NASA Plans PMA-3 Relocation for Commercial Crew, Three Record-Setting EVAs on Tap

Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough will lead U.S. EVAs 40 and 41. Photo Credit: Shane Kimbrough/NASA/Twitter

Three pivotal and record-setting periods of Extravehicular Activity (EVA) are scheduled to occur from the International Space Station (ISS) over the coming weeks, according to a news conference, held at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, earlier today (Wednesday, 22 March). ISS Operations Integration Manager Kenny Todd and NASA Flight Director Emily Nelson were joined by the Spacewalk Officers for the three EVAs—Sarah Korona, John Mularski and Alex Kanelakos—to outline plans which will see a major reconfiguration of the station, ahead of Commercial Crew operations. Designated U.S. EVAs 40, 41 and 42, the three 6.5-hour spacewalks will occur on Friday, 24 March, Thursday, 30 March, and Thursday, 6 April.

Current plans are for all three U.S. Orbital Segment (USOS) crew members to make two spacewalks apiece. Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough will lead EVA-40 with Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet, and will also lead EVA-41 with Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson. For the third and final spacewalk, Whitson will lead EVA-42 with Pesquet. Assuming all goes according to plan, this busy run of activity will end with Whitson setting a new record for the greatest number of EVAs (and the largest number of spacewalking hours) ever performed by a woman and will include the 200th EVA in support of ISS construction and maintenance.

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Two Weeks After International Women's Day, Peggy Whitson Blazes New Trail for Females in Space

Peggy Whitson and Thomas Pesquet, pictured aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Photo Credit: NASA/Thomas Pesquet/Twitter

At 10:38 p.m. EDT yesterday (Monday), veteran NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson—currently aboard the International Space Station (ISS) as a member of the Expedition 50 crew—secured a new record, as the first woman to log a cumulative 500 days in space, across her three-mission career. Her achievement comes less than two weeks after International Women’s Day (IWD) was observed around the world on 8 March. Whitson, a former Chief of NASA’s Astronaut Office, is midway through her third long-duration ISS increment, having previously earned renown as the first woman to command a space station crew between October 2007 and April 2008. She presently also holds records for the oldest women ever to travel into space and the oldest female spacewalker.

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'Just Unreal What It Had Done': 35 Years Since Columbia's Third Orbital Mission (Part 2)

Like a flying brick, Columbia descends towards White Sands on 30 March 1982. This view was acquired from one of the NASA T-38 jets, flying chase that morning. Photo Credit: NASA

Thirty-five years ago, in the final week of March 1982, Commander Jack Lousma and Pilot Gordon Fullerton flew Space Shuttle Columbia on her third orbital voyage. Originally intended to support seven days of operations—more than three times longer than her two previous missions—STS-3 was laden with a dedicated payload of research experiments, focused principally on solar and space sciences. The problems with STS-3 really came to light when the time neared for Lousma and Fullerton to return to Earth.

Continue reading ‘Just Unreal What It Had Done’: 35 Years Since Columbia’s Third Orbital Mission (Part 2)

PHOTOS: Delta-IV Launches Multinational WGS-9 Into Twilight Skies

Liftoff of the U.S. Air Force WGS-9 satellite atop a ULA Delta-IV rocket from Cape Canaveral AFS Saturday night at 8:18pm EDT. Photo Credit: John Studwell /

U.S. and allied military broadband satellite communications will be significantly bolstered by the successful launch from Cape Canaveral AFS of the Boeing/U.S. Air Force WGS-9 Wideband Global Satcom on Saturday March 19, by a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Medium+ (5,4) rocket with four solid motors strapped to its sides.

The X-band system on all eight current operational WGS satellites is almost totally booked now, says   USAF Maj. Gen. David D Thompson, Vice Commander of Air Force Space Command. The Ka band WGS system is less subscribed because it is a newer band and terminals are just now making their way into the military services, he said.

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'Not a Good Place to Land': 35 Years Since Columbia's Third Orbital Mission (Part 1)

Columbia touches down at the mountain-ringed White Sands site in New Mexico on 30 March 1982. Photo Credit: NASA

Almost four decades ago, and two years ahead of the first Space Shuttle launch, NASA took the unusual step of selecting a great white blotch of compacted salt and gypsum in New Mexico’s Tularosa Valley as a potential landing site. Even before the maiden flight of Columbia, it had long been planned for the primary end-of-mission landing sites to be Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and, later, the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. However, the tertiary site of White Sands, selected by NASA in March 1979, offered year-round near-perfect weather and a vast runway, with ample margins of safety. In March 1982—35 years ago, this month—that safety net was called upon for the first and only time in shuttle history, supporting a dramatic landing which caused more than a few hearts to jump into throats.

Continue reading ‘Not a Good Place to Land’: 35 Years Since Columbia’s Third Orbital Mission (Part 1)

Russia's Tass Identifies Short-Notice U.S. Astronauts for Additional ISS-Bound Soyuz Seats

Two additional seats have opened up for NASA astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) in September 2017 and March 2018. This will increase the U.S. Orbital Segment (USOS) to four members for the first time. Photo Credit: NASA

Two experienced U.S. astronauts, with a combined total of more than 300 days in orbit, have reportedly begun pre-flight preparations at the Star City cosmonauts training center, on the forested outskirts of Moscow. According to the Russian Tass news agency on Monday, veteran spacewalker and International Space Station (ISS) resident Joe Acaba will occupy the vacant third seat aboard the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft when it launches from Baikonur in Kazakhstan in mid-September. He will fly shoulder-to-shoulder with Russian cosmonaut Aleksandr Misurkin and NASA’s Mark Vande Hei and will spend six months aboard the station as a member of the Expedition 53 and 54 crews. Acaba’s backup is reported to be Shannon Walker, who is expected to rotate into the vacant third seat aboard Soyuz MS-08, when it flies in March 2018.

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Delta IV to Launch WGS-9 This Saturday After RS-68 Engine Problem

ULA is scheduled to launch a Delta-IV rocket with the U.S. Air Force WGS-9 satellite just after sunset this Saturday, March 18, from SLC-37B at Cape Canaveral AFS, FL. In this photo, a ULA Delta-IV lofts the WGS-7 satellite from the same location. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace

A United Launch Alliance Delta-IV rocket is set for launch March 18 carrying the WGS-9 satellite—the ninth of 10 planned U.S. Air Force/Boeing Wideband Global Satcoms. A spectacular dusk liftoff for the Delta IV medium+ (5,4) version into a supersynchronous geosynchronous transfer orbit is planned for 7:44 p.m. EDT, at the opening of a 74 minute launch window that closes at 8:58 p.m. EDT.

BOOKMARK our WGS-9 Launch Tracker for UPDATES & LIVE COVERAGE on launch day!

But the launch follows an unprecedented month where both of ULA’s Delta and Atlas launchers were temporarily grounded by first stage engine problems at Cape Canaveral. 

Continue reading Delta IV to Launch WGS-9 This Saturday After RS-68 Engine Problem

SpaceX Blazes into the Night With Early-Hours EchoStar-23 Launch

A perspective of the ascending Upgraded Falcon 9, as seen from the north. Photo Credit: Mike Killian/AmericaSpace

SpaceX successfully scored “three-for-three” in the small hours of Thursday morning, delivering its third Upgraded Falcon 9 booster aloft in as many months in 2017. Following hard on the heels of its first Iridium NEXT launch in January and last month’s flight of the CRS-10 Dragon to the International Space Station (ISS), the vehicle roared aloft at 2 a.m. EDT Thursday, following a slight delay, caused by concern about high upper-level winds. The launch was originally targeted for the small hours of Tuesday morning, but was scrubbed due to unacceptable weather conditions. Tonight’s flight marked the first launch from historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida in the hours of darkness since the twilight of the Space Shuttle era.

“We truly have a tremendous team here on the Space Coast and it’s my honor to be part of this mission, supporting the commercial space industry,” said Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, 45th Space Wing Commander at Patrick Air Force Base and the Launch Decision Authority for tonight’s launch. “Assured access to space is a team sport here on the Eastern Range. This operation once again clearly demonstrates the successful collaboration we have with our mission partner SpaceX as we continue to shape the future of America’s space operations and showcase why the 45th Space Wing is the “World’s Premier Gateway to Space”.”

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Venus Beckons Part 2: A New NASA Collaborative Mission With Russia?

Artist’s conception of the Venera-D spacecraft in orbit around Venus. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Last week, AmericaSpace reported on why NASA should return to Venus, and new technology being developed to help make that happen, especially as in longer-lived landers or rovers. With its extremely hostile conditions, Venus has been much less of a priority in more recent years, at least in terms of surface missions, despite it being Earth’s closest planetary neighbor. But now there may be more impetus towards a new mission – not one that NASA would do alone, but rather a joint mission with Russia, known as Venera-D.

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'Worth Waiting 16 Years For': Remembering Deke Slayton's Unrealized Mercury Mission (Part 2)

Savoring his first experience of weightlessness, Deke Slayton traverses through the Docking Module during his one and only space mission. Photo Credit: NASA

By the middle of March 1962, Donald “Deke” Slayton—decorated U.S. Air Force fighter pilot and test pilot and veteran of the grueling Project Mercury selection campaign, during which he had proven himself as a perfect specimen for astronaut training—was dealt perhaps the most devastating card of his career. With just eight weeks to go before he was due to ride an Atlas booster to become the United States’ fourth astronaut and its second man to orbit the Earth, Slayton was grounded by a minor, yet persistent heart murmur. As outlined in yesterday’s AmericaSpace history article, his condition had been detected in summer 1959, but had not been considered serious and had lain dormant for almost three years.

Continue reading ‘Worth Waiting 16 Years For’: Remembering Deke Slayton’s Unrealized Mercury Mission (Part 2)