First ever Space Council

The first ever European ‘Space Council’ was held in Brussels on November 25. This is a major political milestone for Europe in Space, offering ministers representing the 27 European Union (EU) and/or European Space Agency (ESA) Member States the first opportunity to jointly discuss the development of a coherent overall European space programme.

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Major hardware for the Space Shuttle’s Return to Flight mission, STS-114, is coming together at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

An important milestone was achieved when technicians began stacking Space Shuttle Discovery’s right Solid Rocket Booster in the Vehicle Assembly Building. This signifies the beginning of assembly for the flight, which is planned for launch next spring.

Stacking the Shuttle’s Boosters on the Mobile Launch Platform is a significant step to prepare Discovery for launch. The Mobile Launch Platform, a two-story tall, nine-million-pound steel structure, is the launch base for the Space Shuttle. Once the Shuttle vehicle is assembled, the platform is transported to the launch pad. The Shuttle vehicle consists of the obiter, Solid Rocket Boosters and the External Tank.
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Astronaut Leroy Chiao, KE5BRW, used his recently minted ham radio license for the first time November 19 to speak with students in southeastern Italy from NA1SS aboard the International Space Station. Arranged by the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program, the QSO also kicked off a series of educational contacts for the Expedition 10 crew, which arrived aboard the ISS in October.

“It’s a great pleasure to be addressing you from the International Space Station,” Chiao told the youngsters as the contact got under way. “This is my first ham radio contact, so I’m honored to be sharing this experience with you.” Chiao got his license in June while training for his ISS mission.
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Veteran NASA astronaut John Phillips and seasoned Russian Cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev are the next crew of the International Space Station. Their six-month mission is set for launch in April 2005.

Phillips and Krikalev are the eleventh crew for the orbiting research complex. Krikalev will serve as Station Commander, and Phillips is Flight Engineer and NASA International Space Station Science Officer. Designated Expedition 11, they will be on board the Station when the Space Shuttle makes its first Return to Flight mission. The Shuttle is scheduled to dock with the Space Station in May 2005.
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NASA’s Swift satellite was successfully launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The satellite will pinpoint the location of distant yet fleeting explosions that appear to signal the births of black holes.

“It’s a thrill that Swift is in orbit. We expect to detect and analyze more than 100 gamma-ray bursts a year. These are the most powerful explosions in the universe, and I can’t wait to learn more about them,” said Swift Principal Investigator Dr. Neil Gehrels, at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Each gamma-ray burst is a short-lived event, lasting only a few milliseconds to a few minutes, never to appear again. They occur several times daily somewhere in the universe, and Swift should detect several weekly.
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‘Spacelift’ for Vendée Globe sailor

When Marc Thiercelin set out on the Vendée Globe, one of the world’s toughest sailing races, early in November, novel space technologies were used to give his six-year-old boat a ‘facelift’. Lighter batteries, more efficient solar cells and an intelligent energy management system cut critical weight and optimised vital electricity systems. All three were originally developed for Europe’s space programmes.

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The Expedition 10 crew is easing into the second month of its six-month stay onboard the International Space Station by working on science experiments and preparing for the arrival of a new cargo spacecraft.

The Station is now orbiting at an altitude of 222 statute miles. That’s nearly two miles higher than at the start of the week, following a Russian ground-commanded reboost of the complex Wednesday. The boost used the engines of the Russian Progress resupply spacecraft docked to the Zvezda Service Module. The engine firing to raise the Station’s altitude lasted the planned duration of nine minutes and nine seconds. However, the use of fuel from one of the Progress’ two fuel tanks rather than the fuel tank on Zvezda resulted in a slightly lower performance of the engines. This left the Station slightly below its expected final altitude from the reboost.
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The Space Shuttle fleet is housed and processed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Fla. The order the Space Shuttles are listed in this report does not necessarily reflect the chronological order of future missions.

Discovery (OV-103)

Testing of the end effector, or grappling end, of the Space Shuttle robotic arm successfully concluded this week. Installation of the wing leading edge instrumentation is 50 percent complete. Closeout work was completed in the orbiter midbody in bay 1 and in left-hand bay 9. Those areas will be covered and closed out for flight.

Also accomplished this week were the flow liner cleaning and inspection of Main Propulsion System Engine 2. Checkout of the computer complex portion of the Data Processing System, which is part of the orbiter’s control system, was completed.
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Members of NASA’s human and robotic programs are cooperating in new ways to support the Vision for Space Exploration. The Vision calls for a “building block” strategy of human and robotic missions to reach new exploration goals. The first step in the Vision is returning the Space Shuttle safely to flight.

To that end, managers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif., who directed the Mars Exploration Rover missions, are sharing their experience and insight with managers from NASA’s Space Shuttle Program. This week, those JPL managers took part in a practice session by Shuttle mission managers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston. It’s part of a continuing exchange of best practices. Earlier this year, Deputy Space Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale traveled to JPL to observe mission operations during the critical periods of landing the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, on Mars.
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