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Next Launch Luch-5V on a Proton-M rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan scheduled for 28 Apr 14 4:25:00 GMT

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Meet NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator, the Next Step in Landing on Mars

The LDSD test article in the clean room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, preparing for shipment to Hawaii for its first test launch this summer. LDSD will help land bigger space payloads on Mars or return them back to Earth. Photo Credit: AmericaSpace / Robert Fisher

The LDSD test article in the clean room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, preparing for shipment to Hawaii for its first test launch this summer. LDSD will help land bigger space payloads on Mars or return them back to Earth. Photo Credit: AmericaSpace / Robert Fisher

Anyone even remotely familiar with landing spacecraft and payloads on other worlds can respect how difficult such a feat really is, and it only gets more difficult as the spacecraft get larger and heavier. Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, each roughly the size of a golf cart, had to parachute in and land while cocooned inside a set of very sophisticated airbags, bouncing along the surface until coming to a stop. The rover Curiosity, which landed on Mars in August 2012, is the size of a SUV, and carried out what is arguably the riskiest landing attempt of any spacecraft to date, touching down via a “sky-crane” which hovered thanks to rockets to lower the Curiosity rover onto the surface.

Continue reading Meet NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator, the Next Step in Landing on Mars

Easter Sunday ISS Berthing Caps Success-Filled CRS-3 Mission for SpaceX

SpaceX's "Easter Dragon" comes knocking at the International Space Station's door with a perfect, on-time berthing on Easter Sunday. Photo Credit: NASA TV

SpaceX’s “Easter Dragon” comes knocking at the International Space Station’s door with a perfect, on-time berthing on Easter Sunday. Photo Credit: NASA TV

Following a 13-month hiatus in International Space Station (ISS) operations, SpaceX—the Hawthorne, Calif.-based launch services organization, headed by entrepreneur Elon Musk—secured its latest triumph Easter Sunday morning with the successful rendezvous, capture, and berthing of the snub-nosed Dragon spacecraft at the expansive orbital outpost. Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata, assisted by Flight Engineers Rick Mastracchio and Steve Swanson, grappled the cargo vessel with the station’s 57.7-foot-long (17.4-meter) Canadarm2 robotic arm precisely on time at 7:14 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 by NASA at 10:06 a.m. EDT. Dragon, which is flying the third of 12 dedicated missions under SpaceX’s $1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA, will remain attached to the ISS for about a month as its myriad payloads are unloaded. Today’s success also comes hard on the heels of SpaceX’s electrifying announcement of success in its effort to soft-land the first stage of the Falcon 9 v1.1 launch vehicle on water, by means of experimental landing legs.

Continue reading Easter Sunday ISS Berthing Caps Success-Filled CRS-3 Mission for SpaceX

NASA's OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Passes Critical Design Review, Moves Toward Construction

An artist's concept of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft approaching the asteroid Bennu in 2018. The mission has recently completed its Critical Design Review, moving towards construction and assemply. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

An artist’s concept of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft approaching the asteroid Bennu in 2018. The mission has recently completed its Critical Design Review, moving toward construction and assembly. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

The next planetary mission in NASA’s New Frontiers program, the Near-Earth Asteroid sample return Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx for short, has passed a major milestone on the road toward its planned launch in September 2016. Earlier this month, the mission successfully completed its Critical Design Review, which signals the transition from the design to the construction stage.

Continue reading NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission Passes Critical Design Review, Moves Toward Construction

Endeavour's Radar Love: 20 Years Since STS-59 (Part 2)

Endeavour rockets into the dawn on 9 April 1994. Photo Credit: NASA

Endeavour rockets into the dawn on 9 April 1994. Photo Credit: NASA

Twenty years ago this week, the crew of Endeavour on STS-59 demonstrated that the shuttle program was imbued with “Radar Love,” as they operated the first Space Radar Laboratory (SRL-1) to acquire unprecedented views of the Home Planet from orbit. For 11 days, astronauts Sid Gutierrez, Kevin Chilton, Jay Apt, Michael “Rich” Clifford, Linda Godwin, and Tom Jones worked around the clock to ensure that the radar instruments of the SRL-1 payload gathered an enormous quantity of scientific data. Much of that data is still being analyzed to this day and has helped to shape our understanding of Earth’s past, present, and, potentially, its future.

Continue reading Endeavour’s Radar Love: 20 Years Since STS-59 (Part 2)

PHOTOS: Pad Cameras Capture Falcon's Explosive Ascent With Dragon on Third ISS Supply Mission

AmericaSpace photographers Alan Walters and John Studwell have, again, produced some stunning imagery, this time from the recent SpaceX CRS-3 launch to send Dragon on its third ISS resupply mission for NASA. Photo Credit: AmericaSpace / Alan Walters / John Studwell

AmericaSpace photographers Alan Walters and John Studwell have again produced some stunning imagery; this time from the recent SpaceX CRS-3 launch to send Dragon on its third ISS resupply mission for NASA. Photo Credit: AmericaSpace / Alan Walters / John Studwell

On Friday, April 18, SpaceX successfully sent their Falcon-9 rocket off on a fiery ascent from Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex-40 to deliver their Dragon spacecraft with 4,600 pounds of supplies and some 150 science experiments for the crew onboard the International Space Station, and AmericaSpace was there to capture it all.

Continue reading PHOTOS: Pad Cameras Capture Falcon’s Explosive Ascent With Dragon on Third ISS Supply Mission

Endeavour's Radar Love: 20 Years Since STS-59 (Part 1)

The Space Radar Laboratory (SRL) payload flew twice in 1994, firstly aboard STS-59 in April and later aboard STS-68 in September-October. The large Shuttle Imaging Radar (SIR)-C is clearly visible in the foreground. Photo Credit: NASA

The Space Radar Laboratory (SRL) payload flew twice in 1994, firstly aboard STS-59 in April and later aboard STS-68 in September-October. The large Shuttle Imaging Radar (SIR)-C is clearly visible in the foreground. Photo Credit: NASA

Twenty years ago this week, the crew of Endeavour on STS-59 demonstrated that the shuttle program was imbued with “Radar Love,” as they operated the first Space Radar Laboratory (SRL-1) to acquire unprecedented views of the Home Planet from orbit. For 11 days, astronauts Sid Gutierrez, Kevin Chilton, Jay Apt, Michael “Rich” Clifford, Linda Godwin, and Tom Jones worked around the clock to ensure that the radar instruments of the SRL-1 payload gathered an enormous quantity of scientific data. Much of that data is still being analyzed to this day and has helped to shape our understanding of Earth’s past, present, and, potentially, its future.

Continue reading Endeavour’s Radar Love: 20 Years Since STS-59 (Part 1)

Fiery SpaceX Dragon Roars Toward Space Station

SpaceX's Falcon 9 v1.1 carries its first Dragon cargo craft into orbit on Friday, 18 April. Photo Credit: John Studwell

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 v1.1 carries its first Dragon cargo craft into orbit on Friday, 18 April. Photo Credit: John Studwell

Following Monday’s disappointing scrub of the third Commercial Resupply Services (CRS)-3 mission of the Dragon cargo craft to the International Space Station (ISS), SpaceX—the Hawthorne, Calif.-based launch services organization, headed by entrepreneur Elon Musk—has successfully ended a 13-month hiatus with a rousing liftoff at 3:25:22 p.m. EDT Friday, 18 April. In spite of a predicted 40-percent likelihood of acceptable weather at launch time, and ominous clouds and thunder prevalent in the Cape Canaveral area for much of the day, SpaceX’s upgraded Falcon 9 v1.1 roared aloft from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Just 10 minutes after liftoff, Dragon had separated from the second stage of the rocket and was in the process of unfurling its solar arrays and communications and navigation appendages, preparatory to a rendezvous and berthing at the ISS in two days’ time.

Continue reading Fiery SpaceX Dragon Roars Toward Space Station

Big Discovery: First Earth-Sized Exoplanet in Habitable Zone of Another Star

Artist's conception of Kepler-186f in orbit around its red dwarf star. Image Credit: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

Artist’s conception of Kepler-186f in orbit around its red dwarf star. Image Credit: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

Today was another big day for those interested in space exploration and in the search for other Earth-like, alien worlds in particular: The first Earth-sized exoplanet orbiting another star in the habitable zone has been discovered, it was announced by astronomers with the Kepler space telescope mission.

Continue reading Big Discovery: First Earth-Sized Exoplanet in Habitable Zone of Another Star

Cassini Image May Reveal Historic Birth of Icy Saturn Moon

From NASA/JPL: "The disturbance visible at the outer edge of Saturn's A ring in this image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft could be caused by an object replaying the birth process of icy moons." Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

From NASA/JPL: “The disturbance visible at the outer edge of Saturn’s A ring in this image from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft could be caused by an object replaying the birth process of icy moons.” Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The Cassini spacecraft, a flagship-class mission that is a cooperative project between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Italian Space Agency (ASI), may have uncovered the birth of an icy moon from within Saturn’s rings. This object was shown in an image Cassini took from its narrow angle camera (part of its Imaging Science Subsystem) of the gas giant’s “A” ring on April 15, 2013. The possible moon is described by NASA as being “20 percent brighter than its surroundings, 750 miles [1,200 kilometers] long and 6 miles [10 kilometers] wide.”

Continue reading Cassini Image May Reveal Historic Birth of Icy Saturn Moon

SpaceX Secures 20-Year Lease Agreement With NASA for Use of Historic Launch Complex 39A

SpaceX has finalized a lease agreement with NASA for use of launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the launch site for many historic missions such as the Apollo Saturn-V moon missions and over 80 space shuttle launches. The company's first launch off 39A will be atop their Falcon-Heavy rocket as soon as 2015. Image Credits: NASA / SpaceX / AmericaSpace

SpaceX has finalized a lease agreement with NASA for use of launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the launch site for many historic missions such as the Apollo Saturn-V Moon missions and over 80 space shuttle launches. The company’s first launch off 39A will be atop their Falcon-Heavy rocket as soon as 2015. Image Credits: NASA / SpaceX / AmericaSpace

There’s only one place on Earth where humans left to touch the face of another world, and this week Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) finalized an agreement with NASA to put that place (launch pad 39A) to use again for at least the next couple decades.

Continue reading SpaceX Secures 20-Year Lease Agreement With NASA for Use of Historic Launch Complex 39A