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)
NASA LAUNCHES METIS RESEARCH SATELLITE AS PART OF CUBESAT INITIATIVE - With help from Nasa, a small research satellite to test technology for in-space solar propulsion has been launched into space.
As part of Nasa's CubeSat Launch Initiative, the research satellite was sent aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on Wednesday.
Called the Materials Exposure and Technology Innovation in Space (METIS), the probe will expose about 100 different materials samples to the space environment for more than 200 days.
The beauty of CubeSats is their versatility. More
(Source: NDTV - May 22)
INDIA TO LAUNCH COMMUNICATIONS SATELLITE FOR STRATEGIC APPLICATIONS SOON - India will launch an advanced communications satellite (GSAT-6) in July or August for strategic applications, its space agency chief said on Wednesday.
"We will launch GSAT-6 for strategic applications in July-end or August beginning, with a special antenna that will have a capability to use a handheld device to communicate from anywhere," Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar told reporters in Bengaluru.
Isro will use a heavy rocket - geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLVA Mark II) to launch the 2-tonne GSAT-6 with 10 special transponders from its spaceport at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. More
(Source: NDTV - May 22)
WATCH THE SPACEX DRAGON LEAVE THE SPACE STATION - Nothing, absolutely nothing, is easy in space, and that includes leaving it, as the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) will be reminded on Thursday morning, May 21, when the Dragon cargo vessel undocks and heads home-a maneuver TIME will live-stream via NASA beginning at 6:45 a.m. ET. Dragon, the 24-ft. (7.3 m) cargo vehicle built by SpaceX, arrived at the ISS on April 17 carrying 5,200 lbs (2,360 kg) of cargo. It is returning after a five-week stay, bringing home 3,100 (1,400 kg) different lbs. of stuff-some of it trash, but a lot of it scientific samples that are part of the extensive biomedical studies being conducted on astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Misha Kornienko as they spend a marathon year in space. More
(Source: TIME - May 22)
'THE SCIENCE GUY' TALKS ABOUT HIS SPACE SAIL - In 1976, renowned astrophysicist Carl Sagan brought a weird, reflective prop with him to the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. The toy was a mockup of a solar sail-a revolutionary idea for space travel propulsion that eschews fuel. "[It] travels on the radiation and particles that come out of the Sun-the wind from the Sun," Sagan explained to Carson, comparing the technology to how an ordinary sail boat moves through the ocean.
Fast forward to today, and Sagan's vision for fuel-less, solar-powered space propulsion is turning into a reality. The Planetary Society, headed by Bill Nye "The Science Guy," is launching its very own version of the solar sail concept, the LightSail, atop an Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral. More
(Source: Popular Science - May 21)