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December 8, 2014

Orion Spacecraft accomplishes first spaceflight test

Orion Spacecraft accomplishes first spaceflight test

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Monday, December 8, 2014

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The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with NASA’s Orion spacecraft mounted atop.
Image: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

NASA has finally accomplished its first spaceflight with the new Orion spacecraft, uncrewed, on Friday morning. The spacecraft has now traveled farther from the Earth than any other spacecraft designed to carry a crew has traveled in over four decades.

The Orion crew module was launched off from Space Launch Complex 37 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida mounted on top of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket. Four and a half hours later, the space module landed in the Pacific Ocean.

During the mission, the spacecraft reached an altitude of 3,600 miles (5800 kilometers) and experienced periods of intense radiation when traveling twice through the Van Allen belt. Upon re-entry in the Earth’s atmosphere, Orion achieved speeds of 20,000 miles per hour (32,000 kilometers per hour) and temperatures reached 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2200 degrees Celsius).

NASA has reported the entire spacecraft remained in one piece, with all the onboard computers still working despite the high radiation in the Van Allen belt. All the parachutes deployed without incident.

NASA said this is the farthest spacecraft have flown since the Apollo 17 mission 42 years ago, opening up new human explorations of space and getting closer to the goal of putting people on Mars.

Had astronauts been on board Orion, they would have experienced 8.2 times the force of gravity on Earth, NASA said.

Astronaut Rex Walheim, of the last Space Shuttle mission, talked about future crewed Mars missions and becoming “a multi-planetary species”.

The Orion program manager hopes NASA will look at information from this spaceflight and apply it to the next Orion spacecraft, to be launched by the Space Launch System rocket.


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February 20, 2008

Space Shuttle Atlantis completes mission STS-122

Space Shuttle Atlantis completes mission STS-122

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Landing of STS-122

Space Shuttle Atlantis has landed on runway 15 of the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility, completing the STS-122 mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Landing occurred at the earliest opportunity today, with Atlantis touching down at 14:07:10 GMT (09:07:10 local time), following a de-orbit burn at 13:00 GMT, and entry interface at 13:35. Wheel-stop occurred at 14:08:08 GMT.

During STS-122, the Columbus module was installed on the space station, a nitrogen coolant tank was replaced, and a the CMG-3 control gyroscope, which had been removed during the STS-118 mission last August, was collected for return to Earth. Three spacewalks were conducted. The mission lasted 12 days, 18 hours, 21 minutes, and 40 seconds.

Seven astronauts returned to Earth aboard Atlantis; Stephen Frick, Alan G. Poindexter, Leland D. Melvin, Rex J. Walheim, Hans Schlegel, Stanley G. Love, and Daniel M. Tani. Léopold Eyharts was launched aboard Atlantis, but remained aboard the station, replacing Tani as part of the Expedition 16 crew. Tani returned to Earth after 120 days in space as a member of Expedition 16. He was originally scheduled to return in December, however this was delayed because of problems launching Atlantis.

Atlantis’ successful landing means that there is now no impediment to the US Navy’s attempt to destroy a failed satellite in orbit, which is expected to occur at 03:30 GMT tomorrow morning. This could not have been conducted before Atlantis landed, as the debris it is expected to create could have damaged the Shuttle as it descended from orbit.

The next Space Shuttle mission, STS-123, using the Space Shuttle Endeavour, is scheduled to launch in early March, with Japanese and Canadian components for the Space Station. Atlantis’ next mission will be STS-125, the final mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope, which is scheduled for launch in late August.



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February 15, 2008

STS-122 astronauts perform third spacewalk

STS-122 astronauts perform third spacewalk

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Friday, February 15, 2008

The Columbus module (foreground) attached to the ISS. Space Shuttle Atlantis can be seen in the background.

Two astronauts have performed the third and final spacewalk, or Extra-vehicular activity (EVA), of the STS- 122 mission. Rex Walheim and Stan Love began the spacewalk at 13:07 GMT, departing the Quest airlock of the International Space Station (ISS). The EVA ended with their return to the airlock, seven hours and 25 minutes later, at 20:32 GMT.

The goals of the spacewalk were to install two experiments onto the outside of the newly delivered Columbus module of the space station, and to load a failed gyroscope onto the visiting Space Shuttle, Atlantis, for return to Earth next Wednesday. The gyroscope, CMG-3 was one of four used to control the space station’s attitude. It was replaced during an EVA made by the STS-118 crew during August 2007. It has been stored outside the Space Station since then, awaiting collection.

The experiments installed on the Columbus module are a solar observatory, SOLAR, and a materials research experiment, EuTEF. Subsequent to this, the astronauts fitted handrails to the Columbus module, to assist with future EVAs. Following the successful completion of these primary tasks, the astronauts performed several other tasks, which included collecting safety tethers from previous EVAs, and inspecting micrometeroite damage on a handrail.

This is the 104th spacewalk conducted as part of the International Space Station programme.



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February 11, 2008

Columbus module added to ISS during spacewalk

Columbus module added to ISS during spacewalk

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Monday, February 11, 2008

CGI image of the ISS after the installation of Columbus

A spacewalk was conducted today by astronauts Rex Walheim and Stan Love, members of the STS-122 Space Shuttle crew, to install the new Columbus module onto the International Space Station.

The spacewalk, or extra-vehicular activity (EVA), began at 14:13 UTC, with the astronauts leaving the Quest airlock of the Space Station, and starting work to install an attachment point on top of the Columbus module, to allow it to be moved by the Station’s robotic arm. This was completed at 19:00, about an hour later than planned, owing to the installation taking longer than expected. Columbus was lifted out of the payload bay of Atlantis at 19:55 UTC, by the Space Station’s robotic arm, Canadarm2. Astronaut Dan Tani, controlling Canadarm2 from aboard the ISS remarked “Columbus has started its trip to the new world”. At 21:29, Columbus soft-docked with the Space Station’s Harmony node, and the module finished bolting itself in place by 21:44.

Meanwhile, the astronauts performed some tasks to prepare for the next spacewalk, which is currently scheduled for Wednesday. They loosened bolts holding a nitrogen tank in place on the port truss segment of the Station, ahead of its replacement. It was originally planned that they would also disconnect pipes and electrical connections, however these objectives were delayed to Wednesday’s spacewalk, due to time constraints. The EVA finished at 22:12 UTC, having lasted seven hours and fifty-eight minutes

This marks the 102nd spacewalk as part of the International Space Station programme, and the first of three planned for the STS-122 Shuttle mission. It was originally planned that German astronaut Hans Schlegel would perform the EVA instead of Stan Love, however he was unable to do so due to an undisclosed medical problem.



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February 7, 2008

Space Shuttle Atlantis launches on mission STS-122

Space Shuttle Atlantis launches on mission STS-122

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Launch of STS-122

Space Shuttle Atlantis has launched from LC-39A at the Kennedy Space Center on mission STS-122 to deliver the European Columbus module to the International Space Station. Liftoff occurred at 19:45 UTC, which is 14:45 local time at the launch site. Atlantis successfully reached orbit about eight and a half minutes later.

Columbus is the first research module to be added to the Space Station since 2001, and its launch came seven years to the day after the last research module, Destiny was launched, also aboard Atlantis. Docking with the International Space Station, on the PMA-2 docking port, is scheduled for Saturday. Earlier today, a Progress spacecraft docked with the Space Station, carrying new supplies for the outpost.

The Shuttle is carrying a crew of seven Astronauts; Stephen Frick, Alan G. Poindexter, Leland D. Melvin, Rex J. Walheim, Hans Schlegel, Stanley G. Love, and Léopold Eyharts.

The STS-122 crew

The launch had previously been delayed twice due to problems with fuel sensors in the Shuttle’s external tank. A connector was replaced, and the third launch attempt proceeded without any sensor problems.

During the post launch press conference, it was reported that three pieces of foam debris were observed falling from the External Tank, however these were all small pieces of debris, so it is expected that any damage caused would not be mission-threatening.

STS-122 is the fifth orbital launch of 2008, the 24th Shuttle mission to the ISS, the 29th flight of Atlantis and the 121st overall Shuttle mission. It is scheduled to last 11 days, and conclude with a landing at the Kennedy Space Center on 19 February. Twelve further Shuttle missions remain before its retirement in 2010.



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