Launches

By | March 3, 2008 | Satellite News Feed

Space Shuttle Endeavour Cleared For Launch March 11 At 2:28 A.M. In Dark, With Flashbulbs Popping For Pics

U.S. ASAT Shot Demolishing Errant Intel Satellite Creates Little Increased Chance Space Debris Will Hit Endeavour During Its STS-123 Mission

ATV Launch Set For March 8; Delta Launches This Month

Space Shuttle Endeavour was cleared for launch in the dark at 2:28 a.m. March 11 from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, on a long 16-day mission to the International Space Station that will include a grueling five spacewalks, top NASA officials said at a press briefing.

Because this won’t be a day-lit launch, the ascent will be photographed using a radical new piece of technology added to the spaceship: flashbulbs.

Actually, they will be a couple of standard off-the-shelf electronic flash units by a Japanese digital camera maker. Those units will flash every two seconds.

Endeavour will be the first shuttle to head into space since the United States successfully demolished a dysfunctional intelligence satellite using a sea-based ballistic missile defense system.

When a Standard Missile-3 interceptor smashed into the satellite to destroy it, that created many pieces of space debris, much of which descended into the atmosphere and burned up during reentry.

Some debris pieces remain in orbit. But they pose little risk to the shuttle, raising chances it will be hit by a piece of debris to 1 in 259 from 1 in 269 for the entire mission, NASA figures.

Overall, Endeavour is in great shape to blast off on the STS-123 mission to install part of the Japanese Kibo laboratory on the International Space Station.

NASA crews "are not working a lot of issues" in the smooth flow of work heading for the March 11 launch, Bill Gerstenmaier, associate NASA administrator for space operations, said.

The Endeavour mission means that Japan will now have a working control center on the ground, linked to its laboratory.

There also is a control center in Germany for the European Columbus laboratory module on the space station.

And, In Toulouse, France, there will be a control center operating when the first European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) is launched March 8 to supply the space station.

Endeavour will have launch opportunities March 11 and 12, and then if liftoff is delayed, stand down for five days to make way for a Delta rocket launch.

Endeavour in that case would next have a launch opportunity March 17.

Although NASA has encountered problems with a solar array rotary joint on a giant electrical generating panel on the space station, there will be ample power for the station, Gerstenmaier indicated. A new trundle bearing assembly will be installed on this shuttle mission to help the electrical array move better to follow the sun.

SpaceX Falcon 1 Rocket Tests On Merlin 1C Engine Complete; Launch Expected This Spring

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) completed qualification testing of its Merlin 1C next generation liquid fueled rocket booster engine for use in the Falcon 1 rocket.

Tests were conducted at the SpaceX Texas Test Facility near Waco, Texas, on a Merlin 1C configured for powering the first stage of a Falcon 1 rocket.

After completing development testing in November, the qualification program began to verify the final design features on an actual production engine, clearing the way for full- scale manufacturing.

"Our propulsion and test teams finished the qualification program with a record-breaking day that included four full mission duration firings on the engine," said Tom Mueller, vice president of propulsion for SpaceX. "This marathon run brought the total operating time on a single engine to over 27 minutes, which is more than ten complete flights. The engine meets or exceeds all requirements for thrust, performance and durability."

"This was the final development milestone required for the next Falcon 1 flight," said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX. "In the coming weeks we’ll begin qualifying Merlin for the higher thrust and performance levels required by our Falcon 9 rocket, keeping us on track for delivering the first Falcon 9 vehicle to Cape Canaveral by year end."

The single Merlin 1C will power the next Falcon 1 mission, scheduled to lift off this spring from the SpaceX launch complex in the Central Pacific atoll of Kwajalein. The far larger Falcon 9 uses nine Merlins on the first stage, and a single Merlin in vacuum configuration powers the Falcon 9 second stage.

The Merlin 1C is an improved version of the Merlin 1A ablatively cooled engine, which lofted the Falcon 1 on its first flight in March 2006 and second flight in March 2007. The regeneratively cooled Merlin 1C uses rocket propellant grade kerosene (RP-1), a refined form of jet fuel, to first cool the combustion chamber and nozzle before being combined with the liquid oxygen to create thrust. This cooling allows for higher performance without significantly increasing engine mass.

In its Falcon 1 configuration, Merlin 1C has a thrust at sea level of 78,000 pounds, a vacuum thrust of 90,000 pounds and a vacuum specific impulse of 301 seconds. In generating this thrust, Merlin consumes 300 pounds a second of propellant and the chamber and nozzle, cooled by 90 pounds a second of kerosene, are capable of absorbing 10 MW of heat energy.

The Merlin engine is the first new American booster engine in ten years and only the second in over a quarter century. The prior two American engines were the RS-68 developed in the late nineties by Pratt & Whitney’s RocketDyne division, used in the Boeing Delta IV launch vehicle, and the Space Shuttle Main Engine developed in the late seventies, also by RocketDyne. With a production rate of one engine per week by late this year, SpaceX will produce more rocket booster engines than the rest of U.S. production combined and more than any country except Russia, according to SpaceX.

Launch Schedule

2008

Date: March 11

Mission: STS-123

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Endeavour

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

Launch Time: 2:28 a.m. EDT

Description: Mission STS-123 on Space Shuttle Endeavour will deliver the Kibo Japanese Experiment Logistics Module – Pressurized Section (ELM-PS) on the twenty-fifth mission to the International Space Station.

Date: April 17 *

Mission: STSS ATRR – Missile Defense Agency

Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Delta II

Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base – Launch Pad SLC-2

Launch Time: **

Description: STSS ATRR serves as a pathfinder for future launch and mission technology for the Missile Defense Agency. To be launched by NASA for the MDA.

Date: May 16

Mission: GLAST

Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Delta II

Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station – Launch Complex 17 – Pad 17-B

Launch Window: 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. EDT

Description: An heir to its successful predecessor — the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory — the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope will have the ability to detect gamma rays in a range of energies from thousands to hundreds of billions of times more energetic than the light visible to the human eye. Radiation of such magnitude can only be generated under the most extreme conditions, thus GLAST will focus on studying the most energetic objects and phenomena in the universe.

Date: May 25 +

Mission: STS-124

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Discovery

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

Launch Time: 7:26 p.m. EDT

Description: Space Shuttle Discovery on mission STS-124 will transport the Kibo Japanese Experiment Module – Pressurized Module (JEM-PM) and the Japanese Remote Manipulator System (JEM-RMS) to the International Space Station.

Date: June 15

Mission: OSTM

Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Delta II

Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base – Launch Pad SLC-2

Launch Time: 4:47 a.m. EDT/1:47 a.m. PDT

Description: The Ocean Surface Topography Mission on the Jason-2 satellite will be a follow-on to the Jason mission.

Date: July 15

Mission: IBEX

Launch Vehicle: Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL Rocket

Launch Site: Reagan Test Site, Kwajalein Atoll

Description: IBEX’s science objective is to discover the global interaction between the solar wind and the interstellar medium and will achieve this objective by taking a set of global energetic neutral atom images that will answer four fundamental science questions.

Date: Aug. 8 *

Mission: GOES-O

Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Delta IV

Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station – Launch Complex 17

Description: NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are actively engaged in a cooperative program, the multimission Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite series N-P. This series will be a vital contributor to weather, solar and space operations, and science.

Date: Aug. 14 +

Mission: TacSat-3

Launch Vehicle: Orbital Sciences Minotaur Rocket

Launch Site: Wallops Flight Facility – Goddard Space Flight Center

Description: NASA will support the Air Force launch of the TacSat-3 satellite, managed by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate. TacSat-3 will demonstrate the capability to furnish real-time data to the combatant commander. NASA Ames will fly a microsat and NASA Wallops will fly the CubeSats on this flight in addition to providing the launch range.

Date: Aug. 28 +

Mission: STS-125

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Atlantis

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

Launch Time: 8:24 a.m. EDT

Description: Space Shuttle Atlantis will fly seven astronauts into space for the fifth and final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. During the 11-day flight, the crew will repair and improve the observatory’s capabilities through 2013.

Date: Oct. 16 +

Mission: STS-126

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Endeavour

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

Description: Space Shuttle Endeavour launching on assembly flight ULF2, will deliver a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module to the International Space Station.

Date: Oct. 28

Mission: LRO/LCROSS

Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Atlas V

Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station – Launch Complex 41

Description: The mission objectives of the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite are to advance the Vision for Space Exploration by confirming the presence or absence of water ice in a permanently shadowed crater at either the Moon’s North or South Pole.

Date: Dec. 1 *

Mission: SDO

Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Atlas V

Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station – Launch Complex 41

Description: The first Space Weather Research Network mission in the Living With a Star (LWS) Program of NASA.

Date: Dec. 4 +

Mission: STS-119

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Discovery

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

Description: Space Shuttle Discovery launching on assembly flight 15A, will deliver the fourth starboard truss segment to the International Space Station.

Date: Dec. 15

Mission: OCO

Launch Vehicle: Orbital Sciences Taurus Rocket

Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base – Launch Pad SLC 576-E

Description: The Orbiting Carbon Observatory is a new Earth orbiting mission sponsored by NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder Program.

2009

Date: Feb. 1

Mission: NOAA-N Prime

Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Delta II

Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base – Launch Pad SLC-2

Description: NOAA-N Prime is the latest polar-orbiting satellite developed by NASA/Goddard Spaceflight Center for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA uses two satellites, a morning and afternoon satellite, to ensure every part of the Earth is observed at least twice every 12 hours. NOAA-N will collect information about Earth’s atmosphere and environment to improve weather prediction and climate research across the globe.

Date: Feb. 16

Mission: Kepler

Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Delta II

Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station – Launch Complex 17 – Pad 17-B

Description: The Kepler Mission, a NASA Discovery mission, is specifically designed to survey our region of the Milky Way galaxy to detect and characterize hundreds of Earth- size and smaller planets in or near the habitable zone.

Date: March 1

Mission: Glory

Launch Vehicle: Orbital Sciences Taurus Rocket

Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base – Launch Pad SLC 576-E

Description: The Glory Mission will help increase our understanding of the Earth’s energy balance by collecting data on the properties of aerosols and black carbon in the Earth’s atmosphere and how the Sun’s irradiance affects the Earth’s climate.

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