Arizona youngsters speak to ISS

A dozen youngsters at a charter school in Tempe, Arizona enjoyed the opportunity of a lifetime when they spoke via Amateur Radio August 17 with astronaut John Phillips, KE5DRY, aboard the International Space Station.

The direct 2-meter contact between N7HPR at D.W. Higgins Institute and NA1SS in space was arranged by the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program. Philips requested the contact because his 12-year-old nephew Ben Mackowski is a seventh grader at Higgins. In all, the youngsters, who ranged from second through eighth graders, managed to fire off nearly two dozen questions before the ISS went out of range. Among them was the nearly inevitable “food question.”
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For many years, exotic spaces from exotic places have captured the hearts of many photographers, both professional and amateur. For Expedition 10 International Space Station Commander Leroy Chiao, it was something out of this world — his extraordinary view 230 miles above the Earth — that inspired him to capture thousands of majestic images from space.

NASA is featuring some of his personal favorites on the Internet. “One of the highlights of my time on orbit was to look out the window at the Earth and snap photos,” Chiao said. He returned in April from his long-duration spaceflight.

As part of his duties, Chiao captured photos and video of Earth based on suggestions made by a team of scientists before the mission began. The scientists identified photo opportunities that aligned with the Station’s daily orbit that included meteorological and, atmospheric phenomena, geographical, manmade and natural landmarks. These Earth-observation photos are valuable to the scientific and research community.
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Scientists using NASA’s Swift satellite say they have found newborn black holes, just seconds old, in a confused state of existence. The holes are consuming material falling into them while somehow propelling other material away at great speeds.

These black holes are born in massive star explosions. An initial blast obliterates the star, yet the chaotic black hole activity appears to re-energize the explosion several times in just a few minutes. This is a dramatically different view of star death, one that entails multiple explosive outbursts and not just a single bang, as previously thought.

“Stars are exploding two, three and sometimes four times in the first minutes following the initial explosion,” said Prof. David Burrows of Penn State, University Park, Pa. “First comes a blast of gamma rays followed by intense pulses of X-rays. The energies involved are much greater than anyone expected,” he added.
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Scientists funded by NASA have made big strides in learning how to forecast “all clear” periods, when severe space weather is unlikely. The forecasts are important because radiation from particles from the sun associated with large solar flares can be hazardous to unprotected astronauts, airplane occupants and satellites.

“We have a much better insight into what causes the strongest, most dangerous solar flares, and how to develop forecasts that can predict an ‘all clear’ for significant space weather, for longer periods,” said Dr. Karel Schrijver of the Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center (ATC), Palo Alto, Calif. He is lead author of a paper about the research published in the Astrophysical Journal.
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Galaxy 14 satellite is in orbit

Starsem and Arianespace today successfully launched the Galaxy 14 telecommunications satellite for U.S. operator PanAmSat.

The 1,699th launch of a Soyuz family launch vehicle took place from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Soyuz-Fregat launcher version lifted off as scheduled at 05:28 a.m. local time on August 14 (23:28 UTC on August 13; 01:28 a.m. Paris time on August 14 ).

Starsem, Arianespace and their Russian partners confirmed that the launcher’s Fregat upper stage accurately injected Galaxy 14 into the targeted geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). To achieve the mission, two successive burns of the Fregat upper stage were performed, placing the Galaxy 14 spacecraft on its transfer orbit 1 hour and 37 minutes after lift-off.
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A seven-month flight to Mars began August 12 for NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It will inspect the red planet in fine detail and assist future landers.

An Atlas V launch vehicle, 19 stories tall with the two-ton spacecraft on top, roared away from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 7:43 a.m. EDT. Its powerful first stage consumed about 200 tons of fuel and oxygen in just over four minutes, then dropped away to let the upper stage finish the job of putting the spacecraft on a path toward Mars. This was the first launch of an interplanetary mission on an Atlas V.

“We have a healthy spacecraft on its way to Mars and a lot of happy people who made this possible,” said James Graf, project manager for MRO at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif.
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Ariane 5 Record

Arianespace’s Ariane 5 Generic launcher set a new performance record on August 11 by successfully lofting the heavyweight THAICOM 4 (IPSTAR) satellite on a mission from the Spaceport in French Guiana.

THAICOM 4 (IPSTAR) is the largest commercial communications satellite ever placed in geostationary transfer orbit (GTO), and it will be used by Thailand’s Shin Satellite Plc for Internet access and broadband services over 14 countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

For additional information, see the Mission Update story on the Arianespace Website: