Delta Rocket Increases Iridium Constellation

A Boeing Delta II rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California today carrying a cargo of five spare satellites for the Iridium communications network. These additional five satellites join the 66 operational satellites and seven spares already in low-earth orbit. The US government is the primary customer for Iridium, and its 2-year, $72 million contract staved off bankruptcy for the troubled company.

Odyssey Deploys Communications Antenna

NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft deployed its high-gain antenna on Tuesday night, establishing a high-speed connection between the spacecraft and controllers back on Earth. Flight controllers tested the boom to ensure it can communicate with different locations on Earth and then pronounced the deployment “successful”. Science instruments on the spacecraft are expected to begin collecting data later this month.

Hubble Reveals Backwards Galaxy

The latest image released from the Hubble Space Telescope shows a spiral galaxy that seems to be rotating in the wrong direction. Astronomers expected that galaxy NGC 4622, located 111 million light-years away in the constellation Centaurus, should rotate counter-clockwise but it actually goes clockwise. It’s believed that the galaxy consumed a smaller companion galaxy recently which helped reverse its spin.

Entire Earth Imaged

NASA has released a new set of photographs which form the most detailed true-colour image of the entire Earth ever created. The photographs are taken at a resolution of 1km and include the land, seas and even clouds and sea ice. Much of the data for this image was gathered by NASA’s Terra satellite, from an altitude of 700km. An additional image shows actual city lights superimposed over a darkened version of the photograph.

ESO Releases New Images of Saturn and Io

The European Southern Observatory released stunning new images of the planet Saturn and Jupiter’s moon Io on Friday – the sharpest ever taken by a ground observatory. The photographs were taken using the ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile, which rivals the Hubble Space Telescope in image clarity. This is an almost perfect view of Saturn, taken when the planet’s rings were tilted towards the Earth.

Spacecraft Image Volcano Disaster From Orbit

Three NASA spacecraft chronicled the devastation that occurred when the Nyiragongo volcano in Congo erupted on January 17th. The eruption killed more than 100 people and forced hundreds of thousands to evacuate the area. These newly released images were created using data taken from a space shuttle radar mapping mission, Landsat photographs, and the Terra spacecraft.

Shuttle Columbia Rolls out to the Launch Pad

The space shuttle Columbia rolled out to the launch pad on Monday to prepare for the launch of STS-109; the fourth mission to retrieve and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope. If everything goes smoothly, Columbia will lift off on February 28th, and rendezvous with the telescope in space. Over the course of the mission, shuttle astronauts will perform five spacewalks to install a new camera system, solar arrays, and power controller onto the aging space observatory.

New Clues About the Great Dying

Scientists know that approximately 250 million years something wiped out almost all the life on Earth; however, what exactly happened has remained a mystery – was it a volcano, asteroid strike, or something else? New evidence has been found in pockets of gas deep inside rocks that were formed during the time of the event. The gas contains higher than normal levels of a specific type of helium and argon which is more common in space, so something must have brought the material to Earth, probably an asteroid.

Odyssey Reaches Final Mapping Orbit

NASA?s Mars Odyssey spacecraft has reached its final mapping orbit after three months of aerobraking manoeuvres around the Red Planet. At 2014 GMT (5:14pm EST) Odyssey fired its thrusters for 25 seconds and decreased its velocity to maintain an orbit which varies between 387km and 450km above the surface of Mars. Two scientific instruments on the spacecraft have already begun collecting data about the composition of the planet?s surface.