One of two pressurized domes for the “shell” of the Structural Test Article (STA) of Boeing’s CST-100 spacecraft undergoes checkout. Photo Credit: NASA
Less than a year since winning a $4.2 billion slice of the $6.8 billion Commercial Crew transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract—the current phase of NASA’s effort to return U.S. astronauts to space, aboard a U.S.-built vehicle, and from U.S. soil—Boeing has taken a significant forward step as it prepares its CST-100 spacecraft for an initial unpiloted “shakedown” voyage in April 2017, then a crewed test flight to the International Space Station (ISS) in July 2017. This will be followed by the first contracted long-duration crew exchange mission, by either Boeing’s CST-100 or SpaceX’s Dragon V-2, at some stage after November 2017, on the eagerly awaited “U.S. Crew Vehicle-1” or “USCV-1”. In anticipation of Commercial Crew operations, the first two domes for CST-100’s Structural Test Article (STA) have been delivered to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, where they will be transferred to the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) Bay 3 for integration.
Continue reading CST-100 Spacecraft Development Moves Forward in Former Shuttle Hangar
Artist’s conception of the Venus Landsailing Rover. It would use advanced circuits which could survive longer than previous landers in the extreme surface conditions. A “sail” on top would help to move the rover on the surface using wind, a technique known as landsailing. Image Credit: NASA GRC
In what may be a significant step toward the seemingly far-off goal of sending a rover to the surface of Venus, NASA has awarded two grants totalling $245,000 to a semiconductor technology firm to design complex integrated circuits which could withstand the extremely harsh environment on this neighboring world.
Continue reading NASA Awards Grants to Ozark IC to Create Circuits for Proposed Venus Rover
The brightest of the bright spots on Ceres, in Occator crater. Haze detected above them may help scientists determine if they are made of ice, salts or something else. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
The intriguing bright spots on dwarf planet/asteroid Ceres have been fascinating the public and scientists alike for the past few months, and now a new discovery might provide a valuable clue as to just what these spots are made of: the Dawn spacecraft has detected a periodic haze over the brightest spots in Occator crater.
Continue reading Haze Detected Above Mystery Bright Spots on Ceres
DMSP Air Force weather satellite is depicted in polar orbit near Alaska. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin
A U.S. Air Force review into the Feb. 3 loss of Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) Flight 13 determined a failure of the spacecraft’s battery charger as the likely cause of the satellite’s failure and structural breakup.
Analysis indicates one of the satellite’s wiring harnesses in the battery charge assembly lost functionality due to compression over a long period of time. Once the harness was compromised, exposed wires potentially caused a short in the battery power, leading to an overcharge situation with eventual rupture of the satellite’s two batteries.
The Air Force declined to reveal the breakup until amateur trackers discovered the debris cloud.
Continue reading Air Force Weather Satellite’s Breakup Blamed on Wiring Harness Compression in Battery Charge Assembly
The Instrument Pointing System (IPS) was flown for the first time on Mission 51F. It would later be reflown on a pair of dedicated astronomy missions in 1990 and 1995. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de
Three decades have now passed since one of the most dramatic missions—and one of the most dramatic months—in the shuttle program’s 30-year history. On 29 July 1985, Challenger rocketed into orbit, carrying her eighth human crew on a week-long voyage to explore the Sun and the cosmos with a battery of scientific instruments. As described in yesterday’s AmericaSpace history article, Mission 51F had already endured a harrowing main engine shutdown, seconds before liftoff, on 12 July, but any belief that the seven astronauts had weathered their run of bad luck was sorely mistaken. Six minutes after launch, and 67 miles (108 km) above Earth, a main engine failure necessitated an Abort to Orbit (ATO), marking the only major in-flight abort ever effected during a shuttle launch. Challenger limped into a low, but stable orbit, ready for an ambitious mission, which, despite its scientific bonanza, would forever become known for its role in “The Cola Wars”.
Continue reading ‘Cola and Solar Wars': 30 Years Since the Unlucky Success of Mission 51F (Part 2)
From ESA: ““This single frame Rosetta navigation camera image of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was taken on 14 July 2015 from a distance of 161 km from the comet centre. The image has a resolution of 13.7 m/pixel and measures 14 km across.” Image Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0
The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosetta spacecraft is on the precipice of making more discoveries as its comet begins to “heat up.” Just weeks before Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko reaches perihelion—the point where its orbit brings it closest to the Sun—the Rosetta spacecraft has been moved back from the comet due to increasing activity. While the spacecraft will begin an unprecedented observation of a comet during this crucial period, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) continues to troubleshoot Philae’s communication issues. At present time, the lander has not been heard from since July 9.
Continue reading Rosetta Team Troubleshoots Philae as Comet’s Activity ‘Heats Up’
After one false start, Challenger roars into orbit on 29 July 1985, to begin the Spacelab-2 science mission. It would be one of the most dramatic near-misses in the 30-year shuttle program. Photo Credit: NASA
Thirty years ago, this week, one of the most significant Space Shuttle science missions ever undertaken hung—for the merest of minutes—in the balance, suspended on a knife-edge of success and failure, some 67 miles (108 km) above Earth. Heading towards low-Earth orbit at more than 9,300 mph (15,000 km/h) on the afternoon of 29 July 1985, Challenger was in the process of delivering her eighth human crew on the Spacelab-2 mission to explore the Sun and the cosmos in unprecedented detail, using a battery of telescopes and instruments in her payload bay. Three weeks earlier, on 12 July, the crew of Mission 51F had also suffered a hairy shutdown of their three main engines on the pad, seconds before liftoff. If the crew believed to have weathered their run of bad luck, they could not have been more mistaken. Today, with the shuttle now a figure of history, Mission 51F stands alone as arguably the most significant near-miss in the program’s 30-year operational lifespan.
Continue reading ‘Going to Spain': 30 Years Since the Unlucky Success of Mission 51F (Part 1)
A breathtaking, dramatic image of Pluto backlit by the distant Sun, taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft a few hours after its closest approach, on July 14, while at a distance of 2 million km away from the planet. Besides its unparalleled aesthetic quality, this image provided scientists with important information about the structure and dynamics of the Plutonian atmosphere. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
For anyone wishing to place a safe bet, one could look no further than the exciting discoveries of planetary exploration. Every time a spacecraft is sent to a planetary destination for the first time, previously unimagined and fascinating discoveries are sure to follow and NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto could be no exception. Having successfully completed its historic flyby of the distant dwarf planet and its assortage of moons on July 14, the spacecraft has now began to slowly transmit its treasure trove of data back to Earth while currently on an outward trajectory from the Pluto system that will propel it farther into the Kuiper Belt. While the whole process of down linking New Horizons’ entire data collection will take the better part of the following 16 months, the preliminary science results to have come from the mission thus far have exceeded all expectations by revealing Pluto’s exotic landscapes in a spectacular manner, while also introducing new mysteries and unanswered questions about this fascinating icy world in the outer reaches of the Solar System.
Continue reading New Spectacular Images of Pluto From New Horizons Reveal an Exotic, Dynamic World
Artist’s conception of Kepler-452b, the first near-Earth-sized exoplanet discovered orbiting in the habitable zone of a Sun-like star. Image Credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle
One of the primary goals in the search for exoplanets is to, hopefully, find an Earth analog or “Earth twin,” an alien world similar to our own. That search is still ongoing, but getting closer – today NASA announced a new exoplanetary discovery that could be described as “Earth’s bigger and older cousin” – Kepler-452b.
Continue reading Kepler Update: Earth’s ‘Bigger and Older Cousin’ Discovered Orbiting Distant Star