June 15

U.S. Postal Service To Recognize Space Memorabilia Show At NASA Center

The United States Postal Service (USPS) will issue a special pictorial stamp cancellation on June 17, in honor of the 2nd Annual Space Memorabilia Show at NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC) in Cleveland, Ohio.

The ink cancellation, which appears in the current issue of the USPS Postal Bulletin, features an image of a spacewalking astronaut and the show's title.

The Space Memorabilia Show will feature items from the US space program as well as from programs throughout the world. Confirmed exhibitors include Countdown Enterprises, Boggs SpaceBooks, Nick Proach Models and Historic Space Systems. The show will also include a public tour of GRC's Zero-Gravity Facility and presentations by Neil Armstrong-biographer James R. Hansen.

USPS representatives will be present at the GRC Visitor Center on Saturday to apply the cancellation to visitor mail and commemorative envelopes. Those who cannot attend can send their mail to be canceled
with the special postmark via the Cleveland Post Office for up to 30 days after the event.

For more information and an image of the cancellation, see collectSPACE.com.

- Robert Z. Pearlman, collectSPACE.com

June 13

Oklahoma Spaceport Okayed

The Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) issued on June 12 a launch site operator license to the Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority (OSIDA).

That makes it the sixth spaceport in the United States, said James Stasny, AST spokesman.

The OSIDA-run spaceport would be based at the Clinton-Sherman Industrial Airpark, located adjacent to the town of Burns Flat, Oklahoma.

Since 1996, AST has issued site operator licenses to five other spaceports: California Spaceport at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Spaceport Florida at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the Virginia Space Flight Center at Wallops Island, Mojave Airport in California, and Kodiak Launch Complex on Kodiak Island, Alaska.

-- Leonard David

June 8

Opportunity Rover Rolls Onward

The Opportunity Mars rover is free and once again driving southward at Meridiani Planum.

Wheeling its way ever closer to the large Victoria Crater, the robot extracted itself from a wheel-stopping sand trap, now dubbed Jammerbugt.

"I honestly don't know how difficult the driving is going to be between here and Victoria," said Steve Squyres, lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Rover project. "The terrain we're in right now has little exposed bedrock, and that makes it more treacherous than when there's bedrock around. So we're going to tread cautiously. But what lies farther ahead is difficult to say... we'll find out as we go," he told SPACE.com.

Squyres said that the main difference between Jammerbugt and Purgatory - a dune that snared Opportunity in April 2005 -- is that an onboard slip-check stopped the rover at Jammerbugt before it had dug in very far.

"This is why we use the slip-checks, to keep us from getting deeply embedded if something happens," Squyres said. "And because we hadn't dug in as badly as at Purgatory, we got out with significantly greater ease. It also helped, of course, that we'd been through this once before... it's always easier when you know what you're doing!"

-- Leonard David

June 7

Bigelow Module Launch Delayed

Word from Bigelow Aerospace is that launch of their prototype inflatable module is being delayed. Given no follow-on technical issues, the hardware could now roar skyward, sometime in the July 4-14 time frame, explained Chris Reed, a spokesman for Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace in a June 6 communique.

The Genesis I module is outfitted with a total of 13 cameras inside and outside the spacecraft. Financed by wealthy hotel operator, Robert Bigelow, the test flight is part of an ever-expanding set of modules to be flown.

To loft the module into Earth orbit, Bigelow Aerospace has booked a Dnepr booster under contract with ISC Kosmotras, a Russian and Ukrainian rocket-for-hire company.

Bigelow Aerospace is dedicated to flight-verifying larger and larger inflatable modules - eyeing a commercial business of providing habitable space for experimental purposes, and even using the structures to create an orbiting hotel.

-- Leonard David

June 5

Former future CEV drops into museum

The U.S. Space & Rocket Center accepted today the donation of a full scale boilerplate crew exploration vehicle built by Lockheed Martin for water landing tests in 2005.

The future "CEV" was made in support of NASA's former Orbital Space Plane Program at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Adjacent to the museum's Saturn V, the CEV's exhibit "serves as a reminder to those who see it that soon we will return to the moon and travel beyond," said USSRC's Chief Executive Officer Larry Capps at this morning's ribbon cutting ceremony.

The capsule, primarily made of hand laid-up fiberglass with a Nomex honeycomb core, was debuted only hours before NASA Headquarters announced MSFC's role in the modern CEV/CLV program.

For photographs from the ceremony and more details, see collectSPACE

-- Robert Z. Pearlman

Copyright 2006 collectSPACE.com. All rights reserved.

June 2

Opportunity Mars Rover Hits Sandy Stop 

NASA's Opportunity Mars rover has experienced high slip in the sands of Meridiani Planum. The result is that the robot's wheels are embedded. Early looks at the situation show that the rover has made very little progress after almost 80 feet (24 meters) of wheel spin.  

The immediate plan is to assess the state and health of the vehicle.  

Opportunity has been slogging its way over sand ripples, finding the best traction by moving between patches of flat-lying rock outcrops. The robot has been wheeling toward large Victoria Crater - an enormous depression, measuring a half-mile (800 meters) in diameter. 

Over a year ago - in April 2005 - Opportunity was stilled by a sand ripple, later dubbed "Purgatory Dune" with ground controllers needing more than five weeks of planning, testing and carefully monitored action to free the robot. 

The rover's sand trap situation is not viewed as bad as Purgatory Dune. 

-- Leonard David

 

May 29

 

Voltage Glitch Afflicts Submarine-Launched Russian Satellite

MOSCOW (Interfax-AVN) - Equipment faults on the Russian Kompas-2 satellite launched by a Shtil ballistic rocket from the Yekaterinburg submarine in the early hours of May 27 (local time) occurred due to a voltage drop in the satellite's battery, Roskosmos press secretary Igor Panarin told Interfax-AVN on Monday.

"We have conducted ten linkup sessions with Kompas-2 after it was orbited, during which a number of faults resulting from a loss of pressure in an on-board battery were revealed," he said.

A special group led by a TsNIIMASH representative was set up to look into the situation, he said.

The satellite is monitored from the ground-based facilities of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

"We hope work of the on-board batteries will be normalized," Panarin said.

-- Interfax

 

May 25

 

Polls Open to Name Racing League's First Rocket Plane

The polls are open to name the first rocket plane slated to compete in a fast-paced race across the sky.

Organizers of the fledgling Rocket Racing League are holding a naming contest for their premier vehicle - the Mark-1 X Racer - which will be unveiled on Oct. 20 during the 2006 X Prize Cup in Lac Cruces, New Mexico.

Ten candidate names have been culled from a list of nearly 2,000 entries submitted to the league since Jan. 30, 2006. Voters can root for their choice by clicking here. The polls close on June 5.

"On behalf of the [Rocket Racing League], I'd like to thank the thousands of fans who brought their enthusiasm and creativity to this effort," said Granger Whitelaw, the league's CEO, in a statement.  "And for the fan out there with the winning entry, I can't wait to shake your hand."

That winning fan, the final name and the first Mark-1 X Racer - to serve the Rocket Racing League's house team - will be unveiled together during the X Prize Cup, league officials said. A league bomber jacket, astronaut-guided tour and one-year VIP membership will be awarded to the winner, they added.

The Rocket Racing League blends rocket aircraft and auto racing into a high-flying sport aimed at awarding prize money awaiting winning teams and spurring interest in rocketry and spaceflight. The league's core vehicle is derived from the EZ-Rocket design by Mojave, California-based XCOR Aerospace.

In addition to the league's house team, two F-16 fighter pilots have joined the competition with their Leading Edge racing group.

Voters can pick their favorite X Racer name from the top 10 choices by visiting here: http://reference.aol.com/space/rocket-racing.

-- SPACE.com Staff

May 24

 

Florida Couple Finds Depleted Uranium in Old NASA Tool Box

Crescent City, Florida (AP) - A Putnam County couple got a startling surprise when they found a piece of depleted uranium at the bottom of a box of tools.

Susan and Lance Greninger called NASA because they had bought the box at an auction near the Kennedy Space Center. A Hazmat team from the fire department examined the metal and said it was a solid piece of depleted uranium about the size of a child's fist.

They closed the road in the front of the home for about five hours just to be safe.

The state Bureau of Radiation Control retrieved the cylinder. They said the piece is toxic, but does not pose a health hazard to the community. They did say that if the couple had walked around the house with the uranium in their pocket, they would get radiation sickness.

Authorities said the piece may have been part of a tool. Depleted uranium can be used as a radiation shield and is sometimes used as a ballast in commercial airliners and ships.

-- Associated Press

May 23

 

Microsatellite Tested Aboard Space Station

NASA astronaut Jeffrey Williams has put a small satellite through its initial paces aboard the International Space Station (ISS), deploying the free-flying craft inside outpost's Destiny lab.

Williams, NASA science officer and ISS Expedition 13 flight engineer, piloted the SPHERES microsatellite in the first of a series of test aimed at demonstrating fundamental concepts for autonomous docking in small vehicles and formation flying. The tests could lay the groundwork for cooperative satellites and helper robots to aid spacewalking astronauts, NASA officials said.

SPHERES - short for Synchronized Position Hold Engage Re-orient Satellite - is an experiment designed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to aid the development of future cooperative space robots.

Williams watched over the single SPHERES satellite last week as it approached two beacons - one handheld and one wall-mounted - during simulated rendezvous and docking maneuvers. The satellite's first flight included up to 15 pre-planned maneuvers, each of which lasted 10 minutes, to check attitude control, station keeping, collision avoidance, target tracking and fuel balance performance, NASA officials said.

The eight-inch (20-centimeter) wide, seven-pound (three-kilogram) SPHERES satellite is the first of three to launch toward the ISS and arrived at the space station aboard Progress 21 on April 26. Two additional units are expected to launch toward the station on future NASA shuttle visits.

-- Tariq Malik

 

 

May 19

 

Russia, Malaysia Sign Deal to Train, Launch Astronaut for ISS

 

The Russian state arms trading agent Rosoboronexport and the Malaysian government have signed a contract for training the first Malaysian cosmonaut and sending him to the International Space Station (ISS).

On the Russian side, the contract was signed by Rosoboronexport Deputy General Director Viktor Komardin; on the Malaysian side, by Defense Ministry Secretary General Tan Sri Subhan Jasmon, an Interfax correspondent reported from the ceremony.

-- Interfax

                  

Former Nazi Removed From Space Hall of Fame

ALAMOGORDO, N.M. - A former Nazi scientist who was linked to experiments on prisoners in the Dachau concentration camp in Germany has been ousted from the International Space Hall of Fame.

Hubertus Strughold, who had been honored in 1978 for work in developing the spacesuit and space capsule and for his contributions to space medicine, was removed last week by unanimous vote of the New Mexico Museum of Space History's commission.

The German-born scientist was brought to this country by the U.S. military after World War II to work on aerospace projects. He died in 1987.

The removal process began last fall after a museum visitor noticed Strughold's name in its hall of fame and notified the New Mexico Anti-Defamation League, said Susan Seligman, the league's regional director.

The league uncovered records of Strughold's past and presented them to the commission. Strughold was linked to experiments on concentration camp prisoners in the 1940s as the Nazi director of medical research for aviation, Seligman said, though she said she did not know of him personally conducting experiments.

Strughold's name was removed from Brooks Air Force Base's aero-medical library in 1995 and his picture was removed from the mural "The World History of Medicine" at Ohio State University in 1993, the Anti-Defamation League said.

-- Associated Press

 

May 18

 

NASA to Launch Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2008

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter project successfully completed its mission confirmation review, which deemed the project to be within budget, officials announced today. The project will now proceed to the implementation phase and is slated to launch in October 2008.

The orbiter represents NASA's first step toward returning humans to the moon after a 30-year hiatus. The spacecraft will spend an unprecedented year mapping the moon from an average altitude of 30 miles. Its main goal will be to conduct investigations targeted at preparing for future human lunar exploration, which it will carry out with six on-board instruments and one technology demonstration.

The orbiter is being built at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The instruments, provided by various U.S. and Russian organizations, will complete several tasks. The big ones on the list include generating a global map of the moon, determining which potential landing sites are free from hazards, measuring light and temperature patterns at the moon's poles, search for potential resources such as water, and assessing the deep-space radiation and its potential effects on humans.

The next mission milestone is the critical design review, scheduled for later this year. This review consists of completed and detailed systems designs and marks the transition into the manufacturing, assembly, and integration phase of the mission development cycle.

--Bjorn Carey

May 17

Old Rocket Rides Again in Super Loki Launch

A small weather rocket took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station today, marking the first of two test flights aimed at proving the 10-year-old rockets are safe to fly as part of a university launch program.

The 15-foot Super Loki rocket blasted off about 10 a.m. at Launch Complex 47, which is operated by the Florida Space Authority under a license agreement with the Air Force's 45th Space Wing. A follow-up flight is expected to take place in June.

Brevard Community College and the Florida Space Institute plan to use almost 200 Super Loki rockets in a program geared toward training a new generation of aerospace technicians and engineers.

-- Todd Halvorson

 

Published under license from FLORIDA TODAY. Copyright ? 2006 FLORIDA TODAY. No portion of this material may be reproduced in any way without the written consent of FLORIDA TODAY.

 

 

May 15

 

Firms Plan Low-cost Workhorse Rocket Engine

Two propulsion firms - XCOR Aerospace and Alliant Techsystems (ATK) - have announced they are teamed to develop a low-cost liquid oxygen/methane rocket engine for NASA's Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV). This type of workhorse engine is being designed for possible use in returning the CEV from lunar orbit to the Earth, and to perform in-space maneuvering.

XCOR Aerospace is based in Mojave, California. The company won a $3.3 million contract with ATK, headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as part of ATK's $10.4 million contract to develop low-cost liquid oxygen/methane rocket propulsion for NASA.

Methane-fueled engines offer the prospect of better performance and lower cost than existing systems and are non-toxic. In addition, such an engine eliminates the need for special ground handling procedures associated with traditional propulsion systems. Non-toxic engines may significantly reduce the cost of fueling and servicing operations.

If successfully demonstrated, the liquid oxygen/methane propulsion system could be used for both the CEV Service Module main engine and on the ascent stage for a crew-carrying lunar lander.

Yet another consideration is that the Martian atmosphere contains methane - and given NASA's future red planet plans, this type of engine should prove ideal for gas-up-and-go operations.

"This contract is a great example of a small company teaming with an established provider to provide innovative solutions to difficult problems," noted James Busby, an XCOR Aerospace spokesman.

-- Leonard David

 

May 12

 

Scorching Test for Crew Exploration Vehicle

Heat shield materials that could be utilized in building NASA's new spaceship -- the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) -- have been receiving a warm reception at the space agency's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley.

Small heat shield specimens have undergone arc jet evaluation using what NASA engineers describe as a "room-size blowtorch".

The CEV Thermal Protection System, Advanced Development Project at Ames is geared to create and test the 16.5-foot (5-meter) diameter, Frisbee-shaped heat shield that will be attached to the base of the cone-shaped CEV crew capsule.

CEV shield material must protect the capsule and its crew from incredible heat as the craft plunges through Earth's atmosphere from orbit, or plowing in from the Moon. Eventually, the CEV will haul back to home the first crew from Mars.

-- Leonard David

NASA's Shuttle Discovery Again Set for Short Trip

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA's space shuttle Discovery is again set to for the short ride from its hangar to the cavernous Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) as engineers prepare to mate the orbiter to its fuel tank and rocket boosters.

Delayed from Thursday due to a damaged crane screw in the VAB, today's rollover has been pushed back to today to allow a morning meeting for shuttle officials, NASA spokesperson Jessica Rye said.

The upcoming 30-minute trip from Discovery's hangar-like Orbiter Processing Facility to the VAB will mark the space plane's first move since it returned to KSC following last year's STS-114 mission - NASA's first shuttle flight since the 2003 Columbia accident.

Shuttle engineers are preparing Discovery for NASA's second post-Columbia test flight - STS-121 commanded by veteran astronaut Steven Lindsey - slated to launch no earlier than July 1.

In the VAB, the external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters that will carry Discovery to space have already been assembled and stacked atop a Mobile Launch Platform. Engineers plan to spend about one week attaching Discovery to the launch stack before rolling the entire shuttle system out to Pad 39B on May 19.

Discovery last launched into space in July 2005 on a 14-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The orbiter landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California and was ferried back to KSC atop its 747 jumbo jet carrier.

  

-- Tariq Malik

 

May 9

 

California Politician Seeks Display Rights for Atlantis Orbiter

 

California Assemblywoman Sharon Runner has introduced a Joint Resolution that, if passed, would transmit an official request to the President and leaders of Congress to grant Palmdale as the future and permanent home of space shuttle Atlantis.

Runner's resolution is the result of a NASA briefing that suggested it will ground Atlantis in 2008, rather than put it through a required maintenance period that could exceed the end of the shuttle program in 2010. As it is written however, the bill would appear to neglect existing requirements for how NASA must dispose of artifacts and its agreement for their transfer to the Smithsonian.

Runner's reasons outlined in the bill for Atlantis to move to Palmdale include the city's history as where all of NASA's orbiters were first assembled, and to allocate room at Kennedy Space Center for future exploration vehicles. "It just makes sense for Atlantis to return home to Palmdale," said Runner. "This resolution is an important step in the process. It will demonstrate that California is united behind Palmdale as the proper location."

 

-- Robert Z. Pearlman, collectSPACE.com

 

May 8

 

Roadkill Posse Cleans Up at NASA Spaceport

CAPE CANAVERAL - The Roadkill Posse at Kennedy Space Center is cleaning up.

Literally.

More than 800 pounds (362 kilograms) of carrion have been collected around KSC since NASA in mid-April asked workers to call in roadkill sightings.

Coming in the wake of a bird strike during the STS-114 launch last July, the roadkill reporting program is aimed at ridding the spaceport of black vultures and turkey vultures.

The vultures roost around NASA's twin shuttle launch pads, and a bird strike in flight can cause serious damage to an orbiter.

NASA hopes that eliminating a major food source will prompt the scavengers to go live elsewhere.

-- Todd Halvorson

 

Published under license from FLORIDA TODAY. Copyright ? 2006 FLORIDA TODAY. No portion of this material may be reproduced in any way without the written consent of FLORIDA TODAY.

 

 

May 5

 

Supply Ship Boosts Space Station's Orbit

 

The International Space Station (ISS) reached a higher orbit Thursday after a cargo ship fired its engines during a brief, but successful, maneuver, NASA officials said.

The Progress 21 cargo ship docked at the aft end of the station's Zvezda module fired its onboard engines for 6.5 minutes, boosting the orbital laboratory's orbit by about 1.7 miles (2.8 kilometers), NASA Johnson Space Center spokesperson James Hartsfield told SPACE.com.

NASA officials said the orbital boost prepared the ISS for the June arrival of Progress 22, a new cargo ship that will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan in Central Asia atop a Soyuz rocket.

Progress 22 is expected to launch on June 24 and dock at the ISS two days later, Hartsfield said, adding that an older cargo ship - Progress20 - will be cast off prior to the new spacecraft's arrival. Progress20 has been docked at the Russian-built Pirs docking compartment since December 23, 2005.

Thursday's ISS orbit reboost comes after an aborted test of the two ISS engines attached to the Zvezda module's aft end. Russian ISS controllers used the test to check whether the Zvezda engines, which were last used in July 2000, were still operational. The failed engine firing did not affect the docking of Progress 21.

Progress 21 arrived at the ISS on April 26 after a two-day spaceflight from Baikonur Cosmodrome. The cargo ship ferried 2.5 tons of food and supplies to ISS Expedition 13 commander Pavel Vinogradov and flight engineer Jeffrey Williams. The two astronauts are in the midst of a six-month mission aboard the ISS and arrived at the station on April 1.

 

-- Tariq Malik

May 4

 

China Space Station, Moon Plans Proceeding

China's next piloted space trek will see three crew members in Earth orbit in September 2008, after the Beijing Olympic Games. The flight of the Shenzhou7 spacecraft will include a space walk to hone skills for building of a20-ton space station.

The Long March rocket to place the trio of travelers into space is to be ready at year's end with selection and training of the crew getting under way. That's the update from Song Zhengyu, deputy director-designer of Long March II carrier rocket F and research fellow of the first institute of the China Aerospace Science & Technology Corporation (CASTC) this week in an article on People's Daily Online.

In an earlier People's Daily Online story, Luan Enjie, chief commander of China's lunar exploration project said their Chang'e Moon orbiter is expected to be lofted next year.

Speaking at a symposium in Hong Kong in April, Luan said that if no major problems crop up over the next year, China's Chang'e lunar probe would head moonward in April 2007.

-- Leonard David

May 3

 

Backhoe Ho-Down on Mars

The next robotic arm headed for the red planet is ready for final testing and installation onto NASA's Mars Phoenix lander, due for liftoff in August of next year.

The backhoe-like arm was built by Alliance Spacesystems, Inc. (ASI) of Pasadena, California. Once on Mars in May 2008, the arm is assigned a key duty of digging a two-foot deep trench in Mars' north-polar region.

At the business end of the arm is a scoop about the size of a garden trowel that will do the digging down to an ice layer that is potentially rock-hard. The arm will deliver soil samples to a suite of devices on the lander's deck for detailed analysis. A camera mounted on the arm will view layers in the freshly-dug trench wall.

The agile arm has a 7.5-foot reach (2.3 meters), with the aluminum and titanium device weighing less than 22 pounds (9.7 kilograms).

The robotic arm - inherited from a shelved 2001 Mars mission to the equator -could not dig into hard icy soils at cold temperatures and had to be completely redesigned.

Mars Phoenix is a three-month mission expected to yield new clues to the history of water on Mars and whether the environment was ever conducive to life. 

-- Leonard David

 

NASA's Florida Spaceport Chief Plans Retirement

 

James Kennedy, head of NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, will retire from his post in January 2007, NASA said this week.

"Serving as the director of the historic Kennedy Space Center where the U.S. space program was born is an opportunity of a lifetime," Kennedy said in a statement. "While I have treasured every minute of every day, now is the time to announce I'm stepping aside to allow someone else the opportunity to lead this great center and its incredible work force."

A native of Riverdale, Maryland, Kennedy is the eighth director of KSC and has spent 35years working in government service - all but four of them with NASA and the U.S. Air Force. Kennedy oversees about 15,000 government and contractor employees.

Prior to his appointment as KSC director, he served as KSC's deputy director in 2002,and rose to the position of deputy center director at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Kennedy began his career at NASA in 1968 and has served as project manager for several agency projects, including the X-43, DC-XA and solid rocket booster efforts, the space agency said. He currently resides in Cocoa Beach, Florida with his wife, Bernadette, and has two grown children, Jeff and Jamie.

NASA will name Kennedy's successor at a later date, the space agency said.

-- SPACE.com Staff

May 2

 

Two Trailblazing Pilots Die From Illness

Two test pilots whose work led to the development of the first rocketplane to reach space and a flexible wing for the recovery of manned spacecraft have died, both succumbing to illness.

Alvin S. White, 87, was backup to the late Scott Crossfield for the X-15 project at North American Aviation. Though he never flew the rocketplane, White flew the first flights of both XB-70"Valkyrie" aircraft and was at its controls when a collision with anF-104 piloted by Joseph Walker claimed the life of the X-15 astronaut (White ejected safely; his co-pilot was killed).

According to his friends, White died on Saturday, April 29.

Bruce A. Peterson, 72, is reported to have passed away on Monday, May 1. A NASA pilot since 1960, Peterson was initially assigned to the Rogallo paraglider (Paraslev) that was under consideration for use on the Gemini and Apollo space capsules.

During his flying career, Peterson logged more than 6,000 hours in nearly 70 types of aircraft. He gained a small measure of fame when the story of a M2-F2 lifting body crash that he was seriously injured in, but survived, was adapted as the basis for the 1970s television series "The Six-Million Dollar Man".

-- Robert Z. Pearlman, collectSPACE.com

 

May 1

 

Canada Issues Coins for Astronaut, Robot Arm

Continuing its Canadian Achievements series, the Royal Canadian Mint will issue on May 15coins celebrating the 5th anniversary of the installation of the nation'sCanadarm2 robotic arm during the first spacewalk conducted by a Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield using the original Canadarm. 

The proof coins will be available in 300-dollar face value, 14-karat gold and 30-dollarface value, sterling silver renditions limited to 1,000 and 20,000 mintages respectively. The silver edition also features a selective hologram of the robotic arm in space. 

The gold coin will be priced at $1,089.95 (CND), while the silver will sell for $79.95, or approximately $976 and $72 US.

Information on ordering and images of the two coins can be seen on collectSPACE: Canada Issues Coins for Astronaut, Arm

 

-- Robert Z. Pearlman, collectSPACE.com

 

April 28

 

Roadkill Pickup May Save Lives, NASA Says

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - Picking up roadkill may save astronauts' lives.

Kennedy Space Center managers said Thursday they have launched an effort encouraging workers to notify road-and-grounds crews when they see roadkill.

The theory is that removing dead animals could cut down on the number of vultures looking for meals at the 140,000-acre center, part of which is a national wildlife refuge.

A vulture struck the fuel tank of space shuttle Discovery during last year's launch, but it didn't cause any major damage.

"We're trying to avoid that again and by doing that we're trying to reduce the food source,'' said John Shaffer, a scientist who works at Kennedy's environmental program office. "As far as shuttle program is concerned, it's unacceptable if there's another chance of an accident.''

Roadkill is a common sight at the center, which is home to more than 500 species of wildlife, including bald eagles, sea turtles, alligators and manatees. NASA launch managers use cameras and radar to make sure there are no birds around the launch pad during shuttle launches.

-- The Associated Press

 

 

April 27

 

STS-1Pilot Awarded Space Medal of Honor

Yesterday evening, at a gala celebrating the 25thanniversary of the first Space Shuttle mission, Robert Crippen became the 28th astronaut in history to be awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

The surprise presentation by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin was made before the gathered audience at the National Air and Space Museum, including Crippen'sSTS-1 commander and 1981 medal recipient John Young.

"This medal, awarded by the Congress of the United States, commemorates publicly what all of us who know Bob Crippen already understood: he is an authentic American hero," said Griffin.

"It was such a surprise. I am totally overwhelmed," said Crippen in a statement released after the ceremony. "Just look at the names of the people who are on the list. They are heroes in the truest sense of the word and I can't believe someone would think to include me in such distinguished company. I'm so honored."

The award commends astronauts whose efforts in space exemplify actions of tremendous benefit to mankind. The medal, which has also been given to astronauts who died in the line of duty, was last presented in 2004 to the crew of STS-107. The award was first given in 1978 to astronauts Neil Armstrong, Frank Borman, Pete Conrad, John Glenn, Alan Shepard, and posthumously to Virgil "Gus" Grissom.

-- Robert Z. Pearlman, collectSPACE.com

 

April 25

Contamination a Likely Culprit in Failed Proton M Launch

The malfunction of a Russian-built Proton rocket that left an Arab communications satellite in the wrong orbit after launch was apparently due to contamination in the booster's oxidizer system, Russia's State Commission announced Tuesday.

The commission, which investigated the failedFeb. 28 EDT space shot

, found that an anomaly - likely from a foreign particle - interrupted the oxidizer supply for the Proton M rocket's Breeze M upper stage and forced an early engine shutdown, according to a statement from McLean, Virginia-based International Launch Services (ILS),which marketed the flight.

 

ILS used the ProtonM rocket to launch the ARABSAT4A communications satellite for the Arab Satellite Communications Organization of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The satellite never reached its intended orbit.

 

Mishap investigators believe that the foreign particle blocked oxidizer flow through a nozzle that fed the Breeze M engine's hydraulic pump, the statement said.

 

ILS and Russian space officials have drawn up a set of corrective actions to be implemented before the U.S. firm's next launch. Those actions should be completed by the end of May, paving the way for the resumption of launch services, ILS said. 

 

-- Tariq Malik

April 24

Russia to Train Malaysian Astronauts for Spaceflight

KUALA LUMPUR (Interfax-AVN)- Two Malaysian cosmonauts will start training for a journey to the International Space Station in Russia in the summer of 2006, a source in the Russian delegation to the DSA-2006 weapons show in Kuala Lumpur announced on Monday.

"The Federal Space Agency Roscosmos is expected to sign an agreement with Malaysia shortly and two cosmonauts will start preparing for the flight at Russia's Star City in June or July. One of them will undergo training as a back-up cosmonaut," he said.

"Four candidates have been selected for the flight. But only two of them will travel to Russia for training, one of them as a backup cosmonaut," the source said.

  • Malaysia Narrows Astronaut Search to Four Candidates
  • Malaysian Public to Vote for Nation's First Astronaut

-- Interfax News Agency

April 23

NASA's CloudSat and CALIPSO Launch Scrubbed Again

The planned launch of two NASA satellites aimed at taking a three-dimensional look at Earth's clouds and particle content was called of again Sunday due to aircraft refueling plane schedule problems, the U.S. space agency said.

For the second day in a row, the lack of a refueling aircraft for a radar tracking plane needed to watch over the launch of NASA's CloudSat and CALIPSO weather satellites prevented the planned space shot atop a Delta 2 rocket from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base. The launch countdown had already begun and was about five hours from liftoff when the scrub was called.

NASA officials said the launch of CloudSat and CALIPSO has been postponed for at least another 24 hours as mission managers decide on a new flight date.

A similar refueling plan unavailability on Saturday prompted NASA to shift its CloudSat and CALIPSO launch target to Sunday. A communications glitch with the French-built CALIPSO spacecraft also scrubbed an April 21 launch attempt just 48 seconds before liftoff.

The two spacecraft are expected to join a trio of other Earth-watching satellites - NASA's Aqua and Aura, and the French Space Agency's PARASOL - already in Earth orbit. CloudSat is equipped with a powerful cloud-penetrating radar, while CALIPSO carries a laser ranging lidar instrument, wide-field visible light camera and an imaging infrared radiometer.

-- Tariq Malik

April 22

Launch of NASA Weather Satellite Pair Reset for Sunday

Launch of the Boeing Delta2 rocket carrying the CALIPSO and CloudSat spacecraft for NASA has been reset for Sunday at 1002 GMT (3:02 a.m. PDT; 6:02 a.m. EDT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Friday's countdown was aborted less than a minute before liftoff when the communications link between CALIPSO and its French ground facilities was lost.

Officials had hoped to reattempt the launch early Saturday. But NASA spokeswoman Erica Hupp said are fueling aircraft required to support a launch tracking plane was unavailable for the new date.

So liftoff of the $515million mission to examine clouds and particles in the atmosphere has been pushed back to Sunday.

-- Justin Ray, Spaceflight Now

 

April 20

Legendary Test Pilot's Plane Missing

LAWRENCEVILLE, Georgia (AP)- A single-engine airplane registered to the first man to fly at Mach 2and Mach 3 - was missing Thursday, a day after it left Alabama for the Washington, D.C., area.

Scott Crossfield's plane was last spotted on radar Wednesday in Georgia, north of Atlanta, the Civil Air Patrol's Georgia Wing said. Capt. Paige Joyner said officials had no confirmation that Crossfield was in the plane and the air patrol does not "have any confirmation who the pilot was.''

A man who answered the phone at Crossfield's home in Virginia declined to say whether Crossfield was missing and referred questions to the Civil Air Patrol.

The plane left Alabama around 9 a.m. Wednesday en route to Virginia.

Crossfield, now 84, became the first man to fly at twice the speed of sound piloting the Douglas D-558-IISkyrocket to a speed of 1,291 mph in November 1953, according to the Edwards Air Force Base Web site.

         Former NASA X-15 Pilots Awarded Astronaut Wings

-- Associated Press

 

April 19

 

Competitors Wanted for NASA Centennial Challenges Contests

 

The gates are open for five NASA contest offering more than $1 million in cash prizes for the best new astronaut glove, power beam, strongest tether and Moon machines as part the agency's ongoing Centennial Challenges program.

 

NASA's Centennial Challenges are contests designed to spur technical innovation and interest in space exploration. The U.S. space agency already held the first two of its challenges - to rate space tethers and power beaming technologies - last year, and is looking for new competitors for its 2006 meet.

 

The tether and power beaming contests - organized for NASA by California's Spaceward Foundation - each carry a prize of$200,000.

 

Innovators can also now register for NASA's Astronaut Glove Challenge run by Volanz Aerospace and Spaceflight America - which is aimed at developing a dexterous spacesuit hand covering - as well as the space agency's Lunar Regolith Excavation Challenge to build a Moon digging machine organized by the California Space Education and Workforce Institute. Each of those competitions carries a $250,000 purse. The same amount is offered by NASA's Moon Regolith Oxygen (MoonROX) contest, which challenges competitors to pull a set amount of oxygen from mock Moon dirt. The MoonROX competition is administered by the Florida Space Research Institute.

 

Hopeful inventors seeking to sign up for NASA's Centennial Challenges competitions can do so at the website of each competition's organizer, the space agency said.

 

The Spaceward Foundation's tether contest can be found here alongside its power beaming challenge. The California Space Education and Workforce's lunar regolith excavator contest is here. Volanz Aerospace and Spaceflight America's glove competition is here, while the Florida Space Research Institute's MoonROX challenge can be found here. 

 

 

-- Tariq Malik

April 12

Japan Prepares for Unmanned Lunar Lander Mission

TOKYO (AP) - Japan's space agency has set up a team to send an unmanned mission to the surface of the moon, possibly within the next 10 years, officials said Wednesday.

Keiji Tachikawa, chairman of the space agency JAXA, provided no further details of the composition of the team, but said he hoped the mission would be launched within a decade.

The unmanned surface landing is a key element of Japan's overall space strategy, which was once the most ambitious in Asia but has recently fallen behind China.

JAXA's SELENE moon orbiter is due for launch in 2007, and officials announced last year that they hope to send a manned mission to the moon by 2025.

Currently, only the United States, Russia and the EU have landed probes on the moon. But China, which leapt ahead of Japan by putting astronauts into orbit in 2005, has also announced it has set its sights on a moon landing. Japan has yet to launch a manned flight of its own. No timeline for the manned program has been announced, other than the tentative 2025 goal for a landing.

Over the next decade, JAXA's plan calls for scientists to develop robots and nanotechnology for surveys of the moon, and design a rocket and space vessel capable of carrying cargo and passengers. By 2015, JAXA will review whether it's ready to pour resources into manned space travel and possibly building a base on the moon.

A decision to possibly to try for Mars and other planets would be made after 2025.

Japan's long-term plan resembles those of U.S. President George W. Bush and European space officials, who hope to land astronauts and robots on the moon as a first step to sending space shuttle missions to Mars.

But Japan's program has been plagued by delays.

The SELENE probe -designed to release two small satellites that will measure the moon's magnetic and gravitational field - was originally scheduled for launch in 2003, but that had to be postponed after the failed launch of one of Japan's domestically developed H-2A rockets.

JAXA also had to abandon a mission to Mars two years ago and earlier this year the agency nearly lost its most recent mission - a probe sent to collect samples from an asteroid - but managed to re-establish communications with it last month.

-- Associated Press