May 13, 2009 | 3
Atlantis, launched on Monday, is on a servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. The shuttle is making its final approach to the telescope, which the Atlantis crew will grapple with a robotic arm and draw in for servicing in a series of spacewalks beginning tomorrow. Below we'll update you on the approach and grapple as the process unfolds.
Photo: NASA TV
May 13, 2009
Atlantis is in its final approach to the Hubble Space Telescope, closing in for a scheduled rendezvous at 12:54 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time. After the shuttle catches up to the telescope in orbit and draws within 35 feet, astronaut Megan McArthur will maneuver the shuttle's robotic arm to grasp Hubble and pull it into Atlantis's payload bay.
Tomorrow the real work starts, with the first of five scheduled spacewalks designed to replace aging or faulty components and install two new scientific instruments on the 19-year-old observatory.
During yesterday's standard inspection of the shuttle's heat shield using boom-mounted sensors, NASA spotted some nicking near where the right wing meets the fuselage.
May 11, 2009
The space shuttle Atlantis lifted off without event just after 2:00 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Atlantis is carrying seven astronauts on the final scheduled servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. Four of the astronauts will pair off to perform five spacewalks to repair and upgrade Hubble, replacing a critical electronic switchboard that partly failed in September and installing two new scientific instruments, among other procedures.
The shuttle reached orbit eight and a half minutes after an on-time launch at 2:01:56. During pre-launch checks, ground crews had expressed some concern about ice buildup on a liquid hydrogen line, but further inspections indicated that the ice was not extensive enough to pose a danger during ascent.
May 11, 2009
The weather looks fine, the astronauts have climbed aboard, and all preparations appear to be going smoothly for today's afternoon launch of space shuttle Atlantis on its mission to repair and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope. The launch, postponed from last October to deal with electronic problems that arose in September, is scheduled for 2:01 (Eastern Daylight Time) from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The seven astronauts on the 11-day mission will deliver new scientific instruments and a slew of replacement parts for Hubble, including a set of new 125-pound (57-kilogram) batteries to replace the six originals that have powered Hubble's night-side activities since its 1990 launch.
Feb 19, 2009 | 1
Think garbage is a problem on the ground? Out-of-this-world solutions may be needed to get rid of the growing swarm of space trash, including debris from last week's smashup between a Russian and a U.S. satellite.
That's the word from this week's meeting of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, the Associated Press reports. Among the possible remedies floating around the Vienna confab: giving orbital debris parachute-like balloons that would increase their atmospheric drag and pull them back to Earth faster or attaching a 10-mile (16-kilometer) electrodynamic tether to a piece of circling junk that would allow technicians to control its descent.
Dec 10, 2008 | 2
A poorly kept secret is now official: the Hubble Space Telescope has discovered carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar system. That's a first in the study of extrasolar planets, or exoplanets, which have been quite the hot topic this year.
The exoplanet HD 189733 b, roughly the mass of Jupiter, orbits a star 63 light-years away in extremely close company. Although the planet can't be seen directly, scientists used Hubble data to analyze its atmospheric composition and turn up CO2 as well as carbon monoxide (CO). They did this by comparing the light spectrum from the star with that from the star and planet combined, as the planet passes in front of its star.
Although HD 189733 b is way too steamy for life as we know it—roughly 1,950 degrees Fahrenheit (1,065 degrees Celsius) by one estimate—the finding, leaked to media outlets two weeks ago, shows that techniques exist to find markers of life on other planets. (The paper has been submitted to Astrophysical Journal Letters.)
Oct 31, 2008 | 1
NASA released a knockout image from the Hubble Telescope yesterday, saying the camera on the satellite scored a “perfect 10” after engineers got the orbiting observatory back on line following the shutdown of its data-relay system late last month. But the agency has delayed a planned servicing mission on the instrument until spring.
A replacement data-relay unit for the satellite won’t be ready by February, the initial date officials set for the mission after the original October 14 date was pushed back because of the computer glitch, officials said yesterday. "We now have done enough analysis of all the things that need to happen with the flight spare unit to know that we cannot be ready for a February launch," NASA's Astrophysics Division director, Jon Morse, said in a statement. "The February date was an initial estimate, assuming minimal hardware preparations and test durations that are no longer viewed as realistic.”
Oct 24, 2008 | 1
The Hubble Space Telescope could start sending photos back to Earth as soon as tomorrow if engineers can fix electrical problems that have prevented the instrument from working fully since the end of last month, NASA officials say.
Scientists managed to turn back on the router that relays data from the telescope, but some electrical malfunctions have switched the telescope systems into "safe mode," according to The New York Times. Because of the relay problem, NASA is using a backup data channel that hasn't been powered up since 1990.
"Events of these kinds are not uncommon in electrical components that have been powered off for a time," Art Whipple of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center said yesterday, according to Reuters.
Oct 15, 2008 | 1
The Hubble Space Telescope has had a long and illustrious run, helping to pin down the age of the universe and pointing the way to the existence of dark energy. But that run may be halted if engineers can’t switch some operations over to backup units.
A formatter on the satellite’s Science Instrument Command and Data Handling (SIC&DH) unit failed last month, and today NASA began the process of switching over operations to the components on a backup formatter, most of which have not been powered up since Hubble’s 1990 launch.
Since the September 27 failure, Hubble has been largely incapacitated, as the SIC&DH component that failed, the Science Data Formatter, handles many key activities, including routing data and commands on board the satellite and relaying science information back to Earth.
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