Endeavour landed in Florida

July 31, 2009 15:00 by scibuff

Today at 14:48:08 UTC, the Space Shuttle Endeavour landed on Runway 15 of the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral in Florida, ending a 16-day mission to the ISS. At 13:27 UTC the entry flight director Bryan Lunney in Mission Control gave final approval for Endeavour de-orbit burn with the Time of Ignition (TIG) at 13:41:10 UTC. The burn lasted 2 minutes and 51 seconds and slowed the orbiter down by about 332 km/h. The orbiter encountered the upper layers of the Earth’s atmosphere at around 14:16 UTC marking the beginning of the entry interface (EI).

Space Shuttle Endeavour on the approach to landing on runway 15 at the Kennedy Space Center - Credit: NASA TV

Space Shuttle Endeavour on the approach to landing on runway 15 at the Kennedy Space Center - Photo Credit: NASA TV


Space Shuttle Endeavour rear gear touchdown at 14:48:08 UTC resulting in Mission Elapsed Time (MET) of 15 days, 16 hours, 44 minutes and 58 seconds - Credit: NASA TV

Space Shuttle Endeavour rear gear touchdown at 14:48:08 UTC resulting in Mission Elapsed Time (MET) of 15 days, 16 hours, 44 minutes and 58 seconds - Credit: NASA TV


Space Shuttle Endeavour nose gear touchdown at 14:48:21 UTC resulting in Mission Elapsed Time (MET) of 15 days, 16 hours, 45 minutes and 11 seconds - Credit: NASA TV

Space Shuttle Endeavour nose gear touchdown at 14:48:21 UTC resulting in Mission Elapsed Time (MET) of 15 days, 16 hours, 45 minutes and 11 seconds - Credit: NASA TV

The STS-127 flight delivered to the station the final 2 modules of the Japanese Kibo complex finishing the 10-year long effort for permanent Japanese presence in space. Mission specialists Dave Wolf, Chris Cassidy, Tom Mashburn and Tim Kopra combined for almost 32 hours in space during the planned 5 spacewalks (EVA). Koichi Wakata (STS-119) of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency returned to Earth after Tim Kopra joined the crew of Expedition 20 as a flight engineer. Tim will remain on the station until Nicole Stott of STS-128 will take his place.

Space Shuttle Endeavour wheel stop at 14:49:30 UTC resulting in Mission Elapsed Time (MET) of 15 days, 16 hours, 46 minutes and 03 seconds - Credit: NASA TV

Space Shuttle Endeavour wheel stop at 14:49:30 UTC resulting in Mission Elapsed Time (MET) of 15 days, 16 hours, 46 minutes and 03 seconds - Credit: NASA TV

With Endeavour and its crew safely home, the stage is set for the launch of STS-128, targeted for August 25 at 05:36 UTC (which could very well be the last night launch of a space shuttle). Discovery will use a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module to carry experiment and storage racks to the International Space Station. There are 7 more shuttle flights (including STS-128) remaining in the shuttle program. The STS-134 mission of the Space Shuttle Discovery (launch targeted for September 16, 2010) will bring an end to an important era of human space flight.

Catch me if you can

July 16, 2009 16:33 by scibuff

After a successful launch from the KSC at 22:03:10 UTC on July 15, the  Space Shuttle Endeavour is now playing a catch-up with the International Space Station (ISS) where it is planned to dock on Friday at around 18:00 UTC.

Today the crew was awaken at 12:03 UTC to the sounds of “These Are Days” by the 10,000 Maniacs played especially for astronaut Tim Kopra. Shortly afterward, the crew commenced routine in-orbit procedures with the unberthing of the Orbiter Boom Sensor System (OBSS) via the Remote Manipulator System (RMS), to examine Endeavour’s wing and nose cap, before heading to the Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) Pods to check for any tile damage.

At 16:58 UTC, the crew is scheduled to perform Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) Checkout to ensure that their system providing environmental protection, life support, and communications during extra-vehicular activity (EVA) will function properly. Next, the STS-127 astronauts will conduct the Rendezvous Tool Checkout, examine the Centerline Camera Installation and the Orbiter Docking System (ODS) Ring Extension. Finally, the crew is scheduled to go to sleep at 03:03 UTC and wake up at 11:03 UTC on Friday to being preparations for the docking with the ISS.

The ground track of Space Shuttle Endeavour - STS127 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 Endeavour - STS127 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 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

Follow the mission via commander Mark Polansky twitter updates. Coverage of the STS-127 mission is available on NASA TV [updated NASA TV schedule is available here]. Space Shuttle Endeavour and the ISS real time position data is @ NASA’s real time tracking. Information about out about visible ISS passes at your location is available from heavens-above.

Endeavour finally launched

July 15, 2009 23:06 by scibuff

Update 4: I’ve replaced the original NASA TV footage below with the official STS-127 launch HD footage.
Update 3: STS-127 launch footage from NASA TV

Update 2: Check out the amazing launch photos from Flying Jenny.

Update 1: 22:11:40 UT – Main Engine Cut-off (MECO)

July 15, 2009 at 22:03:10 UT, after two launch scrubs on June 13 and June 17 due to gaseous hydrogen leak on a vent line near the Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate, the saturday’s 24-hour delay to allow technical teams additional time to evaluate lightning strikes. and the  July 12 and July 13 scrubs due to unacceptable weather forecast for a possible Return To Launch Site (RTLS) abort, NASA successfully launched the Space Shuttle Endeavour on its 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 15 days 16 hours and 42 minutes and land at the Kennedy Space Center at 14:45 UTC on July 31. Mission specialists Dave Wolf, Chris Cassidy, Tom Mashburn and Tim Kopra will combine for 31 hours and 45 minutes during 5 planed spacewalks (EVA). Endeavour will dock to the forward docking port at the end of the station’s Harmony module in two days.

Space shuttle Endeavour climbs toward orbit after its liftoff at 22:03 UTC. Photo credit: NASA TV

Space shuttle Endeavour climbs toward orbit after its liftoff at 22:03 UTC. Photo credit: NASA TV

Space Shuttle Endeavour launch from Kennedy Space Center - Photo Credit: Flying Jenny

Space Shuttle Endeavour launch from Kennedy Space Center - Photo Credit: Flying Jenny

Space Shuttle Endeavour launch from KSC - Photo Credit: Flying Jenny

Space Shuttle Endeavour launch from KSC - Photo Credit: Flying Jenny

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.

The crew of STS-127 - Source: NASA

The crew of STS-127 - Source: NASA

STS-127 will be the first spaceflight for the shuttle pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialists Christopher Cassidy (who will, based on where he sits on the shuttle, become the 500th person in history to fly into space) , 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 Nicole Stott of STS-128 will take his place.

One of a series of digital still images documenting the Japanese Experiment Module, or JEM, also called Kibo, in its new home on the International Space Station, this view depicts Kibo's exterior, backdropped by solar array panels for the orbital outpost and one of its trusses - Image Credit: NASA

One of a series of digital still images documenting the Japanese Experiment Module, or JEM, also called Kibo, in its new home on the International Space Station, this view depicts Kibo's exterior, backdropped by solar array panels for the orbital outpost and one of its trusses - Image Credit: NASA

The STS-127 mission will deliver to the station the final 2 modules of the Japanese Kibo (means “hope”) complex where science experiments will be exposed to the extreme environment of space. The first module, the Exposed Facility (EF) is a platform to perform experiments in the vacuum of space and will be attached to the Japanese pressurized module. The other module, the Exposed Section (ES) serves as a carrier for three large payloads which will be mounted to the EF during the mission.

The rest of the payload consists of:

  • the Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC-VLD) to provide heater power and electrical connections for the Orbital Replacement Units (ORU’s) and to deliver 9 large spare parts for the exterior of the space station
The Integrated Cargo Carrier configuration flown on STS-127 - Source: NASA

The Integrated Cargo Carrier configuration flown on STS-127 - Source: NASA

  • the Atmosphere Neutral Density Experiment’s (ANDE) two microsatellites to gather data on the density the composition of Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) atmosphere
  • the Dual RF Astrodynamic GPS Orbital Navigator Satellite (DRAGONSat) to collect GPS data on autonomous spacecraft rendezvous and docking capabilities, and finally
  • the Shuttle carries also a resupply of water, food and oxygen for the station

One of the STS-127 Detailed Test Objectives (DTO’s) (which are aimed at testing, evaluating or documenting systems or hardware or proposed improvements to hardware, systems and operations) 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. SpaceX also will perform a ground-based space qualification program to ensure the sensor can withstand the rigors of launch and operation in a space environment.

The STS-127 crew eagerly walk out of the Operations and Checkout Building to board the Astrovan - Photo Credit: NASA

The STS-127 crew eagerly walk out of the Operations and Checkout Building to board the Astrovan - Photo Credit: NASA

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.

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 next mission to the ISS will be STS-128, the 33rd construction flight, planned to launch on August 7 at 13:07 UTC (but now very likely to be pushed back because of the STS-127 launch delays). 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).

Endeavour scrubs summary

July 14, 2009 20:23 by scibuff

Update 4: The latest weather forecast predicts a 5% chance of weather prohibiting tanking and 40% probability of weather prohibiting launch, while showers and thunderstorms within 20 Nautical Miles (~37km) of the Shuttle Landing Facility remain the primary concerns.

Update 3: The Mission Management Team is scheduled to meet at 12:00 UTC to give a “go” for the fueling of Endeavour and the tanking should commence at 12:30 at slow phase with filling the External Tank (ET) with liquid hydrogen (at 20K).

Update 2: Currently teams are working on resolving a fuel cell issue but the management team is not sure about the impact on the scheduled launch.

Update 1: Thursday will be the last possible launch attempt until July 26 due to the Progress 34P mission to the ISS.

The mission’s four scrubs place STS-127 only two scrubs behind the “record” of six called-off launch attempts held by STS-73 and STS 61-C. The first two scrubs (June 13 and June 17) were due to gaseous hydrogen leak on a vent line near the Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate (GUCP). Because of a planned launch of the LRO/LCROSS mission on June 18, there was no time to attempt another launch of Endeavour before the beta angle cutout started on June 20. After that, it was not possible to launch the shuttle before the cutout ended on July 10.

Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate attached to the venting system used to carry excess hydrogen safely away from the launch pad - Photo Credit: NASA TV

Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate attached to the venting system used to carry excess hydrogen safely away from the launch pad - Photo Credit: NASA TV

Coincidently, the beta angle cutout provided NASA technicians with enough time to carefully examine the GUCP problem. During a meticulous investigation and data analysis engineers determined that the most likely cause of the leak was a misalignment in the External Tank Carrier Assembly. Technicians replaced the old seal with a two-piece seal enabling it to counter any movement of the external tank carrier assembly as the tank was being fueled. On July 1, NASA conducted a live tanking test to ensure repairs to the external tank (ET) were successful. (Source: NASA)

NASA technicians working on the GUCP issue - Photo Source: NASA

NASA technicians working on the GUCP issue - Photo Source: NASA

On July 11, NASA first postponed the ET tanking and consequently decided to delay the launch by 24 hours to give ground team extra time to examine ground equipment and systems aboard Endeavour for possible damage from lightning strikes. Although none of the 11 lightning strikes recorded within 0.5km of the launch pad were direct hits to either the orbiter, the external tank or the solid rocket boosters (SRB’s), the Ground Lightning Monitoring System (GLMS) declared a “lightning event” at 06:00 UTC and additional checks were needed to reach 100% confidence that orbiter electronic boxes and the solid rocket booster circuitry were functioning within the norms.

Friday's storm rolling in over Kennedy Space Center - Photo Credit: NASA

Friday's storm rolling in over Kennedy Space Center - Photo Credit: NASA

On Sunday, July 12, NASA’s launch director (LD) Pete Nickolenko coordinating with the Mission Management Team (MMT) called off the launch during the final Go/No-Go station polls, as the Mission Control Center in Houston (MCC-H) declared a No-Go due to unacceptable weather forecast at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) for a possible Return To Launch Site abort. For the launch to proceed, weather conditions must be acceptable not only at the launch pad and one of the Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL) sites, but also within 20 Nautical Miles (roughly 37km) of the SLF for about 20 minutes after liftoff.

Another lunch attempt was scrubbed on July 13, shortly after the MCC-H declared a No-Go because of the weather forecast at SLF for a possible RTLS, and the Launch Weather Officer Kathy Winters informed LD and MMT about Phase 1 lightning alert, the violation of restrictions on anvil clouds and the field mill violations. After a short discussion with the launch teams, Pete Nickolenko made a decision for a 48-hour turn-around, setting the next launch attempt for Wednesday at 22:03:10 UTC.

Another milestone for private spaceflight – SpaceX successfully launched Falcon 1 into Orbit

July 14, 2009 12:52 by scibuff

Early morning on Tuesday, July 14  at 03:35 UTC SpaceX started a new and exciting chapter in spaceflight history by successfully launching Falcon 1, the first ever privately developed rocket, into a stable Earth’s orbit from the SpaceX’s launch pad on Omelek Island, at Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Falcon 1 carries Malaysia’s satellite RazakSAT with a high-resolution camera on board. SpaceX has set another milestone after the success story of the SpaceShipOne which completed the first ever privately funded (sub-orbital) human spaceflight on June 21, 2004.

Founded in 2002, the SpaceX team has now over 700 members who work on developing a family of launch vehicles and spacecrafts intended to increase the reliability and reduce the cost of both manned and unmanned space transportation. With the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 vehicles, SpaceX offers highly reliable/cost-efficient launch capabilities for spacecraft insertion into any orbital altitude and inclination.

Starting in 2010, SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft will provide Earth–to-LEO transport of pressurized and unpressurized cargo, including resupply to the space station. One of the Detailed Test Objectives (DTO) of the STS-127 mission, delayed for the fifth time due to weather, is the investigation of “DragonEye” – a pulsed laser navigation senser that SpaceX’s Dragon vehilce will use to approach the ISS.

Space Shuttle Endeavour delayed for fifth time

July 13, 2009 22:54 by scibuff

Update 4: 00:34 UTC A field mill is a device situated near pad that measures the electrical charge around the pad and helps to predict potential lightning strikes.

Update 3: 00:30 UTC Crew rest did not largely factor into the decision for with a 48-hour turn around and launch of Wednesday.

Update 2: 00:00 UTC weather for Wednesday has 40% chance of prohibiting the launch. Thursday is the last option to launch STS127 until July 26.

Update 1: At 22:50 UTC NASA’s launch director Pete Nickolenko briefed the teams that the next launch attempt will be on Wednesday, July 15 with the launch window opening at 21:58 UTC. NASA will target the launch itself for 22:03:10 UTC.

July 13, 2009 at 22:39 UTC, NASA’s launch director (LD) Pete Nickolenko coordinating with the Mission Management Team (MMT) called off today’s launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavor on the STS-127 mission due violations in three weather criteria including lightning, restrictions on anvil clouds and the field mill violation, ending yet another “full dress launch rehearsal” for the crew of STS-127.

The T-9 min in-built starts - Photo Credit: NASA TV/Spacevidcast

The T-9 min in-built starts - Photo Credit: NASA TV/Spacevidcast

The launch was scrubbed against during the final T-9 minute hold, while the LD and MMT were polling stations for the  Go/No-Go for launch. In addition to the launch site weather violations, the Mission Control in Houston also called a No-Go due to unacceptable weather forecast for a possible Return To Launch Site (RTLS) abort.

Thunderstorms near the launch pad 39-A area - Photo Credit: NASA TV/Spacevidcast

Thunderstorms in the launch pad 39-A area - Photo Credit: NASA TV/Spacevidcast