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Saturday, December 31, 2011


Earth | Time Lapse View from Space, Fly Over | NASA, ISS from Michael König on Vimeo.

THE FINAL POST OF 2011... Just thought I'd conclude this year in human spaceflight by sharing the amazing video above and the stunning photos below. Clearly, it is an awesome privilege to be an astronaut, cosmonaut or any other living voyager cruising out in space...

Have a great 2012, everyone!

A snapshot of the India-Pakistan borderlands...with the ISS' Permanent Multipurpose Module to the right.
NASA

A snapshot of the Moon being partially obscured by Earth's atmosphere, as seen from the ISS.
NASA

An infrared snapshot of Comet Lovejoy...with Japan's Kibo module and the Harmony node at the top.
NASA

A snapshot of the Iberian Peninsula, as seen from the ISS.
NASA

A snapshot of the Midwestern United States...with Japan's Kibo module at the top and the Aurora Borealis in the background.
NASA

A snapshot of the Aurora Borealis from the ISS.
The Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center

Thursday, December 29, 2011

IMAGE OF THE DAY, Part 2... Check out this LEGO® model of SpaceX's Dragon vehicle. Neat.

A LEGO® model of SpaceX's Dragon vehicle.
Courtesy of Facebook

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft carrying three Expedition 30/31 crew members is about to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) on December 23, 2011.
NASA

IMAGES OF THE DAY... Three veteran astronauts, Oleg Kononenko, André Kuipers and Donald Pettit, arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) courtesy of a Russian Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft on December 23, while an Expedition 30 crew member already aboard the ISS took this infrared photo of Los Angeles on the night of December 24 (Pacific Standard Time)...

An Expedition 30 astronaut aboard the ISS took this infrared photo of Los Angeles on the night of December 24, 2011 (Pacific Standard Time).
NASA

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Comet Lovejoy passes near Earth...as seen by NASA astronaut Dan Burbank aboard the International Space Station on December 21, 2011.
NASA / Dan Burbank

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE! Just thought I’d celebrate the holiday by posting these truly amazing images of Comet Lovejoy passing near Earth. These awesome photos were taken by NASA astronaut Dan Burbank aboard the International Space Station on December 21 and 22. If these pics don’t astound you and make you appreciate the value of the space program (whether manned or unmanned), I don’t know what will.

Comet Lovejoy passes near Earth...as seen by NASA astronaut Dan Burbank aboard the International Space Station on December 21, 2011.
NASA / Dan Burbank

Comet Lovejoy passes near Earth...as seen by NASA astronaut Dan Burbank aboard the International Space Station on December 21, 2011.
NASA / Dan Burbank

Comet Lovejoy passes near Earth...as seen by NASA astronaut Dan Burbank aboard the International Space Station on December 21, 2011.
NASA / Dan Burbank

Comet Lovejoy passes near Earth...as seen by NASA astronaut Dan Burbank aboard the International Space Station on December 22, 2011.
NASA / Dan Burbank

Friday, December 23, 2011

A technician monitors data inside Atlantis’ glass cockpit as the orbiter is powered down for the final time, on December 22, 2011.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

ATLANTIS DEACTIVATED... Less than a week after her sister ship Discovery was powered down for the last time, Atlantis’ own electrical systems were permanently turned off yesterday as progress continues to be made on prepping her for public display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex—which won’t take place for more than a year. Endeavour is the only remaining shuttle to have the monitors in her glass cockpit still show data...though this will no longer be the case come next February, when NASA’s youngest orbiter will be powered down for good as well.

The monitors inside Atlantis' glass cockpit are about to go dark as the orbiter is powered down for the final time, on December 22, 2011.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

Atlantis' payload bay as seen from her cockpit, on December 22, 2011.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

Atlantis' payload bay as seen from her airlock, on December 22, 2011.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Orion test article is prepped for its drop test over the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona, on December 21, 2011.
NASA

ORION Update... A parachute drop test for the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) was conducted over the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona earlier today. This was in preparation for the MPCV's first sojourn into space...on the Exploration Flight Test-1 demonstration that will launch from Florida in early 2014.

The Orion test article is dropped from a C-130 aircraft 25,000 feet above the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona, on December 21, 2011.
NASA

The Orion's parachutes are about to be deployed above the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona, on December 21, 2011.
NASA

The Orion's parachutes are deployed above the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona, on December 21, 2011.
NASA

The Orion test article touches down at the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona after a successful drop test, on December 21, 2011.
NASA

Sunday, December 18, 2011

An artist's concept of Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser spacecraft docked to the International Space Station.
NASA / Sierra Nevada Corporation

IMAGES OF THE DAY... Here are a couple of art concepts—some new, some old—of the non-SpaceX-related commercial vehicles that are also being developed as future crew and cargo carriers to the International Space Station (ISS). Above is an artist’s rendition of Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser spacecraft, while below are illustrations of Blue Origin’s New Shepard capsule, Boeing’s CST-100 vehicle, a composite photo of an Atlas V rocket with a CST-100 atop of it and artwork depicting the Liberty Launch Vehicle being proposed by Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK) of Promontory, Utah. In today’s U.S. budget climate, it remains to be seen how many of these craft, which are being partially funded by NASA, will become operational in time to ferry astronauts and supplies to the ISS. We’ll see.

An artist's concept of Blue Origin's New Shepard capsule in Earth orbit.
NASA / Blue Origin

An artist's concept of Boeing's CST-100 vehicle in Earth orbit.
NASA / Boeing

A composite photo of an Atlas V/CST-100 launch vehicle, and an artist's concept of ATK's Liberty rocket.
NASA / United Launch Alliance / ATK

Friday, December 16, 2011

Space shuttle Discovery's two payload bay doors are about to be closed for the final time, on December 16, 2011.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

DISCOVERY DEACTIVATED... Earlier today, the two payload bay doors of the orbiter Discovery were closed for the last time at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. Shortly thereafter, the vehicle was permanently powered down; with Discovery going from being a reusable space plane with almost 28 years of service to becoming a museum piece waiting to be transported to her final home in Virginia. Discovery will be rolled over from Orbiter Processing Facility-1, her present location, to the Vehicle Assembly Building at KSC next month—where she will be placed in storage before finally being flown over to the Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia on April 12, 2012...31 years after Columbia launched on the first space shuttle flight, STS-1.

Space shuttle Discovery’s two payload bay doors are closed for the final time, on December 16, 2011.
NASA / Kim Shiflet

A sign inside Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF)-1 indicates that electricity is flowing through space shuttle Discovery, on December 16, 2011.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

The sign inside OPF-1 now indicates that all power inside space shuttle Discovery has been turned off for the last time, on December 16, 2011.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Explorer, a full-scale space shuttle mockup, is transported to a temporary storage site near Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on December 11, 2011.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

ATLANTIS: Retirement Update #2... For the past two weeks, workers at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Visitor Complex have been clearing up space at KSC’s premiere tourist site to make room for a $100 million museum exhibit that will house the orbiter Atlantis more than a year from now. The first changes to be made were the removal of the two life-size solid rocket booster (SRB) replicas that were displayed outside of the Shuttle Launch Experience facility. A few days later, the external tank, or ET (which was actual flight hardware), was removed from its stand and transported to a temporary storage location near KSC. And last Sunday, the Explorer—a full-scale space shuttle mockup—was towed from the visitor complex to a loading dock near the Banana River where she will stay for the next couple of months. Explorer will then be placed onto a barge and transported down the Gulf Coast to Space Center Houston, Johnson Space Center’s visitor complex, in Texas for permanent display.

Posing in front of the Explorer at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, on February 8, 2009.

Posted directly above and below are pics I took of Explorer, the ET and SRBs at the visitor complex when I went to Kennedy Space Center in February of 2009. Construction on Atlantis’ exhibit will take place early next year.

A photo I took of the Explorer, the external tank (ET) and solid rocket boosters (SRB) at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, on February 8, 2009.

An SRB replica is removed from its stand at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, on November 30, 2011.
NASA / Jim Grossman

The external tank is about to be transported to a temporary storage site near Kennedy Space Center, on December 2, 2011.
NASA / Dmitri Gerondidakis

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Atlantis’ two Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) pods are prepped for removal from the orbiter on October 19, 2011.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

ATLANTIS: Retirement Update #1... While the decommissioning of her sister ship Discovery nears completion inside Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF)-1 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, Atlantis’ retirement process continues in the adjacent OPF-2. Both Orbital Maneuvering System pods have now been removed from the orbiter since early November (as shown in the pics posted with this update), and will be sent to White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico for deservicing and cleaning before being returned to KSC for reinstallation onto Atlantis. The spacecraft is currently scheduled to be transported down the street to the KSC Visitor Complex, Atlantis’ final home, around February 1, 2013 (10 years after the loss of Columbia on STS-107). Details on the visitor complex’s preparation for Atlantis’ arrival will be discussed in the next entry.

Atlantis’ right OMS pod is about to be removed from the orbiter on November 4, 2011.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

Atlantis’ right OMS pod is about to be lowered onto a pallet after its removal from the orbiter on November 4, 2011.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Dragon spacecraft is about to be mated to its service module in preparation for the COTS 2 flight to the International Space Station.
SpaceX

DRAGON C2 Update... NASA has just announced the new launch date for SpaceX’s next Dragon flight—which will see the commercially-made vehicle docking with the International Space Station for the very first time next February.

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NASA Announces Launch Date and Milestones for Spacex Flight (Press Release)

WASHINGTON -- NASA has announced the launch target for Space Exploration Technologies' (SpaceX) second Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) demonstration flight will be Feb. 7, 2012, pending completion of final safety reviews, testing and verification. NASA also has agreed to allow SpaceX to send its Dragon spacecraft to rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS) in a single flight.

"SpaceX has made incredible progress over the last several months preparing Dragon for its mission to the space station," said William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. "We look forward to a successful mission, which will open up a new era in commercial cargo delivery for this international orbiting laboratory."

Gerstenmaier said, "There is still a significant amount of critical work to be completed before launch, but the teams have a sound plan to complete it and are prepared for unexpected challenges. As with all launches, we will adjust the launch date as needed to gain sufficient understanding of test and analysis results to ensure safety and mission success."

During the flight, Dragon will conduct a series of check-out procedures that will test and prove its systems in advance of the rendezvous with the station. The primary objectives for the flight include a fly-by of the space station at a distance of approximately two miles to validate the operation of sensors and flight systems necessary for a safe rendezvous and approach. The spacecraft also will demonstrate the capability to abort the rendezvous, if required.

Dragon will perform the final approach to the ISS while the station crew grapples the vehicle with the station's robotic arm. The capsule will be berthed to the Earth-facing side of the Harmony node. At the end of the mission, the crew will reverse the process, detaching Dragon from the station for its return to Earth and splashdown in the Pacific off the coast of California. If the rendezvous and attachment to the station are not successful, SpaceX will complete a third demonstration flight in order to achieve these objectives as originally planned.

"SpaceX is on the forefront of demonstrating how a partnership between the government and private industry can lead to new capabilities and provide a large return on investment," said Alan Lindenmoyer, program manager for COTS at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

"SpaceX is excited to be the first commercial company in history to berth with the International Space Station. This mission will mark a historic milestone in the future of spaceflight," said SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell. "We appreciate NASA's continued support and their partnership in this process."

Begun in 2006, NASA's COTS program is investing financial and technical resources to stimulate efforts within the private sector to develop and demonstrate safe, reliable and cost-effective space transportation capabilities. In a multiphase strategy, the program is spurring the innovation and development of new spacecraft and launch vehicles from commercial industry, creating a new system of delivering cargo to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station.

Through Space Act Agreements, SpaceX will receive up to $396 million and Orbital Sciences Corporation, NASA's other COTS partner, will receive up to $288 million for the successful completion of all milestones in the agreements. To date, SpaceX has received $376 million for completing 36 out of 40 milestones and Orbital has received $261.5 million for completing 23 out of 29 milestones.

Source: NASA.Gov

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The COTS 2 Dragon spacecraft is displayed next to the flown COTS 1 vehicle as well as future capsules that are still being assembled.
SpaceX

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The last of the three Replica Shuttle Main Engines (RSMEs) is installed onto space shuttle Discovery, on December 7, 2011.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

DISCOVERY: RSME Update #3... The last of the three Replica Shuttle Main Engines has been installed onto the orbiter today. The final components that now need to be attached to Discovery are the main thruster nozzles for her two Orbital Maneuvering System pods. Once that is complete, Discovery will be placed inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (where sister ship Endeavour currently resides) for storage till it’s time for her to take one last trip aboard a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft to the Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia. The transport is set to take place next April.

The last of the three RSMEs is installed onto space shuttle Discovery, on December 7, 2011.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

The last of the three RSMEs is installed onto space shuttle Discovery, on December 7, 2011.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

Monday, December 5, 2011

The first of the three Replica Shuttle Main Engines (RSMEs) is installed onto space shuttle Discovery, on December 5, 2011.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

DISCOVERY: RSME Update #2... The first of the three Replica Shuttle Main Engines (RSMEs) were attached to the orbiter today. Discovery should look like her old self again by the end of this month.

The first of the three RSMEs is installed onto space shuttle Discovery, on December 5, 2011.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

The first of the three RSMEs is installed onto space shuttle Discovery, on December 5, 2011.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Two of the three Replica Shuttle Main Engines (RSMEs) that will be installed onto space shuttle Discovery next week.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

DISCOVERY: RSME Update #1... The three Replica Shuttle Main Engines (RSMEs) that will be attached to Discovery next week are now inside the engine shop at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The RSMEs are the last major items (which also includes the two main Orbital Maneuvering System thruster nozzles) to be installed onto the orbiter before she is prepped for transport to her final retirement home at the Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia, in April of 2012. The real Space Shuttle Main Engines are at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi...where they are in storage until becoming operational again onboard the Space Launch System as early as 2017.

One of the RSMEs that will be installed onto space shuttle Discovery next week.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

One of the RSMEs that will be installed onto space shuttle Discovery next week.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis