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By | March 17, 2008

      Space Shuttle Endeavour Takes A Punch In The Nose; Spacewalks Go Well During Marathon 16-Day Mission

      Some debris hit the nose of Space Shuttle Endeavour as it launched for the STS-123 Mission to continue assembly of the International Space Station (ISS), but no major damage was spotted.

      Astronauts meticulously inspected leading edges of the orbiter vehicle wings and the nose cap, searching for any possible damage that might have come from a falling piece of foam insulation from the external fuel tank.

      Those inspections have become routine, since Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003 was hit by a chunk of foam insulation that bashed a hole in a wing leading edge thermal shielding. Later, attempting to return to Earth, searing hot gases of reentry rushed into the wing and heated it until structural components melted and failed, leading to loss of the ship and crew.

      Endeavour also was given close scrutiny by ISS crew members as the shuttle orbiter vehicle approached the space station, doing the now-classic back-flip maneuver that permits a close look at various surfaces of the spaceship.

      Spacewalks Galore

      Upon docking with the space station, Endeavour crew members began a daunting and demanding schedule of spacewalks and other work on their record 16-day mission.

      One spacewalking job involves installing the first part of a giant Japanese laboratory called Kibo, the Japanese Logistics Module — Pressurized Section (JLP).

      As well, astronauts had to assemble and bring to life a giant Canadian robot, Dextre, on the outside of the space station, a mechanical human that hopefully will be able to perform some work now requiring astronauts to make risky spacewalks.

      However, for Dextre to take shape and become operational required, of course, spacewalking.

      Mission Specialists Rick Linnehan and Mike Foreman ventured outside and wrestled, at times with difficulty, using brute force to make the robot, the Special Purpose Dextrous Manipulator, a working system. They finished the job yesterday.

      Crews will test the brakes in the robotic system’s arms.

      And, with no rest for those who might be weary, the astronauts are taking another spacewalk today.

      In all, five spacewalks are set during the long mission.

      There also are more mundane tasks that nonetheless are necessary, and may involve hard work, such as transferring supplies and equipment into the ISS from Endeavour, and configuring racks inside the module.

      The JLP is the first pressurized component of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Kibo laboratory and the newest component of the station. Marking the beginning of Japan’s scientific work aboard the station, astronauts entered the new module Friday.

      AMC-14 Satellite Launched On Proton/Breeze M Rocket From Baikonur, But Fails To Reach Intended Orbit — Problematic Burn Seen In 4th Stage

      SES, Lockheed, Others Mull Ways To Lift Satellite To Proper Orbit, But That Will Mean The Bird Will Have A Shorter Service Life

      An AMC-14 satellite was launched Saturday on a Proton/Breeze M rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, but it failed to reach proper orbit because of a problem with a burn in the fourth stage of the rocket.

      Instead, the satellite, built by Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT], wound up short of the correct geostationary transfer orbit.

      SES Americom implied in a statement that the satellite may not be a total loss, despite that.

      "While we are not in a position to comment on the possible causes of this launch anomaly, the satellite is healthy and is operating nominally in a stable orbit under the control of Lockheed Martin. SES and Lockheed Martin engineers are currently exploring various options for bringing AMC-14 into its proper geostationary orbit," said Martin Halliwell, president of SES Engineering.

      In all of the various scenarios to redirect the spacecraft, onboard fuel will have to be used to propel the satellite to its correct orbital position, thereby reducing its service life, according to SES. The SES investment in AMC-14 is insured for partial and total loss.

      "We are confident that the engineering teams at Lockheed Martin and SES will find a way to place AMC-14 into the correct orbit in a manner that our customer’s requirements can be met," said Edward Horowitz, President and CEO of SES. "We cannot, at this time, speculate on the impact of the orbit raising activities on both the in-service date and the service life of AMC-14. We will provide additional information in due time."

      Lockheed built the satellite for SES Americom, an SES company. The rocket is provided by International Launch Services.

      AMC-14 was to be located at orbital location 61.5 degrees West Longitude.

      The bird was to provide direct-to-home broadcast services across the continental United States, Mexico and Central America for EchoStar Communications Corp., which leased the entire capacity of AMC-14.

      Based on the Lockheed A2100AX platform, AMC-14 features 32 high-power Ku-band transponders in the BSS frequency band, each utilizing 24 MHz bandwidth. The spacecraft antenna is designed for operation over two separate orbital arcs: 61.5 degrees West Longitude to 77 degrees West Longitude, or 110 degrees West Longitude to 148 degrees West Longitude, providing SES flexibility.

      AMC-14 also carries a demonstration receive active phased array payload that allows coverage to be reshaped on orbit. The spacecraft incorporates the highest levels of redundancy on core components such as amplifiers, receivers, command and control components and on-board computers, according to Lockheed.

      AMC-14 was expected to provide more than 15 years of service life, if a portion of its fuel weren’t being used instead for lifting the satellite into the proper orbit. This is the 17th Lockheed Martin-built A2100 series spacecraft designed, built and launched for SES companies.

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