AmericaSpace Launch Countdown

Next Launch CRS-4 on a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral AFB, FL
scheduled for:
20 Sep 14 6:16:00 GMT
20 Sep 14 2:16:00 EST

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CRS-4 Dragon Cargo Mission Marks SpaceX's Fourth Launch in Ten Weeks

An unmanned Dragon (CRS-2) grappled by the International Space Station

The CRS-4 mission represents the fifth Dragon spacecraft to visit the International Space Station (ISS). Photo Credit: NASA

Less than two weeks since the spectacular launch of the AsiaSat-6 geostationary communications satellite, SpaceX stands ready to deliver its sixth Falcon 9 v1.1 mission of 2014 and its second Dragon cargo ship of the year toward the International Space Station (ISS). Current plans call for the two-stage vehicle to fly from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., at 2:16 a.m. EDT Saturday, 20 September. Assuming an on-time liftoff, Dragon will rendezvous and be berthed at the Earth-facing (or “nadir”) port of the space station’s Harmony node on Monday, 22 September, where it will remain for the next four weeks. It will deliver about 5,000 pounds (2,270 kg) of equipment and supplies for the incumbent Expedition 41 crew. This will be the fourth of 12 dedicated Dragon missions (CRS-4) under SpaceX’s $1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA.

Continue reading CRS-4 Dragon Cargo Mission Marks SpaceX’s Fourth Launch in Ten Weeks

'Believe In Your Dreams': Remembering Astronaut Lacy Veach On His 70th Birthday

Lacy Veach (right), pictured during pre-launch training for STS-52. Photo Credit: Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

Lacy Veach (right), pictured during pre-launch training for STS-52. Photo Credit: Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

“You’ve got to believe in your dreams,” astronaut Lacy Veach once told a crowd of Hawaiian youngsters, “and you’ve got to be hard-headed enough to never let go!” Had cancer not cruelly snatched him from us, today (18 September) would have been Veach’s 70th birthday, and his legacy as a pilot, engineer, instructor, explorer, teacher, and adventurer continues through annual “Lacy Veach Days of Discovery” at his former alma mater, Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii, which seeks to encourage the young to participate in science-based workshops and demonstrations and inspire them to believe in their own dreams and—just as Veach himself did—to pull out every stop in order to achieve them. It also continues aboard the International Space Station (ISS), whose cupola contains Veach’s name tag and a photograph in honor of the man who worked on the early development of the multi-windowed module.

Continue reading ‘Believe In Your Dreams': Remembering Astronaut Lacy Veach On His 70th Birthday

NASA Passes on Dream Chaser, Statement From SNC Regarding NASA's Commercial Crew Award Decision

Dream Chaser media briefing from 2011 at the Kennedy Space Center press site with Mark Sirangelo, vice president of Sierra Nevada Corporation (center), Robert Cabana, Director of Kennedy Space Center (left), and Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator (right).  Credit: Ken Kremer / www.KenKremer.com

Dream Chaser media briefing from 2011 at the Kennedy Space Center press site with Mark Sirangelo, vice president of Sierra Nevada Corporation (center), Robert Cabana, Director of Kennedy Space Center (left), and Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator (right). Credit: Ken Kremer / www.KenKremer.com

Of the three American companies who competed for a multi-billion-dollar NASA contract to launch astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station (ISS) only two were selected, as was expected. Competition is a good thing in any industry, and spaceflight is no different, but that also means there must be a loser, and the loser in NASA’s Commercial Crew program is Sierra Nevada Space Systems (SNC) and their reusable Dream Chaser “mini shuttle.” However, that does not mean we will never see a Dream Chaser fly; it just means we won’t see NASA giving them extra money to continue development to serve the space agency’s agenda for contracting with private companies for crew transport to and from the ISS.

So where does this leave the Dream Chaser? SNC has released the following statement regarding NASA’s decision to skip Dream Chaser for two capsule designs with SpaceX’s Dragon V2 and Boeing’s CST-100:

Continue reading NASA Passes on Dream Chaser, Statement From SNC Regarding NASA’s Commercial Crew Award Decision

NASA Hedges On Critical Suit Battery Resupply

EMU with SAFER

EMU PLSS (top) with SAFER (bottom). Photo: NASA

NASA has confirmed to AmericaSpace that the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) Long Life Batteries (LLBs) will not be launching solely on SpX–4, as originally planned. Instead, according to NASA, two of the four LLBs have already been sent to Russia for launch aboard a Soyuz scheduled for late September, after SpX–4. Since August, ISS maintenance EVAs have been curtailed due to the current EMU battery issues, therefore making the resupply of new EMU batteries a top priority for NASA. Given the possibility of a launch delay of either SpaceX or Soyuz, NASA’s decision to hedge and split the payload between the upcoming SpaceX cargo flight and a later Soyuz flight appears prudent.

Continue reading NASA Hedges On Critical Suit Battery Resupply

ULA Atlas-V 'Threads the Needle' With End-of-Window CLIO Launch

The secretive CLIO missions taking flight atop a ULA Atlas-V 401 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla on Sept. 16, 2014. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace

The secretive CLIO missions taking flight atop a ULA Atlas-V 401 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla on Sept. 16, 2014. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace

“Threading the needle” through exceptionally ugly weather, and coming close to a scrub and 24-hour turnaround, United Launch Alliance (ULA) has successfully delivered its 11th mission of 2014 into orbit. Liftoff of the Atlas V—which flew in its “401” configuration, numerically designated to describe a 13-foot-diameter (4-meter) payload fairing, no strap-on boosters, and a single-engine Centaur upper stage—took place at 8:10 p.m. EDT Tuesday, 16 September, from the storied Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The launch occurred at the very last moment of a 146-minute “window,” which extended from 5:44 p.m. until 8:10 p.m. and, like July’s AFSPC-4 campaign, ran down to the wire until the final minutes.

Continue reading ULA Atlas-V ‘Threads the Needle’ With End-of-Window CLIO Launch

Radzanowski NASA's New CFO

David Radzanowski

David Radzanowski[1], currently the Chief of Staff and advisor to NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, was on Thursday confirmed by unanimous consent in the U.S. Senate to be the next NASA Chief Financial Officer. He replaces Beth Robinson[2].

Continue reading Radzanowski NASA’s New CFO

Boeing and SpaceX Awarded Contracts to Fill Void Left by NASA's Retired Space Shuttles

The vehicles which will fill the void left by the retirement of NASA's space shuttle fleet for low-Earth orbit and ISS crew transport, the Boeing CST-100 and Dragon V2 space capsules. Photo: Boeing / Robert Fisher / AmericaSpace

The vehicles which will fill the void left by the retirement of NASA’s space shuttle fleet for low-Earth orbit and ISS crew transport, the Boeing CST-100 and Dragon V2 space capsules. Photo: Boeing / Robert Fisher / AmericaSpace

In 2010, with the retirement of NASA’s 30-year space shuttle program, the space agency began the Commercial Crew Program to stimulate development of privately built and operated American-made space vehicles for transporting astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station (ISS). Since the final shuttle landed in 2011, America has been forced to buy seats to and from the orbiting outpost from Russia, at a cost of over $70 million, per seat. Now, after over four years of testing, development, and waiting, NASA today announced the selection of Boeing’s CST-100 space capsule and SpaceX’s Dragon V2 space capsule to replace the agency’s now-retired space shuttle fleet for flying astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit (LEO) and the ISS no later than 2017.

Continue reading Boeing and SpaceX Awarded Contracts to Fill Void Left by NASA’s Retired Space Shuttles

NASA's SLS Human Rocket Road to Mars Starts in New Orleans and Michoud Assembly Facility

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden officially unveils world’s largest spacecraft welder to begin construction of 1st core stage of NASA's mammoth Space Launch System (SLS) rocket at NASA Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, on Sept. 12, 2014. SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever built by humans.  Credit: Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden officially unveils the world’s largest spacecraft welder to begin construction of first core stage of NASA’s mammoth Space Launch System (SLS) rocket at NASA Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, on Sept. 12, 2014. SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever built by humans. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com/AmericaSpace

MICHOUD ASSEMBLY FACILITY, NEW ORLEANS, LA — The first step on NASA’s “Humans to Mars” objective has begun with the start of construction of the first core stage fuel tank of the agency’s colossal Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that will one day propel astronauts to the Red Planet.

The high-tech marvel of machinery that will weld and integrate the initial elements of the SLS rocket’s very first core stage is now “open for business,” following a marquee grand opening ceremony headlined by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on Friday, Sept. 12, 2014, at the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where the stage is being manufactured. AmericaSpace was on hand for the milestone event and toured the Michoud facility. See our photos herein.

Continue reading NASA’s SLS Human Rocket Road to Mars Starts in New Orleans and Michoud Assembly Facility

Landing Site Selected for First-Ever Attempt to Land on a Comet

Landing site J, marked by the white cross, on the head of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Image Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Landing site J, marked by the white + sign, on the head of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Image Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

A landing site has now been chosen for the Rosetta spacecraft’s lander, Philae, on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, it was announced this morning. After several candidate landing sites had been considered, site J has now been selected for the daring landing later in November. It will be the first-ever attempt to actually land on a comet.

Continue reading Landing Site Selected for First-Ever Attempt to Land On a Comet

ULA Aims for Top-Secret CLIO Launch on Tuesday, 16 September

The CLIO mission will be delivered into orbit on the 25th flight of an Atlas V booster. Liftoff is scheduled for 5:44 p.m. EDT Tuesday, 16 September. Image Credit: ULA

The CLIO mission will be delivered into orbit on the 25th flight of an Atlas V booster. Liftoff is scheduled for 5:44 p.m. EDT Tuesday, 16 September. Image Credit: ULA

When United Launch Alliance (ULA) delivers its 25th Atlas V 401 vehicle—and its 60th overall mission from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.—into orbit on the afternoon of Tuesday, 16 September, it will undoubtedly represent one of the quietest and most secretive launches of 2014. Liftoff is presently planned to occur from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 during a 146-minute “window,” which opens at 5:44 p.m. EDT, and the primary payload for the mission is a mysterious spacecraft, known only as “CLIO.” Developed by Lockheed Martin Space Systems Skunk Works, on behalf of an unnamed U.S. Government Agency, CLIO is reportedly based upon commercial technology and its design is centered around the proven A2100 satellite bus. “It is highly unusual that no agency claims ownership of a satellite,” admitted Spaceflight101. “Even the National Reconnaissance Office, operating American spy satellites, publicly announces its launches in advance.”

Continue reading ULA Aims for Top-Secret CLIO Launch on Tuesday, 16 September