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Archive for November, 2006

18-Nov-06 | Delta flight 321 – NAVSTAR IIR-16 (M3)

The third “modernized” replenishment satellite for the Global Positioning System was successfully launched on Friday, 17 November 2006, the second NAVSTAR in as many months. When it reaches operational status it will replace to replace NAVSTAR IIA-22, launched in August 1993 aboard Delta flight 222. Spaceflight Now has a mission status report of the launch.

10-Nov-06 | On the tenth anniversary of its launch, the Mars Global Surveyor is missing in action.

Starting on 2 November, an issue with a solar array motor combined with a loss of the high gain antenna signal to make communications with Mars Global Surveyor spotty at best. The situation continued to degrade, and since 5 November no signals at all have been received on Earth. Mission managers are still trying to determine what might have gone wrong, including the possibility of a micrometeoroid strike. If no response comes by early next week, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (which passes within 100 kilometers of MGS several times a week) may be called upon to image the missing bird, which could show whether its solar panels and high gain antenna are oriented properly.

Now in its fourth extended mission, MGS is the venerable “old guard” of Mars observation, having sent back more than 240,000 images since it reached orbit in September 1997. It launched aboard Delta 239 on 7 November 1996. (New Scientist, 09-Nov-06)

10-Nov-06 | Delta flight 319 – STEREO

Delta flight 319 placed STEREO, NASA’s Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory, into orbit on the night of 25/26 October. While the vehicle’s only minor issue (an overly-cold nitrogen bottle on the first stage) was resolved before the launch window opened, the launch was delayed by about 14 minutes, due to Range Safety concerns over the wind direction having the potential (in the event of a launch failure) to blow toxic fumes into populated areas. The Range managed to evacuate part of the Port Canaveral area in time for launch to occur one minute before the close of its available window. At an offical liftoff time of 20:52:00.339 EDT on 25-Oct-06, the three-stage Delta II left the pad at SLC-17B to begin a swift, 25-minute flight. Stacked inside the rocket’s extended-length, ten-foot-diameter composite fairing were a nearly-identical pair of solar observatories. These were deployed into a highly-elliptical orbit that will take them close to the Moon. In December, one spacecraft will take a lunar graviational assist to enter a heliocentric orbit “ahead” of Earth’s orbit, while the other spacecraft will, after another month, swing by the Moon again to enter an orbit “behind” that of Earth. From these diverging vantage points, the STEREO spacecraft will be able to image the Sun’s eruptions and prominences in three dimensions, a view never before seen by scientists. With flight 319, the Delta II’s count of consecutive successes now stands at 69. (For a complete play-by-play, see Justin Ray’s as-ever excellent coverage on Spaceflight Now.)



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