Monday, August 29, 2011

Astronauts May Evacuate Space Station in November, NASA Says

The International Space Station may have to start operating without a crew in November if Russian engineers don’t figure out soon what caused a recent rocket failure, NASA officials announced today (Aug. 29).

The unmanned Russian cargo ship Progress 44 crashed just after its Aug. 24 launch to deliver 2.9 tons of supplies to the orbiting lab. The failure was caused by a problem with the Progress’ Soyuz rocket, which is similar to the one Russia uses to launch its crew-carrying vehicle — also called Soyuz — to the station.

Currently, six astronauts reside on the space station. They shouldn’t be unduly affected by the Progress crash, NASA officials said, because they have enough supplies to last a while on orbit.

But three of these astronauts are due to return to Earth next month, and the rest are scheduled to come back in mid-November. If the rocket anomaly isn’t identified and fixed soon, a fresh crew won’t be able to get to the station before the last three spaceflyers head for home.

That situation would leave the $100 billion orbiting lab unmanned for the first time since 2001.

Full article: … evacuation-nasa.html

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

NASA to Test Ultimate Space Wifi

Hoping to do for space communications what broadband has done for the Internet, NASA is planning to fly a laser communications system, paving the way for high-definition, live TV from Mars.

There have been a few tests of optical communications before, but nothing like the planned three-year run of the Laser Communications Relay demonstration mission, one of three projects selected this week for trial runs by NASA.

The goal is to adequately demonstrate how the system works so that the technology could be included on the next science satellite or rover.

Full article: … rom-mars-110824.html

Russian Progress space freighter lost

An unmanned freighter launched to the International Space Station (ISS) has been lost.

The Russian space agency said the Progress M-12M cargo ship was not placed in the correct orbit by its rocket and fell back to Earth.

The vessel was carrying three tonnes of supplies for the ISS astronauts.

With the retirement of the US space shuttle, there is now a critical reliance on robotic freighters to keep the station supplied.

But with ample stores currently onboard, the more pressing concern will be the status of the Progress freighter’s launch vehicle - the Soyuz-U.

This is very similar to the Soyuz-FG rocket that is used to lift manned capsules to the station.

Until the cause of Wednesday’s failure is firmly established, it is unlikely the next astronaut flight to the ISS, due on 22 September, will be allowed to proceed.

In that case, the crew already on the station and preparing to come home would be asked to stay up longer.

“The anomaly has only just occurred; there’s quite a bit of work to do to sort through where we’re at,” said Mike Suffredini, the US space agency’s (Nasa) ISS manager. “If things work out and it looks like the Soyuz will be able to fly then we’ll let the crew on orbit stay until we do a normal rotation.”

The Progress mission was the 44th such cargo delivery flight to the space station.

It lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 13:00 GMT (17:00 Moscow time).

It appears the Soyuz rocket’s third and final propulsion stage system shut down early. As a result, the Russian federal space agency (Roskosmos) said, the Progress vessel “was not placed in the correct orbit”.

Full article: … environment-14653371

Monday, August 22, 2011

Communications, Navigation And In-Space Propulsion Technologies Selected For NASA Flight Demonstration

David E. Steitz
Headquarters, Washington

Aug. 22, 2011

RELEASE : 11-272

Communications, Navigation And In-Space Propulsion Technologies Selected For NASA Flight Demonstration

WASHINGTON — NASA has selected three proposals as Technology Demonstration Missions to transform space communications, deep space navigation and in-space propulsion capabilities. The projects will develop and fly a space solar sail, deep space atomic clock, and space-based optical communications system.

These crosscutting flight demonstrations were selected because of their potential to provide tangible, near-term products and infuse high-impact capabilities into NASA’s future space operations missions. By investing in high payoff, disruptive technology that industry does not have today, NASA matures the technology required for its future missions while proving the capabilities and lowering the cost of government and commercial space activities.

“These technology demonstration missions will improve our communications, navigation and in-space propulsion capabilities, enable future missions that could not otherwise be performed, and build the technological capability of America’s space industry,” said NASA Chief Technologist Bobby Braun at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Optical communication will enable rapid return of the voluminous data associated with sending spacecraft and humans to new frontiers. High-performance atomic clocks enable a level of spacecraft navigation precision and autonomous operations in deep space never before achieved, and solar sails enable new space missions through highly efficient station-keeping or propellant-less main propulsion capabilities for spacecraft.”

The proposals selected for demonstration missions are:
– Laser Communications Relay Demonstration, David J. Israel, principal investigator at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
– Deep Space Atomic Clock, Todd Ely, principal investigator at the California Institute of Technology/NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
– Beyond the Plum Brook Chamber; An In-Space Demonstration of a Mission-Capable Solar Sail, Nathan Barnes, principal investigator at L’Garde Inc., of Tustin, Calif.

[Read More…]

Friday, August 19, 2011

Moon spacecraft set atop rocket at Cape Canaveral

APE CANAVERAL — Twin moon-bound NASA spacecraft on Thursday were attached to a rocket in preparation for a Sept. 8 blastoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The washing machine-sized spacecraft are part of NASA’s $496 million GRAIL mission to map the moon’s gravitational field.

The identical Lockheed Martin Corp.-built spacecraft were trucked in the early morning from the Astrotech Space Operations processing facility in Titusville to Launch Complex 17B.

Then, they were lifted and mated to the top of a United Launch Alliance Delta II Heavy rocket.

Tests will follow during the next week before a protective shell is fitted around the spacecraft, an operation planned for next Thursday.

Launch of the Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory remains on track for 8:37 a.m. Sept. 8. A second that day is at 9:16 a.m.

Full article: http://www.floridato … ral?odyssey=nav|head

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