Stories tagged space shuttle

Aug
15
2007

Endeavour’s belly: A view of the Space Shuttle Endeavour as the crew puts the shuttle though a rendezvous pitch maneuver, allowing the crewmembers on the nearby International Space Station to document the vehicle's thermal protection system condition.  Image courtesy NASA.
Endeavour’s belly: A view of the Space Shuttle Endeavour as the crew puts the shuttle though a rendezvous pitch maneuver, allowing the crewmembers on the nearby International Space Station to document the vehicle's thermal protection system condition. Image courtesy NASA.
NASA is still mulling over whether to repair the 3 1/2-inch-long, 2-inch-wide gouge in two tiles on Endeavour’s belly. There are thousands of these tiles that cover Endeavour’s belly that protect it from the heat of reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. Current status is that the earliest NASA will have a decision is Thursday. NASA has earlier indicated that they did not feel it is necessary to fix the gouge, but were withholding a final decision until heat-blasting tests were completed. The concern is not that the gouge could result in another Columbia-like disaster during reentry, but that heat will get through to the aluminum structure underneath the tiles resulting in lengthy post-mission repairs.

As I have been hearing about this situation my mind drifts back to a Popular Science article I read a few weeks ago about space diving. Both the space-age equivalent of super-extreme sky diving and also a potential alternate method for astronauts to return to Earth should their spaceship be unsafe to do so, space diving is being developed by a new company called Orbital Outfitters. Their ambitious plan is to demonstrate a 120,000-foot jump in one of their space dive suits by 2009 and a 60-mile space dive within two years.

Jul
02
2007

Atlantis piggyback ride: back to Florida.
Atlantis piggyback ride: back to Florida.
After its 5.8 million mile journey, the space shuttle Atlantis is being returned home to the Kennedy Space Center atop a modified 747 jetliner. They will arrive today, or if weather conditions are not favorable, Tuesday, July 3.

Mission STS-118 will be in August

STS-117 is the 118th shuttle mission and 21st mission to visit the space station. The next mission, STS-118, is slated to launch in August.

Jun
08
2007

NASA's new ride: This artist's rendition shows what the new Orion orbiter and Ares rocket might look like when it takes astronauts and payloads into space. (Photo courtesy of NASA)
NASA's new ride: This artist's rendition shows what the new Orion orbiter and Ares rocket might look like when it takes astronauts and payloads into space. (Photo courtesy of NASA)
Good news!!! NASA announced today that its shuttle replacement timetable has been moved up. The new spacecraft should be ready by 2013, two years faster than earlier predicted. Readers of Science Buzz may remember the story posted back in March about a five-year gap in U.S. space access capabilities.

The current NASA schedule calls for 16 more shuttle flights through 2010. The new proposed spacecraft, Ares rockets and Orion Crew Exploratory Vehicle, will have a lot more carrying capacity than the current shuttle fleet. The Ares V that is proposed could carry five or six times the cargo of the current shuttles.

On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel into space in Vostok 3KA-2 (Vostok 1). Also,the first Space Shuttle mission, STS-1, was launched April 12, 1981.

Mar
16
2007

Retiring too soon?: Proposed budget cuts will likely leave NASA without any replacement spacecraft until 2015 for the space shuttle fleet that is to be retired in 2010.
Retiring too soon?: Proposed budget cuts will likely leave NASA without any replacement spacecraft until 2015 for the space shuttle fleet that is to be retired in 2010.
The United States will be in a space transportation pinch in the coming years if current proposed budgets for NASA don’t get an increase.

The three current space shuttles are targeted for mothballing in 2010 and new revised budgets for the replacement crafts won’t have anything available for American astronauts to fly in by 2015 at the earliest. More budget delays could push things back even further.

What that means is that U.S. space programs, including getting people and equipment to the International Space Station, will depend on the help of foreign or commercial space programs. Russia, who used to be our fierce foe in the race to space, could suddenly become a key ally in U.S. space endeavors.

Some experts say the budget problems could knock the U.S. out of its leadership position in space efforts. What do you think? What government programs would you be willing to see reduced in order for the U.S. to continue to have a strong fleet of space craft? Or do you think it’s too expensive to keep heading out to space anyway? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.

Feb 1, 2003

"The Columbia is lost; there are no survivors. The cause in which they died will continue. Our journey into space will go on."(President Bush)

Dec
21
2006

Image of Discovery: This image of Space Shuttle Discovery was taken by a miniature satellite that was released from Discovery's payload bay on Wednesday.  Image courtesy NASA TV.
Image of Discovery: This image of Space Shuttle Discovery was taken by a miniature satellite that was released from Discovery's payload bay on Wednesday. Image courtesy NASA TV.

The space shuttle Discovery is preparing to land tomorrow at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Preparations for landing include checking out flight systems and jets as well as stowing and securing equipment.

Along with this activity, the shuttle crew will be launching a small satellite designed to measure the density and composition of the low-Earth orbit atmosphere while being tracked from the ground. The information that this Atmospheric Neutral Density Experiment satellite with gather will be used to help predict the movement of objects in orbit. Earlier in the mission a satellite the size of a coffee cup was deployed to demonstrate the use of small low-power inspection satellites that can be sent out to observe larger spacecraft.

Concerns about weather at Kennedy Space Center and a unique schedule that was the result of an unplanned spacewalk to fix a solar panel on the International Space Station could result in the shuttle landing at the White Sands Space Harbor landing strip for the first time in 24 years.

The last time, and only time, a shuttle landed at White Sands, the sand that gives the area its name resulted in days of additional work to clean the shuttle. In addition, the site lacks the equipment at Kennedy Space Center, and the primary back up, California’s Edwards Air Force Base where 50 of the shuttle’s 114 landings have taken place. Low clouds and rain are forecasted for Kennedy Space Center, and crosswinds are the problem at Edwards Air Force Base. The shuttle has to land before Sunday when it will run out of the fuel it needs to generate power. As a result of this schedule crunch, all three locations will be prepped for the first landing opportunity on Friday. There are seven landing windows starting with the first opportunity on Friday. The shuttle crew trains in a jet that mimics the shuttle over White Sands, so they are at least familiar with the area if a landing there is necessary.

If you are a space geek like me, or even if you are just a little interested, NASA does a lot of things that I think are cool surrounding shuttle flights.

They have tons of video material including the launch, views from the solid rocket boosters, space walks, messages from the crew and more. You can even subscribe to these as podcasts! I would suspect that the NASA web pages for this mission will be kept up to date as the status of the landings are determined. Stay tuned!

Nov
20
2006

The Hubble Space Telescope.: Image courtesy NASA.
The Hubble Space Telescope.: Image courtesy NASA.
As someone who is fascinated by space, the Hubble Space Telescope is something that I think is not only cool, but also essential to our learning about the universe we live in. That’s why this summer I was bummed to learn that NASA had decided to let the telescope fail in the coming years and then crash it into the ocean. I was happy to learn a few weeks ago that NASA has now announced that it will send a space shuttle crew to service and upgrade the telescope to make it functional through 2013. The service mission will add two new instruments to the telescope, allowing for even better observations than before.


Hubble was designed to be upgraded while in orbit – and it has had four service missions since its launch in 1990. Each service mission has improved the performance of the telescope and the images and data it sends to scientists and researchers.

This fifth servicing mission will include regular maintenance such as installing new gyroscopes and new batteries, and also the installation of two new instruments, the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) and the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3).

According to NASA,

COS will measure the structure and composition of the ordinary matter concentrated in the "cosmic web," long, narrow filaments of galaxies and intergalactic gas separated by huge voids. COS will use faint distant quasars as "cosmic flashlights," whose beams of light pass through the cosmic web. Absorption of this light by "stuff" in the web reveals characteristics of that material. This allows scientists to determine its composition and its specific location in space. These observations, covering vast distances across space and time, will illuminate both the large-scale structure of the universe and the progressive changes in chemical composition of matter as the universe has grown older.

The WFC3 will extend Hubble's capability to see deep into the universe, with the power to observe in multiple wavelengths (colors) of light including infrared, visible and ultraviolet light. WFC3 can, for example, observe young, hot stars that glow predominantly in ultraviolet and older, cooler stars that glow predominantly in infrared in the same galaxy. The first stars and galaxies to form in the universe are so old and distant that their light is now relegated to infrared wavelengths.

Other scheduled work includes installing a refurbished Fine Guidance Sensor, as well as attempting to repair the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph. Installed in 1997, it stopped working in 2004.

The [Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph] is used for high resolution studies in visible and ultraviolet light of both nearby star systems and distant galaxies, providing information about the motions and chemical makeup of stars, planetary atmospheres, and other galaxies.

Here is a lineup of the current equipment onboard Hubble.

The service mission is tentatively scheduled for 2008.