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Thursday, July 27, 2006

An updated design of the Crew Exploration Vehicle.  Image courtesy of Chris Bergin/NASASpaceflight.com.

CREW EXPLORATION VEHICLE Update... By now, you should’ve all noticed that I’m currently interested in talking mostly about space-related stuff on my journal page, so here’s another space-related update! According to NASASpaceflight.com, engineers were having issues with the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) in that it was 10,000 pounds overweight...meaning that the command and service modules (seen above) were too heavy for the solid rocket booster (the long white "stick" making up the bottom half of the vehicle, seen below) to handle during flight. In the process, engineers obviously began making changes to the CEV, and at the end, pulled off a remarkable feat of eliminating the excess 10,000 pounds from the spacecraft within a short amount of time. In fact, the CEV is now 100 pounds underweight! Sure, that amount is miniscule, but for engineers to be able to shed thousands of pounds from the launch vehicle—and then some—to make it work is astonishing. Again, go to NASASpaceflight.com for more details. (You’ll also see that the image I created below is also used in the CEV article on that website...but that’s not the reason why I decided to talk about the CEV on my page, haha. NSF webmaster Chris Bergin gave me credit for using that image.)

Engineers construct a mockup of the Crew Exploration Vehicle at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas (November 2005).
Engineers construct a mockup of the Crew Exploration Vehicle at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas (November, 2005).

In terms of naming the CEV, there have been rumors that NASA is close to choosing a name for the command and service modules [Not the Crew Launch Vehicle (the solid rocket booster and orange external fuel tank shown below)...that’s the Ares 1]. The name they’ve apparently selected is Orion. In case some of you are confusing Orion with NASA’s Constellation program (assuming at least some of you are space geeks like I am... Err, hopefully?), the Constellation program is the main organization that is responsible for the CEV project and all other missions supporting the Vision for Space Exploration effort (click here to read more about Constellation). Orion will be the name for all the actual missions...similar to the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spaceflights. Go to Space.com for more details.

An early composite image of an Ares 1 test vehicle being rolled out to the launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida.  The gray mobile platform that the craft is sitting on will be replaced with a newer, lighter transporter that will be able to move the CEV and its 4 million pounds worth of ground equipment to the launch area.
An early composite image of an Ares 1 test vehicle being rolled out to the launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The gray mobile platform that the craft is sitting on will be replaced with a newer, lighter transporter that will be able to move the CEV and its 4 million pounds worth of ground equipment to the launch area.

One last thing about the Crew Exploration Vehicle (for now)... As early as next April, one of the space shuttle launch pads will be transferred over to the Constellation program to begin modifications for Crew Launch Vehicle test flights (I’d mention when the test flights are suppose to take place, but that info came from a section of NASASpaceflight.com that is for paying members only). Operations from Launch Pad 39B—the pad from which the shuttle Discovery lifted off from about three weeks ago—will cease on March 31, 2007. All remaining shuttle missions will lift off from Launch Pad 39A...which as of this typing is undergoing an overhaul that will last for another six months. Click here for more details.

The Ares 1 rocket with the re-designed Crew Exploration Vehicle on top.
The Ares 1 rocket with the re-designed Crew Exploration Vehicle on top.

UPDATE #2: Well, it turns out that even though NASA has shed the 10,000 pounds that made the CEV/Crew Launch Vehicle overweight, there are other issues that the space agency still needs to deal with during this developmental phase of the program. The issues may be so numerous that NASA has an alternate look for the Ares 1 vehicle in case the current "stick" design doesn't work out...one that'll make it more closely resemble the space shuttle of today. However, this design has so far remained only a concept. Click here for more details.

The alternate design for the Crew Launch Vehicle...making it more closely resemble the space shuttle.  Image courtesy of NASASpaceflight.com

A comparison chart showing the size of the space shuttle relative to the current Ares 1 'Stick' (left) and the 'Stumpy' (right) design.  Image courtesy of NASASpaceflight.com
A comparison chart showing the size of the space shuttle relative to the current Ares
1 'Stick' (left) and the 'Stumpy' (right) design.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The mission logo for STS-115.

STS-115 Update... Around 5:45 (Pacific Daylight Time) this morning, the orbiter Atlantis was rolled out of its hangar and to the Vehicle Assembly Building...where it will be attached to its external tank and twin solid rocket boosters. Rollout to the launch pad is scheduled for next Monday, July 31st, and lift-off is being aimed for August 28 (though I currently listed August 27 as the launch date in the countdown at the top of this page, since that’s what space shuttle program managers are aiming for. It’ll either be changed or unchanged depending on what NASA leaders decide on after the Flight Readiness Review on August 16).

The orbiter Atlantis is being rolled out of the Orbiter Processing Facility on July 24, 2006.

Atlantis is rolled over to the Vehicle Assembly Building on July 24, 2006.

Atlantis is being rolled into the Vehicle Assembly Building on July 24, 2006.

A crane lifts Atlantis into a vertical position prior to mating with its external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters, on July 24, 2006.

Atlantis is attached to its external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters on July 24, 2006.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Space shuttle Discovery touches down at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida following a 13-day mission to the International Space Station.

"WE'RE BACK, BABY!" Those were the words that astronaut Scott Kelly uttered on the phone last week to his brother, fellow astronaut Mark Kelly, who was the pilot onboard Discovery for mission STS-121. Around 6:14 AM, Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) today, Discovery landed at Kennedy Space Center in Florida...successfully completing STS-121 and thus the second and final Return to Flight test mission. Assuming everything goes well in the upcoming 6 weeks, the next space shuttle to launch will be Atlantis...on an assembly mission (designated STS-115) to attach the next metal truss segment and solar panel wings to the International Space Station.

The International Space Station (ISS) in its current configuration (July 6, 2006).
The International Space Station (ISS) in its current configuration (July 6, 2006).

The highlighted parts represent the segments that will be delivered to the ISS on mission STS-115: The Port 3/Port 4 truss and solar array wings.
The highlighted parts represent the segments that will be delivered to the ISS on mis-
-sion STS-115: The Port 3/Port 4 truss and solar array wings.


An artist's rendition of the ISS in orbit.
An artist's rendition of the ISS in orbit after shuttle flight STS-115.

How the ISS will hopefully look when it's completed in 2010.
How the ISS will hopefully look when it's completed in 2010.

An artist's rendition of the completed ISS.
An artist's rendition of the completed ISS.

Below is a timeline of events to take place prior to the August 28th launch of Atlantis (obviously, the schedule may change):

DATE.......EVENT

07/25/06...Atlantis rollover to the Vehicle Assembly Building (tentative...now July 24)
07/27/06...P3/P4 Truss payload transported to Launch Pad 39B (tentative...now July 26)
08/02/06...Shuttle stack rollout to Launch Pad 39B
08/02/06...P3/P4 Truss to be installed inside Atlantis' payload bay (tentative...now Aug. 5)
08/07/06...Crew flies out to Kennedy Space Center
08/08/06...Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test (TCDT) begins
08/09/06...Astronaut Q & A at Launch Pad 39B
08/10/06...TCDT ends with dress-rehearsal countdown
08/11/06...Pre-flight briefings at the Johnson Space Center
08/15/06...Flight Readiness Review (FRR) begins
08/16/06...FRR ends; official launch date announced
08/25/06...Countdown begins...now August 24
08/28/06...Launch (now August 27 at 1:30 PM, PDT, because of schedule issues related to a Russian Soyuz flight to the space station in mid-September)
09/07/06...Shuttle launch window closes
Schedule courtesy of SpaceflightNow.com

A photo of the P3/P4 truss structure (right), taken on May 12, 2005.  Prior to the Columbia disaster, STS-115 was originally suppose to be flown on May 23, 2003, onboard the shuttle Endeavour.  Endeavour is currently grounded for maintenance at the Kennedy Space Center, and should fly again by next summer (on STS-118).
A photo of the P3/P4 truss structure (right), taken on May 12, 2005. Prior to the
Columbia disaster, STS-115 was originally suppose to be flown on May 23, 2003, on-
-board the shuttle Endeavour. Endeavour is currently grounded for maintenance at
the Kennedy Space Center, and should fly again by next summer (on STS-118).

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Space Shuttle Discovery lifts off on mission STS-121 on July 4, 2006.

LIFT-OFF! At 11:38 AM, Pacific Daylight Time, Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off on NASA's first ever manned space launch on Independence Day. The countdown and launch appeared to go smoothly, but I still hate Florida weather. You suck, Floridians. Just not today.


Onboard Discovery's flight deck, three of STS-121's seven crew members can be seen during the shuttle's ascent into orbit on July 4, 2006.  The curvature of the Earth can be seen outside the window (far left) as the space shuttle's main engine cut-off is moments away.

A camera onboard a NASA aircraft took this shot of the solid rocket boosters being moments away from separating from Space Shuttle Discovery, as it launched into orbit on July 4, 2006.

The camera onboard the NASA aircraft took this other shot of the solid rocket boosters separating from Space Shuttle Discovery, as it launched into orbit on July 4, 2006.

A camera onboard a solid rocket booster took this never-before-seen shot of Space Shuttle Discovery as it soared into orbit on July 4, 2006.

Saturday, July 1, 2006

DISCOVERY Launch Scrubbed... Originally, I wasn't gonna post anything if the space shuttle didn't launch today, since the chances of it not getting off the ground because of bad weather was known since the July 1 launch date was first announced on June 17. But G*DDAMN, Florida sucks. Well okay, Florida's weather sucks...but I'm still pretty peeved. It's summer...and looking at the 10-day forecast for the "Sunshine" State online, it's all nothing but scattered thunderstorms till next weekend. Thunderstorms...during the summer. Florida blooows.

At least here in California, it's nice and sunny even if the long-awaited Big One (a giant earthquake, for those of you who don't live here in the Almighty Golden State) was to finally wreak havoc. If Discovery isn't able to launch by July 19, NASA will have to wait till the next launch window to open from August 28 to September 14...which is reserved for the next space station assembly flight (mission STS-115). God, I hate Florida. It blooows. Did you hear me, Floridians? You suck. Anvil clouds and lightning... You guys really suck.

The weather above Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday, July 1st.
The weather above Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday,
July 1st.


UPDATE (July 3): So not only was Discovery's launch scrubbed for a second time yesterday due to bad weather, but it may not launch tomorrow because of a small crack found on the foam insulating a large pipe outside the external tank. Of course, if Discovery was able to have launched on July 1st or yesterday, the stress caused by the constant pumping and purging of the ice-cold rocket fuel into the tank wouldn't have taken place, and that crack wouldn't have formed. Thank you, Mother Nature. God, I hate you. Let's hear it for urban sprawl and pollution, bitch. I can't believe I just called the weather a bitch. Meh, oh well.

As you can see, I'm one of those people achin' to see the shuttle return to flight. Don't know why, I just do.

This footage was taken during the afternoon on Monday, July 3.  Is it just me but the weather looked pretty damn good for a launch?  Eh... Would've, could've, should've...
This footage was taken during the afternoon on Monday, July 3. Is it
just me but the weather looked pretty damn good for a launch? Eh...
Would've, could've, should've...


UPDATE #2 (July 3): It is 6:00 PM here in Southern California, and many news websites are stating that Discovery will be launched tomorrow as scheduled. YES!

The tower's Rotating Service Structure rolls away...revealing Discovery as it stands poised for launch as of 12:14 AM (Eastern Daylight Time) on July 4th.
The tower's Rotating Service Structure rolls away...revealing Discovery
as it stands poised for launch as of 12:14 AM (Eastern Daylight Time)
on July 4th.


A flame shoots out from the launch pad's hydrogen tank as the gas is being burnt off during the filling of Discovery's orange external fuel tank, on the morning of July 4th.
A flame shoots out from the launch pad's hydrogen tank as the gas is
being burnt off during the filling of Discovery's orange external fuel
tank, on the morning of July 4th.