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The Ku-band antenna on Space Shuttle Discovery is not working, according to NASA. Among other things, the antenna is used to downlink high data rate communications, including television. That means images being taken today of Discovery's thermal protection system (TPS) will have to be recorded and transmitted back to Mission Control after the shuttle docks with the International Space Station (ISS) using the ISS antenna. Imaging the TPS to check for damage is a routine precaution since the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy. Spaceflightnow.com reports that the antenna also is used as a radar dish during rendezvous operations, but that the crew has other instruments it can use and the loss of the antenna should not be a major problem.
UPDATE: Discovery is off on its mission to the International Space Station with a successful launch at 6:21 am..
ORIGINAL STORY: Space Shuttle Discovery has come out of its last planned hold and is GO! for launch at 6:21 am this morning -- in less than 9 minutes. Live on NASA TV and Spaceflightnow.com.
The space shuttle Discovery's STS-131 mission remains on schedule for launch tomorrow (Monday) morning, April 5, at 6:21 am EDT. NASA TV will begin live launch coverage at 1:15 am. Spaceflightnow.com will have live webcast coverage beginning at 2:00 am hosted by Miles O'Brien, David Waters and Leroy Chiao.
In a visit to Caracas, Venezuela, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed a series of nuclear energy deals with President Hugo Chavez and agreed to help Venezuela build a space industry, the BBC reported.
The article quoted President Chavez saying: "we could install a satellite launcher here and a factory. We are already doing so with China, but Russia is offering to support Venezuela build its own [space] industry."
President Chavez also was quoted as saying that the plans for a nuclear power generator would be for "obviously peaceful purposes...we aren't going to make an atomic bomb." The article suggests that nuclear power may be a solution to power cuts the country has been experiencing.
P.J. Crowley, U.S. State Department spokesman, expressed skepticism at the new plans, saying "...perhaps the focus should be more terrestrial than extraterrestrial," the BBC also reported.
Who will be invited to President Obama's space "conference" in Florida on April 15 and what will happen there remains a mystery, but at least we know it's not the only reason he'll be in Florida. Jeff Foust at SpacePolitics.com notes that the President will be attending two fundraisers in Miami that day, one at the home of rock singer Gloria Estefan and her husband for $30,400 a couple.
And while not a mystery, there had been some anticipation that SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch might take place about that time as a demonstration of the potential of commercial crew. However, SpaceX has announced that the first flight of Falcon 9 will occur no earlier than May 8. In an emailed message very late on April 2, company spokeswoman Emily Shanklin said that Space X was working with the supplier of key components of the Falcon 9's flight termination system to supply final data to SpaceX and the Air Force for "review and acceptance."
Meanwhile, SpacePolicyOnline.com was worried that its invitation to the April 15 conference had been lost in the mail, but Representative Bill Posey (R-FL) apparently has not received his either. In a March 30 letter to the President, Rep. Posey said that he had not been invited yet and would "very much appreciate the opportunity to participate in the event with you." Rep. Posey is a strong supporter of the space shuttle program and a co-sponsor of H.R. 4804 that would prohibit terminating the shuttle until certain conditions are met to ensure the continued operation of the ISS until at least 2020.
Soyuz TMA-18 successfully docked with the International Space Station early today (Sunday). The hatches were opened at 3:19 am EDT according to NASA. The ISS crew complement is now back up to six.
With Congress still in recess and most people in Washington out enjoying the stunning beauty of the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin, it will be another quiet week for space policy aficionados. The only event we have on our calendar is a NAC subcommittee meeting at the end of the week.
Thursday-Friday, April 8-9
- NASA Advisory Council, Planetary Science Subcommittee, NASA Headquarters
- April 8, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm EDT
- April 9, 8:00 am - 3:00 pm EDT
In about two weeks, the Air Force is scheduled to launch an unusual payload on an Atlas 5 booster - an automated mini space shuttle. Designated the X-37B, it is the product of a cancelled NASA program to build an Orbital Space Plane (OSP) that was to take crews to and from the International Space Station (ISS). NASA terminated that program when President Bush announced the Vision for Space Exploration in 2004 and the ISS fell out of vogue because the money used for ISS and OSP was needed instead to return humans to the Moon and someday go on to Mars.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and later the Air Force continued work on the winged vehicle, which is reportedly about one-quarter the size of the space shuttle. Now called the Orbital Test Vehicle, reports say that it can stay in orbit for up to nine months before returning to Earth with whatever payload it carries. Its mission is classified so there has been no public announcement about what it will carry on its maiden launch April 19 and its future thereafter is uncertain.
The X-37B is one of a long line of experimental (X) air- and space-planes. The X-15 of the 1950s and 1960s is perhaps the best known of the series.
Editor's Note: As many rue the imminent end of the U.S. ability to launch people into space, one must ask whether X-37B might be a shortcut to reestablishing such a capability. This is only a test flight, of course, and costs and technical risk would have to examined, but perhaps this is a fortuitous convergence of national security and civil requirements that kept one of NASA's previous human space flight efforts alive despite the erratic course of U.S. human space flight policy.
Soyuz TMA-18 lifted off as scheduled in the early hours this morning EDT. Docking is scheduled for 1:26 am on Sunday.
Yvonne Brill, inventor of the hydrazine-hydrazine resistojet propulsion system for geostationary communications satellites, was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame today. She is one of 15 inventors honored this year. Ms. Brill started her career with Douglas Aircraft in the 1940's and eventually went to work for RCA at a time when the company built satellites. It was there that she invented the engine.
Another inductee today was Roger Easton, who developed the Timation navigation system that is at the heart of the Global Positioning System (GPS).
Space was not the dominant theme today, however. Among the other inductees were Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Emile Gagnan (both posthumously) for their invention of the modern demand regulator that enabled SCUBA (self contained underwater breathing apparatus) diving; Ralph Baer, the inventor of videogames; Arthur Fry and Spencer Silver, who created Post It notes - the office product one cannot live without; and S. Donald Stookey, a glass genius who -- accidentally -- invented the glass that makes CorningWare possible.
A full list of the inductees and their truly impressive inventions is available on the National Inventors Hall of Fame website. This Hall of Fame was created by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) and a group of intellectual property attorneys to recognize and celebrate "individuals responsible for the great technological advances that make human, social and economic progress possible." Its first inductee in 1973 was Thomas Edison for his invention of the electric lamp.
The PTO is part of the Department of Commerce, and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke appeared by videotape, apologizing that he could not be there in person for this event, which had to be rescheduled from its original date because of the huge snowstorms in Washington. Several Members of Congress also participated by videotape to acknowledge the inventors from their districts. Neal Conan, host of NPR's Talk of the Nation, was master of ceremonies.
Events of Interest
- IEEE Aerospace Conference, March 1-8, 2014, Big Sky, Montana
- American Astronautical Soc Goddard Memorial Symposium, March 4-6, 2014 (March 4 is an evening reception, sessions are on March 5-6), Greenbelt Marriott, Greenbelt, MD
- HASC Hrg on FY2015 DOD Budget Request, March 6, 2014, 2118 Rayburn House Office Building, 10:00 am ET
- Mitchell Institute Mtg on Value of Space to the Warfighter: PNT, March 7, 2014, Reserve Officers Assn, One Constitution Ave, NE, Washington, DC, 8:00-9:00 am ET
- National Space Club Goddard Dinner, March 7, 2014, Washington Hilton Hotel, Washington, DC, 6:30 pm ET
- Satellite 2014, March 10-13, 2014, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, DC
- Space Policy & History Forum Featuring Anatoly Zak on Russia's Space Program, March 10, 2014, National Air & Space Museum, Washington, DC (RSVP is REQUIRED in advance to enter this area of the museum), 4:00 pm ET
- Soyuz TMA-10M landing, March 10, 2014, Kazakhstan, 11:24 pm ET (NASA TV landing coverage begins at 10:15 pm ET)
- ISU-DC Space Café Featuring Avascent's Royce Dalby, March 11, 2014, The Science Club, Washington, DC, 7:00 pm ET
- NAC Planetary Sci Sbcmte, March 12, 2014, NASA HQ, Washington, DC, 8:30 am - 4:30 pm ET
Full calendar of future events (with filters)-click here »
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