Marc Boucher: December 2010 Archives

India's Launch of GSAT-5P Telecommunications Satellite Fails, SpaceRef

"ISRO, the Indian Space Research Organization, saw its GSLV Mark 1 rocket begin to disintegrate about a minute after launch today. It was carrying the GSAT-5P telecommunications satellite. The launch was at 5:34 a.m. EST (10:34 GMT).

The launch started off well but just a minute after launch the rocket appeared to begin veer off course before it disintegrated. The problem appears to have been with the first stage. Of the three launches India has attempted this year, two have failed."

SpaceX Dragon Mission Summary

Mission Summary: SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft Successfully Returns from Orbit, SpaceX

"On December 8, SpaceX became the first commercial company in history to re-enter a spacecraft from Earth orbit. SpaceX launched its Dragon spacecraft into orbit atop a Falcon 9 rocket at 10:43 AM EST from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The Dragon spacecraft orbited the Earth at speeds greater than 7,600 meters per second (17,000 miles per hour), reentered the Earth's atmosphere, and landed just after 2:00 PM EST less than one mile from the center of the targeted landing zone in the Pacific Ocean."

Marc's note: This new update from SpaceX includes a few new pictures.

Aerojet to Expand in Huntsville, Aerojet

"Aerojet, a GenCorp company, announced today that over the next few months it will expand its presence in the Huntsville community by hiring 25 local engineers. This growth will allow Aerojet to provide collaborative engineering expertise, program management support and business development outreach to our government and prime customers located in the Huntsville area and across the Southeastern United States."

A Russian Soyuz rocket lifted off at 2:09 p.m. EST with the Expedition 26 crew onboard headed to the International Space Station. The crew includes Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev, American astronaut Catherine Coleman and from the European Space Agency Italian Paolo Nespoli.


Roll Back for Discovery

Space Shuttle Discovery to Roll back to the Vehicle Assembly Building, NASA

"Shuttle managers also decided late Monday afternoon that following the tanking test they plan to roll Discovery back into Kennedy's Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to allow its external tank to undergo additional image scans. Rollback is expected to occur 4-5 days after the tanking test. Once in the VAB, technicians would collect X-ray data on stringers on the back side of the external tank midsection, called the intertank, which is not accessible at the launch pad. Additionally, the test instrumentation and foam insulation on those areas of the intertank would be removed and the area would be prepared again for launch. In parallel, the back side stringer inspections would take."

Orbital Submits Proposal for NASA's Commercial Crew Development Program

"Orbital Sciences Corporation today announced that it has submitted a proposal to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in response to the Commercial Crew Development-2 contract solicitation. The company also provided several top-level details of its proposal for providing safe and affordable transportation services to and from the International Space Station (ISS) and for commercial activities in Earth orbit."

Orbital Unveils Supplier Team for CCDev 2 Bid, Space News

"According to industry sources, Orbital Sciences plans to team with Virgin Galactic of New Mexico to market commercial rides on the planned spacecraft and conduct drop tests of the orbital space vehicle using Virgin's WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft. Virgin Galactic, however, is not mentioned in Orbital's Dec. 14 press release, which lists only the "major suppliers" that will "contribute major elements of the system."

Technicians to Place 89 Sensors on Tank for Test, NASA

"Technicians will work this weekend to prepare space shuttle Discovery's external tank for a tanking test planned for no earlier than Wednesday. Because the test hopes to glean a great deal of information, technicians will place 89 instruments including strain gauges to the tank to precisely record movement and temperatures from the tank's ribbed intertank area as it chills and warms again during the fuel loading and emptying process. The tank holds super-cold liquid oxygen at minus-297 degrees and liquid hydrogen at minus-423 degrees. The cryogenic propellants cause the tank to shrink by about half an inch."

Astronaut Alan Poindexter Leaves NASA, NASA

"A veteran of two spaceflights, Poindexter logged more than 669 hours in space. In 2008, he was the pilot on the STS-122 space shuttle mission to deliver and install the European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory to the International Space Station. In 2010, he was the commander for STS-131, a resupply mission to the station that delivered more than 13,000 pounds of hardware and equipment."

NASA-Funded Astrobiology Research Discovers Earth Life Built With Arsenic, NASA

"NASA-funded astrobiology research has changed the fundamental knowledge about what comprises all known life on Earth. Researchers conducting tests in the harsh environment of Mono Lake in California have discovered the first known microorganism on Earth able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic. The microorganism substitutes arsenic for phosphorus in its cell components."

Second Genesis on Earth?, Washington Post

"News of the discovery caused a scientific commotion, including calls to NASA from the White House and Congress asking whether a second line of earthly life has been found."


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