Posts Tagged ‘Space Shuttle Endeavour’

“This Week In Space” – August 7, 2010

August 8, 2010

The latest edition of “This Week In Space” is out!  David Waters is in for Miles O’Brien this week.

International Space Station. Source: NASA

One spacewalk down, at least one more to go in NASA’s efforts to remove and replace a failed ammonia pump that’s crippled part of the International Space Station’s radiator system.  Astronauts Doug Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell Dyson conducted the longest spacewalk in station history – 8 hours, 3 minutes – attempting to switch out the pump with a spare.  Unfortunately, removing the ammonia umbilicals from the old pump turned out to be a lot more difficult that anticipated, and there was significant  ammonia leakage from one of the lines as well.  The spacewalkers quickly fell behind on the timeline.   In the end, they had to wrap up the EVA with the broken pump still in place.  Ground controllers are now regrouping, and will need to re-plan the second spacewalk to try to make up for lost time.   And ISS Program Manager Mike Suffredini says a third spacewalk may be in the offing.

I will tell you we’ve lengthened the amount of time from now until we get this pump running.   I would tell you that it would take a lot of good luck, and somebody coming up with a really short tweak to the EVA for us to get to the point that we could start that ammonia pump after the next EVA.  I really do think we are going to end up with three EVA’s.  So I think we are going to end up being in this condition, this risk posture, a few more days than we had originally planned.

There will be no doubt be developments in this story daily.  Please check in with us at Spaceflight Now for all the latest news.

The full Senate approved its compromise version of the NASA authorization bill for the 2011 budget late on Thursday – by voice vote with no discussion – and then they skedaddled out of town for the August recess.  The Senate legislation would add a final shuttle flight to the manifest, extend the life of the space station through 2020, fund commercial space activities, and start work on a new heavy lift rocket that’s supposed to be ready for orbital missions by the end of 2016.  But, the forward plan for the space agency remains in limbo for the foreseeable future.  The House of Representatives, is working on its own, very different, version of a plan…that preserves key parts of the Constellation program, slashes funding for commercial space, and puts that heavy-lift rocket championed by the Senate on the back burner.  The soonest the full House will vote on their version is September – and then compromise legislation will have to be hammered out in a conference committee.  So…if you are holding you breath for this all to be wrapped up soon…it’s gonna be a while.

While the wheels of government turn slowly, workers at the Kennedy Space Center are getting pink slips as the shuttle program winds down.  Commerce Secretary Gary Locke toured KSC this week along with NASA brass and Representative Suzanne Kosmas of Florida.  Locke sits on a White House task force aimed at improving the economy on the Space Coast as the clock ticks down for shuttle.  He met with about a dozen workers who will soon be hitting the unemployment lines.  The task force will be submitting a report to Obama this month on the prospects for helping the workforce through the tough transition ahead. Let’s hope they can come up with some good ideas.

And speaking of shuttles, it seems we are all going to have to wait a little longer to hear from NASA where the orbiters are headed after the program ends next year.  The agency had said it would announce in July which museums would get shuttles – but that deadline has come and gone with no word.  NASA spokesman Mike Curie told our friend Robert Pearlman over at collectSPACE that a final decision has been postponed because  the dates for the final two shuttle missions have slipped…and while the powers-that-be ponder whether or not to add an additional flight for Atlantis next summer.  Here’s what we know:  the shuttle Discovery will be going to the Air & Space Museum, which means NASA shuttle test article, Enterprise, currently housed there but never actually flew in space, also becomes available.  We’re in standby mode to find out where Atlantis and Endeavour will, er, land.

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Shuttles and Astronauts

February 28, 2010
Endeavour lands at the Kennedy Space Center.  Source:  NASA

Endeavour lands at the Kennedy Space Center. Source: NASA

The Space Shuttle Endeavour was fresh off its night time landing at the Kennedy Space Center. The 6 person crew – led by Marine Colonel George Zamka – the guy they call Zambo – logged a successful mission to the Space Station – installing the Tranquility Node – with its stunning Cupola. Matter of fact station keeper Soichi Noguchi watched Endeavour streak through re-entry  “He tweeted that “The view was definitely out-of-the-world.”

Not a haiku – no

But he uses left side brain

I cut him some slack

I’m a poet – bet ya didn’t know it…

Discovery in the Vehicle Assembly Building.  Source:  NASA

Discovery in the Vehicle Assembly Building. Source: NASA

From Haikus to minuets – TWIS is taking you upscale this week – with the precisely choreographed moved from horizontal to vertical – no I am not talking about getting out of bed with a hangover –

I am speaking of Discovery’s move from the orbital processing facility – or hangar – to the vertical assembly building for mating. Don’t worry teachers – shuttle mating is G rated. It’s all about connecting the orbiter to its big burnt orange external fuel tank – which has the solid rocket boosters attached to it. The finished product – the space shuttle stack – is slated to begin its slow roll to the launch pad on March 2nd. Launch to the space station is set for April 5th. Don’t forget the best place to watch the launch is on Spaceflight Now.

When the shuttle stops flying – the US government will no longer be in the business of building spacecraft for its astronauts to fly into space. We can only hope this is a temporary suspension in membership of a very elite club. Still the Obama space budget says the National Research Council will take a hard look at role and size of the astronaut corps. No Bucks – no need for Buck Rogers. But in India – they are ready to invest some rupees on future Ramu Ramjets. The nation’s space agency says it is ready to join the club –  they are vowing to send a pair of astronauts into space in the next six or seven years…not wise to curry…

atk-logo-bgAnd from our very busy “last-ever ” desk – an item this week from Big Love Country – northern Utah…Rocket builder ATK staged its last test firing of a shuttle solid rocket motor. Since 1988, ATK has conducted 34 ground tests during to verify performance and safety margins – and test new materials. ATK says it will march ahead with a static test of an Ares 1 style booster – even though that program is a goner – NASA has already paid for it – and the show will go on.

Watch these stories from “This Week in Space” Version 8 below:

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A Room with a View

February 21, 2010
Endeavour astronaut Steve Robinson in front of the cupola.

Endeavour astronaut Steve Robinson in front of the cupola.

As the the joint station/shuttle team bolted on the Tranquility Node – with its 7 windowed cupola…would that the NASA nation could see the future as clearly as this…

The cupola is supposed to be there to make it easier for station-keepers to operate the robot arm – but you can bet they will have to keep the Windex handy – to clean the smudges from their noses flattened against the glass.

At the cupola ribbon cutting – station keeper Jeff Williams and Shuttle boss George Zamka paused to remember the late Lacy Veach an astronaut who died of cancer in 1995 – and who participated in the cupola’s initial design –  they also installed a plaque with some small moon rocks picked up by Neil Armstrong in 1969 – and carried to the summit of Mt. Everest by astronaut Scott Parazynski this past spring.

Charles Lacy Veach

Charles Lacy Veach

Before the Endeavour astronauts departed the station, they took a call from President Obama.  It was the first time the President has found himself in the space – space – world since he rolled out  his controversial new NASA budget that cancels the Constellation Project.  Surrounded by schoolkids and his science adviser John Holdren, Obama offered major props to the crew:

“Just wanted to let you know that the amazing work that is being done on the international space station,  not only by American astronauts but also by our colleagues in Japan and Russia, is just a testimony to human ingenuity, a testimony to extraordinary skill and courage that you guys bring to bear, and is also testimony as to why continued space exploration is so important, and is part of the reason why my commitment to NASA is unwavering,” said Obama.

You can watch a video version of this story on “This Week in Space”.

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But before STS-130 is history, we gotta show you a couple of pictures. Check out this one…that’s the predawn launch of Endeavour back on February 8, as seen from the Intracoastal Waterway Bridge, in Ponte Vedra, Florida, about 115 miles north of the launch site.  Thanks to James Vernacotola for that.

Endeavour launch on February 8 from Ponte Vedre, Florida

Endeavour launch on February 8 from Ponte Vedre, Florida

And here’s another…that’s Endeavour on final approach to the ISS, just before docking.  Check out the layers of the atmosphere…for the record, blue is the mesosphere, white is the stratosphere, and orange is the troposphere.  Looks like a parfait doesn’t it?  paraphrasing a famous donkey:  “Parfait’s gotta be the tastiest thing on – or off – the whole damn planet.”

Endeavour on approach to ISS.

Endeavour on approach to ISS.

It’s cold up there above the troposphere – and also on the ground at the Cape – so how cold was it? So cold they couldn’t move the shuttle Discovery…and that means a 2 and a half week launch delay..

For the first time anyone can remember – the shuttle team canceled a move out of Discovery’s hangar into the unheated Vehicle Assembly Building – on account of cold. Apparently when sub 45 degree weather can cause the the thrusters to spring leaks. The delay forced shuttle program managers to postpone the launch date until after a Russian Soyuz docking. The shuttle launch is now set for April 5th.

ISS Latest

February 13, 2010
International Space Station.  Source:  NASA

International Space Station. Source: NASA

The Space Station was a busy place this week – as Endevaour pulled into the driveway for a visit. There are a dozen spacefarers up there in all wokring on getting Tranquility bolted in and on line. And speaking of online –  now that the station is connected to the interweb – you can log on and peek over their shoulder up there – the new station webcam can be found here.  Matter of fact – let’s see what is going on up there now…

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Shuttle Extension?

February 13, 2010
Source:  NASA

Source: NASA

Once the shuttle are in the museums – NASA’s only ticket to ride to the space station will be on Russian built Soyuz rockets. NASA has already bought six seats at about 50 million a pop – no frequent flier discounts – But now it appears the head of the Russian Space Agency – Roskosmos – is spoiling to drive a hard bargain for any tickets beyond those flights. Anatoly Perminov told Interfax “Excuse me but the prices should be absolutely different then!”

Seems like they are better at turning space into a business than the U-S. Oh the irony there… All of this is more fodder for a persistent group of people who say it is not too late to save the shuttle – or at least fly it a lot longer than four more missions. One of them is one of the top people at the prime shuttle contractor the United Space Alliance. Howard DeCastro spoke with me at the Cape before he watched Endeavour take flight for her 24th voyage.

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Countdown to the Countdown

January 30, 2010
Source:  NASA

Source: NASA

The space shuttle Endeavour is still on track for a wee hours launch on February 7th. NASA held its flight readiness review – and cleared the orbiter for flight on Wednesday.

The leaky ammonia lines on the Tranquility node sitting in the cargo bay have been swapped out – replaced by several smaller hoses joined together. Frankenhose it is called. The six member crew of Endeavour is slated to lift off from the Kennedy Space Center on Superbowl Sunday at 4:39am Eastern ( 0939 GMT). Think of it as a pre-pre-pre-game show…which of course we hope you will watch on Spaceflight Now.   I will be joined by David Waters and astronaut Leroy Chiao – and in honor of the super bowl we will have plenty of chips dip and beer on hand. You should too.
By the way – the coin that will be tossed before the big game – comes from NASA – it flew on the Atlantis mission in November. Our coverage – of the launch – not the colts and the saints – begins at Midnight Eastern (0500 GMT) – see ya then.

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Space Tweeps: Assemble!

January 30, 2010
The shuttle Endeavour in the Vehicle Assembly Building.  Source:  NASA

The shuttle Endeavour in the Vehicle Assembly Building. Source: NASA

On the heels of that wildly popular tweet-up at the last shuttle launch, NASA is cooking up another one for the upcoming STS-130 mission.

This time it will be at the Johnson Space Center in Houston – a hundred tweeps (and fifty backups) signed up this past week – and will get a chance to see and tweet about mission control on February 17th. Hopefully they will be there while Endeavour is still docked to the station – but this is a scrub or shine event – so if there is a launch delay – the event will press to “Tweetgo”.

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In Space, No One Can Hear You Tweet

January 30, 2010
International Space Station.  Source:  NASA

International Space Station. Source: NASA

Well, actually that’s not true…

Among the tweeps who will likely be twittering during the next NASA Tweet-up:  Astro_Jeff, Astro_TJ and Astro_Soichi – as in station keepers Jeff Williams, TJ Creamer and Soichi Noguchi.
This past week NASA finally rigged up a way for them to surf the web live – the first 140 character or less bonafide tweet from space was from TJ: “Hello Twitterverse! We [are] now LIVE…” putting it somewhere between armstrong’s “one small step for man” – but better than Bell’s “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.”

And, the station is a little higher this week – courtesy of some some Russian rocket propellant converted into thrust the idea was to get the station in the sweet spot for Endeavour’s arrival. And Jeff Williams used that occasion to offer up a brief lesson in Newton’s laws of motion – using a Nikon with a big honking 800 millimeter lens. Watch what happens when controllers in Russia hit the gas to raise the station:

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Endeavour Prepares for Launch

January 24, 2010

Source:  NASA

Source: NASA

It was Launch Day – without the fire and rumble – this week at the Kennedy Space Center.

The crew of STS-130 streaked in from Houston on their supersonic T-38’s – donned  their Launch and re-entry – or pumpkin suits – and then when through the motions of launch day. The dress rehearsal is called the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test, or TCDT.  The exercise ends with a simulated launch pad abort – and later a spin in an armored personnel carrier.

As for the vehicle that will take them to space – Endeavour is doing fine – although the piece of the space station that sits in her trunk – the Tranquility node – is still giving the shuttle team a mental workout. Cooling lines that carry ammonia failed a leak test a few weeks ago. The team is working to improve the hose design – while also beefing up and piecing together some smaller sections. They are calling the result “Frankenhose.”  The shuttlers are still hoping for a February 7th launch.

Wanna Buy a Shuttle?

January 24, 2010

The shuttle Endeavour in the Vehicle Assembly Building.  Source:  NASA

The shuttle Endeavour in the Vehicle Assembly Building. Source: NASA

NASA is taking a cue from Wal Mart offering  the low price – always…the agency slashed the price to acquire an orbiter for public display.

They were asking 42 million bucks but just lowered the price to just south of 29 million – not including taxes title and dealer prep. Actually you can’t buy the orbiters when they are done flying – you are just paying for the shipping – piggyback on a custom 747. The higher price included the cost of safeing the vehicles – meaning cleaning out all those nasty, volatile and cancer causing chemcials. But now NASA says it will pay for that. The buyers still have to figure out how to get the orbiters from the nearest airport big enough for that 747 – to the museum – no dismantling allowed.

The Smithsonian has already claimed Discovery.   A decision on where the others end up will come this summer – what does an orbiter do to keep busy in retirement?  – play “shuttle-board” of course…

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