Weekly Space Blog 8/24

WISE approved for asteroid survey
NASA announced this week that the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft will be taken out of hibernation to start a three year mission to search for Near Earth Objects.  While the primary instruments on the vehicle required frozen hydrogen to operate which ran out in 2011 the other instruments do not and these will be used for the new mission named NEOWISE.  The science team will be contacting the vehicle in September to begin operations again.

Dream Chaser Captive Carry Test

Credit: NASA / Ken Ulbrich
Credit: NASA / Ken Ulbrich

This week the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser spacecraft completed a two hour captive carry test over Edwards Airforce base.  This was the first time that a fully operation version of the vehicle had flown and gave engineers the chance to review all systems before a series of approach and landing tests will be performed.  Initial tests will be fully automated before crewed tests are performed.

The Dream Chaser vehicle is one of three competing for the chance to launch US crews to the International Space Station.  Personally I hope there is a way to fund all three vehicles to give the US unprecedented access to space for the future.

 

Gaia spacecraft at launch site
The European Galaxy Explorer spacecraft Gaia has arrived in French Guiana to begin three months of flight preparations before a November launch aboard a Soyuz Rocket.  Once launched the vehicle will be placed a million miles from Earth and will use dual telescopes to map the precise locations of stars.  For more information on the vehicle and missions check out it’s page here.

Hubble Time-lapse Movie
This week Astronomers released a movie showing 13 years of observations by the Hubble Space Telescope of super-heated gas 5,000 light years long.  The gas is being ejected from a super-massive black hole for more information and to see the movie check out the press release here.

Starbirth as seen by ALMA
Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have released the image below showing material streaming away from a newborn star.  For more information on the observations check out the full article here.

Starbirth as seen by ALMA © ESO
Starbirth as seen by ALMA
© ESO

Curiosity Movie of Mars Moons
This week NASA released a video capture by the Mars Curiosity Rover of the Mars moons Phobos passing in front of Deimos.  This is the first time any vehicle on the surface of Mars has captured one of the moons passing in front of the other.  For information and to see the movie check out the article here.

Another successful Russian Spacewalk concludes
Once again Russian Cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin ventured outside the International Space Station for a spacewalk.  Unlike the walk last week that broke the record for longest by a Russian team this walked came in just short of 6 hours.  The pair were able to successfully complete the objectives set out for them including one that didn’t look possible during to misalignment of the parts.

The spacewalk was the 173rd in support of space station assembly and maintenance, the eighth of Yurchikhin’s career and the third for Misurkin.

Spitzer Space Telescope celebrates ten anniversary
The Infrared Space Telescope was launched into space ten years ago this week, the fourth of the four Great Observatories launched by NASA it continues to show us the dark side of the cosmos with it’s infrared vision.  For more information on it’s mission and to see the images it has returned check out the mission page here.

Fermi Space Telescope enters extended mission
Meanwhile the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope celebrated it’s five year in space by entering into an extended mission to perform a deeper study of the high-energy cosmos.  The vehicle has already provided Astronomers with a detailed potrait of gaint black holes in distance galaxies and even details of thunderstorms on Earth.  For more information on Fermi check out it’s mission page here.

And Finally
The Astronaut Class of 2013 met with the media this week for the final time before they embark on their two year training program.  Check out the release here including video’s and interviews with the eight.

Weekly Space Blog 8/17

We are back after a two week break to enjoy the New England summer, this week we have lots of great news.

Russian Cosmonauts set new Space Walk Record
The week two Russian Cosmonauts broke the space walk endurance record by complete a 7h 29m excursion outside the International Space Station.  Cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin were originally scheduled for a 6h 30m walk but Russian officials elected to extend the walk to allow them time to complete a task originally planned for a later walk.  The previous record was set in 1990 by two Cosmonauts working outside the Mir Space Station.

NASA looks at new mission for Kepler
After several attempts to restore the failed Gyroscopes on the Kepler spacecraft Mission planners have determined that the primary mission of the spacecraft cannot be restored and are instead looking at way to utilize the craft in it’s current configuration.  They are looking at several options but haven’t selected one yet.  In the mean time there are still plenty of planet candidates left to analyze from the data collected by Kepler.

Proton Rocket launches to resume
Following a review of the launch failure in July Proton Rocket launches are scheduled to resume in September.  The review concluded that key yaw angular sensors were forcible installed upside down causing the rocket to fail so quickly after launch, several recommendations have been made to the component manufacture that will not allow this to happen again.

SpaceX completed Orbit and Entry review for Dragon
SpaceX recently completed a preliminary design review of the systems that would be used to keep crews safe while in space and during re-entry to earth’s atmosphere.  During the review company engineers present NASA and industry experts with details of all the systems which were dissected to ensure nothing was missed.  This was the seventh milestone in the CCiCap initiative and SpaceX are marching towards a summer 2014 completion of all the milestones.

SpaceX Grasshopper News
This week SpaceX’s reusable test platform Grasshopper completed the first lateral divert test demonstrating that it has the ability to correct the dissent even if the vehicle is not directly above the landing pad and land in the correct spot.  These tests are all steps towards Elon Musk’s dream of having fully re-usable rockets in the future.

Commercial Launch Schedule Changes
Mission planners have switched the Orbital and SpaceX Commercial Crew launches scheduled for December 2013 and January 2014.  The original plan called for SpaceX launch three SpX-3 to go in December but due to scheduling conflicts they have elected to switch the missions.  This assumes of course that the Orbital Demo mission scheduled for late September is successful.  For SpaceX this will be the first Dragon launch using the new Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket which allows a greater cargo capacity on the vehicle.

NASA Astronaut Michael Foale retires
British born Astronaut Michael Foale has retired from NASA following a 25 year career which included a US record 374 days in space and saw him fly on Space Shuttle, Soyuz and two Space Stations.  For more info on Michael check out his profile here.

And finally
Well that is all for this week, there are plenty of stories out there and I will have plenty more for next week.  In meantime here are some of the sites I visit daily to get space news.

www.spaceref.com
www.spaceflightnow.com
www.nasaspaceflight.com
www.space.com
www.spacedaily.com
www.nasa.gov