ARIANE 5 ROCKET SUCCESSFULLY LAUNCHES DIRECTV-15 AND SKY MEXICO-1 COMMUNICATIONS SATELLITES - An Ariane 5 rocket successfully launched two communications satellites on Wednesday, May 27, 2015, at 6:16 p.m. local time (5:16 p.m. EST) from Ariane Launch Complex No. 3 (ELA 3) at the Spaceport located in Kourou, French Guiana. This marked the 223rd Arianespace mission to date and was designated Ariane Flight VA223. The booster delivered both the DirecTV-15 and Sky Mexico-1 satellites into orbit.
"I'm delighted to announce another Ariane5 success! Our on-board telemetry system confirms both payloads separated as planned," Stéphane Israël, Arianespace CEO, said shortly after the launch. More
(Source: SpaceFlight Insider - May 28)
X-37B SPACEPLANE'S ORBIT DISCOVERED - Hobbyists who keep track of the skies with remarkable precision have found the U.S. Air Force's mini space shuttle in its no-longer-secret orbit around the Earth.
The X-37B craft, making the program's fourth mission into space, was launched May 20 from Cape Canaveral atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.
The ascent entered a news blackout about five minutes after liftoff, as the Centaur upper stage began its burn to put the spaceplane into low-Earth orbit.
It wasn't until later that officials confirmed the launch had gone smoothly for the Orbital Test Vehicle mission No. 4. It is believed the Centaur deployed X-37B about 19 minutes into flight.
Observers this week spotted the craft flying overhead in a 194 by 202 mile orbit (312 X 325 km), tilted 38 degrees relative to the equator. More
(Source: SpaceFlight Now - May 28)
UNANSWERED QUESTIONS LEAVE ISS CREWS IN HOLDING PATTERN - Four weeks after a Progress space station supply ship spun out of control in a launch mishap, Russian engineers have not yet revealed what might have gone wrong, casting a cloud of uncertainty over downstream flights of unpiloted cargo ships as well as Soyuz crew ferry craft.
The Progress M-27M/59P cargo craft was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on April 28. The ascent appeared to go smoothly but at roughly the moment the supply ship reached orbit, something went wrong, damaging the cargo ship, imparting a rapid spin and boosting the craft to a higher-than-planned altitude. More
(Source: CBS News - May 28)
MAY 27 LAUNCH FOR DIRECTV-15 AND SKY MEXICO-1 - Arianespace has given the go-ahead for a dual-payload Ariane 5 launch on May 27 from French Guiana that will orbit the DirecTV-15 and Sky Mexico-1 direct-to-home relay satellites for digital television entertainment services.
The green light for Flight VA223 was given after a launch readiness review, which is held prior to each Arianespace mission - confirming the "go" status of Ariane 5, as well as the Spaceport's infrastructure and the downrange tracking station network.
With the readiness review now completed, all is set for next Tuesday's rollout of Ariane 5, followed by an evening liftoff on May 27 during a launch window that opens at 6:16 p.m. (local time in French Guiana). More
(Source: roadband TV News - May 27)
SOFTWARE GLITCH PAUSES LIGHTSAIL TEST MISSION - The Planetary Society's LightSail test mission is paused while engineers wait out a suspected software glitch that has silenced the solar sailing spacecraft. Following a successful start to the mission last Wednesday, LightSail spent more than two days sending about 140 data packets back to Earth.
But the long Memorial Day weekend here in the United States offered no respite for the LightSail team, as they scrambled to figure out why the spacecraft's automated telemetry chirps suddenly fell silent. It is now believed that a vulnerability in the software controlling the main avionics board halted spacecraft operations, leaving a reboot as the only remedy to continue the mission. More
(Source: Planetary Society - May 27)
GETTING READY FOR INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION OBSERVING SEASON - The summer season means long days and short nights, as observers in the northern hemisphere must stay up later each evening waiting for darkness to fall. It also means that the best season to spot that orbital outpost of humanity-the International Space Station-is almost upon us. Get set for multiple passes a night for observers based in mid- to high- northern latitudes, starting this week.
This phenomenon is the result of the station's steep 52 degree inclination orbit. This means that near either solstice, the ISS spends a span of several days in permanent illumination. Multiple sightings favor the southern hemisphere around the December solstice and the northern hemisphere right around the upcoming June solstice. More
(Source: Universe Today - May 27)
NASA PREPARING INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION FOR US COMMERCIAL SPACECRAFT LANDING - NASA engineers are set to prepare the International Space Station (ISS) for the future arrival of US commercial crew and cargo vehicles.
On May 27, robotics flight controllers at NASA's Johnson Space Centre in Houston will detach the large Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM), used as a supply depot on the orbital laboratory, from the Earth-facing port of the Unity module and robotically relocate it to the forward port of the Tranquility module.
This move will clear the Unity port for its conversion into the spare berthing location for US cargo spacecraft.
(Source: Economic Times - May 26)
CIA SHUTS DOWN PROGRAM USING SPY SATELLITES TO TRACK CLIMATE CHANGE - For most of the past two decades, a handful of climate change scientists have had the CIA's MEDEA (Measurement of Earth Data for Environmental Analysis) program as an ace in the hole: they could draw on classified info from spy satellites and subs to study global warming in extreme detail. However, they'll now have to make do with alternatives. The agency has shut down MEDEA, saying that its projects to study the security implications of climate change "have been completed." While the CIA says it'll still "engage external experts" on the subject, it won't be providing consistent access to its extremely accurate and rare data. More
(Source: Engadget - May 24)
SPACEX CAPSULE SPLASHES DOWN IN PACIFIC WITH SPACE STATION CARGO - A Space Exploration Technologies Dragon cargo capsule made a parachute splashdown into the Pacific Ocean on Thursday, wrapping up a five-week stay at the International Space Station.
The capsule blasted off on April 14 aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and arrived at the orbiting outpost three days later with more than 4,300 pounds (1,950 kg) of food, supplies and science experiments for the live-aboard crew.
It was repacked with 3,100 pounds of science samples and other equipment and released back into orbit at 7:04 a.m. EDT (1104 GMT) on Thursday for a return trip to Earth, a NASA TV broadcast showed.
Riding beneath a trio of parachutes, the capsule landed in the Pacific at 12:42 p.m. EDT about 155 miles (249 km) southwest of Long Beach, California, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said. More
(Source: Reuters - May 23)