'A Horrible Moment': 30 Years Since the Shuttle’s Mission for Britain and Indonesia (Part 2)

Discovery rockets into orbit on STS-29 in March 1989, carrying more than half of the original crew of Mission 61H. Photo Credit: NASA

Discovery rockets into orbit on STS-29 in March 1989, carrying more than half of the original crew of Mission 61H. Photo Credit: NASA

The beginning of the end of Mission 61H came on 28 January 1986, when Challenger and her crew were lost, just 73 seconds after liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. As described in yesterday’s AmericaSpace history article, the flight was intended for launch aboard Columbia in June, carrying a payload of three communications satellites and a seven-strong crew, including the first astronauts from Britain and Indonesia. “I was out at Base Ops at Ellington [Field], getting ready to fly in a T-38,” recalled Pilot John Blaha of his movements on the morning of the tragedy. “As soon as the Challenger launched, I was going to walk outside and fly down to Kennedy and they were going to put some data tapes in the backseat of my T-38 and I was going to fly it back here. That was my job on the Challenger flight, so I was literally standing out there. I saw the launch on television.”

Continue reading ‘A Horrible Moment’: 30 Years Since the Shuttle’s Mission for Britain and Indonesia (Part 2)

Does Pluto Have a Subsurface Ocean? New Research Says Probably

The discovery of huge faults on Pluto provides evidence for a possible liquid water ocean beneath the ice crust. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

The discovery of huge faults on Pluto provides evidence for a possible liquid water ocean beneath the ice crust. Photo Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Continue reading Does Pluto Have a Subsurface Ocean? New Research Says Probably

'Unless They Throw Me Out': 30 Years Since the Shuttle's Mission for Britain and Indonesia (Part 1)

The "core" NASA crew of the former Mission 61H, pictured during one of their post-Challenger extended simulations. From left to right are Mike Coats, John Blaha, Anna Fisher, Bob Springer and (standing) Jim Buchli. Photo Credit: NASA/Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

The “core” NASA crew of the former Mission 61H, pictured during one of their post-Challenger extended simulations. From left to right are Mike Coats, John Blaha, Anna Fisher, Bob Springer, and (standing) Jim Buchli. Photo Credit: NASA/Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

A quarter-century ago, Britain’s first astronaut—civilian chemist Helen Sharman—roared into orbit aboard a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft, bound for a week-long stay visit to the Mir space station. Less than a dozen months later, British-born U.S. astronaut Mike Foale flew the first of what turned into a six-mission career, which made him the most experienced American spacefarer between December 2003 and April 2008. And only days ago, British astronaut Tim Peake returned to Earth aboard Soyuz TMA-19M, wrapping up more than six months aboard the International Space Station (ISS) as a member of Expeditions 46 and 47.

Yet for each successful human space endeavor, there are others which never came to pass. Thirty years ago, this week, had history been kinder, a distinctly English accent might have crackled between Space Shuttle Columbia and NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas. Royal Air Force Sqn. Ldr. Nigel Wood was deep into Payload Specialist (PS) training for Mission 61H at the time of the Challenger disaster and might have become Britain’s first man in space. Shoulder-to-shoulder with Wood aboard Columbia would have been a microbiologist named Pratiwi Sudarmono, who looked set to make Indonesia the first sovereign nation to have a woman as its first space traveler.

Continue reading ‘Unless They Throw Me Out’: 30 Years Since the Shuttle’s Mission for Britain and Indonesia (Part 1)

PHOTOS: MUOS-5 Moving Into Position After Blazing Atlas-V Launch

The NAVY's 7.5 ton MUOS-5 satellite thunders out of Launch Complex-41 June 24, 2016, flying atop ULA's most powerful Atlas-V rocket, the 551. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace

The NAVY’s 7.5-ton MUOS-5 satellite thunders out of Launch Complex-41 June 24, 2016, flying atop ULA’s most powerful Atlas-V rocket, the 551. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace

The fifth and final 7.5-ton Lockheed Martin/NAVY Mobile User Objective System satellite (MUOS-5) is headed toward geosynchronous orbit following a spectacularly thunderous launch on June 24 from Cape Canaveral onboard ULA’s most powerful version of the Atlas-V rocket.

With the final MOUS satellite moving into place we have “launched the future” of all military communications, said the NAVY.

Continue reading PHOTOS: MUOS-5 Moving Into Position After Blazing Atlas-V Launch

7.5-Ton MUOS Satellite Set for Most Powerful Atlas

MUOS ground station have been silenced by Italian courts over unproven environmental concerns affecting communications over Europe, Africa and Middle East. Photo Credit U.S. Navy

MUOS ground station have been silenced by Italian courts over unproven environmental concerns affecting communications over Europe, Africa, and Middle East. Photo Credit U.S. Navy

The most powerful version of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V fleet is set for liftoff on 2.5 million lbs thrust June 24 from Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 41, carrying the last of five Lockheed Martin /Navy Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) communications spacecraft into geosynchronous transfer orbit.

Continue reading 7.5-Ton MUOS Satellite Set for Most Powerful Atlas

'Short-Lived Record': 20 Years Since the Record-Setting Mission of STS-78 (Part 2)

 

Launched 20 years ago, this week, STS-78 still holds the record for the shortest interval between the announcement and execution of a Spacelab mission. It was designed to bridge the gulf between the twilight of the Spacelab era and the dawn of a long-duration research capability aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

Launched 20 years ago, this week, STS-78 still holds the record for the shortest interval between the announcement and execution of a Spacelab mission. It was designed to bridge the gulf between the twilight of the Spacelab era and the dawn of a long-duration research capability aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

Twenty years ago, tomorrow, Earth-bound viewers gained an unearthly perspective of a space shuttle crew roaring to orbit. For the first time, a tiny video camera was mounted in Columbia’s forward flight deck as she launched on her 20th mission, STS-78. Its footage—which focused on Commander Tom Henricks and Pilot Kevin Kregel—began just prior to the thunderous ignition of her three Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) and twin Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) and continued through her establishment into a 39-degree-inclined orbit. As outlined in yesterday’s AmericaSpace history article, STS-78 was dedicated as a “stop-gap” science mission to bridge the gulf between the twilight of the Spacelab era and the dawn of research aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Continue reading ‘Short-Lived Record’: 20 Years Since the Record-Setting Mission of STS-78 (Part 2)

Expedition 47 Crew Returns Safely to Earth After Six-Month ISS Mission

The Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 47 crew members Tim Kopra of NASA, Tim Peake of the European Space Agency, and Yuri Malenchenko of Roscosmos near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Saturday, June 18, 2016. Kopra, Peake, and Malenchenko are returning after six months in space where they served as members of the Expedition 46 and 47 crews onboard the International Space Station. Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 47 crew members Tim Kopra of NASA, Tim Peake of the European Space Agency, and Yuri Malenchenko of Roscosmos near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Saturday, June 18, 2016. Kopra, Peake, and Malenchenko are returning after six months in space where they served as members of the Expedition 46 and 47 crews onboard the International Space Station. Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Almost 186 days since they rose from Earth—aboard the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan—the outgoing Expedition 47 crew of the International Space Station (ISS) returned safely to terra firma today (Saturday, 18 June). Aboard the bell-shaped Soyuz descent module were veteran Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, NASA’s Tim Kopra, and Britain’s first “official” astronaut, Tim Peake. Long before touchdown, Malenchenko had established himself comfortably in second place on the list of the most flight-experienced spacefarers of all time, whilst Kopra became America’s ninth most seasoned astronaut and, by default, Peake has flown for longer in space than any other single-nationality British citizen. Between them, the trio have totaled over 3.4 cumulative years of their lives away from the Home Planet.

Continue reading Expedition 47 Crew Returns Safely to Earth After Six-Month ISS Mission

'Man, I'm Here': 20 Years Since the Record-Setting Mission of STS-78 (Part 1)

Created as a "bridge" between the final Spacelab flights and the beginning of research aboard the International Space Station (ISS), the Life and Microgravity Spacelab (LMS) offered a nod to past and future. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

Created as a “bridge” between the final Spacelab flights and the beginning of research aboard the International Space Station (ISS), the Life and Microgravity Spacelab (LMS) offered a nod to past and future. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

Two decades ago, this week, International Space Station (ISS) research began in earnest, even though it would still be two more years before its first structural components actually reached orbit and over four years before the first long-duration crew arrived aboard the multi-national orbiting outpost. For in June 1996, the record-setting mission of STS-78—whose seven-strong crew included two future ISS residents and a future EVA assemblyman—conducted a multitude of life and microgravity science investigations which virtually mirrored the kind of research which is today commonplace aboard the space station. In the words of Mission Manager Marc Boudreaux of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Ala., the $138 million Life and Microgravity Spacelab (LMS) mission carried “the key ingredients to take us into the next era of space exploration.”

Continue reading ‘Man, I’m Here’: 20 Years Since the Record-Setting Mission of STS-78 (Part 1)

Mars Rovers Update: Curiosity Turns Toward Mount Sharp, Opportunity Finishes in Marathon Valley

Self-portrait of the Curiosity rover at the drill site called Okoruso, on Naukluft Plateau. The image was taken on May 11, 2016, (sol 1,338). Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Self-portrait of the Curiosity rover at the drill site called Okoruso, on Naukluft Plateau. The image was taken on May 11, 2016, (sol 1,338). Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s current rovers, Curiosity and Opportunity, are continuing to explore their respective regions of Mars, with new findings that are providing yet more clues as to the geological history and potential past habitability of this fascinating world. They have also both just completed significant steps in their journeys and are now entering new and exciting phases of their missions. Both missions have found yet more evidence that the Mars we see today—cold and dry—was once much wetter and potentially habitable, at least for microorganisms.

Continue reading Mars Rovers Update: Curiosity Turns Toward Mount Sharp, Opportunity Finishes in Marathon Valley

Atlas-V Returns with MUOS-5 June 24, Senate Says No More Russian Engines by 2022

ULA's workhorse booster has been grounded since an engine anomaly occurred on the OA-6 launch, but it is now cleared to return to flight, starting with MUOS-5 as soon as June 24, 2016. Photo Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace

ULA’s workhorse booster has been grounded since an engine anomaly occurred on the OA-6 launch, but it is now cleared to return to flight, starting with MUOS-5 as soon as June 24, 2016. Photo Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace

 

 

 

Being grounded for the last several months due to an investigation into an engine anomaly on the OA-6 launch, ULA’s workhorse Atlas-V booster is ready to return to flight later this month, tasked with delivering a 7.5-ton NAVY satellite to geosynchronous transfer orbit. Requiring the full potential of the Atlas-V, with five strap-on motors, MUOS-5 will roar to space from Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral AFS as soon as next Friday, following a Senate deal this week on the future of the booster’s controversial RD-180 engine.

Liftoff is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. EDT June 24; the launch window extends to 11:14 a.m EDT.

Continue reading Atlas-V Returns with MUOS-5 June 24, Senate Says No More Russian Engines by 2022