Search This Blog

Loading...

Monday, July 31, 2006

NASA told to Plan Europa Moon Mission by U.S. House

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee included $15 million in the agency's fiscal 2007 appropriations bill for a robotic landing mission to Europa, one of Jupiter's moons at the behest of Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas. The move counters what critics say is a broad move by NASA away from its scientific mandate to explore the solar system.

Planetary scientists consider Europa to be the premier chance of finding life elsewhere in the solar system because of its Earth-like seas under its ice-covered surface [video]. A mission to the Jovian moon started to fall by the wayside as the space agency begins to focus resources on a return to the Moon by 2019 and a human terk to Mars by 2030.

"The body has an active surface and is likely to have [salt] water very close to what is found on earth," explained Joe Burns, a professor of engineering and astronomy at Cornell University. "There is the real possibility for some biological activity."

Saturday, July 29, 2006

X-Prize Cup Web Site Opens

The 2006 X-Prize Cup web site has gone "live." The site describes the activities planned in the New Mexico high desert October 20th and 21st which include three major competitions for $2.5 million in prizes, the debut of the Rocket Racing League's first X-Racer, static rocket engine tests, and a flyover by the T-38 NASA astronaut training jet.

Space Elevator Games, Lunar Lander Challenge, and Vertical Rocket Challenge will be among the 2006 highlights bring teams from throughout the world to Las Cruces. It is hoped that the competitions will forge new innovative technologies to lower cost to orbit and assist NASA in the future.

Friday, July 28, 2006

NASA May Cut $100-Million Research at $100-Billion International Space Station

NASA is considering a $100-million dollar cut to its budget for science research at the $100-Billion dollar international space station next year.The cut would halt all research programs on the station for a year to plug a shortage of funds caused in part by 2005 Hurricane Katrina losses and the $1.3 billion improvements made to the space shuttle fleet in the wake of the Columbia space shuttle disaster over Texas in 2003.

Last year NASA cut over $200 million from science research at the ISS in an attempt to balance the books. But the shortage of funds to the space program continue to plague the agency ranging from astrobiology to its orbital deep space telescopes projects.

Congress may not allow NASA to cut the science research at the ISS. In addition thereto, the U.S. Seante is preparing to expend a one-time supplemental $1-billion to meet the shortfalls resulting from the repairs required at NASA facilites caused by Katrina and the upgrades to the shuttle fleet. The House of Representatives have not agreed to the $1-billion supplemental funding. The funding measures will have to be ironed-out in a conference committee.

The next launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis is set tentatively set for August 27 to resume the long delayed construction of the space station. NASA hopes to complete the station with 16-more shuttle flights into 2010 and then retire the fleet.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

GAO Critical of NASA CEV Plan

The General Accounting Office (GAO) issued a report Wednesday critical of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) acquisition strategy in failing to provide a sound business case and knowledge base for primary contracts.

The GAO, an independent investigative arm of Congress, recommends that Congress restrict annual appropriations for the CEV project, arguing that, "NASA's acquisition strategy for the CEV places the project at risk of cost overruns, schedule delays, and performance shortfalls, because it commits the government to a long-term product development effort before establishing a sound business case."

The report notes that NASA plans to select a primary industry partner a year and a half before committing to a final design or cost estimate for the project, potentially exposing the government to unknown, long-term financial risks.

Meanwhile, the Space Frontier Foundation issued a report also critical of NASA's approach to a return to the Moon that fails to include greater involvement of the private space sector.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Bezos Spaceport Steams Ahead

Amazon.com multi-billionaire Jeff Bezos , 42, got high marks for his planned Corn Ranch spaceport at a public hearing conducted by the Federal Avaiation Administration AST in Culberson County, Texas Tuesday evening with about 40 people in attendance.

Bezos' Blue Origin suborbital spacecraft has been in development for a few years. Test flights could begin in the fall of this year if regulatory approvals advance on-scehdule. The rocket firm hopes to begin launching commercial tourist passengers by 2010 in direct compeition with Virgin Galactic, RocketplaneXP, and Space Adventures.

The proposed Texas spaceport would be the first in the nation built totally with private funding. The FAA estimates completion of an environmental assessment next month. Both the launch site and the proposed test spacecraft are expected to receive FAA AST approval within months perhaps before year end. MSNBC's Alan Boyle attended the public hearing and has this report and there is an AP wire story.

Monday, July 24, 2006

WhiteKnight2 to be Displayed

Virgin Galatic's President Will Whitehorn, speaking at the Farnborough Air Show, says the interior of SpaceShipTwo will be displayed in the fall of this year and that WhiteKinghtTwo will go on display in the summer of 2007.

WhiteKinghtTwo, the carrier aircraft for the smaller SpaceShipTwo suborbital craft will make a flight run into America's Spaceport New Mexico from the Mojave Spaceport California during the 2008 test-flights.

Whitehore also noted that the Virgin Galactic fleet will operate with one WhiteKinght2 and three SpaceShip2s in the USA, while a second WhiteKinght2 and its SpaceShip2 tour the world as flights move from testing to operational status. Virgin Galactic has $15.6 million in full ticket sales and various levels of deposit payments for tourist flights in 2008.

Star Trek: 30-Million Downloads of "New Voyages" And Growing

Star Trek fans are turning to the web for "New Voyages" based on the original space series that has had such a profound and lasting impact on American culture and the space community around the globe beginning in the late 1960's.

The Star Trek original series was cancelled by NBC but has now been recast in low budget. Yet the quality and storyline is drawing global attention. NPR Radio carried a report about the 30-million Internet hits to download the new Star Trek: New Voyages episodes that carry on Gene Rodenberry's vision. You too can download [in Windows Media Player] obe of the latest retro-Trekker videos.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Overview Effect Expanding

[Links herein download audio/vid or MP3 music]
"The Overview Effect" --- a term coined by book author Frank White in 1998 --- is the examination of the impact on human society to actually begin to see itself as a whole planet Earth from space. The globalization of the visualization has had a macro-impact on culture, economics, politics, and very human social fabric on Earth the past half-century.

Not readily recognized or acknolwledged in day-to-day human activity, "The Overview Effect" of the Space Age is real even at the micro-scale of human activity in our music, publications, communications, and mental comprehension compounded by the Information Age.

As the human quest to Return to the Moon, expand the X-Prize Cup, explore more of Mars, view more Hubble Space Telescope images, build private space stations and take tourist spacewalks all continue, "The Overview Effect" is expanding. The adventure and spirit is set to proliferate into a new profound era for the youngest among us in the 21st century. We live in a time when an new Earth-like planet may be soon found within the Milky Way Galaxy.

As one science teacher recently related, young elementary school students of 'Gen-Y' are more impacted today by the visualization revelations of our galaxy than that of the whole Earth. The younger among us are coming to the realization that "what goes-up ...." can continue! :)

Spaceport America to Boost Doohan and Cooper Remains

The newly-renamed Spaceport America will be the launch site used by Space Services, Inc., operating as Celetis, Inc., to boost the remains of Star Trek actor engineer "Scotty" James Doohan to the edge of space aboard the UP Aerospace SpaceLoft XP. The launch is slated for Saturday, October 21st during the 2006 X-Prize Cup events. The ashes of Mercury astronaut L. Gordon "Gordo" Cooper will also be boosted to space from the New Mexico spaceport. Whether or not the public will be invited to watch the launch from America's Spaceport as a commerative event associated with the 2006 X-Prize Cup weekend has not been announced.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Orbit w/Spacewalk: $35-Million

Space Adventures is now offering a spacewalk for tourist passangers to the International Space Station for an extra $15-million more beyond the $20-million ascent ride aboard the Soyuz. The Earth orbital spacewalk outside of the ISS would last 90-minutes and add additional days to the 10 day-long stay at the ISS. The spacewalk fee does include extensive training in Moscow.

The potential spacewalker would get inside a Russian-made Orlan spacesuit tethered to the ISS . There are no known customers for the spacewalk yet. Daisuke Enomoto, the next space tourist on tap for September would not have sufficient time to train.Millionairess Anousheh Ansari may have the opportunity if she opts to pay and train for it in 2007 or 2008.

Space Adventures last year began to offer a $200-million dollar trip for a private tourist astronaut to leave Earth orbit for a trek around the Moon and back. Thus far, there have yet to be any bookings.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

First Space Wedding Planned

Here comes the bride! Cindy Cashman and her fiance Mitch Walling plan to be married in space aboard a suborbital ride aboard the Rocketplane XP in 2008 in the first-of-a-kind wedding. The marraige vows between the couple will be conducted in zero-g about 62.5-miles above the Earth.

Rocketplane executed a contract with Ms. Cashman guaranteeing her the option to be the first bride to be married in space. The book author of Austin, Texas will be the first space bride if all goes as planned above the skies of Oklahoma. While the vows will be exchanged, the honeymoon may well be a little more Earthly since the Bigelow Areospace private space hotel will not be ready until 2012 to 2015.

There are opportunities for more space firsts!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

NASA Cuts COTS Funding by 20%

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has cut the first year funding for the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) by 20% next year. COTS is designed to develop rocket launch systems for commercial cargo delivery to the International Space Station in 2010.

Originally COTS was to get $170 million in its first two years - $50 million in FY2006 and $120 million in FY2007. NASA, however, cut by $10 million for FY2006 funding and NASA's requested budget for FY2007, which starts in October, reduces funding to around $91 million.

The six COTS bidders are in the final phase of the NASA competition set for decision August 8. The funding reductions could harm ability to raise private capital to achieve the 2010 target date for orbital service. One or two of the six proposals may be selected from among Andrews Space, Rocketplane Kistler, SpaceDev, SpaceHab, SpaceX, and t/Space.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Spaceport America to 'Boldly Go'

Some may say, 'what's in a name?' A new cutting-edge vision in New Mexico's spaceport to be precise.

'Spaceport America,' according to New Mexico's Secretary of Economic Development Rick Homans, the new name is less parochial and solidifies New Mexico's spot as the premiere spaceport destination in North America. "It's bold." The new name does suggest the international nature of spaceports.

Homans and Virgin Galactic owner Sir Richard Branson agreed to the name change while visiting the spaceport site last fall. The name change from the Southwest Regional Spaceport to Spaceport America and a new logo requires approval of the New Mexico Space Authority that Homans chairs. Spaceport America is to be completed before 2010 at a price tag of $225-million.

"The Big Jump' Planned in August

One hundred and thirty thousand feet above Saskatchewan, Canada skies, the 62-year old Michel Fournier plans to set a new world record in freefall 'space diving' dubbed the 'The Big Jump' sometime in August. The space diving stunt has been on-again, off-again for years with the overall effort exceeding $4-million in costs.

Should Fournier be successful in his goal, old records will be shattered in the highest, fastest and longest freefall jump, and the highest balloon ascent. The retired French army parachutist preperations may be reviewed at this web site.

The current record for longest freefall was set in 1960 by Joseph Kittinger, a U.S. army captain, who dropped 25,820 metres from a balloon and reached a maximum speed of 1,006 km/h, slightly faster than the speed of sound in New Mexico. The last attempt to break the highest freefall record proved to be fatal. In 1965, Nick Piantanida encountered equipment failure when his face mask blew out and the lack of oxygen caused such severe brain damage that he went into a four-month coma and died.

Dice-K to Dress the Part in Space

Eccentric Japanese space tourist Daisuke Enomoto, known as 'Dice-K,' will be the fourth $20-million vistor to the International Space Station in September after a blazing ascent to orbit aborad a Soyuz rocket. The Internet multimillionaire and former LiveDoor executive has been planning the flight for several months.

Inspired by a popular Japanese ainme series Gundam, Enomoto will change to a red costume during his stay on the ISS to emulate Char Aznable -a fighter pilot. The boyish-looking nerd entrepreneur, 35, with short hair dyed blond, grew up watching Gundam about space robots. It has been reported that Dice-K will take a toy robot along and post digital pictures to his web site from orbit.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

First New Mexico Spaceport Launch Delayed but Launch Flurry Expected

The first launch from the Southwest Regional Spaceport has been delayed from August 14 to a date-to-be-set in September but the flight launch manifest of the suborbital launch firm UP Aerospace has been increased to four. Two launches are now expected in September, the third in conjunction with the 2006 X-Prize Cup in October, and a forth is being fianlized prior to the end of the calendar year.

Lonnie Sumpter, the executive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, told KOB-TV that the inaugural planned launch was delayed because of a part for the SpaceLoft XL rocket’s motor case. "The new Spaceport is going to see a flurry of activity the remainder of this year," UP Aerospace President Jerry Larson recently said.

Kennedy Spaceport Pad 39-B to Undergo Change for Moon Launch

NASA is preparing to start modification of the historic Launch Complex 39-B at the Kennedy Spaceport for the new Project Constellation. The project's booster rocket Ares I with cessation of space shuttle launches from the pad 31 March 2007.

The 39-B launch structure will be significantly changed to accomodate the new Ares I test flights anticipated to commence in 2009 and 2010 with human-rated flights in the new spaceflight configuration beginning in 2012. Launch Complex 39-A will remain earmarked for shuttle flights to 2010.

Consideration had been given to a Launch Complex 39-C to be tailor-made for Ares I but was the most expensive option. Resumption of use of a Titan Pad 40 was deemed too far away from current launch infrastructure to be cost effective. Remodeling 39-B is was the cheapest of three options. A formal NASA announcement is pending.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

$8-Million Ask for Nautilus Stay

The camera elusive Robert T. Bigelow has told Las Vegas KLAS-TV [video] that he is hoping to offer three-week stays on an orbital private space station for about $8-million dollars when the commercial venture begins with the Nautilus space station in the next decade.

While Bigelow acknowledged that $8-million was a lot of money, he noted that it was far less than the current $20-million for a week stay at the International Space Station. His space firm hopes to start offering stays on-orbit in the next decade.

The first privately -owned space station Genesis-1 continues to be functional. It may be tracked in REAL TIME on-orbit. The spacecraft has an orbital life of about 5-years before a firey re-entry into Earth's atmosphere. Genesis-1 is the first of eight planned by Bigelow Aerospace.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Genesis-1 Fully Operational

All reports flowing from Bigelow Aerospace Mission Control [video] in Las Vegas indicate that the inflatable private space station Genesis-1 is enjoying operational success with booster ascent, inflation, solar array deployment, full power, digital camera transmissions, and GPS track. Bigelow Aerospace executives indicate that the mission is exceeding expectations following the Wednesday launch from the Russian Urals. Americans are generally unaware of the private space station effort lead by hotel magnet billionaire Robert T. Bigelow. The event marks a historic milestone in space commercialization. Space advocate Rick Tumlinson noted "the game is on."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Bigelow's Genesis-1 Makes Orbit

Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace successfully launched a prototype inflatable space station Wednesday to orbit aboard a RS-20 Voyevoda (SS-18 Satan) intercontinental ballistic missile from a silo in the Orenburg region of the Russian Urals. The firm contracted with the Russians to launch the test module to an approxiamate 320-mile orbit about the Earth.

The first launch of the Robert Bigelow-inspired [video] firm successfully had the Genesis-1 space vehicle inflate to twice its pre-orbital size in space to a size of 15ft long with a diameter of 8ft. The Genesis-1 is one-third the size of the first planned operational vehicle expected to serve as a habitat for humans much like the International Space Station. Bigelow has invested $75 million thus far in a planned $500-million project.

Genesis II is expected to launch on a Russian-made booster in the fall. Over the next several years, the company plans to test larger prototype spacecraft, including a full-scale mock-up slated to launch in 2012 perhaps launched by the SpaceX Falcon 9 booster from California. Virgin Galactic's Richard Branson has also been in private talks with Bigelow.

"That's one small step for Bigelow...one giant leap for entrepreneurial space," reported Mike Gold, corporate counsel for Bigelow Aerospace in Washington, D.C. - on hand for the Dnepr liftoff. "We've had a successful launch. Of course this is just the first step in what's going to be a long mission. We're eager to get more information in regards to the progress of the mission," he was quoted as saying by Leonard David of Space.com.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

SS2 Design Speculation Grows

SpaceShipTwo (SS2) and WhiteKinght2 (WK2) are not expected to begin test flight from the Mojave Spaceport in California until the fall of 2007 prior to starting commercial flights from the Southwest Regional Spaceport near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Flight International, however, referenced the vehicle in a story entitled: "Touching the void" that is worthy of review. The article provides some insight into the next generation vehicle from Scaled Composites set to be flown commercially by Virgin Galactic in 2008.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Long-Duration Human Space Medicine New Focus on International Space Station

The International Space Station (ISS) has taken on new space medicine goals. In recent months, the new Vision for Space Exploration has focused on long duration human stays on the moon and 6-month star treks to Mars as directed by the President and Congress placing new focus on human health in space.

Bioastronautics medical science research has started to focus American astronaut specialists at the ISS and ground teams on answering human physiology problems associated with space travel. Such issues as bone and muscle loss, kidney stone prevention, and how to use long-distance ultrasound technology to diagnose stones, if they develop, are now hot research topics.

The ISS partners, 11-European nations, Canada and Japan are focused on a variety of scientific questions in space biology, materials science, earth science and global warming, deep space astronomy, and other research objectives. But NASA has shifted from basic research to human space travel beyond Earth orbit issues.

The ISS construction manifest calls for completion with the last flight of the space shuttle and a Russian booster bringing the last planned research modules in 2009. American commercial cargo resupply spacecraft visits could open the station to other modules and research opportunities in years to come.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Constellation Era Begins

"Big Science" [video] requires a number of policy formulation and implementation steps to achieve the goal. Such is the case with returning humans to the sufrace of the Moon in 2018 in the Post-Shuttle Era or the new so-called "Constellation-Era. " [video]

Over the past several months, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has been making the first tentative steps into the future of human spaceflight at the direction of President George W. Bush and the Congress [video]. Implementation of the newly formulated policy is making progress with the transititional hardware development set for testing of a new human-rated booster in 2012.

The Constellation crew launch vehicle, (CEV) spacecraft and booster, is designated the new Ares I . The Ares V is the designated cargo booster. The new boosters "I and V" designations pay homage to the Apollo program's Saturn I and Saturn V rockets while serving as a pseudonym for Mars - the long-term Constellation Program goal. The Ares program will cost billions of dollars to develop over the next six years while closing the Shuttle Era in late 2009.

The Ares I (formerly known as the CEV) is designed to get up to six astronauts to low Earth orbit for subsequent mating to other vehicles for missions to the International Space Station, to the moon in 2018, or on to Mars sometime after 2030. The Ares V cargo launch vehicle (CLV) will have the 130 ton capasity of a Saturn V moon rocket of the 1960's. Ares V will have the power to support a mission to Mars but initially will carry the new lunar lander to translunar orbit after docking with Ares I /CEV.
The Constellation Project will carry the hopes and aspirations of all those who seek to project humans out of Earth orbit and into the cosmos over the coming decades.

Sugerman Life to be Honored at Southwest Regional Spaceport

Southern New Mexico and the nation have lost a significant space leader with the passing of Leonard R. Sugerman, 86, in Las Cruces Friday. No single other person symbolized progress, leadership, and dedication to the Southwest Regional Spaceport.

The retired Air Force Col. was tireless in the promtion of Southern New Mexico through steadfast support for the New Mexico Space Grant while focused on programs to prepare youth for high-tech careers and to create high-tech jobs. Sugerman co-founded the High TechConsortium of Southern New Mexico and the Southwest Space Task Force - now the New Mexico Space Alliance.

New Mexico Space Grant Director Patricia Hynes noted that arrangements have been made for a commemorative plaque in Sugerman's honor to be carried on the first rocket to be launched Aug. 14 from the Southwest Regional Spaceport by UP Aerospace. Donations may be made to the NMSU Foundation for the New Mexico SpaceGrant Leonard R. Sugerman Endowment, P.O. Box 3590, Las Cruces, NM 88003.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Shuttle Era End in Sight

The space shuttle era is drawing to a close over the next forty months after a period that commenced during the first tentative human steps were being made on the Moon in 1971. The last missions of the space shuttle fleet may well be of equal importance as its first in 1981. NASA need not dare make critical mistakes.

While the Discovery is now docked on-orbit with the International Space Station, our Russian, European, and Japanese partners gave a sigh of relief that their investment in the bold multi-billion dollar space construction project were wise. Washington policymakers have pledged 18 more flights of the space shuttles Atlantis, Endeavor and Discovery before the end of 2009 to complete the space station and honor our international commitments. A final service mission will be afforded the Hubble Space Telescope in 2008.

The ambitious space shuttle manifest will be challenging and costly to complete with 3 flights planned in 2006 (the next August 28); five in 2007; six in 2008; and, five in 2009 with the four shuttle fleet retired in 2010.

While the final flights will mark at end of the shuttle era, they will also mark a new beginning in space. The shuttle fleet will have made numerous flights to build the international space station that will ultimately require commercial spacecraft to service is needs as its crew is expanded to six.

The legacy of the shuttle and the space station it built may well be the starting point for new missions to the Moon and asteroids in our greatest human adventures yet. New spaceships with the names of Constellation, Clipper, Jules Verne, and a host of new commercial breeds may well be the final legacy of the coming end of the shuttle era. It is all worthy of our interest and support.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Starchaser Building New Mexico "Rocket City" Complex

Britian-based Starchaser Industries, Inc. is planning the construction of a $100-million, 120-acre site to serve the Southwest Regional Spaceport near Upham, New Mexico spearheaded by entrepreneur Steve Bennett.

The incrementally planned development will include as space-themed hotel and conference center, rocket manufacturing facilities, training facilities for would-be suborbital astronauts, an office complex, space related exhibits, restaurants, and other space-themed facilities. The new location off Interstate Highway 10, just west of Las Cruces, is expected to employ 300 people at completion. No date for completion was set.

Starchaser has been designing and building several test-rockets including a suborbital flight spacecraft known as Thunderstar. The vehicle will enter the competitive commercial race for suborbital tourist passangers.

British billionaire Richard Branson previously announced his own plans for a space city to be built near the spaceport. Both Branson and Bennett will have to deal with American and British regulators for launching spacecraft to comply with international space treaties.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

New Taepodong-2 Being Readied

North Korea is now said to be assembling yet another offensive Taepodong-2 ICBM for launch soon but it is not yet on the pad according to an intelligence source. While the long-range Taepodong-2 ICBM test launch Tuesday was a failure, North Korea did successfully launch the space vehicle in 1998. The vehicle does have the potential capability to orbit a small satellite or arc in space as an ICBM.

While Korea resumed missile testing Wednesday morning with the launch of a confimed seventh rocket in less than 24-hours, no further launches have been confirmed. Six short-to-mid range NoDong and Scud-type missiles splashed into the Sea of Japan. International political and global security experts expect the communist regime to resume test-firings in an attempt to gather focused global attention. The Koreans have sought one-on-one diplomatic talks with the U.S. that the Bush Administration has repeatedly rebuffed.

The United Nations Security Council met Wednesday and is expected to pass a resolution of concern about the repeated missile tests. The North Korean government insists it has a legal right to conduct the rocket tests with impunity.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

North Korea Adds to Fireworks


The North Korean regime today shot at least six missiles skyward. The highly controversial Taepodong 2 intercontinental ballistic missile was fired within minutes following the successful space shuttle ascent to orbit today. The missile failed after 40 seconds of flight. The North Koreans have been threatening the launch for two weeks. The failire of the rocket to either place a satellite in orbit or to arc in space as an ICBM is designed to do serves as a major technological failure and a political setback on the international stage for the North Korean communist dictator Kim Jong-IL.
The other five short-to-mid range NoDong and Scud-type missiles were shot in a trajectory toward the Sea of Japan. The Japanese government has obtained a United Nations Security Council meeting about North Korea's missile launches Wednesday morning in New York City. NORAD went to a higher security level and the anti-missile defense went on alert in Alaska and California.

INDEPENDENCE DAY: Star Spangled Liftoff of Discovery!

The rocket's red glare was witnessed at the Kennedy spaceport as the space shuttle Discovery roared to life [video] on the nation's first Independence Day launch of astronauts. All systems are report ly "nominal" in launch ascent with seven astronauts aboard. The spacecraft has now given chase to dock with the International Space Station on Thursday. Clear skies may enable Americans to watch the shuttle close-in on the ISS from Earth at various locations and times. Sightings are possible by checking HERE. Weather was not a factor in the successful launch that had twice been delayed Saturday and Sunday due to cloud cover in the Cape Canveral area.

The success of this mission will enable NASA to resume the construction of the space station through 2010. The space shuttle fleet will then be retired. A final shuttle mission dedicated to the Hubble Space Telescope is expected to be announced in the fall for a 2007 launch.

Following the retirement of the space shuttle, NASA will debut the Crew Launch Vehicle (CEV) and the Ares I booster rocket in 2012. Plans to leave earth orbit for a return to the Moon in 2018 are in process. If successful in the management, technical aspects, and Congressional funding, the CEV will be the first human-rated spacecraft to leave Earth orbit in nearly fifty years!

1st Independence Day Launch Set

The Kennedy Spaceport Launch Team have cleared the Space Shuttle Discovery for flight on Independence Day at 2:38 PM Tuesday if weather conditions continue to improve as current forecasts suggest. The COUNTDOWN clock has resumed. If orbital space ascent begins today, it would be the first ever launch of astronauts on Independence Day. NASA-TV will be "LIVE" for the 3rd launch attempt in four days. With an 80% chance of good weather at launch time, NASA controllers will concern themesleves with clouds entering within 20-miles of the launch pad. LAUNCH status is subject to changes.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

India Building Larger Spaceport

The Sriharikota (SHAR) Spaceport is set to launch a heavy commercial booster this month from the southeast part of India in a bid to more fully engage the $2-billion annual commercial satellite launch industry. An estimated $543 million is being expneded to upgrade infrastructure for launching heavier rockets to carry satellites weighing up to four tonnes from the site. Indian space officials hope to launch four satellites within the year. India has launched satellites for Korea, and Germany. It has also launched Israeli spy satellites from Idian soil in 2005 with others planned in 2006.

The Indian space program is also set to launch its first recoverable satellite testing thermal systems, deceleration system, guidance, and other recovery systems for the first time this year.

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has established itself as a leader in global commercial remote sensing in recent years and is is preparing for an unmanned moon mission in 2008. NASA is placing experiments on the lunar mission.