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ASTRONOTES: USPS To Recognize Space Memorabilia Show At NASA Center

June 15

U.S. Postal Service To Recognize Space Memorabilia Show AtNASA Center

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

The ink cancellation, which appears in the current issue of the USPS PostalBulletin, 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 wellas from programs throughout the world. Confirmed exhibitors include CountdownEnterprises, Boggs SpaceBooks, Nick Proach Models and Historic Space Systems.The show will also include a public tour of GRC's Zero-Gravity Facility andpresentations by Neil Armstrong-biographer James R. Hansen.

USPS representatives will be present at the GRC Visitor Center on Saturday toapply the cancellation to visitor mail and commemorative envelopes. Those whocannot attend can send their mail to be canceled
with the special postmark via the Cleveland Post Office for up to 30 days afterthe 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 AviationAdministration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) issued on June12 a launch site operator license to the Oklahoma Space Industry DevelopmentAuthority (OSIDA).

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

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

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

-- Leonard David

June 8

OpportunityRover Rolls Onward

TheOpportunity Mars rover is free and once again driving southward at MeridianiPlanum.

Wheelingits way ever closer to the large Victoria Crater, the robot extracted itselffrom a wheel-stopping sand trap,now dubbed Jammerbugt.

"I honestly don't know how difficult the driving is going tobe between here and Victoria," said Steve Squyres, lead scientist for the MarsExploration Rover project. "The terrain we're in right now has little exposedbedrock, 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 tosay... we'll find out as we go," he told SPACE.com.

Squyressaid that the main difference between Jammerbugt and Purgatory - a dune that snaredOpportunity in April 2005 -- is that an onboard slip-check stopped the rover atJammerbugt before it had dug in very far.

"This iswhy we use the slip-checks, to keep us from getting deeply embedded ifsomething happens," Squyres said. "And because we hadn't dug in as badly as atPurgatory, we got out with significantly greater ease. It also helped, ofcourse, that we'd been through this once before... it's always easier when youknow what you're doing!"

-- Leonard David

June 7

Bigelow Module Launch Delayed

Word from Bigelow Aerospaceis that launch of their prototype inflatable module is being delayed. Given nofollow-on technical issues, the hardware could now roar skyward, sometime inthe July 4-14 time frame, explained Chris Reed, a spokesman for Las Vegas-basedBigelow Aerospace in a June 6 communique.

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

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

Bigelow Aerospace isdedicated to flight-verifying larger and larger inflatable modules - eyeing acommercial business of providing habitable space for experimental purposes, andeven using the structures to create an orbiting hotel.

-- Leonard David

June 5

Former future CEV dropsinto museum

The U.S. Space & RocketCenter accepted today the donation of a full scale boilerplate crew explorationvehicle 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 MarshallSpace 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 wewill return to the moon and travel beyond," said USSRC's Chief ExecutiveOfficer Larry Capps at this morning's ribbon cutting ceremony.

The capsule, primarily madeof hand laid-up fiberglass with a Nomex honeycomb core, was debuted only hoursbefore NASA Headquarters announced MSFC's role in the modern CEV/CLVprogram.

For photographs from theceremony and more details, see collectSPACE

-- Robert Z. Pearlman

Copyright 2006 collectSPACE.com. All rights reserved.

June 2

Opportunity Mars RoverHits Sandy Stop 

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

The immediate plan is toassess the state and health of the vehicle.  

Opportunity has beenslogging its way over sand ripples, finding the best traction by moving betweenpatches of flat-lying rock outcrops. The robot has been wheeling toward largeVictoria Crater - an enormous depression, measuring a half-mile (800 meters) indiameter. 

Over a year ago - in April2005 - Opportunity was stilled by a sand ripple, later dubbed "Purgatory Dune"with ground controllers needing more than five weeks of planning, testing andcarefully monitored action to free the robot. 

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

-- Leonard David

 

May 29

 

Voltage GlitchAfflicts Submarine-Launched Russian Satellite

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

"Wehave conducted ten linkup sessions with Kompas-2 after it was orbited, duringwhich a number of faults resulting from a loss of pressure in an on-boardbattery were revealed," he said.

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

Thesatellite is monitored from the ground-based facilities of the Russian Academyof Sciences.

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

-- Interfax

 

May 25

 

Polls Opento Name Racing League's First Rocket Plane

The pollsare open to name the first rocket plane slated to compete in a fast-paced raceacross the sky.

Organizers of the fledgling Rocket Racing Leagueare 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.

Tencandidate names have been culled from a list of nearly 2,000 entries submittedto the league since Jan. 30, 2006. Voters can root for their choice by clickinghere. The pollsclose on June 5.

"On behalf of the [Rocket Racing League], I'd like tothank the thousands of fans who brought their enthusiasm and creativity to thiseffort," 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 shakeyour hand."

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

The RocketRacing League blends rocket aircraft and auto racing into a high-flying sportaimed at awarding prize money awaiting winning teams and spurring interest inrocketry and spaceflight. The league's core vehicle is derived from the EZ-Rocketdesign by Mojave, California-basedXCOR Aerospace.

In additionto the league's house team, two F-16 fighter pilots have joined the competitionwith their LeadingEdge racing group.

Voters canpick 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 OldNASA Tool Box

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

May 23

 

MicrosatelliteTested Aboard Space Station

NASA astronautJeffrey Williams has put a small satellite through its initial paces aboard theInternational Space Station (ISS), deploying the free-flying craft insideoutpost's Destiny lab.

Williams,NASA science officer and ISS Expedition 13 flight engineer, piloted the SPHERESmicrosatellite in the first of a series of test aimed at demonstratingfundamental concepts for autonomous docking in small vehicles and formationflying. The tests could lay the groundwork for cooperative satellites andhelper robots to aid spacewalking astronauts, NASA officials said.

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

Williamswatched over the single SPHERES satellite last week as it approached twobeacons - one handheld and one wall-mounted - during simulated rendezvous anddocking maneuvers. The satellite's first flight included up to 15 pre-plannedmaneuvers, each of which lasted 10 minutes, to check attitude control, stationkeeping, collision avoidance, target tracking and fuel balance performance,NASA officials said.

Theeight-inch (20-centimeter) wide, seven-pound (three-kilogram) SPHERES satelliteis the first of three to launch toward the ISS and arrived at the space stationaboard Progress21 on April 26. Two additional units are expected to launch toward thestation on future NASA shuttle visits.

-- Tariq Malik

 

 

May 19

 

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

 

The Russianstate arms trading agent Rosoboronexport and the Malaysian government havesigned a contract for training the first Malaysian cosmonaut and sending him tothe International Space Station (ISS).

On theRussian side, the contract was signed by Rosoboronexport Deputy GeneralDirector Viktor Komardin; on the Malaysian side, by Defense Ministry SecretaryGeneral Tan Sri Subhan Jasmon, an Interfax correspondent reported from theceremony.

-- Interfax

                  

FormerNazi Removed From Space Hall of Fame

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

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

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

The removalprocess began last fall after a museum visitor noticed Strughold's name in itshall of fame and notified the New Mexico Anti-Defamation League, said SusanSeligman, the league's regional director.

The leagueuncovered records of Strughold's past and presented them to the commission.Strughold was linked to experiments on concentration camp prisoners in the1940s as the Nazi director of medical research for aviation, Seligman said,though she said she did not know of him personally conducting experiments.

Strughold'sname was removed from Brooks Air Force Base's aero-medical library in 1995 andhis picture was removed from the mural "The World History ofMedicine" at Ohio State University in 1993, the Anti-Defamation Leaguesaid.

-- Associated Press

 

May 18

 

NASA toLaunch Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2008

NASA'sLunar Reconnaissance Orbiter project successfully completed its missionconfirmation review, which deemed the project to be within budget, officialsannounced today. The project will now proceed to the implementation phase andis slated to launch in October 2008.

The orbiterrepresents NASA's first step toward returning humans to the moon after a30-year hiatus. The spacecraft will spend an unprecedented year mapping themoon from an average altitude of 30 miles. Its main goal will be to conductinvestigations targeted at preparing for future human lunar exploration, whichit will carry out with six on-board instruments and one technologydemonstration.

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

The nextmission milestone is the critical design review, scheduled for later this year.This review consists of completed and detailed systems designs and marks the transitioninto the manufacturing, assembly, and integration phase of the missiondevelopment cycle.

--Bjorn Carey

May 17

Old Rocket Rides Againin Super Loki Launch

A small weather rocket tookoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station today, marking the first of two testflights aimed at proving the 10-year-old rockets are safe to fly as part of auniversity 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 withthe Air Force's 45th Space Wing. A follow-up flight is expected to take placein June.

Brevard Community College and the Florida Space Institute plan to use almost200 Super Loki rockets in a program geared toward training a new generation ofaerospace technicians and engineers.

-- Todd Halvorson

 

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

 

 

May 15

 

FirmsPlan Low-cost Workhorse Rocket Engine

Twopropulsion firms - XCOR Aerospace and Alliant Techsystems (ATK) - haveannounced they are teamed to develop a low-cost liquid oxygen/methane rocketengine for NASA's Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV). This type of workhorse engineis being designed for possible use in returning the CEV from lunar orbit to theEarth, and to perform in-space maneuvering.

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

Methane-fueledengines offer the prospect of better performance and lower cost than existingsystems and are non-toxic. In addition, such an engine eliminates the need forspecial ground handling procedures associated with traditional propulsionsystems. Non-toxic engines may significantly reduce the cost of fueling andservicing operations.

Ifsuccessfully demonstrated, the liquid oxygen/methane propulsion system could beused for both the CEV Service Module main engine and on the ascent stage for acrew-carrying lunar lander.

Yet anotherconsideration is that the Martian atmosphere contains methane - and givenNASA's future red planet plans, this type of engine should prove ideal forgas-up-and-go operations.

"This contractis a great example of a small company teaming with an established provider toprovide innovative solutions to difficult problems," noted James Busby, an XCORAerospace spokesman.

-- Leonard David

 

May 12

 

ScorchingTest for Crew Exploration Vehicle

Heat shieldmaterials that could be utilized in building NASA's new spaceship -- the CrewExploration Vehicle (CEV) -- have been receiving a warm reception at the spaceagency's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley.

Small heatshield specimens have undergone arc jet evaluation using what NASA engineersdescribe as a "room-size blowtorch".

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

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

-- Leonard David

NASA'sShuttle Discovery Again Set for Short Trip

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA's space shuttle Discovery is again set to for the shortride from its hangar to the cavernous Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) asengineers prepare to mate the orbiter to its fuel tank and rocket boosters.

Delayedfrom Thursday due to a damaged cranescrew in the VAB, today's rollover has been pushed back to today to allow amorning meeting for shuttle officials, NASA spokesperson Jessica Rye said.

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

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

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

Discoverylast launched into space in July 2005 on a 14-day mission to the InternationalSpace Station (ISS). The orbiter landedat Edwards Air Force Base in California and was ferriedback to KSC atop its 747 jumbo jet carrier.

  

-- Tariq Malik

 

May 9

 

CaliforniaPolitician Seeks Display Rights for Atlantis Orbiter

 

California Assemblywoman Sharon Runner has introduced a Joint Resolutionthat, if passed, would transmit an official request to the President andleaders of Congress to grant Palmdale as the future and permanent home of spaceshuttle Atlantis.

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

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

 

-- Robert Z. Pearlman, collectSPACE.com

 

May 8

 

RoadkillPosse Cleans Up at NASA Spaceport

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

Literally.

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

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

The vultures roost aroundNASA's twin shuttle launch pads, and a bird strike in flight can cause seriousdamage to an orbiter.

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

-- Todd Halvorson

 

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

 

 

May 5

 

SupplyShip Boosts Space Station's Orbit

 

TheInternational Space Station (ISS) reached a higher orbit Thursday after a cargoship fired its engines during a brief, but successful, maneuver, NASA officialssaid.

TheProgress 21 cargo ship docked at the aft end of the station's Zvezda modulefired its onboard engines for 6.5 minutes, boosting the orbital laboratory'sorbit by about 1.7 miles (2.8 kilometers), NASA Johnson Space Centerspokesperson James Hartsfield told SPACE.com.

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

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

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

Progress 21arrived at the ISS on April 26 after a two-day spaceflightfrom Baikonur Cosmodrome. The cargo ship ferried 2.5 tons of food and suppliesto ISSExpedition 13 commander PavelVinogradov and flight engineer JeffreyWilliams. The two astronauts are in the midst of a six-month mission aboardthe ISS and arrivedat the station on April 1.

 

-- Tariq Malik

May 4

 

ChinaSpace Station, Moon Plans Proceeding

China'snext piloted space trek will see three crew members inEarth orbit in September 2008, after the Beijing Olympic Games. The flight ofthe Shenzhou7spacecraft will include a space walk to hone skills for building of a20-tonspace station.

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

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

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

-- Leonard David

May 3

 

BackhoeHo-Down on Mars

The nextrobotic arm headed for the red planet is ready for final testing andinstallation onto NASA's MarsPhoenix lander, due for liftoff in August of next year.

Thebackhoe-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 digginga two-foot deep trench in Mars' north-polar region.

At thebusiness end of the arm is a scoop about the size of a garden trowel that willdo the digging down to an ice layer that is potentially rock-hard. The arm willdeliver soil samples to a suite of devices on the lander's deck for detailedanalysis. A camera mounted on the arm will view layers in the freshly-dugtrench wall.

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

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

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

-- Leonard David

 

NASA'sFlorida Spaceport Chief Plans Retirement

 

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

"Servingas the director of the historic Kennedy Space Center where the U.S. spaceprogram was born is an opportunity of a lifetime," Kennedy said in astatement. "While I have treasured every minute of every day, now is thetime to announce I'm stepping aside to allow someone else the opportunity tolead this great center and its incredible work force."

A native ofRiverdale, Maryland, Kennedy is the eighth director of KSC and has spent35years working in government service - all but four of them with NASA and theU.S. Air Force. Kennedy oversees about 15,000 government and contractoremployees.

Prior tohis appointment as KSC director, he served as KSC's deputy director in 2002,androse to the position of deputy center director at NASA's Marshall Space FlightCenter in Huntsville, Alabama.

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

NASA willname 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 thefirst rocketplane to reach space and a flexible wing for the recovery of mannedspacecraft have died, both succumbing to illness.

Alvin S. White, 87, was backup to the late ScottCrossfield for the X-15 project at North American Aviation. Though he neverflew the rocketplane, White flew the first flights of bothXB-70"Valkyrie" aircraft and was at its controls when a collisionwith 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 onMonday, May 1. A NASA pilot since 1960, Peterson was initially assigned to theRogallo paraglider (Paraslev) that was under consideration for use on theGemini and Apollo space capsules.

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

-- Robert Z. Pearlman, collectSPACE.com

 

May 1

 

CanadaIssues Coins for Astronaut, Robot Arm

Continuingits Canadian Achievements series, the Royal Canadian Mint will issue on May15coins celebrating the 5th anniversary of the installation of thenation'sCanadarm2 robotic arm during the first spacewalk conducted by aCanadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield using the original Canadarm. 

The proofcoins will be available in 300-dollar face value, 14-karat gold and30-dollarface value, sterling silver renditions limited to 1,000 and 20,000mintages respectively. The silver edition also features a selective hologram ofthe robotic arm in space. 

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

Informationon ordering and images of the two coins can be seen on collectSPACE: Canada Issues Coinsfor Astronaut, Arm

 

-- Robert Z. Pearlman, collectSPACE.com

 

April 28

 

RoadkillPickup May Save Lives, NASA Says

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

Kennedy Space Centermanagers said Thursday they have launched an effort encouraging workers tonotify road-and-grounds crews when they see roadkill.

The theory is that removingdead animals could cut down on the number of vultures looking for meals at the140,000-acre center, part of which is a national wildlife refuge.

A vulturestruck 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 thatagain and by doing that we're trying to reduce the food source,'' said JohnShaffer, a scientist who works at Kennedy's environmental program office. "Asfar as shuttle program is concerned, it's unacceptable if there's anotherchance of an accident.''

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

-- The Associated Press

 

 

April 27

 

STS-1PilotAwarded Space Medal of Honor

Yesterdayevening, at a gala celebrating the25thanniversary of the first Space Shuttle mission, RobertCrippen became the 28th astronaut in history to be awarded theCongressional Space Medal of Honor.

Thesurprise presentation by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin was made before thegathered audience at the National Air and Space Museum, includingCrippen'sSTS-1 commander and 1981 medal recipient John Young.

"Thismedal, awarded by the Congress of the United States, commemorates publicly whatall of us who know Bob Crippen already understood: he is an authentic Americanhero," said Griffin.

"Itwas such a surprise. I am totally overwhelmed," said Crippen in astatement released after the ceremony. "Just look at the names of thepeople who are onthe list. They are heroes in the truest sense of the word and I can'tbelieve someone would think to include me in such distinguished company. I'm sohonored."

The award commendsastronauts whose efforts in space exemplify actions of tremendous benefit tomankind. The medal, which has also been given to astronauts who died in theline of duty, was last presented in 2004 to the crew of STS-107. The award was firstgiven 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

Contaminationa Likely Culprit in Failed Proton M Launch

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

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

, foundthat an anomaly - likely from a foreign particle - interrupted the oxidizersupply for the Proton M rocket's Breeze M upper stage and forced an earlyengine shutdown, according to a statement from McLean, Virginia-basedInternational Launch Services (ILS),which marketed the flight.

 

ILS used the ProtonMrocketto launch the ARABSAT4A communications satellite for the Arab SatelliteCommunications Organization of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The satellite neverreached its intended orbit.

 

Mishapinvestigators believe that the foreign particle blocked oxidizer flow through anozzle that fed the Breeze M engine's hydraulic pump, the statement said.

 

ILS andRussian space officials have drawn up a set of corrective actions to beimplemented before the U.S. firm's next launch. Those actions should becompleted by the end of May, paving the way for the resumption of launchservices, ILS said. 

 

-- TariqMalik

April 24

Russia to TrainMalaysian Astronauts for Spaceflight

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

"TheFederal Space Agency Roscosmos is expected to sign an agreement with Malaysiashortly and two cosmonauts will start preparing for the flight at Russia's StarCity in June or July. One of them will undergo training as a back-upcosmonaut," he said.

"Fourcandidates have been selected for the flight. But only two of them will travelto Russia for training, one of them as a backup cosmonaut," the sourcesaid.

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

-- InterfaxNews Agency

April 23

NASA'sCloudSat and CALIPSO Launch Scrubbed Again

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

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

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

A similarrefueling plan unavailability on Saturday prompted NASA to shift its CloudSatand CALIPSO launch target to Sunday. A communications glitch with theFrench-built CALIPSO spacecraft also scrubbed an April 21 launch attempt just 48seconds before liftoff.

The twospacecraft 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 Earthorbit. CloudSat is equipped with a powerful cloud-penetrating radar, whileCALIPSO carries a laser ranging lidar instrument, wide-field visible lightcamera and an imaging infrared radiometer.

-- TariqMalik

April 22

Launch of NASAWeather Satellite Pair Reset for Sunday

Launch of theBoeing Delta2 rocket carrying the CALIPSO and CloudSat spacecraftfor 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'scountdown was aborted less than a minute before liftoff when the communicationslink between CALIPSO and its French ground facilities was lost.

Officials hadhoped to reattempt the launch early Saturday. But NASA spokeswoman Erica Huppsaid are fueling aircraft required to support a launch tracking plane wasunavailable for the new date.

So liftoff ofthe $515million mission to examine clouds and particles in the atmosphere hasbeen pushed back to Sunday.

-- JustinRay, Spaceflight Now

 

April 20

Legendary Test Pilot's Plane Missing

LAWRENCEVILLE, Georgia (AP)- A single-engine airplaneregistered 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 radarWednesday in Georgia, north of Atlanta, the Civil Air Patrol's Georgia Wingsaid. Capt. Paige Joyner said officials had no confirmation that Crossfield wasin the plane and the air patrol does not "have any confirmation who the pilotwas.''

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

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

Crossfield, now 84, became the first man to fly attwice the speed of sound piloting the Douglas D-558-IISkyrocket to a speed of1,291 mph in November 1953, according to the Edwards Air Force Base Web site.

        Former NASA X-15 Pilots Awarded AstronautWings

-- AssociatedPress

 

April 19

 

CompetitorsWanted for NASA Centennial Challenges Contests

 

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

 

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

 

The tetherand power beaming contests - organized for NASA by California's Spaceward Foundation - eachcarry a prize of$200,000.

 

Innovators can also nowregister for NASA's Astronaut Glove Challenge run by Volanz Aerospace andSpaceflight America - which is aimed at developing a dexterous spacesuit handcovering - as well as the space agency's LunarRegolith Excavation Challenge to build a Moon digging machine organized by theCalifornia Space Education and Workforce Institute. Each of those competitionscarries a $250,000 purse. The same amount is offered by NASA's Moon Regolith Oxygen (MoonROX) contest, which challenges competitorsto pull a set amount of oxygen from mock Moon dirt. The MoonROX competition isadministered by the Florida Space Research Institute.

 

Hopeful inventors seeking tosign up for NASA's Centennial Challenges competitions can do so at the websiteof 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'slunar regolith excavator contest is here. Volanz Aerospace andSpaceflight America's glove competition is here, while the Florida SpaceResearch Institute's MoonROX challenge can be found here. 

 

 

-- TariqMalik

April 12

Japan Preparesfor Unmanned Lunar Lander Mission

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

KeijiTachikawa, chairman of the space agency JAXA, provided no further details ofthe composition of the team, but said he hoped the mission would be launchedwithin a decade.

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

JAXA's SELENEmoon orbiter is due for launch in 2007, and officials announced last year that theyhope 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. ButChina, which leapt ahead of Japan by putting astronauts into orbit in 2005, hasalso announced it has set its sights on a moon landing. Japan has yet to launcha manned flight of its own. No timeline for the manned program has beenannounced, other than the tentative 2025 goal for a landing.

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

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

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

But Japan'sprogram has been plagued by delays.

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

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

-- AssociatedPress

 

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