Discovery Rolls To Launch Pad For Oct. 23 Liftoff

Space Shuttle Discovery has settled in at Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, as NASA aims for a blastoff Oct. 23.?Discovery is poised for the two-week STS-120 Mission to the International Space Station, where astronauts will attach the Node 2 Harmony module to which later missions in turn will attach laboratories, expanding the living/working space on the station.

During the mission, spacewalkers also will move the first set of solar arrays installed on the station to a permanent location on the orbiting complex and redeploy them.

The mission will involve a demanding five spacewalks, with one extravehicular activity having astronauts repair deliberately damaged heat tiles, using a goo that they squirt into the cavities from a device similar to a caulk gun. (Please see Space & Missile Defense Report, Monday, Sept. 17, 2007.)

Later, upon landing on Earth, technicians will check to see how well the repairs held up through the blistering heat of reentry.

Damage to thermal protection is a concern ever since a chunk of foam insulation broke free from the external fuel tank on Space Shuttle Columbia and punched an undetected hole in a wing on the orbiter vehicle. Later, during a winter 2003 return to Earth, searing-hot gases of reentry rushed into the wing and heated it to the point of structural failure. The ship and crew were lost.

And foam has continued to damage shuttles since then, despite many corrective steps NASA instituted to lessen the danger.?For example, during the most recent shuttle launch, Space Shuttle Endeavour Aug. 8 suffered a gash in heat tiling on the bottom of the orbiter vehicle caused by falling foam insulation.

Dawn Spacecraft Lifts Off After Weather Delay

The Dawn spacecraft soared from Launch Complex 17B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and headed out in space on a 1.7-billion-mile trip to hunt down and study a pair of asteroids.

Launch occurred after a one-day weather-related delay.

Lifting Dawn was a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket with nine strap-on solid rocket boosters. ULA is a joint venture of The Boeing Co. [BA] and Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT].

The spaceship is scheduled to begin its exploration of Vesta in 2011 and Ceres in 2015. The two icons of the asteroid belt are located in orbit between Mars and Jupiter and have been witness to so much of the solar system's history, according to NASA.

By using the same set of instruments at two separate destinations, scientists can more accurately formulate comparisons and contrasts. Dawn's science instrument suite will measure shape, surface topography and tectonic history, elemental and mineral composition, and as well will seek out water-bearing minerals.

Mission controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., received telemetry on schedule, indicating Dawn had achieved proper orientation in space and its massive solar array was generating power from the sun.

During the next several months, spacecraft controllers will test and calibrate myriad spacecraft systems and subsystems, ensuring Dawn is ready for the long journey ahead.

"Dawn will travel back in time by probing deep into the asteroid belt," said Christopher Russell, of the University of California at Los Angeles, who is the Dawn principal investigator. "This is a moment the space science community has been waiting for since interplanetary spaceflight became possible."

The trip itinerary for Dawn includes a 4.8-billion-kilometer (3-billion-mile) odyssey for exploration of asteroid Vesta in 2011 and the dwarf planet Ceres in 2015.

In addition, the Dawn spacecraft and how it orbits Vesta and Ceres will be used to measure their masses and gravity fields.

India To Launch Unmanned Moon Mission April 9

India plans to launch an unmanned mission to the moon April 9, or in a window extending for a couple of days thereafter, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

The Indian Space Research Organisation would follow that by sending an astronaut into space by 2014, and then sending a manned mission to the moon by 2020.

China may beat the Indians there.

In contrast, the U.S. space agency, NASA, will have no space-launch capabilities to lift astronauts even into low Earth orbit from 2010 to 2015, and then won't send any U.S. astronaut to the moon until 2019 at the earliest.

It will be sometime in the 2030s before the United States sends a mission to Mars.?India has a lively commercial space operation, including orbiting satellites for weather, TV and other purposes.

Launch Schedule


Oct. 23 + STS-120

STS-120 will be the twenty-third mission to the International Space Station and will deliver the U.S. Node 2 Harmony module expanding the space station's capability for future international laboratories.

Launch Time: 11:38 a.m. EDT

Dec. 6 + STS-122

STS-122 will deliver the Columbus European Laboratory Module and will be the twenty-fourth mission to the International Space Station.


Feb. 5 *GLAST

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.

Feb. 14 + STS-123

Mission STS-123 on Space Shuttle Endeavour will deliver the pressurized section of the Kibo Japanese Experiment Logistics Module (ELM-PS) on the twenty-fifth mission to the International Space Station.

Feb. 21 Block 2010 R/R

STSS Block 2010 Risk Reduction serves as a pathfinder for future launch and mission technology for the Missile Defense Agency.

To be launched by NASA for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA).

April 1 STSS

STSS B06 is a midcourse tracking technology demonstrator and is part of an evolving ballistic missile defense system. STSS is capable of tracking objects after boost phase and provides trajectory information to other sensors and interceptors. ?To be launched by NASA for the MDA.

April 21 *GOES-O

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. GOES-O is a NASA/NOAA mission that will launch off a ULA Delta IV launch vehicle from Launch Complex 37.

April 24 + STS-124

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.

June 15 OSTM/Jason 2

The Ocean Surface Topography Mission on the Jason-2 satellite will be a follow-on to the Jason mission. It will launch on a Delta II launch vehicle from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

June 15 IBEX

The Interstellar Boundary Explorer will launch from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll and Wake Island from an Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL rocket.

June 25 + TacSat-3

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.

Aug. 7 *STS-125

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.

Sept. 18 + STS-126

Mission STS-126 on Space Shuttle Endeavour on assembly flight ULF2, will deliver a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module to the International Space Station.


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.

Nov. 1 Kepler

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.

Dec. 15 OCO

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

Source: NASA

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