Orbital Roundup

So, how's it going up there in orbit then?

Well, you could say it's going good... a few minor issues like exploding grease guns, a bad urine processor and a tool bag that has now joined the ranks of orbital debris... but other than that it is actually going good!

On the first spacewalk, during which the astronauts were charged with cleaning debris and greasing up one of the SARJ joints which has been inoperative since last year, one of the grease guns exploded inside a toolbag. Astronaut Heidemarie Stehanyshyn Piper then had to clean up the mess, including the grease on her gloves, with some of the grease wipes intended for cleaning the SARJ. As she was distracted by the cleanup, an internal compartment of the toolbag slipped out and floated off into space. Heidi decided against retrieving the bag, as it would have made her into orbital debris too.

Meanwhile, inside the ISS, a brand spanking new water processing system was installed that will provide the fresh drinking water for the 6 person permanent crew that will mark the expansion of operations at the orbiting science station next year. Designed on teh ground, the zero-g environment provided a little too much freedom for the urine centrifuge, which began shutting down due to excessive vibration. A little on-orbit maintenance/redesign was required, and after adding dampers and tightening restraints, the ISS is now no longer able to reboost into a higher orbit using urine, as it is all needed for drinking water! Eeeuuuwww!!

So, they seriously have to drink old urine then?

Yes! Actually though, the process is so efficient that the water comes out cleaner and purer than the majority of drinking water we consume here on Earth.

Until next time, Happy Spacing Spacers!
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Countdown Begins!

The countdown has begun for Space Shuttle Endeavour's STS-126 mission to the International Space Station. Everything looks good and there are currently no issues being worked for launch.

Endeavour waits patiently on the launch pad.

Keep watching, Spacers!
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Watch In High Quality

A quick update... there is a link to the right that takes you directly to a 300k NASA TV feed, which is great for watching the entire STS-126 mission online from launch to landing.

You can click it, or as a very special treat, click the high quality link below that I stumbled upon quite by accident. It's a 1200k feed and is just as good as a regular TV feed. You'll need a good fast connection though. Enjoy!


Happy Spacing, Spacers!
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STS-126 Ready For Home Improvement

Space Shuttle Endeavour is ready to chase down the ISS for a spot of home improvement on Friday. STS-126 marks the first return to spaceflight for the Itialian built Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) since the resumption of construction at the orbital complex.

STS-126 crew poses with Endeavour.

So, what are they adding this time?
Unlike regular assembly missions, STS-126 isn't actually adding anything to the outside of the station. The Leonardo MPLM is packed with all the goodies needed to turn what is now a three bedroom, one bathroom home for three into a five bedroom, two bathroom residence for six.

The heavy construction and outfitting work over the last couple of years has readied the station to fulfil its primary purpose - as a live-in science laboratory. Starting next year, a six-person crew will permanently occupy the orbital outpost allowing the international partners to begin utilising the laboratories that were recently added - the European Columbus, and Japanese Kibo modules - alongside the fully operational US Destiny laboratory that has seen the expansion of the station since its installation in February 2001.

Leonardo in the Shuttle

Leonardo is a reusable module that is launched in the cargo bay of the Shuttle and strapped to the station for the duration of the mission. Each MPLM can carry up to 10 tons of cargo packed into 16 standard Space Station equipment racks. Of the 16 racks, five can be furnished with power, data and fluid to support a refrigerator freezer.

The inside of Leonardo

So, where are the bedrooms and toilet?
Actually, the bedrooms take the form of one of the standard racks! Large enough to comfortably accommodate a human, two rack-sized sleep stations will be transferred from Leonardo to the recently added Harmony module, as well as a Waste and Hygiene Compartment - a new toilet, and a galley that will be located in the Destiny module -which could be called a new gourmet kitchen.

So, isn't there something broken outside that they need to fix?
Yes, the infamous SARJ - the Solar Alpha Rotary Joint - on the starboard side has been inoperative since the discovery of metallic debris in the rotating joint after vibrations were felt during its operation. The joint allows the massive solar arrays to track the Sun and provide full power during the daylight portion of an orbit, and there are several spacewalks planned during the mission to replace failed parts and hopefully get the joint working again.

So, is there anyone we know going up?
Two of the crew flew together on STS-115 in 2007, The Commander, Chris Ferguson, and Mission Specialist Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper. They are joined by former ISS Expedition 6 crewmember Donald Pettit, and rookies Eric Boe, Steve Bowen, and Shane Kimbrough. Joining the mission on the way up is Sandy Magnus, who flew in 2002 and will stay on the station for six months as part of the Expedition 18 crew, spending 6 months at the station. Magnus replaces Greg Chamitoff, who takes the final seat for the landing of STS-126.

That should be enough to get you Spacers all spaced up for the weekend. At the moment there is a 60 percent chance of favourable weather for the launch at 7:55 pm EST, so it's looking good for a spacey weekend.

Happy Spacing Spacers!
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Endeavour Breaks The Fast

Hello Spacers!

Well, it has been a long fast from the food of shuttle launches, but on November 14th Space Shuttle Endeavour is set to break that fast and launch once again to the International Space Station (ISS). Woohoo!!!

There has been some human spaceflight activity since the last launch way back on May 31st, when Discovery actually damaged the launch pad. The repairs are all complete now, and thanks to the Russian space program it was not an entirely launch free summer. For the ISS we had a Progress launch which delivered fresh cargo and supplies on September 10th, Expedition 18 launched on October 12th with Commander Edward Michael "Mike" Fincke and Flight Engineer Yury Valentinovich Lonchakov on board for a six month stay.

Also of note, China launched their first spacewalking mission on September 25th, and congratulations to that nation as they join the ranks of those brave enough to step off the doorstep of planet Earth. India, although not a manned flight, launched its Chandrayaan 1 moon mission on October 22nd joining the worldwide drive to gather information on the Moon as we get closer to returning to our iconic natural satellite.

Just a quick note from me on all this activity. I grow increasingly proud of the nations of this world as they break the ties of our planet and move outward into the cosmos. There is so much holding us back that we need to put as many fingers into the space pie as we can to fight the forces that would seek to have us return to the stone age. I especially applaud those who enter into the spirit of spaceflight with comfort alongside religions and religious beliefs, for inside many creeds and faiths there are many powerful and misguided souls who seek to denegrate all things science. Even in the USA, the undisputed and long time leader in space science, those lost souls seek to steer mankind away from a future where Mother Earth is not the only egg in the basket of humanity.

Look out for Spacers to pick up the pace once again as we approach launch day.

Until then, happy spacing, Spacers!
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