Wednesday, October 22, 2008

India is going to the moon...

Everybody seems to want to go the moon these days. Russia does, China does, Europe, as usual, "says" it does (if someone else provides the ferry ship ;)) and the US, of course, will, too.

Today, India has launched a moon mission, just to tell us they, too, are serious about this topic. A rocket carrying the Chandrayaan-1 probe rocketed into the skies at India's spaceport Sriharikota. Chandrayaan-1's mission will last two years. It is tasked to create a detailed map of minerals and chemical properties of the moon surfaces, as well as general surface structures.

The moon seems to promise big business. It is also politically quite important. With the US right in front of a very important election, it will be very interesting to see which direction the new administration will take. NASA's constellation program is underfunded and has unrealistic goals if being worked on at the current (finance-dictated) pace.

Will the US be among the last folks to go back to the moon? The Russians are on a good path already and seem to have funding and a commercial vision. Or will a new moon race start, where the US demonstrates technical leadership? Interesting question, time will tell. At least we have a new player who seems to be serious inside this game...

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Hubble partly restored, Atlantis heading back...

The Hubble repairs go well, but unfortunately not too well. As NASA reports, the restoration succeeded only partly, some systems are still defunctional:


On Wednesday, October 14, engineers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center reconfigured six components of the Hubble Data Management System and five components in the Science Instrument Command and Data Handling (SIC &DH) system to use their redundant (or B) sides. This was done to work around a failure that occurred on September 27 in the Side A Science Data Formatter in the SIC&DH and resulted in the cessation of all science observations except for astrometry with the Fine Guidance Sensors.

The reconfiguration proceeded nominally and Hubble resumed the science timeline at Noon ET on Thursday, October 16. The first activities out of that on-board science timeline were the commanding of the science instruments from their safe to operate modes. This occurred nominally for Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 and the Near Infrared Camera and Multi Object Spectrometer. However, an anomaly occurred during the last steps of the commanding to the Advanced Camera for Surveys. At 1:40 pm, when the low voltage power supply to the ACS Solar Blind Channel was commanded on, software running in a microprocessor in ACS detected an incorrect voltage level in the Solar Blind Channel and suspended ACS. Then at 5:14 pm, the Hubble spacecraft computer sensed the loss of a "keep alive" signal from the NASA Standard Spacecraft Computer in the SIC&DH and correctly responded by safing the NSSC-I and the science instruments. It is not yet known if these two events were related.

The investigation into both anomalies is underway. All data has been collected and is being analyzed. The science instruments will remain in safe mode until the NSSC-I issue is resolved. All other subsystems on the spacecraft are performing nominally and astrometry observations continue.


But at least some observations can be carried on.

At the same time, Space Shuttle Atlantis is heading back to the VAB to get to a save haven while the Hubble repair mission is postponed. Unfortunately, a rod struck parts of Atlantis while it was removed from the launch pad. It is now investigated whether or not repairs are necessary. From what I have read, the external tank probably needs some attention, the rest of the space shuttle stack seems to have not been damaged. Thankfully, there is enough time left until mid-February, which is considered the earliest launch date.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Carnival of Space #75 is live

While I hibernated a bit on this blog, things have evolved elsewhere. Thankfully, though, the Carnival of Space has remained. So let me re-start and old tradition today and introduce you to "Lounge of the Lab Lemming: The space carnival has the biggest tent this election" which has a very interesting selection of sites.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

NASA's Ares I Rocket Passes Review To Reach Critical Milestone

NASA has taken a major step toward building the nation's next generation launch vehicle with Wednesday's successful completion of the Ares I rocket preliminary design review.

Starting in 2015, the Ares I rocket will launch the Orion crew exploration vehicle, its crew of four to six astronauts, and small cargo payloads to the International Space Station. The rocket also will be used for missions to explore the moon and beyond in the coming decades.

The preliminary design review is the first such milestone in more than 35 years for a U.S. rocket that will carry astronauts into space. The review was conducted at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. It examined the current design for the Ares I launch vehicle to assess that the planned technical approach will meet NASA's requirements for the fully integrated vehicle. That ensures all components of the vehicle and supporting systems are designed to work together.

"This is a critical step for development of the Ares I rocket," said Rick Gilbrech, associate administrator of the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate in Washington. "Completing the preliminary design review of the integrated vehicle demonstrates our engineering design and development are on sound footing, and the Ares I design work is taking us another step closer to building America's next mode of space transportation."

The preliminary design review included more than 1,100 reviewers from seven NASA field centers and multiple industry partners. The review is the final step of this design process. Teams representing each major part of the Ares I rocket -- the upper stage engine, first stage and upper stage -- all have conducted similar reviews during the past year.

The preliminary design review is one of a series of reviews that occurs before actual flight hardware can be built. As the review process progresses, more detailed parts of the vehicle design are assessed to ensure the overall system can meet all NASA requirements for safe and reliable flight. This process also identifies technical and management challenges and addresses ways to reduce potential risks as the project goes forward.

"Risk assessment is a very important part of the process," said Steve Cook, manager of the Ares I rocket at Marshall. "It allows us to identify issues that might impact the Ares I rocket. For example, we identified thrust oscillation - vibration in the first stage - as a risk. In response to this issue, we formed an engineering team. The team conducted detailed analyses and reviewed previous test data, and then recommended options to correct the problem."

"We intend to hold a limited follow-up review next summer to fully incorporate the thrust oscillation recommendations into the stacked vehicle design," Cook added. "Identifying risks that can impact the project and resolving them is a necessary and vital part of the development process."

With the completion of this review, each element of the Ares I rocket will move to the detailed design phase. A critical design review will mark the completion of the detailed design phase and allows for a more thorough review of each system element to ensure the vehicle design can achieve requirements of the Ares program.

This week, the J-2X engine will be the first Ares I element to kick off the critical design review process. The engine will power the Ares I upper stage to orbit after separation from the first stage.

"We're excited about getting into full system engine tests with the new J-2X engine," Cook said. "This will be one of the safest, most affordable and highest performing rocket engines ever built, and testing is critical as we begin preparation for future flights."

Marshall manages the Ares projects and is responsible for design and development of the Ares I rocket and Ares V heavy cargo launch vehicle. NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston manages the Constellation Program, which includes the Ares I rocket, the Ares V vehicle, the Orion crew capsule and the Altair lunar lander. NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida is responsible for ground and launch operations. The program also includes multiple project element teams at NASA centers and contract organizations around the U.S.

For more information about the Ares rockets, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/ares


For more information about NASA's Constellation Program, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/constellation

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hubble "Repair" looks good

It looks good for the Hubble space telescope. According to the NASA web site (quote below), the switch to a backup system looks promising. With that, hubble could operate while the ground folks prepare final repair plans. Repairs are scheduled to be carried out as part of the space shuttle's hubble servicing missing, which now tenatively has been moved to mid-February (some sources say Feb, 17th 2009).

From the NASA site:

The Hubble Space Telescope team completed switching the required hardware modules to their B-sides about 9:30 a.m. this morning and received telemetry that verified they had good data. Everything at this point looks good.

The 486 computer on Hubble was reloaded with data around noon and successfully performed a data dump back to the ground to verify all the loads were proper. At 1:10 p.m. this afternoon the team brought Hubble out of safe mode and placed the 486 computer back in control. Late this afternoon, Gyro #4 (which was needed for safe mode) will be turned off.

The team will reconfigure Side B of the Science Instrument Command & Data Handling (SIC&DH) computer later today and verify it is functioning properly.

Around 6 p.m. this evening the spacecraft will begin executing a pre-science command load, which involves sending normal commands to control the spacecraft and resume communications satellite tracking with the HST high gain antennas.

“We won’t know if we’ve been completely successful until around midnight Wednesday when we demonstrate that the SIC&DH Side B is talking to the instruments and able to pass data to the ground,” said HST Operations Deputy Project Manager Keith Kalinowski at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Expedition 18 on the Way to ISS

A new crew that will live and work aboard the International Space Station rocketed into orbit early Sunday aboard a Soyuz spacecraft. U.S. astronaut E. Michael Fincke, Russian cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov and Richard Garriott, a U.S. computer game developer, lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 2:01 a.m. CDT.

Fincke, the only American to launch twice on a Soyuz, will serve as commander of the six-month Expedition 18 mission. The mission's main focus will be preparing the station to house six crew members on long-duration missions.

The Expedition 18 crew is scheduled to arrive at the station Tuesday, with docking to the Zarya module scheduled for 3:33 a.m. After the hatches are opened, Expedition 17 Commander Sergey Volkov and spaceflight participant Garriott will become the first children of previous space fliers to greet each other in orbit. Garriott is the son of former NASA astronaut Owen Garriott, who was a member of the Skylab-3 crew in 1973. Volkov is the son of veteran cosmonaut Alexander Volkov, who flew three Soyuz missions.

Garriott will spend nine days on the station under a commercial agreement with the Russian Federal Space Agency. He will return to Earth on Oct. 23 with Volkov and Expedition 17 Flight Engineer Oleg Kononenko, who have worked aboard the station since April 10.

Expedition 17 Flight Engineer Greg Chamitoff, who arrived at the station in June, will be replaced in November by NASA astronaut Sandra Magnus. Space shuttle Endeavour will deliver Magnus and return Chamitoff to Earth.

Endeavour's November STS-126 mission also will deliver equipment to the station necessary for supporting a six-member crew, including a water recycling system, sleeping quarters, a new kitchen, a second toilet, and an advanced exercise device.

Although they will be in space on Election Day, Chamitoff and Fincke have arranged for the chance to cast their ballots from the station.



Reproduced from JSC News. To obtain it directly, follow the procedure outlined below:

NASA Johnson Space Center Mission Status Reports and other information are available automatically by sending an Internet electronic mail message to listserv@listserver.jsc.nasa.gov. In the body of the message (not the subject line) users should type "subscribe hsfnews" (no quotes). This will add the e-mail address that sent the subscribe message to the news release distribution list. The system will reply with a confirmation via e-mail of each subscription. Once you have subscribed you will receive future news releases via e-mail. To unsubscribe, send an e-mail to listserv@listserver.jsc.nasa.gov with the following command in the body of your e-mail message: "unsubscribe hsfnews" (no quotes) or from another account, besides the account used to subscribe: "unsubscribe hsfnews youremail@yourdomain.com" (no quotes).

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Hubble Servicing Missing Postponed

Finally, I can come back to look a bit more at my space interests. My rsyslog project kept me so busy that I couldn't follow space as much as I liked.

The first thing I see is that the Hubble Servicing missing has been postponed. There is a problem with a critical component inside HST, which, if not fixed, causes fatal problems. Thankfully, the faulty element is designed so that it can be replaced during a servicing mission. Also it was great luck that the component failed now, and not after the (final) hubble servicing mission.

The HST flight has been postponed to early 2009 (NASA tells mid-February as a "no earlier than" date) so that analysis can be completed and repair procedures be created.

As bad as it was, last year's flight delays now have helped saved Hubble! Why? Simply: if not for the delays, the hubble servicing mission would already have been flown by the time the component failed. That would have been the death of hubble. So bad luck sometimes turns into good luck again :)

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

being back...

Hi folks,

it's a long, long time since my last post. You probably thought I have long abandoned the blog. But, nope, I haven't. I was just way to busy with my rsyslog open source project. It ate up all my time. So while I made tremendous progress with that project, everything else starved. I couldn't even visit ESA's Columbus control center where I had press invitations for. That was really bad...

But now I have reached a some point of my project where there is gradually some time left to look at other things. So I hope to be able to carry on with my blog. I'll start with updating those pages that really need it. Then I'll go for new content.

I hope to find some of my readers back :)

Rainer

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

STS-122 MCC Status Report #09

STS-122
Report #09
Monday, February 11, 2008 - 6:30 p.m. CST
Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas

HOUSTON – After an almost eight-hour spacewalk by astronauts Stanley Love and Rex Walheim, the Columbus module officially became a part of the International Space Station.

"The European Columbus module is now part of the ISS," Expedition 16 astronaut Leopold Eyharts radioed to Mission Control in Houston at 3:44 p.m. CST.

Mission Specialists Love and Walheim worked during the day to install a grapple fixture on Columbus while it rested inside the shuttle’s payload bay. They also worked to prepare electrical and data connections on the module. Once this work was complete, astronauts Leland Melvin, Dan Tani and Eyharts operated the space station’s robotic arm to grab on to Columbus, lift it out of the orbiter and begin the 42-minute journey to its final attachment onto the starboard side of the station.

As Columbus was moving into place, Walheim and Love began work to replace a large nitrogen tank used for pressurizing the station's ammonia cooling system. This work will be completed during the second EVA, which will take place on Wednesday.

Columbus is the cornerstone of Europe’s contribution to the International Space Station. With this addition, the station is now 57 percent complete in terms of mass.

The crew will wake at 3:45 a.m. tomorrow and will spend the day completing the initialization of Columbus, once all leak checks are complete.

The next STS-122 status report will be issued Tuesday morning or earlier if events warrant.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

STS-122 MCC Status Report #08

STS-122
Report #08
Monday, February 11, 2008 - 5:30 a.m. CST
Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas

HOUSTON – Installation and activation of the European Space Agency’s science laboratory highlights the day as the crews of space shuttle Atlantis and the International Space Station prepare for the first of three spacewalks.

The day began at 3:46 a.m. CST. The wakeup song “Fly Like an Eagle,” written by Steve Miller, was played for Mission Specialist Leland Melvin on the day he will use the station’s robotic arm to lift the Columbus research module from Atlantis’ payload bay.

Mission Specialists Rex Walheim and Stanley Love will leave the Quest airlock at 8:35 a.m. CST for a 6.5-hour spacewalk to mate Columbus to the Harmony module. Inside the space station, Melvin will operate the station’s arm and Pilot Alan Poindexter and Mission Specialist Hans Schlegel will assist the two spacewalkers.

Walheim and Love will first install a grapple fixture on Columbus while it rests inside the shuttle’s payload bay. The two spacewalkers will then prepare to replace a large nitrogen tank used for pressurizing the station's ammonia cooling system.

Meanwhile, Melvin will use the station’s robotic arm to grasp Columbus and move it into place on the starboard side of Harmony. Motorized bolts will lock Columbus in place. Once Columbus is attached, crew members will do an initial leak check.

Columbus is the cornerstone of the European Space Agency’s contribution to the International Space Station and is the first European laboratory to be dedicated to long-term research in space.

The next STS-122 status report will be issued Monday evening or earlier if events warrant.

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STS-122 MCC Status Report #07

STS-122
Report #07
Sunday, February 10, 2008 - 3:00 p.m. CST
Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas

HOUSTON – Atlantis’ crew spent the day performing a detailed inspection of the shuttle’s thermal blanket over the right Orbital Maneuvering System pod as well as preparing for tomorrow’s spacewalk.

Mission Specialists Rex Walheim, Stanley Love, Alan Poindexter and Hans Schlegel focused most of the day on finalizing the checklists for the spacewalk, which is scheduled to begin at 8:35 a.m. CST tomorrow. In advance of tomorrow’s activities, Love and Walheim will “camp out” inside the Quest airlock tonight in order to purge nitrogen from their bodies.

Tomorrow’s events will focus on installing the Columbus laboratory by mating it to the Harmony module. Walheim and Love will first install a grapple fixture onto Columbus while it rests inside the shuttle’s payload bay. Astronauts will then use the space station’s robotic arm to attach to Columbus and move it into place on the starboard side of Harmony.

Once the detailed inspection is complete and all images are captured, analysts at Mission Control in Houston will examine the data to ensure there are no issues with the shuttle’s thermal protection system.

The crew is scheduled to wake at 3:45 a.m. tomorrow morning.

The next STS-122 status report will be issued Monday morning or earlier if events warrant.

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STS-122 MCC Status Report #06

STS-122
Report #06
Sunday, February 10, 2008 - 6 a.m. CST
Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas

HOUSTON – The seven-member crew of Atlantis will spend today preparing for the mission’s first spacewalk on Monday and take a closer look at a small tear on a thermal blanket over the shuttle’s right Orbital Maneuvering System pod.

Mission managers added a day to the mission Saturday after delaying the first spacewalk because of a crew medical issue. Plans were finalized last night for a focused inspection of Atlantis’ thermal protection system today beginning at 1:15 p.m. CST. The crew also will ready Harmony for the Columbus research module and transfer cargo to the space station.

Today’s wakeup song at 3:45 a.m. CST was “Maenner” by German musician Herbert Groenemeyer for astronaut Hans Schlegel. “Maenner” translated is “Men.” Groenemeyer is also known for his portrayal of Lieutenant Werner in Wolfgang Petersen’s movie “Das Boot.”

Mission Specialists Rex Walheim, Stanley Love and Schlegel will spend time today reviewing procedures for Monday’s spacewalk. Love is replacing Schlegel on the mission’s first spacewalk. Love and Walheim will assist robotic arm operators in attaching the newly arrived Columbus module to the starboard side of the Harmony module.

Walheim and Love will spend tonight "camped out" inside the Quest airlock with air pressure lowered to help purge nitrogen from their bodies in preparation for tomorrow’s spacewalk, the first of three planned for this mission. The spacewalk is scheduled to begin at 8:35 a.m. CST Monday.

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STS-122 MCC Status Report #05

STS-122
Report #05
Saturday, February 9, 2008 - 5:30 p.m. CST
Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas

HOUSTON – Space shuttle Atlantis delivered the European Space Agency’s Columbus science laboratory to the International Space Station today, but the actual installation of the module will be delayed by one day.

What wasn’t delayed, however, was the official crew rotation of ESA Astronaut Leopold Eyharts and Expedition 16 Flight Engineer Dan Tani, which was completed at 5:20 p.m. Eyharts now is a member of Expedition 16 and Tani is an STS-122 mission specialist.

Expedition 16 Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineers Yuri Malenchenko and Tani welcomed the seven-man Atlantis crew into the space station at 12:40 p.m., following an 11:17 a.m. docking, following a flawless rendezvous throughout the morning.

They’ll have 24 extra hours to finish preparing for the mission’s next major milestone, however, due to a crew medical issue. The mission’s first spacewalk originally was scheduled for Sunday, but has been postponed until Monday. Mission Specialist Rex Walheim will be joined for the spacewalk by Mission Specialist Stanley Love, rather than Mission Specialist Hans Schlegel, as originally planned.

Space Shuttle Program Deputy Manager John Shannon said ground teams are currently reworking the mission timeline and there should be no impact to the completion of the mission’s objectives, despite being shifted one day later.

To make up for the delay, Shannon said the crew will conserve enough power to spend an additional day in space. Atlantis went into orbit with the option of adding one day to its mission, which was to be used for additional work commissioning the new Columbus module. By adding a second day, the crew could shift their activities by one day and still have time for more Columbus work after the module is installed.

Before docking, Commander Steve Frick flew the shuttle through a backflip to allow the space station crew a good view of Atlantis’ heat shield. Whitson and Malenchenko took about 300 photos of the shuttle’s thermal protection system and sent them down to teams on the ground for analysis.

The teams also are paying close attention to photos sent down by the crew Friday of minor damage to a thermal blanket over the shuttle’s right Orbital Maneuvering System pod. A similar condition occurred on the left pod last year on STS-117 and was repaired during a spacewalk.

Shannon said this case does not seem to be as much of a concern, because this particular blanket location does not experience as much heat during the shuttle’s reentry.

Docking went smoothly with the exception of a hiccup with one of the station’s five general purpose computers. After experiencing some problems with guidance and navigation software on the computer, the crew opted to use other computers for the shuttle’s rendezvous with the station. Only one computer is needed to perform the rendezvous, with one computer required for backup. Mission Control will review the computer’s software to ensure its health.

The next STS-122 status report will be issued Sunday morning or earlier if events warrant.

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STS-122 MCC Status Report #04

STS-122
Report #04
5 a.m. CST Saturday, Feb. 9, 2008
Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas

The International Space Station’s newest scientific laboratory, the European Space Agency’s Columbus research module, is just hours from completing its journey to the station.

Space shuttle Atlantis will deliver the new module and a new crew member to the station when it docks at 11:25 a.m. CST to begin 6 days of docked operations.

Today’s wakeup song, played for Commander Steve Frick, at 3:45 a.m. CST was the theme song from Garrison Keillor’s radio variety show “A Prairie Home Companion.” The song is the Spencer Williams composition "Tishomingo Blues," but with lyrics written especially for the show.

Frick and his shuttle crewmates begin rendezvous operations at 5:30 a.m. CST. At 10:23 a.m., at a range of 600 feet below the station, Frick will command Atlantis to perform a back flip so ISS Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko can photograph the thermal tiles on the shuttle’s underside. Those digital images will be sent to Mission Control for analysis.

With the pitch maneuver complete, Frick will then fly the shuttle ahead of the station and slowly ease the orbiter back to a docking with the space station.

After hatch opening, the crew members will begin moving spacewalking equipment into the Quest airlock to prepare for the first excursion on Sunday. Mission Specialists Rex Walheim and Hans Schlegel will go outside to prepare the Columbus module to be grappled by the station’s robotic arm, lifted from Atlantis’ payload bay, and installed on the starboard side of Harmony.

The official exchange of Atlantis crewmember LĂ©opold Eyharts with space station Flight Engineer Dan Tani, who arrived at the station in October, is planned for 6 a.m. CST Sunday. The transfer becomes official with the installation of Eyharts’ customized seat liner in the Soyuz.

The STS-122 crew is on an 11-day mission to install and activate Columbus. The new laboratory is Europe's largest contribution to the construction of the station, adding 2,648 cubic feet of pressurized volume, four science experiment racks and one storage rack to the orbiting complex.

The next STS-122 status report will be issued Saturday evening or earlier if events warrant.

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STS-122 MCC Status Report #03

STS-122
Report #03
Friday, February 8, 5:00 p.m. CST
Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas

HOUSTON – The seven-member crew of Space Shuttle Atlantis is ready for tomorrow’s rendezvous and docking with the International Space Station, planned for 11:25 a.m. CST.

Commander Steve Frick and his crewmates, Pilot Alan Poindexter and Mission Specialists Leland Melvin, Rex Walheim, Stanley Love, Hans Schlegel and Leopold Eyharts, today completed a five-hour inspection of Atlantis’ heat shield using the shuttle’s robotic arm and the Orbiter Boom Sensor System. Imagery analysts and engineers on the ground will add today’s three-dimensional sensor images to imagery and accelerometer data collected at launch and during the climb to orbit and continue their analysis of the shuttle's heat shield.

Also today, the crew checked out the tools that will be used during tomorrow's rendezvous and docking to the station, installed the centerline camera that will be used during docking and extended the outer ring of the Orbiter Docking System.

Spacewalkers Walheim, Schlegel and Love checked out the spacesuits that they will wear during the mission's three spacewalks. At 2:02 p.m. Walheim reported that the suits had been fully prepared for transfer to the space station.

On board the space station, Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineers Yuri Malenchenko and Dan Tani readied the station for the arrival of Atlantis’ crew by conducting a leak check of Pressurized Mating Adapter-2, Atlantis’ docking point.

Tomorrow, Frick will perform the rendezvous pitch maneuver, an orbiter back-flip 600 feet below the space station that will allow Whitson and Malenchenko to take hundreds of detailed images of the orbiter’s underside. With the pitch maneuver complete, Frick will fly the shuttle ahead of the station and slowly ease the orbiter back to a docking with the space station.

Tomorrow also marks Whitson's 48th birthday. She commented today that she was looking forward to Atlantis' arrival as her birthday present.

The STS-122 crew is on an 11-day mission that will deliver a new research module to the International Space Station, the European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory. Columbus will be Europe's largest contribution to the construction of the station, adding 2,648 cubic feet of pressurized volume, four science experiment racks and one storage rack to the orbiting complex.

Atlantis’ crew is scheduled to go to sleep at 7:45 p.m. and will awaken at 3:45 a.m.

The next STS-122 status report will be issued Saturday morning or earlier if events warrant.

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Friday, February 8, 2008

STS-122 MCC Status Report #02

STS-122
Report #02
5 a.m. CST Friday, Feb. 8, 2008
Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas

The seven member crew of Space Shuttle Atlantis has begun its first full day in space on an 11-day mission that delivers the newest research module, the European Space Agency’s Columbus laboratory, to the International Space Station.

Installing the laboratory, named for Christopher Columbus, is the primary goal of this 121st space shuttle mission. It will add 2,648 cubic feet of pressurized volume, four science experiment racks and one storage rack to the space station.

This morning’s wakeup song, “The Book of Love,” performed by Peter Gabriel, was played for European Space Agency astronaut Leopold Eyharts at 3:45 a.m. CST. Eyharts will become a member of the Expedition 16 crew, replacing Flight Engineer Dan Tani, after Atlantis arrives at the space station Saturday.

Today Atlantis Commander Steve Frick and his crewmates, Pilot Alan Poindexter and Mission Specialists Leland Melvin, Rex Walheim, Stanley Love, Hans Schlegel and Eyharts will perform an inspection of Atlantis’ heat shield using the shuttle’s robotic arm and the Orbiter Boom Sensor System. They’ll also check out the tools they need for Saturday’s rendezvous and docking to the station and install a centerline camera in the shuttle’s orbiter docking system.

Spacewalkers Walheim, Schlegel and Love will prepare spacesuits that they will wear during the mission’s three spacewalks; two by Walheim and Schlegel and one by Walheim and Love.

The International Space Station’s Expedition 16 Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineers Yuri Malenchenko and Tani started their day at 4 a.m. CST. Today they will conduct a leak check of the Pressurized Mating Adapter 2 where Atlantis will dock to the station Saturday morning at 11:25 a.m. CST.

The next STS-122 status report will be issued Friday evening or earlier if events warrant.

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STS-122 MCC Status Report #01

STS-122
Report #01
Thursday, February 7, 2008 - 4:30 p.m. CST
Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas

HOUSTON -- Seven years to the day after the first laboratory was launched to the International Space Station, the Space Shuttle Atlantis roared into space this afternoon with the second, the European Space Agency's Columbus lab.

Atlantis lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center on mission STS-122 at 1:45 p.m. CST. Aboard the shuttle are Commander Steve Frick, Pilot Alan Poindexter and Mission Specialists Leland Melvin, Rex Walheim, Stanley Love, Hans Schlegel and Leopold Eyharts. Schlegel and Eyharts are European astronauts.

Atlantis is in excellent condition. The shuttle is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station on Saturday. On Friday, the crew will use the shuttle's robotic arm to inspect Atlantis' heat shield on the wing leading edges and nose. They also will check the spacesuits that will be used for three spacewalks during the mission.

After Atlantis arrives at the station, Eyharts will become a member of the Expedition 16 crew, joining Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko. Flight Engineer Dan Tani, who has been aboard the station since October 2007, will return to Earth on Atlantis.

The launch of Atlantis is the 121st space shuttle launch and the 29th flight of Atlantis. The Columbus module is Europe’s primary contribution to the space station. Columbus will host experiments in life, physical and earth sciences.

The shuttle crew will begin a sleep period at 7:45 p.m. CST and awaken at 3:45 a.m. CST Friday to begin their first full day in space.

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Atlantis finally had a good launch!

Hi folks, unfortunately, I was not able to follow Atlantis launch processing closely since early this year. But now I'd like to at least convey the fact that space shuttle Atlantis finally had a good launch and is on its way to the international space station ISS. Let me quote the NASA homepage for now:

With Atlantis safely attaining orbit, NASA mission managers gave the command to proceed with main engine cutoff, or MECO, and the giant orange tank that provided fuel for the climb into space has been jettisoned. As the tank falls away and descends toward Earth, its onboard cameras record the process.

Atlantis' next stop: the International Space Station.

Cheers and shouts could be heard throughout the space center as Atlantis, carrying the STS-122 crew and Columbus Laboratory, roared off the launch pad into the mid-afternoon sky to begin the 24th mission to the International Space Station.

NASA astronaut Steve Frick commands a crew of six, including Pilot Alan Poindexter and Mission Specialists Leland Melvin, Rex Walheim, Stanley Love and the European Space Agency's Hans Schlegel and Leopold Eyharts. This is the first spaceflight for Poindexter, Love and Melvin.

During the 11-day mission, the crew's prime objective is to attach the European Space Agency's Columbus Laboratory to the International Space Station, adding to the station's size and capabilities.

Expedition 16 Flight Engineer Daniel Tani, who arrived at the station aboard Discovery in October, will return to Earth with the Atlantis crew as Eyharts takes his place on the station.
I hope I will soon be able to provide the usual coverage of what's going on with space launches again. Stay tuned ;)

Rainer

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Atlantis now set to launch February, 7th

NASA has announced that Atlantis launch date will be no earlier than February, 7th. Unfortunately, I am currently extremely busy with my rsyslog project and don't have the usual time to report on launch progress. I hope to be able to resume the usual coverage soon. In the mean time, please let me quote NASA's shuttle home page:

Technicians at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida have completed the installation of the replacement feed-through connector in the engine cutoff sensor system to the internal connector. The feed-through connector passes the wires from the inside of the tank to the outside.

The pins in the replacement connector have been skillfully soldered to create a connection that allows sensors inside the tank to send signals to the computers onboard Atlantis.

The work is being done on Launch Pad 39A in anticipation of a launch date for mission STS-122 now targeted for Feb. 7 at 2:47 p.m. EST.

Atlantis' main objective during its STS-122 mission to the Internaltional Space Station is to install and activate the European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory, which will provide scientists around the world the ability to conduct a variety of experiments in life, physical, and materials science, Earth observation and solar physics.

Shuttle Endeavour's STS-123 mission will deliver Kibo, the first section of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's laboratory module, and Dextre, Canada's new robotics system to the space station. The launch of Endeavour is targeted for mid-March.

NASA managers will meet in the coming weeks to address the schedule of remaining shuttle flights beyond STS-123.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

STS-122 Launch in early February?

As it looks, Atlantis will launch no earlier than February, 2nd on its STS-122 mission to the international space station. Some new problems have popped up and also been fixed since my last blog post. Unfortunately, I am currently quite busy with some of my projects and so I could not follow as closely as I usually did. However, I checked the status today and all in all it seems to look quite OK.

Tomorrow is another NASA PRCB meeting (they are each week on Thursdays). I expect that we will see an official status update on potential launch dates. In the mean time, tests on the external feedthrough connector removed from Atlantis' external tank are being conducted. This is not yet completed and it will be interesting to see the test results.

At the launch pad, the cables have been soldered to the connector, giving them a solid connection. This very same fix was applied to Atlas rockets with similar issues some years ago.

In short, there actually is currently not much to report. The wizards at NASA are working very hard to find the actual root cause and a good fix for the ECO sensor issue. There is not much definite know today because it all depends on the outcome of testing and analysis. So lets stay tuned for what's going on...

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Friday, January 4, 2008

Atlantis to launch on January, 24th?

The NASA space shuttle home page currently states that Atlantis could possibly launch on January, 24th. However, there are serious doubts about that date. From what I have found on the net, early February sounds much more realistic - with a launch on February, 2nd if there will be no further tanking test conducted. The most likely scenario, however, seems to be a launch no early then February, 8th.

Unfortunately, I am currently very busy with one of my projects and thus can not report more in-depth. That will follow hopefully soon. In the mean time, let me quote the NASA shuttle home page:

NASA flight control teams and ground operations teams have been requested to protect for a Jan. 24th launch date for Space Shuttle Atlantis. As work progresses, that date will be modified as required, says John Shannon, deputy manager for the Space Shuttle Program. The schedule depends on test results and modifications to a fuel sensor system connector on the external fuel tank Atlantis will use for launch on its STS-122 mission to the International Space Station. Other launch opportunities could come between Jan. 24th and the first week of February.

The connector suspected of prompting false readings during two previous launch attempts is undergoing intensive testing at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Engineers also will test potential modifications to the connector to certify it for flight. Marshall has a test facility that allows the connector to be subjected to the same conditions it saw during the earlier launch attempts.

The modification and testing plans were discussed along with the launch preparation schedule during a meeting of Space Shuttle Program managers Thursday.

Technicians at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., will modify a replacement connector for the one that was removed. Metal pins inside the connector will be soldered to the socket, Shannon explained. The new connector is scheduled to be in place by Jan. 10.

"We're fairly confident that if the problem is where we think it is, that this will solve that," Shannon said.

Atlantis remains at the launch pad as the agency studies ways to modify the connector. The shuttle will carry the European Space Agency’s Columbus laboratory to the space station during the STS-122 mission.

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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Shuttle Feedthrough Connector Removal Pictures

As a new year's gift, NASA has place twelve interesting pictures from the December, 29th removal of the feedthrough connector in the media gallery. The original format is quite a bit hard to read (at least in my opinion), so I thought I recompile them in this post.

The feedthrough connector was removed to be shipped to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center for further cryogenic testing. This is part of the ongoing space shuttle ECO sensor troubleshooting. If you doubt why further troubleshooting is needed, you may want to have a look at my "xmas decoration and space shuttle similarities" post ;)

Very interesting to see the technicians at work.

First, the external connector cable is cut:


Then, a pair of support brackets is removed:


Before disconnecting the connector assembly, it receives a cleaning, removing any residual foam insulation:


Then, the connector assembly, with its associated electrical harness, is pulled away from the tank:


Technicians set up equipment that will be used to take X-rays of the connector cable:


Then, the connector is disconnected before it is demated from the external tank:


And finally the demate occurs:


The technician then inspects the connector just removed from the external tank:


Technicians wrap the connector for transport to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., for further cryogenic testing:




... and place the wrapped connector in a shipping container:


... which is then finally carried away for transport to the Marshall Space Flight Center:

Nice work, guys! And now I am eager to hear about the testing results in MSFC! Stay tuned...

Image Credit for all pictures: NASA

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