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Archive for 2003


24-Dec-03 | Christmas eve on Mars

Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, launched aboard Delta 298 in June, will land in Gusev Crater on 4 January 2004. Meanwhile, Mars mavens are watching the Europeans closely, as their Mars Express probe and Beagle 2 lander will reach the Red Planet early Christmas morning.


24-Dec-03 | SIRTF renamed

NASA has announced the new name of SIRTF, jettisoning the ungainly Space Infrared Telescope Facility moniker. The orbiting observatory will now be known as the Spitzer Space Telescope, after Dr. Lyman Spitzer, Jr. (1914-1997).

Dr. Spitzer was “one of the 20th century’s most distinguished scientists [and] made significant contributions to the fields of stellar dynamics, the interstellar medium and plasma physics.” In 1946, he was the first to propose placing telescopes in space to eliminate aberrations caused by the Earth’s atmosphere; his efforts culminated in the Hubble Space Telescope.

The Spitzer Space Telescope has returned its first, astonishingly beautiful images — the future of infrared astronomy is bright and clear. (NASA Press Releases 03-411 and 03-414, 18-Dec-03)


23-Dec-03 | Site availability news

Apologies to anyone who had trouble reaching this site within the past day or so. We can all blame Linksys, whose bad implementation of their updater client was abusing my dynamic DNS provider.


22-Dec-03 | Next launch

The next Delta II launch will be another NAVSTAR satellite, IIR-11. It is currently slated for March 2004.


22-Dec-03 | Stardust getting close

Stardust is moving ever closer to its target, comet Wild 2, and encounter is less than 0 minutes away. Though the comet’s name is pronounced “vilt,” after its Swiss discoverer, this hasn’t kept JPL from releasing news items that make unfortunate use of “wild” clichés (e.g. “Where the Wild Thing Is” and “Catching the Wild Child“).


22-Dec-03 | Delta flight 302 – NAVSTAR IIR-10

Early Sunday morning, 21 December, at 08:05 UTC, the seventh and final Delta II launch of 2003 took NAVSTAR IIR-10 into orbit to continue the replenishment of the Global Positioning System. The chilly Florida air was not a constraint for either the rocket or the payload, and the countdown was typically quiet — until an alarm sounded within the T-minus two minute mark. T-zero was pushed to the end of the window, the alarm was found to be a non-issue, and the countdown resumed to a perfect, daylight-bright liftoff. Delta flight 302 deployed SVN-47 into its proper transfer orbit just over 68 minutes later. (By the way, this reporter slept through it all… but Justin Ray was awake.)


08-Dec-03 | Stardust sees its target

“Forty-nine days before its historic rendezvous with a comet, NASA’s Stardust spacecraft successfully photographed its quarry, comet Wild 2, from 25 million kilometers (15.5 million miles) away.” (JPL Press Release, 01-Dec-03)


18-Nov-03 | STEREO selected for flight

NASA has exercised another option on its June 2000 launch contract with Boeing, officially scheduling STEREO, the Solar-Terrestrial Relations Observatory, to launch aboard a three-stage Delta II 7925 on 15 November 2005. Previous flights on this contract were the Mars Exploration Rovers, en route and soon to arrive at Mars; future flights include Aura, Deep Impact, and MESSENGER; two options remain. (NASA Contract Release, 17-Nov-03)


18-Nov-03 | GP-B delayed again, again

Gravity Probe B has been delayed yet again, as pre-launch testing has revealed noise on an output channel of one of the spacecraft’s gyroscopes. A new launch date is pending assessment of the problem. Assembly of the two-stage Delta II rocket is complete, and the vehicle will remain on the pad at SLC-2W. (KSC Press Release, 17-Nov-03)


21-Oct-03 | CONTOUR investigation concludes

The CONTOUR Mishap Investigation Board has released its findings, concluding that “the probable proximate cause for this accident was structural failure of the spacecraft due to plume heating during the embedded solid-rocket motor burn.” (NASA Press Release, 15-Oct-03)

Contact with the spacecraft was lost on 15 August 2002, following a propulsive manoeuvre during which, by design, no telemetry was available. To this observer, it sounds like CONTOUR (launched on Delta 292) was yet another victim of overly enthusiastic application of the “Faster, Better, Cheaper” mantra, resulting in a lack of project oversight and end-to-end systems integration testing of the same sort that doomed Mars Polar Lander.


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