AmericaSpace Launch Countdown

Next Launch AFSPC-4 on a Delta 4 - Medium+ rocket from Cape Canaveral AFB, FL scheduled for 23 Jul 14 23:03:00 GMT

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VIDEO: SpaceX Falcon-9 OG2 First Stage Landing Test Provides Crucial Data to Support Next Test on NASA CRS-4 Flight

Experimental landing legs on the SpaceX Falcon-9 v1.1 rocket. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace

Experimental landing legs on the SpaceX Falcon-9 v1.1 rocket. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace

It was only last week that Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) launched the first wave of a next-generation telecommunications satellite fleet to orbit for customer ORBCOMM on the OG-2 mission, but the flight also gave the Hawthorne, CA-based aerospace company another opportunity to test out the experimental landing legs they hope will make their Falcon rockets truly reusable, and in doing so SpaceX expects to drive down the cost of launch dramatically by eliminating the need to build a new rocket for every flight.

Continue reading VIDEO: SpaceX Falcon-9 OG2 First Stage Landing Test Provides Crucial Data to Support Next Test on NASA CRS-4 Flight

'Super-Fast' Progress M-24M Ready for Wednesday Launch to Space Station

Pictured during an undocking from the International Space Station (ISS) in April 2014, the Progress family of cargo spacecraft has resupplied four discrete space stations, including Salyut 6, Salyut 7 and Mir, since the mid-1970s. Photo Credit: NASA

Pictured during an undocking from the International Space Station (ISS) in April 2014, the Progress family of cargo spacecraft has resupplied four discrete space stations, including Salyut 6, Salyut 7 and Mir, since the mid-1970s. Photo Credit: NASA

After three months docked at the International Space Station (ISS), Russia’s Progress M-23M cargo craft—otherwise known as “Progress 55P” in ISS Program-speak—successfully separated from the orbital outpost at 5:44 p.m. EDT yesterday (Monday), bound for several days of “Radar Progress” experiments and ultimately a fiery destruction in Earth’s upper atmosphere on 1 August. In the meantime, its successor, Progress M-24M (or “Progress 56P”), encapsulated within the payload shroud of a mammoth Soyuz-U booster, was rolled out to Site 1/5 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan early Tuesday, preparatory to its own launch at 3:44 a.m. local time Thursday (5:44 p.m. EDT Wednesday). Following a well-trodden “fast rendezvous” path, first trialed in August 2012, it is anticipated that Progress M-24M will dock automatically at the Earth-facing (or “nadir”) port of the station’s Pirs module at 9:30 a.m. Baikonur time Thursday (11:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday), a little less than six hours after liftoff.

Continue reading ‘Super-Fast’ Progress M-24M Ready for Wednesday Launch to Space Station

SNC's Dream Chaser Completes CCiCap Milestone 9, Advances One Step Closer to Critical Design Review

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) Dream Chaser. Photo Credit: NASA/Ken Ulbrich

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) Dream Chaser. Photo Credit: NASA/Ken Ulbrich

This week Sierra Nevada Corporation Space Systems (SNC), one of three private companies currently developing spacecraft with NASA funds to ferry crews to and from the International Space Station, successfully completed Milestone-9 in the development of their Dream Chaser under the company’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability agreement (known as CCiCap) with the space agency.

Continue reading SNC’s Dream Chaser Completes CCiCap Milestone 9, Advances One Step Closer to Critical Design Review

Commentary: Forty-Five Years After Apollo 11—An Inspiration For the Future, or Just Another Anniversary (Part 3)

Like a bright ladder reaching the heavens, the Apollo 11 Saturn V is bathed in spotlight on launchpad 39A. Forty-five years ago this week, the first humans climbed it to the Moon.

Like a bright ladder reaching the heavens, the Apollo 11 Saturn V is bathed in spotlight on launchpad 39A. Forty-five years ago this week, the first humans climbed it to the Moon. Image Credit: NASA


When the history of our galaxy is written,

and for all any of us know it may already have been,
if Earth gets mentioned at all it won’t be because its inhabitants visited their own Moon.
That first step, like a newborn’s cry, would be automatically assumed.
What would be worth recording is what kind of civilization we earthlings created
and whether or not we ventured out to other parts of the galaxy.

– Michael Collins, ‘Liftoff: The Story of America’s Adventure in Space’ (1989)

 

Between 60,000 and 100,000 years ago, the first members of anatomically modern humans took their first steps out of the East African savannas, which had been the cradle of human evolution for more than 2.5 million years, to populate the rest of the land of what was an essentially unknown planet. Forty-five years ago this week, humans took their next steps up the evolutionary ladder by walking on the Moon, at a place called Sea of Tranquility, during the Apollo 11 mission in 20 July 1969 – the first time that any human beings had ever walked anywhere outside of their own planet. These decisive first steps on another world, were equally met with exhilaration, hope and wonder as well as skepticism, fear and condemnation. The reasons for these widely varied reactions to humanity’s single greatest achievement ever, have been multifaceted and intertwined. The second part of this article examined the American public’s opposition to the Apollo missions to the Moon and toward the space program in general, based on financial arguments pertaining to the former’s supposedly unacceptably high costs. This article will focus on some of the deeper unconscious emotional, ideological and cultural reasons behind this opposition. Although the reasons explored here are by no means the only ones that affect space policy decisions, they nevertheless provide a valuable glimpse at the public’s deeper fears regarding space exploration, which in turn influence its attitude towards it.

Continue reading Commentary: Forty-Five Years After Apollo 11—An Inspiration For the Future, or Just Another Anniversary (Part 3)

Kennedy Space Center's Operations and Checkout Building Renamed after “First Man” Neil Armstrong

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden presents Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Director Bob Cabana with a flown Apollo 11 patch. Someday, this patch will be flown on the first manned Mars mission, to be helmed by NASA's Orion spacecraft. Photo Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden presents Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Director Bob Cabana with a flown Apollo 11 patch. Someday, this patch will be flown on the first manned Mars mission, to be helmed by NASA’s Orion spacecraft. This presentation took place during today’s renaming of KSC’s Operations and Checkout Building. Photo Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace

Apollo 11 command module pilot Michael Collins wrote of his friend and colleague Neil A. Armstrong in his 1974 book Carrying the Fire, “[Armstrong] makes decisions slowly and well… [He] savors them – rolling them around on his tongue like a fine wine and swallowing at the very last moment. (He had twenty seconds of fuel remaining when he landed on the moon.)”

Today, Collins and fellow Apollo 11 crew member Buzz Aldrin remembered this decisive thinker, astronaut, and first-rate test pilot, along with luminaries including Armstrong’s two sons Rick and Mark, former Gemini and Apollo astronaut James A. Lovell, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, and Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Director Bob Cabana. In a ceremony held this morning, KSC’s Operations and Checkout (O&C) building was renamed after Armstrong. In addition, guests viewed NASA’s next “giant leap,” the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, being prepared for a scheduled launch in December.

Continue reading Kennedy Space Center’s Operations and Checkout Building Renamed after “First Man” Neil Armstrong

Delta IV Stands Ready for Air Force's 'Neighborhood Watch' Mission

The most recent Delta IV Medium+ (4,2) vehicle lofted the sixth GPS Block IIF satellite on 17 May 2014. The vehicle tasked for the AFSPC-4 mission will be a similar configuration, with a 13-foot (4-meter) payload fairing and twin Graphite Epoxy Motors (GEM)-60. Photo Credit: Dave Parrish/AmericaSpace

The most recent Delta IV Medium+ (4,2) vehicle lofted the sixth GPS Block IIF satellite on 17 May 2014. The vehicle tasked for the AFSPC-4 mission will be a similar configuration, with a 13-foot (4-meter) payload fairing and twin Graphite Epoxy Motors (GEM)-60. Photo Credit: John Studwell/AmericaSpace

On its eighth mission of a marathon 15 planned flights in 2014, United Launch Alliance (ULA) is ready to deliver a pair of Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) satellites and a single Automated Navigation and Guidance Experiment for Local Space (ANGELS) satellite into a near-geosynchronous orbit of about 22,300 miles (35,900 km), fulfilling the requirements of the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)-4 mission. Liftoff of the Delta IV Medium+ (4,2) vehicle—numerically designated to identify a 13-foot-diameter (4-meter) Payload Attach Fitting (PAF) and the presence of two solid-fueled Graphite Epoxy Motors (GEM)-60—is scheduled to occur from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-37B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., at 7:03 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, 23 July. According to the 45th Space Wing’s Weekly Planning Forecast, issued Sunday, skies are expected to be partly cloudy throughout Wednesday, with a 60-percent likelihood of rain showers and lightning later in the day.  

Continue reading Delta IV Stands Ready for Air Force’s ‘Neighborhood Watch’ Mission

ESA's IXV Spaceplane Readied for November Flight, While US Spaceplanes Pass Milestones

From the European Space Agency (ESA): "[The IXV] will be launched by ESA in 2014 on Vega, Europe’s new small launcher, into a suborbital path, from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. After being launched into space, IXV will return to Earth as if from a low-orbit mission, testing brand-new European atmospheric reentry technologies during its hypersonic and supersonic flight phases." Image Credit: ESA–J. Huart

From the European Space Agency (ESA): “[The IXV] will be launched by ESA in 2014 on Vega, Europe’s new small launcher, into a suborbital path, from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. After being launched into space, IXV will return to Earth as if from a low-orbit mission, testing brand-new European atmospheric reentry technologies during its hypersonic and supersonic flight phases.” Image Credit: ESA–J. Huart

There is a famous quote that states, “Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” It appears that several organizations still have their “eyes turned skyward.” The space shuttle era may have come to a close a little over three years ago, but the spaceplane era is still very much underway.

The European Space Agency (ESA) announced this week that its Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) is in its final testing phase in anticipation of its rocket-powered November flight. The flight is meant to investigate the conditions the vehicle will encounter during atmospheric reentry, and to test critical systems needed to return Europe’s future automated reentry vehicles. In addition, several U.S. spaceplanesincluding Dream Chaser and the X-37Bhave passed milestones in development and in flight.

Continue reading ESA’s IXV Spaceplane Readied for November Flight, While US Spaceplanes Pass Milestones

'For One Priceless Moment': 45 Years Since Apollo 11 Changed the World (Part 4)

One of the relatively few images of Neil Armstrong at work on the lunar surface, close to Eagle. Photo Credit: NASA

One of the relatively few images of Neil Armstrong at work on the lunar surface, close to Eagle. Photo Credit: NASA

On Sunday, 20 July 1969, the Mission Operations Control Room (MOCR) at NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC)—later to become the Johnson Space Center (JSC)—in Houston, Texas, was filled with tension and expectant quiet. Gene Kranz, the flight director of the “White Team,” one of four shifts supervising Apollo 11’s voyage to plant the first human bootprints on the Moon, had already order Security to “lock the doors” in anticipation of the momentous events to follow. No one would be permitted to disturb the intense concentration of himself or his control team as they steeled themselves for the most audacious engineering challenge in history. Already, Apollo 11 and its crew of astronauts Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin had launched atop the most powerful rocket ever brought to operational status and had traveled across 240,000 miles (370,000 km) of “cislunar space” to reach their mysterious destination. Now, four days after liftoff, their real mission to land on the Moon had begun. The next phase was to take humanity’s first faltering footsteps onto its dusty surface.

Continue reading ‘For One Priceless Moment’: 45 Years Since Apollo 11 Changed the World (Part 4)

'Tranquility Base Here': 45 Years Since Apollo 11 Changed the World (Part 3)

The Home Planet creeps slowly above the lunar horizon, as viewed from Apollo 11. Only a handful of men have seen this view in more than two million years of human history. Photo Credit: NASA

The Home Planet creeps slowly above the lunar horizon, as viewed from Apollo 11. Only a handful of men have seen this view in more than two million years of human history. Photo Credit: NASA

Forty-five years ago, this weekend, on Sunday, 20 July 1969, the Mission Operations Control Room (MOCR) at NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC)—later to become the Johnson Space Center (JSC)—in Houston, Texas, was filled with tension and expectant quiet. Gene Kranz, the flight director of the “White Team,” one of four shifts supervising Apollo 11’s voyage to plant the first human bootprints on the Moon, had already order Security to “lock the doors” in anticipation of the momentous events to follow. No one would be permitted to disturb the intense concentration of himself or his control team as they steeled themselves for the most audacious engineering challenge in history. Already, Apollo 11 and its crew of astronauts Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin had launched atop the most powerful rocket ever brought to operational status and had traveled across 240,000 miles (370,000 km) of “cislunar space” to reach their mysterious destination. Now, four days after liftoff, their real mission could begin.

Continue reading ‘Tranquility Base Here’: 45 Years Since Apollo 11 Changed the World (Part 3)

Commentary: Forty-Five Years After Apollo 11—An Inspiration For the Future, or Just Another Anniversary? (Part 2)

New York City welcomes the crew of Apollo 11 during a ticker tape parade in August 1969, following the astronauts' return to Earth. In the aftermath of Apollo 11's landing on the Moon, public interest toward the space program waned and quickly evaporated. Image Credit: NASA

New York City welcomes the crew of Apollo 11 during a ticker tape parade in August 1969, a couple of weeks after the astronauts’ return to Earth. In the aftermath of Apollo 11′s landing on the Moon, public interest toward the space program waned and quickly evaporated. Image Credit: NASA

“What was it we were really celebrating?
Three men who had done what no man before had done?
A technological feat which was believed to be beyond the realm of possibility?
The fulfilment of an age-old dream?
Were we celebrating simply because there had been a long time since we’ve had anything to celebrate?
Or was this something that touched an irrational, unthinking instinct in us all?”

 — Laurence Luckinbill, ‘Moonwalk One’ documentary (1970)

 

Putting humanity’s greatest achievement in the proper historical context, Theo Kamecke’s seminal “Moonwalk One” documentary chronicled mankind’s first steps on another world during Apollo 11′s mission to the Moon in July 1969, while at the same time documenting the world’s varied reactions to this monumental event as it unfolded. As explored in the first part of the article, Apollo 11 was widely perceived at the time as being just the first step in mankind’s continuing expansion into the Solar System—an expectation that in reality was in sharp contrast to the geopolitical reasons for which the Apollo missions were undertaken in the first place. As a result, in the decades following the cancellation of the Apollo program, there has been no shortage of criticism regarding the lack of national vision and leadership that led to the abandonment of human space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit. Yet what most of this criticism often fails to acknowledge is that the most important stakeholder of the U.S. public space program is, by definition, the general public itself. “NASA depends on the will of the people, as expressed through their Senators and Representatives and the President, for its funding and direction. NASA has to take the pulse of the American people and obtain its good will,” states the space agency’s Headquarters Library website. Appropriately, the second part of this article examines the current state of NASA’s budget and whether that could be a result of the public’s views and attitudes toward the costs of human space exploration.

Continue reading Commentary: Forty-Five Years After Apollo 11—An Inspiration For the Future, or Just Another Anniversary? (Part 2)