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Tribute to the shuttle

http://youtu.be/b9VXeqzqqss

THE SPACE SHUTTLE IS PERHAPS the most complex technological system ever built. In 30 years, it has launched 135 times and helped humankind to dispatch and partially even return many satellites and deep-space probes, to build the International Space Station and to conduct out-of-this-world science. The shuttle has transported also 24 European astronauts to Earth orbit on 25 missions.

This short video highlights the flights that had a European flavour—from STS-9 in 1983 to STS-134 in May 2011.

Adapted from information issued by ESA.

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Shuttle re-entry seen from space!

ISS photo of space shuttle Atlantis re-entering Earth's atmosphere

The glowing wake of space shuttle Atlantis as she re-entered the atmosphere for the final time.

THESE AMAZINGS VIEWS of the space shuttle Atlantis—looking like the track of a firefly against clouds and city lights—on its way home, were snapped by the Expedition 28 crew aboard the International Space Station. Airglow over Earth can be seen in the background.

ISS photo of space shuttle Atlantis re-entering Earth's atmosphere

Another view of Atlantis' re-entry.

ISS photo of space shuttle Atlantis re-entering Earth's atmosphere

Atlantis disappears over the horizon.

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

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Salute to the Space Shuttle

FROM THE FIRST FLIGHT IN 1981 aboard shuttle Columbia, the world has marvelled and been inspired by NASA’s space shuttle program. For more than three decades NASA and its partners such as Lockheed Martin—and tens of thousands of dedicated men and women in industry, academia, science and engineering—have made every mission and new discovery possible on the ground and in space.

Adapted from information issued by Lockheed Martin.

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Atlantis – the final launch

SPACE SHUTTLE ATLANTIS lifted off at 1:29am Sydney time, July 9, 2011 (11:29am US Eastern Time, July 8th) to begin the STS-135 mission, the last of the shuttle programme.

“With today’s final launch of the space shuttle we turn the page on a remarkable period in America’s history in space, while beginning the next chapter in our nation’s extraordinary story of exploration,” Administrator Charles Bolden said. “Tomorrow’s destinations will inspire new generations of explorers, and the shuttle pioneers have made the next chapter of human spaceflight possible.”

The STS-135 crew consists of Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim. They will deliver the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module filled with more than 4,000 kilograms of supplies and spare parts to sustain space station operations after the shuttles are retired.

“The shuttle’s always going to be a reflection to what a great nation can do when it dares to be bold and commits to follow through,” Ferguson said shortly before lift-off. “We’re not ending the journey today—we’re completing a chapter of a journey that will never end.”

The mission includes flying the Robotic Refuelling Mission, an experiment designed to demonstrate and test the tools, technologies and techniques needed for robotic refuelling of satellites in space, even satellites not designed for servicing. The crew also will return with an ammonia pump that recently failed on the station. Engineers want to understand why the pump failed and improve designs for future spacecraft.

Atlantis is on a 12-day mission and scheduled to dock to the station at 1:06am Sydney time on Monday, July 11 (11:06am on Sunday, July 10, US Eastern Time).

STS-135 is the 135th shuttle flight, the 33rd flight for Atlantis and the 37th shuttle mission dedicated to station assembly and maintenance.

Here are some more clips of the launch, from different angles and at different stages of the process:

Information and videos courtesy NASA.

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Space shuttle – Go for launch!

WITH THE VERY LAST SPACE SHUTTLE flight upon us, it’s timely to take a look at just what happens during preparations for a launch. In this remarkable video made by a team of photographers from Air & Space Magazine, we see the shuttle Discovery being moved from the Orbiter Processing Facility to the giant Vehicle Assembly Building, where it is lifted upright and mated to its fuel tank and booster rockets. It is then moved to the launch pad and … we have lift-off!

This was Discovery‘s second-last flight, STS-131, in April 2010.

Please note that the video is silent until the moment of lift-off.

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Life aboard the Space Station

TWO HIGH-PROFILE SPACE MISSIONS came to end in May and June. European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Paolo Nespoli returned to Earth on May24, after spending almost six months aboard the International Space Station on his MagISStra mission. Then in June his countryman, ESA Italian astronaut Roberto Vittori, participated in the penultimate Space Shuttle mission to the ISS, the Italian Space Agency’s DAMA mission. This video shows the highlights of these two missions with commentary by Paolo Nespoli.

Adapted from information issued by ESA.

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Flying free in space

THE CURRENT FLIGHT of Endeavour will see the final spacewalks done by astronauts using a space shuttle airlock. For the foreseeable future, all further spacewalks will be done by Space Station astronauts using the Station’s airlock. And all these spacewalks will see the astronauts/cosmonauts tethered to the shuttle/Station to keep them from floating away.

But back in 1984, a handful of astronauts did what no one had done before and very few have done since…they flew free, untethered, away from their space vehicle.

Using a Buck Rogers-style backpack called the Manned Manoeuvring Unit (MMU), the astronauts could control their movements using tiny gas jets, flying free from the space shuttle and performing tasks completely on their own.

Bruce McCandless flying free with an MMU

NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless became first 'human satellite' in 1984.

Bruce McCandless—seen in the photo above—was the first to test the MMU. He made his historic flight on February 7, 1984 during mission STS 41-B, becoming the first human satellite.

The MMU wasn’t used after 1984. A smaller version called SAFER—the Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue—was developed and tested in untethered flight on missions STS-64 (1994) and STS-92 (2000). All subsequent spacewalking astronauts have used a backpack with SAFER built in, just in case they became untethered and needed to make a safe return to the shuttle’s/Station’s airlock.

Adapted from information issued by National Air and Space Museum / NASA.

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Endeavour’s final voyage

SPACE SHUTTLE ENDEAVOUR, the youngest of NASA’s shuttle fleet, is due to launch on its final voyage at 10:56pm, Sydney time, on Monday, May 16. (That’s 8:56am, US EDT, Monday.)

With a crew of six, and carrying one of the largest and heaviest pieces of gear yet taken to the International Space Station—the antimatter-hunting Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer 2 (AMS2)—Endeavour’s 16-day mission will the second-last of the shuttle programme.

As well as AMS2, Endeavour is also carrying a pallet of critical spare parts, and astronauts will conduct four spacewalks to connect up the new gear, and make some repairs.

These will be the final spacewalks of the space shuttle programme. There will not be any spacewalks during the Atlantis’ final shuttle flight, at this stage still set for late June.

The video above gives an outline of Endeavour’s mission and its crew.

Story by Jonathan Nally, SpaceInfo.com.au. Video and images courtesy NASA.

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Shuttle launch video

AMAZING VIDEO of NASA’s space shuttle Discovery launching on its final flight, mission STS-133, to the International Space Station.

Video courtesy NASA.

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Boiling over in zero-g

HERE ON EARTH, boiling is used for tasks ranging from cooking and heating to power generation. In space, boiling may be used for power generation and other applications.

But because boiling works differently in a zero-gravity environment, it is difficult to design hardware that will not overheat or cause other problems.

University of Maryland Professor Jungho Kim of the A. James Clark School’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, is working with John McQuillen, project scientist at NASA’s Glenn Research Centre in Ohio, to study how boiling is altered in zero-gravity.

Their experiment, the Microheater Array Boiling Experiment (MABE), launched on the space shuttle Discovery on February 24, 2011, bound for a long-term operation aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

The experiment has already been tested on NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’ (‘weightlessness aircraft’) and the European Space Agency’s Parabolic Flight Campaign in France.

The results could help engineers design space hardware that uses boiling for multiple applications.

“In space, boiling may be required to generate vapour to power turbines in some advanced concepts for power generation, for temperature control aboard spacecraft, and for water purification,” says Kim.

The video at the top of the page shows the experimenters testing the equipment aboard the NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’…an aircraft that flies parabolic trajectories to simulate short periods of weightlessness. The video below is a close-up of one of the experiments:

How it works

When a liquid is boiled on Earth, vapour, which is less dense than liquid, is removed from heated surfaces through the action of buoyancy. In zero-gravity, the buoyancy force becomes negligible and vapour can blanket the heated surfaces rather than moving away, potentially leading the surfaces to a state known as critical heat flux.

Critical heat flux occurs when a heater or plate becomes too hot, restricting the flow of liquid to the surface and causing the plate to overheat and potentially burn out.

Since liquids boil differently in space, an understanding of how these fluids behave can improve the reliability and expand the applications of space exploration hardware.

The experiment that will take place on the ISS will use two arrays of platinum microheaters bonded to a quartz plate. The arrays measure 7mm and 2.7mm across. The heaters are warmed when electricity is applied, and spaces between the heater lines will allow the boiling process to be seen through the transparent quartz. Boiling of a refrigerant-like fluid (FC-72) will be filmed at high speed and the video sent back to Earth along with the heater data in real-time for analysis.

More Information: Video about zero-G flight experiments

Adapted from information issued by the University of Maryland.

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