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STS-118 launches into space; lessons forthcoming [Aug. 10th, 2007|12:02 am]
STS-118 Endeavour launched into space Thursday August 8, 2007 at 6:36 PM Eastern Time from Launch pad 39A on a mission to the International Space Station (ISS) to deliver the Starboard side truss segment 5 (a spacer segment), deliver some cargo to the ISS, and get some cargo from the ISS to return to Earth.

Onboard Endeavour, returning to space after five years of orbiter maintenance and improvements, are Commander Scott Kelly, Pilot Charlie Hobaugh, and Mission Specialists Tracy Caldwell, Rick mastracchio, Alvin Drew, Jr., Dave Williams and Educator Astronaut Barbara Morgan.

Morgan was a backup to Christa McAuliffe for a Space Shuttle Challenger mission in 1986. Challenger disintegrated about 73 seconds after launch on January 28, 1986 with the loss of all seven crewmembers including McAuliffe.

Morgan plans at least one educational downlink during the mission, and if the mission is extended, Morgan may deliver up to two more lessons from space.

Endeavour is scheduled to dock with the ISS on Friday August 10th at about 1:53 PM Eastern Time.
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STS-117 Atlantis on its way! [Jun. 9th, 2007|04:51 pm]
After months of being delayed while hail damage to the External Tank was repaired, STS-117 Atlantis rocketed into space during twilight (7:38 PM EDT) on Friday evening from the Kennedy Space Center.

Aboard Atlantis is: Commander Rick Sturckow, Pilot Lee Archambault, and mission specialists Patrick Forrester, Steven Swanson, John 'Danny' Olivas, Jim Reilly and Clayton Anderson.

Awaiting their arrival on the International Space Station are Expedition 15 Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and flight engineers Oleg Kotov and Suni Williams.

After a day of Thermal Protection System (TPS) inspection on Saturday, Atlantis is scheduled to dock with the ISS on Sunday. Just after docking, Clayton Anderson will become a member of the Expedition 15 crew and Suni Williams will become a member of the shuttle crew in preparation for her homecoming aboard Atlantis after 6 months in space aboard the ISS.

The main mission of STS-117 Atlantis is to deliver and deploy new truss segments and a new pair of solar arryas (S3/S4 Truss segment).
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Anik F3, Up Aerospace, and Shuttle Update [May. 1st, 2007|01:18 pm]
Telesat (Canada) satellite Anik F3 went from launch to operation in about 21 days - fairly unheard of nowdays for a geostationary communications satellite. Anik F3 went into service today at 118.7 degrees West longitude and the entire Ku-band portion of the tri-band (C, Ku, Ka) satellite is leased by Echostar to provide some DISH Network services.

Most satellites take a month to go from the elliptical transfer orbit that the satellite is launched into the final circularized geostationary orbit. Also during the course of the month, the satellite is drifted to an interim orbital slot so in-orbit testing of the satellite can be done without interferring existing satellites. Usually it is a month and a half by the time the satellite is launched and in-orbit testing is completed until the satellite is moved into its final licensed orbital slot and put into operation.

DISH Network was using SES Americom's AMC-16 satellite at 118.7 degrees West lontitude on a temporary authority from the FCC and from Industry Canada until Telesat could launch Anik F3. Because Anik F3 was not placed in an interim orbital slot for in-orbit testing, some DISH Network services were interrupted during overnight periods so Anik F3 Ku-band transponders could be tested. Since AMC-16's Ka-band payload was turned off and there is no C-band service from that slot until Anik F3 arrived, Anik F3 C-band and Ka-band payloads were able to be tested without having to disrupt services.

AMC-16 is currently being drifted back to its permanently licensed slot of 85 degrees West longitude.


In other news, UP AEROSPACE successfully launched it's XL-2 mission using their Spaceloft XL rocket on Saturday, April 28, 2007. It was the first successful launch attempt in two tries for Up Aerospace and the first successful launch from the new Spaceport America near Upham, New Mexico.

On board the XL-2 suborbital flight were science payloads and the remains of 200 people, including Star Trek actor James Doohan and former NASA astronaut Gordon Cooper.


As for Space Shuttle Atlantis on flight STS-117, external tank repairs from hail damage are ongoing and NASA is anticipating a return to flight around June 8th if all continues to go well. The recent change to the mission is that the astronaut swap scheduled for a later shuttle mission has been moved to STS-117. During the swap, NASA astronaut Suni Williams will return from her International Space Station mission and NASA astronaut Clay Anderson will join the ISS crew.
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STS-117 Atlantis delayed due to hail [Feb. 27th, 2007|11:20 pm]
A hailstorm moved through the Kennedy Space Center on Monday (February 26) and due to hail damage to the External Tank and a few tiles on Atlantis, NASA managers decided to roll the orbiter stack back to the Vehicle Assembly Building and repair the damage.

Atlantis is now scheduled to launch no earlier than late April, rather than around March 15th.

STS-117 will be ferrying up the Starboard-side S3/S4 truss segments and SARJ (Solar Array Alpha Joint) that allows the starboard solar panels to rotate to better follow the sun for power generation. The P6 truss segment starboard-side solar arrays will be retracted and the S4 truss segment solar arrays will be extended.

Atlantis' crew is Commander Frederick Sturckow, Pilot Lee Archambault and mission specialists Patrick Forrester, James Reilly II, Steven Swanson, and John D. Olivas.
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NSS-8 goes kaboom [Jan. 30th, 2007|06:39 pm]
SES NEW SKIES' satellite NSS-8 was destroyed in a Sea Launch launch accident today (2322 GMT / 6:22 p.m. EST).

At liftoff, the rocket exploded and created a huge fireball on its equatorial launch pad at 154 degrees West longitude. The satellite feed of the launch and the corresponding webcast feed were both immediately taken off the air.

If all went well, the Sea Launch Zenit 3-SL rocket would have launched NSS-8 on its way to a final orbital longitude location of 57 degrees East.

NSS-8, a 13,050 pound satellite, featured 56 C-band and 36 Ku-band transponders and was based on the Boeing 702-model design with a 15 year expected operational lifetime.

Sea Launch will establish a Failure Review Oversight Board to determine the cause of the launch accident.
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Comet McNaught Visible on SOHO Images [Jan. 12th, 2007|02:39 am]
The latest images from the LASCO (Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph Experiment) C3 camera aboard the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft have started to show Comet McNaught (C 2006/P1 McNaught) approaching the sun. It is expected Comet McNaught will pass the sun at a closest approach distance of 25,500,000 KiloMeters (KM).

Comet McNaught is a relatively bright comet that currently can be seen in the dusk sky at sunset. The comet was discovered in August 2006 by Rob McNaught.

The website to visit for the LASCO C3 images of Comet McNaught is:

It is anticipated the comet will be in sight of the LASCO C3 camera through January 16th.
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STS-116 Flight Days 11-14 [Dec. 27th, 2006|11:48 pm]
The last part of the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-116) mission went smoothly.

On Flight Day 11, Discovery undocked with the International Space Station. Suni Williams, who went up into space aboard Discovery, became a part of the ISS crew as she started her 6 month stay. Thomas Reiter joined the Discovery crew from the ISS as he returned to Earth after 6 months on the ISS.

On Flight Day 12, Thermal Protection System inspections were done to verify no micrometeorite debris hits occurred to the TPS system during docked operations with the ISS. It didn't take too long to give Discovery a clean bill of health for reentry.

During Flight Day 12 and 13, three small satellites were released from Discovery's payload bay:

MEPSI (Micro-Electromechanical System-Based PICOSAT Inspector) was deployed December 20 at 7:19 PM EST (0019 GMT December 21). The satellite demonstrates how well autonomous low-powered small satellites can inspect larger space vehicles using small camera systems.

RAFT (Radar Fence Transponder) was deployed December 20 at 8:58 PM EST (0158 GMT December 21). The satellite, built by students of the U.S. Naval Academy, tests the Space Surveillance Radar Fence and experimental communications transponders.

ANDE (Atmospheric Neutral Density Experiment) was deployed December 21 at 1:23 PM EST (1823 GMT December 21) and is designed to measure the density and composition of low earth orbit atmosphere in an effort to better understand how drag affects objects orbiting in low earth orbit.

On Flight Day 14, the weather was just good enough for the second landing opportunity to the Kennedy Space Center that the orders for deorbit burn were given and Discovery's crew of Commander Mark Polansky, Pilot Bill Oefelein, and mission specialists Nicholas Patrick, Joan Higginbotham, Bob Curbeam, and Christer Fuglesang and Thomas Reiter (European Space Agency (ESA) astronauts) were on their way home.
A safe landing occurred and the astronauts got to enjoy Christmas with their families.

The next Space Shuttle mission is STS-117 (Atlantis), scheduled for launch no earlier than March 15, 2007. The purpose of the mission is to deliver the starboard S3 and S4 truss segments and the starboard side SARJ (solar array alpha joint). The mission is a mirror of the STS-115 mission where STS-115 crew aboard Atlantis delivered the port side P3/P4 and SARJ pieces.

Following STS-117 is the STS-118 mission (launch no earlier than June 28, 2007) with the S5 starboard side spacer truss segment (a mirror mission of the just-completed STS-116 flight that delivered the port side P5 truss spacer segment). STS-118 will mark Endeavour's return to flight after major orbiter upgrades/modifications and marks the return of NASA trying to launch an educator into space.

In January 1986, Christa McAuliffe was aboard the ill-fated Challenger when it disintegrated during liftoff. Barbara Morgan will be launching with the STS-118 crew as an "Educator Astronaut" and will try to deliver the lessons from space that McAuliffe had planned to do almost 21 years ago.
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STS-116 Flight Days 6-10 [Dec. 19th, 2006|02:10 am]
In the course of five days, there have been three spacewalks and considerable attention payed to retracting the port side of the P6 solar array segment on the zenith (upper) side of the International Space Station.

On Flight Day 6, spacewalkers Bob Curbeam and Christer Fuglesang rewired two power channels out of four total as they gradually routed the power from the P4 truss segment solar arrays to the rest of the ISS.

On Flight Day 7, several things were tried from an inside-the-vehicle standpoint to try to finish retracting the partially retracted P6 port-side solar array. The main issue is that grommets in the solar array blankets were sticking to the guide wire.
The P6 solar arrays were rotated in various ways to try to unstick the grommets from the guide wire. As a last resort, Expedition 13 flight engineer Thomas Reiter did power squat exercises to try to induce oscillations and shaking in the P6 solar arrays (a previous ISS Expedition crew member exercised vigorously enough that it was discovered the P6 solar arrays could shake if exercising was done). None of those things tried was able to break free grommets from the guide wire in enough fashion to finish retracting the array.

On Flight Day 8, the other two power channels were wired in the final planned extravehicular activity of the mission. Robert Curbeam and Sunita Williams carried out the spacewalk quick enough that there was time to try something to get that P6 solar array retracted. Curbeam and Williams resorted to shaking the blanket boxes on the array to try to induce enough movement in the solar arrays to break the grommets free of the guide wire. The attempts were not totally successful in retracting the whole array, but more of the array ended up retracted by the end of the EVA.

On Flight Day 9, mission managers decided to carry out a fourth spacewalk, dedicated to the P6 solar array retraction. Curbeam was selected to carry out his fourth spacewalk of the shuttle mission (a shuttle record). Fugelsang was goign to be the other spacewalker.

The fourth spacewalk was carried out on Flight Day 10. Curbeam placed himself in a foothold on the ISS's robotic arm while Fugelsang was the free-floating spacewalker. Curbeam had several tools at his disposal to break any stuck grommets free of the guide wire as well as to re-tension any guide wires that became too loose. Fugelsang was in a position to shake the solar array blanket boxes if needed. By the end of the spacewalk, the port-side of the P6 solar array became totally retracted into the blanket boxes and the boxes latched closed.

Flight Day 11 will see the undocking of the shuttle from the station after a farewell ceremony. On Flight Day 12, final Thermal Protection System (TPS) inspections will be done to make sure no orbital debris breached the TPS during docked operations and some small satellites will be deployed from the payload bay.

Flight Control System checkout and cabin stowage will occur on Flight Day 13 and landing on Flight Day 14 at either Kennedy Space Center, Edwards Air Force Base, or maybe even Northrup Strip at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico if weather is bad in Florida or California.
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STS-116 Flight Day 5 highlight [Dec. 14th, 2006|02:27 am]
Even though the main task for Flight Day 5 was not totally completed, the end result allowed ISS managers to accomplish what they wanted to do.

One of the main tasks was to retract the P6 ttruss segment solar array, a truss segment currently attached to the top (zenith) side of the ISS. The port-side solar array blankets of the P6 truss were the ones to be retracted. When all was said and done for the task, the P6 port-side solar arrays were only partially retracted. Retracting the array is a lot like folding up a map. Time after time, some of the array segments didn't properly fold up among their fold lines and got in a bind. After many attempts to try to get the array segments to fold up properly, it was decided to leave the array partially retracted instead of completely retracted.

The other major task was to activate the Solar Alpha Rotary Joint (SARJ) - a component that allows the port-side P4 truss segment solar arrays to rotate like a paddlewheel to follow the sun. The SARJ was not activated until today because of the obstacle caused by the port-side array of the P6 solar arrays. The P6 solar arrays were retracted just enough today to remove that obstacle. The SARJ was activated and the P4 solar arrays are properly rotating to follow the sun for maximum power generation.

Flight Day 6 is highlighted by the second spacewalk of the mission, a spacewalk to carry out some wiring to allow power generated by the P4 truss solar arrays to be utilized by the station. Two of the four channels will be wired during the second spacewalk and the other two channels will be wired during the third spacewalk on Flight Day 8.

A fourth spacewalk may occur during the STS-116 mission to finish retracting the P6 port-side solar arrays or the spacewalk may occur by the ISS crew later in the expedition. Mission managers will discuss the spacewalk possibilities and reach a decision in the next few days.
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STS-116 Flight Day 2,3 and 4 highlights [Dec. 13th, 2006|02:00 am]
On Flight Day 2, the STS-116 crew of Commander Mark Polansky, Pilot Bill Oefelein, and mission specialists Nicholas Patrick, Joan Higginbotham, Bob Curbeam, Sunita Williams and Christer Fuglesang (European Space Agency) carried out inspections of the shuttle's Thermal Protection System. Early indications are that the TPS is fine, but no official word has been given. Flight Day 2 also saw continuing engine firings as the Shuttle closed the distance to the International Space Station.

Flight Day 3 was docking day - all went smoothly as Discovery docked with the ISS, leak checks were carried out to verify proper mating of the ISS and Shuttle, and then the hatches were opened as the Shuttle crew greeted the ISS crew of Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria, Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin and Flight Engineer Thomas Reiter (ESA). Williams became an official crewmember of the ISS Expedition 14 when her customized seat liner was placed in the ISS's Soyuz capsule, the lifeboat in case of emergency aboard the ISS. Reiter joins the STS-116 crew for his ride home after about 6 months in orbit.

Flight Day 4 saw the first spacewalk of the mission. With Higginbotham controlling the robot arm, the P5 truss segment was guided into place on the truss. Spacewalkers Curbeam and Fuglesang removed launch restraints from the P5 truss segment and then bolted the P5 truss segment onto the truss once everything was aligned. Power cables were hooked up between the P4 truss (delivered on the last shuttle mission, STS-115) and the P5 truss segment and a camera on the S1 segment of the truss was replaced.

Coming up on Flight Day 5 is the retraction of the port-side solar array of the P6 truss segment on the zenith (upper) side of the ISS and if that goes well, the SARJ (solar array alpha joint) activation should occur, allowing the P4 truss segment solar arrays to rotate to track the sun.
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