Final launch of Space Shuttle Discovery delayed another day

The launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on its final mission, STS-133, has been delayed another day. Launch is now targeted for 3:52 PM EDT on Wednesday, November 3.

The launch of NASA's Space Shuttle Discovery (pictured above on launch pad) will be delayed another day to accommodate repairs to several leaks. Image: NASA.

Discovery’s launch was originally scheduled for this Monday, but was delayed until the following day after several helium and nitrogen leaks were discovered aboard the shuttle. The initial delay was to accommodate repairs to these leaks. These repairs are taking longer than expected according to NASA officials.

According to a NASA statement, repair technicians worked through the night to facilitate repairs to these leaks but “are slightly behind the timeline that was prepared yesterday”. If the shuttle isn’t ready to launch by November 7, the launch will be pushed into December.

STS-133 will deliver supplies and components to the International Space Station, including the Permanent Multipurpose Module and the third of four ExPRESS Logistics Carriers. Two spacewalks are to be performed by the crew during their 11 day mission, the 133rd flight of the Space Shuttle Program and the 39th flight of Discovery.

Russian cargo ship launches to International Space Station

Progress M-08M, an unmanned Russian cargo spacecraft, departed for the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome to resupply the orbital outpost.

A Russian Progress resupply ship blasted off to the International Space Station (pictured) Wednesday. Image: NASA.

The rocket carrying the craft, a Soyuz-U, lifted off at 7:11 pm Moscow time (15:11 GMT). Russian Space Agency officials deemed the launch a success after the Progress successfully achieved orbit and separated from the third stage of the rocket. Docking of the spacecraft with the ISS is expected to occur on Saturday.

The Progress will deliver more than 2.5 metric tons of supplies and essentials to the orbiting American-Russian crew, as well as gifts and letters from the crew members’ families.

Filesharing software distributor LimeWire ordered to close by Court

One of the world’s largest distributors of Filesharing software, LimeWire, has been placed under permanent injunction by the US District Court in the Southern District of New York, to cease distributing and supporting its software. The injunction, requested by multiple parties including Bertlesmann Music Group, Motown, Capitol Records and Sony Entertainment, was filed and approved 26th October and was issued under Title 17 U.S.C §502, covering infringement of copyright.

Logo of the LimeWire software

The injunction states that LimeWire “intentionally encouraged direct infringement” and “…failed to implement any meaningful technological barriers or design choices aimed at diminishing infringement.” Since the order was approved, LimeWire has closed its website, posting a notice on the front page explaining the situation, with a link to a copy of the injunction.

As ordered, the software is no longer downloadable from its website. LimeWire is now only responding to inquiries from the press and paid customers of LimeWire Pro. LimeWire could not be reached for comment.

Paul the ‘psychic’ octopus dies in Germany

Paul the Octopus, the octopus who became famous for correctly predicting the winner of Germany’s seven matches at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, as well as the final, has died of natural causes. During the football tournament in South Africa earlier this year, Paul, who lived in an aquarium in Oberhausen, Germany, chose between two glass boxes placed in his tank, which would have a German flag and the flag of the country which the country would be playing against. Both boxes would contain food, and the box which Paul chose to eat out of would be the winners. The octopus correctly predicted the result of all of Germany’s games, and hypothesised that Spain would beat the Netherlands in the final—which they duly did. Paul became internationally famous for his correct predictions, and was dubbed by some as the “oracle octopus”. All his predictions were filmed and broadcast across the world, and he became a hit on the video sharing website YouTube.

Paul the Octopus correctly predicts a win by Germany over Uruguay in the third place play-off of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

During the World Cup, Rupert Adams of William Hill, one of Britain’s largest bookmakers, said that the octopus’s success rate was remarkable. “If you had had ten pounds on each and every prediction then re-invested your winnings you would currently have over 1,450 pounds,” he said. “It’s an astonishing feat to get six predictions in a row. I am told people are walking into our shops and saying ‘I will have what the Octopus predicted.'” After the World Cup this year, it was announced Paul would retire. “He won’t give any more oracle predictions—either in football, nor in politics, lifestyle or economy,” a spokesperson for the aquarium said at the time. “Paul will get back to his former job, namely making children laugh.” Paul’s life was not without controversy. During the tournament Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that the media storm was a sign of decay in Western culture. “Those who believe in this type of thing cannot be the leaders of the global nations that aspire, like Iran, to human perfection, basing themselves in the love of all sacred values,” he said.

Paul’s death was announced by the aquarium on Tuesday, when a spokesperson said that he had died of natural causes during the night. “We are consoled by the knowledge that he enjoyed a good life here and that the care provided for him by our dedicated displays team could not have been bettered,” he said. He added that common octopuses live for only a few years. Paul’s final prediction was that England would host the World Cup in 2018. A special clothing line and a mobile phone application are to be released, along with a documentary tracking his life. “His success made him almost a bigger story than the World Cup itself,” the spokesperson said. “We may decide to give Paul his own small burial plot within our grounds and erect a modest permanent shrine. While this may seem a curious thing to do for a sea creature, Paul achieved such popularity during his short life that it may be deemed the most appropriate course of action.”

NASA Simulates the Sun’s Power on Earth to Test Hardware Intended for Space

In the hostile environment of space, satellites could get burned by the ultra-hot sun in front of them and chilled by the frigid cold conditions of space behind them.

Researchers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., are using their Solar Thermal Test Facility to simulate some of the harshest conditions space has to offer to learn what these extreme temperatures can do to flight hardware close to the sun. They’re currently testing Strofio, a unique NASA instrument that will fly aboard an upcoming European Space Agency mission, in this facility to test the thermal balance before the instrument is on its way to Mercury.

The Solar Thermal Test Facility's concentrator mirror is composed of 144 smaller hexagonal segments. When all the mirrors are fully uncovered, the mirror beams about 1,000,000 watts per square meter of solar energy intensity into the vacuum chamber at the focal point. (NASA/D. Oliver)

The facility looks like it belongs in a galaxy far, far away. A two-story tall curved mirror — actually is made of 144 separate mirror segments, each hexagonally shaped and about 18 inches in diameter — forms the backbone of the facility.

About 50 yards away, sitting in a field, lies another mirror tilted at a slight angle. This secondary mirror reflects the sun towards the primary mirror, which captures the energy and then focuses inside a small vacuum chamber mounted in front of the mirror’s focal point.

The instrument currently being tested only needs 14,700 watts per square meter intensity so the facility covers most of the mirrors, or those that appear white, only uncovering a few with holes, those that look glassy, to beam sunlight into the vacuum chamber. Normal solar intensity at the Marshall Center with no mirrors is 1000 watts per square meter. (NASA/D. Oliver)

The giant wall of mirrors works by capturing the light from the sun and redirecting that energy to whatever happens to be sitting in the vacuum chamber. That superheats the instrument, allowing scientists to know how their hardware will behave as it nears the sun. Of course they can’t use all 144 mirror segments at once — that would beam 5000 watts worth of energy onto whatever happens to be inside the vacuum chamber. For the Strofio tests, engineers will only need to partially uncover about 26 mirror segments. They’ll reach temperatures hot enough to test their instrument, but not so high that they melt away their hard work.

But that’s only half the equation. Thanks to the Southwest Research Institute, the NASA facility has installed a liquid nitrogen shroud on the inside of the vacuum chamber that will flow super-cold liquid nitrogen. That will allow engineers to chill the vacuum chamber to the freezing cold temperatures, just like those in deep space.

Engineers put the instrument inside this vacuum chamber where the pressure is lowered to the vacuum conditions of space. The black liquid nitrogen cooled walls simulate the super-cold conditions space has to offer. The sun is illuminating the front of the instrument bright white. (NASA/D. Oliver)

In the front, the mirrors expose the instrument to the hotness of the sun. In the back, the nitrogen exposes it to the coldness of a vacuum. Together they accurately mimic the conditions of space, allowing scientists to test how their instrument will perform on its actual mission.

“It really gives you a good opportunity to understand how your instrument will perform in the conditions of deep space,” says Dr. Jimmy Lee, mission manager for Strofio. “We’re trying to understand on Earth how our tool will perform thousands of miles away in radically different conditions. That’s critical for a mission like ours.”

These tests prove vital for equipment like Stofio that are destined to travel close to the sun. Strofio will fly in polar orbit around Mercury where it will determine the chemical composition of Mercury’s surface using a technique called mass spectroscopy, providing a powerful new data to study the planet’s geological history. It will launch with the ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter mission in 2014.

When Strofio reaches its orbit around mercury, the sun will expose it to temperatures over 120 degrees Celsius or 248 Fahrenheit. That’s a stretch even for the relatively resilient NASA computers which historically only operate at around 24 degrees Celsius or 75 Fahrenheit. Engineers will have to continuously test Strofio to handle the tough Mercury conditions.

For now, the Solar Thermal Test Facility’s team continues to test Strofio in preparation for its upcoming mission. Hopefully, they’ll continue to have the opportunity to bring the conditions of deep space to the middle of Huntsville, Ala.

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