Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Atlantis Arrives at Pad 39A for STS-125 Preparations

We're finally back at the pad ready to launch Atlantis again! Originally, the launch was delayed because of a technical issue with the Hubble Space Telescope and then it was adjusted in the timeline with another orbiter as a "launch on need".

What makes this mission unique? The Hubble Space Telescope is in a different orbit than the International Space Station. The astronauts onboard Atlantis cannot seek safe haven to the ISS if a major problem develops that might prevent a safe re-entry. As a result, space shuttle Endeavour will be moved to launch pad 39B on April 17 to serve as an emergency rescue mission, if needed.

If the mission goes as planned and we have no emergency, then Endeavour will be moved to pad 39A after Atlantis lands for normal processing and launch around June 13 to the International Space Station.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Discovery Lands at KSC!

On Saturday at 3:14 pm, Discovery landed on runway 15 at Kennedy Space Center! This completed the 13-day mission successfully delivering the final pair of large power-generating solar array wings and the S6 truss segment for the International Space Station.

I wasn't able to see the landing for myself because I was in Pennsylvania visiting Ridley Park High School. On Friday I visited the high school to talk about the Orbiter and the Thermal Protection System. I received some great questions from the students and they enjoyed the demo parts I brought for them to see.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour


This year, Earth Hour has been transformed into the world’s first global election, between Earth and global warming.

For the first time in history, people of all ages, nationalities, race and background have the opportunity to use their light switch as their vote – Switching off your lights is a vote for Earth, or leaving them on is a vote for global warming. WWF are urging the world to VOTE EARTH and reach the target of 1 billion votes, which will be presented to world leaders at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009.

This meeting will determine official government policies to take action against global warming, which will replace the Kyoto Protocol. It is the chance for the people of the world to make their voice heard.

Earth Hour began in Sydney in 2007, when 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for one hour. In 2008 the message had grown into a global sustainability movement, with 50 million people switching off their lights. Global landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Rome’s Colosseum, the Sydney Opera House and the Coca Cola billboard in Times Square all stood in darkness.

In 2009, Earth Hour is being taken to the next level, with the goal of 1 billion people switching off their lights as part of a global vote. Unlike any election in history, it is not about what country you’re from, but instead, what planet you’re from. VOTE EARTH is a global call to action for every individual, every business, and every community. A call to stand up and take control over the future of our planet. Over 74 countries and territories have pledged their support to VOTE EARTH during Earth Hour 2009, and this number is growing everyday.

We all have a vote, and every single vote counts. Together we can take control of the future of our planet, for future generations.

VOTE EARTH by simply switching off your lights for one hour, and join the world for Earth Hour.

Saturday, March 28, 8:30-9:30pm.

Monday, March 23, 2009

So how are the Solid Rocket Boosters retrieved?

As soon as the solid rocket boosters are jettisoned from the space shuttle, they splash down into the Atlantic Ocean. The retrieval ships, Liberty Star and Freedom Star, are already onsite about 9.2-11.5 miles from the splash down area. Each ship recovers one booster.

Upon arrival, the team first conducts a visual assessment of the flight hardware. The main parachutes are the first items to be brought on board. Their shroud lines are wound onto each of three of the four reels on the ship's deck. The drogue parachute, attached to the frustum, is reeled onto the fourth reel until the frustum is approximately 50 feet astern of the ship. The 5,000-pound frustum is then lifted from the water.

Once the chutes and frustum are recovered, the dive team prepares for booster recovery. Two small inflatable boats, with retrieval divers aboard, are deployed to install a Diver-Operated Plug (DOP) in the nozzle of the booster. The DOP is 22 feet in length and weighs 1,100 pounds. It is neutrally buoyant in water, meaning it neither floats nor sinks, and is easily guided to the aft skirt at a depth of about 110 feet by the divers. A quick inspection of the nozzle is conducted and then the DOP is inserted into the booster nozzle. Once the DOP legs are locked in place and the nozzle sealed, an air hose is attached from the ship.

The second dive team double-checks the aft skirt and DOP installation to ensure there are no problems. After the second dive is completed, dewatering operations begin by pumping air from the ship through the DOP and into the booster, displacing the water within the casing. In doing this, the booster rises in the water until it becomes top-heavy. It falls horizontally, like a log in the water. Air pumping continues until all water is expelled from the empty casing.

The final step in the ocean retrieval procedure is to connect the ship's tow line. Once the tow connection is made, the divers return to the ship everyone returns to the hangar on at Cape Canaveral Air Station.

Below are some pictures from the booster retrieval after the STS-119 launch!!!

(STS-125) Atlantis moves to the Vehicle Assembly Building

This morning Atlantis moved to the Vehicle Assembly Building to be mated with the Solid Rocket Boosters and External Tank for STS-125.

The launch for Atlantis is scheduled for May 12 on a final mission to service and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Mims Elementary Astronomy Night

Last night I helped out with Astronomy Night at Mims Elementary. Radio Disney was there "DJing" and we had an educator from the Orlando Science Center come out and talk to the kids about the planets and moons. We set up a bunch of different stations in the cafeteria that were related to space for the kids to visit. My station was teaching kids about comets.

As the night progressed and it became darker, the Brevard and Kennedy Space Center Astronomical Society set up their awesome telescopes and the kids got to view Saturn, the brightest star Sirius, the star Betelgeuse which is the second brightest star in the Orion constellation, the planet Venus, and so much more!! Everyone had such a great time!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Space Shuttle Flight Simulator

While working out here in Houston, I had a chance to try out the Space Shuttle Flight Simulator and it was AMAZING!! The flight simulator is what the astronauts use as part of their training for launch, reentry, and landing scenarios.

The simulator positioned us on our backs to feel like we were in the 90 degree launch position. We then felt the launch sequence of liftoff, solid rocket booster separation, external tank jettison, and main engine cutoff.

The most awesome part was when I got to sit in the commander's seat and land the orbiter. I wasn't to shabby in the simulator!! :)

After landing the orbiter, I even got a "report card" rating me on my landing! :)

Ever wonder what the "bathroom" onboard the orbiter looks like?? Well here ya go!! Can you imagine trying to hold on to those handle bars in the microgravity environment?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Inspecting the Thermal Protection System

We spent the afternoon and night reviewing imagery of the thermal protection system. Overall the vehicle looked in great condition! There are a couple of anomalies that we detected, but nothing off-nominal. We're complete for tonight and will be meeting early in the morning to continue our assessment.

Photo Credit: Phil Hsieh

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

STS-119: Flight Day 3

Today, Discovery will do a rendezvous pitch maneuver (RPM) or "orbiter backflip" before it docks with the International Space Station. The crew on board the ISS will take high res photos and downlink them to us for review. We will be identifying and debris impacts, protruding gap fillers, or anomalies with the thermal protection system. So far we have heard there are no major issues with the Orbiter. Discovery will be docking with the ISS a little after 5pm EDT!

Over night, the astronauts used Discovery's 50-foot-long boom on the end of the robot arm to perform laser scans and get high-res imagery of the nose cap and wing leading edge panels. The other half of our group is looking for any signs of impact damage as well.

Overall, there were no obvious signs of debris or damage seen in video downlinked from the shuttle during launch, but we will be verifiying that over the next couple of days in here in Houston as we perform a detailed assessment on the imagery.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Successful Launch of Discovery!

What a spectacular and beautiful launch! I am so glad we launched today and were able to overcome the hardware challenges. I am now headed to pack my bags and head to Houston to support the STS-119 imagery team. We will be inspecting Discovery's Thermal Protection System (TPS) and look for any anomalies that could be an issue for reentry of the vehicle.

I'm not sure if any of you were able to see my interview on spaceflightnow.com with Miles O'Brien and former astronaut Leroy Chiao. Below are a couple of pictures from today. The interview went very well and I received some encouraging words from the former astronaut. A 'thank you' to Miles O'Brien as well for mentioning the blog!

While at the press site, I was also able to visit the press briefing room!

STS-119....we're still "go" for launch

I'm heading out to the press site right now as I will be interviewed. The live broadcast has already started and I should be on spaceflightnow.com around 5:30pm EDT. Hope you get a chance to check it out!

Link to live broadcast:http://spaceflightnow.com/shuttle/sts119/status.html

STS-119 Launch Today!

The Mission Management Team has completed its pre-fueling meeting and given the launch team approval to begin filling space shuttle Discovery's external tank with its cryogenic propellants as planned this morning.

There are currently no issues and we're still "go" for a 7:43 pm EDT launch.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

STS-119 SCRUBBED for today!!!

A NASA spokesman says today's launch attempt has been scrubbed due to the hydrogen leak.

NASA engineers say it will be Sunday at the earliest before shuttle Discovery could be readied for another launch attempt, pending work to resolve the leak problem. The space station residents were informed that launch would likely slip to Sunday or Monday.

Officials are facing a Monday deadline for getting the shuttle launched before the upcoming Soyuz crew exchange mission. Otherwise, Discovery would have to wait til around April 7 to launch.

STS-119 Update!!

The seven astronauts will be awakened at 11 a.m. to begin their launch day routine.

Filling of the external fuel tank will begin around 12:00pm. The astronauts will then suit up shortly before 5 p.m. and depart from the crew quarters at 5:30 p.m.

Arrival at the launch pad should occur by 6 p.m. to start strapping aboard Space Shuttle Discovery. The crew hatch door is scheduled to be closed for flight a little after 7 p.m. EDT.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Look for me on spaceflightnow.com tomorrow!

I am very optimistic that we will have a successful launch tomorrow night! STS-119 will be the 125th space shuttle flight and the 28th flight to the International Space Station. Discovery and its crew will deliver the final set of large power-generating solar array wings and integrated truss structure, S6, to the space station. The mission includes four spacewalks. Launch is still scheduled for 9:20 p.m EDT tomorrow!!

Tomorrow I will be on site at Kennedy Space Center not only go to work, but to also be interviewed during a live broadcast for STS-119 mission coverage. There may be some TV networks I'll be on, but I won't know which ones until tomorrow. I am scheduled to air on spaceflightnow.com around 7:45pm EDT. (see below)

Spaceflight Now and the Coalition for Space Exploration
invite you to tune in to a live five-hour video Web cast of the
Space Shuttle Discovery launch on Wednesday, March 11, from
Spaceflight Now's Mission Status Center at the Kennedy Space
Center. The shuttle launch is scheduled for 9:20 p.m. EDT. The Web
cast will start at 4:30 p.m. EDT at http://www.spaceflightnow.com

This revolutionary approach for bringing up-to-the-minute coverage to your computer and hand-held device will feature veteran broadcaster Miles O'Brien and David Waters. Special guest appearances include:

  • Astronaut Leroy Chiao, who flew four times to space and commanded the 10th expedition to the International Space Station

  • Damaris Sarria, Coalition Advisory Board Member and aspiring astronaut

    Tune in at www.spaceflightnow.com between the hours of 4:30 and 9:45 p.m. Follow the broadcasters, and ask questions, live via Twitter during the Web cast!
  • Wednesday, March 04, 2009

    STS-119 Launch Targeted for March 11

    The Space Shuttle Program Program Requirements Control Board (PRCB) ended their meeting this evening with a thorough review of the flow control valve issue. After a tremendous amount of testing, analysis, and inspection, the program will continue forward with the Flight Readiness Review (FRR) this Friday (3/6). The targeted launch date is March 11th at 9:20 pm EDT.

    Click here for more info on the valve issue.

    (Below: One of the new valves installed this week)

    Tuesday, March 03, 2009

    The Mighty Pickles!!

    ..So I'm trying softball out this year and tonight was the first game of the season. Team name: The Mighty Pickles :)