Jupiter’s ice-covered moon Europa hides a water ocean beneath its surface. A return mission is now planned to help search for evidence of life there. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL
Jupiter’s moon Europa, with its subsurface ocean, is considered by many to be the best place in the Solar System to search for extraterrestrial life. With NASA now committing itself to a new mission sometime in the 2020s, the focus is turning to what would be the best strategy for looking for any life which may be there. Over 200 scientists and engineers met at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., last week for a workshop called the The Potential for Finding Life in a Europa Plume to do just that.
Continue reading Scientists Debate How to Search for Life on Europa in New Mission
File photo of a five-segment ATK solid rocket booster on the company’s test stand in Promontory, Utah. The 154-foot booster, which is in development for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), will produce heat two-thirds the temperature of the Sun, and its 12-foot-diameter cylinder will deliver 3.6 million pounds of thrust when the rocket ignites. The next full-scale test article for the SLS booster, Qualification Motor-1 (QM-1), is expected to ignite for a two-minute test fire in late-March 2015. Photo Credit: ATK
While its first test flight may be 3.5 years out, NASA is hard at work developing its successor to the Apollo era’s mighty Saturn V, which launched a generation of astronauts beyond Earth’s confines to the Moon.
NASA’s newest launch vehicle, which will take the next generation of astronauts and space explorers to destinations such as Mars, asteroids, and deep space, continues to come together. On Wednesday, March 11, Orbital ATK will conduct a a full-scale test fire of the company’s Space Launch System (SLS) booster test article, Qualification Motor-1 (QM-1), at its facilities in Promontory, Utah. The company announced last week that a “flight-like” set of avionics will be part of the QM-1 test article, which will mark the first time in spaceflight history that this kind of system will be included in a booster firing test.
Continue reading NASA, Orbital ATK to Debut ‘Flight-Like Avionics’ During Upcoming SLS Booster Firing
NASA’s crawler-transporters have been hauling rockets and spacecraft to launch pad for 50 years. Image Credit: Talia Landman/AmericaSpace
NASA’s massive Crawler Transporter-2, also known as CT-2, was moved on Monday, Feb. 23, to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) to test the completed modifications that will allow it to transport NASA’s next heavy-lift rocket and Orion capsule for manned trips to space. This marks 50 years since the iconic crawler became an integral part of the agency’s manned space program.
Back-dropped by the massive 113-foot-long and 114-foot-wide CT-2, NASA crawler project manager Mary Hanna explained some of the history behind the iconic crawler and described the changes made to modify it for NASA’s next generation spacecraft, Orion, and heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System.
Continue reading NASA’s Upgraded Crawler Transporter-2 Takes Test Drive With SLS Modifications
Captured by the cameras on Canadarm2, Terry Virts presses on with his lubrication task during EVA-30. Photo Credit: NASA
Expedition 42 spacewalkers Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Terry Virts returned inside the International Space Station (ISS) at 1:29 p.m. EST Wednesday, 25 February, wrapping up six hours and 43 minutes of multi-faceted activity on EVA-30. The duo finished the laying of cables in support of the future arrival of two International Docking Adapters (IDAs), removed a thermal and Micrometeoroid Orbital Debris (MMOD) cover from Pressurized Mating Adapter (PMA)-2, and moved on to independent tasks, with Wilmore readying the Tranquility node for the relocation and arrival of ISS modules later in 2015 and Virts masterfully working through a tricky lubrication of the Latching End Effector (LEE) on the 57.7-foot-long (17.6-meter) Canadarm2 robotic arm. Working more than 75 minutes ahead of the timeline, the spacewalkers breezed through their tasks, with several get-ahead activities completed ahead of Sunday’s scheduled EVA-31. However, whether that final spacewalk will occur remains in flux, following the worrying discovery of traces of water in Virts’ helmet shortly after repressurization.
Continue reading Spacewalkers Complete Cable Work, Lubricate Robot Arm, and Prepare ISS for Busy 2015
The first “international” crew aboard the Salyut 6 space station in March 1978 consisted of (from left) Vladimir Remek, Alexei Gubarev, Georgi Grechko, and Yuri Romanenko. Gubarev and Grechko had previously flown together to Salyut 4 in early 1975. Photo Credit: Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de
Former cosmonaut Alexei Gubarev—who commanded a month-long mission to the Soviet Union’s Salyut 4 space station in early 1974 and later led the first international orbital voyage to Salyut 6, teamed with Czechoslovakia’s Vladimir Remek, in March 1978—has died, aged 83. According to the Prague Post and Russian sources, Gubarev passed away on 21 February. Selected in the early 1960s as part of a “new generation” of older and more highly qualified cosmonauts, Gubarev worked on the early Soyuz program, whose various arms included military and lunar options, and was intimately involved in the Soyuz 11 tragedy of June 1971. During his two missions, Gubarev spent more than five weeks in orbit and became one of the first men to occupy two different space stations.
Continue reading Alexei Gubarev, Commander of First International Mission to Space Station, Dies Aged 83
Its new booster securely fitted, Intelsat 603 drifts away from Endeavour’s payload bay. After insertion into geosynchronous orbit, the satellite was instrumental in providing television coverage of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Photo Credit: NASA
Almost a quarter-century since its launch, and more than two decades since shuttle astronauts triumphantly snatched it from an unusable low-Earth orbit and successfully reboosted it to its intended geostationary altitude, more than 22,300 miles (35,900 km) above the Home Planet, the historic Intelsat 603 communications satellite has reached the end of its operational lifetime. According to its owner, the Luxembourg-headquartered International Telecommunications Satellite Organisation, the final commands to dispose of “this famous bird” occurred on 23 January 2015 and were executed from Intelsat’s East Coast Operations Center in Tysons Corner, Va. Although Intelsat announced that it would “deorbit” Intelsat 603, the aging satellite was actually moved to a graveyard orbit, thereby preventing it from posing a collision hazard or adding to the existing orbital debris field.
Continue reading Historic Satellite Retrieved by Three-Person Spacewalk Ends its Life, According to Intelsat
Whole capsule view of Orion heat shield and compression pads during homecoming event for NASA’s first Orion spacecraft after returning to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 19, 2014. Orion launched successfully on Dec. 5, 2014 and was recovered from the Pacific Ocean by the U.S. Navy . Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/AmericaSpace
Contractors across the U.S. are moving forward and building the initial components for the next vehicle in NASA’s line of Orion spacecraft, EM-1, even as engineers from NASA and prime contractor Lockheed Martin analyze and assess all the critical data collected from its “almost flawless” maiden mission on the recently completed EFT-1 unmanned test flight.
Orion is NASA’s next generation crew capsule and the lynchpin of NASA’s strategy to once again carry humans beyond Earth on voyages to deep space destinations in our Solar System.
Continue reading Orion: Lessons Learned on EFT-1 and Moving Forward to EM-1
NASA astronauts Barry Wilmore and Terry Virts preparing the International Space Station for commercial crew traffic, which will begin flying to and from the orbiting outpost in the not too distant future. Photo Credit: NASA
SPACE STATION WEEKLY UPDATE Feb. 16 – Feb. 22, 2015: Last week the astronauts aboard the Internation Space Station (ISS) kept a very busy and exciting schedule. Plant studies, imaging operations, and maintenance to some of the station’s ongoing research took place. In addition, members aboard the space station sent a cargo vehicle back to Earth for its final descent, and welcomed a new cargo vehicle full of supplies. To top it off, two of the astronauts took a walk in the vacuum of space to prepare the ISS for future deliveries of commercial crew traffic.
Continue reading Plant Studies, Imaging Operations, and Spacewalks Highlight Busy Week in Orbit for Expedition 42
The key players in Wednesday’s EVA-30 will be Barry “Butch” Wilmore (right) and Terry Virts, with Samantha Cristoforetti (center) as the Intravehicular (IV) crew member and operator of the 57.7-foot-long (17.6-meter) Canadarm2. Photo Credit: NASA
Following hard on the heels of Saturday’s triumphant EVA-29—during which Expedition 42 astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Terry Virts spent almost seven hours laying and configuring about 340 feet (103 meters) of cables in readiness for the arrival of two International Docking Adapters (IDAs), later this year—the coming week will see two more spacewalks outside the International Space Station (ISS) to prepare for a major relocation of hardware and to establish a communications infrastructure for future visiting vehicles. Current planning anticipates EVA-30 to occur Wednesday, 25 February, and EVA-31 on Sunday, 1 March, shortly before the scheduled return of Wilmore and his Soyuz TMA-14M crewmates Aleksandr Samokutyayev and Yelena Serova to Earth on 12 March.
Continue reading After Triumphant EVA-29, NASA Looks Ahead to Challenging EVA-30 on Wednesday
In its third incarnation, the mission of Karol “Bo” Bobko finally takes flight on 12 April 1985. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de
Three decades ago, the shuttle program appeared bulletproof. In 1984, astronauts embarked on untethered EVAs, deployed satellites and performed scientific research, retrieved and repaired the crippled Solar Max observatory, and salvaged a pair of errant communications satellites and brought them back to Earth. The United States also saw its first female spacewalker, its first mission with as many as seven crew members, its first industrial shuttle payload specialist, and launched the world’s first Canadian astronaut and the first Australian-born spacefarer. Balanced against these successes, the shuttle suffered a harrowing launch pad abort, just seconds ahead of liftoff, which pushed its entire manifest into disarray and uncovered a chink of the reusable spacecraft’s fallibility. As described in yesterday’s AmericaSpace history article, in few other places was this manifest disarray better illustrated than Mission 51E, a flight which arose from the ashes of a canceled mission and later became a canceled mission itself, before its crew eventually reached orbit for a voyage which proved unexpectedly spectacular.
Continue reading The Flight That Wasn’t: 30 Years Since the Unflown Mission 51E (Part 2)