Tuesday, May 10, 2011

NASA to launch Endeavour's final mission on May 16

WASHINGTON: The date for the launch of NASA's space shuttle Endeavour has been finalised for May 16.

NASA managers have set the lift-off for 8:56 a.m. EDT on Monday. Launch attempts are available through May 26, except for May 21. The STS-134 mission to the International Space Station is the penultimate shuttle flight and the final one for Endeavour.

Space Shuttle Program Launch Integration Manager Mike Moses and Shuttle Launch Director Mike Leinbach also discussed the progress of repairs since Endeavour's launch postponement on April 29 at a news briefing from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

A short in the heater circuit associated with Endeavour's hydraulic system resulted in the launch postponement. Technicians determined the most likely failure was inside a switchbox in the shuttle's aft compartment and associated electrical wiring connecting the switchbox to the heaters. The heater circuits prevent freezing of the fuel lines providing hydraulic power to steer the vehicle during ascent and entry.

The faulty box was replaced May 4. Since Friday, Kennedy technicians installed and tested new wiring that bypasses the suspect electrical wiring and confirmed the heater system is working properly. They also are completing retests of other systems powered by the switchbox and are closing out Endeavour's aft compartment. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Endeavour Power Box Testing Continues, New Launch Date Expected Friday

Technicians at NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39A in Florida continue testing various systems inside space shuttle Endeavour associated with a newly installed power distribution box, called a Load Control Assembly 2 (LCA-2). So far, all systems have checked out. Overnight, teams will retest power for Endeavour’s reaction control system.

Endeavour’s no earlier than launch date remains May 10, but senior NASA managers will meet Friday to evaluate the progress of repairs and select a new launch date for the STS-134 mission to the International Space Station.

Engineers have been doing forensic engineering testing on the failed LCA-2, which was removed from Endeavour on Tuesday. The LCA-2 feeds power to a variety of systems, including heaters on the fuel line for Endeavour’s auxiliary power unit-1 (APU-1). APUs control the shuttle’s hydraulic system. Teams are trying to determine what caused a circuit inside the power box to short out.

‪The APU-1 fuel line heaters did not work on April 29, prompting the launch team to scrub Endeavour’s first launch attempt.


Monday, May 2, 2011

NASA says Endeavour will not launch before May 10

  • WASHINGTON - Engineers have identified the technical problem that delayed the space shuttle Endeavour's final mission last week, but the next liftoff attempt will not be before May 10, NASA said Monday.

    "NASA space shuttle and International Space Station managers met Monday and determined that Tuesday, May 10 is the earliest Endeavour could be launched on the STS-134 mission," the US space agency said in a statement.

    The mission of the shuttle Endeavour is to be the US program's second-to-last flight to the International Space Station, followed by Atlantis in June. After that, the 30-year-old US shuttle program will end.

    The glitch, which caused NASA to scrub the attempt hours before liftoff Friday, was traced to a power problem in the aft load control assembly-2 (ALCA-2), a box of switches that control electrical flow to heaters that keep fuel lines from freezing in orbit.

    "The plan is to remove and replace the box, but that work and related testing will take several days to complete," NASA said.

    "Plans are for managers to reconvene Friday to determine a more definite launch date after the box is removed and replaced and the retest of systems has been completed."

    The six-member crew of astronauts left Florida on Sunday and are engaging in more mission training at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas while they wait for the next launch attempt date to be announced.

    Endeavour will carry a $2 billion, seven-ton particle physics detector, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2, which will be left at the space station to scour the universe for dark matter and antimatter.

    The 14-day mission, known as STS-134, is to be commanded by US astronaut Mark Kelly, whose wife, Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, is recovering from a gunshot wound to the head sustained in January.

    Giffords was allowed by her rehab doctors in Houston to fly to Florida to watch the launch, and she is expected to return again for the next attempt, her office said.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Final countdown: As nasa prepares to scrap its workhorse, Alex Hannaford of The Telegraph meets the last shuttle pilots and asks: where next?

Jake Stanfill will never forget the day his parents took him down to the beach at Sebastian Inlet, Fla. It was April 12, 1981, and he was 11 years old. Up the coast about 65 kilometres, but clearly visible to the Stanfills and their friends who had gathered on the warm sands and were now looking skyward, the space shuttle Columbia was preparing for liftoff.

It was a clear day and, as a vertical plume of bright white smoke shot heavenward, the young Jake -one of thousands of spectators who witnessed the launch -watched the shuttle roll over on its back and then separate from its boosters. He turned to his parents. "Tears were streaming down their faces with pride," he says. "It was then I realized we were on the cusp of something the world had never seen."

On Tuesday, June 28 -just over 30 years on from that inaugural launch -Chris Ferguson, Rex Walheim, Sandy Magnus and Doug Hurley will suit up and climb into the space shuttle Atlantis bound for the International Space Station. The foursome will make history as the last crew ever to fly a NASA space shuttle mission. The significance of this final flight is not lost on the international space community, or on the astronauts themselves. The spacecraft is, in the words of Sandy Magnus, the only woman on board that final Atlantis mission, "the most unique vehicle that human beings have ever built,"

Columbia's first trip into orbit, which launched the shuttle program, quickly became a symbol of U.S. power and dominance. A statement by then-president Ronald Reagan, read to Columbia's crew, said: "You go forward this morning in a daring enterprise and you take the hopes and prayers of all Americans with you. As you hurtle from Earth in a craft unlike anything ever constructed, you will do so in a feat of American technology and American will."

"Did it blow people's minds? Certainly," says Valerie Neal, a curator of human space history at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC.

"It was an awesome achievement -something people took great pride in. This technology held the promise of space flight becoming routine, and simply by looking like an aircraft, it was easy to extrapolate that it could operate like airplanes operate and that some day, ordinary people could go into space as well. In that early '80s flush of optimism, this was the way of the future."

The shuttle program was the result of a decision by then-president Richard Nixon's administration to shut down the Apollo program to reduce federal spending. "People were not impressed with that," says Professor John Logsdon, author of several books about manned space flight and a NASA Advisory Council committee member.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Test of Big Space Rocket Set for Late 2012

An American space company says a powerful new rocket should be ready for a test launch by the end of next year. The company is Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX. Its new rocket is called the Falcon Heavy.

Test of Big Space Rocket

Company officials say it will be able to Transport satellites or spacecraft weighing up to fifty-three metric tons into orbit. Fifty-three metric tons is one hundred seventeen thousand pounds. That load weight is double the capacity of NASA space shuttles. The space agency is retiring its shuttles after thirty years.

Elon Musk is the chief executive officer of SpaceX.

ELON MUSK: "One hundred seventeen thousand pounds is more than a fully loaded Boeing 737 with one hundred thirty-six passengers, luggage and fuel in orbit. So that is really, really humongous. It’s more payload capability than any vehicle in history, apart from the Saturn Five."

NASA used Saturn Five rockets during its Apollo and Skylab programs in the nineteen sixties and seventies. A Saturn Five launched the Apollo 11 mission that landed the first humans on the moon in nineteen sixty-nine.

The rockets were removed from service in nineteen seventy-three. But they remain the most powerful ever built.

Elon Musk says the Falcon Heavy will be the second most powerful rocket ever. He says it was designed to do more than carry satellites and other equipment into space. He says the rocket was designed to meet NASA's ratings for human flight safety. So it could someday be used to carry astronauts and other travelers into space.

Mr. Musk says the Falcon Heavy could also be used for missions like carrying a robotic lander to collect samples from Mars.

ELON MUSK: "It has so much capability, so much more capability than any other vehicle, that I think we can start to contemplate missions like a Mars sample return, which requires a tremendous amount of lift capability because you’ve got to send a lander to Mars that still has enough propellant to return to Earth."

The first launch is planned from the company's launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. A launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, is expected in late twenty-thirteen or fourteen.

In time, SpaceX hopes to launch ten Falcon Heavy rockets a year. It says the rocket should reduce launch costs to about two thousand dollars a kilogram. That is about one-tenth the cost of carrying loads into orbit on a space shuttle.

SpaceX already has a billion-and-a-half-dollar deal with NASA to use a smaller rocket to transport cargo to the International Space Station. The rocket is the Falcon 9, and the deal is for after the two last shuttles -- Endeavour and Atlantis -- are retired this year.

And that's the VOA Special English Technology Report, written by June Simms and Jessica Berman. I'm Steve Ember.
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Monday, March 14, 2011

The Moon will be at its Closest to Our Planet @ Mar 19th,

This coming March 19, 2011, the moon will be at its closest point to our planet earth in 18 years - a mere 356,577 kilometers away. Astrologer Richard Nolle called it a "supermoon" back in the 1970s. This phenomenon is also called ‘lunar perigee’ the opposite of the ‘lunar apogee’ when the Moon is furthest from Earth. Supermoon is described a new or full moon at 90% or more of its closest orbit to Earth. On the 19th, it will be at 100%.
A number of astronomers predict that this phenomenon was worrying, because it will have an effect on climate patterns on Earth. Some people connect the lunar perigee or supermoon with catastrophe, like earthquakes.

Emeritus Professor for Astronomy and Planetary Science Department, Peter GoldreichPeter Goldreich at Caltech University, notes that he and a number of other scientists have studied the moon for decades and have not at all found it to cause these natural disasters.

Natural Disaster
Gordon Johnston, Planetary Program Executive for NASA, told FoxNews.com that “These will be the strongest tides of the month, but they won’t be much different from last year. They’re not that unusual from other tides around the full moon.”
Source: http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/8461098-march-19-the-moon-will-be-at-its-closest-to-planet-earth

Monday, February 28, 2011

Discovery Blasts Off One Last Time

Nearly everyone has seen a shuttle launch, on cable or regular television sometime during the last 30 years. While the program, with its successes and failures, has to many become routine, launches over the years remain a symbol of hope and pride to the American public.

The announcement last summer that the shuttle program will be ending has put a question mark on America's manned space program.

The shuttle Discovery was scheduled to launch in November, but due to a myriad of technical issues, was not launched until this past Thursday, Feb. 24.

In attendance for the historic launch were John and Susie Galer of Hillsboro, publishers of The Journal-News.

The six man crew, plus one robot, is delivering a permanent Multipurpose Module to the International Space Station. The PMM will provide additional storage for the station crew and experiments in physics, materials science biology and biotechnology.

Discovery also carries critical spare components and the Express Logistics Carrier 4 to the station. The Express is an external platform which can hold large equipment and can only be transported using the shuttle's unique large load capability.

The STS-133 mission will also feature two space walks for maintenance and installation of new components.

The Launch

There were perfect launch conditions last Thursday at the Kennedy Space Center, and the launch being Discovery's last brought thousands of media and visitors to the center, located in Cape Canaveral, FL.

Liftoff was scheduled for 4:50 p.m. EST, but the launch control was on a five minute hold because of a safety issue on the range.

At 4:48, the hold was released and the countdown started. A three minute window was allotted for Discovery's launch. It had to takeoff by 4:53 p.m. or the crew would get to start over again on Friday.

The launch team succeeded with only two seconds to spare, overcoming a technical glitch.

Watching a shuttle launch on TV, is always exciting, but nothing compares to being on the Complex 39 Press Area just three miles from the launching site.

The scenes on TV or reading about it the next day in a newspaper don't begin to give you an adequate feeling of the event.

At first as the launch starts, steam rises from under the shuttle launch tower. Water used as a sound and vibration buffer pours out when the three shuttle engines are first ignited and turns instantly to steam about two seconds prior to liftoff.

The firing of the two solid rocket boosters initiates Discovery's climb off the pad, and visually smoke and huge orange flames engulf the tower.

From our vantage, three miles from the launch pad, we watch as Discovery slowly clears the tower and starts a rotation which directs all five motors back our way. There still is no sound but the rockets burn is one of the brightest lights you can see without looking away. It is unbelievably bright.

The launch is only a few seconds under way. The crowd is silent, awestruck at the amazing display.

About 15 seconds into the launch from our vantage point, still in total silence, you begin to feel a vibration, as your pants and shirt sleeves seem to vibrate, you feel the power first. Then slowly the sound arrives, first a couple of sharp clicks, these are the ignition of the main shuttle engines, which were started prior to liftoff and created the initial steam.

Next comes the growing roar of the solid rocket boosters as they ignite for liftoff. The sound grows a little, but after the shuttle's turn, with all five rocket motors facing you, the sound grows and grows. It is incredible, to feel and hear the power of this launch and to be close to the drama of sending six crew men into space.

Visually you can see Discovery through the first four minutes of the flight. The solid rocket booster's separation is also visible. In less than seven minutes Discovery was in orbit for its 11-day mission.

Discovery's History

Discovery flew its maiden voyage in 1984, and will be retired after this flight. It flew the return to flight missions in 1988 following the loss of Challenger and again in 2005 after the loss of Columbia. It launched the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990, and Senator and former astronaut John Glenn flew onboard in 1998.

With this trip, Discovery will have flown in space 39 times more than any other shuttle.

Loss of the program will mean a loss of nearly 9,000 jobs for the space program. But there is current optimism at NASA, that the manned space program will adapt as private business is given the chance to fill the need in manned space flight.