A Niche in Time: First Flight

Richard Branson addresses the crowd before SpaceShipTwo’s glide flight. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Part 5 of 5

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The morning of Dec. 3, 2016, began like so many others in Mojave. The first rays of dawn gave way to a brilliant sunrise that revealed a cloudless, clear blue sky over California’s High Desert.

This was hardly newsworthy. For most of the year, Mojave doesn’t really have weather, just temperatures and wind speeds. It had been literally freezing overnight; the mercury was at a nippy 28º F (-2.2º C) at 4 a.m. As for Mojave’s famous winds – an enemy of roofs, trees and big rigs, but the lifeblood of thousands of wind turbines that cover the landscape west of town – there really weren’t any. It was basically a flat calm.

In other words, it was a perfect day to fly.

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A Niche in Time: “Lock the doors”

Debris is visible coming from the left wing of Columbia about two minutes before the shuttle broke up. The image was taken at Starfire Optical Range at Kirtland Air Force Base.

Part 3 of 5

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The space shuttle Columbia glowed brightly as it streaked across the predawn skies of the western United States on Feb 1, 2003. Decelerating from an orbital speed of 28,165 km/hr (17,500 miles/hr) at an altitude of 70,165 m (230,200 ft), the shuttle and its seven crew members were enveloped in super heated plasma as they descended deeper into the thickening atmosphere on their return from a 16-day science mission.

Three observers on the ground who were filming the fiery reentry suddenly noticed something odd. There was a sudden flash on the orbiter, and then bright objects streaked behind the ship and burned up.

“Look at the chunks coming off that,” one shouted. “What the heck is that?”

“I don’t know,” his friend replied.

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Orbital ATK Donates SRBs for Space Shuttle Endeavour Exhibit

Endeavour and the shuttle carrier aircraft over Houston (Credit: NASA)

DULLES, Virg., 28 March 2017  (Orbital ATK PR) – Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, and NASA have donated a set of flight-worthy solid rocket boosters from the Space Shuttle Program to the California Science Center to display with a full-up exhibit of the Endeavour orbiter and external tank.

“We take great pride in our 30-plus years of participation in the Space Shuttle Program,” said Charlie Precourt, Vice President and General Manager of Orbital ATK’s Propulsion Systems Division. “We’re pleased and honored that we can contribute hardware to this amazing exhibit at the California Science Center.”

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Four Years Ago Endeavour Made Its Final Bow


Editor’s Note:
I was on the flight line that day taking pictures. It was just spectacular to see this flyby. Right off the deck. The 747 had taken off from Edwards that morning; after the Mojave flyby, it flew over Lancaster and Palmdale before heading up to the Bay Area and then down to Los Angeles.

Video Caption: Video by Brandon Litt, posted with permission.

On Sept 21, 2012, workers at the Mojave Air & Space Port (airport code KMHV), and anyone else who found one of several entrances temporarily opened to the public, were treated to a rare close-up view of the fly-by of the Space Shuttle Endeavour atop the Shuttle Carrier 747 “NASA 905”. The tour of California en route from Edwards AFB to Los Angeles was the last time the shuttle/747 configuration would ever fly. We only knew the shuttle/747 would fly by Mojave. We didn’t know the view was going to be so good until a moment before when “Astro 95” asked Mojave Tower for a low pass over Runway 26, which would give everyone along the flight line the best possible view.

Many thanks to NASA for the nice display on Endeavour’s final journey.

This is a video that my co-worker Brandon Litt took with his cell phone. When I found that he hadn’t posted it on YouTube, I got his permission to do so. This view really needed to be shared. (I’m in the video with my back to the camera wearing a red shirt, which was from the STS-134 launch.)

See also my photos of the fly-by at http://ian.kluft.com/pics/mojave/2012…

External Tank Arrives in Marina del Rey; Trip Through LA Set for Saturday

External Tank 94 (Credit: California Science Center)
External Tank 94 (Credit: California Science Center)

LOS ANGELES (California Science Center PR) — After an eventful 4,400 nautical mile journey, ET-94 has reached Marina del Rey! After leaving the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, it rode out a storm in the Cayman Islands, passed through the Panama Canal, and made its way up the Pacific Coast, where it played a part in rescuing a group of stranded fisherman after their boat sank.

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Plan Set to Deliver Space Shuttle External Tank to Los Angeles

Space shuttle external tank (Credit: NASA)
Space shuttle external tank (Credit: NASA)

LOS ANGELES (California Science Center PR) – Today the California Science Center Foundation announced the route for “Mission 26: ET Comes Home,” the journey of the external tank (ET-94).

It will travel from the Michoud Assembly Facility through the Panama Canal by barge to Los Angeles, then on through city streets, pulled by a truck on dollies, to its final destination near the California Science Center’s Samuel Oschin Pavilion. The entire journey will take six to eight weeks. ET-94 is expected to arrive around May 21, 2016.

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Endeavour Returns to California, Final Flight Set for Friday – UPDATED TIMES

Endeavour and the shuttle carrier aircraft over Houston (Credit: NASA)

NASA PR — Space shuttle Endeavour has returned to California, its state of origin, 21 years after rolling out of the Palmdale assembly facility. At 3:50 p.m. EDT, Endeavour, mounted atop NASA’s 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), landed at Edwards Air Force Base, just down the road from where it was built.

Following an overnight stay, the SCA and Endeavour will complete the ferry flight with a salute to the Edwards Air Force Base area early Friday. At 11 a.m. EDT (8 a.m. PDT), NASA Television will air the departure of Endeavour from Edwards as it begins its California flyover:

http://www.nasa.gov/ntv

They will take off at 8:15 a.m. PDT (11:15 a.m. EDT) and make low-altitude flyovers of Palmdale, Lancaster, Rosamond and Mojave before heading north to Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area.
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Awesome Pics! Our Home in Space


A couple of awesome photos of the International Space Station and the space shuttle Endeavour snapped from a departing Soyuz vehicle.

Endeavour to Launch No Earlier Than Monday, April 16

NASA PR — NASA managers met Friday afternoon and determined space shuttle Endeavour will launch no earlier than Monday, May 16 at 8:56 a.m. EDT. This weekend, technicians will continue to repair and retest electrical circuitry that caused a postponement of Endeavour’s April 29 launch attempt. NASA will air a news conference Monday at 3 p.m., to discuss the status of the work. This afternoon, NASA will issue a news release with further details about the news conference and the work that will be performed this weekend.

Endeavour Won’t Launch Until End of Week at Earliest

No Launch Attempt Monday, Teams to Replace APU Heater Power Box
Sun, 01 May 2011 07:01:10 AM PDT

Technicians and engineers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida are narrowing in on the likely source of what caused heaters on a fuel line for space shuttle Endeavour’s auxiliary power unit-1 (APU-1) to fail on Friday and scrubbing the first launch attempt for the STS-134 mission. But because of work associated with fixing the problem, launch teams will not be able to make a launch attempt tomorrow. Teams will meet Monday and are expected to determine a new “no earlier than” next launch attempt for Endeavour at that time.

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Endeavour Launch Scrubbed, Reset for Monday

NASA PR — Shuttle launch director Mike Leinbach stated that Endeavour’s launch will be no earlier than Monday at 2:33 p.m. EDT. Engineers need that time to troubleshoot an issue that resulted in today’s launch scrub.

During today’s countdown, engineers detected a failure in one of two heater circuits associated with Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) 1. Heaters are required to keep the APUs’ hydrazine from freezing on orbit. Attempts to activate the heater were not successful and engineers now believe the problem might be associated with a Load Control Assembly, which is a switchbox, located in the aft end of Endeavour, or an electrical short in the wires leading into or out of the switchbox.
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Royal Shindig Gets Some Competition

Look out, England! Your royal wedding has some competition in the publicity department from American technology and star power.

President Barack Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their daughters, Sasha and Malia, will be attending the April 29 launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour on April 29. They will join U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who is recovering from an assassination attempt in January, to watch Giffords’ husband, Mike Kelly, pilot the venerable space shuttle on its final mission. Dozens of Congressmen and VIPs are expected for the shuttle program’s penultimate mission.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave — or just don’t give a frak about the royals who continue to preside over America’s former imperial overlord — you’re well aware that this is the same date as the wedding of handsome Prince What-his-name? and his lovely commoner bride, Who’s-a What’s-It?

The common date is co-incidental, and it could diverge if NASA’s aging and notoriously temperamental shuttle system causes a delay. The launch is set for 3:47 p.m. EDT. Given the time difference between Florida and England, both royalists and republicans on that cloud-shrouded island should be properly blitzed out of their minds from attending celebration and protest parties.

Well, to each his own. As an American whose nation rejected royalty 235 years ago, I’m with the British republicans on this one. But, it’s not my country. Not for me to say.

Space Shuttle Mission Delayed Until April 27

NASA PR — Following discussions among the International Space Station partners on Sunday, NASA has targeted the launch of space shuttle Endeavour’s STS-134 mission for 3:47 p.m. EDT on Friday, April 29. The delay removes a scheduling conflict with a Russian Progress supply vehicle scheduled to launch April 27 and arrive at the station April 29.

NASA managers will hold a Flight Readiness Review on Tuesday, April 19, to assess the team’s readiness to support launch. An official launch date will be selected at the conclusion of the meeting.

Only minor damage to space shuttle Endeavour’s external fuel tank foam was identified during detailed inspections Saturday by technicians and engineers on Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Evaluations indicate there was no damage to the spacecraft. Teams were assessing any possible damage from severe storms that hit Kennedy on Wednesday and Thursday. ‪

Today, workers at the pad will continue closeouts in Endeavour’s aft section and will load hydrazine into the shuttle’s hydraulic power unit.