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Space.com is reporting today that the new target date for testing the Ares rocket motor is September 10 at ATK's facilities in Promontory Utah. The first attempt was scrubbed 20 seconds prior to ignition on August 27. Indications were that there was a problem with an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), but engineers have determined that the problem was not hardware or software on the booster itself, according to the report. They are now looking at ground test hardware as the possible source of the problem.
The fate of the Ares program remains in the hands of the Augustine committee that is looking at options for the future of the human space flight program and the policy makers who will determine the path forward based on those options.
An editorial in today's Washington Post issued a rallying call for NASA to embrace entrepreneurial space companies. Here's an excerpt:
"Now that the station is nearly complete, this might be an optimal time to open space to entrepreneurs. Many companies claim they possess the capacity to transport humans and payloads into space; the [Augustine] review committee found their reports convincing enough to suggest that these space entrepreneurs could take over the transport of astronauts and supplies to the space station after the shuttle program ends.
"It's time to boldly go where no man has gone before. That means opening space to the kind of private-sector competition that revolutionized cyberspace and making sure the next human exploratory efforts are based on real scientific need."
NASA's Orion spacecraft has successfully completed its preliminary design review (PDR), according to the agency.
Orion and its Ares launch vehicle are part of NASA's Constellation program to replace the space shuttle and ferry crews to the International Space Station (ISS) and return humans to the Moon by 2020. Reminiscent of an Apollo capsule, Orion is designed to sit atop its Ares booster, rather than on its side like the space shuttle orbiter.
The Orion design is considered superior from a safety standpoint in at least two ways. First, it would not be affected by foam or other debris that might fall from the Ares. Foam shedding from the space shuttle's external tank caused the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy. Second, the crew could use an emergency abort system to propel the spacecraft away from the Ares if there was a serious launch vehicle malfunction during launch. The 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy occurred because of the failure of a component (an O-ring) in one of the shuttle's Solid Rocket Boosters.
The fate of the Orion and Ares programs remains up the air, however, as everyone awaits the report of the Augustine committee and White House and congressional action thereafter. There are rumors that an Executive Summary of the report may be released very soon, but no official word from NASA about that.
Indonesia's Palapa D telecommunications satellite, built by the European company Thales Alenia Space, failed to reach the correct orbit after being launched by a Chinese Long March 3B rocket today, according to China Daily. The failure is being investigated.
Thales Alenia Space is getting some better news today, however. The space shuttle Discovery successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS) last night and the STS-128 and ISS crews are now attaching the Leonardo MPLM (Multi-Purpose Logistics Module) to one of the ISS nodes. Leonardo also was built by Thales Alenia Space. It is carrying scientific experiment racks, the COLBERT treadmill and other equipment and supplies.
Politifact.com, which describes itself as a project of the St. Petersburg Times "to help you find the truth in American politics," has begun updating its entries on whether President Obama is upholding his campaign promises about the space program.
Four recently updated entries give the President two "promises kept" and two "in the works." The two "kept" are adding another space shuttle flight for the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and enhancing earth mapping. The two "in the works" are improving climate change data records and revising regulations for export of aerospace technology.
Politifact's updating process for space program promises reportedly is a work in progress itself. Look for more updated entries in the near future. Disposition of quite a few of the President's promises, of course, will have to wait until the White House responds to the Augustine committee report, so "no action" or "in the works" is likely to pervade Politifact's assessment of the President's performance for a while yet.
No official word on when news may be forthcoming about the Augustine report. The Write Stuff blog cited NASA's liaison to the Augustine committee this morning as saying that the report would be released in mid-September, but that an executive summary might be provided to the White House today or tomorrow. As for the committee itself, its website has only an entry from last week (August 24) saying that the printed report probably would not be available until the end of September.
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has lost contact with its Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiting spacecraft. According to the Times of India, ISRO has not formally given up on regaining contact with the probe, but the chances do not appear promising. ISRO officials state that the probe completed 95% of its scientific objectives even though it has been collecting data for less than half the scheduled time.
Chandrayaan-1 was launched by ISRO on October 22, 2008 to conduct chemical, minerologic and photo-geologic mapping of the Moon. It achieved lunar orbit one month later and began its planned 2-year mission. The spacecraft carries eleven instruments from India, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, and Bulgaria.
The fire raging near Los Angeles, CA now threatens Mount Wilson and the astronomical observatory and bevy of cell phone and television and radio transmission towers atop it, according to the Associated Press.
"Fire crews set backfires and sprayed fire retardant at Mount Wilson, home to at least 20 television transmission towers, radio and cell phone antennas, and the century-old Mount Wilson Observatory. The observatory also houses two giant telescopes and several multimillion-dollar university programs. It is both a historic landmark and a thriving modern center for astronomy."
As reported on NASAWatch, the fire earlier had threatened the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), but the immediate danger there appears to have passed.
Space Shuttle Discovery is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) tonight at 9:04 pm. The STS-128 mission appears to be proceeding smoothly.
Only six more shuttle flights are planned after this one, although it is possible that additional flights could be flown in response to the options presented by the Augustine committee. Latest rumors are that the committee's report will be published in mid-September, but it is unclear whether that means no information will be made publicly available prior to that. Originally the due date was September 1.
The six scheduled shuttle missions and their targeted launch dates are:
- STS-129, Atlantis, Nov. 12, 2009, two EXPRESS logistics carriers
- STS-130, Endeavour, Feb. 4, 2010, Tranquility Node 3 and the Cupola
- STS-131, Discovery, Mar. 18, 2010, MPLM and Lightweight Multi-Purpose Experiment Support Structure Carrier
- STS-132, Atlantis, May 14, 2010, Integrated Cargo Carrier and Mini Research Module (MRM1)
- STS-133 or STS-134, July 29, 2010 (see below)
- STS-133 or STS-134, Sept. 16, 2010 (see below)
NASA has not determined the sequence of the last two flights. One will be Discovery and the other will be Endeavour. One will carry an EXPRESS rack and an MPLM (Multi Purpose Logistics Module); the other will carry an EXPRESS rack and the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.
Space Shuttle Discovery was successfully launched on its STS-128 mission moments before midnight on August 28. The crew is on a planned 13-day mission to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) and drop off a new ISS crew member, Nicole Stott. She will replace Tim Kopra who will return to Earth with the STS-128 crew.
South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak made a surprise visit to his country's Naro Space Center today to rally the space program's workforce. On Tuesday, South Korea's first attempt to launch a satellite into orbit failed when a fairing did not separate properly. As quoted by the Yonhap News Service, President Lee called the launch "half-successful," adding "You may have not been able to shrug off your disappointment, but I want you to rise from your disappointment and regrets and once again charge toward your goal and that is why I am here today."
Events of Interest
- Intl Space Arts Workshop, May 20-22, 2013, NASA Research Park, Moffett Field, CA
- Lunabotics Mining Competition 2013, May 20-24, 2013, Kennedy Space Center, FL
- Secure World Foundation/Women in Aerospace-Europe Discussion on Cooperation versus Competition in Space Activities, May 21, 2013, Brussels, Belgium
- House SS&T Sbcmte Hrg on Next Steps in Human Exploration, May 21, 2013, 2318 Rayburn House Office Building. 2:00 pm ET
- NEW Starship Century Symposium, May 21-23, 2013, UC-San Diego Center for Human Imagination, San Diego, CA
- NEW Space Tech Expo 2013, May 21-23, 2013, Long Beach, CA
- HASC Strategic Forces Sbcmte Markup FY14 NDAA, May 22, 2013, 2212 Rayburn House Office Building, 10:30 am ET
- NEW NASA News Conf on Upcoming ISS Crew Launch and ISS Science, May 22, 2013, NASA Johnson Space Center, 1:00 pm Central Time (2:00 pm Eastern Time)
- House SS&T Sbcmte Hrg on Restoring US Leadership in Weather Forecasting, May 23, 2013, 2318 Rayburn House Office Building, 9:30 am ET
- Senate Commerce Nomination Hrg for Penny Pritzker to be Sec of Commerce, May 23, 2013, 253 Russell Senate Office Building, 11:00 am ET
- NEW NASA-Bigelow Aerospace Media Availability, May 23, 2013, NASA HQ, Washington, DC, 1:30 pm ET
- International Space Development Conference (ISDC), May 23-27, 2013, San Diego, CA
- Soyuz TMA-09M Launch and Docking with ISS, May 28, 2013, launch from Kazakhstan at 4:31 pm ET, docking at ISS at 10:17 pm ET (watch on NASA TV)
Full calendar with filters »
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