Commander Sergei Ryzhikov guides Soyuz MS-02 towards its docking location at the space-facing (or “zenith”) interface of the Poisk module on Friday, 21 October 2016. Photo Credit: NASA
After almost seven weeks with a reduced crew of three, the International Space Station (ISS) was restored to its full six-person capability earlier today (Friday), with the smooth docking of Soyuz MS-02. Commanded by first-time cosmonaut Sergei Ryzhikov, and flanked by veteran spacefarers Andrei Borisenko and Shane Kimbrough, the Soyuz—which had completed a longer-than-normal two-day rendezvous profile, lasting 34 orbits—docked successfully at the station’s space-facing (or “zenith”) Poisk module at 5:52 a.m. EDT. Following customary pressurization and leak checks, the hatches into the ISS were opened at 8:20 a.m. EDT and the new arrivals were greeted by the incumbent Expedition 49 crew of Anatoli Ivanishin, Kate Rubins and Takuya Onishi.
Continue reading Soyuz Docking Restores Space Station to Full Crew Strength
Long exposure of Antares blasting off from Wallops Island carrying the OA-5 mission. Photo Credit: Cole Ippoliti / AmericaSpace
On Monday night, Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket blasted off from Wallops Island, Virginia for the first time in nearly two years since the Orb-3 launch accident. It marked the inaugural launch of the company’s new upgraded version of the rocket as well as its first night launch. Tens of thousands flocked to the Virginia shore to get a glimpse of Antares lighting up the night sky. Antares is the largest launch vehicle based out of Wallops and under clear conditions, is visible in the night sky for hundreds of miles up and down the U.S. east coast.
Continue reading Through the Lens: Antares Returns to Flight on OA-5 Mission for NASA
Soyuz MS-02 roars into the chilly Baikonur sky at 2:05 p.m. local time (4:05 a.m. EDT) on Wednesday, 19 October 2016. Photo Credit: NASA
A new crew is heading for the International Space Station (ISS), with Soyuz MS-02 having launched from the infrequently-used Site 31 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 2:05 p.m. local time (4:05 a.m. EDT) Wednesday, 19 October. Russian cosmonauts Sergei Ryzhikov and Andrei Borisenko, together with NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough, will follow a longer-than-standard rendezvous profile and are presently slated to dock at the space-facing (or “zenith”) Poisk module of the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday morning. Initially forming the second half of Expedition 49, led by Russian cosmonaut Anatoli Ivanishin, the crew will rotate into the core of Expedition 50, under Kimbrough’s command, from late October.
Continue reading 50th Long-Duration Crew Launches to Space Station
The Soyuz MS-02 crew (from left) consists of NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and Russian cosmonauts Sergei Ryzhikov and Andrei Borisenko. Photo Credit: NASA
Six weeks since the safe return of the Expedition 48 core crew, their backups—Russian cosmonauts Sergei Ryzhikov and Andrei Borisenko, together with NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough—are destined to launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, 19 October, bound for a four-month increment aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The trio are set to rise from the infrequently-used Site 31 at the Central Asian spaceport at 2:05 p.m. local time (4:05 a.m. EDT) aboard the Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft and will dock at the station’s space-facing (or “zenith”) Poisk module on Friday.
Like their predecessors, the Soyuz MS-01 crew of Russian cosmonaut Anatoli Ivanishin, NASA’s Kate Rubins, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Takuya Onishi, the new visitors will follow a two-day rendezvous profile, completing 34 orbits of Earth before reaching the ISS. This profile is somewhat longer than the standard six-hour and four-orbit “fast rendezvous,” utilized by most incoming Soyuz crews since March 2013, and is being performed on the first two Soyuz-MS missions in order to test upgraded systems and communications capabilities.
Continue reading Army Helicopter Pilot, Civilian Engineer, and Fighter Pilot to Fly Mid-Week Voyage to Space Station
Antares springs away from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va., at 7:45 p.m. EDT on Monday, 17 October. Photo Credit: Elliot Severn/AmericaSpace
Just a few days shy of two full years since one of the worst accidents to befall NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program, Orbital ATK picked up the baton in fine fashion last night, as it successfully launched its revitalized Antares 230 booster on a critical mission to bring science and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). Bouncing back to operational service after months of launch pad modifications, new engines, and a longer-than-expected wait, due to the ravages of Mother Nature, the two-stages Antares sprang away from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va., at 7:45:46 p.m. EDT Monday, 17 October. The booster is laden with Orbital ATK’s OA-5 Cygnus cargo ship, which is carrying 5,346 pounds (2,425 kg) of equipment, supplies, and research materials to the space station.
Continue reading Antares Returns to Flight, Delivering OA-5 Cygnus to Space Station
Jupiter and its volcanic moon Io were key focuses for the Galileo mission. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Goddard Space Flight Center
Almost three decades ago, shuttle mission STS-34 and the crew of Atlantis rocketed into orbit to launch NASA’s Galileo spacecraft on a lengthy odyssey to Jupiter. As described in yesterday’s AmericaSpace history article, the mission was extensively delayed, by political and technical issues—including the Challenger tragedy—and almost met with outright cancellation, when anti-nuclear protesters campaigned against the use of its plutonium-powered Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG). However, after considerable rain, on the wet morning of 18 October 1989, the five astronauts departed their crew quarters at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), bound for Pad 39B and Atlantis.
Continue reading The Romance of Adventure: Remembering Galileo’s Ride on STS-34 (Part 2)
Hubble image of galaxies visible in the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS), one of the sources of data used in the new study. Photo Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble
“Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.” – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
The Universe is indeed big, so massive in scale that our brains can hardly grasp or understand it. And now new findings from the Hubble Space Telescope show that it is even more so than first thought. Previous surveys indicated that the universe contained around 200 billion or so galaxies, which is staggering as it is. But newly updated research now shows the number is actually about 10 times that, or 2 trillion galaxies.
Continue reading Hubble Space Telescope Reveals 10 Times More Galaxies Than Previously Thought
Atlantis roars into orbit on 18 October 1989 to deploy the Galileo spacecraft on its mission to Jupiter. Photo Credit: NASA
When the Galileo spacecraft drifted out of Shuttle Atlantis’ payload bay on the evening of 18 October 1989, on the first leg of its voyage to Jupiter, the sight was a moving one for Shannon Lucid. As STS-34’s lead mission specialist, she was primarily responsible for the deployment of one of the most important payloads ever launched by NASA. For almost a dozen years, Lucid had lived and worked with the reality that her job was an overwhelmingly technical one, drawing from its roots in engineering and pure science … but on this day, as Galileo and its Inertial Upper Stage (IUS) booster floated silently into the inky void, she beheld a new reality: the romance of adventure. Emblazoned across the base of the spacecraft which would one day circle Jupiter and deposit an instrumented probe into its atmosphere were two names: “Galileo” in script and “NASA” in worm-like block capitals.
To Lucid, those two words symbolized exactly what the mission stood for: The script represented the romance of adventure and exploration, whilst the worm was indicative of the outstanding engineering and scientific talent which had brought this awesome project from the drawing board to fruition. Yet Galileo’s journey to the launch pad had been a long and tortured one, and its voyage to Jupiter would be longer and harder still.
Continue reading The Romance of Adventure: Remembering Galileo’s Ride on STS-34 (Part 1)
The OA-5 Cygnus, named in honor of the late Alan “Dex” Poindexter, is the third “Enhanced Cygnus.” It is physically similar in configuration to the OA-4 and OA-6 Cygnus spacecraft, launched in December 2015 and March 2016. Photo Credit: NASA/Tim Peake/Twitter
Four years after his untimely death in a boating accident, NASA astronaut Alan “Dex” Poindexter—veteran of two pivotal space shuttle missions to assemble and maintain the International Space Station (ISS), including the delivery of Europe’s Columbus research module—will be honored this weekend, when Orbital ATK launches a Cygnus cargo ship, bearing his name. “Spaceship Alan Poindexter” marks the first Cygnus launch atop Orbital ATK’s homegrown Antares booster since the catastrophic loss of the ORB-3 mission, seconds after liftoff, back in October 2014. Lifting off from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va., no sooner than 8:03 p.m. EDT Sunday, 16 October, the OA-5 mission will deliver 5,346 pounds (2,425 kg) of equipment and research materials to the incumbent Expedition 49 crew.
Continue reading Orbital ATK Primed for Antares 230 Debut on Sunday Night
Panoramic view of Marathon Valley as seen by the Opportunity rover. The interior of Endeavour Crater lies in the distance. Soon, the rover will move southward to examine a gully thought to have been carved by water long ago. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.
Water on Mars is one of the most talked about and controversial subjects in planetary science. It is now well-known that Mars used to be a much wetter place than it is now, although just how much water there was, and how long it lasted, is still a matter of considerable debate. Direct evidence from rovers, landers, and orbiters, including observations of ancient riverbeds, gullies, and lakes, has shown how at one time Mars was much more Earth-like than it is today. Rovers like Curiosity, Opportunity, and Spirit have actually driven over long-dried-up lakebeds, salty playa lakes, and regions of ancient geothermal activity such as hot steam vents. Now, the Opportunity rover is going to visit another feature not yet explored by any other rover or lander: a gully thought to have been carved by water millions or billions of years ago.
Continue reading Opportunity Rover Ready to Explore Martian Gully for First Time Ever