U.S Rep Filemon Vela, left, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, center, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry break ground at SpaceX’s new commcercial space launch site in south Texas on Sept. 22, 2014. Photo: SpaceX
In the last two weeks SpaceX has accomplished quite a bit, having earned a commercial crew contract to launch NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) and having carried out their fourth dedicated ISS resupply mission (mission CRS-4). It was just last month that the Hawthorne, Calif.-based company officially announced their plans to build the world’s first commercial space launch site at Boca Chica Beach in Brownsville, Texas as well, and on Tues., Sept. 22, SpaceX broke ground at the new launch complex during a ceremony to usher in the start of construction for the new commercial launch facility.
Continue reading Texas and SpaceX Break Ground for World’s First Commercial Space Launch Complex
Alexander Gerst and Reid Wiseman monitor the arrival of the CRS-4 Dragon cargo ship on Tuesday, 23 September. Photo Credit: NASA TV
Five months since one of its kind last arrived at the International Space Station (ISS), another Dragon was captured by the tail earlier today (Tuesday, 23 September), courtesy of Expedition 41 crewmen Reid Wiseman of NASA and Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency (ESA). Working from the multi-windowed cupola, the two astronauts grappled the cargo vessel with the station’s 57.7-foot-long (17.4-meter) Canadarm2 robotic arm at 6:52 a.m. EDT and installed it onto the Earth-facing (or “nadir”) port of the Harmony node. Completion of the two-stage capture and berthing operation was confirmed at 9:21 a.m. EDT. Dragon—which is flying the fourth of 12 dedicated missions (CRS-4) under the $1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract between SpaceX and NASA—will remain affixed to the ISS for about a month, as its myriad payloads are unloaded.
Continue reading A Dragon Came A’Calling: Fourth Dedicated Cargo Ship Arrives at Space Station
The Soyuz TMA-14M crew (from left) Barry “Butch” Wilmore, Aleksandr Samokutyayev and Yelena Serova pose before the base of their launch vehicle at Baikonur. The trio will spend 168 days in space, forming the second half of Expedition 41 and the core of Expedition 42. Photo Credit: NASA
Two weeks after the 10 September return to Earth of Soyuz TMA-12M, a new three-member crew is scheduled to launch toward the International Space Station (ISS) to continue its permanent occupancy through March 2015. Liftoff of Soyuz TMA-14M is targeted to occur from Baikonur Cosmodrome’s historic Site 1/5—the same location from which Yuri Gagarin began his historic mission, more than 53 years ago—in Kazakhstan at 2:25 a.m. local time Friday, 26 September (4:25 p.m. EDT Thursday, 25 September). It will deliver Russian cosmonauts Aleksandr Samokutyayev and Yelena Serova, together with U.S. astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore on a six-hour, four-orbit “fast rendezvous” profile to dock with the space-facing (or “zenith”) Poisk module at 8:16 a.m. Baikonur time Friday (10:16 p.m. EDT Thursday). They will join the incumbent Expedition 41 crew of Russian cosmonaut Maksim Surayev, U.S. astronaut Reid Wiseman and Germany’s Alexander Gerst, who have been aboard the ISS since late May.
Continue reading Test Pilot, Veteran Spacewalker, and Female Aerospace Engineer Set for Thursday Launch to Space Station
Loren Shriver gobbles a handful of M&Ms during STS-46, his third and final shuttle mission. Photo Credit: NASA
Almost a quarter-century ago, astronaut Loren Shriver—who turns 70 today (Tuesday, 23 September)—commanded a shuttle mission into the highest orbit ever attained by one of the reusable vehicles. On 24 April 1990, he led the crew of STS-31 to deliver NASA’s scientific showpiece, the $1.5 billion Hubble Space Telescope (HST), into an orbit about 330 miles (530 km) above Earth, and in doing so helped to kick off one of the most remarkable missions of scientific exploration in human history. Yet Shriver’s career was filled with contrasts, from the intense publicity of STS-31 to the utmost secrecy of his first shuttle flight, STS-51C, and from an “All-American” mission for the Department of Defense to a voyage which boasted representatives of three sovereign nations on STS-46.
Continue reading Loren Shriver, Commander of Hubble Deployment Mission, Turns 70 Today
Although 98 percent of its journey to the Red Planet is now behind it, the next two days will be critical for India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). Image Credit: ISRO
Two days after Sunday’s triumphant arrival of NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN), India is drawing closer to its goal of becoming only the fourth nation or group of nations—after the United States, Russia and the member states of the European Space Agency (ESA)—to successfully deliver a home-grown spacecraft to Mars orbit. Its Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also known as “Mangalyaan” (Hindi for “Mars Craft”), is now less than two days from its scheduled entry into orbit around the Red Planet at 7:30 a.m. IST Wednesday, 24 September (10:00 p.m. EDT Tuesday, 23 September). According to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the spacecraft was last week more than 134 million miles (215 million km) from Earth and has traveled in excess of 406 million miles (653 million km) on its “heliocentric” path to reach Mars, but as of 15 September was less than 1.6 million miles (2.5 million km) from its destination. With one-way communication delay times now requiring 12.5 minutes to cross the interplanetary gulf, MOM/Mangalyaan has 98 percent and more than 320 days of its epic journey behind it…and yet its most hazardous phase is still ahead of it.
Continue reading Successful Engine Test Sets India’s Mars Orbiter On Course for Wednesday Arrival at Red Planet
The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is seen here at center left, following its installation on the S3 Truss on the International Space Station by the crew of the STS-134 space shuttle mission in 2011. The orbiting particle detector has been continuously collecting data ever since, on high-energy cosmic rays. Image Credit: NASA
Some of the biggest cosmic mysteries are shrouded in proverbial darkness. For instance, most of the Universe’s mass is unaccounted for: All of the stuff we can directly observe in the Universe with our telescopes amounts to only 4.6 percent of the latter’s mass content. The rest is just invisible and of a completely unknown nature. Scientists have been trying to figure out the nature of this “missing” cosmic mass for nearly a century, utilising various ground-, aerial-, and space-based instruments, like the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, or AMS-02, a particle physics detector which is mounted on the exterior of the International Space Station. Even though a recently published study that was based on new data by the AMS showcases the solid science that is being conducted on the orbiting laboratory, it nevertheless presents no firm evidence for the existence of dark matter yet.
Continue reading Hunting In the Dark: New Results Come From Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer on ISS, But No Definite Signs of Dark Matter Yet
This image shows an artist concept of NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission. Credit: NASA
NASA’s newest Mars mission, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft, successfully entered orbit around the Red Planet just hours ago, on Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014, at 10:24 p.m. EDT, to conduct the first detailed study of the planet’s tenuous upper atmosphere and to unlock mysteries on its habitability.
The MAVEN spacecraft completed the crucial Mars Orbit Insertion (MOI) maneuver this evening after firing its six braking thrusters for approximately 34 minutes and 26 seconds.
Continue reading MAVEN Arrives in Mars Orbit to Study Red Planet’s Habitability and Tenuous Upper Atmosphere
Anatoli Berezovoi, pictured aboard Salyut 7 in 1982. His 211-day mission with Valentin Lebedev secured the record for the longest single spaceflight. Photo Credit: Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de
Two highly regarded cosmonauts—one flown, the other unflown—have added their names to the sad tally of spacefarers and would-be spacefarers who have passed away in 2014. Anatoli Berezovoi, who flew to the Soviet Union’s Salyut 7 space station in May-December 1982 and achieved an empirical 211-day endurance record, which remained unbroken for almost two years, died Saturday, 20 September, aged 72. His passing came less than a week after the 15 September death of 58-year-old Tim Mace, who served as backup to Helen Sharman on the Anglo-Soviet Juno mission to the Mir space station in May 1991.
Continue reading Untimely Passing of Record-Setting Russian Cosmonaut and Would-Be British Astronaut
Falcon-9 blazing a trail out over the Atlantic last night to resupply the ISS. Second stage burn is visible at center as Dragon climbed to orbit, & the F9 first stage is visible just above the horizon at center firing its engines for a controlled soft splashdown off the coast. Composite of 4 identically framed images shot with different exposures to capture the launch, second stage burn & controlled F9 descent in the same image. Photo: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace
Making its eighth flight in less than 12 months, its sixth flight of the year, its fourth flight in just 10 weeks, and its second flight in a mere 14 days, SpaceX has triumphantly delivered its latest Dragon cargo mission toward the International Space Station (ISS). Liftoff of the CRS-4 flight—the fourth dedicated Dragon resupply mission under the language of the $1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract, signed with NASA back in December 2008—took place at 1:52 a.m. EDT Sunday, 21 September, under crystal-clear and virtually cloudless skies, from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Originally planned to fly at 2:16 a.m. Saturday, CRS-4 was kept on the ground for an additional 24 hours, due to adverse weather conditions. The Falcon 9 v1.1 launch vehicle performed admirably, inserting Dragon precisely into low-Earth orbit, ahead of the cargo ship’s rendezvous and berthing at the space station early Tuesday.
Continue reading SpaceX Achieves ‘Two for Two': Second Falcon 9 in Two Weeks Delivers Next Dragon to Space Station
The SPARTAN-201 science satellite, pictured during its period of free flight on STS-69. Photo Credit: NASA
Nineteen years ago, last week, the “Dogs of War” barked, woofed, and yelped their way through a remarkable mission which put virtually all of the space shuttle’s capabilities—satellite deployment and retrieval, rendezvous and proximity operations, spacewalking, and science—to the test. During STS-69 in September 1995, Commander Dave Walker, Pilot Ken Cockrell, Payload Commander Jim Voss, and Mission Specialists Jim Newman and Mike Gernhardt put a series of lengthy delays behind them and successfully completed one of the most impressive and multi-faceted flights in the shuttle program’s 30-year history. One of its most visible goals, as described in yesterday’s AmericaSpace history article, was a complex EVA by Voss and Gernhardt, but STS-69 also made history by becoming the first shuttle mission to deploy and retrieve two satellite during the same flight.
Continue reading Dog Names, Dog Tags, Dog Bowls: The 11 Barking Days of STS-69 (Part 2)