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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Space shuttle Discovery launches on her maiden voyage of STS-41-D from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on August 30, 1984.
NASA

27 YEARS AGO TODAY, space shuttle Discovery embarked on her maiden voyage of STS-41-D from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Among her mission objectives were the deployment of the Telstar 3-C satellite and successful unfurling of the OAST-1 solar array in Earth orbit (both deployments are shown below)...which would pave the way for the four pairs of gigantic photovoltaic wings that power the International Space Station today. Discovery spent six days in space—traveling a total of 2.5 million miles on her inaugural flight.

Two payloads, the Telstar 3-C satellite and the OAST-1 solar array, that were deployed from space shuttle Discovery during STS-41-D in 1984.
NASA

Sunday, August 28, 2011

An artist's concept of the Cygnus spacecraft approaching the International Space Station.
Orbital Sciences Corporation

IMAGES OF THE DAY... Last Thursday, the Pressurized Cargo Module (PCM) for Orbital Sciences’ first Cygnus spacecraft arrived at its launch site, the Wallops Flight Facility, in Virginia. The PCM will eventually be mated with its service module before lifting off on a demonstration mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in early 2012. The launch of Cygnus, hopefully, will have taken place only a few months after SpaceX sends its Dragon spacecraft on a milestone flight—currently scheduled to begin on November 30—to dock with the ISS.

The Cygnus spacecraft's PCM is prepped for shipment from the Thales Alenia Space facility in Italy.
Thales Alenia

The container holding the first Cygnus PCM arrives at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
NASA

Friday, August 26, 2011

ORION Update... Technicians placed microphones around the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Launch Abort System in preparation for an additional round of testing in the acoustic chamber at Lockheed Martin's Waterton Facility near Denver last week. The vehicle was subjected to acoustic levels of 150 decibels to simulate conditions during launch and abort...if this contingency was necessary.

The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and its Launch Abort System undergo acoustic testing.
NASA

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hurricane Irene as seen from the International Space Station on August 22, 2011.
NASA / Ron Garan - Twitter.com

VIDEO OF THE DAY... The footage of Hurricane Irene below was taken by crewmembers onboard the International Space Station on Monday (August 22). Spaceflight-wise (and overlooking the obvious hazard for facilities at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida), NASA no longer needs to worry about space shuttles being in harm's way if they were out on the pad during this approaching storm, though the upcoming launch of the GRAIL lunar orbiters (on September 8) may be at risk—though most likely not by Irene—as the 2011 hurricane season heats up.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Chinese news footage showing the Tiangong-1 space station undergoing testing earlier this year.
China Manned Space Engineering Office

TIANGONG-1 POISED FOR LAUNCH... China’s very first space station may launch before the end of this year. The irony would be if Tiangong-1 was damaged—after it reached orbit—by debris from a weather satellite [the Feng Yun 1C (or FY-1C) polar orbit spacecraft] that China intentionally destroyed during a missile test in January of 2007. I would say 'God Forbid'...but the station is an unmanned prototype of a manned orbital outpost that China plans to launch by the end of this decade—so let karma strike Tiangong-1 if it deserves it. The International Space Station was threatened by debris from the FY-1C earlier this year (and continues to be at risk), as an FYI.

Chinese news footage showing the unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft that will dock with Tiangong-1 next year undergoing pre-flight testing.
China Manned Space Engineering Office

Sunday, August 21, 2011

ORION Update... The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle has now been attached to its Launch Abort System, and will soon undergo testing inside the Reverberant Acoustics Laboratory at Lockheed Martin's Waterton Facility near Denver, Colorado.

The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle is integrated with the Launch Abort System prior to undergoing acoustic testing.
NASA

Thursday, August 18, 2011

An artist's concept of the Dragon spacecraft in Earth orbit.
SpaceX

SPACEX READY TO MAKE HISTORY... This November 30th, a milestone in human spaceflight is set to be made when the first privately-developed vehicle will launch into Earth orbit for a mission that will culminate with a docking at the International Space Station. Shown below is the Dragon capsule as it was recently being tested inside a SpaceX clean room in Hawthorne, California...prior to its delivery to its launch site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station around next month. Godspeed, SpaceX— Looking forward to another successful flight of Dragon and its Falcon 9 launch vehicle more than three months from now.

A new exciting era after the end of the Space Shuttle Program will soon begin.

Technicians work on the Dragon spacecraft inside a clean room at the SpaceX facility in Hawthorne, California.
SpaceX/ Roger Gilbertson

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

IMAGE OF THE DAY... Don’t know what’s cooler: Being able to see a space shuttle enter the atmosphere from Earth orbit, or watching a 'shooting star' from 220 miles above? Considering the fact that—up until the dawn of the Space Age—meteors have only been viewed from the ground by Neanderthals and then Homo sapiens for the past oh, hundreds of thousands of years, I choose the shooting star. This incredible photo was taken by astronaut Ron Garan onboard the International Space Station last Sunday.

An image of a Perseid meteoroid entering Earth's atmosphere on August 14, 2011.
NASA / Ron Garan - Twitter.com

Thursday, August 11, 2011

At Kennedy Space Center (KSC), the shuttle Discovery (at right) is transferred to an Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) for decommissioning while Endeavour is brought to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) for temporary storage...on August 11, 2011.
NASA / Frankie Martin

SHUTTLE SWAP... Earlier this morning, the orbiters Discovery and Endeavour switched places at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida...with Discovery going to Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF)-1 to resume decommissioning while Endeavour underwent storage inside the mammoth Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Discovery was transferred over to the VAB from OPF-2 last month so that Atlantis could undergo post-flight processing inside that hangar following her successful return from the final space shuttle mission, STS-135. Endeavour was being readied for retirement in OPF-1 prior to today’s move to the VAB.

Discovery is currently scheduled for delivery to the Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia on April 12, 2012 (the 31st anniversary of Columbia's flight on STS-1), while Endeavour will be flown to Los Angeles International Airport for display at the California Science Center around next August. Atlantis’ move to the KSC Visitor Complex is aimed for February 1, 2013 (10 years after the loss of Columbia on STS-107)...according to NASASpaceFlight.com.

At KSC, the shuttle Discovery is transferred to an OPF for decommissioning while Endeavour is brought to the VAB for temporary storage...on August 11, 2011.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

At KSC, the shuttle Discovery is transferred to an OPF for decommissioning while Endeavour is brought to the VAB for temporary storage...on August 11, 2011.
Photo courtesy of NASAKennedy - Twitter.com

Monday, August 8, 2011

PHOTO OF THE DAY... NASA’s two Shuttle Carrier Aircraft were both flying above Edwards Air Force Base in California when this image was taken on August 2 of last week. The next time these two modified Boeing 747s will have an orbiter attached to them will be next year...when they ferry Discovery to the Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia, Endeavour to (presumably) Los Angeles International Airport...from which she will be transported via city streets to the California Science Center in downtown L.A. and Enterprise to New York—where she will find her final resting home at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Atlantis will not have to fly to her final destination—the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Visitor Complex—which is only a few miles down the road from her current location inside a KSC Orbiter Processing Facility.

NASA's two Shuttle Carrier Aircraft fly above Edwards Air Force Base in California, on August 2, 2011.
NASA / Carla Thomas

Thursday, August 4, 2011

An artist's concept of Boeing's CST-100 approaching the International Space Station.
Boeing

COMMERCIAL CREW LAUNCHES MOVE CLOSER TO REALITY... A company that isn't SpaceX makes progress towards launching astronauts to the International Space Station and elsewhere.

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Boeing Selects Atlas V Rocket for Initial Commercial Crew Launches (Press Release)

HOUSTON, Aug. 4, 2011 -- The Boeing Company today announced it has selected the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket to launch the Boeing Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft from Florida’s Space Coast.

"This selection marks a major step forward in Boeing's efforts to provide NASA with a proven launch capability as part of our complete commercial crew transportation service," said John Elbon, vice president and program manager of Commercial Crew Programs and the source selection official for Boeing.

If NASA selects Boeing for a development contract with sufficient funding, ULA will provide launch services for an autonomous orbital flight, a transonic autonomous abort test launch, and a crewed launch, all in 2015.

The addition of ULA to the Boeing team enables the start of detailed design work on an integrated system for launch and spacecraft operations. The team also will refine launch abort operations that will meet NASA's stringent human rating requirements to safely transport crew and cargo to the International Space Station. Boeing conducted a best-value competition among U.S. launch service providers prior to selecting the Atlas V.

"We are pleased Boeing selected the Atlas V rocket and believe it is the right vehicle to help usher in the new commercial era in human spaceflight," said George Sowers, ULA vice president of Business Development. "The Atlas V is a cost-effective, reliable vehicle and ULA stands ready to support Boeing's commercial human spaceflight program."

Boeing plans to begin wind tunnel testing of the Atlas V and the CST-100 this year and will use the results to complete a preliminary design review of the integrated system in 2012 under the second round of its Commercial Crew Development Space Act Agreement with NASA.

The Commercial Crew program consists of developing, manufacturing, testing and evaluating, and demonstrating the CST-100 spacecraft, launch vehicle and ground/mission operations – all part of Boeing’s Commercial Crew Transportation System – for NASA’s new Commercial Crew human spaceflight program that will provide access to the International Space Station.

The CST-100 is a reusable, capsule-shaped spacecraft that includes a crew module and a service module. It relies on proven, affordable materials and subsystem technologies that can transport up to seven people, or a combination of people and cargo.

Source: The Boeing Company

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A composite image showing the CST-100 attached to an Atlas V launch vehicle.
Boeing / United Launch Alliance

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The ARES I-X rocket arrives at Launch Complex 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on October 20, 2009.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

IMAGES OF THE DAY... Launch Complex 39B: Past and Present. Pad B saw its first launch with Apollo 10 heading to the Moon on May 18, 1969, and its final launch with the Ares I-X test flight on October 28, 2009. 53 space shuttle missions began from the historic pad between those two flights over the last three decades. The Fixed Service Structure and Rotating Service Structure are now gone from the elevated pad surface of 39B...with NASA leaving the complex ready for the next rocket that will soar into Earth orbit and beyond from the site at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Whether that rocket will be commercially-made or NASA’s replacement for the shuttle remains to be seen.

Launch Complex 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, as of August 3, 2011.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

Launch Complex 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, as of August 3, 2011.
NASA / Kim Shiflett