SpaceX’s Falcon 9 v1.1 carries its first Dragon cargo craft into orbit on Friday, 18 April. Photo Credit: John Studwell
Following Monday’s disappointing scrub of the third Commercial Resupply Services (CRS)-3 mission of the Dragon cargo craft to the International Space Station (ISS), SpaceX—the Hawthorne, Calif.-based launch services organization, headed by entrepreneur Elon Musk—has successfully ended a 13-month hiatus with a rousing liftoff at 3:25:22 p.m. EDT Friday, 18 April. In spite of a predicted 40-percent likelihood of acceptable weather at launch time, and ominous clouds and thunder prevalent in the Cape Canaveral area for much of the day, SpaceX’s upgraded Falcon 9 v1.1 roared aloft from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Just ten minutes after liftoff, Dragon had separated from the second stage of the rocket and was in the process of unfurling its solar arrays and communications and navigation appendages, preparatory to a rendezvous and berthing at the ISS in two days’ time.
Continue reading Fiery SpaceX Dragon Roars Toward Space Station
Artist’s conception of Kepler-186f in orbit around its red dwarf star. Image Credit: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech
Today was another big day for those interested in space exploration and in the search for other Earth-like, alien worlds in particular: The first Earth-sized exoplanet orbiting another star in the habitable zone has been discovered, it was announced by astronomers with the Kepler space telescope mission.
Continue reading Big Discovery: First Earth-Sized Exoplanet in Habitable Zone of Another Star
From NASA/JPL: “The disturbance visible at the outer edge of Saturn’s A ring in this image from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft could be caused by an object replaying the birth process of icy moons.” Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
The Cassini spacecraft, a flagship-class mission that is a cooperative project between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Italian Space Agency (ASI), may have uncovered the birth of an icy moon from within Saturn’s rings. This object was shown in an image Cassini took from its narrow angle camera (part of its Imaging Science Subsystem) of the gas giant’s “A” ring on April 15, 2013. The possible moon is described by NASA as being “20 percent brighter than its surroundings, 750 miles [1,200 kilometers] long and 6 miles [10 kilometers] wide.”
Continue reading Cassini Image May Reveal Historic Birth of Icy Saturn Moon
SpaceX has finalized a lease agreement with NASA for use of launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the launch site for many historic missions such as the Apollo Saturn-V Moon missions and over 80 space shuttle launches. The company’s first launch off 39A will be atop their Falcon-Heavy rocket as soon as 2015. Image Credits: NASA / SpaceX / AmericaSpace
There’s only one place on Earth where humans left to touch the face of another world, and this week Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) finalized an agreement with NASA to put that place (launch pad 39A) to use again for at least the next couple decades.
Continue reading SpaceX Secures 20-Year Lease Agreement With NASA for Use of Historic Launch Complex 39A
The four tapering strap-on boosters and central core of the Soyuz-U booster pierce the darkness in today’s rousing EgyptSat-2 launch. Photo Credit: TsENKI, with thanks to Mike Barrett
A Russian Soyuz-U booster has staged what is expected to be its final non-Progress mission, with a rousing liftoff from Site 31/6 at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The vehicle—a direct descendent of Chief Designer Sergei Korolev’s R-7 “Semyorka” (“Little Seven”) intercontinental ballistic missile, developed in the 1950s—roared into the night sky at 10:20 p.m. local time (12:20 p.m. EDT) Wednesday. Within nine minutes, it had successfully inserted Egypt’s second remote-sensing satellite, known as “EgyptSat-2,” into a circular orbit of 435 x 435 miles (700 x 700 km), inclined 51.6 degrees to the equator. EgyptSat-2 should remain in service for up to 11 years, providing unprecedented visible and multispectral imagery of the territory of Egypt and its environs.
Continue reading Soyuz-U Successfully Launches Egypt’s Second Earth-Watching Satellite
Despite a plethora of deep-space mission concepts currently envisioned by NASA, there’s little consensus between Congress and the White House on where the space agency should go next in space, in the lack of a coherent vision and direction. Image Credit: NASA
Last week’s article focused on examining some of the events and political decisions that have resulted in the U.S.’s reliance on Russia for gaining access to the International Space Station—a topic that came into the spotlight in the aftermath of the recent geopolitical crisis between Russia and Ukraine. Today’s article focuses on some of the decisions that affected the course of the U.S. human spaceflight program for charting a course for deep-space destinations.
Continue reading Commentary: A Path to Nowhere and the Absence of Leadership (Part 2)
Atop its Soyuz-U booster, EgyptSat-2 is transferred to Site 31/6 at Baikonur on Monday, 14 April. Photo Credit: Roscosmos
Egypt will launch its second remote-sensing satellite into orbit tomorrow (Wednesday, 16 April) atop Russia’s Soyuz-U booster from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The EgyptSat-2 mission is currently scheduled to get underway from Site 31/6 at 10:20 p.m. local time (12:20 p.m. EDT) and, following , a nine-minute ascent, will be delivered into an operational orbit of 435 x 435 miles (700 x 700 km), inclined 51.6 degrees to the equator. Configured with a similar payload shroud to that used by Progress cargo missions to the International Space Station (ISS), this is expected to be the last flight of a non-Progress Soyuz-U, before the vehicle is retired in 2015 and replaced by the new Soyuz 2-1A.
Continue reading EgyptSat-2 Ready to Launch Wednesday Atop Soyuz-U Booster
SpaceX has called off today’s planned Dragon CRS3 launch to the ISS—next launch attempt no earlier than Friday, April 18. Photo Credit: AmericaSpace / John Studwell
The third dedicated SpaceX Dragon mission to deliver 4,000+ pounds of cargo and supplies to the International Space Station under a $1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA has been pushed back again, this time due to a helium leak discovered on the Falcon-9 rocket first stage earlier today.
Continue reading Falcon-9 Helium Leak Scrubs SpaceX Dragon ISS Resupply Mission to NET April 18
SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft will fly for the first time atop the upgraded Falcon 9 v1.1 on Monday, 14 April. Photo Credit: SpaceX
A second launch in just four days is scheduled to take place from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., when SpaceX launches its third dedicated Dragon cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Liftoff of the two-stage Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket—on its first mission with a Dragon and only its fourth flight in total—is scheduled to occur at 4:58:44 p.m. EDT Monday, 14 April. As with previous SpaceX flights, the launch will occur “instantaneously,” hence the specific timing. SpaceX mission managers officially declared that they were “Go for Launch” at the conclusion of the Launch Readiness Review on Friday afternoon. The failure of a backup Multiplexer-Demultiplexer (MDM) on the space station’s Mobile Base System (MBS), also on Friday, has led to a decision to stage a contingency EVA (designated “U.S. EVA-26″) as early as Tuesday, 22 April. However, the MDM failure and EVA-26 planning is not expected to interfere with tomorrow’s planned CRS-3 launch.
Continue reading SpaceX Dragon ‘Go’ for Monday Launch; Contingency EVA Scheduled for 22 April
Yuri Gagarin (left) was proudly displayed to the world by a joyful Nikita Khrushchev (right), who recognized the political and ideological advantage which his flight had acquired over the United States. Photo Credit: Roscosmos/The Telegraph
The location at which the feet of Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin—the first human ever to break the bonds of Earth and enter space—made contact again with terra firma took place in a field some 15 miles southwest of the town of Engels, in the Saratov region, near Smelovka. Today, the site is marked by a 35-foot-tall (10-meter) obelisk and plaque, inscribed with the legend “Y.A. Gagarin Landed Here.” The formal marker was placed there on 14 April 1961, two days after Gagarin’s historic flight. However, the historic nature of the event had already led someone to erect a small commemorative signpost on the spot, instructing potential trespassers not to remove it and announcing the time of his landing as 10:55 a.m. Moscow Time. Less than two hours had elapsed since Gagarin’s launch … around the same time it would take you or me to watch an average-length Hollywood blockbuster.
Continue reading ‘Poyekhali!’ Remembering Our First Space Voyager (Part 2)