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 25, 2009
The launch of space shuttle Discovery, planned for early this morning, was called off deep into the countdown due to inclement weather at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA will try again in the wee hours of Wednesday, weather permitting. The launch time is set for 1:10 a.m. (Eastern Daylight Time)—which would provide sky-watchers another chance to see the orbiter climbing in the night sky—and the space agency forecasts a 70 percent chance of favorable conditions.
This is hardly the first time, of course, that a launch has been postponed in Florida's mercurial climate. Last month's STS-127 mission of space shuttle Endeavour to the International Space Station was pushed back three times due to weather, before the skies finally cleared. At that time, we checked in with space historian Roger Launius of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum to find out why NASA shoots all their rockets for manned missions from such a stormy place—you can read our Q&A with Launius here.
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.
Aug 19, 2009
NASA has decided to proceed with a shuttle launch to the International Space Station (ISS) next week, having concluded that insulation foam losses from the external fuel tank, which occurred during the two previous shuttle launches, did not pose an unacceptable risk to the upcoming mission.
Space shuttle Discovery is set to lift off early Tuesday morning from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a 13-day mission to the ISS. Discovery will deliver to the station new science gear and additional life-support equipment, as well as Stephen Colbert's namesake exercise device, the COLBERT treadmill.
There was much concern about the safety of the foam insulation that coats the shuttle's external fuel tank. Orbiters in both a May mission to the Hubble Space Telescope and last month's mission to the ISS showed dings from falling pieces of foam during ascent. A large-scale foam loss significantly damaged the heat shield of space shuttle Columbia in 2003, and the shuttle broke up on reentry, killing all seven crewmembers.
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