Weekly Space News 6/27

This week in space…

SpaceX causes a stir and has another delay

Last Saturday SpaceX caused quite a stir on the Internet when they announced there would be no live web-cast of the Orbcomm OG2 launch attempt that evening.  A spokesperson for SpaceX said they had been planning to move away from web-casting because launches had become so routine.  The news of the media “snub” was soon all over social media, with a number of commentators saying the the only routine thing so far was delays.

The Saturday evening attempt was aborted due to inclement weather, they were re-scheduled for Sunday evening at which time it was announced they would have a web-cast.  However during the count down they found a which required additional analysis and scrubbed again, they then rescheduled for Tuesday but in the end needed more time.  The launch is now expected to be in July due to range maintenance work that had been delayed to allow SpaceX to launch in the first place.

We now have to ask is SpaceX moving too quickly in their manufacturing which is causing the delays due to leaks?  And how will they be able to meet there stated goal of ten more launches this year?

In separate news these delays are starting to effect Orbcomm financially as they budgeted a certain amount of revenue from the OG2 fleet and with each delay that revenue opportunity grows smaller.

Orbital Cygnus Launch delayed

To allow engineer’s more time to perform detailed analysis of the AJ26 engines on the Tauraus scheduled to launch the next Cygnus spacecraft to the ISS Orbital announced that the Orb-2 flight would not flying before July 10th.

The spacecraft was originally scheduled to launch in May but had to be rescheduled after delays to the SpaceX CRS-3 mission, then because of a AJ26 engine test failure at NASA Stennis Space Center.  Orbital elected to delay the launch to allow engineers time to investigate the failure and ensure the other engines would not be effected by the same issue.

Curiosity Rover achieves mission milestone

NASA newest rover Curiosity celebrated it’s first Martian year on the surface of the planet this year completing on of the mission milestones.  The rover has achieved much already but there is planet more to go, however engineers have noticed that the wheels have taken a lot more damage than expected, they are currently working on ways to avoid the sharp rocks that have been causing the damage.

To learn more about Curiosity, it’s achievements and future plans check out the mission page here.

Meanwhile elsewhere on Mars the Opportunity Rover still continues to operate more than 10 years after it arrived for a 90 day mission.

To learn more about Opportunity check out its mission page here.

And lets not forget that there are currently two NASA orbital spacecraft at Mars and another will be joining them in less than 100 days.  Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey are currently in orbit and MAVEN is on route.

Final ATV moves closer to launch

The final European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) named Georges Lemaître has been integrated with its Ariane 5 launcher, scheduled to launch later this summer the vehicle is due to deliver 2600kg of supplies.  The ATV vehicles utilize an automated docking process like the Progress vehicles and will attach to the Russian segment of the station.  Once unloaded the crew will store any trash they no longer need which will burn up in the atmosphere with the vehicle at the end of its mission.

Another potential habitable world found

artist-illustration-gliese-832cAstronomers announced they have found a potential habitable world in the Gliese 832 system just 16 light-years away.  The planet Gliese 832c is a “super-Earth” planet which is at least five times as massive and orbit’s the star every 36 days, however because Gliese 832 is a red-dwarf star the planet gets about as much energy from the star as we do making it a very good candidate to support liquid water on the surface.

We more and more powerful telescopes coming on line over the next decade the number of planets found is likely to increase significantly and we will also be able to learn a lot more about these planets.

CoRoT Planet Hunter goes offline

The French COnvection, ROtation & planetary Transits (CoRoT) satellite which has been operational for seven years and helped discover 32 confirmed planets with at least 100 more waiting for confirmation.

For more news on the CoRoT mission check out its mission page here.

Opportunity Rover News

With its solar panels their cleanest in years, NASA’s decade-old Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is inspecting a section of crater-rim ridgeline chosen as a priority target due to evidence of a water-related mineral.

Orbital observations of the site by another NASA spacecraft, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, found a spectrum with the signature of aluminum bound to oxygen and hydrogen. Researchers regard that signature as a marker for a mineral called montmorillonite, which is in a class of clay minerals called smectites. Montmorillonite forms when basalt is altered under wet and slightly acidic conditions. The exposure of it extends about 800 feet (about 240 meters) north to south on the western rim of Endeavour Crater, as mapped by the orbiter’s Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM).

Weekly Space Blog 11/2

We are back after a rather long delay due to upgrading to Windows 8.1 and losing everything that was installed on the machine :(…

Cygnus completes COTS demo mission
The Orbital Sciences Cygnus spacecraft completed it’s final test mission under the C.O.T.S program with a fiery end during re-entry to earth’s atmosphere.  Following a week delay because of an issue during the initial attempt to dock the rest of the mission was very successful with all the cargo being offloaded and trash that was no longer needed being placed in the vehicle.  Orbital are now gearing up for the first of eight Commercial Resupply mission’s under the $1.9 billion contract awarded by NASA, currently scheduled for the end of the year.

ATV-4 completes mission
The fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle Albert Einstein completed it’s mission to the ISS this week, having delivered seven tonnes of cargo to the complex and having been docked for four months the vehicle un-docked from the Russian Zvezda module and like the Cygnus vehicle will meet a fiery end when it re-enters the atmosphere later today.

Soyuz TMA-09M relocated
In preparation for the next manned crew to arrive at ISS the Soyuz TMA-09M which brought Fyodor Yurchikhin, Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano was moved from the Rassvet mini-research module to the port freed up on Zvezda following the ATV un-docking.

Typically three members of the current crew leave the station and land before the next three members of the crew launch, however because of the Olympic torch event coming up next week this will be the first time since the last Shuttle mission where more than six people will be on the station at the same time.

Next Station Crew arrive in Kazakhstan
In preparation for their launch to the ISS the next crew consisting of Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin, American astronaut Rick Mastracchio and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata arrived at the Baikonur Cosmodrome for their flight on Nov 7.  They will spent the next week preparing for their mission, and following a six hour flight will dock to the station.

The crew will be carrying a replica of the Olympic Torch which will be handed off to Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky who will then take it outside the space station during a space walk on Nov 9.  The torch will then return with Yurchikhin, Nyberg  and Parmitano when they depart the station Nov 10 and will then be used during the opening ceremonies at the Sochi games in Feb 2014.

Dream Chaser crash lands
During it’s first free flight test the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser performed perfectly right up to the point where the landing gear deployed, for some reason the left landing gear did not deploy, which caused the vehicle to skid off the runway.

However during the flight Sierra Nevada were able to gather a load of very valuable data from the instrumentation on the craft and verify that it could fly autonomously.  During the landing the craft detected the problem with the landing gear and was able to keep the left wing in the air as long as possible before it finally dropped causing the craft to to skid off the runway.  Sierra announced after the accident the the internal structures in the vehicle had not been damaged during the accident and they were confident it could fly again if need to further validate the design.

Orion spacecraft powered up
The first Orion spacecraft that will fly in space was powered up for the first time this week.  The vehicle which is currently scheduled to fly some time between Sept 18 and Oct 18 2014 was activated to allow testing on the main control computers to begin.

MAVEN readied for launch
NASA’s next mission to Mars the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft is just 16 days away from launch, NASA held a press conference this week to discuss the mission and it’s goals.  Check out the conference here, we will have more news next week.

First Earth-sized Rocky Exoplanet Found
This week astronomers announced the discovery of Kepler-78b a earth sized rocky planet orbiting Kepler-78, however the planet orbits every 8.5 hours making it far too hot to support life.  For more information on the new discovery check out the full article here.

ooKepler-78b

Most Distant Galaxy Discovered
This week astronomers announced the discovery of the most distant galaxy found so far.  The galaxy is seen as it was just 700 million years after the Big Bang, when the universe was only about 5 percent of its current age of 13.8 billion years.

Artist's Rendition: Galaxy z8-GND-5296
Artist’s Rendition: Galaxy z8-GND-5296 (©UC RIVERSIDE)

NASA sets Data Transmission record
One of the payloads on the LADEE spacecraft is a Laser Based communication system, during testing NASA set a record of 622 megabits per second. Laser based communications will significantly increase the amount of data that can be transmitted between spacecraft and the ground.