Space Shuttle Atlantis is headed for the ISS after almost two years.

November 16, 2009 19:40 by scibuff

Update 2: Launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis on the STS-129 mission to the International Space Station:

Launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis

Update 1: Check out some amazing launch photos in the STS-129 Space Shuttle Atlantis gallery.

Launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis

Launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis

November 16, 2009 at 19:28:08 GMT, NASA successfully launched the Space Shuttle Atlantis on its 31st flight and the 31st shuttle mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Atlantis is scheduled to dock with the ISS on November 18, after a two-day chase in the Low Earth Orbit (LEO). After nearly two years, orbiter Atlantis is set to make a return to the ISS, following the extremely successful flagship mission (STS-125) to repair the Hubble Space Telescope in May 2009.

Solid Rocket Booster Ignition and Liftoff of Space Shuttle Atlantis - Source: NASA TV

Solid Rocket Booster Ignition and Liftoff of Space Shuttle Atlantis - Source: NASA TV

Liftoff Space Shuttle Atlantis - Source: NASA TV

Liftoff Space Shuttle Atlantis - Source: NASA TV

Six crew members of STS-129, commanded by NASA veteran Charles O. Hobaugh (STS-104, STS-118), will stay in space 10 days, 19 hours, 14 minutes and land at the Kennedy Space Center at 14:43 GMT on November 27. STS-129 Pilot, Barry E.Wilmore, will be responsible for orbiter systems operations and will fly the orbiter during undocking and the flyaround. Mission Specialists Mike Foreman (STS-123), Robert L.Satcher Jr., and Randy Bresnik will combine for a total of 31 hours and 45 minutes during 3 planed spacewalks (EVA) on flight days 4, 6, and 8. Mission Specialist Leland D. Melvin (STS-122) will operate the robotic arm during EVA-1 and EVA-3.

STS-129 Crew: Pictured on the front row are astronauts Charles O. Hobaugh (left), commander; and Barry E. Wilmore, pilot. From the left (back row) are astronauts Leland Melvin, Mike Foreman, Robert L. Satcher Jr. and Randy Bresnik, all mission specialists - Source: NASA

STS-129 Crew: Pictured on the front row are astronauts Charles O. Hobaugh (left), commander; and Barry E. Wilmore, pilot. From the left (back row) are astronauts Leland Melvin, Mike Foreman, Robert L. Satcher Jr. and Randy Bresnik, all mission specialists - Source: NASA

The STS-129 mission carries two ExPRESS Logistic Carries (ELC’s) , a new Materials on International Space Station Experiment (MISSE) carrier, an S-Band Antenna Sub-Assembly (SASA), 14 tons of important spare parts for electrical, plumbing, air conditioning, communications and robotics systems, additional equipment, supplies and scientific experiments.

S-Band Antenna and Support Assembly and Radio Frequency Group (RFG) - Source: NASA

S-Band Antenna and Support Assembly and Radio Frequency Group (RFG) - Source: NASA

At the end of the STS-129 mission, Atlantis will bring home Expedition 20 and 21 Flight engineer Nicole Stott (@Astro_Nicole), who will become the last astronaut who used the Space Shuttle for a lift to or from the station (as a member of the station’s Expedition crew).

Many of the missions Detailed Test Objectives (DTOs) are aimed to provide additional information for engineers working for the Constellation Program to developer requirements for the rocket and crew module.

Space shuttle Atlantis is seen on Launch Pad 39A of the NASA Kennedy Space Center shortly after the rotating service structure was rolled back - Source: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Space shuttle Atlantis is seen on Launch Pad 39A of the NASA Kennedy Space Center shortly after the rotating service structure was rolled back - Source: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The next mission to the ISS will be STS-130 (ISS assembly flight 20A), planned to launch on February 4, 2010 at 10:52 GMT by the Space Shuttle Endeavour.  The primary payloads will be the Tranquility module and the Cupola, a robotic control station with six windows around its sides and another in the center that provides a 360-degree view around the station

The next, and last scheduled, flight of the Space Shuttle Atlantis will be the STS-132 (ISS assembly flight ULF4) scheduled for launch on May 14, 2010 at 19:28 GMT. The primary payload is scheduled to be the Russian Rassvet Mini-Research Module along with an Integrated Cargo Carrier-Vertical Light Deployable (ICC-VLD) containing a radiator, airlock and a spare elbow for the European Robotic Arm for the Russian Multi-purpose Laboratory Module.

STS-128 launch ascent flight control team video replay

August 30, 2009 13:01 by scibuff

STS-128 launch ascent flight control team video replay:

STS-128 launch from T-9 minutes to the Main Engine Cut-off (MECO):

Detailed launch time line between T-31s and MECO is available in my launch post.

For Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-128 17A) launch photos visit my twitter feed gallery

Information about out about visible ISS and shuttle passes at your location is available from heavens-above.

The ground track of ISS with its current position - The dashed part of the orbit path shows where the satellite is in the earths shadow, and the full part is where it is sunlit - Source: Heavens-Above.com

The ground track of ISS with its current position - The dashed part of the orbit path shows where the satellite is in the earth's shadow, and the full part is where it is sunlit - Source: Heavens-Above.com

The ground track of Space Shuttle Discovery with its current position - The dashed part of the orbit path shows where the orbiter is in the earths shadow, and the full part is where it is sunlit - Source: Heavens-Above.com

The ground track of Space Shuttle Discovery with its current position - The dashed part of the orbit path shows where the orbiter is in the earth's shadow, and the full part is where it is sunlit - Source: Heavens-Above.com

Endeavour is ready for another ride

June 12, 2009 13:24 by scibuff

If everything goes according to plan, the Space Shuttle Endeavour will take off from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida tomorrow at 11:17:15 UTC on its 23rd mission – the 10th to the International Space Station (ISS). Seven crew members of STS-127 commanded by NASA veteran Mark Polansky (STS-98, STS-116) will stay in space for 15 Days 16 Hours and 59 Minutes and land at the KSC at 16:16 UTC on June 29. Mission specialists Dave Wolf, Chris Cassidy, Tom Mashburn and Tim Kopra will combine for 31 hours and 45 minutes during 5 planed spacewalks (EVA).

The crew of STS-127 - Source: NASA

The crew of STS-127 - Source: NASA

Julie Payette (STS-96) will return to the ISS after 10 years as a mission specialist operating the Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (SRMS) aka Canadarm (Canadarm 1) and the Mobile Servicing System (MSS), better known by its primary component Canadarm2. In a meeting of generations, Julie Payette and Robert Thirsk (55) of Expedition 20, a member of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) committee which selected her from a pool of 5,330 applicants, will be the first two Canadian astronaut in space at the same time.

Patch commemorating Julie Payette's participation in STS-127 to the ISS. The patch features an image of the Earth taken from space with a robotic arm that spells out the astronaut's name in electronic circuitry - Source: NASASpaceFlight.com

Patch commemorating Julie Payette's participation in STS-127 to the ISS. The patch features an image of the Earth taken from space with a robotic arm that spells out the astronaut's name in electronic circuitry - Source: NASASpaceFlight.com

STS-127 will be the first spaceflight for the shuttle pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialists Christopher Cassidy, Tom Marshburn and Tim Kopra. Mission specialist Dave Wolf has never flown the shuttle but has spent 128 says aboard the Russian space station MIR. Koichi Wakata (STS-119) of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will return to Earth and Tim Kopra will join the crew of Expedition 20 as a flight engineer where he will remain until August when Nicole Stott of STS-128 will take his place.

Pressurized Module of the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) "Kibo" seen at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Nagoya, Japan - Source: NASDA

Pressurized Module of the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) "Kibo" seen at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Nagoya, Japan - Source: NASDA

The mission will deliver to the station 2 modules of the Japanese Kibo (means “hope”) complex where science experiments will be exposed to the extreme environment of space. The rest of the payload consists of the ICC-VLD to provide heater power and electrical connections for the Orbital Replacement Units (ORU’s), the Atmosphere Neutral Density Experiment’s (ANDE) two microsatellites to gather data on the density and the composition of Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) atmosphere and finally, the Dual RF Astrodynamic GPS Orbital Navigator Satellite (DRAGONSat) to collect GPS data on autonomous spacecraft rendezvous and docking capabilities. The Shuttle carries also a resupply of water, food and oxygen for the station.

One of the STS-127 Detailed Test Objectives (DTO’s) is to perform a series of tests to investigate the DragonEye laser navigation sensor, SpaceX’s Dragon vehicles will use on approach to the ISS. NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office (C3PO) – yes, it really is C3PO – is financing the experiment for SpaceX, a space transportation startup company, in NASA’s effort to stimulate a commercial market for spaceflight services. The SpaceX Dragon should be capable of carrying seven people or a smaller crew with cargo to the ISS.

Today, at 18:52 UTC, the countdown will resume at T-11 after a built-in 13 hours and 52 minutes hold. At 01:52 UTC on Saturday, the external fuel tank will be loaded with 2.2  million liters of liquid hydrogen fuel and liquid oxygen oxidizer. At 07:27 UTC the crew will depart KSC Operations and Checkout Building and board the Astrovan to take them to the launch pad 39A a few minutes away. During the last built-in hold at T-9 minutes, the Launch Director Bryan Lunney, Mission Management Team and NASA Test Director Steve Payne will conduct the final “go/no go” polls for the launch.

Mission’s commander Mark Polansky will be the sending updates to his Twitter account via shuttle-NASA emails. 24/7 coverage of the STS-127 mission will be available on NASA TV. You can also follow the Space Shuttle Endeavour and the ISS in real time through NASA’s real time tracking. Information about out about visible ISS passes at your location is available from heavens-above.

ISS Ground track - Source: Heavens-Above.com

ISS Ground track - Source: Heavens-Above.com

The next mission to the ISS will be STS-128, the 33rd construction flight, planned to launch on August 7 at 13:07 UTC. Shuttle Discovery will carry a Lightweight Multi-Purpose Experiment Support Structure Carrier and the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (Leonardo) whose main purpose is to assist with establishing a six-man crew capacity by providing extra supplies and equipment to the station.

Endeavour next flight is scheduled for February 4, 2010. The STS-130 mission (assembly flight 20A) will deliver the Tranquility Node 3 and the Cupola Module to the station. The shuttle’s last visit to space is planned for July 29, 2010. During STS-133 (assembly flight ULF5) the ISS will be extended with the EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 4 (ELC4) and Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM).

Discovery launched successfully

March 16, 2009 00:37 by scibuff

March 15, 2009 at 23:43:44 UT – On the third attempt, NASA successfully launched the space shuttle Discovery on its 36th ride into space. The STS-119 mission will last 13 days and include 3 spacewalks (EVA’s). The shuttle will deliver to the International Space Station (ISS) the final set of solar arrays extending its electricity generation to support an extended crew of six. 24/7 coverage of the STS-119 is available on NASA TV. Follow Discovery and ISS in real time here. Also, a friend of mine pointed me to these wonderful pictures of her friends who took a sky dive during the shuttle launch.

STS-119 T-0 Ignition - Source: NASA TV

STS-119 T-0 Ignition - Source: NASA TV

STS-119 T+5 Ignition - Source: NASA TV

STS-119 T+5 Ignition - Source: NASA TV

STS-119 Discovery Lift Off - Source: NASA TV

STS-119 Discovery Lift Off - Source: NASA TV

STS-119 Main Engine Cut Off (MECO) - Source: NASA TV

STS-119 Main Engine Cut Off (MECO) - Source: NASA TV

STS-119 External Tank Jettisoned - Source: NASA TV

STS-119 External Tank Jettisoned - Source: NASA TV

Every mission carries out Detailed Test Objectives (DTO’s). STS-119 has 6 planned DTO’s. One will involve measuring pressure vibration during solid rocket boosts. Three are related to the International Space Station (such as measuring the effects of orbiter docking on the structure), the 5th will focus on research how could computer displays be made more readable during the launch, and the 6th is research on Boundary Layer Transitions.

Boundary Layer Transition is a process occurring during the shuttle re-entry as the smooth air flow along the shuttle’s heat shield becomes turbulent. The experiment will measure the heat difference between the air flow using sensors (thermometers) installed in particular tiles on the shield. A protuberance tile with a quarter inch (0.635cm) “speed bump” has been installed on Discovery’s heat shield. The tile will intentionally disrupt the smooth air flow. Several other tiles have been placed strategically on the shield to monitor the air flow before and after it hits the protuberance. The re-entry will also be captured by an infrared camera aboard US-Navy’s NP-3D Orion aircraft flying below the shuttle. This experiment will be continued during future missions with a varied height of the bump on the protuberance tile.

Shuttle re-entry - Source: NASA

Shuttle re-entry - Source: NASA

Below is a short summary of today events with commentary for frame shots from NASA TV:

At 16:30 UT the external tank’s liquid hydrogen section has reached the point where a leak was detected on Wednesday. No leak was apparent today. Despite all efforts and tests carried out, NASA could not be 100% sure that the issue was fixed until the tank was refilled.

Earlier in the day a minor issue was discovered with the pressure valve that feeds helium into the “gap” area between the external tank and shuttle. This area, where liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen lines run from the tank to the shuttle, is purged with helium to prevent the formation of ice and the accumulation of gaseous hydrogen and oxygen. Roughly at 11:45 UT, the “red team” of technicians reported that the issue with helium pressure was successfully resolved.

Launch Pad 39A from Kennedy Space Center's - Source: NASA/NASA TV

Launch Pad 39A from Kennedy Space Center's - Source: NASA/NASA TV

A few minutes after 20:00 UT the STS-119 astronauts departed the Kennedy Space Center’s Operations and Checkout Building. They boarded the Astrovan which took them to the launch pad 39A a few minutes away.

STS 119 crew is leaving the crew quarter - Source: NASA/Kim Shiflett

STS 119 crew is leaving the crew quarter - Source: NASA/Kim Shiflett

STS-119 In front of the Astrovan - Source: NASA/Kim Shiflett

STS-119 In front of the Astrovan - Source: NASA/Kim Shiflett

At this point, astronaut are already wearing their pressure suites. Since the suites are closed to outside environment astronauts own body heat can warm up the insides pretty fast. The Astrovan is equipped with AC and other cooling systems to provide some comfort.

Astrovan stops at the Launch Control Center - Source: NASA/NASA TV

Astrovan stops at the Launch Control Center - Source: NASA/NASA TV

The Astrovan makes a stop at the Launch Control Center to let out flight managers accompanying the crew on its way to the launch pad. Also chief astronaut Steve Lindsey leaves  to conduct a weather recon mission for the launch as well as for emergency situations in which the shuttle would have to return.

Astrovan on its way to the launch pad - Source: NASA/NASA TV

Astrovan on its way to the launch pad - Source: NASA/NASA TV

In the image above, the Astrovan and its escort are just a few minutes away from the launch pad 39A. The wide road strips on the left are used by the Crawler Transporter to bring the shuttle to the pad.

STS 119 Pilot Dominic Antonelli being strapped into parachute harness - Source: NASA/NASA TV

STS 119 Pilot Dominic Antonelli being strapped into parachute harness - Source: NASA/NASA TV

The mission’s pilot Pilot Dominic Antonelli is being strapped into parachute harness in the White Room. The actual parachute is already in the seat aboard the shuttle. All astronaut are wearing a parachute in case the orbiter cannot reach a stable orbit and they need to abandon the shuttle.

At 21:48 UT the Closeout Crew got a “go” to close Discovery’s side hatch. Meanwhile the astronauts finished air-ground voice-checks and the shuttle’s weather officer Kathy Winters updated the chances of good weather from 80% to 100% for tonight’s launch (which means that there is no chance of weather prohibiting launch).

The Closeout Crew seals the Discovery's side hatch - Source: NASA/NASA TV

The Closeout Crew seals the Discovery's side hatch - Source: NASA/NASA TV

At 22:28 UT the countdown entered a 10 minute planned hold at T-20 minute mark. Discovery’s hatch is closed and latched and cabin leak checks are under way. Launch teams are not working on any issues that would interfere with launch.

At 22:49 UT the countdown entered a 45-minute planned hold at the T-9 minute mark, during which the Mission Management Team, and Launch Control team conducted polls to make final “go” – “no go” decisions for launch.

At 23:32:30 UT Discovery was given an official “go” for the launch.

At 23:34:44 UT the countdown resumed at the T-9 minute mark.

At 23:38:44 UT the Auxiliary Power Units started at the T-5 minute mark.

At 23:43:44 UT the Discovery space shuttle launched on the STS-119 mission.

At 23:52:07 UT The Main Engine Cut Off (MECO). The MECO sequence began about 10 seconds before cutoff. About three seconds later, the Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) throttled back by 10%/second until they reach 65% rated thrust, called the Minimum P. Minimum power was maintained for seven seconds, then the SSMEs shuts down.

The shuttle is now on a two day long chase to catch the ISS, which it will dock on Tuesday. Meanwhile, teams of experts will be looking at launch imagery for any debris that might have come off and hit the orbiter during launch. The next space shuttle lunch will be the STS-125 mission of Space Shuttle Atlantis to the Hubble Space Telescope (HST)  with launch scheduled on May 12, 2009.

Update #1: At 00:50 UT During the post-launch news conference NASA managers said that there were no obvious debris strikes on Discovery. The crew debris report will follow in hours after the launch. The designated team will be meticulously analysing the launch imagery and videos in the days to come.

Update #2: NASA Associate Administrator for Space Operations Bill Gerstenmaier expressed his thanks to the teams from the NASA centers that resolved the technical issues which delayed the launch. Mission Management Chairman Mike Moses remarked how smooth the launch countdown went and gave special thanks to the reusable solid rocket motor team celebrating their 100th launch since the Challenger redesign. NASA Launch Director Mike Leinbach said that this was the most visually beautiful launch he’s ever seen.