Monday, 28 March 2011

STS-134 Mission – Space Shuttle Endeavour

The Space Shuttle Endeavour is planned to launch for the penultimate shuttle misison STS-134 to the International Space Station at 7:48 p.m. EDT on April 19th 2011.

The crew for space shuttle Endeavour's STS-134 mission are Commander Mark Kelly, Pilot Gregory H. Johnson and Mission Specialists Michael Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel and European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori.

During the 14-day mission Endeavour's six astronauts will deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2 to the International Space Station.  This is a particle physics detector designed to search for unusual matter by measuring cosmic rays.  Endeavour's payload also includes the Express Logistics Carrier-3, a platform that carries spare parts that will sustain station operations once the shuttles are retired later this year

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Shuttle Discovery STS-133 Mission Crew

Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
NASA Astronauts and STS-133 mission crew members, from left, Mission Specialists Nicole Stott, Michael Barratt, Pilot Eric Boe, Commander Steve Lindsey, Mission Specialists Alvin Drew, and Steve Bowen pose for a photograph in front of the space shuttle Discovery after they landed, Wednesday, March 9, 2011, at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., completing Discovery's 39th and final flight. Since 1984, Discovery flew 39 missions, spent 365 days in space, orbited Earth 5,830 times and traveled 148,221,675 miles.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Space Shuttle Discovery Lands Safely

Photo credit: NASA
The Space Shuttle Discovery Landed safely at 11.57 EST (16.57 GMT) on Wednesday 9th March 2011 on runway 15 at the Kennedy Space Center, marking the end of a historic journey after twelve days in space. The weather was good and the NASA Administrator Charles Bolden was waiting to meet the crew of the very last mission of Shuttle Discovery.

Shuttle Discovery entry speed

The orbital velocity of Discovery was Mach 25, which is over 8,500 miles a second. The crew had to turn the wings in a series of rolling and banking manoeuvres to dissipate as much of the speed as possible.

This enabled the spacecraft to enter the Earth’s atmosphere at an angle of 40 degrees that would not place excessive demands on the thermal heat shield. The temperature on the outside of Discovery was as high as 3,000 degrees, which is higher than the melting point of steel but well within the design limits.

The flight control surfaces became active once Space Shuttle Discovery reached a speed of less than Mach 3.5 which is about 2,500 miles an hour.

Breaking the sound barrier

Sonic booms announced the arrival of Space Shuttle Discovery at the Kennedy Space Center and as the spacecraft made the approach it was travelling at over 600 miles an hour and the rate of descent was over 280 feet per second.

A perfect landing

The landing speed when Space Shuttle Discovery touched down on the runway was measured by the onboard computers as 224 miles per hour. NASA confirmed the offficial mission time as 12 days, 19 hours, 3 minutes and 53 seconds.

Future plans for Space Shuttle Discovery

The Shuttle Discovery will undergo a series of tests before being ending its long service as a museum exhibit.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Space Shuttle Discovery Makes Final Return to Earth Wednesday March 9th 2011

Discovery final mission (Photo Credit NASA)
The Space shuttle Discovery is expected to return to Earth for the final time on Wednesday, March 9th at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 11:57 am EST.

An alternative landing window has also been scheduled for 1:34 pm EST depending on weather conditions in Florida.  The backup landing site is also ready at Edwards Air Force Base.

Successful final mission

Discovery will be completing a 13 day mission to the International Space Station after the original schedule was expended by one day. Shuttle

Discovery undocked from the International Space Station at 6 am CST on the 7th March 2011 after eight days, 16 hours and 46 minutes.

Station Commander Scott Kelly praised the cooperation among crew members of both spacecraft. Discovery Commander Steve Lindsey said the team effort had allowed them “to accomplish well over 100 percent of our objectives.”

Discovery was the first space shuttle to dock with the International Space Station, during the STS-96 mission in 1999.

Final landing

When Discovery lands it will have spent 365 days in space and travelled more than 148 million miles during 39 flights. After touchdown, the Discovery crew will have routine physical examinations and meet their families.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Glory Satellite Disaster

NASA have announced that it will set up a Glory Satellite Mishap Investigation Board after the  spacecraft failed to reach orbit following its successful launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Problem with separation
Scientists say that telemetry indicates that the protective fairing shell on top of the satellite's Taurus XL rocket did not separate as expected.

The launch proceeded as planned from its liftoff at 5:09 a.m. EST through the ignition of the Taurus XL's second stage. However, the fairing failure occurred during the second stage engine burn. It is likely the spacecraft fell into the South Pacific, although the exact location has yet to be identified. 

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Discovery Crew Prepare for Second Spacewalk

STS-133 and Expedition 26 crew pose for a photo in the PMM
 (Image credit: NASA TV)
At 6:17 p.m. EST on Wednesday 02 Mar 2011 the International Space Station Commander Scott Kelly became the first crew member to enter the newly-installed Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) that was successfully delivered by the Space Shuttle Discovey on its very last misison.

The Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM)

The Permanent Multipurpose Module was secured to the Earth-facing port of the International Space Station’s Unity node and will provide 2,472 cubic feet of much needed pressurized storage space and more room for scientific experiments.

Second space walk

Following the first successful space walk of the mission by Steve Bowen, Mission Specialists Steve Bowen and Alvin Drew are preparing for the second spacewalk of the mission by “camping out” in the Quest airlock. Steve Bowen replaced Tim Kopra as Mission Specialist 2 following an unfortunate bicycle injury on January  15th.  As Steve Bowen last flew on Atlantis in May 2010 as part of the STS-132 crew, his part in the STS-133 mission makes him the first astronaut ever to fly on consecutive missions.