Monday, July 31, 2006

MEROPE Victim of Russian Rocket Failure

It's crushing to see anyone's good work go up in flames moments before it is to be unveiled. Unfortunately, so it was with the Montana Earth-Orbiting Pico-Explorer satellite or MEROPE, the first satellite built in Montana.

MEROPE was just one of 13 nano-sats lost in the failed launch of a Dnepr rocket from it's Baikonur Cosmodrome missile silo in Kazakhstan, Russia.
According to the National Association for Amateur Radio, each satellite carried amateur radio transmit-only payloads and all were lost. One private satellite was also lost in the crash.

Also lost was the BelKa "Belorusskit Kosmicheskiy Apparat" satellite. You can follow this cool thread for some neat pictures and further discussion of BelKa.

Despite this news, Dnepr rockets (formerly SS-18 Satan intercontinental ballistic missiles) are better suited for satellite launches (or failures) than the fate intended by their original design...

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Space Island Group Plans to Launch Delta Clipper

Space Island Group has been working diligently to build a commercial space station for more than a decade, and they now believe their dreams will come true in less than five years.

These are the same folks who have been begging NASA to let them retro-fit a dozen external fuel tanks for conversion to a space-habitat complete with partial to possibly full gravity and room for up to 400 assorted scientists, visitors and business owners. They plan to service this new space station with a fleet of Delta Clipper spaceships.
All this as early as 2010.

We can only hope...

Saturday, July 29, 2006

China Looking To Open Space Program

An interesting story at, claims the head of the Chinese space program said they will soon seek international partners for its planned lunar exploration mission.

According to Luan Enjie, cooperation is necessary for the program's success.

If progress on the Chinese manned lunar mission continues as it has, they could put boots on lunar soil by 2024.

He hinted at cooperation with his European and U.S. counterparts, but there is no way to know exactly what the future will bring.

They could be looking to partner with North Korea....

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Huygens Movie Making the Rounds

European Space Agency scientists have released some great little video clips of movies taken by the Huygens probe as it descended to the surface of Titan last year.

They are not very long and have little detail, but they're cool to watch anyway...

Titan Hydrocarbon Lakes Revealed

The story has been beamed around the globe by now, so surely you've already heard: The European Space Agency probe, Cassini, has finally spotted those giant lakes of hydrocarbons planetary scientists expected it would find there.

Scientists believe the lakes are likely comprised of methane or ethane, similar to racing fuel. More detailed photos will be taken and the region further explored to test the theory. But judging from the photos and radar images, the dark areas in question are liquid of some sort.

According to the story at, if this is true, Titan becomes the only planet in the Solar System, besides Earth, with lakes.
Not right for water skiing, but lakes just the same...

Monday, July 24, 2006

Dirty Skies Links to Cool NASA Video

Follow a shuttle solid rocket booster from lift-off to splash down (yes, the solid ones are the ones they re-use) and watch as the external fuel tank detaches and drops away into Earth's orbit where it will eventually burn-up. (Although you don't get to see that.)

Check it out at which has links to some really cool NASA video. is in our Blogroll on the right side of this page. The site is run by a bunch of urban astronomers, hell-bent on getting the world to take a larger interest in the heavens above us.
It works for us. That's why we put their link on our Blogroll.

There are some cool links over there next to Dirty Skies.
If you haven't checked them out in a while, please do so now....

Shuttle Atlantis Readied for August Mission is reporting the shuttle Atlantis has been prepped for mating to its external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters. This is all in preparation for an August flight to the International Space Station where it will continue the expansion of the station, specifically, it will attach a long steel truss to the existing structure.

Spaceflight Now has a nice section devoted completely to the shuttle missions. Find photos, video clips, detailed mission analysis and the future mission schedule.

They even blogged the slow tedious move to the Vehicle Assembly Building. Here's an excerpt:

7:24 a.m. EDT
The move has not yet commenced. But the transporter just started its engine.

Now that's exciting stuff...

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Cool new Genesis-I Video

Unlike so many others who came before them, Bigelow Aerospace is setting a new standard for success when it comes to experimental spacecraft. Much like the engineers at Scaled Composites (The folks who brought us SpaceShip One), the people operating the Genesis-I inflatable spacecraft project make it look easy.

They just posted some cool new video of their little inflatable space station, here. Check it out.

For now the things will act more like the Goodyear Blimp than Deep Space Nine. The company is offering to put various personal items aboard the next craft for a small fee. The deal is open to anyone. Find out about it here. But don't plan on sending anything you might want back...

Falcon 1 Failure Found in a B-nut

A DARPA review board has determined what it feels is the exact cause of the failure of the March 24 Falcon 1 flight and has cleared the rocket for another try. The next attempt is expected sometime this autumn, but an exact date has not been released.
Spacecraft builder SpaceX is working under contract to Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a major source of funds for the Falcon project.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk has been furiously Blogging away at their official site, promoting the next launch of Falcon 1 and the yet-to-be-tested EELV class rocket, Falcon 9. SpaceX promises its fleet of Falcon rockets will revolutionize commercial space launch capability, greatly reducing the cost to orbit.
If it can get to orbit.
During the March 24 launch a leaking fuel tank caused the rocket to burst into flames just seconds after lift-off from the launch pad at the Kwajalein Atoll.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Safe Landing for Discovery Means Shuttles Back in Service

The Shuttle Discovery successfully landed at Kennedy Space Center this morning marking the first shuttle landing in Florida in four years.
Engineers say this shows the shuttle is ready for service. Up next, Atlantis launches sometime later next month to deliver a heavy beam for the further expansion of International Space Station. has a nifty slide-show from the recent Discovery mission. Check it out....

Sunday, July 16, 2006

'Hubble Junior' Offers Astronomy at a Bargain is reporting on a proposal to use high-altitude, solar powered airships to carry sensitive telescopes for a view almost as good as we get from the Hubble Space Telescope.

According to the story, Astronomer Robert A. Fesen, of Dartmouth University, has written a paper describing in detail the benefits of such a project including low cost and flexibility of the hardware which could be repositioned, upgraded or repaired as needed.

This may end up being the best plan for "life after Hubble"...

Friday, July 14, 2006

Museums Hover Over Remaining Shuttles Like Vultures

NASA says it will take a minimum of 15 more shuttle flights to complete construction of the International Space Station. Following Discovery's successful launch and mission, the first of those flights is tentatively scheduled for late next month.

Since Congress has set a deadline of 2010 for all shuttles to be permanently retired, various museums have begun the process of vying for one of the three remaining shuttles.

This alone is surely a sign America's space program is back on track...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

ESA Gives Venus Express A-OK

The Venus Express spacecraft, in orbit around the cloud-shrouded planet since April, has been cleared by European Space Agency scientists to begin its work researching, photographing and otherwise studying what many planetologists call Earth's sister planet.

Already scientists are finding more water, more clouds and more things they don't understand about the mysterious world. Greenhouse gases rage and winds swirl the dense clouds that obscure the surface of the planet. Preliminary information obtained from Venus Express in just a few short weeks has scientists wondering if those clouds might also hide a volcanically active planet.
Mysteries abound...

Tracking Bigelow

Recognizing history in the making, Leonard David, writing at, has a couple cool links for tracking Genesis-I, the world's first inflatable spacecraft, currently floating about 550km above the Earth.
Seems the little space-blimp is doing surprisingly well.
Robert Bigelow, founder of Bigelow Aerospace, said earlier yesterday that he was prepared for anything when it came to the maiden voyage of his prototype space habitat.

But I'll bet he wasn't prepared for complete success...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Inflatables in Space; Bigelow Aerospace Tests Genesis I

While NASA astronauts played with various types of icky black goo in an attempt to prepare themselves for future in-space repairs, a private space design firm seeking to be the first to offer commercial space habitats successfully launched and inserted its prototype Genesis I inflatable spacecraft into Earth orbit today.
Bigelow Aerospace engineers have already begun receiving telemetry data from the craft, orbiting some 550 km above the Earth. Launched atop a Russian ISC Kosmotras Dnepr rocket, the craft deployed solar arrays and began sending data back to mission control without a hitch.

Bigelow said it will launch at least two more test spacecraft before trying a full-size version sometime in the next couple years. All of this will take place as contestants in America's Space Prize work hard to design and build a spacecraft to service the inflatable habitats and win the $50 million prize.
America's Space Prize was modeled after the Ansari X-Prize which saw the development of the wildly innovative and successful, SpaceShipOne only after offering a $10 million prize. Millionaire developer and hotelier Robert Bigelow, owner of Bigelow Aerospace, is offering the larger prize in hopes of finding a solution to getting people to and from his orbiting platforms...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Meteorite Impacts Lunar Surface: Be Underwhelmed, See the Video

Initially, the headline of the story at, A Meteoroid Hits the Moon, sounded like a potential fireworks display.

Needless to say the 7-second video (slow-motion) leaves much to be desired. A little white dot, one brief pop! and then nothing.

Maybe when people live on the lunar surface it will be more exciting when it gets hit by stuff...

Hams in Space; ISS to be Outfitted With Amateur Radio reminds us that thanks to the successful launch of Discovery last week, the International Space Station is currently home to five Ham radio operators. The next crew, Expedition 14, will contain three amateur radio operators, the first time the entire crew will consist of Hams.

Later this year the ESA's Columbus module will be lifted by shuttle to the ISS. It contains amateur radio equipment for communications with stations on Earth.
Called ARISS, the educational station provides an opportunity for station-based astronauts to educate students back on Earth.
Cool thing about it: Partially funded by private donations. European donations...