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UPDATE 3: ROSAT Reentry Predicted for Today or Tomorrow

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 22-Oct-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

UPDATE 3: Latest from DLR (as of 10:00 pm EDT) is that ROSAT will renter any time now (or has already) between 0:30 GMT (which has passed) and 03:30 GMT (11:30 pm EDT). DLR (@DLR_en) tweeted that it will not reenter over Europe, Africa or Australia. USSTRATCOM says 02:04 GMT (10:04 pm EDT) plus or minus 2 hours.

UPDATE 2: Latest from DLR: between 23:30 UTC (7:30 pm EDT) today, Saturday, and 05:00 UTC (1:00 am EDT) tomorrow, Sunday. DLR (@DLR_en)tweets that "taking into account the most recent data, ROSAT will not reenter over Europe."

UPDATE: Latest prediction from U.S. Strategic Command via the Space-Track website is October 23, 02:34:00 GMT (October 22, 10:34 pm EDT) plus or minus 7 hours.

ORIGINAL STORY: The latest predictions of when Germany's ROSAT x-ray astronomy satellite will reenter show it will happen sometime today or tomorrow (Saturday-Sunday, October 22-23).

The U.S. government's latest prediction at Space-Track shows the reentry period on October 23 at 01:31:00 GMT plus or minus 14 hours. That's tonight, October 22, at 9:30 pm EDT. With a window of plus or minus 14 hours, that could make reentry anytime between right now and 11:30 am tomorrow EDT.

The German Aerospace Center's (DLRs) website says it will reenter between October 22 at 18:00 UTC (which is the same as GMT) and October 23 at 12:00 UTC. That would be between this afternoon at 2:00 pm EDT and tomorrow morning at 8:00 am EDT.

The chances are extremely small that any one individual -- you -- would be hit by the debris, especially since the Earth is 70 percent covered with water, but there is a risk. The exact time and place of reentry cannot be predicted with precision. The major piece of ROSAT that is causing concern is its 1.7 metric ton main mirror, which is expected to survive the heat of reentry intact, unlike most satellite reentries where the spacecraft breaks up into many small pieces.

ROSAT does not have a propulsion system, so its path is dependent on natural forces.

UPDATE: Video of White House Awards for Sci and Tech and Innovation

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 21-Oct-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

UPDATE: Here is a link to the video on YouTube.

President Obama is on stage right now presenting the National Medals of Science and, imminently, the National Medals of Technology and Innovation. Yvonne Brill is one of the awardees. Watch live.

Soyuz Lifts Off from Kourou With Galileo Sats

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 21-Oct-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

The Soyuz rocket lifted off on time from Kourou this morning at 6:30 am EDT.

This is the first launch of Russia's Soyuz rocket from the French launch site on the coast of South America. Its payload today is the first two Galileo satellites for Europe's navigation satellite system. Galileo will be similar to the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) and will be interoperable with it and Russia's system, GLONASS.

Europe's Galileo Launch Rescheduled for Friday at 6:30 am EDT

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 21-Oct-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

The launch of Europe's first two Galileo navigation satellites has been rescheduled to tomorrow morning, Friday, October 21, at 6:30 am EDT.

The launch was postponed this morning because of a leak during fueling.

The precise launch time tomorrow is 06:30:26 EDT. This is the first time Russia's Soyuz rocket will be launched from France's launch site in Kourou, French Guiana.

ROSAT Reentry Window Narrows

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 20-Oct-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

The expected reentry of Germany's ROentgen SATellite (ROSAT) has been narrowed to October 22-23 according to the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

DLR's website notes that the time of reentry will further narrow as the date approaches, but "even one day before re-entry, the estimate will only be accurate to within plus/minus five hours."

The German-US-UK x-ray astronomy satellite could reenter anywhere between 53 degrees North latitude and 53 degrees South latitude.

Private Sector Witnesses Headline House Committee Hearing on Commercial Crew

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 20-Oct-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee today released the witness list for its hearing next week on commercial crew.

The October 26 hearing is entitled NASA's Commercial Crew Development Program: Accomplishments and Challenges and will begin at 10:00 am in 2318 Rayburn House Office Building. The witnesses are:

Panel One

Mr. John Elbon, Vice President and General Manger, Space Exploration Division, The Boeing Company
Mr. Steve Lindsey, Director, Space Exploration, Sierra Nevada Space Systems
Mr. Elon Musk, CEO and CTO, Space Exploration Technologies
Mr. Charles Precourt, Vice President and General Manager, ATK Space Launch Systems
Mr. George Sowers, Vice President, Business Development and Advanced Programs, United Launch Alliance

Panel Two

Mr. Bill Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, NASA

UPDATE: Europe's Galileo Launch Scrubbed for Today

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 19-Oct-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

UPDATE: reports at 5:26 am EDT October 20 that the launch has been scrubbed for today "after an anomaly during fueling of the Soyuz rocket's third stage," citing the French space agency CNES. ESA issued a press release at 5:36 am EDT confirming the launch has been scrubbed and saying that a new launch date will be announced later today.

At 6:34 am EDT tomorrow, Europe will launch two verification satellites for its Galileo navigation satellite system. The pair will be boosted into orbit by Russia's Soyuz launch vehicle, the first such launch from the French launch site in Kourou, French Guiana.

Europe is heralding both events.

Galileo is a joint program between the European Union and the European Space Agency (ESA). Like the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS), a total of 24 satellites are needed for the system to provide global three-dimensional (latitude, longitude, altitude) coverage, so this launch is only a first step. These two satellites are In-Orbit Validation (IOV) versions. Galileo is designed to be interoperable with GPS and Russia's navigation satellite system, GLONASS.

A joint Russian-European agreement to launch Soyuz rockets from Kourou was signed in 2003. For Europe, Soyuz provides a medium-class launch vehicle to be paired with Europe's large Ariane V and small Vega launch vehicles so a full range of launch services can be offered. The Vega rocket is expected to make its first flight very soon. Europe's launches are conducted by the European company Arianespace, of which the French space agency is a 34 percent shareholder.

For Russia, Kourou offers a land-based launch site that is advantageous for placing satellites into equatorial and low inclination orbits. Kourou is located at 5 degrees North latitude, very close to the equator on the northern coast of South America. A low latitude launch site means that less fuel is needed to place a satellite into an equatorial orbit. That in turn means the satellite can weigh more than if it were launched an on equivalent rocket further North or South. By comparison, Russia's most southern land-based launch facility, Baikonur (which it leases from Kazakhstan) is at 46 degrees North latitude. ESA notes that the Soyuz payload capability to geostationary transfer orbit from Kourou is almost twice that of a launch from Baikonur: 3 metric tons versus 1.7 metric tons.

The basic Soyuz rocket design dates back to the early 1960s; Russia has several versions in service today. The version being launched from Kourou is part of the Soyuz-2 series and uses a Fregat upper stage. It is designated VS01 by Arianespace. The failure of a slightly different version of the Soyuz (Soyuz U) in August that was taking a Progress cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station attracted a lot of headlines, but the Soyuz has quite a good track record over its multi-decade history.

Although launching from Kourou is particularly advantageous for equatorial launches, the Galileo satellites actually are headed for a fairly high inclination orbit, 54.7 degrees, but the mass of the two satellites does not require use of an Ariane V.

The launch will be webcast live

NPP Launch Slips Another Day

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 19-Oct-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

NASA has delayed the launch of the NPP satellite another day. The current schedule is to launch on October 28.

The agency said the delay will allow "time to complete the necessary engineering review before the payload fairing is installed around the spacecraft."

The National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project (NPP) is a NASA earth science mission that will also serve an operational role for NOAA's polar-orbiting weather satellite system.

The launch window that day is 2:48:01 - 2:57:11 PDT (5:48:01-5:57:11 EDT).

Commercial Crew Next Up for HSS&T Hearing

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 19-Oct-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

The House Science, Space and Technology (HSS&T) Committee's next space-related hearing will be held next week. The topic is the commercial crew program.

The hearing is on Wednesday, October 26, at 10:00 am in 2318 Rayburn House Office Building. The witnesses have not been publicly announced, but the precise title of the hearing is NASA's Commercial Crew Development Program: Accomplishments and Challenges.

This will be the committee's sixth hearing this year on issues affecting the human spaceflight program. In March, it held a hearing reviewing NASA's exploration program in transition. In May, it looked at commercial cargo issues and in July at NASA's Space Launch System. In September, the committee heard from Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan, Mike Griffin and Maria Zuber about the past, present and future of human spaceflight, and last week held a hearing on lessons learned from Russia's Soyuz launch failure for operations of the ISS.

ROSAT Reentry Prediction Updated

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 18-Oct-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) has updated its prediction for when the ROSAT satellite will reenter.

The German-US-UK ROentgen SATellite (ROSAT) will make an uncontrolled reentry between October 21 and 24. This is a slightly narrower time window than the last prediction, which lasted until October 25. The x-ray astronomy satellite was launched in 1990 and does not have its own propulsion system.

DLR estimates that 30 individual pieces of the satellite could survive the heat of reentry, including its 1.7 ton main mirror. The debris could fall anywhere between 53 degrees North latitude and 53 degrees South latitude, bearing in mind that 70 percent of the Earth's surface is covered with water so the threat to populated areas is less than one might imagine.

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