Soyuz Rocket Takes Off

27 03 2009

A Russian Soyuz rocket blasted off Thursday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan carrying two fresh crew members and Charles Simonyi, a wealthy space tourist on his second visit to the ISS.





Hubble Problems

18 10 2008

Engineers at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland have hit two
new snags in their effort to repair the Hubble Space Telescope after a
major equipment failure in space last month.

This problem began September 27 with the failure of Hubble’s Science
Instrument Control and Data Handling (SIC&DH) system. The on-board
computer coordinates commands to the satellite’s various instruments
and then downlinks the scientific data to the ground. While that
computer is down, most science observations are at a standstill.

The system was built with a fully redundant backup channel called “Side
B,” designed to come online in the event “Side A” ever failed. Hubble
team members at Goddard began a complicated process on Wednesday to
send computer commands to the telescope to switch over to Side B, and
hoped to have everything completed by midday Friday.

More problems began to pile up…

Early in the afternoon, there were problems powering up one of Hubble’s
instruments, the Advanced Camera for Surveys, though other instruments
turned on normally.

Later in the evening, a communications failure between multiple onboard
computers put all the science instruments, including the main science
computer, into safe mode. It is unclear how these problems are related
to each other or the activation of the SIC&DH Side B channel.

Even if the switch over to the Side B backup ultimately fails, Hubble
managers say the design team had the foresight 20 years ago to build a
spare SIC&DH system, which has been warehoused at Goddard all this
time while the original instrument perked along just fine.





Hubble’s Communications Fail

30 09 2008

NASA said Monday that it is delaying its mission to the Hubble Space Telescope until next year because of a serious breakdown of the observatory in orbit.

The Atlantis team was scheduled to blast off October 14 to make other repairs and upgrades on the Hubble.

Space shuttle Atlantis had been scheduled to blast off in just two weeks, but an unexpected problem with the Hubble appeared Saturday night, when the telescope stopped sending science data.

That potentially means a new repair issue for the astronauts to confront, one they haven’t trained for and never anticipated.

The failure of the command and data-handling system for Hubble’s science instruments means the telescope is unable to capture and beam down the data needed to produce its stunning deep space images.

Early Monday afternoon, NASA announced that the October 14 launch had been postponed until at least early next year, possibly February.

When Atlantis does fly, NASA may send up a replacement part for the failed component.

It would take time to test and qualify the old replacement part and train the astronauts to install it in the telescope, NASA spokesman Michael Curie said. NASA also would have to work out new mission details for the astronauts who have trained for two years to carry out five Hubble repair spacewalks.

“The teams are always looking at contingencies, and this is just something that has cropped up we have the ability to deal with. They’re just trying to decide what direction we want to go,” Curie said.

There is a backup channel for the science instruments’ command and data-handling system, and NASA may be able to activate it successfully so that data transmission resumes, Curie said. But if NASA relies solely on the backup channel, there would be no other options if it malfunctioned.

Work has begun to switch the telescope to the backup channel. It is a complicated process; the backup channels on the various modules that must be switched over have not been turned on since the late 1980s or early 1990, right before Hubble was launched. The Hubble team hopes to complete the job by the end of the week.

Curie stressed that the telescope is not in trouble; it just cannot send science information to ground controllers. That means NASA is unable to receive the dramatic pictures Hubble is known for.

The mission by Atlantis and a seven-person crew will be the fifth and final servicing mission to Hubble.

Now, Endeavour will be the next shuttle up, on a trip to the international space station in November. Endeavour is at the launch pad; it was supposed to serve as a rescue ship for Atlantis in case of trouble.





Hubble’s Communications Fail

30 09 2008

NASA said Monday that it is delaying its mission to the Hubble Space Telescope until next year because of a serious breakdown of the observatory in orbit.

The Atlantis team was scheduled to blast off October 14 to make other repairs and upgrades on the Hubble.

Space shuttle Atlantis had been scheduled to blast off in just two weeks, but an unexpected problem with the Hubble appeared Saturday night, when the telescope stopped sending science data.

That potentially means a new repair issue for the astronauts to confront, one they haven’t trained for and never anticipated.

The failure of the command and data-handling system for Hubble’s science instruments means the telescope is unable to capture and beam down the data needed to produce its stunning deep space images.

Early Monday afternoon, NASA announced that the October 14 launch had been postponed until at least early next year, possibly February.

When Atlantis does fly, NASA may send up a replacement part for the failed component.

It would take time to test and qualify the old replacement part and train the astronauts to install it in the telescope, NASA spokesman Michael Curie said. NASA also would have to work out new mission details for the astronauts who have trained for two years to carry out five Hubble repair spacewalks.

“The teams are always looking at contingencies, and this is just something that has cropped up we have the ability to deal with. They’re just trying to decide what direction we want to go,” Curie said.

There is a backup channel for the science instruments’ command and data-handling system, and NASA may be able to activate it successfully so that data transmission resumes, Curie said. But if NASA relies solely on the backup channel, there would be no other options if it malfunctioned.

Work has begun to switch the telescope to the backup channel. It is a complicated process; the backup channels on the various modules that must be switched over have not been turned on since the late 1980s or early 1990, right before Hubble was launched. The Hubble team hopes to complete the job by the end of the week.

Curie stressed that the telescope is not in trouble; it just cannot send science information to ground controllers. That means NASA is unable to receive the dramatic pictures Hubble is known for.

The mission by Atlantis and a seven-person crew will be the fifth and final servicing mission to Hubble.

Now, Endeavour will be the next shuttle up, on a trip to the international space station in November. Endeavour is at the launch pad; it was supposed to serve as a rescue ship for Atlantis in case of trouble.





SpaceX Falcon 1

28 09 2008

SpaceX’s Falcon 1 became the first privately built space ship to orbit the Earth tonight, following in the footsteps of SpaceShipOne which became the first privately built spaceship to fly suborbitally in October 2004. One other thing they both have in common? All the people who said it was impossible.

The live webcast swung their cameras around and zoomed in on SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s impromptu thank you speech to the dedicated employees who have worked countless hours over the long years to success. He was far away and had his back to the camera, but it made all the difference to share in that triumphant intimate moment.

“This is one of the greatest days of my life,” Musk said. Clearly buoyed by the huge win tonight, he also talked about their Falcon 9 rocket development program, “We are going to be taking over for the Space Shuttle when it retires.” You could hear the pride at the huge accomplishment of a U.S. company getting to the point where they could say that.

“A lot of people said this wasn’t possible I mean a lot…” Musk went on. SpaceX, like many innovators in the industry, have had a lot of naysaying to contend with. Before SpaceShipOne’s flight, the naysayers said it wasn’t possible, after it they dismissed the huge accomplishment as trivial that the real challenge was going orbital. You can expect them to do the same here. “Orbital space flight? I am still not impressed. It is just a little one engine rocket.” They will then move on to claiming that the Falcon 9 missions are impossible. My advice? Don’t listen.

Kudos to SpaceX for having the audacity to webcast all of their launches live, for believing in transparency, for sharing their successes and failures and every step along the way with us. It makes your success our success.

One other thing I love about Elon is that he is unapologetically committed to lowering the cost of launch not just for the fun of it or for the profit of it but for the impact of it. He made his millions at a young age and had the problem of figuring out what would now be the best use of his time, his talent and his wealth. He chose space. His notion was that the long term future of humanity depended on it. Some call it not keeping all your eggs in one basket. Elon, the consummate computer techie, calls it “backing up the biosphere.”

Either way we are one giant leap closer to that dream and that future tonight.

Thank you Elon for being willing to stand up against all that said it was impossible and thank you most of all for your commitment to never giving up.








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