Spaceflight Now: Breaking News
Sunday: April 9, 2000  0351 GMT
OrbView-1 satellite marks 5th anniversary in orbit
Orbimage's OrbView-1 atmospheric imaging satellite has successfully completed its fifth year in space, providing the world's first broad-area cloud-to-cloud lightning data. Originally planned as a low cost, six-month experiment, OrbView-1 has provided NASA with information in support of its atmospheric research program for over five years.
Asteroid's aging craters
NASA's NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft has imaged asteroid 433 Eros' many craters. Scientists say the craters have a range of ages dating back to the last time the asteroid's surface was "wiped clean" by geologic processes.
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SpaceDev funded for Orbital Transfer Vehicle motor firings -- SpaceDev has been informed by the California Space and Technology Alliance that the company has been competitively selected to receive a grant to perform test firings of SpaceDev's hybrid rocket motors, which are designed to power SpaceDev's Orbital Transfer Vehicle.

Saturday: April 8, 2000  1512 GMT
Atlantis launch uncertain, practice countdown ends
During meetings Friday, NASA officials deferred a final decision on how to fix a hydraulic problem inside space shuttle Atlantis. Meanwhile, a countdown dress rehearsal was completed with the astronauts onboard the spaceship.
Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence 40 years old
A year before Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth and nine years before Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, astronomer Frank Drake launched one of the most intriguing space explorations of the millennium -- the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.
Powerhouse Galaxy 11 begins transmissions
PanAmSat's advanced Galaxy 11 spacecraft, the world's largest commercial communications satellite, has commenced service, delivering advanced video, audio, Internet and telecommunications services throughout North America.
Galaxy 11
NEAR Shoemaker shows the importance of lighting
The way in which asteroid Eros' craters are illuminated makes a big difference in their appearance in images from the NEAR Shoemaker probe, scientists say.
Friday: April 7, 2000  0316 GMT
NASA mulls hydraulic problem on shuttle Atlantis
NASA officials are hoping to keep space shuttle Atlantis on track for launch later this month to service the International Space Station despite uncovering a hydraulic problem in the ship's tail.
Boeing seeks Delta 3 payload for summer launch
Anxious to prove its new Delta 3 rocket works, Boeing officials are debating options to fly the booster with or without a paying customer later this summer from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Delta 3
Suspected protoplanet may really be a distant star
Follow-up observations of an unusual object initially suspected to be the first directly detected planet outside our solar system have shown that the object is too hot to be a planet.
Hubble image
Next space telescopes will unveil Universe's dark ages
For current astronomers, the 'darkest' epoch of the universe is the time when the first galaxies started to form and evolve: no instrument today can peer into that era. Unveiling it will be the task of the next giant space-and ground-based telescopes, which will provide different pieces of information to complete the jigsaw at last.
NASA-European effort sees significant arctic ozone loss
Ozone losses of over 60 percent have occurred in the Arctic stratosphere near 60,000 feet in one of the coldest winters on record. This is one of the worst ozone losses at this altitude in the Arctic.
Thursday: April 6, 2000  0920 GMT
Privately-backed Mir flight spurs commercial plans
Today's arrival of two cosmonauts on Russian space station Mir has boosted MirCorp's plan to commercialize the manned outpost, with new private funding commitments clearing the way for a second mission that will place the first Internet portal in space.
Report: Engineers find problem on shuttle Atlantis
Just as NASA was setting April 24 as official launch date for space shuttle Atlantis' upcoming voyage to the International Space Station, a potential problem was found on Wednesday that might delay the liftoff, a veteran space journalist reports.
Ulysses space probe makes surprise trip into comet tail
Comet Hyakutake, a bright comet seen by many people in 1996, developed the longest comet tail ever recorded. At 360 million miles it beat the previous claimed record held by the Great March Comet of 1843. The discovery was made recently when scientists in London examined data from the Ulysses spacecraft.
Comet tail
Hubble sees the glowing eye of a planetary nebula
Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have obtained images of the strikingly unusual planetary nebula, NGC 6751. Glowing in the constellation Aquila like a giant eye, the nebula is a cloud of gas ejected several thousand years ago from the hot star visible in its center.
NGC 6751
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Titan 4 solid rocket motor test firing successful -- A solid rocket booster used by the U.S. Air Force's Titan 4 rocket was successfully fired recently to test a new nozzle material. The new Carbon-phenolic nozzle was developed to replace materials that were no longer compliant or available under current environmental regulations.

Poll: Americans have strong support for NASA and space -- Space exploration and NASA scored more favorable ratings than last year according to a survey conducted on behalf of the Space Foundation's Space Awareness Initiative. The second annual America's Space Poll found a rise in voter's support for increasing NASA's budget.

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Lockheed charged with giving rocket data to China -- (Reuters/Yahoo!) The U.S. State Department has charged Lockheed Martin Corp. with violating U.S. export laws by giving a state-owned Chinese company data about satellite rocket technology that could be useful to China's missile program, the Washington Post reported today. The department informed Lockheed Martin that it violated the Arms Export Control Act in a letter dated Tuesday and gave the largest U.S. defense contractor 30 days to respond to the civil charges. They could result in a fine of up to $15 million and bar the Bethesda, Maryland-based company from exporting satellites or satellite technology for up to three years, the Post said.

Sun, six planets to line up -- (AP/Yahoo!) Next month, the sun and six of the planets will line up like cosmic billiard balls in a configuration doomsayers warn could shift the Earth's poles, trigger earthquakes, ruin the stock market and usher in the Age of Aquarius if anyone survives. Astronomers are bracing for the May 5-16 alignment, too, but not out of fear their observatories will crumble.

Did the Vikings make a telescope? -- (BBC) The Vikings could have been using a telescope hundreds of years before Dutch spectacle makers supposedly invented the device in the late 16th century. This remarkable possibility has emerged from a study of sophisticated lenses just recognised from a Viking site on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea. They were initially thought to be merely ornaments.
Wednesday: April 5, 2000  0341 GMT
Next space shuttle mission to get a launch date today
Senior NASA officials today are expected to establish a firm launch date for space shuttle Atlantis' mission this month to service the 16-month old International Space Station. The seven astronauts are also slated to fly to Kennedy Space Center today for a practice countdown.
Report: 2,147 spacecraft to be launched this decade
Teal Group has released of its new Worldwide Mission Model: 2000-2009. The study counts a total of 2,147 payloads proposed for launch to Earth orbit during the next 10 years, up slightly from last year's total of 2,123 payloads for 1999-2008.
SPACEHAB gets $21.6m for space station resupply
NASA has awarded SPACEHAB a contact for an International Space Station servicing mission planned in August aboard shuttle Atlantis. STS-106 will use SPACEHAB's Logistics Double Module and Integrated Cargo Carrier to ferry food, equipment and spare parts to ISS.
PanAmSat's Galaxy 4R craft shipped to launch site
Galaxy 4R, PanAmSat's third new communications satellite for North America slated for launch in less than four months, has been sent to French Guiana for liftoff later this month atop an Ariane 4 rocket.
Galaxy 4R
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This week on Galileo -- Galileo continues to play back science data stored on its onboard tape recorder as the spacecraft flies through apojove and starts its return to the heart of the Jupiter system. Apojove occurs on Thursday and is the point at which the spacecraft is farthest from Jupiter in a given orbit.
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Solar shock waves can spawn blasts from Sun -- (Reuters/Yahoo!) In a sort of remote-control effect, shock waves on one part of the sun can spawn monster explosions in other solar regions, which sometimes damage power grids and satellites around Earth, scientists said on Tuesday. Earlier research indicated that these big explosions, known as coronal mass ejections, were fueled by solar flares directly underneath them. But new observations indicate the massive blasts can occur far from the solar flares that spark them.

Failures 'a bummer' for Lockheed workers -- (Denver Rocky Mountain News) Back-to-back failures on Mars missions have left Lockheed Martin Space Systems employees a bit demoralized and hungry for success, says the man who heads the program. "We run on the juice of success," said Noel Hinners, vice president for flight systems at Lockheed Martin Space Systems. "And when you fail, it feels terrible. It's a bummer. We want to get this behind us."

Astrobiology field draws researchers -- (AP/Yahoo!) Two years ago, NASA took a chance and launched a new field of research christened "Astrobiology" with a bold Nobel laureate at the helm and about $10 million for research. This week, at the first ever Astrobiology Science Conference, NASA organizers were surprised when 600 scientists showed up brimming with research papers, new ideas and enthusiasm about the questions of origins and evolution of life in the universe.
Tuesday: April 4, 2000  0527 GMT
Heading back to Mir
Russian cosmonauts Sergei Zaletin and Alexander Kaleri were launched aboard a Soyuz rocket today at 0501:29 GMT (1:01:29 a.m. EDT) from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. The men will attempt to restore the Russian space station Mir to working order once they dock on Thursday at 0633 GMT (2:33 a.m. EDT).
Stanford's Gravity Probe-B experiences more hiccups
The Einstein Gravity Probe-B -- a spacecraft designed to test how the Earth's mass warps spacetime -- has suffered another serious set back. The NASA-Stanford University collaboration has recently admitted that it is set to pay a $70 million over-run cost, and possibly postponing the launch of the probe a further six months.
Gravity Probe-B
Chandra discovers possible hidden black hole
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has discovered an unusually strong source of X-rays -- a possible hidden black hole -- in a galaxy 2.5 billion light years from Earth.
Chandra image
ACRIMSAT finally begins measuring the Sun's energy
NASA's Active Cavity Irradiance Monitor Satellite (ACRIMSAT) began taking raw science measurements of the Sun's total energy output on Monday following successful pointing of the spacecraft and its instrument.
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Shedding light on dark matter -- (AP/Yahoo!) The invisible and so far unidentified dark matter that accounts for 90 percent of the universe could soon be brought to light as scientists develop sensitive detectors capable of sniffing out tiny particles predicted by theory but not yet proven to exist. Teams of researchers are racing to build the devices even though they might be hunting for something that occurs only in the minds of theoretical physicists. If so, a generation of theories can be tossed out.
Monday: April 3, 2000  0237 GMT
NEAR Shoemaker moves in for better look at Eros
The true nature of Eros becomes a bit clearer -- literally -- as NEAR Shoemaker moves into a lower orbit. Shortly after 9 p.m. EST on Saturday, the spacecraft fired its thrusters for 36 seconds and began gradually descending into position to start a 62-mile orbit on April 11.
NASA seeks ideas for future space transportation plan
NASA is beginning a new journey toward the launch pad with a second-generation reusable launch vehicle system that will be safer and cheaper than today's technology, and will rely more heavily on the commercial space business to meet NASA's science and exploration goals.
X-33 aerospike engine completes longest firing
The innovative aerospike engine that will power the X-33 Advanced Technology Demonstrator successfully has completed its 11th of 14 scheduled single-engine hot-fire tests, the longest duration test to date.
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2 NASA astronauts obtain unique Canadian qualification -- The Canadian Space Agency has awarded robotic operator's wings to NASA astronauts Dan Bursch and Carl Walz, the first astronauts to obtain the qualification to operate the Space Station Remote Manipulator System, the new Canadian robotic arm to be installed on the International Space Station.
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Russia to send crewmen to mothballed Mir station -- (Reuters/Yahoo!) Russia is to send a new two-man crew to its aging Mir space station this week in a sign that the Kremlin intends to pursue its space program despite funding problems and recurring technical setbacks.

Will we travel to the stars? -- (Time) If you ask whether we will travel to the stars, the answer is probably yes, but it will take a long time. Maybe 500 years. If you ask whether any human being will travel to the stars within the 21st century, the answer is certainly no.

Will a killer asteroid hit the Earth? -- (Time) When it comes to asteroids' wreaking disaster on Earth, the real question is not if, but when. Two hundred or so large craters and a geological record stretching over billions of years provide ample evidence that, time and again, explosive impacts by asteroids or comets have devastated large parts of the planet, wiped out species and threatened the very existence of terrestrial life.

Space probe workers may keep jobs 2 years -- (Huntsville Times) Huntsville scientists collecting data from a doomed space probe may keep their jobs at least one to two more years, although NASA plans to destroy the probe as early as June. Officials at NASA headquarters haven't said just how long they will keep paying the researchers to catalog and analyze data from the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, but their jobs probably won't end in the next year.

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Earlier news
March 27-April 2: Sweeping changes ordered after Mars failures; Extrasolar planets smaller than Saturn found; Software glitch doomed Sea Launch; X-38 makes longest test flight; Atlas 3 and Atlantis launches delayed.

March 20-26: Delta 2 launches NASA's IMAGE spacecraft; Gamma Ray Observatory to be deorbited; Ariane 5 launches two satellites; Landing gear probe could have doomed Mars probe; Soyuz tests Fregat upper stage.

March 13-19: Sea Launch failure blamed on second stage; Iridium ends service; 'Rocketcam' sees Globalstar satellites flying in space; Atlantis launch delayed; New prediction of asteroid's damage from Earth strike.

March 6-12: Sea Launch mission for ICO fails; Taurus launches MTI satellite; Looking inside Mars; Hubble surveys dying stars; More views of Eros; Atlantis antenna damaged.

Feb. 28-March 5: Boeing looks at air-launched rocket; New Boeing and Lockheed Martin launch pads; Images released from Chandra, Hubble, Mars Global Surveyor and NEAR.

More news  See our weekly archive of space news.

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