An anonymous reader writes "With updated lyrics, commander of expedition 35 on the International Space Station, Chris Hadfield, sings Space Oddity on board the ISS. He's not Bowie, but he's pretty good."
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astroengine writes "During an unscheduled spacewalk on the space station's exterior on Saturday morning, NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn and Chris Cassidy carried out the mother of all plumbing jobs: They detached a suspect ammonia pump, replaced it with a spare and watched for any further ammonia leakage. The emergency spacewalk was carried out in response to a troubling ammonia coolant leak that was discovered on Thursday. The coolant is used to maintain the temperature of the vast solar arrays the space station uses to generate electricity for its systems. 'It will take some diagnostics, still, over the course of the next several days by the thermal systems specialists to fully determine that we have solved the problem of the ammonia leak," said NASA commentator Rob Navias during the live NASA TV spacewalk broadcast. 'But so far, so "good."'"
astroengine writes "After the discovery of an ammonia coolant leak supplying one of the solar arrays on Thursday (video), International Space Station managers have decided to plan for an unscheduled spacewalk on Saturday to repair the problem. The final decision about whether to go ahead with the extravehicular activity will be made late on Friday. 'Good Morning, Earth! Big change in plans, spacewalk tomorrow, Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn are getting suits and airlock ready. Cool!', tweeted the Space Station's Expedition 35 Commander, Chris Hadfield, on hearing the news an emergency EVA may be required of his crew. 'The whole team is ticking like clockwork, readying for tomorrow. I am so proud to be Commander of this crew. Such great, capable, fun people.'"
New submitter cute_orc writes "The International Space Station has been hit by a small object. Chris Hadfield, an astronaut currently on the ISS, described it in his Twitter feed as 'a small stone from the universe.' He also said he was glad it didn't hit the hull. Jim Scotti, a planetary scientist from the University of Arizona, thinks the object may have had a different origin: 'It's unlikely this was caused by a meteor; more likely a piece of man-made space debris in low Earth orbit.'"
After high winds (up to 140mph) delayed yesterday's scheduled launch (itself a re-do because of a cabling problem), Orbital Science's Antares rocket has made it to space. This launch was a test run, but Antares is intended to launch supplies to the ISS. Space.com reports: "The third try was the charm for the private Antares rocket, which launched into space from a new pad at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, its twin engines roaring to life at 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) to carry a mock cargo ship out over the Atlantic Ocean and into orbit. The successful liftoff came after two delays caused by a minor mechanical glitch and bad weather." Congratulations to all involved.
The Washington Post reports that concerns about high winds have postponed until tomorrow evening the launch of Orbital Science's Antares rocket from Wallops Island, Virginia. When the rocket finally launches, it should be a spectacular event for the region: "Clear skies should allow viewing of the 133-foot rocket throughout much of the Mid-Atlantic – including the Washington, D.C. area. Assuming technical issues don’t delay or abort the launch, look southeast and the rocket will be viewable about 10 degrees above the horizon in the Washington area at 5 p.m. 6:10 p.m."
Florida today reports that cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov on Friday became the oldest person to have completed a spacewalk. From the article: "Working outside the Russian side of the international outpost, Vinogradov and cosmonaut Roman Romanenko put in six hours and 38 minutes of high-flying maintenance work. They set up a plasma physics experiment and retrieved a package that exposed advanced spacecraft materials to the deleterious space environment. They also replaced a reflector that is part of an autonomous rendezvous and docking system that will guide a robotic European space freighter to the station in early June." NASASpaceFlight.com has more details on the spacewalk, as well as the note that Vinogradov edges out "Story Musgrave, who was 58 when he flew the Hubble SM-1 mission in 1993."
An anonymous reader sends news that Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled today a new $50 billion effort to maintain and extend the country's space capabilities. Part of this initiative is a new spaceport located in Russia, which will lead to the first manned launches from Russian soil in 2018. Manned launches currently originate from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. "The Russian space programme has been hurt in recent years by a string of launch failures of unmanned probes and satellites, but Putin vowed Moscow would continue to ramp up spending. He said that from 2013-2020, Russia would be spending 1.6 trillion rubles ($51.8 billion, 38 million euros) on its space sector, a growth far greater than any other space power. 'Developing our potential in space will be one of the priorities of state policy,' Putin said at a meeting in the regional capital Blagoveshchensk. ... speaking to Canadian spaceman Chris Hadfield, currently commander of the ISS, Putin hailed cooperation in space which meant world powers could forget about the problems of international relations and think 'about the future of mankind.'"
New kalalau_kane writes with this tidbit from Extreme Tech: "A group of European researchers has proposed the largest quantum network yet: Between Earth and the International Space Station. Such a network would see entangled photons transmitted over a distance of 250 miles — two or three times greater than previous quantum communication experiments. Not only will this be the first quantum experiment in space, but it will allow the scientists to see if entanglement really is instantaneous over long distances, and whether it's affected by gravity." The proposal (licensed CC BY).
astroengine writes "A $2 billion particle detector attached to the International Space Station has detected the potential signature of dark matter annihilation in the Cosmos, scientists have announced today. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) was attached to the space station in May 2011 by space shuttle Endeavour — the second-to last shuttle mission to the orbital outpost. Since then, the AMS has been detecting electrons and positrons (the electron's anti-particle) originating from deep space and assessing their energies. By doing a tally of electrons and positrons, physicists hope the AMS will help to answer one of the most enduring mysteries in science: Does dark matter exist? And today, it looks like the answer is a cautious, yet exciting, affirmative."
Zothecula writes "A manned Soyuz spacecraft set a record for traveling to the International Space Station (ISS), arriving six hours after launch instead of the usual two days. Soyuz 34 lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Friday, March 28 at 4:43 p.m. EDT (08:43 GMT) and docked with the ISS at 10: 28 PM EDT (03:28 GMT). It was able to catch up and match trajectories with the ISS in only four orbits using new techniques previously tested in ISS rendezvouses with Russian unmanned Progress cargo ships."
RocketAcademy writes "Actress/singer Sarah Brightman's trip to the International Space Station may not happen in 2015 as scheduled. Space Adventures works with the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) to fly private citizens like Brightman on Soyuz taxi flights. Those taxi missions normally last eight days, but NASA and Roscosmos are considering a plan to extend the 2015 taxi flight to one month, so it can carry a scientist to perform some additional research aboard ISS. If that happens, Brightman will lose her seat. This situation points to the need for more flexible transportation options and new orbital facilities which are not subject to the same operational restrictions as ISS. SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada are working on the transportation problem, while Bigelow Aerospace expects to begin launching its Space Station Alpha in 2015. So, the era of citizen astronauts visiting ISS may be drawing to a close."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, took the keynote stage at this year's SXSW to talk about everything from space exploration to electric cars. Joining him onstage to ask questions was Chris Anderson, the former Wired editor and co-founder of 3DRobotics. Musk used his keynote discussion to show off a video of a rocket test, which he said had taken place earlier that week. In the video, a ten-story rocket takes off from a launching pad and hovers several hundred feet in the air before landing in the same spot, upright. It's an early test of SpaceX's reusable-rocket project. 'Reusability is extremely important,' Musk told the audience. 'If you think it's important that humanity extends beyond Earth and becomes a multitenant species' then reusable rockets will prove essential. Musk also talked about the recent controversy involving his Tesla Motors, which started when a New York Times reporter claimed in a much-circulated column that his electric-powered Model S sedan had ground to a halt during a test drive up the East Coast. 'I have no problem with negative feedback,' he told Anderson, in response to the latter's question. 'There have been hundreds of negative articles, and yet I've only spoken out a few times. I don't have a problem with critical reviews, I have a problem with false reviews.'"
Despite having some trouble with maneuvering thrusters a few days ago, SpaceX's Dragon cargo capsule has successfully reached the International Space Station. from the article: "Astronauts aboard the outpost used the station's robotic arm to pluck the capsule from orbit at 5:31 a.m. EST as the ships sailed 250 miles over northern Ukraine. Flight controllers at NASA's Mission Control in Houston then stepped in to drive the capsule to its berthing port on the station's Harmony connecting node."
SpaceX's Dragon launch to the ISS earlier today went off smoothly, but the mission encountered trouble shortly after: three sets (of four) of the craft's maneuvering thrusters didn't work. CNET quotes SpaceX founder Elon Musk: "It looks like there was potentially some blockage in the oxidizer pressurization (system). It looks like we've been able to free that blockage, or maybe a stuck valve. We've been able to free that up by cycling the valves, essentially pressure hammering the valves, to get that to loosen. It looks like that's been effective. All the oxidizer tanks are now holding the target pressure on all four (thruster) pods. I'm optimistic we'll be able to bring all four of them up and then we'll work closely with NASA to figure out what the next step is for rendezvousing with space station," and follows up with the good news that "Shortly after the briefing concluded, engineers reported all four sets of thrusters were back on line and that testing was underway to verify the health of the system." Barring further problems, Dragon could reach the ISS as soon as Sunday.
Today at 10:10am ET (15:10 UTC) SpaceX will be launching an unmanned Dragon capsule, perched atop a Falcon9 rocket, to the International Space Station. The capsule is filled with about 1,200 pounds of supplies for the ISS crew, and it is scheduled to arrive early Saturday morning. The return trip, on March 25, will bring over 2,000 pounds of cargo back to Earth when Dragon re-enters the atmosphere and falls into the Pacific Ocean. Both NASA and SpaceX are covering the launch live. For text and pictures, you can watch on SpaceX Launch Central or NASA's launch blog. For streaming video, check out NASA TV. Spaceflight Now has both, and their live updates provide a bit more detail. SpaceX's press kit for the mission (PDF) explains how the launch will proceed: "At 1 minute, 10 seconds after liftoff, Falcon 9 reaches supersonic speed. The vehicle will pass through the area of maximum aerodynamic pressure—max Q—15 seconds later. This is the point when mechanical stress on the rocket peaks due to a combination of the rocket’s velocity and resistance created by the Earth’s atmosphere. Around 170 seconds into the flight, two of the first-stage engines will shut down to reduce the rocket’s acceleration. (Its mass, of course, has been continually dropping as its propellants are being used up.) The remaining engines will cut off around 3 minutes into the flight—an event known as main-engine cutoff, or MECO. At this point, Falcon 9 is 80 kilometers (50 miles) high, traveling at 10 times the speed of sound. Five seconds after MECO, the first and second stages will separate. Seven seconds later, the second stage’s single Merlin vacuum engine ignites to begin a 6-minute burn that brings Falcon 9 and Dragon into low-Earth orbit."
An anonymous reader writes "Yesterday's twin events with invading rocks from outer space — the close encounter with asteroid 2012 DA14, and the killer meteorite over Russia that was more than close — have brought the topic of defending mankind against killer asteroids back into the news. The Economist summarizes some of the ideas that have been bandied about, in a story that suggests Paul Simon's seventies hit "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover": Just push it aside, Clyde. Show it the nuke, Luke. Gravity tug, Doug. The new proposal is an earth orbiting, solar-powered array of laser guns called DE-STAR (Directed Energy Solar Targeting of AsteRoids) from two California-based professors, physicist Philip Lubin (UCSB) and industrial statistician Gary Hughes (Cal Polytechnic State). Lubin and Hughes say their system could be developed and deployed in a range of sizes depending on the size of the target: DE-STAR 2, about the size of the International Space Station (100 meters) could nudge comets and asteroids from their orbits, while DE-STAR 4 (100 times larger than ISS) could evaporate an asteroid 500 meters in diameter (10 times larger than 2012 DA14) in a year. Of course, this assumes that the critters could be spotted early enough for the lasers to do their work."
Zothecula writes "NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) have begun practicing satellite refueling in space on a test bed outside the International Space Station (ISS). In a series of tests that started on January 14 and are scheduled to continue until the 25th, the two space agencies are using the Robotic Refueling Module (RRM) and Canada's Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, or Dextre, robot to carry out simulated refueling operations. The purpose of these tests is to develop refueling methods aimed at extending the life of satellites and reducing the amount of space debris orbiting the Earth."
cylonlover writes "NASA has announced that it has awarded a $17.8 million contract to Bigelow Aerospace to provide the International Space Station with an inflatable module. Details of the award will be discussed by NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and Bigelow Aerospace President Robert Bigelow at a press conference on January 16 at the Bigelow Aerospace facilities in North Las Vegas. However, based on previous talks, it's likely that the module in question could be the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM)."
An article at Space.com forecasts an important year for private space companies in 2013. SpaceX is working on a new version of its Dragon capsule that is quite different from the current model. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that the first iteration looked similar to other space capsules because the SpaceX team was learning as they went. Now, they're drawing on the expertise they've gained to tailor the new capsule to their needs. "Musk described Dragon version 2 as having 'legs that pop out' and added that it uses parachutes and its eight SuperDraco thrusters for a 'propulsive landing.'" The capsule will hold up to seven people, and they hope to win a crew transportation contract for getting NASA astronauts up to the ISS. The bidding for that contract starts in the second half of 2013. Commercial space planes are also set to reach new heights in 2013. XCOR Aerospace will be building its Lynx I rocket plane, and a spokesman said, "we’ll be doing test fights throughout the year from early 2013 and then go into commercial flights." Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo will also undergo its first rocket-powered flight this year.