At 11:29 this morning, the final space shuttle flight got under way as Atlantis rose from the launch pad on a column of fire from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The threat of thunderstorms had remained at bay, and, some 2.5 minutes later than planned, STS-135 headed skyward to punch through an overcast on its way to spending 12 days in the void above.
The U.S. Air Force/Boeing X-37B spacecraft returned to earth by landing at Vandenberg AFB in California on December 3. Aside from some damage from space debris and a blown tire on rollout, the 244-day flight was a success, said officials.
Hangar Ten held a grand opening for the second phase of its Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport FBO in Kansas City, Mo., on October 6. “With this new facility, we are bringing great hometown service that far exceeds anything currently available,” said owner James Stowers, who shared the ribbon-cutting duties with Missouri governor Jay Nixon.
Involvement in the European Space Agency’s Intermediate Experimental Vehicle program to devise re-entry technology for low-earth orbit programs has given Aero Sekur an opportunity to take its expertise in the use of lightweight, flexible structures literally into the realms of rocket science. The company was selected for the work in November 2009 and is due to complete the project by the end of this year.
The FAA has posted new information for airport workers on how to respond to the scene of an accident involving rocket-propelled ballistic parachute-equipped airplanes such as the BRS system in Cirrus airplanes and other aircraft with parachute retrofits. CertAlert 04-13 was originally issued in 2004, but the FAA has added a first-responder video to the CertAlert Web page (see the 04-13 entry at ww.faa.gov/airports/airport_safety/certalerts/).
AgustaWestland last month announced that Tim Peake, an AgustaWestland senior test pilot, was selected by the European Space Agency as the first British astronaut to join the European Astronaut Corps. The European Space Agency began looking for four new (in addition to the current eight) astronauts in May last year to conduct future missions. The selection process lasted 12 months, with the ESA receiving 8,413 valid applications.
As the era of the Space Shuttle draws to a close, uncertainty hangs over the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) like the pall of smoke after a launch. Only eight more Shuttle flights are planned, to complete the construction of the International Space Station (ISS). After that, there will be a five-year hiatus before the next U.S. astronauts fly from the KSC–on the Ares launch system that is reminiscent of the Saturn/ Apollo era.
President Obama reportedly is set to name former astronaut Charles Bolden Jr. the next NASA Administrator. A meeting between the two that was set for May 18 was postponed because of a White House visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The NASA Authorization Act of 2008, which cleared Congress on September 27, gives the agency $208.4 million more for aeronautics research than last year’s budget.
Next year will mark the fortieth anniversary of man first setting foot on the Moon. Back in the early 1970s it was all systems go for human exploration of space but somehow the momentum was lost, and other priorities took over. Just maintaining an orbital presence above the Earth has been full of challenges with Space Shuttle failures and delays to the International Space Station.