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.
Jul 16, 2009 | 2
The damage to space shuttle Endeavour's heat shield during its ascent yesterday does not appear to be dangerous, NASA officials said today in a press briefing. Multiple debris strikes occurred as pieces of foam insulation from the external fuel tank fell off as the orbiter rose into the sky, but Endeavour appears not to have suffered significant damage.
"From an orbiter standpoint, there is nothing that we have seen on the orbiter that causes us any concern," space shuttle program manager John Shannon said. He added that the primary concern was not for this mission but for the prevention of similar occurrences in future launches. A photograph of the external tank after separation from the shuttle showed roughly a dozen areas where the foam insulation was missing.
Jul 15, 2009
After many false starts, one of the final remaining space shuttle missions got under way this evening with the liftoff of the Endeavour orbiter from Kennedy nasSpace Center in Florida. The shuttle blasted off at 6:03 P.M. (Eastern Daylight Time) on a mission to the International Space Station (ISS), after hydrogen leaks twice delayed June launch attempts and bad weather thwarted three liftoff opportunities earlier this month.
Only two past shuttle missions, both launching on the seventh attempt, endured more delays.
Jun 30, 2009
NASA will refill space shuttle Endeavour's external fuel tank tomorrow morning to test whether the leak that twice scrubbed the orbiter's launch earlier this month has been properly repaired.
The refueling is scheduled to commence at 7:00 A.M. (Eastern Daylight Time), and Florida Today reports that the tank will reach 98 percent capacity, the level at which leaks arose during launch preparations, between 9:00 and 9:15 A.M.
NASA passed on launch opportunities June 13 and June 17 after hydrogen leaks were discovered at the launch pad. The culprit was the Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate, which is where the external fuel tank connects to a venting system that allows excess hydrogen to be carried away from the orbiter.
Jun 12, 2009
Tomorrow morning's launch of space shuttle Endeavour to the International Space Station looks promising, as mission managers are reporting no problems and the weather appears to be cooperating. The shuttle is scheduled to lift off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 7:17 A.M. (Eastern Daylight Time).
The 16-day Endeavour mission will deliver a Japanese science module to the ISS, including an exposed "porch" that will allow experiments to be carried out in the extreme conditions of space.
The space station, which saw its population double to six for the first time late last month, will host a whopping 13 astronauts from five countries (Russia, the U.S., Japan, Canada and Belgium) once Endeavour docks with its seven-person crew.
May 25, 2009
Space shuttle Atlantis touched down safely yesterday morning at Edwards Air Force Base in California, wrapping up an ambitious and remarkably successful servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. The 13-day mission, likely the last time humans will lay hands on Hubble, came to an end with the orbiter's landing at 11:39 (Eastern Daylight Time). The shuttle was originally scheduled to land Friday, but poor weather in Florida caused NASA to keep Atlantis in orbit until conditions improved and eventually diverted the shuttle to California.
In Hubble's fifth servicing mission, the last one scheduled for the 19-year-old telescope, the shuttle crew successfully replaced several key components, including the sextet of massive batteries that have powered Hubble's night operations since its 1990 launch and a critical data handler that suffered an electronic failure in September. That glitch pushed back the timeline for the servicing mission, which had been set to launch the following month, so a spare could be readied for installation.
May 22, 2009
The landing of space shuttle Atlantis has been postponed until tomorrow morning at the earliest* because of bad weather at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Atlantis had two landing opportunities at Kennedy today, but both were waved off this morning because of elevated crosswinds, a low cloud ceiling and nearby thunderstorms, all three of which fell outside NASA's parameters for a shuttle touchdown.
The first of four landing opportunities tomorrow is at 9:16 A.M. (Eastern Daylight Time) at Kennedy, but continued inclement weather in Florida could shift the site to Edwards Air Force Base in California, which has two landing opportunities Saturday. Landing in California is not as desirable because the shuttle must then be ferried back to Kennedy atop a specially equipped NASA 747 at a reported cost of $1.8 million. Such was the case after space shuttle Endeavour landed at Edwards at the end of November—click here to see an overhead photograph of the orbiter hitching a ride back to the East Coast.
May 19, 2009
From here on out, the Hubble Space Telescope is on its own. Astronaut Megan McArthur released the mighty scope from space shuttle Atlantis's robotic arm at 8:57 A.M. (Eastern Daylight Time) today, marking the likely end of all direct human contact with Hubble.
The shuttle crew performed numerous repairs and upgrades in five spacewalks spanning nearly 37 hours, in the hope of extending the 19-year-old telescope's life for another five to 10 years. The space shuttle program is set to be phased out next year, a move that will leave the U.S. without a manned space-launch system until at least 2015, and another mission to Hubble is not planned.
May 18, 2009 | 1
The Hubble Space Telescope has received its last upgrades and repairs. The fifth and final spacewalk of the last shuttle mission to Hubble ended at 3:22 P.M. (Eastern Daylight Time), wrapping up an ambitious and remarkably successful servicing operation.
The Hubble team hopes that the fixes will keep the telescope alive for several years, maybe even a decade or more, long after the space shuttle's scheduled retirement next year.
In today's spacewalk, the third of this mission for Drew Feustel and John Grunsfeld, the astronauts replaced three of Hubble's six massive batteries, which have powered the spacecraft during the night portion of its orbit for all of its 19 years in space. (The other three were swapped out in an earlier spacewalk.) Feustel and Grunsfeld also replaced a faulty Fine Guidance Sensor, one of three that helps to point the telescope, and installed a new set of external thermal blankets.
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.
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