Reuters reports on the successful SpaceX-carried resupply mission to the ISS: "A cargo ship owned by Space Exploration Technologies arrived at the International Space Station on Sunday, with a delivery of supplies and science experiments for the crew and a pair of legs for the experimental humanoid robot aboard that one day may be used in a spacewalk. Station commander Koichi Wakata used the outpost's 58-foot (18-meter) robotic crane to snare the Dragon capsule from orbit at 7:14 a.m. (1114 GMT), ending its 36-hour journey. ... "The Easter Dragon is knocking at the door," astronaut Randy Bresnik radioed to the crew from Mission Control in Houston. Space Exploration, known as SpaceX, had planned to launch its Dragon cargo ship in March, but was delayed by technical problems, including a two-week hold to replace a damaged U.S. Air Force radar tracking system."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
mosb1000 (710161) writes "SpaceX is reporting that they've successfully landed the first stage of their CRS3 Falcon 9 rocket over the Atlantic Ocean today. This is potentially a huge milestone for low-cost space flight." In another win for the company, as the L.A. Times reports, SpaceX also has launched a re-supply mission to the ISS.
An anonymous reader writes "Despite a critical backup computer failing on the ISS Friday, an unmanned SpaceX rocket will launch from Cape Canaveral at 4:58 p.m. Monday with more than 2 tons of supplies for the space station. From the article: 'The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration decided to proceed with its resupply mission, despite technical problems with its computer in the International Space Station (ISS), as it needed to deliver necessary supplies.'"
An anonymous reader writes "The Verge reports on an internal memo from NASA indicating that they've suspended all contracts and activities with Russia that aren't involved with operating the International Space Station. Quoting: 'Given Russia's ongoing violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, until further notice, the U.S. Government has determined that all NASA contacts with Russian Government representatives are suspended, unless the activity has been specifically excepted. This suspension includes NASA travel to Russia and visits by Russian Government representatives to NASA facilities, bilateral meetings, email, and teleconferences or videoconferences. At the present time, only operational International Space Station activities have been excepted.' NASA Administrator Charles Bolden argued recently that our dependence on Russia for putting astronauts into space needs to end."
An anonymous reader writes "Originally scheduled to launch on March 16, SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft will now launch March 30. From the article: 'Officials delayed launch from March 16 after engineers raised concerns that petroleum stains discovered on thermal blankets could contaminate sensitive components on a high-definition imaging camera and an optical communications experiment mounted inside the Dragon spacecraft's trunk. "After careful review and analysis, engineering teams representing both the ISS and SpaceX have determined Dragon is ready to fly 'as-is.' All parties agree that the particular constituents observed in Dragon's trunk are in line with the previously defined environments levels and do not impose additional risk to the payloads," SpaceX said in a statement.'"
itwbennett (1594911) writes "A pair of Google's Project Tango phones, the prototype smartphone packed with sensors so it can learn and sense the world around it, is heading to the International Space Station on the upcoming Orbital 2 mission where they will be used to help develop autonomous flying robots. Work on the robots is already going on at NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, and this week the space agency let a small group of reporters visit its lab and see some of the research."
Freetronics is Australia's answer to a lot of electronic tinkerers' needs, selling items like Arduino compatible boards, cables, and specialized tools. Founder Jonathan Oxer is a (serious) electronics hobbyist himself; he talked with Slashdot last year about making ArduSats, which were then launched to the International Space Station. Now, Oxer has written an excellent guide for hobbyists who might get the chance to travel to Shenzhen, where so many of the world's electronic bits and bobs are made. As travel writing goes, it's fascinating for the sheer novelty of the place. If you actually have the chance to go, some of the advice here might save you money and time. For those of you who have been to Shenzhen, what else should visitors know?
astroengine writes with news of SpaceX's next step in experimenting with vertical landings for rocket stages. From the article: "Space Exploration Technologies is installing landing legs on its next Falcon 9 rocket, part of an ongoing quest to develop boosters that fly themselves back to the launch site for reuse. For the upcoming demonstration, scheduled for March 16, the Falcon 9's first stage will splash down, as usual, in the ocean after liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This time, however, SpaceX hopes to cushion the rocket's destructive impact into the Atlantic Ocean by restarting the Falcon 9's engine and extending landing legs that will be attached to the booster's aft section. The goal is a soft touchdown on the water." The test is scheduled for their ISS resupply mission on March 16th 2014 (the mission also features the launch of the crowdfunded KickSat nano nanosatellites) .
An anonymous reader writes "Orbital Sciences Corp.'s unmanned Cygnus spacecraft delivered 3,000 pounds of equipment, fresh fruit, and Christmas presents from the families of all six ISS spacemen today. 'From the men and women involved in the design, integration and test, to those who launched the Antares (rocket) and operated the Cygnus, our whole team has performed at a very high level for our NASA customer, and I am very proud of their extraordinary efforts,' said David W. Thompson, president and chief executive officer of Orbital, in a written statement from the company."
An anonymous reader writes with news that funding has been secured for the ISS through at least 2024. From NASA: "'...We are pleased to announce that the Obama Administration has approved an extension of the International Space Station until at least 2024. We are hopeful and optimistic that our ISS partners will join this extension effort and thus enable continuation of the groundbreaking research being conducted in this unique orbiting laboratory for at least another decade. ... A further benefit of ISS extension is it will give NASA and its private-sector partners time to more fully transition to the commercial space industry the transportation of cargo and crew to low-Earth-orbit, allowing NASA to continue to increase its focus on developing the next-generation heavy-lift rocket and crew capsule necessary for deep-space exploration."
ClockEndGooner writes "A giant coronal mass ejection from the Sun yesterday has resulted in a higher than normal level of radioactivity, and in turn, forced Orbital Sciences to postpone their first mission launch of the Cygnus space truck to the International Space Station. Citing concerns of the effect increased levels of space radiation may have on the Antares launcher and Cygnus avionics, the NASA and Orbital launch team is now evaluating if conditions will improve for a launch on Thursday, which would have Cygnus arriving at the ISS on Sunday morning." In other ISS news, the Orlando Sentinel is reporting that NASA has gotten approval from the White House to extend the ISS's mission for another four years, pushing the end date back to 2024. An official announcement is expected later this week.
the_newsbeagle writes "'As 2014 dawns, China has the most active and ambitious space program in the world,' says this article. While it's true that the Chinese space agency is just now reaching milestones that the U.S. and Russia reached 40 years ago (its first lunar rover landed in December), the Chinese government's strong support for space exploration means that it's catching up fast. On the agenda for the next decade: A space station to rival the ISS, a new spaceport, new heavy-lift rockets, a global satellite navigation system to rival GPS, and China's first space science satellites."
Yesterday, two astronauts completed a seven hour spacewalk to finish installation of a spare coolant pump after a failed coolant pump forced a partial shut down of the ISS. As of late yesterday afternoon, that pump is online and operating normally: "The new pump now is considered fully functional, but it will take some time to fully reintegrate the pump and Loop A of the two-loop external cooling system. Teams at mission control are following a schedule that should allow the restored cooling loop to be fully activated and integrated into the station’s cooling system on Christmas Day, Dec. 25. ... Electrical systems that depend on cooling from Loop A will be repowered or moved back from temporary support on Loop B gradually on Thursday, Friday, and throughout the weekend."
Ars Technica reports that the next planned spacewalk in the continuing repairs of the International Space Station's ammonia pump has been delayed, because of problems with the spacesuit worn by astronaut Rick Mastracchio. From the article: "According to Deutsche Welle, the problem is with how the sublimator (a cooling unit) in Mastracchio's suit operated when entering ISS airlock. NASA said the question is whether water entered the sublimator at that time. 'During repressurization of the station's airlock following the spacewalk, a spacesuit configuration issue put the suit Mastracchio was wearing in question for the next excursion,' NASA said in a statement. Delaying the next steps of the valve replacement from Monday until Tuesday will give NASA time to address the issue. Mastracchio is scheduled to wear a backup suit and needs this time to have it resized."
The ISS crew can breathe a little easier now; the NY Times reports that the ammonia pump repair that the station has needed has now been partly completed, and in less time than expected. More work is scheduled, but, says The Times: "The astronauts, Col. Michael S. Hopkins of the Air Force and Richard A. Mastracchio, were far ahead of schedule throughout the spacewalk as they detached tubing and electrical connectors from the pump. They were able to remove the 780-pound module and move it to a temporary storage location, a task that had been scheduled for a second spacewalk on Monday. ... Colonel Hopkins and Mr. Mastracchio stepped out of an airlock at 7:01 a.m. Eastern time, and even though they accomplished more than they had set out to do, they were able to return at 12:29 p.m., an hour earlier than had been scheduled. The two encountered few complications." Ars Technica has video, too.
The ISS has been operating at partial capacity after a coolant pump malfunctioned last week. NASA has now announced the repair mission: "NASA currently plans for two Expedition 38 astronauts to venture outside the space station Dec. 21, 23, and 25. NASA astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins will remove a pump module that has a failed valve. They will replace it with an existing spare that is stored on an external stowage platform. The pump is associated with one of the station's two external cooling loops, which circulate ammonia outside the station to keep both internal and external equipment cool. Each of the three spacewalks will begin at 7:10 a.m. and is scheduled to last six and a half hours. NASA TV coverage will begin at 6:15 a.m." NASA TV will be airing a preview of the space walks at 3 p.m. EST. As a result of the coolant pump malfunction and the repairs, NASA has also delayed the launch of Orbital Sciences' cargo resupply mission until at least mid-January.
astroengine writes "As if the International Space Station couldn't get any cooler, the Japanese segment of the orbiting outpost has launched a barrage of small satellites — known as "cubesats" — from their very own Cubesat Cannon! Of course, the real name of the cubesat deployment system isn't quite as dramatic, but the JEM Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (J-SSOD) adds a certain sci-fi flair to space station science."
DavidGilbert99 writes "Nowhere is safe. Even in the cold expanse of space, computer malware manages to find a way. According to Russian security expert Eugene Kaspersky, the SCADA systems on board the International Space Station have been infected by malware which was carried into space on USB sticks by Russian astronauts."
The Bad Astronomer writes "It sounds like a scene from Gravity: Astronauts aboard the International Space Station Thursday saw a weird, glowing cloud of light in the distance, most likely caused by a fuel dump or leaking fuel from a Russian missile launch. The extended life of a Topol missile was being tested in a ballistic launch to a test target in Kazakhstan, and the astronauts were able to take pictures of both the launch vapor trail and the glowing cloud. This event is similar to the eerie spiral lights seen over Norway in 2009 caused by a Russian missile launch as well."
minty3 writes "An 11-year-old Colorado boy may have found a way to literally make a beer that's out of this world. Michal Bodzianowski, a sixth grader at Douglas County's STEM School and Academy in Highlands Ranch, Colo., recently won a national competition where his beer-making experiment will be flown to the International Space Station." Noting that beer is safer than contaminated water, Bodzianowski pointed out that beer could be useful “in future civilization as an emergency backup hydration and medical source."