfect JSAT, the 6,415-pound BSAT 3C/JCSAT 110R satellite will operate in geostationary orbit over 110-degrees East.

The duel solar array satellite measures 17 feet across and is expected to service Japan for over sixteen years with both high speed communications and cable TV service via 24 active Ku-band transponders.

This flight will mark the 203rd launch of an Ariane rocket.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Two iPhone 4's headed to space station on final shuttle flight

A pair of apple iPhone 4's will launch into earth orbit in July aboard the final space shuttle flight and will be used by astronauts during a series of experiments aboard the International Space Station.

Each iPhone 4 model will have a special application loaded to test the calibration of the smart phone in space, and uses for it's camera as the crew aims it toward the earth in a series of photography tests.

The application, a thumb-nail logo located on the front of the touch screen device, was designed in conjunction with NASA and created by Odyssey Space Research, who is paying the space agency for their application "SpaceLab for iOS" to be tested.

“The revolutionary iPhone 4 offers an extraordinary opportunity to demonstrate serious functions previously reserved for more expensive, purpose-built devices,” Odyssey's Chief Executive Officer Brian Rishikof stated recently.

The application is available for download here on earth for .99 cents by iPhone owners via
apple's app store.

IPhone 4 owners at the apple retail store in Alpharetta, Georgia, spoke with surprise and excitement upon learning of the next space shuttle flight's special payload.

"I just hope it leads to improved technologies for future iPhones," said Dale Shepard, a customer who had just bought a new iPhone for his wife on Thursday. "I look forward to taking my iPhone with me into space one day."

The iPhone tests will not use cellular service nor the data services during the four multi-step experiments aboard the space station.

Each crew member will enter their name and answer a series of questions related to the experiment, as they work in either the U.S. laboratory or the Cupola module which provides a 360-degree field of view of the earth.

“The potential for using iPhone 4 to both conduct and support in-space research and operations is enormous. The opportunity to make the experience accessible to anyone via the App Store will attract a new generation of space supporters,” Rishikof added.

The twin iPhones will be housed inside a NanoRacks cube carrier when shuttle Atlantis lifts-off on July 8 from the Kennedy Space Center.

Experimental tests also include how solar radiation effects the smart phone's memory, and test how it may aide in navigation by photographing a series of locations on earth.

The duel phones are intended for tests by NASA astronauts Ron Garan and Mike Fossum, and several of the six space station crew members following Atlantis' departure on July 18.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Russian Progress cargo craft docks to space station

Progress craft sails to a docking with space station. (NASA)

A Russian cargo craft loaded with equipment and supplies successfully docked to the International Space Station today.

The 24-foot long spacecraft spent two days traveling up to the orbiting outpost with fresh supplies for the crew of six living and working aboard.

Live video sent down by the supply craft's docking camera showed a nearly 910,000 pound space station alone in earth orbit draped with the blackness of space.

As the cargo craft passed the 3,280 foot distance point, Progress slowed down to a .5 m.p.h. closing rate and then down to .15 m.p.h. rate as the distance closed.

The craft then held a brief station-keeping position 540 feet from it's planned docking port on the Zvezda module, so that Russian ground controllers could ensure a safe docking.

Progress M-11M automatically docked to the Russian Zvezda module at 12:37 p.m. EDT (20:37 Moscow time) as the two crafts soared 235 miles above Kazakhstan.

"Once again, congratulations on the automatic docking," the Russian flight control team radioed the cosmonauts ten minutes later.

The station's Expedition 28 crew includes Russian cosmonaut and commander Andrey Borisenko, Alexander Samokutyaev, Sergei Volkov, NASA astronauts Ron Garan and Mike Fossum, and Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa.

A mass of 5893 pounds, including water, oxygen, propellant, medical supplies, hardware, video and photography equipment and personal crew items arrived following the relatively smooth docking.

Brief communication issues with the spacecraft, including loss of video and target information caused the station's crew to pay closer attention to Progress' approach.

As the craft neared it's arrival, Russian mission control had no data on the retraction of communications antenna on Progress.

Cosmonauts are scheduled to open the hatches leading into the Progress at 3:30 p.m., following a brief meal and leak checks between the docking port's seals.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Minuteman III ICBM launches from Vandenberg, AFB

Minuteman III lifts-off from the California coastline today. (USAF)

A Minuteman III missile with an unarmed re-entry vehicle was launched on a test flight this morning from Vandenberg, AFB in California.

Fog and low visibility combined with a communication link issue delayed the planned night time lift-off into the early dawn giving spectators along the coastline a beautiful view.

As the seconds ticked down, the launch closure door which seals the silo slid open and six seconds later, the first stage ignited sending the missile up and arcing west.

The sixty-foot tall Intercontinental Ballistic Missile departed it's silo at 6:34:59 a.m. PDT (9:34 a.m. EDT), from launch facility 10 on the northern section of Vandenberg.

The solid fueled first stage provides nearly 210,ooo pounds of thrust at launch, and burns for one minute. The solid fueled second stage burns for the next minute.

Soaring up into sub-orbital space and westward out over the Pacific Ocean, the Minuteman III's dummy warhead aimed for a trageted splashdown near the Marshall Islands.

"Minuteman III test launches demonstrate our nation's ICBM capability in a very visible way, deterring potential adversaries while reassuring allies," stated mission director Col. David Bliesner. "These launches provide valuable information on the missile's effectiveness in its intended operational environment."

The United States launched the first test flight of a Minuteman III in 1968, and the missile became operational in 1970.

The next test flight of a Minuteman III is targeted for July 27.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Russia launches supply craft to space station

Russia's Soyuz U rocket lifts a cargo craft to space today. (RSA)

An unmanned spacecraft filled with fresh supplies, fuel and hardware lifted off a top a Russian rocket today bound for the International Space Station.

Clear skies and warm temperatures favored the rocket's departure from western Kazakhstan.

The Progress M-11M supply craft -- loaded with nearly 2.6 tons of food, water and equipment, including supplies for NASA and Japan's astronauts -- lifted-off on time at 10:38 a.m. EDT (1438 GMT) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Launch occurred from the same traditional launch pad #1 which has supported most of the Russian Space Agency's manned and unmanned flights, including the first human space flight fifty years ago and the expedition crew's trip's to the space station.

The Progress craft, according to the Russian Space Agency, settled into an initial orbit of 120 x 149 miles.

The Progress M will orbit earth for two days as ground controllers steer the craft toward a docking, the first space craft docking to the space station at it's new altitude of 230 miles.

Progress will slowly guide itself in and dock to the Russian Zvezda module on Thursday at 12:37 p.m. (1637 GMT).

Aboard the orbiting lab are Russian cosmonauts commander Andrey Borisenko, Alexander Samokutyaev, Sergei Volkov, NASA astronauts Ron Garan and Mike Fossum, and Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa.

During the docking phase, Samokutyaev and Volkov will monitor the Progress' progress with a computer program called Russian telerobotically operated rendezvous system or TORU.

The duo will use TORU to help pilot the craft in to dock if Progress' on board computer fails.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

NASA spacecraft begins trek out of our solar system

A NASA spacecraft is speeding out and away from our solar system and will make the first leap into interstellar space at any moment according to scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

Voyager 1's exit will begin giving astrophysicists new data accounts of life outside the solar system.

The planetary satellite was launched nearly 34 years ago and continues to transmit data back to earth about the space around the craft powered by nuclear batteries.

It is this data sent back since last December and into February which began informing scientists at JPL that the spacecraft is no longer registering any solar wind activity and has moved into the outermost region of our solar system where there is no solar wind at the edge of the heliopause.

Our Sun emits solar wind which are super charged particles that soar out to the edge of the heliosphere estimated at some 9.3 billion miles or greater from the Sun.

"These calculations show we're getting close, but how close?" asks Ed Stone, a Voyager project scientist based at Pasadena's California Institute of Technology. "That's what we don't know, but Voyager 1 speeds outward a billion miles every three years, so we may not have long to wait."

NASA suggests that the spacecraft will become the first human built object to arrive outside the solar system before 2013.

Voyager 1 travels through space at a rate of 320 million miles a year, or the distance of 3.5 astronomical units.

Our solar system is made up of our Sun and planets located in the Milky Way Galaxy.

Launched from Cape Canaveral on September 5, 1977, Voyager 1 passed by the great planet of Jupiter in 1979, and took closeup images of Saturn in 1980, pictures which redefined what scientists knew about the make up of the planet's rings.

As of 9:00 a.m. EDT today, Voyager was located 10,837,307,002 miles from earth.

Voyager is expected to operate through 2020 according to JPL.

As Voyager 1 becomes the first man made object to leave our heliospere, it's sister craft Voyager 2 is located two billion miles away and should leave the solar system two years later.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Georgia Tech graduate to return to space station in July

Sandy Magnus will fly aboard the final space shuttle flight. (NASA)

Veteran space flier Sandy Magnus is no stranger to the city of Atlanta, nor is she to living in space, and is preparing this week for her flight aboard the final space shuttle mission in July.

The former aircraft engineer carried with her aspirations of becoming an astronaut, however she did not feel she was ready to apply just yet.

Magnus needed one more educational milestone before applying at NASA, and she looked to Atlanta to lead her into an astronaut career.

The Illinois native began attending the Georgia Institute of Technology located in downtown Atlanta in 1994. Two years later, she graduated with a Ph.D. from the School of Material Science and Engineering.

"I wandered off to Georgia Tech and did my Ph.D. in materials," Magnus said of her time in Atlanta. "At that point, I think my resume looks all right so I can apply to NASA and see what happens. And what happened was I got selected."

Weeks following her graduation, Magnus was accepted by NASA's Johnson Space Center near Houston for their astronaut program.

Dr. Magnus added, "I just didn’t feel ready to apply (at NASA) until I was nearing the completion of my Ph.D."

Today, she is a two-time shuttle astronaut and space station crew member and is just days away from her historic next spaceflight.

Magnus' first voyage upon the ocean of space was aboard space shuttle Atlantis in 2002, delivering a Starboard truss segment and fresh supplies for the crew aboard the International Space Station.

Her eleven day flight included her using the station's robotic arm during three days to assist fellow crew members spacewalking outside the complex.

Dr. Magnus' second spaceflight began with her launch from the Kennedy Space Center aboard Endeavour, to begin a nearly five month stay aboard the space station.

During Endeavour's two day trip to the outpost, she was joined by fellow Georgia Tech graduate, pilot Eric Boe.

The soccer enthusiast worked aboard the outpost by helping install new sleeping quarters, a new toilet and several new experiment and storage racks as the station was prepared to support crews of six.

Commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley, mission specialists Rex Walheim and Dr. Magnus are due to lift-off aboard shuttle Atlantis on July 8 to begin the final flight of the space shuttle program.

The crew of four will spend eight days docked to the space station, as they deliver new hardware and supplies inside a cargo module tucked in the shuttle's payload bay.

Twelve days later Atlantis is due to land back at the Kennedy Space Center.

"I certainly feel honored to be part of the last crew," Magnus said. "And the thing I think that I feel the most honored about is it requires a special skill set to operate with a crew of four and I’m very flattered that it’s felt that I have that skill set that is needed to do that."

Magnus has traveled nearly 55,000,000 miles during her two spaceflights, logging 145 days in earth orbit.

Atlantis final orbit of the earth will be a busy time as the crew prepares to land. She hopes to reflect on the moment as the shuttle makes her victory lap around the planet.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

New crew ready for exciting time aboard space station

New space station residents prepare for busy space flight. (NASA)

The next crew members bound for the International Space Station are in their final hours before launch to begin nearly six busy months of living and working in earth orbit.

Two space station veterans and a first time space flier will link up with the orbiting complex 222 miles above earth to begin a marathon mission.

Russia's Soyuz commander Sergei Volkov, along with NASA astronaut Mike Fossum and Japan's Satoshi Furukawaare are due to lift-off aboard a Soyuz FG rocket on Tuesday at 4:12:45 p.m. EDT (2012 GMT) from launch pad 1 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in western Kazakhstan.

Launch will occur from the very same launch pad which sent Yuri Gagarin aloft on mankind's first voyage into space fifty years earlier.

The boyish looking Volkov was born in 1973, and has logged nearly 200 days in space in 2008 as he flew his first spaceflight as commander of the 17th space station crew. He will perform his third spacewalk seven weeks after launching to the outpost.

His father is cosmonaut Alexander Volkov who spent 391 days in space on three spaceflights, including being aboard the Mir space station the months leading up to and after the fall of the Soviet Union.

The younger Volkov states that it was not his dream of being a cosmonaut as a child, as he sat and watched his father study all the time for exams associated with his flights and training.

"When I was a kid it was more minuses than pluses (to being a cosmonaut). Always busy, studying all day long, exams," Volkov explained.

He did want to become a pilot since an early age graduating from Tambov Air Force Pilot School in 1995, and that led him to cosmonaut training two years later.

Two time shuttle flier Mike Fossum has logged nearly 27 days in space, and has made six spacewalks outside the space station. He will perform his seventh orbital walk one month into his stay aboard the complex.

Japanese astronaut Furukawaare will serve as the Soyuz craft's co-pilot, and will be the only rookie riding into space this week.

A medical doctor from the University of Tokyo, Furukawaare began training to learn the Soyuz spacecraft in 2003 at Star City near Moscow; and the following year moved to Houston to begin Astronaut Candidate Training at the Johnson Space Center.

"My crew’s just awesome," Fossum stated recently as he spoke of his crew mates. "I’ve know Sergey Volkov for 11 years... he’s one of my best friends in the cosmonaut corps. I’ve known and worked with Satoshi since he showed up here to begin training."

"We’re three guys from three different countries and three different corners of the globe, but we get along great. We have a lot of fun working together," Fossum added.

Powered by a central core engine and four booster engines, the Soyuz FG will launch to the east, inclined 51.6 degrees to the earth's equator.

The space trio will ride inside their Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft, a new version of the older Soyuz crafts in which Russia will consider this flight a test flight.

Two days later, the Soyuz will slowly glide in and dock to the Russian Rassvet Module at about 5:00 p.m.

The new crew will join the three existing residents of station commander Andrey Borisenko, Alexander Samokutyaev and NASA astronaut Ron Garan two hours after arriving.

It will be the start of a busy second half of 2011 aboard the orbiting complex.

On June 23, a Russian resupply craft Progress M-11M is due to arrive and dock to the Zvezda service module, loaded with over two tons of fuel, water, fresh food and items for the crew of six.

NASA will launch the final space shuttle to the space station on July 8 to deliver supplies and help with stowage of new equipment brought up by Atlantis.

Fossum and Garan will perform a single six hour spacewalk on July 12 beginning at 8:00 a.m. during Atlantis' eight day stay.

The pair will remove a 1,400 pond failed ammonia pump module tank for storage inside the back section of the shuttle's payload bay.

NASA wants to learn why the pump failed very early in it's life for possible redesign.

"We’re going to the pump module right now is sitting on a stowage platform very close to the space station’s airlock, and Ron’s going to be getting onto the space station’s robot arm and we’re going to get this pump module ready to go," Fossum said of his single spacewalk's start.

Garin will ride the station's arm while holding on to the tank, while Fossum traverses over to a storage platform in Atlantis' bay.

Once latched down, the spacewalkers will switch places to begin the next task.

"I’ll jump on the arm, Ronnie will take the pedestrian route and then we’re going to pick up the RRM (Robotics Refueling Mission)," Fossum explained. "It’s a new kind of science payload that the shuttle’s bringing up, and we’ll put that onto a temporary stowage location on the station for a later install out at its permanent location."

The Goddard Space Flight Center's RRM will demonstrate the refueling of a spacecraft with a robot, likely DEXTRE. It will use fluids and not actual fuel for this experiment.

Two weeks later, Russian cosmonauts Borisenko and Volkov will venture outside to relocate a cargo platform from a Russian docking compartment to the Poisk module; and will they will deploy a mini transmitter containing messages of congratulations related to the golden anniversary of human kinds first voyage into space.

The docking compartment known as Pirs will be unlatched from the station and sent to a destructive reentry in Autumn of 2012.

The space duo will also install several experiments on Pirs to study how biological materials react to being exposed to space, and install a laser-based communications device to the Russian Zvezda module.

Russia's twenty-ninth space station-based spacewalk is planned for July 26.

Two more resupply Progress crafts are scheduled to arrive at the station on September 1 and October 28, stepping up from their traditional launch of every three months to two months following the July retirement of the space shuttle.

Borisenko, Samokutyaev and Garan will depart their home in space for their return to earth aboard their Soyuz TMA-21 craft on September 16. The trio left earth on April 5, arriving in time for the Gagarin anniversary one week later.

On the day prior to Soyuz undocking, Fossum will become the new space station commander. As the spacecraft undocks, Fossum will then become the commander of the new Expedition 29 crew.

Two weeks later, a new crew of three will replace the departed crew as they lift-off to earth's orbital outpost on Sept. 30 to begin their nearly six month stay.

Volkov, Fossum and Furukawaare will conclude their expedition aboard the space station on November 16 and land three hours later in a cold central Kazakhstan desert.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Endeavour lands upon the Space Coast concluding her storied career

Endeavour lands in the blackness of the Florida wildlife. (NASA)

Gliding out of earth orbit and into the blackness of a Florida night sky, shuttle Endeavour returned home to the Kennedy Space Center today completing her twenty-fifth and final space flight.

Endeavour's all veteran crew of commander Mark Kelly, pilot Greg Johnson and mission specialists Michael Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel and Italian Roberto Vittori of the European Space Agency, dropped out orbit after traveling 6,510,000 miles during nearly sixteen days.

As Endeavour soared high over the space center, her sister ship was on the move toward her launch pad in preparation for the final space shuttle flight.

Endeavour touched down on runway 15 at the Kennedy Space Center at 2:34:51 a.m. EDT, as her main gear hit the three mile strip at 210 m.p.h.

Johnson then released the drag chute to help slow the space craft down as Kelly gently lowered the nose gear.

Endeavour rolled to a stop at 2:35:36 a.m., completing 248 orbits of the earth on this her final flight.

"Welcome home, Endeavour," Mission Control radioed Endeavour's crew as she stopped.

"You know, the space shuttle is an amazing vehicle," commander Kelly radioed Mission Control. "To fly through the atmosphere, hit it at Mach 25. I mean steer through the atmosphere like an airplane, land on a runway like an airplane it is really, really an incredible ship."

"On behalf of my entire crew, I want to thank every person who's worked to get this mission going and every person that's worked on Endeavour. It's sad to see her land for the last time, but she really has a great legacy,"
Kelly added.

In normal dramatic style, NASA's infrared television showed normal exhaust from venting power units at the base of the vertical stabilizer.

NASA's fifth operational shuttle and the replacement for Challenger, Endeavour was the craft used on the first repair flight of the Hubble Space Telescope; and was the first to visit the new International Space Station as she brought up the first American segment and connected it with the first Russian module in 1998.

It was the completion of a sixteen day mission to the International Space Station which saw the delivery of an experiment sixteen nations will use to study the dark matter and solar wind in our solar system, four spacewalks to hook of cooling lines from American modules to a Russian module; and the resupply and the outpost with fresh goods for the crew and extra spare parts and equipment.

Astronauts outside the station handed over Endeavour's extension boom to the station to extend the outpost's reach another fifty feet giving the robotic arm a 100-foot reach for robotics work.

Prior to leaving orbit, Kelly called down to Mission Control asking about an earlier issue with right nose landing gear #2 tire pressure sensor which cropped up on launch day.

Mission control waved off the issue and "masked" that sensor so that an alarm would not sound before landing.

The shuttle's twin engines were fired for nearly three minutes prior to landing at 1:29:44 a.m. to slow the spacecraft down by 295 feet per second, and begin her free fall out of orbit and toward the earth's atmosphere.

As the shuttle's orbit decayed, Kelly flipped Endeavour's nose forward 138-degrees to bring the belly down toward earth with the nose pitched up for re-entry minutes later.

The orbiter then began to hit the atmosphere nearly 400,000 feet above the southern Pacific Ocean and 5,100 miles from her runway at 2:03 a.m.

The nineteen year old spacecraft flew high over southern Mexico at a speed of Mach 18, and out over the southern Gulf of Mexico at Mach 12 before making landfall over Fort Myers, Florida.

As Endeavour flew over the Gulf, her speed continued to slow down as she performed a second roll turn to bleed off energy.

With a pitch black horizon, Kelly and Johnson guided Endeavour toward the Atlantic Coastline for one final turn into the runway.

Sonic booms at 2:31 a.m. then sounded heralding Endeavour's homecoming as the powerless orbiter dropped from an altitude of seven miles high.

Endeavour's last flight also marked a milestone on human space duration.

Fincke became the American with the most time spent in space with 382 days now spent in space upon Endeavour's return today.

In all, Endeavour traveled 122,853,151 miles during her twenty-five missions, and made 4,671 revolutions of the earth during her storied career. Endeavour's time in space ended at 299 days as well.

This morning's landing means only one final space shuttle flight remains for NASA, who completed sending Atlantis to her launch pad an hour following Endeavour's return.

Lift-off of NASA's 135th and final space shuttle flight is targeted for June 8 at 11:38 a.m.

copyright 1998 - 2010 Charles Atkeison, All rights reserved.