NASA's Hypersonic X-Vehicle Ready for
NASA has set this fall for the reflight of the
experimental X-43A hypersonic flight demonstrator. Since the first flight of the
craft failed in June 2001, an investigative
board has completed its review of the mishap. Corrective steps have been taken
to reduce risk for the upcoming test shot.
A NASA B-52 will carry aloft the X-43A/Pegasus launch
vehicle combination for their release. The booster will accelerate the unpiloted
12-foot-long vehicle to seven times the speed of sound, or Mach 7.
The flight will demonstrate, for the first time,
"air-breathing" engine technologies on an aircraft in flight. These technologies
may lead to a cheaper way to get into space. NASA's Langley Research Center in
Hampton, Virginia manages the overall program. The NASA Dryden Flight Research
Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California
manages the flight element.
NASA Langley spokesman, Keith Henry, told
SPACE.com that the research vehicle test objectives and parameters for the second flight will be essentially the same
as for the failed first flight. That is, streaking to Mach 7 after being
unleashed from its B-52 carrier aircraft.
The X-43A reflight may be take place in the late
October-early November time period. A more precise date is expected later this
summer, Henry said.
Hawaii 40: Ed Lu Celebrates Big Birthday in
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. --
Expedition Seven science officer Ed Lu reached a milestone in his life Tuesday,
enjoying his 40th birthday flying high over Earth and receiving best wishes from
flight controllers decked out in Hawaiian Aloha shirts.
"I can't think of a better place to be on your 40th
birthday," said Lu, who considers Hawaii one of his home states and plans to get
married in Maui upon his return to Earth.
To honor Lu on his special day, flight controllers in
Houston and workers at NASA centers around the nation wore bright, flowery
Hawaiian garb. It was one of the more obscure space firsts ever recorded, but
officials did joke with Lu that it might become a new weekend
"You may have to skip the board shorts part and the
flip flops," Lu quipped as he watched a live TV uplink to the space station
showing the flight controllers gathered in their bright clothing.
NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe also offered birthday
greetings, as did Hawaii's governor, Linda Lingle, who sent her best wishes too.
She read a proclamation making Tuesday "Edward Tsang Lu Day."
Lu and station commander Yuri Malenchenko are due to
return to Earth in early November.
History of Flight Fact: The first flight of the Zeppelin, a "rigid" airship that was
the first aircraft to use large metal structures occured on this day in
1900. In 1947 the first double-deck
Boeing "Stratocrusier" is completed at the Boeing Airplane
Company's Seattle plant. On July 2, 2002, Steve
Fossett, in the 180-foot-tall "Spirit of Freedom"
balloon, circumnavigates the globe on his sixth try.
Potential Space Tourism High-Rollers to Get Red
Space Adventures is organizing a VIP event in London
July 17, inviting well-heeled folks who can afford $20 million tourist hops into
space via the Russian Soyuz.
On the invitee list there are British celebrities,
businessmen, as well political figures, said Tereza Predescu, a spokeswoman for
Space Adventures. The location of the event is not being made public.
"We hope that a British orbital client will come
forward," Predescu told SPACE.com.
Eric Anderson, President of Space Adventures, said
the gathering is part of the firm's proactive campaign to seek qualified
candidates for Soyuz tourist flights. "We decided to organize an exclusive event
in London that would cater to British individuals who have expressed interest in
space flight. We are searching for the first British space tourist who will
represent their country, already renown for its explorers," he said.
According to the British Independent Digital (UK)
Ltd. web site, the welcome mat is being rolled out for such big shots as Richard
Branson, head of Virgin Airlines, and Alex James, a guitarist for the rock group
History of Flight Facts: On this day in 1924, the U.S. Post
Office Department opened its regular day-and-night air-mail service between New
York and San Francisco. In 1931, the Winnie
Mae became the lone aircraft to circumnavigate the world, piloted
by Wiley Post and Harold Gatty. In
1933, the DC-1 prototype flew and
in 1941, Jacqueline Cochran becomes the
first woman to ferry the Lockheed Hudson bomber across the
Cubesats: On the Prowl for Earthquake
Earthquake research from space received a boost
thanks to a June 30 launch of a Eurockot launcher from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome
Eight scientific satellites were hurled into orbit,
including QuakeSat, a triple
"cubesat" craft. Stanford University and QuakeFinder, LLC of Palo Alto,
California fabricated the tiny satellites, along with the California Polytechnic
QuakeSat is a step forward in detecting extremely
low-frequency (ELF) magnetic field fluctuations related to earthquakes from a
spaceborne platform, said QuakeFinder's Jeannie Seelbach, President and Chief
There are skeptics who question whether ELF signals
exist on a regular basis prior to earthquakes, Seelbach told SPACE.com
. However, there is compelling evidence collected in past years that precursor
signals to large earthquakes may be detectable, she said.
"But there just aren't enough data samples to reach a
conclusion at this point," Seelbach said. "We hope that our satellite will
provide a significant source of data in its relatively short lifetime --
estimated to be 6 months -- to help resolve this issue," she added.
Seelbach points to another factor in QuakeFinder's
launch. It demonstrated the ability to design, build and launch a satellite in
18 months using commercially available parts. "We hope that this will generate
interestfrom others in using cubesats or other small satellites for research
purposes," she said.
X Prize Contender to Carry Out Drop Tests
X Prize contender Starchaser Industries of the United
Kingdom is to carry out manned drop tests of its three-seater capsule over the
Arizona desert in July. The Nova mark 2 drop tests are slated to take place high
above a Red Lake, Arizona drop zone between July 21 - 25, according to the
rocket organization. The main purpose of the tests is to verify the capsule's
parachute, navigation and landing systems. The capsule will be dropped at a
height of 14,000 feet from a C-123K transport aircraft.
The group is pressing forward on its Project
Thunderbird - a low cost multi-stage rocketship designed to carry people on
short sub-orbital pleasure flights into space. For the purposes of the X Prize,
and to claim a $10 million purse, there are three seats aboard Thunderbird with
the ship to flown twice within a two-week period.
According to Starchaser Industries, its first
"manned" flight is scheduled for October 2004.
-- Leonard David
Helios Prototype Lost During Checkout
The remotely operated Helios Prototype aircraft, a
proof-of-concept solar-electric flying wing designed to operate at extremely
high altitudes for long duration, was destroyed when it crashed today during a
checkout flight from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) on
the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
There was no property damage or injuries on the
ground resulting from the accident. The remotely piloted aircraft came down
within the confines of the PMRF test range over the Pacific Ocean west of the
facility. Cause of the mishap is not yet known.
The solar-electric, propeller-driven aircraft had
been flying under the guidance of ground-based mission controllers for
AeroVironment, Inc., of Monrovia, Calif., the plane's builder and operator. The
lightweight flying wing had taken off from PMRF at about 10:06 a.m. on a
functional checkout flight and had been aloft for about 29 minutes over the PMRF
test range when the mishap occurred. The mishap occurred during a shakedown
mission in preparation for a long-endurance mission of almost two days that had
been planned for next month.
The Helios Prototype set a world altitude record for
winged aircraft of 96,863 feet during a flight from the Navy facility at Barking
Sands, Kauai, in August 2001.
ISS Crew Snapshots Expedition of Long
Some two hundred years separates two expeditions of
exploration: one on the ground and another circling high above Earth.
The Expedition 7 crew now onboard the International
Space Station (ISS) is involved in historical widow-watching. This image was
snapped on June 13, 2003. It is among the first acquisitions of an ongoing
effort to document from space dozens of historical sites along the Lewis and Clark Expedition's entire route.
Way out west
In this near-vertical image of Omaha -- with a
population estimated at more than three quarters of a million residents -- the
city is situated on high ground to the west of the river while Eppley Airfield
and the town of Council Bluffs are located on the floodplain.
The photograph was taken using a Kodak electronic
still camera with a 180mm lens attached.
The Missouri River served as a vital waterway for
transport of the epic Lewis and Clark Expedition. In the vicinity of Omaha,
Nebraska, and Council Bluffs, Iowa, this mighty river snakes its way southward
through a broad floodplain some two to eight miles wide and bordered by
In late July 1804, the Lewis and Clark expedition
paused to rest and repair their boats and planned the "first" Native American
council (Council Bluff) with representatives of the Otoe Tribe.
"Such images bring geography and history to life.
They will provide teachers and students with endless educational opportunities
to study and learn about Earth," said Don Scott, a NASA Aerospace Education
Specialist working out of NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View,
California. "This is strong evidence of the importance of the space program to
benefit education," he told SPACE.com.
SpaceX to Fly from Florida Space Authority Launch
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Elon Musk, the Internet
businessman who now heads up the commercial launch firm SpaceX, has reached an agreement with
the Florida Space Authority to use complex 46 for launching his company's Falcon
The two-stage, liquid-fueled booster is intended to
send smaller payloads into orbit at a cost of some $6 million per flight.
Missions will be staged from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station pad the state
of Florida jointly operates with the U.S. Navy.
"Elon Musk is a welcomed addition to Florida's
aerospace industry," said Florida's Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings. "He is a pathfinder
who is revitalizing an industry by breaking down the barriers in the commercial
SpaceX was created by Musk in 2002 to develop a
family of launch vehicles that would significantly lower the cost of reliable
access to space. He is the online entrepreneur behind such popular products as
the PayPal online payment system and Zip2 software.
"Elon Musk is a space industry visionary," said
Winston Scott, the former NASA astronaut who was recently appointed by Gov. Jeb
Bush as the new executive director of the authority. "He has proved his
entrepreneurial spirit and success through his Internet business
The Florida Space Authority was established in 1989
to grow and maintain a healthy aerospace business sector in the Sunshine
Musk will be speaking July 8 on Florida's Space Coast
during the monthly lunch meeting of the National Space Club Florida Committee.
The event is open to the public. See http://www.nscfl.com for more
Dutchman may fly to ISS on Russian spacecraft after
MOSCOW (Interfax) -- A draft contract for the flight
of Andre Kuipers, a Dutch astronaut from the European Space Agency (ESA), to the
International Space Station (ISS) has been approved, spokesman for the Russian
Aviation and Space Agency Sergei Gorbunov told Interfax on Monday.
"The text of Kuipers's flight contract has been
initialed and the technical chiefs of the projects have signed it. So far this
is a tentative contract signing," he said.
"A full text of the contract [does exist] but there
remain a number of questions that still have to be clarified, namely the
scientific program of the flight needs to be determined," Gorbunov said.
A contract for the flight of another ESA astronaut,
Pedro Duque, was signed at the end of May. Duque will fly to the ISS in October
with crewmembers of Expedition Eight Alexander Kaleri and Michael Foale and
return to Earth with Expedition Seven (Yuri Malenchenko and Ed Lu).
On the ISS, the ESA astronauts will perform
preparatory operations for the receipt of the first European Automated Transfer
Vehicle (ATV). In addition to staging several scientific experiments, they will
install equipment for docking the ATV with the station.
"The question of ESA astronauts participating in
long-term expeditions has not been raised so far," Gorbunov said.
Commercial space flights bring additional financial
resources to the Russian space program. Experts say Russia will be incapable of
fulfilling its commitments to build the ISS without energetically advancing a
new sphere of commercial operations - space tourism and commercial flights of
ESA astronauts. Each flight of an ESA astronaut brings Russia some $12
Micro-Satellites for ISS Make Their
Make room on the International Space Station (ISS)
for a trio of in-house satellites.
After five years of research, design and development,
a milestone has been passed in the building of a Synchronized Position Hold,
Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellites project - or SPHERES for
Click to Enlarge
The SPHERES test-bed consists of three self-contained
satellites, each with battery power, a cold gas propulsion system, and onboard
communications and navigation equipment. The satellites autonomously navigate
within a designated work area inside ISS by individually measuring their
respective positions and attitudes in relation to one another and to the defined
SPHERES is designed to support breakthrough research
on complicated multiple-satellite operations, such as service and repair,
formation flight, and distributed functionality, and for applications that
include high-precision Earth observation, deep space astronomy, and
It's all music to the ears of Payload Systems Inc., a
Cambridge, Massachusetts-based firm working on the concept. The firm delivers
this week to NASA major space-rated elements of the SPHERES effort. Additional
gear and software is to be provided to the space agency later this
The SPHERES project began in 1998 as a challenging
student assignment in an experimental three-semester undergraduate design course
at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Students delving into the idea
took to the air, testing hardware prototypes on the NASA KC-135 reduced gravity
SPHERES is currently targeted for delivery to the ISS
by a space shuttle next year. To learn more go to
-- Leonard David
History of Flight Fact: On this day in 1931, aviators Wiley
Post and Harold Gatty took off from New York on the
first round-the-world flight in a single-engine plane. Seven years later, in
1938, the Civil Aeronautics Authority was
The 25th Anniversary of the Discovery of Pluto's
On 22 June 1978, an astronomer at the U.S. Naval
Observatory in Washington, D.C. was making routine measurements of photographic
plates taken with the 1.55-meter (61-inch) Kaj Strand Astrometric Reflector at
the USNO Flagstaff Station in Arizona. The purpose of these images was to refine
the orbit of the far-flung planet Pluto to help compute a better ephemeris for
this distant object.
Astronomer James W. Christy had noticed that a number
of the images of Pluto appeared elongated, but images of background stars on the
same plate did not. Other plates showed the planet as a tiny, round dot. Christy
examined a number of Pluto images from the USNO archives, and he noticed the
elongations again. Furthermore, the elongations appeared to change position with
respect to the stars over time. After eliminating the possibility that the
elongations were produced by plate defects and background stars, the only
plausible explanation was that they were caused by a previously unknown moon
orbiting Pluto at a distance of about 19,600 kilometers (12,100 miles) with a
period of just over six days.
On 7 July 1978, the discovery was formally announced
to the astronomical community and the world by the IAU Central Bureau for
Astronomical Telegrams via IAU Circular 3241. The discovery received the
provisional designation "1978 P 1"; Christy proposed the name "Charon", after
the mythological ferryman who carried souls across the river Acheron, one of the
five mythical rivers that surrounded Pluto's underworld.
Over the course of the next several years, another
USNO astronomer, the late Robert S. Harrington, calculated that Pluto and its
newly-found moon would undergo a series of mutual eclipses and occultations,
beginning in early 1985. On 17 February 1985 the first successful observation of
one of these transits was made at with the 0.9-meter (36-inch) reflector at the
University of Texas McDonald Observatory, within 40 minutes of Harrington's
predicted time. The IAU Circular announcing these confirming observations was
issued on 22 February 1985. With this confirmation, the new moon was officially
Missed something from
last week? Astronotes