The seven-member crew of the STS-107 mission was just 16 minutes from landing on the morning of Feb. 1, 2003, when Mission Control lost contact with the shuttle Columbia. A piece of foam, falling from the external tank during launch, had opened a hole in one of the shuttle’s wings, leading to the breakup of the orbiter upon re-entry.
Addressing the nation, President Bush said, “mankind is led into the darkness beyond our world by the inspiration of discovery and the longing to understand. Our journey into space will go on.”
At 7:05 a.m. Eastern time on Thursday, December 4, an unmanned, unpressurized version of NASA’s Orion crew capsule will lift off from Cape Canaveral for its first test flight, called Exploration Flight Test-1. This will mark the debut of the first new NASA spacecraft meant to fly astronauts since the Space Shuttle took flight in the early 1980s. And while this first flight will be unmanned, it will see a crew capsule travel farther from the planet’s surface than any manned vehicle design has gone since the Apollo moon mission…(read more)
Sharon Weinberger writes: For almost two years, an unmanned space plane bearing a remarkable resemblance to NASA’s space shuttle has circled the Earth, performing a top-secret mission. It’s called the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle — but that’s pretty much all we know for certain.
“Despite the secrecy surrounding its mission, the space plane’s travels are closely watched. The Air Force announces its launches, and satellite watchers monitor its flight and orbit. What is not revealed is what’s inside the cargo bay and what it’s being used for.”
Officially, the only role the Pentagon acknowledges is that the space plane is used to conduct experiments on new technologies. Theories about its mission have ranged from an orbiting space bomber to an anti-satellite weapon.
The truth, however, is likely much more obvious: According to intelligence experts and satellite watchers who have closely monitored its orbit, the X-37B is being used to carry secret satellites and classified sensors into space — a little-known role once played by NASA’s now-retired space shuttles.
For a decade between the 1980s and early 1990s, NASA’s space shuttles were used for classified military missions, which involved ferrying military payloads into space.
“Now, with the X-37B, the Pentagon no longer has to rely on NASA — or humans.”
But the shuttles’ military role rested on an uneasy alliance between NASA and the Pentagon. Even before the 1986 Challenger disaster, which killed all seven crewmembers, the Pentagon had grown frustrated with NASA’s delays.
Now, with the X-37B, the Pentagon no longer has to rely on NASA — or humans.
The X-37B resembles a shuttle, or at least a shrunken-down version of it. Like the space shuttles, the X-37B is boosted into orbit by an external rocket, but lands like an aircraft on a conventional runway. But the X-37B is just shy of 10 feet tall and slightly less than 30 feet long.
Its cargo bay, often compared to the size of a pickup truck bed, is just big enough to carry a small satellite. Once in orbit, the X-37B deploys a foldable solar array, which is believed to power the sensors in its cargo bay.
“It’s just an updated version of the space shuttle type of activities in space,” insisted one senior Air Force official in 2010, the year of the first launch, when rampant speculation about the secret project prompted some to question whether it was possibly a space bomber. Read the rest of this entry »
ISS S1 Truss Installation narrated by the the crew of STS-112
Exhilarating to watch, and the narration is captivating. Very informal, too, as if you’re listening to a group of friends tell you, with video and slides, about their recent space mission. Good stuff, from the perspective of crew members, some veteran, some new astronauts. The primary narrator is experiencing her first mission, first time in space. It’s hard not to share her excitement.
Saturn-Shuttle / The concept model for a Saturn V and Space Shuttle combo.
For The Diplomat, Travis C. Stalcup writes: Director Alfonso Cuarón’s latest film, Gravity is a sci-fi thriller about a lone astronaut fighting to live where “life is impossible.” Following a Russian missile strike against an aging spy satellite that shreds the American space shuttle and its crew, protagonist and mission scientist Sandra Bullock struggles to evade a predictable but lethal field of orbiting debris. Cuarón’s story dramatizes a stark future – one in which nations vie to control the cosmos and in doing so make life on earth as we know it considerably harder. Gravity makes an implicit argument about the folly of space dominance: operating in space is hard enough so why make it harder by testing and using kinetic kill anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons?
The Gravity of the Situation
Freedom of action in space is essential not only to the American way of war but to the American way of life. Everything from theater missile defense to Facebook relies on satellites high above that beam signals back and forth to Earth. Despite the importance of these assets, at no time since it first placed satellites into orbit in 1958 has the United States enjoyed space dominance. The Soviets acquired ASAT capabilities early in the space race (albeit it by heavenly nuclear detonations) and even now, the U.S. is dependent on Russia to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station. As an interest “vital to U.S. national security,” it is important to determine under what conditions the United States can achieve – or to many, maintain – dominance in space. (For a hardnosed view of U.S. space policy, see the 2006 National Space Policy, which calls for the denial of space to adversaries.) American space policy, sometimes out of the limelight, is growing even more important. Other nations are growing their capabilities to access space including China, which is also intensifying its investment in anti-satellite weaponry. America’s strategic advantage is eroding.
“America’s civilian space program may be on life support, now that the Space Shuttle’s gone. But its military space program is very much alive — and about to get much, much bigger. In the coming decades, the U.S. Air Force plans to pour an additional $36 to $40 billion into its effort to put military and spy satellites in orbit using commercial rocket services,” Foreign Policy reports.
“The Air Force is using that cash to add 60 launches between 2018 and 2030 to its $35 billion rocket launch effort called the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle. EELV is the Air Force’s program to pay private businesses to build and launch the rockets that carry Defense Department satellites into orbit. This planned cash infusion would make EELV one of the Pentagon’s top ten spending programs, InsideDefense points out. This comes just two years after the EELV program began experiencing massive cost increases — that sucked funding from other space initiatives — due to a spike in the price of rocket production. (Interestingly, one of the rockets currently used in the EELV program, the Atlas V, relies on a Russian engine to get it off the ground.)”
Source: Topic A: DefenseTopic A: Defense – Taegan Goddard
HOUSTON – The bubble-like housing that protected Space Shuttle Enterprise collapsed overnight as Hurricane Sandy pummeled New York City with wind and rain.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the prototype shuttle itself was damaged.
Photos on Twitter showed Enterprise’s nose and tail exposed with the collapsed housing draped over it.
As of Tuesday morning the shuttle remained exposed to the elements.
The exhibit opened July 19 on the deck of the USS Intrepid.
via khou.com Houston