Aug 28, 2009 | 6
It hasn't been the best of times for NASA in recent days. Not only is a presidential panel warning that the space agency will have to dramatically scale back its long-term ambitions if it wishes to stay on budget, but August has been plagued by malfunctions and delays across multiple projects and missions in progress.
A probe known as LCROSS, set to release a spent rocket booster to the moon's surface this fall in a hunt for water ice there, has suffered perhaps the most serious setback. This week, NASA announced that the spacecraft had unexpectedly squandered its fuel in an attempt to maintain its orientation after switching to an alternate attitude sensor.
"Our estimates now are if we pretty much baseline the mission, meaning just accomplish the things that we have to (do) to get the job done with full mission success, we're still in the black on propellant, but not by a lot," LCROSS project manager Daniel Andrews told Spaceflight Now.
Aug 24, 2009
With each nighttime space shuttle launch, residents of the U.S.'s eastern seaboard have a chance, weather permitting, to see the orbiter climbing into the sky. The launch of space shuttle Discovery, scheduled for 1:36 A.M. (Eastern Daylight Time) Tuesday, is no exception and may provide the last such opportunity before the space shuttle program is terminated.
Over at SPACE.com, Joe Rao of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City has viewing tips for various regions of the coast in the seconds and minutes after liftoff. SPACE.com also has a map of the areas from which the shuttle should be visible during ascent, assuming clear skies and an unobstructed vantage point.
Mar 28, 2009 | 1
Space shuttle Discovery touched down safely at 3:14 P.M. (Eastern Daylight Time) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, completing its 13-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The landing time was pushed back from 1:39 P.M. due to uncertain weather at the landing site earlier in the day.
Discovery delivered a 45-foot (14-meter) truss segment to the ISS, completing the station's 335-foot (102-meter) "backbone," as well as the final set of solar arrays needed to power the station once its crew swells from three to six in the coming months. The ISS now boasts 38,400 square feet (3,570 square meters) of U.S. solar panels, nearly a full acre, generating about 120 kilowatts of electricity. (Unlike solar-powered buildings here on Earth, the space station doesn't need to worry about cloud cover.)
Mar 20, 2009
That’s because the wings’ panels, which will provide additional electricity to run science experiments and daily operations on the ISS, could get stuck together, according to the Associated Press.
To prevent that from happening, the wings will be rolled out in stages via remote control; as the sun “bakes” the panels, their potential “stiction” should decline, NASA says in its update today. One array was to deploy to 49 percent at 10:48 a.m. EDT, “baking” for 45 minutes before being fully deployed; the other will deploy to 49 percent at 12:28 p.m., and extended the rest of the way 45 minutes later.
Mar 12, 2009
The space shuttle Discovery is still on the ground this morning, after NASA postponed last night’s scheduled launch because of a hydrogen leak. Liftoff is now tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
The mission was to have dropped off the final pieces of the International Space Station's (ISS) solar arrays that capture energy from the sun, and parts for its urine recycling system that would expand the ISS’s capacity from three to six crew members. It was sidelined after engineers discovered a leak in the gaseous hydrogen venting system outside of the external fuel tank. That system carries excess hydrogen away from the launch pad, and an accumulation of gas could have caused an explosion at launch.
Mar 11, 2009
The much-postponed launch of space shuttle Discovery on a mission to the International Space Station (ISS) finally looks set to go. The shuttle is scheduled to blast off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida tonight at 9:20 (Eastern Daylight Time), delivering the final pieces of the ISS's solar arrays and helping to boost the station's capacity from three to six crew members.
The shuttle's climb into space should be visible—weather permitting—in the night sky along the East Coast, according to Joe Rao of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. The glow of Discovery's three main engines, he writes in his blog, will look like "a very bright, pulsating, fast-moving star, shining with a yellowish-orange glow." In the Southeast, the bright light of the solid-rocket boosters will be visible as they burn for the first two minutes of flight.
Feb 4, 2009
NASA announced yesterday that the launch of space shuttle Discovery, which had been slated for February 12, will be delayed for at least a week.* The space agency said it needs more time to ensure that the valves controlling the flow of hydrogen gas into the external fuel tank do not pose a hazard. Engineers discovered that one of those valves had been damaged when another shuttle, Endeavour, lifted off in November—and NASA wants to find out why that happened and whether a similar occurrence could endanger the mission and crew.
"We want to make sure we've got this right," NASA associate administrator for space operations William Gerstenmaier told the Associated Press. "So we think standing down for a little bit of time and letting the folks do a little more work is a good thing."
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