Science & Technology

By August 15, 2005 Read More →

Discovery to fly home soon

The space shuttle Discovery could fly back “home” to her Florida base by the middle of the week, Nasa is currently making final plans to fly it back from California on a specially modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA). Preparing and loading the shuttle has gone ahead of schedule according to Nasa.

The preperation and return flight will cost Nasa upwards of $1,000,000!

Persistent bad weather at Discovery’s intended landing site in Florida forced Nasa to bring it down at Edwards Air Force Base, California, last week.

Nasa officials said this “ferry flight” is now expected to occur no earlier than 16 August, but added that this could change.

After a perfect landing on 9 August, Discovery was towed to Nasa’s Dryden Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force Base.

There, the shuttle was placed in its Mate-Demate Device, a large gantry-like structure used to service the vehicle and eventually mount it atop the 747 shuttle carrier aircraft (SCA) that will fly it home.

The technicians spent Friday drying the main engines and their associated plumbing to purge them of residual liquids.

They spent the rest of the weekend draining the shuttle’s liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuel tanks and removing hazardous monomethyl hydrazine fuel from the shuttle’s propulsion system.

Meanwhile inspections of heat shield tiles, panels and protective blankets that protect the shuttle, are on-going. The section of damaged themal blanket has now been removed for analysis.

Last week, the agency said it was unlikely to complete the fix in time for a scheduled September flight of shuttle Atlantis. I’m not sure if this means that Atlantis will launch without the fix or that the launch will be put back until suitable fix can be made.


(Images: SpacePIX)

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By August 14, 2005 Read More →

MRO Launch third time lucky

After several false starts over the past week NASA’s Multipurpose Mars Mission Successfully Launched on Friday 12th August, leaving two days later than planned due to a potential gyro fault on the 10th August and a software problem on the 11th August.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) rode on top of an Atlas V launch vehicle, 19 stories tall and departed from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Its powerful first stage consumed about 200 tons of fuel and oxygen in just over four minutes, then dropped away to let the upper stage finish the job of putting the spacecraft on a path toward Mars. This was the first launch of an interplanetary mission on an Atlas V.

Mission control were able to establish radio contact with MRO 61 minutes after launch, just 4 minutes after separation from the upper stage of the Atlas V. 10 minutes later the orbiter finished unfolding its solar panels to begin charging her internal batteries.

Mars is 72 million miles from Earth but MRO must travel almost 4 times that distance in order to intercept with Mars. The journey will take about 7 months, arriving in orbit on the 10th March 2006.


(Image credit: Nasa/KSC)

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By August 11, 2005 Read More →

Launch abandoned today

The launch of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has been scrubbed for today due to a ‘fuel problem’.

Next scheduled attempt is tomorrow morning.


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By August 11, 2005 Read More →

Mars probe given green light

The launch of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is expected to go ahead as planned today.

The mission’s first launch opportunity window is 11:50 to 13:35 BST, Thursday. If the launch is postponed, additional launch windows open daily at different times each morning throughout August. For trips from Earth to Mars, the planets move into good position for only a short period every 26 months. The best launch position is when Earth is about to overtake Mars in their concentric racing lanes around the Sun.

The probe will investigate the history of water on Mars and hunt for landing sites for future manned missions.

The delay comes one day after Nasa celebrated the successful return to Earth of the space shuttle Discovery.


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By August 10, 2005 Read More →

Mars probe launch delayed

Todays launch of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has had to be postponed after the discovery of problems with the Atlas V launch rocket.

The launch is now scheduled for tomorrow morning at 1135 GMT from Launch Complex 41, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and is the first government launch of Lockheed Martin’s Atlas V launch vehicle. The orbiter will study Mars to understand the planet’s water riddles and to advance the exploration of the mysterious red planet.

The probe will investigate the history of water on Mars and hunt for landing sites for future manned missions.

The delay comes one day after Nasa celebrated the successful return to Earth of the space shuttle Discovery.

The new Mars orbiter cost over $500m (£280m) to build and is due to arrive in Mars’ orbit in March 2006, for a 25-month mission.


(Image Credit: Nasa/KSC)

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By August 9, 2005 Read More →

Shuttle Fleet Facts!

[color=#6200aa]There have been six shuttles built:[/color]
[color=#6200aa]Enterprise (OV-101)[/color]
[color=#6200aa]Challenger (OV-99)[/color]
[color=#6200aa]Columbia (OV-102)[/color]
[color=#6200aa]Discovery (OV-103)[/color]
[color=#6200aa]Atlantis (OV-104)[/color]
[color=#6200aa]Endeavour (OV-105)[/color]

[color=#6200aa]Enterprise was a test vehicle for the shuttle program and was not intended for space flight. It is on display at Dulles Airport outside Washington, D.C.[/color]

[color=#6200aa]Challenger was also originally built as a test vehicle, known as STA-099, for the shuttle program but in 1979 NASA decided to get her upgraded to become a space-rated orbiter known as OV-099. Her maiden space flight launched on 4th April 1983 on mission STS-6. She was the first shuttle to launch and land at night and the first to carry an American female astronaut. She flew only 9 successful mission before she was lost. On her 10th mission STS-51L an explosion 73 seconds into the flight meant the loss of her and her crew.[/color]

[color=#6200aa]Columbia was the first shuttle to go in to space. Her maiden flight was launched on 12th April 1981, mission STS-1. She was the heaviest shuttle in the fleet and because of this was unable to take part in the construction of the International Space Station. Columbia was also the carrier of the maiden flight for ‘Spacelab’. Columbia successful completed 27 mission before her last mission STS-107 ended in disaster on 1st February 2003 with the loss of her and her crew at re-entry due to damage to her wing which occurred during launch.[/color]

[color=#6200aa]Discovery was the third shuttle to join the fleet and is now the oldest shuttle left in service with her maiden flight on 30th August 1984, mission STS-41D. Discovery has completed the most missions of any of the shuttle at 31, including the successful landing today of mission STS-114. Discovery has twice been the chosen shuttle of NASA for their ‘Return to Flight’ programs, first time was STS-26 in 1988 after the loss of Challenger and again this time after the loss of Columbia with STS-114. [/color]

[color=#6200aa]Atlantis was the forth shuttle to join the fleet with her maiden flight on 3rd October 1985, mission STS-51J with carried a classified payload for the US Department of Defense. Atlantis weighs 151,315 pounds, which is 3.5 tons lighter than Columbia. Atlantis has successfully completed 26 missions and is due to launch on STS-121 later this year (subject to any delays as a result of findings from Discovery’s mission STS-114).[/color]

[color=#6200aa]Endeavour is the most recent shuttle to join the fleet. She was built as a replacement for Challenger and her maiden flight was STS-49, which launched on 7th May 1992. Endeavour has had her weight reduced to minimum to maximise her payload capacity. She has successfully completed 19 mission and was the last successful flight prior to the Columbia disaster with STS-113, which went to the International Space Station. Endeavour started a period of maintenance and modifications in December 2003 to return her to ‘as new’ condition for a safe return to flight.[/color]


(Image: Nasa)

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By August 9, 2005 Read More →

Discovery and crew home safely!

Shuttle lands safely.

Despite the problems experienced with the launch, heat shield damage, thermal blanket damage and delays due to bad weather, the American Space Shuttle Discovery has landed safely at Edwards Airforce Base in California.

The re-entry and landing was televised live by most of the world’s media channels. It has been a long time since a shuttle landing has attracted so much attention.

I hope that the problems with the foam lagging on the External Tank can be quickly resolved so that Nasa’s shuttle programme can resume normal service.

I would like to congratulate the crew of Discovery, STS-114 astronauts Steve Robinson, Jim Kelly, Andy Thomas, Wendy Lawrence, Charlie Camarda, Eileen Collins and Soichi Noguchi as well as the vast numbers of people behind the scenes that make manned space flight possible.


(Images: Nasa)

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By August 9, 2005 Read More →

Nasa hopes for good weather

The crew of the shuttle Discovery are preparing to return to Earth after bad visibility in Florida forced a delay on Monday.

Nasa hopes to bring the shuttle down at 1007 BST (0507 EST; 0907 GMT) at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. If the weather remains a problem in Florida, the shuttle could land at air bases in California or New Mexico.

UPDATE: Nasa has been forced to delay the return of the shuttle due to bad weather in Florida. The new estimated return time is 11:43 BST.

UPDATE: The landing site has now been moved to Edwards Airforce Base in California at an expected time of 13:12 BST.

UPDATE: Discovery has fired her engines for a de-orbital burn that slows the Shuttle down enough to begin re-entry. There is no going back now!

Watch for updates throughout the morning.


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By August 8, 2005 Read More →

Shuttle not coming home today

Due to bad weather and low lying cloud cover at Kenedy Space Center the Space Shuttle Discovery’s return to earth has been delayed by 24 hours.

Other landing opportunities are scheduled for Tuesday at Kennedy Space Center and the back-up strip at Edwards Air Force Base in California.


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By August 8, 2005 Read More →

Discovery ready to come home

Despite having to delay the re-entry due to bad weather, Nasa say they are extremely confident that there are will be no problems with Discovery’s return to earth.

The seven crew members aboard Discovery have been preparing for their re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.

Low-lying cloud which could obscure the landing strip forced flight controllers to scrub the shuttle’s scheduled landing at around 0946 BST (0446 EDT).

Discovery will now attempt to land at 1121 BST (0621 EDT) at Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral.

Nasa has declared the shuttle safe to withstand the burning descent that shattered Columbia in February 2003.

Check out Brandan’s LIVEBLOG

(Source: BBC News)


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